Servants of the Shard

Guardians of Arete: Session Sixteen

The Night Circus

Ysobel Shadowcaster:Rain 8

In which we surprise ourselves.

After our recent adventures with the cults, we decided it was time to clear up some business threads. We also did not wish to keep a gentleman waiting. We therefore determined that it was time to visit Navaen Blueflight and speak to him about his home. Accordingly, we made our way to Emerald Hill.

I think he was surprised at us, though reading his emotions is not an easy task. He took some refreshment with us and we spoke of Pythoness House. He was not eager to give it up – he offered us instead a handsome prize of 8,000 gold pieces each. I think in the end that would have been that, but he then made us another offer. He said that we could take the gold, or we could play him a game of copper dragonscales. If we lost, we lost nothing and still gained our reward. If we won, we would get the house instead of the gold. After some discussion, we accepted his challenge and set a date for the game. We purchased to practice boards so that we could learn the game.

In the meantime we decided to visit the Night Circus, as it will only be near the city for a few days. The wagons of the circus folk reminded me strongly of home – their gay colors and big wheels made me long for the open road again. Fortunately their silence was a bit wearing, or I would have left the city in a heartbeat.

We noticed that many of the circus folk did not speak – all those wearing black and white face paint did not utter one word while we were there. Others had booming voices and loudly advertised the interesting things we were to see inside the circus. It was a very strange juxtaposition.

The acts were arranged in a circle around the outside of the fair with booths selling souvenirs and food in the center. The first act we saw was the Dancing Rose – a woman who undulated with surprising grace. Otto thought she was quite good, and managed to catch her eye in return. She gave him one of her scarves. A man with no face was able to mold his visage to mimic those in the crowd. He frightened a number of gently-reared ladies with that trick. Other acts seemed more dire: the Vampiress was an amazing creature that could transform to look like a vampire in broad daylight. There were too many to list them all.

One wagon in particular caught our fancy. Madame Fortuna was telling fortunes and scaring youngsters. We thought it would be fun to see what she had to say, but the situation turned serious very quickly. It seems her powers, though different, are no less strong than Bryan’s. Nadeira’s fortune was thus: not of this world but brought by the emperor, a king who sleeps, to judge the forces of evil. She will face a great evil on the moon of magic, beings who sleep beneath the earth.

Madame Fortuna offered to let us join the circus and leave Ptolus behind. We could travel with the circus until we found our homes, then leave of our own free will. The members of the circus are exiles from their home and travel across worlds through the mists. She does warn us that to join the circus means to accept the Twisting, a transformation that makes you into something the circus can use. While the thought of traveling home in such comfort is tempting, I do not wish to lose some part of me that cannot be replaced.

Madame Fortuna asks for our help in the end. She said that Isilday, the circus manager, is experiencing trouble with one of the acts and suspects that he will try to take control of the circus to dark purposes. We agree to keep our eyes open and to take action if we think it is necessary.

Professor Pacali cannot have earned that title at any reputable institution of learning. He keeps his charges in the Hall of Horrors in filth and abject humiliation. It is all we can do not to gag as we walk through. The smell was almost overpowering and the displays were diabolically horrifying. As we exited the tent I warned a young lady who looked rather frail not to go through it. She thanked me for the warning. I hope she enjoyed the rest of her evening – I do not think she would have slept soundly for many nights had she entered.

After subjecting ourselves to the Hall of Horrors, we approached the only dark caravan in the circus. Nadeira allowed her curiosity to overcome her sense of decorum, slight as it is, and peered into the window. The curtains were suddenly parted by a blonde woman who then came out to speak to us. Leto greeted her by name, which took her aback somewhat. She brought us into her wagon so that we could speak. We explained that Madame Fortuna had asked us to keep an eye on Professor Pacali, and that we were not averse to acting should the situation warrant. She accepted our pledge thoughtfully and told us what she knew. She suspected that the Professor would sneak into the city to meet Luth, the surgeon in the shadows, after the circus closed for the night. We suggested that we should follow him and see what happens.

As we whiled away the evening watching the rest of the acts, we worked our way into hiding. Otto left to wait at the city gates. Not long after dark, on of the Blade Brothers met Professor Pacali and his squid woman at the big tent. They left the fair followed by the most horrifying sight I have ever seen: thirty Pickled Punks walking as if alive. As we snuck out to follow, Isilday made the three of us invisible. Nadeira managed to pass a potion of invisibility to Otto a little later, but not without startling him.

We followed Pacali and his minions into the city and to an alley. He spoke with a man of strange visage with surgical implements fused into his hands. We did not hear their conversation, being too far away, but we managed to coordinate our attack efforts. I tried to cast a spell on the man, but he shook it off at once. Leto cast his fireball into the alley, surprising Pacali mightily and terrifying him no end. We understood why a moment later, when the necklace of fireballs he was wearing suddenly exploded, leaving him a charred crisp. Otto called the surgeon out to do battle, but was paralyzed by a spell as the surgeon left.

The only thing I could think to do was yell for help, citing arson as the cause of the fire. I ran into the alley to check that Pacali was truly dead, then we all left the city as quickly as possible. We went straight to Isilday to tell her what had happened, and she immediately began to pack the circus up. Leto was confused until I reminded him that the city would look for a scapegoat for the fire.

Isilday asked us to help her if she ever needed it again, and we agreed. I think we would have agreed in any case, but our actions did cause her some trouble this day. Our sense of fair play seems to rule us in all things. She also told us the answer to a riddle; she is a Ghaele. Leto was stunned.

After such excitement, it was relaxing to torture our minds with game strategies. We had determined that Leto would be our champion and we would all assist him at the game. Navaen was happy with this prospect. I think he found playing a team of four to be a challenge. Imagine the surprise of everyone present when we beat him by several points! Navaen was shocked, but pleased as well. His only request was that we leave the portraits of the original family hanging in the gallery. We naturally agreed – we had felt they belonged there when we first saw them.

Navaen was please to hear that Taunell. The priest of Lothien, had moved on to the next world. He said they had enjoyed many conversations together over the years. After some more polite chatter, we left him and began to plan our renovations.

Nadiera Bin Mustafa:

So we go to see Navan Blueflight, the owner of Pythonus house. He is a REALLY old elf! So he must be someone of great importance, I guess. He was grateful that we cleared out the house and offered us 8000 gold each as reward. But he’s no dummy, he knows we really want the house. So he challenges us to a game of Copper Dragonscales. I’ve never heard of this game, so we ask if we can go practice a little and come back in a few days. He agrees and is kind enough to say we can still get the gold even if we lose the game. What a gentleman! We went and bought the game. It is fun, but hard. Ptolus is so rich in culture and entertainment.

Speaking of entertainment!!! We decided to go to the Night Circus. What a treat! It is deliciously creepy-sounding. When we get there, almost everybody has their face painted really strangely and they don’t speak. They seem pleasant enough, but it’s very disconcerting. So there is an outer ring of wagons and an inner ring, and a large tent at the back. So we just decided to start at the first.

“Rose” is in the first to the left. She is beautiful, dancing seductively but elegantly. She has the same painted face, but it does not seem as creepy on her. Even Otto seems taken with her.

The next has 2 brothers, “The Blade Brothers” juggling knives and things. They weren’t smiling, they seemed intent on what they were doing. But they were doing it very well, changing up things without seeming to communicate at all.

The 3rd was “Mr. ?” He held up mask up and when he pulled it away, he had no hair and no face! Ick! He could change his face to look like anything or anyone he wanted. Weird! But kind of a cool and useful skill! But I did get the feeling his “real” face was just a blank canvas…yuck. I bought a demented face mask there though…hee hee.

The next was “The Vampiress”. She had blue eyes and a white dressing gown and was behind bars. Then all at once she showed wings and fangs and her eyes turned bright red. Creepy as it was, it kind of seemed to me like she was just trying to creep people out. She was good at it though, no doubt!

Then we came to a wagon with a leopard-spotted man. He was growling and shaking the bars and basically scaring people. It just made me hungry. I bought a kabob!

Then something very interesting happened. We approached Madame Fortuna’s wagon. She had no eyes – gross. She claimed to be able to tell our futures. Sure, we thought, we’ll give it a try. But when we got in there, she seemed kind of taken aback. She told us we are not of this world – how true! Then she said we were brought here and our purpose was judgment. Hhmmmm….. And we have this big evil to fight, beings that live beneath the earth – surprise, surprise.

She asked where we came from and gave us an interesting option. Even though we are trapped here, she says, we could join them and travel to different worlds. But to do that, we have become one of the acts. And we have no say in how we’re transformed. It seems to me, a person would have to be pretty desperate to make that kind of sacrifice, but to each her own. She told us about the carnival mistress, Isolday and Professor Pacali, who runs the Hall of Horrors, the big tent at the end of the row.

Apparently, Pacali thinks he should be running the Circus. He’s up to no good, but Isolday can’t kick him out. He has to leave of his own accord. So we hit the Hall of Horrors next.

Yeah, gross, twisted, disturbing. This guy is sick, I mean really sick. I don’t want to get into too many gross details, but he had some really messed up “acts”. He had “Pacali’s Pickled Punks” – a bunch of deformed fetus-looking creatures, a squid woman, a blobby, dirty deformed man. Oh, and a feral kid who ate birds and stuff. We made a hasty retreat. I mean, YUCK!

On our way back to the front, we noticed an unmarked wagon in the middle and I decided to peek in. A beautiful blonde woman came out and basically told us to mind our business. We decided to tell her that we knew about the trouble with Pacali and wanted to help. So, it seems Pacali has a contact in Ptolus and was meeting with him later. So we decided to hide out and follow him to see what he was up to.

In the meantime, we explored the rest of the Circus. A wooden headed guy who hammered nails into his head – weird, but you can’t really look away! A snake mistress – she dances with the snakes and then new snakes seem to come right out from her body. Oddly alluring, but don’t tell anyone I said so. “The Brute”, who looked like a big orc lifted Ysobel and me up on either shoulder. That was kind of fun.

We got some stew and drank some ale. There was a dancing monkey (I’ve always wanted a monkey) but this one had horns and spikes. And we basically killed time until the Circus closed.

Then we followed Pacali into an alley in town, his creepy little creatures, following him – Ew! He met with the Surgeon. Guess the Surgeon was going to implant Chaosiotech into his little creature thingies. Double Ew! Anyway, it all happened so fast. I climbed up on the roof to surprise the bad guys. Leto sent fireballs in, I think, and the next thing I knew everything was on fire. I got out of there and apparently we managed to kill Pacali, but not the Surgeon. Well, live to fight another day, I guess. When we told Isolday what happened, she immediately started packing up the Circus. She tells us she is a “Ghaele”. I’m not terribly familiar with that, but apparently, it’s really cool.

Now, to the way cool part of the story. We went and played Navan at Copper Dragonscales. We won!!!! Can you even believe it? YAY!!! We have a house, a big house, a big cool house, with twists and turns and mysteries! And a really cool bathtub!! I‘m so excited! I need a bath right now! Good night!

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