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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6. The Journey to the Shore

We rode under the cover of darkness sticking closely to the safety of the trees or down the twisting country lanes; far away from the prying eyes of the main road. It took us just over four days for us to reach the port, and by that time, the weather had become more inhospitable. The warm days of summer were definitely long gone; the cold days of winter truly had set in for a thick blanket of snow dusted the land. The warm breeze that once enveloped the gold fields had turned bitter and its icy fist set sharp daggers into any visible flesh. Its icy fingers scratched the skin on the back of my neck and my lower arms as I rode, and as each frozen talon clawed at me, I shivered and wrapped the scratchy blanket tighter around my shoulders.

A chuckle swept through the midst of my fellow riders, a glare slid to every one of them, a glare that would easily falter any who dared to offend me;  it did its job quite well, the laughter was still there but it had quietened down and had become less frequent and much more awkward.

“What!” I demanded.

More laughter erupted. My gaze faltered onto Robin and Will, both with smiles on their faces which soon disappeared from sight when they saw me looking their way. Robin changed his hold on his stallion’s reigns and trotted over to me.

“Gwen,” He said in a hushed voice, “You are used to the life of roaring fires and clean clothes. Out here weather kills, this is one of the warmest winters that we have had in many years. Only one used to the warmth of palace life would dare to be cold.”

“How are you not cold though, you grew up as I have in an easy life of a noble!”

“True, but I have lived out here for several years. I know how to cope with the cold.”

“But, Father, it is freezing. And none of you have to wear dresses. Have any of you tried to wear a dress in weather such as this, I am utterly surprised that I can even feel my flesh any longer. This corset is so tight that it is difficult to breath, these fabrics are so heavy that any extra weight given to me by this Godforsaken snow could cause to never be able to rise again unless I am given help, and this unholy wind can reach any tiny crevice that may or may not be covered the thin fabrics that cover me. I beg you, any of you, do try wearing a gown for one day. Then I will willingly allow you to laugh at me; but until then I would silence your laughter for I may be a Lady but you must not forget that I am skilled in many a weapon and I would not falter in slaughtering anyone of you where I stand!” I snapped.

From the corner of my eye, I caught Will smirking and he sent me a wink which made my already rosy, frost bitten cheeks turn slightly redder. Robin was trying really hard not to let his grin show as he removed one hand from his horses’ reigns. He grabbed a rolled up blanket from the side of his saddle, unravelled it and gently wrapped it around my shoulders.

“And that is why you are my daughter!” Robin grinned, “You have my furiosity and your Mother’s beauty. Each day you grow to look more and more like her, and I see more of myself in you within each hour of our meeting.”

I smiled at him as I pulled it around my shoulders and a new layer of warmth greeted me.

“You still have not told me what she was like,” I pointed out.

“I know, my dear, and I promise I will one day soon. But in recent days we have been much too busy what with our close encounters with The Sheriff and with our recent meetings with Sir David, but I promise you that soon I will talk to you about her.”

“How about you talk now since we have so long left to travel!”

“My girl, I do admire your spirit but I must say that you are mistaken. For our ship is waiting over the second hill!”

“We do still have time though.”

“Not yet my dear, when we are on the ship and we have settled on the vessel then perhaps I will talk. But I swear that when we are back on English soil once more then I will talk to you for as many hours as you wish.”

“What do you swear on?”

“My love for King and Country!” He vowed.

A smirk filled my lips as I faked an annoyed sigh,

“If you swear it …”

“Which I do!”

“Then I accept your agreement!”

“Excellent, now we must have silence for we are near the main road and I fear that some servants of the Sheriff and Gisbourne will be lurking nearby. Gwen, I would wrap one of those shawls around face if you wish to keep your identity hidden, Lads the same but with your hoods!”

                Slowly we plodded over the final hill and small port that had recently been Christened ‘Robin Hood’s Bay’ after an event involving a horde of French bloodthirsty Pirates that were pillaging the local people for their treasure and only Robin was able to save them. We slowly snuck our way through the different smuggling walkways that led to our waiting ship. I was in the middle of the group; Robin was at the front of the company with David. Alan and Will were on either side of me whilst Much and Gil were bringing up the rear. After several minutes of staying hidden in the shadows as we nervously made our way to the port, we found our awaiting ship; which was indeed a beautiful one. She was triple mastered with four large sails and at least forty guns. A bronze figure of a mermaid, who had scarcely any clothing on beside a pair of rather small shells and her tail, was proudly displayed on the prow.

Men were scurrying about on the deck, who were probably already expecting us (why else would they be up in these early hours before dawn otherwise?), hoisting the sails and swabbing the wooden floors. A large wooden board was the only means of getting on and off of the ship, and truly it did not look quite secure.

                Robin dismounted from his horse and quickly the others followed suite. He approached me and held out his arms. I placed my hands on either side of his shoulders and he placed his on either side of my waist. Carefully, he lowered me down before whispering in my ear,

“When we are on the ship, and only then, you can lower your hood.”

“I understand Father. Oh and thank you for your assistance!”

I took hold of Richard’s reigns and led him aboard the ship, following behind David. When we were on the deck and the men caught sight of him, they dropped into a bow and silence reigned supreme; only the sea roared in our ears. Slowly I removed my hood and all eyes fell on me. Shocked looks were exchanged from the men and a soft whisper passed between them. All were scared yet I could not figure out why. A young Boy hurried forward, his head bowed, and took Richard’s and Robin’s horses’ reigns before leading them off deck. Two other bows did the same with the remaining horses and we were all herded down the stairs into one of the cabins.

                The cabin that we were led to was obviously the home of a very important person as it was furnished in the greatest finery. The chairs were covered in plush velvet in a vivid crimson and five fine silver goblets were placed on a table with a silver jug sat next to them.

In a Gentlemanly fashion, David held out a chair for me to sit on. Once I was sat in it, he took the seat next to me whilst Robin took the remaining chair on my left. Much stood like the obedient servant that he once was behind him. Will had his hand on the side of my chair as he stood next to me; his fingers brushed my now bare shoulder (for I had let my shawl slip) and I felt my face burn slightly at the slight contact. Alan was stood between myself and David, and Gil was stood far from the company, leaning up the wall with a bored look on his face.

Robin cleared his throat and said in his powerful voice,

“This is Sir David’s ship,” He explained, “I want you to help his crew with any work that is needed if we wish to get to the Holy Land anytime this year.  Work as you would back at the camp and I can assure you that there will be no trouble.”

“My men are hardworking,” Sir David continued, “They will show you all what to do if any work needs doing.”

Robin nodded his head and said, “One of the cabin boys is waiting for you all outside and he will lead you each to your selected cabins. Alan and Will, you will be sharing, and Much and Gil will be sharing. You are all dismissed. We set sail in half an hour and I hope you will all be on deck for the sight of a ship leaving its birth truly is spectacular!”

A loud mumble of words sounded from around me as the others pilled out of the room. Before he left, Will gave my shoulder a soft squeeze which made the blood rush to my face again. I, too, stood up and I was just about to take my leave when Robin called,

“Wait for a moment Gwen!”

I paused where I stood, slightly shocked that I was to be spoken to privately. Will caught my eye as he walked around the corner and raised an eyebrow before winking at me. A slight blush slipped on my still rosy cheeks as I turned back around to face Robin and David. When Robin saw my redden cheeks he smirked at me and gave me a knowing look which confused me somewhat.

“It is unfortunate; but my men fear you!” Sir David explained.

I gasped at that, my eyes widening as his words went,

“It is said to be unlucky for a woman to walk around the deck whilst the ship sails.”

“So,” Robin continued, “We want you to stay below deck at all times!”

“And what of my belongings?” I asked.

“They would be brought to you!” Sir David ensured.

“So, let me get this straight,” I said a few minutes later after I had thought it over, “You want me to stay below deck at all times.”

“Yes!” They chorused, enthusiasm ringing in their voices.

“With nothing to do!”

“Yes!”

“All alone!”

“Er  ... yes …” Their enthusiasm slowly dying with each word that they spoke.

“A time where I will be bored beyond all senses, and you are asking me to willingly ignore the most exciting thing that will happen ever in my life?”

Robin’s face had completely fallen, his face opening and closing like a gasping fish as he searched for words. Whilst David just sat there, his brow furrowed.

“Father,” I said a serious line playing on my lips as I looked at him with wise eyes; “I fear that I will be forced to disobey your orders. Never before have I sailed upon a ship so I cannot just stay below deck with only the walls of the cabin that I stay in to fill my sight. Though you have only known me now for a few months, you must know that I am not your usual Lady. I seek danger as an old friend; you yourself said not two hours ago that I am more like you than you know. If you were in my place would you obey such indecent rules that you know you would not be able to obey? No, you would not. I cannot stay here to miss theses open sights that I have craved for so long.”

David grinned as I continued,

“So I cannot obey your wishes, Father; I am sorry!”

By then Sir David was booming with laughter,

“Well, she is definitely your daughter, Rob; there is no doubt about it!”

Robin looked at me for a moment, shaking his head at my comment. He had a stern look on his face, so stern that I feared that my words had offended him in some manner. I dropped my gaze to the ground as my cheeks flushed once more. Slowly I brought my hand and brushed some of my mysterious curls to behind my ear. I heard a sigh coming from Robin’s direction and I curiously lifted my gaze to meet his.

“Gwen, how about we make an agreement,” Robin stated, “At dawn and dusk you can come on deck for two hours, but the rest of the day you ware below deck. Agreed?”

“And I wish to witness the send-off!” I added.

“Very well!” Robin replied.

“Then we have struck and accord?” I asked.

“Yes, it seems we have,” Robin answered, defeat ringing in his voice though his face only showed pride.

“Thank you, Father!” I beamed at him.

I leant over to him and placed a tender kiss on his cheek. Swiftly I straightened the ruffles in my skirt before I approached the door. My hand rested on the door handle and I looked back over my shoulder at David and Robin. They were already conversing in hushed tones, there important conversation not wanting to be overheard. Robin looked up at me, feeling my gaze upon him, and he flashed me one of his winning smiles. His face lit up as he spoke and I felt my own resurface as I left the room.  

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