Author: Rusty Armour
Fandom: Robin of Sherwood
Characters: Robert of Huntingdon, Sir Guy of Gisburne
Category: General, mystical, adventure
Word Count: 2369
Summary: Robin and Gisburne find themselves in an unknown dungeon with no idea of who has captured them or why.
Spoilers: Slight spoilers for “The Swords of Wayland,” “The Prophecy,” “The Power of Albion” and “The Time of the Wolf” and more significant spoilers for “The Lord of the Trees,” “The Enchantment” and “The Greatest Enemy”.
Notes: I decided this year to share a little extra birthday love and give a some fic to both avictoriangirl and karen9 as they’re both RoS/Robert of Huntingdon fans and their birthdays fall so closely together. Many happy returns to you both and may Herne protect you!
This takes place some time after “The Time of the Wolf”.
Disclaimer: This story is based on Richard Carpenter's series Robin of Sherwood. The characters are the property of Richard Carpenter, Robin May, Anthony Horowitz and the RoS production team.
The first thing Robin was aware of was lying somewhere damp and cold with a piece of straw digging into his cheek. He opened his eyes to take in his surroundings, but then winced and closed them quickly when he saw that he was in a deep, dark pit surrounded by solid stone walls, the only light penetrating the oubliette coming through the metal grille above.
“So, you finally woke up.”
Robin, who had been sitting up slowly, froze and just managed to hold back a groan. That was Gisburne’s voice, which meant only one thing. Gisburne had managed to capture him and he was now in the Nottingham Castle dungeon – only Gisburne’s voice had sounded remarkably close, too close for him to have been calling down to Robin from above. Robin’s head whipped around and he stared at the other dungeon occupant in surprise. “How did you end up down here?”
Gisburne rolled his eyes. “The same way you did, I should think.”
“You don’t remember?”
“No. They – whoever they are – must have knocked us out.”
Robin shifted so that he could sit with his back to the wall. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Gisburne grimaced. “You drawing back the string of your bow and aiming an arrow at me.”
“Really? Nothing else?”
“Why?” Gisburne snapped. “What do you remember?”
“Well, that’s just it. I can’t remember anything after that either. You were chasing me through Sherwood, and I pulled out my bow because I knew I had no chance of outrunning you – not with my leg.”
Robin had been wounded a few days ago when the outlaws had confronted a vicious band of cutthroats that had been terrorizing the village of Bystead. The outlaws had killed the cutthroats in the end, but not before Robin had been slashed in the thigh. Tuck and Nasir had treated the wound as best they could, but fever had set in and Robin had been forced to stay in Bystead. His friends had wanted to stay with him in the village, but Robin had ordered them to return to the camp. The villagers were facing enough danger harbouring one outlaw. They hardly needed five.
Robin was fortunate that the fever had passed and he could walk again when Gisburne and his men paid a visit to the village. Robin repeated the strategy he had used when sneaking in and out of that one hut in Wickham the day Loxley had been killed. In the hut where he’d been staying, Robin had cut away part of the wattle and daub wall and had silently crawled out. He had nearly made it to the trees when he heard Gisburne yell, “Wolfshead!” Robin had dived into the trees after that, running as fast as he could with his injured leg. Gisburne had been so anxious to pursue him that he hadn’t stopped to mount his horse. Perhaps Gisburne had thought that he might lose sight of Robin or that he’d have more success navigating the dense undergrowth on foot.
“But why were you captured?” Robin asked. “Do you really have no idea who it could be?”
Robin knew that Gisburne had fallen out briefly with the Sheriff over the lost grain shipment, though Robin had been under the impression that they were now on good terms – or as close to good terms as the pair could manage, which wasn’t very good at all.
As if reading his thoughts, Gisburne said, “We’re not in Nottingham Castle if that’s what you think.”
Robin smiled. “Are you sure?”
“I’d know it if we were in the castle dungeon.”
“Because you’ve been in there before?”
Gisburne glared at Robin. “Because that old madman with the rat isn’t here.”
Robin’s eyebrows rose in surprise. Gisburne was right. The old man and Arthur were nowhere in sight.
“The old man could have died,” Robin said.
Gisburne snorted. “If he’d died, I would have heard about it from the guards. I’ve also been shouting and no one has appeared.”
“Perhaps they’ve been ignoring you,” Robin said.
“No, not the way I’ve been shouting. Someone should have come to take a look.”
Robin raised his head again to gaze up at the grille. The light was different than he expected it to be, almost like sunlight straining through a thick canopy of trees rather than the light provided by sconces or candlelight. Robin stood abruptly, swaying slightly as he experienced a brief bout of dizziness as both his head and leg protested the sudden movement.
“What are you doing?” Gisburne asked, reaching for the sword that wasn’t there and then scowling when he remembered.
“I’m trying to work out where we are,” Robin said. “I don’t think it’s a castle.”
Gisburne’s scowl deepened. “What? Of course it’s a castle. What else could it be?”
Robin was squinting up at the grille, shaking his head. “No, the light’s wrong for a castle. It’s what I would expect to see in a forest, in Sherwood.”
Gisburne laughed. “You must have been hit too hard on the head. You’re hallucinating.”
Robin pulled his eyes away from the grille. “You said this wasn’t Nottingham Castle, so where can it be? And who would want to capture both of us and why? I need to get a closer look.”
“And how do you propose to do that?”
Robin stared at Gisburne pointedly. “How do you think?”
“No. I’m not lifting you up there.”
Robin sighed. “I’d offer to hoist you up on my shoulders, but I was wounded in the leg and I don’t think it could bear the extra weight.”
Gisburne’s eyes narrowed. “If this is a trick…”
“What trick could I hope to play, Gisburne? I don’t have any weapons and it’s not as if I can escape. You’re the one who’s in a better position to play a trick: you could drop me.”
Gisburne frowned, almost looking thoughtful. Then he stood up. “Very well. But I will drop you if you’re up to something. Then I’ll kill you, Wolfshead.”
“You’re welcome to try,” Robin said, but he kept his expression neutral, knowing that now was not the best time to provoke Gisburne, especially if he was about to be balancing on the man’s shoulders.
Gisburne was still eyeing him distrustfully, but he walked over to Robin all the same. Standing in front of Robin, he bent his knees and allowed Robin to take his hands as Robin first placed his feet on Gisburne’s thighs and then scaled the rest of the way to his shoulders. Robin fought a fresh wave of pain as the physical exertion of the climb jarred his injury, but Gisburne kept a tight grip on his legs and Robin was able to maintain his balance. Robin tilted his head back as much as he dared and peered up through the grille.
It was sunlight Robin was seeing. He had been in Sherwood long enough to recognize the way it looked as it glowed behind emerald leaves, dazzling the eyes and giving off dappled light, or how it thrust through branches to dance on the forest floor.
“I don’t know how it’s possible, but we’re still in Sherwood. I can see the trees through the grille.”
Robin waited, expecting to hear Gisburne contradict him, but it was his eyes that challenged him first. To his amazement, the bars of the grille began to dissolve and stone bricks appeared to form, to literally grow, in their place. Then Robin was falling, landing hard on his back and wheezing as the breath was knocked out of him. However, instead of lying on a hard dungeon floor, he lay on actual ground covered in a thick layer of grass. Lifting his head, he gazed around the cell to see what else might have changed. To his amazement, they were now in a different type of cell with bars set in the one wall rather than over their heads. Gisburne was pressed against the wall opposite the bars, staring at it with wide eyes. Robin wondered what shocked Gisburne more: the bars that had moved from the ceiling to the wall or the forest that lay beyond their cell, visible through the bars.
“What devilry is this?” Gisburne whispered. “Did your so-called forest god conjure all this?”
Robin sat up fully, taking a better look at the bars. “No, I don’t think so. I don’t see what purpose it would serve.”
Gisburne raised his voice above a whisper, but his eyes were still fixed on the new bars to their cell. “I don’t know what purpose it would serve either, but I can’t think of anyone else who can bend the forest to his will.”
Robin raised an eyebrow. “Bend the forest to his will?”
“Oh, don’t deny that he uses sorcery. I’ve seen that sword of yours.”
Robin smirked, remembering how Gisburne had experienced Albion’s power firsthand. “It was Wayland who forged Albion, not Herne. Besides, Wayland died centuries ago. But I do agree with you about this cell being some form of enchantment.”
“If it isn’t Herne then who or what is it?” Gisburne asked. “Fairies? Witchcraft?”
Before Robin had come to Sherwood, he probably would have scoffed at Gisburne’s ideas, but he had witnessed too much since then to dismiss them entirely. He had also heard stories about Loxley’s encounters with the supernatural. The one story that instantly sprang to mind was the time that Lilith had bewitched Loxley. What if he and Gisburne had also been bewitched? Robin had no memory of anyone appearing before them to cast such a spell, but he knew the forest itself had its secrets. Robin had felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise when he was alone in Sherwood. He would sometimes wonder if he was sensing the spirits of the dead or had entered some part of the forest that was sacred, protected: a spot where no one should venture.
“Well?” Gisburne said. He’d been watching Robin expectantly, waiting for an answer.
“You may be right.” Robin stood up and walked over to the bars, running a finger along one of them. “I believe we have been bewitched, but not in the way you might think. What if we’ve stumbled into a part of the forest that’s sacred, maybe even enchanted, as a form of protection?”
Robin had expected Gisburne to laugh or at least mock him, but Gisburne swore under his breath instead and, not meeting Robin’s eyes, he said, “Like the Time of the Blessing?”
Robin gaped at Gisburne then nodded his head vigorously. “Yes, yes. That’s exactly what I mean.”
“God’s Blood,” Gisburne muttered. He pushed off the wall and started pacing around the cell in agitation. Then he rounded on Robin, thrusting a finger at him. “I didn’t touch a single tree. I didn’t do anything.”
“No, I don’t think it’s like that,” Robin said, “and if anyone’s to blame, it’s me. All of this happened after I raised my bow, after I threatened to spill blood here.”
“If that’s true then what are we supposed to do?” Gisburne asked. “I’m not praying to some heathen god.”
Robin, his gaze returning to the bars, smiled. “Perhaps we don’t need to. Look.” Some of the metal had started to disappear before their eyes, much as the bars of the grille had. “As soon as we realized this cell shouldn’t exist, that it couldn’t exist, its appearance started to change.”
Gisburne’s brow furrowed in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s an illusion, Guy. None of this is real.” When Gisburne still didn’t look convinced, Robin swung his arm through the seemingly solid bars. “See?”
Gisburne nodded slowly, his eyes glued to Robin’s arm. “Yes, I believe so.”
“I think we should be able to leave now as long as we don’t try to kill each other or spill blood of any kind,” Robin said.
Gisburne’s face darkened. “So I’m expected to just let you go and not even raise a hand to stop you?”
Robin’s expression was equally cold. “I don’t think you have any choice in the matter. Now, you can stay here sulking or you can return to your men in Bystead. I’m going back to my friends.”
Robin grinned and stepped through the bars.
“Wolfshead!” Gisburne went to follow Robin and smacked into the bars instead.
Robin stood, trying not to laugh as Gisburne repeatedly threw himself against an invisible wall in the quiet little glade. Robin tutted and shook his head. “And I thought you were a good Christian, Guy. I had no idea that you believed so strongly in fairies and witchcraft. They must vastly overshadow your faith in God.”
Gisburne, who had been leaning against the invisible wall, panting, fell through it and lay on the ground, staring up at Robin. An instant later, he was on his feet, reaching for his scabbard and drawing out the sword that had returned to his side. However, before Gisburne could even lift his sword, a length of sturdy chain was wrapped around his torso and there were manacles on his wrists and ankles. Struggling against his bonds, Gisburne teetered and then fell.
“No bloodshed, remember?” Robin crouched down beside Gisburne, who was gritting his teeth in fury. “I have to leave you now, but I’m sure you’ll be set free again once you’ve calmed down and your temper has cooled. Goodbye.”
Ignoring Gisburne’s angry cries, Robin began limping out of the glade. He had almost made it to the threshold when he felt a familiar tingling on the back of his neck. Robin froze, heart beating faster. Then, from the periphery of his right eye, he saw a figure sprint out of the glade and into some trees. It all happened so quickly that Robin hadn’t been able to tell if it was a man or a woman, adult or child, or even a human, for the figure hadn’t seemed entirely whole. It had almost seemed translucent and had faded into the trees as if it had never existed.
Keeping his eyes straight ahead, Robin crossed the glade’s threshold and walked to the outlaw camp as quickly as he could with his injured leg.
Crossposted at http://rusty-armour.dreamwidth.org/145379.html