We met Michael in early May of that year. He would prove to be one our more loyal gang members.
Michael has told me many times what his first thoughts were when he arrived in Nottingham. "Observe England's most thriving town. It looks pretty dead to me."
In all fairness, a year ago it was thriving. But town requires trading, and trading requires people to have possessions or money to trade.
Michael used to work with a blacksmith in York but was fired for his laziness and his ability to be distracted by the smallest thing. So he just travelled, playing his music that no one listened too.
A few children were playing on the side of the square. So he began to play for them. He pulled out his flute and began piping a happy melody. The children's faces lit up and they began dancing. It amused Michael how no adult would ever do this, they worry about too many things to just find joy in dancing.
Speaking of grumpy parents, quickly the parents of the children took the children away, with harsh words or wasting time. Still Michael played on; basically he had nothing better to do.
Marian was intrigued by him, mainly because she hadn't seen a street musician since she was a child.
"The parents were probably scared of you, musicians who think they can make money on the streets must be crazy" she said as she approached him.
"They're not crazy if they're talented" he retaliated.
"See what I mean, crazy."
"Crazy with talent! Anyway, what do I care about some uptight parents who are simply jealous of my skills? I'm Michael by the way."
"Marian. And you're actually pretty good. Maybe. If you like that sort of thing."
"I take it you don't?"
Finally, the indulged in some conversation where the sentences were longer then a few words. After all, she had no wish to return to the castle and he had nothing better to do. They quickly knew each others back stories as Marian was surprised at how easy he was to talk to.
He talked to her for the rest of the afternoon. It was completely innocent but apparently someone didn't think so."
"You know street musicians are crazy right?"
Marian's happiness dropped as she turned to see Robin, Levon and myself walking up to her. Levon and I were insulted by this disappointed glance, even though we knew that it wasn't aimed at us. Robin however had grown accustomed to it over the last few months. Five months and twelve days actually. Yes, I was keeping count but only because I was astounded at how long Marian was keeping up this act of not being in love with Robin.
"Who are you?" Michael asked, sensing that he was someone important.
"Robin Hood. I normally ask for money but being a street musician I know you have none."
"Nice, make a joke of my profession."
"You call it a profession now?"
"More then what you do."
The silence that followed was hilarious. It was filled with Robin trying to decide whether he was angry or amused while the rest of us tried not to laugh.
"I like you" he finally decided. "You have guts."
"So do you."
"It appears that we have gained a mutual companion," Levon said.
"That conclusion seems to be accurate," I agreed.
"Will you two shut up?" Robin said.
Lately, Levon and I had invented a sort of 'game' around camp where we use the biggest words we possibly can to rub in the fact that we have been educated and the others members haven't. It worked like a charm too, it drove most of them insane and it was almost like the two of us have a secret language, although a lot of the time our words just become gibberish.
We were then rudely interrupted by guards thinking to arrest Robin.
"May I suggest we leave this establishment?" Levon said.
"I would say that would be legitimate suggestion," I agreed.
"I do enjoy our little talks" Robin told Marian as we prepared to run. To our dismay they had blocked the exits.
"It appears that your previous suggestion is now void" I said, drawing my sword.
"Well on that assumption-" Levon began.
Robin interrupted with "now is not the time for your incoherent babbling."
We didn't have time to think of a fancy way of saying how he was simply jealous. It seemed we were trapped.
The situation was quickly getting out of control. There was three of us versus twelve guards. Robin was good but he was starting to lose control.
Marian was amused that he was losing for once. "He'll pull through any second, don't worry yourself." She whispered to Michael "for now, just enjoy it."
But Michael did worry. There were two many guards. He knew he had to help us.
Without thinking, Michael grabbed a sword from a fallen guard and joined us.
"I told you street musicians are crazy," Robin told him.
"That we are" and Michael turned and began to attack to guard closest to him.
Marians face was priceless as she saw another of her friends leave her to help fight with Robin but there was no time to dwell on it.
We were doing pretty well until a lucky blow struck Michael down. I saw Prince John approaching with even more guards.
"Go" he yelled to Robin but he wouldn't move.
"Go you fool" he yelled more insistently and Robin finally got the message and ran.
Michael felt himself losing consciousness. He only remembered flashes of the following moments.
Prince John demounting as Michael contemplated how nice his shoes were, Marian yelling something, probably about his innocence and finally, being strung onto a horse and being told of the cold and damp dungeon that awaited him.
Marian watched them pull Michael away and said to herself, "he is not getting away that easy." She grabbed a horse, threw some coins at its owner and rode after Robin.
He seemed to have taken a funny route back to camp as she didn't see him and beat him back to camp.
"Where is he?" she asked as she stormed in.
"The love of your life?" Luke asked.
"Yes, I mean no, I mean, where is Robin?"
"Not back yet. No need to fret. You'll only have to miss him a little longer."
"Thank you Luke. I get enough of that talk from him."
"I know but seeing how mad it made you inspired me." He replied, smiling with false innocence.
"I hate you"
"I hate you more."
They joked but Luke had also fallen under Marian's spell. This resulted in being unable to dislike her. Even Luke, one of the most antisocial members of the Merry Men became one of her closest friends.
Finally Robin returned. "You move fast," he informed her.
"Well spotted. You are aware that you cannot let that man die"
"Of course I wont let him die. We'll go get him tonight."
"Oh." she was ready to give him a giant lecture but that was a lot easier then she expected. "And after you save him?"
"He can continue making useless music to his heart's content." Robin guessed.
"He'll be outlawed, he can't simply go back to his old ways." Levon told him.
"Can someone please explain to the rest of us exactly what is going on?" Thomas asked as he and the other members who had not been present tried to follow the scene. We didn't bother.
"Not everyone we save becomes an outlaw. It's not like he has a home and family here. All he has to do is lie low for a few months and all shall be forgotten." Robin decided.
"I was thinking…" Marian began.
"I hate when she does that" Luke cut in.
"I was thinking," she continued, louder this time, "that he could join your gang."
Robin considered, "What if we don't want him. He was struck down in battle quite easily."
Marian couldn't believe this, "You're only saying that because I suggested it and you enjoy ruining my life. You said you liked him."
"I like a lot of people. Doesn't mean I ask them all to join my gang. Tell you what, I'll let him join, if you kiss me."
The look of disgust on her face made everyone laugh.
"I'm not that bad am I?" he said, pretending to be hurt
"I'm not doing it," she bluntly said,
"Then I guess your friend will just live a miserable existence which will be all your fault. You'll feel guilty for the rest of your life every time you think of his pathetic life that you inadvertently helped create."
"Will no one stop this injustice?" she asked, mocking the way Robin speaks to crowds.
"It's one kiss, it wont kill you" Levon said grinning.
This was a mistake. Her anger became directed at him as she turned and prepared to yell. "I suggest you stay out of this because I am still mad at you for coming to this pathetic gang and leaving me. So if you like your face the way it is, stop talking."
He stepped back and wouldn't look away from the ground.
"Amelia are you going to let his talk to me like that" she said as she hoped that Amelia would tell Robin to stop being immature.
"What the big drama? You used to kiss him all the time."
Marian just glared at her. "But-" She could see she was fighting a losing battle.
Robin just smirked, knowing that she was going to give in.
Knowing that she had no choice, she showed what a sore loser she was and slapped him as hard as she could.
"Fine I'll do it." She told him.
"Why" he whimpered nursing his face.
"You were being rude," she informed him. "So what's the plan?"
"Sneak into the castle in the dead of night, get past the guards, get him back and run like there's no tomorrow." I said.
"I thought so."
"Can I come?"
"You'll slow us down, being a pathetic girl" Luke added
"That's your job." she retorted
"Actually its Much's" he decided. Everyone agreed.
"Hey!" Much protested but offered no retaliation. He knew seemed to have accepted his fate as the gang joke.
"But back to the kiss" Robin said, having finally recovered from the slap but was smart enough to keep his distance this time.
Marian stormed off and yelled "when the job is done."
When Marian finally got back to the castle she was ambushed by Annie with all of her annoying questions. "You were with them again weren't you?" or "Why do you spend so much time there" or "He's sucking you back in isn't he? Remember what he did." Her voice got more hysterical with each question.
"Calm down. Yes I with them. It wasn't a social call. We were organising saving a mans life and…"
Marian murmured the rest.
She did more murmuring.
"I have to kiss him!" Marian yelled, gaining some strange looks from passing servants.
Annie gave her a look of disgust, kind of the same one that Marian herself had given Robin and stormed off without another word.
Marian knew that Annie would be back before she could count to three to get all the information and to talk her out of it.
"Three, two, one" she murmured.
"How on earth did this happen and why are you doing this, have you forgotten…"
At that point Marian stopped paying attention. Annie wasn't saying anything that hadn't already gone through her head many times.
Back at camp, Robin was making intricate plans to ensure that nothing went wrong during the rescue. It shouldn't have been so amusing, how excited Robin was. It just shows how much a man can achieve when he gets something out of it.
I tended to avoid conversation about Marian. She was my cousin after all. More like a sister really. It's been great having her around again though I could do without the constant arguments they have. It'll be a wonderful day when she stops being stubborn and admits she loves him.
"Three guards, ready and armed" Robin whispered.
Much instantly panicked and dropped his sword, making a loud clang.
"I guess that rules out waiting till we're ready," John said as the guards were alerted by the noise and ran towards us.
There was no need for panic. Robin threw me the rope and we both pulled on our ends, tripping the guards as they came, a trick I proudly thought of. We then set Little John loose to make sure they didn't follow us.
"Lucky we have the advantage of Prince John thinking that this man isn't that important to us." Benny said happily as we saw that no other guards were hiding in wait.
"Oh he's very important to me," Robin said, causing me to give him that look. The look that said 'I know you love her but don't say such thins in front of me. She is still my cousin.'
He gave me the 'I don't care what you think because I am in love and you can learn to deal with it' and continued on.
"Ill take the next guards" Much decided, trying to gain back some dignity.
Everyone ignored him except for the rather loud scoff from Roger. "I think we're better off not having you try and staying alive" he added.
Much was quickly getting angry. "I am not the worst one here."
"You had better not be implying me," Benny said, also getting angry. "I'm easily better then you despite how old I may be."
"Well then why don't we put it to the test" Much said trying to look tough.
"Not now" Robin whispered loudly, indicating how loud they were getting.
Robin was too late and guards were approaching.
"Split up!" Robin yelled.
I wanted to be with Robin, my chance of survival easily goes shooting up when he is around but no such luck. When people panic they always chose the easiest exit and I did just that, choosing the passage way I say closest to me. The men who followed were Matthew which I was fine with, and Much, which I was not.
"I would have taken him down" Much tried to persuade us as we ran.
"Sure you would" I told him, trying to hide my sarcasm.
Unfortunately the passage we had chosen didn't lead us anywhere near the exit. It did however lead us to the dungeons.
"Well, we're here anyway" Matthew said, indicating we should be hunting for Michael.
"Interesting, as none of us know what he looks like and we don't know where in the whole humongous dungeon he is and-"
"Shut up Much!" Matthew yelled, shocking us all. "Is there any thought that goes through your head that you don't voice? We all have doubts but we are the kind of people who have faith."
Much was thankfully silent. I wanted to congratulate Matthew on his efforts but it didn't seem the right time. So we progressed through the dungeon, asking the men their names and questions that only Michael would know. It never fails to surprise me the things prisoners will say to get out. Today we don't have time to save them all. It takes a lot of work to figure out how the real innocent ones are. All the while I was still awestruck at Matthews outburst. He was always so calm and collected. I was beginning to consider that he had swapped places with Luke. I was still proud of the man. I always thought he had a back bone. He just didn't know how to use it.
"What are you three doing here?" someone called out and we were all alert. Thankfully it was just Wilfred. "You're going to get yourselves killed" he informed us as I ignored his words and hugged him. "Allen, kindly get off me" he said, pretending to be annoyed but hugged me back. "Now you all have to go, you'll get caught. Your plans are getting too out of control."
"So what are you doing down here?" Matthew asked.
That stopped him. "Doing what guards do best. Guarding. After all that, that is all I'm good for apparently." I sighed as I knew we were in for yet another lecture about his so called tragic past.
I quickly cut in, "yes we know Wilfred. You used to be a knight favored by King Henry. Unfortunately his son Richard didn't favour you so much in your old age and demoted to pointless work. Your only joy was teaching me, and Robin and Marian. But mainly me. And now we don't bother to thank you for all the hard work you put into our futures and we only come to you when we need something. Does that about cover it?"
He glared at me but thankfully stopped his speech.
Luckily he knew exactly where Michael was and had a description from Marian. We still had to ask a few people and finally got the answer we were looking for."
"I am Michael"
We turned to address the man. Matthew took the lead in questioning him. No one objected. To be honest we were both scared of this new side of him, no matter how much we were impressed by it.
"Where were you yesterday?"
"Nottingham market place."
"Who were you talking to?"
"Who did you help fight?"
Matthew gave a nod and I gave his lock heavy swing with my sword. The noise rang around the dungeon so we had to move fast. I could see the look of triumph on Much's face at being in the group that found Michael. I think I saw a look of triumph on Matthews face too, though he tried to hide.
It's always the quiet ones you have to look out for.
Robin was ecstatic when they returned with Michael. "It's good to see your alive mate," he told Michael as they greeted.
"Happy to see me alive?" Michael questioned with a knowing smile "or happy for your reward?"
"How could you accuse me of such a thing?" Robin asked indignantly. "My only thought was for you life."
"Allen told me everything," Michael told him. Robin just smiled.
I figured that it was my duty to take Michael under my win as no one had really done it for me.
"Here's what you need to know" I decided to tell him the main points about the gang rather then their whole long stories.
"Much is annoying, handle with care. He has some big father issues. Luke gets grumpy easy, also watch your words. Matthew was the nice one until a few days ago I hear but we haven't heard a peep out of him since. He's generally the nice one though. Avoid Thomas in the morning, he likes his ale. Will likes fighting, don't give him a cause to fight you. All he really does is train so he will probably take you down easily. Levon is one of the nice ones so he is safe. Amelia is a sweet heart as long as you don't make to bigger mess. Lilly is shy, you wont see her often. Robin is obviously the leader, I'm sure you figured that out. Don't question his authority, he doesn't like that. Other wise, enjoy!"
He stared at me, "could you repeat that please?"
Marian finally turned up, much to everyone's excitement.
"As you can clearly see, he is here, safe and ready to join." Robin told her.
"From what I hear you didn't even save him, Matthew and Wilfred did. Much and I was full of indignation with their lack of recognition while Matthew tried to hide his pride.
"Be that as it may, our bargain wasn't about me saving him, it was about me allowing him to join the gang. Which I let him do"
Things were getting awkward. The gang should really leave but there was no chance of that.
Marian glared at Robin but new she had to do it.
And they kissed.
It was one of those moments where we felt obligated to look away. It felt like trespassing watching it.
Surprisingly they were kissing for quite a while. I expected Marian to be pull away right away but she didn't.
Eventually she did. There was an awkward silence. "The things I'll do for friends," she said and stormed off yelling at Michel how he'd better appreciate this.
Robin was still silent. He turned to us, "One day, I'm going to marry that girl."
The gang rolled their eyes and left the poor love struck man.