Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chapter 22 Part 1

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
"Come with me." Will wasted no time in taking Alexis roughly by the arm and leading her into a hut. "She's injured. Start boiling some water, and I'll need clean bandages." He threw the orders over his shoulder before ducking in after her.

"Let go of me." Alexis whispered, jerking away too quickly and crying out as she landed on her wounded shoulder.

Will knelt to help her up with a sigh. "I need to look at your arm."

She felt his grip around her, his warm breath on her skin, his cold blue eyes looking into her, knowing what never should, and yet, ignorant of so much. Her head swam and her legs wobbled. Everything came back to her. All that had occurred, whipping through her head and inflicting deep, searing cuts. She had confessed her feelings only hours before. The first true thing she'd ever said to him.

Now, with nothing but calculating coldness in his gaze, he reached out and began to tear the blood-stained dress from her shoulders.

"Hey!" Adam rushed in from where he'd been watching by the door. His nostrils flared as he charged Will and threw him against the wall with so much force that it shook and a shower of dirt fell from the roof. "Back away, mate."

"She's wounded and, besides Robin, I'm the only man in this camp with medical experience. But if you know how to clean, bind and set a broken arm, then by all means, be my guest." Will returned sharply, stepping aside with a sarcastic tilt of his head. His eyes were ice and his teeth were clenched. He was not going to take anything from anyone tonight.

Adam looked at the girl and gulped. "Please," She mouthed in desperation. His palms began to glisten with sweat. "You do it. But I'm watching." His voice shook as he took his place by the entrance.

He couldn't look at Alexis's disappointed, haggard face as she battled with the sharpening pain, the frayed emotions, and the subtle terror claiming her body.

"Thanks." Will rolled his eyes and continued his work. He gently tugged down on the sleeve, but stopped when he saw the thin drop of blood rolling down her chin as she bit her lip against the pain. "Adam, make yourself useful and bring me the water and bandages."

Waiting until they were alone, Will pulled a long, thin knife from the sheath on his belt. Alexis choked on a gasp and felt her eyes widen. "Don't worry. I'm not going to hurt you." He explained, the same chilly irritation in his voice. Gently, he slipped the blade beneath her sleeve and quickly cut it away, till the whole bruised, scarred arm hung naked at her side.

"That's the only dress I have!" Alexis cried, blushing a she hurriedly pulled the fabric closer to her chest.

"Well, you'll have to find something else to wear." He replied brusquely, peeling away the stiff red bandage as she cringed. Beneath was a deep, throbbing, infected gash. He breathed in quickly through his teeth, feeling his face twist in sympathy. "You've lived alone all that time like this?"

"I tried to clean it once or twice, but I couldn't reach, and it hurt too much." Alexis explained, guessing by Will's tone that her condition was not ideal.

By now, Adam had returned, bearing the requested items. "Here." He murmured, pushing them into Will's hands and staring at the ground. "They, um, need me out there." And without another word, he turned and left, his face grown pale.

Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chapter 21 Part 2

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
Alexis shut her eyes, but continued to feel the stares of the gang burrowing into her: shocked, betrayed, disappointed. Most painful of all was the knifepoint at the small of her back she identified as Will's disappointed gaze, judging and hurting and hating her. She felt the knives, saw the thick darkness churn about her and heard her life story being told back to her, every last one of her secrets dumped like cursed gold at the men's feet. Robin told the truth, and told it thoroughly enough that she wondered if she would ever have the courage to open her eyes up again.

"Now you know everything she has withheld from us. Everything that we, as charitable people who saved her life and gave her every opportunity at starting again, had a right to know. This is her past, and, I think, you can take a pretty good look at her future, considering her previous reckless and selfish actions. I leave it up to you all to decide what is done with her, but I suggest she be treated as his majesty would any thief and traitor." Robin's words bordered on begging as he urged her banishment and scorn.

"No." Friar Tuck's deep voice shot the word out immediately, firmly. Startled, Alexis opened her eyes to see him standing over Robin, arms crossed, the look on his stern face boding no good. "Robin," He leaned closer, "How dare you?" He sank to a cutting whisper. Robin involuntarily stepped back.

"How dare I? How dare I work to defend my king and my nation? Richard is the last hope England has, and anyone who is an enemy of the king is an enemy of us all." Robin found his footing and hurled back this argument with vehemence. "It is never easy to carry out justice, but it must be done for the safety and well-being of all, and this girl could know any number of secrets. Who's to say she won't sell them to anyone who has a more than passing interest? If she is free, the king's life is in danger."

"Alexis is no more a traitor than you, Robin. Her father made a bad decision, a costly decision, but it was his decision alone, not hers." Tuck was a full foot taller than Robin and loomed over him with an icy stare that no one could meet for long. "As for secrets, what could she know about the king's war that you don't? That any veteran, powerful lord or uneducated peasant doesn't know?"

"Tuck's right, Robin. Maybe her father was a traitor, but that doesn't mean she is. We owe her a chance. It's more than we ever got." Allan piped up from his seat by the fire, holding his instrument in his fingers, still forming a chord, the melody cut short when Alexis had returned.

"But we are not traitors!" Robin seethed, clenching his fists and trying to control his breathing.

"Neither is she." Will declared, looking his cousin in the eye. His voice was low, almost grudging, but the words were clear. "She has one nothing worthy of the punishment she has received. Who was the one in jail? The one being tortured, the one left to die alone in the woods, without family and without a grave? She was, not any of us who have done things to deserve a fate equally terrible, if not worse." Having delivered this speech, he lowered his eyes again and stepped back, feeling Alexis's astonished gaze but not daring to return it. Alexis had lied to him, and it still hurt, but she had suffered enough cruelty.

Robin swallowed and closed his eyes, slowly, slowly releasing a deep breath, attempting to dispel the anger inside him. "You make an excellent point, Will. Treat her as you think she deserves, since you so obviously know everything about such matters." He filled the last words with his venom, gave a joyless smile, and stalked off, grabbing a bow and quiver.

"Where are you going?" Little John asked, making it clear by his expression that he would tolerate none of Robin's dramatic nonsense.

"For a hunt. We need food and I need a walk." Robin called over his shoulder icily, feeling the weapon creak and strain under the pressure of his grip, his fingers turning purple.

Start at the Beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1