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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5. Dreams

During the night, I tossed and turned in my sleep; well what little sleep that I actually managed to grasp. I was haunted with the most terrible dreams of the Holy Land; dreams that seemed almost too real. It was four o’clock in the morning, or around that time anyway, when the worst dream occurred.

Sand. Sand was everywhere. And Blood. Blood coated the ground in glistening puddles that reflected the sun; the pure orb of blazing heat.

The world around me was blurry, so blurry that I could not make out any faces, save one. A man clothed in full armour with a crown atop his head that sparkled so fiercely in the sky. A smile spread across my face as I recognised him, but the smile soon disappeared when I saw the figure clad in black strolling towards him in long strides; the sword raised above his head. A scream slipped from my lips but no sound could be heard by those around me. All I could do was watch as the man walked towards him. With a sudden flick of his wrist, the sword came clashing down on the King’s neck. With a violent gasp, the King keeled over and his head slammed into the sand.

                Gasping for air, I sprang forwards in my bed and tried to stop myself from screaming. Breathing heavily I stared straight ahead of me as I tried to calm myself down. It was an attempt that soon failed. All I could do was lie there and just listen to the sounds of the ever approaching morning. I just lay there waiting for the inevitable time that meant morning would eventually occur. By the time morning eventually arrived, I had barely gotten any sleep.

                Stifling a yawn, I dressed in a dark blue riding gown with sleeves that were cut off at the elbow. A pair of cattle hide gloves twisted their way up my arms, only my fingers were free of the wrapping; save for the index finger on my right hand that was entwined with the hide. The gloves matched the boots that were snuggly sat on my feet. I clamped the belt around my waist and made sure that it was tightly fitted upon my waist. On both of my hips sat two different holders. One was my scabbard which I soon filled my sword and the other held my dwelled dagger, a gift from my Uncle. I threw my riding cloak over my shoulders. As the materials slapped my thighs I tied it around my neck. Finally, I added the quiver full of arrows on the belt and flung my bow casually over my shoulder. Then I turned and left the room.

                The wind slapped me in the face as I emerged into the sunlight. Below me, all were busying themselves with the packing of bags and the preparation for the journey; nobody paid any attention to me, at least not straight away. Will came running towards me, a goofy smile on his face.

“Gwen, your father wants to see you!”

I nodded, smiling back at him before turning around and walking briskly towards the rope. I took a step forward, my foot landing heavily on the wooden log connected to it. I wrapped my hand around the rope as I scooted over slightly so that Will could join me. He sneakily wrapped his arm around my waist and the other the rope and slowly we were lowered to the ground.

Will jumped off before it hit the floor, tripping over slightly as he landed, before holding his arms open as I gracefully leapt into his arms. He placed me down on the ground as I tried my best to hide the obvious blush that had crept onto my cheeks.

“I’ll just go and get our bags!” Will said before turning to his back on me and climbing back up to the platform via the rope ladder.

I scanned the area for a few minutes until I found who I was looking for. Robin, Much, Alan and Sir David were stood deep in conversation next to a group of horses. I approached them in long strides. When I reached them, they quickly stopped their conversation and looked at me expectantly.

“Where’s Will?” Robin asked.

I opened my mouth to speak but before I could say anything I loud crash sounded from the way that I had just come. A few minutes later, I heavy breathing Will came running over to us with leaves in his scruffy hair and two bags were hanging over his shoulder. A large clump of mud was smeared on his left cheek as well as a fairly long cut that slipped up his arm.

“Sorry … fell off … the … ladder …” Will panted.

I rolled my eyes, a slight smile playing on my lips as I took my medical satchel from him. I pulled out a small tub of green pulp and scooped up a dollop which I then silently spread across the cut. Will hissed in pain through his teeth, his snatching breath whistling slightly as it escaped. I wrapped the wound up in a freshly cleaned bandage.

“Leave it on for forty eight hours!” I instructed in a soothing voice.

Before he could say anything to me, I turned my back on him and made sure that my items were all stored in the correct places on my horse. When I was sure that I had everything, I gently stroked his soft muzzle. He blew a content breath of hot air into the palm of my hand. I must admit that he was a handsome creature with four matching socks that blazed a brilliant white against the dark chestnut that was his horse haired coat. He mane was peculiar for it was blond and it seemed to be strung together by strands of pure gold. I ran my finger through one of those gold pieces and carefully unknotted it. Lovingly, I ran a hand over his thick coat and whispered sweet nothings into his ear.

“What’s his name?” A voice asked in a whisper, not wishing to spook the horse.

“He doesn’t have one!” I replied simply.

Will furrowed his brow in confusion,

“What do you mean?”

“John all ways told me that giving an animal a name is a pointless task, he believed that they could not understand us and that in the end they would be used as food for us.”

“Do you believe that?”

“I … well, no but I would not be able to go against his wishes. You must understand that although I have always had a rebellious soul but I always followed his orders; after all he is my Uncle’s brother.”

Will nodded his head, understanding my words, and asked,

“Why don’t you name him now?”

I smiled at him and replied,  

“I think that that might be a good idea.”

My brow furrowed as I thought of a name, but nothing really struck me. Silence engulfed me for many a minute, yet not name reached me.

It was Will who broke the silence.

“What about Richard?”

I beamed up at him, replying,

“What an excellent thought!”

I was no longer detangling his strands golden strands, instead I was checking the tightness of the saddle and bridle. It took several minutes, but I soon realised that Richard was ready. I then stood waiting, unsure what I should do.

Robin must have been watching me, for he hurried over as soon as he saw the puzzled expression that filled my face.

“Is there something wrong?” He asked in a hushed tone.

Robin placed a tender hand on my shoulder, he was stood in a protective stance. His head was held high, back straight, one hand on the hilt of his sword; just as he had stood only a few weeks previous when we were in front of those damned men who had wished so much pain on my young soul. That had been the day that I had learnt that I was his child, and still we were unsure of one another. At this point, I noted that Will had retreated and took up the vacant place left by Robin. He casted me a reassuring look, then turned to talk to Alan a Dale. Robin smiled tentatively at me and in a hushed tone I admitted,

“I am not sure how I should ride.”

My statement first reached him with a confused frown, but it soon turned into a hushed laugh,

“That is all you are worried about!”

“I … umm … well … yes I … err … I suppose it is … “ I whispered back.

Robin smiled and replied under his breath,

“Just ride as you usually would.”

I nodded at him and then checked that I had everything that all my belongings. A sack had two spare dresses in, and a top and skirt. Two blankets were tightly rolled and placed on either side of the saddle, and another sword was hidden beneath one of the blankets.

                When I was certain that I was ready, I mounted. Once I was securely nestled in the saddle, I looked down at my two legs that were hanging over one side of Richard’s back and I smiled at the distance between myself and the floor. Then, I picked up the reigns and let them hang loosely in my lap.

“What … what are you doing?” A quiet voice asked.

I looked down and saw that a small girl with wild black hair and a tattered dress was staring up at me; a curious look upon her face.

I opened my mouth to say something, but I was interrupted by a loud roar of a voice. Little John stormed forwards and picked up the girl by her waist, he then threw her up into the air. The girl screamed with delight and threw her arms around Little John’s neck. Gently, John stroked the back of her head, his tree trunk fingers becoming stuck in her knotted curls. I gave him a curious look, he answered by saying,

“This is me daughter. Only girl out a’ seven!”

I smiled at this thought, I could never see this scary-giant as a father, a husband.

“Where is your wife?” I asked.

“Wendy died,” He paused, a smile faintly trickled on his lips, “Last winter. Giving birth to me youngest!”

                I nodded my head in understanding, after all child birth is the biggest killer; well besides from one of those deadly plagues from across the shore. As I was looking at Little John in this tender way I had not imagined could come from him, did I notice something,

“You are not in your riding gear!”

Little John nodded, saying, “I am not going!”

I stared at him in shock, “What do you mean?”

“Winter’s almost completely upon us. Someone needs to feed the poor. Me an’ Tuck are stayin’ here whilst Robin, Much, Alan and Will are going with ya!”

I nodded my head, but John had not finished,

“Ya will have a Little though!”

My brow furrowed in confusion, John nodded towards a boy my own age who was standing nearby, leaning on a tree trunk. I had only just noticed him. When I looked, I saw that he was actually a lot like Little John. He had his father’s jet black hair that was raggedly cut so that it lay flat across his head. Muscles bulged over his body that caused him to look several years older than he actually was. All of his clothes were dark tanned hid, besides from a white dirty cloth that was his shirt. It had once been white but not it was more like a patchwork quilt now. A sword was attached to his belt and he was leaning on a large oak staff.

“That is me eldest, Gil!”

Gil looked towards me and nodded his head in greeting. I returned it, and John’s daughter squealed again,

“What are you doing?”

I looked at her with a smile and said,

“I have to check to see that he will not go lame during the ride.”

I saw the look of confusion flooding the girl’s face, she turned to her father and whispered something in his ears. Little John boomed out a laugh, placed a kiss on her top of the girl’s head and then placed her on the floor.

                As the girl ran off, a sad smile slipped on my face. I quickly tried to dismiss it, and managed to do just that; but not before Little John had noticed it.

He stood, unsure of what to say, shuffling from foot to foot. He was thankful when Will joined us and he could regroup with Robin and the others.

“What’s wrong?” Will asked once John had gone, concern filling his voice.

“I have never had something like that!”

“Like what?”

“I cannot remember ever being like that with Father, he left when I was so young. I was never able to have moments like that with him.”

Will gave me a reassuring smile and I tried to return it, but for some reason I could not.

“You will be able to make up for those lost years now!” Will insured.

“Well … I suppose you are right!” I said with a genuine smile.

“We’re setting out!” A voice called.

A rush started as Alan, Much, Will, Sir David, Gil Little and Robin climbed onto their horses backs. Each shrouded their faces with their hoods; I did the same. Then we set off, into the unknown.    

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