Owin #61 — A meeting in the kitchen

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

The next morning, Owin gave D’mir a message for Arn and another for Arn to pass on to Denton. D’mir did not indicate how long it would take for the messages to be exchanged and Owin could tell it would be better if he did not ask. Instead, he returned to the barn where he and Gwen had cleared a small space in the loft. He expected the two of them would be spending a number of days in their self-imposed confinement and could not risk antagonizing the man who was sheltering them as well as providing their food.

To pass the time, Owin started teaching Gwen to speak Uvarian. When she had her fill of new words, he would switch to describing the effects of various poisons, how to make them, and how to counter their effects. Although she wanted to learn more fighting techniques, the confined space prohibited anything that involved large movements and Owin’s arm limited close contact training. Tain’s paste had helped, but only time would fully heal the gash.

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Owin #60 — A place to stay

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Gwen fixed a quick meal that helped Owin feel a little life and energy return to his body. After they had eaten, Tain leaned toward Owin. “You got any money?”

Owin nodded his head slowly. “A little. Why?”

Tain got up and went over to his cold box and dug around to the back of the small chest before he pulled out a small ceramic jar with a wax covered top. He put the jar on the table and pushed it toward Owin. “Not sure you’d trust me, but if you want the jar, I’ll sell it for a crown. You’ve been in the business long enough to know what it is.”

Owin raised his eyebrows. The price Tain demanded, while a lot of money, was actually inexpensive if the jar contained what Tain was implying. Owin bit his lower lip as he considered his options. A priest would cost me a lot more than that, but with a priest I wouldn’t have to trust the ointment he’s hinting is in the jar. “Where’d you get something like this?”

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Owin #59 — A conversation before breakfast

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Owin tried to keep from letting himself feel woozy, but the cut on his left arm had left him light-headed. He wanted to get some alcohol to pour over the wound, but he would have to wait until he could find a place to possibly pass out; he knew how much the alcohol would hurt. And we’re not yet safe enough for that, he told himself.

Denton’s men that they had tied up would likely already be free. Two men could easily work together to undo the bindings that had been available at the time. If they had some means to communicate with Denton across vast distances, then Denton would know what happened and would be making plans.

“Just leave Elsin out of it, Denton.”

Owin signed with relief as he saw Gwen coming toward him. If he was honest with himself, he had no idea how he would have managed to rescue Gwen if the Steward had decided to hold her hostage. Damn stupid mistake to get hurt.

“Owin, are you okay?” Gwen asked as she got near enough to speak quietly. The sun had started to brighten the sky, though the burning orb had not yet crossed the horizon.

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Owin #58 — Leaving his own mark

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Gwen helped Owin wrap the deep cut in his left arm. Now that the immediate threat had passed, the pain had grown. What I wouldn’t give for a priest I could trust. Owin knew he would need to get some help for the injury or risk a serious infection

Knowing that healing would have to wait and wishing for it now was just a waste of precious time, once the last of the cloth was wrapped tightly around his forearm, he patted Gwen’s shoulder. “I know of at least one bit of planted evidence, we need to search for more as well as leave want Denton’s men placed in our room.”

“Do you think that will be enough?” Gwen asked, still a bit subdued. “Just that one note?”

Owin grabbed Urel’s lamp from the floor and brought it over to the assassin’s body. Owin quickly searched through the dead man’s clothing and pouches. He found a handful of coins, but nothing that would provide evidence the man was working for anyone in particular.

Owin stood up and had to fight some dizziness. After a moment, he stabilized himself. “Once we are done here, we need to get our story of events out before that man…Gib was his name…puts out a different version of events.” Owin headed for the stairs as he slipped the extra coins into his pouch. “I’m formulating an idea. Tell me what you think.”

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Owin #57 — A bloody arm

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Owin cautiously searched the second floor of the building, but his speed continued to increase as he moved from room to room and still had no indication anyone else was in the building. There was no other light except what he carried and no sounds of movement could be heard.

Of the five rooms on the second floor, only the room that had been cleared of furniture had anything interesting in it. The open area of this room had dark stains on the floor and practice weapons leaned against the walls. Most of the wooden weapons had no markings, but in his quick search, Owin noted two swords that bore marks of Duchess Emilia. The brands had been scratched out, but not enough to hide the Duchesses crest. Subtle enough that if it was the only evidence, it would not mean anything, but I am sure there will be more floating around to pin the blame on her.

Owin had already started down the stairs to the first floor when the sounds of bells came from the first floor. The faint creaking of a door open was mixed in, makes Owin fairly certain someone had opened the front door. Gwen, that better not be you.

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Owin #56 — Walk softly

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Owin carefully lowered himself from the tile roof onto the four-inch wide beam that extended out from the front of the building. The rope he had tied around the chimney was loosely wrapped around his right arm to help steady himself. The three-story fall to the ground would be as fatal as any sword.

He attempted to listen for any sounds coming from the open window below him but heard nothing. Using the rope for balance, he lowered himself to a seated position and sat with both legs off one side of the beam. Once stable, he rolled over so he could drop down and hang from his arms.

Owin then swung his feet over until he caught the edge of the window frame with the outsides of his boots. Unfortunately, this window sat lower in the wall compared to the bean than the corresponding window in the house he had used to gain access to the roof. To safely reach the window, he lowered himself with the rope until he could put his sweaty hands on the frame.

Again, the sound of his weapons bouncing off his hip was muffled, but still audible. Fearing his silhouette would stand out clearly in the window, Owin immediately climbed into the room and crouched down below the frame to hide his form.  He waited there and listened for signs his presence had been detected as his sight adjusted to the fact that the room was even darker than the outside.

Several moments passed before he could make out the shapes in the room. To his right, just an outstretched arm away, sat a bed. Against the back wall, he could see a door because of a faint glow of light that illuminated the gaps at the top and bottom. In the far corner, opposite from the bed, Owin decided a large mass must be a desk and chair.

Minimizing his movements, Owin drew his long dagger and eased his way closer to the center of the bed. He held the dagger in his right hand as he rose to his feet. Not knowing which end was the head of the bed, he slowly extended his left hand downward while holding his right ready to strike. His fingers descended until they encountered a rumpled bed sheet. Applying a little more pressure, he hoped to determine which direction the person might sleep.

A moment later, he stood fully upright. No one in the bed, he thought with a silent sigh. His realized his heart was racing and he took a deep breath to steady himself. I hope they have not gone out while we were getting ready.

Owin took another breath, switched his dagger to his left hand, and then drew his sword. Lightly, he started moving toward the door and the dim glow that he hoped would lead him to those who lived in the building. The wood floor groaned slightly, but as he eased his weight into each footfall, the sound did not seem loud.

At the door, he slid the release and pulled the door open. The hinges squeaked, but there was nothing to be done for it, so he did not hesitate, which would have only drawn out the sound to last longer. Before him was a darkened hall, the light he had seen coming under the door emanated from an opening eight feet down the hall and on the left side.

Owin heard the creak of a chair and then feet moving across the floor. He waited a moment more, trying to judge when the person would reach the doorway from within the side room. Just before he expected the person to stick their head into the hall to look around, Owin leaped forward.

Owin covered the distance in two strides. The person, who had risen to investigate the sounds of the door, had already committed himself to looking into the hall and while the man’s face registered viseral hate, the rest of his body had not caught up with the sight of Owin bearing down on him.

Owin recognized the man as one of the two who had pursued Gwen. Knowing he still had to deal with Urel and at leat one other man, Owin knocked aside the man’s sword and drove his own deep into the man’s chest.

The man grunted and staggered back. Owin yanked his blade free and then slashed once more across the torso of the falling man.

Prepared to dodge backward and away from the door, Owin quickly scanning the room for threats. He observed the contents without conscious attention, noting two beds and chests against the far wall, a table and chairs in the middle of the room. and the remains of a mostly finished meal sitting next to a lamp. However, the dying man was alone in the room.

Owin looked up and down the hall, but no threat appeared to be coming. He waited a moment more as the man in the room gasped and jerked on the floor. Still not seeing or hearing any threats, Owin went into the room. Keeping his face to the door, Owin knelt on one knee next to the man, confirming he had already bled out on the floor.

Where are they? Owin demanded as he continued to listen for sounds that would indicate someone else in the building had heard the noise. He waited for a dozen breaths, but he heard nothing. Damn it.

Owin rose to his feet and took another look around the room. Both beds showed signs of use, but only one of them had boots, clothing, and weapons stacked next to it. A quick glance at the dead man confirmed he had no boots on and was lightly dressed. The sword the man had been carrying lay on the floor next to the door where it had been dropped.

Where are the others? Concern overrode any thankfulness in so easily dealing with the first man. Owin cursed. He preferred dealing with known quantities instead of surprises. If the men were coming to him, he could ambush them instead of the other way around.

No longer willing to wait, Owin wiped the blood from his sword and then put his dagger back into its sheath so he could carry the lamp. He maintained his careful and quiet movement, returning to the hall with the lamp, dimmed to the point where the flame would barely stay lit.

Two other doors stood closed on this floor. He examined each one, careful opening them and peering inside to find rooms filled with dust and cobwebs. When he reached the end of the hall, he glanced out the open window that allowed a warm breeze to move through the building. He still had a couple turns of the glass before the sun would start to brighten the sky. However, he wanted to be out of the building well before that happened. We can’t be caught by the city guard.

He focused himself back to the task at hand and looked down the stairs at the end of the hall. The second floor appeared to be dark and he had yet to hear the sound of any other movement in the building. I don’t like this at all.

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Owin #55 — Enter before knocking

Check out the start of the series.

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Owin twisted his head to fight the exhaustion that ate at his composure. He and Gwen had raced back across the city once again and it was now either quite late or very early; Owin could not tell the difference and he began to think it did not really matter.

“How are we going to get in there?” Gwen asked. “Through the front door?”

Owin shook his head. “I don’t want to do that. Too much risk.”

The two of them were crouched in the location where he had watched the shop earlier. After a moment, he spoke again. “Gwen, I want you to stay here and keep watch. If someone comes out, I want to know about it.” He turned to face her. “But I don’t want you to do anything about it. Stay here and wait for me.”

“Owin, I don’t like that plan.”

He put a hand on her shoulder and forced a smile that she probably did not see in the faint light from the distant lamps. “The front door likely has traps, which means we’ll either get killed going through it, or someone will hear us coming, and we’ll get killed a few moments later.” Owin looked at the long row of connected buildings and pursed his lips as he considered each one.

“How are you going in?” She asked.

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Owin #54 — Gathering their things

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Owin led Gwen back across Solva to the room Denton’s people had secured for them. The overcast sky blocked the Mother Moon’s light, leaving them to traverse several sections of the city in near-total darkness. However, as normal, the street lamps near their room were lit.

Grabbing a clump of dry grasses from where the weeds had grown next to a building, Owin twisted them several times to create a tight bundle. Holding the grasses firmly, he lit them from the closest lamp and then being careful to shield the flame with his hand, he followed Gwen into the boarding house and down the hall toward their door.

“Wait,” he whispered to Gwen as they passed the stairs leading to the second floor. With a quick breath, he blew out the flame that was slowly consuming the bundle of grasses. With the fire extinguished, the glow of light from under their door became more obvious. He tossed the smoldering grasses to the floor and then stepped on them to put out the embers.

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Owin #53 — Next steps

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Owin watched the run down shop for a while after the lamp had been turned down or moved to a room that blocked its light from the boarded up windows overlooking the street. Who are you and who are you working for? He wondered again. His trouble to answer the question continued to be that there were too many players involved. His first thought had been that the Steward had hoped their guard would be down and had decided to use Gwen’s second meeting as a means to find out where she was staying. If that had been the case, I would have expected the watchers to report to the Steward, not end up across town in that dump.

He sighed as he slowly moved to his feet.  The planter he had squatted next to had seemed to provide enough cover, but he did not want to remain there too long.  As he moved he reconsidered Denton’s men as the potential watchers.  If they had grown suspicious of our activities, he might send some people to watch. But then they would not likely accept Gwen simply going into the boarding house.  They would know where we are staying.

Owin walked away from the old shop and used the next intersection to loop back around so he could head back toward Gwen. The thought that he might have found where Urel had secured himself gave him both hope and pause. “Those two men were muscle,” he mumbled aloud.  How many more might Urel have? And then there is Urel. While Owin felt confident enough to handle the two men, he did not want to take them on together unless there was no other choice. But would Urel have actually used them to do his scouting?  They did not appear to be very practiced in the art of tracking.

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Owin #52 — Another player in the game?

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Owin had watched Gwen wait near the statue in Patrick Square for several turns of the glass, but her contact had not come. Eventually, she followed Owin’s instructions and went to a series of public houses to sit and wait the rest of the day away in relative safety. It ate at him, but Owin had been unable to sit with her and keep her safe. Just too many other things to do, he told himself.

Owin forced a laugh. His attention had wondered again when another pair of people entered Iesa’s Public House and he missed the fact that the man to his left had played a knight and a squire in the last round. “My luck is just not what it normally is,” he said as he put his cards face down on the table. At this rate, I really don’t have to pretend to lose.

“Your luck seems perfectly good to me,” said the oily-haired man sitting across from him.

Owin smiled and shrugged. He knew little about the three men he was gambling with. They had simply been a convenient group to offer him cover. “You’ll have to take it easy on me or you’ll run me out of money.”

“I think that’s the idea,” the man on his left said quietly.

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