There was a vibrant energy in the air as we waited within the appetent throng, tucked safely into a corner. Everyone was eager, excited, curious. Perhaps some just a little apprehensive as they clutched their tickets not knowing just what they were gaining entry to. We watched as the- were they gatekeepers? Merchants?- bustled about with last minute preparations. What wonders would I find beyond those doors?
A hush came over the crowd as the doors finally opened and in a wave everyone began inching forward. Azza and I held hands so as to avoid being separated. I could hear the soft tear of the tickets, one bye one as we made our way down the darkened corridor.
Stepping through the doors we stepped into another realm. There were tents and tables lit by fairy light. A bard sang and played guitar in one corner, across the room a Goblin merchant peddled bottles of sin. The first table we came to had an older goblin, but no less charming, selling tokens for color. Just a trinket, a string, any scrap of color should do. I gave red, in the form of an apple, and my Azza gave a ribbon, I believe.
We made our way to the Merchant of Sins- what a crowd he had! Everyone wants a bottle of their own. He had all seven sins you would expect- and a warning to go with them. Take just a taste, anything beyond is on your own soul.
Might I add he was a very attractive and compelling young man? Not at all what they warn you of Goblins. Seems the fairy tales may be misleading- were they trying to scare us away?
We watched as the customers before us made their requests- gluttony! Greed! Wrath! He had a word of encouragement for all, and made suggestions for all those uncertain. Finally we made our way to the tables filled with the small brown bottles.
“And what sin may I interest you in?” the words rolled smoothly off his lips.
“I would like lust. She needs pride-doesn’t even have enough ask for it herself!” What can I say, I was getting into the theatrics of it all?
“Well then she must indeed- and you, you sound like someone who knows what she wants!” We locked eyes a moment as he gave me my bottle. I felt enthralled as I noticed his eyes; one pupil was yellow. I managed to pull myself away, but were I being honest with myself I would say the spell is still not yet broken.
We found an open space and both sampled our sins. Hers reminded me of an orange cream soda- refreshing and emboldening all at once. Mine was smooth with an undertone of spice. We put our bottles away and took notice of the bard- he was playing a jaunty familiar tune and I soon could not resist the urge to dance! We set down our bags and began to spin and twirl together as best we could in the small open space. There was a beautiful goblin watching us- though I did not realize she was a goblin at the time- and we invited her to dance with us. Laughing and twirling, intoxicated with sin and magick and fairy lights and music, I began to think the song would never end and I would be compelled to dance until I fell over dead! Somehow, this thought did not bother me as it probably should have.
Eventually, though, the song did end. As we caught our breath we took the chance to peak within the other tents and tables. We saw fortune tellers and gamblers wagering years of life. We saw someone with contracts, though I never did get to learns what they were for. Much to my dismay the lines were all long and I knew our time was running out.
We found one more goblin- this one younger- to trade our colors with. I gave a button this time. We sat and listened a while longer to the bard, and watched in amusement as a rogue from the circus made a friendly mockery of him. When we went to leave we were asked to leave a tip- not money, no! It would do him no good. I left a colorful postcard.
When I return, I need to remember my buttons, beads, ribbons, and bells. It seems they would be the most welcome currency here.
Next we happened upon a street magician- and not a very good one at that. I do believe that was his appeal, though. I certainly found him more captivating for it. I traded one of my tokens to watch him snap his hand in a trap- he said he would do anything for trinkets, they were needed to buy his way out. Soon after we saw a woman with a book of secrets. It was an old, fine looking tome. I will not share here what I wrote. Did her promise of a lighter conscience hold true? I can’t yet tell.
We were approached by an older, hunched goblin who’s recipes had all been stolen, so she was trading fortunes for new ones. Azza gave her a recipe for roast vegetable, and I for the easiest (and tastiest) peanut butter cookies I know. She accused us of hating gluten! I had to laugh. I would have shared my recipe for bread but even as simple as it is I feared I’d forget something and insult her!
Shortly after a bit of chaos erupted around us- someone had stolen the book of secrets! She was trying to read them aloud! A chase ensued, weaving all around the room, in and out of the crowds and lines. The rogue from the circus appeared shortly after, followed by a woman who snatched glasses out of his hand. He leaned on Azza’s shoulder. “Can you believe that!”
“The thief! She stole my glasses! Snatched them right off my face, just like this!” and with that he stole Azza’s glasses from right off her nose and took off through the crowd! She pursued and recovered her glasses quickly before returning to my side.
He came back to us again, draping an arm over each of our shoulders. He was tall and lanky, and his stubbled chin was speckled with a fair amount of grey.
“I just can’t abide a thief!” he said conversationally as he stole the umbrella Azza had stored in my bag. He took off again, but Azza did not chase him. She knew she would get it back before the evening was over.
“Worst case scenario, it was free anyways.” I laughed. I loved the chaos, bad thief and all.
Eventually he returned, asking for help of all things. Of course we agreed. Who knows what sort of adventures we would miss if we turned it down? He needed a walking stick back- of course it was also stolen. We could then return the walking stick in exchange for the umbrella. Azza took care of most of this on her own, it will have to be her own story to tell. I did give her my last remaining button, just incase. The rogue stayed to talk to me while she was away.
He draped his arm around me and leaned down close enough I could feel his breath on my face. “Now that she’s gone, why don’t we leave just you and me?” he whispered loudly.
“Oh no! She’d never make it out of here without me!” This isn’t the insult it sounds like, I promise. She was sold to the goblins a few years ago, we had a plan in case they tried to keep her.
“Oh well I couldn’t live with myself if that happened!”
“No, I couldn’t live with you either!”
“That’s alright, not many can.”
She came back, umbrella and two new buttons in tow. Better buttons, I was happy.
Sadly at this time we had to leave. As we left I felt a difference in the air once we passed the threshold. There was still a lingering crackle of energy to be sure, but there was no doubting that we had left the “other” that had so fully engulfed us the last few hours. All at once it was too fast and felt like I had been there forever, like I belonged.
I want to return.