Guy was floating into a terrifying darkness, and he couldn’t see anything. For what he knew, he could have become blind.
He felt a weight on his chest, oppressing him, and he began to panic: was that the dirt of the grave?
Was he dead and buried, condemned to lay in the ground forever?
No, he didn’t want to be dead, he couldn’t bear the idea that hell was like that: to be lost in a black nothing, cold and alone with his thoughts.
He wanted to move his limbs, to try to get free somehow, but he couldn’t: he was too weak and that dreaded darkness too heavy. He could only lay there, listening to his pounding heartbeats.
Slowly, he became aware of the pain: his whole body felt sore and his head ached.
How can I be dead if my heart beats and I can feel pain?
His thoughts began to clear a little, and the darkness thinned, allowing him to see a flickering light, like the flame of a candle.
Guy blinked, and he realized that it was really the flame of a candle, quietly burning on the bedside table. He looked around, realizing that he wasn’t lost in a dark pit, but that he was lying in a bed, his own bed, in his lodgings at the castle.
He remembered Robin menacing to cut his throat, but nothing after that, and he wondered what happened, but he felt too weak to focus, and he soon slipped back into a deep sleep.
When he woke up again, he was feeling a little better, less confused at least. He saw a person sitting near the bed, but he couldn’t make out who it was in the dim light of the room, and he began to feel afraid.
What if it was Hood, eager to finish the job? If he wanted to cut his throat, he wouldn’t be able to defend himself.
“You’re awake at last!” The man said, moving the chair closer to the bed, and Guy could see his face at the light of the candle: it was Sir Roland.
The french nobleman was staring at him, a worried expression on his face, and Guy couldn’t understand why he was sitting at his bedside.
“What...” Guy began to say, but he couldn’t continue, interrupted by a fit of coughing.
Sir Roland hurried to fill a cup of water, and he put it to his lips, helping him to drink a few sips.
“Easy, easy, don’t speak now. You gave us a good scare.”
Guy frowned, giving him a questioning look, and Sir Roland went on.
“That man, the one you called Hood, punched you in the face and he pushed you in that cistern. When he ran away, we rushed to the hatch to help you out, but you didn’t resurface. Before I could do anything, lady Marian had jumped in the water to search for you and after a few attempts, she found you and she dragged you to the surface. For a few moments we thought that it was too late and that you had drowned, but then you began to cough out most of the water and we saw that you were still breathing. Don’t worry, the healer said that you are a little battered, but you will recover.”
Gisborne nodded, taking a few moments to fully realize what Sir Roland’s words meant.
So Hood almost succeeded in killing him again, and that ordeal explained why he was feeling so miserable and sore, but to think that Marian had saved his life was overwhelming.
He couldn’t understand why Sir Roland was there, though. The nobleman had made clear that he disapproved him and Guy had heavily insulted him, yet he hadn’t hesitated in stepping in front of an arrow to protect him and now he had been watching over his sleep.
Guy tried to talk again, and this time he succeeded.
“Marian?” He asked in a low voice.
“She’s alright. She wanted to stay here with you, but the healer forced her to get some rest because she was too upset. Your friend Allan wanted to keep an eye on you as well, but I asked him to let me watch over you.”
“Can I ask you a question, sir Guy?”
“The things you said about the sheriff… That he’s going to flog you, that he could hang you… is that true? Would he really hurt you if you disappoint him?”
Gisborne touched his neck and his fingers found the bandage.
“He would. He already did. And now he will probably kill me.”
“Why should he?”
“Hood disappeared with his gang and the gold, didn’t he?”
Sir Roland nodded.
“So it seems. Allan said that they used a passage he didn’t know.”
“Then I’m as good as dead. Without that gold he won’t be able to buy your lands. Even if you wanted to sell them to him, after what I said. I guess it’s too late to apologize now.”
“I think that I owe you an explanation, but not now. The healer said that you should rest and I agree with her, you still look unwell. Try to sleep some more, I have a few errands to do as well, and later we will talk, you and I.”
Sir Roland smiled kindly, and he touched Guy’s shoulder with his hand, in a sympathetic pat, then he stood up to leave the room, but Gisborne stopped him.
Gisborne was staring at him, frowning.
“Did… did we ever meet before?” he began, but then he just shook his head. “No, it’s nothing. You are right, I guess I’m still unwell and I can’t think clearly.”
Guy closed his eyes with a sigh, and Sir Roland walked out of the door. He stopped on the threshold and he glanced at the knight before closing the door.
“So you remember...” He whispered to himself with a sad smile, then he walked away.
Allan ducked to avoid a heavy chess piece headed at his face, then he straightened up to look at the sheriff.
“I can swear it, my lord, we did our best!”
“Your best?! Do you call this your best?! A castle full of guards and yet you couldn’t catch Hood and his gang!” Vaisey grabbed another chess piece, a knight this time, and he aimed at Allan again, his eyes wild with unrestrained fury.
“We blocked all the passages, and we closed the portcullis as soon as possible.”
“All the passages except for one! The one they used to escape!”
“I don’t want to be funny, but nobody knew about that! Not even you, I bet!” Allan replied, but the sheriff got even angrier.
“Don’t be insolent or I’ll hang you at Gisborne’s side!”
Allan stared at him, in shock.
“You can’t really want to hang Guy!”
Vaisey stared at Allan, and he pointed a finger at him.
“That idiot is a failure. He had Hood in his hands and he let him escape! Your leper friend wasted her energies in fishing him out of that cistern because this time he will hang. He has proved himself useless and if I can’t trust him anymore...”
Allan desperately tried to think of something to persuade the sheriff that Guy was still more useful alive than dead, but he was afraid that in his present state of mind, Vaisey wouldn’t listen anyways.
He knew that insisting could be dangerous for him too, but he couldn’t let Gisborne hang if there was a way to avoid it.
He was about to plead again, trying to remember all the times when Guy had been essential for Vaisey’s plans, but he kept silent because at that moment Sir Roland knocked at the door and entered the room.
The sheriff glared at the nobleman and he was about to ask what he wanted, but even in his rage he remembered that Sir Roland still had something that he needed, even if by now it was very improbable that he would ever get those lands.
“Sir Roland,” he said, forcing his lips into a smile, “it’s late for a visit.”
Roland de Belmont smiled at the sheriff’s words as he sat in a chair at the opposite side of Vaisey’s desk.
“I know, Lord Vaisey, please forgive my impoliteness, but I felt that I couldn’t sleep before concluding our talk. You were about to show me the price you would pay for my lands, when we were interrupted...”
The sheriff glared at Allan and the young man paled. Allan knew perfectly well that now the sheriff didn’t have the means to buy those lands anymore and that he blamed both Guy and him for that.
Sir Roland probably arrived at the worst possible moment and Allan really feared that this time he couldn’t talk his way out of danger.
“Well, it seems that there has been a little hindrance about that,” Vaisey said, in a mellifluous tone, looking at Sir Roland, “but if you can have just a little patience, we’ll be able to gather the price you’ll request.”
Roland de Belmont looked at him, perfectly calm.
“I think we can reach an agreement, lord Vaisey, one that can satisfy both of us. It seems to me that you really want my lands, but you are short of gold at the moment. But you’re lucky, there something that I want more than gold, something that you surely can spare.”
The sheriff focused on him.
“What that would be?”
Sir Roland smiled.
Marian stopped in front of the closed door and she hesitated. She shuddered, feeling chilled to the bone even if the weather was warm.
She couldn’t help remembering how pale and still Guy had been when they had pulled him out of the cistern, she couldn’t forget the dread she had felt thinking that he was dead.
Now she was still afraid. What if the healer had been wrong? She imagined herself opening the door and finding him dead, his chest immobile and his skin white and cold…
She was tempted to turn her back to the door and run away, but instead she forced herself to push it and enter the room.
The light was dim in Guy’s lodgings, just a flickering candle on the bedside table, and for a moment she had the impression of being there to wake a corpse. Guy was lying in his bed with his eyes closed and perfectly still, and the candlelight drew ghastly shadows on his pale face. A dark bruise marked his cheekbone and Marian’s heart tightened remembering Guy’s shocked expression a moment before Robin’s punch hit him.
She knew perfectly well that Robin’s words had hurt him much more than his blow.
You are my betrothed!
Marian wiped a tear from her face, and she forced herself to make another step towards the bed.
Now she could see that Guy was alive, that his chest moved in the quiet rhythm of sleep, and even if she was immensely relieved, she couldn’t help feeling terribly guilty. She knew that she should have told him about Robin, but she had been a coward, and now she had hurt Guy again!
She stood at the side of the bed, looking at him.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “I’m so sorry...”
Marian stooped to brush his face with a light kiss. Guy’s cheek was warm and soft under the roughness of the stubble, and Marian closed her eyes, breathing in the scent of his skin, so familiar by now.
Her eyes flew open, and she found herself staring at Guy’s blue gaze, deep and sad.
She stood up, blushing, and she made a step back.
“You’re awake! How do you feel?!” She blurted, but Guy didn’t answer. He looked at her for a few moments, then he sat up and he patted the side of the bed.
“Please, sit,” he asked, giving her a pleading glance, and she couldn’t help but obey.
“Hood said that you and him… Is that true?” He couldn’t bring himself to repeat the word, and he closed his eye in a grimace of pain when Marian nodded.
“Why are you still here? You should have gone with him.”
Marian took his hand and Guy winced.
“I promised to stay. Guy, look at me.” She waited until he opened his eyes again and she stared at him, holding his gaze. “I wanted to stay. I care for you and I don’t regret making that promise. My regret is another: I held back the whole truth from you and I shouldn’t have.”
“You were afraid of me.”
She shook her head. “No, not afraid. Not of you, at least. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, but I did it all the same...” She concluded with a sob.
“Sir Roland said that you saved me.”
“How could I let you die? You fell in that cistern and didn’t resurface! I thought that you had drowned!”
She was openly weeping now, and Guy pulled her in his arms, trying to comfort her. Marian hugged him back, leaning her head on his chest with a disconsolate sigh.
“Marian? Are you crying for me?”
Marian tilted her head a little to look at him. “Is that so strange?”
“For me it is. I’m not used to people who worry for me.”
“Well, I do. And Allan too.”
Guy rested a hand on her back, keeping her close, but he averted his eyes from hers when he spoke again.
“Allan… Will you help him? Hood will protect you, but he surely considers Allan a traitor… Tell him that I forced him to work with me, that he had no choice, persuade Hood to take him back in his gang when...”
“Guy?” Marian interrupted him, trembling. “Why are you talking like this? As if...”
“As if I’m going to die? Because I probably will. You have heard the sheriff, he said he wouldn’t tolerate any other errors and look at what I did. I had Hood trapped and still I couldn’t arrest him, I couldn’t protect the gold and I insulted his guest… Now he won’t get what he wants, so he will have revenge.”
“He wouldn’t kill you! You are his most loyal man!”
“I’m not so sure of it. He warned me and I failed one time too many. Never underestimate his menaces.”
Marian stared at him, in fear.
“No! We must do something!”
“What?” Guy asked with a sad smile.
“You could run, get away from him and start a new life...”
“And then? I swore loyalty to the sheriff, what could I do if I betray him? Who would ever hire a knight who can’t be faithful to his oaths?”
“But you can’t just wait for him to kill you! When he wanted to give me to Winchester, you asked me to run...”
“And it worked so well...”
Marian stood up, shaking her head.
“I won’t let you give up, Guy of Gisborne! I won’t! Come on, get up and get dressed, we have to go!” She stopped, giving him a worried look. “How do you feel? Can you walk? The healer said that you should rest, but we must get away from the sheriff.”
“I’ll help you. I’m not leaving you alone until I’m sure you are safe.”
But then you will… Guy thought, sadly, but he relented, knowing that resisting would only put Marian in further danger. If he didn’t agree to run, only God knew what she could do.
He pushed the blanket away and he slowly got to his feet, swaying a little. Marian hurried to support him.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m feeling a little faint. Just give me a moment.”
“Here, sit back on the bed while I get your clothes. The ones you were wearing are still wet, where can I find some others?”
“In that chest over there.”
Guy looked at her while she hurriedly rummaged in the chest and he blushed a little thinking of the strange intimacy of that situation.
If she were my wife, it would be like this. Waking up with her at my side... sharing these common moments… Just being together… I couldn’t wish for anything else.
Marian came back to the bed, and she handed him a bunch of clothes.
“Here. Do you...” she blushed and she averted her gaze as she talked, “...do you need help?”
Guy couldn’t help chuckling.
“I think I can manage… unless you want to help.” He added, a little mischievously, and Marian gave an indignant slap on his arm.
“Hurry up, fool. I’ll wait just out of the door. Call me when you are finished.”
She rushed out of the room, and Guy stripped off the nightgown he was wearing and quickly got dressed. He was feeling weak and all his body was sore, but he knew that he had to try at least.
Marian wouldn’t abandon him to his fate, so he had to make an effort to save himself even if he couldn’t see any hopes for his future. In the best case he’d end up poor and alone, a little more than a beggar, forced to leave everything behind once again.
Marian would say that Hood had done the same thing, and probably she’d try to persuade him to join the outlaws in the fight against the sheriff, but Guy knew that it would be impossible.
Even if he was willing to overcame his hatred for Robin of Locksley, Hood wouldn’t. He would never let him stay close to Marian and they’d probably end up killing each other, fighting for her love.
Maybe, if he could get a good head start before the sheriff noticed his flight, he could be able to gallop to Locksley and take the money he owned. It wasn’t as much as it had been once because the Nightwatchman, Marian, had robbed him, but it was better than nothing.
He didn’t want to go, to be alone in the world again, and yet he couldn’t stay, unless he wanted to die. With a sigh, he walked to the door to reach Marian.
The girl was waiting for him in the corridor, anxious and fretful, and she hurried to put an arm around Guy’s waist to support him, seeing him so pale.
“Can you walk?”
“Do I have any other choice?”
“Let’s go, then.”
They walked along the corridor, slowly.
Too slowly, Marian thought, but she could see that Guy was struggling to keep her pace. She was worried for his health, but they had to leave before the sheriff decided to punish him. They had to reach the stables unnoticed, then, once Guy could mount a horse, it would be easier.
They reached the end of the corridor and she was wondering if she should stop for a moment, to let him catch his breath, but when they turned the corner, they both froze: Vaisey was in front of them, surrounded by many guards.
“Going somewhere, Gizzy?”