Lucky Luck – Part 5

Lucky Luck

by AJ Marks

Part 5: A Lucky Problem

Gwen made her way along the path, or at least what path she could make out in the snow.  The sun’s rays had melted it a bit, making it not very deep, unlike the knee deep it had been two days earlier.  They stayed a day longer in the cave then she expected, but felt it had been worth it.  She had not seen the group after them, and checked a few times for footprints of groups going the opposite way, but saw nothing.

She glanced back to her little lover, following the same footsteps she used.  Zoe’s footwear was not as hardy as Gwen’s, and she wore an older cloak that Gwen no longer used for warmth.

“Gwen?” Zoe asked, as Gwen stopped to look back at her.  She had an excited look in her eyes making Gwen wonder what had gone through that mind of hers now as she hopped over to stand next to her.

Yeah?” Gwen replied, waiting to hear the question.

“Do I get lover’s rights?” Zoe asked, causing Gwen to frown.  Where has this come from?

“Lover’s rights?”

“Yeah, you know,” Zoe said, looking uncertain.  She looked down at the snow before briefly looking up at Gwen and continuing.  “The right to touch you?”

Gwen smiled understanding the question and hesitation from Zoe.  “You mean like this,” Gwen aid, bending down and giving her a quick kiss, while allowing her hands to slide under the cloak finding exposed skin to caress.

“Yikes,” Zoe squealed, jumping back from Gwen.  “You’re hands are freezing.”

“You could warm them up,” Gwen said with a grin, holding out her hands while approaching Zoe.

“Not here you don’t,” Zoe replied, firmly closing the cloak to prevent Gwen from gaining any access to the soft warm skin, but instead was enveloped in a hug.

“Does this answer your question?” Gwen said, looking down at Zoe.

“Um, yeah, I think so,” Zoe said after a few seconds.

“You do, but also use your head,” Gwen said in all honesty.  “Not everyone is comfortable with same-sex partners, especially the techmage guild, think everything should be natural and mechanical, one part must fit the other and two like parts don’t go together.  Idiots in my opinion,”

“I’ll try to remember that,” Zoe said.

“I have no doubt about that,” Gwen replied, turning to start back down the trail, she heard footsteps coming down the trail.  She felt nothing out of the ordinary, waiting for what might come next.

A group heading in the opposite direction.  The first people she had seen in several days, not including the group after her and Zoe.  They appeared as normal travelers, and little threat of anything.  They said hello while passing and continued on their way after relaying information of raiders and road conditions.

“They seemed nice,” Zoe said, a few minutes later.

“Yeah, on the way to do some business in a town, probably able to finally travel after the storm,” Gwen said.

“I guess so,” Zoe said.  “Have you been to this town coming up?”

“Nope, but it’s one of the ones on the way to Setta that we can rest at, we won’t be able to make all the way to Setta today,” Gwen said.

“So, we spend the night in the next town,” Zoe said.

“Yeah, we also need to resupply,” Gwen said, knowing their food supplies were getting low now.

“Oh, shopping,” Zoe said, her voice rising in excitement.

“Nothing good about shopping, crowded, filled with thieves and criminals, and I’m not even talking about the pick-pockets either, and don’t get me started about the kids always running underfoot, can’t see them,” Gwen said.

“That’s because you’re too tall,” Zoe replied.

“Maybe you’re too short,” Gwen replied back.

“You calling me short?” Zoe asked, giving Gwen a slight push.

She stopped to look down at Zoe, grinning before giving her reply.  “Yep, you’re lucky that being short is cute though.”

She watched Zoe open and close her mouth a few times before finally replying.  “No fair, I was going to use that one.”

“Gotta be quick,” Gwen shot back.  “Come on, let’s get to town so we can get out of this snow.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Zoe said, as they continued on their way.

Gwen mentally counted to ten before Zoe brought another question, this time talking about why the sky was blue.

***

Gwen entered the town with Zoe right beside her.  The town appeared well defended, and a medium size for the Shadowlands.  Gwen figured the town was large due to the fact if was on the path between two of the large trading town in the area.

Looking around the townfolk were getting ready for the midday meal, and looked at them.  She realized that most of the time people walking probably did not arrive until much later in the day.  Gwen felt relieved that the crowds of the town were not that large, which would allow her to relax a bit more.

They made their way through the streets and towards the inn.  Gwen hoped it would be mostly empty allowing her to get a good room instead of whatever was left over.  They had the creds to afford something nice.  Walking into the inn, everything appeared clean, a few patrons sitting down to eat, as she made her way up to the counter with Zoe following.

“Hello, what can I do for you?” the innkeeper asked,   She studied him for a few seconds, tall with red hair which stood out in a crowd.

“Looking for a nice room,” Gwen answered.

“One or two?” he asked, looking over her and Zoe.

“One’s fine,” Gwen said with a pleasant smile.  “You’re finest room.”

“All right,” he said, looking them over once more.  “You’re lucky, was full up since the storm came through, had most leave this morning when things seemed to clear up.  How many nights you staying?”

“Probably one,” Gwen replied, looking over at Zoe.

“And can we get a warm bath and a meal please,” Zoe asked, cutting into the conversation.  Gwen merely waited to see what the innkeeper would say.

“Can do,” he said.  “It’ll be fifteen creds for all that.”

“Sounds fair” Gwen answered, pulling out the number of coins and handing them over.

“I’m Jonnas, and my daughter is Missy, she runs the bathing area, let her know when you’re ready for your bath,” he said.

“Thanks,” Zoe said, as Gwen took the key to the room.  She watched as Zoe walked over to the girl Jonnas pointed out, also red hair and figured they were family.

“Anxious for a bath?” Gwen asked as she returned and they headed towards the room.

“Something like that, and I want to warm up a bit,” Zoe replied.

“Okay, we’ll put our stuff up and go the bathing room,” Gwen said, privately wanting a bath as well.  She had gotten spoiled in the cave over the past day.

Entering the room, she spotted the large bed which would fit them both comfortably, along with the nice table, and couple of chairs, off to the one side a wash basin and what looked to be running water.  Placing her backpack onto the table she looked over at Zoe, who hung up her cloak on the rack, before taking Gwen’s cloak and doing the same thing.

“So, we stay here tonight and head off to Setta in the morning, that’s the plan?” Zoe asked, looking back over.

“Yeah, from what I’ve heard it takes about a day to travel to Setta from here, most stop here, I imagine it’ll start getting crowded as it gets later in the day.  We might as well take advantage of it now.  Of course if you have a horse you might be able to make the trip a bit quicker,” Gwen said.

“Then I can restock our supplies this afternoon in the market place,” Zoe said, looking out the window.  Gwen came over, looking at the market, seeing a few people walk around before a knock at the door interrupted them.  Standing at the door was Missy.

“Your bath is ready,” she said.  “Left door at the end of the hall.”

“Thank you,” Zoe said, getting a coin out of the purse and handing it to her.

“If you require anything else, please let me know,” Missy said, smiling at Zoe, her thanks apparent.  Little things like that could help you out later on Gwen had learned.

“Are you coming?” Zoe asked, grabbing some towels before looking over at Gwen.

“Well gee, what a tough decision, stay here in this nice, but boring room, or follow a young, sexy girl who wants me to get her wet,” Gwen said, grinning at Zoe, who blushed slightly at the words.  “Tough decision.”

“Keep that up and you’ll be bathing alone,” Zoe finally said.

“Remember, you asked for this,” Gwen answered, grabbing the key, locking the door and following Zoe down to the bathing chamber.

Gwen felt the heat from the steam rising off the water the moment they entered the room.  The bathtub, she noticed, could easily hold two comfortably.  Quickly stripping out of her clothes watching as Zoe did the same.

Gwen realized Zoe was watching each movement she made as the younger girl barely realized what she was doing.  Pulling off the last of her clothing, she stood covering nothing, watching Zoe’s eyes look her over, even as she closed the distance between the two of them.

“You like?” Gwen whispered, blowing into the ear, seeing the slight shiver.

“Un-huh,” Zoe replied, her voice quiet.

“Good, I’ll be waiting for you in the tub,” Gwen said, turning around and getting into the tub, settling down in the tub and watched Zoe who managed to shake off her stupor.  She took off her panties and headed over to the tub.  Gwen took her time studying Zoe’s body once more, even as Zoe realized it, she half covered herself.

“You know, you have nothing to be embarrassed about,” Gwen said.  “Besides, I thought you were used to prancing around naked?”

“Well, that was knowing you were trying not to look, it was like a game,” Zoe replied.  “It’s different knowing that you are looking.”

Gwen leaned back slightly making room for Zoe, as she climbed into the tub.  With Zoe’s backside to Gwen, she took advantage as she had one foot in the tub exposing her treasures.  She reached out cupping her sex, getting a squeak of surprise from Zoe.

“Very nice,” Gwen said, rubbing her finger along the folds.

“Um,” Zoe said, as Gwen continued her massage, before slipping a finger into the folds.  “G-Gwen, ah,” a low moan interrupted anything else Zoe was about to say before she managed to collect her thoughts.  “Um, c-can I get into the tub at least?”

“Well, I guess so,” Gwen said, relenting a bit and sat back to watch Zoe climb into the tub where she placed her arms around her stomach, and drew her closer.  “This is nice and relaxing,” Gwen finally said.

“It is,” Zoe replied.  Gwen felt her hand go further down her body, and half expected a return favor, surprised when Zoe started pleasure herself.

“Did I start something?” Gwen whispered in Zoe’s ear.

“Yes, and if you don’t finish it, I will,” Zoe replied.

“Good,” Gwen said, hanging onto the younger woman.  “Let yourself go, I’ve got you.”

Gwen half expected some sort of protest for Zoe, but she continued on, as a hand came up to massage a breast.  Taking a moment to nibble on the ear offered she did not have to wait long before Zoe tensed, her climax near.  Watching Zoe’s face as she gave a short cry, said her name, then went over.

“So beautiful,” Gwen said, giving the ear another nibble and feeling the shudder go through Zoe.  “Warm now?”

“Uh-huh,” Zoe finally replied.

“Good, I’m getting hungry, how about you?” Gwen asked.

“Yep, but what about you?  It’s not fair that I get all the pleasure,” Zoe said.

“We have plenty of time today,” Gwen answered, wiggling her eyebrows at her as Zoe caught on.

“Your right,” Zoe replied, relaxing a bit.  “All afternoon, but we still have to shop.”

“Then you’ll have to be quick about that,” Gwen said.

“I think I can get it done quickly, with that type of motivation, just you wait,” Zoe said, causing Gwen to chuckle.  They quickly washed up with the excitement of later on today.

***

Gwen stretched slightly after the meal.  Zoe had finished her quickly, and was nibbling on another piece of bread.

“I guess you were hungry,” Gwen said, watching.

“It takes a lot to be me,” Zoe stated, looking back at her.  “I’ve got to keep up with you.”

“Point taken, I guess we should get our supplies, did you make a list?” Gwen asked, looking over seeing Zoe grin.

“Of course, not going to wait all afternoon when I have something to look forward to,” Zoe replied, grinning, obviously her mind already thinking about it.

“I look forward to it,” Gwen said, and realized she was.  Zoe had an imagination and could use it rather well.

Gwen did not look forward to the market square like Zoe, and knew the longer they waited the more people would start to arrive for the night.  Already she knew people in the town were preparing for it.

“We’ll need some money,” Zoe said.

“No problem, I’ll go grab it, you stay out of trouble,” Gwen replied, standing.

“Me, trouble, no idea what you’re talking about,” Zoe answered.

Gwen quickly went up to the room, grabbing the coin purse, and headed back down.  She took a look around, seeing a lunch crowd, probably all locals, a few who eyed Zoe a bit too closely for Gwen’s comfort but did not seem like bounty hunters or associated with Stephos.

She looked at Zoe, who watched her approach, and the question about how they felt towards each other popped into her mind.  Sure she felt something for the girl, but was anything felt in return?  Was it a phase the girl went though, some sort of hero worshipping, or something more?

“Here you go,” Gwen said, handing the purse to Zoe.  “I know you’ll have fun in the market.”

“Can’t believe you don’t enjoy shopping,” Zoe said.  “And yeah, I think I’ll grab another magical backpack so I can carry some stuff.”

“All right, don’t forget a cloak,” Gwen said.  “And some sturdier boots, if we’re doing a lot of traveling, they won’t wear out as fast, and will keep those lovely feet unprotected.”

“You’re upset that I couldn’t take the lead,” Zoe replied with a grin.  “And I liked wearing your stuff.”

“I noticed,” Gwen replied.  When Zoe had not been naked in the cave she wore one of her shirts.  Not that she complained, it looked sexy on her.  “If you buy your own cloak, then you won’t have to keep trying to keep it off the ground as you walk.”

“Okay, that did get tiring, I’ll look to see what they have,” Zoe said, standing.

“And make sure it’s waterproof.”

“Right,” Zoe replied, walking around the table to look down on Gwen.  A small smile came to her face as she realized the positions as well.  Gwen took the opportunity to pull her down into a kiss.  Zoe returned it then stood and after telling her to be careful walked out towards the market.

Gwen watched her head out, and wondered if she should not do some drills or something.  There had to be a field around somewhere she could use.  Missy walked overtaking dishes to and from tables.

“You two appear close,” she said, taking the dishes from her table.

“Yeah, we are,” Gwen said, hoping it did not cause trouble.

Shouts interrupted any answer.  Gwen thought she saw Missy’s shoulders slump, then looked at the commotions going on.  Two gentlemen stared at each other with hostile intent, and each had three men backing him up.

“Silvis, Cornias, not in my inn please,” she heard Jonnas said, walking up to the two groups.

“Don’t get involved in this, if you know what’s good for you,” the taller of the two said, he was also bald, pointing a finger at Jonnas, and seemed very threatening.

“Great, wish they’d go somewhere else, something always breaks and they never pay for it,” Missy said in a quiet voice.  It seemed that she had spoken the words to herself, and not towards anyone, but Gwen heard it anyways.

She glanced back to the two groups, as the innkeeper had walked over, trying to get them out of the inn.

“If you’re going to fight, like you will do anyways, at least do it outside,” Jonnas said.

“As Cornais said, butt out of this, or you’ll face my wrath as well,” the shorter man said, and Gwen assumed him to be Silvis, he had short black hair, and an attitude to go with it.

“And the last time you two fought in here you cost me a hundred creds in damage, that neither of y you paid for,” Jonnas said.

Gwen watched as things seemed to be going out of control. As both parties accused the other of causing the damage which was why they did not pay.  The argument set both groups even more on edge and a family nearby had gotten up as the parents moved their two children towards the stairs.  Gwen did not blame the, they did not need to be in the middle of the fight, and neither did she.  With a sigh she stood, knowing all she had was her fighting power, and allowed it to come out a bit.

With purposeful strides she made her way over, and stopped in the middle of the two groups.  Both men appeared shocked at her appearance,   she felt sure few people had ever tried to stand up to them like she had by their faces.

“What do you want?” Cornias asked, pointing a finger at her.

“What I want, is you two, and your lackeys out of here.  You’re ruining my good mood,” Gwen said with a growl looking back and forth between the two and pointing her own finger at the door.  “If you don’t leave o your own, I’ll toss you out myself.”

“That won’t happen until he confesses,” Silvis said, pointing a finger at the other man.

“You lying, cheating, thief,” Cornias replied.  Gwen felt the two groups start to move, and allowed herself to move first intercepting the two groups.  She delivered four blows, knocking out two men on each side.  In the flurry of moments, she caught both groups off guard, and stood in the middle waiting for their next move.  When neither of them moved after several moments she finally had enough of them both.

“Now, take your trash and get out of here, you’re ruining my day, and others in here as well,” Gwen growled, waiting until they finally left picking up the two men who had been knocked out.  “Idiots,” she said after they left, and saw several people look on with renewed respect for her.

“Wow, thanks,” Missy said walking over.  “You need anything else?  Another drink?  Bath?  Back rub?”

“I’ll pass on that last one, don’t need a jealous lover,” Gwen said, but privately wondered how Zoe might react to such a proposition.  “So, what’s their problem?”

“Ah, those two are both merchants, in the same business, bad blood between them for years, anything and everything it seems,” Missy said.  “Lately though things have gotten even worse, something about the other corrupting their kids.  Each one accusing the other of doing something.”

“Oh,” Gwen said, wondering if this might be going someplace.

“The rumor is Hectar and Larras have been spending a lot of time together.  As a result, Cornias thinks Silvis put a spell on his son, and Silvis accuses Cornias of trying to bribe his son,” Missy said.

Gwen shook her at what she heard.  It seemed like the two were probably lovers, or something, and were seeing each other against their fathers’ wishes.  She did not care at all what they thought, after all she had a girl as a lover.

“So why do they care?” Gwen asked, using the question to see if there was a group that protested same-sex partners in the town.

“Ah, them being stupid, each thinks the other is behind it.  They think the other one interfered with the arranged marriages, and they think their honor is at stake,” Missy said.

Gwen shook her head at that realizing there was more going on here than she wanted to get involved in.  She looked at the time, hoping she might have some time to do some exercise before Zoe came back.

Heading back up to her room to get her sword, hoping to find an area to train.

***

Gwen went through a few up exercise, getting her muscles loose for the more advanced drills she wanted to do.  Taking a few swipes and feeling she was loose enough, began easing into the more advanced sets glad no one was around to see her start these drills.

She took out her sword, and ran though a few drills, slowly increasing the speed and complexity of each drill.  She slowed up feeling someone approaching.  She did not stop but looked on to see who might approach, only slightly surprised to see Cornias walking up, and patiently waiting for her to sop her drilling.

“So, the real thing I see,” he said.  “I owe you for what you did to my men.”

“Not my fault, you ignored the owner of the place you were in, I’d say you were the rude ones,” Gwen replied, cautious about what he might really want.  “I only did what everyone in the inn wanted to do to you.”

“I see, then you are for hire, yes?” Cornias asked.

“Perhaps, depends on the task,” Gwen answered, not wanting to limit her options, he might have something easy for her to do, easy creds.  She also had no intention in getting involved in the quarrel between the two men.

“A business proposal for you, should be easy enough,” he replied, but Gwen stopped him.

“If it’s anything to do with you and your conflict with Silvis, then I want nothing to do with it,” Gwen told him.

“It would be very easy,” Cornias replied.

“Family problems are rarely easy,” Gwen replied, knowing that for the truth.  Her own family problems could start a civil war.  “Especially when they deal with the heart.”

“Ah, you do understand, all the more reason you are the perfect person to help me,” Cornias said, trying to appeal to her sense of family.

She sheathed her sword and packed up, her drills ruined.  She had the feeling he would continue his delusion of her helping no matter what she said.

“What part of no don’t you understand?” Gwen said, looking him in the eye.

“I can make it work your time,” He said, completely ignoring her answer.

“No,” Gwen replied once more, and heading back towards the inn, before looking back at him.  “And don’t follow me!”

She quickly headed back to the inn not bothering to look back at the man, who probably had never had anyone say no to him before.  Shaking her head at his nerve, she returned to the room, seeing that Zoe had yet to return.  The girl loved to shop, and Gwen had no problem with that, but had looked forward to an interesting afternoon.

Deciding to head back down she asked for something to drink, and sat back waiting for Zoe to return.  One other patron sat a few tables away, scribbling away on a parchment reminding her of Zoe when she was drawing.  Total immersion into what he was doing and no idea what was going on around her.  Gwen could not understand such an attitude considering her training always focused on remaining alert on her surroundings.

The door opened and a shadow of a familiar shadow entered the room.  She sighed, wondering what happened to her nice afternoon as she watched Silvis strode into the room.  She wished she had stayed in her room instead of coming down for a drink.  Her eyebrows rose as he sat down across from her.

“I didn’t say you could sit there,” Gwen said, pinning him with a stare.

“I have a problem that you can solve for me,” he said, ignoring her comment.  “It’s a simple solution, eliminate Cornias’ son.”

Coughing she looked up at the boldness of the proposition.  “Sorry, but I’m not for hire like that, find someone else.”

“It’s a simple solution, and no risk.  I hold enough sway in the town to make sure you are not even looked at,” he said continuing on with his proposition.  “If you don’t, well, let’s say I hold enough sway to make things uneasy for you and wish you had never stopped here.”

“Is that a threat?” Gwen asked, raising an eyebrow, waiting a second before continuing on.  “Look, I don’t care about you, or your stupid quarrel.  “All I want is for my girlfriend to return so we can spend the rest of the afternoon in bed.”

“So, you’re one of those types,” Silvis said, standing up and looking disgusted.  “Of course you’d be against me.

“No, I don’t’ care, there is a difference,” Gwen replied back to him, knowing it did not matter what she said.  He did everything in his power to get his way.

“You seemed to care enough when you interjected into our conversation earlier,” he replied back to her walking out without hearing her reply.

“Idiot,” she said to his retreating back.  She only interfered because they were about to fight where she was and in front of children.

Sipping her drink she wondered what might happen next.  The door opened, and three people walked into the room.  Looking over she recognized Zoe, along with two other guys heading right for her.  She sighed wondered what had happened now.

“I know she can help you two out,” she heard Zoe say as they approached.  She looked at Zoe then up at the other two.

“Wait,” she said, holding up a hand before any of them could start speaking.  “Unless it’s easy, I don’t want it.”

Taking a closer look at the two, she realized they resembled both Silvis and Cornias.  These two had to be their sons.  They looked at each other before speaking.

“Well, it’s as easy as making two stubborn old men to listen for a few moments,” the one who looked like Cornias said.

“Lemme guess, you’re Cornias’ son,” Gwen said, before looking over at the other one.  “And you must be Silvis’s son.”

“Um, yeah, guess you’ve met our fathers,” Silvis’s son said.  “I’m Hectar and this is Lessar.”

“Look, I already told your fathers no, why should I listen to you and get involved in a lover’s quarrel?” Gwen asked, looking back and forth between the two.

“That rumor still?  Told you that’s what they think,” Hectar said looking over at Lassar with a grimace.

“They don’t even listen to us anymore,” Lassar replied back to him. “How many times do we have to explain it to them?”

“Well, actually I was told that by a third party,” Gwen said, not mentioning it was Missy who told her that.

“Gwen, it’s actually very simple, they told me everything while I bought this cloak from them,” Zoe said, speaking up while pulling out a cloak.   Gwen took a moment to examine it, noticing it was well build and would work well for Zoe.  “You see, they are opening up a clothing shop, something they both liked, and instead of competing against each, other like their dads, they went into business together.  They’ve been sending the clothes to Setta and want to open a stall here full time.”

Gwen rubbed her forehead in annoyance at the headache coming on.  The information being told to her differed from what others had said.

“They also are in love, but with each other’s fiancée,” Zoe said, giving one last piece of information.

“Shoulda stayed in the cave,” Gwen mumbled to herself, ignoring Zoe’s glare.

“All you have to do is get them to listen to us, we’ll do the talking,” Hectar said.

Gwen had no idea where this might be going, or even if she wanted to get involved.  She had other plans for this afternoon and things seemed to be interfering with them.  The door opened allowing four men to enter the inn.  Gwen noticed by their appearance, and the way the leaders looked around, they were searching for her.

They predictably made their way over to her table, which suddenly became too crowded.  Missy and the innkeeper, Jonnas also walked over.

“Afternoon Devon, what’s the problem?” Jonnas asked, intercepting the group of men.

“Been getting complaints about someone who is staying here, said she was tall, black hair, a fighter.  Got some charges against her, need to arrest her for the moment, pending the trial,” Devon replied.

“Let me guess, Silvis,” Gwen said, looking at Devon.  They both understood who controlled the man, despite him not saying much else.

“Yep, hefting some serious charges against you as well,” Devon said, his attitude cool.

“Oh for mother earth, you actually believe that garbage he’s spewing?’ Hectar said.

“”Assaulted several men under Silvis’ employment,” Devon said.

“I broke up a fight in here where they might have hurt a family with children, something you should be doing, but we both know who holds your collar,” Gwen said, seeing Zoe’s eyes widen having not known about the fight.

“Don’t give me any trouble, you don’t know what might happen,” Devon said, making an implied threat.  “After all, I can’t have a dangerous person threatening the citizens of my town.”

Gwen looked around seeing the tempers rising in the inn.  She knew Zoe was mad by the way she clinched her fists, and faced Devon.

“Dangerous, how about those two idiots you’re working for?  They appear to be a danger to this town as well,” Zoe stated, standing up to Devon.

“The only danger here is her,” Devon said, pointing to Gwen.

“You can’t believe this?” Jonnas said.  Even Hectar and Lassar came to her defense, but eh four men began to adopt a more aggressive posture causing Gwen to stand and look at Devon.

“If, and I stress this, if I was the danger, you wouldn’t be standing now,” Gwen said honestly, knowing it sounded like a threat, and at the moment not caring.  “And you think about this, both Cornias and Silvis asked me to kill someone.  When I refused they went running to you hoping to exact my cooperation through such pitiful tactics.”

“This stupid feud had gone on for too long,” Lassar said.

“He’s right, you’re so weak that you might as well be one of their paid lackeys,” Hectar said.

“Enough, all of you, or I’ll make you all regret it as well, and you two, well you’re the reason this is all exploding so much,” Devon said.  “I’ll toss you both in a jail and forget the key if you’re not careful.”

“Sure our dads would like that,” Hectar said.

“I’m sure I could think of something to tell them,” Devon said, smiling.

Gwen knew the tempers were rising fact, and realized when it came to the feud, people were turning a deaf ear to reason.  She turned Zoe around so she could look into the green eyes, ones that were still angry.

“Stay here, okay” Gwen said, confusing Zoe.  “All right, let’s get this out of the way so I can get back to what I really wanted to do this afternoon.”

“You can’t be doing this,” Zoe said, realizing what Gwen was doing.

“Relax, I’ll be fine,” Gwen said, giving Zoe’s shoulder a pat.  She hoped this might force both Silvis and Cornias out where they were together and she might be able to speak with them.  “Either way, we’re leaving tomorrow, so be packed if I’m not back.”

“I doubt that,” Devon said, his men backing him up.  Gwen knew if she really wanted to, they would not be able to stop her.

“Shall we go?” Gwen said, motioning towards the door.

***

Gwen followed the sheriff into the building, having walked from the inn here in silence.  She entered hoping to see either Silvis or Cornias, but neither man appeared there at the moment.

“Silvis not here to watch, he did buy this,” she said, looking over at Devon.  “It’s a shame he can’t see what his money bought him.”

“You were doing better not speaking,” Devon said.  “You have no idea what real trouble is, do you.”

Gwen sighed at the comment before replying.  “Actually I do, but this, this is nothing compared to the trouble I’ve seen or been a part of.”

“A wise guy, or should I say gal,” Devon said.

“No, only someone who didn’t want to see a fight in my presence, and even less near children.  The more I learn about this mess the less I understand,” Gwen said, looking right into the Sheriff’s eyes.  “How can someone like you support this?  You know what’s going on, and in fact instead of helping out things are spiraling out of control and it’s almost past the point of no return.  What will you do when a true innocent is killed because of this?”

“You don’t know anything, and you should have stayed out of it,” Devon said.

“I tried, and look what happened, you dragged me into this, I said no to Silvis and Cornias, and you seem to want me involved,” Gwen replied back to him.  She privately wondered if he was that stupid.

“Stupid, see you don’t know anything,” Devon replied back hotly.

“No, what I know is there is some stupid feud, which I don’t care about between Silvis and Cornias.  Now, it seems like their sons don’t want anything to do with the feud, and want to start their own business, they are not lovers, but in love with each other’s fiancée,” Gwen said, watching Devon’s eye twitch at the statement.  “But you already knew that, and are doing nothing to stop the feud.”

She looked at the others, who appeared surprised at the sudden statement.  It became apparent who knew and who did not.

“Is this true?” one asked.

“Of course not, you think some stranger would know so much, she’s making up lies to get out of the charges against her,” Devon said.  A few laughed at the obvious inside joke.

“You know, you could ask them and listen to their answers,” Gwen said challenging them back.

Instead of a reply she was led to a cell as Devon told the rest to stay on guard.  She waited a moment until Devon had left to look around the cell.  The walls appeared well built, but she would have no problem breaking out if needed.  Lying back on the cot she pondered the situation while looking at the ceiling.  Something else had to be behind all this, some root cause of the problem.  The information rolled around in her mind as she tried to think of it logically.

The sheriff, Devon, knew the situation, and some of the others did as well, but not everyone.  That could mean some outside group was responsible, buying the sheriff to make sure things remained the way they were.  But that meant she lacked a lot of information.  Another possible solution besides being bought, he was a relative of one of the two men.  She had too many variables and no real tangible solutions or information to the problem.

Keys caused her to look up a while later, seeing two of the guards standing there, each with a wary look on their face.

“Come along, and don’t cause any trouble,” one said.

Gwen stood and walked over to the cell door, waiting patiently for whatever they wanted.  One held bindings, no doubt on Devon’s orders.  She looked them over knowing their limitations, and waited as the guard place them on her wrists, before opening the door and following them back to the main office, Devon stood there along with Silvis.

“Come out of your lair have you?” Gwen asked.  “I guess you think you hold all the cards?”

“Think, no, I know I do,” Silvis said with a sneer.  “I know a lot of things, like the fact that you are going to help me or spend a very, very, very long time in a jail cell, if you’re lucky.”

“Luck, has a way of changing, so I doubt what you said,” Gwen replied back to him watching his skin flush in anger.

Silvis started to say something when the door opened again, allowing three figures to enter the room.  Gwen recognized Zoe right away and sighed.  She told the girl to stay at the inn.  The other two she realized were Hectar and Lassar.

“Father,” Hectar said, looking at Silvis.

“You’re not my son,” Silvis said savagely.  “No son of mine would dishonor me this way.  That slut should die.”

Gwen watched as he pointed at Lassar, the hatred in his voice indicating little could be done to change his mind.

“You know, your temper is blinding you to the truth,” Gwen stated, moving close to the man.  “If you actually spent some time listening to him, you might realize you’re honor isn’t at stake at all.”

“No, he knows the truth, don’t you,” Zoe said, interrupting any answer Silvis might have given.

Gwen watched his eyes narrow at Zoe’s statement, indicating she was right.  He did know the truth, and did not care.

“You know nothing,” Silvis growled.

Gwen watched as his anger overcame any rational thought.  She recognized the movement as he raised his hand to strike Zoe, and reacted on instinct.  Her fighting power rose in an instant, well beyond anything anyone in the room had.  The cuffs snapped easily before moving to block the strike, and held Silvis’ wrist in an iron grip.  She looked into his eyes, as he appeared stunned that she had stopped him.

“Now, I don’t care about you, your quarrel, your son, his problem, or this town, but raise your hand to threaten my lover, and you’ll have to deal with me, got it,” She growled, staring down into his face letting him feel her power.

“I-I demand you release me at once,” Silvis stated, trying to sound stern despite the wavering in his voice.

“Do you understand me?” Gwen repeated, waiting for his reply, knowing that they both understood the true power she held.

“Sheriff, you see this, she’s threatening me,” Silvis said, looking over at Devon, who appeared shocked at what happened.

“True to your brutish tactics I see,” another voice said.  They all looked towards the doorway, seeing Cornias standing there, surveying the scene before him.

“You still haven’t answered my question,” Gwen said, ignoring the newcomer and increased the pressure on Silvis’ wrist.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!  All right, I understand, just let me go,” Silvis said.

Gwen released him, stepping back slightly but keeping Zoe behind her.  She looked over to see Devon and his deputies looking back at her with wary caution.  She noticed Devon had fear in his eyes now as he looked at her.

“Now that everyone’s here, listen up,” Gwen said, pinning Silvis with a stare.  He seemed to be the biggest problem in the room at the moment.  She needed to find a way to get him to understand, or back off.  “Your son isn’t in love with Lassar, but his fiancée, and Lassar is in love with Hectar’s.  And if they want to go into business together, then they should be able to.”

“He has a duty to my business,” Silvis said stubbornly.

“I’ll sell it,” Hectar said, looking directly at his father.

“You will not, you’ll dishonor our family by doing that,” Silvis said, anger in his tone.  “No one in our family has let this business fail, I won’t be the first.”

Gwen watched as he stormed out the building, pushing past Cornias, who had not said anything yet.  He appeared slightly stunned by everything that had been said.

“Is this true?” he finally asked, looking over at his son.

“Yes,” Lassar said, no hesitation at all in answering the question.  Gwen waited to see what might happen next.

“And what type of business?” Cornais asked.

“Clothing,” Lassar answered.

“And your fiancée?  She knows about this?” Cornias asked.

“Ariel and I love each other, but I’m sorry father, Rita and I will never be anything more than friends,” Lassar answered.  “We’re not going to be like you and Hectar’s father.”

Gwen had the impression there was more to the answer than they were being told, as Cornias seemed to step back and look around.

“Then it seems I’ve been a fool,” Cornias said.  “I allowed my feud with Silvis to blind me to the truth, you are now like we were.  Perhaps there is more I need to learn.”

She figured he was no longer part of the problem anymore, but it did not completely end the problem.  Not that she wanted to solve them all, she wanted to go back to the inn with Zoe.  She had a promise to keep.

“Well, now that that’s settle,” Gwen said, looking down at Zoe, “how about we head back to the inn, I think we can grab some supper and call it an early night?”

Zoe’s face broke out into a grin before she replied.  “I think I can go for that, and find a good use for those cuffs.”

Gwen looked down at the cuffs, then back at Zoe.  She had an idea of what the younger woman had in mind, and might even entertain the idea in bed.  She moved over the sheriff holding out her arms.  The broken cuffs still dangled on her wrists, but had been rendered useless.  “How about taking these off.”

“Um, w-well you still have to answer for those crimes,” he finally said, his tone flat and scared.

“Trumped up charges by Silvis because I said no to him, you know that,” Gwen replied back to him.

“Devon, you know those charges are fake,” Cornias said suddenly.  “I think you better start taking that oath seriously.  I plan on dropping my feud with Silvis, at least as much as I can.  If you continue to support him this way, I’ll have no choice than to bring Victor in.”

Gwen watched as Devon reacted to the mention of Victor’s name.  Whoever Victor was, they all knew him, and wanted nothing to do with him.

“Fine,” Devon said, making a motion to one of the deputies.  Gwen waited patiently as the man stepped forward and quickly unlocked the cuffs.

“Who are you?” Devon finally asked, looking over at Gwen.

“Just a bounty hunter,” Gwen replied.

“Never felt so much power, what level are you at?” he asked, digging for more information.

Gwen knew that anyone in town who could feel the aura of someone else felt her fighting level.  She had not thought at all when her power level sky-rocketed to protect Zoe.  Everything happened so fast she did not even bother to think about the consequences.

“Don’t know,” she finally replied.

“That’s pretty strong for someone who doesn’t know,” Devon replied.

“Never gave it any thought, try not to use it that much, don’t like to stand out as a bounty hunter,” Gwen replied, turning towards Zoe.  “Come on, let’s get outta here.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Zoe replied.

They left the building heading back to the inn.  She felt Zoe lean against her realizing the feel was very nice.

“So, hungry?” Gwen asked, as they walked into the inn.

“Yep, gotta keep up my strength,” she replied back to her.  Heading over to a table she watched as Missy made her way over to them.

“Ready for supper?” she asked, sounding cheerful.

“Yes please,” Zoe replied.

“Okay, um, should we keep an eye out for the sheriff?” Missy asked leaning further down and lowering her voice.

“Don’t think so,” Gwen replied, at least she hoped not.  The real threat was not the sheriff, but Silvis at the moment.  He might hold a grudge against her, but would have to wait and see.

“We managed to solve the problem a bit,” Zoe said.

“We did?” Gwen replied, not sure about that.

“Yeah, Lester and his father, not sure about Hectar’s father, seemed a bit too stubborn,” Zoe finally said.  “I have a good feeling.”

“Okay, but we’ll wait to see, don’t like it when either of them come into the inn, nothing but trouble,” Missy replied, moving away and heading to the kitchen to grab some supper for them.

“You know, you were supposed to stay here,” Gwen said, looking at the young woman.

“I had a feeling, it was lucky that we got there all at the same time,” Zoe said.  “They were finally able to tell their dads.”

“If you say so,” Gwen replied, seeing a new person enter the room.  She watched a tall woman with black and white hair look around the room before making her way over to where she and Zoe sat.

“Looks like we’ve got company,” Gwen said, waiting as the woman stopped at their table.

“Are you Zoe?” the woman asked, looking down at them.

“Yes,” Zoe replied.  Gwen watched carefully to make sure nothing else happened in the exchange.  She felt no energy coming from the woman, but did not want to take any chances.

“Thank you,” the woman said, grabbing Zoe’s hands in hers, surprising Gwen.  She looked over seeing Zoe smile as if she knew who the woman was before she continued.  “My husband can be quite thick-headed at times.  Thinks he can keep the truth from me forever, but don’t worry about him, he won’t bother you while you’re here.”

“You must be Hectar’s mother,” Zoe said, catching Gwen by surprise.

“Yes, I knew things were not going well between him and Ariel, but he never said anything to me.  I understand it so much better now, and things look like it will work out between those two, they are not their fathers,” she said.  Gwen had a feeling there was a story here, but did not press it.  Instead she almost felt sorry for Silvis from the look in the woman’s eyes.

“Hectar’s a nice guy, does great work,” Zoe said.  “Bought my cloak from him earlier in the day.  That’s how I met him, he was setting up a stall in the market place off to the side where their fathers couldn’t see it.”

“Well, I did teach him how to stitch, he always was good at it,” she said with a bit of pride.

“Then you must be good as well.  I’ve never been that good, enough to pass, but nothing of high quality,’ Zoe said.

“You’re too kind, but I’m interrupting you two,” she said, as Missy came back with two plates.  “I just wanted to thank you personally.”

She said bye, then walked out.  Gwen noticed she said hi to Jonnas, and then continued on.  She felt sure there was something there, but did not want to dig anymore.

“That turned out lucky, if she’s going to do something about it, then things will change,” Missy said.

“I guess it was lucky,” Gwen replied, before thanking Missy for the food.

She hoped now they would have a normal evening with no interruptions.

End part 5 continued in part 6

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