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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12. Chapter Eleven

When I woke, I kept my eyes tight shut and listened. I listened and waited for the usual noise of the hideout that would greet my ears; instead I could only hear a crackling fire and the sound of my own breathing. Something cold was being dabbed over my forehead and a few droplets of water were sliding down the side of my head. I opened my eyes groggily and was shocked to realise that I was in the chambers at Nottingham castle once more. I knew this from the elegant carvings that were in the wood of the four poster bed that I was lain in.

“My lady?” A familiar voice said with questioning delight.

            I turned my head, which was painful due to the restrictions of my stiff neck; and smiled at Evanne who was perched at the head of my bed, a concerned look upon her face. To my surprise, she seemed to have aged a fair amount in the past weeks.

“Gwen?” Another voice called; a masculine one.

I turned my head once more and saw that Prince John, who was in mid pace, staring at me. He rushed towards me and fell to his knees, grabbing my hand.

“How are you feeling?” John asked looking very shocked as Evanne continued to dap my forehead with a recently remoistened cloth.

“I am as well as one can be after the circumstances that I have been through!” I replied.

A smile lightened the Prince’s face, “You truly are a brave girl!” He placed a light kiss upon my forehead, “And I will return shortly!”

Then, without another word, he charged out of the chambers.

            Evanne placed some extra pillows around my back and then carefully helped my sit up. The pain escalated through me and I winced. Evanne, however, did not notice this for she had gone to pick up a brush that was on the table. I returned my face to a tired expression before she turned around; meaning that she did not get a chance to see the hidden emotions inside. She carefully racked the brush through my ratted curls.

“Was it terrifying miss?” Evanne asked.

“At times,” I replied, with a shrug of my shoulders.

I let her reshape my curls in silence,             and unnerving silence; which she used to think over what I had said. I think Evanne thought that I was trying not to break into tears and to feel the joy of being back in the safety of the castle. But she was wrong, so wrong. All I wanted was the freedom, the fresh trees, Will ….

“I feared for your life, so I did,” Evanne started to say, before she could continue the door open; John had returned with the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisbourne behind him.

            Guy was looking rather flustered, his skin was paler than I had ever seen before or maybe it just looked that way due to the fact that his hair was darker than it had ever been before; or at least I thought it was. Maybe he had had a haircut, or perhaps it was that his hair had not even washed his hair at all since the day that we too had ridden out.

“My Lady!” Guy said with a beaming smile upon his face.

The company of the three men took up several seats that had been positioned around the bottom end of my bed.

“Tell us what happened to you!” Guy urged.

            Evanne shifted her position that she was sat in and she was about to make her escape, when I placed my hand upon her own and gave her a pleading look; begging her not to leave me alone with them. She returned my gaze and with a slight nod of her head, she took the cloth that she had recently placed on my head and plunged it back into the water. I watched as she rang the excess water out of the damp rag and the water that dribbled from it; drumming its way back home. Once the cool rag had been placed upon my forehead, I took a deep breath and I began to speak the tale that we had made up over the course of the last few days,

“When myself and Sir Guy were out on our ride, we were ambushed by Robin Hood and his band of … of thugs; which of course you already know. I was in the midst of battle that was between our own men and the outlaws. A man, one of ours, was killed and as he died he fell into my horse; causing my horse to charge deep into the forest. I clung tightly for many a minute but that did not matter for I grew weak and I fell from the poor creature.

This, as you can imagine, took me by surprise and I was in a state of shock for several minutes; however, when I finally did recover my horse was nowhere in sight. So, I began to search, “I paused here in order to examine my audience of the three men, and to see how they were coping with my terrible story. Evanne had begun to brush my hair again, but much more slowly, and with great detail, “I do not know how long I searched for the poor creature; but after a certain amount of time, I heard something behind me.

First of all, I thought that my horse had found me, but then I discovered that it was something much, much worse than that; than anything that I could have imagined. I was being stalked by a ravenous hunting dog.

I ran, but no matter how hard I tried I could not escape it; it was too quick. I grew tired very quickly and the fiend took that to its advantage!

It leaped.

I fell.

It attacked.

            Taking hold of my leg in its vicious jaws, it dragged me backwards; like I was some dead deer that it had found on the floor. I struggled, but the ground beneath my feet had become sodden with my blood and the beasts’ saliva. I tumbled to the ground and collided, head first, with a rock.” The room around me was silent, save the continuous strokes of the brush through my hair, “When I woke, I was unsure where I was. But the peculiar thing was that even though I was blindfolded, I was not tied up; if it were not for my wounded leg then I would have run away from there. But the pain was to great!”

            Evanne let out a gasp of terror and supportively squeezed my shoulder. The Sheriff cleared his throat, un-amused by the interruption. Remembering my place, I continued with my speech,

“Yet, I must say this. The outlaws, despite their horrendous reputation, they were not as cruel as I first feared them to be. They fed me, and kept me in good company. I soon came to realise that maybe the blind fold was only there to protect their identities, rather than for me to be a prisoner. Then, I could not put their lives in danger. Which, I suppose, is understandable?

            Then one day, I woke up and I could not hear the noise of the camp around me. I ripped the blindfold from my face; and with great struggle I stood up and limped out of the tent that I was in.

The campsite was gone. The only thing that was left was the tent that I had previously left and my dear horse that was tethered to a nearby tree.

With great difficulty, I untied and mounted my faithful horse. Thus escaping the terrible hideout; and I do believe that the rest is known to you all,” I finished my speech,  looking at the three men each in turn and marvelling at the wonder on each of their faces from the cunning little story that I had strung them.

            Silence. Deafening silence was all I received; save the hair brush that was still brushing through my hair. It was the Sheriff who broke the silence.

“It is true, you have suffered many a terrible ordeal whilst the captive of those foul creatures, but there is something that we all wish to see!”

“And that is?” I asked tirelessly.

“The injury that you spoke of; the one on our leg. Show it to use. Then, and only then, will we know that you are speaking the truth.”

“If you insist!”

            With a tired shrug, I lifted the blanket and carefully shifted my right leg out of the bed. Then, I pulled the hem of my blooded dress up and clamped my eyes tight shut. Evanne practically screamed when she saw the wound; but the men just stared at it until I hid back under the covers.

“Well, do you believe me now?” I demanded, crossing my arms across my chest.

“We shall leave you to rest in peace!” Prince John said to the other two men, rising, “Come!”

            The Sheriff stood up at the order and filed out of the room, yet Guy stayed. He lingered, his mouth opened as if he was about to speak when …..

“Gisbourne!” Get out here. NOW!” The Sheriff’s demands interrupted him.

And with that, he scurried off.

            When I was certain that it was just myself and Evanne, I let out a long sigh of relief and shook my head.

“No matter what I say to them, they do not listen!”

Evanne began to tie my hair into several plaits and she nodded her head in understanding,

“Well, my Lady, you cannot blame them. Ever since you went missing they had all been worried sick; they searched high and low across the countryside for many an hour with the finest men in all England, but there was no such luck!”

“And all that time, I was hidden right under their noses!”

“My Lady, you are missing the point. No one dared to venture into Sherwood, the rumours that you are told of that place; they are unbelievable. You cannot imagine the sight when Sir Guy comes bursting through the gates of the citadel in the pouring rain with you dangling lifelessly in his arms. It must have been the biggest uproar that I have ever seen; or the largest one in many a year that is for sure!”

A slight smile curved my lips.

All that because of little old me!”

“Now my Lady, I do believe that it is time for you to get some rest. After all, I can be sure that you have had little rest in the past few weeks and I can assure you that you will need the upmost rest for tomorrow. For it will be the Sixteenth anniversary of your birth.”

“Surely not!” I gasped.

“Oh, it is ma’am!”

Evanne stood up and carefully sat me forward. She then took the extra pillows that she had previously lain behind me; then she helped me back down. It was at this point that I realised how tired I actually was.

“I suppose,” I began covering an unexpected yawn, “That you are right!”

            And soon, sleep had quickly washed over me.

* * *

            In the middle of the Sheriff’s circular chamber, sat the Prince. He was seated in an old, lumpy armchair slumped forwards so that he was so close to the fire that it could very easily burn him with its orange and red tentacles. His fingers waggled in their entwined grip that was nestled under his chin. He glared at the flames as if he was actually daring them to actually reach forward and take him in their fiery grip; they did not take up the offer.

“Your highness!” The Sheriff said rather nervously as he bravely interrupted the Prince’s silence; causing him to lose his chain of thought.

“What is it?” Prince John snapped, his hateful glare now fixed on the meek Sheriff of Nottingham.

“Are the plans to continue?”

A wicked smile danced on the Prince’s face, “By tomorrow eve, we shall be rid of our enemy and (if plans go as well as we hope) the King too. But only if a certain little maid helps us!”

            Meanwhile, at the outlaw camp, Robin was standing in front of a score of men; one foot on the ground the other mounted on the top of a fallen log. One of his hands was on his hilt of his sword and a smile filled his dashing face.

“Any questions?” His voice called out to all the men that were stood in front of him.

All of them looked at one another, wondering who would speak up; if anyone.

“Then you are all dismissed. Get plenty of rest; our day begins early in the morn!”

            With that note, all of them dispersed; save one. Will Scarlet stayed where he was stood. Gazing into the glowing embers in front of him.

“Will …. Is something the matter?” Robin asked, seeing the look upon Will’s face.

            Will, for a start did not notice him. His face looked as if it was almost glowing from the dying embers that were smouldering away in the charred remains of the crisp wood. He was leant on his ling bow and staring into space; his eyes flickered every so often as some thought went through his head. By the looks of it, he had not even realised that the rest of the party had departed.

“Will,” He repeated, “Is something the matter?”

“What!” Will said, snapping back into reality, “Oh …. no …. nothing!”

Robin stared at the boy, an eyebrow raised in disbelief, “Really?!”

“No,” Will replied, slowly shaking his head from side to side.

            Robin stared at the young man. A young man that he considered to be like a son, “Tell me!” He urged.

Robin beckoned for the boy to take a seat beside him on the large, oak log that he and Little John had dragged from under the leaves of the major oak at the very centre of the camp.

“What about Gwen?” Will asked in a murmured voice.

“What about her?” Robin replied, desperately trying to hide the amusement in his voice.

“Well … well surely it … it will be dangerous for her … if … if she was discovered. If they discovered that she is our … our ally!”

Sadly, Robin nodded his head, “Yes it is. But she was told the risks as we all were when we volunteered to do this!”

 

    

    

 

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