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The Witch's Epigraph, Chapter Two: The Helix and the Rose

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Inspired by When the Seagulls Cry (Umineko no Naku Koro ni)

The difficulty of this chapter is Reasonably Solvable. Would you care to guess?

The story so far...

In 2011, eight members of an exclusive riddle club competed for a great prize. However, misfortune after misfortune struck the group: allegations of cheating were made, an earthquake and a storm struck, a valuable ring was stolen, and a trusted servant came to an untimely end. To complicate matters, the events of that night have been cloaked in a mantle of silence, leaving behind only mysteries and a set of typed pages of uncertain accuracy.

Ten years later, in 2021, a boy met with an enigmatic Witch to try to discover the truth of that night. At this gathering, he and a group of humans fought a series of duels to dispel the Witch's illusions. However, when the first duel ended, the boy unexpectedly defected to the Witch's side, leaving the players seemingly alone to face the bizarre mystery.

A Note for New Players:

I'm trying to keep this game relatively open for new players, so the first several puzzles can be solved without even glancing at the earlier threads. Later, I will generally link to prior posts in some form when they’re necessary to solve a puzzle. That said, the new thread will include spoilers for the earlier ones.

If you don't want to fish through all the earlier posts, here are a few tips:

* The narration is not literally reliable. Some scenes are exaggerations, and others are metaphorical. However, statements in red are true.

* There are two layers to this story, at the very least. We are reading sheets of paper describing supposed events of 2011. We are also attending a Witch's Banquet devoted to grappling with the mysteries raised by those sheets of paper.

Synopsis/Key Post Index:

The index/synopsis below might help you catch up with the plot. Since you probably don't want to go fishing through 26 pages on two threads, here are links to all of the posts with major plot/character details. All character intros include a puzzle.

Prologue:

page__view__findpost__p__312523

page__view__findpost__p__313047

page__view__findpost__p__313189

Chapter One:

page__view__findpost__p__313270

page__view__findpost__p__313525

page__view__findpost__p__313684

page__view__findpost__p__313797

page__view__findpost__p__313905

page__view__findpost__p__314036

page__view__findpost__p__314074

page__view__findpost__p__314104

page__view__findpost__p__314188

page__view__findpost__p__314283

page__view__findpost__p__314333

page__view__findpost__p__314369

page__view__findpost__p__314380

page__view__findpost__p__314391

page__view__findpost__p__314432

page__view__findpost__p__314476

page__view__findpost__p__314835

page__view__findpost__p__314920

epig2.jpg

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(Non-puzzle interlude; the mystery will continue soon.)

Your people are no people, I'm afraid.

  A grinning scarecrow, Lovers open-armed,

And coward kings of brittle ivory made

  Have secret lives; yours don't. And I've been charmed

By hopeful cards who winked in candlelight.

  I'll chat with chessmen, stitch a floppy hat

To perch atop a cornfield's errant knight --

  Your pieces have less guts to them than that.

You'd pen a poem neatly in a grid,

  Oil-paint a crossword, bronze a puzzle piece!

Her soul is trapped in ink, by ciphers hid,

  A cage of words denying her release.

Alive while dead, her spirit is your letter;

You'd never treat her so, if you knew better.

This poem is haunting. While it claims to be a non-puzzle, I've bolded words that make me think it is a puzzle of some kind.

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I understood the non-puzzle as "not related to the Idol mystery" but that the whole song normally is a puzzle.

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This poem is haunting. While it claims to be a non-puzzle, I've bolded words that make me think it is a puzzle of some kind.

Yeah...I noticed that too...also the references to chess, which is also a grid...

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I think I know what the poem is about, but I don't think I've even scratched the surface. It's speculation, but I'm putting it into a spoiler anyway.

The Witch of Doubt as we knew her commonly referred to the guests as Pieces (as in chess)

The Witch of Secrets (?Narration by J) in this new narration refers to the guests (and employees) as Cards (as in minor arcana).

The poem is from a witch to a witch (Secrets to Doubt?)

The poem. Parenthesis are my comments. Bold is my emphasis:

Your people are no people, I'm afraid. (Animates)

  A grinning scarecrow, Lovers open-armed,

And coward kings of brittle ivory made (perhaps referring to specific animates?)

  Have secret lives; yours don't. And I've been charmed

By hopeful cards who winked in candlelight.

  I'll chat with chessmen, stitch a floppy hat (floppy hat?)

To perch atop a cornfield's errant knight --

  Your pieces have less guts to them than that.

You'd pen a poem neatly in a grid, (You == the new Sapphire Witch)

  Oil-paint a crossword, bronze a puzzle piece!

Her soul is trapped in ink, by ciphers hid, (Her == Annabel, the true Sapphire Witch / her soul == the Epigraph? [baseless guess])

  A cage of words denying her release.

Alive while dead, her spirit is your letter;

You'd never treat her so, if you knew better.

Based on a post of Red Truth, I'm trying to determine what the Witches actually are.

While I don't think that this poem is a puzzle (and that the non-puzzle comment by WoS is true), I think it's important and telling for some part(s) of the story.

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I think I know what the poem is about, but I don't think I've even scratched the surface. It's speculation, but I'm putting it into a spoiler anyway.

The Witch of Doubt as we knew her commonly referred to the guests as Pieces (as in chess)

The Witch of Secrets (?Narration by J) in this new narration refers to the guests (and employees) as Cards (as in minor arcana).

The poem is from a witch to a witch (Secrets to Doubt?)

The poem. Parenthesis are my comments. Bold is my emphasis:

Your people are no people, I'm afraid. (Animates)

  A grinning scarecrow, Lovers open-armed,

And coward kings of brittle ivory made (perhaps referring to specific animates?)

  Have secret lives; yours don't. And I've been charmed

By hopeful cards who winked in candlelight.

  I'll chat with chessmen, stitch a floppy hat (floppy hat?)

To perch atop a cornfield's errant knight --

  Your pieces have less guts to them than that.

You'd pen a poem neatly in a grid, (You == the new Sapphire Witch)

  Oil-paint a crossword, bronze a puzzle piece!

Her soul is trapped in ink, by ciphers hid, (Her == Annabel, the true Sapphire Witch / her soul == the Epigraph? [baseless guess])

  A cage of words denying her release.

Alive while dead, her spirit is your letter;

You'd never treat her so, if you knew better.

Based on a post of Red Truth, I'm trying to determine what the Witches actually are.

While I don't think that this poem is a puzzle (and that the non-puzzle comment by WoS is true), I think it's important and telling for some part(s) of the story.

Nice observations. I really should go back and read the thread more carefully...but there's the billion and one things I have to get done (most of them self-inflicted...including my own puzzle story adventure which the awesomeness of this has inspired me to...).

The lovers...more animates or refering to Annabel and her husband? And the scarecrow and the "cornfield's errant knight" could be refering to the same thing, maybe...and the floppy hat...

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(Will post more sometime Thursday or Friday evening, I think - RL delays have hit.)

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I think the part where it says the poem is non-puzzle-related is meant to counteract the part at the beginning of this mystery where it says that truths discovered here cannot be expected to hold anywhere else, and this is indicating that this is not true for this. I have some thoughts about the poem itself, but I'm going to wait for more information.

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(Wow. It's getting hard to keep writing steadily with all this thesis work/teaching! I hope I haven't lost everyone.)

Saturday, 2:32 PM

I met up with Judgment once more, who had gleaned some interesting tidbits from the Page of Swords.

WHAT THE PAGE HAD TO SAY ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS:

On the Queen:

"She's a secretive lady, but very nice!"

On her mother:

"Oh, you heard about that? Yes, my mother's very ill... yes, money would help her get better treatment - but we manage somehow."

On Temperance:

"She's like a second mother to us here, I think! Aside from keeping the books, she manages a lot of the little personal problems we have... when I caught fever, she took care of me, you know."

On King:

"King's a nice guy, but he... um... sleeps too much on the job."

On Strength:

"He can be very brusque sometimes, but don't let that put you off at all! He's a good person deep down. But he works too hard."

On Nine:

"I barely know him, but he and Ten are like siblings. They definitely wouldn't hide anything from each other. Whatever one does, the other knows about."

On Knight:

"He's very into his electronics and things, but I wish he'd fix the phones. They haven't worked for a week!"

On Ten:

"Ah... she and Strength had a bad argument. The kitchen door lock's been broken for a few days, and Strength thinks she and Nine are holding up on getting it fixed because - because of some kind of grudge! This one time, you see, Strength forgot about Ten's peanut allergy...

But I don't think that either of them are stalling, I think they're just she has against him because of that ONE time he forgot about her peanut allergy... but I don't think that's what's going on. And it's probably just that Knight and Nine haven't gotten around to getting a new lock and key. These locks are very fancy, you know, pretty much impossible to pick, Nine says."

On the theft:

"I don't know how it happened! A nice pair of scissors that Strength uses for cutting meat got stolen, and I have no idea who did it. Or why..."

On the guests:

"Some of them have visited before, but some are new to me! I've never met the Emperor, and it's been years since Eight of Coins has managed the trip here, with his bad health... but Five of Wands was here last year, and the High Priestess was with him."

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(Wow. It's getting hard to keep writing steadily with all this thesis work/teaching! I hope I haven't lost everyone.)

I doubt you could even if you wanted to ;P.

Yeah, been there...it's tough :(...out of curiosity, may I ask what your major is?

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(My major? Biology!)

Saturday, 2:32 PM

Nodding at the latest pieces of interview data, I walked out to the courtyard to investigate. Meanwhile, Judgment made his way up to the Driftwood Room to question Knight about the phone lines, the electronics, and the staff and guests.

The courtyard lay between the outer walls and gatehouse and the inside of the Castle. Paved in gray cobblestones, it was sparse, decorated only with solemn statues and grotesque gargoyles. Some held books; others held staves or swords. One wore in a mask and a witch's cap, and had the following piece of doggerel set in stone tiles on its pedestal:

ACT WHEN IN DOUBT -

HUNT THE PROOF OUT.

I puzzled over this a little, then turned my attention to the walls. I could hear the pounding on the ocean cliffs just beyond the west wall, which was far too high to scale, and looked rather treacherous. The gatehouse was likewise well-fortified; the sign by the great metal gates stated that Castle was open from 10 AM to 6 PM - plenty of time for all the guests to arrive, but nobody could entering or leaving this keep while those gates were closed - the walls were sheer, the cliffs were uninviting, and the metal was sturdy and topped with formidable spikes.

Overhead, the windows of the Castle glinted in the afternoon sun. The tape I had laid on the Electricity Closet window was not at all visible from this side, and I walked around the house checking all of the other ground floor windows one by one. Apparently, the Castle had met its quota of broken locks and latches, as every one that I could reach was locked. Of course, there was no way to check the ones that faced the cliffs from the outside, or the ones on the upper stories, but the walls seemed impossible to scale, at least without a ladder. Which also raised to mind the question of how anyone got up to the roof to raise and lower the castle's flag and maintain the power and phone lines - I didn't see any passage to the rooftop on the map I was given, but perhaps there was an error and one of the tower stairs went up further.

I glanced into the garden and saw a man - King, presumably - at work cutting roses at the entrance to the hedge maze. Searching in there would be more trouble than it was worth, so I stuck to the courtyard and walls when probing for secret passages. And after a thorough sweep, I finally found something worthwhile. The statue of the witch had a small, nearly undetectable keyhole set into its robes at chest height. I couldn't do anything with it at the moment, I knew, but someone was hiding something there.

Satisfied that I'd gleaned everything I could from the courtyard, I returned to meet up with Judgment once more.

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Saturday, 3:04 PM

"Knight was... interesting to talk to," said Judgment. "Laconic."

WHAT KNIGHT OF SWORDS HAD TO SAY ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS

On the phone lines:

"Broken. Gonna go up with Nine and fix 'em. We don't get a lotta calls, anyway."

On roof access:

"Big trapdoor at the top of the northwest staircase. It's pretty obvious if you look."

On the electrical systems in the castle:

"The alarms are on their own generator, and only the security company's got a key to that. Nobody's gonna mess with their power. But everything else is on main power, and power surges play hell with my PC here. Had to get a power strip with a backup battery to keep it from gettin' shut off."

On the theft from the kitchen:

"Scissors? No idea."

On the other staff:

"I get along okay with Nine, King, and Temperance. Don't know the others very well. King's definitely harmless - no way he's involved in any funny business. If anything happened, he wouldn't be a culprit."

On the security room keypad:

"Nah, I haven't shared the combo with anyone else."

On secret passages:

"I know this place like the back of my hand, and I've looked. No secret passages in this Castle."

On the guests:

"Hmmm... I know Seven of Cups pretty well. She loves astrology and astronomy and stuff. Meteor shower tonight; we're gonna watch from her room."

"I heard High Priestess has some kind of puzzle for us at dinner. She weirds me out."

"Magician's got a great head for electronics. Sometimes we talk about that stuff; he's made all kinds of little gadgets. Actually, he probably knows more about microelectronics than I do, and that's saying a lot."

Edited by WitchOfSecrets
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(We need new investigation requests!

People left to investigate: King, Ten, Queen, Strength

Places left to investigate: Most bedrooms, security room (for passages, etc), hallways, roof, banquet hall, grand hall, kitchen, bathrooms)

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Hmm...very interesting....

I'm kinda interested in all of the remaining suspects, but let's say start with Strength. Quarrels are often enlightening ;).

No one had said very much about King, so I also want to know about him...and all anyone has to say about Ten is that he's close to Nine...

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The roof also might hold some clue. It might be impossible to climb up to the window of the idol room, but I doubt it would be impossible to lower yourself down using rope long enough to reach the flag pole.

Edited by Molly Mae
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And the grand hall too if you've got the time.

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Is this over ? :(

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I hope not...

I'll start a petition on change.org. Everyone else seems to be doing it...

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She said she was writing her thesis, didn't she? I think we should just give her the time she needs, I'm sure she'll be back when she's ready, although we might have to call her Dr. WoS then...;P

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She said she was writing her thesis, didn't she? I think we should just give her the time she needs, I'm sure she'll be back when she's ready, although we might have to call her Dr. WoS then...;P

I thought WoS was a dude...

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This thread seems to have slowed down all of a sudden. Strange...

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I agree. though, of course, I was pretty much useless. ;)

Edited by flamebirde
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Posted · Report post

Where is everybody?

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gone, until WoS returns. or so I think.

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Hello? Anyone there?

Also, 200th thread post! :)

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