6760/La Caravane des Ombres

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La Caravane des Ombres
Date of Scene: 03 July 2021
Location: Flushing Meadows Park
Synopsis: When La Caravane des Ombres comes to town, so does a soul stealing monster that threatens to devour the souls of everyone in the audience. Fortunately, a pair of sorceresses, a pair of mutants, and a talented Shadow are all on hand to save the day.
Cast of Characters: Amanda Sefton, Natasha Cranston, Laxmi Mallick, Kurt Wagner, Rien D'Arqueness

Amanda Sefton has posed:
La Caravane des Ombres is a travelling circus in the same category as Cirque du Soliel, albeit with a few extras on the side. It's big. It's splashy. It's transportive. There's something magical about it. The main show space -- a huge black tent capable of seating nearly a thousand people and still containing a show full of high flying acrobats and aerial tricks that can't otherwise be seen anywhere but in the secret training grounds of any number of metahuman vigilantes and heroes -- dominates the far end of the old 1939 World's Fair site. Stretching out before it is a busy midway full of sideshows and hawkers, games of skill and chance, and food vendors galore. Popular music plays from loudspeakers up and down the midway, classic summer hits and contemporary chart toppers that lend the whole thing a party atmosphere.

Fitting, really, for the 4th of July weekend.

The crowds are thick. Not everyone here is out to see the main show. Many have come simply for the fun of the carnival itself. Still, the show in the black bigtop really is the main event and the line up for it is long. That said, there's plenty of space for any who bought tickets ahead of time and when the flaps to the tent finally open, admitting the audience, it doesn't take long for that line to disappear and for the crowd to find themselves happily seated within -- with or without refreshments, should they desire.

At the appointed time, the lights in the tent lower, signaling the start of the show. Music swells, a mysterious, haunting theme that shimmers with promise of imagry from another time and place. As the music swells, a man walks out into the center of the performance space, the center of the tent, the audience ringing it the whole way 'round. He is tall, lean, and sharp featured in that way of wizards and viziers out of a storybook. Black hair sweeps back from a high forehead, close cropped and neat. A sharp moustache goatee define his cheeks and jaw. His costume conjures images of a nineteenth century gentleman dressed to go to the Opera. Complete with opera cape.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he intones in the finest traditions of ringmasters everywhere. "Welcome to La Caravane des Ombres. This afternoon you will see an interplay of light and shadow as you have never seen before. Illusion and reality will become one and the same. The stuff of dreams will walk the Earth and transport you to places you've never seen before..."

Behind him shadowy figures move around the circumference of the circle, trailing deep violet ribbons that shimmer in the halflight. Above him, acrobats are lowered from the web of catwalks crisscrossing the roof of the structure, above the lights. They are suspended on crimson drapes of fabric. The music swells and a woman's voice cuts a high soprano over top, the lyrics otherworldly and not quite articulated enough to be more than an aluring counterpoint to the shimmer of sound beneath. The voice is reminiscent in quality to Amy Lee of Evanescence... if she were, perhaps, a Siren out of myth and legend.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Ensconced in one of the front-row seats, Natasha can't quite resist a smile at the ringmaster's performance, but then she leans back to let herself enjoy the show.

    It's been a busy few weeks, and she really doesn't give herself enough opportunities to /truly/ relax, and this promises to be an entertaining night -- a display of both acrobatic skill and showmanship, and sleight-of-hand and illusions to keep her interested. Who knows? She might even learn a useful trick or two...

Laxmi Mallick has posed:
    "Maybe you could try out for this group, Laxmi," a girl seated beside the singer murmurs, leaning in towards her friend to be heard - without disturbing the others around them.
    Laxmi, a young, dark skinned woman with straight black hair, and bright green eyes gives her friend an amused smile. She and Jenny had both been classmates at Juilliard together. Jenny was still enrolled - a few credits shy of graduation, and the two friends still tried to hang out when they found the opportunity. Such as this.
    The both fall silent, listening to the singing, and watching the shimmering ribbons as they dance. Jenny tips a bowl of popcorn towards Laxmi, and the women steals a few kernels to nibble on.

Kurt Wagner has posed:
Of course Xavier's Institute has it's fair share of 4th of July traditions. And to be sure barbeques and baseball games are a lot of fun. But there are times that it is nice to get out of the house for a little while. Even nicer to get the chance to return to ones roots for a little. After a fashion.

This, of course, is not quite the same sort of circus that Kurt Wagner grew up in, though there were enough European tweaks to it that his friends would likely find much of it unfamiliar too. And while it might not quite be home, it is familiar enough that the fuzzy blue elf's customary grin is out in full force. Wandering through the carnival, he probably attracts as many stares as any of the performers, but then he is used to that and it doesn't seem to phase him in the least as he pauses now and then in his progress to play a game or two, or even just take in the familiar sights, sounds and yes, most definitely scents.

While not everyone might be here for the circus itself, Kurt most definitely is. Everything else is window dressing. Pleasant, familiar window dressing, but still all ancillary to the main event itself. So when it comes time he joins the line, ticket in hand to be ushered into the big top. In short order he, along with the rest of the crowd, has been ushered in, finding seats and settling in just in time for the ringmaster to begin the customary spiel.

Leaning forward in his seat a little, the grin on Kurt's features only broadens.

Rien D'Arqueness has posed:
Summer in New York, especially when one is out and about, usually involves light clothing, often covering as little as possible. Which is why Rien stands out a bit, though there are some other people wearing more than shorts and a light shirt. Very few of them, however, are in white leather pants, a leather bustier and soft, thigh high leather boots. Long blonde hair falls in soft waves to the small of her back, pulled back from her face. Given her outfit, she should probably be being taken out by paramedics treating her for heat exhaustion.

She isn't even sweating.

Maybe it's magic, maybe she's simply too French to sweat, who can tell? But the fact is, she's looking comfortable as she makes her way through the crowd. When the main show starts, she's in the tent as well, because it's here that her main interest lies.

She's been in the New York area a lot lately, and something about this place has her magical senses tingling, and that demands a look to see what exactly is going on. If someone is just enhancing the circus' show with magic, that's one thing, but all too often it gets taken in a darker direction, and that's when Reine du Rien earns her pay... as it were.

Amanda Sefton has posed:
Amanda Sefton flashes Kurt a grin as he leans forward in anticipation. Even after all these years, neither of them has ever been able to resist the call of the circus -- in any of its forms. The lights come down. The ringmaster weaves his spell, and the sorceress finds she, too, has one of those grins of childlike pleasure on her features. Who doesn't appreciate the style and mystery of a spectacle like this?

Her eyes stray up to the acrobats, memories of her own time up on the trapeze flitting across her mind's eye. The aerial dancers forms are precise and beautiful. She can appreciate the skill and practice they've put into their routine with a professional's eye. She glances again to Kurt, knowing he's probably doing the same thing.

The siren-like voice continues it's call to magic and mystery. The dervishes on the floor weave their ribbons before and even around the audience, flowing up into the aisles and across the back of the stands as if they were tracing the outline of flower petals. Shadows rise up from the performace ring's floor, like the trunks of a ghostly forest looking to emerge into the material plane. Or, perhaps, suck the material plane into its little pocket of reality. The ringmaster fades into the shadows, seeming to blend right in with them until he disappears.

There is indeed a sense of magic about this place. It only seems to grow as the dervishes continue their weaving and the acrobats flick their ribbons through the air above. Eventually, it's just enough to distract Amanda, whose eyes narrow just slightly to see brief, shimmering flashes of runes floating against the walls of the tent.

"A binding spell?" She doesn't quite realize she's spoken aloud.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Natasha looks to her side at the... Profoundly odd... figure sitting next to her. The distinctly inhuman appearance seems incongruous with the perfectly ordinary clothes, but the way he carries it off makes it seem entirely natural -- and he's far from the oddest thing she's seen. Besides, his obvious enjoyment is infectious. She can't quite keep a smile off her own face.

    "An impressive display, isn't it?" she murmurs, voice just barely loud enough to carry to Kurt's ears without disturbing the music.

    Whatever else she'd intended to strike up a conversation is interrupted by Amanda's comment. "... A what?" she asks, only barely remembering that her outward persona doesn't generally know about such things.

Laxmi Mallick has posed:
    Laxmi and her companion have no experience with magic - and thus are completely oblivious to any 'binding spells' that might be going on. Instead, they're focused on the spectacle - both enjoying the quality of the singing, while Laxmi turns half her mind to figuring out the visual effects. Was it just lighting? It couldn't be computer screens - not with the wrap-around seating. Presumably, the circus was built onto some sort of platform, which would help with the 'disappearing' routine.
    But were they using illusions, not unlike her own talents? It was fascinating to try to sort it all out

Kurt Wagner has posed:
There is an artistry to this world that Kurt Wagner sometimes misses. Teaching the next generation of mutants is all well and good. It's important work. It is even a performance of a sort -- at least the way that Kurt does it -- but it's not quite the same. There is always a tendancy to look at the past through rose-colored glasses, but for the most part he does not need to when regarding his own childhood growing up in the circus. And he does manage to pull his attention away from the ringmaster and all the supporting displays of artistry long enough to flash Amanda an answering grin. Sometimes words are not necessary.

The acrobats are suitably impressive, and it might be one area that the fuzzy blue elf regards with something more of a critical eye then the rest of the show. Afterall, this is the part he played too. And apparently they pass muster as he finally leans back a little and applauds like a delighted child.

Of course, his own acrobat troupe was better. That just goes without saying. Though it clearly helps some when one has a mutant physiology practically designed for that sort of thing. And of course the prehensile tail. The ability to teleport makes certain feats otherwise impossible very much realistic too. Hey, Kurt's not likely to apologize for who he is.

Any comparisons that might be making -- fair or not -- are cutoff as the woman at his side murmurs his way, though Kurt flashes a grin towards Natasha, if only briefly as his attention diverts back to the display on the floor. "They are very talented," he agrees, though again the enjoyment of the floor show is interrupted when he hear's Amanda's murmured words. "A binding spell?" he questions lowly.

Hey, it could be nothing. But he's rarely found random magic in strange and unusual places ever adds up to anything good. He's looking forward to being proven wrong though.

Rien D'Arqueness has posed:
The show distracts her for a few moments as she allows herself to enjoy the skill of the acrobats and the singer. She's seen similar performances in the past, and that adds to the sense of the familiar. Her training, however, doesn't really let her relax very much when she's not somewhere she knows is safe, and this isn't even close to one of those.

And so it is that Rien is both watching the performance and at the same time, muttering in Enochian under her breath as she releases a sensing spell, trying to identify any magic in use here. If it's just illusion, perhaps she'll enjoy the show. The nasty, suspicious part of her mind however, reinforced by far too many years of training, tells her not to trust anything she doesn't know. It's almost reflex at this point.

When the runes flicker around the edges of the tent however, her eyes narrow as she shakes her head. Of course it couldn't be a pleasant diversion, that would be too simple. Two quick passes with her hands bring an invisible shield of force into existence just over her skin, and the more general sensory spells are replaced with a more specific one, a search for demonic energies.

Amanda Sefton has posed:
Amanda's greatest skill, though by no means her only skill, is with illusions. The fact that there are indeed illusions being used on stage doesn't particularly bother her -- most of theatre is an illusion of some sort, practical or more esoteric -- until those runes begin to flash. They should go unseen to any without a modicum of magical ability. And even then, they do not give off the whiff of demonic magic. Instead, they feel wild and chaotic. There's no overt evil at play here. But there is a capriciousness that is at least a step beyond that of human kenning.

Which makes her wonder... just what is being bound.

She glances to her 'brother'. "They're using illusions," she tells him. "And I suspect the singer has at least a hint of Siren blood." Her gaze flits briefly to the woman on the other side of Kurt, but she continues nonetheless. She could simply switch to German or Romani, if she wishes to obscure her speech, but even that's not guaranteed. So, she simply continues. "But there are runes appearing overhead -- a binding spell." Her eyes narrow. "They could be trying to ensure no one else casts any spells that might interfere with the show, but that should have been done *before* the audience came in..."

Which suggests to her that it's not necessarily a true part of the show. The illlusions? Likely. The binding? Less so.

Keeping her hand in her lap, so that it's less noticable to those around them, she sends out her own shimmer of magic, a flitting, shadowy blackbird that's all illusion, but meant to cross with the runes she sees appearing. The bird itself isn't likely to disturb the other audience members, since it's modeled sufficiently on what is happening within the show itself to seem a part of it. Amanda is nothing if not expert in her designs. But as it approaches one of those runes, it bursts into motes of eldritch fire that flutter like embers in the air before winking out.

"So," she surmises. "Someone doesn't want anyone interupting the casting or leaving the tent." She gives her brother a rueful smile. "I think I'm going to go take a look." There's an unspoken invitation for him to join her as she rises from her seat and draws another spell around herself -- the shadowcloak that makes mundane eyes look away from her and forget her passing as soon as they've noticed it.

Because, yes, there are tendrils of magical energy seeping into the audience now. They swirl first around the people in the front row and, oddly enough, in the back rows. Along the aisles, too. Anywhere those illusionary ribbons passed when the show began. Those tendrils wrap around the people watching, settling into their skin, unseen by mundane eyes. All too clear to those with any sense of the arcane.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    "... That sounds ominous," Natasha comments, unaware of the tendrils trying to sink into her skin, then looks at Kurt when Amanda vanishes. "Is there something we can do?" she asks, looking around in alarm - not /entirely/ unfeigned.

Laxmi Mallick has posed:
    The tendrils getting into Laxmi's friend first - as the two continue to sit side by side in their aisle seats, sharing a bucket of popcorn, and smiling at the performance. The young mutant, still trying to understand the illusions she is watching, follows the bird with her gaze - wondering how it could rise up from the audience. It //must// be some sort of illusion ability. Right? Seeing it explode into sparks is a bit puzzling though. It doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the show. Hrm, odd. Some sort of error in the performance, perhaps?
    Her attention shifts to the aerialists for a moment, shaking her head slightly. "The amount of practice and training that must take..." She's put a lot of time into her own art - so she can well appreciate the craft on display.

Kurt Wagner has posed:
While Kurt is starting to get more and more exposure to magical forces in the past few months and thus has spent more then a little time ensconced in the library or his room, reading through old tomes -- usually provided by Amanda of course -- he is still always going to defer to the experts when it comes to this sort of thing.

The revelation that this particular circus is leveraging magic does come as something of a surprise, though not a particularly daunting one. He did grow up with Amanda and her mother afterall. And again, this is a show. Few things are quite as showy as some well applied magic. When it's meant to entertain, what can be the harm, right?

Except that clearly something more then that is clearly going on. His foster sister's reaction is enough to make that clear to any but the most obtuse observer. With her concerns obvious, the fuzzy blue elf turns his attention back to the show, peering with a more studied eye, trying to pierce what's real from illusion. But while he has increasing experience with magical threats, he has no particular gift for the art itself, no little spells or cantrips that can let him pierce the real from the imaginary. But he can make a few educated guesses.

"I'll meet you down there. If you can keep me from being whammied I would be most appreciative," Kurt says with a quick little grin despite the situation around them. And then where he was sitting is only a rapidly dissipating cloud of inky black mist and a hint of brimstone that hangs in the air.

Rien D'Arqueness has posed:
The lack of demonic energies is a good start, it at least rules out some of the most evil possibilities. However, things are still not what she'd call good. With her senses on alert, Rien is aware of Amanda's spell and is able to follow it as it tests the wards and is disrupted by them. Then Amanda cloaks herself and begins to move.

Nodding to herself, she spots the tendrils as they begin to infiltrate the crowd and starts casting further sensing spells to identify the magic. Given the feel of chaos in the air, the thought of the Fae flashes through her mind, though that's hardly the only explanation. She adds a barrier against magic to her shielding, working to keep anything from getting to her, then looks around the floor, trying to separate illusion from reality now that she knows the magic here is up to no good.

She's not ready to move overtly yet, but almost a century of experience is coming into play as she starts cataloguing the effects and feel of the magic in her head, trying to put together a good idea of what she's dealing with so she knows how to counter it.

Amanda Sefton has posed:
Throughout the tent, magic settles into human skin and errupts into soft fur that begins to coat bodies. Thus begins their slow transformation into strange, wild halflings -- part human, part animal. Nubs of horns push their way out of human skulls. Tails, wings, even hoves and claws begin to form. There is no panic, though. Most of the audience is lulled by that evanescent voice that continues to sing while the acrobats and dancers on stage continue to perform.

Whatever magic this is, as the transformations slowly manifest, human souls are eased from changing bodies. It is by no means a quick process, but to those with eyes to see, it's an obvious one. And it is only complete when the transformation is complete.

So there's time... but not much.

Amanda's eyes settle first on Kurt, as he makes it clear he's on the move, and then on the woman beside him. She watches that magic trying to settle into their skins. On Kurt, it is subtly rebuffed by something about his nature. "Go hunting," she tells the fuzzy blue elf, placing her hands on him and casting a shielding spell before he bamfs away. "I'll try to slow the magic creep."

On the woman, she notices, the magic tendrils slip off, but more slowly. It can't quite hold her like it does so many others. In Amanda's book... that means the woman may have some talent of her own. She reaches out her hand and grabs hold of her by the wrist. Eldritch flame flashes out of Amanda's palm, burning away those tendrils. "There," she tells her. "That should keep your head clear."

The woman is freed, but somewhere within that shadowy forest that has appeared on stage, a wild scream of outrage is heard. Amanda turns toward that forest and lifts up on an eldritch wind, heading for it and whatever made that cry. She needs to find the source to really stop the soul sucking magic.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Natasha blinks, a brief shake of her head as cobwebs she hadn't even noticed clear from her mind -- and when she looks back at the Amanda there's a focus - and an intensity in those blue eyes that hadn't been there - or if it had, it had been hidden underneath that lazy smile and guileless expression. "... I appreciate it," she replies, then rises from her seat. "I'll see what I can do to help."

    ... And as Amanda takes to the air, she doesn't see Natasha vanish into shadows of her own.

    As she makes her own way toward the stage and that scream, Natasha muses that she really needs a more convenient way of changing her attire. It would be /terribly/ inconvenient for superheroic shenanigans to be associated with her public persona; hopefully the woman who helped her didn't recognize her...

Laxmi Mallick has posed:
    Laxmi takes more of the popcorn, turning to smile at her friend who has begun to sprout fur and horns. She smiles at Jenny, turning back to enjoy the performance as she pops more of the treat into her mouth - but something niggles at the back of her brain. Something isn't right. Jenny isn't right. That should bother her, and it doesn't. Why isn't it bothering he- oh. Oh dear.
    Is the singer... like herself?
    "Jenny? Jenny. We have to go," she says urgently. She looks towards her friend - hesitating, one hand raised. She was raised believing it taboo to touch others, but- She places her hand on her friend's shoulder, and gives her a shake. "Jenny?"
    And then she begins to sing - almost instinctively, she weaves a counterpoint to the siren's melody, trying to shift her friend - and anyone else who can hear her - into a more //lucid// calm. Much of her song is wordless, but when she has something that she feels needs saying, she simply sings it in the melody she improvises. "We have to go - Jenny, let's leave the tent," she sings out.

Kurt Wagner has posed:
While Kurt has long since grown comfortable in his own skin, unconcerned with the stares directed his way he really doesn't need to become any more hirsute. Whether the magic gathering under the big top is repelled by Amanda's spells or something intrinsic about his own nature isn't something he is particularly worried about. At least not at the moment. So long as it leaves him the same fuzzy blue elf he's pretty good.

Of course if he finds out later that the magicks flowing through this venue didn't touch him because of something in his genetic makeup that is a different matter entirely. Given some of the clues he has been given on that particular front.

His first stop is not to seek out somebody to punch. As tempting as that might be it is not entirely clear just who might be responsible for all of this. The circus itself? Perhaps, if depressing given his background, that something meant to bring joy could be so corrupted. Or perhaps just inidviduals within? Or something else entirely. So when Kurt *bamfs* away it is to the 'backstage' area, energing by the electrical systems. And more importantly, the audio systems. He's not tech genius, but he was raised in a circus of his own and these systems aren't so different from the ones used then. In a circus, everyone learns to contribute in that close-knit little society and so the fuzzy blue elf merrily goes about disabling the mics and speakers within the tent proper to see if he can provide his own helping hand in slowing the proceedings.

Rien D'Arqueness has posed:
And that outraged cry gives her a target, which translates into Rien launching herself from the crowd onto the stage with a strong leap. She lands in a fighting crouch and three forearm long bone claws rip through the skin over her knuckles in a display that should be very familiar to Kurt, should he see them. These claws, however, have a bluish glow of enchantment surrounding them, not adamantium. Her senses hone in on the direction the cry came from, and she stalks in that direction, calling out, "If you can slow the magic, I will find the cause and end it."

Moving into the shadowy forest with all her senses alert, she mutters spells to dispel illusion, trying to gain a clearer view of the actual opponent rather than shadowy trees. She is at full alert, ready to lash out at anything that comes at her should it prove a threat. She releases the spell to remove the illusion, matching her strength and training against whatever is at work here.

Amanda Sefton has posed:
Perhaps the siren has begun to notice she has competition. Her voice changes somehow, becoming fuller and more assertive as Laxmi's voice counterpoints hers. Illusions waver just a little, the orchestra starts to fall away, its players distracted by the siren's call.

Creatures emerge from the shadowy forest, huge wolflike things with white fur and red ears and muzzles. Their red eyes glow in the dark and they bound towards those poor souls whose bodies are mostly transformed, whose souls are most vulnerable to capture and separation from their mortal coil. The creatures are quite real, quite able to be engaged by physical hands, for all that they blend into the illusions being cast around the tent.

What will become clear to Kurt, who knows circus people, is that acrobats are starting to falter and fail. They are not so much affected by the transformative magic as they are simply not a part of whatever is happening here. There are signs that they, too, are somehow trying to fight off the siren's voice. They are in danger of falling from their perches and falling prey to the same magic as the audience.

Deep in the heart of shadowy forest, Rien will find the ringmaster -- bound and gagged by tendrils of magic. His eyes are glowing in a manner that is less demonic and more chaotic, but it is clear he is neither thrall nor aggressor, here. He's clearly being kept from interfering here. Above him stands a figure that, at first glance, appears to have the form of Cerunnos, the horned god. But seeing through the illusion will reveal a much slighter figure cloaked in animal hides and wrapped in a malicious spirit that snakes around it like a python both strangling and supporting it. Whomever that is, they are clearly the real threat here. This is not the Caravane's fault.

At least, not by all appearances.

Meanwhile, Amanda acknowledges Rien's call with an answer of her own. "I'll do my best..." Hovering in the air between one section of audience and the stage, she beings to weave her own tendrils of light and illusion to disrupt and slow the dark tendrils trying to rip the souls from mortal bodies.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Despite the urgency of the situation and the clear and present danger, Natasha can't quite help but smile. There's something /soothing/ about her surroundings -- she can feel the shadows try to wrap around her, and part of her wants to let them... But that would probably be a bad idea right now.

     But dangerous or not, they /are/ shadows - and on that treshold between light and dark is where she does her best work. With so many half-illusions already moving through the tent, who will notice a few more?

    The dance of the shadow forest changes - or perhaps it simply gains a few dozen more dancers; either way, the wolves find their senses clouded, their hunts frustrated; their jaws snapping shut on nothing but mist and shadow while mocking laughter echoes in their ears...

Laxmi Mallick has posed:
    No. No no no no no.... Laxmi takes her friend by the arm, tugging her to her feet, and causing the popcorn to spill. Whatever is going on here, she has to help Jenny. She has to stop this from happening.
    Even as she hauls her friend groggily to her feet, and starts pulling her to her feet, she breathes deeply - filling her lungs deep down to her stomach as she was taught, and projects her voice with all the volume she can muster, still striving to wake as many as she can to a sense of lucid calm, shouting out her words for all to hear. "Get up! Get up and head to the exits! Get up, there is no time to waste!" she sings out. No, it doesn't rhyme. It doesn't respect any rules of poetry. She doesn't care.
    Nor does she seem to notice the fur starting to sprout on her arms, and legs as she does everything she can to get her friend out of the tent - and anyone else her voice can reach.

Kurt Wagner has posed:
Having done what he can in the back, Kurt does not linger any longer then he has to, staying just long enough to sneak a quick peek and make sure that there is nothing that needs attention, nothing more that can be done to try and stop the spread of whatever insidious magicks that are working their way through the main part of the tent. And then, just like that, he is gone again with that little *bamf*...

...only to reappear out in one of the lit up 'rings' where until moments earlier performers were putting on a glorious exhibition of showmanship and artistry. Now, quite clearly, everything is on the verge of disaster. While current won't stray away from conflict when required, the most immediate concern are the victims here -- performers and the crowd alike. And there is little doubt that those facing the most immediate peril are the acrobats perched high above, or swinging through the air as those insidious changes begin to take hold.

And then the fuzzy plue elf is an observer no longer. Again he vanishes in that little puff of inky black smoke, appearing up in midair where the trapeze swings, grabbing hold of one of the acrobats and tucking them under his arm, neck already craning to spot his next target.

And again he vanishes and reappears, almost fifty feet away on one of those elevated platforms where another of the performers is on the verge of falling off that high-up perch to the ground below, reaching out to snare them by the arm before they can do so. Less than three seconds, and then he is off again.

The rapid teleportation is something of a shock to the system of others -- at least the way he does it -- and it tends to leave anyone unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end dzed, disoriented and more then a little sick to their stomach. But it's a good deal better then being dead, right? So the fuzzy blue elf is a flickering shape, *bamfing* about the upper reaches of the big top, snagging imperiled acrobats with hands, those three-toed feet and even that tail before finally reappearing where he started, depositing them all in the center of the ring.

He resists taking a bow. This time. Though those brilliant golden eyes sparkle brightly despite the situation.

Rien D'Arqueness has posed:
Quietly, Rien tells the figure standing over the Ringmaster, "You get one chance. Stop this now, or I stop you." There's no anger in her voice, just the confidence of someone who knows her own abilities and trusts in them. As one of the wolves goes by, she lashes out with one hand, the heavily enchanted claws ripping it open for the entire length of it's body.

"Just in case you didn't think I could back up my words" is all the explanation she offers for her action against the wolf thing. She takes a step towards the faux-godling, claws held low and to her sides, ready to strike if things don't go the right way. Her voice is a low growl, eyes flashing as she tells it, "You only get five more seconds before this turns very, very bad for you, I won't let you hurt these people."

Amanda Sefton has posed:
The wolves growl and snap at shadows and mist. Some few sink physical teeth into spiritual forms, dragging on souls, trying to pull them physically from their bodies. They are only partially successful as other magics intervene.

Laxmi's voice sinks into the minds of a few of the stronger souls in the audience -- those not yet fully affected by the shape changing magic. Most of these people are in the center of the seating sections, however. The people along the edges are the ones most greatly affected. They cry out in confusion as competing compulsions pull at them, their voices sounding more like bleats and the cries of wild animals in distress than anything human. People in the very center try to crawl over seats to get out, but there are strange monsters in their way.

Panic is inevitable.

The acrobats are saved from falling, but they are still at risk of the magical malaise that is infecting almost everyone and everything. Still, the wolves can be kept at bay or battled as any living, physical thing can be. This makes them vulnerable, despite the magic that allows them to rip souls from bodies.

Amanda's attention strays to Laxmi purely because her voice is so compelling. Having compulsive powers of her own, she recognizes the magic in that voice. She also sees that the woman who's trying to counter that siren is in danger of succumbing to the same magic that had tried to ensnare her brother and the woman beside him.

"Singer!" she calls out. She doesn't know her name. "To me!" Rooted as she is in the center of an ever changing web of bright gold healing magic she's using to try to keep people's bodies intact and their souls in place, she can't go to her. But if Laxmi can get to her... she might be able to help.

The figure in the center of it all, the possessed, wild-spirited youth, looks up at Rien with uncomprehending eyes. The spirit encircling it, however, the illusion of the horned god, pulls back black lips to reveal sharp teeth the likes of which no deer has ever had. A bear maybe, but no deer. The figure with in cringes, but the creature without swells in size, fur errupting over its body as it transforms into a creature that's a strange amalgam of bull and bear and wolverine. It charges the woman who challenges it.

Laxmi Mallick has posed:
    As Amanda calls out to her, Laxmi's gaze goes to the woman - uncertainty reflected in her expression. "My friend!" she calls helplessly - her song dropping, just for a moment. It's a mistake, and she knows it - she can feel the panic swelling in the minds she's awoken as soon as she allows her control to falter, and she breathes deep to resume her song. "Stay calm!" she urges as she sings. "Stay calm! We can all get out!" She's never had to fight against another will like this, however - and rarely has she tried to project to so many all at once. It's exhausting.
    She gives her friend a desperate look - loathe to abandon her goal of getting her friend away from the tent - but maybe that other woman can help them? Still unaware of the hair continuing to slowly sprout on her own form, Laxmi struggles forward towards Amanda's light - letting out another gasp as one of the wolves ploughs into Jenny, pinning the woman to the floor. What can she do against such a beast?
    She runs towards Amanda now - freed of the burden of dragging her non-responsive friend along. "Help her!" she adds to her song, pointing to where the wolf has her friend pinned - several feet away.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    And with every missed bite, every time jaws snap shut on empty air, that mocking laughter gets just a little louder. Just a little more taunting. The wolves were summoned to claim prey, to feast, to hunt. Animals, demons, half-shadows -- whatever they are, they understand frustration. They understand anger.

    It's not all that long before they start snapping at anything that /might/ be the cause -- and realize only too late that the limb they bit down on belongs to one of their own.

    Instinct takes over; an attack is responded to in kind, and soon enough the whole pack is snarling and tearing at one another while that mocking laughter washes away any attempt at reasserting sanity or control...

Rien D'Arqueness has posed:
Rien's lips pull back into a somewhat feral grin as the spirit charges her, blurring forward to meet it with her claws leading the way. Between her protective spells and healing factor, she's not too worried about herself even if it does manage to hit her at all. She's been fighting demons for decades, so it's rare for her to even get hit, much less badly.

Her claws paint streaks of blue light as they flicker out towards the spirit, feinting and attacking as she tries to take it's measure. In combat, her motion is graceful, controlled and deadly, a perfect example of martial skill.

"I do hope you're actually formidable and not all show. I haven't had a decent workout in a while" she tells it as they jockey for position and trade blows.

Amanda Sefton has posed:
Amanda reaches out a hand for Laxmi as she nears. Her eyes glow with her healing power, woven through the shield spell she's using to try to battle the dark tendrils of transformative magic. Generally, she has to lay on hands to heal, which is why she grabs hold of Laxmi's arm as soon as she can. It's also why, at best, her shield is only slowing the transformations and not actually stopping them. She can't do that without touching everyone. And there are just too many.

But the girl within her grasp? Her, she can help. She closes her eyes briefly, trying to split her concentration between the tendrils threatening to pull half the audience apart and the woman with the counterpoint to that dark siren. For just a moment, she weakens the shield in favour of a pulse of magic over Laxmi to free her from the spell. It means that, for a few hearbeats, the tendrils are free to whip over their prey -- including young Jenny. Amanda can only hope that Kurt is quick enough to have caught the exchange and the cry for help. Perhaps he will bamf in and rescue the girl.

Nevertheless, eldritch fire ripples over Laxmi, painlessly burning away fur and transformative effects. When Amanda opens her eyes, she looks at the singer. "Go find the siren," she tells her. "Shut her up." Then, she lets her go and pours all her energy into trying to regain the ground she's lost.

The wolves end up in a mass confusion. Some continue their efforts to tear their prey from mortal bodies. Others are tangled in fights with one another or snapping at illusions and shadows. They are, in some ways, more dangerous this way... but perhaps less dangerous to the souls slowly becoming unmoored around them.

The bear-creature, whatever it is, proves to be reasonably formidable, yes. The youth within may not be, but whatever this entity is that's possessed the young man, it's got teeth and claws, bulk and strength, and it's not afraid to use them. Rien will find her hands full, for certain. It swipes at her and, even though it bleeds when she attacks it, it does not slow down, it's energy fed by the Siren's song.

The ringmaster, however, he is now beginning to shake free of the magics that have bound him.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    And with the wolves distracted, Natasha is free to shift her focus elsewhere -- the victims still trapped. She can't undo their transformations, but that doesn't mean she can't help at all. She takes a breath and concentrates, reasserting her own reality, breaking free from the illusions to see the environment for what it is... And where the safe areas are to direct people to.

    The forest of shadows starts shifting again, obeying the will of one who calls the shadows home, and paths begin to clear in front of people, leading towards exits or at least safe gathering spots.

Laxmi Mallick has posed:
    Laxmi doesn't reach out for Amanda's hand - years of being trained not to touch others is deeply ingrained. It means that Amanda has to grab the woman's forearm herself - which ellicits a surprised gasp. Her eyes widen as she looks down to towards Amanda's hand - and watches as the fur on her body is purged away. She hadn't even noticed it. She meets Amanda's gaze with wide, grateful eyes.
    As she's urged to find the singer - she cries out in momentary protest. "But Jenny!" Laxmi is not experienced with this sort of chaos - she's just a singer - and it takes a great deal of effort and concentration to keep her voice steady and loud as she continues to weave a counterbalanc, and even attempts to take control of the melody. She gestures Amanda wordlessly towards her friend - but she does indeed turn her attention towards the other singer. With the sound system shut down, she turns her head one way and then another, trying to track down the direction the sound of the voice was coming from. For someone who relies so much on her hearing, it isn't difficult for her to begin following the sound. Doing so while maintaining her singing, and avoiding the snapping wolves, however? Is a bit more of a challenge.
    And every inch of her body is trembling. This is a bit much.

Rien D'Arqueness has posed:
Back and forth along the stage a battle rages between Rien and the spirit that seems to be controlling the chaos. It may be getting strength from the siren, but those enchanted claws were designed for this kind of battle, and if it can be hurt by anything, it's getting a lot of wounds opened up on it. At the same time, she's being careful not to hit the form trapped inside it, having dealt with numerous demonic possessions before. Often, it's not the fault of the host, so eviscerating them is extremely bad form.

Any time she's close enough to one, a set of claws will stab or rake one of the wolf things, as they seem to be the immediate threat to the people trapped in this nightmare. As she passes him at some point, she calls out to the ringmaster, "If you're not part of this, a little help would be handy, I'm a touch busy here."

Once she has a measure of the thing's strength, she can devote concentration to other things while her body goes through the motions of combat. She starts chanting, mystical energy starting to swirl around her as she builds up power. Calling on her extensive training by Clan D'Arqueness, she weaves power into the strongest countermagic she can and then releases it in a burst of silent light, power washing over the interior of the big top in an attempt to dispel the effects in place on the people here.

Amanda Sefton has posed:
"I am working on it," the ringmaster growls as his mouth is finally free of the binding that was upon him. He shakes out his arms and legs, regaining his feet. "Ah, Casius," he says, ruefullness in his voice. "My lad. I did warn you..." He raises his hand and a black staff with a brilliant blue gem on the end appears out of thin air. Mystic energy crackles from it and he brings it down heavily, its base resounding like thunder as it hits the deck of the stage.

As it does, the shadowy trees dispell. The real world solidifies around itself, and the magics both Rien and Amanda weild flare brighter and stronger than they could ever do on their own. The darkness burns beneath the triple enslaught.

Within the twisted form of the bleeding, roaring creature Rien has all but dispatched, the young man cries out in fear and in pain. Rien's blows are effective though, and slicing away his tormentor. Between that and Blackstaff's magic, it is mere moments before the source of all this torment lets out a final roar of frustration and rage. It is consumed in flames both too bright to look at and shadows too dark to see through, leaving the young man sagging down to his hands and knees.

The young siren Laxmi approaches also lets out a gasp of pain as whatever it was that was holding her bound releases. She, too, sags forward, nearly running into the dark skinned young woman as she pitches toward the deck. "You have the Voice," she gasps at her... "I thought I was alone." Poor child.

Kurt is able to rescue several more from the wolves before Blackstaff's magic boosts Rien's banishing and tears the hellish beasts away from their prey. The disappear in shreds of flame and shadow.

Amanda's bright magic, boosted by Blackstaff, burns away the last of the soul stealing tendrils. Transformations melt away, leaving people confused, but largely unharmed as their souls sink back into their bodies.

"A favour, sorceress?" Blackstaff says to Amanda. "I'd prefer people not recall the trauma of this day. And you, I think, have the gift to aid me in that?"

Amanda blinks... "There's too many," she tells him.

He smiles. "Not for me. Not now that I am unbound. And not with your help."

She nods simply then. Together, they cast a calming spell that will ease the memories of those civilians caught in the fray. They will remember the show Blackstaff meant for them to see... not this hellish nightmare. They, at least will sleep easy.

The inadvertent adventurers who tried to defend them all? Perhaps less so.

Even so, when it's all done, Amanda finds herself sinking to the stage, herself. "Damn," she swears softly... "Post-show let down is always so exhausting."

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    ... And as the shadows fall away and reality reasserts itself, it's simple enough for Natasha to come staggering out of a closet that she must have inadvertedly walked into when everyone was hallucinating and disoriented. If anyone questions her later, her story will be little different - and no less coherent - than that of any of the other audience members.

    Her cover should be safe - at least as long as she avoids either that blue-skinned young man or his flying lady-friend. At least, while wearing /this/ face.

Either of them, or both, might be well worth looking into, especially if she wants an explanation of what happened tonight...

Laxmi Mallick has posed:
    As the other singer collapses - Laxmi is once again forced to do what her culture has trained her her whole life to never do - touch another in public. She catches the woman as she falls, a sympathetic and concerned expression on her features. She continues to sing - her song soothing, calming, until it becomes clear the others have things under their control.
    "I'd never thought to wonder if there might be anyone else with a similar gift," she remarks wryly - now couched just in front of the woman, hands perched on her knees. "Are you alright?" She'll help the woman to a chair if she must, then letting out a sight, seek out her friend Jenny. Who - all things considered - seems alright. The relief on her features is obvious. And quite perplexing to her friend.

Rien D'Arqueness has posed:
Once her opponent was no more, Rien takes a moment to look carefully at Blackstaff before retracting her claws. Looking around, she makes sure that nothing remains of the wolves or chaotic spells before kneeling down to check on the young man that the spirit had been controlling. Turning her head to glance at Blackstaff, she asks, "Student of yours, perhaps? He may need a little more work on discipline if he's playing with things like that."

She stands back up, watching as Blackstaff and Amanda work together to modify the memories of the audience (and probably performers as well) to cover up the near-tragedy. She raises an eyebrow, "More practitioners in one place than I would have expected. It's probably a good thing I decided to check out the energy I sensed here."

Once the spell is cast and the people are back to believing they had a good time, she turns back to Blackstaff and asks, "So, what exactly was that? It seems like something to keep an eye on from here on in. I tend to like to know what I'm putting my life on the line to protect people from."

Amanda Sefton has posed:
The young siren is much paler skinned than Laxmi, to be sure. She also has a faintly otherworld quality about her. Something not quite human, though it's hard to put a finger on. "I... will live," she tells Laxmi, giving her a wan but grateful smile as she slowly settles onto the ground to sit and recover. "It will take time."

Blackstaff gives Rien a small, tight smile as he turns from Amanda, who has dispelled all her magic and waits for Kurt to join her once more so they, too, can retreat. "That was a young man with too much ambition, too little skill, and more power than brains playing with things he was expressly forbidden to touch." His dark eyes glitter as he looks to the lad, who even now is being helped away by a pair of silent men in black -- stagehands, perhaps, but with the sense of something more about them. Indeed, the whole sense of the Caravane still shivers with a faint hint of magic. Nothing like it was, but the magic remains. The magic is part of it.

The dark display from this afternoon, less so. Blackstaff does not have a sense of evil about him.

"Cassius will not trouble this place again," he tells Rien. "I promise you, that." He doesn't say what will happen to the young man, mind. If he is his master, then that is his right. Even if he's not, it's clear the Caravane is his demesne, regardless. "Nor will that creature return through fault of any of mine." There's steel in his eye as he says it.

He lets his staff go and it disappears once more into thin air. "I'd invite you to a return performance," he tells the heroes that remain, "a true performance and not this shadowplay. But I would take no offense if you decided not to. I should, however, attend my people and prepare adequate excuse for the postponement of this evening's delights. If you will excuse me..." He gives them a courtly bow, then, and steps back, turning on his heel to head off backstage -- doubtlessly to attend to Cassius and others.

The clean-up has only just begun.