A look into the Carnival of Mysteries, a peek into the life and love of Anthorne.
As Dreams Begin…
It began as a dream, from some stupor of drunken words trailing into conversation betwixt a madam with little to lose and a man with so much needed. He had a fine bit of brew, she a way with the heart. But a brothel with drinks easily could be found anywhere, and they had such evils trailing after them in the dung hole of a village.
Some things broken could never be fixed, and faced with a future of forced marriage and the oblivion of two children with a rare chance their misdeeds would not darken the lily of their lives, they accepted the aid of a stranger.
From the edges of their village, a cursed man hidden in hoods and draped in rags would come in for a bit of meal and supplies. He remained ever at the edges, visiting so rarely to become a legend or old tale to frighten children.
To say they did not know the spindly fool did not make him so strange as the odd colors that bled through clothing that covered flesh. No matter how he laid layers of beige, they shifted in tone and hue. Indigo chasing the sun, daisies splotched by a nymph’s tears, so many varied ideas that could cause the colors to form beyond simply…madness.
He was the first mystery.
Fallen from a grace ill afforded by one such as he, the once courtly jester of a small ragged clan of Raksha was tossed out into exile. A bitter chill into a world devoid of the imaginative shocks one such as he needed. Among them, he had another name, that too stripped away. Nothing left but the colors. Memories of shades that slowly melted from his flesh into ruddy cloth, threatening to drizzle into earth hungering for more graves. The limitless end all were heir to. But the couple had dreams of a future far from the village. And from them, sunsets bloomed in his eyes, and from him into their minds. A spiral of adoration and intrigue. They wanted to see the world. He wanted to escape this prison.
His offer was the second mystery.
And so the first steps of the Carnival of Mysteries began, giving the fallen jester identity.
They started simply, a dancer, a brewer, and a hidden gem. Town to town, they danced and served brews, their exiled friend crafting costumes and making festive mugs. Such a touch of tales laid in him that they urged him from the shadows, giving him the name Anthorne.
His mask was the third mystery.
The thin layer of painted cloth kept him a secret as he wove tales, spinning words into a song for the lady to dance to. The brews slid down cold, their hearts warmed, and jade spilling into a coffer always close to empty. A new girl joined, then a lad that had a flare for flipping lit torches. The caravan expanded, taking in another small group of merchants to travel a circuit. A wood carver, a tailor, a blacksmith. Their children crafted acts to supplement their supplies as parents worked the day. Soon tents joined their wagons, freshly painted in bright colors.
Roads lured them further, stretching from simple villages to the edges of the Hundred Kingdoms. Here they gained renown and Anthorne found a family.
The Carnival of Mysteries moved deeper into the Hundred Kingdoms, collecting the wayward, trading a few members of the caravan for those with true potential. More dancers, card readers, strong men and women, games of chance, the strange and beautiful, and a gift. For here, Anthorne was not to strange but welcomed, his touch awakening senses more than the drugs provided. This was the seat of opium, rare drugs, and a gateway to vice.
The Guild and empires from every corner sought connections. To soothe the impatient, the carnival found work and far more jade to enhance their acts and expand on the quality. Anthorne received beautiful clothing, fine jewelry, and a place to find his voice. Every behind a mask, yet before the world to see him.
Lithe in form, bent in stature, dreamy in ideas, and exotic in countenance, he answered the deepest needs of the warlords and their customers. Finally he knew what he wanted…the stage. This constant opportunity for change, story, and revelry. And in this place, he made a true friend likewise wrapped in masks.
Finding His Voice
His friend was the fourth mystery.
Ragged dark hair, sky blue eyes with hints of clouds, a smile to warm the spirit, and a power of playing upon the lute to rival ancient masters, Sinclair the bard befriended Anthorne. He accepted all the beauty and danger, the nightmares and dreams, for he too was an exile of the Raksha.
They shared tales and drinks, engaging others with their storytelling, and finally traveling together. They found their footing, acceptance, and an appreciation for Creation and all of her amazing people, places, and things. Many tavern tales and shanties were born of their trips, changed by others as they claimed them. The pair knew the truth.
When parted, Sinclair told Anthorne he saw greatness and a coming change. And Anthorne helped him find the courage to touch and welcome others into his life. Still to this day, they hold a keen friendship.
The World Shifted
For years, through numerous journeys, the carnival grew in size, quality, and prestige. Along the coasts, through towns and cities, Nexus to the Lap, they made a name for themselves. A brothel of special ladies and gents, games of danger and chance paired with the fantastic brews, merchants of finery, dancers beyond compare, and his own tent of marvelous places.
Until finally, in a fantastic journey to seek new lands, Anthorne came across the greatness once hinted at by the bard Sinclair. Along the northeastern coast to seek the far north, he came across a simple lady with true potential.
Mother and daughter were his next mystery.
A pair named after trees had dreams much like the first members, long since dead and enchanting ghosts of Sijan, met the masked talespinner. Mother Sage had strong limbs from working rice fields. She could bend in fascinating forms, muscles capable of lifting and tossing, holding a position for ages endlessly. Her young daughter Juniper loved to dance, strong as her mother yet lively with ideas and seeking the world.
Sage sought the caravan as it passed, wishing to give her daughter a chance for something greater and leaving her in their care. Before the dancers and their leader, she urged Juniper to dance and twist, to perform. But the child only fell to nerves. Anthorne knew they needed to live together. Taking a chance, he welcomed the Sage and Juniper to perform together, making a dance of their rice farming and love for each other. And together they bloomed to life!
Their fluid movements, the simplicity of curve, and kinship stirred the camp and ushered them into the group with cheers. As years passed, mother and daughter mirrored their steps, moving through the crowds then upon the central stage in fanciful dances. Where Sage brought simplicity and strength, Juniper became a bold and wild wind, unwilling to be held back and blustering forward.
Light From Above
As years passed, the majesty of the carnival expanded into a formal troupe welcomed by the Guild, kingdoms, major cities, and simple folk across the lands. At its height, the Sun graced a member with power…Sage awoke in splendor.
Traveling in the east, Sage and a few members of the troupe took a separate trip away from the group, meeting old members of her family in her home village. Walking among the rice fields, seeing the small huts and cookfires in the distance, she considered staying. Her daughter had a strong future, a life of her own, safety and security. And she felt age coming in joints and limbs, remembering the peace of work and sleep with her mother and father.
As the last rays of sun glimmered on waters in the rice fields, it caught in her eyes and filled her mind. A pillar of light burst around Sage as she felt every ache melt away. Strength returned, but with it the keen eyes of hunters in the distance. Anthorne felt the shift and change, danger crackling down his spine like a lightning bolt. The cries of people, the fires of fields, all in the direction of his own members and a village they visited a few times in the past. The home of Sage and Juniper.
Rushing together, gathering those willing to aid within riding distance of their camp, Anthorne and Juniper pushed through to see the burning of buildings. The popping of rice sounding like fireworks. The splash of colors and powers clashing in a night darkened by death and char pulling them closer.
Fear froze Anthorne in place. Exalts of the sun and earth battled. Juniper caught up a hoe from the village, seeking the explosions of light and sear of flame. Spurred into action, the carnival lord followed crying out her name and expressing caution. They arrived as blades pierced through Sage, burning with the rage of the Unconquered Sun, killing her after fierce battles.
It felt to all as if the sun itself fell upon the land, causing all to close their eyes, throw up there arms and fall back. As Sage cried her last, Juniper screamed her first, lifting the farm tool aloft, the blazing shard left the mother and emblazoned her child! The hoe became a spear of light, leaving her hand and impaling the murderers.
Nothing remained but a burned village…a charred place where a small group of the Wyld Hunt and Sage died…and the glowing form of Juniper.
She became their mystery.
Something Taken and Given
Anthorne felt tears stream down his face, the masks torn asunder, his skin searing as he cradled Juniper in his arms. This memory would tear her apart, regardless of how he unraveled in the radiance of the Sun. This would not be her burden. It would be his.
With care, he pulled the memories from her mind, a delicate ravaging to collect what she saw, wrap it in tethers, and keep it in himself. Whispers fell from the storyteller, giving her a vision to embrace. A mother left to live her final days among family. A tragedy of a village. Her rushing forward to aid those people. The Sun claiming her for his own, giving power to stop the terrible attacks and pushing back the forces.
Nothing of death, of misery, of horror.
He became her mystery.
From this day forward, their lives became entwined. Cowled until healed, Anthorne finally met with the girl to test her memory. It held. Unto her hands, he entrusted an ancient blade hidden with him. Hopefully…that man would not return seeking it!
The day had come though…one he had feared yet welcomed. He gave her the truth of himself as a Raksha. He loved her more than himself. And he would forever be her friend.