Monday, April 4, 2016

Carnival of Chaos

"What happened here?" Allianora asked.

The man crumpled against the wall coughed weakly, his bloodshot eyes barely focusing on her and her companions. Broken glass, torn clothing, and various fluids littered the main street through the village. The rotting corpse of a cow lay half butched in the middle of the road, a swarm of flies and crows making a meal of it. The man smiled, showing too many teeth before closing his eyes again, and slumping back into unconsciousness.

Further down the road a naked child cried, dragging a beheaded stuffed animal by the back leg. It's stuffing dragged on the ground. Somewhere beyond that, a woman screamed and howled.

"You want to know what happened?" The party turned to face the speaker. Her holy robes had been torn, and she yanked it violently back onto her shoulder. Her hair was a mess, and her face bruised. Her swollen and cracked lips oozed blood as she spoke. "The carnival came to town." She feel to her knees in front of them. "Kill me please."

"What? Why?" Feris dropped beside her. Rathgar scanned the street.

"I can't bear what happened." Tears welled in her eyes. "I can't... curse it all, I can't!"

"It'll be okay. We'll..." Feris looked up at Allianora and shrugged.

"We'll take care of you."

"You have to kill me!" She shrieked. The drunk man grunted in reply.

"Sister, you've survived, you've made it already." Allianora touched her face, the glow of healing reducing her wounds.

"No! You don't understand!" She began to punch her own belly. "I can't bear this... abomination... inside of me!"

Unlike most cults, the Carnival of Chaos wanders the countryside, visiting villages and small towns. They set up without notice, appearing in an empty field one mornings, and opening as the sun sets. Villages never see such large carnivals, and the villagers pay the nominal coins to enter, to see the freak shows, eat the food, and drink the potions. The first night is joyous, but exhausting. The second night is strange and exhilarating, with the villagers invited to participate in the shows. By the third night they're hooked, and all social structure falls apart. The morning after the third night the carnival is packed and gone, and the village is decimated. Some people are dead, others simply missing. Property is ruined, animals killed, and everyone who survives remembers all the horrible things that they saw, that they did.

At the center of it all is a demon who sews chaos in his wake, who bends reality within the carnival to create a disorienting effect that is both hypnotic and addictive. It's easy to become lost among the tents and booths. A fortune teller will give you an accurate telling of your doom. Clowns eat the family pets. A magician cuts people in half, and baths the audience in the ropes of end trails... All the while the audience laughs and claps. The holy people of the villages suffer the worst, and are always left behind and alive, though not without scars, and rarely without a demon incubating inside of them.

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