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?


5. Chapter Four

“Why?” I whispered to myself as I slipped into the bath of hot water.

The water clung to my bare skin and I slunk so deeply into it, until only my head was visible. The heat from the water was so soothing after the coldness of the carriage, and it helped bring more life into me that had been granted to me once again.

“Pardon, my Lady?” Evanne asked as she began to put away my luggage.

“Oh … it is nothing,” I replied, “I was just thinking aloud.”

“You can tell me if you wish, miss.”

“Well, I was just wondering why we are in Nottingham. I mean, John said that this was a surprise for me; but it is more likely that he has some business here that needs sorting. So why would he take me?

I shall soon be of age and John will more than likely pester me about finding a suitable husband even though I am only a young maiden and I do not wish to marry until I am ready. And anyway, John is not my guardian so he cannot force me to marry; only Uncle can do that. But, Uncle said that my marriage would be my choice and that he would never force me to marry.

  But then, of course, there is the matter of Sir Guy. He will more than likely try once again to court me, flattering me with gifts once more, Evanne, I truly do not wish for that. To be honest, I do not even like Sir Guy in that manner; I see him as a friend or a mentor. But I guarantee that he does not see me in such a fashion …” Only then did I realise that I was pouring my heart out to my maid servant, and that I was saying things that could cause an uproar in court.

“Surely it is flattering to have one such as Sir Guy trying to court you!”

“Well … yes it can be at times, but otherwise it seems more of a hindrance than a help. Anyway, most of the time I think that he is only trying to court me because of my dear Uncle’s position in court.”

“What do you mean?”

I gave Evanne a long, questioning look as she unfolded yet another one of my dresses, “I do not mean to intrude ma’am, but surely it would be much simpler to go along with all his plans. You only have to do so until the King returns and I can see no harm in it, can you?”

I shrugged my shoulders as I wrapped a large, soft towel around my bare skin, “Yes, I suppose you are right.”

Slowly and carefully, I dapped my skin dry and then slipped into my silk nightgown.

“I think that I am going to have lie down for a few more hours,” I called over my shoulder as I walked to the other room. As I walked through the door way, I added, “Will you wake me before dinner?”

“Yes, my Lady.”

  Once more, I climbed the large wooden steps that led up to the bed in the sleeping quarters and then slipped under the thick covers. Evanne rushed in and shut the curtains around me; and even before the darkness had consumed me, I was fast asleep.

* * * 

            Two weeks passed in a rather boring haze and I was beginning to wish that I was back in London staring down from my large balcony at the busy city dwellers that were getting on with their day to day lives. All the time that I had been at Nottingham, I had only seen Prince John and the Sheriff twice. But I wish I could say the same for Sir Guy of Gisbourne, every single place that I went to whether it was in the castle or in the town bellow; it was like he made it his regular mission to search me out at some point every day. And to speak truthfully, it can get rather annoying.

  On the two anniversary of our arrival to Nottingham, I was eating in my chamber as I had done every day since our arrival. On that day, my breakfast consisted of white bread; dried venison, pork and beef; some freshly caught fish and a tankard of water from the castle’s private well.

As I was eating a knock sounded on my door and Evanne went and opened the door. I was shocked to find that when I turned around, John was standing in my doorway. I put down my knife and fork and gave him a large smile, whilst he walked into my room.

“How are you?” He asked.

From the way that he was standing, I could tell that he whether it was proper for him to stand or to sit; so instead he just stood there, in front of the door, looking around the room.

“I am fine, my Lord. How are you?”

“I, also, am fine. What are you planning on doing today?”

“I was hoping to practice my archery and sword fighting,” I replied.

John nodded his head in a manner which I knew meant that he was pretending to actually care about what I had said, “Very well. There is a gathering today between myself and the barons and baroness, I wish for you to make a … brief appearance.”

I stared at him, shocked slightly by his words, “Me sire?”

“Yes, but only for a matter of minutes. Just so that you can be introduced to them; and then they will be able to recognise you as one of their own. You are soon to become of age and you will be one of them.”

“Of course, my Lord.”

“Very well,” John replied and then he turned and left, not uttering another word to me.

As soon as his footsteps could no longer be heard, Evanne shut the door and hurried over to me. I could tell by the look upon her face that she too was as shocked as I.

“Do you wish to get dressed ma’am?” She asked.

I stared at her for a moment, wondering why she was asking such a thing. When I looked down, I was startled to realise that I was still in my nightgown.

“Yes. Would you get down my riding gown please?” I replied.

“Of course, my Lady.”

 She scurried off into the dressing chamber, her face still flushed. I pushed the plate of now cold food away from me and stood up; slowly I dipped my hands in a bowl filled to the brim with water that was on the other side of the table. With great care, I flung the water up to my face and allowed the cold water to trickle down my face as I did every morning. By this time, Evanne had returned with a small bundle of clothes and I disappeared behind the changing screen; not knowing that what I was doing would lead to an event that would change my life forever.

   An hour later, I was stood in front of the wall sized mirror in my riding gear. I smiled as I examined the long, white dress with short sleeves and an opening that revealed most of chest (for the shoulders did not join till part way down my arm). A brown waist coat with a thick belt was tied around my middle and a pair of knee high; tanned boots were at my feet.

I perched on the edge of one of the chairs at the large oak table; whilst Evanne pinned my hair into a spiral bun, which she held into place with two hair daggers.

Then, with one final glance at my reflection in the mirror, I slipped out of the room and walked swiftly down the chamber; fear gripped at my heart, fear of the unknown.

            I walked down the silent corridor to the minor hall in which the council was being held. Apparently, this was where they were regularly held as it was close to the Sheriff’s chambers (or at least that is what Evanne had been told by s maid). Looking up and down the corridor, I tried to think of the directions that the guard positioned near my chambers had told me. When I remembered the direction that I was supposed to be heading, I picked up my pace slightly; thankfully the door to the chamber was right in front of me. When I reached it, I stood outside of it for a few moments; allowing myself time to fix my dress accordingly. Then, I took a deep breath; raised my hand; made it into a fist. It hovered in front of the door for a moment, then I did it; I knocked the door.

“Enter!” I voice boomed from the other side of the room.

The door were pulled open from the other side of the door and I gracefully stepped into the room. The door was closed behind me with a rather loud bang, and I dipped into a curtsy for the gathered nobles. Seven men and four women were sat in a semi-circle of chairs, each were facing two chairs that were higher and much more regal looking than the others. The plainer of the two chairs belonged to the Sheriff, who was sat leaning on his arm with his hand under his chin; looking extremely bored. The other chair belonged to Prince John.

“Ah,” John said, standing up, “Here is the young maiden of the hour. The one that we have all been waiting upon. Ladies, Gentlemen, May I represent the Lady Guinevere.”

“Good morning,” I said in a serious tone.

  Only then did I notice that standing behind each noble man or woman was a man or maid servant, each were glancing nervously from side to side, exchanging fearful looks with one another,

“In no less than twenty one sets of a sun, this young maiden will be a Lady and an official noble of this council.” My heart pounded in my chest and I managed to smile at each of the nobles.

“And because of that, I wished to introduce her to you all personally!”

  John stood up and walked towards me. As custom demands, I lowered myself into a curtsy and dropped my gaze to the floor. I saw his shoes in front of me (a pair of black riding boots); he gently lifted my hand and placed a tender kiss upon it. I lifted my gaze as helped me stand up, then he returned to his chair.

“I shall fetch you some drinks!” I said boldly.

Then without another word, I turned and left the room in confident strides.       

But, as soon as the door had closed behind me; I fell against the wall and stared at the wall in front of me. My heart beat gradually came back to its normal rate and I managed to let out a long sigh of relief. Then, I hurried away.

* * *

   Several minutes later, I returned to the door with a large tray full of empty goblets and two jugs full of the finest mead that money could buy. The door was still partly open from my exit not a moment ago, and I could make out part of a hushed conversation between the barons/

Just as I was about to knock the door, I heard a woman speaking, “Do you think she knows, my Lord?”

“Why would you say that?” The Sheriff’s voice demanded.

“Well, she claims that she has no memories of him, but what if she was lying to us, your Highness!” The woman’s voice stated.

“I trust her,” John said firmly, “And you should too!”

  I knocked the door and all conversations were hushed, the guards once again opened the door and one of the nervous looking servants rushed towards me. It was a young maid, who had short, brown hair. She carefully took the drinks from me, and staggered towards the nearby table.

“My Lords and Ladies,” I lowered my eyes and curtsied at them.

Then, I turned and hurried out of the room.

That was strange! Who on earth were they talking about?

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