“It was the first time I killed a man.”
Meg snapped her head up at the barely audible words. She slid over to the bars dividing her cell from Guy’s, chains dragging and clanking along rough-hewn stone. With her face pressed against the cold metal partition she could just make out a vague profile of her fellow captive. Lank raven hair slicked with grease from days without washing skimmed grimy leather but failed to hide the unmistakable outline of a dagger-sharp nose. In the dim torchlight Meg saw Guy contort his thin lips briefly, as if the words they contained were bitter to the taste. Meg prompted him softly – “What happened?”
Guy sighed. “Isabella and I were on the run to France to seek shelter with our mother’s relatives. After the old manor burned down and the village council accused me of murder… we had no other choice. Most strangers we met on the road were kind to two orphan children, but some nights meant sneaking into barns or sleeping under abandoned wagon carts.”
“You must have been terrified” Meg murmured.
Guy choked out a bitter laugh. “Not terrified enough that I couldn’t gut a drunken highwayman who put his filthy hands on my little sister. And see what luck my chivalry has brought me all these years later!” He jerked his shackled wrists angrily. “Imprisoned by the very woman for whom I sold my innocent soul.”
Meg reached out as if to comfort him but stopped when she remembered the cuffs encircling her own arms. “Guy, you fought out of bravery and honour that day. You killed for justice, not personal gain. Surely such an act could not blacken one’s soul?”
She flinched back from the bars at the sudden hatred in his eyes. “Spare me your platitudes, girl. You know nothing of what it is to kill a man!”
Meg’s gaze hardened in turn. “A pretty face is a pretty face, Guy of Gisborne. Your sister is not the only woman to have suffered the whims of a drunken lout. Not all of us are so lucky,” she hissed, “to have big brother there to protect us.”
Guy stared at her for a moment before pressing his mouth into a grim line. “You did not deserve to experience the cruelty of death.”
“Nor did you,” Meg replied.
His eyes leapt to hers, silvery and gleaming in the shadow of the dungeons.
“Cease those thoughts,” she huffed. “Do you never stop arguing?”
Whatever tension had filled the cramped space fell away as Guy’s shoulders slumped, quick as the release of a quivering bowstring. He turned away and leaned back against the wall. “Belligerent girl,” he muttered, crossing his forearms over his chest.
Meg quirked a half-smile at the lack of vitriol in his words.
“Better a belligerent girl than an insufferable man.”