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Silver and the Ghost Horse


SMASHWORDS EDITION

Published by

Outer Banks Publishing Group

on Smashwords

Silver and the Ghost Horse

By Koos Verkaik

Copyright © 2018 by Koos Verkaik

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SILVER and the GHOST HORSE

Book 3 of the Saladin Series


By Koos Verkaik






Silver and the Ghost Horse. Copyright © 2018 by Koos Verkaik. All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America by Outer Banks Publishing Group – Outer Banks/Raleigh.


www.outerbankspublishing.com


No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

For information contact Outer Banks Publishing Group at


info@outerbankspublishing.com


This book is a work of fiction. All the characters and events in this book are not real, and any resemblance to actual events organizations or actual persons living or dead is unintentional.


Cover design by Maverick Book Services

www.mavericktambiga.wixsite.com/bookservices


FIRST EDITION – June 2018


ISBN 13 - 978-1-7320452-2-4

ISBN 10 - 1-7320452-2-4

eISBN - 9780463512760

Also by Koos Verkaik

DUTCH

Novels


Adolar

Terug naar het Dorp

Conflict Afrika

Mana, en Toen Brak de Hel los

De Meesterparasiet

Grapstad

Psycho Park

Alvader

Wolfstranen

Neanderthaler Dromen

De Dans van de Nar


Series of Children’s Books,

Saladin Series


Saladin het Wonderpaard

Saladin en Silver

Silver en het Spookpaard

De Nar van Nottingham


Slimmetje Series


Het Konijn uit de Hoed

De Boze Beer

Schipbreuk

De Hoge Hoed is weg

Ridder Joris

De Schat van Kabouter Bollewijn

Professor in Paniek

De Tovertrein

De Verdwaalde Walvis

Sneeuwmannen in Kabouterland

Otto de Otter

Krimpende Paddestoelen


Wolpertinger series


De Monsterherberg

De Onderlanden

Oom Ballon

Het Land van Franje

De Drakentuin

Roest IJzervreter

Drie Dolle Prinsen

Koning Leo Lawaai

De Kater is Jarig

Alex de Grote

Heros de Haas


ENGLISH

Novels


The Nibelung Gold

All-Father

The Dance of the Jester

HIM, After the UFO Crash

Heavenly Vision

Series of Children’s Books


Alex and the Wolpertinger


The Monster Inn

The Downhills

Uncle Balloon

The Land of Fringe

The Dragon Garden


Saladin Series


Saladin the Wonder Horse

Saladin and Silver

Silver and the Ghost Horse

The Jester of Nottingham











This series is dedicated to all brave, adventurous children in the world

1 The Giant from the Dungeon

Two jesters sat down in the corridor. They gazed out one of the many windows of the big castle, they could see Nottingham and, in the far distance, the vast forests. The sunlight fell inside and made the little copper bells that hung down from their fool’s caps sparkle brightly.

The jesters themselves weren’t in a merry mood at all. Only a moment ago they had tried to cheer up the prince. They had told him the newest jokes and showed him their latest tricks, but the prince had shoved them into the corridor.

“King Richard was a much nicer person,” grumbled one of them.

The other jester started to tremble causing the little bells on his clothes to jingle.

“Quiet, keep your big mouth shut! Never mention the king’s name in this castle! Do you want someone to hear you? Prince John will have a severe punishment for you.

“Quiet!”

The first jester put a hand on the arm of the second one, who fell silent immediately. Light footsteps sounded in the corridor and a little man with a round belly appeared, dressed in a wide coat trimmed with fur and full of sparkling precious stones.

The two jesters rose to their feet, made a bow and said,

“We greet you, noble counselor. We greet you!”

The man muttered something unintelligible, knocked on a big, high door and then went inside.

The two jesters sat down again.

“Counselor Rupert, sly as a fox, scared as a weasel. What is he going to discuss with the prince? Yes, you are right, it is not easy these days to stay funny!”





Counselor Rupert entered the great hall and stopped close to the door. Servants stood confused standing along the walls, staring at their shoes. There was no one who dared to look up.

Prince John, who sat down at the head of a long table, filled his mug with wine and listened to his daughter Wanda, the princess who had longed to possess Angie’s wonder horse. The princess stamped her feet on the floor and clenched her fists.

“I’m really ashamed for my own father! We have done everything we could to arrest that rebellious child, that Angie. But no, oh, no! Finally, you even had to run for these friends of her – for Robin Hood and his men. All those outlawed good-for-nothings were too sharp for you! When will you finally set things straight? Send your soldiers to the forests or just set all these woods, where they hide, on fire!”

Prince John put the mug down on the table so hard, that the wine splashed out and dripped down from his hand.

“That’s not the way a daughter talks to her father! Enough, you hear? Enough!”

While the servants and the counselor stood there trembling on their feet, the princess simply couldn’t stop.

“These are the facts! Angie and her horse Silver have made a fool of you. Not once, no, many times! In the meantime, everyone has heard of these two and they had become famous in a short time!”

“Enough, I said!”

The prince rose to his feet and reached for the hilt of his sword.

“I do my very best! I do what I can, don’t I? That girl is frustrating… the same as Robin Hood. But I will get hold of them, you bet!”

This seemed the right moment for Counselor Rupert to join in the conversation. He walked up to the table, made a deep bow and then started to speak in a soft, polite voice.

“I know all about the problems, Your Highness. I also understood that you have sent for me to assist and advise.”

The price plumped down into his chair again. He looked tired, with bags under his eyes and wrinkles in his face.

“I beg your pardon, Your Highness. It has been a long time since you made use of my services and you asked other counselors for help, so, well…”

“Wait a minute, you, toady. Don’t you have anything more meaningful to say?”

“Certainly! Certainly! There are plenty of plans in my head, Your Highness, and I am so happy that I can finally come up with them now. I promise you a golden future! Angie and Robin in the dungeons, Silver and Saladin in the barn, and you on the most beautiful throne in the world!”

Wanda sat down. With big eyes, she stared at the sneaky counselor, who grinned and wrung his hands and continued.

“Firstly. You should look like a king. Too often you wear your hunting habit, while in the chambers of, eh… your missing brother Richard. you should find the most expensive coats, shoes and swords and even crowns. The people should see you as a real king. I will send for the most beautiful crown of Richard the Lionhearted. Show the people that you are the right person to wear this crown!”

The prince rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger. Then he slowly nodded.

“I understand you, Rupert, I can follow you. You’re not such a fool as you look after all. I will dress like a king and act like a king. The people will look up to me and they will get blinded by the sparkle of the precious stones that decorate my crown. Oh yes, they’ll have to admit that I am their one and only king. Nevertheless, Rupert, that way I’ll still not have Angie and Robin in my dungeons.”

“And Silver and Saladin not in the stables,” the princess hastened to say.

Rupert smiled subtly and rubbed his hands so firmly that one could hear his fingers crack.

“Fighting is no pastime for a nobleman like you, Prince John! You should leave that to the real hoodlums. Soon you will wear cloth of pure silk and fur. You will also wear the most expensive crown your brother ever possessed. And you won’t make such clothes dirty by chasing a bunch of agitators.”

The prince poured himself some more wine. The servant who actually had to do that, stood trembling by the wall.

“Now go on, Rupert. Don’t beat about the bush. I want to hear all about your plans.”

“Well then, Your Highness… Who likes to have a solid scuffle? Who is not afraid to go into the dark forests and confront Robin Hood?”

“Come up with your advice. Don’t speak in riddles.”

“No, I don’t speak in riddles at all, noble Prince. There’s this man in your army… Ha-ha! a giant of a man, fearing nothing and nobody. He’s just an ordinary soldier, but… all officers fear him. He’s a rascal, a bandit, he’s no good at all, but he’s as brave as a man can be. He doesn’t start to shiver when he sees the enemy, no, he falls upon them with his sword in his hand. Give this man the chance to deal with your enemies. And while you have a great time here in your splendid castle, he will do the dirty work for you.”

“Counselor Rupert, you’re great! You’re terrific. Now tell me where is that soldier?”

“Nearby, Your Highness. Right beneath you, to be precise.”

The prince shoved back his chair and looked at his feet.

“Where exactly?”

“Beneath you, Your Highness, as I already mentioned. He has been ranting and raving like an animal during the last days and everyone is afraid of him. Then the officers gave him so much wine that he fell asleep. It took six men to drag him to the dungeon.”

“What’s his name?” Wanda wanted to know.

“Buck Bains, Princess. Buck Bains… the strongest soldier in your father’s army!”

“Bring him to the great hall!” ordered the prince.

“I will see to that personally,” promised the counselor turning quickly to leave.

It didn’t take long before he was back again. Prince John and his daughter looked up in surprise when behind Rupert a second figure popped up in the doorway. The door was only just high enough to let him through! Buck Bains walked past Rupert with long strides and remained standing right in front of the prince. He didn’t make a bow and only gave a short nod.

“You need me, Prince John?” he asked in a low voice.

The prince looked him up and down attentively. Buck Bains was a man to fear! He had dark, mad eyes, wide jaws, was incredibly muscular and he was far much taller than an ordinary man. He looked out a little clumsy in front of him and held his hands on his back. His enormous chest swelled by every breath he took and when he breathed out again it was as if a storm rose in the great hall! He wore huge leather boots, leather trousers and a jerkin with short sleeves. One had taken his sword away and down from his belt dangled an empty sheath.

“You’re the man I am looking for,” concluded the prince.

Well, that’s nice…” thought Buck Bains.

“Have you ever been afraid?” asked the princess. “I mean, afraid for another soldier, for a thunderstorm or anything else?”

Buck Bains started to grin.

“Princess, I really don’t know what fear is. More than often I have had it explained to me, but I simply don’t understand what one is talking about.”

Wanda stood up. She pointed at an open window.

“Outside there are the vast forests. The forests where Robin Hood and his men stay. Do you have the guts to go there?”

“I shouldn’t know why not!”

“And what if Robin Hood unexpectedly stands right in front of you? Together with Little John, that superman?”

“I would clash their heads together!” roared Buck Bains.

“We are going to make a deal, you and I,” the prince smiled at him. “Sit down, Buck Bains. And you too, Rupert.”

The giant took a seat. The chair cracked when he leaned backward. He put his enormous fists on the table and said.

“Very well, Your Highness, but I have troubles talking on an empty stomach. I mean…”

“But of course, my dearest friend! They should never have thrown you in a chilly dungeon. Servants! What we need here are wine and food! Hurry! A man like Buck Bains doesn’t like to wait for his food!”

The servants left the great hall in a hurry. In the kitchen, they set the cooks to work and they themselves took some big jars from the wine cellars. Back in the great hall they poured a huge mug for Buck and put one of the jars on the table.

“Cheers!” spoke Prince John.

“Cheers,” said Buck and he did not reach for the mug but for the jar and brought it to his mouth.

He began to drink greedily. He had almost emptied the jar when the prince said with s smile.

“Yes… cheers! Drink to the Sheriff of Nottingham!”

The giant gave a start and spit out the last swig. He wiped his mouth and looked at the prince in surprise.

“The Sheriff of Nottingham? What do we have to do with him? I don’t like that fellow at all. He keeps an eye on me, every time I sit down in the inn of Nottingham. Every time I drink a little bit too much wine, he sends me back to the army camp!”

The prince rose to his feet and beckoned a servant, who put the second jar on the table.

“Buck Bains… I think you didn’t understand me right. When I drink to the Sheriff of Nottingham, I drink to you!”

Now it became clear that Bains was not exactly the most intelligent soldier of the prince’s army, for he still did not understand and all he did was stare greedily at the full jar.

“From now on you are the Sheriff of Nottingham. With all rights and duties that go with it. You will get a nice, new sword and a generous pay. You have the right to arrest every shady character. You’re a real bloke now, Bains. Bring Robin Hood and that girl Angie to my castle. Together with their famous horses Saladin and Silver. Then the people will know that Prince John is not to be trifled with. If you can do that for me, my dear friend, I will shower you with many gifts. I will knight you and even give you a castle. Well, how about that, Buck Bains?”

“Exactly,” grinned the giant. “Here’s to the Sheriff of Nottingham! Cheers… Well, well, I am a sheriff now!”

Counselor Rupert laughed satisfied.

“This great plan of mine turned out well. Buck can get cracking; the prince and the princess are happy. And I will retire to my own chambers now.”

He rose to his feet and made a bow for the prince. But when he started to walk away, Prince John beckoned him to stand still.

“Not so fast, Rupert, wait a minute. Are you sure that Bains will be able to defeat the enemy?”

“I certainly think so, Your Highness, he will absolutely succeed.”

“You may wish that you are right. For you will have to assist Buck Bains and give him your best advice. You will follow the giant as if you are his very own shadow. Don’t lose sight of him and tell him exactly what he has to do.”

“Follow him as if I am his shadow? Do you mean, my dear, noble prince, that I also must follow him to Sherwood? To Robin Hood?”

“Ah, do you see now, Rupert, that you are a real sly fox? Half a word from me is already enough for you.”

The giant had emptied the second jar.

“Pay attention to that as well, Rupert. Every time he drinks too much, you put the jar away.”

Buck Bains banged his fist on the table.

“Great! Great!! What a joke, Your Highness! I’ll take that little counselor in tow. Then we can have lots of fun together. Oh yes, little coward, we will catch Robin Hood and Angie!”

Food was brought in. Bains ate enormous amounts of sausages and pies. Everyone was surprised to see how he gobbled it all down.

When he had finished, he took hold of Counselor Rupert and pressed him under his arm as if the little fellow with his round belly was as light as a feather. The giant bowed for the prince and the princess and then left the great hall, with the floundering counselor still under his strong arm.

“Let’s go, Rupert. Actually, I’m still hungry. But there is a lot to be done. But first, you are going to tell the Sheriff of Nottingham that I am the Sheriff of Nottingham.”

After the two had left, Prince John looked at his daughter.

“Well? Are you finally satisfied?”

Wanda’s eyes sparkled.

“This is great, father. Now I have faith again. I will get my wonder horses and you will get a dungeon full of outlawed agitators. How happy I will be when Angie is finally locked up.”

“And I will be happy when that dangerous Robin Hood is no longer around to set the people against me.”

“Come, father, let’s go to the chambers of Uncle Richard. We will try to find that beautiful crown Rupert was talking about. And maybe there is a nice crown for me as well. Set with many, many precious stones!”

The servants sighed with relief after father and daughter had left the great hall. They all gave a start when the door swung open again. Four cooks entered, carrying huge dishes full of food.

“More food for Buck Bains!” they cried out. “The sausages and pies were the first courses only!”

“Too late!” said one of the servants. “The giant is already gone. Anyway, put it all on the table, friends. We will eat it all ourselves. A meal for a giant will be more than enough for the ten of us!”

Soon it was quiet in the great hall. The servants and the cooks feasted upon the food and wine that was meant for Buck Bains…




Angie pressed a hand on her stomach.

When was the last time she had eaten something? When was the last time she had drunk something other than a bit of water? She looked at Silver, the beautiful young stallion. The horse stood there grazing. His long tail swung to and from. She could hear how he tore the lush grass loose with his teeth and crushed it between his molars. At least Silver was not hungry.

The wonder horse looked great. The supple muscles, moving under the silver skin, gave away the animal’s litheness and strength. Silver was Angie’s faithful friend, her help and stay. What would she be without him, here in this land reigned by Prince John? All of his soldiers were looking for her, there was a price on her head because she had remained loyal to King Richard the Lionhearted. Just as Robin Hood, she had been outlawed and if Silver hadn’t been there, she would already have been arrested.

She found herself not far from Nottingham. Of course, it was extremely dangerous for her here, so close to the caste of Prince John, but hunger had driven her and she had ended up here without realizing.

Most of the time she found something editable on her ramblings or she came across friendly people who were willing to share their food with her. For the people, groaning under the terror of Prince John, hoped for the return of their king and were sympathetic towards Angie.

All she had eaten the last few days were some blackberries and nuts she had found in the forest.

And so Angie looked up in delight when she had walked on with Silver and suddenly spotted a sleeping man lying on the grass; next him sat a water-skin, a small wine jar and lots of different kinds of food. She saw sausages and bread, little carrots and bacon. It made her mouth water! She looked around quickly. In the distance, she saw the towers of the castle and the roofs of the little town of Nottingham. There were no other people in the neighborhood – the sleeping man was the only living soul for miles around and he snored lustily.

His sword lay not far away from him. She could not see the man’s face, because he had pushed his nose in his elbow and rested his forehead on his arm.

I’m sure he won’t miss a little piece of bread and a little piece of sausage,” she told herself; she didn’t like to steal anything, but she was so hungry now that nothing could stop her from not doing it. “And maybe a little sip of wine and a huge swallow of water…”

She snapped her fingers. Silver looked up. Angie made a gesture and the intelligent animal understood immediately what she expected him to do. Without making a sound the horse walked up right in front of the man, who was still snoring. Silver was ready to run. Now Angie could come closer, snatch away a bit of the food, jump into the saddle and take off with Silver.

She moved closer, stooped and listened intently to the breathing of the man. He was a big fellow with a huge belly. A strong bloke, who would give her a sound thrashing if he should catch her stealing. But he was still snoring, so she reached out for all the delicious foods within her reach. She broke a piece of the bread, snatched a sausage and didn’t dare to take a swig of the wine or the water. Lithe as a cat she jumped into the saddle, took a bite of bread galloped away with Silver.

“Stop!” she heard a gruff voice say.

She found herself already far enough from the man to feel relatively safe and therefore she let her horse stop. It seemed decent to thank the man for his generous gifts and explain to him why she had stolen the food.

“Angie! It is you!” the man cried out.

He had sat up straight on the grass and had grabbed his sword. Now she was able to see his face, she recognized him immediately. She started to grin.

“Well, well… the Sheriff of Nottingham! What a coincidence! The sheriff in person! You almost caught me! How happy Prince John would have been if you had dragged me along to his castle!”

She showed him the bread and the sausage.

“Thank you so much, sheriff. Now I know that I stole this from you, it will taste twice as good.”

The man rose to his feet.

“Sit down and relax, man,” Angie told him. “No way you’ll manage to catch me. The moment you’ve taken one single step, Silver has already brought me up to the horizon.”

The man sat down heavily on the hard ground.

“You’re right. I know that wonder horse of yours only too well. No faster horse has ever existed in all of England. But don’t be afraid, Angie… Yesterday I would have thrown my sword at you… today I invite you to come sit down with me. I will share everything with you. Bread, raw little carrots, wine, water… just come over here. I won’t do you any harm.”

Angie brushed her light brown hair away from her dark eyes. This was something completely new to her! The Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin Hood’s arch enemy, wanted to share his bread with her? Was she dreaming, maybe? And how sad he looked as he sat there, this sheriff…

“Believe me on my word of honor. Come and sit here, there’s nothing to fear. I have a lot to tell you.”

Angie thought about his request. Could she trust him? Yes, he was the Sheriff of Nottingham, the man who would execute all the prince’s orders without asking questions, but he didn’t give his word of honor just like that and hopefully he is a man of his word. There was something wrong with him; that was clear to her now.

To enforce his words, the sheriff threw his sword away. It landed in a nearby bush.

Angie jumped out of the saddle. She sat down on the grass opposite the sheriff and Silver started to graze behind her. With a smile, Angie handed the sheriff half of the stolen sausage.

“Share and share alike, sheriff!”

“Ha-ha! That’s a good one! It’s my own food. You little thief… Oh well, here, take some more bread and some carrots.”

“Why are you not in the town, sheriff? Or is this your day off?”

The sheriff, who just wanted to take a bite of his bread, let the food be and grabbed the jar of wine. Only after he had taken a big swig, did he begin to talk?

“Now tell me, Angie… tell me in all honesty, haven’t I always done my utmost to get that friend of yours, Robin Hood, behind bars?”

“I would certainly think so, sheriff!”

“Didn’t I give everyone who dared to say the name of King Richard a loud slap on his behind with the flat side of my sword?”

“No doubt about that!”

“And who was the one who gave Robin’s accomplices a proper beating when they dared to show themselves in Nottingham?”

“That was you, sheriff!”

“Exactly. Who has laid in wait for you, behind bushes and walls, in trees and pits, hoping to catch you? Who lay in ambush in rain and cold to arrest you and your wonder horse and take you to the prince?”

“You, no one less than you!”

“I’m glad you know it, Angie. Here, take some more slices of sausage and have something to drink. You know Angie… the fat’s in the fire. I mean it, the fat is in the fire! Now the real troubles will start!”

“You shouldn’t have taken your helmet off,” said Angie with her mouth full. “That way you wouldn’t have suffered from sunstroke. You’re not a young man anymore and…”

“Don’t talk rubbish. I’ve had a visit from Counselor Rupert, one of Prince John’s most important advisors. He stood right in front of me and said, ‘Off you go!’ Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about, but from behind him a colossus of a man popped up and he said, ‘sheriff, you are no longer sheriff because I am sheriff.’”

Silver started to neigh loudly, and Angie burst out laughing. Now she was really convinced that the man was overcome by the heat.

“Please listen! There is a soldier in the army of Prince John who is so strong that he can uproot a tree with one hand, while he uses his other hand to lift a horse like Saladin. Buck Bains, the monster of the army! He is the new Sheriff of Nottingham. I have been pushed aside just like that, after everything I did for the prince. There is nothing left for me to do; I am allowed to lie on the grass for the rest of my life with a jar of wine to my left and lots of delicacies to my right.”

“That’s quite something. Now I understand why you won’t do me any harm. You feel offended, don’t you? Disappointed and a little angry.”

“Exactly, offended and disappointed.”

“And angry.”

“Right. Angry as well. I must warn you, little girl! The prince wants to see things done quickly now. Even if Buck Bains must burn down all forests in England. He will not find rest before he has found Robin Hood. The prince wants four things. One: Robin Hood and his men. Two: You! Three…”

“I think I know about three and four,” said Angie. “Saladin and Silver. Thank you very much for this information. It is no longer safe for me here.”

“It has never been safe for you here and you know that very well! But now it is even more dangerous for you to hang around here. Run, as long as you can!”

“That’s what I do all my life. I must go and warn my friend Robin!”

“So you’re off to Sherwood Forest?”

She shook her head.

“Robin is not in Sherwood Forest. I think he’s in the castle of Knight Flint, where we have fought against the soldiers of the prince. He should stay there for a while. Maybe he is on his way back. I will go to meet him. When will Buck Bains go out searching for Robin? Today? Tomorrow?”

“I have no idea. Here, eat and drink some more, now we have made peace. When times change again, I will hunt you down pitilessly again. Ha! If it only was that way again. Eh, by the way, I know even more – Buck Bains is busy collecting a bunch of strong and fearless men. Tomorrow he will be present on the square of Nottingham where volunteers can show up and join him. He will test them; he will fight them. Only the very strongest persons will be allowed to join him. And they all will get paid very well by the prince. Watch out, Angie! They will know where to find you. They will arrest you and then we’ll never see that beautiful horse of yours again.”

He stared with big eyes at Silver.

“Never saw such a beautiful horse before,” he muttered. “Never ever. Please, Angie, have something more to eat. It is so nice to sit here together with you and Silver.”

Angie feasted upon all the food. She drank almost all of the cool water.

Because she didn’t speak a word for quite some time, the man nudged her and said.

“Are you daydreaming? Or are you making up a plan?”

“What time will Buck Bains be in Nottingham tomorrow to collect his men?”

“It will happen late in the afternoon. He will wait until all inns are packed with tough men, who will come to the town from far and near, hungry for all the money they hope to earn. Why do you ask?”

“When I turn up in Nottingham – will you arrest me then?”

“Oh no, of course not, Angie! I’m not authorized any longer to do so. If the prince doesn’t want me to be sheriff any longer than I will not help him any longer. I will do you no harm at all. Not now, not ever… unless I get my job back, of course.”

Angie reached out her hand to him.

“See you later, sheriff. Thanks for the food. I am sure we will run across each other again sooner or later. But now, I am in an unbelievable hurry. Come, Silver, we have a long way to go. And tomorrow we must be back again! So long sheriff, and maybe we meet again tomorrow.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand… Well, I guess no one can follow you and your wonder horse. Here… take this, you will need it on your way!”

He threw more food to Angie. Angie caught it, jumped into the saddle, leaned forward and whispered something to the horse. Silver started to run.

The sheriff rubbed his eyes.

“All I saw was a silver flash,” he muttered. “That horse is incredibly fast!”

Then he lay down on the grass again. He turned on one side and a few moments later he snored as loud as before.



2 Rebellion in Nottingham

The big inn along the road from Eastwood to Greenhill was packed. It was so crowded that the two children who sat down on the stone floor in front of one of the hearths attracted no attention at all. That was a good thing because they both had not a penny in their pocket and the innkeeper didn’t like guests who came to warm themselves by the fire and ordered nothing to eat or to drink.

One of the two children was Angie. With sparkling eyes, she looked at the boy who was sitting opposite her.

“What a nice accident, Joe! I was looking for you and I was afraid that I had to ride all the way to Greenhill. And then you were standing there, in the middle of the road, together with your bear Bruto!”

“No accident at all, Angie. Not even fate. For everyone is on their way to Nottingham including me. It will be very nice there. Who doesn’t want to be present there when the mighty Buck Bains is going to select soldiers for his army?”

Angie knew Joe very well. He had become one of her best friends. Not long ago they had helped each other solve all kinds of problems. Joe was always in the company of his bear – Bruto. It was a big, brown bear, tamed by his grandfather. Bruto and Silver were safe in a forest now, not far from the inn.

Joe pointed in the direction of a table, where six Norman soldiers feasted upon an extensive meal and washed it down with beer and wine.

“Look at them, what tough guys! The strongest men go to Nottingham. And I know for sure that you need me again to help you with this or that, Angie. You probably realize that Robin Hood will be in great danger shortly when he stands in front of superior forces. Well, we are best friends, aren’t we? So what can I do for you?”

“Tomorrow we will haul Buck Bains over the coals. I have a plan and yes for that I will need your help indeed.”

The boy started to pull the sleeves of his jerkin nervously, combed his fingers through his hair and stared up at the ceiling of the inn.

“Here we go again. For days on end, we will walk, run, flee, fight and be afraid. Oh well, but why not? A life without adventure is just too boring. I’m on, Angie. But you know that I love my food and that I’m always hungry. We cannot hatch a plan on an empty stomach. Just a minute, please!”

The boy crawled across the straw-covered stone floor into the direction of the Normans stuffing their faces. With his shoulders, he pushed a couple of obtrusive dogs aside that was looking for a piece of bread or a bone.

When he had reached the table, one of the soldiers leaned backward and slapped his belly.

“One should always eat one’s fill,” he grinned. “And because soldiers of the prince never pay for their meals, we can easily order some more. Landlord! Bring more meat and don’t forget about the beer and the wine!”

Without looking next to him, he reached for a piece of chicken and pushed it against Joe’s cheek.

“For you, dog! You can have it all. Our good landlord will bring us other meat.”

Angie looked on with close attention. It was obvious that the soldier had drunk a bit too much wine and thought that the boy was a dog!


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