|Long Live Insanity #9: There’s No Business Like Show
The curtain rises.
The author apologises for using the ‘the curtain rises’ opening again, but this time she has an excuse. The curtain rises on another curtain, which in turn rises on...
“Welcome to the Circus of Chaos!” Shadar, in a black silk cape and top hat, strides out from amidst a collection of brightly painted wagons, bowing flamboyantly to the audience, which consists of people from most parts of the continent, and even a few Whitecloaks standing at the back. “Welcome! I am Shadar, showmaster supreme, magician without compare! Allow me to present my circus of madmen!”
“Ahem.” A feminine voice breaks in. “Shadar -”
“Oh, yes. And madwomen.”
“Ahem!” A slightly louder voice this time, like the rumbling of a giant bumblebee.
“And mad Ogier...”
“AHEM!” A very loud voice.
“And mad Trollocs, yes. Ladies and gentlemen - oh, and Whitecloaks - as a prelude to later entertainments, let me dazzle and astound you with a demonstration of my skills at magic and sleight of hand. If my assistant will join me...”
Shani strolls out from the wagons, wearing a costume that would make Leane and Berelain blush, assuming they only saw it in dim light. The effect on the audience in broad daylight is best left to the imagination.
“...then I shall proceed.” Shadar then proceeds to pull half a dozen coloured balls from various places in his clothing (and from Shani’s, which is somewhat more of a challenge) and starts juggling them. One by one, they turn to balls of fire and dissipate in puffs of smoke. The audience laugh and clap. Shadar then calls various members of the audience up on stage and pulls coins and jewels from their apparently empty pockets, making him even more popular.
“I shall now pull a rabbit out of my hat!” Shadar removes his hat and places it on a table (don’t ask how the table got there, this is a magic act after all). He reaches in and pulls. First comes a golden plume, then a polished metal helmet, then a head...
“Hey, that’s no rabbit! Go away, Whitecloak!” Shadar pushes the head back down. The audience is quite amused, with the exception of a small group in white cloaks. “Sorry about that, people. You never know where they’ll turn up nowadays.” On the second attempt Shadar produces a rabbit. It still has a tiny helmet and white cloak, though. “Hmm. Oh well, better than nothing. That’s it, for now. Time for my colleagues to take a turn.” Shadar puts the rabbit back in the hat, followed by the table (and now you know), places the hat back on his head, bows again, and walks off.
After a suitable dramatic pause, Sycho comes out, carrying a rope and followed by Shaiel, wearing a sequined outfit with somewhat more material to it than Shani’s (okay, that isn’t really saying much). They quickly set up the rope, tied to two long poles. Shaiel climbs one of the poles, does a spectacular back-flip, and lands on the rope. Sycho attempts to do the same, slips, and ends up hanging from the rope by one hand. With an exaggerated sigh, Shaiel reaches down and hauls him up. They do several more flips, cartwheels and somersaults before suddenly freezing. Shani, standing below, tosses up a sword (glittering with fake gems) to Sycho, and a spear (likewise) to Shaiel. Both catch them, and, still balanced on the rope, start fencing.
Sycho attacks. Shaiel parries his blow, and counters with one of her own. Sycho ducks, falls backward, and barely catches himself with one foot hooked around the rope. Shaiel waits for him to pull himself back up, then does another flip over his head and attacks from behind. Sycho falls again.
After a few more minutes of this, Sycho falls yet again, tries to pull himself up, slips, and tumbles. The audience gasps. Shani and Shadar race up with a blanket (not just an ordinary blanket, of course, but a red velvet one covered in gems, the kind you could probably find on a Tairen lord’s bed. Shadar pulled it out of his hat.) and hold it up beneath the falling Sycho. He lands, bounces, and this time falls straight through the blanket. Shani and Shadar hold it up to reveal a large Sycho-shaped hole.
Shaiel slides down the pole, does a cartwheel over to where they are standing with the blanket, and bows. Shani bows. Shadar bows, flourishing his cape and hat. Sycho staggers to his feet, bows, and falls flat on his face again. The audience cheers.
Shadar and Sycho retire into the wagons. Shani and Shaiel walk around the audience carrying big hats (they pulled them out of Shadar’s, of course) and hand out coins instead of collecting them. After this unexpected generosity, they too retire to the wagons and close the doors. Another dramatic pause occurs.
Someone emerges, dressed in an oversized gleeman’s cloak. “Good day, good people!” he booms, then lowers his voice. Slightly. The audience clap and cheer at the appearance of an Ogier. “I have a story to tell you.” He flips through a notebook. “Hmm. Where was I? Ah yes, here it is. This is the story, ladies and gentlemen, of a most remarkable band of adventurers and their travels through the world. Most remarkable, indeed. There was an Asha’man, you see, and a Red sister, and...” He notices the laughter of the audience and looks at them reprovingly. “And it’s all absolutely true!”
Striking a pose, he begins. “The curtain rises on blackness...”
To be continued.