SHIREWODE Excerpt

 

“So I’m to just let you and your pack of thieving bastards cut my throat?”

“I’m not sure I waint be better paid cutting your throat.”

“Filthy wolfshead—!” It cut off into a gurgle as Robyn spun, grabbed him by the throat.

“You keep saying that. Guy.” It was a whisper—a caress, almost. The sloe eyes were lazily half-mast, yet seemed to look through Guy, sparks flaring beneath those lowered lashes, as if Robyn saw through skin and bone, could read his thoughts. Then Robyn raised that too-familiar quillion dagger and laid it against Guy’s jugular, breathed in his ear. “Say it again. Please.”

No fear, Gamelyn… It came stealing out of the past, a lesson he thought well learned and done. Fear does y’ no good. You show throat, they’ll only sense it, and then you’re nowt to ’em. A sloe-eyed companion teaching him the stalk. Another voice. Another life. Forever, it seemed. So close—too close—with Robyn’s breath sending shivers down his nape, and Robyn’s hard, callused hand beginning to relax its stronghold on his throat, letting Guy suck in urgent quavers of breath. But when Guy thought to move, ever so slight, the dagger bit, a warning sting of blade and blood.

“Bide still, now. I might be so overcome by your nearness after all these years that me hand would slip,” The mellifluous voice turned, an edge steely as the blade at Guy’s throat. “I’d give you to Them, right now, and who t’ say I was unjust? How many of my people have you terrorized? How many peasants have you killed on your little self-indulgent road to salvation?”

“And you?” Guy spat back. “What’s your body count, Robyn Hood? How many unarmed monks have you ambushed? How many soldiers have you shot in the back? And those men—surely some of those had families. Lovers.” The rain started to fall harder, misting their breath into yet more camouflage, more smoke to foul any mirrors. “Untie me!”

“Why, so you can slit my throat?”

“So I can die a man, at least, and not be shot in the back or have my throat cut like a common thief!”

“Aye, the worse sin would be to do owt like a commoner, would it?” Robyn leaned in again. “Your definition of sin has changed, somewhat.”

Rage quivered, demanding release. The bastard. The filthy whoreson of a bastard… “Untie me now.”

“Don’t give me orders, Gisbourne.” A snarl.

“You have no—”

“Shut the bloody fuck up. Gamelyn.”

It was as if he’d been punched in the gut. It was mortifying, but Guy could literally not make even a sound.

“Aye, well then, you’ve a name too, don’t you?” The bastard was laughing. Laughing, behind those velvet-dark eyes. “And it’s mine, now. You’re in my kingdom. You belong to me, here.”

“You have finally gone round the twist!” Guy rasped. “You’re insane.”

“Fancy that,” Robyn was still smiling. “You’ve been trailing after insanity for all these years. I’m thinking you’ve finally caught it up.”

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(c) 2016 J Tullos Hennig