Cirque de la Lune
For the secret of the Cirque de la Lune is that each performer is kidnapped, modified, and enslaved by the one who runs it, a mysterious figure known only as The Ringmaster. He draws the most promising, the most beautiful, and the most talented from any dimension to which he has access, then with a combination of magic and medicine transforms each into their fullest potential, a shining jewel to play their parts like marionettes on strings of his manufacture.
Will you be a part of the circus? Or are you one of the lucky few who's managed to procure a ticket? Step right up, then, and see what it has to offer....
HOW IT WORKS:
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The kidnappings come without warning or a chance at escape: those summoned by The Ringmaster suddenly find themselves in the circus, so wound about by bindings both physical and magical they can hardly move, much less think of escape. Most are unconscious for the process of alterations, which could be considered a mercy considering how long and painful it is. The Ringmaster works with the careful precision of a master sculptor, and each of his creations bears a symbol of his craftsmanship that also serves to keep them under his unfaltering control.
As the symbol can only be removed by another person at the cost of their life, almost no one has ever even tried to escape the circus, and even if they did there would be the small issue of getting away from where it exists, suspended between dimensions. Most don't even realize they're being controlled, however, for the compulsions holding their imposed personae in place are subtle in their strength.
The best of The Ringmaster's creations, those who perhaps already possessed innate talent or beauty, or who simply adapted to the changes better than most, are fortunate enough to take their places in the First Circle. These are the most privileged and pampered, and each wears a tiny jewel in their ear to mark their rank.
1) Beast Tamer
Merciless and deadly, the Beast Tamer can subdue the most unruly animal with will and whip. They seek to dominate and control, no matter how meek or cowardly they might have once been.
2) Tightrope Walker
The Tightrope Walkers are the most exquisite jewels of the circus, delicate and graceful of form and movement and often breathtakingly lovely of face, able to dance butterfly-light on the finest of wires. They are also, however, often the most passive, the most controlled, like puppets crafted of fragile china.
Whether they are skilled as trapeze artists, hoop dancers, or tumblers, the Acrobats are all agile and quick of body-- and mind. Something about the changes made to allow their feats of skill also tends to make them more sly and cunning, more apt to lie or cheat to get ahead of the rest.
4) Strong (Wo)Man
These performers were enhanced for strength-- some were given added bulk and others simple toning, but all are significantly stronger than any unaltered human. Alas, they often lose some of their mental acuity in exchange for the physical enhancements, but none will ask a performer balancing an anvil to perform calculus.
Those without special skills or who did not adapt quite so well are still given places in the circus ranks, however, being placed in the Second Circle. Members of this group bear an unobtrusive bracelet around one wrist as a sign of their rank.
Many a flaw can be hidden with makeup, and those who did not quite meet The Ringmaster's exacting standards of beauty must hide behind makeup and costume. Many are failed Acrobats, and as they are quite aware that only a small mischance prevented their admission to the First Circle, they spend much of their time plotting the downfall of those more privileged.
6) Sideshow Performers
These can include jugglers, fire-breathers, or knife-throwers, daredevils or magicians, those with clever hands and nimble tongues who can amuse the guests before the main show. Some failed Tightrope Walkers are veiled and costumed and put to work in a side tent as exotic dancers, while former Strong Men discourage the guests from getting too close (though rumor says they can be bribed, at times).
The Beast Tamers must have creatures with which to perform, after all. Those who already wore the forms of beasts are enhanced, whether to look more beautiful or more deadly (or perhaps both), while some others are transformed entirely into lions or tigers or other fierce beasts to share in the main performance. Some of these unfortunates manage to retain their intelligence after the change, but others find themselves slipping away and becoming as mindless as the creatures whose forms they wear.
8) Sideshow Exhibit
The displays in the sideshow tent include those whose alterations fail, those who become trapped halfway between humanoid and beast form, or those who began in such an inhuman shape that they could never fit into the First Circle even with all The Ringmaster can do. Their existence is barely better than those of the animals, for they almost always remain caged, subject to the stares and giggles of the crowd. These again are guarded by former Strong Men, but they cannot be everywhere, and occasionally the mocking and stares of the guests devolve into worse.
The worst off of the circus denizens are those who inhabit the Third Circle. These unfortunates wear a plain leather collar as a sign of their rank, though none are likely to mistake them for a member of one of the other Circles.
Someone has to do the work of running the circus, after all. This group is unique in that not all of them were brought here involuntarily: some became lost and elected to remain, some sought employment, and some came seeking their missing friends and loved ones and chose to linger nearby in the vain hope that their memories might return. Most, however, are simply those too ordinary or unskilled to fit anywhere else, and they can be found just about anywhere in the circus, doing chores or maintenance, tending the animals, or selling concessions to the guests. They go everywhere, they see everything, but they do little of consequence, even if they are kept under as much control as the rest of the circus folk.
These are the fallen, the failed, the grotesque, those who are too deformed to exhibit, too ugly or ungainly to be allowed to perform, or those who tried to escape and are now in disgrace. They remain hidden from the view of guests, serving as laborers in whatever manner The Ringmaster or the members of the First Circle might desire. (Rumors say the former prima Tightrope Walker attempted to run away from the circus, and now bent and disfigured from her punishment, cleans the quarters of the current prima.)
And what would a circus be without an audience?
It is difficult indeed to obtain a ticket to the circus, for most do not even known of its existence. Only the rich, the powerful, those who are well versed in dimensional travel, or somehow privileged to be given a ticket by The Ringmaster himself in return for some service are ever allowed into the circus grounds. Some say that anyone who can provide The Ringmaster with a particularly good candidate will earn a lifetime's pass in return...
[original meme by enthymeme]