His cousin thought him a filthy beggar- the ragged shadow of a man waiting for scraps to fall from the table of betters. Perhaps this was true; there was never a time that he could believe it more than now.
Grateful for a moonless night, Gisbourne nervously paced the ramparts of Nottingham Castle. He tensed hands into tight fists, then flexed them with fingers splayed, forcing the limits of leather gauntlets over and over, mindless he did so. Anxiously, he paused to gaze over the stony breaks, breath rising in vapor, as he studied the landscape that stretched to black oblivion.
All was still at this hour, as bleak, cold and comfortless as a tomb. Yet come the morning, the whole world would change. This deathly peace would give way to countless men, and horses, and all manner of noise, dust and smoke. Hundreds of people would choke the roads and fields as far as the eye could see.
In the morning, Prince John and a swarm of nobles would arrive, and in his troubled thoughts Sir Guy dared to believe that 'she' would be among their number.
It had been a year- or nearly. Would she even remember him?
The Sheriff of Nottingham, his notable cousin,- had ridden out over a day before with a suitably large party of soldiers to provide the Prince with further escort. It gave Gisbourne some small comfort, knowing George was not there to see him play the part of moonstruck boy. No matter how well disguised, it would have failed to escape Nottingham's critical gaze, and in turn would have garnered his full and merciless attention. The Sheriff's keen eye and cruel barbs would have only made the pain of anticipation worse. Family or not, George would pounce on any sign of weakness and delight in verbally shredding Sir Guy to bits.
Gisbourne shook this thought from his mind with a low growl, and turned on his heels, cloak billowing like an ominous cloud before a storm. He retraced his steps along the south wall yet again, as if pacing kept evil thoughts at bay. If he did not keep moving, he felt would go mad.
Tomorrow, tomorrow… finally tomorrow.
There had been months of regretting words unspoken, and opportunities missed. A year of remembering, rethinking, reliving- were these last 4 seasons really longer and lonelier than any other of a bleak life? To think, all his misgivings, frustration and fears could be resolved within the brief span of hours! Yet tomorrow now seemed all too soon. He had come to realize things about himself he had never suspected. A whole year and still it wasn't time enough. He wasn't ready, and wondered now if ever he would be.
Guy ceased his pacing abruptly once more, and looked out into the night. A sudden wind chilled him, and he pulled his cloak tight around his slender frame. He raised eyes to the clouds scattering over head, glimpsing fields of star-flecked ebony in their wake. Was there an answer there, somewhere, in the endless deep of night? Were these the same stars that had looked down on them both, the night she took her leave? They seemed colder, more distant tonight. Did she ever look at them and remember? He shivered involuntarily to imagine she might be looking at them even now- sharing the view with him once more, their sight brushing somewhere in the void.
Now a disagreeable thought filled his mind, as if there were room for another. What if she was not with the entourage, and indeed, never coming? Instead of relieving his worry, it caused him greater dread. If she had forgotten him—no- he would not allow such an idea now- not on the eve of reunion.
He became bitter, believing himself a fool for such thoughts. He had no right to expect anything of the Lady. She well may be married by this time, or worse have no memory of, or in the very least, no fond feelings for him. What was he, after all? A mere knight, with no property or title-The Sheriff of Nottingham's cousin, a Captain of the guard, and a poor one, according to George. He had nothing to recommend him but that empty rank. There was no fortune or future except what Nottingham allowed, and in fact he lived daily between that knowledge and death.
He chided himself with silent argument. Why would any woman have cause to remember him, except in loathing or fear? At least, that was as it had always been. Gisbourne never pretended courtly success with the fair sex, as his had always been but a predatory interest. There could never be more than this and he had come to accept it long ago, almost eagerly indulging it. He even believed it did not matter. Fair face and sweet words were not necessary to force a few moments pleasure in a dark corner, after all.
Guy pressed leather palms against the hard, stone edge of wall, stiffening his arms and hanging his head between them. Certainly, he was not himself. He even had a clean change of clothes and had bathed. He knew tonight there would be no relief found in sleep. Come the morning, the wait would be over, for good or evil. His troubles, imagined and otherwise, would dissolve like spring snow before it could touch the ground.
But would this relief come with her, or without her?