Allen was about to die.
He sat in his favourite chair, looking across to the empty chair. A space that would never be filled again.
Time became an odd thing. It could have stretched on for eternity or raced by in an instance. Allen simply sat, staring out into nothingness.
Finally, he heard the sound of hoofbeats, pounding upon a distant trail. They were coming.
He sat still, waiting.
The sound of a chain turning informed him that the portcullis was being raised.
He stood, wishing to face his death with dignity as the clear sound of footsteps grew nearer and nearer.
And finally, the door crashed open and a single figure entered, dark green hood pulled over, cloaking his face in shadow. A large longbow was in his hand with an arrow nocked and pointed at the ready. “I trust that I need no introduction.”
“Robin Hood,” Allen said, breathing out the words.
Even through the shadow, Allen could tell that the man smiled. “I seek the Sheriff of Nottingham,” he said loudly. It was obvious that this was a man who was used to being obeyed. This made it all the more grand when Allen simply laughed. And continued to laugh. He found that he could not help himself.
“I’m sorry,” he sputtered between his laughter. “But…” He was unable to finish as he laughed on.
“You dare defy me?” Robin said, with more surprise than anger.
Allen sunk back into the chair, chuckling behind his hand.
“Robin!” The door was pushed open once more and three more men entered. “Is everything alright?” the largest one grunted, looking at the odd scene.
“Yes…” Robin said with uncertainty. “This man is obviously mad,” he said under his breath. Allen heard him but cared not.
“That is Lord Allen,” another said, looking him up and down. “Son of the Sheriff.”
The third approached Allen, sword at the ready. “So I suggest that he begin talking. Tell us where we can find your Father!”
“Oh well you’re a little late for that,” Allen said pleasantly. “You see; he was killed— a few hours ago.”
No one believed him. The man leapt forward, placing the sword tip to Allen’s throat. “Speak you dog!”
Allen looked up to his attacker with mild interest. He recognised the man from the many wanted posters that scattered the walls of Nottingham. His skin was sun tanned, obviously from past work in the fields. His dark hair was tied back. The main thing of notice was the large scar that ran along the left side of his face. It began at his hairline, running through his brow, just missing his eye and jutting down his dark cheek. “Will Scarlet,” Allen said in recognition.
Will responded by drawing the sword closer. “Congratulations. Now answer the question.”
“He may not know anything,” the large man said doubtfully. Allen knew who he was simply by his size – as he stood feet above the others - alongside his shaggy brown hair and beard. “Little John.”
“Is this your way of stalling?” the third man said. “And if so, I suppose you are going to inform me own my own name next.”
Allen studied the man. His most prominent feature was his red hair. But behind that he was still a well-built man with dark eyes that informed Allen of danger. “Red Roger,” he said with a small smile.
Little John snickered slightly as Roger scowled. “Roger will do fine,” he said, scratching at his hair forcefully, obviously hating it.
“Hasn’t this been a wonderful game of introductions?” Robin said as he drew his bow. “Now it’s your turn. Take us to your Father.”
Allen held up his hands. “As I told you, he died. What more can I say?”
They were interrupted by the familiar sound of hoofbeats. Only this time, it was louder. There were a considerable amount of horses approaching. Far more than there had been before.
“This is a set up!” Will yelled. Pressing his sword closer still.
Allen could feel blood beginning to trickle down his neck. “I already told you! My Father is dead! And unless you want to join him, I suggest you run.”
“We run from no one,” Robin said firmly.
“Well if you sought a Sheriff, I would say that you are about to be reprieved. I imagine that the new Sheriff accompanies these men as they come to finish the job. They killed my Father and now they come to kill me so I keep my silence.”
Will dragged Allen with him as he turned to the window, gazing down at the courtyard bellow. Suddenly Allen found himself stumbling as Will released him with a gasp. “It’s him!’ Will said with fury. “The man who killed my Father!”
Allen glimpsed down. “Mine too,” he said quietly.
Robin drew his sword. “Well, men. Shall we go and give them an appropriate greeting?”
They all smiled darkly. “Don’t think that we have forgotten about you,” Robin said as he turned. Allen knew that those were not just words.
It was a promise.
Roger ran a little behind his comrades as they descended the great staircase. “Do you think he was telling the truth?”
“Who?” Robin asked, stopping suddenly as he decided he was in prime placement. All his focus went to positioning the arrow in his hand.
Roger rolled his eyes. “Do you ever pay attention?” All he gained was an eye roll as Robin tested the strength of the arrow. “So what is the plan exactly?”
Robin just shrugged. Roger and John looked to each other with slight worry.
“We kill him,” Will snarled.
The worry on John and Roger only grew. “Are you mad?” John said. “We can’t just kill a Sheriff.”
“He deserves no less,” Will said darkly, slowly drawing forth his sword.
Roger knew that there was only one man Will would listen to. “Robin, aren’t you going to stop him?”
One again, in an infuriating fashion, Robin simply shrugged. “One dead Sheriff is no great loss to us.”
Roger and John looked to each other once again as the other two men snuck away, ready for the great doors to be opened. “Do you think we made a mistake?” John asked quietly, ensuring that he was no over heard.
Roger did not answer straight away. “This is above us. Just follow orders.”
John shook his head but drew his sword.
Meanwhile, Robin had grown tired of waiting and had burst the great doors open himself. He was met with the sight of one man, surrounded by ten armoured guards. “Is that all?” he said with a chuckle.
The man turned to face him. He was tall and broad and despite his age, he looked dangerous. There was cruelty behind his eyes as he slowly took in the sight of the hooded stranger. “Hood,” he said calmly, with the complete absence of fear. “It seems that at last we meet.”
“You will be the new Sheriff I presume,” Robin said. “What happened to Lord Dale? I was under the impression that his bid had been met for control of Nottingham.”
The Sheriff smiled darkly. “Well it would seem that Prince John and Dale had a disagreement. They had different views on taxes. Dale thought that our sovereign was being unjust. His punishment put him in place.”
“It’s a shame,” Robin said. “I quite liked him. You however…”
The Sheriff sighed. “Am I sensing that you and I are to be enemies, Hood?”
Robin responded by charging forward, ready to attack. His men followed suit and they met the guards with a mighty clash of swords. It was mere moments before blood began to spatter forth as guard after guard met a bloody demise. Robin’s skill was clear as he slashed around with a mad reckoning. He did not see faces, only obstacles. The others showed skill as well, but this was alongside a reluctance to kill. This near proved fatal as one guard feigned defeat, falling to the cobbled stones. Once he was still, Roger turned away. And this was when the man rose to deliver a fatal strike. Robin was there in an instant, slicing at the man’s neck. His blow was not strong and the head did not come away cleanly. Blood gushed forward and covered the bodies nearest to it as well the victim.
In all of the madness, the Sheriff had mounted his horse, urgently steering it toward the raised portcullis. “No!” Will roared, racing after him, despite his comrade’s yells. He leapt astride a horse tethered nearby, slashing at its bridle. It mattered not, the battle was won. The loss of one man did not hurt their odds as Robin stabbed his sword deeply into the final man.
“You killed again,” Roger said into the silence.
Robin groaned, rolling his eyes. “Well observed,” he said as he pulled hard to free his sword from the corpse.
“These men were just following orders,” John said, looking to one of the bodies. He was still practically a boy.
“Would you have preferred that we were the ones lying there?” Robin said coldly, wiping his sword on the tunic of one of the dead. “I did what was necessary.”
“I was just—“ Roger began but Robin cut him off.
“Who is in charge here? I am your leader and so you shall obey me! I am sick of you judging my orders. I am the hero of England! Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor! Nottingham needs me. Not you! You are just here to support me in numbers.”
Roger and John were silent.
“And another thing—”
Suddenly the air was full of the sound of an arrow flying free. Roger looked down to himself. He was clear. Looking to John, he saw that he too was safe.
And then Robin fell. And Roger saw the arrow protruding from his right shoulder. “Get them!” Robin choked out.
But before Roger could reach for his bow, another arrow was flying free. This one landed in the back of Robin’s leg. He howled in pain.
Roger nocked an arrow, sending it off to meet the archer standing at the entrance. But not before the archer had sent free one final arrow.
This one went flying straight through Robin’s neck.
Roger stood very still as John slowly sunk down to inspect their leader. All the while, he desperately prayed that it was all a mistake.
But there was no denying it.
Robin Hood was dead.
John sighed, looking up to Roger to confirm. “He’s gone,” he said quietly.
And for a moment, there was a horrid silence as the fact sunk in. He truly was gone.
Roger rubbed at his temple. “Bloody hell,” he muttered.
“It's inconvenient. That's for sure,” John said with another sigh as he heaved the body up slightly. Despite his considerable size, John struggled slightly. Robin had been a well built man, with a large stocky frame that struck fear into the heart of all enemy. At least, it used to.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Roger asked in confusion.
John used the tip of his sword to free the man’s quiver. “No sense wasting decent arrows.”
“Your grief overwhelms me,” Roger said.
“Because you are so overcome yourself?” John said with a chuckle. “Come off it. You hated the little blighter as much as I did.”
“Be that as it may, we still needed him. What are we to do now?”
John sighed deeply. “First things first. We find Will.”
“I was thinking more in the broader sense.”
John sighed. He knew full what to what his friend was referring. But he feared that he did not have an answer.
John eased Robin’s sword from his bloodied hand. It was a fine blade. Suitable for a hero. Now it was just a bloodied mess. He raised it instantly at the sound of footsteps. But it was only Will, returning in anger. His face reflected the defeat. It only worsened when he saw the body. “Robin’s dead?” he said in shock. The shock was quickly replaced by a shrug. “Can I have his sword?”
“Has no one heard of respect for the dead?” Roger asked in exasperation. John and Will were too busy divvying out the arrows to notice.
Will eventually shrugged. “He was alright, I guess. Not much of a leader. If it hadn’t been for his skill with a blade, we wouldn’t have needed him. And in complete honesty, I was better with a bow than him.”
“So do you want to lead us then?” Roger asked angrily. “We all need to focus.”
“And you need to calm down,” John said soothingly.
“And you need to stop telling me what to do!”
All John had to do was raise his cudgel and Roger was silent. John could be a terrifying sight when he wanted to be. “Now listen here. We came tonight to seek an alliance with the new Sheriff. Unfortunately, we were too late and he is dead. But we still got what we came for. We came to see if the Sheriff was to be a friend or foe. And needless to say, we have made an enemy. Now, I suggest we rummage around, take any valuables and be on our way.”
Allen had watched from behind a pillar and at the mention of his Father’s possession, his anger boiled over. He knew that he stood no chance against three men whilst he stood alone. And maybe that is what spurred him on. The thought of a welcome death. He came out from his hiding place, walking slowly toward them. He stooped slightly to draw up a sword from a fallen guard and stood to face them.
They turned in surprise, swords also drawn. Will laughed coldly. “Put it down,” he said darkly.
But Allen refused, he only raised it higher.
John looked to him with a hint of sadness. “Don’t be a fool.”
Roger raised an arm, blocking Will in place. “How much do you think he would seek for a ransom?”
“Did you not see those men?” Allen asked, speaking as if he faced a child. “They were here to kill me. I thoroughly doubt that I have many friends at court.”
Roger studied him. “You want to die, don’t you?”
Allen stood still. “I want you to fight me.”
“John, tie him up. We will take him back to Sherwood and decide what to do from there.”
Allen backed away, pointing his sword. But John dove forward with surprising speed. His cudgel knocked Allen’s sword away and he gripped him an unbelievably tight grasp. Will ran off to collect the nearest three horses that the Sheriff had left behind and smiled in victory as John tied a long piece of rope around Allen’s hands. This rope was then tied to the back of a saddle. Allen realised that it was their intention to drag him.
“Stop!” A voice rang out through the courtyard. Allen turned to see his best friend, Robert had caught up with him. He had seemingly snuck though his secret entrance and cut through the manor. He now stood on the opposite side of the courtyard to their horses and could clearly not make it in time.
“Let’s go!’ Roger called to the others, quickly mounting his horse.
“Whatever happened to never running from a fight?” Will grumbled as he did the same.
“Robin died, that’s what,” Roger called back, already spurring his horse into a gallop. The sudden surprise took Allen by surprise as he was instantly swept off his feet and meet the ground with a burst of pain.
Robert stopped once he descended the staircase, pulling forth his bow. He raised it and felt all worries escape his mind. With one breath he released an arrow. It went soaring across the courtyard but did not head toward any of the outlaws. Instead, it flew toward the portcullis, or more specifically, the pin that the chain in place. Once the arrow was free, the man was clear to worry.
But the arrow flew true and hit his target with just enough strength to nudge the pin. It loosened enough that the gate came tumbling down, causing Roger to heave upon his reigns, else be flattened. His horse reared and he tumbled free. The other two were forced to also heave their horses to a stop and clasp on for dear life. Roger quickly rose to his feet, turning to face his attacker.
Robert flung his bow aside, running forward to meet the outlaws with a sword in his hand. When he reached them, he stood staunch, sword held in a tight grip. “Let my friend go,” he said darkly.
But all Roger could do was smile. “Who are you?”
"Let me friend go!" he said again, with force.
Roger continued to grin. "Your name?"
The man was unsettled as he expected the other to attack any moment. “Robert,” he finally said.
Roger’s eyes lit up. “It’s not such a stretch.” He looked back to the other outlaws who looked blank. “Oh come on. Tell me that you are not thinking the exact same thing.”
Robert was unnerved by their lack of action. “Unhand him now!”
“Oh fair enough,” Roger said pleasantly, drawing his sword.
Allen squeezed his eyes closed but did not feel the expected pain. Instead, he felt his bindings turn loose. He had cut the bindings. He did not wait for him to change his mind, running instantly to Robert and feeling suddenly safe.
Roger continued to look at Robert in an odd fashion. “Do you ever feel that you are living a wasted life?”
Robert remained staunch. “I am quite content.”
“Well you shouldn’t be.”
“And? What is your point? Since when do villains like yourself care about my life decisions?”
“Villains? I can assure you, we are no villains. Sit down Robin, we clearly have some explaining to do.”
“My name is Robert.”
Roger smiled. As did the others. “Not anymore.”