“Yet another reason to not have children: You don’t want the batspider to visit you.” -- Anon Guest
"Bat... spider," repeated Hero. "I've never heard of the like. Is it a bat with spider legs, or a spider with bat wings?"
"It's like a Drider, but with the body, wings and head of a bat, 'stead of a drow," said the villager. "It takes all but one in ten of our children an' our idiot mayor thinks the solution is to have more babies."
"I'm guessing the mayor is a man," said Hero. She could feel the shape of this problem right away.
"Aye, you have it," said the villager. "Chastity belts're illegal, rape is legal, any pregnant woman must bear to birth as 'er sacred duty... There's talk of making moon-bleeding illegal after the first issue. 'S why I'm leaving with what I got and m' teats bound up."
And her hair concealed under a head-wrap and hat, Hero noted.
"Do you know where the beast dwells?"
"Nope. Nobody's seen it."
The obvious question rose, "Then how do you know it's a batspider? Or what it looks like."
"Town drunk saw it once. It messed him up an' he had just enough time t' tell our mayor ere he died."
Now that was suspicious as hell. "And the mayor was the only one to hear those last words?"
Boggle. "How did you know that?"
"I'm beginning to think there is something rotten about the state of affairs in your village," murmured Hero. She aimed her steed to the village in question.
A town where one in ten children got left behind by... something.
Hero pretended to be taking in the sights, after she paid for a room and a stall at the local inn. She saw an abundance of girl-children in the poorer sections, and the same skew towards boys in the wealthier sections of the town. No wilding animal or beast would be so very selective.
And everywhere - pregnant women.
The first three gangs of ne'er-do-wells learned quickly that it was not wise to take on a fully-armoured knight. Even one without her sword and shield. The roaming men of the village kept their distance after she ruined a few faces.
No doubt, they were waiting for her to fall asleep in her room.
Hero left them some pillows under her blankets and crept out onto the roofs. Watching what happened by moonlight. It didn't take long. Creeping figures with a well-made cart. Stalking silently into houses and taking infants from their exhausted parents.
Hero followed them at a distance. Hooded figures and their cart. Moving up a mountain pass on an ill-traveled track.
Where they met with another hooded figure and another cart, with more miserable souls shackled to the bars.
Hero didn't need to wait another instant. She brought her sword down on those who would sell lives and freed those in chains. And, with the help of those grown, managed to drag back carts, babies and proof to the town centre by dawn.
Hero let the townsfolk sort out the mayor. And the highborns who didn't want daughters to dower. She was, after all, much in favour of meritocracies.
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