Le cirque de magie, p.1
An historical fantasy short story
by Marsha A. Moore
The circus is a blur of commotion with last minute preparations for the spring tour. Ravi, the high-wire heart throb, becomes jittery when he meets the company’s newly-hired female dwarf. Hours before departure, his magical perceptions are on fire as he witnesses her involvement in a gory bump off.
The circus manager can’t be found. Ravi is desperate to protect his sweetheart and performing partner, Alice. The train creaks away, beginning the long journey with danger stowed on board. Nicknamed the Great Birdman, Ravi steps forward and exposes his true identity—a real risk during edgy, vigilante times of prohibition. A brave move—but will his Suparna abilities be enough to snuff out this fierce demon?
Le Cirque de Magie
Marsha A. Moore
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Le Cirque de Magie
All rights reserved
Copyright © November 2011 by Marsha A. Moore
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the author.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author and all incidents are pure invention.
Cover art designed by Marsha A. Moore.
Table of Contents
Le Cirque de Magie
A note from the author
Novels by Marsha A. Moore
Excerpt from Seeking a Scribe
The new costume clung to his sticky skin and bound his muscles as Ravi stepped from behind the folding screen. “Molly, these shirt and trousers need for letting out.” He drew his hands across the taut fabric.
“Stop right there! Don’t ye bend a muscle. Ye’ll rip the cloth.” She jumped up from her perch on a canvas folding chair and flicked on a lamp.
He obliged and stood erect. Molly O’Shea, their pint-sized seamstress, was known for her fiery Irish temper.
She didn’t even take time to rearrange the thin cotton of her faded housedress, stuck to the backs of her legs from the eighty-degree Florida spring evening. “I din’t have time to be sewin’ up any more new outfits. Train rolls out tomorrie. One of your high-wire partners already busted a zipper clean out. Ye folks must think me a magician.” Her nimble fingers ran along his chest and the outseam along his thighs. “What’d ye all do, work out this winter?” She wielded a measuring tape and pins with deft hands, clucking her tongue. “A full inch! Christ amighty! Tryin’ to make them ladies swoon even more over the Great Birdman than they did last tour? They already drool over yer handsome dark looks.”
Ravi grinned. “Good fun, pleasing the skirts.”
“Devil!” she smirked. “I know ye’ve got yerself a sheba, that pretty partner of yours.”
While she worked, the nubs of his recoiled wings ached to expand and fly in their last practice before hitting the road. He focused to keep them in check and watched the happenings beyond the open side of her tent.
Generators kicked on, humming to power lights so work could continue into the night. Carts of supplies passed from both directions, pushed by men stripped to their sleeveless undershirts. Teams of horses pulled heavier loads: burlap sacks of grain, feed, flour, and rice by the hundreds; bales of hay and straw; stacks of mattresses, cots, and bedding. The close air held down the rank animal odor. Wagon wheels creaked and voices called out from every direction—excitement filled the air. Activity in the Sarasota winter home of the circus now looked like the hustle and bustle of any tour campsite.
Ravi fidgeted, shifting from foot to foot, eager to be part of the commotion.
“Stand still, ye hear me!” Molly snapped, pinching the skin over one of his kneecaps so hard he winced.
With a sigh, he lit a cigarette and settled back into crowd watching. Across the cart path, their manager, Jack, talked with a female dwarf. She looked to be a newcomer, trying to join up at the last moment. Many did, seeing the tents rise to air out and the circus spring to life. Yet, something was odd about her. She spat on the ground several times, her cheek bulging with a wad of chew. Placing her small hands on her hips, she marched out onto the path. Jack wrung his hands and ran after her. Bending low, he touched a hand to her shoulder.
Ravi wondered what they were saying. A shrewd fellow with a smart business head and built like a baby grand, Jack wasn’t easily cornered in a deal. Circus dwarfs typically spelled trouble. Their last one left mid-tour the previous summer. Little prima donnas. This one seemed worse. Made his skin prickle. If only he could get free of the dang seamstress.
Dusk did little to cool the air, and Ravi applied more talc to his damp palms. Synchronized from hundreds of practice sessions, he grabbed Alice’s wrists as she sailed to meet him, held at the ankles by her brother, Fred. In two swings, they’d gain enough momentum for him to release her into a flip. She tucked, anticipating the move.
Suddenly, a blood-curdling hissing sounded from below. Ravi’s concentration broke. He looked down. Instinctively, he released Alice. His eyes darted back, realizing he let her go a second too early. His wings expanded from his shoulder blades.
Alice screamed as her body plummeted.
Ravi soared straight down like a peregrine falcon. He scooped her up with only a few feet between her and the ground. The surrounding circus performers gave a round of applause. He flew them back up to the platform while his eyes scanned below.
“You all right, Ravi?” Alice asked between gulps of air. “You’ve never missed that one.”
“Fine. Are you?” He glanced at her. “The snake people made noise. Didn’t you hear?”
She ran a hand across her forehead. “I’m okay. No. What happened?”
“Look there,” he directed.
Below them the newly-hired dwarf paraded past the snake charmer’s group.
Walter slid on his coiled, scale-covered lower body in front of Gladys.
Henry hissed and crouched as if about to strike.
The dwarf spat tobacco inches from them, and all three loomed their human heads, cloaked in cobra hoods, over her. She sauntered away
“Everything okay down there, Henry,” Ravi called. He and the snake people were close friends. He knew they were actually Nagas, semi-divine beings. Other than his own partners, they were the only ones who knew he was a Suparna deity, a divine sun-bird spirit. From years of mutual respect, they kept each other’s secrets as well as offering protection. Only something unusual could challenge the Nagas’s powers. That further raised Ravi’s suspicions about the dwarf.
“A-okay now! Thanks,” Henry replied.
The snake charmer repositioned his turban, knocked off accidentally by Henry’s swift moves. Once he resumed playing his flute, Ravi focused on his own team. “Ready to try again?” he asked Alice.
“Sure.” She waved to Fred, who repositioned the bar in the crook of his knees and set off to gain some momentum.
Ravi did the same and then grasped Alice’s wrists, when she approached the platform. They handed her off twice and successfully completed her tuck spin back to Fred. Their finale showcased Ravi as the Great Birdman. Using his wings for balance, he walked the tightrope with Alice sitting on his shoulders. Then, he flew and caught her in various ways when Fred swung her to the center. Finally, Fred grabbed her ankles and Ravi flew the three of them around the big top—always a crowd pleaser. He landed them in the center of the main ring, where they took their bows.
“Practice good, except my mistake. Very sorry,” he said to the other two, wondering about the decision to take the safety net out of their show last year.
“It’s okay Ravi.” Fred patted his shoulder. “No harm done. You saved her.”
He shrugged to add meaning to his broken English. “Not to happen again. Going to look into what bothered Henry.”
“We’re treating ourselves to a picture show tonight before we set off.” Alice rested her hand on his forearm and looked up to him with big blue eyes. “Wanna come along?”
Ravi liked Alice a lot and wanted to unwind on their last free night, but hesitated, the strange upset with the Nagas worrying him. He needed to keep watch.
“Come on. Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney just opened at the Bijoux. Everyone’s talking about it. Meet us at the movie house in an hour.” She stroked his gray wing feathers and smiled. “You might want to tuck these in or you’ll scare more folks than the horror picture.” Alice was special; she knew his real identity, knew him for what he really was, yet liked him and wasn’t afraid.
He apprehensively drew in his wings. Usually he did so right after their act, to avoid jeers from non-circus folk. They made him feel like a freak. With his powers he could maim or kill them with ease, but they were only human and didn’t know better. Through the years, his wings and temper cost him many friends. He didn’t want to lose any more. “I’ll try to make on time.” He gave her hand a squeeze and headed over to talk with Henry.
The Nagas and their charmer were recoiling ropes into baskets as Ravi came upon them and asked, “What happened?”
Their practice over, they now resumed human forms, all except Henry who strangely still wore his cobra hood. He led Ravi away from the charmer. “Here, have a fag.” His hand shook as he offered the pack and took one himself. He lit up and took a long drag. Through a cloud of exhaled smoke, he said, “Something’s not right with that dwarf. Ain’t she new?”
Ravi nodded and sucked on the cig. “Yep. Got the same feeling watching Jack hire her. He seemed nervous.”
“I’m tellin’ you, she ain’t like them fussy dwarfs we’ve had the past few seasons. This one…she spat on Gladys an’ called her a slut, pickin’ a fight. Too damn sure of herself and mean-spirited.” He draped an arm around Ravi’s shoulder and whispered, “”Tween you an’ me, my scales lifted up when she was around. That just don’t happen. There’s some evil ‘bout her. Keep an eye out.”
“Will do that. Need to go clean up. Going to the picture with Alice and Fred.”
A grin crossed Henry’s face. “Drop Fred. Alice is a doll…nice gams.”
Ravi smiled, took the last draw on his cig, and tamped the butt into the trampled grass. “Later.”
Ravi grabbed a plate in the mess tent and got a quick shower and shave in the latrine. An hour was too short for him to get back and forth from the apartment he shared with four other performers. Besides his trunk was already here, if he could find it. A few sleeping tents were available for those who chose to stay the night before departure. In the third tent, he located his foot locker, a scuffed wooden box with bent brass strapping. He had won it in a crap game. Old, but plenty large enough for everything he owned.
He pulled the skeleton key from a cord at his neck and unlocked the trunk. The hinges ran smooth from recent oiling. He pulled out a white shirt, a straw boater, and his only summer suit with cuffed trousers and a double-breasted jacket. He hated to wear a tie in this heat, but did anyway to please Alice. After dressing he picked up the new hat that he had found on clearance. Molly had worked wonders, steaming a dent out of one side. He seated it on his head, flicked the brim, and set out.
A woman selling flowers from a basket always traveled with the circus. Would be nice to get a corsage for Alice, especially after being such a lout and dropping her today. He looked down paths and between wagons for the flower lady.
Hunched at one of the pumps, she added water to a tall galvanized pail of carnations. When he approached, she dried her hands on her stained apron. Brushing back strands of white hair that escaped her bun, she straightened into a slightly less stooped posture. “May I help you, sonny? Smart looking fella like you must need a flower for his gal?” She smiled a toothless but genuine grin.
“You’d be right,” he said in a cheery voice. “I’d like a corsage.”
“Bright or light?”
“Light for pretty look against her tan.”
“Smart man. Give me just a moment to make one up fresh for you. It’ll be fifty cents—bargain for circus performers.”
From around the corner he heard a muffled squawk and grunting noises. Ravi handed the lady a dollar bill. “Here, extra nice make. Be right back.” He quietly stepped around the corner.
Shocked, he put a hand over his mouth.
The dwarf squatted on the ground, huddled over a lump of feathers—one of the white peacocks from the circus collection. Its neck was snapped and white feathers covered in blood. She lifted the bird to her face and chomped into its thigh, slurping and grinding blood and flesh.
Ravi’s stomach turned and he gagged under his hand. What demon had Jack hired? The crude little woman glanced up as he slipped into the shadow of an animal wagon. Did she see him? He needed to tell Jack…but he wanted to meet Alice for the show. It was their last night. Easing back to the pump area, he decided to tell the manager first thing tomorrow morning. The train pulled out at noon. He’d have time.
When he returned, the flower lady held out a big corsage with two full pink roses and two buds, decorated with baby’s breath.
“This is worth more than my dollar, but no more money I have.” He held up his palms.
“The Birdman has a big heart and all love him.” Her big hazel eyes shined as she extended the arrangement closer to him. “My treat for you.”
Ravi arrived at the movie house ten minutes late. He paid for his ticket and picked his way into the dark room, hoping Alice saved him a seat. A newsreel told about Flying Ebony’s easy win in the Kentucky Derby and promoted the values of prohibition. Once his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he saw her face turned toward him, smiling. She waved an arm, and he quickly slid into the seat beside her. Fred sat on her other side and nodded to him.
“Glad you made it,” she whispered, the curl of her brunette bob grazing his jaw. “Did something happen? You’re always prompt.”
He breathed in the sweet smell of her perfume—L'Heure Bleu, from the tiny bottle he bought for her birthday, all he could afford, but the very best. The news ended and the house lights came
“Oh! It’s lovely and matches my dress. Did that sweet flower lady, Mabel, make it?” She brought the roses to her nose and enjoyed their scent.
“Yes, she did. You like me pin it on your dress?”
Alice smiled and turned a tanned shoulder toward him.
He paused for a moment. She looked beautiful in a pink, sleeveless dress, ending at her knees, shorter than he’d seen her wear before. Henry was right…she did have nice gams. Ravi’s fingers trembled as he pinned it to the soft fabric.
He leaned further across, catching Fred’s attention also. “That dwarf who upset the snake people while we made practice…” He lowered his voice. “I saw her eating a white peacock—why I’m late.”
“Ugh! Are you sure?” Alice screwed up her face.
Fred shook his head, his wide-open eyes the same blue as his sister’s. “As a Suparna, your eyesight is extra keen. I don’t doubt what you saw, Ravi. Did you tell Jack?”
“I’ll talk with him in first morning.”
The lights dimmed and the feature started. Alice shivered and leaned into him.
Ravi wrapped his arm lightly around her shoulder, to offer some comfort. So close, the fragrance of the roses mingled with her perfume. She was so delicate. He must protect her and get that evil spirit out of the troupe.
After the show, while Fred went on to the pool hall, Ravi walked her home. “You all packed for the tour?” he asked, lacing his fingers between hers.
“Yes, we sent our trunks this evening.”
They strolled in silence for nearly a block.
“Ravi, is that dwarf dangerous? Are we safe?” she asked.
“I’ll try for Jack to remove her. Until then, don’t go alone anywhere. She picked fight with Gladys.” He slipped an arm around her waist, staying close until they reached the tiny bungalow.
Alice and Fred bunked in with their older, married sister during the winter. For once, Ravi was glad to see a light shining in the front window.
He turned to face Alice and pressed his lips to hers.
Usually careful to keep some space, she melted into him. Did she fear the demon?
He rubbed his hands along her back, holding her close as she leaned her head against his shoulder. After a couple minutes, he pulled away. “I need to go. Remember, don’t be alone.”
Well before dawn, the circus camp came alive. Ravi searched for the manager, asking others he passed.
A group of workers and performers gathered in a heated discussion. He wedged into the front to learn more.
Le Cirque De Magie by Marsha A. Moore / Fantasy / History & Fiction have rating 4.9 out of 5 / Based on39 votes