by AJ Marks
Part 10: A Lucky Town II
Gwen and Zeltran had disabled several traps already, working out a large enough path for the escape, in case the kids tried to move in a different direction by accident. Several traps were well hidden, but were easily spotted from above. Louis never considered someone in the trees to approach the camp.
They went through the path several times, and counted the guards, when they walked though, and how often. One flaw to Louis’ defenses, the guards never checked to see if the traps were still working, only if someone had been caught in them. They were finally satisfied with the work and settled in on waiting for nightfall.
Now however, it meant she had to spend time with Zeltran. He had worked quietly and efficiently with her, and looking over at him, he merely looked on comfortably watching the camp and its activity. She was ready to go, and he looked so relaxed. She looked over watching as the guard switched. Louis paced around the camp several times, with couriers racing to and from the camp. He had to be working on getting a new backer for his slaves.
Three new riders came into the camp, and Gwen froze a bit, recognizing them, hoping this did not complicate things. With the arrival of Leo, it appeared Louis had a new backer. The man worked quickly in Gwen’s opinion.
“You know, I never said what my fee was,” Zeltran said in a quiet voice.
“And what is your fee?’ Gwen asked, hoping it was not something outrageous.
“Listening to me for a couple of minutes,” he said. It sounded like an easy request, but one that had a lot of unwanted problems. An uneasy feeling of why he might want to talk to her settled in her gut.
“I guess, don’t expect the answer you want though,” Gwen said.
“Fair enough, after all, you’re a bounty hunter now,” Zeltran said.
“What, does everyone know?” Gwen replied.
“No, only those who pay attention, a strong woman bounty hunter suddenly pop up,” Zeltran said. “Didn’t take us long to put two and two together.”
Gwen fell silent as darkness fell. “Should probably get moving,” Gwen said, looking up at the moon, then over at him. He nodded in agreement, dropping down to the ground. She watched as he snuck over to the guard, quietly taking him out as Gwen kept an eye on the others. Dropping down she moved over to the spot where she would wait for the children.
She watched as Zeltran made his way quietly towards the children’s cages, amazed at how quiet he was. A few children were still awake, and watched him approach with fear in their eyes, and moved back with his approach.
Gwen looked around the camp for anyone who might be looking in their direction. Most everyone appeared asleep, or by the fires not paying attention to what was going on. Zeltran had picked the lock and motioned the children forward, who were waking up others. He said something to them, motioning for them to keep quiet. Whatever he said, it seemed to work, as he pointed over to where Gwen waited.
The first children raced across, the older ones helping out the younger ones as they quietly made their way over. Gwen considered herself lucky that the first cage was emptied so smoothly and they were already on the second cage.
Any kid that tried to say something the others shushed them, knowing what was at stake. The older ones understood what was going on, and worked with them to keep the younger ones quiet. Zeltran made his way back with the last of the kids.
“Seems like we have two different villages here, Louis is getting greedy,” Zeltran said, both knowing that was when you made mistakes and were caught.
“Deal with that once we get back,” Gwen said. “Let’s get out of here before they notice the empty cages, they might not have tight security, but I don’t feel like pushing my luck.”
Zeltran agreed, and they moved out back to the village. He took the lead, while she took the rear, allowing their abilities to work best. He could deal with any unexpected guards, and if they went to attack, she could fight to her full ability allowing the kids to escape. The further they got from the camp the noisier the kids got, excited about their escape.
Entering the village only a few people were awake, which quickly changed as shouts indicated reunions occurring. Children ran to their homes waking up their parents. All over the same was happening as parents came out of their house, profusely thanking her and Zeltran. They both felt uncomfortable with the praise, even as Zoe found her, wrapping an arm around her waist.
“You did good,” Zoe said to her.
“Yeah, I guess I did,” Gwen said, looking at the town. “However, we’re not done, that camp is still there.”
“They will probably attack, Louis can be hot tempered,” Zeltran said, even as a distant rumble of thunder rolled through the town causing them all to look up. In the distance she spotted a flash of lightning. “Well, maybe not, Louis is nothing but predictable with weather. He’ll wait for the storm to finish, doesn’t like to work out in the rain.”
“In which we can rest a bit,” Gwen said, knowing they had been up for a while.
“Sounds good,” Zeltran said.
Gwen headed towards the inn, thinking about some things. Inside she found a few men, and a few of the kids.
“From another town,” the innkeeper said. “House them here for the night and tomorrow work on getting them back home.”
“Have a few people stand guard, don’t think Louis will do anything until after the storm, but just to make sure, don’t want to be caught completely napping. They’ll probably attack after the rain sometime,” Gwen told him.
“Think we can handle that, we’ve been keeping an eye out for a while now, sure several of us have no problem with this,” he replied. “And, thank you.”
Gwen blushed at the compliment, but headed off with a supportive Zoe beside her.
Gwen relaxed in the bath, Zoe sitting between her legs. The smaller woman had taken the opportunity to inspect every inch of her looking for any sign of injuries. Gwen allowed it, knowing it meant she cared, before they settled down. Gwen might have protested a bit, but silently loved it.
“I take it things went well,” Zoe stated.
“Yeah, the whole way was quite smooth. The people at the camp acted way too relaxed for what they were doing,” Gwen said, pausing to think about it. “It might have something to do with that latgic.”
“You think?” Zoe said, pausing to look up as the rain started to come down, quite heavily. “Well, that will help their crops this year.”
“Seems like they are getting some luck,” Gwen said, encircling Zoe with her arms.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Zoe replied, leaning back into the embrace. Gwen placed a kiss on the crown of the blonde hair, feeling Zoe’s hands move up and down her thighs.
“Feeling frisky?” Gwen asked, into the closest ear, feeling a slight shiver go through the body.
“Well, you have been ignoring me,” Zoe said.
“Ignoring you, never, when,” Gwen replied
“All day today, and most of the night,” Zoe replied, shifting slightly so she could look back at Gwen.
“Well, guess I’ll have to rectify that,” Gwen said, slipping a hand down between Zoe’s thighs, rubbing a thumb through the folds. She felt the legs widen to allow more access. Gwen suddenly stopped, standing up. “Well, time to get out,” she said, watching green eyes narrow at the turn of events.
“You know, there is still paybacks for Setta,” Zoe said.
“And you’ll look adorable then as well,” Gwen said, seeing a look of shock appear on Zoe’s face at the compliment. “Come on, it’ll be more comfortable in bed than here.”
Gwen did not had to say it twice as Zoe stood and dried off before they made their way back to the room.
Gwen stretched slightly, looking over at Zeltran, who leaned back upon a post. The rain had stopped a short time ago, and they had worked a bit to get some defenses up in the village. Aside from a few people, the town appeared much more alive from when she had walked in a few days ago. Merchants were selling wares, people looked happy, and yet knew the ordeal was not over.
A few merchant guards had joined them upon learning what might happen. They had six people with fighting power to defend the town, and a mage, who worked to build some defenses with his earth magic.
She looked up seeing the innkeeper bringing them something to drink.
“Thanks,” Zoe said.
“No, thank you, you and your friend have changed everything here,” he said, looking around.
“How are your supplies?” Gwen asked.
“Managed to stock up a bit from a merchant who came in last night, was trading food,” he replied back to her.
“And the markets have filled up a bit,” Zoe said, they watched as another group of people walked into town, heading towards the inn. It appeared they had been caught in the storm and the innkeeper walked over to talk to them.
“So you think Louis will attack?” Zoe asked.
“Yep,” Zeltran replied casually. “He won’t back down, not his style. If it’s all possible, he’s worth more alive than dead.”
“No promises,” Gwen replied back to him.
“Fair enough,” Zeltran stated.
“So you still think he’ll attack,” the village elder said, walking up to them.
“Of course,” Zeltran said. “He knows you can’t fight him. He still sees money to be made here.”
“Does he have a certain way to attack cities?” Gwen asked.
“Don’t know, he doesn’t have a predictable plan with this, usually he’s fast and quick. He doesn’t do this often, so it will be different for him,” Zeltran said.
“You’ve read up on him,” Gwen said.
“The Realm has a high reward for him,” Zeltran said. “Might be able to retire, been thinking about it.”
That caught Gwen off guard. She never expected to hear that from him. He thought about retiring? What would he do after that? She started to say something when a commotions occurred as shouts of alarm were sounded.
“Guess that answers the question of how long we need to wait,” Gwen said, turning towards Zoe. Head inside, and stay in the inn.”
“Meanie,” Zoe replied back to her, and though she stuck out her tongue, but made her way inside quickly along with the elder.
“Looks like a direct frontal assault,” Gwen said, heading towards the commotion along with Zeltran and the others who rushed from the merchant area. She spotted the mage running back. His magic was more for support he had told them, so he headed to the back to cover them.
Gwen rushed forward through the merchants who ran past them even as she spotted the first of Louis’ raiders.
“Kill them all,” she heard a voice say, looking around and finding the first attacker. She powered through his defenses before heading to the next one. He had some fighting power, but she quickly dispatched him, not wanting to take any chances.
She took a look around spotting a few of the merchant guards, one slipped, but Gwen quickly tossed a star before the attacker could take advantage of the situation. He gathered himself back up and continued on. Gwen turned and faced off against two, one with fighting power the other normal.
She felt the slight rumble of the earth, as she spotted a fireball impact a wall of dirt as the mages battled. She did not worry too much with them yet, all their mage had to do, was delay them enough. She went on the attack, striking down the one with fighting magic first, then the other one.
Now looking around, she spotted one of the mages, and tossed a star, watching as it hit, bringing him down. She turned to see a few of the attackers look at her, before running away. A smart move she thought before turning to see Louis charging her.
“I will not be stopped by someone like you,” he said, swinging forward in his attack, which she blocked. Zeltrans’ words rang through her mind, he wanted him alive. She backed off slightly to observe her opponent. He held the sword with confidence, and probably had some training, even as he attacked using all his strength. She used her speed to avoid the strike, looking for the opportunity to disable him.
“Why not, you’re outclassed,” Gwen said.
“Hardly, you and this rabble are only lucky,” he said.
“Maybe, but sometimes that’s all you need,” Gwen replied, seeing his look of disbelief.
He attacked again, using wide sweeping strikes designed to put as much power as possible into the attack. It would work against someone with the same power level, but she was quicker, allowing herself to move out of the path of the attack. Off balance he moved forward under the weight of his attack, allowing Gwen to deliver a solid blow to his head. He crumpled to the ground unconscious.
Turning to see how the others were doing she noticed most were doing well, Zeltran seemed to have a problem, his sword had broken, and they had managed to get a strike on his arm. He faced off against two with fighting power, blocking their attacks but unable to go on the offensive.
Gwen tossed a star heading in the direction. One of the men slumped to the ground, the other seeing her approach, took off for the forest.
“Having problems?” Gwen asked him, looking around as the others finished up.
“Never had a sword break on me in battle,” he said, walking over to pick up a sword impaled in the chest of a dead raider. “Had to toss mine, then used one of theirs. Of course also never had a sword hurt me either when it broke.”
Gwen looked at the wound, a slice on the shoulder, not serious, but enough to impair the fight.
“What about Louis?” he asked.
“Over there,” Gwen replied, pointing to the man.
“You killed him?” Zeltran asked, looking on at the body.
“No, knocked him out,” Gwen replied, as several villagers came over, as well as the merchants to check on their guards.
Gwen looked around seeing a dozen bodies on the ground, she figured she and Zeltran did most of it. One villager came up and checked out Zeltran’s wound, even as Zoe made her way over to her.
“You’re all right?” Zoe asked.
“Yeah, just fine,” Gwen said. “Doesn’t appear any town folks were killed.”
“No, they managed to make it inside before the fighting began, but we did watch,” Zoe said, indicating she had been watching from the window of the inn.
“So, is this finally over?” one villager asked.
“It seems so,” Gwen replied, looking around as a group gathered up Louis under Zeltran’s direction. She wondered how much the reward was for Louis, then decided not to ask. She made her way inside the inn where a group of villagers waited.
“How can we thank you?” one asked.
“You don’t have to,” Gwen said, she realized upon seeing the kids being reunited with their parents, she would have done it for free.
“We must,” one said, handing her a bag.
“I can’t take all of this,” Gwen said, looking at them. “You need it to recover from the raids.”
It took a bit more haggling, when Zoe stepped in and took over, finally taking a little bit of their gratitude. The fighting had allowed her to flex muscles she had not used in years, as had the fight against Stephos.
Zeltran walked in looking at her. She knew that he wanted to talk to her, but she really did not feel like talking right now. He sat down across from her, his arm bandaged.
“So, how’s the arm?” she asked.
“It’ll heal right up, healer say it will heal faster if I am careful not to pull the stitches,” he replied back to her, flexing the arm in question. “If it had been a little bit over, would have severed tendons, and that would have been a disaster, guess I got lucky.”
“Yeah, guess you did,” Gwen said, looking over at Zoe.
“Did anyone figure out what that other latgic did?” Zoe asked.
“No, guess we could go check on her,” Gwen said.
“Forgot about that,” Zeltran said.
“Well, she did not look like a fighter, and seemed to be there against her will,” Gwen said. “She might have left upon seeing what happened.”
They looked up to see a couple of people walk in, and Gwen recognized two villagers along with the woman she had seen in the camp outside the town. The woman was focused on her, disbelief on her face. Gwen waited as they approached.
“How?” the woman asked.
“How what?” Gwen replied, unsure about the question. “How did I win, they fought against someone who was much stronger.”
“No, I bring bad luck to everyone around me. How did you counter that? You only, maybe I could see that, but how did you counter the town’s bad luck?” the woman asked.
“You’re the latgic?” Zoe asked.
“Yes, they have me camp near the town they want to raid, then after a couple of days they begin their raids after my magic has taken effect,” she said, as things made sense to Gwen, looking over at Zoe, who seemed to understand as well.
“I’m a latgic as well, I bring good luck to those around me,” Zoe said, looking at the woman. They stared at each other for a few seconds, and Gwen looked between the two, and thought she saw a familiarity in their eyes.
“I see, the moment you entered the village it countered mine, and your youth means you’re magic is stronger than mine. Thank you,” the woman said. She turned around to leave, but the villagers blocked her way. Gwen saw they wanted to lock her up, or something to make someone suffer for what happened to them.
Standing she stood between them and the woman. “Let her go,” she said to them.
“But she’s the one most responsible for what happened,” one said. “All our crops, and everything else.”
“No, it was Louis, she was only a tool in his scheme,” Gwen said.
“She helped him take our children!”
“And her own daughter is a prisoner with Stephos,” Gwen replied back to them. “You know what it’s like having your child taken away, what would you have done to keep them safe?” Gwen walked right up to one, looking him in the eye until he turned away. She knew from his eyes that he would do anything.
Several seconds of silence before anyone said anything.
“If you keep her here, I won’t be staying here forever, once I leave my magic will no longer protect you from hers,” Zoe said, standing next to Gwen, placing a hand on her back.
“But, something must be done,” one of the villagers said.
“Louis will be executed in public at Steamhead,” Zeltran said. “He has the ten tortures waiting for him. The Realm has wanted his head for a while now.”
Gwen shuddered slightly at that. The ten tortures was usually reserved for the worst of the criminals, and took a while for the person to die. His crimes must be long if the Realm decided to do that. Zeltrans words did have the desired effect of calming the crowd. They no longer looked at the woman with hostility.
“And Stephos is dead,” Zeltran said. “Heard it myself from the person who brought his body in.”
Gwen watched as the woman heard that.
“Really?” she said, “then perhaps my daughter is finally free.”
“You’re not going to go and see,” Zoe asked.
“I bring bad luck to people, my husband died before my daughter was born. My family was killed when I was young by raiders, everyone I ever cared about had met with tragedy. Leaving her was the only thing I could do so she could live a full life, and hopefully have a happy one now,” the woman said, tears in her eyes. “It’s through my love that I stay away, no matter how bad I want to see her.”
Gwen watched as Zoe gave the woman a hug, saying something in her ear before returning back to Gwen. The woman considered it for a moment, looking at them before saying something.
“You and your lover are quite special,” she said, turning to leave. “Maybe our paths will converge again.”
“Perhaps,” Gwen answered knowing that one never really knew the future.
Gwen settled back down as the inn seemed to return back to normal.
“So, you ready to listen?” Zeltran asked.
“Not out here,” Gwen said, looking around at the group. The last thing she wanted, was all of them knowing who she was, and for him to blurt it out.
“Fine,” he said, “but it’s not as bad as you think.”
Gwen doubted that, but decided to go ahead and listen in on what he had to say. First though, she had to talk to Zoe.
“Do you mind if I talk to him alone?” she asked, seeing the concern in Zoe’s eyes.
“You don’t trust me?” Zoe asked.
“No, it’s complicated, but know how you kept your secret, this is mine, and I’d rather tell you on my own than have it blurted out,” Gwen said. She watched the mixed emotions cross her face before any reply came back.
“All right, but you will tell me one day, right?” Zoe pleaded.
“When the right time comes, yeah,” Gwen said, unsure she could ever honor that promise.
“Okay,” Zoe said.
Gwen stood, motioning for Zeltran to follow her as they walked to her room. He remained quiet until they got to the room.
“You seem to be doing well Ruth,” he said.
“Ruth is dead, I’m Gwen now,” she replied.
“You cut your hair, no longer long,” he said to her.
“When you’re fighting like I am, it’s easier to maintain,” Gwen said, sitting down.
“And your partner, very interesting,” he said.
“Cut to the point,” Gwen growled, getting tired of his digs. And bringing Zoe into it was low to her.
“Fine, it’s actually simple, Marcy’s looking for you,” he said. Gwen felt the shock of the name, one she had buried for a while, and a person she assumed had been killed some time ago.
“Marcy’s dead, we both know that, killed by my cousin after she betrayed me,” Gwen said, her voice hard.
“Not everything is like it seems, she is alive, she gave me the job herself. Told me to give you this,” he said, reaching into a bag and pulled out a small necklace.
Gwen took the necklace, staring at it in shock. It was the same one that she had given Marcy for her birthday, just before everything seemed to implode around her.
“Said you told her to keep it with her, as part of your love for her,” Zeltran said.
“And why is she looking for me?” Gwen asked, clinching the necklace in her hand.
“The rebellion against the king, it still goes on, he and his son are destroying the Realm,” Zeltran said. “If something isn’t done the Realm will collapse in less than a year. Even the hunter’s guild can see it coming. Everyone is afraid of what might happened next. You are royal family, you can take the throne.”
“I’m not some figurehead,” Gwen said, standing. “Besides, they probably haven’t forgotten what I did.”
“Perhaps, but this is a chance to redeem yourself,” Zeltran said.
Gwen turned to look at the town, before looking back at him. “Can’t say I think the same.”
“Look, my mission was to find you, and tell you that she’s looking for you, meet her at Sinthal,” he told her. “She’ll have people on the lookout for you.”
“Can’t say I’m convinced that they won’t shot me on sight,” Gwen replied back to them.
“Well, I’ve delivered my message,” Zeltran said, heading to the door, stopping and looking back at her. “You might want to disappear, but the latest gossip is Derek is looking for you.”
She watched him leave the room, as she gritted her teeth at the statement. Her cousin would not leave her alone. How many people did he have to kill, what threat did he consider her? He had all the power, he had her parents killed. So much had been done before she finally left.
The door opened allowing Zoe inside. She looked around quietly before heading over to her. “You all right?”
“Yeah, just brought up some things about the past, that should stay there,” Gwen said.
“Oh, okay, well if you ever want to talk about it, I’m here,” Zoe said.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Gwen said. “How about we head to Cornell, I still owe you that shopping trip.”
“If you’re sure, then okay,” Zoe said, her spirit perking up a bit. “You know, I felt sorry for that woman, giving up your child like that. How sad.”
“Well, I can see her point, if all you bring is bad luck, would you wish that on your child?” Gwen asked, watching Zoe think about that for a moment.
“No, but I don’t think she should stay away either. Her daughter probably wants to know who her mother is” Zoe said, obviously thinking of her own parents, who she never met.
“Will the new information have any bearing on our going to Cornell?” Zoe asked. “Maybe another bounty hunter?”
“Don’t think so, they only wanted to relay a message, but that part of my life is over,” Gwen said, seeing Zoe give her a look. “Don’t worry about it. I have no desire to get involved with a past lover.”
“Oh?” Zoe said, perking up at that, as Gwen cursed the slip of the tongue. “What she pretty?”
Gwen suddenly felt trapped at the question. Could she even say anything that would not look bad, or give Zoe a reason to doubt their budding relationship. She also knew Zoe was waiting for an answer.
“Well, I have good taste, I think you’re pretty, and cute,” Gwen said.
“And this ex-lover?” Zoe asked, looking at her with her arms crossed.
Gwen sighed, seeing no way out of this conversation. “Yes, however, I am here with you, not with her, and we had, a huge falling out,” Gwen said to her.
“I see,” Zoe said.
“I won’t lie to you Zoe, if I say she was ugly, then you might doubt my ability to see if you’re cute, or you’ll think that I’m lying to you, and I haven’t lied to you,” Gwen said.
“And you’re secret?” Zoe asked.
“Kept the truth from you, yes, lied, no,” Gwen said.
Zoe looked at her for several seconds before finally relenting. “I still owe you a payback.”
“Yeah, you do,” Gwen said, smiling slightly, hoping they were all right now.
“Okay, I’ll let you off the hook, for now,” Zoe said, “besides, we need some supplies for the trip tomorrow.”
“Ugh, shopping, that’s a torture in and of itself,’ Gwen replied, seeing the smile on her partner’s face. Glad to see it over a frown. Tomorrow would be another day.
End part 10, continued in part 11