by AJ Marks
Part 11: A Lucky Rebellion 1
Gwen rode into the town of Setta, after an uneventful ride. They made it early much to Zoe’s pleasure. Gwen dismounted at the stable, helping Zoe down before asking the man how much to stable their horse. After exchanging coins with the man, she turned towards the town.
“Well, looks like you’ll be having fun,” Gwen said, sizing up the crowds already. So far she saw way too many people despite having a large market place, or was it due to the large market place. She had hoped such a large area might think the crowd a bit.
“Yep, looks like fun,” Zoe replied, her eyes twinkling with excitement. “I could use some charcoals for my drawings.”
“Still drawing,” Gwen said, looking down at Zoe.
“What do you think I was doing while waiting for you?” Zoe asked. “I had to do something, even sold one drawing.”
Gwen looked down at her, before asking the next question. “Not any nudes of me?”
“No, the people of the town,” Zoe said.
“Oh, good,” Gwen said, glad that someone she did not know had a drawing of her nude. A disturbing idea to say the least.
They made their way towards an inn, hoping it would have open rooms. She walked in, surprised upon not seeing an eating area, bar or anything else like that. She walked up to the counter along with Zoe to the woman standing there, who looked at them waiting.
“How much for a room?” Gwen asked.
“Standard rates are six creds a night, if you want a bath, its seven, we have more expensive rooms, the suites are eight a night and the luxury suite is ten and includes a bathing area,” she said, obviously well-rehearsed over time.
Gwen looked over at Zoe who appeared excited again and made up her mind. “Is the luxury room taken?”
“Nope, usually the last one taken,” she said, bored.
“We’ll take it,” Gwen said.
“All right, top floor, last door,” she said, as Gwen handed over several coins.
“Who do we ask about filling the bath?” Zoe asked.
“You can fill it yourself, indoor running water, must not get out of the backwoods,” the innkeeper replied, looking at Zoe as if she never heard of such a thing.
“Come on,” Gwen said, tugging Zoe along, before the younger woman could say anything.
“City folk, so uppity,” Zoe finally said as they walked the stairs. “Have you seen running water indoors?”
“Well, it was really starting to catch on in the Realm when I left,” Gwen said. “Many of the older homes and business were getting it, guess it took a while longer to reach out here.”
“So I didn’t live in a large town,” Zoe mumbled, crossing her arms.
“Well, now you’ll have seen it, and used it,” Gwen said, as they reached the top floor and headed for the last door. Opening the door she moved in seeing the large room, and a door off to the side, indicating the bath.
She watched Zoe look on at the tub. “I think we can both fit,” she finally said. Gwen had to agree.
“Let’s find something to eat first,” Gwen said.
“We’re not eating here, that’s for sure,” Zoe said.
“Yeah, it is unusual for an inn to not have a tavern, or at least a bar,” Gwen said, as they unpacked a bit. She changed out of her armors, not wanting to start a fight. As long as she remained neutral, she hoped no one would try anything.
They walked out heading for the nearest restaurant. She spotted a group of men who caught her eye and groaned.
“Great,” Gwen mumbled.
“What?” Zoe asked, having heard Gwen’s statement, and looking around as well.
“Oh, Leo is in town,” Gwen stated. She continued on taking Zoe’s hand as they approached the tavern, only to have a couple of people block their way.
“Another group of damn lesbos headed to the lesbos tavern, how cute,” one said, he looked to be in his mid-twenties, as did his two buddies.
“I suggest you move,” Gwen said, feeling Zoe’s hand tighten, then released allowing her free movement of both arms.
“Or you’ll what? Tell the guards?” he replied, with a laugh that the others joined in on.
“Or you’ll face me,” another voice said. Gwen looked over to see a large man, who stood about almost a foot taller than she did.
“Ottis, didn’t know you were in town,” the man said, then quickly backed away and took off away from the tavern.
“Sorry about them, technoals,” he said, causing Gwen to nod, the group who thought people like her should be killed for loving someone of the same sex.
“Large group around here?” Gwen asked.
“Yeah, they usually stay on the East side though,” he said, “welcome though, I know Yvette will love the customers.”
Gwen stepped inside, seeing the obvious signs of the clientele of the tavern, and were met by a server, who led them to their table, never asking if they were together, but seemed to assume it.
“This is nice,” Zoe said, looking around at the tables.
“Yep,” Gwen said, as she looked around, and were even given a menu to choose what they wanted. Zoe seemed a bit shocked at that, but quickly recovered. Probably not wanting to be called some backwoods person again. She would be in for a lesson of large towns, even Setta seemed a bit behind in technology compared to here.
Gwen settle din to enjoy the evening, hoping Leo id not spoil it for them.
Gwen looked on as Zoe made her way through the crowds heading to another merchant that caught her eye. So far she had bought very little, but seemed to enjoy looking. They had looked at jewelry, clothes, and she had managed to look at weapons and armor before stopping for lunch. Now they approached the next merchant, and Gwen saw art supplies. The very thing Zoe had been looking for. She seemed to take her time, looking at everything with the same expert eye she had done with the weapons.
Gwen watched as the young woman looked through the supplies, paper and other things which she had no idea about. Zoe picked up several things, before finally appearing satisfied with her purchase, then began to haggle for the price. Gwen looked on as she reduced the price by several creds before finally agreeing to ten creds for everything.
“That was fun,” Zoe said, putting the purchase into a bag, she felt a bump, and look on to see a kid running through the crowd, and mentally cussed at his parents.
“Yeah, I guess,” Gwen replied, starting forwards only to have a man blocked their path. She sighed recognizing him as Leo.
“Fancy meeting you here,” he said. “The very bitch who ruined my life.”
“I’d say you’ve done that on your own, didn’t need my help,” Gwen replied.
“Very funny, how about I mess you two up, you can watch as we do things to your little slave,” he said.
“We?’ Gwen said, raising an eyebrow.
“I have some new associates,” he said, as two others came up to her. “Let’s take this somewhere else, shall we?”
“I don’t think I’m going anywhere with you,” Gwen said, standing slightly in front of Zoe, protecting her from whatever might happen.
“You don’t get it, I hold the trump card,” Leo said, smiling. “You see, that kid, well, you’ve been drugged.”
Gwen’s eyes went wide in shock. But even as she realized it, she felt herself starting to feel heavy, and a wave of dizziness rolled over her. She knew Zoe was looking at her strangely, and said something, but she couldn’t get her body to move correctly. She fell forward before blacking out.
Gwen blinked open her eyes, bolting up in a panic, wishing she hadn’t as dizziness washed over her.
“Relax,” she heard Zoe say, pushing her back down onto the bed.
“W-Where are we?” Gwen said, quickly recalling what happened. She remembered the market, and Leo confronting them and then something about being drugged. Had he done something? She quickly looked over at Zoe, who appeared fine.
“We’re in our room,” Zoe answered, confusing Gwen. Had she imagined the entire thing?
“How did we get here?” she asked. “And what happened with Leo?”
“Oh, well, he’s been taken care of,” Zoe answered. “Seems like Ottis was walking by when we were confronted, and well, stepped in when he saw you fall. He’s a really nice guy, a big teddy bear if you ask me. His partner is also very nice.”
Gwen tried to keep up with the conversation but found herself lost, aside from the fact the large guy from last night stepped in to help them.
“He thought they were technoals, at least until Greis showed up,” Zoe said.
Gwen rubbed her forehead at the information being told to her. Greis was here as well as Leo. It made no sense to her.
“Oh yea, Greis wants to talk to us. He knows we’re not master slave.” Zoe sad.
Things seemed to be strange, and she felt horrible, she had allowed herself to caught unaware of the situation knowing that Leo was there. If Ottis had not been passing by, Leo might have hurt Zoe. That thought angered Gwen, wondering what happened to the man.
“And Leo?” she asked.
“Dead,” Zoe said.
“Ottis killed him?’ Gwen asked.
“No, a servant of Greis’ did,” Zoe replied.
“Greis ordered his own son killed?” Gwen stated, unsure about hos this conversation seemed to be going. Things seemed rather confusing. “They must have had quite a fall out.”
“Well, he did threaten him, and then tried to attack him, even the sheriff said it was self-defense, no charges are to be filed. He got lucky if you ask me,” Zoe said.
“Sounds more like we got lucky that Ottis was walking by at that moment,’ Gwen said.
“We’re safe, that’s what matters, I was really worried,” Zoe said, her face showing the concern for the first time. “When you collapsed, I was scared, then Ottis showed up. He didn’t believe Leo’s story one bit.”
“A big guy with brains, what do you know,” Gwen stated, knowing she owned him a big thank you.
Gwen sat up, feeling the diminishing effects of the drug, whatever Leo had used. “How long have I been out?”
“Most of the afternoon, it’s almost supper time,” Zoe replied. “The healer said it was slesteria, a mild but quick knock out drug.”
Gwen nodded, familiar with it, a quick drug usually used by the military, it would knock out your opponent rather quickly and for several hours. An effective drug for a battle where you didn’t want to kill your enemy.
Gwen realized she would have to head out, and probably thank Greis and Ottis for their help. Without them she might have been in big trouble, and probably at least one of them hurt.
Gwen sat down at the table at the tavern where Zoe mentioned Greis wanted to meet with her. It was not very crowded yet, and the supper crowd had yet to arrive.
“Sorry to hear about your son,” Gwen finally said, hoping he did not someone blame her for the trouble.
“Yes, but he left me no choice, sad really, I should grieve him more, but I find I cannot at this time,” he said, surprising her.
“But you will, a parent should grieve for their children,” Zoe said, speaking up.
“Hmm, yes, that is true, but I think I’ve already done that. He really had left me little choice in the matter. I also knew he was plotting to kill me,” he told them, shocking Zoe speechless.
“How did you learn that?” Gwen asked.
“A friend of his said so, that he was teaming up with some others, like Louis and Stephos,” Greis said. “However I’ve since learned that Stephos is dead, and Louis is now headed to the Realm for trial and execution. He really had nowhere else to go. In fact, his encounter with you was the last chance he had with me.”
Gwen looked at him for several seconds as he thought about something.
“You see, I knew the moment I saw you two that you were not some merchant, though she did play a nice slave. We all were acting it seems, except for Valerie. I don’t think she knew I was acting,” Greis said, taking a sip of the drink. “You see, I knew who you were. Oh sure, you’ve cut your hair, but I knew.”
Gwen felt trapped by his words. He knew, was he going to try some sort of blackmail against her? She prepared herself for anything, but Zoe was the one who spoke up.
“Why didn’t you say anything then?” Zoe asked.
“You see, I knew she could take care of herself against Leo, and I needed to test him one last time,” Greis said. “He failed the test that night while you were bathing. I had Lars ready to get the sheriff in a moments notice. When he walked in with his friends, I knew what would happen, and thought he might understand what I’ve told him, someone out there is always stronger.”
“I’m not sure he would have changed, even after he met that person,” Gwen said.
“No, instead he planned his revenge, while going into the illegal slave trading,” Greis said.
“So, what will you do next?” Zoe asked.
“Ah, well, I’ll be selling my company, and if anything happens to me, my first wife will receive my fortune, house, and servants. She is a kind person, passed that on to our daughter,” he sold them.
“What about your daughter, she wouldn’t want to take over?” Zoe asked, confused.
“She’s already successful in her own, you met her,” Greis said, shocking Gwen at that.
“Valerie is your daughter?” Gwen said, watching him nod yes. “Does she know?”
“She will, as I hope she takes care of my estate like she does hers, especially the servants. I gave her the option of making them free if she so chooses,” Greis said. “But,” he stopped as the food was delivered and looked over at Gwen, “I have something else to say to you.”
Gwen tensed, knowing this was the big question, why he wanted to talk to her.
“The Realm needs you, in a year things will be so bad there that I fear collapse, and total chaos,” he said, waving his hand to stall her protest, “I’ve heard all the rumors, and lately, I’ve wondered what the truth is, especially considering what your cousin is doing now. We need another member of the Royal family to stand up to what they are doing.”
“I’m not exactly a person who they will welcome back,” Gwen said. “I have blood on my hands.”
“Perhaps, but I fear if you don’t do anything, more bloodshed is unavoidable,” he told her. “Thousands are at risk, and from my sources, many are wishing you had won that day.”
“I wasn’t trying anything,” Gwen hissed, knowing that was what everyone thought, Marcy made sure of that when she stabbed her in the back.
“Same then,” Greis said, taking a bite to eat, “wonderful, how is yours?”
Gwen blinked at the sudden turn in the conversation, and looked down at the food, which she had not touched. Looking over at Zoe, she seemed to be deep in thought, which slightly disturbed her.
“I have said my peace to you Gwen, the rest is up to you, but take into consideration, things have changed in the past couple of years, and not for the better,” Greis said,
They ate the rest of the meal in relative silence, with some talk about the weather and such. Finally they made their way back to the inn, and their room. Gwen wondered what was going through Zoe’s mind, she had been quiet for far too long. Gwen turned to her partner as they got ready for bed, despite not really feeling tired.
“What did he mean?” Zoe finally asked. “Are you part of the Royal Family of the Realm?”
Gwen knew the time had come to spill her secret, yet she fear filled her. Unlike any fear of battle, this was the fear of lose, a betrayal of trust once more. She finally had an idea.
“I’ll tell you in the morning on the trail,” Gwen said, seeing a look on Zoe’s face. “Please, allow me one more night of happiness with you?”
“You think I’ll leave,” Zoe said, “no trust in me?”
“I-I don’t know, only for one more night, I promise to tell you on the road,” Gwen said. She watched Zoe who finally decided to agree.
Gwen had her arms wrapped around Zoe, both were tired, and Gwen knew that neither had slept much, of course they had been active most of the night, and then Gwen held her for the rest of the night, not falling asleep. She wanted to preserve the memory in her soul. She felt Zoe move around a bit, restless and Gwen knew why. She had promised, and now the time had come.
“The honest answer to your question, am I a part of the Royal family, is yes,” Gwen said, as Zoe turned to look at her. “My first name is Ruth.”
She felt Zoe stiffen at the name, but said nothing.
“My uncle is the king, and my cousin is Derek, the heir to the throne. When I was twenty I met a mage named Marcy, I should have stayed away from her, but she was outgoing, funny, smart, everything I had been looking for in a girl,” Gwen said. “She charmed my entire family, never seeing her for the low life she was, the two faced liar.”
Gwen paused, wondering if Zoe would say anything so far. She did not mention that Marcy was the same one now looking for her according to Zeltran, the same one who should be dead.
“How did she betray you?” Zoe asked, still looking forward.
“I had been working to infiltrate the rebellion under the king’s orders, and done a good job,” Gwen said, recalling her attempts to find the resistance leaders. “They were well hidden, but I managed to locate them. I went along with a squad of to the town. The group included Marcy, she is a powerful wind mage. We tracked the rebels to a town. I went in first, to scout the town, as the rebels would know me and not be alarmed. However, when I got there, the town had been wiped out. I looked around, seeing Realm soldiers, and bent down to investigate, that’s when the rebels arrived.”
Gwen stopped, recalling that day, so much blood had been spilled.
“They figured I had killed the village with my soldiers, and with the rebels there, an entire town massacred, my troops arrived, and Marcy yelling out how I was with the rebels who had killed the town folk. They refused to listen, I had to fight my way out. I thought I remember seeing Marcy killed that day in all the fighting. I managed to return back home, but it wasn’t pretty,” Gwen said.
“The queen?” Zoe asked, obviously having heard the story that she killed the queen.
“Yes, she always listened to both sides, and figured her as my only hope for someone to listen to my side,” Gwen said, she could still recall that night. “I walked into her chamber,” she paused before continuing. “She was already dead, stabbed by a knife. I went to investigate, that’s when a guard walked in with the king. He ordered my execution on the spot for murdering the queen.”
“So, you didn’t do it?” Zoe said.
“No, but I did kill a lot of rebels and my own troops that day,” Gwen said. “I was considered a traitor by both sides.”
“In an obvious set up,” Zoe said. “It all sounds like a set-up, especially considering the queen’s death was supposed to be by you retaliating for the rebel leader’s deaths.”
Gwen thought about that, she had been running for so long, and tried to block it all out, she never thought about it much anymore.
“They chased you I suppose,” Zoe said.
“I started for home at first, but saw they had already been there, executing all the servants, as punishment, my father and mother had died a year earlier from illness,” Gwen said. “With my own family saying I was a traitor, I ran, with nowhere else to go. I ran to the Shadowlands, where a group cornered me in a building, setting it on fire they shot anyone who came out, of course blaming that on me as well. I survived by jumping out the back when they were not looking. So they assumed I had been killed, but with no proof the king never stopped the order to kill me.”
“And what is going on in the Realm?” Zoe asked, shocking Gwen. She had not expected that question.
“I’m not sure, haven’t been keeping up,” Gwen replied.
“And what did Zeltran want?” Zoe asked.
“That my old lover, Marcy is looking for me, to be part of the rebellion,” Gwen spat out. “After what she did to me.”
“Maybe you should go,” Zoe said after a few seconds of silence.
“Why?” Gwen asked.
“To clear your name, so you don’t have to live in darkness anymore,” Zoe said.
Gwen looked at her for a few seconds, seeing that she was completely gung-ho about it. “All right, we’ll go and see what she wants,” Gwen finally said, uneasy about the situation.
“Good, have to clear your name anyways,” Zoe said. “It will make the future easier.”
Gwen could not dispute that comment, and had to wonder if she could clear her name. From what both Zeltran and Greis said, things were very different in the Realm now.
Continued in part 12.