♕ The Reign ~ [The Roleplay Thread] ♕

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Ashton Bál | Ashreaper

Ashton lazily rolled his eyes with weak smile as the sailor wrapped an arm around his shoulders, letting go as he conversed with the darker haired female. Or tried to, the ringleader instantly responding for her which Ashton gave another glare to paint his face, still disliking the cadence of the tall woman and how she treated her peers. Washing the distasteful look away with a swig of his beverage. The ringleader's words had a certain praise to her voice as she spoke of her "sister" and consequently, her circus. Ashton glanced around to the other occupants of the pub, some curious ears perked heads at the sounds of her words, searching for weaknesses in the ringleader's world. Of course, it wouldn't be too hard to find when she and many others of her party continuously gave it out like candy. The ashreaper knew people would stoop low enough to go after her "family", he'd even take a bite out of them if it came to it, but he wasn't sure if that little fact was flying over the female's head, or if she truly thought her people could survive until the victors crowned. Ashton had no doubts that her people could hold their own in a fight, but for how long, and how long would they be willing to tolerate it.

"-This is Malik and..." The ringleader spoke eyeing him. The action pulling a bored and unimpressed look from the Ashreaper before he straightened his posture and lightened his expression.

"Ah, that's right, we haven't been properly introduced. Ashton, and you my lady?" He spoke, bowing his head to the ringleader and her "sister". He held his hand out to the tall female, although his palm faced upwards, it wasn't quite an invitation to shake it, more a gesture for the ringleader to return the introduction.

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Arcana |Circus Ringleader/Performer|
"Ah, that's right, we haven't been properly introduced. Ashton, and you my lady?" The sly man asked, extending a hand outwards in an invitation to return the greeting. 
"Arcana." The Ringleader answered wryly and briefly, returning what she interpreted as distaste with a bored expression. 
She took for the first time, a long moment to appraise the man. He kept his dark hair closely cropped, framing his squared features. A feeble attempt at decency had been made with a jacket adorning his arms, covering his skin. Arcana herself had made no such attempt and still remained in her flashy circus garb which only seemed to draw even more attention. 
Another thing Arcana picked up on, was that he was a kindred spirit. Her days in the slums lead her to recognize the signs of a fellow street rat. Someone who had faced hardship and come out stronger for it, marred by cynicism and seemingly fallen out of love with the world. 
In all honesty, Ashton was just the kind of lost soul Arcana was notorious for bringing home. And yet, he had to be so insufferably smug that even Arcana had to cover her disdain.  
Instead a soft smile blossomed across her face, as another thought struck her. "I am glad you are here to challenge me."
What Arcana meant by that was incredibly obscure although entirely genuine  She could have been referring to the ongoing competition.  Or she could have been referring to his vocal bluntness in calling her out. Any number of things really. 
But the ring leader refused to elaborate and instead pulled her gaze from him, turning her attention towards the rest of the group. 
The tankard she had been nursing during that encounter had half depleted. Setting it down onto the bar before them, she tilted her head.  "So, you boys aspire to the throne." Her tone took on a more coy lilt to it. "I'm curious," she held up a finger, "as a ruler, is it better to be loved or feared by your people?"
 
~~~~~
 
There was a soft clamor within the circus tent as three figures anxiously stumbled towards one of the tents on the far edge of the encampment.  It was followed by a loud thud as a boot snagged on a stake, and the owner of the shoes toppled over.
 "Be quiet!" A woman of dark Ebony hair hissed, her tone hushed and sharp.
"It's these stupid dam.ned stakes." The boot owner challenged, his hair a wild mop of curling brown.
The third paused behind them, another woman of light colored hair and dark skin. "Shh!"
"No, you shh!" The man challenged, picking himself up from the ground. 
While the spoke in whispers, they were fairly loud and quite obnoxious. All three of them paused to stare at the tent in perplexion
"Well, go ask her!" 
The man grunted as the ravenette harshly shoved him from behind, pushing him towards the tent.
"What?! Why me?!" The man whispered back loudly,  stumbling backwards. 
"Because you're the dumbest." The light haired woman replied. 
The man rolled his eyes. "She's a witch. Like a literal actual witch."
"You don't really believe in that stuff," the blonde chided, "do you?"
"I don't see you volunteering." The man snapped back. 
The ravenette crossed her arms. "I don't wanna get turned into a frog."
"And you think I do?!" The man gwaked wide-eyed at Jadia's tent 
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Ashton Bál | Ashreaper

"Glad to step up to the challenge" Ashton sang, a coy smile on his face as he raised his drink to his lips. Finishing the third cup within moments before he turned to catch a barkeeper's attention, setting the cup in front of him as one came near.

"Tankard of mead, please" He cooed, flipping a gold coin towards the other man and receiving another cup in return. Although larger than his first.

"So, you boys aspire to the throne. I'm curious, as a ruler, is it better to be loved or feared by your people?" Arcana hummed.

"Fear only causes riots and treason throughout the kingdom at worst, or the people won't tell you anything wrong with your kingdom at best" Ashton absentmindedly answered, his eyes lazily inspected his drink before he drank it.

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Malik Nerio | Merchant & Demitri Lockehart | Librarian

[Malik Nerio | Merchant]

Malik cocked an eyebrow at the exchange of coins between the two women. There was clearly some sort of bet being had. Though with no swapping of words accompanying the material tradeoff, the merchant had little context as to what the wager had been for.

"Careful there, sailor," Arcana warned lightly. "This one is more likely to eat you alive than even I."

While several teasing comments came to mind, Malik bit them back as to allow Arcana to commence the introductions. If the revelation that the two women were related surprised the sailor, he did not outwardly show this. Nonetheless, Malik had still had not been expecting it; the women did not appear too physically similar in appearance, most of all due to their hair colors falling at opposite ends of the color spectrum. But whether they were blood-related or not, the merchant did not pay much mind.

As Ashton dryly acknowledged Arcana, Malik allowed himself to focus on downing his new refill courtesy of the ringleader's coin. While the merchant would not pass up any free drink paid for by someone else, he would most likely explore something else on the menu once he was paying for himself again, still not finding the ale to quite appeal to his taste.

Finishing the mug, Malik rested his chin in his hand, half-listening to Ashton's answer to Arcana's theoretical inquiry.

"Brandwine?" Malik inquired of the bartender. He was not sure if the tavern would have the distilled beverage on its own, since usually water was quickly added back after being delivered to bars to recreate it into wine. But over the years of carrying the condensed wine for tax dodging purposes, the merchant had acquired a taste for it over its so-called completed form, and thus generally preferred simply consuming smaller quantities of higher-proof spirits.

After being pushed a wooden snifter filled with the requested brandy, significantly small compared to the emptied ale mug, Malik added his opinion to the mix.

"Seeing as I live to be loved," Malik offered as his own response, voice sprinkled with humor, though not to the point his statement itself was faux. "I don't see that changing on the throne. That being said, it is probably necessary to have some fine mix of the two as I do not see either of those extremes as working independently."

 

[Demitri Lockehart | Librarian]

"Haha, I see." Demitri nodded at Andre's words. He had noticed that Denva often hastily acted, seeming to forget her noble upbringing. "Please, don't hold back on my behalf. But I quite fancy light meat, if you please, madam."

Demitri requested, in response to Olivia's question.

 

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Denva Beaumont

Denva was still blushing as her Mom shot her another warning look as Burraku made a kitty version of a snickering noise, which earned him a glare from his girl in response. 

"One cut of light meat, coming right up!" Olivia replied, expertly carving the chicken with the butcher knife, putting a rather generous sized piece on Demitri's plate. 

"There's also gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes as well as greens, so feel free to help yourself to anything else on the table." She added as she cut a leg and a hunk of dark meat for Denva, who had somehow already managed to get gravy on her nose that she quickly wiped away before her mother noticed. Once she got her meat, she gave herself some mashed potatoes, stuffing, grabbed a sweet roll and a slab of butter along with a small bushel of the greens once her mother gave her the go ahead. 

"Denva's always been a little impulsive. We've been trying to help her change that for years, but sometimes, it does come in handy. She's usually the first to jump in when someone needs help. Trick is, reigning her in after." Andre explained, earning a sweet roll thrown at him that he caught without even looking away from Demitri. 

"I HEARD THAT!" Denva snapped from where she was eating. It was obvious that while she wanted to devour her food, she did have table manners and her mother couldn't help but laugh at her somewhat childish response from her teenage daughter. 

"She's also one of our best designers. That phoenix pin that Lady Arcana was wearing in her hat for their recent performance? She made that herself. Everyone is clamoring for Denva's work now that she's in line for the the throne." Olivia chimed in, having already gotten over a thousand custom orders for Denva's work since that was what she specialized in. 

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Arcana |Circus Ringleader/Performer|

Ashton, in his typical dismissive manner, gave his response. “Fear only causes riots and treason throughout your kingdom at worst, or the people won’t tell you anything wrong with your kingdom at best.”

Malik’s answer was delayed but he gave one nonetheless. “Seeing as I live to be loved,” he began with a coy tone, “I don’t see that changing on the throne. That being said, it is probably necessary to have some fine mix of the two as I do not see either of those extremes working independently.”
Arcana clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, raising her cup towards him in a signal of affirmation. “The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. To be only loved risks your subjects viewing you as a peer to be challenged and disobeyed. To be only feared risks uprising and tyranny.”

Arcana never sought the same solace within books some did. But in her travels, she had been exposed to her fair share of literature. She shared drinks with an interesting gentleman by the name of Niccolo Machiavelli who spoke upon the morals of the prince. 

Arcana finished off her drink, ordering another.

A round of chanting caught her ear as she looked up, noticing a cluster of men gathered closely around a table. 

“Chug! Chug! Chug! Chug!”
Their chant was followed by a loud belch and then a round of cheering. 

Smirking, Arcana picked up her drink. “Sorry, boys. Duty calls.” She cooed as she began to saunter over towards the table. 

The apparent victory, a massive and stocky man outclassing Arcana in both weight and size, stood upon the table. The wood complained under his weight as he pumped his arms into the air. 

“Anyone dare to challenge me?” He slurred.

Arcana placed a hand on her hips, lifting her mug to her lips. “What’s the current pot?”

“5 gold.” The man turned towards her incredulously. 

“Double it and count me in.” Arcana flipped five more pieces towards the man.

He tossed his head back in a boisterous guffaw. “The little lady wants a turn?” 

Arcana rolled her eyes and pulled up a chair, leaning back against it lackadaisically. “What? Too afraid to be beaten by a girl?” 

The man growled as he lowered his gaze towards her. “Very well. Would anyone else like to join?” He raised his voice, turning around to observe the largely quiet tavern. 

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Ashton Bál | Ashreaper

"A balance of loyalty and discipline is such a hard thing to keep" Ashton sang, the ringleader seeming to not have caught it as she walked off to the cheering drunks across the pub. Ashton noticed the occupants of the place had increased since they arrived. The filling seats the only indicator to the Ashreaper that night was drawing in, as the clouded windows stained in designs didn't help discern the time of day.

"The Circus Princess is more Circus than Princess I've noticed" Ashton hummed, leaning against the bar as he sipped on his drink.

“Would anyone else like to join?” The man called, Ashton remained seated and continued nursing on his drink as he waited to see who else would join.

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Jaida | Fortune teller/witch

Something squeaked.

Jaida tilted her head, listening, trying to figure out if she had just imagined it. But no, there it was again. She got up from her chair and crept slowly to the back of the tent, methodically searching the space while keeping an ear out for any further hints.

In the end it was a small movement that tipped her off, and she only saw it because her head happened to be turned in the right direction. A flick of a long whip-thin tail, and when she moved a candle over she saw the dancing light of it reflecting in two small beady eyes.

“Hello there,” she murmured, trying not to scare the brown rat who seemed unsure what to make of a human who didn’t immediately start screaming at the sight of it. “What are you – oh.”

Right there, bundled in a nest made up of straw and other miscellaneous materials and partially hidden by a blanket draping off the bed, was a litter of tiny wriggling rat kittens. Trying to see better Jaida moved the candle just a little closer, watched anxiously by the mother.

“Ran away with the circus, did you?” she hummed, amused. More likely than not the father of this litter was one of Alpha’s pets, as she saw lighter and darker patches on the kittens. Hairless as they were the exact colour was impossible to determine, but it almost certainly wouldn’t be their mother’s generic brown. “Well, as long as you don’t get at my things and Phos leaves you alone, I suppose you can stay.” And hopefully the duck, who was out at the moment, wouldn't object to her nest having been hijacked. She was very motherly though, so that was probably fine.

A rather loud shushing erupted from outside the tent, interrupting her thoughts. Phos, who had remained on the table, opened his eyes and twitched an ear in the direction of the noise.

“Well, go ask her!” a hiss sounded, followed by a whiny “What?! Why me?”

Jaida rolled her eyes. She had an inkling of what it was that they wanted to ask her, and as she listened to the people outside squabbling over whether or not she truly was a witch she came to a decision.

“I don’t wanna get turned into a frog!” she heard as she took a last glance at the small family she now apparently shared her tent with. A frog? How unimaginative. Jaida shook her head, putting the candle down. She got up, moving back to the front where she picked up Phos and set him down near the tent opening, gently shooing him outside.

The three-legged cat announced himself with a rather loud ‘mreow’ as he made a hopping beeline for the small group dithering nearby.

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Circus Dorks

'MRRROOOOW!"

The yowl prompted a rather girlish scream from the mousy haired man as a cat darted out from the darkness within the tent, charging right towards them.

The light haired woman laughed. "You are pathetic, Hawk."
"For all you know, that cat used to be a person... and she ate their leg." Hawk snapped back, shuffling off to the side. 

"Literally no one would do that. Doll's right. You're pathetic." The dark-haired woman scoffed, kneeling down to inspect Phos.

The light haired woman wrinkled her nose. "Why would you even think of that?" 

Hawk didn't reply, and only inched furhter away from the three-legged feline.

Doll pinched the bridge of her nose, white locks of hair falling off her shoulders in the process. "I'll go, since the rest of you are scaredy cats."
The elegant woman stepped forwards, approaching the tent flap. "Uh.... hello? Miss Jadia? Alpha sent us to come and get you. It's almost sun down, it's time for you to choose a name." 

She nervously pulled aside the tent flap, peering in. 

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Nike of Nox Arcana

Azashi listened wordlessly as Arcana led them onto a new topic about love and fear and kingdoms. Their attention was diverted as Arcana, inevitably, spotted a drinking contest. Like a moth to a flame, Arcana made her way over and challenged the current be.er champion. Smiling quietly to herself, Azashi trailed after Arcana, coming to stand beside the woman. 

"I'll triple the prize," Azashi added, tossing in an additional 5 coins into the pot. 

She fingered her pouch securely strapped to her belt. It was just a foil pouch of coins, meant to divert thieves away from the real treasure, her satchel. Despite how stringent Azashi typically was when it came to finances, she had a whole category dedicated to things like this. 

"I know I can't out drink you," Azashi said with a knowing grin, "but we can both definitely out-drink him." Either way, the circus would be getting 5 more gold coins to add to the treasury after this. 

"Any other challengers?" Azashi inquired in an almnost business-like tone, raising her voice above the boisterous raucous around them. She caught Ashton's eye, raising an eyebrow in challenge. She diverted her gaze to Malik. Surely a weathered seaman like himself couldn't resist an honest, solid drinking contest. She raised her mug to the two men as if in invitation. 

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Jaida | Fortune teller/witch

Jaida huffed in offense at the suggestion of her eating Phos’ leg. Especially since she knew the story behind his handicap. She turned to air and carefully edged out of the tent, waiting just around the entrance.

“I'll go, since the rest of you are scaredy cats,” one of the women boasted. As she approached her bravado seemed to drain away until she was timidly calling out for her, peering into the empty tent.

“I will never understand you people's obsession with names,” Jaida commented as she materialized to the woman's right, just out of sight of the other two. “But if it will make you all stop badgering me about it, then let’s get it over with.”

She strode past Doll to the others, one of whom was distracted by Phos rubbing against her legs. “Shall we be off then?” she asked in general, before looking down at the cat. “Keep an eye on the rats, would you?”

Whether responding to her words or not, the animal turned around and wandered back in the direction of the tent.

“Oh, and don’t worry darling,” she turned to Hawk, winking at him. “I would never turn you into a frog.” She paused just long enough for a breath of relief. “Birds are far more interesting. A quail, perhaps? Tasty, too.” She gave him a dazzling smile and snapped her fingers, as if willing to transform him there and then.

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Ashton Bál | Ashreaper

Ashton boredly looked at the girl's challenging gaze, sighing as he thought of the offer. He lazily looked to Malik with a questioning gaze.

"What you think? On the one hand, this is a great way to off competition... On the other.. You get paid to drink" He explained, holding up his mug to emphasize that statement.

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Malik Nerio | Merchant & Demitri Lockehart | Librarian

[Malik Nerio | Merchant]

Interrupting the group from any more conversation was a repeating chord of, "Chug!". The resound beckoned Arcana and Nike away, the former woman avidly vying to join in a drinking contest with a burly man who already seemed half-drunk from his previous bouts. Malik downed his current shot before turning around to watch the betting scene with his elbows resting back on the counter behind him.

"Would anyone else like to join?" The large man urged the bar's occupants to join in. Ashton seemed neither particularly inclined nor disinterested in the topic, seeming to simply observe who else would join.

Malik was more interested in the current prize amount. The circus women confidently added at least ten of their own coins to the winnings, drawing more of Malik's attention than the initial call had.

Nike offered her voice to inquiring who else was interested in the contest. She pointedly looked to the merchant and beast tamer with a lifted tankard, as if directly challenging them despite addressing the entire drinking establishment.

Ashton did not seem enthused but appeared to consider the offer on the promise of oncoming drinks.

"Heh, it does seem rather careless," Malik smiled at Ashton's reservation, rolling the sleeves of his pale tunic up. He additionally loosened the buttons on his vest in anticipation of the upcoming drinking activity. He slapped down a coin to pay for his drinks the one he owed Ashton. "But alas, the rather beautiful competitors make fraternizing all the more compelling, wouldn't you agree?"

At that, Malik left Ashton to debate his own decision. The merchant added a matching participation gamble to the other occupants.

"My, I do hope I am not getting in over my head~" Malik hummed in a joking self-denigrating manner with an arching smile directed towards Nike, as if in response to her earlier invitation to join the challenge. Despite his casual words, it was clear Malik had sizeable faith in his own ability, considering his contribution to the prize pot.

 

 

[Demitri Lockehart | Librarian]

Denva escalated into deeper shades of pink as her parents persisted in a teasing exploration of their daughter's behavior. Demitri attempted to appear interested as he waited for the others to serve themselves on the side dishes. When it was his turn, he spooned his personal portions on the smaller side for the time being, both out of politeness and because Olivia had already given him a rather generous helping of the meat.

Demitri instinctively flinched when the projectile headed their way, still jumpy after the knife incident earlier. He managed to not lash out and use his power to suspend the bread roll midair, in part due to Andre's swift action of catching it without ever moving his eyes from the librarian. This made Demitri wonder how often an occurrence this was in the Beaumont household.

"Congratulations, Denva," Demitri decided to focus on her trade, feeling like he would be more at ease to contribute to the conversation on that topic than dicussing the girl's ettiquette in front of her. "For how long have you been crafting such pieces?"

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Ashton Bál | Ashreaper

Ashton chortled at the comment before the sailor left to join the trio's challenge. The Ashreaper only sitting there for a moment longer, rolling his head in contemplation before downing his drink and placing it on the bar behind him. Slipping off the chair with a coy laziness as he strode off towards the table, adding in the same amount of coins as the others did to accept the challenge.

"Shall we?" Ashton purred with a smile, which was oddly gentle and friendly.

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Denva Beaumont

Denva turned her attention to Demitri when she had finished her bite of biscuit and smiled, taking a swig of her drink before speaking again. 

"I started actually doing the work when I was 5, but I was always scribbling down designs for Dad since I could pick up a pencil by the time I was 3. I can sew too, but that's only a minimal part of my work. I prefer working with gems myself. Sometimes I'll get hired to use my ability to do a gemstone embroidery for a seamstres, or maybe make an accessory to go with that dress. While most magic users prefer to keep their abilities to themselves, with my family being related to royalty through the late queen and Ridgestriders, we can get away with flaunting our abilities to some extent for our craft. Dad will often use his abilities to manipulate metal when I need help with getting a shape I can't get with regular pliers or normal tools around a werid gem cut like the heart shape that's popular in jewelry right now." Denva replied, glancing at her mother, who nodded. 

"I'm formerly an Ashreaper myself, I work better with animals than I do with sewing or anything creative. I can mend harness and saddles no problem, but put me with a pencil and paper, you get nothing but scribbles! I was lucky enough to end up with a daughter who got her creativity from her father." Olivia commented, Andre nodding in ageement. 

"I started taking Denva to the shop in town with me when she was 7, as soon as her work started selling, even the former Queen asked for her work when she leared of my daughter's skills with gems. While we do need a source material to be able to use her powers, Denva has a natural talent for making just about anything from musical instruments from a single gem to using chips to make an intricate design on a broach or even a high lady's tiara. If you recall the crown the Queen wore for the New Years celebration a few years ago, that was actually Denva's work, the one with the rubies and jade chips forming a dragon circlet with the wings as the points with the fire breath effect." Andre chimed in, pulling out the sketch to show Demitri.  

(this would be the sketch <-- lemme know if it doesn't show) 

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Azashi Rehn, Nike of Nox

Azashi nudged Arcana over a little so the two were now standing side by side as Malik, then a suave Ashton, came over to join the real party. She smiled mock sweetly at the two at Ashton's words. 

"We shall," she answered, taking another swig from her mug. 

 

((bby post ah well))

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Arcana |Circus Ringleader/Performer|

To Arcana’s bewilderment, Azashi trailed after her, adding her own coinage to the now-incredibly-substantial pot. 

Typically, her friend shied from participating in such shenanigans. While Arcanna often drank like a past time and was quite accustomed to performing in the midst of a nasty hangover, Azashi was far less liberal. Arcana assumed that using her mana manipulation abilities to detox exacerbated the hungover sensation the following morning. 

"I know I can't out drink you," Azashi turned towards Arcana, "but we can both definitely out-drink him." 

Arcana’s chest spasmed with a soft chuckle. She inclined her head to whisper into Azashi’s ear. “Hun, with the two of us, we could out-drink this city."

"Any other challengers?" Azashi questioned in a formal tone. 

Arcana noticed her making eye contact with the two boys they had been conversing with earlier, and a sly grin spread across her features. 

Arcana had no definite way of knowing Azashi’s reasoning, but she guessed that maybe her sister was trying to help. Arcana’s acquaintances had no knowledge of her infamous capabilities, or the learned ability to perform in spite of a pounding hangover. If they were not accustomed to performing under such conditions as her, Arcana could gain the upperhand in the trials the following morning.

Of course, the inverse was also true. 

Arcana had no idea of knowing how accustomed these two were to alcohol. Although, judging by the sailors she had encountered in the past, Arcana was willing to wager that Malik knew exactly what he was doing, too.

She had no clue if Ashton reflected that as well. 

Arcana noticed Ashton lean in to exchange a few words with Malik. Whatever he said did not discourage the sailor from loosening his tunic in preparation for the following activities. He sauntered over, adding his contribution to the pile. “But alas, the rather beautiful competitors make fraternizing all the more compelling, wouldn't you agree?" He droned in what Arcana came to suspect was his typical flirtatious manner.  "My, I do hope I am not getting in over my head.” 

Arcana grinned and was about to quip back with an equally salacious reply when the sound of coins thudding dully against wood caused her gaze to shift back upwards.
Ashton had contributed the same hefty amount to the pile, a coc.ky smirk printed on his face. “Shall we?” He purred. 

Arcana appraised him for a moment, a soft smile curving across her lips. “I do believe I was wrong about you," she crooned.

Despite that, she still figured that Ashton would do great as one of her contortionists, given how he was able to shove his head so far up his rump. 

The original champion appeared quite frazzled at the sudden generous amount of coin being contributed to the pot from the four mysterious newcomers. He cleared his throat. 

“Alright then.” He coughed. “Split up into two pairs. You and your partner are the first to face off. The winner from those two will then go one final round to fight me. Each round is timed. You earn a point for each time you finish your beer faster than your opponent. You earn three points for drinking the most cups in a round. If you stop, throw up, or pass out, you forfeit your round to your opponent. So, better keep it down, eh?” He chuckled.

Arcana chortled as she turned towards Malik. “Maybe tonight we will finally figure out what we do with a drunken sailor.” The statement was phrased as more of a challenge as she passed him a cup of beer to signify her request that he go up against her this first round. 

 

~

 

“I will never understand you people's obsession with names,” Jadia’s voice caused Doll to jump, fervently looking to and fro to identify the location of the voice, “But if it will make you all stop badgering me about it, then let’s get it over with.”

Doll placed a hand over her chest as she noticed Jadia who seemingly phased into the world from out of the darkness itself. 

Jadia slipped out of the tent, Doll following shortly after.

At her arrival, the other two circus performers straightened up immediately, a mixture of excitement and anxiety in their conflicted gazes.

Greeting a new member was always a rambunctious affair, however Jadia was different from their normal fare. They were not entirely sure how to compose themselves before the rumoured witch. 

““Shall we be off then?” Jadia asked in a clipped and impatient tone. She then spoke to the cat who immediately darted off as if in response to her words. 

“Whoa.” Hawk breathed, then took a step back as the witch turned to face him. 

“Oh, and don’t worry darling,” she hummed with a wink. “I would never turn you into a frog.” 

Hawk’s shoulders slumped a bit. “Oh, t-that’s nice.”

 “Birds are far more interesting.” Jadia continued, causing Hawk’s eyes to widen, “A quail, perhaps? Tasty, too.”

Hawk visibly winced following the snap of her fingers, then he immediately yelped and snapped his head down to his hands. Upon realising that no feathers had sprouted from his arms, he looked back up towards Jadia. “Hey!”

Doll giggled. “As entertaining as this is, we are running out of daylight.” She lifted an emerald silk blindfold from her satchel, handing it to Jadia. “If you will?” She murmured. “It is important that we, as a family, trust each other. So I ask you to allow us to be your eyes as we guide you through the night. To trust in our sight to bring you to where you need to be."

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Jaida | Fortune teller/witch

Hawk’s entertaining response to her little joke made Jaida laugh, giving the male a not entirely good-natured grin when he looked up indignantly.

“As entertaining as this is, we are running out of daylight,” Doll tittered. She revealed a strip of green silk, presenting it to her. “If you will?” she asked, her voice softening as the words took on a more ceremonial nature. “It is important that we, as a family, trust each other. So I ask you to allow us to be your eyes as we guide you through the night. To trust in our sight to bring you to where you need to be.”

Jaida took the cloth, staring at it as though she could see a secret message shining through its emerald surface. In a way, lost in her memories, she could. Trust. When was the last time she had trusted someone, truly trusted them with her life? Her mother, probably. Her mother, who had sacrificed herself for her daughter when the people of their town, people she had known her whole life, had turned on them.

It was in the state of mind resulting directly from this traumatizing event that she arrived at the palace. And her relationship with the queen, although she had eventually come to love her like a sister, had always had the shadow of it lingering over it.

Then of course the queen had died, and she had once again been uprooted from a life she liked, that she had made for herself and that she wasn’t harming anyone with. After that experience she had effectively closed herself off to people. She interacted with them, joked with them even, but she didn’t truly let them in anymore, keeping to her own. Perhaps that was part of why she had postponed this ceremony time and time again.

Jaida sighed, bringing the cloth to her face and over her eyes, tying it at the back of her head. All the while telling herself that she still had her other senses, and that she could put a stop to the proceedings at any point she wanted to. “Alright,” she said, sounding uncharacteristically subdued, “I’m ready.”

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Circus Dorks

Jaida seemed trepidatious, gazing distantly into the emerald sheen of the fabric, not wholly present in the moment. Doll tilted her head in response, a comforting smile drawing across her lips. "Hey, it will be all right." She murmured. "We won't let anything happen to you, and you are free to stop the proceedings at any time." She was not aware that she was reflecting Jaida's own thoughts.

The reason this particularly seemingly imcompentent trio were assigned to commence the ceremony was their emotional intelligence more than their actual intelligence. 

Jaida pulled the fabric over her eyes, tying it around her head. 

Hawk reached over, snapped in front of her nose to ensure that there was no reaction other than auditory. 

"Pixie, if you will." Doll murmured.

The dark haired woman stepped over and stood on one side of Jaida, placing one hand on her shoulder and the other gently on her forearm.

Hawk took her other side, mimicking the same gesture. 

Then they two began to walk with her, guding her through the winding paths of the encampment. 

Doll trailed behind, occasionally calling out warnings of a stray root or ragged rock for Jaida to avoid, but largely walked in silence. 

If Jaida did happen to trip, both Hawk and Pixie were there to catch her and prevent a fall. 

The ground gradually grew from flat and dusty to lush and jagged. The sounds of the night grew louder with each step as the sun began to set on the horizon. The constant drone of insects intermingled with the chirping of bird and occasional hoot of a watchful owl. 

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Jaida | Fortune teller/witch

Someone snapped fingers in front of her, presumably to ensure that the blindfold was obscuring her sight properly. Having expected something like it, Jaida kept her reaction down to a slight tilting of her head.

“Pixie, if you will,” Doll called softly, and she felt the dark-haired woman stepping up to her right side, gently taking her shoulder and forearm. Hawk mirrored her movements on the other side, and Doll took up position behind them.

With careful pressure the two holding onto her guided her through the encampment, while Doll warned her of trip hazards from behind. Jaida’s steps, slow and hesitant at first, gradually grew more confident, at least until her right foot snagged on something and she tipped forward. Hawk's and Pixie's grips strengthened immediately and together they managed to prevent her from actually falling over, hoisting her back upright. They muttered quiet reassurances as she regained her footing, setting off again once she had.

She considered threatening to turn them into geese if they made her fall again, but decided she had better direct her energy to staying on her feet and trying to figure out where they were taking her. She had a rough sense of the direction, as well as a general idea of the area surrounding the circus.

They seemed to be headed into the adjacent woodland, Jaida decided, noticing how the ground beneath her feet grew softer as well as more uneven. The animal sounds surrounding them increased in volume the further away they got from human activity and smells of damp earth and wood were heavy in the air.

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Alpha -Circus Hand-

As the group progressed deeper into the wood, the sounds of the city behind them faded into silence breached only by the constant hum of wildlife. 

The path underfoot appeared to even out, and Jaida’s guides briefly paused in their stride. The light behind Jaida’s blindfold began to grow warm, flickering in and out, dancing like firelight. A warmth blossomed next to Jaida’s right cheek, not close enough to be unbearable or alarming, but close enough to be felt. 

Hawk guided Jaida’s hand to a cool wooden handle. “Don’t burn yourself. But you will need this.” He murmured quietly, closing her fingers around the torch. 

And then the group began once more, guiding her down a twisting, winding path in a spiraling pattern. Upon reaching the center of the progressively tighter spiral, Hawk gently stopped Jaida from moving any further.

“There are three steps up.” Doll warned and assisted in guiding her up. The dull thud of Doll’s footsteps against the steps was reminiscent of the sound of a wooden deck. 

Pixie and Hawk then guided the witch into the center of the stage, then left her side. Their warm touch no longer lingering, leaving Jaida seemingly alone against the cool breeze of the coming night. 

Several seconds passed by before something tugged gently at the cloth around her head, causing the emerald silk to fall off. 

Alpha stood before Jaida’s a large grin on his face. “Welcome.” He cooed and then stepped aside. 

Jaida had been lead upon a makeshift wooden stage, in the center of a spiraling rock labryinth, each small stone had been tediously placed to form the gentle sloping lines of the path Jaida had just walked. 

Crowded around the outskirts of the rock labryinth were lines of silent circus performers and stagehands, everyone was present to watch the ceremony.

 Directly behind Jaida stood two intricate candelabras at about chest-height. However no candle resided within the second candelabra, only the first. To Jaida’s left sat a vat of bubbling pitch black wax over a gentle flame. To her right was a small table along with a quill, a glass bottle of ink, and two small tears of parchment. Directly in front of her sat a metal hook in which to place her torch. 

Alpha, adorned in intricate gold, black, and red robes of deep crimson dyes and glittering sequins, spread his arms. “Let us begin, shall we?”

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Malik Nerio | Merchant & Demitri Lockehart | Librarian

[Malik Nerio | Merchant]

"I am equal parts intrigued and fearful of what that statement is meant to entail," Malik offered a wide smile to Arcana as she passed him a nearly overfilled mug of alcohol, effectively confirming them as partners for the round. Malik inordinately lifted the tankard take a whiff of the brew's skunky scent. He then glanced to the side, waiting for the others to team up so that the timing of the first round could begin.

"I am ready whenever the lady is," Malik drawled in a tone that hinted at laziness, though his firm grip on the handle of the large beer mug in his hand indicated more accurately the higher level of focus he currently held towards the task.

 

[Demitri Lockehart | Librarian]

Demitri initially held off on eating due to the conversation, but due to the lengthy monologues from the hosts, he eventually began to cut his food and chew while he listened.

"That's fascinating." Demitri offered. "I was definitely not as gifted by age five to do such specifics."

It was a bit modest. It was true that at the age Demitri was not skilled in any particular craft or technique. But he had been reading books at length for a decent time already and begun to skip forward by a grade in primary school the following year. The librarian saw no need to bring his childhood proficiencies, simply listening to Denva's parents' commends of their daughter.

The librarian took hold of the sketches that Andre pulled out. The drawing showcased a decorative, faintly familiar crown. Demitri had not been able to take such close note of the actual, material crown the drawing represented. However, with the context Andre provided, Demitri could recall many he knew having adored the crown that the Queen had worn on the evening of the New Year. Many spoke praises of it and her gown the following day.

Glancing over the pencil marks, it was rather tasteful, with only a few but very prominent jewels. This was more Demitri's style, as the metal decoration was not overshadowed by the gems and vice versa. It really appeared that the young Ridgestrider knew her craft.

"It is no wonder you receive so many orders," Demitri offered his simple but truthful praise.

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They walked for a time, the sounds and sensations of nature growing ever more pronounced. There was a brief pause, and then a flickering light penetrated the blindfold, visible even through her closed eyelids. Along with the spot of warmth erupting on the same side Jaida was not particularly surprised when a wooden handle was placed in her grasp, surmising it had to be a torch even before Hawk's words.

They began to move again, but this time instead of a meandering path the pressure from their hands led her into an increasingly tighter spiral. She was wondering if their purpose was to make her lose all sense of direction when Doll warned her of the steps and it turned out this was actually the end point. The three guided her onto a platform made of what sounded like wood before leaving her alone with only the torch for company.

She didn’t have much time to get impatient before someone removed the blindfold, finding Alpha standing in front of her. “Welcome,” the circus' second-in-command said grandly, moving aside to reveal what looked like nearly everyone associated with the circus forming a wide circle around them, silent and almost reverent.

Jaida took her time looking around the area, noting the various miscellaneous objects gathered and wondering at their purpose here. They really had gone all out, she realized with some admiration when she noticed the stone spiral surrounding the stage, while at the same time wondering why that should surprise her coming from people whose entire lives revolved around performance.

The metal holder in front of her seemed intended for her to place the torch in, so she did. Alpha waited for her eyes to land back on him before spreading his arms. The torchlight reflected off the many sequins in his costume. “Let us begin, shall we?”

“Let's,” she responded, curious despite herself as to what this ceremony would entail.

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Alpha -Circus Hand-

((I see your post, Geek. I'm just waiting for the others to catch up for the time being since Arcana doesn't have much ti do or say :) ))

“Tonight, we gather here to welcome a new arrival. To celebrate her decision to join us, and to wholly and willingly accept her into our family of misfits and runaways.” Alpha’s voice boomed across the stage, echoing into the night far louder than what seemed humanly possible. His tone was severe and deep, uncharacteristic of the usual joking lilt to it. The reverb over each word simply did not seem possible given the nature of the surrounding trees, which would normally block any potential echo.

Not a single whisper or sound emanated from the gathered crowd, instead they merely watched intently with a mixture of pride and excitement in their gaze. Alpha strolled across the stage, taking ahold of the quill and parchment.

“Tonight, Jaida, you decide on a new name. And with a new name comes a new identity. A chance to cast aside years of guilt, regret, and trauma, and whatever connotations your old name possessed that may hold you back.” Alpha turned from the crowd to address Jaida directly. “Only then can you remake yourself into the image of the person you always desired to be. The person you knew you could be, but were too shackled by hurt and regret to fully achieve that potential. Tonight, we will try to help set you free, but you must first be willing. Willing to lay the past in the past. To acknowledge it, accept it, learn from it, and to move from it. To abandon any unhealthy coping mechanisms and take a step into this new chapter with a just mindset. And, most importantly, with hope.”

He placed a hand on her shoulder and handed her the quill and one of the parchment pieces. “On this, I ask you to write down every regret in your life. Write down your guilt. The moments that continue to trouble your sleep to this day. The trauma. The reasons for your pain, and the feelings they ignite. You do not have to show this to a single soul. And you never will.” He handed her the second, “on this, I ask you to write all you are proud of, achievements, personality traits, progress as well as all you one day hope to achieve. And I don't mean just physical achievement. I mean emotional and psychological. Tell the world exactly who you want to become. The same stipulations as before apply. No one has to, or ever will, see what you write. Once you have them completed, fold them up and keep it close for the time being, and I will instruct you of what to do next.”

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Denva Beaumont

Denva couldn't help but blush at the praise, taking a bite of her food to regain her composure. 

"The Queen only told me she wanted something to celebrate the Solstice and the New Year. She told me that as long as it wasn't too over the top, I could do whatever I wanted," here Denva paused to take a sip of her drink before continuing. "So I went with a simple design that only required a few jewels. I used my abilities to get the cuts the way I wanted them since I could regenerate parts of the jewel if I missed a cut on a facet. I remembered an interview saying the Dragon was her birth sign for the Zodiac, so I went with that as the theme. This was the final design she approved." Denva admitted, which was true. 

"Believe it or not, Denva was 12 at the time. That was over 5 years ago and people still clamor for her work more than mine!" Andre commented, pleased that his daughter had caught the attention of the late Queen even without their familial relations as the Queen's cousins. 

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Ashton | Ashreaper

Ashton boredly looked at the line up drinks being set on the table, taking one as he waited for the contest to begin. Pushing another mug towards his opponet with a smile.

"Good luck" he cooed, holding his mug up as courtesy.

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Arcana |Circus Ringleader/Performer|

"I am equal parts intrigued and fearful of what that statement is meant to entail," Malik's comment earned a giggle from Arcana following a sly smirk. 

"You'll find out." She hummed as the sialor accepted the mug.

She grabbed another from the table as it was filled. 

"I am ready whenever the lady is," Malik drawled in his typical feline-like manner. 

Arcana tilted her head, raising her glass slightly. "May the best win." She hummed.

"Ready..." The champion's voice boomed over their conversationally provoking words. "Set..... CHUG!"

Arcana immediately tipped her head along with her glass back as the game commenced.

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Nike of Nox

Azashi found herself paired with Ashton. Her chances were adequate, despite the fact that Ashton seemed like a seasoned drinker and was already semi-dr.unk. Azashi herself wasn't quite as adept at chugging as Arcana was, but she wasn't slow either. However, she figured Arcana would loose a chance to make a potential ally of Ashton if Azashi beat him. Besides, she hadn't won many drinking contests on purpose when out drinking with Arcana. 

Smiling as Ashton pushed a mug her way, she picked it up, examining the contents with a critical eye.  

"Good luck," he said, raising a mock toast to her. 

"I make my own luck," Azashi replied with a coy smile, drawing a few guffaws from the onlookers at her bold remark. She leaned back in her chair, stretching her legs out and hanging an arm over thr back of it in a posture of comfort and ease, lazily sipping from her mug to make it clear she didn't intend to win but to play. 

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Jaida | Fortune teller/witch

Jaida held her tongue during Alpha's spiel, although she had to fight not to shake her head or roll her eyes. She wasn’t seeking a new identity, or to forget her past. If fate had led her to the circus years ago, after being cast out of her hometown, then maybe. But it hadn’t, and now she wasn’t trying to start a new chapter. She was trying to return to a previous one.

This whole thing, to her, was merely a requirement for staying with the circus. Which, if everything turned out as intended, wasn’t even a long-term thing. She knew better than to voice this though. Better to play along with the show, she thought as she accepted the items. She placed the first piece of parchment on the desk and bent forward to write on it. She didn’t know what Alpha intended to do with it, but suspected it would be something along the lines of burning, to symbolize letting go of it.

As she put her quill to the parchment Jaida made sure she was angled to prevent anyone from peeking. Maybe the atmosphere was getting to her, but even if she didn’t consider the ceremony very valuable and no one would be seeing what she wrote afterward, she decided she might as well participate in the ritual in earnest. Plus, she knew there were some very adept lie detectors among the crowd, and had no desire to be called out for not taking it seriously.

Mama, she wrote, for her mother. Damaris, for the queen who had taken her in and whom she had grown to love but been unable to save. Phos, for the leg she had had to take from him. And then, after a pause, Collection. For as much as the deformed animals fascinated her, their existence and the sad fact that they were not allowed to live made her, in the quiet moments when she just looked at them, feel deeply forlorn as well.

She took a moment to look at the parchment. All the sorrows and pain of her life, captured in four words. It had been harder than she’d expected, Jaida realized as she swallowed back the lump that had appeared in her throat. She folded the first piece and laid out the second.

On this one she wrote Ability, Knowledge, Uncaring, Revenge and Secrets. After a second’s thought she somewhat wryly added the queen and the cat to this sheet as well. Even if especially the former had turned out void in the end, her actions had managed to keep them alive that much longer, and they had both enriched her life during that time.

Despite not being stupid enough to believe that writing down her sorrows made them magically disappear or anything, she was slightly surprised to find that the introspection did help in a way. She felt somewhat lighter, and more grounded at the same time.

Jaida put down the quill and turned back to Alpha expectantly, both pieces of parchment held between her fingers.

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Demitri Lockehart | Librarian

[Demitri Lockehart | Librarian]

"It is great when the younger generation can prosper so," Demitri stated, as if he were not under the age of twenty himself. Demitri sat in silence after this comment, allowing those gathered the ability to eat some more before the next topic was brought up.

"Pardon my inquiry, if it seems inappropriate." Demitri finally spoke once more, after having eaten some more of the poultry and vegetables that had been dished onto his plate. "But on the topic of the late Queen... she was very well-beloved, as we all know. Any change this competition will bring, especially with the nature of how it is conducted, will also bring forth many opinions on the victor, whether favorable or not. Since we are allies, I am interested more in understanding the type of ruler you anticipate to become."

Despite having joined the alliance, Demitri felt he did not truly know what the other members really wanted or expected with obtaining the throne. Arcana may have indicated a few anticipations, but there was surely a multitude more she had not voiced. The librarian felt less certain of Denva's positions or what type of ruler she meant to be.

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Denva Beaumont

Denva looked at her parents, who nodded for her to continue as she finished the last bite of her chicken before speaking.

"Well, if I do end up becoming Queen...I want to be someone who stands up for her people. I want to be someone that even common folk can approach if they have a problem if they see me out and about. I don't want to be one of those high and mighty rulers that won't give commoners the time of day." Denva admitted, Burakku purring his approval from his perch on a nearby cabinet, having finished his own dinner.

"She already helps where she can. Denva always goes to local soup kitchens every chance she gets to help out. Though, it's usually weekends since that's when our shop is closed. She'll even drag us along to help make food for those who can't afford it otherwise." Andre admitted, a proud smile on his face as Denva blushed and glanced at her Mother, who laughed. 

"I honestly don't mind cooking for people outside the family! Food is always a good way to show you care, that's what my Noona always said, rest her soul! She was one of those mothers who always thought any problem could be solved wtih a hot meal and a chance for someone to vent their problems. Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them complain." Olivia pointed out, which was true. Denva couldn't count how many times the homeless teenagers who came to the shelters the Queen arranged asked if they could vent to her about their problems and ask her advice.

While she didn't always have the answers, she remembered how the teenagers in particular would come and vent to her about how they got booted out of their homes for dating the wrong person that wasn't approved by their parents, or did something they shouldn't've and got in trouble with the law, or made an even worse mistake and their parents couldn't afford another mouth to feed...that sort of thing. And on occasion, Denva would take it upon herself to entertain children with her ability to manipulate gems by using them as puppets to tell stories like the Ice Queen (Frozen)Little Mermaid, and Pinochio, among others from the Hans Christen Anderson tales and favorite folk tales. 

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Alpha -Circus Hand-
Alpha kept his distance from Jaida as she began to write. He clearly had experience with this ceremony and respected the privacy of the task she had been assigned. He had inducted many individuals into this circus family, many of whom had backgrounds in shady dealings and scaring pasts. He understood the severity of what he was asking her to do and how difficult it was to be introspective on such a level, to dig deeper than merely surface-level pain. While this ceremony had grown over the years, he had undergone something similar with Arcana, Phoenix, Azashi, Angel, the twins, and Ravi. Arcana had been the one to initially suggest taking new names, and Azashi had the idea to make the process more cathartic. 
A lot of what their old names entailed invoked unpleasant memories in many of the core seven, especially himself. Both he and Arcana outright rejected their old names, refusing to ever go by them again. Those like Ravi and Azashi preferred that they only be used in the presence of family and friends. And those like Angel openly went by either. 
No one in the circus was required to switch completely to their new names, or even use them at all outside of performances. However, many choose to embrace their new identities, as they greatly preferred the person they had become over the one they used to be. 
Names held power. In many legends, giving a person your true name was to give that person complete control over yourself. This ideology was reflected in the reverence in which the circus treated and understood names. Your name is your cultural, historical, and personal identity. It connects you to your history, your family, it is all you are and all you ever will become wrapped up in a merely few syllables. An entire being’s sense of self in a single word. The power which it holds is incredible, if one took the time to ponder it. And despite all this, few ever actually get to choose it. This was a chance not many had, hence why it was so hugely important to the circus. 
After Jaida finished writing her shackles, Alpha guided her over towards the wax. “Do you know how to make candles?” He hummed
 
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Jaida | Fortune teller/witch

Alpha had waited patiently until she was finished, a look of understanding in his eyes. As far as she knew everyone in the circus went through something like this ceremony, including the core seven. Though she doubted there had been this much theatre around theirs.

“Do you know how to make candles?” he asked gently, bringing her over to the simmering pot of black wax.

“I seem to remember the wax having to go around the wick,” Jaida responded, walls quickly going back up. She held up the first parchment. “And since I don’t see a strand of cotton anywhere, I presume you want me to use my regrets for that?”

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Alpha -Circus Hand-

“I seem to remember the wax having to go around the wick,” any trace of vulnerability cleared from Jaida’s face as she extended the parchment. “And since I don’t see a strand of cotton anywhere, I presume you want me to use my regrets for that?”

“I did say that no one will ever read what you’ve written, did I not?” Alpha’s typical charm inched into his voice as he delivered a dazzling smile.

Placing one hand on the small of her back, he coaxed her over to the candle-making station. “Now, I don’t want you to burn yourself so please attach your shackles to this string.” He pulled a coil of string from his pocket, placing it on the table. “Keep your other paper.” 

He passed onto her opposite side. “Now, there is a bit of a technique to it, however, I trust in your intellect. You will figure it out. As you do this, imagine sealing away every regret and negativity into a wax chamber. Now that they are all in one place, you must contain them.”

With a flare of his cloak, Alpha walked back upstage. 

 

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Demitri Lockehart | Librarian

[Demitri Lockehart | Librarian]

"That's all good and well..." Demitri began, trailing off for a moment as he considered how to delicately bring up his thoughts towards what the young Ridgestrider had said. He believed that Danva's vision was in the right place; being a kind ruler who listens to their subjects' thoughts and woes. However, he was not sure if she actually had any specific plans about how she would go about this in her potential ruling. As of right now, he was worried if she was thinking too idealistically.

"While it's admirable you would want to listen to the common folk, it will be far less on an individual level as you do now... simply because there will not be enough time in the day to listen or personally help every person who would wish to seek an audience. Especially with all of the other duties you, hypothetically, would also have to take on. That being said, you would also have other methods of aiding Astrin's citizens that you do not currently possess. It will just be a very different life than before, and not all of those changes will be enjoyable, as I'm sure you're aware."

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Denva Beaumont

Denva nodded, glancing at her parents as she turned her attention back to Demitri. 

"I understand that. The previous Queen used to do a city hall and had a council of people from all over the kingdom to help her run things. If I become a ruler, I plan on keeping those traditions. That way, even if I can't do things on an individual level like I do now, I can still help people on a larger scale." She pointed out, which was true. Her mother nodded in approval. 

"I would certainly approve of that." Olivia commented, seeing the smile on Andre's face as his eyes filled with pride for his daughter. 

"Beisdes, even the previous Queen didn't run everything by herself! I know there's always some parts of a job you don't like - for being an artist, it's when you get designer's block and you can't finish a design no matter what you try. Or when I'm taking care of Hoseki, Burraku and Lemonice. It's not all cuddles and playtime with animals after all." Denva added, which was true. Not only did you have to groom the animals with the appropriate tools, but you had to clean up after them. Pets were a lot of work even for a royal

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Demitri Lockehart | Librarian

[Demitri Lockehart | Librarian]

"Glad to hear," Demitri nodded.

The librarian let out a silent sigh of relief. He was glad Denva seemed to acknowledge to at least some level, the difficulty that possessing the crown would inevitably bring. Still, Demitri was not exactly entirely content. If he were, he would not be in the running himself. Even if he was not strictly opposed to Denva, or even the other alliance members, winning, there were many others he did not wish to see gain such power.

"I wonder who our judges tomorrow will be," Demitri considered, changing the topic away from politics for the time being. Several faces came to mind, but he did not know whether they would choose those more likely to be knowledgeable on horsemanship, or simply high-profile figures. Considering the spectacle of the entire ordeal, he suspected the latter.

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Denva Beaumont

"They'll most likely select people at random, deciding based on their level of society. They'll need opinions based on that, after all." Denva mused, glancing up at her mother as she brought out dessert - a beautiful tray of pastries that she had ordered from a local bakery. 

"Well, if that's the case, everyone will be on an even footing. Nobody will have the advantage of knowing one of the judges." Olivia pointed out, setting down the tray on the cleared table. She had done this while the others were talking 

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Jaida | Fortune teller/witch

Jaida managed not to roll her eyes or even make a snappy retort in response to the symbolism attached to the next step, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand.

She had in fact done this once or twice before. Admittedly never with a piece of parchment, but she was confident that the principle was the same. She rolled up the folded paper and tied the string around one end, so it dangled more or less vertically over the pot.

Because the wax was black, the first dip down into it nearly obscured the parchment when Jaida brought it back up, only a pale outline remaining. She waited for it to dry before lowering it again, repeating the process a number of times and keeping an eye on its thickness, comparing it to the size of the empty candelabra. When she judged them to be roughly equal she brought the newly-formed candle over and stuck it into the holder, untying the string to leave only the small bit of parchment poking out at the top.

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Alpha -Circus Hand-

With apparent restraint,  the witch skillfully dipped the paper into the wax, quickly accommodating for the odd adjustment of doing so with paper instead of a wool string.

The wax hardness somewhat quickly and the rather thick shape of the large candle began began take shape.

To fill the empty silence, the gathered crowd sang hushed songs and whispered in excitedly hushed tones. It was less of the induction they were anxious for, and more of what came after. 

A single palm raised towards the fading sun silenced the watching crowd. 

Golden stains creeped across the sky, swirling together with deep oranges before fading into a blood red as the sun fully slipped below the horizon. 

"Good, now." A grin spread across Alpha's handsome features. "As you light this flame, allow it to burn away your anguish. Agree to yourself to let go of the fear, the hurt, the revenge. In the end, none of that will help you achieve whatever it is you desire. Not truly. So let it go. Let it all go.  Embrace who are now, in the present and allow the past to remain in the past. Never forget. Forgive." He turned to Jaida, his smile becoming slightly more wild. 

He pulled a trinket from within the folds of his cloak and wrapped the golden chain around the handle of the torch Jaida had been given. Dangling from the golden chain was an intricately crafted forest green locket wrapped in wire.

Woven in the wire detailing surrounding the locket was a design of majestic elk, its antlers spiraling out like branches of a tree. Upon closer inspection revealed shapes hidden within the branches. Rabbits, fox, crows, creatures of all kinds. The materials it was made from were durable, not meant to be expensive, meant instead to last. 

Alpha carefully dislodged the torch from its stand and passed it, amulet and all, to Jaida. "Proclaim your new name with the burning flame. In other words, light it up." 

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Asthon Bál | Ashreaper - Prohyrius Destson | Ridgestrider

The crowd counted down as the time came to an end, Ashton finishing his last drink a few seconds before they hit the last second. He didn't really have to try as hard as the team on the other side of the table. Empty cups piled in front of them while only six empty mugs laid in front of the Ashreaper. While his current opponent only had three in front of her. The lack of competition from the female bored Ashton out of wanting to go forward, leaving him to get up from the table and quietly weave through the cheering crowd. Exiting the tavern, Ashton leaned against the post holding the horse's reins. Taking a few deep breaths of the cooling air.

"What are you doing?" A voice curtly spoke, lazily pulling Ashton's attention towards him. Instantly squinting his eyes at the bright teal jacket that reflected back at him.

"Hyrius! As bright as always" Ashton sang with a grumble. His vision adjusted to the shorter male's bright attire, revealing blond tipped auburn hair, and bright green eyes. A sword losely wrapped around his waist, and a teal necklace holding a claw of some sort hanged from his neck. 

"I'm pretty sure I hired you for a job... Not to get lost in a tavern" Hyrius barked, Ashton looked down at him with a coy smile.

"I think I know my way around a tavern, thank you very much" he cooed, rolling the eyes of the shorter male.

"Yes, I'm sure you do... What did you do with the money I gave you?" Hyrius asked, crossing his arms. Ashton opened his mouth, yet didn't speak, his gaze floating up to the sky in thought.

"I either ate it, or I'm drinking it" He blankly stated, quite sure the amount of food and beverages he bought had ate up the payment made by the brighter male.

"And how are you suppose to do the job I hired you for, if you can barely stand straight." Hyrius hissed, a hand slapped to his forehead in regret of the decision he made. The Ashreaper only giving a toothy grin.

"Oh trust me, I was worse off when I saved you from that griffin," Ashton laughed, leaning closer to the shorter male.

"I can do my job just fine" He sang. Some more cheering and yelling bellowed from the tavern, sparking Ashton's interests once more.

"But first, I'm gonna go win my money back. Would you care to join?" He cooed, bowing for Prophyrius to accompany him.

"Fine." Prophyrius hissed, following the Ashreaper back inside.

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Demitri Lockehart | Librarian

[Demitri Lockehart | Librarian]

"I hope so," Demitri agreed. Now that dinner had concluded and most of the items cleared, Denva's mother had exited the room temporarily. At the tail end of the speculation regarding the judges, Olivia returned. Demitri, despite himself, had an extreme sweet tooth, so his attention was immediately caught by the colorful array that was set on the dining table.

"Those are beautiful," Demitri noted, examining the delicate designs atop the pastries. There was some clear food artisanship, indicating the deserts were likely from one of the renowned Wispweaver bakeries situated nearby to the palace.

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Denva Beaumont

Olivia smiled, setting the pastries on the table. 

"I was always better at baking than I was with animals, despite being an Ashreaper. My family runs a bakery back in our home town in Horse Head Point. I usually did the pastries and cake decorating myself. Since I had some time off work, I borrowed a friend's oven and used it to make these." She admitted, glad someone appreciated edible art. Denva grinned at Demitri in a smug way. 

"Mom makes birthday cakes for everyone in my school!" Denva bragged, which was true. Olivia Beaumont was a well known baker despite her Ashreaper heritage. Andre laughed in response. 

"She likes to brag about her mother's pastries." He pointed out, earning a playful glare in response

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Demitri Lockehart | Librarian

[Demitri Lockehart | Librarian]

Demitri raised an eyebrow. He had not been expecting the pastries to have been homemade. He was not generally one to stereotype, but often certain traits ended up being true of the factions, which contributed to assumptions. It was not that certain professions could be entirely categorized to only one area; every faction had its own cooks, chefs, and bakers. Still, Olivia seemed to have a great touch for cooking and baking that rivalled even a Wispweaver grown up in the craft.

"Pardon me, I had actually assumed these were from a bakery, considering the skill level." Demitri mused. "I am very interested in faction relations and development. If you don't mind me asking... did your family initially learn from Wispweavers, or did they develop their craft entirely independently?"

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Denva Beaumont

"My Grandmother was a Whispweaver, her family owned a popular bakery back in my home town at Horsehead Point. She's the one who taught me. So I keep up the skill in her honor." Olivia admitted, flattered by Demitri's admission that he thought these pastries were bakery quality. Sometimes Alethea's family would sell her pastries for the new year at their restaurant. 

"It's true. Grandmama Lucinda tried to teach me to bake too when I started dating Olivia, but I ever had the skill for it." Andre admitted, which was also true. Denva giggled at that. 

"Mom started teaching me Grandma's recipes recently. So far, I can only do basic cookies and pastries, nothing like these yet." Denva confirmed, scooping up a curly lobster tail pastry and bit into the flakey gooey goodness. She had also scooped up a couple of the rainbow colored cookies as well.