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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 32: Kondor 11
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Previous chapter: Chapter 31, Hastings 11
Kondor reentered the woods more slowly than he had emerged. He realized that he wasn't really going somewhere; rather, if this was the Robin Hood of the stories, he was trying to be found again. So he set off at a leisurely pace, and made camp close to the road while daylight was still strong above the trees.
He did this for the next two days, and then decided that he had probably passed the point at which he had originally met the merry men. It made sense that they wouldn't be in the same place every day, or every time--otherwise they'd be easier to catch. But it also made sense that if they saw him, that is, if the same people saw him, they would ignore him. After all, there would be no sense springing their trap on a proven pauper. Now, it wasn't Robin in charge the day he was stopped--that was probably someone like Will Scarlet. Maybe another group of men wouldn't know him. On the other hand, they probably told each other what happened, and he certainly had a unique look for this world, so they might all know who he was.
He needed another plan.
But for the moment he might as well stop moving around and pick a place to stay. He made a guess on where he had encountered the robbers, and camped close to that. Maybe that was near their regular area, maybe it wasn't, but it was the best information he had. He remained here a few days without anything significant occurring either in his thoughts or on the road.
He began to appreciate the problem faced by the sheriff of Nottingham. The main road through this part of the woods was little more than a dirt trail in a near trackless wilderness in which the skilled locals could appear and vanish like ghosts. Whether he sent one soldier or one hundred, the merry men could probably sit still and let them pass, ambush them successfully, or retreat unseen into the greenery. To the rulers in London, it would sound like such a simple thing: capture a group of commoners who are harassing nobles and merchants on the King's highway. But it was so much more difficult than that.
The idea finally came to him when a fine carriage came down the road. That, he thought, was something Robin would stop; there would be money there. This could be his ticket to finding them.
He packed up his camp as fast as he could. Fortunately a horse-drawn carriage could not move very quickly on the poor road here, and there were no turns where he could lose them; but there were places along the road where they would be able to pick up speed, and he needed to be close behind them so he could catch up with the robbers before they were gone.
Keeping up with a horse-drawn carriage, even on this road, proved challenging. But it had not been so long ago that he was making long quick marches in basic training, and this was no different. Sometimes he heard the carriage fading into the distance, but then it would be slowed by the poor conditions and he would close on it.
After a few hours, his efforts were rewarded. Ahead he could hear that the carriage had stopped, and there were voices. A long bend in the road occluded his view, but it was clear that the merry men had struck. He slowed a bit; he did not wish to stumble into the midst of the robbery, but only to meet the robbers. It would be better not to be seen by the victims, and not yet to be thought connected to the villains, at least until he knew whether the stories were true.
He rounded the bend just in time to see his quarry moving into the wood to the right, north of the road. The victims were trying to recover their dignity and continue their journey. Suddenly one of them looked back. "There's one of them!" he shouted, and several men began running toward him with drawn swords.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #30: Novel Directions. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: