Summary: When the king returned, everything would be right again. But the day King Richard came into the town of Nottingham, Robin and the outlaws had to notice that things didn't turn out as they had always thought in the back of their minds.
Characters/Pairings: The Outlaws & Marian, Pairings: Robin/Marian, Will/Djaq
Spoilers/Warnings: Season 2 till Lardner's Ring (AU after that)
Disclaimer: I do not own the show or the characters and make no money off them.
Notes: The fic has an historical background, but I've taken great liberties with it, mostly just mentioning a few historical points that influence the story.
Thanks so much to my betas neaptidea and emmithar, neaptidea especially for pointing out when I contradicted myself or made no sense at all, and emmithar for her inspiration. And thanks to laura_isabel for her artwork! :)
When the king returned, everything would be right again. This was what they had always thought. Even the traitor, Allan, had argued so, had contended that it was Robin who would have title, lands, a wife, once Richard returned from the Holy Lands.
Injustice would end, at least in Robin's hopes, as well as certainly in Much's, he guessed. He wasn't sure how much hope the others, Will, John, Djaq had set on the return of the king, but it had also been clear that Marian as well saw the monarch's return as the number one priority on the way to better times.
But the day King Richard came into the town of Nottingham, Robin had to notice that things didn't turn out as they had always thought in the back of their minds, waking through long nights in the forest, fighting the sheriff in a battle they could never win, but only try to survive.
It had still been cold during the nights, but the sunny days of March made promises about the upcoming spring. Robin sat down at the outlaws' camp, his bow in his hand, planning to replace the string with a new one. The forest around him had not yet started to blossom, only the conifers showing the green they had kept from the last year.
The last months had been troublesome, the gang most upset about Allan's betrayal, Robin himself most occupied with the sheriff's plan he had learned of to kill the king once he returned to England, as well as Marian first coming to live at the camp, then leaving for the castle again.
Much and John were at the camp as well, each busy with their chores, while Djaq and Will had gone off to a village, though Robin did not know what they were doing. He guessed that Allan's departure had hit the two of them the most – and absorbed in his own pondering - he had not argued against them leaving.
Robin released the string of his bow, having the new one readied before. He carefully attached it to the bow, making sure it was exactly like it had to be. He had done this task so many times before, he knew how he had to work to make it feel right.
He stood up, retrieving an arrow from his quiver and placing it in the bow, aiming for a test shot at the burl at the trunk of a tree. Yet another task he had done so many, countless times, and there was no need to think about how to hold the bow or draw the new string. The arrow found its mark.
“Robin!” The call seemed to sound through the forest at the same moment as the arrow hit the tree.
Robin turned on the spot, seeing Will hasten through the underground, Djaq on his heels.
“The king,” Will started. “He's coming.”
Robin couldn't believe it, thoughts of the man he had last seen in the Holy Lands mingling with the deadly plans he knew about. “Where?”
Will finally came to a stop. “His army, they're coming to Nottingham.”
While Robin had no reason to doubt Will's observational skills, he still had to see it with his own eyes. He remembered the time when it had been an imposter that had come to Nottingham, working for the sheriff to lure out nobles that were not on the sheriff's side. Robin didn't think Vaizey would try the same again, but still, he could not be sure until he had seen the army Will had been talking about.
The whole gang was now lying in wait, watching as the king's men marched on the town of Nottingham.
They could see that people were pouring out of the town, fleeing of what they saw as a situation that could very well end in a violent confrontation. Robin wondered only how long it would take before the town's gates would be closed, for Vaizey would surely not hand over the town voluntarily. The king seemed to know this as well, for only this could explain the number of men that were arriving at the encampment that had been set up outside of the town by now.
“Where are the people going?” Will asked, coming up next to Robin.
“To the villages,” he said, keeping his gaze focused on the stream of people making their out of and away from Nottingham.
Will shook his head. “The villages won't be able to care for all of them. They have barely enough for themselves.”
“I know. But we don't know how long this is going to take.”
Maybe the king's army would succeed quickly, and the town's people would be able to return to their homes in a short time. Robin knew that this had to be the last confrontation; once the king had made his way into the town, Vaizey would be history. After that, things could go back to normal, for all of them, including the outlaws in the forest. “Let's go and check on the villages, see what we can do.” Robin moved to his feet and the other four followed him.
As they made their way to Clun, they overtook many small groups of town's people that were fleeing from Nottingham. As he scanned the faces of the refugees, Robin couldn't help but wait to see Marian among them as well. He doubted she would just run, but then he hoped she would. He didn't think the army came to destroy, but at the same time he worried about what might happen; if fighting was to ensue and innocents might be harmed as well. It always was like that in war, no matter what else was said.
It wasn't the only distracting thought he had, while they were nearing the settlement where villagers were already discussing what to do with the incoming people. Robin wanted to see the king, wanted to warn the man of the danger he was in. The fact that Richard brought a large army showed that he knew things were amiss, but Robin doubted the king was aware of the Black Knights, who were in league with the very person who was barricading himself in the town now. The king might still not know of the threat they were. Although Vaizey surely had not expected the king to arrive with his whole army, it was the return of Richard that he and his traitorous knights had prepared for. They wanted to kill the king, and now was the time that they would attempt to accomplish that.
“How much do we have left in our storages?” Robin asked, looking around between the collected groups of people.
“It's not going to be enough, by far,” Will replied quietly. “And we don't even know yet how many people have gone to the other villages.”
Robin nodded grimly. They could only hope that everything would go over soon, so people would be able to return to their homes; if those were left intact that was. He walked once more around the groups of people, checking for familiar faces. A few nodded towards him.
“Robin,” someone called then, and he turned around to see a man walking up to him. “They closed the gates, right after we left.”
Robin nodded, having expected as much. “Is all of your family outside?”
The man gave a nod. “Yes, but there were still people in Nottingham.”
“The sheriff isn't going to let anyone else leave. He's going to barricade in the castle.” While the Black Knights were going to try to kill the king, he thought grimly, not saying out loud what he thought. “How many were still there?”
The other man frowned. “I can't say for sure. We left in a haste. People were running around, some looking for their children. Guards were closing off gates.”
Robin nodded, imagining the situation in the town.
In the morning, she was woken up by the shouts outside. She couldn't understand at first what it was about, but quickly moving out of bed over to the window of her room, Marian spied outside and could see people running over the castle yard. They were shouting to each other and it was then that she could make out what they were saying.
“The king is coming!”
Marian turned away from the window, stunned. The first question that came to her mind was whether it was really true, and if it wasn't just a ploy like it had been a time ago, when the sheriff had engaged an imposter to rid himself of nobles loyal to the king. But then, she doubted that he would try the same scheme a second time... it had to be true now. The king was coming to Nottingham. She felt excitement, as the day they had been waiting for was finally there, though it was mixed with some anxious feelings, too, for she could not be sure what would happen.
She got dressed quickly, and left her room to walk further up in the castle, looking for a place from where she would have a better view over the town. As she climbed up the stairs at one side of the castle, she could already spot people moving in and out of crowds of others and once she had a better view, she also realised that large groups of people were leaving the town through the gates. As her gaze went beyond the town and out to the fields around Nottingham, she could see why. The king wasn't only coming with a few followers, but with an army.
Marian could also see the reason for this, watching the castle guards preparing to barricade the building.
Maybe the king had received Robin's message. It had been known that Sheriff Vaizey was a supporter of Prince John and was plotting to remove the king from his throne, but she had not thought that he would actually dare to try and hold Nottingham against the king. Exactly that seemed to be happening now, and she felt a shiver go over her, as she thought of the consequences this confrontation might have. There would be fighting and she could only imagine how much death and destruction it would bring to Nottingham. She wondered what she should do. There was little she could even do.
She thought of the future... now that the king was back in England, was coming to Nottingham. Once he would succeed in this battle, Vaizey would be gone. A new sheriff would be installed, one loyal to the king. Things would be good again. At least Marian dared to hope this, for this was what they had all been waiting for. What else could they have hoped for?
She watched for a few more minutes as the king's army was marching closer towards the town, before her gaze went over to where the forest lay. She wondered if Robin and his men already knew what was happening. They would surely learn quickly of it. She could imagine Robin's feelings on the news, for she believed to be feeling the same, although she thought that he put yet more hopes in the king's return than even she did. It was natural of course; not only because he had served in the man's army in the Holy Lands, but also because the king's return was supposed to be Robin's return home, the end of his outlaw days.
And she had promised him that once the king was home and England was right again, they would marry. It was a strange thought, for often she had felt like this day would never come; it seemed to be a plan, but a plan that seemed to be so far away that it had never appeared like one that was going to be fulfilled, although none of them had thought that the king was never to return. Now the man was coming.
Despite the anxious feelings she had, it was with a smile that Marian hurried back to her room, still doubtful as to what she was to do. She did not think there was anything she could do openly; she was only one person, and if there was to be a battle it made only sense to stay out of it, and wait till the king had succeeded.
A knock on her door made her turn in startlement once again, and the intruder did not wait till she called him in. Guy came into the room in an apparent hurry, strain in his expression.
“Marian, you have to leave.”
“You have to leave, now,” he repeated, coming closer to where she was standing.
“Why?” She could only imagine that it had something to do with the king's return, but why would she have to leave for that reason? It was not the first time Guy was coming to her like this, telling her to go... but it could not be...
“The sheriff,” Guy exclaimed, stopping in front of her. “He's ridding himself of anyone that could be a threat, now that the king is coming.”
“A threat?” Marian asked confused. “Why would I be a threat?” The sheriff did not know about her involvement with Robin, did not know she was the Nightwatchman... In his and Guy's eyes she was only a girl, for the sheriff a nuisance at the most...
“He cannot be certain of your loyalty, and you are too close to what he considers the king's supporters, the daughter of the old sheriff...,” Gisborne went on, pacing. “You have to go. People are leaving the town. Go with them.” He stopped, looking at her. “Please.”
She nodded then. It hadn't been a long time since she had even returned to the castle, after Guy had - as far as he knew - saved her from the hands of Robin Hood. But now there was no reason for her to stay. She would go, would maybe find the outlaws, would wait for the king's army to march into Nottingham, before she would return, whatever the future would hold then.
“What about you?” she asked Guy, knowing that the man's future was linked to that of the sheriff. She was not certain what she wished him; she doubted there could be a future for him here, once the king was back, but then she also knew that she did not wish his demise, despite the evil he had done, not only to others, but also to her and her father.
She swallowed, still waiting for his answer, but it was not coming.
“Leave now,” he said again, moving to the door himself. “I have got to go. Hurry, please.” He looked at her again, before he hastened out of the door.
Having already made her decision, Marian moved quickly to throw a few personal things into a bag, rushing out of the room then as well, ensuring that she had not been seen doing so. She made quick progress along the castle's corridors, her mind racing as to what the best way would be to get out of the castle unseen and into the streets of Nottingham where she would be able to vanish among the masses of people.
As she ran further, she could hear the clang of armour coming towards her from an adjoining hallway and knowing that she would not be able to avoid the guards completely now, she forced herself to slow down. She would have to pretend that everything was normal, that she was just taking a stroll, and no guard would give her a second glance...
It was a group of men though, and as they spotted her, their pace seemed to become yet more determined.
“Stop,” one of them called, and Marian hesitated only for a second before she decided to follow the order if only in hope to be let go then.
“What is it?” she asked, as calmly as she managed.
“Sheriff's order,“ the guard replied. “You are to come with us.“
Now Marian didn't hesitated before she broke into a run down the corridor, but she only got until the end of it, before more guards arrived from the other side, effectively encircling her. The sheriff meant business, this was much clear.
One of the guards grabbed her by the arm, pulling her along towards the first group that she had encountered.
“What does the sheriff want?“ she asked, trying to free herself, speaking only to distract them, knowing she would not be able to gain anything else from them. She was still clutching her bag, wondering what would happen if anyone were to find the Nightwatchman's cloak in there. But then, she probably couldn't be in any worse trouble than she already was.
“You'll see soon enough,” was the only reply she got. She was taken downstairs and at first she thought they would lock her up in the dungeons, an outlook she was prepared to accept, knowing she would be freed as soon as the king was in Nottingham, but as she realised that they were not moving towards the dungeons, but into yet more intractable parts of the castle, she understood clearly what Guy had meant: that the sheriff wanted to get rid of her.
Fear was rising in her now, for she knew she would not be able to fight all these men; she had not even a weapon on her, safe for the dagger that still held her hair, which would help little when confronted with a sword. It were now panicked looks that she threw around in search of escape, as she was shoved into the darkness, just before she could see the shine of the torches reflected on the blade that was drawn, ensuring that she would be no threat to the sheriff anymore.
It was a narrow escape and she knew it, as she let herself drop, catching the guards unaware, turning then to jump up and run, She didn't look back as she hastened around dark corners of the castle. She could hear the clang of armour behind her, as she sought a way outside. As she came into a corridor at the far outside of this part of the castle, a glance downwards told her that all the exits had been blocked. It wasn't only for her sake, she knew, but still, it would keep her from escaping, leaving her caught. She could either hide or face the sheriff's men intending to kill her.
Then a door to the right caught her attention and she pulled it open, slipped inside and drew it shut quickly. It was a latrine and she knew Robin's men had used it before as a way of escape. She didn't like the idea of it, but then facing the swords of those that were pursuing her could not be her choice either. She let herself slip downwards, her mind blank to the occasion. It was a nasty business and Marian was glad when she finally stumbled along the streets of Nottingham, no one even paying any attention to her, as people were trying to either secure their homes, or leave the town.
Marian wanted to do just that. It was easy to integrate into the flow of people, only a few people staring at her probably because of the way she looked and smelled. There was a hold-up at the gate that was supposed to be their way out of the town, as guards tried to argue that no one was to leave anymore, but then they gave up as too many people arrived who wanted to do so.
Once outside, Marian discarded the fouled cloak she had wrapped around herself, still following the groups of people who were now making their way to the villages. In the distance one could see smoke of the fires of the king's army, the troops having come to a stand now, as it seemed.
As she looked back at the people that came out of the town behind her, Marian started to wonder where all of them would go, and how long it would be before they were able to return to Nottingham.