Robin Hood is not the man you think he is. He will not tell me his true name. He says it is that better that I do not know. Better for me or better for him to forget his loathsome past? I am moot on that point. Broader shoulders and a darker brow shield him from common questions about his origin, but he is from the east of our fair isle. I have discerned that much. And yet, I wonder how much I can trust him. If he cannot tell me his real name, how am I to give him my trust? But I wish to tell the story of how we first met.
He gave me reason to shoot him when I lost my way in the forest. It had become a game, hunting him and his dark friend, Little John, a merrier past time to drive our village's men into the wood after that hooded fox. Father had set a price on the man's head when he stole my ceremonial purse from my belt in the market field. Inside were my mother's spoon, and a lock of my mother's hair. Small trinkets of a woman passed to the netherworld. He ran like a hare, through the tall briar-like weeds towards Sherwood. I had turned and shouted at him, begun to run after him, anger building in my chest. Will, my brother was faster than I, lighter in loose leggings. He did not catch him, but he did claim a single arrow from his quiver as his own, a small prize for his brave chase. The boys and men had whooped and hollered at the sky when my father asked they seek this forest thief and capture him for the return of my purse.
It was the ecstasy of chase that drove them, past all marks of a trail into the brush with Will in the lead, Robin's slim green arrow in his hand. We were all children of the forest. Our fathers hunted there, our mothers took us to the slow moving streams to bath, and we all ate its fruits. But Robin Hood was a stranger to us, a child of a supplanted land hunting through our fog and trees for the prize hart. And he knew all its bosom secrets, its haunted corps with the ghosts of roman legions passing by. Those young men did not hear the wren's call above their heads, as I was sure he did, sitting out of the sun on a limb of an oak, watching the shadows dance on the forest floor. I ran behind them, my skirts flecked with dirt, a bow in my hand and half-full quiver on my back. I was not sure he had family here. Or why he hid in the woods. We all knew of Little John, his dark coldblooded friend who eyed us all with disdain in the market place. We thought he might be vagabond, a nomad wintering here.
I walked the forest until it grew dark, and then I waited. Soft sounds of trees creaking and the night calls of the beasts as I waited til dusk following my brother and his jolly band halfway home before turning aside. A boy in the village, had claimed he had seen the mysterious Robin alight in a tree and sit down, watching the sun rise, like a lost lover, silent and burnt with the fire of time. That had been a Sunday morn, as was tomorrow. Perhaps it was his traditional wont to see the sunrise on a new week, the day the Lord rested. I walked deeper in the eastern part of the forest hoping he would hear my unquiet footsteps and rest in a tree near me. I moved through the briars and climbed over rotting logs and darted spiders webs in the dying light. I moved slower and slower, towards what I thought would be a glen, a stone hut of the romans left to fester and crumble. But it became clear that after an hour, my search had lead me nowhere. I was lost. My brother knew I had stayed behind, and thought I would probably be within the village borders, wandering at will, conversing with the children. I cursed under my breath, I might have had to wait until morning to find the road that led through Sherwood and back to our little village, but Robin Hood could not wait that long.
I saw the glint of fire in the distance as I stumbled in the dark brush, my hair tangled and my hem dark with mud. I climbed over stone and wood to get to the small brush fire, where Robin Hood stood waiting for me. His back was turned to me, towards the fire and a wooden spit where a hare revolved slowly. The man known as Little John was spinning it. I was not as quiet as I had hoped to be, however, and my footsteps alerted them to my presence before I was truly ready. They jumped and Robin spun around an arrow already on his string, ready. Why was he responding this way? I ducked down and lay flat. Surely, he had tracked my brother's movements to the edge of the forest and waited for me to find him. I had heard he did not speak with women, at least, not for any purpose than to buy a loaf of bread. I did not believe he wished me harm. Still, I strung my bow. I knew that stance, that manner of breath poised on the edge of explosion waiting for a leaf to fall. It would not be best for him blindly to let an arrow fly. I took a deep breath, and moved for the nearest, thickest tree. An arrow, almost as silent as an owl, and sharp as its claws flew by my leg. I waited a moment breathing in the cold night air under the tree, knowing my next move must be to still his bow. I squared my shoulders, pulling my arms wide, turned, and let my arrow loose.
A cry broke from his lips. I saw him crumble, bow falling out of his hand. I had hit his arm. A flesh wound. I ran towards the fire, not heeding Little John who stopped me with an outstretched hand. He looked at me with confusion and surprise. He had not expected me. Robin Hood lay on the ground cradling his arm, bow and arrow fallen close to the fire. My arrow was already pulled from the wound and thrown aside. He turned and looked up at me with the same look as Little John. Grey eyes found mine with anger and confusion.
Then Little John began to laugh. Robin stood up slowly still holding his arm, and I stepped back away from him.
"I expected more help friend," he said to Little John with a light European accent that was not of English soil.
Little John laughed all the more. He sat back down cross-legged and began to turn the rabbit once more.
"Lady why did you shoot at me?" He asked me. He was taller than Will.
Little John answered, "She wants her purse back you silly boy."
"Yes, I do want that," I replied, "but I shot you because you would not have missed a second time, and it is better that I have shot you rather you of me."
He nodded. "That is true." The penalty for shooting a person of my rank was cruel.
"What was the other reason?" His eyes searched mine in the firelight.
"I came to watch the sunrise with you."
He was taken aback but pleased. I could see it. He glanced at Little John. Little John only smiled, his eyes glittering. Robin shrugged his shoulders and he picked up his bow and set again the tree.
We sat an hour, watching the hare spin awhile then sharing its meat. Robin wrapped his arm with a bit of cloth and shook it out every once and while. He gave me back my purse with my mother's spoon and hair, and I tried to eat bits of rabbit with it, with no luck. He laughed at that.
I cannot remember much of what we talked about that night or what songs we sang, but I do remember the sunrise. He took my hand, gently, and led me up the tree as the pink colors of dawn touched the stars. It was cold and dew stuck to my tangled hair but there was a common understanding that this no ordinary sunrise. And so it was, a bright glowing globe rose as bright as the first bonfires in May.
Neither of us spoke until it was full, running up the sky, the forest full of morning songs.
"Why did you steal my purse?" I asked at last, walking through the forest along a new and secret route to the village.
"Hope, Lady" he said.
"My father has a price on your head." I did not tell him it was only for his capture.
"And I'm sure there always will be," said Robin.
And he was right.
A/N This is the new first chapter. Since I have found out that I was previously writing the middle instead of the beginning and had little idea who Robin Hood was in this story. I apologize to the two readers Silvre Musgrave and Rawr I'm A Toaster. You will see the chapters you have read again, but they need to be revised.
Thank you for reading!
*Reviews are always welcome. The good and the bad.*