Chapter 12—Robin Goes On The Crusades But I Doesn’t Work Out Well For Him Due To His Brief Time As a Free Man
Robin stepped ashore at Acre. It was, to him, a very hot day. In just a few moments he was lathered in sweat. There were no clouds in the sky and the heat was oppressive. The smell were about the same as everywhere else with the exception of a spicy, pleasant odor. It wasn’t enough to cover the smell of shit and garbage but was enough to be more pleasant than England. Not a lot better but a little better.
The people looked like people except for being a little darker. They were wearing robes that had pretty well gone out of style in Europe except with priests. With this heat Robin couldn’t understand the stupidity of that. They had to be hot as Hell, he thought. This must be where the Church gets its’ priests. They take the lighter-skinned people from here. He didn’t know what they did about the Moslem part.
The people looked at Robin with little interest. He was another barbarian heathen come to attack the city. He would fail as the others had. They were heathens fighting against the forces of Allah. They were fighting against Saladin. They were so stupid they didn’t wear robes to hold the sweat in as a way to keep cool. What Robin took for a smile was a sneer.
The trip across the Mediterranean had been smooth sailing. It was nothing like crossing to France. The launching of the Crusade had not been smooth. Richard the Lionheart and King Phillipe had a hissy fight as to whom would go the honor of landing first. Richard claimed the honor due to his battlefield ability. Phillipe claimed it as his right . He called Richard the Duke of Normandy, his vassal.
“Richard, ye are my vassal. Ye must yield to me. I am the King of France. Ye are the Duke of Normandy. Ye are my vassal and must yield to me.”
“Vassal? Vassal? I am no man’s vassal. I am the Duke of Normandy tis true. But, I am also the King of England. I just returned from being crowned and all that. I yield to no man, not even a king. There!”
“Ye are not in England. Ye are in France. This is my country, not yours.”
“True enough. I do respect that and I ‘onor that. We will soon cross the Alps into what used to be the Roman Empire. I will owe ye nothing then. I shall not agree to ye leading this Crusade.”
“Then, Frederick shall be there as well as the Pope. Let us place it in their hands”, Phillipe said.
Richard thought it through. Frederick was a fierce warrior. Richard feared no man but he would not fight Frederick if it could be avoided. The Pope was another story. “The Pope? We are going on a Crusade while he sits on ‘is arse in Rome. Nay, ‘e shall ‘ave no say in this. Frederick. I agree.”
That evening Richard told the story to his men. “Right. That sissy-boy Phillipe is a chicken-shit.”
They reached Rome without any further trouble. Phillipe did double his guard at night. He also slept in a different tent each night. He didn’t trust Richard at all. Richard had something to say about that as well. “I see the sissy-boy ‘ides at night. That’s smarter than I ever thought ‘e would be. Damn it all to ‘ell.”
The whole rowdy, raucous, disordered assemblage arrived in Rome after stripping the countryside clean. Robin was riding a ways back and was disgusted by Rome. This was the home of the Pope. This was the center of the Church. This is where all things God came from. This was where the Holy Church was run. This was a dump.
The people here were as squalid as any English peasant.; as any French or Norman peasant. Robin thought the people here would be living well. Instead, they were living in squalor. They were using ancient temples as shit pits. They ripped down mighty walls to build half-ass homes. They were beggars of the first order. He felt as if the Crusade should start here. No, that would be wrong. He’d have to stay here then and he wanted to visit the Vatican, get a blessing and leave. He hoped the blessing would be cheap. He was low on funds and had doubts his father’s money would catch up to him.
The Vatican was a disappointment as well. It was a bunch of shambling buildings. The Pope was just like the Vatican. Robin thought,This is the best God could come up with? This guy looks stupid and diseased. He’s the leader of the Church? He could send a man to Hell on a whim? Good Lord!
He watched as Richard and Phillipe knelt to the Pope. He waited to see Richard laugh out loud at what the Pope said but he didn’t. The Pope must be giving them money or promising to. Richard wouldn’t kneel to any man after being crowned unless there was money to be had. Later, after collecting the money, he’d return and the Church would be getting a new Pope. Little did Robin know the Pope was offering his blessing and a vague promise of redemption to the two kings.
Suddenly, Richard jumped to his feet and started doing a little dance. He seemed excited and elated. It must be money but it wasn’t. It seems the Pope had told the two kings that Frederick had fallen off his horse and drowned. His men were going home. For Richard, this was the best news he could have. Frederick was gone and Phillipe was a sissy. Richard looked at Phillipe like a cat looks at a mouse. Philippe looked at Richard the way a mouse looks at a cat.
“Richard, ye knows this is sacred ground, do ye not?”, Phillipe said.
“Huh? Oh, yes it is. So what?”
“No man may sin here and not go to Hell.”
“Yes, so it is. So what?”
“Ye would not like Hell.”
“How do ye know that?”
The Pope decided to intervene. The Vatican was his and he wasn’t letting these two make any decision here. “There will be no violence in the Holy Vatican. This I say ex cathedra.”
“What about outside the Vatican?”, Richard asked. He didn’t know what ex cathedra meant but it sounded sacred. He might have to return here tonight and cut the Pope’s tongue out. Well, maybe send someone.
“Oh, Hell, I don’t give a rat’s ass what happens out there.”
“Richard-”, Phillipe started to say.
“Oh, don’t get ye balls in an uproar. As long as I’m the commander of the army in the field I don’t care what ye say or do. Deal?”
Deal? Or dead? That’s what Phillipe heard. The Crusade was important for his reputation. He hoped to make a small profit form it as well. He didn’t intend to die for it.
Robin Hood rested for a day and then rode around the besieged city of Acre. It didn’t look like it was worth taking. It was walled but not very large, there couldn’t be that many fighters inside the city. It didn’t stop the Crusaders from coming ashore. It wouldn’t stop them from going around it to Jerusalem. It didn’t seem to have any real value at all. When he saw Richard he asked him about it.
“Sire, why are we besieging Acre? It seems we can march around it and go straight to Jerusalem.”
“Who, pray tell, are ye?”
“I am Robert- er, Robin Hood. I am a member of the court.”
“What is your function? I do not remember ye.”
“I. ah, took charge of your servants on the voyage here.”
“Ye are my butler?”
“No, I don’t think so. I am a gentleman, not some servant.”
“Ye best watch that mouth. I am not known as a patient man and I take umbrage easily. Now, let us try answering the question as if I could kill ye, which I can.”
Robin thought about that one. He knew Richard meant it. He remembered his father’s warning not to piss Richard off. “Sire, I am the Keeper of the Court. I see that your every wish and demand is seen to. Your wish is my command.”
“It had better be. I think ye made all that up. Be that as it may, it was a wise, thoughtful, life-saving reply. What do ye want of me?”
“Why, Sire, if I may be so bold as to ask, are we not simply going around Acre. Seems to me-”
“Ye? It seems to ye? Ye should not push things. We are not going around Acre because I want to take it. Before you ask, and I become angry, it is because it is there.”
Each morning, as the light broke in the East, Richard the Lionheart would come out of his tent and look across the desert at Acre. He would gaze at for a while and then kick sand and curse. No one wanted to be around him when that happened. The last one who did was shot in the arse with an arrow from Richard’s crossbow. People stayed away from him until he went inside, drank some wine and broke fast. He didn’t like getting up at dawn but the Imams calling the faithful to prayer woke him.
It was six months since Richard had landed here and there was no sign of Acre surrendering. The call to prayer reminded him each day of his failure to take the city. He would move on except for Phillipe coming to his tent each evening and saying, “Well, Richard, the city still stands in the hands of the Moslems. Tomorrow is another day. Perhaps ye should admit ye cannot take the city from Saladin. After all, Saladin is a great leader...as well as ye.”
“Saladin! ‘e is blessed with luck, that’s all. I shall ‘ave the city. Mark my words, I shall ‘ave the city.”
“Luck ye say? Perhaps God is shining his light on Saladin instead of ye.”
“No, that’s not it. If God was going to choose sides it would be mine, not Saladin’s. ‘e’s as ‘eathen as ye French with ye sissified ways.”
“Ah, I see you are in a fine mood. Well, be that as may, I am not the one losing here. Good day to you.”
Robin entered Richard’s tent. The King told him to sit but Robin begged off. He wanted out of there as fast as possible. Also, his ass still hurt a little bit. Robin was now in charge of the King’s retinue. Robin felt like a butler but what was he to say.
“Sire, I don’t want to be ye butler. I’d rather die a ‘orrible death than to lower myself to petty work.”
Richard would be only to happy to have Robin killed in some hideous fashion. He’d give Robin time for confession and communion first. Richard thought of himself as a man of faith. He wasn’t. The longer he sat across the desert from Acre the less faith he had. Maybe God wasn’t on his side.
“Look, why don’t ye take my ‘orse out for a good run. I’ve been too busy planning to ride ‘er. Give ‘er a good workout. See ye at vespers or whatever it is the priests do in the evening.”
Robin thought, no, knew Richard was looking down his nose at him but Robin was in no position to say anything. Art least this way he would be out of Richard’s reach for the day. Perhaps a good, ling ride was what Robin needed. It might do him a world of good.
Robin had been riding a circle around Acre for a while. That became a bore so he headed away from the city for a few miles. As he glanced around he got the uneasy feeling he was lost. He thought if he followed the sun as it moved across the sky he would run into the Crusader camp. Perhaps he would have.
What Robin noticed next was a few mounted Arabs. Then, a few more and a few more after that. He was getting a bad feeling about it. They weren’t threatening him by moving closer but they were following his every move. He thought to ride away in a gallop. Then he remembered Richard’s horse was a big warhorse, built for strength not speed.
Without warning a group of Arab horsemen were in front of him. They were all around him. Fight or no? He stopped, he drew his sword, he threw it on the sand. He raised his hands to the sky as a sign of surrender and a bit to God for help. The Arabs didn’t move so Robin didn’t.
One Arab eventually rode up to him and knocked him off the charger. He motioned for Robin to start walking. Thes sands were very hot to Robin’s feet. He looked at that as a good sign. If he felt the heat he was alive...for now.
At this point in the story, Robin Hood decided to take a dramatic pause. He announced he was going to his pit and take a dump. Rob was starting to wonder if that’s where the story belonged. Rob was having an epiphany. He was beginning to conclude that a story didn’t have to be true. It only had to sound true; it only had to sound real; it only had to be something you couldn’t disprove. He thought he ought not believe all the stories he’d been told by Robin Hood and his Merrymen. They may be true and they may be partly true and they might be a pack of lies.
He decided he could tell any story he wanted from before he got here and any story when he was alone and they had to act as if they believed him. They could challenge the story but he didn’t have to prove anything. They had to disprove. This was a life-changing thought although Rob hadn’t worked out the details yet. It was sort of, a “believe my lies and I’ll believe yours”.
Robin came back and sat down. “Right. Where was I. Oh, yes, I was captured by the heathen Arabs and being held for ransom. I knew it at the time because I was still alive. They kill everyone who is not worth a ransom. I figured my father would ransom me quick enough. I didn’t know what Prince John had done to him. If I had, I would have fought to the death before capture.”
Rob grinned at Robin Hood and thought, Yea, right.
Night fell as Robin stumbled along the surprisingly cold desert. He could see some light in the sky but was completely lost as to direction. He’d been warned to make no noise. Robin was astonished at being alive and wanted to stay that way. From what he’d heard, the Arabs killed the Crusaders instead of making them prisoners. While he didn’t understand why he was still alive he also didn’t intend to ask. No sense putting any idea into their heads.
At one point his captors stopped and tied a rope around his neck. Robin feared the worse. He did wonder what they were going to hang him from in a desert. He then thought the answer to the question would be unpleasant. One of the Arabs came up to him and whispered, “Dog, do not make a single sound. I will be leading you and a son of Allah will be directly behind you. If either of us can hear you we will kill you as we would any dog.”
Robin moved as quietly as possible. He prayed it would be quiet enough. They crested a dune and Robin was shocked to see the lights of the Crusader camp below him. He was further shocked to see the lights of Acre looming in the distance. They were going to walk through the Crusader camp to the city! They’d never get away with it. He also thought he should pray they did. It was his life on the line as well.
They entered the city and went into a building. He was knocked down to his knees. A rather large Arab was standing and looking at him. “I hope you come from wealth, English dog. If not, you are a dead man. If you are, and a ransom is paid, you shall be freed. Probably. Depends on Saladin’s mood. If Richard the Doghearted pisses Saladin off, off goes your head, ransom or not. Take him away!”
“Should we chain him?”,one of the men asked.
“Why bother? There’s nowhere for him to go. He looks like a sissy-boy, doesn’t he? Well, if you catch him at that, kill him.”
They dragged him to a room and threw him through the doorway. He hit hard. The sand here was pounded until it was like stone. The door slammed behind him. There was no light but a voice called out, “Who are you? Be a Moslem or a dog?”
Robin was about fed up with the dog reference. On the other hand, he wasn’t able to see who called to him. He’d wait until he could see how big the man was and then make a decision on how insulted he felt.
“I am a member of Richard the Lionheart’s court, I’ll ‘ave ye know.”
“Well, well, well. My and isn’t that doing you a world of good, Englishman. I am Abu Abu. I am a Moslem but I am not an Arab. I am an Ethiopian.”
“What the ‘ell does that mean?”
“I am from Ethiopia.”
“Yea, so? Ye are in ‘ere as well as I.”
“Yes, that is true. Ye many be ransomed and released. Sadly, I will be released after they cut my balls off.”
“What? They – what?”
“Oh, don’t fear. If they kill ye they will cut ye head off. Me, I was with a woman I’m not married to so I get the big slice.”
“Seems awfully ‘arsh. I mean-”
“Yes, it is harsh. It is also justice. It is the Koran and I live by it and, if need be, I will die by it.”
“Ye seem calm about it. Perhaps they ‘ave already done it.”
“Are ye nuts? I think I’d know it if they had. Crazy, English dumbass.”
Robin felt for a wall with his foot. He swept it back and forth to clear anything there such as shit or a spider. He sat down to wait for morning. He hoped to have enough light to see around and to see this Abu Abu. The man seemed a bit tranquil about his fate. That worried Robin to no end.
Robin wondererd what type of food these Muslims ate. He then wondered what kind of food their prisoners ate. He should be trying to think of an escape plan. Somehow, he thought a ransom might not get him returned. Even if it did, there was no promise all of him would be returned. Yes. An escape might be the route to take.
Morning broke and there was slot cut near the roof. It was big enough for light to enter but too small for a man to leave. Robin didn’t think it was going to be that simple. He mulled over whether he could overpower the man who brought the food. He decided he probably could but the man who came with him would likely cut his head off. Perhaps a bribe. They hadn’t taken his purse so he had a few coins there to use. How much would it take to bribe a guard?
“More than you have, English dog.”
“I beg ye pardon?”
“I know what you are thinking. You think you might bribe a guard. You can’t. Oh,it’s not so much their innocence that stops them. It’s that they can’t explain the coins. They would have their hands and feet removed when caught. You aren’t in England now.”
“I certainly don’t intend to do nothing. Whatever I intend to do ye shall not know about it. Ye would use it to escape ye punishment. Ye seem to be unconcerned about losing ye manhood but I expect ye would trade me for them.”
“I would trade you for a bowl of dates. I am calm for a reason. Either they will emasculate me or they won’t. If I escape, they won’t. I do not, they will. It’s nothing to be excited about.”
“Getting excited is what got ye ‘ere so, mayhaps, ye are right.”
“If I find a way out I would take you with me for your purse and your word to take me out of Arabia. I won’t lie to you, I would leave you behind if it means I escape. Are ye game for it?”
“Tell me ye plan first.”
“Of, I don’t have one yet. I’ll get back to you when I think one up.”
Abu Abu had plans but none worked. He had discovered no way to get through the slot at the top of the room. No matter what contortions he use he couldn't get through. He had tried to kick the outside wall down but got only a painful foot from it. He’d tried knocking the wall down with body blows too. In one attempt he’d knocked himself out. No, he had no plan. That is- “English dog, I have a plan. It will take courage and, to be honest, carries some risk.”
“Well, let’s ‘ear it.”
“When the camel-driving scum bring our food, I will take him. We can make a run for it.”
Robin held back a laugh because of the size of Abu Abu. “What of the man behind ‘im with the sword? It is likely ‘e shall stop us, don’t ye think?”
“I thought while I took out he goat-thumping trash who serves us, you could surprise the swords guy. He won’t be expecting such a reckless move. It may well work.”
“It may well work for ye. While ‘e’s cutting me to pieces ye can make ye escape. No, I think not. I think, ye being a larger man than I, I think ye should attack the swordsman while I attack whoever brings our food. That’s the deal, take it or not. My balls aren’t at risk ‘ere.”
That’s what they did. Robin took out the food-server and Abu Abu took out the man behind him. The guard was so surprised he never raised the sword until it was too late. Robin and Abu Abu ran down the hall past the other guards and out into the city.
The guards were caught unawares and it took a moment for them to realize what was happening. This gave Robin and Abu Abu time to get into the city. The people knew Robin shouldn’t be running around.; he was too pale to be one of them. He also dressed funny. No one did anything but gape at the two men running for the gate.
The gatekeepers didn’t react fast enough to stop them. They ran out and headed to the Crusader camp. When they got there the Crusader guards wanted to kill Abu Abu but accepted Robin’s word he was a man-servant.
“Oh, a manservant am I? Well, I want out of here. I want to either go back to Ethiopia or to England.”
“Right. I do not think being a Crusader is the real me. Let us catch a boat and start back to England. Perhaps my father will ‘ave forgiven me by now. Let us go to the dock.”
Captain Nathaniel Hawtrey was there with his ship. Robin cursed but paid passage to Rome for himself and Abu Abu. From Rome they could easily make it to England. It was time to go home.
It was a long slog up through the city-states that was Italy. The trip through the Alps went fine since it was early in the fall. The trip through France was simple except for all the people staring at Abu Abu. He was like a carnival freak show.
“These assholes act like they never saw a black man before.”
“Well Abu Abu, they haven’t. So-”
“They’re still assholes.”
They got to a port and looked for cheap passage to England. They ran into Captain Hawtrey. He said he could take them across for a fair price. He talked about Robin’s first trip and laughed. Robin felt like crying. Abu Abu didn’t think any the less of Robin because he didn’t have a very high regard for him to start with.
“I say, Robert, I thought ye were serious about the Crusade. Waste of time if ye ask me. If the Pope wants Jerusalem back let ‘im go on a Crusade. Bloody waste of time the place is. A bunch of sand fleas and broken down old buildings. ‘ell, ye can get that in Rome. Different kind of fleas but, what the ‘ell, a flea is a flea. Now, the sea, now that’s the place to be. A man can live on the sea.”
“Say there, Captain, who’s this Robert ye speak of?”, Abu Abu said.
“Uh, ‘e’s standing right next to ye. Are ye blind?”
Abu Abu turned to Robin and said, “What the Hell’s this Robert? You are Robin Hood.”
Captain Hawtrey looked at Robin with distrust. “Ye are named Robin ‘ood? Ye said ye was Robert. I got paid to deliver Robert of Goode to France. What did ye do with ‘im? If ye ‘armed ‘im, I shall ‘ang ye from the mast myself.”
“No, no. Richard the Lionheart renamed me. I don’t like it but, ye know, ‘e’s the king.”
“Ye know ye father’s counselors will not give ye money as Robin Hood. I can no longer swear that ye are Robert either.”
“What? Why the ‘ell not? I am Robert.”
“Ye say ye are Robin ‘ood. The money is for Robert of Goode. Ye see where the problem is.”
“Good Lord, man, my father will pay ye. ‘e knows who I am.”
That mollified Hawtrey. He said he’d set sail at first light.
After clearing the harbor, Hawtrey came down on deck to speak to Robin and Abu Abu. “I say, what kind of name is Robin? That’s a damn bird. Not a good name for a man. You wouldn’t think of Richard as Richard the Cat-hearted, now would ye? What’s ‘ood mean. It sounds stupid. Ye aren’t around the king now so why use it?”
“Ye never know what Richard might ‘ear about. He’s a nosy sort like an old woman. I didn’t say that. If ‘e were to ‘ear I am calling myself Robert of Goode ‘e might react very poorly.”
“Aye, I can see the logic of that. What about this fellow. How does ‘e get away with Abu Abu? Richard can’t like that much.”
“Umm, ‘e doesn’t know about it. ‘e doesn’t know I left. I don’t think ‘e’d think of me at all. Ye know, out of sight, out of mind and all that.”
Abu Abu listened to this and was displeased. “Abu Abu is a very proud name. To my people it means ‘brave’. Abu Abu means the ‘bravest of the brave’. It is an honor.”
“Yes, well, be that as it may, ye are not among ye people. To us it just sounds funny”, Hawtrey told him.
“As opposed to ‘Robin’?”
“Yes, well, I’m going up and navigate.”
They arrived in London and left the ship. There was no fond farewell as Robin had decided he didn’t like Hawtrey. Abu Abu didn’t either so they just walked ashore with their baggage. Hawtrey didn’t seem to notice. He had been paid and that’s was his only concern.
The two walked to Robin’s father’s merchant house. When he arrived and walked in he saw the place had changed somewhat. He didn’t recognize anyone. He announced who he was and was told to have a seat. Have a seat? Have a seat in his father’s office? No, there by the door. What the ‘ell?
A middle-aged man came out and asked him what he wanted. Robin said he wanted to speak to his father and who the hell are you?
The man gave Robin a sharp look and haughtily informed him his father was in the debtor’s prison where he belonged. His father had failed to pay a royal tax and Prince John had taken the business over and would you please leave.
Robin was stunned by this. He walked outside and stood there.
“Master Robin, it would seem ye are not what ye said ye were”, Abu Abu said.
“I must go to the prison and talk to my father. I must find my mother. I must do something about this. My father has always paid ‘is taxes I don’t understand this.”
At the debtor’s prison Robin was asked if he was there to pay the debt. When he said no the guard seemed disappointed. The prison was open to anyone who wanted to go in. It had to be since the prison provided the prisoners nothing. All their food and clothing had to be given to them by family or friends. Many a prisoner had suffered for lack of either.
Robin found his father and was shocked at his appearance. His clothes were rags and he looked scrawny. “Ye! Ye ungrateful bastard! I send ye to King Richard and I end up ‘ere. What the ‘ell did ye do? Why are ye ‘ere? The Crusade isn’t over. Are ye stupid? Don’t answer that. Do ye ‘ave money to buy me food. I am tired of feasting on rats. If ye ‘ave no money ye are useless to me.”
“Father, I shall right this wrong. Depend on it. I shall give ye money for food. Where is mother?”
“Huh? What? Oh, ‘er. She is in a convent. I shamed ‘er and she joined the Little Sisters of the Poor. Ye shall never be able to see ‘er. She’s, what ye call it, cloistered. Give me money.”
Robin and Abu Abu left. Outside the walls Abu Abu spoke up. “Where I come from, and in my religion, this would never happen. If I ran afoul of the law or didn’t pay my taxes I would become a slave until I worked off my debt. Ye English are a savage people.”
“Oh, shut up. I must go to the palace and plead my father’s case. I need to restore him. Prince John is a right bastard but he isn’t King John. I will get my father restored even if I ‘ave to write to King Richard to do it.”
That was the wrong move. Prince John heard Robin out. He snorted; he laughed; he had Robin thrown into the street. He looked Abu Abu over and invited him to stay. Abu Abu, to his credit, declined. Prince John had him thrown into the street as well. Two of his guards ended up with broken arms. Prince John saw Robin and Abu Abu running down the street. He had his scribe declare them both to be outlaws and authorized any Sheriff to hang them.
“So, lad, that’s how I became an outlaw. I am waiting for Richard to return and restore my father as well as my self.”
Abu Abu stood there waiting for Robin to mention restoring him. Robin walked to his hut. Abu Abu was unhappy.
Rob looked at Abu Abu with sympathy. He realized he and the black Muslim were being treated alike. Rob knew now he was on his own. He would do what was best for him. That lasted until Maid Marian fluttered her eyes at him and sent him on a saga.
There are people living on the edge in what is called Appalachia. They're called ridgerunners, rednecks, hillbillies and backwoods mountaineers. No one thinks of them very often. They don't earn much to society's standards.They stay where they are because they love the area. They are hard workers when they have work and self-sufficient to an extent not known to "outsiders." They are also very funny; they have a great sense of humor about themselves.
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