We Defend Our Own
A story of Ossam's Circus of Ossam

“Telverth, put him down,” Esua heard herself say. She stood only feet from the large man that she called her friend. He was holding another man, in the air, by his throat. The man had insulted the circus and Telverth had not taken the comment well. “Telverth. He has done no harm,” she spoke again as she took a half step towards them. Her words pulled the large man out of his anger and he looked at her for directions. “Set him on his feet and let him leave peacefully.”

A crowd had formed around them, in a ring, like the fights Esua had once seen in the streets before Ossam had adopted her into the circus. She took another step forward as Telverth set the stranger on his feet. The man shook himself out, feeling his throat were bruises were already forming from a nearly crushed windpipe. She began to relax and looked into the crowd, nodding to the other circus folk that were watching.

As she began to turn to address the crowd, the light glinted off a metal blade and she turned back in a quick movement. She snatched the wrist of the stranger before he had the chance to slip the knife into Telverth’s chest and used her other hand to throw a punch that landed with the man’s jaw. He dropped to a knee, spitting out blood and cursing at her. She had not yet released his wrist. All concern had left her leaf colored eyes as they had grown cold and dead of mercy.

“You repay my aid by attacking us further?” she shouted down at him and the crowd of outsiders began to grow loud. Their voices became drowned by the cracking then snapping of bone and tendons followed by the man’s cries of pain. She shoved his arm away from her, which knocked him onto his back. Her eyes never moved from him, the muscles in her face pulled tight. “Don’t ever show your face around any of us again.”

She turned to the crowd to speak again, “If you attack one of us, you attack us all and we will defend our family. If you do not like what we are then do not come see us.” She turned back to Telverth who was looking at her, unsure. She moved to him and touched his arm. “Come, Telverth.”

The Loss of Family
Esua's Backstory Pt. 1

The smoke was thick, rising up everywhere Esua looked. She could hear the guff words of her father shouting through the black fog that threatened to drown it out. He was calling to her, to her brothers, and her mother. Where were they? She lifted herself from where she had been lying; a soft bed made out of animal furs that she knew was her home had been beneath her. Her golden eyes squinted in a hopeless attempt to find her family.

Placing her feet on the floor, she made her way through the dark smoke and found her way out of the tent she shared with her brothers and sisters. The sudden brightness caused her eyes to shut without her command. She forced them open again, desperately looking for any sign of her father or of what was happening. It was then that she realized the bright sun was not the morning. The time was still late but the clan’s camp was lit up like noon by the embers of fire everywhere she looked.

It was then that she realized that she had been hearing screams through the smoke. She turned to look towards where she thought she heard her father. Her mind swirled in a dazed mixture of confusion and pain. She could feel her eyes burning and her lungs filling up with the smoke. Clasping her small hands over her lips and nose, she began to venture forth when the voice came to her again.

“Esua!” this time the voice was the melodic tone of her mother’s but there was panic in it.

“Esua, run!” Her father was shouting at her, not asking her to find him, “Run, my litla!”

It took her another moment to understand what was happening. Her father was struggling with someone at their feet was the bloody body of one of her younger sisters. She reeled around, a scream escaping her as she dodged the hands of a man that looked similar to the one fighting her father. Neither of these men was from her clan, their bodies covered in dark clothing to disguise them in the night. As she ran, the sight of other fallen kin and clan were everywhere. Every tent was burning red with flames. The smoke was spiraling high now, filling the night sky and swallowing the stars and moon.

Her parent’s voices no longer followed her but she continued to run. Her bare-skinned feet slapping the ground as she tried to outrun the smoke. She did not know how long she had been running when she finally stopped and hid from sight. No one had followed her, at least this far and they likely expected her to die in the forest being all alone.
She stayed hidden for over a day, listening for the voices of her family or the footsteps of the strangers. Neither came near. Another day passed and without any familiar sounds, she dared back to her home.

As she drew near to it the forest littered with bodies, some covered in blood, others burned, and others that had died chocking on the smoke. A few she noticed were dressed like the man her father was fighting. She stopped to bend down and foraged through his pockets. She pulled out a few different things. One a piece of paper with words she did not know and the insignia of some noble that she likewise did not know. Another was a small knife. The last was a strange, small object. She took all three and continued walking, heading for where she had last seen her parents. All of the tents, throughout the camp, were burned and turned to ash from the fire. The only bodies she saw were that of the dead.

“Papa?” she gasped on the word. Tears began to swarm in her eyes as they fell upon the lifeless forms of both her father and her mother. Neither moved, at her voice, but as she drew close she could see the slit throat of her mother, half-lying on her husband whom was stabbed through the chest. Esua collapsed beside them in tears. Confusion, heart-ache, and despair swallowed her up.

Esua's Drug Meat Dream
Written by Grace

There’s a bang, solid stone striking thick wood, and you’re awake. You are in an enormous makeshift tent, sleeping on what might have been a bench before you made it a bed. The sheer fabric creates a dull resonance, bouncing half of the crowd’s noise back at you. Because there is a crowd, hundreds of people walking, shouting, laughing, fighting, bartering, proselytizing. So many people that the noises become a buzz in your ears, as if each one of them were a whirring gear jammed too close to a metal plate.
Blinking, just to see the black emptiness after that rush of color and sound, you gather that this is a marketplace and you’re in what passes for a removed corner. Directly to your left is a robed person pounding nuts into paste, and on your right is a stall displaying crystal trinkets. No one so much as glances at you as you rise from the…bench was it? Looking over your shoulder it looks more like a heap of rugs.
Turning your head produces more than just a blur of movement; facing front again, the entire scene has changed. The stall on your left is now selling bowls of thin soup with melon balls afloat. To your right, the light shines oddly through apothecary vials. The crowd still buzzes, each individual indistinguishable from the whole.
Your legs itch. On a whim, you lunge into the chaos and damn the swirling void at the edges of your vision. The unpleasant thought emerges that, if you jumped backwards right now, you would land in a warm stew of pure existence not yet organized into shapes and sensations. So you keep moving forward, through games of stickball and groups of solemn men with official buttons. Walking through the tent isn’t unpleasant. It’s just that the washerwoman up to her armpits in blue froth might have the same set of eyes as the donkey you passed at the last intersection. You can’t tell, since you had to look away from one to see the other.
Comfort is there to be had, in the constant gentle billowing of the tent fabric. Everywhere, it casts faint shadows and you can smell the clean linen when the breeze is crosswise. Even if you’re afraid to look around at the illusion of life – too mortal not to – the pattern of the tent can be seen on everything if you focus.
In your haste to move, you’ve avoided the merchants and gossiping clumps of tent-folk. But up ahead there is a thickening of action. There seems to be a twinkling strand hanging from the apex of the tent, or perhaps a spire wavering up from the ground? More noise and heat push against your walking progress towards the enigma, and suddenly there seem to be more dough-faced people whose paths must cross yours.
Two strides forward, then rock back on the heels to avoid the handcart, and jaunt to the side to get ahead of the apprentice priest rushing a scroll back to his master. A handful of leaps between you and the golden – yes, either gold or brass – structure. Your eyes never leave it, because you would never find it again in this melting mass of confusion.
It can’t be thicker than your own neck, right up close, but it sways only slightly over the untold height. You made it to the very feet of the pole…or rope? Before you can touch it, a voice as real as yours cuts through the clammor.
“Yes, you would like to go up I suppose?”
Turning to look (that midnight-blue parasol used to be a gaudy parrot, didn’t it?), reveals a pretty young boy in an over-large velvet top hat. Red velvet with a thin brim. His eyes are waiting for you to answer.
You look back at the shining thing that drew you here. Even this close you can’t quite tell if the material is familiar or foreign. And it didn’t disappear.
“Hey, I don’t have time for voyeurs. If you want up you’re going to have to pay.”
The boy hadn’t disappeared either. His hat top only reaches mid-throat on you, so you feel quite rude staring so intently down on his face but he doesn’t seem to mind, except that you must be daft to still not answer his question. The thought is certainly jogging around in those steely eyes. They’re the color of old weapons, with all the fight took out of them and tanish added on by time. Maybe he made the gold tube?
Clearing your throat, you respond. “How do I know if I want to go up? I don’t know what the thing is.”
A smile ratchets one side of his mouth up a few notches. Here it comes, the sale.
“And don’t I know it. You looked like a hooked fish being reeled in by the Amazing Sunlight Beacon. Caught you from clear across the tent it did, but that’s how it does so don’t feel too bad. Thing can’t help it, but I gotta be sharp with those that can’t pay. Can you pay?”
Again, it’s the feeling that a quick enough spin would show you nothing but nothing at your back, just a sucking blob of being that shouldn’t be. You might be sick all over that red top hat.
“I don’t have any money to pay you, if that’s what you mean. And how would I go up an amazing sunlight beacon anyway? You can’t climb light.”
“Ah, no, we both have to pay it so that it will take us up. I haven’t found a soul yet who can pay, so I can’t ascend till I do.” The boy looks sheepish, but that doesn’t quite fit with his eyes. “The payment isn’t too much. Just your name.”
“And no one’s got a name that the beacon likes yet? Or didn’t they,” you gesture to the mirage of people around, “buy your spiel?”
Quick as a laser reaching its terminus, the boy’s expression changes to grave calculation. You don’t know what he’s reading in your posture or demeanor, but it all matters a great deal. Finally he speaks. “They aren’t like me. And I think you too…but my name is Corandin, so I don’t know till you say yours if I’m right.”
It doesn’t even require thought. You open your mouth -


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