The Sound of Drums
Updated: Apr 25, 2020
They were so loud in the silence of my world.
They echoed through the dungeon like my heartbeat through my veins.
I never thought it would end this way. I’d hoped my death would be peaceful. I thought it would happen by the sea with the cool wind caressing my old bones.
But I’m not by the sea. Instead, I’m shackled to damp stone and shivering through my thin tunic cursing my parentage and inheritance of a rebellious spirit.
“Get moving, prisoner!”
The soldier slams open the cage door, the keys to my chains rattling on his waist. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the light from his torch after sitting in darkness for three days. I must be delusional from the dehydration because one moment he’s standing in the jail doorway and the next he’s unshackling me to the wall pulling my weak body to its feet.
He pushes me out of the cell, and I stumble as my feet are still chained to my hands. It’s finally happening.
The air outside of the dungeon seems to have done me some good, as my vision becomes sharper and the halls of the castle clear.
“Keep moving,” The guard growls as he slams me to the ground with a harsh shove. The manacles encircling my wrists are weighing my trembling body down.
I hiss in pain as he yanks me up by the cuffs tearing at the cuts on my already injured wrists. And just like that I’m up again continuing my journey towards the gallows.
The drums grow louder and I begin to suspect they’re no longer apart of my imagination. A new breeze drifts through the castle cruelly chilling me more strongly than the damp cell through my thin dress.
Other soldiers stop us at the huge iron doors leading to the castle courtyard where the hanging platform is kept. We wait for them to open.
Laughter draws my attention from behind but I keep my eyes forward not giving whoever it is the satisfaction.
“Victory at last,” a man taunts as he finally enters my sight.
He steps between the door and me. I allow my green eyes to meet his jeering ice blue.
“I’ve finally won and what? You've got nothing to say,” he questions smugly.
His eyes roam over my body sending a shiver down my spine.
I sneer holding the man’s gaze, showing no fear just as I was taught.
“Your celebration is premature. Although I hear that’s always been a problem for you, and now, at your age… well, I’m not surprised.”
Prince John’s eyes narrow in distaste.
I see his hand lift before he strikes. His ring catches my cheek and cuts deep causing me to make a reluctant sound.
Out of the corner of my eye I can see the Sheriff grinning smugly as he disappears back into the shadows.
“I’ve hunted you since your debut. And now? You stand before me, waiting, minutes before your death. Forgive me for my excitement, princess,” he snarls, grasping my chin roughly.
He forces me to look at him and all I can think about is how ugly the prince is. His balding head is red from his stolen crown as if it’s too tight and his burgundy tunic is a dark blood shade like a testament to all the blood he’s spilled.
He whips his wolfskin cloak to his side and I rip my head away from his hand, spitting the blood from my split lip at his shoes.
I respond with a bloody grin, “Forgiven. All these years I’ve slipped through your grasp and every defeat you’ve suffered has been at the hands of a mere child. Of course, you long for my death if only to recover your pride.”
“If you were just that, you already would have felt the noose around your neck. You’re more than a child, Aine.”
He was right of course. I am far more than my youth perceives me. I am the only living child of Robin of Loxley, daughter of Maid Marian, and the inheriting legacy of the Hood. I am Aine of Loxley, the Maiden of Thieves, the Crimson Hood.
I am reminded of my pride; my strength that had been stripped of me weeks ago during my torture with the sheriff of Nottingham.
He’d taken so much, left me with what I began to believe was a shell of my former self, locked away in the dungeons of Nottingham. But Prince John has reminded me of who I am, and I’m stronger than what they’ve done to me.
I’m a fighter and I inherited that from both of my parents.
“What can I say, I am my mother’s daughter,” I growl.
I enjoy the low blow as the prince flinches in response.
John had been in love with my mother back in the days. He’d even almost married her but then my father had stolen her right from under his nose like the thief he was.
She's dead now. She died when I was seven, murdered by the prince in a jealous rage. But my father tells me I look just like her.
He laughs and will say, she and I shared the same cream skin; the same red curls that tangle like no other, and a tall height.
But my favorite part about me is my eyes. My mother loved my eyes because she'd tell me I had my father’s eyes and the way she’d gaze at me with such love, I was lucky. Because more important than just my looks, I knew I had the best of both of them inside of me.
John grabs the top of my head shaking me out of my reveries, my dark red hair falling loosely past my shoulders.
“Indeed it’s as if she were still here. You’re a true vision of her, well, except," he glares into my eyes, "… But hell if I was twenty years younger and you were less like your father, perhaps this could end another way. Alas… ”
He jerks my head to the side, before I can react, and places his nose at my neck.
Trying to back away, disgusted, I snarl for him to release me.
He finally tears away relinquishing his hold on my hair.
“I’ve had my fun. Showtime.”
He turns his back on me and marches towards the door as it finally begins to open.
He greets his stolen subjects waiting in the courtyard with a dramatic smile as he saunters up the side stone steps onto the castle balcony that overlooks the interior square.
Screams and objections shout from behind the line of soldiers keeping the peasants in check.
The cold winter breeze sways my tunic, the wind caressing my hair from my face. I must look like a white lady and maybe I’ll become that mythological specter after my demise.
The guard who led me from my cell takes my upper arm and hauls me closer to the gallows, the noose hanging above the platform. It patiently waits to break my neck.
I’ve done so many things in the past years. Every memory floods back as I stare at that circle of rope. How I stole from the rich to support the poor. How I carried medicine through a rocky pass to save lives in the isolated mountain villages. I’ve bandaged my men and women of my camp who fought alongside me for the life my father and I stand for. I’ve worked by my father’s side and injured myself almost beyond repair because I believed so passionately in our cause.
I have done more than most people have in a long lifetime. I should be satisfied, happy with the time I was given. But I’m not.
I’m selfish that way.
John stands by, waiting until I’m on the wooden platform and the executioner has placed the noose around my neck before beginning his victory speech.
My ever-faithful guard stays close in case I attempt any sudden moves, flattering really.
“My fellow Lords and Ladies, welcome. Throughout the years we have been viciously attacked. The villain known as Robin Hood has taken from your hard works and contributions to the kingdom, ripping away your good deeds. He robbed you of your safety. In the past seventeen years, he not only alienated the minds of our people but the mind of a child, his daughter, Aine of Loxley. She too has been a victim of years of torment under her father’s wicked mind tricks. Unwittingly she followed in his footsteps and now she also has taken from the many, to play an “officer of God.” But really, she and her father are demons. This girl, known as Crimson Hood, was offered repentance many times, but she declined all types of rehabilitation including marriage to a prominent figure in our community.”
The prince glances at the Sheriff who does his best not to glare back at the prince.
Murmurs and rumbles erupt from the court at the prince's words. I try to drown out the memories of the marriage offer the prince speaks of, now isn’t the time.
The prince continues, “Aine of Loxley has left us no choice but to sentence her to death and damnation as she remains a demon of her father’s making.”
The Lords and Ladies of the court cheer in triumph at the announcement of my fate but more importantly, I can hear the grief of the common people crying behind the line of officers.
They know who I truly am, they know what I’ve really done, and they are the ones I keep fighting for.
I look up towards the sky and allow the wind to comfort me. I think of my father as well as the boy I’d come to know and love, a boy I had hoped to spend a life with. I think of my mother and how I am to see her sooner than I had originally expected.
“Does the prisoner have any last words?”
Prince John’s snarl shakes me out of my grief. I turn my gaze from the sky and look out over the people that matter most until finally glaring back at the prince.
“You can’t kill me! Not what I stand for. There will always be someone there to right the balance in the world. My body will wither and die, but my spirit will live on, as will my cause. You’re weak, Prince John, you have no real power over my people or me! Long Live the King! Long Live King Richard!” I scream the words with all my shattered might.
The Prince blusters, his expression thunderous and I can’t contain the laugh of joy that escapes.
“Long Live King Richard!” I scream once more.
The prince opens his mouth to retort when voices as loud as the gallows drums answer back, “Long Live King Richard.”
The people return my call with reverence and a tear slips down my cheek.
I’ll see you soon Mother.
They chant the call to arms,
“Long Live King Richard,
Long Live King Richard,
Long Live King Richard…”
“Enough!” The Prince screeches his face red in embarrassment, “I will not have that name spoken in my presence!”
But they continue to chant, delivering over his tired rants.
The Prince catches my triumphant gaze, he looks positively murderous; I smirk, wink and whisper, knowing he’ll read my lips, “We win.”
The Prince barks incoherently and points to the executioner who salutes in acknowledgment.
“Kill her!” The Prince seethes and the sheriff at his side gestures for the executioner to follow through.
Time slows down around me and magically little specks of snow begins to fall all around us. I release a breath staring enamored at how I can see the gust of air in the cold. The trap door opens beneath my feet so I close my eyes, waiting for the rope to catch as I fall, breaking my neck in half.
I wait, the fall feels like it’ll never stop, and then, I hit the floor.
Gasping as the wind is knocked out of me, I arch my back from the pain of landing flat on the cold cobblestone.
I can vaguely hear the distant sound of drums pounding in my ears, no wait I think it’s... my heartbeat. And then the sound of screeching overpowers it.
I open my eyes, blearily seeing a familiar face pulling me onto my feet and off the ground.
“Bane!” I cry, pulling the man closer to me.
He wraps his arms around seeing as how I can’t hug him back what with the manacles still locked to my wrists and ankles.
I look up into his handsome face, tears have collected unshed within his brown eyes and I can’t resist the urge as I wrap my fingers into the front of his tunic and pull him down for a deep kiss, my tongue seeking entrance before he has a chance to realize what’s happening. But once he does, he opens quickly and suddenly I remember why I fell so deeply in love with this tailor's boy turned outlaw.
We pull away remembering our surroundings and I laugh at the dazed look in his dark eyes.
“I thought I’d never feel that again,” Bane mutters grabbing a key out of his brown and green tunic. I look up through the opening in the platform to see my father dueling the executioner. Once Bane frees my hands I lift them to my neck removing the rope.
“Didn’t think we’d show?” Bane smirks looking me over for injuries.
“No! You cut it a little close!” I snort stealing the sword from his belt, “Now, come on!”
I walk out from under the platform with Bane at my side, studying the battle surrounding me. The merry men fight the Prince’s guard for my life and the thrill of fighting with my family almost overcomes me.
Bane pulls the bow off his back and starts shooting off his arrows.
The first guard approaches me and I feel kind of sorry for him.
I smell, I’ve spent a couple of weeks in the dungeon, and his prince nearly killed me, in short, I’m ready to spill some blood. With a battle cry, I rake my blade down his chest and the soldier goes down with a scream.
Bane and I fight in a circle keeping each other’s backs covered. While my father and Bane have always been better with a bow, my talent is the sword.
It's a heavyweight that feels familiar in my grip and usually I accompany it with my trusted Lion's shield.
My eyes lock on the shocked looking Prince John still frozen on the palace balcony, as I hack down his men who tried to take my life from me. This day would end with Prince John's head on a pike, so help me God.
I wrote this a few years back so sorry for the lack of grammar! But I always loved it. Robin Hood and The Princess of Thieves were two of my favorite tales growing up and it brought me a lot fo inspiration later on.