IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY
Ulla Tulin was left abandoned in an isolated Kanin city as a baby, taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many of the trolls of mixed blood. Even knowing this truth, she’s never stopped wondering about her family.
When Ulla is offered an internship working alongside the handsome Pan Soriano at the Mimirin, a prestigious institution, she jumps at the chance to use this opportunity to hopefully find her parents. All she wants is to focus on her job and the search for her parents, but all of her attempts to find them are blocked when she learns her mother may be connected to the Omte royal family.
With little progress made, Ulla and Pan soon find themselves wrapped up in helping Eliana, an amnestic girl with abilities unlike any they have ever seen before—a girl who seems to be running from something. To figure out who she is they must leave the city, and possibly, along the way, they may learn more about Ulla’s parents.
I knew as soon as I wrote Ulla as a small character in Crystal Kingdom (the final book of the Kanin Chronicles) that I was going to write a trilogy about her, but it was just a matter of when. After the Kanin Chronicles, I wanted to take a little break from that world and visit others – which I did with Freeks and the Valkyrie duology. By then, I was so ready to dive back into the world and answer some lingering questions I had left for the Trylle and Kanin.
With the Omte Origins, I feel like I’ve been able to say everything I want to about the worlds. Through the three trilogies, I spent time with all five tribes. Wendy’s mother is Trylle and her father is Vittra, and her story has her visiting both kingdoms. Bryn’s mother is Skojare and her father is Kanin, and her trilogy shows life in the Kanin and Skojare cities, as well as travelling to others beyond that. I won’t say who exactly Ulla’s parents are (that would be spoiling the story) but her journey takes her through the troll kingdoms, with interesting detours through the Omte, Trylle, and Kanin tribes.
The hardest challenge is getting new readers caught up with the world and the lingo without feeling repetitive and boring to longtime fans of the series. I try use this an opportunity to show characters and situations from different angles. The Wendy the audience meets at the beginning of Switched is vastly different Wendy than the that Ulla knows in the Omte Origins. So for new readers, they get introduced Wendy as she currently is, and for repeat readers, they can see who Wendy has become and who she appears to be through the eyes of an average citizen with Ulla.
With the Omte Origins, I really looked back at the course of troll history, and their past has dovetailed with the Vikings and other artic peoples. So I did a lot research on early Vikings and indigenous arctic people, primarily the Inuit and the Sami. My favorite parts were reading their folklore. I even got an Inuit cookbook, and I attempted to make Bannock (a traditional Inuit bread). It did not turn out well, but I blame that entirely on my cooking skills (or lack thereof) and not the recipe.
It was so much fun. It’s been over ten years and nine books (and several short stories), so I have spent a lot time of thinking and doing world-building. I honestly have enough information for a history book about the worlds of the Trylle, but I don’t know there’s a demand for fictional textbooks. The Tribal Facts were actually one of the first things I wrote for the Omte series, because I went through and get myself reacquainted and made sure I had all my important facts straight.
My routine itself hasn’t been too affected, since I write from home, but I would say that the stress has a negative impact on me, the way it has for many of us that work in creative fields – or any field at all, honestly. My husband has been working from home, and my stepson had been doing long distance learning before summer break, but that hasn’t really changed too much for me. I usually work after they go to bed and stay up late into the early morning hours.
Yes, definitely! I listen to so much music when I write, and I even have curated playlists to go along with my books on Spotify. open.spotify.com/user/127756215 Some of my favorite songs to write to were “Ella” by Myrkur, “Wild World” by Cat Stevens, and “Delicate” by Taylor Swift. I also listened to a lot of Wardruna, who are this Norwegian band who make traditional Nordic music with historically accurate instruments. For the soundtrack to the Omte Origins, I wanted it be a blend of traditional Nordic music, mellow seventies folk to go with the trolls delayed pop culture tastes, and pop music that gets through with the trendier younger generations of trolls.
I think it’s both, honestly. When I’m picking songs for the playlist, I definitely choose them based on the kind of emotions I want to feel and the tone I want to set for whatever I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll put particularly romantic songs on repeat when writing a love scene or an angry fast-paced instrumental for a fight scene.
I’m super excited about Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy. It comes out the same day as The Lost City, and it’s about a plus-size teenage girl who discovers that she can fly. I recently read A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Rosanne Brown, and I’m counting down the days until The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna and The Project by Courtney Summers.
I’m currently working on a stand-alone fantasy inspired by Greek mythology, but I don’t know when it will be out yet. I’ve got ideas for dozens of projects after that, and I’m working hard (and having fun) getting through them all.
Several of her books have made the New York Times Bestsellers list. Her zombie series, The Hollows, has been adapted into a graphic novel by Dynamite. She has published over twenty novels, including The Kanin Chronicles, the Watersong quartet, My Blood Approves series, the Valkyrie duology, and Freeks .
Her next books are the Omte Origins, a trilogy set in the world of the Trylle and Kanin. The first book The Lost City will be out July 7, 2020, and the second book The Morning Flower will be out August 5, 2020.
For more info about her and her books, here are some other places to check out and ways to contact her:
Is there a sociopathic killer on the loose and murdering prostitutes in New York City? NYPD’s top cop, Homicide Commander Lieutenant John Driscoll, believes there is. Someone who calls himself “Tilden” and claims to have been sexually abused as a child by his mother’s john. But what could have triggered Tilden’s rage that has him on a mission to eradicate all the women of the night in The Big Apple?
How did your early reading habits lead you to become a writer?
After graduating with a liberal arts degree from Richmond College I landed a job with Allstate Insurance Company as a sales agent. When the company opted to take their sales force in another direction I decided it was time to retire and find something else to do with my time. I spent much of that time reading. On the beach in summer and on the couch in winter. One day I picked up a copy of HELTER SKELTER, by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. This is an often used adage, but I couldn’t put it down. The author’s attention to detail fascinated me. After that, I was hooked on novels depicting murder, mayhem and suspense. I soon discovered such notables as Thomas Harris, John Sandford, Lawrence Block and Ed McBain, just to name a few. Unlike, HELTER SKELTER, where the storyline was based on an actual murder, Harris, Sandford, Block, McBain and company, created murder and the intrigue that surrounded it. I was enthralled all the more. Read on, I said, and so I did. After I finished reading my twelfth 87th Precinct novel, I thought: I could do that! And so, on a gloomy, rain-soaked Friday afternoon, that happened to follow Thanksgiving, I began writing NIGHTKILLS, which would later become BONE THIEF. Looking back, I’m happy with the course my life had taken me, bringing me to what has become my life’s passion: Writing!
Was it a journey developing the confidence to write, or did it come naturally?
It was a journey that had begun at a slow pace. Aside from essays in college I’d never written in a narrative fashion. When I took an early retirement from Allstate I was 49. With a great deal of free time on my hands a very good friend suggested to either take on a new job or devote time to a hobby I’d enjoy. My first venture toward that end had me wandering through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY armed with a 35mm camera taking photographs of nature-in-the-raw. That interest waned after four or five weeks. I then enrolled at HB Studios in NYC to study the art of ‘acting’. It was fun, but after two months I began to lose interest. Since I enjoyed reading mysteries and thrillers, my trusted friend suggested I write one. Me? Write a book? I haven’t a clue as to where to start, I argued. She suggested I write
an opening chapter similar in style to what I liked to read. And so I did. After she read it she asked me what I had in mind for the next chapter. This went on for several weeks at the end of which I had written the opening of a story that only she and I had read. I didn’t think it was very good but she encouraged me to call a friend of hers, a “writing coach” of sorts, which I did. His name was Stephen Ohayon. He had once taught the art of writing on a college level and offered to work with me to turn my feeble attempt into a saleable novel. We met weekly in his office in Manhattan where his day job was as a psychotherapist. He scheduled time for me between patients. I brought him a typed chapter and during a one hour session he helped me push that chapter from first draft to second, third, fourth and fifth. When we reached Chapter Last I set out to market the book. It sold close to 100,000 copies and was translated and published in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy writing for a number of reasons. One that comes to mind immediately is that writing allows me to escape the hum drum of everyday life. Another reason is that creating characters for the sole purpose of performing in a story that I’ve set in motion is exciting. I’m fueled by that. And, because it’s fiction, I’m motivated to weave memories of times in my life, some good, some regrettable, into the back story of my characters. We all have chapters we wish never to see published, but, with the right finesse, the theme of those blunders can and do add human authenticity to fictional entities.
What are the most challenging aspects?
One of the most challenging aspects of being a writer is constantly competing with an inner voice that tells me what I’ve written isn’t very good. That, of and in itself, drives me to be a better writer. Writers write. Rewriters get published.
How has your writing process developed over the twelve years it took to become published?
The writing process as outlined above continued in the same fashion, day after day, week after week. Those weeks became years as I needed to convince a publisher my work was ready for print. That involved submission after submission of query letters and partial manuscripts to every single literary agent that specialized in my genre. When I reached the end of the line, so to speak, and any further submission would be repetitive I took the advice of a few well intentioned literary agents along the way to have a professional editor have a look at my manuscript. After working for two years with the late Dick Marek, who’d edited The Silence of the Lambs for Thomas Harris along with nine of Robert Ludlam’s books, Kensington Books agreed to publish my debut novel.
What are some ways working with an editor has helped you?
Aside from learning that a tightly written novel reads very quickly, thereby keeping the reader engaged, working with a professional editor taught me a wonderful lesson: a writer, especially someone starting out, often feels his or her work is sacrosanct, but the editor is keenly aware of what a publisher is looking for and what sells. It’s best to accept that reality and be open to change. It will increase the chance of having your work published.
How important is rewriting when working on a manuscript?
Extremely important. I begin by writing a first draft of a chapter which entails typing without concern for spelling, punctuation, or cohesion. The point is to get the thought on paper as quickly as possible without listening to that inner voice telling you “Oh, that’s not good,” Once that’s done, I’ll go in and rewrite the chapter over and over again, until I have what I consider perfection. In essence, one must write drunk and edit sober.
If we were to meet NYPD homicide cop John Driscoll, what kind of person would we meet?
In short, he’d be a taller version of me. He’s an Irishman with a sense of morality who tries to do the right thing. A compassionate soul who tries to be kind to friends and foes alike. Yes, Lieutenant Driscoll is flawed. But, then, who isn’t?
Do the John Driscoll mysteries employ a certain theme?
Yes, the theme is that good prevails over evil. They are psychological thrillers which detail the fictionalized onslaught of heinous murders perpetrated by a madman, or in the case of THE SCREAMING ROOM, a set of demonic twins, using New York City as a killing field. Lieutenant Driscoll is brought into the equation intent on putting a stop to the madness.
If you were John Driscoll in, No One Will Hear Your Screams, could you solve the case?
Absolutely! The Lieutenant is a resourceful investigator who, with the able-bodied assistance of two professional and ingenious associates in Margaret Aligante and Cedric Thomlinson, evil can’t triumph.
What are you currently working on?
My current work in progress introduces Richard Singleton, a bestselling author suffering from writer’s block. When he becomes the owner of a beach house where a heinous murder had taken place, he finds stimulation and is able to put the pen to paper again. His manuscript is progressing well and his faltered career is looking bright again, that is until he gets an anonymous call from the former owner of the house who had perpetrated the aforementioned murder who has plans of his own regarding what this bestselling author should write.
Don’t miss this unique retelling of the Robin Hood legend!
A kingdom under assault.
A conspiracy born of anarchy.
A hero standing against tyranny.
Robin’s duty to his king sends him on an odyssey that will unfold from the streets of Paris to the banks of the Danube. From incredible triumphs on the battlefields of the Crusade, to harrowing sea voyages, to a desperate dash across the frozen landscape of Central Europe, Robin Hood must ensure that King Richard safely returns to England.
Meanwhile, the outlaws of Sherwood Forest rise again under a new leader—and she is unwavering in her pursuit of justice against the tyranny of Sheriff de Argentan. Marian endures the heartbreak of widowhood only to find strength and purpose as she leads a small band of devoted men in her quest for vengeance while she protects Robin’s legacy.
Sir Guy of Gisborne, tormented by his conscience and enslaved by the sheriff, faces the wraith-like fury of the woman he once loved. How do you find forgiveness when you have committed an unforgivable crime? He must attempt a daunting journey of redemption, while finding inspiration from an unexpected source.
And through it all, Robin, Marian, and Guy are entangled in a web of treachery spun by the King of France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, as the plot to dismantle the Angevin Empire and take the throne of England from the Plantagenets boldly continues.
Part two of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!
Although the books in the trilogy are not stand-alone, they do not end in cliffhangers.
9 April 1192, North of Poitiers, On the Banks of the Clain River
Bracing herself against a tree, Marian gasped for air, clutching her side as she struggled to catch her breath. She felt as though she had been running for hours.
“I think we lost that man who was following us,” Much shouted over the roar of the nearby river.
Allan, who was also winded from their dash along the riverbank, followed behind as they skirted the tree line of a dense forest. Bent over at the waist and panting, he asked, “Did you recognize him?”
Much peered over his shoulder again. “No, but he looked familiar.”
Finally able to speak, Marian interjected sharply, “All I care about is returning to England as soon as possible. The king commanded me to go to the court in Poitiers, and I did. I made no promises that I would stay there.”
“We are very far from home, with few coins…” Much faltered as Marian glared at him.
“You told me you knew the way,” she reminded him.
“I do,” declared Much. “I traveled between Aquitaine and the ports in Normandy many times with Lord Robin.”
She stared at him for a moment. The sound of Robin’s name struck her like a physical blow, as if Gisborne’s dagger were piercing her heart just as it had pierced Robin’s. Paralyzing anguish besieged her mind until Allan’s warm hand on her shoulder interrupted her descent into the black abyss of her grief.
“Much will guide us, and I will earn coins by performing in the towns along the way. It will take time, but we will be back in Nottinghamshire in a month or so.”
Marian gazed into Allan’s kind eyes and then Much’s troubled frown. They were both looking at her with such pity that she was overcome by an irrational fury—a toxic brew of bitterness that these men lived, while Robin lay buried in the Holy Land, crushing guilt that she hadn’t revealed her secret to Robin, and hatred for the men who had taken her husband from her: Guy of Gisborne, Sheriff de Argentan, and even King Richard. They all shared some blame in the tragedy of Robin’s death.
She recoiled from Allan’s attempt to comfort her. “We will do whatever is necessary to speed our journey,” she stipulated. “Allan will sing his ballads, and if we need to steal or beg, then we will do it. Nothing is more important than returning home and avenging…” she swallowed to maintain a steady voice, “Robin’s murder.”
The day was drawing to a close, so they made camp. Despite the chill of the spring night, it was too risky to build a fire, since Much was still worried about the man who had followed them when they slipped away from the palace.
Fortunately, Queen Eleanor had not been in Poitiers, so security around the keep had been lax. The dowager queen had traveled to England the previous month, determined to thwart Prince John’s scheme to join forces with King Philippe of France to undermine King Richard while he was away on the Crusade.
Marian had insisted on taking the first watch. She leaned against a tree at the edge of camp, hoping that she could detect the sound of approaching danger over the rustling of leaves and the whoosh of the river. At least the full moon brightened the forest, although the pale light left everything drained of color and vibrancy.
Like her life without Robin.
She willed herself to think of something besides Robin’s death. Instead, she reminisced about another full moon, now over three and a half years ago, when Robin had rescued her from the sheriff. They had pledged to marry and had later become one. It had been the true beginning of her marriage to Robin.
She desperately wanted to fill her mind with joyful memories like those of that fateful, glorious night. But again and again, the happy recollections would transform into the same horrific scene, and she would relive Robin’s death. The details were so vivid in her mind: kneeling in the gritty dirt, the soft texture of his hair against her cheek as she cradled him in her arms, and the sharp bristles of his short beard as they shared one last kiss. After his death, she had held his hand, clinging to its warmth and begging God to either restore his life or take hers as well.
At that moment, Marian had wanted nothing more than to join Robin in heaven. But with time to reflect, she realized that seeking death would not honor Robin or protect his legacy, and it could very well condemn her soul to eternal hellfire.
By the time she disembarked at Marseilles, she had dried her tears and resolved to resist the grief that relentlessly pulled her towards a chasm of black despair. She would not surrender her spirit to the melancholy allure of endless mourning.
Instead, she would take action. First, she would honor the blood oath she swore over Robin’s body by making Gisborne and Argentan suffer for their murderous deeds. Then she vowed to devote the rest of her life to ensuring that Robin’s legacy would endure and thrive. This would be her sacred mission as Robin Hood’s widow.
29 April 1192, City of Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem
The sound of horses approaching him from behind caused Robin to draw his dagger and pivot to face his attackers. The distinctive cadence of galloping hooves striking the cobblestone street triggered an intense memory of men on horseback, charging towards him with their swords drawn and surrounding him as he defended the woman he loved and the king he served.
At first, it all seemed so real, but when he blinked, the attacking soldiers morphed into a trio of mounted Knights Hospitaller riding past him as they hurried down the street. Their weapons were not drawn, and they did not even glance in his direction. An embarrassed Robin sheathed his dagger and continued on his journey to the harbor.
It had been two months since Guy of Gisborne had nearly killed him. During his recovery, Robin’s existence had alternated between excruciating pain and lethargic befuddlement. Eventually, he had refused to take any more of the mind-numbing poppy potion, resisting the entreaties of the king’s physician, Ranulphus Besace.
And when the doctor informed him that he must remain in his chamber, Robin had resolved to leave at the first opportunity. As soon as Ranulphus was called away to an emergency, Robin had dressed, retrieved a bag of coins hidden in his trunk’s false bottom, and headed towards the harbor of Acre.
No doctor, not even King Richard himself, would hinder his mission.
As he walked away from the citadel, he initially felt overjoyed to be on his feet and free of his confinement. His injuries were much improved. However, as he moved through the ancient city, the tightness in his chest became a throbbing pain that frequently caused him to stop and lean against a wall to catch his breath. A sheen of cold sweat enveloped him, and his head repeatedly spun in a dizzy spiral that threatened to send him crashing onto the pavement in an unconscious heap.
Robin grimly trudged onward. At the harbor, he would board a ship where he would have plenty of time to rest from his exertions. Regardless of his pain and discomfort, there was nothing more important than traveling to Marseilles, and from there, Poitiers.
During his convalescence, the alarming discovery that King Richard had sent Marian to Poitiers dominated his thoughts. He knew that she would learn the truth, and he wouldn’t be there to explain it to her. He decided to go there without delay and beg Marian to forgive him. Then, he would return to the Holy Land and fulfill his duties to Richard.
He had sacrificed enough for his king; now he would do something for himself and his wife. He smiled at the thought that Marian was his wife. Even if she was furious with him, they were still irrevocably and eternally joined.
When Robin entered the port, he noticed that it was unusually busy. The assembled men were abuzz with conversation, and many seemed angry and agitated. He pushed through the crowd, distracted by the snippets of conversation that he overheard.
“… It happened just after midday.”
“The Assassins are famous for striking in broad daylight. They…”
Robin paused to listen, but the men moved away from him. He had heard of the fearsome Assassins; they were Saracen mercenaries known for their willingness to kill for hire. He tried to hear what others were saying. The disjointed fragments of sentences were both intriguing and disturbing.
“… stabbed him in the back…”
“… They captured one, the other was killed…”
“… died in agony. Count Henry left at once—”
This revelation caused Robin to stop in his tracks. These men were talking about Count Henry of Champagne, nephew to both King Richard and King Philippe, a trusted ally of Richard, and one of Robin’s friends.
The other men took notice of Robin’s eavesdropping, and they stopped talking as they glared at him warily. Robin averted his gaze, for he did not want to be recognized, and he continued his walk towards the ships moored along the pier. Although his curiosity had been roused, he forced himself to refocus on his mission.
Traversing the wharf, he selected the largest vessel and inquired about its itinerary. The ship was traveling to Cyprus, then Sicily, and finally Marseilles. It was perfect for Robin’s needs. He informed a sailor that he wished to buy passage, and the young man left to find the captain.
After a short delay, the captain lumbered down the gangway and approached Robin, squinting suspiciously at the thin, pale young man dressed in a nondescript, hooded cloak. He brusquely demanded, “Payment is required up front. I need to see your coins.” The scowling captain looked him over from head to foot. “What’s the matter with you? You can barely stand. I ain’t taking any sick passengers.”
Robin knew the captain was within his rights to refuse passage to anyone. He cursed the wave of dizziness that briefly seized him and decided that the best course of action would be to answer honestly. “I’m not sick; I’m recovering from a battle wound.” Robin lowered his voice, “I would appreciate your discretion, so please don’t reveal this to anyone: I am the Earl of Huntingdon.”
The captain’s reaction was unexpected. For a few moments, he just stared at Robin, his mouth agape. Then he threw his head back and howled with laughter. Now it was Robin’s turn to stare open-mouthed at the other man.
“Was this battle wound to your head?” The captain guffawed.
“I don’t understand—”
“You ain’t right in the head, and you ain’t no Earl of Huntingdon. Everyone knows he was killed months ago.”
Robin was flabbergasted. This made no sense. He struggled to respond, but shadows were creeping into the edges of his vision.
The captain continued, “Get away from me before I call for the guards. With the king’s assassination, I have more important things to do than bother with you.”
The shock of hearing such news cleared the cobwebs from his mind. Robin stepped closer to the man and questioned, “Are you telling me that someone has killed King Richard? When? How?”
The other man pushed him away, and Robin tottered before grabbing a nearby railing to steady himself.
“Get out of here, you daft fool. I’m not talking about King Richard. Yesterday, Assassins killed King Conrad in Tyre. Where have you been that you didn’t know this?” The captain studied him with heightened mistrust.
Just then, a contingent of soldiers burst onto the wharves, shouting for everyone to make way. The lead guard announced loudly that they were searching for a man who had escaped from the citadel.
Robin and the captain watched with interest as the soldiers moved through the crowd, methodically inspecting each man.
Someone shouted, “What’s this man look like?”
The man in charge replied, “He’s a fair-haired Englishman who is thin and sickly. He’s delusional and thinks he’s a nobleman.”
Abruptly, the ship’s captain waved at the soldiers and hollered, “He’s here! Look!”
Robin looked at the man in surprise, and when he looked back at the soldiers, they were now running towards him and yelling, “Hold him!”
The captain grabbed his arm, and Robin’s instincts took command. He pulled away from the man’s grasp while kicking him in the knee. Howling in pain, the sea captain released him.
Another pair of hands reached for him, but Robin ducked and sprinted away from the soldiers. He dashed into the maze of narrow alleyways connecting the harbor with the rest of the city. His heart was pounding painfully in his chest. His mouth had become so dry that he was coughing and retching, and his eyesight was growing dimmer by the moment.
He could hear the men behind him. They were getting closer and closer. Robin realized that he was crawling on his hands and knees, no longer able to stand, let alone run. And then an ebony oblivion descended upon him.
24 June 1192, Sherwood Forest, Near the Fortress of Nottingham
“I think we should tie him behind a horse and drag him through the village and into the forest. That would be a miserable death,” Will suggested.
Much had a better idea. “That death is too quick. I want to stab him in the stomach with a small dagger. The wound will not kill him immediately. Instead, he will live long enough for it to fester. That is the most miserable way to die.”
Little John grunted appreciatively; he liked both ideas.
The day was drawing to a close, and Marian was sitting on the ground with the three men in a thickly wooded area near the fortress of Nottingham as they awaited Allan’s return.
She was morbidly fascinated by the men’s proposals for killing Guy of Gisborne.
“Let’s cut him up, piece by piece. We’ll start by cutting off his—” John stopped abruptly.
“Cut off his what?” asked Marian. When she saw John pale and Will blush, she knew the answer to her question. She also blushed.
“What is taking Allan so long?” Much hastily changed the subject.
Marian stood and walked to the tree line of the forest, and the men followed her. They were on a hill that overlooked the river, and on the far side of the river, steep cliffs jutted out of the ground. The castle walls were perched at the top of the cliffs, and beyond the walls stood the stone keep of Nottingham castle. The tallest part of the keep was the tower where Sheriff de Argentan held court.
Marian remembered only too well her visits to that tower room. She shivered at the memory and drew Robin’s cloak around her shoulders. Upon her return to Nottinghamshire, she had gone to the old hunting lodge where she found a trunk belonging to Robin. His clothing was too big for her, but she had made a few alterations, and now she wore his clothes, including the hooded cloak that had been partly responsible for his outlaw name. Even though the clothing had lost Robin’s scent, it still made her feel closer to him.
She also had his bow slung across her shoulder and his quiver tied to her belt. She had planned to carry his sword, but it was so long that its tip dragged on the ground when the sheath was attached to her belt. The weight of the sword was another problem, so she carried a dagger instead.
At that moment, Allan emerged from the thick brush surrounding them.
“What is happening at the castle?” Marian inquired.
“Visitors have arrived for the Feast of Midsummer,” Allan reported. “I met with Kenric’s friend who works in the kitchens. He says there are many wealthy nobles in attendance, and he believes it is a meeting of Prince John’s supporters.”
Much angrily interjected, “We must kill Gisborne at once. He has no right to be breathing the same air as Lady Marian!”
John was formulating a plan. “We will wait along the road between Nottingham and Locksley and ambush him.”
The flow of ideas between the four men intensified as each gave his opinion and attempted to shout down competing schemes.
The noise became unbearable for Marian; she covered her ears and yelled, “Quiet!” She was astonished when the men stilled and gazed attentively at her. She had never commanded such obedience from men, and she was briefly frozen in shock.
Suddenly, an idea formed in her mind. It was audacious and unprecedented. But in that moment, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. Rallying her courage, she declared, “We will punish both Gisborne and Argentan, but I want them to know that their suffering is the result of what they did to Robin. And I also want to ensure that Robin’s legacy is protected. Will you follow me as you once followed Robin?”
“My lady, how can you lead us? You are but a girl. What if you are captured or injured?” Little John’s concerned, fatherly gaze caused Marian to swallow nervously.
Undeterred, she asserted, “Robin and his uncle Edmund taught me how to use weapons and how to think strategically. John, you will be my captain and assist me.”
“We are only four men. We cannot prevail against the sheriff and his soldiers,” Allan reminded them.
This instigated another round of arguing, and Marian again bade them to be quiet. She was pleased when they obeyed her without complaint. Gaining confidence, she acknowledged, “We might be at a disadvantage in numbers, but we are on the side of what is right. If we cannot use brute force to succeed, then we will outwit our enemy.”
Her words impressed the men. Perhaps she could lead them in the spirit of Robin Hood.
Little John went down on one knee in front of Marian, and the others echoed his movements. The outlaw pledged, “My lady, we are ready to dedicate our lives to serving you.”
Their show of devotion touched Marian’s heart. Realizing that the sun was dipping below the horizon, she instructed everyone to return to the small camp they had made nearby. As they left, Marian glanced over her shoulder at the sheriff’s tower. With the coming of twilight, she could see that its windows were brightly lit, and she wondered what nefarious plots were being hatched by Argentan and Gisborne.
30 June 1192, On the Road South of Paris, Near the Town of Montlhéry
The sun had descended below the horizon, although the sky was still bright with the lingering glow of a long summer’s day. Robin and André made camp a short distance behind Raimbaut and his men. They could not light a fire without alerting the other men to their presence, so they were thankful for the balmy weather. At this point in their journey, they had become weary and discouraged.
As they had expected, Raimbaut traveled to Paris, where he entered the king’s palace and remained overnight.
King Philippe’s keep was well-guarded, so they had been reduced to watching and waiting. While in Paris, Robin and André had heard vicious rumors about King Richard and his behavior in the Holy Land. It had been frustrating to listen to such outlandish tales, yet there was nothing they could say or do to counter the gossip.
On their second day in Paris, Raimbaut had emerged from Philippe’s palatial keep late in the afternoon and gathered his men before setting out on the road which would take them back to Poitiers. Robin and André were no wiser than they had been before their arrival in Poitou the previous week, and they had debated whether to stay in Paris or follow Raimbaut. They could find no easy way to slip into the royal residence, which was situated on an island in the river. Reluctantly, they chose to follow Raimbaut.
Settling in for the night, they refrained from conversation for fear that their voices would carry in the still air. They could hear indistinct sounds from Raimbaut’s camp. The men were in high spirits as they headed home.
Robin contemplated their options. Perhaps they should return to Paris and infiltrate Philippe’s court. They would need to obtain nicer clothing. But could they find a way into the court without being recognized or without their accents giving them away? Both he and André were fluent in French, but there would always be slight variations in their pronunciations and inflections that might betray them as interlopers.
He sighed. The answers which Richard sought could only be found at the French court. Following Raimbaut back to Poitiers was pointless.
“What troubles you, Robin?” André whispered to him.
“I was recalling my last conversation with Richard before we departed the Holy Land. I think we should abandon Raimbaut and return to Paris,” murmured Robin.
“Can you disclose what the king said?”
Maintaining a low voice, Robin explained, “During the regicide attempt, Richard recognized Baron de Argentan, but not from the Poitevin court.”
André leaned closer, his full attention upon Robin. “I don’t understand your meaning.”
“Richard was certain that he had seen Argentan at the court in Paris. I believe we will find the answers there.”
His brow creased in concern, André insisted, “Tell me exactly what Richard said.”
“Do you remember when Richard and Philippe were allies fighting against King Henry?”
“I will never forget it. I was serving Richard, and he was determined to force his father to declare him next in line for the throne. Even though it was ill-omened for a father and son to make war against each other, Richard was correct that England and the Angevin lands needed a clear plan for the royal succession.”
Robin elaborated, “Richard went to Paris to strategize with Philippe, and he saw Argentan standing with the advisors, courtiers, and attendants along the periphery of the room. Richard’s exact words were: ‘Argentan was just one of many men standing in the shadows.’”
Worried that he had spoken too loudly, Robin lowered his voice. “I was shocked when the king said that, for it cannot be a coincidence.”
Robin’s cryptic remarks confused André. “I have spent more time at court than I care to admit. However, what he describes sounds like a typical day at court, with advisors and attendants hovering around the perimeter of the hall, awaiting a summons from their lord. What is so shocking about that?”
To clarify his meaning, Robin recollected, “Every time I have met Argentan, he has recited some absurd riddle about shadows. Gisborne even has a sword engraved with the phrase, From Shadows to Glory. I think shadows are a metaphor for secrets, but I’m not sure.”
“You are right; we should return to Paris.”
“Baron de Argentan once told me, ‘Someday the sun will break through the clouds and illuminate everything around us. The truth of the shadows will be revealed.’ I will welcome such sunshine,” commented Robin.
With those words, the two men fell into quiet contemplation until the urgent rhythm of hoof beats disrupted the peace of the forest. André unsheathed his sword as Robin grabbed his bow and quiver, and they hastened to the nearby road.
The dark shapes of a dozen mounted men-at-arms galloped past them and disappeared around a bend in the road, and within moments, a cacophony of shouting and screaming erupted. Risking discovery, André and Robin sprinted towards Raimbaut’s camp.
18 July 1192, Sherwood Forest, On the Road to Nottingham
“Well, don’t you agree with me?” demanded his companion.
“Yes, of course, Sir Gervase,” Guy dutifully answered.
Sir Gervase Rainecourt was Prince John’s envoy, and he had been dispatched to Nottingham to meet with Argentan. He was the same age as John, and he was eager to remind everyone of his position as a confidant of the prince.
Guy had been tasked with meeting him at the border of Nottinghamshire and escorting him to the sheriff. Guy had also collected a bag of silver from their contact at the tavern in Dover, and he had noticed that the monthly bags of silver had decreased in weight since their return from the Holy Land.
Stifling a yawn as he endured yet another story about Gervase’s close relationship with the prince, Guy felt some gratification knowing that the sheriff would also find the man insufferable, but he would still have to curry favor with him.
Diverting John’s interest from Nottinghamshire was becoming increasingly difficult. Nearly every noble traveling to Nottingham during the past fortnight had been robbed. Marian and the outlaws took anywhere from a tenth to a quarter of whatever valuables they found […].
Gervase was still droning on and on about something Prince John had said or done; Guy had stopped listening several miles back. He glanced over his shoulder at Gervase’s men-at-arms as they marched behind the two mounted knights. The royal envoy had brought a dozen men with him, and they easily outnumbered Marian’s outlaws.
Looking forward, he tensed at the sight of two dark figures ahead. He was relieved to see that it was just an elderly couple hobbling along the road. They were swathed in tattered hooded cloaks and leaning heavily on walking sticks. Tomorrow was market day in Nottingham, and it was likely that they were on their way to sell whatever was wrapped in the bundles tied to their backs.
“Make way; we’re on the sheriff’s business,” he shouted.
The man bobbed his head, and they shuffled into the marshy ditch and tall weeds that bordered the old Roman road.
After scanning the forest on both sides of the road, Guy looked up, as if he expected Robin Hood to drop a net upon the soldiers from heaven. Sighing, he acknowledged that he needed to get more sleep.
“Look!” Gervase exclaimed.
Some thirty yards down the road, the red-headed outlaw who had accompanied Robin to the Holy Land stood at the tree line. On the opposite side of the road was the boy with the red scarf.
“Murderer!” roared Much. “You will be punished for killing Lord Robin!”
Will Scarlet said nothing, but he grinned at them and waved his scarf over his head.
“After them!” Gervase ordered. “Divide up, and bring me that forest vermin, dead or alive!”
His men eagerly started after the outlaws, who fearlessly stood there, easy prey for such trained wolves.
“Wait! You can’t send all your men after two outlaws,” insisted Guy.
Gervase agreed, and he sent three men after Much and three after Will. Once the soldiers drew near, Much and Will vanished into the forest.
Guy grew concerned that half of their men were now chasing after outlaws. “My lord, we should not tarry here.”
Before Gervase could respond, they heard a shout behind them. Turning, they saw Little John laughing and pointing his staff at them. He was at least twenty yards away, and the two elderly peasants were fearfully crouching in the ditch between the soldiers and the outlaw.
Once again, another outlaw stood across the road. He was playing a lute and loudly singing:
A rooster is a proud bird;
He tells everyone he’s king.
But although he rules a roost,
He lacks land and can’t take wing.
Guy suggested that they ignore the outlaws and hasten down the road, but the song’s insults to Prince John incensed Gervase. Much to Guy’s exasperation, he sent all his remaining men after Little John and Allan-a-dale.
Once again, when the soldiers drew close, the outlaws entered the forest, and Gervase’s men disappeared as they pursued them.
Guy glared at the other man in disbelief. “Who taught you military tactics?” he thundered. “You’ve sent all your men into the woods. Who will protect the sheriff’s silver?”
“Get off your horses and kneel on the ground. Place your hands on top of your head,” commanded a dulcet feminine voice.
Guy saw that the ‘old’ couple had dropped their burdens and pulled back their hoods. It was Marian and the Knight Templar, and they were aiming nocked arrows at them.
Personal website: Olivialongueville.com
Project website: www.angevinworld.com
Facebook: Olivia Longueville
J.C. Plummer (Jennie Coleen) graduated Summa Cum Laude from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Anthropology. She later earned a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Science from Dartmouth College.
Co-authoring The Robin Hood Trilogy has merged J.C.’s passions for history, culture, and technology into one unique, exciting project.
As an author and historian, J.C.’s goal is to provide thoughtful and entertaining storytelling that honors the past, is mindful of the present, and is optimistic for the future.
Project website: www.angevinworld.com
Facebook: Jennie Newbrand
Submit your film, screenplay, novel, to the festival and get it showcased at the FEEDBACK Festival. Full Feedback on all entries.
Author page of JR Handley, a veteran who writes military science fiction to excise the demons of his time spent fighting in the Late Unpleasantness in Mesopotamia.
British-Canadian scientist and writer
Book Reviews, Book Tours, Book Recommendations & Giveaways too!
Let's talk books!
EDGAR NOMINATED CRIME WRITER
book blogger & reviewer
Minty Fresh Reads. Murder and mayhem, with a sprig of mint.
A Grand Procession of the Writing Community