Owin #61 — A meeting in the kitchen
Check out the start of the series.
The next morning, Owin gave D’mir a message for Arn and another for Arn to pass on to Denton. D’mir did not indicate how long it would take for the messages to be exchanged and Owin could tell it would be better if he did not ask. Instead, he returned to the barn where he and Gwen had cleared a small space in the loft. He expected the two of them would be spending a number of days in their self-imposed confinement and could not risk antagonizing the man who was sheltering them as well as providing their food.
To pass the time, Owin started teaching Gwen to speak Uvarian. When she had her fill of new words, he would switch to describing the effects of various poisons, how to make them, and how to counter their effects. Although she wanted to learn more fighting techniques, the confined space prohibited anything that involved large movements and Owin’s arm limited close contact training. Tain’s paste had helped, but only time would fully heal the gash.As the days passed, Owin had worried that Gwen would become restless and become difficult to deal with at her young age. However, she continued to demonstrate her maturity and even after sixteen days, she had retained a better mental outlook than he had. A fact that had not been lost on Gwen.
Over the days, D’mir never warmed to them and had never bothered to visit them. Instead Boris, D’mir’s helper, had become responsible for their comfort and care. The looks that Boris and Gwen sometimes shared raised a protective urge in Owin, but D’mir kept Boris working hard and that meant the two never had any chance to be alone together.
Late on the sixteenth day, Boris climbed the ladder and called out to them as he made his way behind the pile of hay to where Owin and Gwen sat. “Sir, Ma’am,” he said, addressing them as he always did, “My Master has instructed me to bring you to the house.”
Owin could see an elevated energy in Boris’ movements. “What does he want?” Owin asked. Although his sword belt was not strapped around his waist, it was never more than a couple steps away just in case D’mir ever grew tired of them and summoned some of Denton’s people.
Boris smiled. “Sir, my Master’s brother has returned. He said you should bring all your things.”
Owin turned to see Gwen’s eyes wide. He nodded his head and Gwen quickly jumped into action, gathering their blankets and the few things that were not in their packs. Owin had always wanted to be ready to leave in a moment’s notice and had never let either of them leave anything out of their packs that they were not using.
Owin turned back to Boris. “Please tell D’mir we will be there shortly.”
Boris bowed his head. “Yes, Sir.” When he looked up, the boy added, “They have brought a lady with them. I do not know her name.”
Gwen nearly dropped the bag in her hand. “Mother?”
Owin raised his hand to silence Gwen. “Don’t jump to conclusions. Arn was not supposed to bring her here. It is likely someone else.”
Gwen nodded her head slowly and then gave up on folding the blankets and merely stuffed it into her pack. “I’m ready.”
Owin smiled and gave her a slight nod of his head despite the raised hairs on his neck and arms. This summons was not according to his plan and the change bothered him.
Gwen moved forward, shuffling Boris before her. After the young man had moved around the mound of hay and out of sight, Owin crossed over to the far corner of the loft and pulled back some hay to expose a loose board. He doubted they would be coming back to the loft and he wanted to gather their coin from the hidden cache.
With the bag of coins stuff into his pack, Owin followed after Gwen. He reached the ladder just as she had started down. He smiled at her as she looked up at him; she had moved slow enough for him to catch up to her and prevent the two of them from getting separated. Seeing him, her pace increased and they were soon outside the stuffy barn.
Owin took a deep breath to clear the dusty air from his lungs as he searched the area for threats. Over the last sixteen days, the two of them had only been outside the barn during the darkest part of the night and Owin had to work to remember what D’mir’s property looked like in the light. Not seeing anything out of place, he look at Boris.
“They are in the kitchen,” the young man said as he led the way.
Owin followed, shifting the pack onto his left shoulder so he could keep his right hand free in case he had to draw his sword. Gwen followed a step behind him, mirroring him, ready to draw her own weapons.
Owin followed Boris in through the back door and noticed several people standing inside the modest kitchen. D’mir, his wife Wina, and Arn stood facing the woman. Owin froze, unable to move or speak, even before Elsin turned to face him he had recognized her, but he could not understand why she would be here. The slap that hit his face broke his surprise, but he could not bring himself to react.
“You bastard! You bloody bastard!” Elsin’s voice filled the house. The second slap turned his head and could have been heard in the far bedroom.
“No, Mother!” Gwen shouted, rushing around Owin and pushing him back.
“Out of the way, Gwen. This man has ruined our lives!” Elsin’s chest heaved as she tried to push her daughter out of the way, but Gwen had grown stronger with all the traveling.
“Please, Mother, Owin saved our lives.” Gwen put her hands on her mother’s arms and slowly drew her mother’s attention. Gwen looked down at her mother’s hands and then slowly moved her own hands to brush her fingers over her mother’s. “Your hands are healed.”
Owin watched Elsin swallow. “I was held captive for countless days and weeks. At first I was too weak to do anything, but that man Denton healed my wounds. There was no washing for me to do, but they made me sew clothing once my hands and arm were well enough.” Elsin blinked back tears and she wrapped her arms around Gwen. “I thought I had lost you. I thought they would kill you. Those men overpowered me. I don’t remember what happened, just that I woke up and you were gone, your Grandma was dead, and Denton and Gina kept telling me that if the two of you did as you were told, they would free me.”
“I’m so sorry, Mother. I should never have done what I did,” Gwen sobbed, burying her face in her mother’s shoulder.
Elsin looked up and Owin saw the hate and anger in her eyes. He knew nothing he could say would change her mind. And she is probably right.
Gwen stepped back and looked at her mother’s face. “It’s not Owin’s fault. I stole a spoon. Owin had nothing to do with it.”
Elsin shook her head, not removing her eyes from Owin. “No, Gwen, it’s Owin’s fault. I should never have let him stay around. He was a bad influence.”
“No!” Gwen’s voice drew her mother’s attention back to her. “Father started it. I heard stories of his adventures and I never wanted to slave myself out to rich people. I wanted out of our life so bad I would do anything. I didn’t want to watch you slowly die and I was not going to end up with hands so bloody and cracked I couldn’t hold a spoon.”
“No, Mother. Owin didn’t cause me to do what I did. I did it because I’ve got my father in me. I want to see the world and live, not just exist. I want to be more than a laundress.” Gwen put her hands on her mother’s arms. “I love you, but I can’t go back to what we were.”
Owin swallowed. “Gwen, your mother is right, if I had not been around, you probably wouldn’t have heard half the stories you did.”
Gwen turned her head. “Owin, I started this. It was my decision to steal the spoon.” She wiped tears from her face with her shoulder. “It was my fault. I caused Grandmother to die and my Mother to almost get killed. Because of me, you almost died more than once. I won’t have her hating you because of me.” She wiped away more tears. “The two of you should love each other, not fight about what’s wrong with me.”
Owin opened his mouth to say something, but some of the anger in Elsin’s eyes had disappeared and he did not want to risk bringing it back.
Gwen turned back toward her mother. “I know you care for Owin, I’ve seen the way you look at him and how worried you always get when he doesn’t show up for some reason.” She turned back to Owin. “And you can’t fool me either. I know why you always stayed to take care of us.”
Elsin pulled Gwen closer and put her arms around her daughter. “Gwen, I don’t know. Owin and I are friends. He was your father’s best friend. I….”
Owin bit his lip. “Elsin, this is not something we have to decide right now.” He looked around the room and Arn, D’mir, Boris, and Wina stood in an uncomfortable silence.
Arn, seeing Owin’s gaze shift, cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, Owin, but Elsin would not follow your instructions. I told her we were supposed to meet you somewhere else, but she would not have any of it and frankly, I wasn’t going to oppose her.”
Owin smiled. “Elsin can be quite persuasive.”
“Too bad I could not persuade the two of you to be more sensible,” she said, not releasing Gwen.
Arn shrugged, but continued to look at Owin. “I gave Denton your message about you finishing the job and your demands for Elsin to be freed. I would say Denton wasn’t happy at first, but word’s come back that Ravigar is getting the blame for something, so whatever you did, it seemed to work.” Arn glanced to his brother and then back to Owin. “Denton said you and Gavin were always a threat that he actually feared and from what I saw, I know I don’t want to face you down.”
Owin relaxed a little seeing Arn’s calm posture. “I never wanted to be part of this and I don’t plan to be pulled back in. I hope you made Denton understand that.”
Arn smiled. “Denton will do what he wants, but he gave Elsin into my care and told me to deliver her to you. So I guess that is as close to being free as you can get.”
Owin turned to Elsin and noticed a glimmer of hope in her eyes. “Arn agreed to take you to Duin Point in Uvar. Since you are here, I think he’ll take Gwen and me as well,” Owin glanced over to Arn.
“You saved my life,” Arn said, “it is out of my way, but I’ve arranged to sell some things along the way and Uvar has some valuable spices I can unload back here. Assuming you can help on the way, I can see fit to make room for you two.”
Owin turned back to Elsin. “I can set you and Gwen up there,” he saw Gwen’s body tighten in her Mother’s arms. “If you want me to stay after we get there, I will. If not, I’ll respect that.”
Elsin’s eyes filled with tears and she reached out to Owin with her right hand while she kept Gwen held tight with her left. “I want you to stay. I’ve always wanted you to stay.”
Owin stepped closer and allowed himself to be drawn into their hug as Gwen turned to wrap her arm around him as well as her mother. “Thank you,” he said.
Thank you for reading this web series. I have had fun with it and I hope you have enjoyed it as well. For now, I will let Owin, Elsin, and Gwen sail off in search of a new place to live.