Detention. Joel hated detention. Detention and Mr. Briars. And his classmates. Detention, Mr. Briars and his classmates. And school in general. Pretty much anything and anyone associated with school he hated. Not that he showed it though - he was pretty good at playing the game in company and to his parents, but that didn’t do anything to reduce his dislike of it all.
Detention was at number one though on his list of hates.
Mr. Briars had unceremoniously picked him out at the end of his final class of the day for some minor infraction, dumping him in an empty classroom with orders to read a book silently, with the added kicker that he couldn’t leave until he’d finished it. He hadn’t argued. Mr. Briars had it in for him for some reason, always singling him out, always watching him from the corner of his eye. Whatever. Going with the flow seemed the best option to deal with the asshole for the time being.
Joel turned the book over in his hands. It was a light, slim book, the cover a garish cartoon picture of various men dressed in green tights and tunics carrying a variety of swords and wooden staffs, except for the one stood in the middle of the group holding a bow and bearing a wide smile on a blond moustached face beneath a hood. Joel groaned inwardly as he read the title in typical olde english font emblazoned across the top:
A TALE OF SHERWOOD FOREST
A Choose Your Own Fate Adventure
Great, he thought sarcastically, it was one of those books, the kind where you had to select from a set of options and flip to another page depending on your choice. On and on until your character died or achieved some kind of bullshit goal. The last time he’d read one of these he must’ve been ten or eleven, and even then he’d grown bored with it and hadn’t finished. Mr. Briars would probably test him on it when he came back like the unapologetic shit he was though so he’d best just get it over with. Slouching back in his chair, Joel turned to the first page.
You have come seeking fame and fortune by joining Robin Hood’s merry men! Tarry not in the woods though, hold fast to your decisions, and you shall find the goal you seek!
Joel snorted derisively before continuing on to the first section:
Sunlight pierces the canopy of trees high above you, sending shafts of light through the sky of leaves to illuminate your path. You entered Sherwood Forest but a short time ago, and already it is as if the woods have swallowed you whole. You have on you your trusty sword, three days worth of provisions, flint and tinder, plus a warm cloak which seems a burden on such a fine summer's day.
The forest path is wide, the day pleasant, and your heart beats strongly in your chest. Today is the day when you shall achieve your goal. You will find Sir Robin of Locksley, the fabled Robin Hood, and join his troupe of merry men!
It’s not long before you come upon a fork in the path. To the left it curls off toward an area of the forest where a villager told you a small river runs through, but that there are plenty of man-made fordings available should you look. To the right the path is more or less straight, but appears to head into a dark, dense part of the forest which looks rather foreboding.
If you wish to go left toward the river, turn to 8.
If you wish to go right down the ominous forest path, turn to 11.
It read like any one of these books he’d picked up before. Joel looked at the options. Only an idiot goes looking for trouble in dark and foreboding places he thought, and wasn’t a river crossing and a contest a part of the Robin Hood legend? He chose accordingly.
Before you even see the river, your ears pick out the sound of swift running water somewhere up ahead. You quicken your pace, eager to both see the source of the sound, but also to splash some water in your face to relieve yourself of some of the heat you feel from such a long walk.
You pass a large, gnarled oak tree and finally see the fast flowing river, the sunlight bouncing off it’s surface, and is that a fish or two you see slicing around beneath? Kneeling by the bank, you dip your cloth into the cool, refreshing water, then lift it and place it gingerly on the back of your neck. The initial cold is a shock, but a welcome one, and you feel the coolness spread through your body. The bigger shock though is when you hear a loud voice calling from across the way!
“Ho Stranger! If you seek to cross this river, you must first pass me!”
You look up in surprise and see a giant of a man, dressed in a dark brown leather jerkin with hands almost as big as the thick beard upon his rugged face, stood on the opposite bank next to a large log which breasts the river. In his right hand stands a long, thick piece of wood. You recognise it as a quarterstaff, and that he must be none other than Little John himself, one of the fabled merry men you seek!
In an instant you understand his meaning, and looking next to the large log on your side of the bank is another quarterstaff, obviously for the use of travellers such as you. Finally a chance to prove yourself! Despite your eagerness however, he does look rather large, and you wonder at your chances.
If you wish to fight Little John, turn to 15.
If you wish to return the way you came and try the other path, turn to 11.
Ha! He knew it. Barely in and he was already dealing with one of the merry men. Joel wanted this over with, so going back wasn’t an option. Best to carry on forward and get it done.
Eagerly you sweep the quarterstaff up into your hand and approach the log bridge. As you step on carefully, so does Little John, easily twirling the quarterstaff in his hands. You wonder to yourself how many people have come this way before, only to find themselves swiftly beaten and pushed into the river. That your opponent is confident there is no doubt, but if the stories are true his naivety is just as strong as his biceps. Should you fight fairly, or trick him somehow?
If you still wish to retreat and try the other path, turn to 11.
If you wish to fight fairly, turn to 18.
If you wish to cheat, turn to 23.
Now that was an interesting option, he thought. Again, going back wasn’t going to happen. Of the other two choices though, Joel knew which one he leant towards. Fighting fairly may be the more honorable way, but to him the result was always the key factor to his way of thinking.
As you approach him, you raise your quarterstaff in what you hope is a defensive position. He smiles good-humouredly, rolls his shoulders to loosen himself up, winks, and quickly raises his staff for an almighty blow. As his staff reaches its peak, you pretend to look past him and shout: “Bear!”
His head whips round to check, instantly forgetting about you. You take your chance, raise your staff high, and aim a truly thunderous whack across his skull!
Your arms vibrate with the impact and you think you’re going to drop the staff. Nervously you watch as Little John turns his head back to face you. His face moves quickly from confusion, to anger, and then dazed. He falls to his knees, and topples off the log, but is still able in his daze to roughly grab at a protruding broken branch on the underside of the trunk.
The cold water returns him partly to his senses, and he slowly grins up at you before speaking:
“Well done stranger! Robin has need of men with sense as well as strength. Give me a hand up and I’ll take you to him.”
If you offer him your hand, turn to 26.
If you wait for him to climb back up himself, turn to 31.
It was a difficult choice Joel realised. Offering to help him up would put him in a dangerous position. Off balance, Little John could pull him into the water or anything. Joel could see the way the book was heading though. Once you bested an opponent in this fairy tale land of good and evil, you always fell back on the honourable option. He thought it a load of crap, but the answer the book was expecting was obvious at this point.
You look down at Little John, bedraggled and wet and being buffeted by the river, and offer your hand to help him up. As he reaches up to grasp your hand though, you instead wrap your offered hand once more around the quarterstaff and drive it’s end into his face, catching him off-guard.
You feel the impact resonate up the wood as his nose shatters beneath the blow. He bellows in rage and agony, one hand moving to cover his now bloody face. You quickly strike at his remaining hand holding onto the branch under the log and hear the satisfying crack of broken bone. He yells once more and releases his hold, the river quickly drawing him under and away. You watch him struggle for a short while, then throw both quarterstaffs into the water and carry on your way.
Turn to 28.
Okay, thought Joel, what the hell just happened?!
He hadn’t expected that at all. Thinking about it though, it made a lot of sense. Who knew what Little John might’ve tried? His character’s response was sensible - he’d lulled his opponent and then acted, removing a potential danger. Joel found himself warming to this book.
The path on the other side of the river is barely visible, and so obviously not a commonly used means of moving through Sherwood Forest. Logically therefore it must be a route used only by the Merry Men and Robin Hood himself!
Gradually the path grows narrower, the trees thinner and closer together on each side until finally the path appears to be a corridor of trees, leading to a dead end but with two large arches with a bowman stood in front of each. They look like twins, an image reinforced by them both speaking at the same time and with the same words as you approach.
“Greetings Stranger. You have bested Little John, but wisdom is as valuable as skill with weapons in Robin’s camp. Behind us lie two ways forward. One leads on to the camp, the other to a hidden pit filled with wooden stakes. You may ask one of us a single question, but beware, one of us will lie and the other tell the truth. Which route do you choose?”
You try to see any differences in the paths beyond the arches, but they look identical. Your only choices appear to be to ask the bowmen or take a chance and pick a route at random.
If you take the left arch, turn to 36.
If you take the right arch, turn to 38.
If you ask one of the bowmen which archway leads to the camp, turn to 42.
If you ask one of the bowmen which archway the other bowman will say leads to the camp, turn to 62.
If you use intimidation on the bowmen, turn to 49.
Now that was a curious last option Joel thought. The first two random choices didn’t appeal, and whilst he was confident in his logic what the right choice was, he was drawn to the last action. It made a lot more sense to him, skipping the need to risk a correct answer against one he could guarantee if approached right.
You walk slowly up to one of the bowman, rubbing your chin thoughtfully as if thinking of an appropriate question. Abruptly you draw your sword, catching them off guard and grabbing the nearest from behind, placing your blade against his throat before the other can react. The one you are holding trembles beneath your grip, whilst the other watches you nervously, fingering his bow.
If you ask the bowmen to tell you which arch leads to the camp or you’ll kill the one you’re holding, turn to 43.
If you kill the bowman you are holding immediately, turn to 47.
Another interesting set of options. That threats were useful Joel knew from past experience, but only if the other guy knew you’d carry them out. Carl in fifth grade had learnt that lesson the hard way. The answer was obvious.
Without a flicker of emotion, you draw your sword across the throat of the man you are holding. He gurgles in alarm as the flesh parts and blood pours forth from the wound across his neck. Dropping him to the floor to breathe his last, you point your blade at the stomach of the other bowman.
If you ask the remaining bowmen to tell you now which arch leads to the camp, turn to 56.
If you force the bowman to go ahead of you by swordpoint through one of the arches, turn to 53.
Both choices would work, Joel thought casually, but one of them obviously added an element of insurance to his character’s survival.
Prodding the remaining bowman with the point of your now bloody sword, you state coldly that what happened to his friend can quite easily happen to him and that he will now lead you through the correct archway to the camp.
Reluctantly, he moves toward the right arch.
If you follow the remaining bowman through the arch, turn to 68.
If you first run the remaining bowman through with your sword, killing him, turn to 65.
Joel was caught at this one; it wasn’t as obvious an answer as the last. Keeping the remaining bowman alive added an element of risk if he tried to escape, but then how far did the man’s loyalty to Robin Hood and his cause go? So far as to pick the wrong archway even, thus risking his own life? Despite the risks, having the captive bowman along gave Joel more options he realised.
The bowman has been stumbling ahead of you forlornly at swordpoint for a few minutes when you notice his furtive glances back and the slowing of his pace. Prepared, you wait until he makes his move. Ten steps later he spins and makes a grab for your sword. You efficiently stab him through the stomach, then kick his shuddering body off your blade. As he falls backward the earth ahead of you gives way and his body falls into the trap you had previously been warned about. Skirting the edge you look down to see his bloody and broken form pierced upon multiple sharpened stakes, one piercing his cheek and exiting his mouth and giving him a permanently shocked expression. Content he is dead, you make your way back along the path to the two arches. You take some time to dig a shallow grave a little way from the arches and bury the bowman you killed earlier, covering the mound with additional loose leaves and sticks. Once happy with your work, you turn and take the left archway.
Turn to 22.
He’d known he was right to keep him alive! Additional resources were a useful buffer between himself and unpleasant situations, like the friends he’d cultivated at school. As long as they could be controlled or manipulated, they were handy to have around. Those that weren’t could be discarded easily enough later on should the need arise.
You’ve been walking along the path for a while now and decide to take a rest and eat some of your food. Looking around you find a suitable tree stump and sit down, digging out from your bag half a loaf and a wedge of strong cheese wrapped in linen. You take a large bite of each and wash them down with some water from the skin hanging from your belt. Whilst you are eating you pull out the letter that lay beside the bread in your bag. Opening it, you read once more the instructions given to you yesterday:
“Hail and well met!
You have come recommended by Prince John himself, as a person who can produce results. Most in these parts have heard of the bandit in the woods, the one who calls himself ‘Robin Hood’. He calls himself a champion of the people, but in truth he is nothing more than a common criminal. However, his propaganda amongst the unwashed and uneducated masses has proven impossible to overcome; no one is willing to come forward and provide information on his whereabouts.
Therefore, I need you to enter Sherwood Forest and infiltrate his camp. He has broken the rule of law, as have his followers, and they must be treated accordingly. Robin Hood must be executed and evidence brought back to me of his demise. Deal with the others as you see fit. Succeed and the rewards will be great; fail and they will most likely kill you.
The Sheriff of Nottingham”
You fold the message back up and ponder what you should do with it whilst you enjoy the remainder of your meal. If found on you, the merry men will treat you harshly. By the same token, it would be useful as evidence of your true siding should you encounter any of the Sheriff’s men. You also realise, if used correctly, it could be planted as evidence against another within the camp, thus sowing division and discord.
If you burn the letter, turn to 78.
If you keep the letter, turn to 103.
Suddenly a lot more things made sense to Joel. Sure, the character in the book wanted to join the merry men, but his motives had never been fully spelt out before. The fact he actually worked for the Sheriff of Nottingham appealed to Joel. It was far more interesting to be a manipulative spy than a two dimensional woodland terrorist. He also liked the idea of keeping the letter. It would be a risk for his character, but he was guessing an option would come up later to plant it in the camp, or Little John might make another appearance and if he still had the letter in his possession one of the options given might be to plant it on Little John himself as a means of discrediting him and any accusations he might make against Joel.
You carefully place the folded letter back in your bag, stretch your weary muscles, and continue down the path.
Gradually your nose begins to pick out the smells of roasting pig and your ears the faint crackle of a campfire and the bustle of people. The path you’re on twists sharply ahead, and as you follow it round you suddenly find yourself facing a reasonably sized encampment. Makeshift huts and canopies of thick hide stretch between a rough circle of trees surrounding a large campfire, a boar roasting on the spit above it. Moving in and around the camp you see a fair number of people, somewhere between twenty and thirty, engaged in various activities. Some are checking their bows, a few engaged in mock sword battles, whilst others are mending tunics and shoes. Your eyes though are drawn to one man sat before the fire, a large hood covering his face as two people sit either side talking earnestly to him in low whispers.
You go to move forward when you feel the sharp point of an arrow tip sticking into the small of your back. Turning your head slightly you see a stranger with a drawn bow behind you, who then reaches round and removes the sword from your scabbard. He does not speak but prods you in the back a couple of times with the arrow, indicating for you to move. Slowly you walk forward toward the fire and the hooded man.
If you want to try and escape, turn to 92.
If you simply continue forward, turn to 79.
Why try to escape, thought Joel. His character was where he wanted to be, and he doubted it would end well if his character tried to escape with a drawn bow pressing a sharp arrow into his back. No, now was the time to see how things would play out now he'd reached his target.
As you get closer to the fire, the two men talking to the hooded man notice you and fall silent, turning to look hard faced at you. The hooded man reaches up slowly and pulls his hood back, turning to face you. His golden hair and moustache would’ve been enough identification, but the sardonic grin and twinkle in his eyes introduces him far better than any spoken word: the Earl of Locksley, Robin Hood himself.
He waves back the man behind you, appraising you for a moment in silence, and then offers his hand. You reach forward and shake it, and he laughs heartily, slapping you on the shoulder.
“Welcome friend! To get this far you must’ve bested Little John and the twins. This shows you have both strength of character and wisdom, both qualities I look for in my merry men. As you see, we do not live comfortably, but we live well enough. The forest provides whilst we work to topple the Sheriff and behind him Prince John. Now, as well as robbing the rich, there are other roles in the camp which need to be done. You have the look of a smithy or a cook to me. Which do you fancy?”
If you choose to work with the blacksmith, turn to 6.
If you choose to work with the cook, turn to 112.
Sure, thought Joel, blacksmithing offered easy access to weapons and the opportunity to thin the herd of Robin’s lackeys with them, but it would be a slow process he guessed and would place his character under growing suspicion the more bodies that turned up. No, if his character was to succeed, a quiet, unassuming role in camp would be the ideal place to start.
“Excellent! Come with me to meet our resident cook. Ho! Friar Tuck! You were complaining just this morning about needing help, and see if I haven’t answered your lament already!”
Robin leads you round to the other side of the fire where sits an overly large man in a friar’s robes, stirring a large pot of vegetables over a smaller fire. He looks up from sipping from a wooden ladle, his cheeks ruddy and his eyes bright.
“Well bless my soul, my prayers have been answered! No time like the present, come help me with this evenings meal. Go gather some herbs for the stew I’m preparing to go alongside the meat.”
He points vaguely off to the side, returning his attention to the pot. You look over to where he pointed, noticing a small herb garden he must be cultivating. Grabbing a clay bowl nearby, you walk over and start picking handfuls of herb leaves. As you do so though you notice in the undergrowth nearby a wild plant growing whose leaves you know to be deadly if consumed in even the smallest quantity.
If you return with just the herb leaves, turn to 130.
If you return with leaves from both the herb and poisonous plant, turn to 109.
Yes, this is good, thought Joel. A subtle attack that could incapacitate some, if not all, the merry men at once. It was ideal. He’d done something similar with his step-father, crushing sleeping tablets into his drink before he’d driven to work one morning, and that had gone quite well.
You walk back over casually, being careful to keep the clay bowl hidden by your body to avoid the Friar’s eyes noticing the difference in leaves. Grabbing a pestle and mortar, you quickly grind the leaves down until they are the same unidentifiable shreds. You pass the mortar to the Friar and he favours you with a pleasant smile of thanks, before pouring the contents into his cooking pot.
Turn to 72.
This should be interesting, thought Joel, eagerly turning the pages now.
To your delight the entire camp partakes of the stew prepared by the Friar before attacking the roasting pig, all sat round the campfire engaging in friendly banter and conversation in it’s warm, orange glow. You also accept a bowl when offered but are careful to dispose of it’s contents whilst pretending to eat it.
It’s not long before the first merry man staggers to his feet, clutching his stomach, his breath rasping from his mouth. Several of his fellows dash over to see if they can help, though you see a few themselves stagger as they do so. The first man falls to his knees, coughing blood from grimaced lips, his eyes bulging in their sockets. He collapses prone on his side, choking weakly on the blood spilling from his mouth, then stops.
Others are now complaining loudly of agonising pains, one going so far as to stagger uncontrollably into the fire, knocking the roast pig to one side and catching himself on fire. He shrieks in agony as the flames pour up his legs and arms, melting his clothes and skin. A few short steps and he drops to the ground. None have come to his aid though as the carnage continues throughout the camp. Bodies now litter the floor in various states of painful disarray following their individual death throes, gouts of blood abundant everywhere within the light of the flickering flames.
You pick your way through the bodies, looking for Robin. As the only one with a hood, it doesn’t take long to find him. Surprisingly he still breathes, though with difficulty through blood-speckled lips. He has propped himself up against a log as you walk over, his eyes displaying that he knows what has befallen him and his men.
“And so my dream ends, struck down from within by a traitor.” He coughs up a little more blood, but struggles to continue speaking despite the obvious pain he is in.
“If any honour exists within you, please grant me this final boon. Bury me here with my loyal men and true. Do not make me a spectacle for the Sheriff I beg!”
A final cough rips up through his throat, spilling blood and bile down his green tunic. Robin Hood and his Merry Men are no more.
If you accede to his final request and bury him with his men, turn to 74.
If you ignore his request and return with evidence to the Sheriff, turn to 164.
Joel barked a laugh. Well that was surprisingly easy. He’d worried that it might’ve come down to some kind of stupid single combat in the end. Violence had it’s place as a tool, but it still had that element of unpredictability. Far better to plan and strike when least expected if at all possible. So, what to do with Robin Hood’s body? Much like his stepfather’s when he’d idly viewed it lying in state, a corpse was just a corpse, a bag of meat and bones with no rights to further affect the living with its demands. The only function it had now was if it’s demise could be of benefit to those still alive.
Rolling Robin Hood’s body over with your foot, you examine his eyes for any further sign of life, then drag it over to a nearby tree stump. After some effort you prop his body in place, his neck and head now resting on its flat top. You grab a large axe from the blacksmith’s hut, rest the blade gently against his neck for aiming, then raise it high above your head and bring it swiftly down.
The blade easily cleaves through, blood spurting from the gaping wound as his head rolls down next to the stump. With effort, you rip the hood from his now decapitated body slumped down against the tree, and wrap his head within it. That done, you take one last look around the camp for any survivors, then pick one of the huts to sleep in till morning.
You awake refreshed and upon exiting the hut are once more greeted by the cold corpses of the now unmerry men surrounding what remains of the spent campfire. Flies are already buzzing around them and the stench of death will soon become unbearable. A quick search later you have gathered enough food and water for the return journey to Nottingham.
If you take the path you used to enter the camp back to Nottingham, turn to 128.
If you decide to go deeper into the forest, turn to 58.
Again, another no-brainer. The job was done as far as Joel was concerned, and once your goals are achieved, that was an end of it. No reason to go looking for trouble.
The Sheriff is ecstatic at your return and the evidence you bring, throwing a large banquet in your honour and showering you with gold. He also mentions that Prince John has decreed that on the successful completion of your mission you will be both knighted and awarded all the lands previously owned by the late Earl of Locksley.
Three days later, dressed in the fine garb of a nobleman and with your own servants, the Sheriff bids you farewell from his castle as you leave to take up your new position. As you pass under the gates of the drawbridge, you look up to the battlements and nod in parting to the grey face watching, the dead eyes of Robin Hood gazing down upon you from atop a spike.
Now turn to 154.
What, there’s more? Probably a recommendation to read more of the books in the series, thought Joel. He had to admit though, he’d liked this book despite his initial distaste for it. It appealed to him somehow, the answers more in line with his way of thinking. To his surprise he found he was interested in seeing what the other books in the line had to offer.
Congratulations on completing the story adventurer, but your adventures don’t have to stop there!
If you reached this result straight through without cheating (we’ll know if you have), and are interested in continuing your adventures, ask the teacher who gave you this book for more details. They recognised something special in you, and we’re always on the look out for young people with a unique way of looking at the world!
Your government needs people like you, and we can offer you REAL LIFE adventures you wouldn’t believe! Training in all the cool skills you’ve read in this book and more, and the opportunity to travel the world!
If you’re interested, please turn to the inside of the back cover and fill in your name and address in the space provided before returning the book.
See you soon adventurer!
Joel smiled to himself, a genuine one for a change rather than the one he mainly employed when in social situations. He pulled a pen from the bag at his feet and turned to the inside of the back cover. As he started to write his name though, the thick paper tore. Joel swore under his breath and tried again slightly further along from the tear. The same thing happened. Biting his lip to control his annoyance, he looked closer. The paper was far flimsier than it should’ve been, and was that writing visible underneath? Curious now, he tore the paper away and read what was written there:
Thank you for your interest.
You have decided to further your adventures with us. Not all are selected however and there is one final requirement for your application. If you look closer at the cover of this book, you will find it has two plastic layers.
Before returning this book to the teacher who gave it to you, please peel off the thin layer on top of the book just prior to handing it over, being careful not to touch the cover with your bare hands once you have done so.
One to two weeks after your teachers death we will contact you further.
Mr. Briars sat alone in his office, looking through a pile of student folders for new candidates. Two years he’d been at the school, two whole fucking years, dealing with pre-pubescent teens who thought they knew everything and their asshole parents at PTA meetings. Out of six possibles over that time, only Joel had come closest. Shame. He’d had a good feeling about Joel. He had potential.
Despite all the psych profiles and observation, it still came down to the book as the final test in stage one recruitment. Despite your promise, you fail the book, then your journey ended there. Literally. One advantage of the psychology of the kids the agency were trying to recruit - if they failed the test they were also the most likely candidates for teenage suicide, so closing the loop was easy.
He looked over at Joel’s book on the corner of his desk. Each candidate had their own book, tailored to them specifically and supplied by the agency when they were to be tested. Company rules stated he wasn’t allowed to read them himself, just hold on to them for a day after the test and wait for a call. If the call came, the candidate had got through, otherwise he just burnt the book, waited a month, and then staged the kid’s suicide. Again, it was a shame the call hadn’t come through. Joel had shown a lot of promise.
Sighing, he leant across his desk and picked the book up, turning it over in his hands, seeing Robin Hood’s face beaming up at him amongst his gang of merry men. Yup, a real shame.
Putting the book in his bag for disposal, he stood and went to the bathroom to wash his hands; the kid must’ve spilt his soft drink on the cover or something judging by the stickiness. Yeah, he had potential alright, but obviously tidiness wasn’t part of it.
Written by CharminglyShallow