A Murder Mystery: Who Killed the Atheist?

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In a time long past, around the base of a sleeping volcano, there is was a thriving village. The village had three key figures which they relied on to maintain prosperity. The Chief, the ruler of the village who kept the law and passed judgement. The High Priest, the leader of the village who kept tradition and inspired the people. Finally, the Servant of the Volcano, who performed the ritual to appease the god of the volcano.

Each day, the Servant of the Volcano awoke to perform a gruelling ritual. His job was to move a series of heavy stones, from one pile to another, according to the movement of the sun across the daylight sky. This work deformed the Servant of the Volcano, making him hunched and arthritic in his old age. He did not chose his roll, but was assigned to it the day he reached maturity. However, the fate of the village rested on his shoulders, and he dare not neglect his duty.

The High Priest understood that without this ritual, the village would disperse out of fear of the volcano waking up. They would lose claim to their fertile soil and temperate weather. Because of this, he chose the Servant of the Volcano with great care, picking the healthiest man who had come of age. Since his time as High Priest, the volcano had remained in its slumber. Not just his time, but his father and grandfather before him, for the Priests were all from the same family.

The Chief had great pride in the culture and stability of his people. Whatever the opinion of the people, he saw himself as a truly benevolent ruler. He kept his distance from the High Priest, and only interacted with cautious respect. He knew the only person who could challenge his power in the village was the High Priest. However, he also knew the High Priest could not maintain his own status if there was no Chief, so there was peace.

One day, a stranger appeared in the town, claiming to be an ambassador from a nearby village. “I come from another village, three full moons away on horseback,” he said. The Chief called a gathering to hear him out. The High Priest, the Servant of the Volcano, and all the eldest of the village gathered in the Chief’s hall. “I come from a village much like your own. We too live under a sleeping giant, and enjoy its bounty. We wish to trade with you so we may prosper all the more!” So proclaimed the ambassador to the crowd.

“Tell us,” injected the High Priest, “how do you appease the god of YOUR mountain?” The ambassador looked confused, “We have no god to appease.” He replied, in the same tone as a question. “No god?!” Shouted the priest, bursting out of his seat in surprise. The Chief waved his hand, motioning to the High Priest to calm himself. The High Priest looked agitated, but complied.

“I am curious,” said the Chief, “do not your villagers fear the mountain awakening from its slumber?” The ambassador nodded, understanding the situation. He took a breath and replied, “Yes we do, but we use that fear to prepare. We have built trenches around the base, and have constructed our huts to be torn down in a day, and rebuilt again the next. We expect it to awaken.”

All present in the Chief’s hall grew silent, a stillness fell over the whole audience. The awkwardness was broken by one man, the Servant of the Volcano. He hobbled forward, and spoke in his shaky and broken voice, “Who digs your trenches?” The ambassador turned and looked at him with pity, “We all do. Once a year we make sure they are sufficient in depth and fortitude.” The Servant of the Volcano did not respond, he looked as if his mind had already wandered away.

“We have heard enough today,” the Chief’s booming voice stirring the audience as if from disorientation. “You have brought unbelievable claims to our village, and yet you ask for our friendship. You serve no god, yet you want our trust. This is very hard. However, I am a fair man. We will meet again tomorrow, and you will answer more of MY questions.” The Chief motioned to his servants to arrange lodgings for the ambassador.

The crowd left slowly from the hall, whispering among themselves as they left. The High Priest stormed out at the greatest pace, talking to no one. The Servant of the Volcano shuffled out slowly from the back of the crowd, no one would talk to him. The Chief stayed, watching and listening to the crowd as they left, hearing bits and pieces of the doubt and confusion of his people. The servants escorted the ambassador out politely, but the he felt nervous and wondered what he just got himself into.

The next morning the Chief called to his servants, “Bring me the ambassador! Assemble the hall so we may continue our inquiry into this new possible trade.” The servants did not leave for long, within minutes they returned to the Chief. “Chief, forgive us, but the ambassador is dead. His throat was slit during the night. By whom, we do not know. Should we still assemble the hall?”

The Chief thought for a minute, “No, such a brief interruption will soon be forgotten. I regret his death in my hospitality, but as we have never met anyone else from his village, we do not even know if his claims were true. Unless another comes to us, we have no choice but to move on.” The Chief was right, there were murmurs and gossip for a few weeks, but by the next year the village had all but forgotten that day.

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So the question I have for you is: Who killed the ambassador, and why? No guessing, leave your answer in the comments and explain WHY you think you know who killed him. Once you think that through, you can find the answer here:

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