Robin returns to England after four years fighting in the Holy Land. On arriving at Locksley, he discovers that Guy of Gisborne, his most hated enemy, has been made Sheriff of Nottingham. Forced to flee into Sherwood, Robin sets himself up as champion of the poor.
But Robin has a secret. His feelings for his friend Will Scathelock have deepened, but to acknowledge the truth would mean facing up to his past. Meanwhile, Lady Marian Fitzwalter, heiress to the vast Huntingdon estate, is determined to claim Robin for her own.
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 shout rang out across the square, causing many people to exchange nervous glances with their neighbours. It was market day in Nottingham, and even the bitter chill of winter wasn't enough to keep the people indoors. The harvest had been poor, and many were desperately trying to sell anything that would fetch a price and put food in their bellies.
Men at arms were everywhere, a threatening presence among the citizens, every soldier alert for any wrongdoing. The Sheriff of Nottingham came down hard on anyone for even the most minor infraction of the law. No one wished to fall foul of his men.
"Stop that man!" the voice rang out again.
More shouts followed, mixed in with curses. Customers ceased haranguing stallholders over the prices of meat, fish and bread, turning to watch the drama.
The man came into sight, sliding eel-like between the stalls, his rather pointed face contorted with fear. One hand was clamped over a bulge beneath his threadbare tunic, protecting whatever he had stolen. As the order rang out again to 'stop that man', some people stretched out a half-hearted hand, but no one was much inclined to help the soldiers. There was hardly anybody present who had not suffered at their hands in one way or another. Some even slapped the thief on the back and whispered words of encouragement as he darted past.
John Little, who had been sauntering towards Nottingham Square in search of a tavern and a mug of ale, was alerted by the commotion. He paused, frowning, recognising the shouts all too well. Some hapless soul had managed to raise the ire of the sheriff's soldiers. John heaved a sigh. He knew by rights he should join the search for the fugitive, even though he wasn't on duty today.
The thought of what the sheriff would do to the wretch was enough to make John hesitate. If it was a thief, it would mean the loss of a hand — unless he was a repeat offender, in which case he would be for the gallows. This new sheriff was overly fond of hanging people, and the gallows in Nottingham were well used. Sometimes the sheriff even displayed heads on pikes over the castle gates as a warning to others of what they might expect if they displeased him.
It had been a black day when the man took office. John knew him of old. He was hand in glove with the traitor Prince John, who was taking full advantage of his brother's absence to spread fear throughout the counties where he held dominion.
Not for the first time, John wondered why he had stayed on as a member of the castle garrison. He hated the sheriff and hated the suffering inflicted on the people of Nottingham. He burned to do something about it, but he was one man. He pushed through the crowd, his height allowing him to see over the heads of many townsfolk.
"What's the ruckus?" he demanded of the nearest stallholder.
"It's Wat the Tinker. He was caught cutting the purse of the sheriff's steward."
John swore colourfully under his breath. He knew Wat well. They had been friends for years. The man was a notorious cutpurse, who never knew when to leave well enough alone. Every time the sheriff tightened security and had proclamations announced by the town crier's detailing what people could expect if they broke the law, Wat saw it as a challenge. He was cocky to the point of stupidity, and his luck had run out.
Still swearing, John began elbowing his way through the tightly packed crowd. His intimidating bulk, coupled with the double-bladed axe thrust through his belt soon cleared him a path. He spotted Wat darting down a nearby alley.
"Oy, you, John Little."
John turned his head towards the speaker, fixing him with an icy glare that had sent many men scurrying for cover. "Did you want something?"
"Get after that thief."
"I'm not on duty."
"Do it! Or do you want to explain to the sheriff that you were the one who let the man get away?"
John didn't argue any further. He had always intended to follow Wat, but antagonising his fellow soldiers was one of the few joys he had left in life.
The alley dead-ended in a brick wall that was the back of a tavern. Behind him, John could hear someone shouting orders to have the alley surrounded, cutting off Wat's retreat.
John found Wat pressed against the wall, his head turning this way and that as he searched for an escape.
John loomed over him, clamping a heavy hand on his shoulder.
"What in Christ's name did you think you were doing?"
Wat, who had given a start at the sight of him, relaxed. "Did you have to scare a fellow like that?"
"The men at arms will do worse if they catch you. Cutting the purse of the bloody sheriff's steward? Are you mad?"
"He was boasting in the tavern about how no thief would dare steal from him because he had the sheriff's ear. I couldn't resist."
"You're a damn fool." John nodded at the wall. "Up and over. Hurry." He gave Wat a boost, then followed.
Together, the two men dropped down into an overgrown yard that wreaked from the privy.
"In there," John snapped.
Wat balked. "It stinks."
"Which is exactly why it's the last place anyone would look for you. Get your arse in there! I'll come for you when it's safe."
Grumbling, Wat did as he was told, and John latched the door. He then entered the tavern via the back door, where he found three soldiers threatening the landlord.
"I told you, I don't know nothing about no thief," the man was protesting.
"Be sure, landlord, or it'll be the worse for you."
"I tell you, he ain't here."
John's deep voice cut through the babble. "He's telling the truth. I've searched every corner of this hovel and the outbuildings. He's long gone." His glare warned the landlord not to contradict him. Fortunately, the man was quick on the uptake, and nodded vehemently.
"Tell the men guarding the alley to move on. The wily bastard has given us the slip somehow."
The soldiers departed, grumbling. Within minutes, the street was clear. John waited a few minutes more to be on the safe side, enjoying a mug of the landlord's best ale as he watched for any sign of their return.
When he was certain the coast was clear, he released Wat from his stinking prison.
"You took your bloody time."
"This way," John muttered. He led the way down several alleys and side streets until the shouts of the soldiers had fallen far behind.
When at last he and Wat came to a panting standstill, the thief gazed up at his tall benefactor. "What now?"
"You'll have to hide out somewhere until dark. Then I'll smuggle you out of Nottingham. You can't stay here."
"I have nowhere else to go."
John racked his brains. He could hardly stay in Nottingham after this. He'd helped a known fugitive escape justice. "We'll make for my home village, Hathersage. It's been left to its own devices since the lord died. As long as the taxes arrive on time, the sheriff leaves them be. You'll be safe enough there till I can think up something better."
Robin drew his horse to a halt atop the small rise. From there, he had an uninterrupted view of Locksley village. Will reined in beside him, and together, they sat in silence, gazing down on their old home.
They had fled Locksley four years ago. Or, to be more accurate, Robin had fled; Will had chosen to accompany him. At the time, Robin had vowed never to set eyes on the village again. There were memories waiting for him here; memories he could never forget.
From his vantage point, he could make out Locksley Manor. He had grown up there with his father, his mother having died when he was born, but his true parents had been his nurse, Martha, and his tutor, Sir Richard of Lee. His father had disinherited him when he was eighteen. Robin had embarked on an affair with a peasant girl, with disastrous consequences.
But that was only half the problem. Though he'd cared deeply for Lucy, there had also been his growing feelings for Will. They'd caught Robin himself by surprise, leaving him confused and guilty. When Lucy had found herself with child, Robin had sworn to stand by her and been cast out as a result. If his father had only known the truth — that it was the stable boy Robin secretly lusted after — he'd probably have killed Robin rather than risk bringing shame to the Locksley name.
Looking back, Robin wished he'd listened to his father. If he had abandoned Lucy and stayed in Locksley Manor, she might still be alive.
"We should head for the Blue Boar," Will said. "See how the land lies."
Will Scathelock: Robin's undoing, at least, that was how it felt at times. Having Will with him was both blessing and curse.
Robin forced himself to match Will's casual tone. "You just want to sample the landlord's ale."
Will grinned. "Aye, I've missed it. It was one of the things that kept me going in the Holy Land. The thought of returning to England and the Blue Boar's ale was something worth fighting for."
Robin grinned in spite of himself. He pointed in the direction of the tavern. "Off you go, then."
"What are you going to do?"
Robin looked over to where he knew Locksley church stood. He couldn't quite make it out from where they were. "I want to visit her grave." There was no need to elaborate.
"You shouldn't go off alone."
"Why, for God's sake? This isn't the Holy Land."
"Guy may well have figured out that his assassin failed. He could have someone looking out for you."
Robin pulled his jerkin more closely around him, wishing for a cloak. "A good fight would warm me up nicely." When Will continued to look doubtful, Robin snapped, "I don't need a bodyguard."
The instant the words were out of his mouth, he regretted them. Without Will, he would have been dead many times over.
Will shrugged. "Suit yourself, then." He dug his heels into his horse's flanks.
Robin watched him canter down the slope towards the village, keeping his eyes on Will's back until he was lost from view. Then he lowered his head with a sigh.
He felt the familiar ache under his breastbone that he always got when Will rode away from him. He had to remind himself that he no longer needed to fear for Will's life. They were not at war anymore. They were home in England. Still, everything about Will had grown so familiar over these past years — every look, every gesture — it sometimes felt as though he were seeing a mirror image of himself.
A voice floated through his mind, sibilant and menacing. Tell your male whore it'll be his turn next.
Robin's hands clenched on the reins so hard, they shook. Picking up on his mood, his horse sidled and snorted. Robin reined him in automatically, his thoughts far away.
Robin had been surprised when he'd discovered Will's true inclinations, then wondered how he could have failed to notice. In the army, a more relaxed view was taken to men lying with each other, but elsewhere, they were reviled and shunned. Robin had held out, desire battling with the Church's teachings that had been drilled into him since childhood. And then finally given in. He'd walked in the garden, tasted the forbidden fruit, and the serpent had risen up with a vengeance.
No more! Robin crushed the images that rose in his mind, forced them down behind walls and doors and locked them into place. He clicked his tongue to his horse and proceeded at a slow walk down into the village. He was back in England. He had his whole life ahead of him. It was time to stop dwelling on the past and look to the future. A new start.
Though it was still afternoon, the sun was already on its way down. The winter air held a sharp chill that nipped at exposed flesh. Robin pulled his hood up, both to shield his face from the cold and from anyone who might see him.
He passed Locksley mill and resisted the temptation to stop. He wondered how Harry, the miller, and his wife Meg were. They were Lucy's parents. It was because of Robin that they had lost their daughter. Their son, Much, was crippled. His leg had been crushed by a falling tree when he was twelve years old. Robin had rescued him, and in gratitude, Harry and Meg had allowed him to live with them when Lord Locksley disinherited him.
Katrina, sister to Guy of Gisborne, wanted Robin, and had killed Lucy in a mad fit of jealousy. Robin had tracked her down, meaning to take her life as payment. He'd had her at his sword's point, and he'd let her go. He had wondered many times since if he'd done the right thing.
So many regrets. Twenty-two years old, and he had already made a complete mess of his life.
He was grateful not to run into anyone as he rode into the tiny graveyard behind Locksley church. It was deserted. Frost coated the trees and graves in a white shroud. Robin dismounted and tethered his horse, rubbing his numb hands together in an effort to warm them. He wandered among the graves, searching for one in particular. There was nothing to set it apart from any of the others, but he thought he remembered roughly where it was. He halted and looked down.
The ground was frozen hard, the grave bare and stark. Robin thought of the girl resting beneath the soil. Her memory was still raw and painful after all this time. She had been a trusting soul, reaching out to a girl in friendship, only to have that girl literally take everything from her.
"I'm sorry," Robin whispered, his voice no louder than the gentle rustling of leaves. "I killed you. I may not have done the deed, but you are dead because of me."
Unable to live with his guilt, Robin had fled from Locksley to Winchester, where he had worked for a short time in the service of King Henry. When the king died, Robin had followed his son Richard to the Holy Land. He had been knighted shortly before King Henry's death, and Will had gone with him as his squire. What would have happened, Robin wondered, if Lucy had lived? They would have married and raised their child. Robin would have worked in the mill alongside Harry — a simple, honest life. But would you have been happy? a voice whispered in his head. Robin didn't have an answer.
A loud crunch of leaves behind him had Robin whipping around. He drew his sword in the same movement, eyes scanning the gloom for danger.
"You can put away that sword."
The speaker was a priest, Robin saw. He was not especially tall, but what he lacked in height, he more than made up for in girth. His robe was stretched tight over his belly, secured by a belt around his waist. The hair surrounding his bald tonsure was liberally streaked with grey, and his face was deeply lined. His eyes were fixed full upon Robin. He did not seem alarmed by the sword held a few inches from his chest.
"I mean you no harm, my son. It is a troubled soul indeed who would draw steel in a sacred place such as this."
Robin sheathed his sword. "Who are you?"
"I might ask you the same question. I have not seen you around here before."
"I asked you first, Priest."
The man's mouth quirked in a smile. "I am Father Tuck."
"Where is Father Adam?" Robin demanded.
"He was taken ill with a fever a year ago. Sadly, he did not survive. I have been here ever since." Father Tuck regarded Robin with no little interest. "If you knew Father Adam, you must have lived in Locksley at one time. Judging from that sword you carry, I would say you were a knight, perhaps recently returned from the Crusades?"
He waited for confirmation, but Robin gave him none.
Undaunted, Father Tuck went on. "I am sorry to have disturbed you in your grief, but you looked as though you might be in need of guidance."
Robin let out a harsh bark of laughter. "You expect to grant me absolution?"
"God forgives all sins." Father Tuck's voice was gentle. "Why not confess yours? It may ease your mind."
Robin's eyes strayed to Lucy's grave. He also thought of the many Saracens he had killed in the service of an egomaniacal king. He had quickly grown disillusioned with Richard and his Crusade to reclaim Jerusalem for the Christian world, but by then, it was kill or be killed.
"Maybe I'm beyond redemption."
"No one is beyond God's forgiveness; not if they are truly repentant."
Another voice spoke over the priest's, this one far colder than the graveyard where Robin stood.
I warned you this would happen, but you would not listen. You are a miserable sinner and God has turned his back on you in disgust. You must pray nightly to him to change his mind and cleanse your tainted soul.
"You are cold." Father Tuck looked concerned.
With difficulty, Robin reminded himself that this was not the man he hated, the man he'd fled to in grief and shame, the man who'd destroyed his faith in the Church.
"I'm fine," he forced himself to say.
Father Tuck indicated Lucy's grave. "You knew the poor person who lies buried there?"
Robin was taken aback by the abrupt change of subject. He'd never met a priest who was so inquisitive, and it irritated him. "Haven't you anything better to do, Father? There must be souls in the village more worthy than mine for you to tend to."
"You think your soul is worthless? That is not so, my son."
Robin had had enough. He turned to go back to his horse.
"Wait! Will you at least tell me your name, Sir Knight?" "I was Robin of Locksley."
Father Tuck did not miss the past tense. "And now?"
"Robin Hood." He said the name automatically. It was what the people of Locksley had always called him. It felt more comfortable than his given name.
Excerpted from "Knight of Sherwood"
Copyright © 2017 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
Prologue On the Road to Jerusalem June 1192,
Part 1 Nottingham England December 1192,
Part 2 1193,
Part 3 March 1194,
About the Author,
By the Author,
Beaten Track Publishing,