Robin of Locksley is a rebel, more comfortable roaming Sherwood Forest with his longbow and courting the village girls than learning how to run a manor.
An innocent flirtation with a peasant girl soon lands Robin in trouble, and worse, he finds himself inexplicably attracted to Will Scathelock, his best friend since childhood. Robin must decide whether to follow the rules of society or his own conscience.
Meanwhile, his neighbour, Guy of Gisborne, is anxious to get his hands on the Locksley estate and he will do anything to make it happen—even murder.
About the Author
I've made up stories since I was a child. I loved to take characters from my favourite books or television programs and make up stories about them or continue existing stories. In fact, if I had ever published them, I'd be in flagrant breach of copyright.
My parents gave me books as soon as I was able to hold one and so my love of literature was born.
I've always had a taste for the dramatic, so Historical Fiction was perfect. It also means I get to indulge my love of Folklore and Medieval History.
My love affair with the Robin Hood legend began one day in a hidden corner of the school library and has extended into my adult life. I only hope I can convince my readers to love him as much as I do.
Away from all things literary, I am an enthusiastic theatre goer. I also play the piano for pleasure and I like to sing when I'm sure no one can hear me. I'm fond of cooking and long walks and even now I'm still a self-confessed bookworm.
Read an Excerpt
The arrow flew straight and true, striking the straw dummy's chest dead centre.
Robin let out a whoop of triumph. "Ha! That's three times in a row." He performed a little celebratory jig, fist punching the air, and grinned at the boy who stood awaiting his turn. "Beat that if you can, Guy."
"Robin," his tutor admonished. "It is not gentlemanly to gloat."
"I wasn't gloating. I was stating a fact." Robin thought he saw his tutor's lips twitch for an instant before his face assumed its usual stern expression.
"Nevertheless, you could be a little more supportive of your friend."
Robin clapped Guy on the back. "Go on, your turn."
Guy shrugged off Robin's touch and picked up his bow. He approached the dummy, looking less than enthusiastic. Robin noticed his hands were shaking as he fitted an arrow to his bow string.
"Take deep breaths," Robin coached. "And remember to hold the arrow level with your —"
"I know," Guy snapped.
Robin opened his mouth but his tutor laid a hand on his shoulder.
His quiet voice silenced Robin more effectively than a shout would have done. Robin had a lot of respect for his tutor. Sir Richard of Lee was an old comrade of his father. The two knights had fought together alongside King Henry when his son, Young Henry, had tried to seize the throne. It had been Lord Locksley's idea for Sir Richard to tutor both boys, and for the past three years, Sir Richard had trained them in all manner of fighting and weaponry.
While Robin enjoyed all his lessons, it was archery he loved the most. Though the longbow was not a weapon traditionally used by a nobleman, Sir Richard had thought Robin and Guy should learn. His own grandfather had been a Welsh archer. Sir Richard had made Robin's bow himself, and it was his most treasured possession.
Once, when Sir Richard hadn't known he was listening, Robin had heard him tell his father that he was one of the best young archers Richard had seen.
"He will go far," Sir Richard had said. "I cannot teach him fast enough. The boy soaks up my lessons like a cloth does water."
"It is a pity he cannot apply such devotion to his other studies," had been Lord Locksley's only comment.
Lord Locksley had always been a remote presence in Robin's life — someone to be wary of, even feared. Robin had no memory of his mother, but that place was more than filled by his nurse, Martha. He loved her better than anyone in the world.
If Robin considered any time not spent training as time wasted, he knew Guy didn't feel the same. Guy dreaded their lessons. He had no natural aptitude for either the sword or the bow. Robin tried to be sympathetic, but he couldn't help thinking that after three years, Guy should have improved at least a little. It wasn't any fun sparring against him. There was no challenge.
The two boys had been friends for as long as Robin could remember. The Gisbornes occupied the neighbouring estate. Sir Benedict Gisborne and Robin's father were old friends.
Guy's first arrow went wide, burying itself in the trunk of a nearby tree. Robin held his tongue as Guy threw down his bow in frustration.
"Concentrate, Guy," Sir Richard said. "Become one with the bow. Loosing at the wrong time can mean the difference between victory and defeat."
Guy scowled, but picked up his bow again.
Robin studied his friend as he stood there, face twisted in a grimace of concentration.
The two boys were complete opposites to look at. Where Robin was slim and compact, Guy was broad and stocky with arms and legs that seemed too big for his body. He was often prone to clumsiness, which meant Robin won the vast majority of their practice sword bouts. His blonde hair lay sleek and straight against his head as if it had been pressed flat, whereas Robin's tousled black locks were a source of perpetual irritation to his father.
At last, Guy fired. This shot was better. It landed just outside the circle that was the dummy's heart.
"Good!" Sir Richard said. "Try again."
Guy let fly his third arrow. This time, his aim was true.
Robin grinned. "He's dead. See? That wasn't so hard."
"Speak for yourself," Guy muttered.
"No, really, it's easy." To demonstrate, Robin fitted a fresh arrow to his own bow and fired. It split Guy's arrow in two, and stuck, quivering, in the dummy's chest.
Guy heaved a sigh. "Easy for you, maybe."
"All right, how about some sword practice instead?" Robin didn't wait for Guy to agree, but ran off in the direction of the house.
Alone with his tutor, Guy shuffled his feet and stared at the ground. Robin, he knew, would have had some cheeky quip to fill the uncomfortable silence. Robin was never short of something to say. Guy, on the other hand, was ready to sink through the ground with embarrassment.
He kept looking at Robin's arrow, standing upright and proud while his own lay splintered and discarded, worthless. He had frozen. It always happened like this, whether he was practising archery or at dinner in his father's hall. His mind would shut down, and his chest tighten with panic.
He was heir to the Gisborne estate. One day, it would be his to manage, but how could he be respected as a knight and a gentlemen when he couldn't do anything right?
Robin didn't care what anyone thought. He breezed through life. He was confident in any situation. It wasn't fair.
Guy knew it was wrong to feel jealous of his friend, but there were times when he felt Robin was making fun of him. Even his own parents were full of praise for Robin and often compared them. Did they ever wish they had Robin for a son?
Guy's sister, Katrina, had declared herself in love with Robin and sworn she would marry no other. She was a year younger than Guy but had twice his confidence.
A gentle hand on his shoulder jerked Guy out of his gloomy thoughts. Sir Richard was smiling down at him.
"You shouldn't take it so hard. Not all of us can be good at everything straight away."
"Robin is." The words were out before Guy could stop them.
Sir Richard chuckled. "Believe me, he isn't. He is confident, which makes you think he knows what he's doing. You have strengths, too."
Guy wondered what those strengths were.
"I know one thing," Sir Richard went on. "However cocky he is, Robin has a good heart. He would never intentionally upset you. He doesn't think before he speaks sometimes."
Guy smiled in spite of himself. It was rare to hear grown-ups describe Robin in anything other than glowing terms.
The sound of running footsteps announced Robin's return. Feeling more cheerful, Guy caught the practice sword Robin threw to him. The swords were made of wood, but they could certainly do some damage to your opponent if you knew what you were doing.
Once, an over-enthusiastic swing from Guy had got under Robin's guard and smacked him in the mouth, chipping one of his front teeth. The chip was visible every time he smiled. Guy knew he should have been sorry, but he'd secretly been glad. He had scored a hit. Robin, for his part, had taken the injury cheerfully, vowing revenge. Guy's ribs had been black and blue that evening.
They each assumed the correct battle stance, swords held ready. Robin struck first. Guy managed to parry the blow. He made a return strike, which Robin easily blocked. He skipped back from Guy's next thrust; the field rang with the clash of wood on wood.
Robin's reflexes were fast. Guy felt awkward and clumsy by comparison. But he was bigger and heavier, if he could just use that to his advantage. He bore down on Robin, putting all his strength behind his strikes, trying to intimidate him. Sweat poured down his forehead, while Robin wasn't even out of breath. There was a stinging pain across Guy's ribs.
"First blood to me," Robin cried.
"Do not flourish your sword so much, Guy," Sir Richard advised. "It allows your opponent time to get in under your guard."
The fight went on. Guy was determined to get in a hit, but Robin seemed to anticipate every one of his attacks, and his sword was always there to block. Robin got in another hit, just above Guy's elbow. Guy let out an involuntary yelp and immediately cursed himself. He couldn't show weakness.
Robin was grinning fiercely, enjoying the mock battle, his chipped tooth winking in the morning sun.
"Ready to yield?" he asked.
It was that grin that pushed Guy over the edge. Forgetting all the rules of swordsmanship, he tackled Robin, using his extra weight to bear him to the ground.
"Guy!" Sir Richard shouted, but Guy barely heard him. He had Robin in a headlock and both were panting for breath.
"You broke the rules," Robin remarked.
Something jabbed Guy in the chest, just below his collarbone. He looked down. Robin's sword rested there, his hand perfectly steady. Guy cursed silently. How had Robin managed to keep hold of his sword? Guy had been sure he'd dropped it in the fall.
Sir Richard loomed over them both. He looked angry, which was rare, but then Guy had broken one of the most important rules of sword fighting. Knights practised honour and chivalry at all times, even to their enemies.
"I have never seen such an exhibition," Sir Richard stormed. "You should be ashamed of yourselves. Rolling in the grass like peasants."
Guy looked down, but Robin held Sir Richard's gaze.
"Guy started it. I was defending myself."
"Enough. This ends your lesson for today. Get on home, the pair of you."
As they walked back in the direction of Locksley Manor, Guy rubbed at the grass stains down the front of his tunic. He would be in trouble when his mother saw them.
"Serves you right," Robin said without sympathy, examining a graze on his wrist. "You won't get away with that trick again."
Guy bristled. "I could knock you down any time I wanted."
"You'll have to catch me first." Robin was off, sprinting like a deer.
Guy gave chase at once, but he was already tired after the sword fight and quickly fell behind. Robin's mocking laughter spurred him to put on an extra burst of speed, and the two of them hurtled around the side of the house.
Guy skidded to a sudden halt. There, standing a few feet away, was his father, Sir Benedict of Gisborne. Guy's sister Katrina was also with him. Sir Benedict was talking to Lord Locksley, and neither of them had noticed the two boys pounding over the grass towards them.
Katrina stared wide-eyed at the approaching Robin, while Guy tried to call out a warning, but in his breathless condition, all he could manage was a strangled croak.
Robin crashed straight into Sir Benedict. He stumbled, and would have ploughed face first into the grass if Lord Locksley hadn't seized his shoulder and steadied him.
Robin hit the ground with a bump, and an oof! of surprise.
Guy, his face scarlet, hurried up to them.
Robin had already bounced back to his feet. "I am so sorry, Sir Benedict. I didn't see you."
Sir Benedict had succeeded in regaining his balance. He was several years older than Lord Locksley and his health hadn't been strong of late.
"Are you all right, Father?" Guy asked anxiously.
Sir Benedict looked shaken, but managed a smile. "I'm quite all right, son."
Lord Locksley aimed a blow at the back of Robin's head, which he dodged. "What did you think you were doing? Running about like some ruffian."
"I didn't see you," Robin repeated, stepping back out of reach.
Lord Locksley looked furious, but before he could say anything else, Sir Benedict spoke up.
"Now, now, Geoffrey. Boys will be boys, you know. There's no harm done." He smiled at Robin. "I accept your apology, but next time, try to look where you are going or you will cause someone a serious injury."
For the first time since Guy had known him, Robin looked genuinely contrite. "Yes, Sir Benedict. I'm glad you are not hurt."
Sir Benedict took his leave of Lord Locksley and, with Guy's help, mounted his horse.
Guy saw Katrina give Robin a dazzling smile as he lifted her up behind their father. He mounted his own horse, which had been tethered nearby.
As they left, Robin grimaced over his shoulder at him. Guy knew Robin was in for one of his father's lectures, maybe even a whipping. For once, Guy didn't envy him.
Robin stood his ground. He was in trouble, and he knew it. Part of him wished he could have beat a hasty retreat like Guy.
"Come with me," Lord Locksley ordered. He didn't wait for Robin to say anything but turned on his heel and headed indoors, leaving Robin no choice but to follow.
Locksley Manor had once been a castle. It had been scaled down over the years after a fire wiped out a good portion of the building. In its place stood a handsome stone manor house. The front door opened directly onto the hall, which boasted a central fire pit. As there was no chimney, the smoke found its way out through the eaves. There was no glass in any of the windows, but heavy wooden shutters kept out some of the draughts.
A staircase gave access to the solar and sleeping chambers above while a side door led to a yard where the stables, kitchen and various store sheds were situated. These also doubled as sleeping quarters for the servants, or else they bedded down in the hall itself.
The great hall was Robin's least favourite place. It was where his father often entertained his lordly friends, while Robin was forced to sit there, dying of boredom.
Gisborne Manor was built on a similar, if smaller scale, and was far more homely in Robin's opinion. The two estates had once been one until Sir Edmund Locksley, a landless Norman knight, was granted a portion of the Gisborne land after its Saxon earl fell out of favour with King Stephen during the civil war. Robin wished he were at Gisborne Manor now, or anywhere but here.
The great hall was alive with activity. There was to be a dinner that night, and servants were busy stacking logs in the hearth and laying fresh floor rushes. Still others set the long trestle tables with the finest silver Locksley Manor had to offer.
At the sight of their lord and master, all the servants stopped what they were doing and either bowed or curtsied.
"Leave, all of you," Lord Locksley ordered.
The hall was cleared in record time. Some of the servants sent Robin looks of sympathy. He squashed an impulse to ask them to stay. They couldn't help in any case, and none would dare disobey their lord.
Within moments, the hall was empty but for Robin and Lord Locksley. Robin braced himself. He had a good idea what was coming and he wasn't looking forward to it.
Lord Locksley surveyed him as though searching for something. Robin held his gaze for as long as he could, but finally looked away.
"It was an accident," he mumbled.
Lord Locksley spoke as if he hadn't heard him. "You are to be lord of this estate one day, Robin, and yet you refuse to take your responsibilities seriously."
"I do, Father," Robin protested.
"Do not interrupt me. You shirk your lessons with the priest. You spend your time playing the fool, and you are far too free with the servants. I have had cause to speak to you many times on this subject, and yet, you continue to defy me. Since words cannot get through to you, we will see what other methods can achieve."
Lord Locksley strode over to the hearth and took down a strap, which hung on a nail in a secluded recess there.
"Lean over that table."
Robin obeyed. He bent until his stomach and head rested on the end of one of the dining tables.
The first blow fell without warning. Robin sucked in a breath through his teeth but managed not to cry out. He had endured punishments like this before. He bit his lip hard until he tasted blood but no further sound escaped him. A dozen times, the strap rose and fell, each blow echoing around the silent hall.
When at last it was over, Robin straightened slowly. He met his father's gaze, dry-eyed. He saw a flash of irritation.
"You can go," Lord Locksley said. "I expect you to be on your best behaviour this evening."
"Yes, Father." As Robin made his escape, he couldn't help thinking that if his father expected him to sit through many tedious hours of dinner conversation, he maybe shouldn't have hit him quite so hard.
Robin wasn't one to dwell on his misdemeanours. Now the ordeal with his father was over, he went to the kitchen in search of comfort.
Peggy, the manor cook, was halfway inside the large oven, lifting out the day's bread. Only her ample rump could be seen. Robin took advantage of her distraction and the general before-dinner mayhem to steal a piece of cooling gingerbread from the rack.
Alan a Dale, the kitchen boy, saw him and winked. "Smells good, doesn't it?" He eyed the gingerbread in Robin's hand wistfully. "Reckon if I tried stealing any, I'd be spotted fast as anything."
Robin held out the gingerbread.
Alan's eyes widened. "I couldn't, Master Robin."
"Quick, before anyone sees."
Alan's grubby hand shot out and seized the offering. He took a tiny nibble before shoving the rest inside his tunic.
"No one makes gingerbread like Peggy. Thank you, Master Robin."
Robin grinned. "Save it for later when there's no one about."
"Oh, don't worry, I will. I'd get a beating from the bottler if they caught me with it. I've already had one this week."
Excerpted from "Heir of Locksley"
Copyright © 2016 N.B. Dixon.
Excerpted by permission of Beaten Track Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents,
Prologue Summer 1170,
Part 1 Summer 1182,
Part 2 Summer 1188,
Epilogue Summer 1192,