It was early spring when Marian of Knighton became Lady Marian of Locksley. The dew on the grass that morning resembled that of a peaceful frost. It was still chilly that morning when the church bells rang, but the air was clean and clear, and the weather was the farthest thing from the bride and groom's thoughts. For neither of them could predict the approaching storm that night, their thoughts where only for one another that day.
Robin felt as if he was living in a dream. His love had finally become his wife and she now lay curled up beside him in his arms, sleeping peacefully. His fingers continuously traced her soft skin as the scent of her hair tickled his nose.
His eyelids felt heavy, it had been a long day and he wasn't surprised that he was tired.
He thought he would be able to sleep peacefully with his bride curled up beside him on their wedding night. He hoped the demons from Acre would leave him alone for just once, at least just this one night. But as he drifted off to sleep, it eventually dawned on him that he was wrong.
Images swirled in darkness before him. Faces of Saracens and Crusaders blurred. Armor rattled, swords struck and clashed. Chaos and hungry fire devoured everything in sight. Blood spilled and splattered. Everything he saw was covered in blood, his sword, his bow, the sand, the bodies of the dead, his hands. Especially his hands. Blood was caked onto them burning into his skin, as if the souls of those he killed, those he murdered, where screaming for his blood and their vengeance. Their screams echoed and tortured him in ways he couldn't describe. He tried to wake up but they held him, trying to drag him down to hell with them. He could feel hell's fire licking at his limbs, slowly and painfully scorching his flesh.
His eyes shot open, his body shivered in a cold sweat, and Marian's eyes looked down at him with concern, if not fear. His breath was heavy on his lips, coming and going in deep pants. Marian brushed a calm hand across his forehead and through his hair. "Whats wrong my love? You sounded like you where dying."
Marian's voice calmed him greatly. He was more then thankful she was here with him, most of the time he had to endure the nightmares alone.
"I'm alright Marian, it was only a dream," he reassured her.
"It sounded more like a nightmare. What happened?" worry lining her voice.
He couldn't bring himself to say that in the past few hours he had unwillingly returned to the Holy Land, far from home, reliving the horrors he had seen and committed.
"It was nothing Marian, go back to sleep."
Marian wanted to protest, yet she too was exhausted from the day before to do so. As she curled up next to her husband once more she made herself promise that one day he would be able to confide in her and not hide anything from her, no matter how horrible.
"You can't hide the truth from me forever Robin," she said as the newlywed couple drifted off to sleep once more.
It didn't take long for Marian to learn that her husband's nightmares came at different levels. Most nights he slept soundly with an occasional twitch here and there and other times where like those she witnessed on their first night, as if he was being devoured by hell's flames. She also learned that he was an expert at concealing the ghosts who haunted him.
She loved Robin too much too let him suffer. She had wondered how long it had been since he had slept peacefully and by the time she estimated the years he had been in the holy land and the years since he returned the number made her heart ache.
She knew attempting conversation was futile. Whenever she or anyone else brought up the Holy Land, he was not slow to change the subject. Their relationship was usually an open and honest one, but once the ghosts returned he would withdraw within himself and shut her out.
The ghosts came even more frequently when King Richard invited the nation to celebrate the anniversary of his victories in the Holy Land.
"Let me help you Robin!" she begged, even though she didn't know how. But when she became pregnant that fall she knew things had to change and soon.
The winter wind blew briskly through Locksley village. The sky was painted a grayish white a sign that the season's first snow was on its way. The Lord and Lady had given out more then half of their food and wood storage so the people wouldn't freeze or starve if snowed in.
Marian admired how devoted Robin remained to the people even when his days as an outlaw where long gone. His charitable works for two reasons: because he cared and to show his repentance, his guilt for his crimes in the Holy Land.
When the snow came it came hard and fierce. No one dared to venture outside. Everyone took to hunkering down in their homes, trying to ride out the storm.
Robin tossed a log onto the fire, stirring the coals the strengthen the flames, hoping to chase the cold away. It was then Marian approached him. "Did you sleep well last night?" she asked gently.
"I slept fine," he replied, lying as smoothly as always.
"It sure didn't sound like it," was her response.
A sigh escaped his lips. "Tax collection is due next week at Nottingham. Its gonna to be harder to get there if this snow keeps up."
Marian felt tears prick her eyes, she blamed it on the pregnancy hormones raging through her body. When really she was sick of her husband, the man she loved with all her heart, shutting her out and changing the conversation to the topic of weather. The topic that you share with strangers of all people.
"Why do you always do that to me Robin? Why do you always shut me out?" Robin stood up from where he knelt, turned and faced her and saw the water in his beloved Marian's eyes. He immediately took her in his arms.
"All I want to do is help you and you just shut me out, like I'm not even there," she cried into his shoulder. "You think I don't notice how tired you are in the morning, the bags under your eyes, the hurt and guilt on your face. I love you too much to stand by and let you suffer like this. I don't care how great the burden is, I want to share it with you, I want to help you."
Robin instantly felt guilty. He didn't mean to hurt her, what he did was just his own way of dealing with the nightmares. He had been doing it for years now. True, Much prodded the subject every now and then, but the difference between Much and Marian was that Much was there with him, he understood the horrors Robin saw in his dreams. It was because he saw them too. The dread Robin felt every night was enough to make him walk up to the open gates of hell himself. The last thing he wanted to do was drag Marian down with him.
he slowly brought her eyes to meet his and smiled his usual grin, all the while wiping her tears away. "Your golden heart is one of the many reasons why I love you Marian. But you need to understand that when I was in the Holy Land i committed crimes, heinous crimes. To simply forget them would be a sin in and of itself."
"But you don't have to carry this burden alone. I'm your wife Robin, I will always love you no matter what you did."
Robin planted a tender kiss on her lips while Marian ran her fingers across his scruffy beard and through his hair. She breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that he still loved her.
When he broke away from her he said, "I'm happy to hear you say that but...I don't want to scare you away, I don't want to drag you down with me. You are the greatest blessing I could ask for and have given me all I have ever dreamed of." His hand wandered to the small swell of her belly. "The crimes I committed make me more then undeserving of you, but I'm too selfish and stubborn to let you go."
He held her tight, burying his face in her hair taking in her sweet scent. Marian nestled her head into the crook of his shoulder, she understood better now. "You know I will never leave you Robin, whatever it is you have done."
The snow and wind blew wildly outside making the shutters of the windows tremble as if they where fearful of what was to come.
"I thought I would be protecting in the name of King and Country and above all God. That belief was held true until we arrived in Acre. Fighting and meaningless bloodshed broke out everywhere. It started as defensive battle and soon turned into a massacre. Many innocents that never even wielded a sword died that die. Its their ghosts that haunt me when I close my eyes at night."
Marian's heart wept for him, yet she was content that he loved and trusted her enough to confide in her for now and whatever future that lay ahead for them. Resting their temples against one another they found themselves inside each others heavens.