Check out the start of the series.
Owin tried to keep from letting himself feel woozy, but the cut on his left arm had left him light-headed. He wanted to get some alcohol to pour over the wound, but he would have to wait until he could find a place to possibly pass out; he knew how much the alcohol would hurt. And we’re not yet safe enough for that, he told himself.
Denton’s men that they had tied up would likely already be free. Two men could easily work together to undo the bindings that had been available at the time. If they had some means to communicate with Denton across vast distances, then Denton would know what happened and would be making plans.
“Just leave Elsin out of it, Denton.”
Owin signed with relief as he saw Gwen coming toward him. If he was honest with himself, he had no idea how he would have managed to rescue Gwen if the Steward had decided to hold her hostage. Damn stupid mistake to get hurt.
“Owin, are you okay?” Gwen asked as she got near enough to speak quietly. The sun had started to brighten the sky, though the burning orb had not yet crossed the horizon.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine once I get some rest. What did the Steward say?”
Gwen came closer and he accepted her assistance in getting to his feet. Once he was there, she pulled a bundle out from inside her overcoat and handed it to Owin. “The Steward gave me a couple of hunks of sweetbread because my stomach growled. I saved you some.”
Owin’s first thought was poison, but he needed something to eat to counter the loss of blood. “Thank you,” he said as he took the bread from Gwen and started eating it.
“The Steward didn’t say too much. He thanked me for telling him what happened. I got scared for a moment when he called in a bunch of guards, but he only sent them out to the shop.” She smiled to reassure Owin. “He offered to let me stay and have a full meal, but I told him I had to go, so he let me, thanking me—and you. Then he said it was wonderful that we had people like Gib to protect our country and the reputation of Duchess Emilia.”
Owin sighed with relief, not only for the food that he swallowed, but because the Steward had turned out to be not such a bad person after all. “Okay, that’s good. Now, we need to stop by Tam’s place and get him to spread the rumor we want, then get out of town.”
Gwen nodded her head and offered her arm to Owin. It took Owin only a moment to accept her support; the time he had spent sitting and waiting for her had taken its toll on his exhausted body and he was not too proud to accept assistance.
They reached Tam’s home on the outskirts of the city after the sun had long ago moved above the horizon. Even still, it took some effort to get Tam from his bed and to allow them entry.
“Most disrespectful to call this early,” the scared man stared back at them with his one good eye. “I have a mind to report you for breaking into my home.”
Owin wanted to exchange pleasantries with Tam, but he lacked the strength to play the older man’s games. He simply needed Tam to help spread the rumors. “Tam, for what I have to tell you, you’ll forgive our disrespect.”
“Humph,” the man said as he leaned back in the chair. “I’ll be the judge of that. You’ve not been in town very long. I’ve hardly had any fun with telling people of your presence.”
Owin did not bother to hide his exhaustion or his injury, Tam would easily notice both. “We’ve been up through the night and you were the first person I thought to tell of what we observed.”
“But, not the first you’ve told I imagine.” Tam’s one good eye narrowed, but there was a grin on his lips.
Owin could not help but smile. “Last night, Urel died.”
Tam leaned forward. “I’m interested.”
Owin knew that was an understatement. “It seems he had hired a couple of local men to act as muscle. Apparently, one of them, a Gib I believe it was, found out that he was planning to have them kill some ambassador and a local noble. This man didn’t want to do the bidding of Duke Ravigar and got his friend, Tommy, to stand up to Urel.” Owin rolled his head to ease the kink in his neck. “We’ll, Urel killed Tommy and chased Gib to the lower level of the abandoned store they were renting. However, Gib got the drop on Urel, killed the assassin as he came down the stairs. Gib then fled into the city.”
Tam shook his head. “You expect me to believe that drivel?”
Owin shrugged. “It’s what I’ve heard.”
“Owin, you’re a terrible liar. Urel was a master swordsman. He’s not going to have fallen to some local muscle who wouldn’t have known who he was.”
“I saw it,” Gwen said. “It’s true. This Gib got a lucky strike when Urel tripped.”
Tam turned his face toward Gwen who could not fully contain a shutter under the scared man’s scrutiny. “She’s a better liar than you.”
Owin chuckled. “I’ll let her do all my negotiations from now on.”
Tam shook his head. “I imagine if anyone decided to look closely, they’d conclude someone using two weapons took our Urel in a skilled battle.”
“I couldn’t say. Though, I doubt that Duchess Emilia’s men will conclude anything other than the explanation at hand. Seems there may be evidence of Duke Ravigar’s hand in the plot.”
Tam continued to shake his head. “I doubt this will get you clear of the trouble following you.”
“I’ve got a few places in town I can hide out for a while, then I’ll get word to Denton once Duchess Emilia’s people finish taking care of dealing with Urel’s mess. I imagine the negotiations for the trade deal Duke Henry wants will go through well enough. Emilia might even come out well, since people loyal to her got wind of the assassination plan and helped to prevent the plot.”
Tam smiled. “You’ve made things here interesting, if only for a short while. You can stay for breakfast…if Gavin’s girl will fix it.”
Owin glanced once at Gwen and she shrugged. “I can throw something together fairly quickly.”
Owin smiled at her. Having a full stomach would help. He still planned to pass out after they got a few miles out of the city, but that can wait a little longer.