Hello, readers! This is something that I've been thinking of writing for a while, so I decided to give it a go. I'm not sure exactly how it will turn out, but I'm just letting the muse take over for now. Please let me know what you think! This may end up being part of "The Tempest" at some point, but I'm not sure yet. We'll see what happens.
Dead. His mother was dead.
Through the floorboards above his head, he had heard the shouts and cries - the commotion of a violent struggle. The sound of his mother fighting with an intruder. There had been a shouted curse, and the sound of a body hitting the floor. His mother had suddenly gone silent. And he knew it then, even as he heard the noise of the thief breaking household objects and turning over furniture.
Mother, he thought. Mother…
The door to the root cellar was opened by a cautious hand. Slowly, Guy emerged from the hiding place he had been ordered to remain in. He saw it then. His mother was lying on the floor, her head turned to one side. He felt numb as he knelt beside Elizabeth Gisborne’s body. She had hidden him in the root cellar, ordering him to be silent and still, no matter what happened. She had given her life to protect her son, and now, he stared at the paleness of her face – at the lifeless blue eyes.
The door slowly opened behind him. Startled, thinking it was the return of the criminal, his head turned sharply towards the sound. His father stood in the open doorway. Tall, dark-haired, and stone-faced, Sir Hadrian looked upon his youngest son with horror and disdain.
“Guy of Gisborne,” he said, the voice a raspy sound. “What atrocity have you allowed in my absence?”
The journey to Nottingham Castle was a short one. But the road was filled with ruts made by horse hooves and wagon wheels. As his father’s cart went ever the holes that were filled with rain, Guy felt the splash of water and mud on the side of his face. But he dared not complain. The last words his father had spoken to him were words of warning, and he feared Hadrian enough not to ignore them.
You go to Nottingham in the morning, boy. You are to be a ward to your uncle. I will have no argument on the matter.
What argument could he give? It had always been known to him that one day, he would become a servant to the Sheriff of Nottingham. His two brothers, both older than he, had already gone away to their servitudes in distant households. For some time now, Guy had known that his ninth birthday was fast approaching, and he had tried to stay close to his beloved mother. He wanted to have memories of her to hold to, for he knew that once he was established in his apprenticeship, he would only see her on rare occasions.
But such memories were pushed to the corners of his mind now. All he saw in his head was her still figure lying there on the floor, the victim of a senseless crime that he had failed to prevent. His father blamed him for his incompetence. Hadrian had not said so in words, but he had not needed to. His silence spoke volumes, and his insistence on this journey to Nottingham was further proof of it. Without his wife, the elder Gisborne had no one to care for his youngest child, and he certainly could not be expected to take up the task himself.
The sky was grey and gloomy, just like the stones of the castle. As the wagon stopped at the gatehouse, Guy looked up at the imposing facade, feeling a sense of dread. He knew what waited for him behind these walls. He knew many of the page-boys that already lived there, and their lives consisted of strict routine and hard work. Such was expected in a place that was, in essence, a military fortress. There would be no kindness or compassion for a boy who had lost his mother. A boy who was the Sheriff’s nephew. Such things made no difference now.
A guard appeared from within. Without speaking, he waited for Guy to get down from his seat, and after a moment of hesitation, Guy did so in silence. Looking back at his father, he waited for some sign of farewell, some sign that Hadrian would at least acknowledge this last moment between them. But Hadrian’s head remained forward, his eyes fixed on the road before him, and in a moment more he departed, leaving the guard to escort Guy into his new residence.
Despite the warmth of the summer day, the halls of the castle were cold and drafty. Guy shivered as he followed along, fighting back the misery he felt in his heart. He missed his mother. She had been the one constant in his life – the one happiness in a dark and turbulent world. So often, she had held him in her arms and spoken softly to him, offering him comfort when his father had been cruel to him. Where would he find such comfort now? Who would care for him? Who would love him?
Turning a corner in the hall, the guard stopped at a door and knocked. A deep voice came from within.
The door opened. Guy was slowly led forward, and he came to stand before a massive desk. But the heavy piece of furniture, though nearly as tall as he was, was not what frightened him. It was the man sitting behind it.
“My Lord Sheriff,” said the guard, “This is your new page boy.”
William Briwere rose from his chair. Guy looked up, seeing his uncle – his mother’s brother. They shared the same slim build, the same middling height. William’s hair was cropped close to his head, but it was fair and blond, just like Elizabeth’s. And those were her eyes, it seemed. The same pale shade of blue. And yet, they looked down on Guy with no light of love. Just a moment of passing regard, and then a word of frosty instruction.
“Take the boy to the barracks. Find some use for him.”
No welcome. No word of condolence for the loss of his mother. Just a brief word or two, and then he was being led again, taken away to begin his new servitude.