The tale I am about to tell you is true. It takes place long ago, back when kings ruled, when great wars were waged over land and religion. Some call it romance, some adventure, and still others call it legend. In truth, it is all that and more, as it revolves around one of the greatest heroes in English lore: The Nameless Bandit. He fought for freedom, never stopping even when threatened with death. He claimed more than once that nothing frightened him, including death, as he had already lost everything worth living for. But what is remarkable was that he still fought, up to his final breath. He was truly our hero.


And so the tale begins…

He laughed cruelly, gazing with pitiless eyes at the child before him. The boy was not even seven, yet had been accused of poisoning his father, in revenge for the disappearance of his mother. The guard holding him tugged harshly at the rope, dragging the lad by his wrists. He was being led to the gallows, his former friends leering, jeering, screaming and mocking him. More than once his blood had been revealed by a stone, sometimes a shard of glass. He fought as fiercely as his diminished strength would allow, all but biting his binds to free himself. Their faces grew colder, their voices crueller. A steady drum matched his steps, the sound echoing his heart as he mounted the creaking wooden steps, coughing dryly as the thick rope fell and tightened around his small throat. He looked about with tears in his eyes, feeling them pour down his ash-coated cheeks as the drums came to a halt, a tall man in black standing before the crowd with an open scroll clasped in his hands.

"The boy shall hang until dead, guilty of slaying the Duke of Lancaster without remorse. Lad," he turned to the boy. "Have you any final words?"

The boy breathed deeply, summoning a voice he had forgotten he possessed. "The angels will save me, and all who are innocent." He then closed his eyes, head bowed, at last accepting his fate. The screaming reached its peak when the stool was kicked out from beneath his feet, suddenly silencing when an arrow flew from nowhere, severing the rope holding him before burrowing into the skull of his executioner. He was careful to lay still, the only movement his chest as he fought to breathe. There was the sound of panic, of creatures scattering, of creaking wood as someone climbed to the platform.

"What is this?" the voice was deep, but unknown. "They would dare hang a child?" a blade was drawn, the noose cut away. The lad sat up, gazing in fear at the dark man looming above him, face all but hidden by a hood. The man knelt, pulling the cloth away to reveal kind, handsome features. "What is your name, lad?"

The boy shook his head. "I-I have none…as it was stolen from me."

The man laughed, though his eyes showed anger. "A name is one of few things they cannot steal," he spoke plainly. He brought the lad to his feet. "I ask again, what are you called?"

"I-I am…" he got no chance to finish the thought. The world suddenly began spinning, the blur growing dark. He fell from the platform, landing motionless in the soil. The grains beneath him soon grew thick with blood.

When he awoke it was evening, the sky clear of clouds and moon, dark trees lining the clearing. His body felt warm, almost excessively, a sticky feeling resulting from bandages coating his wounds. He rubbed at his eyes, sitting up to see a roaring fire, a group of men sitting around it, shielding their faces from the cold. One of them, the man from before, turned on hearing him rise, and then welcomed him to the circle.

"Come on, lad," he beckoned. "Nothing to fear."

The boy hesitated, his body shivering. The fire was so warm, the smell of roasting meat thick in his nostrils. In a few minutes he crawled from the shelter, hobbling cautiously to the blaze. They moved aside to make space, one drifting a cape across his shaking shoulders. Another offered him food, but he shoved it helplessly away.

"I cannot eat," he said to them. "It is forbidden after dark."

"In which house, boy," said one, a fair-haired youth of twenty. "Is the evening feast ignored?"

"In…my father's," he managed. His stomach was growing tight with hunger, but he dared not break his father's laws.

"Thy father is dead," hissed a grisly form. He appeared close on to eighty, with few yellow teeth remaining behind his cut lips. He held a golden platter of bread to the boy. "Therefore you are free of his laws."

The boy hesitated, glancing at the men, reaching out as though possessed. But the bite he grasped was taken from him, held out of reach by the one who had saved his life. "But before the lad eats," he said, a smile on his lips. "He should speak his name."

The others laughed, nodding in agreement. But when they looked back the child was gone, and so was the bread. They searched, hearing his voice from the trees.

"I am Mathias," he bellowed, glaring down at them. "Son of Alric and the Lady Elvina!" he slipped down from the branches, brushing soil from his ruined clothes. His face was unforgiving, frightening for a child his size. A brief moment passed, and he crawled back in the hut from which he had emerged, falling into sleep as they whispered of him.

"He lies," spoke the fair-haired one. "Lord Alric had no children!"

"Fable or not," their leader spoke. He rose to his feet, staring at the flames. "The lad's parents are dead, and we will teach him our ways, to act and think as we do."

The others made sounds of agreement, finishing their meal in silence. The moon had climbed high when the fire died, but they all still rose with the sun.