Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Into the Storm" Trailer - And the 1990 Twister of Plainfield, IL

Today, the teaser trailer for "Into The Storm" debuted, and if you haven't seen it, let me just say that it looks INCREDIBLE! I love a Hollywood disaster flick if it's done right, and this one looks like it will be amazing.

Having said that...

It gave me chills hearing that siren. And it brought back some haunting memories. I grew up in northern Illinois, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. It isn't an official part of the infamous "Tornado Alley," which runs through northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. But it's in the Midwest, which is a prime breeding ground for these monster storms. In August, 1990, a historic twister hit the towns of Plainfield and Joliet, just ten miles or so from our little town of Romeoville. I was in 6th grade, and I remember that afternoon like it was yesterday...

I remember I walked home alone that day. My older sister was home sick, and my younger sister was still in elementary school at the time. There was a breeze, I recall - a hot breeze. It was very hot and humid that day, and you could almost smell a storm coming. I looked at the sky as I went and noticed how strange it looked. It was a yellowish-green. Very eerie. But I didn't think much about it beyond that. By the time I got home, the color of the sky had changed to a stormy grey, almost black. My younger sister had just arrived home when the power went out and the sirens blared. We had no basement in our house, so we gathered in the bathroom and tried to comfort each other. It wasn't easy, considering my older sister is phobic about bad weather. She screamed and cried until the sirens finally stopped. We came out after a few minutes to find the house still standing. No visible damage to our yard, or to us, thank God.

Little did we know what was happening just a short distance away...

It wasn't until later that night, after power was restored, that we saw the news and learned what had happened. My father, who was a city worker for the nearby town of Naperville, was part of the recovery and cleanup crew. He took us to see the devastation up-close, not to glamorize it, but to show us the devastating power that Mother Nature can unleash. It's something I remember to this very day. I don't have my own pictures to show, but in my mind I can still picture the school buses overturned and crushed like tin cans. Most vividly in my mind are the trees - some of them twisted into grotesque corkscrew shapes, so of them with their giant roots sticking straight up from where they'd been ripped out of the ground. I remember seeing the trunk of a tree that had a playing card embedded in it. Those are images you can't forget. 

These pictures below are from press material taken in the days after. Because of the suddenness of the storm and the manner in which it approached (It was wrapped in a rainstorm), few images of the tornado itself were ever recorded. For the most part, there are only pictures of the devastation it left behind...

The path of destruction, and two rare images of the twister
St. Mary's Church and School in Plainfield
Plainfield High School

 After experiences such as these, some people may wonder why anyone would want to see a movie like "Into The Storm." Some may think that such a traumatic experience would make a person terrified of anything to do with severe weather. That may be the case with some, and rightly so. (Just ask my sister). But it's a strange thing living with these forces of nature. Growing up with them, we learn to look out for them. We're drilled in school about them. (Duck and cover practices are part of our collective childhood memories). In a sense, we learn not to FEAR them as much as to RESPECT them. We're educated about them almost from birth, and some of us go so far as to study them. My father, being a city worker, was trained to spot them, and as I grew up I found the phenomenon of tornado chasing/spotting to be thrilling. To this day, when a storm rises and the warnings blare, I get an excited chill up my spine. I know the danger associated with these storms, and that's what gets me. I would LOVE to get up close and personal with a tornado...but believe me, I know the difference between fantasy and reality. I know when to head to the basement, or to the inner-most room of my house. (The bathroom is the safest place, by the way.)

That's why I can't wait to see this movie. Richard Armitage is merely a bonus for me in this. (I hope he lives in this one. LIVE, Garry Morris. LIVE!) I can sit in a movie theater, safe and sound with my big box of popcorn, and get up close and personal with the most destructive force on earth. I can feel the chill up my spine when those sirens blare. I can scream and gasp, and just go along for the ride, and when it's all over, and I can walk out thrilled but unscathed.

Hopefully, into a sunny August afternoon. :)

If you want to learn more about the Plainfield Twister, there is an informative article on Wikipedia...

The Tempest Revisited - Chapter One, Part Three

“Is such cruelty necessary?”

Guy looked at Marian, who stood beside him on a balcony that overlooked the square below. He saw the pained look she wore, and it made him feel a moment of guilt. But when he looked back to the crowd, he felt only a satisfaction in knowing that justice was being served. A woman and a man, suspected of conspiring with outlaws, were being led through the crowd that had gathered. The crowd screamed and jeered. They pelted the couple with garbage and spat on them. Seeing such a sight, he felt no remorse.

They conspire with Robin of Locksley, he thought. May they rot in the depths of hell for it.

His reply to Marian was flat and emotionless. “They have broken the law. They must be punished accordingly.”

Watching the action below, he never flinched. His gaze never moved as the couple was led to the gallows – the nooses put around their necks. A roar came from the crowd as the stools were kicked out from under the accused. As the figures struggled in the throes of impending death, Guy glanced at Marian and saw that her face had gone white.

“Forgive me, my lord,” she said in a whisper, her voice cracking slightly. “I must seek counsel in prayer.”

She was upset. He had never seen her disturbed by anything. She was always so calm, so collected and proper. But this reaction was unusual for her, and it bothered him to see it. She walked away in a hurried fashion, and he followed a few paces behind. Slowing his steps as he entered the chapel, he knelt beside her at the altar. Crossing himself, he allowed a few moments of silence to pass before he spoke softly.

“Apologies, Marian, if I have caused you offense. But it is my duty to enforce the law.”

Her reply hit him sharply. “It is barbaric to treat human beings in such a manner.”

The boldness of her tone shocked him. He had known her to be spirited at times, but this was different. Was there contempt in her voice? For a moment, he was troubled by the thought that she would think so ill of him. But the thought of Robin Hood – of the many who followed him with such devotion – brought a darkness to his mood that he could not disguise.

“Associates of Robin Hood will know no mercy from me.”

Turning his head to her, examining her face, he saw a look that confounded him. Her eyes seemed to blaze with an inner fire. Was it fury that he saw there? Before he could examine her expression further, a guard came bursting in.

“My lord, the Sheriff summons you.”

The interruption angered him. But if Briwere called, it was his obligation – however unpleasant – to answer. Rising to his feet, he looked down at Marian. As his intended, it was her duty to follow him in a devoted manner, taking her place at his side or at least, being in the room with him when it was appropriate. But in this instance, it seemed that she was intent on remaining where she was. Though she was silent, he could sense her displeasure. It was evident to him that her manner of protest was to form herself into stone – silent and unmoving. There was something about that coldness that irked him. But he had no time to ponder it. He left her then, hurrying towards the Sheriff’s quarters.

When he arrived, Briwere was sitting behind his desk, a quill in his hand as he wrote. He glanced up only for a moment as Guy entered.

“Ah, Gisborne,” he said. “Do sit. A message has come and it is most unpleasant.”

A deep feeling of anxiety gripped him as took the chair in front of the desk. Briwere held out a rolled parchment, and as Guy reached for it, he heard the sound of the door opening behind them. Marian was there. He could feel her presence. And he could feel her eyes upon him, curious to know what the Sheriff’s summons had been about. Guy scanned the letter – and with each word he read, he felt a strange stinging in his eyes.

His father and his brothers. All were dead, killed by the plague.

He could not speak. His mind was numb – his voice incapable of making a sound. Briwere spoke in his cool way. No words of comfort or sympathy were given in regards to the news that had come. His reply was business-like in its tone.

“Take two days to mourn, Gisborne. And then return to your duties. The loss of family is inevitable, and it is a fact we must all accept.”

As he walked away, leaving the room, Guy felt Marian’s approach. She came to stand before his chair, and slowly, he raised his eyes to look at her. She spoke softly.

“I am sorry for your loss, my lord.”

The news of it had been so unexpected, so sudden, that it had briefly taken his breath from his body. He raised his head, looking into Marian’s eyes. Her eyes were so beautiful, and yet, always so cold and distant. He longed for a sign of feeling, and for a moment, he thought he saw a glimmer of pity. For one moment, there was a slight change in her expression – one that made him certain that she intended to show tenderness and sympathy for his plight. She was always so cool to him, so reserved in her manner and sheltered with her feelings. But this once, could it be possible that she would open her heart to him? He was ashamed to admit his weakness, but he so badly wanted someone to offer him a kind word and a soothing touch. Almost of its own will, his hand reached out to clasp hers.

“I am the last of the Gisbornes, Marian. I have no family left. How am I to endure such a loss?”

In his mind, he silently pleaded with her to give him hope – to tell him that she would be his family. That the children they would have, the life they would share, would one day heal the wounds that had so often crippled him.

“Trust in God,” she replied at last. “He will guide and comfort you.”

Such a composed, dignified reply. Nothing feminine or warm in it – nothing to soothe. Just another of her dispassionate answers. And he felt his anger rising. He thrust her hand away.

“Do not speak to me of God! God knows only how to torment and punish me! If you cannot speak to me with some measure of thoughtfulness and womanly understanding, then do not speak at all!”

In less than a moment he regretted his harsh words. He tried to hold on to her hand, but she pulled it away. She took a step back. She would run, he realized – driven away by his cruelty. Before she could flee, he rose up quickly, pulling her into his arms.

“Forgive me, Marian. Twas’ not my intention to hurt you.”

For a moment, she was still and quiet, allowing his embrace. She felt so good in his arms. So warm, so soft. It was the first time he had been this close to her. Never had they gone beyond the brief touching of hands, even though he had often imagined holding her this way. Lord in heaven, he wanted more of her. She was so unlike the women he had known before. So innocent, so pure and untainted. One day soon, she would be his devoted wife. What harm was there in expressing his feelings for her?

He leaned his head closer to her, taking in the sweetness of her scent. Brushing back her hair, he lightly touched his lips to her neck – and in an instant, the jarring sensation of her rebuff struck him. She pushed at him, her intent to escape more than clear.

“Marian, do not go,” he pleaded with her. But she shook her head wildly.

“You are too bold, Sir Guy! I will not allow such behavior from a man not yet my husband!”

He tried to hold to her, but she flew from the room as if she intended to escape the very devil himself. And as he watched her go, Guy slowly sank into his chair.

I am the very devil, he said to himself. And I shall be forever cursed with darkness.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Tempest Revisited - Chapter One, Part Two

The evening church bells tolled. Even in Sherwood Forest, one could hear the faint sound carried on the wind. Kneeling in prayer, Cassia felt the breeze on her face. She could smell the crisp autumn air, and she took in a breath of it. A breath that shuddered slightly. Opening her eyes, she looked at the crosses laid out in front of her.

Under the shelter of a mighty oak were seven wooden crosses. Her mother and baby brother, lost when she was very small, were there. Her uncle and her three cousins as well. Those grave markers were sad enough to see – each life taken in a cruel way. Her mother and younger brother had died in childbirth. Her uncle and cousins had been lost in war. But it was the seventh cross that made her heart ache each time she looked at it.

Lucinda’s death had at least been peaceful. She had simply gone to sleep one night and had never awakened. That, in some small way, was a blessing. But even now, more than a year later, the pain of the loss was still great. Greater, in truth, than two other losses that had occurred in the same span of time. Picking up her basket of freshly picked apples, she turned away from the little graveyard and made her way towards home.

She sighed deeply, thinking of the two crosses that were missing from that sacred spot. Her father had refused to place one of them – and she had refused to place the other. Stephen, like so many other men, had gone to war but had not returned. To this day, Robert DeWarren had refused to believe that his son was truly dead, and so had never allowed a place to be set for him in the family burial ground.

As for the other missing cross…

She shook her head, not wanting to think of it. It haunted her mind much too often, and she wondered if she would ever be free of it.

It was nearly dark when she arrived home. Latching the door as she came in, taking up the candle that had been left for her, she turned and saw her father leaning over the hearth – and rubbing his temples, clearly in some discomfort. She frowned in concern.

“Father,” she said, “Are you unwell?”

Robert instantly righted his posture. “It is nothing of consequence,” he replied. “It is late, and I am merely tired.”

It was not entirely the truth. But she dared not strike at his pride by arguing with him. She loved and respected him too much – and more than that, he was all she had left in the world. She spoke softly to him.

“I am tired as well. Perhaps we should both retire for the night.” Approaching him, she kissed his cheek. “Good night, father.”

He gave no reply, but such was his way. When he was troubled or hurting, he was often taciturn, and so she was not offended or hurt by his manner. She knew him well, and there were probably familiar thoughts – painful ones – weighing on his mind. As she climbed the ladder to the loft, she felt a sting of sadness, thinking of how lonely she knew he was. Loneliness was a common ailment in their household, and pain of the heart was now a too familiar feeling. Their losses had been too numerous to count. But as she blew out the candle, settling down in her bed of blankets, one particularly dark thought crossed her mind – just as it had so many times before.

I am a widow. And I am but sixteen.

She had been promised to Edwin Middleton since she was a child. Even after her family’s move into their wooded seclusion, he had kept his promise to marry her, and for a brief time, she had known the security of being a merchant’s wife. The future had been so full of hope.

But like Stephen, Edwin was a knight with an unwavering devotion to his king. He and Stephen had followed their passions about going to war, both of them certain that King Richard’s mighty army would conquer the holy land with little effort. But oh, how wrong they had been. So many lives had been lost, and for what? The quest had ultimately been a failure. And among the dead were two people she held most dear to her heart. All because of a king’s foolish ambition.

And another man’s slavish devotion to his lord and master, she reminded herself.

She felt anger welling up inside of her. Oh, how she despised Robin of Locksley! Just like her grandmother before her, she found him to be nothing more than a pompous brigand who stirred others to his causes but ultimately, cared only for himself. He had ruined her life entirely – taken away all of her hopes for the future, leaving her with nothing.

Damn Robin of Locksley, she silently cursed him. Damn him to hell! May he meet a horrible and grotesque end, and I pray that I might be there to witness it.


The knock on the door was insistent. Cassia rolled over, trying to open her heavy eyelids. Forcing herself to sit up, for she knew she would have to be of help to her father, she saw the light of his candle down below. She waited, and listened, as he spoke to someone at the door.

Her eyes narrowed when she heard a familiar – and despised – voice that spoke with urgency. His words could not be fully heard from where she sat, but her father soon appeared at the bottom of the ladder, lifting his candle as he looked up at her.

“Come, daughter,” he said. “One of the villagers brings a child, and we must assist in its arrival.”

She sighed as she smoothed her hair, trying to make herself somewhat presentable. Not that she intended to impress anyone in particular, especially Robin of Locksley. But she did have her own sense of pride. What else of value did a poor young woman possess?


The baby boy was healthy and whole, born with no complications. Cassia smiled as she cleaned him off and swaddled him, and she watched and listened as the friar blessed him. Tuck was one of Robin Hood’s confidantes, but he was a kind soul, and a true man of God. There were many others who followed Locksley as though he might be the messiah himself, even though he was a former earl now turned outlaw. Most of them were simply poor people in desperate need of someone to call a hero, and in truth, she could not blame them for it. But there was one among them she could not admire. One who she despised almost as much as Locksley himself.

As Cassia carried the babe to his waiting mother, she heard the low sound of Robin’s voice just outside the door. And a female voice was speaking to him in return.

“There is nothing to be done about it, Robin. You are an outlaw, and we cannot change such a fact.”

Robin’s words were spoken quietly. But the pathos in his tone was clear.

“We are one soul, Marian. We are destined for one another.”

“I am promised to another,” she whispered. “This you know. I cannot change the arrangement made by my father. It will not be undone.”

Robin’s voice rose in anger and disgust. “You will marry a man you despise? An evil man, one you can hardly bear to have in your company, let alone your bed?”

“Guy of Gisborne is the man my father has chosen for me. Had you not been outlawed, Robin of Locksley, I would be your wife. But you have created this fate for us. There is nothing to be done about it.”

“Guy of Gisborne murdered my brother.”

“And you were outlawed when you attempted to avenge him. Had you succeeded in your attempt, neither of us would be in this situation.”

Cassia had tried not to hear their conversation. But she knew the man that Marian spoke of. The man she wished death upon.

Guy of Gisborne, Cassia thought.

She had not forgotten the man who had once saved her life, and her grandmother’s. So many times, she had thought of him. On occasion, when she made a rare appearance in the village, she had seen him in passing. It was doubtful that he would remember her, even if they had actually met face to face. But she could not forget him, and as the years had passed, her fascination with him had only grown. What was it about him that stirred her as it did? He was not traditionally handsome. While he was certainly of good height and had an athletic figure, which boded well for a knight, his features were quite angular, and his appearance could only be called rough. His chin and nose were rather long, his black hair wavy and in general unruly looking. There were many who called him an ugly man. But in Cassia’s eyes, he was mesmerizing.

Lady Marian, you are a fool, she thought. A hopeless, worthless fool of a woman who would rather have a boy than a man.

Cassia knew how things truly were with Lady Marian and her husband-to-be. Marian was revolted by him. In public, she played the obedient and dutiful fiancé, accompanying Sir Guy to important functions and social occasions, and gifting him with a cool but seemingly genuine affection. But such a façade was thin, and it seemed that only Guy of Gisborne himself was ignorant about the ruse. He was besotted with Lady Marian, and Cassia pitied him. His blindness was a source of amusement and ridicule for all of Nottingham to whisper about. But she found his story to be a sad one. His mother had been murdered when he was a boy. His father was a heartless brute. His master, the Sheriff of Nottingham, treated him with disdain and cruelty. And the woman he was to marry – the one he was hopelessly in love with – secretly hated him.

She sighed, thinking that no man, not even one of the most hated men in Nottingham, deserved to be made such a fool. She crossed herself, uttering a prayer for the man who so many said deserved none.

God be with you, Guy of Gisborne. May he keep you from harm and wrong, and one day soon, may he grant you the happiness you seek…

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Tempest Revisited - Introduction, Part III and Chapter One

Some of this you will know from the "Origins" story, but there's more new material as well. Let me know what you think! Happy reading! :)


A blazing spew of ash and smoke – the fire of a volcano all around. The flames of hell, spewing up from the earth. The black fumes stealing her breath, and then, silent blackness all around. But only for a moment, for it seemed than in an instant, she was shivering on the side of a snowy mountain, the cold biting at her flesh and freezing her tears. Then, suddenly, all was sunshine and warmth…and someone was calling for her, the voice soft and familiar…

She blinked, waking to the sound of Lucinda’s voice.

“Wake up, child. You are safe now.”

Cassia rubbed her eyes, trying to gain an understanding of where she was and what had happened. A small but pleasant fire was burning in a nearby hearth. She was lying on a cot with a blanket covering her. Her grandmother's voice was comforting.

“Do not fear, my love. We are with Matilda. All is well.”

Looking at the face of the woman sitting by Lucinda’s side, Cassia recognized her great aunt – Lucinda’s younger sister, who shared a striking resemblance to her. Matilda held out a bowl and cup to her.

“Sit up, dearest. You should eat now.”

Her mind was still foggy. What had happened? Why were they here, in Matilda’s little cottage? She looked around, seeing the many faces that were staring at them. Her father, and Stephen, among others. They were safe, thank heaven. But why did they look so concerned? She saw the face of her Great Uncle Garrett – a burly, gruff man of the woods now, but once a blacksmith in the village. He and Matilda, along with their three sons, had long ago removed themselves from the dangers of Nottingham by fleeing to Sherwood Forest. Their home, made of heavy timbers and stone, was hidden deep in the woods, and they lived a peaceful life in it.

But why were they all here, together?

“Lucinda, why are we not at home?”

The reply, given after a hesitant moment, was straight-forward. The truth was not softened.

“The home you knew – the life you knew, is gone. It was all consumed by fire.”

Gone, she thought. Tears filled her eyes. How can it be gone? Why is it gone?

From nearby, Stephen came forward. For the first time, Cassia heard her brother speaking in a kind, gentle tone. She could not remember his voice ever sounding so tender.

“All will be well, dear sister. Father and I, and Uncle Garrett and the boys, we will make a fine new house, right here in Sherwood Forest. There is a pretty spot in a meadow not far from here, one that is only a stone’s throw from a sparkling lake.”

Lucinda rose up suddenly. A look of rage crossed her features, and there came the abrupt sound of a slap. Stephen staggered back a pace, shocked by the strike.

“A pretty picture you paint, you stupid, arrogant fool! Do not attempt to bestow such a comfort on her when it was YOU who nearly killed her!”

She lunged forward again, clearly intent on making another strike, but Robert held her back as the voices in the room rose all at once. They spoke of Robin of Locksley – the one face who was absent. They spoke of the Sheriff of Nottingham. And Guy of Gisborne.

Cassia put her bowl and cup aside. She was tired – the effects of the fire and the entire day itself pressing down upon her. As she put her head down, settling beneath the coverlet, she listened to the back and forth argument.

Guy of Gisborne saved our lives!

One good deed does not make him a hero! It was his hand that lit the fire!

Had he not intervened, your sister and I would have burned to death!

Cassia’s mind drifted away. She thought of the tall, broad-shouldered lieutenant. Sir Guy, with his dark looks and his penchant for dark clothes. She had always been frightened by the sight of him, as so many others were. But now, she thought of him differently – saw him in an entirely new light. Vaguely, she recalled the feeling of being carried from burning heat into icy air. That iciness, the biting cold of the winter air, had probably been the instrument of her salvation. A gift from God.

Sir Guy was our salvation, she thought to herself. And I shall remember it. Always.



November, 1192

Guy’s hand paused as he reached for a piece of bread. Seated at the table for supper, he reacted in surprise to the words he had just heard.

“My bride?”

He stared at his father, who was hastily gobbling up his supper. In the years that had passed since his mother’s death, Guy had grown accustomed to long passages of time without seeing Hadrian. During his father's absences, there had been little in the way of communication through letters. In truth, he not expected any, and so he had never been truly disappointed. On the rare occasion of Hadrian's return to Nottingham, which was scarcely more than twice a year, his reasons for coming were not of a social nature. He came home to see about his property and tenants, and when he business was settled, he would be off.

But this visit was accompanied by important news.

“Yes, boy. Your bride,” said Hadrian, shoveling another heap of pottage into his mouth. He took a gulp of wine. Swallowing it, and then taking a breath, he spoke in his hasty way. “Her name is Marian of Leaford. Her father is a merchant and the overlord of a small estate in Pembroke. The fortune she is to give her husband is not as large as some, but it will do for you.”

Guy felt no excitement at the prospect of marriage. What joy was there in it? His mother, God rest her soul, had known no real happiness in her union. And besides – what was a wife except a bearer of children? Another mouth to feed, another drain on his funds. A woman was nothing more than that. Still, it was his duty to marry and produce the next line of Gisbornes. He sighed, taking a sip of his wine.

“When will she arrive?”

Hadrian finished his meal and rose to his feet. “On the morrow. Make yourself presentable, if such a thing is possible.”

Such a comment was not hurtful. Scornful remarks were something he had grown accustomed to over the years. Briwere made them. His father too, of course. And then there were the whispers of servants and others. They often talked of his harsh features and bitter disposition – his inability to smile. But what in hell’s hump was there to smile about? His life consisted of routine, and that routine was not particularly pleasant.

He needed air.


The sights and scents of autumn were all around. But other than the comfort of the cool breeze on his face, he took no pleasure in his surroundings. His mind was too occupied with other things.

What would this Marian of Leaford look like? What would her demeanor be? His father had given her age as sixteen, and that made him wonder if she was flawed in some way. Most women were already well into motherhood by such an age. Why was this one not taken already? It would be just like his father to see that the woman he chose for his youngest son was of menial quality. Guy frowned, trying to remind himself that being a husband was merely another task he was required to perform. What did it matter what his wife looked like, so long as she did her duty by him?

At the lake, he knelt down at the edge, intending to take a drink. But he became still as he looked at his own reflection, and he stared at himself. His frown deepened, his soul troubled by what he saw.

He was a survivor of the battle of Acre. He was a Master-At-Arms, and such accomplishments should have commanded respect. And yet, he knew that no one in Nottingham thought highly of him. They feared him. And they ridiculed him. The mockery was done behind his back, of course, for they would not dare to insult him to his face. But they did it just the same, whispering harsh words about his looks and his mannerisms.

He is as monstrous as his father, they said.

The thought of such an atrocity – of being as cruel, as heartless, and as dreadful looking as his father – was more than he could bear. Striking at his reflection, he was glad to see it disappear as ripples formed, and cupping his hands together, he scooped up a drink. As he brought the cool water to his lips, he heard the sudden snort of a horse and the jingling of reins. Then, the sound of a voice fell on his ear. A voice he would not soon forget.

“Good sir, are you a resident of these parts?”

Turning his head to look, he froze instantly. God in heaven, he thought.

He rose to his feet, slowly - his actions slowed by the daze that had seemed to come over him. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he tried to speak, but found he could utter no words.

“Sir,” she asked again. “Are you a resident here? I have become separated from my party, and I must be in Nottingham as soon as possible.”

Somehow, he managed to mumble a response. “I am Sir Guy of Gisborne. Nottingham is north, my lady.”

You are Sir Guy?”

Such a question was rather unexpected. “I am,” he replied.

He watched as she righted herself in the saddle, her posture perfect. She lifted her chin proudly.

“I am your intended, my lord. I am Marian of Leaford.”

Impossible, he thought. This woman, this beautiful lady, could not be meant for him. Her shining brown hair hung down in a thick braid that fell over her shoulder. She was pale and slender, but curved in the most sensual way. It was difficult to tell from where he stood, but it seemed to him that her eyes were a bright shade of green, and her face was round, though not overly so. It was soft looking and womanly, with high cheekbones – and her lips were a luscious shade of coral.

He gave his head a slight shake, trying to come to his senses.

“It will be my pleasure to escort you, my lady. Sherwood Forest is not a safe place, especially for a woman.” As he reached his horse, lifting himself into the saddle, he again heard that voice of hers. What a soft, sweet sound it was. And yet, the sweetness was melded with an air of strength.

“Do not fear, my lord Gisborne. I am quite capable of taking care of myself.”

Guy felt an unusual sensation tugging at the corner of his mouth. When was the last time he had found amusement in anything, let alone felt the sensation of a smile?

My lady is spirited, he said to himself, the thought of it arousing his interest. Most women he knew were so mousy - so submissive. Even women of ill reputation submitted to the whims of men, if only to satisfy their own needs. How interesting it was to meet a woman such as this.

Silently, he chastised himself. Regain your senses, Gisborne. Do not be a fool. Learn more of her before you rush headlong into the wild. She may yet turn out to be no more than a pretty face.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Tempest Revisted - An Introduction, Part II

OK, here's some more for those who are willing to keep reading. As always, comments are welcome! :)
The daylight had gone. The fire burned bright – the only light in the room. But it was an eerie light. It did not warm the senses, nor give the sense of security that a good fire usually provided. Sitting beside Lucinda, Cassia shivered. Now and then she looked up at her grandmother, seeking comfort from a kind smile or a word of reassurance, but their eyes did not meet. Lucinda had not spoken for some time now. Ever since that afternoon, when Stephen had left with Robin, there had been little conversation among any of them. Robert had gone after the furious pair of young men, hoping to stop them, and now Lucinda and Cassia were alone, anxiously waiting for the sound of a return.
Cassia felt tears welling up in her eyes. She wanted to badly to ease her fears with a good cry, but that would not do. Lucinda had said so already. There were times for a woman to weep, and times for a woman to maintain her senses. This was one of those times. And so they sat in silence, waiting.
They lifted their heads at the sound of hoof-beats. From many horses. Lucinda rose to her feet and Cassia followed, both of them looking out the window opening, and they saw the band of men coming. Not Stephen, not Robert, and not Robin of Locksley – but the Sheriff of Nottingham, along with his lieutenant, Sir Guy. They were accompanied by a small band of soldiers.
Sir Guy of Gisborne.
So he lived, it seemed. Stephen and Robin had not killed him. But where were they now? Had they been captured? Or killed? Cassia looked up into her grandmother’s eyes, terrified. And the words she heard gave her chills.
“Say a prayer for our souls, child.”
It all happened in what felt like the blink of an eye. There was no time to run, no time to hide. In only moments the Sheriff and his men had stormed in, and as their presence seemed to take the very air from the room. Cassia clung to Lucinda, terrified. William Briwere, dressed in black robes that contrasted sharply with his pale features, was a fearsome sight to behold. His icy blue stare was directed squarely at Lucinda.
“Where is Robert DeWarren?”
Lucinda answered boldly, her arms around Cassia’s shoulders. “He is not here. He has not been home for many days.”
“Then where is the younger DeWarren?”
“He has not been home either. I do not know where they have gone.”
Briwere looked at Sir Guy, then at his men. He raised his eyes, looking around the room, and then his order came.
“Seize the woman and the child.”
Tears of fright spilled down Cassia’s cheeks as she tried to cling to Lucinda, but she was ripped away, her arms gripped in the harsh hands of a soldier. Lucinda was held just as fiercely, and the guard holding her stared at her for a long moment. Cassia heard Sir Guy speak, his deep voice flat and emotionless.
“Will you send them to the dungeons?”
The Sheriff’s reply was cool. “Soon enough, Gisborne. For the moment, let them witness the destruction that comes when one associates with criminals. Have the house torn apart. Find out if they harbor either of the dogs that made the attempt on your life. Report your findings to me when you return to the castle.”
He turned to leave. But one of the guards - the one holding Lucinda - called out to him.
“My lord Sheriff! This one is rumored to be a witch! What shall we do with her?”
Cassia’s terrified mind instantly recalled her brother’s words…
The rumors of witchcraft will not go away, and one day, they will put us all in danger.
“A witch, eh?” said Briwere. He pondered the declaration for a moment. A silence, thick with tension, hung heavy in the air.
“Shut them both in. And burn the house to the ground.”
The order gave him a strange sensation of feeling in his chest. Guy stepped out the front door, following behind the sheriff.
“My lord, should we not spare the child?”
He was not surprised by the snort that Briwere made as he mounted his horse.
“Spare the child, Gisborne? For what purpose? So she may grow to be a common criminal like her brother, or a witch like her female kin before her? They will both be sent back to the devil from which they were spawned. Remain until the deed is done. I am going to find my warm bed. This bloody cold is making my bones ache.”
Turning away, departing as he usually did when such a foul order was given, William Briwere had once again left his master-at-arms with the task of supervising a heinous act of punishment. Guy’s dark brows knitted together as he mounted his horse. His mouth turned down in a frown, his head lowering as he listened to the sound of the house being ransacked and the cries of the two women within. The old woman was cursing the men. The child was crying hysterically.
Duty, Gisborne, he told himself. He took in a deep breath of the cold night air. Remember, this is your duty.
Robin of Locksley and Stephen DeWarren had entered his home after dark. He had not known, at first, who the attackers were that had tried to murder him while he slept. Somehow he had fought them off, unmanning one of them with a hard kick to the groin, and while that one was down, he had tossed the other across the room and into a piece of furniture. Before he had been able to subdue them both they had fled into the night. But a sharp-eyed servant had identified them both.
They will pay for their crimes, he said to himself. They will pay with their lives.
If either of the rogues had been here, he would have felt no guilt in seeing them both executed on the spot. They would be hanging from the nearest tree – a warning sign for all those would attempt such deeds. And he would have watched without flinching.
But the murder of a child…
He shook his head, trying to lose the sense of guilt he felt. Was she not a member of their family? Was the blood of a witch not in her veins? Perhaps she was not possessed of the devil yet, but one day she would become so.
The sound of a soldier’s voice took him from his thoughts.
“My lord Gisborne, the men are not to be found.”
Lifting his head, he looked at the captain of the guards, who was awaiting his command. For a moment, he hesitated. Then he spoke in a gruff voice.
“You have your orders, captain.”
With a nod, the guard went back into the house. Guy listened to the commotion from within – the screaming and shouting, the sound of terror from two souls who were about to be put to death. All the while, as the windows and doors were barred from the outside, and the thatched roof was set aflame, he turned his head away.
This is what you do, Gisborne. This is your lot in life.
The soldiers gathered around him, watching the conflagration. He felt a quickening in the pit of his stomach as he smelled the burning in his nostrils and saw the glow of the growing fire in the corner of his eye. In a rage he shouted at his subordinates.
“Return to your duties at the castle!”
Guilt had a hold of him. It ate at him, gnawing away at his insides like a vulture picking at a carcass. He watched the men going, and when he was along, he turned to face the sight of the house engulfed in flames.
He could bear it no longer.
Sliding from his horse, sprinting to the front of the house, he tore down the bar that was in place. Kicking in the door, he held his hands up as the heat and smoke momentarily blinded him. Choking on the fumes, dodging the embers of the roof that were falling in quickly, he spotted the woman and child underneath a table, huddled together. Without conscious thought he seized the woman first, dragging her out of the burning building and dumping her body in the snow. She was insensible when he left her there, and for a moment, he was certain she was dead already. Rushing back in to pick up the child, he felt her limp form in his arms, and he wondered if she too had already been poisoned by the smoke. Then, as he stepped out into the night air, he heard her give a little cough. She was alive, praise God. And he felt a strange relief at the notion of it.
Out in the yard, the old woman was sitting up, though her head was hanging as she wheezed and coughed, trying to rid her lungs of the smoke. Guy came to her, depositing the child at her side. He looked at them, feeling a moment of pity and relief. Then, his face closed from all feeling. His mouth formed a grim line as he gave them a dark warning.
“Get out of this village while you have the chance. And never return.”
The woman said nothing – only looking at him strangely. He feared that she would utter some words of gratitude. And such sentiment was more than he could bear. Mounting his horse quickly, he rode away towards the castle, never turning to look back.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An Introduction...The Tempest Revisited (A Rough Draft)

OK, folks. I was going to save this for later, when the project was done entirely, but I thought I would give the fans a special treat. You're a terrific bunch, after all! You'll find some of this familiar, as part of it is from my "Guy of Gisborne - Origins" story. But there is some new material here too. Don't be afraid to tell me what you think! I value your opinions! And if you like it, I may just keep writing.

Happy Reading, everyone!

Nottinghamshire, England

July, 1174

His head was throbbing. His cheek was raw – not only from the spot where it was pressed against the floorboards, but from the hard fist that had rendered him senseless. For how long he had been unconscious, he did not know. But the reminder of the blow was impossible to ignore. His memory came to life all at once. As he lifted his head, his blue eyes darted around the room. The blaze in the hearth crackled ominously – the only sound to be heard. Eerily colored in flickering shades of orange and black as the flames of the fire danced, the evidence of the robbery was everywhere.

Overturned furniture. Broken pottery. And Elizabeth Gisborne. His mother, lying face-down near the hearth.

Dragging himself forward, the pain of his wounds eclipsed by his shattered soul, he came to her side – and without touching her, without speaking her name, he knew.

Dead, he thought. My mother is dead.

Tears pooled in his eyes. Guilt pierced his heart. He had tried to protect her. But the intruders had burst in so suddenly, and they had been so much stronger - so much more determined and violent in their quest, and his twelve-year-old defenses had been no match for them.

Mother, he cried silently. Mother…

He had failed her. He was a weakling, as his father often called him. Tall, gangly, and lacking sufficient strength, his attempt at fighting had not been good enough. He had faltered in his duty as a son, and now, he could only stare at the paleness of his mother’s face - at the lifelessness of her blue eyes.

Behind him, the door opened with a slow creak of its hinges. He gave a start, thinking it was the return of the thieves. Turning his head, he saw the fearsome figure standing in the open doorway.

A lump of fear stuck in his throat. Father, he thought, and he trembled.

Sir Hadrian of Gisborne loomed large in the door frame. His wide shoulders forced him to turn slightly as he stepped into the room. The powerful jaw, large and square, was set firmly as his eyes took in the sight before him, and the flames of the fire in the hearth, stirred by the sudden draft, reflected in those eyes. They mirrored his rage and disbelief. His voice fell on his son’s ears as a deep and chilling rasp.

“Guy of Gisborne. What atrocity have you allowed in my absence?”


The sky was grey with rain – the air sweeping the deluge along in slowly falling sheets. The journey to Nottingham Castle was a short one. But the road was rutted and difficult to traverse, and as his father’s cart  rolled over each hole, Guy felt the repeated splash of water and mud on the side of his face. But he dared not complain. As the servant drove the cart, Hadrian rode alongside, never speaking or looking anywhere except ahead. The last words spoken between them had been words of warning, and Guy feared Hadrian enough to heed his admonition.

You will go to the village in the morning, boy. You are to be a ward to your uncle. I will have no argument on the matter.

What argument could he give? It had always been known to him that one day, he would become a servant to the Sheriff of Nottingham. His two brothers, both older than he, had already gone away to their servitudes in distant households. For some time now, Guy had known that his twelfth birthday was fast approaching, and he had tried to stay close to his beloved mother. He wanted to have memories of her to hold to, for he knew that once he was established in his apprenticeship, he would only see her on rare occasions.

But such memories were pushed to the corners of his mind now. All he saw in his head was her silent and still figure lying there on the floor, the victim of a senseless crime that he had failed to prevent. His father blamed him for his incompetence. Hadrian had not said so in words, but there had not been a need to. His silence spoke volumes, and his insistence on this journey to Nottingham was further proof of it. Without his wife, the elder Gisborne had no one to care for his youngest child, and he certainly could not be expected to take up the task himself.

The sky was grey and gloomy, just like the stones of the castle. As the wagon stopped at the gatehouse, Guy looked up at the imposing facade, feeling a sense of dread. He knew what waited for him behind these walls. He knew many of the page-boys that already lived there, and their lives consisted of strict routine and hard work. Such was expected in a place that was, in essence, a military fortress. There would be no kindness or compassion for a boy who had lost his mother. A boy who was the Sheriff’s nephew. Such things made no difference now.

A guard appeared from within. Without speaking, he waited for Guy to get down from his seat, and after a moment of hesitation, Guy did so in silence. Looking back at his father, he waited for some sign of farewell, some sign that Hadrian would at least acknowledge this last moment between them. But Hadrian’s head remained forward, his eyes fixed on the road before him, and in a moment more he turned his horse and rode away, his servant soon following behind. The guard was left to escort Guy into his new residence.

Despite the fact that it was summer, the halls of the castle were cold and drafty. Guy shivered as he followed along, fighting back the misery he felt in his heart. He missed his mother. She had been the one constant in his life – the one happiness in a dark and turbulent world. So often, she had held him in her arms and spoken softly to him, offering him comfort when his father had been cruel to him. Where would he find such comfort now? Who would care for him? Who would love him?

Turning a corner in the hall, the guard stopped at a door and knocked. A deep voice came from within.


The door opened. Guy was slowly led forward, and he came to stand before a massive desk. But the heavy piece of furniture, though nearly as tall as he was, was not what frightened him. It was the man sitting behind it.

“My Lord Sheriff,” said the guard, “This is your new page boy.”

William Briwere rose from his chair. Guy looked up, seeing his uncle – his mother’s younger brother. They shared the same slim build, the same middling height. William’s hair was cropped close to his head, but it was fair and blond, just like Elizabeth’s. And those were her eyes, it seemed - the same pale shade of blue. And yet, they looked down on Guy with no light of love. Just a moment of passing regard, and then a word of frosty instruction.

“Take the boy to the barracks. Find some use for him.”

No welcome. No word of condolence for the loss of his mother. Just a brief word or two, and then he was being led away again, taken off to begin his new servitude.

December, 1187

Cassia opened her eyes, yawning. Instantly, she caught a taste and smell in the air that excited her, and throwing back her coverlet, she got up from her pallet in the corner. She hurried to dress herself. Despite her excitement, she was aware of the duties expected of a ten-year-old girl. Her father would expect her to be clean and presentable when she came to break her fast, and there was not enough time in the day to dawdle.

And yet, she could not help breaking that rule on occasion.

Dressed now, with her dark hair smoothed down and her head covered with a white scarf, she hurried to the window and threw open the shutters. The freezing cold air drifted in, but she was too thrilled by the sight of snow to even notice.

Nottingham village was usually so drab, so unpleasant to look at. The thatched roof houses were scattered here and there, and looked quite pitiful when compared to the more well-built manor houses on the outskirts of town. At times, the sights and smells of the village were intolerable. Despite its small size, it was a busy place full of people hawking their wares and just generally living their lives. In the summer, the pungent odor of livestock, butcher’s remains, and the cesspits – horrid scents, to be sure -  often drifted through the air and could not be ignored.

But in winter, when all was covered by a fresh blanket of white, the air smelled crisp and clean. For a short while, the world around her seemed like a pleasant and beautiful place.

“Cassia, close the shutters this instant!” a voice demanded. “And come to the table at once, or we shall eat without you.”

Her father’s warning did not dampen her spirits, but she did as he said. It had been such a gloomy and damp few months, and the sight of the first snow was beautiful to her. It seemed to cover the decay of the autumn, and she found it hard to understand why no one else seemed to take pleasure in it. She took her place beside her brother, who took the moment to chastise her. Stephen was older by eight years. Being a young man of eighteen, with the brash disposition desired in a prospective soldier, he was not hesitant to give commands and criticisms.

“Foolish child,” he said. “You invite a chill into the house. We shall all die of illness now.”

Across from them, sitting beside their father, was their maternal grandmother. She snorted at Stephen’s remark.

“Nonsense, boy. A touch of fresh air never did a body harm.”

Cassia smiled at her. Lucinda was often the voice of reason in the house, particularly when it came to her grandson’s bullish nature. Though he certainly loved their grandmother, he often chafed under her control, and as he grew older his opinion of her ways became more critical.

“Forgive me, Grandmother,” he said, “But the truth of the matter is that the air is filled with ill humors. Despite your powers as a healer, you cannot avoid such things. Winter brings death, and that is a fact well known.”

Cassia looked at Lucinda, who said nothing, but simply shook her head. Lucinda, as well as Robert, had a gift for curing the sick and the injured, and neighbors often came to their door seeking their aid. But not everyone valued their abilities. Some villagers were fearful of Lucinda’s appearance. She wore her white hair long, its waves streaming down her back in a rather unruly fashion. She was tall for a woman, and walked with an air of strength and confidence. And she went about her healing arts without fear or regard for what others thought. Some, like Stephen, felt that abilities such as hers were unnatural – that humans were not meant to act in the place of the omnipotent and cure things that were better left in the hands of God.

“I have often said so,” he went on, “But you should cease your practices. The rumors of witchcraft will not go away, and one day, they will put us all in danger.”

Robert DeWarren spoke up at last. “Stephen, that is enough. If you cannot speak respectfully, do not speak at all.”

“I am sorry, father. But the whispers grow more constant. Will you have us banished from this village altogether when it is discovered that we harbor a witch?”

Robert’s voice boomed. “You will say no more!”

Silence fell over the room. Their father was usually so quiet, so calm. But when he issued a command, it was not to be ignored. Cassia cast her eyes down, concentrating on her trencher. Such arguments were not uncommon. It was true what Stephen said. Ever since she could remember, Cassia had often heard the term “Witch” used to describe Lucinda. Many feared her abilities, even if they sometimes sought her out in desperation, hoping for the help only she seemed capable of providing.

Cassia longed to be like her. And Lucinda was nurturing that desire. Recently, she had started teaching her about remedies for illness, and how to look for signs of them. She had taught her the value of certain herbs and plants, and while she taught, she fostered in her granddaughter a strength of spirit that women were not meant to have.

“Let not your womanhood be a justification for weakness,” she often said.

They were words that Cassia would hold to for the rest of her life.


Later that night, after she had finished her prayers, she tried to settle into bed like an obedient child was supposed to do at days’ end. But she soon began to shiver from the cold. The winter was beautiful to look at during the day, but she could remember now why Stephen cursed it. The draft seeped in through every nook and cranny. The heat from the fire was so limited, most of it escaping up the chimney, and soon enough the fire would burn down to embers, leaving the entire house to endure until the morning. Seeking warmth, she sought the arms of Lucinda, who was sitting before the fire with a pile of knitting. With a smile, she set her work aside as Cassia snuggled against her. Lucinda’s voice was firm but kind.

“You should be in bed, child.”

Cassia sighed. “I am cold. I cannot sleep.”

Lucinda wore cross with a tiny amethyst embedded in its center. Removing it, she draped it over Cassia’s head and placed it around her neck.

“Do you know of amethysts, child?”

Cassia shook her head. She had always admired the necklace. It had belonged to her late mother, and she looked down at it now with fascination, holding the cross with her fingers.

“Put it under your pillow,” Lucinda said, “And it will bring you pleasant dreams. It will also bring you spiritual wisdom, and protect you from harm. And if you hang it from your window space in the moonlight, it will bring peace to your household.”

A dreamy, pleasant smile came to Cassia’s lips. Closing her eyes, she felt herself falling asleep. She felt Lucinda’s gentle hands caressing her back.

But a sudden knock on the door startled them both.

Lucinda turned her head towards the sound. “Who in the devil can that be at this hour?”

It was Stephen who approached the door first, gripping the handle of his dagger in preparation for any danger that might be coming. Robert followed behind, carrying a candle in one hand and a mace in the other. One could never tell what mischief was lurking in the dark. Stephen stood poised, ready for action.

“Who is it?” he demanded.

A voice came from the other side – one that was quite familiar to all of them.

“It is I. Robin of Locksley.”

Cassia saw the look of displeasure that crossed Lucinda’s face. She had never had a good opinion of the Earl of Locksley. He was a handsome young man, to be sure. Blond-haired, green-eyed, and lean but muscular, he was a favorite among most residents of Nottingham, especially the ladies. Lucinda had never liked him, often calling him an arrogant and foolish young whelp. But he and Stephen had grown up together. They were the same age, and both were eager to achieve their ranks of knighthood. Stephen welcomed him in as he always did.

“Robin!” he greeted him with a smile and a handshake. “What brings you here, and under the cover of darkness? Come, let us sit and talk over a cup of ale.”

Cassia watched the two of them together, her curiosity strong. They were always in some scheme together, for better or for worse. Once, she recalled, the two of them had been caught throwing vegetables at people from a rooftop. She had only been a tiny girl of four at the time, but she could still remember the sound whipping that Stephen had received. So what were they up to now?

She would learn nothing, she discovered, as Lucinda gave her a firm but gentle push towards her bed.

“Go, child. It is late.”

Cassia nodded. To argue would be a sign of disrespect and impudence, and such behavior was not permitted, so she quietly obeyed and sought her pallet in the corner. She wrapped the coverlet around herself, and smiled up at Lucinda when another blanket was draped over her. The night would be more tolerable now, thanks to her grandmother’s thoughtfulness. She watched as Lucinda walked towards the table where the three men sat. Being a woman, it was not her place to sit with them and join their conversation without invitation. So she stood nearby, listening. And from her bed, Cassia listened too.

“I seek your help,” Robin said, sipping his ale. Stephen drank from his own cup, his eyebrow lifted in interest.

“In what way?”

“The sheriff has imprisoned my brother. I intend to free him.”

Robert, sitting with them now, leaned in close and spoke in a low voice. Such tones were often used when speaking of delicate matters, especially anything that concerned the law. One never knew who might be listening.

“For what crime was he imprisoned?”

Though it was not her place to speak, Lucinda did so all the same. Her words pointed and serious as she came near, folding her arms.

“For stealing, of course. Am I correct, Robin of Locksley?”

The three men looked at one another. It was the truth. John of Locksley’s criminal exploits, though petty when compared to more serious offenses, were something they were all aware of. But Robin, in his usual way, came to his elder brother’s defense, and there was a gruffness in his manner – the manner of a man protecting his blood kin.

“My brother is a thief, yes. But he steals to help the poor.”

Lucinda gave an unladylike snort of disgust. “He is a criminal. And you are a fool to stand by him.”

Robin’s voice rose. “He is a defender of the weak and the needy!”

“He is a troublesome wretch who will bring trouble upon us all if we aid him!”

“I do not seek the counsel of a witch!”

A moment of silence fell over everything. Lucinda took a step back. Her eyes were filled with contempt, even when Robin’s features softened and he tried to apologize. He reached out to touch her arm.

“Forgive me, my lady. I did not mean to be cruel…”

She flung him off instantly, her eyes blazing. “Do as you will, Robin of Locksley. All of you, do just as you please! I am done with it! May God have mercy on your foolish souls.”

She turned away, leaving them to make their plans. Cassia closed her eyes as Lucinda passed by. And long into the night, she wondered what trouble the morning might bring.


Guy stood before the cell, looking over the ragged trio of outlaws that were awaiting their fate. They would be executed, no doubt. Briwere did not consider theft a minor crime. But before then, they would be taken to the bowels of the castle and questioned. It was his duty, as the recently appointed Master-at-Arms, to watch the proceedings and see what information could be distracted from the accused. Sometimes torture brought useful information – sometimes it did not, but either way, he had it to do.

He was only twenty-five years of age, but he  had grown immune to the sights and sounds of the prison, and at times, he found himself quite bored with his duties. He sighed with impatience, waiting for the Sheriff and his page to read over the list of charges.

While he waited, Guy could not help staring at one of the men in particular. He heard the man’s name being read, but it did not strike him as being least, not at first.

John of Locksley, he was called. Guy suddenly felt that he might have heard the name before, and he remembered then that there was a local nobleman that shared the same last name. Could the two possibly be related? And was there not a younger Locksley, one they called Robin? He shook the thought from his head, not truly caring.

There was nothing particularly striking about him. He was in his late twenties, perhaps. He was not a young man at such an age, but he still had an air of youth about him. A figure of middling height, with an athletic frame and a dark complexion, he had the rough look of a man who lived life on the streets. In short, he looked like just another criminal. He turned his head to scratch at his scruff of a beard.

Guy saw it then.

That scar.

A flash of memory flooded his brain…

The thieves laughed at him as he stood in front of his mother, his rapier held out with a less than steady hand. The leader of the criminal band threw his head back and laughed out loud, the strong smell of drink emitnating from him and his commrads. A long pink scar ran from his ear downward, ending under his pointed chin…

He could not forget that mark. He had never forgotten it, even after thirteen years. A red and furious haze glazed over his eyes.

“Open the door,” he demanded.

The Sheriff and his servant just stared for a moment – too long, in Guy’s mind, and he snatched the keys away, opening the cell door himself. An animal sound was unleashed from within him. He seized the criminal by the throat, choking him, pinning him against the wall.

Blood! He thought. I must have blood! This very moment!

His hand went to the dagger at his side. But before he could act, he was pulled away by the arms of two guards who had appeared in an instant. Briwere stood nearby, demanding an explanation.

“What madness is this, Gisborne? Explain yourself!”

“This is the man who murdered my mother!”

Briwere looked at the man who now sat on the floor, holding his throat and coughing, Then he looked back at Guy.

“How can you be certain?”

“I am certain. As God is my witness, I am certain.”

The sheriff seemed to consider the situation for a moment. Calm and cold, as he most often was, he turned a contemptuous eye to the man who was now rising to his feet.

“He shall receive a special kind of welcome in the dungeons, then. Something long and very painful, to be sure – before he swings from the gallows.” He looked at Guy once again. “Will that suffice?”

Guy was silent. He kept his eyes on his enemy, his thirst for some physical form of vengeance barely controlled. He sat on the razor’s edge of an attack.

Then, John of Locksley gave the hint of a smirk.

That look. It was the same kind of arrogant, devil-may-care look that had preceeded that long ago strike that had rendered Guy senseless, leaving him to awaken to the horrific sight of his boyhood home destroyed – and his mother dead, ripped away from him forever.

His rage overwhelmed him. The dagger was in his hand, his grip on it powerful, and he lunged forward, shoving the knife into Locksley’s heart. John’s eyes bulged out in shock. He gurgled and gasped, his mouth moving wordlessly, and he fell to the floor. Guy looked down at him in disgust, and spat on him.

Briwere threw his hands up, heaving an irritated breath. It was not the murder itself that bothered him, but the disruption of his plans. Few things angered him more than a botched execution, or in this case, one that was over too quickly and did not involve torture beforehand.

“Good God, Gisborne. Have you no self-control? I told you he would be tortured properly, but you insist on such haste! Learn the virtues of patience, you fool!”

The other captives, both staring down at the writhing body of their friend, were taken away by the guards. John of Locksley, slowly bleeding to death on the floor of the cell, would be taken away later and disposed of after his movements had ceased entirely. Guy stood there for a moment, listening to the quiet noise of impending death. And he could find nothing but satisfaction and pleasure in the sound of it.


Cassia watched and listened, her hand holding Lucinda’s, hearing the agonized sounds that came from Robin of Locksley’s lips. Surrounded by Stephen and a host of other friends, he wandered back and forth aimlessly as his friends tried to comfort him.

“He had been murdered,” Robin wept. “My brother has been murdered, and I was not there to stop it!”

Stephen tried to reason with him. “Twas not your fault! It was Guy of Gisborne that committed this injustice! His hands are stained with John’s blood!”’

Cassia listened, fearful as they spoke of committing their own crime in the name of justice. She was young, but she was not a fool. If they tried to seek revenge, they would only endanger themselves. Men died every day in the castle square, most of them hanged but some of them going on the block to have their heads severed. She had seen such an atrocity once, thanks to Stephen, who had taken her – against their father’s wishes – to be witness to the public spectacle. She could not forget the horrific sight of a dead man’s newly decapitated head being held up before the crowd. She thought of her brother being subject to such a fate. And she could not stand the thought of it. She cried out, rushing forward.

“You cannot go!”

The men seemed not to hear or notice her. Stephen, in particular, was too energized by the events to pay attention when she tugged at his hand. At last he turned to her with an angry glare and a harsh tone.

“Go away, Cassia! This is not a time for children!”

“Do not go with them!” she pleaded. “You will be caught and punished, and I cannot bear it!”

His reaction was harsher than before – angrier. “You are only a girl and you know nothing! Do not bother me again with your foolishness!”

Heartbroken and terrified, she ran to the comfort of Lucinda’s arms and cried, knowing of nothing else she could do. Lucinda spoke soothingly to her.

“The ways of men cannot be changed, dear heart. No matter how we try. We can only trust in God to be with them on their foolish quests…