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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4. Chapter Three

We travelled in such a manner for several days, stopping every few hours for a stretch of our legs and to water the horses. Each time I stepped from the carriage, we were in a different stretch of countryside; always nowhere near to any village or town that I could recognise and cause the surprise part of the journey to be wasted.

The last time that we stopped, the door of the carriage opened and Prince John stepped inside. He looked the same as usual; his hair as crazy as ever and his eyes still swiftly looking from side to side as if he was thinking something over and feared that someone would hear it. He sat down next to me and said,

“Guinevere, you will be pleased to hear that in a matter of hours we shall have reached our destination!”

“That is wonderful news!” I said with a smile.

“I have a single request that I wish for you to obey!”

“Anything, my Lord!”

 A swift smile, filled with that I could not contemplate, sailed onto his face as if he was thinking of some mysterious event that was soon to unfold. He took a deep breath and swallowed back some saliva that had formed in his mouth, “From here on out, I wish for you for maiden and yourself to sit in this carriage with the curtains drawn. I wish this as it will help you to …. Savour your surprise. Do you understand?”

With a nod of my head, I sealed my fate. A false smile filled my lips and I played the obedient child that I have been taught to do all my life; even though my head was screaming that I should be allowed to make my own choices.

“Very good!”

Then, he slid out of the seat and swung the door shut behind him.

“Strange,” I whispered aloud, filling the silence that hung thick in the air like a fog.

I did not need to turn my head or utter a word, Evanne was already at work untying the twisted chords that were knotted to hold back the curtains. On either side of me, the curtains sprang free and jump into place, filling the room with a muffled light. She whisked out a match and swished it past the rough end of a small, square box. The match spluttered for a moment, and then there was a light. The tiny flame spluttered and fizzed on the edge of the small stick of wood, which was then placed next to the wick of a candle. It sparked into life and it trickled into the corners of a doomed lantern. The small room was suddenly bathed in a pool of wondrous warmth and lovely light. Evanne then stood up and placed the lantern on the hook above my head. As the horses began their plodded journey once again, the carriage picked up its speed and the lantern rocked from side to side causing the flames glow to eerily dance across the walls that surrounded it; our journey began.

* * * 

  Not long after that, the carriage trudged its way over a bumpy, dirt track through the dense forest of Sherwood. Little did the mighty company know that they were being watched by thousands of pairs of tiny eyes that were hidden amongst the many trees.

 Behind the largest tree that was closest to the road, hidden in the mysterious shadows; there were stood two men and an adolescent boy. Their faces were shrouded by the darkness and the hoods that covered their heads, but it was viable that the boy and the smaller of the two men each had a bow and quiver that they let to idly hang from their shoulders. Whilst the giant of a man that stood next to them had a staff that he held behind his neck, it resting on his shoulders as his tree trunks arms wrapped around the ends.

“Who is it?” The giant demanded in a gruff voice.

A gasp escaped from the lips of the boy, “It … it can’t be, it’s the royal carriage!”

“What’s John doing here?” The smaller man asked curiously, he spat out the Prince’s name like it was some horrid taste in his mouth.

“I – I don’t know. But Rob will want to know!” The giant’s voice shook the ground that surrounded him, “Will, tell the outers’ to keep an eye out for any signs o’ what’s going on!”

The boy, Will, nodded his head and a ghost of a smile flickered on his lips; his eye brows raising with delight.

“Right!” The giant grumbled, “Let’s get out o’ here!”

  The group obediently slinked away, deeper in the forest, close to the trees and in the shadows. If anyone dared to look their way, they would have seen nothing, not the group of men that were slinking away, save the remnants of the lost forest dwellers that are spoken of only in fear. No one would ever suspect that the Outlaws lurked nearby.

* * * 

 Back in the carriage, Evanne and I were sat in an uncomfortable silence with only the creaky hinge on the swinging lantern to prove that the scene around us was actually running. In order to distract myself from the cruel toys of silence, I busied myself with the delicate embroidery of a piece of plain cloth. It was not going very well due to the bumpy road that we were travelling on.

“How long?” I wondered aloud.

“Pardon?” Evanne questioned.

“It is nothing. I was simply wondering aloud. I was wondering how long it will take until we arrive at our destination.

“It cannot be that long, my Lady!” Evanne reassured me.

I smiled at her and nodded my head, “Yes, I suppose you are right!”

 

More silence ….

 

“Do you wish for me to un-braid your hair, my lady?” Evanne asked.

“If you would!”

Evanne nodded and joined me on the bench; of course she first had to scramble over across the moving floor. Turning my back to her, she began to entwine her finger into my oddly coloured brown hair. She slowly began to untangle every hair with greatest care. It took many minutes, but eventually every strand of hair on my head once again cascaded down my back. Just in time as well, for only a few minutes later the carriage began to slow down as the horses finished plodding their journey. Suddenly, the sounds of the hooves were amplified meaning that we had begun to travel over a stone road and sound travelled through the thick curtains; the sounds of peasants living their lives.

  Evanne quickly pranced back into her seat and barely a second passed when the horses stopped, causing the carriage to jolt forwards violently. The curtain was flung back and I was blinded by a sudden blast of light that rapidly shot into the room.

  A smiling face was revealed; once my eye sight had been given back to me. The face belonged to a fairly young man with a pair of secretive eyes, a sly smile and shoulder length black hair. His face was square and muscular, and he had a thick wave of black stubble that had been splashed onto his chin and upper lip.

“Sir Guy!” I cried with a gasp, my right hand dramatically colliding with my mouth.

“Surprise!” He said in that smooth voice of his.

  He opened the carriage door for me and like a proper gentlemen he held out his palm, and once I had taken it, he helped me out of the carriage. Then, when I was securely on the ground, he bowed low and placed a tender kiss on the back out my hand, which he was still holding.

“It’s good to see you again, my Lady,” Sir Guy said as he straighten his posture.

“And you, my Lord.”

 He flashed me another one of those smiles of his and I knew that before long I would be blushing like a love sick fool; so I dropped my gaze to the floor.

“You look as radiant as ever!” He stated.

I watched his shadow with great curiosity, he was moving in such a strange manner. That was when I realised the he was stretching out his hand, as if he was going to touch some of my hair that was hanging over my face; when suddenly …

“Get out of my way!” A power hungry voice boomed.

  My head snapped back up and I saw a small man rushing towards us. The man was at least fifty years old and his head was almost completely bold, save for the few strands of stubbed hair that were slammed against his ears and the back of his head. His skin was beginning to wrinkle, making it seem that his eyes had sunk into his head. The slight remains of hair were off grey or black coloured and his eyes were a similar shade of grey, yet they were shifty as if they had a terrible secret that they wished to hide but were finding it very hard.

“My dear Sheriff,” I said politely, dipping into a curtsy.

“Guinevere!” He replied in a booming voice, forgetting to bow or even nod his head in return.

  I gave him a false, yet polite, smile and took my time looking around the courtyard. Some large, iron gates were slowly being drawn down from a section in the two battlements that held it up right. Guards were standing on either side of the gate and on the side furthest from me the guards were shouting at the peasants that were edging closer and closer to the gates, trying to get a look at the arrivals. Guards were posted on the battlements all around, each staring down at the area, looking for any signs of trouble.

Whilst I was curiously looking around, I snuck a glance over my shoulder at Evanne and, when I noticed that she was looking my way, I gave her the signal. The signal in which I slightly raise my eyebrows. She automatically knew what I meant, for she was by my side in a matter of moments.

“If you would excuse me, my Lord, “I explained, “Myself, and my maid servant, have both had a very long and tiresome journey. I was wondering if it would be possible if I would be able to retire for the evening.”

“Of course. One of my knights shall escort you to your chamber, immediately,” The Sheriff replied.

“Thank you, sire!” I replied with another curtsy.

  The Sheriff raised his hands and clicked his fingers. The clicked hung in the air for a moment and then one of the Knights, who was stood by the wall, rushed over in all his silver chains o armour. He stood in front of the Sheriff, who spoke to him in a hushed tone. Then, with a professional nod the Knight turned and walked Evanne and I towards the castle.

 We walked through the many corridors of the castle; so many that I lost the route that led to the entrance hall long before we reached my chambers. The Knight opened the large oak door that he had led us to, and held it open for me. Once I had taken a step in the room, he did not wait to see if I needed anything else. Instead, I heard him charge away; back to his post, his metal armour clanging as he walked.

 I gasped at the sight of my chambers. The main room held a large table made of solid oak, with two solid gold candelabrums with long, slim candles in each one. Four chairs were sat around it. A large fire place completely filled one wall and it had an arrangement of three plush seats in front of it.

Three rooms went off of the one that I was stood in. One was a dressing room fitted with many wardrobes and chests of draws already filled with some of the most beautiful items of clothing that I had ever laid my eyes upon. The room on the opposite side of the room held my own, private, indoor latrine.

  But, the final room was the best. This room was adjacent to the dressing room; it was my bed chamber. It was beautiful. The bed was raised properly off of the ground with four posts that held up some long, draping curtains. The bed was covered in thick blankets that had carefully sown images of the nearby Sherwood Forest and all its animal inhabitants.

  A smile appeared on my face in a flash and whilst I quickly changed into the pale blue, silk nightgown that had already been placed on the bed by some servant; I couldn’t help but think that maybe my life was truly beginning to excel with all the glories that I had been stripped of since the death of both my parents. And when I finally slipped into the soft sheets, and laid my head down on the plump, feathered pillow. I could not help but grin even more.

As sleep began to slowly consume me, I turned my head and listened to the sound of the crackling fire in the previous room.

Yes, I am definitely going to like it here!      

   

 

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