Carnaval Diabolique Act IV: The Interlude

The flames leap from Priala’s body, touching the dry canvas walls, setting the 13-in-1 aflame. Squinting your eyes against the blinding bursts of light and motion, you see a sign on the wall that reads “TO THE EGRESS”. Staggering through the fire, you make your way out of the tent and back onto the rain-slick Midway.

  • cdWEB-stormclouds over the midway

    Stormclouds Over the Midway

    In your smoke-addled confusion, the Midway seems strangely empty and devoid of life. The tents that line the path appear distorted, out of proportion, and cartoonish, their angles arching menacingly.

    For a moment, the only sound you hear is the soft squelch of your boots on the damp ground. As your eyes adjust, the tents right themselves, the sounds of the Midway swirl around you, and you feel the press of the crowd against your body. The Calliope’s eerie drone lilts above the swelling chatter.

    Wine-colored storm clouds are gathering, and the scent of incense and ozone is thick in the wet air.

    Thunder-charged ozone, plum-colored incense smoke, opium tar, and wormwood.

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  • cdWEB-urchins

    The Urchins

    You hear a tittering of laughter: high-pitched and discordant, like bent, cracked silver bells clattering onto sheets of rusted metal. In the gloom of a dilapidated tent, the glow of small red eyes reflects on shining steel blades.

    Dust and dead, dry flowers, ice-cold skin, the swish of a metal blade, and a memory of honey.

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  • cdWEB-nibble nibble gnaw

    Nibble Nibble Gnaw

    Looking down, you see a scattering of breadcrumbs strewn on the packed soil and straw at your feet. A waft of candied apple and pancakes embraces you, as you follow the crumbs on the path. The scent intensifies: sugared nuts, crushed candies, hot gusts of chocolate, and you find yourself standing before a small booth constructed of cakes, pastries, sweet breads, and a cascade of candy tiles. Shards of clear sugar glint in the ambient firelight of the Midway, and an old woman emerges from the shadows within. She extends a gnarled hand to you and rasps, “Oh, you dear, what has brought you here? You look like skin and bones; a strong gust of wind would spirit you into the air. Do come in, and visit with me. No harm shall happen to you.”

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  • cdWEB-knucklebones

    Knucklebones

    You hear a clatter on the ground behind you, and a small bleached bone smacks against your foot. Cloaked in shadows between the tents, three men crouch playing knucklebones. Distress clouds the face of one of the men, while another bursts into a wicked smile and the last one sighs in relief. Scooping up his winnings and shaking his head, the victor makes a soft ‘tsk’ noise as he reaches towards the loser’s chest, positioning his hand over the man’s heart. Pressing forward, his hand moves through cloth, flesh, muscle, and bone to extract the beating organ. Tossing the heart onto the ground, he says to you, “Mind handing me those bones, buddy? I’ve got a game to run here.”

    Black musk, bay rum, lime fougere, orange blossom water, gin, and tobacco.

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  • cdWEB-l heure verte

    L’Heure Verte

    Recoiling, you back away from the dicing. A large tent striped in many shades of green grabs your attention, and you walk towards it. You peer inside the open tent flap and see a room crowded with people in various stages of profound intoxication. Tables are littered with glasses filled with thick, cloudy emerald liquid, and candlelight glints on discarded silver spoons. The scent of spilled absinthe, opium smoke, lilac blossoms, and rose water permeates the stifling air of the tent. As you close the tent flap and turn to leave, you see a scantily clad server bend close to a rugged laborer that is sitting slumped in a sagging chair. A low velvety voice voice asks, “Another drink for you, Monsieur Lanfray?”

    Spilled absinthe, scorched sugar cubes, opium smoke, lilac blossoms, and rose water.

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  • cdWEB-blockhead

    The Blockhead

    Back out on the Midway, a huge, leather-clad man leans against a post. He smiles at you, guilelessly, baring a mouthful of sharpened teeth as he hammers huge rusted nails into his skull.

    Rusted metal, leather, and a pop of pink bubblegum.

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  • cdWEB-solanine the flower girl

    Solanine, the Flower Girl

    In the distance, you hear the discordant tolling of churchbells, uneven and strangely triumphant. As you turn towards the beckoning clang, you feel something brush across your neck: a gentle caress before a hundred pricking trichomes tear at your skin. There is a sudden whipping sensation and a clench of movement, and your throat is clamped in a rigid green noose.

    A raspy voice whispers, “Pardon,” and the grip on you loosens.

    A woman stands behind you. She holds a basket overflowing with creeping vines and flowers: razor-thorned roses, vibrant bursts of oleander, drooping cascades of wisteria, sprays of white hemlock and lily of the valley, bruise-blue pillows of aconite, purple-veined henbane, and the snapping jaws of monstrously large flytraps, glistening wet with mucilage. Her clothes smell faintly of manchineel smoke, and her fingertips are stained green. She smiles and shudders as the green tendrils that surround her writhe and contract. She plucks a red-spotted mushroom from her basket and places it gently in your palm before turning away.

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  • cdWEB-chapel

    The Chapel

    You come to a building that seems to have been hastily erected from splintered wood, stone, and plaster. Flickering light from within sparkles out through blood-tinged chunks of glass that have been wedged into the arch entrance. You push open the thick velvet curtain that covers the mouth of the building and look inside. The chapel is small and cramped, and the air is thick with heavy incense, bitter wine, sulphur, and the coppery scent of blood. A massive stained glass window is set against the back wall, glowing brightly.

    In the center of the room, a groveling figure is crouched before a woman draped in purple-black clerical robes. The woman's eyes are filled with righteous hellfire, and she extends a hand in benediction to the man who has fallen prostrate at her feet. He murmurs, “Libera Te Ex Caelum”, and she gestures for him to rise. As he gets to his knees he winces in pain and moans in a strange expression of ecstasy, and you see small horns growing from his skull.

    Black incense, bitter wine, brimstone, bile, and blood.

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  • cdWEB-grindhouse

    The Grindhouse

    Throaty laughter captures your attention. Across the lane you see a buxom Venetian woman standing before a huge black and red striped tent. Her head is inclined towards a dapper, leering man, and they appear to be sharing a private joke. He reaches into his waistcoat and produces a gold coin. The woman plucks it from his fingers. He bows, and walks into the tent with a swagger. A sign flashes above the tent flap in letters that seem to be aflame: The Grindhouse, Dead or Live Girls.

    The Madam turns towards you and smiles. As she approaches, someone within the tent strikes a few keys on a tuneless piano, and begins to play Jelly Roll Morton's 'the Crave'. The light within the tent illuminates the interior, shining behind the silhouettes of naked women gyrating lewdly upon raised stages, writhing in time with the music.

    In the distance, behind the tent, you hear a whip crack, and a man's scream. Tittering laughter follows, and the screams continue.

    “Voulez-vous un morceau de la boîte de bonbon?” she asks, gesturing gracefully towards the tent.

    The Madam's perfume envelops you.

    Florentine iris, red musk, mimosa, magnolia, Damascus rose, clove, and vanilla bean.

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  • cdWEB-behind the veils

    Behind the Veils

    Blood-red light cascades through languorous folds of sheer cloth. Hell-bright embers breathe into the gloom as billowing ribbons of thick, dark incense wrap their tendrils of smoke around your body like the curious hands of a lover.

    Heady red musk, myrrh and honey, drops of cinnamon and crushed cardamom pod, the taste of opium-laced black wine, sweet oudh, and threads of saffron.

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++ THE GRINDHOUSE

  • cdWEB-aeronwen

    Aeronwen

    Fig, dark myrrh, amber, redwood, nutmeg, tarragon, black musk, and sweet orange.

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  • cdWEB-alisz

    Alisz

    5 out of 5

    Spun sugar, frankincense, white rose, mallow root, red currant, and vanilla mint.

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  • cdWEB-ashultum

    Ashlultum

    5 out of 5

    Babylonian musk, vanilla tea, tonka, tobacco, coconut, hyssop, and lilac.

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  • cdWEB-BRANGWY

    Brangwy

    Blackcurrant and cardamom with peru balsam, patchouli, leather, and oudh.

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  • cdWEB-Blóðughadda

    Blóðughadda

    5 out of 5

    Crushed Baltic amber, golden fig, oud wood, red patchouli, white clove, and saffron.

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  • cdWEB-cytherea

    Cytherea

    White sandalwood, patchouli, white amber, orris, bourbon vanilla, champaca flower, and kush.

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  • cdWEB-dionysia

    Dionysia

    4 out of 5

    Wild plum, pomegranate, raspberry, Siamese benzoin, plum blossom, patchouli, frankincense, and mahogany.

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  • cdWEB-daiyu

    Daiyu

    Moroccan jasmine, chrysanthemum, tea leaf, white musk, and acai berry.

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  • cdWEB-gwyneth

    Gwyneth

    Rose otto, tonka, orchid, Calla lily, skin musk, coconut, and Spanish sage.

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  • cdWEB-harper

    Harper

    Pale bergamot, labdanum, white incense, vanilla-tinged musk, Burmese oudh and tea rose.

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  • cdWEB-inez

    Inez

    Golden amber, vanilla musk, myrrh, cedar, carnation, and red sandalwood.

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  • cdWEB-JAALI

    Jaawi

    Sweet Indonesian patchouli, red benzoin, champaca attar, French lavender, coconut husk, bay leaf, tobacco absolute, lime, and honey.

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  • cdWEB-marcilla

    Marcilla

    Blue lilac, lily of the valley, golden musk, beeswax, white ginger, bergamot, green tea, and nectarine.

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  • cdWEB-marguerite

    Marguerite

    Rose, rose geranium, myrrh, ylang ylang, French gardenia, tuberose, red sandalwood, and palmarosa.

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  • cdWEB-marianne

    Marianne

    Red musk, bergamot, black currant, mimosa, orchid, patchouli, and lotus root.

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  • cdWEB-morana

    Morana

    5 out of 5

    Snow drifting on black pine, blood red apple, rosewood, osmanthus, and lemon peel.

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  • cdWEB-seth

    Seth

    Sudanese myrrh, papyrus, champaca flower, black lotus, amber, and honeyed leather.

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  • cdWEB-shakkari

    Shakarri

    White pear and absinthe, sea moss and patchouli, labdanum and crushed coral.

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A cluster of wooden wagons stands off to the side of the Midway, removed from the bustle of the dirt-caked makeshift street. A bonfire burns in the center of the lot, shining its light on a tattoo-covered woman. The images embedded in her skin writhe like living things, and the sigils that mark her glow faintly. She is filing her nails and smoking a cheroot while chatting idly with an impassive naked blonde who has been hoisted into the air by thick, gleaming meathooks. The blonde is pinioned; the blackened metal cables that bind her hang tightly from the branches of a massive grey oak. Her skin seems strangely translucent, and her veins and arteries are boldly visible. Two painted signs are propped, sideways, against the side of the tree:

THE ILLUSTRATED WOMAN

THE TORTURE QUEEN

The tattoo’d woman winks at you as you pass by. “Break time, honey,” she growls, as she blows a smoke ring in your direction.

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    The Blood Garden

    Vast open tents have been erected further down the lane. Ornately carved wooden poles support swaths of drooping black lace and blood-crusted burgundy velvet. Grapevines and ivy creep over the beams in the tent and curl like cocoons around bodies that hang upside-down in the caliginous gloom of the tents. Within the shadows, pale figures recline on divans covered in moldering, frayed fabric. As you pass, a feral, white-haired man hoists a tall-stemmed crystal glass of deep red liquid in a toast to you.

    Blood accord, bitter clove, English ivy, Tempranillo grape, red currant, oak, leather, blackberry leaf, and ginger lily.

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++ BPTP HAIR GLOSSES

Bedeck your locks (or snakes or horns or whatever you’re sporting up top) with scents gleaned from the Midway! Smell like you’ve stepped right off the platform of Carnaval Diabolique’s 13-in-One! Visit Black Phoenix Trading Post, our sister sideshow.

AMBER AND STEEL HOOKS
With a touch of oak bark and bourbon vanilla.

BOURBON & BONE
Clacking white sandalwood drenched in whiskey and a puff of cigar smoke.

CRACK OF THUNDER
Streaks of blue-white lightning slashing through a plum wine sky.

LA ROUE de MALHEUR
Red musk, blackened patchouli, opium tar, inky oudh, champaca flower, pomegranate pulp, frankincense, and tobacco.

MISCHIEF
Blood-spattered cotton candy.

NERVES AND SINEW, WOOD AND CLAY
Taut red strings of daemonorops draco and licorice root tugging on carved oak streaked with vetiver and clove with bright nerve-sparks of frankincense and elemi.

RAZORS IN A DOLL’S HOUSE
Rose water, cognac, and lace slashed with gleaming silver.

RED INCENSE
Red sandalwood, myrrh, cinnamon husk, and copal bound with blood, currants, and red wine.

SCREECHING REVENANT
Icy blue musk, eucalyptus, white pine, and opoponax.

WHO IS NIBBLING AT MY HOUSE?
“Save your slobbering,” said the old woman. “It doesn’t help you at all.”
Caramel apples, cardamom cakes, hazelnut cream, and butterscotch.

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