"So repulsive!" Jack thought to himself. Or maybe he thought aloud. He wouldn't know.
"You hideous piece of turd, I hope you rot in hell and die painfully. I hate you. You filthy animal." Jack continued thinking himself, or maybe aloud. Adon raised his head and met Jack's fiery gaze. Did it hear me?
Jack was building up steam. "Your bloated corpse makes me want to vomit. Mere sight of you makes me close my eyes in disgust. Give me one good reason I won't smash your ugly skull this instant and finally start enjoying my life? Well? SPEAK!"
Adon gave only a blank stare, but one might see tears building up in the corner of his eyes. "Nn-nnnuh" was all Adon could say. It was all Adon would ever say. He took one step forward, and blocked Jack's view to the mirror. There was a moment of silence.
Jack sighed. "I know. You're my brother. I wouldn't do that to you. Now get lost." Truthfully, family ties didn't matter much for Jack. Many times he had contemplated if he would finally get rid of that abhorrent half-wit. But he was Jack's brother. And they were the last two remaining in the great lineage of the leaders of world famous circus, "Cruor et caedis", which, so Jack thought, meant something about sunset. Yes, they were the last now, that Jack had killed his father.
Jack might not admit it to himself, but he both envied and pitied Adon. Their father had brutally beaten Adon. Jack had heard the screams and eventually even the hits once screams fell silent. And for this Jack envied Adon. Because once his intoxicated had finished with Adon, Jack would face a fate far worse Adon ever did... and as Adon was usually beaten to a pulp, he'd never hear Jack's screams.
When jack was seventeen and had already learned most of the tricks of his trade, a mysterious fortune teller had approached the circus in need for a job. Intoxicated, again, his father spat on the face of the fortune teller and said only way for fortune teller to work for Cruor et caedis was for the fortune teller to pay him, and not the other way around. Insulted, the fortune teller left in a huff. Jack had seen this from a distance, and also saw that fortune teller accidentally dropped a scroll that emanated great power.
Before anybody saw, Jack snatched the scroll and studied it carefully. It was an arcane spell, called "Spell Eater". That day everything would change.
Except that father beat Adon, as usual.
Except that right after mauling Adon unconscious, father would enter his side of the coach, as usual.
But here Jack was reciting the scroll, and the enchantment of unbearable beauty that had been cast upon father shattered to pieces. That unearthly beauty no longer stood between defending himself and submitting to father's will. And now father lay on the floor with a dagger thrust through his throat into his brain. Jack felt a surge of power, victory, and accomplishment. Now he would become the ringmaster of Cruor et caedis. Youngest ever, though he had heard stories what kind of monster his grandfather had been, and how father had been forced to kill him...
Next day Adon realised what had happened. Adon cried for three days in a row. And for this... for this Jack pitied Adon.
Hated more than pitied, but then again... Jack could not deny the fact that Adon was able to breathe fire - even without a lit torch. Sometimes even without a torch at all.
It runs in the family.
"What do you mean? Last night's show was a success. Every limb of that stupid clown had been turned into a separate imp! Even in a small town like this the people can't be such uneducated savages that they do not know how much effort that takes! It was only a minor accident that the torso was not turned invisible in time..." Jack was shouting.
"Ah yes, you see... I'm entirely certain the gasp that was heard throughout the audience was not one of horror, but one of wonder. Yet the mob is waving torches and pitchforks outside. It's merely my humble guess, but Bonzo has raised their ire. When you masterfully called a demon to enter Bonzo's body and soul for astonishing performance on stage, after the show the demon apparently refused to return to the abyss. Somehow Bonzo escaped straitjacket and slaughtered twelve cows, four sheep and one of the horses from post carriage before a local axe found an entry through Bonzo's skull" said a masked performer, whose gender Jack did not know even after all these years. Either, none or both seemed all to be an equal possibility. Masked performer was Jack's second-hand in running the circus.
"I see. Will Bonzo be back?" Jack inquired with a voice which's tenderness surprised even himself. That demon he had called to Bonzo had been a very powerful one indeed.
"I'm afraid we'll not be able to bring back his corpse, for the mob burned all of his remains... twice. That's the only reason why it's taken so long for them to close in on our camp. We should react."
"A pity. How many are there?"
"Fifty eight, one of whom is within the womb. "
"All of them armed, you say?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Let me take care of this" Jack said. Did he only imagine that the eyes rolled within the mask?
Jack climbed upon a stagecoach closest to the entrance, where a formidable number of angry peasants had formed. One thing daddy had taught him well - the usefulness of a beauty enchantment in situations like this. Especially in situations like this. He shouted: "Why are you so upset, good folk? There is nothing to anger over for, unless it's about the dullness of your ordinary lives! Ah, I see! That must be it! Well, you've come to the right place. Tonight Cruor et caedis shall make an exceptional performance just for you! What's the price, you ask? There is no price for you tonight, good folk! The show is going to be free!"
If that didn't work, nothing would. Jack smiled and assured himself that the fools would fall for that bait. People just can't resist free...
A burning arrow had hit the stagecoach, and fire quickly spread to a cloth that was hanging on a rope between to stagecoaches.
Oh my. The peasants must be rather furious indeed if they could so easily see through his illusion. Or was their frenzied urge to kill stronger imperative than his enhanced beauty? Those dirty ruffians!
Was that... an axe? Oh, they are already stabbing Squeaky the Clown with spears and pitchforks. Well... got to admit. That name was very fitting, after all.
Jack raised his top hat and took a few step dance manoeuvres while holding his baton. He muttered a few arcane words that enabled him to jump distances that were physically impossible and jumped over the burning camp.
He trusted his crew. They know what to do when something like this happens. It's not like it's the first time this has happened...
"I AM THE RINGMASTER!" Jack was bellowing to the remainder of his troupe.
"They are not allowed to do this! They're just swine who cannot understand art! I cannot tolerate it! I will not tolerate it! I'll take Cruor et caedis to somewhere they appreciate real art!"
The masked circus person was closest to Jack and spoke softly: "Alas... our magnificent circus has been denied from entering most of the larger cities in this region by a threat of killing on sight. Our coffers are empty. We lost our bears and elephants. The white horse had to be slaughtered for food yesterday. My dearest friend, and my boss... I loathe to suggest this, but we need to renew our program!"
Jack hit the masked person with the back of his hand, enraged. The mask fell off, and still Jack didn't know the gender of this person.
"I AM THE RINGMASTER!" he shouted from the bottom of his lungs.
There was a dramatic silence when masked person picked mask and fastened it back in place.
Jack felt ashamed, but hid it perfectly as he calmed down and said: "I am the ringmaster. Yet... I do not have a ring. Tell me, where were you from again?" Jack addressed the words to the masked person.
It took a long time before answer came, and there was a new kind of coldness in the soft voice of the masked person: "I am from the place they now call Frostgrave."
"I remember you mentioning it, yes. Now tell me... do you think I might find myself a ring from there? A ring of great power, of wealth and of influence? A ring that is truly worthy of me? If I shall find such a ring there, we will renew our program."
Even colder, the masked person replied: "Yes. That is exactly what you shall find from Frostgrave."
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Continue to chapter II