I Am Will Scarlet
The Legend of Will Scarlet
A fire ate at the cluttered remains of dismantled useless furniture. What the nobles did not want, they set aflame, for these children could not be given the dignity of even having the things their late father had left them.
Rhian and Robert stood, watching all their valuables be loaded onto wagons to sell at market or be thrown into the enormous blaze. Too young to understand, young Robert leaned against his elder half sister, her long dark hair sweeping into his eyes from the wind, mixing with his own sandy blond hair. Rhian said nothing.
Gloved hands pulled at the reigns of a black horse, Rhian quickly pulled her little brother aside. The man atop the horse was a terrifyingly familiar sight that Rhian had wished to never set eyes on again so she cast her eyes down at the hooves. "A pity you weren't married off." Said the dark haired man in a voice riddled with carelessness. "The circumstances might have been different then."
"You've taken all we have," Rhian's azure eyes centered on the rider, searing through him as Robert slid his hand in hers, "what more could you want?"
The young man cast an odd glance at Rhian, one that Robert could not understand, but his elder sister's warm grip seemed to freeze. Looking to Robert now, the rider gave a frown. "To the stables boy."
"No please!" Rhian begged clutching Robert tightly, for they would burn the stables, too. "He's only a boy!"
When Robert hesitated, the rider grew furious and slid off of his horse, unsheathing his sword. "I said be off!"
"Run!" Rhian shoved Robert toward the forest. "Go Robert! As far as you can!"
Robert heeded Rhian's words, taking to flight. "Seize him!" Commanded the dark haired young man, pointing to Robert. "Find that boy and throw him in with the rest of the waste!"
"You animal!" Rhian seethed with fury. "He's a little boy!"
"And you," the rider turned to Rhian, gripping her hair forcefully in his gloved hand, "I've something special for you, love."
Rhian bit her lip so not to cry out, and then the rider went to press his lips to hers. When the young man met Rhian's lips she spit on him in disgust and was finally freed from his grip, but not for long. When Rhian went to run, the rider just laughed and easily took her by the waist, pulling her back to the horse.
"No!" Rhian shrieked and struggled. "Let me go! You monster!"
Robert watched from afar, well hidden among the brush, for he had spent many days amongst this forest of his father's and knew it well. Knowing he must listen to Rhian, as his ill father had insisted, Robert fought his better half not to rush out and try to save his beloved older sister, even if they did not share the same mother.
The blond young man was frozen in fear, stayed to the spot vowing for revenge on the head of the curly haired demon who would dare hurt Rhian.
My mother was a kind woman, my father the same, and although they had not much in common, the truth was that the two of them loved my sisters and I. Father taught me to ride and fight while Mother taught me patience and love.
All three of us lived a happy childhood, in a small cottage in the forest where a passerby was rare to see. My mother was kind and gentle—not to mention beautiful and from her I will judge every woman. Calm of voice, pale in hue, and dark, incredibly blue eyes with lips like new grown cherries and a gentle, rounded nose turned slightly up to give some note of her highborn status. Though Mother never spoke of her past, I knew that she came from Locksley, which family I knew not, but from the golden brooch she wore on her bosom and the scarlet dress she kept locked away in a chest it was evident her former life was one of luxury.
Mother was cheery, full of life, and always had a lesson for my sisters and I. Whether she wanted to show me how to plant flowers or see to newborn kittens, I enjoyed simply being at her side and hearing her soft, gentle voice. Now and then Mother would become very quiet, especially in the evenings as she gazed off into the forest. When I would go to her, Mother would turn to me, place her hand on me and smile as tears glistened in her eyes. Even in sorrow Mother was lovely.
But with the passage of time also comes the passage of one into the next life. My father, Wilhelm Scathelocke, died from a cart accident, leaving only Mother and I to fend for my sisters and ourselves for a good three years. By then I was fifteen, old enough to be on my own, but I refused to leave my mother, the lovely Lady Rhian.
Mother fell ill with the passing of my fifteenth winter and no matter how I tried to better her, she only became worse. Finally, Mother took my hand in hers. "No use in wasting yourself over an old woman…" Mother said hoarsely, gazing at me gently, "you've a life to live, my dearest, leave me and go on with it."
"Never," I took my sickly mother's hand in my own tenderly, her palm clammy and odd to the touch, "you never left us."
Mother gazed at me, too weak to raise her hand to caress my cheek, I saw a single tear roll onto her cheek. "Oh, Will, my beloved," Mother sighed heavily, "I've a tale to tell you."
I smiled, Mother's stories were always welcome. "Go on, then. I will gladly hear it."
"No, son," Mother warned, "'tis a story that brings a heavy heart. You have always asked who my father is, so you might know who you can from, and I have never answered you true. I am the daughter of the Earl of Locksley. My name is Lady Rhian Earl of Locksley."
A noble, I had known as much, but so high of rank? "An earl?"
"When came Prince John in place of his dear brother Richard, may God and Mary watch over the blessed man, the new ruler ordered us destroyed and run out." Mother explained. "For we were of the ancient Saxon blood, not like the Norman nobles."
I grew furious—damn Prince John! For all the stories I heard of the coward I should not find him the least bit enjoyable. "A pig amongst swine that Prince."
I heard my sisters, sleeping in the back, begin to shift in their slumber from my raised voice. "Shh, now, love," Mother soothed, "no need to hold old grudges against those who haven't the sense to rule well. Kings come and go, good and bad. That is the way of things."
My heart seemed to glow scarlet with fury, but I would not show it for my mother. "A grand woman you are, Mother."
"I haven't finished," Mother held my hand tighter, "look me in the eye boy, for I must tell you something awful—a secret your father, rest his soul, never even heard. For fifteen odd years your father had been fooled, but you should know who you are, boy."
"Who I am?"
"You are a child of Nottingham." Said my mother. "On a dark night a dark man came and took everything from me, even my last bit of dignity, but he gave me the only thing in this world I had to love…you, my son…my William."
My father? I was a bastard child? My heart sank, but when I saw my Mother's concerned and loving eyes, it slowly lifted a little. "I will find your defiler and kill him myself, Mother."
"No," Mother shook her head, "I want you to take your sisters and find Robert."
"Yes, if rumors are true," Mother gave me a nod, "my brother thrives in the Sherwood forest. Find Robert and bring him to me. It is his face I wish to see once more."
I paused for a moment. "But how should I find him?"
"Look for a tall man, matted sandy hair with eyes blue as a cloudless sky on winter's day," said mother, "you will know Robert when you see him and I pray he knows you. Tell him you are my son and in my final hours I wish to see him one last time."
There was nothing I would not do for my mother. "And so I shall." I rose. "I shall return, Mother, do not worry."
"That's a lad." Mother smiled at me gently, bust just then a thought came to her making her eyes flash. "Wear the scarlet suit and cape, son—the one in my chest."
I gave a nod. "I will see you soon."
Although the suit was far too big for my small frame, I knew I would grow into it since I was still only a young man of fifteen. The suit and cape had been the only thing Mother had chanced to take from her home.
With our final farewell I kissed Mother atop her head, placed a red feathered cap upon my dark hair, and with the scarlet cape over my shoulders, set off to Sherwood forest with my sisters in tow.