When Sir Edward went out of the hall, answering the false King’s call, Guy could do nothing to stop him. He could only look at the door where he disappeared and wait.
The other nobles where all huddled in the hall, waiting anxiously to be called as well.
Waiting to fall under the butcher’s ax.
Guy began to tremble.
He was overtired and sore, and he was afraid that he had failed once again.
You always fail, Gisborne. He could almost hear the Sheriff’s voice, laughing at him.
For sure he couldn’t stay there, in that overheated room and just wait to learn about Marian’s father’s fate.
He limped out of the hall taking the other door, and found himself into an empty corridor.
Guy leaned his back on the wall, in a dark corner, and crossed his arms in front of him.
Hom many times in the past he had waited there, in the same position, just to talk with Marian for a moment? He wished that she was there now, and immediately regretted it.
What if Sir Edward didn’t listen to me? Maybe he is dying right now. Maybe I couldn’t save him.
It was a dreadful thought. If Sir Edward should die, Guy could never forgive himself.
I should have told him the truth, even if it would cost my life.
He remembered Marian’s hug when he told her that he would warn her father, and he felt guilty because he had the impression that he didn’t deserve her gratitude.
I should be at his side at least. To defend him or to fall with him.
Guy took a decision: it didn’t matter if everyone else would find out that he had tried to kill the King or if the Sheriff would learn that he was the one who spoiled his plans, he had to save Sir Edward at all costs!
If the old man should die, Guy knew that he would lose everything as well.
If he failed, he wouldn’t dare to go back to Knighton, to face Marian’s sorrow, and his guilt wouldn’t allow him to start over once again, alone. He would end as a beggar in the streets, just like Vaisey wished.
Guy had no weapons, but he walked back to the door of the Great Hall, decided to reach Sir Edward, even if he had to fight with his bare hands.
When he tried to get inside, he found out that he couldn’t: the room was in a complete turmoil, with all the nobles shouting and talking at once, running around in a state that was between panic, rage, and fear. Looking at the room from the door, Guy had the impression that a hungry fox had entered into a hen-house.
He paled, afraid that the Sheriff, for some reason, had decided to kill all the nobles gathered there, then he recognized Robin’s voice, and he understood that it was him who caused all that trouble.
A little relieved, Guy still tried to scan the hall with his gaze, hoping to see Sir Edward, but he couldn’t find him.
A cold dread made him shiver, and Guy doubled his efforts to get into the hall. A group of the Sheriff’s guards, arrived running from the corridor as reinforcements to catch Robin Hood, and they rudely pushed Guy aside, making him stumble and hit the wall with his side.
Gisborne regained his balance, and tried to follow them inside the hall, when a voice called him from a secondary passage.
Guy turned to see Allan, and, with immense relief, he also saw that Sir Edward was with him.
“Hurry, Giz, come! We should better leave the castle before anyone could notice us and suspect that we have anything to do with Robin.”
Guy nodded, and limped to them. Allan noticed that he hadn’t his staff, and he put a arm around his back to help him to walk faster.
Allan escorted them in the courtyard, then he turned to Guy.
“Wait here, I’ll go and get the wagon and your stallion.”
“Take my weapons and my staff, too, if you can. The guards at the door made me leave them there before I could enter into the castle.”
“Sure Giz, don’t worry. I’ll be back in a moment.”
The young man went away, and Guy turned to look at Sir Edward: the elderly man was clearly upset, but he looked unhurt and in good health.
Looking better than Guy himself was feeling in that moment, at least.
“Thank God you are fine, my lord.”
The old Lord looked at Guy with a look serious and tired at the same time. Guy thought that he had done something wrong, maybe Marian's father would accuse him of something, as absurd as that thought was. Instead Sir Edward held his right hand towards Guy.
Unsure about the motivation of his gesture, Guy, with a bit of hesitation, grabbed the old man's hand and tightened it, with caution and respect.
"Come now, Lord Edward, your daughter will be happy to see you healthy and safe," said Guy, trying to loosen the tension. The old man didn’t speak, but the expression on his face had become sad and tender at the same time. Edward didn’t let go Guy's hand, holding it tight.
"My hero days are really over. A new generation of men will save England."
Guy, between embarrassment and self-pity, replied : "If you say so... I'm not the right person to say it, but Hood is definitely doing his part."
"Yes, Robin, but I'm not just talking about him. You were a hero, too, today, Sir Guy."
Guy was astonished, but he answered, with a lopsided smile: "I wouldn’t say that, I just tried to do your daughter's interests, and I'm not even sure I succeeded. You didn’t believe me, did you?"
"No, I didn’t believe you, despite your concern, and the effort, and all that you have risked, coming here to tell me what was happening, and I was wrong with you, Sir Guy, I was so wrong. I should have more confidence in you."
Edward released Guy's hand.
Guy lowered his head.
Perhaps this would be his destiny: to not be believed despite his efforts. The stains of his past would follow him, perhaps even more than Vaisey's revenge.
"I haven’t always behaved rightly with you, Sir Edward. I've made big mistakes, too, toward you, toward your daughter, toward many people," said Guy, a sad smile, now, on his tired face.
"There is no man who has not committed mistakes, sometimes in the name of the King, or in the name of the Church, or in the name of profiteers like Vaisey. By aging, you realize that the world is no longer black or white, and you are likely to learn to live with the ambiguities, and with the horror in the world, with evil, and in the meantime the same world puts you aside, because you are not as strong as before, you are no longer as powerful as before. Sometimes, however, there are days like this, when you delude yourself, that in spite of years, gray hair, and fragile bones, you can still make a difference. That you still have strenght, and courage. I was wrong, Sir Guy, but it was nice for a moment to feel the illusion into my veins, to believe, to dream, and to act. That's why I didn’t believe you. I was wrong, you were right. You are a better man now, you really are. I will no longer doubt your intentions. Thank you, Sir Guy. What you did today, for me, is important. And I'll be happy if Marian and you will get married one day. Because I know that you love her and you will protect her, with much more force, and courage, and compassion and understanding than I have done in the past for her. Don’t be misled by the fear of not being strong enough, capable enough, powerful enough. A man is not just muscular strength, arm power. A man is strength of the heart, power of understanding, force of compassion, will of change. This is you, this I like, of you. This I would like to be next to my only, beloved, daughter.”
Edward's eyes were damp now for tears unshed, and, to Guy's surprise, who had heard those words in complete disbelief, as a miracle balm that made his scars disappear, the old man opened his arms to him.
Guy leaned over to him, uncertain, and briefly embraced the old man. Edward's hand beat on his shoulder.
"Thank you," he said, and then added, "I have a son, now."
Allan returned to the courtyard, and for a moment he was astonished and amazed at what he was seeing. It was no time, no place to talk or make jokes.
The young man knew that this was an important moment for Guy.
The two men separated, and Allan would bet that what he saw for a moment in Guy's eyes were tears of joy.
At that moment, in Allan's eyes, Guy looked incredibly so much younger than he actually was. He seemed like a young boy, now, like Allan was, with the same fragility and hope in the future, visible in his features.
The three men went away from the castle together to return to Knighton.
Guy felt tired and heavily fatigued, but he felt also incredibly light in his mind.
He thought of his father, of the emptiness he had left inside his young heart when he died. Too much, too deeply he had missed him when he was a boy.
Sitting next to Edward, Guy secretly looked at the proud, tired look of Marian's father. Now he was also, somehow, a father to him too.
He wouldn’t disappoint him, he swore to himself.
Guy closed his eyes, savoring for a moment the serenity and the security that he had missed so much when he was a boy, too young to be a man in a cruel world, surviving instead of growing, acting instead of learning, fighting instead of living.
And he savored, in his mind, the feeling of having finally done well, of being finally appreciated by a father. That he was finally a son, and a man.
I'm coming home, Marian, your father is safe with me. Smile, my love. We're coming home to you.
Marian couldn’t stay still, and she kept moving from the fireplace of her room to the window. She tried to force herself to calm down and think of trivial, everyday things like an embroidery that she needed to finish, or the food they would need to buy at the market next week, but she just couldn’t focus on anything else than her father and Guy.
They might be dead. What if Guy couldn’t make it in time?
She almost ran to the window, staring at the sky and praying that they could come back home safely.
Then, after an infinite time, she saw a tiny dot far away on the road, a wagon approaching Knighton.
She wanted to run outside, to meet that wagon halfway, but she couldn’t. She had to feign an illness, so she couldn’t go running down the road, but she couldn’t stay in her room as well. She went to the hall, to stand near the door.
Eventually she saw her father entering the manor, followed shortly after by Guy and Allan.
With a cry, Marian ran to hug her father, holding him tight. She looked at Guy over Sir Edward’s shoulder, and she smiled at him through tears.
“Thank you,” she mouthed, and Guy smiled back at her, then he let Allan to help him to reach his room.
Marian led her father upstairs, fussing about his health, afraid that he could have been hurt or shocked by the Sheriff’s trap. The elderly lord reassured her that he was perfectly fine, just a bit tired, and she went back downstairs only when Sir Edward decided to go to bed to rest.
The girl came back into the hall, hoping to talk to Guy, to properly thank him for what he had done, but she found only Allan, sitting in front of the fireplace and helping himself from a tray of food.
“He went straight to bed, he was exhausted. Hey, where are you going?” He added, seeing that Marian was heading to Guy’s room.
“I just want to see him for a moment, if he’s asleep I won’t wake him up.”
The girl pushed the door and entered Guy’s room. The knight was lying on the bed, fast asleep and still dressed: he had only removed his boots before falling asleep.
Marian smiled as she went closer to the bed. She touched his face in a light caress, and she froze, worried: he was too hot, burning with fever!
She shook him gently, to wake him up and give him some of the remedies that Matilda used to lower fevers, but Guy didn’t stir at all.
Frightened, Marian ran out of the room.
“Allan! Allan! Run! Go and call Matilda!”
Marian walked back and forth, in front of the door of Guy’s room, more nervous and afraid with every step. When the door finally opened, she almost jumped.
Matilda came out of the room, and Marian ran to her.
“How is he?! Is it a serious illness?!”
The healer looked at the girl.
“He’s not ill. You forced Allan to come to my hut in the middle of the night for no reason. You scared me, my child, but luckily it was for nothing.”
Marian shook her head, still afraid and close to tears.
“How can it be? He’s too hot, and I couldn’t wake him up!”
The healer smiled to her.
“He has a fever, it’s true, but he just need to rest and sleep as long as he needs to. In a couple of days he’ll be as good as new.”
“Are you sure?”
Matilda patted her cheek.
“Am I ever wrong? He’s been a fool to overexert himself so much, but from what I could see today, he wasn’t the only one.”
Marian didn’t understand.
“What do you mean? Who else is a fool?”
“Robin. I’ve been to the camp earlier, and he’s in no better shape than Guy. They fought with each other and God knows how much energy they wasted doing that, then add all the excitement in Nottingham, and the effort of running, fighting and riding. No wonder that they are both half dead, now. But they will survive, don’t worry. Silly, donkey headed young men like them are strong and they’ll recover very soon.”
Marian smiled at her description, and the healer smiled back.
“Go to bed, my child, you had enough excitement for today too, and then you are the one who must feign an illness. Don’t worry, I’ll stay with him until he feels better. And don’t worry for Robin either, the saracen girl will take good care of him.”
The girl nodded, and she stifled a yawn. Matilda was right, she was tired, but now she also felt reassured after talking to the healer.
“Can I see him for a moment?”
Matilda nodded, and Marian entered in Guy’s room.
For a moment she had the impression of being back in time, when Guy was injured and ailing, and she didn’t know if he would survive.
She walked to the bed, looking at his pale face and fearing that he could be so sick again, despite Matilda’s words.
Guy was deeply asleep, but his dreams had to be troubled because he was frowning in his sleep.
Marian knelt near the bed, so that her face was close to Guy’s, and she combed his hair with her fingers in a tender gesture.
She had been wrong to think that he could be as ill as he had been after the accident. Maybe he was unwell now, but he was strong, he was the brave knight who took her beloved father safely home.
He was the man she loved.
“I love you,” she whispered, regretting that she hadn’t the courage to say it aloud when he could hear her, then she pressed her lips to his forehead. “I love you so much.” She repeated, blushing, then she stood up, and she rushed out of the room.