Deleted Scene #2 — Chapter 1: Archery Opening
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Published by Platypus Press
This scene starts out with Robin and Will engaging in a friendly shooting match, at which time they discuss Lord Locksley’s puzzling behavior. It was intended to introduce us to Robin as a skilled archer who hates parties and who literally stands out from the rest of society. Yet early readers felt that this scene was too “cliché,” and in the end I chose to allow the reader to infer Robin’s attachment to archery, and focused instead on setting up the relationship between Robin, Darah, and Lord Locksley, and the events that led to Robin becoming an outlaw.
Deleted Scene #2 — Chapter 1: Archery Opening
Before the goose-fletched arrow even left her fingertips, Robin knew that she had shot poorly. Sure enough, her arrow embedded itself several barleycorns distance from the center of the target. At least it had the decency to land within the black, Robin thought, but that knowledge provided little comfort.
Her cousin, Will Gamwell, smiled at her wryly and gave her a strong clout on the shoulder, nearly making her stumble. “That’s the third time you’ve done that today. You aren’t going easy on me, are you?”
“I wouldn’t dare,” Robin teased back, trying to hide her disappointment behind a smile. She didn’t quite succeed.
Will, who knew her better than anyone, wasn’t buying her cavalier attitude. Ignoring his shrewd gaze, Robin walked the eighty paces over to the butt and began to tug out their arrows. A moment later, Will joined her.
“It’s not the party, is it?” Will asked quietly.
Unlike her flamboyant cousin, Robin disliked social gatherings. She detested dressing up and she abhorred small talk, something her father’s guests seemed incapable of understanding. Most of all, she hated — hated! — dancing. Fortunately, she rarely had to dance, as most men did not want to cavort with a woman nearly half-a-head taller than they. As the night’s honoree, though, decorum dictated that each gentleman ask her to dance at least once, and her father dictated that she could not refuse.
Will knew all this, but he also knew that such worries would not distract Robin enough to make her lose an archery contest for the first time in years.
“Father has a surprise for me,” she said glumly. “He won’t tell me what it is.”
Will raised an incredulous eyebrow. “That’s . . . odd.”
Robin nodded. It was odd for Sir Locksley to take notice of his eldest daughter at all. Usually he ignored his children, leaving their raising to his housekeeper, Darah, while he immured himself in the workings of his estate. Only once had Lord Robert of Locksley emerged from his own affairs long enough to concern himself with the affairs of his daughter, and that period was seared into Robin’s memory for several reasons.
So when Darah had told her this morning that her father wanted to see her, Robin had almost thought she was joking — only Robin knew too well that Darah had no sense of humor. It was with a sense of foreboding that she had gone to see her father.
She had never been in her father’s study before. It had become her father’s refuge in the years following her mother’s death, and from it he conducted most of the estate’s affairs. It was decidedly off limits. In spite of herself, Robin couldn’t help peering discreetly around as she waited just inside the entrance of the room. It was a handsome room, if sparse. She supposed it was much like her father that way.
It was several minutes before her father looked up from the papers on his desk. His blue gaze was inscrutable as he considered her.
He surprised her by saying, “It is your birthday today. You are what, seventeen?”
“Eighteen, my lord.”
His gaze sharpened. “So old? And so tall. Almost as tall as I am, I think. That could be a problem. Still, you are strong, which is an asset not many girls can claim.”
Robin nodded, mystified by this line of discourse.
“No doubt you are wondering why I sent for you,” he continued, returning to his papers. “I have a surprise for you. The details still have to be worked out, but I feel confident that after tonight, everything will fall into place. Consider it my birthday gift to you. Not many girls have your good fortune.”
Robin waited for further explanation, but her father seemed to have forgotten she was there. “Sir?” she ventured at last, when it became obvious that he wasn’t going to say anything more.
Scowling up from his work, he dismissed her with a wave of his hand. Knowing better than to interrupt again, Robin left, feeling more worried and confused that she had been before.
“And that’s all he wanted? To say he had a surprise for you?” Will asked dubiously after Robin finished relaying the event.
“I guess so, and to examine me. Honestly, Will, I felt like he was inspecting a horse,” she said glumly. “What could he want with me?”
“Hmm,” Will said consideringly. “Didn’t Dame Patricia say she needed a new handmaiden when she was here last month?”
Robin stared at her cousin in horror. “She couldn’t have meant — surely my father wouldn’t — I’d be an awful lady-in-waiting!” she exclaimed.
“I’m sure it has nothing to do with that,” he said in a tone that was meant to be consoling. Robin gave him a withering glare, which Will affected not to see.
“If you’re done plucking out those arrows yet, come with me,” he said, standing up and stretching the kinks out of his back that an afternoon of archery always seemed to induce.
“Why?” Robin asked absently, still worrying about his interpretation of her father’s intent.
Will grinned at her wickedly. “It’s a surprise.”
Shooting him a startled glance, Robin finished stuffing the blunts into her quiver and followed her cousin off the pitch. To her bemusement, he led her to the hunting shack where their practice weapons were stored and where her father’s woodwards kept their spare equipment. She hung up her bow and her quiver on their pegs and turned around to see Will holding a long, oblong object out to her, a peculiar expression on his face.
“What is it?” she asked, taking it gingerly from his hands.
Carefully she pulled away the coarse linen covering, her suspicions growing as she unwrapped each layer. Even before the last of the cloth fell away, she thought she knew what she held, what it must be.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, picking up the bow with a trembling hand. It was made of yew; her fingers caressed the pied wood, taking in its silky texture. It was unadorned except at the grip, where someone had carved her name. Compared to her oaken practice stave, this bow was a king.
When she finally tore her gaze away from her present, Will saw that there were tears in her eyes. “Thank you,” she whispered, clutching the longbow to her chest.
“Happy birthday,” he answered lightly. Without thinking, Will leaned over and kissed her gently on the forehead. Robin, her mind still reeling in wonder at her gift, barely noticed.
Robin insisted on trying out her new bow, and it was Will who finally called a halt to her diversion.
“You’re father’s already going to flay my hide when he finds out what I gave you for your birthday. I don’t want to get blamed for making you miss your party, too.”
Robin struggled to refocus her gaze on Will instead of the target. Her eyes ached; she realized that she had been straining to see in the dimming light. The afternoon was almost gone; with night would come the guests. Letting out a reluctant sigh, she obediently unstrung her bow and went to hang it up in the cabin.
Will helped Robin sneak into the house through the servant’s postern entrance. The servants pretended not to notice her passage as she stole into the hall, but she saw one of the kitchen girls follow her out and knew that she had gone to tell Darah that she had returned.
Sure enough, Robin had only just reached her quarters and begun to tear off her sweat-soaked overdress when Darah strode into the room.
Robin ignored her, knowing too well what she would see — a short, matronly woman in her mid-forties, with coiffed black hair and a face scarred from the pox. Her lack of beauty made her sharp, and she tended to whet her tongue on Robin. In spite of all that, she was kind-hearted and tried to bestow on her charges some modicum of ladylike decency and grace. Robin nettled her endlessly.
Right now, she knew that Darah was glaring. “Of course you would choose today to play with that abhorrent weapon you fancy,” the woman complained, picking up the sweat-soaked clothes as quickly as Robin doffed them. “Never mind that I haven’t had time to fit your dress and that your guests will be here in an hour and — oh, what am I supposed to do with you, Robin?” she demanded, catching Robin’s hands and tsking over the brightened calluses.
“Send me to my room without supper?” Robin asked hopefully.
“Don’t be pert.”
To Robin’s annoyance, Darah ordered her to soak her hands in cold water while she arranged Robin’s hair, carefully braiding the strands into a delicate coil that perched on Robin’s head with more grace than the girl probably deserved. In spite of the scolding, Darah appeared to be in a very good mood. She was even humming quietly under her breath.
It was her queerly buoyant demeanor that prompted Robin to ask, “Do you know what surprise my father has planned for me?”
Darah sputtered, nearly dropping her comb. “I would not presume to know any of Sir Locksley’s plans. Now try this on.” Without waiting for an answer, Darah pulled a gown over Robin’s head, expertly avoiding her hair. Robin shrugged into its folds with ill grace. She had a feeling that Darah wasn’t telling her the truth.
Darah sighed. “Just as I thought. It is too short. Well, there’s no time to fix it now — you’ll just have to wear it like that.”
Robin turned and gazed at her reflection in the mirror. The dress was a handsome wine-red, a color that brought out the red highlights in her golden hair and the deep blue of her eyes. Its hem fell just above her ankles, and this was what had Darah so dismayed. The rest of the dress, though, was perfect. The skirts were full, the waist was narrow, and the top exposed her throat in the latest fashion.
Robin hated it.
Just then, Will poked his head into her room. “Are you ready yet?” he asked. He stepped inside, caught sight of her and whistled. “Wow, Robin, you look like a lady.” Then he ducked back out again to avoid the pillow that Robin threw at him.
End Deleted Scene