Chapter Five / The Face of an Undead ReligionMature

            The inspector scooted his chair so as to better face him.  “Explain.”

            “Cawker claimed that Wilsby had prodded a raven with his pike shortly before he was killed.  Furthermore, he was of the belief that the same raven turned into supernatural woman, who walked through a closed, locked gate in order to impale Wilsby on the end of that pike.  Now, I still can’t say for certain whether or not he was telling the truth, but I’m almost entirely sure that he wasn’t lying outright.  He was telling me what he thought he saw.  Perhaps he did see that, and we’re dealing with something absolutely terrifying.  Perhaps he was tricked or hallucinating.”

            “Go on,” said Crowlinger.

            “Anyway, ever since then, I’ve been seeing a raven everywhere I go.  At first I thought I was being paranoid, that it was all a coincidence, that there had always been ravens all over Brysail, and I was just now noticing them because they were on my mind.  But now I’m convinced that the raven I’m seeing is always the same one.  I couldn’t prove it to you.  I’m no ornithologist.  I just know it is.  It’s always there, and it’s always watching me with its horrible, beady black eyes.  It’s getting to the point where I feel ill every time I see it, and I can’t fucking stand it anymore.  When you mentioned that the murder weapon had an engraving of a raven upon it, I felt this rush of…I don’t know, pure existential dread, I guess.  This certainty that whatever all this is about, that raven’s involved somehow, and whatever it was that killed Wilsby and Cawker is coming for me next, and…well, that’s why I threw up on you.  I’m sorry.”

            “And you think this has something to do with Ancient Magramish mythology?”

            “Almost certainly.”

            “So this is the work of some sort of mythical being, is what you’re saying?”

            “No.”  Seymour adjusted his position so that his arms were folded on the back of the sofa.  “Not necessarily.  It very well could be someone pretending to be, or cultists worshipping, said mythological being.”

            “And what led you to believe it had anything to do with a long-dead religion in the first place?”

            “Long-dead?” The detective laughed coldly.  “Hardly.  The Magrams borrowed their pantheon of deities, along with the lore that went with them, from the Madaram elves—who still reside, of course, in the remote regions of modern Magramland and northern Murkintsen.  Even if the human version went extinct, it could still potentially be revived with a bit of interspecies contact.  But it isn’t extinct.  Cults devoted to its various gods and goddesses have recently surfaced in places as far flung as the Sysaran Stepplands and Vailee.”  He gestured to a stack of books and news clippings spread across his coffee table.  “I’ve been doing research.”

            “You haven’t answered my question, de Winter.”

            “I’m getting there.”  He closed his eyes for a few seconds and then opened them again.  “Firstly, Cawker described the woman he saw as having elfin characteristics.  Since the Ancient Magramish religion had its basis in elfin mythology, many of its deities take the form of elves.  Secondly, there is a prominent Magramish goddess who can take the form of either a large raven or a tall, pale woman with black hair and bright blue eyes with no visible pupils.  To the elves of the Madaram, she is known as Moriudhan.  Her human worshippers call her by many names:  the Lady Raven, Beannh Waelyngar, and most commonly…” Seymour paused for effect.  “Moriba.”


            But the detective wasn’t done.  “Moriba.  The goddess of war and cunning and the twin sister of Death.  The Second Queen of Time and ruler of the In-Between.  A mischievous and temperamental being, placated only by means of blood sacrifice.  Preferably that of children.  I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t be too pleased if any cult of hers popped up in the middle of Brysail, would you, Inspector?”

The End

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