Chorus from the Ballad of Robin Flynnt
There once was a warrior named Flynnt
Who fancied a dainty young bint.
He did what he could
to woo her, and good,
But woe came where-e'er he went...
Far off and away, there is an isle called Albion, and within its shores are a thousand peoples in a thousand climes. But let us dwell on the southernmost tip, where the tree-spotted land reaches out into unknown waters, for there live the Barons. They had not always been there; indeed, they arrived one day on dark ships and took the land by force, killing the gentle chieftain who had ruled before, and lining the road with the bones of them what dared oppose.
And into this unhappy land walked Robin Flynnt, his clothes caked with the dust of the road, his hair a nest of thorny red around his blue eyes, his sword slung easily across his back. He did not mind the bones that marked the roadways; he had seen worse on his travels, indeed, had come close to knowing the same fate, and would not let his spirits be bogged down by any man. He serenaded them with a brisk whistle, and went along his way.
But soon, the dust choked the tune from his lips, and he found himself straying from the road in search of water. Sure enough, there in the dark wood was a river, broad and fast and cool. He dunked his head in for good measure, letting the waters wash away the dirt and sweat and heat. But as he shook the water away from his eyes, he spied something down the river: a maiden, fair indeed. Now, Flynnt had seen many a maid in his day, and would see many more before God took away his breath at last, but something about this girl struck him soundly. She was fair, to be sure, but it was the way she held herself, even as she worked on such a tedious task as her family’s washings. There was charm there, clear enough to the learned eye, and a spirit to be experienced.
So Flynnt eyed his reflection in the river---nothing to be done about that at the moment, alas---and went to the task of experiencing his lady with a bow and a “halloo” and a “God-be-with.”
Her response was not quite the one he imagined: she started at the sound of his voice, and, on seeing him on the opposite bank, started off in a run with as much clothing as she might carry. Robin laughed at her panic, and threw his sword to her shore so she might understand what his intentions did not include. Warily she returned to the shore, and, holding his sword to him wobbly, she asked what he wanted.
He split his beard with a toothy grin. “No more than to pass the time of day with a lady as yourself,” and bowed to her again. Cautiously she curtsied back, and on this bow he noted the lines of worry across her young brow. He asked her what preyed upon her so to make her fear a stranger, and so she told him the story the bones had whispered. It was not that he was a stranger, but that he was a warrior. Her name was Lea, and her father had been the lord of these lands, but now the Barons ruled all, and their dogs ravaged the countryside. Now she eyed his sword, and his strong hands, and spoke silkily of the great reward for the man who killed the Barons.
Flynnt laughed off the suggestion as he swam to her shore. “I’ve seen enough war to want to avoid it.” His fingers brushed her as he took back his sword. “But I will have you see the peace yet, mark my words.” And so he kissed her hand and made for the town.
Slowly he walked around its boundaries. It was not much of a town, just a ruinous church, a noisy pub, and a common storehouse, all ringed by the homes of the farmers who went out each day to work the land. And there, in the distance, on the hills to the north, south, and east, sat the castles of the Barons.
He made his way into the pub, and there were the dogs of the Barons, yelling and laughing and drinking their fill. They belched and talked of their master’s wealth, prestige---and weaknesses. And Flynnt listened well.
The next week, Lea found Flynnt on his bank again, clean-shaven now, but a day’s growth of beard making its way across his face. He whistled to her happily as she washed.
“The strangest thing has happened,” started Lea.
“Oh?” Flynnt’s traveling tune stopped long enough to let out a toothsome smirk.
She sat up from her washing, pushing her hair from her face. “The Southern Baron has left these lands.”
Flynnt’s face went utterly blank. “By God’s holy son! How could such a thing happen?”
“As I understand it,” and she bent back to the work, “his son appeared to him in a dream and damned him to hell if the Baron stayed much longer.”
“Many a son,” tutted Flynnt, “might damn his father to many a place, but not every father listens.”
“Ah, but did you know that his son was a bishop?”
The redhead whistled a hymn innocently.
“Imagine that, a vision of his son bidding him home in the night,” and she eyed him vaguely. “All of a sudden.”
“Bad conscience makes bad dreams,” answered Flynnt, diving into the river to swim around and around his lady. “Or perhaps something he ate. Some such as that, I imagine, I see; I’m sure.”
“I’m sure,” she laughed, and let him kiss her.
And so the days passed, days into weeks, weeks into months. The Barons of the North and East had swept in to take what their ally had so hastily abandoned.
Until, one spring morning…
“The strangest thing has happened,” she told Flynnt off-hand as she gave new color to his cloak.
“Oh?” he answered around a puff of smoke from his pipe.
“The Northern Baron has fled these lands.”
“You don’t say.”
“Indeed I do,” she continued. “It seems that yesterday, as he traveled to feast with his brother to the East, an angel all covered in gold stood in his path and warned him to leave these lands, or face the wrath of God.”
Flynnt pulled at his pipe dreamily, blowing his smoke towards the road. “This land seems to be watched by God, to be sure.”
“Watched by someone, to be sure,” she laughed, and let him kiss her.
And so the days passed, days into weeks, weeks into months. The Baron of the East was spread thin across so vast a countryside, but he prospered in his new domain.
Until, one spring morning…
“The strangest thing happened,” she told Flynnt as she restitched the knee of his trousers.
“Oh?” he asked in a glub as he swam the river lazily.
“The Eastern Baron has built a church.”
“….Oh.” Flynnt swam in place, his eyes wide. “Ah. Oh?”
“It seems,” and she watched him closely, “that the saint of the harvest, all covered with ears of corn, appeared to him as he ate, and told him that as long as he would stay here, the food would rot in the fields.”
“And he didn’t,” Flynnt floundered, bubbling the water unhappily. “He didn’t, you know. Promise to leave, right then and there?”
“Would you?” asked Lea. “He has the lands to himself now. He must be doing very well indeed. To prove himself a pious man, he has rebuilt our church, and plans to have a great feast there this Sunday.”
“Oh.” Flynnt sat on the bank, his head propped by his hands. He eyed the path through the trees to the road.
“Indeed; and there’s to be feasting, and dancing, and… Oh, Flynnt, won’t you come with me? I’m sure this is the end of all our troubles.”
Flynnt’s face seemed to sag for just a moment. But soon the moment passed, and he grinned at her as toothily as ever. “I would like nothing more, my girl.” And damp as he was, he pulled her to her feet and danced her around the bank. “I told you I’d have you see peace yet, and so I will.”
“So you have,” she laughed, and let him kiss her.
And so the days passed, and Sunday came, as it was wont to do. Lea wore her finest dress, and her sisters combed and combed her hair, eager to see her at her best on this day of days, more eager still to hear of her dashing beau. She laughed them away, telling them all they’d see him soon enough.
The church was beautiful, resplendent with color and well-hone statues---there, on its highest point, sat the saint of the harvest---and out around its steps sat the people of the town. It was strange for them to sit so with their longest enemy, but he seemed earnest enough in seeking their approval, and promised generous gifts. He danced with all the maids, and twice with Lea, as the old chief’s daughter. As wonderful the evening was, it pained her to have Flynnt gone so long, and her family teased her that the man was but a fancy.
Until, as night fell, he appeared, walking with heavy steps to the main table. He had shaved his slight beard and hoary head clean of the touch of hair, and in its place painted symbols and stripes of blue. In his hand sat his sword, clean and bright. Though he opened his mouth, his grin was gone, leaving only naked, jagged teeth.
He leveled the sword at the last of the Barons. “You would not leave peaceably as your brothers did.” His words fired from his mouth, overpowering the murmur of the crowd around him. “I tried to warn you all away, to keep from taking your lives. But you? You would not be tricked, and now, for the sake of my lady, and my lady’s people, there’s nothing left but to kill you.”
The Baron spluttered, and called for his dogs, but they were far too full of food and drink to offer much resistance. Flynnt spitted them on his sword easily.
And then there was naught but him and the Baron.
And then there was naught but him, the Baron, and the Baron’s head.
The crowds sat stunned, watching the stranger, and watching the head as it rolled to the church steps, stopping only when the new stone sat in its way.
Lea was the first to move. She ran to his arms and held him tight, for she feared for him so as he fought. “Don’t you do that again, you bastard,” she cried.
“I won’t.” He wedged his sword into the ground, and kissed her brow. “There’s no one left to fight, is there?”
And he told them all how he fooled the devout Barons with trickery, all for the lady that stood before them. The people shouted his praises, and called for him to be made the new chief; but he shook his head. “I’ve reward enough.” So they called to lavish him with their store of gold; but he shook his head. “I’ve reward enough.”
Lea took his hand in hers. “And me?” She looked into his eyes. “Am I reward enough?”
He gave her his grin. “You are all reward I wanted, child.”
And so he bent to kiss her, and her people roared with joy…
Until a cry came up from the church as the priest stumbled from the gates. “My robes! Someone has taken all of my robes!”
Lea gasped in surprise, but after a moment of thought, she turned to Flynnt and stared.
He grinned at her with a whisper. “Come now, was the Baron’s brother going to appear in a traveler’s rags?”
And the cry came from the storeroom. “The gold---someone’s been in the gold!”
Lea pushed away from Flynnt’s embrace.
“Come now, I had to… angelize myself somehow, my dear! And what better than a coat of gold dust?”
And then, from the storeroom. “Someone’s been at the grain!”
Lea scowled at him furiously. “Let me guess: the saint of the harvest could not go without adornment?”
Flynnt winked at her. “I always pick the bright girls. And isn’t all that reward enough? Surely you can see---”
Before he could finish---before, indeed, Lea could get started---a fourth cry, shrill and fierce and angry, tore through the scene, stopping all dead in their tracks.
There, at the head of the road in the distance, stood a fat little woman, her face caked with dust, her red hair loose and ragged. "You damnable man, I curse the day the church bound us two!” She stalked angrily with heavy steps. “Did you really think I would stop following you after the last town, or the town before that? Well, think again!” She turned and called behind her: “I’ve found him, girl!” And up stomped another woman, tall and thin, equally dusty and equally ragged. And together they stormed towards Flynnt.
A look of sheer panic masked Flynnt’s face. He kissed Lea thoroughly. “Know that I loved you the best of them all, girl!” And he set off in a gallop.
After him stormed the women; and after a few moments processing of information, there went the townsfolk.
Lea stood in a daze, alone in the now empty square, the head of the Baron staring at her mutely.
She glared at him evenly, thinking for a moment. Then she wrenched the sword free, and went after Flynnt in a run.
Flynnt had spent a good amount of his life running away from mobs, but all too soon he ran out of land, and they caught him. There was talk of locking him in one of the Barons’ cages, and leaving him by the roadside, but ultimately the people had to stick with their own traditions. They took him to the highest cliff---with jagged, hungry rocks and the skeletons of a thousand ships below---and unceremoniously threw him over.
Lea threw his sword after him.
Flynnt has spent a good amount of his life not dying at the hands of mobs, and he did not change that practice now. He found his way on to a raft made of parts from a broken ship, and laughed at the angry mob above, waving goodbye cheerily and sending them earnest “God-be-withs.”
Until his sword landed hilt-first on his head, and knocked him unconscious.
He woke who knows how many days later---from the growth around his head and face, he’d guess a few days---on the shore of an unfamiliar island. The trees that lined the beach were ones he’d never seen before, and the stars above were strange and new. He sat on the shore, complaining to God under his breath as he cradled his head in his hands. Then he looked to the side, and saw his raft, and on it, wedged into the wood, his sword.
He smiled to himself, promptly retracted his cruses to the good Lord and sent up some grateful prayers instead, and made his way inwards through the unfamiliar trees into the unfamiliar land.
He found himself a river, and dunked his head in eagerly, letting the water clean away the salt and sweat from his travels.
But as he shook the water away from his eyes, he spied something down the river:
A native maiden, fair indeed.
Flynnt grinned, took up his sword, and went to introduce himself.