DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything. Unfortunately. :P Except for my luffly charrie Elizabeth(and some other, less luffly ones) Yeah, I do have a thing for taht name. All of my stories with the main character named Elizabeth have worked out perfectly...I've tried Isabels and Sashas, but their stories seemed to be dragging instead of pacing along. So, I'm going to go for another Lizzie. :)
Next-this is my first attempt at Robin Hood fanfiction. I don't know how it worked out, due to my inexperience, but I hope you like it. I would like to ask you for a big favor, all of you-REVIEW! If you don't want to do it later, just do it this, one time so I would know if I should continue or not. Bear it in mind that this is only the intro, and that there is a lot more I've in store for you... ;)
The summer Sun slowly began to raise above the Sherwood forest, bathing the leaves in its golden rays that mostly reflected off them and never reached inside the heavy cover. That was one of the primary things that made such thick forests perfect for outlaws-it took time to get used to the constant darkness on the roads. If anyone decided to travel through it, of course. A large majority of people avoided it if they could if they had any valuables at all, but then again they easily changed their decisions concerning the matter when they saw how much time it saved. And, of course, the foolhardy belief of humans;
„…that 'of all the people, Robin Hood isn't going to rob precisely us!"
Lady Elizabeth Horvat let out a long, restrained sigh that would've blown off the gently set, fashionable hood on the reddish hair of her travelling companion had it been full. During the last three hours, ever since they had come close to Notthingam and Sherwood forest, all Lady Ines Novak had been able to talk about had been the fact she was 'completely not afraid Robin Hood', as she had poorly worded it. Naturally, every time she'd mention that, she would have also added 'Besides, what is the probability of him robbing precisely us?', accompanying it with such a nervous giggle Elizabeth wished to laugh at her and point out her terrible acting to her.
„Did I..say…točno? I mean, correct!" Ines chuckled anxiously again, „It is good for practice."
Under normal circumstances a very talkative person, Elizabeth was not at all surprised she remained silent now, her lips compressing into a thin, pale line. Normal circumstances did not mean in the company of a boring, egocentric woman that repeated herself constantly. Certainly, her English did require practice. While Elizabeth's father was a worldly man, who had traveled throughout civillized Europe together with his wife and his two children(Elizabeth and her brother Ivan) and therefore had been teaching his daughter English ever since she was six years old, Ines had only begun learning the language more intensively when she had been informed she would be departing for England one day. That had not improved her grasp on it, since she had never quite had the flair for languages. Elizabeth was extremely proud of her own fluency in English. One of the reasons for her insisting they did not speak Croatian even when alone.
"Isn't this wonderful? In few hours we be at Nottingham!" Ines squealed, Elizabeth not even trying to amend her sentence. Frankly, she hoped Ines was going to embarrass herself in front of the Lords they encountered during their stay, so her well thought out plan of finding a most handsome Englishman and marrying him would be crushed. Oh, how she wished someone, anyone else had had parents with similar aspirations for their daughters as hers. Anyone, anyone but Ines would have sufficed perfectly. Actually, not anyone. There were certain Ladies from Croatia she hated with passion, and some that were more beautiful than Ines and were more of a competition in her eyes. But the others…
No, no, she thought, her full lips stretching into a sly smile. Compared to anyone else, she would not have appeared nearly as breathtaking as compared to Ines. A rose was a beautiful flower, but compared to weeds it look far prettier than compared to tulips. Elizabeth, with her glossy, dark brown hair reaching nearly to her waist and her dark chocolate eyes, mixed with her full bosom and proud carriage considered herself the rose in this case, and the reddish-haired, skinny and flat Ines the weed. Ines had her qualities, all right, in spite of the fact they were hardly discernable. She was graceful, for one-Elizabeth had never quite been called that by her peers. The features of her face were larger than those of Elizabeth, and her face was less chubby-the slight roundness of her cheeks was something Elizabeth would've gladly gotten rid of. Ines could've sung beautifully, but that was not exactly among her finest qualities, since she could have talked one's ears off by telling them about how singing was her passion.
Elizabeth liked to read-she liked poetry and romance in general. But singing…her voice had simply not been made for that. She'd been ordained to be the tone-deaf one. Had she wanted, she might have learned to play instruments better. She had, however, let go of that dream early in her childhood, choosing to be the listening party when it came to music. But dancing! Ah, that was a whole different matter. She absolutely adored dancing. Exotic dances were her soft spot. Ines could've danced as well, only anything exotic was foreign to her. Elizabeth took the lead there.
Pride filling her as she thought of her accomplishments, how better than Ines she was and how she was bound to find a husband, as her parents had told her to, first, her good mood returned and she smirked a wicked smirk at Ines.
"Of course. If Robin Hood does not rob us first."
The irony in her voice only provoked another giggle from the other Lady, who was not of the sort to stand up for her opinions. Which Elizabeth found despicable. Perhaps the Lords were going to, too?
"No. As you said…" And she recited the line she'd firstly taken Elizabeth from her daydreams with once again. With a few more mistakes. Nodding her head, Elizabeth leaned against the window, which was shut, calculating how much longer would she really have to tolerate Ines until they reached Nottingham.
She had used powers of self-control beyond belief during the past month, during which they had traveled together. The journey had taken quite a while, since Lady Ines required regular and long stops to rest. Not like most people, Elizabeth wasn't proud of managing to restrain herself. She was of those who would've been proud had they kicked the hell out of Ines, but also with enough wit to see that wasn't a wise thing to do. That wit, of course, had its limits. Temper knew how to override it.
Her father had made the acquaintance of Sheriff Vaysey of Nottingham during one of his solitary travels to North-Western Europe. He had not liked the man, even though he did claim he respected him even presently. Vaysey knew how to make best use of every opportunity, regardless all the subjectivity that played its part in decisions. He would've simply rid himself of it, or perhaps he had been born without it, for other people meant nothing to him. The sole thing that existed was him and his power. Elizabeth's father also remembered his sadistic nature. Yet none of it had made him trust the man less-he placed enough faith in him to send him his only daughter and entrust him with her. Elizabeth was no fool, though. It had had more to do with the fact Lord Horvat sent regular contributions to the Sheriff's 'cause' than with anything else that Vaysey had been so willing and Horvat so trusting. The cause of overthrowing King Richard. Honestly, Elizabeth had hardly cared about it much. King John or King Richard, it had been all the same to her before. Now, when she had joined the side of John, it did become rather imperative that he won. Since it was highly unlikely that Vaysey was going to connect her with a husband from the other side. Even though that wasn't all that unlikely, with all the schemes that man was renowned for.
One way or another, her father was putting a lot of money into her safe future. Into her marrying a prominent Englishman and being a close ally of the new King. Their own Croatia was a fine kingdom, but Lord Horvat, very close to the King, predicted changes-bad changes. And he was known as a person of excellent insight.
She had no intention of disappointing him.
"My Lord, the guards report the daughters of the Lords Horvat and Novak have arrived." Sir Guy of Gisborne flatly addressed the Sheriff, who was sitting behind his desk and humming something to himself while scribbling over a parchment.
During the last few months, the major topic of Vaysey besides catching Robin Hood and increasing taxes had been the two ladies coming from the distant Kingdom of Croatia. Apparently, their fathers had paid significant sums of gold to support their cause. In return, the Sheriff promised to ensure their daughters prominent marriages in England. The fathers must have been aware that they would be giving their daughters as another form of donation-powerful political tools for the Sheriff. Then again, it was all the same to the women. No matter what was behind the marriage, they would, in the end, get married.
And Vaysey must have had some plan in his mind since he had been so eager for them to reach Nottingham.
Indeed, as soon as Guy's words reached his ears, the Sheriff bolted upright, a huge grin forming on his face. The malicious glinting in his eyes grew stronger as he spoke.
"Excellent, excellent, Gisborne! I thought they would never be here…" His brow creased suddenly, "Have they brought chaperones?"
"Yes." Guy replied uninterestedly, slightly annoyed. Was that his brilliant plan? Something that had to do with chaperones? Why did he not simply tell him, if it was anything of great importance? Gritting his teeth, he waited for the Sheriff to say something further, a darkness flashing through his blue-gray eyes.
The Sheriff's face smoothed out and he rose, nodding his head approvingly.
"Good, good, better, excellent!" He nearly shouted again, pacing from the desk towards the window, through which he could have easily seen the courtyard. His small, dark eyes traced lively over the two ladies being helped out of their carriages. Guy could've seen them from his position as well, both in travel robes, one with slightly lighter hair. While their facial features escaped him from this distance, he instantly averted his eyes from the darker one-her rich, brown locks reminded him of Marian too much.
"Look at them, Gisborne." The Sheriff mused absently, "Lady Ines and Lady Elizabeth. They arrive with contributions from their fathers…and as contributions as well." He chuckled, "Oh, I have their destinies well-planned, Gisborne, well-planned indeed. Plans that have multiple possibilities, multiple endings, dependant of the characters of these ladies. But first…"
He spun around, a determined expression of confidence on his face; one that meant whatever he was to say would be a strict order.
"First, you must marry one of them."
Guy flinched, certain that it would have been less of a shock being thrown into a frozen pond. Since the words had come just as he'd been thinking about Marian, and their ruined engagement, at first he believed he hadn't heard the Sheriff right. That must have been it. Surely he could not have just told him to…
"Marry, my Lord?"
He echoed, placing a great deal of effort for his face to remain blank.
"Yes, Goddamnit, marry, Gisborne!" Vaysey growled, striding towards the desk and hitting his fist against it, "You will marry one of them. I will not hear any refusals or excuses!" He dropped back into his chair, huffing, "We need a stronger connection with their fathers, so their donations would not stop coming in, now don't we? Besides…"He chortled, "It is about time you settled down. Now…"
And he went on with the descriptions of the ladies, as if Guy had already said yes.
Of course, he knew that the Sheriff was right. Politics was a game that required marriage, and politics meant position and power. The more allies Prince John gathered, secure allies, the more profit would be in it for Vaysey, and Guy. Besides, he had no other choice but to obey Vaysey if he wished to remain within the entire plot. Still, it did not mean he had to like it. Exhaling slowly through his nostrils, he forced himself to listen to the Sheriff.
"…Lady Horvat is a cousin of the Croatian King, which means she also has Hungarian blood. " The Sheriff smirked, "That may mean she has got a fierce temper. Hungarians usually do, as far as my knowledge goes." It was clear that he believed his knowledge to always be right by his tone, "Lady Novak has some relations to the Royal Family of France, but they are very distant. Nothing of use." He halted when he noticed Guy's cross look, waving his hand,
"Don't worry, you won't have to decide just yet! As a matter of fact, you won't be deciding at all. There is a ball tonight, in their honor-I will meet the ladies, I will observe them, and I will pick out your…"He laughed, "Blushing bride. Now, off you go! I have work to do."
And his full attention was back to his papers, he went on humming a tune.
After a few seconds of fighting with anger at being controlled like this, Guy finally left, slamming the door behind him. He'd meant to ask about a lot of other things, he had meant to demand knowing of this plan entirely, which had all been wiped out when he'd been informed of this…insanity. So he was to get married? To a woman of Vaysey's choice? Which one was it going to be? The one resembling Marian, so he would have to live with being reminded of the woman he'd actually loved? Or the red-haired one, so he would simply have to live with a faceless, nameless wife that would never mean anything to him?
Whatever it was, he was not looking forward to it.
"Oh My God, hurry up, hurry up!" Ines squealed, jumping a bit, her hands grasping her long, dark yellow gown so hard her knuckles were white, "We'll be late!"
"We are allowed to be late, Ines." Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders, raising her eyebrows as she twirled before the mirror in her bright red dress with a deep décolletage. She felt a boost of self-confidence as she noted Ines' flat bosom, so she grinned widely, "We are, after all, the guests of honor."
"But I can't wait to…be…there!" Ines stammered, hitting the right word, maybe by accident, "All the good looking men…I saw so many since we came!"
Her voice plainly showed that she believed herself to have already become the object of the adorations of those men. Fixing the last strand of her hair that had been out of her hairstyle, which consisted of a bun made of the upper layer of her wavy brown hair, resting on the thick, lower layer. All the hair was removed from her face, and she added the slightest touch of face powder.
"There." She turned to Ines, "Now I am ready. And I am certain you have seen many."
The disapproving glance of the Lady Novak made her blood boil, and it had had nothing to do with her pointing out the mistake. Twisting her lips in a dissatisfactory manner, she shook her head, her hair falling down her shoulders freely, chastising;
"Elizabeth, you really had to put more on face. You look…plain."
Her irritation was now almost at its top, and Elizabeth had to bite her lower lip in order to manage a cool response. How dared she! She should've looked at herself before beginning to spit half-worded offenses at others! Even more so because she had taken special care of her appearance tonight. If she had not, she still would have appeared BETTER than Ines. Snorting, she threw a haughty glare at the mirror, raising and lowering her shoulders abruptly.
"I like it just fine. Perhaps you should have put something more on your face. Or worn a deeper décolletage." With those words, she breezed out of the room, closing the door gently behind her. Ines had been left behind wide-eyed and astounded. She was, Elizabeth thought as she walked towards the Grand Hall, most likely contemplating over how 'anyone could have said such a thing to the perfect, beautiful, wonderful woman she was both on the inside an the outside...how Elizabeth was just jealous and that was it.' Or she was going to remind herself that Elizabeth could never have taken any criticism, and relay that to everyone she met tonight. Annoyance now turning into fury within her, she increased the rate of her step. Plain. Plain. She would show that idiot who was plain. When she woke up in the morning with all her hair gone, or if some food or another got into her face purely by accident tonight, she was going to see exactly what plain meant--
So preoccupied with her thoughts, she had not anticipated the stairway just after the corner she rapidly turned behind. By the time her mind comprehended its presence, it was already too late-she had stepped with only half of her foot on the second stair, and her polished shoe slipped, sending her flying through the air.
Fear erupted within her chest, mixing with the anger. In a matter of milliseconds, billions of thoughts rushed through her head. She was going to die. Break her neck. She clearly recalled this stairway, and it was not of the small sort. Rounded, it had not been designed to prevent one's fall before that prevention becoming fatal. Irrationally, the thought of Ines finding her all weak and dead at the bottom of the stairs became haunting. Goddamn it, she cursed inwardly, I can already imagine her telling everyone how clumsiness and ungracefulness had always been my marking traits!
Emotionally preparing herself for death, she waited for the blow, shutting her eyes closed. Only let it be quick and painless…and let me fall gracefully…
She hit against something, her heart rate increasing from painful to dizzying. This was it. This was it. She was…
Taking in a deep breath, Elizabeth opened her eyes, and an overpowering wave of relief washed over her. She still lived. Furthermore, it seemed that she had not even broken anything, there was no pain. She would be able to continue to the ball undisturbed, as if nothing had happened.
But then she took notice of something else. How came she was not at the end of the stairway? She should've, by all logic, rolled there. And yes, how came there had been no rolling, she had not felt any impact with the stone at all? Her position was also quite awkward; as if she was hanging in mid-air, supported by something…someone's…arms?
With another deep gasp, Elizabeth realized she had fallen right into the embrace of a man, into whose striking blue-gray eyes she was staring right now.
It took her a few seconds to recover. Seconds during which she closed her eyes and opened them again for a few times, in order to dispose of the effect left by the line of rapid shocks-an eerie numbness. The man's hands, no matter who he was, felt pleasant and also had a calming sequence on her.
Finally, when she began to think somewhat clearer again, she snapped back to reality.
With bemusement, she suddenly became aware of what exactly she was doing. Once that happened, color rose to her cheeks and she flashed with embarrassment. This man, who had saved her life, undoubtedly, must have thought her to be a fainting ninny! A clumsy, half-witted woman. He was probably going to mention that to his friends or acquaintances, or his wife or the lady he was courting, and soon the entire castle was going to speak of how Lady Elizabeth Horvat had nearly lost consciousness upon a mere fall from the stairs! The fear and the panic from before gone, she began to see the whole incident as trivial, so appall for herself struck her when she realized she was shivering.
Stiffly, she pushed away from her savior, who, following her clue, let her down. As she got to assess his face, Elizabeth experienced the familiar fluttering in her stomach that came along with seeing someone handsome. Dark-everything about him was dark, in stark opposition with his pale skin. Even his eyes, blue-gray, had some hidden darkness within. He wore a leather outfit that suited him well-black suited him well. The aura his presence emitted could've been-was-unnerving, yet she found it more than satisfying. Wheezing shakily, she opened her mouth to say something, for it seemed to her as if they had both been silent for more than just a number of seconds.
But what to say? Naturally, she amended herself, she was not Ines! She knew what to say and when to say it. Or, at least, she always had something to say. Scolding herself inwardly for such cowardly behavior, she focused on the man, unable to tear her eyes from his ever since the moment they'd landed upon them.
"I—I thank you, my Lord. You've most certainly saved my life."
Her tone, to her displeasure, sounded overly high-pitched and somewhat giddy. Biting on her lower lip harshly and jutting out her chin, she prayed he wouldn't take it for chicken heartedness, or would not notice it at all.
For one, he seemed completely unaffected by all that had happened. There was no trace whatsoever of imbalance, emotion, anything on his features. Just the mild amusement that dawned in his eyes as he responded to her, the amusement that made her cheeks redden even more.
"I most certainly did. You should watch where you are going more carefully next time, my Lady."
She was nearly drawing blood from her lip now, for his voice was cold and calm, yet with that unmistakable undertone of mockery. I most certainly did…Who did he think he was? The vision of Nottingham discussing the 'unfortunate fall of Elizabeth Horvat' passed before her eyes, almost giving her another shudder. Standing straighter, squaring her shoulders, she clenched her teeth and came up with a plot with the speed of light. She was going to thank him once more and walk away. Then, he would not know her name, he would not have a chance to ask her, and he would not be able to tell quite everyone of her…for some time, at least. By then, she was going to make it her goal to charm Nottingham so none of them would believe him when he(surely with the help of Ines) told them how clumsy she was.
Rising to her fullest height, proud of her evil plan, she addressed him with the most dignified voice she could've mustered.
"Of course, my Lord." Some parts of her were still trembling, so she began moving in order to conceal it, "You have my most sincere thanks. Now, excuse me, I am expected at the ball." Curtsying at him, she removed her orbs from his and continued walking as elegantly as she could down the hallway.
Guy of Gisborne stared after the lady, traces of that amusement still in his glance. After a very dangerous fall, that could and would have resulted in her death had he not been lower on the stairs himself, she was obviously disheveled. Naturally. She was a woman. But this woman-instead of bursting into tears and not letting go of the one who'd saved her for hours, she had pushed away, standing on her own feet immediately, attempting to hide anything was wrong with her and diminishing the near-death experience she had just been through.
Intrigued, he pulled her appearance from his mind. For some reason, it was not completely clear to him. The most vivid thing about her he recalled where her eyes. Chocolate brown, exotic-looking eyes. There was some wilderness within them, not well-hidden. An honest woman, he would have judged. Then again, he had thought the same for Marian...
He remembered his conversation with Vaysey, how he'd, from far, compared the two ladies that had arrived by carriage in the morning. The image of the darker one flashed before his eyes, the one he had compared with Marian then.
Could this have been her?
She carried no foreign accent, by what he'd noticed. But now that he thought about it, he had never seen her around Nottingham Castle. And that dark hair…Guy could've sworn it was the same woman, not so much because there were no women with such hair color in Nottingham, but more because, somehow, the idea of having to marry this interesting lady didn't seem as repulsive to him all of a sudden.
In a few paces, he was down the stairs, just in time before the lady turned about the next corner. He could not let her get away, if ignoring his wish to study her face further, then solely for the sake of not letting her get away with transparent feigning of fearlessness. The least she owed him was a name.
"My lady!" He shouted after the hem of her red dress disappearing behind the wall. It stopped, and for a moment Guy thought she was truly going to leave. Then, slowly, she began retreating, and soon the lady stood there entirely, facing him. Smirking contently, Guy went on, "I believe I have missed your name."
Stupefied, Elizabeth silently uttered a million of hoaxes and curses meant for this man. Well, had he chased after her only because he wanted to know about who he was to spread the rumors or not?
Maybe not. Glad that they were far apart, so he couldn't have seen her expression, she found how stupidly she'd missed the actual romance of their situation. Through all the embarrassment, the shock and the panic, Elizabeth had failed to spot the most obvious. She had fallen, to be caught by a very handsome man. It was easily possible he had come after her without the slightest desire of ever mentioning this in the context of her being the clumsy lady…
That did not mean that she would fancy turning out like a whimp before him. Oh, no, it only gave her further reason to work on her strength.
With a mischievous smile, she cocked her head, "Lady Elizabeth Horvat."
So it was her. Elizabeth Horvat. The one, if his memory served him right, related to the King of Croatia. With, obviously, Hungarian temper and pride. She showed that flair. And there seemed to be a zest for life in her. As he stepped closer, he saw she did not look that much like Marian. Her face was wider, eyes larger and lips fuller.
That was good.
"Sir Guy of Gisborne." He introduced himself, kissing her hand. Elizabeth strangely enjoyed that sensation, "Welcome to Nottingham, Lady Horvat." He could not have resisted adding as he straightened, "It is most fortunate that I saved you, indeed. Or the rest of England would never have made the acquaintance of your person."
Elizabeth's smile withstood this, and she even let out a chuckle, in spite of the evident mockery in his words. Of course it was clear what he'd been implying-he had seen through her and what her intentions at this moment were. And he was determined to undermine her efforts. Well, she would be damned if she let him know he was succeeding…no matter how good looking he was.
"Indeed, Sir Guy, indeed. You have just done the people a tremendous favor."
"I claimed nothing else, my Lady."
"I only wonder," Guy had slowly begun losing his patience. Not winning was something he disliked, especially concerning women. Marian had made sure he'd gotten used to it, but it hadn't changed his attitude. He took great pleasure in being the one delivering the final, killing strike, "If you had truly felt no fear whatsoever, or had you merely been acting masterfully?"
The heavy irony sent her lips forming into a straight line. Sir Guy was bold-dangerously bold, but not yet blunt. He knew how to provoke her, but not yet have her turn livid. As if he knew her, she noted. Out of unknown causes, the last thought made her beam again.
"There are certain things a lady keeps to herself, Sir Guy." She answered in a lecturing tone, "Surely you cannot expect of me to tell you everything!"
Impossible. The word that would've best described the marriage of him and this woman would've been impossible. Guy despised not being obeyed. Elizabeth had, instead of batting her eyelashes and saying 'You read me like a book, Sir Guy', retaliated and in such a way he could not have launched a counterattack anymore. She never would've abided her husband the way it would be expected of her.
Interesting. The woman was pretty. Such pointless bickering and games of words could've been entertaining. And he was certain of his ability to tame any lady. Including this one. Hungarian blood or not.
"Of course not, Lady Elizabeth." He bowed a slight, teasing bow, "Let us leave that matter behind us. I can hear the music coming from the Grand Hall. May I have the permission to accompany you there and ask for the first dance?"
The victorious feeling made Elizabeth feel a touch light-headed-or maybe it was the fact that Sir Guy offered her his arm and she readily took it, relishing as he agreed to his proposal. She could have said no, she could've continued their little war…but that would have only made it less enjoyable for her. It would've been her loss just as his. She hoped.
"Most certainly, Sir. After all, you are my savior tonight. You can have as many dances as your heart desires."
The last part was something her mother, Ines, her governess and anyone would've warned her against, such an open display of willingness, but she hardly cared. As she walked into the Grand Hall at the arm of Sir Guy of Gisborne, the only thing she could have fully devoted her attention to was the intoxicating state he was drawing her entire being into.
That's it for now, people! I love writing this story, but I'd like to beg for some reviews :). Just to know if you love it as much as I do. :)
Will update soon!