Note: This story is interactive. If you wish to participate, please put your name or tag at the top of your contributed section. Remember not to delete anything that has already been written.
Please refer to the Int Fic Rules for further guidance.
Please Note: Labyrinthine Legend is a sci-fantasy story set in a fictional slum of a fictional world. It is in no way intended to portray or evoke deep urban life or accurately show poverty in the city. Though The Labyrinth is based off of the play Polaroid Stories, it does not reach for the same goals or attempt to ask the same questions. Labyrinthine Legend is a story of myth and legend told through a magical, futuristic slum.
Thank you for your understanding.
~Dog, Lead Storyteller
Malcolm tried again to struggle and was rewarded for his efforts with a kick in the ribs.
He groaned and slumped against the seat of the Class. He was draped across it, trussed up like a turkey. Bound, gagged, and blindfolded. He looked like a fool, which was a shame because Malcolm was a good-looking kid. Early twenties, fit figure, average height, skin somewhat darker than most Washingtonians. What most people before the snowfall would have called 'black'.
The car he was in was an Excelsior brand year 2133 Class model, a very fine car favored by criminal conglomerates. Sitting on the long seat opposite him, though he could not see them, were two gentlemen with very average appearances, suits and sunglasses, keeping an eye on him. Though Malcolm was not exactly about to go anywhere, the men were taking great care to plant a foot in his side if he so much as tried to squirm.
"Mr. Lawrie,” One said to him in measured tones, “You don't need to worry so much. We are not going to kill you."
"Probably.” The other one added.
"No, the partners of our company would prefer that you live. You have done little, after all, except stand in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the fact remains that this is what you did. So much you know, Mr. Lawrie, and we vulnerable for it? We can't have that."
Malcolm lay still and listened.
"As such is this case, we have decided to be benevolent to you. We are going to let you walk with Gods and legends, Mr. Lawrie."
Malcolm did not seem pleased with this, and writhed on the seat. The less verbose man kicked him hard in the ribs and Malcolm crumpled and stilled. The man who had been speaking seemed satisfied and leaned back in his seat, smiling and folding his arms. Before long, the Class slowed to a stop. The quieter man leaned over and pulled a knife from his belt, then hit Malcolm on the head sharply with his free hand. After a moment of waiting for a reaction from the prone form-- there was none-- he cut Malcolm's bonds. His partner opened the door to the towncar and he heaved the body from the car.
Malcolm hit the dirty sidewalk and rolled to a stop as an Excelsior Class roared away.
Nearby, a kid crouched on the steps of a brownstone-style apartment building. Her eyes widened in horror and realization as Malcolm hit the sidewalk. The kid was probably no older than fifteen. Somewhat pale skin for a NWer peeked out from under a winter cap. She was bundled up for the cold, and a cigarette hung from her lips.
She saw Malcolm tumble and hit the ground, and it seemed like it had more meaning for her personally than it should have. She stood up, and moved to leave, then stopped and looked down at Malcolm's prone form. The process of trying to walk away happened several times before she seemed to resign herself to staying near Malcolm until he woke up.
"Shit,” she eventually muttered.
"He's an adult,” she said. “So I can't teach him the Secret Stories. He's too old."
She muttered the True Name of the Blue Lady to herself, to protect herself from anything hostile that was watching.
"Do I even know any adult magick?!"
Malcom groaned. She nudged him further into conciousness with her foot.
"Wake up, pink boy,” she said. “Before I decide to stop being a mundie."
On a nearby rooftop, Aloren-All-Beasts stirred and muttered at the noise and voices. He shifted from beneath the wrinkled sheet of aluminum foil covering him like a blanket, but tore it in the process. He scowled and set it aside, then shook his head and stretched in the aspect of Dog, low and far through the detritus and dust as if bowing toward Mecca.
Aloren-All-Beasts' eye twitched; he remembered the activity below that had awakened him. Flea's hop to the chimney, Monkey's wary, perching stance, and Eagle's keen attention placed him in position to observe and evaluate the newcomers.
His heart trembled, and the aspects whirled and jostled. He swallowed hard, quelling them. Not now. No, no, not yet. Soon.
Aloren-All-Beasts waited, and watched.
The girl looked around for any signs of life or surveillance, and did not see the figure above. Her nudging had stirred Malcolm slightly; he groaned a little and started moving. She looked down at him, raising her cigarette to pale lips again.
She didn't feel particularly safe. There wasn't that safe feeling, like the Blue Lady was watching. But... the Blue Lady couldn't protect you from destiny, or providence, only violence that had no reason, that didn't involve you. The Blue Lady wouldn't stop fate, and she would never interrupt a story.
She looked down at Malcolm. He'd just been... dropped in front of her. This was a story, and she had been picked to be in it. Tears began to well up in her eyes for a moment.
"I didn't want to be in no fucking story,” she muttered a little.
She steeled herself, then, and blinked away the tears. If you can't run from being picked for something, you shouldn't cry about it either. She took a drag off the cigarette and squatted next to Malcolm's dark visage. “Yer in the Labyrinth, man. Up."
Malcom rubbed his eyes. “No shit. Which means I'm as good as dead."
He shuddered, twitched, looked around and pointed up at Aloren-All-Beasts. “For starters, what the Hell is that?"
Aloren-All-Beasts squinted down at Malcolm. Damn, spotted... Chameleon slept yet, apparently. So: fight, flee, or investigate? He recognized the girl sitting there, though he did not know her; a familiar face at least. Well, no time for thought.
In the aspect of Spider, he clambered over the side of the roof and downward, face toward the ground, scampering down the wall in utter defiance of gravity. A yard from the ground, he hopped off and landed upright and striding, settled into the aspect of Man to greet this battered unfortunate.
None saw the shifting of the aspects, save for how they contorted his Man-shape into improbable positions and impossible feats--though that much, certainly, was enough to prompt Malcolm's question. As he approached, in any case, he looked only a wiry, dirty beggar, clothed in ragged, graying jeans, a threadbare once-white T-shirt, and an elbowless flannel button-down. His features pronounced him a mongrel: Asian, Latino, and African, at least, with blue eyes and matted black hair.
He paused a respectful distance from Malcolm and crouched down to the others' level, teetering on the balls of his feet. “Welcome to the Labyrinth,” he said roughly, then a bit more amiably, “Welcome home, maybe. Who are you?” And are you worthy of a gift?
Malcolm paused a moment, unsettled by this curious figure. Then he sighed to himself. Might as well start getting used to it.
"The name's Malcolm Lawrie,” he said. He started to sit up, then winced as his battered ribs protested the motion. He eventually settled for propping himself up on his elbows so that he could get a better look at the beggar and street-urchin who had greeted him. Some welcoming committee. “As for why I'm here... well, it doesn't really matter now, does it?” He shook his head, then levered himself up into a sitting position, gritting his teeth against the pain. “So. Who are you? What happens now?"
As if in answer to his second question, the air around them suddenly stilled. The walls of the buildings around them seemed to stand up straighter, and the dirt and grime of the street didn't seem quite so noticeable anymore. Malcolm suddenly had the uneasy feeling that he couldn't tell if he were dreaming and awake. The girl next to him whispered, “The Gods...” before her fear got the better of her and she darted back to the apartment steps, still watching the scene.
A man walked out of a nearby alley. He was youngish, maybe thirty years of age if human, though it looked like he had a trace of elven blood. His jeans were faded and his leather jacket slightly cracked, but he looked on the whole to be doing rather well for someone living on the street. He stopped in the middle of the street, maybe twenty feet from Malcolm, and it was as if he had taken center stage and the spotlight all at once, though nothing looked different about where he was standing. It just seemed that the street and buildings had somehow taken an active interest in the scene, and their attention was focused completely upon this man.
He spared a brief glance at the other two, then stared directly at Malcolm for what must have been a full minute. Malcolm wanted to say something, to greet him, but for some reason he couldn't remember how to get his voice past his throat. Finally, the man shrugged a little to himself and said, “Huh,” as if to say, “Welcome to the Labyrinth. You'll do."
Then he turned around and walked away, and the scene returned to normal.
Aloren-All-Beasts rocked back and forth on his heels, utterly and ferally nervous, the whole time the god-figure had stayed on the scene. As soon as he was gone, however, the odd young man stood up straight and beamed. “Count yourself lucky! Been found worthy by the Labyrinth itself. That doesn't happen very often! And it'll make it much much easier to hunt and sleep safely, you know.” He walked quickly around in a little circle, and held out a hand toward Malcolm, offering to help him up. “I know myself as Aloren-All-Beasts. And that girl over there... well, I've seen her, but I've never known her."
If this goes anywhere at all, as I expect it will, this page could get huge. Is there a format we can use for linked chapters or the like? ~SabreCat
It should be pretty easy to “compress” chapters into separate pages that we link from this one.
*laughs* We need a Malcolm! I'm the Lead ST and don't want to be the protagonist! ~Dog
Hmm. I hadn't realized your offer to let people take over your character was actually a request/call for help, heh. But writing the protagonist is a pretty daunting idea for folks who don't really know much of the story's vision... I don't have any idea what the central conflicts of the Labyrinth are, etc., so I've created my own character with an individual agenda, hoping to get him “caught up” in whatever's happening around Malcolm. A pretty usual process for int-fic, no?
Unless this is more a player-Storyteller style thing, in which you planned to have someone navigate Malcolm through the wonders of the Labyrinth that you narrate/create. I suppose that's what “Lead ST” evokes, now that I think about it. I'll consider it, just getting a feel for things here... ~SabreCat
I personally think it would be more interesting if EVERYONE was Malcolm, as it were. The Wiki gives us much wider narrative power than the traditional RPG -- why not use it? ~Loki
Hey, wow. I totally missed whenever it was you added to this, Cirne! Hmm... this might be a good project to run as another open scene over on the AoC LJ. What do you think? ~SabreCat