When I set out to create my Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy, and to tell the tale of Robin Hood’s descendants, I knew my tale would have to contain a heavy dose of Earth Magic. My Sherwood Forest is an enchanted place where the trees whisper to one another and the spirits of those who have passed on continue to reside. My characters, Anglo Saxons of the medieval age, still follow the old ways and believe that the old gods look out for them. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the holy days that punctuated their year.
The wheel of the year was divided by eight spokes, each with a feast day, many of which are still holidays today, but by different names. The four greatest of these were the solstices and equinoxes, on or about the 21st of March, June, September and December. The span of days between these were evenly divided by four other festivals: Samhain, which we call Halloween; Imbolc, which we now call Groundhog day; Beltaine, which we call May Day and Lammas or Lughnasa, on or around August 1st. Mabon, one of the four major festivals, will be coming up soon, on September 21st .
So what would the folk of Sherwood have done on Mabon? It was the second of three harvest festivals when the bulk of the hay was safely in. The weather was fine and all hands were required in the fields, working, sharing and often laughing together. With the grain ripe, ale could be brewed, which was an important part of any celebration. The folk of Sherwood and those in the towns close under the hem of the forest, who farmed their own plots of land, would have anticipated the time of plenty to come. Gladly would they lend their hands to assure everyone had food for the coming winter. I believe they would also have given thanks to the spirits of the air, water, fire and earth that provided the bounty and spiritual strength that sustained them.
If you’d like to step into Sherwood Forest and experience the lives of those who dwelt there, including the descendants of Robin Hood, you need only open the pages of the Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy. Find out why the story didn’t end with Robin and Marian. In fact, maybe it never ended at all. And the folk of Sherwood are willing to bet once you’ve entered that mystical place, you’ll want to return to the greenwood again and again.
Titles: Daughter of Sherwood, Champion of Sherwood, Lord of Sherwood
Author: Laura Strickland
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Daughter of Sherwood:
Raised in the kitchens of Nottingham Castle, Wren has no idea she is the daughter of the legendary Robin Hood until she is summoned to Sherwood Forest. Since Robin's death many years before, the resistance against Norman tyranny has been upheld by a magical triad, but now one of the guardians has died. With two young men, Sparrow and Martin, Wren must form a new triad with a bond strong enough to defend Sherwood's magic. To one of them, she will also give her heart.
From the moment Wren bursts into his life, Sparrow loves her. But he knows she may choose his lifelong rival, Martin, as her mate. Martin wants Wren also, but Sparrow fears Martin is driven not by love but by ambition. When Martin is captured and held at Nottingham Castle, will the conflict between love and duty destroy the triad?
Champion of Sherwood:
When Gareth de Vavasour, nephew of the Sheriff of Nottingham, is captured by the outlaws of Sherwood Forest and held for ransom, he knows he will be fortunate to escape with his life. Amid the magic and danger that surround him, he soon realizes his true peril lies in the beautiful dark eyes of Linnet, the Saxon healer sent to tend his wounds.
Granddaughter of Robin Hood, Linnet has always known she is destined to become a guardian of Sherwood Forest, along with her sister and a close childhood companion. She believes her life well settled until the arrival of Gareth. Then all her loyalties are tested even as her heart is forced to choose between love and the ties of duty, while Sherwood declares its own champion.
Lord of Sherwood:
Curlew Champion, master archer, has always known his destiny. With his cousin, Heron Scarlet, he will become a guardian of Sherwood Forest and further his people's fight against Norman tyranny. But the third member of the triad is still to be revealed, the woman who will complete the magical circle and, perhaps, answer the longing in Curlew's heart.
Anwyn Montfort has fled disgrace in Shrewsbury and come to Nottingham at her father's bidding. He wishes her to make a good marriage and settle down. But the wildness that possesses her refuses to quiet. She knows she's been searching for something all her life, but not until she glimpses Curlew does her spirit begin to hope it has found its home. Only the magic of Sherwood can bring them together, and only their union can complete the spell woven so long ago...
Daughter of Sherwood:
For the first time, Lil hesitated. “You have heard the tales,” she said, “of how Robin loved a baron’s daughter called Marian, and she forsook her father’s house to follow him.”
“You would have me believe that true, as well? No one would leave the comforts of a Norman dwelling for the forest.”
“You did not know Marian, a woman of considerable passion. But she was not Norman; equal parts Saxon and Celt fired her blood, just as that of Robin himself.”
“She lives still? Where is she?”
Lil’s expression turned grave. “She crumbled when Robin died, all her considerable spirit torn to shreds. To be sure, we feared for her sanity. She gave birth to you in Sherwood but decided she could not bear to stay and raise you.”
“She abandoned me?” Pain squeezed Rennie’s heart, a familiar ache that seemed to have accompanied her all her life.
“Child, she had no choice. Her love for your father was a desperate thing, fierce, unending. Well, we all loved him.” Abruptly, Lil’s voice wavered. “That was how Robin inspired his followers, through love and belief. He wove a kind of spell—it is that we refused to let die.”
“But my mother, Marian—what happened to her?”
“She entered the convent near Lincoln, three days after your birth.”
Rennie’s anger acquired a thread of hope. “I might go there and see her, then?”
Lil shook her head. “She died three years ago. Child”—she grasped Rennie’s arm—“I wanted to tell you then. By Herne’s horns, I wanted to tell you a score of times. But I knew your ignorance protected you. And you are far too important.”
“Important? Me?” Rennie scoffed. “Now I know you lie.” And that hurt unbearably; Lil never lied to her. At least, never that she had known. Suddenly the beloved old woman seemed a stranger.
“Everything rests upon you—on you and Sparrow, and Martin.”
“Two fellows named after birds? What—”
“Not two named after birds—three.” Lil spoke with emphasis. “Three is a magical number. You were birthed three weeks after Robin’s death, your mother nursed you three days that you might live, she died three years ago. Three of you.” Lil’s voice dropped so Rennie had to lean forward to hear. “Three birds.”
“Martin, born first, so very much the son of his father, Will, with that fierceness bred into him: Martin Scarlet. Sparrow Little, with his father John’s strength and gentleness. And you, child—Wren.”
“Eh? But my name is Re—” She stopped abruptly, unable to go on.
“Wren, lass, not Rennie, though ’tis what I always called you. Three birds, all birthed in Sherwood. And now the time has come. You must go back.”
Champion of Sherwood:
“This will hurt,” the woman told Gareth, and he caught his breath. Each time she had told him so, it had proved true, and he believed her now. He braced himself for more pain and told himself he was nowhere near the end of his endurance. Was he not a proven knight? Had he not endured broken bones before, been tossed in the lists and taken many a hard fall?
Aye, but then he had only needed to get to his feet and weather his injuries. He had not been surrounded by a pack of carrion ravens.
True, he found himself, now, alone inside a dim hut with this woman. But he knew the scavengers still lurked outside—he could hear at least two men just beyond the door, no doubt guarding it, and talking to one another. The other noise outside had not abated. Folk seemed excited by the proposed spectacle of his death.
But would they provide him this care only to kill him? The woman—Linnet, he had heard someone call her—had skill in her hands, quick and gentle. Already she had set his broken arm and now worked over the ugly wound at his shoulder, which brought her very close to him, indeed. She poured some vile- smelling liquid into the wound, and he caught his breath sharply.
She had not lied: it hurt.
“That will help keep the poisoning from setting in,” she said with brief asperity.
“Does it matter? They wish only to kill me, that crowd out there. They will never send me to Nottingham return me, even should a ransom be paid.” He stole another look into her face. Nothing like he had imagined a Saxon peasant, she was entirely surprising. Aye, some of their women were bonny and reputedly lustful, with bountiful yellow locks and still more bountiful bosoms. None of that fit this woman at all.
Her face floated above him, a pure, almost perfect oval. Most of her dark brown hair lay gathered under a head covering, but her brows soared like two dark wings over eyes so beautiful and unusual he scarcely dared look into them. Fringed by the longest lashes he had ever seen, they appeared liquid dark, bottomless and wild. In truth, she felt wild withal, despite her neat clothing, a foreign creature not meant for this place. Yet her hands remained kind and calm, her face serene—an intriguing contrast.
“They will not kill you,” she said softly. “Though, it will go better with you if you tell them your name so they can send word to Nottingham.”
Gareth shook his head.
A slight frown marred her smooth brow. “A word of advice—you will tell them, sooner or later. Spare yourself their persuasion.”
“Torture, is it? As might be expected of cowards.”
She withdrew slightly. “If you think those people out there cowards, you know nothing about them.” In defiance of her hard words, her fingers slid over his skin, applying some sort of unguent before pressing a cloth bandage in place.
Lord of Sherwood:
As he spoke, his eyes wandered to the face of the young woman on the bench of the cart, and widened. She gazed at him frankly, as surely no well-bred Norman maiden should, out of a face alive with amusement. A curious countenance it was, arresting rather than beautiful, wide of brow, narrow of chin, and well-freckled. Curlew drew a breath, almost convinced she knew how he lied, and that she might well point to the saplings that bordered the road and cry, "He is guilty! Look there!"
"Aye," said the balding man, "and we have heard about the dangers of Sherwood – who has not? Infested with churls and outlaws, 'tis said to be. And, my fellow, are you sure you do not number one of those?"
That made Curlew's eyes snap back to the man's face, reluctant as he might be to look away from hers.
"Far from it, my lord," some inner impulse urged Curlew to say, "for am I not one of my lord Sheriff's own foresters?"
"Are you, by God?" The Norman looked well -interested. "And is it not a remarkable thing, that I should meet you here on the road? For, I journey even now to Nottingham for to take up my new post there as head forester to my old friend the Sheriff, Simon de Asselacton."
Dismay hit Curlew like a hard blow to the gut. Aye, and what were the chances? Usually he had the very best of luck, scraping through ill-judged exploits by the skin of his teeth. Not this time.
And so this man with the steady eyes and the likeable manner was friend to de Asselacton – or old Asslicker, as the peasantry invariably called him. Ill met, indeed.
The balding man smiled with quiet amusement. "Allow me to introduce myself." He gave a stiff bow from the saddle. "Mason Montfort, late of Shrewsbury. And whom might I be addressing?"
Curlew straightened and gave an excellent bow in return. He knew how to play this game. His father had once lived the life of a Norman knight, though he had surrendered it along with his hated Norman surname long ago.
"The name is Champion," he said.
"Is it, then? Champion the forester?" He could not tell whether Montfort believed him or not. "And so, Champion, what is the true state of things in Sherwood? Is it as overrun with miscreants and murderers as my good friend de Asselacton describes?"
Curlew drew a breath and for some reason his gaze drifted back to the face of the young woman. He wished suddenly he could see the color of her hair beneath her head covering. As it was, he stood too far from her to tell, even, the color of her eyes.
"My lord, Sherwood stands in good stead." Magical place, holy place, filled with the light of belief and the spirits of those gone. "The peasants know better than to hunt here, and the outlaws have decreased in number from what they once were."
"Entirely accepting of the King's justice, eh?" Montfort crooked an eyebrow. "Then I wonder of what my old friend complains so bitterly. Ah, we shall soon see. No doubt with the aid of good men such as you, Champion, I shall be able to provide the vigilance required to keep Sherwood well-guarded." Montfort smiled again and the lines of his face creased into a good-tempered mask.
"Aye, my lord," Curlew replied with a bland expression that hid a flurry of inner alarm. This man was sharp as an iron nail, and would require careful watching. "And," he offered once more, boldly, "shall I escort you the rest of the way to Nottingham?"
Montfort's gaze raked him, still with what appeared to be a measure of amusement. "No need. Just give us our direction,"— the eyebrow twitched again—, "and be about your tasks for your old mother."
"Aye, my lord. Thank you, my lord. You keep to this road, straight on. Once you leave the forest you will almost be able to see the cCastle in the distance, on a rise. God's speed to you."
"Thank you, my man." Montfort urged his mount forward, using his knees. The party started up again, and the cart jerked into motion with a creak. "Oh, and Champion – be sure and report to me on the morrow, eh? At Nottingham."
Curlew bowed again. When the man reached Nottingham and inquired after an under- forester called Champion, he would know this meeting for a farce. But Curlew would be well away by then.
A small, wicked smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. He straightened from his bow just as the young woman's cart reached him. Any well-behaved Saxon underling, as Curlew well knew, would avert his eyes respectfully as she passed. Instead, he lifted them to hers.
And, shockingly, she returned his stare, bold and unswerving as any lad. Nay, not like a lad though – for she was all woman, this one, her face brimming with character, interest, and mischief. A smile twitched her lips as their eyes met and held – it said many things: that she knew he had just spun a fabrication, that she applauded him for it, and that she found him just as fascinating to look upon as he found her.
His blood leaped at that look and he condemned himself silently. This, a well-bred Norman miss, was no proper object for his admiration. Only, she did not appear particularly well-bred nor well-disciplined. Who was she?
And would he ever see her again?
Curlew stood there with the blood drying on his hands as the small train lumbered past, grateful for his escape, and utterly scorched by her gaze.
Not until they were well past did he draw a deep breath and strive to shake off the spell that held him. A new head forester was not good news for Sherwood or the villages close by. Would Montfort prove a difficult man? And why had de Asselacton decided to bring him here now? The last man to hold the position, Sylvan de Troupe, was not as young as he used to be, and rumor said he had been ill. And true, autumn was when a good forester looked to manage the herds. But Curlew considered Sherwood his own domain, and the last thing he needed was some sharp-nosed git deciding to do an assiduous job of enforcing the King's blighted laws.
Aye, and he would need to take word of this to Oakham and the other villages, let folk know they must set themselves for still another fight. His uncle, Falcon Scarlet, who stood as headman of Oakham and leader of the Saxon resistance, both, would want to know.
But as Curlew retrieved the bow, quiver, and the hart from cover and shouldered the last with a grunt, he thought not of the fight against tyranny or even his narrow escape. And it was to the trees and the essence of the forest he spoke when he said the words, "Green. Her eyes are green like the holy light of Sherwood. By Robin's heart, I will need to see her again."
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Multi-award-winning author Laura Strickland delights in time traveling to the past and searching out settings for her books, be they Historical Romance, Steampunk or something in between. Her first Scottish Historical hero, Devil Black, battled his way onto the publishing scene in 2013, and the author never looked back. Nor has she tapped the limits of her imagination. Venturing beyond Historical and Contemporary Romance, she created a new world with her ground-breaking Buffalo Steampunk Adventure series set in her native city, in Western New York. Married and the parent of one grown daughter, Laura has also been privileged to mother a number of very special rescue dogs, and is intensely interested in animal welfare. These days while she's writing, you can always find her latest rescue, Lacy, nearby. Her love of dogs, and her lifelong interest in Celtic history, magic and music, are all reflected in her writing. Laura's mantra is Lore, Legend, Love, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
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Laura Strickland Author @LauraSt05038951
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