Talahar was the Bird God. Wearing his plumed headdress, he stood a full two heads taller than even the tallest member of the tribe. He carried with him a crooked axe in the shape of a bird’s beak–this he used to crack the skulls of his offerings.
In that, Talahar was unique amongst the gods of Racmar, for his appetite singularly demanded the blood of children.
As such, Talahar amongst the most feared of the jungle spirits, as well as the most respected. Villagers spoke of the times Talahar had approached the doors to their huts, poised on the threshold, axe-beak in hand. There, Talahar would stand in the darkness and listen for the child within drawing breath.
In that moment–his decision would be made. If confident that the child within was brave and strong, he would move to another hut, and then another, until he found a child whose breathing did not satisfy him.
The children that Talahar took were deemed to be cursed. Should the feather-headed god not take them, crack their skulls and sip the brain-blood from a cup fashioned from the egg of an ancient bird, then the child would surely bring famine, death and destruction to the remaining villagers.
Or so it was told.
But on this night, when the bell tolled and then the drums began; on this night when Talahar gave his awful bird-call from atop the ritual platform…
One mother did swaddle her child in cloth and hug him to her breast.
“No, no, no, no, no, no,” she whispered to her little one, cradling him against her.
And the god stole through the city streets, breathing heavily inside the headdress that was filled with the stench of a dozen bird-gods before him.
Talahar’s actions were for the good of the village. He did what he did to protect every villager.
And now, the Bird God paused at a door and listened to the sounds within. With the beak of his axe he struck the wood, a single resounding knock that echoed through the village, for all were hushed and waiting and praying that it was not their door that Talahar struck this night.
But the door did not open and so Talahar struck it again, this time shedding splinters from the wood. The Bird God was shaking, the feathers atop the headdress fluttering as he rattled up and down. Anger overtook him. Rage.
He fell on the door in an assault of mad avian screams, battering it to pieces so that he could step over the threshold and into the darkness beyond. He could sense them there in the corner, little more than shadows: mother and child, merging together as one. If Talahar had to take them both, he would.
The only thing more important than the Masked Gods were the Bestial Princes they served: those malformed shadows that lingered in the pits and furrows of the mountain caves, speaking in riddles of wisdom and threat.
He stepped forward. Then again. Still screaming that horrendous scream, he raised the beak-axe high above the plumed feathers of the mask. There was a movement to the side of him and someone gripped the axe and twisted it away.
Who would dare?
Talahar was outraged. The beak of the axe buried itself into his back. Over and over again the mother struck, screaming loudly enough to rival the Bird God himself. Blood scattered in fine threads across the interior of the frugal jungle hut.
And then, the Bird God was dead.