[AW+] Stories from the Labyrinth
#1
The Commencement of Festivities — Pack announcement thread

This is a Mandatory Pack Thread! Your character only needs to post once to participate, and there is no posting order.

Called abruptly to the heart of the Ruins, the denizens of Salsola are summoned by their Queen who awaits them at the entryway to her home in the tallest tower. As they amass between the buzzing hedgerow and crumbling stone walls, the people whisper rumors of a great week-long festival to honor the anniversary of the Thistle Kingdom's foundation. The rumors are shortly thereafter proven true by the Boss' declaration! Salsola is ten turns old!

But that's not all - to begin festivities with a bang, Elphaba presents her people with a strange tongue-twisting riddle. Who among you will find the correct answer, and be rewarded with a dazzling choice of prizes?!

See our (IC) Prize-Winning Events if you're interested in winning the IC prize for solving the Queen's Riddle!


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The woman and the fox sat near the open window. They watched the first light peak over the distant horizon, blocked here and there by the silhouettes of stone dwellings that hunched like sleeping giants against the dewy earth. There was a smell that rose from the loch each dawn and today was no different; Brought up by the stirrings of a lazy breeze, it brushed salty lips against the woman's pale bloodless cheeks.

For as still as they were, the Queen and her Familiar might also have been stone carvings made by ancient hands.

Behind them, the interior rooms of the tallest tower were not so still. A servant's routine was just beginning. In the corner of the chamber a young hound's droopy lips wriggled on the exhale of his snore. It was a day like so many others, unremarkable in its loveliness, for spring was with them now - Salsola flourished in her mild graces, rich with flora and fauna sprung forth from fertile loam.

But it was a remarkable day. Elphaba Revlis had checked her records thrice, to be certain of it.

When the world beyond the tallest tower was sufficiently awake, the Boss and her retinue began their preparations. Washed, brushed, and with jewels dripping from her fingers and ears, Elphaba stood a moment beneath the huge stone arch that was the entryway to the central castle. She took a deep breath - and sang! Sang for her people, a song of summoning, a howling yapping morning chorus.

It was unusual for Salsolans to be convened thusly. In the Feasting Hall, certainly, or on those dark nights during the turn when the moon was in full, perhaps to the altar for ritual adulations. But here, to the tallest tower in the Ruins? Why, there was hardly enough room for them all to stand, in clumps on the winding pathways. Some climbed the old stone walls and lowhanging branches for a better vantage point, and the children among them were pushed between legs to the front or hefted up onto strong broad shoulders.

There had been rumors, of course, and so it was not entirely a surprise, what the Queen declared.

"Good morning and welcome, my people, my Salsolans!"

The Boss' rich voice was underset by the droning of insects, the faint bell-chimes of birdsong.

"I have called you all for a momentus announcement: This week marks the tenth turn since my grandfather and my great grandmother founded our beloved home! And ten is a most auspicious and powerful number, it is known."

It is known, agreed some of the more supersticious listeners in the crowd. It is known.

"In celebration of this grand accomplishment," The Boss continued, lifting her palms theatrically skyward, "I do declare a week of festivities! A week of celebrations! A week of revelry and reflection! And on the seventh day of the tenth year, a feast, as per our oldest traditions."

A thin line of drool dripped from the lips of the hound that sat close to her heel. Embarassed, Morrow shook his face, and tried to conceal his evident excitement.

"To those who have made the long pilgrimage home, in efforts to join us during this reverent time, I thank you - the new faces among you, be merry and welcome! For you have found a new home, one that has lasted the ages, and one that will last many more."

She looked for Blair and the two associates that O'Riley's mother had found. There was much jostling and whispering. Smiling, Elphaba raised one hand; when silence did not immediately fall, Morrow gave a great loud BAY! and that was sufficient to quiet them down.

"Each day will reveal a new treat, a new event in which you may partake. A section of the Pine Barrens west of Millstone Village has been cleared for this purpose. But before you go now to see for yourself, I have one final edict. To begin our foundation week, I challenge you thusly with a riddle - The Queen's Riddle."

Many among the crowd had earned their Cueponi, and so had already answered one riddle in their lifetimes. But this was a new and exciting turn of events. Drawing upon all her years of pagentry and suspence, Elphaba's countenance grew solemn and her expression mild as porcelain to channel the visage of a vessel, a seer.

Then, in a new voice, she spoke. This is what she said:

"Here we walk on hallowed ground,
With kin and comrades massed around -
I pray you harken well now to my words

An age our blood has settled here,
In times of hardship and of cheer;
By tooth and claw we remain undeterred

Ten turns hence the Mad King plotted;
At his side, a dark witch besotted,
Their sleeping dreams of grandeur finally stirred

But men will fall as all men must;
Soon rose the tigress from the dust!
In time thereafter, I became the third

Now we reflect on all that was
of thistles, thorns, and thrones because
A fourth king's calling yet remains unheard

Who is this regent? I hear you cry,
But answers forthcoming I must deny,
For Law of Riddle has now been incurred!

But take heart upon these clues three:
A crown upon his head you'll see,
What's more, a cloak most gaudy and absurd

And the final clue of all I owe
Lies hidden in the riddle's flow,
For this king might also be called a - !"


The aftermath of the riddle was a great absence of sound. Even the sparrows held their cheeping orchestra in wonderment. What a strange riddle! How curious its rhyme! Elphaba clapped her hands sharply to break the spell, and at her side the hound Morrow blinked his dazed brown eyes back into clarity.

"When you have an answer, come and see me," The Boss' terse lips curled in the ghost of a smile, "Until then, be merry - and more importantly, begone! The celebrations await you - Familia Fortis Elegit!"

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#2
(+617)
Optime | The Ruins (Elphaba’s home) | Dated: May 1st | cNPC: Velimir

Related to [SL] Decennial Birthday Newspost
“Yes, yes, I know you’re there, Sandstone,” Kamari laughed when she felt the heavily pregnant mare mouth the edge of her tunic. She playfully pushed the horse’s nose away from her so that she could finish collecting the chicken eggs from the coop. Not one to be deterred so easily, her mentor’s horse snorted before purposely jostling the arm she’d been using to fish out the eggs from the nest boxes.

Shaking her head, Kamari let out an exaggerated sigh of frustration before she set down the basket and turned to hold the horse’s face between her hands. “You’re very needy, you know,” Kamari told the mare as she rubbed her hands down Sandstone’s nose. “Do you bug Krios this much when he’s out here?”

Sandstone snorted loudly as she nudged her chest.

“Yeah, you probably do. He’s a sucker for sweet girls like you and Seduction,” Kamari smirked before leaning in and whispering, “Just wait until you have your baby. He’ll pamper you and the foal as if it were his own child.” She chuckled as if she’d just revealed a delicious piece of gossip to the mare.

A summoning howl reached Kamari’s tall ears, and the Shadow straightened, giving the mare a pat on her muscled neck. “That’s the Queen.” She turned and stooped to pick up the basket of eggs before making her way towards the fence. Kamari climbed over the obstacle with ease and made her way into the house. As she passed them, Stone peaked a lazy eye at her from where he and Agate laid on the porch, but neither paid her any further mind, content to continue enjoying the warm, morning sun.

She deposited the basket onto the main room’s table and waited long enough for her husband to join her so that they could leave together. As members of the Faction, they’d been privy to a few of the ongoings that had been in the works over the past week since Governor Blair’s arrival; most of it had just been helping with setups and provisions, however, there had also been a few rehearsals as far as Kamari was involved. Even still, they hadn’t been made aware of everything. The Queen’s summons was one of these, though, it had not been entirely unexpected.

With Krios at her side, the pair of Shield members made their way deeper into the heart of the Ruins. It didn’t take them long to reach the central tower to which Elphaba had summoned the pack. Others had gathered there, Kamari’s old mentor, Velimir, among them. Murmurs spread throughout the crowd about the unusual location, and Kamari heard a few wonder if the summons was in relation to the not-so-secret ongoings near the western edge of Millstone.

It wasn’t long before the Boss addressed them all. The arrival of late spring heralded the mark of the pack’s founding day, something normally celebrated with a single, vast dinner in the Feasting Hall. That year, however, marked a decade, and something so tremendous could not simply be shoved into one night of celebration. No, the Boss saw fit a week to fully appreciate the pack’s longevity. Elphaba’s announcement encouraged excitement and garnered interest amongst her denizens before she sent them off to enjoy the festivities with a riddle in typical Salsolan fashion.

As she watched some of the more exuberant members race off towards the location Elphaba had described, Kamari tilted her head towards Krios, smirking, “How much you want to bet Brocade stakes out some of the games for Shield recruitment?”

Kamari Kaiser
— The Shadow —
[Image: k4f73A1.png]
Player Wiki · Character Wiki

Avatar art by Alaine · Sig art by Despi
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#3
[388]
Remember your youth, in all that you do, the plank and the passion

Krios had spent his morning waging a difficult war against the thickets of vines and bushes that had been encroaching on the side of the house. The two goat does would make easy work of the trimmings, but neither of them had deigned to attempt to graze on the vast collection of unwelcome foliage. However, they were insanely eager whenever the severed vines or branches were tossed in their general direction. They bleated with such eagerness that Krios was stupefied into trimming more.

They were going to need a new stable for sure to house the horses and the goats on top of the chickens. When did they end up with a veritable petting zoo?

His hands were wrapped with leather to protect against thorns when he heard his half-sister's call and looked up from his work. Her echoing trill made him chuckle; she was in a good mood and why not? He had been aware of a handful of goings on just as the rest of the faction had been.

Krios made his way inside and unwrapped his hands of the leather, depositing his knife near the eggs Kamari had collected. Together, they departed to the Tower where the Queen presided. There were so many people among them, which somehow surprised him. He had seemingly forgotten just how many of them there were.

He grinned at Elphaba's announcement and listened to the excited chattering of the younger folks who had never been to the yearly anniversary events. It was the biggest event he had ever known to happen in Salsola and it was right that they were eager. His sister dismissed them with a riddle and he thoughtfully stared into the distance as the young and the eager departed to see what had been set up.

Kamari looked to him, both of them waiting patiently for the rest to filter away. He looked down at her and snickered back at her. "I think I saw a really suspicious spot in one of the trees. I'd say if he hasn't set up a plan to recruit at least two people by the end of the day, I'd have to see if he was ill." Brocade was their thunderous Director, after all.

His family was all sorts of screwy, that was for sure.

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#4
There had been a moment that morning where Odalis had been prepared to slip away. She had barely slept the night the celebrations were due to begin, and had instead lain staring at her crooked stone ceiling. She knew every detail of the tiny room: the holes where the stone had crumbled away, the little window with its early morning draft. Somehow it had become a part of her story and now as she lay there she ruminated on the fact that there had likely been someone, like her, living in this room for the decade that Salsola had been in existence.

The dark swelled until at last it broke. The wall became dotted in the colors of dawn and the Servant heard her mistress wake, the low rustling of the hound dog soon following after her.

Now was not the time to satisfy wanton cravings.

When she was certain she would not fall back asleep she rose and donned her sweater, peering into a piece of broken glass that she often used as a would-be mirror. She combed her fingers through her hair and attempted to smooth the sleepy lines from her face. Her collar dangled in the hollow of her throat and she rolled her eyes reproachfully before slipping into the main room.

She dusted and toiled as she always did, and when the Queen finally called to her Kingdom Odalis moved to peer through a narrow window to see who gathered so readily.

They came in droves, taking over the narrow paths of The Ruins and clambering on top of anything that gave a better view of the regal Boss. Odalis sniffed, flaring her nostrils to take in what scents she could before settling her elbows upon the window sill to listen.

A decade.

It sang in all the Salsolans hearts like a drum.

The riddle came next, and Odalis watched them leave with eager chatter, their eyes lit with the challenge of it all.

She grumbled to herself and turned back to her work.

Familia Fortis... Idiots.

She smiled to herself as she rinsed dust from her fingers.

(///) | NPCs: N/A

Sorry Odalis is rude :')
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#5
Azalea awoke with a start, sitting up and blinking away weariness as she wondered where exactly she was. Familiarity came quickly, looking around the cramped cabin and wondering why exactly she was here and not at the castle. Sitting up, she patted the bed and was surprised to find that she was not alone. Catalina, Dierdra, and Arius formed a puppy pile at her hip, with little Catalina a little bit separated from her siblings. A little bit of panic formed in the pit of her belly as she looked around for Aani and found her missing.

Thinking back on the day previous, she struggled to piece it all together. She’d gone at some point in the afternoon to the cabin. . . yes, she knew that much. The puppies weren’t there then. Aani knew that she wouldn’t do opium if they were there. Yes, she remembered Aani telling her the puppies were at Eden’s. They’d fallen into their familiar routine, and at some point she must have fallen asleep. Obviously, since she was still here. Why hadn’t Aani woken her up to bring her home? And where was she?

Azalea got up carefully, not wanting to wake up the puppies. Once free from the bed, she ran outside and looked around for the pink-eyed woman that she’d been spending so much time with, but found no sign of her. Anxiously returning to the cabin and checking on the puppies, she dug around for some food and found their store of dried meat. She hadn’t eaten dinner the day before and was rightfully starving.

A piercing and fluttering howl cut through the territory and Azalea’s ears pricked up naturally in response. She hadn’t been expecting a call to the castle, and considering the current circumstances, her heart began to pound heavily. Heading to the pups, she shook each of them awake gently. ”Come on kiddos, it’s time to wake up. Look, I’ve got food. Quickly now, we’ve got to find your momma and get going.”

But she needn’t have worried, because not long after she had gotten them all awake and fed Aani arrived at the cabin. ”Oh, yes, thank Tak you’re here I wasn’t sure where to find you or whether to go on ahead or not! They’re all fed and ready to go.” And so it wasn’t long until the five of them were on the path to the castle. As she seemed to do often since she’d begun spending time with the pups, she picked up and carried Catalina to separate her from her much wilder siblings. She wasn’t quite sure how else to say it, but sometimes she had the feeling as if the two of them were bullying her. Maybe not Dierdra quite so much, but Azalea wasn’t quite sure how to feel about Arius.

When they arrived at the castle Azalea hefted Catalina up higher so that she could see The Boss properly. She couldn’t quite comprehend how long ten years truly was, being not even a year old herself, but she still smiled with the rest of the pack and repeated The Boss’s words to Catalina. ”Did you hear that? Ten years old! That’s waaaayyyyyy longer that you or me or even your moms have been alive.”

And the mention of a riddle got her attention really quickly. After all, she’d just undergone her Cueponi ceremony that January, and solved it easy-peasy. Who was to say she couldn’t do that same here? Then The Boss began to speak the riddle, and she felt her hopes begin to dash a little bit. This was much longer, and harder, and she was having a harder time remembering it. But still, three clues. If she could just remember those, that was really all she needed. Her eyes lit up at the challenge, and the prospect of the celebration that was to come. "Familia Fortis Elegit!" She said, prompting Catalina to follow her lead eagerly.
(684) | NPCs: |
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]
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#6

”What do you think the call is for?”

Taffetta was doing everything in her power to walk smoothly, but Brocade could see the way she wanted to run to the Queens summons. Velour slunk along beside her, lashing her tail each time her sister spoke. They had become quite the eccentric pair, and as Brocade followed along behind them he couldn’t help (as always) to thank whatever Salsolan tradition had afforded him such a wondrous family. It was the sort of relationship that he had hoped for in his early days – before Morgana, before Elphaba, before Etoile…

He caught the eye of his wife and grinned, looping arms with her as they stepped upon the crowded paths of The Ruins. Velour was quick to grapple a tree for a better look, while Taffetta frowned and hitched her skirts to balance atop a nearby stone wall. Brocade was tall enough to see over the many ears before them, and so he turned to seek out other members of The Shield.

Really, he sought out Elphaba – but he did not allow his brain to register this thought.

They had become distant ghosts to one another in the wake of his engagement. He was careful to deliver his reports to the Erilaz, and assured that he was not alone in her presence. Sometimes his patrols took him past her tower, but it was not like before – he wasn’t sure it could be. He hugged Morgana closer and rested his head atop the crown of her red hair, nodding at Kamari and Krios (did they seem happier than usual?) before watching The Queen take her place on the tower stairs.

She remained unchanged. Her pale face levelled them all easily, her sanguine eyes cutting through the crowd as she began.

”Ugh, I love her hair.” Taffetta whispered to anyone that would listen.

Velour leaned precariously, twining her limbs around a branch with ease so that she could prick her ears forward.

The Kingdom had seen and passed what seemed a thousand seasons. Brocades ears twitched as the Riddle was proclaimed and the murmur of the crowd grew with excitement as they were dismissed, a congratulatory crow echoing at the familiar call: Familia Fortis Elegit!

Brocade pumped his fist and shoo’ed away his children.

"Go, use your brains. Solve the riddle." He clapped his hand to his chest and offered melodramatically, "Bring honor to our family."

Velour opened her mouth and he interrupted her with a toothy grin, "I'm serious. I will disown you."

He could hear them grumbling even as he took his leave. Children were the best.

He trotted off towards Kamari and Krios only to throw his arms around their shoulders with a greeting, "Bonjour love birds, he raised his brow as he continued, "Looks like we have some work to do."


(///) | NPCs: Taffetta & Velour

[html]<center><img src="http://image.ibb.co/n8ZJvR/borkade.png" style="width: 280px;"></center>[/html]
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#7
Lyra and Casimir had but one similarity—they did not tolerate crowds well. They heeded the summons as expected, but stood off on an outcropping of jagged stone, separate enough from the others. They could still spy the Witch Queen far above them, and that was all that mattered.

While Casimir pondered over Elphaba’s flair for the dramatic and began salivating at the thought of a grand feast, Lyra watched on with a keen, sharp gaze.

Familia Fortis Elegit! The cry rang out.

As the crowd began to disperse, Casimir made a small sigh. “Wow, I’m stumped. I have no idea what the answer is.” Riddles had never been fun for him. He was happy to have missed the Cueponi ritual by growing up in Portland; Casimir was sure he would have been stuck as a Bambino for the rest of his life, even if that wasn’t how it worked.

“How surprising,” Lyra turned, gesturing for him to follow her through one of the back channels they had taken to get there. She wanted to avoid bumping shoulders with everyone.

Casimir was in good spirits. The festivities were a safe and merry departure from routine, a change that he could finally welcome. The warm weather might have helped too. It was almost time again for that brief interlude between now and the coming thunderstorms, where the soldier might find some peace.

“What’s wrong?” He asked, sensing a shift in her mood. “Are you stumped too?” Could it be that even the great and clever Lyra was puzzling over it?

“Of course not,” she bit back, and the glint in her eye was hard enough to temper his uplifted mood. “It’s obvious. A child’s game.”

“What is it then?” He wanted to know, genuinely.

She waved her hand. “I don’t have time for this.”

Despite his better judgment, Casimir pursued it, a small incredulous grin on his face. “You don’t know, do you?”

“Keep at it, sweet cousin, and we’ll see if you can solve the riddle of your missing tongue.”

Casimir frowned, pausing to consider it. “Well, that’s not a riddle at all.”
(—) | NPCs: Lyra Salcedo
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#8
Azalea and Aani had gotten drugged, drunk, and partied all night. But when Azalea got partied out, Eden was busy with the children. Like a mother should, Aani went and retrieved them, thanking Eden before causally rushing out of her castle. Then she returned home, and dropped the kids off with Azalea’s sleeping form.

Aani had adventures prior to the morning tearing its ugly head. Enjoying the measures of her evening spent in another’s bed.

She washed herself- getting rid of any other scents, before she rubbed herself in lemongrass. That outta do it. Stretching, the dark figure walked back towards her home- a call ringing out and touching her ears. The busiest of all, Azalea, was still with her children.

Or at least she had hoped.

Returning to their homestead she found all four of them lively and happy, a trained eye worked over the bodies of her children and she was happy with Azalea’s mothering of the brood. It wasn’t her job- but Aani would make her feel like it was. Thank you. I went on a walk. Liar, liar pants on fire.

Upon their walk, Catalina was stuck near Azalea’s side, and the riddle came to her ears, the stupid slang that they said traveled into her ears. Familia Fortis Elegit... She murmured out, her hand curling around that of Arius, picking him up. Her spring looking eyes searched the crowd for Eden, and was disappointed. Surely she was here, and had yet to show her face.

Riddle? Hmm. No thanks.

Instead, Aani decide it best to go elsewhere. Catalina, seemingly ignoring her mother- began to waddle near Azalea, and a new found hatred for her child, grew in her stomach.
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#9
Catalina was young, the morning was bright, and she did not feel like waking up their mother.

Arius and Deirdra rushed off to the room, and Catalina trailed behind slightly. Ears tilted on her head whenever the sound of Azalea was apparent. For the first time in her entire life, she felt happy. Whole. And safe.

Azalea was safety for her, and Catalina wouldn’t let that go without being known to her siblings. Training quickly on Azalea’s heels, she was fed and then... then the demon woman showed her face. And Little Lina felt her breath l hitch in her throat. Mother was back, that would mean mother would be in either a bad mood or a good one. So far, so good.

When no one was being hurt- yet- she couldn’t help but bound happily along the path, before Azalea scooped her up. And with that- she was hoisted into the air focusing on the noises coming from the red-eyes woman who completely captivated Cat’s mind. She was beautiful, and those eyes were different. More interesting. The words everyone repeated and Azalea did as well, she tried to the best of her ability: fam...familaoolaeteis! That’s right, she said it, and with a proud look on her face she looked towards Azalea.

Wagging her little rump, And tail, she begged to be put down. Thinking about running to her momma, she looked at her mothers dagger eyes, and thought twice. Shrinking back, and away from the dark woman known as her mom.
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#10
The pale morning light found the Ulrich woman in the barn mucking stalls. The horses had been turned out for the day and she was on her last stall and with a final scoop of the last bit of poop Evelyn moved to the hay pile and grabbed some fresh hay to lay down. Once everything was finished she made her way back home.

Evelyn was caught off-guard midstride out of the barn when the call rang up. Panicked, she stood frozen for a moment, unsure of what to do. Sniffing at herself, her face contorted at the eau de parfume that rose off of her fur, but she definitely did not have time to run home and rinse. So, just wanting to help cover up the smell a bit she jumped over towards the nearest rain barrel, dipped her hands in and started giving herself a whore's bath right there trying to scrub the smell out of her fur. As she tentatively sniffed at herself again she nearly gagged as now she just smelled like a half drowned rat that rolled in horse manure.

Slightly hysterical and with trepidation Evelyn began the long walk towards the sound of the call, picking up her pace in hopes of the wind drying the wet dog smell from her coat hopefully.

It appeared that mostly everyone had gathered already, although she had not spotted Eden yet. Her eyes fell upon her sisters brood though and Eve could not help but smile their way. Not wanting to disturb anyone with the smell that she felt like was emanating off of her the pale haired woman stood back listening intently to the Boss' words. Intrigued by the riddle, Evelyn repeated it over and over in her mind until she was sure all three clues were memorized so she could chew on that bone later. Just as soon as everyone came, they were dismissed once again. Getting her ass into gear before anyone noticed, Evelyn began jogging away so as not to bombard anyone with her smell.
(342) | <3
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