An unusual quiet filled the air of Sherwood Forest as the heavily armed band of travelers made their way through the woods. Watchful Knights scanned the treetops; ever alert for signs of the dreaded outlaws that inhabited these groves. This band was but the latest gathered by the Lord High Sheriff to deliver the tax revenues to Nottingham Castle. A task made near impossible by the advent of the outlaw, Robin Hood.
No one had ever personally seen Robin Hood, or was even sure who he really was. It was rumored that he was Robert of Locksley, returned in secret from the Crusades in the Holy Land. All anyone was really sure of was that he had rallied the men of Sherwood around him and had thrice taken Prince John’s gold.
“I hope those outlaws do try to challenge us,” the heavily armored Knight who was clearly in charge of the assemblage thundered. “I look forward to giving them a taste of my steel.”
“Well said, Sir Guy,” the Lord High Sheriff of Nottingham agreed. “But against a force this size, I doubt those Saxon Dogs would dare show themselves. They are after all, mostly cowards.”
“You are probably right, my Lord Sheriff. It is one thing for them to harass these local bumpkins, but these are Prince John’s finest that surround us. I fear my sword shall not taste outlaw blood this day.” he replied as he stroked his rich dark beard.
“Death, ... bloodshed, is that all you men ever think of?” said a soft feminine voice from behind the two. “Isn’t it enough that you take the very soul from these poor people. Must you take what little life they have as well.”
Both of them turned to view the speaker. The Lady Marian Fitzswalter was a young woman of 17 years. The ward of good King Richard, the brunette had been promised in marriage to Sir Guy of Gisbourne. A joining that was to take place at the end of their journey. It was a union that she did not look forward to with much pleasure.
“I think the Lady Marian has too much in the way of sympathies for these Saxon scum.” the Sheriff remarked with a sneer. “She would do better to remember her Norman heritage.”
“Not to worry, my Lord Sheriff. Her tune will change after I have taken her to the marriage bed and she learns where her true duty lies.” Gisbourne said, a measure of both anger and lust in his voice.
The image of the marriage bed of which Gisbourne spoke sent a cold chill through Marian’s body. She pulled her blue wrap tighter in an attempt to erase the thought. A part of her wished the outlaws would attack their band. Better the cold of the grave then that of Gisbourne’s bed. No man had ever touched her, and if a merciful God had any pity, none ever would.
Holding tight the reins of her horse, Marian dropped back among the other women of their party. It was easier to endure their mindless chatter than the proud boasting of Gisbourne and his cohorts. It was a small temporary refuge.
“Sir Guy!” called out a soldier coming toward them at a gallop. “Sir Guy!”
Such was the apprehension in the rider’s voice that every man within earshot reached for their weapon. In seconds he’d pulled up in front of Gisbourne and the Sheriff.
“Speak man!” Sir Guy thundered. “And mind that you have reason for charging into our number in such a manner.”
“The outlaws, Milord,” he said in half gasps. “The outlaws wait in ambush for us, not a half hours ride before us. I have seen them.”
“You have seen them?” the Sheriff asked. “I’ve not heard of any man who has seen them when they do not wish to be seen.”
“You give these rabble too much credit, my Lord Sheriff.” Sir Guy interrupted. “They have been lucky so far, nothing more. Now that luck has turned against them. We have more than enough men to see the last of their annoyance.”
“But the women in our charge,” the Sheriff reminded him. “To say nothing of Prince John’s gold. It will mean our heads if we were to fail to deliver it.”
Sir Guy paused before responding. If nothing else, the Sheriff of Nottingham always saw the practical side. Putting an end to the outlaws would indeed be quite a feather in Gisbourne’s cap, perhaps enough to win him a more influential seat on the High Council. Yet at the same time, the loss of the year’s taxes could indeed lead to the executioner’s block. Such was the fate of the leader of the last two expeditions.
“Loathe as I am to admit it,” Gisbourne finally said. “You may be right, my Lord Sheriff. We dare not risk the gold. Still it boils my blood to give up a chance to run through these Saxon brigands.”
“Perhaps there is a way to accomplish both tasks.” a soft-spoken voice said from behind them.
Both men turned at the realization that the Lady Marian had returned to their company. Sir Guy seemed annoyed at her presence, but the Sheriff seemed interested in what she might have to say.
“Would it not be possible,” she began, ignoring the look of displeasure on her betrothed’s face. “To send a force of soldiers ahead to meet the outlaws, springing our own ambush if you may. While at the same time, have the rest of our party proceed along a different path. I once traveled this road with my father and as I remember, the road forks but a short distance ahead.”
“A capital idea!” the Sheriff exclaimed. “Capital indeed. You are a lucky man, Sir Guy, to be gaining a wife who is as intelligent as she is beautiful.”
“There is such a thing as too much intelligence.” Gisbourne remarked under his breath. “Especially in a woman.”
“What say you, Sir Guy,” the Sheriff continued. “Shall we take the advice of our most gracious lady. I believe it to be a sound plan.”
“I had been considering something quite similar myself when the Lady did interrupt our discussion. “ Gisbourne said in an attempt to save face.
“Then all the more reason to try it.” the Sheriff added.
“If I might make an added suggestion?” Marian inquired.
“Of course.” the Sheriff said, cutting off whatever comments Sir Guy was about to make.
“These outlaws would no doubt be suspicious and alarmed if they were but to see only armed troops in the band that followed this road.” she said. “I think perhaps we might have one or two of our wagons go with the troop.”
“Yes, of course, another excellent idea.” the Sheriff beamed.
“I would also like to suggest that I go with them as well.” she added. “How much more lulled into complacency might they be if they saw a lady of the court riding near the head of the column as I have done so far on this journey.”
“It would be a sound strategy,” the Sheriff said. “Quite sound indeed. But I’m afraid it would be far too dangerous for you Milady. Far too dangerous indeed. Wouldn’t you say so, Sir Guy?”
Gisbourne looked hard at Marian’s face. He could guess why she’d made the suggestion. It was no secret to him that she might prefer the cold of the grave to what she imagined would be the cold of his bed. It was a preference he was not about to offer her the opportunity to express.
“It is a good idea,” he said, playing for the moment the affectionate groom to be. “But the Sheriff is quite right when he says that it is far too hazardous an undertaking for Milady. I would suggest instead that we have one of the servants, perhaps that girl Jane since she most resembles Marian, wear one of her dresses and ride with the column.”
Marian found it surprising that Gisbourne would pick Jane for the risky undertaking. It was no secret, to those who cared to know, that he had been taking her to his bed these past few months. Marian wondered if he bedded her because of Jane’s resemblance to her. Or because, as she’d heard some of the other girls discussing, Jane was in the habit of performing various heathen sexual acts. Including, they’d whispered, copulating with a man using her mouth. Then again, Gisbourne believed he was about to possess the real thing. What need would he have with a substitute now.
“It’s settled then.” the Sheriff said as he slapped a gloved hand against his leg. “I will of course remain with the gold as it is my duty. Of course I do envy you Sir Guy, for having the opportunity to test your steel against the Saxons.”
Gisbourne again looked into Marian’s face, seeing the brief glimmer of renewed hope that appeared there. If he were to fall in combat, always a possibility, she would be free of him.
“As much as my heart yearns to lead my troops in battle,” Sir Guy said as he watched Marian’s brief hope fade from her face. “I fear my first duty lies at the side of Milady, insuring her safety. We have an appointment with the Bishop of the Black Canon on the morrow, an engagement that I’m sure the Lady Marian would be heartbroken were we to miss it. No, my Captain of Arms will lead our troops. He is more than capable of dealing with these rabid dogs.”
As Sir Guy and the Sheriff selected the men for each group and supervised the transfer of gold from some of the wagons, Marian retired to her wagon with Jane to select an outfit. The young servant, only a year younger than Marian, pulled off her simple dress with abandon, revealing the supple nude form beneath it. The older girl couldn’t help but look with curiosity at the naked girl. To see just how much she did resemble her. Jane’s breasts were a little smaller than hers, Marian decided, but capped with much larger nipples. The younger girl was also much hairier around her sex than Marian, and of a darker shade as well.
Without even looking at some of the outfits, Jane cast them aside. She seemed to know just what she was looking for. Marian wondered if that impression was because the girl was looking for a particular dress she had once seen Marian wear, or had she worn some of these clothes before. She speculated just how far Sir Guy had carried her resemblance.
“This one!” the girl called out as she clutched one of Marian’s finest to her naked breasts.
“As you wish.” Marian replied to her choice.
Try as she could, Marian couldn’t feel any malice toward the girl. Uneducated as she was, Jane didn’t have the wits to realize how Gisbourne had used her. Or how he was sacrificing her now. That pretty dress she now pulled over her head might well be stained red with her blood before the day was over.
“Do I look all right, Milady?” Jane asked as she laced up the dress.
“You look like a lady born.” Marian said with a forced smile.
The smile on Jane’s face was genuine.
Ten minutes later, Marian watched her double leave with the rest of the decoy troop. A small part of her still wished she could have gone in Jane’s place.
“Remember men,” Sir Guy called out to his troops as they moved away. “Twenty pieces of gold to the man who brings back this so called Robin Hood’s head on a pike!”
A number of his men cheered at his generosity. A larger number hoped that they’d be the one to collect.
Looking up at the mid-day Sun in the sky, Sir Guy figured that over an hour had passed since they’d split their force. The Sheriff agreed with his assessment.
“By now those outlaw bones must lie bleaching in this sun.” Gisbourne boasted. “I look forward to hanging Robin Hood’s head outside my castle as an example to others.”
“Either that or our own men now feed the worms.” the Sheriff replied in a moment of pessimism.
“Bah, like the Lady Marian you give these Saxon scum far too much credit.” Gisbourne said in anger. “They might have scared small bands of provincials, but they fall easily enough when faced with Prince John’s own.”
“I hope you are right.”
“Of course I’m right,” Gisbourne bellowed. “I’d wager half the gold in my purse that there isn’t one of those cowards within...”
Gisbourne didn’t have the chance to finish his wager as a sudden volley of arrows from the surrounding woods split the air. More than a score of their escort fell from their mounts, hitting the ground before any of them could realize what was happening.
“Any man that reaches for a weapon will find an arrow instead!” called out a voice from high overhead. “Although in your case Gisbourne, I’d be more than happy to put one through your black heart.”
Automatically, Gisbourne had reached for his sheathed sword when he saw the soldier in front of him fall. He stayed his hand when he heard himself threatened directly.
“Ah a pity,” said a deeper, stronger voice from just to the Sheriff’s right. “I was so hoping you’d be stupid enough to draw a weapon.”
The owner of the voice stepped out from behind the shrubs. Six foot four and two hundred and thirty pounds, all of it muscle, the stranger was dressed from head to toe in forest brown. Almost two score years, the only sign of his age appeared to be a small puff of gray in his dark beard. His only weapon was a staff as tall as he was.
“You are Robin Hood?” Gisbourne asked in disbelief.
A deep laugh filled the air as the tall man reacted to Sir Guy’s question.
“Me, Robin Hood... ?” he laughed. “That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day. John Little is my name, but my friends hereabout know me as Little John.”
“How can the outlaws be here?” the Sheriff asked as the reality of their situation began to finally dawn on him. “Our scouts sighted them on the other road.”
“That wouldn’t be the road where you planned to split your forces and take us by surprise, would it?” said another man dressed in red and yellow that exited the forest from the other side of the road. “And no, before you ask, I’m not Robin Hood either.”
“How could he know what we planned?” the Sheriff said to his compatriot.
“It’s quite simple, my dear Sheriff,” the man who further identified himself as Will Scarlett said. “You should really take more care when you discuss matters of importance. I was standing not ten paces away from you and Sir Guy when you made your plans. Had I wanted, I could’ve planted my dagger in your breast with a single thrust.”
“If neither of you is Robin Hood, then where is he?” ask Maid Marian as she urged her horse a little forward.
“He is about, Milady,” Little John answered. “Watching over us as we go about our business this day.”
“This is your fault!” Sir Guy turned and bellowed at Marian, totally ignoring that he had tried to make her plan his just a few hours before. “The devil take me for ever listening to your advice.”
“I wouldn’t raise my voice to the Lady if I were you, Sir Guy.” the disembodied voice that had first greeted them echoed. “Else the devil may take you far sooner than you may think.”
Gisbourne studied the face of his betrothed, searching for any indication she might give to the outlaws that she wished the devil would take him. Thankfully, she seemed more interested in the source of that mysterious voice than in deliverance from her fate.
“Little John, see to our guests.” the voice concluded.
At that, two dozen woodsmen emerged from both sides of the road, quickly disarming those of Gisbourne’s men still standing. Sir Guy and the Sheriff were the last to be stripped of their arms.
“And now you will slay us in cold blood like the cowards you are.” Gisbourne said.
“Sir Guy, my dear Sir Guy,” Little John said as he stepped forward. “You do make it so very tempting. But unfortunately we do not kill men who have laid down their arms.”
“I’d be willing to make an exception!” cried out a voice from the crowd.
“Now, now my friends,” John cautioned. “What kind of hosts would we be if we failed to invite Sir Guy and his friend the Sheriff to share supper with us this night. After all, they have made such a fine donation of gold to the good people of Sherwood. Because of this, the rest of your band may continue their journey.”
Whatever response Sir Guy made was drowned out by the thunderous laughter of Merry Men. One of whom ran down the road and whispered something in Little John’s ear. The tall man seemed greatly surprised by the message.
“It seems, my Lady Marian,” John said as he stepped past the two men and addressed his comments to the blue garbed woman. “That Robin would also like the pleasure of your company as well. Would you care to share our evening meal?”
“And if I decide I would rather not?” she asked.
“Then I will wish you a good day and allow you to be on your way with Sir Guy’s troop.”
Marian turned and looked over her shoulder at the burly band of soldiers that had survived the attack. In her mind she conjured up the image two nights past when their party had stopped at the Inn of the Red Lantern. Unable to sleep herself, Marian had slipped past her dozing guard and gone for a walk. Hearing the sounds of merriment from the stable, she had curiously taken a peek through a window.
Even now, the shock of what she’d seen made her light headed. There, lying on a rough horse blanket, were the nude bodies of two women. Marian recognized them as the daughters of the old innkeeper. The younger of the two, a small-breasted girl with blond hair, was riding atop the cock of Gisbourne’s Captain. In her hands she held the manhoods of his two aides. Both of them stood stripped of their uniforms. It was obvious that they were waiting for their superior to finish so they might each take a turn.
The older girl was much larger, with mounds the size of a man’s head. An assessment that was easy to make as each was indeed pressed against a man’s head, held in place by a nipple in each of their mouths. Standing above her, another trooper held his erect cock in his hand, stroking it to a full hardness. The girl spread her legs wide to receive him within her.
A horrified Marian had run back to the Inn. As she passed Sir Guy’s chamber, moving quietly as possible, she paused when she heard a moan from within. She thought, or even hoped for a brief moment, that Sir Guy might be having an attack of sorts. Much like that which suddenly felled Sir Eric of Legrand last winter. But as she listened for a few moments more, she realized that the moan she’d heard had been one of lust not pain. Gisbourne had again taken Jane to his bed, knowing full well that Marian was supposed to be sleeping just across the hall.
As those memories flashed through her mind, she wondered what fate she might expect from these blackguards of Gisbourne now that they had lost both the gold and the presence of Sir Guy to hold them in check. She might even find herself, however unwillingly, in the same situation as those wenches at the Inn. And there was only one of her.
“I accept your invitation.” she answered, deciding that better the company of outlaws than Gisbourne’s men.
“Excellent,” Little John laughed. “Then let us be on our way. The sun drops lower in the sky with each passing hour and we’ve already worked up a hearty appetite.”
With the gold wagons in tow, the Merry Men and their reluctant guests made their way down winding paths. Gisbourne and the Sheriff tried to take note of the roads they took, but soon gave up the effort. Only a fool or a man born to them attempted to travel the maze that was Sherwood. It was no small reason that few ever ventured off the main road through it.
Marian rode next to Little John at the head of the column, preferring his silent company to that of her intended. Every once in a while, she would ask Little John when she would get to meet their host. John would merely answer such inquires with short cryptic replies.
After an hours journey, the forest in front of them suddenly opened into a large clearing. One moment all she could see were trees seemingly stretching to the horizon. A breath later there was a village.
As they unloaded the wagons and led off Sir Guy and the Sheriff, Marian was turned over to the care of a plump Friar named Tuck. If she was surprised to see a man of the church with the outlaws, she was more so by the many women and children living among them as well. It was not what she expected from all the stories she’d heard. Then again, she had to consider the source of those stories.
“Unlike your Norman brothers,” Friar Tuck said in response her observation. “We do not make war on the helpless.”
A familiar face nearby abruptly caught her notice. A familiar face and an even more familiar dress.
“Jane!” she cried out.
“Milady,” the serving girl said with enthusiasm as she looked up and saw Marian. “It is good to see you again.”
The younger girl was still wearing the garment she had borrowed earlier. Marian could not help but wonder if she looked the same when she wore that dress. Did her nipples press so tightly against the fabric as Jane’s did? Did men look at her the same way she could even see the Friar looking now.
As Jane moved off, Marian looked to the Friar to explain her presence.
“As I said Milady, we do not make war on women and children.”
The more she saw of the small village, the more Marian was impressed. Here were a people living in peace with each other. A place where the strong did not necessarily prey on the weak. One small thing did baffle her. Wherever she looked, she saw a people that were happy but still incredibly poor. What had happened to all the riches the outlaws had stolen over the last year? Did this never seen Robin Hood keep them for himself.
“What profit we may gain from our endeavors, Milady, are used to care for those under our protection. But as you see, we need very little to be happy.” the Friar explained when she voiced her question. “The rest is held in trust for Good King Richard, so that we might soon gain his release and have him return to our troubled land.”
“Richard returned,” Marian thought with excitement, her heart suddenly uplifted. “That would almost be too much to dare hope.”
“Milady, be careful!” the Friar called out as Marian, distracted by her sudden flush, tripped on an exposed tree root and fell forward onto a muddy patch of ground.
She landed with a resounding thud, but only hurt her dignity.
“Milady, are you hurt?” Tuck asked as he helped her up.
“I will survive.” she said as she wiped some of the mud from her face and smiled. “I’ve been told toiling in the mud is good for the soul.”
“If Milady desires to cleanse herself from her toil,” Friar Tuck said. “There is a warm stream but two hundred paces beyond the clearing. I promise you none of our men will bother you in any way.”
“Why thank you, dear Friar.” Marian replied. “And I think I would like it if you called me Marian. All of this Milady this and Milady that seems somewhat out of place.”
“As you wish, Milady.” the chubby Friar grinned as he pointed out the footpath down to the stream.
Leaving the jolly Friar behind her, Marian made her way down the trail. She stopped at the waters edge and turned about to see if she was truly alone. Up on the ridge, she could see the back of Friar Tuck as he sat on a fallen tree trunk, guarding her privacy.
Sitting down on a large rock, Marian removed her sandals and dipped her feet into the stream. The water was indeed unseasonable warm. It had a nice comforting feel.
Soft hands reached up and removed her headpiece, laying it down gently on the grass. Shaking her head, Marian let the full length of her long brown hair fall free. It had been a long hard journey and not without its excitements. The seventeen-year-old could use a little time alone to sort it all out.
With her feet still in the running water, Marian began to undo the laces that held her traveling outfit together. She took a moment to again look about her, reassuring herself that she was truly alone.
Satisfied, she pulled the last of the laces and led her garment fall free, exposing her breasts to the cool late afternoon air. She ran her hands over her mounds, feeling the weight of them in her hands and running her fingers across the nipples. It took but a brief touch to make them erect.
Ever since she had first started to develop when she was but nine, Marian had always been secretly proud of her endowments. The Nuns into whose care she had been entrusted following her Mother’s death had always warned her about the sins of lust, and how they should be avoided. The good Sisters would certainly have been shocked had they discovered that Marian had discovered the joys of self-pleasure by her twelfth birthday. And practiced those joys at every opportunity.
Removing her dirt covered dress, Marian laid it over the large rock, then moved a little further out, standing nude in the middle of the stream. Cupping her hands, she splashed water against her face and washed it clean. Then she repeated the motion against the rest of her body.
The running water had felt so good against her legs that Marian moved back into the flow, this time to the deepest portion where the water rose to waist level. The rush of the current pressed between her legs, exerting a pleasing pressure against her womanhood.
It had been far too long since she’d enjoyed the privacy to please herself. Even those nights when she had her own room in one Inn or another, she didn’t feel comfortable enough. Not with Gisbourne but a room away.
Starting again with her bountiful breasts, Marian ran her hands down across her youthful body. Across her stomach they moved, gently tickling her smooth skin. Finally she came to the light brown patch of hair between her legs. The Royal Ward spread her fingers across the heavy bush, noting that it was wet for reasons having nothing to do with the stream.
Marian closed her eyes and arched her head back as she pressed against her clit, sending a surge of warmth through her body. With a long accustomed familiarity, she manipulated her fingers both across and within her pussy.
“Oh yes,” she whispered to the empty air as her fingers moved in and out. “I’ve missed this so much.”
Faster and faster her fingers moved, responding to the increasing demands of her body. Each motion of her hands, each entry within herself, produced both pulsating waves of ecstasy and an unrelenting desire to reach orgasm.
“Dear Mother of God!” she gasped as her body exploded, releasing all the passion she had held in check for so long.
Her body quaked and her legs felt weak as she dipped lower into the water. Marian’s breath came in short gasps as she rode the cascading waves from within. She tried to make it last as long as possible, knowing full well that it would be but a brief moment. But what a moment it always was.
“Mother of God, thank you.” she said in a prayer of thanks.
It had long been her belief that the ability to enjoy such bliss had to be God’s greatest gift. And who better to thank for that gift than Mother Mary, who had been a woman herself.
Minutes passed slowly as she let her breaths return to normal. She dropped down low enough to let the water crest just above her breasts. The gentle cascade of the stream washed away the remnants of her climax.
“I better get back,” she thought as she stood to her full height. “Least the good Friar think I fell in and come looking for me.”
Marian had just reached the stream’s edge and the rock upon which she had left her dress when she felt a sudden chill of apprehension. She looked up, just as a voice appeared out of the empty air.
“I hope the water is to Milady’s taste.” said the same incorporeal voice that she had heard back on the road.
“Who’s there?” she called out as she quickly grabbed the dirty dress and covered her naked breasts.
“There is no need to fear, no harm will come to you.” continued the voice.
“Where are you?” Marian called out, shifting her gaze right and left and finding nothing.
“Why I’m right here.” the voice said.
Marian whirled again, this time to confront the source. It was not what she expected. Yet in her heart, she knew it could only be one person.
“You ... are ... Robin Hood?” she asked, measuring each word carefully.
The figure that had appeared not 20 paces away, in a spot she had just looked, stood only an inch or two taller than her own five four. Dressed from head to toe in suit of forest green, the stranger carried a long bow as well as a quiver of arrows. Dark and curly reddish brown hair, cut short beneath a feathered cap, topped a clean shaven and boyish face. At first glance, Marian thought she was facing a teenage boy.
“You are Robin Hood?” she repeated in even greater disbelief.
The Outlaw in green laughed a soft laugh, stepping forward with broad, powerful steps.
“Actually,” Robin Hood said in a voice that seemed to soften and change with each passing step. “My name is Robyn.”
“By King Richard,” Marian exclaimed as the figure drew close enough for her to clearly see the contours of Robyn’s body. “You’re just a girl!”
“I’ll have you know that I’m two years older than you, Marian Fitzswalter.” she said, her voice now totally changed. “So I’m hardly just a girl.”
“This can’t be.” Marian said, still a little confused. “Everyone says that Robin Hood is Robert of Locksley, returned in secret from the Crusades.”
“That is what I wish them to believe.” Robyn smiled. “Know that I am both his daughter and heir.”
“Then Sir Robert is dead?” Marian asked.
“No, not dead,” Robyn said as she sat down next to Marian. “All of England does know that Richard has been held captive this past year by allies now turned enemies. What few know as well is that his faithful Locksley also shares his cell.”
“And you have accomplished all of this in his name.” Marian said in astonishment. “Created a standard around which all these good men and women have rallied.”
“Not alone I haven’t.” Robyn said. “Little John deserves a great deal of the credit as well. I could never have done it without his help.”
“Little John, that was the large man that led us here?”
“Yes, he is impressive, is he not?” Robyn grinned.
“Are you and he ... well...”
“Me and Little John?” she laughed. “Not very likely. John has both a wife and six children, and he loves them all. I’m not fool enough to get myself into a situation like that. Besides, there are other, what shall I say ... considerations that would prevent anything like that.”
“The voice,” Marian asked, changing the subject. “How do you change your voice and make it appear out of the air?”
“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always had a talent for mimicry.” Robyn said, as her voice seemed to come from behind Marian. “It seemed a good idea to use it when addressing outsiders. I doubt Sir Guy and the Sheriff would be impressed by my natural voice.”
Marian nodded her head in agreement.
“And as for making it appear where I am not, well that’s just a little trick a mage once taught me.”
“I still cannot believe that you are the scourge that has terrified all of Nottingham.” the younger woman went on. “That the legend is all a myth.” “I am no myth.” Robyn said quite seriously.
“It’s said that Robin Hood is the deadliest archer in all England.” Marian countered, displaying the independent curiosity that so infuriated Gisbourne. “Would you claim that title as well?”
At that, Robyn stood and looked across the stream. Her blue eyes came to rest on a small dead tree some hundred yards distant. A small skinny thing with only two small branches left. The thickest of which was only two inches.
“Do you see that small tree down the opposite bank?” she asked Marian.
It took a few moments for Marian to focus on the tree in the fading afternoon light.
“Yes I see it.”
“The right or the left.”
“The right or the left,” Robyn repeated. “Pick a branch.”
“But why... ?”
“Oh never mind.” Robyn said impatiently.
Before even another word could form on Marian’s lips, Robyn reached into her quiver and notched two arrows to her bow. It took but another heartbeat for her to aim. Then in the blink of an eye, the nineteen year old released her hold on the drawstring and sent the bolts flying into the center of each branch, cleaving them both in two.
“That was unbelievable.” Marian gasped.
“I told you I was no myth.”
The two young women talked of a number of subjects. It had been a very long time since Marian had the opportunity to talk with someone of intelligence. At least someone who wanted to hear what she had to say. Too many of the women she spent her time with wanted only to talk of their latest conquests and how they might please them.
“As I heard, you were to be married on the morrow.” said Robyn. “I apologize for the delay.”
“Would be that the delay had been made permanent.” Marian commented.
“You don’t love Gisbourne?” Robyn asked.
“I would sooner take a viper to my breast than that man to my bed.” Marian answered in unrestrained anger.
“Knowing of Sir Guy, I can understand that.” Robyn nodded sympathetically. “Are you a virgin?” she asked out of curiosity, thinking that few girls as old as Marian still were.
“No man has ever touched me!” Marian said with righteous indignation.
“That wasn’t the question I asked.” Robyn said, looking deep into the other woman’s brown eyes. “Let me put it another way. Is it only Gisbourne’s bed that you wish to avoid -- or is it that of any man?”
Marian seemed to ponder the question for long seconds, taking the time to frame an answer. When she began to speak, the tone of resignation in her voice was more than evident.
“What I might or might not wish doesn’t matter,” she began. “It is the way of the world. A woman may be given to a man by her closest male relative. What desire she may carry in her heart matters little.”
“What may be the way of the world,” Robyn corrected, “Does not hold here in Sherwood. Within this Shire, a man or woman is free to follow their heart. So I ask you once more. If you could follow that which is your most secret desire, where would it lead you?”
Marian seemed unwilling to answer. Robyn suspected it was because she had denied the truth for so long that even now she could not dare to give it voice. Of course the woman in green could be wrong about her conclusion, but somehow she didn’t think so. As with so many things in her life, the Heir of Locksley decided that direct action was the best course.
Leaning forward, Robyn pressed her lips against Marian’s and kissed her.
The Maids reaction was first that of shock, of a desire to pull away. Then as she became more aware of the soft warmth of Robyn’s mouth against her own, her heart began to react.
Years before, while still with the Sisters, a much younger Marian had enjoyed the friendly caress of another girl in their care. The duo had shared precious moments of privacy easing each other’s solitude. It had been years since those encounters, but on cold and lonely nights, the memory was never far from Marian’s thoughts.
Robyn leaned back a moment after the kiss, giving Marian time to react. When no comment was forthcoming, she leaned forward and kissed her again, this time with more passion. As their lips met, Marian reacted to the pressure of Robyn’s tongue against her mouth by opening her lips and letting it slide inside.
Encouraged, Robyn slid her hand under the dress Marian had covered herself with and cupped the brunette’s breasts. She was pleased to find it was warm to the touch, a further indication of the younger woman’s excitement. She spread out her fingers, rubbing Marian’s thick nipple to a stiff hardness.
“You like this don’t you.?” Robin asked softly as she pressed a brief third kiss against Marian’s cheeks.
“Yes.” Marian replied almost too softly to hear. The admission came hard for her.
“I had a feeling you still did.” Robyn went on.
“What?” Marian said in a much louder voice as she abruptly pulled back.
Robyn laughed a little laugh.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” she said.
“Should I?” Marian asked, feeling a little defensive all of the sudden.
“I recognized you right a way,” Robin said, “The moment I saw you riding with Sir Guy. If anything, I think you’ve grown even more beautiful.”
The woman in green paused for a moment to allow Marian time to think. She had already given her a small clue by alluding to Marian having grown since she’s last seen her.
A long minute passed, but still Marian couldn’t place the short haired girl.
“I guess I looked a lot different back then.” Robyn said. “Besides, I don’t think you had eyes for anyone but Juliana.”
Hearing the name of her long ago love opened a dam in Marian’s memory. Images of the night she last saw Juliana flooded her mind.
“Blessed Mother, now I remember you!” Marian exclaimed. “You where at the Convent of Saint Ann with us!”
Of all the memories of Juliana that Marian held dear, the one she had buried deepest was that of the night they had been discovered together by the Reverend Mother and Sister Catherine.
As had been their practice, they had waited until the Sisters finished their rounds and had retired to their own cells. Then Juliana would sneak out of her room and join Marian in hers. That fateful night, Marian had not been feeling well, complaining of having chills from the drafty cell.
Rather than spend an hour or two with her love and then returning to her own room, Juliana had insisted that she stay with Marian and help keep her warm. Naked, she had climbed under the thin cover they were all given and pressed their bodies together, adding her body heat to Marian’s. She reassured her friend that she would return to her own room before the Sisters rang the bell for morning prayers.
Tragically, they were so comfortable together that they fell into a deep sleep. Wrapped in each other’s arms, they slept right through the morning bells. Noticing their absence in the Chapel, Sister Catherine and the Reverend Mother had gone to look for them.