Title: The Earl’s Son (2/2)
Author: Rusty Armour
Fandom: Robin of Sherwood
Characters: Robert of Huntingdon, Nasir, Edward of Wickham, Alison of Wickham, Matthew of Wickham
Category: General, drama, post-eppy
Word Count: 1,622
Summary: Robin has a revelation about his father and is forced to confront the emotions he’s been trying to suppress.
Spoilers: Definite spoilers for The Knights of the Apocalypse, “The Sheriff of Nottingham” and “The Time of the Wolf”. Otherwise, there are just spoilers for the series in general.
Notes: I wrote this for karen9’s birthday. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with Robin’s view of his relationship with his father in “The Knights of the Apocalypse,” so I decided to explore this subject. I thought I’d have a better picture of the Huntingdon father/son relationship by the end of this story, but I just came away with more questions. I don’t think there are any clear answers. This story is just one interpretation – an interpretation based on pure supposition.
This takes place shortly after The Knights of the Apocalypse.
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. This is also based on “The Knights of the Apocalypse” audio adventure, which was based on an original script by Richard Carpenter, directed by Robert Young and produced by Barnaby Eaton-Jones, not to mention the novel written by Jonathan Green.
“What happened?” Robin asked Alison, who had rushed out of the hut as soon as she had spotted the outlaws. Edward had been too busy yelling at his son to notice his visitors.
Alison sighed, sounding as weary as she looked. “Matthew shot a soldier.”
“In the arm,” Alison said quickly. “Matthew said it was barely more than a scratch. The soldier was on his way again once the arrow was removed and his arm had been bound.”
“Did any of the soldiers see Matthew’s face? Would they know him if they saw him again?”
Alison shook her head. “No, Matthew hid in some bushes. The soldiers seemed to think it was you or one of the other outlaws. They cried out that it was ‘Robin Hood’ and wanted to get out of Sherwood as fast as they could.”
Robin closed his eyes, breathing deeply through his nostrils. “Why, Alison? Why did he do it?”
“Was it because of that?” Nasir asked, pointing to the faint bruise that lay just beneath Alison’s right cheekbone.
Robin’s eyes flew open and he seemed to notice the bruise for the first time. “Who hit you? The soldier Matthew shot with his arrow?”
Alison blushed and nodded grimly. “I didn’t know he’d take it so much to heart. It’s hardly the first time I’ve been slapped by one of the Sheriff’s men. You know what I’m like. Speaking out when I shouldn’t, meeting their eyes when I’m supposed to bow my head.”
“Yes, but Matthew isn’t a little boy anymore,” Robin said. “It’s going to be hard for him not to lash out when he sees someone hurting his mother.”
“It’s an urge he’ll need to bury if he’s going to continue living in this village.” Edward had emerged from his hut and was standing with his arms crossed, emanating waves of fury. “You told me you would keep the bow and only let Matthew use it to learn archery.”
Robin’s voice and manner were calm as he faced Edward. “I wasn’t lying. None of us gave Matthew the bow and we would never allow him to use it outside the camp.”
“They were away when I went to visit them.” Matthew had followed Edward out of the hut, eyes downcast and cheeks flushed. “I found the bow and was only going to practice, so Will could see how much I’d improved when he returned.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’ll be impressed,” Edward muttered.
“I only meant to practice, honest I did, but then I saw the soldier,” Matthew said. “I wasn’t trying to kill him. I only wanted to teach him a lesson.”
“What would have happened if they’d seen you or you’d killed that soldier?” Edward asked. “Do you want a noose around your neck?”
Matthew pushed a pebble along the ground with the toe of his boot. “I would have been all right. I would have hidden in the forest.”
“And how long do you think you would have lasted without your friends to protect you? What if they had been away for more than a day? What would you have done then? Slept up in a tree? Eaten berries?”
Matthew raised his eyes up for the first time. “I could have shot a deer.”
Edward laughed. “And would you have been able to carry it too? It’s not easy to run with a deer across your shoulders. You certainly wouldn’t be shooting a bow anymore after a forester caught you and chopped off one of your hands.” Edward turned to Robin. “He’s a serf, not an outlaw. He can’t just disappear into the forest when he’s in trouble.”
Now, it was Robin’s turn to be sheepish. “I know that, Edward, and I’m sorry. We should have hidden the bow better or taken it with us.”
“It’s not his fault,” Matthew said. “I’m the one who took the bow.”
“Which you wouldn’t have had in the first place if it hadn’t been for us.” Robin rested his hand on the hilt of his sword and gazed out across the village. “It might be best if Will stopped teaching Matthew how to use the bow.”
“No!” Matthew cried.
“I’m sorry, Matthew, but I think we should have listened to your mother from the beginning. It’s too dangerous for you to be in Sherwood.”
“Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far,” Edward said.
Robin stared at Edward in surprise. “But you said – ”
“I said Matthew shouldn’t have been alone in Sherwood with a bow. I didn’t say he couldn’t see you anymore or continue with his lessons.” Edward scratched his beard, studying Robin thoughtfully. “But there would need to be rules. It’s something we’d have to talk about.”
Robin smiled. “We could return in a few days and discuss it then.”
Matthew looked at Robin hopefully. “Couldn’t we discuss it today?”
“I’d like Will to be here and I think it will be at least a few days before he’s well enough to leave Sherwood,” Robin said.
“Why?” Alison asked. “What’s wrong with him?”
Robin rubbed the back of his neck, looking uncomfortable. “Well, he was shot too, actually.”
Matthew’s eyes lit up in excitement. “By a soldier?”
“No, it was…well…”
“It is a long story,” Nasir said.
Edward’s lips twitched. “Sounds like it might be an interesting story too.”
Robin was pensive again as they made their way back to the camp. Nasir only had to see the frequent frowns and creases etched on Robin’s brow to track the thoughts that were churning in his head. Although Nasir was tempted to ask Robin what was preoccupying him so deeply, he decided it would be better to wait until Robin spoke. Nasir didn’t have to wait long.
“I’m confused,” Robin said.
Nasir raised an eyebrow in surprise. “About what happened in Wickham?”
“No, about my father. He used to yell at me the way Edward yelled at Matthew. I thought it was because he was angry that I’d disappointed him and hadn’t acted as he would have done.” Robin brushed aside a leaf that nearly hit him in the face. “I thought my father was trying to control me, mold me in his image – and maybe he was – but I think he was trying to protect me too.”
“He did what he thought was best – as a father should,” Nasir said.
Robin nodded. “I think I may have misjudged him. He wasn’t an easy man to understand…or love.”
Nasir didn’t miss the note of bitterness in Robin’s tone. “You said he gave you his blessings after your uncle was killed.”
“And then took them back.” Robin scowled. “I thought he understood why I chose to be Herne’s son, but he couldn’t have understood if he gave me his ring when he died.”
“What if that is not what he was giving you?” Nasir asked. “Maybe he was showing you that he loved and forgave you. Maybe he did not know how else to tell you.”
Robin staggered and reached out for a tree, leaning on the trunk for support. “If that’s true then I never understood him at all.”
Nasir gripped Robin’s shoulder in concern. “Robin…”
Robin quickly wiped the tears from his eyes. “I’m all right. I just wish I hadn’t been forced to refuse his gift.”
Nasir’s grip on Robin’s shoulder tightened. “You did not refuse his gift. We would not be speaking of your father now if you had.”
“Then I wish I could have shown him my love and found some way to honour his memory,” Robin said.
Nasir took Robin’s arm and guided him away from the tree. “It is not too late.”
They reached the lake just as the sun was setting. Other than some gentle ripples on the water, the only sign of the wind’s presence was the quiet rustling of the reeds. As Robin had been unable to attend his father’s funeral, Tuck said a prayer before lighting his arrow and sending it soaring into the lake. His arrow was followed by John’s and then Much’s.
Robin had invited Matthew to attend, so Will lit an arrow that they both shot from his bow. Matthew still didn’t possess the strength to use a full-sized bow, though Nasir suspected that Will, who was still recovering his own strength, had been relying on Matthew to help him fire the arrow. The arrow flew true and landed in the middle of the lake. Matthew beamed brightly before remembering that it was meant to be a solemn occasion, but Robin laughed and patted him on the back.
As Nasir drew back the string of his bow, he remembered the Earl’s courage and stoicism as he lay mortally wounded, more concerned about duty than death. It was something Nasir could understand and respect. Orkod fe salam **, he thought as he shot his arrow.
As Marion lit her arrow, Nasir wondered what she was thinking. Besides Robin, Marion was the only one of them who had actually known the Earl. Her father had been friends with him, and she had been attending a feast at Huntingdon Castle when she had met Robin. The Earl had been unable to lend any assistance to Sir Richard when Marion had been kidnapped by Owen of Clun because the King had ordered him to appease the Marcher Lord. If Marion had conflicted feelings about the Earl, or harboured any lingering resentment, it didn’t show. She displayed her usual dignity and poise as she loosed her arrow. She then turned and embraced Robin before stepping back to stand beside Tuck.
Robin stood staring at the lake for a long time before he lit his arrow and fired it into the water.
“Nothing’s forgotten,” he said.
** Rest in peace.