A Tail of Sherwood part eleven: The Descision

Fiction By LoriAnn // 12/5/2011

 

“It’s hopeless,” I smiled sweetly at the Duke, as the crowd erupted into chaos. “You’ll not catch him.”
 
“I don’t need to catch him,” the Duke spat, grabbing a crossbow from one of the still-confused guards. “I need him dead.”
 
Mindless of my dress, I leaped up and over the wall of the Sheriff’s box and onto the platform, grabbing at his arm. “No!”
 
But he shook me off like an insect and threw me to the ground. Raising the crossbow, he sighted down its length—at Robin, I had no doubt.
 
“Don’t you dare!” I scrambled up and flung myself at him again, but two of his personal guards grabbed my shoulders and kept me back.
 
“Pray restrain my fiancé,” Duke Chantille said, giving me the coldest look I’d ever seen. I struggled, but in vain. They held me fast.
 
“Robin!” I screamed. “Rob!”
 
I spotted him through the crowd, which was milling in growing confusion, people shouting and pushing each other in an attempt to get out of the way—though out of the way of what no one seemed to know. Rob saw me too, pinned by the Duke’s two hulking brutes, and a flash of anger crossed his face. In a trice, he was pushing back through the mob, forcing his way toward me.
 
“No!” I shouted. “Look out!”
 
The Duke raised the bow. “Thank you, my dear,” he said calmly.
 
Rob was almost in range.
 
“You’ll shoot someone else!” I shouted, trying to at least shake his concentration.
 
“Hardly. Say goodbye to your hero, my dear.”
 
With a mere squeeze of one claw, Chantille loosed the shaft.
 
Robin, halfway across the square, stopped mid-shove. A dark stain spread from the short, ugly shaft protruding from his chest.
 
“No!” I screamed.
 
Rob looked up at me, and collapsed, disappearing into the press of the milling crowd.
 
“Find the body,” the Duke said in satisfaction, handing the crossbow to one of the guards holding me. “His head will be on a spike over Nottingham’s gate before sunset.”
 
The guard squirrels released me, and I staggered, trying to keep my balance. Failing, my knees buckled, and I fell, my paws shaking and stomach churn. My breath was coming in shallow gasps, and I stared up at the Duke in horror.
 
“You killed him.”
 
“So I did.” The Duke turned to follow his underlings down from the platform, a smile of grim satisfaction on his face.
 
Shock turned to wild rage, and I leaped up to fling myself on him. “Murderer!” I screamed.
Quicker than a crossbow bolt, he whipped around and knocked me to the ground with a heavy fist. Bending over me, Chantille grabbed my chin in his paw and jerked my face to look at him. “You will be silent,” he snarled.
 
With a look of disgust, he released me and stalked away, leaving me there on the platform, a few feet above the heads of the shouting crowd. I was crying too hard to catch my breath, and I could feel warm blood running from my split lip, mingling with my tears.
 
Robin.
 
 
 
For three weeks, lying in bed sleepless and cried dry, I watched as the events of that morning played and replayed and replayed in my mind. What if I hadn’t shouted? If only I hadn’t called out.
 
The Sheriff’s men hadn’t found Robin’s body. I had seen Alan nearby before the madness began—I hoped that he and the others had managed to get away, and take the body with them. Robin deserved to lie in the green shade of Sherwood. It was what he would have wanted.
 
How I hated the Duke. Before, I had despised him, had been disgusted by him. Now I hated him, with a burning intensity that frightened me. And as my wedding day grew closer, the hatred smoldered hotter, building on itself as I created scenario after scenario that could have changed the outcome.
 
Chantille had come to speak to Father the day after the rescue and Robin's death, and they had come to some kind of an agreement. The wedding was now only a week away, but all the sleepless nights were taking their toll on me. Instead of daydreaming about gowns and flowers, I closed my sore eyes in an attempt to doze, and images of Robin—laughing, shooting, outside my window, falling, dying, dead—seeped across my mind’s eye. I opened them again and concentrated on the floral pattern of my brocade bed curtains. Better red and smarting eyes—even on a bride—than Robin dying again and again and again in my dreams.
 
Duke Chantille would pay. I would never rest until he had faced justice for Rob’s murder. When King Richard returned from the Crusades—
 
But by the time Richard returned, I would be wed to the Duke. Duchess Marian Chantille. It sounded like a funeral bell. Maid Marian, wed to the murderer of her true love, like a character in a tragic ballad…
 
Or—
 
What if I—
 
No. I couldn’t believe I had even halfway contemplated such a thing.
 
But it would be—
 
No.
 
Robin would do it.
 
If our situations were reversed and I had been killed, he would have avenged me.
 
I stubbed my toe on the stepstool beside my dressing table, hardly having realized that I’d gotten out of bed. I slipped a dress over my head and wrapped my cloak around my shoulders. I knew where Father’s hunting knives were kept.
 
I stared at my dim reflection in the dark mirror.
 
I couldn’t do this.
 
Robin would do it.
 
Rob was dead.
 
My paw clenched, and I turned away from the mirror.
 
I would do it.
 
 
 
This time, when I reached Duke Chantille’s house, my stolen dagger concealed against my side in a cold paw, I didn’t bang on the door. Why rouse the valet when I could just as easily pick the lock and be inside the dark house in an instant? Robin had taught me the art years ago, and I had had plenty of curious doors to practice on when I’d been living at court.
 
My apprehension-frozen paws hindered me more than the five years of castle living had, but I was inside the Duke’s house with the door shut behind me before I could talk myself out of the venture.
 
There was no turning back now.
 
Through the silent front hall I crept, thankful for the stone floors that wouldn’t creek underfoot. The clock ticking sounded thunderously loud in the stillness, but I heard nothing else—not even snoring.
 
Hardly daring to breath, I slipped down the dark hallway, keeping close to the walls and feeling in front of me for tables or cupboards. Past the empty study where I had met the Duke before, past the empty dining room, and a half-open door that led to the kitchen…I reached the end of the hall and gave a silent groan. The Duke’s bedroom wasn’t on this floor.
 
I found the stairs and climbed them ever-so-very-slowly, testing each step for creaks before trusting it with my full weight. I had to skip the top three, but then I was standing in the upper hallway, gazing down the length of it into what I was sure was the Duke’s bedroom.
 
A candle flickered just inside the room.
 
I walked toward the light like a moth drawn by the glow, rubbing my claw over the edge of my dagger and trying to make as little noise as possible. I stopped in the doorway, looking down at Duke Chantille, who sat at a writing desk just inside the room.
 
The Duke looked up at me, and a cold smile spread across his face, like frost on a window.
 
“So,” he asked, his voice casual and even. “You’ve come to avenge the death of your outlaw?”
 
“Murder,” I corrected.” I withdrew my knife from the folds of my cloak and looked at it. “This would be a whole lot easier if you were asleep,” I said, and surprised myself with how steady my voice was.
 
Duke Chantille shrugged. “If you killed me in cold blood, you would be even more a murderer than me.” He spread his paws. “We’re a bit alike, you and I.”
 
I shook my head and took a step closer. “We’re nothing alike,” I said, feeling my unnatural calm fade and the rage returning. “Nothing at all.”
 
“Oh, we’re more alike than you’d ever admit, my dear.” He gestured at my knife. “We’re both willing to kill, are we not?”
 
“Enough.” My knife flew up to rest under the Duke’s chin, and I felt him swallow. “You killed Rob, and that makes you a murderer. You would have killed John and Will too, just to sooth your ego, and because Prince John’s spiteful laws call them outlaws, no court in the land would condemn you.”
 
“So you plan to be judge, jury and executioner? For shame, Marion—there’s no difference between us. Whatever you tell yourself, you will be a murderess.”
 
My grip on the dagger tightened. “Better a murderess than your bride.”
 
That hurt him more than the fact that I wanted him dead, I think.
 
“You’d rather face charges for killing the King’s representative than marry me?” For the first time, I saw fear flash in his eyes—fear and disbelief. The cur.
 
“Oh, very much so,” I said. “You’ve got a very overblown opinion of your own appeal, my lord Duke.”
 
He looked down his nose at the gleaming knife held to his throat. “You don’t have the nerve,” he said, his voice dismissive. Mostly.
 
“Watch me.”
 
I pressed the knife harder—but didn’t draw blood. Fear and a realization of his own imminent death filled Chantille’s face…but I didn’t strike home. Sick knowledge filled me: he was right.
 
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t kill him in cold blood.
 
I couldn’t.
 
I began to draw back, already tensed to flee, when the Duke’s eyes suddenly flashed past me and locked on to something over my shoulder.
 
“I appreciate your loyalty and valor,” a voice said. “But a lady ought not to dirty her paws with this sort of thing.”
 
I whirled around, dropping the knife. “Rob!”
 
Robin gave an elegant court bow and drew a long sword from his side.
 
“Please,” he said. “Allow me.”
 

Comments

So, it's nothing if not

So, it's nothing if not predictable...but I have been waiting to write that bow since I started this thing.  <3 Robin Hood...

LoriAnn | Mon, 12/05/2011

Amen

I didn't believe it for a moment.

Julie | Mon, 12/05/2011

Formerly Kestrel

Of course not! You can no

Of course not! You can no more kill Robin Hood than one could kill off...I dunno. Superman. They ALWAYS come back. :)

LoriAnn | Mon, 12/05/2011

Oh, thank goodness.

Oh, thank goodness. *headdesk* Can I breathe now?

Anna | Tue, 12/06/2011

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

I was worried momentarily,

I was worried momentarily, but thought about it and decided that it was impossible for Robin to die. AND I WAS RIGHT!!! Go Rob!

Erin | Wed, 12/07/2011

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

I knew he wasn't dead.

But how could Maid Marian know that?
Excellent suspension, LoriAnn.

James | Wed, 12/07/2011

<><~~~~~~~~~~~~><>
"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle