'Sir Guy is back from Locksley' Winifred Ward said as she grinned. She was sat on the window seat in Eleanor's private rooms looking out over the court yard, but Eleanor didn't respond, so Winifred tried another tactic 'We don't have long left now that Thomas' sons have arrived do we?'
'No, my father intends to hold a banquet as a farewell meal and Edward and Oswin are eager to join the crusades so we will leave with Adam and Richard the day after the banquet' Eleanor said not even lifting her eyes from her needlework as Bear slept by her chair.
'So we really only have today to do what we want?' Winifred asked as she once more looked out into the courtyard to see that Sir Guy was now dismounting and a short distance from him was Sir Edgar.
'I suppose?' Eleanor said as she lowered her needlework, there was a hint of something in Winifred's tone that made Eleanor feel as though some sort of mischief was being planned.
'I just thought we should do something other then Needlework, seeing how we haven't got much time left in Nottingham'
'Would you like us to visit the market?' Eleanor suggested,
'Wonderful idea!' Winifred beamed and before Eleanor could place her needlework down Winifred was already hurrying out of the room,
"No doubt hoping to secure Sir Gisborne as an escort as another attempt to make Sir Edgar jealous" Eleanor thought as she allowed herself one quick look out of the window before she followed after her friend.
Guy couldn't help but allow himself a smile as he walked through Nottingham's market place; it had been years since he had seen such activity, All the stalls were open and a myriad of things were being sold. But it wasn't the goods for sale that made Guy smile, it was the company. Lady Ward gripped his arm with a grasp that was almost painful. Eleanor's touch, in comparison was light and Guy could barely feel her hand pressed against his arm as they walked.
At first Guy had thought the visit to the market was just another tedious task that had to be endured but it was becoming more successful the longer they stayed. Eleanor's presence had somehow made people feel that Guy was more approachable, Lords, Ladies and local Squires stopped to pay their respects to the widow and Guy was greeted and paid homage to through association.
Lady Ward led them towards a store selling ribbon and lace and found amusement in asking him his opinion of the different colours and textures, even though most of his replies were none committal or low audible grunts.
'I'm sure you couldn't think this disagreeable Sir Guy?' Winifred said as she picked up a deep holly green, but this time, instead of placing the ribbon against herself, she held the ribbon close to Eleanor's face.
'No, I can not find anything disagreeable with that?' Guy said as his and Eleanor's eyes met. Eleanor turned her eyes away almost instantly, but Guy allowed himself a lingering look before he turned back to Lady Ward.
'It does suite her well doesn't it? I shall buy it for you Eleanor' but Guy wouldn't allow it. Guy purchased the ribbon for them and then helped Winifred to choose a colour for herself. While Winifred decided Eleanor looked around the market and as she did so her eyes caught sight of a woman at the apothecary store that from behind looked familiar.
Eleanor crossed to the store and as she approached she could hear the woman talking to the store holder,
'When was the bite made?' The store holder asked
'A day ago' the woman replied 'It was a dog bite'
'This is good for dog bites' Eleanor said as she reached for a jar of ointment. The lady turned and in the woman's eyes Eleanor could see the questioning and almost fearful look of a woman that had been caught out. It was that look that sealed Eleanor's thought, she had been unsure if the women had been the figure cloaked and masked at the meeting with Robin, but now Eleanor was left with no doubts.
'Please allow me to buy it for you' Eleanor said as she placed the jar into the woman's hands and paid the store holder before the woman could protest just before Sir Gisborne and Winifred reached their side.
'See I told you she wouldn't have gone too far' Winifred said happily 'Sir Guy was worried for you Eleanor'
'Guy?' The woman at the store said her voice full of restraint and surprise as she looked at Eleanor's companions,
'Do you know each other?' Winifred asked pleasantly fully conscious of the strained atmosphere that was now building.
'Lady D'bernard, Lady Ward, this is Lady Marian' Etiquette meant that Guy had no choice but to introduce them
'Marian?! So this is the foolish girl that let you go is it Sir Guy?' Winifred said her smile and face full of humour and good will, but Marian didn't look as though she had enjoyed Winifred's joke and so they didn't linger at the apothecary
'Are there any scribes?' Eleanor asked Gisborne as they once more walked out into the market and she placed her hand onto his arm.
'There is usually a holy man that scribes, he has a stall somewhere around here' Guy said as he began to lead them in search of it.
Marian arrived at her home carrying the small pot of ointment, but she couldn't shake the unsettling feeling that was nagging at her. She been dressing as the night watchman for over two years and no one, not even her father had made the connection until a few months ago. Surely it was impossible for a woman of D'bernard's statute to have noticed. Women who were that high in society very really noticed anything lower then their own noise, but then how did it explain the ointment? The groan from her bed made Marian forget her thoughts about Eleanor as she turned her attention to Robin.
After the dog had been called away Marian had rushed to Robin's side as Guy carried Eleanor away. Robin had been a fool when he had grabbed Eleanor, but he had been a brave one. Robin's gang had stood no chance of survival against trained fighters on horseback, but John, Djaq, Will and Allen had seen Robin arguing with the horsemen, they had seen Guy and when they saw Robin pull his sword free from it's sheath they had thought that she, Much and Robin had been in danger.
It had been foolish of them to rush out from the safety of the trees, but they had been brave also. They knew that they were putting their lives in danger but they knew they had to help, and so had Robin. He had seen the danger as the horsemen turned and lowered their weapons and knew that the only thing that could do to protect his gang was to create a distraction and the threatened safety of their mistress was one that no knight could turn away from.
'This should cool and sooth the wound, and reduce the swelling' Marian said as she sat on her bed and rubbed the ointment into Robin's wound. The bite had been very bloody when Robin had been brought to Marian's chamber, (the quickest location to reach) but on further inspection the wound was mostly superficial, with only a few deep puncture marks that would hopefully heal without too much scaring over time. The deepest of Robin's wounds had been to his pride, and Marian was sure that those too would heal in time.
'There all done' Marian said as she re-bandaged Robins shoulder
'I should get injured more often if you're willing to be my nurse' Robin said, there was a glimmer in his eye that made Marian blush but as she leaned into him for the promised kiss there was a rapping on the front door that hastily drew the lovers apart.
'Who is it?' Robin hissed as Marian hurried to the window. Looking out Marian could see a fat little donkey tethered up outside, she smiled knowing instantly who the owner was.
'It's the Friar' Marian laughed as Robin relaxed at her words 'probably just collecting money for the poor; I'll get rid of him' Marian made her way down the stairs and unbolted the door. Just as she had expected the Monk stood there.
'Lady Marian, I am Friar Tuck and I've been sent with a message for Robin Hood' the Monk said smiling.
'We don't know Robin Hood' Marian's father said, he was still ill and had been dozing in his chair by the fire before he friar had knocked but now he had risen and was by Marian's side
'I have it on good authority that Robin of Locksley can be found here' the friar repeated 'I have a message to deliver'
'What type of message and on whose authority?' The voice of Robin spoke from behind them making Edward and Marian turn around in surprise at his voice.
'Lady Eleanor D'bernard sent me' Tuck said and at his words Robin beckoned him in and Marian shut and bolted the door, 'The lady wants you to know that she is sympathetic to your situation but she said that she still must stress that the only way things can be changed in Nottingham is by petitioning King Richard.
'I have been charged with the task of scribing your petition. If you are willing then the morning after next a large convoy will be leaving Nottingham, amongst which are Edward and Oswin D'bernard, the youngest of the Lady's sons-in-laws. They are travelling to take up their father's place in the crusades and have promised to hand deliver your petition to the King directly, if you are willing the I shall meet them at the crossroads on the outskirts of town'
'Why would Eleanor help me now?' Robin asked the friar remembering how he had spoken harshly and how he had pulled the lady from her horse and endangered her life.
'As for that I can only guess' Tuck said, his smile never faulting 'But despite all that may have passed between you, I would say that it is because she is a good god fearing woman that like you can see the injustice in this world'
'Robin don't listen to him it's a trick, Eleanor is the Sheriff's daughter!' Marian said as she moved to Robin's side 'I heard people talking in the market place, it's the town's main gossip, that and the fact that she and Gisborne have grown very close. You were right, she is in league them!'
'If that is so, and she knows where Robin is then how come she only sent me and not the castle guards?' Friar Tuck stated plainly.
The banquet had been a roaring success. A myriad of foods had been served, and there was entertainment in the form of dancers, musicians, jugglers and even fire eaters. But Gisborne didn't care about any of these, once more he was seated amongst Sir Edgar's knights and from his position Guy could look directly at Eleanor.
She was seated next the Sheriff at the centre of the top table with D'bernard's four sons seated beside them.
For this one evening Eleanor had abandoned her widow's cloth and was dressed in a rich green gown. But it wasn't the gown that had drawn Guy's attention it was Eleanor's dark hair. Braided into the twists, curls and pleats was the holly coloured ribbon that Guy had bought the previous day at the market.
It didn't matter that Lady Ward also wore the ribbon that she had chosen and that Guy had paid for, Guy only had eyes for Eleanor that evening.
Nottingham castle had risen early the day after the feast; the morning dew was still fresh in the air as Sheriff Vasey embraced his daughter on the steps of the castle court yard. Eleanor's carriage was standing waiting Lady Ward was already inside as Bear, once more a sleep on the carriages floor looking as though he was nothing more then a mound of furs.
'Goodbye child' the sheriff said as he kissed Eleanor's cheek and held her close, the past few days had been more successful then the Sheriff had imagined. He had made some strong connections within society and had made a sizable amount of profit from his visitor's kind donations and the added income of the growth of the market that had attracted lots of interest.
The Sheriff watched as Eleanor entered her carriage, as it pulled away and then vanished into the growing hustle of the city streets. Smiling to himself Vasey turned and went back inside the castle, for him it was business as usual.
Sir Edgar and the four sons of D'bernard led the convoy as Gisborne and his men rode behind Eleanor's carriage. A foolish whim inside Guy half hope that Eleanor would turn and look out of her carriage and beckon him to her side, but the further and further they rode from the castle the more foolish Guy felt for his passion. She was the widow of great lord; her inheritance would see her comfortable for the rest of her life and her title would see that she was never friendless. How could he have thought her kindness to have been anything more?
The son's pulled their horses to a halt as they approached the crossroads on the outskirts of town and waited for Eleanor's carriage. This was the moment that the sons would separate, the eldest two returning to Durham with Eleanor and the youngest two to battle. Guy waited as he watched the son's exchange farewells before the group split and Adam and Richard led their men and Eleanor's carriage north. Guy urged his horse forward and crossed the road heading towards Locksley manor before a call made him turn.
'Good bye Sir Guy!' the voice of Winifred Ward called as she leaned out of the carriages window waving to him. Heat burned under Guy's collar but as he watched to spectacle that Lady Ward was making his eyes turned to Eleanor, a gentle smile played on her face as she raised her hand and waved once before the carriage moved out of sight.
That one small gesture from Eleanor was all that Guy had needed, he kicked his horse forwards and continued his journey home feeling for the first time in months that all was not lost.
Edward and Oswin D'bernard waited at the crossroads, they watched as their step mother's carriage disappeared and as Gisborne and his men rode out of sight and then a moment later movement from the trees drew their attention.
The Friar had spoken a convincing case and as Robin walked out to greet the brothers he carried a sealed letter which one day soon would be touched by King Richards's hands.
Thanks everyone who has read and review this story, it really does mean a lot to me and I'm sorry that the story didn't turn into a Guy romance fic but I do intend to write a sequel for this so I hope that you will all read that once I've done it.