*I do not own Robin Hood. I do not make any money writing this story*
A/N: I find the lack of Godfrey fanfiction disturbing. I'm gonna do my part to help the situation. :P Hope you like!
Dismounting his horse, Godfrey removed his riding gloves and made slow, steady way towards the creek. Listening to the sounds of the woods around him, to the birds calling and the trees breathing, and the gentle gurgle of the stream, he bent down to dip his dirt-caked hands into the freezing water, bringing them up briefly and rubbing them together to wash them clean. He rose his eyes to survey the woods around him, the air cold and the mist lingering in the trees. Godfrey was lost.
It had been an intolerable couple of hours. Having been stationed at camp far from Barnsdale, awaiting the King's army from France to make their way into the heart of England, his brigade had picked up to move out of the woods and towards the road that would take them to Barnsdale. But, once they were on their way, Godfrey, who had been lagging behind, had spotted what he believed to be a messenger riding through the woods. Pulling away from the troop, he had seen that it was obviously not a messenger but a doe frolicking in the clearing, and once he had gone back to rejoin the brigade, they had disappeared into the trees.
It seemed utterly preposterous. He was leading them, after all, throughout the country to collect taxes for King John, how could they even think to continue on without him? How had not one of them noticed he was absent from the party and declared they should all stop and search for him? How on earth did he get lost in the first place? It was because of the damned forest, endless trees and hills and moss. It played tricks on the mind and led Godfrey further and further away from his brigade. It had been a complete waste of both time and energy.
Sighing heavily, in both exasperation and anger, Godfrey shook his clean hands relatively dry and, as he stood, he balled them together and rose them to his mouth to warm them. Turning his gaze this way and that, he tried to think of a solution to this most ridiculous conundrum he was in. Would he head for the road and hope to meet them? It seemed plausible that they should ride to meet him, but he had no idea where the road even was, forget the direction in which to ride towards. Seemed whichever way he turned and looked, he was leading himself further and further into the deep woods and farther and farther away from civilization, and thus, his brigade.
Godfrey seemed to remember having packed a map of the area, hidden somewhere in his saddlebag. He figured it would be the best place to begin, now that he was helplessly lost. He turned towards his horse when suddenly a very peculiar sound caught his acute attention.
It was the sound of an arrow, piercing the freezing air, whizzing past his left ear, and Godfrey turned his head sharply and backed up towards his horse, his eyes roving the open ground for any sign of an aggressor. He reached with his right hand for the sheath tied to his horse's saddle, where his sword sat sleeping, and careful not to make even the slightest crunch under his boots, he continued to look amongst the trees for a figure, and continued to listen for another arrow.
It came again, a second arrow flying sharply through the air, and Godfrey grabbed the hilt of his sword and unsheathed it, holding it at the ready, surveying the area. He knew the archer could not be far, as the arrow was close range, he could tell it had not landed far. The archer was obviously taking aim at him.
Godfrey gripped the hilt with both hands and took a step forward. Behind him his horse whinnied nervously, and Godfrey knew he was not alone.
All of a sudden, a great thundering sound erupted from behind him, and turning on his heel and readying his sword, Godfrey was shocked at first to see a great stag come running through the woods, breaking out of the cold air, and fleeing past him without even a care. Godfrey turned to watch the magnificent animal splash across the creek and climb up the slight hill, disappearing into the trees. He could see the silhouette of the creature's antlers through the mist for only a little while, and then it was gone.
Godfrey settled a little, easing his tense shoulders, for there was still the matter of the archer, if the archer remained nearby, which seemed more than plausible. But the more he listened, the quieter the woods became, and there were no more sounds of arrows or animal hooves. He resolved to sheath his sword and return to the matter at hand: getting himself to the nearest road for any hopes of rejoining his party.
But just as he turned towards his horse, another figure came bounding out of the trees before him, blinding his peripheral vision; two heavy feet planted into the soil beside him, and Godfrey, with his lightning reflexes, rose his sword to defend himself against a possible attack, not surprised in the least to hear the all too familiar metallic clang as his sword collided with another.
Godfrey came face to face with his attacker, a wide-eyed young hunter, holding no more then a simple hunting knife to defend himself against Godfrey's great sword.
Godfrey mustered a scowl as threatening as he could manage for the young hunter who had dared to take aim at him, promising in his mind that the hunter was in for a world of pain, but as his trained eyes searched his attacker's face for a sign of weakness, he was taken aback by the sight of strawberry-blonde hair that he had assumed was cut short until he saw the locks were pulled back into a long braid.
Godfrey felt his scowl lift. It wasn't a young hunter at all. It was a young woman.
Truly Godfrey was as surprised to see her as she was surely surprised to see him. She stood tall but was lithe and slender in the limbs. The dirt smudges on her lovely white face did not steal his gaze away from her mystifying eyes, green as the forest that surrounded them, as she stared back at him with a gaze of both fear and fearlessness.
While they both maintained their position, it seemed unclear as to who would step down first. While this girl had only a hunting knife, she had been silent enough moving through the woods that Godfrey did not doubt she had other hidden skills she might not mind exercising in the presence of a potential enemy. She did not falter her gaze on him, and while that normally would have irritated him, Godfrey was more curious in her defiance then irritated.
"Are you hunting me, nymph?" Godfrey inquired, his voice emitting from his throat as smooth as silk.
The girl shook a little, as though she had never heard a man's voice before, but refusing to falter she pressed her pink lips together and continued to stare at him. It was obvious to Godfrey's observation that she was trembling but trying hard to stand her ground.
"I was after a stag," she spoke at last, fluently, like music, but strong and determined. "Did it come this way?"
Godfrey snorted lightly in his throat, resisting the urge to smile, and took a step back, drawing his sword away from her knife, and watched her expression change with surprise. He knew that, since she was after the stag and clearly not after him, she would not have the will to attack him, and he had no desire to strike against a young woman; even if she chose to attack him, it didn't matter how skilled she may have been, she was clearly no match against him. Nevertheless, she watched him intently, as though convinced he was going to pounce and strike at any moment, and she must always be on guard.
Godfrey saw that she was terrified of him.
"It came, and it's gone." he answered, referring to the stag she was after, and gestured to where he had seen the animal disappear. "Into higher ground."
Drawing her eyes away from him for only a moment, she looked to where he was intimating, her eyebrows knitting together. Slowly she lowered her knife to her side and let out a defeated sigh. She shook her head dismally, swearing under her breath, and turning to look back at Godfrey, she carefully sheathed her hunting knife on her belt. Her eyes did not falter from his gaze. "You shouldn't be out here alone."
Godfrey eyed her mischievously as he went to his horse and replaced his sword in its sheath. If only she knew what atrocities he'd committed in the past. Being alone in the woods was of no concern to him, aside from the fact he was lost. "And why might that be?"
She stared up at him with an unimpressed look on her face. "These woods are home to the most vicious wolves in all England. They prowl on lone travellers, night and day."
Godfrey couldn't help but smile, touched by her guarded concern for his well-being. He had no doubt that if faced with a pack of wolves, he would have been quite capable of handling himself.
It occurred to him, almost immediately, that if she was warning him against the possible dangers of the area, she must have known it well herself. So he decided to take the chance to make inquiries.
He turned towards her and fitted his hands into his gloves while she stared at him like she had never seen a man before. His gaze flitted up and down her form for a moment; she was dressed in a simple hunter's vest and trousers made of brown leather, with long boots that stretched up past her knees. For the first time he noticed the longbow that was flung over her shoulder. She seemed thin but he could see her forearms were toned and so he assumed she was fit for life in the forest.
"Obviously you know the land, for it moves silently beneath you. Is there a town nearby?" Godfrey knew if there was a town nearby, there would be a road in which to find the rest of his brigade.
The girl tensed, as though hesitant to reveal such information, but then she turned towards the hill from where she had first appeared and raised her arm. "There's a village over these hills, beyond the trees."
She took a moment to examine him; she must have come to the conclusion that he was a wandering traveler in need of rest, albeit a fairly threatening-looking traveler. "You'll find room and board there."
Godfrey looked to where she was pointing, and although it occurred to him to ride and take her direction, he had already gotten himself more lost then he cared to admit and didn't want to risk getting himself lost any further. Looking back at the girl, he gestured with the nod of his head. "Will you show me the way?"
The request seemed to shock her, for her eyes widened considerably, and she looked away to hide the expression on her face, which amused Godfrey. She was obviously hesitant, and she swallowed tightly and crossed her arms. It made Godfrey want to laugh. She had every right to be frightened of him, but he was in no mood to be a menace, and certainly not if there was drink and hot food in this town she hailed from. The thought of hot food and warming drink on a bitterly cold day soothed him, and he was anxious for it, especially in light of his frustrations.
Finally she sucked a breath in through her teeth. "All right."
Godfrey managed a small, pleasant smile and mounted his horse in one fluent motion. His horse stomped impatiently on the mossy ground, and turning towards the girl who moved to follow, he gripped the reins with his left hand and extended his right hand out to her.
She paused as though he had pulled a weapon on her, and she looked up into his hazel eyes in great surprise, motioning as though ready to spring back and run in the opposite direction. She looked to him for an explanation.
Godfrey waited patiently, holding his gaze with her. "Come, I'll not let a lady walk should there be a horse to carry her."
She was mistrustful, and eyed the horse as though she'd never seen one before and didn't dare mount it. She shook her head eagerly. "Thank you, but no. I...prefer to walk."
Godfrey chuckled a little deep in his throat. "It's a cold day, milady, and you've been shaking since the moment we clashed our blades. Best we arrive quickly so you may get warm."
He saw the colour rush to the apples of her cheeks and it gave him some amusement that she was embarrassed. But indeed she was shivering, holding her arms to her body, and she looked towards the forest and then down at her dirty boots, a clue that the town was almost too far away to go on foot. Godfrey continued to wait patiently, enjoying her discomfort, but still held out his hand for her to take.
Finally, after much deliberation, took the longbow from her shoulder and approached the horse steadily. First Godfrey took the longbow from her and placed it strategically against the saddle so that it would not fall loose, and then turning back to the girl she rose her white hand to accept his offer.
Smiling mischievously to himself, Godfrey enveloped her delicate hand in his fist and hauled her up as though she weighed nothing, which made her gasp.
Delighting in her discomfort of the situation, Godfrey pulled her up and observed the shocked look on her face as he planted her snugly in the saddle in front of him. She tensed up, and for a moment he was positive she was going to jump right off and make a run for it. But a moment passed and she remained still, and the heat of her body was a welcome warmth to him, and suppressing a smile, Godfrey wound his arms around her frame to tightened the reins about his hands and motioned with his thighs for the horse to climb up and hill, and so they made their steady way through the trees.
The entire horseback ride back to town was in silence, for Reagan knew she had either done something fairly wise or, alternatively, very stupid. She sat in the saddle of this man's horse, with her back flush against his chest, gripping the horn of the saddle with both hands as his arms circled around her as he held the reins of his horse. It frightened her more then seeing the telltale glowing of wolf eyes in the dead of the night through the trees, but it also excited her more than anything she had experienced before.
When she had encountered him, this man in black, while running after the stag who she had missed with two finely crafted arrows, she had no intention of hurting him, unless of course he made move to hurt her in turn. Quite the contrary: she hadn't been able to take her eyes away from him. Reagan had never seen a man quite like him; very tall and muscular, mysterious, with not a hair on his head and such distinctive facial features, that which included a rather angry-looking scar along his left cheek, and he was very handsome in a none too conventional way. He was dressed in clothes as black as pitch, with a horse as black as the dead of night, and although there was something about his aura she did not trust, he had been courteous enough, and that was hard to come by.
They rode on through the vast trees in silence; all that could be heard was the heavy gallop of the horse's hooves on the wet ground, and the pounding of her heart as it slammed against her chest. Reagan drew in careful breaths and stared ahead, feeling the hotness of his breath tumble down the back of her neck, and she shivered.
They were riding for no more than ten minutes when the forest began to clear and the grass turned into a steady road of flattened dirt. Reagan rose her head and saw the misty snakes of smoke slither their up into the frosty air. They were close enough.
Gathering all the courage she could muster, she turned over her shoulder and spoke at last. "Sir, if you'll let me down, I'll show you the rest of the way."
He made a sound in his throat that sounded like a suppressed laugh. "What an impertinence to a lady. We're nearly there, I'll escort you."
"No, sir." Reagan said quite forcefully, and set her hand down against his which held the reins. At this, the man at her back slowed the horse to a simple trot, and Reagan turned to look up at him, into his dark eyes that stared her down. "You do me too much honour. Please, let me down. I'll alert them to your arrival."
He regarded her silently. How strange for a lady to go running through such dangerous woods and yet be so skittish in the presence of a man who was, against all odds, determined to be quite the gentleman. Her nervousness delighted him, for he had always had such an effect on women, but nevertheless he slowed the horse to a gentle stop and dropped the reins. He rose his right hand out, palm up, as though offering her the way. "As you wish."
With piercing green eyes she gave him a fierce look and let herself down, her feet landing hard against the cold ground. She retrieved her longbow from where it sat against the saddle and when she looked up at him she had on her face an expression as hard as steel, as though she knew there was something mistrustful about him. She looked down towards the village and raised her arm to point. "Ride into the square."
And with that, she left his side and hurried ahead of him, carrying the longbow along beside her. Godfrey smiled and motioned his horse to follow her down into the village, his eyes set on her back until he came up over a hill and down into the village.
The village was nestled in a dipped clearing of the forest, surrounded by trees; Godfrey observed large, handsome wooden houses with brick chimneys, finely built stables, and barns for livestock. Godfrey surveyed the area carefully; the people seemed no more then hunters, blacksmiths, and farmers. All around there were children running and laughing, people going about their business doing chores and working. As he entered the village, all eyes turned towards him and stared as though they too had never seen a man quite like him before.
They were not impoverished folk, Godfrey concluded, for their surroundings seemed well kept and they themselves well fed and fairly clean. Perhaps the taxation officers had not collected from them yet.
The hooves of his horse made heavy sounds as they were met with the cobblestoned square, and Godfrey noticed the road in which he as now trotting on. Looking up he saw the road stretched up over the hill and into a clearing. He couldn't help but smile; if this road led to the main road, surely his brigade would think to infiltrate the village before pressing on to Barnsdale; surely they wouldn't continue on without him.
Godfrey's horse was beginning to slow as the road stopped and Godfrey turned his attention back towards the girl. She had led him directly towards one of the largest houses in the village, and he watched as she was literally pulled into an embrace by a jovial, heavy-set man, who had emerged from the house, and whom Godfrey assumed to be her father, judging how she returned his embrace with equal enthusiasm. Godfrey approached steadily.
"My dear, my dear," chimed the older gentleman with a deep voice, laughing as the girl separated from his embrace. "You never cease to amaze me! Here I expected you back with the meat and pelt of a stag and here you've brought us a knave!" The old man laughed, holding out his hands in Godfrey's direction, as though he were an old friend being welcomed back to their village. Godfrey moved his horse forward.
"Come, gentle good fellow! You are most welcome here!" The old man was red-faced and red-headed, and had a booming laugh to meet his booming voice. He stepped forward to place a giant hand on the neck of Godfrey's horse and rose his big brown eyes up to Godfrey. "I say, my son, have you been traveling these woods alone?"
Godfrey hesitated a moment, not sure whether he should reveal he was lost; such a statement seemed an indignant confession to his person. But they seemed to be simple enough people that the truth wouldn't compromise him in his somewhat fragile position.
"I have, good sir. I was separated from my riding party." Godfrey admitted graciously, politely as he could, and rose his eyes to the girl, who was presently washing her hands at a trough just behind the old man. "Your...huntress was kind enough to guide me here."
At mention, the young lady rose her eyes to meet Godfrey's gaze, with something like apprehension written across her face at having been mentioned, a look to which Godfrey only returned with a neutral gaze.
The old man laughed, looking over his shoulder at the girl. "Yes, yes. Reagan finds the most surprising of things, don't you my dear?"
Godfrey watched as the girl, Reagan, smiled reservedly at the old man and glimpsed up at Godfrey for only another moment, as though afraid to meet his gaze. Godfrey couldn't help but smile to himself a little. Reagan; the name suited her perfectly.
"Come, good sir." Boomed the old man, pulling Godfrey's attention away. "Give us a name we may call you by."
He was tempted to give a false name, but he assumed no danger would come to him by identifying himself properly amidst such simple forest folk. He smiled cautiously, looking again at Reagan, who's attention was turned down to her hands but he could tell by the way her head was slightly turned that she was listening for his name.
"Godfrey." He said at last, clearly, and observed the most subtle movement from Reagan after having heard his name.
The old man nodded his head, making an approving sound in his throat. "Godfrey, a good name, a strong name. I am Theodore, and this is my village." He held out his arms as if to showcase his village like it was a booming metropolis and he was its king. Nevertheless, Godfrey smiled politely. Twas always refreshing to see a man proud of his country. "You are welcome to stay as long as you wish!"
Godfrey couldn't help but feel relieved. Although he wasn't entirely keen on the idea of spending too much time with these simple peasant folk, the idea of hot food, drink, and a bed to sleep in was far more welcoming then wandering idly through the woods. Besides, his brigade needed to come this way to head for Barnsdale, it was logical to just stay put and wait.
So Godfrey nodded courteously to Theodore. "You are too kind."
Theodore beamed and reached for the bridal of Godfrey's horse. "Tis not often we get visitors in these parts. Come, you are just in time to dine with us."
Godfrey smiled, the sound of food was especially welcomed at that moment. "I thank you."
Dismounting his horse, Godfrey walked alongside his horse as Theodore led them towards the nearest stable, past Reagan who continued to wash at the trough, as the old man was booming about how his horse would receive the best of horse hospitality. Eyes were on him from all directions as they walked, but it seemed as though they were more mystified by him then suspicious. Theodore had shown obvious signs of approval, and that seemed to be enough for them as well. It made Godfrey laugh to himself; such simple forest folk, if only they knew who he really was and what he was really up to.
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