An Unwelcome Newcomer

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I didn't want to climb out of the tree. It meant I would have to lower my bow. It meant I would be vulnerable. But I didn't have a choice. I had to trust John. So I put the homemade arrow back in its home in my homemade quiver, andscrambled down out of the tree quickly. I walked out of the treeline and raised the bow in warning. I could see it in his face. He knew what I could do, which was a strange and uncomfortable feeling. How could he know? Women didn't fight. Why would he assume that I could?

He gave me a nod, almost like in acceptance. He was trusting me by looking away when he looked back at John. "Alright, what are we fighting with?" John twirled the staff in his hands and looked back at me.

"Can you run and get him one?" I narrowed my eyes. I wasn't a hound, made to fetch things. But I didn't need to say it out loud. "Please? You know that necklace will feed us for a long time." I sighed and nodded before handing the bow and quiver off to Will. He was just as good, if not better, which made sense considering he taught me how to use it.

I couldn't stay here. Not that I knew where here was. I took a deep breath and looked around. The hut was one room. On the side I was on were several sets of blankets on the floor. I tried to count them, but concentrating made my head spin. I looked around again and noticed a door near me, and on the other side of the room. There was a wooden table in the center of the room with mismatched wooden chairs around it. There wasn't much else in the room. It was so different than what I knew from home, and I didn't know what to make of it.

Suddenly, the door nearest me opened, and I scrambled up. The pain that swarmed over me, from head to toes made me grab my head and whimper.

"Whoa there missy. Don't move so fast. Yer arms are all cut up, yer head ain't much better. So sit. Come on over." The voice was a woman's, and soothing, and I felt as if I could trust her. So I followed her, slowly, to the table. She turned the chair to the side before sitting me down. She set a plate down that I hadn't noticed her carrying. It smelled of cooked meat, and my mouth almost watered. I didn't care what it was.

"Let me check yer bandages, then you can eat. It's deer. Don't tell the sheriff now." I froze. Sheriff. Nottingham.

I ran through the trees, dodging fallen oaks and pines, and shrubs that would give a girl rashes if you touched them. Our camp wasn't far, so I was able to get there quickly and grab a spare staff. One of Johns. I ignored the other men except a quick wave that said 'later'. And then I had to hurry back. Even I, who was in great shape, was huffing by the time I made it back to the river.

"Here. Take it and be grateful." I snapped at the man as I threw the staff at him. He gave me a mocking bow.

"Thank you milady." I sent him my best glare and stepped back with Will to watch the fight. Will seemed confident in John, but I wasn't so sure. The more I looked at the man, the more I thought I knew him. But how could I? It had been more than eight years since I'd seen anyone of his type.

Before I could think more about it, John had swung at the man. A thunk echoed in the trees at the man blocked. He spun and I heard another loud thunk as John blocked. Will and I watched carefully as the two men proved equally matched. Hits went back and forth until I saw it. John started to slow, and I knew it would end with John getting very wet. And it did. The nobleman swung his leg behind the older mans and knocked his feet out from under him. I winced and shook my head.

"Idiot." I muttered as the man pointed his staff at John.

"I heard that, Scarlett!" John yelled.

"Well you're getting slow in your old age!" I yelled back, walking over slowly.

"Do you yield?" the man asked John.

"Where'd you learn to fight like that?" John responded. The man took his hand and hauled him up.

"In the Holy Land." he answered, and I froze. I did know him. He was Robin of Locksley.

The woman didn't seem to notice. She was looking down at my arms. She unrolled the bandages, and I hissed, tears coming to my eyes. "What's your name?" she asked softly.

"Scarlett." I whispered. Tears were in my eyes as she checked my arms. The cuts crisscrossed from my wrists to my elbows.

"Hello Scarlett. My name is Fanny." I took my eyes off of my forearms to look at her. She was bigger than average, with a belly that came from having so many babies. Her hair was red like she had Irish blood in her. She had crinkle lines by her eyes that came from laughing. She finished with my arms and handed me the plate. I started eating, ravenous. "Now my husband is the one who found you. He wants to talk to you. Is that alright?"

I nodded without stopping. I'd talk to anyone who had saved me.

"Good. His name is John." She got up and headed for the door. Once there, she yelled. "John Little, come here right now." I heard a reply, and then a tall man came inside. I swallowed hard. His hair almost touched his shoulders, and it was dirty and matted. His arms were muscular, and he had to duck to get inside the door. His beard was grey like his hair, and thick.

"Hello..." he said, pausing like he didn't know what to call me. He leaned down and Fanny whispered in his ear quickly. ".. Scarlett. It's nice to see you awake. Do you remember what happened to you?" I answered with a head shake and he sighed, looking down at his wife. "Can I talk to Scarlett by myself?" he asked in a softer voice than I thought could come from such a large man. She nodded and walked out.

John came over and knelt where Fanny had just been. "Now are you sure you don't remember anything? Why are you hurt? Where are you from?"

I shook my head. "Nottingham. Sheriff. Gisborne. That's what I remember."

He rocked back on his heals, frowning. "Well that's no good. What about your family?" he asked.

"I don't live with my family. And they killed my guardians."

He sighed and nodded. "Do you want to go back to a village?"

"I don't have anywhere to go. I want to stay here." He tilted his head.

"Why would a little girl want to live in the forest with a bunch of outlaws?" I shook my head and didn't answer. I didn't have an answer for him. I didn't know. I just didn't want to go back. Not where the Sheriff could find me. I wanted to pretend I wasn't Lady Scarlett, the sister of Arthur, Duke of Brittany, and heir of King Richard. I wanted to be just Scarlett.

I pretended I didn't know Robin. It wouldn't make sense to anyone but Will why I would know a noble.

"Robin of Locksley." he said. John nodded.

"You've got some nerve, Robin of Locksley. I'm John Little, and this is Will Ferrer. This girl is Scarlett." I nodded, taking my bow back from WIll. I held it loosely in my left hand.

"Scarlett? Scarlett what?" Robin asked.

"Just Scarlett." I sounded harsh, but I didn't know what to do. I'd never had a problem like this before. Never seen someone from my old life.

"Well alright then." He shrugged. "Well the reason I'm in Sherwood is because the Sheriff wants me dead. I'm assuming it's the same for you, or you wouldn't be living in the woods." Robin looked between us for confimation. We nodded one after the other.

John didn't look at us. He didn't need our permission for what he was about to do. "Well you're welcome to join us. We can use another good fighter."

I made a disagreeing noise, but both men ignored me. "I would love to join you." Robin answered with a grin and a smug look at me. Great. At least he wouldn't recognize me. Last time he saw me I was up to his knees. I could pretend. It was just like what I'd always been doing, only harder. I could do this. I would have to.

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