When Robin woke up he immediately felt that something was wrong. Not only because Regina was nowhere to be seen, but because he had a pressure around his heart. He felt like something bad had, or was going to, happen; call it premonition or sixth sense. He needed to find Regina, he needed to be reassured that she was alright.
The Prince of Thieves looked everywhere, practically wrecking the Merry Camp as he did. He looked in every corner and hideaway, but he did not even find a slight evidence that Regina had ever lived in the camp for the past days. It was as if she had disappeared into thin air, all her things with her. Even the flower crown that Robin had once made for her was missing.
As time passed, he felt his heart getting heavier and his hopes leave him; but his mind would not accept that Regina was gone, that she had left the camp - she had left him.
Around noon Robin saw Will Scarlet walking into the camp, pulling two horses by their reins. One if the horses was his own horse, Robin noted. What was Will doing with his horse? And suddenly it all made sense: Regina and Will's silent conversation last night, Regina's confession, Regina's disappearance and Will bringing two horses into the camp.
It was then, that Robin lost it. He launched himself towards Will, who hadn't been expecting the attack and lost his equilibrium. Both men fell to the ground and Robin rolled over Will. The leader grabbed the other man's shirt neck and shook him aggressively, while he yelled "Where is Regina? Where is she?" repeatedly.
Will didn't defend himself, he was not even trying to push Robin off or run away, it was almost as if he thought that he was getting what he deserved - maybe he did. Robin's shouts alerted all the other Merry Men, who gathered around the two men fighting, but no one tried to break the fight. Not until blood was drawn: Robin had broken Will's lip.
Holding Robin away from the other thief, the Merry Men decided to ask Will the same question Robin had been yelling for over ten minutes now. "Where is Regina, Will?" Little John asked, in a calmer tone than Robin, placing a hand over Will's shoulder.
Will shook Little John's hand away and cleaned his mouth with one of his hands as looked at his fellows, they were all waiting for his answer. He breathed in and he said those words that Robin had feared to hear from the moment he woke up, "At King's Leopold's castle," the merry men started whispering among them at Will's confession. They definitely didn't expect this and they were taken back by the statement.
But not Robin, those words had only made him see red. He shook off the men they were holding him back and launched against Will.
"Why?!" he yelled holding Will by his shirt's neck, and bringing him closer "Why did you do it? Was it because of the money?" the prince of thieves asked, "Was our paycheck not enough?"
"No!" Will screamed, louder than Robin, "I did not take her to claim the money! I did it because she asked me to!"
"I don't believe you!" Robin snapped, "You are lying! What have you done to her?"
"I am not lying!" the Merry Man defended himself, "She asked me to take her so she could save your life,"
Robin let Will go, pushing him backwards, "I don't believe you," he repeated.
Will tripped against a rock and fell to the ground. "She said you wouldn't," he said as he stood up and cleaned his clothes "That's why she wrote this for you," the bleeding thief added, taking a sealed letter out from his jacket.
Without thinking it twice, Robin snatched the letter and opened it quickly. He had never seen Regina's handwrite, but he was sure it was hers. It suited the Queen; it was elegant and glamorous without being ostentatious. Robin caressed the handwrite with his fingertips, trying to feel Regina's emotions, but he did not - after all, it was just a paper.
He proceeded to read what Regina had written.
My dear Robin,
My mother once told me that love is weakness, but now I know that she could not be more wrong. Because I love you; without knowing how or when it started, without knowing how could I love so deeply someone who I have not know for a long time, but I am certain that I will love you until I draw my last breath. And it is our love that gives me strength and the courage to do what I did.
It aches me to know we'll never meet again, that I'll never feel the security your arms provide or the peace your eyes give. You are everything to me - I seem to breathe you, hear you, and feel you in every inch of my body; but I can not imagine a world without you. And that is why I need to return to the King, because I know he will not let you walk out of the castle, and I can not bare the thought of him killing you - he has already taken too much from me, I can not let him take you away, too!
You have the sweetest and most loving soul I have ever known. You give so much and you never ask for anything in return. You have the heart of a true hero and it must be protected from those who want to abuse the people. That is the reason why I'm returning to the Castle. I know you will not understand at first, but you have to believe me when I say it is the only way Leopold will forgive your trespasses.
I love you, Robin, because I know no other way.
At the end of the paper, Regina had written a last sentence for him. A proof that she knew him better than anyone, and at the same time didn't know him at all. It said: 'Robin, I beg of you: do not come to my rescue, do not come to challenge the King, do not come to be a hero. This is goodbye, and I have made peace with my destiny. It is time you make peace with yours too.'
He wouldn't. He wouldn't accept his destiny, Robin of Locksley fought for his destiny. And Regina was his destiny.
Robin stood on a wood log "Men," he shouted in a leader's voice tone.
The merry men, who after the fight had returned to their daily chores or archery practice, stopped doing what they were doing and turned their attention to Robin.
"What I am about to ask you, I won't ask you as Robin Hood, the prince of Thieves, but as Robin of Locksley, a man who found the biggest treasure that there is to find in this life only to lose it: love," Robin's tone changed to a softer one "Yes, I stole her from another man, and now I'm selfish enough to want her back," he said "I understand if you don't want to join me in this adventure, but I beg of you: do not judge me," he shifted his body weight on his legs before continuing, "You see, Regina is not just a woman to me, she has become the air I breath, and right now I feel like I'm drowning..."
No one in the camp spoke to cheer their leader, nor to complain about his attitude and wishes either. They remained quiet, waiting for orders to follow, or to disobey.
"I know I am probably walking into a death trap," Robin stated, "I know there are high probabilities that I won't make it out alive. But what is the point of living alone now that I have tasted true love?" he asked his men, and some nodded to his question, "I rather die in love than live alone!" at this point some men cheered, "Men, I'm leaving at sunset, those of you who are foolish enough to follow me are welcome to join this quest," he stated before stepping of the log.
"I'll come with you," Little John said as soon as Robin stopped talking, he stepped out of the crowd and walked towards his leader and best friend. Robin smiled at him and put a hand on Little John's shoulder, he knew his best friend would follow him, even if they went into to Hell to kill the Devil himself.
"Ah, bloody hell! We will all die one way or the other," Will Scarlet commented and took a place next to Little John, gently slapping Robin's back. When he saw Robin arching an eyebrow, he shrugged and said "Someone has to protect you back, mate. And I don't think Little John here is fast enough,"
Robin smiled, even if Will had insulted his best friend, and looked at the rest of the merry men. Some had decided to take their place next to Will and John, some had explained that they had a family and did not wish to set out in a suicide mission - Robin understood them. The only merry man who had a wife and had decided to join him had been Will Scarlet, and Robin appreciated his loyalty.
"Ana is going to kill you, and then me, and then you again," Robin said as he and the man who had agreed to accompany him to the castle walked towards his tent to start with the preparations for their trip.
"Not if the King does first," Will sassed out with a half-smile.
"I don't understand you," Little John commented "You helped Regina get to the castle, and now you are helping to take her back?" his question didn't sound accusatory, the merry man sounded genuinely confused.
"I help those who wish to protect their loved ones," Will shrugged nonchalantly, "She did it to protect Robin, and now Robin is doing it to protect her,"
"I never pictured you as a romantic person, Scarlet," Robin elbowed Will and they both chuckled.
"What can I say? You bring the best out of me, Hood," Will replied, "Now, let's start planning this suicide mission of yours. Unlike you, some of us don't want to meet death sooner than we are destined to,"
"What's the plan? Take Regina and leave?" a Merry Man named Arthur asked.
Robin nodded "And free David, the kid that Leopold imprisoned for carrying my message,"
"Let me see if I've got this clear," Will held one of his hands up "You want us to break into the castle, not only to steal the Queen, but also to take a prisoner, who is a guest of honor in the King's dungeons"
"We really need to start thinking on a plan, mate,"