Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
The Long Road Home by Ecri
Part 14: Loose Ends
A cold, steady rain spoiled the morning and turned the campsite into a muddy mess. Even the usually sheltering canopy of the trees offered little protection. The water slipped down tree trunks, poured off leaves and threw itself down between the naked branches of trees already losing their foliage.
The main cooking fire, always burning in the center of the camp, had been extinguished. Wood was too wet to burn properly, and no one really wanted to tend it in the midst of the deluge.
The smell of burning, wet wood intermingled with the aromas of a dozen different meals cooking in a dozen different homes. The mechanics of keeping the smoke and flame of a fire from burning down the outlaw's home came courtesy of Friar Tuck, who'd built such fireplaces for all of Sherwood's homes. He'd claimed to have come by the talent in a moment of divine inspiration, and, while the fires still needed more than the usual amount of minding, there had been no instances of a blaze having done any permanent damage.
Robin was enjoying the forced inactivity more than he should. He hadn't realized how much he'd been doing since his return from the Crusades, but, looking back, it seemed to him that this was the first day he could legitimately claim to have nothing to do.
Not so for Will. He enjoyed the constant activity of the outlaw camp. There was always someone who needed something done, or some child needing minding—which, for Will, tended to become an excuse to give the children rides upon his back or allow them to catch him while running through the camp.
No, inactivity, Robin had learned, was something Will Scarlett avoided like the plague.
Here, stuck in their home, he continued to peer up at the roof as though imploring the rain to stop. He'd fletched all of Robin's arrows, sharpened knives and swords, and tried his hand at fixing breakfast, a meal which had impressed Robin more than he'd imagined. Robin had noted, however, that the lion's share of the food had been placed before him.
He'd begun to take more notice of his brother's habits, and, he had to admit, what he saw troubled him. Will Scarlet was the sort of man who relied on misdirection. As a thief, that was understandable. Will had told him he'd once been a pickpocket. Being small for his age, he'd been able to take advantage of his size and slip in and out of crowds almost unnoticed. Rich men, Will had told him, seemed to relish carrying their money were it was easily accessible to small hands.
Misdirection must have become a part of his life, his very nature, and when he didn't want Robin to notice something, it was unlikely that Robin would notice…unless he paid close attention.
Robin hadn't accepted the large portion at breakfast. He'd taken Will's plate without saying a word and split the food much more evenly. Will had stared at him for a moment or two, and then laughed and eaten his revised portion. Robin had counted that as a victory. The next victory Robin hoped to accept was going to be more difficult, or at least more time consuming…and of course, it was down to Azeem's influence that it would be happening at all.
He watched Will in his attempts to fill the hours of forced confinement with lighting and thunder occasionally underscoring the improbability of getting outside today. When he thought it had gone on long enough, he cleared his throat.
"Will, you're jumpier than I've ever seen you." He gestured to the chair opposite him at the table. "Come, sit down. We should talk."
Immediately, Will's face became a mask. His eyes flicked momentarily to the door, and he tensed as though ready to run. Robin waited it out, and his brother visibly forced himself to calm down and take the proffered seat.
"I think there are things we need to discuss, Will, and I'm sure you must feel the same." Robin began.
Will nodded noncommittally.
"You must have questions about your father, about my childhood. I have some about your mother and your upbringing as well." He cleared his throat again. This was harder than he'd imagined it would be. "What it comes down to, Will, is that we have each missed the other's lifetime. That's a lot of ground to cover. If there's anything you need to know, you can ask me…and not just now, today. Anytime in the future if something comes up you can always come and ask me."
Will seemed a little uncomfortable, but he nodded again.
"Do you have anything you want to know?" Robin asked.
Will was about to refuse the offer, but something made him pause. "You asked me once, 'what are your intentions?' and I suppose that's what I want to know. You say you're my brother like it means something, but I don't know what it means beyond the obvious." He ran a hand through his hair. "We both know that acknowledging me in public may cause you problems. If you want to keep this between us…"
"Will…" Robin interrupted. "My intentions, since you ask, are to be sure you understand what having you for a brother means to me. Not what having a brother means, but what having you for a brother means to me. There is a connection. I have felt it. Haven't you?"
Will nodded. "I wasn't sure until the cage, but yes…I have."
Robin was confused. "What about the cage made it clear?"
Will looked down at his hands, but then he slid them under the table as though banishing them from his sight. He looked Robin in the eye. "I had a lot to think about up there and nothing to distract me from my thoughts. I realized finding you was a near miracle. That you believed me when I told you who I was, well, that was another. I've kept it a secret for so long, I barely knew what to do with the information once I'd shared it. I don't want a rich boy for a brother. I don't want someone to be family only because they can help me find a house or stay warm and fed…though I do admit to liking such things…I've done without long enough that they don't mean so much. When I was in that cage, I was seeing things." He laughed bitterly. "I thought I was losing my mind. I saw our…our father." His face flushed in embarrassment at having admitted that. "I realized only a few days ago why I saw him. I wanted you to come and save me. It was all I could think when I left Sherwood with the men who came for me. I kept thinking, 'Robin will find me. Robin will find me. Please let Robin find me.' I was scared. I lost track of time. I didn't know how long I was up there. In my mind, it felt like forever. I thought…" he looked down and fell silent.
"You thought…" Robin prompted.
"That you wouldn't come. That I'd caused you too much trouble so you'd decided not to come after me."
"Will, I wouldn't…"
"I know that…in my head, I do know that, but I was cold and scared and hungry. I wasn't thinking clearly." He looked Robin in the eye. "I think I saw our father because I had given up in my head…but not in my heart." He looked away again. "That doesn't really make sense, though, does it?"
Robin stood and walked around the table. He knelt at Will's feet. "It makes perfect sense. I want you to listen to me now with your head and your heart. We're not going to be best friends overnight. We have a lot to learn…about each other and about having a brother. We're going to stumble sometimes. We're going to do things that upset each other or that don't make sense to each other, but I promise you I will never give up. I will never just walk away from you. No matter what happens or what we learn about each other or what we do or say…I will always come for you."
Again, as was his wont, Will searched Robin's eyes looking for…what? Truth? Sincerity? Brotherly affection? Whatever he sought, this time, Robin knew by the smile and the armful of Will Scarlett he suddenly held, that he had indeed found it.
To Robin's utter joy, they spent the day sharing everything. The details of their years apart, though surely not every detail, were no longer mysteries. They learned each other's opinions on topics ranging from the duties of the Crown and the point of the Crusades to friendship and family.
It was on the last topic that Robin wondered if Will had learned wisdom from Azeem or if his brother were simply the naturally more intelligent sibling.
"You love her, don't you?" Will asked.
"Lady Marian? Of course." Robin replied, nonplussed.
"Why then, brother, is it taking you so long to…come to an arrangement?"
"Will, what can I offer…"
Will shook his head. "Do you think John didn't think that same thing when he married Fanny? Do you think any of your people who are married didn't wonder if they should simply because they couldn't provide for the women they loved as they wished they could? Robin…if you love her, and she loves you…well, what more do you need?"
Robin opened his mouth to speak, but closed it when he realized he had no answer to that question. "Well," he laughed, "when you put it that way I think I should run off and propose to her right now."
A loud clap of thunder and bright bolt of lightning punctuated the remark.
"Or perhaps when the weather clears," Robin laughed again.
Will joined him. "If you're trying to delay it, I suppose you can wait for a more opportune moment."
"Will, it's pouring out there!"
Will shrugged. "What better way to convince her of your sincerity than to arrive at her door in weather that would generally keep you away."
Robin stared at Will for a moment, but as had happened a moment ago, he could think of no real reason not to do as his brother suggested.
"Very well," Robin said, "I'll go now." He walked to a small box he kept on his makeshift bedside table and was out the door before Will could say another word.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Lady Marian kept her door and window firmly shut since to open either invited the deluge into her home. She'd briefly spied others peeping out of doors and windows and giving the day up as a bad time to get out of bed. She could only hope that the rain would end soon. Days on end stuck in a tree, however well appointed, would soon grow tedious.
As she sat sewing by candlelight, she was startled by a knock upon her door. She jumped up, nearly upsetting both table and candle and dropping her needlework to the floor in her surprise. "Who…who is it?"
She heard a familiar laugh, and opened the door to see Robin, smiling and quite soaked to the skin. "What are you doing?"
"I couldn't bear the thought of a day without you in it, My Lady," he said.
"Are you mad? It's pouring with rain out there!"
"Will suggested a visit in such conditions would go a long way to convincing you of my sincerity." Robin shivered as he spoke.
"Come, sit here by my fire." She moved a chair to sit close by the carefully tended, carefully placed fire.
He sat only after she did. Taking her hand in hers, he smiled almost nervously.
"Why should Will think I needed to be convinced of your sincerity?" Marian asked.
Robin smiled. "He and Azeem seem to think I have taken too long about this business and that you would have cause to doubt me." He shrugged. "I thought they had a point."
"Business? What business?"
"The business of romance."
"Is romance a business?" She asked with a blush
"It is when you have an offer to make." He reached into a pocket and pulled out a small velvet sack. "I came by this some time ago. I wish I could say it belonged to my mother or some such thing, but the truth is my mother's things were lost when Locksley Castle was destroyed."
Carefully, he opened the sack and held a small, exquisite ring in his hand. She gasped at its beauty.
"What I'm trying to say…to ask…Marian, will you be my wife?"
Marian nodded and hugged him. The hug became a kiss, and Robin only pulled back to slip the ring on her finger.
"It's beautiful, Robin! Where on earth did you get it?"
"I found this, quite literally, in the Holy Land. As Azeem and I were leaving, we were lurking on the docks trying to find passage to England. There was a small hill where I went to pray for Peter and for Azeem and myself…that our journey would be an uneventful one. Once I'd said my prayers, I looked down and there it was. I can't explain it except to say that riches get lost in every country. I saved it in case we needed it to pay for passage. In the end, it wasn't necessary." He looked at it. "It looks like it belongs there. Perhaps Azeem was right."
"Why? What did Azeem say?"
"He told me Allah had provided the ring for a reason and one day I would know what that reason was." He shrugged again. "Perhaps it was God giving me a way to come home to the family I so desperately wanted."
She smiled and kissed him once more.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
The days leading up to the ceremony were joyful ones. Everyone in Sherwood was excited to help with the preparations. Friar Tuck would perform the ceremony. The ladies present had begun to prepare foods and bake breads and sweet treats with their precious supply of honey. The children began to fashion decorations from whatever the forest would provide.
Azeem, Will, John and the other men insisted on getting Robin drunk the night before the ceremony, and, though he wasn't sure it was a good idea, he recognized the need for a celebration. If that celebration could be made to last several days, it could only be seen as a good thing.
The day of the wedding ceremony was a glorious one. Crisp, clear, though cold, there was no sign of rain, and indeed the sky was a lovely shade of blue with only small, white wisps of clouds.
"Are you ready, Robin?" Will asked.
"More than I can say," Robin admitted.
Will smiled, and Robin was glad of it. He'd been smiling more and looking away less since their talk during the rainstorm, and he was pleased to see it. "I've seen her," Will confessed. "She's beautiful."
"She's always beautiful," Robin said.
"You know what I mean!" Will shoved him gently, and fell into step beside him as they walked to the clearing.
Robin took his place and when he saw Marian, his breath caught in his throat.
The ceremony was solemn, but the anticipation for the moment by all present made it seem more so.
Friar Tuck was about to finish the ceremony when a voice stopped him.
"Hold. I speak."
Everyone turned to see King Richard dismount his horse, and they all fell to their knees, save Azeem, who did not know the intruder, and Marian who knew him well. "I will not allow this wedding to proceed."
"My Lord…" Robin said getting to his feet.
"Unless…I am allowed to give the bride away." Richard smiled at Marian. "You look radiant, Cousin."
"Oh, Richard," Marian said leaning up to kiss him.
"We are deeply honored, Your Majesty," Robin told the King.
"It is I who am honored, Lord Locksley," Richard said, taking Robin's hand. "Thanks to you, I still have a throne." The King addressed Friar Tuck. "Friar, proceed."
Tuck pronounced them married and the couple kissed. A great cheer echoed through Sherwood, and the celebration began. Music, food, and laughter were abundant, and the Sherwood outlaws adjusted quickly to having King Richard present.
Before long, Marian asked the King if he had received her letters. He removed them from a pouch at his belt. "I am supposing there is more to the story since you sent these."
Marian glanced at Robin and nodded.
The King caught the exchange. "Please Marian, tell me everything. I will be fair to your friends. You know that."
Marian nodded. "I do not doubt you, I just hope you can be as fair as you wish when you hear what's happened." She told him then as briefly as she was able what had happened since Nottingham's death.
King Richard nodded gravely as she related the details. "I have been to London. I stopped there on my way here to check that I still had a court to return to. Your letters implied I might not. I have seen to the plots and to Prince John."
"Then you must have seen the charges against Robin and his men," Marian said nervously.
"I have seen the charges. I just wanted to hear your version of them, Cousin." He smiled and the warmth of it surprised Robin and Marian both.
Richard looked around at the celebration. "This Will Scarlett…where is he?"
Robin felt the need to interject. "He's here, My Lord. He is my brother, and I will take responsibility for his actions."
Richard seemed amused by that. "Where is he?" The King said it a little loudly and Robin had no choice but to find his brother.
"I'll get him." Robin rose and glanced around the clearing looking for Will. He was easy enough to spot. While everyone else danced and laughed and passed the food and drink around, Will stood nearby leaning against a tree, his eyes focused on Robin, Marian and King Richard. Azeem stood close to Will speaking to him, but Will's gaze did not shift from his brother. Robin saw fear in his eyes.
Robin walked over to Will. "The King would speak to you, Will."
Will's eyes widened, and he shook his head. "I couldn't!"
"Will, he's practically kin. You are related to the King by marriage. Your brother has married the King's cousin." He put an arm around Will's shoulders. "Come, he's asked for you."
"I wouldn't know how to speak to a King," Will insisted, but let Robin lead him toward Richard and Marian anyway.
Once there, Will fell immediately to his knees, his eyes staring at the ground. Robin knew this was hard for him. Talking to any noble was hard for Will Scarlett, but this was the King. Robin could only hope this would turn out well.
"Will Scarlett?" the King asked unnecessarily.
"Yes, Your Majesty," Will admitted.
"My cousin has told me what has transpired. Do you have anything to add?"
Will shook his head, still looking down. "No, My Lord."
"Nothing in your own defense?"
That got Will to look up. His eyes wide, he snapped his head up and looked the King in the eye. "Defense? No, my Lord, the Lady Marian was there and knows well what happened."
"She was not there when Essex hung you in a cage above a ruined castle. We have only your word for that. What proof can you give?"
Robin stepped forward, but the King's man put a restraining arm on one shoulder as Marian did on the other.
"Proof? I have none, My Lord. Only that my brother and his friend, Azeem, found me so."
"Ah," said Richard, "But they did not see who caged you."
Will nodded. "You're right. They didn't. I will not argue the point. I have no proof, only my word, and while I was not raised a nobleman, I can promise you, My Lord, that my word is a good deal better than was the word of the Duke of Essex."
Robin saw a familiar flash in Will's eyes, and while he was glad of it's return, he could not help but hope the King would be understanding of the circumstances.
To Robin's surprise, the King laughed. It was a deep and hearty laugh, and when he'd finished, he put a hand on Will's shoulder and helped him to rise. "Well said, young man. I always thought he was a bit pompous myself."
"Cousin?" Marian put her questions in the one word.
"I am going to grant pardons to all of the Sherwood outlaws. I dismiss all charges." He smiled at their surprised faces. "It's not based only on your word, Marian. As much as I would consider that enough, few others would. That's politics, not a slight on your good name. No, what you don't realize is that one of the Duke's men was actually on my payroll. I placed a man loyal to me within the ranks of several Lords, Dukes, and Earls whose loyalty to me was, shall we say, questionable."
Marian stared at him for a moment. "You sly old thing!"
King Richard laughed again, and it was a sound that brought smiles to everyone else's faces as well. "Prince John isn't the only one after my throne, and while I was away I thought the temptation would be too great for some. I've had him enter his account into the record back in London."
He looked to Will who still knelt before the King looking as though he felt completely out of place. "He told me some of what the Duke's men put you through. He wasn't there when you were taken from Sherwood, nor when the Duke left you in that horrid cage, but he heard about it from others in the Duke's employ." He held out a hand to Will Scarlett and helped him to rise. "I hope you will not hold it against him that he could not get you out of danger. By the time he had learned the truth and ridden out to find you," he gestured to Robin, "this one must have freed you already. He saw only an empty cage."
Will tentatively took the King's hand. "I…wouldn't hold it against any man." He finally said. "I wouldn't expect that sort of help anyway."
The King looked at Robin. "Your father was a great friend of mine, and he was a man I trusted completely. I will restore his lands to you, Lord Locksley, and I will apportion time, money, and men to help in rebuilding your ancestral home." His arm remained around Will's shoulders, though Will seemed unsure if that were a good thing.
"My Lord, you are too generous." Robin said in surprise.
"I am, but then you've just married my favorite cousin." Richard laughed. "She deserves it as much as you do."
"What of Will?" Robin asked.
Richard raised an eyebrow. "Will Scarlett is granted the pardons, of course, for the thievery and the murders, and if you are so inclined as to recognize him publicly as your father's son, you have the blessings of the Crown." He clapped his hands together. "Now, we have much to celebrate, do we not?"
Robin smiled. "I cannot begin to thank you, Your Majesty."
"Nor can I, Cousin," Marian added.
"Nor me, My Lord," Will added, and Robin could see how uncomfortable he was.
Richard clapped him on the back so hard he almost fell over. Robin caught him and helped him to steady himself. "Now," said the King, glancing at Marian, "I claim a dance with the loveliest bride I have yet to lay eyes upon."
He laughed and took Marian's hand, leading her to the area that had become designated for dancing. Will stood by Robin and the brothers stared at the sight of Robin's bride dancing with the King.
"You're a lucky man, Robin of Locksley," Will whispered.
"That I am, Will Scarlett of Locksley," Robin admitted, happy to try the name on his brother. "I returned home from the crusades and found a wife in the little girl whose hair I'd burned as a child, and a brother in a boy I'd never met. I am the luckiest man in the world."
"I wouldn't say that, brother," Will said glancing at Robin with a twinkle in his eye.
Will shook his head. "No, I am the luckiest man in the world."
Robin laughed and embraced his brother as he remembered Azeem's words. The Moor had told him he was taking a long road home. He knew the man was right. He'd taken a roundabout way to find himself here. He had put off proposing to Marian, as he had put off speaking to Will. Why he'd done that he couldn't say, but now that he'd found himself a home, he would do whatever he needed to do to keep it.
Author's Note: I want to thank everyone who has read this story, especially those of you who reviewed it and encouraged me. It meant a lot to me because I've been away from writing fan fiction for years and coming back to it was a little intimidating. Thank you for making me feel more welcome than I could have imagined!
I love the relationship between Will and Robin, though truthfully, it's always seemed to exist more in my imagination than in the film. I'm sure most of you will agree that the hatred and intolerance and annoyance the two felt towards each other seemed to disappear a bit too quickly and there were nowhere near enough brotherly scenes after the revelation was made. This story was my attempt to fix that oversight, and the idea for the sequel stemmed from the fact that I liked playing in this universe and didn't want to leave. I've got it plotted and will begin writing ASAP.
As the song goes, I ain't too proud to beg. Please review. Thanks again.