Nottingham

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I remember the first time I met Robin of Locksley, even if he doesn't. I don't hold it against him. I was a child, and he was barely a man. That was before I became just Scarlett. It was before, when I had a real name, when I was Lady Scarlett. He came to visit my family with his father. I remember him. I was six I believe, and sitting on a blanket on the ground with my brother Arthur. I was making crowns out of daisies when I saw the young man coming.

He looked over at us, one the heir of King Richard, and the other just a girl, and smiled. My brother was always shy, I remember that much about him, but I saw nothing wrong with taking my daisy crown and running over to the man with the ocean blue eyes. His smile grew as he knelt down, and I put the crown on his head. He looked into my own eyes and said "My lady." It made me giggle, and I watched him even as he walked away.  It was the last I saw of him for years. But I remember. I remember how full of laughter his eyes were. So different from the next time I saw him. When I saw him again, he had seen so much of the world. Too much bloodshed, and I could see it in his eyes. See the pain of too many lives lost in front of him.

 

But that was before it happened. Before they separated me from my brother, and before the sheriff of Nottingham took everything from me. From all of us. It wasn't long after that day that Robin left for the Holy War, and I left my mother and my brother. My father was dead before I knew who he was. A young man, they told me. Only twenty seven. He never met his son and daughter.

My brother was the kings nephew, and his heir. I was a pawn, meant to be sold to the highest bidder when I was old enough. I didn't understand that. It wouldn't have made a difference though. Before my seventh birthday I was sent away, sent to a different family, to be raised as a lady. The family I lived with was a good family. They must've known King Richard, because they didn't give me up when the Sheriff came. They died to keep me safe, for all of the good it did.

It was a little after I turned eight that it happened. The soldiers had no mercy, not for me, and not for anyone. I remembered two names. The Sheriff of Nottingham, and Guy of Gisborne. I remembered them so I would know who I had to kill someday. I never found out what they wanted from me, but it didn't matter. I wouldn't go willingly.

They got in easily. Two noblemen? What harm could they do? How were my guardians to know that they weren’t alone when they opened the gates? How were they to know how easy it was to hide soldiers in Sherwood Forest?

Gisborne and the sheriff only stayed long enough to get in, before letting the soldiers take over.  Soldiers were thirsty for war at this time. They didn’t know what war was really like, not like Robin did, and all they got was a child.

When I met Robin again, I didn’t recognize him. I knew he was a noble; that much was clear from his clothes. But all I knew by then was that he was crossing the river, and he would have to pay our tax. The outlaws of Sherwood Forest were taking from the rich long before Robin became one of us. We watched from the shadows of the trees as he stepped in the water to see how easy it would be to cross. I pulled the string on my bow back to my ear, waiting.

John and Will started yelling like unholy heathens and ran out at him.  I held back a laugh and the bow shook.  Robin jumped and pulled his fancy sword out of its scabbard.  “What do you want?” he yelled, backing up, wary.

“We’ll be takin’ a tax ‘fore you cross the river.” Will said, grinning wildly. He’d fought plenty of nobles who thought themselves better than him. But I knew Will. I knew he was better at swordplay than most grown men, at only nineteen. I always watched Will when we did this. Watching him move with his sword. He was so graceful. He would never want to be told, but he was beautiful. It was the eyes that did it for me, but I could appreciate every aspect of him. From his hair, that was soft no matter how much he got roughed up, to his arm muscles that tensed as he shot a bow, and relaxed in my arms, and his hands, rough from the blacksmith work he no longer did.

“I have nothing to give you lad.”

Little John whistled and shook his head. “That necklace you’ve got ‘ll feed us for a month. Hand it over.”

“This is precious to me,” Robin responded, his body tensing more.

Will laughed. “It’s precious to us too mate.”

Robin looked between the two men and nodded. “I’ll fight you for it.” This time I tensed. I could see from my perch that this was no fancy footed lord that stayed in a castle all day. I could have shot him right there, but I had to wait for a signal. “Why don’t you have your lady come down and join us?” Robin asked. I froze. How could he know I was there?

John guffawed. “Come on down, Scar.”

When I wouldn't go, when I kicked and screamed and bit and whatever a little girl could do, they lashed my hands together with rope.  The rest of that night was a blur. A blur of pain from being dragged by the rope on my arms for miles. A blur of shouting when the outlaws attacked. A blur of stumbling through trees and brambles until my vision went dark and I fell. I fainted in Sherwood Forest, and that's where I stayed, where I pretended to be a poor orphan for as long as I could. For eight years. I threw out my titles and fancy words and waited for my time.

I woke up to the smell of a cooking fire and the sounds of a village coming to life. The sun was well over the horizon, and I was alone in a hut. I was lost and afraid, and hurting. My legs were scratched from the forest, but it was my arms that felt like they were on fire.  There were no more ropes, but it felt as though there were. I looked down to see  both arms were covered with bandages.

Where am I?  I thought, my heart beating fast. I couldn’t remember what had happened, but one word resonated through my mind. Nottingham.

 

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