Chapter 28 – Just The Start
The King looked around at the people before him, a half smile on his face as he considered the crazy mismatch of events that had brought them all there together. The Lord and his man servant, the masked heroine, the servant girl, the Saracen physician, the boy become man, the mischievous thief, the girl that ran away from home, the tortured soul, his angel of hope, and the guarded outlaw. He smiled a little as he thought about how much he owed to each one of them, knowing that in reality there was little he could give in return. "Now… having held council with each of you in turn, I have rewards for you all to thank you for everything you have done. I know what I have to offer is meagre in comparison to what you've all sacrificed, but I hope it will suffice."
"Your Majesty." Robin cut in. "You know we acted for justice; because we care, not for any reward we might get. It is reward enough to bring freedom and happiness and still be here to enjoy it!"
"But Robin, you deserve rewards, and believe me I intend to ensure you get them." Richard laughed off Robin's comment. "Now… firstly, you will all receive titles in recognition of your actions and those of you that wish, land too." He looked to the left end of the arc before him. "John… I know the only thing you want is to be with your family, so I will send for them today. They will know that you are no longer an outlaw and they are safe to return home. You are a man of simple needs and I can see nothing more to reward you with, but if you should require anything, please tell me."
"Your Majesty." John bowed a little. "With respect, do not send for them. Instead I will go to them; they have made a life there and I do not wish to take them away from that. Being freed from my status as an outlaw is reward enough, so thank you."
"As you wish, my friend." He smiled, turning to the couple beside him. "And Much, ever faithful." The fondness shone through in his smile. "Bonchurch as I promised and of course Eve you too are entitled to your place at Bonchurch Lodge… provided Much is in agreement."
"Ha." Much pulled Eve closer, rubbing her arm affectionately. "Of course!"
"And little Megan is free to attend council if she so wishes, although of course at such a young age she will have no actual power for the moment."
"Wouldn't want to give her that power I can assure you." Eve laughed at the idea; she could imagine the chaos that would ensue.
The King smiled at the idea of a child ruling the shire before returning his attention to the others. "Katie, Allan tells me you want an extension to your house, and he mentioned something about a cow."
Katie playfully hit Allan in the chest. "Ouch!" He laughed at her reaction and the scowl on her face.
"Well we were talking a while a go about the future and what we wanted. I know Katie would love an extension on the house, I mean to accommodate a family, and a little surrounding land, just room enough for a cow." Allan smiled, mind drawn back to the night they'd spent talking and laughing as they shared their dreams for the future.
"I am happy to grant her that." Richard smiled, one thing he'd missed in the Holy Land was the happiness love brought; the little comments that made his friends and people smile for no reason other than that it reminded them of loved ones. It was moments like this that made him crave such happiness with a woman, but then he blamed himself for never having the time. "But what about you? What do you want?"
"Nothing." He looked at the floor. "Honestly I do not deserve my life. You could have been killed because of me, England could have been lost because of me and I can never take that back. I can never make that right." He stopped and looked up at the King. "I just want the chance to try. The chance to live a good life and make that gorgeous woman happy and maybe one day I can make amends for what I did."
"There are reasons I owe my life to you though. You do not need to make amends, Allan. I think we're even." He smiled fondly.
"But honestly, that is more than enough for me, and as unbelievable as it might sound, finding Katie was reward enough for me and far more than I deserve."
The King laid a hand on his shoulder. "From what I've seen, you are perfect for each other, and trust me you deserve each other."
"What he meant to say was a little land by the house, enough for livestock." Katie stated pointedly.
"Yes he mentioned the land and it is being sorted as we speak I assure you." He watched with fascination as the couple proceeded to prod each other and pull faces before Allan stopped it short with a kiss; they were like rivals but the closest allies at the same time.
"Stop it you." Katie held a finger up to Allan's lips and turned to face the King. "Please continue."
"Thank you." He laughed. "Now Will, Djaq." He nodded to the couple.
"I already have my father's workshop and my family home." The young carpenter smiled. "But it is missing a few birds."
The King looked thoroughly confused. "What do you mean?"
"For Djaq. She had birds in the Holy Land; homing pigeons. I know she misses them." Will sounded a little distant as he spoke.
"She can have all the birds she desires." The King was happy to grant what his friend desired.
"And there is something else." He sighed, averting his gaze. "I do worry about her. I worry that since we are no longer fighting on their behalf people might treat her differently because she's a Saracen. True she's the strongest person I've ever met but everyone has their limits. I just want her to be judged on everything she is, not the colour of her skin."
Richard smiled sadly. "I wish I could control how my people view others, unfortunately I cannot. However from what I've seen and heard she is well loved, not just by her friends but by the general population. I think it is also evident that she will always have you, and look at how much you care for her! I am sure that you give her more than enough love to get her through anything."
"Everything you have voiced a desire for is being arranged; the physician's equipment and the birds."
Djaq looked up at Will at the mention of her birds, a huge smile on her face. "I can't believe that's what you asked for! I never thought to ask myself. Thank you!"
Will smiled back; this was exactly why he'd asked for them, to see her happy. "You're welcome." He pulled her close, softly kissing her forehead. "And thank you, your majesty."
The gratitude was displayed in his eyes and King Richard thought that strange when really he had done very little. "It is my pleasure." He smiled momentarily at Will and Djaq before his attention was drawn elsewhere.
A little way along from them Guy stood hand in hand with Hannah. He squeezed her hand as the King's gaze fell on them, leaning down and whispering into her ear. "It'll be just fine. You and me until the end." She could tell he'd said it to reassure himself more than her; he was terrified that he'd get what he deserved, be sentenced to hang for treason or worse Hannah would suffer for his wrong doings. He felt her squeeze his hand back, such a small gesture doing so much to soothe him.
"With you, Guy, I face a dilemma." The King spoke after a moment. "It is no secret that you have done some traitorous things. You have committed treason multiple times, including attempting to kill me. But I know in these situations you acted under the command of the former Sheriff Vaysey and there is also much to take into consideration when determining your fate. I have spent many hours considering the best solution to this dilemma and have finally come to a conclusion. I will tell you now that without that remarkable lady of yours your fate would be very different."
The blonde woman looked at the King with pleading eyes. "I know he has done some horrible things." She sighed. "But that's not who he is. Guy was tortured into the life he's lead so far. I do not wish to betray his trust any more than I need to, but Vaysey did some unspeakable things to him when he was just a child and I am aware you may not believe this but he was terrified of him even as an adult. He is stronger now though, and he's changed since then and still changing; he's a better man. I'm not saying that Guy is innocent, and I'm not asking for a miracle of a pardon, I'm just asking you not to sentence him to death." She paused for a moment, not because she expected the King to interject but because a rush of emotions suddenly flooded over her, almost making her laugh. "You probably think I'm a fool but I love him. I love him so much that I would follow him anywhere. Outlaw him if you want or banish him, just please, and I am begging you, do not hang him. I just want the chance to live a life with him, wherever that might be."
"Guy, having been enlightened by Hannah, and I am aware many would not agree with my decisions, I have decided not to hang you, or banish you or even outlaw you. Instead I am happy for you to live as you have been, with Hannah." He smiled at Guy's stunned expression. "You will be under her watch as well as that of the other nobles and the new sheriff. They, and especially the sheriff, will have the power to imprison, outlaw or banish you should it be required."
The tall, dark haired man simply stared at the King. In his eyes it was unfathomable that he should be allowed to live let alone have anything more. He looked at Hannah then back at the King, his mouth open but no words would come out. The blonde woman leant into his side as he wrapped an arm around her. "Thank you, your majesty." She couldn't help but grin, this was so much more than she'd expected.
Guy swallowed the lump in his throat, looking at the King with tears in his eyes. "This is so much more than I deserve. I can never thank you enough. However for what it is worth I say thank you." He bowed his head a little. "I hope one day I can repay my debt to you, your majesty."
"I think you will make amends." He smiled; the gratitude on their faces and the man's humble attitude made him certain he had made the right choice.
Hannah shifted and pulled Guy round so they were face to face, her hand moving to his face as she brushed her thumb across his cheek and planted a kiss on the bridge of his nose. "I know you will."
He pressed his face up against hers as she spoke, eyes drifting shut as he forgot the world around them and the staring eyes of their onlookers. "Marry me." There was a moment of silence, the blonde woman's heart rate increasing. "That was not…" He stumbled over his words. "That was not a demand." He almost laughed at the way he was messing this up. "Will you marry me?" He dared to open his eyes, fingers tracing her jaw line.
"Yeah." She smiled; it wasn't the most romantic proposal or even the way she'd thought he would have proposed but she just didn't care. "Of course." Guy pulled her close and firmly kissed her, the sound of an applause reminding them of the presence of the others.
"Congratulations." The King spoke up. "I wish you both every happiness in the future." He smiled fondly as Hannah nestled into her fiancé. "Now finally I am left with Lord and Lady Locksley." Marian smiled up at her husband at Richard's words, despite weeks of marriage she still wasn't used to the idea of being Lady Locksley. "Robin, as you know the shire still needs a new sheriff, and judging by your achievements as the leader of your outlawed gang as well as the opinions of your friends, I would love you to take up my offer of that position."
Robin ran a hand through his messy hair; he looked decidedly troubled and unsure of himself. "With respect, your majesty, I wish to decline your offer. You see, Marian and I are equal; it is a large part of who we are and this position would alter that balance. I love that we are equal in every sense and do not wish to change that."
King Richard smiled. "I think your wife knows you well, my friend. In fact so well that she suspected you would feel that way."
"Robin, my love." She laid a hand on his shoulder, a knowing smile on her face. "This would not make us unequal!" She laughed. "It is not as if you would exert any power over me and I wholeheartedly trust that you would take my judgement into consideration with anything important."
"Even so, I am not comfortable with this." He sighed. "I still feel as though it would put me higher than you and I never want that."
Marian moved her hand to his face. "As my father's daughter I wish to offer you this position, as your wife I insist you take it."
"But I cannot." He stated firmly, stubborn as always when it came to something that could impact their relationship.
Richard soon interrupted their conversation. "I suspected this would happen. And in preparation for such an outcome I have discussed another possibility with your friends. How would you feel if the two of you shared the position? Effectively both being sheriff, therefore having the same power with both signatures being required on official documents."
Marian looked at the King then back to Robin, seemingly considering the offer for a moment before she spoke. "I am happy to accept if you are."
"Yeah." Robin looked at his wife. "Me too." And as he said the words he realised that this wouldn't be the end of their troubles, this was just the start.
A/N: So this is the end of this fic. The end of an era really - this was the first proper fic I ever started, one that means an awful lot to me because it's what started me with fan fiction and I now adore writing.
This is effectively an epilogue - setting me up for a sequel should I choose to do one at any point.
I really hope you enjoyed this fic. Please leave a review to let me know what you thought.