"This is a story that has been told, and retold yet again. And with each telling it changes. Perhaps it is fitting that Robert of the hood has became a figure of legend. Notoriety is not something he ever sought, though it found him. And so, in my last days, I sit here to record for future generations the true story. The one that started all the stories. The birth of the legend...."
* * *
Robert of the hoods knelt quietly on his elevated perch. Arrow notched, and bow string drawn taunt. He would only get one shot at this. And it wasn't an easy shot in well light, let alone in shadow.
"Help! Someone help me!" Mary screamed as she ran semi-blind through the forest, keeping to the path more from memory then sight. Her lines were rehearsed but the panic was real. The ravenous Noble behind her certainly wasn't playing a part. If she slipped, or if Robert missed, there would be no help for her.
'If he must miss, let him hit me.' She prayed silently. She had heard tales of what the Noble did when enraged. And it would be quite enraged if it realized it was being led to a trap.
Robert sat at the ready, and blinked a drop of sweat from his eye. Willed his tired arm not to tremble. Any second now....
Mary rushed into the clearing, and immediately dove to the ground. A bee buzzed past her ear. No, not a bee, otherwise she would be dead.
Robert's arrow flew straight and true, finding its way into the demons dead heart. "AAAAAAARRRRRRHHHHH" The Noble roared as its body erupted into flame. The flames of Hell, Friar Tuck believed. The demon was quickly reduced to ash, and bone.
"Alright, that infernal noise will alert any Noble in the area. So we need to break camp post haste." Robert called down to his companion John Little.
"Aye Mister Locke, and a foine bit of shooting, I might add." Robert couldn't see John, but knew from experience he was giving the thumb of approval. A silly gesture he had came up with, and was convinced it would catch on if repeated enough.
'John and his ideas.' Robert shook his head to himself. Where did he get such notions?
"Cutting it a bit close there Mr. Locke. Any closer and I would need another earring." Mary huffed angrily.
"As if you needed another." Robert replied dryly. She wore three rings in each ear. And another in her lip. There where rumors of others, but a gentleman did not entertain such thoughts. Around the camp she was known ironically as 'Maid Mary.'
Despite her unladylike nature, or perhaps because of it, she had proven quite useful. As an information collector, and as bait. She was also a capable fighter.
"Learn anything of interest tonight?" Robert asked as they walked back to the camp.
"Learned something very interesting, as a matter of fact. Though i'll need a bit of rope--"
"About the Nobles, woman!" Robert cut her off. She did love to play her games.
"Ah, well yes actually, though its not as interesting......"
"Well?" He asked, becoming exasperated.
"I learned if you cut off the head, the body will flounder." She smirked
At first he assumed that is another lewd comment. Then it sinks home."You mean....?"
"Correct. Kill the first and the rest will follow." She said very slowly, as if speaking to an idiot.
"Any word on where to find this head?"
"Oh yes. The demon lord is expected at castle Nottingham in three moons for a costume ball in his honor. One Lord Vlad Tepes"
"Tell me, Maid Mary, do you have any lady garments in your wardrobe?"
Three moons later....
"I don't like this" John Little commented uneasily. His size might intimidate mortals, but all his strength would count for nothing in this den of death.
"Grow up you big baby. The demons ash covers our living scent." Mary whispered fiercely. She was nervous herself, and him being nervous was making her more nervous.
Their mission was to mingle among the Nobles, and find Vlad.
"Here, have some virgin blood. Aged 27 years." A Noble appeared at her side, and sniffed the wineglass with pleasure, before handing it to Mary.
"Only the best for the lord eh?" She took a sip, and pretended to savor it.
"What else?" The Noble replied, and licked his lips with a black tongue. Mary realized with some revulsion, that it was flirting with her. Or trying to. Being a Noble did not make one romantically smooth, despite the myths.
"Indeed. Twenty-seven year old virgin blood is a rare vintage." She gently lead John away before he could turn green.
"You, ulp." He gagged quietly, "You drank blood." He was dangerously close to throwing up.
"I've drank worse things." She replied cryptically. "Take deep, slow breathes, or we'll be next years beverage." she hissed, elbowing him in the side.
Other merry men were dressed as jesters, and were acting as servers.
"Fellow Nobles" A vampire clinked one long, black nail against a wineglass. "Our lord, and master, Vlad of Tepes"
At first there is nothing to see. Then a dark mist cloud drifted in through an open window, and swirled about, before solidifying into a giant bat creature that spread its huge wings theatrically. "Good ev'ning my children" It grinned, before melting into a more human form, the wings became a flowing cape. The ears remain pointed.
It seemed that a recon mission was a tad unnecessary....
"I have heard the cry of you all. This, Robert of the hood, has been hunting us, and encouraging a human rebellion? I intend to feast on him for many days. But, I suspect he is closer then you all know. A sheep among wolves." His met Mary's gaze directly, and beckoned her to him with a finger. "You can mask your scent, but not your heartbeat. You soul is a filthy thing human. Do you think it will go up at your passing? Give yourself to me, and live forever as one of my brides."
"Nooo!" John Little charged the demon lord, only to be swatted carelessly aside like a fly.
"Up here demon" Robert called from the elevated walk way, letting fly a burning arrow with his credited accuracy.
Vlad caught the arrow with one hand, and cast Mary away with the other. "I'm afraid you'll need to do better then this Mr. Hood". He gloated before the arrow exploded in his face. A gray cloud enveloped him.
Exploding arrows, another of John's ideas, albeit a more useful one. The demons were fireproof, but had a weakness to silver. And the exploding arrow had been laced with silver powder.
Robert grabbed a chandelier rope, and swung himself down at the demon lord. All around the castle chaos had ensued, as the merry men fought for their lives against the Noble blood. The screams of men, the roars of demons. Sounds none of the living would ever forget. Robert of the hoods slammed into Vlad of Tepes, and drove an arrow into his black heart with one mighty thrust. "This is for my mother, fiend!! Return to whatever hell spawned you!"
"If I must, but I won't be going alone." Vlad wheezed, as he clutched Robert by the throat, and buried his fangs into the hero's neck. The pain was intense, but brief, as the demon lord was reduced to ash, and all the Nobles fell down, stone dead. Their link to this world forever severed.
* * *
"We lost several good men that night. But we didn't realize our greatest loss till the next day. Robert, of course whiled the night away in with drink, and merry making. His men never suspected a thing. That's what he wanted, I think. He was a man with a death sentence, but still his thoughts were for others, and their happiness. He would have made a fine man of the cloth.
The next day Robert was bed ridden. It might have been he had celebrated a bit too hard, or maybe just the full impact of the night before catching up to him. But I knew. I had seen the sickness too often to fool myself. He was dying. The sickness was killing him, rather then turning him. In his last hours, while he still had strength, he let fly one final arrow. And requested he be buried where it landed. Shortly after that he breathed his last, and, I believe, found the gates of pearl. John Little watched over Roberts grave for three nights, just to be safe. But Robert stayed buried, as I knew he would.
That Summer he made an honest woman out of Maid Mary, and she became a very active member of my church. John became an inventor, as history recalls, and needs not be retold here. He, and Mary had a son about a year after being married. Named him Robin. Mischievous young lad. And quite adept with an bow. I have wrote these things in my own hand, and to the best of my knowledge, as truth,