The Darkness of the Womb

A Trip to Market, Chapter 2

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

While Godwine, Morwenna, and Vercingetorix are discussing these matters with Lord Leofric, Aethelwulf, still injured from his run-in with the Little People of Stanhurst, enters the timber hall. After informing him of all that has transpired, he definitively says that they should go to Chipping Mossbury tomorrow with the evidence.

The next morning, the group assembles, and makes it way to Chipping Mossbury without incident. They arrive around midday, arriving at Bishop Malachi’s cathedral to present the testimony of witnesses, the vial of reagent, and the tesimony of Aethelwulf, who says that his wounds were caused by the slaver in question. Bishop Malachi tells them to go to the inn for lunch while he makes deliberations. When they return, he notes that they seem to know the most about this, and so he charges them with discovering the slaving ring. When Aethelwulf asks, he says that he can provide payment, and that the deed would also shine favorably on Lord Leofric. When Aethelwulf notes that one of the guards, a fellow by the name of Acwellen, seems somewhat smug about this, and when he asks, the guard simply states that he might prefer this to occur in-house. Aethelwulf responds by enlisting him to aid them. He then passes judgment on the slaver, saying that as a devil-worshipper, a tax-dodger, and a secret slaver, he is to be sentenced to death by beheading the following day.

Aethelwulf, Godwine, Morwenna, and Vercingetorix then decide to wait until the next slave caravan comes. First, they ask Bishop Malachi to grant them living space in Chipping Mossbury, and he allows them to stay at the inn for free. Then, they start their preparations.

In their off-time, Godwine takes to attempting — successfully, this time — to bed some of the serving women at the inn, while Morwenna takes to studying with Putnam, the potion-maker at the market. Vercingetorix takes to his regimen of vigilance, while Aethelwulf purchases two dogs and trains them to recognize the poison the slavers carry and bark if they smell it. Morwenna keeps treating him for his wounds.

Once preparations are made, the group starts watching the entrances into the city. Aethelwulf and Acwellen take the north gate, while Godwine and Vercingetorix take the south gate, sometimes accompanied by Morwenna. Each guard post has a dog accompanying.

A couple of weeks pass uneventfully in this fashion, with the night’s guard duty. Finally, late one night, the dog at the south post starts barking as a cart approaches. Godwine and Vercingetorix stop him, while Morwenna watches. Vercingetorix takes the dog and starts to investigate, while the merchant driving the cart asks why the guard has changed. Morwenna slips away to inform Aethelwulf. Eventually, the driver decides that the new guards do not actually work for Bishop Malachi, and they attack. Vercingetorix is quickly hit with a poisoned dagger, and loses consciousness. Godwine, however, fares much better, attacking and decapitating one of the slavers. By the time Aethelwulf, Morwenna, and the guard Acwellen arrive, Godwine has the slavers on the run. Aethelwulf orders the dogs to attack, and though one of the slavers is killed, the other two are captured alive for questioning.

The group checks the cart, finding caged slaves underneath the pelts and other supplies, and takes the whole assembly to Bishop Malachi. After he awakens, they quickly deliberate what to do when Morwenna remembers that they know where the slavers meet their contact in Chipping Mossbury. Leaving the slaves and unconscious slavers behind, the group disguises themselves and takes the cart to meet him.

Upon arriving at the edge of town, they see a man in black robes wearing a white mask with red markings. He draws his sword as they approach, and after speaking to them, calls forth three of the town’s guardsmen. He then orders them to kill the intruders.

As combat is joined, the mysterious masked figure tries to run as the guards cover his escape. Aethelwulf orders the dogs to take him down, but the guardsmen make short work of the hounds. While Aethelwulf and Godwine fight, Morwenna runs back to the cathedral to sound the alarm. The masked figure escapes, and though Aethelwulf and Godwine hold their own, the fight seems to be going against them when they hear Morwenna’s shouts. The three guardsmen start to run.

Aethelwulf, now heavily wounded, takes the opportunity to rest while the rest of the guard arrives. Aethelwulf gives descriptions and directions while the guardmen go in pursuit. Aethelwulf and Godwine then take horses from the cart and similarly follow. They come across one of the renegade guardsmen, and manage to knock him down, binding him and returning with him to the cathedral.



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