A/N: Finally I've managed to find some time to begin this story. I hope you all like it as much as the others that I have written. I'll try and fit all the new elements from series 2 into this and with that in mind this fic takes place after episode 9 of series 2.
This story IS a continuation of my 'The Crossroads' and 'Gotcha!' fics but it's not too damaging to the story line if you haven't read those first.
It was early December and Marian sat in her tower room at Nottingham castle. It had been three weeks since she had returned to the castle and nearly two months had passed since her father had died. Marian had returned in the hope that she would prove more useful to Robin as a spy but both the Sheriff and Gisborne didn't seem to trust her anymore. Instead of bringing about the Sheriff's destruction Marian had spent the last few weeks in her room with a maidservant doing needle work.
Suddenly the clattering of hooves brought Marian's attention away from her embroidery, she moved to the window and looked out into the courtyard and could see that a stranger had arrived and with him a myriad of questions raced through Marian's head. Who was he? Who did he represent? What was his business and how could she communicate all this information to Robin?
By the cut of the man's cloth and the quality of his horse Marian could easily see that that man was one who had possession of money. But his attire was plain and Marian could not see any jewels or insignias that would have marked him as a man of rank.
Marian watched as the stranger was approached by a guard, barely a word was exchanged before the guard escorted the man into the castle. Marian dropped her needle work, made her excuses to the maidservant and hurried out of the door and rushed down the spiral staircase. She reached the bottom steps and entered the corridor and was only allowed a momentary view of the stranger as he was lead into the Sheriff's private rooms.
Slowly Marian approached the closed door, the guards had vanished and Marian wasn't willing to miss an opportunity to gain information. Pressing her ear closer to the door Marian listened. She could not hear the words that was spoken but by the tone of the Sheriff's voice he was certainly pleased by the news that he had just been given.
'Marian!' the call on her name made Marian freeze. She instantly recognised the voice as Gisborne's and even though his tone was angry she could also detect a slight hint of amusement. 'What are you doing?'
'I was listening at the door' Marian said as she drew herself to her full height pulled her shoulders back and turned to see Gisborne and Allen A dale standing behind her 'I was hoping that the Sheriff was in a good mood so that I could ask a favour from him'
'Really?' Guy said, not fully convinced by Marian's words 'If you want favours then you should come to me'
'I wanted to ask if the Sheriff knew if there was anything from my father's estate due to me' The lie came so easily and Marian couldn't help but feel glad of the lie as she watched Guy squirm 'After all there are still tenants and farmers there even if the house was burned'
'I will speak to the Sheriff for you but right now he has business to attend to'
'Business?' Marian said 'I'm sure I heard the Sheriff laugh, surely no business is that amusing'
'Surely that depends on the business' Guy said. Once more his voice was low and he slowly reached out to Marian's arm. Marian didn't move her mind raced to think of an excuse that would allow her to escape but this time the words failed her. Suddenly a noise behind them drew them apart as they turned to see the Sheriff as he threw the double doors of his rooms open.
'Gisborne get in here we have a guest, you-' the sheriff said as he looked at Marian '-go somewhere else. Boy-' the Sheriff called to Allen 'you stand here and make sure she doesn't come back. Oh and as for the income from your lands you can have what is left after taxes and room and board has been deducted!'
The Sheriff smiled a horrible smile that showed the gap for his missing tooth. Marian watched Guy disappear into the room and the Sheriff finally closed the doors, Marian sighed, it was obviously too dangerous to hang around with the Sheriff knowing that she was out of the tower. It looked as though Marian would have to spend another day with her needlework.
'This Gisborne is Parnell' The Sheriff said smiling as he indicated the strange that Gisborne had been fetched to meet as the Sheriff headed towards his desk, upon which was a letter. 'Parnell has been sent by the estate of D'bernard to act as Eleanor's steward. You do remember Eleanor don't you?'
'Your daughter my Lord' Guy replied. He could not have easily forgotten the young widow even though almost four months had passed since she had left Nottingham to return to her husband's lands in Durham. Her presence in Nottingham had come at a time when Guy had been at his lowest and her loyalty and sweet nature had left a mark with him.
'This-' The sheriff said as he waved the letter 'is a letter from Eleanor. She writes to say that her husband's estates have been settled and that she is now at Felton Abbey-'
'She has taken orders?' Guy asked shocked at the news, he had known that Eleanor had been a religious woman, as all ladies of breeding should be, but at the sheriff's words Gisborne couldn't help but feel a sudden surge of sorrow.
'A clue - No' the sheriff said as he smiled at Guy's reaction 'She is friends with the abbess and will only winter there. As soon as the roads are once more passable then our friend Parnell will play his part'
'My Lady wishes to take up residence in Nottingham to be near her father-' Parnell said and Guy couldn't help but notice that the Sheriff looked as though he was in rapture. '-I have been sent to undertake the finding of a suitable home for her household. She has retained several servants that have a wish to relocate and my lady is also keen to employ members of the local populous'
'Yes well I'm sure the local unwashed would love to be employed by her' the sheriff said his tone indicating that he was now annoyed 'But why doesn't she want to move in here? Isn't the castle good enough for her?'
'I believe my Lady wishes to retain some of her new found freedom My Lord' Parnell said as though he hadn't understood the Sheriff's tone 'She has instructed that her new home shouldn't be too far from the city My Lord'
The Sheriff looked placated at Parnell's words and after a moment's silence he spoke 'Bon Church would be suitable, if the rooms were larger, or the manor at Clun, if it held more lands. Locksley however would be ideal; it's close and has perfect proportioned lands and house. Would you be persuaded to quit it Gisborne?'
Gisborne didn't have time to retract to the suggestion before the Sheriff laughed 'Oh relax Gisborne, Eleanor would never take Locksley from you, for some strange reason she seems to like you. However if I remember correctly there is a rather sizable town house near the East gate that is vacant'
'The Bishop house My Lord?' Guy asked 'It belongs to the church, they would never sell it'
'Why not, they have no need for it. There has never been a bishop in Nottingham and the priest has his own estate and lands. What need has he of the town house….But he does need land' The sheriff said smiling 'Lord Ludlow's estate lies in between the priests lands and the edge of land that is owned by the church and it just so happens that thanks to our friendly hooded outlaw Lord Ludlow has become in arrears with his taxes'
'What you are proposing my Lord must be done by the law or else my Lady will have nothing to do with it' Parnell said as he listened to the Sheriff's plans.
'I know my daughter Parnell, she has always been a wilful creature but I will not see her hard done by. Gisborne will take you to see the house and if you agree that it is suitable then I'll begin the negotiations'
Parnell nodded his agreement before Guy lead him out into the corridor, they would see the house today and tomorrow the Sheriff would broker a deal. Guy smiled as he mounted his horse; if all went well then Eleanor would be back in Nottingham before spring. Guy couldn't help but relish the prospect of the lady taking up residence in the town.