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?


13. Chapter Twelve

That night, the eve of the sixteenth anniversary of my birth; I dreamed a dream that I do believe I have dreamt before. It was so similar, almost as if I had lived it ….. perhaps it was not a dream at all; perhaps it was in fact and actual memory.

* * *

            Once again, I was looking through the eyes of my five year old self. It was a warm summer’s eve and I was out in the meadows with my dear father. He had made his man servant hold a makeshift target (A hay bale slashed in half with a large mark draw on from the a bottle of wine that showed the bull’s eye) and we had been spending the day practising archery. The hoy that was reflected through his teachings was so great and before either of us knew it, we had spent hours at it and even though I was growing tired; I did not show it or stop.

            We continued with what we were doing and soon, without us realising it, night was drawing in. The blue sky was being smudged with streaks of red; as if the sky was some small child’s cattle hind canvas and they had taken some splodges of clay from the ground and his watered it down; then smeared it against the sky.

“Master!” The man servant said as he quivered behind the makeshift target, “Surely we should be heading back soon; the Lady Marian will be getting worried by now.”

Father nodded and slung the bow and quiver over his shoulder. I did the same, but my hand must have been a bit more forceful than my father’s because all the arrows were spilt onto the ground. I dropped down and began to pick up each of them up, but I was cut off by the joyful laughter of my father,

“There is no need to do that, my child. Leave it to Much, he will deal with it. Won’t you Much!”

“Yes master!” The man servant, Much, replied; nodding his head eagerly.

Father held out his hand for me, I took it and we walked back to the village that our family managed, and to our manor estate; hand in hand.

* * *

            I sat up in the dark night, and stared at the curtains that sides of the curtains that Evanne must have drawn when I fell back in amongst the blankets. I felt a cold sweat run down my spine and I wrapped the blankets tight around me; the dream still flooding through my head.

Much, was father’s man servant really called Much?

Questioning thoughts ran through my head, and I wondered if the man servant, Much, could possibly be of any relation to the Miller’s son.

No, what am I thinking? They could not be related to one another in any way. But still what were the odds …

            Such thoughts ran through my head as I drifted back to sleep.

Once the fingers of the sandman had stretched through my brain, tickled the lids of my eyes so that they would not open until the first rays of light had reached my room in the morn and racked sleep into me once more; another dream; memory; whatever it was, reached me.

* * *

            I was in the eyes of my younger self, sat in front of the hearth on the day of my seventh birthday, a small bear that my father had left behind for me as a present. I twiddled with the bear’s arms and made it dance before the flickering me. A giggle escaped my lips and I watched the flames twist and spin in their multi-coloured swirls.

“Mother! Mother! Mother come look!” I giggled. 

            Spinning around, I saw that she was sat in her usual spot. She was sat in the large armchair, a shawl wrapped around her shoulders and a blanket on her knees. Her hands were placed delicately in her lap as she stared dead eyed at the road that lay ahead of her; the mudded dirt track that led to the main road. Her skin was sagging off of her face and her hair hang limp from her head.

Casually, she looked over at me and I showed the dance that my bear was doing. A weak smile covered her face, the sort of smile that she would always give me at that point on; I fear that she had gone mad or was going mad from longing, the longing for my father. She turned her gaze back to the window and continued to look. I put the bear in the floor and walked over to her. Just as I was about to lay my hand on her shoulder, she began to cough. The cough was only a light one at first, but it soon changed. It became rough and violent, so much so that she fell; she fell to the floor and clawed at her throat.

“Mother?” I called, shaking her roughly; trying to rouse her.

She muttered something as she began to stir back to life.

“Help! Please someone, help me! My mother …. Please someone fetch the Physician!” I screamed at the top of my lungs as I tried to sit my mother up.

                        An hour later, I had her in a warm bed with a thick blanket covering her frail body. She smiled at me weakly and I dabbed a cloth over her head.

“Try and sleep Mother!” I whispered quietly, urging her to do as I said.

With a nod of her head, she turned on her side and closed her eyes. Then, in a matter of minutes, I heard the soft sound of her breathing as it steadied itself down whilst she drifted off to dream land.

I stood beside her for several minutes, checking to see if she would sleep soundly. Then, when I was sure that all was well. I took up her position in the pallor and looked out of the window; waiting for the Physician to arrive. When the Physician finally did arrive, he told me something that I already feared; Mother had the pestilence.

            The days seemed to fold into one another and every day Mother got worse. Soon, I was unable to see her unless she actually asked for me. Three weeks after she had become ill, she did ask for me. I ran into the room, a bug grin on my face.  But, this soon fell when I saw the sight of her.

Her skin was loosely hanging off of her face, unlike the rest of her body that was so tight that I could see the bones. Her eyes were hollow sockets that had sunk deep into her skull and she had a distant gaze in them. The worst part was that she had these boils that were large and had a sort of yellowish tinge to them, they were everywhere. All over her face, her arms, neck, legs (and probably over places that could only be seen by my Mother); her beautiful face gone, replaced with something that words cannot describe. To speak the truth, I did not even recognise her.

“Don’t get to close!” The Physician warned me.

I nodded and stood some distance away from the bed, giving my Mother a reassuring smile I sat a vase of flowers on the cabinet near her bed.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

Mother opened her mouth to speak but it was hard to understand, “Iammmmabittttbetter!” The words were all slurred together and I could only just make them out.

“That is good to hear!” I grinned.

“Yourrrrfather?” She managed before coughing heavily.

“No word!”

“Hesaidddhe …. woulddddwrite….” She tried to sit up as she coughed but she fell back down.

“I think it is time for you to leave, miss!” The Physician urged me out of the room.

            Before I left the room, I glanced over my shoulder and saw that my Mother was vigorously coughing as she begged for my father

“Locksley, she cried, “Where is my dear Locksley?”

It seems that she has forgotten me completely!

* * *

            With a start, I woke once more and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. It seemed that it was pounding so fiercely that it would burst out of my very chest. I steadied my breathing and raised a shaking hand to my head. Beads of crystal coloured sweat were rolling off of my forehead and slowly dripping down the side of my face till it landed on the very blankets that surrounded me.

I could not get the vision of my Mother and her disease riddled face out of my mind. The very thought if it made me shudder with fear and I could not help but cry at the thought of how she had died from that horrific disease that had somehow found its way onto our shores.

            With a sigh, I lay back down and l waited for sleep to come. It did not for some time, and when I did eventually settle down; the face of my dying mother haunted my dreams. 

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