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Carnivals, fairs and other such places have been prime thieving grounds for the Others since their invention. In a place where humans gather in numbers, where nothing is as it seems, where masks are abundant and dark corners easy to find, the Gentry reach out and snatch their slaves. And it’s in just such a place that a Keeper placed an agent to keep him supplied with fresh victims.
The Embry Brothers Carnival has been traveling the country in one form or another since 1891. The carnival has more rides now, and less emphasis on the freak show (though of course it’s still present), but one thing that hasn’t changed is the Ringmaster. He’s taken on various guises through the years — he’s not always actually the Ringmaster, though he’s always in a position of authority. And once every few years, someone arrives to give him a simple message: “He needs more.”
And the Ringmaster arranges for five people to go missing from the carnival. Employees or guests, it doesn’t much matter, though he prefers employees because carnies aren’t often missed as quickly. He tricks them into the Hedge through games, lies and beguilement, and the Keeper’s hulking hobgoblin servants take them away to be twisted into amusement. The Ringmaster doesn’t remember the Keeper’s name, motivation or even what he looks like. The Ringmaster has no concept of what life is like outside the carnival. He only knows how to do his job, to send people into the Hedge and to direct the changelings who occasionally come looking awayfrom the carnival.
The Ringmaster might appear foppish and silly, but he’s dangerous because he is so devoted to his purpose. He knows nothing besides the carnival, and he doesn’t want to know anything else. He keeps the carnival going year-round, moving to warm climates in winter and back north in summer, taking on new employees as old ones drop out to pursue other careers, get married, die or go off to entertain the Keeper. The Ringmaster is a perpetual showman, but it isn’t because he wants to entertain. It’s because he’s unaware that another option exists.
Characters might encounter the Ringmaster if they decide to go to the carnival on a lark, in which case he’ll probably try to get them out of the area without discovering what’s really happening (but his natural showmanship might betray him). The characters might also be former victims of the Keeper who emerge from the Hedge, bloodied and broken, in the carnival that was once their home… meaning that their fetches are already present, doing their old jobs, and probably ready for them.
The Ringmaster is tall and thin, with pinched features and a too-wide smile. He wears a razor-thin moustache and goatee, and keeps his black hair cut short and slick with oil. Although he must change out of his red topcoat, white pants and shiny leather boots sometime, no one at the carnival can seem to describe him on a “day off.” Everyone calls him “Ringmaster” or “Boss,” and none of the employees know his name. In the past, he’s held different jobs at the carnival, and he dresses appropriately for them, but he also comes back to his role as the Ringmaster.
Under the Mask, the Ringmaster’s smile glitters with silver and diamonds. His silver tongue clicks against his perfect teeth. His hands are delicate, but his fingertips are sharp as knives. He can’t keep still, especially if he has to talk to changelings, and is always juggling or pulling something (dead flowers, rabbits’ heads, onewinged birds) out of his top hat.
Mental Attributes: Intelligence 3, Wits 5, Resolve 4
Physical Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 5, Stamina 3
Social Attributes: Presence 6, Manipulation 5, Composure 3
Mental Skills: Crafts (Fetches) 4, Occult (Carny Tales) 3, Politics 2
Physical Skills: Athletics (Juggling) 4, Firearms 2, Weaponry (Sword) 4
Social Skills: Expression 3, Intimidation 3, Persuasion (Temptation) 4, Socialize 3, Streetwise 2, Subterfuge 3
Merits: Allies 5 (Carnies), Fast Reflexes 2, Inspiring, Resources 3
Initiative: 10 (with Fast Reflexes)
Contracts: Elements (Mist) 5, Hearth 4, Mirror 3, Vainglory 4
Glamour/per Turn: 14/5
Frailties - Cannot harm “outsiders,” i.e., those who do not work or have not purchased a ticket for the carnival (minor taboo); must always be performing (major taboo)
Mien Blessings - Flicker, Mirror Trap (as the Echo; see p. 102), Myriad (as the Echo; see p. 102)
- Autumn Nightmares, p. 93-94