Changeling: The Long Winter

Cirque du Rivalry

“Mr. Tomfoolery came out to play, He knew just what to say: Come one, come all: do not delay – ”

She stopped short, her skirt waved against the back of her ankles with the abrupt stop but settled again with one more minor sway. The girl tapped her boot, a habit of hers whenever she was deep in thought. A lock of jagged tabby orange hair was huffed away from her yellow eyes, and she pursed her little mouth.

“Come one, come all,” she adjusted the brown bags of groceries in her arms, “do not delay,” she sighed. “Dammit,” the girl growled and deposited the bags on the ground. The dirt path leading through the woods, away from the tiny Willow village was a perfect place for a rest anyway.

Grumbling, she rubbed against a tree to fix an itch on her back and slumped slowly to the ground. A tabby orange tail thumped by her thigh, the tip curled up and down lazily as she fished an apple out of one of the bags. “Come one, come all,” and the sight of the ruby red apple paused her thoughts in their tracks. “Mmm,” she grinned widely, and revealed small white teeth, most of them pointed. Just as she was about to take a bite, there was a snap behind her.

“Hyuh?” The girl was to her feet, apple in one hand, and a knife swiped out of its scabbard in the other. The blade was plain, though possessed a slight shade of blue. The hilt was wrapped in leather straps, a couple pieces dangled on the end, capped by red beads. Her nose twitched as she sniffed the air, and pointed, furry ears perked from under unruly, thick orange hair.

Another snap, and fast moving foot falls through the woods. Someone was running from her, but why? This was not the first time members of her traveling show had been harassed, but the girl was determined to make it the last. Mr. Tomfoolery would be proud! Perhaps he would give her a can of sardines for her troubles. She dashed into the woods, and knocked over the grocery bags as she went. The apple was tossed over her shoulder as she ran, her feet were a bounding blur as she dodged trees, skirted around bushes, cleared ditches, and pranced over roots. Not much further and she could see the source of the noise. A running man in ragged clothing, shedding feathers as he went. She growled happily, and increased her speed. She jumped for a tree, and bark trickled to the ground as she pushed off and landed in front of the escaping man.

He was tall, a wiry looking fellow. A pointed nose, very pronounced on an angular face with peacock blue eyes, framed by feathered brows and a mane of black and green feathers. He wore a long jacket, and when he moved feathers would shake free and litter the ground around his black boots. He peered at the girl who had just whipped a second knife free off the thick belt wrapped around her hips. She was low to the ground, a lioness about to pounce. A smirk spread along his thin black lips.

“Miss Kit Nine-Lives, funny catching you here.”

“I smelled you a mile away, heard you take your first step this morning. You should know by now, Jonesy, that you can’t pull one over on Kit.”

“So, you’re in Mr. Tomfoolery’s show after all.”

“Spare it, Jones. What do you want?”

“I was sent by my employer Barry Barnat of Barnat’s Barbarics. Turns out your Mr. Tom is muscling in on his turf, taking his audience.”

“That horse and pony show? Jones, you’ve stooped so low.”

“It’s a living. Besides, I am happy.”

“Liar,” Kit winked. “Tell Barry Barnat of Barnat’s Barbarics to take a walk,” she slowly went to her feet, and spun the daggers back into their scabbards. “We’re shufflin’ off soon anyway, my little tweety bird.”

“So soon?”

“Yeah. We got more important places to be. We got a date with King Meilge, if you know what I mean.”

“Now who’s a liar,” Jones snorted, his feathers ruffled. “You sure it has nothing to do with the bandit attacks recently?”

“Bandits schmandits. I got the cure for what ails ‘em,” she drummed her fingers on the hilts of her daggers. “It’s true though. Meilge himself came to the camp, he came with Red Branch knights and poured his best and oldest wine for Mr. Tom. They spoke all through the night. Joking, laughing, reminiscing.”

“What a clever Trevor you are, Pretty Kitty,” Jones coo’d. “Nice to know you’ll be close by.”

“Hyuh?”

“You don’t think that Meilge would honestly limit his festivities to one, pathetic band of jugglers, do you?”

Kit hissed, her upper lip crawled back to reveal those sharp teeth. “Watch your beak, Jonesy.”

“No, he wants nothing but the best for his little girl and her boy wonder king.”

“I’ll have your wings for breakfast!” Kit launched herself at him, but with a little hop he was sitting on a high branch above her, dangling his narrow feet. “That was our gig! I ain’t sharin’ the spotlight with a squawky parrot!”

“But under David we are all equal, yes! We may perform together, live together,” he stood poised on the branch, his feet curled around the girth of the limb, “maybe even die together, Miss Nine-Lives. So long as I live and breathe, Pretty Kitty, I will take any chance I am given. You should not turn your nose up to opportunity. It’s better than a quick buck; it’s priceless.” He flicked a wave her way. “Ta!”

Kit watched him bound through the trees, leaving nothing behind but the shaking leaves and recovering branches. She narrowed her eyes, her tail flicked angrily as her ears folded back.

“Mr. Tomfoolery came out to play, He knew just what to say: Come one, come all: do not delay Once is the only time we pass this way.”

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