Will traveled as fast as he could, ignoring the pain from the knife wounds on his stomach. He could still hear Andy's screams ringing in his ears, and every time he paused to catch his breath he could see her still form on the table, with blood running down her sides the stench of burnt flesh hanging in the air.
Why hadn't Locksley protected her better, saved her from the Sheriff's revenge. He prayed that they wouldn't find out who she was, who knows what the Sheriff would do to her.
Through the night he walked, braving the chill of the night and the growling of his empty stomach. As the sun began to peek over the horizon, Will reached the outskirts of Sherwood. His feet lead him down the familiar paths, the morning mist concealing everything until you were upon it.
As he drew closer to the camp he heard splashing water, the mist cleared enough to see Robin washing his face. Will could kill him right there and wouldn't feel no regret. But that wouldn't save Andy, he moved forward, breaking a stick underfoot, Robin's head snapped up.
Robin woke slowly from his unconscious. He felt sore all over from the fall. He looked up through the hole he had created, wisps of smoke floated by, as the first stars winked down at him. Using a fallen board he pulled himself to his feet.
He had to steady him as a wave of dizziness threatened to make him fall. He brought a hand up to his head and touched his forehead gently. He had a good sized cut, its blood long since dried. He knew that he had been unconscious for most of the day, he wondered how many people where dead. If Andy had escaped unharmed. He made his way out of the destroyed hut to the world outside. The air was still full of smoke, though the fires were no longer burning. Dead Celts lay scattered on the ground with villagers. Nothing was moving in the clearing.
He couldn't believe that the night before they had been celebrating the baptism of Fanny's son. He imagined that he could still hear the echo of the laughter that took place as he began to walk around searching for a sign of life.
It was only when he crested a small hill that he saw movement. His heart rejoiced at the sight of Bull, Little John, and Azeem walking towards him.
"Christian, we thought you were among the dead" cried Azeem as he got closer.
"Almost Azeem, almost" said Robin clasping Azeem's hand as he stood in front of him.
Suddenly he was wrapped in a huge bear hug, his breath being squeezed out of him. "Robin, I saw you fall and I thought you had gotten killed."
"Its okay Lil John, a hut broke my fall. Did Fanny and the children make it?" managed Robin patting John on the back. John let him go and looked at Robin, a sadness on his face.
"All but Wulf made it. Bull saw him and Andy get carried away by a pair of soldiers. There is only four of us left Rob. Me, Bull, Azeem here, Tuck, not counting Fanny and the other children Tuck saved."
Robin staggered back, not believing it, Azeem steadied him. He realized something, as he stood there thinking. It was his fault that all this had happened. He was the reason why all these people were dead, and the reason why Andy and all the others were captured.
"Come" ordered Azeem, pulling Robin along. The four lead him to the back up camp, where Tuck was busy digging graves. Robin gently picked up a shovel and began to work, all the others following his example. A lot of the bodies they buried were burned and mutilated beyond identification. They only took a break when Fanny came around with a hot stew. They dragged the Celt's bodies to a clearing far from the village, leaving them there to rot.
It was dawn when they finally began to finish. Robin finished digging what was the last grave when he raised his eyes to see Azeem carrying Duncan's body. Robin had to fight the wave of sadness that filled him as he saw the old man's face once Azeem set him down.
"My pride brought us to this" he murmured as he wrapped Duncan's cloak around him.
Azeem shook his head. "No Robin, it was you who gave pride to these people."
Robin just shook his head as he covered Duncan's peaceful face. "I was a fool, a fool to let him leave. To think I planned it all so perfectly."
Azeem sat back on his heels and studied Robin for a moment. "I once heard a wise man say, there are no perfect men, only perfect intentions."
Robin smiled slightly remembering when he said those words. He looked at Azeem,"You did an honor to your countrymen today Azeem, fought better than 20 English knights"
Azeem nodded, and then looked at Robin. "I will finish, go wash the sleep from you're face."
Robin took one last look at the figure of Duncan and got up and left. A few yards away he found a troth filled with water. He knelt down and splashed cool water on his face. Washing away the exhaustion he felt. A twig snapped, making him snap his head up. He was shocked to see Will standing outside of the clearing, looking like a ghost in the morning fog.
"Will, I thought you had been taken.
"I was" said Will coolly as he walked closer to Robin.
"How did you escape?" asked Robin, as he watched Will pause. Before he could answer, a voice roared through the trees who had heard what Robin and Will had said.
"Traitor," yelled Little John running out of the woods. He grabbed Will by the shoulders and began to hit him. "I'll wring your scrawny neck Will Scarlet. No man gets out of the Sheriff's dungeons unless his pockets are line with gold." He dragged him into the camp, Azeem, Fanny, Tuck, and Bull came running.
Fanny kept yelling as John pulled him closer. "Where's the others!" Will said nothing as John bet on him, just curling into himself as each blow landed. He only began to struggle when John threw him to the ground. He tried to cover the knife wounds, but John caught a glimpse of them and pulled the shirt up. To reveal the knife wounds that he had received for the six to see.
"Bugger me" John whispered as he stared. Robin looked down at the sight, it reminded him of everything that happened to him in Jerusalem. He could see the pain in Will's eyes as he lay on the ground panting. Why was he hear, why did the Sheriff let him go? Robin could only think of one reason why the Sheriff had let him go, to be a messenger.
"Let him speak."
Will sat up, bringing the rags of his clothes together to hide the wounds, he looked up at Robin. "I bring a message from Nottingham. Are men are to be hanged at high noon tomorrow."
"What about my boy" demanded Fanny wringing her hands looking down at Will.
Will looked at her mournfully "The boy too," Fanny let out a sob and clutched onto John as Will continued to speak. "Ten men in all. The hangings are to celebrate the Sheriffs marriage."
Everybody stared, "Marriage? To who?" asked Bull.
Will looked around and then focused onto Robin. "Lady Marian"
"He takes a bride of royal blood" said Tuck.
"And with King Richard away he'll be after the bloody throne" finished Little John.
"You were going to use this information to get close to me Will" concluded Robin, gazing down at Will. "What are your intentions?"
Will glared at Robin and stood up to look Robin in the eye. "That depends on you Locksley. I never trusted you that's no secret. I want to know if you are going to finish what you started or run like the spoiled rich boy that I took you for" spat Will.
Robin looked at Will, he was shocked at the venom in his voice. "Have I wronged you in a different life Will Scarlet? Where does this intolerable hated come from?"
Will knew that it was time to tell Robin about their history, something that he had sworn to Andy that he would never do. "From knowing that our" he paused to gather his courage, "That our Father loved you more than me." Everybody grew still they were shocked and then they looked back and forth between the two, noticing the family resemblance. "We are brothers Robin of Locksley, I am the son of the woman that replaced your dead mother for a time. It was your anger that drove them apart."
Robin grabbed Will by the shoulders and shook him. "Lies"
Will jerked back, "It's not a lie," he shouted, "You ruined my life!" Will then went on quieter, "I have more reason to hate you more than anyone. Yet I find myself daring to believe. I want to know brother I want to know if you're going to stay with us to finish what you started?"
Robin couldn't believe it, but as he gazed at Will he realized that he could see his father's eyes looking back at him. He drew Will into a hug, "I have a brother." He cradled Will's face in his hand, tears were threatening to fall from his eyes. "I'll make my stand with you. Side by side to the end."
"To the end!" echoed Bull
"Were all bloody in, daft bugger" threw in Little John.
Robin turned from Will to look at his friends, "We finish this! Gather all the weapons you can find."
Bull and Little John aye and went off in search of bows and arrows. Azeem wandered away saying that he had a weapon that would help, Tuck followed him. Fanny left to check on the children, leaving Will and Robin.
Robin turned to Will, "Let's get those wounds cleaned."
He lead Will to the fire and set a pot to boil some water as he gathered bandages. Will watched him work, he could tell that Robin was still in shock of his news. He closed his eyes, resting for a moment. He jumped when he felt Robin's hand touch him on his shoulder.
"Sorry" murmured Robin as he sat down next to Will. He took the remains of Will's shirt off of him, and he saw all the wounds. He winced in sympathy, but Will shook his head.
"Don't feel sorry for me, this is nothing to what they were doing to Andy."
Robin snapped his head up, "They are torturing Andy!"
Will nodded solemnly, "She is to be one of the ten, the Sheriff came in the dungeon and asked two of us pain or death, Andy was one of the two. Even though she chose death, the Sheriff had her tortured."
Robin sighed, that sounded like Andy, he began to wash Will's wounds and thought about his sister, "Does she know that you?"
Will winced as Robin's cloth rubbed against the wounds; he drew a shaky breath before answering. "Yes, I told her months ago when I found out who she was. She begged me ever since to tell you. I promised her before they began the torture that I we would save her. I was worried that you would shoot me before I could tell you."
Robin gave a little laugh, "True, I might have did that if I had my bow with me. Have the Sheriff's men found out that she is a girl?"
"Not yet, but I fear they might" whispered Will, as Robin wrapped bandages around Will torso.
Tuck watched as Azeem took a small pinch of the black powder he had been grinding and throw it into the fire. Tuck fell over backwards as the fire exploded with a yell. Everybody paused and looked at Azeem, before turning away when they realized everything was alright. Azeem smiled down at Tuck as he gently sat back up. "Truly you are a wizard!"
Azeem shook his head, and held up the bowl he had been grinding. "The mystery is in the black powder."
Tuck looked up the sky, "Surely the god will grant us victory."
A few yards away Robin began to lay out his plan using a scale model of Nottingham castle in front of him, using his dagger to point to the different positons.
"Bull, you will position yourself by the gate to cut off reinforcements. John, you'll stay by this wall to cover our escape. I'll conceal myself below the scaffold and cut our men free from the nooses at the signal."
Will shook his head and spoke up, "I'll do that. You can cover us with your bow."
Robin patted Will's knee, "No its to dangerous Will."
Will laughed and held up his hand that had the circular scar on it from Robin's arrow going through it. "So's your aim"
Robin smiled, as another explosion could be heard with Tuck cry of joy. "Whatever Azeem is concocting we must each be in place for it. Our success depends on all of us acting in total concert. We may be only six men, but-"
"Seven" stated Fanny as she walked up with a sword in his hand.
Little John looked at her before turning back to the model. "What in blazes are you doing woman, and where are the little ones."
"There safe, there with me mother" assured Fanny.
John clutched his quarter staff hard. "You're a bleeding crack girl, you'll get hurt."
Fanny scoffed. "You birth eight babies, and then you can talk about getting hurt you big ox. I'm not going to sit here and let one of them die I'm I" she demanded.
"You should be minding the other seven," said John, he looked over at Robin. "Tell her Rob."
Robin studied Fanny's determined face, and knew that he wouldn't be able to change her mind. "Fanny you'll take position here" he said inserting his dagger in the wall of the castle. John just groaned.
Robin watched as everybody moved to their positions, he had been able to slip into the castle disguised as a blind beggar with his bow hiding in his crutch. He glanced at the balcony that held Marian, she looked so beautiful. He tore his eyes off her and examined the scene. The gallows were right where Will said they would be, but something was beside it. And he soon realized that it was a stake, for burning someone on. We didn't know why it was there. The sound of the chimes of the clock had him looking down as the doors of the prison opened and a soldier came walking out, dragging something behind him. He had to stop himself from going over the wall as he saw who it was.
Andy was marched out first. Gone were her boy clothes, instead she was dressed in a simple slip of linen that fell to her feet and had long sleeves. The Locksley medallion was pulled out for all to see. People whispered as she past, a few called out witch. But Andy never let her eyes wander from straight in front of her with her head held high bearing herself like a queen. She was lead past the gallows, ten nooses were swinging in the wind. She paused to stare at the last noose, a large stool was placed under it and she knew that it was Wulf's place in line.
The soldier leading her pulled viscously on the lead rope causing her to stumble on the wet cobblestones with her bare feet. A few yards from the gallows, was a stake where men were throwing firewood and straw around. Andy forced herself not to cry as she was bound tightly to the stake, straw and sticks piled around her feet by a grinning soldier.
The soldier stood beside her, holding a lighted torch. Andy lifted her eyes to watch the first of the Woodsmen being marched out of the prison into the daylight. She took a second to allow her gaze to land on Marian. Marian was looking right at Andy with horror, apparently Nottingham hadn't told her about Andy. Andy's gaze shifted to the right to look at the Sheriff, their gazes locked. Andy glared at him, as a small grin graced the Sheriff's face. For a second Andy saw the animal that had her pinned on the bed the night before. Andy dropped her gaze to watch Wulf appear from the dungeons. He seemed so small compared to the crowd around him. Andy watched as anger appeared on his face and with a yell flung himself into the crowd yelling traitor.
A mass of bodies prevented Andy from seeing who Wulf attacked until the man was dragged forward for the Sheriff to see, Andy caught a glimpse of familiar red cleated pants.
"No" she whispered, not Will, how much of her family was she going to lose?
"Ah, well if it isn't the turn coat," said the Sheriff, in a cold voice loud enough for everybody to hear. "I was wondering what had happened to you. Did you succeed?"
Andy heard Will's voice. "I found Locksley's lair, but he was already dead."
"You're sure?" said the Sheriff sharply. "You saw Hood's body?"
"I saw a grave" said Will weakly.
"We found this on him Sir" explained one of the soldiers holding Will, he held out something that was hidden from her gaze. Andy watched horrified as the Sheriff sentenced him to death with the others. Will was tied to a barrel on the gallows. The drums began to roll.
She bowed her head and closed her eyes, she didn't want to see her families last moments. Silence filled the air seconds before Andy heard the hangman kick the stool from beneath Wulf. Suddenly there was an explosion of voices as people began to yell. From all of it, Andy heard someone calling Wulf, a familiar voice. Andy jerked her had up to see Little John battling soldiers trying to get to the gallows. Andy jerked against her bonds as something hit the stake inches above her head.
She looked up to see a quivering arrow sticking out. She looked in time to see the second arrow split Wulf's noose, causing him to tumble to the ground, the arrow continued to fly and bury itself next to the first arrow. Only one person could have made that shot, she followed the line of flight and saw the figure of Robin standing alone.
"Robin" yelled Marian from the balcony, as soldiers started to run towards him. But before they could reach him, the wall behind him exploded. Pieces of rock and wood flew everywhere. A stray piece of flew and hit the guard holding the torch causing him to drop it. Andy watched with horror as the stray pieces of straw began to catch fire. The fire began to creep closer as it followed the straw trail to her. All around her people were fighting. She tried to yell, but her throat hadn't healed from the screaming she did yesterday. She began to cry as the fire reached the pile that surrounded the stake.
The fire crawled all around the pile before it began moving in. The flames grew bigger, and Andy began to choke on smoke. Each breath was like swallowing fire. The air scorch her lungs, she couldn't see anything outside the flames and smoke. She cried out in pain as the straw covering her feet burst into flames along with the hem of her dress. The flames licked her legs, burning them with its kisses.
"Andy" yelled voices, as two figures jumped through the smoke and flames. It was Robin and Will. Will cut the remaining ropes tying her to the stake while Robin lifted her up. Through the fire they jumped, into air clear of smoke. Andy clung to Robin, as she coughed the smoke out of her lungs. Robin gently laid her on the ground and began to batting out the flames that licked her dress. Will knelt down next to her. Andy suppressed the pain she was feeling and pulled both of them into a hug. No words needed to be said, the siblings all glad that the others were alive. As they broke apart Robin looked down at Andy's legs.
The skin was red and angry looking blisters had already formed. What worried Robin the most was Andy's feet, her toes were burnt black. He looked at Will who was looking at them too, both were worried.
"Robin" came the voice of Marian, the three turned just in time to see the Sheriff drag her into the castle, Robin turned to Will.
"Get Andy out of here!" he ordered, before he took off running calling Marian.
"I will Robin" yelled Will, picking Andy who shivered in his arms. He began to run towards the hole Azeem had blasted open.