The Robin Hood legend in a futuristic setting
Meeting the man who would become Robin Hood:
“So ya are a robber,” the man with the barrel said when two armed men came out of the ruins, “sent to keep me till these two got here.”
“I’m no robber and I don’t know these men,” Jarret said.
“We aren’t here to rob you,” the leader of the two said, “but scur are coming. We have to hide your water.” He went to the edge of the rubble and pulled away a section of roof leaning against two concrete blocks. “Put it in here.”
The man with the barrel hesitated. The two men put their crossbows, truncheons, and daggers in the gap between the broken blocks. “Let’s go!” the leader said. “You don’t have time to think.”
“The trolls’ll get it if I leave it there,” the man said.
“Better than the scur catching you with river water if you like your neck.”
The man looked at him, then wheeled the dolly with the barrel over and slid it into the shelter. The leader pulled the section of roof back over everything and let the vines fall back into place. Then he got everyone walking toward the bridge. They’d gone barely ten yards when six men in black uniforms with a taloned-hawk insignia on their shoulders and hats came out of a smaller road.
“Stand where you are,” the one with the most patches and bars on his uniform said. The group stopped. The other five looked them over closely, touching bulges in clothing where something might be hidden. While they did, the officer asked them their names, where they were coming from, and where they were going.
The man with the water was Phil Krim, heading home after working his field. The leader of the pair was Robert Dieztel and with him was Bateman Fisk, both coming from Robert’s field. Then the officer got to Jarret. Jarret didn’t like any of his options but grabbed the last one that had come to mind and hoped the others would cover.
“Jarret Owlin,” Jarret said. “Just been hired to help in Mr. Dieztel’s field.”
“You hired this scrawny bag o’ bones?” the officer asked.
“I took pity on him,” Robert Dieztel said.
The officer looked them over, reluctant to leave it at that but not knowing what to do about it. Then he started down the road away from the bridge and his men fell in behind him.
Robert turned to Jarret. “Nicely done,” he said, then turned and spoke to Phil Krim and Jarret together. “A lady I’m fond of is coming through on her way to her uncle’s shir. We’re here to see she gets there safely. Join us if you like and we’ll eat well when we reach his castle.”
“I have a sick boy,” Phil said. “I need to get my load home.” As he said it he started for the hiding place.
“It’s not there,” Robert called after him.
Phil spun around to face him. “The trolls got it so quick?”
“The trolls are my friends,” Robert said. “Your water will be under some debris behind your house.”
Phil looked at him, eyes squinting. “You wouldn’t be the Man o’ the Hood, would you now?”
“That’s fantasy,” Robert said. “No such man.”
“Next you’re gonna tell me the White Ghost ain’t real, neither.”
“More fantasy,” Robert said.
“No he ain’t,” Phil said, “‘cause I seen ‘im.”
“Then watch out for shadows going home and go take care of your boy, Phil,” Robert said. “Keep him away from the hood water and check the rubble in two days for another barrel.”
Phil stood for a moment considering what Robert had said, then thanked him and headed off.
“And you, my new friend,” Robert said to Jarret. “What are you up to?”
“Not much,” Jarret said, “and I get the sense things happen when you’re around. If your offer still stands, I’ll tag along.”
Robert smiled. “Glad to have you,” he said and turned into the road the scur had come from. Bateman and Jarret fell in beside him.
“And while we go,” Robert said to Jarret, “you can tell me about your hood and how you found yourself in Quamshir.”
Before Jarret could say anything, two more men came out of the ruins armed with crossbows, daggers and truncheons. They carried Robert’s and Bateman’s weapons and as Robert took his, they heard a far-off birdcall. Robert said to stay with Jarret and headed into the ruins.
They all stood waiting, listening. Five minutes later Robert came back.
“Ambush,” he said. He led them further along the road, walking quickly this time. They came to a collapsed wall blocking part of the road and as they went around it they saw a genteel lady on a hopper slowly coming toward them, two men on foot on either side. The men carried truncheons in their belts and crossbows at the ready. Four more followed. Seeing Robert, they raised their crossbows and took aim. The lady spoke softly to them and they relaxed their bows.
“Robin,” she called out, “you’ve come as promised.”
“You didn’t doubt I would,” Robert said, “but so has someone else wearing armor and hiding with a dozen scur.”
“Who is it?” the lady asked.
“I couldn’t tell,” Robert said. “He had on his armor. But the scur uniforms have the taloned-hawk badge.”
“Then bend your bows,” she said to her men. “Be ready.”
“Drop your bows,” a voice called out. The man stood on a broken wall. He wore a suit of a heavy material Jarret didn’t recognize with a hood that covered all but his eyes. Men stood up in the ruins with cocked crossbows. More scrambled out from the green gripping truncheons. Robert shouted a curse and fired, dropping the lead archer. Darts flew both ways. Bateman Fisk went down and lay still. One of the men beside Marian’s hopper fell with a dart in his thigh. Three of the attacking archers went down. The fight moved to truncheons and the attacking archers dropped their bows and waded in.
Two men with truncheons doubled on Robert. Robert checked a sidearm swing from one with a blow to the man’s wrist, then blocking his wrist, grabbed the man’s elbow and rolled his arm, swinging him around so the blow from the second attacker’s truncheon hit his back. Robert pushed the man into the second attacker, went low and slammed the attacker’s knee. As the two men fell, Robert cracked both heads with two quick blows. The bodies collapsed in an unconscious heap. Before they hit the ground, Robert had turned to take on two more. Jarret saw his smile, white teeth grinning from a cinnamon face that glistened with sweat. Robert was enjoying himself.
Then Jarret saw the prince fire and hit another of Marian’s men. Then he pulled the small slide in front of the trigger guard and a lever that hinged under the bow dropped down from the stock. He pulled it back till it folded back up into the stock then pushed forward another small slide on the side of the stock. Jarret grabbed the crossbow Bateman Fisk had dropped and pulled the slide at the trigger guard. The lever that dropped down pulled back easily but did nothing. In frustration Jarret pushed it forward and felt it click. Now when he pulled the lever the bow rope was pulled back till it caught in its lock and the lever swung up easily the last few degrees to latch into the stock. Then Jarret pushed the little slide on the side of the stock and a dart came up from inside the stock and settled in the groove in front of the locked string.
But by then the prince was taking aim at Robert. Suddenly a green shimmer rose out of the ruins and hovered above them. A scur yelled, “Glow Specter!” and swung around to fire at it. The prince fired too but with aim disrupted. Jarret sighted down the groove. Remembering all he’d learned back on Enki with Jeeker rifles, he fired. He saw the dart sink into the prince’s left eye. The prince fell from his perch, causing a clatter as he slid down the bank of debris. The scur already spooked by the green shimmer saw him fall, shouted to each other, and dodged back into the ruins.
Jarret looked at the body in the heavy suit at the bottom of the bank of rubble. He lay there tangled in the loose vines his falling had pulled down with him, the shaft of Jarret’s dart sticking from his eye. Robert went to the body and lifted the hood to see the man’s face, then let it fall.
He turned to Jarret. “Could you do that again?”
“I don’t know that I’d want to,” Jarret said.
“But are you that good a shot?”
“I had lots of practice with Jeeker rifles under the eye of a good teacher,” Jarret said, “but I never fired a crossbow before so don’t doubt luck had more to do with it.”
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