Chapter 33

THIS CHAPTER IS DEDICATED TO XxScarlettPrincessxX, WHO WAS THE FIRST (AND ONLY) REVIEWER OF THIS STORY FOR THIS YEAR (2009) TO DATE.

IF YOU WANT A CHAPTER TO BE DEDICATED TO YOU, A REVIEW OR TWO IS ALL IT TAKES.

One day, perhaps a month after Rhiannon and Robin's trip to Basford, the gang were in their shelter. They had already been on their morning deliveries, and were waiting for Rhiannon to finish cooking lunch, as she'd offered to take care of it that day for Much, which he was grateful for, but was still keeping his attention focused on what was happening in HIS kitchen. All thoughts of lunch, however, stopped, when one of the traps Will had set up went off. They all looked up at the bell Will had rigged up to be the alarm.

"Are we expecting company today?" Allan asked, and Robin shook his head.

"No, no-one."

"I don't like this, master" Much said as Robin got to his feet, picking up his bow, quiver, and sword. The others all followed his lead. Rhiannon gave the thick stew she was cooking a final stir, before taking it off the fire and putting the lid over it, keeping it hot, before picking up her own weapons. As one the gang hurried out of the camp, Will thoughtfully closing the door behind them, before running towards the trap.

RH RH RH RH RH

As they drew close to the trap, they slowed down, cautiously approaching, just in case there were more strangers about. Robin, Allan, Marian, and Rhiannon all notched arrows to their bowstrings as they crept silently through the undergrowth. As they neared the roadside, Rhiannon crouched, crawling through the undergrowth, her bow raised in readiness. After quickly, but thoroughly, scanning the road to ensure it was deserted, she focused on the net hanging from the branch of a large tree. A single man was caught in it, looking wildly into the forest, gripping tightly onto the rope netting.

"Is anyone there?" he called, his voicing betraying his age as not quite being that of man. Rhiannon kept her bow trained on the boy in the netting as she heard Robin speak, giving the mandatory lecture to the strangers about the cost for travelling through the forest (One tenth of what you carry, if you don't struggle, everything if you do).

"Lord Robin, is that you?" the boy replied, and Rhiannon glanced sideways at Robin.

"Luke?" Will called excitedly from where he was hidden, striding out of the undergrowth.

"Will!" Luke cried out, smiling as he caught sight of his brother. From where he was hidden, Robin entered the clearing, and the rest of the outlaws followed as Will carefully lowered the trap, freeing his younger brother.

"Will" Luke launched himself from the netting onto his brother, embracing him. Rhiannon placed a hand over her mouth to hide the small smile that was upon her face.

"Lukey, what are you doing out here? You're supposed to be in Scarborough with Dad."

"Will, Dad's sick. He, um, wanted me to come and get you, before, well, um, you know…" Luke spoke in a quiet voice, his head bowed. Will froze as he heard the news. His father, dying? Perhaps already dead? He dimly heard Robin ask Luke something, but he couldn't drag himself out of his shock enough to pay attention to what Robin was saying. He barely felt Luke reluctantly step out of his embrace so he could go and talk to Robin, nor did he see the tears shining in Luke's eyes as he met Robin's gaze. He jumped slightly when he felt a gentle hand rest upon his arm, and looked down blearily. Rhiannon gave him a small smile, brushing his hair back from his eyes.

"Will, are you okay?" she whispered. Will blinked, and a tear rolled down his cheek. Rhiannon gently wrapped him in hug, which Will found himself leaning into.

"I can't believe it," he said, "I can't believe he's ..," he faded off, unable to complete the sentence. Rhiannon hushed him.

"I know, Will. Trust me, I know."

RH RH RH RH RH

Will rode in a daze, barely comprehending that they were on the outermost limits of the forest. He could not remember the quickly eaten lunch that had been served, or the frantic packing up of the camp. He dimly recalled getting up onto his horse, with Luke climbing up behind him, and following the gang as they rode, single file, through the forest. He could see Rhiannon's back from where he sat, blurred by his tears. She usually rode near him, whenever they were riding, or even on the same horse, if there was not enough horses to go round (of course, he and Rhiannon only got to share if Robin and Marian were already riding the same horse).

Through his blurred eyes, he saw Rhiannon turn in her saddle, looking back over her shoulder at him, her eyes sympathetic, both to him, and to Luke. Rhiannon was only six months older than Luke, so she knew how bad it was to loose a much loved father at about Luke's age.

RH RH RH RH RH

The gang was silent for the entire ride, up until they reached the outskirts of Scarborough. They dismounted the horses, securing them to trees away from the road. Then they drew their hoods up over their faces and walked to the edge of the village. It was an ordinary sort of village, with a larger manor house, and smaller houses and cottages scattered along the main path through the village. It reminded Robin of Loxley, but he brushed his sentimental thoughts aside as he searched for signs of guards. He could see none, so he nodded to Luke, who glanced around cautiously, before emerging from the trees, leading the gang to his Aunt's cottage. Luke knocked once on the door, before creaking it open. The rest of the gang stood back, and Allan nudged Will forward so he stood just behind Luke. Luke looked over his shoulder at Will, and Will smiled reassuringly through his moistened eyes, gently squeezing Luke's shoulder. Luke nodded, before pushing the door open and leading Will into the cottage. There was a strangled sob, and Will suddenly felt himself being pushed back by the force of his Aunt's embrace.

"Oh, Will" she sobbed, "you've gotten so big since I saw you last. You are so skinny, though. Have you been eating? I've always though you outlaws should look after yourselves more. Keep more of the food for yourselves so you're in better condition or something like that."

"How's dad?" Luke asked, his eyes on the door that led to the bedroom.

"Much the same as he was when you left, Lukey. No better, but at least he is no worse. He'll feel better when he see's Will here, though." The boy's aunt replied, taking Will's hand and leading him to the bedroom door. She pushed it open, and Will's eyes clouded over with tears again when he saw is father laying on the bed, sleeping, his face pale and sickly, and his cheeks drawn in.

"Dad" he croaked, slipping his hand out of his Aunt's and crossing the room to crouch at his father's side. Dan Scarlett stirred and groaned, turning his face towards Will and opening his eyes.

"Will," he whispered, recognising Will's face.

"I'm here, Dad. Lukey came and got me from Sherwood. I won't leave you again." Will whispered. He heard Luke crouch beside him, and wrapped his arm around Luke's slim shoulders.

"We're both here, dad, Lukey and me" Will said, and Luke nodded. Will gripped onto his father's good hand with his free hand.

"My boys" Dan whispered, smiling. He coughed, and Will winced at the harshness of it.

"Are the rest of the gang here?" Dan asked after he had stopped coughing, and Will nodded.

'Yes, Robin and Much, and Lady Marian. And then there is Allan a Dale, and John Little, do you remember him from Loxley? And then there is Djaq from the Holy Land and Rhiannon, from Basford.

"The gang has grown in size a great deal since I saw you last" Dan smiled. Will smiled back at him. He had not seen his father ever since that fateful day, almost one year ago, that he and Luke had hung from the scaffolding at Nottingham with Alan and Robin had saved them, and their crusade against the Sherriff and Gisborne had begun. Back then, it had been Robin, Much, Allan and himself.

"I should like to see Lord Robin again, and Much." Dan said, almost wistfully.

"I'll go get them, they're just outside" Will made to get up, but Luke put his hand on Will's shoulder.

"I'll go; you and Dad need to catch up." Luke got up and walked out of the room. Dan smiled at his younger son's back.

"Lukey has grown up so much, Will, since we've come here. I've taught him everything we know about Carpentry, and he's been doing work for your Aunt. He's almost a man. I regret that I'll miss out on him making that final step. Sometimes I feel that I missed out on seeing it in you too, on seeing you as an outlaw."

"You already have seen me as an outlaw, Dad. I'm the same as an outlaw as I was before Robin came back."

"I may be old and crippled, Will, but I am not blind, nor deaf. There is something different about you, something I have never seen before." Will exhaled. He knew he'd changed, in more ways than one.

"Being an outlaw is different from being a commoner, Dad. I have all these people looking up at me, like I'm some Lord or knight like Robin, but I'm not. I lay awake at night dreading the next day because I don't know if it will be my last. I don't know what's going to happen if King Richard comes home, and it all is over. I don't know how I'll support Lukey, and you. I've killed people, Dad. I've seen the life leave their bodies, and I've felt relief when I see them bleed."

"Will, you only kill to protect yourself, your friends, and those who can't protect themselves. You aren't a born killer, nor are you a murderer. The fact that you feel guilt shows this. I'm sure all of you outlaws feel the same." Dan counselled Will, who nodded, seeing the sense in the words. A slight knock on the door made Will look over his shoulder and smile when Robin, Much, Marian and Little John came into the room.

"Dad, its Robin, Much, Lady Marian and John Little." Will told his father, who nodded.

"Rhiannon, Allan and Djaq are with your Aunt. Rhiannon's telling Luke about what we've been up to." Robin said, explaining the rest of the gang's absence, "They'll come in here after we've finished with your father."

Will nodded, and got to his feet, "I'll just go make sure that she doesn't corrupt him then. I'll be back soon, Dad."

"Alright Will." Dan smiled, and Will moved towards the door, letting himself out of the room, which had become slightly crowded. As he let the door close behind him, he leant up against the wall, letting his body slide down, his grey eyes filling with tears once more.

His father was dying, and he couldn't do anything about it.

A.N. Alright, I am SO sorry about the slow update, but I have had writers block really bad over the summer, and I started University in March, which has kept me REALLY busy. Hopefully, I will be able to update again soon, but if I don't, do not worry. I will not abandon this story; I've got many plans for it.

Another thing that I have noticed is that I am not getting as many reviews as I have done in previous chapters. Is there a reason for this? All I can do is ask readers to take a minute or two from their day to tell me what they think about the story. It doesn't have to be positive. All comments are helpful, and are likely to entice more frequent updating.