The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans: Ask Not What Your Theater Can Do For You
June 28, 2013
“I didn’t come to Sherwood Forest to do costume theater.” Leigh adjusted her veil again. They were loitering on a hill overlooking Nottingham, waiting to head down into the town.
“So what did you come here to do?” Rachel’s heart beat restlessly. Sneaking into dungeons sounded good in theory, but in reality (even time travel reality) it just wasn’t as adrenalized as she hoped. Too much waiting around. She’d even given in to teaching Will how to play chess on her phone.
“Something with less theatrics. Tell me this, why does every single time we time travel it has to involve theater?”
“Ask not what your theater can do for you.” Rachel muttered.
Leigh gave her a look. “How do these escapes usually end anyway?”
Rachel had been thinking on. “Well, in Robin of Sherwood, it’s always really easy to get out of Nottingham. Like seriously, nobody guards that place. It’s alarmingly similar in the BBC version. You know, if the sheriff actually put some real effort into training his guards, he’d have handled this problem a long time ago. Instead, depending on what version we’re going by, he’s always busy either carving people’s hearts out with spoons or plotting to have Greek fire brought in. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be ambitious, but when all you’re going to remembered for is not catching Robin Hood, you’d think he could have focused a little more."
“Words,” Leigh shook her head. “You’re just saying words.”
“I’m always just saying words. Words are all I have.”
“Nope. No Bee Gees. Shut it down.” Leigh pulled her veil down over her face.
Will ran up then, his gold and scarlet cape fluttering in the breeze behind him.
“Don’t you think that costume is a little too on the nose?” Leigh inquired.
Will shrugged charmingly. “They never see what’s right in front of them.”
“Really, they won’t see this coming?” Rachel eyed the rest of the band, all clad in various disguises, with a skeptical eye. As much as she wanted to get into Nottingham, this was exactly the sort of rescue plan that seemed overly obvious. Clearly, it wasn’t as obvious to the outlaws. What if this was the very first time they’d ever done it? She found that hard to believe, but there had to be a first time for every legend.
“They know something is coming.” Robin adjusted his eye patch. He was dressed like a tinker and dyed his beard a dark reddish brown. “The sheriff’s not a fool.”
“So why go through with it?” Leigh asked.
He looked at her with grave eyes. “Because the alternative is to do nothing.” He offered her his arm. “My lady.”
“If you insist.” Leigh took it.
Rachel fell into place behind them, Will strolling by her side.
“Seriously though, what are we supposed to be again?” Rachel inspected the sleeves of the tunic she was wearing over her clothes. It smelled like a sheep had died in it. Possibly one had.
“Sure.” This was never going to work.
Alan played his lute as they wound their way down towards the road leading into Nottingham. The guards at the main gate weren’t too particular about who was entering the city. They barely looked at the band as they passed through the arch.
“Maybe it really is that easy.” Leigh whispered at Rachel.
They meandered casually through the streets and nobody gave them a second glance. George juggled as Alan played and sang. He had taught Rachel the words to the ‘Bonny Thief of Scarborough’ and ‘A’ Traveling We Will Go’ so she added harmony. Will Scarlett did cartwheels and flips, handing out sweets to the small children following at his heels, while Robin produced flowers from behind girl’s ears and whispered compliments, making them blush.
Whenever someone stopped to watch Leigh held out the cap Tuck had given her. “Please contribute to a worthy cause. The invention of the coffee machine.”
* * *
They made their way further into Nottingham and then Will took Rachel by the arm. “There.” She followed his gaze.
They had reached the main square and there amidst the market stalls and crowds, stood a tall platform with a gallows. John was standing there, arms bound behind his back, guarded by the sheriff’s men. On the dais opposite lounged the sheriff and his cronies.
Robin drew Leigh close to him for a moment, speaking softly in her ear.
“What’s up?” Rachel asked as Leigh came. Robin spoke to the others casually and the other outlaws drifted around the square.
“We’re supposed to spread out, act as a distraction while Robin frees John.”
“What?” Rachel stared at her. “That’s a terrible plan.”
“I thought you said these plans usually worked.”
“Well, if by worked, you mean everybody running and getting chased by guards and horses, sure. I mean, the secondary characters sometimes bite it.”
“That’s just dandy.” Leigh watched Robin flirting at a merchant’s stall.
“What’s he doing?” Rachel stared.
“Not Robin, Will.” Rachel nudged her. Will was currently demonstrating his range of acrobatic expertise in front of the sheriff’s dais. The crowd of children gathered around in a circle while the sheriff watched with bored eyes.
“I think he’s being a distraction.”
It was working to some extent. Alan stood a little ways off, singing as Will performed a flip and the children cheered. Rachel glanced at Robin who was working his way behind the gallows. The guards were facing the sheriff. There were only two of them, but that was still two to deal with before he could get John free.
The sheriff clapped lazily as Will did another flip, then pulled a coin from his purse and tossed it down.
“Fine work, young sir.”
Will caught the coin neatly and bowed. “Thank you, my lord.”
The sheriff leaned back in his chair. “It’s a pity though. I thought your esteemed leader would have a far grander scheme in mind.” He raised his hand, and a swarm of guards entered the square.
“Rachel.” Leigh’s fingers dug into her shoulder.
“Seize them!” The sheriff shouted. “Seize them all!”
To be continued...