Archive16: Owlmen

What- or who- is The Owl With Tongues?

By B. Moon

The temporary office Elion Okar has set up in the break-room of the Seaflower Institute is a mess, although its creator insists to me it’s a complex system.

‘Each station is a potential connection,’ he says, gesturing to the coffee table as an example. ‘And is broken down into piles- evidence for, evidence against, and what a positive connection would imply.’

He is searching for links in the puzzle of the ‘Owl With Two Tongues’- a mystery that has dogged him since he was an undergrad.

A mysterious amulet found alongside evidence of an ancient sacrificial ritual, dedicated to a being otherwise unheard of, lost to time.

Or is it?

Elion has three favourite possibilities amongst the sea of papers decorating my breakroom floor.

 

Connection Number One: Medieval ‘Owl-faced mad-man’ (Coffee Table)

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This woodcut illustration is from the bottom of a page of a 14C manuscript documenting the daily work of a popular bishop.

The accompanying entry recounts the story of a man: ‘for whom his good wife sought help, for he had torn apart his son’s dog, and it he then devoured there upon the ground’.

His wife, understandably concerned, went immediately to the house of the bishop; who accompanied her (along with several strong men recruited from nearby fields).

On their arrival, the party were alarmed at the man’s condition:

“we looked upon an owlfaced mad-man, naked and scrabbling in the fresh turned sod for worms, which he consumed with vigor’.

The man reportedly died after spending several days restrained. The bishop eventually came to a conclusion in his writings as to the cause of the man’s affliction:

‘punishment for a meddling in the occult… serving idols and false gods that are not Him… and bargaining with fairies and devils for knowledge his mind could not hold.’

 

Connection Number Two: Scottish ‘Lightning King’ (Counter next to the sink)

Found in a sealed off cave system, the Lightning King has always been overshadowed by the other paintings in the Blue Worm Cavern. The bold blue dragons distracted from the cracked stick man and his faded throne of skulls.

Its debated what of this mysterious figure is the original etching and what is cracks in the dry rock face- but there is an undeniable resemblance to the symbol involved in the recent Revery necromancer activity.

 

Connection Number Three: The Owlman of Mawnan (Floor to the left of the door)

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1976 drawing of the first owlman sighting

(the-line-up.com)

This connection has the least evidence to connect it, but it’s my favourite because i have a fondness for cryptids.

The Owlman is a folkloric creature sighted in Cornwall in 1976, around a church built on prehistoric earthworks. Reportedly (from several different accounts) the owlman is a feathered birdman with huge eyes, pointed ears, and pincer hands (see Morgawr: The Monster of Falmouth Bay by Anthony Mawnan-Peller).

 

Will we ever find out about this ancient being? Part of me hopes not; but I fear that the Owl With Tongues is not done with this world yet.

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Jesper’s moth subjects continue to grow. Ugh.
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Archive16: Aftermoth

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‘Whatever you do,’ Lesley said, announcing her presence in Evelyn’s office doorway, ‘don’t touch Jesper’s sample jars. He damn near tore my ears off.’

‘So that’s what the racket was about.’ Evelyn looked up from her desk for the first time in what felt like hours, and was possibly even longer. She had to blink a few times before Lesley came into focus.

‘What a mess.’

Was she talking about Jesper? The mutating moth corpses? The undercurrent of tension? The political fallout from their open day disaster?

Maybe it was just the state of her desk.

Lesley cleared a space amongst the scattered papers and receipts, and gently plonked a steaming mug of coffee down in it.

‘You need a fuel break,’ she said. ‘Did you even go home last night?’

‘Vale is putting us through the ringer over this,’ Evelyn said, neatly sidestepping the fact that yeah okay, she slept in her office. ‘He wants to get us shut down. He might even succeed.’

‘Pfff,’ Lesley snorted. ‘He’s tried before.’

‘Yeah well, the mysterious disappearance of our guy full of moths might just cinch it for him. They don’t believe he even existed. Without a body…’

She ducked too late as Lesley cuffed her cheek with a gentle hand.

‘Chin up Evie. Henry Vale might be holding your soul hostage, but we’ve got his balls in a vice. If he gets us shut down, he’s got to foot the bill for his own occult special unit. And that means less money to slip into his own pocket.’

From upstairs came the sound of raised voices. Lesley rolled her eyes.

‘Damage control to the first floor,’ she said into an imaginary walkie-talkie. ‘Seriously, love. We’ll be okay.’

Evelyn hoped she was right.

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Archive15: Open Day Part 2

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(Warning: This post contains horror elelments)

Bartholomew was showing a disinterested audience how to feed a mottled bee-eater, and getting progressively more irritable about it.

‘Eat the nice, crunchy bluebottle please!’ he said through a forced smile, waving said snack, dead and impaled on a cocktail stick, under the bee-eater’s nose. The creature was far more interested in escape, or maybe rifling through the visitors’ bags to see if they had any actual bees.

‘I guess she’s not hungry!’ he said, trying to be heard over the chattering group. ‘I’ll put her back in the cage and… ‘

Honestly, why were they even here if they didn’t want to listen? He rubbed his brow, trying to banish the beginnings of a headache.

‘Okay, come on,’ he said, when the noise just increased. ‘Chanting, really? Is now the time—‘

Okay, in hindsight?  Perhaps he should have been a bit more alarmed by the chanting.

He caught a brief glimpse of the chanter before everything went to hell: young man, gaunt, sickly looking, eyes bloodshot, black sweater with a red decal on the front.

Their eyes made contact. Bartholomew was going to say something witty about not needing a note to leave his class.

But instead the guy’s chest burst open and a swarm of moths emerged, which changed the mood considerably.

The sheer force and volume of the moths knocked everyone off their feet. He could see nothing but a whirl of bloody wings, soft fluttering bodies knocking against him all over. His mouth and nose burned with a smell he couldn’t begin to identify.

He hardly noticed the bee-eater claw herself from his hand and, with a delighted shriek and a gaping mouth, dive into the fray.

Bartholomew covered his face with his arms, and tried to move to where the door should be. Maybe. He thought? He tripped on something- on someone, nearly losing his balance.

A man stared up at him, a cut on his forehead and unfocused eyes, wheezing for breath against the godawful stink. His hand grasped at his shirt pocket. Probably where he kept his soul, Bartholomew thought, coughing as he hauled the man up onto his feet. Protecting their soul was normally the first instinct in a situation like this.

Bartholomew touched the locket hanging against his chest beneath his shirt. It was little comfort.

Bartholomew shoved the man in front of him, hoping he was steering in the right direction. The moths made it hard to tell what way was up, even, with all their swirling and diving and black spots yawning like mouths coming to eat…

Hmm, no. That part was probably him losing consciousness? And that would explain why the floor was suddenly under his back instead of his feet. It helped with the spinning for a moment, but then he realised the moths were landing on him, on his face and his mouth and the smell, the smell
Continue reading “Archive15: Open Day Part 2”

Archive14: Open Day Part One

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As she did every year, Evelyn spent most of open day waiting for something to go wrong.

The flow of people coming through the doors was steady, but not overwhelming. Evelyn had done her welcome talk, and lead two of the hourly tours. She’d made a hundred teas and coffees, nipped out to the bakery next door to replenish the biscuits, and so far had only had to apologise to one visitor for Jesper’s… abrupt demeanour.

Ruffled feathers had been soothed, and Evelyn was feeling rather good about it all.

It was then she noticed the smell.

‘Oh my- Lesley, do you smell that?’ It snagged on the back of her tongue, she fought back a cough. On second thoughts, it was less of a smell and more of a hand shoving something rotting down her throat and squirting lemon juice in her eyes for good measure.

Around her, other people started coughing.

Lesley grabbed her shoulder.

‘Get’emout,’ she told evelyn between hacking coughs. Out of the corner of her eye, Evelyn saw that Thursday was already herding visitors to the front door.

‘The others,’ Evelyn said. ‘Jesper. Barty—‘ as she spoke, she heard footsteps on the stairs, then Jesper appeared in the doorway, shirt pulled up over his mouth and looking more pissed off than usual.

Keeley should be out in the greenhouse, and she’d hopefully have the good sense to stay there. Which just left Bartholomew, who… was currently running the feeding demo in the archives.

Downstairs.

‘The cellar!’ she said to Lesley, who nodded and as one they pushed through the panicking bottleneck of people to the stairwell.

As they went down, the smell got worse. Like old blood, curdled milk and piss and… superglue.

Trust her little brother to end up in the middle of the chaos. Typical Barty.

Lesley came to an abrupt stop at the bottom of the stairs. In the poor light, Evelyn thought at first that the archive door was shut. But no, it looked wrong- like it was rippling, heaving, wriggling.

She switched on the light, and it caught silver on a thousand twitching wings.

The doorway was full of moths.

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Archive 13: The Owl with Two Tongues

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Jesper hovered in the hallway like an anxious buzzard.

‘Elion’s using my desk,’ he hissed at Evelyn.

‘Yes,’ she said. When Jesper was in a snit, it was best to smile and nod and let him get on with it.

‘My desk! with my stuff on! Which he moved,’ he wrung his hands.

‘it was just a mug. A mug that was supporting life, but…’ Jesper looked so het up about it that she patted his shoulder. ‘You can put it back?’

‘I could always use a hand,’ Elion said, more a polite reminder that the walls were thin, than a genuine request.

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Archive12: Humidity

It is a hot mid-May day in Revery. Stormflies buzz in anticipation. The sun, having given up on penetrating the heavy cloud over the city, has settled for baking its inhabitants alive.

A balled-up piece of paper hits Keeley on her sweaty forehead.

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From across the room, Thursday meets her eyes and grins.

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The note passes in a quick volley between them, until a hand plucks it out of mid-air.

It’s Lesley. Or, as Keeley likes to call her, Staff Mum.

She sinks down further into her chair. She is so grounded.

Continue reading “Archive12: Humidity”

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