Owin #51 — Misdirection

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Gwen rubbed her face with her hand, but her eyes were still heavy. She had always imagined Owin’s life had been full of adventures and excitement. The afternoon of sitting in public places and pretending to be doing something legitimate had destroyed her motivation to even walk down the street. How can anyone stand to just sit like that for so long?

She knew the importance of the waiting some place safe, but it had not been the first time on the journey that she had to occupy herself with doing nothing. “I hope this messenger is there, or this day will be for nothing,” she mumbled to herself as she walked under a street lamp.

Under Owin’s direction, she had passed by Iesa’s Public House three times earlier in the day. The two-story building sat in a location where three major roads converged and Owin wanted her to have taken each road at least once. From that earlier exploration, she knew the building to be located in a relatively safe, if not also expenses, part of the city.

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Owin #50 — The Life of a Thief

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Gwen looked over her shoulder again as she passed by the other people on the streets.  She did not see anyone that appeared to be following her, but the crowds had growth thicker over the course of the morning.

Looking up at the street sign, she continued past the intersection and forced herself to slow down.  She did not want to draw attention to herself, but as she glanced at the people she passed, she realized that hardly anyone paid her any attention.  It took a moment before she understood the difference, but disguised as a male servant instead of being a young woman, far fewer people seemed to even notice she existed.

No longer worried so much about drawing attention to herself, she continued toward The Carriage House, the first of three public houses where she might wait for Owin to approach her.  However, as she walked, another concern filled her thoughts.  Their initial plan had been to lose anyone whom the Steward might send to follow her.  It had been assumed someone would follow her and both she and Owin both wanted to keep anyone else from knowing where they were staying.  But that was before the man promised he would not send anyone to follow me.  If he betrays that trust, can we trust him to do anything else for us?  So, should I try to lose anyone or let them follow so Owin can see them? The question worried her because she did not know what she wanted more.  If someone did follow her, at least they would know where they stood with the Steward.  If no one follows, then we don’t know if he will betray us later or not.  I wish I could ask Owin what to do?  Knowing that was not possible, she decided to keep her pace slow and risk someone tailing her to the public house.  I could always try to lose them later.

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Owin #49 — Message delivered

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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.”

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Owin #48 — Another old man

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Gwen walked toward the manor house at the end of a gravel path. While the grounds were protected by a stone wall topped with iron spikes, the actual entrance to the property was not guarded beyond the presense of an iron gate.

The stone building reminded her of every large and overbearing building she had ever seen. It stood three stories tall in the center and had a wing on each side that rose a modest two stories.  However, the wings boasted walkways and perhaps open terraces on their roofs.

Windows covered every exterior wall and the stone work surrounding the expensive panes of glass included numerous carvings. Although she was still too far away to clearly see what they depicted, it was obvious the carvings were done with great detail.

The gardens around the house held some sense of minor neglect. Several sections appeared somewhat overgrown and others had a scattering of weeds, but the overall size and scale of the flowering plants still amazed Gwen. However, she could see at least four people working in the beds to restore order to the grounds.. And to think, Owin said this Duchess is not all that wealthy compared to the others.

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Owin #47 — Time to deliver the message

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

The next morning Gwen and Owin retrieved her clothing, further transforming her from a scrawny boy into a scrawny servant boy. The vest fit snugly, and in addition to the binding around her chest, helped to mask her femininity. The only bit of apparel that had a somewhat shabby appearance was her shoes. The worn fabric was stretched and stained, but the shoes were serviceable enough for her to use for her role and the lack of time prevented their replacement.

“You can carry an eating dagger, but no other weapons,” Owin said as he handed Gwen a folded piece of parchment and the small dagger she had been carrying since they left Rhyl. “You may get a chance to speak with Lord Walis, but it is more likely that all you will get to do is deliver your message to a steward. If you think you can push the issue and speak to the Lord, do it, but don’t risk yourself.”

“I understand,” Gwen said, slipping the wax sealed parchment into a pocket inside the vest. “And the parchment is only to be used in case I can’t speak with Lord Walis.  I won’t tell the steward anything directly.”

“Yes. The less written proof we leave, the better.” Owin smiled. “And if they decide to hold you, they can expect a visit from me. So don’t start to panic, okay?”

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Owin #46 — Finding new clothes

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Gwen kept pace with Owin as he led her through the busy streets. His hurried pace kept her from asking questions as they progressed through what she assumed was his mental itinerary for the day. The focus he projected worried her, but she did her best to hide her own concern under a mask of ignorance to his anxiety. However, she knew the effort was futile when the iron taste of blood appeared on her lower lip.

They had already stopped at three tailors, the first just as the heavy-set man opened his shop for the day.  She knew the hope of finding something ready to wear, or even close to being ready, would be difficult.  Her skinny frame meant most men’s clothing would hang like a bag from her shoulders and would look at best pieced together.

However, they managed to order a heavy fabric vest from that first shop. The second tailor gave them nothing, as the older lady would not expedite an order for pants even with the offer of extra money. The third one, a younger man, had agreed to make her a new pair of pants that day, but only after they agreed to buy a cap.

She had to work to hide her smile as Owin had played at being exasperated by the tailor’s request. However, she had known with a glance that Owin had planned to buy the cap to cover her rough cut hair before the man had demanded it.

“You look good in the cap,” Owin finally said, drawing her attention back to him as they passed through another city square. “It will fit the role nicely.”

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Owin #45 — Found it

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Brent stopped by the small flat and delivered Gwen and Owin a large loaf of bread, some salted meat, and some cheese. He left almost as quickly as he arrived.

In the name of caution, Owin ate slowly before he and Gwen started searching the room.  Initially, they did not turn up any indication something had been planted. “It has to be someplace obvious enough to be found,” Owin explained quietly to Gwen. “But not too obvious.”

“Unless they have someone in the Guard who will ‘find’ it when they search,” she countered.

Owin frowned. “Great, now you are sharing your happy thoughts with me.” With a shake of his head, he pushed the bed back against the wall.

Gwen smiled at him. “It’s only fair that I make you worry as much as you often make me.”

Owin did not return her smile. “Oh, I worry a lot more than I show.”

Gwen nodded her head and then narrowed her eyes. “Pull the bed back out,” she said as she knelt on the floor. As Owin complied, she crawled forward and pushed on a board next to the wall and grinned when it shifted, leaving one end rising up slightly above the level of the floor.

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Owin #44 — Waking up in Solva

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Owin woke first. Gwen had curled up into a ball with her back pushing him towards the edge of the small bed. They had both fallen asleep quickly after the efforts of the previous day…many days, Owin corrected. Now morning had come and with the limited light coming in through a small window on the back wall, he looked around the room, only he had no desire to get out of the bed. But we can’t waste time. We don’t have much if we are to get ahead of Denton and his scheme.

It had been too hot to use a blanket and so Owin rolled off the bed and stood up. Gwen did not make a sound at the change.

Carefully, he moved across the floor, testing each board before he committed his weight and potentially made noise. From moving around the prior night, he knew the floor was fairly quiet with only a few board that squeaked. This morning, he frowned as he rediscovered several of the noised spots.

“Do we have to get up already?” Gwen asked as she slowly rolled onto her back.

Owin turned and met her eyes; her cropped hair and masculine clothing still looked off to him, but he suspected most people would not notice. “Afraid so. After Brent shows up, we need to really search through the room. I’ll also set up a few tells to see if anyone comes in while we are out. I don’t trust our situation at all.”

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Owin #43 — Home for the night

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Little conversation occurred as Brent led Owin and Gwen through the city streets of Solva on the way to The Morgan House. Owin made note of the major crossings, but quickly concluded Brent led them on a direct route. While at this time of night, they would draw little attention, Owin had hoped to learn some of the back streets.

Owin avoided looking at Gwen. He felt Brent’s continued appraisal of himself and dared not risk drawing more of his attention to her. The man would undoubtedly be looking for indications Owin suspected his precarious situation.  Hopefully, that will keep attention off Gwen.

“Well, just over that wall,” Brent said, inclining his head toward a tall wall further down the cobblestone street, “is The Morgan House.”

Owin could only see the outline of the four-story building in the darkness, but the crenellations along the roof made him think it was made of stone. “How many guards?” Owin asked softly.

“There are at least a dozen on the grounds that watch the walls. But Lord Nathaniel comes and goes as he pleases and normally has an active lifestyle. It means he has people coming and going.”

Owin knew that Brent hoped to bolster his hopes at an easy entry to the compound, but Owin knew that would mean Urel would also be able to use that to his advantage. If Urel is not already in the compound.

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Owin #42 — Dinner at the pub

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

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.

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