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Prelude:

Herne's son

book
     
  The old man sat by the river running through Sherwood and thought about all he had seen. The times were changing, he reached out and placed his hand in the water, the coolness of it coating his hand and continuing up his arm, he smiled. The bushes across from him rustled, the man looked up to see himself eye to eye with a deer, the deer eyed him then lowered his head to get a drink of water. The old man smiled and stood up. He reached down to gather the herbs he had been out gathering, then straightening he headed back for his cave.

As he arrived back he placed the bundle on a small table to one side, then he took a handful and placed them on a brazier. The smell filled the cave with its sweetness and the man sighed. He walked over to where the sword lay, given into his keeping so long ago. His hand caressed the hilt of Albion, then let the sword rest once more. He moved over to a small stone bowl filled with water. Speaking in a language few have heard in centuries, he moved his hands over the water stopping his hand just above the surface, his voice intoned the last syllables. The dark water stirred and lightened showing him the face of a young man, just come into his prime. Tall lean and dark of hair, he watched the boy at work as he had done for the last few years. This time he knew he could wait no more. The man walked over to where the headdress rested taking it he placed it on his head, and the man stopped being the man.

He left his cave and that evening he walked without fear of anything or anyone, he headed straight for the mill near what had been the village of Loxley. As he neared, a fog moved in, he smiled. He could hear the man coming long before he saw him. "Robin". The whispered word found its way to the young mans ears echoed by the trees themselves. He watched as the man stopped, setting down the buckets he was carrying. "Who are you?" he asked, then seeing the figure standing in the trees Robin raised an eyebrow.

"I am he who is before time, and after time. I am the forest and the animals. I am Herne, Lord of the trees. Do you fear me?" Robin looked at him. "Why, you are but a man." - "A man, yes, but I am your destiny as well. Prepare yourself, soon the time will come, and we shall meet again." Robin watched as the fog thickened, he moved forward toward where the man was standing but found nothing. Turning Robin headed back towards the mill, wondering what the man meant.

Robin and Herne

 
     
 

Now watch the first RoS-episode "Robin and the sorcerer" before you continue reading...

 
     
candle

Chapter One:

A decision is reached

book
     
  The Saracen shook his head, aware that the mists that had seemed to wrap themselves around his mind were now gone. Was that why he had been able to let the outlaws go unharmed? Was he finally free of de Belleme's hold over him? He had to know if the man was truly gone... he moved quickly through the dark, musty corridors, seeing them through new eyes. As he neared de Belleme's cellar chamber he slowed... what if all of this were only a test of him? What if the man wasn't dead but was instead waiting inside the room? He drew a deep breath and whispered a silent prayer to Allah before entering, expecting the worst. It was empty... he looked around the room, the iron pentacle still hung between two pillars... the remnants of his evil still present. He tilted his head slightly, listening for something that would tell him that the man was still here... but he heard nothing but the rats in the walls.

Now what? If he was in fact finally free he could return to his Homelands... or could he? The truth nagged at Nasir... his life was still not his own. Had it not been for the outlaw he would still be de Belleme's slave... the debt would need to be repaid. He headed to the small room that had been his and immediately stripped off the armor that named him as de Belleme's property, tossing it away in disgust. He glanced around the cramped space... with the exception of a change of clothing and his weapons, he would take nothing. He dressed and slipped a second shirt, jerkin, and his kafiya into saddlebags. His dark eyes swept the room again... it was finally over. He picked up the bag and draped it over his shoulder before grabbing his weapons then headed towards the stables.

For the first time in longer than he could remember Nasir felt a clarity to his thoughts... the hold de Belleme had held over him really was gone. At the stables he saddled a mount before releasing the other horses from their stalls... if de Belleme was gone, he would not leave them to starve. He led the horse outside then mounted... nudging it forward he headed to the main gate... the smoke was thick, and already the air was heavy with the smell of death. He rode out of the castle gates without looking back, then immediately dropped his eyes to the road, quickly finding the sign that would lead him to the outlaws.

As he traveled his thoughts were clouded by doubts... what if they wouldn't accept him? What if they still believed him to be de Belleme's man? Then another realization hit him, how could he explain his reasons for joining them? While he understood their tongue for the most part, he had never learned to speak it himself... would his actions be enough?

Nasir slowed as he entered the forest and the trail suddenly left the road... was it a trap? He drew the horse to a halt and dis-mounted, tying it to a tree before grabbing his bow and quiver to follow it. He still owed his life to the young outlaw, if he chose to take it, then that was his choice. He moved silently through the trees, his eyes carefully watching for the sign... after several minutes he paused... he could hear voices. Breaking at the crest of a hill he stopped, watching as each held an arrow to a fire. As they moved to stand facing the water, the solemnness of their actions was not lost on him and without thinking he withdrew an arrow of his own.

Farewell

The Saracen stooped to pick up anything he could use to start a small fire, dried grasses, twigs, a loose piece of bark, then knelt to arrange them. As he waited for it to catch he raised his eyes to the band again, each now stood facing the lake. He watched as each in turn notched their arrows and fired them into the water. As the last man readied his to fire he stood and ignited his own arrow... when that had landed he fired, watching as it arced over them. He lowered the bow as their eyes turned to him, his decision was made... there was no turning back.

 
     

Farewell to lost friends

     
  Robin turned as the arrow hit the water... raising his bow. As he reached for an arrow he stopped... de Belleme's man... why was he here ? He looked to the others... trying to gauge their reactions.  
 

Robin and Marion

 
  Will turned around, recognizing the man dressed in black as de Belleme's man, immediately dropped his bow and put his hand to the hilt of his sword, ready to defend himself and the others.

Nasir watched them... his bow lowered... then offered a slight smile and dipped his head.

 
 

Nasir

 
  Tuck asked "What is he doing ?".

Robin shook his head. "I'm not sure... he spared my life though... let's see what he has to say."

Marion warned him "Be careful, Robin."

John picked up his quarterstaff. If Robin was to talk to the stranger, he would be with him.

Robin replied "I will ... ". He started to walk towards the Saracen... not really sure what to expect. As they started walking towards him, Nasir did the same... he had to show he had nothing to hide...

Much moved closer behind John's back - he wasn't too comfortable with the stranger. "John ? He won't kill any of us, will he ?"

Will hissed "You can't trust him ! He's de Belleme's man !"

Robin turned to look at Will "So was John... do you trust him any less because of it ?" Will looked back. "John is one of our own people, but he..is not !" He pointed with the tip of his sword at the Saracen. "But he had been de Belleme's... what makes him ... " Robin looked to the approaching Saracen, "... any different ?" - "Just look at him - I tell you, I don't trust him - could be another of de Belleme's tricks." He spat and lowered his sword though. "I am willing to risk it... stay here if you're not", Robin turned to the approaching man again and continued walking.

Nasir stopped just shy of them... not quite sure how to approach then lay his bow and quiver on the ground in front of them before continuing the rest of the way.

As the man paused so did Robin... he studied his face... this was not the man he had fought in de Belleme's castle... something about him was different ...

Will wasn't ready to give in to Robin so easily, but for now he accepted his decision and resheathed his sword, following the rest of the group.

Marion turned to Much and smiled. " No, Much, he won't kill any of us - he's only one man, and including you there's six of us... "

Robin continued forward until he was barely an arms length from the man... all the while he watched him, looking for something that might tell him what the Saracen intended... but there was nothing... he stood waiting... his bow at his side... the next move was up to him.

Nasir held his ground... he hadn't understood all that had been said, but there was no mistaking the tone... he looked to the one that had been most vocal... then back to the young leader. Will returned the man's look - just because he was quiet at the moment noone should think the last word about it had been spoken. He still mistrusted him.

John looked at the rest of the group... maybe it was better to allow Robin and the stranger some privacy... so he beckoned the others to stay behind.

For several minutes neither man moved ...

Much addressed noone in particular "What are they waiting for ?"

... then Nasir decided to let his actions speak where his words could not... he slowly walked the rest of the distance to the man then met his gaze before kneeling before him... he had been a slave, now he was free, and he owed his life to this man.

Robin was stunned..nothing could have prepared him for this.

Tuck was nearly speechless as he touched Marian's arm. He raised his eyes upward. "Thank you", he whispered. Marion felt Tuck's touch - she didn't find words either - she had not expected this either.

John had instinctively held his staff at the ready, when the stranger approached Robin, he knew about the power of de Belleme's spell, maybe not all of it had gone, but when he saw the man kneel in front of their leader, he lowered the staff.

Robin lay his hand on the man's shoulder."No. We are all equals here." Nasir nodded before standing... then looked to the rest of the group again.

John approached the two men. Since Robin had decided to accept the stranger, he would accept him, too. He looked at the man, laughing. Nasir looked at John..they had been subjected to many of the same things, and that bond would remain with them always... he dipped his head in acknowledgement and offered a faint smile.

Tuck smiled at the man... it had taken far more courage than any of them would admit for de Belleme's man to have come to them..he would not hold his past against him.

Will did not believe his eyes - that man had been with their enemy for as long as they had known him. First at the archery contest, then inside de Belleme's castle - though he did not kill Robin when he had the chance to.. but why should he trust him ? Merely because Robin said so ? Will lowered his eyes, no, he was not going to look at him.

Robin said "I'm sorry... I've forgotten your name."

"Nasir..", the man's voice was soft as he spoke.

"Well, Nasir... we are about to move to our camp and have some of Tuck's stew... are you hungry?"

Marion moved closer to Robin. Robin looked at Marian as she came to stand next to him. "I am Robin of Loxley... this is Marion of Leaford." Nasir nodded to the woman as she was introduced and Marion said " Welcome, Nasir" with a smile.

Robin continued "John you know... the boy is Much... "

Much asked "Tuck, does that mean he will stay with us ?".

"Aye it does Much... ", then louder he said "I'm Tuck."

John nodded, Much smiled shyly - he was still a little afraid of the dark man.

Robin finished, "... and that is Will Scarlett... ". He motioned to the man behind them.

Will knew this had to come - reluctantly he looked at the man, then nodded slightly, the expression on his face made clear he accepted him only because Robin and the others did and he would not risk to challenge Robin's decision here and now.

"It will be nightfall soon... I think we had better get going... did you come all the way from de Belleme's on foot?" Robin asked.

Nasir shook his head and motioned back up the hill..hoping they would understand that he had a horse tethered there.

Much whispered "Tuck, why doesn't he say anything ? Can't he speak ?"

"Shh..Much..I think he may not speak our tongue.." Tuck replied, then looked at the Saracen "Do you speak any English?"

Nasir turned as the round man spoke..and shook his head.

Robin asked "You understand us though ?". Nasir nodded again and smiled slightly this time.

Robin looked to each member of the band... "I'm sure we can all help Nasir with that can't we?".

Will rolled his eyes - fantastic, this stranger couldn't even speak their tongue... Marion was the first to answer "Of course, we will teach you." Tuck added "Aye we can, Robin... can't we Will?" Nasir turned his gaze to Scarlet... waiting for him to answer. "Sure... " Will growled through his teeth. Tuck walked over to Will and slapped him on the back. "I knew we could count on you..now let's go to camp, I'm starving..."

Robin laughed... then started back up the hill that Nasir had come down.

As he did Nasir turned to follow..stopping only to pick up his bow and quiver.

'This monk... ' Will thought... walked through his defenses like he had none, then he smiled unwillingly and picking up his bow he turned to follow Robin.

Marion followed Robin as did the rest of them. This had been an exhausting day for all of them... the battle at de Belleme Castle where the Baron had held her hostage... she shivered when she remembered the Baron would have had Robin to kill her as a sacrifice to his false idol Azeel, but instead of killing her Robin stabbed de Belleme with Herne's Arrow... she had also witnessed the fight between Robin and Nasir who now walked among them... she remembered his faint smile when he had withdrawn the swords from Robin's neck... he had been in control of the fight all the time... why hadn't he joined them then ? She would have to ask him one day... after that fight they had escaped from the Castle, only to find the Sheriff's men waiting for them outside... Dickon and Tom had been killed in that battle, two good men. But with the Saracen they had also won a new friend today, she was certain he could be trusted... of course, he would not replace the two friends they'd lost, but he'd add his own features to the group... she heard Much's voice behind her back and smiled - now they've become a band of seven...

 
     

The outlaw's camp

     
  Robin slipped his arm around Marion's waist as they made their way up the hill, for the moment his attention devoted solely to her. Nasir found himself looking from person to person as they walked, they were all so different... and though they fought, he sensed that was not what they were... then he turned his head... staying off to one side, finally pointing to a spot just through the trees where a sorrel horse stood grazing. When Will passed Nasir he gave him a black look.

"It will be difficult to keep a horse in camp." Robin stated as he saw the mount. "Why?" He turned to Marion at her question. "For one they are difficult to hide, and their trails are easy to spot, besides, if we need to move quickly we can't take it through the trees with us." Marion looked at him, "I know... but wouldn't we be even quicker if we all had horses? We could hide some far away from camp." Nasir nodded at Robin's explanation and pulled the saddlebags from the saddle... knotting the reins he slipped them over the animal's head before whispering something in its ear and giving it a swat to the rump. He looked over to Marion as the horse took off... then raised his eyebrow... it was too late now. Robin shook his head, "We'll be lucky if we can feed ourselves at first." With that the matter was finished for him. Marion sighed, "You are right."

Nasir hefted the bag on his shoulder avoiding the swords, then picked up his bow and quiver again, his hands now full. Tuck moved quickly to his side and offered, "Let me take something for you." Nasir looked at the Friar... he had rarely seen one close up and his experiences with Christians to date had not been good... he wasn't quite sure what to make of the man's gesture.

John watched Nasir and Tuck's exchange... "You can trust him, Nasir." Tuck smiled then lowered his voice so only Nasir could hear him, "We are all alike under his eyes... your Allah... or our God... it does not really matter." Nasir took in his words... the trust had to begin somewhere... he had made his choice... he nodded then shifted his weapons to one hand before handing over the bags.

Will turned in the direction of their camp, what took them so long? If the Saracen was not willing... why didn't they leave him?

As they walked Robin mentally went through all they were getting themselves into... it was about more than fighting... he knew that.

Will made his way towards camp... his anger barely hidden... he heard the other's voices behind his back... it sounded like they were enjoying themselves. He needed something, anything, to cool down his anger. Just before reaching camp, he turned to Robin. "I'll go hunting." It was not a question, it was a statement. "Good idea... take Much... " Robin said as he kept walking. Will motioned Much to follow him. The two of them disappeared into the under-brush.

John moved at Robin's side. "Hope he will be better when he returns." His eyes followed to where the last twigs were rustling and it was clear he did not mean Much. "I hope so, too, John.." Robin lowered his voice to where only the big man could hear, "Later I need you to tell me what you know of Nasir." "Aye," John agreed, "might not be too much... .". "It's better than nothing." Robin answered. John nodded, realizing he was thirsty, he then walked over to where they stored their small supplies.

As they entered the camp, the starkness of their situation was made all the clearer... Nasir walked into the clearing just behind Robin and Marion and stopped... looking around... their only shelter was a small lean to with branches lashed to it as a roof... a firepit sat in the center of the small clearing with two fallen logs serving as benches. He turned as Tuck approached him "You can put your weapons over here in the shelter." The Saracen followed the Friar... watching as the man lay his bag near the one wall... when he had moved he lay his bow and arrows down then unbuckled his sword harness... he had to trust them... slipping it off he leaned the blades next to his other things.

What stores they had were sparse, and lay on top of a makeshift table, a bag of grain... some vegetables, and hanging from the beams, several rabbits. Their life would not be easy. Nasir turned his attention back to the man, not sure what he should do next.

"We should gather some firewood... and some water." Robin announced from outside. John found only empty water skins in their stores and cursed voiceless. "Empty", he said raising one of the water skins, "I'll get fresh water." With that he took some of the skins and headed for the nearest brook. Robin laughed... funny how they seemed to know what the other was thinking before anything was said. Seeing that the man had left several skins lying... Nasir went to pick them up then headed after him.

Marion moved to stand next to Robin, "Looks like there'll be no one left to gather firewood," she said with a smile. "Let's go." Robin returned her smile with one of his own "I'm glad, I have something I want to talk to you about." Marion's smile deepened and a touch of curiosity was visible on her face as they started walking.

Nasir followed the man towards the water... there were so many things he wanted to ask... but de Belleme had never wanted him to speak... and truth be told he had deliberately not learned their tongue as a way of protest... that would have to change... he would learn their words.

At first, John didn't notice he was followed, he was busy handling the empty skins. When he heard a twig snap behind him he turned his head. Nasir stopped as the twig broke... he was used to moving in silence... but not in the woods... he shrugged and raised the waterbags as the man turned.

"Nasir?" John's surprise lasted only a brief moment, then he laughed good-naturedly. "Aye, it's not easy in the woods, is it?"

Nasir shook his head... no... it was not easy... he would need to learn. John continued his way towards the brook, Nasir always some steps behind. As he followed Nasir found himself continually glancing at the path. When they finally reached the stream, John stooped down and started filling his skins, motioning Nasir at his side. The Saracen moved to the water then knelt next to the man and began to fill his skins as well. As he filled the last of his skins he stood... glancing around the forest. When John finished he straightened and shouldered the water bags. They were pretty heavy, even for him, he counted his, then Nasir's... the Saracen had as many as he had.

Nasir raised his eyes to the sky... it would be nightfall soon. He wanted to take the time for his prayers, he had been forbidden them while with de Belleme, but seeing the other man had already hefted his bags he did the same, he would return later to do it. He nodded to the man to indicate he was ready, too. John raised his brow in acknowledgment, aye, he was strong, their new friend.

Then he turned and headed back to camp. Nasir drew his lip between his teeth... surprised at the weight of the bags but determined to carry his load.. slowly he followed Little John back to the camp.

When John noticed Nasir stayed too far behind he slowed down his pace. As Nasir realized that he had allowed himself to fall behind he forced himself to move faster, though it was not easy. While under de Belleme's control nothing had mattered but his fighting skills... it would be different here. John noticed Nasir's efforts, he was strong and strong-willed, he'd make a good member of their team. He continued at a slower pace, wondering if he should offer his help or not. Nasir shifted the bags again and moved alongside John. It was already obvious that he had many things to learn here... and it would take more than his fighting skills. The man turned as he joined him at his side, "It's hard work, living in the forest. You're sure about joining us ?" Nasir nodded... then shifted the bags again, trying to get a better grip on them. "Then here's your first lesson," John said with a broad grin on his face, "we all help each other." With that he took over two of Nasir's bags and added them to his own. Nasir raised an eyebrow... but did not protest as he released his hold on the bags. "Come on, lad, I mean no offense, there's no need to prove anything for you, well, not at least how much water bags you can carry. Let's get back, I'm starving. Tuck's stew is excellent, most of the time." With the feeling he had said enough John once more continued his way back to camp. Nasir nodded again and continued walking... surprised at how much difference the loss of two of the bags made in his load.

When they reached camp Nasir hung the bags back where he had found them then moved over by the fire and took a seat... John followed Nasir, taking a long drink from one of the bags, then sat down by the fire as well, offering it to him. The Saracen dipped his head in thanks then drank deeply, only then realizing how dry he was...

 
     

Will and Much hunting

     
  Will did not try to hide his anger once he and Much had left camp. He rushed through the forest, brushing twigs aside and kicking at bushes and brackens as if they all had deliberately chosen to grow in his way. "Will!" As he heard his name he spun around - he had almost forgotten that Much was with him. "Eh?", he growled. He saw the young boy flinching at his harshness. "I-I thought we-we were huntin' ", Much stammered. At first he had been proud Robin had chosen him to join Will on this important task but now he wasn't so sure about it, but he held the older man's eyes. "With all... th-that n-noise you'll scare off any d-deer between here and Nott-".

"Am I?!" Will interjected, yet the boy had enough inner strength to add "... and you sc-scare me, too... ". For a moment Will did not know what to say and in a corner of his mind he knew the younger man was right. He eased his composure, then simply patted Much's shoulder before turning again, leading the way.

On their way deeper into the forest - causing much less noise this time - Will allowed himself to seek out his motive for his anger. At the battle at de Belleme Castle he had lost two men he had known longer than any other of the band, Dickon and Tom, with whom he had spent some time in the Sheriff's dungeons in Nottingham. Together with Robin they had escaped from the dungeons and eventually come to Sherwood. The four of them and Much had been the first members of the outlaw gang. He blamed himself for having not been able to protect their lives... he had watched them die, cut down by the swords of Gisburne and his men, and all he had done was to save his own poor life. It was the same helplessness driving him almost mad now that he had experienced after his wife's death and it surfaced in anger and harsh behavior. What if he was not able to protect the rest of the band, Robin, Marion and all the others, that had become his new family... including the Saracen that had just joined them? If the Saracen could be trusted, that was ...

"Will... " Much tugged at Will's sleeve, "there ... ". The boy pointed to a young stag grazing not too far away. Will crouched down behind some bushes, pulling Much with him. "Allright, Much", Will said, "it's yours... .".

 
     
 

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