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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3. Chapter Two

  Back straight, head held high, I walked into the grand hall/ The room looked as one would expect it to from its name. Long, elegant tapestries that showed in exquisite detail some of the legendary battles of our past. Strong, stone pillars held up the mighty marble walls. A great ached window that had a view of the castle courtyard was placed directly behind the large oak table that sat in the centre of the room. The table took up a vast amount of the room of all twenty chairs were placed in the correct places on either side of the table. Directly under the arch was a grand chair that stood proudly against the others. It had some amazing features that would have taken years to carve out of the best oak in all of the forest of England. And in the chair was sat a man. 

  He was a small, stick of a man; hunched forward and his elbows on the table, his hand like a fist under his chin. Long, black locks hung in wild curls over his startlingly black eyes, causing his bushy eye brows to blend in with his hair. Just visible were his eyes that nervously scanned a piece of parchment in front of him. Every few minutes he would run his fat tongue over his puffed lips, which was probably the one thing on the on his body that was not scrawny. He wore a large, white tunic that was obviously meant for someone twist his size as it hung loosely off of his shoulders; and a pair of dark, woollen breeches fell from his waist. 

 When I entered the room, he momentarily glanced up and acknowledged the fact that I was there; then he returned his gaze to the important parchment in front of him. 

"Good day, my lady!" A small servant scurried forward and held out a chair for me to sit in. 

"Good morning!" I replied, taking a sip from a goblet that he had placed in front of me only a moment before. 

  After I had replaced the goblet back into its exact position that I had previously taken it from. That was when I saw the letter lying on the table. Slowly, I picked it up and felt the smooth parchment as I ran it across my finger tips. It was simple, it didn't even have my name on it. I flipped it over and I automatically knew that it was for me, and who it was from. I knew this from the lump of dried, red wax that had the royal seal embedded into it. A smile spread over my face and I tore away the thin paper and stared at the small, swirling writing that I had uncovered. 

It read: 

25th July, 1194

To my dear Guinevere,

How are you my darling? I am fine; well as fine as a man can be when he is stuck in the midst of an evil war when one can not know who is to be trusted. I do not see why I as the King must join my men in the midst of this God forsaken war; but the Pope did decree it so I must. 

  What can I say? Well, the war as violent as ever; I do believe that I did not tell you the truth that happened to me almost two years previous. But an attempt was made on my life. Do not fear my dear, for you know the outcome as I am alive and well. One of my best and bravest soldiers defended me me, saving my life; but getting himself injured in the process. In order to to show my gratitude, I have sent him home and I do hope that he is enjoying his life as a noble once again. 

  But enough, that is in the past; for I do not wish for you to be indulged in the horrors of this blasted war. The actual reason I am writing to you is that of your up and coming birth anniversary. The Saracen forces are dragging us back, further away from our beloved Jerusalem; and due to this I am sorry to say that I shall not be able to return for your coming of age celebration. This also means that I will not be able to tell you the truth of your heritage as I promised all those moons ago. However, I am sure that my beloved brother would be delighted to pass on the news for me. 

I am truly sorry.

Your guardian,

King Richard 

         

  Some time during those few minutes that it took me to read the letter from my beloved Uncle (the very man that I looked to), John looked up to discover that my smile had turned to a from, he asked, "Gwen, is there something the matter?"

I could feel the bitter sting of tears threatening to stream down my face as they prickled my eyes; but I blinked them back furiously in order to hold them at bay.

"It is nothing, my Lord!" I replied.

"Then there is definitely something wrong!" He stated. 

"Excuse me?"

"You never call me by my status, unless we are in important company; so there must be something wrong!"

I let out a deep sigh, "Uncle can not return from the war for my coming of age celebrations!"

"I see, but you above all know how unreliable my dear brother is!" 

"Yes, I suppose," I replied nodding my head. Unsure if I should mention it I continued by saying, "He also said that you would te..." 

"Te..???" 

"When Uncle took me into his care, he swore that on the day of my coming of age he would tell me of who my Father is; and well due to the fact that he is not here, he said that you would tell me," I explained. 

 This startled the Prince and I could tell that he was thankful when the two maids brought in our breakfast of dried venison and white bread. He grabbed a handful of venison and stuffed as much possible in his mouth; rendering himself unable to speak. I smiled sweetly at him and prayed silently to the Lord above that he would would agree to my hopeful demand, eventually he spoke; spraying me with pieces of venison, "Very well, but it will have to take place during our trip!"

"And where would this trip take place?"

  But, instead of a reply, I got a wave of a hand; indicating that the conversation was over. Carefully, I picked up my cutlery and began to eat my venison. However, after a few pieces I replaced my cutlery and picked up my goblet filled with wondrously clean water. My reflection shocked me. I was paler than usual, and my brow was stuck in a puzzled expression. I placed the goblet back down harder than I meant to. The sound boomed around the room and the servants and John all looked up at me in shock. Food was dangling from his mouth. 

"I am not hungry!" I said, standing up and casting a glance in John's direction. 

He nodded his head and he always did as I am always instructed to do when leaving the royal tables. I approached him and placed a kiss upon his forehead, then I turned and left the room.

"Guinevere, wait!" John called.

I stopped in mid-stride and a cast a glance over my shoulder. 

Strange, he never calls me by my full name! 

What is it sire?" I insisted.

"Get your maid servant to pack you some belongings and put them in a travel trunk; I shall send a servant to collect you in a few hours time. Be prepared for a long journey!" 

  And with that, he nodded his head saying no more words; indicating that I was dismissed. In large strides, I left the room with mysterious thoughts of the journey that I was about to go on; and I could hear Evanne's footsteps as she padded behind me.          

 

    

        

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