Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chapter 11 Part 1

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing

Alexis woke under the scantily-covered bows of a maple tree, a splattering of newly-fallen leaves arranged around and atop her still slightly-damp dress. She groaned and sat up, brushing off the stray insects that had found their way into her clothing. Yawning and stretching, she wrapped the cloak she'd used as a blanket the night before around her shoulders and limped to the brook, her body still sore, but on the mend.

She chuckled when she glimpsed her reflection in the unusually still water, edged with a delicate lacework of frost, softening at the edges and still leaving its cold mark even as the sun whittled it away to nothing. Looking up at her from the depths was a thin, pale, grubby girl with a halo of autumn foliage clinging to her hair. "Leaves, hmm, perhaps not the best mattress." She mumbled, combing through her tangled locks and watching as a stray breeze picked up the red and gold scraps and sent them tumbling and twirling through the forest.

Carefully bathing her burnt and bloody skin, she winced against the water's stinging, frozen touch and looked around her at the rich, burning red and gold world slowly giving way to the grey and brown dullness and icy formality of November. It wouldn't be long, she realized with growing fear, before winter would arrive, bringing its snow and death-dealing cold. And here she was, alone in the woods, wounded and hardly able to hunt, much less build a shelter.

With a thorn of dread piercing her heart, she got up as quickly as one functioning arm allowed her and retreated to the clearing. Gingerly taking a seat, she divided up the remainder of her provisions and saw that it would only hold out five more days at most. Five days to find some way of hunting down new food, storing it, cooking it, cleaning it, and all with only one arm, for she still could not move it, and when it touched anything too hard it ached for hours on end.

Nibbling absentmindedly, she considered the only reasonable solution that came to mind: going back to Robin's camp. Obviously they knew what they were doing, and if anyone could survive winter in Sherwood, it was the gang. Also, she wanted to see Adam again, and even if Robin shunned her, as he had every right to, her old sweetheart would take care of her, and maybe she could even rekindle the feelings she'd once had for him. At the very least, she wanted to hear his explanation for being gone so long, and then for coming back only to get arrested.

But she couldn't return, and she knew it. She had run away, had hid everything from them, practically lied to the only people who could've helped her. And as much as she missed him, she dreaded the idea of meeting Adam again after so many years. Surely he'd changed, and there was no doubt as to whether or not she had. A criminal, a thief and a fugitive, that's what she'd become. Alexis had lost everything, and guessing by his state, so had he. What chance did they possibly have? What chance did she have with anybody?

She didn't even want to think of Will. How could she bring back anything between her and Adam when Will was there? Still his eyes haunted her thoughts, the feel of his arms lingered about her, his voice whispered in her ear when no one was around. It was impossible to forget him, but more impossible to be with him. No, she could never go back to Robin's camp.

With a grunt she stood up, annoyed with herself at giving in to the pestering images of Will she'd kept at bay for the past few days. That is the problem with isolation: the only person to talk to is yourself, and in only a matter of time, there's not much you can't think about.

Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chapter 10 Part 2

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
"They've captured the girl?" Allan cried out in disbelief as Robin related to his men what he'd overheard. "I can't believe it..." He muttered for the third time since the story was told. The rest of the gang was less shocked by the news, but equally dismayed, even if they did not show it.

"I wish Gisborne the best of luck getting anything out of that stubborn young mule." Little John shook his head over the large trencher full of mutton in his lap. He received a withering glare from Will, but only shrugged it off and wondered how Alexis was holding up.

"Surely she must have known the risk of capture was high, but how could she be so foolish as to attempt a rescue like that? It was suicide jumping up on that platform." Added Friar Tuck, a strong-bodied and strong-minded, eccentric specimen of clergyman who preferred the company of avenging outlaws to the solitude of total hermitage. "Did you know her?" He turned now to Adam, who sat before the fire lost in his own thoughts.

"I might, but I really haven't the faintest idea who she could be. I never saw anyone at the hanging besides my would-be executioners, until you lot showed up. You're sure this girl wasn't just trying to help, doing what you would do?" He asked, searching his mind for any clues to her identity. He did have a haunting suspicion, and it grew stronger everyday, but he dared not believe it or speak it out loud, for fear he was right.

"I doubt it. There's no way she could have known we were going to rescue you, we received word of your hanging that morning, after she'd left. And besides, she wasn't exactly enthusiastic about our cause." Continued Tuck, rolling out a map of the castle and examining it for the umpteenth time."She must have known you, or, at the very least, mistaken you for someone else. She was still very sick when she ran off, no doubt her mental faculties were not 'all there', if you take my meaning."

 "She's a smart girl, if a bit fool-hardy, and I don't think she would go up there without a good reason. She never struck me as the type who would put her life on the line for a stranger." Robin mused, looking over Tuck's shoulder.

"Well, the sooner we rescue her, the sooner we can find out who she is." Will said impatiently, sitting down beside them. "We need a plan." His face looked agitated and cracked with barely-contained anger. His hair and clothes were tousled and he had spent the past hour silently pacing back and forth.

Robin shared a knowing glance with Tuck before placing a hand on his cousin's shoulder and gently reminding him, "We'll get her back, it'll be alright."

"I know, I know. I'm sorry. It's just the excitement, that's all. We've never attempted a rescue this daring." Will lied through his smile, holding back the fierce desire to remind Robin that it was his fault she'd been caught in the first place. But he swallowed it, knowing arguing wouldn't get him anywhere. "Where should we start?"

The rest of the gang hunched around the map, bouncing ideas off of each other, inventing and discarding plans as the stars appeared one by one, filling the sky. The fire had died down to a handful of faintly glowing embers when they finally retreated to their beds, with only half of a feasible strategy formed, resolving to complete it in the morning. Will lay awake, squirming in his wool blankets, too cold with them cast off, yet too warm beneath them. Thoughts of Alexis plagued him, not allowing him too close his eyes.

Inside his heart, his anger towards Robin grew, and it made him uncomfortable. Rage and malice were feelings he had learned over time to suppress and control, but he'd never felt them so passionately before. He didn't want to confront Robin, couldn't bear the idea of hurting him, but he also felt he owed it to Alexis. Maybe it was purely his own fault. He should have to stop her. Oh, why did he let her go? With a groan, he rolled over and clamped his eyes shut, trying to banish her from his mind, but she would not be ignored, images of her terrified green eyes piercing his vision, haunting his thoughts.

Across the clearing, in his own hut, Robin too lay awake, wondering if he had been wrong in his decision. Perhaps he could have prevented her leaving. At the very least, he should have tried. He knew Will was angry with him, the poor boy had a right to be, but there was something about Alexis that scared Robin, and he would not apologize for keeping his cousin from something that might hurt him.

It wasn't that she was a thief, he was too and had no cause to throw stones in that respect, but there was something else. Something in her face that reminded him of someone, or something, and he didn't understand what it was, but it gave him pause. Looking at her too long brought back images of terror and pain and regret, and he couldn't help but feel like she held some sort of evil omen.

He tried to tell himself that this was ridiculous, that he was being a jealous fool, but those eyes... They made the hair stand up on the back of his neck, yet moved his heart with compassion at the same time. He rolled over again, listening to the creaking, whispering sounds of the night, watching the path of the moonbeams that crept through the chinks in the door. Beneath his blanket, he felt for the cool touch of his sword hilt, close to his side, readying himself for the danger that dawn would bring.

Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chapter 10 Part 1

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
Will paced indignantly back and forth, muttering under his breath about his good-for-nothing cousin and that accursed Gisborne.  Adam attempted to look nonchalant as he leaned against the building's side and watched his companion's tirade, but he could not push back the questions that rose to his mind and troubled his care-free soul.

What had Lady Marion meant about this girl who had supposedly tried to rescue him from his fate? Why would she do that? Did she work for Robin as well? Who was it, and why would she risk her life for him?

And did all this mean that the imprisonment and torture of an innocent girl was his fault? His mind whirled until he felt dizzy. "Who is this girl you're going on about?" He finally asked, losing all patience with the annoying questions muddling his thoughts.

Will sopped mid-curse to consider an answer. Taking a deep breath, he began. He told the tale of her finding, and the fact that she had remained unimaginably stubborn to the point of  running as soon as there was any danger of them learning anything about her. He wrapped up quickly, not wanting to dwell on the painful fact that she had left without saying goodbye, and now her life was in danger and Robin was too busy romancing his temperamental lady inside to even consider helping.

And what if Robin did nothing on purpose? After all, he had let her leave when he had every opportunity to stop her. He knew it could spell out her doom, yet he only watched sneak away. In a rage, Will threw himself at the door, pounding it with his fist as Adam looked around nervously, trying to ward off the attention his friend was drawing to them. "Robin! She's in danger, we need to save her! Robin!"

"Will—Will. Come down here please." Adam pulled his companion away from the door as more people came out to their door steps to witness the source of all the sudden commotion. "Hey, don't worry, we'll get her. Is there anything else you know about her? Any hints as to her identity or where she came from?"

Will relaxed a bit, taking in deep breaths and thinking back to when he'd found her, lying cold and dirty and covered in blood. He'd been such a fool to listen to Robin, to let her go. He should have stopped her, but Robin... Robin. This was his fault, she was hurt and close to death and it was his fault. And now he was doing nothing. His anger returning, boiling and surging through his blood, Will launched himself at the door again, screaming out his cousin's name with greater venom and pounding the doors with equal force.

"Will!" Adam shouted in aggravation, pulling him away again and slamming him against the side of the house. He leaned in close, holding Will's collar and whispering in a cutting tone, "This is not going to get her back. She obviously means a great deal to you, but this screaming is only going to get you arrested, and what use will you be to her then? They won't wait to interrogate a criminal like you, you'll be lucky to get last rites. It's straight to the noose, and that won't help anybody. So I suggest you keep your eyes and ears open and you head down. Understand?" Will shot him a defiant, injured glare, but he put up no fuss. "Good, now I'm going to let you go and we're going to calmly wait for—"

"What the devil is going on out here? Are you trying to get us all killed?" Robin asked, leaning out the doorway, a smirking Marion behind him. His face looked threatening enough, but his eyes twinkled with merriment as Will wrestled from Adam's grasp and rushed forward, his fist pulled back to deal an enraged blow to his cousin's face. Reaching up with a tranquil hand, Robin stopped the punch in it's tracks. "Will, can you please stop all this nonsense? We're wasting time here. We have to go get this girl out of jail before they kill her, and that can't be done with you here caterwauling and holding us up. Now, if you'll please calm yourself, we have places to be."

Will stepped back, speechless with anger and confusion. Adam rose to his defense after swallowing the outrageous desire to laugh. "If you're so concerned of a sudden, what were you doing in there all that time?" He asked with suggestively raised eyebrows, looking from Robin to Marion.

"We were getting these," Robin replied as he tossed an armful of swords and maps at the unsuspecting pair. "And gathering knowledge. Marion is going to stay here and alert us of any news from the castle the moment she hears it, and we are going to use these," he gestured to the maps, "to make our plan of attack, and these," then to the weapons, "to execute said plan."

Will made a valiant effort to hide the wily grin that spread across his face as he listened, but to no avail. "You sneaky rascal." He picked up a long, sharp blade and chuckled to himself. "Can we go now?"

"Marion, my darling, my love, my angel!" Robin swooned dramatically, taking the woman up in his arms as she cackled and hit him till he put her down again. "It has been a sincere pleasure, my dove, my honey-sweet, my dearest, but alas, cruel and impatient circumstances force us to be parted again!" He struck his breast and contorted his face into a gallery of mocking, love-sick frowns, his eyes twinkling more than ever.

"Get out of here and don't come back until you get that girl back safe, you idiot." She laughed, her funny, crackling laugh filling the air as she shoved him away. Robin went, sighing dramatically and looking back every two steps with a smirk and a wink, to which Marion replied with rolling eyes and an amused grin.

Traipsing down the path back towards Sherwood, Will walked with his head down, kicking an acorn to send it scuttling again every few steps. He was lost in thought, trying to figure out how he would save the girl and what he would say to her when he did. He was in the midst of imagining what he would do to Gisborne when he got his hands on him when Robin came striding up from behind and nudged him in the side. "What do you want?" Will asked, still perturbed by his cousin.

But Robin offered no answer, only an amused, mischievous grin and eyebrows raised so alarmingly high that they might have flown off.

"What? What is it?" Will asked, his patience wearing thin.

"So, you do love her."

Will spun around to face his cousin, completely flabbergasted. "What? No, I-no. I just—"

"You love her. You are a lost man and I just have to say, you are terrible at hiding it." And he hurried on up the path, leaving Will with unspoken arguments on his tongue that he knew were futile. He was in love with her, but Robin was the last person who needed to know that. He had just set himself up for a lifetime of teasing.

Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 part 1