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?


14. Chapter Thirteen

The next day, the dream forgotten; I was sat in front of the mirror with Evanne fiddling away at my curls. As she did that, I was singing lightly to myself.

“What is that ma’am?” Evanne asked.

“Pardon?” I replied, looking at her in the mirror.

“That song, what is it called?” She asked.

“To tell you the truth Evanne, I have no idea. It is just something that has become stuck in my head recently.”

Evanne shrugged her shoulders and continued to fiddle with my curls. After a sometime, she tapped me on the shoulder and said,

“How about this, my Lady?”

She held up a small hand mirror and showed me the back of my head; I brought my hand up to my face, placing a finger on my lips and a thumb on my chin. I studied it for a moment and then with a grin I replied,

“Yes, it is I do like that. It is beautiful!”

            I stood up and stared at myself in my new gown. A dress made of the most beautiful dark blue silk that I had ever laid my eyes was covering me; it hugged my skin tightly so that it showed of my lovely curves. The sleeves of the dress cascaded down to the floor and around my waist and my neck line were two separate pieces of material that were pale blue with wonderful stitching of tiny flowers etched into it. A cape was hung over the back of the chair which I had previously been sat at. It had silver lining on the inside and dark blue exterior. Before I reached to tie it to the small, barely even visible, loops around my neck; I turned to Evanne,

“Would you be so kind as to secure the tying?” I asked.

“Of course, my Lady!”

            I turned around and took a deep breath; then I waited. Without warning, Evanne grasped the cords at the back of my dress and she began to tie them tightly. After a few minutes, the pain stopped as my waist and chest grew used to the tightness. Then, Evanne tied the cape to my shoulders and I was given a chance to look at myself fully.

I held my head proudly, lips pursed in a scarlet smile and a pair of eyes fearlessly burning. My hair was tied back in a messy bun with small forget-me-nots chains braided though it. A few delicate curls were allowed to cushion either side of my face.

“You truly look beautiful, my Lady. No one would know that you had been the victim of such a horrible ordeal!”

            A smile filled my face as she placed some simple satin shoes, that matched my dress perfectly, in front of me. With great care, I slipped each foot into one of the shoes and then I looked over at Evanne,

“Will you accompany me?” I asked, giving her a pleading look and praying silent to the lord that she would agree.

“Of course I will, my Lady!”

* * *

            It took some time and it was extremely tiring with excruciating pain flooding through my leg if it landed to heavily on the floor or if I slipped slightly, but eventually I managed to descend the vast amount of stairs that had been laid between my chamber and the great hall.

Eventually, the large oak doors where right in front of me with the ingenious designs etched into the dark wood, the designs were trees and other wonderful beauties of nature; strange considering that the Sheriff despises anything to do with the world beyond the castle walls. They parted within mere moments of standing there, as if the knights who were stood on the other side of the door could sense my presence. All the people who were sat or stood in the room were whipped into a hushed silence as I strolled into the room.

            I was unsure what I was supposed to think of the room, it was both beautiful and ugly at the same time. Cold stone walls closed around the content of the room and thick, velvet curtains hung in front of the humongous, glass windows; meaning that that the only light to flicker in the room was that of the dancing flames in the candles and the roaring fire that was hissing and spluttering in the wall in the centre of the room.  Then there was the extra furnishings, which made the room look beautiful. The delicate tapestry on the wall was filled with neatly saw images of the past all the way back to the distant King William who saved our land when we were under the reign of a fearful man who cared little for his country. It was filled with a mixture of wonderful colours that were so vibrant that my eyes were automatically drawn to it as soon as I entered the room.

A table made of dark oak was dead in the centre of the room and it stretched up most of the length of it. Twenty chairs made of the same wood were swept on either side of the table. The seats were spread out so that they showed who the most and least important people in the room were. If you were sat in the centre then you were a very important person, but the further along the table your chair went then you were told your place. Places were set along the table and each was set with the sort of plating that you would expect to see at a banquet.                    

Whilst I was letting the scenery sink into me, Prince John approached me with a smiling greeting. He held out his left arm and, once I had taken it, led me to the most noble seat in the while room; the one to the Prince’s right. When I reached the seat, I saw that the rest of the company that was sat along the table were all staring at me. Four barons and two baronesses were sat further along the table with Sir Guy and the Sheriff were sat opposite us.

“You look radiant in your new gown, my Lady!” Sir Guy stated with a kind smile painted softly on his lips.

“Why thank you, my Lord!” I replied, trying to control the blood that was rushing to my face at a furious speed.

This caused John to laugh that raspy laugh of his, and said, “It seems that our birthday maiden is easily embarrassed!”

            To hide my embarrassment, I searched for a distraction. I found a suitable one almost instantly. Picking up a goblet that just in front of me, I took a long sip of the liquid that was in it. Instantly, I spat the disgusting drink out and felt a wave of nausea slam suddenly into me.

“Is something the matter?” One of the baronesses asked in an annoying giggle of a voice, “Do you not like mead?”

The other woman joined in her annoying laugh and I slammed down the goblet; silencing them instantly.

I gave each of them a menacing glare and wittedly replied, “Well … no actually, I do not like mead. Especially something as foul tasting as this!”

“I brought that!” She snapped, a glare of detest consuming her once pretty face.

I took a minute to examine her. She wore a dress that was an extremely foul looking yellow colour, which I suspect took many an hour to thread together. Her hair had been badly curled overnight so that it looked like one of the women from court in London. The only thing that I could tell that was not overly exaggerated was her face; but that had been soured from my previous comment.

“I would never have guessed! Is it pig’s swill?”

Guy sprayed drink into the air as he laughed uncontrollably and Prince John was covered in the sprayed mead.

“Excuse me?” The woman snapped.

“The drink. Did you make it from pig’s swill?”

The woman stared at me, anger practically seeping from her skin. An unearthly silence filled the air that is until the Sheriff could no longer contain himself and he burst out into a snorting laughter; which shortly turned into a symphony.

“I must say, Guinevere does have a point, Lady Maud!” The Sheriff insisted wiping away some laughter induced tears.

The Lady Maud looked absolutely furious. She stood up and practically knocked over the man servant who had stumbled forwards to help her out of her chair. She glared around the room at each of the laughing noble men, then her gaze settled upon me which was so vengeful that I actually felt the hand of fear clawing at my stomach.

Her face was soured with un-amusement , she turned to the woman who was sat at her side and bitterly said,

“Come Winifred!”

Maud stormed out of the room. The other woman, Winifred, looked at me with pity. She raised from her seat and called,

“One moment Maud!”

With a curtsy to the Prince, she opened her mouth to speak once more but she was rudely cut off by Maud.

“Now Winifred!”

With a sigh, she scurried out of the room after the now annoyed Lady Maud.

“Well …” John said, breaking the ice after several minutes, “What a great way to start off this interesting day!”

This shocked me. I could not understand why John would say something like that and the Sheriff must have seen my puzzled expression for her cleared his throat rather loudly and said,

“I do believe that it is time for the day’s festivities to begin!”

Clapping his hands together, two man servants scurried closer holding several presents.

The first was brought forward and placed in front of me, whilst the Sheriff said,

“From myself!”

Carefully, I opened the box and saw a sharped horsehair brush with my name delicately sown into it on the back with great care.

“Thank you!” I smiled at the Sheriff and placed the gift back in its home.

“Here you go!” Guy muttered as the servant put another box in front of me. This was much wider and larger than the one that the Sheriff had given me. That one had been a small, rectangular box.

            With great care, I untied the ribbon that held the box together, and placed it into a neat pile next to me. Then, I lifted the lid and gasped at what I saw inside. A hand carved bow made of perfectly vanished oak, and sixteen centimetre wide strips were imprinted into the wood; depicting my age. The bow string was the most unusual. In any normal circumstance, the horsehair that would have been strung together was not black as most weapon creators would usually insist on it being; it was actually a mixture of blond threads. Only then did I realise that the hairs must have come from my own stallion’s mane.

            The matching set of arrows were carved with such care so that they were like the bow and each had the centimetre thick strips that indicated my present age, and had long hawk feathers tied to the end of the wood. All of the dozen arrows were in a thick quiver made of tanned cattle hide that was in the box as well.

Also, underneath the wonderful bow and quiver, was a beautiful, hand sown riding cloak made of dark green silk. When I looked closely, I saw that it had been carefully imprinted with the most intricate of patterns in a lighter shade of green. The patterns were not noticeable unless you looked carefully, but when I looked I saw that they had flowers, birds and other things of nature’s wonders stitched into it.

I let out another gasp and turned to Guy, a beam on my face I said,

“Oh, thank you!”

Guy turned extremely red and dropped his gaze so that he was looking down at his plate, mumbling a reply that I could not make out.

            The box was replaced with another one that was slightly smaller than the others, whilst John said, “This one is from me!”

Inside was a beautiful hand mirror that had small diamond gems surrounding the reflective mirror itself. On the back was my name that was stitched in swirling, loopy writing. It seemed that the Sheriff and John had decided to split their gifts; less of an effort I would imagine.


Finally, the last box was placed in front of me. It was drastically smaller than the others, and a completely different shape. This one was a rectangle that was neither wide nor deep. On top was an envelope with my name upon it; in loopy writing. I turned it around and a smile curled the corners of my mouth when I saw that there was a clump of red wax dried over the opening of the envelope and the seal was of three lions facing the left whilst looking up at me; the seal of King Richard.

I sliced at the waxy hinge with a sudden flick of my wrist that held the blade of a sharp knife. Carefully, I peeled the envelope back and slid the letter out. The writing inside was short, but curled in a way that I would recognise instantly.


21st August, 1194


        Once again, I am ever so sorry that we have been parted by this blasted war; I expect you are dreading having to spend another hour with my brother, but there is little that I can do. Only when the Pope has told u, or if our enemy are vanquished, will I be able to return to my beloved England.

It seems strange, but it was practically as soon as my reign over England began that we were summoned by the Pope to defend this barren land.

But enough about my life.

        Today, as you know, is the date most important date of your life so far. It is the day that you come of age. So here is a gift that is not only from myself; but also your father. He gave it to me before Köln. I bestow this gift upon you; for both beauty and protection.

Your Guardian,

King Richard.

          Inside the slim box was the most beautiful item that I had ever seen. It was a dazzling hunter’s knife cased with jewels that covered the case and daggers handle.

I pulled it from its sheath and a sparkling blade was revealed. I held it out on the palm of my hand and I was surprised to realise that it had almost perfect balance. Quickly, I slid it back into its sheath and beamed at John, the Sheriff and Guy.

“Thank you for such wonderful gifts!”

Some man servants took the remaining presents away; and almost immediately some delicious food was placed in front of us.

            On a small plate, there was several thick slices of freshly baked, white bread with a small pot of pâté next to it. On the main plate there was a large variety of meat in slices that consisted of crispy beef, chewy mutton, dried venison, freshly caught game and some of the castle’s chickens. There was also a large range of sliced fish that included a lot of herring, salmon, plaice, cod, trout and pike. Some greens were placed in a bowl, there was some large lettuce leaves; finely chopped carrots; ripe  tomatoes and cupped mushrooms.

The disgusting glass full of mead had finally been replaced with a goblet filled with rich, red wine. I took a long sip and instantly was slapped by a rich, fruity sensation with several spices that I could not recognise; but, more importantly, it relieved of the still ever constant taste of the pig swill.

All the meat was covered in a thick layer of salt as I expected it to be; yet it seemed that too much had been added to this batch.

            We ate in silence for a long time. The only sounds being that of our knives and forks scraping the plates and the occasional slurp or gulp from a goblet filled with either the luscious red wine, or the disgusting mead.

“Time, I do believe, for us to see the people!” John insisted, rising slowly from his seat.

The other men followed his actions and I arose last, following the rules that our custom demanded. John held out his right arm, I took it and we walked.

            I smiled cheerfully as we walked outside to the roar of the crowd. I was guided to a raised platform which we walked across and then we reached another set steps that led even further up. I took hold of the fabric of my dress, it took many a minute but eventually I managed to climb the seemingly endless staircase. I was led to a grand, wooden chair which was situated next to John’s throne. The Sheriff took up the seat to John’s left and Guy stood up behind him, a hand on the handle of his sword just in case any thing was to happen.

John was stood up, deep in conversation with the Sheriff who was beside him. They spoke so quietly that I was unable to catch any of their conversation; but I did notice that they kept looking at me, not intentionally staring at me, just letting their gaze fall on me from the corner of their eyes.

            After some time, John walked over to the top of stairs and spoke out to all the men, women and children that were gathered around us; watching and waiting.

“Welcome all!” John boomed to the crowd that instantly quietened, “The traditional competition is being held here on this day of our precious harvest festival. But this year, we are celebrating the coming of age of our own Lady Guinevere. So for this year, and this year only, we are granting two extra prizes. The usual prize of a large feast in the great hall shall still be obtained. But one of the prizes shall be a golden arrow!”

            A servant stepped forward holding a plump red pillow, and what sat on top caused the crowd to gasp in wonder; a pure gold arrow.

“Yes, yes, yes …” John snapped, hitting away the murmurs, “But the winner will also win a kiss from the fair Lady Guinevere!”

            I felt my face burn slightly at the comment, considering that I had only been told this very fact a few hours ago, at that and even louder up roar sounded from the men who were scurrying to the sign up booth; practically piling on top of one another to get through.

Turning my head, I casually scanned the crowd, surveying each man who had a bow slung over their shoulder; my gaze faltered when I noticed a huddled group of four. One noticed that I was looking their way, and nudged another in the  chest. The other casually looked up at me, and my heart fluttered in my chest. Will Scarlet winked up at me and flashed me one of those heart melting smiles of his; it took all of my strength to keep a straight face.

Guy clapped his hands together loudly, and silence filled the air. A line of men of all shapes and sizes formed behind the steps that led to the archery target.

            As each man was allowed to take up the platform, they introduced themselves to the court and fired at the target. This continued and I paid little attention to what was happening; until the hooded figure stood and was introduced as,

“William of Knighton!”

            A subconscious smile fell onto my face when I realised that the hooded figure was actually Robin, but I managed to sit in complete silence as I awaited the shot. Suspense hung in the air, and then the shot was made.

Time slowed as the arrow raced towards its target. The crowd gasped at the perfect bull’s eye. I clapped my hands at what had just happened, and many a peasant followed in my example. After that, most of the contestants were not very good; so I allowed my mind to wander.

“The finalists,” John shouted after a long time, “Are ….. Alan of York, Luke of London, Thomas of Chester and William of Knighton.”

I respectfully clapped my hands together, as I should do, a bored look upon my face; but inside I was cheering with delight.

“Sir Guy of Gisbourne will shoot at the target and the champion will be the one who’s shot is the closest to the arrow!”

Guy began to move forward but I loudly cleared my throat. All the men who were sat nearby turned to look at me, each with a puzzled look on their faces.

“John,” I said, a pleading note in my voice, “Please can I fire the arrow at the target?”

This caused John to smile and he nodded his head, “Since it is your birthday!” He then turned and spoke louder to the crowd, “There had been a change of plans. The Lady Guinevere will be shooting the arrow. After all it is only fair!”

            I beckoned Evanne forward with a nod of my head, she understood what I meant instantly. She brought forward the bow and quiver. I flung them over my right shoulder once I had risen and held the sides of my dress. Then, slowly, I descended the steep steps with immense care. As I gracefully descended the stairs, I calmed my breathing down and as I set my feet onto the firm wooden platform, my left hand reached for an arrow in the quiver. Slipping the arrow into the horsehair, I allowed the whispers to skim over me and I relaxed my insides as my Father had taught me all those years ago. Then, I raised the bow into the air, taking deep breaths; I finally pulled back the string. I concentrated only on the arrow and the target; they were the only thing that mater. Then, at the last moment, I notched the arrow up slightly and let the arrow fly.

            The crowd went ecstatic when the arrow hit a perfect bull’s eye and a huge round of applause erupted. I nodded towards the contestants who were all looking rather annoyed that a young girl could best them. All, that is, save for the hooded Robin who simply nodded his head rather impressed; a smile just visible beneath the shadow from the hood. I then returned to the royal box in confident strides.

Guy was looking rather impressed with me as I smugly sat down. I let my gaze fall upon Will who raised his eye brow at me, showing how impressed he and the others were.

            All of the finalists took it in turns to hit the target, each better than their predecessor. Luke of London hit the target right next to the arrow, and the crowd gave out a loud ‘ohhhhhh’ wondering whether the local boy would be able to win the contest for them after a shot such as that. The Londoner confidently strode away from the firing mark, certain that he was to win. Robin, still in disguise, stepped forward and took his time preparing to fire. My eyes snapped shut when I saw the flicker of his hand and the arrow was let loose.

I heard the cheer and opened my eyes to see that Robin had in fact won the match, by splitting the arrow that I had fired in half. The crowd screamed in amazement and engulfed him, whilst all I could do was stare completely amazed.

John stood up and boomed, “Where is our champion?”

            The figure emerged from the crowd, which were still cheering loudly. He walked along the platform and stood at the bottom of the steps, waiting for permission for entry.  Guy stormed down the stairs in large, confident strides and whipped back the hood; a smug look upon his face.

Obviously, Guy had expected to see Robin beneath the Hood, instead Will was revealed. With a quick glance at John for permission, I rose from my seat and walked down the stairs, the Prince stood at the top; watching. When I reacted the platform, I curtsied to the champion as custom demands. Will instantly caught on what he was supposed to do and copied me with a bow and placed a delicate kiss upon the back of my hand. By this time, a servant was stood nervously behind me. John shouted from above, “May I present our Champion!”

The servant turned to me and I carefully took the arrow from the cushion.

“Your prize!” John said as I handed will the arrow.

“Thank you sire!”

“And your other prize …. Lady Guinevere!”

I blushed deeply and dropped my gaze to the ground.

“Well … get on with it!” John snapped.

            I gave him a stern look from over my shoulder, which he simply shrugged. I leant forward and planted a delicate kiss upon Will’s check. I pulled away because of the cough that someone had sounded above me. I looked up and heard the Sheriff scream,

“Guinevere, he has just won a large competition do you think he simple wants a kiss on the cheek?”

With a sigh, I looked back at Will and then leant in a placed a gentle kiss upon his lips. I pulled away him to the sound of the crowd, who had obviously been delighted by the spectacle that they had witnessed. A blush was permanently planted on my skin as Guy walked over to me and held out his arm.

            Will got the hint, he jumped from the platform and stood next to Alan in his feather plumed hat. Alan caught my eye and flashed me a grin with a raised eye brow as he nudged Will in the ribs.

“Champion, be outside the castle gates at seven o’clock. You can bring one guest; choose wisely!”

The Prince climbed down the stairs and we walked away from the crowd; back to the castle.  

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