Owin #49 — Message delivered

Check out the start of the series.

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

Gwen stood before the Steward’s oak desk as the old man moved around the aged furniture and took his seat. While one chair sat off to her left, she had not been given leave to sit and she had no desire to anger the man.

“We are now free from prying ears. What is your name and what plot are you hoping to sell to me today?”

Gwen could see a history of irritation in the man’s face. “Sir. My name is Gwen, but I am not hoping to sell you anything. I was hoping your lord might be able to help.” She pursed her lips. Owin feared the assassins could have put other people into the household to keep an eye on Lord Walis. She glanced behind the man at the various objects scattered around the room. The variety and depth of the knickknacks on the desk and shelves spoke of a long tenure. The large painting on the wall behind him was of a younger man with a strong family resemblance. Okay, I’ll take the risk. “There are many people trying to do a lot of things to each other and none of them are nice. A friend of mine–perhaps even more of a father to me–has been blackmailed into trying to stop the assassination of the Uvarian Ambassador and Lord Natheniel.”

Gwen stopped as the Steward’s eyes narrowed. For a moment, she thought he might attack her, but then he nodded his head ever so slightly for her to continue.

Please don’t let this be a mistake, she swore to herself. “Sir, my friend and I would rather the Ambassador and Duke Henry’s representative are not harmed. However, those who are forcing us to do this are likely looking to have us take the fall for the assassination, or a failed attempt, and then have the blame placed on Duke Ravigar.”

The Steward cleared his throat. “This is a sizable story you are telling me. Why should I believe any of it?”

Gwen nodded her head. “Sir, I am from Rhyl. I have lived under Dike Ravigar for my whole life. My father–actual father–worked for Ravigar until he was killed. My friend worked for Ravigar as well, though he managed to gain his freedom from the Duke’s service. However, there are enough people who would believe we are working for the Duke that the men who hired us, and are looking to turn the other Dukes against Ravigar, would find it easy to frame us for the assassination.”

“What is the name of your friend?”

Gwen swallowed. She had revealed this much and knew she did not have any choice except to continue. Owin, please don’t let me be making a mistake. “His name is Owin. He worked for Ravigar because the Duke threatened his family.”

The Steward shifted in his seat and then motioned for Gwen to sit down. “You said you had come to me for help. Why?”

“Sir, Ravigar has ordered an assassination, but the man he hired has instructions to place the blame on Duchess Emilia.  This assassin has had a long time to set his plan in motion and likely has his men in place already. Perhaps even some in this household.”

The Steward nodded his head. “It is not a secret that Ravigar and my Duchess are at odds with each other. What were you and this Owin planning to do about this situation?”

“Sir, the location of the meeting between the Ambassador and Lord Natheniel has been set and is well-known.  If the location of the meeting were to change, that would disrupt the assassin.” She did not add ‘hopefully’ since Owin seemed to try to avoid using the qualified most of the time. “That might be enough to draw Urel out and for Owin stop him.”

The Steward’s eyes widened. “That is a name I am familiar with.”

“Our thought is that Urel has hired some local thugs to take the fall for the assassination, or the attempt, while he escapes. He’ll have planted evidence that the plot came from Duchess Emilia.  It is the same as those controlling us have done–planted evidence we are working for Ravigar.”  She hoped admitting their knowledge of the evidence would not harm them.

The Steward rubbed his stubbly chin. “And you are looking for Lord Walis to make contact with Lord Natheniel to arrange this last-minute change of locations.”

Gwen smiled. “Yes, Sir.”

The Steward pursed his lips and then nodded his head again. “Young Lady, since you have been candid with me, I will share a bit of information with you. I am not Lord Walis’ Steward. I am a direct servant of my Duchess and have almost as much authority here as the young Lord Walis. I find your statements plausible and so I will assist you.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Gwen said, her voice breaking slightly with the relief that flowed through her.

“I will need to know where you are staying.”

Gwen felt her chest tighten. “Sir?”

“Your story is plausible and to not take action would be far too risky. However, that does not mean I feel compelled to trust you. I want to keep tabs on your whereabouts and–”

“Sir, we have Denton’s men watching the place we are staying. If your people were to come by, they might suspect something. In fact, we did our best to cover the fact we have even come to speak with you. For Denton, the best case is for Owin and me to die, caught in the middle of a failed assassination attempt.  That way Ravigar is accused of the crime. While Denton hired us to stop the assassination, I think he’d rather just see us dead since that would improve his chance of success.”

The Steward leaned forward. “If you want my help, you will inform me of where you are staying. I will not send people there directly, but I will have my way. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to leave until we draw your friend in to rescue you. I will not take all the risk upon myself.”

Gwen swallowed. Your risk? Does the risk Owin and I face mean nothing even to you? She closed her eyes.

“I expect an answer,” the Steward said.

Gwen opened her eyes and slowly shook her head. “We are only trying to do what is right. Trying to protect your Duchess and get out from under the foot of a man who doesn’t care anymore for us than what he gains.” She stared into the Steward’s eyes. “We aren’t here to take advantage of you. We aren’t here to harm some noble family. I just want my mother back and Owin wants to take us somewhere where we aren’t owned by everyone.”

The Steward pursed his lips and nodded. “There is fire in you. I can see it. Very well, I will not hold you prisoner. But we do need a way to communicate. And it doesn’t mean I fully trust you. I will get independent verification of your story before I act.”

Gwen let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Sir. I don’t think we have much time to spare, so place be hasty about your verification.”

The Steward forced a short laugh. “I doubt you were a domestic servant before you came here.”

“Sir, I washed clothes. But Owin taught me how to stand up for myself.”

The Steward nodded. “He did you no favors. You are not fit for any proper work. However, after the sun has gone down, I will have a man with a green shirt and a red cap waiting at Iesa’s Public house.  It is near Patrick Square. He will inform you of my decision and what actions need to be taken.”

Gwen heard the dismissal in the Steward’s voice and she bowed her head. “Thank you, Sir.”

“You may call me Renald,” the man said with more warmth. “I tell you that because you remind me of my sister.”

Owin #50