So it's been a while since I've posted anything new (sorry, sorry, SORRY), but I'm finished with major edits to these twelve chapters and I'm ready to write more! I also apologize in advance; I had to cut some characters. Looking back, they just didn't make sense. Hope you still enjoy, and thank you to my avid readers!
"Marian, Marian where are you?" my father called out to me. I ran and hid behind a tree.
My father was the owner of the lands known as Knighton where we lived in a manor right on the outskirts of a forest, Sherwood Forest to be exact. He would always tell us stories of ghosts and spirits that haunted these woods, yet I always returned to play in them. I would pretend to fight evil villains; be the hero of my own story. I was never the princess type. No, I was much more fit to be a knight. My father, fueling my ambition and my mother's dismay, even crafted me my own bow and arrow. I took to practicing in the forest becoming, I would say, a rather good shot.
I stifled a giggle.
"I'm coming!" I finally gave in, bursting out of the forest. The two of us raced back to our house, thus ending another normal day as every day went for the first ten years of my life…until I met him.
It began as another day playing in the forest. After finishing my lessons with my mother, I went out into Sherwood to practice with my bow. She very much disapproved of my favorite hobby but, being my mother, she supported whatever I wanted to do in life. God bless her.
So I was minding my own business, zoning in on my makeshift target, when something hit me…literally. I had just pulled back for a shot when a boy barreled into me. Needless to say I missed.
I hastily shoved him off me.
"Can't you see where you're going?" I scolded, frustrated he had interrupted my shot.
"Sincerest apologies milady," my assailant mocked as he playfully bowed to me. I was fuming. For a young girl, I had a hot temper, I suppose I still do. But, when he looked back at me, my anger melted away. He, even at that young age, had the most beautiful green eyes. They were as green as fresh spring grass with a playful shine to them. It was like you knew he was hiding something. His brown hair was lightened from obvious days spent outside. While he was still only a child, he was tall and definitely had room to grow, and that smile. That crooked grin had me smiling right along with him. I was barely ten years old, and I was in love.
We both simply stood there, staring. I finally caught myself and immediately felt self-conscious in my ragged pants and puffy white shirt. I had been in such a rush to come out to play that I had neither brushed nor fixed my hair. But he just smiled at me in that captivating way. I smiled back as I heard a voice in the distance.
"Robin…oh Robin! Where are you?"
So that was his name, Robin. He smirked before yanking me behind a tree as another boy approached. He covered my mouth and shushed me. I stood there beside him without question. I couldn't help but chuckle a little bit to myself. Robin and this boy were clearly playing hide-and-go-seek, a favorite among the children in my village.
Just when I thought the boy had passed, a small head appeared from around the tree.
"Gotcha!" he cried, reaching to tag Robin. He looked startled when he saw me.
The boy had an orange-red hair. He was small, only slightly taller than myself. His light blue eyes grew very wide when they fell on me, almost as if he had never seen a girl before. I giggled.
"Hi!" I said, taking the initiative.
"Uh, hi," He replied shyly.
"This is…um?" Robin hesitated in his attempt to introduce me.
"Marian," I filled in for him, shaking the small boy's hand, "I'm Marian."
"Much," he replied, "Nice to meet you."
"Pleasure's all mine," I curtseyed to him in the way my mother had taught me.
"Do you wanna play with us?" he asked timidly. I nodded. I loved this game! But, before I could say yes, Robin was already answering for me.
"Of course she doesn't want to play with us! She has 'girl' stuff to do. She couldn't keep up with us anyway," he smirked, already sauntering away.
Excuse me? I couldn't keep up with them? Girl stuff to do? No, I would have none of that! I was about to say something when a better idea came to me.
My bow was lying on the ground where Robin had knocked me over. I grabbed an arrow from my quiver, notched it in place, pulled back, and released.
The arrow went whizzing past Robin's head to the tree a just to the left of him. He immediately stopped walking. Ever so slowly, he turned to face me. I stood with my free hand on my hip feeling victorious.
He just kept staring at me, mouth slightly agape. This was a perfect time for my grand exit. Saluting him, I turned on my heel and walked away. I know he stared after me the whole way out of the woods, because I never heard the crunching of the leaves under his feet, or Much's for that matter, that gave way to walking.
Chores and relentless lessons kept me from the forest for the next few days. As I was falling asleep one night, a tapping came at my window. I tried to ignore it, but it was incessant. Finally, I dragged myself over to look out. Bright green eyes and a mischievous grin that could only belong to one person greeted me.
"What do you want?" I asked Robin groggily, longing for nothing more than sleep.
"Why haven't you been in the forest?" he asked. He was balancing on the sliver of awning that covered our front door, located just below my bedroom window.
"I've been busy," I shrugged, exhausted.
I may have been the daughter of a noble, but my parents believed in raising children to have responsibilities and work hard. I was no exception. Nobility did not save me from mundane housework. Even through the exhaustion, another thought was nagging at the back of my mind.
"Robin, how do you know where I live?"
That silenced him. Knowing there could be no "appropriate" answer I turned back to the comfort of my bed, but he reached through the bars of my windows and caught my hand.
"Wait," he sighed.
"What do you want, Robin? As I said I have been busy and I would like to get some sleep," I demanded exasperatedly.
"I'm good with a bow, too," he commented.
I shrugged again, unsure of where he was going with this.
"I was wondering if you would be interested in some friendly competition. Tomorrow, I'll meet you at your little 'target' arena and we'll see who is more skilled."
"Why does it matter?" I called into the night, but he had already disappeared into the forest before I could get an answer. What did it matter? I would enjoy beating him in the morning.
The next day I woke before the crack of dawn and immediately started on the chores I had been attending to all week: fetch the water, tend to the livestock, hang the clothes, things of that sort. I would get my chores done early, just as I would beat Robin at his archery challenge.
As I bustled about the housework, I failed to notice a presence had joined me.
"Well, you are up early."
I whirled around to face the knowing eyes of my mother. I loved my mother, but she had these dark blue eyes that could stare right into the soul. I hated that, but what I hated more was that I did not inherit that trait. Her flowing brown hair, yes. Her bright smile, sure. But not those sharp eyes. I inherited my father's warm, welcoming hazel eyes that revealed every emotion and secret we held.
"Yes," I replied, going about my chores. I did not want to tell her of my competition with Robin. She already disapproved of my father's encouragement that I learn to defend myself. Somehow I doubted she would appreciate the fact that now I was using said skills in competition against a boy.
But she needn't worry. I felt nothing but spite for Robin, especially from what he had said the day before.
She continued to stand there. I could feel those piercing blue eyes boring into my back as I awkwardly continued my work.
"Marian…" she began in an accusatory tone. I was caught.
"Yes, Mother?" I cleared my throat.
"What are you up to?"
"Nothing," I replied innocently. I wasn't doing anything wrong as far as I could tell. My mother held my gaze. I would not lose this time. My golden eyes fought an invisible battle with her cerulean.
Just as my barrier was about to fall, she sighed and looked away.
"Alright then Marian, just please be careful. And make sure you finish your chores," she surrendered, planting a kiss on my forehead. She disappeared back inside, humming a rhythmic melody, and began breakfast while I hastened to finish my chores.
Finally, with the last piece of clothing hung, I was finished. I washed up a bit, grabbed my bow and arrows, and dashed out the door.
I ran to my target area hoping to fit in some practice before my competitor arrived. Unfortunately, Robin was already there, lounging rather nonchalantly against a tree. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was asleep.
"So, you did decide to show up," he commented. I had to bite back the words that I wanted so badly say: You thought I wouldn't?
No matter, I would beat him a lady.
I flashed him my most innocent smile as he pushed himself off the tree and strolled over. His cockiness sickened me. I would have to put an end to that.
I gestured to the tree for him to take his shot. He stepped up, pulled back, and was about to let go when he lowered his bow and turned to me.
"What fun is this? My grandmother can hit a tree. Let's do something a little more interesting. Come with me to my house. My father helped me set up my own fighting arena," he suggested.
I stared at him. Leave? With some strange boy I'd only just met? Absolutely not!
"There's an archery range…"
On second thought, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
"How far away is it?" I asked carefully, trying very hard to conceal my curiosity. Apparently I was not succeeding because Robin gave me a knowing smile that was eerily similar to my mother's.
"Less than a mile that way," he directed, pointing west. Well, that wasn't too far away.
"I'll have you back before dark."
That did it. I nodded, grabbed my things, and followed him farther into the forest.
It didn't take us long at all to reach his village, the village I instantly recognized as Locksley. I had been here a few times with my father for his meetings with the Lord of Locksley. Since my father owned the land that was Knighton, he often met with Locksley to discuss business deals and such. I never really paid much attention. I was always too busy playing hide-and-go-seek or red rover with the children of the village.
As we entered and I waved to familiar faces, I realized something. While I prided myself on being rather bright, I could not place this Robin boy. Why could I not remember him?
Robin continued walking through the village greeting people as he went while I continued to ponder the mystery of Robin. Who was he? I didn't have to ponder much longer as he led me right up the steps to Locksley Castle.
I stared up in awe. I had heard of Robin before, Robin of Locksley, son of the Lord of Locksley. How could I have forgotten about him? I had never met him personally, but I had certainly heard of him!
I began to back away slowly, but he caught my wrist. We lived in a humble manor. My father was a noble and had land, but not a lot. My mother was even of royal blood, but Locksley was still much greater than us.
A castle shouldn't have intimidated me but it did. My mother would have been appalled by my actions. As Robin wordlessly led me inside, I couldn't help but gaze at the beauty of the castle all around me.
There were tapestries painted of life and battle in the most luscious reds, deep blues, and golden yellows. The sun shone through the stained glass windows causing colors to dance across the polished marble floor. Every so often, we would pass a glass table displaying beautiful bouquets of the most exotic flowers. Marble hallways and large oak doors led off in every directions.
This was a nice place.
I was soon pulled out of my reverie by a familiar voice.
"Hello, Much," I smiled as he bounded toward us. It made me giggle how happy he seemed to see me.
"Much! We were just going to begin our archery contest outside. Care to join us?" Robin inquired.
Much glanced around. In the silence, I began to take note of him. He was dressed very casually, much like I dressed to do chores. He wore simple brown pants, tattered boots, and a white puffy shirt that was a bit too big for him. Then I looked at Robin. He was also dressed in a puffy white shirt, but his was neatly pressed and washed. He wore brown pants and his boots were shiny and new. That was when I realized something. I had a hunch that Much was Robin's servant.
Much continued to look around.
"Well, I," he began.
Oh how I wanted him to join us! He seemed so sweet! He could be spared a little work to come with us, couldn't he? After all, he looked young enough to be my age, and ten-year-olds deserved to have some fun.
I was about to say something, but Robin beat me to it. I hoped our archery challenge wouldn't end the same way.
"It's okay, Much. Marian and I would really like you to come," he assured the small boy. Though Much looked to be a servant, Robin seemed to genuinely treat him as an equal. Robin may have come across cocky, but at least I could respect this one part about him.
Much's face broke into a grin that stretched from ear-to-ear.
"Really, are you sure, because I—"
"Come on, Much!" Robin laughed as he wrapped his arms around the both of us. Much was a few inches taller than me, but Robin was a whole head taller than the both of us. And his laugh; just hearing it made me smile. Though Robin was rather prideful and arrogant, I was slowly finding little things I liked about him.
The three of us ventured outside to his archery range. Actually it was more of arena for, well everything. There were wood painted targets for archery, straw dummies for sword fighting slouched helplessly against the pole holding them up, and a fairly large shed in the corner that housed various weapons. There were swords of all shapes and sizes. Some were curved, some were short, some long, some looked heavy, and some light. Some weapons I didn't even recognize, but what really caught my eye were the bows and arrows. Some of the bows were larger than me. Others were curved to make them smaller, like mine. All of them had me dazzled.
My eyes must have betrayed my amazement. I tried to wipe the bewildered look off my face, but it was too late. Robin was staring at me with a smug, proud look on his face. I opened my mouth to explain; Robin simply smiled and walked away. I glared at the back of his head but reluctantly followed.
He led Much and me over to one of the targets, and then faced me and bowed slightly.
"Ladies first," he said. I stepped up.
I pulled an arrow from my quiver and zoned in on my target. As I pulled back, ready to fire, I heard horses galloping in the distance. I tried to ignore it, but it only grew louder and louder. Just as I was lowering my bow out of anger and lack of concentration, Robin snatched it from my hands.
I whirled on him. How dare he? I opened my mouth to begin my rant, but was suddenly yanked backward. Much was grabbing the arrows off my back and handing them to Robin. Robin pushed me behind him while Much shushed me just as the horses came galloping in.
My confidence wavered slightly as a caravan of big men in dark uniforms with helmets and swords rode in on horseback, but not enough to quell my temper. I was still fuming that Robin had the nerve to grab my weapon from me and push me around like a rag doll. I refused to be treated this way.
"Hello Locksley," the leader spat.
"Master Gisborne," Robin replied. Though the gesture was polite, the way he said it suggested that he did not like this Gisborne man.
"How many times must I remind you that my name is Robin?"
Gisborne ignored him.
"You remember my son, Guy," it wasn't a question.
"How could I forget?" Robin nodded to a dark-haired boy riding beside Master Gisborne.
"Guy," Robin greeted.
"Robin," Guy replied.
Master Gisborne whispered something to Guy and continued into Locksley Castle. Guy remained with us.
The whole exchange only served to anger me further. While Robin was calm about this, I was annoyed at their abrupt and disrespectful intrusion. I started for Gisborne and Guy, but Much grabbed me and pulled me back into place. He gave me a look that said this is not the time or place. Reluctantly, I obliged and remained beside Much.
Guy must have seen that something was going on behind Robin. He went to look around him, but Robin moved with him. After this dance of eyes, Guy gave up trying to get a look at me. He turned instead on Robin.
"You know it is against the law for children to have weapons, Locksley. You will have to get rid of that," he pointed to my bow. I gasped quietly. Much's hand held me firmly in place. I could not lose my bow and arrows!
"I'll get rid of mine when you get rid of yours, Gisborne," Robin shot back, nodding at Guy's sword. I could hear the smirk in his voice. Guy had nothing else to say, so Robin continued.
"Why's your father here, Guy?" Robin asked. Gisborne gave him a smug look. It was obvious that he wasn't going to reveal anything.
"Nothing much to worry about Locksley, just some…financial changes," was all he gave away. Financial changes?
Robin must have been thinking the same as me. Robin stepped up to Guy as the boy dismounted his horse. With the two facing each other, I could really notice the differences. Robin's skin and light brown hair were tanned from being outside. His arms were toned either from work or training, and had a good two or three inches on Guy. Guy, on the other hand, had jet-black hair. His skin was paler than Robin's suggesting he spent most of his time inside. However, where Robin was lean and muscular, Guy would grow to be broad and sturdy.
As I processed these differences, the two continued to stare at one another, Guy's dark irises against Robin's deadly green. Finally Robin broke the silence.
"If he's doing ANYTHING against my father or Locksley, I'll—"
"You'll what?" Guy interrupted Robin's threat. Robin looked down at him but he knew, and I knew, and Much knew. What could Robin do? He looked to only be a boy of twelve.
Robin failed to come up with an answer. Luckily, Master Gisborne decided to rejoin his son at exactly that moment along with the man I recognized as Lord Locksley.
"Locksley, always a pleasure," Master Gisborne said as he mounted his horse. The way he said it suggested otherwise. Lord Locksley simply nodded in return as Gisborne and his men rode off.
The two Locksleys stared after them for only a moment. Then, Lord Locksley turned to the three of us.
"Well, Robin, you have failed to introduce me to your new friend," he smiled down at me. I couldn't help but smile back. Robin was the spitting image of his father: crooked smile; light brown hair; lean, muscular build. However, where Lord Locksley's eyes were blue, Robin's were green. Those must have come from his mother.
"Father, this is Marian. Marian, this is my father," Robin shyly introduced, almost like he was embarrassed.
"It is a pleasure, my Lord," I replied with a small curtsey.
"The pleasure is mine, my dear," he replied, gently kissing my hand. I felt my cheeks redden.
"Are you staying for dinner?" he asked.
"No," Robin replied before I could, "Actually, I was just about to walk her home."
I gave Robin a confused look. I had only just arrived, hadn't I? It didn't matter. I had no time to ask as he dragged me away.
"Come back anytime!" Master Locksley called. I waved in gratitude. Much stayed behind with him discussing something as I was helplessly hauled home.
Once we got into Sherwood, Robin loosened his grip on me. Now, instead of being dragged, I fell into step beside him. It was awkwardly quiet as we walked. I wanted to say something, but what? What went on back there? Robin clearly didn't like Guy. Lord Locksley didn't seem too fond of Master Gisborne either. Luckily, I didn't have to take the silence much longer.
"I'm sorry about that," Robin mumbled. His eyes remained downcast as we walked through the forest, leaves crinkling under our boots.
"About what?" I asked, hoping to lighten the mood a bit. It wasn't his fault that we were interrupted.
Robin smiled but he still refused to look at me.
"They have been bothering us for a while now. I think something bad is about to happen, maybe not now, but soon. Their visits have become more frequent," he explained. I nodded, encouraging him to go on.
"I'm scared Marian," he finally stopped and faced me. His face was somber, but his eyes were filled with unease. Once again, I didn't know how to respond.
Not knowing what to say, I stepped up and wrapped my arms around his stomach. I was so short next to him; my head barely came up to his shoulders. To my surprise, he didn't pull away. What surprised me even more was that he hugged me back. He wrapped his arms around me and held tightly.
I realized then I'd only known this boy for a week. It was only my second time meeting him. This boy was telling me about his fears, and now I was hugging him to make it better. One week, and he already seemed to trust me. Or perhaps it was me who trusted him.
Finally he pulled away. He was smiling that same crooked, goofy smile that his father had shared before.
"Thank you, Marian," he said as we continued walking.
"You know if you tell anyone about this, I'll deny it," he muttered. I rolled my eyes as we trudged on.
That's how our first summer went. We never had that archery contest; I think Robin was afraid I would win. Robin and Much continued to visit me after the summer was over, but we never returned to Locksley.
Robin and I continued to pick and tease each other. However, as we grew, no one could deny the feelings between the two of us. I loved Robin. I could tell him anything; he was my best friend.
One night, when I was thirteen, Robin and Much stayed at my house for dinner. My parents had become quite fond of the pair.
We were sitting outside around a campfire my father made. Robin went back into my house to help my mother with the dishes. He was annoyingly charming in that way. Much and I were left alone around the campfire.
"He fancies you, you know?" Much suddenly blurted out. I was a bit taken aback. I had lately been thinking of Robin in that way, but I never thought he felt the same way.
As I stared at Much, his eyes betrayed a flicker of guilt, but that was soon replaced by shining mischief. I giggled.
"He talks about you all the time. And even when he's not talking, he has this dreamy look on his face, and I know he's thinking about you," he whispered so as not to be overheard.
"I may be a servant, but even I'm smart enough to see that you two really care about one another."
We turned to stare into the kitchen window where Robin and my mother were talking. As we watched, Robin caught my eye, and then quickly looked away. I could feel a blush beginning to spread in my cheeks.
I looked at Much and the two of us erupted into laughter. I loved Much, too. He was such a sweet guy and cared so much for me. I couldn't help myself. I planted a quick kiss on his cheek.
His eyes grew wide and his mouth went slack. Then, just as redness was creeping into his cheeks, he smiled a boyish smile. I chuckled, and so did he.
Much was right about Robin "fancying" me. Later that year, he took me on a walk through Sherwood. While I thought we were strolling aimlessly, Robin had other plans.
Before I knew it, we were at this beautiful little waterfall that poured into a pond. He led me behind the fall while making some silly comment about my first time seeing the back of water. We both laughed.
He then grabbed my hand gently while using the other to brush away a strand of hair that had fallen into my face. I looked up into his beautiful green eyes as his face inched closer to mine. I closed my eyes, and we kissed.
I could've stayed there forever, just kissing him. Butterflies fluttered frantically in my stomach. My whole body buzzed. But eventually, I pulled away. As I did, my head began to reel, longing to kiss him again, but I had to leave him with something.
I smirked at him as I watched him recover from our first kiss. His eyes were slightly droopy; a dazed look covered his face. I pulled him out from behind the waterfall, and he walked me home.
That night I slept well dreaming of my sweetheart.
My thirteenth year was a great one. It was filled with adventure and romance. Life was perfect, and that was where the problem began.
Robin came to visit me one day. He greeted my parents, but lacked his usual energy. When he came up to me, he simply took my hand and led me into Sherwood. I allowed myself to be taken. I trusted Robin with my whole being.
He led me to a clearing filled with clovers, wild flowers, and several large boulders. He sat on one of them, but never let go of my hand. He wouldn't look at me. That was when I knew something was wrong.
"Robin, what is it?" I asked, trying to get him to look at me. I waited. Finally, he raised his eyes to meet mine, and I could've broken down into sobs right there. His eyes were so filled with sadness that it hurt me deep in my heart. But I stayed strong; my eyes never left his, even as he bore his weakness to me.
"My mother's dead," he said simply. I gasped. He broke down into sobs. I grabbed for him, holding him close. He held me even tighter than he did when he told me about Gisborne as he wept into my shoulder.
I pulled him down to the ground. We sat there for a long time. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I held my sweetheart.
Finally, his sobs subsided.
"Marian," he said, "I need to get away."
The words hit me like ice water. He couldn't go away, not now, not like this. He must have seen my shock because he explained.
"Not far, my love, thank you for…being you. I think I'm going to take the long way home…alone," he explained. I wanted to protest. I wanted to protest the fact that I didn't actually do anything. I wanted to protest him being alone. However, deep down, I understood. I would probably want to be alone as well. I had done my part, now he needed to be alone with his thoughts. So I simply nodded. He did walk me home, and I kissed him goodbye.
"I'm here for you Robin," I said, "I'll always be here for you." I wanted, no, I needed him to know that. He smiled that smile, the one he saved only for me.
"I know, love, and I will always be here for you," he kissed me on the forehead. Then, he walked away. I stared after him only for a moment before going inside.
I waited for Robin to come the next day and the next. I assumed he was still grieving, which was understandable. But that was what bothered me the most, I assumed. I didn't know what was going on or how Robin was doing. So after a week of not seeing or hearing from him, I decided to venture back to Locksley.
I left early, taking the same route Robin and I had taken that first time. I had a good memory; I didn't forget things easily. Before I knew it, I was back in Locksley.
I made my way to Locksley Castle. The large oak door was still as imposing as it was before. The servants' entrance would be much more suitable for a now fourteen-year-old girl. I walked around the castle until I found it. I never thought the first person I would run into would be Much.
"Marian!" he exclaimed, "What are you doing here?"
"I came to see Robin, I've been worried about him," I explained.
Much looked uncomfortable. I realized that he was much taller than I. I almost had to strain my neck to look at his face. He was mumbling softly to himself.
"Yes, I suppose you would be worried about him then," he mumbled. Finally, he spoke directly to me.
"Alright, follow me."
I did as I was told. Much led me through the castle and up a flight of stairs. He knocked on a door that I could only assume led to Robin's room.
"Master?" he called to him. Master? The other servants must have gotten to Much. Since when did he refer to Robin as 'Master?'
"What is it, Much?" Robin asked as he opened the door. It had only been a week, but he look different somehow, more grown up. There were the beginnings of a beard on his face. His hair was a bit longer. His eyes were piercing. Had I not known him better, he would have frightened me.
"Marian is here to see you," Much gestured to me behind him. Robin's eyes instantly softened as Much moved out the way to reveal me.
"I shall leave you two then," Much left us with a smile, but it wasn't a sweet smile. It seemed sad.
"Um, come in," Robin invited me into his room. I had never been in another boy's room. It felt rebellious, dangerous.
Robin's room was simple. There were green curtains coupled with a green quilt. He seemed to like the natural color. I sat on the foot of his bed while he remained standing.
The two of us were silent for a bit.
"So, since when does Much call you Master?" I asked just to break the uncomfortable silence. Robin rolled his eyes and sighed.
"I keep telling him to stop; the servants scold him, though. It's awkward. He's my best friend, yet he is my servant. If it were up to me, he would be free," Robin smiled.
I nodded. Silence still enveloped the room. I started my conversation, now it was his turn.
"I'm sorry I haven't been to visit you," he apologized, as if reading my mind.
"It's alright," I said, "I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I'm sorry if I have caught you unaware."
"No, no, I'm glad you're here," he immediately said, "I've been meaning to talk to you about something."
I sat and waited to hear what he had to say. He walked over to look out of his window. The suspense was killing me. Between Much's sad smile and Robin's odd behavior, I was beginning to worry.
"Marian," he began. He had my attention, but it was almost as if he did not know how to go on. I walked over to him, grabbed his hand, and gave it an encouraging squeeze. He smiled down at me, but his eyes held traces of sadness.
"Marian," he held my hand tightly, "There's something I need to tell you."
"What is it?" I would die of suspense if he didn't tell me what was wrong soon.
"I'm joining the Crusades."
His words hit me like a slap in the face. My stomach dropped. No, not the Crusades, he couldn't go. The Holy War had begun when I was twelve. King Richard, my distant blood cousin, had left to lead the Crusades. Young men flocked to this war, ready to die for king and country and most succeeded in this. Robin couldn't go, he just couldn't!
Feeling like I had been punched in the stomach. I released Robin's hand and backed away.
"Marian, please." I could tell that hurt him, and I was glad. How could he do this to me?
"Why?" I asked softly.
"Why? Why what, Marian?"
"Why are you leaving me?" I nearly screamed at him.
"Marian, please, I," he tried to explain.
"Just tell me, Robin! Just give me a straight answer! Why are you leaving me?!" Now I was screaming at him.
"Because I can't breathe here, Marian! Because I still haven't recovered from the death of my mother, because I HAVE to get out of here!" he shot back. His words pierced my heart like an arrow.
I could feel the tears forming in my eyes, threatening to pour out at any moment. I obviously couldn't make him happy. I couldn't make him better, and that hurt.
"Marian, I'm sorry, I," his voice softened, but I didn't care. Why should I anymore?
"I didn't mean it."
"Yes you did," I said coldly, my voice contained, but only barely.
"Fine, Robin, go. I don't care. But do not count on me being here when you get back," I asserted and immediately ran out of his room, the castle, and his life.
He couldn't breathe? No, I couldn't breathe. The love of my life was leaving me to go fight in a far off place in some distant war of which everyone probably forgotten the purpose. I loved him; he was leaving me, and I couldn't make things better.
Robin called after me, but I kept running. I ran and didn't stop until the shouts of he and Much, who joined in, faded. I ran until my heart felt as if it would burst out of my chest. I ran until sobs racked my body so hard that I could barely stand.
I clung to a tree for support. I slid down to the ground and buried my face in my hands. I pulled my knees up to my chest and just cried. I cried and cried, hoping my last words that I'd left Robin with hurt him. I hoped they hurt him as much as they hurt me to say. I was angry! Then I realized that, if he didn't come back, our last words to one another would be words of anger. That made me to cry even harder. The world already seemed darker without him.
I noticed the sun crossing the sky as I sat there and wept. I knew time was passing, but I could never find the strength to drag myself home. Finally, as dusk painted the sky pink and orange, I decided I would have to dig deep within myself to find strength. My family would be worried about me.
I started walking; I suppose it was more of a trudge. I wasn't exactly aware of how or where I was, but I ended up home just before the last rays of sunlight disappeared below the horizon. My mother was outside working. When she saw me, she immediately dropped the pail she was carrying and ran over.
I didn't have to say a word. She simply pulled me into a hug; all the tears I'd dried returned ten-fold. I felt as I would never stop crying, and she never let go.
By the next morning, my sobs had lessened enough for me to tell her why I was so upset. We cried together, because we both knew what joining the Crusades meant.
That night, there was a knock at my window. I got up and opened it. Fresh tears filled my eyes. It was Robin. He gazed at me with sad eyes. As angry as I was, and however much I may have meant what I had said, I was glad to see him. We both stood, avoiding eye contact, the bars on my window the only thing separating us.
Finally, Robin reached out and took my left hand. I didn't fight him. He slipped something onto my ring finger. I inhaled my breath.
"This ring binds me to the promise I am about to make to you," he explained. I gazed into his emerald green eyes, eyes that were filled with so much deep passion, pain, and…what was the other emotion I saw in them?
"I promise that I will come home to you. I promise that I will always be here for you. And I promise that I will always love you, no matter what happens. I love you," he whispered as he placed his other hand on my cheek, pulled me to the window, and kissed me. Then, giving me a small smile, he disappeared into the darkness. That was the other emotion: love. It was strong love I had seen in his eyes, strong love, for me. And just then I realized it was the first time he ever said he loved me.
I stared down at the ring. It was beautiful. It was a golden wreath of leaves with very tiny jewels set in the center of each. It was simple; it was perfect. No one would notice it except for me. Tears slipped down my cheeks as gazed at the ring, but it wasn't because of the beauty, it was because of the promise that came with it. I trusted Robin; he would come home. He had to.
For the next few weeks, my mother kept me busy, distracted. My father, on the other hand, kept me practicing, which was the most painful. I didn't want to do anything that reminded me of Robin of Locksley. I didn't want to think of what could be happening to him. My mother took the approach to make me forget him while my father forced me to embrace his memory. Finally, I snapped.
I had missed the bulls-eye once again.
"Again," he ordered.
I couldn't go any longer. I couldn't bear it anymore. I threw my bow to the ground.
"No! I can't do this anymore!" I yelled at him.
"It's too hard!" I buried my face in my hands and fell to the ground. I was exhausted, tired of being strong and putting on a happy face. I was sick of pretending like I didn't care. My father appeared beside me and handed me my bow. I took it.
As much as it frustrated me, his method would help me the most. I knew that, and he knew that. So, I picked myself up and kept practicing; and that's how I became strong.
Piece by piece, I was slowly putting myself back together. Smiles and laughs even escaped me every now and then. But the fear Robin had expressed to me so many years ago slowly became true.
The Gisbornes had been up to something. Slowly, ever so slowly, the Sheriff of Nottingham became more and more powerful, and who but Master Gisborne became his right hand man. Where everyone was once equal, there was now a distinct line between the rich and the poor. Taxes were piled on, leveling towns and leaving people in despair.
When I was sixteen, my life changed forever.
Knighton was attacked. Soldiers burned homes to ash, killed innocent people and held others hostage, only because my father refused to add more taxes. He stood up to the Sheriff, and the Sheriff did not take kindly to rebellion.
The soldiers took my home. Brave villagers and household servants tried to fight them off, but there were far too many. After soldiers took our home, Master Gisborne sauntered in. I had to fight back a stream of curses that threatened to escape me.
He smirked at me as he walked in. Gisborne strode over and brushed his hand against my cheek. I was powerless against his advances as a soldier held me fast.
"So, you are the young Locksley's lovely lady. Guy has told me about you. I am glad we finally get to meet face to face. I've heard stories," he whispered in my ear. I tried my best to get as far away from his face as I could, sickened at how much he seemed to enjoy my struggle.
Thankfully he moved along. I stole a glance at my parents who did not look happy at the exchange that Gisborne and I had shared.
He walked over to my father.
"Now that we have your attention, my dear Edward, I would like to make something very clear," he hissed. My father bravely held his gaze.
"No one, not even a noble, disobeys the Sheriff," Gisborne continued. My father held his head high.
"Very well, do what you will to me, but I will not condemn these people," my father was brave, and I was so much like him. Neither of us knew when to hold our tongues.
"Fear not, no harm will come to you," Gisborne assured, sauntering around the room like he owned it. He passed me first, but stopped when he came in front of my mother.
"Eleanor," he smiled maliciously. My mother said nothing, holding her head high.
He pulled a dagger out of his jacket and circled my mother. My stomach dropped, but her eyes betrayed no fear. I knew I had to do something quickly, so I decided now was a good time to at least attempt escape.
I noticed the soldier's grip on me had loosened. Big mistake. I drove my elbow into his stomach. As he keeled over in pain, I whirled around and punched him in the jaw. I couldn't help but feel a sharp pang in my chest. Robin had taught me that move.
The soldier fell as I tried to shake the pain out of my hand. My parents' eyes were as round as plates; their mouths nearly hit the floor as they gaped at me. In any other situation, I would have laughed. But this was neither the time nor the place.
The servants captured with us further took advantage of the surprise my escape caused and managed to subdue their captors.
Those of us who managed freedom turned on Gisborne. He had the dagger at my mother's throat. Her breathing was short, but her eyes showed nothing but courage. That was when I knew. It didn't matter how hard we would fight or how intimidating we might be. My mother was going to die.
"Very impressive," Gisborne seethed, "Now, as I was saying, Edward, no one disobeys the Sheriff and gets away with it so…" and with that he sliced his knife across my mother's throat. Everything happened in slow motion.
Master Gisborne released my mother and she fell limply to the ground. I ran to her side. I think I screamed, but if I did, no one heard. There was too much noise now.
As I knelt beside her, she smiled at me. Then, she closed her eyes, and passed on to the next world. I cried over her.
All at once, time caught up with me. The noise and fighting and mass of bodies hit me all at once. My father had broken free of his captors and joined our servants in fighting Gisborne and his men. In any other situation, I would have marveled at how they fought as equals. In the end, we were all humans just trying to make it through life for as long as we could with our values in check. I glanced out the window and saw more men coming. Looking down at my mother, I planted a kiss on her forehead, and jumped up. I couldn't do anything more for her here.
"Roger!" I called to our head guard. He glanced at me; I pointed out the window. He followed my hand and saw what I meant.
"We have to go!" I called to him. He nodded, going to grab my father, but he refused.
"Get everyone out. I will follow," he insisted as he continued to fight. Roger began barking orders, yelling at people to get out and head to the forest. I went to run out, but notice the shock on the face of our younger staff. They were frozen in fear. I whirled around and began dragging people to the door and shoving them out. Surprisingly, my mother's lady's maid led the charge into Sherwood. I was astonished at how ordinary people became truly extraordinary leaders when the situation called for it. By the time I was out of the house, all but the guards were already entering Sherwood. I ran after them, but someone caught me around the waist and covered my mouth. I struggled against him, but I was tired. The night was starting to catch up with me. From beating down the soldier to watching my mother die, I was exhausted. I gave up and allowed myself to be dragged back into what was left of my home.
The fighting had somewhat subsided. Blood covered the walls and bodies were strewn across our living room floor. I recognized one of them as Roger and felt myself get sick. I averted my gaze to my father, who was surrounded with his hands in the air. All was seemingly calm.
"Now, Edward, what are we going to do about this offense?" Gisborne mockingly inquired. His hair stuck out at odd angles and there was a nasty scar spanning from his ear to his chin while a bruise was beginning to form above his right eye. I smiled to myself. Our staff was well trained and did good work.
"We're going to have to take Marian, for, insurance against further infractions," he sighed. All traces of the smile I had been entertaining earlier disappeared. Excuse me? He had to be joking! I had to have heard him wrong.
"No, please!" my father protested, "Kill me! Please!"
"Well, that would just be too easy!" now Gisborne was enjoying this. It made me sick. With a heavy heart, I realized what I had to do. I had to do it for my village, for my father, and for me.
"You ask me to watch another parent die?" I exclaimed. Much like my father, I didn't know when to hold my tongue.
Every pair of eyes turned to face me.
"No," I continued, "I will not, not when I can help it."
"Please, Marian, don't," my father begged. I had to turn away from him or I would have changed my mind. Instead, I faced my mother's murderer.
"I will go with you," I conceded.
"You will?" Gisborne was obviously expecting a fight of some sort. Too bad, he wasn't going to get one from me. Not like this. Not tonight.
"As long as you promise that the people of Knighton and my family will be safe," I finished. Master Gisborne pondered this. Eventually, he looked back at me.
"Alright," he said, "As long as you remain in Nottingham Castle, your village and family will remain safe."
I nodded. Gisborne grabbed me. He pulled me outside, but not before he could make one last parting comment.
"Nice doing business with you, Edward."
I couldn't look at my father until I was on Gisborne's horse. I saw him through the window, kneeling on the floor, his head in his hands.
It hurt so much to see him like that. However, the last thing, the last image that passed through my mind before leaving Knighton was not my father, not my mother or my terrorized village, but my sweetheart, Robin of Locksley. I don't know why, but I just asked the sky, and wherever my sweetheart was one question. Robin, where are you? As the promise he had made to me years ago ran through my mind. "I promise that I will come home to you. I promise that I will always be here for you. And I promise that I will always love you, no matter what happens. I love you."
Which is how I ended up where I am now, in Nottingham Castle, almost three years later.