Here's the final chapter. This has been so much fun to write! Thank you for all the support and encouraging reviews and for being open to this sequel. It means a lot.
Chapter 12 "The New Sheriff"
The king turns to me, meeting my eyes full of determination. "Lady Gisborne," he announces, "You are henceforth the new sheriff of Nottingham. I need someone I completely trust in that position and you have earned it. I can think of no greater person for the job; Robin Hood told me you aided the people long before he ever returned from the holy land. He trusts you with his life and commends you for taking charge when Prince John arrived here unexpectedly. Besides, your father, Sir Edward was a dear friend of mine. You share his same patriotism, selflessness, and love for England and you saved my life. I will be forever in your debt."
I am rendered speechless as the king hands me the seal of the sheriff that once belonged to Guy. What is to become of him now? I can't accept the position if they're going to kill him, neither do I wish to live in the castle.
"Your Majesty, I…" I fall to my knees before him, slowly covering the insignia ring in my hand. I don't feel ready to wear it yet. And to think that this once belonged to Vaisey! I can't help feeling partially repulsed at the sight of it. This insignia also means I am head of the black knights! Fate has smiled upon me. I had never expected to receive such an honor. "This is an incredible responsibility. I don't know how I can…"
"I understand, you are a mother," the king reassures me, his hand on my shoulder, beckoning for me to rise. "I am giving Nottingham to Robin. He will care for the people as I know he always has. You will have the final say in your authority over every decision made here. And if ever there is a serious problem, you are always welcome to visit me at court."
King Richard is far more generous than I ever thought. "Your Majesty, my husband…what is to become of him?"
King Richard nods to his guards, who leave for the dungeons. "Once he is brought here before us, I will announce his sentence."
I heave a moment's sigh of relief. The agony of waiting will all be over soon. Suddenly I feel someone's hand on my shoulder−it's Robin. Never have I seen him look so proud. "We've done it Marian, we've secured Nottingham. I already know you will make a great sheriff, Lady Gisborne. We can work together like we've always wanted for England."
"That's wonderful, Robin," I say, "but it all depends on what's to become of Guy."
"I've done the best I can for him, Marian," he tries to assure me. "I knew when Vaisey died Prince John would accept Gisborne as sheriff. Now that the king's back, I realized he wouldn't be able to keep that position forever. I feared your husband would be reluctant to give that power up. Now it seems he has no choice."
"Robin," I persist, unable to conceal my worry, "What's Guy going to think when he hears his own wife has replaced him? He's not going to be happy about that."
Robin sighs, fully aware of my husband's faults. "I know he is proud, Marian. It will hurt his vanity, but Guy should know by now you are too stubborn to let him to make all the decisions. If the king pardons him, he'll just have to get used to it."
It's not long before the guards escort Guy into the great hall, his hands shackled. For a brief moment, he glances my way, his eyes full of desperation. Suddenly the guards force him to kneel before the king.
"Sir Guy of Gisborne," says King Richard, "You have been found guilty of treason against the throne and murder of innocent citizens. If it hadn't been for the defense testimonies from Robin of Locksley, Lady Gisborne, and Allan of Dale, I would have had you executed. But I still must pass judgment for your crimes. You hereby have been stripped of your position as sheriff of Nottingham and will be publically whipped as an example. I will not tolerate any more threats to my reign. Your wife, Lady Gisborne saved my life and I am indebted to her. In repayment I will spare yours, but if you ever plot against me again, you will pay the ultimate price."
There is shame upon Guy's face that he can't hide from me. I've seen his pride wounded before when he saved me from being killed as the night watchman. For that, he had endured humiliation from the sheriff. Now, I realize every fiber of my being had been directed in saving his life; it's all made me weak from exhaustion. Suddenly I feel Allan's strong hand on my arm supporting me. He has always been there.
As all the courtiers and people of Nottingham gather outside the castle square, I watch Guy being led to the platform, his tunic removed. Allan's hand steadies me; how can I endure watching my own husband whipped? I must be strong, but the helpless tears start to cloud my vision.
"It will all be over soon, Marian," Allan murmurs. "I was right; I knew you'd make a good sheriff."
I bite my lip until it bleeds, hearing the snap of the whip hitting Guy's back. I can't watch this, now that I see Guy struggling against the pain. Instead for comfort I gaze at Allan. "Will you be our son's godfather? We've named him Roger."
Allan couldn't look more surprised. "Oh," he smiles for a moment, "well, sure, of course. I'd be happy to."
Suddenly I hear again the snap of the whip, my hand tightening on Allan's arm. He tries to murmur soothing words to me, but I can't be helped. There's nothing he can do. Please God, just let it be over! Robin, along with Archer moves quickly to my side, his hand resting on my shoulder.
"You've been strong for so long, Marian," he whispers to me. "You can let go soon."
I breathe a sigh of relief when it's all over. After, Guy is dragged by the guards back into the castle and the king announces me to the people as the new sheriff. Once he is done, I waste no more time being away from Guy. Racing down the castle corridor, Archer leads me into a bedroom where they've taken him to recover. When I enter I see Djaq tending his wounds and Little John cradling Roger. He is so good to him.
"May I?" I ask Djaq, implying my desire for privacy with my husband. She nods, handing me a cool cloth to tend to Guy. With my consent, Djaq offers to take care of Roger for me for a little while. I am indebted to her; she will make a wonderful godmother for him. As the door closes behind me, silence falls on the bedroom. There is Guy sitting on the side of the bed facing away from me, his head hung in shame and his back covered in blood. It will only become part of the many battle scars on his body. If only I could make them all go away.
Quietly I make my way over to him, my hand resting on his shoulder. How can I find the words? There's nothing I can say that can take away his humiliation. Instead I set about cleaning his wounds. I feel his body cringe at the pain, but relax under my touch all the same. Thank goodness they've unshackled him. There are red marks around his wrists from how tight they were. My fingers tentatively trace his wrist until suddenly he takes my hand, stroking it in his own. As Guy lifts my hand to his lips, he lets out a shuddering breath that's breaks my heart. There is so much pain inside from his dignity being stripped from him.
His eyes meet mine, full of shame. It's too overwhelming to take; instead I try to look away, but his fingers rest on my chin, making me face him. "Do you really want this?" he implores me. His words startle me. "Do you want a husband who's lost his dignity and position?"
He speaks to me as if I were a stranger, a woman who only sought his title and couldn't care less about him. I steady my feelings realizing a part of his vulnerability has been unveiled. A part of him still thinks I would leave him. All his walls are down.
"No," I murmur, cradling his face in my hands, "no. Guy, I would have died with you if the king had you executed."
"Marian, no, you have a son."
"We have a son!" I remind him, "And Roger will have a father to be proud of, a man who's chosen redemption, a man who's chosen to fight for England. That is the man I married."
Guy hangs his head for a moment, taking in my words. He needed to hear them; he needed to know I loved him. Slowly he leans toward me, our noses almost touching. When his lips meet mine, I sense all the hurt and need in his kiss, until it changes into a familiar comfort. As I deepen the kiss, his hands encircle my waist, pulling me onto his lap. To think that the king I had stood for had almost severed our bond. All my old worries leave me, feeling Guy's hand caress the nape of my neck. How I had missed this time together just being his wife. There is so much I still have to tell him.
"Lie down," I murmur. Despite the pain in his back that will take time to heal, I help Guy lie down on the bed. I gently lean over him, my body straddling his. His hands move to my waist, supporting me.
"There's something I need to tell you…" I say, unsure where to begin. How is he going to feel when I tell him I'm sheriff now? As if he hadn't endured enough public shame. Guy is quiet, patiently waiting for me to go on. Unable to meet his eyes, I finally break it to him. "King Richard has chosen me to be sheriff instead…I…I'm so sorry."
For a moment Guy is silent, shocked at this news. Suddenly he rolls me over on the bed, this time his body on top of mine. I won't deny it; there's a part of his male pride that has yet to get used to me being in a more powerful position than him. "What? You…you've just had a son! Your place is at home. The people…"
"The people need me, Guy…they need us." I insist, my hands gripping his shoulders. "I know you think I'm just a woman who has no authority, but may I remind you I'm now head of the black knights!" Guy is startled at this, being a black knight himself. I wonder how that must feel. He takes a moment to collect himself, my hands loosening their grasp on his shoulders. "Robin is in control of the people of Nottingham," I try to reassure him. "I'm just in charge of making the final decisions. Guy, I don't want to live in the castle, or always have to oversee public executions. All Robin will ever need from me is my insignia and my permission−that's all. Can we not go home? That's all I want now."
Guy lifts me up until my body is sitting up against his. His hands stroke my face as if soothing all my past fears. "We will, as soon as possible."
I let out a sigh of relief, feeling all the distress I had been carrying for so long leave me. Guy's lips softly brush against my cheek, pulling me into the refuge of his embrace.
I let out a weary sigh holding Roger in my arms by the hearth that evening. It's good to finally be home. While King Richard has started financing the rebuilding of Locksley, I've invited Robin, Kate, and Allan to stay in our home. Guy doesn't seem to mind too much, especially if Allan is staying with us. He's been slowly adjusting to my being sheriff instead. I don't often go to Nottingham anymore since I need to care for Roger. Instead I usually send Guy in my place carrying my insignia. Guy still has his title at least and he is still a black knight. In terms of hierarchy, Guy works for me, but it's important for me that we work together. Otherwise there would be too many battles for control between us. We're married after all. The people of Nottingham still respect Guy because they know for sure whose side he's on.
Suddenly I hear Robin coming down from upstairs where I've given him and Kate the spare bedroom. Allan sleeps on a cozy mattress by the fire in the evenings. He doesn't seem to mind too much. He still works for Guy, which I think is a comfort more than anything to my husband. It's good for him to know someone else has got his back. Archer has chosen to live in the castle where he is there to assist Robin and in the rebuilding of Locksley. We appreciate his presence whenever he pays a visit to our home.
Robin smiles at the sight of me with my baby son. "Someday I will teach Roger archery and show him all of Sherwood. He's so lucky to have such a strong mother like you and quite the uncle as well." He pauses for a moment, his eyes meeting mine full of love. It pleases him more than anything to see me happy. "You did the right thing, you know, naming him after his grandfather. Guy's father was a hero and as a child I couldn't see that. You've always seen the good in those who are outcasts. That's what I've always admired in you, Marian."
"Thank you, Robin," I smile. "I'm so grateful England is a better place for my son, for all of us."
Suddenly I see Guy coming down the stairs. Robin leaves us to be alone. As Guy makes his way over to me, I smile at him. He has many scabs now on his back, but they had begun to heal. In time they would only be memories. "I've asked Djaq and Allan to be Roger's godparents if you don't mind."
"Not at all," says Guy. "Allan's always been there for you when I couldn't be; I suppose he deserves that."
I smile at his words; Guy cares more about Allan than he lets on. Gently I hand him Roger and Guy paces with him in front of the hearth.
"I should tell you," I say to Guy, "we've been married for at least a year now. I think I've had my fair share of excitement and worry from all that time."
"Well I think you've outdone yourself, Lady Gisborne," Guy murmurs, sending me one of his rare smiles. "Perhaps since you're enjoying settling down you'll be wanting more children…five, let's say?"
"Five?" I laugh, "You forget Sir Guy I am still the sheriff of Nottingham. Don't you think I would be overloading myself with more than I can handle?"
Guy kisses Roger's forehead, handing him back to me. "Marian, I've learned by now never to doubt your decisions." Guy leans in tenderly kissing me. "Come to bed soon."
I will, but I am in no rush, savoring the new life I hold in my arms, a new promise for England.