The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans: A Gathering Around the Old Oak Tree
May 08, 2013
Rachel mulled everything over as they walked along a little ways behind Alan.
"So how long have you been part of Robin’s gang?" She wanted to gain as much information as she could, still processing the concept of Robin Hood being real.
Rachel liked to believe in things. She wanted to believe that Batman guarded Gotham City, that magic could be real, and that Arthur would return. Sometimes history said one thing and she had to accept it, but a lot of time, there was room for leeway. Regardless of facts, she still liked to hope.
This trip was all certainly promising on the believing things scale. Not that she’d be able to tell anyone about it, but she’d know and that was good enough.
"Almost three years," Will told her.
"Three years?" Rachel eyed him. "How old are you?"
"Two and twenty," Will said cheerfully. "How old are you?"
"Twenty-one." Rachel couldn’t believe this gangly dude was older than she was. "How did you get outlawed?"
"I was caught poaching. They were going to cut my right hand off as punishment," he held it out, waving it dramatically at her. "Robin shot the forester in the arm and told me to run, so I did."
"They were going to cut off your hand just for poaching?" Rachel knew things like that had happened, but to meet someone who had almost had their hand cut off was weird.
"Nearly did." Will sighed. "After that I followed Robin back to the oak. At first he tried to send me home again, but I couldn’t go back, not after that. So he gave in and let me stay." He grinned at her slyly. "Besides, I have my uses."
Rachel could imagine, but she gave in to curiosity. "Such as?"
Will held up her phone. "Best pickpocket in Nottinghamshire."
"Hey," Rachel grabbed it back.
"What sort of device is it?"
"It…um…tells me which way to go." Rachel decided the compass was the safest thing to show him. She held it out, explaining the four points.
"What a marvel!" He was entranced.
Rachel resisted the urge to show him the camera.
"Come along," Alan urged. "We’re almost to the oak."
They passed through a thick grove of birch trees, and then they were standing at the edge of a clearing, nestled around the roots of a sprawling oak. There was a cooking fire in the middle of the clearing where a man was busy roasting a pig on a spit. Two others were sitting near a cask of ale, fletching arrows.
This was surreal. Rachel could smell the wood smoke and the roasting meat. There were furs hanging up over the shelters that smelled like they were freshly skinned. She wrinkled her nose at the stink.
Alan immediately went over to the cask.
Will took her hand, smiling at her. "Come on."
Normally Rachel did not hold hands. She definitely didn’t hold hands with outlaws she’d known for barely less than a day, but this situation was unnerving and there was something reassuring about having Will Scarlett’s hand in hers.
He took her over to the fire and showed her to a seat.
"The meat should be done soon." Will squeezed her hand. "Let me get you some ale."
"That sounds good."
So far the other outlaws were just looking at her. Okay, this was new for all of them. They weren’t expecting a girl in a hoodie to show up in their midst; she hadn’t been expecting to spend tonight with a band of men in the middle of a forest. Sometimes you really couldn’t predict life.
Will returned and handed her a carved wooden cup filled to the brim with something that certainly smelled alcoholic. Rachel took a tentative sip. Whoa, strong and good. She took another sip. Will grinned, sitting down beside her.
The outlaw watching over the fire approached them. "So, lad, who’s this then?" He cast a curious eye over Rachel who just looked back at him.
"This is Rachel, Rachel this is Will Stutely. The ones over there are George O’Green and Martin."
"Hey," Rachel felt marginally more comfortable now that she had had some ale. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. She’d meet Robin Hood, find Leigh, rescue Hunter, and be back in time for Doctor Who. Everything would be fine.
"You’re not supposed to just bring lasses you fancy back to the oak, lad." Stutely muttered.
Rachel coughed into her ale.
"It’s not like that." Will told him quickly. "She’s in trouble."
"Mhm," Stutely said dubiously.
"We’re just friends," Rachel assured him. "Really good friends." She felt very fond of Will Scarlett by now.
"We’ll see what Robin has to say when he returned." Stutely went back to the fire.
"Yeah, so where is he?" Rachel nudged Will’s knee. She’d kinda thought they’d all be wearing tights, but nope, tunics and things that looked suspiciously like leggings.
Will shrugged. "He could be anywhere. Sometimes he doesn’t come back for days." He stopped, seeing Rachel’s panicked look. "I’m sure he’ll be back tonight though."
"He better." Rachel muttered darkly. If Robin Hood couldn’t be bothered to show up and help her, she’d just have to go and do everything for herself, same as always. She could do that.
There was a sound of a nearby horn echoing through the trees.
"He’s calling ahead?" Rachel snickered. "That’s nice."
Two men entered the clearing. One of them was at least seven foot tall, and Rachel realized that Little John really was the most absurd nickname she’d ever known. The other man was around average height and average build, but well-muscled. He had a bow slung across his back and a deer over his shoulders.
"Points for Errol Flynn." Rachel murmured. No hat though. Pity.
The man lowered the deer to the ground, clapping a hand on Stutely’s shoulder, before he glanced their way.
His eyes narrowed. "Who’s this, Will?"
"I can talk for myself, yo." Rachel said, and then hiccupped.
Robin Hood, for it was he and no other, looked unimpressed.
"My name is Rachel," said Rachel. "And I’m here on a quest."
To be continued...