by AJ Marks
Part 14: A Lucky Kidnapping Part 2
Gwen looked around the city, one she never considered she would be back in. Following Valerie, who was the lead of the group and towards the inn. She noticed the vibe of the town felt was different than when she had last been there. People had the same look that the town she and Zoe had visited shortly after leaving Setta. Gwen smirked slightly at that.
“Something funny?” Valerie asked.
“Nope, just thinking to myself,” Gwen replied. Now was not the time to be speaking about Zoe’s mother. The woman had to be around somewhere.
Valerie looked at her for a second before dismounting at the stable. Paying for the horses they moved on to the inn and walked in. Gwen had never been in this one before.
“How many rooms?” the innkeeper asked. “Don’t have many.”
“Three, I sent someone ahead to reserve rooms for me, Mistress Valerie,” she said, waiting patiently for the innkeeper to look through his paperwork.
“Ah, yes, it’s right here, three rooms, got them all ready for you,” he said, becoming very helpful. “Is there anything that I can do for you?”
“Not at the moment, long ride from Setta,” she replied.
“Setta? Shadowlands, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes, came in for the royal wedding, after all, it’s not every day one gets to see this,” Valerie said taking the keys from the man, and giving one to Gwen and the other to Betsy.
“Nope, though,” he paused looking at them, Gwen kept her hood up hoping to mask her features enough before he continued, “things have gotten weird around here. Best to watch yourself.”
“Weird? How?” Valerie asked.
“Well, one second you’ll have great luck, like you gained a couple of extra creds, the next, you trip and break your leg,” he said to them. Gwen nodded a bit, understanding what was going on. Zoe and her mother were having opposite and equal effects on the town. So her mother was here, and it seemed by the mood, had managed to talk to Zoe.
“We’ll be careful, I don’t expect to do much except enjoy the ceremony,” Valerie said.
“Aye, that much will be good for us,” he said, about to say more but stopped. Valerie picked up on it though.
“Sounds like times have been tough, I know it has been out in Setta,” Valerie said, and it appeared her sympathy worked on him.
“It’s the king, but be quiet about it, people are unhappy. In fact many wish his brother was still alive, or his daughter, we might be able to overthrow him and put someone who really understands us in charge,” he said looking around as if someone might come out of the shadows to take him away. “Anyone who even voiced dissent is rounded up.”
Gwen recognized the terror from her uncle’s campaign and wondered how long it had been going on. She had never seen it, despite her own outspoken actions, but she always worked for the best of the Realm. Now she wondered what their plans were.
“Well, we’ll be careful” Valerie said, leading her group towards the stairs and their rooms.
Gwen found her room, opening the door and saw it was very much like many other rooms. The typical bed, table and chairs and water basin completed the lay out. However it felt slightly empty to her without Zoe. That would change, she was determined to make that become reality.
A knock on the door revealed Valerie, who walked in and sat down.
“Recent events have been, interesting,” she said.
“You might say that,” Gwen said.
“First it was you then your partner Zoe, and then my father, that was a shock, especially to learn that I was a half-sister to Leo,” Valerie said, shaking the thought from her mind. “And then to learn he’s dead, and finally about you.”
“Yeah, been quite lively since I rescued Zoe,” Gwen said, thinking back and how her life before seemed like a distant memory.
“She is special, I can see how so many want her,” Valerie said.
“Yeah, both the rebellion and the Realm wanted her, along with Stephos,” Gwen said, recalling the amount placed on her capture. It seemed impossible for someone to be worth so much, but at the same time, Gwen would pay that amount to have Zoe.
“Well, you are the lucky one when it comes to her,” Valerie said.
“Yeah, I guess so, I was her first,” Gwen said.
“And you waited till she was eighteen,” Valerie said.
“Why is that so important?” Gwen asked, not understanding that part.
“That is when their powers mature, before that they are still developing, and any interruption can disrupt the process. That’s why so many latgics never reach full potential,” Valerie said.
“Oh, I guess, there is a different set of rules for each group of magic users,” Gwen said.
“Yes, but only with the latgics are the rules even more important for full potential,” Valerie said.
“I was also told that they can control their powers a bit,” Gwen said, seeing a bit of shock on Valerie’s face. “It appears emotion can affect their ability. It’s what we see here.”
“Yes, I did expect to see luck running well for everyone,” Valerie said.
“It might be, but her mother is here, and she has bad luck,” Gwen said. “She mentioned that if Zoe concentrates on me, the luck will not be as effective. And I know Zoe’s luck is more powerful than her mothers, we already encountered that one.”
“Hmm, interesting,” Valerie said, thinking about that for a few seconds. “Then I’ll have to make sure my girls are happy.”
“I think they already are, which is why the magic is so strong for you. I think Lori liked you even before you had sex with her,” Gwen said.
Valerie said nothing, but Gwen knew the woman agreed with her. “So, what is next on your plan?”
“To meet up with my informant,” Gwen said.
Gwen sat in the lounge of the inn, sipping a drink waiting for anything. She spotted a few people walking back to the inn before a small man entered. Gwen watched as he made his way right for her, not even looking around, like he expected her where she was.
“Sorry about being late,” he said, sitting down. It caught Gwen off guard slightly before she replied.
“I was just sitting here,” Gwen said. “It’s busy outside.”
“Yeah, too much,” the man replied.
“So how are things going Tim?” she asked, watching him for a second. He quickly looked around seeing who was around, the ones occupying the closest table were Valerie and her two slaves. “Friends of mine,” Gwen said as he looked at them.
“Trustworthy?” he asked.
“More so than Marcy,” Gwen answered, watching his eyes go wide at that before relaxing slightly.
“So you’re really her, huh, thought you’d be, I don’t know, more polite, royal-like” Tim finally said.
“Two years of being hunted and hiding do that to you, now, shall we discuss business?” Gwen asked, looking around herself for anyone. She spotted a few people she recognized when she met Brice the first time. So the hunter’s Guild had their own people here as well.
“Okay, the target is located in the red bedroom chamber,” he said, surprising Gwen a bit. She had expected Zoe to be locked up somewhere.
“She’s under a guard, four of them, of the Royal Guard. They remained behind, won’t move until the king and the prince do,” Tim said to her.
Gwen nodded, knowing that the Royal Guard held the most elite troops, a unit she would have joined if she had remained, and probably would have eventually taken control of. Perhaps her cousin feared that happening.
“Okay,” Gwen said, realizing the red room was an area that was most easily defended and best to keep someone locked up. High up in the palace it had only one main entrance, and a slave’s entrance. She had an idea of how to get in.
“There is a rumor by the servants that there are two people in there,” Tim said.
Gwen understood, so Zoe’s mother had managed to contact her. It might make things easy. With her bad luck, and Zoe’s good luck, she might be able to pull this off.
“Well, here is some more information, and good luck,” he said to her, handing her a piece of paper. Gwen took it and watched as he left the room. She then walked back up to her room to go over the information she had received. It was a layout of the floor, and where the guards were position along with times they went on their rounds. The one thing Derek always was, was predictable with such things.
She took a moment to sharpen her blades and arrange her throwing stars. Tonight would put her skills to the test. Two years of being a bounty hunter all came down to this moment. She hoped she had learned enough to rescue Zoe.
Gwen crept along the outer palace walls, looking for the hidden passage she knew was there. Finding it she made her way through it hoping that at the end of the passage, no one was watching.
Luck remained with her as the hallway was empty, but she heard footsteps approaching. Quickly looking around she spotted a ledge up high and jumped up, hoping her dark clothing would mask her in the shadows of the ceiling. She watched as two servants walked by.
“I don’t like this,” one said.
“She really nice,” the other one said.
“Yeah, but if the prince finds out we did this for her,” the first one said, stopping.
“He said to keep her happy,” the second said.
“Yeah, but I don’t think he meant this,” the first one said, as the second one continued on. Gwen followed quietly just out of sight as they walked down the hallway.
“She wanted dessert,” the second one said. Gwen watched as they picked up a dish and started back. A sudden thought came to her. She moved out in front of the two servants, who stopped in shock, and luckily did not scream.
“W-Who are y-you?” the taller one asked.
“My name’s not important, but someone who is important to me is being held hostage in the castle,” Gwen replied, watching as one appeared to put everything together.
“You’re her,” she said, and Gwen recognized her as the second voice, and the shorter servant.
“Why should we help you?” the taller one said. “If I do, I’m dead.”
“Harder to do if you’re awake,” Gwen said, quickly knocking out the woman before turning to the shorter one, who now stood terrified. Quickly looking into the nearby cabinet for the clothing she knew was there, she dressed as a servant and turned to the other servant who still looked on stunned.
“W-what are you planning?” she asked.
“To take her dessert,” Gwen said. Holding up the tray, which hid her weapons. “Lead on to the entrance, shall we.”
“I-I could tell,” the girl said.
“You could, but I think you want to help Zoe out a bit more,” Gwen said, seeing the girls eyes go wide at Zoe’s name and knew she had gotten that right. “Besides, if I do this right, you might get out of here as well.”
She watched the girl think about that for a second before nodding she would help. They made their way towards the entrance, and Gwen saw one guard waiting for them. She looked them over with a barest glance, though his gaze went to the girl a bit too much.
“Another one?” the guard said, looking at the girl.
“Y-Yes, she asked for some more dessert,” the girl said, Gwen kept quiet and tried to maintain her deception. Heading back out she could use her strength again.
“Well, I guess,” he said, slipping his hand into the girl’s top for several seconds. Gwen forced herself to not react as the girl was molested in front of her.
He finally tired and let them through, with a pat to the girls behind. The girl was no more than twelve, but that did not seem to matter. Gwen knew if she had been commander no guard would do that to any of her servants.
They made their way up the narrow stairway before reaching the door. The girl rearranged her clothing before moving into the room allowing Gwen to follow. The room remained as Gwen had remembered, a large bed, fireplace, large table and chairs. A sofa in front of the fire, which had two figures on it.
Gwen recognized Zoe right away, who had yet to look up, however her mother saw her. Gwen made her way over, watching Fran poked Zoe, who finally spotted her. The reaction was exactly what Gwen hoped for, the girl jumped up and into her arms, crushing her in a hug.
“You’re here, oh gods you’re here,” she said, over and over again. “I hoped you’d come, and put my trust that you would, but…”
Gwen merely rubbed Zoe’s back quietly in comfort. One part of her plan had been finished, now all she had to do, was get out of the palace. Finally Zoe moved back, enough so she could give Gwen a kiss, which she returned. A soft clearing of a throat caused them to break apart, and she looked over to see Fran who stood there waiting patiently, while the servant appeared to blush.
“I know you two have been separated for a while, but we should get out of here,” Fran said.
“She’s right, we can head out the same way I got in, I hope,” Gwen said.
“All of us?” Zoe said, now looking around at the other two.
“I made a promise to her,” Gwen said, looking over at the servant.
“See, I told you Dawn, she makes things happen,” Zoe said.
“We should get going, do the guards look in at all?” Gwen asked.
“Not very often,” Zoe said.
“Then we have some time, let’s get going,” Gwen said, leading them to the stairs. Heading down they approached the entrance where she knew the guard would be waiting. She also sensed Dawn’s uneasiness. “We need you to go out first, and check the hallway.”
The girl looked terrified at the thought.
“I need to know if anyone else it out there but the guard, he I can take care of easily,” Gwen said. “Once out, lift your hand to indicate how many.”
“Oh, o-okay, I guess,” Dawn said quietly.
She watched as Dawn stepped outside taking a moment to look around, then raised her hand indicating one.
“See you’re back, how about we have some fun now,” the guard said, moving over to grope Dawn.
“Not today,” Gwen said. In a flash she struck him across the temple knowing he was caught off guard and no chance to raise his fighting power. He slumped to the ground taking Dawn with him trapping her. Gwen moved the guard off her who seemed to shrink back towards Zoe and Fran.
“Won’t people notice?” Zoe asked.
“Yeah, but we should be long gone by then,” Gwen said, knowing the dangerous part of the entire operation was ahead of her.
Heading to the corridor where the tunnel was, she looked around, spotting no guards and hoped her luck would remain. Taking a moment to open the door she watched as they all moved into the secret tunnel.
“I-I never knew this was here,” Dawn said, in awe of Gwen knowledge of the castle.
“Yeah, only a few know of it,” Gwen said, knowing that Derek knew about it. It was one of several royal escape routes built into the castle. She took the lead again, making her way out of the castle, and hopefully towards a clean escape.
“Won’t the prince be mad?’ Dawn asked.
“Probably,” Gwen replied, not really caring about him reaching the end of the tunnel. “Wait here for a second.”
Gwen moved out, seeing no one and motioned the others out as well. Now all she had to do was head back to the inn, disguise Zoe and head out of the city. Valerie would follow the next day to a per-arranged meeting point if everything went well. Of course there was the back-up plan already in place, much to Celia’s dismay.
“Well, look who I caught,” a familiar voice said. Gwen moved to shield Zoe and the others, knowing who was there. She watched seeing Derek step out of the shadows, along with several other guards.
“Derek,” Gwen said, realizing her plan had hit a major hurdle. She looked around at the other guards, seeing that they were Royal Guards. “You’ve always tried to take what is mine, still jealous?”
“Hardly, you should have died two years ago in that burning building,” Derek spat out. Gwen quickly tried to think of something that might give her an advantage, or at least some time.
“Won’t Marcy be annoyed you betrayed her for someone else?” Gwen said, hoping Marcy had been right about her and Derek.
“Why would she be? I don’t care anything about her, nothing but a peasant, a low powered mage. But her,” he said pointing at Zoe, “she’s someone special, someone who is mine. Of course she cried out for you, said you’d come. I hoped you would, so I can finally kill you.” He paused in thought as Gwen continued to assess the situation. “Maybe I won’t kill you, instead chain you up for daily torture, yes, a way to break her stubborn spirit.”
“You’ve really become demented, haven’t you,” Gwen stated, anger seeping into her voice at the thought of such torture on Zoe. “So, who really killed the queen, you or your dad?” The question came out of nowhere, but the timing felt right. He paused hearing the question.
“You know, you really ruined a good thing,” Derek said. “Not quite how it was supposed to go down. You see, you really were to have killed her, but no, it didn’t go that way.” He paused, taking a few breathes to calm down. “No matter, we’ll take care of the loose pieces here and now.”
Gwen gripped her sword, having drawn it while Derek was ranting, and held it in a defensive position. Taking a quick look behind her at the Zoe and her mother, who had backed up. Three guards advanced on her as she brought her fighting level up to full power.
Two of the guards suddenly stopped, and slumped down to the ground, struck down by crossbolts.
“What the?” Derek said, looking around as did the others.
“Normals can shoot crossbows extremely well, especially if you’re concentrating on one thing,” Gwen said, smiling as a few people stepped out from the shadows.
“Sorry for being late,” Ottis said, brandishing his sword in an elegant swooping motion. Beside him stood Zeltran and Brice, also ready to do battle.
“The Hunter’s Guild,” Derek said, angered at what happened.
“You never did answer her, who did kill the queen?” Brice said suddenly. “It’s obvious that you know Ruth didn’t do it, and it was part of your plan, what plan was that?”
The silence hung in the air, and even the Royal Guard paused. Gwen looked at the guards, then at Derek, his eyes wild, darting back and forth between the groups of people.
“You’ve ruined everything, just as you always have, damn you,” he yelled. She saw what was going to happen but was out of position to do anything to stop it. The dagger flew from his hand towards Zoe.
Gwen saw a body push Zoe down as the knife reached her. Quickly rushing over she looked down seeing blood on both bodies. Unsure of who was hit she quickly moved the top one, who she recognized, Fran.
Zoe appeared shocked, her eyes wide, and for a second thought Zoe had been hit. Frantically searching for the knife before realizing it was Fran who had been hit.
“Mom?” Zoe said, her voice in a slight panic.
Gwen looked at the knife wound, knowing it was serious.
“Get a healer!” she shouted, standing to look around, vaguely aware that Derek had disappeared. A man ran over, between two Royal Guards who now stood looking unsure and silent.
The healer crouched down beside them and looked at the wound. He reached for the knife, only to have Fran’s hands stop him. Gwen watched as they looked at each other, an understanding passed between them before he looked back at Gwen.
“I’m sorry,” he said,
“Zoe,” Fran said, her voice weak. Gwen moved slightly so Zoe could kneel beside her mother. “This is for the best.”
“No, I don’t believe that,” Zoe cried back, tears falling down her cheeks, her hand clasped with her mother’s.
“I’ve always loved you, my magic hurts people, I’m glad, glad yours helps,” Fran whispered, looking at Zoe, then over at Gwen. “Take care of my daughter.”
“Of course,” Gwen promised.
The hand slackened, going limp in Zoe’s hand, who broke down crying. Gwen stood, looking at the others. There seemed to be even more people in the area than she had expected and watched as another guard ran up calling out.
One of the guards turned towards him, and Gwen realized it was the head of the Royal Guard.
“What’s wrong?” the man asked.
“It’s the prince and king, they’ve left the palace,” the guard said, confusing everyone.
“What?” Renold asked.
“He’s afraid of facing the truth, they both are,” Gwen said, speaking up, glancing back at Zoe then over at the guard.
“Does that have to do with the Queen’s death,” another person asked, stepping forward.
Gwen glanced around realizing a crowd had gathered. It appeared several citizens of the town had come out to see what the commotion was from the fight. She even spotted a couple of town guards. She looked at Renold, who had a stunned look of someone caught up in something they had no clue about.
“I don’t know,” Renold finally said.
“Then you know nothing about the upcoming invasion of the imperial Empire?” Brice said, looking at the group. Renold seemed caught.
“Seems like you do,” Gwen said.
“Another war?” someone from the crowd said, which seemed to get unruly at the thought. Renold shifted slightly, uncomfortable.
“King Rick is weakening our empire with all these wars, he lost the last one,” Zeltran said.
“Seems like things are changing. There is a new wind a-blowin’, don’t you think so?” Brice said to Renold, patting him on the shoulder and looking at Gwen.
They watched him undergo an internal conflict. His shoulders slumped briefly before he looked up and straightened himself out, a changed man.
“Yeah, your right, but who can take over, there is no one else from the royal family left,” Renold said.
“Her,” Zeltran said, pointing at Gwen. “That’s Ruth, the king’s niece.”
Gwen now shifted uncomfortably at the sudden attention, the mixture of fear and disgust along with curiosity and hope.
“I don’t want the position,” Gwen finally said, turning to focus her attention back on Zoe, the only thing that mattered to her.
Kneeling down she wrapped an arm around Zoe, feeling the girl move into her embrace. Rubbing her back she whispered words of love to her hoping to somehow ease the pain away, knowing how painful it was, especially for Zoe. She wanted a family, a mother and father, and to only have a short amount of time with her, the fates were cruel.
“Let’s go back to the inn,” Gwen said rising up, despite Zoe’s resistance, she allowed her to be moved away.
“I’ll take care of it,” Ottis said, giving her a salute.
“Thanks,” Gwen said, moving towards the inn, keeping an arm around Zoe. She watched a few people look, but said nothing. She did not wish to get involved in anything. Her main thoughts were to get Zoe back to the inn, and sleep a bit.
End part 14
Continued in part 15