|Long Live Insanity #10: The Show Must Go On
A brief summary of events; yesterday’s show closed on Someone’s recitation of his story ‘Long Live Insanity.’ He got to the third ‘the curtain rises’ before finally becoming hoarse and having to retire to the disappointment of the audience. Today, the sun rises, and right on time the curtain also rises...
“Welcome! Welcome to the second performance of the Circus of Chaos!” Shadar, in hat and cape, sweeps a dramatic bow to the gathering audience. There are already more people than there were yesterday; apparently word has spread. “Today we will once again dazzle, amaze, astound and bewilder you with our phenomenal skills. This afternoon will bring another demonstration of my magical talents. But now, allow me to present to you the sensational, the spectacular, in fact the sensationally spectacular Shani, Tamer of Trollocs!”
Shani, in an even scantier outfit than last time and with a (sequined) whip in her hand, saunters into the arena to the thunderous applause of the audience. Especially its male members.
“And allow me also to present - Snarg!”
Right on cue, a loud bellow comes from the wagons, and Snarg lumbers out. The audience gasp and shriek, and playing to the crowd, Snarg bares huge teeth and roars again.
“Down!” Shani orders, cracking her whip. The giant Trolloc whines and cowers. Murmurs of astonishment come from the crowd. Shani smiles and bows, before turning back to put Snarg through his paces.
The Trolloc walks. He runs. He sits up and begs. He fetches a stick. He juggles coloured balls and flaming torches. He manages a few dance steps. He even attempts a somersault, before crashing over and landing on the ground. At Shani’s signal, he bows courteously and blows kisses to the audience, who are all laughing fit to burst.
“Thank you! Thank you!” Shadar announces as they all bow. “Ladies, gentlemen, Whitecloaks, let me assure you this is no trick. Snarg here is a genuine Trolloc. As you can see, it’s amazing what Trollocs can learn. When we’ve perfected Snarg’s training, we intend to drop in to the Blight and pick up a few more for Shani to work on. What would you think of an entire dance troupe of Trollocs?”
Due to the audience being too busy laughing, there is no response.
“Yes,” Shani agrees, “and it’s amazing how useful a Trolloc or two can be, too. Snarg here carries our baggage for us when we don’t have wagons. Don’t you, Snarg?”
“Snarg carry baggage!”
“And as you can see, he talks in the time-honoured Trolloc style. But with very little training, he can easily switch to cultivated language...”
Snarg bows again. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Ah yes, and Whitecloaks. It is truly an honour to be here today.”
“...or even to Ogier dialect.”
“Hmm?” Snarg blinks. “Ah, yes. Hmm. Where was I?” He produces a notebook and starts flipping through it.
“What’s more,” Shadar adds, “he can act! In fact, all of us can. So watch closely, and we shall delight and enchant you with our theatrical art. Today’s performance is another episode from that story the Ogier was telling you yesterday...”
Shaiel, Sycho and Someone run out and join them in the arena. With props speedily produced from Shadar’s hat, the six perform a pantomime of the events in “Maiden’s Kiss.”
“Thank you! Thank you!” They bow and retire. Someone and Snarg walk around with hats handing out more coins.
“It’s not that we think we have to pay you to watch,” Shadar explains. “We know we’re good.” The audience cheers him on. “We just don’t like doing what everyone else does. Besides, what would we do with money? I can pull everything we need out of my hat.” He demonstrates, removing a number of silk scarves, some more coins which he throws into the crowd, a couple of Sword and Dragon collar pins, a Great Serpent ring, and a flock of doves which, oddly enough, are wearing conical metal helmets. “Wonder what happened there? Oh, well. As I was saying, we know we’re good. So let me present to you another display of my magical and sleight of hand skills. Shani! Snarg! Come on out!”
Shani comes out from her wagon. Snarg drops his hat of money and bounds out from the audience.
“Go get the box, Snarg!” Shani orders with another whipcrack. Snarg lumbers off, and returns carrying a wooden box the height of a person.
“Good!” Shadar flourishes his cape. “All right, people, pay attention now. As you can see, this box is clearly empty.” Snarg opens the box to display that yes, it is indeed empty. Then he sets it down and holds the door open for Shani to step in. “Now it’s not. But in a few minutes, it will be empty again as I make Shani here disappear!”
He closes the box and intones a few grand-sounding words (although, in the unlikely event that anyone in the audience happened to speak the Old Tongue fluently, they would have heard a rather rude joke about people in white cloaks). Snarg lifts the box up again and parades around with it on his shoulders for a minute or two.
“Now - open the box, will you, Snarg? - you will see quite clearly that Shani is not in it!”
The box is opened. Shani is, indeed, not in it. Instead, Sycho staggers out dressed in full Whitecloak regalia.
“Not you again!” Shadar curses, shoving him back in. The Whitecloaks in the audience are not amused, but the rest more than make up for it. “Sorry, people. Must be Whitecloak season or something. They keep popping up like flies. Let me try that one again.” He closes the box, repeats the Old Tongue words (with a few embellishments for the benefit of his fellow performers) while Snarg lifts it again. In mid-air, the door opens and Shani jumps out, landing lithely on the ground.
“There, that’s better. I don’t know where all these Whitecloaks are coming from. Well, ladies, gentlemen - Whitecloaks - I’m sorry to say that the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, that all good things come to an end, and that right now -” Shadar squints up at the sun - “the show’s over.”
There are cries of disappointment from the audience.
“But I’ve always said that when you go out, go out in style!” Shadar flourishes his cape again and gestures dramatically. “Maestro!”
A band starts playing from somewhere unseen - could it be from inside Shadar’s hat? The wagons start moving with apparently no means of doing so. Shani dances across the arena, jumps up onto the roof of a moving wagon, and changes her dance to what several shocked observers recognise as the sa’sara. Sycho and Shaiel jump onto the wagon behind hers and start fencing with their jewelled weapons. Someone, still scribbling in his notebook, vaults onto the third wagon, and Snarg takes the fourth. A flash of light, and a gateway rotates open in the middle of the arena.
“There’s no business, like show business...” they sing (doing their best to drown Sycho out) as the wagons turn and drive themselves through the open gateway, the audience gaping. Shadar leaps onto the roof of the last wagon, his hat spilling out silk scarves, gold coins, jewels, flocks of doves and the occasional rabbit.
“Next performance,” he announces as the gateway closes behind them, “Shayol Ghul!”