Mira and I want everyone to know that this story is dedicated to Lady Clark Weasley of Books. Good luck with everything you are going through LC.
Disclaimer: We don't own Robin Hood, but we do claim Diana and Ellen.
Marian sat staring at the flickering embers of the fire. In all honesty it was more like staring through the fire. Her thoughts and concerns consumed her like they did most nights. Her gaze slid over the bodies of her rag tag gang. Djaq, Eve, and Diana slept on the opposite side of the fire from the men. They may be outlaws but they certainly weren't harlots. Djaq had quickly become a very close friend to Marian. Both women had struggled with being a woman in a man's world. Where Marian had donned a mask, Djaq had cut her hair and masqueraded as a man.
Eve and Diana were twins, but far from identical. The two girls were as opposite as could be. Although both had blonde hair and blue eyes, Eve's was straight as a board and Diana's fell in soft curls that would make any woman envious. That was not the only difference by any means. Diana was fearless and strong, and had yet to be bested in a sword fight. Her sister Eve could not stomach a fight, but she was the best cook Marian had ever met. The two of them both had very important and valued positions in the group.
Her eyes drifted over to the other side of the fire: the men's side. John was snoring softly clutching his staff, ready for any danger. She frowned, it was good to be prepared, but what did it say about their lives. Even in slumber they were ready for a fight. Will and Allan were lying close to one another. They were best friends and seemed to have some unspoken agreement to watch the others back.
Finally her eyes slid over to two new bodies. She had known Robin and Much her whole life. When they were younger, before the war both in the Holy Lands and in England, they had been best friends. All of Nottinghamshire was plagued by the pranks of Robin, Much, Ellen, and Marian. Somewhere during the games and fights and chases she had fallen in love with one of her best friends. Their parents couldn't have been happier at the thought of the union, and Marian had thought all of her dreams would come true. When she became Lady Locksley she would gain a wonderful husband and a sister.
She felt tears sting at her eyes but refused to let them fall. Fate was almost laughable. Her life had been far from what she expected. The summer that she and Robin were to marry, the best summer of her life, had ended with the death of her father. She was orphaned and alone; her betrothed miles away. Slowly she felt her mind drift back to that sad time.
Marian ran through the castle gates moments before they were scheduled to be closed. Her father had been more understanding of late, but he would still be furious if she was out past curfew. She was still in the "moping stage" according to Ellen, and if she were honest with herself she would have to agree. Robin had been gone for four months now and she still thought of him every moment. She saw him everywhere. He haunted her. She had thought that she was finally over him. She had even stopped crying herself to sleep. That is until she realized the date. It was the seventeenth of June; their wedding day. She had grabbed her bow, sword, and cloak early in the morning and ran off to Sherwood. Her father would kill her if he knew where she was. The forest was full of outlaws and it wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone. That's exactly why she went. Though she wouldn't admit it she had hoped to be confronted. She craved the rush of a fight, the ability to feel anything except this terrible emptiness. Instead of outlaws she found Ellen.
"I knew I would find you here," the older girl said gently.
Marian swallowed the lump in her throat and focused on the target in front of her before letting loose an arrow. "I have to come to the forest for target practice. You know what my father would say if he saw me with a bow," she shrugged.
Her short brown hair brushed her shoulders as she shook her head, "Marian you are not fooling anyone. You and my brother are just alike. Neither one of you needs archery practice; and neither one can resist the call of a bow when you are distraught."
Marian tried to ignore her friend's words. She tried to ignore the searing pain that traveled through her as she thought of her beloved. Her friend was right of course, she and Robin were two of a kind. That is why they fought and loved so strongly.
The two girls had lost track of time as they took turns shooting Marian's bow and talking, and before long they were both racing to their respective homes.
Marian slipped into her room silently and changed out of her trousers and into a respectable gown before running to the dining hall. She vaguely remembered her father mentioning a special guest.
Some guest she thought to herself as she stared into the fire once more. Her father had been a good man and a wonderful Sheriff. When Vassey travelled to Nottingham, her kind father had open the gates to him. She remembered the dinner clearly. The look of disgust and anger on her father's face as the short, bald man told him that he was being retired. Edward had stood his ground saying that he was Sheriff and it would take more than a firm suggestion for him to step down. She felt her throat constricting as the memories assaulted her.
Ellen's arms were the only thing keeping her upright. She refused to cry, refused to shed a single tear, as she watched the guards place her father's body into the ground. Everyone walked in a line up to her, giving her their condolences, but she couldn't even speak. Ellen was her savior, telling each one thank you with a soft, sad smile. Robin should be here she thought. His sister should not have to hold me, Marian thought, she should not have to be the strong one.
Vassey walked up to the two young ladies, "my deepest condolences Maid Marian."
"You bastard," Marian screamed as she tried to lunge for the new sheriff. Ellen's arms, that had earlier been soft and comforting, clamped down on Marian's waste. She held her firmly as Vassey taunted her.
"Now, now, that is not very lady like behavior," he patted her on the head. "Poor thing," he turned to Ellen, "she's gone mad with grief."
Ellen stayed with Marian in Knighton that night. She slowly stroked the younger woman's hair as she sobbed. "He was killed," Marian whispered. "That… rat killed my father."
Soon enough all of Nottingham discovered how evil that man truly was. Because of the war England was left in the hands of women and old men who had no power and no way to stop Prince John and his new sheriff. She and Ellen had felt helpless, bound by rules of propriety.
"We can fight back," Marian said firmly. "We have to."
"Marian do you ever think," Ellen was exasperated. "I know that you hate him. I do as well, but we have to think."
Marian looked away, "he kills my father and I do nothing. He taxes people beyond their means and I do nothing. He is killing our country and we do nothing!" Her fists were clinched and shaking at her side, "everything we do is a choice, and Ellen, I am so sick of making the wrong choices."
"Alright then," Ellen brushed a tear from Marian's cheek, "but if we do this. We do it my way: the smart way."
That was how the Night Watchman was born. She missed those days. She and Ellen would pass the mask back and forth. It helped to keep them safe from suspicion and from the noose. Compared to her new life it was a game. They took care of the people, embarrassed the Sheriff, and fought the guards. At the end of the day they went home and tucked into their soft warm beds. She looked longingly at the hard piece of earth and silently wished for a soft feather pillow to appear. It had been so long since she had enjoyed that comfort, and though she missed her old life she never regretted her decision.
Marian was walking around the market place picking up various items for Knighton when she heard the executioner's drums. What is that snake up to now, she thought to herself, as she made her way to the gallows. The sight before her made her heart stop Will and Luke Scarlet along with two other lads were being sentenced to hang. She quickly looked around her eyes locking immediately with Ellen's.
Ellen fought the tears that threatened to fall. She had known and loved the Scarlet family for as long as she could remember and she knew that Dan would not survive the loss of his sons, but there was nothing she could do. Her Night Watchman costume was tucked away safely at home. She felt Marian's eyes on her and knew what the other woman was thinking. Quickly she mouthed the word "don't", but she knew it would do no good. Marian was too impulsive.
Marian knew that Ellen couldn't help. Ellen had a family. Ellen had something to lose. She quickly jumped into action punching a guard and taking his sword. She fiercely fought her way through the guards to Vassey himself pressing the tip of her blade to his throat.
"Let them go now, or I will spill your blood all over the steps of the castle," Marian's voice was dark with her promise.
Vassey rolled his eyes, "oh the little girl is threatening me. Well la did a di da."
His song was cut a little short as Marian applied the slightest pressure and sliced into his skin, "I will not hesitate to kill you, nor will I feel any remorse."
"Release the prisoners," Vassey's adams apple bobbed up and down below her blade.
"Boys if you would kindly arm yourselves," she smiled sweetly. "We are about to escape."
Robin woke to find himself on the hard earth next to Much instead of on a soft bed in his room. He stretched slowly, trying to ease the pain in his back, when he noticed the softest sniffling noise. Searching throughout the camp he spotted Marian. His beautiful, strong Marian was sobbing. He noticed the glazed look in her eyes and knew that she was being haunted by her demons. It was a look he saw many times in the Holy Land. Slowly, as if approaching an injured animal, he walked towards her and took her into his arms. She melted into his embrace as he ran his fingers threw her hair. What nightmares had this poor woman been forced to face in his absence. As he pressed his lips to her forehead he realized just how much he loved her still. He would sacrifice anything for her.
Robin and Much had been back for a week now, and England was nothing like he remembered. He learned as much as he could from his sister, but he could tell she was hiding quite a bit. What he had gathered so far was that Marian's father died and she was no longer in Knighton. Yes, Ellen was definitely hiding something from him. He and Much had decided to go to Nottingham. Much was desperately hoping to find some honeyed ham, and Robin, well he was just sick of staying in the manor. He wanted to walk about and see all of the changes for himself.
Much was paying for his meal when they heard a loud fanfare. "What do you suppose that is about," he asked his former master.
"Let's have a look, shall we," Robin gave him a cheeky smile. Probably just some ridiculous announcement, he thought to himself, but Much seems interested in it. As they rounded a corner his eyes fell upon Marian and his heart skipped a beat. With all of Ellen's secrecy he had thought he would never see her beautiful face again. He smiled as he quickly made his way to her.
"People of Nottingham," the new Sheriff rose his arms into the air, "I invite you to witness the downfall of your hero. The outlaw Marian Fitzwater, has been captured and is sentenced to hang by the neck until she is dead."
Marian smirked at the balding man, "always one for the dramatic speeches."
"You won't be laughing long when your pretty little neck is swinging from a noose," he smiled at her sadistically.
Marian held her head up high, refusing to show any fear as they placed the rope over her head and tightened it around her neck. The rope itched, but she guessed she wouldn't have to worry about that for long.
Robin couldn't believe what he was hearing. Marian.. a hero.. an outlaw.. hang! Just like that it was as though he were back in the Holy Lands. He was a soldier again. He didn't think, he couldn't, all he could do was react. He strung his bow and notched an arrow, as the trap door underneath Marian was released. He released the arrow and fired two more before he saw the rope snap.
Ellen woke with a start as she heard hoof beats approaching. Glancing out of the window quickly she saw Guy with five guards. Her heart began racing. They found me, she thought to herself, somehow they discovered that I'm the Night Watchman. She looked around her room to make sure that none of her equipment was out before grabbing a robe and descending the stairs. She took a deep breath before opening the door to face her fate.
"Lady Ellen," Guy's voice sounded slightly shocked as his eyes took in her appearance, "you look lovely this evening." He had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from groaning allowed. Ellen was standing before him clad in a simple nightgown and a robe hanging loosely from her shoulders. As his eyes
slid over her slender, firm body he couldn't help but imagine what she looked like without the thin gown. A smirk covered his face at the possibilities.
She tightened her robe around her body as she felt his eyes roaming over her. Nervously she looked over her shoulder hoping that her parents were awake. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"
"You find my company pleasurable," he asked her as he looked her up and down again.
"Sir Guy," her voice sounded much firmer, "what are you doing here at this late hour? It is hardly an appropriate time for a visit."
His face became grim as remembered exactly why he was there, "I regret to inform you that your brother is now an outlaw. He was seen consorting the former Lady Marian. We have been sent by the Sheriff to search the Locksley estate."
"You really think my brother is so daft that he would hide with his mum and dad," she couldn't hide the anger in her voice.
Guy gave her a strange look, "you do not seem surprised or upset by this troubling news?"
Crap, she thought to herself. She tried to shrug nonchalantly, "I can't say that I am surprised. Robin has always been a bit of a hell raiser, and I know that he would do anything for Marian. As for being upset, I assure you that I am. It is well past midnight and I was asleep before you and your lot came galloping up."
"I apologize for the hour-"
She put her hand up to stop him, "you may come in, but allow me to wake my parents before you begin tearing our home apart."
Ellen quickly woke her parents. With Gisbourne eyeing her like a piece of meat in the Manor she felt much safer with her father close by. She was very aware of what he had been thinking, and what type of man he was. Ellen, Robert, and her mother Kathryn followed Guy around as he ordered the guards to search the Manor, assigning himself the duty of looking in Ellen's room.
"I assure you Sir Guy," Robert bit in disgust, "that my son is not hiding in Ellen's wardrobe."
Guy's lip tugged upward in a sly smirk. "I was ordered to be very...thorough. I'm sure you understand."
"Yes, I know you were ordered to do so, but I insist he is not here," Robert spat. Before Guy could respond, a guard walked in.
"Sir Guy, we've searched the whole estate. He is not here," the guard said.
"Thank you very much," Ellen responded. "I think your search is finished, Sir Guy."
"Yes, very well," Guy stated. There was a small hint of disappointment in his voice. He started out, Robert and Ellen following. Gisbourne pulled Ellen to the side so he could speak to her.
"Ellen, now that your brother is an outlaw, it isn't safe for you to be unescorted. I can take care of you. Let me protect you," Gisbourne said, taking a hold of her hand, leaning closer to her.
"I assure you I am just fine. And courting you is not my decision, it's my father's. You'll have to speak to him about it," Ellen replied.
"I shall speak to your father about courting you," Gisbourne responded.
"Give him some time to take in the fact that my brother is an outlaw," Ellen said. "Then talk to him about it. Now is not appropriate." Guy started towards the door. "Now, goodnight Sir Guy."