|Primary Characters:||Guy, The Sheriff, Prince John, Robin, Marion, Gemma|
|Description:||Gemma is a young woman who lives in present day Nottinghamshire. She loves the tv series Robin of Sherwood. When she loses her job and her life takes a turn for the worse, she decides to cheer herself up by going on an outing to Sherwood forest. From then on, things become confusing, but also quite exciting.
Just as they had feared, their little outing made the Sheriff livid with rage. He swore at Guy at length, but the latter didn’t falter, insisting that the boy had been tired of remaining within the walls of the town, and rather than risk having him run away, he’d made the decision to offer him some distraction. If he’d dared, he would have pointed out that in that, he had been following the Sheriff’s instructions.
Gemma tried to blend into the background, not daring to interfere or comment. Eventually, the Sheriff’s anger seeme to abate.
“I should have known I couldn’t leave an ass like you in charge. Oh, well. Did you have a pleasant time, my dear boy?”
“Yes, my lord. I did. Thank you.”
“Hm. Very well.”
After supper, the Sheriff made it clear that she was expected to retire to her room and she did, hoping that Guy wouldn’t pay for his kindness to her. Now, more than ever, she found herself dreading the nights he would be forced to spend with the Sheriff. As the boy Jem, she could not afford to betray her knowledge of their – connection – but deep inside, she felt the sting of jealousy, and most of all, she wanted to tear Guy out of the vile little man’s arms and teach the latter a lesson he’d never forget. But all she did was lie awake, imagining what her Guy would be suffering at the Sheriff’s hands.
Whether it had anything to do with the Sheriff’s visit to his brother or not, less than two weeks after his return, she learned that Prince John would be coming for a visit. She was wondering if it was ‘that’ Prince John and had to assume it was. What other Johns were there? When she heard King Richard Coeur de Lion mentioned she was sure. There was only one of him. Again, the startling similarities between this place and the world in her beloved DVD:s struck her. How was it possible? But her mind shied away from the most frightening implications of her finding herself here, wherever, or whenever it was. She couldn’t consider the possibility that she was in a coma, or dying. It was too frightening. Instead, she began to listen even more carefully to the servants’ talk and that of the Sheriff.
Under his watchful eyes, she and Gisburne barely dared to meet and when they did, they never even touched. The Sheriff couldn’t be allowed to suspect anything.
When Prince John and his people arrived, Gemma found herself confined to her room for most of the day. She was allowed to venture into the yard and would most likely have been allowed to go to the stable, but since Guy was rarely available, she decided to stay in the yard. Now and then, she caught sight of members of the Prince’s retinue, but no one spoke to her and she kept her distance. The servants seemed to know very little beyond who was bedding who. There were also grumbles about the extra work, serving even more sumptuous food than even the Sheriff would indulge in.
At the end of the week, Gemma woke up to hear shouts and noise from the yard, and later, she overheard the servants talking about the Prince’s departure. From her point of view, it had all been a lot of fuss about nothing, but at least she was hoping she would be seeing more of Guy, now that things would return to normal.
She was called down to breakfast and later dined and had supper with the Sheriff and Guy, who looked as pallid as a sheet and more tense than she’d ever seen him. He dropped cutlery and goblets and spilled wine over his tunic and became the target of more caustic remarks than usual. In the end, Gemma retreated to her room, but couldn’t help wondering what was wrong with Guy. She had been led to believe that the Prince was a notorious womanizer, so she doubted he had been offered Guy’s services. With the Prince nearby, she didn’t think the Sheriff would be inclined to demand Guy’s presence in his bed either, so the only conclusion she came to was that the Prince was displeased with the Sheriff’s and indirectly Guy’s efforts to quell the outlaws’ activities.
That night, she found it hard to sleep and when at last she had dozed off, she was woken up before dawn by a faint knock on her door. At first she thought she’d misheard and remained silent, straining her ears.
There was only one person who would address her that way, so she flew out of bed and opened the door. Guy was standing outside, every bit as tense and nervous as before. He glanced surreptitiously over his shoulder, then without asking her permission stepped inside and closed the door softly behind him.
“We have to go. Right now. The Prince found out about your presence here – his people must have seen you and asked the servants – and he forced the Sheriff to tell him everything. He wants to know who you are and why you were in Nottinghamshire and -”
“He’ll stop at nothing to get the answers? I see. But what about the Sheriff?”
“The Prince gave him three days to – get the answers from you himself – and – to bed you.”
“I see. But I meant, won’t he notice if we take some horses and go?”
“He’s asleep. He retired to his room some hours ago. The knights – well, you know what an ass I am, I must have misunderstood the Sheriff’s orders. I have sent them off on a fool’s errand. We have time to make our escape. Come on. Pack whatever you need and let’s go.”
“And the servants?”
Though nervous, Guy did seem quite pleased with himself.
“I might have misunderstood the Sheriff’s orders about them too. I thought he wanted to be left alone.”
“Won’t they wonder?”
“They might think it’s to do with you and what he wants to do to you.”
It was dawning on Gemma that what the Sheriff might have had on his mind was nothing short of rape, but perhaps she was misinterpreting him. Would the servants have even wondered at the screams issuing from his chamber, if she really had been a teenage boy? Perhaps he wanted to be left alone to – seduce ‘Jem’? In any case, it was lucky no boy existed, at least not at the moment.
She had never really unpacked so it was easy enough to pick up her bags and follow Gisburne down the stairs. The hallway was eerily quiet. In the time since she’d arrived here, she’d never seen it so empty. It was quite dark too. The torches were burning so low, they barely lit up more than the centre of the staircase and most of the main hall downstairs was deep in shadows.
Guy held out his hand for the bags, and she handed them over. She assumed he’d already brought whatever he wished to take and was going to load everything onto the horses. He was heading for the kitchen, so clearly he was going to avoid the main entrance. Gemma was about to follow him through the door to the kitchen when she heard a slight noise from behind. She started and turned to look. According to Guy, all the servants were gone. But it was far worse than any lingering servant. The Sheriff was standing at the end of the passage..
“Oh, my lord. I thought you were asleep.”
“I can say the same about you, my boy. What brings you out of bed this late or shall I say early?”
“I was hungry. I thought I might find something in the kitchen.”
“Ah, yes. As it happens, I might have a tasty morsel or two in my chamber, if you would like to come with me.”
Gemma hesitated. Would any boy be foolish enough to fall for that easy ruse? The kitchen had to be full of food. It seemed the Sheriff had been thinking along the same lines. He made another effort, clearly doing his best to smile disarmingly.
“I have been thinking about what you said about books. It just crossed my mind that I have some with lovely illuminations. Would you care to take a look at them?”
She forced herself to smile ingenuously. This just might be something a boy might be tempted by.
“Oh, that’s very kind of you, my lord. What are they about?”
“Oh, many different things. Come and take a look.”
She turned to follow him, without a backward glance. If she was lucky, he wouldn’t notice the absence of servants. There was no reason why he should even think to look for them, especially if he was up to what she suspected.
Just in case, she took care not to turn her back on him, while considering how to deal with him. He didn’t seem to expect any threat from her, that much was obvious. She looked him over. There was a dagger hanging from his belt, but no sword. There would be more weapons inside his room, she guessed, but if none were within easy reach of his bed – but in this day and age, there would be. He’d be a fool not to keep a means of protection on hand. She would have to take him completely by surprise and knock him unconscious on the first try, or this could get messy.
“Here we are. As you can see, the books are right there, beside my bed. If you’d care to sit down -”
He sat down on the side of his bed, gesturing invitingly. This was it. She couldn’t sit down, that would leave her without any space to act. Still, attacking a virtually unarmed man didn’t feel right. Karate was about defence, not attack. She decided to stall, by moving closer to the table on which the books were lying. What would they really be about? Gay porn? Despite the gravity of her situation, she found that she was actually curious.
The Sheriff still didn’t seem to suspect anything. He was squinting at her, a hungry glint in his eyes. Pretending not to notice, she opened the first book and glanced at the pages. So far, there was no trace of any naked boys, but she doubted the artwork of this era would be as stimulating as the real thing. Besides, a man like the Sheriff could afford to indulge himself with the best – in this case, she reminded herself, the man she loved.
The spark of anger this thought aroused, helped her act. She took a deep breath and struck before the Sheriff had time to reach for his dagger. The kick hit him in the groin and he doubled up with pain. The howls issuing from his mouth would have alerted servants and knights alike, so it was just as well that Guy had got rid of them. Now that she thought about it, that was clever of him. Anyone who thought him foolish, was more of a fool himself. Like the man who was clutching his genitals, wailing at the top of his voice. She might as well put him out of his misery. Gemma had never used his particular chop, but in theory, she knew exactly how to do it. The trouble was, if she got it wrong, she would kill her opponent. As it happened, it certainly seemed to work beautifully. Without a sound, the Sheriff fell backwards onto the bed, and didn’t move again.
The wailing had attracted Guy’s attention and he burst into the room, sword drawn. Gemma turned to watch her knight come to her rescue. It was a little late, but she appreciated it all the same.
“It’s alright. I’m fine. And he didn’t want any offspring anyway, did he?”
“Did you kill him?”
Guy was staring at the slumped down figure of his liege lord, as if not quite sure of what he was seeing. His sword still hovered uncertainly in the air.
“No. At least I don’t think so. I knocked him out. Do put that away, will you?”
“Oh. Of course.”
Doubtfully, he approached the bed, then pressed his ear to the Sheriff’s chest.
“Yes, you’re right. He’s still breathing. What did you mean by – not wanting any offspring?”
“Oh, right. You heard him, didn’t you? That was because I kicked him.”
When her meaning struck Guy, he made a face, but nodded his understanding.
“I see. No, I shouldn’t think so. I’ve never heard of him bedding a woman.”
“We’d better find somewhere to lock him up. Somewhere safe and much less comfortable.”
“The wine cellar?”
“Good. Hold on. Is it very cold down there?”
“Then let’s leave him a cloak. I suppose we can’t let him freeze.”
Gemma bent over the Sheriff and hastily removed his tunic and tights, then pulled off his boots, under Guy’s puzzled stare.
“To slow him down a bit.”
“Oh, of course.”
He lifted the Sheriff off the bed and carried him into the hallway, then down some stairs Gemma had never even seen before, returning almost at once.
“There. Come on. The horses are waiting in the yard. We have to be far away from here when the other knights return.”
She ran after him, through the kitchen, which was empty and dark, the fire in the grate burning low. Just as Guy had mentioned, three horses were waiting. Gemma thought she recognized Guy’s black stallion and the fat pony-like mare she had ridden before. The other horse was also a stallion, but it wasn’t saddled. Guy heaved her into the mare’s saddle, then as elegantly as ever swung himself onto the back of the black stallion. They left through a smaller gate, in a direction Gemma hadn’t gone before, turning onto a narrow path, leading into a sort of no-man’s-land. The track led to a narrow gate in the town wall. It was unguarded and they simply passed through.
When they’d left the last buildings behind, Gemma asked Guy where they were going. By now, she had expected him to be relieved, but instead, he was looking even more concerned.
“There is only one place we can go. Sherwood.”
Judging by his tone he dreaded the forest more than anything. It struck her that before she arrived, his situation had been miserable, but as safe as it could be for a knight in mediaeval times. Protected, if that was the word, by the Sheriff. Now, because of her, he had lost his position, his home and his protector all at once.
“I’m sorry. This is all my fault.”
“Don’t be. I’m not sorry. Well, I’d be happier if I didn’t have to go into the forest, but other than that -”
“At least I got to teach that old creep a lesson. I only wish I’d been able to do the same to Kate.”
“Kate? Why? Because I -”
“Yes, and because of what she was saying about you behind your back.”
Guy lowered his gaze and said nothing for the better part of a minute, then faced her again.
“I knew that. I suppose they all talked.”
“Never mind. So, now Prince John is after me too. First the Sheriff and the other knights and now him. I never thought I’d be that desirable.”
“Oh. I thought -”
When his meaning hit her, Gemma felt herself blush vividly.
It seemed to dawn on him what she was referring to and now he was blushing too.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean – I thought perhaps you were a widow.”
Gemma considered. What could she tell a man from this time, that didn’t make her sound like a whore? She knew their customs were different from what she was used to and she didn’t want him to see her differently because of her background. On the other hand, she didn’t want to lie to him either. She glanced at him, and found that he seemed to be backing off.
“You don’t have to tell me. Never mind.”
“I’m not a whore.”
“Of course not. I wasn’t saying -”
He reined in his horse and rode up beside her, letting his fingers lightly brush her cheek. She dared to let go of the reins for just a moment, took his hand, squeezed it, raised it to her mouth and pressed her lips to it, then let go and grabbed the reins again, careful not to lose control over her horse.
“You might say I was too trusting.”
That was true enough, but it didn’t really answer his question. On the other hand, where she came from, she hadn’t done anything wrong.
He nodded, then let his stallions move on ahead again. The sun was coming up and here and there, they saw what Gemma took for farmers or farm workers going about their business. She guessed they were harvesting, but she knew next to nothing about farming and didn’t feel capable of judging what they were doing.
After about half an hour, Guy turned off the road, onto a narrow track, leading into a wooded area. She assumed it might be the first outlying parts of the forest. Sherwood forest of this era had to be thousands of acres larger than the small woodland areas she was used to from her time. Until now, she’d never even considered how big it might be or how the outlaws really lived out there. Perhaps she’d find out now. At least how she and Guy would be scraping out an existence there. Now that she was heading back into the woods, she wondered how she had come to be here in the first place. More importantly, was there a way for her to return? Even assuming there was, could she take a mediaeval knight? Would he be able to adapt to life in her world? But as far as she knew, there was no way back, and at the moment, her immediate problem was escaping the Sheriff and Prince John.
Once they were inside the forest proper, Guy let the horses pick their own pace, and they stopped to graze whenever they wanted. When they passed a little trickle of a stream, he let them drink. The further they got into the forest, the more relieved Gemma felt, but the same couldn’t be said about Guy. He started at every unexpected sound, whether it was a twig snapping or a bird chirping. Gemma again felt a pang of guilt. No matter what he told her, it was her fault he’d had to give up everything.
Towards noon, they stopped to eat a little. Another clear stream provided drinking water for them and the horses. She considered asking Guy what exactly it was he feared about the forest, but was afraid it might make things worse. Instead, she contented herself with holding his hand, literally, and mainly to cheer him up, making out a little. She could barely stop herself from grinning. It worked better than she’d expected. It was at least another hour before the tense, pallid face was back.
When the sun disappeared behind the high canopies, Guy began to look for a suitable campsite. After dismounting and continuing on foot for a while, he settled for spot beside another brook, where a thicket provided shelter. Gemma was wondering how it would feel to sleep on the bare ground, but mostly she was looking forward to spending the night with Guy for the first time.
As usual, he saw to the horses first, then began to cut off branches to make a sort of bed for them. He finished off by laying out some thick, coarse blankets on top. Gemma studied them doubtfully. Wouldn’t they be full of fleas?
Guy sensed her reaction and faced her, an enquiring look on his face.
“What? Anything wrong?”
“You don’t think there might be fleas in those?”
“Oh, sorry. Yes, I suppose so.”
He hastily removed them and shook the branches before smoothing them out again.
“Much. Just a second.”
She rummaged around in her sports bag and went through her extra clothes, then put on a thick jumper. Guy watched her curiously.
“It’s quite warm still, so I won’t start a fire. We don’t want to let anyone know we’re here.”
Gemma nodded agreement, then smiled, as she realized what was on his mind.
“Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You want to see me wearing less than this, not more. Right?”
It was obvious that she’d guessed correctly. He looked sheepish, but didn’t deny her suggestion.
“I won’t need this until later, when I’m going to sleep.”
She pulled off the jumper again, wondering if it would be alright to let him see her bra. It was a sports bra, which pretty much flattened her breasts out. That had come in handy while she was doing her boy routine, but now, alone with her boyfriend it would have to go. She came to the conclusion that Guy could hardly be an expert in women’s underwear and it should be alright to let him see her in that.
In the meantime, they sat down and made themselves comfortable.
“Go on then. I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.”
Guy’s facial tone deepened to a deep, blood red, but whether or not he realized she was joking, he did as she asked him, after first removing his mantle. He hesitated, then wrapped it around Gemma’s shoulders.
“There are no fleas in that. I keep it clean.”
Under her gaze, he self-consciously removed his tunic, then glanced expectantly at her.
She shrugged and pulled off her tunic, then wrapped Guy’s mantle a little tighter around her shoulders. It smelled strongly of horses, but by now, that had come to remind her of him, so she didn’t mind. She leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips. He pulled her closer and deepened the kiss. It didn’t take him long to begin to examine the bra closer.
“No, wait. You won’t be able to get it off. Let me do it.”
She was careful not to lose it among the foliage on the ground. Just to make sure, she tucked it into her tunic. She turned to face Guy again, and heard his breathing pick up. He nestled closer and buried his face between her breasts. At least someone found them adequate. He didn’t seem to mind too much that she didn’t remove her tights. Afterwards, they remained close and despite the unfamiliar sounds from the forest around them, Gemma had no trouble falling asleep, resting in his arms. She could definitely get used to this.
When she woke up, he was gone and she sat up staring around their campsite.
“I’ll be right back. The horses had wandered off. I’d better hobble them.”
“I’d better -”
She got up, wandered over to the brook and managed to do her morning cleaning, despite the chill. It would be a while, she guessed, until the sun warmed the water to a pleasant temperature, if it ever did. Last night the water had been deliciously cold to drink. Well, she couldn’t have everything.
By the time she was finished, Guy had joined her again.
“I was thinking we could stay here. Any further inside the forest and I won’t be able to find my way out again. As long as we keep quiet, we’ll be alright here.”
“But when winter comes?”
The second the question was out of her mouth, she regretted it. They were doing alright, why look too far ahead? The grim look on Guy’s face told her that she’d been right in her guess. Winter would be rough out here. Would she spend the rest of her life in the forest?
“I don’t know. I’ve never lived in the forest, but I’ve been in battle, in winter and – it’s not pleasant.”
He shook his head.
“We’ll have to think of something. I’m afraid I don’t have anywhere I can take you. My home – I don’t have a home. Gisburne land is – there’s nothing to return to.”
“What about your real father?”
“If he had cared what became of me, wouldn’t he have come forward sooner? No, there’s no one who can help us. My mother – well, if I could bear to meet her again, she might be able help you, but -”
“No. I want to be with you.”
“I suppose we could go further away, to where people won’t know who I am, but – if I can find a new liege lord – I’d have to use a different name and – but that won’t help you.”
“Let’s stay here for the time being. As you say, it’s still warm. We’ll manage.”
But deep down, Gemma was already beginning to worry. Would they freeze to death this winter? Starve? She hadn’t imagined that her life would end like this, so close to her home, yet so far away.
For a while, they did their best to keep their spirits up. It was rather like a holiday, the two of them alone together. Even so, she knew Guy worried about her and the horses. She didn’t know much about horses, but guessed they would need more to eat than just a bit of grass if they were to survive winter. Not that she and Guy would fare any better. She couldn’t recall what sort of winters they had in mediaeval times. Colder than in her time? Warmer? The same? Unless it was quite a bit warmer, she didn’t see how they could survive, but she refused to consider that now.