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Episode 10: The Swords of Wayland

In slow motion a stream of riders mounted on armoured black horses comes over a blood red horizon. Their red and black capes ripple out behind them, their horned helmets making them look inhuman. A boy in a village watches silently. Their capes fly against the setting sun. They raise their arms. Villagers scatter in terror, running and hiding. The riders descend into the village.

Bright white light shines through the windows of a church. A man lies on the floor. The top of a coffin is moved aside, and the riders uncover the body inside. The skeleton grips a sword in its bony fingers. They breaks the hands' ancient grip on the sword and the letters on the blade are visible, URIAS. One of the riders pronounces the name with reverence and the man on the floor turns over, his face agonized, a knife in his chest. The sky is overcast as the riders depart at a gallop.

The credits roll.

A man enters an underground room, like a catacombs or huge cellar. He lifts Urias, and pronounces it one of the seven swords of Wayland.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Herne speaks to Robin, telling him to take up Albion, telling him that it is one of the seven swords of Wayland.

*~*~*~*~*~*

A man looks for Robin in the forest, calling his name. Robin asks him who he is and slowly the rest of the band move from their hiding places, emerging as if by magic from the green woods. Marion sits up, and recognizes him. Gareth, she says and comes to meet him. He kisses her hand, "Lady Marion." He's Gareth of Uffcombe, instead of Leaford, now. The others gather round and Robin asks what he wants. He identifies some of the men and is introduced to others like Nasir, but Robin wants to know why he's looking for them, why he needs their help. They head back toward camp and Nasir tries to get John to pronounce his full name. John hacks and spits.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Back at camp, Gareth tells them not to think he's mad. He says if he's mad then everyone in his village is as well. They live in terror. The terror comes at dawn; the villagers don't know who they are. Some say they're from hell.

Will looks at him skeptically, "Ahh...flying demons?"

"Demons?" Much says in fear. Robin calms him with a look. Gareth explains, they kill and burn, they fly down, they call them the Hounds of Lucifer. Scarlet thinks he's mad.

"We can't leave Sherwood," Will says.

"Why not?" John says. "Are you scared of the hounds of Lucifer?"

"It's got nothing to do with us!" Will screams. Robin asks how far away the village is. 5 days. "Halfway across England when we've got our own people to fight for," Scarlet says angrily.

"Our own people?" Robin asks. "And who are they, Will? We swore on this sword to help the poor and oppressed. That's not just the people of Sherwood." He holds out Albion, and they each agree to go, putting their hands on the sword.

"I've got no choice," Will says. "If you're all going to it, then I'm going with you."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Nuns move silently at their business in an abbey. A woman, Morgwyn of Ravenscar, kneels and recites a prayer in Latin. She crosses herself and goes over to a man, the local Sheriff, who waits for her. They walk as they discuss the priest who was attacked. Is there no hope for him? The Sheriff says he thinks he was murdered by people looking for treasure in the tomb. He brings up the priest's successor, but she tells him they should wait until the priest is dead. He leaves and she hisses, "greedy little swine." She goes back into the abbey, and speaks to her man, "And you Verdelet, you can't even kill a priest."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In Sherwood, they put the fire out. Robin tells them they'll follow the river westward. Will take a moment to look back. The group walks through Sherwood. Robin hesitates, noticing something. A fog rolls in, and the familiar shape of Herne is there.

"Hear me and heed me, for I am Herne, Lord of the Trees," Herne says. Robin kneels. "They that seek to shatter the bolts that hold back the evil one, must first take Albion from you. Hold steadfast. It is written that the servants of Lucifer will find the seventh sword at the village on the rock. Swear to guard it with your heart's blood."

"I swear, " Robin answers.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Nuns move in a line, singing responsively. Morgwyn carries the sword at the front of the line. The group of them goes down the stairs and into the underground room. They circle a large round raised stone, almost like a solid stone wheel with the spokes filled by the swords. The candles the nuns held fall extinguished, and they shake their robes off their bodies, standing in only white shifts. Morgwyn's robes are red and a gold circlet crosses her brow. She holds Urias up, offering the sword to Lucifer.

The false nuns begin to chant: "He -- that is bound -- shall be free. And he -- that rules -- shall be -- overthrown."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The miller is working with his house as the outlaws approach. Gareth introduces them as friends. The miller, Adam, is certain they cannot help. He strides around the mill with jerky, panicked steps while he tells them he hides each night, and shows them the circle of salt he says he sleeps in. He shows them the mandrake that hangs in the mill. Both are protection against the Hounds. "Do you think arrows and swords can hold them off?" he asks when they scoff. "It's a lot better than salt," they answer. He declares that the Hounds aren't human and they ask why he thinks that. But all he'll say is that they are doomed.

"We're doomed, Robin!" Much says, his fear rising again.

"Now, you listen here, friend," John says to Adam. "You can surround yourself with salt, soot or sausages for all I care. But we've come too far to turn back now, eh?" His voice rises. "Man or demon, they're gonna be dealt with." Finally Adam nods.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The outlaws approach the village of Uffcombe. Much finds a lamb and John picks it up, telling Much he used to be a shepherd. "Where are they?" Robin asks as they enter the empty village. They're hiding. John puts the lamb back in its pen. "Is this the way you welcome people who've been asked to help you?" Robin yells.

He notices a girl hiding in a shelter and coaxes her out. "We're not demons," he says. "We haven't got a single tail between us." John turns around to show her he has no tail. He introduces her to the friar and people slowly begin to emerge from their hiding places. When the villagers have gathered, Robin addresses them.

"Do you really believe demons can fly in from hell to torment you?" he asks.

"We've seen them!" the leader of the villagers answers. And the rest murmur their agreement.

"What do they look like, these flying demons?" Robin asks disbelieving. "Do they breath fire?"

"Don't mock us!" the man answers. He explains angrily that 3 people have been killed and 5 taken, including his son. Did they imagine that?

But Robin points out that all the things he's said can be done by men. The man raises his voice so the other villagers can hear. Why should they listen? They're outlaws. Gareth interrupts him. The stories about Robin are true, he protests.

Marion raises her voice to be heard, and the others fall quiet. "I am Marion of Leaford. Gareth served my father, and if he'd known these men he would have loved them because they believe in justice." She walks slowly through the crowd, Robin's eyes following her with pride a small smile on his lips. "Justice that protects the weak and the helpless and gives them hope. Sometimes even courage." She pauses and smiles at Robin, then continues. "Give us time to become your friends and if there is evil then we will join together to fight it."

Robin comes down from the cart he's standing in and he and the town leader shake hands. They both admit they spoke hastily.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Tuck roars and attacks several villagers with a staff, sending them sprawling. He's attempting to train them. Robin talks to the town leader. The leader tells Robin that the Hounds attack at dawn. Tuck roars again, running at the villagers as Robin and the leader pass by. The leader points up to the cliffs above the town, showing where the riders descend from. "You say they fly?" Robin asks. He takes a horse and rides away. Where's he going? they ask. Marion points him out, up on top of the cliff. He rides down into the village using a roof to come down from the cliff into the town, proving the Hounds rode rather than flew.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Will and Nasir sit in the town. Will doesn't think the villagers will be able to handle a battle.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Verdelet, the man from the abbey, comes to Adam the miller. Adam calls him master and kneels. "Who is your lord?" the man asks.

"Lucifer," Adam answers.

"Who is Lucifer?"

"Creator and ruler of the world."

"What must we do?"

"Prepare his coming."

Verdelet tells Adam the Hounds will ride that night to the village of Uffcombe. Adam tells him about the strangers that Gareth brought. Verdelet tells him to kill Gareth with them. He hits him and leaves him lying in the circle of salt spread out on the floor.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Marion and Robin sit in a field of tall grasses and wild flowers, the sun casting a yellow glow around them. "When do you think they'll come?" Marion asks.

"Dawn or dusk, the black hours," Robin answers.

"We'll be ready for them."

"Yes, but the villagers aren't."

"You've hardened them," Marion says.

"But not tempered them. We've learned how to fight and stay alive. It's taken us time and cost us lives. It's too late for them to learn. They've been blunted with toil." He tells one of the men working to cut the crossbeam on the roof the Hounds have been using.

At the bottom of the cliffs, Much comes to relieve Tuck of his watch. "You seen anything?" Much asks.

"Rabbits, sheep, goats, and you," Tuck answers.

"There aren't any demons are there?"

"Well, you're not," Tuck says, then rises to his feet. "It's too cold for demons. If I were a demon, I'd be by the fire. So don't worry." He leaves Much to the watch.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Hounds ride, their capes billowing. The sky is tinged with blood. They raise their capes like wings. Much watches them, then runs down the ridge. They ride toward the village and Much bursts into the barn where the people wait, screaming that they've come. People begin to panic, their shrieks filling the air. "That's what they want!" Robin tells them, forcing them to quiet down. He tells the outlaws to light the fires and each man grabs a torch and lights fires throughout the village. Nasir ties a black cloth over the bottom of his face. The rest string their bows.

The first rider falls as the crossbeam breaks under his horse's weight. The villagers attack him as he lies on the ground with his horse.

Nasir hits one of the riders with a knife, another with his sword, then is knocked down hard. Robin shoots one rider, and slashes another with Albion. Tuck draws his bow, but a bump from the surging villagers jogs him and he misses. He tells them to circle, annoyed. The fight rages on throughout the village.

Inside the barn, Marion and Much try to keep the women and children calm. Gareth grows impatient, and though Marion screams for him not to, he leaves the barn. One of the riders cuts him down.

Robin shoots one of the riders in the leg, and John grabs him from the saddle. The big man knocks a horse down with his staff, and Will shoots a Hound in the leg.

In the barn, Much tells the children a story about how he and Robin used to live in the mill.

Outside, Will cuts a saddle strap and kills a man. "I want one alive," Robin says.

"I wish you'd told me that sooner," Will answers.

"Be the scapegoat," Robin says. Will moves into the clear view of a Hound and stands his ground as the man rides him down. At the last moment, Robin jumps from his hiding place and bears the rider to the ground. They grab the man alive, but one of the riders gallops away, escaping.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Nasir dumps a bucket of water on his sore head. The group works on recovering their weapons from the field of battle, and calls out that the Hounds have gone. They bring the captured rider inside, and Robin strips away his mask. "I told you they were men," he says. But the villagers recognize him. It's James, the missing son of the village leader. His mother talks to him cajolingly, but he stares blank and trembling, then raises his sword and runs himself through. She screams and falls to her knees beside him.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In the white halls of Ravenscar Abbey, Adam is trying to explain the disastrous ride to Morgwyn. He says he did what he was ordered; he warned Verdelet about the strangers... What strangers? Morgwyn asks. The strangers, the outlaws Gareth brought, he explains. She turns her anger on Verdelet asking why he didn't tell her, why he gave orders behind her back. He kneels and begs for forgiveness. Adam explains that the Hounds were ambushed and some were killed. Why wasn't he killed, Morgwyn asks. "I was lucky," he answers.

"I wonder," she says coldly. "I wonder if you were." She sits down, and tells him he sickens her. He's been chosen to serve Lucifer and this is how he shows his worthiness. She dismisses him, and turns to Verdelet. In one night he's undone much of the cauldron's work. He is nothing...a servant, an acolyte, a sacrifice if she wishes. She asks him if he fears Lucifer, then tells him that she doesn't. He comes to her in dreams. But she knows Verdelet fears him, just as he fears "death and the usurper."

She dictates a letter to the Earl of Godwin, telling him that the village of Uffcombe is in the hands of outlaws. She asks that the earl send soldiers to restore order to the village and put its people back in God's hands. "How can you doubt his power?" she asks Verdelet when she's finished. "Greed, lust, pride, cruelty, plague, famine, war; he is everywhere."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In the village, Robin is shown a paper that was hanging around James' neck. His mother cries, asking why he would do it. He didn't recognize me, she moans. Much approaches Robin and tells him to come to the barn because Tuck's found something. Marion puts a comforting arm around the mother while Robin goes with Much.

In the barn Tuck explains what the papers are to Much and the rest. "It's a pact. An agreement, a pledge. Right to left and with the victim's mark in blood." It's a treaty with the devil, he elaborates, all of these men have made pacts with the devil. Robin says that James made the pact too. Why? Maybe they were forced. "Even if they were, pacts with the devil aren't legally binding," Tuck argues. "Tell that to James," Robin says. But who's behind this?

"Oh, Satan, Lucifer, the Evil One, whatever you want to call him," Tuck answers. "He's always on the lookout. Not just for souls, but for bodies."

"Bodies?"

"Aye," Tuck says. "He needs 'em. To clothe himself, to become the antichrist. Well, that's what they told me in the monastery."

Much asks why the man's feet are white, and Robin realizes they all have flour on their shoes. Robin decides to go to the mill to see if Adam's all right. The others want to come with him, but he forcefully orders them to stay behind. After waiting a moment, Much slips out the door after him.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Robin enters the mill looking for Adam. He calls the miller's name and prowls the mill, but can't find the man. He finds an animal's skull and lifts it to his head, positioning it where the Hounds' masks rest on their faces, then he puts it aside. As he stands looking up, a section of the upper level collapses on him in a rain of wood and plaster. He leaps away, then runs up the stairs after the person who tried to kill him. The two of them grapple, the attacker's face hidden behind a mask, and Robin is thrown out the side of the mill. He lands on some grain, and the man tries to grab Albion while Robin is disoriented. Robin leaps after him and they fight again; Albion gets knocked aside and it bumps down the stairs. They continue wrestling and end up back downstairs. Robin pulls at the man's mask, shock coming over his face as he identifies Adam. He yells questions...who are the Hounds? But Adam stays silent. He throws a pitchfork at Robin and traps Robin's hand against the mill wheel. Bleeding, Robin manages to free himself before his wrist is crushed. He knocks Adam out and ties him up.

When he comes to, Robin asks him more questions. Adam whimpers, clearly afraid, and refuses to answer. Then Robin takes the paper he wears around his neck. He threatens to tear it, and Adam's fear escalates to terror. Robin asks why he gave himself to Satan. Was he forced? He nods his head frantically. How? He protests, he can't answer it. Robin holds the paper up, exerting the pressure that will tear it. He tells Adam he knows why it frightens him. If he tears it, Satan will come for him because he broke the pact. Who calls the Hounds? he asks. Finally Adam screams an answer, the lady of the cauldron, the most powerful coven in England. He explains why he signed the pact. They made a doll, put a curse on him. He was in pain all the time, he would have done anything to stop the pain. So he signed the pact.

"Who is the lady?" Robin asks, his hands on the paper. Adam doesn't want to answer, agonizes over it. Robin begins to tear the paper slightly, then more.

"Morgwyn of Ravenscar!" Adam screams as the paper tears down the middle. Robin tells Adam he's not his enemy. But Adam is not comforted. He holds the halves of the pact in clenched hands, his face twisted with fear and despair.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Robin is walking back from the mill when he see a few mounted soldiers following him. He continues walking at the same slow pace, looking around him as he is slowly surrounded by soldiers. Verdelet is with the captain of the guards. They stop him and ask his name. He fakes an accent as he says he's Robin of Uffcombe. They ask about the wound on his wrist and he tells them he got it fixing the mill wheel, then they ask about the sword. They order him to hand it over. He draws Albion and exchanges a couple blows with Verdelet. Then the soldiers move in and hold him, take the sword from him while Herne's words about defending Albion ring in his ears. The captain takes the sword from Verdelet, who can't argue with him without giving away Albion's value.

From the cover of nearby bushes Much watches while they tie Robin up and head toward the mill.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

A body floats in the muddy water, face down. The soldiers pull him out and Verdelet identifies him as the miller. They think Robin killed him. Fixing the mill wheel, were you? the captain says.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In the village, Marion's dressing Nasir's head wound. Much runs up to them, distraught. They have Robin, he says. And they're coming for the rest of them. Marion says they must not bring harm to the village, and they run, heading away from Uffcombe. The soldiers ride up and ask about the outlaws. The village leader tries to misdirect them, but one of the villagers offers to lead them the right way.

As they head in the direction the outlaws went, John yells "Come no further!" The band stands in a row, each with their bow drawn. Will recognizes the man who leads them as the traitor. He tells Nasir the man is his and shoots him down saying, I hate spies. The soldiers start forward under their captain's orders, and the outlaws each loose an arrow. The shafts spring up directly in front of the cautiously moving horses. The soldiers retreat and Verdelet angrily asks what they're doing, are they cowards? The captain answers that they are being sensible. "They shoot very well."

The outlaws watch the armed men leave then turn away themselves. "We'll get him back, little flower," Tuck promises.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Robin walks between two horses, his arms outstretched, one of his hands bound to each horse.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Morgwyn speaks to Verdelet through a lattice in the abbey. A wolfshead with the seventh sword of Wayland? she says doubtfully. Verdelet swears by Lucifer that it was the sword.

"Who is he?" Morgwyn asks. "Who is this man? And why do I fear him." Verdelet reassures her there is no need to fear. Earl Godwin has him. And the sword, she adds.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The outlaws are hiding in a local forest. Tuck cools his feet in a stream. Will asks where they've taken Robin, tries to get Much to remember what he heard. Much remembers they said Godwin. Marion recognizes the name, Earl Godwin was a friend of her father. They wonder if he knows who Robin is, but doubt it. When they figure it out, the soldiers will hunt the rest of them.

"I was right," Will says. "We should never have left Sherwood." John and Will begin to argue, and Tuck stops them.

"I'll thump both of you in a minute!" the friar threatens.

"What do we do now?" Will asks.

"We get after Rob," John answers.

"Which way?" Scarlet says, his frustration rising.

"You tell me," John answers, the tension in his own voice rising as well. Marion comes between them impatiently.

"Well, the castle's at Gwydion," she says. And the rest of the band walks past the pair after her. John and Will's eyes remain locked, their bodies tense. Then with a resounding thunk they smash their heads together.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

At the Earl's castle a minstrel strums his lute. The Earl is playing chess with the Sheriff who visited Morgwyn about the dying priest. Soldiers bring Robin into the hall. The Earl asks if he's one of the people terrorizing the village, and Robin answers, "no." And does he also deny killing the miller? "I do deny it." The captain suggests that they put him to the ordeal. But the Earl stands up and begins to question Robin in earnest.

What is his name? "Robin of Sherwood."

Sherwood is 5 days march from there, what was he doing in Uffcombe? "Defending it."

"Were you now?" the Earl says, amusement in his voice. "Well that's original at least." Robin tries to tell his side of the story, speaking of the Hounds of Lucifer and being asked to help the village, as well as exposing the Hounds to be men who had signed pacts with the devil, but they think he's mad.

The earl asks where he got the sword, and Robin says it's his by right. He won't explain where he got it because he knows the Earl won't believe. The Earl says he's seen Robin's type before. They make up these wild stories because "ordinary lies would make them ordinary villains." He tells Robin that his "imagination seems boundless." He asks who made the men sign pacts with the devil and Robin answers, "Morgwyn of Ravenscar." Everyone in the hall gasps as he pronounces the name, and the captain hits him across the face saying, "you filthy villain!"

They tell him that the Abbess is one of the holiest, most venerated women in the kingdom. The Earl decides Robin surely must be either mad or possessed. As he's dragged away, Robin calls for mercy, not for himself but for the sword. He warns that Morgwyn will send for it. The Earl returns to his chess game. He tells the captain that he's sure the man is an outlaw. They'll find out if he's wanted or not. If he is, "that dreadful little man, de Rainault, the Sheriff, can deal with him." Then he tells the guards to hunt the others down.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In the forest, the Abbess and a procession of nuns travel the road. The outlaws hide as they go past, and Tuck says she's probably the most reverend lady of Ravenscar. Why's she in Gwydion? Tuck rubs his thumb and fingers together in answer, making the sign of money.

She goes to the castle and the Earl greets her. The make some small conversation about courtesies and his distaste for the newfangled idea of chivalry. After exchanging pleasantries, she brings up the sword. She says Verdelet thinks it may be the sword of a knight martyred in the crusade. Earl Godwin doesn't recognize the man's name and she clarifies, "the first crusade." She tells of how the sword is a holy relic, but was stolen recently. It could be the man in the Earl's custody is the thief.

They bring the sword to her and she studies it a moment, then says praise the Lord. It is the sword. Quickly adding, of Sir Jeffrey of Ackenbury.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Outside in the trees next to the castle, Marion straightens her dress and hair. She and Tuck approach the castle, while the others wait in hiding.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Inside, the Earl tells Morgwyn of how Robin was accusing her. She pushes it aside as insanity, and Verdelet says that such an evil tongue should be cut out. Marion is announced and brought in to greet the Earl. He's delighted to see her and reminisces with her about the time she climbed a tree to get an apple for him. She remembers and mentions that her nurse was very angry with her for tearing her dress. He introduces her to the others in the hall, then asks why she's come. She sits with him and explains.

"To beg for mercy," she says.

"Mercy?" the Earl asks.

"For Robin of Sherwood."

"Robin of Sherwood?" the Earl asks in surprise.

"Yes, my Lord, because I am Marion of Sherwood, his wife."

"His wife? But the man's a wolfshead!" the earl answers.

"No," Marion says confidently. "He fights to defend the weak and the helpless."

"No, Marion..." the Earl begins sadly. But is interrupted when Morgwyn approaches. She holds Marion's face in her hands and says, "poor child." She declares that she'll pray her eyes are opened.

"You talk as though I don't know him," Marion says heatedly. Then returns her attention to the Earl. "I beg you, my Lord, let me see him." He seems inclined to say no and her voice grows more desperate. "I beg you!" He agrees, but the captain of the guard takes her knife before she can proceed.

Marion gone, Morgwyn says she must go as well.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In the dungeon, Robin is tied to a column, ropes crisscross his chest binding his body and arms. His head is bowed. He looks up as Marion and Tuck are brought in. Marion moves toward him, and the captain stops her. "He is my husband," she says. And he lets her go to him. She kisses him deeply, then whispers to him under the pretense of covering his head with kisses. He tells her the abbess is after the sword and says they must stop her from using it for evil. The captain stops them, Marion stealing a few more seconds before she is forced to leave. As they go back up the stone stairs Tuck says softly in disbelief, "the abbess?"

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Morgwyn and her entourage ride out of the castle. Verdelet has the sword. Will and John watch from their hiding place. "I wonder if she got what she came for," John says.

"By the look on her face, I'd say she has," Will answers.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Marion and Tuck have returned to the hall inside the caste. They realize that Morgwyn has gone. They have to stop her. Tuck turns to the Earl and tells him that his task is over now that Marion has been safely brought to the castle. He blesses her, and they exchange a quick whispered exchange under the cover of his blessing.

"Be careful," he hisses.

"Get the sword," she answers.

"Amen," they say in unison. He leaves and Marion holds her hand out to the captain for the return of her knife.

Tuck hurries outside to the others.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Morgwyn's company is riding back to the abbey. She declares that it is time to summon the cauldron. "The long quest is over."

The outlaws follow them, hidden by the forest. The emerge onto the path, stopping the group. They demand the sword. Morgwyn dismounts and commands a reluctant Verdelet to give it to her. She holds it before her, one hand on each end of the blade, and walks toward them. Suddenly she says foreign words, an incantation, and she flips the sword up with a flick of her wrist. Blinding, painful light flashes off the blade.

In prison, Robin screams, images of his men and the light burning through his mind.

The outlaws cringe backwards, confused. "Now you dogs," she says, "you will bark for me."

Robin stares, wide-eyed, unaware of what exactly has happened, but knowing he is helpless to stop it.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Marion takes leave of the Earl for the night, telling him he is a good man and she will try to keep his counsel. She goes up the stairs to the room she's been given, and he sets an old woman to watch her. Two waiting women try to follow her into her room, but she blocks the door. "Thank you. I can manage," she says as she shuts the door on them. She sits in a chair in her room. The old woman sends the other two away. Marion goes to the door, and opens it, only to find the old woman sitting beside it. "Good night," she says and goes back inside her room. She sits down on the bed to wait.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Morgwyn leads the others in the ritual as they place the seventh sword into the stone wheel.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Marion's candle has burnt down. She is asleep on the bed. A sound outside wakes her and she sneaks out of her room. The old woman appears to be sleeping, but opens her eyes as Marion passes her.

Marion goes silently to the dungeon. The two guards are playing a game, arguing over wagers. They hear a small noise, and one of them goes to check on it. He doesn't see anything, and as he goes back to the table, Marion's hand pulls back farther into the shadows of her hiding place behind the column Robin is tied to. She saws at the ropes holding him while the guards go back to their game.

One of the guards tosses the pieces into the air, catching them on the back of his hand. "Reckon I've won." He tosses them again and a hand reaches in to snatch them from him. "You've lost," the hooded man says. He and Marion each take out one of the guards. They run out of the dungeon and go into the barn. Once there Robin starts a fire. The guard sees the smoke and starts to yell that there's a fire. The horses all run from the barn in panic and Robin and Marion each ride one away in the confusion of the stampede. The Earl emerges into the courtyard and tells them to stop the alarm. His lips turn up slightly as he watches the two riders in the distance.

Robin and Marion ride away, their horses running through a sun dappled field. When they reach the forest they slow to a walk. Robin senses something and they dismount, continuing on foot. The two of them crouch close to the ground, hiding as they notice a man up ahead. Marion recognizes him. It's Little John, she says. Robin tells her to be quiet, but she gets to her feet and runs toward the man, saying "It's Little John," again.

"Marion, no!" Robin yells, getting up to stop her. John turns at the sound and his eyes are completely white, like that of a blind man. Marion stops running abruptly as he draws his bow on her. He shoots and Robin tackles her to the ground, barely in time to avoid the arrow. Nasir joins John, his eyes the same eerie white.

Robin and Marion drive the horses away, creating noise that John and Nasir follow, and hide while their pursuers are distracted. "They're all around us," Robin says.

"Did you see their eyes?" Marion asks.

"It's witchcraft," Robin says. He explains that Morgwyn's made them her slaves.

Tuck and Will look for Robin and Marion close by. John yells to them, and Robin and Marion continue to creep along the forest floor. Robin does a bird call, and Much answers it from his perch in a nearby tree. "I taught him better than that," Robin says. Much calls out to the others that he's heard them. They run.

When they slow, Marion says, "I think they're behind us. I think we're through." Will jumps down from the tree in front of them.

"Don't even breathe," he says. Robin moves slightly to put Marion behind him.

"Who am I, Will?" he asks. "Who am I?" The man does not respond and he yells his name. "Scathlocke!"

"That's not my name," Will says.

"It was," Robin says. "Why did you change it? Why am I Robin in the hood?"

"Don't move," Will says.

"Why can't you remember?" Will swings at him with his sword and they fight, Robin still asking questions, trying to force Will past the enchantment. Much sneaks up behind Marion and puts his hands around her throat. She distracts Robin with a scream, and Will gains the advantage. The others stop him from striking the killing blow.

"Alive, Will. She said alive."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Much and Tuck hold Marion while John and Will drag Robin, who's tied down to a wooden litter. They walk along a sheer cliff that drops off into the ocean crashing below. A dirty, bedraggled man jumps out from behind a rock spouting gibberish. He capers about, and they think he's mad. He wanders over to Robin, and cuts the ropes that bind him to the wood while distracting the others with yells. Freed, Robin runs and leaps off the cliff into the water below. They run to look and see his body is floating face down in the water. They laugh about his death, holding back a distraught Marion.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Morgwyn is disappointed that Robin is dead. Verdelet suggests that the men have lied. But she says that's not possible. She speaks to Marion of Lucifer's power. Then with a snap of her fingers and a spoken word she releases the others from her spell. The knowledge of what they've done crashes in on them and they are consumed with guilt and pain.

"You'll pay for his death!" John says. "By heaven, you'll pay!"

"No, not by heaven," is her answer.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

At the cliffs, water washes gently against Robin's body. Slowly he regains consciousness. He reorients himself, looking up at the towering rock walls that rise above his head. He gets up and silently begins to climb.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Morgwyn says the names of each of the swords of Wayland. "On each of them, words of high magic unspoken since they were made. Wayland knew the danger. Oh, yes, he knew. That's why he scattered them." Only the Cauldron of Lucifer knew of their existence and searched for them.

"Why?" Marion asks. "Why do you need them?"

"Can't you guess?" Morgwyn answers.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Robin continues to climb, finding finger and footholds in the crevasses of the cliff's face. As he reaches the top, a man extends the stump of his arm out over the edge of the cliff. Robin grabs hold and hauls himself up over the edge. It's the wild man who freed him. He tells Robin not to worry, he only played at being crazy to scare the others off.

"Don't like people," he explains. "They can be so cruel."

He unwraps his walking stick, revealing a longbow. He asks Robin where he was being taken, and Robin answers, Ravenscar. The man says he's lucky to be alive. He explains that he used to be an archer, but he was unlucky. He was a poacher and got caught; they took his hand.

He gives the longbow to Robin. "Why do you still keep it?" Robin asks.

"Because I am a fool," he answers. Robin takes the bow and sets out for Ravenscar. Robin gone, the man turns and faces Herne standing some distance away against a rocky backdrop. Master, the man greets the Hunter.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Will presses against the bars of the cage he and the others are in. It hangs several feet in the air, and Morgwyn enters below with Verdelet. She says she could make them worship Lucifer, but they need to come to him willingly. She offers them power and riches if they'll come to him, but they refuse. She says she'll save their lives.

"And become one of your Hounds?" John asks.

"Tell her she can go to Hell!" Will yells.

"She expects to," Verdelet answers.

"Summon the cauldron," Morgwyn orders as they leave.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Riders splash through the water: a knight, a high level religious figure, a nobleman, people of all types, from all areas, many of them powerful. They all make for Ravenscar, passing the Hounds that guard the gate.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Robin heads toward the abbey, making his way steadily towards Ravenscar.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Morgwyn starts the ritual. Each of the members of the cauldron form a part of two circles that move around the large stone wheel. Each circle moves in opposite directions.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Robin reaches the abbey and crouches down. He tests the wind and uses the bow to shoot the two guards.

While the ritual continues inside, he approaches the dead Hounds and takes one of their outfits. He enters the abbey. One of the nuns notices him despite the disguise and follows him, a knife in her hand.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Morgwyn invokes Lucifer by his many names. With each name, she raises one of the swords and kisses its blade. In the cage, the outlaws try to understand what's going on. They're intended to be sacrifices. The bigger the spell, the more sacrifices needed.

Robin kills a pair of nuns with masks drawn over their faces on the stairs.

Tuck realizes that she's summoning the devil, bringing him into the world. The time has come for the sacrifices and the Hounds move aside a panel on the floor. The cage begins to lower, and Verdelet lights a fire in the pit they are headed toward.

A thick, white beam of light appears in the center of the stone circle.

Robin enters the room as a shape begins to appear in the light. The cauldron members are in ecstasy, screaming, chanting, "Surga! Surga!" Robin quickly kills the Hound working the cage and begins to raise it again. Verdelet sees what's happening and attacks. He tries to chop the rope holding the cage. Robin knocks him down and begins to push the floor panel, moving it back into place to cover the pit.

Lucifer continues to form in the light, his shape becoming more clear. Verdelet revives and attacks Robin again. The rope is frayed and breaking, causing the cage to jerk and dip. The cage falls, and Robin pushes Verdelet under its path so it crushes him as it lands.

The chanting reaches a fever pitch. Lucifer's face becomes clear. Morgwyn and the others stretch their arms toward him. Robin grabs Albion from its place in the circle. Lucifer's mouth opens in a silent scream, the spell broken, and he vanishes.

Each of the outlaws picks up one of the swords. Women fill the room with despairing screams. The outlaws fight a few of the Hounds, but many are fleeing, and the others are in too much confusion to put up much of a fight. Once those who are resisting are killed, Robin jumps on top of the circle.

"Swords," he says. All the others dump their swords into the center of the circle where they disappear, destroyed in a flash of fire and light.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Against a blood red sky, the Hounds crash through the water. Morgwyn is surrounded by them, running, despair and panic on her face. She flounders, falling into the water with a splash. They circle her, churning the red water around her.

"Why did I fail?" she cries. "He was dead. But he still came." The Hounds attack and she lies still, dead in the shallow water.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Herne speaks to Robin. "Nothing we make is good or evil until we use it. The power in Wayland's swords was blind, and there lay the danger."

"And Albion?" Robin asks.

"Albion is in good hands."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Back in Uffcombe, the outlaws are taking their leave, saying good-bye to the villagers. The parting is more joyful than the welcome.

"Gareth didn't die in vain. He'll be remembered," the leader says. "They all will. And so will you."


end

So why is it one of my Favorites?

I thought about that question for a second because the overall plot isn't something I necessarily would have been that enthusiastic about if someone had just told me about it. (See there's these devil worshipers right? And they want to bring the devil into the world in human form. So they have to get these swords, and there's some stuff about being enchanted and they can make people do what they want... I tend to like my evil to be a little more subtle I guess. Although sometimes a really big, bad, super-evil villain can be fun...) So anyway, I thought for a second about why I liked this if it wasn't something that just grabbed me right away with the plot.

And I decided that the reason it wasn't silly or cheesy or stupid to me, the reason why I liked it was the visual imagery. Unfortunately that doesn't really come through with an episode description. You kind of have to see it to get the full impact. But let me tell you...when you see the Hounds riding in slow motion with their cloaks billowing out behind them in sillouhette. Or Morgwyn in her sodden red dress in the churning water tinged with the red sunset. Or Robin and Marion riding away from the Earl's castle in a golden field. It's all just BEAUTIFUL. And when you add the music and the motion. It really works on a visceral level. I felt the events more deeply because of how they were shot.

In addition to the visual aspect, there are other things to enjoy. The usual suspects like great dialogue and interaction between the Merries (the John/Will head butt and Nasier trying to show John how to say his name were both priceless). A fairly intricate plot with several twists and turns. And I think one of the interesting things about the episode is the "paranoia factor." By that I mean a couple things. For one, you have the Cauldron of Lucifer. The members could be anyone, anywhere. When you see the people riding toward the abbey you realize that these are often powerful people, people who would never be suspected of evil, people you might know, or think you know. They've gone about their lives, while underneath is this huge dark secret. And the other aspect of the paranoia factor is the enchantments. These people can force others to do what they want...how can you trust anyone? How horrible for Robin and Marion to face and fight their own friends. These are men who've trained with Robin. They know how he acts, what he's likely to do. It seems like it would be terribly hard to fight against people you've fought with. Plus there's something truly frightening about the moment Morgwyn releases them from the spell, and it all rushes back to them. The guilt and pain must hae been overwhelming. To think your leader is dead and you were responsible for it. Talk about angst.

I also like the episode because of the Marion stuff. Marion gets to take charge a bit in the episode. She's the one who gets the villagers to accept them, and she's the one who frees Robin from the earl. She also seems to be the one Morgwyn is most interested in converting. I just like the fact that she's gone from being the "wife, cook and nurse" to taking on a leadership position in the band. She really comes across as Robin's second in command in this episode (although others seem to take that role in other episodes...)

Overall it just holds together well in terms of story, character, and visuals.

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