The Darkness of the Womb

A Trip to Market, Chapter 3

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

Having returned with the captured guard, Aethelwulf, Godwine, and Morwenna issue their report before retiring for the night. Before retiring, Aethelwulf ensures that Vercingetorix’s unconscious body is moved to his room at the inn.

The following morning, everyone awakens in their rooms and begins to go about their business. Morwenna goes to speak with Putnam, the potion-maker. Vercingetorix goes into the woods to hunt deer. Godwine decides to get drunk at the inn. Aethelwulf speaks to Bishop Malachi so that he may interrogate the imprisoned guardsman.

Finding that the man’s name is Tolucan, the guardsman is initially reluctant to speak and even indicates that this slave rings is more widespread than they expect. However, when Aethelwulf promises that he will not be executed if he speaks, he indicates that Leofwine is the man they seek. Bishop Malachi says that Leofwine is one of the organizers for the market in town, and though he is inclined not to believe that it is the case, he says that Leofwine could be anywhere in the market square, but that he is probably most commonly found in the building of Enosh the Jew. Aethelwulf asks for two guardsmen to accompany and proceeds to the market square.

He finds Morwenna, speaking to Putnam, and Vercingetorix, selling deer meat in the market square. Gathering them up, he decides to find Godwine before asking around the merchant’s square. After asking around, they determine he is probably at Enosh’s moneychanging business.

Before leaving to find Leofwine, they encounter Faran, Lord Leofric’s sergeant. He indicates that Lord Leofric sent him to make sure everyone was all right, considering the nature of their investigation, and says he will join them in their investigation.

On the way to speak with Enosh, some of the assembled group notice something in a side alley — what looks like a body thrown in some refuse, surrounded by a spreading pool of scarlet. They investigate to find a man with his throat slit — a man who fits the description of Leofwine. Aethelwulf manages to find footprints, but decides to go to Enosh before following them.

Entering Enosh’s building, they find him to be a stooped old man with a burly, well-armed man watching the place. He seems genuinely surprised when they say Leofwine is dead, and he is truly shocked when he sees the body. Ruling him out as a suspect, they explain that he was apparently into some shady dealings regarding slavery, and ask if anybody would have wanted him killed. Enosh says he doesn’t know, though if he is into strange dealings, it is impossible to say. He also indicates that Leofwine has dealings with everybody in the market, so it is difficult to say who may be the most likely suspect. The group proceeds by making a report to Bishop Malachi and asking the guards to follow the trails they found. Then, the group decides to look at Leofwine’s house.

After Aethelwulf kicks down the door, they look around. Faran and Vercingetorix find a hidden cubby containing the mask they saw on the slavemaster the previous night, as well as a seaf of papers bearing departure and return dates, as well as several names; some of these belong to the slavers they previously captured. Still somewhat intoxicated, Godwine briefly tries the mask before being reminded that he ought not to wear it.

After making a report of their findings to Bishop Malachi, the group hears from the two guards. The first says that the prints led back to Enosh’s shop. The second says the other set of prints led into the woods. Armed with this information, the group decides to follow the footprints into the woods.

After an hour of walking, they hear some sounds of struggle ahead. Aethelwulf and Vercingetorix sneak ahead to find a small clearing containing the body of a fallen man, a city guard from Chipping Mossbury, whose face has been bashed beyond recognition. Surrounding him are six man-things — humanoid creatures covered in coarse, slightly phosphorescent, blue hair. They wield clubs and squat around the fallen man, grunting and eating of his flesh. Vercingetorix looses an arrow that misses, sticking into the ground nearby the things. They immediately turn and rush Aethelwulf and Vercingetorix, who proceed to run. However, they fall upon Vercingetorix, prompting Aethelwulf to shout and join the fray. Though one of them manages to hit Vercingetorix with its club, he is merely bruised and continues fighting. As Faran, Godwine, and Morwenna join the battle, the creatures fan out slightly. Vercingetorix falls back to loose his arrows upon them, while the others move into melee. After a difficult battle, the group prevails, though not without injuries — one of the creatures grievously wounds Faran before it is felled, and Aethelwulf, Godwine, and Vercingetorix all receive minor injuries.

Aethelwulf searches the site, and finds a dagger on the guardsman that appears as though it may have been recently used. A campsite, presumably his own, sits nearby. Before leaving, they decide to decapitate one of the beasts as proof upon their return.

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