<===<< The Bargain >>===>
By Debbie Szabo

Chapter Two

The main hall was huge, with large tapestries covering parts of the walls to keep out drafts. A stone fireplace stood at one end and a portrait of Sir Guy hung above it. Adorning the walls were various types of weapons along with trophies of past hunts. In the center of the room sat a large polished table and a few wooden benches were scattered along one wall.

On one of the benches is where Marion found herself. Her hands still tied behind her back and squirming from sitting in the same position for so long. Two guards stood on either side of her. She glanced at one then the other-no help there. For what was probably the hundredth time she asked herself. Why is she here and not down with the others. No doubt Guy was up to something, but what? Her musings were interrupted when she heard footsteps on the stone floor.

Guy strolled into the room, stopping just in front of her. "I hope you have been comfortable my dear."

Straining her neck to look up at him she replied sarcastically. "Oh yeah, I always enjoy sitting on a hard bench with my hands tied."

He gave her an indulgent smile. "If you promise to be a good girl, and not cause any trouble, I will have you untied."

Not causing trouble was the last thing she wanted to promise. She longed to get her whip and wrap it around Guy’s scrawny neck. Unfortunately that was not possible since her whip and sword were taken right before she was trussed up like a chicken. Getting her hands free though would be a step in the right direction. With a dirty look she said. "Fine! I promise not to cause trouble."

Guy motioned to one of his men to undo the ropes that bound her. She took a few minutes to rub her wrists and get the circulation going. It felt good to move her fingers again.

Guy was now seated on one of the chairs that surrounded the large table. "Marion, do come and sit down, you and I have much to talk about." Marion hesitated a moment then got up and slowly walked over to the chair he had indicated. Pulling it out she sat down facing Guy across the table.

Dressed in his customary black garb he looked all the more menacing. His dark eyes staring at her as if he could see right through her. She held off an involuntary shiver as he leaned forward in his chair.

"Now down to the business at hand."

"We have no business."

"Oh but we do my lady, we do." At this she simply arched one eyebrow but remained quiet.

"You see Marion, I want you. I have for a very long time. Now I have tried courting you and I have tried tricking you. I even tried to kill your precious Robin so that I might have you. Unfortunately none of those plans worked." He paused as a determined look entered his eyes.

Marion began to feel very uneasy, what was he getting at? In an attempt to mask her feelings she asked, with what she hoped was a lot of bravo. "So what’s your point?"

"My point is that I am done trying. I now have the perfect plan, and I have no doubt that you will be mine at last."

"What are you babbling about Guy? I will never be yours." She sounded confident but her insides were in turmoil. It bothered her that he seemed so sure of himself.

A slow smiled began to play on his lips. "You think not? It really is quite simple my dear." His smile grew and Marion felt panic engulf her. "You will marry me or Robin and the others die!"

What!" She jumped up knocking her chair over. "You’re mad. I can’t even stand the sight of you let alone marry you."

Leaning back in his chair looking smug he said. "Marion please sit down and listen to reason. If for Robin’s sake and no other." At the mention of Robin’s name she picked up her fallen chair and sat back down. "Now here is how it works. You give me your solemn word to become my wife in let’s say....two days time. I in return release Robin, Little John and the good friar and they go back to their camp." He now bent closer to her. "When I say wife, I mean it in every sense of the word. You will stay here of your own free will. This castle will run efficiently under your hand, you will take care of my every need and of course you will bear my children."

Marion felt sick to her stomach at the latter. This could not be happening. It was just some terrible nightmare and she would wake up. No it had to be a trick, Guy would never let Robin go.

As if reading her thoughts he spoke again. "I promise if you agree to this Robin will be set free along with his friends. I will never try to capture him again. Come, this is a more than fair offer."

Her head had been down while he was talking, her hands clenched on the table, the knuckles turning white. Looking up she gave him a penetrating glare. "Robin will never leave me here. He will come back for me."

"Yes I’m sure that he will try. Know this, if he steps one foot onto my lands the deal is off and I will be more than happy to dispose of him. He is safe from me as long as he stays away, those are the conditions."

She still remained mute, so he pressed on. "If you do not agree to this little arrangement I will make sure Robin suffers a long and painful death, along with his cohorts. I have had years to think on how best to kill Robin. I have come to realize that I can be very inventive when I want to be." He went on relentlessly. "How will you feel when you hear Robin’s anguished cries as he is slowly tortured. Seeing his body stretched and pulled till he no longer resembles the man you once knew. You will see it because you will be present through it all and when Robin is no more, I will think up something special for you."

The steel glint in his eyes gave her every reason to believe his words. He was capable of all he said. In the past she had witnessed his cruelties. Her mind raced, what could she do, there was no way out. She had to agree, there was no other choice.

Getting impatient Guy asked. "Do we have a bargain?"

Quickly she pulled her thoughts together. She needed a way to reassure herself that he would keep his word. Thinking rapidly, trying to determined the best way to reveal any trap Sir Guy would attempt. Then it came to her. " One more thing must be added to this bargain of yours. I want to be sure that Robin, Little John and Tuck do in fact make it home safely."

"What do you have in mind?"

"I want Tuck to send a message back to me telling me all is well. That they made it back safely and were not followed. The note will have a special word or two in it that only Tuck and I will know. This way I’m sure it came from him and is not one of your tricks."

"Done! So I take it we have a bargain."

"Yes, you have a bargain. Know this though-I will never love you! I will despise you till the day I die, and I’ll pray daily for your early death."

He just laughed. "Marion I don’t need your love and as long as I don’t die by your hand then all is settled. Just remember to hide your hatred from not only me but everyone else. I want the country to think we are the most happily married couple in all of England." Standing up he came around the table to take her hand. Startled she looked up at him confused. "We must go give Robin the good news. It’s not everyday one gets married. Do you think he will give us his blessing?" Laughing at his own joke he led Marion from the room.

Still dazed from all that just transpired Marion did not resist Guy as he took her hand. Her only thoughts were of Robin, how he’ll react to the news. I had no choice Robin, her mind kept echoing.

Back in the cell Little John was still pacing and Tuck was still seated on the pallet. Only Robin had changed positions and was now crouched down in a corner by the bars. They had past the time trying to come up with an escape plan. There were plenty of plans- unfortunately none of them would work.

"It’s no use. We are never going to get out of here!" Exclaimed Tuck.

John gave him a disgusted look and thundered, "Stop saying that! You’re not helping, Robin will come up with something, we just need to give him more time."

Shaking his head Tuck examined Robin. His friend’s head was bowed and his long dark tresses obscured his face. He had been very quiet since entering the cell, which was unlike him. Even in their toughest scrapes Robin was always filled with a confidence that projected out to the rest of them. This time it was different, Robin seemed distracted, withdrawn and this made Tuck anxious.

"What is it Robin?"

His head came up at the question and Tuck gave a start and what he saw. The young

Man’s normally pale face was ashen and his eyes dull. It was an expression of complete despair.

"Something is wrong." Robin finally answered.

Little John threw up his arms. "Yeah something is wrong. We’re stuck in Sir Guy’s dungeon, with no escape plan, that’s what’s wrong!"

Tuck motioned with his hand at the large man to quiet him. "Little John, please stop getting all worked up. It doesn’t change the situation."

Robin reclined against the wall. "No John there is more, I can feel it. It has something to do with Marion. There is a reason why Guy kept her separated from us. He has something in the works and I have a really bad feeling about it."

Before the other two men could say more there was a commotion at the door. Guy stepped through with Marion on his arm, her head lowered. The time had come to find out just what type of game Guy was playing.

Robin sprang to his feet when he saw her. Why wouldn’t she look at him? "Marion are you okay?"

At the sound of his voice Marion raised her head and Robin’s heart sank at the stricken expression that was there. He knew right then and there that his worst fears were confirmed. Something was definitely very wrong.

"Marion is fine." smiled Guy. "In fact we bring you joyous news. You and your friends will soon be on your way back to Sherwood."

Robin’s stomach tightened but he merely lifted one eyebrow and gave a sarcastic smile. "Now why in the world would you let us go."

If possible Guy’s smile got even bigger. "Let’s say it is a wedding gift to my future bride. You see Marion is doing me the honor of becoming my wife."

There was silence, Robin pinned Marion with a piercing look. She said nothing, but her eyes begging him to understand. He didn’t and glanced back at Guy. "You’re insane, Marion loathes you."

"Why not ask her yourself if you don’t believe me."

"Is it true?"

Marion just kept staring at him, the words could not get past the lump in her throat. She wanted nothing more that to tell him that it was all a joke but it wasn’t and instead nodded her head once.

"See there you have it!" said Guy.

Robin couldn’t believe it, wouldn’t believe it! "What is going on here? Why is she doing this?"

Guy was having the time of his life. It was all going better than he had ever dreamed. It made up for all the past failures at the hands of these outlaws. Not wanting to keep his nemesis dangling any longer he dealt the final blow. "It’s nothing really. Marion and I have made a....shall we say bargain. You get to live and she becomes mine."

Robin stood there speechless and his mind numb at the thought of Marion married to Guy. Imagines of them together filled his head leaving him with a foul taste in his mouth.

Seeing the other man’s stunned face Guy laughed. "I do believe you are at a loss for words at last. Well it is getting late and there is much to be done for the upcoming event." He grabbed Marion’s arm to escort her out.

As if coming out of a dream she recoiled at his touch. He gave her a warning look but she still backed away and crossed her arms. "I want a few minutes to say good bye." When he made no move to leave, she said. "Alone, Guy."

"Very well, I am in a good mood so you may have your wish. You will get exactly five minutes and no more." Giving her a slight bow and Robin one last gloating smile he exited the room along with his men.

Marion stayed watching until she was sure the black knight was gone. Now the worst part of this whole ordeal, saying goodbye. Robin had laid his forehead against the front of the cell, hands tightly gripping the wooden bars.

Gazing into those deep brown eyes she loved so much. "I had no choice Robin. If I didn’t agree you all would have been killed. Guy even painted a pretty good picture of how he would do it."

He gripped the bars even harder. "Don’t do this. We will think of something, you can’t sacrifice yourself for us."

Lifting a slender hand she reached through the bars and cupped the side of his face. He leaned into her hand and closed his eyes briefly. When they opened again they glistened with unshed tears. Her heart broke at what she saw and her voice was shaking when next she spoke. "Oh Robin, I wish there was another way but there isn’t. Guy planned this one really well."

A tear began to fall down her face, then another. He went to wipe them but she moved back taking her hand from his face as she did. To let him touch her, knowing it would be the last, was too much. Collecting herself, so that all that needed to be said could be.

In a serious tone she told him. "You must promise never to return here." Knowing he would protest she hurried on. "I have Guy’s word not to hurt you as long as you stay away from here. He will not try to capture you or set traps provided you keep your distance. If you don’t then our deal is off and he will kill you." Sighing she added. "In fact I think he’s hoping you will come back. He’ll be watching very closely to see if you do. So please do as I ask."

He gave her a stubborn look, not promising anything, and remained quiet. Marion, too upset and running out of time, didn’t notice his omission but instead sought out Tuck.

"Tuck, I don’t trust Guy to keep his word about your safety. So you are to deliver a message telling me you all made it back to camp and were not followed. You will sign it Always Michael this way I know it came from you and is not a trick." Tuck nodded his head and squeezed her hands. A slight smile lit her face. "Take good care my friend." Then she whispered. "Take care of Robin for me too."

Little John had come up behind the friar wearing a frown. "Marion, Robin is right. We will find another way. Tell Guy you changed your mind, that there is no deal."

Grinning, because it was so like John to make things sound simple. "It’s too late for that John. The bargain has been struck. What I am doing is worth it if it means you will be safe. I shall miss you."

"I’ll miss you too." and gave her a sad smile.

Marion surveyed her friends one last time her gaze stopping on Robin. His eyes were filled with pain, that she in part had caused and her heart constricted. She would miss him most of all. She would miss his strength, his courage, his sense of humor, the list just went on and on. Most of all though she would miss what might have been. She then concentrated on his face, memorizing it. That beautiful face framed by long silky hair and brown eyes that were a window to his soul. That smile that could light up his face or frustrate those who opposed him. Stopping herself she knew it was time, she must go or Guy would return.

Ever so slowly she started walking backwards, her eyes never leaving his. She almost reached the door when Robin pleaded. "Marion, please don’t do this, I can’t loose you." His voice so soft and full of emotion.

"You won’t loose me Robin. I will always be right here." And she placed both her hands over her heart. The tears in her eyes threatened to spill once more so she turned quickly and fled the room. As the door shut behind her she hear him scream "Marion!" Leaning against the door she closed her eyes attempting to shut out the pain. When she opened them again Guy was standing there, his hand extended. Tentatively taking it he led her away from the dungeon and from the only man she would ever love.

End Of Chapter Two

Chapter One
 Chapter Two
 Chapter Three
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