The Raven came to town today.
He walked into the town center, his birds circling around above him, and opened the doors to the little church. It didn’t take long for the line to form, people with their grievances saved up, waiting to be seen by the Raven.
A few years back, that King down south marched his armies through the borderlands and planted his flags. He tried to bring us under his wings, then. Sent his ministers to be judge, jury, and tax collector. But we are under the wings of the Raven-god, and his justice is swift and merciless. After the third body was found, eyes pecked out, the king gave up.
I don’t know what he expected; it was sheer arrogance to think that the god would forgive the burning of his sacred forest. But that’s the monarchy for you.
For three days, the Raven will hear the disputes of the townspeople, his rulings echoing from behind the beaked bronze mask. They say the Raven was something more than a man, that his priesthood has changed him. They say he was the god’s hand on Earth, his instrument, his vessel. I believe them: his hands, the only part of him you can see, are an inky blue-black.
On the fourth day, there will be no more hearings. The Raven will speak only five words – five words that could change my fate. Who will take the trial?
I used to dream about my life. I’d marry a handsome boy, I’d learn his trade, and we’d work together to build a family. That was how it went, in the borderlands. But when the king planted his flags, his soldiers planted their seed. There’s a few too many fair-haired babies hereabouts.
And now here I am, three years later, with a dead betrothed and a father who won’t look me in the eye.
So when the Raven speaks those words, I will answer. When his birds alight on my wrists, Truth on the left and Falsehood on the right, I will meet their gaze and I will not be afraid.
And that night, when the Raven leaves town…
I will go with him.