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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10. Chapter Nine

A couple of days after the introduction, I woke up and felt all my strength surging within me. Much then helped me up and out of the bed beneath me. I gently pressed the ball of my left foot so that it was hard against the ground, and slowly I moved my other leg. It took several long pain filled minutes but eventually I managed to put my injured foot on the ground.

The pain that flooded through me as the floor and my foot collided was so great, that I buckled forward; all most falling over. Much grabbed hold of my arm and allowed me to hiss through my teeth before he helped me stand up. I managed a weak smile and in a hushed whisper I said,

“Thank you!”

When I finally got my breath back and my leg at last had stopped throbbing with pain, I added, “Will you help me walk?”

“There is no need for that!” Another voice said.

            A hand slinked through the fabric door and when it was pulled back I could not help but let my smile turn into a bean, for a vibrant, scarlet scarf was revealed. Will Scarlet strolled towards me with something hidden behind his back. When he was stood right in front of me, Much slowly moved away from me; trusting the company that I was in. He then busied himself with tying back the doors that were flapping around in fear from their recent wake, to the canvas walls; an ear open to myself and Will.

It was rather awkward as we stood facing each other; I was not able to move due to the fear that was coursing through my veins. Fear that  if I moved then more pain would spring up my leg and I would collapse to the floor. And Will was just stood there, unsure what he should do or say. Eventually, he gave me one of his heart melting grins and he said,

“I have something for you!”

            He brought out the item that was behind his back. It turned out to not be one thing, it was in fact to things; two things that were an exact replica to on another. They were these two beautiful long pieces of wood that had each been handled with extreme care when they were being carved for there were some wonderful swirls and curves carved into them. At the top it was split until about a third of the way down, and a small piece of wood was conjoined into it in order make a handle.

It looked like before Will became an Outlaw then he truly was the great carpenter that Much and Robin had been bragging about, an expert. It took man minutes, but soon I was able to put almost all my weight on those to sticks, and my good leg; they were actually quite comfortable.

“What are they?” I asked.

Will opened his mouth to speak but then changed his mind, as if he was unsure of what he was meant to say. Thankfully, Much answered for him,

“I’ve seen ‘em before, in ‘he ‘oly lands. They’re used for ‘he injured, to ‘elp ‘em get out of the battlefield!”

I nodded my head as I looked at Much from the side lines, he was curiously watching Will and I from the side lines. I took a step forward but was unsure what I was meant to do; meaning that I fell forward. Will caught me and slowly helped me up; from the moment that our hands touched, a spark seemed to form between us, my face coloured slightly and he pulled his hand away.

            I tried once again to move and this time I managed to take several, extremely slow steps forward that brought me closer and closer to the fabric door. I fell forwards again, and Will caught me (once again).

“Thank you!” I whispered graciously.

Will gave another toothy grin and then we began to walk, he stood right beside me; standing there just in case I fell forwards and I needed support once more. Then, I emerged into the light.

            I was shocked by what I saw. A whole village, as large as the lower town in Nottingham, was among the trees; invisible to all unless they looked carefully enough. Tents were fantastically built so that they looked like they were actually fallen logs or large boulders. On the ground, there were square cut outs into the dirt that were actually tunnels; I could just make out the flickering flames that were held to the wall in wooden barriers; causing a dance to swirl up the walls.

And in the tree tops, there were actual buildings that were connected via wooden rope bridges and swings; if a person looked up then they would think that they were just looking at the tree tops, and that was because of the way that the underbelly of each tree house had been designed, the looked like the trees.

“Dear Lord!” I whispered in amazement, my mouthing hanging open.

            All around me there were man at work, some were sawing away at wood for new building; others were training among themselves with both swords or without. In the midst of all this, there was a small group of men sat around a roaring fire listening to someone playing a lute. That some, I realised, was the minstrel that I had been introduced to only a few days, the tall, fairly thin man with the feather plumed hat; Alan a Dale.

However, when he saw me approaching him on those strange wooden sticks he ceased his playing; all his companions looking towards me.

            Silence spread like a plague when they saw me propped up on those strange sticks . Will encouraged me to continue onwards, and I did so; my head was bowed down from embarrassment. Whispers erupted all around as I made my never-ending journey towards the beckoning fire. The whispers that followed me forwards were that of “who am I?” and “why is she here?” I tried not to laugh as each of them guessed my true identity. Some were saying that I was a noble man’s daughter, whilst others were saying that I came from some land over the seas; and I heard from a man, who was as old as life itself, that I was given to this world by out dear Lord; a fallen angel, he had said.

“Ladies and Gentlemen!” Alan’s voice boomed to all the men in the forest, “May I introduce to you all, Lady Guinevere of London!”

The hushed whispers became louder at that this and I found that a circle was being formed tightly around me; Will was pushed away from me and all I could see from him was the brightly coloured scarf. Every voice had become a louder and was filled with a large amount of shock. Yet, I could not tell whether they were happy or angry that I was among them; or if there was a mixture of both lingering in the air. I became unsure what I was supposed to do, and the circle was growing tighter and tighter around me. My breathing started to come in panicked breaths and soon a cold liquid was trickling down the sound of my face; my palms also becoming sweaty. I just stood there; the circle of eyes consuming me.

“Make room! Make room!” The giant man, Little John, instructed.

            I was led to a freshly cleared log and after several minutes, I found a way to sit down without pain surging through me. But the whispers were still there, growing louder and louder as the minutes passed; soon they were as loud as shouts. Yet they suddenly stopped so abruptly.

The crowd parted as a figure walked through them; towards me. Their cape was flying behind them from the gusts of wind and I could make out the hilt of a sword in the darkness that shrouded it. His hair was swept back from his face by the large wind that was slapping at him, his cheeks a deep red. It was Robin.

“Back to work … the lot of you!” Robin shouted, and as quickly as they were there; they were gone.

            Robin sat down opposite me, only then did I realise that I was sat among the inner circle. Will was sat next to me, the axe at his feet. On the next log, was the friar who was downing a large tankard of mead. Alan was sat beside him; busying himself with the strings that were on his lute. Past Robin (who was gracious enough to have a log to himself), on the fourth and final log was where Little John and Much. Little John was staring into space, whilst Much was trying to stop some stew that was in a large, black cauldron on the fire from boiling over.

“It is wonderful to see that you are and about, my La….. Gwen!” Robin said, quickly correcting himself.

“Why thank you. And I must say that I am rather impressed with your camp; I must say that I never thought that you would live in such conditions. I am rather impressed!” I replied, a smile on my face.

            Seeing the way that the men were sat. slouched forwards leaning on their knees, I felt the sudden urge to do things properly. I straightened my back, placed both hands in the crook of my lap and held my head up high. I felt much better in a matter of moments. I could see that the men were in the midst of their own conversations of their days work, and so I allowed my mind to scurry away to elsewhere.

            That was until a little girl with short, dirty blond hair and bare feet came running towards us, her dress flying behind her; giggling as she ran. A smile as wide as the night’s sky spread across her rosy cheeks, she trusted herself into Will’s arms;  her giggling increasing as she went.

“Ellyn!” A boy screamed, dismay filling his tone.

            To my surprise, the boy looked exactly like Will; save the fact that he was smaller and had dirty blond hair. He stumbled to a halt and glared angrily at the girl. He then realised who was gathered around the fire and looked guilty around,

“Sorry Robin!” He mumbled.

A booming laugh escaped from Little John’s mouth, it was so loud that it seemed to shake the very ground beneath my feet.

“Luke!” Will glared at the boy, “I told you to keep her away!”

The boy, Luke, looked down at the floor with embarrassment and suddenly found something that was extremely interesting underneath his foot and it needed to be smudged out. Will was a red as his scarf from the actions of these two children; who I am guessing that they were his younger siblings from the manner that they were reacting to him. He looked apologetically at Robin, who attempting to hide his own laughter.

The girl let out a high pitch squeal when she saw me; it shocked me slightly. The grin on her was face was wider than it was before; so wide that I could even catch a glimpse at a full set of yellowing teeth.

“You’re ‘he princess!” She squealed.

More laughter erupted from the group and my eyes dropped to the floor; my cheeks burning.

“She is not a princess, Ellyn!” Will explained.

“Then what is she?”

“She is a …. Well ….. she is a Lady!”

The girl nodded her head with delight; understanding brightening up her eyes.

“Ellyn, would you please leave?” Robin asked; a kind tone to his voice.

Young Ellyn looked around guiltily and tried to straighten out the hem of her ragged dress,

“S-sorry Robin,” She muttered.

            She flashed me another smile, then ran off; her older brother shortly following after her. Once she had gone, the group was silent; each trying to catch the sniggering that were trying to flee from under his breath.

“How long, may I ask, until the harvest festival is held in Nottingham?” I asked.

Robin stared at me for a few moments, trying to think up his answer, “About a week. But why do you wish to know Gwen?”

“It shall be the anniversary of my birth!”

This made a smile bloom on Robin’s face, “And I am guessing that you will be coming off age!”

I nodded my head, “And because of that a competition is being held!”

The other members of the group, who had all been talking among themselves, all stopped their conversations at that comment and they were all becoming interested.

“Go on!”

“There is to be an archery competition!”

Robin rolled his eyes, “There is one every year!”

An annoyed sigh ricocheted through the rest of the group; all of them looking very, very disappointed. 

“yes, but this year the prize is not just a small meal inside the palace walls. This year there are two extra prizes!”

All were silent, waiting for me to continue to speak. I had captured their attention; and I liked the feeling that was burning in my chest.”

“As well as having the meal, there are two extra prizes. I only know one of them; a solid, gold arrow!”

All were silent as the news settled into them, each of them had the biggest grins on their faces an I could see that Robin’s brain was carving up an idea. 

“Wait … are you actually being serious?”

“Yes, I am being serious. A solid gold arrow will be the winner’s prize. That sort of gold would feed at least half the villages in this area for two winters, maybe more. Am I right?”

            The silence that followed was that of a shocked one, everyone was trying to understand what was going on; their heads buried in their hands as each thought through the possibilities. Will nudged me slightly in the ribs. I looked over at him, my eye brows raised as I was unsure if he actually meant for him to do that. He nodded his head and mouthed,

“You’re right!”

A smile filled my face and I mouthed back,

“Really?”

He nodded his head again; then snapped it back so that he was like the others.

            All the others stayed in the silence as they allowed the information to sink in; each were looking rather enthusiastic by the end. Robin broke the silence by clapping his hands and swiftly rubbing them together with excitement. He smiled and said,

“Boys. I think that it is time to get planning!”

  

           

   

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