Excerpt for The Adventures of Godwin Hood - A Wanted Man by , available in its entirety at Smashwords












THE ADVENTURES OF GODWIN HOOD



A WANTED MAN






A SHORT NOVEL



by Matthew Howorth







Copyright 2018 Matthew Howorth



Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



Table of Contents



About Matthew Howorth

Other titles by Matthew Howorth

Contact Matthew Howorth







The Year of Our Lord 1193


Chapter I


The young deer paused in the clearing, nose twitching as it sniffed the morning air. It had only just left its mother's side and trembled with excitement and fear as it sensed something. Its body tensed as it heard a twig snap. Only the tail moved, swishing from side to side. The deer made a dash and disappeared into the forest which swallowed it up. A moment later, two figures emerged from the trees at the far side of the clearing. A man and a boy. They were both holding a longbow and the boy still had his arrow readied. Dressed in green tunics, they blended in with the lush surroundings.

‘It's gone,’ said the man, motioning to the empty clearing with his right hand. ‘You must not hesitate. Take the shot if it’s there. You won't get a second chance.’

The boy nodded. ‘Yes, father.’ He looked disappointed but the truth was he felt sorry for the young deer and didn't want to kill it. By pausing when he had the shot lined up and deliberately treading on the brittle branch, the deer had got wind of him and fled. But the boy knew his father was disappointed. His father ruffled his hair and smiled at him.

‘Don't worry, Godwin, there's always tomorrow.’

‘Yes, father. Tomorrow.’

His father looked into the forest. ‘We can tell the others that we didn't get close enough.’

Godwin nodded. When your father was Robin Hood, failure was not an option.



**********


The lady nervously peered from side to side as her horse walked along the path. The trees seemed to be closing in on both sides and her horse was getting jumpier. Lady Elsbeth de Lemann was scared as well but a woman of her breeding and stature could not show it. Besides, she had two of her most trusted bodyguards with her; one rode in front, the other behind. They were never still, scanning the forest with jaws set hard, eyes looking for the slightest movement.

‘Are we nearly there, Frederick?’ she asked the man in front of her.

He answered without turning around. ‘Not far, my lady. The path widens up ahead as we get nearer the city. The forest will soon be gone.’

She nodded. ‘Good, for these trees are beginning to give me the creeps.’

As if in reply, the shrill cry of a nocturnal creature rang out, making her jump. Her bodyguards smiled. They were almost out of Sherwood Forest and would soon be in Nottingham. At first, the two guards were not happy about being asked to escort Lady Elsbeth from York to Nottingham. They were men of action and found this boring. But she had an important message for Gisborne and her father had insisted they went. Besides, she had been good company considering she was the daughter of Lord Harold de Lemann, the most powerful man in York. She did not look down on them like her ladies-in-waiting did and she was very pretty. A nice little job in the end. They had stopped at the abbey at Newstead and then at Rufford, where they had been adequately looked after. Lady de Lemann had stayed in the best room, but Richard and Frederick had been disappointed in theirs. Richard was looking forward to having a good night in Nottingham, where there would be many pretty ladies looking for a strong and handsome knight to enjoy an evening with. The thought made him smile and he was still thinking of the fun he would have later when his horse bumped into Lady Elsbeth’s. Her horse had stopped.

‘My lady, is there a problem?’ he asked.

‘I think Frederick has seen something,’ she whispered.

Richard dug his heels into his horse's flank and it trotted past Lady Elsbeth's white gelding. He pulled up alongside Frederick's black horse and he leaned in close to speak.

‘What is it, Frederick?’

The other man didn't reply, staring at a part of the dark forest. At last, he blinked and replied. ‘Something in the forest moved. Just up ahead on the right, near that big oak.’

Richard could see nothing but a huge tree and a lot of smaller trees and bushes around it. ‘I see nothing.’

An arrow fizzed out of the undergrowth and buried itself between his eyes.



**********



Godwin listened as his father entertained everybody with the tale of the hunt. His father was an expert storyteller and Godwin smiled as Robin built up the tension superbly, before finishing in style. Laughter rang out around the camp fires and a number of the Merry Men slapped Godwin on the back in sympathy at missing out on his first kill.

‘It'll come lad!’ encouraged Little John, striking him hard enough to see stars.

‘Thanks, Little John. I'll get him next time!’ he smiled, still wincing. He walked away from the throng of adults to find his friends, who sat in their own little huddle. There was Little Billy, son of Little John. Billy actually was little, much to the surprise and embarrassment of his huge parents. Ellyn Scarlett, the daughter of Will, was talking with Leo, son of Much. Listening in were Tuck's twins, Jarin and Isabella, who for a change weren't fighting with each other. That wouldn't last. The last of their group was Tybalt, Alan a Dale's lad. He was a born joker and often diffused arguments within the group, especially between Jarin and his sister.

‘It doesn't matter,’ Leo said. ‘You'll never need to.’ Ellyn glowered at him.

‘What doesn’t?' asked Godwin.

Ellyn looked up with crystal blue eyes. ‘Apparently, it doesn't matter whether or not a girl can shoot a long bow, as Leo doesn't think we'll ever need to.’

‘That's right,’ said Leo. ‘It's us men that will look after Sherwood when we get older. We'll do the hunting and fighting…'

‘And we'll do the cooking?’ interrupted Ellyn.

Isabella laughed. ‘If we had to rely on Jarin for food, we'd soon starve,’ she said, pointing at her brother. ‘He couldn't hit a deer if it sat down in front of him!’

‘No, but if it was fat as you, I could!’ he said, launching himself at his sister. They tumbled over, rolling around on the soft earth. Although they were born only minutes apart, Isabella was bigger and stronger than her brother and soon had the upper hand. Within seconds, she had wrestled him to the ground and was sitting on his chest, her knees pinning his arms. He thrashed around but quickly ran out of energy. Isabella smiled and grabbed a fistful of leaves, cramming them into his mouth. Jarin tried to move his head but she held him firm.

‘Give in?’ she asked, stuffing another handful into his bulging mouth. Jarin's cheeks looked ready to burst and his eyes sparkled with hatred but he refused to yield. Fights between siblings were always the worst, with neither wanting to give in.

‘I think he's had enough,’ Godwin said, watching Jarin's face turn red.

‘Not until he says it!’ replied Isabella, slapping his face with one hand whilst her other held Jarin's mouth shut to prevent him spitting out the leaves. Jarin's eyes began to roll as he struggled for oxygen.

‘Isabella, stop, he can't breathe!’ Ellyn said, her eyes filling with tears.

‘That's enough!’ Godwin's stern voice cut through and at last got through to Isabella. She stopped holding his mouth and slowly rolled off her brother. Jarin retched and spat out soggy leaves. Godwin was amazed at how many there were. Jarin turned his head and threw up. He then faced Isabella.

‘You almost killed me! I couldn't breathe!’ he gasped.

His sister eyed him calmly. ‘But you're all right now, so don't worry. Besides, I think we've both proven Leo wrong.’

Leo frowned. ‘How so?’

Isabella turned to face him and smiled. ‘Well, who would you prefer to be looking after Sherwood in the future, me or the leaf-eater?’ The others sniggered and Leo didn't answer.

‘Precisely,’ Isabella replied.

‘Are you okay, Jarin?’ asked Ellyn.

‘Course I am!’ he snapped. ‘Which is surprising, having had a fat hog sat on me!’ he yelled, throwing a bunch of leaves in his sister's face. She roared and jumped to her feet, but he was quicker and disappeared into the crowd of adults. She raced after him, yelling all the terrible things she was going to do when she caught him.

‘So Leo, you were saying?’ asked Tybalt with a mischievous smile.

Leo sighed.




**********



Robin looked over the people of Sherwood, his people, and smiled. They were a fine bunch. Loyal, tough and always ready to help each other. Those that were not did not last long in Sherwood Forest. Many of them had been together for years but he always found the time to get to know new arrivals. Some had joined after being forced out of their village due to the rising taxes imposed by King John, whilst others had sadder stories to tell. Women with their children who had lost a husband and father in the war, men who had been forced off the land or were fleeing from being forced into the Crusades. But the saddest of all were the children. Children who had been orphaned, or beaten. Some of them were like wild animals when they came and were almost feral. They took the longest to adapt to their new life and things frequently went missing as little hands pinched other people’s belongings. But they always came round in the end. Much of that had to do with the other children, who took them under their wing and taught them the ways of living in Sherwood. It got Robin thinking about his son and only child, Godwin. He wondered what Marian would say if she could see her child now. She would be proud of the boy he had grown to be and the young man he was maturing into. Godwin was 14 now and within a couple of years, would be taller than his father. His son was smart and good looking, with a sharp wit and a keen sense of fairness. He was an expert with the staff and the bow although Robin wondered why he still hadn't shot his first deer. Godwin could hit an apple at thirty paces so it wasn't his aim. It was something else. Robin shook his head and smiled. His son was a fine boy and his mother, God rest her soul, would be proud.



**********



The white gelding cantered along the path, flicking stones from its hoofs as they hit the floor. A few peasants in the fields around the outskirts of Nottingham looked up from their work. At first, there appeared to be no rider. Then they saw that somebody was lying across the saddle, either unconscious or dead. None of them stopped working completely, as that would warrant a beating. In fact, nobody went to help as the horse gradually slowed to a walking pace and neared the city gates. At last, a guard of the city watch left his post and called out.

‘Halt! State your business in Nottingham!’




**********




Chapter II


He stared at the papers, furrowing his brow. He kept glancing from one to the other, checking the figures again. Throwing them on the desk, he reached for his goblet of wine and drank it in one gulp. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he turned to face the man who stood patiently at the side of the desk.

‘It appears they may have paid the tax after all,’ Gisborne said, grabbing the papers one more time and passing them to the man, who took them gently and glanced at them quickly before raising his eyes.

‘Yes, sir.’

Gisborne sighed. He did not need this hassle. He’d sent a few of his more brutal men in to collect what had been perceived as unpaid taxes and the soldiers had taken it a bit further than necessary. Anyway, the end result was some burnt huts, a couple of ravaged women and four people killed. Now it seemed that the villagers were innocent and had paid all their taxes. Gisborne waved his arm dismissively.

‘Send them a goat or something. But no apology.’

His advisor paused. Gisborne sighed again.

‘Yes, Longton? What is it?’

Longton was a tall, thin man with a serious face. He had a close-cropped beard and a long, bent nose that gave him a scholarly look, which he was.

‘Sir, if we send them something, it would suggest a mistake had been made...’

‘It has,’ Gisborne interrupted.

‘An oversight rather than a mistake,’ Longton continued smoothly. ‘To suggest otherwise could provoke further feelings of discontent and the sheriff would be most unpleased.’

At the mention of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s name, Gisborne turned and glared at Longton. ‘He does not need to know about this. He has enough to contend with. Bother him not.’ Longton raised his eyebrows. Gisborne continued. ‘To hell with them. Just a bunch of peasants anyway!’ he snarled.

‘Precisely, sir,’ Longton answered, pouring Guy of Gisborne another cup of wine.



**********



For a long time, the young boy stood looking at the burnt remains of what used to be his house. The house he was born in. The house he was raised in. The house where he would play with his big sister and listen to stories told by his father. He looked around for anything he could take to remember it. There was nothing. Everything had gone, all had been destroyed. His mother and sister, abused and then discarded by the soldiers. His father, killed for standing up to them and daring to fight back. And William Wood did not escape unscathed. A long scar across his left cheek for trying to attack the men who had destroyed his world. A deep and ugly wound, to remind him of what happens to those who raise their hand against the King’s men. Even if he was only 12 years old.

His parents had been popular in the village and for that reason, William had hoped that one of the families would take him in but how wrong he was. No sooner had it happened, than he found himself an outcast. Times were hard and food was scarce; there was not enough to go around. People that had before greeted him with a smile and ruffled his hair now ignored him or worse, sent him on his way with a clip around the ear. There would be no charity in this village and William had nothing to stay for. But he also had nowhere to go. He had heard the rumours of the outlaw living in Sherwood Forest, who welcomed strangers whose lives had taken a turn for the worse. What had he got to lose? William took one last look at the charred embers of his home and walked out of the village, not looking back.




**********



Maybe he had made a mistake. The first part of the forest had been fine, with the sun shining through the branches and lighting up his path. Birds had been chirping to keep him company and his footsteps had kept a rhythmic beat on the road. But that was a while ago now. The light had faded and the birds had disappeared.

He was alone.

The trees that had looked so pretty swaying in the gentle wind now loomed menacingly in the fading light. They cast huge shadows over him like a net, trying to draw him into the dark forest. William tried not to be scared but he couldn’t help it. He had never been out of the fields and woods around his village before. Who knew what was watching him from the murky undergrowth? He had no weapon apart from his dagger and hoped that his relative youth would act as a deterrent to a potential robber. But what if it wasn’t a man? What wild animals roamed these parts? He remembered the men of the village sitting around the fire at night, talking in low tones about the wolves and bears that prowled the dark woods. Tales of huge, fierce creatures that could rip apart the biggest dog. William shivered and tightened his cape around his neck. His fingers found the dagger around his waist and he stroked it, trying to reassure himself as he felt the pointed but blunt blade.

His senses were screaming at him, each of them telling him to run, run, run while you can! Flee! Get away from here! But William gritted his teeth and stood tall. He would not run. He was no coward, no matter how scared he felt. Besides, he hadn’t actually seen or heard anything that really could have been a wolf or bear...only in his imagination. He was still consoling himself with this thought when he heard a noise in the bushes to his left.



**********



Leo shut his eyes and sighed as Little Billy gave their position away.

‘How can somebody so small make so much noise?’ he whispered, glaring at Little Billy.

Little Billy shrugged. ‘Maybe he didn’t hear us.’

‘Us? Us?’ Leo snapped. ‘It’s you he heard! Just follow me!’

With that, he crouched and padded into the undergrowth, disappearing from sight. Little Billy huffed then followed him into the bushes.



**********



William stared at the bushes where the noise came from, but heard nothing more. Maybe it was just a nocturnal animal rummaging through the undergrowth looking for some food. Hopefully a small one. He took a tentative step forward and then another one. No sound followed him from the wall of darkened green. William felt more confident and quickened his pace, resisting the urge to look over his shoulder. Maybe something was following him. Creeping up on him from behind, quietly closing the gap between them until it could...another noise! Behind him! He spun around on his toes holding his dagger out in front of him, ready to fight or flee.

Nothing.

There was nothing there.

But he had definitely heard something. William blinked and thought what to do.

He wanted to run.

But if there was something stalking him, then it would chase him down in seconds and drag him into the woods. He thought about investigating the noise, but quickly discounted it. If it was a small creature, he would not find it, it would stay easily hidden. But if it was something bigger, then he would be walking straight towards it. No, that was not the answer. He must keep going. William turned around and saw a blur of movement before something clouted him in the head and he fell to the floor unconscious.



**********



He opened his eyes and his first thought was that he was still alive. William winced as the pain from his head started to throb and a thin line of blood crept down the side of his face. He was lying down in the forest and looked around for signs of his attacker. He cursed as he found his hands bound behind his back. William looked in all directions but saw only forest. He had no idea where the path was, but knew that it would be foolish to wait for his attacker to return. He was still deciding which direction to run when he saw four figures materialising out of the dusk light. He swallowed and steeled himself to face death with the strength and courage that his father had shown.

The figures drew closer and he could hear them talking. They were not men, but boys, and about his age. As they came nearer, he saw them smiling and laughing, and he felt angry. Angry at what had happened to his family. Angry at having to leave his village. And angry at having been knocked out and tied up. He tried not to show it and greeted his captors with a blank stare.

‘I see you’re back on your feet, fellow!’ chirped Godwin with a smile. ‘Allow me to introduce myself. I am Godwin. This is Leo, Tybalt and Little Billy.’ The other three looked at William without smiling. ‘And you are?’

William flexed his shoulders to show that he was still bound.

‘Of course, you must be freed. After all, you pose no threat to us.’ Godwin looked at him with a steely glint in his eye. ‘No threat. Do you?’

‘I pose you no threat.’

Godwin nodded. He strode up to William, drawing his dagger. William turned and Godwin sliced through the bonds. Nodding thanks, William rubbed his sore wrists and extended his hand to Godwin.

‘My name is William. William Wood.’

‘Well then William Wood, what brings you to Sherwood Forest?’

‘I will tell you. But first, which of you packs a punch like a horse’s kick?’ He smiled in admiration. ‘Twas the hardest I have ever been hit!’ One of the boys bowed theatrically.

‘That would be me.’

‘And you are?’

‘Leo. Son of Much the Miller.’

William smiled. ‘Then Leo, I must shake your hand, the hand that took one mighty swipe to knock me clean out!’ Leo cheerfully trotted forward a couple of steps and proudly extended his hand to William. He was met with a sharp punch to the jaw that made him stumble back a few feet before falling onto the floor, more off-balance than hurt. The others quickly reached for weapons but Godwin held his arm out.

‘Hold it.’ They stood their ground but still had their weapons at the ready. ‘But William, you said that you posed us no threat.’

‘I said I pose you no threat. And I have nothing against the others. But the boy who hit me...him I owe. Now we are even. I will not raise my hand again, that I swear.’

‘On what?’

William didn’t blink. ‘On the souls of my parents and sister.’

Godwin furrowed his brow as he weighed up what he’d heard. He broke the tension with a big smile and crunching through the undergrowth, patted William hard on the back. ‘That’s good enough for me! Welcome, William! You already know who we are. Sherwood Forest is our home. What brings you here?’

William didn’t answer. He didn’t trust his voice not to break; he couldn’t talk about his family just yet.

‘I seek Robin Hood.’

Godwin raised an eyebrow. ‘Robin Hood, you say?’

William nodded.

‘Why?’ asked Godwin firmly.

‘Because I have nowhere else to go.’

‘Is that so?’

William continued. ‘And I heard that Robin Hood is the voice of the people, someone who stands up for those who can’t be heard.’

‘That he is.’ Godwin smiled again. ‘Come, William, I shall take you to him.’

With that, Godwin disappeared into the dark forest and the others padded after him. William needed no second invitation and ran after them.



**********



Chapter III


The man and his horse were quickly surrounded by people, who pulled and reached for him as he slowed to a walking pace outside the castle gates. He smiled and nodded at them, uttering assurances of things he would see to. The Sheriff of Nottingham tried to maintain his composure but his temper rose as his patience quickly evaporated. Dirty fingers snatched at his jewelled sleeves and their stench almost made him retch.

‘Get them away from me!’ he snarled to one of the burly guards that rode behind him. The guard yanked his horse around and steered it directly at the group of people, knocking a few to the floor that were too slow to get out of the way.

‘Move aside you peasants!’ he yelled, batting them with the back of his mailed fist. A woman screamed and fell to the floor clutching her face. Another of the guards moved alongside the Sheriff and together they cleared a path through the heaving mass. The Sheriff dug his heels into his huge black horse, which reacted instantly and sprang into a trot. There were fewer bystanders clogging the area as they crossed the drawbridge and the gates were shut as his entourage entered. A young lad took the reins of his horse as he stepped down but he completely ignored them. He strode purposefully in the direction of a huge wooden door and shoved it open without knocking, an angry look on his face.




Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-16 show above.)