Sacrifices
By Kathy B.
 
 

Part 6

The night in the cave was a miserable one for Marion. She dozed on and off, but roused frequently to check on Robin. His breathing remained steady, and she was encouraged. Her stomach rumbled with hunger, but she ignored it. Near dawn, she finally fell into a deep sleep.

Robin slept fitfully as well, and frequently groaned incoherently from the piercing pain in his right leg. The throbbing matched his heartbeat, and he could not move the limb without exacerbating the pain to the point of passing out again. By morning, he was finally able to completely emerge from unconsciousness. His clouded mind gradually cleared and he took inventory of his situation. He knew his right leg was broken below the knee, and gritted his teeth at the implications of such an injury. He then acknowledged the burning in his right arm, but assessed that the limb was not broken.

His head throbbed and his right eye seemed to be stuck shut, but he could see out of his left eye, so took courage. He felt something on his chest and looked down.

There, Marion’s left arm was draped across, limp but warm. He looked around at the surroundings and knew they were in some cave that seemed vaguely familiar, but had no memory of entering it. He had no idea how he had acquired these wounds, either, and was troubled by this lapse of memory.

He lifted his left arm and gently stroked Marion’s arm with his hand. He spoke her name, "Marion?" and waited for her to arouse.

She heard Robin’s voice, and at first was unsure if it was really aloud, or just in a dream. Then she heard it again and felt his warm hand on her arm. She lifted her head and willed herself to fully waken. She looked at Robin, "You awake?" She was groggy, and felt as though she had not slept at all.

"Seems so," he winced as he moved his right arm to try to prop his body up.

"Careful! You’ve got a nasty cut on that arm, Robin, and I don’t have much to dress it with."

Marion stood up and moved to his right side to take another look at the wound. Robin dropped back down and breathed a heavy sigh.

"How did we get in here, Marion? What happened?"

"Don’t you remember?" She frowned into his good eye and then reached over to gently touch the bruised cheek.

"No. The last thing I remember was waiting for you to catch up to me..."

He groped to retrieve some fragment of memory, but found none.

Marion told him all she knew. "You were ahead of me, and then I heard an explosion - "

"Explosion?" Robin was thoughtful for a moment. "Ika must be back...."

He quickly concluded, "We’ve got to get back to camp, Marion, and warn the others." He tried to sit up again, but felt the searing pain recur and collapsed onto his back. He cursed under his breath.

Marion watched him in his helplessness, and memories of the other explosion flooded her mind. This was an impossible situation, danger and injury around every corner. She felt despair and frustration, and knew that convincing Robin to stay put would take more energy than she had left.

"Robin, you are in no shape to go anywhere. You can’t walk, and the horses are gone -"

"What? Where did they go? How -"

"Don’t start on me, Robin." She glared at him. "I did the best I could to get you into this cave, out of sight for the night. I forgot to tether my horse, and she bolted when another explosion detonated nearby. Your horse bolted when you were hit."

"No food, then, huh?"

"No."

"No water?"

"Only in a stream nearby."

Robin closed his good eye and collected his thoughts. He reopened them and looked at the walls of their temporary shelter. "What cave is this, Marion? It seems familiar."

"It’s the one in Guy’s hamlet - remember? We hid here one time when we were teasing Guy, a long time ago..." Her voice faded. The memories of innocent childhood games seemed preferable to the nightmare she was living out on a daily basis. Oh, to go back to those simpler times...

Robin turned his head and looked at Marion and regretted his harsh responses. But the pain and the frustration made him irritable and he knew they had to find food and a way out of here before they were discovered. They were too vulnerable in this place.

"Marion, help me up and we’ll try to make it to the village nearby. We have friends there who can help us."

Marion opened her eyes and looked at Robin. Strange how love could hurt; she felt a peculiar twisting pain in her chest as she looked at his beloved, bruised face. He could melt her with a smile, and infuriate her with his obstinance.

"No, Robin, you can’t. And I think you know that."

Robin tried to think of a retort, and tried again to move his leg. Then he acquiesced. "Fine. You win. You go alone to the village -"

"But I can’t leave you alone - you are too vulnerable like this."

"Marion, be practical. One of us has to go, and you just told me it can’t be me. I’ll be fine."

Marion’s mouth turned up in attempted argument, but Robin interrupted her. "Don’t start with the protection thing. Just go get some help. Maybe Little John will track us down by the time you get back?"

Reluctantly, Marion nodded her head in agreement. "All right, Robin,

I’ll go. Please, be quiet in here, and for pity’s sake, don’t try to move!"

Robin smiled his half-grin and tried to lighten the mood. "Who, me?"

Marion just glared at him, warning him with a look not to tease when things were this serious.

"I’ll be back as soon as I can," she rejoined.

As he watched her head toward the cave entrance, Robin felt a sense of dread - not for himself, but for Marion. Suddenly, he called after her, "Marion?" She turned and looked at him. "Please be careful."

She wordlessly responded with a nod, and disappeared out into the light of the growing dawn.

*******************

Guy and Will rode side by side on their horses toward the gate. Guy was looking forward to showing Will more of his extensive grounds, when one of his men galloped towards the two friends. He was leading two horses, saddled, but without riders. Guy recognized the horses almost immediately as belonging to Robin and Marion. He hastily questioned his man,

"Where did you find these animals?"

The man, fearful of his master and taken aback by the intensity of the tone of his voice, stared at Guy, and stumbled over his response.

"Well?" Guy thundered. "Out with it, man!"

"I was riding up by the ridge near the cave, and found these two grazing side by side. No riders anywhere, but not far away, there was some kind of fire or lightening strike, by the look of it."

Guy digested the words, and possible explanations paraded through his mind. Marion was clearly in trouble, and Robin with her. They would never leave their horses unwatched. And what was this fire?

"Stable the horses, and tend to them, do you hear me? I’ll be back." He turned to Will, "Are you willing to forgo our plans, friend? I need to search the ridge for the owners of these horses."

Will considered his friend. Selfless concern for others was not Guy’s strong suit. He must have another motive. Will was curious. "Sure, Guy. Lead on." They cantered out of the yard and made for the ridge.

Guy arrived at the log where the explosion had occurred. Knowing from prior experience what the black powder did to property, he instantly realized that this was no lightening strike, but a result of the work of Master Ika. But he had not hired Ika, and had not seen him in more than two months.

He wondered what the Mongol was up to, and why? He dismounted his horse, and carefully looked for any signs of human escape from the area. His gaze alighted on the wide track of something being pulled up the side of the hill.

Will looked at the hole in the ground and the charred log. He glanced over at his friend, and saw his pensive countenance. Clearly, his friend was absorbed by the circumstances surrounding these events. And Will’s curiosity mounted.

Guy turned his face in the direction of the hill nearby, and perused the side up towards the cave he knew was there. He surmised that the explosion had caused some injury, and the wounded had made their way to the cave. His heart stopped for a moment at the thought of Marion, wounded. If she was hurt, Ika would pay. He muttered under his breath. Then, Marion emerged from the opening of the cave. He sighed with relief at her obvious intact health.

"Will, take the reins. I’ll be back." He handed his horse over to Will, and strode with purpose up the hill towards Marion. Will followed Guy’s gaze and saw the woman. He assumed it must be one of Guy’s favorites, for he had rarely seen Guy so intent on finding someone. He watched from a distance.

Marion didn’t see Guy until he was almost upon her. She stopped abruptly and was speechless. She looked to see how many men were with him, and was relieved to see only one in the distance. But she had only her knife, stuck in her belt, and didn’t want to risk a fight in her fatigued state. She calmed herself and met his gaze, defiantly.

"Guy. I should have known you were nearby. You hired Ika again, didn’t you -"

Guy shook his head in protest. "No, Marion, believe me. I had nothing to do with the explosion down there. I only discovered it just now. One of my men found your horses and I came looking for you. Are you hurt?" His eyes revealed true concern, and he reached out to touch her arms, to reassure himself that she was truly in one piece.

Marion almost flinched in withdrawal from Guy’s touch, but her quick mind suddenly leapt to a plan. Guy lived nearby, and he obviously still cared for her. Maybe she could play on his feelings for her, and secure safety and care for Robin in Guy’s manor. All she had to do was convince Guy that she cared for him. She forced herself to smile, feigning relief at his words.

"Oh, Guy. I’m so glad to hear that. I need your help."

Guy, thrilled to be at her service, nevertheless was doubtful of her sincerity, given the last time they had met. His relief at her safety was replaced by wariness of her intentions. Still, if he played his cards right, he might get her into his castle again, and have another chance to woo her.

He would hear her out, and make his plans. "I am always glad to be of service to you, Marion. You know that." He lifted her hand to his lips, and lightly kissed it.

Marion controlled the nausea crawling up her throat, and swallowed her pride. She would do anything - even ingratiate herself to Sir Guy of Gisbourne - to help Robin. She formulated what she hoped would be a plausible story and plowed on.

"Guy, I want to trust you. I need your help now, more than ever. I have been rethinking my life ever since I was at your castle. I am so tired of the uncertainty of life in Sherwood, and now that King Richard is a hostage in Austria, there is no hope of him returning home any time soon. Robin is obsessed with ensuring that the ransom money be collected, and he has been ... very difficult lately. I want a break from the constant grind. Can I stay at your castle, just for a little while?"

Her eyes pleaded with him to have mercy on her.

Guy listened to her story, and though he doubted that she fully believed it herself, he sensed that there was  a kernel of truth in her words. His hope for a way in to her heart increased proportionately. He would play along at this game with her.

"Certainly, Marion. My door is always open to you. But what of Robin? Is he not with you?"

She looked alarmed for an instant, then controlled her emotions. "Yes,

Guy, but he doesn’t know about my recent doubts. You have to promise me you won’t tell him what I just told you!"

"I will be the picture of discretion, Marion. Where is he?"

Marion swallowed, hard. This was the moment of truth. "If I tell you, will you promise me that no harm will come to him, as long as I stay with you?"

Guy stared into her eyes. Did she still love Robin, enough to barter her own self for him? And if Robin wasn’t standing by her side, was he the injured party that had been dragged up the hill?

This scenario was delicious! He could secure Marion in his home, and get

Robin inside,too, to keep an eye on him. And while Robin was weak and injured, he could entice Marion to the comforts of life in a safe environment, with plenty of food and comfort. Yes, he liked the odds and was willing to gamble.

"Marion, I give you my word, and I swear before God that I will not harm Robin as long as you are with me." He took both her hands in his and squeezed them.

Marion, seeing more concern than craftiness in Guy’s gaze, and relieved to have found a way of help, nodded her head. "Guy, Robin is hurt and has a broken leg. He is up in the cave behind us. Can you send some of your men to help move Robin into your castle, till he is well?"

Guy readily agreed, and called down to Will to return to the castle and bring back help, and a litter. Marion then turned back to the cave, and Guy followed her. She struggled to find the words to tell Robin what she had done, but could find none that would satisfy him, she knew.

End of Part Six

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