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.
"I ask of you, young man, only one thing, one boon, one favor if you would survive this night."
"Of course I will survive. How not? This is but darkness, and trees, and moonlight."
The man waved one of his hands. A creature appeared beside him, a pure white wolf with its hackles raised. Another subtle movement and he was suddenly flanked on the other side by a great white hart, its sides streaming mist. The trees overhead tossed their branches and Gareth felt the power gather, sharp and vital, around this being who faced him.
Fear such as he had never known--not even when awaiting the arrival of his father with the strap--engulfed him. "What do you seek of me? What boon, what bidding?"
"I ask of you but one promise, that you should follow what is in your heart." The man smiled again. "Does not a champion, a true champion, always follow his heart?"
Gareth had no answer for that either. His father had insisted a champion strove for perfection, to be faultless in all things and above reproach.
"My heart has been dead a long while." He did not know why he said that--it felt drawn from him.
"Nay, not dead," the specter told him. "Merely closed tight." Before Gareth's eyes his form wavered like a reflection in water, as did those of the creatures on either side. As Gareth stared, they shimmered and blended together until all that faced him was a brown hart, head high and rack displayed.
The spirit's final words floated to him even as the hart bolted. "Now run, my son. Flee!"