[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost He was in an empty room, a soft light washing over him and the molding wood floor. Someone in the surrounding darkness was winding a music box, soon filling the air with the soft lullaby that he recalled from years ago. The man stood absolutely still, clenching his fists as he listened... And a whisper of his name, his real name... [i [b “Let me see you...”]] His heartbeat quickened, suddenly eager and desperate. How long had it been? Since his first memory, it always felt like he was in the background. Fading away everyday.
Invy opened his eyes, staring straight up at a worn, faded yellow fabric peak, his body coursing with sudden need and the unexpected realization of a body sleeping soundly next to him. He sighed heavily as he was dragged back to the safe reality escaping his dreams. He had recognized that he was coming into an existential crisis faze in his life- and so young at that. Madame York had been so kind as to inform him how to decipher the damn nightmares and since he found a sort of enjoyment recalling them.
Gently shifting his weight, he peered over the alarming thin child that joined him on his cot sometime in the night. Alexander Ribs was tucked beneath the covers and sucking on his thumb, bringing a smile to his face. He ruffled the child’s tuft of hair causing Alex to stir and mumble before looking back at the indention in the sheet covers.
[#177000 "Imma sorry Invy..."] he yawned, [#177000 "I hadda nightmare and I couldn't shake it off."]
Invy shook his head and reached over the boy to grasp a white mask discarded on the floor. He pushed it to his face and looked at Alex. [#cc000b "It’s all dandy- but next time, wake me before you just crawl right in. I could have been naked in here."]
Alex laughed, showing off his missing tooth grin. [#177000 "Y're right. No one knows since we can't see you."]
The invisible man scoffed and slid out from the covers to stand and step over the boy. With the bed so low to the ground, it wasn't much of a challenge to maneuver successfully. His tent was small but quaint; enough for a man of his tastes since he had a thing for tiny places. He'd prefer a closet over a bedroom any day. There was one dresser for his mirror and bed sheets, one wardrobe for his clothes and shoes, one cot for his rest and pleasure and one trunk for his personal items and midnight treats.
[#cc000b "Shouldn't you be running along... Assisting in the preparations for this evening?"] he asked as he slipped on an oversized, cotton shirt.
[#177000 "Shouldn't you?"] The boy countered as he stood himself, his skeletal body bare save for the boxers around his waist.
[#cc000b "I have the obligation to bathe. We're performing for the royals after all."] He pulled out a washcloth from one of the drawers.
Alex scoffed. [#177000 "Ya’ good luck with that. You know who is probably in the tub and ya know how much hair she has."] Alexander waved goodbye as he stepped out of the tent.
Not bothering to even slip on pants, Invy followed suit and was greeted by a stream of golden morning light and the sound of bustling entertainers prepping for the big show. All around odd characters passed saying their wondrous 'good morning's and 'hurry your ass up's with great enthusiasm. He must have slept later than he thought.
The man made straight for the makeshift bathtub that his good friend Slippery Fingers must have thrown together last night and, sure enough, Miss Jasmine Locks was washing her hair. Every single bit of it... The first time Invy had set eyes on her he was appalled. Now years later, he found himself quite comfortable around her since, like him, she wasn't in the least shy to show off what the god's had given her.
[#970781 "Invy,"] she breathed happily. He smiled, stripping off his shirt as she scrubbed mercilessly at her beard. [#970781 "Nice to see you're stepping into the sun shine. You need some color."]
Oh like he never heard that one before. [#cc000b "Pleasure. Can I share that with you?"] He gestured to the oversized barrel even though she couldn't see his hand.
[#970781 "I'm not that much of a hog,"] Jasmine laughed as she stepped aside for him.
The freak tossed his mask to the ground and let himself fall into the soapy, dirty water with a splash. He let his body rest underwater until his mind calmed. He rinsed quickly, stepping out in time for Jasmine to dunk her head in the water. He smiled briefly before retrieving his mask and draping his shirt over his shoulders.
He walked back to his courters and immediately began dressing himself into his more appropriate wear. He pulled on a few thin garments; tight trousers and a breezy shirt, and topped himself with his favorite striped hat, deciding to leave his heavier clothing till later in the evening. He glanced in the mirror and saw the silhouette of an oddity. The Scarga Circus's own Invisible Man.
He slipped on a pair of black working gloves before walking back out in the camp. In all technicality, all of the performers in the show were a part of his 'family'. Granted some were a little closer than others but Invy liked the variety that such a place beheld. He was able to try new things, meet new people without ever having to make an effort to find them himself. His traveling home was something he'd never dream of replacing.
There was a deep roar above his head and the invisible man looked up to catch a quick glance at the magnificent beasts he could only admire from the ground. Dragons were common creatures amongst the royals and heroes but only the brave and crazy could ride them. From what he heard, it took years to master the art of dragon flying and years more to be able to fight while on it.
Invy shook his head at the thought. Dragons were always used for warfare and quick glory statuses. Knights and princes only ever faced them if there was a princess or money on the other line and for some reason Kings only ever tended to guard their precious beauties with those wondrous beings. Why couldn't they do what King Stephen did? He sent his daughter away with a bunch of snot nosed faeries. Sure, his kingdom fell for a [i spell] but it was all a happy ending.
The crunching beneath Invy's pointed shoes faded out as he approached a singing older woman. Madame York, and also his 'mother', hummed an old lullaby. He bowed respectfully once she noticed his presence and paused in her sewing work. [#15d7e5 "Oh my dear,"] she laughed dryly, [#15d7e5 "You're up late. You know he's been looking for you all morning."]
[#cc000b "Let him continue to search,"] Invy replied dryly.
The invisible man raised his eyes to see the ringmaster kneeling over the edge of York's tent, the sun gleaming behind him like he was a god. [#cc000b "Oh I was just talking about you..."]
[b "I can see that."] The leader jumped down from his perch and landed beside his real mother with grace. The Crow always thought himself on a higher ‘perch’ than others due to his direct relation to the Madame but rumors contemplated this fact was a lie. Crow was tall, lean and had the grace of a thousand angels. This hair and eyes were jet black and his finger nails were sharp to the tip. His most distracting feature, however, was the long wings that made up his arms and the 'v' of his back. [b "You should be setting an example for our family. Waking up on time is very important."]
[#cc000b "As you mention from time to time,"] Invy smirked, adjusting his hat. [#cc000b "I came to gather a list of what needs to be done. I hear more preparations have to be handled for this wedding celebration."]
Crow waved his finger in the air. [b "Not just that, but we have to be good enough to impress the brother."]
[#15d7e5 "Boys, can you please continue your conversation elsewhere. You're ruining my peace of mind,"] said York as she continued to sew her oversized sock.
The ringmaster guided Invy to his own private tent and right away they were hit with the strong smell of lavender. Crow had grown a liking to lavender ever since his last girlfriend said she hated it. Awfully petty. [#cc000b "Why the brother?"] he continued. [#cc000b "Shouldn’t we be focusing on the prince and princess?"]
[b "I heard from one of their guards that the Princess's brother was an illegitimate son of a thief or something of the like. Since then his destiny has been written that he would never find true happiness. He is a pauper pretending to be a prince, so of course, everyone thinks he's going to be the next evil warlord. The last thing we want is for him to hate [i us]."]
[#cc000b "Ah looking out for our skins I see."]
[b "I am. That's what I'm supposed to do so please, be on your best behavior. Don't go stalking anyone in the castle because your curiosity will be the death of you, Invy. I know it."]
[#cc000b "I do not deny. I just have to keep my attention elsewhere. I promise to keep out of trouble."] The invisible man raised a single hand to prove his point.
[b "Right then. Make sure our set is clean and please tell Slippery Fingers to try to retrain his kleptomaniac ways. I don't want to be on the run again. Oh!"] Crow ruffled his feathers, [b "Those boxes out back behind the stables, please bring those around. They belong to Fright Knight and you know how his highness gets all drama queen when he doesn't have his props set up and ready."]
Invy gave a thumbs up. [#cc000b "I'll return after I brief our new performer when he arrives."]
[b "Thanks. I'll be on my perch singing to our dictators will till this evening. Au Revior."]
The invisible man trekked around the back of the temporary establishment and headed around to the stables where the horses for the land roaming royals were kept. Invy was never interested in those creatures but the world outside of it was another story. Whilst he did feel free with his family, it wasn’t safe out in the world for cursed beings like him. A harsh truth he had to learn multiple times.
He bent down to arrange a few wooden crates, his mind drifting to his act and then a moment where he could tend to himself in the privacy of his own tent.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria was the 2nd oldest of 6 siblings. Being the firstborn daughter, the king, her father was always lenient with her as a child. He would spend hours upon hours with his daughter either playing make-believe or just sitting down and telling each other made-up stories. Victoria had heard many stories from other royals around the world that if you were the daughter you would take a back seat behind the son. Victoria already knew that her older brothers William and Edward would be the first in line for the throne and so would her other younger brother Henry. Unfortunately her younger sister Catherine would be waiting a very long time being the youngest. Victoria also knew that when she was old enough she would be matched with another prince and wed him when the time came.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" This was the thing Victoria feared. She didn't want to leave her family especially her father. She loved her mother and siblings dearly but the love she had for her father was something she couldn't explain, the bond they had couldn't be broken. At times it caused a little sibling rivalry, especially between her older brothers. The biggest problem was when her father gave her a dragon egg for her 13th birthday. Her older brothers were given a weapon and stallion, so you can imagine how well it went when he handed Victoria a dragon egg.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria did as she was instructed and looked after the egg until the time came for it to hatch. 5 years later Victoria the age of 18 and the dragon was the size of well what you expect the size of a dragon to be. Her father explained to her that the reason he gifted her the egg was to have a guardian look out for her and what bond better than a dragon's. The dragon was a large male with jet black skin and on the tips of his horns were blue, The name she decided on was Drage which he had no complaints about. When he was small enough to stay in the castle he followed Victoria everywhere she went and defended her when anyone scolded her, including her father.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Once he felt the need to breathe fire and got a little too big for her room he was moved outside to his own shelter which her father had especially built for him. The fire breathing caused some problems in the beginning but her father had planned for this. After all what kind of king would he be if he bought in a dragon and didn't protect his family and people? But luckily for both him and Victoria the fire breathing training didn't go on for too long before Drage got the hang of things.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Then came the riding which to Victoria's surprise Drage allowed her from the beginning. This was something incredibly rare. Usually, it took people years and years to master the art of flying but then again a lot of royals didn't put the effort into raising a baby dragon-like she did. They usually had a dragon trainer to do all that for them. The bond from when he was a baby had carried on through his 'young adult' years and no one else was allowed to ride him. William learned that the hard way one day when trying to mount Drage. Well, long story short he nearly lost his hand that day and had a lengthy scolding from his father who explained that riding a dragon is not like riding a horse. You can't break a dragon. After learning he wouldn't get a dragon on his own William grew up and gave up on the idea.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Things slowly started to change when Victoria turned 18 though. Her father began to get stricter with her on how she behaved. Victoria was never someone up to no good but her etiquette for a lady wasn't the greatest and now she was at the age of getting married she needed to learn those and fast. She was never allowed out of the castle grounds without multiple escorts or with Drage but as long as she had some freedom she didn't mind. Things for her older brother were different. He was now engaged to another princess and the marriage would unite the families as one. Soon her father would step down from the throne and William would take his place so her father could enjoy his older years with his family and in peace.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria liked the idea of being able to spend more time with her father and she trusted William enough, after the almost missing hand incident he'd calmed down a lot and took his role as future king responsibly, looks like her father had Drage to thank for that.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Today was the day Victoria was excited for more so than her brother and future sister-in-law. It was their so-called 'engagement party' something they had before the wedding. But that didn't excite her what excited her was something that she'd never seen or experienced before. She'd heard many stories but never gotten close. The stories of the circus performers kingdoms away were now here. Something she was beginning to think didn't exist until she saw the tents in the distance when she rode on Drage.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" She was up and ready deciding to skip breakfast to make room for the banquet later one Victoria ran down the stairs almost running into her father and knocking him over. He adjusted himself and looked at her with a stern look.]] [size14[b[#00008B[font "Candara Light" Victoria.. how many times must we tell you to walk? No prince is going to want to see a princess running around like a maid, you need to make a good impression. In fact, I've invited a few eligible princes to your brother and sister's engagement party. So please make sure you're looking like a princess tonight."]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Almost hanging her head in shame Victoria apologized to her father,]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "I'm sorry father... I promise to be on my best behavior tonight and won't do anything to embarrass our family. There's just so much to be done that I wanted to take Drage out so he doesn't get restless later tonight. You know he doesn't like missing out on things so if I take him out for a longer ride than usual and spend some time with him and maybe then he won't be so moody".]]] [size14[font "Candara Light" Victoria tried her best not to let out a smile in front of her father who certainly didn't look to happy at the moment, she knew her mother would have been giving him a hard time getting everything ready for their son.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" For a few moments her father looked at her with a scowl but soon enough his glare softened and a smile appeared. Victoria let out a small breath of relief as her father opened his mouth to speak once more.]] [size14[b[#00008B[font "Candara Light" "Very well then Victoria but please stop running because if your mother sees you she won't allow you to take Drage out for a while and the last thing we need is a restless dragon. She would have tried to give him to William by now if it wasn't for the fact he almost took his hand. Just make sure you're back before sunset and ready for when the performers get here. If your late then I will be the one to punish you. Do not give me that chance".]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The frown had now returned and Victoria nodded.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "I promise father".]]]] [size14[font "Candara Light" Victoria slowly turned around and had to stop herself from running. Once she'd turned the corner though and out of her father's line of sight she began a light run.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Once out of the grounds she could hear Drage and Victoria immediately called out his name.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" Drage! Are you ready? Today's going to be exciting, the circus is performing tonight! So I won't be able to see you much. But that's okay! Because father had said I can spend the entire day with you as long as you have me back by sunset!"]]] [size14[font "Candara Light" Victoria let out a laugh as Drage stood up and eager to go. She held her hand up as Drage pushed his head into her hand and Victoria pressed her forehead against his. After a few moments, she walked up to his arm and climbed onto his back. She adjusted her dress and held on tightly to his back as he slowly began to stretch open his wings.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Within a few moments the two were in the air and as much as she wanted to open her arms and feel the wind between her fingers, she wanted to continue living so she would have to make do with feeling the wind in her hair instead. Victoria shouted loud enough for Drage to hear.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" Drage! I want to get a little closer to the travelers than yesterday. They know who we are but I'm forbidden on talking with outsiders out of the palace grounds so we'll have to make do with getting to see them from above. I just hope they're used to seeing dragons and big ones at that!".]]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost The man lifted another crate, struggling to catch his breath. [i Fucking newer. Why did he have to have so many stupidly heavy things?] He wiped the sweat off his brow, hating that he was coaxed into unnecessary physical labor. Honestly, if the Fright Knight wasn't such a threat and if the Madame wasn't so generous, the Queen of the Circus could come get his own damn crates.
There was a heavy wind from overhead, Invy catching his hat before it flew off. He glanced up at the dragon rider grudgingly, pompously flying too low so that dirt kicked up. He was, of course, fully aware of his dirt-like position regarding the food chain of royalty but that didn’t make it any less annoying. But... those were never his decisions to make. Just simply the world they lived in.
He patted the dirt off his white shirt before stepping away from the job for a momentary break. Crow would say there was never any time for dilly dallying but he also had no sense of real fun either. He was always so paranoid- though that was how he kept out of trouble. Unlike himself.
The invisible man stepped closer to the stone wall surrounding the kingdom, observing the worn textures and foliage. He rubbed a gloved hand across the surface, letting his mind wander and what it would be like to be normal. To be able to live inside a kingdom as renowned as this. The Pemberton lineage was known to be kinder than others but as for the kingdom they were uniting with, it was a different story. He had to heed Crow’s warning, despite his curious urges, at least for this time. There were always new lands and opportunities for a new beginning.
There was a heavy thud as he neared the corner of the wall, pausing cautiously to listen. In their travels, the circus was aware of the many large and dangerous creatures roaming the paths, Invy having his own fair share of close encounters. He peeked around, shocked to see that the ebony dragon had landed by a small pond.
Invy had never seen one this close. A simply majestic monster. It dipped it’s head low to drink and revealed a blonde haired maiden standing beside it. [i A female dragon rider? No. She must be the caretaker which means she might be part of the royal party.] He probably shouldn’t interact but how often do they come across a grounded dragon?! Never! Absolutely an opportunity he wasn't about to pass up because of Crow’s skepticism.
Taking a moment to arrange himself in case of instant rejection, the Invisible Man stepped into her path of sight, hoping that his floating hat and mask wouldn’t make her scream or worse- order the dragon to eat him. He winced at the thought. Not his preferred way to die.
[#cc000b “Morning,”] he started cheerfully, holding up his hands to expose his vulnerability. [#cc000b “Hope you don’t mind but I was wondering if you’d fancy an introduction.”] Invy nodded up towards the massively imposing dragon, stepping very slowly closer to the pair. [#cc000b “Quite a creature you got there.”] [i Please don’t eat me.] ]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The two of them had surveyed the traveler's grounds for long enough. Victoria always forgot just how big Drage was and was causing some disruption, it was now time to move on to the next destination.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "You can pick the next place, Drage, remember though not too far from home!"]]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria laughed as Drage lifted his head up and roared in excitement, he always loved being given the choice of where to go. As they moved away from the traveler's Victoria looked to the side to see where Drage was taking her. As the pond grew closer she smiled, she should have known this was the place he chose to take her, whenever Drage had the chance he came here to spend time alone with Victoria, away from everyone and everything.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Once he was steady on his feet Victoria hopped off and stood to the side of him resting her hand on his leg as he bowed his head to the pond and began drinking. Victoria looked to the pond at the reflection of Drage and admired him in all his beauty. She had never seen another dragon with his same markings he truly was a unique one. As she was admiring the view she noticed Drage has stopped drinking and was looking to the side. Someone was there, Victoria turned her head in the same direction and noticed someone coming towards them. At first, she didn't know what gender the figure was, she appeared not to be able to see their face, just their vibrant clothing. Drage flared his nostrils and got in the attacking stance. Victoria quickly held up her hand and smiled.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "Easy boy let's just see what they want first, maybe they need help".]]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Eventually, a voice came from the figure and Victoria knew the figure was male, she smiled and waved slightly, from the looks of things he didn't know who she was which meant he wasn't from around here. Relaxing slightly she approached him.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "My name is Victoria, it's nice to meet you, sir. I must ask though this is some fine magic being able to throw your voice like this, I must ask though, how are you making these clothes float?"]]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria looked around trying to see if she could see someone in the distance. Surely this was some kind of magic and not actually a person in front of her. Even Drage looked at her just as puzzled as she was.]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost Of course her mind would go for the logical explanation. A much more favorable reaction in any account. [#cc000b “Invy,”] he introduced, [#cc000b “And I honestly wish I could do magic but sadly, I am a mere man with a terrible curse.”] He performed a two step dance number, waving his gloved hands in the air and a small twirl to show there were no strings attached. To finish, he grabbed the top of his hat, dipping it as he bowed.
[#cc000b “I hope it’s not as disconcerting as it looks, I really am quite a catch but no one ever believes me.”] He knew it was in his nature to make a joke out of everything, the circus had drilled that in him and worked in most occasions to ease tensions. Most of his interactions with other normal people were negative so it was a breath of fresh air to have someone humor him in his antics.
The man straightened his posture, adjusting the hat. [#cc000b “I had never come across a dragon this close in my travels and I was hoping...”] He trailed off, hoping the lady would catch his hint. Hopefully she was kind with her rejection. It wouldn’t be the first time and it was a long shot anywho.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Staring at amazement at the gentleman in front of her, he really seemed 'invisible' giving one last glance around the area she couldn't see anyone which meant he was telling the truth. As he performed a little number for her Victoria clapped her hands together and laughed.]]
[size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" That's excellent! You're very funny Invy. I will also take your word for your appearance".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria smiled at him, it was nice to have a conversation with someone that wasn't finishing every sentence with 'princess' or 'your majesty'. He seemed like a fun person and Victoria wanted new company. The next comment he made though caught her a little off guard. Drage? Victoria turned her attention to Drage and smiled, he was a beautiful beast and she could understand why Invy would want to get up close to him.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" At first showing some hesitancy she rested her hand on Drage's leg and smiled.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "I don't think he'll mind you giving him a pet, as for riding he's incredibly picky, the last person who tried to ride him almost lost their hand".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria giggled a little at the memory of her brother's mortified expression, he hasn't come near Drage since.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "A word of warning though, I'm not exactly sure if a dragon's vision is like ours, so make yourself known without spooking him, let him pick up your scent and well if he doesn't eat you then you've made a friend for life. Dragon's are incredibly intelligent creatures and remember a person's scent well".]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria leaned forward almost close enough to his cheek and whispered.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "He's also very spoilt so you'll have to excuse the sass that comes from him, I swear I don't know who made him so spoilt".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria took a step back to her original stance and laughed.]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost Invy awkwardly laughed off her warning, already feeling his nerve subsiding. Maybe this was a bad idea. [#cc000b “I absolutely have no intention of riding him,”] he replied, his voice cracking slightly. He also had no intentions of befriending a dragon either. He just wanted the ultimate one up on Crow, expanding his monster repertoire which- again, was not his grandest idea.
The invisible man slowly crept forward, the gravel crackling beneath his feet as he stepped in the beast’s line of sight. Urg, his heart felt like it was going to jump out of his chest. Every sense was on alert, keeping his eyes on the head. Invy was very confident that like humans, it couldn’t see his face and began to speak to announce his presence.
[#cc000b “Hello, deary,”] he swallowed, [#cc000b “Trust me, I don’t want to be your ‘friend for life’ either.”] The dragon dipped it’s head forward, Invy instantly freezing in his tracks. [i Oh gods!] It’s nostrils flared, sniffing around his raised arms and hat. [#cc000b “Oh, you know what-”] he squeaked, his chest feeling too tight to breathe, [#cc000b “I think I changed my mind. Please call him off- please.”] Invy closed his eyes, feeling it’s hot breath across his face.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria smiled as Invy took a step closer, she was excited for Drage to make a new friend even if it was a temporary one, he was a traveler and it was known they never really stayed in one place for too long, but still a potential friend he could be. She looked at Drage who seemed to be looking at her with hesitancy and a very much unimpressed look, he didn't really like to be touched by other people, he tolerated Victoria's little sister because she was a child and he allowed the king only because it was Victoria's father. The two older brothers didn't even bother mentioning.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" As invy closed the gap between them and raised his hand Drage decided to tease him and flare his nostrils instantly making Invy jump. If dragons could laugh then Drage would be in hysterics. Victoria gave Drage a stern look then turned to Invy and smiled.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "Can you tell he's protective of me?"]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" She gave a slight nervous laughed but stopped instantly hearing the shakiness in Invy's voice as he asked Drage to move back.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria sighed glancing a Drage. Between him and her father, it was no wonder she never made any friends. She gave Drage a slight tap letting him know the fun was over and for him to move back. She took a step closer to Invy and lightly grabbed his hand looking at him with a heartwarming smile on her face.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "This time it will be different... Trust me. I won't let any harm come to you, after all, my dad would kill me".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" She shrugged her shoulders trying to make light of the situation, the last thing she wanted was for someone else to fear dragons.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" With her hand on top of his she slowly guided him to Drage's head, with her other hand she raised it as Drage pushed his snout into her hand smelling her. With a nod from Victoria, he lowered his head more. Now with her hand on Invy's she smiled as she lightly placed it on Drage's snout. This time he didn't flare his nostrils he remained calm and quiet as he let Invy's hand rest on him. After a while Victoria slowly moved her hand away from Invy's and just stood there with her other hand resting on Drage's head.]]
[size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "He's okay once you get to know him I promise. He has too much attitude for a dragon of his age".]]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost [#cc000b “Protective is an understatement,”] he flinched but tried his best to calm his nerves. Victoria did appear calm and confident with the beast and piqued his interest when she mentioned her father. Maybe he was a knight with one of the kingdoms?
Invy held his breath as her hand guided him to the dragon’s snout. Through the glove, he could feel the texture of it’s skin, firm and intricate. He let himself relax, finally taking in the moment to enjoy being in the presence of a creature no one else could get close to. He smiled at the woman even though she couldn’t see it. [#cc000b “Thanks, you helped me cross one experience off my bucket list. If we ever meet again, you can ask for me as Invy. I’d be happy to return the favor.”]
He continued to pet the dragon with more enthusiasm now. [#cc000b “Are you planning to catch our show tonight? I would hope to see you there. We are sure to entertain and delight.”] Crow would be proud of his salesmanship. ]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Seeing Invy let go of his fears and trust her made Victoria incredibly happy. She wanted to educate people that dragons weren't these terrifying creatures that had been written about in stories. Of course, they were dangerous but so was a lion if it didn't know you. Victoria never spoke to Drage as she would a pet, he was incredibly intelligent he would find it insulting if she spoke to him like he was stupid. This was a mistake many people paid. Even though Victoria couldn't see Invy's expressions she had this feeling deep down he was smiling, after all this wasn't something you could do every day.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria put her hands together and smiled, she was beyond excited that she'd finally met someone that wouldn't run in fear due to her royalty and her companion.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "I'm very happy to hear that Invy! I will hold you to that promise".]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The smile and excitement faded a little when he mentioned about the performance. Then she remembered where and who they were. She cleared her throat a little and the smile returned.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "Yes, I'll be there. Actually, the sun is beginning to set and I must return Drage and get him settled, otherwise, my father will be sure to scold me. It was lovely to meet you Invy and I look forward to seeing your performance later on".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria gave a polite curtsey giving Invy one was brilliant smile and hopped on Drage's back. Within a few minutes, they were gone making their way back to the castle they called home.]]
[size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "Oh Drage I hope he doesn't recognize me once I actually look like a princess and not a trainer. It was a good idea on your part for me to dress like a rider if I do say so myself".]]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost There was a bit of excitement rising in his chest hearing she’ll be attending the performance. While their meeting was brief, Invy did hope to meet her again before they departed the kingdom. Preferably for a little flirtation. She was awfully poise but full of life. She certainly worked in the castle- that he knew.
The invisible man took a few steps as Victoria mounted the beast. [#cc000b “Twas lovely meeting you too, milady. Till then!”] He watched her fly till she was finally out of view.
It took him a few hours to have everything prepped and ready for a flawless show. Props and sets usually took the longest and, unfortunately, there were few performers that have been around for as long as he had. Invy knew how things functioned inside and out, which is why Crow depended on him so heavily. He didn’t mind the work. He really appreciated the feeling of being needed but it did little to distract his active mind.
After briefing the newest addition to their evening lineup, Invy finally had the opportunity to get ready. Closing himself in his small quarters, his mind dwelled on the dragon encounter from this morning. Even as he dressed into his stage attire, he wondered about the mysterious rider, Victoria. She was one of the few who didn’t find him disturbing and spoke to him as if they weren’t from different worlds. [i Gracious], he needed to stay focused. This performance was a matter of grave importance. Impress the royals, impress the brother, stay alive.
It was twilight once Invy made his way over to the main theater, extravagant as it was. Commoners had begun crowding around the castle walls and staring profondingly as he and his family worked to prepare. He was just repairing a cage for Act 7 when Jasmine glided over to him. He pursed his lips.
[#970781 “You look distracted. I dare say, unnerved.”]
[#cc000b “I’m just fine,”] he muttered.
[#970781 “Oh?”] she smiled coyly, [#970781 “You know you can’t keep secrets from me.”]
Invy turned to face her. [#cc000b “How are you the only one who seems to read me like a book?”]
[#970781 “I don’t need to see you to read the tone in your voice. Everything will be fine.”]
[#cc000b “You’re not at all concerned?”]
[#970781 “Why should I be? Crow does all the worrying for us.”]
[#cc000b “You are incredibly positive.”]
[#970781 “That’s why I’m here darling. You can’t stay afraid of the circus business forever.”]
[#cc000b “But you can be weary of those who hate it. Some of us don’t really have the choice to be fearless.”]
Jasmine didn’t get the opportunity to debate further. [b “Show time,”] the Crow exclaimed from his high perch. [b “Places now! We start in three.”]
Invy leaned around to peek through the heavy plum curtains. He searched for the dragon rider but within the shadowed faces, he couldn’t identify the blonde haired woman among the crowd. He pulled away and met gazes with Jasmine as the lights dimmed.
The curtains pulled away to show a black backdrop. Once the room was quiet, the blackness began to move and shift then out stepped a foot. The figure emerged, separating from the background like sickly ink. The black wings spread out in a welcoming gesture, the man smiling in a knowing way. His striking red vest made his lean bird-like qualities stand out. [b “Welcome ladies and gents!”] he bellowed, [b “The Scarga Circus would like to thank you for inviting us to a land of great magic and royals! We humble ourselves at your feet and repay with lively entertainment. So without further ado, the oddities and misfits offer you our show.”] The lights dimmed once again to bathe the stage in darkness.
The lights illuminated in a pattern like way, showing shades of yellow across the first performer who now stood where the ringmaster once had. [b “We present to you Slippery Fingers!”] Invy always felt he was the least interesting of their performing family. Granted, Slippery was one of their main prop creators and building mechanism technicians but he seemed a little... plain. He did manage to ‘wow’ the audience with his clever ways of building something out of nothing talent which is what kept him on the stage for so many years.
Once he was finished, Act 2 followed, starting the real line up of freaks. [b “Presenting the Jewel Sisters!”] The conjoined twins entered on a more eerie note, walking onto the stage so that the audience only had a side view, until finally turning to reveal their deformities. Invy often hated the looks from some of the male viewers at times like these. Caked in over exaggerated make-up, the girls performed tricks and gags until their spotlight had ended.
Act 3 was his little favorite nosey boy [b “Alexander Ribs!”] Unnaturally thin, the dirty haired child jumped across the stage showing off every single bone in his tiny body. He clanged his ribs with tiny sticks and let the audience sit back in awe as they heard the musical notes that drifted from his gaping mouth.
Fourth was the queen himself... [b “The Fright Knight!”] Cursed in the prime of his life, the former knight was merged with his armor giving him a terrible case of vanity that the Crow found quite hilarious. Like any metal suit, the Knight was able to disconnect his body parts and shine up wherever he so pleased. They even impaled him on stage as his departing farewell.
Act 5 was something a bit more ugly in nature... but a guilty pleasure for royals. One of the minor crew men began to drag out a cage, undoubtedly filled with a ravenous creature known to most as a werewolf. Invy noticed the obvious excitement of their viewers and hated the rich for it. [b “Were Vain!”] The act consisted of roaring and snarling till one of the crew released the metal hitch and the creature was set free. There were screams and gasps as the werewolf charged for the edge of the stage and sniffed the air before howling one impressive call. The performance ended with the wolf standing, turning back into a man. Those shallow reactions...
Six was [b “Haphazard!”] the danger craving, adrenaline addicted clown. Every circus had one, Scarga was no different. The painted man was actually known for immortality, or at least that’s what the freak family wanted to believe. He swallowed knives, he had arrows shot through his chest, he could fall and not have a single bone broken. They had betted he made a deal with a devil but no one really knew his true story.
Next was his ever stunning best friend. [b “The enchanting, hair raising Jasmine Locks!”] Her act was a little more on the sensual side with a tall throne and mischievous clothing. She danced, using her beard to compliment her body in the most imaginative of ways, interacting with the audience as well.
Then it was his turn. Once he saw Jasmine walk off the stage, the curtains closed and he jogged out to take position at the center, letting some of their minor crew aid him. Then the veil was lifted.
[b “Presenting the devil, our own Invisible Man!”] The stage was revealed as a set of toys where the main figure was crumpled near the ground, strings attached. Gently they began to lift the heavily clothed man in the full venetian mask much like a puppet. He slouched in his posture until the music started to play. The band commenced a tune of an eerie but playful song.
The man began to sway in rhythm, his back straightening until he was lifted on his toes. He stepped into a dance, twirling about in his colorful garments, he acted as if he was dutifully being controlled by a bigger master until the tune came to a climax where he reached up and pulled down his strings. The man held out his arms for a moment then proceeded to shrug off his colorful overcoat. He blurred his sight to only focus on being in the moment. It was like living in one of his many morbid dreams. [i “For only the devil was truly invisible.”]
Invy stepped around the stage to show everyone his lean figure before kicking off his pointed toe shoes, revealing his lack of feet. He looked down to follow where the viewers eyes would have been and faked surprise. ‘Where had his feet gone?’ He stepped around as if looking for them until he finally shrugged and unbuttoned his vibrant blue vest.
He paused in the center of the stage and looked down at his chest. He gasped in another faked surprise and ripped the cotton shirt underneath apart to gander at his sudden disappearance. He threw the garment to the side and began ever so hurriedly to take off his pants and rings. Items went flying in every direction but he paused before he took off the hat. Choosing his targets from afar. Slowly he threw away the hat and reached up to detach the white and gold designed mask.
Then to the audience he was gone. With the music a good cover for his light footsteps, the performer jumped down into the viewers seats and began ‘misplacing’ items. He took the cross hung around the bishop’s neck and waved it in front of his face. He took the pin from a woman’s hair and dropped it in her lap. He ruffled the locks of a curly haired handmaid. Eventually he made it around the royal family, being careful on the objects he chose. Then, as he approached the couple to be, he recognised her face. Victoria was not a poor, devious daughter of a dragon rider but at the right hand of the Prince. His sister.
[i Composure! This was nothing to freak about- you did nothing wrong!] Except rudeley loop her into being as destitute as the rest of them. [i Play your part, forget the rest.] He picked a rose from a strategically placed bouquet and dropped it on the ‘bride to be’s’ lap. Before his departure, he tapped the nose of the stranger he met by the pond. [i I know who you are.]
The man popped back onto the stage and pulled on his overcoat and striped hat. He knocked his heels together and with his arms spread out, bowed deeply for the King and Queen. Then it was over and the Invisible Man was dragged back into reality.
The last act was [b “Arachne!”] The best was always saved for the end. She was a beautiful creature with the lower appendages of a spider but face of beauty. It was a wonderful way to end the Circus with a cherry on top.
Invy sighed in relief once the curtains had closed after the Crow’s closing words. He changed back into normal attire, immediately getting to work breaking down the sets and cleaning. [b “Good job everyone!”] Crow exclaimed from one of the many high posts. [b “Surely we saved our necks today! We’ll be safe and sound- no worries!”]
Invy was very glad Crow felt so comfortable. Maybe it would take his mind off of other things. There was a shout that caught his attention and Invy watched as a messenger spoke quickly to Crow in discreet manners. There was a tinge of worry as the Ringmaster jumped off his post and followed around to a place Invy could not see.
[#970781 “It’ll be okay,”] Jasmine whispered behind him and he hoped it would.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The sun was beginning to set and Victoria knew she was racing against the clock. She needed to get back, be bathed, and dressed like royalty in the space of a few hours and she knew if she wasn't back in time her father would be furious and heads would roll figuratively speaking.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Once the two of them were in the castle grounds Victoria jumped off Drage and managed to grab one of the attendants who looked after the animals and flashed a charming smile.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "James! I don't have time to feed Drage tonight so could you prepare something for him, please. Also, throw in an extra special treat for him. He's upset to be missing out on tonight and he's been exceptional on our outing so he deserves it".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" The attendant smiled and bowed before rushing off to fetch something for Drage. Victoria turned to him giving him one last cuddle on the snout before rushing off into the castle where she presumed her ladies in waiting were becoming frustrated every second she wasn't there.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Luckily everyone was rushing around so it didn't matter if Victoria ran or walked. After all, everyone knew in the castle what she was like and let her get away with it most of all. Out of all her siblings, she was the one who acted the least spoilt so with the maids and staff she was the favorite.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria burst through her bedroom doors to her ladies with frowns. Victoria quickly held her hand up to stop them from scolding her as she made her way to the bathroom removing her riding gear as she did so. This needed to be a quick bath to make sure she was dressed in her royal attire before the show started.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" After a quick scrub and wash down Victoria stepped out as one of the ladies wrapped a towel around her and dried her off. Next was the thing she hated. The rib-crushing corset men had invented to make the woman appear to have an unrealistically tiny waist. Knowing she would be seated for several hours didn't help. Dancing in the corset was one thing but sitting down with it pushing into your lungs was another.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria held onto the end of her bed as two of the 6 ladies pulled the laces of the corset to tighten it. Gasping for breath in between pulls Victoria frowned.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" Why is this tighter than normal?! Are you girls trying to kill me before the show starts?"]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" The two young women laughed shaking their heads,]] [size15[b[font "Candara Light" "No your Majesty your mother and father have given us strict instructions to make you look presentable tonight as there are going to be other princes there that could be a potential match for your hand in marriage".]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria let out a painful groan as the two women continued to giggle. Once the painful corset was one it took Victoria a few moments to control her breathing before the rest of her outfit was added. The color of the dress was the most beautiful emerald green she had ever seen and for once was actually looking forward to wearing something feminine. However, there was no time to correctly do her hair so Victoria improvised and pulled half of her hair up and kept it in place with a beautiful emerald slide with encrusted diamonds.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" She stood up and added the correct jewelry before slipping on her heels and making her way to her mother and father. The whole time her heart was pounding and for so many reasons. Invy was one of them, she had suspected he didn't know how exactly she was involved with the royals so she hoped it wouldn't be a big shock to him seeing as he spoke formally to her. The second was the potential matches, they were all snooty rich boys that came across as arrogant. Thinking if they behaved that way it was the perfect way to a princess' heart. Yeah right.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" With her ladies following behind her Victoria made her way over to her father who greeted her with open arms.]] [size14[b[#00008B[font "Candara Light" "Victoria you look beautiful! I knew this color of dress would go perfectly with your eyes. How do you like it?"]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria smiled as she embraced her father with a light hug.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "It looks beautiful father but I wish you wouldn't have told my ladies to make my corset so tight. Any tighter and I'm sure I'd have cracked a rib".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria smiled hearing her father laugh, feeling he relieved he knew she was joking even if there was some truth to the statement.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria turned to her ladies dismissing them so they could find a decent seat as the room was full to the max which meant the show would be starting at any minute.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Taking her seat next to her parents and siblings. She was seated next to her father as usual but this time her eldest brother and his bride-to-be were seated at the front. They were the main attraction of tonight and her father wanted everyone to make sure of that. After a few moments of shuffling in her seat from the uncomfortable corset slowly crushing her organs and her mother scolding her to sit still. The heavy plum curtains slowly began to rise.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" At first there was nothing but darkness which caused some whispers amongst the audience. But this only piqued Victoria's interest, as she watched a figure almost emerge from the background. His wings were like that of a crows and some gasps were heard from the audience but Victoria had a huge smile on her face. The excitement had begun to set in and the show had only started.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" As the night progressed Victoria sat in amazement at the performers, she'd never seen anything like them but they were all beautiful in their own way every performance and different and unique, keeping Victoria at the edge of her seat. Well, that was until the announcement of the 'Were Vain'. Seeing the creature being pulled out in a large cage made the smile fall from Victoria's face. She knew rich people and other members of royalty loved to see this thing but personally it disgusted her. And seeing her older brother laugh made her blood boil. Victoria rose from her seat ready to put a stop to things when the man pulling the crate opened the cage and freeing the creature.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Catching Victoria by surprise she sat back down as she watched it lunge forward to the crowd. This made Victoria laugh. Louder than she should have perhaps due to the look on her mother's face. But to everyone's surprise, this wasn't just any creature, he was human!. In utter awe, Victoria smiled clapping at the end of the performance.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Forgetting about the pain of her corset Victoria continued watching the other performers unable to take her eyes off them. As one performance ended there was applause from the audience as another figure took to the stage. A figure she knew already... Feeling the pain of the corset now she adjusted herself in her seat, this was the moment, to see how good he was at hiding his emotions or whether he would reveal their knowledge of each other.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The performance continued at normal and Victoria found herself laughing along with his performance, Invy practically shined on stage and could see his confidence coming through. Watching as people's personal belongings began to move and laughter followed where he went before she knew he was in front of her future sister-in-law as a floating rose dropped into her lap. Victoria's smiled only widened as she felt the lightest of taps on her nose almost causing a light flush to her cheeks as she watched him return to the stage and reassemble his attire.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Then the last performance was the perfect way to end the show. Arachne was magnificent even if she did make quite a few women feel uncomfortable. Once the lights had died and the curtain had been lowered everyone broke into a round of applause. Victoria found herself standing up which caused a lot of other people to do the same.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria immediately turned her attention to her father and lightly grabbed his hand.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "Oh father you must ask them if they wish to stay for the ball. They did a wonderful performance and I'm sure a lot of the people here would love to speak to them and get to know them! I for one would love that!".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Seeing the excitement on her daughters face he knew he wouldn't be able to reject her wishes as he laughed giving her a heartwarming smile.]]
[size14[b[#00008B[font "Candara Light" Well when you put it like that how could I possibly say no!".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" The King stood up as everyone turned their attention to him. He waved for one of the performers to come over as he spoke discreetly in their ear.]] [size14[b[#00008B[font "Candara Light" "Bring me the one in charge. I presume it's the man at the beginning? I wish to speak with him".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria smiled as one of the performers disappeared quickly looking for the crow-like man. She was excited to be able to meet with her friend again.]]
The invisible man paused in his clean up, turning to see Crow as he emerged from around the plum curtain, messenger in tow. [b “You will not believe what we’ve been invited to.”] The ringmaster grabbed Invy arms, shaking him slightly in excitement. [b “The ball!”]
Invy blinked in disbelief. [#cc000b “They want us, the freaks, to join them in a room full of pompous royalty whilst we eat their food and drink their wine?”]
[b “You make us sound like scum, Invy,”] he retorted. [b “I think it means that we’re being recognized for the superb work we did tonight.”]
[#cc000b “We danced around the fucking stage and made them laugh. We’re made- created to be fools for them. Don’t you think they’ll laugh over there too?”]
[b “Now don’t play like you don’t like being on stage, hypocrite.”]
[#cc000b “This has never happened before in all the years we’ve been doing this. This doesn’t seem a little suspicious to you?”]
[b “Now you’re starting to sound like me.”] He cleared his throat. [b “I think the King’s daughter is just utterly fascinated by us. Twas her idea.”]
Invy nearly said her name out loud. [i Victoria?] Was it merely just innocence? [#cc000b “Oh, I see.”]
[b “Let the crew know, I’ll clear your conscience by confirming with Madam York. Does that work for you?”]
Invy nodded as he watched Crow turn to leave, pushing off into the air.
The circus was electric with excitement. Everyone had pulled on their best garments to show off to the royal family and were starting to huddle at the castle gates. They all looked like a bunch of characters out of a fairy tale. Normal wears were not found in their closets, only costumes, which, despite how much Invy loved his clothes, definitely felt out of place.
Once Crow had landed beside him, the servant opened the doors to let them through the front gardens and up the pathway to another doorway into the ballroom. Invy glanced at the creature in a top hat. [#cc000b “What did York say?”] he asked, low enough for only Crow to hear.
[b “She was displeased. She urged those left behind to start packing the wagons and tents.”] His black eyes landed on him, an obvious sense of discomfort etched in his features. [b “We can’t back out now. It would be a great disrespect. We just need to relax. Maybe whatever the Madam is fearful about will happen [i after] our departure.”]
He was right. There was no way of pinning down a premonition from the seer to the exact moment. [b “Just do what I do in these situations. Bottle it all up, have a couple drinks and pretend that you don’t know the colors of the future.”]
In colors was how Madam York always saw her visions. Never visuals but through feeling and hues. [#cc000b “Alright. I trust you.”]
The circus soon arrived at the ballroom, glamorously decorated and lit to reflect that prosperity. The group eagerly dispersed and with one last glance at the ringmaster, Crow did his leadership duty and moved to greet, thank and grovel at the King’s gracious invitation. Invy took advantage of the food and drink offered, knowing full well how rare it was to actually fill his stomach completely. [i Relax.]
Adjusting the mask around his eyes, the invisible man brought a glass of wine to his lips, looking around for the King’s daughter who gave them this opportunity in the first place until he finally made eye contact with her across the room. Absolutely out of his league, he raised a gloved hand cautiously, waving slightly. There was still a chance their encounter was to remain a secret so he wasn’t terribly obvious.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The excitement had begun to build in Victoria. These were new people she was about to meet. Unique and exciting people, in some way Victoria was envious of them. Knowing full well if she expressed that to the performers they would have laughed in her face, or maybe even looked at though as though she were insane. Sure the life of a princess had its many many advantages but there was one thing it did lack...freedom.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" She could hear the talk among her father's other guests, some of them were just as excited as she was about being able to meet them in person and get to know them, a lot of them were children. But there were also the stuck up rude guests that didn't want to come near them in fear of the performers carrying diseases. Victoria almost choked at some of the things, before she could make a scene in front of everyone and embarrass her family she instead threw herself into her wine. There was just no pleasing some people. You could never make anyone truly happy no matter who you were in the world.]]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/729hptV.png]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" As the servants opened the doors to the palace for the performers to come in and make themselves at home, Victoria had her wine refilled as she waited for everyone. Mostly her new friend Invy so she could congratulate him on his excellent performance.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria had now left her family's side and began wandering around the room, greeting people that spoke to her and making light conversation with people who approached her. Her eyes were scanning for two things. The men her father planned to set her up with and her new friend, if she could perhaps escape to him for a while her father wouldn't bother to introduce her to any, but then again that was wishful thinking.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The doors to the ballroom had now shut which could only mean one thing, everyone was here and enjoying themselves. Victoria looked back over at her father and noticed he was conversing with the man whose appearance was that of a crow. With a smile on her face, Victoria made her way over to the two and introduced herself. Never being someone to judge another for appearance and also to see the look of disgust from the pompous guests, Victoria lightly grabbed his hands and smiled.]]
[size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "Sir! That was an excellent performance from your and fellow performers. It was a truly thrilling experience and I'm very happy you accepted my father's kind offer of joining the party tonight, please help yourself to the food and drink".]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Flashing him another bright smile Victoria bowed politely and then turned to her father giving him a light kiss on the cheek. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a familiar figure. Invy who looked very smart in his outfit from what she could see of him, seeing the light wave she smiled and made her way over to him, she couldn't wait to congratulate him and meet the rest of the performers, maybe even at some point she could convince him to dance with her. Her stomach turned with excitement as she stopped in front of him. Doing as she did so with the crow-like man she took Invy's hands in her own.]]
[size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "You were brilliant! Very entertaining Invy, you had me as the shy type but you were practically glowing on stage. I think even Drage would have been impressed with your performance".]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria winked teasingly followed by a light chuckle.]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost Feeling a sense of relief, the performer watched Victoria cross the room, taking his free hand into hers and congratulating them on their night of entertainment. He could clearly see that she meant no ill will in her invitation and truly was interested in spending time with his strange family. Usually those variations of fans mostly consisted of the poor, deformed or those of servitude. Crow had a soft spot for people like that which was how they obtained grunt help for camp breakdown and wagon loading. It was much harder, however, to find true circus acts.
Invy smiled, taking the opportunity to bow and kiss the top of her hand as Crow had strictly advised not to do with royalty. What could he say? He found the princess to be quite attractive. [#cc000b “Thank you, your highness. I do rather enjoy the spotlight.”] He let her hand drop and took a sip of the wine, smirking as he did so. [#cc000b “Do you often escape from those stone walls and fraternise with the commoners?”] he asked, keeping his voice low. [i Obviously the King doesn’t know.]
Ignoring the glares around them, the invisible man took another helping of rye bread and spread, sighing gratefully. [#cc000b “It’s been a long time since I’ve had real butter and I hear I have [i you] to thank for that.”] As long as he ignored the warning from Madame York...]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria felt a slight flush on her cheeks as Invy kissed the top of her hand, although she couldn't see him do it so to speak, she definitely felt his lips pressed against her skin. Many royals and nobles had done this to Victoria even from a young age, but this time it felt different, almost like a tingle remained on her skin once Invy had moved back.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" As one of the servers walked past with a tray of goblets filled with wine, Victoria helped herself to one, and just as Invy had done so Victoria copied him. She bought the cup to her lips and took a sip. Invy's question made Victoria smile mischievously. Now that her cover had been blown Invy was right to keep his voice down if any of her family knew what she did outside of the castle grounds she would never be allowed to take Drage out again. Bringing the mood back up she leaned forward and placed her hand to the side of her mouth.]]
[size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "Not with Drage no, you're the first. Although there are good people, there are many evil people that may try to kill Drage or capture him in an attempt to sell him for a high price. My father would deliver quite a harsh punishment if he found out, so that can our little secret".]]]
[size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "I do however visit the town frequently, being female it will be extremely rare for me to take the throne someday, so father doesn't mind me spending time with the 'commoners' as you call them as long as I have protection. I tend to find the company of the villagers a lot more interesting than the rich. They will help anyone, whereas the rich will only help the rich or for a profit".]]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Feeling herself rolling her eyes at her own statement she decided to take another sip of wine before her mouth decided to say anything more embarrassing this evening. Truth be told Victoria loved the company and meeting new people, Invy was someone new and exciting to her and she was happy to have made a friend that seemed to have the same personality and humor as her.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" His next comment though made Victoria look at him sympathetically. She knew she had it easy here and anything she wanted she had. But not everyone was that fortunate... Forcing her smile to reappear she looked at Invy.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "Well Invy my friend if you would like I could ask the cooks to spare you and your family some butter if you wish? I'm sure father won't mind, he's never taken much of a liking to butter really, he'll be happy to share it". As for thanking me, there's no need to, you all deserve to have a nice evening after that amazing show you put on earlier. It would have been rude of me not to have asked you to stay."]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria finished the last of her wine and set it down on the side, feeling a little shy she adjusted her dress and smiled at Invy,]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "there is one thing I would like to ask from you though. If it's not too much trouble... I would love to meet the rest of your family".]]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost The invisible man nodded as he listened, munching on the wholesome starch that settled nicely in his stomach. He could imagine that Drage was a high ticket creature for those without the royalty lineage. Whilst he never looked into it himself, he was sure the black merchants would do anything to get their hands on a strong purebred dragon. He shrugged lightly at her comment. [#cc000b “Commoners- the common man, whatever you want to call us. I agree we are more authentic in nature, that’s for sure.”]
Invy almost choked. [i No thanks needed? Was she crazy?] Giving food as valuable as butter was definitely not in the nature of royals and he knew Crow wouldn’t particularly be privy to the offer. But good god, butter was just as delectable and rare as any fruit. [#cc000b “I beggin’ your pardon Miss Victoria, but I think you may be the bravest or foolish princess I’ve ever met- and I have not met many if any at all.”] He finished his goblet and put it aside on a tray, wiping his gloved hands of crumbs. [#cc000b “Come,”] he started, knowing exactly where to start. If his new acquaintance wanted to meet the oddities of the kingdom, who was he to judge?
With a slight spring in his step, Invy led her across to his dearest confidant, the bearded lady Jasmine. As he introduced the pair, a movement towards the main doors caught his eye. Taking a step back from the ladies, he could make out the discretion of a servant unlocking the doors, revealing behind it a crowd of polished knights. Invy felt himself grow cold and reached out to grab Jasmine’s wrist. She paused mid sentence and turned to follow his gaze as the rival kingdom’s soldiers began to pour in, shouting and unsheathing their swords. Crow was wrong. They were going to be stuck in the middle of it. ]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria laughed at Invy’s comment which caught the attention of some of the royals but she didn’t care, she was enjoying herself which was usually a rarity at her family’s balls. Foolish? Brave? Victoria never saw herself as any of those, she just saw herself as Victoria some people may even mistake her for being naive. But she was never stupid, she knew there was evil in the world, there was something she was always very good at, being able to see when someone is good and when someone is evil.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" As Invy has gestured for her to follow him Victoria nodded, she finished of the remainder of her wine and set it down on the table before following the invisible man in front of her. She glanced over at her father who was still in conversation with the crow like man, from the look on his face it appeared the crow-man had brought up a topic that had caught her fathers interest which made Victoria smile, her father didn’t mingle with strangers much so it was nice to see him conversing with someone that wasn’t from a titled family.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The second person of the night she was being introduced to was the woman known as the bearded lady, upon finding out her name to be Jasmine, Victoria quickly introduced herself and had she had done so with the crow-man and Invy she took Jasmine’s hands into her own giving them a slight squeeze. As the two were deep in conversation and not giving much thought to their surroundings the two were caught of guard when Invy suddenly grabbed Jasmine’s hand with a look of terror on his face.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Before Victoria could ask what was going on the doors to the palace had burst open and a large number on knights poured in filling up the ballroom floor. Victoria looked in panic at her father who was still talking to the crow-man at the time, he discreetly held his hand up giving her the sign to remain where she was and Victoria did just that.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The king adjusted his attire and leaned in to the Crow,]] [size14[b[#00008B[font "Candara Light" “As you can see my eldest daughter is with two of your performers, I will handle things from here, but please if you get her out of here, keep her safe and the rest of my family you will be handsomely rewarded and even have your own land to be permanent residents of if you so wish. But we can talk more later, return to your family for now”.]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The king gave the Crow a heartwarming smile and made his way over to the guards a stern and furious look on his face.]] [size14[b[#00008B[font "Candara Light" “What is the meaning of this?! How dare you barge in here uninvited and upsetting my family and guests. Explain yourselves before I have you executed on the spot!”]]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost There was a lead knight amongst those who entered that turned to the King as he bellowed throughout the ballroom. He moved away from Crow strategically, closing the distance between the invaders and his guests. Invy met gazes with their feathered leader and put his gloved hands around the forearms of Victoria and Jasmine, pulling them closer. He couldn’t necessarily protect, but he and Crow were strategists.
[b “Hold your tongue for your words will no longer hold meaning,”] spoke the Knight. In a swift motion, he unsheathed his sword and shoved it perfectly underneath the King’s ribs. A collective scream emanated from the crowd as he toppled over in a convulsing heap. Instinctively, Invy grabbed hold of Victoria, using all his strength to keep her from diving forward into the mess of polished armor. If they were willing to murder a monarch, then the princess was next.
With a grunt, he twisted his body to shove her away from the enemy pouring in through the door. A gust of air and Crow was there, grabbing hold of her waist and pushing away, sliding across the room with one strong flap of his wing till the pair hit the back wall nearest to the window. In the next instant, they were showered in glass as they dived through the window, finally out of sight.
The Invisible Man turned just in time to see the sword flashing beside him, slicing through his robes but missing flesh completely. He pulled off the garment, throwing it over the knight's head to buy him time. The room was discombobulating. Screams, cries, clashes of metal. He could barely formulate an escape plan. His family. They needed to get out. They needed to-
The freak snapped his head towards the scream, sprinting forward to the lackey who had a hold of Jasmine’s beard, dragging her to face the floor. He tackled the man to the wine spilled tile, gathering to his feet quickly to kick the metal helmet, the knight's head snapping unnaturally. Something collided into his right side, pushing him back to the floor and knocking the air from his lungs. The heavy man swung an elbow into his face, cracking the mask and toppling over his chest. Invy tried to push him off, struggling to move the gargantuan off his body. His heart pounded in his ears, panic rattling his thoughts. [i Breathe, breathe!]
The man grunted above him, shoved just enough for Invy to see Jasmine pulling the armor plate back to get the knight to teeter off of his stomach. The invisible man rolled out from under the weight, catching his breath as he retched his friend to his side to get away. Someone else tugged and just as Invy turned to pull her out of harm's way, hot blood sprayed over him, stopping him instantly. Coating his clothes and face, Jasmine rolled her eyes back as her neck parted open, her beard in knots as she fell at his feet. A pool of deep, hot red.
He froze in shock, starting to hyperventilate as the murderer jabbed his sword once more, this time in Invy’s direction. He stumbled backward, slipping on mixed wine and blood as he turned to flee. It was hot and sticky. [i It’s too hot.] He needed to get it off.
He shrugged off his stained vest, tore off his tunic, and kicked off his shoes as he weaved through the madness, no longer the brave second in command Crow always bragged him to be. Once hidden enough, he took off the last of his garments, finally fully invisible to make his get away. Despite being splashed in the blood of his family, the royal guests and the enemy, he disappeared through the crowd and out into the bitter night air.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" What Victoria thought was one of the best nights of her life instantly became one of the worst, all in a matter of seconds…]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" All Victoria could do was to stand and watch her father, she felt a light grip around her arm. She glanced to see it was Invy, even though she couldn’t see his expression she could feel it was a look of concern, much like the rest of the people in this room, her father included.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The next few seconds seemed to pass by in slow motion. She didn’t even have time to absorb what the knight had said, all she could see was a blade being rammed into her father’s ribs. As he fell to the floor Victoria let out a blood curdling scream that echoed through the hall, somehow making it overpower the rest of people’s screams including her family’s. Not thinking Victoria lunged forward ready to charge head first into the knight that had just taken her father’s life. Something or rather someone though was quicker and stopped her.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Invy…]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Fighting with every fibre of her being she tried to break away from him, but to her surprise he was a lot stronger than she was, she didn’t stand a chance to break free from his grasp.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria felt a pressure on her shoulders followed by a gust of wind, now in the arms of the winged man they named Crow. Not knowing where she was or what was happening, all she could feel was a deafening ringing through her ears and shards of glass surrounding her and Crow.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Knowing it would be pointless to fight Crow she just lay lifeless as he carried her to safety. What seemed like an eternity the two eventually came to a stop as Crow gently let her down. Victoria fell to her knees and screamed into her hands. The most important man in her life was now dead and she had no idea where the rest of her family was or if they were even alive at this point.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" She glared up at the Crow, quickly rising to her feet she closed the distance between them and slapped him across the cheek before taking a firm grip on the collar of his shirt shaking him.]]
[size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" “WHY?! HOW COULD YOU?! WHY RESCUE ME AND NOT THE REST OF MY FAMILY?! WHY ME?!”]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria buried her face into his chest and cried, using the last of her energy to hit him she collapsed to her knees. She looked up at him with plead in her eyes.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" “Please my brothers and sister, they’re only children, you have to let me go back in there and get them. What kind of sister would I be if I left them to die? These people are your family right? You would do the same for them wouldn’t you? So please I’m begging you let me go to them. I-I didn’t even get chance to say goodbye…”]]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria slowly let go of him and hung her head in shame, the only thing she could do at this moment was cry. It disgusted her, she was given training but nothing had prepared her for this, and at this moment in time she simply didn’t care, she had lost everyone she knew and she didn’t even know if her dragon was still alive or if he had perished too…]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost His heartbeat pounded in his ears as he sat hunched behind a rose bush, far enough away from the ballroom but not far enough to escape the cries of anguish. He couldn’t stop shaking or control his breath. His thoughts wouldn’t formulate. Just blood, screams, hot, on him- [i they can’t see me, they can’t see me.]
Through the hyperventilating, Invy tried to calm himself enough to think about what he [i should] be doing rather than sitting here hiding. [i What do I do? What would someone else do?] Home. He needed to go back to the circus. They were already set to leave, right?
Without delaying a moment, the invisible man hurried to his feet, sprinting to the iron gates across gravel and dirt till he could see the outline of the carts and wagons through the settling darkness. The minor crew was scrambling, throwing rods and props wherever they could fit, torches being lit at the front of every caravan. Invy followed the sounds of shouting, rounding the corner to see Crow hovering above.
Once Invy laid eyes on the black feathered man, he felt his chest fill with raw emotion, collapsing to his knees as Crow called out his name. He lowered his gaze, tears forming at the edges of his eyes. He couldn’t look at him. Not after what he’d done.
The dirt kicked up around him. [b “Invy,”] Crow breathed, touching his hair. [b “You’re covered in blood.”] Invy choked back a sob, starting to curl his body inward. The leader groaned in impatience, pushing the other’s head up and pointing to a cart with an open flap. [b “Get in. Now. Did you see anyone else?”]
The performer shook his head, letting Crow pull him to a stand. [#cc000b “I..-”]
[b “We’ll talk later. Get in the fucking wagon. We have to go.”] Crow’s tone was strong, giving the invisible man enough incentive to climb into the cart.
There was a single lit candle in a jar illuminating the solemn faces gathered inside. Various performers, a couple palace residents and the princess. Under different circumstances, he might have been embarrassed of his appearance, just bits of floating unsightly red... But her eyes were just as sunken as his. This was no time for his usual vanity. No time for anything. Madam York was right. They shouldn’t have come here...
Invy took a seat across from Victoria, pulling a tattered blanket over his shoulders and keeping his grief as muted as possible.
The ride lasted for hours and Invy imagined that they were deep in the enchanted forest by now. He felt he should say something polite, even encouraging, to the others but had no energy to do so. Some leader he was. A heaviness settled over him and soon he was asleep.
The halting of the caravan bumped his head against the wood, awaking him instantly. Invy stood first with a slight groan, tying the blanket around his waist and pulling aside the canvas flap. It was mid day or late afternoon. He didn’t recognise the spot but they were clearly still deep in the forests, surrounded by trees, a small creek and hills.
Hearing Crow shouting once more, he figured this is where they would recover and gestured for the others to follow him out. The sun was tantalizing on his bare skin, making him instantly self conscious once more. [#cc000b “You can stay with me if you want...”] he offered to the awkward standing blonde. [#cc000b “I just... need to rinse off.”]
He turned slowly, stepping closer to the creek before kneeling before it and rinsing his hair and body. It felt relieving, washing the blood and dirt away, almost like it was a stigma. [#cc000b “I’m sorry..,”] he started, still staring at the pebbles in the water. [#cc000b “About your father...”] ]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" At this point Victoria found herself in the back of a wagon with some people from the kingdom and the other performers. She desperately wanted to ask them if they'd seen or heard from any of her siblings or her mother, but as she opened her mouth to speak nothing came out. Her eyes began to fill with tears as she simply hung her head in shame.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Her dress was torn to shreds from the broken glass and her hair that was once up off her face had now fallen around her shoulders and was unkempt, she didn't have the impression of a princess, but maybe it was for the best, the more she looked like the average commoner the better.
[size16[font "Candara Light" Mustering up the strength she looked up when she heard a familiar voice, although she couldn't see him, the sound of his voice was enough, she was relieved to know that Invy had made it out alive, but judging from his appearance and the bloodstains on him it couldn't have been a positive outcome. Victoria was still angry with him for holding her back, she had every right to be with her family but he and the Crow had put a stop to that, Crow wouldn't give her the answers she had demanded so Invy would be the next person she would ask and hopefully, he would shed some light on the situation.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" The guilt Victoria was feeling was incomprehensible to others, the people at the kingdom recognized her and the paranoia began to set in, why was she here when the rest of the family was back at the castle? Had she run away and abandoned them? Was she in on the plan? All of these thoughts were racing through her head, she was beyond exhausted but there was no way she would be able to sleep. There was no one she could trust.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" What felt like an eternity the wagon finally came to a stop and Invy was the first to stand, opening the canvas flap letting in some sunlight, the events of the night before were now gone and it was a new day. Victoria was the second to stand, she needed to get out of this enclosed space and be able to take in the fresh air before she suffocated. Following Invy Victoria silently jumped off the wagon and closed her eyes from the brightness from the sun.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" A short moment of her eyes adjusting to the brightness of the sun, the rest of the group had now left to help with various jobs that needed doing in the camp. With just the two of them standing in an awkward trance, Invy was the first to break the silence, offering her some comfort by staying with someone she knew a little. Victoria simply nodded and followed him to the creek watching as the water now had shades of dirt and blood from Invy.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria crouched down still in silence as she washed her hands and arms, the dried blood slowly began to disappear from the superficial cuts from the glass windows. She ran her wet hands through her hair trying somewhat to make it more appealing, more for herself than anyone else. Hearing Invy utter those words sent a shiver down her spine. What he said just confirmed everything, there was no convincing it was all just a nightmare that she would wake up from at any moment and her father would be sitting downstairs waiting for her.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Part of her wanted to rage at him, someone to blame would make things easier for her to deal with if he had let her go would things have been different? Probably not, she would most likely be lying in a pool of her own blood next to her father at this point, but it still didn't stop her from questioning him about it, but for now from the sound of his voice he'd been through something himself and now was not the time to be a spoilt princess.]]
[size16[font "Candara Light" Instead Victoria opened her mouth to mutter three words so quietly only the two of them would be able to hear it.]] [size14[b[#B22222[font "Candara Light" "I'm sorry too..."]]] [size16[font "Candara Light" Victoria's lip began to quiver as tears streamed down her dirt covered face.]]
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Jost] [size15 [Jost Invy felt overwhelming guilt wash over him. He quickly finished his rinsing, finally dipping his head into the creek to get the last of the dried blood out of his hair. For once in his life, he was glad to be invisible. Victoria would never see the anguish across his face.
He sat there for a moment, letting the sun dry and warm his skin. He struggled to find the right words knowing full well that anything he could ever say would never be enough. Nothing could bring the dead back- at least nothing holy.
Invy could hear Crow barking orders over his shoulder, too aware that he should be beside the feathered man as well. He was a leader but hell if he earned that title... but there was one thing he could promise her. Invy stood. [#cc000b “We will figure something out and we will find a way to get you home. You may have to rough it with us but these people...”] He glanced behind him. [#cc000b “They’re good. They’re family.”]
[#cc000b “Come,”] Invy touched her sleeve lightly to signal his whereabouts. [#cc000b “Let’s find you some change of clothes.”]
Giving the performer something else to focus on seemed to distract him from his grief if only temporarily. The circus was lively despite the circumstances, setting up tents and tables, prepping an area for food and drink. Crow noticed the floating blanket but paid no mind to the pair as Invy searched for the goods carriage.
The storage trunks, though haphazardly stacked, were arranged by rank, easily finding his among all the wild colors. His hand brushed against a violet trunk, lingering in thought before pulling it down beside his. Invy opened Jasmine’s padlock and handed Victoria a fairly plain dress. It took him fair emotional strength to let go of the garment once he passed it to the princess.
He pulled on a single glove. [#cc000b “You can change in there,”] he gestured to a weathered tent beside them. [#cc000b “I’ll be here when you’re finished.”] ]]
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