Author's note - Hi there everyone I am dipping my toe back into the world of Fanfiction and have had this chapter hanging around on PC for awhile waiting for upload so here it is. I hope you all enjoy it sorry for the stupidly long wait. Disclaimer - I own only my constructs and none of the characters belong to the BBC. Please R&R constructive criticism welcome NO FLAMES !
Chapter 2 - Caged in
Entering the great hall from above Katrina quickly took in the scene below. It was not unfamiliar to her, the hustle and bustle of the varying servants and nobles on the rush covered floor, in fact it was less daunting than the same thing had been in France but still she felt sick and dizzy as she descended the stairs. The man on whose arm she was supported straightened himself to his full height and in response she turned her head to look at him. He was trying to look confident and in control but she could see the uncertainty in his eyes. She turned to look forward again and there in front of her seated behind the top table were the Sheriff and a man who looked suave and powerful.
"My Lord Richmond." The voice knocked sense back into Katrina as she realised who the man behind the table must be.
"And who is this beautiful maiden?" the man asked smirking towards her.
"Katrina Fitzwalter my Lord". Katrina dropped the man a curtsey. She did not like him but, he was clearly powerful and she did not wish to make any enemies.
"She is recently returned to the country Richmond and her house unfortunately lost in the fire I was telling you about. All very sad but she is welcome to stay here as long as she wishes with her sister and father who are too ill to join us this evening." So that was what he was saying had happened and the glint in his eye told her not to contradict it. So despite her better judgement she held her tongue and smiled back politely at him.
"Well my dear come and sit here next to me, you'll make the evening more bearable I'm sure" the tone of Richmond's voice made her skin crawl but she walked round the table and took the seat next to him. As he turned to talk to her a commotion started at the hall entrance taking his attention away from her very quickly.
"Good gentlemen and ladies here, please relax and have no fear, I am a clown here to entertain, I wish none here ill or pain. I wonder my lady why you stare?"
She had hardly had time to take in the sight of the masked man whom had entered. He was of average height and build he was wearing hose of two colours and a tunic of patched together silks, velvets and brocade. She broke a small laugh at the ridiculous nature of it and suddenly he was in front of her. Having finished speaking in ridiculous rhyme he put his hand behind her ear and removed it fast presenting her with a white rose. Swiftly throwing her a smile he moved on. She thought for a second she recognised the eyes and the immature grin but as he produced a coin from behind the Sherriff's ear with some words about taxes she forgot about the feeling.
" My dear lady" Richmond whispered velvet like in her ear "I think someone is jealous that he has none of your attention tonight" She followed his hand as it pointed to the Sheriff's right catching the deep brown eyes of Guy of Gisborne and she saw that Richmond was right jealously and uncertainty shone in his eyes.
"It seems" she whispered "that you are right sir, I pray make no sport of him." Before he had time to make his reply there was a great explosion from the centre of the hall and a great display of juggling and general circus skills. She was pleased that his attention had been taken else where it allowed her to breath. She could think more clearly about the events that had passed in the great hall so far that evening. Having attention lavished upon her by so many men, whether or not this attention was wanted, perplexed her greatly. The attention they gave her was so different from the attention given to her at the French Court by Kings, courtiers, vassals and peasants. She felt like they expected her to have no brains at all, expected that she would just sit there and look pretty and laugh at their jokes. She would do this for now it was the only way to protect her family and she had patience that her sister Marian did not. She looked up again to see the Sheriff, Richmond, the jester and Sir Guy staring at her and each with a different expression on his face. She decided she must get out of there, she closed her eyes and placed her hand to her forehead, instantly Sir Guy and Richmond's attention was with her. "Are you alright Lady Katrina?" asked the concerned voice of Sir Guy.
"Here, let me help you, you are not well" Richmond suddenly standing at her side "let me escort you back to your chamber perhaps you have caught the illness that has deprived us of your family's company. It was remiss of the Sherriff to allow you to see them until they were well again."
"Do not worry Lord Richmond, it is just a megrim, the Sherriff is not to blame the Physician told me that my parent and sibling were no longer contagious and I trust his experience. I will be quite alright I need only rest." As she stood to leave the jester turned and took off his hat and mask caught a bow and quiver thrown to him from the gallery. All eyes in the room were on the armed stranger or on those who accompanied him standing armed with quarter staffs, axes and short swords up in the gallery.
"Good evening Sheriff" the man moved towards the top table where there now stood "My Lady" he nodded her way and suddenly Katrina recognised his face. "Robin of Loxley", "once I was my lady but now I am an outlaw and only know as Robin Hood. It has been too long Kat and one day we will hopefully talk at greater length". "How dare you !" the Sheriff roared as he drew his sword from his sheath. "Here Gisbourne in my own hall!" The castle guards began to appear from the various doorways. It was only when they reached the centre of the room that they found themselves surrounded. It was not however, until the confusion had settled a little that the court looked around to see Katrina with her food knife to the outlaws throat. She had known that she must use this opportunity to pretend to be firmly on the lawful side and only hoped Robin would understand. He struggled until she eventually allowed herself to be over powered by him, having knocked her to the ground he and his gang left as quickly as they had appeared. "My purse","my necklace" shouts and cries of despair began to ring through the great hall as the nobles noticed possessions missing.
"Lady Katrina, you are very brave, let me escort you back to your room" she looked up to see Richmond and Vasey above her both baring impressed if not a little disapproving looks. "The nuns and the men of the French court taught me how to defend myself if ever I was in need" she offered in way of explanation while picking herself up from the floor. "I am quite well thank you my lords, goodnight". With this she turned and left the hall more than two pairs of eyes burning holes in her back.
The next morning Katrina relayed to her sister, and in less detail to her father what had occurred the previous evening. Marian could scarcely believe that Robin had been so stupid and so brazen. In a way neither could. Katrina, although she did not know Robin in the same way her sister who had been betrothed to him did not have him pinned down as that sort of man. Marian fumed against him she raged as she saw castle security tighten. " I will slip out and talk to him" Katrina listened to her sister weighing the situation carefully before speaking, "no Marian, I have assured the sheriff you will not be consorting with the outlaws and I must protect you. Robin will seek us out in his own time, he seems the sort." With Marian abated and her father's worries calmed Katrina walked out into the castle to collect her thoughts.
In front a wooden door stood ajar, Katrina stopped as she heard raised voices. "I do not care Vasey I have seen enough if you cannot capture Hood and bring him to justice …". "My Lady can I help you?" a voice came from behind her; Katrina turned to see the tall and dark figure of Sir Guy. "Sir Guy I had just come to see the sheriff about some small matters but I can hear he is busy I will return later". Sir Guy looked placated and offered her his arm as an escort however, just at that moment the door burst open nearly flattening both of them. There strode Richmond looking in anger over his shoulder "a month Vaesey!" His expression softened into a smirk as he saw her stood in front of him "will you allow me to escort you to dinner tonight my lady ?" She was taken by surprise and recovering quickly smiled best she could and acquiesced. She felt Sir Guy stiffen beside her but chose to ignore the change as Richmond went his way and the sheriff red in the face appeared in the door way. "Gisbourne stop gallivanting and get on with it" he bellowed. Gisbourne bowed slightly to them both and ran away out of sight. The door slammed as the sheriff went into his inner sanctum.
Later Katrina, with a tray of some good claret walked the corridor toward Vasey's door. She paused before it listening carefully, hearing nothing untoward knocked and was reward with "come" bellowed in her general direction. Opening the door she stepped into the sheriff's room trying carefully to avoid the bird cages that littered the ceiling and surfaces. "Forgive me my lord but I thought you might be thankful for some refreshment after earlier" saying this she settled the tray on the desk and stepped back . "Oh it's you, thank you I guess" the sheriff drawled. "I wanted to ask you a question, if you wanted to catch and kill Robin Hood surely it would be best for you to do it yourself my lord, after all a man who is so clever, strong and noble as you" each word stuck a little in her throat but she just kept thinking of the end result of her plan "should be able to match a man who only deals in brute force like Hood". The sheriff now well immersed in a goblet full of the finest claret he could not even taste was in the mood to be drawn in by this pretty and clearly very observant woman. "My dear I am not expendable as others. If I were to die in a skirmish with Hood then who would there be to dispense justice. No for the moment I am the brains behind the machine not the brawn. You have met my brawn." He poured her a goblet it was rare he had a woman in front of him much less a pretty one and he could still appreciate a fine figure. "Gisbourne ?" she enquired "I did not know he was merely the brawn". " He has some brain I will admit but he is a user of force like Hood". They sat in silence for a moment as they both drank until Katrina stood and walked up to one of the bird cages. "Bullfinches and greenfinches these are beautiful birds sheriff. I missed such simple pleasures in France in the convent there always seemed to be naught but crows and at court only women and men dressed in finery acting as birds displaying to each other." She could feel the sheriff watching her weighing her up, she could almost hear him thinking but she did not look round. "You may not find the castle here so different I'm afraid, if you wish I will take you to the place I watch and collect my birds from" he was opening up to her and from the tone in his voice he did not know wholly why. She turned to him with a smile on her face "that would be very kind of you my Lord. As you no doubt guessed I really came to ask a favour of you". The sheriff sighed the noise sounded like both weariness and irritation "it can never be just a social visit, can it?". "Mostly my lord it was, but I wondered if you might know where the keys to the rest of my rooms were? The brawn only gave me the one for the solar" The sheriff chuckled "I wish I knew where they had gone, but I'm afraid my dear that I do not and you surely have nothing to hide that you would need to lock the others?" there was a hint of challenge and danger behind his voice. She heard it and backed off "of course not sire, then just one more thing could you see to the hiring of a maid for me? A helper and a companion". "I would be happy to do so, now my dear I have business to attend to" she curtseyed and left the room closing the door quietly behind her, leaving the sheriff a little dazed and not quite sure as to what had just happened.