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Thanks for visiting the circus! Grimmfay started out as “what book do I want to read that I can’t find,” and combined with transitioning to a new place, it became support when I needed it most. This story’s sat on my computer for too long, and it’s time to share it. Read on for a teaser of the first three chapters, and sign up to receive updates, including an official notification when I launch the Patreon in January.
A circus with its own night…
A mother who can’t protect her daughter…
A master who’ll do anything to regain his power…
Grimmfay—the might, the magic, the majesty.
Twelve years ago, Queen Zelandra escaped Grimmfay’s hold on her soul, leaving a vengeful Master in her wake. Now, with the circus once more at her doorstep, old power stirs in her blood, drawing her back to the dark prison beneath the lights. If she can just stay away for eventide’s long night, the circus will be gone, and she will be safe once more.
Or so she believes. Zelandra is not the only one who’s heard the Master’s call. When her daughter runs into the circus’s arms, Zelandra cannot go after her and risk becoming the very thing her baby needs saving from. Alliances will form, bonds will break, and lives will collide as the show goes on. Beneath Grimmfay’s surface lies a dark, twisted maze, and the only way out is through.
One way or another, the night will end, and eventide is a long night, indeed.
1. The Match
Night has always been the time to travel. Night, with its shades of black and cool wisps of mists. Night, with its cloak hiding all.
It is the slipping over the land, quick and quiet as the whisper of changing seasons. One may fall asleep to winter snow and wake to the perfume of roses. Such goes the gliding between the cracks of time, traversing distance in moments.
If one could watch the journey—though, no one may—they would see an ever-changing phantom. A flock of doves might soar on the wing. In a blink, the birds might become starlight glistening over four startlingly white horses. If its true self were ever seen traveling, it would appear as three spheres floating along the deserted valleys and hills. The lead sphere would be the deepest crimson, a heart beating its fury and joy and sorrow. Right behind, a sphere of azure would leave one feeling chilled by the icy prickle of unwanted fingertips over the spine. Next would come a break, large enough to suggest something was once there. But before the mind can form the thought, a final sphere comes, jade as a verdant meadow or an envious face or the wide eyes of the woman once loved but left. Night after night, they glide on, propelled by a force their own but not. The wills of three give it strength when it has none to spare.
But three is not enough, never enough. One more is required, and one more, no matter what must be done, there shall be.
Come some, come any,
Bring few, bring many!
The long night of Eventide
The moon will burn red
The stars will gleam blue
The land will range green
The sky will shine black
Feast your eyes upon the might, the magic, the majesty!
Lady Orianna, Mistress of Thorns
Lady Cindell, Mistress of Glass
Lady Bianca, Mistress of Blood
2. A Wish Heard by More Than Stars
Princess Delaria stomped her foot in a tantrum too young for her twelve years. The swish of her pink satin slipper accompanying the thump of her foot only served to blaze her fierce anger hotter. She glared up at her father, King Torrick, where he sat on his polished throne of gold and cedar and brass. His scowl refused to be disturbed, like those in the many portraits upon the throne room’s walls.
“Volume, Delaria.” Her mother, stoic as a stone beat against by a river, perched beside her father. She spoke like the coo of a dove. “Princesses do not yell.”
“I don’t care!” Delaria swish-stomped her foot again. “The circus is only here for eventide. Why can’t I go?”
“We have told you why, Delaria,” her father said in the same infuriatingly calm tone he’d used the entire discussion.
Delaria huffed. “I don’t believe you!” Reasons—more like excuses. First, her mother had sat her down and explained this circus affected those who went. Then, her father tried to tell her this circus was different, dangerous. Right, it was a circus. When Delaria persisted, neither relented. She had yelled and screamed—still yelled and screamed—to no avail. Her parents were suffocating, and they didn’t want her to have fun. “It’s a circus. It’s not going to steal my soul.”
Her mother stiffened.
“Whether it will or won’t is not the question.” Torrick folded his arms. “We gave our final answer days ago. You are not going.”
“No!” King Torrick brought his fist down on the arm of his throne. His bronze ring clanged against the brass with a ringing note of finality. “You will not attend this…circus,” he spat the word as if it were something fowl and profane, “and that, young lady, is that.”
Delaria blinked furiously. She would not cry, not in front of her scowling father or stoic mother. Not in front of the myriad of servants who never left their king and queen’s sides. Instead, she flung her arms into the air. “Fine!” She spun on one heel, her slipper making another enraging swish against the wood floor, and ran from the throne room. Her hair, gold as the twinkle of the setting sun, swung in a graceful arc to trail her from the room. She slammed the door, kept running. She did not see the grim set of her father’s jaw, the concern in her mother’s green eyes. She saw only the hazy walls of the palace through tears as she stormed up flight after flight of steps. At the top, the walls of yet another hall blurred by, until she threw open the door to her bedchamber, dashed inside, and swung it home with another thud not satisfying enough. With all the theatrics of age twelve, she flung herself on the bed and buried her face in the frilly pink coverlet. The tears continued to fall, accompanied by heavy shakes of her shoulders and un-lady-like snorting sounds. In storybooks, princesses always cried prettily. They sniffed delicately and dabbed at glistening eyes and wiped dainty noses with kerchiefs made of lace and silk. Delaria was not a princess from a storybook. Her sobs were ugly, eyes becoming bloodshot and howls ringing like a horn of war—war against her parents’ stupid rules. It was only a circus. She’d been to others but none like what rumors of this one promised. A blackened sky, blood-red moon, and blue stars would range over grass so green. It was said the circus transformed the land into something wild and magical. Music, lilting and strange, would sweep over the breeze inviting all near and far to join the revelry. The place itself would be a rainbow, colors stretching to the horizon and beyond. Green, blue, violet, and ocher and orange and silver and cyan and mauve and mango and colors she had no names for. Whispered tales of the circus not seen in twelve years flew through the servant halls. The sweet smells of frying dough or smoky scent of roasting marshmallows or the heavy aroma of melting chocolate. See the girl in red, tamer of wolves. Watch the piglets juggle sticks and bricks and straw. Take a treat from the tastiest house. Grimmfay, they called it, the most magnificent circus in the world. It’s siren call circled through the palace, making its way from voice to voice until it reached the young ears it sought.
Sometime later, Delaria’s tears slowed. She raised her head, still sniffling in a most un-princess-like way. Soppy wetness clung to her quilt. She rolled onto her back so she could see the darkening sky outside her window. Silver light indicated the moon was not far off. For six more nights, it would shimmer its usual shade. She pulled a clump of her golden hair over one shoulder and twisted the curling strands through her fingers. Six more days, and then the red of the night sphere would bring the greatest mystery ever to grace the world. A mystery she would take no part in. It wanted to steal her soul. Right.
The cerulean blue of the sky gave way to something almost like black. A single star winked down from its place in the heavens. Delaria offered it all the hope in her heart.
“I wish I could go to Grimmfay.”
The star winked. To Delaria, this meant nothing. To the star, this meant much. For it is a well-known fact that a wish made on the first star a child sees at night has power. A wish made on the first star a child sees at night will come true.
Though, not always in the way expected.
3. Mirror, Mirror in the Dark
Lady Bianca set her bone comb on the vanity. Her fingertips brushed the thick swath of crimson velvet covering the wooden table beneath. So soft, like the skin before a wound opened. Her flawless reflection filled the mirror above the pedestal. It was impossible to tell where the fabric atop the vanity ended and her gown began. The neckline skated across her breasts, dipping slightly in the middle to form the top of an unbroken heart. The material clung to her form, billowing into a flowing skirt at her waist. A blood-red stone rested in the hollow of her neck, hanging from a nearly invisible chain. Bianca angled sideways to bring her profile into clarity. Her raven hair, straight as an arrow’s path of death, draped down her back like a midnight curtain. Her flesh glowed like ivory. Her lips, the darkest crimson, puckered with the promise of perfection. And perfection she would provide soon enough. The air had shifted. Their destination loomed close. Preparations needed to be made, and she had set to work immediately. The performance went on. It waited for no woman. Far above, outside the crimson room where she polished and preened, darkness prepared to settle in for its long night. Beneath an ebony sky, lights would gleam. The very grass would glow, and guests would breathe a bit of magic into their bones.
Three soft taps came at the door of her chamber. She gave her reflection a final inspection. Not a hair out of place. Not a dab of powder to spoil her beauty. The blood stirred in her veins and hands. She was ready.
The door flew wide. “Bianca!” Orianna bounced into the room in a swirl of jade. Her gown tumbled around her in a haphazard arc. On anyone else, it would have been indelicate. For Orianna, it was fitting. Tiny pin-pricks of silver speckled the dress, and Orianna’s honey blonde locks, the slightest bit orange right then, frolicked behind her. “Bianca! We’ve stopped. We perform tonight, tonight, tonight, by the light. Oh, to give them a fright.” Orianna jerked to a halt, dress and hair settling. She splayed her hands, and thorns grew from each fingertip, giving her the appearance of claws.
“Ori.” Cindell stepped through the doorway, her gown of azure reaching the floor in a billow more regal than Bianca’s. Her voice, deep and full but still feminine, filled the room. She glided inside, closing the door with the whisper of a click, and stopped beside Orianna, the tight knot of brown hair at the back of her head high enough to mingle with clouds. She squared her shoulders, fixing the youngest mistress with motherly reprimand. “Put those away.”
“Butsy, why?” Orianna moaned in a child’s voice. The orange left Orianna’s hair, and the tresses took on a gray-ish hue. The silver sparkles winked from her dress. “I like them.”
Cindell reached one delicate hand out. Her finger brushed a thorn, turning the protrusion to glass. She did the same to all the others and then collected them in one palm with a sound like tinkling raindrops. She slipped the fragile shards into a fold of her dress and tilted her head to one side, regarding Bianca with no expression on her heart-shaped countenance. “The Master sent us to you.”
“He did,” Bianca said with easy certainty. There had been no warning or notice, but she did not need one. The Master did as he would without question. “He wishes something.” She went to her vanity and retrieved a bone knife, no bigger than her smallest finger. She brought the tip to the exposed skin of her thumb and slashed a tiny cut. A single drop of blood welled on the tip of the knife. She pressed it to the mirror, and the glass rippled. Circles of crimson, azure, and jade rushed from a central point outward, faster and faster until colors blurred. When they stopped, a room other than Bianca’s chamber shown in the glass. A girl, no more than eleven or twelve curled into a ball on a pink blanket atop a hand-carved bed. Walls of dark wood stood bastion around her like stolid prison guards. The girl’s green eyes, so different but so familiar, glistened with recently shed tears.
“Ooh!” Orianna skittered closer to the vanity, hair no longer dull. “She’s a pretty young thing. I wonder for what her heart does sing.”
“Quiet, Ori,” Cindell admonished. With trancelike movements, she crossed to the vanity and pressed one palm to the glass. “The hair.”
Bianca nodded. “She is the daughter of—”
“I am aware whose daughter she is.” Cindell’s brown eyes grew a shade darker. “The Master has come to reclaim what he lost.”
“The master, she crossed.” Orianna held up one hand, fingers open and palm pointed toward the ceiling. The narrow stem of a plant promise grew from her hand’s center.
“He will have her,” Cindell spoke with intense calm, but uncontainable rage boiled beneath her transparent facade.
“If she comes,” Bianca said. “Once Zelandra realizes we’re here, she won’t let her daughter within a mile of the circus.”
“He will have her,” Cindell repeated in the same earie tone
The image in the mirror faded a bit at a time. The wood paneling disappeared, replaced by the crimson drapes of fabric covering the walls of Bianca’s chamber. The pink of the bed gave way to the azure of Cindell’s dress, and the girl’s sullen face winked away, revealing Bianca’s blank expression.
“We will do what can be done.” Bianca took care to remove all emotion from her voice. “For now, preparations must be made. Ready yourselves. We perform this night.”
Cindell’s scowl faded to a determined frown. Without a word, she swept toward the door, catching Orianna by the wrist and dragging the youngest mistress from the room.
When the door clicked closed, Bianca faced the mirror. Behind the smoky powder and necessary hardness, sadness lurked in her violet eyes. She’d known, of course, it would come to this, but she’d always hoped Zelandra would have a longer reprieve.
A face flashed in the mirror, bone-white against the crimson. Black eyes glared, hard and unforgiving. My bidding, a voice whispered from everywhere and nowhere, a voice colder than a frigid winter eve.
Bianca clasped her hands before her. “It shall be done.” She forced minute muscles to move until not a trace of sorrow remained upon her visage. The path was set. At the long night’s end, it would be done.
To be continued…
Grimmfay is coming to a Patreon near you in January, and I’d love for you to join me on this adventure. More than just a book, I want to build a community that circles around reading, writing craft, and a love of entertainment. Please share the Circus with your friends, and signup for your launch-day notification here. See you in January!