The sun of Imuiz was hot and scorching, and Guy was sweating inside his leathers, but he trembled as he approached the wounded king.
He was almost there: just a quick plunge of his sword and Richard of England would die, and Guy would achieve an enormous power.
Vaisey had been clear: he just had to kill the king, and then he would be immensely rich.
Guy took a deep breath. He didn’t like the thought that he was about to kill a wounded man, a man unable to defend himself, but that man was King Richard, a king who already sent thousands of persons to a terrible death, a king who shed the blood of many innocents with his useless war.
Guy raised his sword, ready to hit, then Marian came running into the courtyard, and placed herself between him and the king.
“It’s over, Guy.”
“Get out of the way!”
Guy pointed is sword at the king: he was so close, he couldn’t let Marian to stop him!
“Do you think I’m going to let you kill England?” Marian said quietly, looking at Guy.
“Get out of the way, Marian! I’m going to do this thing and then I will have power beyond measure. And we will be together.”
Marian gave him a little smile.
“I won’t let you kill the king, Guy,” she said, unsheathing a dagger.
Gisborne looked at her, worried: he didn’t want to hurt the girl, she was the only thing worthy in his whole life, but he couldn’t afford to fail.
“Marian...” he began, but the girl didn’t let him complete his sentence because she turned and stabbed the king with a quick blow of her dagger.
Guy stared at her, in shock, and she smiled.
“You don’t get to kill the king, Guy. I do.”
Gisborne couldn’t believe his eyes: he was sure that Marian wouldn’t approve his mission, but now she was the one who accomplished it.
This could only mean that she understood his reasons and that she wanted to be with him too. She killed the king so they could be together, there could be no other explanation.
He sheathed his sword, and walked towards her, smiling, completely happy.
He took her in his arms and he kissed her with passion.
The girl returned his kiss, and when their lips parted, he looked at her, overwhelmed by his passion.
“I love you,” he whispered, in bliss.
Marian looked at him and she smiled. Then she planted her dagger in his chest.
“Well, Guy, I don’t.”
Gisborne looked at her, stunned.
He felt the piercing pain of the blade in his chest, but he couldn’t understand. Marian had been kissing him, and he had thought he was in heaven, but her words, pronounced with utter contempt, dragged him to hell.
The girl withdrew the dagger, suddenly, and Guy pressed a hand on the wound, but couldn’t stop the gush of blood. It filtered through his fingers and dripped to the ground, staining of red the white sand of the courtyard.
Guy dropped to his knees, too weak to stand, but he didn’t avert his eyes from Marian, silently questioning her.
“Did you really think that I could ever be with you?” Marian said, looking at him. “I’d rather die than be with you, Guy of Gisborne.”
“No,” he said, terrified, then he coughed, and more blood spurted from his mouth.
Marian smiled, merciless.
“But this is better: you die and I will be free.”
Guy looked at her, tears welling in his eyes. He realized that he was dying and that Marian had killed him, but he couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t to save the king because she had killed him too…
“I never loved you,” she said, “I didn’t even like you. You will never have me because I belong to another man.”
Guy collapsed to the ground.
“It’s Hood, isn’t it?” he asked, with his last breaths, then he started coughing again, drowning in his own blood.
Marian kept looking at him, until he stopped breathing and stood still.
Then she smiled.
“The king is dead!” Much said, shaking his head in disbelief “It seems so… so… so wrong! It is wrong! Everything we did… All the times we risked our lives… It had been useless!”
The other members of the gang looked at him, grimly. They were sitting around the fire in silence.
Only Much was talking, outraged by the death of the king.
Djaq gave a look at Robin: the outlaw was sitting apart from them, at the top of a sandy dune and he was staring blankly at the horizon.
Much followed the direction of her look and stood up.
“Poor Master! He must be distraught. I have to stay at his side.”
Djaq grabbed his wrist to stop him.
“No. Let him be. I think he just needs to be alone, now.”
“No, Much,” Little John said “she’s right. Let him be.”
Much sighed and he looked at Marian.
“Well, at least you are fine. If Robin should lose you, he couldn’t bear it. But you risked a lot, today! Attacking Gisborne! Were you out of your mind?!”
The girl stirred the stew and she gave him a sad look.
“I had no choice. He was about to kill the king, I had to try, at least. I hit him with my dagger, but I was too late: he had already killed king Richard. If only I arrived earlier...”
“Gisborne would have killed you too,” Will said, trying to cheer her up, “he was a ruthless murderer, I’m happy he’s dead.”
Allan was sitting on the ground, hugging his knees, and he looked at the other outlaws, sadly. He was sorry that the king was dead, but he had been more shocked in seeing Gisborne dead, lying in the bloodied sand.
He had worked for him for many months and he got to know him a little, even to like him a bit. Guy of Gisborne wasn’t completely bad, when he was apart from the sheriff he could be a decent man.
Not too smart, but pleasant, sometimes, and Allan was really sorry he was dead.
I betrayed him. I just wanted my other friends to live, but this doesn’t mean that Giz wasn’t a friend too.
Allan thought that Will was wrong, that Guy would never have killed the woman he loved, but he knew that the others wouldn’t understand. For them, Gisborne was just the enemy, a traitor that was better dead, but Allan couldn’t help feeling sad for him.
Marian filled some bowls with the stew and handed them to the outlaws.
“It has been a hard day for us all, let’s eat and have some rest.”
The others took their bowls and began eating. Much had wolfed more than half of his meal when he stopped and looked at Marian.
“Aren’t you eating?”
The girls smiled.
“I’ll wait for Robin.”
Much looked at his bowl, wondering if he should wait too, but the other outlaws were eating and he was too hungry. He ate all his stew and Marian filled his bowl again.
Robin shuddered. The nights were cold in the desert and he stood up, shivering.
He was freezing, but he also felt like his soul itself was cold.
The king was dead and all his hopes were dead with him. Now he would never be pardoned and reinstated at Locksley when the king would come back to England because King Richard would never return.
He traveled so far to protect him and he couldn’t save him.
Robin looked at the camp: his friends were lying around the fire and they were asleep, wrapped in their blankets. Only Marian was still sitting in front of the flames, awake and waiting for him.
She was the only good thing of that dreadful day. She could have been killed too, but she found the strength to defend herself and she succeeded in killing Gisborne before he could hurt her.
Robin was a little sorry she had killed him. If he could have caught him alive, he wouldn’t have been so kind to give him such a quick death: Gisborne had killed the king and he’d have deserved a public execution.
He sighed and decided to reach Marian: he needed her warmth.
The girl stood up when she saw him and Robin ran to hug her tight.
“Tell me that this is only a nightmare,” he sighed, burying his face against her neck. “tell me that tomorrow we will wake up and the king will be alive.”
“It is always the king, isn’t it?” she said, coldly, and Robin looked at her.
“What do you mean?”
“You only care for him. If I were dead, you wouldn’t mourn so much.”
Robin took a step back, frowning.
“What are you saying, Marian? Can’t you understand what this means? If the king is dead, England will be oppressed by Prince John.”
“I think he’s King John, now.”
“It doesn’t matter! He’s a tyrant! And now the sheriff will have all the power he could hope for! He ran away, unpunished.”
“You didn’t change, did you? You would have done anything for the king. You abandoned me.”
Robin stared at her, in disbelief. He was shattered because of the king’s death and he had hoped to find some comfort in Marian, but the girl wasn’t helping him at all. There wasn’t hope in her words, but jealousy and hatred.
He felt tired and dispirited and he didn’t want to fight with her. He sighed.
“I thought we already talked about this. I shouldn’t have gone to war and leave you behind, but to fight for King Richard was right.”
“For you maybe. But now it doesn’t matter: he’s dead. You won’t wake up to find that his death was just a bad dream.” Marian paused. “Maybe some of you won’t wake up at all.”
Robin frowned. He couldn’t make sense of her words and he didn’t know if she was talking like that because she was still traumatized or if he was the one too shocked to understand.
“What do you mean, Marian?”
“Everything, everyone was always more important than me,” she spat with disdain “at first it was the king, then your stupid ungrateful peasants, your revenge against the sheriff and Guy, your pathetic friends… When I needed you, you were never there for me because somebody else needed you more than I did. Or at least this is what you said! But now… now they are beyond your help! Wake them! Wake them if you can!”
Robin stared at her, in horror, then he knelt beside Much to shake him awake.
But his friend’s body was limp and cold.
Robin turned Much on his back and he saw his face: his skin had the pallor of death, his lips were black and there was a bloodied foam around his mouth.
Robin shook his head.
That was a nightmare. It had to be a nightmare.
He ran to every one of his friends, only to find them dead.
Shivering, he turned to look at Marian: the girl was standing with a wooden bowl in her hands and she was smiling.
She was smiling!
“Are you hungry, Robin? Would you like some stew? It’s deadly good.”
“What have you done?”
“Poison. It was easy. They didn’t suspect a thing.”
Robin couldn’t move, paralyzed by horror and grief.
“Why? I love you… I loved you.”
He couldn’t have feelings for the person who destroyed his whole world, but the loss of that love was another stab to his heart.
“Liar! Love does not exist. You taught that to me when you left to go to war.”
Marian lowered the bowl to the ground, and when she stood up again, she was holding Robin’s bow.
“So it was all a ruse? You pretended to love me to have a revenge?”
“Everything is a choice and I didn’t choose you. I gave myself to another person and you never suspected it.”
“You chose Gisborne, then? It turned out so good for him, I see. What did he do? Did he forget your birthday and you killed him?”
“Guy was nothing. He was pathetic with his unrequited love. I chose power.”
She let the arrow fly and it embedded in Robin’s belly.
He looked at her, blankly.
He was going to die, but he didn’t care anymore.
All his world was in pieces, he couldn’t live with it.
He fell to the ground and looked at the person who stepped out of the darkness and put an arm around Marian’s waist.
“Vaisey...” he whispered, then he died.
Marian looked at him and she didn’t feel the slightest guilt.
She smiled at the sheriff.
“I told you, my lord. My plan worked: I had my revenge and you got all the power you could desire.”
Vaisey smiled, his false tooth glittering at the light of the fire.
“We got the power, my lady leper.”
Marian laughed, then she kissed him.