Owin #33 — A change in the balance
Check out the start of the series.
The morning tide came in just before full dawn. The thin clouds had turned a brilliant crimson which reminded Owin too much of the blood stains on the rocky beach.
With Gwen and Calvin in The needle, he, Arn, and the two brothers pushed the heavily laden vessel off the beach and into the short waves of the protected cove. Wanting to make sure he did not get left behind, Owin quickly leaped into the boat, sloshing water over Gwen and Calvin. The bald man cursed, but that let Owin know there was still at least a little life left him.
Gwen gave him a forced smile as Imtor and Warren, who had been faster than Owin, each took up an oar on opposite sides of the boat. “Owin, you and Gwen get on those ropes and raise the sail. I’d have you row, but we’d be unbalanced and I doubt the girl can man the tiller.”
“I could try,” Gwen said over Warren’s and Imtor’s grunting as the two pulled on their oars. However, Captain Arn shook his head and Gwen moved to the rope he pointed her toward.
Owin avoided looking at the brothers directly as he and Gwen raised the sail. The brothers had been quiet most of the early morning. The fact that two of their number were dead and one severely injured did not seem to be the factor that dampened their mood. The obvious plotting worried him.
With the sail raised and the boat turned by their rowing, Arn directed The Needle to take up the wind and headed her out to sea and away from the cove. What had been a simple stop to pick up more goods had turned into a significant change in the balance of power. No one wanted to say anything aloud for fear of forcing someone’s hand, but everyone knew the change had occurred.
“Owin, do you have a silver coin I can use?”
He turned his attention to Gwen, who continued to glance toward Calvin. She had shown no hesitation in dealing with blood when she had helped to bind Calvin’s wound, but a deep puncture to the gut did not have a great prognosis. If the bald man could survive until they reached a reasonably sized port, and he had the coin to spare, he could likely buy himself some healing. However, if something important was cut, he won’t make it.
“What for?” Owin asked in reply.
“If I can scrape some into some water, it will help heal him. I think we also have some garlic cloves left. I want to try to help.”
Owin nodded his head and fished around in his pouch to pull out a silver coin. “Let me try to carve some slivers. The coin is small and with the rocking of the boat, I don’t want you to cut yourself.”
She frowned at him and lowered her voice. “Of the two of us, it’d be better for me to cut myself than for you to.”
Grinning, he handed her the coin and one of the daggers he took off the dead. He had been impressed with the blade. The steel had a sharp edge and looked inclined to keep it. The man who had carried it had not impressed Owin. One does not need skill to have good things, he reminded himself. However, those who have skill normally know a good thing when they see it.
Turning around to face the stern of the ship, Owin made himself comfortable while keeping his apparent attention on Arn. The brothers he tracked out of the corner of his eyes. They had moved to sit next to each other and the weapons they had acquired from the men who had attacked them. The pair of crossbows they were examining gave Owin a cause for concern. Initially, only Arn had one onboard. Now there are three and the brothers have two. The ranged weapons would give them a chance to injure from afar and while the two of them had ability with a blade, Owin suspected they had taken note of his skill. Which means they might hesitate to take me on directly.
Owin turned his head at the sound of Calvin spitting. “I can’t eat that!”
“It’s just garlic,” Gwen said, a rather unsympathetic edge to her voice. “It will help you. Chew it and swallow. Then I’ll give you something to drink.”
“Ain’t it bad enough I’ve been stabbed? Now you want to poison me?”
“You want to live to the next port? Do want I tell you.”
Owin turned back to look at Arn with a smile on his face. Gwen would be trouble for any man who thought to make her an obedient wife and Owin’s rebellious nature like that. Elsin would have my hide for encouraging her, but Gavin would love it.
Realizing he had not seriously thought of either of them for a couple of days pulled him out of his reverie and caused him to focus on the situation at hand. When on a job, allowing one’s mind to wander could be deadly; it reduced the control one had over their own situation. While Gwen’s presence was a disruption to his comfort zone, it also provided him with additional motivation to make sure he remained in as much control as possible. To do that, he needed to predict what the brothers were planning and stay one step ahead of them. Because, to protect Gwen, when the time comes to end the brother’s lives, I won’t hesitate.