The Maiden in the Mist - Book two in the Sherwood Series (unedited)

Long ago, deep in the heart of Sherwood Forest there lived an unknown legend who was hidden in her father’s shadow. Forgotten by all but a few. But now her life shall be revealed to you; as long as you can keep it a secret.
Six months have passed since that day when Guinevere learnt the truth of her heritage. She has lived a fairly quiet life, plundering caravans and nursing the sick and injured; but she has enjoyed it, at last she has a family.
However, this is soon about to change. Her uncle, King Richard, has summoned her and her father to the Holy Lands in order to help with a dangerous situation. But is that all that will happen?

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2. A Rescue ... Well Sort Off

My feet pounded harshly against the cold ground, the small trail of snow that was painted across the land. My breath was sharp in my chest as I continued to stagger onwards. Dramatically, I fell to my knees after tripping over a high risen tree branch. Fearfully I glanced around and heard a sound on the wind, a sound that sent a shiver down my spine.

“Where‘re ya my pretty lass? Com’ on lovey! Don’t hid’ from me!” The voice screaked across the air in a sickly sweet voice, which was full of hidden anger.

                With a terrified whimper I stood up and continued to run. Somewhere in the distance I could hear the sounds of running water, and I knew that there was a stream or a river somewhere nearby.

“Come her’ girlie. Oy! You brat, I’m talkin’ to ya!” The voice screamed once more, closer this time.

Foolishly I yelled out for help, fear taking over my body, “Please. Someone please help me!”

I heard a triumphant laugh being belched from the mouth of my pursuer as they continued to stumble closer and closer to me.

“Please! Please! Someone! Anyone! I beg you. Help me!”

“Help me! Help me!” My pursuer mimicked my voice, “Shut it!”

A shriek slipped from my lips and I tried to run closer to sound of running water; praying that that might be the one place that would save my life.

                Tumbling through a gap in the vegetation, I fearfully peered over my shoulder to see if I could see anyone behind me. First I saw nothing. But then, I saw a figure crashing through the heavy bracken that was surrounding me. I continued to run on, but my cloak snagged on a sharp branch. Fear, once more, rippled through me, and I furiously fought with the darn material as I tried to get free. Eventually I did just that, but my stalker was only a few paces away from me.

A sharp bird call flew through the air and I glanced up at a nearby tree. Another bird call sounded from my other side and a mad smile flew across my face; my hero was nearby.

Continuing to run, I could just see the river. It was practically in front of me, I let out another scream of help as I leaped over a fallen tree trunk.    

                Finally, I had made it. The river was there. Right in front of me, sparkling like a bed of sapphires in the winter light. If I somehow managed to get across, I would be safe. Yet, it seemed that that was not meant to be. A hand roughly grabbed my arm and I was pulled backwards, my face slamming straight into a man’s hard chest. Fearfully, I looked up and saw that my pursuer was a man hooded and cloaked. Meaning that all I could see of him was the faint bristles that covered his chin in a wave. Struggling against his hold, I screamed at the top of my lungs.

“Someone! Anyone! Please help me!”

The man just chuckled, “No one’s comin’ for ya!” He whispered in a menacing voice.

                Just as those words tumbling from his mouth, I heard a delightful sound; someone skidding to a halt on the cold ground.

“Oy!” A person atop a white stallion cried, “Let the girl go!”

This caused the man who was holding me to laugh even harder, “Yeah? You gunna make me, pretty boy?”

“Yes, actually I will. Well with a bit of help that is!”

Two more men jumped through the bush and held their sharp swords out.

“Let her go!” He cried again.

“If ya say so!”

And with one giant shove, I was thrown into the ice cold waters of the river. A high pitch scream filled the air as I drastically tried to keep afloat.

“How dare you harm an innocent woman and now you stand there with fear riddled across flee ridden face. Alone we have you and we can treat you as we please!”

“Alone. Ya really ‘hink I’m alone!”

With aloud smash of his foot, men flew out of the trees and they stood side by side the man who had been chasing me for so long.

“Fight!” He roared.

And that is exactly what happened. More men poured out of the trees, men who belonged to this man who had just tried to save me. Kicking the water once more, I could hear the sounds of a vicious battle raging above me.

“Miss!” A voice whispered.

Whipping my head around, I saw the man with the white stallion was now standing on the edge of the bank staring down at me. The sight of him shocked me so much, that I forgot to kick and soon found myself under the ice cold water once more.

After a struggling battle, I once more resurfaced and I found that I was near the river bank. The man held out his hand. Cautiously, I took it and he hurled me out of the water in one great swing of his arm. Once I was safely on the bank, he pulled me behind him and said in a brave voice.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I weakly replied.

“Good! Now stay behind me!”

He then directed his attention to fighting off the few surviving bandits. The final one fell to the ground, a sword sticking out of his chest. Alas, many of his men were dead. All save for him and the two men that originally appeared from the trees.

“Th-thank you!” I managed out the words as I stood there shivering.

“You are quite welcome, ma’am.”

He turned his attention to the two surviving men, “Check there are no more of these bandits lurking in the trees.”

“Yes sir!” They chorused before running off.

He watched them leave and then diverted his undivided attention to checking all of his men to see whether they were wounded or dead.

                When his back was turn, I slipped my hand up my billowing sleeve and took out the dagger that I had hidden there. Then, I slowly crept forward; curling the blade around the man’s throat.

“W-what are you doing?” He demanded, struggling to breath against the pressure of the knife.

I opened my mouth to answer him, but found no reply waiting to leap from my throat; instead I just closed my mouth once more.

“I saved you’re life!” His words spluttered out in panic.

Around us, the dead bandits rose from the ground. The arrows and blades still hanging from their chests. The stranger spluttered a shocked gasp as they ripped the blooded arrows from their flesh.

One stepped forward and piled the grim covered scarf from his face.

A smile spilled onto mine.

“Hood!” The stranger spluttered.

Furiously he struggled beneath my iron grip, attempting to get free. He obviously thought that since I was a woman I was weak and feeble. He was obviously wrong for I just pressed the blade tighter to his throat.

“Well done, my girl!” A giant of a man cried in a hoarse voice.

I beamed up at the huge man with wild black curls and a bushy beard. He held a staff of thick oak in his right hand and was clade in tanned leather.

“Thank you John, I do believe I make a very convincing damsel in distress.”

“That you do!”

                Hood stepped forward and gave the stranger a furious glare in the eye. He opened his mouth and said in a powerful, yet calm, voice,

“The rules of the forest are clear. We ask the question and you give us an honest answer. This is the question.

How much gold do you carry?

Answer truthfully for if you tell us the correct amount then we shall only take one tenth. However, if you utter to us a lie then all your money shall be stripped from your person and we shall leave you as poor as those we give to.

Now, answer truthfully. How much gold do you carry?”

The stranger spluttered as I kept the firm grip on the blade.

“None …. I have n-no gold on my p-person.”

I rolled my eyes at his feeble lie.

“That is what they all say!” I loudly muttered.

Hood nodded his head in agreement with me. He snapped his fingers together and two men came running forwards. One, a fairly small man, was wearing a terribly knitted jumper and a floppy leather hat. His hair limply dangled from his head in strands of dirty blond. A wave of stubble painted his chin and upper lip. Following him was a boy of my own age. A good looking lad with tousled brown hair and startling blue eyes. Around his neck hung a scarf with silk of scarlet red. He wore it due to the significant resemblance to his name, Will Scarlet.

                Will carefully slid his hand around my own neck as he leant over and took hold of the knife that was still pressing against my ‘hero’s’ neck. His body was only inches away from my own. Slowly, I inched my way out of the grip and removed the satchel that was hung over Will’s shoulder. Just as I turned to leave, he caught my eye and gifted me with a sneaky wink. Blushing as red as his scarf, I hurried over to Hood and carefully rolled up his sleeve. A curling wound was revealed that I had just caught a glimpse of through a tear in his jumper; a tear which I knew that I would have to fix. Taking my time, I removed a small, clay jar that was filled with a light green ointment.  Slowly I dabbed the ointment on to the wound and I heard Hood tighten his jaw as his body tensed up slightly as the medicine did its work. After a few minutes, I took two long leaves and wrapped them around the wound, tying them into a makeshift bandage.

“Thank you!” He kindly muttered, giving me a loving smile.

With a nod of my head I moved away from him, over to Alan-a-Dale; a man wearing a feather plume hat. He had many nasty wounds that needed attending to, in fact it looked like Alan had once again come out worst in this fight; well the worst of the living that is. He was the only living man who was still sat on the snow covered floor. And as I approached, I could see why. He was tightly holding down on his right leg, and I soon saw the long cut that had parted the material of his trousers from his knee to about halfway up his thigh. The cut was fairly deep. I took out a jar filled with a light blue liquid. Slowly, I tapped several droplets onto the wound. Alan hissed with pain and I placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“John was …. Was right ….. y-you know.  You really d-do play a convincing damsel!”

“Why thank you!” I grinned as I searched another poultice.

After several minutes of searching, I finally found the one that I was looking for. It was green with tiny black dots in it. Carefully, I spread it onto another set of fern leaves and then placed them onto his leg.

“That will have to be sown up when we get back to camp!” I explained.

He slowly nodded his head as he watched me stand up. I left him to get up when he was ready.

                From the side, I watched as three leather pouches were bought out from the man’s jacket that were obviously filled with gold and two rings encrusted with rubies were pulled from his crooked fingers.

“Well, well, well you certainly are a very rich man who claims he has no money what so ever!” Hood remarked, a wicked grin spreading across his face.

The stranger glared at Hood as the gold filled pouches were taken away from him, “How dare you take Prince John’s money!”

A booming laugh escaped John’s lips, “Excellent. We haven’t offended the Princey-Boy at all this week!”

“Have you checked his horse yet, Father?” I asked, watching with delight as the man’s mouth fell in shock.

“Father! Did you just say Father?”

“Oh, of course I almost forgot about that. Thank you Gwen!” Hood replied, ignoring the man’s shocked ramblings.

“Gwen? As in Guinevere of Locksley? The King’s ward?!”

“Check the horse!”

Two men did just that and discovered five more pouches filled with gold and a whole chest that was filled with jewels and jewellery.

“A very rich poor man indeed!” Robin continued.

“Give back that money now. That is for the king’s crusade!”

“Oh I doubt that. I expect by the time it reaches London the Prince will have reduced it to a matter of pieces and even those he will somehow manager to be rid of. The poor people of Nottingham’s money will have gone to waste. Money that they can barely afford to give as it is!”

“That is treason!”

“No!” I cut in, “What John is doing is treason!”

                With that, Little John lifted the man up and laid him down on the saddle of his horse.

“What are you doing?!”

He then took a piece of long, thick rope and tied it around the man; securing him to the beast that he called a horse.

“Don’t.You.Dare!” The man roared with anger as he strained his head to watch as John drew his hand up.

A loud roar of encouraging cheers and laughter filled the air, and I watched as Little John bought his hand down on the beast’s rump and sent it running back through the forest; our laughs haunting it till it left the trees.   

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