By Virginia Cavazos
"Marion, you are absolutely beautiful," Agatha said with a giggle. A distant cousin of Marion’s, she nervously curled her blonde hair in her fingers. Agatha was a plain looking girl, her father constantly reminded her of this. She had absolutely no self-esteem because of it.
"You are going to be the envy of any woman there," Cynthia coldly sniffed. Marion always hated Cynthia. She was a woman who was a great beauty on the outside, unfortunately it did not go any further under her skin. She was a good friend of poor Agatha, so she tolerated her.
"I don’t know what you mean," Marion sighed - as she strolled down the brightly decorated hallways. Marion was spending the week at Queen Eleanor’s castle to celebrate the coming of spring. Most of the aristocracy was invited. She normally never attended such functions, but Queen Eleanor was very insistent to her that she come.
She only agreed, because the Queen had told her there would be a dance. She loved to dance, about as much as she loved to fight. Queen Eleanor was training Marion to be an Amazon. At the age of twenty-one, she was at a crucial point right now. She needed to decide on continuing with her training overseas, or choose a husband. The Queen had hoped that the Ball would help her decide on which path she was going to take.
Nearing the end of the hallway, Marion heard the sound of laughter and music drifting from the great hall.
"I hear that Sir Guy will be there," Cynthia sighed, as she pulled her dress lower.
"I’m sure he’ll be looking for you, Marion," Agatha insisted.
"Oh yes, I forgot, he seems to be infatuated with you." Cynthia let out a groan, to show her disapproval. Adding in a whisper, "God only knows why."
"I’m not here to see Sir guy."
Marion gasped in excitement, as she approached the large doors. Two young pages bowed before the three ladies-in-waiting. Running to the doors, they pulled them open. Music poured out into the hallways, "I’m here to dance…" Marion sighed, as she took in a breath. She walked into the grand ballroom. The sights and sounds of the festive occasion filled her senses.
"The Lady Marion Fitzwalter." An elderly man loudly announced to the attending Lords and Ladies.
Marion lightly stepped down the stairs, she felt the eyes of every eligible lord boring into her.
"The Lady Agatha Montbottoms, and Lady Cynthia Greenwood."
Both girls rushed down the stairway, catching up with Marion. She did have more experience at attending the Queen’s balls. They gave her that.
"Try not to look anxious," Marion whispered, from the side of her mouth. "Just look very bored," Marion yawned.
"Anxious no, bored yes," Cynthia and Agatha repeated.
Marion stiffened, as she heard a familiar voice call out to her. "MARION, it is so good to see you."
Keeping her back to the caller, she knew exactly who he was. Without turning around, she said, in a tired voice. "Sir Guy, I heard you were joining the crusades."
Slowly turning, she was surprised to see a handsome young man standing before her. It had been five years since she had last seen him. He was a tall, gangly young boy then. She was pleasantly surprised to see he grew up to be someone that caught the eye of every lady here. His eyes were not for them, however. They were for Marion.
Taking her hand, he whispered, "I am going, after the spring festival," Gently kissing it, "I wanted to see the most beautiful lady in England first." Looking deep into her eyes, he whispered, "Seeing your eternal beauty, will help me live through the horrors I will have to endure in the crusades."
"You never lost your gift for a silver tongue," Marion said, as she took her hand back.
"And you have never lost your bite."
Standing up straight, his head slightly bowed in respect. "I’ve always loved that in you."
"Marion," Agatha whined, "Aren’t you going to introduce us," she whispered.
"Oh yes, Sir Guy, allow me to introduce you to two of your many admirers. This lovely lady is Agatha, and her companion is Cynthia."
Both women curtseyed to the handsome young lord. Their faces blushing red as they chorused, "Pleased to meet you, Sir Guy."
As Sir Guy began to work his charms on the infatuated young women, Marion noticed Queen Eleanor beckoning her.
"If you’ll excuse me."
Pulling the skirt on her light blue dress up, she glided over to where Queen Eleanor sat. She was sitting on a simple wooden chair. Never one for extravaganzas, she was able to view the entire room from where she sat. A large, warm smile graced her experienced face. It was easy to read in the lines that etched her handsome face, that her life had been a hard one.
"Marion, I am so glad you could come." She took her hands in hers, cupping them, she pulled her closer.
"How do you feel?"
She was startled, as she heard a man’s voice coming from her lips. Suddenly feeling cold, she shook her head.
"What did you say?" she mumbled.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
"I asked, how do you feel?" Marion heard Robin say. Blinking her eyes, she found she was back in the cabin. Robin was sitting on the side of the bed. He gazed down at her, his concern deeply etched in his face.
"I’m sorry," she sighed, "I guess I dozed off."
She was still trembling, the fever had a hard hold on her, it refused to let her go. "I was just thinking about the ball," she sighed. "Just before you walked in."
Robin allowed a small laugh to escape from his lips. "She had the whole thing planned you know."
"I didn’t know then, but later, she did tell me," she struggled to say. "Tell me more," She whispered.
"Marion, you’re very ill." Robin gently insisted, "You must rest."
"Please," she pleaded with him. "It will help me fight this off. Please, continue." Her hand reached up, her fingers touched an old tear that stopped in the middle of his cheek. "I have always loved you, too," she whispered.
Taking her hand, Robin began to kiss the tips of her fingers, whispering on them, "I’ll continue, if you promise to rest."
Nodding her head, she mouthed, "I promise."
Wiping his damp eyes, Robin cleared his throat of the constriction that tugged at it. He fought to control his voice, as he continued with the story.
Marion lay her head back on the bed, her eyes stared into his. As he continued with the tale. She could almost see what happened that day, in the depths of his dark, brown eyes.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
"Marion, you are the most beautiful woman here," Queen Eleanor glowed in pride. Marion had always been her favorite, of all her ladies in waiting.
"I thank you, my Queen," Marion said, with a curtsey. She moved over, to stand by the Queen’s side. Her eyes stared ahead. She ignored Sir Guys’ stares, as he continued to speak to Agatha and Cynthia.
"Is he that bad looking, my child?" Queen Eleanor whispered.
"Who do you speak of, your Highness?" Marion quickly returned.
"You know very well, Marion Fitzwalter," Queen Eleanor scolded her. "Sir Guy of Gisborn."
"Oh…him," Marion released a large yawn, showing her distaste of him.
"Marion, you are going to have to make a decision soon." Her voice was stern, and demanded attention. Dropping her eyes, Marion whispered, "I know, your highness."
As she stared at the expensive marble tile, that covered the ballroom floor. She heard a name announced. It was a name that she had not heard spoken in the castle for the past five years. She heard it because the noise in the room died down. All eyes were trained on the man that was standing at the top of the stairs.
"Presenting, Robert of Locksley."
Marion couldn’t find her breath! Was it truly him, she wondered? Since his land was taken from him, Marion had only heard rumors of what happened to him. She heard he was living like a peasant in the woods. Some said he became an outlaw, stealing from those that took his land away. Others said he had turned bitter and as wild as the forest. Slowly her head turned up, to stare at the man that was walking down the stairs.
His dark eyes scanned the room, as the silence remained. He knew all eyes were trained on him. He held his head up high. He took each step slowly, deliberately. Marion took a step closer. The clothes he wore did not speak of a wild man of the forest.
He wore a long sleeved, black velvet shirt, open at the collar. His pants were a deep purple. His long legs carried him easily down the stairs. Marion’s eyes were drawn to his face. She tried to catch her breath, as he put all the aristocracy here to shame. Marion let out a gasp, as she thought, "My god! He was the most handsomest man she had ever seen."
Reaching the bottom stair, Robin quickly strolled over, to where Queen Eleanor sat. He wore an ornate sword at his hip. Marion noticed that he seemed to be strutting in front of the starring Lords.
Proud as a peacock, he knew he was better than them, and he showed it. Stopping before the Queen, he placed a foot forward, as he executed the most perfect bow. Flourishing his hand, his long hair obscured his face, as he called out. "I thank you for the invitation to attend the Beltaine festival, My Queen."
"We thank you for coming, Robert of Locksley." The Queen patted Robin on the head with her hand. Lifting it up, he swung his hair back. Smiling warmly at the queen, he gave her a sly wink. She returned his wink.
Robin jumped back, quickly pulling his sword out, as he was suddenly surrounded by the queen’s guards, with Sir Guy in the lead.
"Arrest that man!" he screamed. Robin met one of the guard’s blade with his own. Metal on metal rang in the ballroom, as Robin suddenly found himself fighting for his life. Marion was mesmerized, as he fought with an experience she had never seen before. Robin quickly back peddled, as he blocked a blow from one guard. Not loosing a step, he grabbed a flaming, pedestal torch. Throwing the torch to the ground, he used the pedestal to block a second guards deadly blow.
"Stop this!" Queen Eleanor screamed, as she jumped out of her chair. "You will stop this at once!" She ran straight into the battle, not fearing for her own safety. The guards halted their fighting, as she placed herself between Robin and his antagonizes.
"As long as this man remains in this castle, he is under my protection!" She declared.
"Prince John has stripped that man of his title, and placed a bounty on his head!" Sir Guy boldly declared, as he stepped up. Robin noticed that during the battle, he remained out of reach of his sword.
"I imagine it will be hard fighting in the crusades, from the back of the line," Robin taunted him.
He received the reaction he was looking for, Sir Guy pulled his sword out, charging Robin, roaring at the top of his voice, "I’ll kill you for that, Fitzsooth!"
"How dare you Sir Guy, this is my castle!" Queen Eleanor spat out, in a fit of rage. She rarely became angry, but when she did, everyone knew, to keep out of her way.
"What my son decrees, does not hold here. Here he is Robert of Locksley. MY royal guest. No one is to lay a hand on him, as long as he remains in this castle." Her cold gaze moved from man to man, as she added, "Is that understood?"
"Yes, my Queen," the guards humbly answered. They shoved their swords back in their sheaths. Slowly, they walked back to their original positions. Robin let out a taunting chuckle. "I want to thank you fine gentlemen for the exercise," He called to them, giving them a courteous bow. "I was getting a bit stiff from the ride here."
Queen Eleanor hooked her arm in Robins, "Robert, you have grown up to be charming as well as a very handsome man," she sighed.
"I thank you, my queen," he shoved his sword back in it’s sheath.
"Please, Robert, you must tell me what you have been up to," she sung out, as she walked by a steaming Sir Guy. Her eyes rolled at him, giving him a warning. Sir Guy was livid! He stormed out of the room. Marion had stayed rooted next to the Queen’s chair. As the Queen was bringing Robin towards her, she suddenly felt like a giddy young girl.
He was coming her way! What was she going to do? What was she going to say to him? It had been so long, since she last saw him, why he was just a boy back then. As the Queen pulled Robin to her, she swallowed hard.
"Robert, I’m sure you remember The Lady Marion Fitzwalter."
The Queen coyly said, knowing that Marion had a secret crush on him. She had heard her favorite charge, mention his name many times in a conversation.
Robin stepped up to Marion, taking her hand, his warm lips pressed on her fingers. "I am pleased to see you again Marion. You have grown to be a beautiful woman."
Marion was speechless, as she found that his voice, was as beautiful as he was. Clearing her throat, she squeaked. "You let your hair grow." She wanted to take every word back, what a stupid thing to say!
Robin pulled his fingers through his hair, "Why yes," he jovially chuckled. "Did you like the bangs?" he whispered. She shivered inside, as he pursed his sensual lips. Marion wondered why it was suddenly so hot in here?
"No, actually; I like the new look."
Flicking his head to remove a stubborn lock of hair, he gently chuckled. "Why thank you, I like what you’ve done with yours also. Last time I saw you, you were in pigtails."
Marion reached up, she nervously wound a lock of hair in her fingers. She just couldn’t figure out why she suddenly forgot how to breathe. Her heart skipped a beat, when dance music began to fill the room. Her eyes lit up, this is what she came here for.
Robin noticed the excitement in her bright eyes, he recalled the time they last danced. Bowing at the waist, holding his hand before him, he beseeched her, "Would the Lady Marion Fitzwalter, consent to have this dance with her humble servant."
Marion glanced over to Queen Eleanor, she motioned with her eyes, for her to take Robin’s hand.
Hesitantly, she placed her hand in his. He gripped it tightly, his head lifting up, as he greeted her with a pleased grin. With a flourish, he swept her into his arms. Spinning her around, he gracefully moved her to the center of the ballroom.
End of Chapter Two
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