Check out the start of the series.
Morning eventually came, though neither Owin nor Gwen felt any relief. The prior day, they had each woken with the intent that the day would bring them good fortune; this morning both of them silently contemplated everything they had lost and could still lose.
“I need to get you some pants and a shirt,” Owin final said to break the tension.
Gwen nodded her head. “And you don’t think anyone will know I am not a man?”
Owin looked at Gwen; her face had definite feminine qualities. Her eyes, her lips, her nose all spoke woman to him. However, he knew her too well and she reminded him of Elsin. Only her attitude and determination reminded him of Gavin. “We’ll try to avoid anyone really looking at you. We’ll also add some grease or sap stains to your face. That will help hide how smooth your completion is.”
Gwen nodded her head and look down at her chest. She had never had the chance to overeat and her body had developed much as her mother’s had, with minimal cleavage. But it would be another tell.
“We’ll have to bind your chest,” he finally said, knowing she was self-conscious in her apparent lacking and that her opinion of herself fell below reality.
Getting up, Owin glanced about the old room and the debris that lay in heaps on the ground. “You should be safe here. Stay out of sight if you hear anything. I’ll bring us back something to eat as well.”
Gwen nodded her head. “Will you find out if mother is okay as well?”
Owin shook his head. “I don’t want to risk it.” Upon seeing her expression, he sighed. “If I can do so safely, I’ll see if I can find out anything.” Reaching down, he patted her on the head. “I’ve got out of more difficult situations; I’ll get us out of this one as well.”
She nodded her head, but continued to sit on the worn blanket without looking up at him.
Turning away, Owin carefully made his exit from the abandoned building. It’s a damn good thing Rhyl has not fully recovered from the last war. I’d hate to think of what we’d do if we had to complete for empty space.
Owin made his way down the street as the predawn light moved out of the deep reds and oranges into a lighter blue of daylight. He hesitated a moment, reconsidering what he would lose by abandoning his small room. With a frown, he turned direction and headed toward a poorer section of town, resolved to his decision to leave his belongings to whomever would eventually take them. Matorick the Cruel, Owin thought with a mental sneer, probably has people watching right now. They’d grab me the moment they see me.
Keeping to side streets and alleys, he quickly reached one of several sections of the city where many laborers found rooms and some semblance of shelter. There were already many people on the street in this section of town, heading toward the docks or to the edge of the city where they might work in some of the fields. Others, based upon their soot covered clothes, likely worked in the in the nearby foundries, shoveling charcoal into furnaces to smelt copper.
Moving slowly down the street, Owin keep watch for any doors where a large number of people exited together. Since most of these people were hurrying to reach their place of employment before they might lose pay, Owin covered his slowness with a limp and a hunch that might indicate that his back pained him.
Seeing at least twelve men move through a door on the other side of the lane, Owin cut across the foot traffic and pulled open the door to enter the building. Keeping his head bent down, he nodded a greeting to another man who passed him in the narrow hallway.
Owin skipped the doors on this first level and went to the back of the hall and climbed the steep stairs to the next floor. Knowing the building had three floors, he skipped the second floor and went to the third. While it put him further from the exit, breaking into a room of the top floor reduced the chance for someone to pass him in the act by two-thirds.
Again moving slowly, he walked passed the doors in the hall, listening carefully for the sounds of anyone inside the small flats. A couple of rooms he knew were occupied by the sounds of babies crying. Near the far end of the hall, he passed by four rooms that had no sounds. Doesn’t mean they’re empty, but it’s better than nothing. Moving back one room, to place a potentially empty room on either side of him, he bent down to examine the crude lock.
After making his assessment, he pulled out his dagger and forced be blade between the door and the jamb and then pried a wide enough gap that the door popped open. He took a deep breath and then went into the small room. While Owin hated to steal from those who were no better off than himself, his fear for Gwen and Elsin took priority over his morals.
The inside of the room looked much like his own, except this one had a larger table and chairs. He noted the small fireplace against the far wall that provided both heat to keep the room warm in the winter as well as a place to cook food. A few dirty bowls and a mug sat on the table, but only a thin film of food remained. Not much to go around, he thought ruefully.
Unlike his small space, this residence had a second room. Moving slowly across the floor, he moved with minimal noise, just in case someone did happen to be home. Little light made its way into the backroom and Owin saw no evidence of a candle or a lamp. No people, he thought with a weak grin. Likely very dark at night.
The small room held a stuffed mattress on the floor, a stool for the chamberpot, a pile of dirty clothes, and a bucket. Owin suspected the wooden bucket served as a means to wash everything and anything in the flat.
He moved to the pile of clothing and started digging through the pile. Four shirts and two pair of pants were mixed in with a few socks and some under garments. Everything smelled strongly, but we can wash it later, he thought as he held up the brown fabric. Fortunately, the shirt did not appear that large. The benefit from stealing from those who don’t have enough to eat.
Owin heard the floor in the outer room creak. Grabbing the pants and the shirt, he pulled his dagger and slowly twisted into a standing position. The second slow creak coming from the other room told him whoever approached hoped to catch him unaware. Without hesitation, Owin rushed the doorway, ducking low and away from the wall the other person might be hiding behind. He spun round, the blade of his dagger turned down to protect his forearm as well as allow for a slashing punch.
A scream greeted him; issued from a young woman who had jumped back and nearly fell as Owin rounded the corner. The piece of wood in her hand, held like a club, almost slipped to the floor, but she did manage to catch it. “Don’t kill me!” she pleaded.
Owin came fully upright and lowered his weapon to make himself less threatening. “I won’t hurt you, but just stay against that wall and I’ll be on my way.”
The woman recovered some of her composure. “What are you doing here and why do you have Oran’s clothes?”
“Ma’am, let’s do both of ourselves a favor and not ask any more questions,” Owin said as he moved around the other side of the table. He did not want to hurt this brown-haired lady, but she might not have the same desire for him. “I just need to borrow a shirt and some pants and I’ll be on my way.” He kept his body turned toward her as he continued toward the door. “No harm, no damage and I am truly sorry to have to do this, but I really need them. If I can pay him back at some point, I will.”
Having reached the door, Owin moved through it and pulled it shut behind him. Keeping his head low, he moved quickly back to the stairs and started heading down. He did not know how many people might have heard the scream and did not want to wait to find out.