Rob Goes On Crusade
The Men Try To Get Organized And Set Off To London With Nothing Settled
Francis, Friar Tuck and Abu Abu rode slowly down the Nottingham Road. They weren’t in any hurry. They knew the other three wouldn’t stop until the horses quit on them. Catching up was going to be easy. They also weren’t in a hurry because, as Tuck said, “The Crusades aren’t going anywhere any time soon.”
Riding good, strong horses and having a pouch of gold made each man more than a little calm. The morning was passably warm and they had eaten a bang-up English breakfast. That they were headed to a war didn’t actually sink in. To them, it felt like a jolly adventure. They were used to hiding and running so it was nice to be out in the open and safe. The fact they were going to a place unsafe was for later. This was now and then was then.
They soon left Nottingham and Robin Hood’s land behind. They were now in land owned by the crown. The people here were freeholders. They paid rent to the crown. They also paid taxes and a tithe to the church. Whatever was left belonged to them. Sometimes there was little left. They were still different from the serfs. They had rights although they still were poor. They had the right to leave the land although they had no place to go.
The men in the fields watched the riders go by. They were fascinated by Francis. Most had never seen a dwarf or an elf or a faerie or whatever he was. Seeing him riding a horse was a story they would tell for years. The big, dark fellow stood out as well. They would learn later he was an Ethiopian, whatever that was. That story would be told for generations. They saw Tuck and spit on the ground. Damned priest! Took a tenth for doing nothing and being nothing.
Down the road the riders saw three horses grazing slowly along the roadside. Then they saw the three men lying on the ground resting. As they rode by, Abu Abu said to them, “Catch up when you can.”
Francis just waved at them while Tuck made the sign of the cross. The men on the ground all gave them the finger. They were tired and hadn’t proven anything. No one was willing to accede leadership to Will and Will was still claiming it.
“I was smart enough to go first. That should give me the edge”, Will said.
“Smart my arse. In fact, kiss my arse. I reacted so quickly I bloody well caught ye at the gate. Skill beats smart”, Gilbert said.
“To ‘ell with ye both. This was my idea. I should be the captain and ye both know it”, said Rob.
“Ye? That’s cockeyed. If ye take charge we won’t get to the crusades at all”, Will said with a snort that irritated Rob. That it might be true also irritated him.
“Will Scarlet, I agree Rob would be a poor choice. Ye would be a poor choice as well. That leaves me and I accept the role”, Gilbert said in hopes the two were too tired or too stupid to see the error of his logic.
“Gilbert, that makes no sense. It won’t be that way, no way”, Will told him. Will was never going to be too tired to respond to Gilbert Whitehand. He did think Rob was too stupid but it didn’t need said. It would be like saying a bird could fly.
The three of them then spent some time glaring at one another.
Soon after Rob had joined with Robin Hood and became a Merryman he’d said something disparaging about Robin. Little John had told him to sit down and listen to him. Rob hadn’t wanted to but Little John was very insistent. Rob sat down and he listened.
“Lad, take heed to what I say. Ye ‘ave the wrong idea about Robin ‘ood. I’m not going to say ‘e’s the best archer ‘ere. ‘e isn’t. I’m not going to say ‘e’s the best swordsman ‘ere. ‘e isn’t. I’m not going to say ‘e can read better than any man ‘ere. ‘can’t. What ‘e can do is keep us from each other’s throats.
“These are a wild bunch of men. Each of them is facing the gallows if caught. Being ‘anged is not a pleasant thought. None of us has much in the way of a future. We can ‘ardly go back to what we were, now can we?
“If someone didn’t ‘ave some control we would surely be after one another. Robin does a good job of keeping the peace ‘ere. Certainly, ‘e acts odd at times. He certainly ‘as a ‘ead much too large but we don’t fight ‘ere in camp much. Robin ‘ood leads us in ‘is own crazy fashion.
“Odd as it sounds it does work.”
“You mean ‘es acting like a dumbarse just to keep the peace ‘ere?”
“Of, lad, I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘es acting all the time. I just say ye should not think ‘e doesn’t know ‘ow to keep us at peace ‘ere and lead us out there. I also don’t mean to ‘ave a long, involved discussion about it.”
Rob started watching how Robin Hood acted and the way he said things and the decisions he made. According to what Little John said there was reason for his actions even though they seemed senseless at times.
He recalled the time Will Scarlet had threatened Alan-A-Dale for making a move on his sister. There was certainly going to be bloodshed, Alan-A-Dale’s. Robin heard the commotion and went over. He heard Will threaten to cut Alan-A-Dale’s nuts off.
“Then ye and my sister will be the same! I’ll not allow ye near ‘er-”
“Will! What are ye going to do if ye sister needs to marry Alan-A-Dale? What sort of wedding night will that be?”, Robin asked.
“Marry ‘er! She would never ‘ave to marry a ballad writer! ‘e’s probably a sissy boy. ‘e probably doesn’t even ‘ave any nuts. What do ye think — my sister is stupid ? That what ye think?” Will was getting angry at Robin Hood now. He was always putting people down. He can’t put my sister down as a dumbarse, though she might be. Only I can do that.
“No, of course I don’t. Ye can’t denut someone who is no threat to ye sister. If there be no need to marry there be no need for this. Does that make sense?”
“Well, no. Wait a minute. I came over ‘ere to slice ‘is balls off for, umm, damn.” Will was lost now. He looked at Alan-A-Dale with wrath and at Robin with more wrath. He finally stomped off, dissatisfied but not a danger to Alan-A-Dale.
“A word to the wise- stay clear of the girl for a while”, Robin said.
“Yes, well, mayhaps I should.”
“And if ye need marry ‘er get to Friar Tuck before Will gets to ye.”
Arthur-A-Bland was the champion wrestler in the band. He had beaten Robin Hood fairly once. He was also more than a bit of a bully. He didn’t try to hurt anyone but he did like to throw someone to the ground and make them say “please” to be let go. Usually it was someone smaller. Someone like Dick Tucker, a boy really.
“Say please and I’ll let ye up.”
“Go to ‘ell!”
Go to hell? Is that what he said? I may have to hurt Dick a bit. Can’t have this.
Robin Hood came over and told Arthur-A-Bland to let Dick up. Arthur-A-Bland had no fear of Robin Hood. He was about to tell him that when he noticed Little John place his staff on the ground. That could only mean he intended to get involved. Arthur-A-Bland had no fear of Robin Hood but he was scared to death of Little John. Little John was the sort of man nightmares came from.
Arthur-A-Bland let Dick Tucker up and gave a sheepish grin to Little John but was taken by others as a look at Robin Hood. Everyone then walked away except Little John and Arthur-A-Bland. Little John stayed because he had something to say. Arthur-A-Bland stayed because he was afraid to leave without Little John saying he could.
“Arthur-A-Bland, I tire of ye thrashing the little ones. The very next time I see ye grab ‘old of someone who ‘as no chance against ye I shall break some part of ye. If ye ever again speak poorly to Robin ‘ood, I shall do the same. I think ye knows I shall.”
Two of the regular tarts were arguing loudly over a man. Robin Hood thought that was preposterous. To them a man was a man, no more and no less.
“ ‘ere, ‘ere, what’s this? Ye don’t care about the man as long as ‘e ‘as money to pay ye.”
“This bitch thinks she’s in love and I need to slap some sense into ‘er. Don’t see as it’s any of your business anyway”, one of them said.
“Why, everything ‘ere is my business to some extent. I’m Robin Hood, master of the glen. I can’t ‘ave tarts fighting like, umm, like-”
“Common whores, is it? I don’t see ye keeping us out of ye camp, now do I?”, the other one said.
Oh my God! Robin Hood would no more try to do that than to eat at the Old Crow’s place. Sometimes, these women were all that kept the lid on things here. Still, Robin Hood had enough problems with the men fighting over them when there weren’t enough of them. He didn’t need them fighting at all but especially if it was about one less tart to go around.
“Now, see ‘ere, I can’t allow this. That’s all there is to it. No more fighting. Ye, no more dreaming. I mean it.”
“And what, pray tell, are ye going to do about it?”, the first one asked.
“I’ll, uh, I’ll, well, I’ll ‘ave Little John speak with the lad. ‘e won’t come near ye after that.”
“Uh, hold on there, Robin ‘ood. Mayhaps I spoke of something too soon. Let’s not be ‘asty. Let’s pretend this never ‘appened, alright?”, the suddenly not so love struck one told him.
“Alright, as long there is no more trouble.” Robin Hood was relieved. He doubted Little John would have done anything. Why would he? He ran a bluff and they didn’t call him on it.
Will stood up, motioned to Gilbert and Rob, and said, “Okay, the horses are rested. It’s time for us to catch up with the others.”
“I think Ill go on and catch up with the others”, Gilbert announced.
“For God’s sake”, Rob mumbled.
They caught up to Francis, Tuck and Abu Abu and fell into line in no particular order. Will tried to get to the front as did Gilbert but Abu Abu was swinging his sword around and they decided to let it be for the day. Rob snorted until he realized he wouldn’t try to go past Abu Abu either.
As it began to get dark they rode into East Riding of Yorkshire, a small village with a big name. It was the usual village, a stinking muddy mess. The mud came from people pissing in the road Some huts for the farmers; a smithy and an inn. That made it a village of freeholders. They voted to stay the night in the inn and have supper there. A sign hanging there with a drawing of a bull. They supposed the name was Old Bull. That was close enough. The ground in front was urine-based mud. They tied their horses to the posts and went in.
The owner of the inn was Guy Jendryng, a small man who ran the front. His wife, Grace, did the cooking and whatever cleaning was done when it was done. The food here was whatever she made from whatever she had. It lasted until it was completely gone by the family or customers. Getting food in this inn was very chancy. Some of the fish served here was half-rotted by the time it was served. It looked half-rotted but all of it smelled that way so who could tell?
The Men Try To Get Organized And Set Off To London With Nothing Settled
Guy saw the door open and men come in. They weren’t from the village so he thought they might want food and lodging. He quickly rushed behind the bar. He looked at them and got a shock. One of them was the smallest man he’d ever seen. Another was the biggest, blackest man he’d ever seen. One of them was a priest. What the hell is this? A traveling show? If so, he would show them the way back out the door. He’d not have the likes of them in his inn.
“If ye be a traveling show, I ‘ave ye leave my place. I run a respectable inn and will not ‘ave the likes of ye ‘ere.” How he would know if his inn was respectable or not was questionable. Guy Jendryng had never been more than five miles from this very spot.
Gilbert quickly spoke up. “We are not traveling showmen. We are on our way to the Crusades, I’ll ‘ave ye know. Show some respect to us.”
Will, not to let Gilbert get ahead of him, also spoke up. “I am Will Scarlet, master-swordsman and a man of means”, he said pulling his pouch of money out.
“My apologies, good sirs, it’s just that, well, I see, umm.”
“I am Francis and I’m not an elf or a midget. I’m a dwarf with money and a dagger.”
Abu Abu saw the man staring at him. He looked at the man but said nothing. He merely pointed the barrel of ale. Guy saw that and began to pour ale into cups. He thought of asking for the money first but then thought he shouldn’t.
“We will need food and lodging for the night. We also need our horses taken care of. Do ye have an outhouse?”, Tuck asked.
“Nay, I don’t. Ye will ‘ave to use the chamber pot in the corner. If it is full, I shall get a child to empty it.”
That partially explained the smell inside the inn. It was ripe but nothing any of them hadn’t smelled before. The rushes of hay on the floor looked as if they hadn’t been changed in a while. They all hoped it was better by the fire pit but didn’t expect it to be.
Bowls were brought out by the innkeeper’s wife. A young daughter helped her fill the bowls with something that also smelled bad. Rob immediately thought of rats. Francis thought it smelled of rotted fish. Tuck thought it was rotten but of what he couldn’t tell. Will thought of deer that was very old. Gilbert thought of shit. Abu Abu began to eat.
After eating they got more ale and settled in for the night. The innkeeper had gone to take care of the horses. That consisted of telling his sons to “Go take care of those horses. Don’t feed ‘em much. This isn’t a charity ‘ere”. He then went in to serve the customers to prevent them serving themselves. He knew better than to trust strangers and really knew better than to trust any of the village men.
The village men were looking at the outsiders with a lot of interest. They also had never seen a dwarf; they had never seen a black man. They were staring with great interest. They were staring in a way that Francis didn’t like. A little staring he could accept. It was ignorant but understandable. This much was bothering him. He took out his dagger and threw it across the room. It missed the locals but stuck in the wall.
“What the ‘ell?”
“I’m going to come over there and kick your arse!”
Abu Abu stood up, all the way up. He looked at the villagers, especially the one who had said he was going to kick ass. Everyone froze in place. Even the Crusaders stayed still. None of them knew exactly what Abu Abu might do.
“What you will do, asshole, will be to bring Francis his dagger back and apologize for making him throw it. You must have upset him terribly for him to miss. I’m only going to wait a moment before I come to you.” Abu Abu was tired and feeling cranky.
The villager came over and handed Francis his dagger back with an apology. Francis put the dagger away and told Abu Abu, “I could ‘ave ‘andled this myself. I didn’t need ye to take my side at all. I missed on purpose.”
Abu Abu took Francis’ pride into consideration before saying, “You would have been beaten very badly. You have a brave heart but you are still a very small man. I’ll take your word about missing on purpose but I have my doubts. Now, let us put this aside and enjoy whatever this drink is.”
They were all relieved at that, villagers and Crusaders alike.
The next morning they ate a bowl of porridge. Wasn’t much you could do to porridge. The ate some bread and to a loaf for their midday meal. They’d spend the night at another inn.
“Ye might want to cut the green part off”, Grace told them.
“So, how much do we owe ye?”, Will asked.
Guy Jendryng considered that. These men could be, and probably were, rough but they didn’t seem too learned except for the priest. They may not be able to do sums. “Ale, food, lodging and taking care of ye ‘orses. That would be, let’s say, oh, 4 pence apiece.”
Abu Abu could do numbers and knew the going prices. “Let us not say that. Instead, let us say 2 pence, 3 farthings. That way we’ll be happy and you will not be hurt.”
Guy Jendryng took that price without a murmur. He just wanted these men gone.
As they rode out, Rob praised Abu Abu for saving them money. Abu Abu looked at Rob and said nothing. He’d saved himself money; he hadn’t intended saving anyone else anything.
They were riding along at a sensible speed when, in a wooded spot, men jumped out of the bushes, yelling and screaming, and stopped them. Gilbert Whitehand saw them coming and managed to slide off his horse, grab his bow and notch an arrow before anyone could react. Will Scarlet saw that and quickly drew his sword. He knew he couldn’t match Gilbert for smoothness so he tried haughtiness.
“I am Will Scarlet, Master-Swordsman. Ye best make room for me unless ye want to taste my sword.”
Taste my sword? It was all anyone could do to keep from laughing.
“Oh great sir, we poor men would not like that at all. Listen, fool, we want ye bloody money and not ye sass. ‘and it over or you’ll, umm, taste ye own blood. That’s what ye shall ‘ave.” He was quite proud of that turn of words.
Rob decided to speak after seeing what Gilbert and Will had done. He felt he had to. “Ye do not know what ye are doing. We are some of Robin ‘ood’s Merrymen. Let us be on our way and think yeself lucky to live.”
The leader of the robbers laughed out loud at that. “Robin ‘ood? That turncoat sissy boy? I spit on ‘is name. ‘is Lordship be damned.”
This was the first time any of them had heard something like that said about Robin Hood except by them. They didn’t actually disagree with it but it still made them look bad. No, there was going to have to be a fight for their own honor.
“Come, fight us if ye want. Look at ‘ow many of us there are. Ye have a midget-”
“Dwarf! I’m a dwarf!”
“a priest and whatever that black guy is,” the man said.
“Then a fight it will be. Prepare to die ye fools”, Will yelled.
“Mushrikin tawaqqaf ‘ayuha!”, Abu Abu called out.
That got everyone’s attention.
“Okay. Now, you men cannot defeat us. You cannot defeat me, an Ethiopian warrior. We would surely suffer injuries in a fight. You would suffer death. You would gain nothing. We gain nothing except saving our honor.”
“Ye speak truthfully, I think”, said the leader of the outlaws. “Still, we now ‘ave our ‘onor to think of. Ye see what I mean ‘ere.”
Tuck thought this through. He didn’t want a fight although he wasn’t afraid of a good fight by any means. Still, he didn’t need an asinine fight here. He said to the robbers, “ ‘ow about some professional courtesy?”
“Eh?”, the robber asked.
“Ye are thieves; we are thieves. As a courtesy, ye do not rob us and we do not rob ye.”
Rob said, “Tuck, we aren’t trying -” Will reached over and slapped him.
“Friar Tuck speaks truly”, Will said while giving Rob an evil look.
“Well, I suppose that would be a solution. We aren’t afraid to fight ye understand.”
“No, of course not”, Tuck said.
“Alright then. Ye blokes ‘ave a good day.”
Actually, the robber chief didn’t know what Tuck meant. Professional courtesy? He saw that Gilbert was ready to shoot. He thought his men might miss Will and end up getting cut up. The midget was a pretty small target. The big black guy was a big target but how many arrows would it take to stop him? Could arrows stop him at all? Tuck, well, he’s a priest and all. Best go away and wait for better victims. Better meaning easier. Old men were easy to scare. Granted, the locals didn’t have anything worth stealing but sometimes the robber band lucked out. Today wasn’t one of those times and the chief knew it.
“Guess we scared them off”, Gilbert said as he remounted.
Will felt he needed to add to this. “Yes, my reputation as a Master-Swordsman meant they had to make sure I went down in a hurry. I’m guessing the little man threw them off too. Who the ‘ell would fight Abu Abu? Of course, they think Tuck is a real priest so there you ‘ave it.”
With that they rode on. Rob sat there on his horse becoming very pissed off. Will hadn’t so much as looked at him much less said anything about him. He was getting angrier as he sat there. Then he looked around and realized he was still where the robbers had come from. He was also alone. He saw the rest riding ahead and thought he should catch up.
As he rode up to them he said humorously “Guess you didn’t notice I wasn’t with ye.”
Abu Abu looked at him and said, “No, we didn’t.”
A few days later they saw signs they were approaching London. There were more villages and bigger villages. Some were bigger than anything they’d seen except for Abu Abu. They were bigger but no cleaner. It was just everything a small village was except more of it. The smell was overpowering. To walk through these place on foot would have been a disaster. The roads, such as they were, had garbage and shit tossed about. Rats were as common as people. Rob prayed he wouldn’t fall off his horse. He thought he’d drown in shit and he didn’t have confidence his band would rescue him.
Gilbert got the first remark in this time. “Tomorrow we will see the greatest city in all of England.”
Yes they would and it isn’t what they thought it would be.
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