So, I’ve finally typed up some of my Robin Hood story! Enjoy this little tidbit!
The walls of Locksley rose on the horizon and Robin suddenly felt his insides quaver uncertainly, as they had when he had done something wrong as a boy. He scolded himself. For shame, Robin. Worrying about returning to your own home. He quickened his pace, his feet raising puffs of dust on the road as he neared the village outskirts. His breath caught when he saw the mill and the livery as he walked to the center of the village where the well was. It was just as it had been when he left: women and girls stood in groups conversing with one another. A few turned to stare at him with mild curiosity and – he noted, that uncertain feeling again rising in his stomach – apprehension. I must look a scoundrel, he thought, self-consciously rubbing his jawline, feeling the stubble growing there. Mother will hardly recognize me. And…Marian. Would she recognize me? The first thing he needed was a shave, he decided. That and some of his mother’s honey bannocks. He came at last to the gates where he was halted by two guards.
Robin smiled carelessly. “Robert of Locksley, back from the north.” His smile faded as the men’s expressions went blank. He tried again. “I’m here to see my mother, Lady Royse.”
“You’d be the lord’s son, then?” Robin glanced at the guard who spoke – he was certain he had never seen him before, for this youth looked no older than he.
“That’d be me, yes.”
The guards shifted their feet and the older man stepped forward. “Master Robin, there’s something you don’t know. Lady Royse – died – nearly a year ago.” He looked down at his feet.
“What?” There was a tense, uncomfortable silence as Robin registered the meaning of these words. “You must be mistaken,” he said finally, rubbing his neck where the thrall ring had chafed him. “My mother was in perfect health when I left – ” he stopped, realizing a lot could happen in the time he had been gone.
“She took a fever and was ailing for several months before she died.” The man did not appear grieved, but spoke matter-of-factly about the death of Robin’s mother.
“Then…I will see Lord Robert.” It felt odd to call his father ‘Lord.’
“Lord Robert is not here; he has not been seen since he left with you – if you truly are young master Robin.”
“I am Robert, son of Earl Robert, which means I am Earl in my father’s absence.” He, Robin, Earl of Huntington!
The younger guard spoke now. “You would have to see the Sheriff about that – he assigned one of his men to manage the estate.” He shrugged apologetically, but his face conveyed boredom and insolence.
So they aren’t going to let me in, Robin thought, spirits sinking. “I…I will,” he said finally, turning away from the gate, but not before he cast a long, yearning glance at the battlements. Locked out of my own hall, he brooded. The thought was absurd, and almost made him smile.
His feet found their way to the inn; then paused. Would Hob still be there? Would he remember him? He hesitated, then pushed the door open.
Everyone inside looked up as he entered, expression ranging from simply curious to fearful. Seeing the lone young man, they relaxed and turned back to their drinks.
Robin’s eyes scanned the room for Hob, heart racing as he did not find him. Then the sturdy innkeeper appeared from the kitchen, carrying several bowls of stew.
Robin almost yelled the innkeeper’s name, but shut his mouth firmly, sitting at the counter where he knew Hob would return. And return Hob did. He did not look at Robin as he queried, “What can I get for you, young master?”
Appalled, Robin leaned forward over the counter. “Hob! It’s me!” This got the innkeeper’s attention, and he met Robin’s gaze, eyebrows nearly touching as he struggled to remember the bedraggled youth who was leaning so earnestly over his counter. Then his eyebrows shot up.
“Mother of God! Robin! Master Robin!” Even in his surprise, Hob kept his voice at a tone that would not disturb the few patrons from their meals. Robin felt Hob’s large, calloused hands cup around his face. “It is you! By Saint Lawrence, where have you been these years?” The innkeeper embraced Robin over the counter, pounding the young man on the back before he drew away.
Robin had only smiled wearily until this point, but at Hob’s question, all his fatigue and hunger nearly swept him over. “Where have I been?” he repeated softly. “Well, Hob, I could tell you better over a bowl of stew and some ale.”
The innkeeper’s skilled eye ran over the youth’s thin frame and shadowed eyes. “Aye, I suppose you could.” He quickly turned to a barrel and turned back again with a mug of ale. “Waes hael, Master Robin,” he said, pushing a bowl of stew to the ravenous young man.
Robin’s stomach groaned at this delay to his meal, but he lifted his mug and answered, “Drink hael,” as his father had taught him before he began to devour the stew. After a moment he stopped, the spoon halfway to his mouth. “Hob, when does the sheriff hold the council of nobles? I need to ask him about Locksley.”
“You’ve heard about your mother, then?” Hob asked sympathetically.
“Aye. They told me it was a fever. Was anyone with her?”
“Some of her maids, I think,” Hob answered after reflecting for a moment. “She was not in pain when she died.”
Robin continued to shovel the stew into his mouth. It was hot – he nearly burned his tongue – but it was hearty and flavorful, and he was hungry. “I need a room for a few nights until I can talk to the sheriff about my manor.”
“They wouldn’t let you stay in your own manor?” Hob’s think eyebrows rose in surprise.
“No. They said that the sheriff had given it to one of his men.”
Hob frowned. “Aye, he put it in the care of his right hand, who gave it to his man Gisborne.”
Noting the way Hob’s lip curled, Robin asked, “You do not think highly of this Gisborne?”
Glancing around, Hob answered, “Not so much Gisborne, but D’arcy.”
“D’arcy?” Robin looked up from his stew. “Not Marian’s father?”
“Na, lad, it ‘ud be her grandfather. The sheriff hired him some time after you left.”
“I can’t imagine he could be too bad,” Robin attempted a grin.
With a snort, Hob rejoined, “You must have a small imagination, lad. When he comes collecting, it’s as if the devil’s at your door.”
Thinking back to his early childhood, Robin could only remember Marian’s grandfather as an old, unpleasant man, not the devil incarnate, as Hob described him. True, Robin had always striven to avoid the old man, but he did seem capable of being cruel. “It can’t go on forever,” he commented, still trying to make light of the situation. “The man must be eighty years old! He’ll have to die sometime.” He lowered his voice as Hob glanced around like a cornered deer.
“Don’t talk so,” the innkeeper murmured fervently. “That’s as good as treason, it is.”
“Phh!” Robin waved a hand in the air. “Hob, you act as if there were spies about!” Noticing the somewhat pained look on the innkeeper’s face, he stopped. “There are spies, aren’t there?” he finished sheepishly.
Hob nodded. “Folk who have no money often earn their living by tale-bearing. I’d wager that many you knew before would be glad to tell your words to the sheriff for a few coins.”
Robin ran his fingers through his forelock, which had grown unkempt. How could so much have changed in the time he had been gone? He moved his spoon around the bowl, only to find it empty. With a sigh, he looked up. “I’d like to see about that room now.”