by AJ Marks
A lucky Rebellion part 2
Gwen looked around seeing a very different atmosphere around the city that Zeltran said to meet up with the rebellion in Sinthal. The town she could recall from her days in the Realm, a small trading post for the Shadlowlands. Riding in she hoped no one would recognize her, except those who wanted to see her.
Looking around she spotted a few guards, who glanced at her, but otherwise paid no mind to her. Most looked more at Zoe than her, her long blonde hair, and cute figure made her easy to look at. Gwen had no idea what to expect, and made her way to the stable.
“How much?” Gwen asked.
“Ten creds,” he said, causing her to almost balk at the price.
“Ten!” Zoe exclaimed, shocked at the price.
“Yep, that’s the standard faire missy,” he said, not backing down one bit.
“How about eight?” Zoe said.
“Nope, ten, take it or continue walking,” the man said.
Gwen placed a hand on Zoe’s arm, making her pause in her outrage.
“Okay, ten it is,” Gwen said, watching as Zoe looked on. She knew the prices in the Realm were higher. Usually about double, but this seemed even higher than normal. “Tough times?”
“Must not get out of the Shadowlands much,” he finally said after taking the coins. “Most usually know the prices.”
“Been a couple of years, but didn’t imagine the price to triple in that time,” Gwen said.
“Taxes,” the man said. “Have to raise the prices, otherwise can’t afford to eat myself. But I’d watch who you talk to, the king has spies everywhere.”
“Great,” Gwen said, wondering if they would recognize her.
“You in town for business, or traveling through,” he asked.
“Maybe both, we’ll see,” Gwen replied, not wanting to give out too much information.
“Bounty hunter stuff,” Zoe said, hoping that would explain it.
“Thought so, you look the type, but she doesn’t,” the man said, looking over at Zoe.
“Exactly,” Gwen said, with a smile giving Zoe a squeeze, then dismounting. “Anything good to eat around here?”
“Renee’s Tavern, best ale in the area,” the man replied, pointing to a building nearby.
“All right, thanks,” Gwen said, walking off across the road. She figured if anyone in the rebellion wanted to see her, they could make contact with her there.
Inside things were normal, the regulars off to one side, and probably visitors off to the other side. In between the girls worked their charm on potential customers. She walked in sitting Zoe down at a table before heading over to the bar to get something.
“What can I get ya?” the bartender asked.
“Two ales,” he said, watching as he looked at her, then over at the girl before pouring the drinks. “Four creds.”
Gwen placed the coins down before heading back to the table, intercepted by one of the girls.
“Hey honey, how about you and me?” she said, giving Gwen a good view of her assets, practically trying to feel Gwen up.
“Not today,” Gwen replied back, moving forward seeing green eyes narrow at the move. Oh boy Gwen thought, a jealous lover, not what she needed right now. “Here,” she said to Zoe, placing the ale down on the table.
“Someone you know?” Zoe asked, though the tone seemed reasonable, it held a note of danger. Gwen knew physically Zoe could do nothing to her, but she did not want to test her luck.
“Nope,” Gwen said, looking as the same woman who hit on her had moved on to someone else. “She’s trying to drum up business.”
“Business?” Zoe said.
“Um, yeah, she’s a lady of the night,” Gwen said, seeing Zoe frown. “A ho, prostitute, works for pleasure,” she said lowering her voice. Some of the girls could be very offended by the terms and thought lady of the night seemed to work best for them. She watched as Zoe’s eyes went wide. “You really never did get out much.”
“So, she wanted, um, you to pay her to have sex?” Zoe asked, causing Gwen to cough.
“Yep,” Gwen said, watching as Zoe now looked on, as they happened to see one of the girls head upstairs with a man. “They’ll be back down depending on how quickly he finishes,” Gwen said, knowing that some girls worked hard to make the guy get off quickly.
“Oh,” Zoe said, suddenly blushing slightly.
“You are too cute,” Gwen said, as Zoe looked over at her in surprise. Gwen took a swallow of the ale, and it was good. She had better in the Shadowlands, but it was good for this area. And the further into the Realm they got, the more the drinks would be mass produced and not quite as good, or better depending on the brewer. She looked around the room to give Zoe a bit of time to recover, or let her mind wonder a bit more.
She spotted a couple of men who were looking at them, or more specifically her. She wondered who they might be, part of the Realm, or the rebellion. There were others in the room with weapons and armor, including a couple of women. Now she had to work on who they were. One got up and started to make his way over to her.
“We’re about to have company,” Gwen said, wondering what they might want. She figured she would learn rather quickly.
He sat down without even asking, causing Gwen to look at him over her drink.
“Are you?” he asked, looking at Gwen.
“Am I what?” Gwen asked back, unsure of what he wanted, and was not willing to give up information without knowing who they were.
“Don’t play games, this is important,” the man said.
“I know, but I also know not to give out information randomly to people I don’t know,” Gwen said, a lesson she learned early on which caused her to switch her name.
He leaned forward before saying anything, making sure not to be overheard. “Ruth,” was all he said.
“And, who are you?” Gwen said, not about to reveal who she was without knowing if he was part of the government or rebellion.
“Marcy is looking for you,” the man said, leaning back to stretch, then looked around before looking back at her. Gwen spared a glance to his friend, who walked out of the tavern.
“Is that name supposed to mean something to me,” Gwen said, keeping an eye on Zoe now. If anything happened she would need to protect her.
“I see,” the man said. “I’m Jack.”
“Well Jack, where did your partner go, nice subtle communications there, is he going for reinforcements?” Gwen asked
“He works for me you might say, times are dangerous not to be working in pairs,” he said, pointing over at Zoe. “Though this little bit won’t do much.”
Gwen intercepted the hand and squeezed. “I’d be careful about who you said is worthless.” She watched as he winced in pain from her strength. He was strong himself, a powerful fighter from his aura, but not as strong as Gwen and she let him know it. Finally relaxing, she waited.
The man’s partner reappeared walking to the table looking down at them. “Time to practice, you said you’d train me with some new moves.”
“Okay Kerros,” the man said to him before looking back at Gwen. “Like I said, times are dangerous. You we can work with, her, don’t think so.”
“Then we have nothing else to talk about,” Gwen said, watching him stand, look at her closely before shrugging and walking off.
“What was all that about?” Zoe asked, looking a bit miffed.
“They obviously don’t know much,” Gwen said, knowing how much Zoe had had done for her in the short amount of time she had known her. “Come on, let’s get a place to stay the night, and work on where to go tomorrow.”
She figured he had to work for the rebellion, but they seemed to expect she would automatically work with them. Nothing she heard made her want to work with them. She wondered if Marcy really had been part of this new rebellion. If she was, then she was doing everything possible to make sure she did not join up. That in itself made her curious about what might be going on.
Heading out of the tavern they made their way over towards the inn, where Gwen spotted a few people watching not her, but Zoe. It seemed odd to her, especially considering the amount of attention. It made Gwen uncomfortable, and she decided to keep an eye on them. They started closing the distance eventually blocking their path.
“Well, well, this is interesting,” one said, he appeared to be the leader of the group. “Looks like we’ll get that nice payday after all.”
Gwen stepped in front of Zoe, instinct telling her they were after Zoe. She counted three of them, all with fighting power. “I suggest you walk away, if you want to live,” Gwen said, gripping her sword. She would not underestimate them this time, she no longer was in the Shadowlands, and these could be much stronger fighters.
“I think not, you better walk away, now,” the leader said, drawing his sword. Gwen replied the same, now all of them held drawn swords. Their fighting power came forth and she allowed hers to respond in kind.
“Guess we have ourselves a stand-off,” Gwen said, feeling Zoe back up.
“So, you are more than some backwoods hick she got to protect herself,” the leader said. “Won’t matter, you’d have to be very strong to beat all three of us, and you’re standing between us and five hundred thousand creds.”
Gwen’s eyes went wide at that, and barely avoided the first strike while blocking the second. A throwing star stopped the third guy forcing him into defense.
“I see you didn’t know that,” the man said, laughing slightly. “Well, guess information like that doesn’t make it out into the backwoods areas.”
Gwen focused on attack, forcing two back as the leader stepped back allowing his two men to fight for him. They were better than any group she had fought against in years, and her rust showed. Deciding to not fool around she powered up fully, watching the men stop upon feeling her aura.
“Boss?” one said, worry in his tone.
“Yeah, I know,” the leader said, backing up. “Retreat for now.”
Gwen watched them hastily head back to the horses, and take off. Sheathing her sword she turned back to Zoe. Wrapping an arm around her they continued on to the inn, despite the stares from others at what happened. Already she knew whispers of what happened were spreading through the town.
She could have handled that situation differently but it seemed like the best way at the time. The innkeeper looked at her warily but said nothing, as Zoe asked for the room and handed the coins over and headed up to their room.
“Looks like someone is still after me,” Zoe finally said, sitting down on the bed.
“Yeah,” Gwen replied, looking out the window at the town, seeing huddle conversations going on.
“What about you? Five hundred thousand is a lot of money,” Zoe said.
“And get rid of my partner, nah, she’s worth a lot more than that,” Gwen replied, heading over to sit down on the bed. “I mean, she puts up with me, despite who I am.”
She saw Zoe smile, and felt relieved. True, a month or two ago, she would have, today, it did not feel right in either her mind or heart.
“So, what do we do now?” Zoe asked.
“I’m not sure, of course I’m not sure what I to expect,” Gwen said. “We could head back into the Shadowlands and try to find a place to settle down or something.”
“I don’t see that happening,” Zoe said.
“Yeah, or we could continue to be bounty hunters and wait for the heat to die down,” Gwen said. That option seemed to have the best plan. They could keep an ear out for rumors and bounties on either of them.
“I guess,” Zoe said.
“You were hoping something might happen?” Gwen asked.
“Yeah, it seemed like a good opportunity, and it felt right,” Zoe said. Gwen paused to think about that. If Zoe’s gut said something good, she would listen. The girl had been very good so far listening to her gut.
“Well, maybe we’ll be told the real issue later on,” Gwen finally said. “In the meantime, we’ll keep an eye out on anything that might happen.”
“Right,” Zoe replied, cheerfully.
Gwen felt Zoe tighten her hold, deciding to sit in the back today, wanting a different feel over the past couple of days. The suggestion of walking did not go over well. Gwen figured the girl wanted an excuse for an all morning long hug. She had done it enough with Zoe in front, and knew how nice it felt.
The feeling of several fighting auras up ahead brought her to attention, slightly glad Zoe was in back today. She tensed up, extending her aura, feeling four fighters, and two mages, quite an assortment, and more powerful than the normal bandits.
“Trouble?” Zoe asked.
“Might be, keep a tight grip, we might have to run for it,” Gwen said. She really did not want to fight on horseback.
She brought the horse to a stop, close enough to the group, reading a few throwing stars. She only had to wait a moment as three figures emerged from the roadside. One woman, average height with black hair to her shoulders. Gwen realized she was a fighter, about average in strength. The other two were fighters, and she recognized one from the tavern yesterday.
“You’re skills are impressive,” the woman said. “And here we have hidden from the king himself as he went by.”
“Yeah, well he doesn’t have bandits dropping in on him all the time,” Gwen replied, wondering what she wanted.
“I have a proposition for you,” the woman said, walking towards her completely unafraid. “We need you.”
“And who is we?” Zoe asked, peeking around from behind Gwen.
“Ah, your mysterious part-“ she stopped, looking more closely at Zoe, shock in her eyes.
Gwen shifted slightly, her hand on her sword ready for anything.
“I don’t believe it,” she said, looking at Gwen then back at Zoe. “Its wonderful.” She smiled looking almost too happy. It made Gwen uncomfortable about the situation.
“What’s wonderful?” Zoe asked.
“So, you’re the one who defeated Stephos,” the woman said, causing Gwen to look on in disbelief.
“You’re the one who has a half a million bounty on her,” Gwen spat out, ready to do battle.
“Huh? Half a million, oh no, that’s the king, Rick, I hired Stephos to get her for the rebellion,” the woman said, backing off slightly. “Let’s try again. I’m Betsy, of the rebellion.”
Gwen looked at her, then over at the others trying to determine if this was the truth.
“I heard about this latgic having incredible luck from my spies in the Realm, and so tried to get her before Rick,” Betsy said. “However my partner, Stephos betrayed me, and took her for his own, but I haven’t heard from him in a while.”
“He’s dead,” Gwen said.
“What?” Betsy said, shocked. “Damn, there went our recruiter in the Shadowlands.”
“He was working for you?” Gwen said. “I doubt it, at least from what he told me.”
“He was helping us, now we’re set back,” Betsy said.
“I doubt he helped you, more like he used you,” Zoe said. “He wasn’t about to let me go.”
“We had a deal,” Betsy said. “Told me he was having trouble finding you.”
“Then you were played as a fool,” Gwen said. “He had no intention of selling Zoe, and neither do I.”
“She isn’t your slave?” Betsy said. “She was for sale by the previous owner.”
“I was never a slave,” Zoe spat out, angry at the accusation.
“We were told that by Father Tessel,” Betsy said.
“He was the priest of the orphanage I lived in,” Zoe said.
“I see, then a lot of information we received was incorrect,” Betsy said, pausing in thought about something. “Well, we still need you in the rebellion.”
“Why?” Gwen asked.
“Why? Did you not see the way things were in the town?” one of the others said.
“Been in the Shadowlands,” Gwen replied. “It’s about the same.”
“Things are brewing under the surface, full scale war is about to happen,” Betsy said.
“Then why do you need me?” Gwen asked.
“We need your power,” one of the men said.
Gwen recognized the truth, they did not care about her, or Zoe, only if the ends justified the means. The same attitude her cousin showed all too often. An attitude Gwen would be happy to never see again.
“The truth is, some in the military still trust you,” Betsy said. “At least come meet with our leaders. It could save lives.”
Gwen looked over at Zoe, then back to the group before making up her mind. “All right,” knowing that she probably would have to meet Marcy one last time.
“Good, Jack, let them know we’re coming,” Betsy said, talking to the one who had spoken to Gwen in the tavern. He nodded and left quickly before they began to head off as well.
Gwen walked beside Zoe, while the horse walked behind them, led by the reigns. She entered a small clearing and noticed several tents, neatly arranged giving an air of a professional military camp. The person behind it knew something about set ups. It looked very different compared to the warlord camps in the Shadowlands.
She glanced around, seeing people stare at her. The glares ranged from hostile to hopeful. She felt Zoe move in closer, not used to such stares, and she wanted to go and knock some heads together, but restrained herself. She did not feel like fighting her way out of the camp.
She walked into the largest tent along with Jack and Betsy, seeing several people inside. She assumed they were the leaders of the group. She quickly noticed Marcy, and another person seemed familiar to her, a woman with black hair and brown eyes. Gwen felt sure she had met the woman somewhere.
“Hello Ruth,” Marcy said, walking over to her.
“Marcy, and its Gwen now,” she replied, not moving from beside Zoe. She noticed Marcy look between them for a few seconds before replying.
“I didn’t want to do any of that, I had no choice,” Marcy said, coming even closer. She felt Zoe move between them.
“You can choose,” Zoe said. “I know that.”
“You poor dear, you have no idea who she really is do you,” Marcy said, looking down at Zoe.
“We’ve both kept secrets from each other,” Zoe replied back.
“You have secrets?” Marcy said, sounding doubtful.
“Doesn’t matter what you think Marcy,” Gwen said, placing a hand on Zoe’s shoulder. “Why should I stay and help?”
“King Rick has become unstable since the death of his wife, and Prince Derek is even worse,” the familiar woman said. “Taxes in some areas are as high as ninety percent. People disappear at night, there is a rumor that Derek is behind it. The people live in fear of him, he doesn’t care about the people, only how they can please him.”
“Sounds normal,” Gwen said, recalling her cousin. He never seemed that connected to the people.
“The entire region is becoming destabilized,” the woman said.
“I’ve met you before,” Gwen said, looking at her thinking about it.
“You did a mission with a trading partner, John,” she said.
“You were the other merchant,” Gwen said.
“Yes, I’m Celia, and we do dealings in the Shadowlands for several reasons, including money,” she said.
Gwen digested this news, and add in the fact that the rebellion worked with Setephos it was no wonder the man attacked them on the route. They had been given the information by her probably.
Gwen still felt unconvinced in even helping the rebellion. It was not her fight she kept saying to herself. She thought about a way to get out of this mess.
A man came running into the tent, out of breath.
“Gregory, they’re coming,” the man said finally, causing everyone in the tent to panic.
Gwen frowned, wondering what was going on before screams could be heard. They were being attacked. Extending her aura she felt a lot of powerful fighters in the area.
“Damn, how’d they find us again,” the man said, looking around and focusing on Gwen. “Stabbing us in the back?”
“No, I meant what I said, you’re the one who dragged me back, and if you want people who will stab you in the back, look at her,” Gwen said, pointing to Marcy.
“You think you’re so smart,” Marcy said, activating a wind spell that ripped through the tent. Gwen pulled Zoe with her even as people screamed as the wind sliced through them.
“I see you haven’t changed,” Gwen said to her, feeling a heat go through the tent as two mages started to battle.
Gwen did not wait to see who might win, pulling Zoe out with her and quickly checking the girl over. A slight cut on her arm, but nothing serious. Outside chaos reigned as riders came in quickly slicing down anyone they came across.
“Stay close,” Gwen said to Zoe, allowing her full fighting power to rise up. She wanted to move out of the camp. Lucky few went after her, those who did were quickly struck down. She felt a two large auras enter the fight one headed right towards her.
Readying herself she had a feeling who it might be, and not disappointed when the horse crashed through the chaos right for her. She rolled out of the way pulling Derek along with her.
“So, you didn’t die, well you shall here cuz,” he said.
“Derek, didn’t expect to see you anytime soon,” Gwen said. “Were you waiting for me to show up here?”
“Nope, and I see you have the infamous latgic with you, a double win for me, my luck is already changing,” he laughed.
“You were the one who wanted her,” Gwen said, giving her sword a twirl as he dismounted.
“She’s worth it, don’t you think, cuter than I expected, though her mother is very different, easily manipulated though,” Derek said. “With her every problem will be solved.”
Gwen knew he was talking about her luck, but also knew a lot of hard work needed to be good even with luck. She would not allow him to harm a single hair on Zoe, and rushed forward watching as he barely avoided her attack.
“Whoa, forgot you are powerful,” Derek said.
“And you’ve never beaten me in a real fight,” Gwen said.
“You’re only as strong as me, and I’ve beaten you many times,” Derek said. “Like with Marcy, poor Ruth, never realized her lover was really my lover.”
Gwen paused slightly, deflecting an attack by Derek. “It figures, you two should get along great,” Gwen said, before going on the attack again.
“My mole inside the rebellion, allowed me to use them anyways I wished,” Derek said. The tent that had the leaders erupted in magical flames.
“I think your lover just met her match,” Gwen said, striking again, slicing through a piece of his armor, but not hurting him, perhaps a scratch. She moved forward to engage him again, seeing a fast moving rider go through heading straight towards Zoe. In a few seconds she saw Zoe picked up and carried off by the king.
Derek laughed, quickly retreating back to his horse. “Don’t fret Ruth, we’ll take good care of her,” he said, riding off with laughter.
Several Realm soldiers moved towards her blocking her attempt to chase the king and her cousin. They did not last long as she took her anger out on him. She looked on as the remaining soldiers of the Realm fled leaving the camp eerily quiet. The few remaining rebels seemed stunned by what happened. She turned towards the tent seeing it in ruins wondering if anyone even survived.
“Get some help over here,” a person yelled. Gwen made her way over, seeing the destruction of the tent, bodies were slain all over, some were charred, other bodies sliced up by wind magic. She recognized Celia being tended to by a few others.
“We’ve lost Gregory,” one of the rebels said to Celia.
“And most of the leadership,” Celia said, her tone sorrowful looking up at Gwen. “You’re still here? What about your partner?”
“My cousin took her,” Gwen spat out.
“Great, we’re doomed now,” Celia said, defeat in her voice.
“No, he did the one thing which guaranteed I’d sign on to the rebellion,” Gwen said, seeing confusion in Celia’s eyes. “I was going to leave, head back to the Shadlowlands with Zoe when he attacked. Now I’m on board to get her back.”
“But she’s luck, how do you win against that?” Celia said. “We barely held our own before this.”
“You have me,” Gwen said, recalling some things about the luck. She believed in the bond between them, Gwen had Zoe’s luck in her heart. She had to believe it, and even if they did not help, she would not rest until Zoe had been freed.
“Great,” Celia said sarcastically.
Gwen looked around seeing the defeated attitude around her. “Listen up,” she said, jumping up on a box. “I want a group tending to the wounded, another group working on our supplies, getting them ready to move. Another group out on guard and a few messengers ready to go, move it!”
The group of rebels seemed stunned until she repeated herself spurring them into moving before looking back at Celia.
“Now, what type of resources do you have in the Shadowlands?” Gwen asked.
“Aside from Stephos, who is dead, not much,” Celia said. “I have a partnership with John, but that’s about it.”
Gwen thought about it for a few seconds, finally coming up with a plan. “I might though,” she said, thinking of some people aside from John, mercenaries like Sven and Otto, fighters like Ottis, merchants like Valerie and Greis, and others like Hans and maybe even people like Zeltran. In a few short weeks she had done so much with Zoe, had it all been part of the luck?
“You plan on attacking them?” Celia asked, getting her arm tended to.
“Yes, or at least my lover back,” Gwen said, the driving force behind all of this. “We have work to do, and now that the mole is gone things might be looking up.”
“Can’t believe she fooled us,” Celia said. “She was our spy in the Realm.”
“No, she was with Derek, probably went back and right into his bed,” Gwen spat out.
“What!” Celia said, obvious that she had slept with Marcy as well.
Gwen decided not to think about it, she had other things on her mind. She had to get to Zoe before anything happened to her.
End part 12, continued in part 13