"Why do I have to go to bed when Jon doesn't?"
"Now that your brother has come into his full magic he has quite a lot to learn. Just now he's finishing a rather complex project. Your father wants to take a little extra time to teach him as much as he can about the intricacies of the magical ability that they share."
"When I get to be Jon's age, will I have charm magic like him and father or will it be taomatogical like yours?"
"Thaumaturgical, and honestly, it could go either way. In fact, you might even end up with a magical specialty that's all your own. We probably won't have a hint of what your big magic is going to be for a few years yet."
"It's not fair that everybody else gets to use big magic and I don't."
"You'd better get used to it because life doesn't suddenly start being fair when you get your big magic. Invest your time into learning your 'little' magic, so that you'll have a good foundation to build on, no matter what your big magic turns out to be. And just so you know, life doesn't start being fair when you become an adult, either."
"I've heard that other parents tell their children that everything is always going to be safe and wonderful and perfect for them. Why don't you do that?"
"I suppose that I could. I'm fully capable of lying, but I prefer to only do it when it really matters. That way I have a history of truth telling to make my word seem that much more credible."
"So how can I know when you're lying or not?"
"Listen to what I say and do your best to find evidence to support or refute what I'm claiming is true."
"Just like I should do with everyone."
"I'm doing my best to give you and your brother the tools that you'll need to succeed in the world. I think a firm grip on reality is a good place to start."
"But don't you want for us to be happy?"
"One of these days I'd like to take you and your brother on a trip to a farm, so that you can see the docile 'happy' sheep being led to slaughter."
"That sounds lovely. We'll need to remember to pack a lunch."
"I have no problem with you finding moments of happiness to enjoy. I want that for you. But living a life of nothing but happiness is a life without struggle or growth. You weren't meant for that."
"What am I meant for?"
"That's for you to discover. I just don't want for you to think that having all your problems solved is a goal worth pursuing. It isn't. It's a trap."
"But everyone else wants to be happy. Is that wrong of them?"
"Yes. It is. Now it's time for you to get some sleep."
"Goodnight, mother. I love you."
"I love you, too. Goodnight, Emaline."
* * * * *
"You keep telling me how much more responsibility I've got now that I've got my big magic, but you still don't think I'm old enough to take care of Emaline for a few hours?"
"This job is bigger than usual and it's all the way over in Amgor. Even if everything goes exactly to plan, it's still going to take all night. If something goes wrong, it could take a couple days."
"Okay. I don't think I'd know what to do if I was watching her for that long. There's lots of stuff that I still don't know. I wouldn't want for Emaline to be scared or hurt or anything because I'm pretending to be more grown up than I really am."
"Just stay with Hostof and Venn until we get back. Your mother has already dropped off some food for the two of you, so you won't have to worry about what's safe for you to eat."
"Why can't they eat the same food as regular people?"
"Jon! They are regular people. They just have different dietary requirements than we do."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean that the way that it sounded. What I meant to ask was, do you know why rangles have to mix rocks into their food?"
"I'm not a doctor, but my understanding is that our food binds up inside them. They need the rocks in their diet to break things up and keep them moving along."
"It sounds like something that could be fixed with magic."
"There's nothing to fix. It's the way they are. Don't make the mistake of trying to remake the rest of the world in your own image. It never ends well."
"Hostof and Venn are nice. I'd just like to do something nice for them."
"Then accept them as they are and be sure to express your gratitude for their generous hospitality. They're interrupting their lives to do us this favor."
"I will. I promise."
* * * * *
"Jon. Emaline. Please come in. Have a seat."
"Quite a lot."
"What is it? What happened?"
"The thaumaturgical project that your parents were working on... there's been an accident."
"What kind of accident?"
"Every now and then, no matter how carefully the experts plan, there's sometimes a catastrophic failure."
"Did mother get hurt?"
"Emaline, there's no easy way to say this. There was an explosion. Both your parents were killed."
"But father isn't a thaumaturge. Why would he be hurt?"
"The explosion was... apparently it was rather extensive. The building they were trying to reconfigure was completely destroyed in the process. In fact, most of the block is gone."
"Yes Johnathan. I'm so sorry."
"What... where are we going to go now? We can't stay here."
"I've talked to the authorities and they've said that you can stay here with us for a few more days."
"But what do we do then?"
"I don't know Jon. I really, honestly don't know."
* * * * *
"I should warn you, the husband has little patience for children... or adults, for that matter. People in general tend to irritate him. It'll be best if you just stay out of his way as much as possible right at the first. He spends all his waking hours in his workshop anyway, so you won't be likely to see much of him."
"I was told that I was to be apprenticed to a master to learn a trade. Should I not begin my duties for him right away?"
"You were told that to legally justify you being here. When I heard that you and your sister had been left alone in this world with no living relatives, it just broke my heart. I volunteered to take you in to ensure that the two of you could remain together."
"If I am not to learn from the master, what will I do to earn my keep?"
"No need to worry about that. The husband has never once been satisfied with the way I keep house or prepare meals. Perhaps with your help, we might remedy that situation and in doing so, find a way that we can all be happy."
* * * * *
"What are these urchins doing in here? Call the constable here to clear them out."
"These are the children I was telling you about, the ones who lost their parents."
"What are you blathering on about, woman? Where's my dinner?"
"It's keeping warm until you're ready for it. Have a seat at the table and I'll fetch it for you straight away."
"You say they lost their parents? How long do you think it will be until they find them?"
"Their parents were some of them that died in that terrible thaumaturgical failure in Amgor last week. I told you all this. You said they could stay with us."
"I did? I must have just been agreeing with you in hopes that you'd stop blathering on and give me a moment's peace."
"We have a spare room and they won't be any bother. They can help me keep house and I can send them around to the shops when you realize that you need something for your work."
"The first time they get underfoot, they're out on the street... you as well, for taking them in."
"They won't be any trouble."
"Fetch my dinner, woman. I need to get back to my work."
* * * * *
"The husband took to the idea better than I expected. Until he's had some time to get used to you being here, I'd suggest that you keep to your room when he's out of his workshop."
"How's he going to get used to us if we're in our room?"
"We'll work that out as we go along."
"How am I ever going to be able to take care of Emaline if I don't learn a skill that people will pay me for?"
"You're far too young to be worrying about things like that. Just now, let's attend to seeing that you get beds to sleep in and food in your bellies. We can worry about you earning your keep down the road somewhere."
"I'm eleven years old and I'm just starting to learn charm magic. If I apprentice with a master machinist mage, that might be enough for me to be able to do something great with it. But soon I'll be too old for any master to take me on. If the master won't let me be his apprentice, then I need to move on."
"Nonsense. It's already been decided. You and your sister can stay here with us, and learn valuable skills in housekeeping and hospitality. Those things can carry you for your whole lives just as well."
"You took us in to be your servants?"
"I... we took you in, out of the goodness of our hearts, to give you a place to stay and not have to worry about being separated."
"If we were put in an orphanage, we'd at least have a chance of getting some kind of training or education so that we could do something when we grow up. If we do like you're saying, we'll never be anything more than your household staff."
"What's done is done. The magistrate's already said that you two will be staying here, as our children, from now on."
"As your children? Do we get to carry your family name? Will we be introduced as your children? Will we be introduced at all?"
"Such a thing wouldn't be proper."
"I thought not."
* * * * *
"The missus is going to be displeased if we don't clean the kitchen."
"Good. Let her be. I've packed your things. I can't believe that between us, we didn't have enough possessions to fill a single rucksack."
"Where are we going?"
"When I was at the shop getting fresh bread for the master's dinner, I overheard the old-timers saying that an Autumn Carnival has blown into town out of nowhere. I was thinking that If we can get there and find a good hiding place, that maybe we can leave with them when they do."
"Leave? Right now?"
"You can stay here if you want. The missus will probably take good care of you and make sure that you have pretty things to wear so that she can show you off while you're serving her snooty friends. If you wanted to stay, I wouldn't blame you. You need food in your belly and a roof over your head. If you go with me, I can't promise you even that much."
"These are the type of people that mother and father detested... and I can see why. I believe that I would rather go and face the unknown with you."
"You've never said a word about being unhappy here before. Why are you just saying so now?"
"Staying quiet and biding our time has been the most prudent course of action we could take."
"From the way they acted, I don't think it would have made a difference if you had spoken up about how you felt about things."
"Precisely. As Mother used to say, it's impolite to interrupt your adversaries when they're making a mistake. Everything they did in regard to us was a mistake."
"So, are you going to be okay with skipping a few meals and maybe getting in trouble if someone finds us?"
"What trouble do you imagine? If they do catch us, what terrible thing do you think that they'll do to us? Will they take us away from our family? Destroy our futures? Sully our good name?"
"Here. I made this for you, it's for luck."
"I thought Father said that those types of charms were just wishful thinking, that they didn't really do anything."
"Most of them are. But I think this one really works. I want for you to have it before we're in any real danger, just in case it does something."
"Did Father make it?"
"No. I did. But Father showed me how. It's the last thing... we worked on... together."
"You can cry all you want later, once we're away from this horrible place."
"Yes. You can cry until you run out of tears, if that's what you want to do. I won't even try to stop you."
"I'll never run out of tears. But right now, let's go find that carnival. This might be the only chance we'll ever have to escape."
* * * * *
"Johnathan, Emaline, you don't need to hide. We've been waiting for you. Please, come along. We have little time and we need to set certain events into motion."
"How do you know our names?"
"I'm a fortune-teller."
"And you were waiting for us?"
"Yes. But we have very little time to help you. Come with us and we can arrange things so that you won't ever have to go back to Mr. and Mrs. Walling."
"Johnathan, you said we might only get one chance to get away. I think that's what this is."
"Opportunities aren't usually so blatant and most times have to be earned. Very likely, this is a trap."
"I suppose in a way that it is. But this is a trap that you need to fall into."
"What do we have to do?"
"The door is closing. We need to step in or step out."
"Okay. It looks like this is what we're here for. Tell us what we have to do."
"Just have one of these clown cookies."
"What's in the cookie?"
"Flour, sugar, a little bicarbonate of soda, I think..."
"And a spell."
"It will bind you to this carnival, make you part of it so that no matter what the constables, the magistrate, or even the Wallings try to do, they won't be able to take you away from here."
"Emaline! We don't know these people. We need to be careful."
"The time to be careful was back at the master's house. Now is the time to take action. I've already decided what I'm doing. I'm not giving up this chance."
"Since mother and father died, I thought that protecting you was my job but I didn't realize that you're strong and smart enough to take care of yourself. I guess you don't need me watching over you."
"I'm seven you dunce. Of course I need you. Now hurry up and eat the stupid cookie."
"He has to do it of his own free will or it will be meaningless."
"He just likes to sit on the fence and worry over things until the last minute. Johnathan, this is it. It's the last minute. Either eat the cookie or we might never see each other again."
"Here, have one."
"What does it do?"
"It makes you one of us."
* * * * *
"How do you feel?"
"I don't know. Did I fall asleep?"
"You seemed to go away for a bit but you look better now."
"How is Emaline?"
"I'm sure she's fine. Tyne took her someplace where she can lie down for a few minutes until she can get her feet back under her."
"Who are you?"
"My name is Nola. Tyne is the Carnival's fortune-teller and I assist her with my augury magic. She interprets dreams and symbols and I help provide her the things to interpret, runes, cards, things like that. It kind of makes this place a one stop shop for all your fortune-telling needs."
"I remember eating a cookie... did it do what it was supposed to?"
"I'd say so. Have a look."
"A clown? You dressed me up like a clown when I was passed out?"
"I did no such thing. That was done entirely by the spell on the cookie."
"So you made me a clown?"
"Now you're part of the carnival. When it leaves, you'll leave with it. Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Did you make Emaline a clown too?"
"Yes. Although her change wasn't quite as dramatic as yours."
"Am I going to look like this from now on?"
"That's a good question. I have no idea."
"How could you give me that cookie if you didn't know what it was going to do?"
"I knew it was going to make you part of the carnival. I assumed from the shape of it, that it might make you into a clown. Beyond that, I'm trusting that the preferred future will unfold as we have foreseen."
"If you've seen our futures, what can you tell us about what's going to happen?"
"You're going to become part of our lives. You and your sister are going to live here with us for a time, then you'll leave to go on adventures, then you'll come back, as it suits you. It sounds absolutely lovely to me. I honestly can't wait."
"But I was wanting to find a master mage of mechanics so that I can learn everything I can do with my charm magic and become a master someday."
"I don't see any reason why you can't still do that. The first thing you'll have to contend with is learning how to be a clown... and how not to be one, I suppose."
"You suppose? Aren't you a fortune-teller? Don't you already know?"
"Tyne is the fortune-teller. I'm a witch with access to augury magic. I don't know about what decisions you'll have to face or what price you'll have to pay for them. I just know that, if you'll let me, I'll help you deal with what life throws in your path. I'll give you a hand up when you need it or a shoulder when that's what you need most."
"Will you be there for Emaline too?"
"If she needs me, of course I'll be there for her, but I get the feeling that she won't need me nearly as much as she'll need Tyne."
"So you're going to make us your kids?"
"From an augury standpoint, I caught glimpses of us working together to achieve our goals. I don't know if that makes us family or carnival coworkers or friends, but whatever it is, we all seemed to be better off for it."
"I still get the feeling that the way you made me a clown is just like how Mrs. Walling tried to make me into her servant."
"If you hadn't become part of the carnival, you would have remained in Zetinga when the carnival left. It wouldn't be a choice that anyone made, it's just a fact. If you want to leave with the carnival, you have to become part of it."
"The way you say that, does that mean that the entire carnival is like an enchantment?"
"It's that and much more. With as long as I've been here, I still can't comprehend all of what it is."
"What am I supposed to do now?"
"My first instinct is to tell you to find a more senior clown to fill you in on the do's and don'ts of clownistry. I honestly don't have the first clue about such things."
"This clown makeup makes me look like I'm crying."
"Yes. That's one of the few things that was consistent in all the possible futures that I could scry."
* * * * *
"Kids, you'd better brace yourselves. The time we've been dreading is fast approaching."
"Who's coming for us?"
"Should we hide?"
"You can hide if you like. Let your brother handle this. I think he's best equipped."
"What do you want me to do?"
"You're a clown. In the past few days you've started to get a basic understanding of what that means. Now you have an opportunity to experience it in full. Use your newly found clown sensibilities to reason with him, and failing that, if you feel that the situation calls for it, you can unleash the chaos."
"I don't know if I know how."
"I'm not a clown, so I don't know what you're feeling, but by my limited understanding, it isn't something you do, it's something you stop doing. If the time comes that you feel like you're losing and don't know how to turn things around, then let loose of your control and just let it happen. Now step out for a moment, he's almost here."
* * * * *
"I was told by some of your recent customers that you're harboring some local children in here."
"Constable Tygr, I believe I know the children you are speaking of, but they belong here, they're part of the carnival. Please come in and have a seat and we can share their story with you."
"Excuse me, Ma'am, but I don't have time for niceties, I need to retrieve the children and take them back to their home."
"What if they don't want to go with you?"
"Then I suppose that I'll just have to take them."
"You can try if you feel that you must, but I think you'll probably get a better result if you'll just take a moment to stop and listen."
"Okay. What do you think I need to hear?"
"Me? Nothing I have to say would make a bit of difference. You need to talk to the children. Ask them why they're here and perhaps even see if you can come up with any alternative to the path that they've chosen."
"I don't decide anything. I just do my job."
"Keeping everything compartmentalized is convenient for avoiding accountability, isn't it?"
"Are you going to call for the kids or do I have to go find them myself?"
"I know you're listening, dear. Would you come in here for a moment? Constable Tygr wants to talk to you."
"I'm only still here because you said that I shouldn't run from my problems."
"About that, sometimes running away is the correct response. However, Constable Tygr seems like a reasonable type. I personally think that the two of you will be able to come to an understanding."
"Mr. and Mrs. Walling are very worried about you and your sister and have asked me to find you and bring you back to them."
"They care nothing for us. They saw an opportunity to get free labor. They want to deny us any chance at a future so that we can spend the rest of our lives being their servants. We will not go back to those horrible people."
"The magistrate has decreed that the Wallings are the best people to watch out for your interests."
"Our parents weren't without means. If you're concerned about our interests, you might investigate what happened to our parents' money and property. No mention has been made of it to me. The magistrate made his ruling without ever talking to us. He gave us away as though we were property. Now those horrible people treat us as their servants. We will no longer accept others making decisions for us. We will not return with you. We respectfully refuse."
"You can plead your case to the magistrate, if you want..."
"If he was the kind of person who'd care what we have to say, he would have asked us before now. The Wallings have made their choices, the magistrate has made his, now it's time for you to make yours."
"It's not that easy. I'm bound by my word to carry out my duty."
"If there's a difference between your duty and what is good and right, then you do indeed have a choice."
"I've been sent to retrieve an eleven-year-old-boy named Johnathan Garvin, what was your name, again?"
"Just the one name?"
"Yes. It is not uncommon among the clown-folk."
"Young Mr. Grief, do you happen to know if there is a young girl named Emaline Garvin on these premises?"
"No. The only young girl I am aware of is a clown named Whisper. I can call her in here if you like."
"I don't think that will be necessary. I'm looking for witches, not clowns. If there's no Johnathan or Emaline here, then there's no reason for me to pursue this any further. Believe it or not, there are actual crimes in Zetinga that need to be investigated."
"Thank you for doing your duty and keeping us safe, Constable Tygr. We appreciate it."
"Be well, Grief. Try to cheer up."
* * * * *
"I must say, Johnathan, that you were able to navigate your way through that to one of the best possible futures that I was able to find. I'm very proud of you."
"Please call me Grief. It's who I am now... it's what I am."
"Situations all around the carnival should be coming to a head within the next few hours. Traditionally, all the members of the carnival, both old and new, enjoy a parade through the middle of town before the carnival leaves the realm entirely."
"Won't it be dangerous for Whisper and me to walk the streets of Zetinga openly?"
"I'm not sure if there's some sort of enchantment at work or if the parade itself is the cause, but for whatever reason, the townspeople typically gather to watch the parade and are horrified to see their friends and neighbors quite literally marching out of their lives."
"When you put it that way, I'd love to march in the parade."
"Fill Whisper in on what's happening and prepare anything that you need for the two of you to take your places in the grand processional."
"She already knows what's going on. She's been listening the whole time. Whisper? Do you want to march with us in the parade?"
"The clown magic doesn't work for me the way that I expected it to. I don't know if I'll be able to make myself good enough to go out in front of people."
"Since I already started learning my big magic, I have a better idea of how it all works. Tell me what you're trying to do and I'll help you make it happen."
* * * * *
"Mr. Never, it's so good to see you. Children, this is Mr. Never, the owner and master of ceremonies of the carnival. Mr. Never, it is my honor and absolute pleasure to introduce you to two new members of our carnival, the sibling clowns, Grief and Whisper."
"Yes. I've been watching things develop from a distance. Grief, I was impressed with your handling of Constable Tygr. Whisper, I was likewise impressed with your handling of Grief. Well done, both of you."
"So you don't mind us joining you without asking you first?"
"We're all part of the carnival. If it accepts you, then so do I. It's a life of service, but it also provides many rewards, both sacred and profane. And just so you know, I think you'll do well here. You are both very welcome."
"Thank you... What are you?"
"You're half demon?"
"Some would say more than half. I choose to believe that they say that to explain my appearance more than my personality."
"Don't people treat you badly because of it?"
"Sometimes. But that mostly comes from people whose opinions I don't care about to begin with."
"Yes. I can understand that."
"I suppose there's no putting it off. We've done all that we realistically can in this town. It's time for us to move on. Everyone! Let the parade begin!"
* * * * *
The blaring music of horns heralded the arrival. The solemn notes being played spoke more of a funeral procession than a celebration.
Businesses emptied onto the sidewalks as people hesitantly left the safety of their homes to investigate what all the commotion was about.
Being that it appeared to be a parade, the procession through town was far more somber than one might expect. The parade seemed to be more an act of defiance and a flaunting of power than any type of celebration.
Mr. Never was nothing less than enthralling in his appearance, being both charmingly nonchalant and coyly demonic all at the same time. He took the lead, which was his rightful place, and no one disputed it. Those who saw him, couldn't help but admire and fear him in his role as uncontested leader of all those who followed him.
Nola and Tyne were dressed in their most extravagant fare with baubles and bangles in abundance. Their status as fortune-tellers allowed them a position near the front of the parade. They walked proudly, secure in the knowledge that they had performed their duties and done their parts to bring about the most favorable future for them all.
Grief and Whisper took their places amongst the clowns. Whisper was walking in her vintage finery with her head held high, carrying a tattered parasol and covered nearly head to toe in decaying lace. Her clown makeup was such that she looked almost corpse-like with porcelain white skin, although significant cracks were showing around the edges of her face. Her eyes and lips were garishly painted in a grotesque parody of the high society fashion of the day.
Grief was walking immediately behind his sister. He had a battered old umbrella and wore a threadbare and thoroughly patched ill-fitting suit. Grief was following Whisper and exaggerating her haughty movements to a comical degree.
As they marched, Grief recognized a few of the performers from his trips into town for the missus of the house. Not unlike he and Whisper, they had been drastically transformed, but were also still recognizable as themselves.
Mr. Hammerman, whom he had seen in town on more than one occasion, was a local banker. Now he was dressed as a 'strong man' and was muscle bound to an absurd degree with a menacing expression of barely contained rage.
Another person, who Grief only knew as 'Lydia', was a late-teenage girl with long blonde hair, blue eyes and a full-length dress that appeared to be made entirely of baby dolls. From his position following her, he couldn't be sure if the dolls were sewn together, a collection of puppets, or if they were actually somehow alive.
Nearing the entry gate of the carnival, Whisper turned and elegantly waved to their right.
Grief followed the motion and recognized two particular stone giants amongst the crowd. He followed his sister's example and waved in their direction. Although his wave might be considered a bit less formal it was certainly no less sincere.
The giants simultaneously wore matching expressions of recognition, then finally resigned acceptance, like the closing of a chapter.
As the last few trailing members of their troop crossed the threshold, returning to the carnival, a stiff and brutal wind began to blow in earnest.
"If you stop to notice, the wind is blowing around you, not directly on you. This is all perfectly natural..."
"Well, yes. If you want to get technical about it. Regardless, from the outside it will look like the carnival is being carried away by an enormous tornado. To some, the twisting of realms makes it look as though the carnival is being destroyed in the process."
"From the inside, we get to see the world fall away, like an unpleasant dream. Once we're completely separated from them, we can tend our wounds and take stock of our losses and gains from our latest adventure."
"What should we do right now?"
"I think this first time, you should step back and enjoy the show."
So this is the end of this story. Does that mean they won't make any appearances in the main storyline?
As always, I want to know more about these two kids.
It was really cool to see more of that realm. We now have a glimps of others who live there. It is good to know the children are safe and away from those two cruel people.
Does this count as a Halloween story for this year?
It won't be long before Halloween arrives.
Thanks for another cool, if a bit too short, story.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
They have already appeared in the main story. Emaline is known as Em to some, she's known as M to D, and she's known as 'Mom' to G.
As far as it being too short, who knows? Maybe other of their adventures will be chronicled later on. Who's to say?
And yes, this is my Halloween story this year.
As with many of my Halloween stories, this one has taken on a life of its own.
I've learned to accept such things and let them happen, so the adventure continues...