The Archer (part 3 of 6)

How was Alwen even aware of my one and only return, I wondered, just six years ago? I had espied her myself then, serving jugs of ale brought from the kitchen, but I kept my hood up with my face in shadow the whole time I talked in the back room of that inn with Jacob and his beautiful daughter Rebecca.

Rebecca, of course! Girls gossip all the time. Rebecca would be about a year or two greater than Robin’s age, almost a full-grown woman herself. A raven haired beauty now, no doubt, as she was always a beautiful child. With my nomadic lifestyle and the inaccessibility of my home hamlet in Wales, I had had no contact with Jacob since helping him to a ship captained by my fisherman cousin and away from England to safety. But it was quite possible that Alwen corresponded with Jacob or Rebecca. I saw Alwen reading her ledger and writing out a bill from my vantage point when I entered through the inn’s back passageway, seeking out my homeless old friend.

Also, that same year I was truly inspired in my bowmanship and won every single contest I entered in that shire and the neighbouring ones to the west of the English Midlands. Fellow travellers may have spread the news of William the Bowman’s exploits, as I was known at the time. That was one of the reasons why I had previously dropped using Will Archer as my name and was now Will Fletcher, an archer who had absolutely no reputation at all.

I wonder as I walk alone, how could I so easily fall into her mother’s marriage scheme? Youthful enthusiasm to do right by the wronged girl? Maybe. Open to bribery by a doting mother? Certainly I gave in to temptations offered. All of these things, I was both Samaritan and Judas. I walked away some nineteen years ago feeling like a sneak thief, with pieces of silver rattling in my purse and fat skins of ale to wash down my twin guilts of abandonment of a wife ripening with child and the additional unwanted shame of cuckolding the absent innkeeper. I tried to assuage my guilt by leaving Alwen a few token pence, but those other acts were my baptism into adulthood and have haunted me all my lonely nights since.

Too tired, hungry, thirsty and dusty to turn away from my destiny now. Robin has my bag, including all my coin, me, the one who trusts no one! I am left only clutching my knife, bow and meagre quiver of arrows, the later two for my ...

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Tony Spencer
Mar 8 2021

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