Chapter 1: Ben of Sherwood
It was in the middle of summer in England. The day was hot and smoldering, threatening anyone outside to burn them quickly without mercy. The only comfort one would find was in the shadow of a tree, or the shade of Sherwood Forest. But all knew that passage into Sherwood was dangerous. Most would say that there were dark spirits inside, waiting to steal one's soul if they ventured too far. Or that it was filled with wraiths, awaiting some fool to step into it's lair so it could eat them and throw away the bones. Utter piffle. Sherwood is, though, filled with thieves defending life and limb to live with bounties on their heads. And that itself was far more deadly then any ghastly fairy tale somebody could cook up. Most of the thieves had teamed up, "taxing" any who would try to take passage through their Forest. But one thief tended to stay alone, thinking it was the best course of action.
Young Ben, who sat in the tree tops of Sherwood, waited idly as he watched the road beneath him, enjoying the taste of a sweet apple. His post was not far into the forest, but far enough to be away from any of the others who occupied Sherwood, so that business would be good for Ben. And business was good. Though not many would venture into Sherwood, those who did were spoiled rotten Nobles who thought a man with a sword strapped to his side would be protection enough from anything that may come their way. Idiots really. Ben knew that a good arrow to the guard and an arrow aimed at the Noble, along with a good threat placed, and Ben's pockets would be lined with many riches. He never targeted large groups, more then two was just a fool's hope at dying. Ben was no warrior, and he knew it well.
It was a good life, though. No rules, no harking old nannies telling you what is and isn't proper, nothing to worry about. No one to control you. Even if there was a bounty on Ben's head, and if no one were to venture through Sherwood he would have to scavenge for food within the Forest, life was simple and easy. Who would want something else? He was free.
"We're going the wrong way, I tell ya!" A voice echoed from below, making Ben drop his finished apple and grab his bow, readying it with an arrow. Down on the road, two men came walking by, bickering to each other like old biddies. Both looked ragged and worn, obviously not rich in any sort of way. But the jingling of coin stopped Ben from putting down his bow. His gaze lowered from the men's faces to the giant purses at their sides, both nearly overflowing with coins.
"Look, I know where I'm goin', okay? Now stop yellin', I'm gettin' a bleedin' headache!" One of the men with curly brown hair said, rubbing his temples to stress more of his apparent pain. They continued walking until finally the men were directly underneath of Ben. When they were but a few feet out of the way, Ben slipped down from the trees silently, landing on his feet right behind them with his Bow drawn.
"Hello boys!" Both men gasped, not hearing his land, and quickly turned. Both looked at each other then tried to grab their own weapons, but Ben drew his bow string back farther.
"Ah ah ah I wouldn't do that, my good lads," He cooed, "I could kill you both and take the coin from your rotting bodies. But since I am feeling quite charitable today, if you just hand over those purses of yours, I may just let you live."
"Hey now, we ain't no women!" One of the men said, pointing at both of them with an offended look on his face.
"Yeah, we ain't got no purses!" Said the other, trying to look justified and proud. Ben only rolled his eyes. These guys must have been real morons, through and through. Oh well, it would make this hole thing a lot more easier for him.
"I'm sorry to hurt your ladies' virtue, but the bags at your sides now belong to me in exchange for your lives. Hand them over, then run. I like to watch ladies scurry away. Tis a very nice view." It took them minutes to realize he was insulting them, and when they finally did realize, Ben had become impatient. Quickly, and almost effortlessly, Ben shot an arrow at the coin purse on one man's hip, breaking its holding string and making it fall to the ground. Drawing a second arrow, he did the same to the other. Before either could react, he had drawn another arrow, and again returning it to aim at them. His playful smirk had made both the men sputter in frustration and embarrassment.
"You can't- He- I-!"
"But- But- But!"
"Oh poor babies, get moving before I fire a warning arrow into your ear." Ben threatened, making sure the sound of the string being pulled back was very noticeable. Again, both men looked at each other, completely in shock. When they looked back at Ben, they nodded hastily.
"Right." They both said in unison, then turned and sped down the road and deeper into Sherwood. Lowering his bow and putting his arrow back in his quiver, Ben snickered as he watched them run away. After retrieving the arrows from the ground and returning them back to where they were meant to be, he grabbed the bags and smiled widely. With the weight of these, he'd have a good diner tonight. Whistling a happy tune, Ben made his way back to his home camp with a skip in his step. He was very excited about counting each coin, maybe even doing it twice.
"JOHN! JOHN!" Both men came running back to the little campsite, nearly tripping over themselves trying to get to their leader first. A large man with burly brown hair and a bushy beard stood from where he sat and watched the two men nearly fall over as they reached him. Of course, the other men who had sat with him laughed at the sight of the two rutting about. It was hard not to, after all. Two grown men pulling at each other's heels an clothes to be the first one to John, acting like children. Was comical, indeed.
"John! We were walking, had come back from, we sold, town and when we, all that stuff and we, came outta no wheres and, ten no FIFTY men, And he-"
"Woah lads!" John said, stopping them both from talking at the same time. "Take a breather, eh? Now what's goin' on?" As both men bent over, heaving, one of them tried to tell what had just gone on.
"We- we went to town, just like you asked, and sold all the stuff we got from that one man and his lady. Gots good money for it.." He stopped, breathing heavily again.
"Right, go on Bull." Bull looked back up, and took another deep breath before continuing.
"We, as we tried to get back, we got- we got-"
"We got stopped by some man, HUGE man!" said the other man, extending his arms up to show how tall their robber was. "He appeared outta no wheres, and stopped us and stole the money from us. We could barely see him, he was so fast!"
"Like a viper!" Bull added, which the other man just nodded his head in agreement.
"Yeah, then he nearly shot Bull in the ear! Nearly died, we did, but we was too sneaky for 'em!" Both the men were nodding furiously, looking back from each other then back to John.
"Yeah, what Much said!" Bull added, once again, trying to get the last word in. That didn't seem to help John though, because the only thing going through his head was.
"Now wait a tick, you mean to say that someone stole, from US? The thieves of Sherwood?" John's voice wasn't in any way angry, in fact he almost sounded as if he was enjoying the news, like it was some sort of joke. The boys in front of him nodded. John's response was shaking his head and rubbing the bridge of his nose. Yeah, it was very ironic that somehow some other person had stolen from them, but John had to admit, that money was supposed to feed them for the next few months. Now without it, he wasn't sure what they were going to do with what little food they had left. A little boy came up behind him, pulling on his shirt softly.
"What're we gonna do, father?" Said the young boy, knowing that that money was meant to feed them all. John looked down at his son, Wulf, and tried to put on the best smile he could. He would not want his son to know that John may be going hungry so that he could eat. If his boy knew that, he knew that Wulf would refuse to eat so that the others could. It made a father proud to know his son wasn't as self-serving as many people could be.
"No worries, Wulf, we'll find out somethin'. If anythin', we'll get back our money." John looked back to Bull and Much, face determined. "D'you remember where you were when this happened?" Again, both men nodded, pointing at the direction they had come from. They started trying to say their own versions of direction at the same time, but John silenced them both with a small chuckle and a wave of his hand.
"Alrighty then." John turned to the men he had been previously been sitting with. "You lot stay here! Will, Harold, you'll be coming with us." A young man stood, fiddling with a knife at his side and a smirk on his face.
"This should be fun." Will said, joining John and the others as they made their way out of the camp and towards the area where Bull and Much had been attacked.