On the table a candle was set, flickering and dancing. The flame gave forth enough light to see the faces around the table. I sat next to a man who was young and had appearance like myself, Will, by name. Across from him was another man, John, who was tall, bearded, with merry eyes. He held his hand to his forehead with his elbow resting on the table. And directly in front of me was a man with scarlet hair, Martin. His lips were pinched in frustration, as he leant back in his chair with his cloak tightly wrapped about him. Such was Martin’s disposition.
The little girl was lying in a bed of straw and woolen blankets were atop of her. She was sound asleep. Her breathing was soft and her hand clutched at the covers that wrapped about her.
“The little girl is the fifth case in the last three days,” John said.
“Aye, and hers one of the worst, she is the youngest we have found,” replied Will.
The man across from me, Martin, made no sound but stared at the flame waving in the slight breeze caused by our breath.
“She must be in much confusion to not resist me taking her,” said I.
“Did she make any sound?” said Will next to me.
“Nay, no speech came from her lips. As for groan, or sob I heard none while I was carrying her.” There was a pause. I glanced over at the girl.
“See the way she grasps the coverlet. All her pain is in that hold. She was utterly alone in the rolling thunder during night’s darkest hours.”
“That is only to be expected when Prince John continues his unruly, unlawful, reign,” spoke Martin suddenly.
“Yea, but still does it come as a shock for me, Martin. For when the young are treated so it is by men who possess unfeeling and bitter hearts and these men still cause me unbelief,” I said.
John nodded gently and breathed deep. “My watch begins now, Robin. The forest is to be guarded no less in the rain.” He stood up and took his cloak that was hanging to dry on a peg driven into the wall and cast it over himself. Quietly he opened the door and left the small group.
“John is not alone is his watch tonight,” said Will, “he guards the northern boarders of Shurewood, I guard the west.” I nodded, and he stood and left the room, casting his brown hood over his face.
Across from me, Martin continued to stare at the candle light. The rain pounded on the tree-trunk roof and the river could be heard rushing at full speed a mile off.
“My duty is before me, I delay it,” said he.
“And in delaying the arrows grow the duller.”
“Aye,” he said as and stood up, and took his bow from the wall beside him. “Expect me at dawn three days hence, Robin.”
“I will my friend.” Martin then closed the door softly behind him and not even I could hear his footsteps leading away from that cabin.
A short conversion was thus, for many duties did the outlaws of Shurewood have. Talk was sparse and guard around Shurewood was dense. I was alone in the cabin now and I sat in silence. Suddenly I remembered the reason for my journey in the rain. I put my hand to my chest and drew forth a small leather pouch. It bore no symbol or decorative device. I untied the leather strings that bound the pouch together and I took out a small, wrinkled piece of paper. Neat handwriting in brown ink was inscribed on it, and I read it quickly. My brows furrowed.
“Guy’s doing, nonetheless,” I whispered to myself. Crumpling the piece of paper, I threw it into the nearby fire.