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What was life like for medieval prostitutes? It prompted a criminal investigation into the conduct of the brothel-keeper, Lienhart Fryermut, and his partner, Barbara Tarschenfeindin. When Barbara discovered this she had forced Els to swallow an abortifacient drink that she had mixed herself, with the result that Els miscarried a male foetus whom the other women reckoned to have been about 20 weeks old.
After forcing Els back to work only a few days later and swearing her to secrecy, things had returned to normal in the brothel for a couple of weeks. But it was not long until some of the prostitutes began to speak among themselves about what had happened.
After Barbara overheard her speaking about what she had seen, she sent Barbel away to work in the public brothel in nearby Ulm. But it was too late to stem gossip about the incident. Things came to a head when two officials from the city council in charge of monitoring the brothel paid a visit. They told the women that rumours of what had happened had reached senior members of the council and that an investigation was imminent. In a furious confrontation, Lienhart burst in on the women while they were eating and delivered a savage beating to Els, while she screamed defiantly back at him that he would have to hack off her arms and legs to keep her quiet.
Later, as it finally became clear to Barbara and Lienhart that their cover-up had failed, they approached Els secretly to offer her a bargain. In exchange for her silence, they would agree to drop the debt she owed them and she would slip away quietly the next day while the women were eating dinner. Els agreed and, when the time came to enact the plan, Barbara sent her into the kitchen to fetch a jug of milk.
As Els left the brothel and headed for the city gate, Barbara made a show of asking where she had gone and ordered the women to search the brothel for her.