|krankyk on Etsy|
Liliana crept through the forest, keeping her arrow nocked and her feet quiet. A fox ran in front of her and off to the left. Before she caught up with him, and he skittered off, she heard noise. Men. They sang in drunk voices. She thought she could hear drinks sloshing and a fire.
Looking around each tree before she continued forward, she saw them before they saw her. In a clearing was a party of men, all dressed in green and brown. They were indeed drinking and were roasting a boar on a big spit. One of them called out to a younger man in the center of the group, “Robin! To Robin!” Instantly Liliana knew who they were, and she ran.
Out of breath and fairly dirty, she had returned to the house with nothing to eat. So her stepmother took her out back, chose a particularly prickly branch, and beat her. She whimpered a bit but didn’t cry out or shed a tear. She went to bed hungry and sore.
The sun began to rise and woke her the next morning. Her stepmother was still asleep and her father was already in the fields. She took some of his clothes – trousers, a button shirt, and a cap – and tied them around her scant body as best she could. She tucked her hair under the cap, unable to bring herself to cut it off. Then she grabbed her bow and set off for the forest in search of the merry men.
She stomped through the forest intending to be found, and find her they did. Three of them dropped from the trees to surround her.
“What’s your business here,” the largest, she guessed Little John, said.
“To join you,” she said, trying to deepen her girl’s voice.
“I see,” he said. “Bind and gag him boys.”
She tried to fight but it was no use. They took her bow, to which she cried out, and dragged her the rest of the way to the clearing. She was set before Robin on his log. He leaned back and put his arms behind his head, extending his size. He wasn’t much bigger than she, or older.
“Who are you?”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“It’s answer enough,” she said. His eyes were a beautiful blue, and she couldn’t stand to look at them or she would blush and give herself away.
“Can you shoot?”
“Of course I can.”
“Let’s see it. Untie him.” They released her and gave her a bow and arrow, but not hers. This one was a much stronger wood with less bend and the bow string was very taut. Her shoulders were stiff from the beating, but she wouldn’t be laughed at. With a tiny grunt, she pulled the string back and let the arrow fly. It hit Little John’s hat and took it from his head to secure it to a tree behind him. His eyes were saucers.
“Very well. Get this man some sustenance.”
She managed to keep her secret. Whenever she needed to do something private she walked a few miles away. It turned everything into an ordeal, but it worked.
But every night Robin would pull his closest group together and talk. He tended to send looks her way, looks that were full of meaning. She just ate and drank, trying to stay inconspicuous.