Monday, October 13, 2014



Copyright: Laura Strickland

Midnight approaches on the eve of Halloween—or Samhain, as the Old Ones called it—and the slender figure of a woman slips through the trees of Sherwood Forest. Flickers of moonlight and darkness, like the cloak she wears, conceal her simple nun’s habit, and her identity.
How many nights has she made this journey in her mind? Wishing, hoping, praying she might escape the restraints that tether her, and find her way back.

To him.

For there is and could ever be only one man who possesses her heart, and he is dead.

But on this night, this one, blessed sabbat on the wheel of the year, the door between the living and the dead stands open and passage may be made from this world to the next, and back. For this one night, she might hope to hold him again.

She bursts into a clearing amid the trees, an ancient place steeped in old magic, and beholds the figure awaiting her. Beneath the full moon, wrapped in tendrils of mist, he appears first a man, and then a stag standing upright, bearing a full rack of antlers. Without hesitation she throws herself at his feet.

“Please, my Lord, I beg thee grant me one wish. I have surely earned it in grief and pain, and loneliness.”

“Ask, child, for what you will.” His reply comes up through the soil, surges through the trees and dances in the air.

“Let me but be with him again this night.”

“Name the one you seek.”

“Robin.” She barely dares breathe the name.

And the god replies, “Arise, Marian.”

She comes to her feet eagerly, her heart nearly bursting, and hears a beloved voice call her, like an echo of the god. “Marian.”

Ah, and there he stands! Hale and strong and whole as he was before he fell, slaughtered by his Norman enemies—beautiful to her eyes. Every longing she has known these many years since his death finds answer as she stumbles forward into his arms.

“How long have we?” she asks, even as her lips reach for his. The spell of Samhain, as she knows, is fleeting and he might fade with the moonlight.

His only reply comes in silence as he draws her down onto a bed of moss and loves her full well.

“Do not go from me,” she begs then. “Too many nights have I lain in my bed at the nunnery, longing for you. I would not have this end.”

“Aye, Marian, and what would you give to be with me not just this one night, but always?”

She looks into his beloved face and replies, “Anything.”

He brushes his lips across hers, making her quiver with delight.

“Yet,” she says, “I understand the bargain Samhain offers: for but a few short hours on this night are the dead allowed back across the threshold. Is it not so?” He, who has dwelt in death so long, will know.

“Aye, love, it is so.”

“How long have we?” she asks again, her heart breaking.

And he says, “Before the cock crows I must turn back for the spirit world from whence I came. Only those likewise in spirit may come with me to the land on the other side.”

She wonders, then, whether she might have been better without this one night’s joy, for the grief of losing him all over again.

He asks her once more, “What would you give to come with me? Would you give your life?”

“If I could so choose.” But she knows she cannot. All these lonely years without him have not brought her that choice, nor all her prayers and longing.

But he leans close and whispers, “My love, you can.”

Her heart leaps. More than anything she wants to believe him. She plumbs the mysteries in his eyes and begs, “How? By renouncing the world? By sacrificing all else? Only tell me, Robin, and it is done.”

“Nothing so difficult.” He captures her face between his hands and studies her kindly. “Do you not wonder why you were able to find me this night, of all those Samhain nights since my death? Why the moonlight guided you, the god awaited you, and the portal stood open?”

“So it does stand, on Samhain Eve.”

“Aye, and for the dead more than for the living.” Very gently he says, “’Twas not in flesh you came to me this night, Marian. My love, your body lies still in your cell at the nunnery, where death found you not three hours ago.”

“Dead!” The terrible wonder of it suffuses her. For an instant, she misses her life as once she missed him: bright mornings kissed by a brisk wind, flowers and children’s laughter, and the smell of new bread baking. But without him her existence is but a long, terrible dream, for all her passion lies here with this man.

He lifts her fingers to his lips and his love wraps around her. “And so, Marian, will you bid farewell to the world and follow me?”

She gives him the last answer she ever will, her only answer. “Robin, my love, I never stopped following you.” And gladly, joyfully, she steps over the threshold with him, into eternity.

The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy:

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