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

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Everything in the Great Hall led the eye to one man sitting at the centre of the high table. There was a canopy above Richards head and his banners hung from the wall. The hall blazed with heraldry in a brazen display of pomp and glory. King Richards circus had come to town and he wanted everyone to know.
Sitting at his right hand was the Queen Mother, the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, a beady-eyed old lady with hard and watchful eyes. On the Kings left sat Hubert Walter who had recently been made Archbishop of Canterbury. It was largely through his efforts that the ransom had been paid. Richard had been quick to recognize, and reward, Huberts genius and had made him his chief adviser.
The earls of Leicester and Arundel were there, so was Ranalf of Chester and the grey old warrior, William the Marshal.
At one of the less important tables, very much out of favour and ill at ease, sat the former Sheriff with Abbot Hugo.
In the middle of the hall, dancers were entertaining the company. They were local men, dressed in crude fancy dress. A comic Nun danced with a Bishop, a Devil danced with a Queen and dancing with a parody of King Richard was Death himself.
Richard paid very little attention to the dancers. A messenger had brought him news that the whole of Normandy, east of the River Seine, had fallen into the hands of the King of France. He picked at his food and wondered moodily what other lands his brother John had let slip.
As the dance ended Gisburne made a dramatic entrance and bowed to the King. This was going to be a splendid moment and he meant to make the most of it.
Pardon me, my liege! he cried loudly to the king.
The hubbub of conversation died away as Richard looked down at the strutting figure.
What is it, man? he growled. He didnt like Gisburne. He knew that he served the de Rainault brothers.
I bring a gift, my lord king, smirked Gisburne.
A gift, eh? said the King. Perhaps the young man was bringing him gold. Lets see it!
The doors opened and Robin, Marion, and the rest of them were brought in.
This is the infamous wolfshead, Robin Hood, my liege, said Gisburne proudly. And these are some of his followers. The woman was the lord Abbot Hugos ward until the villain dishonoured her.
Thats a lie! said Marion looking angrily at him.
This renegade monk, Gisburne continued looking at Tuck, was once the er the former Sheriffs chaplain. They were creeping towards the castle when I ambushed them.
An ambush? smiled the King. Excellent. Were they about to scale the walls and put us all to the sword? Or merely surround the castle and lay siege to us?
The entire gathering looked at the little group of ragged figures and the hall erupted with laughter. Gisburne joined in but with some embarrassment.
Suppose I told you that I sent for them, said King Richard.
The silence that followed was absolute. The Sheriff and Hugo were stunned.
S-sent sent for them, sire? stammered Gisburne weakly.
Yes, said the King, sent for them. Demanded their presence here.
Gisburne felt his world beginning to topple. But but why should they come, my liege? he asked.
The King stood up and his voice thundered through the hall, Because I am the King of England!
Gisburne prayed hard for the earth to swallow him. He wondered if he would be executed immediately or if the King would have him tortured first.
Untie them, boy! growled the King.
Gisburne hurried to obey. Thank you, boy, grinned Little John as the Steward cut his bonds.
Approach us! commanded King Richard.
The outlaws walked forward and knelt at the bottom of the steps.
Richard leant back in his chair. My lords unknown to you, I hunted today in Sherwood, not as the King but as the Chevalier Déguisé the knight disguised. He looked at Robin. This man was my quarry. But when my life was threatened, he proved himself my champion.
His audience murmured with surprise.
I tell you, continued the King warmly, with two hundred men like these, I could have taken Jerusalem!
There was a roar of laughter. Richard gestured towards Robin. Speak, he commanded.
We thank you for your mercy, lord King, he began. Its true that we hunt the deer, but we cant live on grass.
This time it was the King who led the laughter.
Those we robbed had money by the sackful. The poor had nothing, not even their freedom. They have become
Well said, well said, the King interrupted quickly. A man of the people, my lords. Not afraid to speak out against injustice and treachery. This last remark was directed straight at the Sheriff and his brother.
But now the outlaws had become the entertainment, and food, the like of which theyd never seen before, was brought for them, and the wine flowed freely.
Ill never get over this, said Little John taking a huge swig.
Nor will de Rainault by the look of him, laughed Robin refilling his goblet.
He shouldnt have supported Count John, said Marion.
Theyll all be for Richard now, youll see, said Tuck.
Run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, said Robin.
Tuck nodded. Theyll buy their way back into favour.
The de Rainault brothers were seething with rage and frustration. Robert could hardly believe that his enemy, the man [p.146] he had tried so hard for so long to destroy, was now the guest of King Richard of England.
This is a deliberate humiliation, he hissed.
Hugo belched loudly and nodded.
If you told me a month ago that said Robert.
A month ago Richard was still a prisoner in Germany, his brother reminded him. And you were still Sheriff.
The wine was beginning to have its effect on the outlaws and only Marion and Nasir, who never drank wine, were sober.
Hubert Walter watched them from the dais. The wild men of the woods! he said to the King.
They may look odd, Hubert, Richard replied. But what fighters! What fighters!
I know the stories, sire, said Hubert drily. And so, unfortunately, do the people of England.
Huberts warning went unheeded. Ive pardoned them, Hubert, said the King. That makes them mine.
No wolf has ever served a lion, my liege, said Hubert.
This one will, said the King.

* * *
Nasir had been at his morning prayers and now the Saracen sat cross-legged and watchful in the store-room. Around him the outlaws sprawled asleep. Tuck snored loudly. He lay on his back with his mouth open, making a terrible racket. Much lay curled at Robins feet and James lay face down on a pile of sacking. Little John had somehow managed to fall asleep with his head in a cooking pot.
Marion appeared and threw a bucket of water over the King of Sherwood and he spluttered into consciousness.
The King is asking for you, she laughed.
Robin staggered to his feet with a groan. The wine had made his head throb painfully. He looked round at the sleeping outlaws and the silent figure of Nasir. How did we get here? he asked.
You were carried here, smiled Marion.

* * *
The King was studying a map when Robin reached the [p.147] council chamber. There was a messenger with him, sweat-soaked and spotted with mud.
The King was grim faced. The French had taken Neubourg, and Vermeuil was threatened. He had to act swiftly or the whole of Normandy would be overrun.
He looked up and greeted Robin affably. Will you fight at my side in Normandy, Robin of Sherwood? he asked.
The change in Robins fortunes had been so sudden that he found it almost impossible to believe. Yesterday he had been a wanted man living wild in Sherwood. Now he stood in Nottingham Castle with the King of England who was asking him to be his servant. Moreover, Richard promised him that Abbot Hugo would be made to give Marion back her lands together with Leaford Grange. And when the war in Normandy was won Robin and his companions would be made Wardens of Sherwood. It was like a dream. Robin knelt before Richard and swore fealty.
But when he went back to the others he was surprised when they werent more excited by his news.
Fighting in Normandy? muttered Little John.
Wardens in Sherwood! said Robin carried away with enthusiasm. When we come back.
If we come back, said Tuck.
Marion looked sadly at Robin but said nothing. Suddenly he remembered Will Scarlet.
Much, he said to the boy, you must fetch Scarlet to Nottingham. Tell him were free! Tell him were fighting for the King!

* * *
Scarlet sat moodily under a tree sharpening his sword with a whetstone and wondering if hed ever see Robin and Marion and the rest of them again. He had passed the night remembering all the dangers they had been through together. He thought back to the escape from the pit and the battle at Castle Belleme. He remembered again the Templars charging up the hillside, and the time the others had played dead and tricked Guy of Gisburne.
An arrow whistled into the tree above Scarlets head.
It seemed to come from nowhere as it quivered into the tree. Scarlet dived to the ground and lay motionless, his eyes searching the trees ahead. He cursed the fact that his longbow was out of reach and began easing himself towards it on his elbows, keeping low to the ground. He listened: there was no sound but the birds.
He reached his bow and felt safer immediately. After waiting for several minutes, he got slowly to his feet, slowly looked around. There was no one to be seen. He walked over to the tree and pulled out the arrow. He was surprised to find that the feathers and shaft were white. What did it mean? He looked closer and saw along the shaft the ancient letters of the language of magic. And suddenly he knew that the arrow was from Herne.
A voice seemed to speak inside his head. Beware the Lion spawned of the Devils Brood, it whispered.

* * *
The Great Council was beginning and Robin and Marion watched the long procession of the Lords of England as, one by one, they knelt before Richard and paid him homage. There was Waleran of Warwick and William de Albini of Arundel, old Ranalf of Chester and the tall, thin figure of William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby. Each came forward to declare that they were Richards vassal, and kiss his hand.
Look at em, whispered Little John. I wouldnt trust one of em further than I could spit.
After the earls and barons came the bishops and after the bishops came the sheriffs but, of course, Robert de Rainault was not among them.
He stood with a group of his cronies watching the pageantry knowing that if he was to be reinstated the King would make him pay through the nose.
The sooner Richards out of England again the better! he muttered.
Hugo agreed with him. The new taxes were bound to be unpopular. The only time they ever saw the King, he was after more money.
Well all have to pay, he grumbled.
Perhaps Philip of France will win, mused the Sheriff. Then wed have John we can deal with John.
The Kings Herald called for silence and Richard began to speak.
Know that we have called you here to sit in judgement on our most perfidious brother John, Count of Mortain. Through his treachery, Philip of France ravages Normandy. Vaudreuil is lost. Vendôme is lost. Even the castles of the Touraine. As far south as Sens our vassals now give homage to France. Richard paused and a murmur of anger rumbled from the assembled lords.
Yet in England we have spared all who have opposed us, Richard continued. Even here in Nottingham. He paused again. But mercy must be paid for.
Now there was a ripple of uneasy laughter.
So indeed must privilege. So indeed must power. At our crowning we bestowed many appointments, many positions of authority. Richard paused, knowing that everyone was hanging on his words. They were on lease, my lords! Their term is up!
There was a buzz of apprehension. The ex-Sheriff turned to his brother. This isnt a council its an auction, he said.
It was true. Richards whole purpose in calling his subjects to Nottingham was to raise money. And he knew how to get it. He would need a hundred ships to take his army to Normandy. He wanted men and he wanted horses. It would be a long and bloody campaign but he meant to regain every fortress he had lost to France. And then he would drive Philip back into his kingdom. Perhaps even further.




Little John watched sadly as Nasir galloped away from Nottingham Castle. He understood only too well why the Saracen had left them. The silent warrior had fought alongside Robin and his friends, but now there was nothing to fight for and Sherwood was theirs no longer. With a heavy heart Little John went to tell Robin.
He was in the store-room restringing his bow. While the lords had gorged themselves the outlaws had showed off their prowess at the Kings command. Robin had been aiming at the target when his bowstring had snapped. Marion had been sure it was an omen. Once, men had trembled at Robins deadly aim. Now his bowmanship had become an amusement, a sideshow. She was troubled by what was happening to him and longed for them all to be back in Sherwood.
Marion put her hand on Robins arm. Dont go to Normandy! she begged.
Ive given my word, said Robin gently and he took her in his arms and kissed her.
Little John stood in the doorway with James. Nasirs gone, he said quietly.
Gone? frowned Robin.
Taken a horse. I saw him heading for Sherwood.
Hell be back, smiled Robin.
Little John shook his head. Hes gone for good. Well never see him again. Maybe he sees things clearer than you do.
What do you mean? said Robin quickly.
Youve played right into Richards hands, havent you?
What are you talking about? said Robin angrily. Hes pardoned us!
Yes and mercy has to be paid for. You heard him.
Listen to me
Im tired of listening to you, said Little John. You just cant see it can you? Weve become his pets. The wolves that clever King Richard trapped and tamed.
Robin was on his feet, white with anger. Youve said enough, John! he cried.
Youre dazzled by him! Hes only to snap his fingers and you come running. Say something funny, Robin. Show us some swordplay! Lets see your skill with the longbow! Tell us how to run the country!
Robin clenched his fists.
Dyou think he listens? taunted Little John.
I know he does!
Hes laughing at you! They all are! And what does he care about England! How longs he ever spent here. It cant be more than a few months. And hell be off again when hes drained the country of money!
The two of them glared furiously at one another.
He gave you your freedom! cried Robin.
Yes to die for him in Normandy.
We could have died in Sherwood!
Ill choose Sherwood any day, said Little John and he and James started to go. But he turned in the doorway, his anger spent and looked at Robin sadly.
I loved you, Robin. You were the peoples hope. The Hooded Man. Hernes Son. Now youre the Kings fool!
Robin and Marion stood silent and listened as the footsteps died away in the distance. Moments later Much ran into the store-room.
Wheres Scarlet? asked Robin, still shaken by Little Johns departure.
He he isnt coming, said Much. He he told me to say to say goodbye. The boy looked anxiously at Robin, Wheres Little John going? Why was he crying, Robin? He took the white arrow from his belt and gave it to Robin as Tuck appeared and watched them from the door.
Beware the Lion spawned of the Devils Brood, read Robin slowly. He knew the arrow was from Herne.
He saw Tuck standing in the doorway and gave him a wry smile. Are you deserting me too? he said softly.
No, Robin, said the fat monk and then looked at Marion. And Id never leave you, little flower. But the Sheriffs back in power. They reckon he paid the King a mountain of silver to get it. And thats not all, not by a long chalk it isnt. The Great Council means to wring every last penny out of the people to pay for this coming war in Normandy. I tell you, Robin, theyll finish up with nothing.
Im going to the King, said Robin angrily.
Tuck grabbed his arm. What walk into the lions den? Dyou think youre Daniel?
Tucks right, said Marion. Theres nothing you can do.
Hell listen to me, said Robin. I know he will!
The Great Council was listening in silence to Hubert Walter when Robin entered. The Archbishop was denouncing Count John. Unless the Kings brother appeared before him within forty days he would be disinherited from all his lands.
Robin ran down the hall and knelt before the King who looked at him irritably.
Lord King! said Robin.
Did we send for you? said Richard coldly.
No, my lord king, but I
Then leave us!
But, sire
You heard His Majesty! warned the Archbishop, appalled at such temerity.
But Robin would not be silenced. He looked straight at Richard and spoke quietly and simply. You said it pleased you that Im not afraid to speak honestly. Then let me ask you this. The poor gave willingly to set you free. How can you ask more of them?
Everyone froze, waiting for the Kings anger, but instead Richard smiled indulgently.
So you rebuke your king like any licensed fool, do you? Should I take away your sword and give you a pigs bladder to hit me with?
There was a roar of laughter from the gathering.
No, Robin, said Richard playfully wagging his finger. Save your words. Give us your strength and your courage eh, my lords?
There was more laughter. Robin stood up. He knew there was nothing more he could do. Even Hubert Walter was laughing. Little John had been right. He was the Kings fool. He turned and ran from the laughter. He had been wrong about everything from the moment they had knelt before Richard in Sherwood. The King was a warrior, and nothing else mattered to him. He would leave England again to the mercy of people like the Sheriff; and all the injustice and cruelty and hopeless poverty would grind away the peoples spirit, while the king found glory on distant battlefields.

* * *
Richards laughter had been a mask. The young wolfshead was dangerous, he thought to himself. He had to be stopped. And that night he sent for the Sheriff. Robert de Rainault hurried eagerly to the King.
You know us to be merciful, Richard told him meaningfully.
The Sheriff smiled sycophantically.
Indeed I do, sire, he said, remembering how much the Kings mercy had cost him.
Perhaps I am sometimes too merciful, Richard went on. The young wolfshead Robin Hood. You heard him today. His arrogance could cause trouble, and stir up general discontent.
It could, my liege, said the Sheriff once again surprised by his changeable monarch.
I want him dead, said Richard coldly. I want all of them dead.
Theyve left him, sire. All but the girl, the monk and the half-wit boy.
That makes it easier for you, doesnt it? But no one must know. Remember, I pardoned them.
Its important to preserve that memory in the minds of the people, said Hubert Walter smoothly.
Indeed, smiled the Sheriff.
The bodies must be taken from the castle and buried secretly.
But the Sheriff had an even better idea. Suppose I had them put in Sherwood, he suggested, near one of the villages. Then if we shoot some of their arrows into them it will look as if theyve been killed by their own companions. Who we could then hunt down as murderers.
How very inventive, chuckled Hubert Walter, wishing hed thought of the idea.
Whos going to do it? asked Richard calmly.
Sir Guy of Gisburne, answered the Sheriff immediately.
Can he keep his mouth shut? said Hubert.
Yes, my lord, said the Sheriff. Thats something Ive taught him.
Richard was pleased. Therell be some land to reward his loyalty.
You are most generous, my liege, said the Sheriff.
Not very generous, said Richard shortly. Its in Wales.
The King indicated that the audience was at an end and he went back to study his maps again.
Well leave the matter in your hands, said Hubert Walter as he ushered out the Sheriff.
That night Gisburne, with four of his men, all with drawn swords, went silently into the store-room. One of the men carried a lantern in which a candle burned. He held this up for Gisburne who led the way inside.
There was an upper level where Robin and Marion lay sleeping and Tuck and Much were lying on straw pallets and were covered up with sackcloth. Quietly, Gisburne took the lantern and mounted the steps.
He approached the two sleeping figures who lay hidden under animal skins. He raised his sword and brought it flashing down. He knew at once hed been tricked. The figures under the skins were made of straw and already Robin and Marion were coming from the shadows to attack him. Gisburne threw the lantern from him and fought Robin desperately. Beneath them Much and Tuck rushed from their hiding place while the soldiers were still recovering from their surprise.
Tuck smashed one of them over the head with an earthenware jug and Much pinned a second man to one of the wooden posts with a pitchfork. The lantern had fallen into the straw and already it was beginning to blaze up towards some sacks of flour.
Above, Gisburne and Robin locked swords and pushed and strained against each other until finally they toppled down the wooden steps and landed in a heap in the middle of the fighting soldiers. Marion jumped into the struggle and tried to put out the fire but it was spreading rapidly.
Gisburne backed against the store-room door and fought grimly. This time the wolfshead would not escape; he would burn to death in the blazing store-room. Gisburne no longer cared if he lived or died, as long as he could put an end to the young outlaws who had evaded him for so long.
The air was thick with smoke and the flames were eating their way towards the roof but still Gisburne kept the outlaws from the door. Robin redoubled his efforts and suddenly with a cry he ran him through.
Gisburne slid down the door gasping with pain and Robin dragged him away from it and pulled it open. Marion, Tuck and Much stumbled from the blazing building and followed Robin to the stables. If they were to escape they had to have horses.
Somehow Gisburne staggered to his feet. He could smell his own hair burning. The intense heat was like a solid wall but he fought his way out, stuffing his fist into his wound to staunch the blood. He lurched after Robin, driven on by one thought only: to kill the man who had never ceased to defy him.
He reached the courtyard and tried to shout for help. The guards saw him and ran towards him. As they reached him Robin was already riding out of the stables with Marion behind him. Much gripped at Tucks belt as the fat monk urged his mount across the yard.
Half fainting, Gisburne grabbed a crossbow from one of the soldiers and loosed a desperate shot as the riders galloped under the ruins of the gatehouse. Last through was Marion [p.156] and the arrow hit her in the back. She gasped with pain but kept going. Gisburne pitched forward on to his face.
No one spoke as they rode away from Nottingham. Somehow Marion forced herself to ride on. She wanted to be back in Sherwood. But she knew when the arrow was taken from her body, her lifes blood would surely follow it.
The Kings fool, thought Robin. Only his intuition had prevented him from becoming his dead fool. His heart ached when he thought of his friends. He wondered where Scarlet and the others were now. He doubted if he would ever see them again, and he blamed himself bitterly for the unhappy end to their fellowship.
Tuck realized Robins mood of despair and remained silent. Behind his broad back Much nodded half asleep as the horses carried them further and further away from Nottingham.
As dawn came they reached the tall stones of Rhiannons Wheel standing like grey ghosts in the mist. Here Robin called a halt and was lifting Marion from her horse when, with a moan, she collapsed in his arms and he saw the arrow buried in her back. Together with his friends he carried her gently and laid her down on the grass. The three of them crouched down to protect the stricken girl from the cold morning air.
Marion opened her eyes and looked at Robin lovingly. Her voice was little more than a whisper and her face was very pale. I love you, she said.
Keep still, my love, said Robin stroking her long hair.
Tears were streaming down Tucks face as he took her hand and kissed it. Little flower! he murmured brokenly.
Marion trembled. Im cold, she murmured. Where are we? Where is this place?
Rhiannons Wheel, said Robin and held her close to warm her.
Rhiannons Wheel, repeated Marion. She could feel the ice cold pain in her back. Pull out the arrow, Robin ... she whispered.
Robin shook his head.
Please. If you love me, Marion pleaded.
You know I love you, said Robin brokenly. He knew the [p.157] wound was too deep. If he pulled out the arrow, she would die.
Marions voice was barely audible now and her eyes were clouding. Im not afraid, she whispered. Promise me youll fight on in Sherwood. Have courage and pull out the arrow.
Robin put his face in his hands and wept at the thought of losing her.
Herne, he whispered, Lord of the Trees, I call on you! Help me and give me strength!
It was growing lighter now and the red sun rose over Sherwood and shone through the lichen-covered stones of the ancient circle until its light touched the dying girl. The heavy mists rolled away from the sacred place like waves of a magic sea in which Rhiannons Wheel stood like a mysterious island.
And suddenly Herne was with them.
The Lord of the Trees stood silent between the great stones. He was crowned with antlers and cloaked with leaves and he looked gravely at Robin. The Powers of Light and Darkness are with you, he said gently. Take out the arrow!
For a moment Robin cradled Marion in his arms. Then he kissed her. She smiled bravely at him and he grasped the arrow. Summoning all his courage, and with his eyes still fixed on Herne, he slowly pulled out the arrow. With a cry Marion fainted in his arms.
The Wheel turns! cried Herne.
Slowly the stones of Rhiannons Wheel began to move. Robin watched in disbelief as they circled around him, gradually getting faster until the Wheel was flashing past his eyes. He seemed to be in the middle of a whirlpool. The stones were calling to him, trying to tell him a secret. If only he could understand them, the knowledge of all things would be his in a single moment.
He could feel the earth itself was spinning faster. It was turning back against the sun. The sky changed and dark clouds rolled over it and a heavy rain poured down and instead of Herne, Robert de Rainault was walking towards Ailric of Loxley who was bleeding from a wound in his arm and looking at him with pain-filled eyes.
Ive been expecting you, Ailric, said the Sheriff. Youve lost. The rebellions over.
Robins father raised his sword with an effort but the arrows whined through the air and he crumpled to the ground.
He is coming, he gasped. The Hooded Man is coming!
Then suddenly the vision was over.
Gently Robin lowered Marions body to the ground. Herne had vanished and he could see four men walking up the hillside towards Rhiannons Wheel. They moved as if they were walking in their sleep. It was Little John and James. And Nasir was coming and Scarlet. All walking towards the circle.
When they saw Robin and Much and Tuck the outlaws stared in wonder. With tears in their eyes the seven friends embraced.
But the greatest miracle was still to come. For as they looked towards Marion she rose to her feet and ran into Robins arms. The colour had returned to her face and her eyes shone brightly. There was no blood on her mantle and all signs of her wound had vanished.
In the warm morning sunlight the outlaws knelt down and offered up their thanks.



[back cover]
Traditional adventure spiced with medieval mysticism and sorcery: the life and times of Englands greatest folk hero.
England in the twelfth century is a land that has been firmly subjugated by the Normans. But scattered throughout the country there are still small areas of resistance, where bands of outlaws keep the flame of freedom alive...
The cover shows Michael Praed in Robin of Sherwood, an HTV production in association with Goldcrest, produced by Paul Knight and directed by Ian Sharp.






Man, that was great! Thank you.


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