"Heaven have mercy on her, good woman that she is."
Such a sentiment was shared by nearly everyone in Nottingham.
It had been all the talk of late...that Sir Guy of Gisborne was to wed Lady Marian of Leaford. Just a few days before, the Sheriff's guards had made the rounds to every home, giving orders that everyone was to attend or face punishment. They were to celebrate with as much fanfare as possible. They were told to give great applause and cheering, to wave flags, to throw flower petals...anything to show they supported the new couple and wished them well. Sheriff Briwere liked a semblance of loyal subjects at every occasion, be it a wedding or an execution. It thrilled him to have a crowd gathered around himself.
But under the forced smiles, a great tremor of fear and anxiety flowed through the crowd.
Poor Lady Marian, many whispered.
Everyone knew that her heart belonged to Robin of Locksley. And yet, she would soon be taking the hand of Sheriff Briwere's notorious Master at Arms. Just the dark presence of the man was enough to send a chill through every heart.
Lady Marian...the beautiful, kind and gentle defender of the people...married to such a barbaric human being. Sir Guy's reputation for cruelty preceded him, and everyone was praying for some miracle that would save Lady Marian from her fate.
Cassia understood their worries. Like so many of those around her, she feared Sir Guy and his ruthlessness.
And yet, she'd never been so besotted with any man before.
So many times, she'd watched him from afar as he rode through the village, tall and darkly magnificent as he sat upon his horse. She thought of his eyes. What a strange, beautiful shade of color they were...grey as a stormy sky. When she looked at him, she found herself spellbound. To her he seemed like a great tempest...a dark, powerful storm on the horizon. Frightening...and yet, completely fascinating to behold.
He was all that was forbidden and dangerous. But she could not help her feelings of attraction, even though she knew that everyone in Nottingham...especially her father...thought him the very definition of darkness.
But as deeply as she loved her father, she could not share in his contempt. She was his assistant when it came to aiding the poor. She even tolerated the occasional appearance of Robin Hood and his gang, who sometimes came to her father with a sick child or wounded villager. But she did not hold with his ideals about the saintly King Richard. Though she knew it was treason, she saw their King in the way she saw all royalty. Power hungry, vain...each cruel in their own different ways. While the Sheriff terrorized here at home, under the orders of Prince John, Richard was doing the same in the Holy Land. The blood of men was the blood of men, no matter where it was spilled. It was all senseless slaughter, no matter how one tried to justify it. And Guy of Gisborne was no innocent bystander.
But God help her, there was something about him. Something that captivated her, no matter how often she heard ill of him.
Her heart was breaking now as she mingled among the wedding guests. She imagined Guy at the altar, slipping a wedding band on the finger of a woman who didn't love him. A woman whose heart and soul belonged to another. Why was he so obsessed with her?
Everyone knew she possessed a great dowry. That alone was enough to attract many a nobleman's interest. Briwere might have had her for himself, were it not for his own wife...albeit, one he'd had locked in a convent.
But it seemed that Guy was interested in something more than her wealth. Everyone had heard rumors from the servants at Nottingham Castle...that Sir Guy pursued Lady Marian at every turn. That all she had to do was crook her little finger and he would follow her anywhere...allow her anything, even access to parts of the castle where few others were given admittance. No matter that she was rumored to consort with outlaws in secret forest rendezvous. He was unwavering in his devotion to her, and now he would have her...too blind to see how much she truly despised him.
Oh Guy, she thought with despair. Why can you not see her as I do? I have seen her with the outlaws. I have heard her speak of you with such disgust. I have seen her with Robin Hood. She stands in his arms, speaking of her great love for him. And yet she smiles at you, saying she will give herself to you in every way. You will take her to the marriage bed...but what face will she be seeing when she lies with you?