queenofmay: (Fragile - nimrodel_river)
[personal profile] queenofmay
Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V

~*~



Marian walked up quietly behind Sarah, outside the room where Djaq was rifling the supplies so quickly.

"Djaq? Djaq?' The woman cried out, toward the open window, the grief very little constrained in her voice. "It's Jess. I think she's going!"

Could they have come so far, been so maligned and betrayed anew, only to be too late? Marian watched the small girl's quiet, uneven breathing over her mother's shoulder as the two continued to talk.

"It's a hunch," Djaq said, very carefully. Calm, but without a lie. The way she had when she'd talked to Marian, herself, so few months ago, with her fingers inside the deep wound of her body. "But it could kill her."

"Whose hunch?" Sarah asked, the note of frantic panic stronger in her voice this time.

"Mine." Little John said, stepping into their small ring of three finally. It was amazing at times that a man so large could stand so still, so unimpeading, or look so small at the behest of such a confession. No promise in that word, only blatant humble, responsibility.

"Here," he said, taking the bottle from Djaq, and sitting beside Sarah, and Jess. His voice a quite gravel. "Trust me. Let me do this."

Even that quiet solemnity seemed to go worse for Sarah, whose shoulders began to shake and she began to cry looking down at her pallid daughter, now gone so very still, and the quite man now sitting beside them both. All of the men were quiet and still as Sarah's sobs echoed around them. Except for Marian. Who stepped up, very quietly, to place a hand on the woman's shoulder from behind.

Sarah seemed to gather herself some in the half minute following it, while everyone agonized in the sound and waiting. Still sniffling as she shook her head very quickly, "She's going anyway. Just try it." She shivered saying again, "Just try it."

John smeared the belladonna on a fingertip, before transferring it to Jess's tongue. The delicacy with which he treated the tiny, still, girl child seemed to cast a spell over all of them. Drawing the moment's tension into on collective hold of their breathe as they all watched. Hoping against Hope. For John, against Joseph. And The Sheriff.

They all watched as she laid there still and quiet, only shifting the smallest bit to let her head loll against the pillow again. Until Sarah's sobs began a new, pulling away from the hand on her shoulder, to curl toward her daughter as her hands curved over the small shoulder bones of Jess. "Jess! No!"

Marian exchanged a glance with Robin. Anxious, beaten emotion, in those green eyes that met hers so briefly. It was almost worse, this, wasn't it? To have given her a moments, even desperate bone-weary and unlikely, hope, only to see it brought to nothing. In the fold of John's head, and how each of them quietly took some responsibility for the Sheriff's doing. Again. As Sarah wailed.

And then suddenly went silent, her shoulder going perfectly still, staring at her daughter, before she whispered in a trembling disbelief, "Jess?"

The girl began to blink, moving finally as though to shake off the arms holding her, confused. Sarah reached out to John suddenly, a hand on his large forearm. "It's working! I think it's working!"

"I think, it is," Djaq said, as the relieved Little John stood up to remove himself from Sarah throwing her arms around her waking daughter and murmuring her gratitude for John still, into her daughter's hair. The two outlaws sharing a grimly pleased and relieved expression. "It is working."

"Amazing!" Much cried, bright with triumph and slapping John with the back of his hand on his chest. "How did you know that?"

Marian smiled, even as Little John nodded, seeming faintly embarrassed. "I know some things."

"We have to stop Joseph before he poisons anybody else," Robin said, the seriousness of his tone breaking straight through the moments' frivolity of success. Serious and true, as they had stopped the first of many only. And only on Pitt Street. "Now, he’ll have gone into the castle. We have to find a way to get in after him."

"Well, how did Will get in?" Marian asked, simply, thinking to her encounter with him as she had been getting out.

Much's voice came first, the dawned lack of understanding falling out of his mouth, even as everyone had turned to look at her, very suddenly, for her words. "Will?

"He’s in the castle," she said, feeling slow to need this repeating.

But the way they were all staring at her suddenly. As though this was importantly vital. The way Robin's eyes had widened in disbelief, that she was certain was edged by alarm. How Much looked to John, and John only hung his head, with this heavy, but unsurprised, disappointment. She was missing something.

Something big. "Didn’t you know?"

"Oh, no." Was the quietest of acknowledgments to that from Robin.

"What’s going on?" She asked, again, for the thing absolutely everyone but her knew.

It was Djaq who spoke up, her apologetically even tone turned to informing, even as she was seated over the next man she had been giving the belladonna to. "He’s going to kill the Sheriff."

But that was impossible. That would mean. That would -- "Well, doesn’t he know Prince John would destroy Nottingham?"

Wouldn't they all know by now? How could even one of the them be, possibly, unaware of the threat of the razing promised on Nottingham, were a single hair on the Sheriff's head so much touched that he not be able to send word each evening of his continual state.

"Oh, he knows," Much said, hands dropping to his hips, shaking his head. "But..."

"The man the Sheriff killed..."

It was Robin's voice that broke in, stealing the end of whatever Much would have said with his directness. With a tone too much deeper, darker, but even gentler understanding in this hitch, for this newest wrinkle in everything, as he looked to her when he said the end.

"..was Will’s father."




The decisions were easy enough. Pitt Street had to be seen to, but the Castle was more important. They could not let the street go, any more than they could not face that the threat to all of Nottingham Shire was greater. Especially with how long it had already been since Marian had passed Will on her way out. There were too many more risks inside between Will and Joseph and The Sheriff to all of Nottingham.

They saw to as many as they could, before heading for the barricades.

"Nobody passes!" A guard called out to the group headed toward them.

Marian, with Jane's hood pulled low over her forehead and a handkerchief pressed across the lower half of her face, only glanced up the once, as she began speaking in a Welsh peasant's accent. "Master Joseph asked us to bring the body to t’ castle."

"What for?" The Sheriff's man called out, looking at them all through the bars. Five people in hooded cloaks and the man laid out, staring perfectly still and aimless, on the stretcher between them.

"Didn’t say," Marian answered smoothly, right back, unruffled and unconcerned, making sure her gaze more than twice returned toward her feet and the bottom of the barricades. As though it were not her place or right to be asking her better why they had ordered her or what it was about.

Little John called from the back, some irritation in his voice, "What, you wan' to take it?"

The soldier's glanced at each other fearfully uncertain, especially with Much's pallor and stillness, wrapped in the long beige cloth, emulating a gruesome death from the plague. Staring woodenly off to one side with the great wooden cross laid over him, where he was carried between Robin and John in their cloaks. With Djaq at their side, dressed in all brown, with her own cross, like a monk.

Then they opened the barricades, careful not to let any of the people get in with them. But also, flinched away from touching or being anywhere near the party they were letting in. They were led in by one of the guards, who called out to have the gate raised for them, that the body they brought was for Master Joseph. Which was when Allan joined them. In the first empty hallway, when they could put down Much, he was brought up to speed.

Marian could move faster here. Take them down corridors that were almost always empty, making sure to scout ahead before gesturing for them to follow her further in. Watching the hallways beyond where they stopped to ready in a deserted hallway, for any guards that might be coming. Ridding themselves of the accessories for their disguised entrance, and pulling out weapons from the stretcher where Much had lain. Her duty, to getting them in, almost done.

She was supposed to only get them into the castle, so they could take care of the rest of this problem themselves, as Will was one of their own, but she couldn't help standing there, listening, as Much finally broke the silence, looking at Robin and no one else in the hallway. "And what do we do if he won't come?"

"Then, you make him," Robin said, his tone all too even.

"But-" Much started, again, and it felt like everyone stiffened with the necessity for the words to be asked for, again. "What if he won’t?

Robin paused, adjusting his belt. The great Saracen blade from The Holy War that hung from it, neatly back at his side. Before he said solemnly, and with great weight to the statement. "Whatever it takes, Much."

Marian looked between them all. The dawning horror on Much's face, and the alarm from Djaq. Much sputtered through his shock. "Whatever it takes?"

Robin stared at him, briefly looking down. "Whatever it takes."

"We kill one of our own?" The words sucked all of the air out of that small space, leaving her staring back at them more than watching the hallways before her.

Djaq with her hands on her belt, Allan's rather transparent fear, Little John in the shadows, watching them, as well. Everyone staring at the two of them in the middle, in some statement of shock and disbelief, when no one could speak and everyone wanted to defend, had to struggle with the idea of one person, one of their own, already broken with the death of a parent, for all of the people of Nottingham. Including themselves.

Robin had pressed his mouth into a hard line, before nodding, solemn and quiet, with no promise in either direction. "Let’s hope we have a choice."

The last of the weapons drawn, they all divided off in their groups, leaving her at door to her room. Eyes trailing after the fleeting shadows of Much with Djaw and Robin, alone, her thoughts turned to Will. Will, who had been here the longest of all the men, without any leave. At least that she'd known. She had to trust that they would find a way. That it wouldn't be his death. That this day had seen the end of sudden deaths that should have been avoided.

But as much as she might have implied she'd stay there, once they deposited her, she tightened the cloak over her shoulders, and headed back out of her room. Robin and his men might have the castle, but Pitt Street still needed to be finished with, too.




Out, out was always easier than in. Even with the noose of time tightening with every minute. She'd been halfway across the courtyard, when the Sheriff's voice came from a high window in the castle. Raw and gasping for breath, but still calling out, "People of Nottingham -- There is -- no -- pestilence." A pause followed as she looked up, holding the top of her hood to her hair.

From a broken window even. There were panes in that one. It went to the Sheriff's office, and he looked as though he were leaning out of it awkwardly. Which one of them might have been up there now.

"It was -- poison. An -- experiment." What was wrong with him? Was it possible something had happened? Had Will gotten to him? Was Will the one in the room? But he didn't know about the poison and lies and Joseph. Unless they had already found him. If he'd already wounded the Sheriff. Then this display. "I'm - truly, truly -- sorry."

Then the longest silence, after it had look like he'd fallen back from that same window. A long, precarious silence that made her heart clench. That made her question whether she should be doing anything to get to her father and not to Pitt Street. Suddenly, there came the screaming for guards. Even faint from so far and high away, stronger and angrier. Vaisey, apparently recovered his ability to breathe for it.

The crash of more glass followed it and gasps from all around them. The sight above them, stealing all of her confused thoughts from her from in less space than a breath. Robin was hanging from the blue-and-gold banner pennant hanging down from beneath that broken window. Joseph one second hanging from one of his feet, and the next falling. Falling, and landing, with a sickened crash and crack as he slammed the courtyard, sending out a riot of screaming.

The guards were running toward the body, and the place where Robin would land. As it seemed he was now slicing his way down the long banner toward the ground two floors beneath him. Vaisey nearly falling out after him, a riotous angry expression. Pulled back by a black blur, that could be Guy, at the last second when he might have gone flying out himself. Shouting for the guards in the courtyard to get Robin.

But he landed safely, as all the others came running out. Will in tow, haggard and wan, but there beside Djaq. They all went running out the main gate, the guards half taken with the broken body of Joseph and the other half giving chase to the Outlaws, even against the applause and cheers of all the inner city people. Marian could only tuck her face into her hood, smiling, silent and wide, despite everything, using the distraction as the best cover, and turn back toward Pitt Street and those few left ailing, and twice as much in need of food.
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queenofmay

May 2014

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