Slow Going

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As I had said to my comrades, it was slow going. I knew it would be, but I started getting frustrated at just how slow it was. It started like how it had always gone. But after weeks, we started to hear whispers from the villagers. The sheriffs men were starting to come around more, a sure sign of just how anxious the man was.

I was used to the wait. I'd been waiting more than half of my life to get my revenge. I could wait some more. But Allan, Much, and even Will, were less patient. At night, I curled up against Will and tried to reassure him. Things were just beginning. We would get there. We just had to wait. "We've been waiting years for this, Scar," he would mutter to me, holding me tight.

"I know," I responded. "And I've been waiting even longer. But you don't see me getting anxious, do you?" He chuckled, kissing my head.

"Not on the outside, no, but I can tell that you're getting frustrated with the slow pace too."

"Shh." I shook my head, burying my face against his shirt. He laughed again.

"I know, darling. I know." And we'd fall asleep like that together.

It started in whispers. But a month after we created Robin Hood, we saw the first of the consequences of our actions. The sheriff was acting out of fear, and he took the livestock of the village closest to his castle. Now they had nothing.

"He can't just do that!" Robin shouted to the trees. "They'll starve, and he doesn't give one flying f-"

John, who was practicing staff work with Much, made a noise to stop him. "There's a lady present, Robin, watch your mouth." I laughed, packing up arrows.

"Bollocks to that, John, I ain't no lady." My father figure shook his head.

"Don't try that nonsense on me, there, Scarlett. You only talk like that to prove you're like us. I'd rather you talk normal." He whacked Much over the head, and he hissed.

"Hey! There was no need for that," he muttered, rubbing his noggin.

"There is too. We're practicing so you don't get yourself killed by the sheriff's men when this gets worse, and you're not paying attention. Now, again." Much made a face, and got back to trying, and failing, to hit John with his staff. I got up, going over to Robin.

"He knows what he's doing." I talked quietly, so only he could hear me. "He wants to draw you out so he can arrest you, and then all of this will be for nothing. It's only going to get worse. We know that, and the people we're fighting for know that as well. You're their hope. They believe in you. So you've got to believe in you too, or this isn't going to work. Tell me now if you think you'll back out. I don't want to know you'll back out when it's too late."

He didn't turn to look at me, but I knew he was listening. "I'm not going to back out. But we need to step it up. We're not doing enough."

I nodded. That was precisely what I was thinking.

That night, by firelight, I held Will's hand. He would stroke my palm with his thumb, and it made me shiver pleasantly. His warmth was even better than the warmth of the fire. We all sat in silence for a while, staring at the fire. At one point, I felt eyes on me, but they weren't Will's. When I looked up at Robin, he turned his head. I frowned, looking back at the fire. Maybe he wanted to tell me we needed to talk about the next part of our plan.

"Alright guys. Robin was right earlier. We need to get this going faster. There's one hundred crowns on Robins head right now." He looked at me again, surprised. "Soon it'll be a thousand," I said, grinning.

"And how are we going to do that?" John asked, leaning on his knees, catching my eyes. "And how will having a higher bounty on his head help?"

"The higher the bounty, the more scared the sheriff is. And it means a step in the right direction every time he raises it." John nodded slowly, understanding. "Now it's time to split up. Our goal is two-fold. Counter the sheriffs attacks on our people, and keep his evils at bay until King Richard comes home."

"Do you think splitting up is the best idea?" Will asked.

I nodded. "It doesn't sound good, but look around. We don't have enough people to do both if we all stick together. There's too much ground to cover." He didn't say anything else, so I decided to continue. "So we'll have a hunting party, and a group to keep doing what we've been doing. Anyone wanting to go through Sherwood...."

The boys all chorused "...Must pay a tax!" I grinned around the circle. Maybe we could actually do this. We had a team. No. We had a family, and we would always stick together.

The next day, we split up, just as we had said. Will, Allan and I walked the road through the forest, to catch any noble's riding through. Allan and Will stood on the side, hidden by branches, and I climbed through the trees nimbly. It was mind-numbing, and I couldn't wait until it was done. I much more enjoyed bringing our spoils to the villages at the end of the day. We kept some of the gold and trinkets for days when we would get nothing, because that would happen eventually.

And again, days past before much happened. This time, it was a different village that paid the outlaws price. Taxes were raised to cover the losses that the sheriff was dealing with for everything that went missing in the forest. We did our best to help, giving most of what we had to that village. It was still slow going, and even I was getting impatient. I had to remind myself of what the sheriff had done to me over and over at night to keep myself from wanting to rush to Nottingham and putting an arrow through his eyeball. That would never be satisfying enough, and Prince John would just send another sheriff, probably someone even worse. I had to think about the people that were depending on me instead of my own selfish desires, and it was a very difficult thing for me.

Things were quiet in the villages around Nottingham, and it made John suspicious. So when I was with Will and Robin, handing out food, he and Much and Allan went to the castle. Or, rather, the village around the castle. John talked to people that he knew, Much talked to the merchants, buying food and supplies as he went, and Allan, theif that he used to be, listened in on the soldiers conversations. When they came back to camp that night, I was worried. John had kept it a secret. He would have known how worried I would have been, and how I would've tried to talk him out of it, despite us needing to know this information.

"Where have you been?" I asked my pseudo father.

"Now, mother, don't worry about your children so much." He winked at me. Winked! "You know how quiet the sheriffs been lately, despite the trouble we've been causing. Made me a little nervous, so I decided to go see what he's been up to. And good thing that I did. He's got all of the blacksmiths in the county locked in the castle making swords."

"What? What the hell is he doing?"

And then, after another two weeks, we discovered something about our beloved sheriff, something that would throw a wrench into our plans, and would cause a rift between Will and myself that we would have a very difficult time crossing.

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