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Welcome to the;


Act One


Thump. Thump. Thump. Clink.


The woman looked around her, eyes having adjusted to the darkness hours ago, as several eyes of hunters and prey alike stared back. Around her, cages and chains rattled and thumped against each other, both in time to the wheels bouncing against the cobblestone beneath them, and her own heartbeat. These cages, of various sizes and sturdy wood, held solid masses, shifting in the darkness with the motion of the carriage. Though their bodies seemed formless in the shadows, their glowing eyes, reflecting in the slivers of moonlight sneaking through the gaps in the roof, grounded their existence in this tight space with the woman. She was not alone.


Thump. Thump. Clink.


A low growl reverberated through the space, catching the attention of the woman. Looking toward the rear of the darkness, the woman saw a feline-shaped set of ruby eyes blink calmly at her, as the rumble repeated when the pair of eyes locked. The woman shook her head silently, turning her sights back to the front of the carriage.


To think I’m stuck back here instead of…


Thump. Clink. Thump. Blub.


The last sound came from the tank next to the woman. A new sound for her, sparking curiosity in the woman. She looked up, looking passed the somewhat murky green liquid, to better focus on the hazy form within. After a second, the olive tinted form took the shape of a humanoid, curled up and floating in place. A finned tail twitched to and fro in the tank, as the form twitched with the movement of the carriage.


Thump. Thump. Blub.


A gasp of bubbles escaped the lips of the figure, though the form did not struggle as it breathed in through unseen gills.


Sleeping. In a place like this. Really?


The woman sighed, careful not to speak as her fellow passenger snored…or bubbled? The woman couldn’t help but smile at the thought. What must it be like to sleep in such an uncomfortably confined space. Though, she considered, her current space wasn’t any better.


Thump. Thump.


As she watched the liquid shift, almost hypnotically swaying from side to side, the woman felt exhaustion catch up with her. Well, I guess I’ll find out what that must feel like. Shaking her head, the woman adjusted slightly, resting her head against a nearby solid form. A crate, maybe? Whatever it was, it would have to do. She closed her eyes, allowing the darkness to envelope her sight fully, as she became one with the din of travel.


Thump. Thump. Thump. Clink.


A voice broke the monotony, causing the woman to open her eyes again. The moonlight sneaking through the roof seems thinner, the woman considered. How much time had passed since she closed her eyes? Seconds? Hours?


“So you never actually answered my question.” The soft female voice popped into existence from the front seat of the carriage. It had a slight accent to it, though the woman could not pinpoint what exactly it was.


“Hm?” A masculine, raspy voice joined in. “And what was it again, my dear? You know I can’t recall every question you ask.” The voice emphasized this fact with a raise in his inflection, giving the harsh grumble of his voice a more jovial tone.


The feminine voice caught the change in tone, and seemed to bounce off of it. “Oh you knowwww,” the voice carried the last syllable in a playful way. “What’s even the point of this little trip of ours? I mean…” Thump. Thump. “Did the Queen really authorize this endeavor?”


“Oh, that question again,” the masculine voice groaned as it spoke. The carriage creaked as the forms in the front shifted, before the voice continued. “Well, think of this as a…”, the voice paused, to consider. “Like a missionary excursion.” The raspy tone of the individual’s voice added emphasis to the last word.


“We are at the service of our beloved Queen,” the voice continued. “It’s just…”


“IT'S JUST THAT WHAT SHE DON’T KNOW WON’T HURT HER, EY BOSS?” A sudden shrill voice chimed in, interrupting the gravel voice. This new voice had a verberation about it, as if it was coming from multiple locations in front of the woman.


A laugh and sigh followed, as the previous voices respectively responded to the third. The raspy voice continued.


“Yes Hampel,” the raspy voice rolled the name off the tongue slowly, as if savoring the pronunciation. “But our dear Queen does know of this.” Thump. Clink. A pause before the voice added, “mostly, I mean.”


“Well, considering you have me on this…excursion, was it?” The feminine voice said, the soft voice seeming to balance its rougher companion’s. Though the woman couldn’t see the source of the voice, she could feel a smile form from the words spoken. “It must at least be an important one, no?”


“COURSE IT IS!” Proclaimed the shrill voice…voices? The woman couldn’t figure how many were actually speaking when it chimed in. But regardless of the number, they seemed to be saying the same thing. “ANY SHOW OF MASTER KOOS IS A REAL IMPORTANT MATTAH.” The last word was said with emphasis, with each of the echoing voices adding their own accent to it.


“Shhh, Hampel”, the gravel voice whispered, the tone now being both nurturing and…dangerous? As if it was the gentle whisper of a mother to their child, and the hiss of a serpent in the night. “We mustn’t waken the special guests. After all…”, the voice seemed to drip venom as it gleefully added, “they’re the real stars of the show.”


Another sigh came from the front of the carriage, this time from the feminine voice. “You two really have to do this bit? Now? And look…” A hand appeared in the darkness, as a curtain shifted from the front. In a moment, pale moonlight expanded into the loaded carriage, causing the woman’s eyes to dilate.


As her eyes adjusted, the woman saw a hooded form twisted and looking toward her. Though the shadow cast hid her features, two ruby eyes glinted in the darkness, their large appearance seemingly like twin jewels. Though her heart continued to beat in time with the beat of the wheels, a sense of calm seemed to wash over the woman.


“You two idiots woke the dear Elven up,” the feminine voice softly whispered. The woman wanted to speak up, but couldn’t seem to move in any way as her eyes remained locked on the ruby points. Soon a warmth began to envelope her, clouding her thoughts. Such a relaxing…warm…


“There there,” the feminine voice whispered, a faint glow shimmering in the air between it and the woman. “Let’s get you back to sleep…you’ve got a big day ahead of you.” And with that, a soft hum drifted on the breeze, beginning from the front of the carriage, enveloping the interior of the carriage.


Soon, the comforting warmth and calming tune was too much for the woman, who let her heavy eyelids fall lower and lower with each passing moment. Within seconds, the woman was still, her breathing slowed as she fell back to sleep.



“My dear Miwu,” the gravel voice of Koo whispered, “you truly outdo yourself when you smother our guests.”


“Oh hush,” Miwu turned back in her seat, rolling her eyes. “Not all of us can be as flashy as you.”


“Nonsense, sweet Miwu, nonsense,” Koo smiled at her. In the faint moonlight, Koo could only make out brunette curls contained within a dark pink hood, and two pinpricks of red glinting behind them. “Your comfort skills are as brilliant as…well…me.” The smile grew wider as he finished his sentence, glinting his white teeth in the faint light.


As Miwu rolled her eyes again and shifted to look ahead, a shrill voice whispered to her left. “The way your eyes keep spinning, we might as well call you Miwu the Magiklock!”


Without turning her head, Miwu reached behind her and grabbed the soft figure on her shoulder. As she squeezed the plush puppet firmly, she breathed in. And out.


A flash of light sparked in the palm of her hand, as a fire burst to life in the heart of the plush figure. As the toy burned away in her hand, another figure appeared on Koo’s shoulder.


“Sheesh,” the shrill voice continued, it’s unmoving features hiding its annoyance. “Lighten up will ya? I swear, of all the people to bring along, why did we pick the pryo to bring, Master Koo?”


“Because Hampel,” Koo looked to the plush as he spoke, “she’s able to keep the talent relaxed. Can’t have them stressed for their next performance! You see,” Koo grabbed the plush Hampel in his hand and squeezed. “If they’re stressed out, they might just explode.”


Before Hampel could respond, Koo enveloped the plush into a ball of faint light. As the plush spun in place within the lightly glowing prison, Koo smiled and flicked the orb with his finger. The orb rocketed upward toward Clemmedeus, whizzing in a receding cry as the shrill voice of Hampel escaped. Then, when the orb was indistinguishable from a star in the sky, Koo snapped his fingers.


In an instant, a flash of light swallowed the black night sky, as a rainbow of color erupted from the now exploded orb. As the firework glittered down to the earth below, Koo chuckled as Miwu smiled. Without skipping a beat, from his shoulder, a plush figure crawled up and watched.


“Gotta admit boss,” the shrill voice of Hampel said as the rainbow glitters faded and the natural light of the night began to return. “You sure know how to deliver a punchline.” At that, Koo patted the plush puppet’s head. “Though,” Hampel added as Koo lowered his hand, “stop with the popping me thing, wouldja? It’s a pain regenerating without some applause to go with it.”


With the light show gone, the silence of the night descended upon the traveling trio and their carriage. The carriage continued to lightly shift and bounce as it traveled down the cobblestone path.


Thump. Thump. Thump. Clink.


Act Two


The marketplace of Halosin, a typically bustling and overcrowded sea of people and beasts, their cries, calls, cheers, and laughter swirling about the air over packed stalls of goods, produce, wares, and knickknacks, was now quiet.


In both day and night, such an idea was impossible. The streets converged to this central hub of commerce and trade, where hundreds came to finish chores, discuss quests, and enjoy local and foreign goods. It was a swarm of life, blending aesthetics from across the peninsula to be a stew of culture. But not this day.


The morning sky, gray with haze as Cressedea stretched her arms to awaken, glowed softly down on the cobblestoned plaza. The stalls, wooden shadows taking form, stood empty and unattended. The canvases covering the stalls, in an assortment of colors and patterns, lay over the forms with only the slightest flicker of the wind. Indeed, except for the slight breeze passing through, almost everything in the marketplace lay under a spell of silence and stillness.


All, except for the covered carriage now parked in the center of it all.


A figure jumped off of the carriage, its thinner frame hidden in a billowing cloak, a hood covering the wearer's face. Another, standing slender and tall, stood atop the carriage with its arms spread out wide. At the end of one, a dark form bounced and swirled, faintly glowing in the morning light.


“Now,” the standing Koo whispered, barely audible to his companions, “let’s get the show started.”


The slender Koo twisted his gloved fingers and snapped with both hands. In a flurry of lights and whizzing of wind, the scenery shifted and swayed. The air around the empty marketplace warmed and bubbled, as magic echoed across the cobblestone and wood. At the heart of this explosion of force, Koo stood smiling, as a cackling Hampel leapt from his arm to start his side of the preparations.


From the magic sprung orbs of fire, spinning about in a flurry of color. The weeds of the cobblestone, small and sturdy, erupted from the ground into plentiful plants of gourds and melons, sparking with magical energy from within. Spiderwebs danced in a mad fury as the pulse of energy rippled the area, and seemed to multiply, like vines of wispy silver. An Umbral blight cawed from above, as if to signal the start of this special day.


Yes. The marketplace of Halosin was quiet. It was empty. But not for long.


The Circus has come to town.


Act Three


“You look… I mean… ”. Celeste composed herself, trying to think of the best answer to the question posed to her. Before her, a shaggy figure stood at about her height, arms spread to its sides as if to embrace the knight. In the setting light of Cressedea behind them, the features of the figure were somewhat obscured by shadow. Yet what showed was…was…


Celeste sighed as she continued. “You look so childish.” Celeste shook her head. “Honestly Caelum, aren’t you too old for dressing up for the festival?”


Caelum shifted back, feigning an invisible blow as he raised his hand to his mouth. “My dear sister! How could you possibly think this time honored tradition is…is…childish?”


As if on cue, a knock at their door cause both to turn their attention away from the other. Celeste gracefully strode forward and opened their door. The wooden frame creaked as the door opened, revealing the flash of golden spiraling from a tiny, smiling face. Beneath the golden wig, black strands of hair peeked out, adding a dark highlight to the intricate flow of weaves and knots. On the expectant face looking back at her, two brown eyes gleamed in excitement.


“Celeste! Caelum! Happy Fuh-sember!” The cheer-filled voice of Lily filled the late autumn air in the room with warmth and energy. Falling from her form flowed a bright blue dress, curtained about her like a miniature waterfall, each end of the azure fabric dipped in glistening and glittering white. In her white glove-covered hand, a candy-coated apple on a stick waved about, melted on the top where she had previously licked it.


It was not either twin who reacted first to this surprise guest, but the previously sleeping Dracloud from the window-sill. Catching the scent of the sweetened wand, the winged beast jumped up and let out a happy squeak. The sudden sound caught the attention of the twins, who turned to watch a flash of white streak through the room toward the young girl before them.


As Talos fluttered around the flowing blue dress, Lily giggled and continued to smile widely. “Hello Tally! How’ve you been?” With a nuzzle and squeak in response, Lily petted the excited Dracloud.


“You’re the researcher here, Cay,” Celeste grinned smugly at her brother, walking over to greet their guest.  “This adorable child appears to be evidence to my claim.”


Upon reaching Lily, she gave her an embrace, carefully avoiding the gold braid to not ruin the design. The girl giggled as she reciprocated the hug, loose black hair sneaking out and brushing against Celeste. Lily looked up at Celeste with her same excited expression.


“Hi Celeste! Happy Fuh-sember!” Lily stepped back and reached her free arm out. At the end of her hand was the handle of a basket, dangling loosely from her wrist. In the basket itself, loose Moonberries and apples lay within a checkered blanket, with matching blues and whites to the young girl’s outfit. Her grin straightened into a fierce look. Well, as fierce as a young girl dressed as a princess could look. “Offerings or Ordeals, mow-tall!”


Celeste, seeing the excitement in the young girl's eyes, stepped back in feign fear. “Oh no! Of course, my benevolent mistress! How silly of me!” Stepping toward her desk, she grabbed one of Talos’ apples and placed it into the basket. Watching all this, Talos growled as his apple was taken and given away, followed by a squeak of begging toward Lily, who continued her fierce composure throughout the interaction, though it did falter as the Dracloud squeaked at her legs.


“Thank you. Now,” her smile returned as she took the placed apple and set it at her feet. “I shall offer this to the cutest, most loyal familiar I know.” In a flash, the squeaks were replaced with a combination of purrs and crunches.


As Talos ate and the ladies watched with awe and fascination, Caelum chimed in, “Hi Lily. That’s a really good Jademistress costume! Why did you choose her?”


Lily seemed to ponder this for a moment, and then gave Caelum a big grin. “Because, silly, she’s a princess! And Daddy wants everyone to know I’m one too!”


Caelum smiled at this, and nodded. “He’s right. Though she wasn’t a princess, as the story says. Though she was the mistress of the Jademist Estate. In fact, the story says her skills with the Jademist were what created the frozen Garden’s of the north. It was because of her magic that…”


“That she became a princess,” finished Celeste, leaning down and poking Lily’s nose. The young girl blinked and giggled, raising her basket up. “And people are giving me all the offerings cause of it!”


Celeste chuckled and nodded. “And it sounds like you’ll be getting more tonight. In fact…”. Celeste turned to Caelum and smirked. “I think Caelum would be more than happy to escort the princess to her subjects. Wouldn’t you?” As she said this, Lily looked over to Caelum, eyes wide.


Caelum blinked in realization, and gave a wide grin at this. “Heck yeah I will! Besides,” he turned and flexed his arms, muscles shifting under the suit of fur he was covered in. “The story says the Jademistress’ second in command was the legendary Adolwolf, Drenvyr.”


“Caelum the puppy is going to join me!” Lily excitedly yelled out, jumping as she did. Before Caelum could respond, Lily ran toward him and grabbed his paw-shaped glove. “We better go, to make it to the festival!”


Caelum smiled and nodded. “Give me a few minutes to get ready, and we’ll go! Until then, check the others in this wing for offerings. The… princess… needs to have all the sweets she can.”


At this, Lily ran out the door, excitedly giggling as she continued further into the corridor. As the twins turned and laughed at the encounter, they could hear the soft knocking of wood coming in the direction the girl had left in.


“Childish or not,” Caelum looked back at his sister. “It will definitely make her night to have a legend accurate sidekick to watch her.” At the mention of the legend, Celeste rolled her eyes.


“As long as you don’t bore her with that stuff. She’s only eight years old. She wants to enjoy the night for sweets and a pretty dress. Most don’t aim to be legend accurate.”


Caelum only smiled and shook his head. “I know, but she is smarter than most. And look! Now it can be really accurate! She’s the Jademistress, I’m the Adolwolf, and you can be…”


“I told you,” Celeste interrupted him. “It’s childish to dress up. And besides, Augustus just returned from their mission in the Crey Desert. I’m seeing them tonight, before they set off again.” She shook her head and closed her eyes. “You know how they get when a story can’t be told. And…,” she opened her eyes and looked back toward her desk, her notebook open and quill resting silently in its well. “I think we need whatever intel they gathered.”


“You’re no fun,” Caelum sighed, grabbing the remaining items from his desk and cot to add to his satchel. As he grabbed the hood to complete his look, he turned back to Celeste. “If you change your mind, we could always use the Witch for the trifecta”.


“I’ll keep that in mind.” Celeste smiled at her brother, admiring the costume he wore. “You look like a stretched out Asher. Give or take some fake ears and tail. But that collar is ridiculous.”


Caelum gave a thumbs up as he smiled his signature goofy grin. “Then it’s a legend accurate depiction to me!” Before he could take a step to leave, he felt a weight on his shoulder. Looking back, Talos set his claws into the fur, kneading into it as he clung to its wearer. “I take it, someone wants more treats?”


Celeste laughed. “It wouldn’t hurt to let Talos out for the evening. Besides,” Celeste looked over to Caelum’s cot, seeing a sleeping Asher resting on her twin’s pillow. “I think Asher will keep me company when I return from Augur.”


“Sounds good to me. Talos, are you ready?” Caelum pet the Dracloud’s scaled forehead. The beast purred and let out a squeak, a flash of fire escaping its mouth in excitement. “Sounds like a yes to me!”


Leaning back to the bed, Caelum pet Asher softly, as the small creature stirred, and then settled back into a rest. Entering the hall, Caelum turned and waved back at his sister, as he went in the direction of more soft knocks, and the giggles of an excited little princess.


Act Four


The light of the day was fading behind the two women as they reached the first gate of the Kingdom. The road below them flowed a rusty maroun as the setting Cressedea looked behind them. As they walked under the white marble arches, a faint popping sound could be heard from the town slowly approaching.


An especially loud clap popped from in front of the two. The shorter of them, Nilya, gasped in alarm, flinching and quickly covering her ears, folding their triangular edges under her hands.


“Nilya!” Sophia turned at the sudden sound, reaching out to comfort her companion. As she touched her shoulder, Sophia could feel the young Kitsune shutter in shock.


“It’s ok,” Sophia continued, slowly stroking Nilya’s shoulder, keeping rhythm to the gentle breeze flowing past them. Carried on this breeze were the scents of freshly baked goods, sweet candies fruits, and a charcoal scent that could only mean one thing. “It’s only fireworks, Nil,” Sophia gently said. “Don’t worry, it’s ok.”


After a few moments, Nilya lowered her arms, letting her soft white ears rebound into their normal position. Looking up to her companion, Nilya quietly whispered “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. It’s just.”


Sophia gently smiled and looked into the violet eyes beside her. The face of the Kitsune looked back, eyes wide with the residual shock, combined with the growing embarrassment of the anxious reaction. Sophia shook her head.


“Don’t worry about it. From what you’ve told me, this is a big thing for you to even be doing.”


Nilya nodded, adjusting herself as they walked closer to the town. “I don’t really have a good experience with festivals. Or really any events with a large gathering of people.” At the thought of this, Nilya shuttered.


Sophia lowered her arm to her side, concentrating on the breeze around the pair. Soon the air shifted, swirling around them as it gathered the scents of the town before them. .


“That’s why I think this will be a good first step. After all,” Sophia spread her arms out and waved them up and down her body, “this is a festival of costumes. Even if you’re worried about people seeing you differently, we’re all going to be different tonight.”


Sophia’s infectious smile spread to Nilya, who blushed lightly as she smiled back. Seeing this, Sophia couldn’t help but admire the young Kitsune’s dress; a very short black corset covered her chest, while leaving her arms and legs to be covered with fine silk sleeves. Golden snowflakes adorned her outfit, glittering softly in the light. In her hair, a pair of bells lightly clinked as the pair walked.


“Besides,” Sophia continued, raising a hand and pointing back toward the eastern trail they had just gotten off of. “You are bravely joining me on an exciting adventure to have a fun night at the festival! That’s more than can be said about Mr. ‘I have to do a job tonight’.”


Sophia sighed. “I swear, Jayce really needs to take a break once in a while.” As she said this, Sophia couldn’t help but frown on worry over her friend. “He works too hard. It’s not good for him.”


Nilya looked up to see Sophia’s frown form and begin to set. Not wishing for this to happen, Nilya whipped one of her tails to Sophia’s side, and poked her exposed arm with it. A tickling sensation crept up Sophia’s limb, as she couldn’t help but smile in response.


“Thank you, Nils”, Sophia laughed as the furry tail broke her momentary worry. Overhead, another arch shadowed their view of the oranging sky. Another sizzle of pops broke through the silence, followed by the light beat of a drum. As if following the beat of their steps, the drum continued to rise slowly in volume, only to be joined in by other instruments in the distance.


“No,” Nilya said, returning her tail to her side, raising them up to have the tips near her ears, in an attempt to muffle the rising sounds. “Thank you, Sophia. I never would have thought to come if it wasn’t for you.”


Sophia smiled at this, and shook her head. “As strange as it sounds, it’s Jayce you should be thanking. His knowledge of demons helped us find the best outfit to help you blend in with the others.” Sophia looked around at the decorations adorning the street; floating gourds with pointed grins burned silently around them, as shadow-covered bare branches jutted out from solid trunks, like the arms of a demon. Looking down at her own outfit, Sophia added, “honestly, this is a festival of demons, so maybe I’m the odd one here.”


Indeed, Sophia’s costume was not one of horror or monstrous attributes. No, it didn’t have any beastial elements like Nilya’s natural appearance. No, Sophia wore something she considered more cute, if not a little mundane; a soft emerald dress, with ruffled bottom flowing gently to her gartered legs. Frills of white spun about her arms and chest, with a golden buckle firmly set about her waist. Atop her amber locks, straightened beforehand, a billowing pointed hat rested, bouncing comically with each step. 


Sophia laughed to hersef. “With me by your side, you have nothing to fear. In fact,” she looked over at Nilya, still smiling her comforting warm smile, “I think they’re going to love your costume so much more than mine.”


At this, Nilya blushed deeply, covering her face with her remaining tail, now resembling a furry cocoon. At this, Sophia laughed, and soon the cocooned Nilya lowered her tails, joining in with a nervous laugh of her own. As the two laughed, Sophia noticed several others walking around them. Nilya, noticing this as well, quickly raised her tails back up to her ears.


“No matter what,” Sophia reached out and took Nilya’s hand. Sophia could feel the nervous Kitsune shaking as her palm wrapped over hers. Squeezing softly, the shaking seemed to ease. “No matter what,” Sophia continued, her voice filled a gentle assurance, “I will make sure you have a great time. I promise.”


At this, Nilya looked up and gave Sophia a large smile, her eyes brightening to a light lavender as excitement sparked to life behind them.


Still holding hands, the two passed under the final, massive stone archway, entering the town with several other travelers, venturing closer to the source of the rising music.  Above them, the moons twinkled to life, as the festival followed suit.


Act Five


Elsewhere, on the outer ring of the market plaza of Halosin, the stalls stood quiet in the twilight of the evening. In the distance, the din of music and crowds and salespeople echoed over the cobblestone ground, weaving through the vacant wooden posts of business as if they were alive and bustling. From behind one of these stalls, three pairs of eyes glowed softly in the light, flashes of distant lights and fireworks dancing against them.


“Are you sure, Ashe?” A timid voice asked behind a now empty shop stall. The source of the voice turned back to his companions, before peeking over the stall once more.


“I am quite sure, Psymon. They are another one.” The more feminine voice said, nodding toward the center of the markeplace. With a shutter, the ghostly girl lowered herself behind the stall.


“Right, but c’mon, Ashe. It’s just another circus. It is Fusumbre, remember?” The third voice chimed in, peeking around the stall. Much his companions, who each were adapt at sight within the dark, canopied veil of the Deathforest, the cerulean eyes that flashed toward his friends could perceive the fading details of the world in the dimming light.


“I am quite aware of the day, Runthimus. But this…”


“Runty.” His voice coolly interrupted, his eyes narrowing for a second as he corrected. Though they were friends, Psy knew the nickname meant more to Runty than he would admit.


“Sorry Runty. It’s just…”, Ashes whispered, holding back tears as memories flashed across her mind. “This is another performance by the Magikingdom. And they…” Ashe stopped herself, wrapping her arms around the spectral black pillow she manifested for herself. As she held the comfort object, Psy set his hand on her back. The chill of her spectral form sent a shiver up his spine, ending at the tips of his horns with a faint rattle.


“We know, Ashe. We know how you feel.”


“Course we do!” Runty turned toward the two, grinning with his signature overconfident smile. “We’ve got your back! So what’s the plan!”


Ashes looked up from her pillow, its button-doll eyes following with hers as she looked up at the pair. “Thank you both,” Ashes smiled faintly. Straightening herself up, she raised a faint finger up and pointed toward the distant commotion. “Ok. We need to get in without being noticed.”


“Say no more, Ashe.” Runty looked around the area quickly. In a few moments, his eyes narrowed in concentration, and then widened in realization. “Psy, are you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?”


Psy looked over the stall in the direction Runty was looking. As his eyes settled on what the duo were now looking at, he nodded. “I am Runty, and please don’t let it be anything too embarrassing.”


Runty turned back, feigning a look of dispair. “Please Psy! When have I led you astray?”


Psymon sighed at this, raising a hand to start counting the numerous times in their short friendship. Before he could start, Runty shot upright from their hiding spot.


“Well, it’s been zero today! So c’mon! I see what we need! Let’s go before the show begins!” Runty turned to Psymon and Ashes, still crouching behind the stall. In the dim light of the festival behind them, Runty’s features darkened, leaving only his excited grin shining down at the two.


“We’re about to get the best seats in the house!”


Act Six


Throughout the day, the trickle of people into the Halosian market plaza grew and grew. As the orb of light drifted idly across the autumnal sky, guests from across the peninsula entered the kingdom’s walls, following winding paths of cobblestone to reach commercial heart of Halosin.


Throughout the kingdom, the festival’s presence could not be ignored. From building windows and iron railings, magical orbs hung in place, twinkling shades of autumn’s foliage; greens flashed and glowed amongst the oranges and yellows, with mixes of red sparkling the entire air with color. From these lights, shadows were cast across the ground and walls, adding decorations to the otherwise bare facades. Above the plaza, and indeed throughout the kingdom, carved gourds of all shapes and colors smiled gleefully at the incoming guests; faces of demonic glee and strife etched into the flesh, letting the fragrant smell of the harvest fill the air throughout the area. Crossing over all venturing in waves the strands of Atterbane webs, collected and set carefully across the area, adding defense and intrigue to the festivities.


As more entered and gathered, the local merchants followed suit, relocating their business closer to the plaza’s center. Around the center merchants set up temporary stands of weapons and armor, shelves of masks and stacks of costumes, in anticipation of the night’s festivities. These merchant stalls occupied the outer most ring of the plaza, acting as the first checkpoint guests would pass as they traveled inward, and the last after getting their fill of merriment and vices within.


Next were the skilled stands; where the local artisans showed off their gifts and wares. Here portraits of demons sat amongst replicas of ancient weapons and shields. Here the musicians of the kingdom, personally selected by the King weeks prior, set themselves up and performed their excited melodies. The wailing of horns flowed with the beating of drums, as twings of strings being plucked added a stickado to the air. The music swirled about the oncoming guests, luring them closer into the festival’s center.


The final ring about the circle contained the main attraction to many on this evening; the food and drink, the games and prizes, set up in a tantalizing array. Games of chance brought laughter and cries, as magical energies flared in entertaining advertisement. The air in this section was heavy with the scents of sweets and fried foods; fresh produce prepared in all ways imaginable, from baked and sliced, to coated and drizzled, and even frozen or melted through. Candies of all colors sparkled under magical lights, enticing children and adults to partake in a sweet treat. The cobblestone of this area soon became sticky with the foam of locally brewed beverages, fallen treats, and the residue of sticky prizes. Yet the people cared little for this, swarming from the outer rings toward this large portion of the plaza. Yet still one section remained.


In the heart of the plaza stood a wooden stage. Alone in the middle, save for a carriage parked in the rear of the curtained section, the stage sat under the blue sky for the duration of the day. As guests ventured into the middle of the plaza, they looked in anticipation at the looming structure before them. The children asked their guardians what it was for, and indeed the guests from other parts looked and asked the same. But those of Halosin knew the importance of this final section, and merely informed the questioning few that their answers would soon be answered. And so the people, clad in costumes and masks, enjoyed the outer rings of the plaza, leaving the center for a later time.


And so the masses entered as the day slowly passed. The cheers and shrieks of children drowned out by the engaging calls of business, as the scents of fresh cooking and cut produce enticed all. The air about the hundreds within this plaza was charged with an invisible force. Whether it was the excitement of the festival’s food and games, the anticipation of the night’s happenings, or the sheer amount of magical power contained amongst the guests and the kingdom itself, one thing was for certain; the Festival of Fusumbre was in full force, and nothing could bring it to a halt.


Well, almost nothing.


Everyone noticed as the dim light of the twilight graced the skies, the lights and lanterns flowed more radiantly and ominously. Everyone noticed the air suddenly gain a chill as the stars populated the sky and Clemmedeus rose over the plaza. Everyone noticed the outer stalls quieting as they packed their goods away and closed for the evening, leaving only the music of the outer ring and food and drink to continue the festivities.


No one, however, noticed the slender shadow step into the center stage. Nor did any see the faint silhouette of a plush puppet glide silently above the stage, hidden behind the curtain of night. No one noticed the creaking of cages and chains, and shifting of curtains and boards as figures left the still carriage.


No one noticed, until the mist began flowing from the heart of the plaza.


As the people looked inward, the mist crawled silently and swiftly across the cobblestone, wisping past the legs of those within the inner ring. Smiles crept onto the make-uped faces of those who knew what this meant, as those with masks removed them and began to venture in. Soon others followed suit, and the hundreds of guests, locals and outsiders, made their way to the center of the plaza. After a few minutes, hundreds of eyes surrounded the wooden platform, looking up in anticipation at the figure still shrouded in shadow at its center.


A raspy voice could be heard only to those directly in front of the stage. A voice that sent a chill of fear and excitement down the listener’s spine. A voice that only uttered a single line.


“Let’s give them one hell of a show.”


Act Seven


In a flash, the dark of the night vanished, as magical explosions and swirling colors burst forth from the air above the stage. The mist continued to flow from the base, reflecting the colors overhead to form a river of rainbow clouds.


Finally, the show had began, not with a whimper, but with a bang.


The once dark form of Koo appeared in front of all onlookers, arms spread wide as the cascade of colors descended across the stage. Shimmering green and orange danced across his chest, mixed with black to compliment the towering black top hat upon his gray locks. A bright white smile etched across the pale face, accentuated by colorful tattoos.


From under the stage, a soft melody began. The beat began as a slow carnival tune, with a piano and bell based tune striking the notes slowly and carefully. As the sounds chimed, the soft hum of Miwu started, mixing with the musical notes into a warming, inviting sound. The hums were faint, mixing with the wind and notes to come off as haunting shrieks and howls, only adding to the ambience of the evening. As the sound drifted across the stage and into the crowd, the people seemed to ease, being lulled to silence by its hypnotic reach.


“Welcome, welcome, one and all,” the raspy voice of Koo echoed over the crowd. With a snap of his hand, a cane tipped in silver flashed into his opposite hand, topped with what appeared to be a silver clown form. His arms lowered with his body, as he lowered into a bow. Then, following the tune around him, Koo began.



“You’ve come to us, from far and wide,

Quite the spectacle, to be sure,

For here you stand, with us outside

And looking for the cure.


A cure, I hear, for blues and woes,

The struggles of the day,

So rest, my friends, while on your toes,

And hear what games we’ll play.


Oh please don’t fret, my lovely sweets,

Unless that’s what you want,

But I am here, to please and treat,

You all to magic and haunts.


For those still here, I bid adieu,

To our quaint circus show,

Run by me, your Trickster Koo

And some dear friends I know…”



The raspy voice of Koo plucked along the beat, as a stacado of notes bounced in time. The showman smiled as he continued his opening. The sound paired well with the music, adding a sharp element to the pings and striking of the notes and the overlapping hum. As Koo uttered the final word to his opening, the music around him swelled, with a steady clattering of a cymbal beneath the stage. In a flash, the music continued its even and haunting melody, but added more to compliment the flow. The vibrado of strings arched the back of the tune, shaking the air as it crept upon the audience like a beast on the prowl.


The vocals of Koo, pausing for the flourish of the added sounds, continued.


“First lets meet the finned fiend,

A poor, unfortunate sight,

With scales and stitches everywhere,

A huntress of the night.


A huntress? Yes, I tell you all,

But none are as fierce as she,

She stalks the waves, of lost souls,

In traps, she catches and cleaves.


But have a trap, too skilled to crack?

My dears don’t look away,

My elven friend, escapist queen

Will surely find a way.


Her golden locks, and pointed ears,

Why sir is that a blush?

We’re only getting started now,

Now please loves, what’s the rush?”



As Koo articulated amongst the cacophony of sounds, two forms sprang from the carriage, appearing to float on the music itself. The twin beings drifted high above the stage, balancing themselves over Koo’s upturned palms.


On his left, a pale gray woman swirled gracefully in the air. Around her stitch patched arms, a thin veil of green liquid flowed, glistening against the red tinted scales shielding her more feminine features. Her lower half, flowing within more of this liquid, appeared as a gray and crimson fish tail, finned with sharp edges. On her clay-shaded hair, the polished bones of a Xin glinted in the lights of the stage, as braids hypnotically flowed in place about her. As she swam in place, a long silver scabbard, hilt of golden bone, twirled around her shoulders, defying gravity as it orbited its master’s fragile neck. The mermaid looked disdainfully down at the onlookers, flashing razor sharp teeth as the crowd looked in awe. The twirling blade slithered about the feminine form, gliding on the liquid like a ship across the sea.


On his right, a mass of silver and gray twitched metallically. Heavy looking chains hung weightlessly in place, jangling to the best of the music. Then, as if the mass of metal was the cocoon of an unholy insect, a feminine arm pierced through the exterior. The chains moaned in protest as the emerald gloved hand twisted about, its slender fingers reaching toward a large leaf-shaped lock. With a gentle press of the lock, the chains flowed in golden light, until appearing to expand outward at a high point of the tune. As the chains, appearing to radiate the residual golden energy, descended around the stage, a feminine form twirled above Koo. Golden hair floating in place, the Elven woman pirouetted in air, her floral jewelry shining in the surrounding lantern light.


In the low glow of the lanterns surrounding the stage, thin glints of silver revealed the strings carefully tied to each figure. Yet, this detail was only noticed by those close to the stage, and even then none of them could see the controller of these strings, nor how such motions could be done with the open night sky above them.


The music trickled to its opening beat, a slow tip toe of sound across the stage. As the crowd watched, the Elven maiden blushed, red swelling across her concentrated frown, adding color to her pale complexion. With a graceful flick of her wrist, the glowing chain elevated back to her open palm, coiling around it like a serpent. Once coiled about her arm, the maiden extended the arm toward her scaled companion, as the chain slithered from her arm and across the open air. As if alive, the metal chain slid through the space above Koo, before being enveloped in the glowing liquid from the mermaid’s extended arm. As the chain spiraled around her arm, now coated in the neon green glow, a faint smell of ozone wafted from the stage, although only noticeable to those under it. In a matter of moments, in time with the end of the slow beat, the chain had dissolved, save for the solid lock which rested in the mermaid’s palm. To cap off the beat, at the stroke of the final note, the lock was brought to the mouth of the mermaid, and crushed in an instant by her magnificently glistening fangs.


As the music seemed to come to a crashing halt, the twin actresses descended and deeply bowed. The music danced in tiptoes in the background as the twin females straightened, looking at the expecting crowd. With a stamp of his cane against the wooden stage, the music scratched to a halt again, as the two rose back into the air. The crowds clapped as the two disappeared in a puff of orange smoke. With another stamp of the cane, the music reset itself, beginning the undulating dance of sound interlaced with haunting chimes and inviting whispers. Koo focused on the crowd, his eyes shining fiercely in the faint lantern light about him, and continued;



“I’m sure you’ve guessed, there’s more in tow,

Just lurking out of sight,

Why one has lulled you to my side,

On this Fusumbre night.


My lovely hand, the sweet Miwu,

The healer of our kin,

For through her words come sweet relief,

And sometimes hints of sin.


My other hand, oh dear, where’s he?

That tricky Hampel lad,

The puppet holding all the strings,

Though some may call him mad.


These helpers mine, are here to aid

And keep our acts in tow.

But enough of them, return to me.

Let’s get back to our show.”



As Koo spoke out the lyrics, the residual wisps of the orange smoke of the previous acts seemed to melt into the continuing fog from the stage. As the white cloud enveloped the rear of the speaking MC, a pair of pink eyes glinted in the reflected lights. The pupils of these feline eyes narrowed, focusing on Koo as he spoke. Above the unseen host of these eyes, a glowing violet orb shined through the fog like a ghostly lighthouse. Around it, the shadowed, miniature form of a jester plush doll floated, the bells of its hat jingling as its head tilted back and forth. The jingles melted into the ongoing beat of the music. In the sickly purple glow, the puppet seemed to smile wickedly at the crowd.


Koo, sensing the appearance of the waiting two, smirked as he finished his sentence. As the music swelled again into a din of haunting chimes and repeated melodies, Koo grabbed his cane and thrust it behind him, pointing at the two hidden forms, silver handle directed into the fog as he held the oaken ferrule. At this action, in time with the sudden peak in the melody, the twin figures burst forth from the fog, appearing to the left and right of Koo. Koo, not skipping a beat, continued;



“Now watch you backs, my little lambs,

For the beast is on the prowl,

She may appear the sweetly lass,

But she’s less purr, more growl,


Yes wish made real, she stalks the night,

Hunting for more lost souls,

Now what she does with em, I can’t say,

For I pay no such tolls,


And what have we here, a glowing jar?

With sleek slime, black as ink,

Well deep within, a secret lies,

That can change within a blink!


My goopy one, now take a bow,

And show ‘em what you’re worth.

Let’s show them forms beyond belief,

And leave them shocked with mirth.”



To Koo’s left, a slender feminine form posed innocently, tilting its head as a pair of feline ears twitched to the words of the introduction. Rose colored hair rippled in the fog-rich air, as two red eyes surveyed the crowd. With the mention of growling, the ears twitched toward Koo. With a smile, the being clapped her elegant hands together and let out a deep, rumbling growl. The air around her reverberated in magical excitement, echoing the predator’s warning into a haunting howl. Ignoring the added sound, the music and Koo continued. Moving her hands to a playful, almost feline pose, the woman glowed with a pink aura. Her eyes glowed the same color, with her pupils dilating into the eyes of a predator. In moments, the aura flashed across her body, taking the ethereal form of a massive feline monster, powerful paws gracefully pressing into the stage. From within this spiritual form, shifting orbs swirled like spirits around the body of the woman. Yet despite the rippling energy, the cat woman continued to smile, eyes glowing brightly and pupil-less, and yet still seeminging to observe the crowd hungrily.


To Koo’s right, still floating above the stage, the small form of a plush jester held the glowing orb in it’s fingerless nubs. With a jingle of its hat, the plush giggled in a shrill tone, and dropped the orb. Despite the rising music and vocals of his master, the voice of Hampel seemed to echo in the heads of all onlookers.


“Whoopsie! Clumsy me! Well, you can clean yourself up.”


As the orb fell to the stage, the glow within seemed to dim, save for a bright glow pulsing from the top of the container. The words of Koo, moving from the introduction of the feline performer, continued to swell with the music, as the orb accelerated closer to the ground. In a smooth motion, the clown slid over to the falling orb, extending the cane with ease upward. Still speaking his part, Koo redirected the orb’s descent with the handle of the blunt instrument, resulting in the orb sliding down the shaft and landing gently into the open palm of Koo.


With the utterance of “blink”, Koo squeezed the orb, revealing a violet seal across the glass surface. At the revelation of the seal, a pair of ghostly lavender eyes glistened with pain and anger from the back of the stage. The seal seemed to dissolve as the etching faded in the MCs hand, and a violet light burst forth from the orb. In the swirling fog, the light faded as a jet of liquid sprayed from the vessel. The fluid, dark violet in appearance, glistened in the festival lights, appearing like the night sky. As the liquid oozed onto the stage around Koo, it shifted and took shape, amassing to the right of the MC. As soon as it was released, it had taken the form of a female, sharp spikes of hair adorning the top of the fluid body. The flowing body appeared to contain various shades of purple, a twilit oil spill upon the being’s flesh. Or what was meant to be flesh anyway.


With a twirl in place, the oozing being turned to the crowd and bowed gracefully. The light purple eyes, shaped delicately across the facade of the being, passed over the crowd, as if looking for something. Appearing to have found it after a second, the being blinked once, and rippled. Orbs of black and violet rose from the form’s flesh, pulsating and glowing before descending back to their host. In a blink, the globs spread across the form of the being, taking the shape of a simple, yet elegant dress, flowing with the body. Turning back to the crowd, the eyes flashed again as a seductive grin graced the being’s face.


The music came to another halt, as the two performers smiled and took another bow. The pink aura of the feline shimmered in the lingering fog, descending to the stage like a waterfall of rose-tinted water. Across from her, the dark flowing form looked toward Koo, lowering her head in a deep bow. Koo, slight smirk across his face, raised the orb to her inky hair, and squeezed the glass vessel again. The seal sigil shone again on the glass surface, now in a bright green, as the black liquid of the feminine being absorbed within it. In a quick motion, once the contents of the orb returned, Koo turned back to the crowd, throwing the orb carelessly over his shoulder. As he returned his attention to his introduction, the rose colored form previously beside him leapt behind Koo, grabbing the orb before fading into the curtained back of the stage. Alone again on the stage, Koo continued his smirk to the mesmerized crowd, and spoke once more to the beat of the music, returning to its slower beat.



“And so you see, my lovely babes,

This show has much in store,

From vicious fiends to tricking sweets,

Of tricks and traps and more.


So brace yourselves, as best you can,

For now we mustn’t rest,

And when you leave, you’ll know it true,

That Master Koo’s the best!”



As the tune continued its gentle waltz, Koo stepped forward and raised his arms toward the crowd. Once he finished his penultimate stanza, he raised his arms above his head, raising his cane directly over himself. A faint glow emitted from the top of the cane, as a faint wind swirled about the showman. In the faint light about the stage, glimmers of silver wisps spun about the cane’s tip, wrapping around it like a spider catching its prey. Grasping the cane tightly, Koo rose upward into the air, his feet leaving the stage as he finished his speech. Beneath him, the continuing fog enveloped the spot left empty from Koo’s form, now coating the stage entirely.


With the abrupt collision of the echoing tune, a rumble shook the stage. Orbs of light flashes forth from the wooden platform, sparkling in all colors of the rainbow. The fog surrounded the orbs, refracting the light against the swirling cloud, causing the form to shimmer like a wall of color. Above the stage, Koo floated in place, his wide grin shining in the lights with a chaotic glee. Turning his attention to the crowd, Koo let out a final word, his raspy voice clear and booming;




Unbeknownst to the crowd, at the utterance of these words, the silent form of Hampel flew up into the night sky. Attached to him were several dozen fireworks, each tied to another chain of explosives. Looking down at his boss, Hampel let out an excited giggle, readying himself for the incoming boom. And with the snap of Koo’s free hand, the boom came.


The crowd watched in awe as the night sky, previously lit by distant moons and stars, and the glow of floating lanterns, erupted into light. Reds sparked from oranges, as yellows ricocheted off of greens and blues. Purples and violets bounced noisily off of whites, as glitters of gold emphasized the chaos. The crack of each explosion screamed across the air in a mad din, drowning out the cheers and applause of the crowd below. 


Koo, lowered back to the stage from the thin strings that held him in place, quietly bowed, lowering himself into the rainbow cloud around his feet. Those few in the crowd who saw this aimed their applause at him, before returning to the spectacle above them. As Koo descended, the soft sound of music whispered from beneath the stage. As the opening closed behind Koo, the stage stood empty once more, save for the shining rainbow of light within the still lingering fog. The crowd no longer was calm or relaxed like they were when Koo first arrived. They were excited, and ready for more.


And so the circus had truly begun.


Act Eight


As the fog settled and the applause ended, a new form walked onto the stage. An audible snap of two fingers echoed from the figure, covered in a hooded cloak. Above, the previous glow of the lanterns and explosions vanished, save for a single source; the glow of a green spotlight shone across the stage, reflecting across the audience’s faces as it searched for its target. The figure, obscured in the shadows created from the light, danced about the stage. Clinks and clicks could be heard as the wood creaked with each leap and step taken.


Returning to the middle of the stage with a graceful leap, the figure threw the cloak into the air. The dark mass wrapped around the light source, snuffing it out like a breeze to a lit candle. In a moment, the primary source of light vanished, leaving the stage in darkness. The audience stared at the figure in silence, awaiting a reveal.


The figure stood motionless in the center of the stage, shrouded by the darkness about them. Then, as if carried by the wind, a shrill voice floated about the stage. Beginning as a whisper, the voice grew in volume as it seemed to grow in excitement.


“Well well well! Hello my new friends! Why, are you ready for something interesting?” The voice squeaked the last word in anticipation, as the crowd clapped and cheered for the show.


“Well! Why keep you waiting?” The shrill voice, now yelling, called from around the crowd. With another snap, several beams of orange light shot from the stage, revealing the stage once again; metal spires set across the stage, sitting silently along the edges. Attached to these, chains of iron wrapped about the cold forms, like a serpent preparing to strike. Amongst this valley of chains and spikes stood the original figure, no longer cloaked by hood or darkness. 


She appeared to be the mermaid from the introduction, albeit only the top half of her. Rather than floating or set upon a scaled crimson tail, she stood on slender feminine legs. Behind her, a smaller version of her previously seen tail twitched back and forth. Her stance seemed to reflect power as she stood on the stage, eyes closed and mouth tight against her face. Across her pallid face, stitches and gray flesh glowed faintly in the orange light, with metallic staples glinting back at the onlookers. The rest of her body, now covered since her introduction, emitted an air of stern power and fear; the naval outfit of a captain looked down upon the crowd, its golden accents glinting in the light. On the back of her covered shoulders, a new blade rested. No longer the simple scabbard, a massive blade of jagged bone rested, appearing as the severed spine of some infant sea monster, rigid and solid. Along her thighs, two smaller bone blades rested, strapped tightly to the gray flesh.


Above the mermaid, a plush puppet floated down, landing on the central figure’s shoulder.


“Hello, hello! My beautiful audience!” The puppet spoke, though its mouth did not seem to move. The audience watched as the voice in their head continued.


“Ain’t any of you seen a puppet before? Sheesh, get out more, why don’t cha!” A shrill giggle bounced across the audience, who seemed to smile and chuckle in response.


“I am your Hampel, the ringmaster for our more exciting performers! And she,” the puppet hopped from the mermaid’s shoulder to her head, pressing its plush form into the sparkling ruby locks. “She is the pirate queen herself! The terrifying beauty of the depths! ARCELIA!”


At the announcement of her name, Arcelia opened her wide eyes and flashed a wicked smile. Her blood red eyes glinted dangerously across the crowd, reflecting in the light as the eyes of a predator to their prey. Her teeth, white spikes, appeared sharpened and ready to strike. As she glanced across the stage, a cold air seemed to flow, sending a shiver across the crowd. The puppet, Hampel, didn’t notice, and floated above her head, continuing.


“Well my dear, what should we show these people on this Fusumbre night?” Hampel crossed his nub-like arms in an act of pondering, as if considering something on the spot. With a feminine growl from below him, the puppet clapped his nubs together.


“I know! Let’s see how screwed you all would be if you faced this beauty! Would that be fun?” The shrill voice giggled again as it empathized ‘screwed’. The crowd, nervous from the sudden threat, remained silent as they watched.


The metal spires across the stage glowed teal, the surface flowing like a blue and green lava. The chains uncoiled themselves, positioning above the spires in an attacking pose. The teal glow passed through the chains, ending in four points at their ends, each now appearing like the split mouth of a nightmarish viper. As Hampel floated overhead, the metallic serpents shifted wildly about, causing a noisy din of clinks and clangs, hisses and whines. Until they finally noticed the still stationary form of Arcelia standing between them. As the magic targeted the mermaid, the chains stiffened, a unified clink echoing across the air. With another giggle, Hampel clapped the nubs again, initiating the attack.


The sharp eyes of the chain’s target flashed a bright red as she gracefully grasped the handle of her back blade. With careful steps, she spun about the center, as teal aura mouths snapped toward her. The clatter of chain links verveberated against the wood, as the mermaid dodged each attempt to grasp her. Despite the constant twisting and chaotic grabs, the chains remained untangled, slashing and swiping at the gracefully moving form. If a chain got too close to her, Arcelia blocked with her blade, the sturdy fish bone deflecting the strike and uttering an odd creaking crunch.


Suddenly, the wild chains straightened themselves and their strikes, attacking like arrows flying toward their target. As the speed increased in the attacks, so too did the movements of Arcelia. And so did the brilliant smile of the performer, enjoying every second of the display. Suddenly the fierceness of her face melted, giving her an appearance of an excited child. Setting the blade about her neck, she twisted her body to turn the bone into a propeller, swirling around and deflecting the chains as they got too close. She reached down and grasped the bone daggers on her thighs with her gloved fingers, and now one blade of deflection became three, creating a haunting unearthly tune of clinks, creaks, crunches, and thunks. 


As the audience watched intently at the display of acrobatics, three pairs of eyes turned away from the spectacle and disappeared silently into the crowd. The nearby watchers wondered why the three would leave at the start, but shrugged it off to continue watching the show. After all, it would be their loss to miss such a wild flurry of attacks.



“So are you sure that was the same seal?” Psy whispered, looking over his robed shoulder to face the pale eyes of Ashes. The three had left the crowd moments before, and were heading towards the rear of the stage. As the din of the stage continued, Ashes nodded.


“That’s the same type of jar they had me in,” a faint shutter passed through her, shaking the wispy white costume she now wore, her sleeves swaying lightly. The shake seemed to rattle the beads around her neck, letting out a barely audible clack that only Runty seemed to hear. “If that slime girl is in that, she must be their prisoner too.”


“Let’s see,” added Runty, leading the three as Ashes followed close behind, focused on the shadows before them. Through his black mask, the clear blue eyes flashed back and forth. Despite the crowds behind them, the area around the rear of the stage, and the Magikingdom’s carriage, appeared devoid of life. “The ringmaster wouldn’t keep hold of her until her performance. So she is most likely in the carriage. Come on.”


Upon reaching the carriage’s exterior, Runty moved ahead and located the entrance. In his quickly fashioned costume, as black as the nearby shadows, he slid across the exterior. Feeling the handle, Runty breathed calming in and out, closing his eyes while applying pressure to the iron.


“Locked,” he turned back, opening his eyes and shaking his head. In a whisper, he added, “Ashe, you’re up. And wait for my knock before you do it.”


Nodding stiffly, Ashes drifted toward the door, and passed through the exterior. Runty looked at Psy and nodded, shifting his eyes toward the stage and sniffed once. Psy, understanding the cue, looked back toward the show; as the crimson mermaid appeared and disappeared in a flurry of motion behind the curtain, Psy could see hints of a scaled fish tail flashing in the aqueous glow. Sensing the act’s finale by the increase in speed and an air of magic vibrating his horns, he sniffed the air. Salt water mixed with ozone and sulfur filled his nostrils, and the smell of sulfur was growing stronger and stronger.


Psy raised a hand, revealing five small pale fingers from under an ornate sleeve in the shadow of the performance. As the smell of sulfur became unbearably strong, he began his countdown. Five. Four. Three. Two.


Before he could lower his final finger, the sound of jetting bubbles erupted from the stage. Behind the curtain, the two could only see flashes of blues and greens as the metal spires and chains burst into a show of fireworks. The only object seemingly existing in this show of color was the emerald green form of the mermaid, still twirling about and enveloped in the green liquid like before.


At this eruption, Runty knocked against the door. With his and Psy’s superior hearing, both heard the soft click of the locks, and the opening of the door. As the light flashed behind them, the two reunited with their spectral companion, and entered the carriage.


As the door silently closed, the plush eyes of Hampel glanced behind him, as he let out another soft giggle.

To be continued...

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