Chapter 1: The Golden Hour
“I am free.”
Guy whispered those last words, and he was really free. His thoughts slid into a dark abyss, but strangely that darkness didn’t scare him anymore: that place wasn’t the cold depth of hell that he had always imagined, but a warm and welcoming darkness that promised an eternal and quiet rest.
The terror, the faults, and the sorrow that had accompanied him for the length of his life were left behind, and he was finally free.
Perhaps he wasn’t in Heaven, but he wasn’t in the Hell he had feared so much, either. Guy abandoned himself to that oblivion.
Jonathan Archer, the guardian of the castle’s museum, yawned as he entered his tiny office. He turned on the light and placed the coffee on his desk, then he opened the cabinet where he neatly kept all the keys, and took those of the underground gate.
That part of Nottingham's underground was closed to the public, and the gate prevented access to the tunnels and the rooms carved in the rock. Over the centuries, they had been used in the most disparate ways; as anti-aircraft shelters during the war, as deposits, or even as improvised houses, but for years nobody could access them, apart from scholars or groups of tourists, guided along well defined and safe routes.
The guardian drank a long sip of coffee and he wondered why the group of archaeologists that was about to arrive had felt the need to start their work so soon, when the sun had just risen.
Inside the galleries, however, time lost importance, as the sunlight didn’t reach the bottom of the tunnels. So, beginning to work an hour later would have changed nothing for them and it wouldn’t have forced him to get out of bed so early.
It doesn’t matter, I will be paid for the extra time, and, once I have escorted the archaeologists down, I can take a nap in my office before it’s time to open the castle’s museum.
He finished drinking his coffee, and finally the group of scholars arrived, with cameras, spotlights and various equipment.
Jonathan accompanied them along the galleries, paying attention to the path they had to follow to reach the place they wanted to examine. The tunnels could be confusing, like a maze, and he certainly didn’t want to risk getting lost in the galleries.
“What are you looking for?” He asked to one of the scholars, and the man looked at him, a little surprised that a somewhat simple man like him could be interested in their work.
“Frescoes and artifacts from the twelfth century. We have reason to believe that this subterranean section of the tunnels has remained intact since then. Laser scanning revealed hidden environments behind the wall and we were given permission to open a hole to explore them. Last friday the passage was finally cleared from the debris and today we can enter those rooms.”
Jonathan nodded. He had come back from his holidays the day before, after spending a few weeks with his wife and children, visiting his parents-in-law.
Compared to that forced cohabitation, waking up so early was almost pleasant, and then archaeological discoveries interested him.
He was a simple man, and he didn’t complete his studies, but culture fascinated him, and during the night shifts he had read all the books for sale in the museum gift shop, carefully, making sure he didn’t ruin them.
On one of them, about the legend of Robin Hood, he had poured coffee accidentally, so he had to buy it, but that unexpected expense didn’t disappoint him so much: he kept the book in his locker and he occasionally re-read it, letting himself to be carried in the adventures of the merry gang of outlaws.
One of the archaeologists walked in the passage that lead to the crypts, and he started to scream, frightened.
“There's a man here! He looks dead!”
The guardian hurried to follow him, worried, thinking that it had to be some homeless man who had got lost in the galleries and had died of hunger and thirst without being able to find the exit.
He walked past the frightened scholars, and he looked at the man on the floor, surprised by his appearance.
He didn’t look like a homeless, but his clothes were definitely unusual: the stranger was wearing a leather jacket, decorated with metal buckles, studs and chain mail inserts on the sleeves, leather pants, and black leather boots. At his side, an empty scabbard.
The man was lying on his back with a leg bent under him, and long, dark hair scattered over the stone floor. Beneath him there was a pool of blood and his face was deathly pale.
Jonathan found the courage to go near the stranger, kneeling on the ground beside him. He pressed his hand on the neck of the man: he couldn’t feel his heartbeat, but the skin of the man was still warm. If he had died, it must have just happened, and maybe he could still be able to revive him.
He ordered to one of the archaeologists to go back to his studio and to call for help, then he tried to remember what he had learned during the CPR training course that he had taken many years earlier, and he began to unfasten the strange jacket of the man to start the cardiac massage as soon as possible.
One of the archaeologists knelt down to help him.
"When one takes those first-aid courses, he never expects to actually use them..." He said, placing one of his hands over the forehead of the unconscious man and two fingers of the other hand underneath his chin, to tilt his head back and open the airways.
“Well, good for him that we know what to do.” The guardian said, then the two men focused on trying to resuscitate the stranger, while one of the other scholars, terrified and almost as pale as the wounded man, pressed an improvised swab on the wound on the man's abdomen.
“Doctor Track!” Jack Robinson exclaimed, offering a cup of coffee to the other man.
Alec turned and smiled at his colleague.
Jack drank from his own cup, then he helped himself, taking a donut from the cardboard box resting on the table.
“So, what do you think of Nottingham? Our hospital is quieter than London’s ones, huh?”
“Definitely. I've been here for a whole day and helicopter rescue was needed only three times.”
“And think that we are operative in two counties. Maybe you'll find this place boring, but I'm sure that your experience will help us to make our actions even more efficient. When you return to London at the end of the month, we will be able to guarantee a better service.”
Alec raised his eyebrows hearing the sound of the alarm signaling a call for helicopter rescue.
“Boring?” He asked with an ironic smile, then he turned to their other colleague who had just reached them, and became serious, starting to get ready. “What do we have?”
“A man with an abdominal injury, probably stabbed, found in the underground tunnels of Nottingham Castle. Absent vital signs, two civilians are attempting a cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”
The three doctor rushed to the helicopter and the aircraft took off.
“How long to arrival?” Alec asked.
Jonathan finished another cycle of chest compressions, and waited for the archaeologist to blow air in the wounded man's mouth before resuming his cardiac massage. He was sweaty and weary, and his arms and his shoulders ached, but he didn’t want to stop before the rescue team arrived, and none of the other scholars were able to take his place for a while. He and the other archaeologist had exchanged positions a couple of times, and they were both fatigued, but they knew that the life of the stranger could depend on their actions.
Suddenly the wounded man coughed and his chest began to rise on his own. Jonathan touched his neck and managed to feel a heartbeat, weak and accelerated, but present.
At the same time the rescue team arrived and they took control of the situation. The guardian and the archaeologist sat in a corner to take their breath, exhausted, and they watched the doctors who were helping the wounded man.
“Jonathan Archer.” The guardian introduced himself, holding a hand to the archaeologist, and the other shook it weakly, emptied of all energies.
“Peter Edwards. Do you think he will make it?”
The guardian shrugged.
“I don’t know, I hope so, but that wound looks serious. There’s a lot of blood...”
“How did he arrive down here? I thought that the gate was closed.”
“In theory. Probably there are some hidden passages that hadn’t been closed because nobody suspected of their existence.”
The two men kept watching the work of the rescuers.
Guy opened his eyes, torn from that darkness, so quiet and full of peace, to sink into a confusion made of loud voices and agonizing pain.
“He opened his eyes!” A voice said, and someone pointed a light on his face, more intense than any candle. “Reactive to light.”
A man's face replaced the light and stared into his eyes.
“Can you hear me?”
Guy tried to nod, but someone was holding his head and he was too weak. He felt confused and scared, and the pain prevented him from thinking coherently.
A moment before he had abandoned himself to oblivion, held in Robin Hood's arms, and now a group of strangers dressed in an absurdly bright orange were trying to snatch him away from that peace.
They are devils who have come to drag me to hell.
Yet the faces of those devils were not threatening, and their words were gentle.
“Can you tell me your name?” One of them asked, and Gisborne struggled to speak.
“Guy...” He whispered, too weak to be able to pronounce his full name.
“Do you remember where you are and what happened to you?”
“The crypt... They killed me...”
One of the men dressed in orange gave him a reassuring smile.
“Do not exaggerate, now. You have received quite serious injuries, but Dr. Track is dealing with them. You've won a helicopter trip, but you'll make it.”
Guy didn’t answer. Perhaps it was his mind that was confused, but he had the impression that at least half of the words spoken by that man, if he were a man and not a supernatural creature, didn’t make sense.
He said I was injured... But I'm dead.
“It will be all right, Guy.” The man repeated. "We will soon give you something for the pain, and that will make you sleep, but at your awakening you will feel much better.”
The man put something on his mouth, a kind of transparent mask, and told him to stay calm and to breathe normally.
Guy wanted to take that strange object out of his face, but he didn’t have the strength to do it, so he forced himself to obey the man's instructions.
Whether they were strange healers or demons who came to drag him to hell, he had no choice but to do what they said.
After a while, he seemed to him that he was able to breathe better, and his thoughts became a bit less confused. He felt cold and his wounds were hurting a lot, but he was pretty sure to be still alive, even though that situation was so odd and confused that he was probably delirious.
If they were healers, there was something terribly important that he should tell them, but he couldn’t concentrate enough to remember what it was.
If he closed his eyes, he could see even too clearly the sheriff's grin when he had stabbed him with his sword, and then the sharp pain in his back from another stab that, though less deep, hurt him even more because it came from his sister's hand.
When he opened his eyes again, Guy couldn’t see the faces of men dressed in orange because the lights were too bright, and then because his vision was blurred by tears.
One of the healers took his hand.
“Hold on, Guy. I know that you're feeling a lot of pain, but this will make you sleep.”
The important thing came to his mind, suddenly.
"Poison." He said weakly, struggling against a sudden drowsiness.
“On the blade.”
“Guy, are you saying that the blade that hurt you was poisoned?!”
“Do you know what kind of poison?”
“Monk’s-hood,” he whispered, then he closed his eyes, exhausted just for saying those few words.
Jack Robinson looked at the patient, wondering if his word were just a delusion caused by the trauma.
“What do you think, Alec? Monk’s-hood is another name for aconite.”
“Improbable, but we’ll set the therapies as if it were true, waiting for a confirmation from a toxicological test.”
“Can we move him now?”
“He's stable, take him to the helicopter.”
Chapter 2: A World I Don't Know Anymore
Guy opened his eyes for a moment, and closed them immediately, hoping that sleep would come back to him.
The healer who had encouraged him had not lied: when he woke up, the pain of the wounds was barely perceptible and he was laying on a comfortable bed.
He felt tremendously weak, but no longer confused, and he looked around to understand in what room of the castle they had brought him. He stared at the room for a while, then he lowered his eyelids to see nothing else.
He was sure that he wasn’t in the castle, now, but that was the only thing he could be sure of.
That place was completely strange and unknown, and Guy couldn’t understand it. Everything was so weird and incomprehensible to scare him to death.
He wondered if that place could be the otherworld, but everything was so concrete and solid that it had to be real.
The only thing that made sense was the bed: there was a mattress, a pillow, and sheets, and, if Guy kept his eyes closed, he could pretend that he was at Locksley or in one of the castle's rooms.
Of course, his bed had never been so comfortable and even the sheets were made of a material different than the linen he was used to, but the concept didn’t change and, when he slept, he could think that everything was almost normal. But he couldn’t sleep forever.
He heard the door of the room opening, and he remained motionless, petrified by terror, while his heart accelerated its beats. The steps approached the bed, and Guy winced when he felt somebody touching him.
“Oh, you're awake,” a female voice said, and Gisborne ventured to open his eyes. The person who had just talked was a middle-aged woman, not very tall, with a chubby body and a round face. The woman looked at him with a gentle expression and her tone was reassuring, but Guy found her appearance disconcerting: the woman's hair was cut short, with dark curls barely reaching her neck and she wore pants and a shirt of an identical light green color and, over them, a long white coat that reached her knees.
No Nottingham lady would voluntarily wear anything like that, and Guy wondered if that dress and haircut had been imposed to her as a penance for some sin, but the woman did not seem to be embarrassed or humiliated by her appearance.
She stopped at the foot of the bed and she took a sort of rectangular tablet, pausing to read something on it, then she came nearer and smiled at him.
“Guy... This is your name, right? Can you tell me your full name?”
That was a question he could answer, so he did, though he feared that revealing his identity could attract people's hatred on him.
“Guy of Gisborne?” The woman repeated, pausing to write a note on the folder. “It’s an unusual name... My name is Alicia Little and I'm one of the doctors who treated your wounds. Is there anyone we can contact? A wife? Your family?”
Guy thought that maybe that was the reason for her strange clothing: even that sort of witch who lived in the forest, Matilda if he remembered well her name, went around dressed in a bizarre way.
If that woman had really been able to cure his wounds, she must be skillful in her work: the sheriff's sword had run him through, and Isabella's stabbing had contaminated him with poison, it was almost impossible to survive to such wounds .
With a shudder he thought that perhaps that woman was actually a witch and that she had used magic to save him, but then what was the price to pay?
“Guy?” The woman called him again. “Is there any relative we can call?”
“I have no one,” he said, then he realized that it wasn’t entirely true. “Apart from Robin and Archer, if they survived.”
“The siege of the castle. Have they succeeded? Were they able to defend it?”
The doctor gave him a perplexed look and she took another note on the folder.
“Robyn? Is she your wife?”
Guy looked at her as if she was completely crazy and Alicia smiled at his disgusted expression.
“No, not you wife, then.” She laughed. “Can you give me his or her full name?”
“Robin of Locksley,” Guy said, wondering if he had met the only person in Nottingham who didn’t know the outlaw. “Robin Hood,” he added for clarity.
The woman was quick to hide her surprise for that answer and she kept talking to him as if everything was normal.
“And Archer? Archer’s full name?”
The doctor took another note and dropped that subject.
“Well, Guy, do you know where you are?”
"You are in a hospital, in the intensive care unit, they brought you here in a helicopter three days ago, and you had surgery to stop the bleeding and to treat the wounds. Until this morning you have been sedated to allow you to recover more easily from the surgery and from the effects of the aconite poisoning, but by now your conditions have clearly improved a lot.”
Alicia noticed Guy's confused expression, and she thought that he ought to be still stunned by sedatives and upset by the accident.
“You've been very ill, but you'll get better soon,” she said, hoping that this was a simple enough concept for him to understand. Guy nodded weakly, and the doctor decided to go to the next question.
“Do you remember how you were hurt?”
Guy nodded again, more sure.
“It was the Sheriff.”
“Yes, the Sheriff of Nottingham. He treacherously hit me, and he pierced me with his sword...” Guy's face darkened. “Then Isabella stabbed me in the back. It was her blade to be poisoned... She hurt Robin too... But if you saved me, did you manage to treat him too? Will he survive?”
The doctor touched his hand, kindly.
"You were alone when they found you, there was nobody else.”
Guy closed his eyes.
“So Robin Hood died for my fault... I destroyed him too...”
Alicia stared at him for a moment and she decided to pretend she didn’t hear his words. Probably that man was still traumatized by the accident and confused because of the drugs, maybe in time he would be able to think more lucidly.
“Don’t think about it now, Guy. Now you just have to think about getting better.”
“But it's not fair that I survived and Robin didn’t!”
“You can’t know if your friend is really dead. We will seek informations about him, I promise you. Now tell me how do you feel.”
“Weak. I have an headache.”
"It's normal: you have lost a lot of blood and have undergone surgery, but you'll feel better soon. I'll tell the nurses to give you something for the pain. Now I have to check the wounds, relax and tell me if I hurt you.”
The doctor moved the sheet aside, and Guy looked at her, horrified.
“What are you doing?!”
"I have to examine the wounds to be sure they are healing well and that there are no signs of infection. You will not feel pain, I assure you. I just need to lift the hospital gown that you are wearing and remove the dressing on your wounds.”
“No... you can’t do it.”
“Because you're a woman! It’s not decent!”
Alicia looked at him and realized that he was really embarrassed and shocked at the idea that she could see him without clothes.
"I'm a doctor, I'm used to see the body of my patients. I have already taken care of you while you were sedated, but if you prefer, I can call one of my male colleagues.”
Guy nodded, red in the face, and the doctor smiled, reassuringly, as she replaced the sheet.
“Okay then, but maybe you'll have to wait for a while, until they do their other visits. If you feel tired, you can sleep, you need to rest to recover your strength.”
Alicia was about to move away from the bed, but Guy stared at her, and the woman realized that her patient was terrified.
“Is this hell? I can’t understand it... It seems that I am alive, but maybe I'm not and this is the punishment I deserve...”
“You're alive, I can guarantee. I can understand that it’s not pleasant to stay in the hospital, but isn’t it a bit exaggerated to compare it to hell?”
Guy looked around, anxious.
“What are all these things?”
“Everything. These things near the bed that make strange noises... I don’t see candles, yet there is light in the room... Where does it come from? And what did you do to me? Why do I have this thing on my arm? It hurts and I can’t understand what it is: it looks like a small glass tube, but it's soft and there's some fluid inside... I can’t understand anything I see and less than half of what I hear... What’s this sound? This sort of roar?”
The doctor looked at him, bewildered, and she listened to understand what he was talking about.
“I can just hear a passing airplane...”
Guy stared at her, getting more and more terrified.
“See? You are talking again about things I don’t understand. What is this... airplane?”
Alicia put a hand on his forehead and moved it to caress his hair.
“Calm down, Guy. Take a deep breath and calm down. If you don’t understand something or if you feel frightened for any reason, tell me or one of my colleagues, and we will try to explain everything to you. But remember that here you are safe, and the only thing we want is to make you feel better. If it's the first time you get hospitalized, it's normal that many things may seem scary, but they all have a reason.”
She took his hand with caution and she pointed to the patch that held in place the needle of the drip.
“Is that what you're scared of? It brings all the medicines and the liquids that you need into your body. They are contained in those bags and they slowly enter your body. We also gave you some bags of blood, since you've bled so much.”
Guy looked at her.
“Are you saying that you put new blood inside me? But it's impossible!”
“No, I assure you, it's a safe and reliable technique. There isn’t any danger, and we can say that it saved your life.”
“But where did you take the blood? Did you kill someone to save me?”
Alicia shook her head, once again overwhelmed by those questions, but she tried to reassure him, explaining blood donations to him in a simple way, using more or less the same words that she used when she talked to the younger patients in the pediatric ward.
In the end, Guy calmed down, more because he was weary than for Alicia's words, and he closed his eyes, slipping into a exhausted sleep.
The doctor took a few notes on the clinical record, then she went out of the room, thoughtful.
She had just closed the door behind her, when she came across Dr. Track, the doctor who came from London.
“Are you coming from surgery, Dr. Track?”
“Yeah, accident between a car and a truck. Three seriously injured, but they should make it. Did you visit the mysterious knight? Did he wake up?”
“He's awake, but I'm afraid he may have suffered brain damage. He looks to be conscious and coherent, but he makes meaningless talk, he is very upset and he seems to have trouble understanding simple concepts.”
“We'll have to go through further examinations. Did he name some family member who we can contact?”
Alicia shook her head with a sad smile.
“He said he was a relative of Robin Hood.”
Alec looked at her, a little surprised.
“Appropriate for Nottingham, though,” he said, with an ironic smile.
Chapter 3: Live
Jack Robinson, the kind doctor who had helped him in the castle's dungeons, looked at Guy and he put his hand on his shoulder, reassuringly.
“This examination may be a bit unpleasant, but you don’t have to worry about it: it's not painful and we need it to see if your head has been damaged when you've been injured.”
“I was hit in my belly, not my head.”
“Your heart has stopped and for a while you didn’t breathe, we need to check if the lack of oxygen, of air, has left any consequences.”
“Did I die? If my heart has stopped, it means I've died.”
The doctor tightened a little the hold of his hand on his shoulder, with a little smile.
"You seem quite alive to me, I have never heard such a talkative corpse.”
“But if I’m alive, what happened to the world?”
“What do you mean?”
“It's all so different. There is nothing familiar anymore, and there are so many things I can’t even comprehend... Did I become mad, or it’s everything else that has changed?”
“The examination we are going to do will help us to understand it. Come on, lie on the table of the scanner.”
A nurse approached, but the doctor motioned for him not to come near and he himself supported Guy, helping him to get up from the stretcher. He helped him to walk to the table of the magnetic resonance scanner and to lie down again.
Gisborne closed his eyes and took slow, deep breaths.
“Is everything alright?” The doctor asked, and Guy opened his eyes.
“I walked only for a few steps, yet I feel exhausted and dizzy...”
“You’ve been in bed since you've been wounded, you still have to get back your strength. Do you feel well enough to start the examination?”
“What... what should I do?”
“You just have to stay still. Before we begin, I will immobilize your body so that you can’t move, then the table will enter inside that tube and you will hear strange noises. You will hear my voice and I will tell you when to breathe and when you will have to hold your breath. Do you think you can do it?”
“Will I feel pain?”
“No. Only unusual sounds. Some people can’t stand the idea of being in such a restricted space.”
“Can I close my eyes?”
“Sure. And I'll put in your hand a button similar to the one that you have on your bed to call the nurses. If you should feel that you can’t go on, just push it and we’ll stop everything. So, do you think you can do it? Can we start?”
A little later he was staying still, with his eyes closed, listening to the bizarre sounds produced by that device.
“All right, Guy?” Dr. Robinson's voice asked, and Gisborne wondered why the man was so worried.
Ever since he had woken up in that incomprehensible place that they called ‘hospital’, that device, which just made strange noises, was perhaps the least threatening thing he had to deal with.
He had to do nothing but obey the doctor's instructions, and that was something that had always been easy for him, for better or worse. Obeying to someone else's orders made everything easier and, unlike what happened with Vaisey, to lie on that table and to hold his breath when he was told to do so, couldn’t hurt anyone.
The only unpleasant feeling was to be immobilized, but in any case it wasn’t too important because he wouldn’t have the strength to move anyways.
Alicia Little was standing in the corridor, when Jack Robinson came out of the elevator. The woman glanced at the stretcher that was pushed down the corridor by a nurse: their mysterious patient had his eyes closed and he didn’t move.
Alicia turned to look at her colleague.
“Is he alright? What happened to him? Was he too agitated and you had to sedate him to do the MRI?”
Jack shook his head, vaguely amused.
“No, indeed... He fell asleep during the magnetic resonance and he didn’t even wake up when we moved him back to the stretcher.”
“He must have been tired. He always looks so terrified of anything... I wonder what really happened to him.”
“We all wonder. Yesterday a policeman came to talk to him and to ask who had hurt him.”
“Did he repeat the same story he told us?”
“In the least detail. He says he was hit with a sword by the sheriff of Nottingham while trying to save Robin Hood, and that he was stabbed in the back by a certain Isabella, who seems to be his sister...”
“Did the magnetic resonance reveal brain damage?”
“I sent it to neurology department to be examined in every detail, but from what I could see, it seemed perfectly normal.”
"Was it the trauma to upset him so much, then?"
“Maybe, but we must also consider the hypothesis that he was like that even before being injured. Have you seen the clothes he was wearing when we found him?”
Jack nodded to invite her to follow him.
She took her to one of the cabinets where the personal effects of the patients were kept, and extracted a plastic envelope. The doctor pulled out a leather jacket, torn and stained with blood, and placed it on a table.
The doctor gave him a perplexed look.
“Shouldn’t it have been given to the police? That poor man has been hurt, it's a proof!”
“His clothes were on the helicopter, and one of the cleaners had put them together with the waste to be disposed of. We only found them out this morning, after the policeman had left. Tomorrow they will send someone to get them, but in the meantime look at them.”
The woman passed her finger on the carved leather and on the shiny buckles.
“Apart from the cuts and the blood, they seem to be of excellent quality: the leather is finely worked and they are robust and well-finished clothes, certainly not a Halloween costume.”
“You’re right. And it seems to me that every garment has been sewn by hand, there are no manufacturer's labels or logos.”
Alicia nodded, looking at those unusual clothes.
“He could belong to one of those historical re-enactments groups. I know they take a lot of care in making their costumes similar to the original ones... Maybe the incident happened during one of those re-enactments.”
Jack looked at her, surprised.
“Actually, it could be possible. A simulated combat that went wrong, and the others ran away abandoning their wounded friend, while the trauma made him to mix up fiction and reality. He must have believed that he was the character he played, I think I heard that sometimes it can happen. I'll have to point out this hypothesis to the policeman who will come to pick up the clothes tomorrow.”
Alicia Little sighed.
"If we could contact his family, it would be easier to help him. I don’t think I've ever seen someone so lost, in my life...”
Sherwood's forest was fresh and full of shadows, and Guy followed the path through the trees at a fast pace, almost running.
Once, the forest was a hostile place, the shelter of the outlaws whom he couldn’t capture, a dangerous place, but now it almost seemed to Guy as if he was back home.
The thick, wild trees were something familiar, something he could understand, so different from the white, nightmarish place where he had woken up.
He saw Robin's familiar figure amidst the trees and he ran after him without even pausing to think.
When he reached Robin, he clutched him in a fraternal embrace, clinging to him with relief.
“Hood, I didn’t think I could ever be so happy to see you again!”
Robin stepped away from him with an ironic smile, and raised his eyebrows, pretending to be amazed.
“What’s up, Gisborne? Aren’t you happy to be the only one still alive?”
Guy winced in hearing those words, and Robin spoke in a sad tone.
"The poison you gave to Isabella was even too effective. I didn’t live to see the sunset.”
“No!” Guy cried out, in horror, and Robin looked at him with compassion.
“No grudge, my friend. Some regrets, maybe, but I'm in peace. And I'm not alone.”
“She... She is with you.”
“Yes. She forgave you, she asked me to tell you.”
Guy fell on his knees and covered his face with his hands. Robin, standing beside him, put a hand on his back.
“Let me come with you,” Guy begged him. “I won’t talk to her, I won’t even look at her, but let me stay at the camp with you. Give me just a corner beside the fire, but allow me to stay there!”
Robin crouched to look at his face and his expression was kind.
“We'd love it, you know? All of us. But this is not your place, Gisborne. Not anymore. You are alive, and we are not.
Robin stood up and Guy imitated him, grabbing his arms to stop him.
“No! Don’t leave! Please! Don’t leave me in this terrible place!”
“Terrible, or just different, Guy?”
Robin's body began to change and wrinkle like a dry leaf, until it shrunk into a fragile skeleton that crumbled into dust between Guy's fingers.
Gisborne opened his hand to look at what was left of him, and a gust wind dispersed even that last pile of dust.
Nothing remained of Robin Hood but the echo of his voice in the forest, repeating a single word: "Live."
Guy opened his eyes with a start and he found himself in tears, seeing again the scary and incomprehensible place where his life had been restored.
"Robin..." He whispered slowly, turning on one side to bury his face into the pillow and hide those shameful tears.
He was alone, desperately alone, but he had been offered an opportunity that none of the others had, a second life, perhaps undeserved, but that didn’t have to be wasted.
His situation could be scary, but he couldn’t surrender. Even though it was difficult, he would have to adapt to that place, to try to learn the things he didn’t know, and to honor the memory of the people he loved, continuing to live for them as well.
He would do it, he promised to himself.
Now he only felt the uncontrolled and desperate need to cry, and he did so, suffocating every sound in the pillow so that nobody could hear.
Chapter 4: 2016
The water was warm and perfectly transparent, as pure as it could have been the water of a spring.
Guy put his hand under the stream, as if he wanted to make sure it was real, then he shut the tap as one of the nurses taught him.
Of all the strange things surrounding him, that room was undoubtedly the most interesting.
A simple touch was enough to have clean water at will, hot or cold, without any servant losing time to take it from the wells or the river and to boil it on the fire, and then there was a kind of latrine, completely different from the horrible and fetid ones of the castle.
The nurse who had patiently explained him how to use the objects in that room, had also shown him how the transparent cabin that occupied one of the corners of the room worked, running a jet of water to wash a person's body without having to use a basin or to fill a tub. The man had told him that he would have to wait for his wounds to be healed before he could use the shower, but the sink with his warm, clear water was a good improvement over the ewers and the basins he was used to.
Guy leaned on the sink to keep his balance and he closed his eyes for a moment.
In the last few days he had begun to get up for longer periods of time, and he managed to walk into the room without too much trouble, but he still felt weak and sometimes he felt dizzy when he was standing for too long.
He leaned forward and breathed slowly for a while until he felt better, then he looked up and stared at his image in the mirror: he was always the same, but he seemed to have changed too, like the whole world around him did. The reflected image was clear and precise, not as blurry as the one in the mirror in his room at Locksley, and it allowed him to see himself in every detail, from the small scar that he had on the forehead since the illness he got when he was a child that had filled his body and Isabella’s with little blisters, to the thin mark that Robin Hood's dagger had left on his cheek.
On his cheekbone, just beneath the eye, the slight trace of a nearly faded scar was visible, the cut caused by Marian's punch when she had left him at the altar...
Guy touched that little trace of her, and he thought that by now this too was fading. Soon the only woman he had ever loved would be nothing more than a memory.
She forgave you...
Guy clung to the words Robin had told him in a dream, praying that they were true. He didn’t deserve forgiveness, he didn’t deserve pity for destroying her, but knowing that she was in peace and happy with her true love was at the same time a torment and a consolation.
Even if she was still alive she would never love him, Guy had finally realized it, but he would gladly sacrifice all the time he still had to live only to hold her in a last hug, to receive forgiveness from her lips and to hear from her that everything would be all right.
But it was an impossible wish and he knew it: he was alone and lost in a world he didn’t understand.
He looked into the mirror, wondering how he looked to the eyes of the others.
Once the villagers had feared him, they were frightened by his presence and they retreated when he arrived, but now the people who took care of him treated him kindly and with extreme caution, as if they feared they could hurt him, as if he were more fragile than he really was.
He was weak because of the wounds and he struggled to understand a good part of what he saw, but some of those healers talked to him as if he were a small child or a fool who had completely lost his mind. When he had told them to stop treating him like an idiot, they simply apologized and wrote something in the dossier they always had on hand every time they had to deal with him.
Guy wondered if those apologies were true or if they were simply indulging him to avoid a conflict.
He touched the mirror with a sigh.
“Am I out of my mind? Is that why everything looks so different?”
But everything that surrounded him was too real and too solid to be born from the delusions of a madman.
When he had killed Marian, for a long time he had the impression that he could see her ghost, that he could hear her accusations.
Whatever he did, he saw her next to him, ready to point her ghastly finger at him. And at night, when he closed his eyes, exhausted after another day of anguish, the demons who were lurking in the shadows came, ready to tear his soul with their claws.
Those were the nightmares of a madman, confused and broken thoughts that prevented him from doing anything.
For days, after killing her, he had been staring at the void, forgetting to eat or to wash up, lost in his nightmares, and if the sheriff didn’t order to the guards to take care of him, Guy would probably have died because he simply had no reason to keep living.
But now he was able to think coherently, his thoughts didn’t follow the fragmented rhythm of a delusion. He was confused and frightened by everything he saw and his heart was plagued by thinking of everything he had lost, the people he loved, and who he would never see it again, but he didn’t believe to be gone mad.
Robin Hood was dead, now he was certain of that. He felt it in his heart, and the dream he had was only a further confirmation.
What he couldn’t imagine was that he would have missed the outlaw so much, that his death would grieve him so gravely.
They had been hating and fighting each other for years, and, throughout their lives, each one had taken away something that was very dear to the other, but in the end Robin was close to him.
As a friend.
Like a brother.
Every time Guy named Robin Hood, doctors and nurses looked at each other with puzzled and worried eyes, as if they knew something they didn’t want to tell him.
Gisborne decided that he should insist, forcing them somehow to confess the truth, but he didn’t know how to do it.
They were all kind to him: they took care of his injuries and tried to support his needs and to put him at ease, but he had the impression that if he should try to get away from his room, they would stop him. They would say he had to stay there for his own good and maybe they were right. He could not cope with that absurd world alone, but in fact he was like a prisoner. To provoke his jailers without a valid reason would be silly.
And where could he go when he didn’t have even his own clothes? They had taken them off when they rescued him and they had only given him some undergarments and a sort of nightgown that had been practical when he was forced to stay in bed, but that now was quite uncomfortable and somewhat ridiculous. That clothing made him feel uncomfortably vulnerable.
Someone knocked on the bathroom door, taking him away from his thoughts.
“Guy? Is everything alright?”
It was Dr. Little's voice, one of the healers who took care of him and perhaps the one who had the most patience in answering his questions and explaining to him the things he couldn’t understand by himself.
Another advantage of staying in that room was that the others didn’t come inside suddenly when he was there, but they just knocked and made sure that he didn’t have any problems. It was a sort of safe haven where he could hide when things became too hard to bear or when the doctors asked him too many questions.
He had learned that it was enough to say he had to go to the bathroom, and the others let him go without asking anything and without disturbing him.
At that moment he didn’t feel the need to remain alone, so he half opened the door and peered out of the crack before opening it completely. The doctor was alone, not accompanied by other doctors or nurses.
The woman smiled at him.
“Good morning, Guy. How do you feel today? Can I check your wounds?”
Guy nodded and sat on the bed, staring at the ground to conceal the embarrassment he felt. Alicia had told him that seeing her patients’ bodies was part of her job and that he had no reason to be embarrassed. Also, unlike the earlier days, he was wearing at least undergarments, but he couldn’t help but blush when the woman lifted his shirt to change the dressings and to look at the wound.
The doctor worked fast and efficiently, aware of her patient's discomfort.
“It seems to me that everything is fine. Do you feel pain?”
“No, not much. Only if I do certain movements.”
The doctor smiled at him.
“Don’t do them, then.”
A smile flickered at the corner of Guy's mouth and the doctor was pleased to see him a bit more serene than usual.
“I brought you something to wear instead of the hospital gown.”
“I'm afraid not. The police took them, they have to examine them to figure out what happened to you.”
“I told them what happened to me. Many times. Don’t they believe me?”
“They have to do their own investigations, don’t take this the wrong way,” Alicia handed him a paper bag. “But now try these and see if they fit fine. You are a tall boy, I hope I didn’t choose the wrong size.”
“Boy? At my age?”
The doctor smiled.
“For one of my age you are. Grant some liberty to an old lady.”
Guy gave her an amused look, but he took the bag and went back to the bathroom. In the bag there were a pair of black soft pants, some short-sleeved t-shirts made of a lighter material and a sort of jacket, open on the front, made of the same material of the pants.
Guy wondered why the pants had no laces to close them, but when touched them, he realized that the material around the waist was elastic, similar to that of the underwear they had given to him. He slipped them on without much difficulty, being only careful to keep the elastic from touching the wounds, then he wore one of the t-shirts, choosing a black one, and the jacket of the tracksuit, leaving it open because he didn’t see laces or buckles to close it.
Before returning to his room, Guy looked into the mirror for a moment: they weren’t the clothes he was used to, but they were already an improvement over the hospital gown and they made him feel a bit less vulnerable.
When Guy returned to his room, Alicia approved with a smile.
“They seem fine. Is the elastic of the sweatpants too tight? Does it bother you?”
“No. In fact, maybe it's a bit loose.”
The doctor looked at the medical record.
“Guy, do you eat enough?”
“I'm not very hungry. And then…”
“I don’t even know what they give to me. Food has a strange taste. If I don’t know what flavor it should have, how can I figure out if it's safe to eat it?”
“What do you mean?”
“In times of famine, or during the winter, the cooks of the castle were forced to use the ingredients they had in the pantry, and they weren’t always well preserved. Sometimes the meat was too old and moldy, and for fear of not being able to serve anything at the sheriff's table, cooks often cooked even the spoiled ingredients. And then there is always the danger of poison: if I notice that the taste of a food is different from usual, I don’t trust to eat that food without first giving it to one of the servants.”
Alicia looked at him, astonished, but she smiled at him.
"I can assure you that the hospital's food may not taste good, but it's perfectly safe. The ingredients are of good quality and no one wants to poison you. Try to eat the meals they give to you, you need to recover your strength. And if you have any doubt about the ingredients, just ask.”
The doctor smiled at him, then she returned serious, with a small sigh.
“Guy, I have to ask you some questions, can you try to answer me honestly?”
“I never lied to you.”
“Can you tell me your real name?”
“You know it already. Guy of Gisborne.”
"Listen to me, maybe you're afraid that we could denounce you to the authorities, maybe you did something wrong, but it's important that we contact your family to help you in the best way. You can trust us.”
“But it's obvious you do not trust me!” Guy looked at her, hurt by those words. “I never lied to you. Never!”
“But maybe you told us what you want to believe. Your mind might have deceived your for some reason, causing you to believe that you belong to the legend of Robin Hood. But maybe if you try to remember, your true name might come to your mind...”
“My real name is the one I kept repeating: Guy Crispin of Gisborne. And why do you talk about Robin like that?!”
“As if you all have a secret you want to keep hidden from me. You always give me strange looks whenever I talk about him, why?”
The doctor stared at him for a moment without saying anything. She was sure that Guy wasn’t lying and she wondered what she should do.
The examinations hadn’t detected any damage or brain anomalies in Guy, and when she talked to him she had noticed that he was lucid and coherent, that he showed curiosity and intelligence and that he was capable of complex reasoning.
If it wasn’t for his frequent mentions of Robin Hood, Alicia would think that he was perfectly normal, traumatized by the accident but in his right mind.
Alicia made a decision, hoping that it was the right one. She knew that before taking the initiative she should have consulted her colleagues, and probably asked for a psychiatric consultation, but if she should entrust him to another department, she’d have the impression of betraying his trust.
She took a chair and sat in front of him, looking into his eyes.
“Because it isn’t possible, Guy. You can’t have met Robin Hood.”
Gisborne looked at her, offended.
“Are you calling me a liar? Robin held me in my arms when I was dying, he tried to make my last moments serene even though he was dying too, and you tell me that it isn’t true? That am I making everything up?!”
“When did all this happen?”
“A few days ago, when I was hurt.”
Alicia picked up an object from her purse and placed it in his hands.
“So, how can you explain this to me?”
Guy looked at the object and saw that it was a book. It was very different from the ones he had seen in the past, but unequivocally a book.
The canvas cover was a bit consumed and ruined by age and it looked like it had been read many times. Guy looked better at it and he was surprised to see the drawing of an archer wearing green clothes on the cover, and the title "Robin Hood" printed in golden letters.
Guy stared at the doctor.
“What does it mean?”
“You have to explain it to me, Guy. I read this book when I was a kid and Robin Hood is a hero of the past, an ancient legend. How could you be with him just a few days ago? Maybe you've read this book too, and the accident has confused your mind, making you believe that those stories were real memories.”
“No! I know Robin! Do you want to deceive me, by chance?”
“Open the book. Look at the date and see when it was printed, it's written right here, 1972. How can I fool you if that book was printed over forty years ago?”
Alicia pointed out the date, but Guy shook his head, stubbornly.
“It doesn’t make sense. That date can’t be right.”
“Why? Are you making fun of me? You said 1972.”
“Indeed. I told you, it was published forty-four years ago.”
“But we're in 1194!”
“Guy, this is 2016. Now you see why you can’t have possibly met Robin Hood?”
Gisborne rose to his feet.
“No! You're lying! You are saying these things only to confuse me!”
He turned to Alicia and he opened the door of the room, venturing into the corridor. Out there, there were more noises and strange objects, but Guy wasn’t intimidated: he saw a ramp of descending stairs and headed towards it at a fast pace, even though the effort made him feel dizzy.
“Guy! Wait, Guy! Where are you going?!” The doctor followed him, anxiously.
“Away from here! I don’t know what purpose you have, but I won’t listen to your absurd lies! You want to make me think that I'm crazy, but I know I’m not, not to so much that I can believe such absurdities, at least!”
Alicia was forced to run to keep up with him, and for a moment she thought to call the security to stop him, but she rejected that idea: her patient was too agitated and he wouldn’t react well. She was also worried about his health, he had not yet recovered sufficiently to keep that pace for a long time.
“I swear to you that we just want the best for you, Guy.”
"The best for me is to return to Sherwood Forest, to my friends! Maybe Robin is dead, but Archer isn’t, and even the other outlaws are alive. You can’t stop me, unless you want to lock me in a dungeon!”
Alicia decided to make a bet with fate.
“Alright then,” she said quietly. “If you wish so, go. That door leads outside. It would be wiser for you to come back in a few days to have your wounds checked, but you will not die otherwise.”
Guy stopped to look at her, astonished.
“Won’t you try to stop me?”
"Probably I'll end up in trouble with the police, but you're an adult man, I can’t stop you from leaving. Go, if that's what you want.”
Gisborne headed for the door, but his pace was less secure than before: he had expected to have to fight, but no one seemed to want to stop him.
He pushed the door and he went outside.
Chapter 5: Memories from Another Time
Alicia forced herself to wait for a few seconds before following Guy.
She found him only a few steps away from the door, petrified by terror.
The road in front of the hospital wasn’t very busy, but there were various cars, and Guy stared at them in horror. An ambulance passed in front of them at full speed with its sirens lit, then the rumbling of the helicopter blades filled the air, and the aircraft lifted from the roof of the building, passing over their heads and disappearing in the distance.
Alicia hurried to reach Guy, worried about his pallor. Gisborne was trembling and panting, as if he couldn’t take his breath, and he winced when Alicia took his hand. The woman noticed that her patient had his eyes full of tears, and she found herself wanting to protect him, somehow.
“Come on, let's go back inside,” she said softly, gently pulling him, and for a long moment she thought that he wouldn’t listen to her, that he would just stay there, sinking into his terror, or that he would run away.
Then Guy followed her, stumbling in his steps, his frozen hand clinging to hers.
Alicia put an arm around Guy’s waist to support him, and Gisborne leaned on her. She thought that she had to take him back to his room, but she gave him a quick glance and realized that his patient wouldn’t have the strength to walk till there: he had become even paler, his face was covered with sweat and she felt him leaning more and more on her, as if he was about to fall.
A nurse saw them and made the gesture of approaching, but Alicia nodded him to wait. Guy was already quite upset, and the intervention of a stranger would only make things worse.
Instead, she saw the door of one of the rooms that the nurses used during breaks, and she opened it with her free arm, then she guided Guy inside, made him sit in a chair, and sat next to him holding his hand and caressing his back with sweet and reassuring movements.
“Breathe slowly, Guy. Slow and deep breaths. You're safe here, nothing can hurt you.”
"I've gone mad... I lost my mind..." Guy whispered desperately, and at that moment Alicia found herself thinking that it wasn’t true.
She had thought that seeing the modern world outside the hospital would take him away from his fantasies about Robin Hood, making him remember something of his real life, but Guy's reaction had disconcerted her.
His terror was genuine and sincere, as if he had never seen a car or a helicopter in his life, and she suddenly found herself sure that her patient had never lied to her, that his tales weren’t about an illusory world.
She had no idea how it was possible, but that man didn’t just think to be a character in Robin Hood's stories, but his mind and all his memories were those of a twelfth-century knight.
Maybe I'm crazy too, but I believe him.
“No. I don’t think you're crazy. But now you have to calm down. Close your eyes and breathe. We will find a solution for everything, I promise you. It will be all right, love.”
Guy looked at her and clung to those kind words: in a world that was meaningless, Alicia's hand, offering her help, was the only firm point he could hold to. He let the woman embrace him and found himself crying desperately, unable to hold tears back, with his face buried against her shoulder and his whole body shaken by sobs.
Alicia caressed his hair and his back, steadily, instinctively guessing the gestures that a mother would use to reassure a frightened son, and, when at last Guy's cry settled a little, she found herself using her hand to wipe tears from her own eyes.
Her behavior wasn’t professional and she knew it, but in all the years she had worked in the hospital, she had never experienced such a strong and instinctive bond with a patient.
She had taken care of all those who had been entrusted to her, and she had been especially fond of some of them, feeling deeply touched if their conditions worsened and turned to the worst and rejoicing when they were better, but never in all her life she had been so sure of having to protect and comfort someone as she did with Guy.
Guy was still leaning against her, exhausted after crying so much, and after a while he stirred, with a groan.
“What’s up, Guy?”
“I feel sick... I have nausea...”
Alicia stroked his back.
“Make deep breaths. Is it easing a little?”
“No. I need to...”
“Behind that door there is a bathroom, if you can’t walk, I'll bring you a basin.”
Guy stood up, a little unsteadily, and Alicia followed him.
“Let me help you.”
“No.” Guy whispered, and Alicia knew that he was ashamed of being sick in front her. With a quick gesture she took off the rubber band that she sometimes used to try to tie her curly hair without many results, and she tied Gisborne's hair in a ponytail, then she touched his shoulder for a moment in a gesture of comfort.
“I'll wait here. Call me if you need it.”
Guy clutched the blanket, with a shudder.
He was lying on his side on the bed in his room, but he couldn’t sleep and he was just lying there, his gaze lost in space, still like a statue.
A tear slipped across his face against his will, and he felt even more pathetic.
Dr. Little covered him with another blanket and wiped his face with a handkerchief, with the gentle gesture of a mother.
Thinking of his mother, so long lost, made him feel even worse.
Couldn’t he die like everyone else and finally rest his head on her lap, in peace after so much suffering?
“Are you still feeling sick?” Alicia asked softly.
Guy looked at her. The doctor hadn’t left him not even for a moment, except to give him some privacy while he was in the bathroom, and she seemed to be sincerely worried for him.
She had helped him to get back to his room after he had finished emptying his stomach, then she had lowered the lights, and she had kept everyone else away to let him be in peace.
He just wanted to lie on that bed forever, doing nothing and wishing he could disappear, but he forced himself to answer.
"No," he said in a low voice. “Not anymore.”
Alicia took a chair and placed it near the bed, then she stroked his face, drying another tear.
Guy reproached himself for that weakness. He didn’t want to cry like a little girl, but his body didn’t obey him, and he couldn’t hold back those tears, slow and hot.
“I'm sorry,” Alicia said. “I'm so sorry. I didn’t want to upset you, I just hoped that you could remember something about your family.”
“I remember my family perfectly. Or at least that's what I believed,” he paused, then he looked back at her. “Is this really 2016?”
“Then I'm crazy.”
“Don’t say that.”
Guy sat up, and he was forced to close his eyes to fight a sudden dizziness caused by that abrupt movement.
Alicia supported him, helping him to find his balance.
“Slowly, darling, you're still weak. Try to keep calm.”
“How can I keep calm?! If this is 2016, there are not many alternatives: either I've spent more than eight hundred years in that crypt without even realizing it, or I've become crazy, or I'm dead and this is hell.”
“Why do you always talk about hell? Even if you were really dead, and you are not, why don’t you think about heaven?”
“Because I don’t deserve anything else. I have committed unforgivable things.”
“Do you want to tell me about them?”
Guy shook his head.
Alicia took a blanket and put it on his shoulders.
“It doesn’t matter, love. You don’t have to.”
“But if I'm crazy, which one is the illusion? Which of these two lives is the real one? Have I invented all my past, or is this present that is a creation of my mind? But how can I imagine things like those I see around me? Wagons that move without horses, monstrous objects flying in the sky... I've never had so much imagination...”
The doctor took his hand to interrupt him: his skin was still cold, but less than before.
“You don’t seem crazy to me. Scared and confused yes, but not crazy.”
“Then you are crazy too.”
“Maybe. But there is a way to discover the truth.”
Guy looked at her.
"Tell me about your past, about your life, and try to give me some specific details, to tell me something that can be verified even after eight hundred years, and that only you know. I will try to check what you say in some way, and we will see if your memories correspond to reality.”
“Do you really think that I'm not lying or raving?”
“I just say that I want to find out. But I know you're not lying, I'm sure you're honest. If your past life is just an illusion, you aren’t aware of it, it is real for you.”
Guy thought that the doctor's speech made sense: if he could have a certain proof of his madness, at least he would know how to behave.
He described the villages ruled by the sheriff, their location and the most important buildings, then he spoke to her for a long time and in detail about his life in Nottingham, his duties at the service of the sheriff, and he told her of siege of the city that had cost so much to all of them.
Alicia Little listened and took notes, getting more and more fascinated.
She occasionally stopped him, asking him explanations about some terms she didn’t know and, when Guy used a Latin word referring to the failed wedding ceremony with Lady Marian, Alicia asked him for more details. Guy dictated to her some of the Latin prayers he knew, and Alicia asked for a translation in English.
Gisborne stared at her, perplexed, almost scandalized.
“To translate the prayers in English? It would be a heresy, the Church wouldn’t approve it!”
Alicia decided not to deepen the subject because it would take too much time, and Guy seemed already quite exhausted and distressed enough.
She listened to him talking about the people he knew, the members of Robin Hood's gang, and, the more she heard, the more she was convinced that those details, the emotions that ran on his face were too real to be only inventions of a sick mind.
However, as fascinating as that story was, it was still not possible to check it for sure.
“Guy, tell me something that only you know. Something that I can check.”
"The sheriff sometimes had fun ordering me to do humble jobs, to mortify my pride. He once ordered me to polish his weapons and to make them shine. I was tired, frustrated because Robin Hood had escaped me once again, and I felt humiliated at the thought of having to do the work of a servant until late at night. Once I was left alone, I grabbed his dagger with anger, and planted it on the table top, without remembering that that table in particular had metal parts. The tip of the dagger broke and I didn’t know what to do because if the sheriff should notice it, I’d get a harsh punishment. So I decided to make the broken dagger disappear and to replace it with a similar one, hoping that he wouldn’t notice the difference.”
“Did he? Did he find out what you did?” Alicia asked, forgetting the point of the speech.
“No, he didn’t even look at it. But you see, to be sure that he couldn’t find the broken dagger, I hid it in the castle crypt, not too far from the place where I was injured. In one of those underground rooms there was a stone that could be moved and only I knew about it. Behind it, there was a small space I used to hide the things I didn’t want to end into the sheriff's hands.”
“And did you put the dagger there?”
“Yes, and I have never taken it out again, it might still be there.”
“Describe to me where this stone is.”
Guy did it, and Alicia took note of it scrupulously.
“I'll check it as soon as I can.”
Gisborne looked at her, dejected.
“Whether the dagger is or isn’t there, It doesn’t make much difference.”
“Why do you say that?”
“What’s the difference? Either I have gone mad, or some magic sent me over eight hundred years in the future... What prospects do I have in both cases? On one hand madness, on the other the awareness that all the people I knew, every single one of them, have been dust for many centuries now, while I’m still here.”
“You have your life. You risked to die, yet you are alive.”
“Alive! To spend my time locked in a room like a caged bird! How could I live in this terrible world?!”
Alicia stroked his face, pushing back a lock of hair.
“Terrible, or just different?”
Guy stared at her with a start: those were the same words that Robin had said to him in a dream!
“The present may scare you because you don’t know it, but I assure you that there are several advantages, compared with the time you are familiar with. Anyway, it doesn’t matter if you really came from the past or not: in both cases, I will help you to learn whatever you need to live a good life, I'll explain you the things that you don’t know, and you will see that they won’t be so terrifying anymore.”
“Anyways, I lost everything.”
“It means that you’ll have to make a fresh start. Don’t be discouraged, darling, I can’t give you back what you've lost, but over time things will improve, I promise you.”
The doctor hugged him, and Guy closed his eyes, taking refuge for a moment in her warmth.
He nodded weakly, hoping with all his heart that he could believe her, and Alicia smiled at him, reassuringly.
“But now you have to rest, you aren’t well and all these emotions wore you out, I see that you are exhausted. Do you want me to give you something to make you sleep?”
Guy shook his head. He was still upset, but he was so tired that he would probably fall asleep without any problems.
“Do you feel like eating something before you sleep?”
“I think I could.”
The doctor smiled.
“Then wait for me, I’ll be back soon.”
She left the room and returned shortly afterwards with a steamy cup that she put in Guy's hands.
“What is it?”
Gisborne sniffed its content, uncertain, then he decided to take a small sip: it was a sweet and dense drink, with a flavor he didn’t know at all, but that was definitely pleasing. He drank again, then he noticed that Alicia was watching him, amused.
“Now try this.”
The woman unwrapped a chocolate bar and took a piece of it. She ate it and then she gave another one to Guy. Gisborne took it and put it in his mouth, after a slight hesitation, then he looked at her, surprised.
“The taste resembles that of the drink!”
“Do you like it?”
Guy nodded and Alicia chuckled, putting the rest of the bar in his hand.
"Then eat it, I would say that you need it after such a day.”
“How is this food called?”
“Chocolate. See? You've just found out one of the good things of this time.”
Chapter 6: I Want to See
Guy turned in his sleep, and the book fell to the floor with a thud.
“Let me sleep, Allan, I'm tired,” he mumbled, still engrossed in the last remnants of a dream, then he opened his eyes and sighed, realizing that Allan could never disturb his sleep again because he had been dead for eight centuries, just like everyone else.
He got up and picked up the book from the floor, putting it on his lap. He opened it, carefully browsing it to the first illustration, an image of an archer dressed in green, surrounded by a group of companions and by the green of the forest trees.
Obviously, the characters depicted in that drawing didn’t look like Robin and the others, but the artist had been able to grasp Robin's cheeky expression and the friendship that tied those men. Guy looked at the other drawings, pausing to look at the one representing Lady Marian.
"It doesn’t look like you at all..." He whispered. “This is just a pretty girl, she has nothing to do with your courage and strength.”
Despite these words, he could not stop touching the illustration with his fingertips before turning the page again.
That book was different from the ones he had seen in his time: it wasn’t written by hand but it had been obtained by a mechanical process that allowed to print many identical copies of the same volume in a short time. The letters were clear and well-defined, but Guy was still getting used to reading that kind of print, so he was still at the beginning of the story and he was proceeding slowly.
He opened the book at the chapter that made him curious and that saddened him at the same time: the encounter between Guy of Gisborne and Robin Hood.
It was strange to see his name written on the pages of a book, strange to think that after eight centuries someone could still remember him. Instead, it was sad to realize that the only reason why people remembered him was for his rivalry with Robin Hood.
Guy had tried to read all that part: no one was talking about his alliance with Robin, no one seemed to remember that he had also tried to defend the castle in the name of the king. He was depicted as a man dressed in black with a grim face, dressed in an eerie cloak made from the skin of a horse, complete with head and mane.
He found himself sadly thinking that even his faithful horse had been dust for many centuries now, and that he would never groom again his dark mane at the end of a difficult day.
He hurried to send those thoughts away before he found himself in tears again.
If the sheriff could see him now, he would have a great deal of fun mocking him because of his weakness, because of the sadness that swelled in his heart and that made him burst into tears suddenly, without a real reason.
It had been a week since he discovered that he was in a future, strange, and terrifying world, and he had spent most of that time sleeping, completely devoid of energy.
To give up to sleep, for him who had always been tormented by nightmares, now was a blessing: he sank into a series of strange and twisted dreams that often frightened him, but that were also the only way to see again the faces of the people who he had known. Often there were Robin and Allan, sometimes the outlaws and other times just ordinary people: Locksley peasants who he barely remembered, or castle guards.
Perhaps it was the right punishment for killing her, but the girl never appeared to him, not since he woke up in the future, and he wished with all his heart that he could be able to see her face again, at least in his dreams.
Guy watched the drawing that represented the moment when Robin Hood killed Guy of Gisborne and he thought that it was the most wrong illustration of the book. He and Robin had become friends and they had fought side by side, defending each other, the outlaw would never kill him in such a brutal way.
It was all wrong: it was Robin who had died and he, who was the villain of the story, the one who, in the book, died at the end of his chapter because he deserved it, he was alive eight centuries after the death of everyone else.
Guy closed the book and put it under the pillow.
He considered the idea of going back to sleep, then he decided to get out of bed.
Soon after, he was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at his own image and wondering why he was the only one still alive. If he wasn’t crazy and he had really arrived in a future where his wounds were curable, Guy couldn’t understand why.
Why didn’t such a miracle happen for Robin or Marian? He thought of Allan, as he had seen him the last time: his blue eyes wide open, staring at the sky, and his body pierced by arrows.
Why not him? Allan was an opportunistic thief, but even he would deserve to live more than Guy.
Allan was my friend. Even though I never told him.
Guy recalled that last, shameful betrayal when all the outlaws had accused Allan of having betrayed them again, and the young man had sought support in each of them, in vain.
When he asked Guy if at least he believed him, Gisborne had shrugged.
He would never forget the wounded look of the young man as he was tied by the others.
The worst thing was that Guy even believed him, but he didn’t say anything because he knew that the outlaw barely tolerated him and they wouldn’t listen to his words.
That was the last time he saw Allan alive, then the sheriff killed him, and Guy had sworn to himself that Vaisey would have paid for that too.
Instead, he was defeated.
Guy hoped that at least Robin and Archer were able to take their revenge, then he realized how absurd his desire was.
Whatever happened, they were all dead now, Vaisey included.
Guy let out a bitter laugh: knowing that the sheriff had been dust for at least eight centuries while he still lived was however a satisfaction, though perhaps the fact of being still alive was more a curse than anything else.
He went out of the bathroom, hearing that somebody was knocking at the door, and he saw Dr. Robinson entering the room. The doctor was wearing the same orange outfit he had when he had rescued him. Guy didn’t remember much of those moments, but that brilliant color was fixed in his memory.
The doctor smiled.
“I'm glad to see you standing. In the last few days I have been very busy with helicopter rescue and I didn’t have time to visit my patients, but I see that Dr. Little did a good job.
“Where's Lady Alicia?”
“Today is her free day, so I'll visit you, I hope you don’t mind too much. Lie on the bed, I have to check your wounds.”
Guy meekly obeyed and he let the doctor do his work, but inwardly he felt a little lost. Since he had discovered the date of the current year and had that nervous breakdown, doctor Little had always been there to take care of him and to comfort him in the worst moments.
Knowing that today he couldn’t count on her support made him vaguely anxious.
“Well, I'd say we can now remove these stitches,” Jack said, after examining the wound, now almost healed. “You will feel a bit of discomfort, but if I hurt you, tell me.”
“Does it mean that I recovered?” Guy asked while the doctor was working.
“It means that the wound has healed, but for a while you have to avoid making efforts or lifting weights. It will take some time before you can be considered completely recovered. When we rescued you, I wasn’t sure that you would survive, now I can confess it.”
“I was sure I was dead.”
“You went very close to die. You have been very lucky because the people that found you were able to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, so they had been able to keep you alive until our arrival. Well, all done now, you can dress up.”
Guy got up from the bed and wore his t-shirt again, giving a quick glance at the scar on his belly.
Later he would look better at it with the help of the mirror, but it was already easy to understand that that scar would remain on his skin for all his life.
“How did they keep me alive?”
“They compressed your chest to simulate the heartbeat so blood could keep circulating in your body, and they blew air in your lungs, breathing for you.”
“How did they know what to do? They were healers too?”
“No, you don’t need to be a doctor to do that, anyone can learn the procedure.”
“Why not? If you wish, I can show you how to do it, using one of the dummies we use to practice and to organize first aid classes. For now, you can’t put it into practice because it’s quite physically challenging, but I can teach you the theory.”
Guy nodded, fascinated by that idea. Since he was a boy, he had been trained to fight and to kill his enemies, and it seemed almost impossible to learn to save lives instead of taking them.
Maybe, if in the past he'd known that technique, Marian wouldn’t have died...
Had I not planted a sword in her stomach, she wouldn’t have died!
Guy struggled to reject those thoughts. He couldn’t change the past and continuing to think about it would only drag him back into despair.
“Yes, I would like to learn it,” he said in a low voice, and the doctor smiled.
“We'll organize that, then.”
Jack Robinson took some notes on the medical record, and, when he looked back at Guy, he noticed that the other man was staring at him with an uncertain expression.
“Is everything alright, Guy?”
Gisborne seemed to make a decision.
“You use the flying device, don’t you?”
“Lady Alicia said that it has nothing to do with magic, and that it uses some mechanisms to fly. Is it true?”
The doctor looked at him curiously, wondering where he wanted to go with that discourse. Alicia Little had informed her colleagues of the panic breakdown that her patient had at the sight of cars and of the helicopter, and she had asked them to be cautious when they talked to Guy, to assist him when he asked for some explanation.
“It's true. It's a very complicated device, but there is nothing magic about it.”
Guy took a deep breath.
“I want to see it.”
Jack looked at him, surprised.
The doctor wondered if it was a good idea, but Guy seemed rather determined.
“Are you sure? Alicia told me what happened a few days ago...”
“That's why I have to see it. My mother often said that usually we are afraid of what we don’t know. And I'm tired of being scared.”
Jack Robinson thought for a moment, then nodded.
“All right, come with me.”
The doctor went to the door and stopped to wait for him.
Guy hesitated, and for a moment he was tempted to tell him that he had changed his mind, that he would remain in the safe tranquility of his room, but he immediately recovered, and followed the doctor out of the door.
The corridor was much louder than his room, full of sounds, lights and strange things that he didn’t understand, but Guy repeated to himself what Alicia had already explained to him, that in eight centuries mankind had invented many mechanical devices to simplify life, and that it was normal if he didn’t understand how they worked seeing them for the first time, but that eventually he would learn.
He stared in surprise at a luminous panel attached to a wall on which pictures were moving, but he didn’t say anything and he just followed the doctor to the lift door leading to the roof.
“Should we get in there?” He asked, looking at the inside of the cabin. “Why?”
“To go upstairs.”
“Entering this sort of closet?”
Jack Robinson thought Alicia had not exaggerated: their patient seemed to really ignore the functioning of modern technology. Sometimes he had to deal with psychiatric patients claiming to be characters of the past, but those people rarely were astonished by trivial objects such as televisions, telephones, and lifts.
Guy of Gisborne, on the other hand, was genuinely fascinated by every little thing, even the most common as it could be a ball pen or the zipper of the sweatshirt they had given to him, and then he knew perfectly every detail of the habits and life of medieval people.
If he was pretending, he was probably the best actor who Jack Robinson had ever met in his life.
“It's called a lift. A system of cables and counterweights make the cabin to go up.”
Guy accepted the explanation without asking any other questions, and they both got upstairs.
The other helicopter rescue team came at that moment from the door leading to the roof, pushing a stretcher. Jack stepped aside to let them pass and Guy imitated him.
Once the others had disappeared in the lift, Jack took two orange jackets from a wall hanger and he handed one to Guy.
“Wear this. At this time of the year it's cold, and Alicia wouldn’t forgive me if you should get sick.”
Guy slipped his jacket on, and, after a few attempts, he also managed to close the zipper, then walked to the door to the roof with Jack.
The flying device was in front of him, yellow and shiny, perched on the roof of the building like a huge dragonfly. Some attendants were working to prepare the aircraft for the next mission, and they greeted Jack, casting some puzzled looks at the stranger beside him.
Guy looked at the helicopter, trying not to think of the terror he had felt when he had seen it passing over his head, and Jack motioned him to get closer.
“That's the seat of the pilot, the person who makes it fly,” he said, pointing to a seat in the front of the vehicle, “We doctors sit here, in the back. This is the place for the stretcher on which the wounded are carried.”
Gisborne touched one of the sides of the helicopter and he realized that it was simple metal, a delicate and complex mechanism, but nothing other than a mechanical device. Not a demon nor a magic item, just an object created by man.
“I'd love to see it fly again, now that I know what it is.”
Jack heard the sound of the alarm and grabbed Guy’s arm, pulling him quickly away from the helicopter.
“It seems that your wish will be granted... Do you hear this sound? It’s the signal that the team has to prepare for a mission, they will take off shortly. Come, let's stay at a safety distance, and we'll be able to watch them leaving. But we have to put these on, soon there will be a lot of noise.”
The doctor took some earmuffs, and he handed a pair to Guy, showing him how to put them on, then he wore them too, and they both waited.
Shortly after, the helicopter rotor began to move, the doctors’ team boarded and the aircraft took off, rising in the sky, and heading toward the city.
Guy watched it, completely fascinated by what seemed like a prodigy, and that instead was a conquest of humanity, a result of human intelligence. The helicopter's blades had generated an intense wind that ruffled his hair, sending it all over his face, and that made his eyes weep, but Guy just pushed away from his eyes the locks that hindered his sight.
The noise of the engine was intense and without the earmuffs it would have been deafening, similar to the galloping of a herd of wild horses and even the sensation of power was the same, yet, despite so much strength, the helicopter had hovered in air gracefully, as if it had no weight, then moved at a speed that no horse could ever match.
Guy was no longer afraid now, but his heart was beating fast in his chest.
Jack smiled at seeing his expression.
“So, what do you think?”
Guy looked toward the horizon, where he had seen the aircraft disappear.
“Can we wait for it to come back?”
Chapter 7: The Proof
Jonathan Archer poured coffee into two cups and handed one of them to Peter Edwards.
The archaeologist took it, grabbed a donut from the open box on the table, and seized the guardian's chair without any hesitation.
Since the day when they had collaborated to save the wounded man they had found in the crypt, the two men had become friends, and Peter Edwards had taken the habit of going to the guardian's room during his breaks to get coffee and chat with him.
Jonathan Archer was a simple man, but he was interested in the history of the city and he found the archaeologist's words fascinating, especially when he told him about the progress of his work in the crypt or some anecdote about the excavations he had done in the past.
"Police finally took the seals off the crypt, now we've been able to resume work in those rooms,” Peter said.
“I know, I accompanied them down there yesterday.” Jonathan said. "There's still the stain of that poor man's blood on the floor. I suppose the museum will have to call some specialized company to have it cleaned, sooner or later.”
“Do you have any news of that man? I often think of him, I wonder what happened to him...”
“A few days after the accident, I called the hospital and they said that he was going to make it, but they wouldn’t tell me anything else. Sometimes I even thought of going there to see him, but I never did.”
“I really thought that he was going to die,” the archaeologist said, then he took a sip of coffee and nodded toward the open door. “I think that lady wants to talk to you.”
The guardian looked at the woman who was waiting outside the door and wondered what she wanted.
She was a middle-aged lady with a round face and curly hair sticking disorderly out from the edges of a colorful woolen cap.
Usually the ladies who looked for the guardian of the museum wanted to protest for the behavior of some other rude visitor or for small flaws, but the woman who was waiting for him didn’t have the usual arrogant expression of who is going to give an indignant reproach, instead she seemed rather hesitant, almost embarrassed.
“Good morning, madam, how can I help you?”
Alicia looked at him.
“I would like to visit the castle dungeons.”
“Guided tours are on Wednesday and Friday mornings and throughout the day on weekends. I'll get you a brochure.”
“No. I need to visit one of the areas not open to the public.”
“This is not possible, ma'am.”
“Please, it's very important!”
The archaeologist and the guardian exchanged a look, curious because of the woman's tone: it was clear that she wouldn’t give up so easily, and they both wondered why it was so important for her.
Alicia knew that if she told them the truth, they would believe her to be crazy, but she couldn’t find another plausible excuse.
“It's for one of my patients. He is sure to know a secret niche in the dungeons of the castle and he asked me to check if it really exists.”
“A patient? Are you a doctor?”
“Yes. Guy says he's a twelfth-century knight, and he asked me to check if his memories correspond to reality.”
“Guy? Is that the man who we found in the crypt a few weeks ago?”
“Yes. Are you the guardian who kept him alive until the arrival of the helicopter rescue?”
Peter Edwards patted his friend's shoulder.
“Exactly him! And I gave him a hand. So did he survive?”
“Yes, physically he is recovering.”
“But he says that he comes from the past? Was he damaged by oxygen shortage?” The archaeologist asked.
“Apparently he isn’t. Guy is very coherent and his descriptions are incredibly detailed.”
“But you're here to have proof that he's crazy.”
Alicia shook her head, blushing.
“I'm here because I think he isn’t.”
The two men exchanged another perplexed look and Alicia noticed their glance.
“You will think that it is me the one who is crazy, now.”
“Madam, it seems quite unlikely that we may have to deal with a time traveler, don’t you think?” The archaeologist said. “At least, I didn’t see any blue police box in the crypt.”
“I know that it seems absurd, but I don’t think that Guy is a liar. What he says is too precise, it seems that he has really seen what he describes. I've been working at the hospital for nearly thirty years, but I have never had a case like this.”
"Peter, you have to admit that the way we found him was definitely unusual. I still don’t understand how he arrived there,” the guardian suggested.
“Why?” Alicia asked.
“The gate was locked and that section of the dungeons is connected to the outside only with a tunnel that collapsed many centuries ago and through other rooms, perhaps old cellars, which were also closed with a gate. I explored that section of the crypt, but I did not find any further passages.
According to the police, he must have entered before the gate was closed and stayed there for a few days, but I'm absolutely certain that, when I closed the gate for the last time before the accident, there was nobody down there.”
Peter Edwards looked at his friend, amused.
“The mystery becomes more and more interesting. Why don’t we check what the lady says?”
The guardian looked at him, uncertain.
“I'm not allowed to let visitors enter the closed areas.”
“It won’t be necessary. I have all the permissions to examine the crypt. If the lady gives me the directions given by her time traveler, I'll go and check it out.”
“My name is Alicia Little,” the woman said and handed the archaeologist the notebook where she had noted down Guy's instructions.
Peter took the notebook, drank a last sip of coffee, and he returned to the dungeons. Jonathan poured another cup of coffee, and offered it to Alicia.
“Sit down, please, I think it will take some time. I noticed that archaeologists are very meticulous in their work, but speed is not their strength.”
Alicia smiled at him and accepted both coffee and one of the donuts.
“I'm glad you came here," the guardian said, after a while. "I confess I was worried for that man, and I was curious to know if he survived. I think I have never been so scared for someone in my whole life.”
“You saved his life.”
“Do you think I could come and meet him one of these days? I may be an old fool, but I can’t take the image of all that blood away from my mind, seeing that he is fine is going to be a relief.”
“There shouldn’t be any problems. I'll talk to him so he will know that he can expect a visit.”
“By the way, what's his name?”
“He didn’t have any documents on him. He says his name is Guy of Gisborne.”
Jonathan looked at her, surprised.
“Like Robin Hood's enemy?”
“Exactly. But Guy says that he and Robin eventually became friends.”
A few hours later, Alicia was walking through the corridors of the hospital steadily, headed to Guy's room, but when she arrived, she found it empty.
One nurse greeted her cheerfully.
“Good morning, Dr. Little! Isn’t today your free day?”
“Yes, but I had to talk to Guy. Where is he?”
“With Dr. Robinson. This morning I saw them together after the doctor came to check his wounds. It seemed strange to me because Guy usually never leaves his room.”
“Can you check if there were some examinations scheduled?”
The girl looked at the computer and after a while she shook her head.
“No, nothing like that. Dr. Robinson just wrote that he had removed the stitches.”
“Was Guy fine?”
“I would say he was. He walked well, following the doctor. Perhaps he was a bit nervous, he looked around and he seemed to be a little scared, but he seemed pretty fit, more than last week, at least.”
Alicia nodded. After the shock he had had when he had walked out of the hospital, Guy had spent most of his time sleeping, as if too much emotions had drained all his energies, and, when he was awake, his mood was overwhelmed by a deep sadness.
She had tried to comfort him in every possible way, but she wasn’t sure she had been able to help him.
“Have you seen where they went?”
“Towards the lift.”
Alicia wondered what had happened to push Guy out of his room and she wondered if she should go looking for him, but at that moment the lift doors opened and she found herself staring at the object of her thoughts.
Guy was wearing one of the windbreakers supplied to the rescuers and he had his hair ruffled by the wind and his cheeks reddened because of cold. He seemed to be very tired, but he smiled when he saw her, and, for the first time since she knew him, Alicia saw that his smile this time also reached his eyes, illuminating his face and making him look much younger.
She couldn’t avoid smiling in turn.
“Where have you been?”
It was Dr. Robinson who answered.
“On the roof. For a good part of the morning.”
“I wanted to see the helicopter,” Guy said. “I had to see it fly again.”
Alicia glanced at her colleague, worried because she remembered Guy's reaction when he first saw it.
“And everything went all right?”
“Even too much. This morning there were three calls for the helicopter, and we have been out there watching it fly all the time. If you don’t mind, I guess I'll go get some hot coffee now.”
The doctor said goodbye to both of them, and he walked away along the corridor.
“I thought I wouldn’t see you today,” Guy said, returning to his room together with Alicia. “They told me that today was your free day.”
"And I thought that you were scared of the helicopter.”
“That's why I wanted to have a good look at it. Twice I saw Nottingham besieged by an enemy army, and for three other times I have been just a step away from being executed, it's not the first time I look into Death’s eyes. I won’t be a hero like Robin, but I'm not even a complete coward. If this is the world I have to live in, I won’t hide in a corner, trembling, just because I don’t understand it.”
“And now do you understand helicopters a little better?”
“Yes, I think so. It is a complex and ingenious mechanism. I've never seen anything so powerful and fast, I think I wouldn’t mind flying on it, someday.”
“Oh, but you did, even if you can’t remember it. They took you here by helicopter when you were hurt.”
"You wouldn’t have survived an ambulance trip, the helicopter is much faster.”
“The ambulance is the wagon without horses?”
“Yes. If you want to see them, you can just look out of the window at the end of the corridor.”
Guy took off his jacket and he placed it on a chair, then he sat down on the bed, wrapping a blanket around his shoulders.
“Maybe tomorrow. Today has already been quite exciting.”
Alicia saw him shiver and she took his hand.
“You're freezing. You're still not healthy enough to stay outside for such a long time. Now go to bed and I’ll bring you something warm to eat. Then, since they removed your stitches, later you could try to take a hot shower before you go to sleep. Wait here, I'll be back soon.”
Guy dutifully obeyed: it had been an exciting morning, but now he felt terribly tired and cold.
When Alicia put the lunch tray in front of him, Guy realized that he was even more hungry than usual.
The doctor looked at him eating with appetite, while she just nibbled a piece of bread, too nervous to be hungry. She didn’t know how Guy would react to the news that she was bringing, and she was afraid to ruin that moment of serenity.
She was tempted to postpone their talk to the next day, but she knew that it would only be a postponement of the inevitable.
Gisborne looked at her.
“What's up, lady Alicia?”
The woman smiled because of that old-fashioned title, then she returned serious.
“Today was actually my free day, and I went to the castle.”
Guy focused his attention on her.
“To look for the sheriff’s dagger?”
Guy's heart accelerated its beats.
“And did you find it?”
Without saying anything, Alicia took out a bundle from her bag and laid it on the bed, carefully opening it.
Guy stared at the object that was in front of him: it was corroded by rust and rendered fragile by years, but it was clearly a broken dagger.
Gisborne touched it with a finger.
“It was really there. Then I'm not crazy.”
“Looks like you are not. Even if I don’t know how this is possible. There was also this in the niche.” Alicia handed him a smaller object, closed in a padded box.
"Later I have to bring them back to the castle, they will put them into a museum, but I wanted to show them to you.”
Guy opened the small box and took the ring with two fingers, almost with reverence. Alicia saw his eyes glistening with tears.
Gisborne looked at her and he gave her a trembling smile.
"This was my mother’s ring, the only thing I had left of her. I didn’t remember hiding it there...” He touched the faded scar beneath his cheekbone. “Do you see this scar? It was this ring to leave it on my face, after I put it on Marian's finger to force her to marry me...”
“And it didn’t go well, I see...”
“She's never been mine. But I only realized it too late... Only after I destroyed her.”
“I didn’t want to upset you. I'm sorry.”
Guy shook his head.
“Don’t apologize. I have created this sorrow with my own hands, it is only right that I should bear its burden. It's always with me, it never leaves me. It's just that I didn’t expect to see my mother's ring again.”
“I'll have to bring it back to the castle, Guy.”
“Why? It's mine.”
“We can’t prove that it belongs to you, no one would believe what happened to you. For the law it’s an archaeological find, we can’t keep it. But they assured me that they will put it in a museum and they will keep it with care.”
“I also struggle to believe what happened to me. What is a museum?”
Alicia explained it in a few words, and Guy returned the ring to her reluctantly, after kissing it one last time.
“When they put it in this museum... can I go to look at it, every now and then?”
“As often as you want, I promise you.”
“Then go. Bring it there before it becomes too difficult for me to let it go.”
The doctor sighed.
“Do you want me to keep you company tonight?”
Guy shook his head. He looked down and his hair covered his face, like a curtain, but Alicia could easily guess the presence of tears hidden behind those ruffled locks.
She hugged him impulsively, and she held him tight for a few seconds, then she brushed his forehead with a maternal kiss, and let him go.
“Listen to me, Guy: now go and take a hot shower, then eat one of the chocolate tablets I gave you, and go to bed without thinking of anything. We will face everything together in the coming days, but now you need to rest. Sleep well and remember that you are not alone.”
Guy took a deep breath, straightened his back and looked into her eyes, struggling to smile.
“That seems a good plan to me. Especially the chocolate part.”
The woman caressed his cheek with tenderness.
“I'll try to come back later, but I can’t guarantee it, this afternoon I will have some chores to do. But if you need me, tell the nurse and she will contact me right away.”
“Will she send you a messenger?”
“No, she'll use the phone. I'll explain you how it works in the next few days.”
The doctor walked to the door, but before she could leave the room, Guy called her.
“Lady Alicia! Thank you. Thank you for believing me.”
The woman smiled, moved.
"If you want to thank me, don’t be so formal, love. Just call me Alicia, okay?”
“All right... Alicia.”
Chapter 8: My Place in This World
Guy could feel the wind raging around him, but its frosty fingers didn’t touch him, as if there was an invisible veil between him and the rest of the world, separating him from the rest.
He was up on top of one of the castle towers, and he was waiting.
A yellow dot appeared on the horizon, flying over the villages, and, even from that distance, Guy could almost see the peasants of Locksley, of Knighton, and of Clun, raising their heads from their work in the fields to watch it pass . Every time it was flying over a village, the helicopter flew lower and Robin and his gang leaned out of its side door to throw out coins and supplies.
“Always the usual show-off,” Guy said, his mouth curved in an amused smile.
That scream at his back, so familiar, made him shudder.
Guy turned his gaze away from the helicopter, and he turned slowly, terrified, but ready to fight.
The sheriff was standing in front of him with his hawk on his wrist.
“You're a traitor, Gisborne. I raised you, I lifted you from the road mud, and are you ready to betray me like that? You were almost like a son for me, and instead you rebelled. Everything for that woman who is not even yours. You have never listened to me, Gizzy: women are like lepers and you should keep away from them.”
“Don’t talk about her.”
“You can’t have her. You never had a hope. You should have caught her, forced her, and in the end she would have obeyed you. This is how you deal with rabid dogs. I did so with you.”
“But this dog has bitten you, in the end.”
“And I killed him.”
Guy looked at the landscape that he could see from the top of the tower: the Nottingham he remembered mixed with the city of the future, with its black streets and its horseless wagons.
“But I'm still alive and you're just dust.”
“Do you think this is enough to make you free? Do you think you can get rid of me?”
"You've been dead for eight centuries, what can you do to me, now?"
“I'm in your heart. I am the evil that nests within you, the fault that will drag you to hell. You did horrible things, Gizzy, what would they think of you when they find out?”
“I didn’t want to! You were the one who made me do them!”
“But it was also convenient for you to have the power. To obey and then saying that it was my fault was easier, isn’t it? It was a convenient way to get rid of your conscience, but you did those things. You killed your leper!”
Guy turned his back to him and looked at the approaching helicopter.
“I don’t want to listen to you. Stop poisoning my heart.”
He reached out to the sky: he didn’t want to stay there with Vaisey, he wanted Robin to save him from that situation. He could see Robin sitting in the pilot's seat with Archer and Allan beside him, confident and smiling, and the others in the back, all together, a family full of warmth.
“Come and get me! Take me with you!” He shouted and the helicopter moved toward him, filling his heart with hope.
Guy stood on the parapet of the tower, raising his hands. Robin would grab him and bring him to safety, away from danger.
Then Vaisey launched the hawk and the bird of prey flew high in the sky, becoming bigger and bigger. When he reached the helicopter, he was now so huge that he could grab it with a claw.
He did so, grasping it in flight, like a pigeon, crushing the aircraft and all that it contained, then he opened his claws and dropped the twisted scrap of metal to the ground.
Guy looked at the scene with horror, then, just a moment later, the sheriff pushed him into the void.
He landed on the floor with a thud, pulling a pillow and a blanket with him, and, a moment later, Robin Hood's book hit him on his head and fell to the ground in front of him. Guy remained silent for a moment, panting with terror.
"It was a nightmare..." He whispered.
The drawing of the archer dressed in green stared at him from the cover of the book and seemed to laugh at him.
The real Robin would have done it for sure, Guy thought, as he got up and sat on the floor. The fall had been painful and probably he got some new bruises, but he knew that he wasn’t really hurt.
The dream, however, had left him with a sense of terror and disgust for himself. The sheriff's words had been as bad as ever, he was just trying to hurt him, but how could Guy deny them?
He had done those things. He had killed Marian.
The doctors and nurses in the hospital were all kind to him, but how would they treat him if they had seen him work for Vaisey? How could they accept what he had done for the sheriff?
Those people were dedicated to saving lives, how could they tolerate a man who had killed, mutilated and starved other people just because it was his job?
He picked up the book and put it in his lap, opening it to the illustration of Guy of Gisborne. He looked at the cruel traits of Robin Hood's enemy, his fierce expression, contorted by hatred, and he thought that even that representation was better than him. That enemy, at least, was consistent in his cruelty, embraced his wickedness and glorified it.
He, however, had obeyed passively, without wondering whether what he was doing was right or not, because it was simpler. It was easy to obey and think that it wasn’t his fault because the sheriff was giving orders, too easy to forget that it was his hand that killed and hurt people.
Guy closed his eyes with a sigh, leaning his back on the side of the bed and hugging his knees.
That position reminded him of the time he had spent in the dungeons of the castle, waiting to be executed by his sister's hand. Then, he had spent his days in the darkness, sitting in a corner with his back resting on the bars of the cell, alone, hated and forgotten by everyone.
When they told him that he was going to be executed, he had been afraid, then he had thought that death wouldn’t change anything; he was destined to hell and he was already there.
It had been Meg who shook him from that apathy. Meg, the innocent and determined girl who had risked everything to save his life and eventually lost her own.
Another victim of his mistakes.
Remembering her was sweet and painful in the same way.
Like a falling star, Meg had crossed his life, illuminating it for a moment, enough to show him the right path.
Before she died, she had asked him for a kiss and he didn’t want to give it to her. He couldn’t contaminate her innocence with his black soul, he wasn’t worthy of being the subject of that first, tender love, but in the end he had granted her wish, and he had touched her lips with the same reverence that he could have reserved for a sacred relic.
She was just an innocent girl and that chaste kiss had made her happy. Meg had slipped into death smiling, serene in his arms.
She wasn’t in the book, her memory had disappeared with her death because she wasn’t important to Robin Hood's gang. Meg hadn’t shared adventures with them, she wasn’t the woman of one of the heroes, she wasn’t part of the story.
She was just a young woman, a pure soul who had offered some comfort to a sinner, and the world had forgotten about her.
“You were important. I remember you...” Guy whispered. “...and I'll always do.”
He closed the book and got up from the floor, collecting the blanket and the pillow to hide every trace of that humiliating fall.
He decided that he shouldn’t listen to the sheriff's words, no matter how true they could sound.
Vaisey was a devil and his only pleasure was to hurt others, but Guy wouldn’t let him.
He was dead, dust scattered in the wind, and he would no longer hurt anyone.
Guy opened the small wardrobe in the corner of the room and took clean clothes, marveling once again of the apparent abundance of that time. Alicia had brought him another black gym suit identical to the first one, several t-shirts, underwear and other clothes he could wear when he went to sleep.
When he lived at the castle, only noble and wealthy families had more than one or two different clothes, the others, the village peasants, always wore the same dress or tunic if they were so lucky to have a decent one.
He had always preferred to change at least his shirt when he sweated or when he rode for a long time in the dust of the road. At Locksley, he had a pair of spare jackets to alternate when the one he was wearing was too dirty. The servants, he knew, often criticized him for what they considered the whim of a nobleman and they grumbled when they thought he didn’t hear them. Their mood got even worse when Guy ordered them to warm up the water for a bath, thinking that he bathed too often, forcing them to do so much work.
Instead, eight centuries later, possessing many clothes was normal for anyone, and if he wanted to bathe, it wasn’t necessary to disturb reluctant servants.
That, Guy thought, was a pleasant side of the twenty-first century.
He opened the shower faucet and let the water run, and he took off the clothes he had used to sleep, pausing to look at his figure in the mirror.
He was still pale and too thin, and the scar on his belly was a bright red sign, perfectly visible on his white skin. He couldn’t see his back, but he knew that the other two scars had to have more or less the same unpleasant look.
Guy brushed the scar with a finger, just touching it. He remembered the terrible pain that had pierced him when Vaisey had ran him through with the sword, and how that blow had taken his breath away.
He had barely felt Isabella's blow, in comparison, her blade sinking into a body already paralyzed by pain.
His legs had suddenly given way and he had collapsed to the ground, unable to get up. It had been that weakness to make him realize that it was over, that it was a deadly wound and that he wouldn’t see a new day.
But a prodigious event had saved his life, though Guy couldn’t understand why that miracle had happened to him.
There must be a reason for that. There must be some reason why I'm here.
He went into the shower, closing his eyes as the hot water flowed on his body and face, washing away the last traces of the nightmare.
Vaisey had failed to kill him, and he shouldn’t allow his malignity to hurt him. Perhaps his words were true and Guy's conscience was sullied by many sins that couldn’t be washed away, but those evil actions belonged to the past and he had a new future ahead of him.
His life had been saved, and it was a precious gift that he shouldn’t waste. Guy swore to himself that he would search for a purpose, a reason to be worthy of that miracle.
To do this, he had to learn to know this new world that was so different from his own, and he had to adapt to live in it, even if it wasn’t going to be easy.
He passed his hand over his face to push his wet hair back and he looked at the plastic bottles lined up on a shelf. He tried to remember which of those substances had to be used to wash the body and which on was for the hair, and he squeezed the shampoo bottle, pouring some of it on his hand.
He smelled that colored liquid before putting it on his hair, and he thought that such a substance, in his Nottingham, would only be suitable for a wealthy nobleman. Even the material of the bottle, they called it ‘plastic’, was amazing and it was used in many different ways, but, just like the clothes, at that time it seemed to be incredibly common.
Guy finished washing, lingering under the stream of warm water only for the pleasure of doing so, then he wrapped himself in a soft towel and he used another one to rub his hair before getting dressed.
This time, he had chosen a blue shirt to wear under his black tracksuit and it seemed strange to him to wear a garment of such a bright and brilliant color.
He looked different from the Guy of Gisborne who had worked for the sheriff and he thought that he probably was different. To die and to return to life had changed him, even though he was not sure he understood how.
For the better, I hope. Also because becoming worse than I was would be difficult.
He went back to the room, and sat on the bed, then he got up again to look out the window. His room overlooked on an inner courtyard and he could only see the windows of the other wing of the building, almost all of them dark because it was still night-time.
Perhaps he should go back to sleep, he thought, but in the last few days he had slept so much that he now wasn’t sleepy at all, and then he was afraid that he could dream Vaisey again.
He looked at the book resting on the bedside table, but he didn’t want to spend the rest of the night reading the adventurous stories of Robin Hood's gang, not when he missed them so much.
He found himself walking back and forth in the room, and that movement made him remember the days he had spent in the dungeons when he couldn’t sleep and he had nothing else to do except wandering without purpose in the narrow space of his cell.
He glanced at the door and realized that this time he wasn’t locked in a prison. Nobody had ever forbidden him to leave his room, if not his own fears.
He approached the door and put his hand on the handle, then he pulled it toward him and stepped past the threshold.
The corridor was desert at that hour of the night and Guy looked around, uncomfortable, expecting to be stopped and sent back to his room.
A nurse passed by, coming out of one of the other rooms, and she gave him an amazed look.
“It’s everything all right, Guy? You can’t sleep?”
“No, I'm not sleepy.”
The girl smiled.
“I can believe that! You have done nothing but sleeping in the last few days,” she said cheerfully, “I'm not surprised at you being awake, now. But it's strange to see you out of your room, usually you burrow in there all day long.”
“I wanted to see what's out here.”
The nurse saw the light of a call turning on, and she apologized to Guy.
“I have to go. Feel free to explore the surroundings, but don’t make noise, the other patients are sleeping. And remember that if you need me, I'm around here.”
The girl went away quickly and Guy looked at her until she was gone.
Guy took a few steps down the corridor, looking at the closed doors of the other rooms. From one of them came a groan, followed by a desperate cry. A voice sobbed that he wanted to go away from there, he wanted to go home.
Gisborne listened to it for a moment, then he walked away, pensive. Until then, he had never thought of the people who were in the other rooms, he had never stopped thinking that he wasn’t the only one who had been injured, and that behind those doors there were real people, suffering for some reason.
That hospital, which seemed a safe haven and a welcoming place to him, for others was a tremendous place, a place they wanted to escape, a place of pain and torment.
With a sigh, he moved away from that door.
He remembered Alicia's words and he reached the window at the far end of the corridor, wondering if he would be able to see one of the wagons without horses.
He waited for a while, looking out the window: it was night, but the road was lit up by high poles with a lamp on their top, and occasionally a car passed, with the lights on.
Guy looked at the cars, astonished at the idea that a vehicle could go so fast without being towed by horses. It was definitely a useful and important invention, but he missed the sound of the hooves on the pavement, the neighs coming from the stables and the smell of the horses, which once pervaded every place inhabited by man and which now was completely absent.
An ambulance passed, sparkling with colored lights and faster than the other cars, breaking the silence of the night with a sound similar to the cry of a banshee, and Guy looked at it, no longer frightened.
It was a new, completely new world, and he wasn’t crazy, now he knew for sure, but he realized that if he had been mad, things would have been simpler, and that the most difficult times were still to come.
To find his purpose in that life that had been donated to him, Guy had to learn to live in this time, to make up for eight centuries of oblivion as quickly as possible.
He stepped away from the window and he went back down the corridor, looking around and trying to figure out what was yet unknown to him, to ask for explanations to Alicia or Dr. Jack later.
He came to a room that contained some tables and some chairs lined up against the wall. In a corner, on a small table, there were some jugs and glasses, and there were two strange appliances close to it, similar to small wardrobes with buttons and lights on them. One of them had a transparent wall and, inside it, Guy recognized the chocolate bars that Alicia gave to him, but it seemed that there was no way to take them.
In the other corner of the room, hanging high on the wall, there was one of those luminous panels that showed moving images. When he had followed Jack Robinson on the roof to see the helicopter, in the corridors and on the desk of the nurses, Guy had seen some of them working, but that one was turned off.
Guy approached, looking at the black and still surface of the screen and he wondered how it worked.
He had been there for a while, when the nurse he had met earlier entered the room together with a colleague.
“Oh, you're here, Guy! I see you found the best place in the ward.”
Gisborne approached, a little puzzled.
The girl took one of the jugs and poured herself a cup of coffee, then filled one for her colleague and one for Guy.
“When you want to drink something warm, you can come here to take tea or coffee from these kettles. You just have to be careful not to burn yourself: sometimes it can be very hot.”
“And what about that? How do you open it?” Guy pointed at the snack food vending machine, and the girl giggled.
“You need some coins for that.” She turned to her colleague. “Hey, John, why don’t you buy us something, so we can show Guy how it works?”
The other nurse burst into a jovial laugh.
“Confess that you just want to scrounge a snack.”
The girl shrugged innocently, and John put his hand in his pocket, resigned, fumbling in search of coins.
Gisborne carefully observed the steps needed to use the distributor, asking for some explanation to make sure he understood it well.
The two nurses ended drinking their coffee, chatting cheerfully, then the girl smiled at Guy.
“We need to get back to work now, do you need anything?”
Gisborne pointed at the TV.
“How does that work?”
John recovered the remote control that was on a shelf next to the TV and used it to turn it on, then he handed it to Guy.
“Too long to explain, but have fun finding out by yourself.”
The two nurses came out of the room together and they walked along the corridor. As soon as they were far enough, John turned to his colleague.
“Was he the guy who believes to be a medieval knight?”
The girl giggled.
“Just him. Adorable, but completely crazy. It was strange too see him wandering around tonight, usually he is always staying into his room.”
“At least this one seems to be quiet... Have I ever told you about the patient who claimed to be the reincarnation of Tutankhamon?”
“No, what did he do?”
“He kept stealing bandages from the dressing trolley, saying that he needed them for his mummification!”
Chapter 9: The First 30 Days of a New Life
Jack Robinson smiled at her colleague, slightly uncomfortable.
“Do you believe him? Seriously?”
“I know, it's crazy, but...”
“Come on, you can’t really believe he comes from the Middle Ages. I know you're fond of him and you would like to help him, but you shouldn’t lose touch with reality.”
“He told me where to find some objects that had been hidden in a secret niche in the dungeons of the castle for over eight hundred years.”
“Maybe he put them there. Wasn’t he right there when we rescued him?”
“The archaeologist who opened the niche said that it had been untouched for centuries.”
"Maybe Guy found out some old documents that said where to find it, a sort of treasure map.”
“How do you explain this?” Alicia pulled a bundle of sheets from a folder and passed it to her colleague.
“I've done more in-depth examinations on him. Look, he's not immune to many of the diseases that we have vaccines for, while we have found antibodies against leprosy in his blood.”
Jack looked at her, surprised.
“Why did you have to test him for leprosy?!”
"Because he told me that his father had come back from war, and then he was banned as a leper. Guy is immune to the disease, but to develop those antibodies he must have been exposed to it.”
“It's not a proof, anyway. He could simply have been on a trip in one of the countries where the disease is still present. It’s no doubt more plausible than the idea that a man can travel in time.”
“I also checked his teeth: he has no fillings or traces of modern treatments.”
“Then he is a very lucky man. Even a relative of my mother died at ninety years with perfectly healthy teeth without having ever set foot in a dental studio in her life.”
"Anyway, I don’t think he's crazy. You talked to him, you can see that his speeches have a logical sense, and that what he tells us always maintains some consistency with what he had said in the past. He has never changed his version or invented different details depending on the moment.”
“This is true. It will certainly be an interesting case for our colleagues in the psychiatric ward.”
“No! Guy must stay here.”
“Alicia, that man believes he came from the Middle Ages...”
“That's true, but for the rest his mind is perfectly sane. Perhaps he is really from the past, or he has memories of a previous life, or maybe he is just an history enthusiast who has suffered partial amnesia, but he can adapt to a normal life, he can learn the things that he doesn’t know and he is determined to do so. What would happen to him if they think he isn’t in full possession of his faculties? If they shut him up in some mental institution, I don’t think he could bear it.”
Jack Robinson looked at his colleague: Dr. Little was always very serious and professional, and it was strange for him to see that she cared so much for a patient that she ignored logic.
Jack had to admit that he had been involved with Guy of Gisborne's case too, and he had often found himself indulging the patient in ways that for others would look like just as the demands of a crazy man.
“I think that we can wait for the moment. It is understandable to be confused after such a severe trauma, we will see how is the situation in a few weeks. But if we can’t find a relative who can be responsible for him, it will be much more complicated.”
Alicia thanked him with a smile. His colleague was giving her some time to prepare Guy, and to teach him everything he could learn about the modern world so that he could have a normal life.
“Do you want to come and visit him?”
“Not today. Dr. Track will return to London tomorrow and we have the last meeting with the rescue team to take stock of this experience.”
“I'll go and say goodbye to him later, then. It looks almost unbelievable... it’s been a month already...”
Guy closed the book he was reading, with a sigh.
That text narrated the story of humanity, starting from ancient times to get to the present and he was trying to figure out what had happened to the world in the eight centuries that he had lost.
The thing that confused him was to see that even the historical events he had experienced in person were treated in such a superficial and unclear way that he struggled to recognize them. And if the truth had been altered so much, Guy wondered how much he could trust those informations. One thing was certain, however: humanity had not stopped fighting new wars and seemed to have found more and more effective methods of killing people.
That had not changed at all since his time, and of course the sheriff would have loved some of those new lethal weapons.
He put the book on the floor beside him and leaned back against the wall, wrapping himself in the jacket that Dr. Alicia had brought him a few days earlier.
On the roof of the hospital it was cold, but Guy liked to take refuge there when he wanted to stay alone for a while. In the beginning he had followed the same path he had done with Jack Robinson when they went to see the helicopter. Guy had returned to the landing platform a couple of times, but then he had realized that his presence was an obstacle to the rescue team, and he had searched for another place from which he could watch the aircraft take off, without disturbing anyone.
He had found access to the roof of another wing of the hospital and he had discovered that huge terrace that was used only occasionally by doctors and nurses during the breaks. From there, he had a perfect view of both the helicopter and the city.
From what Guy could see from there, Nottingham was completely different from the city he remembered, bigger, with all those dark roads dotted with cars and modern buildings instead of peasants’ huts. There were much less fields and trees and, at night, the city was all glittering with lights. Even the castle was no longer the one of his time, but a more recent building, and Guy wondered if there was anything left of the old Nottingham, besides him.
The helicopter's noise filled the air and Guy approached the parapet to watch it leave.
To see that metal object that was able to rise in the air and to move at that speed still seemed like a miracle to him.
That modern world was still frightening and filling him with wonder at the same time.
If I could go back, would I do it?
He wasn’t sure he had an answer to that question. Learning and understanding all those new things was a difficult and frightening task, and Guy wasn’t sure he could ever succeed, but in the time he had spent in the twenty-first century, he had become accustomed to the advantages of that time.
Returning to the tough life of the Nottingham of the past would be difficult, now.
In the present, people were less dangerous, more kind, and even when competing with each other, discussions and fights rarely degenerated into violence. In fact, nobody carried swords and daggers with them and only very few people went around carrying weapons.
In his Nottingham it would be unthinkable for a knight not to have his sword with him, and Guy still missed it. Without a weapon he was too vulnerable, yet he had rarely had the opportunity to feel so safe.
At the castle he had to be always careful and ready to defend himself because even the slightest distraction could cost him his life. There were always rivals ready to usurp his place, as he himself had done with the old Master at Arms, enemies to face, revenges… He always had to be ready to defend himself.
Now, instead, he could sleep quietly, knowing that no one would try to cut his throat during his sleep.
Perhaps he was becoming too confident and, if he ever had to go back in his time, this weakness could cost him his life, but it was nice not to be constantly forced to watch his back. If only he didn’t feel so alone...
A chilly gust of wind made him shiver, and reluctantly Guy picked up the book from the ground and went back inside.
Alicia was waiting for him in front of the door of his room, and smiled at seeing him.
“Were you on the roof again?”
“Sometimes the ward seems too loud.”
"And then to find some silence it seems perfectly logical to go and listen to the sound of a helicopter that takes off.”
“It's a different kind of noise.”
“I know, I was joking, I understand what you mean.” She glanced at the book in Guy's hands. “Are you studying history?”
Gisborne glanced at the book.
“You look a bit dispirited, are you feeling well?”
“Alicia, what is going to happen to me?”
“What do you mean?”
"My wounds are almost completely healed, it makes no sense that I spend the days without doing anything. I've always had to earn the necessary to live with my own efforts, but now I don’t know how to do it. I don’t like to depend on the charity of others.”
“You're doing your best, Guy. You're doing so much to learn the things you don’t know...”
“But it's never enough! For every new thing I can understand, there are at least ten that I find incomprehensible! I spend all day observing, reading, trying to understand, yet I always feel like an imbecile.”
“But it's not true at all!”
“Do you think I don’t notice how people look at me when I ask for something that is obvious to them? When I was little, in our village there was a poor idiot who had been trampled by a horse during childhood. He had survived, but he was not even able to use the latrine on his own, and anyone who saw him would look at him with pity, as if they thought that it would be better to die rather than to live in those conditions.” Guy sighed. “Now people look at me with the same kind of look...”
The woman put a hand on his arm and squeezed it slightly.
“We know that it’s not like that. People can’t fully understand your situation, you have to admit it is unique.”
“I struggle to believe it myself.”
“Don’t overdo, things will settle in one way or another.”
Guy sat on the bed with a sigh, massaging his temples.
“I hope so.”
“Do you have a headache?”
“It has been happening often to me, lately.”
Alicia looked at him, a little worried, thinking that he was still too pale and that he looked tired.
“I think you're right, you know? By now your health is much improved, yet you are always stuck here in the hospital, and you do nothing all day but trying to learn and remember new things. I'm not surprised that you feel discouraged and under pressure, it often happened to me too when I was studying medicine.”
Gisborne looked at her.
“I did nothing but studying and I had the impression that I would never remember what I was trying to learn, and that I would never be able to put into practice the things I learned. I was away from home for the first time, I felt alone, and I was convinced that I would fail, that I would never become a good doctor. Then I was always tired because I was studying until late and I had to get up early to practice in the hospital. I had come to a point where I always had stomach ache and I cried for nothing. One day I had almost decided to give up everything and abandon my studies.”
“But you didn’t.”
“No. And do you know why?”
Guy looked at her, waiting for her to continue.
"That day I had been studying the same page for a while and I couldn’t remember a single word of it, I was nervous and frustrated, and at some point I closed the book and I decided to give up. I took my purse and got out of my room without having the faintest idea of what I could do in my life if I couldn’t be a doctor. I wandered around the city for a while, without a real destination and suddenly I found myself in the middle of a fair: I don’t know what they were celebrating, but it didn’t matter much... There were stalls selling candy, music, games and competitions. People were cheerful, carefree, with no other thought than deciding what to eat or what game to play. At another moment I wouldn’t even have stopped to look at the fair: I was always in a hurry and I had the idea that every moment I didn’t use to study was wasted time, but that day I was convinced that I wouldn’t have a future anymore and so I had all the free time in the world. I bought some sweets and I ate them wandering through the crowd, then I danced to the sound of the music, spending the few coins I had to break a pyramid of jars with a ball of rags and for an entire afternoon I just thought about having fun.”
"And then in the evening I returned to my room, tired but much more serene, and it was only then that I realized that I actually remembered very well the page that I had struggled so hard to learn that morning. I was just so tense and discouraged that I had only convinced myself that I would fail, but I just had to learn to relax more and to rest when I needed it.”
Alicia smiled at Guy and stroked his cheek.
"Now I'll get you a painkiller for your headache, then I want you to lie down without thinking of anything. You are tired and in the last few days you have overexerted yourself; the night shift nurse told me that you aren’t sleeping much.”
"When I go to bed, I constantly think of what I have learned during the day, I try to repeat it so that I can’t forget anything, and eventually I can’t sleep anymore.”
“What did you like when you lived in the castle? Was there anything that relaxed you?”
Guy thought ironically that with the sheriff nearby he could never relax, then he realized that there was something.
“Horses. When I was too nervous or in a bad mood, I liked grooming my stallion.”
“Then when you go to sleep try to remember what you did when you groomed your horse, try to remember the smells and the sounds, to feel his mane under your fingers... Don’t think about anything, just imagine your horse and relax.”
“Good. You'll see: tomorrow you will feel better.”
Guy turned in his sleep, hugging the pillow and he wrapped himself in the blanket with a sigh. Dr. Little's suggestion had worked, or perhaps Gisborne was so tired that it wouldn’t have made much difference.
When he went to bed, Guy had tried to think of nothing and to remember his horse.
He had closed his eyes, trying to imagine the stallion in every detail, from the silky tail to the leather straps crossed on his forehead. Guy could almost feel the warmth of his body, the strength of the muscles, ready to push the elegant legs of the animal, and the noises he made, the soft and light neigh that the stallion uttered in recognition of his master when Guy entered the stable. That scene was so realistic and familiar that Guy could almost smell the characteristic odor of the stables and hear the buzzing of the flies.
He had slipped into sleep almost immediately, and for once his dreams had been serene, smelling of hay and caressed by the breeze blowing in the fields of Locksley.
When he woke up, the sun was already high and, as Alicia had said, he felt better.
He got up from the bed, stretching his back, and he noticed that someone had left, on the chair next to the bed, clothes different than the ones he usually wore. The trousers were still black, but the fabric was less soft and apparently more durable than the fabric of his usual gym suit; instead of the black sweatshirt there was a wool sweater of the same color, rather warm.
Guy wondered why they gave him those new clothes, but he wore them anyways. He thought that those more adherent trousers, though they were of a different material, reminded him somehow of the leathers he used to wear when he lived in his time.
It seemed absurd to him that only a month has passed since then. Sometimes he had the impression that his life at the castle was a completely different life, so far that it looked like a dream.
Will you forget about me, Guy?
Marian's voice was like an echo in his mind and Gisborne shook his head.
“No, I could never forget you,” he whispered.
Gisborne turned to the door with a start. Alicia Little stood on the door and looked at him, smiling.
“You look fine. Is the size right?”
“Yes, but why...”
“Get your jacket and come with me.”
Gisborne noticed that the woman didn’t wear her usual white coat, but she was also wearing a warm jacket and a woolen cap.
"I think it's time for you to come out of the hospital, at least for a while. Do you feel like facing the modern world for a few hours?”
Guy thought of the terror he had felt when he first walked through the hospital doors and he had seen the cars and the helicopter for the first time. It seemed a far memory too, by now.
“I think so.”
“What about getting on a car?”
Gisborne looked at her and nodded.
"Since you've explained me how they work, I've often wondered how it would be traveling on a vehicle like that.”
“Well, you're about to find out, I'd say. Shall we go?”
“Where will you take me?”
“I can’t tell you, it's a surprise. But I think you'll like it.”
Chapter 10: Black Storm
The car window, like many things in the 21st century, was controlled by a button. Pushing it on one side, the glass went down, on the other, it went up again.
Guy touched the button and the wind filled the car, ruffling his hair.
Never, not even when he had pursued the outlaws galloping with his horse, he had the feeling of going so fast. Of course it wasn’t possible to drive a wagon at that speed, not even using the county's most valuable horses.
It was both terrifying and incredibly exciting at the same time.
Gisborne turned to look at Alicia, even more surprised to see that the woman was perfectly relaxed while driving the car.
“Is everything all right, Guy?”
“How long would it take to get to York with this vehicle?”
“About a couple of hours.”
“It took almost a full day on horseback... Can this car go faster than this?”
“Yes, but not on this road. See that sign?”
“The round one with a number in the center?”
“Yes. That indicates the maximum speed you can go. If you exceed it, you risk having to pay a fine.”
Guy let out a giggle and Alicia glanced at him.
"I thought that the sheriff never had the idea of putting a limit to the speed of the horses, otherwise he would have done it for sure. You have no idea of the absurd laws he was able to invent in order to get more money from Nottingham's citizens.”
“From what you told me, he had to be a horrible person.”
Guy turned his gaze away, looking out of the window.
“He was a devil. He has destroyed too many lives.”
“Yours too? He was the one who hurt you, wasn’t he?”
Guy became silent, and Alicia regretted asking a question that saddened him. Fortunately, she thought, they had almost arrived.
She turned into a smaller road, and stopped the car in front of a group of buildings surrounded by greenery.
“Here we are,” she said, stretching out a hand to unlock Gisborne's seatbelt. “Pull that handle and push the door to open it.”
Guy fumbled a bit with the handle, but he managed to get off the car, and he looked around, sniffing the air.
“Is this a stable? Do you still have horses even if you don’t need them anymore?”
“They are no longer used as means of transport, but for fun and sport. Our hospital has an agreement with this stable and they organize hippotherapy programs.”
“Working with horses can be useful for many patients, to help them to find their own self-confidence, finding a mental and physical balance, and overcoming traumas of various kinds. I remembered it yesterday, when you told me that you found relaxing grooming your horse.”
“That's why you brought me here? Because you eventually decided that I'm crazy?”
Alicia stared at him, surprised by his wounded expression, and she tried to touch his arm, but Guy flinched, angrily. His reaction didn’t discourage her and Alicia put her hand on his shoulder, with determination.
“Don’t be an idiot, now. If I brought you here it's exactly because I believe you.”
Guy decided to look at her, frowning.
“What do you mean?”
“There are two possibilities, right? Or you've imagined everything, so you're really crazy and you need hippotherapy, or you're telling the truth and then you need it even more.”
“I didn’t lie to you, you saw the dagger!”
“I said that I believe you. That's why I brought you here. You've lost everything you owned, the people you knew, and each of the things and places you were familiar with. And you found yourself in a world that you must learn to know, even in the trivial details. Not to mention that you have been seriously injured and that you almost died. Then, from what you told me, even before all of this, your life has never been easy and you have both suffered and committed actions that have profoundly marked you. Am I wrong?”
Guy thought of Marian, of the red blood that had stained his fingers, and nodded without looking up from the ground.
That was an indelible mark, a stain that he could never wash in another eight centuries.
“No, you are not mistaken,” he whispered.
“See? Anyone would have suffered a trauma even for just one of the things that happened to you, you are being even too brave. You are doing so much to adapt to this time, but you need to loosen the tension a bit or sooner or later you'll suffer a breakdown.”
“So this would be my fair?” Guy asked, referring to Alicia's story of the night before.
“Something like that.” Alicia squeezed his shoulder slightly before letting him go. "You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, but I thought that you'd be curious to see the horses of the future.”
Guy looked at her and he gave her a little smile.
“How are they like? I bet you found the way to make them fly. Or do they spit fire?”
“They're simple horses. Come on, shall we get inside?”
Guy walked down the central corridor of the stable, looking at the horses, each closed in their own stall. That had not changed much since his times: the equipment and the tacks were a bit different and they were made with different materials, but in the end there were not so many differences.
He turned to look at Alicia.
The doctor was talking to a man, probably the manager of that place, and Guy knew they were talking about him and of the reasons why he was there. He hoped that Alicia would only mention the accident without going too far into the details because he wouldn’t bear to see the usual pitiful look even in the eyes of that stranger.
He looked away and looked back at the horses.
Their familiar presence was comforting, he had to admit it, and he wanted to go back riding, to finally do something that he knew and that he was good at.
Almost all of them were calm animals, even too much, he noticed, and he would never have chosen them for his stables, but they were obviously suitable for the purpose they were destined for.
No one of those horses would rear, or would throw their rider, but Guy knew that he would feel silly riding a beast suitable for an inexperienced child.
He went on down the corridor, stopping occasionally to scratch the muzzle of some of the horses, until he found himself in front of the stall of a black horse, completely different from the others.
The stallion was strong and lively, with his muscles flickering under the shiny black coat, as if he was waiting for nothing else but galloping. He resembled Guy’s favorite, dark-coated stallion who had been his faithful companion until he was forced to flee Locksley after being declared outlawed by Prince John.
Guy reached out to the stallion's muzzle and the horse snorted, a little distrustful, before deciding to approach to sniff his fingers.
Gisborne turned to hear Alicia’s voice calling him and, a little bit reluctantly, he stepped away from the black horse to reach the woman and the stranger.
The man turned to him and held out his hand, looking into his eyes.
“My name is Connor Blake, I'm the manager of this center.”
“Guy of Gisborne. But I bet that you already know.”
The other nodded slightly.
“Dr. Little thinks that attending our facilities might help you. What do you think?”
Guy raised his eyebrows, a little surprised.
“Are you asking me? Does my opinion matter?”
Alicia gave him a worried look. She had thought that Guy would be thrilled to be able to interact with the horses, but since they had arrived at the stable, his mood had worsened and his attitude was surly, as if her idea had offended him somehow.
Connor Blake didn’t look offended by Guy's sarcastic answer.
“You are the one who has to decide. If you don’t care about horses, no one can force you to attend our center.”
“I never said I don’t care.”
“So, do you want to try to ride one of them?”
The man smiled and went near one of the stalls.
“Good idea. If it’s the first time, I recommend choosing Rosie: she is very docile and she won’t give you any trouble...”
“No. That one.” Guy pointed at the black stallion. “I want to ride that one.”
Connor Blake stared at him, bewildered.
“That's not one of our therapy horses. It’s not suitable for a beginner.”
“I won’t ride one of those other nags. That one or nothing.”
Guy crossed his arms with an obstinate attitude, and Alicia found herself grinning, amused.
“Connor, let him do it. I’ll take the responsibility.”
Guy took the horse out of the stall, leading him with the bridle and walking beside him. The animal pawed, impatient, and Guy stroked his neck to calm him down. That gesture, he realized, calmed the horse and at the same time relaxed him too.
For the first time, since he had reopened his eyes in a hospital bed, he was doing something familiar to him, moving without wondering whether he was wrong or if he was looking ridiculous.
The saddle and the tacks were a bit different from the ones he was used to, but everything else was the same, and if he closed his eyes, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine he was walking along the road leading to Locksley instead of the large fenced meadow where they had told him to lead the horse.
Suddenly he remembered the incredibly vivid memory of a day, a few years earlier, when he was riding his horse, heading to Knighton to bring a gift to Marian.
That day Robin Hood hadn’t shown up, the sheriff hadn’t tormented him too much, and Guy for a while had felt happy and hopeful as he rode to meet the woman he loved.
And who I’ll love forever.
Marian's memory was like the bite of a wolf, always lurking in his soul and ready to suddenly tear his heart apart.
Guy hurried to mount to send those painful thoughts away, and, without thinking too much, he hit the flanks of the horse with his heels, sending him into a gallop.
Connor Blake visibly winced and paled at the thought of a possible accident, while Alicia worried only for a moment before realizing that Gisborne knew exactly what he was doing and that she had never seen him so sure of himself.
The black stallion devoured the ground, lifting grass and splattering soil every time he hit the ground with the hooves, fast and powerful as a miniature storm and equally unstoppable.
Guy led him without the slightest effort and the horse obeyed his commands without hesitation, as if he'd known him forever. Gisborne leaned forward on the saddle and the horse accelerated his pace, increasing the speed again.
Alicia glanced at Connor Blake and laughed as she saw his astounded expression. She felt so excited and full of pride that she found tears in her eyes.
Much later, Guy stopped the horse to let him rest, and he unmounted, smiling, his face flushed after galloping so fast. The manager of the horse center, now confident that the black horse was in capable hands, had already returned to his office to warm himself up with a cup of hot tea.
“Maybe you were right,” Guy said, coming to meet Alicia. "I didn’t realize how much I had missed riding. Yet it hasn’t been so long since the last time I did it... But it looks like a whole life.”
Alicia hugged him impulsively, and Guy didn’t pull back, holding her in his arms too.
“I'm glad you liked it, dear. I was afraid I had offended you.”
Gisborne stepped back with a small sigh and gave a rueful look at her.
“I’ve been terribly rude earlier, wasn’t I?”
Guy took the horse to his stall, leading him by the bridle, and Alicia followed him.
The doctor smiled at Guy, amused.
“A bit. But Connor will not resent it too much, he is used to deal with our most difficult patients.”
Guy grinned as he began to groom the horse.
“And am I?”
“Difficult? Every once in a while, but you are usually a darling.”
Gisborne looked at her.
“Darling? I think it's the first time anyone defines me like this. If Robin could hear you, he’d make fun of me for months." Guy said, amused, then he remembered that obviously Robin couldn’t hear her because he had been dead for over eight centuries, and his smile faded.
He continued to brush the horse's mane, sadly.
Alicia touched his arm.
“You're missing them, right? You miss your loved ones.”
“Yes. Maybe it's silly... After all I've been Robin's friend for just a short time, after a whole lifetime of hatred, Allan might haven’t been killed if I hadn’t ruined his life, and the others barely accepted me when I joined Robin’s gang... My sister tried to kill me and Archer, the brother who I share with Robin, I had just met him... And yet I miss them. All of them.”
“It's not silly, it's normal.”
“If it were the opposite, if it was one of them to be here and not me, I doubt someone would be sad for me. Maybe Robin, though it would be stupid of him, but everyone else would probably be happy to know I've been dead for centuries and centuries.”
“Why should they?”
“Because I deserve it.”
Alicia looked at him. Guy had spoken quietly, perfectly convinced of his words.
“I don’t believe it. From what I could see, you are a good person.”
“Marian said the same thing to me.”
“Wasn’t it true?”
“I killed her. I ran her through with my sword because she told me she loved Robin Hood. Do you still believe I deserve forgiveness?”
Alicia winced, unable to find anything to answer.
Guy glanced at her, then he turned his gaze away, staring at the mane of the horse.
“What's up? Did you think I was a poor innocent to take care of? I have told you since the beginning that I don’t deserve the miracle that has happened to me. I wasn’t kidding and I didn’t look for your compassion, it was the truth. Why do you think that in the books about Robin Hood, I am always the bad guy, the enemy to defeat without mercy? Because it’s true: I am a murderer, and I should have been the one dead for eight centuries.”
Alicia approached him and put a hand on his back. She felt him stiffening at her touch, but Guy didn’t move away.
“Look at me.”
Gisborne shook his head weakly, and Alicia took him by the arm, forcing him to turn.
“Do you think it's the first time I'm dealing with a murderer? I am a doctor, I take care of all the patients who come to my ward and not all of them are good people. But I think you are.”
“Didn’t you hear what I told you? I killed the woman I love.”
“I heard it, and it's a terrible thing.”
“So how can you say I'm a good person?!”
“Because I see how much pain and remorse you feel for what you have done.”
Guy shook his head.
“It’s not enough. I would give my life a thousand times to go back and change the past, but I can’t. I killed her and I will never forgive myself.”
“But Robin Hood did.”
“Yeah, typical of Robin, always ready to do the noblest thing. I was proud to die fighting for him. While I was on the ground, dying, I hoped that my sacrifice would be enough to atone for my fault, that dying in the same way she had died, could somehow compensate for what I had done... But I'm here and she is still dead!”
Alicia took the brush from his hands and wrapped her hand around his wrist, guiding him to a bench near the black stallion’s stall.
“Come on, let's sit for a few minutes.”
Guy didn’t object, but he sat heavily beside her, and took his face in his hands. Alicia put a hand on his back, massaging him slowly.
“Are you sorry that we saved you?”
Gisborne pondered her question for a moment.
“No. I don’t want to die, even if I don’t deserve to be alive. But every time I do something I like, every time I find myself smiling for some reason, then I think that Marian can no longer do it because of me. She won’t be able to ride anymore, she won’t taste new foods, she’ll never see those vehicles that can fly or arrive to York in such a short time... She won’t see her name printed on books about Robin or get angry when they describe her as a helpless girl... What did I do to deserve the future I denied to Marian? Why was I saved and everyone else weren’t?”
“I don’t think we'll ever find the answer to this question. But I can tell you that I'm glad you're alive.” She took his hand and held it in hers, tenderly. "This hand has hurt people, and a lot, but it can do good things from now on.”
“How? Riding horses and eating chocolate?”
“That too. You are alive, Guy, and this means that you will occasionally enjoy yourself, you will feel happy, you’ll feel pleasure, even if you don’t want. It’s not for these things that you have to feel guilty: they are normal feelings, part of life. It’s right that you feel remorse for your crimes, but to mortify yourself like this won’t be useful to anyone. If you have done evil and repented for that, try to do good. Help those in need, change the lives of those who can’t do it with their own strength.”
“I think that Marian would agree with you, but how? In this time I have no power, no wealth to help the poor...”
“You don’t need to be rich to do good. There are surely many things that you can do and I will help you to find them.”
Alicia stroked his cheek.
“Yes, dear. Try to be serene and everything will be fine.”
“It never happens. Ever since my father left for the war, everything went wrong. I kept repeating to myself that in time the situation would improve and every time I was wrong. Everything went worse, and every time I allowed myself to have some hope, I just ended up getting hurt when I fell into the dust.”
"You were dying and time itself bent to save you. It seems to me that the situation has improved in this case, don’t you think?”
“I guess so." Guy conceded, with the shadow of a smile.
“So let's keep it going. Live, appreciate the precious gift you have received, and don’t torment yourself with remorse if you happen to feel happy. Rather, make sure that others can be happy because of you, don’t you think it would be better?”
“When you speak like this, you remind me of my mother.”
Guy had spoken affectionately, and Alicia smiled at him.
“She wouldn’t want to see you so sad, I'm sure. And neither do I. Do you know, Guy? Seeing you ride a little while ago filled me with joy.”
"Only a month ago you were lying on a table in the operating room and none of us was sure we could save you. At some point, I was pretty sure you would die during surgery, and even the next day we weren’t sure that you would survive the wounds and the symptoms of aconite poisoning. But you did, you got better, and just a few minutes ago you were riding that stallion, full of life, strong and free, as if nothing and no one could stop you. For a doctor, this is the greatest joy.”
“I owe you my life, Alicia.”
“Not only to me, but yes, you are right. I saved your life and that’s why I want you to live it in the best way. I don’t want it to be a burden.”
“What I did is a burden.”
“What you did is the lowest point, you've already begun to climb back on your own and you will continue to do so. I will help you not to fall again.”
The woman put an arm around his shoulders and Guy leaned on her with a sigh.
Alicia pressed her lips on his cheek, then she looked at him, smiling.
"Then, can I tell Connor that we'll be back again?"
Guy nodded, too moved to speak, and the doctor rose from the bench, cheerfully.
“Good, great choice. Now do you feel like eating something?”
“I think it's a good idea.” Guy approved. Riding had made him feel hungry, and although he was a little sore for riding after such a long time spent in bed and resting, he was feeling well.
“Then if you're not too tired, you might have the opportunity to make two persons happy.”
“Who? And how?”
“Do you think you can come to the castle? Or are there too many painful memories in that place?”
“It's not a problem. Why?”
“The guardian of the museum and one of the archaeologists who are working in the crypt would like to see you, to talk to you.”
“They are the two men who have found you and rescued you. They wanted to come to the hospital to meet you, but so far they didn’t have the opportunity and then they were afraid of disturbing you. But I know that Peter can’t wait to talk to you about the life of the twelfth century, to confirm some of his theories, and I think that Jonathan really wants to know how Robin Hood was like.”
“Do they know where I come from? And do they believe it?”
“When I went to look for the dagger, I asked for their help. I don’t know what they believe, but I know they would be very happy to meet you. Do you think you can do it?”
“They didn’t pull back when I was dead, if they want to talk to me it seems the least I can do to thank them. They'll probably end up thinking that I'm crazy or a liar, but it doesn’t matter, I’m still in debt with them.”
“See? I told you that you are a darling,” Alicia said with a laugh. “But come now, let's go to eat. How much fearless do you feel today?”
“What do you mean with ‘fearless’?”
"I know that today is the first time you leave the hospital, and I don’t want you to feel under pressure, but I’d like to take you to lunch in a restaurant near the castle. Maybe you’re not ready for it yet, and there may be too much confusion, but...”
"Alicia," Guy interrupted her, amused, "are you afraid that an inn can be too loud for me? Surely it can’t be worse than the taverns of my Nottingham.”
Chapter 11: The Glittering Tooth
Guy glanced up at the sign of the inn, stared at it for a while, then he turned to Alicia.
“Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem? Is this a joke?”
“No, it’s the oldest inn in Nottingham, in all England, actually.”
Guy shook his head, incredulous.
“The castle no longer exists, yet this old hovel is still standing!”
“Don’t let people hear you call it like that, they wouldn’t like it. It’s a tourist attraction, now.”
“People come from far away to visit it.”
“To visit an inn?”
“Sure. Shall we go inside? I booked a table.”
Alicia made her way into the inn, and Guy followed her, looking around.
“It's completely different from how I remembered it,” he said in a low voice.
“Have you been here already?”
“I've seen it opening, if you want to know. I was there, when the sheriff signed the concession for an inn just outside the castle walls. The owner paid a good deal of gold coins to have the permits to start his business.”
“How was it, then?”
"I told you, a kind of hovel, frequented by knaves of all kinds.”
Guy took the menu and opened it, pretending to look at it to avoid Alicia’s gaze.
“Here, I ruined a man's life,” he confessed in a low voice and the woman looked at him for a moment before replying.
Guy kept his gaze down, and he looked to be ashamed of what he had just said, but Alicia realized that he was expecting a question from her to continue telling that story.
“How did you do that?”
"Allan was one of Robin Hood's comrades, a cheeky thief. One day I surprised him while he was trying to cheat people right here, with one of those ridiculous tricks that could only fool the idiots.”
“Did you arrest him?”
“Yes. He was an outlaw, Robin Hood's companion, and I had discovered him while cheating on the customers of the tavern. The sheriff would have flogged me if I’d let him go.”
“Did you execute him?”
Guy shook his head.
“No. Maybe it would have been better if I did. More right, surely.”
Alicia looked at him, frowning.
“How can it be right to hang someone just because he is a cheat?”
“He wouldn’t have been hanged for that reason, but because he was an outlaw, an accomplice to Robin Hood. The sheriff had decreed that the fight against the outlaws was a real war, and that the sentence was death, without even a process. If I had hanged Allan-a-Dale, I would just have applied the law.”
“Allan-a-Dale? The minstrel?”
Guy looked at her, confused.
“In the legend of Robin Hood, it’s how Allan-a-Dale is described: a wandering minstrel who joins the outlaws’ gang.”
Guy let out an ironic laugh.
“Well, they're wrong. The only times I heard Allan singing was when he was completely drunk, and believe me, the screams of a cat in love were more enjoyable to hear than him.”
“Am I wrong or that outlaw became your friend? When you talk about him, you use the same tone you have when you tell me about Robin.”
Guy nodded briefly.
"Yes, but it would have been better for him if he had kept hating me.”
“Why? What did you do to him?”
"When I arrested him, I ordered to torture him and then I tempted him, I convinced him to work for me, offering him the option of choosing between a painful death and wealth.”
“That's not a choice.”
“I know. However, Allan started working for me. At first he gave me informations, and then he became my assistant when his friends discovered him and kicked him out of the gang... Finally he went back with them, but they never forgot his betrayal. When there was a suspicion on his loyalty, no one believed him. He died thinking that everyone hated him...”
Guy stopped talking and Alicia touched his hand.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t have brought you here. It wasn’t my intention to awaken bad memories.”
Guy shook his head.
"It's not your fault if I have done so many horrible actions. Remorse is the burden I deserve for what I did.”
“I'm still sorry.”
“I am not. I can only talk of my friends with you, without being considered crazy. Remembering them is painful, but at the same time it’s a comfort. When I tell you about the people I love, it's as if they still live, at least for those few moments. Do you know, Alicia? I'm still wondering what’s the sense of all this, if there is a reason why I survived. Sometimes I have the impression that I am still in this world to remember them, to be a witness of their lives.”
“I'm always willing to listen, you know.”
Gisborne smiled at her, grateful, and he pointed at the menu.
“I wonder if Allan would have liked this new version of the inn. Once, there wasn’t so much choice of food, and often there was no choice at all: the inn served the same dishes to everyone, however many of the customers, including Allan, came here mainly for drinking or for the maids. But I think that now they wouldn’t let him play his tricks to cheat people...”
“I don’t think they would allow it, in fact. What do you want to eat?”
“You choose for me, I don’t know many of these ingredients.”
“Is there some food you don’t like?”
“The only important thing is that it’s not like what they served in the castle's dungeons.”
“Why? What did they serve?”
“Moldy bread, full of worms too,” Guy said with a grin.
“Now you're kidding me, right?”
“I'm afraid I’m not. I spent a lot of time there, on both sides of the bars. I can assure with certainty that the food there left much to be desired.”
“They gave you spoiled food?”
“I ate even worse things in my life. Anything you decide to order will be fine.”
Jonathan Archer poured himself a cup of coffee, and drank it slowly. That afternoon there weren’t many visitors at the museum, the day was quiet, and he thought that in those days the job was much more relaxing than his home.
“What a scowl,” Peter Edwards commented, standing at the door. The archaeologist entered the office of the guardian and poured a cup of coffee too. “Is there something wrong?”
“In-laws staying at our house,” the other said, gloomily, and his friend laughed.
"Sometimes I regret not being married, but then I take comfort thinking that at least I don’t have to deal with these situations.”
“Fortunately, they live in another city. But when they come to visit us, I have to be patient. But now let's talk about something more enjoyable: how does the work proceed?”
“We found bones in one of the underground rooms. It had to be a store or cellar of the old castle and it was filled with debris dating from the twelfth or thirteenth century. Probably the building had been damaged by a fire and the ruins of the collapsed parts were stored down there when they rebuilt the castle.
“And you found bones there?”
“Yes, for now we have found the incomplete remains of at least four or five people. One of the skulls is quite special.”
“It's pretty well preserved and it still has all the teeth except one. The curious thing is that instead of the missing tooth there is another tooth not belonging to that same skeleton.”
“An artificial tooth?”
“Something like that.”
"Isn’t it possible that the remains are mixed and that tooth ended up there by chance?”
"It could be, but the curious thing is that this tooth has a precious stone embedded. Probably the man who has lost a tooth had it replaced with another one, decorated to make it more precious.”
“Your job is always interesting. I think the museum will decide to display that skull, and the visitors will definitely like it.”
The two men turned, hearing a knock at the door and they both smiled at Alicia.
“Dr. Little! Did you find out the location of some other hidden treasure?”
“Not today, Mr. Edwards, but if you want, you can ask directly to Guy.”
“Oh! Did you bring him here?!”
“Yes, I thought that you’d like to see him again.”
“Of course!” Jonathan exclaimed. “Where is he now?”
"I told him that I had to tell you that he’s here, and he chose to wait outside. I can understand him: today it’s the first time he leaves the hospital and it’s a nice day for this time of year. I'm not surprised that he wants to take some fresh air.”
Guy sat on a bench and closed his eyes for a few seconds. The sun wasn’t very hot and the temperature of the air a little chilly, but it was still nice to feel the slight warmth of sunlight on his skin.
When he lived in Locksley, he never spent much time inside the manor, and, even when he was at the castle, he was often outdoors for one reason or another. If there was one thing that he missed of his past life was that freedom to go where he wanted, without having to account for any of his movements.
He wondered again what would happen to him. Was it his destiny to never feel at home again? Ever since he had lost his family, his only desire had been to have a family again, a place where he could feel completely safe.
Killing Marian, he had buried that dream forever.
A group of people passed in front of him, headed toward the castle, and Guy pushed away those sad thoughts to look at them. They all looked cheerful and carefree, and they were listening to the words of the man who led them.
Gisborne looked at that man, astonished to see his outfit: the guide was wearing clothes similar to those of his time, he was dressed in green, and carried a bow on his shoulder.
“It's Robin Hood's tour,” a male voice beside him said.
Guy turned with a start and he saw Alicia in the company of two men. He looked at them for a moment as he realized the meaning of the words of the man who had spoken to him.
“That's not Robin Hood: he doesn’t look at all like him.”
“He’s an actor who plays Robin Hood's character to lead people to visit the city,” Alicia explained, amused by the confused look of Guy.
“Tourists love these things,” Jonathan added. “Since it had become a stop of the Robin Hood's tour, the visitors of the museum have increased.”
Guy grinned, thinking what Robin would say if he knew that he was still so loved after so many centuries. Surely he would brag about it, pleased and satisfied with such fame.
“Guy, these are Jonathan Archer and Peter Edwards. They were in the castle crypt when you have been injured.”
Gisborne stood up and put a hand on his heart, with a little bow.
“Sir Jonathan, Sir Peter, I owe my life to you. I'm in debt.”
The other two looked at him, somewhat intimidated by his serious and formal tone, then Jonathan smiled.
“It's nice to see that you are better, you scared me to death.”
“Believe me, I would have gladly avoided it,” Guy said with a small smile.
The guardian glanced at the Robin Hood's tour guide, then he stared back at Guy, without knowing what to say.
Both he and the archaeologist were astonished when they had really found the dagger in the niche indicated by Gisborne, and Jonathan had liked to believe the idea of magically meeting one of the characters in his favorite book, but now he didn’t know what to think.
Guy of Gisborne was really there before them, and he was a real, tangible person, and, unlike their first encounter, this time he was conscious and able to speak.
He looked at him, mentally comparing it with the Guy of Gisborne depicted in the illustrations of the books and he thought that he didn’t look like the fierce ally of the Sheriff of Nottingham.
How could that man with a melancholic look in his eyes be the fierce enemy who oppressed the poor people and tried to kill Robin Hood? The simple and common clothes that Guy was wearing contributed to further dispel that fantasy, making him look even more harmless.
Jonathan was saddened to think that such a young and strong man could have his mind so upset that he believed to be a medieval knight. And then why, of all the possible characters, he identified himself in Guy of Gisborne, a character who everyone despised and who always ended badly, instead of choosing Robin Hood or one of his comrades?
A quick glance at Peter Edwards made him realize that even the archaeologist was thinking more or less the same thing.
“You think I'm crazy, right?” Guy suddenly asked, and raised a hand to silence their denials. “No, don’t deny it, in your place I would also think that. Actually, I believe that too every now and then, but then I don’t think I could have imagined all this, so it must be real. Alicia told me that your work consists of the study of past times, Sir Peter, while you are interested in Robin Hood's story, Sir Jonathan, isn’t it?”
The two men nodded, still a bit hesitant, and Guy looked at them, not at all offended by the doubts he could guess on their faces.
“Ask me what you want, I will try to answer your questions; it seems to me the least I can do, after what you did for me. Then, if my words are just the words of a fool, at least you will have had fun.”
Alicia smiled at his words: it was clear that Guy was doing his best to express his gratitude to the two men and to show kindness. She thought that after such a busy day he had to be exhausted and she regretted a little to have brought him to the castle.
She decided that they wouldn’t stay for a long time, and that she would bring him back to the hospital at the first sign of fatigue, but for the moment she was happy to see that Guy was trying to interact with people who were not part of the hospital staff.
Jonathan was the first to ask a question, a little shyly.
“What the sheriff of Nottingham was like?”
Guy winced to that question, and for a moment he was about to say that he had changed his mind and that he didn’t want to answer, then he thought that those two men had saved him from a certain death even if they didn’t even know him.
“He was an evil person, a devil from hell. He was delighted when he could hurt people and he was able to pull out the worst side of anyone. At his orders, I have committed heinous crimes,” Guy paused, took a deep breath and kept talking. “I don’t know how he did it, but he had the ability to find people's weaknesses to use them in his favor.”
Jonathan nodded, seriously. If Guy of Gisborne was making up his story, he had to be really a good actor to simulate the anguish that appeared in his gaze when he started talking about the sheriff.
"He had to be an imposing man to intimidate people so much.”
Unexpectedly, Guy laughed.
“He was a bald little man, rather disgusting too, to say the truth. He could wash himself once a year, but then he had ridiculous habits like painting the nails of his toes black or tormenting the little birds he had imprisoned in the cages he had in his room.” Guy shook his head with a disgusted expression that made the other three smile. “Not to mention his hideous collection of glittering teeth.”
“What do you mean?” Peter Edwards asked, looking closely at him.
“The sheriff lost a tooth, this one, during a fight with Robin Hood.” Guy pointed at his mouth to show them which was the sheriff's missing tooth. “A few days after the accident, the sheriff had the idea of using someone else's tooth to replace the one he had lost. I don’t know if he had ripped it from some corpse or from a servant, and if I must be honest, I never did anything to find out. The disturbing thing is that he had decorated it with a precious stone. In the end, he had a real collection of teeth, with stones of various colors that he wore alternately, according to his mood.”
Alicia noticed that the archaeologist had paled at Guy's words and that he and the guardian had exchanged a frightened look.
Gisborne also noticed their agitation and gave a questioning look at Alicia.
“Did I say something wrong?”
The woman shrugged. The sheriff's description portrayed a perverse and wicked man, but it didn’t sound so horrible that it could upset two adult men. Peter Edwards at least had to be aware of much worse atrocities that occurred in the course of history.
The archaeologist spoke, pale in his face.
“This thing about jeweled teeth... Was it a fashion? Did other people do it?”
Guy shook his head.
“No, just the sheriff. No one would ever dream of imitating him.”
The archaeologist remained silent for a moment, then he nodded towards the castle.
“Let's go back inside, I have to show you something.”
The air in the dungeons was damp and colder than Alicia had imagined, and the woman wrapped herself in her coat with a shudder. She raised her face to look at Guy who was walking beside her, following the guardian and the archaeologist.
“I shouldn’t let you in here, this part of the dungeons is closed to the public,” Jonathan said, worried.
The archaeologist made a vague gesture with his hand.
“They won’t tell anyone, will you Dr. Little? Guy?”
“Even if I did, I don’t think anyone would believe me,” Guy said with an ironic smile.
They kept walking, and Alicia watched Gisborne, noting that the more they went into the dungeons, the more he seemed to become tense and immersed in his own thoughts.
“It’s all right, Guy?” She asked quietly.
“This place... It hasn’t changed much...”
“This isn’t a good idea, I shouldn’t have taken you here. Let's go back.”
“No, that's fine. I would still see it in my memories. Maybe coming here could be a good thing.”
Alicia took his hand.
“If it gets too hard, we’ll go back, okay?”
“When I came here the last time I was looking for my sister,” he said in a whisper, so only Alicia could hear him. “I fell into her trap, she wanted to get me here and deliver me to the sheriff... And she succeeded perfectly.”
They entered a room and Guy shuddered.
“It's here, isn’t it? Is this the place where they wounded me?”
Jonathan heard him and nodded with his head.
Guy looked down at the floor and he could see a darker trace, a remnant of the blood stain, of the blood he had shed when the Sheriff and Isabella had wounded him and left him to die.
He knelt down and put his hand on the ground: here was where he was supposed to have died, the place where the miracle had happened.
Alicia touched his shoulder and Guy raised his face to look at her.
“I'm fine,” he reassured her, with a slight smile. “It's strange, but it's not that terrible.”
The woman stared at him, trying to figure out if he was being honest, then she turned to the archaeologist.
“What did you want to show us? This?”
Peter pointed to one side of the room where they could see a table and where some wooden chests had been gathered.
The archaeologist carefully lifted one of the smaller boxes, laid it on the table, and removed the lid, inviting the others to come closer.
Alicia let out a exclamation of surprise, seeing a human skull, and she was astonished to see the precious gemstone decorating one of its teeth. She turned to look at Guy and she was scared to see the expression of his face.
To see the place where he had almost been killed hadn’t shaken him so much, but being in front of that skull had upset him: he had become white in his face and he began to tremble convulsively.
Alicia tried to touch him, but Gisborne flinched, turned his back to her, and ran away.
Alicia climbed a flight of stairs and sprang outdoors. She paused and looked around. She had tried to follow Gisborne, but the knight was younger than her, his legs were much longer than hers, and she was almost immediately left behind.
“Guy!” She called, distressed. “Guy, where are you?!”
Jonathan and Peter reached her, panting too, and the archaeologist looked at her, sincerely sorry.
“It's my fault, I shouldn’t have shown that skull to him...”
“No, you shouldn’t have,” Jonathan said. “What were you thinking?”
“I didn’t think he could react like that.”
“What did you expect? You showed him the corpse of the man he was working for, how did you think he could react?”
“Won’t you think it's true? I admit that what he said has proven to be right, but there are other more plausible explanations.”
“That doesn’t matter at all. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, for him it is. You archaeologists are more used to dealing with mummies and ruins than with people! Now let’s go and search for him. Dr. Little, do you have any idea of where he might have gone?”
“Maybe he went back to the car... Oh, we have to find him right away! Guy is not used to the modern world, he could be in danger!”
“Go and check the car, I'll look for him in the museum. Peter, make sure he's not in the dungeons. Do you both have a cell phone? The first one who finds him will be able to alert the others.”
Guy had run away blindly, instinctively tracing back the path they had followed to get into the crypt. He didn’t know what to do or where to go, he was only sure that he had to get away from the Sheriff's skull as quickly as possible.
Rushing out from the dungeons, he almost crashed into a family who was leaving the museum and he was forced to stop for a moment. The father of the child who Guy had almost hit, rebuked him, telling him to be careful, and those harsh words brought him to reality, tearing him off the horror that had clouded his mind when he had seen the remains of Vaisey.
He murmured a few words of apology, but the parents of the child gave him a disgusted look and they rushed away, dragging the kid with them.
Guy wrapped in his jacket as he entered the building: it was cold and he was trembling, but the real frost was what he felt inside, and that made him to want to cry. He blinked to try to hold tears, suddenly aware that the passing by museum visitors all looked at him in the same way: a mixture of surprise, concern, and pity.
He couldn’t stay there, he didn’t want everyone to see his humiliation and weakness.
He looked around, looking for a hiding place, he saw the sign pointing at the toilets of the museum and he hurried in that direction. That was a place where he could take refuge and where nobody would look at him with pity, a place where he could stay alone for a while, at least for the time he needed to avoid to have a breakdown in front of other people.
He recognized the symbol of the men's restrooms and he pushed that door: fortunately no one was there and Guy could slip into one of the stalls without being seen. He managed to close the lock and leaned on the door with his back. Only then, he hid his face in his hands and allowed himself to cry.
Jonathan Archer hastened to check the security camera monitors, but he couldn’t see Gisborne in any of the rooms of the museum, then he returned to the entrance hall, thinking of where he could look for Guy. Over the years, he had been tracking innumerable lost children, and he always found them in the same two places: in the gift shop, looking at the souvenirs of the museum, or in the toilets.
A quick glance was enough to exclude the shop and Jonathan walked toward the toilets. He noticed immediately that one of the doors was locked and he approached it with caution.
He waited for a moment before knocking, and when he did, he didn’t hear an answer. In fact, the silence became deeper, as if the person inside the stall was holding his breath to avoid being heard.
Jonathan knocked again.
“Guy? I know you're there. Open the door, please.”
For a long time he didn’t get an answer, then, when he was beginning to fear that Guy might have fainted, he heard his voice, soft, but strong enough to be heard through the door.
“Go away. Leave me alone.”
The guardian thought for a moment before talking again.
“Dr. Little is worried for you, can I make a call to tell her that you're here?”
Guy did not answer right away and Jonathan said nothing, and just kept waiting. After a while, the door opened by a slit.
“I don’t want Alicia to see me like this. Not for the sheriff. I just need some time.”
The guardian nodded.
“You've been working for him for so many years, it's normal if seeing him dead was a trauma for you. But if you want to be quiet, you don’t have to stay in a toilet. Come to my office: you can sit and drink something warm and no one will disturb you. I'll tell Dr. Little that you're safe and that you want to be quiet for a while. What do you say?”
Guy decided to go out and Jonathan saw that he was still very pale and that his eyes were reddish and bright with tears.
“I say that you shouldn’t speak to me as if I were a child or a poor idiot.”
The guardian looked at him for a moment and smiled.
“You are right, sorry. But the offer is still valid.”
Guy glanced at him, then he nodded briefly.
"You are right, Alicia has done so much for me and I shouldn’t make her worry. Tell her I'm fine.”
Gisborne turned on the water of the sink while Jonathan dialed Alicia's number on the cellphone.
“Dr. Little? Guy is with me. No, he's fine, but he needs some time. Why don’t you ask Peter to guide you in a visit of the castle in the meantime? We will wait for you in my office in an hour or two. Yes, don’t worry, I'll stay with him.”
The guardian closed the call and he waited for Guy to wash his face.
“Are you really fine or did I just lie to her?”
“I shouldn’t feel like this. Not for him. He has made my life a hell, I should jump for joy seeing his remains. Maybe I'm really crazy.”
“Things are never as simple as they may seem at a first glance. When Peter opened that box, it wasn’t pleasant for me either, and I didn’t know the sheriff, but your reaction isn’t strange at all if we consider your past.”
“Do you believe me?”
“I do not think you're crazy, let's put it this way. Then I don’t know how things really are and maybe I will never know. But is it so important to find out? You're here, you survived the wounds you had received, and now we're talking, isn’t it enough? Although it might be better to chat sitting comfortably in front of a cup of hot tea and not in a public toilet, don’t you think? If you want to talk. Otherwise we can also drink tea in silence.”
Jonathan made his way and Guy followed him to the office. The guardian told him to sit and Guy promptly obeyed: he dropped himself into a chair and put his elbows on the desk, taking his face in his hands.
“Are you all right?”
Guy raised his head.
“I feel so tired...”
“It's normal after a very strong emotion. And according to Dr. Little, you've had a rather challenging day.”
As he talked, Jonathan had taken a kettle and poured tea into two cups. He added a few teaspoons of sugar to Guy’s one and handed it to him, then he took another chair and sat down too.
“Drink it and you'll see that then you'll feel a little better. Peter shouldn’t have shown that... thing to you. I'm really sorry.”
“Why? It's not your fault.”
“No, but I still feel responsible. Peter is a great archaeologist, but he is not as good at understanding people, he lives in his own world. He didn’t even think that he could upset people by showing them human remains. For him, it was simply an archaeological find. But I should have asked him what were his intentions and prevented him.”
“I don’t know why I reacted like that. In the past I fought against the sheriff. For some time I've been convinced of having killed him and I was proud of that, I don’t know why it’s so different now. Perhaps it is because that skull seemed so fragile, weathered by time...” Guy touched his belly, searching for the scar beneath his sweater. “Just a month ago he planted a sword in my body... This wound just healed, but now all that’s left of him are just a few fragile bones, corroded by the passing of centuries... It seems so absurd!”
“It doesn’t just seem absurd to you, it is! Really, if I were in your situation I probably wouldn’t even have the courage to get out of bed. Oh, look!” Jonathan noticed a box lying next to the coffee pot and he took it, placing it on the desk. “Apparently Peter went to buy donuts during lunch break. Well, if he thought about eating them all on his own, he was terribly wrong. Take one, come on.”
Guy gave him a perplexed look and the other smiled.
“After the scare he gave you, taking some of his donuts seems to me the least we could do, right?”
Gisborne nodded, smiling in turn. He had told Jonathan Archer that he wanted to be left alone and in silence, but he realized that instead, the small talk of the man helped him to distract himself from the thought of Vaisey, and he was pleased that the guardian was the one who found him.
He finished eating and he took another sip of tea. The guardian had been right: that hot and sweet drink had made him really feel better. If nothing else, he had stopped trembling and he didn’t feel so cold anymore.
Guy put the empty cup on the desk, and he noticed a book, half hidden under some printed sheets.
He touched it with a finger and smiled ironically.
“Robin Hood... How do I die in this version?”
Jonathan hesitated, fearing that he could hurt him, but he realized that Gisborne would be offended if he told him a pitiful lie.
“Robin hits your head with a sword.”
"And then there is all the drama of Robin cutting my head and wearing that ridiculous cloak made with the whole skin of a horse?”
Guy made a sort of snort.
“That’s ridiculous, Robin would never do it. He didn’t like to kill if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.”
“And was he really that good with the bow?”
“Yes, yes, yes. In this case, the legend isn’t wrong.”
“Can you tell me something?”
“Also about you, the outlaws, Lady Marian, about whatever you want.”
Guy held his breath in hearing Marian's name, but he realized that Jonathan couldn’t know how much those memories were painful for him. For the guardian, Marian was only the one described in the books: the woman of Robin Hood, a lady like every other.”
"Okay, I'll tell you of the time when Robin and I had to defend the ruin of a castle from an army of mercenaries, but I have a condition."
“Tell this story to other people. Pretend that you invented it or read it in some old book, it doesn’t matter, but I'd love to see that amidst all these fanciful stories about Robin Hood there is also a true one. One in which I don’t meet a bad end.”
Jonathan held out his hand to him.
“We have a deal.”
The story that Guy will tell to Jonathan, is the one from the Robin Hood Audiobook "The Siege" :D
Chapter 13: The Only One Still Alive
Alicia realized that Peter Andrews probably had talked to her because the man was looking at her, waiting for an answer, but she had no idea of what he had said.
“I'm sorry, I'm afraid I wasn’t listening. I was absent-minded.”
“Are you worried about Gisborne?”
“He never had an easy life and he’s always under pressure, forced to adapt to a world he doesn’t know at all... Today I wanted to make him spend a serene day, so that he could relax, but I kept putting him in situations that have awakened painful memories in him. Before, when we couldn’t find him, I was afraid that something bad could happen to Guy. I could have never forgiven myself if that happened.”
The archaeologist blushed.
“Jonathan is right: it was my fault. I didn’t really think that seeing those remains could upset him so much. That sort of blunders always happen to me and I don’t even realize it.”
Alicia looked at him with a sigh.
“Would you mind if we go back? Mr. Archer told me that Guy needed to be alone for a while, but I feel so anxious about him... One day I will come back to the museum and I’d love if you still want to show it to me, but now I can’t concentrate on anything else.”
“Sure. Can I come too? I’d like to apologize. I really hope I didn’t cause too much damage.”
Alicia was about to respond abruptly that she also hoped so, but the archaeologist seemed so sorry that she did not want to be pitiless. She nodded with a sigh and she let him accompany her to the guardian's office.
As they walked through the last stretch of corridor, Alicia kept wondering in what conditions she would find Guy. She still remembered how he had reacted when he found out that he was no longer in his time and she feared that this new trauma might be too much for him, a breaking point that would lead him to a nervous collapse.
She shuddered at that thought: that was an event that could compromise Guy's quality of life. Now that he was better physically, he would have to meet a social worker and be tested to define his state of mind, to understand what his situation was, and to make decisions about his future. Alicia believed him, but she was perfectly aware that no one else would.
Arriving near the door, Alicia heard Jonathan laugh. Amazed, she went into the room without knocking, and she found the guardian still laughing, while Guy was looking at him with a serious and amused expression at the same time.
“Did he really do that?” Jonathan asked.
“Exactly. Typical of Robin.”
"I really wish I could have seen the faces of those mercenaries..." Jonathan burst into another laugh.
“Me too, but at that moment we were already too far away!” Guy said, then he saw Alicia and he smiled at her. “Oh, you're here.”
The doctor approached, studying his face.
“Are you alright, Guy?”
Gisborne nodded and gave her an apologetic look.
"I'm sorry that you were worried for me, I shouldn’t have run away like that.”
“I'm the one who has to apologize,” Peter Edwards said, embarrassed and sorry. “I didn’t... I didn’t think...”
“You couldn’t know,” Guy interrupted him. “I don’t know why I reacted like that. I hated him, yet...”
Jonathan intervened to distract both of them from that unpleasant argument.
“Peter, Dr Little, Guy was telling me one of his adventures with Robin Hood.”
“That's why you were laughing?” Alicia asked.
“Yeah. I'll tell your story to my children, Guy, I'm sure they will have fun too. And also to Peter and to anyone who wants to hear it.”
Gisborne and the guardian exchanged a look of understanding, and Alicia looked at them, a little surprised, but relieved to see that Guy looked calm and fairly serene.
“Then you'll have to tell it to me too,” she said, turning to Guy. “But now we have to go back to the hospital.”
Gisborne got up from the chair to follow her, but stopped in front of Jonathan to stretch out his hand to him.
The man shook hands with him.
“Thanks to you for your story. Come to visit me whenever you want, talking to you was a pleasure. Dr. Little, I hope to see you soon as well.”
Later, in the car, Alicia took advantage of the stop at a traffic light to look at Guy. Gisborne had an elbow leaning against the car door and looked out with a blank stare.
“Are you all right, Guy?”
“I don’t know. I feel so tired...”
Alicia checked that the traffic light was still red and leaned toward Guy to make a quick caress on his cheek.
“Poor dear, it has been a difficult day. Close your eyes and rest for a while, I'll wake you up when we arrive.”
The traffic light became green and Alicia restarted the car, but shortly thereafter, she was forced to stop again to allow a small group of pedestrians to cross. She gave another look at Guy, and she smiled, seeing that he had already fallen asleep.
Robin was seated on a tree branch and he rocked back and forth, letting his feet swing in the air.
Guy grabbed a branch to climb up and thought that Robin used to do the same movement even when they were children and they were playing together, climbing trees.
The effort to pull himself up, pained his wounds, but Guy didn’t stop until he reached his friend.
He sat down on the branch, panting and pressing a hand on the scar.
“You look a bit out of shape, Gisborne.”
“You look dead, Hood.”
“For once I have to agree with you.”
Guy smiled for a moment, then he became serious again, and he looked at the outlaw.
“Do you know the reason for this all?”
“Why am I still alive and you aren’t?”
"I'm dead, Gisborne, not omniscient. And even if I knew something I imagine that I couldn’t talk about it!”
“Yeah, I guess not. I’d like to know if there is a reason, though. Something I have to do, a purpose...”
“Maybe you have to take care of the people of Locksley now that I can’t do it anymore, maybe you have to take my place.”
“Locksley no longer exists, Hood. Eight centuries have passed, it's completely different, now.”
Robin raised his eyebrows.
“You heard it, Hood. Eight hundred years.”
“How did you end up eight hundred years in the future?!”
“That's what I wanted to know from you, Hood.”
“I can tell you what happened since the moment you died until the moment I died. I blew up the castle.”
“Then it was you who killed the sheriff?”
“Isabella too, I guess. I'm sorry, Guy.”
Gisborne nodded and kept silent for a few seconds, trying to remain composed despite the chilly void he felt in his heart.
“She wanted my death, she killed us both, and yet I can’t hate her.”
“She was still your sister.”
“I hope she is in peace. Only this, that she found the peace she could never find in her life. I know that she is probably destined to end in hell, but if I had a second chance, maybe I can hope that she has at least peace.”
Robin put his hand on his shoulder and Guy shivered. His touch was cold and it seemed to drain every heat from his body. Even Robin realized it and withdrew his hand.
“Sorry. The living shouldn’t be touched by the frost of the dead.” Robin looked at him, smiling astonished. “Wow! You're really alive, Gisborne! How is it possible? I saw you dying, I closed your eyes and arranged your corpse...”
"I do not know how it happened, how I traveled in time, I mean, but in the future, healers know incredible techniques. They were able to tear me away from the grip of death itself... My heart had stopped and they could restart it, they put new blood in place of the blood I had lost, and then they stitched all my wounds... Look.”
Guy lifted the shirt he wore to show the scars to Robin, and the other man looked at the healed wounds, without touching them.
“And the poison? Isabella stabbed you too...”
"With their cares they managed to keep me alive despite everything.”
“Could have they saved me?”
“I think so. Perhaps it would have been better if you were in my place.”
Robin smiled at him, resigned.
“Well, this is how it is. I'm glad that at least you are alive, my friend. How is the future? Does anyone still remember me?”
"It's all so absurd... They have wagons that move without horses, and devices capable of flying, but it is not magic, they are mechanical, man-made objects. And you are a hero known all over the world, a kind of legend. I told you: absurd.”
“I bet that this annoys you!”
Guy shook his head.
“No. Actually, it's a consolation.”
Guy woke up and his gaze fell on a plastic figure standing on the bedside table, depicting an archer dressed in green. He sat up and took it in his hand, staring at it, puzzled. He was sure that it wasn’t there before.
Alicia knocked on the door to announce her presence before entering the room.
“Good morning, Guy, did you sleep well?”
Gisborne put the statuette back on the bedside table and rubbed his eyes, still sleepy.
“Is it very late?”
“Enough. It's almost lunch time.”
“You were very tired yesterday.”
Guy nodded. He recalled that he had fallen asleep in the car and that Alicia had awakened him when they had arrived to the hospital, then he had barely had the strength to undress and wear the pajamas before going to bed. He had the vague awareness of getting up near dawn to use the toilet, but then he went back to bed and fell again in a deep sleep.
“I dreamed of Robin. I was afraid that the sheriff could come to me in my nightmares, but I didn’t have bad dreams. We were in the forest and we talked, as if he were still alive. But he knew he wasn’t.”
Alicia took Robin Hood's figure from Guy's bedside table and looked at it for a moment before she put it back in its place.
“Jonathan Archer brought this for you this morning. He came to the hospital before starting his shift at the museum, but you were still sleeping. He told the nurse to tell you that he saw it at the museum shop last night, and that it made him think of your story, but he doubts that he can find a miniature catapult too.”
Guy laughed and Alicia smiled, not understanding why it was so funny.
"Mr. Archer seemed enthusiastic about your story, I think you'll have to tell it to me sooner or later.”
“Whenever you want.”
“Guy, I have to apologize. Yesterday, I put you under pressure, I shouldn’t have done it, and I just hope I didn’t hurt you. I wanted you to spend a nice day and instead...”
“Riding again was nice and I was glad to meet Jonathan Archer. He was kind to me, he helped me. You all are kind, even if I don’t deserve it.”
“Later you should undergo some examinations to check the condition of your injuries and your general physical conditions. Do you think you can, or do you prefer that we move them to another day?”
“I'm fine, Alicia.”
The doctor nodded.
“We must also talk about some important things concerning your future. Now I have to finish my turn but soon I'll have lunch break. Do you want to eat with me at the hospital's cafeteria so we can discuss them?”
Gisborne realized that Alicia was tense and he imagined that she wouldn’t bring him good news. It didn’t surprise him too much: he had long since learned to expect nothing from the future and, after the miracle he had received, he knew that he had to accept whatever fate had in store for him.
“Sure,” he said quietly, and Alicia smiled at him.
“Then I'll see you later.”
She went back to work and Guy remained alone, wondering what he could expect.
He got up from the bed, discovering that he was rather sore: after a month of almost total inactivity he was no longer used to riding, and he felt his muscles aching and stiff. The wounds, even if they were healed, bothered him more than usual.
Guy retrieved a change of clothes from the cabinet, and he headed for the bathroom, then he went back to the bedside table and took the little plastic archer too. He placed it on the edge of the sink while he turned on the water of the shower and began undressing.
He felt a twinge through the wound, and it made him wince. Guy pressed his hand on the scar, instinctively, as he leaned against the sink to support himself.
The Sheriff's face suddenly came to his mind: he could see him as he sank the sword in his belly, his pleased laugh when he realized that Robin and Rob were going to die, and the tearing pain that had made him crash to the ground, without being able to get up.
Gisborne tried to catch his breath and looked down at his hand, pressed on his belly. He was expecting to see blood flowing between his fingers, to feel his life running from his veins again, but when he found the courage to look at the scar, the wound was still closed, almost completely healed.
He was alive and Vaisey wasn’t, he said to himself, giving a determined stare at the mirror.
The sheriff could also torment him in memories and nightmares, but, at the end, all that was left of him was just a worn-out skull.
He can no longer hurt me. He can no longer hurt anyone.
Yet the memory of those bones filled him with horror. Anyone who he had ever known was now reduced like that: a few miserable remains, or maybe just a handful of dust. His parents, Isabella, Robin, Archer, the outlaws... Marian. There was nothing left of them but memories.
That would also have been his destiny if natural laws weren’t twisted somehow to save his life.
He looked at the small Robin Hood plastic figure on the edge of the sink and he thought that the real Robin would pretend to complain, saying that the little figure didn’t look at all like him, but he would actually be flattered to see how popular he was.
“I wish you could be really here, Hood,” He whispered with a sigh, then he stepped under the jet of the shower, letting the hot water flow on his body.
He closed her eyes, savoring that pleasant feeling, and he wondered for how long he’d be able to do so.
From Alicia's serious expression and her words about his future, he could imagine what the topic of their conversation would be: the hospital was a place to treat the sick and wounded, while he was almost completely cured.
Guy was certain that soon they would send him away, and he wondered how he could survive on his own in a world that was still so incomprehensible to him.
He didn’t have the pale idea of how he would manage, but he was certain of one thing: he would never give up.
Chapter 14: The Bird in a Golden Cage
Jack Robinson thought that he needed a coffee. That morning, his shift had been harder than usual, due to a serious road accident involving many cars. The helicopter had continued flying back and forth to carry the persons who were more severely wounded.
Now his work was over, and the fate of the patients was in the hands of ER doctors and surgeons.
“Are you going home, Jack?” Asked one of the nurses sitting at the reception desk.
“Yes, shortly. I’ll go to eat something, and then I leave.”
The girl winced.
“What's up, Jenny?”
“Dr. Little had called, and asked me to give a message to Guy, but then one of the patients had an emergency and I forgot about it. How can I do? I can’t get away from here now!”
“I can tell him.”
“Would you really do that?! Thanks, Jack!”
“Did he go on the roof, as usual?”
“I think so.” The girl rummaged through the papers on the counter and handed him a note. “I wrote it here.”
Guy approached the parapet and rested his arms on it, looking at the city. He could see the cars running along the asphalt ribbons of the roads, the white trails left in the sky by the airplanes, and the modern buildings, so different from those of the Nottingham of his age.
He wondered how he could live out of the hospital, if they should send him away.
It seemed logical to him that sooner or later they would do it: they had saved his life, they had healed him, and, for a month, they had given him everything he needed, from food to clothes. He couldn’t expect to depend on their charity for a long time, and he didn’t even want to, but he didn’t know what he could do once he was on his own.
Everything that in his time could have made it easier for him to find a new job and the means to survive, in the present was completely useless if not harmful. Alicia had told him that in modern society, killing an enemy was inadmissible, except in exceptional circumstances, and that even resorting to force was to be avoided at all cost.
Vaisey had taught him mainly how to fight, he had trained him to kill at his orders, and Guy didn’t know how to do many other things. Nothing that could be useful in the twenty-first century, for sure.
He told himself that he had survived as a kid in a much more dangerous world, with the responsibility of caring for a younger sister. Somehow he would manage, even now.
Gisborne turned, hearing somebody calling his name, and saw Jack Robinson who was coming to meet him.
The doctor was still wearing the orange suit he used when he was on duty, and he looked tired, but he had given him a sincere smile, as if he really enjoyed talking to Guy.
Even after a month, that was an aspect of the modern world he wasn’t yet used to: people seemed to be genuinely happy to have to deal with him. They didn’t hate him, and they didn’t run away in fear when he passed, and, when they talked to him, they saw just Guy, not the henchman of the sheriff.
“You've been flying often today, didn’t you?” Guy asked, glancing at the helicopter, standing on the other terrace.
Jack leaned his back on the parapet, and sighed.
“Unfortunately. There was a major automobile accident with many wounded people. Some didn’t survive.”
Guy shuddered thinking about the speed at which a car could go. In his time, when a wagon pulled by galloping horses capsized, often the accident ended in tragedy, so he could only imagine how much a car crash at such high speeds could be lethal.
“Yeah. Were you waiting for Dr. Little?”
“Yes, she said that she would come to get me to have lunch together.”
“Lunch time was hours ago, I'm afraid. Alicia is still helping the wounded and I think that she will have to do it for quite a while. She told the nurse to warn you, but the girl has forgotten to give you her message.”
“It seemed to me that it had been a long time, actually,” Guy said, glancing at the position of the sun in the sky.
“Didn’t you notice that it was so late?”
Guy blushed slightly.
“That's one of the things I still have to get used to. You have a different way of dividing the time of the day.”
“Did you have lunch?”
“No, I was waiting for Alicia.”
“Come on, let's go eat something together, I didn’t even have time to eat as well.”
Guy took a last look at the landscape of Nottingham before following the doctor, and Jack waited for him, looking at him thoughtfully.
They did not speak until they sat at the table with the trays of food in front of them, then Guy looked at Jack Robinson in his eyes.
“Alicia said that she had to talk about something important about my future. Did she already discuss it with you?”
“It’s not us individual doctors the ones who make decisions about patients.”
“I can imagine what you are going to tell me: now that I'm cured I have to go away. I understand that, really, but maybe you could give me some advice on what to do once I get out of here. Certainly I can’t think of doing the job I did in the past, but I'm not afraid to work hard and sooner or later I'll be as strong as I used to be.”
“Guy, wait,” Jack interrupted him. “Do you think that once your wounds are cured, we will send you out of the hospital?”
“There would be nothing strange. You have already been even too generous to me.”
The doctor looked at him, hesitating.
“This won’t happen, quite the opposite, in fact.”
"You have no documents, there is no family to welcome you, you have suffered an aggression without the attacker being identified, you have the knowledge of a twelfth-century knight and no experience of the modern world... You can’t just leave. You will be assigned to a social worker and you will have to undergo various tests to see if you have a brain injury and to evaluate what your mental abilities are, and only after that we can decide how to move in the future.”
Guy looked at him. He wasn’t sure he had understood all that Jack had said, but he understood the meaning of the speech.
“You will shut me somewhere because you think I’m crazy.”
“I did not say this. They will evaluate what is best for you so that you can live in the best way.”
“In a cage, like one of the sheriff’s birds...”
“You can’t be sure. Much will depend on the test results.”
“Do you think I'm crazy?”
“I'm not a psychologist, I do not have the ability to determine it, but you seem quite sensible. You can follow complex reasoning and in the last few weeks you've learned many things you didn’t know, but you have to admit it's hard to believe that you may have traveled in time.”
“I know, it's not easy to believe it even for me. But it's true.”
“In any case you should be aware that for now you aren’t able to manage by yourself.”
“I'm doing my best to learn what I don’t know.”
“I know, Guy, but it will take some time.”
“I won’t have much choice, right? I will have to do what others will decide for me.”
“They will decide what is best for you, it's their job.”
“I'm tired of letting others make decisions in my place. I let the sheriff do it, and everyone suffered the consequences of it.”
Jack stared at him.
“For a moment let’s ignore all the rules and the bureaucratic aspect of your situation and imagine that you can now leave the hospital and live your life without anyone telling you anything: what would you do?”
“I should find a place where to live and a job.”
“How? Legally you don’t exist, no one would take you, but even if you should found someone willing to ignore rules and laws, what could you do? You don’t know how to drive a car or any other means of transport that is not a horse, not to mention using a computer or just a phone.”
Gisborne lowered his eyes: those were questions that he had already asked to himself and for which he had not yet found an answer. As much as he could try to learn, there were still too many things that he didn’t know, and he knew that he wasn’t able to face the world, yet.
“What will happen to me, then?”
“They'll help you. The decisions they are going to make will be primarily in your interest, so that you can live the best possible life.”
"So that's why Alicia looked so nervous earlier? Because she had to tell me that I would be considered a poor idiot for the rest of my life?”
“Nobody thinks you're an idiot.”
“Oh yes, they do. They all think I’m mad, do you think I don’t realize it? That I don’t hear the whispered comments and laughs? That I don’t see the pitiful or amused glances when I can’t do something that they have learned since they were little?”
Jack looked at him without saying anything, and Guy sighed.
“But maybe this is the punishment I have to endure for the mistakes I have committed in my life. I let myself to be tempted by power, and pride has often led me to act wrongly, maybe it's right that I don’t have anything left of either of them.”
“If it makes you feel better, you may consider it as a punishment, but perhaps you should simply accept that this is your situation and start from here, trying to see the positive side and to live as well as you can.”
“Maybe you're right. I'm alive when I should have been dead for so many centuries and I'm probably ungrateful to complain... But I feel so alone! All the persons I knew are dead and none of you can really understand how strange this time is and how confused I am.”
"I suppose that any twenty-first-century person would feel confused and lost too if they should find themselves in the twelfth century.”
“Not so much, I think. You have an idea of how life was in the past, but for me it is all completely new and often unimaginable. But maybe I was lucky: in my time a person who should say that he came from the future could be mistaken for a witch and executed.”
Jack nodded, and for a while they ate in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. The doctor found himself thinking that Guy's situation was terribly sad: even if his conviction of being a medieval knight came from mental illness or from a brain injury, he really believed it. Jack thought of how he would feel in finding himself completely alone in an unknown place, knowing that he would never see again any of the people he knew.
He tried to think of something to say to encourage him, but that situation was so unusual that he didn’t know how to behave.
“You look tired,” Guy said suddenly, and Jack nodded.
“It was a very challenging shift.”
“Have you saved many lives today?”
“I hope so.”
“You're lucky. When you go to sleep you don’t have to be afraid of your conscience. You don’t have demons who come to claw at your soul when you close your eyes...” Guy's voice broke and he was forced to stop for a moment, and Jack wondered what tormented him so much, but when he spoke again, Gisborne’s tone was more light. “Do you have a family, doctor?”
“I'm married and I have two children, a five-year-old male and a female of two.”
Guy remembered Isabella at that age, when she tried to follow him anywhere and he was annoyed because her presence distracted him from funnier games, but he had been also flattered when the sister offered him a flower picked in the meadow, or she climbed in his arms to give him a kiss.
Thinking to his childhood filled him with sadness: he had loved his sister, and yet he and Isabella had come to hate so much as to want to destroy each other.
But now to wonder how it might have happened was no longer important because even Isabella was dead, like everyone else.
He tried not to think about it and spoke to Jack.
“So why are you here to have lunch with me and not with your family?”
“My wife works, she'll be back home later, and the kids are at school. In fact, shortly I'll go to get them. My parents usually do it: they take them to their house for a few hours and I take advantage of it to rest after my shift, but today I want to stay with my children.”
“Are you worried about them?”
Jack looked at Guy, surprised that he could guess his anxiety.
“It has been a bad accident, there have been casualties and very serious injuries. Even some children... While I was trying to save them, I kept thinking about my children, what would I do if such a thing happened to them or to my wife... I don’t think I could bear it.”
“Go to them. And whatever happens, never abandon your family, everything else is not as important as it may seem.”
“Do you know, Guy? You are right. I'll get you back to the ward and then I’ll go and get my kids.”
“It's not necessary, I can go back on my own. Maybe I can’t deal with the modern world, but I wandered enough in the hospital and I can remember the way to my room.”
“Are you sure?”
“Even if I look crazy to your eyes, I'm not stupid, I’m not a fool.”
The doctor looked at him, fearing that he had offended him, but Guy was smiling and Jack smiled back at him.
“I’ll go, then, thank you for your company.”
Guy looked at the doctor going away, and he found himself jealous.
Once, having a family had been his greatest wish, and he had believed that marrying Marian was the only way he had to be happy and in peace again, but he had destroyed that dream with his own hands.
He would never have a house warmed by the love of a wife and he would never take his children on his shoulders to play with them, now he knew and accepted it.
After what he had done to Marian, he had lost all the right to dream of a happy future, and it was better this way. During his life he had destroyed the lives of each of the women who had been close to him: his mother, Isabella, Marian, and Meg had died because of him. The only one who survived was Annie, maybe because Robin had helped her to run away before it was too late.
Guy wondered what happened to her and to the child. His son.
They are dead too, what could you expect after eight centuries?
He hoped that at least they had lived a serene and long life, and he found himself thinking that perhaps with Annie he could have been happy. If he had allowed himself to fall in love with her even though she was only a servant, perhaps his life wouldn’t have been so disastrous: he would have never looked at Marian, and every night he would return to a home warmed by his wife's affection and by the laughter of their children.
He tried to remember the face of his son, without succeeding. He had held him in his arms only once, shortly after he was born, and at that moment he had only wanted to run away, to avoid that unwanted responsibility.
He wondered if it was possible to find out what had happened to Annie and Seth, and he told himself that he had to ask it to Alicia.
With a sigh he got up from the table and put away the tray, as Alicia had taught him the first time she had accompanied him to eat at the hospital's cafeteria, then he left the cafeteria and decided to go back to his room to reflect in peace on what Jack Robinson had told him.
On one hand, he felt relieved that he wasn’t going to find himself suddenly on his own, but to think that he was considered a fool, unable to provide for himself, was humiliating.
He stopped in front of the lift doors and pressed the call button, surprised to notice how easily that gesture had become natural to him. Only a few weeks before, the idea of being closed in a cabin to go up or down to another floor seemed absurd and unnatural, while now he was simply grateful that he didn’t have to climb the stairs when his muscles felt so sore.
He entered the lift and pressed the button with the number of his floor, then he stood in a corner, averting is gaze from the other people who had entered the lift. Learning to use those modern tools seemed easier than talking to people, at least for now.
At the first stop, most of the people went out, and Guy smiled to see Dr. Little coming in.
The woman winced, surprised to see him.
“Oh, Guy. I'm sorry to be so late. I rescheduled your examinations that were planned for today, I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to be present too.”
“The examinations to understand how crazy I am and to decide what to do with me?” Guy asked, trying to downplay, but Alicia didn’t smile and she remained silent.
Gisborne noticed that she looked downcast and that her eyes were bright with tears.
“What's up, Alicia?”
“Nothing. I'm just tired.”
The doors of the lift opened again and the others went out. Guy looked at the floor's number and he saw that they would have to get out there too, but he didn’t move, and pressed the button to the top floor.
"This is what I said to the sheriff when I didn’t want to talk to him about my problems.”
The woman sighed.
“Don’t worry, tomorrow it will be over, it's nothing.”
Guy stared at her, worried.
“Did you cry? Has anyone made you suffer?”
Alicia stroked his cheek and she tried to smile.
"You are very dear, but really, it's just a bad moment. I would never give up on my job, but sometimes there are particularly hard days and today it is one of those.”
Guy suddenly understood.
“Have you lost one of your patients?”
Alicia nodded, raising her hand to dry her eyes.
“It's not the first and it won’t be the last one, but when it happens to kids it's worse. I thought he would make it, but then the situation suddenly took a turn for the worse.”
The lift stopped and Guy took Alicia’s hand, leading her out of the cabin, then he stopped and hugged her, a bit awkwardly.
Alicia looked up, surprised by that gesture, and saw that Gisborne seemed at the same time worried about her and a little embarrassed by that tenderness.
“There is never anyone here, you can cry, if you need it.”
Alicia smiled at his tense and clumsy tone.
"You're not used to console people, are you?"
“Not much, is it so obvious?”
The woman laughed to see his afflicted expression, then the laughter turned to tears and Alicia found herself sobbing, with her face pressed against Guy's chest.