When Sarah ran into Guy’s office with wild hair and a pale face he felt his blood freeze in his veins. Her hand flailed as she paused in the threshold heaving mightily, but no words came out. He rose to his feet and crossed to her while she tried to catch her breath and fought the urge to shake her.
“Speak girl, what is it?” he snapped.
“It’s…” she drew in a short breath, “it’s my lady.”
“What of her? What has happened to Marian?” he took her arms now.
“What?!” In that horrifying moment Guy wondered if the Sheriff had not been appeased. If he had acted on his threat and done something terrible to Marian. Had he been too late? It had been weeks since that night, and all had been more or less quiet but Vaszey hadn’t gotten where he was by being simple. Had Guy miscalculated? Had he been misled by a show of normality while the sheriff plotted?
“We were in the market place and she just went white and fell away.”
“Where is she now? Not still in the market,”
She shook her head, still panting and Guy nearly lost his patience “Two of the guards carried her back to the castle.”
“Where is she now?”
“She’s in your chambers, I ran to find you.”
“You did well.” He said releasing her to sprint for his room. All kinds of ideas sprung to mind, poison being the foremost. If it were lethal then she’d have been dead by now. God if she were dead… He forced himself not to think on it and focused instead on getting there as soon as possible. When he burst into the room, the healer was in the process of checking her. Marian looked over at him with bleary eyes out of a face that was too pale for comfort. “What’s wrong with her?”
The middle aged woman spared him a measured glance. “Calm yourself down we don’t need you making a ruckus.”
“I’m fine, it was a dizzy spell.” Marian protested in a weak voice.
“You fainted dead away and you know it.”
Guy strode forward and then stopped in his tracks at the second look sent his way. “Is…is she alright?” he fought the instinct to hide his hands like a guilty child.
“If you’re gonna ask me annoying questions then you can wait outside.”
He felt his temper spark. “Excuse me?”
“Or you can park yourself in a chair over there and keep your mouth bloody well shut.”
“Or I can have you dragged into the dungeons and beaten for your impertinence.”
She stood up straight and turned to face him, “Aye you could. And then you can bring in one of those idiot men who call themselves physicians and they can bleed her within an inch of her life as they couldn’t find their arse holes with both hands and a map.”
For some reason Guy had to fight not to laugh, despite his annoyance.
“She’d have something wrong with her then for sure.”
“I want to get up.” Marian started to move, but the healer stopped her before she got far.
“You want to stay right where you are lamb.”
“But I’m perfectly well.”
“Are you a healer now as well as a hard headed cow?”
Again Guy fought back a laugh at the shocked look on Marian’s face.
“I swear the two of you are a match in hell. Both thick as the day is long.”
He rolled his eyes and sat in the chair by the window. “Just make it quick.”
“It’ll take as long as it needs to.” She replied.
The next ten minutes were spent in near silence. Guy watched as the healer checked Marian’s heart and pulse rate. Finally she leaned back and sighed. “What is it?”
“Well there’s good news and bad news.” She stood and walked over to the bag that was on the table. “The good news is that the lady is well.”
“And the bad?”
“There’ll be another Gisbourne idiot running around within nine months.”
“What?” Marian looked horrified.
“Lady Gisbourne is pregnant?” Jesu, a child…
She paused in rifling through her bag and gave him a considering look. “Maybe you’re not a dead loss after all.”
“How is that possible?” Marian pushed herself up to lean against the headboard.
“Bloody hell, you’ve been married for over a month now and you haven’t figured that out?”
Marian blushed, as the healer pulled out a selection of pouches.
“I’d give this to you,” she glanced at Marian, “ but you seem a bit slow, not to mention delusional so I’ll entrust it to you mi’lord.” She walked over to Guy and proffered them.
Guy took them frowned. “What are they?”
“This red one is lavender and violets for her headaches, this blue one is chamomile and fennel for the mornings. She’ll be sicker than a dog. Soak them in water add honey if she wishes, but be sure to serve that hot. Make sure she eats when she can, and gets rest. This last big one is lavender and rosemary, for her baths. She’ll be sore and exhausted. I’ll be checking on her every two weeks you make sure everything is going well. Keep those idiot men away from her mind! Or they’ll have her dead within two months.”
“Understood,” He glanced over at Marian, who had turned herself around to place her feet on the ground.
“My name is Matilda. Not that you bothered to ask.”
“It’s to be expected.”
“I thank you for coming,” he opened a drawer and emptied coins out of a leather pouch. “For your time,” he said placing them in her hand.
She shrugged and then gave them a considering look, as if seeing something that they hadn’t admitted to. “Congratulations to you both.”
Marian didn’t respond, or look at either of them. Guy took a deep breath and nodded at Matilda. “Thank you.”
Matilda stared at Marian for another long moment and then left.
“You must be pleased with yourself.” Marian said.
“I imagine we will both be pleased. God willing I will have an heir, and you will never have to endure my touch again.”
“And you think you deserve an heir?”
His blood went cold at that. “Get some rest,” his voice seemed weak to his ears, but he forced himself to leave.
He saw Matilda in the hallway as he left and called out to her as a thought occurred to him. The woman stopped and turned to face him with annoyance etched onto her face. “What now boy?”
“How far along was the Lady Gisbourne?”
“I’d say about a month, she must have been throwing up her guts for the past few weeks I’m surprised you didn’t notice.”
A bloody month…“I’ve been… occupied.”
“Too occupied to notice her puking into a bowl every morning?”
“I haven’t been around I meant, I leave-” he stopped himself and shook his head “I don’t need to justify myself to you.”
“If you’re too thick to notice something as plain as the sizable nose on your face then you’d better get staff who are more observant than you. It’s shouldn’t have taken this long for you to call me.”
That set his stomach into another series of knots. Had they known? Had Sarah and Marian known and said nothing?
“Lord you hadn’t thought of that either had you? You are a thick one.” Her tone was almost sympathetic. She turned and walked away whistling and Guy took deep breaths to force back the wave of temper creeping in on him. He wanted to scream. He wanted to rip something apart with his bare hands and howl. His temper had never been good, even as a small child. His mother had helped him to rein it in but after her death he had no one to calm him. He’d learned to control it, after a particularly terrifying experience that he still didn’t fully remember, but this… This sorely tested the control he’d struggled for so long to build. The next time he faced either Sarah or Elise or Marian he needed to be sure that he wouldn’t do anything he’d regret.
That night, before he went to banquet in the great hall, he stopped in for a fresh shirt and to check on Marian. She was sitting at her vanity in a gown of shimmering, pale blue, silk. The bodice was made of velvet embroidered with silver. She would have been stunning if her skin wasn’t so very pale and her eyes weren’t full of tears. Sarah was putting the finishing touches on her hair which was being curled and swept over one shoulder. She raised her eyes in the mirror to meet his and he met her gaze evenly.
“I would have made apologies for you Marian. You shouldn’t have to contend with the Sheriff in your condition.”
“I am not some weak limbed, simpering maiden Guy.”
“No you are not.” He agreed, crossing to his chest to pull out a fresh shirt. “The midwife said that you were near a month along.” He heard something clatter to the ground and looked up to see Sarah scurrying to pick up a brush with numb fingers. He looked at Marian and saw that her face was like stone. “She found it strange that I hadn’t noticed how ill you had been over the past week.” He kept his tone nonchalant, but it was not without difficulty. Another object hit the stone floor and he heard Sarah make a faint apology. Let the chit worry, she was lucky he didn’t wring her scrawny little neck. He took his clean shirt and a black silk tunic and threw it onto the bed before starting on the buckles of his jacket.
“It’s alright Sarah, you can leave. I won’t need you for another few hours, you may take your dinner.”
He threw his jacket onto the bed with a bit more violence than was necessary.
“Thank you mi’lady.” She curtsied to both of them and fled the room.
“You should have told me Marian.” He said pulling the knitted undershirt over his head.
“Told you what?” Marian asked, rising to her feet pressing a hand to her stomach.
“That you’d been ill. You should have told me, it could have been serious.”
“Because I knew that I wasn’t.”
“You-” he paused, feeling the temper rising up again and then took a deep breath, while fisting his hand in the clean shirt. Eventually he let it out and pulled the shirt over his head before slipping on the tunic and fastening the golden hooks. “You were wrong to do what you did.”
She stared at him with dead eyes out of a stone face but made no reply, even as the tears in her eyes spilled down her cheeks.
“Would it be so terrible Marian?” he walked over to her and still received no reaction. “Can we not begin again and move past all that has passed between us?”
“Like the fact that you forced yourself upon me and ruined all my hopes for the future?”
He groaned inwardly at the thought of another argument with her but it was heartening to see life in her face at least.
“Believe it or not this is not what I planned for us.”
“I know what you planned.”
“No you don’t,”
“I know that you were content to begin our marriage with a lie.”
“I didn’t know that it was a lie when I said it.”
“You made no move to inform me of the fact before you manhandled me in God’s house.”
He nearly laughed, but knew better. “You were about to strike me yourself, if you recall.”
“You deserved it!” she cried, stomping her foot.
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. At times it was painfully obvious how young she was. “I suppose I’m to take from that that you didn’t?”
“Everything I have done has been to protect you and your father,” She scoffed and he fought back a surge of temper, “and no matter how you rail against me, and how much I regret the necessity of it I will never apologize for having done it.”
The silence in the room as he held her eyes was broken by a knock the door .
“Come.” He called and Alan stuck his head through the door. “What is it Alan?”
“I’m not being funny, but you were due in the hall fifteen minutes ago. I had to leave me dinner to come fetch you and it probably won’t be there when I get back.”
Marian drew in a sharp breath and stepped around him, whipping the train of her skirt out of his way. She pushed Alan out of her way and strode down the hall. Guy rolled his eyes and followed her out the door, passing Alan on the way.
“Did you have another domestic?”
Guy glared at him and Alan’s mouth curled against a smile.
“My father always said-”
“I couldn’t give a tinkers damn what your peasant father had to say a-Dale. And if you value the skin on your back you won’t try to tell me.”
“And don’t call me that.”
Guy paused and fixed him with another look that threatened murder and Alan held up his hands in compliance with a deceptively innocent expression.
“Just making sure.”
“Why don’t you make sure that you stay out of my sight for the rest the night?” Guy asked in terrifyingly pleasant tone.
Alan nodded and scampered away, whistling as he went. Guy drew a deep breath and then let it out before moving to catch up with Marian.
She was already seated by the time he reached the banquet hall and Vaszey glared at him as he entered.
“ Forgive me my lord, it couldn’t be avoided.”
“I was commenting on how sickly your leper looked. I don’t suppose that she did us all a favor by actually contracting the damned disease did she?”
“No my lord.” Guy replied evenly as he took his seat beside her.
“Pity. A little birdy told me that she had a little spill in the market place.”
Shit “Clever animal.” Guy replied keeping his eyes down and his voice mild with great effort. “Did it tell you anything else?”
There was a great silence following that response, in which Guy weighed the pros and cons of providing that bit of information. He didn’t like Vaszey knowing that truth, but to try to keep it from him… If it was a test and Vaszey already knew then it would reveal that Guy was not completely loyal, but if he didn’t know then it would put Marian and himself and Sir Edward in a dangerous position. He looked up at Vaszey and saw the gleam in his eyes. “Lady Gisbourne is with child.”
“Well done Gisbourne, get them breeding early I say.” Lord Charleston called out. Guy gave him a fake smile even as he fantasized about putting the simpering little twat’s head through a wall.
“Yours?” Vaszey asked pleasantly.
“Yes.” He couldn’t quite help the warning his voice, and Vaszey heard it.
He fixed an oily smile on his face and turned his attention to Marian who was looking paler by the second. “I’m sure she’s thrilled with the prospect.”
“I didn’t ask her.” Guy replied.
“Better take to care Lady Gisbourne. All kinds of ails can befall a woman with child.”
Marian stared at him with wide eyes her hand settling over her stomach and then fixed her eyes on her empty plate.
They stayed there for the rest of the meal.
By the time Guy returned with Marian she was barely standing on her own. She allowed him to help her but only as little as possible, and when they reached their chambers she jerked away from him to stagger through the door. Sarah stood from tending the fire and hurried over to her.
“I’m fine, I’m merely tired.” Marian said as she was lowered into a chair. Sarah started on the laces at the back of her dress, as Marian slumped over onto the table.
“I’ll tell the Sheriff that you need to be at Locksley.”
“You cannot be here. He wants to upset you and put our child in danger.”
“I can handle him.”
“No you cannot. Sarah, tomorrow when you wake you will start packing her things.”
“Yes mi’lord.” She replied as her fingers flew through the fine laces of Marian’s gown opening it to the waist.
“Alan will accompany you.”
“Alan!” Marian stood and twisted her head around to look at him, while Sarah undid the fastenings at her wrists and helped her remove the dress. “Alan is an idiot!”
“Perhaps, but he’s a trustworthy idiot.”
“What nonsense.” She muttered before seating herself again, clad now in only her thin under chemise, and rubbing her brow tiredly.
He wanted nothing more than to go to her, rub her tired shoulders and take her into his arms. He watched her small, strong hands rub the back of her neck and then averted his gaze, lest he do something foolish. Like beg to touch her. “Alan goes.” He looked at Sarah who was watching him strangely. “And so will you girl; you and Elise. If anything should happen, any news or any change at all you write to me here.”
“Yes mi’lord.” She said, still clutching Marian’s gown in her hands. His eyes fell to it.
“Give that to me, help Lady Marian to bed and then retire.”
“Thank you mi’lord.” She gave him the gown and then turned back to Marian. “Come on mi’lady, let’s get you off to bed.” He watched her take hold of Marian’s arm and lead her away and then walked over to her chest in the corner of the room. Before he put the dress away he brought it to his nose and inhaled the scent of warm, milky roses that always lingered around her. The ever present ache in his heart sharpened for one nearly unbearable moment and then faded as he laid the dress on top the carved chest. He heard the door close and knew that Sarah was gone. It had been such a short period of time but he’d grown used to having her there. He’d grown used to seeing her gowns and slippers, her brushes and half closed pots on the vanity. As long as they were forced into each other’s company there was a chance for them. Just the night before the fight had been different. It seemed that she was running out of accusations to throw at him. If she had been there longer he could have shown her more of what was possible between them. Show her now very much he truly cared for her. But now that the sheriff knew that she was with child he would play havoc with her as much as possible. This was his one chance, Guy knew that well. This could very well be his only chance for a child or a family. Whatever it cost him, there was no risk worth taking if it could lose him that.
When Marian awoke the sun was shining and Guy was gone. It had been that way since the day they were married. Besides the morning after their wedding night she had never seen him asleep. The second thing to occur to her was that she was very close to throwing up. She stumbled out of bed and ran for the basin on the floor, before emptying the contents of her stomach into it. There wasn’t much in it and before long she was simply dry heaving and her hands curled into fists. She felt so very weak and a cold sweat had settled over her skin. That combined with the icy, stone floor had her shivering before long despite the warmth of the fire. The thought of nine months of mornings like this was enough to bring tears to her eyes.
The door opened and she heard soft footsteps enter.
“Oh mi’lady, you’ll catch your death down there!”
“I feel ill.”
“Yes, Sir Guy said you’d be poorly so he had me brew a tisane from the bag the midwife left.” Sarah helped her into a chair and brought a cup of cool water for her. “Here rinse your mouth out,”
“I know what to do.” Marian grumbled. She rinsed her mouth and spit the sickness back into the cup before reaching for the steaming cup that Sarah had placed on the table next to a platter of bread and cheese.
“Does your head ache mi’lady?”
“No.” she sipped the mixture tentatively and then sighed closing her eyes. It wasn’t nearly as bad as other medicinal concoctions she’d had.
“Sir Guy said that you should try to eat something, even if it’s a bit of bread.”
“Sir Guy can go hang.” She heard a small snort and opened her eyes to see Sarah hiding a smile. “Perhaps that is unkind of me.”
“He’s a brute of a man to be sure mi’lady but he was ever so concerned for you.”
“He should be. This is his doing.” Marian smirked, thinking of the midwife Matilda and the way she’d spoken to him. She’d never seen anything like that small woman glaring her tall, terrifying husband into submission.
“I have most of your things packed already mi’lady.”
“Are we leaving already then?”
“Sir Guy said to wait for him to get permission. I’m to help you get dressed in the meanwhile.”
“Nothing too fitting I hope.”
“No mi’lady. It’s the brown, woolen bliaunt you got with the flowers on the sleeves.”
“That laces in the front?”
“Yes mi’lady.” Sarah walked to the chair by the fire and presented Marian with the chemise and bliaunt
Marian stood and slipped on the white linen chemise with long fitted sleeves and tied the draw string at the collar, before allowing Sarah to drop the heavy bliaunt over her head. The material was warm and thick, offering immediate relief from the chilly morning, and the cheerfully colored flowers stitched onto the flowing elbow length sleeves brightened her spirits a bit. She sat at her vanity with her cooling tisane and sipped it while Sarah brushed the tangles out of her hair and tied the top of it back with a piece of ribbon.
There was a sharp knock on the door before Guy entered. From the mirror she could see the rapidly forming bruise on his cheek and barely noticed her fingers tighten on her cup. “Run into a right hand again?” she asked evenly.
He stared at her and then sighed shaking his head. “The Sheriff has given you permission to return to Locksley. The carriage has been called for.” His eyes shifted to Sarah. “Is everything prepared?”
He nodded and then looked at the food on the table. “You’ve not eaten?”
“I wasn’t hungry.” Marian replied.
“You must eat." His voice was just short of authoritative. She wondered if he had slept at all the previous night. "Alan is waiting by the carriage.”
“Oh God, not him,”
“We’ve already discussed this Marian, I need someone I can trust to-”
“Keep an eye on me?”
He let out another sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers, as if to fight off a headache. “I was going to say look out for any trouble.”
“Are you alright mi’lord?” Sarah asked hesitantly.
“I’m fine, girl.”
Marian let out a fitful sigh and pushed herself to her feet, turning to face him. “I will not subject myself to Alan’s company. I’m drinking that witches brew that Matilda left, be content with that.”
“The mid wife, Guy. The impudent one.”
He gave his head a quick shake and then let out a sigh. “Of course. Chamomile and fennel is hardly a witch brew, my mother always used it.”
She stared at him, not bothering to point out that it was a sad attempt at a joke. He wasn’t paying attention to her. His mind seemed to be everywhere at once. She glanced at Sarah and saw that even she appeared to be concerned by this version of Guy. Suddenly he snapped himself out of a trance for the second time since he’d entered and refocused on her.
“Alan may be ridiculous but he is loyal to me. And he worries about you nearly as much as I do. If the Sheriff makes moves against you he’ll catch it. If he pays a servant to spy on you, which he isn’t above doing by the way, Alan will know. Like it or not he goes.”
Marian rolled her eyes and looked out the window, taking a sip of her tisane.
"I’ll send men for the trunks. Take the food with you; you may get hungry on the road.” He turned and left shutting the door firmly behind him.
“Fine,” She replied softly, too tired to argue with him