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To illuminate or not to illuminate the menagerie (attn Bard Babe)


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The menagerie was in Cairhien. Viktor couldn't have hid his smile if he had wanted to. Things were going well. They were going well in every possible way. The menagerie was thriving. Customers came by the droves. He had almost more coin than he knew what do with.


It paled in comparison to what really had him smiling. Tensleigh. The lion tamer shared his love. He couldn't have created a more perfect woman for him if he had wanted to. Sure, they had rough times and fights too but who didn't? With a hot blooded woman like that there were bound to be fights. The more heated they were though the more enjoyable the making up was. Sometimes he wondered if she started fights just to make up. It kept him on his toes.


He crossed his arms as he looked over the menagerie setting up their tents. The only thing that could have made it better would be an illuminator. He laughed that thought away. It was foolishness. Illuminators didn't travel with menageries. Actually they kind of went around with an air of superiority that some people found annoying. He wasn't one of them of course, or at least not completely.

A letter came from one of the boys that ran errands around the camp. It was a fancy letter. Viktor opened it and grinned. It appeared one of the Cairhien nobles wanted to hire his men for a special performance for the noble and his guests. It was the kind of work that the menagerie lived for. Performing for the masses had its merits but performing for the rich and powerful alwaysbrought out the best in his acts. It brought out the best in Viktor as well.

His thoughts returned to the illuminators. He had heard the guild was here in the city. He rubbed his chin. His acts would be enough to thrill and entertain the nobles but it wouldn't surprise them. If he could find a way to hire on one of the illuminators he might be able to pull of a night that the nobles would never forget.


With that thought in mind he dressed in his most striking Red shirt with golden accents. He looked and felt good. He practiced his best smile a few times. He worked to make his smile warm and friendly. The kind of a smile a dependable man you could trust would make.


His coin purse was hidden and secured as he made his way into the city. He had known pick pockets and knew how good they could be. He wasn't about to let them get a hold of his purse. As he walked he ran the potential conversation through his head and tried to anticipate any concern or reservation the illuminators might have. They were performers just like his men were. It had to be possible to convince them to work together. It was in the best interest of everyone involved.

He stopped in front of the doors to the guild and took a breath before knocking. It would come down to this.


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Daera frowned at a strand of hair that fell lightly from atop her head. This was delicate work and she didn't fancy getting powder on her anywhere. With one hand holding the tube steady, she used the other to deftly tuck the strand of her behind her ear and under her scarf where it couldn't escape again. Flicking the glass prism back over her eye, she focused her attention back on the tube and the powder and the delicate work she was doing.


Steady hands reached down and a long, thin piece of wood touched the tube ever so lightly...there was a loud banging on the door of her study. Daera's hands held steady, despite her brain jumping with shock as she was wrenched from her concentration. The door opened, but Daera didn't even look away from her work to scowl at the intruder, who wisely remained silent, respectfully watching her work. Her hands carefully completed the delicate work with as much speed as her deft fingers could grant while still being appropriately cautious and efficient. Daera could work fast. That was something that came from being a Chapterhouse Mistress for nearing a decade.


Something else that came with that was the ability to look over at the young man standing at her door with a level stare that was enough to make him look down and shuffle his feet. Marcin was new, the son of one of her most fiery illuminators, but the bluster of the parent didn't seem to have passed down to him, as he was fairly quiet and studious. And obviously feeling rather guilty for interrupting her. "Marcin. You ought to know better than to bash at my door like that. You knew I was doing delicate work." Her tone came out rather motherly, which was hardly surprising. That happened a lot with the younger members.

Marcin blushed. "Sorry Mistress Daera." he murmured.

Daera continued to scowl at him, but got to her feet, removing the glass prism from her eye. "You'll remember next time," she stated. "What did you want me for?"

His blush fading, Marcin straightened up as he realised Daera wasn't going to get angry at him, and replied, "There's a visitor at the front door. He's asking for the leader of the Chapterhouse."

Gesturing towards the nearly finished firework on her desk, Daera nodded and crossed over to her door. "I've nearly finished my newest variation on the Golden Sky Lily. Go and take a look and then close it up for me." she told Marcin, who replied with a shocked face and wide eyes.  "M-me? But-"

Daera merely cocked an eyebrow at him. Marcin was only an Apprentice, but he showed a lot of promise. Nevertheless, being told to finish up the design of the Mistress of the Chapterhouse was daunting. Daera made her tone soothing. "Yes you, Marcin. Don't worry, it's safe, you can't blow yourself up and you can't screw up my design. Off you go."

Swalling audibly, Marcin nodded and moved over to her desk.


Daera left her study and moved through the halls at a reasonably fast pace, taking the time to adjust her head-scarf. She was rather excited about this new Sky Lily, it ought to look amazing now that she'd tweaked the design. As she neared the front door, she ran through their list of engagements, wondering when she'd be able to use her Sky Lily's...


Fard was guarding the door, leaning casually against the wall, and he nodded at Daera as she drew up, turning to go back to his rooms. Daera smiled at him. Fard was a good friend. He'd been one o the first to volunteer to come with her to the new Chapterhouse.


The neatly but extravagantly dressed man at the door was smiling. It looked practiced. Daera raised an eyebrow and fixed him with what the younger members called her Busy look, the one that said that they'd better have a good reason for interrupting her. "Yes?" she asked bluntly.

Edited by The Bard Babe
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  • 2 weeks later...


The word hung in the air. It was a question and a statement. It was a demand to know who in the name of the creator he thought he was to interrupt her busy day. It was an order to get on with it. She expected him to waste as little of her time as possible.

His smile disappeared into a more serious expression. This woman was not one that he'd get anywhere with by smiling, flirting and flattering. He wasn't trying to anywhere of course. He did wake up next to Tens every morning after all. Professional. He was a professional. That would get this woman's response.

“I do not wish to take up much of your time. I understand the demands that weigh on your shoulders. My name is Viktor Remein. I am the owner and ringmaster of the Remein menagerie.” He bowed his head slightly instead of performing the elaborate bow and flourish that would have failed to impress her.”

Viktor continued, “I am in some what of a dilemma. I am set to perform for the local nobles. We do our best to put on the most exciting, spellbinding, shocking acts that anyone has ever seen. We strive to improve and challenge ourselves each day with new tricks and surprises. However, the nobles here have seen the best my men can do. We can make adjustments and change a few of the acts but it will essentially be the same show. They know what to expect from a menagerie. Lions, Tightrope walkers, a strong man, dancers, knife throwers, it goes on and on. The one thing they do not expect, however, would be the kind of an illuminator can put on.”

He paused. She was listening. That was good. She hadn't thrown him out yet or turned away. He could continue talking all day long but sooner or later he'd have to get around to asking to hire an illuminator.

“I am here to hire an illuminator.” He declared with a smile. “The best one of course.” He added as he thought back to the nervous man with trembling hands who had answered the doors. Viktor didn't know much about illuminators but steady hands had to be right up near the top of the list. For a moment he imagined how this woman would look in one of the revealing outfits that his performers wore. He couldn't tell for sure but it looked like she had a nice pair of legs.

His thoughts returned with his eyes to her face. He fell silent as he waited to hear what she had to say. Surely she would not have a good reason to say no, getting paid to spend time with him was a win-win situation after all.

Edited by Arinth
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  • 1 month later...

"I am here to hire an Illuminator. The best one of course."


Daera raised an eyebrow slowly. She had noticed the man's abrupt change in demeanour, but it didn't upset her. On the contrary, she approved of it. Perhaps he was only acting to her tastes, but what did she have to complain about if it meant the conversation went the way she wanted it to? She could easily grow to like a man that understood time pressure and how to deal with a person in many different capacities. He obviously didn't take her for some flighty imbecile inclined to swoon to his flutters and fancies and flattery. He seemed to be offering her a frank display of what she wanted. A man that could read a person and adjust his performance to their needs automatically garnered a smidgeon of respect and a moment of her time, even for just the fact that they weren't inclined to waste it.


So, they wanted an Illuminator. Well he had certainly come to the right place to hire one. But now what to do? Illuminators were not past joining a troupe. Daera herself remembered thinking many times how improved a performance would be with a few decent night-flowers. So why not make that thought a reality? Her Chapterhouse was hardly orthodox anyway. As long as this Remein fellow nor any of his troupe didn't make it into the Chapterhouse then there was nothing Daera could see to deny him his request.


Slowly, she brought her eyes back to the man. "For how long would this engagement be? Are you looking for an Illuminator merely for one show or for a series of shows? Also, when does it start, can they expect to be paid? I'm sure you know your business, rattle me off some details while I consider."

Of course, Daera had mostly already agreed to the arrangement. The man made a point. He would get his Illuminator. The only real matter was who. The details the man then gave her would determine who could go and what level they would need be. Of course a full Illuminator must go, not an Apprentice, but who then should she send?


Daera's mind began whirring through the possibilities as she waited for Remein to begin giving her details.


(OoC: I have more to say here, but I'm going to wait for you to respond before I add it-sorry about the lateness Arinth :s )

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  • 1 month later...

Viktor kept a straight face as she began asking questions. She was clearly open to the idea. He said a quick thank you to the creator for his good looks and sharp dressing. It had never let him down in his negotiations with workers or clients. Well almost never. About sixty percent of the time it worked all the time.


As for the length of the engagement,” he began, “There would be a trial period to see how the crowd reacts to the illuminator. We would want to make sure the illuminator can get along with my family of workers and that they can get along with the illuminator. We would want to make sure it a winning venture by all parties. If the crowd responds to the illuminator and the illuminator works well with everyone they would be welcome to travel with us. They would also be one of my highest paid acts.”


He paused and took a breath. She was still listening. “If nothing else, I would be pleased to hire an illuminator for two shows we are set to perform for nobles while we are here. It would help if you had anyone as attractive as yourself.”


He fell silent as he finished waiting for her thoughts but he was kicking himself inside. There had been a time when he had been able to talk smoothly to women. Now his thoughts and words got all muddled. She probably thought he was some creepy man who made advances on everyone. He had only meant they crowd responded better to good looking performers. He realized he was looking up and down her legs again and snapped them back up. He didn't want to ruin what could be a very golden opportunity.

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Daera nodded at each of Remein's statements. He did indeed know his business. Clever, making sure everyone got along and the crowds reacted well to a new act. A trial period was an excellent idea. There was nothing worse than a bad dynamic between performers. It was almost always noticeable on stage.


Folding her arms under her breasts, Daera considered the man in front of her. He seemed more than competent. She didn't doubt that his menagerie was well run and that he cared for and knew his performers very well, well enough by far to know what they could do and how far they could entertain nobles. Daera also felt for him. It was hard performing what the audience knew was coming. If they weren't surprised, if there wasn't anything new, the performance felt flat, even if every act was fantastic.


But then, if an Illuminator were to go and join a menagerie, to join and perform with a show, why this one?


And also, how did Daera know her Illuminator would be well cared for while travelling? How could she guarantee their pay while they were away from the Chapterhouse? And how would they cope if something happened? If a show went wrong Daera would have to send out a recovery team or go out herself to collect the Illuminator and their wares before any secrets were discovered.


Of course, Daera had many more than capable Illuminators that would be able to handle themselves in a menagerie, and had the skill to perform, but it would still be a very complicated affair without constant communication. The trial period would be very good from her side as well. If her Illuminator enjoyed the shows and Remein's people, and none of those people tried to get any secrets, then Daera couldn't really refuse.


Giving Remein a critical look, she swept her gaze over him once more, raising an eyebrow at his final words and none too subtle eying of her legs. She wasn't sure whether he was trying to be charming or stating it as a statistical fact. Shaking her head sadly, Daera frowned once more at the strand of her that escaped again. The same strand as before, she was sure of it.


She pinned Remein with another critical stare. "Alright, suppose I agree to this. Why your menagerie rather than some other group? And why an Illuminator?"

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  • 5 weeks later...

"Alright, suppose I agree to this. Why your menagerie rather than some other group? And why an Illuminator?"


The illuminator's tone was still firm and commanding as she questioned him but with that statement he knew he had her. They would work something out one way or another. She was interested, too interested to turn down the opportunity, he was almost sure of it.


He maintained his composure and avoided smiling. Too often when he wasn't controlling his expressions he smirked at people. It would not do to ruin the whole proposal at this point.


“My father owned the menagerie before myself. We have traveled the width and breadth of the land for the last twenty years. We have built a a reputation and attract the most talented performers because they know we will take care of them.”


He stopped himself before he got carried away. He could be long winded at times. He was trained to be long winded but this was a different kind of performance.


“As for why an illuminator. You can answer as well as I can. You know how the crowds love your work, how popular you are. If you were to bring your act along with ours we would have a unique show. We would be able to offer what no other illuminator or menagerie could offer by itself.”


He continued, “Now that I have met you I am confident that as business partners we would both prosper. I like your command and composure, your quick thinking and your ability to recognize opportunities and your willingness to take advantage of them.”


He realized he was talking a lot, more than he preferred but she hadn't indicated for him to stop at least. It was time to wrap things up at least. “You are welcome to accompany me back to the menagerie to inspect everything as you please, or if it is more convenient to come by at another time such as this evening or tomorrow just tell them who you are and they will bring me to you. I thank you for your time and consideration.”

Edited by Arinth
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  • 1 month later...

OoC: Again, sorry for lateness, but perfect opening for what I want to do here.  ;p )


Daera nodded curtly. He had provided good reasons. He certainly had a quick and long-winded tongue on him, but she hardly expecting anything else from someone in his profession. "You are welcome.  I cannot leave my Chapterhouse at such short notice, but I may be able to come at another time. I will consider your proposal. Expect me at your menagerie within the next three days. Good day, Mr Remein."


Nodding once more in a brief farewell, Daera allowed the man long enough to respond before she shut the door, right on the border of being rude. Daera was a master of just barely staying on the right side of the line between propriety and blatant rudeness. Her hand remained on the doorknob for a moment after the door had shut. She had said within three days because she didn't want to seem too eager, but in all honesty, her mind was spinning with the implications of having an illuminator traveling with a menagerie. An illuminator traveling alone and without their Guild. An illuminator performing for money. The opportunities that would present! What exposure! What inspiration that illuminator would receive! What money it would bring!


Should they perform for nobles, their illuminator would undoubtedly collect patrons willing to finance the guild, give them as much money as they could possibly desire to buy supplies and create as many new variations and as many copies for new supplies as they could ever think to make.


So then, the question was not whether or not to grant Remein his illuminator, but who would go with him. Nodding to herself, Daera let her hand fall off the knob and spun around to find a small crowd of illuminators behind her. Putting her hands on her hips, she raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips. The eavesdroppers were entirely unrepentant and Daera rolled her eyes. "None of you are going," she declared dryly. Three of them were apprentices, albeit senior apprentices, and of the two remaining, one was a cheeky young man she would never let out of the Chapterhouse if she could help it, and the other was Fard, who was giving her the most knowing grin he had ever displayed.


"But somebody is going, right?" one of them asked.


After debating whether or not to answer for a second, Daera sighed briefly and gave one curt nod, followed by a small, fond grin. “Yes, someone will be going.” Ignoring the babble that rose behind her, she turned tail and walked back to her office to think over her options.


She knew Fard had followed her before she heard the footsteps skipping to catch up with her. She turned her head to the side without breaking her stride, seeing the man slow to match her pace, his hands buried in his pockets. His clever eyes looked over her. "Well?" he prompted.


Sighing, Daera opened the door to her office and gestured him inside, knowing full well he would walk in without an invitation. He grabbed a stool from the corner and swung it beneath his legs, watching her expectantly. “What?” she demanded, going to pour herself a drink.

Fard gave her a look and replied, “I wanna know what’s going through that head of yours. Let’s work up to it. What did you say to the circus boy?”

Pouring Fard a drink as well, Daera stopped up the bottle and handed him his drink. She didn’t allow drink in her Chapterhouse until the storehouses were locked away, due to a great many horror stories about inebriated illuminators playing with half-finished projects. The stories never ended well. That’s why they were having juice rather than wine.


“He’s the ringmaster of a menagerie actually. Vikto Remein,” she corrected as she handed Fard his drink and took a seat. “And I said he could expect me at his menagerie within three days.”

Taking a swallow, Fard added, “And then promptly slammed the door in his face. I liked that bit.”

Daera rolled her eyes, then narrowed them at him over the rim of her glass. “So you don’t think we should be doing business with him?”

Fard shrugged, cocking his head to the side slightly. “I think he’s dodgy, he’s your average, slick and slimy ringmaster of dubious intent and outcome, and no-one in their right mind would agree to deal or travel with him.”

Nodding, Daera made to agree with him, but Fard cut her off. “However, I also think, that you’re far too young to be such an old maid, and it’s about time you did something unexpected and went on an adventure.”

Her eyebrows raising, Daera glared at the old maid comment, but shook her head sadly at the end of the sentence. “I know that I’m sending someone, Fard, but I was planning on sending you, not me. I trust you. You have the skill and the creativity, the imagination and the authority to be our traveling representative. I’ll even go so far as to admit that you have more than enough common sense in you to keep those menagerie louts in line. Besides, I had my adventures. I was given my own Chapterhouse. I have responsibilities here.”

Fard’s response was to make a very rude noise and gesture. “No Daera. You had an adventure. Singular. You were this prodigy, this wonderchild, and then you worked yourself to death. You were given your Chapterhouse as a gift, as recognition of your talent, your creativity, your abilities, and you’ve done a wonderful job with it. No-one could run this Chapterhouse like you Daera, but it was never meant to be your prison.”

Part of Daera ached in sympathy with Fard’s words, knowing them to be true, the part of her that longed for adventure, that ached to be out on the road again. Other parts of her screamed that Fard was wrong. Her adventures were behind her and it was her duty to run the Chapterhouse she had built from the ground up.


“It’s been too long since you made anything Daera. You’re too focused on training kids and looking after people, too busy with deals and paperwork. I used ot love watching you work more than anything. Love watching you create something new, plucking the ideas out of thin air and working and working until your ideas were reality. You haven’t performed for years. It’s time you went on a holiday.”


Daera knew he had her. Fard had known her longer than anyone, and more than anything, she wanted to cave to his desires and leave with the traveling menagerie. He was right, she wasn’t an old maid yet, and the spark of youth still left in her burned for adventure. “But who will look after the Chapterhouse while I’m gone? I have no clue how long I could be gone for-”

Fard’s hand on her shoulder stopped her before she got too far, his teeth gleaming in his winning grin. “I can look after them. I’m skilled and authoritative, remember?” he mocked, repeating her own words from earlier. His expression sobering, he caught her gaze and held it. “I promise you Daera, I won’t let them burn the place down. Everything will be just how you left it when you get back. You need to go with the dodgy circus boy and have an adventure.”


Daera pursed her lips and searched Fard’s eyes. Of the seven that had come with her, she was closest to him and always had been. She did trust him, and she knew he was more than capable of running the Chapterhouse without her. All of the Illuminators respected him and he was second only to her in authority, as well as having significant skill and long years of experience. She knew her qualms about leaving had nothing to do with Fard, and all to do with herself. Nodding, Daera wrestled her keening longing into submission and took the situation back into her control, tucking her stray strand of hair back behind her ear. “Fine then. I will go and inspect his menagerie this evening and providing the conditions are to my liking, I will provide him with an answer tomorrow.”

Fard beamed at her. “Or maybe in a couple of days…just to keep him waiting.”

Daera allowed herself to grin back at him. “Perhaps. We’ll need that time to sort everything anyway. I’ll have to confirm it with Tanchico, and teach you how to run this place. Remember that you brought it on yourself.”


Fard simply grinned and Daera couldn’t help but to respond in kind. She was going on an adventure.


A few hours later, Daera arrived at the menagerie and waited until someone approached her. “Would you fetch Viktor Remein, dear? I’m here for the tour.”

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  • 1 month later...

Within the next three days she had said. Viktor felt like he was walking on a cloud. The woman did not want to appear too eager but he knew she recognized an opportunity when she saw one. It was going to be a partnership that would make both of them rich. He rubbed his hands together gleefully.


He arrived quickly back at the menagerie and instantly sent for Tens. He couldn't contain himself he had to share the news with her. It was all done but the official acceptance from the woman when she visited. All formalities which he respected. They were necessary.


When Tens arrived he took her hands in his and kissed her. “I have brilliant news.” He started before she could take control of the situation and start asking questions. “I was thinking this morning that we needed a new act. I was thinking that our menagerie was lacking a certain something. Then I had a stroke of genius and realized what it was we needed, an Illuminator! And so I went to their chapter house and talked to the master there and have arranged for her to come inspect the menagerie and if it is to her satisfaction we will have our very own Illuminator traveling with us. Can you imagine how wonderful that will be?” He kissed her again when he stopped. He found that kisses always helped when there was the chance that she would be less than positive about a situation.


They talked about it and he told her how he had visited and what the illuminator had been like and anything else he could think of. He didn't want her to be jealous. She was a lion tamer after all. He did not need to wake up with an actual lion in his bed.


“Uh Viktor?” One of the workers called as he approached. “There is a woman here. She says she is here for some kind of tour. She asked for you specifically.”


“Ah yes thank you. Tell her I will be right with her.” He turned to Tensleigh. “She must be as eager as we are to close this. If you are not too busy come let me introduce you. I like to put my best foot forward and if I am to show her the menagerie you are the best thing to start with.”


He hurried to meet the illuminator. He called out to his workers to stay sharp and put some urgency in their step as they went about their jobs. There was a buzz around camp that he thrived on. It was like a pulse that made him feel alive.


“Ah welcome. You have made it. I am pleased to see you. Come, come let us begin. There are many things to see if you want to get the full impression. There is the wirewalker, the strong man, the knife thrower, the lion tamer, the jugglers, the acrobats.” He kept talking as he took her around the camp. He showed her each act in turn as the performers went through their routines and practiced.


When they were done he turned to her. “Please have dinner with us. Tensleigh and I would love to have you for dinner. We can work out all the details if you've made up your mind or address any concerns if you have any remaining.”

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OOC: I haven’t written in months; maybe even a year, so I’m sorry that this is really rusty! I promise I’ll get better as I go :smile:. TBB, Arinth asked me to come back and join you guys, so I hope it's okay! If not, let me know and I can delete the post.




Thin black strands ran down from the top of the acrobatic perch. It secured the net underneath, just in case. A workman tugged on the ropes, ensuring the stability before he faded into the shadows. Though the sun blazed brightly overhead, the heavy fabric of show tents created a fabricated twilight. A dual purpose, the dimmer light enabled show staff to focus brighter ‘spotlights’ on the performers as well as aiding the trickier performers with their sleight-of-hand tricks. Atop the right most perch, a diminutive girl in a sparkly white outfit readied herself to fly. Tomorrow evening would be her first time to perform and she wanted to embody perfection. After receiving a nod from her partner, atop the other tower, she let out a deep breath and pushed off.


Far beneath her, standing upon the ground, another woman practiced for the upcoming show. She wore a pair of mens black pants that Irene had altered to fit her long legs closely and a white man’s dress shirt, the tails tied about her waist. Dark golden curls exploded from a black ribbon at the nape of her neck. She spoke confidently, her voice loud even on the perches above. A black whip hung at her side, but if one were close enough to see, there was a thin layer of dust atop the coiled rings. Though it was betimes necessary, Tensleigh hated to use fear or pain as motivation. Rather, she used a mutual respect and caring, and always an air of strength – as Bo had taught her long ago. She voiced a sharp command and all three lions roared on cue, drops of saliva dripping from their white canines to the dusty floor below.


The sound of clapping drew her attention and she motioned for the felines to relax. Long ago she’d developed a system of nonverbal communication with the cats. It was something all animal trainers in any good menagerie developed. And this wasn’t merely a good menagerie; it was great. The lions were all too happy to relax, each dropping off the stand they’d been on. Lavi, the largest male, immediately started grooming; licking down errant hairs on his back. The other two huffed for a moment before closing their eyes. The sound of rumbling filled the nearly empty tent.


Tensleigh frowned into the darkness and lifted a hand to shield her eyes from the spotlight. Hue strolled toward her, clapping slowly and whistling appreciatively as he eyed her up and down. She dropped her hand back to her hand and rolled her eyes. “Don’t you have something better to be doing?” she chided, turning back to lions. The poleman kept clapping until he reached the edge of the ring. Then he stood and stared at her. Though not frightened of the cats, he was wisely wary. He stayed out of the center circle, his eyes occasionally darting over to them before settling back on the tamer. Tensleigh sighed, refusing to play into his little game. Instead, she lapsed back into her performance steps. She walked to the other side of the ring to bow and then held her hands out to the lions as if to encourage audience applause. When he made a comment about testing her ferocity she shot him a glare and told him to move along. He laughed, but turned on his heel and strolled toward the entrance without looking back. It was maddeningly attractive and irritating at the same time. Despite it being an obvious ploy for Viktor’s attention, Hue had never forgotten Tensleigh’s flirtation with him a year ago. In fact, after his growth spurt five months ago, he’d somehow gotten the notion that he was the one she was supposed to be with. It was lucky for him that she was used to unrequited attention. If she were to tell Viktor, the poleman would be out of the menagerie faster than he could rig a tent.


Urging the lions back into their large, rather lavish cage, Tensleigh nodded to Uri that she was done. The harker nodded and ran off with the news that the ring was open. With a big performance tomorrow night, no doubt several acts would be itching to practice. They had been in Cairhein for four days now, but tomorrow would be the first time any of the major Houses attended. They’d all sent letters of course, each more cryptic than the last. Some had even requested a private performance of the lions, as they’d heard she had performed for the Queen of Andor privately. Viktor was still considering how much to charge for those.


The sunlight caught her off guard as she walked back to her cabin. She’d been in the tent for hours now; helping others with their performance before practicing her own. Tensleigh had always considered the menagerie hers, in the sense that was where she belonged, but since she and Viktor had started dating, she now more solidly considered it hers, in the sense of ownership. Not that she was above the rest of the performers, but she felt more a responsibility to aid them in whatever way possible to ensure their acts were brilliant. Although there had been a sense of awkwardness between her and the rest of the group when she’d begun dating Viktor, it had thankfully mostly dissipated.


Toying with a loose strand in her – Viktor’s – shirt, Tensleigh didn’t notice the note on her door until she was practically inside. T- Vik needs to see you. – N The lion tamer laughed at Nico’s succinct note and went off toward Viktor’s cabin. She spent more time there than in her own anyway. If I didn’t need all the space for my show outfits, I’d suggest getting rid of mine, she thought to herself. And then stopped in her tracks for a millisecond. Would I really? Biting her lip, Tensleigh considered the thought as her feet carried her to the ringmaster’s wagon. Was it as big a step as it sounded?


She no longer knocked when entering his cabin. Viktor sat on his bed, though he stood when she entered. There was a feverish light in his eyes; his body hummed with excitement. She opened her mouth to ask, but he gathered her hands and kissed her before she could form any words. Smiling against his mouth, Tensleigh leaned into his body and returned the sentiment. “I have brilliant news,” he said when he pulled away, launching into a rapidfire idea about hiring an Illuminator and his meeting at the Chapter House. She made an effort several times to speak, but he was talking so fast and was so excited that she closed her mouth and listened. She wondered, for a fleeting moment, if he would notice how quiet she had remained during the entire story. If he ever had any doubts about her feelings, that should quiet them. Tensleigh had never been one to remain quiet. Ever. He kissed her again once he finally drew a breath and she felt torn between laughing and knocking him upside the head.


She mulled over the thought of an Illuminator as Viktor continued to hold the lion’s share (ha) of the conversation. It could assuredly add coins to the coffers and audience to the seats, but would it upset the balance of the sect? Illuminators were notoriously secretive and the performers were a close knit unit. The menagerie itself was like a small town. Everyone knew everyone’s business and all were happier – and unhappy – for it. They didn’t take well to new members, or secrets. That had been part of the reason she’d been shunned when news of her and Viktor broke. Secrets don’t make friends in the company. She sighed and undid the ribbon at her neck. Golden curls bounced free and she attempted to brush a hand through them. Viktor finally quieted and looked at her with a question in his eyes. Now that she was finally able to speak, did she want to voice her concerns? He looked like a little boy on his naming day.


Saved by the visitor, she thought as one of the men called out Viktor’s name. Tensleigh stepped away from Viktor so he could attend to the Illuminator. She smiled at his enthusiasm. As he bounded down the steps, the ringmaster turned to her, still standing in the doorway of his wagon, “She must be as eager as we are to close this. If you are not too busy come let me introduce you. I like to put my best foot forward and if I am to show her the menagerie you are the best thing to start with.” Tensleigh barked a little laugh at his sentiment and then followed him to meet the woman. At least he knows what he has, she thought, her hand light in his as they walked across the open spanse between the wagons and tents.


Electing not to join them on the tour, the lion tamer instead went to discuss a new combination act with the acrobats. She'd had the thought this morning during their simultaneous practices. Although rusty, Tensleigh had trained as an acrobat for years when she was younger. Being nimble on her feet had saved her more than once from an errant claw. She'd sketched out some possible movements with the quintet before excusing herself to go find Viktor for dinner. They had made plans earlier in the week to have a quiet dinner together as performances had taken up much of their time while in Cairhein, and looked to do so in the future as well. She even changed into a dress, something she didn't wear often - loose clothing didn't work well when in close quarters with lions - and attempted to tame her curls. She spotted Viktor and the Illuminator standing near his wagon, discussing details in the twilight no doubt. Strolling up to them, the control with which she schooled her features would have impressed an Aes Sedai. The lion tamer maintained a smile as she heard Viktor requested the woman join them for dinner.


He'd pay later.

Edited by keyholder21
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  • 3 months later...

Daera felt herself relaxing as she was rushed around the menagerie by its excitable owner. Certainly, she could build herself a base here. The slight flair for the dramatic which had allowed her to be such a talented Illuminator flared into life at seeing the giant tent and the various acts, and she was suddenly very glad that it was her who was going, not anyone else.


The tour complete, Daera was more than satisfied with the quality of the establishment. She certainly didn't want her Guild represented in a place with even a hint of a bad reputation, but the menagerie had passed her first inspection. It was clean. The people seemed perfectly healthy specimens, as much as people could be, and the animals seemed happy. The group seemed harmonious and well-balanced, they appeared to have a pleasant community, and Daera was glad to see it. Too often she had to deal with disputes between wool-headed men and boys too big for their britches, and that went without mentioning the women, scratching and sneering and worst of all swooning. It was pleasant to see a community which functioned well and seemed to produce a good quality result on top of it. Too often good results and a good working environment were mutually exclusive.


The lion tamer, a beautiful woman Remein had introduced as Tensleigh, approached in clothes notably more noticeable than she had been wearing previously. To Daera's feminine eyes, it was obvious she was out to impress, out to stun, and Remein, her apparent partner, was the obvious target. Daera smiled as the woman closed the distance between them. She heard the tail end of Remein's final excited phrase, his invitation to dinner, and though she kept an admirable facade of a smile, Daera saw straight through to the botched dinner date beneath. Immediately Daera knew she was in a difficult situation. She was the Illuminator to join the menagerie, which meant she should really make an attempt to get along with the current staff. True, she was hardly one to take bad behaviour from anyone, but it certainly couldn't hurt to start off on the right foot. Besides, it had always been Daera's job to smooth things over, not make waves, and she was fortunately quite well equipped to deal with such a conundrum.


Sending Tensleigh a small smile that was the equivalent of rolled eyes between women, Daera nodded curtly at another of Remein's eccentric swathes of words, and was pleased that he sensed to finish speaking and let her talk. She could see his eyes gleam with the shine of a business man closing a deal. "Thank you for the tour, Remein, it was quite enjoyable. However, the discussion we have remaining ought not to take up enough time as to warrant interrupting your meal. I am more than happy to set my conditions right here, and give you the night to think them over."

If Tensleigh seemed shocked, she didn't show it. Daera kept talking. "The menagerie seems to be well maintained and the people and animals seem happy, so of course I have no objection with the living conditions my Illuminator would endure."

She paused, pursing her lips slightly at the man's brief, beaming grin. "However, there are some serious rules to go with taking an Illuminator on as part of the crew. They will, of course, be under very serious instructions not to reveal any Guild secrets, as you well know. However, your employees are also under obligation not to seek them out. Curiosity is all good and well, but too much of it will certainly injure somebody and betray the Illuminator's Guild."


Remein seemed suitably cowed, judging by the fact that he wasn't trying to speak, but Daera sensed that he had expected these stipulations. So she continued. "There are rules that come with an Illuminator, Remein, which your employees must follow. First and foremost among them is that of secrecy, which will require my Illuminator to have a private place to work and a guarantee that they will not be interrupted without due cause. However, of equal importance are the rules which keep everyone safe. No-one may stand within the range of an Illuminator's work. No-one may enter their tent with a naked flame. No-one but the Illuminator may touch their wares, and any ingredients they ask for must be provided without question or tampering. Also, perhaps most importantly, no alcohol is to be consumed within three hours of the Illuminator's performance, or within reach of any of their wares. These are my conditions."

Daera certainly hoped they were, as they were only the most basic of rules. Once she joined officially and set herself up, there would be a great many more rules added to that list, but as long as everyone agreed and obeyed those basic safety tenets, then she could agree to the deal. "I will add, that if you do not agree, or any of these rules are broken, then my Illuminator comes directly back to Cairhien, and you are paying for their trip." If for any reason, Remein did not agree over some intellectual or moral qualm, then the threat of money ought to clear his head.


Giving another curt nod, Daera added a few final words, keen to get back to the Chapterhouse and start working on a project which was already forming in her mind. "I understand you have a show tomorrow night?"

At Remein and Tensleigh's nods, she continued. "Excellent. I'll come again tomorrow night with my Illuminator and we can deal with the final arrangements if all is agreeable."

Daera waited for the polite response and turned to show herself out. She couldn't help but throw one last cheeky comment over her shoulder, as she remembered Fard's insistence that she enjoy herself, not merely make another business deal. "Also, you might want to be ready to bring the crowds in an hour or so before your show."

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