Bittersweet Destiny

Chapter 14

To say that King Leopold was ecstatic when he heard the news would underrate his emotional state. Euphoria wouldn't even start defining it either. He wanted to scream of happiness, and jump throughout the castle, and gift beer to everyone in his kingdom. He hadn't been this excited when his daughter was born, not even when he married the love of his life - he had been happy on those occasions, that is true; but nothing could ever compare to having Robin Hood as his prisoner.

Robin Hood. The man who had the nerve to steal from him: not only money, but also his wife. The man who had dared to give hope to the peasants. The man who opposed the biggest threat to his kingdom. Robin Hood as a person, remained a mystery to the King, a mystery he didn't want to unravel. Leopold didn't care about Robin's past or what had made him become the thief that he was today. No, the King only cared about showing to the people what happened when someone challenged the Monarch in charge: they were tortured and then, annihilated.

The King pushed the Throne Hall's doors open, not waiting for the guards to open them for him as the protocol stated. Inside the Hall there were four men dressed in the King's men armour, two of them Leopold had never seen - but the King noticed that they bore yellow bands around their right arms, which meant they had just finished their training and became knights. And the other two soldiers, named Watson and Trevor, were two of Leopold's most trusted soldiers and the men in charge of Robin's capture.

"Your Majesty," Watson said and he and the three soldiers kneeled in front of their King. Robin, however, stayed in a standing position.

Leopold looked at him, no emotions showing in his face, "Kneel before your King, thief," he said.

It had been the same name that Regina had used to called him during their first days together, but not even when they first met the Queen had managed to say the word with so much hate and vernon. "I'll be damned before I kneel in front of you, Leopold," Robin stated, holding his ground.

Blood went to the King's face, his pale face turned red and his stoic emotions were replaced by raging ones. But before Leopold could say something, Trevor hit the prisoner and yelled "You will address to the King with respect, thief,"

Leopold watched the scene with a glimmer of happiness in his eyes. He had always enjoyed when his men took control over a situation regarding a rebel, it made him realize that he didn't have to control everything all the time.

"The King!" Robin laughed like a maniac, "The King has done nothing to earn my respect, and I will not treat him with such," the Thief added with a deadpan voice tone. He knew he had to be extra careful and not to show his feelings towards Regina. That would only decrease their chances of getting out of the Castle alive, and right now, their chances were already too slim.

"I said," Trevor emphasized each word, "Kneel before your King," he then slashed Robin's lower shin, cutting the tendon. Robin did not scream in pain, he simply fell to the ground without making any sound.

"He's not my King," Robin, stubborn as ever, stood up and put all his weight into his healthy leg. But this effort was for nothing, because the soldier cut right above his other ankle and Robin fell on both of his knees, in front of the man wearing the crown and a shit-eating grin.

"That's more like it," Leopold fought to suppress a giggle.

Robin stayed in silence. His hands were tied behind his back and his shins were slashed, his blood smeared over the floor. But even in that state, the thief held his face up, he will not lose his honor. Not in front of this king. Around them a small crowd constituted from people who worked at the castle had mustered to watch the downfall of the legendary Robin Hood.

"The thief was caught by two of our freshmen," Watson explained, "Robinson and Hoodwin said they stumbled upon Robin while they were on their forest patrol and brought him directly to Your presence, your Majesty,"

"Impressive," Leopold said loudly, "That two freshmen could achieve something that none of my loyal guards could do!"

Impressive, indeed, Robin thought as he looked the two men that had brought him into the Castle, who were really no soldiers but Will Scarlett and Arthur Treimane dressed in the armours that they had stolen from two knights. Two knights who were roaming, in fact doing their forest patrol, and were now tied to a tree at the Merry Camp. Robinson and Hoodwin, it seemed like Will and Arthur had really no imagination when it came to inventing names for their covers.

Hadn't the King been so blind by his hate towards Robin, he would have noticed that something about the two men was not alright. He would had seen through this charade. Specially after Will winked at Robin, and elbowed Arthur. Robin shook his head, he couldn't believe that everyone had bought their story. He had been so sure they were doomed to failing when Will Scarlet came up with his; alas, in the absence of a better plan, they had agreed on going along with Will's crazy idea.

"I shall throw a ball on your honor, men," the King continued his speech, talking to anyone but to the two men who had brought Robin in. "And now," Leopold said, looking at Robin, "What should I do with you?"

The King looked at the Thief and Robin held his gaze. None of them wanting to look away - it was a matter of pride. Leopold wanted to break Robin, to show the peasants that their hero was made of bone and flesh, and that he was not match to a king. But what the King didn't know, was that this was not the first time that a monarch had tried to break in the Prince of Thieves. It wasn't the first time that Robin had wounded a king's pride due to his impeccable morals. And that Robin's mind was set on the finish line, just like last time: he would survive.

It was the King who broke the eye contact first, not to grand Robin with the victory from their staring contest, but to yell the crowd of knights and servants who had gathered around them his verdict and Robin's fate.

"By the power invested in my by the higher Gods, I condemn you, Robin Hood to be hung, drawn and quartered,"

The servants gasped in horror at the sentence, no one ever received that death, not even the most notable traitors. They might be uneducated, but they were sure about one thing: there was nothing fair about Robin Hood's trial and his death would only flare up their yearning for freedom and a change.

"Robinson, Hoodwin: take him to the dungeons," Leopold ordered to Will and Arthur, who nodded and grabbed Robin, each hooking one hand under Robin's armpits. "You'll keep watch on him until tomorrow,"

After nodding once again, Will and Arthur pulled Robin out from the Throne Hall room, his slashed ankles leaving a trail of blood as he was dragged away. And just as he thought his torture was over, Robin raised his face and his eyes met with Regina's. His heart stopped, as if it had forgotten how to beat. The Queen looked defeated and downhearted, she was just a ghost of the woman with whom Robin had spent that last night they had together.

Regina looked just as she had looked when they had met for the first time, when he had kidnapped: she looked like a walking corpse. Alive but not living.

Robin tried to stand on his feet to ease her pain, to show her that the situation was not that bad as she thought. But he couldn't, not because Will and Arthur were dragging him rashly, but because he couldn't control his feet: the cut had been too deep. The Thief looked at the Queen and tried to mend the pain she was suffering from with a silent message, with an invisible kiss; but Regina's sight dropped to the floor and she fled the scene, followed closely behind by a little girl, who Robin presumed, was Snow White.

He should have felt optimistic, he knew this was all part of the plan. But, as he was dragged into the dungeons, he couldn't help but to feel hopeless.

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