A Tail of Sherwood, Chapter Three: The Proposal

Fiction By LoriAnn // 1/23/2011

Father told me to expect guests that afternoon, but he didn’t tell me exactly who to expect. And he certainly didn’t tell me to expect an irate nobleman from London—though, admittedly, Father probably didn’t expect him to be irate.

Sitting at the dinner table that night, I toyed with my salad fork and listened to Duke Jacque Chantille rant about his horrible journey here. The roads were bad to start with, he told us, and the weather was abominable; the coach was stuffy, the horses slow, the coachman lazy…and to top it all off, he had been attacked by vicious brigands a mere three leagues from Nottingham!
 
My ears pricked at this.
 
“Brigands, sir?” I asked, trying to sound as if I weren’t overly interested and merely making polite conversation.
 
“Of the worst sort, madam,” Duke Chantille nodded decisively. “Eight of them swarmed out of the forest and attacked my entourage. They brought us to a halt, right there on the road, and demanded that we hand over our valuables if we valued our lives.”
 
“How dreadful!” I exclaimed. “What were they like?”
 
“The brigands?” Duke Chantille’s graying fur bristled. “Scruffy and uncouth,” he answered. “All dressed in green and brown to better hide in the trees, and armed to the teeth!”
 
I gave a delicate shudder. “You must have been terrified,” I said.
 
My father, at the head of the table, gave a start and blinked blearily. I gave a silent sigh—he must have fallen asleep for a moment. Again. My father was getting on in years, and his memory was about as poor as his health. These days, I was lucky if he could even stay awake through an entire meal, let alone entertain guests. As my mother had died years ago, that duty fell to me.
 
“Terrified?” scoffed Duke Chantille, bringing me back to the conversation. “My dear lady, if it hadn’t been that I was concerned for the lives of my retinue, I would have fought the scoundrels on the spot. I’m the best archer in this area of the country, and even better with my crossbow than my longbow.”
 
“That’s the way,” Father said suddenly. “Show them the fist of the law.”
 
“Indeed, Lord Fitzgerald,” Duke Chantille said, with a respectful nod in my father’s direction. I felt a small surge of gratitude toward this squirrel, for not either ignoring Father or treating him like a simple child, as so many did.
 
“I hate to think of brigands so nearby,” I said, trying to steer the conversation back to what I was sure was a story about Robin and his outlaws.
 
“I knew about them in advance,” Duke Chantille admitted. “Sheriff Dudley had sent me warning of a Robin Hood and his band of fellow miscreants. But I had thought that such backwater outlaws would hesitate a bit more before attacking a party as large as ours—and bearing Prince John’s crest too!”
 
Knowing Robin, I thought to myself, that crest may have been the largest reason for his attacking you. If he still hates the Prince as much as he did five years ago, anyway. Aloud, I simply said, “How terrible. Did they take much?”
 
Duke Chantille sipped from his goblet and shook his head. “The fools were content to take the few crowns I had on me, as well as anything my squirrels were carrying. They didn’t think to check the luggage for anything else—though I’m not going to complain too much, as I was carrying an entire chest full of silver plate that I would have sorely missed.”
 
“How is Prince John these days?” Father interjected.
 
The duke answered him cordially, and I let my mind drift as they spoke. I wondered what Robin and his outlaws thought to accomplish by their thievery, except perhaps an early death under the headsman’s axe. I shuddered to think of such things—thievery was a major offense; and highway robbery more so. To have robbed a member of Prince John’s inner circle…If Robin were caught, it would be the executioner’s block for sure.
 
“Don’t you agree, Lady Fitzgerald?”
 
I jumped, embarrassed to have been caught daydreaming. “I’m sorry, my lord,” I said, flushing and glad that my fur hid the heat. “I was distracted. Could you please repeat that?”
 
He smiled indulgently at me. “I simply said that I was glad to be in the countryside as spring approached. The city can be so muddy and filthy as the spring rains pass through.”
 
I nodded. “Yes. I always wished to be back in Nottingham whenever spring came. It’s lovely in this area when the flowers start to bloom and the trees being to leaf out. And with the spring Clearwater Festival approaching…” I shrugged. “It may be silly, but it seems so sweet when I see the lads and maids in the village pairing up for the fair. They’re shy.”
 
“Spring is the time for romance, they say,” he said, with a sage nod of his head. “Are you courting anyone at the moment, Lady Marian?”
 
For some reason, Robin’s face faded through my mind, but I shook my head. “No sir. I have not the time for courting—besides, I’ve only been here a fortnight.”
 
“Well, you’re young yet,” Duke Chantille smiled.
 
As we got up from the dinner table, I had a sudden, disturbing notion. He wasn’t here with a marriage in mind, was he? Indeed, I had a sizable dowry from Father, but…Surely the duke was too rich to be interested in what was a paltry sum when compared to his estates!
 
Duke Chantille of course, would say nothing to me before discussing it with Father. It wouldn’t be right for him to speak with me about it—though, if my fears were correct, I wished he would, so I could tell him exactly what I thought of the notion.
 
Even if he were a young squirrel, and handsome, I thought, as we entered the parlor, I could never wed a squirrel who supported the usurping Prince John. What a traitor, to turn against his rightful king like that! I sat in my chair beside the fire and picked up my embroidery, beginning to fume in righteous indignation.
 
I stabbed my needle into the fabric—and pricked my paw, hard. Stifling an unladylike cry of pain, I grimaced and pulled my paw away to see if it were bleeding. The pain served to bring me back to reality, though.
 
As far as I had any way of knowing, Duke Chantille had no designs on my hand or my dowry. He and Father had often played cards together when we were living in London, and it was only natural that he should now come to visit, especially if he wished to be in the countryside during the spring months. There was no reason—yet—to fear for my future.
 
Yet.
 
 
 
Three days later, there was.
 
I hadn’t been far off the truth. While Duke Chantille had, indeed, come with the original intention of visiting Father and escaping London for the spring, he had apparently not been averse to other possible pursuits.
 
My father called me into his study one afternoon, a few hours before Duke Chantille was to join us for dinner.
 
“Marian,” he said, his once-strong voice now wavering slightly. “You have been well trained in all the arts and concerns of a young lady of class. You are ready to be wed. And, frankly,” he added with a hint of his old wits, “I won’t always be here to take care of you.”
 
I half-closed my eyes. “Father, has Duke Chantille been asking for a suit?”
 
Father looked a bit surprised that I should catch on so quickly, but he nodded. “He has indeed. And I have given my permission for him to court you. Every girl should be as fortunate, Marian, to have a squirrel of Duke Chantille’s status interested in them.”
 
He’s a traitor! I shouted in my mind. To my father, though, I nodded and held back my true thoughts. “You are right, Father. May I be excused?”
 
He nodded. “I know this is a bit of a surprise, Marion, but you know that I have only your best interests at heart.”
 
I couldn’t help but smile at him, even if I honestly felt more like crying. “I know, Father. I know.”
 
I left the room, my stomach churning and one thought in my mind.
 
I would not marry a traitor like the duke. And I needed to talk to Robin.

Comments

Is it confusing to you guys

Is it confusing to you guys that I switch viewpoints every chapter, and should I alert you to which one I'm using at the beginning of each part?

LoriAnn | Sun, 01/23/2011

Hi

No, it's not confusing in the least. I like it a lot. Keep going with it.

Julie | Sun, 01/23/2011

Formerly Kestrel

No, it's not confusing at

No, it's not confusing at all.

That's right, Marian, go talk to Robin. And while you're at it, stay ith him. Marry him now and you'll save yourself a world of trouble. ;0)

Heather | Mon, 01/24/2011

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

I don't think it's confusing

I don't think it's confusing that you switch viewpoints. I know a lot of 'experts' say tht you should stay in the same character's pov for at least the first five chapters or fifty pages or whatever, but as a reader and a writer I'm not sure I'm necessarily inclined to agree.

And yeah, Marian, go see Robin. Although... you might hang around just long enough to let the duke know just what you think of him.

Mary | Mon, 01/24/2011

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

Son

I think the old duke needs a son her age

Micheala | Tue, 01/25/2011

It's not confusing to me. And

It's not confusing to me. And yes Marian, go see Robin. He always has a few tricks up his Lincoln green sleeve.

Arya Animarus | Tue, 01/25/2011

Oh for the times when I felt invincible.

It's not confusing, but

It's not confusing, but there's also no harm in labeling each chapter by the POV character.

Anna | Wed, 01/26/2011

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Talk to Robin

Talk to Robin Marion, he'll help a lot, I'm sure.

Kay J Fields | Fri, 01/28/2011

Visit my writing/book review blog at http://transcribingthesedreams.blogspot.com/

 No, the characters have

 No, the characters have different enough voices that even though they;re both in 1st person POV, it's not confusing.

So, the story's looking good so far, although the fact that Robin Hood is a communist (and an illegal one no less) always made me slightly more averse to his character.

Leinad K. Romethe (not verified) | Sat, 02/04/2012