The Twisted Heart Killings
Just over a hundred years ago, in the year 923 MD, over the period of a few months four carters of the Morton Porters' Guild were found dead, killed in the same gruesome manner. This included removing the victim's heart and replacing it upside down - a feature giving rise to their becomming known as the "Twisted Heart Killings".
Although initially little concerned, the authorities became interested when the after the death in similar circumstances of the Duke's Scrivener. By the time they began to bring their power to the investigation though a host of competing theories and rumours were circulating among the Guilds and labouring classes and though rewards were offered and many theories proposed to explain the killings no one was brought to the Duke's Bench to face justice. Whoever the killer was, popular culture knows them as Jorrock, named after a (possibly mythical) dragon that threatened Morton in the early years of the Duchy (see The Legend of Carron's Daughter for more on this).
Although investigations continued for several years, largely funded and driven by the Porters' Guild the Duchy Authorities seemed notably less keen, to the point that many came to believe that there was a cover up of some sort taking place. Over the next few decades accusations came to be made against various of the Ducal family, the Porters and other guilds and those of Taru ancestry or appearance though as those who were active at the time of the killings grew old and died it became a subject more of parlour discussion. The case continued to be widely cited by those agitating against the Taru, with significant exaggeration of the violence involved and the number of victims common.
Interest was re-ignited a few years ago when, after a series of anti-Taru riots the Duke released to scholars the privy files from the investigations of 923. Although these did not directly answer the questions of who carried out these killings or why they did diffuse the racial tensions pointing the finger towards an attempt to cover up a scandal in the upper echelons of the court. Any remaining popular interest in the killings is now focused on speculation over what this scandal might have been.
The injuries wrought on the victims have long been the subject of speculation. The loss of the right hand was well known within the Duchy as a punishment for corrupting the coinage or other major thefts from society as a whole. Some see this aspect of the killings as rough justice or vigilante action. The removal and replacement of the heart was a detail not previously seen in the Mor but which was rapidly identified as a Taru punishment for betrayal or treachery. The case of Torrick Carra Cadu and the absence of signs of struggle in the other cases suggest that the victims were rendered unconscious before being mutilated. This leads some to think the killings more about scaring the living than punishing those killed.
Although not widely known of outside Morton Tithing, the killings have remained notorious within the town and surrounding countryside. A number of speculative, or just plain wrong, theories have been proposed over the years (for some examples, see below). Most damaging were the theories around Taru involvement which played on pre-existing racial tensions and have doubtless contributed to a number of outbreaks of disorder or misplaced revenge.
The speculations over the identity of “Jorrock” and potential conspiracies that the killings relate to are the main variations told; the core facts are well known, though outsiders can fail to realise where facts ends and speculation ends.
Variations & Mutation
- The Duke’s second son - a dissolute and little respected member of the ruling family who had a reputation for household, though not family, violence and was known to have taken an interest in some of the more “challenging” questioning of the Duke’s Enquirers.
- Raksellin the Tarembura the treatment of the heart was quickly recognised as similar to some of the ritual Taru practices. Raksellin had built a strong following by some parts of the Ducal Court and become unpopular for the influence he exerted. This combination played on the historic distrust of the Taru in many parts of Mor culture and it was suggested that the missing hands and blood squeezed from the hearts were used in debased arcane rituals.
- Embezzlement by the Treasurer - if you want to spirit money away you might need carters; if you wanted to hide the trail you’d need to change the official records and inventories and that would mean influencing the Scribehall. Were the killed carters and the Ducal Scribe witnesses being silenced? Might they be co-conspirators being eliminated in in-fighting? Many possibilities have been suggested and the recently released documents and gaps in the records make this the theory closest to the believed facts.