Robin Hood the One Who Looked Good in Green Read online

  “Why are you shooting at us?” I demand.

  The men form a circle around me. Most of them are taller by a foot. Perhaps I haven’t thought this out too well. Still, I hold my ground. “You can’t just go around shooting arrows at people for no reason,” I argue. “You could have really hurt us.”

  The men growl. One replies, “If we wanted to hurt you, you’d already be bleeding.”

  “Yeah,” another agrees. “The sheriff will want to do that himself.”

  This sheriff guy is sounding less and less like someone I want to hang around with. “He’d hurt me for walking through his woods?”

  “Nah,” the yellow-haired man says, speaking for the first time. “For that he’d just take all your money, your land, and your family. But for stealing one of his deer, that’s a different story.”

  “Deer? I didn’t steal any deer.”

  Marian clears her throat and points to my feet. I glance down, not wanting to take my eyes from the men for too long. Deedee is curled up by my left foot. She really likes that foot.

  I give the men a weak smile. “Ah, that deer. We didn’t know she belonged to anyone. And anyway, she found us, not the other way around.”

  The men just stare at Deedee, who has now begun to nuzzle my leg. I try to nudge her away, but she doesn’t seem to get the message.

  “There you are!” a deep voice calls out from the woods. My heart quickens at the thought that perhaps this is the sheriff himself, come to exact his revenge on the deer thieves. But when the man behind the voice appears, he’s short and round, in long brown robes tied with a sash of yellow rope. He reminds me of the large-bellied statue from my parents. His haircut looks like someone put a bowl on his head and cut around it, then shaved off everything except the outside circle of the bowl. A strange look, but somehow on him it seems to work.

  The men lower their weapons. “Friar Tuck,” the tallest of the men says. “We thought you’d wandered off to town.”

  “Did you, now?” the friar replies, mopping his brow with a rag. “It felt more like you left me behind on purpose.”

  I take the distraction of the friar’s arrival as our chance to leave. I signal to Marian with my eyes and then inch away from Deedee. I’m nearly out of the circle before one of the sword-bearers lowers his sword right in front of me.

  “Not so fast. Is this your wife?” He tilts his head at Marian.

  “My wife?” I repeat, stunned by the question. On Delta Z only the old people are married. “Of course not.”

  Marian makes a sound between a grunt and a laugh.

  The man steps closer. “Your sister, then?”

  My lips suddenly feel very dry. I’m not sure of the right answer.

  Marian steps forward. “I’m Marian. His … his maid,” she says, solving the problem for me. “See my outfit?” She slips off her cloak to reveal the maid uniform she’s been wearing since we left Delta Z.

  “You don’t look like any maid I’ve ever seen,” the man says with a snort.

  “Well, that is what I am,” she replies.

  The friar stops cleaning his glasses with the sleeve of his robe, finally recognizing that there are strangers in his midst. He looks from Marian to me and then to the men surrounding us. To my surprise — and no doubt Marian’s — he hurries over and takes her arm. “Ah, ’tis the lovely Maid Marian, come to start her scholarly life at the monastery. We’ve been wondering when you’d arrive.”

  Marian stares at him, then gives a little curtsy kind of move that I’ve never seen her make before. “My name’s not Maid Marian,” she tells him gently. “I’m a maid named Marian. I, um, clean things?”

  But the friar only pats her on the arm. “Nonsense, my dear. You have come to study the ancient ways, to transcribe the books, to paint and contemplate our beautiful world.”

  “Did you … did you say books?” Marian asks, eyes wide. “And paint?”

  “Of course,” the friar says. “You shall study all the arts.” He turns to me. “Thank you, young man, for escorting our newest student through these woods. They can be quite dangerous for a young lady on her own.” He looks pointedly at the group of men, half of whom have started fighting with one another again. “We’ll be going now.”

  “Not so fast,” the tallest guy says. He must be the leader. “These two stole one of the sheriff’s deer. They must pay the consequences.”

  This is getting old. “I told you, we didn’t steal her. You can take her right now.”

  One of the guys with the arrows nudges the other. “Could be good target practice for the contest.”

  The other considers this and grins. “Yeah, doesn’t seem like it moves too quick.”

  It takes a few seconds for what he said to sink in. When it does, I immediately step in front of Deedee. “You can’t use her for target practice! You said no one can harm the sheriff’s deer!”

  They laugh. The leader says, “We said you can’t harm the sheriff’s deer. We can do anything we want.”

  Now Marian is the one to step forward. “You are NOT going to hurt this deer.”

  “And who’s going to stop me?” the leader asks, jeering. I hate that he’s looking at her like that.

  “How about we make a little bet?” I ask. I point to a narrow willow tree about two hundred feet away. “We draw a bull’s-eye on that tree. If your two best shooters’ arrows land closer to the center than mine, then you can have this deer and you’ll get no trouble from us. If my arrow bests yours, then you will let us and the deer leave in peace. There are two of you, so I will get two tries.”

  The leader doesn’t reply at first. We both know he has the upper hand here, whether he accepts the bet or not. My hope is that he’ll be unable to pass up the challenge.

  “You don’t even have a bow,” he finally points out.

  “I’m certain you can let me borrow one, and two arrows to fit in it,” I reply. “Your worst two arrows, no doubt.”

  “We want more when we win,” the leader says. He gestures with one dirty thumb toward Marian. “My cousin here’s in need of a wife.”

  The yellow-haired man — no doubt the cousin in question — blushes and kicks at the dirt. “C’mon, let’s just leave ’em alone,” he mutters. But no one pays attention.

  “They’d make a lovely couple!” one of the men roars. They all laugh. This makes the cousin blush even deeper. “I’m sure the good friar could survive with one less student.”

  Friar Tuck opens his mouth to argue, but seems to sense he’s pushed his luck far enough with this group.

  I look at Marian. She narrows her eyes and gives me one curt nod. “Show ’em what you’ve got, Robin.”

  The archers’ skills are stronger than I’d hoped. Both hit the tree, one coming only two inches from the center of the target that Friar Tuck — as the only neutral party — has hastily drawn on with chalk.

  “Ha! Beat that!” they shout. One of the men hands me his bow and quiver. As suspected, the only arrows left are bent, with torn feathers and splintered tips. This doesn’t worry me as much as they probably figured it would. In the VR archery game, after you level up a few times, your arrows begin to look like these. I’ve learned to adjust my aim.

  I choose the one in the best condition and load it in the bow. It feels almost exactly the same as the virtual bow and arrow, except it doesn’t click into place on its own. And the string is thinner and lighter. On second thought, it doesn’t feel much the same at all. I pull back, close one eye, and aim. If I were to spare even a second to think about the consequences of losing, I’d never let the arrow fly. So I don’t think about it.


  The arrow swerves just as it approaches the target, knocking the first man’s arrow to the ground. He stomps his foot. While everyone is oohing and aahing over that one, I shoot off the last arrow, which finds its mark directly in the center of the bull’s-eye. I hand the bow back to the stunned archer. “We will be taking our leave of you now.”