A Song of Sins story
I’m Eve, the Gracious Voice, and I’m the greatest act in the Carnival of Lust.
It’s a tall claim to make, I know, and in no way do I want to underestimate all the work Mania and Erosius, the two Ruling Sins of Lust, have done to keep this place in order. Our stage would be nothing without them.
But there is no denying facts, and I’m the most successful of all the acts in the circus.
I don’t need dangerous tricks, play with fire, or even put my life in danger. My voice and the songs I play with my lute are enough to keep all eyes on me. I began as a small act, performing during the first hours of the night, but the audience loved me as much as I loved to be there, so it didn’t take long for me to become one of the closing acts, right before the Ruling Sins of Lust got on stage. It was a great honor, as everyone knows that the best are always left for last.
Obviously, not everybody enjoys this, because they want to be on top too… Well, sucks for them, the spot is already occupied. I was made for this.
I haven’t been here for long… I have a vague memory of arriving some months ago and don’t remember much of my life before the stage, but it feels like I’ve been here my whole life. At first, this weird sensation bothered me, but I know now it’s a common thing for those who made the Carnival their home.
Tonight isn’t different from the ones that came before. I step on the stage, enchanting the audience with my so-called gracious voice, and everyone is mesmerized right away. People often ask me how I make such enthralling sounds with my lute, but I never reveal my little secret. The truth is, it’s a magical instrument, I can feel a magic power that comes from my lute every time I play it, even if I don’t quite remember where I got it from…
“I made a contract with Avaritium, Ruling Sin of Greed, but he didn’t keep his part of the deal…”
Goddammit, not again!
Those intrusive thoughts were getting stronger by the day, making it hard to play the right chords… I shake it off, none of my past really matters here. What’s important is that I’m the greatest act in the Carnival of Lust.
I play my songs and bow to the cheers from the audience. I’m not quite happy with myself today, I know I got a chord wrong, but at least no one seemed to notice it. Mania and Erosius seem proud of my performance, as they usually are, and I feel that satisfaction that comes with the ending of each performance. Stepping down the stage, the Ruling Sins take their places for the final act, and I can hear the crowd cheering again.
There are some of the main acts still taking care of their own business inside the dressing room, but I notice a pair of eyes on me, the same one that always stares at me with contempt and envy.
“Lost something in my face, Olov?” I tease while smiling, knowing quite well what his problem is.
“You didn’t hit all the right chords today, I noticed. You are getting sloppy.”
Normally, I would laugh at his face. He was jealous of me, of course. Olov used to be the best bard in the Carnival of Lust, but only until I arrived. He might not admit it, but it’s the truth. However, tonight his acid comment really annoys me… Because he is right. I did mess up a chord, because of those damn intrusive thoughts, these fragments of a life that isn’t mine anymore and that I don’t want to deal with.
“An accuracy rate you will never reach,” I spat back, but it was obvious Olov got to me, which doesn’t go unnoticed for him.
“Did I strike a nerve?” he mocks. “Maybe you are not as good as you made people believe.”
“Come on, Olov! Don’t be a pain in the ass,” Chiara’s voice approaches us. The knife thrower is the closest thing I have to a friend nowadays. Her knives are as sharp as her tongue.
“Such a spoilsport… Let them fight, Chiara, everything is better after a good exchange of jabs!” This is the only way Gorya knows how to solve anything. I mean, he is quite good in his acts, I’ll give him that, fighting all kinds of monsters the Ruling Sins bring to him, but sometimes his style gets a bit one-noted.
“Get lost, Olov, I have no time to talk to the likes of you,” I say.
“Likes of me, eh? You mean an actual bard who doesn’t get distracted in the middle of an act?”
“Come on! You barely have an act anymore after I arrived”
He still says something to me, but my vision gets blurred while a memory takes up my mind…
Envy blinds anyone…
Such a familiar feeling, being surrounded by envy. I almost feel like…
“That’s enough, both of you,” I raise my head to see Angus putting himself in the middle of Olov and me. “There is more work to do tomorrow, and it’s useless to waste time with this.”
I roll my eyes, walking away before anyone can say anything else. Gorya is complaining again about not being able to see a fight happening, but I’m just frustrated. Because Angus acting like a father always annoys me, because Olov saw my hesitation, because these… Visions are getting more frequent, and if Olov can see it, Mania and Erosius might notice soon as well, and then…
“I bet you didn’t even get anything wrong up there!” Chiara reaches me later, while I’m on my way to my tent, ready to get some sleep and forget this annoyance. “I mean, it’s so fast, how could he even notice? Olov is just trying to mess with your head to get his old spot back.”
I entertain the idea of answering something like ‘You don’t know how he saw it because you have no idea how music works’, but she is trying to help me, so I bite my tongue and hear her, nodding at some points to pretend I’m paying full attention.
“And, I mean, anyone can see you are the favorite, so no wonder he is jealous, everyone is.”
Are you as well?
I almost say it out loud, but I’m afraid of finding out. No one actually had friends in the Carnival of Lust, we are all in an eternal ego fight against each other, for our own survival. Everyone knows that the smaller performances are drained by the Ruling Sins, until…
Well, it’s their own damn fault, right? If they were good enough, there would be nothing to worry about. I’m the greatest act, and there is no need to fear, as long as I keep my eyes open. Maybe Chiara began to talk more with me in an attempt to get in the Ruling Sins’ good graces, and as long as she doesn’t take my spot, I’m fine with that.
“Angus isn’t jealous,” I said, trying to change topics a little and stopping me from saying something stupid. “He is only annoying all the time. I don’t get it, he almost seems like he doesn’t enjoy being here.”
“Of course he does! Everyone does. He just has this awkward attitude, but how could anyone dislike being one of the main acts? There are few honors greater than that.”
I know she has to be right, but then why does something feel off?
Finally, after Chiara goes to her own tent, I lay down with my lute and begin playing with some chords, trying to figure out what I did wrong. Somehow, I find myself getting into another melody, one which I don’t really know where it comes from, but it sounds so familiar… And, with this sound taking over my tent, some words come out of my mouth…
I'm fallin into darkness Trapped inside a dream I shall wake this sleeping demon There's no more time for me to scream
I stop playing it right away. It’s like the lute gave me a shock all of a sudden, and I almost let it fall to the ground.
“What the hell was that?”
No answer comes, and I feel silly for expecting any… I feel alone suddenly, more alone than I ever have… Not just because of the jealousy from the other performers, not because my memories escaped my mind, but because I feel I lost something precious along the way.
What was I really doing before coming to the Carnival of Lust?
I remember playing in small taverns. I know my life was both around fiends and mortals, but more than that… I have scars on my body, so I know I’ve been in at least a couple of fights… And I know I had friends at some point, deep in my heart, I realize there were people who actually cared about me at one point in my life.
But… Who and where are they?
Where do I come from?
“Don’t worry about that Eve, we will be far from…”
A clap outside my tent interrupts my thoughts, and I want to scream. Right now? Really?! I was almost grasping this blurred memory, such a familiar voice was talking to me, from someone I had known before…
“Eve, are you still awake?”
It’s Angus. Of course, this annoying huge man who can’t stop stepping into other people’s business. I consider staying quiet so he won’t know I’m awake and aware of his presence, but his next words change my mind right away.
“Mania and Erosius want to speak with you in the main tent.”
I push any thought away, nothing is more important than attending to the Ruling Sins, and if they were calling for me now… It could be either very good or very bad. On one hand, they can be calling me to give me a reward or improve an aspect of my act, while on the other, they might have realized my mistake during tonight’s performance, especially if Olov opened his damn mouth…
“Just a moment!” I say, before putting on some shoes and leaving the tent. “Okay, I’m here. Do you know what they want?”
“No idea, but I wouldn’t take too long if I were you.”
Well, he doesn’t have to ask twice. Leaving him behind, I walk towards the Ruling Sins’ tent, which was at the end of the Carnival’s domain…
A hut in the middle of the desert…
No, goddammit! Not a hut, a tent, and there is no desert around, what am I… Oh, of course, another flash of inconvenient memories. Now is not the time.
We are never allowed to just stop by the Ruling Sins’s tent without being summoned, and it’s not like most want to anyway, after all, Mania and Erosius are never alone, always accompanied by their pets, which makes many of the performers cower in fear. Not me, though, I’m the greatest act after all.
As soon as I get there, I can feel a strange magic even before I see an aura around the tent’s entrance. I might not understand exactly what it is, but I know it’s supposed to stop people from coming in.
Is this some kind of test?
I take a step back, but something about this magic seems… Familiar, and I’m being drawn to anything that looks like I known, just like a moth to a flame. Curiosity takes the best of me, and I start to walk around, circling the tent and hoping no one can see me, especially the Ruling Sins. Far on the back, the magic is weaker, and I decide to approach it. I can’t see who is inside, but I can see silhouettes cast by the lights inside. Mania and Erosius are easy to distinguish, just like Beaky and Strike, their pets. However, there is another shape I don’t recognize…
But I can swear…
I know him.
“I hope one of you has a good explanation as to why the girl is still alive and not drained out as we agreed?”
A deadly silence took over the inside of the tent. I barely realize how I’m holding my breath, trying to search in my mind where I know this voice from. I feel anger and fear at the same time, and I’m sure it isn’t some usual visitor of the Carnival of Lust. I remember most of the regulars by now.
“Well, my lord, I can’t say for my sister here, but my plan is working perfectly. She is already completely enthralled by the Carnival and-”
“Don’t make me laugh!” Mania interrupts Erosius. “Your plan? Please, if it weren’t for my efforts as well, she would still have her memory.”
“I don’t care who made her become one of the acts first. This is irrelevant, imbeciles!”
I shiver, thinking Mania and Erosius would jump in the direction of the visitor, punishing him for his disrespect. I’m pretty sure they want to do that, they feed on their narcissistic energy, growing from the power of both our audience and from the acts that are seen as disposable. Being confronted like that was asking to be reduced to dust by the hands of the Ruling Sins.
Yet, somehow, they don’t say a word back and their heads are down. I can’t see their expressions to know for sure how they are taking it, but they refuse to argue back.
“It’s been months already! She should have been destroyed by now. Don’t you remember how she managed to defeat every single one of the Ruling Sins who she crossed paths with before you two scatterbrains?” The visitor took a moment to let his words sink in before continuing with his argument. “Avaritium vanished among the remains of his castle, Desidia lost all power she had over her domain, Vorax is still devouring himself, literally, and Irinia’s body sunk to the bottom of her Bottomless Sea!”
As his words are being thrown at the Ruling Sins like knives, flashes of memories invade my mind yet again. They came in such a powerful manner that it was a huge effort not to fall to the ground. If this happens they will hear me, and I won’t even have time to think about running away. But the weight in my head right now is almost unbearable.
It’s almost like I can see all those facts listed by the visitor, they go through my mind as if I had been part of it myself… But how could I? I’ve been in the Carnival for so long, and I’m not even a fighter. No, this has nothing to do with me, I might just have heard the stories… Yes, it’s probably it! I’m a bard, after all, the greatest act of the Carnival of Lust. Those stories get to me, and I’ve probably performed them…
The Song of Sins?
“Do you want the Carnival to have the same fate?” the visitor’s voice interrupts my line of thought and makes me shiver again.
“It won’t happen!” Mania was the first to speak. “We got… Carried away, I confess, with the attention she brought to the Carnival and…”
“We were enjoying our little dispute, but rest assured, we will come with a victor very soon,” Erosius completed his sister’s line of thought. They always do that, one begins a sentence, and the other one finishes it, like they are the same person. In a matter of seconds, I find out that I actually had everything to do with this story.
“I thought both of you wanted to prove who is the real Ardoris, to be finally nominated as the true and original Ruling Sin of Lust…” The visitor let a low laugh that filled the room before going back to his usual serious tone. “This little game is over. You have three days. One of you must drain all of her energy and end this. One of you must kill Eve Fargrace.”
…It’s me, isn’t it?
I stagger, taking sloppy steps to get away from the tent. The conclusion I come to is obvious, not only because I’m the only Eve in the Carnival of Lust, but also because that name… It just makes so much sense to me… I might not feel like the adventurer who brought down that many people the visitor listed a minute before, but suddenly all the fragments of memory start to fit in my mind, like a puzzle being solved.
Before I can make my way away from the tent, I feel someone grabbing my arm. Desperate and afraid of being caught for my little eavesdrop, I fight against the unknown captor, but the person is far stronger than me. The person puts a rag over my nose and mouth with a weird smell, and I know I’m about to faint…
“I would never forget this much about my life! This can’t be!”
I wake up suddenly, hearing a voice screaming near me. I’m not even in the same room as the person who is talking, but I can hear him as if the screams are right beside my ears.
“Quiet, Gorya! You will wake Eve up.”
“Well, maybe she should, Chiara! No time to sleep when two fiends are having a competition about who can eat her soul first!”
They keep the argument going on until I can get up and go across the room division within the tent. It was a big one and, by the objects that I see when I get close to the others, I’m pretty sure it’s Angus’ tent, which is good, since it’s farther from the rest of the Carnival for a reason I never quite understood.
“See? You woke her up, stupid!” Chiara complains again, but Gorya doesn’t seem to give her any attention.
“Eve…” Olov is here as well and he approaches me. His face is swollen as if he was crying not a long time ago. “I’m so sorry for everything… I wasn’t myself, I’m not this person, at least I wasn’t before coming here…”
“Calm down, Olov,” Angus interrupts the bard, “we don’t even know what Eve remembers…”
Angus invites me to sit on one of the cushions on the floor, in the same circle the four of them were sitting down before I woke up. Surprisingly, I remember the conversation I overheard last night pretty well,,8 and I’m able to tell all of them about it. I recall the visitor’s voice talking about a competition between the two fiends, that whoever could drain my energy completely would be nominated the true Ruling Sin of Lust.
“Quite convenient you went to the tent right when this visitor was there arguing with Mania and Erosius…” Olov comments after I finish.
I don’t need to say anything, I just turn around to face Angus. Obviously, the Ruling Sins didn’t want to talk with me last night.
“How did you know all of this was happening?” I ask him. If it wasn’t for Angus, I would never know about the whole scheme and probably would die in a few days. Well, I still might. He set that up for me.
“Every act here loses more and more memories as the time passes by, but for me… It never worked. I didn’t join the Carnival for the applause or the admiration, I did it as a punishment, and maybe this made me immune to the fiends magic.”
“And why the hell didn’t you say anything sooner?” Chiara almost screams in frustration.
“Because I believed everyone here deserved this, one way or another, which was another mistake of mine, I admit. But when you arrived…” Angus looks at me. “You barely remember now, but you used to talk about the song you were composing, how many places you’ve been, and how many challenges you’ve surpassed to get here… But it all was eaten away by the Carnival’s effect. It was a wake-up call for me, I guess. And for taking so long, I apologize to all of you.”
“Better sooner than later,” Gorya murmured.
“Not gonna lie, Angus, I would rather have found out about it a while ago, but I know you tried to protect us in your own way. Well, you did send me exactly where I needed to be last night. I wouldn’t have believed you if anyone just told me about this whole thing.” And I meant every word. I was so drunk in all this praise about being the greatest act in the Carnival of Lust and so afraid of people scheming against me, that I forgot who I was and wouldn’t listen to reason.
It was scary, how in a matter of a few months, I became a completely different person… Or maybe this was inside me the whole time, a worsened version of me, which I intended to not let out to play anymore, not anytime soon.
For that, I won’t ever forgive Mania, Erosius, and that damned demon who appeared during my battle with Irinia and now. I still have no idea who he is, but I’ll get this coward sooner or later. He keeps sending people to do his dirty work for him, but if he wants me defeated, he will have to take a shot himself.
And he will fail.
“Hey Eve, Angus told us, before you got up, about who we were. But do you remember your life before?”
“If you don’t yet, I can tell you some from what I’ve gathered from the fiends-”
“No need, Angus, I do remember.” It was true. The puzzle is complete in my mind now, and no one will take my memories again. “What we need to do now is figure out a way to leave this place and free the other acts with us.”
We only have three days, but I’ve defeated impossible challenges before. I’ll do it again, if Gorya, Angus, Chiara, and Olov are willing to help me.
I’m not the greatest act of the Carnival of Lust.
I’m Eve Fargrace.
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