April 4, 2098

15:04:27 Ilkay had been up since the sun was just sending its first stretching fingers across the sky, practicing in the fresh air before the noise of the city came swarming in around him. Typically, he enjoyed a sort of crepuscular habit – waking early, then retiring to leisure or napping during the height of the day, only to spark up again in the evening for performances and the late night parties of the troupe. Today had been no different, so with the lull of his day occupied with wadding himself back up into a cocoon of blankets in his hammock, he was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by twilight. He’d sucked down a squash coffee two hours before he was set to perform, eating nothing else, but filling the pre-show hours with stretching and limbering up for his demanding show. As the hum of the audience reached him and the music started, he knew he had only a few minutes left, so he pulled himself out of his back-bent curl and straightened his legs to push to his feet and come up jackknifed over, touching his leather-capped toes. Coming up again, straight as an arrow, he spun his wand carelessly between his fingers, letting it travel from his small finger inward, turning at his thumb, then traveling back until he could whip it into his artistic underhanded grip. It felt cooperative tonight. They were relatively new in town, so the wood was calm and he was getting ready to perform, so he could rely on the core not to cock things up for him too badly. Regardless of the thing’s cheek, he still lifted it for an affectionate kiss to the handle before grasping the hoist rope and waving a gesture at the counterweight to send him speeding up into the vast canopy. The blue lights flooded his platform as he stepped out in his silver-studded trousers and blousy sheer white shirt – it was essential that he was visible for every movement of his routine. The cue was a crash, then a melodic hum: Up, up and away! Ilkay’s feet left the platform and he floated upwards, somersaulting towards the zenith of the tent like a shooting star in reverse. There were few feelings quite like flying in this manner – particularly when one mastered the charms to the point where they flowed together to keep him looking effortless as he was aloft. He could feel the breathless energy beneath him as the audience released their troubles for a time and wholly invested themselves in him and him alone. Perhaps it was better for him that he was on before the Master of Beasts and his Dementor… but perhaps not so grand for the Dementor…

15:20:13 [Zahra] It was not unlike the troupe to invite erratic sleeping habits. They were sandwiched into a strange routine of rehearsals, performances, parties, and personal time - none of which ever quite seemed to mold together properly. You could get two ingredients to go together, but never the lot. That predictably unpredictable schedule had Zahra waking up rather late for her performance. As luck would have it, she had just enough time to pump herself full of caffeine, paint her face, suit up, and do a little stretching before she was on. But she wasn’t on. She’d been startled to life, and in her confusion, mistook Ilkay’s cue for her own. Zahra caught herself at the edge of the tent and watched him perform from the wings. Only, she wasn’t watching Ilkay. Her gaze leveled on the crowd. Children, adults, seniors, they were all marveling at his skill and grace. Zahra’s mouth turned up in a genuine smile. While magic was very real for their audience, they still managed to incite a since of wonder from them just the same.

15:49:29 [Ilkay] The tent around him turned into a carousel of light, dark and illuminated faces as he spun slowly back down towards the floor of the ring. With his wand outstretched, he could flick the charms in quick, fluid succession in a graceful wrist dance that turned him first one way and then the other, then finally end over end so that he could perform a midair back bend and extend again towards the floor, coming down on one foot. The whole sequence had the effect of him being suspended in water, right down to the ripple of his sleeves that trailed in his wake. He would levitate himself once more with a little more energy this time, leaping from one suspended drum head over the crowd to another before coming to hover in the peak of the tent again, uncurling into a straight point of starlight in the blue, then vanishing as the lights went down. From there, in the cover of dark, he could let himself down to the platform again, grabbing the strung ropes as guides for getting his feet back on solid ground. The applause finally trickled out as he was whisking backstage with a black robe shrugged onto his shoulders. That had been pretty perfect, actually! He was feeling good enough overall to grab a blood orange from the hanging baskets of treats and stoop to dig a nip of whiskey out of the cold chest to celebrate a job well done. Now he had a half an hour to relax and get as drunk as he thought he could get away with and still go back on for his juggling portion. He gave Zahra a chin nod when he spotted her on his way back up to hang out aloft.

16:07:15 [Zahra] Her stare never left the crowd, particularly a little girl with wildly curly hair and freckles that seemed so mesmerized by Ilkay’s performance, that her mouth hung open through just about the entire act. The lights reflected a twinkle in her eye that was impossible to miss, but was nearly lost to Zahra’s proximity. It wasn’t until the tent went dark again that she shifted her attention and focused on the cloaked figure that made its way toward her. She lifted her hands in a quiet golf clap, escorted by a smirk - which might have read as derisive, if Zahra had been a stranger. There was still some time until her act, a good fifteen minutes before Araujo’s segue/intro to Zahra’s fire dancing. She plopped herself down next to Ilkay, “Do you ever drink anything down with, like, normal drinks?“ Her body language suggested friendliness, but there was always an attitude with which Zahra spoke that made it difficult to tell verbally whether she was being a jerk, or just playfully rude. Today, she opted for the latter.

16:17:09 [Ilkay] At home in the tent rigging, Ilkay had edged out to a ling of ropes that he could manipulate into a seat while he watched and enjoyed his snack. With the orange peeled and sectioned and resting on his chest, he could devote his hands to cranking open the nip. He looked up when Zahra came to join him and then rummaged for his wand. Typically, the performers would put up a sound-dampening charm while they occupied the rigging, but today, Ilkay’s wand wasn’t having it and instead emitted a loud POP before refusing to work. A few audience members below started something terribly and the pair received a discreet glare from the ring below. The young acrobat grimaced and shoved it away with a shrug. He’d leave that to Zahra. For now, he just lowered his voice, answering quietly as a perplexed look descended on his features. “I don’t understand the question,” he said, then peered at her as he tipped back the shot of whiskey into his mouth. He scrunched his face, then followed up with a section of orange. “Normal drinks?”

16:24:44 [Zahra] Zahra rolled her eyes at Kay’s uncooperative wand and procured her own. With a swirl and a flick, she managed to cut the noise with a Muffliato, for the sake of the majesty of circus performing. “Yeah, normal drinks. Like water, or juice, or milk, or any one of the thousand consumable liquids that don’t contain alcohol?“ The dimples in her cheeks set the alarm on a grin. She nudged him a little with her elbow in hopes that it might jar some understanding loose. Her eyebrows rose, too, as if to urge him toward answering her… promptly since she had precious little time before she needed to appear in the ring.

16:36:40 Ilkay shrugged in apology for his wand. Honestly, it had done its job in the ring – not a lot more could be expected of it today. Once they were cut off in their own little noise bubble, Ilkay leaned back, elbows propped up and one foot rocking the whole sling idly. “I drink water and this juice!” he said as if he still wasn’t understanding the reason for this ribbing. “See?” He picked up a slice of orange and gave it a little squish before dropping it into his mouth and speaking around it. “Joois.” He then picked up the nip bottle by the neck and gave it a little shake. “And this hwhiskey… iss good for you for… relax and be warm, yeah? Good job, Ilkay. Drink hwhiskey.” He spread his hands as if he’d made his point unarguable, then went back to enjoying his orange slices. “If Thais said anything – I only drank too much of when Englishmen say ‘here try this’… that is why I became sick. If Thais said anything.”

17:00:18 [Zahra] She clung to a rope and let her foot dangle not unlike Ilkay’s. There was something childhood about being suspended in the air the way they often were, and it wasn’t lost on Zahra that it wasn’t something people did every day - even if she took it for granted more often than not. She laughed and shook her head against the rope, “You’re somethin’ else, Kay. You know that?“ And again, her laughter emerged at the recollection of Kay’s experience at the Cauldron. “Oh my God, Thais said you barfed on some poor girl’s shoes,“ she sighed and leaned back into her rope, “Man, if I could’a saw that. My funny bone would be satisfied for weeks, I tell you.“ Her cue was nearing and she maneuvered herself out of the grip rigging, carefully standing on the web of ropes Kay had fashioned himself a seat with. “See you on the flip side, lil man.“ And with the breath of fire, Zahra disappeared from Ilkay’s side. Now, in a glorious change in music and lighting, the dragon’s fire retreated to reveal a petite, athletic figure without so much as a singed hair. The dragon and its master disappeared out of sight, leaving nothing but Zahra in the ring with her routine. Accented by graceful dance, she conjured a fire-eating torch and the blue flames that jumped from its tip. From fire-eating, she slipped into fire breathing, creating a symmetrical circle around the ring that rose and fell with the intensity of the music and her performance. Lastly, she conjured her modular fans, ablaze with alternating red and blue flames that created a magnificent spectacle when she began to twirl them. At the end of her performance, and making way for Ilkay once more, Zahra stood in a lone spotlight while the flames from the ring spread across the circle until even Zahra was standing in their midst. At her command, the flames rose higher and higher, rising with the music, and suddenly they were gone in waves of blue smoke and Zahra was nowhere to be seen. There was no end to how much humbling she was going to have to accomplish in her lifetime to thank Ora for her help setting up her act. Those little smoke ampules really did the trick for her departure - among the many other inventions (spells and contraptions) that she’d assisted Zahra in creating (or, rather, that Zahra assisted Ora in creating).

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