"How’re you doing today, Robin?" he asked his old friend.
"Just fine," he said through a cough.
"You don't sound so," John grinned. Robin grimaced.
"Sure. Just wait, you'll get one too."
"Just make sure, that the friar doesn't get you. You know the awful taste of his medical teas."
Little John had come to Robin, because he wanted to talk with him about their provisions for the winter. To Robin's surprise, they were rich of food for that winter. He was glad they were, since they had seen other times, when children as well as adults almost died from hunger. But now, they had enough to eat and that was good, since Christmas was close, and it had been sort of a tradition in the compound to have a great celebration at the holidays, including a meal, that did justice to the events.
After Robin and Little John had separated again, Robin went to find Marion. He had hardly seen her in the last few days and he really wondered why it was so. Finally he found her in her hut.
"What are you doing?" he asked her as he entered.
"Nothing in particular," she answered and blushed, as she hid something behind her back.
"What is it that you hide behind your back?"
"Nothing," she smiled at him.
"Oh come on now, Marion. What do you have there behind your back?"
"Nothing, I've told you." She was getting angry now. Robin was really surprised about her reaction.
"I think I should better go now," he said quickly and stormed out of her hut. Marion sighed out in relief.
Usually she was glad, when Robin visited her in her hut, but this time it was different. She still hid that special something behind her back and now brought her hands to the front to look at it. It was her Christmas gift for Robin. She had asked Andrew McGregor for it, Robin's former teacher at Locksley Castle. She held the little star carefully in her hands, since she was afraid of breaking it. The glass, it was made of, shone so brightly in the dim light of her hut. Marion was sure, that Robin would like it, more than anything else, since it was something, that once belonged to his mother, who had died when he was still a little boy.
He hardly had any memory on her. So Marion was absolutely sure, that this was the right Christmas gift for her man. Oh yes, her man. In a couple of days he would be her man - forever. Months ago, those words, she had waited for so long, had been spoken. Their love for each other was no longer a secret. And still Marion was surprised, that it was him who took the first step to confess his feelings for her. She knew, that this was certainly not easy for him to do. He was still a man, and that was a circumstance that made it difficult for him, at least to say a little about the way he felt. And it was a circumstance that made her so proud of him.
The Holy Night was not far away anymore and their wedding was planned to be on the following day. So this were less than two weeks for them to go and yet it looked, as if nothing could come between them and their plans. At least Robin hoped so, though he doubted now, since Marion had acted so strange, when he had just been in her hut. Lost in his thoughts he again wandered through the snowy compound. Here and there he saw people smiling at him, when he passed them by. He exactly knew why it was this way. Their joy about the upcoming wedding in the compound was at least as big as his own. He really loved Marion and that was why he finally wanted to make sure, that none else would have her. But there was one big obstacle. He still had neither a Christmas gift, nor a wedding gift for her.
And so he decided that it was time for him to go out, and look for one. Robin had no idea, that he would return with a 'gift' he never wanted to make her. Robin went to the stable area and threw his saddle on his gray's back. He mounted, and without, anyone letting know it, he left the compound. The day was even colder out in the woods of Sherwood. As Robin rode on, the cold air felt, as if somebody would stab needles into his face.
Tears rolled down his cheek, not because he would have been crying, but because of the cold. Robin's mind was somewhere else. He was not out in the cold forest, but in a warm hut with his Marion. Robin almost couldn't believe, that soon she would be his. He shook his head, trying to clean his mind, so that he could concentrate again, on the way laying ahead. Actually he had no idea where he was going to; he only knew that he had to go somewhere, where he could get a nice present for Marion. For him it was an urgent need that day.
*** *** ***
"Look, someone's coming," one of the soldiers whispered.
"Do you think it is him?" the other one asked.
"Dave, you know who I mean. Robin Hood."
"Probably, but as a matter of fact, I don't think so. Or have you ever seen him out in the woods alone? His friends are always with him."
"Perhaps not today," the other one muttered.
"You think we should attack him?"
"Why not? If it is really him, Prince John will reward us richly and our families will have a warm home this winter."
"Okay. But be quiet. We shouldn't let him know too early that we are here."
The two soldiers sneaked quietly out of their hiding place, making their way towards the lonesome rider. Slowly their swords slid out of their scabbards, without making any noise. The rider didn't ride too quick, so that they had an easy time to reach him, unseen by the man on the gray horse. It was then, that they jumped out of the woods, towards the rider.
One of the soldiers jumped on the horse, behind the man and threw him down of his mount. The stranger greeted the frozen ground with a sickening thud. But yet he was not knocked out. The man stood up from the ground again and tried fighting his two opponents. Now he draw his own sword out of its scabbard and started to fight them. Firstly it didn't look as if he would have too much problems, fighting them. But he suffered from a wound on his forehead now, a small stone had caused, when he was thrown to the ground.
The blood ran into his eyes and he couldn't see very well. And still he tried to save his life, though he was almost defenseless, something he wasn't really used to, especially when there were only two men to fight. The soldiers had an easy game with the stranger. When he did his last attempt to defeat them, the got him, where they wanted to have him. One of them stood behind him, the other one in front of him. That was the trap they wanted to see him in. And as soon as expected, they had him down.
One of the soldiers slowly stepped towards the unconscious man on the ground. The snow he laid on slowly turned from white into a deep, dark red. The soldier bent down and turned the man around, so that he was laying on his back. He ran his hand over the man's face, to get his long, sable brown hair out of it. And there was the face, Robin Hood's face.
"Do you think we've killed him?"
"From the loss of his blood, we have killed him, Tim." The soldier called Tim nodded.
"The Prince said, alive, not dead."
"What shall we do now?"
"We cannot anyone let know what we've done, especially not Prince John."
"You know that rumor about his horse?"
"Then let's pack him on its back and send it away. I'm sure that the horse will run back to their compound," Dave said.
"You are certainly right. Let's do it then." And they did as they said. Soon Robin was on his horse's back, and on his way back to the compound.
*** *** ***
"Little John, have you found him?" Marion yelled at the blonde giant as he rode back into the compound.
"I'm sorry," was all to be heard from him.
"Oh darn, where is he. He has never been out for so long, without anyone letting know where he goes to. I'm worried."
"I know Marion," Little John tried to comfort her, as he had dismounted from his horse. "But I'm quite sure he is alright. Robin can take care of himself."
"I know, but I'm still worried. What, if the soldiers got him, or any witches or something? You know that it wouldn't be the first time." Little John took Marion into his mighty arms and allowed her to sob her sorrows into them. She seemed to be so vulnerable in that moment, that it almost frightened him. He still had the shaking form of Marion in his arms, when he heard the main gate being opened. Immediately both of them turned around to see who was coming, hoping it would be Robin. And it was Robin, but in a position they would have never expected him on his horse. He laid head and feet down over his Gray's back.
Little John had a hard time stopping the horse, since it had just managed to escape from a couple of wolves, which were close behind it. As Little John saw who hung over the horse's back, his eyes opened wide in shock.
"ROBIN!!" he screamed out and ran towards him. Marion followed closely. Little John carefully took Robin down from the horse and held him in his strong arms. Suddenly he heard Marion gasp out in shock and then he felt a warm liquid running down his arm.
"He's bleeding!" Little John shouted out in fear.
"Sean, go and get the friar!" Marion shouted, as she followed John who was on his way to Robin's hut, with his friend in his arms.
Marion was still holding Robin's hand, as Tuck finished, tending to Robin. Marion looked up to him with questioning eyes. Tuck closed his eyes and shook his head.
"What does that mean? Why are you shaking your head?" she asked him in alarm.
"Marion, Robin went through a lot, I know. And he always made it finally. But this time, I'm afraid," tears welled up in his eyes. "I'm afraid this time, he won't make it." Marion shook her head.
"No..." she whispered. "He won't die. I won't allow it. Do you understand me friar? You are a liar, he will make it - he will survive. He just can't die!" she yelled at Tuck. From now on, she spent her nights and her days at Robin's bedside. He was running a terrible fever and sometimes he spoke while he was sleeping, though she never understood, what he was saying. But Robin didn't get any better, he got even worse. The wound on his head healed quickly, but the other wound on his chest had become inflamed and that made Tuck even more hopeless.
Two weeks later, in the morning of December, 22nd, Marion woke up. She
hardly had left Robin, since he had come back to the compound; she had
only left him for the most urgent needs. Well on this special morning something
was very wrong. She just could sense it and as she looked down on Robin's
pale face, her eyes opened wide in fear. Quickly she laid her hand down
on his forehead. It was warm, but not hot. She tried to find a pulse on
his throat, but couldn't find one. Then she laid her ear down on his chest.
No sounds. His chest did neither lift, nor come down. Now she knew what
Robin was dead.
End of Chapter One
Christmas Carols / Christmas Stories
Advent Calendar2002 / 'Twas the night before Christmas