"Never injure a friend, even in jest." Cicero
For his fifth birthday, Robin got his first horse (and named it Horse. Creativity was never one of his strong suits). For his sixth birthday, he got his first bow (and was better than the twelve-year-old he shared the practice range with. For his seventh birthday, he got Much.
Much was three months older and two inches shorter: a thin, breakable stick with long legs and a sharp tongue that he couldn't seem to keep reigned in. His parents had both died in the flu that took Robin's own mother and the servants, in desperation to get Much out from under their feet, had reminded Robin's father, the Lord of Locksley, that most young men of Robin's status needed a personal servant.
So the two became inseparable, partially because Much had been threatened with things worse than death if he ever lost Robin in the vast Sherwood Forest they called their playground, but mostly because the two were genuinely fond of each other, were perfect compliments.
Much was a naysayer, a worrier, a planner. He liked to know what was happening and liked to have all the facts before jumping into the unknown. Robin, even at seven, could care less. He liked to see where the day brought him.
It was a Saturday when they decided to go for a swim. It had been a long, hot summer, a summer that found both Much and Robin working in the fields to ready the harvest. Late September had brought the first bite of cold to the air, and the harvest would be ready for picking the following week, which meant that the boys had exactly three days of reprieve from the long, tedious hours of work.
Much would have preferred to spend his time doing something less active. Whittling. Singing. Just sitting and listen to the adults shoot the breeze. But Robin had the strange inability to sit still for more than a few seconds and insisted that, since they had a day off from working, they should go find some more work to do.
"Let's build something in the forest! Like a fort in the trees that no one can see – and it'll just be for the two of us!"
"No Marian?" Much asked, smiling just a little. The first time Robin had run into Marian had been a few months ago, and though the young boy insisted that she was just as icky as all the other girls, he seemed to talk about her an awful lot.
This time, though, there was no exception even for Robin's girl. "No. It'll be a boy's fort. No girls allowed."
"Ah." Much put his knife in his pocket, sure that there wouldn't be time to carve anything today but knowing that Robin would forget that they had to notch the wood in order to make it fit together. He wove back and forth across the path as Robin darted forward, scouting out trees. By the time Much caught up, arms laden with a stack of thick wood, Robin was standing in front of one of the tallest trees in the forest.
"Now we just have to find a way to get up there."
Much smiled at the obvious oversight, looking up at the tree intently. "You know, I think we could get the wood up to the top if someone climbed up with a piece of rope and draped it over a branch…" he trailed off at Robin's too-happy look.
"No! Master, I hate climbing trees. Besides, I'm awful at it." Much whined, staring up at the first branch, ten feet above his head. "And I can't even reach the first branch, let alone climb all the way to the top."
"But you have to!" Robin exclaimed, "Or else we can't build a fort!"
Much could care less about building a fort. He wanted to be at home, sleeping, not gallivanting with Robin on another one of his adventures. Every time he returned the other servant boys would tease him mercilessly about these "adventures" and Much, even at his young age, suspected there was more to their words than what he was detecting. Still, he didn't mind the taunts himself – he was thick-skinned, could take the jokes and pranks. As long as they weren't directed at Robin.
Still, there was a limit to what Much would do for his master, and climbing a forty foot tree was one of those limits. "Master, I can't. If I break my leg and miss the harvest my uncle will have my hide!"
"Then don't break your leg." Robin reasoned. "C'mon, Much, I don't want to order you. It will be fun!"
"Fun." Much repeated, saying the word as one may say "maggots". Still, he could never resist Robin. It would be a pattern that would repeat themselves throughout their lives: Robin leading blindly, Much following, cautiously, willingly.
And inevitably getting hurt.
This time it happened just a few minutes in, after Robin had boosted Much up onto his shoulders and the shorter boy had grabbed hold of the lowest branch. He pulled himself up, breathing heavily, the rope slung over one of his shoulders. Finally, wobbling and cursing, he stood, eyeing the next branch.
This one was slightly thinner, but close. He had only to put his left foot on a knot in the tree in order to reach it.
"Careful…" It was almost worth climbing a tree – which Much still really, really hated to do – to hear Robin's caution, his voice anxious, worried for him, Much.
But the worry was unfounded. Much slipped with ease, if not grace, from branch to branch, rising steadily higher until he was twenty, thirty, thirty-five feet above the forest floor. He had avoided looking down for some time now – the dizziness it brought made him sick to his stomach – but now he chanced it. Robin looked no bigger than a snail. "Here, master?"
It happened in less than ten seconds.
As if his words had caused a vibration, the word under him creaked ominously. Much only had time for a quick glance at the trunk, only had time for the realization that he was about to fall, before he was actually falling, face and arms and hands hitting bark and leaves, scratching, tearing, until he was covered in small cuts.
Of course, the worst pain came with the landing. Strange, how Much had been worried about this very injury. Now, though, he was numb to the hot agony in his leg. In fact, he could feel nothing at all below his waist.
He opened his mouth to scream and found that there was nothing to scream about, unless it was the very absence of pain, which was almost scarier than blood and gore and broken bones. Instead of a scream, he found himself saying just one word, "Master?"
"Here." Much carefully turned his head until he was staring at Robin's face, hovering, scared, mere inches from his own. Robin's child hands pressed, too hard, against Much's body and the servant winced, wishing that Robin wouldn't touch him but not about to ask him to stop. "Much…"
That must have been when Robin caught sight of the broken leg, poking obscenely through flesh and trousers, white bone glinting in the middle of red gore. He swallowed an exclamation of surprise, of terror, and put his hands around Much's face when the smaller boy tried to see what had caused his master's face to contort like that.
"You'll be alright." Robin said, almost automatically. After all, that's what his own mother said whenever he was injured or sick. "I'll just go get…someone."
"No!" And suddenly, falling out of the tree again would have been nothing, nothing, compared to the fear of being alone in Sherwood Forest. Being alone and injured. "No, master, please!" Much's small hand caught Robin's equally small one and clung to it, tight. "Don't leave me!"
Robin shook out of the grasp. They would need help to get Much back home…that leg…
And if he had to look at his servant, his friend, for a second longer he would scream, because he was the one who had been so gung-ho about building the stupid fort and Much had never wanted to climb the tree in the first place. And if he looked at Much again, he would surely be sick.
So he slipped out of Much's fingers, ignoring the boy's cries of surprise, of abandonment, as he scurried away, towards home, leaving Much stranded alone.
And that was the first time Robin accidently hurt his Much.
We find BBC shows absolutely adorable, especially this one (we've always been huge Robin Hood fans). Anyone who hasn't seen it should look it up on Netflix (which is the best thing since Google) and get back to us. It really is rather amazing.
Anyways, please review.