The Darkness of the Womb

A Trip to Market, Chapter 1

Winter, early January, in the year of our Lord 960

While Aethelwulf recuperates and Father Loryn is performing errands around town, Lord Leofric summons Morwenna and Vercingetorix, as well as another one of his warriors, Godwine. He explains the current situation to Godwine, regarding the business in Stanhurst, and proceeds to explain that he wishes to get to the bottom of the slaving ring happening. The captured bandits from Stanhurst know little about their kidnappers, but two of the slavers from the attack on the caravan were captured alive and are currently imprisoned in one of the huts in town. Lord Leofric wants them questioned.

Godwine, Morwenna, and Vercingetorix go to the hut and find the two battered men chained to the floor. When they initially seem reluctant to talk, Vercingetorix moves to stomp on the man’s testicles, instead overshooting and kicking him in the stomach on the way down. The man coughs blood, doubles over in pain, and is still. Vercingetorix then turns menacingly on the other, who immediately explains that he does not know the name of his contact. They simply make a drop on the edge of Chipping Mossbury with a masked man in a dark cloak. He unloads the caged slaves, and they get paid. Trades are made once a month, but he assumes that his is not the only slave caravan operating in the area. He then asks if he can be released. Morwenna says that is not their place to determine, but they will ask Lord Leofric.

Returning to Lord Leofric, they explain what they learned, and he sends them to Chipping Mossbury to investigate. Morwenna also notes that the man asked if he could be released, and Lord Leofric says he will take care of it.

Godwine, Morwenna, and Vercingetorix then assemble themselves for the journey. On foot, they start towards Chipping Mossbury. Night approaches swiftly, and as they walk in the gloom, they hear a noise in the woods. Vercingetorix peers into the darkness and finds a wild horse, grazing. He steps forward, but it bolts away as he offers in an apple. The group then continues.

As they reach the town, they are stopped by the guardsmen, who ask their business. Upon explaining that they are from Sudleigh and have come to experience the market, the guardsmen allow them inside and direct them to the inn.

Upon finding the inn, they buy rooms for the evening. Godwine attempts unsuccessfully to flirt with the comely servinglady, and everyone retires for the evening.

The next morning, after breakfast, the group goes to the market to investigate. They first find an apothecary and ask him about the potion they recovered from the slavers. He indicates that he cannot identify it immediately, though if they let him retrieve a sample, they can come around later. He also sells Godwine a love potion when he asks. Godwine immediately leaves to return to the inn in an attempt to use his new potion.

Vercingetorix spots the slaver who escaped from the caravan attack a few days ago. He quietly starts to follow him. He notes as he purchases a rod-like object from a foreign merchant, then as he wanders through town before chatting up a young lady. The two then circuit around back to the inn, where he gets a room.

Godwine, having unsuccessfully attempted to purchase a drink for a lady with the potion in it, shrugs and drinks it himself. He then notes Vercingetorix as he enters, and follows him upstairs as he listens at the slaver’s door. Not determining anything, Vercingetorix returns to his room, where he sits with the door open, waiting in case the slaver leaves. Godwine stations himself at the bottom of the stairs.

The woman leaves first, followed by the slaver. As he passes Vercingetorix, he attempts to strike the man with an arrow. It misses, and instead strikes Godwine, bouncing off his armor. The slaver notices the attack, though, and dashes down the stairs. The second arrow misses, and Godwine tries to tackle him. He runs past, dashing into the street.

A chaotic chase ensues as Godwine and Vercingetorix attempt to subdue the slaver. However, the chaos is stopped by armed guardsmen. They ask what is happening, and Vercingetorix tries to explain the whole slavery ring. When the guard seems nonchalant, he indicates that the man in question is not a thief and a slaver, but a witch. The guard, convinced of the sincerity of the claim, takes the man to haul him before Bishop Malachi, the lord of Chipping Mossbury.

Morwenna, who has been with the apothecary this whole time, hears some commotion in time to see the slaver being led by two guardsmen toward the cathedral in town, along with the murmurs of the crowd. She then sees Godwine and Vercingetorix, and asks if they had something to do with it. Vercingetorix explains what happened. After having to explain the situation to the apothecary, Godwine and Vercingetorix then go to visit Bishop Malachi.

After being allowed entry into the cathedral and making their introductions, Godwine and Vercingetorix explain that this man is implicated in a slaving ring whereupon victims are sacrificed to the Devil. The Bishop indicates that these are serious claims, and when they explain that they have the testimony of victims and a sample of the poison used to drug the sacrifices, the Bishop tells them to assemble their evidence and return tomorrow.

Upon returning to the apothecary’s shop, the group discusses their options, and Godwine decides to return to Sudleigh and bring the witnesses to Chipping Mossbury. While he’s away, Morwenna continues talking to the apothecary while Vercingetorix looks around the city to see if he can find the woman who accompanied the slaver earlier.

After a little bit, the apothecary finally says that he cannot identify it at all. It has to be made with some unknown alchemy. He returns the vial to her, and she returns to the inn.

As she approaches the inn, she encounters a small terrier and a ragged beggar outside. He holds out a bowl and she gives a single denier. Thinking about it, she then asks if he has seen anything out of the ordinary, specifically relating to a local slaving ring. After managing to niggle five more deniers out of her, he explains that he has actually seen the caravans enter the city at night, pass to the edge of town, and unload their cages with humans inside to a man with a mask. She thanks him and returns to her room.

Not having found the woman, Vercingetorix returns to the inn, and proceeds to ask the beggar outside if he has seen anything strange in town. After niggling three deniers out of him, the beggar explains that he has already encountered Vercingetorix’s friend, and that he can add the information that the cages are taken to the center of town. After talking with Vercingetorix, he introduces himself as Aelfraed, and offers to buy him a drink.

Once Morwenna and Vercingetorix regroup, they realize that if the guards let these wagons into town, they must be aware of the slave trade. Thus, it is impossible to know who is involved with the slaving ring, and they very well might be bringing the witnesses to be killed. They gather their things and leave.

On the path, they encounter Godwine, returning with the witnesses. After explaining the situation, they all return to Sudleigh to report their findings to Lord Leofric. After some discussion, Lord Leofric suggests that killing them outright would be an exceedingly poor idea; if that happens, then he can gather his men, as well as men from King’s Bradmere and Stanhurst, and declare war on Chipping Mossbury. Agreeing with this, the group decides to return to Chipping Mossbury to present their evidence to Bishop Malachi.

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