Chapter 1: He's Crying!
Sir Malcolm put a hand on Robin’s shoulder. They were both looking at Guy, who was sitting under a tree with his face buried in his hands.
“You should go to him, Robin. I think he needs a friend now.”
“He doesn’t like me. We’re not friends.”
“Maybe you had your disagreements in the past, but you should try to put them apart. Guy is a good boy, I’m sure that you could get along if you try.”
Robin looked at his father, worried.
“But what could I say to him? He’s crying!”
“His father just died, Robin.”
“Never speak like that about Sir Rodger, and never in front of Guy and Isabella! Their father was a war hero and a good man, it’s not his fault if he got ill.”
“How do you know that he died? He was banished...”
“Ghislaine went to see him at the leper camp. He took a turn for the worse a few days ago and he passed away.”
Robin nodded, glancing at Guy again.
“What could I say to him?”
Sir Malcolm sighed.
“Try to imagine how would you feel if you were in his place. What would you want to hear, then?”
Robin stopped to think. The idea of losing his own father was horrible and he felt sad for Guy.
“I don’t know. But I could just go and sit near him, so he’ll know that he’s not alone.”
Chapter 2: Her Face in the Mirror
Isabella grabbed the sleeve of Guy’s tunic, but she didn’t talk. They walked home in silence after spending the day playing by the river with the other children of the village. Neither of them really wanted to go, but Ghislaine told Guy that Isabella needed to be with kids of her age and try to forget her sadness for a while.
It didn’t go very well. The other children never really liked them, less than ever now that their father was dead as a leper.
Guy spent the day apart from the others, sitting on the grass and watching Isabella. His sister tried to play with the other girls, but they ended up teasing her and being mean to her until Isabella burst up in tears and Guy ran to help her, yelling at the other girls to let her be.
The other kids didn’t like his interference and promptly came to defend their sisters.
The scuffle left Guy with a few bruises, a ripped tunic and a sad, burning resentment against the other kids.
Isabella walked at his side, dragging her feet and silently weeping, and Guy didn’t know how to cheer her up when he was feeling so heartbroken himself.
The little girl stopped suddenly, and Guy turned his head to look at her. Isabella was pale and she looked at him with her eyes full of tears.
“I feel sick, Guy...” She whispered.
“Do you want to sit down?”
Isabella covered her mouth with a hand and ran behind a bush at the side of the road. Guy didn’t move for a moment, then rushed to help her.
Robin looked at the sticks on the ground, searching for the ones that he could make into arrows. It was a warm day and the other kids of the village went to play by the river, but he preferred to walk to the edges of the forest and practice with his bow.
He was walking back home when he spotted the Gisborne kids, at the side of the road. The younger girl, Isabella, was sitting on a rock and she was sobbing, while her brother was caressing her back, trying to comfort her.
They both looked sad and miserable, and for a moment Robin thought that he could go home by another road and pretend he hadn’t seen them.
Isabella sobbed loudly, and Robin sighed. His father taught him that he always should try to help people, if he could.
He walked to reach Guy and Isabella.
“Hello, Guy! What happened to her?”
Guy looked at Robin, frowning, and wondering if he was there to make fun of them. This time, though, Robin looked sincerely concerned.
“She threw up,” Guy answered. “Some girls at the river were cruel with her and she was really upset. She is always quiet and she hides her feelings well, but when it becomes too much, she feels sick.”
Guy touched his sister’s forehead with a hand, and sighed.
“It happened quite a lot in the last few weeks.”
Robin nodded, serious for once.
“Can she walk?”
The girl whined.
“Papa took me in his arms when I was sick and he took me to bed. I want papa, Guy! Why did he come back only to die?!”
Guy closed his eyes for a moment, to stop the tears. That was a question that was burning his soul and his mind. They had missed their father for years when he went to war, they believed him dead and mourned him, then he came back only to die a few months later, just when they had begun to get used to his return.
It was unfair, a cruel joke of the fate, but Guy had to be strong.
He was the man of his family now.
He kissed Isabella’s brow.
“I can’t take you in my arms, but I can carry you on my shoulders. Would it be good enough?”
The girl nodded weakly. She was a year older than Robin, probably too old to be carried like that, but grief made her wish to be a little girl again, to go back to the time when their family was happy.
She climbed on her brother’s shoulders and closed her eyes, weak and still a little sick.
“Could you carry her basket?” Guy asked to Robin, and the younger boy nodded, putting the bow on his shoulders to have his hands free.
They walked in silence for a while. Isabella had fallen asleep, and Robin glanced at her, wondering if she was feeling better.
Guy gave him a little, sad smile.
Robin smiled him back, a little embarrassed. In the past he too made fun of Gisborne, but after Sir Rodger’s death, he hadn’t dared anymore. And Sir Malcolm, just a few days ago, talked to him about an important matter, explaining him another reason to be kind to Guy and Isabella.
“It’s nothing. And I guess that we should better get along,” he added, reluctantly.
“So your father told you, at last,” Guy said, with a little smirk.
“I saw them together a few months ago, when we still believed that our father was dead at war.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“What for? Do you really think that it would make a difference? They’re going to be married anyways and there’s nothing that we can do. We can just hope that this wedding is a good thing.”
Robin shook his head.
“I thought that my father only loved my mother.”
“And I thought the same about my parents. But my father and your mother are dead, so maman and Sir Malcolm can marry if that’s what they want.”
Robin looked at Isabella: the girl was still pale.
“Is that why she’s sick? She’s upset because of the wedding?”
“Yes, I think that’s one of the reasons. But mostly she misses father. She was little when he went to war, but she loved him so much and she had never forgotten him during the years he had been away. She was so happy when he came back...”
“Do you miss him too?”
Guy nodded, sadly, trying to hide his emotions.
“I wish I could remember my mother’s face,” Robin said in a whisper.
“I think that you could find it in a mirror. You look nothing like your father, so you must look like her.”
Robin touched his face: he had never thought about it and he didn’t know if Guy was right, but he understood that the older boy was trying to be gentle and comfort him.
Once he used to laugh at Guy because he was a stranger, a half-french who wasn’t born in his village, but now he was beginning to realize that if their parents got married, they were going to be a sort of brothers.
He didn’t like the idea very much, and he was sure that Guy and Isabella didn’t like it either, but they had no choices but accept their parents decisions and trying to make the best of them.
Chapter 3: Stronger Together
The shadow of the woods was fresh and welcoming, like a green roof over their heads. Robin looked up, with a little smile: he loved that place, it felt like home, almost more than Locksley Manor.
He thought to his house, and wondered how his life would change after the wedding.
He and Guy would share a room, while Isabella would get another one, while Lady Ghislaine would take his mother’s place at Malcolm’s side.
Robin sighed. He didn’t want that. He wanted his mother back, or at least to know that his father was keeping her memory in his heart like a sacred relic. But Guy was right, there was nothing that he, Robin or Isabella could do about it, and they ought to be happy that their parents could find love and happiness again after losing so much.
He glanced at Guy, who was standing at Isabella’s side, all serious and quiet.
He’s going to be my brother. And she my little sister.
Robin found the idea so strange, that he couldn’t say if he liked it or not. He had always been a sociable kid, always trying to get the attention and the love of everyone, but he never had a real family, except for his father.
Isabella was a shy, sweet creature, and Robin felt a sudden tenderness for her, remembering the scene of a few days ago, when she had been so upset that she had been sick. Guy was always protecting her, and Robin felt that now it was his duty too.
He didn’t dislike the idea. She was a year older than him, but hes couldn’t help thinking of her as a little sister.
While Robin was looking at the little girl, Guy turned and met his eyes. The older boy gave a small, sad smile at him, as if he had read his thoughts, then they both turned to look at their parents who were getting married.
Malcolm put a ring around Ghislaine finger.
It was done. The two adults where husband and wife, and now Robin had two siblings.
Guy sat on the grass, eating a little cake and watching at the villagers of both Locksley and Gisborne: everyone was happy, dancing and eating, glad that the lord and the lady of both villages united in holy wedding.
Guy was still suffering for his father, wishing that his mother didn’t have the need to marry again so soon, and that their family could be the same it was before his father went away to war. But he couldn’t be angry or too sad when his mother was smiling again after months and months of sadness.
Deep inside he felt some resentment towards her, thinking that she shouldn’t be so merry when her first husband was dead and buried, but he couldn’t help feeling some relief too.
It was over.
His father was dead, the uncertainty ended. He was no more at war, or sick, and Guy could stop worrying. The worst had happened, and there was nothing that he could do about it.
It was sad, heartbreaking, but he felt also as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
Now that Malcolm had married his mother, Guy was no more the only man of the house.
He was just a kid again, with the only duty to grow up and train to become the heir of Gisborne and a brave knight like his father, in time.
Robin reached him, and came to sit at his side. He was holding a honeyed cake in each hand, and he gave one to Guy.
“Father told me to bring one of these to you.”
Guy nodded to him.
Robin munched on his cake, silent for once, and Guy looked at him. He never liked when he used to show off, but the younger kid now looked troubled exactly as he was.
Guy thought that maybe Robin wasn’t always so sure of himself as he wanted to show.
He’s just a kid. My younger brother, now.
“Where is your bow? I’ve rarely seen you without it.”
Robin sighed, clearly unhappy.
“My father forbid me to take it. He said that he doesn’t want to risk accidents during his wedding day.”
“He had a point.”
“I’m the best shot of the village, you should know by now!”
“It’s still not safe to carry a weapon when there are so many little kids running around.” Guy paused for a moment, then he smiled. “But Sir Malcolm wouldn’t object if you use your bow in the forest, would he?”
Robin looked at him, with a bright smile.
“Oh, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind! That’s a good idea!”
He jumped to his feet, ready to run home and take his bow, but he stopped and turned back to look at Guy.
“Do you want to come with me? I could teach you some tricks, so you could become a better shot.”
Guy rolled his eyes, Robin was being a show off again. He was tempted to refuse, then he realized that Robin had asked him to go and play with him, without being forced by his father.
It wasn’t something that happened often.
For a moment Guy thought that he couldn’t go, that he had to take care of his mother and his sister, but he realized another thing: he didn’t have to.
Ghislaine was with Malcolm, and Isabella was sitting near their mother, with flowers in her hair, looking at the show of the jester and laughing. She didn’t need him, now. Nobody needed him to be the man of the house.
Guy felt free for the first time since his father left to go to the war, many years ago.
It didn’t matter if Robin was being the usual cheeky show off, he was free to go and play in the forest, to spend the rest of the afternoon just having fun.
He smiled back at Robin.
“Yes, I’d like to. And I’ll take a couple of wooden swords from home before we go, so we can play with them too.”
“But it’s not fair, you’re taller and stronger than me! You’d surely win in a sword fight!” Robin complained.
“And you are a better shot than me. Maybe we can learn something from each other.”
Robin looked at him, in awe. Instead of competing, they could use their differences to improve themselves.
“So we’d both become stronger!”
Guy smiled at him.
“It’s a good idea to cooperate if we have to be on the same side, don’t you think?”
Robin nodded. Being family with Guy wasn’t so bad after all.
“I will show you all the special places of the forest where you can find wild apples and sweet berries. But you must promise you won’t tell anyone or the other kids will eat them all.”
“I promise,” Guy said, solemnly. “And I’ll teach you to recognize the herbs. Maman taught me which ones are useful to treat the little wounds and how to use them.”
Robin held his hand out to Guy, with an open, sincere smile.
“We have a deal, then!” He said, and Guy took his hand.
“Yes, we have. Now let’s go to play!”
“The last one to arrive to Locksley Manor is a donkey!” Robin yelled, beginning to run, and Guy followed him immediately.
“Hey, it’s not fair!” Guy’s voice was menacing, but his expression was amused while he raced with Robin, enjoying that run.
They were rivals, they were friends, they were family, sort of.
But mainly they were just two kids who were having fun playing together.
Chapter 4: Brothers
Guy woke up and rubbed his eyes, still sleepy. It was still dark, and he could hear Robin lightly snoring. For a moment he was tempted to go back to sleep, wrapped in his warm blanket, but he couldn’t. With a sigh, he got up and searched for the chamberpot under the bed.
A mumble came from Robin’s bed.
“What are you doing?”
“Need to pee.”
“You could have been quieter, you woke me up,” Robin complained.
“You always wake me up when you snore,” Guy answered, with a smirk.
The younger boy shook his head.
“I don’t snore!”
Guy pushed the chamberpot back under the bed and he went to wash his hands in the basin.
“You do, you do, I wish you could hear yourself.”
Robin stuck his tongue at him, even if in the darkness Guy couldn’t see him, then he closed his eyes again.
He opened them back just after a moment, and he hurried to get up.
Guy was standing near the window, looking out, and he turned to glance at him.
“I need to pee, too. Your fault, I didn’t a moment ago.”
Guy shook his head, with a smile. After a while, Robin reached him at the window.
“What are you looking at?”
“At the village. It’s so quiet at night.”
“They are all sleeping, and so should we.”
The boy walked to his bed, but Guy called at him.
“Hey, wash your hands.”
“Maman says that you should always do it before eating and after using the chamberpot.”
Robin looked at him, a little irked.
“Your mother always sets a lot of boring rules.”
“Well, maybe your father should do it too,” Guy replied.
The younger boy glared at Guy. Most of the time they got along decently enough, but there were still moments when he wished that their parents never got married.
Now Robin was annoyed, and he wanted to spite Guy too.
“What’s the use of washing your hands when you wet the bed? Is it true that you did it until you were twelve?” He asked, teasing him, and Guy turned to look at him, angered.
“Mind your own business!” He growled, pushing past him to leave the room, and Robin was surprised to see him go away.
He felt a pang of guilt, knowing that he had been cruel without a true reason. When Guy pushed him to the side, he looked to be really upset. Robin couldn't be sure of that, because the light of the moon wasn’t bright enough to see well, but he thought that he had seen tears in Guy’s eyes.
He blushed. When Isabella told him about her brother’s ‘accidents’, they both laughed about it, but Robin was beginning to realize that it must have been really humiliating for Guy.
I am ten, and I think I’d die of embarrassment if it should happen to me now...
With a sigh, he took a blanket and wrapped it around his shoulders: the night was still cold. He thought that Guy went out of the room barefooted, and he felt even more guilty.
I guess that I should better apologize.
Robin tiptoed down the stairs, holding his breath. His father and lady Ghislaine were sleeping, and there weren’t servants around, but he was afraid that somebody could hear him.
If he were caught wandering in the middle of the night, he’d be surely punished, and Guy too. He wasn’t afraid of being whipped or spanked, but he knew that Guy would be mad at him if he should get the same punishment for his fault, and Robin already felt guilty enough.
He opened the back door of the house, and he slipped outside, heading for the stables.
As he had imagined, Guy was there, standing in front of his favorite horse, and scratching his muzzle.
Robin approached him, quietly.
“I knew I’d find you here. When you’re upset, you always come here.”
Guy averted his face to avoid looking at him.
“What do you want? Go away.”
Robin sighed: it wasn’t going to be easy.
He handed a blanket to Guy, but the other boy didn’t even look at it.
Robin cleared his voice.
“Hey, Guy… I’m sorry. Really. I shouldn’t have said those things.”
Guy gave a quick, hostile glance at him.
“You don’t need to apologize, I’m not going to tell your father, so you can spare your words,” he said, bitterly.
“That’s not why I did it! I am really sorry, I have been mean,” Robin replied, honestly.
“As if I don’t know what you think of me!”
The younger boy was confused.
“You think that I’m boring, that I’m a coward, that I’m never good enough for your crazy games, even if I’m older than you. And now you have another reason to make fun of me.”
Robin stared at him, shocked to see how hurt Guy looked. It was true that he had enjoyed teasing him when he refused to join him in some foolish adventure, but he had never meant to make him suffer. He had never really thought that words could hurt as deeply as a sword.
“Maybe sometimes I think that you are boring and not brave enough, but probably it isn’t a bad thing, after all. Last month you refused to secretly try father’s new horse, saying that he looked too wild to be trusted...”
Guy glanced at him.
“You did it anyways, didn’t you?”
“Yes, and I should have listened to you, I almost broke my neck. I had a bruise on my backside for weeks, after that. See, Guy? I might have called you boring, but you were just being wiser than me. I know that often I am reckless and cheeky, and I always end up in troubles. Sometimes I wish that I could be more like you.”
“You’re teasing me, now.”
“No! I swear I’m not!”
“You shouldn’t swear,” Guy said, and sighed, seeing that Robin was rolling his eyes.
“Well, I promise, then,” Robin said, with a grin. “I won’t tease you ever again.”
“I don’t believe you,” Guy answered, but he smiled back at him.
“Alright, maybe sometimes I will tease you, but remember that it’s just another one of my silly games: I’d never hurt my brother willingly.”
“Brother? Do you regard me as your brother?”
“Well, sort of. Don’t you?”
“Well, you are as annoying as Isabella when she was little and pestered me to play with her dolls, I have to share a room with you and listen to your snores, and we find some reason to fight every other day... I guess I might think of you as a brother as well.”
The younger boy laughed.
“Love you too, brother. So, are you taking this blanket or do you prefer to freeze to death?”
Guy took it, and wrapped it around his shoulders.
The two boys slipped back to their room, feeling a little closer after that fight.
Robin buried himself under the thick blankets on his bed, shivering, and Guy did the same, but he didn’t feel cold at all.
Robin words had hurt him, it was true, but then the boy went to search for him, to apologize, because he cared for him.
Guy smiled, listening to Robin’s breath slowing down while the boy was falling asleep, and he thought that, after all, he didn’t mind to share a room with him.
“Guy?” Robin’s sleepy voice called.
“Let me swear just once: I swear that I’ll never tell the other kids about your bed-wetting. Isabella told me, but we are brothers, it doesn’t matter. And I’ll never make fun of you again for this, I promise.”
Guy didn’t know what to answer, but after all he didn’t have to: after a little while, Robin began to snore, and Guy closed his eyes too.
Guy and Robin looked at the last slice of bread covered with honey, and they both moved a hand to take it.
“You already had two!” Guy said.
“But I need it! You’re always so quiet, while I run a lot!”
“I need it too! I’m growing up, maman says that I could get as tall as my father!”
They kept quarreling for a while, then at last they agreed to cut it in half the bread and share it, but when they went to take it, the dish was empty, while Isabella, on the other side of the table, was chewing it, and grinning at them.
“Too late, boys.”
Guy and Robin stared at her for a moment, then they both began complaining at the same time, while Isabella laughed.
They were still arguing, when Sir Malcolm and Ghislaine reached them into the hall.
“So early in the morning, and already so loud,” Malcolm said, and the kids went silent, looking at him.
They were all a little wary, wondering if the man was going to scold them, but Sir Malcolm was amused by their childish quarrel, and sincerely happy to see his family gathered around the table.
He smiled at Ghislaine, still amazed that they could fulfill their love, and looked fondly at Guy, Isabella, and Robin. He was glad that after almost a year from it, they all had accepted their wedding, and that they got along well, almost like real siblings.
This made everything easier.
“Were you fighting for some treat, again? Kids, you are always hungry like little wolves,” he said with a laugh, “But don’t worry, you will soon have the chance to eat as much as you can, and have fun.”
“Why, father? Are you taking us to a fair?” Robin asked, curious.
“No, we will have a banquet here in Locksley to celebrate the birth of your new brother or sister.”
Guy looked at his mother, questioning her with his eyes, and Ghislaine nodded, sweetly.
“Yes, we are going to have a child soon.”
“When?” Guy asked.
Isabella was staring at her mother, her mouth open.
“In about a month.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
“I was afraid. I never told you because you were too little, but in the last few years before Rodger left for the war, I had been with child twice. I lost both of them in the earlier months, so I wanted to be sure, this time.”
Guy looked at her, worried.
“And this time are you well, maman?”
Ghislaine smiled at her son, moved. Guy was always protective with the persons he loved, and she felt the first pang of jealousy thinking that he was getting near the age when he would fall in love with some girl.
He will be a man sooner that I’d like.
“I couldn’t feel better,” she reassured him. “Are you happy that you will have a new brother?”
Guy smirked, glancing at Robin.
“Well, he won’t be worse than him. If I got used to Rob, I could like this new one.”
Robin stuck his tongue at him, but they both laughed.
“I just hope that it will be a baby girl...”
“What about you, Robin?” Sir Malcolm asked, and the boy looked at his father.
He felt jealous, but he thought that at the beginning he didn’t like the idea of sharing him with Guy and Isabella, but he didn’t mind now. He knew that he would accept and love this new baby too, in time.
“Well, he will never be a better shot than me,” he boasted, then he looked at Guy. “By the way, want to come and train with the bow?”
“Sure,” Guy answered, following him.
The two boys went outside, Isabella followed them claiming that she wanted to try too, and Malcolm and Ghislaine smiled at each other, happily.
Chapter 5: Archer
Robin and Isabella were sitting on the floor, near the fireplace, playing a game of riddles, while Guy paced the room, up and down.
Robin looked at him, a little annoyed.
“Will you ever stop?”
“Guy, come here and play with us,” Isabella said in a sweeter tone, looking fondly at her brother.
Guy dropped on the floor near them, and sighed.
“How can you play?” He asked, dejectedly.
They all kept silent, hearing a scream of pain coming from upstairs. Guy buried his face in his hands, trembling.
Isabella got closer to him, put an arm around his waist, and leaned her head on his shoulder.
“She will be alright,” she said, but her voice trembled too.
Robin looked at them: he was worried too, but for them it was different, it was their mother who was risking her life in childbirth. He knew how it felt to grow up without a mother and he sincerely prayed for Ghislaine to give birth soon and to be well.
Robin liked Guy’s mother, she was a sweet and wise woman, and she gave her love to him too, but she had never asked him to call her ‘mother’ or tried to take the place of his real mother.
Sir Malcolm arrived from outside: he had been away from the manor when Ghislaine’s labor started. The man was worried and pale, and Robin understood that his father was really in love with her, as much as he had been with his mother.
He felt a sudden jealousy, a secret wish that his father had never met Ghislaine, and he immediately felt guilty for those feelings. How could he have those thoughts when she was suffering so much?
Unexpectedly, he felt like crying. He was scared and he didn’t want to see Guy and Isabella being so fearful and worried.
“Father...” Robin whispered, trying to hold back the tears.
Sir Malcolm crouched on the floor, near the three children, and he put a hand on Guy’s shoulder, caressing Robin’s and Isabella’s heads with the other.
“I called the best midwife of the County, she will be fine.”
“It’s too early,” Guy said, worried.
“Just two weeks,” Malcolm replied, trying to sound sure. In fact, he was frightened, even more than the children, but he was trying to reassure them.
He had never said to Robin that his mother had died trying to give birth to his brother: when it had happened, Robin was too young to understand, and, later, Malcolm didn’t say anything on that subject to avoid awakening that sorrow again.
“Did you have something to eat?” Malcolm asked, and the children shook their heads. “Come, then.”
They sat at the table, and Malcolm called Thornton, ordering him to bring some food. The servant came back after a while with cheese, bread, cold meat and some fruit.
Robin and Isabella immediately began to eat, while both Guy and Sir Malcolm just put some food in their dishes, but they couldn’t find the appetite to taste it.
The man wished that he could find the right words to reassure the boy, but at fourteen years old, Guy was too old to believe that everything would go well just because an adult said so. Giving birth was always a risk, and they were both well aware of that.
Suddenly, a different kind of scream came from upstairs: the cry of a baby!
“He’s born!” Guy whispered.
“Why do you say ‘he’? It could be a girl!” Isabella complained. “I already have two brothers, I’d prefer a baby sister.”
“I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, as long as maman and the baby are both well,” Guy answered.
A moment later, one of the maid came downstairs smiling.
“My lord, Lady Ghislaine gave birth to a healthy boy,” she said to Malcolm, with a little bow, “just give us some time to tidy up the room, and then you can come to see mother and child.”
Robin yawned and sat at the table, picking a slice of bread.
“Does he have to cry so much? He keeps waking us up!”
Ghislaine smiled at him.
“Archer is just one month old, when they are so little, babies cry a lot,” she explained. “It’s their only way to tell us that they need something.”
“Isabella needed a lot of things when she was little, then,” Guy commented, “she was always crying, much more than Archer.”
His sister stuck her tongue at him, and Robin grinned.
“When he’ll be older, I’ll teach him how to use a bow. I bet that in a couple of years he’ll became a better shot than Guy.”
“Very funny,” Guy growled.
“Guy will teach him how to ride and how to use a sword,” Sir Malcolm intervened. “By the way, Robin, you should train more with the sword too.”
“But I prefer using the bow!”
“You talk like that because you know that I can beat you with a sword,” Guy said, with a smirk.
“And you will never shoot better than me.”
Isabella rolled her eyes, uninterested, but Ghislaine looked at the two boys, with serious eyes.
“Someday you’ll both become knights and I’m sure that you will be brave and strong, but there is something that you must never forget. Now you enjoy challenging each other with the sword or with a bow, but always remember where your heart is. Maybe one of you can be better than the other in a certain skill, you can compete to be the best and improve yourselves, but never let this create jealousy or hatred between you. I hope that you will love each other like true brothers, and that you will use your abilities to protect your family.”
Archer began to cry, and Ghislaine took him from his cradle to lull him to sleep.
“Maman, can I hold him?” Guy asked, and Ghislaine put the baby in his arms. Archer calmed down almost immediately, and Guy smiled at him, then he glanced at Isabella.
“I remember when you were so little… But you weren’t so quiet.”
Robin moved his chair closer to Guy, to look at the baby too. He was always surprised to see how easily Guy could deal with Archer: he knew how to hold him, what to do to soothe his cries, while Robin was always afraid to hurt or to frighten him.
Later that day, Robin was playing with Guy in the forest, and they were training with the bow.
Guy’s arrow went close to the target, and for once, Robin aimed his arrow so that his shot wasn’t much better than Guy’s one.
“You don’t have to let me win, you know?” Guy said, frowning, and Robin shrugged with a cheeky smile.
“Sorry. But you actually improved.”
Guy sighed, with a little smile.
“Well, I know that I’ll never be a good shot like you.”
“You have other talents. By the way, how can you be so good with Archer?”
“What do you mean?”
“You always know what to do with him, how to lull him, you understand if he’s hungry or wet...”
Guy nocked an arrow, pulled the rope of the bow, then he shot, getting a little closer to the target, this time.
“That’s because I remember what maman did with Isabella when she was little. I was little too, but I remember her at Archer’s age.”
“I never had brothers or sisters...” Robin said, with a sigh.
“Well, you have one now, you’ll learn.”
Robin looked at Guy for a moment, then he shook his head.
“No, I don’t have a brother. I have two brothers and a sister.”
Guy smiled at him.
“Just like me.”
Chapter 6: Marian
Isabella came to their room, a handful of flowers in her arms.
“Guy! Robin! Can you help me braid my hair? All the servants are busy with the banquet, and maman too.”
Robin lifted his eyebrows.
“Do you think we are maids?”
Isabella stuck her tongue at him, then she turned at her brother, hopeful.
Her brother smiled.
“Snatch some honey cakes from the kitchens and I’ll help. The cook already caught us, and she menaced to hit us with a broom if we try again.”
“So I have to be the one who gets hit by a broom?”
“You’re a girl, she won’t complain too much.”
Isabella sat on Guy’s bed while her brother began to fix her hair, braiding flowers in it, and she pointed a finger at Robin.
“No cakes for you,” she said, serious, and Guy chuckled.
Robin went at the window to look at the servants, who were decorating the village with his father’s colors. The villagers were coming, eager to celebrate the new son of their lord, but actually to eat a free meal.
“Father invited all the nobles of the County, he said that he invited the new Sheriff of Nottingham as well,” Robin said, and Guy and Isabella joined him at the window to see if they could recognize some of the guests.
“Do you think he will come?” Isabella asked, impressed.
“I don’t know, maybe,” Robin answered. “Do you know anything about him, Guy?”
“I think I heard maman say that he lost his wife recently and that he only has a daughter, a little girl.”
“Oh, poor child,” Isabella said, “how old is she?”
“Six or seven, I think.”
The girl sighed.
“She’ll be so sad if her mother just died...”
The two boys nodded, gravely.
“We should try to cheer her up,” Guy said. “Of course we can’t hope to take away her sorrow, but we can try to be kind to her, to comfort her a little.”
Robin agreed, serious.
“For once, you had a good idea, brother.”
The little girl was holding her father’s hand, her dark curls loose on her shoulders, her eyes sad and empty, and Guy, Robin and Isabella immediately understood that they were the Sheriff and his daughter even before Sir Malcolm introduced them.
“Sir Edward, these are our older children; Guy, Robin, Isabella, meet the Sheriff of Nottingham and his daughter Marian.”
The three children politely greeted the guests, then they quietly stood near their parents. Malcolm and Ghislaine gave them a surprised glance because, for once, they weren’t fighting or teasing each other.
The Sheriff went near Archer’s crib to look at the baby, and Marian followed him, then Sir Edward withdraw his hand, and gently pushed Marian to go outside and reach the other children.
The little girl obeyed, but she didn’t join the other children’s games, she just stood there, looking at the villagers.
A moment later, she realized that she wasn’t alone, and she shyly glanced at the three kids who had followed her.
One of them was older than the others, serious, dark and tall, and she thought that he scared her a little. The other boy was younger, his expression open and friendly, and he gave her a cheeky smile, while the girl was close in age to her younger brother, but she had a stronger resemblance with the older one.
She was the one who talked.
“Hi, Marian. I’m Isabella, and these are my brothers Guy and Robin. Do you want to play with us?”
Marian looked at them and shook her head.
Once, she would have been happy to make new friends, but now she just didn’t care. She could only think of her mother, the warmth of her arms, the sweet voice that lulled her at night when she was afraid of the darkness. Her mother who wasn’t there anymore and who would never be at her side again…
She let her gaze wander on the people of the village, looking at the mothers with their children, and her eyes filled with fresh tears.
Robin, Guy, and Isabella exchanged a worried look, then Robin said the first thing that came to his mind, trying to divert her attention from her sadness.
“Hey, look what I can do!” He said, then he tried to stand on his hands.
Marian looked at him for a moment, then she burst up in tears, she pushed him with rage, making him fall and land on his back, and she ran away, crying.
Isabella rolled her eyes at Robin.
“Idiot,” she said, and the boy gave her a hurt look.
“I was just trying to cheer her up!”
“By showing off?” Isabella sighed, giving a hand to Robin to help him to his feet.
“At least I tried. I didn’t know what to do! You have seen her! She was about to cry!”
“And you made her cry even more.”
“I didn’t want to!” Robin said, and they both sighed, then Isabella looked around.
“Robin? Where is Guy?”
Marian climbed a tree, seeking refuge on its branches. She wanted to cry all her tears, but she didn’t want anyone to see her. Her father would disapprove her behavior, she knew perfectly well that running away and climbing trees wasn’t proper for a girl, but she couldn’t help, she wanted to stay there, alone.
She wanted her mum.
Suddenly, she was startled by the sound of rustling leaves, and a moment after, the tall boy, Guy, climbed on her branch.
She almost lose her balance, but the boy grabbed her arm, and steadied her.
“Go away!” She cried, still weeping, but Guy didn’t move.
“You should get down, it’s dangerous...” He said, quietly.
“Why, because I’m a girl?”
Guy shook his head.
“No, because this tree is very tall.”
Marian didn’t answer, and Guy said nothing else, so they just sat there, in silence. The girl dried her tears with the sleeve of her dress, because she didn’t want to cry in front of him.
After some time, she glanced at that tall, pensive boy. He was looking at her, and she noticed that his eyes weren’t dark like his hair, but of a deep blue.
“Leave me alone,” she said, but the boy didn’t answer immediately.
Instead, he looked at the village, at the people who were celebrating and having fun.
“I miss my father too,” he said, after a while.
“You have a father.”
“He’s Robin’s father, he married our mother last year. He’s a good man, and I like him, but my father is dead. Robin’s mother is dead, too.”
“I want my mommy. I miss her so much!”
Guy put an arm around her shoulders, and pulled her closer.
The girl wept for a while, but now the tall boy didn’t scare her anymore, in fact his presence was comforting, she felt that he understood her.
“Don’t tell my father that I cried,” she said, after a while.
“He’s always sad when he sees me crying. Mum made me promise that I’d be strong.”
“You are strong! You pushed Robin and made him fall! He landed right on his backside!”
“Oh. Now he will be mad at me!”
“No, he won’t. I think that he will like you for this. He’s such a show off, always searching for troubles and challenges... But after all he’s a good brother.”
The little girl gave him a little smile, and Guy held his hand to her.
“Do you want to go back to Locksley before they notice our absence? You can play with us, and if you don’t feel like playing, it doesn’t matter, because we all know how do you feel.”
Marian nodded, and Guy smiled at her.
“Come now, I’ll help you to get down this tree.”
“You don’t need to help me just because I’m a girl.”
“Very well, then you will be the one who helps me.”