Show of Shows

Emily sat on the edge of her seat as she watched Ines, surrounded by her guards make her way to a specially prepared row of seats on the side of the stage. Barnaby Rust gave the woman a low bow before kissing her outstretched hand and marching to the centre of the round stage. He raised his hands and the lights went out.

The audience gasped as the entire hall was plunged into pitch black darkness. Soft music began to play and high above pin pricks of light flashed on and off with an ever increasing frequency.

"One thousand years ago." Boomed the voice of Barnaby from the darkness, "the Maelstrom was born."

There came a sudden flash all around the stage a spotlights swooped in to illuminate the billowing smoke that came pouring in from the rear of the stage. A sound effect like a roll of thunder sounded around the hall.

"The earth was poisoned, and the skies shrouded in cloud and shadow."

Dancers clad in black flowing robes and trailing grey and white ribbons swept onto the stage as the smoke began to clear. The music rose as they played out the death of the Old world. A group of men and women dressed as common workers danced amongst them, some falling to the dancing shadows, others joining with their fellows in the centre of the stage.

"But the spirit of man is indomitable." Came the disembodied voice of Rust. "We fled beneath the earth. Protected by our science... and it was beneath the earth that we discovered our salvation... The wealth of our future... Flagesium."

The stage was bathed in green lights as Rust continued to narrate the plight of mankind, and while he spoke the performance continued with strong men and acrobats wowing the audience with their fantastic abilities. At one point a pack of huge Delve Hounds were led onto the stage by a lone man. He wrestled with them and placed his head within their fanged maws as the audience cried out in horror and delight.

"At last we emerged and the fire of industry burned anew." Fire breathers and automatons were next as Rust told of the construction of Elesium and the godlike task of raising the city into the sky.

Blue light bathed the room now as an imitation of the fables city came floating down from the centre of the ceiling. Trapeze artists came swooping in then leaping from rope to rope and throwing themselves through the air around the floating city.

"And so beneath the City of Dusk rose up, reclaiming the poisoned earth below just as our brother's reclaimed the skies above."

The show continued now below and beneath. Dancing, acrobatics, comedy and drama. It grew and grew in a tumult of controlled chaos until at last Barnaby appeared once more amidst his performers. He carried his cane and wore a suit of the purest white. Once again he raised his hands and there came a sudde explosion before the hall was plunged into darkness once more.

A single spotlight found him standing to the side of the stage now. His cane raised and pointing towards the centre.

"So our story is told." His voice boomed out, "but it is not yet at its end."

The floor opened up and a large box began to rise from beneath. A low moaning sound came from within.

"There is now a terror that rises from below. A thing of fear and loathing.. witness... witness! Witness! The beast."

The cover was torn back from the cage and several spotlights converged on the creature within. The thing realed in horror and pain from the sudden light. It looked like a man but horribly deformed. Great claws protruded from its long fingers and bulbous growths rose from its back and head. It's skin was putrid yellow and green and its sunken eyes blood red.

Lucas Eli stared out into the crowd and roared...

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