The Circus of Wayward Wonders performs in an enormous tent capable of holding hundreds of people—and that’s a good thing, as it seems the entire population of Abberton has turned out for the show. Many of the town’s most prominent citizens, including the mayor, are among the throng jostling for seats, peering at the three rings that fill the center of the tent, and waiting excitedly for the show to begin.
As the lights go down and the audience settles onto their seats, the circus’s performers take their places backstage, awaiting their cues. Suddenly, several of the performers closest to the curtain that separates the three rings from the rest of the tent leave their assignments, gathering in a small crowd to exchange frightened whispers and hushed gasps. Amid the group, his body contorted as if caught forever in the throes of terrible pain, is the corpse of ringmaster Myron “Thunder” Stendhal. Everyone in the circus knew Myron for his amazing, powerful voice that could bring instant silence to the largest crowd, and he knew everything there is to know about putting on a successful performance. Now he’s dead, but the crowd is still out there, and they’re expecting a show...
As the other performers stare at the corpse, whisper to each other, and anxiously peer around the curtain, the Professor—a thin and frail veteran of the circus—looks up. “Well, what are you all standing around for?” he asks, his weak voice barely audible in the hushed silence. “Have you seen that crowd? We haven’t ever had the tent packed this full. There’s a show to put on, and we have to find a way to do it. So finish your makeup, get into your costumes, and send in the clowns!”
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