Once upon a time, Chapter Two: The Tale of Robin Hood
Harry Potter books, and all characters therein are belong to J. K. Rowling, © 2001/2002 Warner bros. In short, they aren't mine, so please don't sue.
Special thanks to my awesome Beta-Reader, Seldes Katne, for putting up with my horrible grammar and punctuation.
Once upon a time
Chapter Two: The Tale of Robin Hood
The Tale of Robin Hood: Thief, Knave, Weasley.
Harry landed hard on the ground and tumbled forward landing flat on his face. The ground was cold and damp, and it was covered in leaves. He pushed himself up on his arms and, after spitting out a few leaves, took a look around. He was in a forest, well lit and sparsely populated with tall thin trees. There was only a small amount of underbrush, and quite a few trees that had fallen ages ago.
"Ron?" shouted Harry, his voice getting lost somewhere in the sea of tree trunks that seemed to spread out for miles in all directions. "Hermione? Ginny?" Harry scanned the forest for any sign of his friends. A rustling sound from behind him made Harry jump. He spun around to find Ron walking oddly out from behind some of the underbrush.
"Oi!" said Ron distractedly, tugging at the crotch of what looked like a pair of green tights. Harry had to fight not to laugh.
"What's with these tights?" said Ron, still tugging mercilessly at the tights. This time Harry couldn't help but laugh. Ron looked up indignantly. "What's so funny?! You're wearing them too!" he snapped. Harry stopped laughing long enough to glance down at his own legs, and was surprised to find that Ron was right. A pair of bright green tights had found their way onto Harry's legs. Not only that, he wasn't wearing his Weasley jumper anymore. Instead he was wearing a green poncho-like cloak. He looked back up at Ron, perplexed.
"Where are we, anyway? Never seen this place before in my life," said Ron, panning his gaze around the sea of trees. "You think this could be… Voldemort's doing?" asked Ron, suppressing a shiver. Harry had been grateful that both his friends and the rest of the Weasleys were now calling Voldemort by his proper name, though every Weasley flinched at the word. Harry shook his head. He had no clue where Hermione and Ginny were either, or whether this was part of a plan Voldemort had cooked up. But he knew that Hermione and Ginny had been sucked into the book first and second, so they had to be somewhere around.
"We should look for Hermione and Ginny," said Harry. "We should probably-"
"Shh!" hissed Ron, looking off into the trees. "I hear something coming." Ron turned his head so his ear was facing the direction the sound was coming from. "Sounds like drums or something," he muttered.
It does sound like drums, Harry thought. A few seconds later Harry caught a flash of red amid the sea of green. Another second, another bit of red. The sound was growing louder and less muffled as whatever it was approached. Through an open spot in the trees, Harry caught sight of what they were hearing. Four horsemen, all dressed in mail and red coats, were riding toward them. Harry quickly plunged his hand into green poncho for his wand, only to find that it wasn't there.
"My wand's gone," he hissed to Ron, who immediately patted himself down.
"Mine too," said Ron. The horses were getting closer, and the riders hadn't seen Harry and Ron standing there yet. It wasn't until they burst through the underbrush nearby that they noticed they were there at all.
"Whoa!" the lead rider called, his horse whinnied and skidded to a stop a few feet from Harry and Ron. The rider took a moment to calm his horse before addressing them. "Name yourselves!" he barked. Harry was just about to speak when one of the other riders spoke up.
"Sir, tha's Robin 'ood, it is!" he said pointing a fat finger at Ron.
"Robin who?" asked Ron. He didn't seem to have ever heard of Robin Hood, but the whole thing was just now dawning on Harry. They'd been sucked into a storybook, and now that story was playing before their eyes. They must be playing characters in the story.
"Robin Hood," whispered Harry, turning to Ron. "He's the main character in that book we got sucked into. Ron, I think the book thinks you're Robin Hood!" he finished.
"What d'you mean, the book thinks?!" hissed Ron. Harry shook his head quickly as the lead rider began to speak again.
"Robin Hood, eh," he muttered stroking his thin black beard. "I knew I'd catch up to you sooner or later. You can't elude the Honorable Sheriff of Nottingham for long, Robin Hood!"
"Ron," whispered Harry, turning back to Ron. "I'd wager Hermione and Ginny are here somewhere in here too, we need to find them and figure out a way out of this book."
"Right, so how do we do that?" asked Ron.
"Didn't you hear me, Knave?!" the sheriff spat indignantly. Harry shot him a glance before turning back to Ron.
"Think we'd best play the character parts for now," Harry suggested, turning his attention back to the Sheriff. But the Sheriff seemed to have had enough of being ignored.
"Seize them!" he shouted to his men. The other three riders dismounted and drew their swords at his command.
"Harry, if I'm supposed to play Robin Head or whatever, how do I get out of this?" he asked taking a few steps backward.
"I think running away might work best right now," said Harry, stepping back with Ron. They both turned to run at the same time.
They'd only taken three steps when the entire forest floor seemed to spring upward. All around them men stood waist deep in holes that had been hidden under the leaves before. Men with bows all pointed in on the four riders. Men who were all wearing green suits. The Merry Men, thought Harry.
"Great plan, Robin!" shouted a slim young man near the front. Harry wasn't sure who he was, but it was clear that he was someone of importance within the Merry Men.
Ron was still gawping about at the men who'd suddenly popped up out of nowhere. Harry nudged him in the side.
"Yeah, great plan, Robin!" he said. Ron shot a thoroughly confused and worried look at Harry.
"But, I'm not-" he started to whisper in protest.
"Just play the part, we still need to find Hermione and Ginny," Harry interrupted in a whisper. Ron didn't seem to like the idea much, but he nodded to the slim man. Just then, Harry became aware of another sound. A low rumbling, much deeper than the one they'd heard earlier.
"Right on schedule," said the slim man. Harry looked out into the forest and saw a large wagon headed their way. It was completely enclosed, and had to be big enough to ten men to fit in easily. It looked like the storybook's version of an armored car. The Merry Men ran forward drawing back their bows. The slim man ordered the diver to stop and pay the "Sherwood highway tax".
"Robin Hood, Nottingham will not tolerate this mockery of authority and of the Crown. Your time will come!" said the Sheriff. The wagonload of gold was heading off toward Robin Hood's hideout, and as a means of dealing with the Sheriff and his men, they decided embarrassment was better than death. The Sheriff and his men were to walk back to Nottingham, bound at the wrists and stripped of all clothing but their undergarments.
The Merry Men, however, had seven new horses, taken from the Sheriff and his men. Harry and Ron, neither of whom had ever ridden a horse before, were a little worried about it. But as it turned out, riding a horse was quite easy, or perhaps it just felt easier to Harry because he'd already mastered riding a Hippogriff.
The Merry Men, true to their name, were quite merry riding back to Robin's hideout in Sherwood Forest. The slim man turned out to be Will Scarlet. Ron was recognized by all the Merry Men as Robin Hood and Harry as Little John. The thought occurred to Harry that Little John was supposed to be very big, hence the humor in calling him "Little" but Harry actually was little.
Unfortunately, Will didn't have a clue who or where Hermione and Ginny were. He didn't seem too interested in talking about women at the moment. He was more interested in talking about how much gold must be in that wagon. Harry and Ron ended up explaining Ron's odd behavior on the fact that he'd fictitiously hit his head. They left Will chattering with another Merry Man by the name of Bull.
"We might find Hermione and Ginny at the hideout," said Harry, reassuringly.
"Maybe," said Ron, distracted. "Just wish we could've found our wands. Do you really think it could be a side affect of the book?" he asked. Harry shrugged. He didn't know why Ron kept asking him this. They'd looked for nearly a half-hour where they'd both landed. They even had the Merry Men looking, but they hadn't turned up anything.
"You said you've ready this story before, right?" asked Ron.
"I overheard it being read, and only once; Dudley wasn't keen on it as the prince gets robbed blind," Harry answered. Ron's expression darkened. He'd obviously hoped Harry knew the story well. Harry, feeling the need to help Ron out as much as possible, told what he knew.
"I don't remember it all, I just remember little pieces. There's a banquet that Robin has to crash. Then there's an Archery tournament he wins, and then he goes to rescue Maid Marion, and they live happily ever after," Harry summarized. He could almost see the wheels turning in Ron's head as they rode casually through the darkening forest.
"Crashing a Banquet I can handle," said Ron, turning his head toward Harry, "but an Archery tournament? I've never used a bow in my life! How am I supposed to win an Archery tournament?" asked Ron, looking like he'd just been condemned.
Harry shrugged. "Practice?" he offered. Ron didn't look amused.
"Can't I just skip the Archery Tournament and rescue Lady Marion when I crash the banquet?"
"Maybe we'll know more when we find Hermione and Ginny. I expect Hermione probably knows the story by heart," said Harry. Ron made the first smile since they'd been sucked into the book. Harry spent the rest of the trip telling Ron as many small details and character nuances about Robin Hood as he could remember. Ron, who didn't seem too keen on playing the part, thought the story itself sounded interesting ("for a Muggle story."). They hadn't been that engrossed with discussing the story, and it wasn't because dusk was falling over the forest. They'd come up on the hideout and gotten right on top of it before either of them noticed it.
And there was a lot to notice.
The Hideout was practically a town in the trees. Well over a dozen round huts were built onto the trees, some four or five stories up and all connected by a series of wooden catwalks. On the ground there were dozens more, most with smoke puffing cheerily out of the chimneys. Torches were lit here and there and people were moving about between them. All of it was set low in a gully so that it wasn't visible until you got right on top of it. Harry wondered why they also hadn't smelled the food cooking until they were within sight of it.
"Oi, Will?" yelled Ron, from the edge of the bank overlooking the hideout. Will, who was already down in the gully, turned back toward them. "This is some hideout," said Ron, as he and Harry stated making their way carefully down the steep embankment. Will shook his head.
"You really did hit your head hard, Robin!" he said. He looked hopefully at Ron for a moment, before he turned and waved his hand toward the mass of huts. "Welcome to Sherwood Village."
To be continued…