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“Come one, come all, to the Cirque des Âmes Peine!” The barker calls the words as you wander near to the gates. He opens them with a flourish, ushering you inside with a sweep of a long arm.

Once inside, the crowd carries you toward the traditional red-and-white striped tent, the red so dark that even the white seems muted in the light of the waning moon.

Excitement fills the air as the lights dim. The scent of popcorn and cotton candy teases you in the near-darkness and the babble of the crowd becomes an expectant hush. The moment stretches, until there’s a tension and in the moment it seems like something must break, the lights flash on with the blare of a trumpeted fanfare to accompany a writhing mass of performers in the ring, all of them moving to the music. Fire swirls seductively around one, while flashes of silver draw eyes to knives juggled with skill. There are acrobats and animals, contortionists, dancers and clowns. They each perform a teaser of the show to come that invites your eyes to pick and choose favourites.

The number ends with a stinger in the music that sounds like an explanation point, and in the silence that follows, a portly man in a red tail-coat makes his way from the shadows, like approaching royalty. The jubilant final pose of each performer slowly gives way to a respectful stance of attention as the spotlight shines down on the Ringmaster. There is something too-bright about him with his red, waxed mustache and his ruddy cheeks and he seems somehow both friendly and sinister, but before you can ponder the thought, he begins to speak.

“Welcome, to the Cirque des Âmes Peine,” he greets the crowd in a tone loud enough to carry, but you find yourself sliding nearer to the edge of your seats as his voice draws you in. He speaks carefully, his words always, always building the excitement for the first act.

A muscled man with a whip works with two tigers, the teal of his trousers contrasting nicely with the orange of the great cats. The hard planes and ridges of his chest contrast nicely with the dramatic lighting and the white of his teeth as he swaggers around the ring, cracking the whip with casual flicks of his wrist to put the beasts through their paces, until one of them turns on him, rendering him unconscious with a swipe of its huge paw. As the lights go down, you can see the animal pounce upon him, like a kitten with a new toy.

Except for a single scream, there’s silence until the spotlight comes back onto the ringmaster. He introduces the next act as if nothing at all is amiss, until the memory of the mauled performer is no more, at least not until the oohs and ahs of the crowd give way to startled gasps as the lovely girl on the trapeze misses the bar and somersaults onto the hard ground, her head splitting open like a ripe melon.

For just a moment, bile rises in your stomach as you realize you’ve just seen not one, but two gristly deaths. And then, you forget as the next act is introduced.

At the end of the show you leave, happily humming one of the songs you heard. There’s a spring in your step, and you decide, on a whim, to buy a little souvenir from the show; a tiny ceramic elephant with a blanket on its back emblazoned with Cirque des Âmes Peine. Why not? It was such a fun night at the circus.

Backstory

Welcome, to Cirque des Âmes Peine, or #CdAP, a new and – hopefully – exciting role play group on Twitter.

The circus is, as you may have guessed, cursed. By extension, so are the denizens of the circus.

Cirque des Âmes Peine has been travelling together since the spring of 1888. It was originally a European show like most others of the Victorian age, but it is now something darker and touched by magic.

In our universe magic is real, though magic-users are extremely rare. If a member of the circus is also a magic-user, the curse affects them differently and they are unable to leave the circus. Other circus folk are able to leave for short periods of time, but must return for the next performance.

Deaths and serious injury sustained to the circus folk on the grounds of the circus right themselves after the next performance, with the memory of death or catastrophic injury being erased from the collective experience. People with altered memories  typically feel like it was just such a common week that they can’t quite recall it.

Deaths sustained off the circus grounds are permanent. In this way, non-magic users who are a part of the circus are able to escape the curse. The deceased decompose at a normal rate from the time of expiration.

The circus performs once per moon cycle, typically during the waning moon. If a major astrological event (solstice, eclipse, etc.) occurs, the circus will also perform on those days, unless they fall during the regular performance times.

While the circus dates back to Victorian times, not everybody traveling with the circus is that old. There are performers and workers from every era between then and now. Members of the original company did not die; they were affected by a powerful curse that tied them to the circus. All performers who have joined since 1888 have one thing in common: they died performing and awoke in the Cirque des Âmes Peine.

Circus denizens have no concept of the passage of time. They are not typically technology deficient, unless it is a personal trait (much like some people are technophobes, even if they are young), but it will never occur to them how much progress has been made since their native times. A character would, of course, remember his or her birthday, but it wouldn’t occur to them that it was their 140th.

Performers and workers alike all die during a performance. When they awaken the next day, they have no memory of the previous evening, except that it was a successful show. After about a hundred twenty-five years of performing, the original performers began to have memories of their demises. They typically believed they were hallucinating or having waking nightmares.

It would be highly unlikely for them to discuss it with somebody, unless they held that person in great confidence. As such, many performers don’t know about the curse at all. Some of them have been told. Of these, the especially intelligent or especially gullible are the most likely to begin remembering things after being told. Most would simply either believe or disbelieve the story, based on how much they trust the teller.

There are two factions among people who know about the curse; those who want to find a way to end it, even if it means they end with the curse and those who see it as a sort of immortality and seek to protect it.

Roleplay

The group is open to any and all role players; everybody from dabblers to novices to masters. We do have a couple of guidelines and a single rule we hope you’ll follow:

Guidelines:

1. Please create a character that fits within the Circus backstory. Be as creative as you like within the parameters, but try not to bend the rules too much. The goal is to have a sort of continuity for new players to work with and existing players to depend on.

2. If you’ve a single use character or you’re only going to be around occasionally please be up front about that with other players. Some writers are hit-and-miss, others are going to be more dedicated. There’s no shame in having a life that takes up most of your time, but it’s helpful for the writers who like to plan in-depth SLs to know in advance who they’re going to be more compatible with.

3. While the Ringmaster isn’t really a playable character, if you’d like to get more in-character information about the circus, the curse, or the universe in general, you can always try pumping him for information.

4. We fully expect there to be some level of disagreement or some squabbling in this group. A circus was chosen specifically because it’s a place where even people who don’t like one another have to coexist in a small space. We hope that you can at least keep it clean and reasonably polite when you do.

The Rule

1. Please respect a writer’s anonymity, when requested. Sometimes, a writer needs or wants a level of anonymity to feel like they can write a character that is out of their comfort zone. If a bio is marked (P), the writer would like to remain unnamed.

You won’t get ‘kicked out’ of the group or banned if you don’t follow the rule. We won’t try and keep anybody from role playing with you or anything like that, either. But we probably will point and stare and tell you you’re a dick.

1 Comment

  1. The sway pole snapped, sending me into the adiance at 100 miles per hour. My skull crushed a young couple from Bruges, the rest of my now decapitated body did serious damage to a family of 4, wearing what were crisp white shirts now sained in ribbons of crimson, seated behind the now dead Belgians.

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