Check out the start of the series.
Solva was one of Andra’s oldest cities and its age was evident. While many buildings had been rebuilt over the years, many more limped from generation to generation. The old relics, or in many cases, decaying structures, lived sandwiched between newer buildings of varying age. The once fine cobblestone streets were in many places fill over with debris and sediment. The missing stones leaving holes and dips that most people simply stepped around and ignored.
Without a King, the city, which remained part of the King’s holdings, had suffered from increased corruption in the leadership. Monies that would have slowed the decay, now disappeared before they reached those who would have once done the work.
However, the disruption had not caused an uncontrolled growth in crime. Powerful trade groups continued to push for the policing of the streets and the punishment of criminals. Only, their justice tended to be swifter and less forgiving.
Owin led Gwen down the sparsely lit street. The narrow lane he followed was straighter than many in the city, which made it a good reference for him. It’s been too long since I’ve been here, he admitted. Too long to remember this place as well as I need, but not long enough to forget what I was, he immediately corrected. The fact that Denton had roped him back into this life bothered him greatly.
After two more blocks, Owin turned onto a major street that was wide enough to allow horse traffic; though, not wide enough for buggies and carriages. After passing three shops, he stopped in front of a waddle and daub building that stood three stories high. The building leaned slightly to the left, but since it shared walls with its neighbors, Owin considered that it might just be a factor that the whole block leaned.
His own stomach growling, Owin walked up the couple of wooden steps and entered the Green Leaf Tavern. The weathered door stuck a little as he pulled it open, but the intricate carving on the thick boards appeared crisp and undamaged by time. The inside of the tavern was a little overly warm and stuffy, but the dozen people scattered about the tables did not seem to mind.
Owin held the door as Gwen moved around him. He watched her as she quickly made her appraisal of the room and its patrons. Her calm and casual appearance only betrayed by a slight fidgeting of her hands around the straps of the pack she carried. She has potential, he thought, but if I have my way, she will never have to use it.
With a nod of his head, he directed her toward an open table near the back of the room and away from the stairs leading to the second floor. The sounds coming from above them led Owin suspected there may be gaming or other distractions there. Instinct told him there was also likely rooms below ground as well, but he hoped to avoid any of the private parts of the public house.
“Can I get you something?” A young man carrying a mug asked as he passed them while walking toward another table.
“Some dinner and a couple of mugs of ale,” Owin replied. In a place like this, there would not be many choices for dinner. Holding out a chair, he had Gwen sit down, and then he chose the chair that put his back to the wall. The young man handed the mug to a sailor and then turned back toward the kitchen.
“So, how do we find Bent?” Gwen asked as she leaned in close to him.
“I’m not sure what he looks like. I’ll ask about him after I get something to eat myself. I don’t want to end up with going the night without something if I can help it.”
“You should have eaten at Tam’s.”
Owin shook his head. “Tam wouldn’t have poisoned the food he was eating, so I wasn’t worried. However, his offer to you was because you’re a girl. Not because he is nice.”
The young waiter emerged from the kitchen with two plates and two mugs. He brought them over and set them on the edge of the table. “That’ll be five marks,” the young man said, hovering protectively over the food.
Owin quickly paid the man and then dug into the meats and vegetables on the plate. Gwen did not let her prior meal dissuade her and started eating as well. They had barely finished when a dark-haired man who had been sitting in the far corner rose and then approached their table.
“The two of you wouldn’t happen to be from Rhyl, would you?” The man asked.
News travels fast. Rumors about me arrive before I do, even though I didn’t even know I was coming. Now our contact can identify us on sight? “Might I ask your name?” Owin responded carefully.
“Most people call me Brent.” The man sat down across from Owin. “You got something for me?”
Owin dug into his pouch and fished out the marker Arn had given him. He purposefully avoided looking at Gwen, though he knew this man’s appearance bothered her as well. Setting the wooden disk on the table, he pushed it over to the man.
“Owin and Gwen I presume.”
“Our reputation precedes us,” Owin said before he could stop himself and then decided to press the question. “How’d you know what we look like and that we’d even be here?”
Brent’s lips cracked into a smile, revealing a set of straight teeth. “My good man, Denton does the work of the gods and they will let neither time nor distance prevent their will from being done.” The man glanced at Owin’s plate. “Have you finished your dinner?”
Owin nodded his head. “I am glad to hear Denton has managed to inform you of our journey. I trust he also informed you what our fee is when this is done.”
The man’s smile deepened. “I’m not the business man, just a worker. If you are done with your meal, let me get you someplace where you can sleep and rest up. I imagine you’ve had a long journey.”
“That we have.” Owin finished the little bit of ale left in his mug. “On the way to where you are taking us, can you show me where I am to do my work?”
“It is a bit out of our way, but I can take you past it.” Brent turned his attention to Gwen. “You up for the extra walk. Don’t want to wear you out.”
Gwen shrugged and Owin caught her eye, hoping she would not mistake the warning he wanted to convey. The man across from him set his instincts on fire and he wanted this man to ignore Gwen.
“I don’t know,” Gwen finally said. “If you insist we do it, I guess so. I’m not used to this kind of thing.”
Owin hoped Brent was not a priest; his pleasure at Gwen’s slightly whiny tone would be obvious to someone with the power of the gods. Aloud he said, “Don’t bitch about it; we’re just going to walk past it.”
Brent’s amusement could not be hidden. “Then let’s go so we can get you to where you are staying.”