Filey Manor, Filey, East Riding of Yorkshire
Roana flung open the door to the kitchen so hard that it crashed against the cabinet beside it. Pots and pans rattled and a ladle fell to the floor as she stalked in.
Laney, stood at the worktop mixing pastry in a bowl, looked up, startled. Her expression froze when she saw Roana, and she lowered her gaze quickly to the bowl, a flush infusing her face.
Roana glared at her, ocean-blue eyes flashing. "Are you Laney?"
Something changed in the young woman's face and this time, when she raised her eyes to look at Roana, she was composed, a faint smile playing on her lips.
"Yes, my lady." Her tone was very faintly insolent, but not so anyone but Roana would notice. However, combined with the amused look in her eyes, Roana could sense that she was being disrespected.
She moved closer. "You were with Allan yesterday."
Laney raised her chin, nonchalantly, and blew a blonde lock from her face. "Yeah, I was. Me and Allan, we're friendly."
"He told me what happened. Exactly what happened," Roana said, her voice dangerously low.
Laney gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Yeah. What's the problem, my lady? He liked it, I could tell."
Roana moved fast, crossing the room and grabbing Laney by the arm. The bowl and spoon clattered to the floor, spilling pastry mix, as Roana pushed Laney forcefully against the wall, her forearm at the young woman's throat. "He told me he said no. He told me you forced yourself on him."
"Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?" Laney snarled, and grabbed a handful of Roana's hair, attempting to pull her off.
Without looking away from her, Roana reached out to grab the paring knife on the sideboard beside her, bringing it up so the tip of the blade was at Laney's throat. With a gasp, the blonde let go of Roana's hair, her eyes filled with alarm.
"My lady, I'm sorry!" she cried out, suddenly contrite.
"Tell me the truth," Roana insisted, her voice hard. "I know it anyway, but I want you to admit it."
The maid was staring at her in terror. "I just wanted a bit of fun, but he kept talkin' about you." She began to snivel. "So I kissed 'im while he was sleeping. He pushed me away. I'm sorry, my lady. What he said was the truth."
The kitchen door slammed open behind them and Robin and Much rushed in, alerted by the noise.
"Roana! What is going on?" Robin said, incredulous. He came over to place one hand on her shoulder, while the other took hold of knife.
Much was beside him. "This girl tried it on with Allan last night," he explained, glaring at Laney.
"What?" Robin started to laugh. Placing the knife to the side, he pulled Roana gently away from Laney. The young woman pushed herself off the wall as soon as Roana released her, and moved to the other side of the work counter, her cheeks pink and her eyes lowered.
"Is this true?" Robin said to her.
The blonde nodded, her mouth set in a miserable line. "I thought we could have a good time, but all he bloody does is talk about 'er."
Robin looked at Roana and shook his head, grinning. "Looks like we have more in common than I thought, Miss Jealousy."
"She disrespected me.." Roana began, hotly, but Robin cut her off, bundling her after Much. "Take her outside, Much. And you," he looked at Laney again, the amusement gone from his face. He indicated the fallen bowl and spoon. "Clear this mess up. And remember who employs you from now on. If I hear about anything else like this, you'll be out on your ear. Got it?"
Pressing her lips together, Laney nodded and bent down to clear up the mess.
Auden of Nettlestone was a shrewd man. The eldest son of a tailor and a cook at Nettlestone Hall, he had experienced a comfortable childhood, and was already in line to take over his father's small and profitable business. However, he had always dreamed of something more. When the opportunity had arisen to travel to Filey to protect Robin Hood's family, Auden had jumped at the chance to spread his wings, and hopefully bask in Robin's reflected glory. Nettlestone was but a small village, and Auden longed to experience life further afield before he was expected to marry and settle down to be a tailor. He craved adventure and notoriety, even while he was reluctant to expose himself as anything other than an upstanding citizen.
A self-seeker, but one who could charm the bird's out of the trees, Auden relied largely on his dark good looks and deceptively easygoing nature to get through life, while his mind constantly plotted and assessed, looking for his next break. He had spotted an in with Sir Robert straight away. The man craved a heir, and spoke often of his niece, Roana, who would provide him with one through marriage. It had got him thinking, and he set to work winning Lord Filey over. By the time Roana had arrived home, Sir Robert adored him, and Auden was already imagining their future together - his future as the new Lord Filey, by Roana's side. It was pure luck that she was a beauty.
The only thing that stood in his way was Allan A Dale.
For some unknown reason, Roana was in love with him, and he her. But it wouldn't last. Unfortunately, Laney had failed where many a wench hadn't, but Auden refused to give up hope when she broke the news to him. Allan had never been serious about a woman in his life, and, no matter how attractive Roana was, Auden didn't believe that he would change his ways for her. Auden was well aware that he had more to offer a lady than Allan could ever hope to. He just needed the opportunity to convince her, and, by a stroke of pure luck, he now had it. Allan was out of the way.
Strolling back up the track towards the house after watching Allan get taken, during which he had continued to hide away amongst the trees, he whistled a ditty to himself, pleased with the day's events so far. He imagined breaking the news to Roana, and taking her in his arms to comfort her. He could just imagine the feel of her against him. He would have to play this one carefully. It wouldn't do to show his pleasure at Allan's disappearance.
Sauntering into the courtyard, he noticed Robin, Roana, and Much stood beside the house and changed his gait, quickly rushing into view with a panicked look on his face.
"Robin!" he shouted. They all turned to him in alarm. He stopped before them and put his hands on his thighs, pretending to catch his breath for a moment. Straightening, he pointed back towards the gate. "It's Allan. He's been taken."
"What? What happened?" Robin demanded to know as Roana gasped and began to run across the courtyard, heading in the direction he had just come from.
"It was Vaisey and Bridlington," Auden said, the only part of his story that was truthful. "They took him by surprise, knocked him out. There were too many guards. I couldn't help."
"Don't worry. I wouldn't expect you to put your own life at risk." Robin placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder before taking off after Roana and Much.
With a small smile of satisfaction, Auden followed them.
Scarborough Castle, Scarborough, North Riding of Yorkshire
When Allan came to, he was hanging upside down, or that was how it felt. He was staring at the ground, and it took him a moment to realise he was lying across the saddle of a horse, his hands tied tightly behind his back. He felt disorientated, and his head throbbed with a dull pain. The motion of the horse's gait was making him feel nauseous. He turned his head to the side, gingerly. He could hear seagulls calling above, and there was a salty scent in the air that seemed familiar. The road ahead lead through a bustling town, and people passed by, looking at him, curiously. He closed his eyes again to ease the pain and collect his senses.
The last thing he remembered was climbing the gate at Filey Manor. Everything after that was a complete blank in his mind. What had happened to him? He concentrated on recalling the events that lead up to it. He had spoken to Roana in the courtyard. It hadn't gone well, for some reason. He hadn't felt on top form; of that he was sure because he could still feel his stomach churning, while his mouth was dry and rough. Mind you, he had clearly taken a knock to the head, if the constant pain was anything to go by.
Auden. He had been with Auden, he suddenly remembered, and then it all came back to him in sickening clarity. The night before; too much wine; Laney, virtually on top of him; his guilt afterwards; confessing to Roana, who didn't take it well; Auden, ridiculing him. And then, the money bag and sword abandoned outside the manor gate. Auden had pushed him to climb the gate and collect them, only to disappear from sight. And that was when he had been knocked out.
Allan sighed to himself and then lifted his head as the horse's hoofbeats became louder. They were crossing a wooden bridge, heading towards a huge, imposing castle. Well, it certainly appeared imposing from this angle, Allan thought to himself.
"Oi," he shouted, craning his neck in an effort to see his captors. "Hello? Anybody about?"
Black-booted feet came into view, dusty from days on the road. "Shut it, you," came the gruff reply.
"What? Burne, is that you?" Allan strained to see the guard's face. Burne had been one of the more clued-up guards in the Nottingham Castle garrison, and Allan had gotten on well with him during his time as Gisborne's man. "It's me, Allan."
"Ssh. I know who you are." The boots came closer until the guard was walking alongside Allan's horse. "The Sheriff will be out for blood if he catches me acting friendly with you. He's proper got it in for you."
"The Sheriff? Great!" Allan said, sarcastically, before swivelling his head to look at the approaching castle. "Where are we, anyway?"
"Scarborough," Burne replied, shortly. "Now, keep it down, Allan."
Scarborough. Vaisey had captured him and brought him to the castle, and while Prince John was in attendance. This did not bode well for Allan. He wasn't really in the right frame of mind for a royal visit, as it was. But why had he been taken in particular? Had it been an opportunity grab, or something more?
His horse finally came to a halt in the castle's inner bailey, and Allan was yanked unceremoniously from the saddle, a strong hand clutching the back of his tunic. He stumbled as he touched the ground, and fell into the chain-mailed chest of the huge guard holding him. The guard grunted and pushed him off roughly, while pulling him back by his tunic.
"Alright, alright," Allan said, angrily. "Stop yanking me about!"
The guard glared, but steadied him. Allan scowled at him and looked around for Burne; a familiar face. Instead, he saw Vaisey marching towards them, a wide grin on his face, flanked by Bridlington and Gisborne, whose expression was like thunder.
"Well, look who it is! The traitor." Vaisey stopped in front of him, the look in his eyes malevolent. He was a few inches shorter than Allan and glared up at him, a rictus grin fixed on his face. The tooth that he had lost during battle with Robin had been replaced by one sporting a red jewel, and it glinted at Allan as the sun overhead caught it. "I'd say it was nice to see you again, but it'd be a lie. Bridders."
He moved aside and gestured to Bridlington, who stepped forward and punched Allan in the face.
"That's for taking Roana," he said, grimly, then punched him again. "And that's just because I wanted to."
Straightening, Allan tasted blood and felt his teeth with his tongue. Nothing loose, thankfully. He spat and looked at Bridlington, a bored expression on his face. "Is that all you've got?"
With an enraged roar, Bridlington surged forwards, grabbing him by the throat, but Gisborne quickly intervened, pushing him back.
"That's enough. The prince wants to see you both." He turned to the guards, indicating to Allan. "Take him to the dungeons."
"But why?" Bridlington said, petulantly. "He's going to die anyway. I may as well finish him off now."
Filled with dread, Allan glanced at Gisborne, who was watching him, his expression inscrutable. What did they have planned for him? Allan's mind raced. He needed to get out of here, and quickly. But how? Maybe he could get Burne onside, or Gisborne, to help him escape. Or maybe Robin and Roana were already on their way to rescue him. He hoped so, because he was not ready to die.
"He is a gift for Prince John," Vaisey said, impatiently. "He enjoys a good hanging, especially one that involves a known outlaw. He will remain... moderately unharmed until then, unless I say so."
Bridlington looked disappointed and glared at Allan, whose cheek was smarting. He stared back, insolently, until the guard beside him began to drag him towards the castle.
"Wait. Come on, you don't need to do this." He started to struggle, but his hands were still tightly secured behind his back, which limited his movements. "Come on, Gis. Don't do this."
"Take him away," Gisborne roared, refusing to look at him.
As Allan disappeared in the direction of the dungeons, and Vaisey and Bridlington made their way into the castle, Gisborne approached Alice, who had been watching the proceedings, aghast.
"Alice, I need you to do something," he said, urgently, his voice low. "Go to Filey Manor. Tell Hood that Allan has been captured and is due to hang the day after tomorrow. He needs to come to rescue him. I can't risk it myself, not here." Alice looked at him, eyes wide, and he continued. "I'm going to send Burne with you. Get ready to leave straight away. He will meet you at the stables."
Nodding, Alice turned to leave, and Guy grabbed her by the arm, pulling her back. He took her face in his hands and kissed her, firmly.
"And be careful," he said, roughly. "Come back to me in one piece."