Tomas was a tall man and with long limbs that looked less strong than they were. People that did not know him were fooled by his lanky appearance. They were often fooled by his smiling face, too. Tomas was normally very friendly and jovial until you did something that disturbed his peace. Then he was no nonsense and all business and many a man has found himself spending the night in the ice house over night for making Tomas work.
Tomas came up the stairs, looked at both Balder and Brian and said a curt hello. Balder motioned to the door and to the floor. Tomas walked up to the door slowly and looking all around the area before getting too close.
“Can you two please move back down the hall a few paces?” Tomas waited for them to move out of his way. Then, he searched the floor, looked at the walls on both sides of the door and the wall over the door. Only then did he look down at the floor just inside the room.
“This is definitely blood. It is dry in some places but slightly wet in spots. There is a larger, deeper amount just in front of the doorway where it then smeared back into the room.” Tomas stepped into the room by stepping over the blood stains. The other three men stayed where they were in the hall. Tomas closed the door. For a few minutes all was quiet and then they could hear Tomas moving around the room. He was very quiet but they could hear the floor boards creak as he moved around.
The sun shifted to shine in the window that was in this hallway. The light shone in as a shaft that highlighted the dust moats dancing in the air. The sounds of the town were much louder with people in the streets calling to each other. There was laughter that made its way up the stairs. A woman in the first floor hall giggled loudly and the sound grated on their nerves and seemed very out of place.
Balder began to recite the creation story to pass the time. He didn’t know what Brian and Joda were thinking to help pass the time for them, but Balder was almost done repeating his story in his mind when the door to the room was opened slowly by Tomas.
“This is not something we are used to seeing here in Zell,” he said. “Before I let you in, I must tell you that there are two dead bodies in that room. Both of them are men. I will need to see if you can tell me who they are.”
“There should only be one man in that room,” said Brian. “I only let the room to one man. I only rented the room to Elsin.”
“You will need to look to see if one of the two men is this Elsin you speak of.”
“I’m not going in there.” Brian backed away from the doorway.
“I need you to try to tell me who these men are, Brian,” said Tomas.
“No.” Brian began to shake slightly.
Balder watched Brian and say a fear in his face.
“I can see if I know them,” said Balder. “I have met Elsin and I may recognize the other man.”
“That should do.” Tomas stepped to the door and placed his hand on it but did not push it open yet. “Brian, have your man get together two stretchers and three other men to help carry the bodies to the icehouse.”
Brian nodded and he and Joda left to complete their errands.
“When we go inside, try not to step in the blood,” Tomas told Balder. “There is a lot all over the room. Be careful how you move throughout the room. Watch your tunic. You may want to gather it together to keep it out of the mess.”
Tomas pushed open the door and entered the room. Balder followed him in. Balder stepped over the blood by the door and then was amazed at the blood all over the rest of the room. There was blood on the floor, the walls and the sparse furniture. It looked like a slaughter house. Balder looked beg=hind the door and he saw that it was Elsin. He saw that Elsin’s body was naked and cut and stabbed in many places. His face had been slashed about ten times in many directions. Balder had never seen anything like it. From the door area where Elsin lay in a piled up heap, pushed together by the opening of the door, a line of blood trailed back to the bed where Balder could see a bloody mess laid across it.
He walked closer to the bed and saw that this too was a man and he was also unclothed. He lay face down in the bed. His upper body was on the bed but his legs trailed onto the floor. The man’s brown hair was caked in blood but Balder could not see any marks on this man’s back, just blood.
Tomas turned this body over and Balder gasped. This man was Vix, another of the men that Alena was to meet with but not until the last day. He was the thirteenth man on the list. This was not what caused Balder’s surprise though. Now Balder could see where all of the blood had come from. Vix’s penis had been ripped off and stuffed in his mouth. He had also been stabbed in the chest several times, but Balder could not tell which injuries had come first.
“What do you say about these men? Do you know them?”
“Yes, the man by the door is Elsin, who rented this room.” Balder took a deep breath. “This man here is Vix from Land’s End.”
“So, he is another of the men in your contest?”
“It is not really a contest, but yes, he is one of the thirteen.”
“I have looked around the room and have discovered several things and have not found others which I would have thought to have found.”
“What did you not find, Tomas?”
“There is no knife in the room.”
“But there must be one. Where would it be?”
“I think there must have been another person in this room who took the knife with him. I think this was also the person who killed both Elsin and Vix.”
“What would make you say that?”
“Elsin and Vix were lovers. They did not have a fight. Their clothes were placed neatly in a pile together on that back stool in the back of the room. Their clothes are together, not in separate piles. That shows me a certain kind of closeness.”
Balder looked to the spot that Tomas indicated.
“That makes sense.”
“Their being lovers does not disturb you?”
“No, I do not find it unusual. Maybe around here, but these men were not from around here. Do you think they knew each other before coming here?”
“That is something we will look into. But I think I can safely say that Vix was attacked first based on the kind of wounds he had. Elsin looks like he was stabbed and killed trying to save or protect Vix. He moved towards the bed where Vix was killed and then he moved towards the door after he received his wounds.”
“With so much going on here, I am surprised no one else in the inn heard anything.”
“This is another thing that we must find out.” Tomas picked up the clothes of both of the men and the bag that was on the floor by the stool. “Do you know where Vix had his rooms?”
“I believe he had a room with Master Blacksmith. I think there was some sort of relationship there.”
“I will go speak with him.”
“What do you think happened here?”
“I think someone came in here and killed them both and I think he was angry when he did it.”
Alena was amazed at Balder’s story. She sat in her chair by her warm fire in her secure hall and wondered how two big men could be murdered in an inn across the lake. She couldn’t get her mind around it all. And it looked like Balder was having a hard time comprehending it also.
“Do you think this could have anything to do with the attack on Karl?” asked Alena.
Balder looked at her startled and wary.
“What would make you think that?”
“It just seems odd that all of these attacks are happening now, when nothing has happened before.”
“I think it must be a coincidence. They are very different kind of attacks after all.”
“I guess you are right. They are very different.”
“Yes, these attacks in Zell seem very personal, like the attack was against these men in particular, where the attack on Karl was a group of bandits for profit.”
“I see what you mean, now that you explain them.”
Alena and Balder sat in silence for a while. Then, Balder coughed.
“What am I thinking?” said Alena. “Marta, please bring us two bowls of beer.”
“It is awful early, ma’am.” Marta scowled her disapproval at the early hour for libations.
“Normally, I would agree, but these are special circumstances. Please, just bring us some, Marta.”
Marta brought over the drinks and noticed blood on Balder’s tunic as she set the bowls down on the table near them.
“Sir, you have blood on your shirt. Are you hurt?”
“Not I, Marta. I am perfectly fine, but there are others who have not fared as well.”
“Marta, I will speak to you later and explain.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Marta moved off back to her work.
“What do we do now?” asked Alena.
“We must go on. There is nothing we can d for these men and the living must live.” Balder drank his beer in one long gulp. “You have several hours before the next man is to arrive. Do you need something to help you through the rest of the day?”
“No, I am fine. I may just go for a walk though, to refresh my self.”
“You do that. I will go to the council and tell them what has happened.” Balder rose to go. He stumbled over his own feet in his preoccupation of thought, bumping into the table and knocking the bowl to the ground where it shattered into many pieces.
Marta and Leni rushed over to clean up. Balder stuttered his apologies to them all and left. He seemed more upset now than when he had first come to tell her about his morning activities.
While the women cleaned up Balder’s mess, Alena told them briefly and without too much detail about the deaths of Elsin and Vix. Leni gasped at all of the appropriate places but Marta said nothing until Alena was done. Then, Marta stood, fists on hips and head cocked to one side. She thought for a minute.
“That’s four out of five men gone from the list. Sort of narrowing the field, I guess.”
“What do you mean, Marta?” Alena was shocked.
“Right now there is only one man in the running. I wonder if anything will happen to knock more of them off of the list.”
“Don’t be silly. Who would kill those men just so they couldn’t place their suit before me?” Alena shivered and remembered her nightmare.