CHAPTER 4 - THE ARROW REVEALED
Retracing our steps back to the forest, we found it as eerie as it was the day before. It was once again the silence. We never spoke, using our senses instead to hear or see any kind of movement. I gave up using hand signs. Apparently whenever I would tap my nose and indicate to Troy that we should ’tread lightly over the twigs on the ground’, he thought he had something on his nose. It was nerve-wracking, to say the least.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours, we stumbled across a section that may have once passed for a road. Trodden down by years of horses, wagons and people by the dozens, we decided to use this road and travel back the way we came. Suddenly, a high-pitched whistling noise could be heard to our left and by instinct, we dropped to the ground and an arrow was embedded in the tree not too far in front of us. We got up slowly and cautiously stood firm in our spot. We looked around to see where the source was, but the forest was too dense to see anything.
Finally, what seemed like an eternity, a voice rang out, “I say you two! Any fool could have shot you with the amount of racket you make and being in a place you clearly do not fit in! People from these parts are very suspicious of outsiders!”
Looking around to find where the voice was coming from, we strained our eyes to see who was shooting at us. Another high-pitch whistle was heard, and two more arrows found themselves embedded just in front of us: one in front of me, the other behind Troy.
“Hey! Cut it out!” Troy shouted. He sounded quite alarmed. Understandable. We heard laughter from a group of men nearby.
Wait? A group of men? How many were there?
“Show yourself!” Troy yelled.
Then I, being the bravest, shouted, “Yeah! Show yourself, you lily-livered runt!” That was a mistake. No sooner had the words left my mouth, a rustling of leaves and bushes could be heard in front of us. From behind the shrubbery came half a dozen men, dressed in black leggings with knee-high boots and green tunics, tied with a leather belt around their waists. They wore green leaf-shaped hats that had a feather in it.
The arrowhead! The leaf-shaped hat with a feather in it! This was their symbol. And then suddenly, the penny dropped.
From somewhere above, a man nimbly sprinted from branch to branch, then launched himself in the air, landing directly in front of us. Rising to his full height, I looked into his face and saw piercing green eyes and when he fixed them on me, they seemed to dance with amusement.
“I’m going out on a limb here,” I said, raising an eyebrow. “You must be Robin Hood? And these,” gesturing to the men, “are your band of merry men.” They didn’t seem to like the sound of that. Maybe it was a stereotype?
“Robin Hood,” the man mused, stroking his moustache. “Yes. I suppose you could say that. But to be more precise, I am Robin of Locksley!” He took off his hat and bowed. I was almost certain he was mocking us too.
“Yeah? Whatever dude. To us, you were… or should I say for the present moment, are known as ’Robin Hood’. That’s what we were taught in school anyway,” Troy quickly put in.
“I know,” sighed Robin Hood, more to himself than to us, which made myself and Troy look at each other with a ’what did he mean by that?’ expression.
“If my guess is correct,” Troy replied. “Then we must be in Sherwood Forest?”
“That is correct, my good young man!” replied Robin with a grin. “You are in the excellent countryside of Nottingham.”
I thought for a moment, and then asked, “And where is the good Sheriff of Nottingham?” Robin looked at me as though I had just hit him. I did of course, in words though, not with my fists. His grin was beginning to irritate me.
“That vile creature has already been dealt with,” answered Robin. “But every time a villain is taken down, another one rises. It is a vicious cycle. But one must have the courage to face these kinds of threats when no one else will,” Robin answered.
Troy seemed troubled. “But, if the Sheriff of Nottingham had been taken care of, then why are we here?”
“Why indeed?! That is easy. England is in peril. I do not have the resources to save her,” replied Robin.
“What?” I sounded louder than I meant to. “You took down the Sheriff and his men - according to the tales - so how is it that you cannot take down this new threat?”
“Also,” Troy cut in before I could add anything else, “what kind of peril are we talking about?”
Robin walked over and yanked out the arrows with extreme ease. I looked at Troy with a smirk, but he ignored me.
“The sorcery kind. One that arrows and ‘stealing from the rich to give to the poor’ cannot save any of us now.” Robin seemed deeply troubled when he mentioned this.
“Could you be more specific?” I asked. Robin thought for a moment, then he must have realised I asked him a question because he looked up and saw our faces, anxious to hear more. He shook his head.
“You will need to travel to Cornwall,” Robin said.
“Yes, that answered my question,” I said sarcastically. Either Robin pretended not to hear me, or sarcasm wasn’t invented yet. “Troy asked you for more details.”
“It is not up to me to explain all of the specifics of what is happening. I must stay here and look after the people of Nottingham,” replied Robin. “You must head south and pass through Coventry, take passage on the River Sherbourne and sail towards Cornwall. An old friend of mine will meet you and answer all your questions. I will help where I can. You have my word.”
Before we could answer him, he led us out of Sherwood Forest and pointed with his arrow in the direction we need to travel.
“Before we go, I have a question,” Troy was looking at Robin Hood with admiration.
“If it is within my power to answer, then I shall,” was his reply.
“I couldn’t help but pick up from your conversation earlier that you somehow knew about us. How?” Robin Hood flipped his arrow back into his quiver. His men came to join him and stood at a respectable distance from us. Or maybe they also had bad experiences with Robin Hood’s arrows.
“There is much you do not know, even if you think you had read all about it in your history books. I was once in grave peril with the sheriff, but two others, like yourselves, came to my aid… and I prevailed.”