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The being that was the focus of the Tori-Ji was an interesting mixture of deity and beast, known to the Honnin as Oku-Tori. A normal man had been taken by the god of birds as a channel through which to communicate with the Honnin. The spirit itself had little more intellect than the forest birds it rules, and its life was filled only with the satisfaction of its animal appetites. When it was joined with a man, however, it took on some of his understanding. The spirit could communicate with other men, and it could comprehend their desires. The unfortunate host was driven completely mad by this possession, and nothing of his original character showed once he assumed his role. In return for the strength it derived from their worship and the food they brought to sustain it's host, the god gave the Honnin help when they hunted the birds of the Suza Sumar (the Forest of Tears) and information on the passings that were seen by its avian legions. It should be noted that the birds themselves were not revered by the jungle faith; they were just one of the forest's many resources which their gods helped the Honnin use to better advantage. In addition to the role of medium, the god gave the body it took the power of flight. Almost instantly upon possession, bright feathers sprout from the skin of the man, and broad wings formed at his shoulders. His face stretched forward into a cruel beak, matched by fearsome talons at his hands and feet. Whenever the spirit chose, it could fly from its open roost at the peak of the tower, out across the forest to join with its minions in the freedom of the skies. Strangely though, the deity spent the majority of its time huddled in a rude nest, surrounded by its own filth. Each day, however, it did venture out at least once. At the setting of the sun, the spirit in it's altered body took wing to gather heads. The reason for this was unknown even to the members of the cult, but it was accepted as the right of the god. It was really nothing more than the sort of purposeless interest which some more normal birds take in gath- ering small, shiny objects. In addition to the many tattoos that were common among their people, the men of the Tower of Birds wore a complicated image of their god upon their throats. Oku-Tori did not shy away even from his own servants when the hunt was on, and they believed that this mark would deliver them into further service of the avian spirit if he should take their lives. They also made an effort to be inside their temple through the hours around dusk. In appearance, the god of the Tori-Ji was both terrifying and sad. Though it is only of typical Honnin stature, it's spreading wings spun thirteen feet, and the blackened claws that have replaced its hands and feet are powerful and razor sharp. The creature had no instinct towards grooming, and the fine feathers that grew from the human flesh were soiled; spattered with blood as well as the beast's own wastes. It's smell was powerfully repulsive, but the men who served in the temple had grown used to it. It wore no clothing, but the tattered, filthy feathers cover all of it's body except the face, where mad eyes stared from normal Honnin features above a bony beak.

References

  • MERP:Angus McBride’s Characters of Middle-earth
  • MERP:The Forest of Tears
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