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Chapter Four:

Let's give him a hand !

  Gisburne barely managed to duck in time as the Sheriff's goblet was hurled from the high table.

"I knew you were incompetent, but this is ridiculous!" shouted the Sheriff.

"My lord, I-"

"It's been three days and yet you still haven't found those cutthroats! How difficult can it possibly be to track down a group of ragged peasants? God's Teeth, they even have a girl to slow them down and they're still ten steps ahead of you!" Gisburne gritted his teeth, but did his best not to betray his anger.

"I've got men searching every part of Sherwood, my lord. We'll have them soon enough."

"Or several corpses," grumbled de Rainault. "Just how many men did we lose after that disaster at Belleme Castle?" Gisburne lowered his eyes and said nothing.

He had counted the bodies, but he wasn't about to share his tally with the Sheriff. Both of the de Rainault brothers had been angry enough at the time. Gisburne had no intention of adding more heat to the proverbial fire.

However, the Sheriff didn't appreciate the fact that his question was being ignored. He opened his mouth to further berate his steward when a servant appeared at Gisburne's elbow.

"Well, what is it?" demanded de Rainault as Gisburne bent his head slightly to listen to the servant.

"There's a prisoner who wishes to speak to me, my lord," explained Gisburne, hardly believing the words himself. The Sheriff raised a bemused eyebrow.

"Really? Well, then, you'd better see what he has to say hadn't you, Gisburne?" The knight stared at his employer for a moment in astonishment, then quickly turned on his heel.

"Yes, my lord," he replied, following the servant from the hall before the Sheriff could change his mind.

"What does the man want?" asked Gisburne, once he and the servant were safely out of earshot.

"Wouldn't say, my lord. Just insisted that he had to see you, that he had important information... " Gisburne nodded curtly, though he found it highly unlikely. The prisoner was probably hoping to beg for mercy, which could prove entertaining. If it didn't, it would be simple enough to remedy the situation.

It wasn't long before the knight reached the dungeon. With a wave of his hand he ordered two guards to pull back the grille. Then the ladder was lowered and, after a few barks from the captain, the prisoner was making his way out of the pit.

The young man had brown hair and a rather impudent gleam in his eyes. There was also a bruise on one side of his face and Gisburne suddenly remembered where he had seen the prisoner before.

"Why, we only just brought you in this morning!" he cried. "You were arrested for poaching."

"Aye, my lord."

"Well, what do you want?"

"I have some information that might interest you."

"Oh, you do, do you?" The prisoner smiled.

"I know where Robin Hood's camp can be found." There was a long pause as Gisburne digested the information.

"How?" he asked at last.

"I was in the forest yesterday when I heard some noise. A man was thrashing through the bushes. There was a boy with him, trying to warn him to keep quiet. But I had already spotted them, see?"

"Go on."

"The boy shot a stag and then they both went back the way they'd come. I followed them as closely as I dared, and they led me straight to the camp."

"The outlaw camp?" demanded Gisburne, barely able to contain his excitement. "Are you sure?"

"Well, as I said, I couldn't get too close in case they caught me, but I could have sworn that I saw a monk and a girl with them." There was another long pause and the prisoner could see that he had set the knight thinking.

"This camp - Could you find it again?"

I'd hardly have come to you in the first place if I couldn't, thought the prisoner.

"Aye, I could lead you straight to it, my lord." Gisburne studied the prisoner shrewdly.

"And what do you ask for in return?"

The prisoner smiled again. "I'd like very much to keep both my hands," he answered boldly.

"I think that can be arranged," replied Gisburne with a smirk. "What's your name?"

"Henry," said the prisoner. "Henry of Skipton."

"It's settled, then. We leave at dusk," said Gisburne to his captain.

"Yes, my lord." The soldier turned his head towards Henry, who was

pretending not to listen to their conversation. "What do we do with him until then?"

"Put him back in the dungeon, of course."

"My lord!" protested Henry, no longer feigning disinterest.

"If you haven't been lying you've nothing to fear, have you?" stated Gisburne. Henry was grabbed roughly by two of the guards.

"No, my lord, but-" Henry's voice faltered as the grille was drawn back again with a loud creak.

"I'd better report to the Sheriff," stated Gisburne to no one in particular. Then he turned, his cloak whirling behind him.


The Sheriff plans a trip

  "I'm going to London, Gisburne." The Sheriff rose from his table uttering these words, and descended down to the main floor.

"My lord!?", exclaimed Sir Guy.

"Yes... it seems there's a small matter of royal ceremony. Some-thing about showing fealty to the king. My guess is he is just looking to put more money into his pockets and out of mine. No doubt I'll be required to present him with a... suitable... gift." de Rainault sneered.

"Yes, my lord."

"You'd say yes to anything, wouldn't you Gisburne? You know I can't stand a sycophant."

Gisburne looked flustered and flushed for a moment. "No, my lord; I mean, yes, I knew, my lord, but... "

"Nevermind that Gisburne. The point is I'll be out of town for a while, and I've no choice but to appoint you my deputy while I'm gone." The Sheriff walked past Gisburne, and turned to look at him. "I know you're going to muck things up while I'm gone."

"You honor me and dishonor me with the same breath, my lord Sheriff. I shall prove myself to be a more than adequate deputy. And if I might say so my lord, it's about time you gave me more responsibility." Sir Guy beamed. This was his opportunity to prove himself competent, to rid himself of the stigma that the Sheriff always attached to him. And with the Sheriff gone, he would be at the top of the pile. He'd not look like a fool now, or at least, no one would accuse him of it. Not while he sat at the high throne.

"And Gisburne, don't sit in my chair. Remember, you aren't the real Sheriff, you're just someone to listen to the petty grievances while I'm out. You know the laws, dispense with them. And don't so anything stupid, although I'm sure you will. And believe me, when I return you'll be held accountable for every one of your actions... and every coin in my treasury."

"Yes, my lord. I'll not disappoint you, my lord."

"No, Gisburne, you'd better not. Oh, and I've asked my brother, Hugo, to look in from time to time, eh? Do see you treat him with courtesy and respect, as his report will influence my opinion of your performance."

"Of course, my lord. I shall treat him as though he were my own."

"Oh, and one more thing Gisburne."

"Yes, my lord?"

Sheriff: "Stay away from Sherwood, Gisburne..."

"Stay away from Sherwood. I don't want to come back to find half my men dead because of you."



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