Allan jumped from the top of the boulder, landing into the pond with a laughter.
Guy smirked, watching the younger man.
“Once you weren’t so fond of water.”
“What do you mean, Giz? That I didn’t wash enough for your liking?”
“You stank. At least until you came to work for me and I forced you to wash.”
“What could I do, Giz? You don’t have many chances to take a bath when you live in a forest.”
“I didn’t mean to upset you, Allan, and if I did I’m sorry. I was just joking.”
The outlaw came out of the pond, and looked at him in mock astonishment.
“Guy of Gisborne is apologizing to me?! Now we can be certain that the world will end soon. What next? Marian will take a fancy for embroidering and Robin will begin dressing himself in red?”
“Are you implying that I’m not womanly enough just because I enjoyed fighting?” Marian asked, appearing from behind a bush, shortly followed by Robin. “And for your information, Guy is really good at apologizing.”
“And I bet that you enjoy a lot when he does it, don’t you, Marian?” Allan asked, teasing her. “In fact you always keep reminding him what he did, just to see him going all teary and emotional.”
The girl frowned.
“I don’t! And anyways he killed me, I can have a little vengeance on him, don’t you think?”
Guy sighed, sad.
“It’s true, Allan. I deserve far worse than this, I’ll never forgive myself for what I did.”
Marian planted a kiss on his cheek.
“Well, it’s good that I forgave you, then. And if sometimes I’m a little mean at you, don’t feel hurt, I just think that you are sweet when you look so repentant and sensitive.”
“Hey, should I be jealous?” Robin asked, with a cheeky grin.
“Don’t be silly, my love, we are over jealousy, now. And I know that you care for Guy as much as I do. Maybe I should be the jealous one. He killed me, and you considered him like a brother,” she said, with a fake pout.
Robin laughed and hugged both her and Guy, one with each arm, pulling them near to him.
“Well, we almost are, after all. We share one! A brother, I mean.”
Allan rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, all those good feelings, and you left me to die alone.”
Both Guy and Robin gave him a guilty look.
“I’m sorry, Allan, I shouldn’t have doubted your word,” Robin said.
“And I should have supported you...” Guy added.
Allan burst out in a laugh.
“Hey, Marian, it’s true! It’s fun! They look so adorable when they feel guilty! Like two overgrown sad puppies!”
“You were teasing us!” Robin yelled, exchanging a look with Guy, and the two men jumped on Allan, pushing him into the pond again, and falling in the water with him.
“Too bad that water can’t wet us anymore, you’d look so funny now, all soaked.”
Guy looked at her, and smiled.
“Well, water can’t touch us, but we can look in any way we want.”
He winked to Marian and the girl laughed to see him dripping wet.
Just a moment after, he looked dry again, and Marian smiled, sincerely amused.
The four of them gave their backs to the pond and took the road again.
“Are you sure this is the right way?” Guy asked after a while, and Robin scoffed.
“Are you insinuating that I don’t remember the way to the camp?”
“I’m just saying that you don’t look so sure.”
“Do you think that you can remember it better than me? And we are dead, memory can’t be an issue with us. We can’t really forget things, can we?”
“Sometimes I wish we could.” Guy sighed and Marian patted his back, sympathetically.
“It’s all far away, in the past,” she consoled him, sweetly, “it doesn’t matter anymore.”
“Thank you. But sometimes I can’t help wondering if he’s like us.”
The other three didn’t ask who he was talking about.
The man who ruined the lives of them all.
“It doesn’t matter, either,” Robin said, showing a confidence that he didn’t actually feel, “We are together and he’s not here. Maybe his black soul haunts the ruins of the castle, but he won’t come into the forest, and he can’t hurt us anymore. We’re safe.”
Robin lifted a hand, as to brush the foliage of the trees, but his touch couldn’t move a single leaf.
Walking, they had arrived at the camp, but it was empty, abandoned, a shadow of the place it had once been.
“They’re not here...”
Robin looked around, crestfallen, and the other three gathered around him, to offer some comfort.
“It could be a good sign, actually,” Marian said, “if they are not here, it could mean that they don’t have to hide anymore, that there is peace in the county.”
“If they were dead, we would know,” Guy added.
“If you want to be sure, we just have to go to Locksley.” Marian continued, and Allan glanced at them.
“Please, don’t say that you want to walk till there!”
“Ghosts don’t get tired, Allan.”
“I know, Giz, but it’s boring.”
“You didn’t seem bored at all when you jumped into the pond or when you climbed to the top of that tree.”
“Robin wasn’t sulking, then. I can’t stand to look at his worried face for all the way to Locksley.”
“We are constantly looking at your face,” Robin retorted “and I’m not sulking!”
“Well… Actually you are… a little!” Marian said with a giggle, and Robin gave a wounded look at her.
Guy grinned and reached out for Robin and Marian, holding their hands. Allan did the same on the other side and they formed a circle.
“Let’s do the thing, then, if we must.” Guy said, with a little sigh, and they all closed their eyes.
A moment later they had vanished, and appeared again in Locksley, inside the church.
Guy let the hands of his friends go, and stretched on one of the benches with a groan. Marian sat near him, and took his head on her lap, caressing his forehead.
“I think that Giz is the only ghost who gets seasick when he disappears. Except that there is no sea here and that ghosts can’t be really sick.” Allan dropped himself on another bench, ignoring Marian’s pointed look.
“You shouldn’t make fun of him, we jumped to Locksley because you didn’t want to walk.”
“I think that he just wants your cuddles,” Robin said, with a laugh, and Guy opened his eyes with a little smile.
“Could you blame me for this? You’d do exactly the same, but I really feel dizzy when we disappear like that.”
“Better?” Marian asked, happy to feel so loved by the two men.
Once, their love was ruined by their jealousy, tainted by the false believing that she could love only one of them. It was true when they were alive, but now it was different. Free from materiality, their love was now pure, innocent, and she could express her feelings to both Robin and Guy without hurting neither of them.
They were happy, she realized. In a ghastly way maybe, but happy. Death made them free.
“If you give me a kiss, I will,” Guy answered, and the girl complied, with a little laugh, brushing her lips on his forehead.
“Next time I’ll say I’m dizzy too.” Robin mumbled, and Marian laughed.
“If you want a kiss too, just ask.”
“Of course I want one!” Robin replied, with a cheeky smile, and Marian was more than happy to grant his wish.
Allan rolled his eyes.
“Sometimes I wonder why I stick with you lot.”
“Because you love us?” Guy suggested, getting back to his feet.
“Yeah, that too.” Allan admitted with a grin, “But weren’t you in a hurry to find out what happened to our friends? By the way, how much time has passed since we last saw them?”
“I don’t know.” Robin answered and they all went outside.
Locksley village was always the same, but it was different too. People weren’t afraid anymore: they worked in the fields or in their shops, but they looked healthy and well nourished. Children were playing happily, running around, while the women were washing their laundry in the pond, singing.
Robin smiled, moved.
“They are well. Once they were starving and scared, but they are not, now.”
“Look! There’s Archer!” Guy exclaimed, pointing to a man who was riding a black stallion, excited to see that their brother seemed to be well too.
“Much is with him!” Marian said, with a smile, and they all looked at him.
Robin’s former servant now was a free man, and he looked like one: he was dressed in fine clothes, and he rode at Archer’s side, on a white horse.
“They’re my horses! They survived the destruction of the castle!” Guy said with a smile, running to them. The animals sensed his presence and whinnied, as if they wanted to greet their former owner.
“Whoa, be quiet!” Archer said, patting the neck of his horse, while Much did the same. “They are nervous. I wonder why.”
“I had a strange sensation just a moment ago. Maybe they felt it too.” Much said with a shiver.
“What strange sensation?”
“I don’t know. I felt sad, but also at peace. I know that this is crazy, but I had the impression that Robin was at my side.”
“He is. You keep him in your heart. He’s always with you.”
Much’s eyes filled with tears.
“I hope he’s happy. I hope he’s with her. I miss him so much...”
Marian and Robin exchanged a glance.
“I am, my friend.” Robin whispered. “We all are. And I miss you too.”
Archer gave a pat on Much’s shoulder.
“I know, I miss them too. But come on, we have to get those supplies to Little John’s orphanage, and then we could go to Nottingham to buy that ring for your Eve. I think that it’s time that you ask her to marry you.” Archer laughed. “Well, actually she told me that if you don’t hurry to propose she’ll drag you to the altar, but then you’ll have to be the one dressed like a bride.”
“Hurry then! I don’t want to see such a horrible vision!”
Much laughed and they galloped away.
The four ghost roamed through the village for a while, looking around and finding out that after Vaisey and Isabella, Nottingham now had a just Sheriff who ruled firmly, but didn’t starve people.
They climbed the hill at the back of the village, and they sat in a place where they could overlook Locksley.
“You always liked this place.” Guy said, looking at Robin. “Even when we were kids.”
“It’s true. I always thought that from here I could watch over my people, that I could protect them.”
Marian smiled, stretching herself on the grass and putting her arms behind her head.
“Why don’t we just stay here, then?” She suggested.
“Do you think we can?” Allan asked. “I mean, shouldn’t we go to Heaven or something like that?”
“I don’t think I can go to Heaven. Not after everything I did in my life.” Guy said in a whisper.
“Don’t be silly, Gisborne. If you can’t, I can’t either, then. We all have our faults and I’m no better than you. I killed people in the Holy Land, just because I was bloodthirsty, and I dispatched many of the castle guards, even if they were just poor fellows doing their job. I liked to think that it was for a greater good, but now I have to face the truth: I have as much blood on my hands as you have on yours.”
Allan looked at them.
“I was a thief, a liar and sometimes I’ve killed too. Maybe she’s the only innocent one here,” he said, nodding at Marian.
“I have my faults too. However, I’d never leave you boys behind. You are my friends. My family. I think that your sins will be forgiven, but if you really can’t go to Heaven, I’ll stay with you.”
They sat on the grass, close to each other, looking at the village.
“Well, I’m in no hurry to find out,” Allan said, “I guess that there’s nothing wrong in hanging around for a while. Now that I’m a ghost, I can go to the tavern without paying, after all.”
“Why should a ghost go to the tavern?” Robin asked, with a half laugh.
“They have spirits?”
Guy gave him an affectionate slap on the neck.
“Idiot,” he said with a smirk, while Robin and Marian burst out in a laugh.
“So what do we do now?” Allan asked.
“We’ll stay together and we’ll watch over our friends,” Robin said, with a smile, “does it sounds so bad to you?”
The other three smiled.
“Not at all.”
“That’s what we did when you were alive.”
A sweet voice talked suddenly, so very near to them that they were all startled. Guy’s heart jumped with joy as he rose to his feet because he had never forgotten that voice.
Ghislaine pulled him in a hug, and held him close to her heart.
“I’ve always been at your side. It’s a pity that you couldn’t know.”
“I’m so sorry, mother… Isabella...”
Ghislaine shushed him with a tender kiss on his forehead.
“Don’t worry, my love, she’s with us and she is sorry too. You will see her later and you will forgive each other, as you always did when you were little.”
Guy followed his mother’s look, and he saw his father and Isabella, standing near the trees, a little far away.
He recognized Sir Edward, standing near Marian with a younger lady who Guy didn’t recognize, but who looked a lot like the girl. Her long lost mother.
Robin was with his parents too, while Allan was laughing, hugging a man a few years younger than him.
“Hey, mates, do you remember my brother Tom?!”
“Wasn’t he the one who tried to rob our house?” Marian asked, and Tom pointed a finger at Guy.
“Maybe, but he was working for the Sheriff who killed me!”
Guy averted his eyes, ashamed to meet his mother’s eyes, but then Tom burst out in a laugh, and patted him on a shoulder.
“You were right, Allan! It’s incredibly easy to make him blush. Hey, Gisborne, no bad blood between us, uh? Just wanted to have a little fun.”
Guy rolled his eyes.
“Oh well, now we have two of them, as if Allan wasn’t enough.”
The others laughed, and then even Guy smiled, amused.
“So, what do we do, now?” He asked, and Ghislaine stepped back.
“You can do whatever you want, my dear. Stay with your dead friends and watch over the living ones. We will wait for you at home.”
“At Gisborne Manor.”
“But it burned down!”
“And we are dead. The ghost of a house, for a family of ghosts. Lady Marian, you’ll be happy to see your house again as well. I know that my son was really sorry for destroying it, I hope you will forgive him for that.”
“Mother! I’m not a child anymore!” Guy blushed again, but Marian laughed, and gave him another kiss on the cheek.
“I already did. And I guess that for our parents we’ll always be little children.”
Guy, Robin and Marian looked at Allan and Tom, who were laughing and pushing each other in a mock fight.
“Well, I think that for some of us this is especially true,” Robin commented, with a grin.
Robin and Guy sat on the grass to look at the sunset, with Marian perched between them, and they looked at the golden light that tinted the village. A fresh breeze was blowing in the trees and the forest was peaceful, but the best thing was to know that all the people they cared for, living and dead, were close to them.
“Maybe you were right, Hood,” Guy said, suddenly, and Robin looked at him.
“I love to hear you saying that, but what are you talking about, Gisborne?”
“About Heaven. Maybe we’ve been really forgiven for our sins, because I couldn’t imagine a better place than this. I think that we are in Heaven.”
Marian and Robin nodded, and they sat in silence, waiting for the first stars.