Ch 2: Why Elizabeth and Gilbert don't have kids
AN: This story went darker than I had intended, faint of heart beware. Don't hate me for this, please! Why do I torture my characters so?!
Attempted forcing of a woman
OC character death
Robin pulled me aside later, once the revelry had died down some. He had a skein with him that looked like it was full of wine. Probably some he'd nicked from the Sheriff at some point or other. Or more likely, that home-brew ale that wasn't worth scratch, in my opinion.
"Alright, Gil, spill. How did you hear that baby crying, and why did you risk your life like that?"
"Robin, I…" I paused, gathering my thoughts. I internally snorted at the rhyme Robin had made of my name. "I just couldn't see that happen…again."
I looked warily about me for my wife before replying. I hadn't yet told her about today's events – I hadn't been hurt, but it wouldn't keep her from worrying and fussing over me like a mother hen.
"See what happen? And what happened before?"
There are some times when I'm grateful Robin can't stand not being able to fix something; and other times, I just wish he would leave well enough alone. I knew this conversation wouldn't be easy – I suppressed those memories for a reason.
"It's a long story, Robin. Not one for many ears – and you may need more than a skein of that wretched, god-awful ale you seem to like so much, before it's done." Elizabeth would skin me if – no when – she found out, but Robin is our leader, and he does deserve to know if something is wrong with some of his people.
Robin looked grim as he contemplated my terms. Nodding, he led me by the elbow away from the camp proper, to a clearing with a small river. He gestured for me to sit down, which I did gladly; I had been on my feet from the moment I got up this morning, trying to avoid Sherriff's men as I made my way back from Kirklees' Abbey. I watched as he reached into the hollow of a fallen log that crossed the stream – my mind idly wondered if this was where Robin got dropped in by Tuck – and he pulled out a jug. Probably of more ale.
"Don't tell Marian this is here, alright? She and 'Liz will string us both up if they find out I've got this, or that you know about it. At least you've got that 'kicked puppy' look mastered, so 'Liz might take mercy on you. Me, Marian would leave until the Sherriff's gone old and grey" Robin quipped, flopping down beside me on the bank. He pulled out the cork with his teeth, blowing it off to one side.
Shaking my head when he offered the jug to me first – I've no need for an addled head right now, and he'll need it more by the time I'm done with the story – I watch has he takes a long swig before bringing his attention back to why we were there in the first place.
I took a deep breath, wondering where to begin, when Robin cut in before I could say a word.
"Is it so hard to begin?"
"You have no idea" I quip back, letting out my breath in one. "It all happened just before we joined you in Doncaster that day, three years ago."
"What does three years ago have to do with how I saw you run straight into a burning building – that was on the edge of collapse – to save a baby that no-one else even knew was inside?" Robin interrupted.
"Are you gonna let me tell you or not?" I retort; Robin silently salutes me with his jug, as if to say 'go on'. Sitting back with a huff, my hands idly pull up grass as I continue where I left off.
"Three years ago, 'Lisbeth and I were only a year wed. We'd some small idea of starting a family – kids, dog, the lot – but we both knew we couldn't afford much just yet. We had a house in Knighton, small. A separate room for sleeping, then one for cooking, roof, walls; just enough for starting. Wasn't much, but it was home." I smile absently, remembering the good times that came before the bad.
"I had carpentry work on the other side of the village, and 'Lisbeth of course had her sewing. God only knows why, but we found out 'Liz was pregnant about half-way through the year before. Ended up with a little girl, Gracie. Well, Grace, after 'Liz's mum …. anyway; She had us wrapped 'round her little finger from the day she was born – all brown eyes and grins.
She was only about two months old when it happened." I stop. Now comes the hard part – the part 'Liz and I tried so hard to forget.
Robin was kind enough to keep his trap shut long enough for me to start up again – small blessings, I suppose.
"I was at work on the other side of the village for the day, 'Liz was at home with Gracie and her sewing. The next bit's just what I heard from 'Liz, but that doesn't make it pretty."
Robin blanches, reaching for the skein still on his hip. He doesn't say anything, but just hands it to me uncorked. Wine, like I'd first thought. I take a swig to take the edge off, and then continue.
"Liz had gone for water from the well, Gracie was asleep long enough for that one trip. One of Sherriff's guards was there, 'Liz paid him no mind. She didn't even know he'd noticed her – let alone followed her" the hiss of an intake of breath from Robin is the only reaction to the now predictable outcome – "until she'd already put the water down and he shoved through the door. The bastard grabbed her, muffling her sound to keep any neighbors from hearing, and pushed her into the bedroom. Gave him a good shiner, 'Liz did, and the toe of her boot where it hurts; good on her, but it only made things worse. As much of a spitfire as she can be, he was stronger and she had no weapons but her hands and teeth. Of course, his fun was ruined by her boot, but he decided to make her pay for it. He forced her down, took his dagger and…" I cut myself off, the memory of Elizabeth telling me all of this, and my own subsequent horror, forefront in my mind.
"He used the dagger to cut her, on her wrists and across the waist. Not enough to be fatal, on its own, but still. She's got the scars even today."
Robin hummed in sympathy, his eyes dark at the description of the guard. He was tense, like he was readying himself for a fight. Not that I would stop him, if he had some magical way of going back in time.
"He set fire to the house. I don't even think he knew Gracie was there, but I'm half-glad if he didn't.
I saw the smoke from the roof I'd been working on – half the village was already there when I got there. Already trying to put the fire out before it spread, though the house wasn't salvageable. I couldn't see 'Liz when I got there, but I could just hear her yelling from inside. I was in there before anyone could stop me, carrying her as she carried Grace out of that pitch-smoke. I could hardly see, it was so thick, but I knew we couldn't just stop."
"It wasn't until we got outside and settled by the well, that I realized something was wrong. 'Liz couldn't stop crying, coughing from the smoke all the while. But there was a sound from that chaos that wasn't there – that should've been."
Again I stop. It's too much – the scene plays itself out before my eyes. I don't even realize I'm crying until water hits my hand. Robin hands me the jug of ale, clapping me on the back in support. I take a swallow, for once, blessing the burn going down my throat to distract my mind.
"Grace." Robin deduced easily what had been missing from the picture. I nod, silently, unable to continue just then.
One shuddering breath; two; a heaving gasp and another swallow of that burning ale before I can move forward.
"You don't have to continue, Gil. Not if you don't want to" Robin intones.
His hand hasn't left my shoulder, and I'm grateful for it. Something solid to ground me to reality, and not drown in the memory.
"It's fine, it was three years ago. Someone beyond us should know the truth, anyway."
"Just…let me continue."
Robin nodded, and I handed him the ale jug and wine skein again. The last thing anyone needed right now was me getting drunk.
"You're right, it was Grace. She wasn't breathing. She wasn't crying, she wasn't laughing; she wasn't doing anything. Her heart wasn't beating. She'd breathed in too much smoke – I'd gotten there too late to save both of them. We'd lost Gracie. But frankly, that's not the worst of it."
"The sheriff." Now Robin's eyes held murder – I was sure I'd be knocking him out sometime tonight. Wouldn't do anyone any good for Robin to go on a warpath.
"Yes, the Sheriff. As always. He came with his guards – the one who started it all included – the next week. The guard had squealed, saying he'd been assaulted for no reason. And the sheriff blamed us for the fire. Arson and assault of a Sheriff's guard – treason against the crown, he equated it to.
We'd just lost Grace, and I'd come close to losing 'Liz too, what with her wounds and the grief. She'd taken a fever the day after the fire, only coming out of it before the dog returned with his master to drive us out. If we'd not left, I'm sure I at least would've been hung.
So we fled. Nothing but each other, and the clothes on our backs, barely healed from what had happened – and forced through the forest on our own. We made it to Doncaster, and you know what happened from there. 'Liz can't bear children anymore. She loves 'em to bits, but she can't…that bastard made it….gah!" I cut myself off again, going from grief to anger in a snap.
"Shush, Gil; just breathe. You and Elizabeth are safe with us now. We've got you." Robin hushed, gripping my shoulders to get my attention.
"The Sheriff will pay for what he's done, you know that. That's what we do every day. I know that can't make up for all that he's taken from the two of you, but it's a start. If there was anything I could do to go back in time – stop what happened, or make you faster in some way, or was there to help rebuild – anything to make some of it better, I would. You know I would. And so would any of them back at camp."
"I know, Rob. I know. And Elizabeth knows. It doesn't stop it from hurting, which is why we don't really talk about it – ever – but we know. And that's why I went charging in a week ago; As soon as I saw the fire, my mind went back. When I heard the baby crying, all I could see was Gracie. I couldn't let what happened before happen again. Not when I could save one this time."
"I see that now, Gilbert. And thanks for telling me all of this. You were right, we needed more than the wine; but still. Thank you for trusting me with this."
"Thanks for listening, Robin. We'd best be getting back, I can hardly see the fires now."
"You're right, of course. The women are probably wondering where we got to…yup, I can hear 'em calling from here."
I could hear them, too. Mostly Joanna and Footpad, Jack and John. They had the loudest voices. Probably Elizabeth and Marian were heading the whole thing from the central fire, waiting for us to show up.
"You might wanna hide that jug again, Rob. I think they're getting closer."
"Ah, leave it. They won't see it, and the jug's not got much left in it anyway. Let's just get back before we get into too much trouble."
please don't kill me!
this just came to me a few months ago; took some fine tuning, but here it is.