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Episode 3: Seven Poor Knights From Acre

A man runs through the forest at night, a dirty piece of cloth covering one half of his head and his missing eye. Thrashing through the underbrush , he hears people behind him and hides in the bushes as seven knights dressed in white cloaks, seated on white horses, ride slowly past him, bulky metal helmets covering their faces.

The opening credits play.

The knights ride into their camp and dismount, taking off their helms. Their shields are half white and half black, decorated with a large red cross, and their white cloaks bear the same red cross. They kneel, and their leader leads them in prayer. They sing the responsive prayer in Latin, unaware that the man they passed in the forest is watching them. His gaze falls on the golden crest at the top of their banner.

*~*~*~*~*~*

The next day, the outlaws are engaged in a training game. Their laughter is wild as they each try to hit a swinging water bag with their arrows. Will misses the first shot, and they all watch as James and Martin miss as well, teasing John about the quality of his teaching. While Little John takes his shot, and misses when Tuck distracts him with a cough, Will talks to Robin. Scarlet is unhappy with the fact that they've had to move camp. Robin's answer is simple, Gisburne's been to the other camp. Will argues that they should have killed him, but Robin disagrees.

"The people hate Gisburne and all he stands for." He continues when Will agrees. "The more he stirs about, the more they'll turn to us."

He tells Will to think of it...spies in every village, and in Nottingham too.

Marian aims and hits the swinging bag, smiling at the cheer from the group.

Will gets in a parting jibe as Robin steps over to aim at the target.

"You'll get too big for your boots, you will."

Robin only smiles, "Then I'll get bigger boots." He takes careful aim and splits the rope holding the bag to the branch it swings from. The outlaws laugh and cheer, but Will is distracted as Robin tells Much to tie the bag up again. Will says John's name and listens for a moment then crashes through the bushes where he and John catch the man hiding there.

The game forgotten, the rest of the band gathers, asking the one-eyed man who he is and what's his business. He claims to be a Peddler bound for Nottingham, Siward of Grimston. Robin is skeptical but doesn't challenge the statement, merely pointing into the distance where the Nottingham road lies.

Unseen, the knights watch the group, their view constricted to the narrow slit in their helmets. On their leader's order, they charge the surprised outlaws and send them scattering in confusion.

"Make for the clearing!" Robin orders, and the group runs, but the horses are faster and cut them off. Again and again they run in different directions, facing a wall of knights each time as they are pursued and overtaken. Their panic and confusion grows with each failed attempt to escape.

The knights ride at them and they attempt to defend themselves, but James is cut down. John fells one of the knights with his quarterstaff, knocking the man from his saddle, and Robin is able to lead the group down a ravine too steep for the horses.

Much gets left behind in the confusion, and is unable to escape. The knights bring him to the edge of the hill. "Much!" Marion screams, and moves to run to him. But Robin stops them. If they go, they'll be doing what the knights want. He promises to get Much back. Will screams that they'll kill the boy, but Robin stops his protest. If they wanted to kill him they would have done it already.

"Who are they?" John asks in frustration.

Templars," Marion answers.

"Poor knights of the temple of Solomon," Tuck elaborates.

"Poor knights? If those were poor, I don't want to see the good ones," Will says. Tuck explains that they've taken an oath of poverty. They're monks who've fought in the Holy Land, put whole villages to the sword. They call it "killing for Christ."

The knights turn and ride to the north. Robin sends Nasir to follow them, while the rest stay behind to bury James before moving on.

*~*~*~*~*~*

The knights ride into a village with Much draped across one of the horses and their fallen brother draped over another. They take off their helmets. Their leader speaks to the others in French. He talks to another of the soldiers while Much stands between them, confused.

Robin and the others watch from the edges of the forest as Much is tied to a pole. A group of children dances around him while the group tries to figure out who'll go to rescue him. Robin wants to go alone while the others want to join him. Robin argues that he's known Much longer than any of them, since the boy was born. And it'll be easier with just one man. But their plans are delayed as they notice riders coming toward the village. It is the Sheriff, Gisburne and a group of Norman soldiers.

*~*~*~*~*~*

The Sheriff talks to Gisburne about the nature of the land, then moves on to the subject of their yearly tour of the country side to make sure everyone is paying their taxes. They notice the blue tents set up by the Templars within the village and ride over to investigate.

The Sheriff and the head of the Templars meet and make their introductions. The Templars leader is Reynald de Villaret. Both groups speak with challenging words. The Sheriff says he serves the King, while de Villaret one-ups him by saying he serves the King of Kings. The knight tells the Sheriff that they are returning to their preceptory in Lincoln. Gisburne makes a brash statement and gets insulted.

"Who is that clown?"

His honor wounded he dismounts and moves to attack, only to find himself with several of the Templars' swords pointed at him. The Sheriff calls him back, while the watching outlaws wonder what's going on.

"I don't know, but I'm betting on the Templars," John says.

Gisburne backs down reluctantly, and de Villaret explains that their reason for being there is that "an outrage has been committed against the order." He will not explain further, and Gisburne has another outburst when he notices Much tied up.

"It's the half-wit!"

"Which one?" the Sheriff asks through clenched teeth. Gisburne tells him it's one of Robin Hood's men, and de Villaret asks who that is. Then he asks if a girl fights with Robin, and a friar, a fat friar. The Sheriff confirms it, and de Villaret tells them the order has sworn to kill all of them. The Sheriff gives his blessing, over Gisburne's protestations. He tells his steward to "stop making an exhibition of yourself" and they depart the village.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Gisburne is angry, his honor has been insulted. But the Sheriff argues rationally. The Templars are some of the most highly trained fighting men in the world, challenging them would only bring a crusade to Nottingham. Besides, letting them kill Robin Hood and the others will save time and money.

*~*~*~*~*~*

The knights prepare their dead comrade for burning on a pyre. Ritualistically they set fire to the hay and begin to pray, singing in Latin.

Robin sneaks out of the forest and toward the village while their heads are bent in prayer. He makes it to Much, who he's starting to cut loose, when de Villaret looks up and notices him. The knights immediately surround him.

Marian cries out and starts to run toward him, but the others catch her and hold her, watching helplessly.

Robin fights de Villaret with his sword, but ends up on his back surrounded by knights.

Marian hides her face in John's shoulder, and the big man watches in pain as their leader falls.

De Villaret takes Albion. "Who did you steal this from?" Robin does not answer, but de Villaret thinks he can understand.

"What you took is sacred to us." Robin denies that he or any of the others took anything. He asks that they let Much go. De Villaret is unconvinced, calling Robin a liar. He says that they will put him on trial, a trial by battle. Heinrich will be the Templars' champion. The big man takes off his helmet and reveals a smile and a wicked scar across his left eye.

Villagers rake the burning coals left of the pyre into what will be the battlefield. Robin and his opponent are each armed with a small round metal shield and a mace. The two of them enter the field of battle. Robin is outclassed, forced to dodge and run, only able to barely defend himself at first. He manages to return several blows, but seems to be tiring. With Heinrich on his heels, he repeatedly stumbles and falls onto the smoking black earth, barely managing to block the deadly spikes with his shield. Then he sees an opportunity and swings his mace, striking the bigger man behind the knee and sending him to the ground.

Immediately the Templars attack him. He's forced to run for the shelter of the forest but as he passes Much he says "I'll be back, I promise."

*~*~*~*~*~*

In the forest, the group is gathered around their leader. Robin is angry and impatient, as the others try to come up with suggestions and Marion wipes at the black soot that coats his face. He calms himself and tells the others the Templars think they've taken something. He puts the pieces together and realizes the truth.

"Siward took it."

De Villaret's voice comes to them through a screen of branches. At dawn they'll hang Much.

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

Nottingham is bustling with people. Siward tries to escape into the crowd while a man yells out that he's a thief. Soldiers catch him and find the man's purse on him; he's caught for thieving.

*~*~*~*~*~*

The Sheriff holds the golden token of the Templars in his hands, in the center of the golden sun sits the figure of two men on a horse. The Sheriff says the order has come a long way since their origins, two poor knights who had to share a horse.

He questions Siward about how he got it. The one-eyed man tells his story. He saw them in the forest and followed them to their camp. When they were busy with the horses he took the token off the banner. They saw him and went after him, but he lost them in the darkness. The next day they found him when he was stopped by Robin Hood's men and the knights attacked them. He ran away.

The Sheriff asks him how he lost his eye, and he says the Sheriff had it put out for thieving. The Sheriff tells him now he'll lose the other eye. He tries to escape, "You can't do that to me!" but is dragged away screaming.

The Sheriff is amused. No wonder the knights were so upset. He explains to Gisburne that they'll be expelled in disgrace from the Templars if they've lost the crest. He laughs at the irony that they protected the crest through all the danger of the crusade in the Holy Land, only to have it stolen by an English cutpurse. He decides to keep the token, "as a souvenir of a most unpleasant encounter." But the best part is they're going to kill Robin Hood for it.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and wrapped in a cloak, Robin moves through the Nottingham market. He, Marion and Will enter a potter's shop. The man is distracted by the stock he lost when Siward and the soldiers knocked his booth over. They continue to question him until they find out that Siward was there and was captured. The news comes as a shock. How can they get to him if he's in the Nottingham Castle dungeon? The potter points out that the Sheriff isn't in Nottingham, he's on his tour. He's staying at Leaford. Leaford Grange? Marion asks. He confirms it, does she know the place? She says she should, she was born there. It belonged to Sir Richard, her father, until he was killed in the Crusade and she was made Abbot Hugo's ward. The church took everything.

Robin asks where they'd be holding Siward at Leaford Grange. She'd assume the cellars. Is there a way to get in? She thinks of one. There's a courtyard with access to the cellar.

*~*~*~*~*~*

That night the outlaws make their attempt to find Siward. Tuck approaches the soldiers outside the wall as a monk, distracting them with talk while the others climb over the wall and slide silently down a thatch roof and into the courtyard. The men sneak into the side door, and Marion calls to the guards, smiling. They approach and the outlaws attack quickly and quietly. Nasir stays in the courtyard to hide the soldiers' bodies while the others hurry toward the cellar.

Tuck approaches Nasir and the Saracen signals for him to put on a helmet. The monk doesn't understand at first and they exchange a series of silent looks and signals before Nasir throws Tuck the helmet and Tuck gets the idea. He hikes up his robes and grabs a shield to pose as a soldier with Nasir.

*~*~*~*~*~*

The others make it into the cellar and Robin places his sword to Siward's neck.

"What did you take, Siward?"

*~*~*~*~*~*

The Sheriff enters his bedchamber, looking at the crest. He keeps it with him when he climbs into the bed.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Gisburne enters the courtyard and sees Nasir and Tuck, marching back and forth in front of the open gate. He studies them a moment, then tells them to close the gate, which they do. He goes back inside.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Siward moves quietly into the Sheriff's room. He carefully takes the Sheriff's keys from the foot of the bed and crosses over to a locked chest. Taking care to make as little noise as possible, the thief tries a key in the lock. It doesn't work. The Sheriff stirs slightly. Siward looks through the lattice next to him, but the Sheriff still lies in the bed. He tries another key, and another. The Sheriff gets silently out of bed and advances on Siward. He attacks him from behind, but another pair of hands comes up behind the Sheriff, and everything fades to black.

*~*~*~*~*~*

In the village the knights are preparing to hang Much. The people of the village crowd around as they move the boy to the tree where a noose hangs. "Let him go," they plead. "He's just a boy."

"Silence!" de Villaret orders, or he'll burn the village.

"So, he didn't come," he says to Much.

"He will," the boy answers. "He will, sir. I know he will."

"You're better dead."

"He'll come." Much turns, looking frantically to the right and left. "Robin!" he calls. "Robin!" He asks the knight fearfully. "Will I feel it? Will death hurt?" The man's cruel smile deepens his fear and he calls for Robin again.

"Let him go!" Robin yells. He stands near the edge of the village, the gold crest held high above his head. De Villaret motions for them to let Much go and the boy runs to Robin, who quickly cuts his bonds. "They said you'd let me die," the boy tells him. De Villaret rides up and extends his hand for the crest. Robin gives it to him, then speaks.

"You have my sword."

"Yours? Thief. Get out of my sight," the arrogant man answers.

"Evil to him who thinks evil," Herne's son says, then turns with Much to leave. The two of them walk toward the forest. The knights cluster at the edge of the village. De Villaret puts on his helmet, seeing the world through the slit, it narrows to the two figures. Looking back, Robin and Much walk faster. The leader gives the attack order and the knights gallop toward the men. Robin and Much break into a full run, heading for Sherwood.

As the knights enter Sherwood, Will jumps down with a rope in his hands, as he pulls, the rope snaps up and one by one the Templars ride into it and are unhorsed. The outlaws move to cover the knights with swords and bows. Nasir pulls his double blades on one, but Robin stops him from killing the man.

Robin Hood stands over De Villaret.

"You have my sword."

*~*~*~*~*~*

The crest lands on the top of a basket of metal at the village blacksmith's forge. Melt it down, Robin tells them. That'll take care of the village's taxes. The group laughs, then laughs harder at the sight of De Villaret and Heinrich. Stripped of their armor, the two now-displaced knights share a horse.

end

So why is it one of my Favorites?

For one thing, the camaraderie of the group has really gelled by this time. The way they tease and play off each other when they're each trying to shoot the moving target is really fun. Their affection for each other, and how comfortable they all are with each other, is very obvious. They laugh with each other a lot, and clearly enjoy being together.

Another aspect of the group dynamic that comes up in this episode is how they deal with Much's capture. Each of them is determined to get him back, each of them willing to go into danger to help him. The loyalty they have to each other is very strong. Which makes their obeying Robin more significant. Each of the times he stops them from rushing to the rescue or decides only he will go, he's forcing them to deny that immediate response toward someone they love being in trouble. That says a lot about his power, and his place as leader. Will may question his decision not to kill Gisburne, but he will obey the orders Robin gives.

James' death is also significant. He's the third member of the group to die (the other 2 being in Robin Hood and the Sorcerer). When Dickon and Tom and the others died, they were ready to give up. But when James dies, they bury him but can't waste time mourning him. It seems that they've accepted that death is something that follows them, a hazard of their lifestyle. It's something they can handle if it comes, but they're willing to fight against it while they can.

In this episode it really feels like the group is a family for the first time, not a bunch of people thrown together by circumstance, but a family that cares about each of the other family members deeply. And each of the members of the family is valued equally (or close to it :), a change from The Witch of Elsdon.

As far as the Templars plot goes, it's not extraordinary but it's interesting for a few reasons. At the beginning we don't know whether they're good or evil. Their crest WAS taken. They have a real grievance, and it's not exactly their fault that they've blamed the wrong person. If they'd gone after just Siward I doubt anyone would have thought they were wrong to do it. So as the episode begins sympathies aren't set totally against them. However, as the episode progresses their arrogance and treachery become more and more pronounced. They cheat on their own trial by battle. Robin wins the trial, but they attack anyway. Apparently it was only a trial if he lost. They offer no sympathy when Much is about to die, etc. By the time Robin demands his sword and is refused it, we know there is nothing of God in them, only egoism and arrogance. It is perfect poetic justice that their decision to kill people they said they would allow to go free is what ends up destroying them. It was a brilliant trap, the ax would only fall if they broke their word. As Robin warned them, "evil to him who thinks evil."

I wouldn't call it the best episode of RoS, but it's a very solid episode. Lots of things to chew on and think about, and a satisfying resolution of the plot.

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