Owin #53 — Next steps
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Owin watched the run down shop for a while after the lamp had been turned down or moved to a room that blocked its light from the boarded up windows overlooking the street. Who are you and who are you working for? He wondered again. His trouble to answer the question continued to be that there were too many players involved. His first thought had been that the Steward had hoped their guard would be down and had decided to use Gwen’s second meeting as a means to find out where she was staying. If that had been the case, I would have expected the watchers to report to the Steward, not end up across town in that dump.
He sighed as he slowly moved to his feet. The planter he had squatted next to had seemed to provide enough cover, but he did not want to remain there too long. As he moved he reconsidered Denton’s men as the potential watchers. If they had grown suspicious of our activities, he might send some people to watch. But then they would not likely accept Gwen simply going into the boarding house. They would know where we are staying.
Owin walked away from the old shop and used the next intersection to loop back around so he could head back toward Gwen. The thought that he might have found where Urel had secured himself gave him both hope and pause. “Those two men were muscle,” he mumbled aloud. How many more might Urel have? And then there is Urel. While Owin felt confident enough to handle the two men, he did not want to take them on together unless there was no other choice. But would Urel have actually used them to do his scouting? They did not appear to be very practiced in the art of tracking.
Owin frowned. The only way to know for certain who they were and who they met was to get into the shop, but the fear that these men might have been used to lead him away from Gwen rose in his thoughts. Do I have to second-guess absolutely everything? He demanded of himself.
Not able to push the concern from his mind, he quickened his pace. The time to follow and watch the men had grown longer than he had intended, and to compensate, he was nearly jogging by the time he reached the area of the boarding house. At the door, he paused just enough to make sure there was no one in the immediate area, and then slipped inside the building. He walked quietly down the dark hallway, forcing himself to slow his breathing. Halfway down the hallway, he stopped at the back of the stairs leading to the second floor.
“Gwen?” he called softly.
Movement under the stairs flashed in the dark and then Gwen emerged from where she had been hiding. “Are we safe?”
Owin nodded his head, but neither of them would be able to see it. “For now. You had two people following you. I followed them to a rundown shop on the other side of the city. I’m not sure who they were working for, but they are not skilled at trailing people. I’d guess their normal job is hurting people.”
“Great,” she whispered; the slight tremble in her voice betrayed the calm Owin imagined she tried to project. “Lord Tarrin, the ambassador arrived today. The good news is that the Steward has managed to get Lord Natheniel to move the meeting.”
“Let’s get back to our room and get some rest. In the morning, we need to try to find a way to the meeting location. After that, I need to investigate this shop.”
“We won’t be able to be part of the meeting,” Gwen whispered as they walked toward the front door. “They have moved it to Duchess Emilia’s manor house and we are not invited. Only the most trusted of Duke Henry’s men and the ambassador’s men will be there.”
Owin nodded his head as they exited the boarding house. “Well, that saves us from getting blamed if it goes down there, but Urel may change his tactics.” Owin wiped his brow; he needed to get some rest, but time was running out. “I’m going to have to investigate that shop tonight and see if that is him.”
“Do you want me to come with?”
Owin turned his head to look at Gwen as they walked down the street. Her face held more than a trace of hope he would ask her to do just that. “It won’t be safe.”
“And what if you get hurt? Should I just wait for Denton’s men to come and deal with me?”
“Gwen, you know–”
“You need my help,” Gwen demanded. “I might not be able to fight, but I might be able to do something else.”
Reluctantly Owin nodded his head. “I don’t know what might be in that shop. You’ll have to do exactly as I say.”
Owin could tell it was fear of being left alone that drove her desire to be there. He understood it, even if he would rather she stayed away. “First, we need to go get the rest of our weapons. Then we need to very carefully check out the shop.”