The hostess has been trying to cheer up Imran after the failure of his act...
'I'd mention Allie already said something about all that... but two attractive women telling me to get a grip on it...?' Imran murmured. 'Heh. Just my luck I get neurotic about writing...'
Hmm. Thematically speaking... Author, Audience, Creativity, Medium, and Inspiration.
There's a Discordian guideline, the Law of Fives...
Creativity needs Inspiration - the spark that gives it shape in the Author's mind. The Author sets it down on a Medium, and the Audience interprets that Creativity through their own perception...
Spirit, Robe, Sword, Cloak and Charm.
Alryssa, Allie, Gordon, Imran and Kid...
Alryssa, Gordon, Imran and Kid... we've already been attacked. Alryssa managed to break her attack, Gordon...? Hmm, we'll see. Me? Hardly the best person to judge, but I'm recovering, getting a grip on myself... Kid collapsed, what happened? What happened to him...?
Not the draining - that was Allie struggling to keep the story going against what the Gods were doing, a reaction...
Imran started feeling nauseous.
He had a very, very nasty feeling about what the Gods were going to do next.
Oh, he knew...
Mists started rising in the ring, rolling in from the night outside.
The Gods had finally called their act in.
Even before the mists cleared, he knew what - or who - their act would be.
The spotlight snapped on.
The mists swirled and coiled at the edge of the light, surrounding the figure in the spotlight.
A gypsy fortune teller. Head bent over her table, ready to offer up her knowledge of the future.
They'd twisted one of the few 'magical' images they knew... known from the Psychic Circus, from Morgana.
A little stab at Kingpin and Mags' past. And at Kid's, judging from what he'd heard of the Contessa.
Nasty. Unimaginative, but nasty.
Then she looked up from the table.
And Imran almost choked.
The fortune teller's head...
Where her head should have been was a crystal ball.
Somewhere on the other side of the bleachers, the Gods were quiet.
This did not look good....
This was mockery, she thought. Taking Imran's magic story bubbles and twisting them, making them deceitful, vindictive.
It's a trap, she thought. A nasty trap. Don't look. Like a witch bottle: If you look too closely, your soul will be trapped inside that sphere.
But I -- we -- have to look. If the audience refuses to participate, refuses to be an audience, isn't that a as much a forfeit as if a performer refuses to perform? How can we prevail against the Gods of Ragnarok, now?
They may be false gods -- more forces of absorption and stagnation than creation (even Sutekh desired to be an active force in the world -- to create his version of a world), but they were gods. However powerful the forces of love and joy, the pro-funsters in whose hands those powers had been placed. were mere mortals. Even when they had advantage of the last word, their chances were slim. And now, even that had been taken away.
Then, in the midst of her despair, the troll smiled. The Gods of Ragnarok were false Gods, without the power or the desire to truly act. The Omniverse, however, was full of real gods -- Gods and Goddesses of hope, and dreams, and life. Her home world of Radwah, and her adopted world of Earth alone had more true gods than she even knew how to count.
Every living planet was itself a deity: a conscious and wise entity that guided the life of every individual it sheltered, from the single-celled protozoa to its most complex lifeforms.
So she called first on the Goddess Jubilganza (or whatever name she knew Herself by) to support and protect her and her pro-fun guests. She asked the goddess to accept her feelings of fear and anger and despair, so that she (the troll) could let them go -- to drain out of her body into the ground beneath her feet. She asked the Goddess to transform those feelings into hope and creativity. She called on the Goddess Earth, to protect Her far-flung children.
Then she called on the Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, and mother of the Nine Muses, to protect Her children and her children's disciples from the Gods of Ragnarok, so that no matter what the GoR threw at them, they would never forget the true beauty of stories, or the true beauty of their lives.
Slowly, slowly, as the mists around the fortune teller shrank back into the night outside the Big Top, the avocado troll could feel the Goddesses gathering around her, around the circus -- drifting in from the Omniverse outside to stand in the shadows as witnesses.
:::Thank You::: the troll thought, gratefully, tears of joy welling up in her eyes, :::Thank You:::
:::This is still your battle to fight, not ours::: Jubilganza said, silently, into the troll's heart. :::But we are Here:::
The Avocado troll squared her shoulders, and turned her gaze to the twisted vision of the fortune teller in the ring.
:::And we are ready::: she thought.
So did Yokoi and Tessa.
Allie's grip on her microphone tightened. Can't let them see, can't let them see...
Tessa indicated the hostess questioningly.
Tessa's eyes widened. The Tenth of the Nine is here? Their mother?
Tessa's mouth fell open. Oh my Goddess!
Yokoi raised an eyebrow. Tell me about it - well, if we can finish this set...
Imran let out a breath he didn't realise he'd been holding.
His cloak sparkled.
The Audience had just grown stronger - and he could feel the power the newcomers had brought with them.
Knew what that meant, who was with them.
God against god.
Dark images flashed across the ring, emanating from the crystal. Probing, searching. A dark, twisted series of illusions - forboding fortunes, omens of doom, prophecies of disaster, challenging the onlookers to look deeper, to know the full extent of their fate.
And to be trapped by that crystal.
But we are the ones with power over our lives. If we surrender that... then whose life does it become?
No. I will not give that up.
I will not give my life over to them.
The visions moved on.
Imran carefully let his train of thought continue.
Absorption is the flip side to creativity. The Gods of Ragnarok are the negative of the other Gods - as each Universe was born, lived and died, and a new Universe was born, the Gods of Ragnarok survived. The dark mirror of the active Gods.
Now, now... they were out of balance. If we could check them once more, stop them gorging on their stolen power, they would be reduced back to what they once were, what they had been when the Seventh met them... A dark force bound once again.
Their destruction... no. That act would strike against Fun, even with entities like them. And he suspected that the other Gods had realised this, and so had ... had asked the Guardians to bind them.
Now that they were freed - and let free on the Universe's stories - Imran saw why the Guardians had bound the Gods of Ragnarok so long ago... and that it could be done once more.
If they had hope. If they continued to stand and be true.
He hoped so.
He heard a voice, coming from the ring.
And looked up.
"Cross my palm with silver..." the fortune-teller whispered. A breath of speech, carried on the mist like sound over water. "Cross my palm with silver, my dearies..." And a dry rasp came, that might have been a laugh.
A hand was held out in the spotlight, too smooth and unlined to have any right to that cackling voice. Too perfectly moulded to belong to anything human at all.
In the crystal ball the mists swirled like an echo of those beyond; and the watchers were drawn in, each one seeing the hunched figure in the ring as clearly as if he or she alone were seated in that blank place on the far side of the table.
"Cross my palm with silver..." And with the third invocation, there came a soft sigh from out of the nightsky cloaks all around the ring, and a silvery whispering rush.
Imran sensed it first, swallowing. He'd known they were going to do this. He'd known... He dragged his eyes away from the ring with an effort and glanced across at TYA. His heart sank.
"What's happening to you? -- Allie!"
On the outstretched palm, seven spots began to shine, twinkling at first as if they gleamed with stardust, until they took on weight and substance -- cold metal denser and harder than lead. Pro-Fun energy... leeched away. Taken in payment. Deformed and trapped.
"That's right, my lovelies..." The crooning was horribly intimate, a spider caress in every ear sounded for each alone. The little deputy shivered.
One coin was flicked up, spinning, for a moment once again free -- then snatched back. Waxen fingers closed around their treasure like a trap. The handful of silver vanished into the shadows of the shawl in a movement too swift to see.
"That's right, my precious darlings, that's right. Pay with what's most precious, and you shall see your hearts' desire..."
The crystal ball cleared, seeming to swim before the turquoise troll's eyes barely an arm's-length away. Deep within, the image began to form, alluring and oh so sweet --
A clatter in the bleachers. Someone had sprung to his feet. She wanted to look round, but she couldn't miss the vision; all she'd ever wanted, so dearly bought.
"Don't watch!" A voice, vaguely heard. The Third Doctor. Why was he getting all so worried? Everything was going to be fine, now... just fine...
"Listen to me, all of you!" Third glared round at the sea of glassy expressions, twitching his cloak back. He was still wearing his costume from the light-and-music show -- he felt it rather suited him, particularly the cravat -- and the optics he'd arranged in the sequins flung little patterns of light across the faces around him.
But his was the only cloak still brightly shimmering. The Cloaks of Audience seemed to have lost all their vigour... like the audience themselves...
There was something...
If he could just see that little bit further...
...that little bit closer...
Something he had to do?
If he just had a little more time, then he'd see it in the light.
There'd been a girl...
'Well, I'm on work experience.'
'Listen. I've got this idea...'
'Ooh. Now where'd I put that video?'
Fighting evil by daylight.
Finding inspiration by moonlight.
Cross my palm with silver, and I will tell your future.
Give me your hand.
Ah. See, there?
You will go to the ball, clothed in the finest silver, silver horses leading your carriage.
When the Prince sees you, he will be captivated by the beautiful, mysterious, silver lady.
Together, you will dance through the night.
You have no carriage? No dress?
Your ballgown gleams in the moonlight. Your carriage waits outside, ready to take you to the ball.
Your family will be fine. Think of what will happen when you return, having captured the Prince's heart. You will be a princess.
A princess. And you need never do anything again.
The Third drew his sonic screwdriver.
If he'd guessed correctly...
He turned it on.
It began to hum.
The crystal began to hum in counter-resonance.
He searches the fairground, looking for her, humming one of her songs to himself.
...she had been singing, and he'd watched, admiring, from the audience...
...and then something had happened...
...and now he's looking for her...
Where is she?
Then he spies it. A little tent, set a little apart from the fairground.
A fortune teller.
Maybe she's in there. At the very least, the fortune teller could tell him where she might be.
Whispering. He can hear whispering.
A thousand whispering voices.
Shaking his head, he moves closer.
He lifts the tent's flap.
The fortune teller sits alone.
She turns her ghastly head to him, a globe crafted of the purest crystal.
And within the crystal, her soul caught, entrapped...
Screaming silently. Warped and distorted.
Mnemosyne was a Titan, mother to the Nine Muses.
Inspiration is born of Memory.
'Allie...?' he whispers. 'Allie, do you remember?'
She looks out at him, her grey eyes almost dead.
He steps forward again.
My... my family. She was saying something about...
My family. My friends.
Imran. Xeffy. Gordon. Alryssa. Eloise.
Allie? We're here.
She steps out of the carriage.
The footman looks up at her, one eye offset by the polyp which distorts his nose.
'Allie? Do you remember?'
'Imran...?' she whispers.
Listen, and you can hear the hum of a thousand people chattering, talking within.
The Prince waits for her inside. Yet she dallies with a footman.
'Imran?' She steps closer, as if making sure. 'She said I'd be a princess...'
She... she can't remember. But...
'I'd never have to do anything again.' she whispers.
He looks stricken. 'Not even sing?'
Could she sing? Had she sung?
Why doesn't she know?
He strikes at the fortune teller's hand, striking the six pieces of silver she held - payment for the heart's desire, payment for a dream - from it.
The illusion shatters.
She opens her mouth-
-and a perfect, crystal tone sounds.
The illusion shatters.
The hostess shook her head. Ooh. What had happened?
She had that odd sense in her head that she used to get as a child, right before she'd slip into a night terror -- the unshakable sense that she was out of phase, somehow, with reality, and there was nothing she could do about it.
The Third grinned. Just as he'd suspected.
The sonic screwdriver's counter-resonance had broken the fortune-teller's trance.
The audience were starting to recover.
Seven pieces of silver fell from the fortune teller's hand.
As they fell, they faded, dissolved.
Silver smoke hung in a haze over the ring.
Slowly, it returned where it had belonged, flowing into the audience.
The pro-fun energy drifted back down over the troll, brushing her skin like a spring mist, waking her completely from the nightmare just past and filtering into the stars on her cloak, reigniting them.
She glanced over her shoulder at Mnemosyne -- tall as an oak tree, her face hidden in the shadows of her silvery spiderweb cloak. Still, she could sense the reassuring smile that the Titan gave her, and she smiled back. "Thank you," she whispered.
And the audience looked around themselves, as if they were waking from a dream.
The ring fell silent.
The fortune teller stood up, curtsied...
...and was gone.
The Big Top slowly returned to normal.
Imran looked over at where the Gods sat in the bleachers.
Still quiet. Still silent. They had said nothing, made no move, since they had called upon the PTB.
Intermission, before the Doctors' act. Finish passing out all the cloaks this time - although he rather suspected that what would count wouldn't be number, but the diversity within that number. Either way, best to make sure everyone had one... especially now.
Quietly, he started moving around the audience.
After that, get to Allie. Because he had an uneasy feeling about this...
...and what the Gods had had planned.
We'd better be prepared.Previous chapter Next chapter