The meeting of Robin Hood and Philip O’ Greenwood
It was springtime. The flowers were waking from their sleep and the trees were beginning anew. Animal were just beginning to peep out of their dens to see the happenings of the season when Robin and his merry band went trouping through the forest in chance of good sport.
Robin spoke to Will Stutly, standing by his shoulder: “Little John, I do believe that a quite stout fellow happens along this path. He doth move of such slow a pace as to have me catch him quite easily.”
Little John, examining the figure Robin had pointed out on the road nearby, spotted a large bow upon his shoulder, with many a finely fletched arrows at his back. He spoke to Robin saying: “Though he is slow of foot, and his hood does cover his face, he has the mein of a veteran of the crusade. Henceforth I wot that his bow is strong, and his muscles must be as tempered as iron as to pull the string back.”
Robin dismissed Little John’s words with a wave of his hand. “I wot what I see, and I see an old man of war. Perhaps his heart would hold up better if he joined our merry band.” Many murmurs of excitement followed, for the merry men were always happy to have a new brother. “It is decided. But first things first. I must test his mettle in a contest.” And with that, Robin leapt from the brush in which they were hiding and approached the stranger.
“He is a fool!” Quoth Little John, “That man will do him in, and drub him properly!”
“If he does…” replied Will Stutly. “…Then more of a sport for us. For watching Robin at a loss is always humorous in it’s own.” Little John thought about it for a minute, and decided that Robin could take his licks and be laughed at if he wanted to. This pleased Little John.
They continued to watch Robin as he approached the stranger, though they could not hear what was said. Robin conversed with the cloaked figure and then produced his own cudgel. This was normal, for all of these merry men observing had met Robin in one way or another, always ending in a cudgel bout. This time however Robin seeing the other man had no cudgel struck his out at an angle as if to say, “You should get one like mine.” The lone figure however made no such movement toward the trees to make such a cudgel, but rather, with a deft movement, snatched Robin’s cudgel out of his hands, and straightway clouted Robin on the head with such a force as to cause poor Robin to stagger about. Then he snapped the cudgel in half with his bear hands.
Robin spent a good minute getting his wits in order, whilst the stranger did nothing but watch. Robin quickly grabbed his horn and gave it three sharp blasts. The merry men had tried their best to hold in their laughter, the sight of a cross-eyed Robin Hood blowing upon the horn drove them beyond their limit of self-control. They broke into a cacophony of laughter, and erupted from the bushes as a tumble of good humor. Robin’s eyes finally came into focus and he was peeved that his men had done nothing to aid him, but rather stood there laughing.
“I see the murrain of ill humor has not descended upon you band of knaves.” Shouted Robin Hood testily at them.
Little John finally regained some form of composure and, while still chuckling, made a stance to defend the not so jolly Robin. “Good sir who doth break Robin’s cudgel and crown, pray tell where thou art from, where thou art going, and what business you have.”
The hood was thrown back from the figure and there stood a stoutly youth, of naught but a score.
Robin was amazed, and so were the rest of the men.
“My name is Philip of Greenwood, I come back to my home from the crusade. My business was to find the outlaw Robin Hood and being an archer of his ilk, join his band of merry men…” With this, his scowling face turned into a wide grin and he leaned comfortably on his bow. “…But I do believe I have already done that.”
More laughter was heard and introductions were made. Finally, Robin walked over to young Philip with a more joyful appearance than previous and said: “I would have you become one of my merry men, for you are stout of body, and bold of spirit, but only if thou doth not meet me in such a manner as before.” And Robin rubbed his sore wounded head.
Thus was the tale of how young Philip of Greenwood joined Robin Hood’s band of Merry men, and they had many adventures together. Next I shall disclose how the ill fortune of Azrael descended upon Robin and his band of stout mates.
Robin Hood and Azrael
Now the Sheriff was of much fear to venture into Sherwood, and he wot that Robin Hood was slier than himself, so he set forth on Robin a warrant. Many men answered the call and could not even catch so much as a glimpse of Robin or his men. Some found Robin Hood, but found him of such a jolly nature, that they were inclined to join a man as such. One man by the name of Guy of Gisbourne, died at the hands of Robin because of Guy’s evil nature. However, not long after the death of Guy of Gisbourne did another man pass through Nottinghamshire on horse. He was clad in a black shroud of cloth, so that he appeared as a storm cloud ready to unleash its torrent of rain.
The Sheriff did spot this man on horse and spoke to him: “You appear as ready to wage war. I see you carry a broadsword and bow, but the crusade is toward the way you came. What is your business here? For if you have none, I can certainly think of a job for the likes of you.”
The cloaked man replied, “I am Azrael. What is this errand you would have of me.”
The Sheriff was overjoyed at having the man’s attention. “In Sherwood we have an outlaw, his men follow him and he is sly as wizened fox. There is a warrant for his life. If you were to catch him, I would pay thee over and out the King’s treasury.”
The ominous Azrael agreed, and demanded authority to command the Sheriff’s men. The Sheriff said yes without a second thought.
Now a crowd had gathered nearby to observe the new character that conversed with the Sheriff. It so happened that in the crowd stood Will Scarlet, for he was on errand for Robin. When he drew near to see the face of the man named Azrael, he immediately recognized it! Azrael spotted young Will Scarlet and leaped from his horse. He came crashing down upon Will before he even began to shout. Then Azrael gave orders to the Sheriff’s men standing by, for Will Scarlet to be taken away.
“What will you do with him.” Asked the Sheriff when he learned it was one of Robin Hood’s men.
Azrael gave a steely reply. “I will let him deliver a message to yonder Robin Hood.”
Now in Sherwood, Robin was anxious for Will Scarlet to return, for no one had seen of him for a good day. So he sent out Little John to find Will Scarlet. Off went Little John through the wood in search of his companion until he happened upon a strange man sitting on the log of a felled tree in the glade. He saw the face of the man as one he recognized and since he was tired of walking, joined his friend on the log.
“Ho!” he cried “‘Tis’ a tiresome task to go in search of Will Scarlet. I am glad you are here for some good company.
His friend replied, “If it is so tiresome, why do keep going?”
“Because Robin asked it of me.”
“Is Robin your master?”
At this Little John became sore of temper. “No, he is not, but I do as he tells for he I am his friend!”
“Then why do you go on a petty errand of which there is no fame. Robin has his adventures, and he has his fame. But you are confined to his shadow and left to wilt beneath him. It 'tis a shame you cannot best him, for then your tale would be told forever as ‘the man who bested the outlaw Robin Hood’.”
Little John felt even more anger build up within him for he felt that his companion was right. He grew sore wroth and stormed out saying: “Thou art just in thy speech. I am nothing more than Robin’s stable brute. I will name myself Robin’s better, and teach him that Little John does not fear him.” With that Little John headed toward the camp of the merry men intent on Robin Hood’s demise.
Now as Little John approached Robin Hood at the camp, Will Stutly was in conversation with Robin. This did not stop the furious Little John, for his temper had yet to cool. With two cudgels in hand, he threw one at Robin, who barely caught it before being smote by Little John. The impact to Robin’s caused his ribs to crack and blood to poor out, but he stood and fought. For an hour they engaged in combat, with neither striking another blow other than the first. Finally, amidst the twirling cudgels, Will Stutly jumped to grab Little John from behind, but was struck in the temple by the but end of the stick.
Little John realized what he had done and dropped his cudgel to attend to the unmoving Will Stutly, crying out. “My dear friend, what have I done!”
Then rushed upon him thirteen of the merry men to drag him away. But as they restrained Little John, another loud cry echoed through the forest. Whereas Little John’s pain was one of emotions, this wail was the shriek of someone afflicted with pain of the flesh. Robin bandaged himself with strips of cloth and set out with five of his merry men to see what creature was befell with anguish.
It was nightfall and they had ventured not far from the camp when a light appeared distantly in the forest. As Robin and his men looked onward, they saw a torch being carried toward them with great haste. Then to their horror, they all realized that it was not a torch ablaze, but a man: Will Scarlet. His fine scarlet clothing was lit in a fiery inferno that danced all about his body, cloaking him in a plume of fire. Robin told one of his men to get water from the camp, while he and his companions batted out the flames with what clothes they had on hand. Cloaks, jerkins, and shirts where all flung about till the last bout of fire was extinguished. Then the writhing figure of Will Scarlet lay still on the ground, clasping to it like a babe.
“Who wouldst commit this villainous atrocity.” Robin asked to Will Scarlet. But Will Scarlet could not hear for his ears had been consumed by the intensity of the flame. Instead, and through fits of agony, Will Scarlet gave his account of what was about to transpire.
“There are hundreds! They are there now! Run, while still have the chance!”
Robin tried to understand the raspy words coming from Will Scarlet’s charred throat.
“Who?” he cried, “Who did this?”
But Will still could not hear. “They line up! They are…they are…he is…he is…”
“He is what? What is he going to do?”
“Buh…buh…buh” Will struggled to push his last words out. “Burn it! The forest! He is going burn it!” and with that Will Scarlet spoke no more. He lay there with glossy eyes, staring into absolute nothingness.
Robin carried Will Scarlet back to camp and when he arrived, sent men to scout out the edge of the forest. True to his words, the men came back with stories of how the Sheriff’s men where lined up with torches and how a cloaked figure upon a horse whom the soldiers called Azrael was leading them. One scout even told of how the Sheriff pleaded for Azrael not to burn the whole forest down and that Azrael had trampled him with his horse.
Robin Hood then made the decision: they would all have to leave Sherwood Forest and make for the land of Sir Richard of Lea. In the distance, a great light started up and began to inch closer. While merry men scrambled to and fro gathering items of great value, Little John was forgotten about and he ran off into the dark woods.
Robin made for the Blue Boar inn, for what was most precious to him was hidden there. He went to great length to avoid the ravaging fire and the Sheriff’s men, and finally arrived at the Blue Boar inn. Robin ventured inside the inn only to fin the place abandoned and dark. He made his way behind the counter and pried open a board in the floor. Underneath the board was the necklace that Maid Marion had given him so long ago. He held it in the palm of his hand and gazed at it remembering what it was like when he was younger. His concentration was broken by the sound of the door slamming shut. Robin Hood peeked above the counter and saw a dark shadow sitting upon one of the far tables.
“Who art thou?” spoke Robin. “Art thou man or divine.”
“I am both.” Replied the figure with a strong but quavering voice. “I am Azrael.” At the sound of that name Robin stood and notched an arrow to his bow, rage filling him.
The shadow continued: “I am the angel of vengeance. I am here to pay you back for the wrong you have committed.” Then Azrael lit a lantern, removed his hood and revealed his face. “I am also Philip. The boy you have so wronged.”
Robin Hood was shocked at the sight of young Philip. “Why are you here? You are not the one responsible, are you? What wrong have I committed?”
But Philip would have not conversation, merely producing a bow and arrow, and notching it as Robin had already done. Robin Hood shook of the emotions of having the boy confront him and fired an arrow, at the same moment as Philip fired. The arrows met in mid-air and bounced off one another in a spark, ricocheting of course and into the walls of the inn far away from their intended targets. Robin made a run for the door but Philip was already firing another arrow. This one met its intended target, piercing the flesh beneath Robin’s shoulder and pinning him to the wood wall. Philip jumped off the table and strode over to the helpless Robin Hood.
“You ask why? Because; Many years ago, before you became an outlaw, you were on your way to an archery tournament. Along the way you encountered a group off foresters. Your encounter with them caused you to kill one of the King’s deer and one of the Foresters. The Forester was my father!” Philip swung his bow like a sword and made contact with Robin’s collarbone, breaking it. Robin groaned. Philip continued: “Because of you my family starved to death and I was left with naught. I was but a lad of fifteen, but I wot I was going to do. Your pride needed to be broken, so I went of to the crusades as an archer. I was wot as the best Bowman of both Englishman and Arab. And when I was sure of my skill I left. Thus I returned here, looking for you. I joined your band of fools, and tramped about like one of your servants. But I am greater than you will ever be, and you are nothing but a quick witted coward!” He struck again at Robin’s collar, but this time Robin was prepared. As Philip struck again, Robin grabbed the bow in mid-flight, and yanked the arrow out of his shoulder. With one quick movement he dropped to the ground and stabbed Philip in the foot with the arrow. It pinned him to the floor and Philip could not run. He screamed. Robin grabbed one of his own arrows and notched the bow, pointing it at Philips heart.
“I pray thee, don’t move, otherwise this arrow will pierce thine heart.”
Philip gave a cold glare, “I pray thee, shoot, for I don’t have one.” And he lashed out with his free foot hitting Robin Hood’s already wounded side. Robin crumpled to the ground. The arrow went exactly were it was supposed to go and Philip fell back, the shaft protruding from his chest.
Robin sat breathing heavily, he tried to get up, but found that he couldn’t. It was hard for him to breathe. He tried one more time then gave up, resigned to lie against the counter till someone found him. He closed his eyes and sighed.
Noise was being made. Maybe someone had come to save him. He opened his eyes and looked for his savior. What he saw however, mortified him. There stood Philip, shaft sticking through his heart and a broadsword in hand.
“I told you I didn’t have a heart.” Philip raised the sword for a single and final strike, when a hand reached out from behind him and removed the sword from his grasp. With a single horizontal stroke, the new wielder of the sword cleaved Philip’s head from his shoulders, and laid him to rest. As the body tumbled headlessly to the ground, Little John stepped into the light of the dimming lantern.
“I hope I was not late.” He piped.
“You wot not.” Murmured Robin Hood as Little John lifted him to his feet.
“Was that Philip?”
“No” replied Robin softly, “‘Twas, a man with no heart. For he sold it to a bitter spirit long ago.”
“Aye” quoth Little John, not understanding what Robin meant. “Haven’t we all?”
And so every man escaped from the burning of Sherwood, and Robin and his merry band moved to the land of Sir Richard of Lea. Will Scarlet, recovered from his burns thanks to the aid of Friar Tuck but never quite looked the same again, and Will Stutly woke from his deep sleep after three long days, to be greeted by an overjoyed Little John. Thus, Robin and his merry men lived on merrily ever after. At their new home in the woods of Lea, they held a feast, where everyone celebrated and was merry. All except Robin Hood, who watch the feasting with passing interest. His mind was on the boy who had once had a father, and the evil that had rooted in his soul.
© Copyright 2016 Allan Reinhard. All rights reserved.