This is the end of the Rob Saga but not the end of his adventures. A new Rob series will begin January 1, 2017.
I am going to make the Rob Saga available in paperback for those who like paper. It will be available at Createspace andAmazon within a few days.
Chapter 15— The Return Home To The Great Surprise
Rob and Francis were going home by a different route. Francis had wanted to go back the way they came but Rob said no. He didn’t think the way they came had been very good and didn’t want to chance having more “adventures” getting back to Sherwood Forest. He was tired and wanted to get this journey over. He wanted to give Maid Marian the necklace and accept whatever thanks she offered, if any. He wanted to get the acclaim for his success , such as it was, from the Merrymen. He wanted to go to sleep for a long time. He wanted his mama.
Francis didn’t know if he wanted to go to Sherwood Forest at all. He wasn’t a Merrymen and didn’t see the point of becoming an outlaw subject to hanging. He had other options for his life. In the end he decided to go with Rob out of a sense of duty and, perhaps, a small bit of friendship. He liked Rob. He was a good lad.
As they traveled along Francis noticed Rob was grinning and laughing to himself. He asked Rob what was so funny?
“Oh, I was thinking about something I did to one of the Sheriff’s men.”
As the Merrymen were robbing the rich traveler they heard a whistle from down the road. It was the signal to get off the road. It usually meant the Sheriff and some of his men were coming along. Robin Hood had ordered them to avoid clashing with the Sheriff whenever possible. If not, Prince John might send an army to hunt them. That was not going to be a good thing to have happen. Why take the chance?
The men rapidly went into the forest to escape. The Sheriff’s men might follow but it wasn’t easy to catch a man running through the forest by riding a horse. Too much going around trees and horses were big and ungainly for this job. The Sheriff’s men usually only went a mile or so and then gave up and went back to the road.
As the chase carried on, one of the Sheriff’s men suddenly yelled out he needed to piss. He dismounted and took a good, long piss. As he did, Rob jumped down from a tree, ran over and jumped on the horse and rode off. He didn’t ride very far until the horse realized his owner wasn’t riding him. The horse stopped throwing Rob off. The man ran over as Rob got up. He would have caught Rob if Rob hadn’t yelled out, “Ye are ‘anging out there.”
The man looked, saw he was hanging out and stopped to tuck himself in. Rob took off and the man knew he couldn’t catch him with all the weight he had in weapons and body armor. He got on his horse and started after Rob only to have the horse turn to see who was riding him. By the time the horse got it figured out, Rob was long gone.
“Isn’t that just too funny?”
“Umm, yea, I suppose it is.”
It was a bit goosey sounding but it was a pretty cheeky thing to do so Francis let it go. Rob, however, thought the response tepid at best. “Umm, this is a funny story, Francis. Everyone laughs at it.”
“Well, would ye think it funny if the man had not stopped to tuck his pecker in? What if he had run right over to ye and stabbed ye in the ‘eart? Would that be funny?”
“No! What the ‘ell wrong with ye? That wouldn’t be funny at all.”
“Not to ye it wouldn’t. I bet when ‘e told the story everyone would ‘ave laughed at it. Right?”
“I suppose so. So what? It didn’t ‘appen that way. I get to tell the story and get the laughs. Ye really piss me off sometimes.”
“Well, I don’t mean to.”
“I have another story for ye if ye promise not to laugh at me or belittle me. What say ye?”
“Is this another piss story?”
“No. This is about the time I had to take a shite in the woods. I stripped down to do it because I’d been having problems and I didn’t want to splatter myself. I hear a rustling behind me and jumped up and turned around to see a fox take off with my clothes._”
“Did ye mess yeself?”
“Umm, well, yes I did but that’s not the point of the story.”
“But it is funny.”
“Yes, well, anyway I took off after the fox but he ran faster than me. I tracked him for a while. I spotted him and tossed a rock at ‘im. Didn’t hit ‘im and he ran off.
“I was left standing there with no clothes. I went back to camp very carefully let me tell ye. I pulled a bush up to cover myself. It would ‘ave been alright if Will Scarlet hadn’t pulled the bush away. Everyone saw me and started laughing.”
“Umm, well, no. I didn’t think it was funny at the time although I did later.”
“Okay, I like that story. Out-foxed by a fox. I love that.”
“Yes, ye would.”
They finally reached Sherwood Forest. Rob felt a sense of excitement. He felt safe here. He hadn’t actually succeeded in getting Maid Marian’s jewelry back but he brought something back. He wasn’t convinced there was any stolen jewelry. He also accepted there was not going to be any real reward for his effort. Certainly there wasn’t going to be any sex for it. He didn’t care; he was home. Yes, that was what is was- home.
“Francis, wait until ye meet the band. These are the bravest people ye shall ever meet. They-”
“They sent ye on a false mission; they make light of ye; they do not respect ye. Rob, open ye eyes to reality. It is time for ye to grow up and see things as they are. Ye won’t be so disappointed by people if ye do that. I’d like to slap ye along ye ‘ead but I can’t reach that ‘igh.”
Rob knew Francis was telling the truth. He was treated as a clown. Yet, it was he who went to the Land of Enchantment. It was he who wasn’t tempted by the Lady of the Lake. Not tempted enough. It was he who helped Merlin to get free. It was he who fought the Witch and succeeded in his mission. By God, he was nobody’s fool.
They came to the camp. Rob stood looking at it with amazement. Francis also looked at it with amazement. The entire camp was empty. The huts were fallen in. There were no cooking fires going. There was nothing going on at all.
“Rob, I’m not impressed. Ye seem to ‘ave told me a story. It isn’t funny at all. What the ‘ell is this supposed to be?”
Rob walked around the camp speechless. It was as if everyone and everything had disappeared without a trace. There was no sign anyone had lived here for a long time. He could see no trace of battle. He couldn’t see anything to hint at the emptiness he saw.
“Let us go into the village. I need to find out what ‘appened ‘ere.”
“Is that safe to do what with not knowing what ‘appened ‘ere, if anything”, Francis said with a smirk. He was losing faith that Rob had been part of a band of robbers.
“I’m going in so ye do what ye want.”
They watched the village from the forest. They kept an eye on Nottingham Castle at the same time. There didn’t seem to be anything amiss but something was wrong. After a while, as it started to get dark, Rob saw the familiar figure of Little John. He ran out of the trees and called to Little John.
Little John heard him and waited for him. “Well, lad, I see ye actually made it back, if ye went to begin with.”
“What? I went and came back. I was successful I’ll ‘ave ye know.”
“Okay. Who’s the little one?”
“Oh, this is Francis. He’s some sort of- I don’t know what-”
“It looks as if he is an elf. Are ye blind?”, Little John said.
“I’m a dwarf, not an elf. At least he didn’t think I was a midget.” This last remark was to Rob.
“Yea, okay, fine. Little John, what ‘appened. I went to the camp and it was deserted. Where is everyone?’
“Oh, they’re all up at the castle except me. Robin is now Baron Robin, would ye believe? Come, ‘ave supper with me and I’ll tell ye a tale. Get it, tell, tale?”
“Uh, yea. Fine.”
“Bring the little one with ye.”
Rob was impressed. Little John hadn’t invited him to supper when he was starving. Now, he was welcome and so was his friend. Wonder what’s up with that?
When they entered Little John’s home Rob saw that it was normal. There were animals in a pen, a goat for milk and cheese, some chickens and a sheep. There was also a snake lying there.
“Little John! There’s a snake there!”, Rob yelled.
“Of course. It keeps the rats under control. Ye are not afraid of a snake are ye?”
’“Yes ‘e is”, Francis said.
“Well, ‘e won’t ‘urt ye.”
“Eat and then I’ll tell ye what ‘as ‘appened. I’ll tell ye ‘ow that sod, Robin ‘ood, screwed us all by taking all the credit, the bastard.”
Word came to the camp that a large group of the Sheriff’s men were lying in wait on the Nottingham Road. It was an old trick to try to ambush the Merrymen when they came to rob a rich traveler. There wouldn’t be a rich traveler. There would be one of the Sheriff’s men dressed up as one. The band never fell for it and they wondered why the Sheriff was trying it again. Robin Hood sent Gilbert Whitehand up the road to see if there was something new going on. He got the band and led them to a place they could observe the Sheriff and see what he was up to.
Gilbert Whitehand came back to tell Robin Hood there was a party of rich men coming down the road. It was a larger party then usual but not as large as the Sheriff’s. The men coming were well-armed and seemed to have little baggage. More importantly, Gilbert Whitehand said he didn’t recognize any of the men. They didn’t appear to be the Sheriff’s men. Everyone thought it seemed peculiar.
Once the men on the road came almost to the ambush spot, Robin Hood recognized one of the men.
“‘ello! That’s King Richard ‘imself! What the ‘ell is this? Quickly! God save the King! Us too!”
There was a tangled mass of men fighting. Robin Hood’s men were fighting the Sheriff’s men; the Sheriff’s men were fighting the Merrymen and King Richard’s men; The King’s men were fighting the Sheriff’s men and Robin Hood’s men. King Richard pulled back a bit and couldn’t tell who was winning or who was really fighting who.
“Enough! Enough, I say!”
The fighting stopped. No one seemed to know what was what or who was who. They all started standing around with sheepish looks. They all slowly gathered each to his group. Each group was trying to watch each other group.
“What in the name of God is going on ‘ere? I’m the King of England so I know I’m in the right. Now, who, pray tell, are ye?”
Men in both groups started talking and making no real sense because things were not as they were planned or were as they seemed. The Sheriff’s men didn’t intend to tell the King they were there to kidnap him for Prince John. The Merrymen weren’t about to admit they were outlaws. Both sides were telling lies and not the same lies.
“Stop! Stop! I command ye to stop. If ye will stop I’ll not ‘ang anyone. If not, I’ll ‘ang ye all. Now, one at a time, what are ye sods are doing? Ye, the tall man, what the ‘ell is going on ‘ere?”
Little John didn’t where to begin. He didn’t want to say he was part of Robin Hood’s band. He didn’t want to say anything. Yet, how to not answer the King?
“Milord, permit me to speak”, Robin Hood said.
“Robin! I thought ye were dead at the ‘ands of the Moslems. Fancy ye being ‘ere. Now, what the ‘ell is going on?”
“Your Highness, I beg let me speak”, The Sheriff said.
“Well, someone better speak”, Richard said. He was sounding testy.
“Milord, this is the Sheriff of Noting‘ am. He was going to kidnap ye on behalf of Prince John”, Robin said.
“Liar, liar! I was ‘ere to prevent ye capture by these brigands. These are outlaws who rob along this road. They even shoot the royal deer.”
“The royal deer?”, the King asked.
Little John began to feel uncomfortable with where this was headed. He decided to try to head this off. “Sire, the deer can feed people or die of old age. A deer doesn’t know how old it is.”
“What? But, umm, it’s my deer.”
“See? There’s an admission of guilt if there ever was one”, the Sheriff said. The Sheriff thought he was gaining the upper hand.
“Milord, we were ‘ungry and we know ye would not condemn us for a deer when ‘ungry. Ye are too kind and generous to do that”, Robin Hood said.
Huh? Since when. I’d kill the man myself for less. Yet, I do have a reputation and too many witnesses. Outsmarted by Robin. Damn.
“Well, yes, that’s true. What I want to now is why the Sheriff’s men were in ‘iding instead of riding out to meet me as they should” Richard said with an evil look at the Sheriff.
“Umm, well, we were ordered to by Prince John, your ‘ighness. I was just following orders.”
“Hmm. I should have killed John years ago. How did ‘e get Notting‘am?”
“Sire, the previous Baron died and John took it for the crown.” That was a common practice. The Crown owned everything that wasn’t owned by someone else.
“ ‘e was thrown off the ‘igh Tower is what ‘e was”, Robin said.
“Yes, well, that’s a shame but dead is dead. Sheriff, I am the crown. The castle is mine and not John’s to ‘ave. Be off and tell John I am going to make Robin ‘ood the new Baron. Go!”
This put the Merrymen in a state of shock.
Little John couldn’t believe it. He wanted to knock Robin over the head until he died. Baron Robin? He wasn’t special. Why would he get the title? Guess it’s who ye know.
Will Scarlet almost pissed himself. Baron Robin? What sense does that make? He can’t half outfight me. I could run circles around him and still beat him. I’d like to beat him now. If the King weren’t here I might do just that. Of course, if Richard weren’t here there would be no reason to beat him. Oh, hell.
Gilbert Whitehand knew he wouldn’t miss at this distance. Right through his back and on through his heart. He’d never know what hit him. He’d be dead just the same. To Hell with Richard’s guards. They have a merry time catching him.
Alan-A-Bland wanted to rip Robin Hood’s head off. Baron, me arse. Was King Richard the Lionheart crazy? Robin wasn’t responsible for what the Merrymen had done. He wasn’t really in charge except he could read.
Alan-A-Dale thought this was going to make a great ballad. The Death of Robin Hood. Now, there was a tale worthy of the name. One of these Merrymen was going to kill Robin Hood, king or no king.
Richard got down from his charger and beckoned Robin over. He had him kneel and took out his sword. The Merrymen hoped it was to cut Robin’s head off. It wasn’t. It was to make him a baron. Baron Robin Hood. They were all disgusted.
Richard saw Friar Tuck standing on the road and told him to give a blessing. Friar Tuck hesitated but realized telling the king he wasn’t really a priest or monk might not be a good idea. He gave as bland a blessing as he could.
“So, there ye ‘ave it. The bastard is a baron. He got everything that goes with it. Of course, that made me angry. I told Robin I would never call him baron. I was going to farm on his land and not as a serf. I told him not to send anyone for rent or taxes. The sod actually said to me, ‘Little John, I was thinking the same thing.’ The liar was doing no such thing.”
“What of the rest of the Merrymen?”, Rob asked.
“Oh, ye go on up to the castle and see for yeself. I think ye want to know about ye future ‘ere. I do not know, and do not care, but he will offer ye something as ‘e ‘as the others. Think ‘ard on it, Rob, think ‘ard on it.”
“Can we sleep ‘ere tonight. Maybe over in the pen so as not to bother ye?”
“I think ye should sleep over at the other end. I ‘ave a goat and ye know-”
The next morning Rob and Francis walked up to the gate. There were two of the Merrymen, wearing chain-mail and helmets, standing guard. Rob almost laughed out-loud at this. What was this all about?
“Stop. Who are ye and what do ye want?”
“My word, I’m Rob. I’m ‘ere to see Robin.”
“Ye mean Lord Robin.”
“I do? Okay, Lord Robin. Where can I find him?”
“Ye shall ‘ave to talk to the Captain of the Guard.”
“And where’s ‘e?”
“In the guardhouse, ye twit.”
Rob and Francis went into the guardhouse. There was Will Scarlet wearing chain-mail and a helmet. He had on a red tunic and his usual scowl.
“Will! ‘ow are ye? What in the world is-”
“What do ye want?”
“Will, it’s me, Rob. I’ve been gone but not that long. Maybe I’ve grown-”
“I know who ye are. I didn’t ask ye who ye were. I asked ye what ye want. Out with it, my good man, I’m busy.”
“Well, I expected a better reception than that.”
“Yes? Ye didn’t get one. I didn’t care for ye before and I don’t care for ye now. What do ye want?”
Rob knew better than to look at Francis. He knew Francis was smirking and Rob couldn’t take that right at this moment.
“Ye are a fool. It wasn’t ye who took on the quest. It was not ye who fought the Wicked Witch. It was not ye who has returned with the necklace. Ye talk big but it was not ye who did big”, Francis said.
Rob was stunned. Francis was saying exactly what he was thinking. He had done what no one else had tried to do to Will Scarlet. He had stood up to him. He may have been foolish to do it but he had. Rob could see that Will Scarlet was stunned to be so challenged. Will was speechless for the moment. In another moment he may well kill both of them. Rob thought that as well.
“Ye speak true, little man, ye speak true. Rob, I was wrong. Ye want to see Robin? I shall take ye to ‘im. Mind ye, ‘e likes to be addressed as ‘Lord’ but not one of us does. He took credit for all instead of just a little. We do call Marian ‘Lady’ but Robin? No. I mean we wouldn’t call him ‘Lady’ but we don’t call ‘im Lord”. Come along.”
As they went up to the Great Hall, Will said to Francis, “Ye spoke bravely to me. I wouldn’t ‘ave thought ye would be brave enough do that. I don’t think ye should do brave again.”
Robin was sitting in a chair drinking mead. It seemed too early in the day but a baron can do it without consideration. Robin looked up and yelled out, “Rob! Ye ‘ave returned. Well, Will, I guess I owe ye money. Come, sit. Will, ye are dismissed. Ye can return to ye duty. Rob, sit. Introduce the elf to me.”
“I am not an elf. I am a dwarf. My name is Francis.”
“Oh, ‘ow nice. Look, ‘ere comes Lady Marian. Marian, this is Francis. ‘e’s a dwarf , not an elf. Pity that.”
As Marian entered the room, Will Scarlet left. He didn’t obey Robin too much but he didn’t like Marian and wanted out of her presence.
“ ‘Ello. Who is the other gentleman?”
“What! I’m Rob!”
“Yes? Ye asked me to get ye necklace back from the Wicked Witch and I ‘ave done so. ‘ere it is, Lady Marian.”
“Oh. ‘ow nice. I do not remember this necklace but I thank ye.” She turned around and left.
“Alright, now that that is done I will say it is nice to see ye. Don’t be a stranger”, Robin Hood told Rob.
“I say, do ye not think ye should offer a reward or a job to Rob”, Francis said.
“Yes, quite. Rob, ye always liked ‘anging around the animals. ‘ow would ye like to be my Master of the Stable?”
“No? That is all I ‘ave at this time. Well, don’t be a stranger. Ye will always be welcome ‘ere.”
“I wouldn’t like it but I will accept it.”
“Splendid! Do well, my young, dare I say it, young friend?”
Standing outside the Great Hall Rob was at a loss as to what to say to Francis. This was not what he had expected at all. This wasn’t Sherwood Forest inhabited by a happy band of carefree outlaws. As he stood there Gilbert Whitehand came over to him.
“Ye! I thought ye had run off. Why are ye ‘ere?”
“Run off? I was on a quest for Maid Marian. ‘ow could ye not know that? Surely, Robin ‘ood told ye of it.”
“No, ‘e told us nothing. Ye were ‘ere and then ye weren’t. We all thought ye ‘ad decided our life was too ‘ard and too dangerous.” He didn’t add that no one cared or talked about him afterward.
“But, Robin ‘ood knew where I ‘ad gone. ‘e said nothing?”
“I just told ye that. Who’s the little man. An elf?”
“I am no elf. I’m a dwarf. My name is Francis.” Francis was tiring of this.
“Gilbert, what do ye do ‘ere?”
“Nothing. Oh, I’m the Archery Master or something like that. I don’t actually do anything. I mostly just watch my back. Well, ‘e will find ye something and good luck to ye. Good luck also to ye, Francis.”
Rob didn’t tell Gilbert of Robin Hood’s offer. It didn’t sound like much compared to Archery Master. Rob was wondering what was really going on here. Robin Hood wasn’t a great leader or anything like one but this was too far out of the ordinary. These Merrymen were not shy about doing as they pleased but he had never seen or heard of a barony run this way. He spotted Friar Tuck and went over to him.
“Tuck! It’s me!”
“Well, of course it’s ye. Who else could ye be? I thought ye ‘ad run away-”
“I was on a quest, damn it!”
“Ye need to watch that mouth. I’m a servant of God and ‘is church ‘ere on earth.”
“Tuck, knock that shit off. Ye are a scamp.”
“Was a scamp. Now that Robin is a baron I am ‘is bishop or something like that. Maybe not a bishop but a priest. At least I think I am. Whatever I am, I do Mass and get the money. All I’m sure of is that I get the collections. There was a priest ‘ere but Robin sent ‘im down to the village to be their priest. Those sods are to poor to give money. ‘e mostly gets chickens, egg, wheat and some fruit. ‘e was unhappy but Robin is the Baron so... ye know ‘ow it works. Good day and I’ll see ye at Mass or not. Bring the elf with ye.”
Rob was perplexed and told Francis that. Francis suggested he go to the stable and see if he had to do anything or not. Money was money no matter how it was obtained. Rob gave Francis a funny look but went down to the stable to see what was what.
Rob and Francis walked down to the stables. Inside were a couple of boys working. The stable looked and smelled like any other stable. The stable boys barely glanced at Rob but they were intrigued by Francis. Francis looked t them ready to give them a whack if they asked if he was an elf. They didn’t say anything.
“Boys, who tell ye what to do? Who gives ye orders?”
The boys glanced at one another. They looked confused. They were.
“Orders? We come ‘ere in the morning and shovel the shit and hay into the cart. We take it outside and dump it in the moat. We put down fresh hay, feed the ‘orses and wait until someone wants a ‘orse. We saddle and unsaddle. Then we go to sleep. What orders?”
Yea, what orders? Rob walked outside with Francis. He looked around the castle and realized it was going to be a bore. He’d work until he couldn’t. Then he’d hope to be taken care of until he died. What a boring life lay ahead.
“Francis, after the adventures we’ve ‘ad I cannot stay ‘ere and be bored the rest of my life. I cannot.”
“Rob, what are ye thinking? Life is what it is. Boring or not it is what it is.”
“I’m going to go on Crusade.”
Francis was shocked. He had never picked up a hint of religious passion in Rob. Religious passion? He had never picked up so much as a hint of religion in Rob. A crusade? That was dangerous and ridiculous.
“Rob, that is foolish. Take a few days, or weeks, and think on that. It is too big a decision to make so flippantly.”
“Francis, after the Duke and the Lady of the Lake, after the Witch I cannot think of this as foolish.”
“I can and do. Time, Rob, take some time. Talk to those ye trust ‘ere.”
“A few days, Francis, I’ll grant ye that. Yes, I’ll do that.”
Word quickly got around what Rob was thinking. Everyone was looking at him as if he had taken leave of his senses. The first to approach him was Abu Abu.
“Abu Abu will go with ye, young man.”
“Abu Abu, ye are a Moslem. Ye are the one I am going to fight. Ye are the one all Crusaders fight. Ye cannot go with me.”
“I will go as ye manservant. When we get there I will escape and go home to Ethiopia. I don’t need this shit. Robin has let things go to his head. He’s acting like an ass. I want to go home.”
“So, in other words, you want to use me.”
Of course! Why else would I be asking to accompany you? I’m not happy with Robin Hood and I want to be your manservant? Guess the Merrymen are right. Rob is an idiot. No sense telling him. I need to go in some acceptable way until I reach the Holy Land. Then it’s off to Ethiopia and back to Christianity if it was still the way it is.
Will Scarlet took Rob aside to tell him he would be going to the Crusade as well.
“So, I’m thinking we may as well go together. Safer that way. I’m tired of this place. No action if you know what I mean. Being an outlaw was interesting. Being the Captain of the Guard is a big bore. I’m going with ye.” Will wasn’t asking. He was telling.
Rob was surprised and a little nettled by that. He couldn’t see the two of them getting along. Yet, safety in numbers made sense. Safety with Will Scarlet might be iffy at best but worth the gamble. The man could fight.
Friar Tuck told Rob he was inspired to go.
“I feel a desire to be a Christian instead of pretending. Oh, mind ye, I still intend to say I’m a priest or, at the very least, act like I am but I need to go.
“I feel that going with Will Scarlet, umm, and you of course is the best way.”
Yea, right, Tuck. Rob wondered what scam Tuck was going to pull off in the Holy Land.
Gilbert Whitehand told Rob he wanted to shoot some Moslems.
“Of, ‘ell, I want to shoot someone, anyone, and no one will bitch if I shoot Moslems. Maybe the Moslems will but I don’t intend to be captured or anything.”
Then came the summons from Robin Hood. He wanted to back the expedition.
Great. This is getting out of hand. Maybe Francis and I should just sneak off and be done with it. Yea, maybe that’s the best way.
The way things turned out he should have done it.
Short Story Collection
There are people living on the edge in what is called Appalachia. They're called ridgerunners, rednecks, hillbillies and backwoods mountaineers. No one thinks of them very often. They don't earn much to society's standards.They stay where they are because they love the area. They are hard workers when they have work and self-sufficient to an extent not known to "outsiders." They are also very funny; they have a great sense of humor about themselves.
They are the salt of the earth and the backbone of America. Their stories are America's stories. These are the stories Of Appalachia.
Book is available as an e-book or in paperback.
More stories of the people of Appalachia.
More of Joe Bob, Bubba and Earl, Mosh Henry and all of the rest of the good folks in Wabash County.
Book is available as an e-book or in paperback.
See a preview.