The servants rushed in the room, and one of them, Susanne, gave a stern look at Guy when she saw that Marian was pale and in a faint.
“What did you do to her?”
“I just noticed that she has a fever, and I’m astonished to see that I’m the only one who did,” Guy answered, in a equally harsh tone.
The maid crossed her arms in front of her and looked at Guy with such fierceness that, if he hadn’t been so worried for Marian, he would have run away in fear.
“Maybe we would have noticed,” she said, pointing a finger at Guy, “if your presence here didn’t give us so much more work.”
“Susanne!” James, the oldest of Knighton Hall’s servants, called the girl in a stern voice. “Stop complaining and take care of our lady! And you, Sir Guy, please don’t stand in the way, we must help Lady Marian and you’re hindering us.”
Guy was tempted to throw them all out of the room, but he forced himself to keep calm. Marian was ill and those people could help her, sending them away would only damage her.
“Take some snow,” he suggested, remembering a remedy that his mother used when he and his sister were sick, “it will lower her temperature.”
“Leeches. That’s what she needs,” Mary, the kitchen girl, said, ignoring completely Guy’s words.
Sebastian nodded and bent to lift Marian in his arms and take her to her room. Guy looked at him, feeling jealous.
He wanted to be the one who took her in his arms, he wanted to be the one who could help her, but, even if the servants would let him near the girl, he couldn’t succeed to lift her. He could barely stand and walk on his own, and he was too weak to take her upstairs. He bitterly wondered if he would ever be strong enough again.
But it didn’t matter, now. Marian was ill and he had to do something to make her feel better, but the servants took her upstairs and he didn’t know what was happening in her room.
He tried to wait patiently for a while, asking questions to the servants who hurried up and down the stairs, but they just ignored him, claiming that they had no time to talk to him while their lady was sick.
But their faces were grim and worried and Guy was afraid that Marian’s illness could be serious.
Guy hobbled to the stairs and wondered if he could climb upstairs on his own. He tried and he stumbled on the first step.
He would have fallen to the ground if James didn’t grab his arm and steadied him.
“Take care, Sir Guy,” the old servant said, in a polite but cold tone, “if you get hurt, nobody will have the time to help you.”
“I need to see Marian! How is she? Did she wake up?”
The man looked at him for a few moments, then he sighed. He clearly disliked Guy of Gisborne and he didn’t trust him, but he could see that the younger man was sincerely worried for lady Marian.
“Sir Guy, Mary and Susanne are taking care of her, but I’m afraid that we’ll have to call for a healer. Her fever is very high and we can’t wake her up.”
“What are you waiting for?! Send somebody to call him, then!”
“I will. I’m sending Jude to the physician’s house.”
“Who are you going to call?”
Guy paled. Pitts was the other person who knew his secret, the physician who faked his quarantine when the sheriff sent him in the Holy Land to kill the king. He was a strong ally of the sheriff, but a terrible healer. He kept his position because of his alliance with Vaisey, but many of his patients just died.
And he couldn’t be trusted: Vaisey had many reasons to hate Marian and her father and, even if he couldn’t openly dispose of them, he could always order Pitts to kill both of them and make it seem that they died a natural death.
“No! Not him! I forbid it!”
“Sir Guy, you’re not in the position to forbid anything,” James voice was stern and Guy was tempted to yell back at him, but starting a fight with an old man wouldn’t help Marian.
“Don’t call him, please,” he asked, forcing himself to use a subdued tone, “I know him, he’s not a good doctor, he’ll damage her.”
James glanced at Gisborne: it almost looked like as if the proud knight was pleading. The old servant was forced to concede that the man seemed to really care for Lady Marian.
“Well then, I’ll tell Jude to call for Blight.”
Guy nodded, and the servant went away.
Blight was useless and he had a disgusting fondness for leeches, but at least he wasn’t as dangerous as Pitts.
Guy shuddered, seriously scared for Marian. He didn’t think that Blight could help her, and he had agreed for him to be called just because he couldn’t object again to James suggestion.
He had no power and the servant didn’t respect him, so it was already good that they agreed to avoid calling Pitts.
But Marian was ill and Guy knew that the physician couldn’t help her. He only trusted Matilda, but the woman was very far away and Guy didn’t even know where she was.
He dropped down on a chair near the fireplace, rubbing the bridge of his nose between his fingers and trying to calm down enough to think.
He realized that maybe he didn’t know Matilda's route to reach the sea, but someone else did. Robin Hood sent two of his men with her, so he must know where they were.
But how could he contact Robin? He could barely walk and he was sure that the servants of Knighton Hall wouldn’t listen to him and anyways they were too busy taking care of Marian and Sir Edward to go in search of Robin.
Guy looked out of the window, distressed. Marian could die, and he could never forgive himself if he didn’t try everything he could to help her.
He took a decision. It could cost everything to him, but he didn’t care, the only important thing was Marian’s health.
Guy took the blue velvet cloak and wore it, then he grabbed the crutch and walked out of the house, to the stables.
His stallion was in his stall and he neighed when Guy got close to him. Gisborne shuddered, remembering his fall, the sharp pain in his wrist, and then the other horses trampling him.
He forced himself to forget about that moments, and he took a saddle and the reins.
Putting them on the stallion wasn’t easy for him, in his weakened state, but at last he succeeded, and Guy took the horse out of his stall.
He couldn’t use the crutch and hold the reins at the same time, so he let it fall to the ground and leaned on the horse to walk.
His leg was paining him, and he wasn’t sure if he could ride without damaging it further.
I have to do it. For her. Even if it means becoming a cripple for life.
But first he had to mount, and it wasn’t as easy as it could look: his wounded leg couldn’t hold his weight, and even the good one was too weak. At last he took the stallion near some bales of hay, and he used them as a sort of stair to get on the horse.
Finally Guy succeeded sitting on the saddle and he stood still for a few moments, to take his breath.
His leg was hurting badly and he remembered Matilda’s words about not doing anything foolish.
Guy bitterly smiled: maybe he was acting like a madman, but he had to help Marian, she was the only important thing.
Slowly, he made the horse walk out of the stable, and he headed to the forest.
At first, he was too worried for Marian and in pain to notice, but after a while, he began looking around.
He had been trapped inside Knighton Hall for months, and despite the anguish and the pain, he felt free. It was good to be able to move without having to ask for help.
The trees of the forest were covered in snow, and Guy could barely find the path. He didn’t know where Robin Hood’s camp was, but it didn’t matter: the outlaw would find him, sooner or later.
An arrow flew past his head and embedded itself in a tree.
Guy halted the horse, and a moment later Robin and three of his men stepped out of the trees, their bows pointed at him.
“Drop your weapons!” One of them shouted, and Guy lifted his hands in front of him.
“I have none.”
Robin looked at him, with an ironic grin on his face.
“Well, what do we have here? Last thing I knew was that you were half dead, unable to leave the house. You look healthy enough to me. Get down the horse.”
“Hood, I’m not here to lose time with your idiotic attitude...”
Robin shot another arrow, brushing Guy’s cheek.
“I said to get down the horse!” He ordered, suddenly furious. He hated to know that Gisborne was staying at Knighton Hall, but Marian always said that he was too sick to go back to Locksley, and now he was there, daring to ride in their forest.
“I can’t!” Guy tried to say, but Robin grabbed his arm, and dragged him down, forcing him to dismount.
Gisborne tried to land on his good leg, but he lose his balance and fell in the snow, in pain. Robin pointed a dagger at his throat, but Guy barely noticed it. His leg was hurting like hell, and he could barely catch his breath.
“Hey, Robin, he doesn’t look so healthy after all.”
“Shut up, Allan! He was well enough to ride. He must be plotting something.”
“I was searching for you!” Guy said in a growl and Robin pressed the dagger a little more against his neck.
“You know where is Matilda, and I need to find her! Marian is very ill, she needs a good healer!”
Robin stared at Guy, trying to understand if he was lying.
Robin could say a lot of bad things about Gisborne, but he knew that he was a terrible liar.
Now, he wasn’t lying at all.
He let him go, and put away the dagger, but Gisborne didn’t try to get up. Now that Robin looked better at him, he had to admit that he was pale and that he looked to be unwell.
He wasn’t wearing his leathers, but old clothes that once had belonged to Sir Edward. Robin remembered that cloak and that tunic on the old man from the years of his childhood, when he went to visit Marian and play with her at the castle. Sir Edward watched at them with a benevolent smile and maybe he hoped they would get married at the right age.
It didn’t happen, and now those elegant clothes were old and faded, discarded, just like their childhood dreams. Nonetheless Robin found strange and a little disturbing to see Guy wearing them.
“Talk, Gisborne. What happened to Marian?”
Guy was about to rebuke him and tell him to show more respect for her, but he changed his mind.
“She has a fever, very high, and they couldn’t wake her up. The servants were worried, they called for Blight. Sir Edward is very sick too.”
“Yep, Blight. That’s why I came. She needs Matilda, not his leeches!”
Robin reflected for a moment.
“Very well, Gisborne, for once you did the right thing. Djaq and Little John are with Matilda, so I actually know where we can find her. Much, Will, get ready, we’ll leave immediately.”
Allan looked at Guy, still sitting in the snow.
“What about him?”
“If what he said is true...”
“It is!” Guy snarled.
“If what he said is true, we must hurry. We can’t lose time to help him,” Robin said.
Guy glared at him.
“Nobody asked for your help. Go ahead, find Matilda, I can manage on my own.”
Robin nodded at Allan and the young man approached Robin to listen to his whispered orders.
“Go to Knighton Hall with him and stay there until we come back with Matilda. If Sir Edward is sick too, I don’t trust Gisborne to be left alone with Marian. Keep an eye on him.”
Then Robin, Will and Much went away, and Allan was left alone with Guy.
He looked at the knight, ill at ease. Gisborne was an enemy, and he had been a danger for all of them.
Except that he didn’t look very menacing now: he was trembling, and he looked to be in pain.
“Well...” Allan said “...it seems that we are on our own. Do you think you can climb back on that horse?”