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SHORT FIC - AD 1180: The New World - PRE-SERIES

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Apr. 20th, 2011 | 04:32 pm
posted by: nettlestonenell in robinsociety

Title: The New World
Author: Nettlestone Nell
Word Count: 2263
Rating: G
Characters/Pairings: Robin, Marian, Much, OC
Spoilers/Warnings: Pre-series speculation. No spoilers for the show.
Summary: What was the day like when Robin, Marian and Much first found their way into Sherwood Forest?
A/N: This is an entirely stand-alone excerpt from a far longer fic I wrote (which was abundantly full of flashbacks). I have decided to publish the flashbacks discreetly, for people who might wish to read them (but not an epic-ly long version of an alternate Season Three). And to make it easier for me to find them myself. Yes, I'm that vain, I like to re-read them from time to time b/c they make me happy.
*The only thing you need to know is that, unlike the series, Marian has an older brother, (my OC) Clem, nine years her senior. (Later, still pre-series, he will die as one of Richard's knights.)
Disclaimer: No one can truly own the legend of Robin Hood, but BBC/Tiger Aspect seem to hold rights to this particular iteration.
Category: Action/Adventure, Drama; Short Fic (1,001-5k words)






The New World



Knighton Hall, the year is 1180. Robin is 12 and Marian 10. Much, recently given to Robin in service and still learning his way, is but nine.

During this time, Edward of Knighton is Sheriff of Nottingham, and is rarely at his Hall. Due to this, Knighton Hall and grounds have the feel of an anything-goes summer camp, as the mice (his children) play while the cat (their father) is away. Away, and far too consumed with his own position and responsibilities to worry or often even inquire about the well-being of his offspring, particularly his troublesome (to him) nineteen-year-old second son, Clem (now heir, as firstborn Edrick is dead to the wars).

Their lives Edward has entrusted to servants he values and depends upon, and when he wishes to see them he does, and when the time will come that they might prove useful to him and his schemes, particularly Marian (though, as a ten-year-old, not on the whole useful except in theory), he will have them sent for.

Marian and Clem, a family of two: young nobles, ungoverned, with an entire complement of servants, and a village in thrall to them.

It is full summer (and has been a wet one), which makes, Marian thinks, falling off horses so much easier to do. And she is certainly doing her share of it today, as Clem has taken her out to show her some basics of trick riding. Just now they have been practicing her standing behind him, knees bent, hands on his shoulders as he rides in the saddle. When he gives the word, she straightens her knees and attempts to fully stand, daring to remove both her hands before the (seemingly inevitable) tumble.

Her clothes show the diligence of their practice, as she has fallen repeatedly (and yet, still happily) onto the soft summer ground, but frequently failed to miss the numerous mud puddles afflicting the paddock nearest the Hall. If one did not know her already one might think her a terribly freckled child, but it is only the mud splatters flecking on her face from her many falls. Her clothing is bare bones (a light shift only), and that made of plainest homespun. She goes without shoes.

At ten she is sturdy-built, her face and body chubby in a way that time will slim and lengthen (though there is no sign of that coming on yet). The apples of her plump cheeks almost threaten to overcome her eyes when she smiles, which is more often than not. Her hair has not much lost the tightness of the curls she was born with, which in her current state makes it all but impossible to tame. In short, she is a little hoyden, and never happier.

But the twelve-year-old boy, Robin, standing by the side of the barn just enough in the shadow to be concealed from them, is not looking at the little girl, his closest noble neighbor. It is her brother who has caught his wistful eye.

"Master Robin," asked young Much, his eye showing some level of distaste for the wild-looking girl on the horse. "Are we not to call on the Hall, this day? Is that not why we walked the distance here from Locksley?" (Only steps outside of Locksley and the new servant seemed to break out into a sweat of fear that they had traveled too far to ever hope to return, but he was young. He was untried and untraveled. "You will have the educating of him," Robin's father, the Earl, had said. "It is for you to clear his mind of village superstition, and coarse manners. It is for you to show him what it is to be a man. Your man. See that you do not take such a task lightly. Much is a person, not a horse. What he wants is shaping. Not breaking.")

Robin sighed, gave a quick look behind to his ever-questioning attendant, his tone turning impatient. "In a minute, Much." He looked out from this perfect hiding place, where he did spy--on Clem of Knighton. With absolute stars in his eyes, Robin beheld the young man, the fine way he sat a horse, the fact that at only nineteen he lived, mostly, on his own; made his own choices, the Earl said, more or less managing his father's entire estate. And was an absolute wizard with a sword.

Robin had held his place, hidden here, in the hopes Clem might cease the undignified games with his little sister Marian and instead decide to practice with his sword on the thick pole erected in their side yard for just such work. So that Robin might watch. And, learn.

But he saw it was too late. From her high position on the horse's back, Marian's sharp eyes caught him out.

"Ho! There!" she alerted her brother, and in a flurry of hooves quite soon the pair were beside them. Miraculously, Marian had not fallen this time, never having taken her eyes off Robin once she caught sight of him. She leaned over into Clem's neck, circling it from behind with her little girl arms, and gave him a kiss.

Over his shoulder, Robin heard Much announce, "yick".

Clem did not seem to mind. "Greetings, young neighbor," he said, giving Marian the help of a long arm to slide down and off the horse. He smiled.

In that moment Robin would have given his own bow, his most treasured of all his few personal possessions, to have had such a brother.

Before Robin could reply, Marian challenged Much with a, "who are you?"

"I-I-I-I-," Much stammered.

"This is Much. He is to be my man." Robin did not say it with any particular pride. Though he would have liked a brother like Clem, he also would have liked to be free of this younger boy recently condemned to follow him everywhere. He would have liked to be allowed to be alone.

"Welcome to Knighton, Much," Clem cordially acknowledged him.

"Clem is to be a knight," Marian offered, and if she'd had buttons she would have burst them. Though the news had already reached Locksley, Robin still felt a tremendous wave of excitement and pride upon again hearing it.

"I," he began, like a boy asking a girl for the first time to dance, "I, would you shoot, today, Clem?"

Clem eyed the young boy's bow, any more, ever-present, slung across his back.

"I would, Robin, but I must excuse myself just now. My, er," he reached for the word, "time is required elsewhere."

It was a strange statement to Robin, as so little seemed to be required of the Knighton siblings in those days.

When Clem had taken his leave of them and cantered his mount back to the house, Marian informed them, "Clem has been contracted with Gareth of Granville's daughter, Juley. She is to come today so that he might entertain her, and show her the Hall and village."

Ah. This news had not yet found its way to Locksley Manor, though Robin did not doubt his father, the Earl, was already well-apprised of it.

Robin heard the boy Much swallow loudly behind him, and was coming to understand that this was the sound the boy made when he was attempting not to interject where he, in fact, should not, interrupting one of his betters. Truthfully, Robin's nerves would have better tolerated the inappropriate interjection than the noise of this queer, throaty gulping.

"Well, I shall shoot with you, then," offered Marian, playing at hostess, and as any offer of a partner was better than none, and as perhaps if he killed enough time Clem would again re-appear to join them, Robin consented and produced his bow, as Marian ran to a nearby shed and fetched out Clem's.

She looked ridiculous carrying it, the bow easily five inches taller than was she. Robin still shot with a bow from last year, his own height at twelve having outpaced it, gaining in the last fourteen-month nearly a full foot. The bow, though cherished, now barely came to his hip. But he would shoot with no other until he gained skill enough to cut and temper his own.

Recently he had set his mind to fletching, every spare moment of his day spent retrieving the best materials for arrow making, testing and re-testing certain feathers, certain fletchings and arrow tips until, like an accomplished chef, he felt his designs had reached a perfection.

Today he brought with him what he felt was his shining example of that perfection. He had hoped to let it fly for Clem, to impress his neighbor with his archer's ability.

Marian finished dragging Clem's oversized bow to where he and Much stood, just at the edge of the King's forest, Sherwood (which grows near the Hall on several sides). Far closer than it is to Locksley Village and Manor. At the right time of day, the trees' shadow actually shades the Hall.

There was a sort of divot here, cut into the ground, and she wedged the bow's lower point there (it was obviously not the first time she had made use of it so).

"What's this?" she asked. As quickly as her eyes lit on the special arrow in Robin's quiver, it was in her hand before he could quite protest.

"Oi!" He tried to reach for it back.

In her defense of her new prize, Marian dissolved into slippery elbows and knees; there was nowhere to find a handhold. His grasping fist came back to him full of nothing but three wisps of curling black hair and half an acorn.

It should not be so hard to take something from a ten-year-old girl, after all. But as he again grabbed for it he found himself loathe to perhaps injure it, his finest work to-date.

"Stand ready to fetch it back, Much," he instructed the other boy, whose face was registering shock at the lack of civilized manners the girl displayed.

Marian wrapped half her foot and great toe around the base of the large bow in a weirdly free-form motion, her arms hardly seeming long enough to stretch apart the necessary length to let the arrow fly; rather, more likely to have it plop instantly to the ground.

"Where shall I sink it for you?" she asked, confidently. "Clem usually calls that fencepost two from the corner as target."

Said post certainly stood witness to her speaking truth: it was over-marked with pocks of all depths.

"Very well, then," Robin agreed, hoping to get this over quickly, and re-secure his prized arrow, "there."

Ten-year-old Marian pulled the bowstring taut, her form far from natural-looking, and she might have succeeded if the mud had not also, in this instance, betrayed her. The divot gave way, the longbow broke loose from its position, and the arrow flew askew.

It flew far, high, and fast. It was everything Robin had known it could be. It was quite possibly the best arrow fletched in all Nottinghamshire that summer. In the entire Kingdom (including, he thought, France). Watching the grey goose shaft fly free, his soul jumped without coming back down. It soared. His mind teased him that he could feel the same wind upon his face the arrow's point cut its way through. He was exultant.

And then, Much said, "I say, that's a rum lot. It's gone off into the King's forest."

And so it had, deep, deep into the forbidden wilderness of Sherwood and its layer upon layer of impenetrable greens. There was no easy way telling where it had landed itself.

The three children shared looks with each other, Marian's somewhat chastened at the arrow's loss. No one went into Sherwood, save poachers and thieves. It was rare, even, for their own noble fathers to assay its neglected, rain-rutted roads for the purpose of travel--even when doing so might halve a journey's length. Much knew plentiful village stories of the dangers and the capricious faeries found in the Wood. Robin and Marian knew that whatever they did, the forest was to be avoided at all costs.

But Robin also knew that his now-dead lady mother had come from Tuxford, the market town on the other side of Sherwood, which meant that, unlike tales he had been told to spook and keep him away, it was not, in point of fact, the last forest before the edge of the world.

And Marian knew that upon the word of her own father, King Henry, Himself, had not once hunted in this, His wood, nor visited it in over twenty years. So she knew there was no vengeful king at present standing guard to be feared.

"I want my arrow back," said Robin, his eyes catching Marian's, and sparking at a similar challenge he saw rising in hers.

"Oh, do not ask me to do this, Master," Much pleaded. "Your father, oh, do not..."

It would be hard to say who made the first move for the leafy underbrush, the ten-year-old girl with the chubby legs covered in an abundance of mud, or the slip of a twelve-year-old boy intent on recapturing his (to that moment's) life's work. But both would recall, just as they had heard Much stumbling in high dudgeon after them, too afraid to disobey or be left alone behind, that it was Marian who won the dash, Marian whose hand first pulled aside the green boughs, and Marian who first initiated them into this, the New World.




The next in my Pre-Series Timeline is at 'Society of People Who Are Afraid of Maid Marian'...AD 1185: The Pleasure of a Peasant's Revel


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Comments {2}

robinfanatic

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from: robinfanatic
date: Apr. 21st, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
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Well I don't find Clem so troublesome - what is Edward's problem? ;)

I think this is the first story I've read that shows Much younger than Robin. Poor Much - Robin isn't overly happy to have him around. Robin appears to hero-worship Clem and, not surprisingly, isn't very interested in 10 year old Marian, not even admiring her skills on horseback! hm...

I like independent Marian. I can see her turning into the young woman we meet in 1x01. And I really like the ending of this fic with Marian leading the way into the forest.

Thanks for sharing!

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Nettlestone Nell

AD 1180: The New World

from: nettlestonenell
date: Apr. 21st, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
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robinfanatic: You are so good to read & review! Thank you!
As for Clem...in the longer work this is taken from, he's been raised a 2nd son (becoming heir only after firstborn Edrick dies), and so his 'doing exactly as he is told' has not been so very important until recently. And, in the longer work, Edward is a man who is VERY desirous of his offspring doing exactly as he expects them to. So having a mind of your own is sort of the cardinal sin in the Knighton universe.

I have not read much RHfanfic, so I had no idea people usually styled Much as older. The whole idea has sort of really interested me. I don't know why I picked younger. I think it made sense that if Robin had been given an older manservant he might have been more likely to be in awe of that person, rather than have that person look up to *him*. And I was thinking more of the slave system in the American South, where I know slaves were matched near the age of the children of the master's families as sort of companions/servants.

Thank you, again. That news of Much usually being shown as older is certainly soemthing for me to chew on. :) [I will say that unintentionally I abused canon in this piece, b/c in the series Much says he's been with Robin far less time than this fic would indicate.]

I have always thought there must be a good reason for Marian to be as she is by the time we meet her in the series.

If you've any interest, an additional pre-series fic is available here, http://maz-heads.livejournal.com/15282.html set in AD 1185.

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