As the show came to an end, Ruze stood astutely at the entrance to the circus tent, head raised high as he awaited the guests who would soon be strolling his way. His main role as proprietor, after all, was to, first and foremost, be a cordial face of the Airooma Circus, which was a task he took to diligently.
His hands held behind his back, a massive smile stretched across his face, even as Gille hopped toward him, the tiny Sheikah counting his fingers as he approached the massive Goron that seemed a mountain next to him.
"Two… three…" Gille muttered, speaking up once within earshot, "The show dragged a bit, Ruze…"
The Goron nodded, smiling, "Yes, well, with children in attendance, it's our job to-!"
"That's a mess of an excuse!" Gille accused, "Have you an idea that we're on a curfew?!"
Ruze nodded simply, answering quickly, "Of course! Which is why I didn't ask Asuru to extend the finale even further!"
A tiny plop broke the air as Gille slapped his face with an open palm, quivering as he cursed under his breath before retorting, "I don't think you understand the seriousness, Ruze. If something goes wrong-"
"Something goes wrong every show, my friend. We've gone, say, one hundred eighty-two for one hundred eighty-two, and with those stats, I'd say we've got fate on our side," Ruze happily exclaimed, "Now, here come our guests, so- Hello there! Did you enjoy the show?!"
The Rito sauntered along with little comment, seemingly bored by the affair, which was a sentiment borrowed by the Hylian couple who followed behind him.
"Well, it was-" the guest mumbled, "I mean, it was better than skipping rocks."
While Gille crossed his arms in shown offense, Ruze simply grinned wildly as he replied, "Excellent! We hope you spread the word, and we'd be thrilled to have you return in the future!"
The Hylian pulled his counterpart closer, the two seemingly having been on a date, with the man whispering into the woman's ear as they walked along, "It's cool- I nearly fell asleep, too."
Gille frowned, slapping Ruze's ankle before charging, "You hear that?! We're a mess!"
"Come now," Ruze assured, "You know just as well that the fun has yet to begin."
A wry smirk spread across the Goron's face as Gille grumbled lowly, "I suppose. but as long as we're handling expenses for these shows, we'd best be turning a profit, at least!"
"We will, don't worry!" Ruze assured, "That's why we brought in- Well, hello there! Did you enjoy the show?!"
The small pack of teenage Hateno-dwellers snickered as they passed by, talking quietly amongst themselves, leaving Ruze rather miffed by the nonexistence exchange.
"Stupid kids," Gille complained, his arms tightening against his chest, "Probably treated this more as a peep show…"
Ruze shrugged, "Well, so long as they're paying custom- They did pay, didn't they?"
"How would I know?!" Gille exclaimed, "And when were you concerned with payment? I've seen you bring in people off the road and pack 'em in without even a rupee tossed aside!"
His lips curled inward with embarrassment, Ruze merely started to stroke his chin as he pondered over the guests' payments, leaving Gille to complain further as he watched the teenagers disappear, "Paying customers… They could bury me beneath all of Hyrule's treasures- They better not start ogling my fellows like cretins."
Ruze's face shone with surprise, "I've never known you to take up for your compatriots like that, Gille!"
"Pah!" the Sheikah exclaimed, "Deckhand or not, I'm still a member of this circus."
He shrugged, shooting Ruze a sidelong glance, "I mean, you're a bonehead half the time- you don't see me throwing you to the wolves."
"I will accept the compliment," Ruze chortled happily before clearing his throat, sighting the next guest approaching as a hastened pace.
"Hello, there! How did you-!"
"Have you seem 'em?!"
Ruze's face went as pale as it could go, his excitement melting away to concern as he replied, "'em? Who's 'em?"
"My kids!" the man hurriedly answered in a fright, "The two- You saw 'em! They got away from me after the show 'n I can't find 'em!"
Ruze's eyes grew like tiny saucers as Gille slammed a foot into his ankle, the Sheikah shouting with a start, "What did I tell you?! Something always goes wrong!"
The guest's face worsened, "W- What went wrong?!"
"Ha ha!" Ruze suddenly laughed in an attempt to lessen the tension, "Nothing! Nothing. We're a hundred eighty-two for a hundred eighty-two on surprising events occurring and handling them appropriately! I suppose with two children-"
The Goron counted his fingers, "This'll only make it a hundred eighty-four!"
The man's expression noticeably darkened as he spun in place, "C- Can I find somebody who knows what they're-"
"Bah, I know what I'm doing!" Ruze assured, taking the guest's arms and directing him away, "Come on, friend. We've got nothing but time to discover their whereabouts!"
Before he could stroll too far, Ruze rushed back to Gille, leaning low as he hurried with a hushed tone, "We don't have time! Get some of your boys together and find those two kids, got it?!"
Gille rolled his eyes as Ruze immediately spun back to return to the guest, the Goron's laughter taking a noticeably nervous tinge as he did so. The Sheikah growled under his breath as he stepped back toward the entrance to the massive tent, taking a glance at the sky for a brief moment before stepping inside.
With the deckhands smattered about the circus floor, fixing up the venue for the next show, Otoll and Neli were hard at work tag-teaming the large portions of stage accompaniments that had been shifted around to accommodate the varying performance spaces, leaving the two breathless as they conversed in between assignments.
"Gaaah," Otoll groaned as the two dropped the giant wooden slab onto the floor, wiping his hands across his britches before complaining, "Damn splinter."
He raised his hand to examine his palm, leaving Neli to approach him, raising his scaled hand to pull Otoll's injury closer, "Hmm. Isn't too bad."
"Like you would know, your scaliness."
Neli grinned, "I'll admit, I'm bullshitting. Just trying to alleviate any worry you might have."
"About a splinter?" Otoll questioned with a smarmy grin, "I used to get these, what, twice a week. Products of working for a carpenter."
"Ah ha, so a portion of the tapestry is revealed," Neli marveled lowly, his teasing words leaving Otoll rolling his eyes as the Zora went on, "I've revealed so much about my history; I was wondering when you'd start spilling yours."
Otoll eyed him, "Does it matter now?"
"Eh," Neli shrugged as the two lifted up the next assigned piece of lumber, "Regardless of where we are now, I figure- HUURH! -you know, our histories are still a part of us. in some way, perhaps."
Shrugging mid-lift, Otoll replied, "I mean, if you feel that way- At least it explains why you're so open about everything."
They dropped the lumber to the ground, leaving Otoll wiping the sweat from his brow, which Neli emulated, leaving the Hylian to note, "You did it again."
"What? Wipe my brow?" Neli chuckled, "I can't help it. I see so many people here doing it."
"So you say. I know part of you does it just to tease me."
Neli grinned, "Oh, please. Now, enough of that and help with-"
The bleedingly-sharp voice could only come from Gille, who scrambled into the stage area with a skittering pace, his tiny feet only taking him so far within the time allotted, forcing his voice to make up for the distance.
"YOU! YOU! AND YOU!"
The taskmaster had aimed a finger toward Otoll, as well as two other deckhands, before clamoring angrily, "YOU THREE! Scavenge the whole area! We've got two children scurrying around and we've gotta get 'em outta here! Got it!"
"Yes, sir!" Otoll replied in time with the two others, though instead of immediately taking off, he turned toward Neli, who shrugged in reply.
After a moment to collect his thoughts, Otoll strode up, more of less simply walking quickly rather than sprinting as Gille had. He first thought of places to hide, knowing from his own experience the temptation of hiding within the walls of some building, only to emerge after they had closed, leaving him with unlimited access to foods or candies. He figured might be the same for these children, at the very least, and be began beneath the bleachers, the dark enclosure where the deckhands had been huddled beneath during the show.
With no results, he moved on, hoping that strategy would outpace the speed with which the other two hands had taken off with. Darker, more curious places- spots where children would most gravitate to, especially those with the conniving nature to escape a parent in the first place. Otoll rounded the tent, thinking of Nekia as he passed by the spot he had caught her weary face earlier in the evening, wondering where she might now be, given the ending of the show.
Gille remained within the center of the tent, fidgeting with worry as he bit as his fingernails, turning round in place as if he were a lighthouse seeking bodies rather than ships. He recoiled as Ruze entered the tent, the Goron making a hasty dash toward the Sheikah man, the uncharacteristic speed catching most of the deckhands' attention, forcing him to lean in close in order to relay his words to Gille.
"I left the man with Relelo," he explained with a rushed voice, "I told her to keep their search near the entrance so they can make a hasty exit once we find the kids."
Gille frowned, "I hope you realize that this entire enterprise rests on us finding these kids quickly, right?!"
"Well?!" Ruze retorted, his frustration breaking through his normally positive demeanor, "Why not have all your deckhands searching?!"
"And sink the upcoming show?! We'd be up the creek without a paddle in that instance, too!" Gille charged, taking a deep breath now that he realized his needing to be the rational one with Ruze growing terrified, "I've got my three quickest men on the task, alright?"
Ruze dropped his head, "I pray that they truly are. You know having them running about isn't going to play well with the equilibrium."
"And whose fault is that?!" Gille exclaimed, slapping Ruze's leg with a furious swipe, "There are no good consequences in this situation- I'm merely playing for the best of the bad ones to avoid the tremendously terrible ones! Now, if you'd like to join in on the search yourself, I can remain here and-"
Otoll carefully pulled away the darkly thick curtain that opened up into Ismo's fabric enclave, narrowing his eyes to combat the blindingly emerald light that continued to billow from the altar's brazier, stepping inside to allow a hand to shield his face. Keeping his head low, he caught a sensory glimpse of the children through his ears before his eyes, the two children giggling from somewhere in front of him as he gradually worked his eyes to better acclimatize them to the piercingly bright light.
"Hehehe!" one of the children giggled, "It's a little tree man!"
Ismo's teeny voice broke through the team of laughter, "Why, I-! I'm no man, you whelp! Have you no eyes to glance upon these leaves?!"
"It talks, too!" the other kid cried out with amusement, immediately bursting with incessant laughter as they joined in with their counterpart.
With an auditory anger, Ismo began to quake in place, charging with her tremulous voice, "Another insult like that, and I'll have you both tossed into the soup!"
"Bwah ha ha!" the two children laughed, only ceasing their humourous reverie as Otoll stepped behind them, taking both of them by the shoulders, which forced the both of them to whip around in sudden terror.
Otoll frowned with a groan, turning toward Ismo with a bow, "Sorry about that."
"Yes, well," Ismo mumbled gracefully, smoothing out the few stems of leaves that dotted her arms, "Just so our soup isn't tainted due to their insolence."
The Hylian nodded before turning around, nearly dragging the two children behind him as they both tugged at his arms in attempts to free themselves.
"Hey, let go!" cried one of them as Otoll dragged the two of them out through the curtained door.
Otoll rolled his eyes with a sigh, shaking his head, "You two really are whelps. Just come on and get out of here."
"No!" whined the other, "We've gotta see the Zoras!"
"Why?" Otoll asked, stopping in place before letting go, now that the two kid's had stopped their battling, turning around to face them, "Do you have a death wish?"
The older of the two growled, "A death wish?! They wouldn't hurt nobody! They were cool!"
"Oh, yeah?" Otoll inquired, "You do know what happens after the circus closes, don't you?"
The child's voice shook as they fought to answer, "N- Nothing!"
"…right?" eeked the other.
Otoll grinned, "Oh, everything happens after the tent closes."
He crouched down to the children's level, his voice lowering to a dauntingly terrifying tone, "You know about the skultullas, don't you? When the sun goes down, they lie in wait in the ground, waiting for anybody brave enough to leave the road."
Otoll raised his hands dramatically, acting out the scene had had described, "They're collections of bone. The remnants of the dead. That's why we're so desperate to get you two out of here. A moment too long after the moon rises- You never know…when…you…might…"
The two children leapt the height of a building it seemed as they shrieked in abject terror before running for their lives back toward the entryway of the circus tent, leaving Otoll to snicker mischeviously as he stood up, reaching a fist out for Neli to bump as the two watched the two kids flagrantly scurry past their fellow deckhands.
"Perfect timing," Otoll commended.
Neli shrugged, "Your story did most of the work, really."
Smirking, the Zora went on, "Still, I must say, my clammy paws grapping their necks must've added a certain layer of something or other."
Otoll rolled his eyes, "Skultullas. Never thought my bed time stories would ever come back to help me."
"Ah. and, yet, more of the tapestry is unfurled," Neli pointed out with a smirk, bouncing away as Otoll took a playful swipe in his direction.
The two children burst through the entrance to the circus, leaving Ruze to stumble along behind them, unable to keep up with the sheer speed of the tiny demons. He worked himself to a halt before leaning over, clutching his knees while taking deepening breaths, smiling as the kids found their father, kept in sight by Relelo's attentiveness. They immediately slammed into their father's legs, crying out in terror, much to the parent's dismay, though Ruze was quick to smile in replay as he raised an exhausted hand into the air.
"Come- again!" he happily reminded between breaths, returning his hand to his knee as the three began to leave, the two kids attempting to drag their father along toward the nearest dirt road.
Left unable to move from exhaustion, Ruze remained largely incapacitated when Gille's tiny legs finally caught up with him, the Sheikah clamoring for an answer as he arrived.
"Well?! Are they gone?!"
Ruze nodded lazily, smiling as he turned his face toward Gille, "Told you everything would work out. Everybody's gone, just in time for the biggest show."
"Hmm, yes," Gille nodded, taking in a sigh as he went over the situation in his mind, "I suppose, in that case, I'll get the boys back to work. We've little time to spare, now, so- Oh, what was it you were saying?"
Ruze pushed himself up, stretching himself out as he muttered, "Saying what?"
"Before this mess with those kids. We were discussing finances and the like and you mentioned something-" Gille suddenly paused as Ruze's eyes widened in realization.
Ruze turned to him, unable to speak as he recognized his error. As his eyes lay upon the Sheikah, from his peripheral vision, Ruze noticed tiny pockets of blackness beginning to fall from the sky, like the darkest snow, forcing his spine to tingle as he turned his attention toward the sky. Columns of black lines began to sprout from the ground surrounding the two, like earthen tentacles, and the starlit sky began to take on the appearance of crimson tinge.
Ruze reached out a hand, allowing one of the niveous bits of darkness to rest within his palm, his teeth biting at his lip as the moon began to lose its pale hue, a blood red tinge crossing its face, leaving the Goron with no time to act.
"She's not going to like this…" he muttered to himself.
Within the tiny wagon, left to his own devices, Talo continued his work, angrily cursing to himself whenever the wholly inept operations of the Airooma Circus came to the forefront of his mind, which occurred quite often. So ensconced was he in his work that the crimson light entering through the only window of the wagon didn't even occur to him as he scrounged up pages upon pages of documentation that hardly satisfied that very term. He stood up to stretch, cursing under his breath as he allowed his mind to take a rest, massaging his eyes as he slowly spun in place.
"Goddess, this place," he murmured to himself, "Forgive me for such stupidity. I was wrong to-"
His hands fell from his face, leaving his eyes growing into orbs of pure terror, noticing the pale rays of red moonlight cascading in through the window. Talo clutched his chests as he backed away, slipping on a stray piece of paper and slamming into the ground, though still forcing himself farther into the wagon as he stammered.
"B- B- Blood Moon…" he recognized, hurriedly turning his head for somewhere further to hide within the wagon, but finding nothing.
He quickly scurried around, trying to find anything of an escape, a hiding place, a-
Talo spun around, his eyes locked on the door as he froze in terror. He could feel his heart racing, just about prepared to burst from his chest now that his throat was blocked by a solid breath lodged within. His hands shook mightily against the wooden floor, his nails biting into the lumber as stress arose within his body. Butterflies ravaged his gut as he faced the prospect of having to fight for his life, knowing that the Blood Moon was to bring the most terrifying of evils upon Hyrule.
The wagon's door slowly began to swing open, allowing a stream of crimson light to cast onto the floor, just beyond Talo's foot. He shivered in terror, knowing he needed to find a weapon to defend himself, but also so indelibly frozen in terror as he lay there, barely able to keep his upper body upright as his arms waved like weakening columns of lead.
A footstep. A hand at the door frame. Talo's heart stopped beating.
A face emerged as the large body of a tuxedo-clad woman entered, her face ravaged by dark strands of crimson light, as if the blood-red moonlight had left its mark upon her grotesque mixture of skin and bone. Talo's eyes widened beyond what he thought could ever be possible. He recognized her to be a Gerudo, but just barely- half her face had been shredded away, leaving only bone behind torn strands of skin that hung from the splotched of face where skin remained.
Nausea swept through his body, even as the demonic being noticeable smiled down toward him.
"Well, well, well; if this isn't an odd predicament," came a raspy, female voice, the Gerudo resting her fists against her hips as she shook her head.
Talo watched nervously, still, as the zombie-fied woman turned her attention outside the door, wondering with annoyance, "I would love an explanation, Ruze."
"W- Well, that- is to say…" Talo could catch the Goron's voice, but just as sudden as it had appeared, it had vanished with a sudden swipe of the Gerudo's hand.
"No matter, now," she mentioned with a shrug, returning her attention to Talo, "You're the accountant, correct?"
Talo's nerves slowly began to melt into something resembling confusion, his throat catching in his throat as he attempted to stammer a reply, "I- I- That-"
The woman smirked, as though humored by his inability to reply, noting simply, "Well, I suppose you're acting how I might expect. Allow me to introduce myself, in any case."
She reached up to grab hold of the top hat that rested above her malformed head, bringing it to her tuxedo-clad chest as she took a regal-looking bow, bringing herself back up before proclaiming easily.
"I am Zel'Uvam. Owner of this, here, Airooma Circus," she smirked, "or, as our current clientele refer to it, The Crimson Circus."