Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chapter 12 Part 1

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
Will followed closely behind his cousin, glancing nervously about from beneath the shadow of his hood. His companions were similarly attired, with their faces and identities well shielded as they maneuvered the busy, crowded, dirty streets of Nottingham. All about them people shouted and laughed and haggled over food hardly worth eating, nonetheless paying money for. Children chased each other, laughing and screaming, the more shabbily dressed ones surreptitiously pilfering apples and tarts from stalls, and the more prosperously clothed standing silently behind their parents, waiting to move on to the next shop. It was market day in Nottingham square, and all its poverty and corruption were on display.

The gang carefully avoided an alley where two men were drunkenly brawling and screaming various curses and uttering pieces of anecdotes that seemed to involve the same woman. "Isn't it marvelous how Gisborne believes he is upholding the law by shooting down and torturing a starving girl, and yet allows this sort of thing to happen everyday?" Little John muttered with a grimace as he veered a bit too close and had to duck in order to miss being hit upside his head by a stray punch.

"They're not entirely ignored..." Adam replied under his breath, shouldering past a large, and seemingly dazed man precariously wobbling by with a half empty bottle in his hand.

"What was that?"

"Oh, nothing. Nottingham's just very... Different from the way I remember it."

"Well, you'll find a lot more has changed about this place than just its crowds." Robin remarked with a look back that confused Adam as to its meaning.

As they neared the castle, their chatter slowed to a stop, and they stood looking up at its grey, formidable walls, looming over them and chilling their hearts. Will's breathing quickened, he felt his anger begin to heat, thinking of what could be happening to Alexis inside those walls at that very moment.

Adam swallowed nervously, his throat suddenly very, very dry, and his palms cold and sweaty. What if it was really her in there? He felt himself shrinking, cowering from the feelings of guilt accompanying that thought, and that would lay their icy hands on him if his fears were realized. He shifted his weight about restlessly, and briefly considered running, terrified that he might be right, but more terrified still by the thought of never knowing. "Well, let's get on with this then." He whispered, impatience coating his voice as his damp hand gripped the hilt of his borrowed sword.

"Robin?" Friar Tuck looked to their leader for instruction. "Wait, Marion hasn't seen us yet." Beneath his cloak, looking over his shoulder to make sure he wasn't garnering unwanted attention, Robin  ran a hand back and forth across the surface of a small shard of mirror. The light of the late morning sun reflected off it, aimed at the window to one of the castle's lower rooms. After a minute of flashing, the door beside the window opened a crack, and a black-haired, female face peeked out.

Marion's eye rested on the gang and she gestured hurriedly for them to enter. Closing the door as the last man stepped over the threshold, she grabbed Robin by the arms and, looking into his eyes, whispered, "Robin, she's not here! The girl, she escaped!" Her lips twitched, as if unsure whether to smile or crease into a worried frown. All the while her mind was a buzz with worries. What would happen if they were caught?

"What? Escaped? How?" Robin looked as if he was sure he had heard incorrectly, a confused look wrinkling his brow.

"I haven't the faintest idea! I only found out because I walked in on some of Gisborne's men explaining that they'd searched everywhere for her and hadn't found a trace."

"Well, how do you know it was the girl? They could have been talking about anyone." Robin stepped back, looking even more puzzled and hardly allowing himself to believe Marion was correct.

"Because Gisborne admitted it was her that escaped after he caught me snooping. He's not proud that he let her get away again, but he seems quite sure of his men's recovering her. Now, Robin, you have to get out of here! If they find you, it will only prove their suspicions that you were involved in the girl's disappearance, and after they kill you, they'll come down even harder on her!" Marion was desperate, fear shone plainly in her eyes and her face become pale with the very idea of his being captured.

Outside the inner door, they heard footsteps coming down the hall, and the low vibrations of Gisborne's voice echoed against the heavy stone walls. Instinctively, the men reached for their weapons, and drew back further into the shadows of the dimly-lit room, waiting as their leader contemplated the wisest course of action to take up next.

"Robin, if she's out there, we need to find her before they do and make sure she's safe!" Will had listened in rapt silence and no small amount of shock to Marion's information, but he now understood the importance of the situation, and tugged impatiently on his cousin's shoulder.

"You're right. Come on." Robin nodded, shoving his men out. "Quietly, don't let anyone see you. Look natural!" He whispered as glaring sunlight flooded through the open door. "Goodbye, darling." He stooped to deliver a brief kiss to Marion before rushing out to his gang with a cheeky grin on his face. Recovering as he pulled away from her, she rolled her eyes and shook her fist at him before closing the door with a secret, delighted stream of laughter.

Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1

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