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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15. Chapter Fourteen

Three and a half hours later, I was sat in my chamber staring out of the window looking out of  the men, woman and children who were celebrating the festival in their own private circle. Evanne tapped me on the shoulder and I casually looked over my shoulder at her.

“Are you ready to go, my Lady?”

“Yes, Of course!”

With a sigh, I backed away from the window and turned towards her. I quickly checked my reflection in the mirror and smiled at the importance that seemed to flow from me.  A nod of my head showed that I was happy with the way that I looked and then I strode (well tried to stride) out of the room.

Evanne was walking behind me, a satchel over her shoulder. I thought of the lie that I had spun only a few moments ago to get her to bring that.

“Evanne,” I had said, “Would you please put all of my wonderful gifts in a satchel. So that I can show them off to the people in court?”

“Of course, my Lady!” She had replied.

            A pang of guilt was buried deep in my stomach and I could not help but feel sorry for the girl. But I shook it away before it could become visible on my face. We walked in silence for some time, I could feel the pain in my leg but I did my best to ignore it; which took some time and a lot of patience. The only thing that I could hear was the sound of mine and Evanne’s feet as they clanged the floor in perfect unison.

However, this soon changed.  I began to hear a loud noise that seemed to snake up the corridor to my ear. It grew louder the closer that we got to the large double doors of the great hall.

They were flung open by a pair of knights who were stood in position when we were stood in front of them. I planted a bright, false smile on my face and strolled into the room. All eyes were on me as I made my way over to the Sheriff and the Prince.

“The festivities may begin!” The Sheriff roared once I was sat in my selected seat between them.

            They was a sudden cheer when three minstrels covered in cloths of tattered fabric in bright shades of orange, red and green clambered into the room and began to spin us tales of magic from long ago. One played a lute, as another spoke the enchanting words and the other danced around the room; waving strips of fascinatingly coloured cloths. I grinned at them, delighted that this was the depicted entertainment for my birthday celebrations.

I became entranced when they began to slowly creep through their audience of noble men and women, making their way to the high table which seated myself, the Prince, the Sheriff, Guy and the five barons and baronesses that had been with us at my breakfast.

The Lady Maud was shooting me a menacing glare as she drank deeply from a goblet of liquid. With a roll of my eyes, I shook her away and scanned the room.

            There were men dressed in finely woven tunics and breeches, and women in richly colour dress that were unique to one another in every way. They all looked so handsome or beautiful and I felt a twang of jealousy stab at my stomach. My grin grew when I saw that Will was sat in the far corner, away from most of the other guests. Much was sat beside him in his usual leather hat and shaggy hair. Seeing that I was looking his way, Will sneakily winked at me and it took all my good will to stop myself from grinning like an imbecile.

To busy myself, I began to slice the salmon that was seated on a bed of leaves and potatoes into delicate slices and I slowly chewed them as I enjoyed the meal.

* * * 

                        After an hour of the wonderful entertainment and two more courses of slightly charred venison and chewy lamb, I felt the call of the wild stirring in my stomach. I sat there, continuing to eat the last of the green leaves that were sat on my plate; but it became too much.

I turned to John and said in a polite voice,

“Sire, if you will excuse me; but it seems that nature is calling me!”

A smirk appeared on John’s face and he replied, “Very well Guinevere, but do hurry I would hate for you to miss our final course!”

With a nod of my head, I rose from my seat and made my way to the door that was near the high table. At this point, two guards were walking into the room and taking up their positions beside the door that I was about to leave through, out of the corner of my eye I noted that this was happening by the other two doors.

The changing of the guard. What else could it be?

As I was walking past the two new guards and listening to the laughter that was forming around me, one of them caught my eye and winked at me. My eyes widened and I quickly hurried from the room, my  head staring at the ground.

* * *

            A few moments later, I was walking back the way that I had previously come, feeling utterly relieved that I had been able to answers natures call. As I was approaching the door, one of the guards must have heard the clipping of my slightly raised heels on the cold stone floor, for he held the door open to me.

“Thank you!” I said with a smile.

Then, just as I stepped into the room and was greeted by the sound of laughter from the multiple amounts of guests, something happened that I did not suspect. One of the guards lunged forward and grabbed me. He twisted my arm behind my back and placed a dagger against the flesh of my throat. A scream escaped my mouth and silence shook the room.

Everyone stared at me, at the frightened look that was now filling my face, at the knife at my neck and at the man behind me.

            Panic erupted!

It was only silenced when John shouted, “What is the meaning of this?”

A hollowed laugh erupted from the man’s mouth and I stared at them, pleading with my eyes to each person; begging them to help me due to the fact that I could not speak because of the lump of fear that had formed in my throat.

“I think you know!” A voice sounded from the top of a set of stairs that curled to a different part of the castle in the corner of the room.

I did my best to turn my head to look at the owner of the voice, trying not to allow the blade to the cut my throat. The figure was stood at the top of the flight of stairs, a hood covered his face and a bow and arrow where armed in line with his eyes.

“You invited us here, your majesty!” The man lowered himself into a mocking bow.

“What do you mean?”

The man pulled back his hood and smiled at the Prince. A gasp slipped from my lips when I recognised the well groomed face and the unusual hair colour. He was dressed in his usual Lincoln green clothing with the tanned belt and boots; and a sword hung from the belt; glinting in the light.

“Hood!” I gasped, drastically attempting to escape from the grasp of the man who held me.

My words seemed to echo around the room as the guests under stood what I had said.

            Without warning, the arrow left that bow and slammed into the back of a chair beside me. A rope was attached and he threw himself off it. Landing in a crumpled heap, he swiftly rose and dusted himself down. The pulled a curved blade from the sheath.

“HOOD!” The Sheriff roared, spitting out the name in utter disgust.

Robin stooped into a mocking bow and sent a wink in my direction. A blush formed deeply on my cheeks and I continued to struggle, trying to not allow the men around me to see it.

“GUARDS!” The Sheriff screamed, “GUARDS, SIEZE HIM!”

The men who were stood at the doors moved forward; but instead of slinking towards Robin with their swords raised, they moved to surround the high table.

“What is the meaning of this?” He demanded.

“My men have replaced yours. Yours seem to be a bit tied up at the moment!”

The staring contest between Robin and the Sheriff gave me the chance that I needed. I furiously kicked my leg back, catching the man who held me in the leg and then I sprinted over to the high table.           

            Guy stood up and pointed his sword at each of the men who were beginning to circle us.

“Stand behind me!” He ordered behind clenched teeth.

I did as he said, a look of fear on my face.

Robin shook his head at my actions then looked at the Sheriff, “You know what the rules are. All the money or jewels on your person give to any of my men!”

            Slowly, I made my way from behind Guy over to Evanne; who was pressed by the wall. I looked over at her and nodded my head to the bag that was over her shoulder. She slowly nodded her head and slipped the bow and quiver in my hands.

“I would not do that if I were you!” The Prince said, a calmly; rather too calmly for the situation that he was in.

“And why is that?” Robin demanded.

A sly smile slipped onto John’s face, he didn’t say anything but instead he exchanged looks with the Sheriff. Then after sometime, he opened his mouth and said, “Because we have your daughter!”

I forced a shocked look onto my face, “You …. you have a daughter?”

            Robin automatically understood what I was doing and began to explain, “Yes, she was very young  when I left to fight in Köln and when I returned I was told that my dear wife had passed on and that our daughter was …. Well, I never knew what her position was. She was taken to live with someone else; none of the servants knew where she was. She was adopted by some very lucky family.”

I felt a tang of sadness snag at my stomach; obviously I was not able to let this show. Instead I looked nervously over at  Guy who gave me a reassuring smile.

“Yes, yes, yes it is a very touching story. We have your precious little girl and we can do anything with her that we wish; so I would be careful and not act to rash if I were you!”

Robin swung his curved blade in front of him, slicing the air and charging towards them, “Where is she?” He demanded.

            An evil laugh fell from the Sheriff mouth; he flicked his wrist indicating something to someone nearby. The next thing that I knew, one of the barons from the breakfast this morning who had stood behind me; a sharp blade was pressed against my neck for the second time that day. I let out an ear piercing scream and dropped the bow and arrow from my grasp,

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF ME!” I screamed.

But the blade was embedded even deeper into my throat. The Knight grabbed hold of my arms and pressed them against my back, forbidding me from struggling. I gulped and tried to stay calm, but it is rather hard when you are looking death in the face.

“Hood, may I introduce to you your daughter!”

       

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