Guy waited while the guards checked every room on both sides of the corridor and he frowned when he spotted Marian appearing at his side.
“You shouldn’t be here, it could be dangerous,” he said.
“More for you than for me, Robin wouldn’t hurt me...” she whispered back and Guy’s heart sank to hear those words.
“You and Hood...” he began, his voice so low that she could barely hear him, “there is still something, isn’t it?”
She was spared from answering because the guards came back in the corridor, but Guy saw her troubled expression and he guessed that he had been right.
For a moment he felt so betrayed and full of rage that he thought that he could kill both her and Robin and have his revenge against all the persons who had betrayed him during his life, but somebody touched his shoulder from behind, startling him out of those morbid thoughts.
He turned immediately, grabbing the person who had touched him and slamming him against a wall, the unsheathed sword at his throat. Marian yelped in surprise at Guy’s reaction, while Sir Roland, the person in question, seemed to be completely calm, staring at the blade without any fear.
Guy let him go, and he stepped back, lowering the sword.
“Sorry… I...” he began, flustered, but Sir Roland stopped him before he could continue.
“No, Sir Guy. I should have known better than taking a soldier by surprise during an emergency. I appreciate your control, though. You could have skewered me and I couldn’t have blamed you for that.”
Gisborne sighed, unable to understand that man.
“Yet you blame me for everything else... But it doesn’t matter, I should better try to get Hood now, or at least retrieve the gold. If he wasn’t hiding in those rooms, he might be in the dungeons.”
“There’s a thing I don’t understand, Sir Guy, if that thief is trying to run away, why should he go in the dungeons? Isn’t he in his right mind? It seems quite a stupid thing to do.”
“Quite the contrary, indeed,” Guy said, glancing at Marian, but the girl was following them in silence, pale and worried, with an angry light in her eyes. He supposed that she disapproved his attempts to catch Robin Hood, but even if there wasn’t bad blood between them, what other choice did he have? If Guy let him go, the sheriff would want his head, and he was already in enough trouble to take any other risk.
“What do you mean?” Sir Roland asked as they walked down the stairs.
“Hood thinks that he has a way out, the drain of an unused cistern, that he could use to get out of the castle. He believes that we don’t know about it, but we do and the sheriff ordered to fill it with water, so he could be trapped there.”
Marian looked at Guy and at the guards and she feared for Robin’s life. If what Guy had said was true, it would be very difficult for the outlaw to run away unscathed. She was feeling angry, her rage growing step after step.
She had begged Robin to give up his robberies this once, for her sake, but he hadn’t listened to her and now he was risking his life!
She couldn’t ask Guy to have mercy without endangering them all, yet at the same time she was mad at Gisborne too because he was trapped at the service of the sheriff. Why couldn’t he have sworn loyalty to another lord? To a better lord? How could he have been so blind to put his whole life in the hands of Vaisey?
Marian prayed that Robin wasn’t there, that he had already found another way to flee, but when they arrived at the bottom of the stairs, there he was, kneeling in front of the opened hatch of the cistern.
“What’s up, Hood? Got lost?” Guy asked, pointing the sword at him, and Robin jumped to his feet immediately, the bow drawn and pointed at Gisborne. Robin eyes widened in surprise seeing both Marian and the mysterious guest at Gisborne’s side, then he glanced at the cistern full of water.
“I have to thank Allan for this, I suppose.”
“No, Hood, I have to thank Allan.”
“I have an arrow pointed at your head and you know that I won’t miss, do you still think you have a reason to be thankful? Move aside, Gisborne.”
“Oh, I don’t think so. You can shoot just an arrow before my guards get you.” Guy replied, staying between Robin and the stairs.
“One arrow will be enough. Let me pass or I’ll kill you.”
“No!” Marian couldn’t stifle an anguished cry and both Guy and Robin glanced at her for a moment.
“If I should let you run away with the gold, the sheriff will surely hang me in your place.” Guy said, looking back at Robin, “It almost happened once already and I don’t intend to repeat the experience, so if you want to kill me, you’ll have to get blood on your hands, for once!”
Marian didn’t understand what Guy meant, and she frowned to see that Robin had blushed, as if he was ashamed for some reason. But his guilty expression didn’t last much, replaced by a cheeky grin.
“As you wish, Gisborne. We’ll both die, but the sheriff won’t have his gold, I don’t have it anymore.”
“His gang! He gave the money to them!” Guy growled, and Sir Roland made a step forward, placing himself between Robin and Gisborne.
“What are you doing?!” Guy exclaimed, in shock.
“Sir Guy, you gave the order to shut the portcullis, so that man’s accomplices could be still in the castle. Send your guards to search for them before they find a way out. My men will be enough to take care of him.” Sir Roland said in a calm voice, but he could see that Guy was hesitating. “Think about it, you are in a stalemate, right now. Whatever you do, you’ll both end up dead, but if you can catch his accomplices, then you’ll have hostages, a leverage, and the gold. It seems to me that your sheriff cares for his belongings.”
“If I send my guards to search for them, how can I be sure that you and your men aren’t going to attack me, instead?” Guy asked. “For what I know, you’d surely be glad to see me dead.”
Sir Roland shook his head and he spoke in a grave voice.
“You are in error, sir Guy, I can give you my word. I’m standing between you and a deadly arrow, isn’t that enough to convince you of my sincerity?”
Robin scoffed, nervous and confused.
“So, you are an ally of the sheriff, then.”
Marian looked at the three men and at the guards. She was angry and terrified at the same time, afraid that somebody could make a move to break that frail balance. Then, she was sure, Robin or Guy, or both of them, would end up dead.
She thought that she could persuade Guy to let Robin go, and they would both live for now, but she also knew that Guy was right about the sheriff. If he let Robin escape, there would be no forgiveness, and probably Vaisey would hang both Gisborne and her for treason.
After a while, Gisborne took a decision, and he told the guards to go and search for the other members of the gang and for the gold. The men hurried to obey, and Sir Roland’s men disposed themselves at the foot of the stairs, so that Robin couldn’t flee.
“Wise decision,” Sir Roland said, glancing at Guy over his shoulder, without moving from his defensive position.
“Typical of a coward, Gisborne! Hiding behind other people!” Robin taunted him, trying to provoke him into action.
He hated being trapped, and the actions of the stranger had surprised him. That man was risking his life to protect Gisborne, and, judging from the knight’s expression, the latter had no idea why as well. The whole situation wasn’t just dangerous, but also strange, incomprehensible, and it make him feel uncertain, unable to make up one of his half plans. He insulted Gisborne in the hope of forcing him to make a move, knowing that he most likely would do some mistake, giving him a chance to run away.
He kept an eye on Marian. He would have preferred her not to be there, in such a dangerous place, and her dark, angered expression worried him.
As if she had guessed his thoughts, the girl stared at him.
“I told you to keep away!” She said in a low voice, in a tone she had never used when talking to him.
Guy turned his head to stare at her.
“You did? So you met Hood... When? You said that you wouldn’t betray me again...” He asked, hurt, and Marian moved her hand to brush his arm with her fingers.
“I didn’t betray your trust. I told him to let the sheriff have his way this once, I said that if he really cared for me he should do nothing. But here he is...” She had talked in a bitter tone and Robin resented it.
“How could you expect that I’d let them plot against the King?!” He said.
“I told you that you would put us in danger this time, but you didn’t care! Probably you didn’t even listen to me!” Marian said, distressed to the point of being almost in tears.
“Listen to you, or listen to what Gisborne makes you say? Can’t you see that he’s poisoning your mind?! He’s evil, he destroys everything and he’ll be the end of you! But he stirs you, that’s why you listen to his lies.” Robin yelled, and, before Marian could reply, Guy pushed Sir Roland aside, ran at Robin and tried to attack him with his sword, regardless of the bow pointed at him.
Marian screamed in fear, but Robin didn’t shoot the arrow and he nimbly dodged Guy’s sword, then he dropped the bow and grabbed Guy’s arm, bending it behind his back and forcing him to release the hold on his weapon as well. Quickly, he unsheathed a sharp dagger, and he pointed it at Guy’s throat, with a satisfied grin.
“I guess this is not a stalemate anymore, don’t you think, Gisborne? Now, if you want to live, tell your men to lock themselves in one of the cells.”
“Those are not my men, Hood, and if you run, I’m dead anyways. I’d rather die knowing that you’ll hang as well,” Guy snarled, trying to get free, but when Robin pushed the blade further against his neck, reopening the cut left by Vaisey’s dagger, he stopped struggling and he stood still.
“Robin, this is madness!” Marian cried, seeing the blood on Guy’s neck, and Sir Roland nodded at his men to enter one of the cells. He locked the door and held the keys in front of him, so that Robin could see them.
“Very well, I did as you wanted, now be on your way and let Sir Guy go,” he said calmly.
“Throw your sword in the cistern, first. Gisborne’s one too.” Robin watched as Sir Roland obeyed, then he nodded at the hatch again, “Now the keys, too.”
“Don’t do it!” Guy growled, but he shut up when Robin nicked at his skin again.
“Now stand there, away from the stairs,” Robin ordered, then he turned to Marian. “Come with me.”
The girl stared at him, and she shook her head, trembling with both fear and rage.
“I can’t. I gave my word I would stay. I told you, I won’t lie to Guy again...”
“You are my betrothed!”
“You should respect my choices, then.”
Robin realized that she wouldn’t follow him, and for a moment he was tempted to actually cut Gisborne’s throat. If Marian was staying at the castle instead than in the forest with him, it was all his fault, he had corrupted her mind!
He wanted to sink the blade in Guy’s skin, to take his life but he didn’t. Instead, giving way to his frustration, Robin punched him in the face and he pushed him in the cistern, then he turned his back to Marian, and he ran up the stairs.