Owin #11 — Trouble in the dining room

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo
Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Owin’s mind raced as he sat in what he assumed was the servants dining room. A small table that seated six sat in the middle of the nondescript room. The rectangular wooden surface lacked any ornamentation, as did the rickety chairs around it. The whitewashed walls showed their age through the dullness generated by countless oil lamps and candles.

The only items of interest were the door that remained closed and the two guards standing against the walls behind him. Dressed in padded armor, their expressions might have provoked a description of boredom, had their eyes contained less malice.

Owin continued pushing thoughts of Gwen from his mind. It won’t do me any good until I know something, he kept swearing to himself. The idea of counting the time offered no relief either. His wait had already neared half a turn of the glass. Whatever was delaying the Steward was not something Owin could control.

The sound of footsteps outside the thick wooden door lifted Owin’s eyes. A moment later, the handle turned and an aged man moved confidently into the room. He shut the door behind him, while his face took on a disapproving scowl. “Are you her father?” The man asked without preamble.

“I’ve coming to check on Miss Gwen,” Owin responded, not wanting to be caught in an outright lie if they knew her father was dead. “She had not arrived at home and I had hoped to find out if she had left yet or not. I’ve been here for quite some time; I hope it was not wasted if something happened to her on the way home.” Although he knew better than to complain, his irritation needed an outlet. And her being picked up by strangers might be better than still being here.

“Your Miss Gwen is a thief.” The wrinkled lip of the old man curled slightly upward. “She will tell us what she did with it. Otherwise, we will make you pay for the loss, though from your appearance, I doubt that will occur quickly. What is it you do?”

Owin’s stomach dropped. Please, don’t have been a fool and tried to take something else. “I am a laborer,” he lied.

“I expected so.” The man leaned forward, placing his hands on the table that sat between them. “Where is the item she stole?”

Owin cocked his head. “You accused her of stealing; I would assume you had proof.” The man slammed his hands on the table and Owin suspected he reacted a little too slowly for someone cowed into obedience.

“Don’t take tone with me, you piece of crap. Where is what she stole?”

Owin leaned forward. “Look, I don’t know what you are talking about. If you have no proof, I demand you let her go.”

The older man straightened. “She was caught in the house yesterday. A silver spoon disappeared. While I don’t know where she hid it, I could guess.”

Owin shook his head. “You have no proof. Let her go.”

The Steward smiled and shook his head. “No. She’ll confess. When she gets hungry or thirsty enough, she’ll tell us.”

Owin felt his hands clench, but before he could respond, the door opened and another guard stepped into the room. The nervous twitch of the young man’s cheek held Owin in place.

“Excuse me, Sir.”

“What?” demanded the Steward, turning to face the young man.

Owin strained his ears, but the young man lowered his voice below what could be heard from across the room. Watching the guard’s hairless lips, Owin tried to read his words. Mother…fought…someone’s name…did he say broken neck? Owin’s heart raced. Damn them, they better not have…they better not have…

Owin felt the guards behind him move closer but could not take his eyes from the guard speaking at the door; however, the Steward had stepped in the way. The old man’s growl worried Owin.

“Get out. You’ve caused me enough trouble.” When the guard turned to leave, the Steward turned back to Owin, obviously disturbed. “As I said, she will tell us…she will…” The old man glanced to the men behind Owin. “For now, you will wait here until she confesses.”

Owin heard the man on his right trying to silently slip his sword from its scabbard. Damn them, they hurt Elsin. He would not let himself consider her dead, not yet. He had to focus on rescuing Gwen and then deal with whatever else had happened.

Kicking back his chair, Owin jumped to his feet. With his right hand, he grabbed the spindly chair and swung it hard into the man on his right, sending broken wood across the room. Still holding a narrow bit of broken wood, he jabbed the guard’s face, tearing his cheek and ripping the skin above his eye.

Spinning around, Owin rushed the second guard. With his left hand held flat and his figures curled under, he punched the second man in the throat, causing him to gag and reach for his crushed windpipe.

Owin turned back to the first guard who had one hand over his eye and cheek. Dropping the wooden shaft, Owin punched the young man square in the chest, knocking the wind from his lungs and the man from his feet.

The Steward had recovered from his shock and made for the door. Owin jumped up and slid over the narrow table. He smashed into the back of the old man, slamming shut the door in the process.

“Don’t kill me!”

Owin kneed the man in the gut, sending the old man to the floor. He kicked the man once more in the gut to make sure he could not call out, and then quickly went back to the first guard. The guard, struggling to get up, stopped when Owin put his foot on his chest. “Silence or I’ll have to kill you.”

The guard, whose hands were covered in his own blood, nodded his head slowly. Bending down, Owin picked up the sword and removed the guard’s daggers. Glancing at the second guard, Owin could see tremors in the man’s limbs as he gurgled for breath. He might live, Owin thought without much certainty.

Thinking of Elsin, perhaps hurt or dead, he glanced down at the first guard; he could not trust the man to remain silent. With startling speed, he reached down, lifted the man’s shoulders, and then slammed his head into the floor. The man’s eyes glazed over and Owin hoped the blow would keep him unconscious.

Quickly moving back to the Steward, he watched as the old man struggled to his feet. “You’ll die for this.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure. The Duke used me to eliminate his enemies. Working alone inside a castle is what I do.”

Continue to next episode.