The Lady of the Hood - First Book in the Sherwood Series

For Guinevere life as the ward of King Richard the Lion heart is not easy. She was orphaned at a young age by a father who never returned from war and a mother who died from the pestilence; but now her guardian is fighting in the Holy Lands. So she is left in the care of his brother, Prince John.
But when John takes her to Nottingham things start to take a turn for the worst. Her guardian can not return for her sixteenth birthday and she over hears a shocking conversation that could change everything. When she goes off for a ride with Sir Guy of Gisbourne the worst truly does happen. The fearsome outlaw, Robin Hood, attacks Gisbourne and Guinevere finds herself fleeing for her life from a viscous hunting dog that is stalking her.
But when she is under the protection of Hood, after she has been badly wounded by the beast, a memory steers.
Can Guinevere find the truth of her heritage or will John get his way?


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9. Chapter Eight

            Much and four other men that I did not recognise charged through the fabric opening of the tent. I stared at them and they stared at me. Then, a man that I recognised walked through the doors behind everyone else. He stood proudly looking at me with a noble look in his eyes; it was Hood.

He took a step towards me and I instantly scrambled away from him, trying to hide the nearest corner; but my leg betrayed me. It flared into an enormous amount of pain that caused me to drop forward and grab it. I clung to it ever so tightly, hissing at the pain.

“Be careful!” Hood whispered in a soothing tone.

            He placed a comforting hand on my shoulder and at first I shuddered it away; scared of what was to happen.  But after a moment, I realised that he truly meant me no harm and I relaxed. Looking up, I realised that he was crouched on the ground beside my bed; completely ignoring the chair. He gave me a reassuring smile and said, “No one among my company will harm you. I swear that. Please, you are badly hurt and you need your rest!”

I nodded my head and began to lean backwards. Struggling in doing so, Hood went to help me but hesitated, through his gaze he asked me and I nodded my reply. Gently he placed his other hand on the small of my back and helped my lie back down.

“Much has told us the most absurd thing about you. He says that you are the niece of our dear King, is that true?”

“No,” I replied quietly.

A sigh of relief echoed from the other men in the room.

“ “I am …. I am …” I began, but shut my mouth shut; still insure whether I should trust the man who I had heard was a merciless thief. A man who would kill you as soon as you stepped into his path.

Should I continue or not?

“You’re?”  Hood urged.

“I… I …. I am his ward!”

Gasps erupted around the room and unbelieving whispers were passed among the men. My breathing became mess as I began to panic, my chest rapidly rising and falling, as I managed to make out one of the whispers. It came from the lips of the giant of the man who was stood in the corner farthest from me.

“You’re the Lady Guinevere!” He grumbled.

I felt my face burn with embarrassment as I nodded my reply. All the noise dimmed as each man stopped his whispering when they had realised what I had said; silence consumed the air, it was so thick that it could have been sliced with a knife.

            Each of the men straightened their stances and tucked their crumpled shirts into their stained and smudged breeches; I could not help but chuckle at their actions. I noticed that each of them were different shapes and sizes. There was the giant of a man in the corner, whose hair was an untameable, black mess. There was a man in a monk’s habit, who was half the size of the giant, and once again, with a bolding head and a stomach that was almost piercing his thick robes. Another was a tall, stick like man who was dressed in a minstrel’s tunic with a feather plumed hat on his head, and a lute under his arm. Finally the person nearest me in the line, I realised was the youngest of them all. He was truly only a boy. He, I saw, was probably of my own age and he had not yet formed any whiskers on his chin or upper lip. He had short, dark brown hair and lovely green eyes. He wore a white shirt, which was in a similar state to Much’s, with a pair of slim, dark brown breeches bellow. On his feet, were two dark, tanned boots. Strangely enough, around his neck was a scarlet red scarf.

The boy must have seen me looking his way, for he gave me a sneaky wink. I bit down onto my bottom lip to hide the smile that was attempting to curl my lips that this very handsome boy gave me. His grin doubled in size at the sign of my discomfort; with a cheeky grin on his face, he strolled towards me and bowed low.

“Names Will Scarlet!”

I smiled up at him as he straightened himself off and realised at how ironic the scarf around his neck was. He flashed me another cheeky smile and a quick wink, causing me to blush once more; then he returned with the others to the group. All were flashing him curious looks and he chuckled as the tall, thin man jabbed him in the ribs.

“What, I prefer to introduce myself!” He said innocently.

The giant of a man chuckled away to himself at the comment. A chuckle that was so deep, that even at a whisper it could be heard at least fifty paces away.

“Very well!” Hood said with a small upon his face, “I shall continue with the introductions for my inner circle, the men that you see in front of you. Unless anyone else wishes to?”

When no one volunteered to speak for him a few minutes later, he shrugged his shoulders and looked straight at me.

“Obviously, you know our dear Much for you have been in his company for some time now; he is in charge of the cooking for us and the maintenance of the outer circle. That giant of a man is John Little, or Little John as he is known in these parts, “He pointed at then giant, and I barely suppressed a giggle as I understood the joke behind his name, “He takes care of training the newbies. Alan a dale,” Was the man holding the lute, “Our minstrel in chief. Friar Tuck,” Was pointed out to be the overly large stomached, short in size monk, “He keeps us alert to the Lord’s biding! And then there is Will, our main carpenter he built or designed most of the camp.”

I looked at each of them in turn and nodded to them all politely one by one. My eyes lingered for a moment longer on Will Scarlet’s face but I soon moved my gaze away.

“And then there is you Robin, our leader!” Alan a Dale stated as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“Of course, how could I forget myself,” Hood said humbly.

Then, each man looked at Hood expectantly; who gave a sort of short nod and then all the men returned my nod. Finally they all dispersed out of the door, save Hood and Much.

            When Hood was sure that the other men had gone, he pulled the chair forwards and plonked himself down on it. He put his elbows on his knees and he cradled his hands under his chin. For an instant he was unsure of what to say or do,  then he leant forwards and spoke, “I know your Uncle well!”

A smile twisted across my face, “I remember!”

“Well of course you … wait you do?!”

“How could I forget you. You are, or once were, the magnificent Sir Robin of Locksley; one of my Uncle’s greatest allies and dearest friends. He often told me how you are among the few people who would trust his life in your hands.”

Hood stared at me in shock, unsure what to say, “He spoke of me often?”

“Yes, whenever he came to the castle in London, when I went to France to see him or in his letters; he would speak of the great deeds that you had done. The greatness of Robin of Locksley!”

            I looked over at Hood who I saw was beaming with pride, “He told me of the great deed that you did to your King and country. How you risked your life during a Saracen raid on the camp. How one tried to creep into the King’s tent and murder him in his sleep. Only you saw what was about to happen and saved his life.

 If I remember rightly, you were injured and the stitching of the wound became infected in shock, “He told you all that?” He said in disbelief, “My Uncle tells me everything!”

            Once again there was silence, and I shifted my weight around in order to get myself comfy which resulted in pain to once again dance to fall freely down my face.

“Have you seen the wound yet?” Hood asked.

I shook my head in reply, not feeling able to talk for the lump that was bulging in my throat, “Do you wish to?”

Without giving a reply, I carefully rolled back the bed sheet off of my right leg and pulled the hem of my skirt gingerly up over my calf. The hem of my dress cracked as I pulled it back from all the dried blood that had been soaked up by the material. I gasped at the gruesome sight that greeted me.

            My leg was a mess of raw flesh. Forty two teeth marks were tightly pack in an arch from where that … that beast had its jaw wrapped around me. That should have been the end of it; but from all the struggling that I had done they were pulled large than the dogs actual teeth, and each trailed slightly down my leg.

“It is a mess!” Hood stated.

I nodded my head, fighting back the urge to cry.

“But it will heal!” He said hopefully.

I pushed the bedding back over my leg and lay back in comfort; my breath spluttering as I forced the tears to stay at bay.

“My Lad… “Hood began.

“Hood, do not call me by that name!” I interrupted.

“Excuse me?”

“Please Hood, do not call me my Lady. It makes me feel as though I am an old woman.”

“Of … of course ….”

“Please Hood, just call me Gwen. It is all I want anyone to call me!”

“I se …”

“Much called me Gwen before he knew who I truly was, does the truth change so much?”  

“Well I …”

“No, it should not. I just want to live how I wish to live. Can I not do that?”

“Well, that is ..”

“Can you not see what I wish to do. Hood, do you understand?”

Hood stared at me, unsure whether I had finished or not.

“Well?” I asked.

With a smirk, he said, “Of course. I understand, and I shall call you Gwen on one condition!”

“And what is that?”

“I will call you Gwen if you do one thing for me, and that is not call me Hood. I too find that unnerving. So are we in agreement, I shall call you Gwen and you shall call me Robin.”

With a smile, I nodded my head and I brought my hand up to the ring around my neck.

 

Once more there was silence.

 

“May I ask you something?” Robin said.

I looked at him curiously and waited for him to speak.

“Who taught you to wield a bow and arrow in such a way? I have not seen someone shoot like that in many a year, especially not a ….” He drew off there, not wishing to offend me. Then, he realised how stupid the question was of him to speak, “Of course your Uncle!”

I shook my head in reply.

“Really,” Robin asked in disbelief, “Then who taught you?”

“My father!” I replied plainly, as if it were the simplest thing in the world.

Robin gave me a confused look.

“He taught me at a very, very young age!” I explained.

Robin nodded, a fresh smile forming on his face, “I taught my own daughter when she was only a small child.

“Really! Is she here?” I asked, hoping that there was someone of my own age lingering nearby.

“No …” He replied, his smile disappearing.

            I waited, wondering if he was going to explain what had happened. But instead he stood up whilst pushing back his chair, and dusting himself off.

“Rest for a few days, and then the task of getting you up onto your feet shall begin.”

* * * 

            Back in the castle of Nottingham, Guy was frantically pacing the corridors, journeying to somewhere inside the citadel. Eventually, he charged through the doors to the great hall, striding angrily towards the Sheriff and Prince John who were enjoying a nice luncheon in the company of two young servant girls; each were gingerly feeding one of the nobles.

“How, How can you just sit here and stuff your faces with this ridiculous food!” Guy demanded as he shoved several platters of salmon and venison off the table with a swipe of his hand. They fell to the floor and the clang that followed echoed around the room, “She has been missing for half a moon now and yet neither of you seem concerned for her well fair!”

The Prince took another gulp of his mead, “Of course I care for her!”

“Then why are you not doing anything?” Guy snapped.

The Prince ignored him and looked down at his plate, a frown quickly formed, “MORE!” When no one instantly came running he shouted, “BRING EM MORE FOOD!”

He then turned back to Guy, “Gisbourne, we cannot simply charge into the forest. We don’t even know where the Outlaw camp is; we’d be walking into a death trap!”

“Then … then torture some villagers … make a deal with Hood. She … she is …. All the time she is with them … she is in danger … she – she needs rescuing!”

The Sheriff waved his hand at the concept, batting away the idea, “Everything will work out fine!”

            Guy glared at them, each in turn; even at the two maids who were bashfully looking away. Then, he turn sharply around and stormed towards the door. After he had charged through the door and heard it slam shut behind him with a deafening bang, he heard the Prince shout, “Where is my food! …. I am your Prince; do you wish me to starve to death? BRING …. ME ….. MORE …. FOOD NOW!!!”

       

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