Authors: Angus Donald
Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure
I knew what was coming and a wave of nausea burned my stomach. In my mind, my own right arm was on a block in Nottingham castle, an axeman standing over me, the axe swinging high and . . . I turned my head away from the victim before me, choking back bile . . . Then I felt two strong hands grasp my own jaws and force my head back towards the scene in front of me. The victim’s eyes opened and he stared at me for an instant. He was grotesque, like a stone demon on the side of a church: huge gaping mouth and his tongue pulled out by the tongs. ‘This is your penance,’ repeated Tuck quietly, keeping his powerful hands round my face, forcing me to look. ‘See how Robin serves those who inform on him to the sheriff. Watch and take heed!’ And John the giant sliced through the thick root of the tongue, with one sweep, and then dodged quickly as a fountain of blood roared from the man’s mouth. The man was screaming, a bubbling liquid howl of livid pain and, released by his captors, he fell to the ground, still tightly trussed, bellowing and jetting gore from the bloody cave of his gaping mouth.
I wrenched my head away from Tuck’s hands and staggered to the wall of the church where, my head reeling with disgust and horror, I retched and puked, and brought up the remains of the beef pie that had brought me to this present situation. After a while, when there was nothing more in my stomach, I leaned my forehead on the cool stone of the church wall and gulped down the cold night air.
As my head cleared, I realised fully for the first time what I had promised when I swore loyalty until death to Robin. I was now bound for life to a monster, a devil who mutilated others for merely speaking to the sheriff’s men. I knew then that I had left the world of ordinary men.
I had become an outlaw.