"Yes," She shouts over the distance between them. "I can see you!"
Lady Marian they called her, although hardly any noble blood was in her veins. Her husband was long gone, and she was too faithful to bear a son to carry on the family's name. Or so the villagers gossiped into their mead. The boy, thin as a willow-wand and wearing a mask of leaves and cloth, watched her a moment, stared at the burning arrow at his feet. She wasn't an awful shot. Pity she couldn't remember their names, his name, as his mother did, before she dead. The boy had even forgotten it, taking on a new name and the mask to hide his features. Little Wolfshead they called him. The other boys just called him Wolf. He had won the name in a fight over the last rabbit last winter. He had killed the other boy, taller, stronger than he was, but he was clever. He knew if he showed his face in the night without the mask, showed his face to the other boys, he would be caught the next day, the next week, and strung up like a featherless chicken and be executed. The other boys didn't know how to make masks, and were too afraid to ask him.
Orphans they called them, little poachers and thieves. So they stole from their own fathers grain stores, and took chicken eggs from their mothers baskets. They would have done the same if they were as hungry. Wolf had seen his own father take his mother's dinner and gobble it whole, leaving none for his family. The woods were safer, quieter, and thieves and bastards were friendlier than travelers on the road to beggar children.
The woman knows all this, but she is still angry with them, at him. As if, Lady Marian knew. As if she recognized him somehow, beneath the mask. Notices the unique curls of his hair, his boyish body and stance growing into one like his father's. But he is not anyone's son, has no allegiance, and so he turns away and runs back to Sherwood. He glances over his shoulder and sees the Lady still standing there, watching him. As he always is, he is grateful for the mask. But this time, for a different reason. It hides the twinge of guilt that has been growing in his stomach since he broke into the storehouse. What is wrong with him?
He clutches his bow tighter in his right hand and pounds after his little band of orphans already within the thickets of Sherwood. Towards freedom and towards a restless night of sleep. Perhaps this is what they call growing up.
A/N What do you think?
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