CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 10 ♦ Spoken Tradition
Valeriana lumbered back to the room where Arisce was and no longer bothered knocking. She simply opened the door and stepped in. However, it seemed to have been a bad decision. For the umpteenth time that day, she found herself halting as she came upon the scene. It wasn’t anything awkward, but the woman was talking to somebody else—a very tall man of six feet, balding head, and sagging forehead and brows.
The man did a one-eighty and looked at her while Arisce was as casual as ever.
“Darling, my dear, please close the door behind you,” she said.
“A new recruit?” the man’s deep voice rolled like thunder. “I haven’t seen her face around.”
“She’s a new addition, yes.”
Valeriana did as Arisce told her to then reluctantly traversed the room, stifling the urge to hide herself behind the woman. She found the man’s piercing gaze locked onto her with curiosity which made her all the more uncomfortable.
“You really like taking in street rats,” he said.
“No, I’m taking unearthed treasures,” she replied.
The honey-golden blonde’s mouth curled in distaste at his comment. Her tongue curled to spit words at him, but she bit down on it and held herself back. Arisce seemed to have the situation under control and she had no intention of ruining it.
“And you are persistent,” she told him. “The beasts will not be given up.”
“Stubborn woman.” He chuckled.
“Is that all you’re going to say?” Arisce asked. “Now leave my sight. We have nothing to talk about.”
The man harrumphed. He turned to leave but not before giving Valeriana a glare. “You should’ve thought twice about joining these people.” He then grabbed the squirming men on the floor and singlehandedly began dragging them out of the door.
As he left, the tent was shaken by riotous cheers. Valeriana’s eyes dropped to the performance and saw that Tyson, De Cirque’s twin-tailed lion, has finally entered the ring. His large wings were spread wide as a bloodcurdling roar reverberated all throughout.
“The night had just begun,” Arisce said as she took out her pipe and began smoking once again. “Compared to their feeble attempts before, this one is actually lackadaisical. I have enjoyed handling the ones deployed by the Fire Faction more. They actually have strategies, like a game.”
“You know that’s bad for your health, right? Smoking?” Valeriana said.
Arisce looked up and exhaled a cloud. “I like it.”
The entire arena grew silent, which made Valeriana look back at the performance. She thought something happened, but then saw that it was mainly due to Aliyah putting her forefinger on her lips.
Tyson opened his jaws and balls of fire left his mouth, like Avaro had done back in Larkovia. These blobs seemed to have a life of their own, circling the stage one by one until they formed a halo around the ring. Some of them flew above the audience, which elicited some exclaims of delight from people, especially the children.
“Hear the tales of the realm beyond,” Aliyah began low. “The creation of the lands by the five gods of the world we’re denied.”
Five blobs of fire scattered evenly around the ring flared to life, glowing different colors and images. Blue, green, red, yellow, and white lit up.
Valeriana inched forward until her forehead hit the glass. “Ow.”
“Past the gates unseen is a domain of beasts and people—people we descended from, our ancestors, whose rich history had led to the founding of the united world. The first king, Friedel, sealed his brother to eternal sleep down the trenches of twelve layers after he and his demons who wielded the shadows wreaked havoc upon the land.”
Her words echoed with pictures from the flaring flames. A silhouette of a man holding a sword stabbed another, the latter falling into the former’s embrace. Twelve layers rose above them, which made Valeriana’s eyes widen.
“Twelve layers. The twelve layers. Demon Society,” she whispered, causing Arisce to look up at her questioningly. “The twelfth layer is where Valdis lies . . .” she thought. “It makes sense. Thick demonic energy. Hierarchy of demons. Emperor-tiers. But you need to correct that information, they don’t just wield shadows. I’m sure a certain demon will be offended by this.”
The narration continued.
“After the war, naturally was peace, but demons cannot be eradicated. Instead, they were driven to a continent of their own, locked and imprisoned. A division of knights were garrisoned to watch over them, to prevent their escape—hailed from the originals that fought in the Great War, they were called Celestes.”
Valeriana felt a chill run down her spine as the fires flared and showed twelve silhouettes standing tall within a circle, facing the audience.
“But Celestes needed to pass their positions down. They cannot, however, leave to teach and training resistance against demonic energy will prove many years of exposure to it. Thus, in the middle of the continent, they took in disciples and from thereon passed down the arts they’ve learned from arduous training. Knighthood was established and was routinely passed, generation after generation. Valemnia, up to this day, still stands beyond our world and knights watch upon the land to ensure its safety.”
With that, the show ended, causing a bout of cheers. Valeriana digested the information. “The spoken tradition. I could not find these stories from books. They said they were only orally passed.”
“Did you tell Aliyah all this?”
Arisce sighed. “Yes,” she said. “I have an odd fascination with the oral tales. I have heard them from my mother when I was a child. I wanted to do it to my daughter.” She gave Valeriana a small smile.
“Now for the next act!” exclaimed the announcer. “Lundie and Maridie!”
They stood by for the rest of the night, watching guardedly over the entire performance. There were no more incidents after the attempted infiltration of the Knight’s Wing. Valeriana had been more fascinated by the acts, especially the trapeze by Lundie and Maridie. The litheness of their movements as well as the way they creatively put a spin to the classic act was entertaining for someone who’d never seen it done—not that she ever personally saw a live circus until now. Either way, the integration of element-wielding and acrobatics was a sight for sore eyes.
The crowd was taken in for the entire show, like hypnosis. Eyes followed every gesture and hardly anyone looked away. Valeriana felt the gravity of her fascination so much that the excitement pooled heavily in her stomach.
When it was over and done, she could not help but clap along with everyone else. She wanted to scream, but seeing as she was with Arisce, she held herself back.
“What do you say in Valemnian at times like this?”
“You mean Valemiuer.”
“Yeah, whatever,” she said.
“Midavíde. You should work on your lessons. It’s very important.”
The audience started leaving the tent. Arisce observed the artists retreating backstage before she herself walked out readily, perhaps to meet them. Valeriana followed with no hesitations. In no time at all, they were greeting the performers.
“You know where Cat went?” Lundie asked Jester, who in turn, had been talking to Bonjo.
“Eh?” Jester turned. “I think she already went back to her place.”
“Shucks, I forgot to return something. Maybe later.”
“Oh, hey, newbie!” Bonjo exclaimed when he saw Valeriana walking alongside Arisce. “How was I, eh?”
“Very strong,” she said with a smile.
“Come now, you can be more creative!” he said.
“It was . . . midavíde,” she told him.
“Don’t keep pressuring her to say praises you don’t deserve!” Maridie stomped her way to Bonjo’s side, glaring up at the taller guy.
“I think I des—”
“Lady Arisce, do we get to meet her properly now?” Runner ran up to the woman, glancing excitedly at Valeriana.
“Of course.” She smiled. “Come here, my dear.” She beckoned Valeriana who stood by her side as the members of the troupe gathered around. “She has yet no name.”
“Why do I even need a new name?” Valeriana asked.
She was ignored.
“Can we call her Blue? She has blue eyes!” Lundie suggested loudly.
“Lame!” Maridie hollered.
Then everyone was speaking all at once, throwing suggestions left and right.
The chaos ensued. Valeriana had to scratch her head as she stood on the side, watching them argue to the point that their heads nearly popped from their shoulders like an improperly opened champagne bottle. Thankfully, not all of them intended to join the fray. Some were busier working on rearranging the venue and cleaning up the mess. Most of the uproarious ones belonged in the first-string performers.
“You all have bad suggestions,” Arisce commented. “Since it is still undecided, we will call you by your given name. But this must not be uttered outside the circus.”
“Why is it so bad?”
“Because you wouldn’t like it,” Aliyah said, brushing back the curtain of dark hair that fell on her eyes. The high ponytail had been discarded and the tailcoat halfway down her arms. “Name represents everything about a person and it’s a pressure to carry it all out with you to the ring. It’s a ritual.”
“Mel sava,” Arisce said. “You’ve done great out there, my darling. As have all of you. Lundie, however, should practice more restraint and leniency. Valeriana will be joining us from this day forward. In the meantime,” the woman gazed at the girl. “Have you found anything you would like to do?”
Valeriana smiled lightly and nodded her head. “I’d love to help out with the beasts.”
“Vouie, you seem to care about them very much.” Arisce nodded approvingly. “Beard has been assigned to them now because his brother who has been caring for them has recently passed on.”
“I have a reason to be bad at it,” Beard said. “And I can see why they hate me very much.”
“But aside from that, do you have any other talent?” Jester, the clown, asked.
“I’m virtually talentless,” she replied. “But I can help with general things like cooking, which people say I seem to be good at.”
“Performance wise?” the clown followed. “We really need a tightrope walker, you know.”
“Tightrope? Oh gods no, I have a severe case of acrophobia, but yeah . . .” she paused to think. “Everything I know is inaccessible around here. I previously had someone help me manufacture the things I needed to put things to reality, but I’m not sure about here, and I also didn’t bring my laptop and the music scores which contained all the pieces I learned back in high school,” Valeriana continued ranting, causing confusion to appear on the faces of everyone. “That means even if I did have a way, it’d be impossible to recreate the experience I had with the Twelve in the academy and it’s very much ineffective even if I try. Wasted efforts. Yep. I’m useless performance-wise.”
“How about singing?”
She huffed and waved her hand dismissively. “Unless you want the earth to split first, don’t make me.”
“Hey, that might be a talent.” Lundie jumped forward with a finger pointing to the ceiling as though it was the brightest idea he ever had.
“Like there’s this act where we put a glass, make you sing, and see if it breaks!” the trapeze artist elaborated.
Cheers and whistles came from first-string members at the idea. They seemed to approve.
Valeriana deadpanned. “If I don’t break people’s eardrums first. You’ll bleed out faster than a major artery.”
A round of laughter resonated.
“Jester, I think you’ve gained yourself a partner!” Bonjo hollered, reaching for the clown and patting him so hard he nearly fell over. “You should do standup comedy together. You’ll sell the jokes really well!”
Unfortunately, the clown really did trip.
“Bonjo, watch your strength!” he exclaimed.
“Seriously, though, where did all those guys who attacked went?” Valeriana asked.
“The trio have cleaned them up,” Aliyah told her as she fully tugged off her coat. “I’ll get going. We’ll start moving soon. Make sure all your teapots and breakables are in place lest you want them breaking again.” With that she folded her outerwear in her arms and walked off.
“Lady Arisce!” exclaimed a voice. “Audience have all been guided out!”
Valeriana turned to see the knife-throwing boy from before enter with a satisfied smile.
“Aoute, good job, darling. The clowns will handle the rest.” Arisce smiled. “Come here.”
Aoute did so happily. “I can be in the next show, right?”
Aoute’s face fell.
“Again with the dependability,” the honey-golden blonde muttered. “How do you take down the tents?” Valeriana asked. “They seem to be firmly built in. How do you even move around?”
“Oh, we don’t take down the tents.” Maridie chuckled.
Her brows shot up. “Then how?”
“You’ll see it in a while,” said Lundie. “For the meantime, we’re off to secure everything. We should be able to leave by midnight. Want to help out?”
Valeriana nodded. “Sure. Might as well know how it works around here.”