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Love's Labor Lost

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Marian de Knighton
♣ Lady / Nightwatchman ♣


√ LOCALISATION : In the arms of Robin
√ NOMBRE DE PRINTEMPS : 26

► WE ARE ROBIN HOOD ◄
● Age: 21 printemps
● Titre: Noble
● Inventaire:

MessageSujet: Love's Labor Lost Dim 2 Mai - 20:23

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Dernière édition par Marian de Knighton le Lun 3 Mai - 0:18, édité 1 fois
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http://www.youtube.com/user/Nightwatchwoman


Marian de Knighton
♣ Lady / Nightwatchman ♣


√ LOCALISATION : In the arms of Robin
√ NOMBRE DE PRINTEMPS : 26

► WE ARE ROBIN HOOD ◄
● Age: 21 printemps
● Titre: Noble
● Inventaire:

MessageSujet: Re: Love's Labor Lost Dim 2 Mai - 20:26

Love's Labor Lost

A/N Usual disclaimer, don't own, don't profit, etc.

A thousand thanks to LadyKate for her beta skills!

Chapter 1

Marian sat in her room by the fireplace, chin propped on her hands as she went over the day's events. It was long after sunset, long after supper, but she wasn't sleepy. She was surprised, but pleased, that she wasn't having a case of hysterics, as most women – and men too – might after having been brought to the threshold of the gallows.

Guy had risked a lot to save her – the sheriff had almost looked mad enough to kill as Guy was pretending to chase after the "Night Watchman." She hadn't fully realized until then how much he was risking to keep her safe. He could be a better man, she thought, she had seen that today. She wished he would let himself be that better man more often.

And yet, she thought with exasperation, his "rescue" of her had only been necessary after putting her in the situation to begin with.

If only he had let her go when he had caught her in Locksley.

She wondered why he had initially been so determined to see her punished. Was it because of the actions the Night Watchman had taken – defying the sheriff, robbing Guy, aiding the outlaws, or was because this was proof positive she refused to be the plaster saint he seemed to think she should be?

She rubbed her arms, feeling chilled despite the warmth of the fire. She had to admit that if it had been anyone else behind the mask, Guy would not only have killed the Night Watchman, but have made it a very painful, drawn out death. She could still smell the red hot poker he had brandished in her face at her capture.

She grimaced; she shouldn't have gotten caught to begin with. She would do no good to anyone if she was dead.

Dead.

She closed her eyes and took a deep steadying breath, fighting back the hysterics she had been worried about all along.

Yes, she had almost died when Guy had stabbed the Night Watchman the year before, and yet this, simply standing in front of the gallows, and coming out of it without a mark on her, had felt so much worse, so much more final.

She had known in an abstract, rational kind of way that being the Night Watchman could mean her execution, but up until today it had never really seemed to have fully sunk in.

She had to admit that she had enjoyed every time she had gotten away by the skin of her teeth in her escapades, secretly showing off that she was better than the men around her – both the ones who did nothing to oppose the sheriff, and those working for the sheriff who failed to catch her.

"Hello, my love," said a voice quietly, just loud enough to be heard above the crackle of the fire.

Marian looked up with a smile at one of the few men who had opposed the sheriff. Robin was sitting casually on the window ledge, a little grin on his face. Robin, who helped the poor, even if he did insist on doing it so publicly. Robin, who had actually listened when she had explained why she had become the Night Watchman.

"Robin!" she said happily, and then frowned.

"What?" he asked, concerned.

She crossed her arms. "And where were you all day when I told you we needed to help the people of Locksley?" willing herself to stay mad at him instead of rushing into his arms for a kiss as she wanted to.

"Rescuing the Queen Mother from Prince John," said Robin with a rueful sigh.

"What?" she gasped, the unexpected answer knocking all thoughts of anger straight out of her.

Robin filled her in on how the search and rescue of Queen Eleanor had kept him and the gang busy all day.

"So, she's safe now?" asked Marian when he'd finished, wishing she could have been there instead of spending the day trying to justify her actions to Guy.

"Yes," reassured Robin. "On the road to a ship back to the Aquitaine as we speak."

"And she really offered to take Little John with her?" she asked incredulously, trying to fight back a grin at the lighter side of the tale.

"She was quite taken with the 'big bear'," said Robin with a grin of his own, and they both dissolved into a fit of childish giggles, both giving into the relief.

"And," he continued, when they had both gotten their breath back, "her generous donation has already been distributed, much of it going to help the people of Locksley get resettled back in their homes, now that the sheriff's moved out the mercenaries, since there was no point in keeping them here, with the queen no longer Prince John's guarded hostage."

"Good," said Marian.

"The rest are finishing up the food drops. For a laugh, I put Much in charge; see how he handles it, and so I could come here and catch you up on the day's events."

He grinned at her mischievously.

"So, how was your day, my love?" he asked in a jovial voice that clearly said 'top that'.

Marian visibly hesitated, and his face fell.

"Marian," he said in a warning voice, "I asked you not to interfere in Locksley. You promised."

"I know," she said testily. "And I didn't," she said defensively. "The, uh, Night Watchman did," she said, avoiding his gaze.

Robin rolled his eyes. "Very clever," he drawled. "You do find the most creative ways to throw yourself into danger."

"That's the pot calling the kettle black."

He smirked. "No, I'm just your normal, middle of the road, outlaw hero," he said with pretend humbleness. "You're the one with imagination when it comes to fighting for justice," he told her with real admiration in his voice.

Marian tried not to smile at his praise and felt a flush come to her checks.

"But," he continued, "since you are here in the castle's guest chambers rather than a guest of the dungeons I assume things didn't go too badly."

She glanced at him, surprised. It appeared word hadn't gotten out too far yet of the Night Watchman's capture and escape.

"What happened?" he demanded at her uneasy glance.

"Guy found out I was the Night Watchman," she admitted.

Robin's eyes narrowed angrily. "What did he do?"

Marian told him. When she had finished recounting her day of captures and escapes Robin surprised her by simply taking her in his arms and holding her for a very long time.

Then he kissed her and Marian was surprised to feel slight wetness on his checks. He broke off the kiss and she looked up to see tears standing in his eyes.

"I almost lost you today and I didn't even know it," he said huskily. "If I lost you… I… I don't know what I'd do."

"You would keep fighting for England," she said as bravely as she could, trying push down the lump in her throat that had formed. "That's what we're doing Robin. Fighting for the people and King Richard and for England."

He put both hands on the sides of her face and looked at her for a long moment. "Which is why you wouldn't come back to the forest with me if I asked, would you?" he asked resignedly. "Because you want to stay here and see what information you can learn."

"You need someone here to find out what Guy and the sheriff are up to," she told him.

She knew Guy thought she was staying for him. She sighed inwardly. She reminded herself of how badly Guy had wanted to hurt her to try and lessen the guilt of giving him such false hope.

Robin nodded sadly at her words. "But can you least promise me to be careful?" he asked after he kissed her on the forehead.

"Guy burned my Night Watchman's outfit," she snarled. She seethed at the recollection at how casually Guy had tossed away what had been so important to her, as if it was nothing. "Which I'm afraid puts a bit of a damper on my current heroics."

Robin chuckled as he kissed her again. "A naked freedom fighter would be quite a sight to behold."

Marian tried to hit him on the side of his arm but instead somehow wound up embraced in an even tighter hug than before.

They melted into a long kiss. She remembered the kiss she had shared with Guy, and how much more desperately he had responded; she wondered what it would be like to have such complete slavish devotion from a man.

She hastily pushed the thought away. She slipped her hand between the fastenings of Robin's shirt, pressing her hand against his warm skin, wanting to melt right into him completely, reminding herself that she was Robin's and he was hers, and there were no others.

Robin responded to her touch by beginning to pull at her vest's fastenings, and then hesitated, stopping to look at her closely. "Are you sure?" he asked her.

Marian nodded. "Yes," she said, determined. "Robin, I don't want to wait any longer."

She would have gone on about how she had almost died that day, which had put rather a lot in perspective, but Robin held her lips captive with his, which made talking difficult.

They tumbled into her bed, and, for an all too brief a time, forgot about everything else except each other.

Several weeks passed quickly.

Marian was only able to see Robin a handful of times, meeting in hallway corners and behind market stalls, exchanging a few words on current plans for thwarting the sheriff, she telling him any scraps of information she had managed to glean that day, he telling her about what the gang had done recently.

All of their meetings had to be hurried, with no more than a few sentences exchanged and a quick kiss.

He took the risk of sneaking into her room again one night. She tried to scold him about the danger he was courting, but it was hard to make her words sound sincere when she was giving him a welcoming kiss.

They had reluctantly woke in the pre-dawn hours so Robin could sneak back out, despite his laughing assurances to her that he could think of no better place to die as she had pushed him out of the bed.

One morning, Marian awoke, feeling groggier than usual.

She got up and dressed, pausing to steady herself for a moment by placing her hand on a table. Black spots danced for a moment before her eyes, but they quickly passed and she dismissed it all as having stayed up too late the night before, waiting to see if Robin would be able to join her that night.

She berated herself for acting like a ninny, moping and pining for her beloved like a helpless damsel in a troubadour's tale.

She walked into the Great Hall where most of the castle was already seated at the morning meal, breaking their fast.

"Marian," said Guy with a polite nod, a small, hopeful smile on his face. Allan lurked behind him, wearing an expression of someone who wished they were somewhere else.

"Ah, our leper friend," said the sheriff cheerfully from where he sat at the head of the table, happily munching on a roast chicken thigh as he talked. "So glad you could join us. A clue. No."

She did her best to plaster a smile on her face as she faced Guy. They had argued the day before. Or rather, she had tried to argue with him on the behalf of the Locksley villagers. He had ended the debate before anything could be honestly said by curtly reminding her that he wouldn't be able to always save her from the sheriff's wrath if she was caught again defying Vasey's actions, but then attempted to charm her with soft words of how she could do anything she liked in Locksley if she was lady of the manor.

They had parted as it felt they always did these days with both of them making promises, with Marian suspecting Guy's promises to be as empty as hers. But she had to go on pretending, knowing the only way to do good was to be in the midst of the fray.

And she had to smile through this awful headache, she thought to herself ruefully.

As she smiled, the black spots danced across her vision again, and she felt herself go light, as if she was floating.

"I feel," she began, but didn't even make it to the word 'dizzy' before she felt a rush of blood beneath her skin and everything went completely black as she lost conciseness.

Guy rushed forward as Marian sank to the floor. He knelt down to where she lay, crumpled in a pathetic heap on the ground. He picked her up with trembling hands, barking orders to anyone in shouting distance for someone to fetch a healer from town, and that there had better be someone brought in with all speed.

The sheriff was making some sarcastic comments about the leper finally getting leprosy, but Guy ignored him. He vaguely registered Allan in the background giving orders to soldiers on which places to check for the nearest healer as he carried Marian out of the Great Hall back to her chamber where he laid her reverently on top of the blankets of her bed, like a marble effigy on a tomb.

She looked so young and innocent with her eyes closed and her breath slow and shallow. He wondered for the thousandth time what it would take to be able to fully win her heart.

Guy sat in a chair next to the bed and held her limp hand, occasionally stroking her hair as he pondered how long it would be before he could call her 'wife'.

He had saved her from her misguided quest as the Night Watchman, and she had been grateful, he was sure of it. That had to be a start. She had chosen to stay in Nottingham instead of going back to that convent, surely that was a sign. She wanted to be near him, she must feel something, surely.

She'd been more cheerful lately, and he'd caught her smiling at nothing in particular when she didn't realize he was watching her. She would always put on a somber expression or a polite cultivated smile when he approached her, but he was sure she just needed a bit of coaxing to be herself around him.

Not long later an old woman carrying an assortment of bottles and dried herbs appeared in the doorway, arguing with the guards who had brought her about her fee.

"I'll have you know every minute I'm in the castle on whatever fool's errand you've dragged me here on, I'm losing paying customers," she was saying querulously, but shut up when she saw Marian on the bed. "Ah, so this is the lady who's taken sick, is it?" she asked, unnecessarily.

"Make her well," ordered Guy in a deep growl as he rose from the chair.

The woman sized him up, clearly taking in the worth of his clothes. "My fee's ten pounds, my lad, plus expenses. Half up front," she said brusquely, holding her knurled old hand out. Guy reluctantly placed a gold coin on her withered palm. "I said half," she said sourly, looking at the single coin with a frown.

"You get the rest when she's recovered, and only then," growled Guy in a voice that suggested there would be no haggling over this.

The woman shrugged in acquiesce. "Is the lady your wife or your sister?" she asked with gossipy curiosity as she hobbled to the bed.

"She will be my wife," he growled.

The woman merely nodded as she grabbed a lighted candle from beside the bed and retrieved what looked like the root of some plant or another from a pouch at her waist and held it under Marian's nose. She used the flame of the candle to light the plant root.

A sharp, pungent order immediately penetrated the air. Marian gasped as she awoke, her eyes roving about the room in confusion.

"That's better," cackled the old woman. She turned over her shoulder to say to Guy, "I'll need a cup full of Burgundy wine after it's been brought to the boiling for a count of ten and no longer with a leaf of basil dropped in. It's vital to getting the lady back on her feet," she ordered.

Without question, Guy rushed from the room to the kitchens to oversee the order.

The old healer looked back to Marian with a conspiratory grin missing quite a few teeth.

"There now, that should get rid of your over anxious young man for a bit so we can have a little talk about your health without him glowering over our shoulders."

Marian smiled back nervously, still not completely sure what was going on.

"Now, I hear you had a bit of a faint this morning, eh poppet?" asked the woman, taking Marian's wrist to feel her pulse.

"I just was a bit dizzy," said Marian defensively. "I was simply overtired. I just, er, haven't slept well recently."

"Indeed," said the woman, gazing deep into Marian's pupils with a professional gaze, and then began to gently poke at Marian's abdomen. "Tell me if this hurts," she instructed as she prodded about.

She undid the lacing at the bottom of Marian's vest to get a look at the skin of her stomach. "Nasty scar you got there, duckie," she cackled, tracing it with a bony finger, "should have come to me when you got that cut. I've got a lovely cream for making sure scars don't appear, only forty shillings."

She began asking questions about Marian's general health, firing off question after question about how Marian's body had been behaving lately.

She made Marian spit into a little bowl and examined it, then took a few drops of blood from Marian's finger with the smallest of pen knives and tasted it judiciously.

She looked in Marian's mouth as if she were a horse for sale and then began prodding at her with her bony fingers again. She poked at Marian's throat and neck, still asking questions, and then, moving downwards, gave a jab to Marian's breasts. Marian flinched back as she winced tightly in pain.

"That hurt?" asked the old woman sharply, jabbing her again in the same spot.

"Yes," hissed Marian in pain, surprised by how tender her breasts were.

"Do they normally hurt when you get your monthly course?"

"No."

"And when was your last course?" asked the old woman.

"Well it was-" she was about to say 'last week' when she suddenly realized that wasn't true. How could she have been so busy, even with all the sneaking about she'd been doing lately to try and overhear the sheriff's plans, to have overlooked that? She counted the weeks since her last course on one hand, then with shaking fingers on the other hand.

The realization hit her like a physical blow and she gasped. She looked up with round eyes at the healer grinning down at her with a knowing leer.

Guy walked in without knocking, the cup of freshly boiled Burgundy wine in hand, going as fast as he could without spilling. He frowned at the scene he walked into. Marian was trying to clutch at the woman's arms, begging her over and over, "no, no, no, don't tell him, please!"

The woman was waving her off and making shushing noises, trying to calm her down. "Its all right dearie, everything will be fine, plenty of women get a bit frightened and they come out of it fine in the end," not listening to whatever Marian was trying to say.

The healer looked up at Guy's arrival. "She seems determined to be silly about the situation, but most first timers are. I only hope you can be the sensible one of the pair."

"Silly?" asked Guy, wondering what on earth could be happening to make the healer pronounce Marian sick with 'silliness'. Marian was the least silly woman he knew. Stubborn, misguided and willful, yes, but not silly.

The woman went on, smiling wickedly, "And any date you've picked, I'd move it up if I were you young man to as soon as possible. Today, preferably. I'm sure no one will raise their eyebrows too much if the baby arrives eight months rather than nine months after the wedding."

"Baby," repeated Gisbourne dumbly, not quite able to process what the woman was saying. But that would mean– And his brain suddenly stopped working before he could finish the thought; instead the same half finished sentence kept circling around and around his head as his face went stone still with shock.

"Don't worry," the old woman went on obliviously, "everyone understands if engaged couples get a bit carried away. But she's in good health and once she gets over the initial illness I think she'll progress the rest of the way fine with your child."

Guy blinked, once, slowly. He then shook his head back and forth in denial. "I have never touched her," he said, stunned.

The woman raised both her eyebrows as her eyes glanced back and forth at the two of them: Marian's face was pale and frightened, Guy's face was slowly hardening into an expression of pure rage.

"Oh," she said knowingly in the sudden quiet of the room. "Oh, I see," she said, sounding very amused.
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http://www.youtube.com/user/Nightwatchwoman


Marian de Knighton
♣ Lady / Nightwatchman ♣


√ LOCALISATION : In the arms of Robin
√ NOMBRE DE PRINTEMPS : 26

► WE ARE ROBIN HOOD ◄
● Age: 21 printemps
● Titre: Noble
● Inventaire:

MessageSujet: Re: Love's Labor Lost Dim 2 Mai - 20:27

Love's Labor Lost

A/N Usual disclaimer, don't own, don't profit, etc.

A thousand thanks to LadyKate for her beta skills!

Chapter 2

As the realization of Marian's pregnancy and Guy's non involvement hung in the air of the bedchamber, the stillness was such you could hear a pin drop as for one very long awful moment no one moved or spoke.

"How COULD you?!" Guy roared suddenly, breaking the silence and flinging the cup in the fireplace.

Without even thinking he reached for his sword. As he was pulling it out of his scabbard, the healer called out, sharp as a whip: "If you kill her, I still get my fee."

The unexpected words made Guy hesitate slightly. "What?" he snapped angrily.

The woman crossed her arms over her chest boldly, although she had wisely stepped out of his direct path. "If you kill her, then it's not my lack of skill that let her die, and I will still expect payment."

Guy glared at the greedy old woman. He glanced down at the sword, bile rising in his throat to see how his hands had reacted so quickly. See a problem, stab it, his inner voice mocked him.

Roaring like an animal with frustration, he knocked over a chair in his path, followed by a table.

"Guy," said Marian pleadingly over the noise of her things breaking, "please listen," she said franticly. "Please understand, I never meant to hurt you!"

"Who was it, then?" he howled, ignoring her pleading. "Who was it you allowed into your bed while you dangled empty promises in front of me?" he demanded as he felt his heart tear into little pieces.

Marian merely shook her head, her lips pressed firmly together, her eyes wide and beseeching, an instinct she didn't know she had suddenly telling her not to do or say anything that would provoke him into striking.

He drew in several ragged breathes, staring at Marian with eyes that burned like dead coals. She shrank back further into her bed, her terror deepening as she saw the look of deadly resolve form on his face.

"No matter," he finally spat out angrily. "Whoever he is, he'll come back to you, just as I always foolishly did, and when he does, I'll be ready for him."

Marian gave a little moan of pain, which Guy ignored. He gave her one last glance of contempt, and then turned away, his anger hardening rather than cooling.

"As for you," he turned to the healer. "You will go into town and visit every other healer, every physician and every quack, and buy medicines," he instructed.

The healer looked at him inquisitively, one hairy, white eyebrow raised questioningly.

"Along the way you will stop and speak with everyone you normally spread gossip with and report on how the lady Marian is in her rooms in the castle, dangerously ill, and you have been sent to buy remedies. Tell everyone that she is sick in her rooms, and, if your story is well spread and believed, I will pay you ten times your normal fee tomorrow," he promised.

The old woman gave him a measuring look and then licked her lips quickly in greedy anticipation and grinned her gap toothed smile. "I'll need a few coins for the medicines," was all she said.

"Fine," snapped Guy. He drew out a small bag, heavy with quite a lot of coins, and held it in front of the woman.

She made a move to grab it but he held it out of reach.

"I've heard tell women such as you know remedies to make a woman's courses come back," he said suggestively, his voice practically dripping icicles.

The woman reached down, fumbled at one of the pouches at her waist, pulled out a small crystal vial filled with a white liquid, and held it out. "Extract of tansy. Have her drink it tonight and she'll be ready for your seed by morning."

On the bed Marian started to cry quietly, both of her hands on her abdomen in a useless attempt at protection.

Guy snatched the vial from the healer and tossed her the bag of coins. With surprising agility the old woman caught the bag one handed and quickly exited the room.

Guy, ignoring Marian's tears, rummaged in her clothes chest and drew out a winter cloak, long and hooded. He grabbed one of her wrists and dragged her from her bed, wrapping the cloak around her, covering her from head to toe. "Come with me quietly or I shove this vial's contents down your throat," he growled in her ear.

Trembling slightly but silently, Marian let him forcefully escort her down to the lower levels, unnoticed by anyone. The castle had several dungeon areas, and Guy chose one of the smaller ones, located under the north-east section of the castle.

This area held only three cells, lined up in a row like dove cotes. All three were currently empty. He placed Marian in the far left hand side one, paused to yank her hair pins out, locked the door, and left without a word.

Back in the upper hallways Guy rounded a corner and saw Alan playing a game of dice, cheating a group of soldiers out of a few coins. He felt his jaw harden, and wondered what role Alan had to play in all this. Panderer? Messenger? Dupe? Even if he hadn't had any part in it, Alan was still sympathetic enough to Marian that he might get in the way.

"Alan!" barked Guy as he strode forward, a plan already in mind to make sure Allan didn't find out about Marian's current whereabouts.

"Right, yes, see you later gents, always a pleasure," Alan said cheerfully, grabbing up dice and coins with a practiced hand. "Well, how's Marian?" he asked Guy solicitously.

"The healer's doing what she can, but she needs supplies," said Guy. "She needs saffron."

"We're out," said Alan flatly.

Alan knew that for certain since the sheriff had made such a big deal at the last feast bragging to his guests, nobles he had been trying to curry favor with, that the meal had used up the last of the expensive spice to be found in all of Nottingham county.

The food had been impressive, but, besides the dishes, the feast had been more or less a disaster since Robin and his gang had managed to rob just about every guest who had come to the sheriff's party.

"I know we're out," snapped Guy impatiently, "but the healer said it might help, which is why I'm sending you to York to get some. That's the closest place that might have it."

"York?" squawked Alan in disbelief. "That'll take all day just to get there!"

"Then I suggest you get going," he growled. "NOW!" he barked, when Allan didn't respond fast enough. Allan hastily took off in the direction of the stables.

Will and Little John came quickly down the hill towards the outlaw camp, practically slipping on the fallen leaves in their haste. Both had clearly hurried back from the outskirts of Nottingham where they had been distributing food to the poor.

"Word all over Nottingham is that Marian's sick," said Will, panting slightly as the two reached the camp entrance.

"What?" asked Robin, looking up from the new arrow he was fletching.

Djaq looked up sharply from the cough remedy she was busy brewing. She and Much had been arguing over whether her experiments or his cooking took priority at their makeshift oven, but at Little John and Will's sudden arrival and unexpected announcement they hurried over to learn more.

"Guy's got healers buying all sorts of medicines, calling in doctors to consult," said Will, words tumbling out in his haste to relay the news. "They say he's even going to send a messenger to London to ask Prince John to send his personal physician to tend her."

Little John nodded in affirmation.

Robin frowned. Marian had been well last time they had seen each other a few short days ago, but he knew as well as anyone that illness could come on suddenly.

"Right then," said Robin, putting the half finished arrow aside and getting up.

"Where are you going?" asked Much suspiciously.

"Where do you think?" replied Robin as he got his gear together.

"You can't just walk into Nottingham!" objected Much.

"Why not? We do it all the time!" argued Robin. "I'm going, and that's final."

"It could be a trap!" objected Much.

Robin glanced at Will and Little John.

"The healer was buying many medicines," said Little John. "She sounded worried."

"If she is sick, I should go," put in Djaq.

"It could be a trap," said Robin, repeating Much's words with a little laugh, covering up a worry growing in his chest that Marian might have something serious with a light hearted smile.

"We go to Nottingham," said Little John. The rest of the gang nodded like ducklings.

"No," corrected Robin, "I'm going to Nottingham. The rest of you can stay here."

The rest of the gang all had objections to this plan, and each took pains to explain them, talking over each other as they trailed after Robin as he made his way to the road to Nottingham.

Alan rode along the Great North Road, urging the horse to go faster while arguing furiously with himself.

Robin would want to know Marian was sick. But visiting the gang was always tricky, and Robin might not take it kindly that Alan, of all people, was the bearer of bad tidings. But Alan owed Robin. Or at least, owed Marian.

He scrunched up his brow in thought. He'd saved her by playing Night Watchman to get her out of the noose, so really, she owed him. But then again, he'd also done that partly to convince her that he could be trusted and so she wouldn't be tempted to try and kill him again.

Lord, that girl was scary when she held a knife.

He tried to tally who had saved who the most recently and got hopelessly muddled, especially since he wasn't sure whether to count sparing someone's life the same as saving someone's life, and whether that went in the debt owed or debt erased column. Oh bother, lives were some much more complicated than coins.

He was so engrossed in his inner debate that he was taken completely by surprise when a rope snapped up across the road, blocking his path, and he only just barely got his horse under control after it reared up in shock. He mentally yelled at himself for forgetting about one of the waylaying traps he had himself helped to set up.

"And where are you going in such a hurry?" asked a familiar laughing voice from behind the trees in the hills above the road.

Alan groaned. What was the saying? Something about the mountain coming to the Moor, or something like that? He sighed and decided to see if anyone felt like believing the truth today.

"I'm going to York," he called back to the outlaws strung out along the hill above the road. He felt an ache in his chest, missing the days when he had stood where they stood now. "Giz is sending me to get supplies a healer needs." He hesitated, and then decided to roll dice: "For Marian."

"So, it's true then, what they are saying in Nottingham, Marian is ill?" asked Djaq with concern, coming further down the hill so she wouldn't have to shout.

Alan shrugged. "I don't know what with, though. She fainted when she came into the Great Hall this morning, green as a duck egg. Giz is in a right state, he's got everyone, me included, running all over the countryside looking for anything that might help. He's got me going after saffron, of all things. He'll send me out to fetch a basketful of hen's teeth next."

The members of the gang glanced at each other, but said nothing, and Alan felt more left out than ever.

"Well, don't let us keep you," said Robin in a mock friendly voice, releasing the rope with a well placed arrow shot.

Alan sighed, kicked his horse back into a trot, and took off in the direction of York.

Once he was out of sight, Robin turned to the rest of the gang. "Right, I'll see how she is tonight when everyone in the castle is asleep, and then, Djaq, we'll work on a plan to sneak you in tomorrow with your medicines, which shouldn't be that hard if Gisbourne is putting out a general call to all healers."

Robin climbed in the window to Marian's room. In the darkness of the still night a single candle burned by her bed, the blankets pulled well over her head. Perhaps the illness was a fever, speculated Robin, making her cold.

He tiptoed across the floor, trying to decide whether or not to wake her. If she was sick she would need sleep, but perhaps he could give her a small nudge to see if she woke, make some joke perhaps to make her laugh despite her illness.

"Marian, my love," he said quietly as he pulled back the blankets, leaning down to give his beloved a kiss on the check. He leaned back, confused; beneath the blankets was nothing but a pile of pillows heaped together into the rough shape of a person.

"Disappointed?" snarled a voice before Robin could fully register what was happening. Guy stepped out from behind a pillar, sword at the ready. "Join the club."

Robin pulled out his own sword and rushed forward to attack, but even as he was doing so Guy was screaming, "Guards!" and what seemed to be dozens upon dozens of armed soldiers came boiling into the room, all apparently ready and waiting outside in the hallway for Guy's signal.

"Alive! I want him alive!" yelled Guy over the tumult.

Robin was completely surrounded in moments, a dozen sword points all at his throat, giving him no choice but to drop his own sword and hold up his hands in reluctant surrender.

"Shackle him up," snapped Guy. "I want no chance of him slipping away this time."

When the soldiers were done, Robin's hands and feet were manacled, and chains draped about him leaving no way to move faster than a shuffle.

Guy faced him, but without the expected smirk on his face at his triumph of catching the notorious outlaw. Instead, his mouth was grim and his eyes hard as ice.

"Where's Marian?" demanded Robin.

Guy reared his arm back and punched Robin soundly in the face. Robin's head snapped back from the impact of the blow and left him momentarily stunned. The only thing that kept him from collapsing were the guards holding onto his arms.

Guy angrily massaged the knuckles of his right hand with his left, looking tempted to punch Robin again. "You are in no position to ask questions," he snapped, then turned around towards the door. "Bring him!" he ordered the soldiers.

Guy had the guards bring Robin to the sheriff's rooms, where the sheriff initially complained as he stumbled out of bed in his ridiculous night clothes that he was going to see heads rolled for being awoken in the middle of the night, but did a double take when he realized the sight in front of him: Hood in chains next to an almost indifferent Gisbourne.

Vasey began to skip in a circle around Guy and Robin in an insane little dance of joy, grinning maniacally and laughing with glee.

"Gisbourne," he cried happily to his right hand man, "I take back nearly all the nasty things I've said about you! Oh Gizzy, you've made me soooooo happy! Let the celebrations begin!" he roared to the air in general, and then took off, babbling to himself, "must make a public announcement, let everyone know what fabulous day we are going to have!"

Neither Guy nor Robin had spoken during the sheriff's exultations, and when he had left the room to begin whatever plans Hood's capture meant, Guy merely nodded to the guards to resume their march.

Down, down, down they went, and, once in the dungeons, the guards threw Robin none too gently into one of the cells. He sat up as fast as he could, despite the chains, and tried to get a good look around.

He dropped his head back down glumly when he saw Marian in the cell next to the empty one beside him; she was sitting on a bench along the stone wall, looking defeated.

"Best explain things quickly, Marian," growled Guy in Marian's direction.

She didn't look at him or respond to his order.

"I will be back to fetch you soon," Guy promised her. "After all," he turned to glare at Robin, "the dungeons are for those scheduled to hang tomorrow, not for a woman of such… status. Right, Hood?"

Robin gave him a dazed look of confusion. He had a suspicion, despite his scrambled thoughts from that last blow, that Guy's words meant something important. He shook his head, trying to clear away the dizziness.

He looked across at where Marian sat as Guy and the soldiers trooped back up the stairs, leaving them in quiet and semi-darkness, only the flickering torch along the wall at the bottom of the stair providing any light.

"Marian. Marian!" he called in a loud whisper, trying to get her attention.

She didn't look at him. She continued to gaze forward, unmoving, unresponsive.

"Marian!" he hissed louder.

She may have been made out of marble for all the attention she paid him. She stared ahead of her, her gaze unfocused and distant. He was reminded of soldiers after battle who had been traumatized into insensibility by seeing sights of great cruelty.

He frowned, thinking quickly. Something had happened besides being put in a cell that had sent her into shock. Whatever it was, he was going to have to think of a way to get her out of it quickly without even being able to touch her.


Dernière édition par Marian de Knighton le Dim 2 Mai - 20:31, édité 1 fois
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http://www.youtube.com/user/Nightwatchwoman


Marian de Knighton
♣ Lady / Nightwatchman ♣


√ LOCALISATION : In the arms of Robin
√ NOMBRE DE PRINTEMPS : 26

► WE ARE ROBIN HOOD ◄
● Age: 21 printemps
● Titre: Noble
● Inventaire:

MessageSujet: Re: Love's Labor Lost Dim 2 Mai - 20:28

Love's Labor Lost

A/N Usual disclaimer, don't own, don't profit, etc.

History Note: the expression "to plead your belly" refers to a way women avoided execution by saying they were pregnant.

Author Note: A thousand thanks to LadyKate1 for being an awesome beta and encouraging me to put more thought into characterization! She encouraged me to go back and update and explain a little more of motivation in the previous chapters, which I've done. Check out her fic!

Chapter 3

Robin sat on the dungeon floor, staring at Marian two cells over, who had not responded to any of his entreaties; she was still staring away at the middle distance, her mind clearly somewhere even further away.

They were losing time; Robin had no idea when Guy would be back, but he was guessing sooner rather than later.

As best as he could with his manacled hands he dragged his fingers through his hair in exasperation, hating what he was about to do. He took a deep breath.

"Marian," he shouted suddenly, doing his best to sound angry and condescending, "you stupid woman! I told you that you should stay at home with your embroidery! And look, I was right, wasn't I? A woman has no place getting involved in men's business. You're an idiot with no more brains than a sheep! You hear me, you silly girl? A silly, bleating sheep! This all your fault!"

He drew breath to keep insulting her but: "How dare you!" she suddenly flared up. "How dare you say such things!" She stood up and began banging on the bars of the empty cell in between the two of them.

"How many times have I saved your life?" she yelled at him with fire in her eyes. "How many times have I been the one to come up with the plans? Gotten you vital information? I can understand the political situation while you can barely see beyond your own bow! I was the one helping the poor while you were off playing hero in the Holy Land, you fool! And this is most assuredly all your fault YOU IDIOT!"

She was forced to pause to drag in several deep breaths as tears ran down her checks and she clutched the bars with frustration.

He chuckled. "There's my Marian. That's the woman I know and love," he said proudly.

"YOU- wait, what?" she asked, confused, as she stared at him through her tears.

"I'm sorry for that, I truly am, but you were pretty far gone. It was the fastest way to snap you back."

Marian sat back down shakily. "That was you being helpful?" she asked with a laugh that was more of a sob, tilting her head back until it touched the wall.

"Marian, what's happened?"

There was a long pause, so long that Robin was just getting afraid she had lost touch again, and then:

"I am carrying your child," she said in a low voice.

Robin's eyes went wide.

"…Oh."

He looked as shocked as Marian had been a few minutes ago.

"'Oh'?" snapped Marian, her temper flaring again. "Is that all? You usually have so much more to say on any given subject."

Robin did his best to rub the back of his neck. "Well, it is a bit of a surprise. But this is… this is good." He wasn't sure if he was trying to convince himself or Marian, but he suddenly broke into a smile as the image popped into his head of a small boy with Marian's dark hair.

Marian tiredly covered her eyes with both hands. "Robin, in case you've somehow managed to forget, we're sitting in the dungeons."

"Granted, the current circumstances aren't exactly what one would call the perfect setting," he conceded, "but we'll manage. Somehow."

Head in hands, Marian gave a little laugh. "You really know how to put a good spin on incoming death."

"Gisbourne said he's coming back to fetch you. That means he doesn't want to see you hang."

"He wants to see me hurt!" cried out Marian, lifting her head. "I mean, just look at this," she gestured at the dungeon. "He deliberately set us here with the cell in between so we can't even touch each other!" she screamed, tears coming back.

Robin stood up and spread out at his hands as best he could in his chains. "I know, Marian, I know," he said soothingly. "But listen, how many times have I been in the dungeons? And have they hanged me yet? Trust me, my love, they haven't made a prison I can't get out of."

"I was usually on the other side of the prison bars helping you out," she pointed out. "But Guy's caught on to us now. He took my dagger hair pin because he knows my father used it to escape. And he took the smaller ones too, since he seems to have guessed they would be good for locks, although that's really your area of expertise."

Robin sighed in exasperation. "Of all the times for Gisbourne to grow a brain."

Marian began pacing around her cell. "He must have put quite a few pieces together by now. He must realize I've been aiding you. I'm not sure what has made him angrier – the fact that I didn't chose him, or the fact that he has been left so completely in the dark."

"What happened?"

She sighed and began to recount the day's events. "Your child is, unsurprisingly, already wearing me out. I fainted… was it only this morning?" she asked tiredly, but hurried on, "Guy brought in a healer who realized I was pregnant and she, assuming Guy was the father, was only too happy to tell him the good news. He nearly killed me."

Robin started at that.

"Yes," she nodded at his reaction, "but the healer basically told him it would be cheaper to let me live," said Marian in exasperation, "that greedy old harpy, and he bribed her to tell everyone I was sick, so he could set a trap when I refused to tell him who was the father."

"Ashamed of me my love?" he teased.

She stopped pacing to stare at him. "He was so angry, Robin," she said in a small voice, frightened at just the memory of his face. "I've never seen him - or anyone - look so angry. He looked like… like…. like a demon," she said, unable to come up with a better way to describe his expression. She put her hands on stomach. "I was afraid what he'd do if I told him. And after that…" She stopped and sighed. "Well, you saw. It's was if… it was like I've been just floating above myself, watching what was going on," she said listlessly. "How could I have been so foolish?"

Robin shook his head. "You aren't foolish."

"I am. I've taken so many risks, especially as the Night Watchman, since you've returned. Even when I knew I was getting careless, I went ahead anyway. You made defiance look so easy."

"Are you blaming me?" he asked, incredulous.

"No, yes, no," she sputtered, sounding irritated by the question. "It just that I let myself be pulled into your live-like-there's-no-tomorrow approach. But here we are, at tomorrow."

"I asked if you were sure," pointed out Robin, annoyed.

"I was sure that I loved you. Sure that I wanted you. I…. I didn't really think about the rest." She placed a hand on her stomach.

"And what do you think now?"

"I think things are moving very fast," she admitted. "Robin…" she bit her lip uneasily, "I'm just as scared of what happens if we live long enough to meet this child as if we don't. There are so many things that could go wrong." She waved vaguely at the dungeon. "You know, besides this," she said with a sad laugh. She paused. "And what do you think?" she asked anxiously.

There was a long silence from Robin.

Finally, he spoke. "In the Holy Land, in the beginning, when I still thought the crusade was going to be something glorious, I dreamt of a homecoming covered in honors, of you happily waiting for me, of making a family and being a much loved lord, husband and father." He shook his head at his own folly. "And then the crusade turned out to be not as black and white as I thought, and that so much of it was built on lies. And it made me wonder if I was wrong about the homecoming vision as well. And I think, in the end, I would rather have something real and hard earned than a lie."

"This is very real Robin," warned Marian. "You cannot talk your way out if this one."

"I know; when Gisbourne comes back to let you out-" Robin began, plans beginning to form in his mind.

"He's not going to free me," fretted Marian, interrupting him, starting to pace again, this time at an almost frantic speed. "I'll just be exchanging one cell for another, I'm sure of it. He'll lock me in my rooms. And what's worse," she stopped in her tracks to look up at Robin, her eyes now very round with fright, "he can order my behavior at any time now."

"Because he has me?" guessed Robin. "Don't worry Marian, I can take care of myself. And you know he – or, rather, the sheriff – will renege on any promise you make for my release."

She shook her head as he talked. "It's worse than that. He has a vial of tansy," she said in a defeated voice.

"A vial of what?" asked Robin, confused.

"Tansy. It's a plant," she said dully, "Drink the extract and…" she made a gesture of dismissal with her hand, "no more baby. He's threatened to force me to drink it once already."

"That's barbaric!"

"It doesn't matter what it is, he could order me to ride naked through the streets like Lady Godiva and I'd do it if that's what it takes to keep him from killing our child."

"I won't let him hurt you or the child," promised Robin fiercely.

Marian laughed with disbelief. "Yes, because, you're in such a position to do anything right now."

They were facing each other now, both resting their hands on the bars of the cell that separated them as they talked.

"I can at least marry you," said Robin earnestly.

Marian stared at him.

"I know I can't give you a wedding ring now or have it be official, and I know it isn't a good time-"

Marian interrupted him, smiling. "No, now is a good time. I love you – and that makes today a good day to marry you. Go on, say the words, handsome."

Looking straight at her, as tenderly as if nothing separated them, he said, "I, Robin, take you, lady Marian, to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part."

"I, Marian, take you, Robin of Locksley, lord of my heart, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part."

They looked at each other for a long moment without speaking. Marian felt her heart swell so much she almost expected a chorus of angels to start singing. Everything was going so badly – how could she possibly feel so happy?

"Marian," said Robin hoarsely, obviously feeling much the same, "whatever happens, I love you, and the baby. If the worst happens, tell our child that I will watch you both from heaven. Tell him-"

"Him?" she interrupted with a little laugh, tears running down her checks. "Are you so sure it's a boy?"

"Tell him, or her," tears shining in his own eyes, "that I am sorry I couldn't be there, but I died trying to make the world better."

Marian wiped at her eyes furiously. "We'll make the world better together. Alive. Somehow. I have-"

There was the sound of a jangle of keys and the door creaking open from the top of the stone circular staircase and Guy strode down into the dungeon.

He walked up to Marian's cell door and placed a large key in the lock. "If you haven't said your goodbyes yet, it's now or never," he said gruffly as he opened the door to Marian's cell.

"Gisbourne," said Robin, speaking quickly as he moved to stand right behind the bars of his own cell door, "you have me in chains, that's what you wanted. Let Marian go."

Guy didn't even bother to acknowledge Robin. Instead, he said to Marian as he grabbed her by the wrist, pulling her towards the stairs, "If it were up to me I would slit Hood's throat here and now, but the sheriff insists on a large spectacle with a very public execution at noon. Allow me to escort you to your seating for the grand event, my lady."

Robin began yelling insults at Guy. Guy ignored the insults about his looks, courage, and loyalty, but began to get angry as Robin began insulting his parentage and manhood.

Still holding Marian in a death grip on her wrist with one hand, he pulled out his sword with the other hand to slash the blade at the bars, more out of habit than to actually accomplish anything, but, as he drew close, snarling insults back at Robin, Marian managed to slip her free hand though the bars and grab one of Robin's manacled hands.

"I love you!" she cried, struggling against Guy's pull.

"I love you!" Robin shouted back as Guy wrenched Marian away from Robin's hand and began dragging her up the stairs. "Forever and ever!" his voice echoing as she and Guy disappeared around the bend of the stairs.

Robin looked down at his clenched hand and opened it. There, sitting on his palm, the skin still red from the strength of his last touch with Marian, sat the brooch from her cloak, which, if applied right, could make an excellent lock pick.

Guy quickly led Marian up the stairs, out of the dungeons, up past the main floor, past the main upper level, upwards and onwards, practically at a run.

She tried to twist away, struggling against his grasp on her, but he used every ounce and inch of his superior weight and height to overpower her, making no concessions to the pain he was causing with his rough treatment as his fingers clamped onto her skin so hard she could feel bruises forming.

She didn't bother to scream; their struggle was nearly silent except for the occasional quiet grunt or gasp as he continued to drag her forwards. She was afraid to fight as hard as she knew how, remembering how soundly he had beaten her when he had caught her as the Night Watchman, and she was afraid what those same blows would do to the child.

He pulled her along up the winding staircase of one of the towers, not stopping until he pushed her through a door into a small circular room at the very top of the narrow stairs.

She stumbled into the room. Before she had even regained her footing Guy was shutting the door and leaning against it, blocking the only way out. The room looked as though it had been recently cleared out, perhaps a former storage room or armory.

It now held only a fireplace, an old chair and rickety looking table with a pitcher of water and small loaf of bread placed on it, and a simple bed cot with a few blankets hastily thrown on top in a messy heap.

It was gloomy, with light only coming from the fireplace and one small window.

She moved towards the fireplace, putting distance between herself and Guy. Her footsteps echoed in the emptiness of it.

"This," said Guy drily from his vantage point, "is the highest room of the castle. The window," he nodded at the small opening, not large enough to lean one's head out, let alone body, "will give you an excellent view of the gallows. You can watch your lover's execution."

"You're too kind," drawled Marian sarcastically, trying not to show how badly the thought of Robin's scheduled death sentence affected her.

"When he's dead, I'm coming back up here and I am going to give you one last chance, Marian," he said in a husky voice, his eyes boring into hers.

"A chance for what?" asked Marian contemptuously, trying to ignore the words 'when he's dead' coming from Guy's mouth so matter-of-factly.

"No one knows you're here, not even the sheriff. I have not yet told anyone that you were conspiring with Hood," he snarled. "After all I have risked to protect you from your own foolishness and the sheriff's wrath, you've keep right on thoughtlessly risking your neck with no heed to the consequences!"

He paused, visibly forcing himself to calm down, and then went on, "As far as the world knows, you are still ill in your rooms. Tomorrow, I could bring you back there and then escort you to the chapel where we would be married, and no one would ever know of your treason."

Marian looked away, angrily pursing her lips.

"Husband and wife," he pleaded, "would that truly be a fate worse than death? Marry me and…" he faltered, but pushed on, "and I'll claim the child as my own."

Marian glared at him, letting her contemptuous silence be her answer.

His voice hardened as he continued, "Or would you really rather stand on the scaffold and face the humiliation of pleading your belly to escape being executed for treason? I've seen your pride and I know you would willingly face death for what you oh so foolishly believe in – but would you take your child to the grave with you?"

Marian couldn't help it; she flinched, squeezing her eyes shut at the pain the thought brought her.

Guy narrowed his own eyes speculatively. "I didn't think you would."

Marian looked up at him. "I thought there was good in you," she said quietly. "I was wrong. You're a monster."

"I am as people expect me to be," he told her bitterly. "And you apparently expected me to be a fool, for that was how I acted around you! You were so happy recently – and I was so foolish as to think I might have had something to do with it, but it was him, always him!"

"Guy, I-" she tried to protest, but he barreled on.

"Why was I not surprised when Hood showed up in your rooms?" he ranted. "Why was I not surprised that of all the men in the world that you could have chosen over me, you would choose my worst enemy?"

"I didn't choose him because he's your enemy, I chose him because he's a good man. Something I used to think you could be."

Guy gave her a long look of disdain and then sneered, "You and Hood are well suited to each other – both so high up in the clouds with no idea what it means to live down in the dirt like the rest of us mere mortals."

Before Marian could reply he turned around and left her alone in her tower cell, slamming the door behind him with such force she felt the floorboards vibrate through the soles of her shoes.

The outlaws had waited anxiously for Robin's return to camp. As the night lengthened no one bothered to go to bed, and when it began to grow light again, the damp grey of predawn light, without a word they grouped together and began to head towards Nottingham.

As the markets began to fill with customers and vendors opened doors, set up tables and laid out their goods, there was a steady buzz of talk above the haggle of buying and selling as the news quickly spread all over town that the outlaw Robin Hood had been captured the night before and was scheduled to be hanged at noon.

"I knew it was a trap!" hissed Much angrily. "I knew it, I knew it!"

"Shut up Much," Djaq hissed back.

"But-" he tried to protest.

"You're not helping!" Djaq told him, trying to cut off his endless stream of panicked words. "We need to think of a plan," she said firmly.

"It's just… we were supposed to be planning Robin's birthday party right now, not his rescue," said Much remorsefully.

"We only have until noon," reminded Djaq, her lilting voice worried.

"Well, that's more time than we usually get to plan these last minute rescues," said Will with false cheer.

Marian had dozed slightly the rest of the night, able to sleep only though sheer exhaustion, and only fitfully at that. But she had woken well before sunrise and had spent the morning anxiously watching the sunlight crawl across the floorboards; all of the reassurances she gave herself of Robin's ability to escape any situation not serving to calm her apprehension, especially when she recalled the number of times she herself had been integral to those escapes.

At noon she watched as best she could from the tiny window, not unable to see much, or figure out the details, exactly, but enough to see Robin being rescued by the other outlaws, although it looked as though her pin had been put to good use as she saw him throw off his chains as he was led out to the scaffold, to the great annoyance and consternation of the sheriff, judging by the angry shouting noises.

Robin had tried to run back to the castle, looking like he was heading towards the veranda where the sheriff and his cronies would often watch torture spectacles. The outlaws yelled at him in fury as they fought off the guards.

Faintly she could hear him crying out "Marian!" in anguished tones, clearly trying to find her among the other spectators. She shouted down through the little window until she was nearly horse, unsure if she had managed to get anyone to hear her.

When the fighting was over, the outlaws escaped, the guards dispersed, the crowd thinned, and there was nothing more to see, Marian paced around the room like a lion in a cage, frustrated at her inability to do anything, although she gained some grim pleasure from the knowledge that Guy must have been feeling as frustrated.

A little while Guy opened the door and Marian greeted him with a large, mocking smile.

"Robin escaped," she told him, unable to keep the triumph from her voice.

Guy stormed into the room and slapped her so hard on the side of her face that she stumbled back a few paces. She held her hands to her check as the flesh throbbed, but she didn't stop smiling; she refused to let him knock that joy out of her.

"He didn't exactly stick around to rescue you," Guy spat out.

"I saw him try," she shot back. "He was slightly hindered by his own men dragging him away. And by you and your men trying to kill him."

"So now all that remains is the question of whether or not the sheriff has another prisoner in custody," said Guy evenly.

She raised her eyebrows. "Is it a question?"

"Marian," he begged, "please don't make me-"

"Yes, it always me making you do things," she snapped, frustration making her boil over with anger. "I made you lie to me about the king. I made you burn down my house. I made you lock my father up. I made you attempt to kill me how many times now? Everything is a choice! You made your choices! And you should take responsibility for them!" She touched the red mark on the side of her face as she glared at him.

"Very well," he said, drawing himself up to his full height. "I'll give you one last chance to make your choice. Will. You. Marry. Me?" His tone was cold, anticipating her decision.

Marian thrust her chin upward defiantly. "No. I've already made my choice."

"Then I'll take my leave so you can enjoy your choice and its responsibilities," he sneered, indicating the almost empty room with a sweep of his arm.

He went on in a stiff and formal voice, as if addressing a visiting dignitary, "I hope you find this room to your liking. You will remain here for the time being."

"What, not going to run to the sheriff and tell on me?" she asked scornfully, trying to goad him into revealing more information on his current plans.

He snarled, "I'll be sure to tell the sheriff you took an outlaw as your lover, you can be sure of that. After all, what better bait to catch Robin Hood than his whore and bastard?" he asked her bitterly.

He left the room, slamming the door with a large bang behind him. She sat down in the room's single chair as she heard the sound of several locks being bolted and locked.

She looked down at her abdomen. "I think he took it well."

She spent the rest of the afternoon and evening pacing around her chambers, wondering if she should have lied in order to escape, knowing she probably would have chocked on the words before she could have said them.
Revenir en haut Aller en bas
http://www.youtube.com/user/Nightwatchwoman


Marian de Knighton
♣ Lady / Nightwatchman ♣


√ LOCALISATION : In the arms of Robin
√ NOMBRE DE PRINTEMPS : 26

► WE ARE ROBIN HOOD ◄
● Age: 21 printemps
● Titre: Noble
● Inventaire:

MessageSujet: Re: Love's Labor Lost Dim 2 Mai - 20:31

Love's Labor Lost

A/N Usual disclaimer, don't own, don't profit, etc.

Author Note: As always, a thousand thanks to my beta LadyKate1!

Chapter 4

Guy went from Marian's unofficial prison cell to the sheriff's rooms where Vasey was busy beating a serving man about the head for bringing his dinner up late, an excuse to vent some frustration at Robin Hood's escape.

A few more blows and then, seemingly bored with it, he simply dismissed the man and tucked into his food.

"There you are, Gisbourne," said the sheriff, his words slightly garbled by a mouthful of beef. "I take it you've returned empty handed and that outlaw has – yet again – escaped?" he said contemptuously, clearly not even expecting an answer.

Vasey paused to spit out a bit of bone across the table. His false tooth went flying as well. Unfazed, he simply reached over to the skull on the table he was using as a candle holder to grab a new tooth from the jaw and wrench it in the gap in his mouth.

"My lord," said Guy at his most formal, "I must report that I have arrested the lady Marian."

"Really? What's the matter, Gizzy? She wouldn't let you give her a kiss to make it better?" Vasey mocked, making little kissing noises. "Wasn't she ill or something?" he went on indifferently, reaching for his goblet.

"She is pregnant with Hood's bastard," snapped Guy.

The sheriff stopped, stunned, in mid reach, then leaned back and began to laugh. He went on for some time while Guy stood in front of him silently fuming.

When the sheriff at last had his breath back he whooped, "Well! She's a better player than I thought! And played you for a right fool, didn't she?" He rubbed his hands together in anticipation of all the sordid details. "So, what happened?"

Guy explained in as few words as possible how he discovered her condition and used her as bait.

"And, since Hood escaped your theatrical extravaganza," concluded Guy, letting some contempt slide into his voice, "we will keep her in custody until we have Hood, since now we know she is the perfect bait to ensnare him."

"She ensnared you well enough," scoffed the sheriff. "But, we're over that now, aren't we, my dear boy? And past time, too, considering what she could have learned from you if you were still letting her trail after you like a duckling. Who knows what information she was feeding Hood during their pillow talk - information she got by batting her eyes at you!"

He paused to gulp down another mouthful of beef.

"I warned you, Gisbourne." He wagged an admonishing finger at Guy. "Lepers."

"Yes, my lord," agreed Guy dully, trying to will his heart to turn to complete stone.

"Well then, we'll have a grand announcement of Marian's arrest, put her in some situation that looks accessible but is really a trap – we'll work out the details of that later," said Vasey cheerfully with a vague wave of the hand. "Robin Red Breast will swoop in to save the girl, and, snap," he clapped his hands together, "we have Hood, and we hang them both. Yes, I like that; we haven't had a double hanging in a while." The sheriff sounded enormously pleased with himself.

"My lord," said Guy slowly, doing his best to sound calculating, trying to think quickly and to banish the ghastly image in his mind's eye of Marian dangling dead from the gallows. "What if, instead of risking Hood escaping a trap, we ask him to surrender?"

"Ask him to surrender?"

"We have the heralds announce that the lady Marian will go free if Robin Hood walks in here and gives himself up. He's always going on how good and noble he is, how much better he proclaims himself to be. So let's give him a chance to prove it."

"Oh, that is good," said the sheriff, practically bouncing in his seat with anticipation. He stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Would he really go for it?"

"I'm sure they consider themselves as good as married. He's probably made her all sorts of pretty promises and would feel honor bound to protect her," pointed out Guy, trying to sound merely sullen, hoping breathlessly that the sheriff would accept this plan and abandon his idea to execute Marian.

The sheriff looked thoughtful. "Yes," he agreed finally and Guy felt himself relax a little. "Still," the sheriff went on, "best put a time limit on it, just to show we're serious – the announcement will be Hood has until sunset tomorrow to turn himself in, or Marian swings."

"My lord-" Guy tried to protest.

"She chose Hood over you," said Vasey in a menacingly soft voice, the tone that Guy knew there was no arguing with. "She can live – and die – with that choice."

There was nothing else to be said expect: "Yes, my lord."

Alan returned to a world turned upside down.

In the time it had taken him to ride to York, locate a merchant selling saffron, negotiate down the ridiculously high price, and ride back down to Nottingham, the gossip reported that Robin had apparently managed to get himself captured and then, unsurprisingly, dramatically escape again.

But that was already old news, people told him when he asked around to find out what the stir was about as he rode back into town. The chatter was now all about the sheriff demanding that Robin return for his execution, or else Marian would be killed in his place.

The heralds were now all over Nottingham, nailing up notices and making announcements that the lady Marian of Knighton had been arrested for the treason of aiding and abetting criminals of the state and she would be hanged by the neck until dead unless the outlaw Robin Hood surrendered himself by sunset.

Alan quickly found Guy in the castle, terrified for Marian's sake if this meant the sheriff knew of Marian's role as a spy, and just as terrified for his own sake of what Robin would do to him if Marian really was executed this time.

"Guy, you can't really mean you're going to let Marian die?" he asked, gaping at Guy in disbelief. All that fuss over getting her off the hook for getting caught as the Night Watchman and now Guy was just going to let her swing?

"She has committed treason, which is a hanging offence," snapped Guy.

Alan hesitated uneasily, knowing that just about everyone he knew of could be accused of treason, depending on how you applied the definition.

"Yeah, but-" he started, but before he could try and object further, Guy suddenly had him by the throat and was pressing him against the stone wall of the hallway.

"What did you know about this?" demanded Guy in an angry hiss.

"What did I know about what?" yelped Alan desperately, with no clue how to lie his way out of this one since he wasn't sure what he was lying about.

"Robin and Marian."

"Robin and Marian…. what?" he asked as best he could with the pressure of Guy's arm slowly cutting off his air, staring at him in confusion, afraid to say anything else.

Guy let go of his throat in disgust.

Alan half collapsed, taking several deep breaths and massaging his neck.

"They've been together, that's what," Guy told him with deep loathing. "The little-" he angrily bit off whatever he had been about to call her. "The lady is pregnant."

Alan gasped. "She never! Half the time Maz goes on about how much she hates…. him…" he trailed off uneasily as Guy's gaze snapped back onto him with deadly intensity.

"She's spoken to you of Hood?"

"Not a proper conversation, no, I wouldn't call it that," stammered Alan. "But, you know, she knows I was in his gang, right? And so she'll go off sometimes about him, 'bout how he drives her crazy with his, you know, attitude. Its not like we're talking really, she just wants something with a pair of ears to vent to; it's not like I can venture a word in edge wise or anything."

"And what did she say about me when she was venting?" demanded Guy.

Alan froze, feeling very much like a rabbit being stared down by a starving wolf. "…She's not a big fan of you killing people," he finally suggested in a hopeful voice.

Guy expression shifted slightly from frightening rage to his more common expression of exasperation.

"I mean, I know she's not all sweetness and sunbeams," Alan went on, sensing Guy's anger had cooled slightly, "but she definitely sees herself as some sort of hero. You know, thinks she's better than other people, same as-" He stopped fast enough to almost bite his tongue off. He swallowed hard. He had been about to go too far, even for him.

"As Hood," finished Guy for him.

Alan nodded reluctantly, and suddenly realized he felt sorry for Guy. "So, uh, what happens now?"

"That all depends on Hood," said Guy, and walked away.

Marian woke to a feeling of her stomach heaving. She scrambled from the cot, briefly entangled in the blankets, and stumbled blindly in the direction of where hergarderobe should have been. Confused, it took her a moment to remember where she was.

She glanced around her prison blurrily, her head pounding, and then stumbled to the corner where the chamber pot was. She felt her body go through the motions of vomiting, but hardly anything came out.

When the convulsions had passed she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, spitting rapidly to try and get the taste of bile out of her mouth. She thought back and tried to remember when she had last eaten.

The light from the window suggested it was early morning. It was hard to tell from her room, but she could hear the faint sounds of the castle waking up and people going about morning routines.

She sat on the edge of the bed, trying to will her headache away.

At some point later the door opened. She looked up to see Guy standing in the doorway, a plate of food in his hand. She felt her shoulders slump in relief.

"Hungry?" he asked, seeing her expression.

"Thank you," she said softly, looking away. Marian knew she should be furious at Guy for what he was doing but she couldn't bear to see the angry pain in his face.

He put the plate on the table and then stepped back to lean against the door. "So eat," he ordered with studied indifference.

She sat down at the table and nervously took a bite under his watchful gaze. She had intended to merely pick at the meal out of pride, but the taste of food suddenly made her ravenous and she wolfed down the plate of cold leftovers in no more than a few bites.

"The sheriff has ordered your execution," said Guy when she had finished, as calmly as if commenting on the weather. "He was most amused to hear of your… situation. But resolute on the punishment for your crime."

Marian put her head in her hands and groaned, suddenly exhausted with everything. "And no last minute reprieve this time, I take it?"

"The sheriff promises to let you go if Hood surrenders," said Guy, neglecting to mention it had been his idea. Despite the fact he had done it to try, one more time, to save her and win her love, he felt a coil of guilt in his stomach. He frowned, trying to ignore it. "I suspect Hood will comply, or do something equally foolish to try and rescue you."

Marian looked up, surprised. "They're both mad!" she burst out.

Guy shrugged. "The sheriff and Hood… their priorities are different. They look at the world like a chessboard, and make their plays, trying to gain the most advantages for their side and take out as many of the other. We could call that mad, but," his eyes narrowed, "we're players in this game too, Marian."

"Players or pieces?" she sneered. "The sheriff's just using you, you have to know that. You're just his pawn."

Guy smirked bitterly. "A pawn can take a crown."

The room was very quiet as Marian held Guy's gaze for a long moment that stretched on and on and on, her face betraying nothing.

"You did try to kill the king."

It wasn't a question, merely a quiet statement of fact.

She continued to stare at him, her expression bland. Guy was the first to look away.

"You did!" This time her voice was a screech as her face twisted in an angry, hurt scowl. "After all the times I tried to defend you! When I spoke up to those who spoke ill of you! All the times I told you that you could be a good man, and you were lying to my face! Speaking of your loyalty and honor!"

"To earn power-" he began, but Marian cut him off.

"No! I'm sick of hearing your excuses of doing vile things for power. For security and riches and prestige and with no thought to those you trample on as you climb upwards! There are other things in this life besides power! Things like compassion and caring and love!"

"I tried to offer you love."

"No, you offered to make me your property," she corrected. "To add to your growing collection of power and possessions. Well, congratulations, Guy, you've got me well and truly caged now!" She flung her arms out. "Are you going to put a cap and bells on me too, like a tamed falcon?"

"I've tried to keep you safe," he growled, "because as much as you push me away, as much as I tell myself to hate you, I can't seem to stop loving you." He sounded disgusted with himself.

"That is not love. That is obsession. That is madness. God help me, I am caught in a world gone completely mad. Helping people is punished and hurting them is rewarded; good folk choose between starvation and crime while those in power make more and more laws that everyone but themselves have to follow. We all lie to each other because God knows the truth won't set you free anymore-"

"Enough." Guy cut off her mounting rant with one curt word as he pulled something from inside his jacket.

He placed the stoppered crystal vial on the table. Marian's eyes locked on it as she felt her blood run cold.

Like a child hoping a promised punishment would be forgotten, she had foolishly hoped Guy's words about making her drink the tansy extract had been spoken only in his rage without true intent.

"If you wanted children, I remember offering," he told her coolly. He picked the vial back up and held it between his fingers like a quill, slowly tilting it back and forth. "You seemed quite opposed to the idea at the time. If you still are, then here." And he tossed her the vial.

She instinctively caught it, and gripped it tightly in her fist, unsure what he meant by this.

"Drink it down, and everything will be as it was before," promised Guy. "No one need ever know."

Marian looked at the vial, suddenly saddened by the thought that Guy was doing his best to help her and yet still not understanding that the promise of a slate wiped clean and the life of a cherished but mewed up pet were not things that would tempt her. Especially not at the cost of turning her back on everyone she loved and everyone she was trying to help. Was Guy trying to win her over with things he secretly wanted? She tucked the thought away for later.

She shook her head in sad rejection of his latest offer. "But it wouldn't be the same. It's too late. I… I have been with Robin. And you know that now. And the sheriff knows. I'm sure most of Nottingham knows by this point." She looked at him bleakly. "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too - I may have lied about what I would do for power, but you let me fall in love with a stained glass image of you that doesn't exist. We have both been lying, but I have been the more honest – I wanted you, I wanted to build a true life with you, I was always very upfront about that. You, however, were more concerned with merely playing the part of the innocent maiden while juggling God only knows how many intrigues behind my back," he sneered at her.

Marian opened her mouth to deny it, but instead she found herself saying, "I had to."

"You had to lie to me?" scoffed Guy in disbelief.

"I had to help people. The lady Marian, just the daughter of the ousted sheriff, could do very little, but a masked and unknown …person could do quite for those in need; to bring food and clothing and medicine and money-"

"And how many other nobles did you steal from?" he demanded, clearly still upset at her attempt to rob him the previous year.

Marian twisted her fingers nervously. "I felt cornered."

Guy rolled his eyes.

"No, please, Guy, try to understand," she pleaded, "I felt like- like I could not breathe unless I did something defiant, something real, something that was completely mine."

"I could have been completely yours," snapped Guy.

And he left.

When the door was shut and bolted, Marian began to cry, not sure why exactly she was crying, either out of despair, anger, frustration, or a fear that she would never see the rest of the world again. She threw herself on the cot and cried great racking sobs, crying as hard as she had when her father had died.

When she had cried for so long and so hard that she was convinced there wasn't a single drop of moisture left in her, she got up and drank some water from the pitcher and took several deep breaths.

She realized the vial of tansy was still clutched in her hand. She paused for a brief moment, wishing there was a way to retrace her steps and make things turn out differently. Then she chucked the thing into the fire, determined to work with what she had. She hadn't planned any of this, but she was going to survive it, somehow.

She moved to the center of the room and, to try and calm herself, began going through the exercises she had been taught, starting with the extremely slow opening arm and hand movements.

Slow and fast, the old Templar had lectured, you must be able to do both.

Slowly, Marian stretched forward her palm, imaging herself, as instructed when she had learned the exercise, to be a flower opening gradually under the morning sun's rays.

Marian had opened the door at Knighton Hall one day to see an elderly man on the doorstep, aging but still unbent and well muscled. He was, or at least, had been, a Templar knight, and had come to Nottingham not long after Robin had left to go on crusade with King Richard.

The knight had left England decades ago, not long after the wars of Stephen and Maud, to go on crusade with Richard's mother Eleanor, then married to her first husband, King Louis of France.

The knight had been born and grown up in the area and had been friends with Marian's grandfather before he'd left for the crusade. The knight had returned to England and was curious to see if anyone he had known before was still alive. Finding, unsurprisingly, that his old friend had long since passed on, he had stayed for dinner to regale Marian, at her insistent request, with tales of his travels.

As she continued the exercises Marian shifted her weight, moving her legs in a slow series of steps to stretch the muscles, only gradually increasing the speed and noting that her body didn't feel any different yet as she went through the different actions.

The knight had described how he had discovered he'd enjoyed traveling – much more so then he enjoyed the actual bloodshed and fighting over ancient stones and moldy relics once the army had got to the Holy Lands. So he had simply left one night when no one was looking and kept going, traveling even further east.

Marian bent backwards and forwards, concentrating on the steps of the exercises that had allowed her to fight almost without thinking when masquerading as the Night Watchman, feeling free despite the walls around her as she speeded through the fighting moves.

The knight had wandered far, traveling across the wide dessert of the Holy Land until he reached a land of green forests and white temples where the people worshipped strange gods. He had pushed on, staying a few years here, a few years there, always exploring and willing to learn new things.

He had stayed the longest at a monastery, far, far in the eastern lands, where he had described to Marian how the monks wore orange and yellow robes instead of brown, and shaved their whole head, not just the top, and in between prayers they would practice hand to hand fighting – no swords or daggers, but still able to inflict great harm to an opponent.

He told of how the monks trained to completely transcend the earthly world through sheer will, able to fight or pray in all weathers and conditions, able to continue fighting with broken bones or continue chanting prayers even if under attack. He had gotten up from the dinner and demonstrated some of the combat moves to an astonished Sir Edward and a fascinated Marian.

Doing her best to forget her own current surroundings, Marian experimentally did a standing leg kick at half speed. She hadn't turned to glass just because she was with child, she thought rather ruefully. And yet everyone would insist that she shouldn't do anything to risk the baby. Even she had thought that when she first found out, and given Guy a terrible advantage.

But, she mused as she held out her hands and moved through the faster portion of the exercise, famers' wives toiled in the fields alongside their husbands until they gave birth, and many of those women had upwards to a dozen healthy babies. Serving women in the castle would be expected to fetch and carry throughout their time, and, again, came to no great harm. And yet, because Marian was of noble birth, she would be assumed to be delicate.

The knight had told of how he had turned around and started heading back to England when he had seen a friend die in battle and knew at his friend's funeral that it could very well have been him who had died if his friend hadn't saved him, and he realized he wanted his own funeral to be in England.

Heaven - or Hell, considering everything I've done - may take my soul, but England will have my bones, he had told her cheerfully.

She slowly shifted her feet and made a thoughtful humming noise. If people thought she was delicate – weak and helpless – she snapped a fist forward at full speed, hard enough to break any nose she might encounter – perhaps she could turn that to an advantage.

She glanced downwards – she was going to have to escape quickly, before she actually was executed, or, if left here as bait, she became so rotund she wouldn't even be able to run, let alone use any of her fighting skills that she had worked so long and so hard to achieve.

As Marina, her father and the knight ate dinner, Sir Edward mentioned that there had been several kidnappings in the neighboring counties recently – high born daughters snatched up and forced into marriage after being violated by men who were after their dowries. After the knight's demonstration of what fighting skills he had and what it was possible for someone to do even when unarmed, Sir Edward offered to lodge him in exchange for teaching Marian skills in self defense.

The knight had been more than willing to teach her what he had learned, and had listened to her when she had complained of having so little options. We have to play our part, he had told her. Of course, he added with a wink, there are other parts you can play, if no one sees.

He had eventually taken up residency at Kirklees Abbey, a monk in all but name, and died in his sleep one night, quietly.

Marian was startled by the sound of the locks opening. She had not expected Guy back so soon and wondered what to say.

The door opened and the sheriff walked in. She was disappointed to see he was smart enough to have two guards with him.

"So this is where Guy is keeping his little bird mewed up," he said cheerfully as he glanced around the chamber. "I must confess I feel rather foolish not to have realized that all along I had something Hood wants. Or rather," he leered, "two somethings." He reached out and patted Marian on the stomach as she was a favorite dog.

Marian recoiled back, but the sheriff merely laughed.

"I must congratulate you on your fine performance," he went on, "I always knew you were a sneaky little minx, getting my dear Gisbourne to jump through all sorts of hoops by just batting your big brown eyes at him, but really, a masterful performance to play Guy like you did while having your own way with Hood."

"Is it time for my execution?" she asked with all the bravado she could muster, doing her best to ignore his lewd comments.

"Let's just see," said the sheriff with sardonic cheer. "I assume Gisbourne explained the little swap he suggested? You for Hood?"

"He suggested? The exchange was his idea?"

"Oh, didn't he tell you that part? Oh yes, my dear, he will go to all sorts of ridiculous lengths to attempt to protect you. So, let us be off my dear, and see if your lover is willing to risk death for your sake."
Revenir en haut Aller en bas
http://www.youtube.com/user/Nightwatchwoman


Marian de Knighton
♣ Lady / Nightwatchman ♣


√ LOCALISATION : In the arms of Robin
√ NOMBRE DE PRINTEMPS : 26

► WE ARE ROBIN HOOD ◄
● Age: 21 printemps
● Titre: Noble
● Inventaire:

MessageSujet: Re: Love's Labor Lost Jeu 3 Juin - 14:08

Love's Labor Lost

A/N: Usual disclaimer, don't own, don't profit, etc.

A thousand thanks to my beta, LadyKate, and also to my brother, who saved my computer when all seemed lost!

Chapter Five

"This is the worst rescue ever," growled Will.

Only Djaq heard him. She glanced at him, unsure whether to agree or bring up other plans of theirs that had gone worse, but instead she decided to simply continue to focus her efforts on helping Will, Much, and Little John bring the very resistant Robin back to the relative safety of Sherwood.

"We have to go back!" shouted Robin for the tenth time as Will and Much pulled on his arms in the direction of Sherwood.

Whether or not it was their worst rescue, Djaq reflected, it was certainly one of the nosiest and least discreet. A herd of camels rampaging through Nottingham would have been less noticeable.

Djaq felt her lips twitch in amusement at that improbable image. Of all the things she missed about her homeland, camels, those noisy, truculent beasts, were not high on the list.

Robin, she thought with exasperation, was acting rather like a camel himself at the moment. He had been babbling about having to stay in Nottingham throughout their rescue and resisting their every effort to leave the town, making everything ten times as hard.

While they were fighting frantically with the guards, dragging Robin away from his insane attempt to run back to the castle, and fleeing as quickly as possible through the town's back alleyways, Robin hadn't had much of a chance to explain what had happened. However, it seemed more than likely that the Sheriff had discovered Marian's role as a spy.

Robin now seemed determined to stay in Nottingham and get himself promptly brought back to the scaffold in an ill advised attempt to rescue her. And he wasn't exactly being coherent with his reasons.

They had just now finally reached the edge of the forest and Djaq felt herself relax just slightly, knowing at the very least they could speak more freely now as they made their way into the shelter of the trees.

"Robin, you are not thinking straight," said Djaq, trying to sound as reasonable as possible as she interrupted his continuing protests to his own rescue. "We will go back and rescue Marian from whatever trouble she is in – when it will not get us all killed, you included."

"I knew it was a trap, I knew it, I knew it," Much was muttering loudly to himself. "But does anyone ever listen to Much? Oh no! We all just dash into the mouth of danger and leave the sensible course of action to others! Let's just stroll into Nottingham and have a lovely little visit to Marian with no thought to our own skin!"

"I cannot leave her now!" Robin shouted over Much's rant and Djaq's reasoning.

"We'll think of something," Will tried to reassure him, taking the same course of calm rationality as Djaq. "Whatever's happened, we'll plan something-"

"No! We can't waste time with planning!" Robin insisted wildly, baring his teeth like a cornered animal as Will and Much pulled him along by the arms.

Will and Djaq glanced at each other, silently agreeing that their leader had lost his hold on any semblance of sanity.

Will had told her about how when she had been captured by the sheriff, Robin had been ranting and raving about Gisbourne being an assassin. Robin seemed to be just as off balance now.

Robin's ability to focus on what he believed was right and just was usually to his credit, but when he let it go too far, such as then, and now, he became a liability to himself and everyone around him. Apparently, Marian had been able to talk him back down to sanity before. Unfortunately, that was not an option now.

Robin kept arguing about why they had to turn back, making less and less sense as he babbled.

"Robin," said Little John in his usual calm manner.

The big man planted himself in front of Robin and the group towing him along, forcing everyone to a halt as John gave Robin the measuring stare that could make anyone feel as though they were a naughty child of five brought before a disappointed father for chastisement.

Robin looked up at John; eyes narrowed angrily, more curses and arguments on his lips as he opened his mouth to keep protesting his rough treatment by his own gang.

John punched Robin out cold with almost no effort.

"Sorry."

He did not sound very apologetic.

Much and Will struggled to support Robin's slumped-over form. "How is it he always manages to get heavier whenever he's unconscious?" gripped Much with the weary tone of much past experience. "You do realize we have to carry him now?" he snapped at John.

Without a word John hefted up Robin's bulk and slung him inelegantly over his shoulder like a sack of flour, brushing past the rest and heading down the path back to camp, the others forced to hurry to keep up.

"He is not going to be happy with us when he wakes up," Much pointed out to no one in particular.

"At least he will still be alive to be unhappy," reminded Djaq, trying to sound as philosophical as her father had been on occasion when he had lectured her on the capabilities of the human body.

Much gave her a brief glare, and then continued muttering to himself, just soft enough to be unintelligible to any listeners.

"Worst rescue ever," repeated Will in a tight voice. He fingered the handle of his throwing ax in its belt loop at his side, looking like he wished he had someone to throw it at.

Djaq placed a hand on Will's shoulder, hoping she was merely being comforting without crossing an invisible line that would risk too much. He looked at her hand, then at her, his face pensive.

"We are all still alive …for the moment," she told him quietly.

Will gave her a small smile, warmth in his eyes. "For the moment," he agreed. He reached over and gave her hand a brief squeeze.

Djaq squeezed back, then reluctantly broke away so they could catch up with Little John, Much, and their unconscious leader.

She remembered her father once saying it was easier to run through a hail of arrows then to take any action that would risk the heart getting hurt. It was only after she had come to this damp little island of barbarians that she fully understood the truth of his words.

Meanwhile, Will was silently cursing and berating himself for being the worst kind of coward. He knew he had the most amazing woman in the world standing right in front of him, but he would rather face down a squad of the sheriff's men armed to the teeth with only his ax in hand rather say how he felt to her face and risk learning she didn't feel the same way.

Once back at camp Little John insisted on tying Robin to a nearby tree before he woke up.

"For his own good," said John gruffly as Much feebly tried to object.

John tied the unconscious Robin to the tree with more force than strictly necessary, clearly still displeased with Robin's rash actions that had put them all in danger.

Much anxiously wrung his hands together, uneasy with the decision, and then stomped off to the firepit. A series of loud banging noises came from the cooking area as Much began making something for supper, unable to express his frustration in any other fashion.

Dusk settled over the forest, the trees casting long shadows through the dark green glade.

"I'm going back into town," said Will. "We need to find out more information about what happened."

"I need to stay here with Robin," said Djaq somewhat bleakly from where she sat in the corner of the camp that served as her makeshift infirmary.

At some point they had somehow reached an unspoken agreement that she and Will went on scouting missions together, and it made her heart hurt to lose anytime with him, even time spent risking their lives.

But, like any good physician, she wanted to see how Robin fared when he woke. She wasn't seriously worried – John knew from a great deal of experience how to knock a man unconscious without bashing his brains in – but Robin was currently her patient, which meant she was obligated by her honor to stay at camp.

Will nodded once to show he understood she had to stay.

"Be careful," she told him. She gave a half smile. "I wouldn't…" she faltered then forced herself to go on cheerfully, "I wouldn't want to have to drag you off the scaffold as well."

Will gave her the same half smile back. "Don't worry; one trip to the gallows per day is my limit. I'll be careful."

John and Much did not comment on Will's leave-taking.

Djaq watched him disappear into the trees. Then she gave herself a mental shake and went back to sorting through what she had on hand to treat nausea, in case John's strike should cause Robin any side effects when he woke, wondering if she should make more of the ginger root tincture.

She tried to push down a feeling of despair at how few their current numbers were. The loss of just one member had left them stretched so thin that any one task took all of them and still left them too few.

Little John had spoken on rare occasions of other outlaws who had lived in the forest before Robin started his personal crusade against the sheriff. Those men had quietly headed north, content to merely rob without risking their necks for abstract ideals, let alone a battle of wills between Robin and the sheriff.

And there had been another, Royston, who had been killed by the sheriff's men. Little John rarely spoke of him, but when he did there was a sadness and guilt in his voice that made it obvious John felt responsible for the man's death.

Was there anyway to increase their numbers, she wondered. She almost laughed aloud as she prepared a poultice for Robin's head at the thought of a town crier calling out for all those interested in becoming an outlaw to apply to Robin Hood, references not required.

The sound of Robin groaning as he began to awake drew her from her thoughts, both gloomy and whimsical. She went over to where he was restrained to apply the poultice to the side of his face where the bruise was forming.

As she worked on minimizing the bruising, Robin blinked rapidly and tipped his head back. As the back of his head encountered the tree, he winced, groaned louder, and opened his eyes, now fully awake.

He chuckled as he realized the absurdity of his position, then, seeing Djaq was tending to him, ordered her sternly, "Djaq, untie me."

"I need to finish tending your wound," said Djaq blandly.

"Now, Djaq," he ordered.

"That she will not do," said John, coming up behind her.

"John, you have no right-" began Robin hotly, but John interrupted him.

"You have no right to get killed being stupid," said John. "You will tell us what happened. We will plan. Then we will untie you."

Robin argued and swore for a few minutes while John stood stoically in front of him, arms folded implacably, and Djaq fused with the bruise long after she had done all she could at the moment.

Much made more noise from the cooking area, and only responded with: "supper's not ready yet!" in a somewhat guilty tone when Robin called for him to intervene with John's treatment.

"Tell us what has happened," said John.

Robin grumbled a few more moments under his breath, then sighed, and, sounding somewhat calmer and more rational, said, "Very well. I suppose you all deserve to know what's going on."

Much came over at that point, holding a plate of food out as a peace offering. John snatched it away before Much could give any to Robin. "He may eat after he has talked," John said sternly, helping himself to a bite of the freshly roasted rabbit.

Robin gave him a glare. "You do realize they don't bother to feed condemned prisoners?"

"Speak," said John, waving a haunch of rabbit enticingly.

Robin rolled his eyes heavenward, then finally began, "Marian is going to have my child."

Djaq blinked, Much gasped, and John gave him an almost fatherly glare.

When Robin finished explaining all the events that had lead to him trying to escape from his own rescue, he said, "And now Gisbourne and the sheriff still have Marian, and they will use her, I'm sure of it."

"It's true," said Will from behind them. He had just returned to camp. He looked back at them with a haunted expression in his eyes. "The sheriff has ordered Marian's execution. She hangs at sunset unless…"

"Unless I show up," finished Robin.

Will nodded.

"That's ridiculous," scoffed Much. "He can't possibly think you'd be such a fool as to walk into such an obvious trap…" he trailed off as he saw the determined look on Robin's face. "Oh my God – you're really going to do it!"

"Listen, we can get her out. I have a plan. Sort of. It will be dawn in a few hours - untie me and we can be in place well ahead of time."

"Will this plan get anyone killed?" asked John sternly.

Robin shook his head. "No. I intend to get us all out of this one very much alive."

John nodded. "Good. Much – untie him."

As Much bent down to untie the rope he muttered to himself, "This is probably going to be the worst plan in the history of plans."

The sheriff and his guards escorted Marian from her tower cell down to the main part of the castle; Guy joined them once they came down the stairs. He pointedly said nothing to Marian, ignoring her as he walked along the other side of the sheriff, as dark and silent as a shadow.

"My lord! My lord!" a peasant called out to the sheriff as the group entered the Great Hall. "I have news of the outlaw! Of the notorious Robin Hood! We, my village that is, Nettlestone, we can give him to you!"

He babbled on about an outlaw from Robin's gang approaching people from the village a few days ago about hosting a party for the notorious outlaw in their village barn for his birthday next week.

"They think we are on their side for the bits of food and few coins he and his have tried to give us to buy our loyalty, but we would never betray your trust, my lord," the man went on, his voice a cloying sycophantic tone.

He scurried alongside the sheriff as Vasey made his way down the length of the Great Hall to his chair. "We can reassure them the barn is safe, and when he is there you can trap him! We can give you his head on a platter, so to speak. One of his men, the one who talks too much, wants to surprise him. I reckon we can give him a surprise all right, eh my lord?"

"You traitor!" shouted Marian. She had silently pretended Robin was nothing but a criminal for so long it felt good to speak up in his defense now that there was no point in pretending.

"After all Robin has done for the people, you ungrateful wretch!" she screamed at him. "Pigs have more loyalty! Rats are less savage! You-" she stopped as she felt a strong tug on her arm. Guy was pulling her back to the side of the room.

She tried to shake him off as she glared up at him.

"I think everyone knows where you stand on the subject of Robin by now," he hissed in her ear. "Save your breath for when you'll really need it."

"When I'm being hanged, you mean?" she hissed back at him angrily.

"For when you argue with the sheriff as to why you should not be hanged, as I'm sure you will," he whispered. He sighed, then went on sardonically, "You are so very good at arguing. I would hate to see you deprived of that at the end."

As they quietly argued back and forth, the peasant was going on with his plan to capture Robin and his whole gang, hinting broadly as to the size of the reward he expected, while the sheriff listened silently.

The man seemed to be unaware of the fact that the longer the sheriff was silent, the worse the eventual storm usually would be.

Neither Marian nor Guy was inclined to help him as they continued their hushed but intense conversation.

"No, you would see Robin hang in my place," she pointed out.

"Better him than you," he growled. "A thousand times better him than you!"

Marian blew an errant strand of hair out her face with annoyance. "Robin and I are equals," she said, knowing she should stop baiting Guy, and yet unable to hold herself back on anything anymore. "He doesn't put me on top of a ridiculously high pedestal and then get angered when I step off it to actually accomplish something with my life!"

"Then I hope you're happy with whatever little you have accomplished so far, because I don't think the sheriff will give you much longer, and there is less and less I can do to protect you. Even if I were at this moment to drag you by your hair to the chapel and force you into wedlock, the sheriff might still order you onto the scaffold all the same."

Marian sneered, "I wish you would just make up your mind as to whether you want to kill me or take me."

"Something tells me I would regret one as much as the other."

His face was very close to hers. She could feel his breath on her cheeks, and she wondered if this was what it was like for the knights in the stories to face down fire breathing dragons. Of course, the knights never had to worry about any confused feelings for the dragon…

"Enough!" screamed the sheriff.

Marian and Guy looked up to see the sheriff standing over the quivering peasant.

"You are sadly behind the times, my friend," he told the villager, who looked terrified and confused, obviously wondering what he had said wrong. "Robin Hood," sneered the sheriff, "won't be going to any parties anytime soon. As much as I would love to see him and his whole gang walk straight into a trap, I've got the bait to catch him, and without him the whole cause falls apart. So why would I waste good money paying for a rabbit that's already in the pot-" he stopped, struck by a sudden thought, and swiveled his head to stare at Marian with a predatory gaze.

Marian felt her blood run cold.

"On the other hand," he said in placid tone, "it would be much more efficient to simply wipe them all out with one blow. Very well, fellow, new plan! Get word to Hood and his men that the hanging has been moved from the castle to your little village. Tell the, I don't know, give them some line about how I want to impress the locals with what happens to traitors." He grinned maniacally at Marian. "It won't even be a lie, will it, my dear?"

"Whatever you're planning, it won't work," she told him with all the confidence she could muster.

The sheriff chuckled. "You need to get your head out of the clouds, girl. I'm winning. And I will NOT" he suddenly screamed, "let my timetable be upset by one ninny of a girl and one pouty lipped boy! I have plans in hand, and I won't let Robin Hood and his whore throw them out of whack."

"I am his wife," she snapped.

"Oh really?" said the sheriff with a disbelieving smirk, clearly satisfied at provoking her.

"We have exchanged vows before God," she told him. Behind her she heard Guy give a gasp of pain.

The sheriff's smirking gaze went from Marian to Guy. "Well, she and Robin seem to be quite serious about each other, Gisbourne. And you were probably hoping it was just a summer fling, eh? Let's go. Oh, and gag her."

"What?" Guy looked as confused as Marian by the sheriff's rapidly changing emotions.

"Gag her! I don't want to listen to her wailing on and on," his voice change to a high and fluty falsetto: "It's a trap! Oh Robin, if you can hear, it's a trap!" He rolled his eyes at his own words and walked on.

He walked briskly down a line of guards, sending one off to find his favorite mercenary, Ellingham, and giving the rest orders as to where he wanted them stationed.

"Come now, Gisbourne, step lively, get your things together and bring the prisoner. We're heading out to Dover ahead of schedule."

As Guy followed Vesey out in to the hallway, a tight grip on Marian's arm, he asked, "My lord, I don't understand-"

"We're taking her with us, obviously."

"Taking her… where, my lord?"

"To the fair. Where do you think, you halfwit? To the Holy Land, of course! I will not let these two lovebirds interfere with my plans any longer! We take her with us, and if Robin Red Breast manages to escape the mercenaries, he will, of course, follow us, and then we can travel without worrying about that cursed outlaw stirring up any trouble in Nottingham while we're gone, since he'll be too busy trying to save the girl!"

"Oh brilliant, my lord," growled Guy.

"Yes, it is," snarled the sheriff. "I'm the one who has to come up with all the plans around here since I'm obviously surrounded by idiots!"
Revenir en haut Aller en bas
http://www.youtube.com/user/Nightwatchwoman


Marian de Knighton
♣ Lady / Nightwatchman ♣


√ LOCALISATION : In the arms of Robin
√ NOMBRE DE PRINTEMPS : 26

► WE ARE ROBIN HOOD ◄
● Age: 21 printemps
● Titre: Noble
● Inventaire:

MessageSujet: Re: Love's Labor Lost Jeu 22 Juil - 5:09

Love's Labor Lost

Chapter Six

A/N: Don't own, don't profit. I borrowed the character of Captain O'Donnell from the book 'A Murderous Procession', by Ariana Franklin. And the idea of Robin killing Mediterranean pirates on the way back from the Holy Land comes from the story "Robin Hood and the Pirates" by Clayton Emery.

The carriage rattled down the Great North Road.

The road had been built centuries earlier by the Roman Empire as a more or less straight passageway across the whole of England. It was still the best way to move between the country's north and south counties, long, long after the glory of the empire had passed.

At the moment, though, Marian could have wished those ancient engineers slightly less proficient at their jobs, knowing the road would soon bring them to the Channel.

Marian had attempted to fight being brought along, but Guy had been absolutely pitiless as he had simply caught her by the waist, slinging her off her feet, and forcibly thrust her onto the seat opposite Alan who looked at her with an apologetic grimace.

She had tried, fruitlessly, to somehow spit out the gag, sure that she if she could just plead with Guy, she could get him to alter his course, or, at the very least, make him hesitate long enough to get a good kick or punch in, but, instead, she was bundled up and whisked way with the three conspirators, as helpless as a pig being brought to market.

Once they had been traveling for about two hours the bored sheriff had told Guy to take out the gag, clearly looking to bait Marian as a way to pass the time.

"Are you really going to the Holy Land?" she asked as soon as the gag was off.

"Yes," drawled the sheriff with exasperation, sounding bored with her first choice of question. "I've never been before. Have you? I hear the climate's lovely." He smiled as sweetly as poisoned honey. "Guy's been there. Did he ever tell you?" he prodded.

Marian gave Guy a cold look. He returned it with a face immobile as stone. "It came up earlier," she said stiffly.

"Yes, I'm sure you've had much to talk about lately." The sheriff chuckled to himself. "I should just put the two of you on a platform and sell tickets, really. It'd be as good as a bear baiting."

"And you're going to try and kill the king again?" asked Marian sharply, trying to get the conversation back on track.

"Of course we are, you idiot girl. And you can blame your love, Hood, if you like. You see, Robin Hood did warn the King to be on his guard when he lands. So, first plan, mercenaries in the port, well," he scratched under his chin idly, "pretty much dead in the water. The new plan is, instead of waiting for him, we just pay him a little visit."

Marian glared at him, trying to think of an appropriate insult fast enough. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Alan's eyes widen slightly as he took in the full extent of what this trip meant. Marian wondered if there was some way for her to exploit the fact that Alan had obviously been left out of the loop.

"All in all, it should be a fun little trip!" went on the sheriff cheerfully. "I'm hoping to pick up a few souvenirs – some spices, maybe a scarf, a bottle or two of the local wines, the crown of England – you know, the usual," he grinned.

"Regicide is a joke to you," said Marian flatly.

"Actually, it is," smirked the sheriff. "You know, the idea of entire regimes tipping on the balance of one well positioned sword. Hilarious, when you think about it. Like the thought of angels dancing on the head of a pin."

Marian rolled her eyes, giving up on conversation. She looked out the window at the countryside passing them by, wondering how much the sheriff had left of his sanity.

"Hoping for the Night Watchman to come and save you?" teased the sheriff.

Involuntary, Marian flicked her eyes towards Guy and caught him looking at her askance as well. They both immediately looked away, but the sheriff caught it.

"What is it?" asked the sheriff suspiciously.

"Nothing, my lord," said Guy hastily.

"Noooo… You know something – something about the Night Watchman." He pointed his finger back and forth between them. "Both of you." He turned to Alan. "What do they know, boy?"

Alan shifted uncomfortably in his seat under the searing gazes of Gisbourne, Marian and the sheriff. He hadn't spoken a word the entire trip so far and looked as though he had been hoping no one would notice he was there, despite the cramped quarters of the carriage.

He glanced around nervously. Gisbourne's and Marian's expressions both suggested they'd kill him twice if he opened his mouth, while the sheriff's expression suggested he'd think of something much worse than death if Alan didn't start talking.

"Doesn't matter now, does it?" Alan stammered. "I mean, it's not like the Night Watchman is going to show up in the Holy Land. That'd be impossible."

The sheriff made a little grunt in the back of his throat, sounding faintly skeptical, but he let the subject drop and the carriage rattled down the road in silence.

Robin was hastily explaining his half formed plan as he and the rest got their things together: "So then I approach the scaffold in front of the castle alone, as if agreeing to the trade. The rest of you set off some sort of diversion nearby. The louder the better. Perhaps John could-"

"I can cause a diversion. A loud one," piped up Djaq.

Robin looked at her, one eyebrow raised inquiringly.

"I made some more of the black powder. If you had a few extra ingredients when you light it, you can make it shoot out colored sparks."

"Black powder? From the recipe I ordered destroyed?"

Djaq shrugged. "I disobeyed you."

Robin frowned at her for a long moment, then grinned, "Good." He sheathed his sword. "Right. Let's go."

"To Nottingham," growled Little John.

However, when they were out of the forest and on the road to Nottingham, they were approached by a villager who seemed to be trying to catch Much's eye.

"Um, now's not really a good time," Much said, trying as discreetly as he could to signal the man to go about his day and to keep Robin from seeing him, and failing miserably at both.

"What's this about, then?" asked Robin.

Much sighed heavily. "We were going to throw you a birthday party next week, with the village of Nettlestone," he nodded at the man, "hosting the event so it could be a surprise, but, obviously, plans have been altered just slightly due to recent events," Much griped, then glanced at Robin nervously, wondering if he had stepped too far out of line.

"A birthday party?" Robin asked flatly.

Much made an awkward shrug of acquiescence, looking unsure if Robin was mad or not at what, in the cold light of day, now sounded very frivolous.

Robin looked skyward and shook his head with a small smile. "If only life was so simple," he said with a bitter chuckle. He clapped Much on the arm. "Thank you for trying, old friend."

Much perked up momentarily at the compliment, then slumped, visibly deflated, as he meditated on what might have been: "We were going to have roast pork and everything."

"Ah," stammered the man from Nettlestone, "the sheriff's announced he's moving the execution of the lady Marian to our village. I think he suspects we've taken your… donations, and he wants to show he can crush anyone."

Robin slumped his shoulders and rubbed his face tiredly.

"I hate it when the sheriff comes up with new ideas," growled Will.

"We'll just have to outfox him," said Robin. "If we plan this right, we can still surprise him, I'm sure."

Unfortunately, planning and waiting only saved them the trouble of spending all night in the trap the sheriff had ordered for them.

Trying to prevent a dawn execution by attacking at pre-dawnhad left them caught like rabbits in a poacher's snare. Robin had looked like he was on the edge of losing his mind when he realized Marian was nowhere to be found.

But the mercenaries were already gearing up for a dawn attack, leaving the outlaws only enough time to plan a last stand, and make the most hurried of goodbyes.

The coach stopped at an inn at sunset. The sheriff hopped out first, dragging Marian along by the arm and began issuing orders to the innkeeper who came out to greet them.

Alan put his hand on Guy's arm. "Listen, Guy," he began.

Guy looked away from watching the sheriff bribing the innkeeper from asking questions as to why his guest wanted the lady in tow kept locked in the stables for the night, and looked at Alan, looking almost surprised, as if he had forgotten Alan was there.

"Killing the king…" Alan trailed off, not sure how to word what he wanted to ask, not even quite sure what his question was.

"You're part of the inner sanctum now, Alan. You should feel honored," said Guy briskly.

He headed in the direction of the inn, Alan following along. "No, no, yeah I am. I am. It's just..."

"This is the ultimate mission and carries with it the ultimate prize: absolute power." Guy glanced at Marian and the sheriff and went on darkly, "There is nothing else worth having in this world."

"Yeah, power for you and the sheriff," said Alan, not bothering to comment on Guy's new philosophy towards life.

"And you. Alan, your loyalty will be rewarded in land and title. I will reward those loyal to me, just as I punish those who are disloyal." Again, he glanced at Marian.

"Right," said Alan uneasily. "So, what, you mean like a lordship or something?"

Guy raised his eyebrows suggestively, then turned and headed into the Inn.

Alan scurried along behind, wondering, not for the first time, what he had gotten himself into.

Marian kicked at the side of the stable wall a few times to vent her frustration, and then berated herself for acting like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum. Besides, all she was accomplishing was making her toes hurt.

She hated being kept indoors, and hated being locked in a room even more. And most of all she hated not being able to do anything. Suffering from all three at once was going to drive her insane, she was sure of it.

Those three things were why she had become the Night Watchman in the first place. She was able to amuse herself for a brief moment at the fact the sheriff had no idea he had the Night Watchman in his custody, but her amusement was followed by a cold chill at the thought of what the sheriff might do if he did know.

The door creaked open and Alan stood on the threshold. "Marian," he whispered hoarsely, "I… I can't do it. I can't kill the king." His face said so much more as he looked at her pleadingly. He took a few steps in and knelt before her. "I tried to get the keys. The sheriff sleeps with them." He grinned weakly, a ghastly look on his pale face. "Like a baby with a teething rattle," he tried to joke.

"Go," urged Marian, "Go now. Quickly."

"But you-"

"I can handle myself," she said as forcefully as she could in a whisper. "Go now. Help Robin. Help Robin save England."

Alan gave her one last look of apology, and left. She heard him saddling up a horse and galloping off.

She sighed. So much resting on so little.

Alan arrived to find his former comrades-in-arms hold up and looking ready to make a last stand. He bluffed his way through with the same easy smile he used when he bet every coin he had while holding a pair of three's. It had almost worked, until it turned out the mercenaries were better informed than Alan had assumed, and it had turned into something of a desperate scramble, but they had all managed to get out.

Robin then fairly flew down the great North Road, the rest all barely able to keep up, all of them on horses they had 'liberated' from the sheriff's service.

They rode at break neck speed, stopping only to feed and water the horses to keep the animals for falling over in exhaustion. Robin saw no need to stop for anything else when Alan had told him the danger Marian and the king were in. They were in Hertfordshire, halfway to the south coast, by nightfall.

To everyone's surprise, rather than stop at an inn, Robin lead them to Hertford Castle for the night, a castle owned by the Knights Templar. "The Templars' owe me a favor for what I did for them in Acre," he said shortly as he dismounted, and strode into the main hall.

The rest looked to Much for explanation. He spread his arms out helplessly. "I wasn't there. I was sent out to help defend a supply wagon getting into Acre. By the time I got back, whatever mission Robin had been on was over and all he would say is that the Templars owed him one."

Whatever Robin had done, it got them all a splendid dinner, beds for the night, and fresh horses in the morning.

However, as hospitable as the grand-prior-in-residence was, everyone got the feeling that they were being rushed out of there as quickly as possible while still being polite about it; as if Robin was a reminder of something the knights didn't wish to ponder.

If Robin noticed, he didn't care, and in fact was in just as much as a rush, urging everyone else to start riding out even as they were all still rubbing sleep from their eyes.

Robin looked as though he hadn't slept at all.

When they were only a few hours from Portsmouth, they were forced to stop and let the horses drink from a nearby stream. Robin paced like a caged lion.

"How long does it take to get to the Holy Land, anyway?" asked Alan, partly to distract Robin, whose pacing made him nervous, and partly out of real interest.

Robin shrugged. "Depends. I've heard sailors say that if we catch a good wind, we could be from here to the Straits of Gibraltar in two or three weeks, and then, with more good wind and, encountering no obstacles, sail across the Mediterranean in as fast as two or three months."

"And if we do encounter… obstacles?"

Robin looked glum. "Then it could take four or five months," he admitted. "Maybe longer if we have to stop for repairs, or find a new ship if repairs aren't possible, or if we get stopped by enemy ships, or pirates."

"How long did it take you when you sailed over with King Richard?" demanded Will.

"We had some… delays along the way," said Robin uncomfortably. "You know, stopping for supplies for the army." He sighed and admitted, "Also, well, our king has a tremendous knack for either inspiring utterly loyalty or absolute hatred in everyone he comes across. It's impossible to feel simply indifferent towards him. There's something about him…"

"We had a few… practice fights, you could call it, along the way," said Much, trying to be helpful. "In Lisbon. …And Palermo. …And Cyprus."

Robin smiled crookedly. "Yes, we were well practiced by the time we got to Acre." He patted his horse on the neck as she finished drinking. "All right, let's mount up and move out," he ordered crisply, sounding like a sergeant addressing soldiers. "And let's hope Captain O'Donnell is in port," he added as everyone remounted.

Much groaned as they began heading down the road again at brisk trot. "Not him, oh for the sweet love of God, not him," he prayed out loud.

Robin laughed. "He's our best chance, and you know it."

"He's a barking mad Irish pirate who drinks like a fish, refuses to put into port during storms, swears in seven languages, and makes fun of my cooking," grumbled Much.

"…Well, he's not a pirate," said Robin. "He served the old king and has delivered plenty of supplies, messages, and men for Richard."

Much grumbled quietly to himself the rest of the way there.

When they got to Portsmouth they split up to search the docks and taverns. "Just look for a silver haired Irishman drinking heavily and making bad jokes in Latin," instructed Robin.

Some god or another smiled down on them and Little John found the captain, drinking heavily, as predicted, in a rundown little tavern near the docks called The Dancing Cat.

The captain greeted Robin with a friendly roar. "You finally going to accept my offer, Robin me lad? Had enough of this stinking mud pit of an island? You me and Robin, you and me, there's not a pirate in all the seven seas who could get away with stealing our cargo with me at the wheel and you in the crow's nest, picking off those thieving scum with that fancy bow of yours. We'd make a fortune! Imagine! Promising a pirate-free passage – people would line up from here to County Cork." He paused to take a deep drink from his mug. "And your friend could come along, too." He belched. "I'd even make him ship's cook."

Robin laughed. "No, O'Donnell. As much as I'd love to keep helping you rid the world of pirates, like we did coming back to England, I need to get to get back to the Holy Land, fast."

"You want to go back?" O'Donnell stared at him in amazement. "Why, for God's sake? As much as it lines me pockets to ferry soldiers and pilgrims out there, the place is a bog no sane man would want to step in once, let alone twice. Something about that desert land makes men go mad. You feeling all right, boy-o?"

Robin smiled. "It's about a woman. And honor."

O'Donnell laughed heartily. "It always is. Wellll," he glanced upwards, thinking rapidly, "I think I could move my schedule up to ship out as early as tomorrow's dawn. I'll take a loss on some cargo I was expecting to load up with in a few days, but, hell, it'll be worth it just for a chance to see you pick off a few more Barnaby bastards who think they can get away from stealing from me." He shook his head in admiration at fond memories.

"You killed pirates?" Djaq asked Robin in admiration.

"I'll never forget," gushed O'Donnell, "waves six feet high, the pirates' ship a quarter of a league off and coming in fast, and Robin here tied to the crow's nest to keep balance, cool as ice melt, shooting down nearly half the lousy crew before they knew what hit 'em." He grinned and went on. "So, for passenger rates, I suppose you want the discount I promised in my foolish moment of gratitude to apply to your friends as well?"

Djaq stood near the prow of the boat, enjoying the breeze and slight sea spray.

As promised, they had sailed out at dawn on O'Donnell's ship, the Merry Magdalene. They had helped the crew get everything stowed aboard and set off, but once at sea, the sailors had made it very clear they just wanted the land lubber passengers to stay clear as they worked.

Djaq was so happy.

Absolutely everything at the moment could lead to the death of herself and her friends, but they were going home, and, right now, that was all that mattered.

Home.

She closed her eyes and tried to recall the sights and sounds and smells of her homeland, eager to once again hear the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer, to see the graceful architecture of the homes of her relatives, to smell proper food cooking, and a thousand other things that had made up her childhood. Her mouth watered at the thought of having qatayefs again.

Paradoxically, the thought of actually being on the way home was making her more homesick then she had been in quite some time. She murmured a small prayer, hoping for fast winds and calm seas.

She had not prayed properly in a long time, and she hoped He would forgive her for not strictly adhering to every article of faith while being busy trying to simply stay alive.

She twirled a lock of her hair around her fingers. It was getting to the point where she was going to have to decide whether to trim it again, back to the short cropping she had kept it at when pretending to be her brother, or keep letting it grow and once again have the long black fall of hair she had worn when she had been Saffiya, the cosseted daughter of Doctor Yusuf ibn Ahmad al-Mu'taman.

She smiled at the thought of how her old aunties would screech like hyenas if they saw her now. Never mind that she had fallen in love with a barbarian, never mind that she hadn't said her salah prayers in forever, or that she was aiding and abetting criminal infidels – no, the hair was what would horrify them most.

She glanced at the deck behind her where the rest of the gang were talking with O'Donnell about the route they were taking:

"I know the safest course would be to stick to the middle of the Mediterranean," the captain was saying, "but that would put us too far from port if we needed to resupply, or stop and make repairs after a storm. But we can't hug the southern coastline too closely – too many raiders coming from Saladin's North African lands, apt to attack any Christian ship they can to keep them from resupplying the king's troops on the east."

"So we stick to the northern part of the sea?" asked Alan hopefully. "Make a quick stop in France, maybe?"

But the captain was shaking his head, "We can't be near the northern coastline too close for too long; besides the rocks, there's a lot of politics to consider these days."

"Politics?"

"Spain and Portugal are always at each other's throats, and don't care much who gets caught in the middle, and while the Portuguese are now allied with England, so we shouldn't expect any trouble from them, the Spanish might attack us for that very reason. The French are supposed to be allied with the English, but they're always just looking out for their own interests, and their king is still mad at King Richard for how he treated Princess Alyss."

He paused to smirk while most of the group rolled their eyes. Everyone knew the scandal of Alyss of France, the most betrothed and least married princess ever. She had been fiancéd, at one point or another, to nearly all of Henry II's sons, but wound up the mistress of Henry II himself, and was then very publicly spurned by Richard when he had come to the throne.

"And I know," went on the captain, "that his Britannic majesty is not on the best of terms right now with Sicily or Cyprus, after those incidents with his sister getting herself kidnapped and having to be rescued."

"As always, you're well-informed," remarked Robin dryly.

The man grinned, showing all his teeth. "You t'ink old women gossip, boy-o? You should see a local tavern crowded with sailors just off ship sometime. Everyone's got a story to tell of their passengers and what they saw in the port they just came from!"

"So you're telling me we've got to manage avoiding not only the rocks and storms - and pirates - but also every single other king out there?" asked Alan. "I'm not being funny, but it sounds like suicide to me."

"Cheer up," said Robin, "it took Odysseys ten years to sail from Troy to Ithaca with monsters and gods interfering every step of the way – I'm sure our journey won't be that bad."

"Joy," said Little John dryly.

O'Donnell glanced at the sky with an experienced eye. "It looks like tonight is going to be a stormy night, so I suggest you all get down to your cabin in the hold soon. Rain's about to start."

Djaq, only half listening up until that point, froze as his words sunk in. She had somehow managed not to think up until this point that sailing to the Holy Land would involve some time below decks.

She took a deep but unsteady breath. She did not want to go into another hold. She wouldn't. She couldn't. She would not go back down into the dark where there was no air, or light, or hope. No. No, no, no. She would not, could not, go down again into the dark. Not again. No.

She felt a sharp pinch and looked down – she had been clutching the railing so tight she had driven a splinter into her palm.

She concentrated on trying to get the splinter out, wondering if she could convince the captain to let her stay on the desk. She would rather get soaked then go back down into the hold, down into the dark, the smell of death and disease everywhere, the moans and shrieks coming from all sides, the chains-

"Djaq?"

She gasped and jolted her hand in surprise, managing to drive the splinter back in.

"Oh, sorry to startle you. Here, let me see," said Will, gently taking her hand and carefully drawing out the splinter. She was sure he had a lot of practice getting wooden splinters out, given his trade.

"Ready to go below?" he asked. "It's raining."

She glanced around and realized the sky was starting to spit fat droplets of water that hit the deck with a patter almost like when rain drummed on the roof of the camp.

She looked up at Will and shook her head. "Will- I- I- there's no need to rush, is there? It, ah, it is still quite pleasant up here."

The rain began to fall harder, mocking her.

"I'll be fine, you go down ahead," she said, trying to sound calm, inwardly cringing at how panicked her voice was getting. She blinked raindrops out of her eyelashes.

Will looked at her, ignoring the rain that was starting to soak his hair and clothes, giving her the same penetrating stare she had seen him give a carpentry problem he was trying to solve.

She breathed faster and deeper as old memories of slavery flew up at her, and somewhere in a far corner of her mind the student-self of her who had sat at her father's side as he lectured on medicine diagnosed herself with hyperventilation and yelled at herself to slow her breathing, with no success.

"You came from the Holy Land on a ship," guessed Will, concern in his eyes.

She started babbling: "I cannot go down there. Please, please, don't make me go back down into the hold. I cannot. There is not enough air, it is so small and dark! Please, please, don't put me back in there with the chains-"

"Djaq, look at me, look at me!" he ordered sternly.

She looked at him, forcing herself to breathe slower.

"No one, I mean no one, is ever going to put you in chains again," stated Will. "You'll kill them first." He gave her a brief, feral smile, "And maybe leave a few for me to deal with. Whatever happened before, is not going to happen again. You're the cleverest person I know; no slaver's ever going to get the drop on you again. Ever."

Djaq knew Will was not one to give false praise. He hoarded his words, using them as sparingly as a Bedouin desert traveler would use water. For him to say so much, and in such high praise of her, made her wonder if this is what is what it felt like to be drunk. "Thank you," she said with a shaky breath.

"Come inside," he said in a more practical voice, sounding embarrassed to have spoken so openly, "dry off, and listen to Much complain about the food. We can even try and get a word in edgewise. We'll talk about whatever you like; I'll describe the camp down to the last wood peg to distract you if you like - make you forget we're even on this little ship with death on all sides."

"Talking…" she said thoughtfully. "Will, have you ever heard of Kalimah?"

Djaq blinked her eyes drowsily. She had her own hammock, but right now she was so warm and comfortable she didn't want to move. It had been a long, long night of talking. A lot had been said, and a kind of catharsis had been reached.

Was this what it was like every time the Christians went to confession? Djaq wondered. It couldn't possibly be – it was so exhausting, to mind, body and heart, if one were to do it all the time, there would be no energy left to do anything else.

She had been the one to start off, explaining the concept of Kalimah, and, taking courage in her own two hands, confessed her love of Will. She had allowed herself to hope he felt the same way, but she had not been prepared for the overwhelming rush of feeling when he had confessed his love for her.

But even in the rosy fog she had been in after that, it had hurt her heart to hear John confess his disgust with himself for abandoning his wife and children, Much's anger at being condescended to, Alan's regret at not having the courage to take the right path earlier, and, after being verbally cornered by the rest of them, Robin admitting his fear at returning to the Holy Land, afraid of the memories he always kept at bay with a dismissive laugh and a wink.

Will's arm tightened around Djaq in his sleep. During all of the talking, she had ended up sitting next to Will on his hammock, and, as the night wore on, and people settled down to sleep, it seemed only natural for her and Will to be falling asleep next to each other.

Meanwhile, a boat a day ahead of the Merry Magdalene, the ship Thunder Fist, carried the sheriff, Guy, and Marian further and further away from England. The ship was on loan to the sheriff from a Black Knight who had several ships he used in his illegal import and export business. There was no one on that ship who would question Lord Vasey.

The sheriff and Guy sat at a small table in the upper cabin, the sheriff chuckling as he re-drew the county lines on a map of England, while Guy slowly sipped from a tankard of ale, his eyes dark and far away.

Further down in the hold Marian blinked groggily as she looked around. It took her several moments to get her bearings and put together all the scattered pieces in her fog ridden head.

She had fought with every skill she had to try and keep from being put on the boat. Even with the decided disadvantage of her chained wrists she had come within inches of getting away, only to be hauled back. At that point she had abandoned all skilled attempts at fighting and fought like an angry cat with tooth and nail, and still she ended up in the hold.

The sheriff had come with a cup of something and, pinching her nose, forced it down her throat. "That should keep her quiet until we're well at sea," she heard him say with satisfaction as she lost consciousness.

Now she thumped her head softly, once, against a wooden beam, so frustrated she was ready to scream with it. She squeezed her eyes shut, fighting back a rising wave of nausea.

It was going to be a long journey…
Revenir en haut Aller en bas
http://www.youtube.com/user/Nightwatchwoman


Marian de Knighton
♣ Lady / Nightwatchman ♣


√ LOCALISATION : In the arms of Robin
√ NOMBRE DE PRINTEMPS : 26

► WE ARE ROBIN HOOD ◄
● Age: 21 printemps
● Titre: Noble
● Inventaire:

MessageSujet: Re: Love's Labor Lost Ven 12 Nov - 14:11

Love's Labor Lost

Chapter 7

A/N Don't own, don't profit.

A thousand thanks to my beta, ladyKate!

"They say it's a curse to get what you want," said O'Donnell. He lounged against the ship's railing like a cat sprawling in the sun. "I, personally, wouldn't know." He grinned, his eyes flashing with wicked, self deprecating humor. "But it sounds true."

Robin sighed. He had been standing at the bow of the ship for most of the morning, peering ahead, willing the thin line on the horizon to get closer.

The enforced inactivity on board the Merry Magdalene had worn everyone's patience thin, but no one more so than Robin.

There had been two pitched sea battles along the way, and Robin had looked down right happy for the distraction. He had picked off pirates, shooting off arrow after arrow methodically, a cold gleam in his eye as he felled the aquatic thieves.

The gang had not talked much during the voyage. Under other circumstances, Will attempting to openly court Djaq on the small boat, with no privacy and Little John suddenly deciding he should act in the place of an overbearing, glowering, protective father for Djaq, would have been hilarious.

As it was, it offered a small relief from Robin's endless, silent pacing, his worry infecting everyone else with strained nerves, all of them unsure of what could possibly be said to reassure him. But the closer they got to the Holy Land, the less people would leave him alone with his thoughts.

"What are you talking about?" Robin asked O'Donnell with ill grace.

"Never have I seen such a fast voyage," said the captain, his manner now quite serious. "We're going to make port in matter of days, me lad. It's been less than three months since we left England and now we're almost at Acre. "Whatever fate awaits you over there, seems like God wants you to meet it quickly." He paused and gave Robin a harsh look. "Unless it's the Devil, of course. Are you ready?"

Robin fingered the hilt of his dagger, but left it in its sheath. "Yes."

"Oh sure, ready to kill, a blind man can see that. But that might not be the right answer this time."

"I'll do whatever is necessary."

O'Donnell rolled his eyes heavenward and muttered something in Gaelic. "Do you think yourself invincible?" he asked.

"I think I'm willing to do what's necessary," repeated Robin calmly. He finally took his eyes off the horizon and looked at O'Donnell. "Have you ever been in love, my friend?"

Now it was O'Donnell's turn to look away. "Only once. It ended… badly."

There was a long pause, and then the captain went on a very practical tone, "But a man has to live in this world. That being the case, I can offer you little help once we get there. My sailors are not soldiers."

Robin nodded once in understanding.

"We will be staying at the docks," said O'Donnell, "loading up a shipment of spices to hopefully make a little profit from this thrice cursed voyage, and we will be turning back around and getting the hell out of Acre in a few days. I suggest you do whatever you think is necessary as quickly as possible, and then get back on my ship before we leave port."

"I'll take that under advisement," said Robin, and turned back to contemplating the horizon.

He was left alone for almost a quarter of an hour before being joined again, this time by Alan.

"Look," said Alan, a touch awkwardly, "I know you're worried, but you've got to remember, Maz can take care of herself."

Robin made a visible effort to restrain himself. He took a deep breath, then said, "Believe me, I know how well she can handle anyone who gets in her way - myself included. But this is different. When you throw the Holy Land into the mix... and whatever plans the Sheriff has cooked up, and Gisbourne's temper..." he paused and shook his head in frustration. "Look, this is my wife and she is carrying my child. So I think I have some good reasons to be a little jumpy."

"Yeah, but, you have to admit, Giz wants to keep her safe-" Alan stopped midsentence at the glare Robin give him. He instinctively glanced about for somewhere to become invisible while casting about for a different approach. "Look, the sheriff will want to be able to use her as bargaining chip if his plans go wrong – he won't let anything happen to her."

Robin glared at the horizon for a long moment. "It's not just her safety I'm worried about," he finally admitted. "Marian doesn't have any blood on her hands… yet. And I hope to keep it that way."

Alan nodded, as if in sympathetic understanding, but inwardly he wondered if Robin was being as foolish as Guy in trying to insist Marian act the part of a perfect, pure saint.

Did these two men not have eyes? Why couldn't they see she was just as willing to get her hands dirty in the single minded pursuit of her goals, the same as the two of them? A nice little unholy trinity those three make, he thought blasphemously as he left Robin to brood.

He stomped down the stairs to the hold where Will and Djaq were leaning against each other in a hammock. Djaq was pointing at various objects in the vicinity, saying something in Arabic, with Will repeating it a moment later, doing his best to pronounce the fluid language with his clumsy English tongue. Little John was watching the two of them while Much was polishing his shield with a great deal more force than necessary.

Alan flopped down on a hammock next Will and Djaq. "Same old same old with Robin," he muttered to no one in particular. He turned his head to look at the lovebirds. "What are you two doing?"

"Language lessons," said Djaq without looking away from Will.

Alan grinned. "Is that what they're calling it these days?"

"Do you want to swim the rest of the way to Acre?" replied Djaq.

"Hey Will, how do you say 'no sense of humor' in Arabic?" asked Alan.

Much got up to leave the three of them to have what seemed to be their scheduled daily row. He knew Little John could break it up if it got too out of hand, although they seemed to be having a fight out of boredom rather than any real animosity. They almost seemed glad for the chance to argue with each other again.

Much went out on deck and joined Robin at the railing.

"It's almost Christmas," announced Much wistfully, as if Robin might have lost track of the time. "I could really go for a plum pudding right about now, what do you say? Or maybe roast boar with apples. And a proper English ale. That stuff O'Donnell drinks," he made a face, "blech!"

Robin didn't responded, his eyes never leaving the strip of land in the distance.

Much sighed, then gave a snort as he thought of something else and asked Robin, "Remember last Christmas, when Djaq was the only sober one, and made sure we all got back the forest safely after crashing that party in Locksley?" Much chuckled. "And the Christmas before last, holed up in the Winter Cave? Alan managed to steal those flasks of brandy-wine that were supposed to be delivered to the sheriff's own table? And Will nearly set the whole place ablaze when he knocked his drink into the fire, and Little John almost had his coat burned up when he was putting it out?"

Robin smiled ruefully at the memories.

Much went on sadly, "And the Christmas before that we were back here, spending a holy day killing people."

Robin's expression hardened, but he said nothing. They both gazed at the landscape looming larger and larger on the horizon.

Much looked at Robin with a sideways glance. "Doesn't this feel… funny?" he asked nervously. "Funny to be back here in the Holy Land? Not funny like a jester making a joke about the Welsh, but, you know, funny, like odd? Odd to be back in a place where we're the enemy?" he babbled. "Because I feel funny and-"

"We save Marian, we save the king, and we save England," said Robin firmly, as if it were that simple.

Marian sat in the hold of the Thunder Fist, resting her head on her arms, praying for the simple miracle of not throwing up her dinner.

She had spent most of the voyage ill with nausea. She wasn't sure if it was from the tossing of the waves or from the child she was carrying – she suspected a mixture of both – but either way she had spent the passage in utter misery.

The few times she had well enough to speak coherently she had tried to either reason or argue with Guy, but he would simply block all her words with accusations of lies, deceit, and disloyalty. She might as well have tried to argue with a stone wall.

Sighing, she silently cursed everyone involved in this wretched venture, herself included.

Suddenly, her head shot up and her eyes widened as she as she experienced quite a different sensation – a feeling like the brush of butterfly wings inside her. It was feather light, but it was there. It could only mean one thing – the babe was quickening in her womb. For the first time she had felt her child move inside her.

She gently touched the slight swell beneath her gown. Under normal circumstances, this was when a woman could confidently announce her pregnancy publicly and begin preparations for the birth.

Marian glanced around the dank hold of the ship. She was about as far away from normal circumstances as she could get. She tipped her head to the side, calculating. Normal or not, she still needed to start preparing.

Despite the nausea and growing belly, she had almost been able to push aside the fact she was with child as she thought constantly of the mission Guy and the sheriff were on, and how she might be able to stop it.

This, however, was a firm reminder that her child was mixed in this mess, and she had to find away to get to safety before anything happened to her, and thus her child. A wave of despair hit her at she contemplated her impossible situation, and tears rolled down her checks. This was quickly followed by anger at herself for breaking down.

She had always been proud of her ability to remain calm in the worst situations. She had faced down death numerous times with hardly breaking a sweat, and yet now she was an utter mess. She had heard of how women could be changed by pregnancy, but had never thought she would be so susceptible. Are you really so different from other women? she asked herself scornfully.

She took several deep breaths, and, with another quick prayer that the nausea had passed, forced herself to her feet to go though as much of her slow exercises as the chain on her ankle would allow. She needed to be calm so she could think.

Some time later, her breathing was slow and steady again and she felt more like herself. She had several ideas on how to get away, but she knew it was useless to even try and escape while still at sea – for where was there to escape to on a ship full of those hostile to her and surrounded on all sides by the water? Despite the frustration of waiting, she knew she was going to have to wait until they disembarked at Acre.

She heard the heavy tread of Guy coming down the wooden stairs. She sat back down and, with a heavy effort, held her temper in check; the first step in her plans was to stop arguing with Guy. Let him think her defeated, helpless, weak and broken in spirit. Get him to start lowering his guard, so when the time was right… he would never suspect she had anything planned.

"Marian," said Guy gruffly in greeting. "How are you?" he asked after a moment when she didn't immediately launch into any arguments about the sheriff's plans.

"I'm as well as may be," she said, making her voice sound tired. "These are not ideal traveling conditions," she added tartly, knowing a show of sudden, total surrender would be suspicious.

"We'll make port tomorrow," said Guy.

Marian had to use ever ounce of her willpower to let no more than a muted interest into her expression. She kept her eyes half closed and let herself only nod slowly in response.

"Marian, everything is about to change." He suddenly sounded like a young boy desperately trying to impress someone.

"I know," she said wearily, "I know."

Once in Acre, they disembarked at night and went to a house where a Saracen co-conspirator of the Black Knights greeted the sheriff with cheerful exultations that the days of the barbarian king were numbered. Chortling, the sheriff and the man, Nasir, immediately began going over plans.

Meanwhile, Guy brought Marian down to a basement and made sure her ankle was securely fastened by a chain to a wall and left her there without saying a word. Marian didn't say anything either, acting lassitude and quiet, hoping Guy would assume her too defeated to argue anymore.

Later, he came back down with a bowl. He set it on the table. "Food. You should eat," he said flatly.

Marian hated it, but she was going to have to humble herself to make this plan work. "Guy," she asked with every ounce of humility she could scrap together. "I have a favor to ask."

Guy looked at her disdainfully.

"Just a small favor," she added hastily, letting herself sound pleading and desperate. "It's just," she stammered, "I just would like to be able to do some sewing."

"A bit late to embrace the role of the domestic wife," sneered Guy.

"Please," she begged softly, eyes downcast. "My choices lead me here. I should at least take the responsibility of providing clothing for my child. " She looked up at him, pleading with her eyes. "Please, at least let me do that."

Guy swallowed. He was uncomfortably reminded of his mother – the lady Ghislaine had worn the same pale, worried expression on her once cheerful face for the last few months of her life as she had attempted the futile task of nursing his dying father before the fire had consumed them both.

"You will be allowed needlework and sewing supplies," he said brusquely and left, telling himself, as he so often had to, that remembering the past brought no profit.

Guy brought her an assortment of needles, thread, and cloth when he brought down her next meal. She wasn't sure were he had gotten them, but, from the look of embarrassment on his face as he passed the basket to her, he had probably been forced to go to a section of the markets frequented only by ladies and had probably endured quite a few odd looks to fulfill his errand.

He had also brought her a fresh set of clothes in the local fashion, from undergarments to veils; all probably bought at the same place he had gotten the sewing supplies.

She bit her lip, feeling endeared to him that he would suffer embarrassment for her sake. He kidnapped you, an inner voice reminded her sternly. Her inner voice sounded remarkably like Robin.

She thrust both thoughts aside. "Thank you," she said humbly.

Guy made a small grunt of acknowledgment, refusing to meet her eyes.

They were both silent for a moment. He seemed to be waiting for her to argue with him again about the sheriff's plans for regicide, but she remained quiet, letting him think her resigned to the Sheriff's victory.

After he left, she immediately started sorting through the supplies, looking to see which needle would make the best lock pick. She didn't have much time – she was sure her life wouldn't be worth a copper coin once the sheriff's plans were firmly in play and she was no longer a potentially worthwhile bargaining chip.

It took hours of trial and error, during which she vowed that if she made it out of this alive she was going to insist Robin give her lessons in lock picking. Finally, on her last unbroken needle, she managed to get the ankle chain unlocked.

With great trepidation she walked up to the door at the top of the stairs, hoping her work on the chain would let her work faster on the door lock – only to discover the rickety door either had no lock or the lock was broken, as it opened at a mere touch from her. Hastily, she grabbed it and quickly pulled it back so that it was only open a crack.

She peered around fearfully. Her plan was very simple: get out. She knew that was easier said than done, but she was starting to allow herself to feel hope.

She dashed back down the stairs and hastily put on the new clothes, taking care with the veil and head covering, so soon only her hands and her eyes betrayed her for a foreigner.

With a quick, silent prayer, she eased her way out the door and forced herself to walk at a normal pace though the house, trying to look as though she belonged there.

The place was quiet, although she did hear voices murmuring in the next room – they sounded female, perhaps servants. There was the sound of something sizzling in oil and the smell of lamb and strange spices drifting through the air, suggesting a meal was being prepared.

Her heart sped up as she saw a side door standing opening, probably in hopes of coaxing a breeze through, bright sunlight beckoning from the outside. She was almost out when a dark shadow filled the doorway and Guy stepped in.

He looked at her, confused. Marian didn't give him a chance to react any more than that; groping behind her, she grabbed the first thing her hands fell on and, coiling months of frustration and anger into one motion, threw it at his head.

The fact that it was a frying skillet meant he collapsed to the ground, instantly unconscious.

Marian knelt down to see if he was still alive. She tore off the face veil in exasperation, wishing for the more flexible covering of the Night Watchman mask and scarf. She felt his throat, where a pulse still beat strongly.

Marian's initial reaction was relief. She glanced at his face; he looked extremely pitiful in his current state. She pitied the headache he was going to wake up to, and then immediately berated herself for feeling anything other than anger at a man who had helped kidnapped her - a man willing to commit regicide.

She put her hands over her eyes at this new problem, trying to ignore the swirl of conflicted feelings. "Now what am I supposed to do?" she asked aloud, ready to cry with frustration. Why did Guy have to pick that particular moment to come in?

"So much for proving my worth with a dramatic rescue," drawled a voice from the doorway. Marian looked up, startled. Alan leaned against the frame as indolently as if the three of them were still back in Nottingham Castle.

"You," she snarled. "You're supposed to be helping Robin!"

"How do you think I got here?"

"Robin's here?" she gasped hopefully.

Alan rolled his eyes. "His two favorite people – you and the king – in danger, and you expect him to just hang around Sherwood playing with his bow?

"Why are you with Guy again?" she demanded.

"With him?" he asked indignantly. "I was tailing him, all right? He stands out like a crow in a flock of seagulls around here – it wasn't hard to pick up on the gossip in the market and then get a lead on him."

"All right, you can get us to Robin then," said Marian, a plan rapidly forming. "Quick, get his legs." Marian moved to grabbed Guy's arms.

Alan squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Please tell me you're not suggesting what I think you're suggesting." He glanced up sharply at a noise and Marian looked round to see what he was looking at – a gaggle of servants standing in the doorway to the kitchen, all looking confused or fearful.

Alan spread his arms wide and put on his most charming and insincere smile. "Nothing to see here, ladies, all right? Just some silly foreigners who will be out if your hair in a minute."

"I think there is much to see here that would interest my master," smirked one of the women.

Alan frowned. "You were at Bassam's place last night, weren't you?" he asked, eyes narrowed.

She smiled enigmatically, and then ran off in the opposite direction.

"Oh, we are in trouble," Alan groaned. "Come on Maz, we've got to go. Now."

They told each other what had happened since they had parted in Portsmouth. Marian was able to sum up her journey much faster than Alan. He walked the two donkey's they'd "borrowed" though the streets as fast as the crowds would allow, with Alan occasionally craning his head back to tell Marian some joke or another about Robin's behavior during the voyage. "And I hope having you back means he'll calm down a bit," concluded Alan as they came to the stables of Bassam's home.

"Oy! Robin!" called out Alan in the direction of the house. "Come see what I've brought!"

The gang tumbled outside to see what Alan was shouting about. He grinned at the looks of shocked disbelief on everyone's face.

"I've got regular Christmas miracle for you – a pregnant lady on a donkey," he said cheekily. "I can't exactly testify to her virginal status, but-"

Marian hopped off the donkey and gave Alan a slight slap on the arm before running to Robin's arms. He clasped her in a tight embrace. He kissed her deeply, and then tenderly moved his hand downward to the increasing bump.

"I love you," he told her in chocked up voice. He cleared his throat, and then stepped back a pace to declare in calmer voice, "I came to rescue you," with his usual smirk.

"How very thoughtful of you," said Marian dryly, but a smile tugged at her own lips.

He grinned. "But you seem to be doing very well on your own, my dear lady wife." He gave her courtly bow. Then his eyes took in the body draped over the second donkey. His expression darkened. "Is that Gisbourne?" he asked.

"She insisted-" started Alan, but Marian interrupted him.

"I wasn't going to leave him to go back to working with the sheriff when he woke up."

"And you didn't kill him," observed Robin with studied detachment.

"No," said Marian firmly. "We are here to stop killings, not to do more. Besides, I have something else in mind for him."

"And what, exactly, would that be, my love?" asked Robin curiously.

"I want him to know what it's like to be locked in the bottom of a ship for three months," growled Marian.

Robin burst out laughing.

Marian glared at him.

"Oh, you're serious?" he asked, still sounding very amused.

"I want him to know how it feels to be treated as a sack of goods for sale."

"I agree with Marian," piped up Djaq, sounding quite cheerful. "All jailors should know what its like to be a prisoner."

Robin rolled his eyes. "And then do what with him?"

Marian waved a hand dismissively. "We'll have plenty of time to come up with something."

"Perhaps then we could toss him on Prince John's doorstep with a note saying 'you failed,'?" suggested Robin, sounding as if he were only partly joking.

"They haven't failed yet, my love – we still need to save the king," Marian reminded him pragmatically.

"Then by all means, let us save the king," said Robin, with his usual cocky grin.
Revenir en haut Aller en bas
http://www.youtube.com/user/Nightwatchwoman


Marian de Knighton
♣ Lady / Nightwatchman ♣


√ LOCALISATION : In the arms of Robin
√ NOMBRE DE PRINTEMPS : 26

► WE ARE ROBIN HOOD ◄
● Age: 21 printemps
● Titre: Noble
● Inventaire:

MessageSujet: Re: Love's Labor Lost Ven 12 Nov - 14:12

Love's Labor Lost

Chapter 8

A/N – Don't own, don't profit. A thousand thanks to my beta, ladyKate, who polishes rough writing to a shine with the skill of a master jeweler.

"There's a slight, er, complication to the whole saving-the-king plan," Alan announced reluctantly, but then stopped, hesitating to elaborate.

The group was currently in Bassam's house in a coolly shaded inner room. The room was a wonder of refinement; an indoor fountain splashed innocently against the beautifully patterned tiles and birds chirped nearby.

It was sophisticated and elegant and graceful – and ignored, with everyone's attention on Alan, who shifted his feet nervously.

Djaq had examined Gisbourne after they had made sure he was secured, and pronounced he would not wake for several hours, at the very least, and Robin had been forced to conceded his enemy would not be useful for anything at the moment. She had then tried to examine Marian, but Marian had waved her off, saying she was fine.

Robin had been all for dashing off immediately to warn the king, but Marian had suggested somewhat acerbically that coming up with a plan might be the wisest way to begin.

"What complication?" demanded Robin now, drumming his fingers on the table with impatience.

"We stumbled across a spy," said Alan hurriedly, clearly wanting to get the words out of his mouth. "Bassaam's servant girl. The one who served dinner last night. What's her name? Kelly? Katie?

"Konnie," supplied Djaq, her dark complexion turning ashy as she realized even in her beloved uncle's home there could be traitors.

"Yeah, her, she was at the sheriff's headquarters. Looks like everything she heard her us talking about at dinner she ran and told to the sheriff. And then she saw me, Maz and Giz as we were, ah, leaving. So now the sheriff will know we're here and actively trying to disrupt his plans, so he'll fight like a cornered badger and be sure to do something slippery."

Much snorted at the image, but Robin merely stated, "He's here to kill the king – that's what he's going to do."

Alan gritted his teeth but plowed on, shaking his head. "Whenever he feels a plan is in danger, he'll make an unexpected change to make sure he wins." He raised his eyes, daring to meet Robin's gaze. "You know he will. If he knows we know a route, or a meeting place, or… an execution, he'll just change it. Make it different, change the route, messenger, or execution time."

There was a long pause; things left unsaid hovering in the air like the names of ghosts Alan didn't dare name for fear.

"Very well," agreed Robin, just as grim, "we'll just have to change our plans as well."

"Er, do we have a plan?" asked Much uneasily.

Robin grinned with no humor, a feral bearing of teeth. "The sheriff expects us to warn the king, so we'll have to do something else."

Robin gave the hand signal for the men to wait. They were hidden behind a dune, waiting for the king to pass, who was due to come this way shortly.

They had finally decided the best option was to follow the sheriff and see what his current plan was. It was risky, but, not knowing to how the sheriff would react to the news of Robin's presence, as well as the loss of his prisoner and his watchdog, it was the best way to stop whatever last minute plan Vasey came up with.

Hunched over in the sand, eyes never leaving the road, Robin allowed himself to smile at the memory of the sheriff roaring like a baited bear when he returned to his safe house and discovered Marian had escaped and taken Gisbourne with him.

They had been hidden along the street and around the house, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, ten times harder here then when they sneaked through Nottingham's town center.

Djaq, most easily able to look as if she actually belonged there, had disguised herself as a door-to-door merchant, a few of her uncle's birds borrowed for the occasion, positioning herself at the back door near the stables where she began a lengthy conversation with the housekeeper who answered, appearing to be engrossed in the time-honored tradition of a long price haggle while keeping her ears sharp for anything said in the vicinity.

From the flat rooftop of the house next door, hidden behind rugs hung on lines for airing, Robin, Alan, and Little John, most likely to be recognized and therefore keeping the most hidden, had watched as the sheriff had returned from his latest errand, chortling at whatever mischief he had just been up to.

The sheriff had then thrown a massive hissy fit when he found out what had happened in his absence. After much shouting, trying to lay the blame on someone, he had finally resolutely shouted at his other members of his conspiracy that they were proceeding as planned before the meeting time passed.

This had lead Robin and the gang to the outskirts of the king's camp, and the news that the king was already on his way to meet with Saladin.

Before leaving for the king's outpost Robin had looked pointedly at Marian.

"No," he had said firmly.

"Yes," she had replied, just as firmly.

They had glared at each other for several moments in sparked silence. Robin gave in first, throwing up his hands in surrender. "Fine, you can come. But I reserve the right to pull you back to safety if you put our child," he pointed at her midsection, "in danger."

Marian's jaw had tightened, obviously frustrated at the effectiveness of the trump card. "Fine," she had reluctantly relented. "But remember, I am you wife, not one of your soldiers.

"A distinction I will not forget again," he agreed.

Robin and the gang now waited in the dunes, knowing that if the king reached the scheduled meeting place, he would never leave it.

The king came along the pass on his horse, alone. Robin reflected that the sheriff's message must have been a very clever fake, to make the king walk into this trap so trustingly. He gave the signal and he and his men stepped into the road, exactly as they did so many times back in Sherwood to relieve a merchant or nobleman of his purse.

"Good day, Your Majesty," called out Robin cheerfully.

Then, almost exactly as if they were back in Sherwood, Much and Little John performed the old robbers' trick with Much spooking the horse and Little John very neatly grabbing the king down when he was thrown off balance by the suddenly rearing horse.

"What is this?" asked the king angrily, not looking ruffled despite having his arms pressed down in Little John's firm grip.

"We're, ah, saving you, Your Majesty, by, well, kidnapping you," said Much fretfully, sounding like he couldn't quite believe it himself.

"Shut up," snapped Alan. "You're not helping."

"Foul traitors!" growled the king. "My father was betrayed by those he held most dear, and now so am I!"

"You can shut it too," Alan told the king with an admonishing finger.

"Alan!" hissed Much, sounding shocked.

"I'm not being funny, but if I'm going to be executed, I want it to at least be for something I actually did, like telling a king to stop being so high and mighty."

King Richard, meanwhile, looked over the group, pausing at Djaq, and then glaring at Robin. "Just as I was told," he said coldly, "a trusted traitor."

Robin chuckled. "So that's the lie you were told? A loyal subject who has served you with complete devotion - and saved your life - suddenly, with no cause, reason, or justification, suddenly coming at you with a smile on his face and a dagger hidden behind his back? A hidden enemy brought to your attention and made to seem more dangerous than your long list of proclaimed enemies?"

The king had the grace to look slightly abashed.

Robin's mouth went hard. "And you fell for it."

"Well, what else should I think, given the current circumstances?"

"The fact that I've made no move to hurt you should say something."

"You always did like to give a lecture before the coup de grace," pointed out the king with a sneer.

"Then I'll stop talking," said Robin reasonably. "You can just sit back and watch the show." He reached forward to pull at the king's red cloak. "I will, however, need to borrow this."

Guy awoke.

He groaned at the searing pain in his head. He was about to roar for one of the Locksley servants to bring him the usual morning drink for an ale headache, but remembered just as he opened his mouth that he was back in the Holy Land, and he was too fog headed to remember the right words in the local language to call the current servants. He closed his mouth, settling for an angry moan instead.

He tried to reach his hands up to rub his forehead, but couldn't. He blinked his eyes open groggily as he attempted to move his arms. They stayed firmly in place; he couldn't see it, but he was fairly sure his hands were bound behind his back with rope.

He looked down his prone figure to see his feet had been bound with rope as well. He also saw his sword belt, dagger and boots had been taken away.

He let his head fall back down with a hard thunk on the thin pallet he was lying on and growled with frustration.

So, Marian had truly turned the tables on him.

He silently cursed himself for a fool, and then spent several fruitless minutes trying to make some headway on loosening his bindings, but no matter what he tried, the ropes were too secure.

Finally, forced to rest from his futile attempts, he glanced around, taking in his surroundings. He was in a room he didn't recognize. It looked like an old storage room hastily converted into a prison cell, with all of but the most harmless of items moved out.

Judging by the light from behind the slats of the shuttered window and the temperature of the air, it was somewhere around evening. Either he had been knocked out for less than an hour, or he had lost an entire day.

Grimacing, he was willing to gamble money on having lost a whole day. Whatever she had thrown at him, it must have been heavy. Perhaps his body was so tired of everything he was putting himself through it had forced him to stay unconscious as long as possible.

He made a face and tried to push the thought aside, although he had to admit he was not looking forward to whatever words the sheriff was going to have for him.

He tried to formulate some sort of excuse he could offer the sheriff for when he escaped his current predicament, but instead he found himself thinking of Marian's eyes just before everything had gone black. Her mouth had been covered by the veil, but her eyes had been expressive enough – she had been terrified.

He squeezed his own eyes shut, but still, all he could see was her large, frightened eyes, staring at him with such panic, the look of a deer facing a wolf, and without a hint of anything he could in any way, shape, or form deluded himself into thinking could become love.

Did you really still think you could get her? His inner voice mockingly asked. She carries another man's child and you drag her across the world to make her witness you kill the king she holds in such high regard, and you still think to win her heart?

He took in a rough breath, wondering why he could never let go the idea of making her love him. She lied to me, he thought. Again, and again and again. She dangled false promises in front of me. I risked my own neck to protect her, and she throws my love away like it was garbage.

Guy wished someone would come in, even if it was to kill him, just so he could be distracted from his own thoughts. He stared at the rough plastered ceiling. He tried to come up with plans and excuses, but his thoughts kept drifting to all he had lost, all he had never had.

It took awhile for the sounds to sink in, but he realized that not far off there was a constant murmuring of birds chirping and cooing. He wondered if there was a dovecote nearby.

After a while, the noise of birds was overshadowed by a hum of people's voices gathering in a room nearby. He strained to make out any of the words. Suddenly the group moved close enough for him to make out the words, to his regret as he realized what they were saying.

"We should have killed him already," said one voice. He had no doubt it was his own life they were discussing. Was that Robin Hood, the self-proclaimed noble hero, calling for his death? No, it sounded like the big man that looked like a bear.

"It would be barbaric to kill a man like that – like killing a tied-up dog," another voice argued reasonably, probably Hood's ever faithful lieutenant Much, the group sounding as though they were moving closer and settling into chairs.

"The sheriff certainly thought it would be the first thing we'd do," said someone else, possibly Alan.

Guy strained to hear better; that last remark suggested there had already been some sort of confrontation with Vasey while he had been unconscious. He silently cursed, knowing entire worlds could change in the span of one mere day.

"This is all beside the point," cut in the undeniable voice of Marian. "We don't have jurisdiction over his fate." Guy closed his eyes at the sound of her voice.

Marian had handed him over to his enemies, men she knew wanted his blood. And now she had the audacity to still sound self-righteous. If he had deluded himself that she loved him, then she certainly was deluding herself that she morally better than him. That made him feel better.

"Feeling more forgiving now, are we, my love?" asked a voice that was unquestionably Hood's.

"The king's safe now and I'm free," she said in a tone of voice that Guy recognized as her no-nonsense, this-is-the-way-things-are-going-to-be tone. Against his will he grinned at the thought of Hood having to put up with her pig-headedness.

"And him dragging you into danger counts for nothing?" asked Hood.

There was an indistinct sound of Alan mumbling something.

" 'Didn't want to hurt her'?" The shocked voice was clearly Hood's.

"Look," said Alan's voice, louder, "all I'm saying is back when she was cooped up in the castle, she got in trouble loads of times and Giz always bailed her out. Remember, how I told you about him having me play Night Watchman to save her from the noose?"

There was an indistinct mumble from a variety of voices, some in agreement, some in disagreement. Guy reflected that during the trip here Alan had probably had quite a lot of time to fill in the rest of the outlaws on everything that happened while he had worked for Guy.

At least Alan still had the decency to stick up for him – maybe he wasn't totally ungrateful, after Guy had given him the opportunity to be something other than an outlaw.

The voices dropped in volume. It sounded like a meal had just been served, and the few words he could make out suggested the conversation had moved on to the lighter topic of a wedding. Probably Hood's and Marian's.

He managed to sit up and thoughtfully tested the strength of his bounds. He frowned, reflecting that in the time since Hood had arrived back in Nottingham he had spent more times tied up then he cared to think about. Guy slumped back down. There was nothing to do but wait.

He sighed in agitation, bitterly wishing Marian had simply killed him.

Guy was not left waiting for long. Soon there was the sound of the door being unlocked and the door opened. Robin Hood came into the room. Behind him was the big man, imposing as ever, even just holding a staff, and the boy, William Scarlet, armed with ax. The two stood next to the pallet where Guy lay as Robin knelt down and untied the rope around Guy's feet. Little John then reached down and hoisted him up with one hand, silently setting him on his feet with a glare that dared him to do anything.

Guy shakily found his balance, managing not to fall back down through sheer force of will, determined not to give the outlaws any more cause to sneer at him. He turned to face the outlaw leader, waiting to hear what was to happen next.

"The king wants to see you," said Hood flatly.

Guy was given a pair of worn-out sandals to walk in and silently led through the house he was being kept in. No one said anything as the group gathered together at the stables. Alan gave him a look as if he wanted to say something, but remained quiet.

Despite the soldiers that met them for the ride to the king's outpost, Robin escorted him personally to the king's tent where King Richard was hovering over a table covered with maps.

Robin pressed down rather roughly on Guy's shoulder, indicating he should kneel in the presence of the king. Guy's pride bristled at this, but a useless resistance would be even more humiliating. He got down on his knees.

"You may leave us," said the king with a lofty wave of the hand. Robin left with a scowl, angrily pushing aside the flap, but probably not venturing very far off.

"Is there a reason we should not have you executed here and now?" the king asked when they were alone, standing on every inch of his royal dignity, his right hand loosely resting on his sword hilt.

Guy hesitated. He was a dead man if he didn't say the exact right thing. And if he had been in the king's shoes, there would be no reason on earth to spare the life of a man at the very center of a plot to assassinate him.

The king smiled sourly as Guy remained quiet. "Perhaps you aren't as stupid as some might believe." He paused. "I am told you were previously involved in an attempt on my life, and now you came here again plotting regicide. Under the circumstances, even a quick execution would be considered merciful."

Guy flinched.

"However, I would prefer to keep you alive because I think you can prove useful.

Guy looked at him, unsure if he should say something.

"Lord Vasey somehow squeaked though every blockade I had set up and is reported to already be long out of port and heading back to England to regroup with young John." The king paused, pursing his lips petulantly at his own description of the sheriff's escape.

Guy thought back to how Vasey had bullied and bribed people of all ranks to ensure a quick, safe passage across the Mediterranean to the Holy Land. He had probably used the same method going back.

"So," asked the king, interrupting Guy's thoughts, "what can you tell me about what my brother is up to?"

Guy had met the prince a few times, journeying with Vasey down to London now and again to help him with his plans. The prince had always struck him as been even more power obsessed than the sheriff.

"He will do anything to get your crown," said Guy simply. He hesitated, weighing his decision, and then decided to go for full honesty. "The most useful thing Your Majesty could do would be to come back to England right now."

The king nodded absently, but his gaze was eastward, to somewhere beyond his tent walls. "Perhaps," he admitted absently. "But a family quarrel can and must wait when the holy mission of God's city calls. We still have not yet reached Jerusalem. We are so close, every day brings us closer, I cannot stop when…" he trailed off as he stared off into the distance.

Guy suddenly realized this man would be very little help to anyone – he was seeing the same look that must have been on his own face every time he had gazed longingly at the unattainable Marian, always convinced he was only just around the corner from obtaining his goal.

He tried to keep his face neutral as he realized just how alone Robin Hood's gang would be until whenever this king realized there were some things in life he simply could not have.

"So," the king said with sharpened focus, breaking Guy's reverie. "What to do with you?" He seemed to be waiting for Guy to say something.

Guy swallowed and said hesitantly, "I understand execution is what I deserve, but… but I do want to try and make things…better." He tired to sound as sincere as possible, suddenly certain he did not want to die just yet. Not while Hood had everything and he had nothing. There had to be some way to tip the scales again...

"And I cannot do anything to help your kingdom if I'm dead," he added beseechingly, looking up at the king with as much hope as dared let himself feel.

Perhaps I can show Marian I can be a good man after all- he started to think, and then silently cursed himself for being so foolish. She had made her choice. He would refuse to even think of her, and, if he lived through the next few minutes, get as far from her as possible. He gritted his teeth with angry resolve as he looked at the king.

The king chuckled, "A pair of pup's eyes like that must work wonders on the ladies."

Guy lowered his eyes, trying not to think of Marian.

"You know a great deal about what my brother and the Sheriff of Nottingham are plotting against me, don't you?" asked the king, turning serious again.

Guy nodded, still looking downwards.

"Well then," said the king meditatively, and then called out, "Robin!" Almost at once Robin was back in the tent.

"Yes, sire?" he asked.

"Robin, go round up your friends from Sherwood. And call in my clerk. And fetch a few people – Carter should be nearby, get him, and Sir Neville - they can stand witness."

Robin and Guy both looked at the king, the question, witness to what? clear on both their faces, but Robin hastened to obey and Guy remained where he was, telling himself to hope this meant that at least the king would not leave him waiting for long to find out his fate.

Robin had all of the requested people gathered together in next to no time, all of them filling up the small space, jostling around where Guy still knelt.

"So," said the king cheerfully, "I've had an idea." He went over to the table and signed with a flourish an official looking document and briskly rolled it up. In a mockery of the conference of knighthood ceremony, he tapped Guy on the shoulder with the parchment. "I dub thee lord high sheriff of the city of Nottingham and its surrounding counties. Here is your record of office. Arise, sheriff."

Guy remained on his knees, his mouth gaping open as he stared up at the king. He knew that the Plantagenet family had a twisted sense of humor, but this seemed beyond the pale of a bad joke.

The rest of the group seemed to agree, breaking out into exclamations of shock and protest, some framed more respectfully than others – with Robin doing the worst job of all as he asked the king if he had suddenly gone mad.

The king chuckled, a malicious glint in his eye. "Lord Vasey will, of course, object, and will be too busy fighting with Sir Guy of Gisbourne for power to be much use to my brother, who will, of course, not object to the new appointment given the official creeds I will have written up and given to you and with copies sent to John, mother, and several of my lords in London stating you have been invested as a representative of my power."

The king seemed quite pleased with his solution, although he was clearly the only one.

"Sire," Robin started to object again but the king held up a hand for silence.

"Quiet, Robin. I plan to install a balance to this newly given power as well. Sir Guy will need to seek your written approval for any executions he plans. Also, you should have an easier time thwarting any plans my brother has with a full pardon for all the trouble you've managed to get into lately."

Again without any sort of formal preamble he issued full royal pardons to all of the outlaws of Sherwood, as well reinstating Robin noble status and formally gifting the estate of Bonchurch to Much.

"My thanks once again for pulling me out of the way of that arrow," he said to a happily stunned Much while his poor clerk was scribbling furiously to keep up with all of the royal declarations being issued in so short a time.

"That's it then?" asked Robin, bewildered at the speed with which the king returned their lives, livelihoods and law abiding status.

"From the reports I'm hearing, you'll have to fight to keep it. Also, I cannot spare any soldiers, but on your way back to England, go through the Aquitaine and I'll arrange to have mother loan you some funds."

"Sire, if you would only come-" Robin tried to object again.

"I will come as soon as I can, Robin," said the king grandly. "There is still work to be done outside of England. Something you used to understand."

"England holds my home and my heart," said Robin, taking Marian's hand.

The king raised his eyebrows and said judiciously, "Be careful, Robin, my father always said nothing ruins a good love affair like marriage. However, since you seem so determined, I am willing to perform the service before you leave. Now, if our new lord sheriff would arise," he nudged Guy suggestively with the toe of his boot.

Guy forced himself to look up. "Your Majesty, I would rather not-" he tried to object. He felt suddenly nauseous as he realized he would be seeing Robin and Marian together. Probably every day. Forever taunted with the sight of that which he could not have. He should have begged for his execution after all.

The king interrupted him, glaring down at Guy and looking as though he was finally looking angry. "What you want does not matter. Any man of sense would be lying prostrate on the ground right now crying tears of thanks for the mercy and generosity I have shown. I say you will hold Nottingham and hold it you shall. And, if it is in one piece and still loyal to me when I return home, then I will relieve you of your duty if you wish, but for now you will return to England and hold Nottingham in my name. Do I make myself clear?"

Guy was remained forcefully that this was indeed Prince John's brother. "Yes, your majesty," he said humbly.

"Good. Now get up and get to work."

Guy scrambled to his feet. He looked warily at Robin Hood, who gazed at him with open distaste. Guy sneered back. He was now sheriff of Nottingham. Let Hood choke on that. As for Marian … he would put her out of his heart. He had resolved to do so once before after their disastrous failed wedding; that time, she had managed to worm her way back into his affections so that she could use him for her own, and Hood's, purposes. He would not let it happen again.

"I order the two you to work together to help keep my kingdom safe until I can return," pronounced the king. "Now, I believe I had a wedding to perform?"
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