Hello?? Are you all still here? I know I haven't updated in awhile but some of you are still here right? Anyway, here's the next chapter. Please tell me if it covers too much time, I wasn't sure. I didn't want to drag too much, but also don't want to skip too much either. Hope you enjoy it, please review!!!!
Everyone woke up the next morning sore from sleeping on the ground, and tired from yesterday's excitement. With silence breakfast was welcomed , and although it warmed their insides, people still seemed blue. Everyone seemed to realize that they had come right out of the frying pan and straight into the fire.
No one said anything until the dishes were washed, dried, and returned to their owners. Finally, a man with light, brown hair and green eyes spoke. "Now what?"
The statement seemed to fuel the fires in everyone's mind. All at once people began speaking and debating over different ideas. John and James shared tired looks and began to converse silently with Rowena. After a time an old man stood and lifted s voice over the crowd.
No one was sure of the man's age or true name. All over he was known as "Grandfather" and treated with great respect. He had arrived last night with a family of one of the men they had saved yesterday. Someone had gathered the families of the people taken and brought them here in the forest, all together thirty people were crowded into the clearing.
"Hear now!" The old man cried. People looked up. "All this arguing amongst ourselves will get us nowhere. Do you forget what you were saved from yesterday? Are you already ungrateful to be out of the king's grasp? The young may not always be the wisest, they often have a good head about them. Hear them out and let us work from there." The man turned to Rowena, John, and James and nodded. The three stood to speak to the people, and as John spoke, Rowena hoped she did not look as scared and small as she felt.
John stood as addressed and tried to gaze into people's eyes. The blood pounded in his ears, but he smiled regardless. He and James had spoken briefly last night, but he wasn't sure if this was a good plan. He could only hope it would work.
"First of all." John began, "Thank you. Thank you for the faith you've put in us, even if it was somewhat forced, and for following us here." John blushed before continuing, he sounded like some stupid little child. "This is not going to be easy. It will require hard work and determination from us all. We must put away differences, ranks, and old arguments. We must agree to disagree and move on. Every thing you have ever known may be ripped aside, but if we aren't willing to try, we will fail. We can build a refugee in this very forest." John sucked in his breathe and waited for their reply.
People seemed to be listening now, they seemed to really believe all that John was saying was possible. Encouraged, John continued.
"We can build houses deep in the forest. Those of you who can not return to your old homes can live here, or move on to different towns. Perhaps one day we can all return, but that will have to be worked on later. Maybe we will also be able to give support to those who are still under the king and can not so easily escape him."
John paused waiting to be interrupted. A man stood and address John respectfully. Perhaps these people find they can look up to me? John wondered to himself.
"How do you plan on hiding all these people in the forest?" The man asked. "You will have to cover tracts, hide evidence of people. As the king's tyranny grows more people will need to help. How can we care for them all?"
Rowena spoke for John so he had some support, she tried her best to ignore the feeling of all the eyes on her. "This forest is huge and deep, it runs all the way to the mountains. It holds secrets that will never be known, hiding spots that will never be found. We will have to keep small enough groups to slip past guards notice, but large enough to keep off outlaws. You will be far back in the forest with houses built from all trees here."
Plans were beginning to form in people's mind, and they began to grow more helpful. One man knew how to make houses in trees so that could be reached by rope ladders. According to him, whole villages could be built off the ground. He also claimed that if they kept their animal stock low, a small cave could be used to keep the cattle, if their town was discovered.
The biggest question was how they would keep in contact with their home towns. How would they learn of those in need if they stayed isolated in the forest? Thankfully, James had the answer to that question.
"The children of the Wood will not stay with your groups. They will be back and forth giving food, money and supplies as needed. When we get big enough we will even travel between groups." James smiled like a little child who had just discovered the cookie jar.
"Money?" One man asked. "Where are we getting money."
James hesitated, "We'll take if from those who took it from us."
"I guess so, yes."
John stood in James's defense. "Taxes are not all bad, but we are brutally beaten with them. We will take from the rich and give to those who are in need. The king can no longer be trusted with our money, so we will take it into our own hands. God forbid that there ever come a day when good, honest people must steal what is rightfully theirs to do what is right. Whether or not we choose to accept it, that day is here."
Not everyone seemed to agree, but they continued to talk and figure out ways for John's plan to work. Some great for it, some greatly against it. At the end of the day, there were fifteen people and a few children willing to struggle in the forest. The others had either decide to move on or risk going back. It was a good start.
Rowena addressed the few that had stayed. "Before we do this we must all promise one thing. To protect those who are weaker, and help those who are in need to the best of our capability. If we do not, then we are just like the royal family and haughty rich, but worse. Do you all promise?
The forest echoed with one word, "Aye!"
Six weeks later, an exhausted Rowena snuck out of camp and climbed up into a large oak tree. She had snuck out quite a ways so not to be detected. Rowena found herself by Glennings Brooke, which was more like a river then Brooke, and listened to the waters run over the rocks.
The past six weeks had been exhausting to say the least. The day that this had all started felt left forever ago instead of a few weeks, and Rowena was starting to wonder how they had ever thought this would work.
Despite that fact that other people had more then willing taken on getting houses built for the people here, the work to be done never ended. Between washing dishes, making dinners, building houses, gathering fire wood, digging pits, taking care of animals, watching children, the list kept going and the work was never done.
Finally, when Rowena had been able to take a break, she had only been able to rebraid her hair and wash her face when John and James found her. "We are going to teach you how to fight." James said. Rowena laughed as she remembered her first lessons. It had been comical.
"This is a bow," James informed with a smirk on his face.
"I've at least fired the thing before, James, I know the basics." Rowena interrupted.
"Oh, moving on then." James smiled again and picked up an arrow from the quiver that was laying on the ground. "This is an arrow."
"James!" Rowena shouted jumping to her feet. John laughed and walked over to where his twin was standing. He shook his head and laughed, his brown hair swished over his forehead.
"I'll take it from here, little brother."
"Little by all of five minuets." James exclaimed.
"But little none the less."
So her training had began.
End of Flashback
Training had been far from fun, yet enjoyable at the same time. By the end of six weeks, Rowena was good at firing a bow, but still only horrible at sword fighting. She knew each form and move, yet somehow her brain could not put all the steps together. Above all she hated sparing, it was never fun to get hit by someone's sword.
She did meet a girl who was becoming her best friend. Her name was Jenaveve and they had met while Rowena was practicing archery.
"Hello, I'm Jenaveve. But most people call me Jen." She offered quietly. She had her own bow and quiver full of good looking arrows. She set in on the ground next to Rowena's things and smiled sweetly.
"I'm Rowena, some people call me Ro, but most call me Rowena. Honestly some call me Rowen. It depends on the mood I guess."
Jen laughed and picked out an arrow. "You don't mind if I practice with you, do you?"
"Not at all." Rowena assured. "As a matter of fact, I would enjoy the company."
End of flash back
So Rowena and Jenaveve became the best of friends. They practiced swords and archery together. They washed dishes, clothes, and watched the children together. Rowena was very glad to have a girl as a friend. As a matter of fact, John and James had decided to let Jen even join the Children of the Wood. With her father's permission, Jenaveve would be leaving with them when it was time to go back to town.
So in six weeks Rowena's life had been completely flipped around, She had new friends, a new home, and best of all, a new family.
Rowena jerked awake. How long have a slept? Was her first thought, jumping as she heard someone stomping through the forest. Rowena could make a good guess that it was none of the foresters from the amount of noise he was making. How many times had she heard people shout, "If you don't stop that racket I will shoot you myself!"
Who could it be? Rowena thought to herself. No one she could think of would be a good person to meet. Rowena became immediately grateful for her decision to stay in her tunic and leggings, it would be easier all around. Although her sword was back at the camp, she still had her bow so was not completely defenseless.
As the footsteps neared Rowena crept down to the lower parts of the branches for a better view, the brook hid most of the noise, and thankfully, she went undetected by the man who soon walked into sight.
He was tall and broad, with dark brown hair and matching eyes. He had a sword and a bow, as well as colored clothes that only a noble would wear. I can think of no good reason for a noble to be this far back in the forest. Rowena watched as the man stopped and drank some water from the river. He's headed right for camp.
That decided it. If he found their camp there was no knowing what could happen. Rowena was going to stop this guy, only she didn't know how. Suddenly it dawned on her, she had both the element of surprise and a bow, and she was a boy. She could jump down from the branch and scare him. The only problem was her hair, she had refused to cut it and currently had the blonde locks hanging down to her waste, Half of it was up, but it still presented a problem. If I keep my hood up… That decided it. In one fluid moment, Rowena jumped from the tree, and landed, she had kept her hood up and loaded an arrow the moment she hit the ground. Honestly it even shocked her that she had been able to pull it off, but there was no time for shock, it was time to act.
The noble spun in surprise and looked at her down the arrow. His brown eyes were intense and she almost wanted to drop the bow. Now is not the time to chicken out! She commanded herself. Just trying not to do something utterly stupid.
"Hello." The man said bowing slightly. He seemed utterly calm though he did eye the bow cautiously. He began to side step slowly but Rowena followed him with her bow. She swallowed and spoke.
"Who are you and what are you doing in my forest?"
The man laughed. "Your forest? Last time I looked it belonged to the king."
Rowena glared, this man was beginning to looking younger then she had first thought him. He was still larger and appeared slightly older, though.
"Are you out here all alone?" The man asked blankly as though he was stating the obvious.
Rowena grew frustrated. "Please, sir, your sword."
The man sighed and pulled his sword slowly out of his sheath, he laid it cautiously on the ground. "You look a little to young to be holding that weapon on other people." The man noted still side stepping away from the river. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Of course," Rowena said, "And things are not always as they appear." Rowena studied the man harder. Something about him jogged her memory. And why are you turning? She asked him mentally.
"I should know that well." He said with a smirk on his face. "For example, I appear defenseless."
And with that Rowena no longer knew what happened. He jolted forward and she released her arrow. It flew, but he had knocked the bow up so that it missed him and flew into the trees instead. Grabbing both of Rowena's shoulders, he thrust her into the river.
All Rowena could think of was cold. The water was near freezing as winter was just ending and she immediately struggled. She hadn't gotten a good breathe of air and just when she though she would drown, the infuriating man pulled her up and pushed her against the tree. From somewhere he had grabbed a dagger and know held it to her throat.
That went well. The shivering cold Rowena thought before she realized the man was saying something.
"What?" He stuttered, then he dropped the knife, but did not release the hold on her arm. "Rowena?"
"How…?" Rowena started, the realized her hood had fallen off when she had been plunged into the river.
"It's me, Mark!"
Rowena stared at the man, boy really, in front of her. Can it be him? She thought.
"The Mark that tugged my braids and stole my ribbons?" Rowena asked. Mark laughed and let go of her arm.
"You forget little."
How he's grown! Mark was the Lord of Trinton's eldest son, and as children he and his friends had endlessly picked on Rowena and her friends. They had been friends, but rank had pulled them apart. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you, honestly." He said. He picked up his sword and wiped the water that had spilled on it off. Rowena still stared in shock.
"Well not for you personally." He admitted. "For the Children of the Wood. I heard of their stand against the king." He blushed slightly. "I think it's about time, honestly. When they said three boys had saved the people who were taken for not paying there taxes, I have never guess that one of the boys was –well- a"
"A girl?" Rowena finished for him. Mark laughed and retrieved Rowena's bow.
"It's a good bow." He said examining it. "Can you fire it?"
"Yes!" Rowena snapped. Mark just smirked and Rowena immediately recognized the boy who had taunted her all her life. She shivered in silence for a moment then finally spoke.
"There are more then three of us. More like eighteen and a few children. Do they still speak of us?"
"Yes," Mark assured. "All the time, you are the main issue even after six weeks. Everyone wonders more about the three who were able to pull wool over the guards eyes. Some are afraid of you, most respect you."
Rowena nodded and thought for a moment. She'd never expected that their little escape plan would have grown to be so big. "You're here to join us then?"
"If you'll have me." Mark said. His brown eyes grew serious as though he understood all the things joining their band included. Rowena looked at him with a new respect. He was willing to give up everything for nothing. Rowena, John and James already had everything taken away, Mark had given it all up freely.
"There are no ranks, over there." Rowena replied seriously. "You'll be a commoner just like the rest of us."
Mark nodded. "I understand."
"Good then, I'll take you there." Quickly she removed her cloak and rang the extra water out. Once she was satisfied she went to put it back on.
"Wait, take mine." Mark said. "It's my fault you're all wet anyway."
Rowena looked at his dark blue cloak hesitantly, but then took it. "Thank you." She laughed. Then led the way back to camp.
"And you're sure we can trust him?" John asked looking at Rowena seriously.
Rowena looked at Mark from the corner of her eyes. They had been friends as children, but did that mean she could trust him now? He is, or was, a noble after all. Mark was talking to a man who was explaining how their houses worked. He nodded and appeared impressed.
"I knew him as a child and despite all the times he took my hair ribbons and stuffed frogs in my face, he never once lied. If Mark said it, it was true." She looked John right in the eye. James had taken to Mark already, she had seen James showing him where they practiced archery. As usual though, John was slower to trust.
"All right then, he can stay." John said and then walked away into forest.
James climbed up the rope later and entered on the wooden flat landing in the strong tree. He pulled the rope up and left it laying by the side of the platform. He was on first watch tonight and it was going to be a long night. No one ever came back this far in the woods, it was more of a practice exercise incase they ever needed it. Although I guess its possible that outlaws could attack, and people back in Kennington still think about us. Mark found us.
James smiled, he liked Mark. Although the boy was the oldest son of a nobleman, he never let it get to his head. Mark could have fun, and be serious, although his hands had very few calluses on them, the amount of work they had been doing since they'd gotten here had helped.
Perhaps Mark could join their group too. John said they needed to keep it small but five couldn't be that large. They did need the help. James smiled and decided he would talk to John and Rowena about it later.
We're going to have to leave soon. John had said to him during dinner. James didn't want to leave, this was like his new family. For the first time he had father and mother like figures, little "siblings" with whom to play around. He didn't want to give it all up, but he knew it was necessary.
One day I'll have a real family again, that I'll never have to leave. James promised himself. For now, Rowena and John will have to do. I guess Jen and Mark might come in also. James pushed all other thoughts out of his mind and set to watching the road.
Block down, now middle, now up, now down again. Rowena concentrated on where James's blade was and attempted of parry each of his blows. You just missed an opening, fool. She yelled at herself. Rowena let out a cry as James thrust himself sideways and turned the blade just as it hit her waking her leg with flat side.
"Rowena!" He scolded. "You should have been paying more attention. Look at me as well as the sword and you'll be able to tell where the attacks can come from, then you'll have time to block."
Rowena threw down her sword and glared at it. "You make it sound so easy, I just can't do it."
James shook his head and John and Jen looked at her. They were practicing archery and John was critiquing her stance.
"Nonsense." A voice said. Rowena spun and saw Mark walk into the clearing. He smiled and James and John then nodded politely to Jen and Rowena. "It just takes practice."
The boy pulled out his own sword and pointed it at Rowena. "Try."
Rowena scoped down and picked up her sword and held it ready as she'd been taught. She gripped her sword as hard as she could then looked at Mark. All right, focus.
Mark attacked first swinging down and to the left, but Rowena easily blocked it. Nodding his head slightly Mark attacked again. Rowena was also able to black. Back and forth they went, Mark attacking, Rowena blocking. She rarely tried to attack and when she did Mark would block it off quickly and counter attacked. She became too afraid to attack and just worked on blocking.
I am getting somewhat better. Rowena let her mind admit. The blows were coming faster, but somehow she always managed block or get out of the way. Her arms began to hurt from moving so fast, but she refused to give up.
Mark went for a stab at Rowena's middle but she quickly turned moved out of the way. Almost as if he had expected it, Mark twisted his blade in the direction that Rowena had moved and caught her on the side.
"Ouch." Rowena said letting her sword fall back to her side.
"I didn't touch you." Mark defended.
"I know, it's just habit." Rowena shrugged. "That was actually fun. May we try it again."
"I don't think I've ever seen you last that long." James threw in.
"We did start out slow." Rowena said.
"It's better then what I would have done." Jen offered.
"But there was no attacking." John pointed out thoughtfully. He was pulling out his bow for some practice of his own.
"He's right," Mark said. "but it's a start. Try again."
So Rowena took her stance and he did also. She waited patently for Mark to make the first move.
"Come and get me." Mark taunted switching his feet around.
"I'm better at moving out of the way." Rowena said shaking her head.
"If you're only half as good at attack as you are blocking, you won't be too bad. Give it a try."
"All right." Rowena said. At first she just watched patently, looking for ideas racking her brain for her best attack. Finally she just settled with a low attack on the right side. Mark blocked the blade easily pushing her sword into a downward position. She just barely raised hers to block the counter attack that followed. Trying again she slashed middle but was again easily blocked.
Suddenly, Mark jumped in and swung his sword up to her neck. Smirking slightly he declared, "I win."
Rowena glared then laughed, "I suppose you do."
"Don't move," Mark scolded. "That will hurt."
Rowena glared at the infuriating boy. Mark removed his sword and put it into his sheath. Rowena returned hers to her sheath also.
James laughed, "We'd better watch you two when you're fighting. You'll end up killing each other. I want to spare with you, Mark."
"Maybe tomorrow." Mark said. "Dinner will be ready soon and we need to be back to help"
Rowena looked up at the sky and noticed that it had gotten dark. It got dark faster in the forest because the trees blocked the sun, but it was still possible to guess the time. She sat down on the green ground next to Jen and breathed deeply. Sparing is hard work. She laughed to herself.
"We leave at the end of this week, Mark." Rowena heard John say. "Would you like to accompany us?"
Mark paused and smiled.
"Hello," Jen said. "We're here two and were all Children in the Forest or whatever you call us. Don't we have a say in it."
John and James exchanged looks. "All right," John said. "let's have a vote. Who's in favor of letting Mark join the Children of the Wood?" All at once, everyone raised their hands.
"I would be honored." Mark said.
"Good." James reply and the three boys picked up the weapons and started heading back to the camp.
"Hey, wait for us." Rowena called.
"Hurry up." John countered.
Rowena sat the a moment long just to frustrate him then started to stand.
"Oh, and by the way, Ro." Mark said. "You make funny faced when you're mad."
Rowena grimaced and grabbed the wet soil from the ground and threw it at Marks head.
"You throw like a girl." John shouted. The three boys took off running only laughing when Jen and Rowena jumped to their feet.
"Just wait until we get our hands on you!" Jen shouted. "Remember who cooks your food."
Rowena and Jen shared annoyed looks the raced off through the forest after the boys.
There you have it! I hope you like it! Please review!!!!
Timorth and Shadow wolf '7 Thanks for the reviews!