"Are you sure you can handle this?" Robin asked, arms folded across his chest. Morgan nodded eagerly.
"No problem, Robin. Just take everyone and go for the day," she reassured, turning Robin around and giving him a light push. She seemed excited to be able to help, as always. Robin glanced over his shoulder.
"Thanks, Morgan," he smiled. If he had known what lied ahead, he might not have left her by herself.
"Master, what's going on?" Much asked, reaching for the blindfold. Robin slapped his hand.
"Relax, Much," he repeated for the tenth time. As before, it had little effect on Much's disposition.
"I do not understand. We spend all day in Nottingham, but we don't rob the Sheriff. We get tired, but we don't return to camp! Now you've blindfolded me! Is something wrong?" he asked. Robin laughed, tearing the blindfold from Much's eyes.
"Happy birthday, Much!" Everyone shouted. A smile flew across Much's features.
"For me?" he asked, looking at the small bundles in everyone's hands. They nodded.
"You shouldn't have!" Despite his exclamation, he gratefully accepted the bundles, ripping them all open. Djaq had managed to get hold of spices for him. Will had made a box for him to keep his cooking supplies in. Little John had gotten him a thick blanket, knowing that Much often complained of the cold. Robin had bought him a small cake.
"Thank you!" he smiled, holding all of the gifts in his arms. "I'll start cooking dinner right away!" Robin's smile widened.
"No need. It's your birthday, Much. You deserve a day off," he explained. "Morgan volunteered to cook."
The gang headed back to the camp, where Morgan was putting the last touches on dinner. She looked like a complete mess, as if she'd spent the day fighting rather than cooking a meal.
"Happy birthday, Much!" she smiled, handing him a plate. Much tilted his head to the side. He wasn't exactly sure what was on it. He believed that at some point it had been meat and vegetables, but there was no way to be sure. Morgan passed out plates to everyone. The maybe-food garnered a similar reaction all around.
Much poked at the food with his fork. At least it didn't poke back. Morgan smiled at everyone expectantly, something so hopeful in her eyes that they all felt incredibly guilty, taking a bite of the meal, trying to hide the difficulty that came with swallowing. Afraid of hurting her feelings, they took several, healthy-sized bites.
"I'll go to get some water!" Morgan announced happily, seeming not to notice the apprehensive glances that her cooking received. She skipped out of camp, bucket in tow, heading towards the stream. There was a sort of rush as everyone scraped the rest of their food onto one plate. Much hurriedly flicked the concoction into the woods.
"Who decided that she would cook?" he asked. Everyone slowly turned to Robin, who looked down at his now-empty plate and shrugged sheepishly.
"Happy birthday?" he suggested.
"Did you bother to ask her if she knew how to cook?" Djaq asked in a hushed voice.
"She said that she could handle it," he whispered back. Morgan returned, with a bucket full of water, which everyone was eager to dip into. Morgan noted all of the empty plates.
"Wow, you lot really inhaled it!" she exclaimed with notable surprise. "What did you think?"
"I've never had anything like it before," Little John admitted. Morgan seemed satisfied with the answer.
"Good. Well, I'm going to go for a walk. I haven't left camp all day! Happy birthday, Much!" she repeated before walking cheerfully from the sheltered camp. As soon as she had disappeared from view, Much spoke.
"I promise. I will never have a birthday again."
Morgan walked along, happy that she had been able to contribute to Much's birthday. He was always so nice to her; she felt that she could at least cook a nice meal for him. Sure, she hadn't ever cooked anything before. Even when she had been caring for her mum, one of her neighbors had been kind enough to cook for them, as long as Morgan paid for the ingredients. All she ever had to do was put the pot of stew over the fire and heat it up. Still, there couldn't have been that much to it. She'd watched Much cook all the time, and simply copied what he did.
She seen him boil water, toss in ingredients, and presto! There was dinner. So, she'd boiled water, tossed in some cabbage and venison and crushed up leaves. She wasn't sure what the leaves were for, but she'd often seen Much sprinkle crushed leaves on their dinner. It had thickened up, and it didn't look like anything that Much had ever served them, but Morgan was pretty sure it was because she'd used a different sort of leaf.
"I'm glad that it turned out alright," she said to herself.
"I suppose it's the thought that counts," Will spoke up, breaking the stretch of silence that had fallen. Morgan's cooking had left the whole group feeling slightly ill. "Slightly" being the understatement of the century.
"What exactly was she thinking? 'Happy birthday. Have some food poisoning'?" Robin asked, hands on his stomach. He was started to get sleepy, though it wasn't the contented, full sort of sleepy that he got from Much's cooking. It was a groggy, muddled feeling. Just what had she put in that whatever-it-was?
"What do we tell her when she gets back?" Djaq asked, concerned about her friend's feelings. "She'll notice that we're all sick."
"We could tell her that she's a terrible cook," Much muttered under his breath, though he didn't really mean it. His stomach gave a lurch. Okay, maybe he meant it a little.
"We could tell her that it was something that we ate in town earlier," Robin proposed. No one answered him. He blinked, about to open his mouth to say something when sleep abruptly swallowed him.
"Stop laughing, Allan," Morgan pouted. Allan hadn't stopped snickering since she'd told him about Much's birthday dinner. They were in Allan's little cottage in Locksley. Morgan noted that Allan was cooking a stew, the hearty smell wafting from the pot over the fire. He was an excellent cook, a fact that he had always hidden, partially to maintain his "manly" image and partially because he was lazy. Had the gang known about his cooking ability, he would have ended up alternating kitchen duty with Much.
"I'm sorry!" he apologized, stirring the pot in front of him. "Not being funny, but you're a terrible cook, Morgan." Morgan sighed and allowed him to finish laughing before she continued.
"How do you know? I've never cooked before!" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest. Allan raised his hand.
"That's how I know. Go on then, what did you make?" he asked, eager to here the answer.
"I don't know. Venison and vegetables and herbs," she rattled off the ingredients.
"What kind of herbs?" Allan inquired, sprinkling some salt in the stew. Morgan reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of leaves.
"This kind," she explained, thrusting the foliage in Allan's direction. He looked at the leaves in her hand and cracked up. Morgan didn't see what was so funny.
"Morgan, you do know that those leaves are used for making sleeping drafts?" he managed between fits of laughter. Morgan paled, which Allan seemed to notice. He stopped laughing and cleared his throat.
"Of course, it's harmless. Just puts people to sleep for a while," he explained hastily. Morgan stared at him for a moment, unmoving. He was pretty sure that she didn't want to hear that she'd just drugged the entire gang, so he grabbed a bowl from his table, ladling stew into it and pushing it towards her.
Much was staring down a long table, covered in food. There was venison. There was lamb. There was pork. There was beef. There was chicken. There were platters of vegetables. There were large slabs of cake. He smiled and reached towards the table, only to find that he couldn't reach it. He frowned. He reached again. The table that was so painfully close remained out of his reach.
"Odd," he muttered. He looked to his right, surprised to see Robin sitting next to him, scooping food onto a plate.
"What's the matter, Much? You aren't hungry?" he asked.
"I can't reach the table," Much explained flatly. He reached with his arm to demonstrate, only to stick his hand into an apple pie. He quickly withdrew his hand, shaking the bits of dessert off of it.
"Master, just what is going on?" Robin smiled.
"It's your birthday, Much. Enjoy!" he encouraged, handing over a plate of Much's favorite foods. Much took the plate, plucking a piece of lamb from the plate and putting it past his lips. He winced. It tasted like cloth.
"Odd," he repeated with his mouth full.
Morgan felt horrible. She'd returned to camp, watching her friends as they suffered through the sleep that her cooking had forced on them. Much had fallen asleep sitting up, chewing on his sleeve. Morgan prodded him in the shoulder.
"Much? Are you alright?" she asked. He muttered something about pork and fell to the side. Morgan glanced around camp, the sinking feeling in her stomach worsening as she looked at each of her friends. Although, she admitted to herself, Will made her laugh.
He was the only one who had made it to his bed, but it seemed that he had fallen asleep in the middle of climbing into it, one of his legs hanging off of the bed, kicking occasionally.
He was dressed like a knight, standing proud in his armor. The army of evil knights, that, oddly enough, seemed to be made of little Sheriffs, was running away in fear. He gave chase, striking them down in the name of justice.
"Please, Sir William! We promise to be good!" the little Sheriffs were pleading. Will considered them for a moment.
"Go on. Get out of here. Never let me see you again!" he commanded, smiling as the little Sheriffs tripped over themselves, scrambling to get away.
"Sir William, you've done it!" The voice was a familiar one that made Will smile and blush, even in his dreams. He turned on heel to see Djaq walking towards him, dressed in a beautiful, flowing, white dress. She threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly.
"All in a days work, Princess," he said casually. "And, may I say, you look quite lovely in that dress." Will reflected on the boldness of his actions, literally sweeping Princess Djaq off her feet.
"If I may, milady?" he asked, nodding at his white steed.
"Of course, Sir William," Princess Djaq permitted, allowing him to carry her off into the sunset on the proud, white horse.
Hurray! That's chapter one all taken care of. This is meant to be a cute, silly little story. I'll be posting Djaq and Little John's dreams in the next chapter, and if you have any suggestions, let me know!