Prince Johns army was already inside the Bailey.
Gisbornes rag-tag troops, hastily armed with ancient swords,
woodsmens axes and kitchen knives, crowded the Keeps
outer chambers, awaiting their fate. Gisborne himself stood in
the doorway of the Great Hall, an all-too-feeble last defence
for the women and children of Nottingham.
How different things might have been!
But he did not regret deciding to die by her side, not when he
felt her hand upon his sword arm.
Maybe she had, after all, redeemed him.
Only one thing was missing. Marry me now, he said,
and make it the last thing we do. Lets steal that
from them at least.
Her eyesthose huge, innocent eyeslingered on his
face, searching, he felt, his very soul, and he almost shrank
from her scrutiny. But then she smiled, and said, Yes.
(A great cheer went up in the ForebuildingPrince Johns
army had breached the doorsand Gisborne heard the sound
of furious hand-to-hand fighting).
They must be quick.
He sheathed his sword. You, he growled at the axeman
on his left, you will be our witness.
He pulled off a glove and slipped the signet ring from his fingerI
would have given you something more fitting, Marian; but no matter,and
his heart leapt when she laid her hand in his. With this
ring, he said, his voice gruff with emotion, I take
you, Lady Marian, to be my lawful wife. Do you take me to be your
For a split-second she seemed to hesitate. Then, I do,
Witness, did you hear our vows?
Good. Then, carefully, becausefor some reasonhis
hand was unsteady, Gisborne slid the ring over her slender finger
and raised her hand to his lips. Forever, he
(But Prince Johns troops had already forced their way into
the next chamber; forever would not be long).
The defenders surged forward. Gisborne drew his sword. Keep
behind me, he said to Marian, stay close. I will protect
you for as long as I can. When I fall, find someone else. If you
survive the fight, go to Locksley. You are my heir. Show the ring
to Thornton. Hes a good man; hell take care of you.
She grasped his arm again. Give me
a sword. Let me fight at your side.
This isnt a game, Marian. Gisborne shrugged
off her hand. Get behind me.
I can fight.
He started to lose patience. Marian
Gisbornes blood ran cold. Scanning the melee, eyes wide,
he saw the Sheriffs stocky figure.
By the time he had abandoned the search for Robin Hood, and placated
the Sheriff, and confessed to his marriage, and placated the Sheriff
again, and ordered Allan a Dale to recall the Guards, and sent
others to gather up the arms and return them to the armoury, it
was almost midnight.
Gisborne found his wife in her chamber, sitting on the bed, staring
into empty space.
She started, looking up at him in surpriseand he knew that,
wherever her thoughts might have wandered, they had not been seeking
him. You did not expect to live, he said, bitterly.
Her answer was barely audible. No.
Am I so repulsive to you?
When she did not answer, his self-loathing almost choked him,
and he tried to laugh it away, but the laughter died in his throat.
He knew he might force hershe belonged to him nowbut,
in truth, he was too greedy.
He wanted her love.
I shall leave you then. He turned to go.
Gisborne froze, one hand on the door latch, listening so hard
the silence seemed to sizzle. Was she about to ask him to stay?
Or was that just more wishful thinking on his part?
Heart hammering, he turned back.
And there she was, standing right beside him.
She raised her hands and, ensorcelled, he watched her unbuckle
his jerkin and slide it off his shoulders; watched her grasp the
hem of his undershirt and push it up his body; watched her lean
forward, and press her lips to his bare chest
Her lips were cold.
Gisborne gasped; Marian pulled back.
Her expression made his heart falter.
She wanted him.
She might not love himnot in the way he longed to
be lovednot yetbut she wanted him. And love would
comehe knew itonce he had shown her the depth of his
own feelings, once they were truly man and wife.
Confident now, Gisborne lifted her into his arms, and carried
her to their marriage bed.
All his previous encounters, with prostitutes and serving wenches,
had been quick and dirty.
Marian he undressed slowly, acutely aware that his hands were
big and battle-hardened, but savouring the intimacy of unbuckling
her bodice and unlacing her skirt. Her skin was smooth, and flawless,
like a ripe peach, save for one long, ragged scar in her side.
What happened here? he asked.
An accident, she said. I rode into a low branch.
It must have hurt.
Gisborne leaned in, and tried to kiss the mark away; Marian grasped
Encouraged, he let his hand slip between her legs.
She pushed him away.
Surprisedand desperately disappointedGisborne sat
back on his heels. Marian?
She sat up, putting her hands on his leather-clad thighs. Your
breeches, she said, and the movement of her thumbs drew
a sharp gasp from his lips. I want to see you Guy.
He opened his lacings.
He had never been admired, frankly and openly, by a virtuous
Now he lay back and let Marian, with her gentle fingers and soft
mouth, explore his body, working her way along his arms, over
his chest, and down his bellyGisbornes back arched
Her caresses stopped.
Marian? He struggled to sit up.
She was kneeling, like a penitent, with her arms crossed over
her breasts. I am ready Guy.
It took his befuddled brain a few moments to understand what
she meant; and then, as he drew her into his arms, he realised
that he was reluctant to take her, now that she was his. It
will hurt you, he said.
Then do it quickly.
He lowered her onto her back, and laid himself upon her and,
after a little fumblingand with some help from herhe
did as she asked, with a single deep thrust.
Her shriek of pain broke his heart.
Some time later, she asked if that was all there was.
No, he said, but I cannot hurt you any more.
Please, Guy. She nuzzled his cheek.
So he raised himself up on his hands, and slowlyvery slowlyand
keeping himself in check to the bitter end, he consummated their
He woke to find her leaning over him, her hand hovering above
She smoothed the frown from his brow, and stroked a smile onto
his lips. Do it again.
But he could not deny herespecially not nowand his
body had no qualms. She lay beneath him, her eyes tightly closed,
a frown of concentration on her lovely face, as if, he thought,
by willpower, she could turn the pain into pleasure.
Suddenly her eyes flew open. Oh! she cried. Oh,
As dawn broke he was still lying beside her, watching her sleep;
but then the bell tolled six, and he knew that he could put it
off no longer. He left her bed, washed quickly, and began to dress.
Guy, where are you going?
The disappointment in her voice made him smile. Its
morning, Marian, he said, pulling on his breeches. I
must report to the Sheriff.
Especially today. He is not pleased.
What will you do? She got up and, naked, padded towards
Marian! He snatched up a sheet, and wrapped
it round her. I will be late as it is.
She grinned up at him.
Wicked woman, he said, guiding her back to the bed
and sitting her down. It will blow over. It always blows
over. He needs me. Who would he humiliate without me?
The man I saw yesterday, said Marian, the brave,
honourable man I marriedshould not be humiliated
by him. She raised a hand, and gently brushed her thumb
over the stubble along his jaw. Shall I see you later?
I will come to you at midday.
Foolishly happy, Gisborne kissed his wifes forehead. Then,
pulling back, he suddenly realised how pale, and tired, and heart
breakingly beautiful she looked. Get some rest, Marian.
His morning passed in a daze, the Sheriffs sudden outbursts
and casual mockery washing over him, unnoticed. At noon, he rushed
back to Marians chamber and, too eager to knock, threw the
His wife was not alone.
A familiar figure, slight, fair-haired, dressed in green and
carrying a bow, was standing beside her, one hand upon her shoulder.
HOOD! yelled Gisborne, drawing his sword.
No, Guy! No! cried Marian, grabbing his arm.
Hood raised his bow. If you ever, he said,
backing awayand Gisborne sneered at the emotion in his voiceif
you ever hurt Marianbetray her, or force her against her
will,he reached the window, and swung a leg over the
sillif you ever cause her one moments
unhappiness, Gisborne, I will come for you. You can bank on it.
He loosed the arrow past Gisbornes ear, and disappeared.
Wrenching himself free of Marian, Gisborne ran to the window.
But he was too late. Hood had alighted on the castle wall and,
sketching him a cocksure salute, the outlaw dropped over the other
Gisborne ripped the rope from the window frame and flung it down
into the courtyard. What was he doing here? he demanded.
He came to say goodbye.
Gisborne rounded on his wife. Why?
DO NOT TAKE ME FOR A FOOL!
Because I am your wife now, said Marian, so
Robin came to say goodbye.
She caught his arms. I love Robin, she said. No,
hear me out Guy! I love Robin; I will always love Robin; he was
my first love
Stop it! He needed to be free of her
Yes, she continued, relentlessly, I married
you because I thought it did not matternot if we were going
to die. But I care for you, Guy. A part of me has always cared
for you, and now I am your wife. I made a vow to you, Guy, and
I shall not break it. I will always be your wife, cleaving
to you only, for as long as we both shall live. She
Agh! Dismissing her with
an angry gesture, he stumbled to the bedtheir bedand
fell upon it, hiding his face in his hands.
What? She followed him. What do you want, Guy?
I WANT YOU TO LOVE ME!
Oh, you are a fool!
He felt the mattress dip as she sat down beside him, felt her
hand slide across his back, felt her draw him into her arms. You
are my husband, Guy, she said, my future. And
I am yours.
T H E E N D
He collapsed upon her bosom, gasping, No, Marian.
Im sorry, she said, stroking his hair, I
thought you would like it.
I did like it. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply.
I was liking it far too much to last.
He heard the smile in her voice: Then you keep still
Woman, he said, you were made by the devil.