A higher calling

Knighton Hall

 

“People of Knighton,” the Sheriff addressed the peasants, “I have an announcement to make.” Then gesturing for his serving boy to pass him a scroll, he proceeded to read aloud.

 

“My humble citizens, I am sure you are all aware of how important it is to obey the law, without question, otherwise you will be punished!”


“Aye,” a peasant lifted his arm, or what was left of it. He knew punishment. Even the unjust laws were to be obeyed.

 The Sheriff nodded his head and continued his speech,


“Unfortunately, in our midst there are people who defy the law, those who question it. As I have said many times before, they must be punished…have an example made of them. It is time to ‘stir our stumps’ so to speak,”
the Sheriff chuckled at his own joke and then continued speaking.
“So on this the third day of the tenth month in the year of our Lord 1193, I hereby declare that Edward of Knighton, representative of the Nottingham council and Marian of Knighton, daughter of Edward, are to be placed in the stocks for the duration of three days and three nights, under the charge of speaking against the law.”

 

There was a disappointed murmur as the peasants saw Edward and Marian being led to the stocks.
“To add to the ‘festivity’, why don’t you throw a few refreshments to our guests? Tomatoes and eggs would do nicely,” Gisborne suggested.
“Wonderful idea Gisborne, you are developing your nasty side quite nicely!” the Sheriff complimented.

As Much had predicted, the peasants did not throw any food at Edward and Marian, because for a start they did not have enough to spare, and additionally, they loved Edward and Marian. The peasants slowly started to walk back to their business. The Sheriff had not anticipated such a response, and thinking quickly, he called out, “I am offering ten pounds to the peasant who throws the first egg or tomato or anything.”
But the peasants just ignored this offer and continued their retreat from the stocks.
“Father, do you see that? The peasants…” Marian was impressed by the peasants’ loyalty to her and Edward.
“It will not last. The Sheriff is bound to make them throw at least one rotten tomato at us.”
And Edward was right. The Sheriff could see that the ten pounds was not going to persuade these peasants to betray their esteemed landlord.
“So,” he thought “I will have to make them.” Then to the peasants he said, “People of Knighton. I have seen that you are not going to throw food at Edward and Marian of your own accord, so…I am giving you one last chance to throw the food, or else I will have to enforce my words.”
The peasants remained; motionless, steadfast, determined. Then one of the peasants, a short man holding a staff in one hand, called out, “Sheriff, if we are to throw any food it must come from your plate.”
The Sheriff would not tolerate this cheek so he stood up and said with forced calmness, “I think that maybe you would like to see what is served on my plate?”
“Only if it -”
“Come here then and see.”
The peasant walked to where the Sheriff was standing.
“Guards show this man what I like to eat for dinner.”
One guard held the man while the other picked up a pair of scissors then forcing the peasant’s mouth open he attempted to cut out the peasant’s tongue.
Whizz. An arrow went flying through the air and knocked the scissors out of the guard’s hands.
“What…what was that?” the Sheriff asked with mock surprise.
“An arrow, Sir,” answered the guard, who had been wrestling with the scissors and the peasant’s tongue.
“Of course it’s an arrow, I can see, but whose arrow?” asked the Sheriff.
Sh-should I let this man go?” the guard enquired. He could still feel the shaft rushing past his fingers. Whoever had fired that arrow was one good archer! 
“A clue: no! Tell me, Gisborne, who fired that arrow?”
Gisborne knew that there was only one person, who could have fired a shot with such accuracy, so he ventured, “Robin Hood. M’lord I think that it would be wiser if we went back to the castle if there is a killer on the loose!”
“Not scared are you?”
Gisborne clenched his sword and his teeth: “No.”

“Then don’t tell me what to do. I’m the one who gives orders. Right guards, out with his tongue!”
The guard, who had tried to let the peasant off, now said rather faintly, “I can’t,”
“And why not?”
“Because…” The guard fell over with an arrow in his back and nothing else was heard from him.
“For goodness’ sake tell the guard to stand up, I don’t like it when people bow down to me and ask favors!”
“M’lord, he’s dead,” said Gisborne somewhat tiredly.
“Dead?” this time the Sheriff was genuinely surprised. “But he was my favorite.” Then turning to the remaining guard, he summoned him to cut out the tongue.
This guard looked as terrified as the first and then he too fell down with an arrow protruding from his back. Finally a voice emerged through the crowd of peasants, “Sheriff, if you do not want to join your guards in their fate, let this man go with his tongue.”
 

 

“Master, we have to go, there is a whole wagon load of guards coming.” Much warned Robin of the approaching danger. “Much, you go with the rest of the band, I’ll come once I have finished my speech.”
As instructed, Much accompanied the band hiding themselves in the shrubs that grew on the outskirts of Knighton Hall. They smiled at Robin’s daring piece of advice.
“If, by any chance, you actually like eating tongue, buy some from the market – it tastes much better!” Robin carefully threaded his way through the crowd and ran over to where the outlaws were hiding.

“Looks like you have made the Sheriff’s day,” joked Allan.

“Talking about the Sheriff…” Will nodded his head towards the place where the Sheriff was mounting his horse. Much interrupted, “He’s leaving with those guards!”

“Black Knights,” Robin corrected.

“But why is he going with them?” asked Djaq.
“He has had a higher calling and we are going to follow them,” said Robin.
“Surely, Master, surely not.” That was what Much liked to say in such situations.
“Come on. Split up into teams of two, and whatever you do, keep hidden,” commanded Robin. 
 

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