Marian heard the shouts of the guards before seeing Robin darting along the corridor of the castle.
The outlaw grinned at her and he blew her a kiss before opening a door and entering a room to hide.
The girl tried to stop him.
“Robin, wait! That room is…” She stopped talking when the guards turned the corner and looked at her.
“Milady, have you seen an outlaw?”
Marian put a hand on her heart like she was frightened and pointed at the other end of the corridor.
“He went that way!”
The guards resumed their chase and Marian let out a sigh of relief, then she looked at the door, worried.
“That is Guy's room.” She whispered, completing the warning that Robin didn't stop to listen.
Robin entered the darkened room and stood by the door, listening. He heard Marian giving bad directions to the guards and he smiled.
“Clever girl.” He whispered to himself, then he closed his mouth, hearing a low moan coming from the bed.
He thought that the room was empty, but it was clear that he wasn't alone!
Robin hid in a dark corner and held his breath.
“Who's there?” Asked a very well known voice and Robin cursed in his mind.
Of all the rooms he could have entered, he had to choose Gisborne's chamber!
But why was Gisborne in bed in the middle of the day, instead of leading the guards to his chase?
Robin had to act quick: if his enemy got up from the bed, he'd see him immediately and he'd be captured.
Quietly, Robin took his bow, ready to aim it at Guy.
He didn't want to kill, but that was a kill or be killed situation and he could see no other way to run away unscathed.
Before he could nock an arrow, the door opened and Marian entered the room with a tray in her hands.
“Who's there?” Guy asked again and Marian made a step forward, leaving the door open and pointing at it with a hand behind her back to tell Robin that he had to take the chance to run away.
“Guy, it's me, Marian.”
Robin glared in Gisborne's direction, but he had no other choice than running away, so he crept to the door and walked out of the door.
He hated the idea to leave Marian alone with Gisborne, but if he were found in Gisborne's quarters, Marian would be accused of misleading the guards.
He had to run away from that room for her safety too.
Guy stirred in bed, turning towards the door.
“Marian?” He called, surprised, then he broke out in a fit of cough.
“How are you feeling?” Marian asked, placing her tray on a table near the bed, then she pulled open the curtain that shielded the window, letting the light in.
Guy closed his eyes, with a pained expression and he pulled a blanket over his face.
“Please, don't. The light hurts my eyes and you shouldn't be here. I don't want you to see me like this and then you could catch it too.”
“Don't be silly, Guy, there's nothing to be ashamed in being sick. And I already had it last week, actually, it might be that you got this cold from me. But if the light hurts you, I'll close the curtains a little.”
She did it as she talked until the light was less bright, but still enough to see.
Gisborne sat in the bed to look at her and Marian thought that he probably still had a fever. He was pale and he had dark circles under his eyes and Marian could see that he was trembling, even if Guy was trying to look stronger than he felt.
“I should get up. The sheriff…”
“The sheriff can wait. You should rest or you won't get better. I took you some food.”
“I don't feel like eating.”
“You should try the chicken soup, at least. It will make you feel better.”
Guy smiled at her.
“Are you worried for my health?”
Marian thought that Guy looked really moved and she realized that he wasn't used to kindness at all.
She was suddenly afraid that he could mistake simple friendly care for love and she felt sorry for him. She could see that Guy was a better person than everyone, himself included, thought, but she couldn't love him because she already gave her heart to Robin.
“I'd be worried for any friend who looked so ill as you do.” She said, in a colder tone.
He gave her a dejected look, but he managed to smile.
“Well, I'm grateful.”
“I have to go, now. Try to eat something and take care.”
Marian stepped out of Guy's room and was startled to find Robin Hood waiting for her in the corridor.
“What are you doing still here? Are you trying to be caught?” She whispered.
“Eat the chicken soup...? Take care...? That was a little too friendly.”
“Don't be a fool, now. If you didn't enter Guy's room I wouldn't need to come and rescue you.”
“I didn't need to be rescued!
“You were about to shoot an arrow to him!”
“Maybe that's what he deserves. He's evil, he tried to kill the king!”
“Nobody deserves to die! And if he really is a traitor he'll be punished when the king comes back to England, it's not your duty to judge him.”
“Are you defending him now?”
“I'm defending no one. I was just trying to help you.”
“By taking chicken soup to Gisborne!”
“Well, he's really sick, I felt bad for him. You hate him, but there's some good in Guy.”
“Guy? Now you're calling him Guy?”
Marian stomped her foot to the ground.
“Stop being so jealous, you know perfectly well where my heart is!”
Robin lifted an eyebrow and gave her a cheeky smile.
“Where is it?”
Marian smiled back at him.
“An outlaw stole it...”
“He must be a fool, then.” Robin joked and Marian nodded.
“Oh, yes, a big fool who'll get himself arrested if he keeps losing time in being jealous instead of running away.”
As she talked, they hear the sound of heavy boots coming from around the corner of the corridor and Robin grinned.
“It seems I have to go. I'll come back tomorrow to see you. Meanwhile, stay away from Gisborne!”
Tomorrow arrived and passed, but Robin didn't show up.
Marian wasn't really worried, the outlaw had a busy life and if he had to help the poor villagers he often forgot the promises he had made to her. She used to get mad at him for that, but with time she understood that it was just another sign of how he cared for his people. He often sacrificed his personal happiness to help the needy.
She began to worry when another two days passed with no trace of Robin.
The outlaws didn't even try to rob the sheriff and it was strange because Guy was still recovering so he couldn't lead the guards and the castle strong room was full of gold after the tax payment of that month.
Marian decided that she had to find a way to visit Robin at the camp.
She tried to exit the castle, but the guards were at the gate and wouldn't let her pass.
“Where are you going, my lady?”
Marian turned to see Guy.
The knight was still pale and he didn't look very healthy, but he was back to his work.
“You shouldn't be here.” Marian said. “You should rest.”
“The sheriff wouldn't let me. He thinks I've been sick for too long already. Don't worry for me, I'll be well.”
The girl shook her head.
“Why do you work for him? He doesn't care for you at all.”
“I have nobody. He can give me power.”
Marian looked at him.
“What are you going to do with power when you are dead? The sheriff will lead you to your death. You have nobody, you said, but I think that it's better to have nobody than to have the sheriff.”
“Can't you see? I'm doing this for you too. I will get power and richness and I'll be able to care for you, in time.”
Marian looked at him. She could keep lying like she did since she knew Guy or she could be completely honest with him. She was afraid of Gisborne's reaction if she told him the truth, but if she kept him in his illusion, sometimes in the future they would both be hurt for sure.
“I don't want you to do it, Guy.” She said, quietly, looking at him.
Gisborne didn't seem to understand.
“You don't have to worry, I'm willing to do it. My feelings for you...”
Marian raised her hand and put a finger on his lips to stop him.
“No, Guy. Don't say it. I know what you feel and I know that I should be honored, but I can't return them.”
“You don't have to. I can love you enough for both of us and in time you'll learn to love me too...”
Marian took a deep breath. She could stay silent and nothing would change or she could talk and she had no way to know how Guy could react.
She'd hurt him for sure and he could be so mad to hit or kill her or he could decide to get revenge on Robin. She was scared, but to leave him in his illusion would be cruel and unfair. As long as he thought that if he got power he could marry her, Guy would never be free from the sheriff.
“I can't Guy, I'm so sorry, but I can't. I love another man.”
She saw the exact moment when Gisborne understood the meaning of her words: his eyes seemed to become darker and he tried to hide how much he was hurt.
“Is it Hood, isn't it?” He asked with rage and Marian was tempted to take a step back, but she didn't.
“When he is dead, you'll learn to love me.” Guy said and Marian looked at him in horror.
Guy touched the hilt of his sword.
“I'll kill him.”
“And do you think I could ever feel something for you if you kill the person I love?!”
“I don't care! I won't have you, but he won't have you either!”
Marian burst up in tears and stepped forward to hug Guy. The knight didn't move, shocked by that unexpected contact.
“Please don't kill him, Guy!” Marian sobbed. “I'm sorry, I never wanted to hurt you. I'd love you if I could, you are a good man, you'd deserve to be loved! But I can't! You can't choose who you love, you just can't!”
Gisborne stood still, stunned. He'd never been so close to Marian, he could feel her body pressed against his, but he also knew that the girl had never been so far. He knew he had lost her and that he could kill his enemy and have revenge, but that wouldn't make her love him.
He hold her close and hid his face against her neck with a sigh.
“I know.” He conceded. “I should never have loved you. Love is a weakness and my feelings for you will be my end, I know. But, as you said, I have no choice. And you, woman, had no mercy.”
Marian knew he was heartbroken and she felt guilty for hurting him. She was worried too and afraid that his sorrow could lead him to follow the sheriff even more than before.
“I didn't tell you the truth to hurt you.”
“Do you think I'm pleased to know that you love my enemy?” Guy said, bitterly.
“It wasn't right to keep deceiving you. But can't you see, Guy? Now that you know, you don't have to follow the sheriff anymore. Not for me!”
“What else do I have? I have no family, no friends, I have nothing. If I quit working for the sheriff I'd be nobody, just like I was before meeting him.”
“That's what the sheriff wants you to think. I've seen you when you're not with him and you are a better man. You can be brave, you can be kind, without him you could be happy. The sheriff doesn't care for you, he just wants you to be his faithful dog!”
“That's not true! I'm important for him!”
“So important that he forces you to work even when you are sick? You know perfectly well that you should be resting. He doesn't care about you.”
“And you do?” Guy snapped, angrily.
“Yes, I do.”
“But you can't love me.”
Guy made a step back and released her from the hug. He stared at her and Marian wondered what he was going to do.
Now he knew that she was in league with Robin and he could get her arrested as a traitor. She saw the good in Guy, but she also feared his temper.
If he wanted revenge, he could make her hang.
“Saying you're sorry doesn't make me feel better.” Guy said, flatly.
“What are you going to do?” Marian asked after they both were silent for a long and uncomfortable time.
“I thought that I could take you to the dungeons and keep you there until your feelings change. But I guess they would just change for the worst. Now you pity me, if I trapped you, you'd hate me.”
“I don't pity you. You deserve to be loved, you are worthy, I'm sad I can't give you what you need.
But now that you know the truth you can be free. Try to forget me and find someone who can love you with all her heart.”
“I love you.”
“And I don't.”
“So I guess we are stuck.”
Marian looked at him.
Guy looked at the gate.
“Go. Before I change my mind.”
“Are you letting me go?”
“You were right. The truth can free me. Now at least I know that I have no hopes. I'm setting you free as well. Go, go to the forest and never come back to the castle.”
“I'll make sure he can reach the abbey to ask sanctuary. He'll be safe there. Don't worry for him, I promise you that I'll take care of that.”
The girl hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.
“Thank you, Guy! I won't forget this. I wasn't wrong: you are a good man.”
“Don't stay here. You can be free too, you don't need the sheriff.”
“I'll think about it.” Guy said, softly, then he turned and he went back to the castle.
Marian stopped the horse near the secret entrance of the camp. She knew she had to be careful because the outlaws protected it with a lot of traps and she didn't want to be caught in a net or to be hit by a falling log.
She was searching the way to open the secret door, when it opened by itself and Much went out of it.
“Marian! What are you doing here?”
“I went to find Robin, as it seems that he forgot the way to the castle.”
“He couldn't come, he's sick. A bad cold. I was just going to Matilda's hut to fetch a few herbs for him.”
“Go then, I won't delay you.”
Much said goodbye to her and went away and Marian entered the camp.
She greeted the outlaws and Djaq smiled at her.
“Don't fret, he'll be well. It's just a cold and he's strong, but, being a man, he thinks he's about to die.”
“I'll better go and cheer him up, then.”
Djaq laughed and Marian went to Robin's bed.
The outlaw was buried under three or four blankets and he was shivering.
He heard Marian's steps, but he didn't open his eyes to look who it was.
“Go away, Much, I don't feel like eating.”
“Funny, Guy said exactly the same thing when he was sick. Maybe you got it from him.” Marian said, amused and Robin opened his eyes.
“Marian? What are you doing here?”
“I came to see what happened to you. You promised to come and you didn't. I can see why, now.”
“You shouldn't stay so close to me or you'll get sick too.”
“And now you are speaking like Gisborne again. Maybe you two are more similar than you think.”
“Me? Similar to Gisborne?” Robin scoffed, shaking his head.
“Well, you both were worried that I could get your cold, when most likely I'm the one who gave it to you.”
“Have you been sick too? Why didn't you tell me about it? I'd have sent Djaq with a remedy.”
“I've been unwell for just a couple of days, you and Guy got it much worse. But you are men, of course.”
“What do you mean?”
“Whenever you men are sick, it seems you're about to die.”
“You seemed worried enough for Gisborne!”
“Well, he was really ill, you seem to be much better than he was.”
“If it is so, why don't you go to take care of him?” Robin asked, jealous.
“Because you are the one I love, you fool. And I hope you love me too because I won't go back to the castle.”
Robin stared at her.
“I told Guy that I love you.”
“And you're still alive to tell it?”
“He wanted to kill you. But he won't. Anyways, I can't go back to the castle anymore. I guess you'll have to let me stay here at the camp.”
“Let's see, I have to think about it...” Robin said, with a mischievous grin and Marian glared at him.
“Well, I see that I must reach my father at the abbey.”
“I don't think you'd be a good nun.”
Robin grabbed her and kissed her passionately, then he smiled.
“I see that you are much better, my love.”
“You're the best remedy I could hope for.”
They hugged, happy to be together: it was the beginning of a new life for both of them.
Some days passed and Robin's cold passed as well. He and Marian had to get used to living together at the camp and sometimes they had some fights, but they passed too, leaving them even more in love with each other.
They got married after a while, in a glade into the forest and Much spent a whole day cooking for the wedding banquet.
The banquet was in the middle of the forest too, but a lot of people from the villages came to Robin Hood's wedding to celebrate the happiness of their hero.
Marian was sitting near Robin in front of the fire, listening to the gossips of the villagers.
“...and last night the Nightwatchman robbed the sheriff.” A woman said to her friend. “They say he emptied the strong room of the castle and ran away.”
Marian stared at her and shook her head at Robin's questioning look. Since she came to the forest, she helped people with the outlaws and she never wore the Nightwatchman's costume again. Now that she thought about it, she must have left it at the castle.
“And Gisborne couldn't stop the Nightwatchman? The sheriff must have been furious with him!” The other woman said, but the first one shook her head.
“Didn't you hear? Gisborne disappeared. They couldn't find him anywhere. Even his servant, that Allan, vanished. People say that they must have been killed by someone who wanted revenge.”
Marian hid a smile, she had the suspicion that at last Guy listened to her advice and decided to be free.
Allan was looking at the coast, getting smaller and smaller, the he turned to the man who was standing at his side on the deck of the ship.
“So we did it, Giz, we really left England.”
Guy looked at the land where the woman he loved was living with his former enemy.
“Farewell, Marian...” He whispered, but in his heart he had said goodbye to her a long time before.
He turned to Allan and grinned at him.
“Yes, we did it. And do you know? It has been funny.”
Allan grinned back.
“The sheriff deserved it. How did you get the idea to rob him?”
“I just wanted to be free.” Guy answered.
“And now we are rich too, thanks to him. Using the Nightwatchman's costume was pure genius, Giz.”
Gisborne thought that he liked wearing that mask. It still had Marian's scent and for once he felt like a hero. She would have approved, even if Allan and Guy didn't give the sheriff's gold to the poors like Robin Hood would have done.
Maybe next time.
“So, what are we going to do now?” Allan asked.
“We are free now, we can do whatever we want.”
Allan took out a flask and drank a gulp of wine, then he passed it to Guy.
“To a new life.”
Guy took it and drank too.