CHAPTER SEVEN

"Not if your uncle has anything to say about it," Daniel growled.

David's eyes flashed and Daniel fell silent. "Do not speak of my uncle…peasant. I would hate to get upset and have my sword slip."

"Yeah, me either," Robyn agreed quickly. "Shut up, Daniel." She looked up at David. "Even if we knew where he was, we wouldn't tell you."

"A pity," David said simply. "Killing you will be absolutely pointless then."

"You know, your uncle isn't the man you think he is," Robyn said. She watched David's eyes narrow.

"And how would you know this?" David asked her, his tone of voice suggesting she didn't know what she was talking about in the slightest.

"I know more than you think," Robyn blustered, never taking her eyes off the point of the sword in the prince's hand.

David raised an eyebrow. "Interesting. Do tell."

A thought had occurred to Robyn the instant David had introduced himself. In all the Robin Hood books and movies she'd seen…never once had there been a character like David. "You shouldn't exist!" Robyn blurted out.

The proclamation made David's eyes widen and his body language shift, and Robyn chose that moment to scramble backwards-very unladylike, ignoring the twinge in her bad ankle-toward Daniel, who used the opportunity to pull his bow and nock an arrow.

"Drop your sword," Daniel suggested, stepping in front of her.

David's eyes were daggers, even as he let his sword fall to the ground. Robyn could see the furiousness in his eyes. "A well-played distraction," he said, glaring at the two of them. "And your people claim my uncle is a conniving thief."

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Daniel pointed out.

"We're not the bad guys here, David," Robyn said.

"Really." David snorted in disbelief even as he raised his hands. "I am not the one being sought by the sheriff and living in the trees like an animal."

"Certainly we are far more civilized than you," Daniel snapped. "You're the one hunting your own people. And when the pack is threatened, they send their best to protect their own."

David smirked. "If a pack of outlaws is your best," he replied, "then it won't be long before your species is extinct altogether," he said. "It is inevitable."

Daniel took aim, the point of his arrow between the prince's violet eyes. "Shall we see who goes extinct first?" he offered.

Robyn put a hand on his arm. "Not helping," she whispered. This was a whole other side of the gentle giant she'd made friends with. She wasn't sure if she was impressed…or scared that he was able to flip a switch so quickly. But she remembered all the times growing up that she'd been pushed to the brink by classmates and so-called friends…and realized that 1191 and the 20th century had more in common than she originally thought.

"The taxes are necessary to support my father and his men in the Crusade!" David burst out, panic settling in his eyes. He'd underestimated Daniel on his looks, a mistake he was regretting at the moment. "Surely you would prefer your king to return home alive and well?"

"The taxes are going to support your uncle's crusade against us!" Daniel shot back. "Your uncle would see your father in the ground rather than see him back on the throne!"

David bristled. "How dare you-"

"Hold it!"

Daniel hesitated, and Robyn took that moment to step between the two boys. She held out her hands, palms up, placating the two. She looked at David. "Your father….your father is King Richard?"

David allowed himself a moment of triumph. "I thought you knew everything?" he questioned her smartly.

"Bite your tongue," Daniel ordered him, and Robyn rolled her eyes, waving Daniel away.

Robyn's mind was racing. This is playing fast and loose with the story, she thought to herself. She wished Julie was here to help her put the pieces together. It was like looking at one of those Spot the Difference pictures in the magazines when she was a kid. One side had the original drawing; the one next to it was the same drawing, only there were small, hidden differences that you had to find and circle.

And I'm definitely in the second picture.

"Ask him," she heard herself saying.

David blinked. "I'm sorry?" he said, the directive catching him off guard. Daniel looked at her in confusion.

"Ask him where the money goes," Robyn said. "Your uncle. Ask him if it's really going to the banks of the Knights Templar." Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Chelting. She felt a pang of guilt in her stomach, thinking of her changed grade in his gradebook. "It's easy enough to check," she pointed out. "Either Daniel is a lying jerk, or maybe…" She looked David in the eye. "Maybe there's more to your uncle's motives than supporting the Crusades," Robyn finished.

The woods were silent. Robyn felt like even the birds in the trees could hear her heart pounding in her chest. Robyn waited, watching David's expressions.

"You're wrong," he said finally, but Robyn heard it. Doubt. He picked up his sword, putting it back in its' sheath, eyeing the two of them, Robyn in particular. Then, without another word, he turned in the direction he'd come from and disappeared into the trees.

Robyn breathed again. Then, she turned to Daniel. "So…we should probably grab that firewood, yeah?"

Daniel burst out laughing, putting his bow and the arrow away. "You're mad, Robyn," he told her. "That was either madness or brilliance, and I am not sure the two are much different when it comes to you!"

"I'm worried," Robyn admitted, bending down to pick up a few branches off the forest floor, waiting for her heartbeat to return to normal. Classic unhealthy coping mechanism-shove it aside, wait to deal with it later.

"I thought you said David could be trusted," Daniel pointed out, moving a few feet away to search for more kindling.

She shook her head. "That's not what I meant. I mean, yeah, we can trust him. I think we planted enough seeds about his uncle that he won't bring up the conversation. What I mean was…I'm worried for him."

"He can take care of himself," Daniel shrugged indifferently. He waited for her to catch up, an armful of sticks and larger branches in her arms.

"Physically, sure," Robyn said. "But Daniel, think about it for a second. Richard is fighting in the Crusades. David is his son."

"Yes, I am aware," Daniel reminded her. "I was there for the conversation."

"You may have been there for the conversation, but I don't think you were listening." Robyn continued. "David is second in line to the throne of England. If Richard-God forbid- would die in the Crusades, David would ascend."

"I understand the hierarchy," Daniel said, still lost.

Robyn stopped and he nearly ran her over. "So…if something happens to David, who becomes King? Or," she pressed, realizing something else. "If David gets on the throne, what's to stop John from manipulating him into continuing to do his dirty work?"

Recognition dawned on Daniel's face. "Exactly," Robyn affirmed. She grabbed Daniel by the shoulders-it was a reach up. "What if we could change the story?" she asked him.

He blinked. "What do you mean? What story?"

Robyn shook her head. Definitely not ready to have that conversation yet, she thought, even though she knew at some point, Daniel would ask. He was, as he had pointed out, there for the conversation. "Never mind. I mean….what if we could somehow convince David that his uncle is bad news? That he's plotting against his own brother. We both know Prince John is a sneaky bastard-"

Daniel's eyes widened in shock at Robyn's use of the derogatory term. Clearly, he wasn't use to hearing it from a girl. "But if we could get David on our side…."Robyn continued, trailing off and waiting for Daniel to catch up.

"David is heir to the throne," Daniel said thoughtfully. "Those in London are far more likely to put weight to his words than his uncle. And Richard is far more beloved than his brother among the populace."

Robyn grinned. "Bingo."

Daniel continued walking. He paused, looking back at her. "You know, you're about as conniving," he grinned, and she smiled, "as Robert Hood himself."

Robyn paused. That comparison, for some reason, made her feel unbelievably proud.