Sherwood Forest was much thicker and taller than it looked once they rounded the edges of the lake, which as it turns out, is comprised of a surprisingly large amount of floating settlements, or islands as the villagers call them. They go by very different names too, like Kin Island, Brother Island, Franks Island, Island of Lazies, and so forth.
At first Samuel thought Smarn was just joking when he began pointing to various islets, or islands, and giving them the odd names, but once he began making our way around them, and he could see the connecting ramps between them, and little signs, sort of Hobbit like which were carved and enamaled with the simple, or quite outrageous names.
They made their way towards the end into a lesser aspect of the lake, where the islands thinned out, and a rather large hamlet, or stretch of land moved from the east side of the lake, which was called Marion's Hair. A name Robin's eye twinkles gave away its namer. On the far side of the hamlet were indeed some tree houses, but rather crude by modern day standards, but once Samuel had been in a few, he didn't think them so crude anymore.
That night they climbed into the largest of them. It was Robin and Smarn's home, and about dozen other men and women, who lived on the various levels of the home, which actually merged with the tree and went deep into its roots, where ice and food and extra clothing and weapons were stored.
At dinner that night the men brought out pipes and played dancing jigs, which the women would dance to and we would clap along with. Samuel had never had such a good time before as with these simple people. Not simple, that they were stupid or ignorant, just that they didn't make huge demands of life as most modern men and women might.
Samuel's first awakening to the more complex nature of his new friends, was when he was invited to sleep in Robin's room with Jimbo, while Nanny slept with some of Robin's women friends.
Smarn and Robin both slept in there as well, but there was plenty of room. The beds were carved out of the tree, and formed niches that were just deep and wide enough to along Samuel and Jimbo to stretch out comfortably.
The niches had a kind of hair growing from the walls, which Robin said were sensors of a sort, in that when anyone sleeping on the grass like mattresses got too cold or warm, then extra layers of blankets would grow over them, or away.
It was like being hugged by the tree all night long.
It was a fantasy in many ways. Dream like. And so far from Vegas and its harder style of living that Samuel almost regretted that one day they would have to return.
The four men sat at a small table in the center of the room and played a game called Tarts, which allowed each player to have four cards in each hand, with them playing one from each hand by separating them with their forefingers. This allowed them to view their cards, and then decide which to toss down first. Whoever tossed the most likely cards first...calling them high and getting the highest...won by accumulating points.
Smarn usually won. He didn't look smart, but the giant had a genius intellect. Samuel later found out when Smarn was poking around in the basement of the tree that Smarn had taught the tree to do all the things it did by singing to it.
Smarn sang to the tree in the basement and Samuel watched with fascination as a root sprang into view, then rose into the shape of a chair. When it was finished, it spread out a soft mat of leaves upon its surface for Smarn to sit upon.
"That's amazing!" Samuel told him.
Smarn nodded. "There's more. Watch."
He began whistling and a series of twigs, or what looked like twigs on the earthen floor began to dance with one another. As they did they began growing taller and taller, until they intertwined and formed a plant that resembled a person. Finished, it half bowed to Smarn and then stood at attention.
"Go to watchpost." Smarn told it.
The Leaf Person climbed the ladder from the basement, seeking its goal.
"Watchpost?" The first hint of danger.
Smarn shrugged. "Nothing for certain."
"I thought you were safe here."
"We are. But forest not. The sky men burn down forests."
Robin dropped from above and squatted. "I overhead your question."
Samuel looked at him.
"Methusaleh and the Ancients have tolerated their acts of cruelty for a long time, in the hope that their leader...whom you seem to know...might change and his peoples. We have actually recruited some of them. You may remember the Island of Whites?"
"It's what they call themselves." Robin explained. "The Whites. White power. But they no longer claim to rule the world inside or out. Only to be white, so their island name is both a designation and a self deprecation."
Samuel smiled. "It's good to know that they're not all evil."
"No." Smarn agreed. "Not. Just more now."
Smarn looked sad. "Must crush."
Samuel looked at Smarn. "Crush?"
Robin patted Smarn on his right knee. "It's all right,Smarn. They will be provided for."
Robin looked to Samuel. "Smarn still has some doubts about the after life."
"It seems that your partner and mine have some similarities." Samuel mused.
Jimbo, who had been sleeping, woke up stretched, yawned loudly, then interjected. "Someone has to preserve our sanity in the midst of all the crazy mumbo jumbo you guys do!"
Smarn laughed hard. "Like Jimbo!"
Jimbo preened beneath Smarn's laughter. "Ditto back at ya, big fellah!"
Robin stood up. "Dinner time!"
They climbed to the top of the tree where a great round table had been built. No roof overhead, just a kind of soft cloth, which they later found out was more of the tree's genetics woven into a soft cloth like covering.
Robin and his men served the women, who passed out dishes to everyone from where they sat.
"It's a tradition of equality." Robin explained as he sat down after passing out the last of the breads that had been recently baked in the third basement of the tree."
"We believe that all men and women are created equal in the eyes of God. We not only believe that, but we practice it as well. Something I fear you upper earthers are still working on."
Nanny, who had been silent to that point, lit up. "That just about sums it up."
Jimbo looked over at her. "We're not all that bad."
She gave him a dimpled smile and blinked her eyes at him. "No. You're not."
Robin tapped the table with his knife, then cupped his hands over his heart. He closed his eyes and prayed. Samuel and the others closed their eyes.
He and Jimbo listened as Robin spoke. "Dear One Light, the Center of all that we are, we thank and praise you for our abundance, for our lives and for our souls. Amen!"
Samuel opened his eyes a moment as the prayers were going on and he saw a nimbus of golden light dancing around Robin's body as he spoke. Behind Robin Al and M were smiling and waving. Having themselves a great time. Between them stood Methusaleh, beaming at Samuel and his friends.
Well. Well. Well. Thought Samuel.
Robin opened his eyes and then broke into laughter. "And after dinner, I will show you something that will truly amaze you."
Samuel saw Al and M and Methusaleh walk off into the air and vanish. "I already have."