A funny thing happened on the way to castle boobage
Where: En route to castle Boobage
when: after the crash
Gisbourne, Cass found, was good, even charming company, and in spite of herself she found herself enjoying the ride; Even the distant impact of a six mile long starship and Gisbournes insistence that they ride directly to Castle Boobage (for heaven's sake) didn't entirely ruin the journey...
In the end, what did ruin the journey was a combination of other things...
A couple of hours after they had seen the distant multiple explosions from what Cassandra suspected, but fervently hoped wasn't a six mile long star ship ploughing into the earth, they passed a collection of ancient standing stones; Gisbourne made the sign of the cross and reined the horse around to give them a wide berth, muttering darkly about evil magics
"Magic?" smirked Cassandra, "I wouldn't have thought a worldly man of your experience would have given credence to such things?"
"What?" he laughed grimly, "You think they're really just harmless old ladies that we burn!?"
Cass didn't have a response to that and they lapsed back into silence, the gentle rhythmic thud of the horses hooves beginning to make her feel sleepy in her warm cloak until Gisbourne suddenly stiffened behind her - and not in a good way
"Listen", he hissed
"I don't hear a thing" she whispered
"Exactly..." he muttered, eyes darting around as he quietly drew his longsword from its scabbard
They continued slowly down the path, the horses hooves the only sound in the eerily silent forest until with a shout, the ground around them suddenly seemed to explode as a dozen men leaped from their hiding places and swarmed towards them wielding an assortment of weapons from simple quarterstaffs to long swords and guisarmes
The horse reared, panicking Cass into grabbing it around its neck and embarrassingly screaming like a girl for the second time in a day, as Gisbourne hacked one of their assailants heads from his neck, splattering the both of them in the man's hot blood. Raising his sword again a second man quickly went down, screaming hysterically, and clutching his ruined face, blood bubbling from between his fingers while Gisbourne reined the horse around quickly, aiming to spur it through the gap made by the fallen men.
In the end, the brief struggle was for nothing as Gisbourne was unsaddled, hooked in his mail and dragged down by a lucky strike with a guisarme. He hit the floor with a grunt and was immediately surrounded by many of the men, their weapons trained upon him
Cassandra looked on in mute horror, offering little resistance as a pair of rough hands dragged her off the horse, and painfully wrenched her arms up behind her back
"Yield Gisbourne!" a voice rang out from the trees over the moans of the injured man
"Ah.", spat Gisbourne, "The dog handler!"
"Yield!" repeated the voice, getting closer. "Yield or your prostitute friend here will most assuredly die..."
A tall skinny man ambled into view, dressed in the ragged remains of what were once fine clothes.
"Prosti..? Do you mind? OW!" Cass squealed as the brute restraining her painfully twisted one of her arms
"William Scarlock" at your service ma'am", he said, with a sneering mock bow, "Now, since the good Sir Gisbourne doesn't seem willing to yield, how do you feel about dying? If you beg nicely enough I might even be inclined against turning you over to Tuck"
"She's worth more alive than dead" snapped Gisbourne, "That's Lady Marian Fitzwalter, or do you lot not think to enquire who you accost nowadays?"
You had to hand it to the man, Cass thought to herself, trying to ignore the anguished, bubbling moans coming from the injured man - it took some balls to be this snappy when you're looking death in the eye down the bottom end of a half dozen pointy implements
"Oh Well, lets not bother with the whole yielding and killing the half naked prostitute thing." said Scarlock seeming mildly disappointed, "Bind them both and bring them along to see Robin - let's see what he makes of this... Oh - and shut that moaning git up!"
In short order, the injured man was put out of their collective misery, and both Cassandra and Gisbourne were blindfolded, trussed, gagged and ignobly thrown over the back of Gisbounres horse.
How far they travelled after that was almost impossible to gauge, but by Cassandra's reckoning, they must have travelled only perhaps 30 minutes or so before the air was filled with the smell of smoke and shouting; they stopped after a short while and Cass was hauled down from the horse and dumped on the floor while Gisbourne and the horse were led away.
Her blindfold and gag were roughly ripped off, leaving Cassandra blinking in the harsh sunlight, looking across a scorched landscape dotted by broken trees and dozens of crumpled cargo pods which were being pried open and picked through by teams of men.
"What do you think of this eh?" came a voice from behind her
Cass turned to see a rugged looking man stood posturing with a long bow
"Robin of Loxley", he said in response to Cassandra's quizzical stare, "And you, I understand, are the maid, Marian Fitzwalter, although your attire seems to suggest that you might be more something to do with the outlanders currently traipsing about the wilderness that I've sent off to their doom. You wouldn't happen to know anything about them or where any weapons might be in these big grey boxes, would you?"
"This look is all the fashion in York..." Cass started lamely
"Oh spare me" sighed Robin "There have been far too many strange things happening around here recently for me to believe that a near naked 'noble' woman landing on my lap can be anything other than suspicious; So let's start simply: where can I find weapons?"
Cass stared at him a moment
"What's in it for me?" she asked flatly
"Wrong answer! TUCK!" he bellowed
"My liege?" simpered a balding fat man hurrying over towards them
"Waitaminute..." Cass started
"'Marian', my attractive but uncooperative guest here needs a little time to consider her position; String her up in a tree for a while, but don't otherwise interfere with her."
With that Robin turned on his heel and started shouting orders to a team of men who were gingerly poking a smouldering scutter with sticks
"This way Marian..." bubbled Tuck, gently placing a clammy hand on Cassandra's arm and pulling her away towards a more secluded spot...
"You see" said Tuck as he secured a rope around her wrists, "Our glorious leader thinks you're one of these outlanders, and wants to know more about you, your weapons, and the big blue thing that recently fell from the sky. The thing is that the outlanders we've encountered so far seem well armed and organised enough to be trooping around in groups, meaning that it's probably unwise to try anything funny with them"
He paused, pulling the knot tight, and grunting with the effort
"Lucky us that you're all on your own though, isn't it?", he smiled, nodding to two big men who came forward, one of whom threw the loose end of the rope up and over a high branch
"And lucky for you that Robin told me not to interfere with you.", Tuck said, moving in closer to Cass until she could feel his gut pressing against her, and his rancid, hot breath on her face "That said, what with the itching and the nasty rash, I reckon I'm probably allergic to prostitutes, so I might have had to forgo the pleasure anyway. Pull her up lads!"
The two men pulled hard on the free end of the rope, hoisting Cassandra high up into the tree.
At first Cass just span crazily, making her feel dizzy and vaguely nauseous, and serving to remind her of how long it had been since she'd last had a meal, let alone a cigarette. After a while though, this slowed, allowing her to take in her surroundings somewhat - leaves and branches mostly, with the occasional flash of ...meat?
Cass turned; craning her neck trying to see what it was that had caught her eye.
The next revolution was a little slower, affording her a better view to confirm that there was definitely a large amount of butchered meat of some sort hung up in the tree with her, while the next, still slower revolution, rewarded her with a nauseatingly detailed view of a mans eviscerated corpse lodged higher up in tree in the fork of a branch.
Cassandra wasn't so keen on looking after that, and only finally turned her eyes back to the corpse when she had stopped spinning and found herself, with her usual luck, unavoidably hung facing the thing.
There wasn't much blood, Cass noted, making her suspect that the victim had probably been killed elsewhere and then lodged up in the tree - but to what purpose..?
She kicked herself for asking such stupid questions moments later when with an angry series of clicks and hisses two tiny squabbling Hymenoptera soldiers, each about twenty centimetres long, buzzed out from beneath the mans empty rib cage.
Cassandra's panic slowly began to mount as she mutely watched them buzz about the corpse before settling to rip at a few fronds of flesh hanging from within the mans abdominal cavity before, to her horror, the corpses mouth opened with an audible crack, and with a sucking, wet tearing sound, and out wormed what was unmistakably a tiny, half meter long Hymenoptera hive ship
Cass struggled hard, loosening her bonds somewhat, but couldn't keep the panicky shriek that screamed out of her pent up any longer; not that it helped of course: only serving to attract the attention of the bugs, which broke from their feeding and swarmed eagerly towards her, only to break off at the last moment and shoot away over the tree tops, leaving her to her screams.
After Cassandra had screamed herself hoarse, the rope jerked and she was lowered down towards the forest floor again.
Tuck was waiting there for her, along with the two men who held the rope, keeping her kicking feet dangling just off the floor.
"Reconsidered your position already?" asked Tuck mildly
"You smegging bastards", Cass cried "I could have been killed by those things!"
Tucks face registered surprise at this, although to be fair, not quite as much surprise as it registered seconds later, as with a high pitched whine, a half dozen Hymenoptera soldiers attacked the men holding the rope
Cassandra hit the floor running, ripping her hands from her bonds as the men simultaneously fell to the floor convulsing with the bugs venom coursing through their veins; what happened to Tuck, Cass could only surmise, but she wasn't wasting time looking over her shoulder to find out.
This was quickly shaping up to be near the worst day of her life, and while she had often contemplated suicide over the years, her need to survive this experience surprised even her, adding unhoped for speed to her legs as she ran, expecting the high pitched whine of a Hymenoptera soldier closing in for the kill at any moment.
What Cass didn't expect was feeling dizzyingly happy, when with a shout and the sound of rapidly closing hooves behind her, Gisbourne, quite literally her knight in shining armour, swept her off her feet and bore her away
They rode hard for some time, before slowing to a stop while Gisbourne got his bearings when they chanced upon a road
"Someone's coming" hissed Cass, pointing at a small army surrounding a coach and horses that was making its way towards them
"Ah. The Sheriff of Nottingham" Gisbourne smiled "Things are looking up!"
They waited quietly for the retinue to reach them
Bit of a long one, so apologies for length
Long and short of it is that Robin's doing a spot of beachcombing - what will he find?
And those eggs seem to have hatched. Congratulations Rosette - you must be proud!