I watch him from the sidelines, my leader of men. He walks through the camp, touching a shoulder here, bending to better hear a conversation there. He looks over to me and winks, smiling that special smile he saves just for me.
He’s so gentle here, among his people. It’s hard to believe that he’s a high born warrior. He treats them all as equals, showing no airs or graces.
We’d slept around the fires last night, wrapped in blankets. I’d had his warmth at my back as he curled around me, cradling me in his arms. This is the norm before a raid, the need to feel kinship, that sense of family.
He believes his men are loyal to him because of his superior fighting skills. I don’t believe that. I believe that it’s his loyalty to his men that inspires them to fight beside him; to fight for the good of the common people.
Pride swells my chest, just looking at what he’s achieved. They’d been a disorganised rabble, these men of the forest, fighting amongst themselves for every scrap of food. Now they’re a brotherhood, banding together to save their families.
The season’s getting colder though, we need to prepare for the coming winter. We have shelter, hidden within the dense forest, far from the prying eyes of the Sheriff. Fallen branches and peat provide a plentiful supply of fuel, we have meat and fish preserved in the smoke houses, fruit and nuts stored. Water’s abundant here in the river valley. What we are lacking is grain, both for our consumption and for the horses and the few milk cows we keep. And, of course ale. Tuck will bring down the wrath of God if we neglect that!
There’s a commotion at the edge of the camp and Will bursts through the bushes. “Robin! The supply train’s coming.”
He drops a kiss on my nose. “Be safe,” he whispers, my gentle man of the hood. He gathers up his bow and quiver.
We steal to live, so our people thrive. That’s a good enough reason… isn’t it?