Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Alexis drifted restlessly in and out of sleep, waking to the sound of scratching or weeping originating from some far off cell. Her shoulder now throbbed as the bandage grew too tight from the swelling. She could not move it no matter what she did, and it hurt with an endless aching. Her head rang with a deafening roar that drowned out her thoughts and encouraged the panic that lurked unbridled in her breast.
But she mustn't give in, she mustn't give up hope. She bit back the scream that strangled her throat and rubbed away her tears with dirty, ice-cold hands. "Calm down," She told herself, rubbing her feet with her good arm in a vain attempt to warm them. "Don't let them hear you cry. If they know you're hurt, they win. Come on, you can get out of here. Just think."
She took a deep breath and let it out shakily, shifting her weight against the jagged stones of the walls and floor. "Robin can't save you, he has no idea where you are. If you had stayed with him, listened to him, told the truth..." She broke. Her head fell to her knees, her body shook with new sobs. She was sorry, the guilt of what she had done pressed down upon her like the iron chains binding her wrists. She had gotten herself into that mess, and there was nothing she could do. No one to rescue her.
She sat up slowly, forcing herself to swallow and breathe again. "Stop it, now!" She seethed, scrubbing her face. "Crying won't get you anywhere. You can pity yourself later, now you need to come up with a plan.
"Right. The Sheriff will be down here in the morning. You need to get out before then. Well, first things first, you need to get out of these chains. And the cell..." She bit her lip and settled back, lost in thought. The hours dragged on and she eventually slept again, her head in her hand, back slumped.
She awoke to the sound of clanging metal. Her heavy-lidded eyes vaguely made out the form of Gisborne as he threw open the door. Her head swam and she wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep, but with a few large strides he had crossed the room. He now stood above her laughing, "Well, good morning my little thief. Before you meet your new friend, I have a few questions for you." Grasping her bad arm, he dragged her roughly to her feet as she screamed out in pain.
Ignoring her cries, he shoved her against the wall and held her shoulders so she could not fall. She clenched her teeth against the increasing pressure on her broken arm and stared at the ground, hiding her tears. He was clothed head-to-toe in a well fitting suit of black leather that mirrored his dark hair and eyes. His grip was perilously strong and his voice was deep and threatening as he whispered to her, "We shot you in the woods. Your body was never found, and here you are, back from the dead, it appears! Tell me, who is responsible for such a miraculous situation?"
She remained silent, now staring defiantly back at him. He saw this and pushed harder, digging the bandaged arm into the wall until she cried out again and again and tears rolled down her face. But she refused to answer his questions.
"Perhaps you are so simple you do not understand me. A group of men in the woods, did they find you? Robin Hood, were you with Robin Hood? Answer me!" He roared, slamming her against the stones and then flinging her body to the ground where she writhed in pain. The world around her was dark and blurred, her head rang and every inch of her frame ached. Her lungs were tight and she felt she couldn't breathe as tears and cries strangled her, but still she said nothing. She would never reveal her secrets, though Gisborne beat her until she was dead.
"You insolent little dog!" Gisborne yelled, kicking at her thin frame repeatedly. "Tell me now, was it Robin hood? It was, wasn't it?"
"That's enough!" A voice cried from behind him. The two turned to see the sheriff himself leering in the doorway. "Now, now, Gisborne, is that anyway to treat a lady?"
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Alexis struggled and kicked behind her, heart pounding, adrenaline flowing, doing everything in her power to get away, to fight, to survive. "Enough!" Gisborne roared as she nailed him in the shin. "It's over, girl, give it up." He twisted her arm behind her back until she screamed. She was being dragged further and further into the crowd, towards the castle. Will, as he stood atop the gallows fighting off two guards beside his cousin, was the last thing she saw before the door to the dungeon slammed shut behind her. She desperately called out his name, but no one could hear her.
Surrounded by darkness and the sharp echoes of metal chains and the low moaning of tortured prisoners, Alexis realized there was nothing she could do, and relaxed in Gisborne's arms. All the energy she had was gone.
Gisborne called out something to the jailer, a fat, disfigured man with rotten teeth and a malicious glint in his eye. In a moment, a cell door was open and Alexis was thrown against the hard stone wall, left in a crying, shaking heap. "My arm..." She sobbed. "I can't feel my arm."
"Well, I guess you won't be needing these, then." With a laugh, Gisborne strode to her and yanked the knives from her shoulder, tearing the strap and causing her to cry out again. "It really is unfortunate for you that the arrow missed it's mark. Death is pleasant compared to what I'm going to do to you." The man replied with a forceful kick to her ribs that took her breath away. "I'll be back in the morning. The sheriff is looking forward to meeting you."
The men laughed and cheered heartily over their successful rescue, striding through the forest on secret paths that had thrown the soldiers off their scent. The sun above them was bright and glorious, and the air stirred about them in a way that was unusually warm for autumn. In front of them the prisoner stumbled confusedly, shoved along by Robin, protesting loudly from beneath the blindfold across his face and struggling against the rope binding his hands.
"Sorry, mate, but this is for your own good. But mostly for our amusement. Just trust us." Robin chuckled, putting a reassuring hand on the man's shoulder.
"Well, 'mate'," the prisoner puffed, whipping away, "I'm sorry to seem rude, but I don't naturally take to trusting people that openly flaunt the Sheriff and then leave me completely defenseless. What you did was incredibly stupid. Now I'll have to run away again, and I just got back. I had a girl back in Loxley and I never even got to say goodbye..."
"Well, if it was such an unwise act, perhaps we should have let you die there and spared us all your whining." Robin rolled his eyes, veering the prisoner away from the tree he was about to collide with.
"Maybe you should have. Now the sheriff is on my tail and yours, and you have yourselves to thank for it."
"You know, most people are grateful when they are rescued from the clutches of a slow, painful, humiliating death. And don't worry, we're not new to the gallows. The sheriff doesn't bother us, right lads?" Robin turned to grin at his men who answered with a loud cheer.
"I hate to be the exception, but I'm going back there to turn myself in. Just let me go!" The man shouted, tugging all the more forcefully, but his time in jail had made him weak and his energy was running out fast.
"Don't be an idiot! That's giving him exactly what he wants. If no one stands up to him, his greed and power will only increase. Listen, Mr..."
"Adam." The prisoner replied gruffly, trying to catch his breath and come up with an escape plan.
"Adam. You said you had a girl here, right? We help the people that we rescue by relocating them. We know of places out of the sheriff's reach looking for workers. We can send you there, you can make a home, and if you give me your lady's name, we can find her and bring her to you there. Alright?"
Adam thought about this. "Fine. But you promise she'll be safe?"
"Upon my life."
"Alexis. Her name is Alexis and she lives in Loxley with her brother."
As the cell door clanged shut behind him and Alexis was left in the corner, gasping in short breaths of the rank, foul air. It was thick and smelled of blood and decay. The walls around her were cold and damp, and rats scurried unseen in the dark. Her whole body was racked with pain, her arm hung limp at her side and blood gathered at the corner of her mouth where her lip had hit a jagged brick in the wall.
"He didn't see me. He didn't hear me..." she whispered, remembering how she had screamed Will's name with everything she had, every ounce of desperation, and he hadn't even turned his head. "What did you expect? You left him, you left all of them for their own safety. It would be pointless for them to try and save you again. Why would they? You lied to their faces. You don't deserve to be rescued."
Monday, March 10, 2014
|photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing|
The sun was high above Alexis when she entered Nottingham, the town's big ominous black gates slamming shut behind her with a startling clank. Her steps were wayward and unsure now and her head swam from exhaustion and hunger. Her shoulder ached as much as her legs and her mouth was drier than the desserts of the Holy Land where Richard was waging his useless war. "Stupid man for recruiting my father, and worse, for hiring the Sheriff and then running away, leaving us to fester here." She whispered through clenched teeth, her voice sounding gravelly and far away. She laughed, realizing if anyone important had heard her, she would be arrested for treason. "Yeah, like that's the worst thing I've done. "
Her heart sank in her chest a little at these words. She had left without saying goodbye, without thanking them. A sigh crept in her throat, but she stopped firmly in her tracks and reminded herself that she had to do it, she had to leave for her own protection, not to mention that of the men. She was far too dangerous for anyone to associate with.
After awhile, she found herself in the midst of a large crowd. Swarms of hot, smelly men, women, and animals jostled her about in the thick mud and dust beneath the heat of the sun. Something unhealthy stirred the atmosphere. Children cried unheeded and dogs barked and wined, but this was barely audible above the gathering roar. It was quiet at first, bearing the disguise of a few mingled whispers, and increasing every minute, building up into a tidal wave of screaming, shouting cries. It was deafening and terrifying. All pushed and yelled, craning necks to stare at one solitary spectacle: the gallows.
Slouching dejectedly beneath them was the form of a young man, his head covered in a thread-bare sack, his knees wobbling and his tied hands caked in blood and dust. He could barely stand on his feet and his ribs poked violently through his rough tunic. Alexis swallowed. It was like looking in a mirror.
The crowd grew more and more deafening; somewhere a trumpet bellowed. She tried to shove her way back towards the food stalls, but the mass of bodies had swarmed about her in such a way that she could hardly breathe, nonetheless move. In frustration, she turned her ruddy head back to the morbid scene.
A drum roll started, its sharp staccato taps weaving their way through the crowd, and a stifling hush fell across the town. It seemed as if the entire world were holding its breath, waiting with animal-like hunger for the prisoner's hour of judgement.
Next to the wooden death trap stood the man who was responsible for it all: The Sheriff. Glowering pompously above the throng, his thin, razor sharp lips twisted into a crooked, disgusting smirk. He was not a tall man, but what he lacked in height he made up for in ruthless ferocity and manipulative manners. His black eyes darted quickly back and forth, always searching, always starving.
The vile man cleared his throat and began some long, hypocritical speech about his duty and love for the people. By this time, Alexis was too concerned with her moaning stomach and throbbing shoulder to take any heed of his words. Besides, if she listened to him too long, she might do something desperate.
But she was pulled from her pain filled musings when she heard the name of the prisoner. As the syllables left the Sheriff's nasty tongue, she held her breath, her face paled and she stood as though frozen, scarcely daring to believe what she had just heard. But when the hood was lifted, revealing the prisoner's face, she knew she had heard perfectly. "No." She breathed, sweat gathering on her palms and fear drowning her soul. "No!"
She struggled to regain control of her emotions, to think clearly, to do something, anything, but she was petrified. Before her on the blood-soaked wooden platform he stood, awaiting death. She swallowed and forced herself to listen to his sentence. The Sheriff's nasally tones read from the scroll in his hands, claiming that his penalty was death, as a punishment for treason, failure to pay taxes and resisting arrest.
Alexis sighed. He always was one for tempting fate, and now it had caught up with him. But she couldn't let him die. She stared into his face as recognition stirred within her and memories flooded her heart. He was still handsome, but drawn, thin and haggard from days of undernourishment in the dungeon.
By now, the executioner had been summoned. There was no time to lose. Thinking quickly, Alexis pushed her way through the throng, finally reaching the platform. Avoiding the notice of two very bored-looking soldiers, she clambered up the side, a knife clenched in her teeth. She had all but made it to the top when things went completely mad. An arrow whizzed through the air and severed the prisoner's bonds clean in two. The place was in an uproar of terrified screams. She dropped the knife in astonishment and she plummeted back to earth, frantically searching for the prisoner and her dagger all while narrowly avoiding being trampled to death.
Swords were drawn, the Sheriff screamed for his guards, a man grabbed the prisoner and disappeared among the crowd with him, and before she could call out to them, a large, gloved hand gripped her throat and she felt a man's heavy breathing on her face. "I've got you now." The deep, threatening voice whispered in her ear. Guy of Gisborne stood behind her, a broad smile on his face and the dagger in his hand, held to her back.