Happy Valentine’s Day to my amazing Secret Valentine, @starscythe!!! I do hope you enjoy this gift, my friend, as you gift us with so many incredible manips all year long. Meeting you in person in November was such a joy, and I hope we can hug in person again in the near future.
He’s heard stories, of course, broken whispers
whenever a fierce storm blew in unexpectedly, mumbled musings if an
acquaintance suddenly fell ill. These are never voiced loudly, as superstition’s
lingering hold on the forest proves to be an ominous task master, leaving such
wonderings to drift from one listener to the next, more often than not finding
fertile ground stripped bare by black magic’s lingering touch.
The Evil Queen’s dark curse had taken many, but
there are those among the forest’s remnants who believe she herself still
dwells in this realm. They speak of her in hushed fragments, discuss sightings
of a dark, solitary figure who roams the forest at night, a cloaked woman who
has somehow lost her magic but now lives bound to it, perhaps in just
retribution for a curse so foul it emptied their lands and cast both friend and
foe into fates unknown.
Robin has never put much stock into
superstition, neither does he give credence to legends or fairy lore. His is a
world defined by what he can see, touch and confiscate, a world in which people
rarely fit into molds of “good” or “evil”, a world in which he’s observed
unspeakable acts committed by the most respected of citizens while those judged
as lesser are the very ones who offer shelter and food to the starving. He
lives by his wits and senses and surrounds himself with a thieving group of
outcasts he’d readily give his life to protect.
Yet even he, the infamous Robin Hood, has to
admit that the air feels odd tonight, that there is a charge to the impending
storm brewing in the eastern highlands that makes the hairs on the back of his
neck prickle. He senses a disturbance, one that feels altogether too personal
and close at hand for comfort. Roland must have felt it, too, for the boy had
clung to him as Robin soothed his son’s whimpers until he’d finally fallen into
a fitful sleep.
It is enough for him to grudgingly admit that
tinges of magic probably remain in his forest, even if the queen is nowhere to
be found. Dreams of Marian and of his mother plague his sleep and fill him with
sense of urgency altogether foreign, one that pushes him towards consciousness
even as his body rebels.
A loud clap of thunder finally awakens him, and
he’s surprised to find that he’s drenched in sweat. Roland is still sleeping
soundly, but one touch to his son’s forehead reveals that the boy is hot with
fever. He holds his child close, drawing the blankets up around him, but he
worries as all parents do, even as the wind howls just outside their tent.
Roland needs feverfew tea. Unfortunately, their
stashes of medicinal herbs have run dry in light of the recent bout of sickness
that have ravaged both his men and their families, and he lies there only minutes
before deciding to risk a trip to the lake’s edge to gather what he needs. He
wakes Little John and asks his friend to keep an ear and eye out for his son
before donning his thickest cloak and disappearing into the forest’s canopy.
He’s survived far worse storms than this, he reminds himself, ignoring the
tingling sensations skittering up his legs that feel altogether supernatural.