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Chapter Six:

Just before dawn: John and Nasir

  A chill had crept into the air as the moon finally reached the point at which he would need to go wake John... he slung his bow and quiver over his shoulder and shimmied down the branch before dropping to the ground... then he quietly moved back to camp.

The silence of the forest amazed him as he moved through it... and as he slipped into camp he heard nothing but the snores of those who slept there... he silently moved to where John lay and nudged him with the end of his bow.

"Hm?" John groaned in his sleep.

Nasir nudged John again as he started to come awake. John turned away from what where Nasir's bow was nudging him, not willing to wake up.

Nasir frowned, then squatted and shook the man's shoulder.

"What is it ... " John rolled back, stretching every muscle in his body.

He stood as John finally came awake then pointed to the moon.

John straightened... right... he promised to take watch. He rubbed his eyes, he felt like he'd had no sleep at all, then rose clumsily. Then he brushed the leaves off his pants and grabbed his staff.

The Saracen stepped back as John finally rose... wondering for a moment if he should show him where he had been watching from... then decided to let him choose for himself.

John stretched arms and legs, then looked at Nasir... he couldn't really see the Saracen's face, the moonlight was too faint... "Did anything happen on your watch?" he asked him, once again rubbing his face.

"Lam." Nasir shook his head... indicating nothing had.

"Hmhm." John nodded. He patted Nasir's shoulder. "Get yourself some sleep, lad." With a last look around John headed for the forest.


Just before dawn: Tuck and Nasir

  Nasir gave John a smile and nodded again, though it wasn't until he watched the big man disappear into the trees Nasir finally allowed the full weight of his fatigue to hit him. He moved once again to the tree on the farthest edge of the clearing and laid his bow and quiver beside it before removing his sword harness. As he stretched he let his eyes sweep the silent camp... it was so different than what he was used to. With a quiet sigh he settled himself at the base of the tree, folding his arms across his chest. In his haste to leave he hadn't thought to bring a bedroll and now was suffering the consequences. He watched the others sleep until his eyes grew too heavy for him to hold them open any longer, then finally gave himself to sleep...

"Saracen!" In his mind's eye Nasir was immediately awake at the sound of de Belleme's voice. "Did you really think it would be that easy to escape me?" Nasir scrambled to his feet, grabbing his swords even as he did... a mist blanketed the camp and he saw no one but the Baron. "You belong to me, Saracen. I own your body and soul." <Arabic> "No... you are dead." Nasir watched the man warily. "Am I ?" The Baron he laughed, "How can you be so sure? You see what I wish you to see... " de Belleme raised a hand and the fog swirled around them, before seeming to lift. Nasir was unable to hold back the look of shock that flooded his face at the sight revealed to him..

Nasir moaned in his sleep... trying to shake of the images he was seeing... finally he had had too much... as the fog lifted... he could take no more and he came awake with a jerk... for a moment he felt he could not catch his breath and his eyes swept the camp in alarm... then the realization of it not being real hit and he leaned back... drawing a deep breath, he ran his hands through his hair.

Tuck slept and in his dreams he saw himself sitting in front of a table covered with best and delicious English food... he licked his lips... then suddenly the image of the delicacies blurred. He struggled to stay with the dream... it was so tempting... and he could almost touch the dishes with his hands... but something drew him back. When he opened his eyes all that was felt was the feeling of disappointment... he shifted slightly, drawing the blanket tighter around him only to find out it wasn't large enough to cover him completely. Tuck sighed and shifted again, then now fully awake, straightened. He didn't feel too comfortable lying on the ground. Full of longing he thought of his chamber in Nottingham Castle - small, dark, but at least it held a real bed. He sighed once more and took a look around, counting the sleeping figures like a shepherd counted his sheep... he saw Will under a tree, Much and Marion near the lean-to, Robin lay by the fire... what about John and Nasir? Tuck lifted his head... then recognized the blanket beside Robin as John's. This blanket was exactly what he needed... he rose to his knees and reached for the blanket, then saw a reflection under a tree at the farthest end of the clearing... he screwed up his eyes trying to find the source of the reflection. Tuck realized the reflection was caused by the studded jerkin of their latest member. As far as he could tell the man was awake like he himself. Tuck rolled his eyes and knew he wouldn't be able to sleep anymore - so why not join Nasir? He stood puffing and took both blankets with them - his and John's - as he walked slowly over to the trees... aye, Nasir was definitely not sleeping, Tuck noticed when he came closer. The Saracen was sitting with his back leaned to a tree and his legs stretched out in front of him... there was something about him... the man was taking deep breaths like he had run for miles just before sitting down ...

The Saracen dropped his hands as he noticed a movement at the center of the camp... instinctively his hand went to the hilt of his sword... but when he saw it was only the Friar he released it. His eyes sought the moon for a moment, gauging the time... it would not be sunrise for at least another hour... he rubbed his eyes wearily, knowing there would be no more sleep for him this evening

Tuck saw the movement of Nasir's hand and wondered what made that man so suspicious... as he was close enough he said "Nasir, you don't want to stab me with that sword of yours, do you ... "

Nasir lowered his hand again at the Friar's words and shook his head... then without realizing it, found himself scanning the camp again... as if de Belleme might appear at any moment.

Tuck smiled and sat down next to Nasir, offering him John's blanket. "Here... do you know where John went?"

"Shukran." He took the blanket gratefully and wrapped it around himself, then remembered the word the boy had told. "" At his question he motioned watching by raising his hand above his eyes then pointed towards the trees where John had gone..

"You're welcome ... " Tuck kept his smile. He liked the gentle way of the stranger - so unlikely to John or Will. "John has gone in the forest to... look for something?"

Nasir frowned slightly... how to say he was watching for something not looking... perhaps if he drew it again... he leaned forward brushing a place in the dirt next to him and once again drew the road... motioned someone moving down it then again raised his hand above his eyes before returning his gaze to the man.

Tuck frowned... he could hardly see what Nasir was drawing in the dirt... he looked at Nasir, shrugging... then pointed at the drawing and asked "Does Robin know?".

Nasir nodded that he did... then frowned... his not speaking their tongue would not make things easy... but then he had never thought he would be free again, and with de Belleme he had refused to learn it... it had been his choice... at the thought of the man a shiver passed through him and he drew the blanket tighter around him.

Tuck was relieved that Robin knew about John being in the forest in the middle of the night... he must have missed this decision while he slept. He looked at Nasir and shrugged once more, knowing his last question could easily be interpreted as mistrust.

The Saracen drew his knees up... then rested his arms on them a moment as he looked at the Friar... wondering how he came to be here... he was certainly no fighter.

"You're for the first time in a forest like this?" Tuck knew if he wanted to keep their conversation going, he would have to change his way of asking questions.

Nasir nodded, yes, this was not like anywhere he had been before... then he pointed at the man before raising his hands palm upward in front of him and moving them to indicate the area around them... and finally shrugging... would he understand he was asking how he happened to be here ?

The monk followed Nasir's every gesture trying to voice them... "Me? The camp? Oh, you're asking what brought me here?"

Nasir nodded again with a slight smile.

"Marion," Tuck said. "I'm here because of the little flower... "

Nasir furrowed his brow ... . not understanding what the woman had to do with his being in the forest... he raised a hand to rub his eyes again... he had only had a couple hours sleep and he felt it, but he also knew he would not find any more sleep this night.

Tuck looked down. How could he explain a stranger like Nasir what caused him to follow Marion into the forest? "I used to be the Sheriff's chaplain. Marion was under the guard of the Sheriff's brother, Abbot Hugo. When de Belleme claimed Marion his bride, I could not allow this to happen." Then he raised his head and looked at Nasir, smiling good-naturedly. "That's my story. What about you... you weren't able to sleep?"

His face darkened at the mention of de Belleme... and he nodded... that was where he had seen the man before... at the castle of the Sheriff... Nasir shook his head with a frown, as he ran his fingers through his dark curls.

Tuck noticed the motion in Nasir's face even through the dark while speaking of de Belleme and Nasir's running his hand through his curls definitely had a nervous touch. "You think about... de Belleme?" Then added, "You don't have to talk about it - " then broke into a laugh, "of course, you can't talk about it, I beg your pardon. See, this situation is new not only to you, but to all of us." Still laughing he shook his head.

"Na am." Nasir said softly as he nodded... if only he could confide in him. Tuck got the impression that something was going on inside Nasir, but he couldn't put his fingers on it - and they couldn't talk about it. Not today.

Nasir shifted the blanket around his shoulders again.

"Look, Nasir," Tuck began, stifling a sudden yawn, "don't expect too much. You are free from de Belleme," he crossed himself as he remembered whom the Baron had worshipped, "we all are free. These are fine men, but we are not used to being outlaws - none of us was before - except Will... " He brought his hand up for he couldn't stifle the next yawn. Half in sleep he mumbled "Forgive me, but I have to get some rest now ... " and in his mind the image of an opulent meal began to unfold...


In search of answers

  Nasir settled back against the tree, watching as the Friar returned to his place near the fire. Had it not been for the soft snores from those sleeping in the camp around him he could easily have imagined himself alone here... it was a feeling he had not felt in some time. It was hard not to wonder if he had made the right choice in joining them... he owed his life to their leader, but was that alone enough? Could he stand beside them as they fought for their beliefs without question? More importantly, was he willing to die for them? There was no doubt in his mind that he would die for Robin, but what of the others? Would he sacrifice his life for the Friar... or Scarlet... the man had made it clear that he would rather see him gone.

The Saracen drew a breath, noticing the first hint of daylight beginning to lighten the sky... maybe his prayers would reveal some of the answers that seemed to elude him. The Saracen shrugged off the blanket and rose, gathering his harness as he did. As he buckled the straps his eyes swept the camp, as if assuring himself that he was still the only one awake. Satisfied he silently made his way to where the water bags hung, following the dictated order he washed then slipped into the trees before making his way to the place he had chosen for his prayers.


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