Allan sighed, waiting for Gisborne in the forest, near a hollow tree.
“He should be back, by now,” he said under his breath, beginning to worry.
He sat under the tree and listened carefully, hoping to hear the clop of horse’s hooves on the path.
After a while his patience was rewarded and a masked horseman appeared between the trees.
Allan stood up to take the reins of the horse while the other man dismounted.
“It’s almost sunset! I was beginning to think that you were dead.”
Guy removed his mask and the scarf that covered his face and pushed back the hood of his cloak with a sigh of relief. The days were beginning to be warm and he was sweating under his costume, so he opened the clasp of the cloak and handed it to Allan.
“Why should I be dead?”
“ The forest is a dangerous place, there are outlaws and they are ready to kill. You know that very well.”
Guy touched his side, where the scar of a big cut still bothered him a little.
“That’s the point of the Nightwatchman being here: to make this place safe for the people who have to travel through the forest.”
“You shouldn’t go alone. Last time they almost killed you.”
“Last time I wasn’t alone, remember? You were with me, and they took us by surprise. It won’t happen again.”
While talking, Guy changed his clothes, and Allan hid the Nightwatchman’s costume inside the hollow tree, then they swapped their horses, Guy mounting on the black stallion and Allan taking the plain bay one used by the Nightwatchman.
Allan stifled a sigh: he knew that sooner or later Gisborne was going to get himself in trouble.
“Did you find any outlaws?”
“No, but I saw Hood. He had his bow and he was hidden behind a tree near the road. I think that he was keeping the travelers safe too.”
“Did he see you?”
“Almost? What do you mean?”
“I think he heard me and he shot an arrow in my direction, but I was quick to drop to the ground. I didn’t move for a while, then I crept away without being noticed.”
“Someday you’ll end up dead, Giz.”
“Well, not today,” he said in a casual tone “and I guess that someday we will all end up dead.”
“You know what I mean, Giz. I hope to die old and fat, in my own bed… Maybe with a couple of girls at my side to make my passing merrier.”
“And I hope to die old and surrounded by a loving family. But it’s not up to us to choose how we will leave this world.”
“Staying out of the path of blades and arrows could be helpful in delaying our departure, don’t you think?”
“Maybe you have a point here.”
They arrived in view of Gisborne Manor and they noticed a wagon parked in front of the house.
“Look, Giz. Somebody is waiting for us. Who could it be?”
“Let’s find it out.”
They hurried to reach the house, but when they arrived, nobody was there.
Guy and Allan dismounted and they warily went near the wagon to examine it. All of a sudden three children came running from behind the house, and they shouted for joy in seeing them.
“Uncle Guy!” Katerine called, running to hug him, and a moment after even Richard bumped against is side at full speed. Guy winced, feeling a jolt of pain from his recently healed wound, but he smiled at the children, sincerely happy to see them.
Little Edward arrived a little while after his siblings, his eyes full of tears.
“You are mean!” he whined “You left me behind!”
“Well, you get to climb on my shoulders,” Guy said, to soothe him.
The three years old child squealed in joy, but Richard scowled.
“That’s unfair! He always gets spoiled because he keeps sniveling!”
Allan smiled at him.
“Well, you can climb on my shoulders. Giz may be taller, buy I’m younger and I can run faster than him.”
Katerine looked at her brothers with contempt.
“You both are such babies. I prefer to ride real horses.”
Guy gave her a meaningful glance and the girl blushed, remembering that she was about to fall from a horse when she first met him.
“I hope you only do it when your father is around. By the way, why are you here? You are not alone, are you?”
“No, we are with daddy!” Edward said, giving a sudden tug on Guy’s hair, as if he was pulling the reins of an imaginary horse.
“Well, where is he?”
“Right here, Gisborne,” Robin said, appearing from the back of the house “I was looking at the manor: it seems almost finished by now.”
“It is. It’s very similar to the old one, don’t you think? I tried to remember every detail I could.”
“I think there was a cherry tree over there.”
“It’s true! I had forgotten it, but you are right. It was struck by a lightning when I was twelve. I’m surprised that you remember it, you were very young then.”
“Our parents wanted us to play together even if we didn’t get along very well, but I confess that when those cherries were ripe, I was much more eager to visit Gisborne Manor.”
“I want cherries!” said Edward and his father shook his head.
“It’s not the season yet. They will ripen later in the summer, in a month or two.”
The child began bawling and he tightened his clasp on Guy’s hair, making him wince.
“But I want them now!” he howled.
“How silly you are!” Richard said, sticking out his tongue at Edward, taking advantage of the fact that he was safely perched on Allan’s shoulder and away from his brother’s reach. “There is no cherry tree and it’s too early for cherries. You won’t have them!”
“I want them! You’re mean, Richard!”
Guy gave a worried glance at Robin.
“Make him stop.”
“I can’t,” Robin said, then he shrugged sheepishly “I don’t know how.”
“It’s your son!”
“It’s Marian who usually deals with their scraps,” Robin said, then he tried to take Edward in his arms, but the little boy was holding tightly Guy’s hair and he wasn’t going to let it go.
Allan put Richard down, and he tried to help soothing the screaming child, but Edward kept wailing at the top of his lungs until Katerine spoke to him, sternly.
“If you keep crying, sheriff Vaisey will come and he will take you away during the night!”
Little Edward gave a cry of fear and sought sanctuary in his father’s arms, while both Guy and Allan looked at the little girl, startled.
“What did you say?!”
“Sheriff Vaisey is an evil monster: he gets naughty children, he takes them away to torture them and they never ever come back to their homes.” Katerine looked at Guy, knowingly, and lowered her voice to a whisper. “It’s just a tale for little children, but Richard and Edward still believe to it.”
Edward began to sob, scared, and Robin gave a disappointed look at his daughter.
“I already told you that you shouldn’t frighten your brothers! Now he’ll have nightmares again. Come on, come on, Edward, don’t cry, nobody will take you away from home.”
Finally the little boy stopped crying and Robin put him down too.
“Now go and play quietly while I talk with Gisborne. If I see you fighting again, I’ll tell your mother.”
The children nodded obediently and ran to play. As soon as they were far enough, Guy turned to look at Robin, shocked.
“Sheriff Vaisey will get you at night?! I think that I will have nightmares!”
“She must have overheard me talking with the others about old times and I guess she imagined him as a devil figure, a sort of monster from a tale.”
“Well, you must admit that she’s not so far from the truth,” Allan said with a grin.
“Hood, why are you here? I don’t think you are just visiting, are you?”
“No. You might want to look at that wagon.”
Guy frowned: it was an old dusty wagon, but it looked somehow familiar. He suddenly realized why: it looked neglected and dirty and it didn’t have the curtains and the banners, but it was the wagon he owned when he lived at Locksley!
“This was mine!”
“When King Richard gave Locksley back to me, I told Thornton to get rid of all your stuff. I thought he had sold or burned it, but it seems that he loaded it all on this wagon and then he left it in a corner of the barn. I found about it just a few days ago.”
Robin removed the sheet that was covering the back of the wagon, revealing some shields painted in black and yellow, a few trunks, old rusty swords, and some harnesses and saddles.
“Now that you actually have a house, you can take all this stuff back and I will get back the corner of my barn.”
Guy looked at each object, in awe. When he had ran away from Nottingham, he thought he had left behind everything he owned except for the few things he took with him, but now Robin was giving him back a part of his life.
“Thank you.” He said, at loss for words.
“You must thank Thornton. He thought that it wasn’t right to throw away your stuff because someday you could be back. I suppose he was right. But now let’s unload the wagon, I’ll have to use it to take the children home and I promised Marian that we would be home before night. They weren’t supposed to come, but they really wanted to see you and visit your home. You can get the wagon tomorrow.”
“You’ll be late, the sun is already setting. I have a better idea, Hood. Call the children, we’ll accompany you to Locksley and they can ride with us. We’ll be faster without the wagon and Allan and I can unload it tomorrow, without haste.”
Katerine, Richard and Edward loved Guy’s idea, and they enjoyed their ride home, greeting their mother with enthusiastic squeals when they saw her waiting for them on the door.
“Look, mother! I’m on Sir Guy’s horse again, but this time he didn’t have to save me!” Katerine said, laughing, and Marian smiled at her.
“I’m happy to hear that no one risked their life today. Now go inside and wash your hands, dinner is ready.” She looked at the men. “Guy, Allan, are you staying for dinner?”
Gisborne gave a glance at Robin and the other shrugged.
“Not a problem for me, as long as you go back to your home afterwards.”
“I never say no to good food,” Allan said, hurrying to dismount.
After dinner, Allan and Guy were about to go away, but the children begged for a story before going to bed.
Guy looked out of the window and he noticed that it was later than he thought. Sharing a meal with Robin’s family had been pleasant and he felt almost at home. He and Robin Hood were old enemies, but he found himself enjoying their banter. He had the suspect that even Robin did not dislike it.
Gisborne smiled at the children.
“It’s too late for a story, now, but I will make a promise to you. Come visiting me in a couple of months and you will have both a story and a surprise.”
“What surprise, uncle Guy?” Katerine asked, sleepy.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I tell you, don’t you think?”
The children reluctantly followed Hannah upstairs and Guy and Allan took their horses to go back to Gisborne Manor. Before going away Guy grinned at Robin.
“Hood, when the children will come to visit me, I expect to see you. Maybe you won’t care for my story, but the surprise is for you too.”
He rode away before Robin could ask any questions.
“Allan, I will need you help,” he said after a while.
“I need a cherry tree.”