BACKGROUND: Early in season three (the Jason Connery era). The merrie men have just accepted Robert as Herne's son. The sheriff and Gisburne know that the disowned Huntingdon is now 'Robin', who has Albion and possibly fancies a certain redhaired maiden. The King's herald returns to recruit Guy to serve in the wars in France ... to the sheriff's dismay.


Marion settled on an old tree stump near the encampment. Tuck was busily adding ingredients for their rabbit stew dinner.

"Rabbit stew again?" Will Scarlet grumbled. "Don't we have any venison?"

"This isn't the Sheriff's kitchen, Will," Tuck countered. "If you wanted venison, you should have gone out to find us some."

"Will's just lazy, Tuck!" Much grinned, and he narrowly avoided a box on the ears from Will. "Anyhow, I haven't seen any deer in this part of the woods in days!" Nasir appeared to be uninterested in dinner while he sharpened his throwing knives.

Robin,the former heir to the earldom of Huntingdon,quietly re-strung his bow. "Little John and I ran into some foresters yesterday. Perhaps they scared them off."

"Where is that big oaf anyway?" Will muttered.

"The village of Cornley," Marion replied. "He acquired a slightly tattered leather vest from one of the foresters, so he went to have it mended."

"Now, was the vest already tattered ..." Will began, "or did John do the tatterin' when he ambushed the forester?"

"The foresters were less than cooperative," Robin answered. "We encouraged them to do away with their armour, and lightened the load of their purses."

"And how did you manage that?" Marion challenged. Robin enjoyed the playful banter, not only with the other men, but especially with Marion. He had hoped that no one would notice his attraction to her,but Will had noticed. When Marion checked on Tuck's stew concoction, Will approached Robin.

"Don't pretend that you don't fancy her, because I know that you do," Will smirked.

"I ... I don't fancy her, Will!" Robin protested, half-heartedly.

"You're a terrible liar," Will replied. "Must be your noble upbringing."

"You didn't tell anyone of this,did you?" Robin inquired. Will enjoyed seeing Robin -- who was usually even-tempered -- become flustered.

"It ain't any of my business --" Will started again.

"You're right," Robin snapped. "It isn't."

"All I'm sayin' is ... she's still mournin' Loxley," he replied. "You might be Herne's Son 'n all, but that don't mean you get to claim her. We just don't want to see her get hurt, after all she's been through."

Robin observed Marion, as she gleefully tossed herbs and spices into Tuck's pot of stew. She was of noble blood -- a crusader's daughter -- but she seemed happier in this poor, leafy paradise. She was enchanting.

Little John returned with his mended leather vest, and an armful of food: a side of beef, potatoes and a skin of ale.

Much rushed towards him. "Little John, where'd you get all that food?"

Little John seemed truly excited about his meal. "They had a tiny tavern there. I was able to get all of this for a bargain. The tavern-keeper said if I bought all three of these ... that I'd pay a better price than if I bought them separately."

"You mean, as a combination meal?" Much blurted as he gnawed into some of the tavern beef.

"Don't eat now, Much!" Marion chastised. "Tuck has a wonderful rabbit stew for dinner!"

Little John shook his head. "Not another stew, Tuck! What makes this stew any different from the other stews you've made all this week?"

"What's different is that I helped to make it better!" Marion insisted. Robin saw an opportunity to make a good impression on her and was first in line for the stew.

"That sounds like a good enough reason for me," Robin stated. Behind him, Will rolled his eyes at the obvious ploy for Marion's favour.

"My lord," Marion curtsied mockingly. "It would be an honour." Robin turned to look at Will, who sighed at his silliness.

Be careful, his expression seemed to say. Marion's one of us, Will thought. We'd die for her at a moment's notice.

Don't hurt her, Huntingdon.

Miles away from Sherwood, the courtyard of Nottingham Castle echoed with the hoofsteps of a dozen, crimson-liveried horsemen. Robert de Rainault, Lord High Sheriff of Nottingham, had watched their arrival from the countryside when a sentry spotted them on the horizon. The lead horseman carried the royal arms of King John and the household pennant of Hubert de Giscard, the king's herald.

The sheriff spat over the battlements. "de Giscard!" he growled. The king has sent his lapdog to Nottingham, he grimaced. That could only mean two things. King John wanted money: money to pay for his botched campaigns in France. Or, he wanted men to fill the depleted ranks of the English army in France. At this moment, he wanted to part with neither. Usually, men were expendable: he could muster soldiers from the many outlying villages that paid taxes in this shire. These people, however, were no fools. They had become restless over the higher taxes, while the roads lay unrepaired and dangerous. The woods were filled with outlaws who poached the king's deer and robbed the local nobility. He needed his men and money to continue the hunt for the only outlaw that mattered: Robin Hood.

Guy of Gisburne quickly put on his finest cape and shiniest gauntlets. "My lord, the king's herald is here!"

"As usual, Gisburne," the sheriff sneered, "you have the eyes of a hawk! I saw that contemptible man, de Giscard, over the horizon half an hour ago!"

"He's not a real soldier."Gisburne scoffed.

"And you are?" the sheriff gasped. "Unlike you, de Giscard knows his place. And that's as King John's cushy footstool." Gisburne snickered at the unflattering visual image. de Giscard earned his place through royal favour and noble birth, not through honours earned in battle. That alone was reason to despise him.

"You're an ambitious man, Gisburne," the sheriff observed, "but ambition without sense is a recipe for one thing ..."

"And what would that be, my lord?" Gisburne sighed impatiently, as he straightened his tunic.

The sheriff glanced back coldly at his hapless steward. "An early grave." The sheriff quickly descended the stone steps to the courtyard. "Come, the king's representative awaits. As long as that man bears the royal arms of the king, we shall have to pay him our respects. One other thing: don't say a word. God knows you'd only mess things up with your insolence."

When they turned a corner to the courtyard, the sheriff's sneer transformed into a congenial smile. Gisburne hurriedly arranged a dozen of his men into a clumsy honour guard.

"Monsieur de Giscard," the sheriff nodded his head slightly. "The king's herald, you honour us with your presence. If you had only informed me in advance, I would have prepared a fitting meal."

de Giscard bore the crimson livery of the royal household and wore fine leather gauntlets. He hopped off his horse, a shiny black stallion. Gisburne, who loved anything horse-related, admired the horse's black coat. The sheriff snapped impatiently. "Stop drooling at the beasts, Sir Guy, and have your men see to the horses!"

"You may dispense with the pleasantries, de Rainault," de Giscard replied. "In fact, I wish to speak to both of you. You and Sir Guy."

The sheriff became suspicious. He was used to de Giscard's disdainful attitude. It bothered him that the king's herald refused to address him by title. Generally, that attitude extended to Gisburne. Today, he referred to his steward as "Sir Guy". Gisburne seemed pleased that de Giscard showed him some respect, oblivious to whatever reason he might have to pretend that he respected him. The sheriff scowled as the royal guards replaced the pennant of Nottingham with that of the king.

They strolled into the inner hall of the castle. "As you are aware, the king has lost several holdings in France," de Giscard continued. "Even now, Philip Augustus moves to consolidate his gains."

"I've already levied a special tax to contribute to the French campaign," the sheriff explained. He had anticipated another request for money and soldiers. "I provided 100 men for His Majesty not six months ago. The landed nobility are grumbling about the excessive levies, the common-folk whine about roads in disrepair ... and there is the little problem of Robin Hood threatening to seize every shipment of the King's taxes on the London road!"

"Robin Hood, Robin Hood," de Giscard groaned. "Is this Robin Hood going to be your default excuse for your mediocre efforts?"

"Hardly," the sheriff retorted. "But, I cannot guarantee that the king will get the revenues he requires for his glorious campaign in Normandyif I can't ensure that every wolfshead in Sherwood won't steal it from me!"

"Robin Hood is your problem," de Giscard declared, ignoring the sheriff's sarcastic comment about King John's Norman disasters. "English success in Normandy is mine. You'll be glad to know that I'm not here to enlist more financial aid. The northern barons fear that they're about to lose their fiefdoms in France, and are filling our war chests with gold. They've also promised hundreds more soldiers. We only ask that every shire does its part for the cause.

Here it comes, the sheriff muttered under his breath. "And what can Nottingham do for His Majesty, sir?"

de Giscard finally took off his gauntlets. "I'm not here for money, or soldiers." He studied Gisburne carefully. "Only one soldier."

"I beg your pardon?" the sheriff demanded. It was beyond belief. Did he actually want to enlist Gisburne?

"Sir Guy of Gisburne, steward of Nottingham," the king's herald addressed him regally, "will you answer your king's summons... and fight for his glory in France?"

Gisburne's jaw dropped. "The king ... wants me ... to fight under his banner in Normandy!"

"These are trying times, Sir Guy," de Giscard replied. "It's not the quantity of men that will count, but quality. If we are to take Paris ..."

"Oh dear Lord," the sheriff droned. "His Majesty should concentrate on holding onto Normandy, before engaging the full might of Philip Augustus!"

"And that fine stallion you admired in the courtyard," de Giscard added, "was bred in the royal stables. The steed is yours, if you will consider my offer to fight in France. The English soldier needs capable commanders. We are facing rebellion in Normandy; you, Sir Guy, have been, in effect, fighting a rebellion here in Nottinghamshire against those outlaws in Sherwood. Your leadership experience would serve us better in France. A man of your skills could go far: land, title, wealth."

"It's a fool's errand, Gisburne," the sheriff warned. Gisburne was a fool, with intelligence as dull as a rusted sword ... but he was also 'his' fool. He couldn't afford to lose his steward to some French adventure. To his dismay, Gisburne seemed to be enraptured by visions of foreign glories on French battlefields.

de Giscard escorted Gisburne to the dining hall. "Come, Sir Guy. We shall discuss the king's strategies for this summer's French campaigns ... de Rainault, please instruct your kitchens to prepare dinner for us. I shall be spending the fortnight here." Gisburne fell behind the herald, which gave the sheriff an opportunity to grab Gisburne by the arm.

"Don't be stupid, Sir Guy," the sheriff stressed. He thought that by using his title, Gisburne might pause to listen. "King John is no Lionheart! Normandy is falling to the French. Don't buy de Giscard's hogwash about glory in France! If you cross the Channel to join this misadventure,you'll reach Paris alright ... with your head atop a French pike! Philip Augustus means to restore French power in Normandy, and nothing ... not you, the king, or the whole English army will stop him from doing just that!"

"For a moment," Gisburne replied, "I had thought that you actually didn't want me to go because you'd miss me. Say what you will about our campaigns in France,but the king seems to recognize talent when he sees it."

The sheriff seethed, as he grabbed Gisburne's arm again. "So that's it, then. You're prepared to throw your pathetic life away on French soil ... for flattery and a shiny, black horse? If that's the case, you're the perfect fool for this errand!" The sheriff stormed away to his private apartments upstairs.

Gisburne hesitated. Is the sheriff right? Is Normandy lost? Is this all a fool's errand? The sheriff constantly insulted him, but he also valued his service. Otherwise, why would he keep him in his employ for this long? He observed the servants, who set a table of pork, cheese, fresh bread and wine from the castle cellars. The king's herald beckoned him to sit at the table of honour.

Gisburne thought of carrying the royal pennant,at the head of victorious army, marching through the gates of Paris. But he wouldn't be marching, because he would be atop that fine, black horse, bred from the royal stables! His naive dreams swept away the sheriff's common-sense warnings. It wasn't a misadventure: he was fighting for the king -- and for his own glory!

He grinned happily and sat at the herald's table. They would share wine and talk of war in France, and why shouldn't they? Sir Guy of Gisburne would be a captain in the English armies of Normandy. Not even the Lord High Sheriff of Nottingham could give him that!