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This little piece was written for the 2010 LJ GuyxMarian Secret Santa for the lovely Perteltote. I hope you enjoy this as it is the longest piece I've written to date. Helpful comments are gratefully accepted.
Disclaimer: Guy and Marian belong to legend, and actually Sir Guy of Gisborne belongs to Richard Armitage. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended or implied.
The Christmas Wish
Lady Marian of Knighton leaned her back against the door to her bedroom, her hands still on the handle. The servants’ laughter echoed through the door. She lifted her face and closed her eyes tightly. Afraid the tears would come unbidden and unstoppable in so public a place, she hurried through the castle hallway, wrapping her cream and gold cape about her, her hands clenching her cloak and long dark blue skirt so not to impede her quickening steps. She passed servants here and there lighting torches along the castle hallway in answer to the fading light of the winter late afternoon. Lady Marian kept her head down in an attempt to keep the tears that threatened at bay.
It was Christmastide.
She had thought that having lasted through Christmas Day, the day before, that she had weathered her loneliness rather bravely and that the worst of the storms was behind her. In fact, truth be told, she had congratulated herself on her strength and fortitude.
Then, while dressing she chatted with the serving girls, Sarah and Jenny, whilst they finished dressing her hair and tidying her room after her bath. The talk had turned to Christmas and the family celebration Sarah and Jenny, both sisters, had enjoyed. The emotional blow, as the realization came once again, without warning, was devastating.
“I am an orphan,” she thought. It took all of her strength and will to prevent her knees buckling from under her. The fear, uncertainty, loneliness along with the precariousness of her daily situation overwhelmed her. Thankfully, Sarah had just finished dressing her hair, having wound a lovely braid around the crown of her head, allowing the rest of her dark hair to flow down her back almost to her waist. Trying not to convey the urgency to leave that she felt, Marian expressed the desire for a walk before dinner. She grabbed her cloak, threw it about her shoulders and hurried to the door, closing it quickly and somewhat forcefully behind her. She exhaled deeply.
This was the first Christmas alone after losing her father Edward, her mother having been lost in childbirth. “Alone,” she thought sorrowfully.
Marian kept walking, without purpose, lost in her memories, stopping suddenly in front of a set of double doors. Coming back to herself, she looked up, “Chapel” read the etched stone in the lintel. Lady Marian’s tears started to fall. Her heart and soul had led her here to this place of peace and solitude.
Sometime Earlier That Afternoon
Sir Guy of Gisborne, Master at Arms for the Sheriff of Nottingham, finished working up the guard assignments for the next twelve days and ran his last round of inspections for the afternoon. He was pleased that not a single man in his guard had been drunk or dead after the Christmas Day revelries. Every man reported for his post on time. “They knew I would be watching,” he thought. “And they were right.”
“Christmastide.” Guy sighed, memories of the twelve days after Christmas past welling up, threatening to break through his carefully built façade of danger and violence, power and strength. He quickened his step, reaching full stride. No one could know the want and longing he harbored for warmth, affection… love. He had had it…once. “Mother,” he thought, “Father”. They had been a family, three strong, until his mother, Ghislaine, had died in childbirth delivering his sister, who also did not survive. His father, Robert, had languished in his grief. Eventually, all that was left of the man Guy loved was the empty shell of his body. Then one day, his soul took flight to join his wife and daughter. Guy was thirteen years old. “Alone,” he thought, remembering.
He shook his head, as if to clear it of the pain and sadness his memories brought. He refused to dwell on his life since then. It was what it was. Miserable and cruel. “But not without some rewards,” Guy thought, “money, power, women.” Which invariably led to, “Marian.” He breathed her name as he hurried toward his chamber to change his clothes before heading to complete his last task before dinner, one he assigned himself every year.
Entering his chamber Guy quickly stripped the leather gloves and jacket from his body, drawing his undershirt over his head, throwing it onto his bed and stepped to the washing table. He inhaled the scent from the steaming water in the bowl on the table and relaxed, “Ahhh,” he thought, as the combination of lavender, bergamot, with a touch of oak moss, did its work. He began to wash away the day’s dirt and grime from his face and hair in the basin of warm water he had ordered made ready for him. He ran his wet hands through his black hair enjoying the warm, clean water. Toweling off, he felt immeasurably better. He slipped a black long-sleeved silk undershirt over his head quickly followed by a midnight blue velvet tunic with silver wolfs head buttons and silver stitching. His breeches were also of midnight blue velvet with laces in the front of black leather. He slipped into the black leather boots his valet had left shined for him. Refreshed, he gathered his cloak and closed his chamber door stepping into the already torch lit hallway. He hurried through the hallway to complete his assigned task.
He stopped in front of the double wooden doors, “Chapel” read the stone etched lintel above them. To the right side of the doors in the hallway against the wall were fresh cut pine boughs, springs of holly, and fresh candles.
Since Vaisey’s appointment as Sheriff of Nottingham, the Chapel had fallen into disuse. In fact, Vaisey refused to go near the place and had tried to board it up until the Bishop of Nottingham had gotten wind of that plan and expressed a willingness to complain to Queen Eleanor about it. Vaisey had wisely let the plan die. Vaisey did however discourage use of the Chapel by keeping it locked. Which it was, most of the time.
Standing in front of the double Chapel doors, Sir Guy reached into the pocket of his tunic and withdrew a key with which he unlocked the right Chapel door. Guy smiled to himself, “Vaisey hasn’t missed this key in almost two years.”
He took the gold candle lighter that was leaning inside the left door against the wall and lit it from the hallway torchiere. He lit the upper ring of candles in the black iron ring suspended from the ceiling, brought the new candles in from the hall and placed them in front of the cross and on the altar. He lit them one by one, watching as the dark gloom was chased from the room by the golden light. “It is so quiet,” he thought. He extinguished the candle lighter and began bringing in armfuls of the pine boughs and sprigs of holly, laying them about the altar remembering his mother performing similar acts of love, hers for God whilst Guy’s were for her. As he laid the last boughs and sprigs in front of the golden cross, he said quietly, “For you, Mother.”
Ghislaine had taught Guy that Christmastide was a time of remembering God’s love for us as He sent His Son, born in poverty. It was a time to honor the Son by performing anonymous acts of charity. It was also a time, his mother said, that God was so in love with mankind that He would often grant a heart’s wish made during Christmastide.
Now the Chapel was relatively small with 12 rows of pews on each side of a center aisle. The altar, with the golden cross, stood in the center at the end of the aisle. The golden light reflected off the gold of the cross which was absorbed by the red velvet drapes at the windows. The scent of the pine chased the musty smell from the Chapel and a sense of peace and warmth filled the room as the candle glow flickered.
Guy headed to the last pew in the set on the left side. He knelt, the padded kneeler a blessing from the cold stone floor, folded his hands and stared at the golden Cross. His mind flew across the years, memories swept in front of his eyes as he prayed for his mother, his father and the sister he never knew. And then, in a whisper… he began to pray for himself as his mother taught him, “Rappelez-vous, Vierge Marie, plus gracieuse, que jamais il est connu que tous ceux qui ont fui ta protection, implor ton aide, ou cherch ton intercession a te laisse seul..…”
After a time, in the silence, Guy leaned his forehead on his folded hands and placed his heart’s wish before God.
Marian placed her hand on the Chapel door then remembered that it was always locked. “Not now.” Her sadness ignited her frustration and she pulled the handle expecting nothing. To her surprise, the door swung open. She peered inside. The sight of the candlelit room and the heady scent of fresh pine swept over her. Instantly, she was transported back to the Christmases past at Knighton Hall where fresh pine and holly bedecked the manor. The scent triggered the memory, the loneliness surged up within her and she threw open the Chapel door and ran to the pew in front of the golden Cross. She knelt, laid her arms on the front of the pew and her head upon them and sobbed, her heart already broken, the grief and sadness pouring out.
Some minutes passed and still she sobbed. So lost in her grief, Marian never heard the soft booted steps approach until the voice whispered low, “Marian.” She did not, could not, look up. Her shoulders heaved and her breath caught as signs of her grieving distress.
Marian felt him slide into the pew beside her and kneel next to her, his warmth and scent flowing over her in her sadness. Gradually, his presence dawned on her and her sobbing lessened somewhat. “Marian, what is it? What distresses you so?” Guy asked gently. At the gentleness of his tone, Marian lifted her head, her tear filled eyes looking directly into his dark blue ones. She had no words. The look of pain on her face tore through him and pierced his heart. “Marian,” he asked again gently, “What is it?”
“I have no one.” Marian whispered, looking at him. “You cannot know what it feels like to be utterly alone. To have no one who cares about you, if you live or die.” At the catch in his breath Marian looked closely at him, her tears now at an end.
“I do know what it is to be alone, and have been alone far longer than you would care to understand.” Guy said quietly. Marian thought he she saw a tear welling in his eye, but surely it must be a reflection of the flickering light. Then, realization that she had wounded him brought the tears anew. Through them she tried to apologize for her cruel, heartless statement. Instead Guy sat back in the pew and gathered Marian to him holding her against his heart. He placed his chin on the top of her head and stroked her hair to quiet her tears. “Shhh, it is alright Marian, good girl, quiet now…. little one…” Guy whispered to her.
Marian realized that Guy was behaving as a kind, caring gentleman, and relaxed against him, finding comfort in his strength and warmth. His arms encircled her and held her securely but not adversely so she felt safe and protected and… connected. That is what it was! She felt grounded for the first time since her father had died. Guy was warm, he was solid. She felt the muscles of his chest and arms through his tunic. Hard, solid, strong. Not even when Robin had held her the day of Edward’s death had Marian felt whole and centered. As Marian dried her eyes on the small cloth she pulled from her sleeve she sighed. “What does he expect of me now?” she wondered.
As she collected herself, Marian moved a little from Guy’s embrace, sitting next to him in the pew though she held his right hand with both of hers in his lap as she turned to talk with him. “Guy, how came you to be here at this moment? How did the Chapel come to be open, it is always locked? Who had the courage to bedeck the Chapel? Will not the Sheriff be angry?”
Guy looked her directly in the eyes and then lowered his head, a dark lock falling over his forehead. He lifted his hand from hers and grasped the bridge of his nose between his long slender fingers. “This is personal, something close to him,” Marian thought, “He only does that when it is something he does not wish to talk about.”
“Guy...” Marian began.
“I have told no one since I was thirteen, Marian. I would like to share this with someone I could trust. May I trust you with this, Marian?” Guy asked her, looking at her directly.
Marian, lowered her head under his scrutiny, and took a deep breath. “For the kindness that you have shown me here today alone, yes, you can trust me with this. I would not hurt you, Guy,” Marian said firmly.
This time, as they turned to each other in the pew, Guy gently took both of her hands in his, and looked into her eyes. “My Lady, before I tell you my story of Christmastide, may I ask you…” he faltered, his brow furrowing as he glanced at their joined hands. “May I ask you to forgive my many crimes against you? Not today I am sure, but perhaps someday if I prove myself worthy of your forgiveness?” he added hurriedly. Having finally said it, he felt as if a great weight had lifted not only from his shoulders, he could actually feel the physical lifting of it, but from his soul too. He experienced a lightness he had not known since his parents lived.
As Marian looked at him, she saw the transformation as it happened. The darkness that surrounded Sir Guy lightened and became a glow. Then her own brow furrowed as she looked at him and said, “Sir Guy, I will grant you forgiveness if you will do the same for me as I fear I have trespassed on your heart and feelings and trust too many times. I have been thoughtless and uncaring and I too am truly sorry.” She looked at Guy hopefully. His voice, low and rumbled, said, “Then let us agree to begin again in friendship and trust. The past lies here today.”
Guy leaned back in the pew, taking comfort in the warmth of her nearness and the softness of her hands in his. He pondered briefly the sensation of her skin on his, he so often wore his leather gloves, and reveled in the contact.
“My mother taught me this tradition of Christmastide, when I was a young boy,” Guy said softly. “They all died when I was thirteen and I have tried to keep their memory by decorating the Chapel each year, it was an especially dear tradition to my mother.”
“It is beautiful, Guy,” Marian said looking around the Chapel. “I am surprised that the Sheriff allowed this, he has been so adamant about keeping the Chapel locked.”
“The Sheriff does not know, Marian,” Guy said looking at her. “And he would have me flogged if he knew that I had gone against his orders.” He lifted the right side of his lips in small smile.
“I see,” said Marian, “Well then we will endeavor to be sure he does not find out.” She smiled back at him.
Guy said, “There is more to Christmastide, Marian. There are also anonymous works of charity. Would you be willing to help me with those? It is a chance to aid some of the poor that are near and dear to your heart.”
“I think that is a very noble and knightly thing to do Guy. I shall be honored to provide aid to your cause.” Marian said proudly. “He wants me to help him help the poor!” she thought, “Is this a place of magic? What has come over him?”
“There is a third part,” Guy explained, his voice low and emotional. “My mother said that because God sent His Son to us He was so in love with mankind that at Christmastide He may choose to grant a heart’s wish.”
Marian sat quietly and pondered this. In truth, she was still reeling somewhat from Guy’s request for her assistance with the poor.
After a time she looked up at him and asked, “Would you stay with me for a prayer and while I make my heart’s wish?”
Guy’s eyes widened with surprise and, she saw, pleasure. He blinked a few times to keep the tears at bay and offered his left hand which she accepted with her right hand. They knelt together and as Guy blessed himself, Marian heard him speaking in a whisper to himself in French. They knelt, heads bowed in prayer. Then Marian raised her head and squeezed his hand. Guy turned his head to look at her and they smiled at each other.
Marian stood and said, “It has been so long since I’ve thought of food but I believe I am actually hungry.” As Guy stood he stepped out of the pew and backed up a step so Marian could step into the aisle. She smiled up at him, again impressed by his handsome countenance and his beautiful clothes. “Sir Guy, may I have the pleasure of your escorting me to the Great Hall for dinner?” She asked shyly.
“Certainly, my Lady,” Guy said, “But I am afraid I will need one more moment.”
“Of course Guy, as you desire. But what for?” Marian asked.
In the flickering candlelight, Marian was almost certain that Sir Guy of Gisborne was, well there was no other word for it, positively beaming as he knelt on one knee on the cold stone floor. He bowed his head and closed his eyes. “Thank you Heavenly Father. Merci, maman, je t'aime,” he prayed.
After a moment, he stood and offered her his arm. “Marian, it is polite to offer thanks to God when He graciously grants a heart’s wish. And this was mine.” He smiled, the blue of his eyes now shining radiant as he covered the hand she laid on his arm with his, smiled into her eyes and led her up the aisle and out of the Chapel.
Guy’s prayer in French is the Memorare, dedicated to The Blessed Virgin Mary by the abbot Bernard Clairvaux in the 12 century.
The English translation is as follows:
REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
Guy’s second French prayer, “Merci, maman, je t'aime” is translated as “Thank you, Mother, I love you.”
Copyright December 2010 Annie Lucas All Rights Reserved
Ok, so I was thinking about the Guy/Marian unfinished stories and how frustrating it is to read and get invested in one (especially when its really, really good) only to find that it is left unfinished and we are "Left Hanging". Hence my idea. Yes, this is how my brain works...
"Now go, find and arrest them and bring them before me." Vaizey said, waving Guy away in dismissal.