Owin #24 — A visitor

Check out the start of the series.

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

The work in the Ingle’s fields left Gwen sore and exhausted. Owin fared better, but still ended up with blisters on his hands. Dinner had been generous in size and based on their hunger, completely delicious.

“I’m not saying I would want to do this long-term, but the food’s good,” Gwen said, as she tried to make a comfortable spot in the hay so she could sleep. “The trouble is, I had to use the chamber pot the whole day, but good old Ben simply dropped his pants and went. Not something I’ll get away with.”

Owin nodded his head. That remained a limitation of the disguise over an extended period of time. It would not cause trouble for shorter encounters, but that was not their situation. “I hate to say it, but for now, you’ll have to just deal with it and find chances to sneak away.”

“Thanks for nothing.”

Owin rolled his head to ease the ache in his neck.  At the same time, he looked about the barn for something he could put down over the hay. The handful of empty burlap bags in the corner looked too dirty for his comfort. About ready to declare defeat, he paused as a shadow of someone moving outside the building was just discernible through the gaps between the boards of the barn.

“What do you think we’ll get for breakfast?” Gwen asked from where she lay, her left shoe in her hand.

“Not sure,” Owin said, drawing a dagger and keeping it behind his back; the man outside did not move like Ben.

“Hey, Owin, I know you saw me.”

Owin narrowed his eyes trying to place the voice. It sounded like a young man, but a name to did not come to his memory. “Who’s Owin?” Owin called back, not wanting to so easily break his cover of going by Orlan if he could manage it.

The side door to the barn opened and a red-haired man stepped inside. His tunic did not hide the tells of leather armor under the cotton cloth. However, Owin did recognize the face, if not the color of his hair. “Denton. What are you doing here?”  More annoyance filled his voice than he intended.

The athletic man closed the door behind himself and moved three paces closer. “I saw you head out of the city and wondered where you were going. The girl with you drew my attention.”

“I’m a boy,” Gwen said in a non-convincing attempt to sound masculine.

“So you are dressed,” Denton said to Gwen, but your mind has a feminine feel.

Gwen’s mouth dropped open, but the statement did not surprise Owin. “Denton, what are you doing here?”

“I had heard you left the Duke’s service,” the man said, adjusting his brown tunic so that it hung evenly. “Is it true?”

Owin nodded his head. “I do not work for the Duke. I know you don’t either, since there is a price on your head.”

Denton smiled. “And I doubt at the moment you are interested in turning me in for that. Seeing as I heard there is a price on your head as well.” He glanced to Gwen. “And the girl’s.”

“What do you want?” Owin demanded, again, not really wanting to know. He could not bring himself to put his dagger away, though he knew it would do no good against this man.

“There is war coming. The last time we were together, I sensed you did not care to see such things.”

“There is little I can do about it.”

Denton smiled. “That my friend is where you are wrong.” The man looked behind himself and sat down on a wooden crate. “Sit and let me explain.”

Owin bit his lip. Gwen still sat in the hay, confusion on her face. He feared Denton would regale them with tales of the past; things he did not want her to hear. However, I doubt I can stop it now.

Owin reluctantly sat on the edge of a plow. “I’ve retired.”

“Doesn’t matter. You’re still good at what you do. And what needs to happen is an assassin needs to die. The trouble is, you don’t have much time and I don’t know who the assassin is. Only who the target is.” When Owin did not interrupt, Denton continued. “I need to put you on a ship to Solva immediately so you can stop the assassination of the Uvarian ambassador. The assassin is supposed to also kill a Lord Nathaniel, who is a cousin of Duke Henry.  The death is to happen while the two are meeting to discuss a trade alliance.  I have it on good authority that evidence is to be planted that Duchess Emilia, the main thorn in Duke Ravigar’s side, ordered the killing to block the trade alliance. If it happens, then Emilia will lose favor with the other Dukes and Duke Ravigar will have a shot at the crown.”

“How do you expect me to stop this?” Owin shook his head. “I managed to get free of Ravigar; I do not want to be drawn back into this.”

Denton nodded his head. “I hear you are really short of money. I can pay you twenty crowns if you can prevent it. Gold ones, not silver.”

“Twenty crowns!” Gwen said, her jaw hanging even lower.

Owin shook his head slowly. “What good is the coin if I’m dead? No. I don’t think so.”

“I’ll pay you twenty-five.”

Owin stood up. “Denton, it’s not the money. I’ve got more important things to concern myself with.”

Denton stood and stepped closer. “What’s more important than preventing Ravigar from becoming king?  You know him.  He used you and Gavin. You want those wars to start up again? They’re coming if you don’t act.”

“I have responsibilities.”

Denton nodded his head. “Remember what you always said.” He waited but Owin did not respond. “Never pass up an opportunity. It was your motto.”

“What’s your point?”

“I didn’t want to do this, but you made it possible. We need someone to take care of this and you’re best suited to killing the assassin undetected, and more importantly, if you are detected, you don’t trace back to us.”

“Don’t threaten me,” Owin said, trying to figure out a way to get Gwen out of the barn and away from this man.

Denton shrugged. “I offered money–and we’ll still pay you–but for Elsin’s sake, I suggest you do this.”

Owin stepped forward to grab Denton’s tunic, but he found himself thrown backwards; an invisible mass striking him in the chest.  He took a moment to catch his breath; the blow had been weak by normal standards.

“Owin,” Gwen cried, moving to his side.

“Elsin is fine,” Denton said. “Gina had me heal her. Elsin’s rather angry with you, if you want to know. But she is safe, for now.” Denton flattened the wrinkles of his tunic. “Gina said you saw weapons the Duke is sneaking into the city. You know what is coming. We have to stop him.”

Owin glared back at the holy warrior. Nothing in his power could harm that man and that made it worse.

“Look. I’ll give you and the girl a chance to think about it. Take the night. I’ll be back in the morning. If you aren’t motivated, fine, we’ll do it the hard way.”

Owin grabbed Gwen’s wrist, keeping her in place while the man turned and walked toward the door. Owin did not release her until Denton had exited, shutting the barn door behind himself.

“What are we going to do?” Gwen asked.

Owin closed his eyes, fighting back the rage he felt boiling his blood. “I don’t have a choice.”

“Owin, did you and my father kill people for the Duke?”

It was the question he always feared she would ask him. “Yes.”

Continue to next episode.