Allan was sitting on the doorstep and he looked at the sea: it was blue and so bright that it looked unreal, almost dreamlike, completely different from the dark and stormy sea that he saw when they had left England.
The ship took them to the shores of Italy, not too far from Rome, he thought, but he wasn’t sure because he couldn’t understand the local language and Guy had been far too sick to be able to talk with people.
Luckily, silver was an universal language and Allan had been able to find a place to stay, food, and servants strong enough to carry a stretcher and to lift Guy and put him in a real bed.
Allan stretched his back and he got to his feet, turning to glance at the house. It was small, just a single room and the kitchen, and it probably belonged to some fisherman, but it was clean and apart from the other houses of the village. It was surrounded by low wall made of stone, and shadowed by orange and lemon trees. On one side, a gentle slope took to a sandy beach.
Allan walked to one of the trees and he picked a few oranges, then he went back inside the house.
“Giz? Are you awake?” Allan called, receiving no answer.
He put the oranges in a basket on the table and he walked to the bed.
Gisborne was still asleep, too pale and with dark circles under his eyes. Allan tried to shake him awake, but Guy moaned and wrapped himself into the blanket, shivering.
Allan was beginning to be worried for him. When they were on the ship Allan had been seasick too, but, after feeding the fishes for a few times, he got used to the movements of the ship and he felt better. Guy, instead, got worse every day, until Allan had to take the decision to disembark.
He had thought that once they were on solid ground, Gisborne would immediately feel better, but a whole day had passed and he was still sick.
Allan decided to let him sleep while he took a knife and cut the oranges in half. He squeezed them in a mug, filtering the juice with a clean cloth to remove the seeds, then he went back to the bed and he put a hand on Guy’s shoulder.
“Giz? Come on, wake up, now.”
Gisborne opened his eyes.
“What do you want? Go away,” he said in a hoarse whisper, and Allan shook his head.
“No, Giz, you must drink something or you won’t feel any better.”
“I can’t. My stomach hurts. If I’m going to be sick again, I’ll die.”
“Aren’t you exaggerating a little, now? But you’ll be fine, trust me.”
“How can you say that?”
“Because we’re not on the ship anymore. You can’t be seasick without the sea, don’t you think?”
Guy looked around, confused.
“What? Where are we?”
“Somewhere in Italy I guess. Can’t speak the language. I need you alive and well to talk with people, so drink this.”
Allan helped him to sit and Guy looked at the orange juice, worried.
The terrible nausea that had tortured him since the ship left the English coast had subsided, but he was still feeling miserable: he was so weak that Allan had to put some pillows behind his back to support him, his head was aching, and he felt like he had a fever.
Guy took a tentative sip at the juice and waited, afraid that he would throw up again, but it didn’t happen. The juice was good and he was terribly thirsty, so he slowly drank it all.
“Better?” Allan asked.
“Told you so. Now rest, I’ll go and get some more of these.” Allan held a orange in his hand. “One of the sailors told me that you had to keep drinking even if you were feeling sick. I tried to give you water or wine, but you couldn’t keep it down. That’s why I decided to disembark: I was afraid you were going to die.”
“It felt like I was dying,” Guy said, with a sigh “I can’t believe I’ve been such a wimp.”
“It could have happened to anyone.”
“But it happened to me,” Guy said, grimly.
Allan looked at him.
“This wasn’t the first time you traveled on ship, was it? You’ve been to Holy Land.”
“Yes. And so?”
“Well, if you knew that you suffer from seasickness, why did you chose to travel by sea?”
Guy closed his eyes, tired.
“Last time it hadn’t been like this. It was bearable. And I wanted to get away from England as fast as possible.”
“Well, you survived and now we are on solid ground.”
“Good to know,” Guy said, with a little smile, then he allowed himself to drift into sleep again.
Allan went outside to pick up more oranges, now reassured to see that Gisborne was feeling a little better.
Allan was resting his back against the wall of the house, his arms crossed behind his head, enjoying the warmth of the late afternoon sun on his face and the fresh smell of the breeze.
He heard the sound of steps approaching and he opened his eyes in time to see Guy dropping on the bench, near him.
“Oh, you got up,” Allan said and Guy nodded. He was still pale, but he didn’t look ill anymore.
“I feel better. But I’m tired and weak,” Guy said with a sigh.
“Well, you’ve been very sick, but you’ll be fine. Just be patient for a few days.”
“Nice way to begin our travel… Really heroic...” Guy grumbled.
“Maybe not a brilliant start, I agree, but just look around, Giz.”
Guy stared at the little house, at the trees, at the sea and then he turned back to Allan.
“What? There’s nothing around.”
“Exactly. There’s no one around. Nobody who can give you orders, nobody who can play with your feelings, nobody who demands to rule our lives. We’re alone, Giz, and we’re free.”
It was true, Guy realized, and he shuddered.
In his whole life, he’d never been completely free and he couldn’t understand if he was feeling more elated or terrified. Probably both at the same time.
He sat in silence near Allan, staring at the sea, thinking that everything he knew was so far away, now.
Marian was far away, and the distance tore at his heart, but deep inside he knew that she had never been really close to him, not even when they were standing side to side.
She was lost to him and he had to accept it, but he doubted he could ever forget her.
On the other side, the sheriff was very far too, and he couldn’t ruin their life anymore. This thought alone was enough to brighten the day.
“You are right,” Guy said after a while “we’re free.”
“What are we going to do?”
Guy closed his eyes, letting the warm sun of May bathing his face.
“For now, we might just enjoy this freedom.”
“No plans at all, uh?”
“Actually, I have one.”
“Will you enlighten me or it’s a secret?”
Guy turned to look at him.
“There won’t be any secrets between us. You gave up everything to follow me, we’re equals now.”
Allan glanced at him, with a surprised smile.
“Hey, you’ve been really sick, didn’t you? This is not the Guy of Gisborne I know.”
“Maybe it’s the Nightwatchman who is talking now.”
“Well, what are we going to do when you get better?”
Guy looked around.
“I think we could use part of the sheriff’s gold to buy some lands. We can’t travel with so much money and we need a place where we can keep our belongings and hide the rest of the gold.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me. Do you think we could buy this place? I like it, it’s peaceful.”
“Why not? This house is small, but it could be a good thing. Who could suspect that there is a treasure buried under the floor of a fisherman’s house?”
“Well, so we are going to buy this place and hide our money. And then what?”
“Then we could go to Rome.”
“Why not? We can go wherever we like.”
Allan looked at him and grinned.
“Do you know, Giz? Freedom suits you.”
Guy stood up and he gave a pensive look to the sea.
He wasn’t really sure that Allan was right, but he had chosen to be free and now freedom was all he had, so he might as well try to make the best of it.
But first he had to recover.
“What’s for dinner? I’m hungry.”
“Hungry, uh? I’m glad to ear that. Yesterday you looked like you were half dead. Come inside, we have some cheese, bread and olives.”
Allan walked into the house and Guy waited for a moment before following him. He gave a last glance at the sea and he thought that he actually felt half dead. Losing Marian broke his heart and he doubted that he could ever be really happy without her.
“But I’m free,” he whispered “now I’m free.”
Guy didn’t know if it could be enough, but for now freedom was the only thing he had.
That and the money of the sheriff.
Guy grinned, wishing that he could have seen Vaisey’s face when he found out that his strong room was empty, then he turned his back at the sea and reached Allan inside.