Second chapter! Please Review and tell me what you think!
Will You Tolerate This? Part II
The sewer turned out not to be much of a sewer at all, but a water distribution system. Basically the water was rushing at the speed of a full horse sprinting. I was barely had time to draw a humungous breath before I was swept away. My hands slid along the slimy, stone walls of the tunnel, and I forced my eyes open to look for an escape. An image of the townsfolk in Locksley waking up to find a body in their well flitted through my mind, but I hurriedly pushed it away. That was most certainly not going to happen and if I panicked, it would only make me use up my air faster.
I could see a blurry shape ahead and recognized it as Victoria. My muscles burned as I pushed against the strong current to grab her ankle. She was too far away and the current was sucking me downward. Suddenly I saw her dive toward the ground and bunch up her muscles as if to jump. I looked up to see the bright circle of clear water. Of course, a well! I mirrored Victoria's movements and we both sprung upward and into calmer water. Black dots began to dance in my vision as I clawed my way to the surface, careful not to kick my feet back into the rushing current below. I broke the surface gasping and sputtering. The black dots faded as wonderful air rushed into my lungs. I tensed, but immediately relaxed in relief as I saw it was only Victoria who grabbed me. She handed me a sack with my weapons inside. I let out a breathy laugh, giddy with relief at our close call. If Allan-A-Dale had caused me to die, I would have come back from the afterlife and haunted his body. Oh my Gosh! Allan. I promised, but it's not like I've ever kept my promises before. What if Robin saves them tomorrow, and I just skip town. What if Robin doesn't save them and he dies because I was a selfish git.
"Clara, not to interrupt your deep thoughts, but can we focus on a more pressing matter?" She asked, panting slightly and spitting out water. I looked up at the exit, fifteen feet up a solid stone tube. A challenge even for me. I grabbed my bow, snapping it out to full length and, taking aim, I fired the shot. The arrow hit the lever, making the rope with the bucket attached come crashing down on us. Tying the end of the rope to my second arrow, I took aim and fired. The arrow went through the small metal hole at the top of the well. Now we could only pray it would hold our weight. I fed the rope up and the arrow descended towards us. Moving quickly, I untied the arrow and tied the rope together. This should work if I'm not mistaken; I rarely am. I nodded towards Victoria and she started climbing. It took a painful six minutes for her to make it to the top. She flashed me a quick thumbs up to show it was all clear. I tied the bag of weapons to the rope and Victoria pulled the bag up within a minute. It took me another four minutes and six rope burns to make it to the top. I had just made it to the top when we heard distant shouting. Victoria yanked my arrow out of the lever and we were running, no sprinting, towards the woods. A sigh of relief left my lips as the voices moved on and we were not found.
"Ow!" I hissed as a sudden light burst from Victoria's hand. As my eyes adjusted, I realized it was a torch.
"Sorry, shall I put it out and leave us to find the tree you hid the letter in, in the dark?" She asked sarcastically. I glared at her and rolled my eyes, hugging myself around the waste. I delicately placed all my weapons in the proper places and we were off.
"Just like old times, eh?" I asked, laughing. She glared at me out of the corner of her eye and slightly shook her head.
"Too soon." Was her response. I just kept on grinning, too relieved at not dying to do anything else. Once again, my thoughts drifted to Allan. I really shouldn't leave him to die. What about Luke and Will? The thought was immediately accompanied by guilt I hadn't thought of them earlier. How was I going to tell Victoria? She hates when we stay to rescue people and it usually results in our capture. With these thoughts in mind, I turned right and headed up to the tree, feeling around for the hiding place. I pulled out the scroll and sighed half in relief, half in confusion on what I should do.
"We're not going back for them." Victoria told me, which immediately made me want to argue.
"I'm not leaving them." I snapped back. She looked at me, annoyed and it suddenly struck me how old she looked. She was only sixteen, her eyes shouldn't reflect experience and worry beyond her years. Shaking her head tiredly, she looked towards the ground.
"I don't want to do this anymore. Remember when I first decided to come along with you? And you asked me why. Do you remember what I said to you?" She was being dead serious. No more joking and mirth.
"You said you wanted to come with me because you wanted to find out who you were." I remembered it well mainly because I was so surprised a thirteen year old said something like that.
"A village wise man told me that fear shows people's true nature. When you offered me to come with you, it sounded like an adventure, fear at every turn. My childish mind made it seem like we'd be heroes, running through the forest fighting injustice and defending the people. But we're not, are we? We're just pawns in a bigger game, not really making a difference either way." I turned to face her and gripped her shoulders in a sudden urge to make her understand.
"We are making a difference. Do you hear me? We are fighting for the right side now." I muttered the last word quietly as I let my hands slip off her shoulders. She continued walking as if nothing had happened. There was little I could do but trudge after her.
"You were never the same after coming back from the Holy Land. Before that, you and mom used to be so close, you were crueler then, but after you came back, you grew cold and distant from mom and she to you. But you became a better person to everyone else: nicer, more compassionate. I didn't understand at first, and then the wise man told me about fear and I thought that maybe that was what had changed you for the better. But fear makes me worse, doesn't it? Fear makes me a monster. A killer." That word. That one word struck so many nerves within me. Killer. Rage boiled my blood to a white hot steam. Killer. Hatred turned my vision dark and my heart cold. Killer. Regret stabbed me, wounding me worse than the sharpest blade.
"We. Are. Not. Killers." I snarled, annunciating every word with more venom than I thought possible. Victoria just turned to me, eyes shining with unshed tears. That's when I realized what I'd done. In a way, I had killed her, I'd killed her innocence. A young, pure thirteen-year-old girl wanting to find her place in the world and I'd gone and showed her all the world's evils. Greed. Anger. Hatred. Betrayal. Death. Guilt racked me as I followed her down the path, toward the town.
"I think I understand now, though. You were a trained killer by mom, right? That's why you agreed to take me with you. You didn't want me to become like you were. That's why you went to the Holy Land, wasn't it? You were going to kill the King." Her voice got lower and lower until she barely whispered the last part.
"Yes." My voice was hoarse with regret. The King had shown me such kindness. And Robin, Much, Thomas, the big one and the rest of the king's guard were all so accommodating. I was a marked woman from the start. The King knew of me and what I was doing, but instead of killing me, he offered me a position. A job. I was his eyes and ears in England. His loyal supporters would send me on missions to get items or intercept carriages and I did their bidding, for the right price, of course. Some of them even went so far as to ask me to investigate other supporters. I never got caught, but mother started to suspect, and it all went downhill from there.
"You spent three months there before coming back for a week and leaving for another month. When you finally came back to stay we were all so relieved except mom. She seemed disappointed; I guess now I know why. She was a traitor who trained you for one purpose only. And I don't want any part in it. Any of it. Not anymore. You're name, our name, Nightingale is tainted. I don't want that life anymore. The life of secrets and lies and killing. Those things make me a monster; they make me leave other people behind to save my own skin and that's not the life I want for myself anymore. I want to raise a family, have kids, live life the way it was meant to be lived." She looked at me hopefully out of the corner of her eye, as if waiting for approval.
"I am glad you figured yourself out. If you ever need me, I'll be there." I told her smiling. I was happy she figured herself out; she deserved it.
"Don't make promises you can't keep, Clara, but thank you. For everything. It's been a wonderful three years. Dangerous and frightening for sure, but wonderful all the same." She grinned crookedly at me and I couldn't help but return it with a smile of my own. "I'm going to help you rescue the others tomorrow, but then I'll be off." I nodded, noting the finality in her tone.
"Thank you, Victoria. It's been a pleasure. Well, this is the last drop off you'll ever do. You want to do the honors." I said, cracking the window open and allowing Victoria to slip inside in front of me. We stood in a dimly lit room with a man sleeping on the bed in the far corner. Without wasting any time, I strode over to him and covered his mouth, causing his eyes to fly open in surprise and fear. His eyes focused on me and relaxed. He nodded to the corner desk where a bag of coins lay; in turn, I handed him the letter and he nodded a silent thank you. Victoria propped the window open and we were out just a quickly as we came in.
The first light of day graced my face and I tilted my head upwards to absorb the warmth. The first light of day… dawn. The hanging! Victoria and I rushed down the sunlit path towards Nottingham.
It took us the better part of an hour to reach Nottingham, which meant we had roughly five minutes until the hanging. We walked through the crowded streets of Nottingham in a kind of tense apprehension for what we were about to attempt. Hopefully Robin would save them before I had to lift a finger, but I couldn't be sure of that. I gazed up at the platform in the middle of the square from which four ropes were hung. We had arrived, and not a moment too soon it would seem as the drums were starting to play. I bit back a frustrated groan as I saw Robin making his way to stand by the sherif. Just like that, the ceremony began.
"Ladies and gentlemen we are gathered here today to witness the carrying out of justice in the name of god and King Richard, Bring out the prisoners." He spoke through the scroll he held, as if he was enjoying this immensely. I ground my teeth at his look of sick pleasure. Will, Allan, Luke, and Benedict were led out into the square and I barely held in a laugh as Allan tried to walk away and was grabbed by the cuff of his shirt and hauled back into line with the others. The four convicted were led onto the platform; Allan's eyes searching the crowd as if looking for someone. I calmly gazed up at him, knowing his eyes would catch mine eventually seeing as no one else had the courage to meet his gaze. His blue eyes found mine at last and a small look of relief mixed with amusement flashed across his eyes and I winked at him the same way I had before I left the dungeons.
"Robin of Loxley, Earl of Huntington, having recently returned from the Holy way with a personal accommodation from the King himself will read the proclamation." I glared up at the sherif as he continued to annoy me further. My hand twitched in a sudden urge to kill him, but I refrained and instead cast me eyes around, memorizing every detail, every little thing that might be helpful for an escape route. Silently and looking as normal as possible, I slid my bow out from my boot; I doubted anyone noticed me due to the fact I was at the edge of the crowd and everyone was a bit preoccupied.
"Let it be heard and known, throughout the lands and realms of Richard, his Majesty the king of England, that on this the twenty sixth day of April, in the year of our lord eleven hundred and ninety two, that the following men have been tried under law and found guilty Benedict Giddins of Loxley, Will Scarlet of Loxley, Luke Scarlet of Loxley, Allan a Dale of Loxley, these same men have been sentenced to hang by a rope until they are dead." Robin read out to the audience. Allan kept his eyes trained on mine; they flickered with fear as the bag was thrown over his head and the noose was tightened around his neck. I subtly unhinged my bow and eased it into it's normal size and notched an arrow as the drums beat faster and more intensely.
"Wait!" A voice cried from somewhere near the platform. I huffed, half in annoyance and half in relief.
Victoria gently touched my shoulder and nodded up to the roof of one of the castle walkways. Much was pinned by two guards who where had his arms and were threatening to send him over the edge.
"I'll get him." Victoria said starting to depart. I grabbed her arm, stopping her and she turned to look at me questioningly. Without a word, I hugged her, knowing this may be the last time I ever see her in this lifetime. Having come to the same realization, Victoria hugged me back tightly. After a moment, I reluctantly let her go, noticing she'd gone a bit misty eyed.
"Good luck." I said, and I meant it completely. If anyone deserved the world, it was my baby sister. I couldn't be a part of her life anymore; that wouldn't be fair to her. I guess that's why, with one last mischievous smile, she was gone.
"I came last night to administer their last rights." The man from the crowd was speaking now, saying something about the four of them wanting to be Holy Men. Allan, Holy Man?
"So?" The sherif asked obnoxiously.
"And each one came to me last night repenting for their sins and asking me to take the cloth. I felt duty bound to consult the bishop and he in turn confers status of novice upon these men." The man continued. It was a good plan. Hanging Holy Men was illegal even if the sherif desired it.
"Shut up." The sherif was getting nervous and in getting nervous, he was getting irritated.
"I Antoni veri reverent rica stalic, here by confer-" The man started, but was interrupted by the sherif screaming.
"Shut up! Is this possible?" The crowd seemed to be holding their breath for the monk to answer.
"They could not become novices overnight." the monk informed the sherif. The crowd turned to the man, waiting for a reaction.
"They've become postulants! Novice novices if you like, and so are under the protection of the church." My heart sank as I saw the sherif's face; it wasn't going to work.
"Novice, novices. How novel. Well, hang them, arrest him." The crowd let out a collective gasp of horror as the plan failed and guards seized the fake monk. The sherif nodded and the stools were pulled away. I notched the arrow and drew it back, walking slightly to the left to get a clear shot.
"I love you boys!" A man that was hidden from view was shouting. "I love you Will! I love you Luke! I'll see you in heaven!" With that, I raised my bow and shot. It was a damn good shot if I do say so myself. It sailed through the rope holding Allan, leaving him to drop on the floor, gasping. The arrow then proceeded to rip through the scroll Robin had been holding and into the shoulder of an unfortunate guard. Robin jumped into action, slamming his elbow into the nearest guard's ribcage and grabbing the bow. I drew back and cut down Will as well.
"Good people of Nottingham, these men have committed no crime worth more than a spell in the stocks." Robin shouted and shot Luke and Benedict down as well. "Will you tolerate this injustice? I, for one, will not!" He continued his speech as I rushed toward the platform and jumped onto it throwing two knives at the guards who tried to stop me. I cut Allan's bonds and ripped off the bag over his head; before he could say anything I shoved the knife into his hand and pointed at Benedict. Allan nodded and seemed to get the message. I heard a scream and looked up just in time to see a guard fall down off the roof and towards his death. I hid a grin at Victoria's victory.
A guard came at me brandishing a long sword which I easily evaded and slammed my fist into his nose. There was an audible crunch and he reeled back, dropping his sword. I snatched it up and did a quick check to see where everyone was. Much and Victoria had just entered the square on the far side, Allan and Will were fighting on different sides of the platform and Robin was fighting five soldiers at once.
"Robin! Come on! We have to leave now!" I yelled to him. He started making his way to the gate. The square held a chaos of townspeople along with Much, Robin, Allan, Will and me and the castle guards. Victoria was nowhere to be seen and Luke and Benedict seemed to have disappeared as well. I closed my eyes in sadness for a second before pushing my way towards Robin; I could only pray that Allan and Will were following me. I reached him within moments and together we sprinted towards the horses tied up.
We had just finished cutting the ropes on the third horse before I noticed the Archers lining up to shoot at us. Great. I swung myself onto the saddle and saw Robin do the same and pull Much up behind him. I glanced at Will and Allan who were just reaching us. Robin was already running towards the shooters and I pulled Allan up behind me.
"Don't fall off." I advised him before kicking my horse into a full gallop.
"Wouldn't dream of it, love." I rolled my eyes at the name, but didn't reply. Much, who just noticed the archers, yelled out to us.
"Master Archers, what do we do?"
"Give them something to shoot at." Robin answered and I grinned. Same ol' Robin alright. Just how I remember him. We jumped over the archers and there was little they could do to stop us without doing something suicidal.
Robin stopped after we were a safe distance into Sherwood Forest and dismounted. I stopped the horse and Allan slid off closely followed by me. Will pulled up next to us and dismounted with a hatchet in his hand.
"Robin!" I said, smiling and holding my arms out for a hug. I hugged him and he hugged me back chuckling slightly.
"Clara! Never thought I'd see you again! What brings you to Nottingham?" He released me while still keeping a grip on my shoulders and looked me up and down. I did the same to him.
"You've grown a beard." I laughed.
"Always the observant one, you were.." Robin said, laughing along with me.
"Hey! What am I? Chopped liver! I'll remind you that I was the one that taught you how to cook! Not to mention-" I cut Much off as I hugged him as well.
"Always a pleasure to see you too, Much. I thought it went without saying. I cannot thank you enough for the cooking lessons, Much. Mother hardly had time to teach me that." I smiled at the both of them while Much looked overly pleased with himself.
"Yes, well." Much said smiling, then frowned in confusion. "What were you doing there?"
"Well, I couldn't let my newly made friends hang, now could I?" I asked them innocently.
"Friends? Since when?" Much asked. "As I recall, Clarissa Nightingale doesn't have friends." I shrugged.
"Times change." I told them. "King Richard and the Guard made quite the impact on me." Robin smiled understandingly at me.
"So, what have you been up to since you left the Holy Land?"
"Oh, you know, stuff here and there. Errands and the like." Robin nodded thoughtfully.
"Well, anyway, we need food, it will get dark soon. Much you're cooking." Robin started ordering and I smiled softly at the old routine. "We need people to hunt and get firewood." He finished, looking expectantly at Will, Allan, and I.
"I'll hunt." I sighed, taking my bow out of my boot.
"I'm not being funny, but how do you plan on hunting with that?" Allan asked with an amused smile. I popped out the ends and it snapped into a full sized bow. "Wow, you have got to get me one of those." I laughed.
"Well, Will's smart, I'm sure he'd make you one if you ask nicely." I shot Will a grin which was returned slightly, almost against his will (if you'll excuse the pun). Allan glanced between the bow in my hands to Will and then back to me.
"Nah, Will couldn't make something like that."
"Yes I could." Will protested and I hid a smile. Allan was good.
"Really?" Allan asked, his voice lined with skepticism.
"Yeah." Will said with a hint of pride. Allan glanced back between the bow and Will.
"Nah." He shook his head turning back to me with a wink. "We were going hunting, yeah?" I turned around so he wouldn't get the satisfaction of seeing my smile.
"Yea, come on." We were off.
Allan, as it turned out was a good hunter, whereas I wasn't as skilled in that department. We moved stealthily through the woods until Allan pulled at my arm. I followed his pointed finger to a wild boar in a clearing. I held my breath as I notched an arrow and pulled it back to my mouth. Suddenly, the boar's head shot up and it's ear twitched before it bolted. I shot an arrow after it and heard a dull thud. Allan was already running toward the spot my arrow had disappeared. I followed Allan to the dead boar and breathed a sigh of relief.
"You're not all that good of a hunter, are you?" Allan asked, smirking.
"No, not particularly." I admitted grudgingly. "But who needs hunting skills when you can get someone else to do it for you?" He smirked at my rhetorical question.
"Well, you still need to eat." I shrugged in reply. He picked up the pork and started carrying it back to camp.
"So, what about you?" I broke the uncomfortable silence.
"What about me?"
"Where are you from? Where'd you grow up? Where are your wife and kids?" I asked the last question with a half laugh.
"I'm from Rochdale; grew up there too."
"Oh, right. That's why they call you Allan-a-Dale." I interjected laughing. He grinned and rubbed the back of his head.
"As for my wife and kids, I would have said anything to get out of trouble." His face grew serious again and lost the cocky grin he usually wore.
"What?" I asked him after a few moments. He blinked at me.
"What are you thinking about?" I was curious as to what could have been so bad to make him scowl so darkly.
"Nothing." He answered shortly and before I could open my mouth again, we had arrived at camp.
An hour later, we were all lounging around the fire where my pig was roasting. I rested my head against the leaves and lay down, looking up at the sky.
"Be honest with me," Much started and I turned my head lazily to look at him. "this does not bode well for my lodge, my Bonchurch but…" Robin just cocked an eyebrow at him and Much sighed. "I knew it."
"This is your lodge now, my friend." Allan said grandly. "Sherwood Lodge."
"Population five." I added.
"I am not your friend." Much snapped angrily at Allan, ignoring me. I heard a twig snap off to my right and I jackknifed to my feet, grabbing my swords and pulling them partly out of their sheath. Robin was crouched with a bow already drawn.
"Couldn't have waited till after the meal." I muttered.