by AJ Marks
Part 8: A Lucky Slave? II
Gwen led Zoe down the hallway following Valerie and Lori into a larger room with several long tables. Servants were busy bring food into the room and setting it on the side table.
“An excellent looking feast as normal,” Valerie said.
“Yes, however sadly I think it won’t change your mind, will it,” Greis said. Gwen waited to see how Valerie would handle this situation.
“You are retiring next year still,” Valerie said, watching Greis nod yes. “I can’t do business with your son, so I have to look for someone else now.”
“As I thought,” he said sadly with a shake of his head. “It seems like I have no choice, if I want to keep my money.”
Gwen stiffened slightly at the approaching power, knowing Leo was about to enter the room.
“You’re late,” Greis said.
He merely shrugged, said nothing and sat down. The entire atmosphere changed despite the smile he had for them all. Gwen recognized the fake smile, having done it enough in her past. The all show smile for someone else’s sake. She watched him, noticing that when the attention went off him a scowl appeared, as if he had somewhere else to go.
“Leo, congratulations, this is another long standing account you’ve cost us. If you keep this up, when you take over there will be no customers,” Greis said, chastising his son. “Because of this, I will give you a startup amount of money, once that is gone it’s gone. You will not come back here for any more, nor will you live here, you’re not wasting my money any more. I will be looking for someone else to take over the business.”
Gwen saw the attitude change in a second, and wished Greis waited a bit before making such an announcement. Now she knew there would be trouble with him, either tonight, or on the road back to Setta. His attitude still puzzled her, there had to be something else going on. She looked over at Valerie who had watched the exchange in silence before looking back at Leo.
“You’re cutting me off?” Leo finally said, anger tinting his voice.
“Yes, you’ll either learn how to conduct a business or fail at it, either way I will not allow you to squander my wealth with your failures,” Greis said.
For a brief second Gwen thought they might have a fight, and prepared herself as he rose. He glared at her and Valerie before storming out of the room.
“Well, that went about as well as I expected,” Greis said. “Always sad when a parent has to cut the child off.”
“I’m sure you tried,” Valerie said.
“He was never into the business, very much like his mother. She enjoyed the finer things in life, unlike, well that‘s unimportant right now,” Greis said, as he looked over at Valerie. Gwen felt something was being unsaid, and that was important. She looked over at Zoe, who sat on a cushion next to her chair like Lori next to Valerie. The position presented several interesting situations.
Settling in, Zoe had gone to get a plate of food from the serving table, getting more than enough for one person. Gwen took the moment to hand feed Zoe some of the excellent food. It reminded her of her past, but she would enjoy the food tonight and gain some new memories, better ones.
“So, you’re looking to expand into the Shadowlands?” Greis asked, looking over at Gwen. “What is it that you’re looking for?”
“A bit of everything,” Gwen replied, being a bit vague on purpose. “I wanted to see how Valerie does business. Her reputation proceeds her, and I’m looking for people who might be able to represent me in the area.”
“I see, well, she’s a shrewd one, always knows the trends, gets good deals, some say she’s touched,” Greis said. “She makes a good choice, and she’s done such business for me as well in the past.”
“What can I say, some people have all the luck,” Valerie said, looking over at Gwen. They both knew how luck played into her abilities. “Some heed the advice, and others, well they at too stubborn to see what is right in front of them.”
“That’s why I hate to lose you, but I’m set on retiring. It will be sad to see the business go, I started it in my youth and now I’ll see it die,” Greis said. He looked around and perked up a bit. “It’s time for dessert, Heather, Yvette, will they do?”
Gwen watched a dark-haired girl and a red-head step forward. Valerie looked them over before looking back to Greis. “Are they new?” she asked.
“Yvette is,” Greis said, indicating the dark-haired girl.
“You’re tastes have improved,” Valerie said with a chuckle.
“I have many tastes,” Greis said, as they settled down for the performance as dessert was passed out.
“Any chance of your slave joining them?” Greis asked looking over at Zoe.
“Not at this time, still in training,” Gwen replied, feeling Zoe lean against her leg.
“Had to ask, worst you would have said was no, and there is always a chance of yes,” Greis said with a smile. “She is lovely.”
“Yes she is, lucky to find her,” Gwen replied, looking down at Zoe. She noticed her attention was fixated on what Heather and Yvette were doing. Looking over at the position she realized they probably would be trying a new position in the future. Maybe the exposure would help expand her horizons for the future. Zoe was a great lover, just needed more experience.
Gwen led a quiet Zoe back to their own room. Looking down she wondered what was going through that blonde head of hers. She watched as Zoe flopped down onto the bed before saying anything.
“Exciting?” Gwen asked, watching the young woman look up at her.
“You know that would happen?” Zoe asked.
“Um, yes and no. I knew it could happen, but was not sure until it started,” Gwen replied. It was something that many owners did during such meetings, and once it started was not disappointed when Greis asked if Zoe would join. “You could have joined, I was asked.”
“No thanks,” Zoe replied a bit hastily.
“And here I thought you enjoyed prancing around nude,” Gwen said, with a smile.
“Only in private,” Zoe answered, then blushed. Gwen fell silent for a few seconds. She turned feeling someone approach the room. The knock indicated someone who was wishing to see them.
“Yes?” Gwen called out watching the door open and the older gentlemen entered the room. Gwen did not recall his name at the moment but waited to hear what he had to say.
“Mater Greis told me to inform you that you may use the private bathing chamber, they are fully stocked and ready if you wish to bathe,” he said to her.
“Tell him thank you,” Gwen replied, knowing they could probably use a bath by now.
“Very well,” he said, with a bow he closed the door and left them alone.
“Well, shall we go get wet?” Gwen asked, waggling her eyebrows at Zoe.
“Ha-ha,” Zoe replied, who despite her statement already dug out their towels.
“Come on,” Gwen said, moving to the door while Zoe held out her towel and soap. “You hold onto it, remember, you’re the slave?”
Green eyes narrowed at the comment, and Gwen felt for sure she heard something about paybacks. Smiling she walked out and right into Valerie and Lori.
“Ah, headed to the bath as well?” Valerie asked.
“Yeah, you too?” Gwen asked seeing them nod. “Is there enough room for both of us?”
“Plenty, Greis’ bath is modeled after mine, it can hold up to ten people for those private parties,” Valerie said. “So we can have plenty of room without squishing each other. And in case Leo tries something.”
Gwen nodded, knowing it would be the most vulnerable time for them while they were here. A quick scan of the area did not indicate him around but there were others power levels so the scan was not too accurate. She motioned for Valerie to lead on and followed with Zoe and Lori behind her.
“Greis seems nice,” Gwen said.
“Oh, he is, but with him retiring, I can’t trust Leo to not stab me in the back,” Valerie replied. “He has no business sense in him, only thuggary that he uses quite often if he doesn’t get his way.”
“He’s more concerned with his fighting power than any business,” Gwen said, thinking back to her first meeting with him. He had been smug right up to the point he felt her power. Since then he acted more like someone whose pride had been hurt. She wondered if it was because her power was higher, or she was a woman.
Entering the bath Gwen looked around the vast room knowing Greis spared no expense in making it. She wondered who enjoyed it more, him or his slaves. Shedding her clothing and handing it over to Zoe, who took it, folded it placing it beside the others. Gwen noticed with a slight smile hers was the least well folded. Washing off a bit then entered the water.
“Very relaxing,” Gwen said, wrapping her arms around Zoe and pulling her close.
“We have quite a bit of fun in the bath,” Valerie said, looking over at Lori, “and many times I walk in seeing them having fun without me.”
“We ask you mistress,” Lori said, smiling.
“Yeah, when I’m working,’ Valerie replied.
Gwen took the moment to massage Zoe’s shoulders while listening to the conversation. The exchange between the two informed Gwen a lot about who Valerie was, not that she had any doubt. Too often she had seen abused slaves growing up, especially with her family, or more precise, her cousin.
“You think anything will happen?’ Valerie asked, being serious.
“Don’t know, anything can happen, so I’m always on guard,” Gwen said. “The life of a bounty hunter.”
“I’ll take your word for it. You mentioned Leo having fighting power, I thought your parents had to have that as well,” Lori said asking the question.
“No, anyone born can have such magic, but your chances go up if at least one parent has the ability,” Gwen replied. “Of course that doesn’t mean the child will have the same power, and they can be stronger or weaker.”
She watched them absorb that information. The stronger the parents were, the more the odds were that any child would also be strong. She was proof of that. Both her parents had high fighting power. As a result she and her cousin always competed for being the best. There might be someone out there more powerful, but she had yet to meet that person.
“Well, the most powerful person right now is the king’s son, Derek,” Valerie said, thinking it though. “Though there was a rumor about someone else in the Royal Family being very powerful.”
“Don’t keep up with them,” Gwen replied, wondering how to change the subject.
“Did you know your parents Lori?’ Zoe asked.
“No, I was taken by slavers, then Miss Valerie bought me,” Lori answered.
“She was still young, and with my knowledge of latgics, I knew she would be worth any amount of money,” Valerie said. “So I made my first purchase and waited until she came of age before doing anything.”
“So you know?” Zoe asked, Gwen felt the woman tense in her arms.
“Yes, and when the time came I was more than ready,” Lori replied. “She never lied to me, so over time I trusted her completely.”
“Lying makes things too complex, and I don’t need that in my house. I get enough of that in my business dealings,” Valerie said.
Gwen said nothing, knowing she had her own secrets from Zoe, and she knew Zoe did as well. However, they managed to get along and things worked out for them both. She also knew neither pushed certain subjects, so they never had lied to each other that she was aware of. Of course she knew given enough time she would have to tell Zoe, or have the balance disrupted by some outside force.
She paused feeling a fighting aura close in. She felt sure it was Leo and watched the door for several seconds, moving from behind Zoe to beside her. She looked over at her, but said nothing, as it seemed everyone had gone quiet.
The door opened allowing Leo and three others to enter the room.
“Leo, how dare you enter the bath uninvited, get out,” Valerie said, covering herself, as did Lori and Zoe.
Gwen took a moment to evaluate the situation for a few seconds. Leo stood looking at them, his face a scowl removing any handsome feature he might have had. The overall situation at first glance seemed to be in Leo’s favor. They all had some fighting power, and probably hoped to overpower her with numbers, and catching her in a compromising position.
“Oh shut up, this is all your fault, always has been,” Leo said. “So, I’m going to gain some revenge now.”
“I suggest you leave,” Gwen said, speaking up for the first time, looking at Leo then his two friends. “I don’t like you, and I have no problem beating you and your friends to a pulp.”
“You might have some fighting power, but you never got any training for it, using it to scare people,” Leo stated. “Besides, you’re not much a threat like that, is she boys?”
Gwen looked them over seeing them all smile, but none of them really knew what they were getting into. She looked at them evaluating their threat to her.
“Are you sure,” Gwen said, rising up out of the water. The other three were now looking her over with anticipation. “Truth is you’re unarmed, and I’m more than capable of protecting myself and these three women, especially with your low ranking powers.”
Gwen moved towards the group watching their movements and any signs of an attack. Leo’s three companions appeared more focused on her body than any threat she might pose in a fight, a deadly mistake a real trained fighter would not make. It worked to her favor here.
She quickly moved forward attacking Leo, knocking him off his feet before he could even more. The other three were shocked at the speed of her attack.
“Bitch,” Leo spat out, pulling himself up from where he landed. He wiped off his hands then attacked.
Gwen dodged the attack studying the pattern and form he used. He had some training, or been in a lot of fights, which probably only served to increase his pride. Still his skill was nothing compared to what she had been through growing up. She kept an eye on the others who seemed to have recovered as one moved quickly towards the bath. She quickly moved over landing a punch on him knocking him back and away from the others.
“Thought you said you could take care of her Leo?” one said.
“Shut up,” snarled Leo, doubling his efforts.
“Last chance, leave now before any of you get hurt,” Gwen said, hoping at least one might be smart enough to realize their situation.
No one moved for several heartbeats. Gwen took the opportunity to check on the others before the group attacked again. This time she went on the attack using more force. She knocked Leo off to the side of the room, crashing into one of the walls. Not waiting she followed that up with a second attack sending another person flying, who crumbled to the floor unconscious before someone else barged into the room.
“What’s going on in here?” Greis’ voice said, thundering though the room, obviously angry about the noise.
In a quick movement Gwen put on a towel before facing Greis. His stunned face indicated he had no idea his son entered his house. The other two had stopped their attack as he entered the room. While Greis had no fighting power, he had wealth which could be just as powerful Gwen had learned. His face had gone almost purple with rage.
“Get out!” he spat out, looking at his son who had managed to climb back to his feet. “Get out, you’ve shamed my name for the last time, and don’t bother coming back this time.”
“And who will make me, you pop?” Leo said, angry as well. “You have no fighting ability.”
Gwen paused at lending her support, knowing that once she left the probably would still be there. He had to take care of it himself. The two squared off glaring at each other.
“The sheriff is on the way master,” another voice said.
“I may not, but the sheriff is on the way, how are you going to explain this to him?” Greis said.
“They know I live here, wouldn’t take much for me to tell them to go away after taking care of you, an accident I could blame on her,” Leo said, pointing to Gwen, who raised an eyebrow at that.
“You can’t take on me, how are you going to take of him?” Gwen said. “You’re fighting level is way too low to even think about a true battle against me.”
She watched his body, ready for any movement he might take. She knew from his glare that she made another enemy, not that she cared that much. She had other enemies stronger than Leo looking for her.
“I’m outta here,” one of the others said. The other one agreed and they picked up their unconscious friend and quickly left the room.
“You’ve made a mistake old man,” Leo said, pointing at Greis before walking out of the room himself.
Gwen turned to Greis who seemed unfazed by it all. Taking a moment to look over the occupants and the room he turned to Valerie. “I must apologize for that. I must hope someone buys my business, otherwise it will probably die out,” he said.
“Perhaps, I will look around and see if anyone wants it,” Valerie said.
“Are you interested?” Greis asked Gwen.
“Ah, not at the moment,” Gren replied, hoping he did not press for an answer. She had no desire to become part of a business at the moment.
“Well, worth a shot, guess I’ll figure something out,” Greis said. “Maybe just put it up for sale.” He apologized once more before walking out of the room
Gwen made her way back to the bath and settled back in beside Zoe who had been quiet during the engagement.
“You all right?” she asked.
“Yeah, they didn’t touch me,” Gwen replied. “Has that happened before?”
“In the bath was a first, seemed like he really wanted to harm us this time,” Valerie said, her voice a bit sad. Gwen settled back into the tub, allowing Zoe to snuggle up to her.
“Fighting power can do that sometimes to people, especially if it’s strong enough compared to others,” Gwen said. “Seen it happen before, think because they are strong it makes them right and everyone else is wrong.”
“You seemed to have some nice movers, were you trained? Valerie asked.
“You might say that,” Gwen answered. “It’s a painful story.”
“I see, then I won’t dwell on it,” Valerie said, much to Gwen’s relief.
“I’ve seen battles, and no longer want to be part of that world again,” Gwen said finally.
“Professional soldier, how high is your fighting power,” Valerie asked. Gwen felt aware that Zoe was listening in intently.
“High enough to get in trouble,” Gwen answered, remaining vague and hoping Valerie would get the hint and change the subject.
“Will he be back,” Zoe asked, redirecting the conversation back to Greis’ son.
“Probably not with the sheriff coming, and probably won’t be coming back until after we’ve left,” Valerie said.
“We should still be careful on the way out of Banding and back towards Setta,” Gwen replied, taking a moment to think about the situation from a tactical position. “He might view us as the ones responsible for all of his troubles. If that happens, he might try to ambush us on the way back.”
“Great,” Zoe replied. “Maybe with luck we won’t see him.”
Gwen had to agree with that assessment. She hoped nothing else happened on this mission.
“So, with Greis retiring, you didn’t want to deal with Leo,” Zoe said.
“Ah, no, not really, he’s always been hard to deal with,” Valerie said. “We’ve never gotten along much anyways.”
“Sounds like you’ve known him for a while,” Gwen asked.
“I knew a bit while growing up, when he entered his teens he changed, probably about the time he learned he had fighting power, and could bully others around,” Valerie said.
Gwen nodded, understand the statement. She had seen it before, but usually only lasted until someone else stronger came along. In the Realm, someone always seemed stronger than you.
Pushing the thoughts aside she leaned back to enjoy the bath. With Leo probably gone for the night, she could enjoy the bath at the moment.
Gwen shifted slightly allowing Zoe to get comfortable once more. They left Greis’ place after breakfast and made it out of Bonding without a problem. Now that they were on the trail she was alert for anything that might happen. After a few moments Zoe had found a bit more comfortable spot that did not tease her so much. Valerie mentioned it in the bath last night. Maybe later on Gwen might have some fun, but for now she focused on their surroundings.
Once on the road they had paired up with another traveler, his slave and two guards. He was a merchant headed to Setta for trade. Gwen hoped another person would deter Leo from anything. She glanced over at Valerie, who was talking with the merchant about some sort of normal business. She felt glad to not be part of the conversation.
“You okay,” Gwen asked Zoe, looking down at her.
“Yep, thinking,” Zoe replied.
“Oh, and what about?” Gwen asked, normally not one to pry. But she was curious and wondering if Zoe would tell her.
“Nothing much, only thinking about how my life might be if I hadn’t run into you that day,” she replied.
“I see,” Gwen said, thinking about that for a few seconds before asking the next question. “Good or bad?”
“I’d probably be a slave, and not for someone like Valerie, but probably Stephos,” Zoe said.
“Ah yes, him, haven’t seen him much lately,” Gwen said. “Guess we lost him a while ago.”
“I hope to never see him again,” Zoe replied. Gwen thought back to the man, and what he wanted from Zoe, and who the buyer behind that was. It had to be serious money for him to continue tracking Zoe, and even some bounty hunters, who were either hired by Stephos or the person trying to get Zoe.
Fighting powers up ahead meant someone was up there, and she concentrated on it for a few moment. There appeared to be someone and slowed her horse to get even with Valerie, who looked over at her.
“We’re about to have company, a person up ahead with a fighting aura,” Gwen said, watching as the others heard her.
“What nonsense, I don’t feel anything,” one of the guard said.
“There is someone there,” Gwen said, looking back at him.
“How many?” Valerie asked, slightly nervous, and probably thinking about Leo.
“Just one that I can tell, but there could always be others. Won’t be able to tell until we close the distance a bit more,” Gwen replied honestly. “Of course it might be a traveler, or guard, going the other way.”
She looked over seeing the guards no concentrating a bit more.
“Yep, there is someone, you must have a very developed sense,” the guard said.
“Had extensive training in the Realm,” Gwen replied, hoping that ended the conversation. She did not wish to get into a conversation about her background. The turned the corner and saw no one coming down the trail. She knew now they were walking either into an ambush or something else.
“Well, seems like we have a problem here,” the guard said, picking up on the situation of not seeing anyone.
“Yeah,” Gwen said, stopping. The others stopped as well, looking at the guards and Gwen.
“Let’s spring the trap,” Gwen stated, dismounting from her horse. “You two, protect them, I’ll go down and see who it is.”
“You sure?” one of the guards said.
“Yep, be just fine,” Gwen replied, giving Zoe a quick squeeze.
Moving forward she kept her senses alert for anything that might happen. She thought the aura felt familiar the closer she got to it reaching a point where they both knew about the other as her own fighting power came out a bit.
“You can come out, we both know we know your there,” Gwen said, looking in the direction of the guy. She watched as a figure stepped out of the bushes and sighed at the familiar sight. She really expected to see Leo, and instead Stephos walked out.
“Well, well, disappointed?” he asked.
“Yeah, thought you’d given up,” Gwen said, allowing her abilities to come out even more. Not as powerful, she did not wish to make a mistake against him, and looking for anyone else. He had to have someone else with him.
“And give up on what’s mine, you underestimate me,” Stephos said. “I have a stake in that girl, she is mine.”
Both of them drew their swords, as Gwen waited for him to spring the trap. She finally felt the mage in the shadows, and pulled out a throwing star before replying to him. “She’s my lover, not your slave.”
“What?” Stephos said, shocked at the statement. His face went red with rage at her comment form some reason. “How dare you, she was my ticket to greatness!”
Gwen really had no idea about that statement, but felt the mage pour magic out onto the road. Taking a quick jump off the road as the earth shot up missing her. An Earth mage she thought quickly before releasing the star forcing the mage to switch from offense to defense but was not quick enough. Injured his ability to interfere was now severely limited.
“Idiot,” Stephos yelled. “Can’t you do anything correctly?”
Gwen watched as he threw a dagger into the area striking the now defenseless mage before turning back to her. He looked at her for a second before starting an attack, charging straight forward with as much power as he processed.
Dodging the first strike, she avoided a second spotting two figures in the trees, and realized they were archers. Realizing her position she moved quickly putting herself in a better defensive position while avoiding another attack by Stephos. If she moved just right, she could keep him between her and the archers preventing them from firing.
Deflecting the next attack she watched his body language. His rage had not helped his attack, but he appeared more determined than ever. She understood to end this battle, one of them would have to die this time. He would not back down, nor leave them alone, and she doubted he would even give up at this point.
Switching from defense to offense she threw one star, hearing the man fall to the ground and kept her focus on Stephos. He was the main target in this battle. As the battle continued his rage took over, and his style deteriorated.
“You bitch, you ruined everything, don’t you realize that, everything,” he yelled at her, attacking once more in wide powerful sweeps completely foregoing any defense. “He wanted her, I was to be rich beyond my dreams.”
Gwen almost hesitated at the comment, the most information she had gained yet, and barely managed to block the strike aimed at her head.
“Really? Who wanted her?” Gwen asked, hoping to gain even more information from him. Who wanted Zoe this badly? What power did Zoe possess?
“Why? Going to sell her yourself? Doesn’t work that way,” Stephos said, almost gloating about that.
Gwen finally had an opening and threw the second star, hitting the second archer which allowed her to move around more freely. He might have another group around there, but she needed to go on the attack now. Using more strength than previous attacks she struck out, watching as Stephos barely blocked the strike, but stumbled backwards under the power. He recovered and attacked once more, leaving himself completely open. Gwen impaled him quickly, watching his face go from rage to shock at the situation.
He glanced down at the sword, then back up as she removed the sword from his chest. His sword clanked to the ground, and clutching his wound fell.
Gwen went over checking the others, both arches were dead, and she retrieved her stars, before looking at the mage. Stephos dagger had impaled him in the heart. Getting her last star she made her way back to the group, and a waiting Zoe.
“He didn’t hurt you?” Zoe asked when Gwen got close enough.
“Nope, got lucky, kept him between me and the archers,” Gwen replied, watching as Zoe looked her over anyways.
“Good,” Zoe said, finally through with her examination. They turned to see Valerie and Lori looking back at her with a bit of a shock.
“Well, not who I was expecting,” Valerie finally said.
“Me neither,” the other merchant said, causing Gwen to wonder if he had someone after him as well.
“Well, Stephos, a lot of people will be glad about this,” Valerie stated.
“Pain in the ass for a lot of us,” one of the guards said.
“Let’s get moving,” Gwen said.
“The reward?” one guard asked.
“Let someone else have it,” Gwen replied. “The reputation is something I don’t want.”
“But the money,” the younger of the two guard said.
“No, she’s right, such a reputation would only be a hassle,” the older guard said.
Gwen mounted the horse, helping Zoe up and placing her in front again. They still had a ways to go before reaching Setta, and someone else would claim the reward, She was looking forward to relaxing in a hot bath after all of this.
Gwen walked into the bath behind Zoe. Valerie asked them to stay the night after the completion of the mission, with the promise of a nice meal and hot bath. Zoe accepted right away before Gwen could even try to say yes.
“You know, I’ll miss seeing you in that outfit,” Gwen said, watching Zoe take off the skimpy dress that had been part of the slave image.
“And I can finally look at you without turning my head,” Zoe replied.
“I liked the position,” Gwen replied, with a smile.
“Yeah, it allowed you to stare down my dress all day long,” Zoe replied.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,’ Gwen shot back, seeing the green eyes darken slightly.
“Remember, paybacks,” Zoe said.
“Don’t doubt that at all,” Gwen said, getting into the tub to wash off the grim. She handed the soap to Zoe, watching as she dunked her head under the water. “Come here, I’ll get your hair.”
She washed the long tresses, taking a moment to enjoy the silky hair under her fingers. She always wanted longer hair, but it interfered with her fighting.
“Okay, now I’ll do yours,” Zoe said, after Gwen finished. She watched the smaller woman move around behind Gwen, and allowed her to do the same.
“Well, we have one part of the puzzle, and one problem solved with Stephos gone,” Gwen said.
“Yeah, but the conversation you two had, he yelled something about someone else wanting me,” Zoe said. “Did he say who?”
“No, but we can look out for him, we got rid of one person after you,” Gwen said. “You should be in the clear until information about Stephos being killed makes the rounds, and then they‘ll have to confirm it, and get a new contact out here. All that takes time which we can use to our advantage.”
“I guess so,” Zoe replied.
They moved out of the tub, dried off and dressed for the dinner Valerie promised them. Gwen noticed people were already at the dining room when they arrived. Gwen had seen some of them, but others she had not seen. She assumed they were all part of Valerie’s household. Valerie walked in with two more to bring the total to seven.
“Are we ready?” Valerie asked.
“Yes mistress,” one of the others said.
“Jasmine is bringing the food in right now,” Pam said, taking a seat next to Lori.
“Excellent,” Valerie said, looking towards Gwen and Zoe. “Won’t you have a seat?”
Zoe and Gwen sat down, looking over the seating as another person walked into the room with a platter of meat. Gwen assumed the red-head to be Jasmine. After setting the food down, Valerie said a grace, then started eating. Gwen watched as the group waited until Valerie, Zoe and her, had all taken some form themselves.
The food was very good, and knew that the cook could work in any royal palace. Taking a moment to watch the group. Despite the fact that Valerie took care of them, they did act like slaves to some extent. Gwen knew some owners never allowed slaves to eat at the same table, others had no problem with it. They seemed to respect each other, and even loved each other, but they needed one ruler, and Valerie was that ruler in this house.
Gwen listened in as Zoe talked with the others. The girl had been quiet during the trip and felt a bit relieved as she opened up again. Of course Zoe had been preoccupied by something else. On the way back Zoe had to maintain her slave position due to the other merchant. Now she could go back to being just Zoe.
“So, where are you from Zoe?” Valerie asked.
“A small town, don’t even think it had a name,” Zoe replied. “I was told my father died before my birth and my mother gave me up for adoption at the local temple.”
“That must have been tough,” Valerie said.
“What about you?” Zoe asked back.
“My mother split with my father when I was three, so I don’t remember him much,” Valerie said. “He cheated on her, which was grounds for a separation.”
Gwen nodded in understanding, something that happened a bit more often in the Shadowlands. Usually the couple separated, and if children were involved, the mother took the kids, the guy ended up marrying the woman if he got her pregnant, after paying off his first wife to help her live on her own.
“What about you?” Valerie said, looking over at Gwen.
“Ah,” Gwen said, hesitating for a moment. She thought quickly about what she might be able to say, and not lie. “Well, I had a falling out with my family you might say,” she finally said, not a lie, but also not telling the whole truth. “So, I don’t like talking about them much.”
“Family problems, I can understand that,” Valerie said, as they finished up the meal and dessert came out.
Gwen felt relieved when Valerie did not prod for more. The last thing she wanted to talk about was her past, and who she really was. She concentrated on the lovely dessert, a rich chocolate cake.
“So,” Valerie stated after dessert, “what powers do you have?”
Gwen looked up at Valerie, trying to figure out what to say that she did not already know. She had seen Gwen fighting, so it confused her at the question. To her surprise Valerie looked not at her, but over at a shocked Zoe.
“You are a latgic, are you not?” Valerie said, shocking Gwen watching as Valerie looked between the two of them for several seconds. Zoe raced from the room before anyone else could say anything leaving them sitting in silence before Valerie recovered enough to say something. “Oh my, I thought you knew, especially considering, well, I have made a mistake. I’m sorry.”
“Are you sure?” Gwen finally asked.
“Fairly certain, I have a detector I use, especially when looking for a slave,” Valerie said. “It’s crude, and only says if someone is or is not. It went off the moment I met you two. I knew Hans was not one, and you are not, considering your fighting power, it was the logical conclusion she was.”
“She didn’t tell me,” Gwen said silently, but it also made so much sense to her. It explained why Stephos was after her, and why this other person was after her as well.
“Latgics are very interesting people, as a group they are immensely distrustful of people, and yet, extremely loyal to those they hold dear,” Valerie said, looking around at the others in the room who had watched in silence. “They keep a lot of information quiet, and most don’t know the real facts about their powers. One is if they remain a virgin until they turn eighteen, then there powers will remain strong. Many who know will either wait to have sex, or have sex early depending on what their power is.”
Gwen thought about that, before coming to a realization of what Valerie said earlier. “That’s why you waited with Lori!”
“Yes, a bit selfish on my part,” Valerie said.
“Gwen, every one of us actually enjoys being in the service of our mistress,” Pam said. “Many nights if we are not chosen to be her bed mate, we sulk.”
That caused Gwen to laugh, seeing a group of girl sulking because they were not chosen.
“We are all important to the household,” Jasmine said. “Mistress bought me from my last master, who beat me every night for wanting to learn how to cook.”
“I was a child prostitute at the whore house in Banding,” Pam said.
“We all have our pasts, but we have come together as a family,” Lori said.
“Perhaps I should find Zoe,” Gwen said, thinking about what they said. Zoe left the table in a hurry, and the last thing she wanted to do, was roam around Setta looking for her.
“Speak from your heart,” Valerie said, causing Gwen to freeze for a second, recalling something she had been told by Eva, keep your luck in your heart.
“I will,” Gwen replied, walking towards their room.
Gwen paused at the door, scared to open it in case Zoe was gone. A hundred scenarios went thought her mind, before she finally opened the door, and let out a breath of relief seeing Zoe standing by the bed, her back to the door. A look at the bed indicated the girl had been packing, and stopped. Her heart broke at the sight, and almost could not face what might be happening. She moved to look out the window, seeing the large outdoor pool. The silence between the stretched out for several minutes before Gwen finally spoke.
“You are one, that’s why Stephos was after you.”
“Yes,” Zoe answered a few heartbeats later. “I bring luck to people, or so I’m told. Used as a thing, waiting as time passed until they took my virginity all so they could gain my power even more, and after that tossed aside and kept like a pet.”
Gwen heard the bitterness in Zoe’s voice at the bleak outlook she thought she had on life.
“Then you knew about the age factor?” Gwen asked.
“Oh yes, told about it from the time I was little, not much of a future if you ask me. Kept like a thing waiting to mature, all the while someone else is getting all the luck,” Zoe said. “You probably don’t want anything to do with me now, I lied and used you.”
Gwen heard the sorrow in the girl’s voice, and her own heart crumbled. She had to know one thing, and forced the question out bracing herself for the answer. “Can I ask one question, and get an honest answer?”
“Okay,” the reply came back after several heartbeats.
“Do you feel anything for me?” Gwen asked. Possibly the most important question. The silence went on for too long and reached for the window sill to remain steady while locking her eyes on the pool, and the ripple of the water.
“My plan, after seeing how strong you were, was to seduce you and leave,” Zoe said. Gwen blinked back the sudden tears from the answer. “But then, something happened I didn’t expect,” Zoe continued on, and Gwen felt arms wrap around her waist, as Zoe placed her cheek between her shoulders. “I didn’t expect the loving touch, how much you made me feel that day in the cave.”
Gwen felt her heart stop, then beat double time at that admission.
“Every moment since then, I’ve liked you more and more, I want to be with you. I knew you were beautiful the first moment I saw you, jumping down from the trees to rescue me, like you read about in the fairy tales. I think a part of me fell in love with you at that moment, I wanted to tell you, but,” she trailed off.
“You were scared of my leaving you,” Gwen guessed, knowing she had the same fear.
Gwen turned around to face Zoe, placing her arms around the girl, seeing that she too was crying. “I knew you had a secret, we all carry our secrets,” Gwen finally said, leaning down giving her a light kiss, not demanding, but reassuring.
“Are we okay?” Zoe asked, her voice small, full of fear of loss.
“Yeah, but let’s go to bed, I’m wiped,” Gwen replied, more worn out than any battle she had been in before. Emotional battles were harder than she thought.
A knock on the door interrupted them. She looked over seeing Pam’s head poke into the room after a few seconds.
“Mistress was concerned, but I can see things have worked out, yes?” Pam said.
“Yes,” Gwen said, her arms still wrapped around Zoe for the emotional support the younger girl needed.
“Good, she was worried,” Pam replied.
“She was fearful she said too much, and doesn’t want to come in herself?” Gwen guessed.
“Something like that,” Pam said. “She really is a good person. Don’t be mad at her.”
“We know, tell her we’ll see her in the morning,” Zoe answered.
“Very well,” Pam said, giving Gwen a smile before closing the door.
“Time for bed,” Gwen said, yawning. They both undressed and slipped into bed. Gwen smiled as Zoe snuggled up, and despite both being nude, she felt only happiness to be this close to someone else once more.