Owin #12 — The cellar

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

Owin’s face remained expressionless despite the terror in his chest. He had just assaulted soldiers and servants of one of the Lords of the city of Rhyl because he thought he read the lips of a man saying he had hurt Elsin. Now he had to find his way deeper into the estate to rescue Gwen and then get them both out alive. Damn, I really need to find a different line of work.

Owin allowed the old Steward to keep his feet. The man had lived at least fifty years, but most of that life did not appear to have been difficult. While he had an obvious cruel nature, the act of performing menial work seemed to remain outside his experience, so Owin had no direct fear of the man.

Still breathing hard, the Steward practically spit at Owin. “You harm me, they will kill you.”

Owin nodded his head. “You do anything to cause me trouble and you’ll die before I do. I intend to free Gwen and leave, no one else has to get hurt.”

The old man nodded his head, though Owin could see the contempt and disdain in his eyes. Getting out alone, I think I could still do that. Getting out with Gwen is going to be hard.

Despite the likelihood of betrayal, Owin had no choice except to use the man to take him to Gwen. “Okay, you’ll escort me to her now. You’ll tell anyone that asks that you are leading me there to convince her to tell the truth. You say anything else and then I’ll have to start killing people.”


Owin took the dagger from the old man’s waist. Reversing the blade, he pressed it against his own forearm and concealed the handle in the palm of his hand. Wishing for a way to keep the soldier’s sword, he hesitated a moment before sliding it onto the seat of the chairs at the table. It would hopefully go unnoticed for a time.

“Let’s go.”

The old man pulled open the door and led Owin into the long hall he had been escorted through when he had been brought into the house. The fortunate thing is they don’t want the help mixing with the household, Owin thought as they moved down the dimly light corridor. They passed several doors on both walls before stopping at one Owin knew would lead deeper into the building.

“We are holding her in the cellar,” the Steward said.

Owin hesitated a moment. The thought of blindly opening the door scared him. When he and Gavin had infiltrated castles and fortified home, they always knew the basic layout and sometimes even had reports from spies. Time being his enemy, Owin readied himself and then nodded his head for the Steward to open the door.

The anticipation fortunately exceeded reality; on the other side of the door was a darkened stairway leading down. No threat jumped out to meet him, only a faint glow at the bottom gave hint to a stone walled room. “I’ll follow you down,” Owin said.

The Steward moved forward slowly, his steps those of an injured old man. That behavior heightened Owin’s concern instead of easing it. By the time they reached the bottom, the man took several moments to move down every step. However, Owin resisted the urge to hurry the man along.

“Steward?” came the voice of a nervous man deeper in the room and still out of Owin’s sight. “I promise, it wasn’t my fault what happened.”

Owin felt his blood start to heat, but forced his emotions down. He had to retain his wits to get out. Coming down the last couple of steps, Owin remained behind the Steward, but took note of the rows of shelves covered with various dried goods. On the other side of the room were three men, two sitting at a small table, and one, presumably the one who had spoken, recently out of the chair that was still touching his legs.

Owin sized up the man who stood, his youth was complimented by wide shoulders and a muscular neck. The two men still at the table were thinner and more wiry. “I’m just here to get Gwen,” Owin whispered.

“We are here to talk with the thief,” the Steward said to the soldier.

Owin whispered again, “Have her brought out here.”

Despite being behind the Steward, he could see the snarl on the man’s face through the tightening of his neck muscles. “Bring the thief out here.”

Owin watched the standing man head off to the left, leaving the room through a side passage. The other two men stood. They wore swords on their sides and their padded armor would protect them from any punches or bludgeoning blows Owin could land.  However, they would be vulnerable to stabbing attacks. I just have to avoid getting hit myself.

Owin waited behind the Steward as the other men stood with growing suspicion. However, they did not voice any questions. After many long moments, Gwen stumbled into the room, pushed forward by the man who chased her from the other passage.

“Get your damn hands off me,” she swore. “I’ve not done anything!”

Owin admired her spunk, but wished none of this had ever happened. “Tell her to come over here,” he said softly to the Steward, hoping the darkness in their part of the room would keep the soldiers from seeing him as giving the orders. However, the Steward said nothing. “Don’t mess this up now.”

The large man who presumably hurt Elsin grabbed Gwen’s shoulder, holding her in place several feet ahead of the other soldiers, but still a dozen feet from the Steward. “What do you want me to do with her?”

Owin caught Gwen’s eye and she could not hide the recognition from her face, though the soldiers behind her were not in a position to observe her expression. Knowing the situation was deteriorating quickly, Owin gave a single nod of his head.

Gwen responded instantly, kicking down with her heel on the top of the soldier’s left foot. Twisting, she tried dropped her weight down to break the soldier’s grip on the top of her shoulder. With her left fist, she aimed for his groin and struck a stolid blow that gained her freedom.

Owin rammed his right hand up toward the back of the Steward’s head, slamming the pommel of the dagger into his skull with a resounding thud. The man did not have a chance to cry out before crumpling to the floor.

Gwen started toward Owin, moving just ahead of the other men who had hoped to grab her before she got away from them. Owin, leaping over the Steward’s prone body, met the nearer of the men with a punch to the face. With the additional mass of the dagger, his blow knocked the man backwards and onto his rear.

The last man, seeing Owin’s attack, drew his sword. Owin moved around the man he punched and ducked under the sword swing. With the dagger reversed to have the blade forward, Owin rose up inside the soldier’s reach, jabbing the blade into the unprotected area of his left armpit. Warm blood gushed forth as Owin pulled the blade free. Forcing his own body into the soldier’s, Owin wrapped his left arm around the soldier’s right and ripped the sword free of the man’s weakened grasp.

With a solid shove, Owin sent the man backward into the table. Behind him, he heard a jar crash against something hard. He turned around. Gwen stood over the first man, the remains of a ceramic jug scattered around his body, which was now sprawled across the floor.

The second guard had managed to get to his knees. Owin moved a step closer, slipping the stolen blade under the man’s chin. “You don’t want to fight me.”

The man shook his head. “I surrender.”

“Undo your sword belt and drop it to the floor. Then stand up, take your friend and help him to the cell. You’ll need to put pressure on his wound or he’ll die.”

The soldier glanced at his friend whose pale face held a vagueness that said he might soon lose consciousness. The idea that anyone would keep fighting despite damaging wounds always amazed Owin. Unless no hope remained, most people drew away from the conflict and tried to find a way to cling to life.

The second solider unfastened his belt and let his weapons fall to the floor. With a quick hand wipe of his bloody lip, the soldier regained his feet and went to his friend. Helping the injured man to his feet, the second soldier half carried his friend down the side passage to a doorway. Going inside, the man turned around to face Owin. “You’ll tell them to come check on us?”

“I will,” he lied. Spying the keys handing on the wall outside the door, Owin pulled the door shut and then locked it. Now to get Gwen out and find out what happened to Elsin.

Continue to next episode.