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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8. Chapter Seven

            Time passed, I awoke and fell asleep as before several times; all that time feeling perfectly safe, more like a welcomed guest than a prisoner. By about the eighth time that I woke, but I did not open my eyes straight away. I just lay there; and listened.

Water bubbled up in a pot somewhere, all around; there were people talking and in amongst all this sound, I could just make out an instrument being played; a melody that drifted through the air and danced on my air.

Slowly I opened my eyes, and instantly snapped them shut again; a blinding light had blasted its way into my gaze. Once the red spots had finally disappeared, I flickered  my eye lids once again and blinking saw my vision turn from blurred objects to full sight. The world that greeted me was that of colour!

“Much!” I cried with joy.

He scampered forward, panic flooding his face, “Wat’s wrong miss?”

I gave him a huge grin and studied his features.

            He was a fairly small, but well built. He had smallish muscles that were just visible through his thick clothing. His shirt hung loosely off of him, it was white; well it would have been once. But it seemed that he had very little clothing for the shirt was more like a faded brown colour now. It was covered with a badly knitted jumper which was short sleeved and was made of green and brown threads that were now frayed from such use. Then there was a pair of badly worn, brown trousers on the legs. Finally, he had two thick, tanned boots on his legs.

“I can see you!” I exclaimed.

A smile broke onto his dry face, he nodded his head causing his dirty blond hair to spill out of the side of his tanned hat.

            I looked around the room that I was in. A tent. A tent completely made of stretched cow hide. There was very little furniture; in fact all that was in the room was in the room was the bed that I was lain on; a small table with a wooden bowl and mug on it; and a chair next to the bed. It was simple. Simple, but nice.

“If ‘hat is so, ‘hen I think it’s time for introductions. Don’t yah agree?”

I nodded my head and waited for him to speak.

“Me name’s Much. Much the miller’s son!” Much said with a bow.

“And I am lad….. my name is Gwen!” A sudden thought popped into my head, “Much, how long have I been here exactly?”

“Ummm,” He thought for a moment, “’bout ‘alf a moon I’d say!”

“He is going to kill me!” I grumbled sadly.

Much stared at me, a sympathetic grin on his face, “Who ya ‘ather?”

“No.”

“Really?” Much asked, one of his bushy eyebrows raised.

“Yes, I have not seen my father in many a year!”

“Really?” He said, his eyebrows now raised so that they blended into his dirty blond hair, “Why’s that?”

“Eleven years ago, he was summoned by my Un… by our dear King to fight in the treacherous lands of Köln. He never returned. He is probably a corpse that is rotting in a ditch somewhere, that, or at the bottom of the sea. He might have even preferred that place after the battle and stayed there. But, whatever happened, he never returned. My mother died a year after he left.”

Much gasped, “Ya’re an orphan!”

I nodded, my gaze fixed on a piece of the tent.

“But ‘hen who looks after ya?”

“My Uncle; but I cannot be with him now!”

Much pulled a confused look. I rolled my eyes and said, “He is fighting in the Holy Lands!”

A broad smile danced upon my lips as I thought of my dear Uncle valiantly fighting the villainous Turks in our dear Jerusalem.

“Wat rank is ‘e?” Much curiously asked.

“A leader,” I paused, unsure whether I should continue. After a few minutes, I said, “The leader.”

Much nodded with understanding, a smile on his face. It clicked and his nod slowed down, “’he leader?”

“Yes!” I replied, only just managing to conceal the enjoyment that flooded through me at the look of sheer panic that was spreading across his face.

“I’ll … I’ll be right back!” He said as he slowly backed away.

Then, he sprinted out of the tent doors that were furiously flapping in the wind.

* * * 

            Much ran through the throngs of people, his heart pounding beneath his breast. His eyes nervously glanced from side to side and he wiped a clammy hand across his sweat encrusted brow. Short, but sharp intakes of breath regularly occurred as he dodged the other men and women who were busying themselves in their everyday lives. But Much didn’t care, they were between him and his master; and his master was all that mattered now.

He finally reached the largest tent, the tent that belonged to his master. He charged through the flimsy fabric entrance; only to discover that his master was not in fact alone. Sat in a semi-circle all around his master, how was hidden in shadow, were the four other members of the inner circle.

“Much, we are in the middle of something!” Hood snapped, his voice filled with annoyance.

“But …” Much began, only to be cut off shortly by the wave of Hood’s hand.

Robin turned back to his closest companions and continued to talk; only to be interrupted by Much again, “Please master, it is important!”

But once again he was ignored. After several tries and failures, a thought popped into Much’s head and he started with the most important piece of information, “It’s ‘bout ‘he girl!”

Hood stopped mid-sentence and spun his gaze onto Much, “Excuse me?”

            Much gulped in a breath of smoky air and realised that for the first time in his life all the eyes of the group were on him and not because he had done something completely foolish or that he was asking what they wanted for supper; this time they were watching him with curiosity in their faces.

He snapped his eyes shut and spoke out to the tinged red darkness that he knew to be the company of friends, his words spluttered out of his mouth in a tumbling cascade as if they wanted to leave their prison so quickly that they simply tumbled over one another, “She’s ‘he King’s niece!”

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