I stood in the middle of the fortress which had no ceiling and looked now more like a wild untamable courtyard. Exactly like me. Twisting trees, uplifting giant roots, and annoying bits of weeds covered the stone floor cracking and bending stone destroying the path. If your lucky you won't trip and fall onto your face. Near the middle an enormous tree grew from out of the ground. You had to link ten men together to hug the giant trunk. Underneath of the tree was a roundish table full of maps, books, and bits of coal used for writing. I sat on a branch that extended over the table a leg dangling down. I was watching the precious gems of my trees fall to the ground. I looked down to see all twenty Merry Men gather around the table looking up at me. Varying between sizes and height, colors of hair and eyes, and different shades of clothes, they looked more like people in a village then people capable of destroying armies. I slowly raised form my position on the branch. They all regarded me as I jumped down from the branch landing with knees bent on top of the table. I pulled my hood down and stood up. Many of the men nodded in greeting.
"Let us get started." I said and leapt of the table and walked toward the head of it. The head of the table was located against the tree and I leaned against the tree. Will Stutely started the conversation. He was going over the plan. Alan-a-Dale or as I called him Alan looked at me suspiciously. Alan was way taller than me, he was the tallest, and had been the best looking guy in his village. He joined after I had saved his sweetheart. He helped a bit but I had promised him and his sweetheart protection if he fought with me. I hadn't noticed I was fingering with the velvet bag. Will S. had finished and I straightened up. Unhooking the velvet bag I threw it on the table.
"Today's blunder to the center." I ordered and everyone tossed their own bags near mine. "David is going to melt down the armor I salvaged to make weapons for us. However the gold will be turned to a cross and given to the church who then will smelt it for coins."
"Thank you!" A weezy voice at the end of the table said. Dressed in his monk clothes, no hair on his head, and a bit to small to be called a human, Friar Tuck smiled happily. "The families will not go hungry tomorrow."
"No one goes hungry on my watch." I said simply and pulled out the frayed paper. "It seems that they are getting desperate for the leader of the Merry Men, someone called Robin Hood? They want a lot of money for this Hooded man." Everyone laughed as I placed the paper on the table. Smiling I unclipped my hair and let it tumble down past my shoulders. I stopped smiling and flicked thick raven feather hair out of my face. "This means that the plan must change." Everyone was suddenly very quiet. "Even if this plan was executed they would follow us back here. Endangering everyone. So we are going to need a new strategy. I suggest we hit on the open road. Forcing them to turn back toward the kingdom before they reach the village to be welcomed. The King will be there and the tax payers. Half of us will attack them the other the plan stays the same. That half will be lead by Little John and my half will attack the carriage. Any questions?"
"Doesn't it seem risky to you?" Timmy the Tinker said looking a my sketch of how we ambush the carriage.
"Completely. Yet's see. Is it risk to join a band of rebels who intend to overthrow the throne and give to the poor and less fortunate. So risky that they accept the leadership of someone who knows what the bloody skies what she's doing? So dangerous that everyone is frightened? Look me in the eye Tim and tell me it is risky." I said my anger bubbling out from the words. It was like acid in Tim's face. With each word I had walked over to him. From behind Tim I glared at everyone. "Objections?" I yelled, "You can carry you and your family back to a starving village while the rest of us try to improve this world!" No one looked up. Suddenly I counted heads. Nineteen, there should be twenty. "Where," My voice dropping to acid, "is Little John?" To the right of Timmy the Tinker a redheaded ten year old turned to me.
"He hasn't returned Robin." He said quietly then there was a scream at the front of the fortress. I took off and the men followed. Someone had given me a sword as we got to the front a man was leaning heavily on a horse that belonged to the army and three people sat heavily on the horse. Many of the wives sat frozen in fear. This was not how I run things, my blood was boiling.
"Well don't just stand there you useless fools go help them!" I barked. Everyone was snapped out of their trance and started moving. I stood there watching as men took the figures to the makeshift medic. I held the sword pointing at the ground while my hands were holding the end of the hilt. Staring into the distance I looked for glowing lights. Nothing. "I want a heavy watch tonight. No one leaves!" I ordered. There were many ayes and yeses. "And sharpen this idiotic blade it couldn't even cut any skin meaning it will hardly puncture the armor." Some girl came up and took the sword from my hands. She carried it away and I glanced once more at the sky looking for smoke that would be moving toward my eyesight. "Seventeen years in this nightmarish place and I haven't even made a bent in it" I muttered to myself and spun around. Heading to the medic, my cloak flapped angrily behind me.
The medic was the longest hall in the fortress and lined with beds. Well makeshift beds which were really blankets piled on the floor. There was one thing however with drapes as a door. That was were Little John was laying. I threw the drape back entered and tossed it back into place my anger was exploding in my body. Sitting on the floor with a pink bandage on his tan hair was Little John. He had no shirt on showing thousands of little scars and one big ugly scar on his side. Thankfully he had the decency to keep his pants on. I impatiently tapped my foot. He finally looked up at me with huge apologizing brown eyes.
"What in the Inferno do you think your doing?" I said not raising my voice but my acid words stung him.
"They were in trouble, Hood. I had to." He said trying to lash his own acid at me. He rose and leaned on the chilly stones making his skin erupt with small bumps.
"That equals how much danger you could put us in?" I answered letting him know his acid wasn't working.
"You would have done it, Robin!"
"You IDIOT! John, you could have led them back here! Then where would we be? Huh, John answer me where in the black depths of abyss would we be?"
"Their house was on fire and they were going to kill them, Rob. Kill them."
"Next time don't come back until you made sure that they weren't following you."
"Robin Hood they weren't following me."
"Then get tortured next time by not being able to come back."
"So you do care?"
"I care if one of my men is capture and put to death. Then I have an excellent reason to kill the King. You should keep a more careful eye on your stuff." I said and showed him a necklace. It supposedly was his moms' but I had seen him loot it from some noble woman.
"Give it here!"
"Sorry, I'll think like you next time."
"Good" I said and tossed it back to him. He caught it and looked at me with hatred. "You should know better, I am a criminal."
"No, you're a hero Robin Hood."
"Don't make me laugh"
"Robin" He grabbed my hand.
"John." I warned staring at his hand.
"Robin?" I yanked my hand back and lightly pushed him down on the bed.
"Goodnight John" I said opening the drapes.
"Hood be safe." He said to my back.
"You make me laugh." I said walking down the hall
"You're the last hope for the kingdom." He yelled at me making me turn. John stood holding himself up but his face determined. "So stop telling yourself you're not."
"I've lied my whole life, John, it doesn't stop here. And the prince is the last hope not me." With that I marched out of the hall my cloak flew behind me with the secrets of my life. Why were stupid men so difficult?