One final show for the day. The regular ones were over; this was the one that the showmaster, and anyone else who got the opportunity, had been dropping hints about to the adult men, the one they didn’t officially advertise, the one that was shorter and included fewer performers. The showmaster was the only male involved in this one, and he was present mostly as a voice without making himself the centre of attention.
It wasn’t a matter of the women in the troupe stripping down entirely, or anything so crass… but costumes were skimpier and the whole thing was slanted towards, well, sexual fantasy.
So the female acrobat did tumbling routines that showed off her flexibility and implied what she could do in bed if she chose to. The two female actors told explicit jokes and stories complete with appropriate gestures. The showmaster’s wife and assistant did a few magic tricks of her own, heavily laced with innuendo.
Kaveri and Mirren did two routines. In one, their hand-to-hand sparring resulted in a number of loose items of clothing being torn away in the process, though they never got down to nothing at all, despite the hopeful encouragement of their audience. In the other, Mirren dressed as a cat hunted Kaveri in nothing but feathers, right off the stage and through the middle of the audience and then back up for Mirren to pin Kaveri and start plucking feathers off cat-fashion, a mouthful at a time.
Of course, Lysandra danced, no longer reining in the sensuality as she did during the regular shows—not in a skirt, but in loose flowing trousers of multiple gauzy layers, actually open up the outside though the edges overlapped, which allowed occasional glimpses of skin when she moved the right way.
Tyrel and Madoc could have gone back to the wagon, but they lingered in everyday clothes, keeping an eye on the audience rather than the show. Trouble didn’t happen often, but late at night, with fifty or so men, many of whom had been sampling the exotic alcoholic drinks available if not the everyday sort, watching seven untouchable women deliberately creating an atmosphere of intense eroticism… Kaveri knew they preferred to be cautious.
Not that the women in question weren’t all able to look after themselves, and the show’s master had many years of experience at dealing with unruly crowds.
Finally, though, they wrapped it up for the night. Their audience trickled off home, minds full of vivid images and bodies warm with their own internal fires.
That left the women free to get out of stage costumes and into regular clothes. For commoner women in this part of the world, that was a simple calf-length dress with a square neck and loose sleeves to mid-forearm, drawn close by a belt at least a handsbreadth wide; it was actually quite comfortable. For men it was fairly shapeless trousers, the extra fabric at the waist gathered and wrapped and tied, and a tunic over it that was usually belted. Simple and practical, easy to make and easy to work in.
One of the hands would sleep in the narrow shared dressing room behind the stage, but once the performers had changed, scrubbed away makeup, and gathered up their own belongings they could scatter back to their own tents.
Or, in their case, a wagon.
The two Enodians had never complained about roughing it, but that they’d been unhappy about it hadn’t been hard to see. While they’d all been considering options, they’d taken the time to watch a travelling show, as both entertainment and research. Mirren, exploring in cat-form after hours, had learned of a child who was ill, and the local physician was unwilling to treat what he considered vagabonds. Narcissa had stepped in to offer her services; the grateful parents had known of someone retiring with a wagon to sell, and had made introductions regarding both that and joining the show. That simply, some of the jewellery that had been Evander’s had been invested in a cozy home on wheels.
Travelling shows typically had circuits of fairs and events and locations; since the moonblood family were heading in more or less a straight line, they’d had to jump from one show to another twice. This kind of life had its difficult aspects, and it was certainly hard work, but it had advantages as well, so they’d persisted. It didn’t hurt that there was now a comfortable stash of coin hidden away in the wagon along with the rest of the jewellery the royal pair had brought.
There wasn’t much to say, as they made their way across the dark lot to the wagon.
Supported on four sturdy spoked sprung wheels, the wagon was, Kaveri had to admit, an impressively practical and efficient design. Stairs led up to the glass-windowed door, at the front end, with a tiny roofed porch that had a storage box seat at each side. The outside had been repainted in the same green and white and yellow as the donkey cart, which they kept for practical as much as sentimental reasons.
And it had worked. The two Enodians had taken to it immediately and turned it into a home, redecorating it and making it their own.
Kaveri wasn’t certain that getting attached to anything material was really a good idea, given the way their lives tended to work. However, the possibility existed that their lives worked the way they did at least in part because of the priorities she and the brothers had and that Mirren had adapted to easily, and not as an inevitable aspect of their existence. Either way, if it was something that Narcissa and Lysandra needed in the present, then it was worth it.
There was a lamp lit outside the door, and more light glowed through the windows. They didn’t need anyone in the small mobile community questioning why they never bothered with lamps, and besides, there was something cheerful and welcoming about it.
Kaveri heard the two donkeys and the mule, half donkey and half the stocky mid-sized heavy horses bred for drawing travelling wagons, moving about at the far side. Attachment points on the sides made it easy to give them a roof overhead out of direct sun or rain, even if it was only moonspun fabric supported by wooden poles; there were side panels they could add in bad weather, but for the moment, the tethered trio sounded like they were munching contentedly at the hay in its suspended nets. Brackets to secure buckets for water ensured that the animals couldn’t step in it or spill it, and the tethers were long enough that they could move out of the shelter at will.
A similar shelter could be set up on the other side, one Narcissa could use in her fortune-teller and wisewoman act, but in a camp like this, that brought the public closer than any of them liked to their living quarters, so they used the separate one.
Kieran, sprawled in his own form across the porch and blocking the open door, wuffed softly in greeting and got up to join them inside.
(chapter continued next post!)