Name: Horatio Ignatius Grimley
Age: 220 years old
Species: former Void Weaver, atypical Freak
Strengths: as could be expected of most Freaks, Horatio displays supernatural levels of pain resistance, as well as improved levels of structural integrity, strength and speed. While his build doesn’t suggest any serious levels of resilience, his flesh would give your average chainsaw pause about halfway through. Knives and bullets do find their mark, but usually only leave behind a fraction of their intended damage, with minimal levels of blood loss. Minor injuries heal on their own over moments, while complex ones ranging from broken bones to open fractures and gashes can require a supplemental intake of blood.
On a concrete level, Grimley can lift several hundred pounds effortlessly, can pack the same amount of force in punches or kicks, and displays enough agility and fine motor control to excel in tasks involving stealth. Contrary to what his otherwise near-permanent giggling suggests, he is perfectly capable of growing silent if the situation calls for it. If he can’t best a normal Squid in a verbal joust, he is more than capable of turning his blunt reed cane into a cutting implement by adding enough force to a strike. Add the several hundred pounds per square inch that his facial tentacles can produce, and you essentially gain the equivalent of a land-based lamprey eel. He’s difficult to land a hit against, nearly impossible to dislodge if he latches onto you. Some attempts on his life have ended with his tearing throats open with a single strong tug powered by four of his eight upper-lip tendrils.
Otherwise, his insanity comes complete with knowledge gained far beyond his own mortal years, as if personally witnessed. He’s sometimes been known to reminisce on Nineveh or Akkad, which means he displays about the same knowledge as an elder vampire. His importance to the Freaks as a whole suggests his bloodline is a direct line to the first Freaks sired by Lilith. The Grimleys weren’t always Grimleys, but they seem to have always been spymasters or fetches for the undead; procurers or glinting knives in the dark. Important, so to speak, but never openly admitted as such.
Immunity to the Black Speech, however, is a new addition. Horatio tends to respond to salvos of world-rending Eldritch proclamations as if they were a major hoot; as though there were something profoundly absurd to the whole thing he was the only one to see. That has the benefit of short-circuiting early fights, as very few Prelates are truly prepared for the sight of what looks like a Squid not paying so much as lip service to the Others’ boundless hatred and rage. Disgust or denial is expected out of traitors to the cause – but sputtering, wheezing and even happily pleading laughter? This seems to be one rare case of illogic even the Squids themselves will admit to.
Otherwise, his leading a roving band makes tracking him down a difficult prospect. Contacting him isn’t much easier, either. Only a select few people outside of the troupe are kept abreast of his tour dates, with the Circus keeping a minimal and fairly cryptic presence on mainstream social networks as well as the Deep Web. He instead shows an uncanny knack for dropping by or calling ahead just as his services might be required or his presence desired, some sort of hazily-accessed sixth sense driving him to edit tour dates if needed or to break off from the pack entirely during seasonal hiatuses.
Horatio, however, only truly becomes a significant threat if allowed to remain within close proximity to his brethren. Attack him, and you’ll soon find yourself facing over a hundred pairs of supernaturally boosted arms and legs, grasping fingers and closed fists ready and willing to tear you apart or punch you senseless, laughing all the way through. In fact, psychological terror is the Circus’ preferred weapon, insane glee doing fairly short work of any average assailant’s disposition. Horatio Ignatius Grimley’s Circus of the Strange and Grotesque has survived attempted arson, drive-bys, planted bombs as well as 1975’s Elysium incidents and the subsequent via depletion that touched parts of the United States for a few years.
Tear this big-top down, and you’ll find that this gang of ragtag entertainers have no trouble with finding themselves new stretches of striped canvas to put to good use.
Weaknesses: as expected, blood loss would eventually resort in torpor. Horatio’s been locked in this particular form of stasis once before already, in 1975. A few drops of blood had to be dropped in-between his tendrils for his body to more or less awaken on the most basic sense and latch onto the proffered victim. Torpor lasts as long as the afflicted Freak hasn’t repaired its critical injuries through regeneration, and can sometimes manifest following excessive blood intake. The average Freak more or less reboots its brain once that has been repaired or that any formerly missing limbs have reformed in the most primitive sense. Cases of severe brain injuries without torpor have been noted, but these typically involved low levels of blood loss. Torpor is also triggered in the event of catastrophically low via levels in the surrounding atmosphere. The undead need a surrogate spark of life to be animated, the World’s Breath being the pilot light for most vampires between Horatio’s kind and Matthias d’Aubignier’s.
Otherwise, most other weaknesses are borne out of his particular nature. As nimble as they are, his tendrils could still be grabbed and slashed – or even shot off. He won’t be able to feed if deprived of all of his tentacles, with the average Void Weaver’s sketchy upper lip making the handling of synthetic blood supplements a bit difficult without his facial appendages. While total loss hasn’t happened before, some would-be slayers have lucked out and managed to slice off his two front tentacles. In this case, Horatio cancelled a week’s worth of shows and spent it gorging himself on pig’s blood purchased from a slaughterhouse, preferring to trigger torpor and heal his missing limbs rather than host a show with slurred speech.
Being an information broker might have its perks and can provide a steady stream of capital if your procurers and spies do their job, but the Information Age has challenged the Freaks’ idea of a foul-proof closed system. If they went for hard copies stored in leather-bound volumes and a small procession of travel-sized safes and vaults, the rest of the world now has thumb drives, corporate and personal servers, scanning and imaging devices as well as a myriad of technological means to restore, safeguard and preserve aging documents. If Arthur Holden leads a dispersed cabal of hackers and snoops and Deadline works largely alone, Horatio has more or less risen as the go-to man for anything that hasn’t made the transition to 2025’s forms of safekeeping. Concrete objects, laid-out plans and hearsays, papers or proofs of ownership too precious to be trusted to any old database, anything most aging vampires stubbornly refuse to submit to the modern era’s archival methods – all of that, he either steals, stores, archives, copies, sells or loans. It amounts to a lot of bargaining power and a decent stream of cash, but it’s not exactly an efficient one. A laptop might’ve been added to serve as a spreadsheet machine and to make both the troupe and the sideline’s respective cash flows easier to track, it doesn’t change the fact that Grimley loses time running inventory even if temp hires are sometimes kept around to take the edge off. Being on the move also makes proactive archival routines a bit dicey to handle.
For that reason, he’s kept an eye on the Vlastos kerfuffle precisely because the Alexandrian’s vault is the ideal tech-based solution to his problems. Paradise-make space-compression cabinets pull too much juice to be useful on the go, with the idea of a portable off-planet teleportation beacon appearing far more elegant.
Appearance: ask around a few immortal circles, especially those with a foot in the Bohemian subculture, and you’ll hear conflicting descriptions of the man behind Grimley’s Circus of the Strange and Grotesque. He’s been tall as well as short, cadaverous as well as obese – and a woman named Hortense as much as a man named Horatio! As of the past two hundred years, however, things have generally crystallized in a decidedly odd manner.
The current Grimley is fairly average in height, standing at five feet six for an equally unimpressive hundred and thirty pounds. He doesn’t pack a lot of musculature and definitely has the definition to be expected of near-constant physical idleness, with the early sketches of a tummy. No amount of exertion will ever remove it, and levels of blood intake approaching deliberate torpor only temporarily distend his stomach. That average build ends once his face and skin are considered, however, and only the most oblivious or remote observers could possibly fail to spot the inhuman nature of this particular Ringleader.
As expected, Horatio’s eyes are of a fairly pale shade of grey, verging on the impression that he sports twin cataracts. That’s allowed him to play the blind beggar on occasion, something that’s useful when documents to be acquired need a more specialized touch. His pale blue skin and eight upper-lip tendrils, however, are difficult to miss. Vampire blood has made his epidermis a bit flaky in tone, giving it a decidedly lifeless and diseased cast that’s sure to repulse your average Loyalist. Peek past the old starched white shirt and you might find bluish takes on rosacea and other benign dermal fungi, along with a decidedly unhealthy collection of moles and skin tags.
His facial tendrils are more than enough to drive some zealous types to call him a heretic and a betrayer to the cause, as well. If they were already thick, long, agile and strong thanks to good genes and Amaxi’s earlier blessing, Grimley Senior’s blood caused a drastic restructuration in their overall makeup and function. While he still can use them to supplement basic two-handed motor skills, Horatio’s taste and smell-sensing receptors now play host to one or two retractable barbs per suction cup. Non-intrusive contacts with his tentacles carry a fairly unique and slight level of coarseness to them as a result, almost as if his appendages’ inner lining had been coated with fine sandpaper. Particularly intimate contacts, such as kisses or any potential forms of licking, now tend to carry a mild anesthetic along with the saliva. Consensual contacts usually trigger a mild euphoria, while defensive ones or outright feeding attempts end with all punctured skin zones feeling completely numb for up to an hour following contact.
Considering his main line of work, most of Horatio’s face is usually covered in thick white greasepaint, with careful liner work emphasizing his eyes and a few expression wrinkles. Even if his lower lip isn’t frequently visible, he’s been known to apply a clown’s bright red lipstick to it – and obviously carefully coats his tentacles’ outer lining in the same white base. Far from the slap-dash “Ledger Joker” look, he prefers to mark off the edges of the white paint with more black liner, creating a clean and sharp mask-like effect. Vampirism’s aberrant effect on his genetic makeup has also granted him a strip of black facial hair below his nasal arch, which he keeps styled in a pencil-thin handlebar even Salvador Dali would’ve been jealous of. A clown nose in bright red foam sometimes complements his makeup routine, depending on whether or not he feels like “wearing” a nose on a particular day. Rarely has Horatio ever been seen without his makeup, to the point where a small tin of white base and a pad of non-reflective powder are some of the personal effects he keeps on hand. Thankfully, his being undead means no sweat has ever risked causing his makeup to run.
On the sartorial level, Grimley is never without the expected circus ringleader’s jockey-inspired outfit, harking back to the days of displays of horseback-riding agility making the most of your average ring’s available entertainment. White gloves and a red riding coat, a black bowtie or string tie, the occasional striped vest or livery, beige riding pants and horse-riding jackboots are part of his usual attire. His being a performer and a fairly regular clown and magician also complements his belongings with fairly fanciful designs and colors. Everything he wears more or less enables him to effortlessly emote for several hundred customers, all of them sitting at various distances. It all informs a somewhat Kabuki-worthy demeanor, which is all about deliberate emphasis and exaggeration. Everything to be legible and clearly visible from afar, more or less. After all, the intent of a dramatic doffing of a black top hat is difficult to miss.
Behaviour: as explained above, Horatio’s attitude isn’t too bothersome from several hundred meters away and underneath strong stage-grade lights, but can appear obviously clownish from up close. Grimley’s ambiguous chuckles shake his entire body, his leers come across as full-body expressions, while mundane walking patterns are a definitive rarity. He prances, tiptoes, stalks, leaps or surges forward, and rarely chooses to de-emphasize anything he does on the physical level. Even the slightest smile involves his entire face straining, while boredom can involve the loudest, most theatrical yawns imaginable. Mild disappointment and endearment alike can sometimes trigger out-of-place bawls – while other cultists to have followed in this Void Weaver’s tracks have learned to fear this Ringleader’s ire.
Horatio Grimley, if angered, tends to laugh. Not out of polite moderation or embarrassment, but rather out of the knowledge that he now has every right to either mock you or, if circumstances call for it, more or less attempt to drain you dry. He might be anywhere between a sedate goof and a complete buffoon in the company of friends or in polite society, but his hilarity eventually comes to serve as a thin veneer of control covering raw bloodlust if he’s given so much as the slightest cause to react towards someone with a genuine charge of anger. This is someone who ultimately takes notions of hospitality, cooperation and guaranteed safety as seriously as can be, behind the unavoidable torrent of brain farts and the constant sly or spastic grins gracing his features.
The truth is his mind is still firing on all cylinders despite his obvious impairments, but that his lucid observations are oftentimes formulated either through jokes or in-between japes. That makes Horatio and his peers out to be the kind of grinning jesters some figureheads would rather avoid out of superficial concerns of professionalism than pay any severe attention to. The last two hundred years are smattered with example studies of vampires too inured against outside opinions or too dead-set on their espoused goals to see the brick walls North America’s mad Ringleader would’ve spotted in-between his old papers and yellowed blueprints, some of which have only left corpses behind.
Regarding his former kin, however, Grimley tends to extend grinning and gleeful contempt. The Void Weavers are idiots trying to bring about a punchline of cosmic proportions when the joke proper hasn’t so much as been drafted, Philistines with no concept of levity or enjoyment who have embraced the idea of gobbledygook having some debatable value. The only difference between your average Prelate and, say, the nineteenth century’s French “fart artists” plying their trade in vaudeville shows, as he’d put it, is that one of them has some discernible musical talent. Better to be able to squeeze La Marseillaise through your butt-cheeks than to think that being able to tear atomic bonds apart with no real regard for the results has any real value. One of them is at least an artist of some persuasion, the other is a vandal or a hooligan invested with a sick and half-cocked religious outlook.
Similarly, Horatio tends to snort at anyone who’s come in sufficiently close contact with the Squids to develop either a partially or entirely nihilistic outlook as a result. He’d scoff at Charles Jenkins’ mention of seeing beyond the reaches of both Faerie and the mortal plane and would consider the much talked-about “Deadlights” to pale in comparison to the midway’s old-fashioned array of lightbulbs, the flashing of their old carousel’s colors or the interplay between garish clown suits and greying flesh serving as host to pairs of white fangs. To a nihilist, he’d reply that if life is nothing than a cruel mockery, the best thing to do would be to laugh at it – and you can’t quite do that if you’re dead. If nearly anything can be counted on as being funny, as a result, then it explains the troupe’s fairly graven take on the circus arts as well as Horatio’s constant shifts between menacing laughter and the kind of chuckles to expect between friends.
If life is funny, then the multiple layers of irony involving death and the graven aspects of the supernatural are positively hilarious.
Goals: like any good ringleader – with and without the capital R – Horatio wants to keep his family of misfits and hooligans safe and secure, and wants to ensure the basic amenities of life remain accessible to them come what may. There’s a carefree selflessness to his pursuits that denotes less a lack of ambition and more a total devotion to the idea of the roving carnival. A bit like Samigina, stopping for too long is out of the question for him. A week or so spent visiting friends or clients is fair game, staying in one place long enough to make money is a given – but tracks have to be made. Nevermind how he’s seen all of what the States have to offer ten times over, each crossed State line feels new and fresh. He has to see it all, he has to live it all, and he has to spread his peculiar take on good cheer as far and wide as possible.
If he can trounce a few murderous idiots or laugh at a few sanctimonious pricks from the sea’s depths while he’s at it, all the better!
History: by and large, the entity currently using the Grimley name came to be in 1916. The origins of the Void Weaver it used to be, however, stretch back to 1805, in the second century of Nereus’ travels across the globe. Renewal wasn’t so much as an idea germinating in the back of the Augur’s mind, his resilience hadn’t been quite so thoroughly tested, and the Chamberlain was still figuring out the exact nature of Dalarath’s new sociopolitical divisions. Nikolaas Buck had been in control of Chauncey’s body for over a century, while the Rothchilds were beginning their surface-world resistance efforts against the sunken city. Born just another zealous Prelate, this Void Weaver experienced the expected depredations and forms of abuse and was raised as a faithful servant of Amaxi. Zeal pushed him to volunteer for new efforts in the surface world’s indoctrination, and his poaching upon House Lulroth’s old research papers informed him of the Weavers’ habit of claiming half-wits and cretins in society’s margins, to have them placed near positions of power. Of course, not all court jesters secretly served the Dead Goddess, but the pages of Time have known more than their fair share of mad kings and duplicitous advisors… Going from this to the idea of spreading the creed through mummers and puppetry wasn’t too much of a stretch.
For ten years, the would-be spy worked to ingratiate himself to his Word House’s keepers and to attract the Regent’s attention, while other forms and models of influence were tested. Spiritualism, political anarchy, social upheaval through the exploitation of the forming middle class – there isn’t an angle that hasn’t been attempted by Dalarath’s faithful. Some would give us other notable figures of the resistance, such as George Murray Gammell and his son, Liam. As could be expected, many attempted to prey upon the insane and the mentally feeble, those most susceptible to be molded by the Mad Arts’ clarion call. Society’s refuse would remain the Squids’ preferred target, as Meris can possibly attest – and so would the Freaks. The one Prelate who operated under the name of Morris Hogarth would eventually attain quite the reputation across Europe, working as he did in order to study the malleable nature of the average Freak’s psyche. Those who were barely kissed by madness turned into gibbering fools under the Black Speech’s influence, too dangerous to be trusted as operatives. As the Freaks themselves do when their efforts produce ferals, most of Hogarth’s test subjects went on to garnish unmarked graves and mass dumping grounds between Great Britain and the outer reaches of Eastern Europe. Only one ever escaped Hogarth’s custody, never to be seen or heard from again.
By 1915, Morris had been stationed in Spain as a doctor and had developed a reputation as someone who was inexplicably unafraid of the more transmissible diseases of the time period. Superhumans not being too widely understood as of the Great War, even that particular misconception didn’t come up. Hogarth was the English-speaking foreigner living in the countryside outside Madrid, someone who was known to work on old public-place acrobats and rooftop repairmen, who treated even the Scarlet Fever as a mild inconvenience. The “Devil’s Doctor”, as he was known, was someone who worked for free – someone who you didn’t contact unless you faced life-threatening matters and had absolutely no means of payment to offer. If mental side effects were to expect, odds were he’d use them to sneak in a compulsion to softly whisper in the Black Speech during idle moments, all the better to spread what oftentimes passed for ergotis…
He was subtle, he attracted no attention and steered clear of the rebellion as much as he could. It took his need for entertainment and his attending a show of the Ringling Brothers for this to change. The ringleader’s attitude was spellbinding, the clowns served as a socially acceptable vector for complete madness, and the cheer they dispensed could have served as an adequate cover for a precision-grade dissemination of the Dead Gods’ teachings, in a way that would cover more ground than he himself ever could. Chatting with the circus members in the midway showed he’d have to keep following the Ringling brothers East. The open sea wasn’t far, however, and he’d be able to travel to America, where the core Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey operating act still resided. On the ship across, as he mingled with other carnies returning to the mainland, Morris learned of rumors and legends involving an act that stretched out several decades earlier than even the German-born Ringling brothers’ efforts in the industry. Staffed by Freaks, it billed itself as Horatio Ignatius Grimley’s Circus of the Strange and Grotesque. Nobody knew where the big top’s headquarters were, nobody knew who Horatio Grimley honestly was, but several did agree that this particular troupe never knowing any serious down-time was intriguing. Most carnival acts usually took a season or two to restructure their acts or perform research or marketing efforts as needed, but this particular gang never stopped. Legend stated that the troupe’s origins lied in a mysterious big-top blaze that had taken the staff’s entire lives in 1802. Burlington, Vermont seems to hold a particular place of interest in the general makeup of Grimley’s permanent circus tour, although no memorial has been found in the city’s outskirts. Today, if anyone of Grimley’s band remembers anything of the incident, they haven’t ever been known to speak of it. The last Grimley to potentially have known the truth was killed by Morris Hogarth.
In any case, Hogarth’s research did attest to the presence of “Ringleaders” in the average Freak social circle, someone from whom the group’s overarching madness seemed to take a sense of direction. If they elected a thespian, as in Arthur Holden’s case, then the ensuing group typically displayed an interest and focus in the performing arts. If, on the other hand, the inductee was exposed to Chicago’s criminal underworld, then the nineteen-twenties gave rise to Tommy Gun-toting and undying enforcers. Only particular minds were ever broken and reared for the charge, and leaderless Freaks typically either disbanded or devolved into Ferals. Knowing this, Morris assumed he’d be able to track down and assassinate the Grimley Circus’ Ringleader.
The spring of 1916 was spent travelling across the continental US, tracking down whatever circus acts seemed to fit the bill for Grimley’s troupe. Most of his earlier contacts were duds, which led Morris to suspect that Grimley kept an eye on other acts, and especially on those troupe members who displayed unsatisfactory or criminal tendencies. The early twentieth century was one where waking up in an empty field at night with Stars and Stripes Forever playing in the distance served as a grim threat passed around between more superstitious carnies…
In July, an unexpected opportunity arose: The Loyalists’ rumor mill had it that Meris had scheduled a meeting with Horatio Grimley regarding further research into their own tactics, and that she’d attend a showing in Hope, Rhode Island. It seemed that the Circus served as the Freaks’ roving archives, with a constant stream of undead visitors carrying copies of whatever it is the other bloodlines needed to blackmail, bribe or cheat their way into maintained anonymity. It also wasn’t out of the ordinary for clued-in practitioners to seek an audience with what many seemed to consider as the North American Ringleader, the one who enabled hundreds of preternaturally preserved lives across the continent. If you needed to legally die, to disappear or to change your name, you came to Grimley. If you needed to dig up dirt on an objectionable undead rival, you also came to him. Dangerous arcane secrets were also on offer, along with purported knowledge of creatures that didn’t so much as inhabit the margins of the East Coast’s pulp magazines, back then.
In Hogarth’s view, this was a golden opportunity, and not one to pass for any self-respecting and ambitious Prelate of the Others. So it was that on the fourth of July 1916, one ambitious Void Weaver crept beyond the midway, with Jack Greene’s orchards lining the horizon, conjured blade in hand and his faith at the ready…
Meris wouldn’t notice much. In fact, she wouldn’t notice anything until a year later. While she waited for the show to end, Morris crept through the tents and caravans, looking for the one who bore the troupe’s name. The Horatio he met had been human in a previous life, although clownish frills, greasepaint and fangs had more than changed that. The Black Speech seemed to ricochet off of the madman’s already-tattered psyche, the Squid’s paltry athletic abilities forcing him to retreat. With tentacles and fingers missing and blood trailing behind him, Hogarth could only hope his Flesh Mask still held well enough to fool distant observers. He tried to make it to the cliffs, but blood loss, fatigue and disorientation seemed to constantly lead him back to calliope music and the gaping, grinning mouth to Konrad the Clown’s tent…
Ask Horatio today, and he’ll tell you that his last clear memories as a Void Weaver are of pushing past an endless sea of folds of circus canvas, to where a monster on stilts calmly told him he was going to die. A sea of laughter swallowed him and pain stretched on like a desert. Broken, bruised and defenseless, he became the Circus’ after-hours plaything. Mock fights were staged even as the horizon kept changing, the grotesque clowns and decayed acrobats pretended to give him a chance at life by the circus ring’s low lights – and they beat him senseless for what seems like months on end. He hadn’t been turned yet, but he certainly was no Squid anymore. He was their monkey, their ape, a scabby thing covered in greasepaint, a goon shackled by well-deserved fear and blood addiction – all of his hatred flung back at him by minds too unhinged to even care. Little did he know that the previous Horatio now stood as a weakened pack leader. Morris still clung to life, and his defiance both made the troupe impatient of their Ringleader’s continued games as well as eager to attempt to turn a hitherto unknown species. What would a Freak born of this strange sea-spawn look like, they wondered? As tradition required, anyone who defeated or killed Horatio Ignatius Grimley became Horatio Ignatius Grimley, and some were very eager to see the Boss under a new light… The old Grimley had grown complacent in his role and careless as an archiver and facilitator: The Circus knew they couldn’t harbor complaints for too long.
Not only that, but their seer, Konrad, had begun to speak of the Boss’ death… If that was coming, it stood to reason the overgrown cuttlefish deserved a second chance at life, no?
Preparing the waters hadn’t been too difficult. A few weeks without beatings or feeding sessions, several days of solid food and rest, the alluring presence and careful ministrations of Alora, the Snake Lady – as well as lies involving promised freedom if Hogarth served as their mender and blood procurer for a full tour. The assassin and spy had turned into a gopher boy, defeated in all but the physical realm.
The year that stretched out allowed Morris to trade an anatomist’s focus for an actual spy’s ability to pick targets, and he complied to the Circus’ strict moral code, feeling his abandonment of Amaxi’s tenets as a vague sense of weakness his nature as a thrall more than amply compensated for. They didn’t mind if he used the Black Speech as a crutch against sometimes difficult targets, but he soon dragged back or compelled hardened murderers and thieves to walk out of town, to where the decayed big-top tent waited… Deep latrines dug quickly by supernaturally-activated shovels served as mass graves.
By October 1917, the Circus was back in Hope. The twelfth was the last show Morris saw as the man he’d been. He swept the ring’s surface after the lights had dimmed, only to be assaulted by the troupe from all angles. They made sure he was pushed to the brink of his very sanity, and then offered him the fattened, oblivious and self-satisfied orchestrator of his year of woe. Horatio Grimley died by his hand and he drained his blood even as the Ringleader attempted to gouge his throat, madness effectively changing hosts. His final, blurry year as a Void Weaver ended with unimaginable pain wracking both his mind and body, the clowns, acrobats and animal tamers laughing all the way through…
He awoke the next night feeling more sore than he’d ever been, his crackled ribs aching, thirsting for restorative blood, and his mind broken through by flares of hilarity he couldn’t quite place. Things were funny, now, and the very fact that he didn’t know why they were struck him as endlessly amusing. Shouldn’t it have felt different? He couldn’t tell anymore.
In his caravan’s mirror waited the final nail in his mind’s coffin – his own face. Covered in white greasepaint, a scraggly line of anomalous black hair stretching below his suggested nose’s arch, and regrown tentacles now sporting a myriad of tiny barbs; it was the face of a grim, yet undoubtedly cheerful mockery of the Prelate he’d once been. What left his throat began as a horrified shriek, only to trail off into insane laughter the likes of which even the most devout and unhinged of Amaxi’s faithful would never have produced. Morris Hogarth had been broken into pieces and put back together as Horatio Ignatius Grimley, the first of his many shows to follow having prophesized by Konrad as a phoenix rising – one of the clown’s rare positive insights into the future.
As expected, the Circus’ peculiar atmosphere prevented most visitors on the nights that followed from noticing the extent of the Ringleader’s altered appearance. The new Grimley was all flash and posture, all mellifluous introductions and ambiguous laughter; the exact kind of person people remembered by their deeds, and not their appearance. The three weeks spent in Hope, in 1917, involved the attunement of the menagerie to their new master’s blood and scent, as well as his introduction to the greater undead community in the area. The new Horatio was a notably more engaged and passionate sort than the old one, the kind to steal a visor cap from one of the clowns and to spend entire days between shows reclassifying their stored hard copies and putting out telegrams to reactivate dormant spy or informant cells. All the while, this particular cabal’s traits manifested – notably the passing-on of the old Horatio’s memories. Meris’ face came to him in a dream, a few hours before their last show in Rhode Island. It was easy enough for him to ensure she’d end up isolated from the midway’s crowd and to stroll on by, leering as he mentioned he’d once wanted to kill her…
As expected, she more or less attacked on sight, thinking he still stood as a Void Weaver. Horatio only had to spend a few moments dodging elemental attacks before being able to lock one of her arms behind her back. Then, cackling the whole while, he told her his story as well as what he had to offer. While he’d never again be able to offer seriousness to any particular matter, any further inquiries could be processed in a more gentlemanly manner, should she follow him back to his trailer…
Since then, Horatio has kept an on-again, off-again relationship with the resistance, wilfully ignoring calls for information if Konrad informs him of prying eyes and chiefly focusing on the service of his fellow undead. His status as a halfway-decent literal ringleader and troupe administrator would only grow over time, as well, the closure of the Ringling and Barnum Circus as of 2017 and the emergence of the Nouveau Cirque – the Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Éloize included – essentially turning his field into a single-player market. Immortality cutting down on maintenance costs and his decidedly old-fashioned brand of creepy carnival fancies attracting plenty of interest year-round and especially around Halloween; surviving off of ticket sales, blood supplements and one or two butchers’ worth of leftovers seems more than manageable. Gas seems to be the troupe’s only constant and unavoidable expenditure, something that’s alleviated by the fact that whoever happened to have been the “Alpha Grimley” also entrusted Konrad with a small fortune…
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