Robin Hood (The true story of a Legend) by Gerry Fruin

[Re-listed June 2014 with the first section of three in full. Editor]

Rough draft of the start of a story in three chapters. Target readers 8 to 10 year olds. Total book words approximately 8,000

Part One

Robin Hood (The true story of the legend)

It all began a long time ago before iPods and computers. In a land of ice and frozen forests lived a people called Siberians. They hunted and fished for food and raised a very special type of horse that they sold all over a vast country called Russia.

To the south great armies were gathering and a wise old man decided that his life’s work in raising these horses would be lost if the Khans decided to take them all away. So the tribe selected the fittest and strongest young people to take their skills, and a small herd of horses, far to the West.

The journey took a long time and was very dangerous, but Sophiedropalotsky and her brother Benbowsky were as tough and strong as anyone. They crossed mighty rivers and huge mountain ranges as they travelled on. They met a group of people called Vikings who told them the best place to be was over a great sea even further to the west, called England. The Vikings agreed to take them in exchange for some of their horses, which they would use for farming and for fighting, for they were very fierce and frightened of no one.

Many months later the small group arrived at a place where they could start to make a new life on the edge of a great forest called Sherwood. It was a small hamlet called Clayton and right at the top of the hill. To the West they built a small house and workshop. The land belonged to Lord Locksley who when he heard their story gave them some land to raise their horses in exchange for some work they would do for him.

They learnt English from the local people and changed their names to Ben and Sophie because no one could say their Siberian names. Sophie, being Sophie, thought that a more English name would be better and said Marion would suit her; though to Ben she would always be Sophie.

One day Lord Locksley came to see them and was very sad as he thought that the new Sheriff would be taking his house and land to pay for his taxes. Unfortunately, his son Robert, the Earl of Locksley, was still on his way back from some far distant war called the Crusade and may not be back in time to stop the sheriff and his men. The trusting King Richard had left his brother John in charge of England and everything went bonkers.

It got worse. Lord Locksley was killed and all his land taken. That meant when the young Earl finally got back there would be nothing left for him. Soon after this a gang of thugs came and beat up the villagers. The gang leader, Sir Guy de Gisbourne  told them that the new Sheriff of Nottingham would need more money from them. Of course, they could not pay, so the thugs beat them up again and said they would be back.

What could they do? The villagers got together and decided to send their head man to speak to the Sheriff. He was thrown into jail and the villagers were told that unless they paid double taxes and a huge reward, their leader would be hanged. This was really bad, no one knew what to do.

Oh! Doom.

Oh! Despair.

Oh! Help!

Ben was worried that they would have to find somewhere else to live if these strange people kept fighting each other. For Ben it was good for his work as he was a master Bow maker and his sister Sophie/Marion the best arrow maker. Their skill had become well-known and people from all over the area came wanting the best bows and arrows for hunting. Also Lords and knights wanted the weapons for their men to fight, but Ben wondered what would happen if they killed each other off? One day, far to the south, while he was selecting the best wood for his bows Ben saw a man sitting hunched on a tree stump with his head in his hands. He seemed to be very sad as he gazed over what used to be Lord Locksley’s land.

“Hello.” called Ben. “Are you alright?” The man leapt to his feet and in a lightening quick flash whirled round, flung back his cloak and drew out his sword. “Whoa, whoa, hold on Sir.” Called Ben. “No need to get in a tiss. I only thought you might need some help.”

“Oh! Sorry.” The man said. “Just a really bad day.”

Ben shrugged and smiled. He told the man who he was and what he did. The stranger said.

“I am Robert of Locksley, Earl Locksley, but no longer. The pretender King seems to think he can take the land which has been ours forever. Now my father is dead I do not know what to do.” He looked very sad. Then he smiled a little and said. “Anyway I have never used my title so why not call me Robert.” He held out his hand and they shook hands in friendship.

Ben told Robert the sorry tale of the last few months. How small-holders of rented land had been forced off their land and farm hands and labourers had no work. Families were starving all because the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham wanted more and more money, which they didn’t have.
“Lord Locksley told me he was waiting for you to return and sort out the problem, but…” Ben shrugged. “What can you do? This Sheriff is very bad and if you go to him he will throw you in jail.”

“Well I can’t wait until King Richard returns. So I will raise a band of men to fight for the return of everyone’s land and I will capture the thug who killed my father.” Robert announced bravely.

“That will take a lot of money.” said Ben. “But if you can find the men I will make the bows.” Robert thanked him and asked where he could find a fletcher. “Oh! Arrows and lots of them I guess. You need to talk to my sister So… er, Marion.” Ben said airily.

Robert thought this very odd indeed – a woman making arrows; he had never heard of such a thing. Anyway he was happy that his new friend had offered to help and shrugged of the thought off a woman making arrows. An arrow was an arrow, wasn’t it? Little did he realise the importance of his error.

They parted and Robert went off to find the men to fight the Sheriff of Nottingham. He soon realised that it would be difficult because many had left England to fight in the Crusade. Others had been put in jail for hunting on the King’s land. After a week he had a small group of men who had lost their homes and some, their families, but were not really fighting men. Then he came across a village by a small stream. A log crossed the water so people could keep their feet dry. At the far side stood a giant of a man. “Hello stranger.” called Robert in a friendly voice. The giant remained silent, standing with his massive arms crossed over a huge barrel of a chest. “What do you want?” rumbled the giant. “Well sir, free passage to the village where I wish to recruit men for a fight against the Sheriff of Nottingham.”

“Fight with that lot.” laughed the giant, pointing to the less than fearsome band Robert had gathered. “Go away, we have enough trouble from the villains of Nottingham without you making more. You’re not crossing here, this is what’s left of our village.” He waved a mighty arm at the burnt out shells of huts that had been the homes to the hungry crowd that had gathered behind their protector.

Robert was beginning to be annoyed. “Look, whoever you are, you are on my land and I demand the right of passage.” At this the giant laughed again, mocking the smaller man. “Really. Well my friend you will have to fight me for that right.” With that he picked up an enormous staff, which to Robert looked more like a small tree, and stepped onto the log. To the giant’s surprise a grim, Robert Earl of Locksley, turned to one of his men and asked to borrow his staff, and then he too stepped onto the log.
The fight became famous throughout the land and many a tale told of that day. The pair battled for nearly an hour; neither giving way. The giant swung mighty blows, slashing like a madman. Robert danced forward, and backwards, ducking and weaving out of reach of the bigger man, prodding his smaller stave at the big man until neither could move another inch. Both were exhausted. The villagers shouted encouragement; Robert’s men shouted louder. Finally the two combatants could move no more.

“A draw my friend?” said Robert holding out his hand.

The giant scowled then a small grin appeared behind his beard. “Aye.” he said, shaking the Earls hand. “I’ve met my equal and I’m proud to shake the hand of a fellow forester.” With that the two jumped into the water to cool off and the villagers and Robert’s band cheered and clapped for they had seen a jolly good fight.

Legend makes more of this but it was what took place when the two parties joined together in a meagre meal that changed the course of history. The men sat in what was the centre of the village while the women gathered what was left of their possessions in preparation to move to a new area away from the thugs from Nottingham.

“So my friend.” the huge man spoke in a deep rumbling voice. “First, what’s your name and second what’s this nonsense about this being your land? This is Lord Locksley’s land or it was until the swine from Nottingham killed him.”

“I am his son and heir, Robert of Locksley.” There was a gasp from the villagers and the women stopped packing and started to listen to the man dressed in rough Lincoln Green. “I have vowed to find the man who killed my father and make him pay. My plan is to gather a large group of men to stop the Sheriff stealing any more land and making people pay taxes they can’t afford.” He waved his hand at the ruined village. “Your name sir? enquired Robert.

“John Little, my Lord, and accept my apologies for my manners. Everyone thought you were still fighting in the Crusade. Your father was a kind man and I wish you luck in your quest, but we will move on before the so called knights return and kill us all off. We have no money and – as you can see – not many men of fighting quality.” Robert leapt to his feet and spoke to them all. “Then why don’t we join together and form a band. I will show you how to fight and with your forestry skills we can live in the forest until King Richard returns to take the throne back and bring justice to all England.”

The giant looked at the villagers. Shaking his head he turned back to Robert. “I’m sorry Sire but we…”

Before he could speak anymore a strong voice called out from the group of women. “John Little, don’t you dare refuse the Earl. We’ve had enough of cowering to the gang in Nottingham. It’s time to fight.

“Aye.” cried the villagers loudly.

The big man again shook his head. “I’m sorry my Lord. That’s my wife Bronwen. She and the others don’t understand…”

Again he was interrupted. “Don’t understand!” A small woman darted forward and stood in front of John Little with her arms crossed over her chest in anger. “We understand starving children, and men who are not allowed to work the woodland where we have lived for hundreds of years. Run or fight?” She turned to the villagers. “Say your piece. This used to be a free country” She shouted loudly. “Run or Fight?”

“Fight, fight, fight.” cried the villagers.

The big man tried to calm them but in the end gave in, and so the first band of Robert of Locksley’s was formed.

Robert was pleased with this and said to John Little, “We will be a merry band of fellows and I think a better name for you would be Little John, what say you?”

The big man grinned “Aye and I will call you Robin, My Lord Earl of Locksley, here’s my hand on it.

” Robert laughed loudly and shook hands. “Done.”

Absolution by Kevin Murphy

                                                   Absolution     (Edit)

Jim Jackson had had no nasty incidents and had received several of the usual drunken ‘Love You Street Pastors’, but he had already had a bonus tonight – a hug from a very pretty girl! As usual there were three of them out. Tonight he was with Marlene, their very experienced co-ordinator, and Andy who, after fifteen months was just finishing his training.

Jim had made up his mind that ‘Mercy’ was not, like most, simply drunk, but high on Coke or ‘Phet’ – he was talking so fast and covered so much ground. He’d started straight out saying he had read the Koran, The Bible and the Mahabharata and gesticulated both the smallness and the immensity of the creator, whatever it may be.

Marlene had tried to lighten things up by asking Mercy about his strange haircut and that got dealt with and out of the way with a cursory “Yeah, I wanted to do something with it, but I know you believe an intelligent force created all this.”

Andy posited a careful ‘yes’, looking across to Marlene whom he knew was a little nearer some of our Southern Belt friends on that one.

Standing aside to be available for other punters who may want Street Pastor support, Jim saw his colleagues approach Mercy’s shield from two angles. He was immediately kissed on the cheek and saw his assailant bob over to Marlene to offer the same, with an “I cut my head and you gave me flip-flops”.
She came back and appeared to be heading round the corner towards the Firkin with her mates, but reluctantly.

Jim opened his hands to her.

“I cut my head and you gave me flip-flops … I cut my head and you gave me flip-flops.”

“Mm. You said.”

“I cut my head and you gave me flip-flops.” She was very drunk droopy eyed and staggering.
She staggered over to the blank wall of the bank and faced up to it and the Heavens – ‘The Wailing Wall’, thought Jim.
Then she really did let out a wail “I really, really love me job”.

He gave her a little space, and some time, and as she brought her arms down from a supplicant position. He felt she had arrived at her decision to reveal all.  “I think I get it,” Jim started, “what good are flip-flops to someone with a cut head.”

Her eyes narrowing, she gave him a really dirty look. She obviously felt he was totally stupid, but her words were lighter. “No. No. I love you. I cut my head and you gave me flip-flops. You cared for me. That’s all.” She turned away again, but she really was not going anywhere.

Jim thought of his counselling training and counted to ten. She was in good condition; didn’t look like she’d fallen at all, her clothes, skimpy as they were, were all in the right places; and best of all, despite being a tiny young woman, she was wearing sensible, almost flat shoes. He saw an opening. Pointing to the shoes he smiled “You won’t be wanting any flip-flops, tonight!”

She looked down and lost her balance a little, looked up and giggled. She gave Jim a proper once over then. What to tell him? Could she trust him?

Uncomfortable as this made him feel, Jim relaxed into her gaze. He hoped his posture said ‘You can trust me.’

She leaned in very close. She wasn’t sure if she’d told him yet: “I cut my head and you gave me flip-flops.” Then she glanced at the other two Pastors, now being grilled by Mercy and another ‘Stoner’ in fancy red and black striped pants. The young woman waved Jim a bit further away from them. “You mustn’t tell them.”

She stood straight and made a mighty effort to pull herself together.
Jim was feeling she had maybe arrived at making her confession. Bless me father…

“I cut my head and you gave me flip-flops, see. That’s it. You didn’t ask me anything. You didn’t tell me anything. You just gave me something and…” she threw her head back to swallow a sob “…and the next morning…” she turned to go away. She stopped and looked in her bag and eventually pulled out a giant hankie. Actually it was a scarf, but still she blew her nose on it. After wiping her eyes, she looked back at Jim, still open for her. She faced right up to him. She sobbed onto his shoulder “…and the next morning, I saw the floppers and I remembered…” No it was all too much. She bent right over and thinking she was about to head-butt the pavement Jim caught her.

She looked straight up “…I cut my head and you gave me flip-flops” – and roared a stage-whisper into his ear – “and I told you to fuck off.”

She cried. She cried openly. There it was. It was out.

“You’re sorry, though?” Jim felt a bit pathetic. It didn’t seem to be enough to offer.

It wasn’t enough. She hadn’t got enough out. He still didn’t even know her name. But then a priest doesn’t know who’s on the other side of the curtain. She didn’t know him, but she did acknowledge his uniform, his habit.

He decided it might help to get to know her a little bit more. “Have you still got the flip-flops?” Oh that was not the right opening. She looked at him as if he were not the one she was just speaking to. He’s pathetic. What a question. But she knew she was drunk. “I’m sorry. I’m a bit, very drunk. I shouldn’t really. I’ve got a very responsible job. Now you’re making me cry again. No, see… “ She pulled him even further away. Stripey-pants was giving a mime show with noises off, and Mercy, hands on hips, was the appreciative audience. Andy looked penned-in.

Jim looked back to little girl – yes more that than a woman – though he estimated her to be into her twenties.

“I’m a social worker, see, and I really shouldn’t get drunk, but I have to.”

Jim thought this might be the real sin she was getting round to. “You don’t think that we Pastors haven’t been there, done that. We know where you’re at. We aren’t judging that … anything.”

‘No you’re not,’ she thought. “And there’s more…” The little wave brought cheek to ear.

Jim had to suppress the memory of daft comedian Jimmy Cricket.

She continued, “I’m a Social Worker and you gave me flip-flops for a cut head!” she dug him in the ribs, seeing the funny side of this for the first time. She giggled, but stopped immediately remembering her serious purpose. “No-oo!” she squealed. “You did not ask me how I’d cut my head. You did not question me. She squeezed her eyes up tight and bashed the offending tears away. Now she faced him full-on, shoved bag up arm and planted hands on hips. Then she took a breath and became someone else.

“You don’t know me!” she cautioned, eyes narrowing, pointing  like some kind of gangster. “If you come into the offices, you don’t know me. Yeah?”

Jim’s heart melted. He knew why he stands around market squares full of drunks at two o’clock in the morning. He already knew, but now he knew. He opened his eyes fully to try to hold back the tears… and waited.

She put up a finger, “I’ve just qualified as a Social Worker after three years training,” and looking up to heaven she cried, she wept “I ab-so-lutely love my job.” It was all Jim could do to simply steady her. She wasn’t a drunk, she was a very repentant sinner. She continued completely soberly, “Just over three years ago, I cut my head  and you gave me flip-flops.” She nodded. “You didn’t ask if I’d cut me ‘ead falling, in – the – fight – I – had – started! You did not want to know why, or how. If you had, I wouldn’t be a Social Worker now. I woulda got a record.” She gave him another gentle kiss on the cheek.

“You’re sorry?”

She closed her eyes, pursed her lips, and nodded studiously like a nursery school-kid.

“ You believe in forgiveness?”

She took a quick peep, then nodded again.

Then she shook her head and stood up to Jim with a finger wagging “Don’t preach to me!”

Jim knew he didn’t need to and said so. “You know you’re forgiven, though?”

She swept away and Jim’s arms went out, but she was steady.

“What’s your name?”

“What’s your name?”

“Jim.”

She had a think. “Mickie.” She had another think. “Now I do.”

“Better get on over to the Firkin before lock down, Mickie. Don’t lose your mates.” She took the three steps to the corner and was gone, taking a chunk of Jim’s heart with her.

Then she realised, and popped it back round to him with a finger, a nod and a wink.

Another bonus.

The Shadow by Brendan Stoneham

——————
The Shadow
——————

by Brendan Stoneham

Hiding in the light, the shadow dwells within herself.

 
As the sun sets, the dark rose rises,
And the shadow spreads its claws.
 
 
Overtaking alleyways and streets,
Till midnight black sets the air like concrete.
 
 
Everywhere is covered,
The shadow covers light,
 
 
And everywhere is the shadowy woman anti-light,
So even the moonlight gives up futile fight.
Brendan continues his heroic effort to publish a poem a day on his own website. Take a look at Poem a day guy