tagSci-Fi & FantasyEnd Of The Golden Time

End Of The Golden Time


I opened my eyes. The room was dim, but I could make out the grain of the rough hewn table my head was resting on. I closed my eyes again and considered things.

Considering Things List

Item No. 1: Last night when I went to bed it was in a nice soft bed with pillows.

Item No. 2: I don't usually have dreams, and when I do, they're always black and white, while my table had a nice oakish tint.

Item No. 3: I wonder what time it is and if I'm going to be late for work.

Item No. 4: Where the heck am I?

I opened my eyes again, and there as before, was the dimly lit room with my table for a pillow. I lifted my head and the motion made me suddenly aware of a severe pounding in my temples. I don't drink and never have, and if this is what the poor slobs who do have to deal with the morning after, then I swear I never will. I saw sparkly stars, cradled my head in my arms, and groaned.

My groan wasn't terribly loud. It was more a pathetic whimper, but even so, it brought about a number of sudden changes and caused me to add a few things to my Considering List. A door crashed open flooding the room with light, sending even more nasty daggers into my head. A huge man then filled the doorway, with the light behind him making it impossible to make out any features. I was about to ask him where I was and what was going on, but he started shouting first. He leapt forward, grabbed me by my shirt and tossed me out the door into the daylight.

The daylight. That meant it was past 6:00 and yes, I'm sorry Mr. Stofler, I'm late to work again. Would you believe my alarm didn't wake me up because I was sleeping on some oak table instead of my bed?

When the huge man tossed me, he wasn't just shoving or nudging me along, he really had some nice loft to the toss so that I went flapping my arms through the air and landed in the dirt on my back. My view of the sky was nice, and the sunshine and puffy white clouds were a nice change from all the rain we've had lately. The man was yelling at me again which gave me cause to add an official item to my Considering Things list.

Item No. 5: Why the Hell is he yelling at me. Maybe I should try to pay more attention.

I listened carefully, and what I heard was something like, "Harkee to me, thou stinking varlet son of a whore and a thief as well. You be gone from my inn or as sure as my name is John-a-Pinder I'll be serving thee a good English broad arrow."

Varlet? Son of a whore? Is that an insult? Oh, ouch, my feelings are hurt.

I lifted my head and saw him pointing a big bow and arrow at me. "Ok, ok, " I said, "No harm done. I'm sorry for whatever I've done, and I'll be going now." I got to my feet, making no sudden moves, and said, "See, I'm leaving now," as I backed slowly away.

"Off with you, ye filthy stinking Norman" he shouted, so I turned and saw a dirt road that lead into some trees. This was the only way to go, so I followed it. As I reached the trees, there was a solid "Thunk!" near my ear, and I turned and saw an arrow as thick as my finger vibrating in a tree. The bastard had shot at me! What the Hell's going on here?

I dodged into the trees before he decided to try his aim at me again, and then I ran. I ran for a long time. I'm a good runner, and can keep up a steady jog for hours without becoming uncomfortable. After a while I came to a crossroads of sorts. My small dirt road met a larger dirt road with a pathetic wooden sign pointing west that said, "Not."

I sat down on a big rock next to the sign and began to go through my Considering Things list again.

Update on Item No. 2: I don't think it is a dream, but I really wish it was.

Update on Item No. 3: Resolved - I'm late for work.

Update on Item No. 4: Still no idea where I am. Even more confused now.

Item No. 5, or is it item 6? 5 was the guy yelling at me, so this is 6: Why did he call me Norman? My name's Michael. Maybe the reason he was yelling at me was because he thought I was someone named Norman.

Item No. 7: What kind of idiot would put up a road sign and tell you which way "Not" to go?

I decided to go west and do the opposite of what the sign said.

It was then that I finally noticed my clothes. Shit. My Halloween costume. My friend Sarah made it for me. I had invited her to my office Halloween party with the idea that she would stop being just my friend, and fall madly in love with me while falling madly in bed with me, and when I suggested that we go shopping somewhere for costumes, she said, "Hell no. Anything you buy at the store will just make you look stupid. I'll make something."

I didn't know she could sew, but sew she could. She made this hugely elaborate dress for herself and said that she would be Maid Marian, but I couldn't be Robin Hood because his clothes were too simple to sew and the costume wouldn't show off her skill. I got to be Prince John instead. The Evil Nasty Prince John. Not very promising for after party wooing. Robin Hood is dashing and exciting, and Prince John is a slimy worm that everyone hates. The costume was amazing, with silks and velvets and other fabric stuff. I suggested to Sarah that maybe I could be Robin Hood disguised as Prince John so that I could sneak into her monastery cell without being noticed. She grinned, poked me in the ribs, and said, "Monks live in monasteries, nuns live in nunneries, and if I was a nun, not even Prince John could force his way into my cell." Sarah was proving to be somewhat difficult to lead along the bedroom path.

Anyway, I'm wearing my Prince John costume in the middle of the woods on some dirt road heading where some dumb sign said not to go after running away from some crazy nut case with a bow who tried to kill me because he thought I was some guy named Norman. Not your average Monday morning. I walked along for a mile or so hoping that someone would drive by and give me a lift but nothing came.

Maybe I shouldn't have followed the "Not" road.

The sun was shining overhead, and the road was wide enough that the trees didn't provide any shade, and my costume started to get hot. It was meant for Halloween when it was always cold and rainy, not for summer weather. It felt like the temperature was heading towards 80 or so. I was getting thirsty and tired and grumpy and more than a little scared when out from the trees jumped a couple men dressed in green who ran up and tackled me. One of them held me pinned down while the other pulled a big knife and held it at my throat.

The one with the knife said, "My good gentle, I pray you come to the greenwood with us peacefully so that you may dine with us. Come with us in peace or my knife hand might slip."

Both of them were huge and mean looking with shaggy hair and full beards, and they stank to high heaven and were covered in dirt. I was being taken hostage by some crazy survivalists. I'm going to die. And all I wanted to do was get Sarah naked and in bed. Is that so much to ask? The men lifted me off the ground and shoved me into the trees. We followed a little path for a while with one of them before me and the other behind. I looked for some way of escaping, but the one behind me noticed and thwacked me on the shoulder with a big sick he was carrying. "Follow us Norman, and we shall dine in the most courteous fashion on steaks and callops of rich venison, game pies and pasties, and huge flagons of ale and beakers of wine, but if you leave our path your nice dress will be soiled with thy blood."

Norman again.

I said, "My name is Michael, and I'll follow you." I remember hearing somewhere that if you tell your kidnapper your name he's less likely to kill you.

We walked for a long time, heading deeper and deeper into the woods. I kept trying to figure out where we were, but nothing seemed right. I live near the Olympic National Forest, so I've spent a lot of time hiking in the woods. You always have to go up and down hills with lots of switch backs, and the trees are always fir with tons of moss hanging all over them with thick underbrush of stickers and ferns, and mud everywhere else. This forest was nothing like that. The trees were mostly oak with only ferns and ivy for undergrowth. It made for easier hiking, but it also meant that I had no idea where I was. It's not easy to escape from crazy survivalists if you don't know where you are in the first place.

After walking for a couple hours, the trees started to change. They grew closer together and were huge. I've never seen oak trees as large as these. They were as big around as some redwoods I've seen. Holy cow they were big.

And then they stopped. A large clearing opened up within the trees, with one single oak in the center that looked like it must be the grandfather of all trees. Around the tree there were fires burning with about 5 or 6 hundred people lounging around on the grass all dressed in green like the two that led me. Maybe this was Idaho and some crazy clan of Freemen had captured me.

When they saw us enter the clearing, someone blew a horn, and the whole lot of them came rushing at me. I thought they were going to rip me to shreds, so I did my best to be brave in the face of death and stood there with my eyes closed waiting for the end, but they didn't' kill me. Instead, they shouted, "Huzzah!" and lifted me on their shoulders and carried me around the clearing and then up to the big oak in the center. At the base of the oak stood a big man dressed in green, and beside him the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. She had a mass of strawberry blond curls that framed a perfect face with green eyes and red lips. She wore green like everyone else, but as a dress instead of tights.

Did I say tights?

All the guys are wearing tights. Why are all the men wearing tights? I've never heard of Freemen wearing tights. Heck, I've never heard of any normal men that wore tights. Me excepted of course. I'm only wearing tights because it's my Halloween Costume. Then the idea struck.

I asked the man, "Hey, is this some kind of surprise Halloween Party?"

He answered by saying, "Grammercy, good Norman. As you say, Hollantide is upon us. Will you guest with us for the feast and then the bonfire this even?"

I said, "You're not going to kill me?"

He said, "We cannot kill you if you guest with us. What say you, good Norman?"

What could I answer? I'm surrounded by a bunch of crazy survivalists who want to feed me and party with me, and if I don't they'll kill me.

I shrugged and said, "I think I'll stay for the party."

They all cheered then. They took their hats with feathers stuck in them and threw them up in the air and cheered. I have no idea why. They all seemed to think I'm some guy named Norman, so maybe Norman is someone important. I know for myself, I'm just Michael who works in the company IT department. Having six hundred people cheering for you would do things for anyone's ego though, so I started to relax and enjoy myself.

There was a flurry of activity with boards being laid over logs and set up as dinner tables. I've never seen anything like the food they laid out on the tables. There was a whole roast pig with an apple in it's mouth, and a whole roast deer with an apple in it's mouth too. There was a big goose with it's head still on, and other smaller birds I didn't recognize. There were pies and rolls and all kinds of sauces and soups and more cooked meat than I've seen at any other time. Six hundred people couldn't all sit at one table, but at each of the many tables I saw, they were all set as fine as the one I was at.

They sat me next to the girl with strawberry blond curls, and on the other side of her was the big man that seemed to be in charge. He spent his time directing things and giving orders, so the girl leaned toward me and said, "Pray, I would know thy name, good Norman." Her voice was soft and musical, and her eyes, green as emeralds, stared straight into mine.

I said, "My name isn't Norman."

She replied, "And so I ask your name. Will you give it?" She raised an eyebrow. I really like it when girls do that.

I said, "I thought you thought my name was Norman."

She sighed and rolled her eyes and said, "It is plain to all that you are of Norman blood, just as it is plain that we here are all of Saxon. But still I do not know thy name."

Norman blood. Saxon blood. I'm from Seattle. The Normans and Saxons were all from England weren't they?

I said, "My name's Michael, but I don't think I have much Norman blood in me. My mother told me once that I'm part Cherokee."

She raised her eyebrow again causing my heart to go pitter pat. She said, "You speak as a Norman speaks, and dress as a Norman dresses. Your Cherokee, are they very like the Normans?"

I asked, "You haven't heard of the Cherokee Indians? You know, from America? They wore feathers and used bows and arrows and hunted buffalo."

She smiled then and said, "If they wear feathers and are good hunters with the bow, then they must be very like us, for as you see, we Saxons all wear feathers and are the best hunters with the bow in all the Merry Greenwood." She clapped her hands then and called loudly for a contest, and soon there were twenty men shooting arrows at wooden barrels with targets painted on them. And all around them and even behind the barrels, the feast went on. I kept expecting someone to miss their target and send the arrow into the crowd, but they never missed. I've never seen anything like it.

After she asked my name, I realized that I still didn't know hers, or anyone else's for that matter, so I told her, "You know my name now, what's yours?"

She answered, "This is Hollantide, Sir Michael, and so this day I am the Queen of the Greenwood and have no name. Ask ye on the morrow and I will give you the name of Marian."

I smiled and said, "Like Maid Marian."

She answered, "So some might say, but none here would call me maid. This day, I am the queen of the Greenwood, and he who is king will plant the seed that will sleep through the winter and wake with the spring."

This sounded suspiciously like sex to me, but it wouldn't be polite to ask. Instead I pointed to the large man next to her and asked, "Is he the king?"

She looked at him and then back to me and said, "Robin Hood is king of the Greenwood while the summertime yet lives. His is the golden time, the young time. The winter is for sleeping."

Robin Hood. Here I am, dressed up as Prince John surrounded by Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Lets not forget Maid Marian.

I laughed, "If he's Robin Hood, and you're Marian, that must mean I'm Prince John."

She got very serious then and said, "I would have you be Michael and live. Were you Prince John and yet our guest, there would be nothing that could stay Robin's hand from spilling your life blood."

"I'll be Michael then," I said.

She smiled then, and I felt my heart melt a little more.

So the feast went on. There were continuously changing dishes of food while all kinds of contests went on around us. People wrestled, fought with swords and with staves, shot targets with arrows, and they even recited poetry. This went on for a long time, maybe hours, until the sun began to go down. Then the guy called Robin stood and blew a horn and called out, "Alan-a-Dale, play us a song!"

A man about my age walked up to our table carrying a harp and began to play. I remember hearing fairy tales about singing harps and stuff like that, but this seemed real. I guess I've heard harp music before at Christmas time, but it never sounded like this. He sang along with the harp, but his voice was accompanying the harp, not the other way around. It was beautiful.

At the end, he sang without the harp, "Hollantide is here good masters, the golden time has gone. The sleeping time has come good masters, let the winter king be found." Then a large bronze colored pot was brought out and given to Alan-a-Dale. He said, "From the cauldron chose your stone, choose ye black and ye are a knave, but he who chooses the white stone shall reign king of the winter. Two only shall chose not. Robin shall not for he is king of the Greenwood, and I shall not, for my wife is here in the Greenwood with me. All others shall chose."

One at a time, each of the six hundred men came and took a rock out of the pot. It took a really long time for all those guys to do it, so I sat back and ate some more goose pie. I should have been watching I guess because suddenly Marian was kicking me from under the table and hissing at me, "Wouldst thou shame me in front of all?"

I looked up and said, "What?"

She hissed back, "All have chosen their stones save you only, and there is only one stone left, yet the white stone has not been chosen. You say thou art not Norman, yet would ye act as one?"

"I'm sorry," I said, "I apologize." I stood up. "I'll go get the stone."

I walked up to the pot, reached in, and instead of only one stone, felt three or four stones. I looked around and saw all six hundred pairs of eyes staring back at me. Few of them looked friendly. What if I pick the wrong stone. If I don't pick the white one, will they be angry? Or what if they're angry just because I pick the white one. I stirred the rocks around a bit, and then grabbed one before I could second guess myself again, and wrenched it out of the pot. In my palm sat the white stone. Alan-a-Dale grabbed my wrist and shouted out, "The King!"

A huge cheer went up and again I found myself riding around the oak tree on their shoulders.

Then, to my surprise, someone took a burning log and flung it at the huge old oak tree, and it went up in flames. All of the other fires were put out with hissing, billowing steam, and they danced around and around the burning oak. At some point I found myself on my feet again, dancing and shouting with the others.

And then Marian was in my arms, dancing with me. Her hair was red like the flames, and her eyes danced and sparkled. I put my arms around her waist and spun around and around with her, never feeling dizzy. She laughed, and shouted with the others, but here eyes were only on me, and her hands were only on me. I could feel her body, strong and lithe against me, hot from the fire and the dancing. Around and around we went as the stars spun above us.

The tree crackled and popped and spat, sending flames high up into the sky, but as the dancers grew tired, the fire died down lower and lower till it was only bright near the tree, and farther away in the meadow the grass was only barely tinged orange. Marian led me away from the tree, and we danced out into the dark.

"My king," she said, "I am your queen. The summer has ended and winter begins." She pulled my face to hers and kissed me, with her lips soft and wet against mine. I groaned and cupped her face in my hands and we ground our lips together. A soft whimper stopped me. I pulled back and looked into her eyes. She was smiling and crying at the same time.

I reached for the front of her dress for her ties and began loosening them. As I did, I brushed the tips of my fingers over her breasts. She gasped, and I could see her nipples rise under the fabric. Once her ties were loosened, her dress simply fell off of its own accord, and she stood before me naked. Behind us I could hear the shouting and laughing of the dancers that still had strength to dance, but only vaguely. My attention was focused on Marian.

Her hair curled down past her shoulders, but was thrown back so I could see her collar bones. I touched them and her shoulders with my finger tips. Marian closed her eyes and moaned slightly. Her breasts were medium sized with small perky nipples that pointed slightly upwards. I moved my hand down to them and lightly brushed them with the backs of my hands. Her nipples were hard little knots against my skin. I kissed her face, her eyes and cheeks and mouth and while I was doing that I pinched and pulled on her nipples. She groaned into my mouth and pulled herself against me.

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