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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4. Some Surprising Guests

The weeks seemed to roll into one another and I thoroughly enjoyed my life in the inner circle. I still had to do my regular medical cheeks were those who were wounded; but that was all really. I had to train for a few hours every day and attend rather important meetings; but nothing more.

One day I was attempting to scavenge any herbs that were still alive in this cold winter weather that was drawing in, getting closer and closer each night, when Much ran towards me in that terribly knitted jumper of his and he had two people following closely behind him. I was sat on the frost covered earth leaning through a wild hawthorn bush. Quickly, I stuffed the herbs into a glass jar and stood up; taking some well needed time to brush myself off.

“Gwen, I found these two wondering the woods!” He proudly said, puffing out his chest.

But I was not listening. Instead I was staring past him, at a girl. A girl who had a head topped with long, golden strands that was cleared from her face with a long piece of jagged brown cloth.

“Evanne?” I asked.

The girl, who had previously been looking at the ground as fear riddled through her body, looked up and a grin spread across her pale face.

“Good day, my lady!”

I broke into a grin and pushed past Much who was staring at me in disbelief. Grasping her in a tight grin, I exclaimed, “Evanne, if I have told you once then it I am certain that I have told you a thousand times. Do not call me my Lady, please call me Gwen; just Gwen!”

“Of course, my lady.”

I rolled my eyes at her then turned to Much.

“Much, quickly go and find my Father and tell him that we have some honourable guests that I am certain he will wish to meet!”

Much nodded, but studied the other figure closely, as if he was trying to see who they were. Finally he gave me one more concerned look and then sprinted off.

“Follow me!” I instructed and walked towards the camp.

                Sat in front of the roaring fire, I looked at properly for the first time since we had met once more. She had large bags beneath her eyes and thin scratches covered her face. The scratches were fading but they looked as if they had been rubbed raw.

“Evanne, what happened?” I asked in alarm.

“Oh, it’s nothing Ma’am,” She dismissed it.

“Tell me!” I insisted.

“I resigned, that is all.”

I stared at the poor girl. Placing my hand atop her’s I whispered, “Go on.”

“Since your …. Departure …. I continued to work in the castle as a scullery maid. I’m not scared of hard work, as you know, but it was a terrible. The Prince he regularly …. He …. Used me. I resigned out of fear for my life. Whenever he wasn’t …. Befouling me, he had me tortured, but not just the usual torture he would allow the guards to …. To have their way with me …. He did this for he thought I knew where you were. But I didn’t, so he became cruel and beat me and …. Passed me to any noble who wished for some relief. It was … terrible. I had to resign.”

A gasp slipped from my lips and I looked up at Robin who was staring at the fire incomplete shock. The whole room was silent as they listened to Evanne’s story. Squeezing her hand in a supporting manner.

Evanne stopped what she was saying when Alan hobbled into the room and limped to his seat; he was apparently still feeling a terrible pain from the cut on his leg.

“Continue!” I whispered encouragingly.

She opened her mouth to continue speaking but closed it when she heard someone cough behind her. It was Tuck who made that annoying sound. I gave him a stern glare, which I do realise is not wise since he is a man of God after all but well he had interrupted Evanne and I was mad enough as it was to hear that she had been treated in such a manner, then looked back to Evanne and gave her a kind smile.

“Do all these people have to be hear?” She asked.

A light chuckle spilled from Robin’s lips. I swiftly ignored it and whispered back,

“Pretend that it is only you and I. Just ignore them I do it most of the time and I find it rather effective.”

“Well … I was sat on the side of the road a little away from the outskirts of London town, dirt and dust smothering my dress, when a horse and rider charge towards me at such a speed; a large cloud of dust flowing behind them. I started to panic fearing that it was a …. a baron.”

“A Baron?”

“All the extra taxes that the Prince has made are not for the crusade. They are to pay a group of Barons who will be at his side when he creates his uprising to slaughter the king.”

I gasped and my hand flew up to my face as a murmur sprang around the room.

“But, thankfully it was not one.”

“Who was it?”

Evanne looked up at the hooded figure, who stood up and removed their hood.

A face was revealed to us. A face I could never forget. The perfect blond hair that was cut to his shoulders. A neatly trimmed moustache that brushed his top lip, and two eyes swimming in a pool of green. The only thing that had changed was the long, green cut on his right cheek.

I stood up ad curtsied low to the man; he picked up my hand and tenderly kissed my knuckle.

“Sire!” I said with a smile.

“My lady,” He replied.

“Why are you in Eng ….”

“Excuse me!” Alan interrupted, “But what is going on?”

“My dear Uncle has only ever trusted two people. One being my Father. The other is a man whom is as brave and as cunning as my Father. His name is Sir David of Doncaster; this man!”

A gasp rocketed around the room. Robin stood up and the two men embraced in this manly hug which involved the two of them clasping hands and then brutally hit each other on the back. When they finally departed both of them were grinning like a bunch of children.

“David, why are you here?” I asked.

“I came to speak to you and your father!” Sir David explained.

No one spoke. All stared as we waited for him to continue.

“ I was about to ride into the castle when I recognised your maidservant sitting by the side of the road. I asked her where you were and she said that you were simply with your father. I then asked her to point her way to Locksley manor. She simply laughed and said,

‘No Locksley has set foot on Locksley manor in neigh ten years.’

“I stared at her in complete shock and then she brought me here. After some searching we were found by Much. And, well you know the rest of the story.”

All watched, and a silence hung thick in the air. That was until Will plucked up the courage to speak.

“And why do you need to speak to Robin and Gwen?”

“Richard needs you both.”

I sank slowly to the ground in complete shock, “What?!”

“For many years I have served in the King’s company the second in his company only to Robin. Since Robin left I have been the captain of his guards and his soul trusted protector. Recently, I was in is company and two spies have been found in the camp. Most of the King’s Guards are now dead from those two men, and he has gone into hiding. Rob, you are the King’s only hope. That is why I am here, he has personally asked for you.”

I looked across at Robin, who was incomplete shock. He stared at David, not knowing what to say. To break the uncomfortable silence I said,

“Sire, do not think that I am rude for saying this. But if most of the King’s Guard are dead and the King himself is in that much danger then why are you here? Surely he would not send the Captain of his Guards across the ocean to find us when he could easily send someone else. Personally, I do not think it makes sense.”

A quiet chuckle climbed out of David’s throat and he said, “I can see your point Gwen I truly can and I was as concerned about this fact as you. I asked him a question that was on the same lines as yours. He explained it to me in this way, ‘I cannot send any other man to do this task for me because of two reasons. One is that I am known among both of them so your life will not be in danger. The other is that I can just no other man to do this task for you are the most loyal of all my men.’”

I stared at him, a smile on my face and I could practically see the pride emitting off of his face. Silence took over once more and this time it was Robin who broke it.

“Okay, I understand why you need me, but why on earth does Richard  need Gwen!”

“Alas, I do not know. He would not tell me. The one thing that he did say was that he needed to talk to you both. But I have a feeling that it probably has something to do her being his Ward. If someone wants the King dead then they will get him through Guinevere!”

                This quickly sunk into me, and I suddenly realised that all the time I was in the company of  Prince John I had been in constant danger. All eyes were locked on me and I sank into a small shell, wishing I was somewhere else.

I stayed like that for some time; I don’t know how long it actually was like that. But eventually I heard a conversation going on around me. I opened up my ears and said,

“…… by Monday. Is that alright by you Gwen?” Robin finished.

He looked at me expectantly. I nodded my head, unsure what I had actually been said but agreeing to it anyway. Robin was nodding approvingly at me, but I did not care.

I rose from my place off of the floor; I looked at all of the ‘boys ’in turn and said my silent goodnights.  I then turned to Robin and David, curtsying low I said,

“If you will excuse me gentlemen but I am rather tired at the moment. So I think I will turn in for the night.”

Robin smiled at me, and I heard Alan chuckling at me from the corner of the room. I shot him a glare, then I left the room.

                Instead of returning to my room, I stood atop the tree top walkway in an area halfway between my room and the room that I just left. It was right beside the major oak. I just stood there, staring at those who were busying themselves with their day to day lives; they were all so care free and innocent. The bitter cold wind slapped me in the face, but I did not flinch; I just stared.

“Gwen?” A concerned voice called.

Lazily, I looked over my shoulder to see Will standing a few paces from me; looking concerned.

“Hello Will!” I said, a fake smile plastered across my lips.

“Is something the matter?” He asked.

“Nothing, nothing at all.”

“Don’t lie to me, I know you better than that Gwen!”

A sigh slipped from my lips and I slowly nodded my head, “Okay, you do know me rather well!”

                He made the few paces that was remaining between us and stood next to me. First he placed a hand on my shoulder; after realising what he had quite instinctively, he quickly removed. A slight chuckle slipped from my mouth and I looked across at him. Silly really, how Gentlemanly people can be in this day and age. Will, even though he was born as a poor man into a poor family he has the heart of a true Gentleman. I know some men who were born into the noble life but have the heart of an evil man. It truly is strange to think that Will believes in the old rule that only a man who is related to or married to the maiden in question. I do wish that other people thought like that also.

Whilst these thoughts were passing through my head, Will was just stood there, looking from the side to side with his mouth hanging wide open as he thought what to say. This just made me laugh even more.

“Will, can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” He replied.

I turned to face him, not wanting to look him in the due to the embarrassment that I felt deep inside. I whispered, “Can you ….Will you explain what Father was saying in …. in there? My mind was … my mind was elsewhere …”

Dropping my gaze, I studied my palms and waited for Will to begin asking questions about why I had not been listening. But he did not, instead he said,

“Robin and Sir David spoke about what they think was the best for you and for the King. It was then decided that a group of us shall travel to Port smith for Monday. From there on we shall travel on a ship, I have no idea whose ship, to the Holy Land. We will be leaving in the morn.”

I nodded my head at him and then I turned on my heel and walked over to my tree top home.  

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