The One and Only (12.5) The Circus Freak

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PART 5

The Circus Freak ran like a tumultuous gust. He headed to one of the towers.

He sped up its stairs.

“Hey sto—”

He tripped the guard to fall down the stairs and continued climbing, avoiding another one who tried to swing a sword at him. Coming out to the actual wall, he had to contend with an archer. He reached her before she had pulled back the arrow properly, kicked in the bow, breaking it, which also hit her and sent her back and over the wall.

“Ahhhh!”

Hugo unhesitatingly hopped over the edge and climbed down. That didn’t go as well as he had hoped, his hand slipped half-way down.  

He landed hard on the snow, laughing at his mishap, even in the present of the groaning archer woman who seemed to have broken a few parts of her body. The Circus Freak ignored her, he got up and ran away.

Other guards popped up on the wall, close on his tail. They started shooting a few arrows but he was on the ground and running, there was no chance they would catch him. They would mount up horses and give chase, but there would still be no use.

The Circus Freak was running towards the forest, it started but a mile ahead. And if someone did catch up to him, he’d just steal the horse and ride away, that would be even better.

He thought back to the king’s room, smiling fondly at the image. A defiled King, a disrespected world-class thief who thought she was so serious in her magician’s costume, top hat and all. Broken down cabinet and bed, turned over furniture, everything wet and singed and oh yes, the king’s eyebrows were gone.

The Circus Freak giggled. 

He then felt the familiar surge of curiosity as he remembered the diary. He opened the book in mid-run but found he had no left arm to hold it properly. It flew off his hands. He stopped and scampered back, grabbed hold of it and went back to running.

He would have to read it later.

The rest of the evening was boring. A scout, riding a horse, did end up galloping up to his proximities. After a few minutes of Circus Freak running around trees to try and evade, he finally used one as support to kick him off his horse.

“Ouf!”

The horse neighed, and Hugo neighed with it, kicking it into movement.

“Thanks, boss!” He cackled as he moved away, filling the nearby forest in his laughter.

He tried reading the book again, now that he was riding, but the galloping was too strong. He waited for a few hours until the horse was properly tired and well enough near the neighboring city, to finally satisfy his curiosity.

He slowed the horse down to a trot, so he didn’t need to hold the reins, and opened the book. He strained his eyes to read under the moonlight, but having left the forest, that did not prove at all difficult.

I must write.

Decades have passed and I must tell someone, but if I do, all I have accomplished will wither in smoke. Much as all my enemies have.

So I must write.

I will write more things, I can only assume I will lack the will to burn away this confession. It will one day be found out, I want people to know.

Just not my people. With whom I interact. Whom I protect and rule.

I am no king.

“Uuuuooo!” He didn’t yet know what he meant by that, but he overreacted all the same, as if to mock the king.

When I was a boy, the King’s main steward came to me.

My father’s main steward, all believe.

I was a friend of the prince, I was part of a group of commoners who played with the prince, to teach him people are people. A lesson of the king to his son.

I looked very much like him. At that age, at least.

“Oh boy!” The Circus Freak was already seeing the whole thing unfolding. He read quickly, impatiently, diagonally, deciphering that the prince, the real king’s son, had been poisoned. The steward, afraid of being found out to having allowed the king’s son to die, due to being negligent with food tasting, had desperately sought a solution.

His solution was a replacement.

And so it was that the royal family line was actually very much dead. A commoner now reigned. A commoner. The greatest and most successful advocate for the monarchy in the world, being the unifier of Norwayaka and one of the wisest rulers in the world, or so they said, was not even royal!

The Circus Freak laughed.

What other secrets were stashed in that diary? It was worth the read, he was sure!

The King would know he knew the truth. And forever would the idea of the Circus Freak riding back into his castle haunt the king, haunt his nightmares and make him mad. Stealing the diary, it turned out, was definitely the best thing he could have done in order to get to the king. To freak him out.

Hugo noticed then he was riding into the city just then.

“Oh, I’m here.”

He found a house in the city, forced the couple to take the living room while he spent the whole night reading the diary in their bedroom. The couple turned the guards away for the Circus Freak, the ones that came asking for him. They were too afraid to speak out on him.

The diary held a lot of secrets. People the king had assassinated, his father included. Not the king – the father of the prince he replaced – he loved that one, he killed his own genetic father. The man was going to reveal the truth so he had him killed by hiring the Darkness, whatever that is. Darkness kills people now? That was weird.

He had also poisoned the steward years later, when that one thought to blackmail him on the truth.

His private negotiations, which had made him such a famous diplomat, actually involved a lot of threats. He would kidnap children of the noble and use them to blackmail them, or he would unleash a plague upon a city and then offer his help under the condition they bend the knee.

He was smart. So very very smart, but he was mostly brave and unyielding. Publicly, under people’s eyes, he was ever standing tall: facing fights head on and exacting justice in an almost ruthless, but never evil, way. He described that he showed other faults, other recognizable and acceptable faults like stubbornness and a stupid lack of fear so that other faults would never be expected of him. Like being a backstabber and a liar.

Which was what it was.

Oh, everything was written down as a necessity, every confession was surrounded by ravings of justifications, but Circus Freak knew guilt when he saw it. Specifically by sight, after all, he felt none whatsoever. Guilt or regret.

Even losing his arm wasn’t something he really regretted. He had wanted to at the time, that’s what mattered. That’s how he thought about it: always do what you want, and in the future, remember you did what you wanted. What’s to regret then? If regrets do pop up, ignore them, it’s just you being stupid.

Everyone’s stupid once in a while, that’s no reason to go about listening to themselves.

Is it?

It was a nice read. At the end of it, the king was just a leader of men, like any and all leaders of men Circus Freak had met or come to know. He did evil things and called them necessary, and the difference between him and “evil tyrants” was that he won, and so he wrote the stories like he wanted them to be written. He said it himself at the beginning of the diary: he wanted people to know the truth, just not his people. They’d know the context and they’d know it wasn’t about necessity, but about holding on to power.

In the end, the Circus Freak was sure he would not reveal it. He would destroy the diary, incapable of letting go of his legacy and legend.

People were silly.

He shoved the book into the magical pouch around the time the sun began to rise. It would be given to the Shadow Conclave, and he would never see it again, and that was okay, he had grown completely disinterested in it in the time he had read it, even if he was still happy with how he had spent the night.

What would he do now, he wondered? He didn’t feel like going back to the Shadow Conclave, but maybe they would have something else that was really interesting to do.

He could at least check with them.

Hugo left the house, giving the baggy-eyed old couple a slight bow and an evil grin.

“Thank you for the hospitality, old ones! I hope to meet again!”

They shivered, obviously not sharing the sentiment. He just left.

He went back to find the horse he had left in some barn, he expected to find the barn owner waiting, in anger, to see who had used his barn without his permission. That was going to be funny.

“Circus Freak.”

“Well that isn’t nice,” he commented before he even saw the source of the insult. He met eyes with three sturdy geezers, who looked plenty seasoned in their expressions, and were clearly out of town. They were wearing strange armors, two of them brown, one of them gray, all of them spent and built from scraps. They had little chimneys on the shoulders and what looked like hydraulic pistons across their limbs. Their chest plates were bulging, a clear strategy to compensate for what were likely weak men.

“Do we know each other?”

“You have shown exceptional skill, Circus Freak,” the one in Gray spoke out, he had a nice beard, none of it over his lip, but it reached down to his upper chest. It near-matched his armor in color. “But I can tell that you have joined the wrong side. We know enough about you to know that for sure.”

“Do you?” He smiled with interest. “You know which side I should be on?”

“Your own,” the old man said with a knowing nod.

Circus Freak raised an eyebrow impressed.

“Well, I’m glad we cleared that up! Happy to say I’m already there.”

“Not quite there yet,” he said, “you will be, however, once you join our effort.”

“Excuse me?” He closed his eyes and let his teeth bare. “Who are you, again?” His voice screeched just the tiniest bit on ‘you’, to make their bones shiver. He couldn’t tell if it worked but the response didn’t waver enough, in his opinion.

“We are Led by Anarchy.”

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