In the 12th century, Eliya is sent to live with her uncle, the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham, as his ward. She is instantly drawn to Guy of Gisborne, the broken man that any girl would dream she could fix. But Eliya is now a part of a game much bigger than love; she is her uncle's pawn in the great fight for the throne of England. And there is one who would ruin them all, who lurks in the shadows of Nottingham Forest.
I sat in the rumbling carriage, feeling sicker and sicker the closer we got to Nottingham. And then I thought about why I was going there, and I had to wipe a tear from my cheek. My parents were dead, and I was being sent to live with my uncle; a man who my mother had told me was a monster almost every day of my life before she died. I was to be his ward, his possession to be used for whatever purpose he desired.
“We’re almost there, M’lady.” The driver called back to me. I sighed and pulled back the curtain to look at my new home. Green hills and yellow fields, brown huts and grey walls; sombre colours on this dark afternoon. When we were let past the walls surrounding the town I let the curtain fall back into place, adjusted my dress and smoothed my dark hair. I wore white, as I always did, and my hair was in a braid going down my back. I was dressed simply, with a thin plain chain, as a belt on my hips, being the only adornment to my basic gown, so that the impression I made was for me, not my clothing.
We finally stopped for the last time, and I tried to remain calm. The door was opened, and all I could see was a gloved hand, which I took to steady myself as I got out. It would have been horrible to trip or stumble. The light blinded me, but I turned to my left with a grateful smile on my face, to thank the owner of the hand. My breath caught in my chest when I saw him, and I blushed bright pink.
“Thank you, sir.” I said quietly, as I took him in. He was very tall, with bright blue eyes in a handsome face, framed by dark brown hair that was a little too long, though it suited him. He was dressed all in black leather, which gave him the look of a fierce, strong warrior. Before he could say anything in reply, I heard a voice from across the courtyard.
“Ah! You’re here!” I tore my eyes away from my companion to where the voice came from. It was an older man standing at the top of a flight of stairs, with a fake smile on his face. As he walked down the stairs he said to me, “come closer; let me have a look at you.” I paused for a fraction of a second, terrified, but then complied with all of the composure I could muster.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Uncle Vaisey.” I said when we met in the middle, plastering an equally fake smile on my face.
“Ah yes. Very good. You do look like your mother, don’t you? Though you have your father’s colouring.” My father, the Jew that caused my mother to be sent away in disgrace when she fell in love with him. This was clearly a dig at my parentage. “Forgive me, niece, is it… El…”
“Eliya.” I told him.
“Of course. Why your mother couldn’t have named you ‘Elizabeth’ like any sensible English woman, I’ll never know.”
“I am named for the prophet, Uncle.” I told him, trying not to be baited into anger. He really was a horrible little man, but one who could not be brushed off. He had far too much of obvious dark power for that.
“Hmm, all the same. We will have to change it if we are to meet with important company. And we will, my dear. We will.” He then noticed the man in black behind me. “Eli-something, this is Sir Guy of Gisborne. He will be overseeing your protection while you are here.”
“I need protection?” I ask my uncle.
“Indeed you do, but it is nothing for you to worry about.” Suddenly Guy was by my side again, and turned to me with intense eyes.
“My lady…” He said bowing before me. He caught me off-guard, and I completely forgot my discomfort and grinned. Then, unsure what the proper etiquette was I swayed a little in front of him, then curtseyed.
“Sir Guy.” I said and blushed once more. Guy smiled a little, clearly amused.
“Yes… you will be staying with Guy at his home in Locksley. But I’m sure that you will be spending a lot of time here at the castle. I have big plans for you, my little niece.” I tried to supress a shudder at the last part, but was excited at the first. Perhaps I would be able to get-to-know this mysterious man during my stay. I hoped that he wasn’t completely my uncle’s man, so that we might become friends. I was in dear need of a friend. “And I’m sorry to have to cut this… lovely… family reunion so short, but I have business to attend to. Being the Sheriff of Nottingham is very busy work.” He smiled at me. “I shall summon you when you are needed.” And with that he turned and left, without so much as a ‘farewell’.
“If you would like to return to the carriage, I’ll escort you to Locksley.” Guy said to me.
“Of course. Thank you.” I said and returned to the little box on wheels for yet more travelling. Before he shut the door for me, Guy spoke again.
“Perhaps you should pull the curtains back and let the townspeople see you. I think that it will… boost morale, and will get you a reputation around here. You are the Sheriff’s niece, after all.”
“Good or bad reputation?” I asked with a smile, which he returned.
“All good, I am sure.” He said, then shut the door. The carriage started moving, and I opened the curtains as requested. I stared out, hoping that I didn’t look as terrified as I still felt.
We passed through the town, and everyone was curious to know who was inside. I felt like an exotic animal being paraded through the streets, but at least I got a look at the place my uncle resided. Just before we started on the country roads my eye was drawn to a man hidden in the shadows, with a hood up over his head, who was unmistakably glaring at me. I had no idea what I had done to offend him, maybe it was just the simple knowledge of who I had been visiting, but it shook me to the core and made me quickly return the curtain to block out the view once more.