The first impression of the downtown to Roanne was chaotic. It seemed that all of the citizens were there. Purchasing, yelling, arguing, children that were lost were crying, animals were making their distinct noises. A soldier with voice loud as bell indicated the young participants to go to the shooting field, which was set on a large meadow at the back of the fair.
Pete, Wilson, and Roanne went to register. The old man in charge glanced at them.
"Your name and age?" he asked impatiently.
"Peterson Little, 13," said Pete. The man took note on a scroll.
"Wilson Stutely, 13," said Wilson.
"Ro-" Roanne gasped. Her partners stared at her nervously.
"Row?" the man frowned.
"Robert, um, Robert Hood. 13," she bit her lips.
"Wait for the announcement," the old man waved his hand. They quickly went to the waiting district.
Many teenagers were there. Some of them were chatting, but most of them were peeking at each other, as if to guess how good their opponents were.
Roanne looked all over the field. It was about 90 meters in width and 120 meters in length. At Roanne's left side was apparently the place for shooting because there was a white line drawn on the ground. It was probably made by lime, Roanne guessed. Participants would stand behind the line and shoot their targets-which were at Roanne's right-hand side. Ten round targets stood silently on the meadow. All of them were colored with white, black, blue, red and yellow from the outer concentric circles to the inner ones. The opposite side sat two comfortable chairs, with a canopy on their top. The seats were empty. Just behind the chairs, there stood a great number of people. They were audience, noisy and excited. The participants were as silent as stones in contrast.
"Buddy, look!" said Pete quietly. Wilson and Roanne raised their heads and found a man and a woman walked straight toward the seats. Two servant-like men followed them. The couple sat down on the chairs and ran down the teenagers with their arrogant eyes. Both of them were dressed like noble.
"They are the Sheriff of Nottingham and his wife!" Roanne soon recognized their identities.
The Sheriff made a hand gesture, and the soldier who had a loud voice came near to him. He said something, and the soldier nodded.
"Atten-tion!" roared the soldier. The crowds suddenly became quiet. The soldier saluted to the Sheriff. The Sheriff stood up. He adjusted his scarf dignifiedly and cleared his throat. Every pair of the eyes on the field was drawn on him.
"Such a joyful day," began the Sheriff. His voice was hoarse as sand. Roanne could taste the pride in his voice, the pride that would only appear in a noble's mouth. It was as apparent as a drop of ink in the milk.
"Here we gather our young, brave ones to join this event. How time passed, I was as young as you are, and certainly much braver…"
Roanne noticed Pete giggling lightly.
"Such a joke!" he said in a low volume. Roanne couldn't help but grin.
"Only chicken will laugh at others,"
Roanne and Pete turned to the person who just said that. It was one of the participants. He was a tall guy, with the sea weed-like black hair and an enormous hooked nose. No matter it was the long, dark cape or the boots which were made by first-rank bull skin showed that he came from a rich family.
"What did you just say?" Roanne glared at him.
The boy sneered. He scanned Roanne and Pete from their heads to their feet without saying anything.
"Watcha look at?" asked Pete. Roanne saw him clench his fists.
The hooked nose boy looked at Pete, this time much more carefully. Tall as he was, Pete was far stronger. Roanne peeked at her friend's fist-it was half of the size of that stranger's head.
"Watch your word, little punk," Pete intimidated.
"Pete!" Wilson warned. He put his hand on the strong boy's shoulder. Pete turned his head away from that boy. The crowd suddenly cheered, the Sheriff went back to his seat. He had finished his speech while they were arguing.
The loud-voiced soldier came up again.
"Now listened here!" he said. "Rules of the competition-" He held up a scroll and read out loud.
"Hundred and twenty participants in total will be divided into ten groups. It is a knock out competition. In first round, 60 people will be eliminated. The second round, 30. There will only be 10 competitors in the final, and the three best among them the champion, the second place, and the third place. Now, here is the list of the group you belong to, from A to J,"
After a few minutes, 10 teams were well-assigned.
Roanne, Pete, and Wilson were all distributed to different teams, which was exactly what they want, or else they might have to compete with each other before the finals. Roanne waited on her team-J- till everyone was ready.
It upset her when seeing the hooked nose boy was also on her team. She didn't even hide her dissatisfaction.
"Don't frown at me, Adonis," the boy said with a scornful smile. "It makes you less beautiful,"
"If you were the target," said Roanne coldly, "I would definitely be the champion,"
"Dear Lord, you scared me!" the boy pretended to be frightened. "No wonder men said roses that smell the sweetest always grow on the sharpest stings,"
The sound of the horn which represented the beginning of the event stopped their quarrel. The audience cheered. The noise they made could wake ten elephants. The participants were all silent and pale. Roanne heard a few were praying with blurred voices. She raised her eyes to find Pete and Wilson. The big guy put up his thump to her, and Wilson gave her an encouraging smile.
"On your position!" yelled the soldier. The first person on each team stood still behind the white line and put their arrows on the bows. Roanne was the last one on her team. She saw Pete-he was the first one on his, and also determined as a mountain.
10 arrows flied across the sky. The crowds were silent for a second, then became thrilled when the arrows stuck into the targets.
"Next shot!" the soldier shouted.
Everyone got three shooting chances. After all three were done, the score would be calculated. The white part, also the outer part of the target, scored 1; the black circle, 2; and so on. The yellow circle scored 5, so the highest score you got would be 15, if you shot all three arrows into the yellow circle. When the first round was finished, half of the participants who got low scores would be kicked out.
The competition continued. Pete and Wilson had done great job, both of them got 15 points. Roanne was one of the two people who hadn't shot yet on her team. The other was the hooked nose boy. Now it was his turn.
"Fire!" yelled the soldier.
To Roanne surprise, this irritating boy had excellent shooting skills. He was as tranquil as a rock, and the arrow he shot flew directly into the yellow part of the target-all of them.
"Your turn, Adonis," he grinned to Roanne. The girl made great effort to press down the desire of shooting at him.
15 meters were not a big deal to Roanne. She shot 15 points confidently. This perfect condition didn't stop. She and the hooked nose boy and another nameless boy were the remains on group J.
"There were 30 participants left," announced the soldier. "Next time, only one person in every group can attend the final,"
"Great!" murmured Roanne.
The nameless boy was the first one to shoot. He seemed very nervous, and only scored 12 this time. The hooked nose shot 15 and walked away with a proud smile.
Roanne stood behind the white line. The cool breeze touched her face gently. Three arrows stuck in the yellow circle 35 meters away. She heard the nameless boy sighed. The hooked nose stared at her. His eyes were filled with astonishment and enthusiasm.
The referee hesitated before choosing one of them to join the final.
"What is your score in last round?" asked the referee.
"15," both of them answered at the same time.
"And before that?"
At last all of them found out that both Roanne and the hooked nose had scored 15 points from the very beginning till now.
"Interesting, Adonis," said the hooked nose.
Five minutes later, they were allowed to go into the final together. The referee eliminated a poor participant in group B, for he only scored 13, the lowest point of all.
"At last, the final!" soldier announced. "Three of you are going to be the the best archers in Nottingham within your age. Let us see, who are those three?"
The crowds were truly crazy now. Some of them were making bet over the champion.
Roanne heard them yelling-"the wealthy hooked nose, that's the one-" "no, the beautiful figure-" "the grizzly, definitely-" Pete and Wilson were also in the last round.
"Participants, on your positions!"
"How lucky we were to encounter Lord Hatey," Little John grinned. His smile almost reached his ears. "Generous old man who lent us the gold!"
Little John, Will Stutely and Robin Hood came to the border of the down town and the Sherwood. All of them were carrying a heavy bag on each shoulder. There were several Merry Men waiting.
"What a harvest!" they cried out.
"Here, take it to the storeroom," said Robin Hood.
"How's the competition going?" one of them asked.
"Come and find out," said the leader of the Merry Men.