The Best of Times Short Story Competition

August 2009 Results

Robin and the Holy Grail

Copyright © Alida van den Bos 2009

Getting tired of robbing people, Robin Hood decided heíd had enough. He only started doing it to annoy the Sheriff of Nottingham, who was always on his back for stupid little things like, "You canít camp here, Sherwood Forest is a national park; you canít use the wood to build a fire, too much pollution; youíll need a license to go fishing in the stream," and so it would go on and on.

Besides, getting money from people was far too easy, and what could he spend it on? Friar Tuck didnít want it, Little John didnít want it; so to make his life more interesting, he gave the money away to the poor people and then started robbing all over again.

When the Sheriff heard about it he made a visit to Robin. As he dismounted his horse and shook hands with Robin he said, "I heard you gave money to the poor people and I commend you for it."

Robin was just standing there, leaning against a tree, and with a big grin on his face, knowing what was coming.

"Donít think you can now camp here and go fishing, itís still not allowed without a license," the sheriff warned.

"I realise that Old Boy," Robin replied still smiling.

"You have been warned," the sheriff said as he mounted his horse and galloped away.

Waiting until he was well out of sight, Robin turned to his merry men, who had been hiding behind the bushes. "Letís go to the races, guys," he announced, "We need some excitement."

The races were in the town of Coventry, not far away.

Galloping their horses, they didnít want to miss the first race. Arriving there, Robin decided to back a horse, but when he went through his pockets for money, he found he was flat broke. How stupid, he thought, I should have kept some money for myself, now it is really going to be a challenge.

Thinking as he looked at the Grand Stand where all the rich people were sitting, well, I have to revert to my old tricks again. Nudging Little John, he urged, "Come on, we have a job to do."

"We do?" Little John asked.

"Yes," Robin replied as he walked up the stairs to the Grand Stand followed by Little John.

One man, expensively dressed, recognised him. "Hi Robin," he greeted him, "what are you doing here?"

Sitting down next to him for a minute, Robin replied, "Iím here to back a few horses, trying to make some money the legal way."

Looking up, the man asked, "You really mean that, do you?"

Robin nodded convincingly.

"Okay then, hereís a tip to give you an honest start. Back Hoodlum, number 1 in the next race, you canít lose."

Smiling, Robin said, "Thank you, sir," and turned to go. Little John had gone already.

Suddenly the man shouted, "Wait," and looking accusingly at Robin, who put up his hands, "Whereís my purse?"

"It wasnít me, I told you I donít rob people anymore, but did you see that little man behind me? It must have been him, heís gone now."

"You think so?" the man asked being unsure. "I never saw him."

"Iíll find him and bring back your purse, sir," Robin promised and was on his way to the nearest bookie. Looking back to see if the man was following, Robin was surprised he was not. After finding Little John amongst the people awaiting the race, Little John gave him the stolen purse and Robin put a large bet on Hoodlum, the number one horse

In this race everything was allowed. Jockeys could push each other off their mount, as long as they didnít hurt the horse. They were a sacred species. However Hoodlum had so much early speed, no other jockey could get near him.

Coming down the strait, he was in front by six lengths. People were cheering him on, the racket they made was so loud, nearly all the horses were frightened to continue, except of course Hoodlum.

He won easily with Daylight second. Robin collected a small fortune. Putting back the money he had borrowed, Robin returned the purse. The man was elated, and because of Robinís honesty he decided to break his disguise.

"Iím really Sir Lancelot," he whispered, "Iím here to find the Holy Grail, and since you found my purse so quickly, maybe you can help me?"

"What is the Holy Grail?" Robin asked softly as if he didnít know, taking the seat next to him again.

"To tell you the truth, Iíve been looking for the darn thing for years. Itís so bad that sometimes Iím looking, and I donít even know what Iím looking for. Itís just that King Arthur is on my back all the time."

"Can you describe the thing to me, and why itís so important?" Robin wanted to know.

Sir Lancelot put his head close to Robinís and whispered, "With the Holy Grail you can rule the world, itís magic, but as to what it looks like, I havenít got the faintest."

Robin pretended to think for a while. Frowning, he spoke slowly, asking, "Does King Arthur know what it looks like?"

"Nobody knows," Sir Lancelot sighed, "but itís written in his sacred book that it exists." Checking his watch he continued, "The next race is nearly ready to start, shall we go down and watch it? I have a good tip for Lady Godiva, Iíll put some money on her for you, okay?"

Robin was impressed, "Thank you, Sir Lancelot, and I promise Iíll help you and Iíll put my merry men on it as well. In fact after this race we go back to the forest and who knows what weíll find?"

"Thatíll be great." Sir Lancelot said, pointing to a horse with a big white mane, "thatís Lady Godiva."

"A beautiful horse, but can she run?" Robin asked.

"Oh yes she can, youíll find out in a minute, any second now they start."

Robin was looking up and down the track and saw the horses coming round the bend. The white horse with the long flowing mane and tail was leading. The crowd roared, "Lady GodivaÖ.goÖgoÖgo," urging her on, and even though the other horses were catching up, Lady Godiva was first past the post.

"You beauty, we won, we won!" was the cry of the crowd.

"Come on, letís collect," Sir Lancelot said. He had been very generous as the pay out was substantial.

"If you come to my forest in a weekís time, I should have something for you," Robin promised.

"Okay Robin, Iíll be there, and next time use your own money when you come to the races," he said with a cheeky smile.

Robin gaped at him, "So you knew all the time I lifted your purse. Is that why you didnít follow me?"

Sir Lancelot nodded.

"Am I losing my touch?"

"No Robin, I just knew, once a thief always a thief."

They both laughed heartily.

"Little John can come out now, I knew he was a decoy. I shall see you in exactly a week."

They shook hands and Robin and his merry men retrieved their horses and galloped for home. "Iím going to call at Maid Marianís place and take her out to dinner," Robin announced.

Opening the door, Maid Marian was surprised when she saw Robin.

"May I have the pleasure of accompanying you to dinner?" he asked.

"You certainly may," was her happy response, "Iíve just finished washing the dishes."

They had an enjoyable meal at the Pizza Hut next door. Never mentioning the Holy Grail, Robin asked her if she could help him out with a velvet box, about eight inches long and four inches wide, or something near enough.

"What is your plan, what are you going to do with it?" she wanted to know.

Robin smiled, "Itís for a stupid present, just a joke."

Looking doubtful, Maid Marian went inside, "Wait here; I see what I can find." After only a few minutes she returned with a black velvet box exactly the size Robin had asked for. "I hope itís what youíre after, I had my pearls in it."

"Thank you, Marian," Robin said as he put the box inside his shirt; then planted a quick kiss on her cheek before galloping away.

Returning to his abode in the forest, Robin smiled when he saw Little John and Friar Tuck waiting for him. "You know when I met Sir Lancelot at the races?" Robin started. "He told me he had to find the Holy Grail for King Arthur. He helped me win a lot of money, so I promised to find this thing for him and get him off the hook."

Looking from one to the other he continued softly, "Sir Lancelot and the other knights of the oval table have been looking for it for years. So I want you two to organize all my merry men and go over this place inch by inch until you find the Holy Grail. Iíll give you five days, okay?"

The merry men dispersed into the forest, but after five days they had combed the forest all over and only come up with an old silver chalice.

"Thanks men," Robin said and threw the chalice in the cupboard. Then ordered a meeting with Little John and friar Tuck, his most trusted friends.

"I have to tell you something," he announced. "I want you to swear not to tell anybody what Iím going to say to you now, agreed?"

The three shook hands and swore to secrecy.

"Are you going to give him a placebo?" Little John opted.

"Yes, thatís my plan and I tell you why. You see King Arthur thinks if he has the Holy Grail he can rule the world. You guys have to agree that for one man to have so much power is wrong, very wrong."

They all agreed.

"So where do you get a placebo?" Friar Tuck wanted to know.

Producing the velvet box and placing his own silver chalice in it, Robin announced solemnly, "This placebo is the Holy Grail," and as he closed the box he added, "Never to be opened again so the power wonít evaporate."

"Robin," asked Little John, "Why give him your new silver chalice when you just threw an old one in the cupboard?"

As he said that he suddenly realised what the old one really was. Robin and Little John started laughing. Then it dawned on Friar Tuck and he joined their laughter which could be heard miles away.