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Death's Not Faire

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Gideon Nav loves the Renaissance Faire. It’s her second home, and during Faire season it is her only home. She had been performing since she was a child all thanks to her parents. They owned a swordsman shop on the faire grounds where they made swords, knives, scabbards, bows, and arrows. Gideon could recall spending hours as a child watching her father at his blacksmith table welding swords while her mother sewed . After years of childhood begging, she had gotten her first sword on her eleventh birthday. It had been wooden but she carried it like it was the most precious thing in the world. For her seventeenth birthday she had helped her father make her own unique metal sword. The hilt was beautifully carved with diamond patterns and a majestic dragon head, and her mother had stitched a red G on the scabbard. Gideon loved her sword more than she loved food. (And Gideon really loved food.)

A recent high school graduate, Gideon was thrilled to finally work full time at the Faire. She had played minor roles as a knight for the past few years, and had even been part of the joust last season, but getting a major role with lines was her dream . Right next to swinging her sword around for the rest of her life. 

It was a blustery November evening as Gideon and her parents arrived at Canaan, the fictional town the faire was set in. Her mother and father had to begin setting up their blacksmith equipment in their store and typically Gideon would help them. Not this year though. This year Gideon had been invited to First Call. 

First Call was the major opening event for the Ren Faire. It was there that the owners would unveil the plot and, more importantly, announce who would be playing which roles. Gideon knew she had done a kickass audition, that, plus her status in the faire, had her confident she’d snag one of the big roles. As long as that role involved her sword (and a cute girl perhaps?) she would be over the moon. 

Gideon helped carry her mom’s sewing equipment to their shop, then refastened her scabbard around her waist before dashing down the concrete pathways to the hulking Castle Drearburh at the center of the fairgrounds. Her sword hit off her calves as she ran but Gideon had gotten used to the feeling by now. Ever since her graduation she carried her sword everywhere. Did people look at her like she was insane? Yes, definitely yes. Did she care? Not one fucking bit.

As she jogged towards the lit up mansion her phone buzzed in her pocket. Gideon slowed to a brisk walk and pulled it out to look at the text.

JM: Hey where are you? Teach is about to start and you won't BELIEVE who else is here....

Gideon typed out a quick On my way then resumed sprinting, crossing over a field past the tapestry shop and arriving at the back door of Drearburh. She was panting slightly and her legs protested against the jog. Gideon despised running. She pulled open the heavy wooden and metal door before slipping into the dark hallway. The small figure at the end of the hall greeted her with a wave. It was the shy peasant player who had attached herself to Gideon since joining the Faire. “Hey Jeannemary,” Gideon called as she slammed the door and crossed to the girl.

The duo strutted towards the main gathering room where bright lights and loud chatter emitted. “I almost thought you weren’t gonna show up,” the teenager said as she fell in next to Gideon. 

Gideon laughed loudly so it bounced off the metal walls. “Oh please, I’ve had this day circled on my calendar since auditions! Now what did you mean by ‘I won’t believe who else is here’?” 

They paused at the door to the gathering hall. Jeannemary sucked in a deep breath then shook her head. “Just, just see for yourself.”

The inner gathering hall was brightly decorated with chandeliers, multicolored tapestries, streaks of rainbow paint, and Renaissance style artwork gracing the walls. The gleaming floor had been waxed to an inch of its life and Gideon could see her, very striking, reflection in it. Her golden eyes flashed around the room, surveying the tables filled with mini desserts and horderves, and the mingled faces among the tables. 

She recognized most of them, like Judith Deuteros who had held the role of head knight since the beginning of time, or Dulcinea Septimus who gracefully attended the apothecary each year with her sister Cytherea. Gideon’s eyes lingered on Dulcinea who was decorated with a flower crown and a long floral patterned dress. Gold bracelets hung loosely around her wrists and a long charm necklace gently highlighted her chest. Gideon didn’t see Cytherea standing with her sister or prowling around the room, which sucked. Cytherea was the one Gideon had really been dying to see. 

“Lots of food and women,” Gideon smirked, “I don’t mind that.” Jeannemary lightly swatted her arm and rolled her eyes, an easy task for a teen. 

“No you gay idiot, look at all the new people here!” She pointed to the unfamiliar faces dotted in-between the familiar. “The actors from the Dominicus Faire are joining us this year! Their grounds are being repaired cause some pipe burst or whatever.”

“So we’re getting double the amount of actors?” Gideon’s pulse suddenly started to race. The Dominicus Faire was much larger than Canaan. The actors were twice as good and most had professional acting training. Cause Dominicus is in the rich part of the city, Gideon thought bitterly. Soaring mansions and country clubs and days spent shopping in luxury stores. She hated the rich side of the city. It hadn’t helped that she’d been forced to go to school with some of the rats from that side. It also hadn’t helped that her longtime nemesis happened to be from there too. Now she was competing with trained performers for a role in her own Faire? How was that , well , fair?!

Jeannemary seemed to sense that Gideon was agitated because she stretched to gently tap her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m positive the owners are gonna find a way to squeeze everyone into the performance.” The teen’s optimistic grin made Gideon relax a bit as they took a seat near one of the tables stacked with food. Gideon swiped a handful of chocolate from a crystal bowl and started shoving them in her mouth with nervousness. 

“Slow down before you choke to death Nav,” the gruff voice of Naberius Tern towered over Gideon’s head. 

“Hey Tern,” she greeted back, then angled her jaw to the groups of Dominicus players. “What’s your take on them joining us?”

Naberius stared at the other performers with skepticism dancing in his brown eyes. His square jawline was set roughly as if he was gritting his teeth. “I’m not fond of them being here,” he said tersely, “but I trust that Teacher will find a way to give all of us roles.” Gideon nodded and went back to her sweets. Teacher was the platonic nickname everyone at Canaan had for the elderly man who owned the grounds. He appeared more ancient than the dirt they stood on, but he was very much alive in spirit. His mind was a vault of information about history, literature, science, and more. Gideon had learned more from him than any instructor at school. 

Naberius sat down next to Gideon and unwrapped the jacket he had tied around his arm. Underneath was a footlong sub that made Gideon’s mouth water. Naberius chuckled and tore off one of the sections to hand to Gideon. “One of the perks of working in a sub shop,” he grinned. The two young adults had performed as knights for years, and Gideon had been jealous as hell when Naberius had been promoted to a head knight the previous season. A sword fanatic like herself, the two had trained together with various weapons, and once on horses when Gideon had to joust. Naberius still had that stupid video of her being thrown off her horse on his phone. 

Jeannemary, ruffled by not being allowed to partake in the sub, got up to pile some mini hot dogs on a flimsy paper plate. As she balanced the meal in one hand and a cup of much-too-sweet fruit punch in the other, a tall and golden figure pushed past her and arrived in front of Gideon and Naberius. The teen narrowed her eyes and growled at the woman, but kept her mouth shut with one look from Gideon. 

The sparkling figure standing over them was none other than Coronabeth Tridentarius. The spoiled princess smiled her teeth-so-white-they-blind-birds smile and extended her slender hand to Naberius. “Gideon, Naberius, It’s so lovely to see you both again.” Her voice rose and fell like the rhythm of a song and her long blonde hair swirled in loose curls around her waist. She was beautiful , and it pissed Gideon off something fierce. 

Naberius shook her hand tersely with suspicion in his eyes. “I thought you were running off to Hollywood Corona,” he stated dully. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for sticking around on our side for long.”

The goddess laughed and Gideon expected animals to pop out of the walls and start performing as her backup dancers. Instead she just got the amorous looks of almost everyone within earshot. “Oh Babs you are so cute!” Her glowing hand brushed his cheek as he visibly recoiled. “When I heard that Dominicus and Canaan were going to combine for this Faire season I postponed my trip. An aspiring actress never tires of performing, and what better way to go out than with all my friends?” Her gaze then fell on Gideon. “Plus, I am just dying to watch Nav here swing that sword around.” Her long eyelashes fluttered in time with Gideon’s chest before she was gone in a shower of glitter from her dress. Gideon didn’t know what made her more sick: Corona flirting with her or the fact she kind of liked it. 

“Of course not a single spirit from John Cohort Prep School decided to graciously leave our presence,” Gideon grumbled as she devoured the last of Naberius’s sub. “It’s like they all have radar equipment built into their brains that tells them when one of us is happy.”

“Not all of them are like that,” Jeannemary whined. “Issac is nice to me. And he says that a lot of his friends are pretty nice too.”

“No offense to your pen pal JM,” Naberius snorted, “but you two are babies compared to us. Wait a year or two then tell me how nice and kind other people are.” Jeannemary looked like he had spit on her so Gideon gave her arm a reassuring squeeze before swiping some hot dogs off her plate. 

The small din in the room lulled as an elderly man and woman took to the raised platform in the center of the room. The few people that were still standing quickly took seats and the room was suddenly awash in a sea of brown, blonde, and black hair. The man was Teacher, in his usual white robes that made him look like a preacher, and the woman was Aiglamene, the owner of the Dominicus Faire. She looked just as ancient as Teacher, but without as much life in her eyes. She wore a pressed velvet suit with a tie so black it looked like it could swallow Gideon whole. The ivory cane she gripped in one hand had a golden bulb on top and lines of diamonds running down the sides. It looked like it cost more than Gideon’s entire wardrobe!

“Greetings actors!” Teacher raised his arms as if to embrace all of them as his wrinkled face split open in a smile. “It is so joyous to begin another Faire season with you all! Greetings to faces; new and old!” Next to him Aiglamene obnoxiously rolled her eyes. Gideon wanted to smack her over the head with that bejeweled cane. 

“As you have noticed,” Aiglamene started talking as if she were reciting lines in the world’s suckiest monologue, “this year the actors of Dominicus and Canaan are joining together. Due to some unfortunate issues with piping our fairgrounds are not operable. Nevertheless, we will prevail and put on an amazing show as always.” A polite round of clapping followed. Gideon snored. 

“Now, the moment I know you’re waiting for!” Teacher happily chirped. “What is the plot of our Faire this year?” He turned and unfurled the banner dangling from the ceiling behind him. The purple lettering read Royal Court Mystery with silver etching that gleamed brighter than Coronabeth’s teeth. Gideon’s interest was piqued. 

“This year at Canaan,” Aiglamene drawled, “the royal advisors and their knights will arrive at the King’s behest to confer about his plan to ally with a longtime enemy nation. During this meeting, the King will be murdered and the Royal Court will have to unravel who would do such a thing.”  A murmur of delight ran through the group. Gideon had to admit, it was an intriguing plot. 

Teacher unrolled a cream colored scroll (always one for flair) from his long robes. His grin was happy enough to make thunderheads break into song and dance. “Now, to unveil the talented young actors who will play our prominent figures!” He dramatically cleared his throat for an excruciating fifteen seconds. Just as Gideon was about to tear that paper out of his hands he took a gulp of air and began to read:

“Our king will be played by our longtime nobility: Magnus Quinn!” Polite applause followed as Magnus gave a fake tip of the hat he wasn’t wearing. Gideon smiled at the man who’d been her mentor since she’d started performing. He always had a kind ear for her troubles and was one of the few people she felt had never seen her as a stupid, sword obsessed, teenager. 

“Our glorious queen will be played by Magnus's very patient wife: Abigail Pent!” More polite applause and a few Canaan members laughed at the dig. “And the final royal family member will be the lovely Princess. Played by none other than the beauty queen herself: Coronabeth Tridentarius!” Corona held her hands over her chest like she’d won a prestigious award. Gideon gagged as the golden beauty fake wiped a tear from her face. Next to her Naberius gagged as well. 

“Now, our knowledgeable advisors who will hunt for the mysterious murderer!” Teacher cleared his throat again. “Our Royal War Advisor: Judith Deuteros!” Gideon clapped for once as her fellow knight performer stood to accept the thick script Teacher handed her. Gideon desperately hoped she too would get one of those this year. “Royal Art and Music Advisor: Ianthe Tridentarius!” The twin sister to Corona stood stiffly and extended her arm like a preprogrammed robot. If Corona was the sun then Ianthe was the moon. She was ghastly pale with hair so light it looked grey instead of blonde. Her eyes were black pits that swallowed light instead of emitting it. Gideon was deeply thankful she’d never been on the receiving end of that gaze. 

“Our Royal Peasant Advisor: Issac Tettares!” The young lanky boy practically skipped up front to take his script. He flashed a quick wave to Jeannemary with excitement engraved on his face. She gave him a thumbs up with a duplicate smile. “Our Royal Medical Advisor: Palamedes Sextus!” Gideon almost spit out the hot dog she’d swiped from Jeannemary. Sextus? The dude’s last name was Sextus ?! Her mind spun with all the different puns she had to make in his presence. The guy in question was already dressed like a doctor with grey rimmed glasses and a white overcoat. He instantly flipped open the script to start reading. 

“The Royal Beauty Advisor, because what’s a kingdom without a glorified gardener: Dulcinea Septimus!” Gideon clapped for the second time as the beautiful Septimus twin rose gracefully to accept her role. She fiddled with the heart locket on her necklace as she thanked Teacher quietly. “The Royal Judge: Silas Octakiseron!” Gideon blanched at the mouthful of a name as a young boy who looked like he had perpetual blue balls snatched the script. Gideon wrung her hands together incessantly. Was Teacher really giving the big roles mostly to Dominicus actors? 

“And finally, our Royal Death Advisor. A personal favorite position of mine, especially in a time period when death was as common as flies.” The room laughed with Teacher as he paused in his reading. “Harrowhark Nonagesimus!” 

Gideon’s heart stopped beating. No exaggeration, her heart stilled so fast her death would have been immediate had Naberius and Jeannemary not grabbed her forearms. “Nav, do you need to go outside? Get some air?” Naberius whispered hoarsely in Gideon’s ear. It was then Gideon noticed she had fallen forward almost off the chair. She sat back up and shook her head, content to bite her lip so hard blood filled her mouth. 

Crossing the room in a swirling mass of black was the biggest bitch on the planet. Harrowhark Nona-fucking-gesimus. AKA the gothic demon spawn who had been torturing Gideon since middle school. Her pointed face resembled the rocky cliffs that ships would crash on. Her eyes were the physical embodiment of soulless. When Harrow died and went to hell, Satan would have to hand his throne over to her. She took the script from Teacher and nodded to Aiglamene as if they were longtime friends. That was impossible; Harrow had no friends. 

Teacher smiled as if he hadn’t just handed the scum of the Earth a role in what was bound to be the best Faire storyline since ever. “Finally, each Royal Advisor has their loyal knights by their side. Also known as Cavaliers, these fighters will stand by the advisors through their scenes and will also battle each other on the human chessboard and the jousting field. Cavaliers won’t have lines, but you will need to know basic fighting moves, select a personal weapon, and have experience jousting for when we switch up who fights each day. Presenting our cavaliers!” Teacher moved the paper up to the next list of names. Gideon’s blood started pumping again. 

“Cavalier to Judith will be Marta Dyas!” Another fellow knight performer. Gideon's head rang with jealousy.

“Cavalier to Ianthe will be Naberius Tern!” Next to her Naberius hung his head with a defeated sigh. At least I’m not stuck with that frozen psycho, Gideon mused. 

“Cavalier to Issac will be Jeannemary Chatur!” Jeannemary jumped up and happily clapped her hands like she’d won the fucking lottery. She dashed across to Issac and the two teens instantly began perusing the script together. 

“Cavalier to Palamedes will be Camilla Hect!” That was the first name Gideon didn’t know, but from the fist bump the two shared she guessed Sex boy and the girl knew each other. 

“Cavalier to Dulcinea will be..” Me , Gideon thought hopefully. “Proteslius Ebdoma!” Gideon stared at the monstrosity of a man who inclined his head courteously to Dulcie. She shuddered. 

“Cavalier to Silas will be...” Me . Gideon urged silently. She hadn’t realized how far down the list Teacher had gotten. “Colum Asht!” Another muscled monstrosity. 

“And finally, cavalier to Harrowhark will be...” Not me, not me, not me! Please, I’d rather be with Ianthe the Queen of Frostbite!   “Gideon Nav!” 

Motherfucker .