“This is a rescue”

Nottingham Castle
 

 

The Sheriff nodded at Sir Walter and disappeared down the corridor.

“Psst.” Will caught the attention of Robin, who turned to face him.

 “Right then, the Sheriff says that as you are my guards you are to accompany me around the castle.”

“Yes M’lord,” murmured the outlaws.

 

Sir Walter inspected the castle from the turrets to the dungeons, taking particular notice of possible entrances and exits. When he got down to the dungeons, Sir Walter was no more. In his place was Robin Hood.
Robin crept up behind the jailer and then threw his hood over the jailer’s head. Before the jailer could cry out, Robin had him bound and gagged. Robin snatched the metal ring of keys and then proceeded to lock the jailer in the closest cell.
“When you are asked, tell the Sheriff and his men that Robin Hood visited,” Robin said grimly.
“Robin! Over here, free us,” Allan pleaded.
Robin walked over to the cell where Allan waited with six peasants.

“Not that many prisoners,” thought Robin, “That makes my job all the easier!”

“Who goes there?”

“Only me, the jailer,” Robin answered in what he hoped was the jailer’s voice.
“Sheriff wants to see you,” summoned one of the three guards, who clattered down the stairs into the dungeons.
“Never kill unless necessary,” Much reminded the band.

The guards stopped short when they saw Robin and the prisoners standing outside the cell. They also noticed four more guards.

“And who-?” The guards were clearly puzzled.

“I am the rightful lord of Locksley.”

“Robin of Locksley?” questioned the quickest of the three, understanding slowly dawning on his face.

“Would you like my autograph?” Robin offered as he walked towards them.
“Not likely.” Leading the other guards down the last few stairs, he unsheathed his sword. The other two followed his example.

 

Robin was not just master of the bow; he knew how to use a sword as well. His experience in the Holy Land had taught him all the techniques needed to overcome his opponents. While fighting the Saracens, Robin had observed their ways, so now his fighting techniques were part English and part Saracen.

With this knowledge Robin went forward confidently, as did his men.

The fight didn’t last long, but while it did the clang of metal against metal echoed off the stone walls.

Robin was always reluctant to kill unnecessarily, so the guards were merely knocked out and locked in separate cells.

As Robin hurried along the passageway something sparkling on the ground caught his eye. He bent down to take a closer look. A hair-pin! Robin picked it up and was relieved to see gems, such as only a noble woman would wear. Specifically, a noble woman called Marian. He was glad that it was this kind of hair pin she had been wearing when she was arrested and not her dagger hair pin. The Nightwatchman’s identity remained secret. Robin put the hair pin in his pocket and closed the dungeon door, then locked it securely.

“Is everyone alright?” asked Djaq, concerned about the wellbeing of others.
“No, actually, I’m not,” Much groaned. Djaq rushed over to Much and looked questioningly at him.
“I say, when you’re kicked in the stomach…and it’s empty….”

All grinned at this and one of the prisoners enquired, “You like your food?”

“Oh yes.”

“And you’re hungry?”

“Yes.”

“So are we.” The prisoner gestured at his fellow inmates and went on, “The last time we had anything to eat was…four days ago.”

Much looked appalled, then hastily reviewed his position, “I-I-I’m fine. I’m not so hungry now.”

Searching for more information, Little John looked to Allan.
“Robin these people are from Clun Village and what they say is not true; they haven’t eaten for six days.” This time Allan was not lying.

Djaq foresaw that the prisoners would need food before travelling back to Clun and told the band that she was going to go and gather food for them.
“We’re not in the forest at the moment, we don’t gather food. We buy it to help support the peasants that live in the castle. Do you mind if I come with you?” Will asked.
“Of course I don’t.” Smiling at her mistake, Djaq ran up the stairs lightly with Will following.
“We had better get out to the courtyard and wait for Djaq and Will there,” decided Robin.
The remaining outlaws helped the peasants up the long flight of stairs. Pausing at the top, the group stood in the shadows. Much peered out and shrank back as a pair of guards walked by. Another two figures were positioned at the far end of the corridor, so Much led everyone in the opposite direction, keeping their distance behind the guards, who had just passed.
Rounding a corner, they drew to a sudden halt in response to the command issued at them, “You there, guards!” Little John and Robin, who were walking behind the group, turned to face the Sheriff and Sir Guy of Gisborne. The guards waited expectantly.
“Aren’t those the prisoners?” the Sheriff asked.
“Yes, your honour, they are to hang,” Robin stated.
The prisoners gasped.
“You should learn not to tell a person that you are going to hang him. You may go.” The Sheriff dismissed the guards, unaware of their true identity.
“Gisborne, go fetch the jailer. I called for him some time ago,” instructed the Sheriff.   
Sir Guy of Gisborne was only gone a short time.

“M’lord,” Gisborne called as he came running up the stairs, “Three guards and the jailer are locked in separate cells. The guards told me when they went down into the dungeons Robin Hood and some other guards knocked them out and took the keys.”
The Sheriff ran down the stairs into the dungeons with Gisborne close behind him.
“Do you have your key?” Gisborne enquired.
“No, I’m going to say ‘Open sesame’.”
Gisborne suppressed a smile and looked questioningly at the Sheriff.
“What do you think?” the Sheriff asked reproachfully, “Of course I have my key.” The Sheriff reached into his pocket and stammered, “The key, the key, it was just here.”
“M’lord do you want me to-,” Gisborne was cut off by the Sheriff.
“What I want is the key. Get me a locksmith and make sure you get the best Gisborne,” he barked.
“M’lord, as you know only one man was commissioned to make the locks and keys; Dan Scarlet, and you ordered him to be killed. So what do I…?”
“Oh no!” the Sheriff groaned.
“The other man capable of making duplicate keys is his son; Will Scarlet.”
“And I outlawed him,” groaning even louder this time. “Why can’t people just love me and obey me and why can’t I have absolute power?”
Gisborne knew why the people didn’t love or obey the Sheriff and also why he couldn’t have full power, but he thought it prudent to keep his ideas to himself.  
“M’lord, if you were to let me free Marian, then I could talk her into going to the forest to find Will Scarlet and he could make us a key.”
“Ask an outlaw for help? A clue: no!”      

“No, M’lord, Marian would do the asking.”
“Clever thinking my boy! But supposing Marian doesn’t find Will and she escapes. What then?”
“Oh I doubt she would run away. She cares for her father too much to leave him sitting in the stocks.”
As the Sheriff was standing considering Gisborne’s suggestion, he shouted so suddenly that the guards who were waiting with them jumped, not to mention Gisborne.
“Gisborne, after them.” The Sheriff liked it when he could give orders to someone taller than himself.
“After who?”
“Robin Hood and the prisoners.”
Gisborne ran up the stairs and, taking the quickest route to the East Gate, managed to catch a glimpse of Robin Hood as he, his men and the peasants ran under the descending portcullis. Yelling at the gate keeper to raise the portcullis, Gisborne waited impatiently.

*****

 

“I think that we should go and buy the food on Pit Street,” Djaq was saying.
“But today is market day. There is bound to be plenty of food at the market,” Will mused.
“And plenty of guards,” Djaq countered with a laugh.

“Alright we go to Pit Street.”
“Also the peasants that sell the food on Pit Street don’t get taxed as high as when they go and sell their food at market,” Djaq reasoned.
“Why not?” Will was amused because Djaq was from the Holy Land and he lived in England and yet she knew more than he did.
“Because the people that sell the food here,” Djaq said as they entered Pit Street, “sell it secretly,” she finished with a whisper.
“Oh, I see. That looks like Robin and the peasants,” Will whispered back “See there.”
“And Gisborne is following them,” Djaq observed.

 

*****

 

“Master, Gisborne is following us.” Much was panting.
“Down here,” Robin hissed, pulling two peasants down into the moat with him. The moat was not filled with water and hadn’t been for two-hundred years. The poorest and lowest peasants lived there. Only having castle scraps to eat meant that these peasants would rob whenever the opportunity arose.

It was for peasants such as these that Robin and his band fought. This class hadn’t existed in England when King Richard had left for the crusades. It was a part of England that didn’t have to be.

Robin pulled two of the peasants from Clun into a crude shelter that somebody called ‘home’.
Quicker than the portcullis could be raised, outlaws and peasants were hidden.  

As they lay catching their breath they heard Gisborne ordering guards to search for them. Suddenly the thud of horses’ hooves was heard on the draw bridge as Gisborne and his guards rode off. After some time the outlaws and peasants dared to venture out of hiding and gathered under the draw bridge.
Allan spotted Will and Djaq walking slowly towards the moat with a basket overflowing with food. Word had spread that Robin and his band were giving out food, so when Will and Djaq reached the moat thirty-two people (six Clun peasants, the outlaws and one person from each family that lived in the moat) were crouched under the draw bridge waiting expectantly. The food was distributed accordingly.

 

*****

“Do you know the way to Clun village from here?” Robin asked the peasants.
“Yes,” they replied.
“Then go, my friends,” he urged.
“Safe journey,” Much called out, then turning to Djaq he asked, “Is there any more bread?

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