Nottingham Wireless (aka the Perils of Medieval Drunk Dialing)
This epic drama of medieval cell phones, redemption, and complete absurdity started its life as a capslock discussion that eventually became a snippet called The Perils of Medieval Drunk Dialling… and then inquiring minds needed to know what happened next. Here is your chance to find out.
In this version of late-12th-century events in Nottingham, which is entirely consistent with the spirit of the great historically accurate show that gave us Ye Olde Medieval Casino and other beauties, the inhabitants of Nottingham Castle have obtained three mobile phones. The parties in question are Vasey, Guy, and Marian.
How much can happen in such a set-up, other than Vasey harassing Guy and Guy harassing Marian? Actually, a lot. Especially since, as I have established through meticulous research, their phones had no caller ID function and looked very much alike ;)
I want to thank my readers whose comments made me think of plot ideas – Alesh101, the Capslock instigator, as well as Aceofhadeon (who has a knack for tempting me into doing things) and Thymelady; those whose kind words encouraged me - LadyKate, Shezan, and Spamjoe, as well as Le Savant Fou at gxm; and of course, those who just went and asked for a sequel (I am looking at you, Gizxmaz, Aussiemozzie, and Nancin – this is all your fault ;) ) For you faithful readers, the *new* part starts at Chapter 1 – the prologue is old news. And last but not least, I want to 'remotely' thank the two great classics of RH literary humour, Aoxelfrieda the author of the side-splitting Weekend at Vasey’s and GreyMills the maintainer of the wonderful FriendHood Log (oh Greysie where art thou?) for creating the masterpieces that inspired this attempt. This is for you ladies, and for any new readers who may stumble upon it, may you have a laugh at my expense!
ETA: Have now stuck two more bits, Phone Booth from my reply to Thymelady and The Morning After prompted by spinnd, at the end. Phone Booth is supposed to have taken place before Gizzy's drunk calls; Morning, immediately after the epilogue.
It started with a drunken phone call… the last of many.
At the shrill sound, Marian picked up the little black box from her bedstand and pressed a button.
Marian.’ The voice coming from inside the box was unquestionably familiar, but slurred and hoarser than usual.
‘Guy.’ She wanted to sound stern and annoyed but only succeeded in sounding concerned and needy. It may have had something to do with the fact that she had spent the past hour thinking about what would happen if Sir Guy were to pay her a late night visit.
‘Do you know what time it is?’ she finally managed to inject the required note of reproach into her tone.
‘Marian, I am shorry. I am… so… shorry if I… woke you up… but I need to… talk to you…’
‘Can we talk tomorrow?’
‘Letshh talk now, Marian!.. Marian?’
‘All right,’ she sighed in mock exasperation.
‘Will you please listen to me?’
‘I am listening, Guy’
‘I am such a bad man…’
‘Don’t say that, you are not all bad,’ she suppressed a smile. In some respects, like that glorious chest, those long legs, those magnetic eyes… in some respects Guy was not bad at all.
‘I am, I really am, I know. I have been sho bad to you…’ his voice took on a whimpering quality and Marian heard a faint sound of sniffing.
‘Guy, it’s all right, please do not upset yourself now. You can redeem yourself, you know.’
‘And you will help me?’
‘Yes.’ She tried to brush away a couple of very specific and rather unconventional redemption techniques that sprang up in her mind.
‘Thank you Marian.’
‘You are welcome, Guy. Get some sleep.’
‘Marian…can I come and wish you good night?’
It took a good deal of self-possession to reply in a steady voice.
‘No, Guy, it is too late.’ And he is too drunk anyway.
‘Good night then.’
‘And the same to you.’ She pressed the button that ended the call, tossed around in bed for a while, and finally settled down and started drifting off to sleep.
The box rang again.
‘Guy.’ With only three people in Nottinghamshire in possession of these devices and the third one being Vasey, it did not take a lot of guesswork.
‘Marian, I am shorry…’
‘You said it already, Guy. What is the matter?’
‘Marian, I have done you so much wrong..’
Here we go again. I need to bribe the Trip Inn owner into watering down Guy’s wine after midnight. Or slipping in some eau-de-vie so he would pass out.
‘…but I love you so much… Marian!’
‘Guy, it is all right, you have had too much to drink…’
‘No, Marian, I love you, I am not shaying it because I am drunk… I am not drunk!’
‘I know that’ The first part, that is. There is no question about the last bit being wishful thinking.
‘I know you must hate me… everyone hates me and I deserve it…’ How does a voice as deep as Guy’s manage to sound as if he were whining?
‘I do not hate you. I like you, Guy, I really do…’
‘Yes. Will you go back to sleep now?’
‘I was not…ashleep…’
‘All right, will you let me go back to sleep now?’
‘Oh, I am shorry…’
‘It is nothing. Go to bed. Sweet dreams, Guy. See you tomorrow… Guy?’
The silence on the other end gave way to more sniffing.
‘Marian, I want to… talk to you.. so much! Can I come to your shamber now… please?’ Marian suspected that what Guy wanted could hardly be defined as talking but decided to let it slip.
‘Guy, I promise we shall talk tomorrow.’
‘But you never keep those promises, Marian.’
‘This time I will keep it, I pro… I am sorry, Guy, I swear we shall talk tomorrow. Does this help you sleep?’
‘Yes. Good night, Marian. I love you.’
‘Good night, Guy. I… I really like you.’ She wondered if she had given away too much, but dismissed it as Guy had hopefully been too drunk to pay close attention.
Just after the matin bell, as Marian was having a not-altogether-unpleasant dream of her upcoming conversation with Guy (where little was actually said, all things considered), the infernal device rang again. She thought about letting it ring, but knew from experience that Guy would not stop calling until she answered. She also knew that switching it off would bring Guy to her doorstep… yet after a few seconds of tense internal struggle, she resolutely took her finger off the power button, and pressed ‘talk’ instead.
‘Guy, you must sleep now. You cannot keep calling me like this.’
‘Marian,’ he was practically wailing, ‘I cannot live without you. Do you… can you… like me jusht a little bit?’
‘I do like you., Guy,’ she said with sudden conviction, but quickly checked herself, ‘but not when you are calling me ten times in a row in the middle of the night!’
‘Forgive me. I just wanted to shay that… I am shorry for all the times I have offended you…’
‘It is nothing, Guy. You are going to redeem yourself, remember?’
‘But you will never love me. You will always like Hood better than me!’
‘That’s not true!’ Marian was surprised at her own vehemence.
‘Really?’ Guy raised his voice to a rather peculiar pitch.
‘Yes! He has bad breath!’ Marian wondered for an instant if she had given away too much with that casual remark. ‘And he never washes his clothes!’ she added hastily, wondering if that remark was any safer.
But it seemed to have worked.
‘Really, Marian, you like me better… you dislike me lessh than Hood?’
It was an issue increasingly open to interpretation.
‘Oh Marian! My angel! Can I come and wish you good night… please?’
‘Guy, I give you my word of honour that we shall talk tomorrow morning. But for that you need to sleep now.’
‘Good night, my love.’
‘Good night, Guy.’
The following morning Marian was up bright and early and found herself pacing the castle courtyard for no apparent reason. But as time went on and her stroll was solitary as ever, she grew increasingly irritated. It was early afternoon when Vasey sauntered onto the castle porch and spotted her.
‘Good day to you, Lady Marian. Taking the fresh air, I see?’
‘Good day, my lord. I am finding the weather quite pleasant today, yes.’
Vasey shivered in the chilly wind and squinted at Marian suspiciously.
‘Too bad Gisborne cannot join us,’ he said in an artfully casual tone. ‘The poor fellow has had one hell of a hangover all day.’
‘Oh. Well, that is his problem. Good day, my lord.’ Marian turned on her heel and stormed off to her quarters, suppressing an exasperated sigh and ignoring Vasey’s gloating expression.
Much as she would like to deny it, the problem was as much hers as it was Sir Guy’s.
Vasey swore under his breath as the sound of a squealing peasant filled his bedroom, and wondered momentarily if he should change the ring tone on his device.
‘Yes?’ he barked gruffly and regretted it. For all he knew, it might be Jasper, or worse, Prince John himself. These things were proliferating at an alarming speed of late; soon every half-baked noble would have one!
But the voice on the other end was closer to home.
‘My love… will you please talk to me?’ it drawled.
‘GISBORNE!’ Vasey roared.
‘Oh I am shorry… Can I…shpeak to… Lady Marian?’
‘Go to hell, Gisborne’ Vasey sighed in exasperation, and suppressed the stab of disappointment. Of course, the endearment had been meant for the leper!
‘Please?’ his caller persisted, undeterred.
‘You can speak to the Lady Marian all you please, but why ask me?’ Third time that week. There had to be limits to the man’s drinking!
‘Really?’ Gisborne was beyond the point of coherent thought.
‘You can tumble her for all I care!’ Vasey snapped.
‘Really?’ Suddenly Gisborne sounded animated.
‘She’s not there, ish she?’ Getting suspicious, at last.
‘OF COURSE she is not here! Who do you think you are calling?
‘I am shorry… I thought…’ and then his mistake must have dawned on him, for Vasey heard the dull thud of a body rolling off the bed onto the floor, followed by a muffled curse. ‘My lord… I appo…apologise!’
‘Good night, Gisborne,’ Vasey pressed the button and flung the device onto his nightstand. The pestilent thing was more trouble than it was worth.
I. The Gathering Storm
As of that morning, Guy of Gisborne had sworn off drinking.
Two drink-fuelled disasters that week had been bloody well enough.
First there had been the night of long and heartfelt confessions to Marian that had finally led her to promise Guy a face-to-face conversation… which he had been too hungover to attend. Then the following night, when Guy had plucked up the courage to call her again, he ran into an endless series of short beeps on the other end, and in his despair had emptied another pitcher of wine before calling again. When at last the phone was answered, the conversation seemed to be going reasonably well… until Guy realised who it was that he had been speaking to. And remembered that the had already misdialled Vasey twice earlier that week while trying to get through to Marian.
Guy rubbed the back of his head and winced. The bruise from his fall from the bed was still quite tender. To make matters worse, apparently Vasey had developed interesting ideas after that conversation, for that morning at breakfast he kept making eyes at Guy as he berated his lieutenant for his drunkenness, and promised to tuck him into bed every evening from that day onwards to make sure that Guy did not drink that night. Guy suppressed a shudder. Just what I needed.
It was still early morning, but Guy’s hangover had woken him up in the predawn hour, so he sat, dressed but still disheveled, on the bed, contemplating his next move. Should he go get some cold water to drink – or was it better to take a stroll around the battlements and pester the guards in the hope that it helped clear his head?
The next moment he jumped up from the bed, the sudden vibration in his tight leather pants too much for his jittery state. Damn. I am ordering a pocket sewn into my jacket right now, he thought irritably. Right after this.
Guy fished out the device from its pouch.
- My lord? – his voice was tired and a little wary, but still deferential. No point in angering his superior.
His address was answered with an evil cackle.
Damn it, has he gone madder than before?! There could be no doubt that it was Vasey; there were three cell phones in Nottingham, and the third one belonged to Lady Marian. And as the call records would readily testify, Guy’s average 299 incoming calls per month were all from Vasey… unlike his 199 outgoing calls, all to her.
- Good to see that you are finally minding your manners, Gisborne, - the caller continued.
With a…cell phone?!
- Where did you get the phone, Hood? – Guy grit through his teeth.
- Take a guess, leather boy, - Hood replied in a voice that could only be described as seductive… if Guy could find anything about Hood seductive. – Your precious superior has been… careless with leaving bedroom windows open at night, sweet cheeks, and your guards are just… useless! – Hood snickered.
Guy pounded a bed poster with his fist so hard that the entire bed frame shook.
Hood would suffer for this. But before it could happen, Guy would suffer for this… and he could not bear to dwell on the depraved horrors of the punishment he was sure to suffer at the Sheriff’s hands.
- I’ll get you for this, you lousy bastard. And I will get that phone back before you know it! – Guy wished he could be as convinced as he sounded.
Hood was not convinced at all.
- I will hide it where you’ll never get it, pretty pants – up my… - he began smugly before Guy’s bellowing voice interrupted him.
- Damn you, you filthy pervert, I’ll just give you a bloody laxative until I get it!
Hood snickered again.
- Actually I was going to hide it up my oak tree, Gisborne, but I find your line of thought… creative.
The line went dead.
Guy paced his room, thoughtfully rubbing the bridge of his nose. He was very, very afraid of what would happen once Vasey discovered the disappearance of the precious device. After all, Vasey, unlike Guy, also received calls from fellow Black Knights – and occasionally, from Prince John himself. Who knew which of those might call later that day and find Hood on the other end?
But the thought was eclipsed by a much darker, much more ominous one.
If Hood had Vasey’s phone, then surely Guy’s weak attempt at explaining the busy tone on Marian’s phone the night before could not be right. It was not Vasey she was speaking to, and barring a network failure, it could only mean one thing.
Marian had been on the phone to Hood.
Until the Lauds. Four hours, at least.
The blind fury surged in Guy’s brain as he raced down the corridor toward Marian’s chamber.
He was going to wreak terrible revenge on Marian; even if this would mean eternal heartbreak and regret for him, he was too furious to be able to stop.
He would do it.
He would confiscate Marian’s cell phone.
II. The Pact
Guy burst through Marian’s door with such force that Marian jumped to the far side of the room.
- You! – he roared.
- Guy, what is the matter?! – Marian breathed.
- You are in league with Robin Hood! An outlaw! – he bellowed, pointing his finger at her. – The sentence for that is confiscation of the phone!
Marian coughed. Guy’s vocal outburst had stirred up dust from atop the bed canopy, and it swirled in lazy tendrils around the room.
- Guy, what in the world made you think that? – the woman had the effrontery to look honestly baffled.
- You spoke to him last night! For four hours!
- No, Guy, it is not what you thought… - she was pleading now, but the note of apology in her voice sent Guy’s silly hopes soaring again, and he was unable to stop himself from wanting to believe her. – He stole this phone from the Sheriff and kept calling me and I… hung up on him a few times but he was just… lonely and kept calling again. And I did not want to switch off the phone in case… someone else called, - she finished, blushing slightly as she looked suggestively at Guy.
Guy grinned like an idiot before checking himself.
Yet there was more truth in Marian’s words than he knew. Her series of conversations with Robin the night before, for series it had been, twenty-four calls that Robin had made despite her twenty-three angry goodbyes, had largely consisted of Robin’s pleas for Marian’s company that had left her less than moved. How can he expect me to still be in love, she fumed, when he keeps using arguments for inviting me to the forest like “don’t you want to stroke the massive oak”, really?!
Marian blushed before addressing Guy again.
- And Robin’s language with me was not entirely… appropriate, - she sighed. Robin had really tested her patience this time.
That did it.
-What?! I am calling Hood, now, - Guy growled.
Marian nodded and folded her arms. Robin was asking for this.
A few tense moments passed as the call went unanswered. Finally, the familiar smug voice sounded on the other end.
- Ah, made up your mind to visit me at last, did you, my love? Would you like to nibble on some tender, juicy woodcock?
- You f-f-ffforest-dwelling outlaw, you bleeding-heart pu—pansy, - Guy exploded. Marian’s presence made it difficult for him to use appropriate language, too.
- I guess not, - replied Hood, undeterred.
- How dare you speak to me, - Guy continued furiously, forgetting that he had called Hood this time, - how dare you pester the Lady Marian with your lewd advances, with your vulgar suggestions, with your… smelly breath, Guy wanted to continue, remembering Marian’s lovely offhand remark to him in a previous conversation before it dawned on him that breath did not really matter on the phone, - and how dare you steal the Sheriff’s phone in the first place?! – he hissed in exasperation.
- An outlaw does what he has to do, - Hood sounded downright genial.
- And does that include harassing Lady Marian?! – retorted Guy indignantly.
- Well, if you won’t let her show her lovely face outside… - Hood began, but Guy would have none of that.
- Listen, you scum, you use that thing to call Lady Marian again and I will find you wherever you are and I’ll rip your bal—bold tongue out, - he finished and cut off the call before Hood could make a glib rejoinder.
Marian watched Guy on the phone with growing admiration. Surely he could not be that much of a villain – even if she did not consider his looks, which were difficult to ignore, his chivalrous spirit made her eyes shine. Surely he could not be beyond redemption…
- Thank you , Guy, - she said warmly after Guy had finished the call. – That was… noble of you, - she added, putting her hand on his arm.
- Really? – Guy asked eagerly.
- Marian… I want to become a better man for you. I love you so much…
For once, he is not drunk saying this, - she smiled inwardly.
- But I need you to help me with my redemption, - Guy continued. – I need you to help wash away my sins… I am trying so hard, Marian, but I need your help. I even swore off drink this morning! – he announced proudly.
- You are doing the right thing, Guy, - she reassured him, trying to hide her suddenly wistful expression. What, no more nighttime calls? I was getting strangely used to them…
- Thank you, Marian, - he replied, kissing her hand. – Your words mean so much to me at this dangerous time… - he added pensively, dreading the inevitable and undoubtedly perverse punishment soon to befall him at Vasey’s hands.
- What dangerous time? – Marian sounded baffled.
- Vasey will soon discover that his phone is missing, - Guy sighed in resignation, - and he will doubtless blame me for the loss. I cannot even replace Vasey’s phone with my own, as my number is the first one Vasey will want to dial and he will know at once that something is wrong! – he finished bitterly.
- No, this cannot be, - Marian tried to suppress a pang of fear. She looked helplessly around, hoping to find inspiration for a solution. Surely Vasey cannot make Guy into a sullen, irritable bully again with his stupid punishment, - she fumed silently, - just as he is getting so nice…
Then her eyes fell on her own phone still on the bedstand.
- Guy! - she grabbed his hand excitedly, - take mine! Give it to Vasey! We will change the ringtone, he’ll never notice!
Guy’s beautiful eyes lit up in wonder and gratitude. It was true; since Guy was the only person Vasey called, it would take a while before he would suspect the switch. Hopefully enough to recover his own device in the meantime.
- You will do this for me, Marian?! – he breathed.
- Yes, - she replied resolutely. And for myself, to keep Guy nice. And maybe a little bit for Robin too, to get these two off his back for now.
- Thank you, Marian, - Guy exhaled, kissing her hand again.
A few moments later, Guy sauntered over to Vasey’s chambers, his own phone tucked into his pants once more and Marian’s – soon to be Vasey’s - phone clutched in his hand. Before Vasey could wake up and notice, the deed was done.
The familiar squeal sounded slightly higher-pitched as Vasey fumbled for the phone in his pocket, but he did not mind. Finally he has called me. The pretty little ingrate. Misses me after all. He had not seen Gisborne all morning.
- Is it you, my love? – a voice on the other end whispered softly.
Vasey was about to lose control of his bladder. Guy, calling him my love. At last. And in such a tender voice, too.
- I cannot believe you do not want to get your hands on the shaft of my…arrow, - the caller continued, slightly louder, encouraged by the silence, and the Sheriff’s face scrunched up into a mask of rage.
Bloody-Throbbin-Hood. So much for it being Gizzy… wait, if this is Hood, where is Gizzy then?
- What have you done with Gisborne, you filthy louse-ridden scum?! – Vasey croaked.
- What I have done with Gisborne? What have you done with Marian, you monster?! – Hood yelled, and Vasey pushed the end button before wondering how the little leper was involved in all that.
Meanwhile, at the outlaw camp, Robin was extremely agitated. Something bad had surely happened to Marian for Vasey to have her phone! He was about to rally the gang and go to Nottingham when, to his amazement, Marian herself appeared at the edge of the clearing.
- My love! You have finally come here to climb my…tall tree, - he wanted to finish, but Marian cut him off with a stern and businesslike greeting.
- Robin, why did you do it?
- I could not help myself, my love! I wanted so much to talk to you! And I needed so much to see you! – he implored.
- No, I do not mean you calling me, I mean you stealing the Sheriff’s device! – she countered.
- Oh, that… Well, I was curious to see the thingy up close, and I figured no harm would come if any of the Black Knights called and I listened to what they might have to say. Or if Gisborne happened to call, for that matter, but some things are better left unsaid.
- You must give it back, Robin! – Marian insisted with a rare urgency.
- Why? - Robin sounded deflated.
- Because… - Marian hesitated. Her real reason was to get Guy out of trouble so that she could help him with his redemption, but she did not dare voice that one. Need to think quickly. – Because, - she continued with sudden inspiration, - Vasey will spank a guard a hundred times with a big paddle every hour until the device is found! You should have seen that paddle, Robin! – she was on a roll now. – It is humongous! – that last part, Marian was forced to admit, was inexplicably prompted by a sudden memory of Guy standing close to her, but she kept that to herself, too.
But Robin, staring intently at her ample cleavage, seemed convinced.
- Oh.., - he muttered, raising his eyes, - that outrage must be stopped. We must go to Nottingham at once. Will you ride my…
- …horse with me? – Robin finished meekly. For once I meant something literally and she snaps at me.
- No, - Marian declared resolutely. – I cannot arouse… suspicion, Robin. I will go the way I came, and you give me the device now so I can slip it to Vasey. – She chose not to mention that Vasey already had her own device.
- All right, - Robin sighed and turned aside before producing the little box from somewhere on his person - Marian did not look too closely where.
- Thank you, Robin, - she whispered, kissing him chastely on the cheek. He really needs to do something about that breath problem.
- Are you sure I cannot get into your… chamber with you, - Robin sighed, as she had already interrupted him mid-sentence with a vehement “No!” – Good bye, my love, and hope to see you soon.
- Goodbye Robin, - Marian sang cheerfully as she hurried back through the trees. – Thank you for returning the box!
She was halfway back to Nottingham when the thingy rang.
Oh my, do I answer or do I not? – she wondered in momentary panic. – What if it is urgent? What if it is Prince John? Maybe I can say I’ll take a message… - she ran through a quick mental prayer and pushed the button…
…to hear a very familiar voice.
- You woodcock sucker, you shameless pervert, are you bringing the thing back or shall I come and kick your…
- Language, Guy! – Marian snapped.
- …butt, - Guy said in a voice that was positively tender before launching into a profuse apology.
- It’s all right, - she was finally compelled to tell him ten minutes of grovelling later. – I know you did not expect me, Guy.
- But I always dream of you, my love… angel? – suddenly Guy sounded alarmed.
- Yes, Guy?
- What are you doing with Hood’s device… I mean with Vasey’s device that Hood grabbed… I mean you know…
- I know. I got it back, Guy, and I am bringing it back to Nottingham.
- Thank heavens! – Guy’s voice soared with delight. – You are… Marian? – suspicious again.
- Yes, Guy?
- You did not eat any….
- No, Guy, I did not eat any woodcock out here! - she finished indignantly before pushing the end button. Seriously, Guy’s jealousy should have its limits.
Half an hour later, the Nightwatchman slunk into Vasey’s chamber while its occupant was taking an afternoon nap. Half an hour and a few instants later, the Nightwatchman slunk back out, holding Lady Marian’s phone as Vasey’s was left sitting innocently on his nightstand, the owner, unsuspecting of any substitution having ever taken place, slumbering peacefully on the bed.
Until, that is, his peaceful slumber was disrupted by the familiar peasant squeal.
Scowling and cursing, Vasey pushed talk.
- My love, my precious treasure, light of my eyes, will you please forgive me for offending you with my stupid doubts? Is there any way in the world that I can make it up to you? – Guy’s seductive voice was unmistakable this time, and Vasey felt his insides melting. This time there is no mistake it is Gizzy. And he sounds sober.
- Oh you naughty boy, I can think of a few ways… - Vasey drawled good-naturedly, only to be rudely interrupted.
- My lord?! – the gasp of astonishment seemed great enough to have shaken the castle’s foundations. – My lord, forgive me –
- Bugger off, Gisborne, - Vasey yapped dejectedly before throwing the damned thing out of the window to shatter on the courtyard stones.
Guy plunked down on the bed and slammed his head into the pillow. What a day. And how in the world will I present myself to Vasey tomorrow?! Avoiding his frustrated wrath the rest of that evening had been tricky enough. At least, by the sound of it, by the end of the day the devices were all back with their rightful owners, and between Marian and himself, they had been able to avoid total disaster.
Then the device rang.
- Damn that man, - Guy hissed as he reached for it. Damn damn damn damn.
- Hello? – he started warily, fighting back terror at the thought of Vasey calling him so late at night. Could he still think Guy was after him? Surely the man had heard of misdialled numbers?!
The phone was silent.
- Hello? – Guy said again, more forceful this time. Surely Vasey could not be drunk dialing him… or could he? Guy chose not to consider that possibility.
- Can’t hear you, - he sighed and pushed the end button.
A little while later, he heard the ring again.
- Hellooo? – Guy sang into the device, almost amused this time. – Who’s there?
- Sorry, still can’t hear you, - he intoned and cut off the call before resting his head on the cushion again, trying to relax.
Puhleeze, Guy rolled his eyes.
- Are you going to say anything or not? – he said sternly as the phone gave off sounds of ragged breathing. So much for getting any sleep. Can’t be Vasey, though, the man is not one to mince words, drunk or not. Same goes for Hood; even if the fiend has managed to steal the phone again, he would not be reticent about it – the whole point would be to call and brag. That left…
- Marian?! – Guy cried excitedly, jumping off the bed. – Marian, my love, is that you?! Marian, please, sweetheart, talk to me…
The line abruptly went silent.
- Marian… - Guy breathed dreamily – and obeying an unstoppable impulse, grabbed a cushion and a bedspread from the bed and raced down the same corridor he had angrily pushed through that morning to deposit himself right outside Marian’s bedchamber. He even tried knocking at the door but his rapping went unanswered, and presently he heard light snoring.
Good night, my love, Guy whispered before drifting off to blissful sleep.
He was awakened quite rudely by a kick in the backside.
- Ow shite, - he hissed before opening his eyes, - what the hell?! – he suddenly realised that he was lying on the floor wrapped in a bedspread and the kick had not been a dream. Who dares – he thought indignantly and opened his eyes…
…to find a very embarrassed and rather pale Lady Marian crouching beside him.
- Oh Guy, I am so sorry! – she breathed. – Did it hurt? – she laid her hand gently on the spot she had kicked before blushing a deep shade of burgundy when she realised where her foot had landed.
- Not at all, my love, - Guy drawled happily. – Not at all.
- Have you been here all night?! – Marian was smiling timidly at him as Guy sat up on the floor.
- I wanted to… thank you for calling me, my love, - Guy smiled, - whenever I had the chance. - In all the long months since they had procured the devices, Marian had never called him before. – And I wanted to apologise for missing our… conversation two days ago.
- Think nothing of it, Guy, - Marian smiled back, gently touching his cheek – his face, that is.
- Then you will help me wash away my sins? – Guy blurted hopefully.
Marian looked thoughtful for an instant before a wicked smile spread on her face.
- Actually... – she murmured, - I was just about to take a bath. Sarah dear, - she raised her voice to address her maid who had appeared hurrying down the corridor, - will you go get me a bigger washcloth?
On King Richard’s 36th birthday, by orders of His Highness Prince John, a coffin-sized iron booth was brought into Nottingham’s central square. It was painted red and had a sign on it that read “Call the Castle”. Apparently, it was an initiative to bring local government closer to the people it was supposed to oppress, er, serve.
Curious townsfolk who peeked inside saw that the contraption was equipped with a sort of curved detachable handle and had three buttons embedded in its far wall. The first one was labelled “Sheriff”, the second “Master-at-Arms”; the third, simply, “Lady Marian”. Apparently, pressing the button would allow the caller to connect with his or her intended victim via the black devices they had been spotted carrying around.
So those three had not gone collectively insane, after all, talking into little boxes.
An hour after it was installed, the booth was besieged by a mob of peasants who had assembled from nearby villages, waving their scythes and pitchforks and clamouring to call Vasey.
After the first twenty-seven calls had turned out to be expletive-ridden tirades, Vasey ordered castle guards to be posted outside the booth in order to charge fines for bad language.
That quickly drove the peasants away but left the booth easily accessible to an assault by an equally impressive, if less belligerent, mob of women queueing and cat-fighting to call the Master-at-Arms.
Just as Guy was about to go berserk after hearing a hundred and twenty two proposals of marriage and seventy-nine proposals of no-strings-attached sex in quick succession, none of them from Lady Marian, his ordeal was mercifully cut short: the button, not meant to withstand such extreme wear within one day, got hopelessly stuck, and the calls no longer went through.
Guy went to his chambers for a night of peaceful sleep, but on his way upstairs overheard Lady Marian cooing into her device from a darkened alcove – and as soon as he heard “Robin”, he sprinted out of the castle toward the square.
Of course; the guards had been knocked out, and the abominable outlaw had appropriated the booth as his personal seduction headquarters.
Thankfully, the scourge of Sherwood had the good sense to escape once Guy showed up.
With a look of savage satisfaction, Guy pulled out his curved dagger and gouged out the calling button for Lady Marian.
That, unfortunately, left the angry peasants as the only claimants of the box’s services, and the following day, after listening to a couple dozen more calls where he was branded “an evil oppressor” and “an enemy of the people” by the peasants who had just received a primer in non-four-letter offensive language from the Earl of Cu...Huntingdon, Vasey ordered the box moved permanently to the guards’ barracks for use as an additional outhouse.
From that day onwards, he regularly received calls consisting of rather inappropriate sounds whenever a guard happened to accidentally press the button while using the convenience.
But it was still better than the peasants.
The Morning After
Something did not add up.
Guy’s head jerked up from where it was snugly settled on Marian’s shoulder. His device was ringing.
Which would have been, by then, a pretty usual occurrence – what with Vasey’s habit of calling him a dozen times a day – except that Vasey’s device was in pieces after the Sheriff had used it at the scapegoat for his disappointment at Guy’s, er, indifference.
Who in the world could it be?
Guy and Marian exchanged puzzled looks, and Guy carefully stretched his arm out of the bathtub and reached for the device.
- Hello? – he ventured.
- Do you love me? – was the breathy greeting at the other end.
- I, er… - Guy felt slightly awkward about declaring his love to an anonymous male caller when his true love, sans attire, was next to him in the tub after a very satisfying bout of… redemption. – Who is this?
- How dare you, Gisborne, not to recognize your ki… prince? – was the angry rejoinder.- Tell me you love me, Gisborne, or else you will never be Sheriff!
Of course. Guy had only seen Prince John once, months earlier, and his voice had sounded different in person. The prince had always called Vasey before, but with Vasey’s device out of commission, it looked like Guy was next in line. And the Sheriff part, unfortunately, was a credible threat. Prince John’s moods were nothing to snigger at.
- I… love you, - Guy ground out.
Marian turned sharply to look at him – her intent stare, from a distance of about three inches, was hard to ignore.
- Who is this ? – she hissed.
Guy waved his hand dejectedly. Great.
- It is not what you think, - he mouthed.
Marian arched an eyebrow.
Guy shook his head.
- Your Highness… to what do I owe the honour? – Guy continued, throwing Marian a pointed look. She grimaced, but at least did not move away from Guy.
- What has happened to the Sheriff, Gisborne? – John inquired in a petulant tone. – I have been trying to reach him for a full day now and every time I get a stupid message saying that he is unavailable!
- Oh, he is available, Your Highness, - Guy assured him. – So available, he is downright desperate, - he added mentally. – it is just that his device is… damaged.
- Damaged? – John’s voice, when angry, rose to a shrill, almost girly pitch.
I cannot really tell him that it is in fifteen pieces now, can I? Or else if Vasey finds out, I am dead…
- It is… not working, - Guy offered lamely.
- Tell him it got wet, - Marian whispered.
Guy waved an impatient hand at her and pointed to the device. Doesn’t she know how peripheral sounds carry through these things?!
- It was… dropped, Your Highness.
John emitted a loud sigh.
- Oh well, I will send Jasper over with a new one, - he grumbled.
Guy rolled his eyes. Just what we need here. The pri…nce’s little helper.
- Why was Vasey so careless anyway? – John was whining. – Doesn’t he know how difficult it is to procure these? I will now have to execute the Sheriff of Muckington just to give Vasey his device! - For once, his voice carried a genuine note of regret.
Shite. Guy could not very well tell him that it was Vasey’s unrequited… interest in Guy’s person that had driven the Sheriff to distraction. Or else he might never become Sheriff, after all, for provoking such carelessness. But he dithered over his options. For all his prowess with a sword and impressive physique, Guy was not always fast when it came to thinking on his feet. Or when it came to thinking seated next to an undressed Marian in a hot tub.
Then the inspiration dawned.
- He was exhausted by the duties of office, - he offered excitedly, unable to conceal his relief at having found a suitable excuse.
- Well well well, - John mused. – Looks like the old man is growing too tired for his burden.
Yes! Guy pumped his fist in the air. This was going better than he thought.
Marian smirked at him.
- In that case, - John continued, - I will really need to start thinking about Vasey’s replacement. I say, Gisborne, - he continued with studied indifference, - I suppose that under these circumstances I will need to get to know you better… much better. What do you say to coming to London next month for a… chat? Nothing major, just the two of us…
Guy clenched his teeth, suppressing a groan.
- Do you love me? – John asked again.
This is too much, really.
- Hello? – Guy yelled into the device, ignoring John’s response. – Hello? Hellooo? Forgive me, Your Highness, I cannot hear you! – he pressed hard on the power button and, once certain that the thingy had been shut off, dropped it on the floor with a sigh.
- Now, where were we, my lady? – he smiled, turning back to Marian. John will wait. – I believe I still have quite a few sins to wash away, don’t I?