The Death of Robin Hood

The Death of Robin Hood by Angus Donald

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Authors: Angus Donald
and took a deep breath. ‘Can’t let them escape.’
    ‘Very good, sir,’ said Cass, slipping from his horse. I looked at him in amazement. Why was the squire dismounting? We had a desperate fight on our hands and he should be dragging out that ugly great falchion he always wore and charging the enemy knee to knee with me. Instead he was unhorsed, bent over and fiddling with somethingI could not see on the other side of his mount’s head. Did he expect me to take on seven men alone?
    The horsemen were two hundred paces from us now and coming on at the canter. Let them come, I thought. I’d rather fight them here, as far from the King’s host as possible. Let them mingle with the column; some of the more able-bodied folk might aid me. I began to consider how on earth I could take on seven men and defeat them all. Robin would have some trick up his sleeve. If I could take the first man unawares, a dagger thrust, perhaps, then maybe the second—
    A bow cord thrummed beside me. I saw the flight of the arrow. A black line in the sky. A second followed while the first was still in flight.
    I looked at Cass in shock. He had strung his great yew bow and was already drawing and loosing for the third time. I jerked my head round to the knot of cantering horsemen in time to see the first shaft strike. A perfect shot, punching into the chest of the leading rider, knocking him clean out of the saddle. The second arrow transfixed the neck of the horse behind his and I heard the scream of equine pain from a hundred and fifty yards away. The third shaft drove into the face of another man-at-arms – and now all was confusion, the horses rearing, the men shouting in alarm. And still Cass was drawing and loosing. He poured his steel-tipped missiles into them, one after another after another. As one struck, another was in the air and yet another was on the cord. He loosed a dozen arrows in total and I swear he hit a man or mount with every one. I have no doubt he would have continued until they were all dead, had I not seen one of the men, unhorsed, with a bloody fletching sticking from the mail at his ribs, trying to scramble back across the pasture to return to the King’s host.
    I put spurs to my mount and covered the ground to the enemy in twenty heartbeats. He saw me coming, or felt the pounding of hooves through the turf. As I reached him, he dodged left and I knocked himdown with a hard chop from my shield edge. Past him, I wheeled, dug in my spurs, making straight back for him – and he was up again and running, this time in his confusion towards the column of Rochester townsfolk. I closed on him easily. He looked up once as I neared, his face a white terrified blur, and I hacked down with Fidelity, splitting his helmet and the skull beneath, dropping him to the grass in a twitching heap.
    I circled back to the bodies of the men skewered by Cass, scattered in a long line along their path of advance. Three of the foes were still alive, bloodied and moaning, some trying to crawl. I killed them all with swift, merciless blows. And when I was certain none had survived I trotted back to our column to find that Cass had managed to get the fat woman up off her bundle and waddling down the road after the rest.
    ‘That was some fine shooting, youngster,’ I said to him, breathing heavily after my exertions. ‘You saved me a deal of hard labour.’
    Cass smiled shyly. ‘Thank you, sir,’ he said. ‘I have been practising since I was a lad. And my lord of Locksley has been kind enough to give me some personal instruction, too. He says I show promise.’
    In truth the young man’s archery had been nigh-on supernatural but there was no time for flowery compliments.
    ‘I don’t believe our little dust-up has yet been observed,’ I said, looking over my shoulder, ‘but those riderless horses will not go unnoticed for long. We must get the people into that wood yonder as soon as possible.’
    ‘Yes, sir,’ said Cass, nodding his

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