Though much blood he hath lost,
Fight on, Robin must!
Or be branded a rogue and a liar!
But a traveler most chronar
May yet rescue his honor
By assuming a challenge most dire!
“I am well, I say!” Robin Hood protested. “Worry me no more, my friends! I must be on my way!”
“Nay, Robin, thou art not well,” the old friar said firmly. The old holy man’s face was lined with wrinkles, and his hair was snowy white. “Thy wound was grave, indeed. Had it not been for the swift actions of friend Oliver, you might well have perished from it.”
“I owe you my thanks yet again, Oliver,” Robin Hood said. “But I sent my word that I would meet the Sheriff’s champion! The word of Robin Hood is not given lightly!”
“I know,” Green Arrow said, nodding his head. “I know it’s useless to argue with you, as well. If you try to fight in this condition, you could easily be killed; but I know your word means more to you than your life.”
“Aye,” Robin Hood said, nodding at his new friend. “For one who but met me today, good Oliver, thou knowest me well! Mine own right hand, called Little John, could not have described me better.”
“And he was able to convince you to seek hospice in my humble dwelling, rather than charge madly on to meet the Sheriff’s champion,” the friar added. “I would have thought that feat beyond the powers of any, save perhaps my esteemed colleague, Tuck.”
“He was most convincing,” Robin Hood said, smiling. “And in the brief span I have known him, I have learned respect for his ways, strange though they be. But he was most correct; I cannot allow concern for my own life to lead me to break my word. ’Twas given, and shall be honored.”
“A moment, Robin,” the friar said. “What if there were a way thou couldst rest here until thy wound is healed, and yet keep thine appointment with the Sheriff’s champion?”
Robin Hood raised an eyebrow. “If thou knowst a way this may be done without resorting to black magic, speak on, Friar.”
“Friend Oliver is about thy equal in size and build,” the friar pointed out. “And you tell me his wizardry with the bow is exceeded only by thine own.”
“Aye, and by precious little, at that!” Robin Hood cried. “I begin to see, Friar! Good Oliver, thou hast done so much for me already, I shame myself to ask thou to do more. But if couldst see thy way clear to…”
Green Arrow beamed, a broad smile splitting his face. “I would be honored, Sir Robin, Earl of Locksley!”
“Well spoken,” Robin Hood grinned in return.
So a man from tomorrow,
Whom men call Green Arrow,
Impersonates good Robin Hood!
Will the Sheriff’s cruel eyes
See through his disguise?
Read on, and see what thou would!
“Tis getting late, my lord,” the Sheriff of Nottingham said to Sir Guy of Gisbourne, who stood beside him.
“He will be here,” Sir Guy said, unperturbed. “He gave his word that he would meet our champion. Robin Hood’s word is his bond.”
“Aye,” the Sheriff said, nodding his head. “Twill be his undoing, that.”
“Look you,” Sir Guy said, pointing. “He comes!”
A white horse was approaching, carrying a rider garbed in green. Green Arrow hung tightly to the reins of the horse and silently thanked his father for insisting on the riding lessons when he had been a child. The false beard clung to his face, affixed there by the Friar’s skillful hand. As he rode up to the area designated for the combat, he prayed he would be able to carry off the disguise.
“Well met, Robin Hood,” the Sheriff called. “You be masked. Why?”
Out of force of habit, Green Arrow had not removed his own mask when assuming the disguise of Robin Hood. It helped to conceal his eyes, which some clever person might recognize as not being Robin’s. “I am an outlaw from Prince John’s justice,” Green Arrow said, sneering the final word. “Should I not look the part?”
“Thou impertinent fellow!” the Sheriff spat. “Art thou come to meet my champion in battle, or to make base jokes?”
“I come to fight, Sheriff,” Green Arrow said, dismounting. “Produce thine champion, that I might humiliate him summarily.”
“Confident, art thou?” the Sheriff sniffed. “Very well. The champion shall be produced!”
Green Arrow watched as a man stepped out of a small black tent that stood on the lawn. The man was of a much darker complexion than the Englishmen, and his hair was slick and black. He wore a black leather vest over a maroon-colored shirt with billowing sleeves, black trousers, and shiny black boots. A pencil-thin moustache decorated his upper lip, and in his right hand he firmly clutched the handle of a black bullwhip.
“Robin of the Hood,” the Sheriff intoned, “Meet my champion. His name is El Escorpión, and I have had him brought here from faraway Spain for the sole purpose of bringing you to justice. His skill with the bullwhip is legendary.” El Escorpión cracked the whip once for emphasis; the crack sounded, to Green Arrow, like a rifle shot. “He will take great pleasure in slicing off your ears and eyelids, before he brings you to final defeat.”
Prince John’s evil notion
Brings from o’er the ocean
A killer dressed fully in black!
Will Green Arrow’s great skill
Be enough (pray it will!)
To survive this assassin’s attack?
“Begin!” the Sheriff cried suddenly. Like a bolt of black lightning, El Escorpión’s whip flashed out. Green Arrow barely had time to leap out of the way. He hit the ground in a roll, and when he came up from the roll he had drawn an arrow, notched it to the bowstring, and drawn the string to his chin. The arrow flew from the bow with a barely audible twang. El Escorpión saw the arrow coming and deflected it with a quick snap of his whip. He grinned in admiration for his opponent’s skill.
“Do not toy with him!” Sir Guy cried out. “He is too dangerous! Finish him!”
The Spanish assassin scowled, having little like for being ordered about like a peasant. But his whip flashed out again, and Green Arrow rolled just in time; the whip struck the ground inches from where he had been, kicking up a cloud of dust. The time-lost archer tried a new tactic; he drew two arrows and notched them both to the bow, firing them at once. The Spaniard was able to deflect one, but the other struck the ground at his feet and exploded into a cloud of black smoke.
“Sir Guy!” the Sheriff cried. “What magic is this? Robin Hood’s arrow creates smoke where there is no fire!”
“Magic, bah!” Sir Guy spat. “It is an alchemical trick! I knew an apothecary in Gloucester that could do the same. Robin is clever, indeed!”
The thick cloud of smoke blinded El Escorpión. The whip-master staggered out of the cloud, shaking his head this way and that to get his bearings. From the corner of his eye he saw a flicker of movement, a flash of green color. His whip lashed out like a black lightning bolt and splintered the green arrow that his opponent had hand-thrown to his left. Sensing the deceit, El Escorpión whirled to the right — but too late. Green Arrow’s blunt-headed shaft struck him in the right temple, and he fell like a sack of flour.
“Well done, Robin,” the Sheriff sneered. “The finest assassin in Spain. Feh. Should teach me better than to seek assistance outside the Sceptered Isle.”
“To live is to learn, good Sheriff,” Green Arrow said, with a sweeping bow. “Now, if I may have the thousand gold crowns, I will trouble you no more.”
“You cannot be serious,” Sir Guy said, snapping his fingers. A dozen archers drew their bowstrings, and Green Arrow found himself in the center of a ring of arrows aimed directly at him.
To the victor, the prize!
But in the Sheriff’s eyes,
Death be the day’s only purse!
With nowhere to hide,
Death on every side,
How could things ever grow worse?
“You disappoint me, Sheriff,” Green Arrow, maintaining his guise of Robin Hood, said to the Sheriff. “You resort to base trickery? Is your word worth nothing?”
“A word given to a thief and an outlaw is no bond,” the Sheriff retorted. “You are a scoundrel, Robin of the Hood!”
“I am all that, and more,” Green Arrow said. “But I am no liar. And what are you, Sir Guy?”
The proud nobleman flared with anger. “Take the rogue to the dungeon!” he cried.
“Wait!” a new voice cried. All heads looked in the direction of the shout and gasped in surprise, none so much as Green Arrow. It was El Escorpión.
“He is a man of honor,” the Spanish assassin declared, “and he defeated me fairly! He deserves better!”
“Nonsense!” Sir Guy snarled. “He used deception! Alchemical trickery! He did not defeat you fairly!”
“He used weapons I have never seen,” El Escorpión admitted. “But there is no trickery in that. His skill is greater than any I have seen! He is a warrior! He deserves better than this!” Again, the black whip of the Spaniard flashed out. “And he shall have it!” Three archers found the arrows suddenly knocked from their bows by El Escorpión’s lash.
“Escorpión, no!” Green Arrow cried. “Don’t you know he’ll–”
“Kill him!” Sir Guy shouted. Two other archers, their drawn arrows trained on Green Arrow, moved their targets and let their arrows fly. The shafts sped straight and true, finding a home in El Escorpión’s back even as he was disarming two other archers. No cry escaped the Spaniard’s lips as he crumpled to the grass.
Green Arrow stared at the body for a moment, then looked up at Sir Guy. “Thank you for answering my question,” he said coldly. “Now everyone here knows what you are.”
“And you, Sir Robin,” Guy sneered, “are a dead man! Take him away!”
Silently, Green Arrow allowed the remaining archers to lead him away. He said a silent prayer for the soul of El Escorpión, who scant minutes before had been his enemy, but had died as brave a companion as Green Arrow had found.
“We will hang the rogue on the morrow, Sir Guy!” the Sheriff cackled.
“Nay, not on the morrow,” Sir Guy said. “Monday next.”
“Why wait?” the Sheriff goggled in confusion.
“Give the word time to spread to Sherwood Forest,” Sir Guy said smoothly. “Robin’s band will doubtless try to rescue him, and then we shall have them all!” The grinning noble jabbed a thumb at the lifeless body in black. “Hang that from a nearby tree for the carrion birds.” The disgraced nobleman averted his eyes from the body of his paid assassin, the man who had shown more honor and courage than Guy would ever be capable of.
Green Arrow heard Sir Guy’s pronouncement as he walked. Hopefully, he would find a way to escape before his sentence was carried out. Otherwise, he would let them go on thinking they had captured Robin Hood. If he were unable to return to his own time, he would serve justice here as he had there; and if that meant by dying in Robin’s place, then so be it.
“Robin dies Monday next!”
The Merry Men shall be vexed
By the Sheriff’s pronouncement most foul!
But a trio of birds
Shall give lie to these words;
An eagle, a hawk, and an owl!