The Carnival of Shadows


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Runelord of Uncaring wrote:

The lizard leaps back in.

"Dull this is, let's make a change,
To fit your interpretation strange,
Ye get the spirit of a deity,
Gimme my spirit, yours is quite meaty."
He hands over a small ball of light.
"Give it to me, lest I get angry. Hand it here, yip yip.
"Yap."

The Jack of Tears smiles and snatches the soul. He hands over a similar orb. He starts to speak, but teh Runelord of Uncaring is gone. He chuckles and goes to enjoy 'playing' with this new soul.


*From the darkness, eyes gleam, watching. Just watching.*


A slender young blonde woman walks a tightrope juggling 3 orbs. She talks to them as she walks. Her outfit changes color, as she tumbles on the rope 50 feet above the ground. The rope looks very strange.

Now, now. You'll be set free very soon. Yes, I know you just got free after that b%~&% trapped you in that metal punk.

No, you haven'y done enough penance for your little mis-step. Maybe you shouldn't have tried to run away.

Yes, you're dead. No, you're not dreaming. Your powers are needed.


Ash has set up a training field, using 'dummies' that, being alive scream quite nicely when they're hit. She is practicing her swordwork with a concentration rarely seen from her.
"Not gonna get beat by some old dude again," she mutters to herself.


A skinny figure dances among the garish tents of the morbid carnival. He turns a flip or a cartwheel every so often.

Blood on the threads where the heroes now linger
Blood on the roofs of their clubhouses and groves
Blood on the rise and the heavens are bleeding
Bloody red sun lights the pale girl's return

He giggles occasionally, a sound that makes hearers uneasy as he prances down the ghastly midway.


*The eyes move to a dark area to watch Ashuandra.*


Shadow Pelt wrote:
*The eyes move to a dark area to watch Ashuandra.*

*The eyes disappear and a voice whispers through the evil minds of the vile cirque.*

"When the times comes, I will confront the one called Delvyn. Until then, I shall haunt his dreams..."


"Devlyn? Who is Devlyn? Probably one of Lyn's stupid friends. Not getting beat by them again either," she mutters, redoubling her efforts. Her motions are incredibly fast, but still she curses.
"How the bloody hell am I supposed to protect my wings?"


Dropping out of the interthereal to touch down outside the Carnival, the black dragon arrives. It surveys the chaos of the carnival disdainfully.


The dragon glowers at the scene and mutters impatiently under its breath, Is there nobody in this place of fools with the wisdom or interest to treat with me?


Ash steps forward, wiping the sweat off her face with a towel.
Hey there. Sorry about the delay. Usually the head honcho greets visitors. I didn't realize he was out until you called. What can I do for you? she adds with a saucy smile, one hand on her hip as she surveys the black dragon.


If the lords of misrule who hold sway in this place have any kind of armed forces, they are being offered a one-off opportunity to put them at my disposal, the dragon rumbles. I am sounding out various locations around these parts, looking for serfs to pay tribute, or minions prepared to fight in battle.
The only location that may have contained allies of sufficient standing to be counted equal with a dragon of my stature proved to be a disappointment, full of fools instead - only without the excuse for such a collection of numbwits that a place such as this at least has.


Smagnavast the Black wrote:

If the lords of misrule who hold sway in this place have any kind of armed forces, they are being offered a one-off opportunity to put them at my disposal, the dragon rumbles. I am sounding out various locations around these parts, looking for serfs to pay tribute, or minions prepared to fight in battle.

The only location that may have contained allies of sufficient standing to be counted equal with a dragon of my stature proved to be a disappointment, full of fools instead - only without the excuse for such a collection of numbwits that a place such as this at least has.

Don't let the bright lights and makeup fool you. They do some real quality evil work here. So let me see...she taps her chin with her fingers obviously thinking. Always give them exactly what they want, she mutters. I think we can loan you a few crocodile men and zombies. In the interest of greater harmony between the forces of evil.


You think I am to be fobbed off with 'loans'? Little woman; I am a DRAGON, and I know that weasling little creatures such as yourself, when you talk of vague promises and make mentions of 'loans' always mean 'we will expect you to pay us back later'.
I come here, against my better judgement, to offer you the chance, as a one-off favour, to serve me, and you try to con ME?


Ash sighs. What you think I was born yesterday? I've got a contract to keep up here. Not my idea, but it has its perks. And if you're expecting selfless trust from a devil than you must have mush between your ears. I am quite willing to work WITH you, but if you think I'm going to work FOR you, well, then we have nothing else to talk about. Like I said, I'm under contract. You asked for minions, I offered you minions.


For a moment the dragon sharply inhales, and Ashaundra has real reason for concern that it might be about to do its best to dissolve her from the face of the carnival, but then it tilts its head a little to one side, as if listening to some inner voice or considering what she has said.
It exhales slowly, only a few drops of acid falling, sizzling from its maw, to the ground.

You hide your fear well. You flinched very little, the dragon pronounces.
You are clearly not in charge here, if you are under authority to another, and those you serve insult me and clearly consider you entirely expendable by leaving you to answer to me.
It narrows its eyes.
If they choose to spurn the favour I have offered to bestow, so be it.
Despite the insult, if it suits my purposes, I may see fit to pass them intelligence at times which they would find of interest and act upon if they had any wits.


Well, then I look forward to hearing from you, she says with a pleasant smile, glad she didn't have to put her acid resistance to the test.


With a snort the dragon turns, leaps into the air, and sweeps majestically out of the thread...


The PoD observes the conversation from her perch upon the highwire with a satisfied smirk on her face.

She tumbles off the wire, still juggling the 3 orbs. She disappears mid-fall, and the 3 orbs pop into small showers of sparkles and confetti about 10 feet above ground.


The sound of a hammer striking is heard. Closer to the source the ground shakes with every stroke. A new attraction is added.


Spin the Wheel and win a prize! A small brunette barks, standing in front of a large wheel marked with strange runes.


Behind the wheel is a dead tree. Hanging from its branches are various 'prizes', all strung from nooses. Animals, children, heroes, and demons. Dragons and damsels. Knights and wights.


'What will you wager?', flows thru the minds of all who look upon the Wheel.


The Mask's servant chuckles and settles down.
"A shame that the Jack was away on more important business. I wonder how long it will be before the real powers crash?"


Smagnavast the Black wrote:

With a snort the dragon turns, leaps into the air, and sweeps majestically out of the thread...

A skinny man in motley dances along the carnival

A lizard with an ego huge
Did offer us some aid
But though his help would be quite nice
The price was high to pay

Perhaps we have no acid dire
or claws of burnished steel
Perhaps a shiv is just as good
For making heroes squeal ..

The man jumps and cartwheels along the grotesque inhabitants giggling in a high-pitched voice


Be free. Do what you do best.

The Hammer of Death looks up hesistantly, then departs in a thunderstroke.


*A wispy voice floats trough the tent as the glowing eyes reappear.*
"Dragons, they always think they're better than us, until its to late..."


I like cheese.


The carnival's loudspeakers crash out an off-kilter carnival tune as the Giggler leads a parade of shadow children, freaks and undead down the midway

Hurry hurry!

See the freaks!
See them play!
Just a copper coin today!

The line of weirdly mutated and oddly amputated beings shuffle hop and slither to the din of the carnival organ's tune


Carnival's are sooooo groovy. I used to luv visiting them when I was little.


The harlequin man prances through the carnival, then pauses, head c0cked to the side

By the pricking of my thumbs ...something wicked this way comes ..

He leaps up and addresses the shadowy crowd.

The pale girl nears! The time for the autumn people to rise up is nigh! Follow me and we shall dance the Danse Macabre!

The odd crowd roars and follows the Giggler as he leads them out and away towards the distant Threads of Light


I had a giggle fit once....


Ash sighs as she watches them go. "Been there, did that, ended up here. They'll probably be back when all this is over. Or they'll all be dead." She shrugs. "Not that I care one way or the other."


The dragon returns to the now almost deserted carnival in something of a hurry.
I have intelligence. Which may be of interest to those in charge...
He glances around.
Ahhh.


"Yeah, I know. Depressing isn't it. Oh look, someone crazy powerful is about to try to blow up creation, let's all go join the evil army and get wasted by heroes. Totally not getting back on that bandwagon."


You overstate the abilities of the undead little aasimar girl, but perhaps you do so deliberately for comic effect.
The dragon glances around.
You still owe the people of this place a life debt?


Smagnavast the Black wrote:

You overstate the abilities of the undead little aasimar girl, but perhaps you do so deliberately for comic effect.

The dragon glances around.
You still owe the people of this place a life debt?

First of all, I said try to blow up creation. Trust me, they always think they can regardless of reality. Secondly, I'm an Erinyes devil. I used to be an angel, but that was kinda boring. You're confusing me with my sister. She's the aasimar. And thirdly, unfortunately yes. I haven't seen the Jack of Tears around for awhile, and he didn't really leave any instructions. I promised ten years of service. Of course, she adds, tilting her head as a new possibility occurs to her, he never said they had to be ten concurrrent years, or that they had to start immediately.


I said 'undead' little aasimar girl, and I was referring to the delusional vampire that styles herself 'Innocent Blood', and for a while went under the name 'Serafina' at Club Calistria, the dragon crisply corrects Ashaundra. I have little doubt that most of the inhabitants of this place have departed to fight alongside her in her current war, or to try to cause chaos elsewhere. Dragonkind has seen this sort of thing happening many times before, and I gather that the likely possible results tend to end up becoming limited and with a few minor variations tediously easy to predict.
I warned her that resorting to brute strength was unlikely to serve her well, but she has apparently opted to carry on regardless.


Smagnavast the Black wrote:

I said 'undead' little aasimar girl, and I was referring to the delusional vampire that styles herself 'Innocent Blood', and for a while went under the name 'Serafina' at Club Calistria, the dragon crisply corrects Ashaundra. I have little doubt that most of the inhabitants of this place have departed to fight alongside her in her current war, or to try to cause chaos elsewhere. Dragonkind has seen this sort of thing happening many times before, and I gather that the likely possible results tend to end up becoming limited and with a few minor variations tediously easy to predict.

I warned her that resorting to brute strength was unlikely to serve her well, but she has apparently opted to carry on regardless.

Sorry about that. I'm not used to the draconic inflections. I'll try to keep that in mind from now on.

Yeah, trust me, I learned the lesson about brute force the hard way. Decades of scheming and the whole thing goes kaput in one fell swoop. If you've got a better idea, I'm all ears.


If you are looking for some way out of your servitude to the Jack of Tears and his crew, the dragon looks amused, I would counsel you to find a ring of regeneration or some such similar magic first. I suspect that if you find some way out of or around your servitude - such as one of those cute little scrolls with the clay seals that the demilich Acerak used to keep around, storing up time* - you will be immediately restored to the condition that you were in before you were healed by the Jack of Tears upon arrival here.

* For the curious, Smagnavast is referring to a 'focus' item such as was used for the weight of the wait spell in the 2nd edition adventure Return to the Tomb of Horrors.


Psht. It would take me longer to find a way around serving than it would take to just do the service. I'm just thinking of perhaps deferring it to a more convenient time since the Jack is not currently even in residence to be served. Which, on the other hand, may be the best time to be stuck here. Gives me plenty of time to think about how to kill a goddess.


However long you think you need to take over that, I would advise you to treble it. For a start.
I can count on the talons of one claw the number of things around which - aside from silly mistakes, catastrophic loss of worshippers, or another deity - are both big and bad enough to dispose of a goddess.
And most of those things would give little heed to me, let alone you.
Perhaps another time, fallen celestial....
The dragon departs, leaving Ashaundra to her scheming.


The dragon had been surprisingly useful. She was starting to like him. Let's see. Silly mistakes. Check. I mean, a goddess who doesn't know what she's doing can't help but make silly mistakes. Catastrophic loss of worshippers. Well, if she was lucky this undead army would take care of that for her. But if not, at least she knew where to strike. Another deity. Surely she could find some evil deity to get cheesed off at little miss sweetness and light. Well, okay she couldn't. There was still some bad blood about the whole trying to resurrect the goddess who wanted to blow up the multiverse thing. But surely she could maneuver someone else into doing it. And stupid Lyn would never see it coming.


(edited)
The spymistress arrives in the carnival grounds and proceeds to set about ruthlessly scavenging what stars have found thir way here.
Today she is in the shape of a plain, simple seeming woman, with a wicker basket, red and white spotted dress, and with a dark blue shawl about her shoulders.
She affects a rural bumpkin accent, when stopped and questioned by anyone, and expounds at great (and sanity threatening to many listeners) length upon the merits of pumpkin pie and chicken broth.
She cajoles stall-holders, she bribes lion-tamers, she threatens (after making sure nobody else is looking) the alligator keeper with 'his true heart's desire' if he does not co-operate, and picks the carnival clean of stars.


Few people know what the stars really are, but some do...

PoD juggles new orbs of solid black, and dances away from the Carnival.


A pair of apparent elves arrive at the carnival; they seem somewhat jumpy in disposition, and the male of the pair draws his sword and almost runs through a 'tree-woman' freak when she approaches.
Apologies miss; I mistook you for a particularly ugly dryad, and I'd rather avoid such fey for now.


Ooh, look, darling. There's a fallen celestial over there, practising her swordplay.
Aritha points to Ashaundra.


You're certain, dear?


I have an infallible instinct for these sort of things.


Well okay, we'll wander over and take a look.
The male puts the sword away, and they wander over to take a look at Ashaundra.

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