Robin sighed as he looked down at his sooty jacket. That had not gone as well as planned. He tried to brush off the ashes, but they just smeared and spread. He gave up. “Are the men still doing well?” he asked Little John.
“They are grumpy and hungry,” Little John said, “but otherwise fine.”
“Well, now that Sherwood is Sherburnt, we’ll have to find another base of operations. Preferably before the sheriff finds us,” Robin said. “There just isn’t enough tree cover to keep everyone hidden.”
“I’m really sorry I forgot about the campfire,” Little John said. “I know it was my task to make sure it was all the way out.”
“Don’t worry too much about it,” Robin said. “We can’t go back. We can only go forward.” He patted Little John’s shoulder. “Why don’t you tell our men that we’ll be leaving soon?”
Little John nodded. He dragged his feet as he walked away, shoulders slumped. Robin looked back over his shoulder. Patches of trees were still smoking in the early morning sunshine. It would be a while before the forest could regrow the burned spots. It would probably take years. He felt his own shoulders slump.
“Where’ll we go?” “What will we do?” the men muttered to each other. Robin could hear them well before he could see them. It was time to be the leader they needed. He straightened his shoulders.
“To the river,” he said, once he was facing the not-so-merry men. “We’ll catch some breakfast and follow it to our new home.”
The men perked up. They always did better when there was a plan. For weeks, they followed the river. It grew and swerved and fell and finally joined the ocean.
The bay where the river met the ocean was somewhat hidden. A ship was docked a short distance from shore, and a rowboat full of ragged, tired men was headed to the beach nearby. Robin’s own tired, ragged men would fit right in.
“Who goes there?” one of the sailors asked.
“Just a tired band of men hoping to share a campfire,” Robin said.
A man in a slightly less ragged jacket stepped forward. “I’m the captain. I could use some help if you’re willing to work hard.”
“We would if the wages were good,” Robin said.
“You’d get a share of the profits,” the captain promised. “We rob the rich.”
“To aid the poor?” Robin asked.
“Of course not,” the man said. “I told you we share the profits. I guess you could do what you want with your share.”
“Fair enough,” Robin said. “We’ve never sailed before. If you’re willing to teach us, we’re willing to learn.”
It took a few months, but Robin and his once-again-merry men learned how to sail the pirate ship. Then, of course, they mutinied. They left the pirates at the nearest port, addressed to their not-so-good friend the sheriff.
The merry crew roamed the high seas, robbing from the rich to aid the poor. After several years, they were able to sell the ship and go home. While they were gone, the burned patches of forest had filled in nicely. The forest didn’t look exactly the same as it had before, but it still looked like home.
“That was an amazing vacation,” Little John said happily. “I always wanted to see the sea.”
“It is nice to try something different. And we brought so much money back, there won’t be any poor in town for a while,” Robin said. “All the same, it’s good to be home.”
“I promise to always be more careful with the campfire,” Little John said.