I apologize, I was supposed to post this yesterday but, honestly, as I was writing I fell asleep with the laptop still in my lap! That’s what I get for staying out in the local rehearsal studio until 2 AM jamming Metallica songs with my mate…
Anyway, here you go, I hope you enjoy it in its un-edited, un-polished state. Sorry there’s no fighting but it’s a pretty important scene and probably one you’ve been waiting for since the first book…
Rise of the Wolf should, hopefully, be ready to go around June. Look out for the cover reveal before then and trust me, it looks fantastic! Enjoy and SPREAD THE WORD! :-)
April came, filling the trees with thick green leaves and the rains slowed, allowing the ground in the forest to dry out and become less treacherous. The sounds of nature reawakening after the chill of winter filled the air, as insects began to build their nests in dark, hidden places and many of the animals and birds that populated the undergrowth gave birth to their little ones.
“Here, listen to this!” Young Gareth hurried into camp, red-faced and puffing, apparently from excitement more than exertion. He was followed by the former Hospitaller sergeant, Stephen, who looked bored and irritated by his younger companion. The unlikely pair had been visiting the village of Tretone that morning to collect supplies.
“What’s up?” Little John wondered, raising an eyebrow at Stephen who gave a disgusted wave and moved over to the big cooking pot over the camp-fire to help himself to some of the thin soup bubbling away inside as the other outlaws who were around came across to hear Gareth’s news.
“The sheriff’s holding a tournament in a couple of weeks!”
Silence greeted his pronouncement and the Hospitaller snorted with laughter as he spooned some of the hot food into his mouth.
“So what?” Allan-a-Dale asked. “What’s that got to do with us?”
“There’s to be games and prizes and stuff,” Gareth replied, smiling as he moved over next to Stephen and lifted a bowl of his own which he filled with the – mostly cabbage – soup.
“Are you pissed again, boy?” Will Scarlet demanded.
“No, I’m not!” Gareth retorted, the watery broth dribbling down his chin as he glared at Will indignantly. “There’s going to be an archery competition, and the prize is a silver arrow. An arrow made from solid silver!”
There were gasps and whistles of appreciation from the men as the value of such a prize sunk in.
“That’s great,” Robin agreed, shrugging his enormous shoulders. “But why are you so excited? None of us are going to be winning the arrow.”
“Why not?” Gareth replied, looking at Robin as he continued to spoon the cabbage soup into his mouth. “You could win.” He glanced over at John. “Or you.” His eyes moved around the outlaws who listened to him in bemused silence. “You’re all deadly with a longbow, you could beat anyone in England! Christ knows you spend enough time practising.”
“You seem to be forgetting one thing,” Scarlet growled. “We’re fucking outlaws! The moment any one of us sets foot in Nottingham we’ll be arrested and hanged. Particularly me or Robin, since some of the guards know what we look like and, as for him…” he pointed at Little John. “He stands out a bit, don’t you think? Being the size of a fucking bear and all.”
John laughed merrily and clapped Gareth good-naturedly on the back. “Ah, the innocence – and stupidity – of youth.”
“Aye,” Stephen muttered. “And if you think that silver arrow is going to be anything more than a normal wooden shaft with some paint on it, you’re more than stupid.”
The men began to drift off, back to whatever tasks they’d been involved in before the Hospitaller and his teenage companion had returned, laughing at the preposterousness of Gareth’s suggestion.
Allan-a-Dale remained by the fire, strumming his gittern and thoughtfully eyeing the longbow which lay on the grass by his side. He was startled from his reverie by the sound of another of the outlaws crashing through the undergrowth into camp. This time it was Arthur, the powerfully-built lad from Bichill who waved the rest of the men across, his near-toothless mouth split in a cheery grin.
“Keep it down,” Allan hissed angrily. “You should know better than to come charging through the trees like a hunted boar.”
Arthur waved a hand dismissively and addressed Robin who had come over, brown eyes gleaming with interest.
“Two monks on the road to Nottingham. No guards!”
“If they’ve no guards they probably have nothing worth stealing,” Little John grumbled.
Robin nodded, but the men murmured together, knowing travellers were often the best way to find out news from the wider country, even if they carried light purses hardly worth removing.
“Let’s invite them to dinner,” Robin laughed, strapping on his sword-belt and collecting his great war-bow. “It would be rude to let them pass without offering our hospitality.”
He gestured to Arthur to lead the way and followed the lad. “Make sure there’s enough stew for our visitors,” the young leader smiled to Edmond who nodded and waved a silent farewell.