Lady Marion meets the Hooded Man in Sherwood Forest, but discovers he has a dark secret.
The Hooded Man
Lady Marion of Nottingham gazed around the clearing, with its ancient oaks resplendent in their emerald foliage and a sparkling spring. She turned to Friar Tuck. “How canst this be the famous outlaw's lair? This hidden glen be most extremely fair.”
“The Hooded Man be not like other thieves. He chose to live among the greenest leaves,” responded the balding man, who more resembled a footpad than a respected man of the cloth.
She stepped across the springy turf, then turned in a full circle. “And where be all the gold and other things, he stole from noblemen, like coins and rings?”
“The Hooded Man hath gave them to the low, so they can eat more food, not suffer woe.”
“And art thou sure this outlaw trusty be?”
“By Mother Mary, so I swear to thee.”
Marion sat upon a mossy log and admired a wild rose. “Where fragrant flower blooms by mighty tree, forsooth this glade as fair as Heaven be.”
The undergrowth rustled. A giant man appeared, wearing a hood that hid his face. His green and brown cape blended into the surrounding forest. This could only be the Hooded Man.
“Welcome, good priest, but who be this with thee?”
“A noble maid who hath a boon to plea.”
Trembling, Marion rose and curtsied. “P-prithee, kind sir, to listen to my words.”
The Hooded Man nodded. “I'm sure they're sweeter than the song of birds.”
She lowered her head, feigning shyness as a lady should. “'Tis said thy arrows slayed the Sheriff's rogues, and made the Prince's lackeys hop like toads.”
“Those acts of crime and more be mine, 'tis true.” The Hooded man gazed into her eyes. “Methinks thou comst to speak of matters new.”
Marion mouthed a silent prayer, then knelt. “I swore an oath to Father, Son and Ghost, to wed no other man but thee, mine host.”
People said the Hooded Man's countenance was so terrifying he must hide his face, but Marion didn't care how ugly he proved to be. After years of sycophantic, silk-wearing suitors, she'd determined to marry a man with a beautiful soul. An outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor fitted the bill.
The Hooded Man gasped. “This boon thou askst be harder than thou thinkst. 'Tis not like breaking bread or supping drinks.”
Her cheeks blazed. Was she not good enough? “Lord knows I be not Aphrodite's kin, but I'd do aught, my love, thy heart to win.”
“Forsooth mine heart be thine without a doubt, but there be laws of Church I dare not flout. For secrets dark I hide beneath my hood, and that be why I'm living in Sherwood.”
He lowered his hood.
Marion's jaw dropped. The towering figure was not the ruffian of her expectation. She was a golden-haired goddess, like a statue of Athena, whom the Ancients worshiped and adored.
“Thou art no man, but maiden through and through!”
“It be my secret, known to but a few.” The Hooded Woman stepped closer and offered Marion her hand. “Pray stand, sweet maid. I'd not have thee debased.”
“Thankee, kind maid, but I feel no disgrace.” Marion took the offered hand and stood.
“Forsooth if man I were I'd marry thee, as if thou wert a bud and me a bee. Thine almond eyes like sparkling sapphires shine. I'd rather taste thy rosy lips than wine.”
Marion glanced away, heart pounding. “Thy lovely words be more than I deserve, and thee a comely wench, so I observe.”
“How now, thou thinkst me comely? Pray, don't mock,” said the Hooded Woman with obvious shock. “Most men compare my likeness to a rock.”
“Hast thou my courtly suitors ever seen?” Marion mimed stabbing herself. “I'd rather take a knife and spill my spleen.”
“But such a loss of life would be a waste. Prithee, stay calm and do not act in haste.”
“Thou art most kind, sweet maid with chiseled chin.” Marion fluttered her eyelashes. “What be the name of she who makes me grin?”
“The folks here call me Robyn in the Hood, but name me Rob, thou wilt be understood.”
Looking into Rob's hazel eyes, Marion realized she'd found the face she wanted to gaze at for the rest of her life. She reached out and gently caressed Rob's cheeks. “Forsooth, I would with thee live like a wife, and bide with thee to share thy way of life.”
Friar Tuck coughed. “Methinks the Church of what thou sayst knows naught, but call on me the day you tie the knot.”
He winked and then plodded away into the forest, leaving the two maidens to plan their own happily ever after.
Word Count: 798