Lucky Luck – part 9

Lucky Luck

by AJ Marks

Part 9: A Lucky Town


Gwen guided the horse down the path.  A gift from Valerie as a peace offering for what she had said, and for services rendered.  Gwen and Zoe reluctantly accepted, and Valerie reassured Zoe that the saddle was normal this time.  Zoe had fallen asleep not long ago as the motion from the horse lulled her into sleep after the emotional time the past few days since leaving Setta.  Traveling between towns would be quicker now with transportation, and most towns had a stable she could keep Eros at.

After leaving Setta they had talked a bit more about her being a latgic.  To Gwen it explained so much, from why people wanted Zoe, to her incredible luck.  Zoe had not seen herself as lucky, and Gwen could understand.  From her point of view it would seem like everyone but her got lucky, they always won against what she wanted.  Gwen had defended her against Stephos, and others before she even knew about the situation.  So Stephos had not gained all her luck, because if he had, Gwen would have lost that first battle with him.

Gwen mused he probably followed them into town, expecting them split up, like they had done.  However he had not expected the town to be so crowded, nor of them sharing a room.  She told Zoe that her luck did affect her, after all, everything that seemed to happen since then directly affected her.

Looking down the road she spotted a couple of travelers approaching from the opposite direction.  She took a moment to study them, noting their appearance.  Their clothing appeared unkempt, and a general uneasiness about them.  Extending her aura she found no one hiding nearby.  Slowing down a bit she waved at them.

“Hello,” she said, greeting them.

“Aye,” the man replied with a nod, giving her a wary glance as if he expected her to attack.  She assumed her armor and sword might give a more hostile appearance than a merchant or other traveler.

“Any trouble ahead?” Gwen asked.

“Might say that,” he replied to her.  “If you go that way, expect it.”

“Thanks for the warning, didn’t see anything behind us to Setta,” Gwen said, wondering what he meant.

“First luck I’ve had in a while then,” he mumbled as they continued on down the road.

Gwen wondered what he meant.  He looked like he had been travelling for a while now.  She thought about turning around, but this route was the quickest to the town of Cornell.  Zoe had mentioned wanting to shop there, the largest market in the Shadowlands.  Their recent missions meant they had the money, and she might find something interesting there.

Gwen kept an eye on the road, and around them noticing that the trail seemed to get darker, and everything screamed out a warning.  She considered listening to the man’s warnings but was already too far along to turn around.  Turning around a bend the town came into sight.  She nudged Zoe slightly feeling the girl move around a bit as she woke up.

“Huh?” she mumbled slightly, confused from her nap.

“We’re almost at the village, we’ll rest here and move on to Cornell tomorrow,” Gwen said, her plan for their traveling completed.

“Oh, can’t believe I fell asleep,” she said.

“Well, a lots happen in the past couple of days,” Gwen said.  “I’d say emotionally you needed that sleep.”

“Yeah, I didn’t get much the past couple of night,” Zoe replied, something they both knew.  Zoe had been tense the first day after they left Setta despite Gwen’s reassurances.  Everything that she had bottled up inside had finally come out over the past few days.  “Um, you know Gwen, this town has a different vibe going for it.”

“Yeah,” Gwen replied, spotting several houses, an inn, a tavern, smithy, a few shops and a stable, but everyone looked at her with caution.  Guiding Eros towards the stable she watched the man look up, a guarded look crossing his face.  “How much to stable her for the night?”

“Staying, you’re better off continuing on stranger,” he said, taking Gwen by surprise.

“If you don’t want my coins just say so,” Gwen said, looking at the man for a few seconds.  He scratched his chin for a second looking them over before saying anything.

“Just givin’ you some friendly advice ma’am, if you want to stay, two creds,” he finally said.

Gwen dismounted, helping Zoe down next before taking two coins out of her coin purse, and handing them to the man.  Taking off their packs, she watched as he led the horse into the stable and began taking off the saddle and brushing him down with an expert hand.

Zoe stayed close to her as they made their way across the street to the inn.  Inside things did not get any better.  Everyone stopped to stare at them.  Gwen ignored the stares, heading over to where the innkeeper stood. She felt Zoe move even closer under the scrutiny.

“How much for the night?” Gwen asked, watching as he looked back at her with almost a sense of disbelief.

“If you want to stay, your choice, I wouldn’t, but if you do, five creds,” he said.

Gwen took out a few more coins handing them to the man.  The entire attitude of the town seemed very strange to her.  They had an attitude of a group who did not want to do business, trying to get people to move on.  It was filled with secrets, and Gwen decided to keep her senses tuned in for any trouble.

“Second door on the right, the bath is at the end of the hall,” he told them, pointing to the hallway.

Gwen nodded her thanks moving towards the hall and to their room.  They remained silent for the moment until they reached the town before Zoe finally said anything.

“What’s up with this town?” she asked.

“I don’t know, I don’t get a threatening feeling from them, more like a defeated attitude,” Gwen said.  “Besides, it’s only for a night, we should get some rest for now.”

“Well, I’m more interested in a bath and a meal,” Zoe said.

“A meal would mean being in that room,” Gwen said, wondering if they should try to go out.

“Let see if they have anything to eat, I really don’t want trail bars again,” Zoe said, indicating the last town.

“That wasn’t my fault, I had no idea the innkeeper couldn’t cook,” Gwen said.

“I guess what they fix can’t be that bad,” Zoe said.

“Come on, let’s get wet,” Gwen said, waggling her eyebrows, hearing Zoe giggle.


Gwen knew they were all looking at her and Zoe.  Since they entered the town it seemed that people looked at them, but the reason why had yet to be discovered.  They seemed suspicious of something making Gwen wonder what had happened.  The food served was very good, not large portions, but good anyways.  The inn seemed to be in excellent condition, and the bath was superb.  What was going on in this town?  Even looking out at the market, it hinted at a time when things had recently been better.

“You know,” Zoe said, leaning forward so only Gwen could hear, “I’ve noticed no kids, have you?”

Gwen blinked at the statement.  She recalled everything she had seen, and could not recall a single child.  It could explain the attitude.  She thought a bit more and realized even younger people she did not recall seeing.  Most were either her age or older.  The idea rolled around in her mind as she ate, taking a look around.

She sensed a few fighting aura and waited, looking at the doorway, watching as three men dressed in armor, and armed walked into the inn.  They took a moment to look around focusing not on Gwen, but Zoe.  She quickly determined their fighting ability, one seemed to be a level eight, the other two level ten.  Their gaze lingering on Zoe only caused Gwen’s eyes to narrow, perceiving a threat to her lover.

“Well, lookie here boys, a fresh face,” the leader said, moving towards the table.  Gwen stood blocking their path, wishing she had not taken off her armor or sword.  The leader looked at her, then back at Zoe before saying anything.  “I suggest you move, you might get hurt girlie.”

“That’s my lover you’re looking at, and you’re making her uncomfortable,” Gwen growled, standing up to the man, who appeared confused that someone dared stand up against him.  She allowed her fighting power to rise with the threat.

“You’re cute, but too old,” the leader said, looking at Gwen.  “The rule is we take who we like, and we like your girlie there,” he said, moving forward to push Gwen aside.  Reaching out she blocked his attempt with her superior speed then took his sword before he could even react.

“New rule, you go back to whatever hole you climbed out of, don’t show your face again to me or my lover, and I let you live,” Gwen said, giving the sword a twirl.  “And I keep the sword, though it’s a bit inferior quality.”

The three men looked stupefied at what happened.  She had the feeling they were not used to people standing up against them for whatever reason.

“Yeah right, one pretty girl against three of us, and we have fighting power too,” one of the other two said.  Gwen looked over at him wondering if he was that stupid.  When they drew their swords she had her answer, and felt Zoe move back giving her room in the upcoming fight.  She smiled a bit at that move, before concentrating on the men in front of her.

“How about this rule, we kill you and take the girl anyways,” the leader said.  “Get her!”

Gwen sighed, blocking the first strike and then counter-attacking.  She sliced through the first man’s armor but avoided cutting him, taking a few more swipes and removing his armor while blocking their attacks.

“You’re nowhere near my level,” Gwen said to them, watching the armor on the man fall off causing him to stumble slightly while trying to hold his armor up.

“Time for you to die,” the leader said, rushing forward in rage.

“Fine,” Gwen replied, making two short strikes.  The leader stumbled stunned, before falling to the ground dead.

“Y-You killed him, impossible,” one of the two said.

Gwen frowned, they were not immortal, nor did they have a high fighting power so why would they think she could not kill one of them.  They both turned, running from the inn, one trying to hold his armor up so he did not trip.

Gwen tossed the sword down onto the leader’s body not needing it anymore before turning to see if Zoe was all right.  She endured a return check out before glancing around the inn, seeing everyone look at her with wonder.  One approached looking at the man then over at her.

“You beat him?” he said, his voice full of wonder.  Gwen had a feeling she might finally understand what was going on in the village.

“They had low fighting power, nothing I couldn’t handle,” Gwen said, unsure why they seemed so surprised by her victory.

“And you didn’t stumble, or have your weapon shatter,” the man said.

“Why would it do that, even without the weapon it was not much of a fight,” Gwen said, looking over at Zoe who shrugged her shoulders.

“Every other person who challenged them, every mercenary we hired stumbled, or something happened to cause them to lose,” the man replied back.  “It didn’t matter how strong, then you come in and do this.  I don’t understand.”

Gwen thought about that, sitting back down.  It sounded like magic to her, but she knew of no mage who could produce such magic for so long.  “Perhaps they did not expect to see me here,” Gwen said finally.  “Had no time to prepare a spell, or curse.”

“But, they will return,” the man said, turning to walk back to a group of people.

“That’s weird,” Zoe whispered to her, sitting down as well.  Gwen looked over at the villagers, who now looked at her now with the mistrust, but something else.  Two quickly left the inn as they huddled.

Gwen continued to eat her meal, wondering what might happen next, watching as a few more men came in.  A couple of men walked over to drag the body out of the inn, and the innkeeper began to clean up.  Finally a few made their way toward her.

“Well, looks like we’re about to be dragged into whatever is going on here,” Gwen said, looking over at Zoe.  She really did not wish to get involved, but would listen.  “Your shopping trip might be delayed.”

She smiled at the pout Zoe gave her, reminding her of the look she gave back in the cave.  That now seemed so long ago to her.  They both had been through so much.  Turning she looked up at the man who now stood by their table waiting for him to talk.

“I know you don’t have to help us, but we’re begging you.  We’ve seen you’re strength, you can beat them,” he said, causing Gwen to look over at Zoe.  They both were confused but waited to hear more.  “It started a month ago, everything started going badly.  Small things, merchants robbed, they started leaving town, the crops started to fail.  Everything went downhill, then the raiders came, the worst type.”

He paused in his story, and Gwen waited knowing this part would be the most important part of the story.  There were many types of raiders, but she had an idea of what they took.

“They rode in, taking only our children, and anyone young enough, usually under twenty years,” he said.  “Young people like your partner there.”

Gwen saw the emotional look on his face, and the shocked horrified look on Zoe’s face as their suspicions were confirmed about the children of the town.

“We tried to fight back, but we’re farmers and merchants, not warriors.  They killed anyone who tried.  We hired mercenaries, but they always lost, until no one would take our money to help us,” he said to them, his face changing to one of pleading.  “Help us please, we beg you.”

Gwen looked over at Zoe, knowing they were a team, so they both had to make the decision.  She knew by looking what Zoe would do.  The market would still be there, this town needed help.  The fact they took the children meant only one conclusion, slavers.  Taking slaves like this never set well with Gwen, and was considered illegal in the Realm.

“All right, what can you tell me?” Gwen asked him, seeing a look of determination of Zoe’s face as they took the job.  “Do you know anything about their hideout?  What forces they employ?  Fighters?  Mages?”

“We don’t know, we’ve tried to find them.  Anyone who has gone out either never returned, or never found anything,” the man replied, the defeated tone in his voice evident.  He had tried at least once she assumed.

“Do you know which direction they went?” Gwen asked.

“The same way they always head, we can show you,” he said.

“All right, I’ll go have a look and see what I can find,” Gwen said, seeing Zoe give her a look.

“I’ll see you outside of town,” he said.

“Good, I’ll go change then,” Gwen said, knowing Zoe would follow her back to the room, and what she would say.  They headed to the room where she kept her armor and weapons.

“So, why can’t I go?” Zoe asked.  “Thought we were a team?”

“We are, I need you to stay here, I can move quicker by myself,” Gwen said, putting on the light armor, nothing shiny that might reflect light.  She wanted to be quick and stealthy, not heavily armed for combat.  That was not her goal.

“I can watch your back,” Zoe said.

“I might have to move quickly, and if I’m worried about you I might not move fast enough.  It sounds like they have guards and traps set up around their camp, I don’t want to worry about you, besides, I’m not engaging them, only seeing what their camp is like,” Gwen said to her.

“Well, all right, but I don’t like it,” Zoe said, crossing her arms.

“I have no intention of doing anything stupid, go out there and get information, nothing more, nothing less,” Gwen said.  “Besides, I have luck on my side.”

“People I care about can still die,” Zoe said, unhappy.

“I’ll use my full power to get back if I have to, I promise,” Gwen said.

She walked back outside meeting up with the man who pointed in the direction the men came left from.

“They always come from and leave in this direction,” the man said.

“Okay,” Gwen said, wondering if they did that to hide their camp, or if they were so confident they did not care.  Giving Zoe a kiss, she headed off to find the camp.  She used her training for signs of the raiders, and for any traps.


Gwen paused, she had traveled for a while now, and the moon was high overhead.  She heard voices on the wind, and knew she was closing in.  Taking to the trees she moved in closer, pausing at one branch, seeing a crude trap, and disabled it.  Her instinct was confirmed, they had set up traps, and from the looks of it, they did not consider anyone approaching from the trees like she was now doing.  She continued to move closer until she could make out the voices.

“Idiots!” she heard a man say.  She extended her aura, feeling around for other fighters.  She found about a dozen or so, all around the same power, one was a larger one, and a couple of mages.  Quite an impressive collection of people Gwen thought to herself, and they would probably be well organized.

“I’m telling you, that woman was dangerous, took Eric’s sword from him before he could even move.  The spell wasn’t working on her,” one voice said, confirming what Gwen thought.  They had put a spell on the village as she got a bit closer, now able to see four men in the clearing.  Two were the ones she fought, a third had the large power level, and the forth watched in silence.

“That’s impossible, the spell effects them all.  Anyone who enters the town is effected, no excuses” the one with the powerful fighting aura said, and probably the leader of the group.

“Yeah, but-”

“No buts, you failed, how I don’t know,” the leader said.  “Did you find anything else out?”

“The bitch has a cute partner, would probably be worth a lot at the slave market,” one finally said.

“I ain’t tangling with that monster again, send someone else if you want that cutie,” the second one said.  “She ripped apart my armor while fighting all three of us, take me a week to get back right.”

Gwen smiled at that.  He sounded afraid of her, exactly what she wanted them to be.  It made things easier, but she also had some questions.  How had she beaten the spell?  What did the spell effect?  Was her fighting level so high it was able to overpower it, or, perhaps, was luck involved?

“Tell me what happened from the beginning,” the leader said.

“We entered the town like you said, and surprised them real good,” one said.

“Yeah, they were not expecting us,” the second one said.

“Anyways, we entered the inn, Eric looked around, and we spotted this cutie, went to take her when that bitch stood up to us.  Didn’t back down when threatened, in fact threatened us in return,” the first once said.  “We attacked, but she took Eric’s sword, then fought all three of us before Eric rushed her.  She killed him, and we fled.”

“Why didn’t the magic affect her?” the second one said.

“I don’t ‘know, she should have been effected, not good,” the leader said, starting to pace in circles.  “First our meeting with Stephos is delayed, now this.”

Gwen stiffed upon hearing that name.  So this group was working with Stephos somehow.  She wondered what type of power vacuum she had created by killing the man.  Rapid footsteps approached them, and she was a young man come running up to him obviously using some sort of wing magic.  A courier of some type.

“Louis, I have news,” the man said, looking right at the leader, giving Gwen a name to the man.

“Well, spit it out, I don’t have all night,” Louis replied back.

“Yes sir, well its Stephos, one of him men came in saying he’s dead,” the man said.  Gwen wished she could see Louis’ face better as he heard the news.

“What?  Impossible!  No one is strong enough to take him out.  What group got him?” Louis asked, having stopped his pacing.

“The rumor on the wind is one woman did it,” the reply came back.

“One woman?”  Louis said, going silent in thought.  Gwen rubbed temple knowing things had gotten complex with that information being out there.  It would be sure to come up in conversations all over the place.  She would have to be more careful in the future.  Louis had turned back to the courier.  “Do you have a description?”

“No,” the man said.  Gwen sighed, luck had been on her side there.

“It has to be the same one, who else it strong enough to overcome such magic?” one of the two she fought said.

“Head back to the camp, and it may not be the same one, there are bounty hunters from the Realm who are stronger than Stephos,” Louis said, obviously smart enough to know such things.

Gwen watched as they headed in a certain direction before continuing after them.  She finally saw the camp laid out before them, and her higher view point gave her a clearer sense of how the camp was laid out.  Several tents housing the men were off to one side.  A pen for horses and wagons on another side.  Cages full of children off to one side, covered with a tent, and several larger tents, one she assumed was Louis’.

With a rough idea of how the camp was laid out she made her way back to the inn.  She paused hearing a man ahead of her, and walking towards the town.  She quietly followed, wondering what he might be doing.  She did not feel any magic from him, so he was not a mage.  Following him she continued on as he made his way around the village and headed to a small camp.  He hesitantly approached, seeing an older woman walk out of the tent.

“You’re still here,” the man said, seeing her.

“Yeah, not that it’s gotten me anything,” the woman said, her tone bitter.  Gwen thought she looked a bit familiar but could not recall having ever met her before.

“Louis wants to know if you’ve been away at any time?” the man said.

“No, I keep my contracts,” she replied back to him.

“Good, otherwise you know what will happen, we’ll kill your daughter,” the man said.

Gwen sighed, wondering why things were getting complex.  She had an idea that the woman was a latgic, but what her ability was, she had no idea.  And if she was a latgic, why was Gwen not effected.  Was her connection with Zoe cancelling that effect?

“So why are you here?” the woman asked, causing Gwen to refocus on the conversation.

“We lost a man, someone new entered the town,” the man said.

“Perhaps your man forgot his protection?” the woman said, seemingly uncaring about what happened to the raiders.

“I’d watch that tone of yours,” the man replied back to her.  “We could kill you.”

“You need me too much to kill me, and you have my daughter,” the woman spat out.  “I won’t leave, but I can’t help you in this, I don’t know.”

Gwen took the opportunity to leave the camp and head back to the town.  She had some information but now needed to figure out what to do next.  Would they try to attack the town tomorrow?  She quickly headed back knowing Zoe probably would be waiting for her.

She found Zoe pacing the floor of the inn, along with a tired innkeeper, and a few more people she did not recognize.  Zoe almost launched herself into Gwen’s arms, relieved that she had come back in one piece.  Gwen returned the embrace, knowing Zoe had been worried.  The rest of the group seemed to not care.

“Merchants, looking for a place to trade tomorrow,” Zoe said, answering the question she had.

“Then they got some good news then,” Gwen said, looking around at the group.  “I’d be careful though, they have a dozen or so fighters, a couple of mages and I am assuming a latgic to go with another dozen people who don’t have powers.”

“So, what’s the plan?” Zoe asked, her voice full of worry.

“No plan yet,” Gwen replied, not saying anything about the conversation about Stephos being involved.  She figured Zoe did not need to hear that name.  “I don’t know about you, but freeing the children is a huge priority,”

“What type of magic does the latgic have?” one of the villages asked, having listened in.

“We could go after this latgic, get rid of him,” another village said.

“No, she’s being forced, something about her daughter being held captive as well,” Gwen replied.  “I think we can come up with a plan in the morning.  And without knowing what her magic is, it would be foolish to rush out and confronting her.”

Gwen looked at the group, then over at Zoe before heading towards their room.  They had no idea she had been at their camp, which gave her a slight advantage.  Perhaps in the morning some plan might come around.


Gwen looked out from the window towards the village.  She had woken up early and gently managed to crawl out of bed without disturbing Zoe.  She pondered what to do with the slaver group, but nothing came to mind.  A full frontal assault meant she was outnumbered by too much.  That and they could use the hostages against her.  She came to the realization she probably needed help, and no villager with fighting power.

She paused, feeling a fighting aura approaching the village.  Moving to the shadow of the room she watched the road into the village.  Finally a person entered her view, but one she did not wish to see.  A bounty hunter she knew had high fighting power, and knew she was here.  In a town where no one had fighting powers, she stuck out.

“Something wrong?” Zoe asked, wrapping her arms around Gwen.

“Yeah, but things might have gone from bad to worse,” Gwen replied, still looking over at the bounty hunter.

“Someone you know,” Zoe asked, looking out the window.

“Might say that,” Gwen answered, unsure how much to say.

“Old lover?”

Gwen coughed before replying.  “Um, no, nothing like that.”

“Good, come on, I’m hungry,” Zoe said, moving away to get dressed.  Gwen took one last look then went to get dressed herself.  She thought about hiding in the room and maybe attacking the slaver camp, but the only real problem there, ever plan she came up with, ended in disaster either for her or the children.

Finally she followed Zoe and headed back to the tavern part of the inn, taking a table.  A few more people were eating, including some of the merchants from last night.  Probably wishing to get a good day of trading ahead.  The innkeeper brought over some breakfast, apologizing for the small amount, stating he did not have much.  Zoe thanked him before digging in.

She noticed they had an egg, and some toast, not too bad, she had worst breakfasts, and better.  The door opened allowing Zeltran to enter the room.  Gwen froze slightly as their eyes locked.  She knew he recognized her, and he also knew she recognized him.  To her surprise he moved off and sat down near a corner where he could overlook the room.  She was not sure what she expected upon seeing him.  Somehow he knew she was alive.

“You’re not going to do anything are you?” Zoe asked, having watched the way the two acted.

“No,” Gwen replied, wondering what type of question that was.

“Is he strong?” Zoe asked, catching Gwen off guard with the question.  She looked over at Zoe for a second before answering.

“Strong, yeah, stronger than Stephos,” Gwen said, knowing that most in the hunter’s Guild were strong, and trained.

“So why can’t he help you?  You two know each other,” Zoe replied.  Gwen opened her mouth and shut it thinking of a good reply.  However, Zoe stood and made her way over to him.

Gwen watched dumbfounded, as Zoe talked with Zeltran.  She could not hear what they said, but from his body language it appeared Zoe caught him off guard.  He looked as uncomfortable as Gwen felt.  Zoe became more animated, moving her arms around as she talked.  The girl pressed her points and then, Zoe hopped a bit obviously happy about something.  Gwen realized Zoe now dragged him across the area to where she was.

“Hello Zeltran,” Gwen said, watching his eyes, hiding well anything he might have thought.

“Gwen,” he replied, almost like a question.  She knew by his tone what he meant, the name she used in the Shadowlands, her middle name.  “You’re friend here says you need some help?”

“You might say that,” Gwen replied, knowing he knew her full abilities.  “The problem is the children of the town.  They were captured by the slavers, the village asked me to rescue them.  The camp has about a dozen fighters, two mages and an additional dozen regulars.”

She watched him go over that information for a few seconds.  Usually a bounty hunter worked for the highest bid, and Zeltran was no different.

“You taking on charity missions now?” he asked, looking around the inn.  “Not like you.”

“You don’t know me anymore,” Gwen said, hoping to avoid any conversations of the past.  He however seemed determined to bring it up.  “I could use your help.”

“Maybe, what’s in it for me?” he replied, giving the answer she thought he would.

“The typical bounty hunter question, how about doing something right for a change?  Those kids are being sold as slaves, that is illegal even in the Realm,” Gwen said.  She hoped he had some honor to work with.  He stood silent for several seconds before making his reply.

“I guess, however, I have a price,” he told her.

Gwen looked at him, then at Zoe, and even at the rest of the villagers who had been listening in.  She had little choice if she wanted to rescue the kids.  He would be stronger than any of the fighters, and knew how to handle himself in a fight.  He could also think and act quickly if a situation changed quickly.

“Deal,” Gwen said.  She had a partner, but hoped his price was not too high.

“So, you saw their camp I take it, you know their numbers,” he said to her getting down to business.

“Yeah,” Gwen said, moving plates and glasses around, along with other things making a crude design of the camp.  “General layout, most of the personal tents over here, horses stabled over here, the leader’s tent here, his name is Louis, heard it last night.”

“Louis?” Zeltran said, his voice changing slightly.

“Yeah, you know him?” Gwen asked.

“Louis the slaver, yeah, this might be profitable after all,” he said, suddenly looking much more interested in the layout than before.  She wondered who this Louis was, and how much he was worth.

“They have traps set out all around the camp, I disabled a few last night, and if we take to the trees, can avoid them,” Gwen said, recalling last night.

“What am I, a monkey?” Zeltran replied, looking at her with a raised eyebrow.

“I can go in front and disable all the traps in your path,” Gwen said, knowing what his answer would be.  Partners they might be, but not enough to trust each other.

“You’ve gained a sense of humor,” Zeltran said, returning his attention back to the table.

“The children are here, they have a few guards, not many on alert, they must think their traps are effective in keeping people out,” Gwen said to him.  She had not seen any guards at all last night, but assumed there had to be at least a few.

“Expected of Louis,” Zeltran said, sitting down as Gwen waited for the explanation.  “He’s been doing this for about a dozen years now.  He’ll go, strip a village of all their kids and anyone who can be sold as a slave, then go into hiding for a couple of years.  Almost everyone who is involved in the operation meets a mysterious death, which allows him to keep almost all the profit.  He has a few higher backers, like Stephos and such who he sells them to.”

Gwen thought about that, watching Zoe react to the name.

“He deals with Stephos,” Zoe said.

“He did, until recently,” Zeltran said, looking at Gwen, obvious he knew who had killed Stephos.  “Does he know about what happened?”

“If you mean Stephoes being dead, yeah, a courier informed him last night,” Gwen said.

“Then we have an advantage,” Zeltran said suddenly.  “Louis will not move if he has no one to sell the kids to.  His focus will probably be on getting a new backer, which means he won’t be expecting a break in.”

“So we should move fast,” Gwen said.

“Yes,” Zeltran said.  “We should go as soon as possible.  I think the best solution is for me to infiltrate the camp, and get the kids out of the cages.”

“Why you?’ Zoe asked, speaking up again.

“I can pick a lock, part of my skills, I doubt Gwen can,” Zeltran said smugly.

“Well, he’s got me on that, I usually rely on brute force,” Gwen said, knowing she never learned that ability.  She had been lazy relying on her power for such things.  “I take it I’m watching your back for any guards and providing an area for the children to gather.”

“Yeah, it might work, if everything goes to plan, and the kids don’t get too excited,” Zeltran aid.

Gwen realized that would be the biggest problem, the children.  They would have to remain quiet until they were far enough away from the camp.

“And we should do it at night,” Zeltran said.

Gwen had no problem with that, it allowed more cover for their escape.  “We should probably leave soon.”

“If you’re going to do this at night, why leave now?” Zoe asked, confused at the turn in the conversation.

“We’ll have to disable the traps to provide a path for the children, and we don’t want to miss any,” Gwen said seriously.  “It might take time, especially if they have a few more guards out.”

“Oh, I see,” Zoe said.

“Then I better get something to eat,” Zeltran said, making his way back over to his table.  Gwen considered several angles and knew they had the best solution at the moment.  Louis would probably retaliate.  They could plan for that after the children were safe.

End part 9 continued in part 10

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