GREENWOOD

                        My personal version of a sequel to Robin Hood*                                                           By Jo

PART ONE:

He leaned back on his elbows on the bed, a much nicer bed than he'd had in his former home the French raiders had burned. This had been her room, her bed. He frowned. Had that bastard Longstride lain with her in this bed? He'd seen the way they looked at one another at the firelit dance that night. No one had paid any attention to him! Not at all. No one. All eyes had been
on Marion and that...that...pretender. Even old Walter with his vacant, useless eyes had been centered on Longstride, giving the man credit for everything.  And what had he actually done? Brought back a dead man's sword and then stolen his identity, stolen the one woman he himself wanted.

Thomas Millerhold, the Sheriff of Nottingham, lay fully back on the bed, picking up one of her pillows, holding it to his face. A scent of lavender still lingered about its cloth. Had...his...head rested upon it as well? Had she permitted her false husband the rights of a legitimate one? Probably. Sir Robert had been gone a full ten years, a long time for a woman grown to be alone.
Longstride wore the dead man's clothes, carried his sword now, rode a horse way too fine for such a peasant. It had most likely been Robert's as well. He rode his horse; did he ride his wife? The man obviously had no refinement of character.

Smiling, he pulled the edge of the top coverlet up over his legs. Well, he had the bed now, had

the whole house now, had it all. Peper Harrow was his, as well it should be. The world was well rid of old Walter. His smile widened. And new King John, a wise man, a man of discernment and intelligence, had also seen through the brigand, had named him officially for what he was, an
outlaw, an outcast to be shunned by all decent society. Never again could Longstride walk through the gates of Peper Harrow and say that the place was his. It had never been his, not with any truth behind the statement.

 

Why had Marion gone along with such a farce? Oh, yes, the old man was on his last legs and upon his death, she would lose the estate anyway. It had to be desperation on her part that led her into such foul pretense. There was nothing about Longstride that was attractive, that was noble. He'd come from a pigsty and now he was returned to one. That was where he belonged and he, the Sheriff, would hunt him down in that sty and hang him from the nearest oak. His lip curled at the mere thought of the man. Usurper. Upstart. Outlaw with a price on his head. He licked his lower lip in anticipation of that day, that day when he, personally, would tighten the noose around Longstride's neck.

William Marshal carefully studied the man standing before him in the great hall of his castle, then walked in a complete circle around him. "Yes, I think you'll do fine, Timothy. You look

like a woodsman born and bred."

Timothy, at 25, was tall and lean, a shock of perfectly straight pale blonde hair hanging over his ears. He'd been in Marshal's service since he was nine and William had personally trained him in horsemanship and the handling of weapons. He had an open, sunny face with a scattering
of freckles across his pleasant features, and he looked like a man it would be easy to trust. William Marshal trusted him implicitly, and with just cause.

Timothy Foster's assignment was to infiltrate the newly-forming camp Longstride was establishing in Sherwood Forest. Marshal had stood quietly there in the outer court in London, listening to John turn his back on all he'd promised the barons, listening to the young idiot proclaim Robin Longstride an outlaw. A great heaviness had settled over his heart. He'd never thought much of John before he became king, thought less of him now. He was, truly, by all rights the king of England. There was no denying that. He was Eleanor's son, Henry's son, the heir to childless Richard's throne. Marshal would defend his right to be king, but he didn't have to like it.

For a while, for so brief a while, his spirits had soared as he heard Robin speaking as though he were his father returned from beyond. And his participation during the attempted landing of Philip's army had helped turn the tide of battle in favor of the English. John knew that. John knew it all too well and John hated him for it.  And there it was, easy reason for John to turn

on him. He was not Sir Robert and he had openly said, even to the king's very face, that he was. So he was a criminal and John was pleased to declare him one.

Marshal was sending his Timothy into the greenwood for the sole purpose of being his eyes and ears, so that he would have a way to be aware of what was going on, could maintain communication in a way that William hoped he might be able to avert a least some danger for Robin, keep him safe in the only manner he could.  Timothy had a rare talent with the bow, was experienced in living the rough life yet was an amiable, comfortable sort of fellow who made friends easily. Dressed now in Lincoln green and leather, carrying his yew longbow, he'd fit right in.

Marshal smiled fondly at him. "You are too clean, Timothy. I suggest some closer contact with

a bit of soil before you approach Sherwood."

"Aye, sir," Timothy grinned back. "An easy enough task to accomplish."

Marshal clapped a hand to the young man's shoulder. "Then off with you now. I want you a part of that as soon as possible."

Evening was coming on, the campfires were lit, and Robin sat, his back against a tree, Marion just beside him. Her long hair was loose but for that front bit she tied back to keep it out of her face, and he let the fingers of his right hand comb lightly through it.  The firelight reflected

redly on it and he spent some while in silence studying the play of color. He loved her hair. His own he kept short, easy to care for, always out of his way, no bother. But Marion's was just so...female...and after all his long years in the army, he couldn't seem to get his fill of her femininity. And she was feminine, no matter that rock-solid core of strength she had and all her capabilities.

Marion turned to face him and he let her tresses flow lightly through his roughened fingers.

She saw his eyes were focused on the hair in his hands. He was the first man to touch her hair

in a decade. Robert had never really commented on it, never fondled it as Robin did. His touch came up through its strands, tingling the nerves in her scalp. Ever since Walter had lost his sight several years ago, she'd basically managed Peper Harrow, had done as much work as any man, if not more. Often she'd found she scarcely felt womanly any more. But Robin's mere presence... it changed everything. She'd forgotten what it felt like, that female movement in her core responding to a man.
 

He moved his hand, pushing the hair away from her neck and shoulder on the side nearest him, leaning to rest his lips lightly there. Will tossed another couple of logs on the fire and the flames leaped higher in response, revealing the partially-healed wound from Godfrey's sword on her skin. Robin frowned at the memory, the utter desperation he'd felt when he realized it was Marion who had engaged Godfrey in personal combat. Kissing the wound gently, he whispered, "I thought I'd lost you."

"I thought I was lost," she replied. "I didn't even know you were there until your second kiss."

He shook his head, sliding his arm around her, pulling her close. "It was the worst moment of my life, that he had taken you from me forever when...when I'd only just found you."

"I couldn't get Walter out of my mind when I saw him. I wanted...needed...to kill him."

"I think in many ways you were a son for Walter all those years Robert was gone."

She snorted lightly. "I, indeed, felt so...more than I cared to."  She looked at him straight on.

"I saw the hug he wanted from you before you left for Barnsdale and was glad you offered him the love of a son that day. You...filled something in him I think had been long empty."

Robin pressed his lips together. "As he did for me."  He looked briefly at the fire, then repeated, "As he did for me."

Tuck came up, a tankard of honey mead in his hand, and sat down on a log a couple of yards away from them. "Robin," he began, then smiled. "I still have some difficulty with that, you know. You were Sir Robert for me until recently."

"I'm sorry about that, Tuck, but it was necessary at the time."

"I understand the need, I do.  I have also, therefore, thought of you as Lady Marion's husband."

"Ah, that."

"But you are not."

"No, that is true. I am not."

"Would...would you like to be?"

"Would I...?"

Tuck nodded. "Yes, would you like to be?  It is probably not necessary in the situation we have come to find ourselves, I know, but Lady Marion is, despite all that, still Lady Marion and some sensibility in me wishes...."

"That we were wed, really wed?"

"I do, Robin."

Robin looked at Marion again. "What do you think? Is that something that...?"

"Yes," she smiled. "My husband. I was told to call you that and it stuck in my throat, an unwelcome word with an unwelcome meaning. It was a forced playacting that galled me but now...."  She touched his cheek. "You, plain Robin Longstride, though very, very far from plain, I must say, are unutterably dear to me. I would gladly, with all my heart, call you husband and have it true."

Robin slid both hands up, cupping her face, his eyes looking piercingly into hers for a long time. She meant it. No one, not in all his life, had looked at him with what he saw in her eyes. He inhaled a breath. "Marion Loxley, will you honor me with your hand in marriage?"

Her lips parted, curved into a wide smile even as tears welled in her lower lids. "Now. I want to marry you now."

"Tonight?"

"Tonight. Here. Now." She turned to Tuck. "May we do that? Would that be all right?"

Tuck was grinning, took a long drink from his tankard, stood and said, "Now. Yes."

Robin pulled Marion to her feet as he, too, stood. His arm around her waist, he called out loudly, "A wedding! A wedding tonight!"

John looked up from where he was cuddled on the far side of the fire with Mirabella, his large woman. "Who? Who's gettin' marrit?"

"Me, you lout! Who do you think?"

Allan laughed. "She's goin' ta make an honest man of you, is she?"

Will punched Allan playfully on his arm. "The man's an outlaw, Allan. Just how honest can he be?"

Robin smiled then said, "Round them up, boys. All them that want to come."

Mirabella and some of the other women quickly wove a garland of woodland wildflowers for Marion's hair. It would be the only addition to what was already being worn. Within half an hour, the fire built up to somewhat spectacular proportions, Robin stood beside Marion, holding her right hand between both of his own, as Tuck led them through a brief ceremony.  Wild cheering rose through the branches of that part of Sherwood that night when Robin took her in his arms afterwards and kissed her more thoroughly than he had yet had opportunity.  Allan began playing his lute, he and Will and John singing some utterly bawdy soldier's song that had such a chuckle rising up Robin's throat that he had to break the kiss off.

"Louts," he said affectionately, "the lot of you."

But Marion was touching his cheek and he looked down at her face bathed in golden firelight and sucked in a sharp breath of realization. "My wife," he murmured, closing his eyes as she traced a fingertip further, following the line of his straight brow.

Her fingers found his lips, traced, then paused. He opened his eyes and she looked into them with her soul and said, "My husband."

 

 

ON TO PART 2

 

BACK TO LIBRISCROWE

 

*I realize there may be an official movie sequel to Robin Hood, but even so it will be 2 or 3 years before we are graced with

it. Here, now, in the very early days of its first release, I'm writing my own version and that is not in any way meant to

infringe on any rights of what may or may not be officially done and is only written for pleasure and not for profit.