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The Accomplice: Chapter 3
That winter, King Richard the Lion Hearted left on a crusade of Western Europe. In his absence, his greedy brother John took over. Known for his attempts at stealing the throne, the people were not super excited about this little twist in their monarchy. John‘s opportunity had finally come. It seemed as though almost everyone knew that John was going to take advantage of his newfound power to steal the throne except the one person who really mattered… Richard. John fired all his brothers’ councilmen and watchmen, replacing them with his own allies that were not fit to even think about the positions they were being placed in. Only one man kept his job, Marian’s father. Of these changes, the most outrageous was the hiring of the chief justice and guardsman- the Sheriff of Nottingham. The sheriff was not one to be trifled with. He had been exiled to the far north by King Richard because of his ruthless methods and coldblooded ways. He had apparently made friends with John during his exile. This was very bad news for criminals and the innocent alike.
While the nobles were very happy with this change but the peasants were not. At this point in time, the nobles had tried to enslave the peasants but King Richard quickly put a stop to it. Now, however, there was nothing holding them back. After only a month after King Richard’s departure, the people of Sherwood Forest had lost their freedom.
The people known as catchers would come across the river, find some healthy looking peasants and capture them where they would take them into the town, sell them to the nobles as slaves, and make a handsome profit. Taken to the nobles many, many acres of land, the peasants were forced to work for pennies a month. Even worse, every quarter year, the peasants had to pay taxes to their landlords that were much higher than their wages. If they could not pay the taxes, they were imprisoned until they could pay off their debt. Anyone who seemed to rebel against the slavery was quickly hushed by the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham. Those who disagreed with it that had a voice learned that it was keep quiet to keep alive.
The friars and monks that Alex and Robin once stole from were now the very people protecting them from a life of slavery. The Monastery was the one place the catchers kept away from. Legends and myths were what kept them away. Every time someone from the other side came within 100 yards of the place, they weren’t heard from again. Even the catchers wouldn’t risk their lives for a few shillings. To even set eyes on the old church if you were wealthy was accepting certain death. After the peasants discovered this little secret, it became known that it was the only place that allowed any protection. The first few months, the catchers were not as frequent in their visits. It was time that told the catchers the promise that held in the trade. Once they realized the prosperity that their find could bring them, it was uncommon to have a village untouched. Soon, the monastery’s old fragile walls were filled to the brim with people near and far, looking for refuge that only this church could bring. After a while, when people realized this tragedy was not soon to be ended, they made the most of the time on their hands. The rich and wealthy were now known as the ampluer. The peasants were referred to as the pauvre.
The monastery’s “curse” was seemingly a blessing from God. The pauvre that lived their thought it a promise from God that he would deliver his people from the hands of the wicked. Whether or not it was true, it gave them hope that at least someone still cared about them.
Alex and Robin had just about had it. They were sick and tired or sitting on the ground and doing nothing while their friends and family were enslaved. Finally, Alex and Robin would have no more of it. Although neither had any proper schooling, Alex had always been very bright, especially when it came to strategies.
“If I have to stay here a day longer, I will become as mad as Old Man Lacroose!” Alex mumbled in frustration.
“I agree my friend. Being separated from Marian for so long is like isolating the sun from the moon!” Robin confessed. At these words, Alex wanted very badly to set something on fire… preferably something of Marian’s.
“Robin… what do you think of sneaking out of this place. In say… oh I don’t know. Three days?” Alex proposed.
“Alex, somehow this doesn’t sound like it just popped into your crazy head spontaneously. Besides there is nothing I would rather do than sneak out and meet Marian but unless we want to spend the rest of our days in a dungeon, we are stuck here.” Robin pointed out.
“Maybe not… Although, if we were ampluer we could.” Alex said thoughtfully. Robin grunted. “In case you have forgotten. We are NOT ampluer.”
“No Robin I have not forgotten.” Alex said softly. “Every day I wake up I remember this small detail. But it seems you have forgotten that we do have a certain friend who unlike us is ampluer.”
“Friar Longbow? Cause he gambled his riches off long long ago when…”
“No you idiot! Marian.” Alex interrupted.
“Marian? What could she do?”
“A lot actually.”
“Really? Like what?”
“She has access to horses and clothes that we will need to turn our rags to riches for a short period of time. Long enough, however, to free as many slaves from the dungeon as possible.” Robin sat for a moment, pondering Alex’s scheme.
“All right… sounds foolproof. You are missing one imperative detail. How are we going to get Marian to come over here? Even I am not valuable enough to her to risk her life… not that I would ask her to do that.” At this, a knowing smile crept over her lips.
“There is one place that both she and we can meet and neither gets caught.”
“Since I know your dying to have me ask you… fine. What is this ‘secret place’?”
“The place that you I and her,” Alex spat out the word her. “Have been going to for the past eight years.”
“That presents another problem! When?! We can’t go there without getting caught!” Robin said frustrated.
“Ah, you are wrong there my friend. We are going under the protection of darkness.” Alex said, slyness oozing over her words.
“At at night?” Robin stuttered. “But there is goblins, and bears and dragons and spirits and goblins…”
“You and I both know that almost all of those creatures aren’t real. Besides you’re not scared… are you?” Alex mocked.
“Of course not! I Robin Hood, NEVER get scared! I just don’t think that it is the… uh… safest choice.”
“Humph. We my friend, don’t have the luxury of safety, or option.”