"Reaped from the hearth of my flesh and soul, I ventured, stalwart and proud, deep into the confines of his shrouded Realm. With me Genghis and Fatima of the Dewdots and Nimblers respectively, we met the Darkness, unbeknownst of its intent to keep us. A fervor- embroidered by our false God. Heed my ink- wayfarer, for His dungeon is no place for Mortals. To be reaped is to perish from Time." ~Chronicle of the First Glean, excerpt from the lost journal of Boris Lycht !MANDATORY AMBIANCE! Across an insurmountable valley of unique beauty and location, masses of clans gathered eagerly for the largest event to be hosted yearly on Oiros, filling the Chasm of Audiences with ever greater numbers. The Reaping. Each year, clans set their differences aside to assemble for the most venerated occurrence of all time (rivaled only by the yearly pie festival). With wanton swagger and boastful tongues, they take their designated corner of the Valley, hoping that their chosen Man is neither too weak to laugh at nor too strong to be a detrimental loss to their armies. A true hero to be reaped, kind and brave yet sensitive and not without flaw. Music and drums serenade the Chasm, brightening up this massive festival until the long-awaited reaping. Food and games are shared between clans en masse, encouraging friendly socialization and story-telling between everyone. At the forefront of the Chasm, a gargantuan entranced is bored in perfect symmetry right into an artificial looking mountain. The entrance to the Challenge of the Stag, which no living eyes have ever ventured into. Groups of young children and brave warriors are seen trying to charge into the entrance in search of adventure and answers, but they are only gently pushed back by a magical force, the living Darkness within the cave. Even with their bravery, however, they are all eventually forced back into their clans- not by the darkness, but by a change in the surrounding sounds. The music has stopped, save for an all too familiar beat of the drums. Moreso, it would seem that this drum beat was accompanied by simultaneous footsteps, the footsteps of a giant. All eyes no doubt perched towards the large entrance, where the footsteps only seemed to get closer. Citizens of each clan nudged each other's elbows, grins forming along their liplines, for this could only be the sound of one entity. And as white gulls and the Wisps of The Stag began to float out of the cave, everyone's anticipation was confirmed. The Wisps, which were small orbs of Dark Matter coated in long, elegant white robes, began to fly outwards into the crowds, greeting the excited fellows with chirpy sounds. Maidens and Brothers may have cried at the sight of these, following the legendary rumor that the Wisps are in fact ghosts of those who have fallen to the Challenge of the Stag. Then, silence. Only those large footsteps, and a silhouette casts itself at the entrance of the cave. The shadow of antlers, and, a foot. Then another. Gripping one curve of the entrance with furry fingertips, another hand bracing itself with his iconic wooden scepter, The Stag Lord emerges from the Darkness. In an instant, the entirety of the Chasm erupted with roars, cheers, drumbeats, trumpets, and the screams of glory, making the ground explode in a small rumble. The occasion was loud and glorious, and the Stag Lord proudly beat upon his chest, releasing a noisy roar of pride and power. At his feet, young children gathered to greet their God-king, climbing over his toes- using his fur as handle-grips for their journey up. Some fell quickly onto the dirt, others flung out by sharp movements only to be caught cheerily by wisps or plushy clouds conjured by the Lord himself. Those who made it to the top were greeted by a proud, deerish smile from The Stag, granted the privilege to remain over his shoulders or antlers for the time being. A small and amusing race before the main event. With a mighty hand perched on his waist and another on his Scepter, the Stag commences the ceremony. "Ha, ha, ha, ha!" He boasted in laughter, his voice gruff, deep, and majestic in all ways imaginable. Occasionally a child could be seen losing their balance and falling down several stories before being caught by a small cloud. "Clans of Oiros! Your God-king has summoned you today for an election most special. A tribute! A demand of your loyal worship." The Stag leaned in as he spoke, black eyes glaring proudly over his creations. "From each clan today, I demand one warrior! To participate in the legendary Challenge of the Stag!" The Lord's decree was met by another outburst of cheers and roars, warriors banging their weapons over their shields in anticipation of the event. For many, if not most, there could be no greater honor than to give their life for the Stag. For others who valued life over legend and glory, nerves wracked their persona. A wiry bellow emanates from the Stag Lord, followed by a hearty laugh. "The Reaping!" He exclaims, the crowd screaming it out in unison. It was the same phrase every year, at the same time. Everyone once more explodes into cheers and screams, proudly charging up for the main event of today. Gripping the scepter between two large hands, the Lord raises it, only to then swiftly slam its tip down on the ground, lifting layers of dust among a powerful boom that resonates across the chasm. The impact makes the ground tumble, the children over his shoulders unable to keep their balance as they spring out and land on plushy clouds. Incessant, the rumbling continues, but it was all in consequence of tradition- for the Stag had begun to lift his Royal Throne from a chamber in front of the entrance. Folks laugh and cheer as the ever famous Throne begins to ascend from the confines of the manipulable Terra, an enormous sitting place crafted by the God, for the God- of materials not present in this universe. Metallic and flawless in appearance, it stood about as large as the entrance to the Dungeon, though its unfathomable size was countered by an entirely simplistic appearance, a simple throne with but two arm rests and a back rest. With a big thud, the Lord sits back on the throne just like every year, grinning proudly over the amalgamation of his local creations, the clans in unison for a massive cultural event. Splendor. "Who shall give their life for the Stag this year?!" The Lord proclaims loudly, his mighty voice echoing acres throughout the chasm. In an instant, scores of warriors from all around jump ecstatically, exclaiming their names and pleas to be selected. A futile attempt at a bargain, but who could blame them? Nonetheless, it was finally time. Slamming his forearm down on an arm of the throne, a small opening protruded from its metallic surface. As if propelled by raw magic, a massive roll of parchment began to ascend from this new orifice. The Roster. A legendary scroll containing brief information about just around every citizen of Oiros. Truthfully, the Stag Lord needed no such thing, for he knew more than all combined, but he also enjoyed the tradition of this legendary document- as did everyone else in the crowd. A well-executed show, to put it simply. Taking the wingspan of the scroll with two hands, the Lord made quick work of its seal, allowing the document to unfold neatly over his lap. "Clans!" "Ready yourselves, for today, one of each ascends to glory!" "Praise your God-King!" As screams for glory gradually fade out, every being in the Chasm, whether it be beast or Humanoid, takes a knee and bows for the Stag. Silence for the Reaping. It was time. "On this day of reaping, I select..." The Stag's voice had changed. It was deeper, its undertones echoing enthusiastically throughout the Chasm. As if empowered by magic, it gave everyone a brief sense of inspiration and excitement. A very slow beat of wardrums began to sound out slowly from hidden corridors across the mountains. It was dramatic, creating suspense for the oncoming decisions. It would gradually become louder, yet slower, taking the elements of a traditional drumroll with a twist. After a brief pause the Stag's voice suddenly boomed out in an utterly euphoric calling for the first warrior reaped. The sound of his voice brought absolute ecstasy for everyone present, inspiring great love for The Challenge, and life itself. Loud and powerful, the first calling resonated for all to hear. "GALLANT KEENBONE, OF THE KALLENKH!" Rocked by a fiery pride for their selected warrior, the entirety of the Kallenkh clan explodes in absolute joviality, jumping, screaming, blowing horns, rocking their entire section. Hordes of flying cattlebugs, massive, beautiful butterflies, and other insects of their calling suddenly spring out in a euphoric flight, dotting their skyline with colorful spores in celebration of the selection. Affected by the euphoric enchantment as well, other clans clap happily for the first choice, eager anticipating their own picks. It was a massive day for the Kallenkh, their entire section covered with jumping and screaming citizens dancing to the uncoordinated melodies of even happier horns and drums, legions of flying rainbow insects decorating their skies. From a balcony perched in the mountains, the leaders of the Kallenkh (perhaps joined by a larvae queen) clap proudly as they overlook their clan. After enough celebration, a new circuit of drums demands new silence. The second choice. The steady beat of drums controlled the eager heartbeats of all those awaiting below, with Wisps flying about, overseeing that everyone once again takes a knee in respects for the Stag (except for the Kallenkh, which were still trying to control their swarms as well as find Gallant in the middle of the crowd). Enthralled by the drums himself, the Stag began to slam his fist down on the armrest of this throne in unison with the percussion, before all sounds ceased, and he looked out over the clans. "TENSIN TSOGYAL, OF THE AJARNI!" The second call was met by a massive roar from the Ajarni section, who shot up in similar fashion to the Kallenkh, yelling at the top of their hearts in warm admiration for their reap. Massive Archons of elemental magic summoned by Ajarni archwizards begin to shower the area with sprinkles of Blessed Water and ice, others lighting up the celebration with waves of fire. Cheery elementals float and fly alongside the wisps, cheering in all their might for the pride of the Ajarni. Although smaller in population in comparison to the other clans, they were certainly just as loud, filling the chasm with a furious display of drums, horns, and magic to celebrate. Bannermen run along small spaces of their clan's section, displaying the Ajarni flag alongside proud young fellows who yell and jump in small puddles created by elementals. A glorious day for the Ajarni. However, the drums began to ring again. Silence was once more demanded of each clan. As the Ajarni settle down and the other clans cease their clapping and friendly acknowledgement of the reaping, the percussion from the mountains begins to pick up again. In unison, the Stag Lord follows the percussion with his fist pounding over the arm rest, and scores of clan members begin to chime in with their own stomps, or even banging their shields. It was time for the third selection. The drum beats culminates its loud escalation with a final beat, allowing the Stag Lord a brief pause before he announces his third choice. Looking yonder over the Roster with his decision already made, he makes the third announcement. His voice equally as booming and euphoric as the last two times, it inspires awe and fantastic joy in every being present in the Chasm, regardless of clan or affiliation. "ZIU, OF THE KITANI!" Fueled by the bellowing of tamed fauna from the Twilight Forest, a massive roar overtook the chasm in celebration of the Kitani clan. From their section, loud horns and animalistic roaring emanates loudly, cheering for their candidate. From a balcony perched on an elevated hill, the leaders of the Kitani nod approvingly as they sip on their tea, overseeing their clan before them. Basilisks tamed under huge metal chains are instructed to roar at their mightiest, further enthralled by the euphoric tones of the Stag Lord, resonating among every being. Bubbles of Twilight Darkness are cast upwards, materializing a cloudy and celebrative shroud over the clan. Huge poles of Kitani flags are raised in an act of showboating, the streets of their section absolutely blaring with the screams and yells of every clan member in celebration while ushers do their best to find the candidate among the crowds. Drums. The list was getting shorter. Only three clans remained, each now more anxious for the revelation of their candidate. Nails are bitten nervously among many, as the Stag Lord resumes the steady beat, banging his fist over the arm rest. Drums and the stomps of many followed in unison, building up the suspense for the next choice. A grandiose roster so far, three powerful and skilled warriors to face the Challenge of the Stag. It was time to wrap things up and complete this year's squadron, all at the beckon of the Stag. The drum beats escalate once more, beating heavily, its melody audible for miles beyond. Even those who were not present at the Chasm currently knew what was going on. The beat comes to a halt, as do the stomps, and everybody looks in the direction of either of the three clans remaining. Who was next? The Stag Lord had made it a habit to select his candidates in no particular order every year, which kept things suspenseful and dramatic for every occasion. Silence ensues, mostly everybody once more on their knees, patiently awaiting this selection. Then, the boom of that voice. "ACHAEUS, OF THE DIMAKOS!" Aside from the friendly clapping offered by all of the other clans, silence overtook the chasm. Normally, a massive boast of sound and power was the proper response to a reap, but this one was different in all ways imaginable. For decades, the Slaves of the Dimakos have always been the warriors selected for the Challenge of the Stag. This time, for some reason, a hierarch had been reaped. And not just any, but rather, Prince Achaeus, royal heir of the Dimakos. At the balcony where the leadership of the Dimakos stood, Achaeus's father looked to his side, a ghastly, pale expression of panic instilled over his features. He looked yonder at his fellow bureaucrats who looked just as shocked and confused, and looked even perhaps at his own son Achaeus if he was there. Otherwise, ushers are immediately sent to go find Achaeus if he was in the crowds of the Dimakos. After a brief silence, a handful of the Dimakos begin to clap, reasoning that although the reap is much unorthodox and unprecedented, it is still a mighty and righteous choice. Who better to represent Dimakos in the challenge than the prince himself? Soon the Chasm began to fill with celebratory horns and yells from the Dimakos, making a large uproar for Achaeus. A traditional dance by slaves is commenced, celebrating their reap, and white birds are released to dot the skyline with proud avians in representation of the Dimakos. "My lord..." An usher spoke to Achaeus's father, clearly confused on how to proceed. How could the Dimakos just give up their heir like that? This changed everything. The leader remained silent, baffled at what had just occurred. Not even the resuming drums could snap him out of it. Again, the Lord beats his fist over the arm-rest, building up momentum for the next reaping. This could only be one of two clans. So far, this squadron looked like it was the strongest to be assembled in quite a few years. Valiant figures from each clan have been selected, and while nobody expects anybody to ever complete the Challenge of the Stag successfully, it's always glorious to witness strong groups be sacrificed in legend for the Stag. If the previous reaps were any indication of today's righteousness, these next two choices should be just as grand. The loud drums finally come to a halt, and the Stag announces his selection. "RAND, OF THE WIGHTCLAN!" Instead of orthodox clapping, what instead roared out from the Wights of Ithaka was a peculiar sound. They did not clap their hands together, but rather, they began to clack their jaws loudly in a skeletal orchestra, making sure to be as loud as possible. Colossal constructs of bone and sinew, skeleton giants, if you will, pound their bony feet over the ground in the absence of drums, roaring loudly as well. The choice made by the Stag Lord was most certainly one of high tier, for this selection was a very accomplished warrior- but there was controversy behind it as well. It wasn't exactly another prince that had been reaped, but still someone of such high tier that the choice is questionable. The Reaping of a Wightlord is not unprecedented, but even so it is a rare deed from the Stag. As glorious as the Reaping is, this was clearly a loss for the Wights. "Damnit! I'll have your skin, you damned elk..." Ithaka murmured from her balcony perch over the Wight balcony, Dark Matter bubbling out of her mouth in anger. Flanked by 2 Tombmonarchs and a Rotten Minotaur, they look over the Wight section in dismay. "A calamity..." One of them mentions as they all turn to return into the corridors. "I concur." They fade into the darkness of the corridors. "Summon the Necropanel immediately." Banshees wail in a ghastly song for their reap, while undead horses proudly gallop across the section with bannermen at their backs, showing off the pride of the Wights. Moving on, only one clan remained. At the far side of the Chasm, legions of Homunculi bounced and hummed in anticipation for their choice. Being the last clan left meant they had time to prepare their showboating. Even as drums once more began to ring, they could hardly contain themselves. The Challenge of the Stag was peculiar for this clan, because many of them were in actuality artificial creations not directly linked to primary creation by The Stag Lord, yet they were still recognized as a functioning clan by all means. When the drums halted, the Homunculi could hardly contain themselves. From a mountain balcony, the Homunculi elder gazed with a pleased expression over their clan. A brief silence before the Stag's voice rocked the chasm once more. "XYTOR, OF THE TIKI!" In an entirely unexpected occurrence, the Stag Lord found that there was no reaction to his calling. Despite his omnipotence, he found himself slightly surprised at the situation. This silence was not in protest, nor in misunderstanding- rather it seemed more like nobody had actually heard him. It was not ignorance, though. It was almost like if the reap he made has been invalid. Nobody paid attention to it. "XYTOR, OF THE TIKI" He bellowed again, empowering his voice with an even greater incantation of euphoria and inspiration, yet still, no reaction from any of the clans. Sighing in defeat, The Stag Lord dropped his head, rubbing his brow. "Fine..." He murmured to himself. Rolling up the Roster, he inserts it back into the slot of the Throne, a steady hand once more gripping his wooden scepter. He rises in a sudden burst of energy, stomping energetically over the ground. "XYTOR, AND PICO OF THE TIKI!" Certainly, the crowd explodes. In the most volatile reaction yet, loud screams of joy and cheers fill the entirety of the chasm. Massive amalgamations of artificial Homunculi projects, turned sentient by magic, stomp happily across the section, held together by papier mache, scrap metal, and a little bit of wizardry. Huge Tiki cannons of war are summoned forward, firing bouts of confetti into the air, not just in celebration of their reaping, but to celebrate the culmination of this year's ceremony as a whole. Wisps fly about happily over each clan, ensuring that all the candidates selected are present and moving forward. Laughing heartily, the Stag lord stabs the tip of his scepter onto the ground. "Warriors! Be proud of this day!" The Lord proclaims. "Reaped, you have been. Present yourselves to me." Although the actual Challenge is not to happen for a handful of days from now, the candidates are still required to come forward and be presented in front of all of the clans. "Let this year's Challenge of the Stag... Begin!" The loud yell finalizes, signaling the commence of the Challenge, to take place a few days from now.