Requiem for a Changing World

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Aka Magical Banana Bread
A small group RP between @Fox of Spades, @Warden and @Redshift
We're not dead we're just chill AF.

The grand double doors were thrown open with a screech just as the church bells cried three o'clock in the afternoon, a man hurrying in with his share of rosy cheeked apologies. The chilled gust carried many an autumnal leaf in with him, disturbing the myriad of wind chimes, dream catchers, herbs and flowers which hung from the old wooden joists. A couple of candles closest to the door were blown out. He hurriedly closed the doors behind him, clicked his fingers to ignite the candles once more, before disappearing into the modest gathering of people within this building.


Zaniah watched as he went, hunched and tucked into a corner as she was, pulling her scarf further up her face til it covered her nose. She was unnoticed, a shadow in a way, averting her striking starred eyes from anybody who came near. It wasn't exactly a talent of hers to blend in like this, but a learned trait. Her corner was the closest to the meeting room, and if she placed her ear to the wall just right she could hear all but whispers from their consultations. She was well practiced at this too, by now. Many a time she had squirreled herself into this very spot, unseen by others, to learn what they discussed. It was, after all, what her employer asked of her.

Right now, the noises from the meeting room were raised enough for everybody to hear regardless of if they pressed their ear to the wall or not. A noble looking man had entered earlier, looking quite out of place, insisting on speaking to the Magemother. It didn't sound like it was going well.


Hidden down the side of the building outside, a slimmer man lifted a bottle to his lips and took a long sip from it's contents. This building was in the old quarter of the city, all wood and stone and thatch. But in the distance, monolithic buildings of brass, steel and concrete towered over the city, steam billowing from factories ensuring that even on a fairly unclouded day like this the skies was never truly clear. Not that they were anyway, thanks to a pair of blimps slowly making their way to and from the horizon. It was a bit of a peaceful scene in a way, with the steady hum of the city as the pigeon-drawn carts passed by on the cobbled streets. At least, it wouldn't have been, if it wasn't for the shouts coming from inside. They couldn't make out the words from out here, but they certainly could hear the voices.

"Not sure if we really needed to send Zan in today Boss," Fletcher shrugged once he had finished with his sip, wiping at his mouth with the back of his wrist. He too was dressed warmly in a rather average hand sewn linen jacket, making his appearance seem quite ordinary. "I think everyone in that damned place can hear what's going on in there."

The Magemother was a formidable woman - although such a thing should be no surprise considering her position as the leader of the Magic Circle. Tall and curvaceous and swathed in rich coloured fabrics and jewelry, her thickly applied makeup distorted in thinly veiled anger. She was silhouetted a little against the large glass window behind her - once stunning views across the city of Aesyth now blocked by a factory built just a little too close. A few men and women sat beside her on both sides, her left and right hands. She herself was behind a desk although no longer sat down, her hands - calloused from such constant use of a quill rather than the weaving of magic - were pressed flat against the myriad of papers and forms which cluttered the surface.

"I am sorry, sir, but I'll say it again. We do not have the resources!"[/hr][/hr]
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The voices coming from inside rang sharply and Dominique laughed heartily at the burning passion that resounded within each word. He'd heard quite a lot about this noble. Zaniah had kept him informed, yet to hear the argument with his own ears brought a bright smile to the man's face. Dominique was stripped of his top hat and brightly-colored suits, dressed in a long black coat and breeches, yet the smile on his face was luminescent. If anyone caught sight of the ecstatic man, they would have thought he'd won the lottery or that the love of his life had finally said yes after ten long years of courtship.

"Perhaps not, Fletch, but it is always best to be prepared. And if for some reason they start whispering, I want to hear everything." Dominique reached for his head, forgetting about how he'd left his top hat back at the circus. It was a habit of his, tipping it whenever he thought he'd imparted some sort of wisdom to his performers. He laughed at himself, the smile never leaving his face. "So what do you think of our noble? I for one, like him a lot. He's got backbone, passion, a sharp tongue... why just listen to this fellow!"

Voices continued to ring loudly from within the building and Dominique spun around in place. "Yes, I'm liking him more and more already."


"Who cares about his determination," Vivian grumbled. "What matters is his money. Have you seen the man's clothes? I bet he's sitting on a pile of gold or something." The woman was seated on a stack of boxes, bored beyond belief. When Dominique said they were going out to spy on the magic circle, she'd expected something... well, magical.

But the truth was, they were out here and they couldn't even see a thing. Zan was the only one getting in on the action. Whatever, the guy looked rich and the circle didn't seem to like whatever it was he was proposing. If that was the case, then swooping in would be easy, right? He seemed like he was desperate enough, he was starting up a riot inside after all.

Ignoring the loud yells, the woman's eyes flitted to Silas and Lazarus.

The former had turned into an orange tabby cat and was napping on one of the boxes, while the latter was being good ol' Lazarus.


"Noisy," he'd mumbled beneath his breath as he sat motionless in one of the alleyways, his back pressed against the cement walls and his eyes squeezed shut. Unlike Dominique and Vivian, he was in his usual loose tunic, but the bandages he often wore on his face during performance nights were absent. Dominique might have liked the noble's sharp tongue, but with each passing minute Lazarus grew to dislike him more and more. As the voices grew louder, he began to envy Silas and his ability to fall asleep almost anywhere. The man let out a sigh, he had a feeling it was going to be a very, very long day... the things they did for gold, sometimes it amazed even him.
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His first impression of the place was, well… It was quaint. Adequate, he supposed, for persons used to getting shoved to the side in discussions of importance. Not everywhere could be as eyecatching as the Upper District, with its spacious lanes and swaying feather banners, fragments of multicolored light scattering from delicate glass awnings on buildings nearby. Wood and stone were constant. Constantly ugly.

Although the first thing that happened soon as he stepped off the carriage was his new boot meeting animal shit, so that may have affected his judgment. And- surprisingly- none of the mages here knew how to separate fecal matter from expensive leather. He asked.

"Really? With the amount of droppings stationed in front of the entrance, it would have been a necessary spell," Essien replied, deadpan, to the- crumpled shirt, tea stains on the sleeve, are those two-toned zyle frames those went out of style decades ago- receptionist who looked very much dazzled. He would have relaxed at the obvious infatuation forming on her face, except that he had a meeting to pioneer and he couldn't attend it like this. First impressions mattered, after all. He let his eyes rake over the crowded hallway once more, taking in the sight of one surface after another smothered with various trinkets and files, before turning back to the woman. Essien closed his eyes and exhaled slowly before forcing a smile in place of the scowl he sported, his earring glowing softly in the sunlight when he shifted closer. Her discomfort waned soon as his did. "I'm sorry. I've had a bad day. I have to speak with the Magemother because of this vital, pressing issue and you have to understand, I can't go to a meeting smelling like a pigeon handler… Can I?" Oh, she was nodding along and shaking her head at a hundred beats per second. First step, paper napkins. It was no difficult matter to get sent along to the meeting room soon after.

He was sure everything would go as planned. He had prepared for this; the well-thumbed personal profiles of everyone worth knowing in the Magic Circle scattered on his office was proof of that.

Except the meeting spiraled out of control, fast. He couldn't remember exactly how it devolved- probably when the topic of "unchecked levels of aggression" came up- but soon it was him against the entire Circle, with the Magemother staring down at him from her raised desk. "Madam," Essien replied slowly, holding his hands out as if confronted with a strange prey. His voice was anything but comforting; it was cold, sharp, and unabashedly loud. As confrontational as that of the ringleader's. "If the Circle refuses to cooperate on the resolution of these cases, to our mutual benefaction, then that is your every right no matter how backwards and dimwitted the decision may be. And I hope that, if this matter ever worsens in the future, the Circle will maintain its stance of neutrality when hell comes pounding on its doors."

He was out after that little speech, no question. One didn't just threaten the Magemother in her own territory. The receptionist didn't even lift her head to glance at him as he thundered out, chimes and bells crashing together in a discordant symphony as the door slammed shut.

Essien stood in the street and took a deep breath to calm himself, hands tucked into his pockets as a chilly breeze unsettled the leaf pile beside him. Passersby knew better than to approach the man with a look screaming bloody murder and walked clear, leaving the nobleman to stew in his problems. He glared at the distance, wondering exactly how he was going to solve this dilemma by himself. He was many things, but the problem couldn't be solved alone. And he just alienated his one possible ally. Essien suddenly kicked the mound in a fit of passion. This is what happens when you don't prepare a plan B, E. What would Instructor Sovias say?

With that, it was over. Zan started every so slightly as the doors to the meeting room were thrown open - the man clad all in lace and jewels and rage as he stormed towards the exit. Zan quickly shifted from her position, finding herself hurried by his movements. She had hoped to tell Dominique about this before the man left. Perhaps she had taken too long. She darted towards the exit herself, her long pale locks flowing behind her, managing to slip out of the building just before the door closed. The fresh air surrounded her like an old friend, overpowering scents of herbs and incense washed away by the wind.

She hoped the man wouldn't make a move with his carriage soon. She had to be quick.

Quickly she dodged the few passers by and darted around the side of the Magic Circle until she met with her companions, her scarf having slipped down her face until it simply hung around her neck. She drew her arms in front of herself and linked the fingers of her hands together. "They've declined him," she said, her voice a little stiff but not as soft as you might expect. "Apparently they don't have the resources for," she attempted to emulate the voice of the Magemother, "investigating unfounded claims from a pompous, self entitled man with delusions of grandeur." It was a horrendous attempt for an impression. "And um... he's leaving now."


"Oh, no wonder he's furious," Fletcher chuckled as he fastened the cap back onto his now drained flask, before tucking it into a pocket inside his coat and getting back to his feet. Stood upright he was a little shorter than their leader, but taller than most of their group. He took a small stack of cards out of one pocket and began to shuffle them in his somewhat prolific need to fidget. "Well you two seem fond of the man," he said, sidestepping Dom's question. "If you like him so much we'd best make haste before he kicks those expensive, well heeled boots of his." Well, perhaps this would alleviate Vivian's boredom?

Zan pulled a face. Having been in the unique position to have heard everything, she thought this man seemed... problematic. She didn't say anything more, but she looked up to Dominique for affirmation.
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Dominique let out a soft chuckle. Zan was good at many things, but impressions were obviously not the woman's forte. Still, it was a commendable attempt at imitating the Magemother's sharp tongue and biting remarks. "The woman never disappoints." He'd save his amusement for another day though, because as Zan said, the noble was leaving and time was of the essence.

Fletch's comment didn't go unnoticed, and nodding, Dom began to take slow, unhurried steps towards the fuming man. "Thank you for all your hard work, Zan. You can give me the details later, for now, let's go meet our new friend." He paused for a fraction of a second and eyed the Sandman and the sleeping Silas. The former gave him a halfhearted nod, as if to say he was perfectly happy with lingering in the shadows. Dom didn't complain, but instead, flashed the Sandman a small smile. It was just like the man to shy away from matters that involved talking. Lazarus had never been one for words after all, and Dom doubted having the quiet man glare daggers at the noble would make for a good first impression.

And Silas... well, Dom didn't want to wake him up from his cat nap either, so he walked on without them.


Vivian didn't need a signal. Happily, she leaped off the crate and began following after her friends. She had about a hundred questions for Zan, but kept the excitement and curiosity buried beneath. Later, when they were back at the circus, she would ask for every detail. "Hey, Zan, Fletch," she whispered. "Wanna make a bet? I bet in a minute or two, he'll be yelling his head off at poor ol' Dommy." The noble looked like he was at the end of his rope, and there was Dominique, traipsing towards the man like they were good friends going out for a Sunday brunch. Really, by the way Dom was acting, it looked as if the noble wasn't out for the blood of the first person who dared approach him. Did Dom not see the way the man was kicking at the dirt? Ah well, their ringleader had always been... eccentric. It had to be a requirement for all ringleaders everywhere, Viv thought, or else circuses would be mighty boring.

"Careful," she called out playfully before finally deciding to take things more professionally. She reminded herself this was another job opportunity and cocked her head to the side when Dom finally reached the man.

Without skipping a beat, Dominique stopped before Essien and extended a hand in greeting. "Hello there, I couldn't help but overhear you've been having some problems." He allowed his sentence to sink in then put on his most disarming smile. "I'll admit, I'm not too fond of the Magemother myself. Good sir, I'd like to think my friends and I can help you with these problems of yours."
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-and he would have to investigate about that phenomenon and, knowing how difficult it is to review a document from the Bureau of Internal Affairs or whatever they called themselves nowadays, that meant he would have to call in a few favors as if he didn't need every bit of leverage he could get to keep his office afloat-

"Hello there."

Essien straightened his back on instinct and plastered on a smile soon as he heard the voice; his rage managed to quell itself enough for him to look less of an outwardly pissed man and more of an inwardly pissed one. Though it was but a year or so since he ran for a public position, having to entertain all sorts of folks no matter what type of mood he was in grew stale fast. You had to let them know one way or another- except telling them outright because boy would the media get on that like bloodhounds on the scent- that Mr. Nice Politician was done fielding your Very Important Questions. His way of expressing so was mentally dubbed the 'Withering Parent Glare': a perfect replication of that exact expression on your parent's face when you interrupted them in the midst their favorite hobby then stood there in silence while they waited for you to explain why. And it was, frankly, a great indicator of the frayed patience he possessed towards this intruder.

… Oh, lord. It was like first year in University all over again. Essien narrowed his eyes and stared back at the unfamiliar man. That hair could be the reason why he would experience a waking nightmare tonight. A metaphorical stamp came down and imprinted in bold, angry letters: Judged. His eyes flicked to the side, keen and suspicious, as more people came into view. Oh, he heard about this modus operandi. Gangs- for lack of a better word- ganging up on poor innocent tourists out for a stroll. Ha! They're in for a ride if they think they could pull a hood over this one. Essien squared his shoulders and raised his head in defiance.

"You must have an impressive set of ears, then." He reached out and grasped Dominique's hand, giving it a very brief shake. And maintained eye contact throughout. Taking over would be deceptively easy at this range; he doubted anyone from the Circle would be watching this encounter to even sense what he was planning to do, and if he timed it right he could just hop on a waiting carriage and speed away. "You have me at a disadvantage. We could begin by names, for example, and what it is exactly you meant. I doubt a fruit bowl would appease Her Wiseness," Essien cast a quick, furtive glance at the road before turning his attention back to the small group. Blast, no coach yet.

"I'll take that bet," Fletcher gave a small smile, his Tarot cards constantly shifting in his hands. "In fact, I'll raise it." He suddenly stopped shuffling, his fingers deftly picking a card from the pack and flicking it over so it faced him. He glanced at it for a second, before turning it back over and shuffling it back into the deck. Other than this momentary distraction, Fletcher kept his gaze fixed on Essien's eyes the whole time - willing that the man will make eye contact if only for a second. "I bet the Boss will not only keep matters civil between them both, but also convince the man."

He smiled, holding his hand out to Vivian without actually looking at her. "Ten silver on it. Shake?"


Zaniah on the other hand seemed a little on the awkward side as she shrunk back. Much like Essien, she was glancing up and down the street for a cart. The man looked like the sort to have the noble stag steeds of the upper classes, but it wasn't a necessity. Perhaps he had the typical cart-pigeons of the masses. Being inside when he arrived, she had no idea.

But she supposed, if the carriage were to be delayed...

She hung back meekly, not responding to Vivian's bet, and instead slinked off back to where Silas and Lazarus had remained. Well, when the carriage did return, if negotiations weren't completed she supposed it couldn't be helped if the carriage damaged a wheel on these somewhat unkept cobbles. If she was lucky they might not even notice.
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Ten silvers, it was a good amount and it had been awhile since she'd bought any sweets. She wanted one of those fancy-looking apple tarts from Mrs. Earnshaw's bakery, they always managed to tear a hole through her pockets, but they were always so worth it. Vivian puffed up her cheeks before reaching out to give Fletch's hand a firm shake. "You've got yourself a deal."

It was too bad Zan wasn't joining in on the action, but then again, she hadn't really expected the woman to. With a bright smile, she turned her attention to Dom and the noble. Judging by the latter's withering gaze, it looked like the odds were in her favor. Victory was going to be oh so sweet. Literally.


Ignoring Essien's glare, Dom opted for another one of his disarming smiles. "Why, yes, I've got a perfectly good set of ears. I've got 50-50 vision as well. Thank you for noticing. Anyways, I guess you can say I'm always up-to-date when it comes to the talk going on around town." Not wishing to sound shady or as if he were up to no good, Dom continued on in a casual manner, as if he were catching up with an old friend he hadn't seen in years. "Oh, names, yes! Where are my manners? The name is Domique Duran, though most people call me Monsiur Magic, perhaps you know me as the ringleader of the Wandering Circus?"

They never stayed in one place for too long, but they'd been in Aesyth for awhile now and were starting to gain a bit of popularity. The crowds were growing larger and the shows more extravagant, and in a few months or so, they'd be able to pull off one of their bigger scams before they hit the road in search of another unsuspecting town. That was how the whole thing worked after all, but in the meanwhile, they took up odd jobs here and there to keep the money flowing and their spirits high.

"You should catch one of our shows sometime, we're starting to cause a stir, if I say so myself. But anyways, I'm not talking about a simple fruit bowl," he laughed. "We both know it'd take a lot more than that to appease the Magemother. Hmp, to be honest, I don't think even diamonds would work on that woman." He waved a dismissive hand. "What I'm trying to say is, I've happened to hear you need resources and help. Is that right? Well, my friends and I, we take up odd jobs here and there for a bit of coin. We've got numbers and resources, and I think we can help you." Dominique beamed. "It's really quite simple."
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"20-20, you mean." Essien drew back- ever the correcting instructor- and coolly inspected the funnyman's companions, running the figures through his head one more time. Dominique managed to answer his questions without really divulging anything of worth, so he had to rely on his observational skills to place what the proper course of action would be. That in itself ticked off a little warning bell in his mind. He didn't like having to deal with tricky opponents, although the challenge was usually refreshing. A small crease appeared on the nobleman's brow, and his eyelashes fluttered.

There were too many factors in the unknown, here. He had never heard of a wandering circus- at least one that was noteworthy enough- as taking an interest in such matters never fell into his concept of a practical purview. In addition, the trustworthiness of this troupe left much to be desired. Surely a gathering that had to rely on eavesdropping as a source of livelihood would be less than sought after? He needed discreet people for the task. Discretion almost always meant professionals, and he couldn't afford to have his name linked to a licensed entity for fear of speculation. But an advantage was that if he found that Duran's lackeys were less than ideal, he could always prepare a remedy in advance…

So far, this left Essien feeling a mix of apprehension and interest, not to mention a healthy dose of inspiration that had his brain gears churning slowly. This… might work. Provided he prepared well enough, he might resolve this entire matter without showing his cards to anyone. That and a politician would be more believable than a circus master, should the worst come to pass.

"I would like to continue this discussion elsewhere," Essien finally said. As luck would have it, his hired coach rounded the corner, trotting across the street with unlikeable ease. The look on his face as well as his general stance must have urged the driver to pick up the pace, because it approached with greater speed after a moment. "Preparations are vital, after all, and I must go make mine. And if you and your friends are less than truly serious, Dominique, it might interest you that I'll be paying a substantial amount of coin for this task.

The carriage rolled into a stop, and the door was flung open by a frantic attendant. Essien tilted his head and turned his back to climb into the compartment. "And," he said over his shoulder, "if you please, our next meeting will be in two hours' time. That ought be enough for me to make my primary instruments acquired."

The carriage door was pulled close and the man's profile was barely visible from behind the thin maroon curtains, but his sharp-toothed smile glinted in the wan light. "Come find me." And then the coach rustled, the wheels creaked, and they were off towards the street end.

Oh. Zaniah blinked once, twice, before cocking her head ever so slightly. She was a little to far back to hear their words clearly, although she certainly had noticed how their boss seemed as at ease as ever. One of her hands dropped to one side as she clicked her fingers once, bringing her hand across her body as she clicked a second time, and up above her head-

She recoiled as a hand snatched her wrist, her eyes immediately flicking up to the culprit as she tightened like a spring. Another cart noisily passed by, wooden wheels grinding on cobblestone.

Fletch stood over her, his usual neutral expression curiously tense. "Don't," he said simply, releasing his grip. Zaniah wasted no time in pushing him away from herself. He was lucky she didn't instinctively lash out at him; the girl was known to kick quite viciously when cornered, like a jack-rabbit.


Fletch instead turned to the others. "This job may be too ambitious even for us, Boss," he warned. "That is a very dangerous man." He stepped back towards the others to fetch his bottle, lifting it up with mildly trembling his hands and draining the contents. Upon finishing, he wiped his mouth once again on the back of his sleeve. That seemed to calm him down somewhat. "He was suspicious, but not overwhelmed. Rage tempered with calm logic and arrogance. I do not believe the man to be unfamiliar with schemes himself." Quite an impressive reaction considering how the man was caught by surprise, were it not that they where the focus of it.

"He said he was a politician. To the Magemother." Zaniah said quietly, pulling her scarf back over her nose as another chilled gust blew it's way down their alley.

"Heh. Well that backs up my feeling. Perhaps he's experienced in such matters."

"No, I mean. Isn't there that building?" She stared at the others, unblinking.

Come find me. Essien's words continued to buzz in Dom's ears. Well, that went much better than he'd expected. They were on the right track and as soon as the carriage disappeared from view, he spun around to smile brightly at all his friends. None of them looked too pleased and Fletch began voicing out his concerns. "Too ambitious? With that attitude, yes. Have a little more faith, if we work together we can accomplish anything." Perhaps it was cheesy, but it was something Dominique truly believed in.

He paused briefly to give Zaniah a reassuring then tuned in to the exchange between her and Fletch.

Ah, yes, that building. "City Hall?" Dom asked.


"Sounds about right," Vivian chimed in. She was somewhat happy that the others were focusing on the politician because it meant there was a chance Fletch would forget about their bet. He'd won and she was a little sour about it. At least the politician had mentioned a substantial amount of coin. That, and Dom looked dead set on accepting the offer.

"Right," Dom replied. "I guess we should hail a carriage then. We don't want to be late."

"I'll go get Silas and Lazarus," Viv offered before she ducked out of sight and made her way towards the alley.

Dominique gave the girl a small wave before turning to Zaniah and Fletch once more. "He might be an intimidating man, but we've got our fair share of experience when it comes to schemes. Did you forget what kind of circus we really are?" Dom chuckled. "Don't worry about a thing. We'll be fine, and if things get sticky, we'll be there to help each other out—ah, there they are. Did you have a nice nap, Silas?"

Following after Vivian was a yawning Silas and a stone-faced Lazarus.



"Hm, yeah... did I miss anything?" The boy sniffled a yawn, he didn't notice Viv rolling her eyes at him.

"Yes, quite a lot actually." Dom raised a hand to flag down a carriage in the distance. "We can explain on the way."

The man driving the carriage pulled at his reigns, stopping the giant pigeon mid-hop. The carriage came to a halt not too far from them and Dominique began striding towards their ride. "Let's go, our job is done here."
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The rumbling of the cart wheels below them were quite comforting, Zaniah quite content to sit with her head resting upon the carriage's frame. She glanced across at the others, some talking, others fidgeting or fiddling, as the carriage moved across the city. She didn't really pay any mind to the scenery outside for the most part - looking outside only when they stopped in a queue, a loud whistle piercing the chilly air. For a couple of seconds there was nothing bar a ever louder rumble, before a massive, steel and bronze-clad train thundered past the crossing, large voluminous clouds of steam billowing in it's wake. It was now, as she looked upon the buildings which surrounded them, that she realised they had long left the older quarter of Aesyth. Thatch-work and timber were replaced with brick and metal, towering monoliths of many windows topped with massive, churning chimneys.


"So what are we going to do when we get there?" Fletch ventured once they were moving again, splitting his cards and shuffling them. "Are we waiting outside?" He didn't seem entirely relaxed in his posture, especially at the thought of Dom going in alone, but he was better than before. Dom was as calm as ever, and that effect did bleed over to his staff. Fletch hadn't mentioned anything more about the bet to Vivian either - but while she had resigned herself to defeat, he just wasn't sure he had won yet. He glanced towards her. "Oh well, I'm sure you'll have your way as you always do," he smirked. He certainly hoped so - sewing was not a strength of his, and you could only patch a pair of trousers so far.

Zan looked back at her companions, wide eyes staring unblinking at them one by one. She did, however, notably avoid looking towards Lazarus. The carriage trundled to a stop as she finally met eyes with Dom. She didn't say anything at first, although her cloak fell from her bare shoulders and onto the seat as she unfastened the buckle. The scarf was also discarded as she stood up, bent over just a little due to the low ceiling, and went to open the door.

"I'll open," she said simply, before striding out with long, confident steps towards the building. A complete contrast to her previous appearance. Her arm outstretched as she did the calculations, the starry eyed girl clicked once, twice...

"… Which, in all honesty, is a fair trade considering I ran from the ass end of nowhere to your posh little hive soon as you came calling." The sparse lines of sunlight filtering through the embroidered curtains over the window cast a long, hunched shadow on the floor. The room in itself was meant more for hunching, as it was a repurposed supply closet where functionality and comfort was disregarded in favor of having enough space to store, oh, bleach and mops. Amongst other things. A far cry from the spaces occupied by your stereotypical senator, where an elephant could roll from one end of the room to another atop the marble tiles and velvet carpeting. Still, Essien had done well for himself. Now that it was stripped and redesigned from top to bottom the ex-closet lived up to its reinvented purpose, with its newly-installed mahogany built in shelves crammed tight with tomes and yellowed documents, as well as the clutter strewn over the minimal- but tasteful!- furniture.

Despite the comfort and professionalism etched into every pore in the room the figure standing by the wide glass window, staring over the street below, seemed to cave in on himself. The tall, muscular man with the dark, unkempt hair- and even darker eyes- kept his shoulders folded in and his back bent, as if he was afraid straightening up to his full height would net a huge bruise from hitting the dismally low ceiling. He relaxed a bit after a breath and raised his head, only to stiffen when the case on his back struck the end of a bookcase. The contraption shook and the two occupants held a breath in anticipation, only to exhale in relief when the books tremulously piled atop one another remained in place.

"So, whaddya say? Do I got my honey butter garlic chicken combo or not? 'Cause I'm awfully hungry. It takes a whole lotta fuel to keep running these beasts, if that weren't obvious enough." Kain shrugged and continued from where he was interrupted, emphasizing his point by flexing a well-toned bicep. When the man seated behind the desk only raised an eyebrow at his comment, he smiled, nonplussed, and dropped the pose. "Damn. Tough crowd."


Essien, from the moment the other man had entered his workplace, wore a frigid expression that was an accurate description of an exasperated headmaster and beleaguered secretary hybrid. "If you accept my proposition, you can have any sort of food you wish for a fair amount of time," he finally said, before resuming the very important task of picking at the edges of some outdated files. It was a nervous habit- and one that the mercenary, in the exceptionally short period of time they had known each other, picked up on. To be fair, he wouldn't be much good at his job if he had the perception of a brick.

"Yeah, I'd be nervous too. Up close and personal is great and all, but..." Kain drawled, leaning back against the bookcase with the same amount of ease his tone suggested, "it'd be kinda hard. Heh."

"Do not assume the meeting will fall to that so fast. I have nothing to gain if this negotiation falls through," the politician sharply retorted, then added in a more neutral aside after a pause, "Is it because of your weapon of choice?"

"No. Because I'm hungry for honey butter garlic chicken. And you wouldn't buy me one- just one- combo... I am ready for the sweet embrace of malnutrition."

"Why, thank you very much, Zan! That's very kind of you." Dom gave her a polite smile then followed after her. The Ringmaster might have smiled throughout the duration of the trip, but the cogs and gears in his head spun restlessly. The circus was down to their last few coins, and this Essien... well, he wasn't one to take lightly. Dom wasn't even sure where this would go, but he smiled anyway as he waited for the rest of his friends to disembark from the pigeon-drawn carriage.

When everyone had joined him, he turned to look at Fletch and threw out his arms. "We'll convince him about just how serious, skilled, and marvelous we all are." The bright grin he wore vanished as he looked to his friends. "You all know what to do!"


"Wait, what are we supposed to do?" Silas chimed in. The shapeshifting forest-dweller had only been with the circus for a few weeks, so he'd yet to perform outside the thent.

"Dom, you forgot to fill the kid in," Lazarus chided.

"Right, right, sorry about that Silas." Dom tipped his hat at the boy. "We're not doing anything difficult or new, really. We're just putting on a show for Mr. Politician over there, being our sweet, dazzling selves. Let's all make this a show to remember, aye?"

"Oh!" Silas bobbed his head up and down before quickly disappearing from view. "Do you need help with anything Fletch?"


"Do you want the lion trick as well, Dommy?" Viv asked as she eyed Silas.

"Yes, please! Tell Silas to look dashing and wild! We want to wipe that bored look off Mr. Politician's face."

"You got it, boss! Will do. Anything else?"

"Put on your gloves! I want sparks to fly!"

Commands were given, and right then and there, they began construction on a makeshift stage. The moment Essien walked out, he'd get an eyeful of it! They would definitely give him a show to remember.
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"We need to build a stage faster than we ever have before," Fletch said simply, dumping a box of poles in Silas' arms. "Although considering the times we've had to pack the stage with upmost haste, I'd say we've had a little practice." He smiled a little, before turning with his own box and striding towards an open area just before the building.

Without delay the pair of them began to construct tall structures from the wooden poles, from which swathes of fabric were draped to form a boundary and backdrop for their makeshift stage. Once the stage was established, they began to drag out other things from their carriage - piles of wood were slotted into place to form boxes, metal was clicked together to form rings. This was only the bare minimum of what their circus could showcase - but it would take far too long to build the whole thing. Not to mention there was hardly the room for the full tent. Alas, the high-wire would have to wait.


Zaniah stepped forward, hips swinging, heels clicking on the cobble-work, throwing her arms out beside herself. Without her scarf and spectacles she looked a whole different person, in a way. Her stance was confident and sturdy, shifting very little as she held her head high. A smile crept across her features.

"Ladies, gentlemen and others!" she exclaimed, her usual soft tone carrying almost startling power. She flicked one wrist, then two, sparks leaping from her fingertips like fireworks. Like stars. "Imagine a world of fantasy, a world of wonder. What would you wish for?"

A gathering of passers by began to form, people curious as to this sudden and seemingly spontaneous act. Faces began to appear in the windows of the offices, curtains pushed back in curiosity. A cart pigeon squawked loudly.

"Please join us in an adventure beyond your wildest imagination, hosted by a much greater person than I! The one, the only, Monsieur Magic!!!"

She flung her arms out and in an exaggerated bow, threw her hands towards the ground. An explosion of brilliant starts erupted in her place, dazzling all who watched... before receding to reveal her vanished, and a rather fabulous man standing in her place.

The true leader of their show.

Zaniah hurriedly crept through the corridors, her bespectacled eyes flicking this way and that. It was always quite strange how little people noticed her when her normal self, although with the events outside she probably shouldn't be too surprised. People were simply distracted.

Now, what group was it they said the somewhat angry man was in? It was particularly poorly signposted. But she had to ensure he did indeed watch the show, he seemed the stubborn sort...

"Something's happening outside, an' it looks fun."

Essien dabbed a calligraphy feather into an inkwell and sloughed the excess off on the rim. Without lifting his glance from the parchment, he scribbled a couple of phrases- 'whereas, the twofold rehabilitation of juvenile detainees would prove vital to their reintegration in common society as opposed to the alternative proposed by'- and ended the line with a graceful flourish. "If it keeps you from picking holes into the curtains, then feel free to indulge yourself," he ventured. The wait for the troupe to arrive has gone past a certain point in time he felt was wasteful, and the young politician had resorted to diving back to his unfinished paperwork instead- previous engagement nudged to the back of his consciousness as he dealt with renewed matters of interest.

The mercenary turned with a huff and- based on the creaking of the damnable floorboards when he shifted his weight around- stretched, walking past the desk with a sure and easygoing gait. "Don't get offed while I'm gone, yeah?" Kain didn't do well in confined spaces anyway. He had to spread his wings, like a bird. Or a really bad impression of one. Hell, cockroaches had wings too, didn't they?

"If you remember to lock the door, I'm sure I'll have enough time to sustain my own safety," his employer retorted, dryly, and switched pages with a practiced flip of the wrist. The merc rolled his shoulders back and raised two fingers in a salute before finally exiting the room, the door easing close after him with a soft click.


For someone with that amount of lace on his shirt, the E guy had the tolerance of a saint. Others with half as frilly blouses would've roughed up a storm if they were relegated a room as shitty as that sorry excuse of an office. He would, for health reasons. His back was starting to ache from having to stoop so low the entire time. 'Course, Kain reckoned he'd keep that teeny observation to himself. Didn't want the man to have any ideas about withholding pay and whatever fancy lawyer stuff he could dig up.

He rounded a corner and nearly collided with someone, only managing to not make it as painful as it could have been with a well-time side step. Kain pulled the lady back by the elbow, mostly as an afterthought- him moving out of the way meant she was either about to get slapped by the case he carried on his back or get intimate with the wall, and that second option was nasty look at those mold stains- then let go at once when she righted herself. "Sorry for that. Thought you were going to hit my girl," Kain shrugged off the shoulder strap enough that he could sling his cargo to the side, inspecting it with a keen-eyed rigor that belied the man's foolhardy exterior. Once he was sure it was unscratched, the mercenary returned it to his back with a few adjustments, then grinned at the woman he had accidentally disturbed.

"Where you goin', miss? The party's that way," he cocked his head towards the faraway entrance, where a great number of people had gathered to watch the makeshift circus.

What in the world would he do without Zaniah? The corners of Dom's lips curled up into a smile, and had she not vanished, he would have urged her to take another bow by his side. While Dom might have been the ringleader, he was well aware that the circus could not exist if not for his friends. They were a peculiar bunch from different walks of life, but they were also family, and it was because them that the Wandering Circus became more than some fanciful dream.

Through bad times and good times, they'd stood by his side. And this was why he could not allow the circus to go bankrupt and close down. They would get this politician's attention and then they would get his coin.

"Thank you, Zaniah!" Dominique exclaimed as he strode towards the center of their makeshift stage. Once he was before the crowd, he tipped his hat at them, brought his arms to the air, and bowed lowly in greeting. "I am your ringleader, Monsieur Magic. Today, my friends and I are here to give you a show like you've never seen before!"

The crowd cheered and he turned to glance at his friends, motioning for them to join him on stage. "Joining us today will be the incredible duo, the Sandman and Mr. Mystic." It took all of Dom's willpower to stop himself from wincing at the latter's stage name. He made a mental note to help Fletch out when this was all over. There was nothing a good brainstorming session couldn't fix, after all. "Ladies and gentlemen, please give them a round of applause!" Dom ended his introduction by pulling open his overcoat to reveal several colorful wooden balls. He took them in his hands and began to juggle cheerfully.



"Psst, Lazarus," Vivian hissed. "That's your cue. You too, Fletch. Blow them all away, okay?"

Lazarus arched an eyebrow. "And what about you?" He couldn't help but frown when the girl rolled her eyes in response.

"We need all the extra coin we can get," she gestured in the direction of the distracted crowd.

"Ah, I see. Well, you heard the annoying lady, Mr. Mystic." Lazarus' tone showed his obvious distaste for the name. "We need to put on a good show." Without waiting for a response, the sandman dragged himself to the center of the stage. He didn't bother to smile at the audience, he almost never did. Instead, he leaped off the stage and planted both hands firmly on the ground below him. The earth beneath his feet rumbled as a stone beam erected itself before the crowd. The faceless beam slowly began to take the appearance of a rough sandcastle.

The children in the crowd were the most interested, but Lazarus shrunk back the moment they began crowding around him. Whatever Zaniah was doing, he hoped she'd get it done quickly.


Silas tore his eyes away from the sandcastle and turned to face Vivian. "Viv? Are we doing our lion routine?"

"Not today, Silas." Vivian would have suggested he do his act alone, but instead, another idea came to mind. "Hey, why don't you help Zan out?" Last she'd checked, Zaniah had been stopped in her tracks by some stranger.

"What can I do?" Silas answered immediately. Ever since they'd taken him under their wing, the circus folks had been kind to him. He wanted to repay the favor, his had always told him that one must pay their debts.

"We want grumpy politician guy to see the show," Viv explained. "If you can get him to come outside. We might be able to do our lion performance for him, I'm sure that'll give him something to smile about."

"I'll do it."

Silas disappeared into a dark alley and reappeared later as an orange tabby cat. Vivian pointed at the politician's door and he walked past both Zan and the stranger, unnoticed. Eventually, Essien had a cat outside his window. It meowed loudly as it pawed continuously at his office window, something only the most patient of souls would have been able to ignore.
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It took a spectacularly short time to obtain a response from Essien. In his defense, ceaseless caterwauling was probably amongst the least desirable ambient noise to be had while powering through a pile of political mumbo jumbo. After the initial disinterest was followed by sharp glances and other general acts of intimidation towards the blasted creature, which still continued its inane crying after a short pause whenever granted any attention, Essien finally stood up with a huff and pulled the window up. "What!?" he hissed, blocking the feline's ingress to his office with a hand, "I don't have any scraps! Now shoo, you mangy beast!"

It was then that he caught sight of the commotion happening at the fore of the building. Is that…? "What are they doing?" Essien wondered out loud, equal parts horrified and amused by the display, while continuing to field off any advances from the persistent feline. "I didn't ask them to do that, did I?" Well, whatever the intent was, he had to stop the circus from continuing its disruption here. It would make his mission far more… complicated if they became recognizable by the other Senators. Mind made, he glanced down at the creature and, after a swift glance down and around to suss out spying eyes, flicked his fingers at it. Like the simple-minded animal it was supposed to be, the cat followed his movements with its wide eyes. "Off to the animal catcher you go, cat. Don't put up a fight, I dislike you enough as it is," Essien muttered and after a short wait picked up the feline, which seemed inclined to be carried about if the loosened muscles were anything to go by. Still, this strange compliance didn't stop the disgruntled noble from grumbling to himself as he left his room. "Damnable beasts. Why don't they bother the others in the Marble Quarter? It ought to give them something to focus on asides from writing useless decrees."


When Essien rounded a corner, he was surprised to find the mercenary loitering with a young, if otherwise nondescript, woman. Perhaps not as much as the other who found him cradling a cat, of all things, but… In retrospect, he shouldn't have found the sellsword's behavior odd; he was known for getting around, and he obviously didn't leave the office just to stare at a wall.

"New pet?" Kain's attention briefly wavered from its focus on Zaniah as he eyed the parcel his employee was holding at arm's length. Essien thrust the animal into his arms after a moment of deliberation, and if he had to guess the only reason the man hesitated was because he was thinking of a scathing response.

"Throw it at someone inclined to take note of its kind. I can already feel the bacteria crawling up my skin," Essien replied with a shudder, before casting one more hateful glance at the cat. Kain responded by angling the animal away from him, only to find out that doing so meant jostling his precious cargo. Well, the poor thing just had to deal with E's vitriol headfirst, then. "In any case, meet me outside. The circus I was telling you about, they're the ones causing all the commotion." Without further explanation, the politician brushed some stray fur from his arm and headed towards the exit.

Kain made a small noise and put the cat down. "Sorry, lil orange buddy. You're gonna have to find your way out on your own," he said, managing to sound sorry and not sorry at the same time. "Try not to shit on the tiles. They're expensive, and the bigwigs don't like getting their precious stones dirtied- oh, actually, go ahead and do that. Should be fun to watch." The mercenary half-turned back to Zaniah with a smile on his face, acknowledging her presence, and nodded at her before following his employer out.
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Whether getting scooped into Essien's arms was a good thing or not, Silas didn't know. What he did know, was that the man had noticed the circus. Was he impressed? Judging by the irritated look he wore, Silas was guessing the answer was a big, fat NO. It wasn't ideal, but he'd done his part. It was up to Dom and the rest now. Silas meowed pitifully as he was escorted outside, not even his cute purring or wide-eyed "pet me please" looks had been enough to elicit so much as an "aw." The man had a heart of stone so he resigned himself to his fate and watched as Zaniah and the stranger from earlier came into view.

I don't think he's impressed, Silas wanted to tell Zan. However, seeing as he was currently a cat, the updates would have to wait.

"Mrowww!" He hissed as he was promptly shoved into Kain's arms. The larger man was nicer to him than the politician, but that didn't matter right now. What mattered was that they were paying attention to him when they should have been paying attention to the show. Lazarus was making a giant pigeon of sand and they were missing it!

Silas found himself back on solid ground and he watched as Essien and Kain began to leave.

"Meow!" Don't go. "Meow!" Seriously, don't go.


Noticing the predicament their newest member had gotten himself into, Viv skidded to a stop in front of Zan and the noisy cat. Essien and Kain were already a few meters away, but it wasn't too late to stop them from leaving.

"Wait!" Vivian called out. "Mr. Politician! Guy! Where are you going? The show's just getting started! Hey, tell you what. Why don't cha grab a seat and rest up for a bit? I'm sure you're both very busy men. It'll be nice to relax and have some fun, yes?" That wasn't her most gracious and alluring speech, but they had to get his attention because she doubted they've have a chance like this any time soon. "Also, that's our circus cat." She pointed to Silas, who was licking at his orange paws. "Sorry, he must have slipped away. We have a lion, if you want to see that." Before anyone could react, she plucked Silas off the ground, earning a rather terrified meow. "Really, the show's just getting started."

She looked to Zan, hoping the woman would help her convince their targets. The larger man looked like he'd be somewhat easier to convince, but she was guessing neither would stay if big shot Mr. Politician said no. "Whaddya say?"
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