A/N: I'm so sorry that its been a while since I last updated this story (well any of my stories), but I hope to complete this story soon and update it a little more regularly. Thank you for all your kind comments and your patience.
On the dais were three hostages, Eleanor, Marian and the kings Priest. Guy instinctively reached for his sword and found nothing! Guy swore. His sword was with Allen outside the now locked church doors. Guy cursed his stupidity he had been tricked, trap and disarmed; he now felt as weak as young Yves Warburton.
The young man was barely four feet from Eleanor, blood trailing from his head as he was helped to his feet and seated in a nearby pew. Guy knew that the boy had tried and failed to defend Eleanor from her assailant to whom he had been no match, they where trained mercenaries; skilled in the art of violence and warfare. In any other circumstances the brutish brilliance of the trickery would have been admirable to Guy. But at this moment Guy could do nothing but watch as the woman he loved was held hostage.
'That must be their leader' the voice of the sheriff hissed at Guys side as a broad man dressed in friars clothing climbed the pulpit addressing the congregation.
'As with all situations like this, it is a simple matter to resolve' The man called, 'we require money from three main interested parties. For the widow D'barnard, the Sheriff Vasey shall pay. For the Priest the Church will pay, and for the lady Marian, the outlaw Robin Hood shall pay. The amount is five hundred pounds per hostage-'
'Preposterous!' A bishop called, 'the church will not bow to such an outrageous demand, and you shall not receive one penny from the church!'
'What a shame' The Mercenaries leader said, a smile creeping on his features as he nodded to the three men holding the hostages.
The screams of the women and gasps of the men, echoed around the church long after the priest fell to the floor, blood pooling around him. At the nod his captor had sunk his dagger deep into the priests throat, and as the priest made his last dying rasps his captor stepped over the body pulling towards him a friar who was now a fresh hostage.
Eleanor struggled to control her fear; she felt her stomach squirm at the sight and her eyes began to burn with tears. She had known the priest in the holy lands, he had helped her to draw strength in Thomas' illness and at the very end he had read Thomas his last rights. He had been a strong man, who had campaigned for peace and cared for the lives of others, now all that compassion and strength was gone.
'Fortunately Bishop you have one more chance, care to reconsider?' the leader said as he climbed down from the pulpit and joined the others on the dais as the murderer placed his now bloody knife against the throat of the Friar.
'How could you!' Marian demanded as she struggled against her captor 'You didn't have to kill him'
'But I did' the leader said as he approached Marian and then raised his voice 'If the money isn't raised then the others will suffer the same fate!' he called to the crowd.
'Hood would never pay' Marian shouted, her confidence growing with each word 'his fight is for those that are poor, oppressed and are in need. You may hurt me or brake my bones, but what is my suffering compared to that of others?!'
'Admirable sentiments' the leader said 'What is your suffering compared to that of others….I like it -'at this the leader made one swift movement he swung his clenched fist making contact with the side of Eleanor's head.
There was once more screams from the crowd and gasps and yells of outrage as Eleanor's body hung limp in her assailant's arms. Marian, was stunned at the man's ruthlessness she had never thought he would have retaliated in this way.
'Now be a good girl and do what you're told'
'Stay put' The sheriff growled as Gisborne's arm ached under the Sheriff's grasp. The sheriff had grabbed hold of Gisborne the second Eleanor had collapsed. Guy understood why, any actions to try to regain the hostages would surly result in their deaths and Guy's instincts where screaming for him to help rescue the women. How could the Sheriff stand calmly watching such an act of violence against his own child?
'Quite!' The leader called from the dais, at his yell the crowd obeyed 'Thank you. It does make my job easier when people cooperate, far less fun, but more easy, Five hundred pounds per hostage from the Sheriff, the Church and Hood to be delivered noon tomorrow at Noman's hill. Now ladies and Gentleman I bide you farewell'
With this the mercenaries pulled their hostages into the nearby antechamber, slamming the door behind them.
'GET AFTER THEM!' the Sheriff yelled, his hand finally released from Gisborne's arm. Guy didn't need any more encouragement, within seconds Guy had forced himself through the crowds cleared the dais and pushed hard against the door a cloaked figure joined him. It was Hood but still the door wouldn't budge.
'It's locked' Robin observed as Guy emitted a low growl and banged his fist onto the door.
'The chamber has another exit within the church yard' Yves Warburton informed them. Guy and Robin, all quarrels put aside, hurried to the main entrance. Lifting the heavy crossbar they threw the oaken doors wide and rushed out into the sunlight. But they were too late.
Riding out of the church yard, in full gallop where the mercenaries, the hostages thrown across the saddles like baggage.
'Mount up!' Guy yelled at Allen and his men as he ran forwards taking his sword.
'Surely the service wasn't that bad?' Allen enquired with a bemused grin on his face
'I said mount up!' Guy growled as he grabbed hold of the front of Allen's tunic and shoved him towards the horses. The rest of Guy's men didn't question the order. Within seconds Guy had mounted his steed and was in pursuit of the mercenaries.
Standing outside the church doors the Sheriff watched as his blundering guards clumsily mounted their horses and followed after Guy. Balling his fists the sheriff felt this anger boiling as he struggled to control it.
'My lord, I am truly sorry, I wasn't able to stop them from taking Eleanor' Yves said as the boy approached the sheriff's side 'Your man, will he find them and get her back?'
'Gisborne!' The sheriff scoffed at the name 'I doubt it'
'Then the ransom must be paid, Holy Father, will you still not pay for your man?' Yves asked of the bishop who had refused to pay for the priest
'What happens to them now is the will god, I trust that god will bring them through this. But it is god's divine right to claim his children in any means he sees fit'
'So that's a no then?' the Sheriff observed
'If you do not pay you endanger all their lives!' Yves protested, 'They have already killed one of your men, would you really trust that god will save the others?'
'The church will not pay every time they are attacked! Sheriff Vasey I am sure you agree. If you show weakness now then what will prevent others taking advantage in the future'
'A very commendable stance father, especially with so many of your people scattered around' the sheriff said, his temper rising even more, He had always disliked the church, its love of money and power almost equalled his own 'However as a father with only one child that I have already seen hurt once today I can not agree with your decision. I will pay for my daughter'
'Then I will pay for the friar' said Yves
'God shall bless you, my son' The Bishop said eagerly
'God be damned' Yves fumed 'I will not see Eleanor's life threatened for the want of a few coins. What about the other girl, will this Hood pay?
'If the outlaw doesn't then I am sure Gisborne would be willing to pay' The sheriff said 'What say you Robin, shall you let Guy buy your woman?'
'I'll pay for Marian' Robin said angrily as he emerged from the crowd to face the sheriff 'Assuming that Gisborne can't catch them first'
"It had been a trap!" Gisborne was furious with himself for not realising it before. Why hadn't he insisted on keeping his sword? Why had he not forbid her to go? Guy's thoughts mingled with the deafening thunder of hoofs as he urged his horse to move faster. He had only been a short distance behind the mercenaries, but somehow that distance had grown. Guy felt sickened at the thought that he would have to return to the sheriff to report his failure. It wasn't the Sheriff's reaction that he feared, but the thought of failing Eleanor and Marian. So Guy pushed his horse on he refused to give up the chase.
Eventually Guy pulled his horse to a standstill as he reached the bank of a river. The kidnapper's tracks lead into it but none emerged out on the far bank. Guy knew this river well; it led into many of the other rivers that fed the entire county.
Initially the mercenaries had only two choices, to travel up stream or to travel down. But once they reach any of the numerous intersections there was no telling which way they had gone.
'We've lost them' Allen said stating the obvious as he and the castle guards pulled their horses to a halt near Guy 'We can't follow their tracks in water'
'They would have to leave the river somewhere!' Guy yelled 'and we will find out where! Take half the men and search up river, the others with me' with that Guy pulled his horse round and set off downstream as Allen led the remaining guards up river.
Marian paced the room that she, Friar Tuck and Eleanor had been forced into by the mercenaries. The kidnappers had driven their horses fast and hard, their hostages slung across the saddles like sacks. Their hands had been tied and black bags had been placed over their heads. Marian's wrists had been tied so tightly that her bindings had drawn blood; she rubbed at the angry wounds as she continued her pacing.
'My lady you must sit' Tuck said but Marian couldn't. She hated feeling helpless and at this particular moment she did.
'There has to be a way out of here?' Marian said, but she knew that her words where more hope than truth. The room was small and circular; it was made from rough stones. The floor was covered in flagstones and the only exits that Marian could see was the solid oak door that they had been forced through. The door was now barred from the outside and guarded. The only other way out was via a window that overlooked a part of Sherwood Forest that Marian didn't recognised.
At first Marian thought that they could escape through the window but on closer inspection she had given up on that idea too. They were several stories above the ground, the stones on the outside were too smooth to use to climb down and apart from themselves the room was completely empty.
They were trapped and helpless and Marian hated the fear that this situation was making her feel.
'How is she?' Marian asked as she finally stopped pacing and turned to look at Eleanor. The sheriff's daughter was still unconscious. Tuck had already expressed his concerns that the blow to Eleanor's head may have coursed some form of brain malady and that the widow would take some time to wake from it. It had been early afternoon when the three hostages had been taken, now as Marian moved closer to the window she could see the sky darkening with a deep red glow on the horizon.
'Robin, we cannot possibly pay' Djaq said that evening after Robin had returned to camp and informed his gang of what had happened.
'How can you say that?' Much called out in indignation 'This is for Marian. She's one of us, our friend, and our ally. She has saved all our lives on more than one occasion. Robin, of course we will pay Marian is one of us'
'That may be true, Much, but we still can not pay' Djaq repeated 'we don't have enough money. We barely have two hundred pounds'
'Oh' mumbled Much
'Robin I am sorry' Djaq said softly as she touched his arm
'Then we steal more' John stated 'We don't leave one of our own behind'
'There's no way we can steal three hundred pounds in one night' Much exclaimed 'not now the sheriff knows of all our ways into the castle, thanks to Allen'
'Talking about me?' A voice called from behind them 'I thought my ears were burning' the gang turned to see Allan A Dale standing behind them.
'What do you want?' John growled as he reached for his staff and Robin pulled back his bow pointing an arrow at him.
'Whoa don't shoot' Allen exclaimed as he raised his hands to show he was unarmed 'I'm here to help'
'You Help?' Much scoffed 'Why would you help?'
'Because believe it or not I actually like Marian, I don't want anything to happen to her' Allan told the group before he turned towards Robin 'Giz recons you'll not be able to pay the ransom. I know you told the Sheriff you would but can you?'
'We can pay the ransom' Robin said heatedly
'That wasn't what I just heard' Allan said 'what did you plan on doing? Fill the bottom of a chest with stones or sand and cover them with coins?'
'No' Will said, however he knew the idea had crossed most of their minds.
'I knew it' Alan said grinning, he knew these people too well 'you don't have the full five hundred do you?'
'We're a little short' Robin conceded, his words were civil but there was a distinct hostile tone to them.
'Allan, we only have two hundred pounds' Djaq informed him 'We can't raise three hundred before tomorrow'
'Well it's a good thing that I dropped in then' Allan said smiling 'Gizzy said you wouldn't be able to get your hands on the full amount and the Sheriff is worried that Eleanor would be in danger because of it. Guy's struck up a deal with the sheriff, if he pays for Marian he gets Marian.
'He can't do that!' Much exclaimed
'The sheriff can and he will' said Allan 'You all seem to forget he's the law around here'
'He can't' Much mumbled to himself once more.
'Gisborne is already preparing the money to be sent to Nottingham, I'm escorting it from Locksley tonight with several guards towards the North road and then into town'
'Why are you telling us this?' Robin asked his bow still raised and pointed at Allen
'Because Marian loves you'
Guy sat in front of the roaring fire at Locksley Manor, his boots discarded as he warmed his feet by the fires heat. Draining his goblet Guy filled it once more and couldn't help but reflect on the events of the day. It was dusk when Guy and his men returned to Nottingham, their horses were tired and his men weary, in the end the search had proved fruitless.
The clatter of horses sounded outside and Allen's voice called something out to the men before he entered the manor.
'Is it done?' Guy asked
'It went exactly to plan' Allan said smiling smugly 'Robin came, we put up a believable fight, and then we ran. He didn't suspect a thing'
'And the money?'
'They took it'
'Good' Guy said before he drained his goblet once more.
'Now we sleep, we've a busy day tomorrow'