Hollow Circus – The Magician And The Tamer
From the Thrush in the forest to the tumultuous sounds of the nearby town of Opeos, the Conductor and Sarah had reached their next destination. The town’s walls were high and marked; deep gouges decorated the plain grey metal walls. Small pieces of flesh stuck in the jagged metal gave color to the otherwise mundane wall. The commotion of the township roared over the protective walls, flooding the nearby area with an ear sore of noise. The Conductor and Sarah both followed the edge of the wall until they came across a well-guarded opening. Its portcullis was bent and stained with peculiar colors of blood, obscuring the view into the town behind.
“Do you know Sarah? I don’t think I have ever been to this part of Hollow before.”
Sarah looked at the guards as they stood at attention, watching her as she approached.
“You mustn’t have; they have not tried killing you yet.”
The Conductor and Sarah both walked up to the gate, standing side by side waiting as the guards looked them up and down. They turned to one another; they held their stare for a few moments before bursting out with laughter.
“You are by far the funniest-looking performing group I have ever seen, I mean, we have seen plenty of you freaks through here, but you two look comical.”
The Conductor was confused, “You mean there is an event on in the town?”
“What? No. You two must not be from around this area; this is Opeos, the largest town in all of Hollow. It has the most freedom in the world because Anodyne has never visited us. Naturally, that means we have had the freedom to develop more than any other town. We have performers, writers, cartographers, chefs, and plenty more since we don’t have to focus on survival.”
The Conductor peered through the portcullis at the thriving town behind, amazed at the amount of progress Holites can make with no interference. He was unable to make much out due to the sea of bodies flowing through the township being blocked by the gates, which started to shake. They creaked and moaned as their twisted figure retreated back into the fortifications above.
“We only open it a little when it is just people going through, so you two will have to duck under.”
One guard shouted while pointing to the stationary gate only a meter off the ground.
The Conductor stood sideways, stretching one long leg under, allowing him to bring through the rest of his body without dirtying his suit. Sarah simply limbo-ed the gate with little effort; as she snapped up, she got a clear view of the active town square. There were people everywhere, somehow navigating the main square by slipping past each other by the cotton of their shirts. As far as Sarah could tell, everyone was shouting something, from wanting to buy and sell all the way to cursive words of frustration.
Sarah panned the whole crowd till her eyes locked back onto the Conductor, who was examining the front entrance.
“Hey Sarah, if these walls are designed to keep nightmares out, that can tear steel, and that gate takes that long to open. How do the guards get back in, in time to avoid certain death?”
Sarah giggled, “Well, it was nice to meet them before they died, even if they insulted me!”
They turned and headed into the crowds of people; although limited in powers while away from Anodyne, the Conductor was able to make sure both he and Sarah would be able to walk through the crowds untouched. The seas of people parted as they moved forward, finally leaving the main walkways to what seemed to be the center of town. Everyone seemed to be moving around the center square for trade, while the middle was filled with performers plenty. There were jugglers, singers, instruments, storytellers, and a man that neither of them could see due to the significantly larger group of people watching him. Much like before, the Conductor parted the cheering people until a very clean man in a fine suit was center stage.
“Yes, yes, I know, but we all know this will be my final show. It is nearly the time, darkness is falling, and the beast tamer is a calling.” Right as the man finished his showy sentence, a crack of a whip sounded over the crowd, and everyone parted, cheering as another man in a suit and hat appeared.
“Conductor, that man’s hat is much bigger than yours!”
“I fail to see the significance of hat sizes here.”
“Well, you know…” Sarah stabbed at the Conductors ribs, grinning excessively. He stared down at her until she stopped stabbing him, then looked back up at the duo’s act.
“Well, I thought it was funny.” Sarah took a step away from the Conductor crossing her arms while pouting.
The magician on stage waved his hands, revealing two Curassow that flew out in different directions; another whip crack sounded, and a green flash flickered over the crowd, calling back the Curassow to land on the Magician’s shoulders. Everyone let off a cheer and applauded as the Magician and beast tamer bowed.
The Beast Tamer raised one hand, gesturing towards the Magician, “Let’s hear it for Ephraim, the greatest of magicians.” the crowd once again cheered and applauded. “Now let us all be quiet for the awe-inspiring power of Ulysses, the great tamer.” The crowd went quiet as Ulysses made his way to the front gate. By this time, trade hours had ended, and the guards out front had retreated into the safety of the walls. Ulysses gave a head nod to one of the guards manning the gate control, and the portcullis started to rise.
The Conductor made his way to the back of the crowd; Sarah was oblivious at first but chased after him. She had to fight her way through the crowd as she was too far away to be given the benefits of the Conductors powers. By the time she got to the back of the crowd, the front gate was fully open.
“Why did you move to the back? I can hardly see I am not as tall as you.”
“I moved to the back because I did not want to get covered in the blood of all these people.”
“Well, by the sounds of things, they have done this before. Can I sit on your shoulders?”
“They have not done it with me around,” the Conductor placed his hand on a citizen. His eyes went black, and his body loosened. “You can jump on this man’s shoulders.”
Sarah cheered, jumping onto the man’s shoulders to get a clear view of Ulysses; he had a wide low stance with his whip in one hand. As the first nightmares reached the gate, they started their slow descent. All the nightmares were small, feral, and wild, but with one crack of the whip, they all stopped in their tracks, growling at Ulysses. He waited patiently for the right moment; just as they lurched forward, he spun his whip around, creating an explosive sound and a green flash.
Every creature stopped; their eyes turned green as they whimpered and cowered at the Tamer’s feet. Without fear powering them, they reverted back into Shadow Rabs, a small black creature similar to rabbits with a long tail. Turning to his crowd, he bowed, awaiting his admiration. Ulysses expected applause and cheering, not the screams of absolute terror from the inhabitants of Opeos.
“Brother, turn around.” Screamed the Magician as he made his way through the frantic public. The Tamer spun on the spot to see a gargantuan beast holding the gate above his head, stepping forward and dropping the portcullis behind it. A stuttering roar resonated in the ears of all within the town walls; as it faded, the guards drew their weapons. The hulking beast lumbered forward, standing higher than the buildings that the Holites were cowering in. Ulysses was cracking his whip as rapidly as he could, filling the town square with flashes of green light.
A guard ran forward, hurling his spear into the beast’s underbelly; their stuttering roar sounded once again, deafening the guard. As he covered his ears, the behemoth brought its colossal fist down, flattening him. The blood sprayed out, covering Ulysses; stepping forward, he yelled.
“You think you can take this town, I may not be able to tame you, but we shall slay you.”
Ephraim ran up behind Ulysses, “Brother, here I have your blade.”
A curved sword was thrown through the air, received by Ulysses. Ephraim stood at his side with a lance in hand, “It was us who killed that man; we set this right, then we leave.”
The beast lifted its fist, opening its hand to extend three-foot claws. Ulysses did not react, running in as fast as his legs would allow him. The hand of the beast swiped as Ulysses raised his sword to block the attack, but the claws broke through his sword, slashing his chest. Ephraim could see that the beast was about to attack again; using the gem in his gloves, he swapped Ulysses with a crate in the town square. Both the crate and Ulysses glowed blue before switching places right before the fist of the beast came crashing down, obliterating the crate.
The Conductor started moving forward after seeing such a performance by the two brothers, and Sarah hesitantly followed. The Conductor raised his hands towards the beast.
“Sustosh kwiv bristkuv svelton, Vek tuk vonada at Anodyne. Kuv tulukya bristet nyil pyrlon bret vish kelt.”
The beast contorted in a violent uproar until it, too, was nothing but a Shadow Rab. Ephraim turned to the Conductor. “How the fuck do you know Shadow speak? Only the scientists know it.” The Conductor chuckled and walked towards the gate. “If you wish to find out, join me unless you have somewhere better to be. Because I am sure those around here don’t like you anymore, even if the damage was only minimal here.”
Ephraim switched his brother with the smashed crate once again, bringing him to his side.
“What do you say? Nothing left here but your shattered sword.”
“That and about half my blood.”
“Stop being dramatic. You were barely touched.”
“You’re right. I should just man up. I have to admit I do want to know Shadow speak.”
The Conductor lifted the heavy portcullis above his head,
“If you’re coming, I am leaving now; come, Sarah, we have another to get yet.”
Grinning, Sarah jumped forward, grabbing the brother’s hands,
“Come on, boys, we have chaos to spread.”