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» Sherwood Forest » Robin Of Sherwood - welcome! » Richard Carpenter's 'Robin of Sherwood' (1984)


Richard Carpenter's 'Robin of Sherwood' (1984)

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Richard Carpenter
Robin of Sherwood

A magical retelling of the legend of Robin Hood based on the new ITV series

[p.1] Puffin Books
ROBIN OF SHERWOOD
Robin Hood must be destroyed, whispered the Baron. We are all agreed on that. Though perhaps for different reasons. He leant forward. I know he will come to me and I know he will come alone.
Ever since Robin Hood had fled as an outlaw into Sherwood Forest, he too had known that a confrontation with the vile Baron de Belleme was to come. The Baron was a man feared the length and breadth of the land for his cold-hearted cruelty and the demonic powers he used to keep his servants enslaved. Only one man could possibly ever break the Barons hold on England, and that man was Robin Hood, come to Sherwood to fulfill the ancient legend of Herne the Hunter, and to fight against the oppression of the weak, the sick and the poor.
As the Barons net tightens around Sherwood, Robin Hoods outlaws and their friends, Friar Tuck and Maid Marion, daily run the risk of capture, torture and death. Time after time, Robin and his men slip through the enemys grasping fingers, only to vanish again in the depths of the forest. But then the Baron plans the most horrifying trap of all...
The swashbuckling adventures of Englands most famous hero have been cleverly retold by Richard Carpenter, who is well-known for his previous successes both on television and in books, including Catweazle, The Ghosts of Motley Hall and Dick Turpin.

[p.3]
RICHARD CARPENTER
ROBIN OF SHERWOOD

PUFFIN BOOKS

[p.5]
INTRODUCTION

Another Robin Hood book when there are already so many seems to need a bit of an explanation. This version began life as a television script, and I owe a great deal to everyone who worked on the series for their creativity and help. In particular Id like to thank Paul Knight who produced it, Ian Sharp who directed it, and the splendid and enthusiastic cast who brought it all to life.
I didnt want to make it a history lesson but I have followed recent tradition and set the story in the reign of Richard I.
There is no magic in the original ballads and almost no reference to the popular idea of Robin fighting against oppression. But the story has been snowballing for over seven hundred years and has grown with each retelling. Thats what has kept it alive. I hope my version remains true to the spirit of Robin Hood while at the same time providing a few new ideas of my own.
RICHARD CARPENTER

[p.6]
In the days of the Lion spawned of the Devils Brood, the Hooded Man shall come to the forest. There he will meet Herne the Hunter, Lord of the Trees, and be his son and do his bidding. The Powers of Light and Darkness shall be strong within him. And the guilty shall tremble.
PROPHECIES OF GILDAS

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[p.7]
PROLOGUE

It was still several hours to cockcrow and the mist hung thickly over Loxley lake as the battle horses floated silently across it, with their riders standing guard beside them. There was blood on the battered shields.
The warriors faces were grim set and hawk-like in their helmets. They had their orders. The village and everyone in it were to be destroyed.
The rafts grounded against the reeds with a swishing sound. Mounting their horses the knights gave a savage cry and charged into the village.
Ailric, the Thane of Loxley, heard them and quickly took his little boy, Robin, from the bed. Wincing with the pain of his wound he carried the lad outside. At the far end of the village, the knighls were already setting fire to the huts and as the people ran into the street their swords flashed, cutting them down. Women and children screamed in terror. All were killed without mercy.
Ailric carried the child to his horse and set him on its back. With the boy gripping the rough mane he mounted up and galloped away from the pitiless massacre, galloped all the way to Matthews mill, looking anxiously back to see if the knights were following. Smoke from the burning village could be seen clearly from the mill and Matthew and his wife were watching it as Ailric rode up.
Swiftly he handed Robin down to them. Theyre burning Loxley, he panted. Hide the boy. Ill come for him by night. With a last tender look at his little son he turned his horse towards Rhiannons Wheel. The wind howled through the stunted bushes and moss-covered trees while the rain lashed down relentlessly. Ailrics cloak clung round him, and his wet hair hung lankly over his drawn face.

[p.8]
The ancient circle of stones so old that their meaning had been lost stood high over the forest of Sherwood. Rhiannons Wheel was a sacred place and Ailric had come there for a special purpose. But as he dismounted another man came from behind one of the giant stones and faced him with a naked sword. He was Robert de Rainault and he eyed the exhausted man with contempt.
Ive been expecting you, Ailric, he said harshly. Youve lost. The rebellions over. He paused and his eyes narrowed. Where is it? he demanded.
Ailric backed away drawing his sword; thunder rumbled across the sky.
Its here isnt it? de Rainault went on relentlessly. Youre the Guardian, arent you?
Ailric gave a despairing cry and rushed towards him. But a dozen arrows flashed across the circle and he crumpled slowly to the ground. As de Rainaults soldiers came from their hiding places among the stones, the knight knelt down beside the dying thane.
Ailric looked up at him and smiled.
He is coming, he whispered. The Hooded Man is coming!
When Ailric was dead de Rainault ripped the quiver of arrows from his back and emptied them onto the ground. Among them was one different from the rest. It was made of silver and its shaft, thicker than that of an ordinary arrow, was engraved with magical signs.
Robert de Rainaults hands caressed it greedily. He was the Guardian now.

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[p.9]
CHAPTER 1

The bow had gone.
Robin took his hand from the hole in the hollow oak. He knew Much had taken it no one else knew the hiding place. Much had gone into Sherwood to hunt deer. He was tired of the miserable diet of beans and rough bread they were forced to live on. The lad wanted meat.
Robin looked back through the trees to the watermill where his stepfather was lugging the heavy grain sacks through the door: then he turned and ran into the forest. He ran lightly and easily with fluent grace. Although barely an adult, his body was already hardened by years of labour in the open air. Life at the mill had given him a strong back and broad shoulders. It was a hard life but he had thrived on it.
He ran on deeper and deeper into the forest he knew so well, searching for the boy, hoping he found him before the foresters, or worse still, Guy of Gisburne and his men. To be caught carrying a bow was dangerous enough but to kill a deer would bring a terrible punishment.
It was spring in Sherwood. A fresh green seemed to burst from the branches. The great trees shimmered in the April sunlight, dappling the forest floor. The cycle of death and re-birth made whole areas into an impenetrable jungle where rolling skeletons of trees lay buried under a tangle of creepers and brambles. To most people, the forest was a place of evil, where demons called from the darkness and the howls of lost souls could be heard mingling with the cries of hunting owls.
Robin stopped running. Around him birds sang, and the wind moved through the trees with the sound of a distant sea. And then quite suddenly, in his minds eye, he saw Much standing over a stricken deer.
He gasped as if water had been suddenly thrown in his face; [p.10] then just as quickly the vision faded. Hed had many moments like this since childhood: they came unbidden and always took him by surprise. He had long ceased to be frightened by them but they always bewildered him. Once, when hed been chopping wood, a picture of his stepfather, trapped beneath sacks of corn had flashed into his head and sent him racing into the mill. A few minutes later and Matthew would have suffocated.
He ran on: then in a small clearing ahead of him, saw a deer with an arrow through its side. One of his arrows. There was no sign of Much but Robin knew that the terrified boy had seen him and was hiding in the undergrowth. Without a word he dived into the bushes and dragged him out.
Much was a thin-faced boy of sixteen with a mop of curly hair. He was slow witted and gentle. He stood silent while Robin took back his bow and quiver, wrenched out the arrow and slung the dead beast across his shoulders.
Hes mine! Much cried suddenly.
Yours? retorted Robin angrily. Nothing is yours! Not my bow or the Kings deer. His dark eyes looked anxiously into the forest.
He wont mind, said Much. Not one deer. Wouldnt miss it, would he? Hes got plenty, the King has. Anyway, Id tell him I was hungry. He smiled foolishly.
And hed tell you its better to be hungry and have both your hands, Robin replied grimly and began moving off.
Much trotted up to his shoulder. My hands? he asked.
And then theyd lop one off, said Robin, so youd remember what hed said.
He had to find somewhere to hide the deer quickly. There was a cave about a mile to the north. If they could reach it without being seen and wait there until dark they might stand a chance. But luck was against them and they were still some distance from the cave when they were seen by a party of soldiers led by Sir Guy of Gisburne.
Gisburne was Steward to Abbot Hugo, the Sheriff of Nottinghams brother. He was a young man, arrogant and hot tempered. He considered the native English to be hardly [p.11] human, and enjoyed hunting them whenever they were foolish enough to break the forest laws. Gisburne was ambitious and tenacious. Very few people liked him. Everyone knew he was determined to gain power and position, even if he had to elbow others out of his way. He was proud of his physical strength and his skilful horsemanship. Several times he had asked the Abbot if he might join a crusade and seek glory in the Holy Land, but Hugo always refused him. He needed his merciless gamekeeper.
Gisburne was pleased when he saw Robin and Much with the deer. It had been a boring day and here at last was the chance for some action. For a minute or two he watched the two poachers as they hurried along through the trees below him, then almost casually he turned his horse and galloped down the hillside with his men close behind him.
When Robin saw the horsemen, he shrugged the deer from his shoulders and with a warning shout to Much took to his heels. As Gisburne came crashing through the trees Robin threw away his bow and quiver. The young Steward could easily have overtaken the fugitives but he preferred to let them run until they were exhausted. Alter all, it gave his horse some exercise. At length, drenched with sweat and panting for breath, Robin and Much could run no further, and as they stumbled to a halt their pursuers surrounded them. Gisburne trotted forward and watched while his men dismounted and grabbed hold of the two youths.
Do you know who I am? Gisburne asked, with brisk cheerfulness.
Yes, gasped Robin, wiping the stinging sweat from his eyes.
Well? Gisburne demanded.
My Lord of Gisburne.
Good. Gisburne was pleased that he had been recognized. Who are you, serf?
Robin looked hard at his tormentor. Im not a serf Im a free man.
Gisburne leant forward in his saddle and hit him hard across the face. He did this quite calmly and without rancour.
[p.12]
If I say youre a serf youre a serf, he said. Now then. Whats your name serf!
Robin of Loxley.
Gisburne raised his eyebrows. You arent Robin of Loxley because Loxley doesnt exist.
For a moment Robin was back in the burning village that had once been his home, watching the mailed knights cutting down the screaming women as they ran blindly among the horses and the flashing swords.
I was born in Loxley, he said quietly.
Gisburne smiled but his eyes were cold. Then you had better forget it, hadnt you? he replied, patting his horse as it moved impatiently under him.
Now then, youve broken the law of venison. Do you know what that is, boy? Ill spell it out, shall I? No man shall carry a bow in the forest save a sworn forester. No man shall kill or hunt the Kings beasts. Dyou know the penalty?
Robin nodded.
Dont nod, said Gisburne irritably.
Yes.
"Yes, my lord".
Yes, my lord.
Thats better.
Much moved forward. My lord it was me shot the deer, he said nervously. He grinned sheepishly. Much is my name, sir
Whats the matter with him? Gisburne demanded. Is he simple?
Hes the millers son, said Robin. His mother fostered me. Hes nothing to do with this he
Youll lose your tongue as well as your hand, Gisburne interrupted. Tie them up.
With his prisoners securely bound, Gisburne turned his horse and began slowly making his way back through the forest towards Nottingham Castle.

* * *
In the middle of a painted circle lit by flickering black candles, a naked giant struggled to free himself from chains [p.13] shackling him to the flagstones. His hair and beard were matted with filth, and his slack mouth was flecked with foam. His eyes stared blankly at the sinister and implacable figure of Simon de Belleme.
The Baron de Belleme was one of the most powerful men in England. He was also a magician and he worshipped the demon Azael. He believed Azael would give him power over the universe, power to destroy the balance of good and evil and make him immortal so that he could rule everlasting chaos with the Lords of Darkness. Many were the sacrifices he made to Azael in order to achieve this insane ambition. He had even killed his own wife, the Lady de Belleme. He feared the demon and would do anything to placate him.
But Simon also feared the prophecies of Gildas the Monk concerning the Hooded Man: so he had chained his naked slave in the Circle of Solomon hoping that Azael would speak through him.
The huge man shook and twisted in his chains as the demon possessed him. His limbs writhed and his eyes rolled up until only the whites were showing: his mouth fell open and a loathsome voice, cavernous and vile, spoke as if coming from the very depths of hell. Beware the Hooded One. Hernes Son will seek the Arrow. It is near it is near...
Simon threw himself to his knees. What must I do? he cried, his voice echoing around the cellars of Castle Belleme.
The giant shuddered; the power of the demon surged through him and it spoke again.
A sacrifice! A sacrifice! A young girl innocent spotless... The evil voice died away and the giant lay still. Azael kid gone.
Simon stood up. Would the demon ever be satisfied? When would he grant him the immortality he craved? Time was running out for Simon. A malignant disease was eating at his heart and in a few years