Mombasa, 24th of August 1845
The world was blurred through tear stained eyes. The acrid stench of burning cloth filled her nostrils even as the charcoal vapours choked her lungs. Volcanic demons were dancing all around; tearing apart the world of the circus. A layer of sweat was forming quickly on her skin beneath the leather of her attire; mixing in several places with the crimson liquid streaming from various fresh wounds.
Zara dragged herself across the floor. Her fingers closed around the hilt of her curved blade. Ezra and the girl were nowhere to be seen. The rest of her equipment was burning in a pile to her left. She was on her own. Coughing through the hot ash, she struggled to one knee and peered through the haze. The rafters had fallen down and now blocked the path to the exit. Zara cowered away from an explosion behind her, before finally rising to her feet and stumbling forward. She covered her mouth with her free arm, and proceeded with her blade held out in front of her.
Navigating the debris strewn shell of the circus proved to be difficult. She needed the fresh air that the outside would grant her; consciousness was slipping away. After a further fit of coughing which brought up a mixture of phlegm and blood, Zara ran for it. She dodged around the fallen rafters, and shielded herself from the worst of the fire. Flames licked at her limbs; searing her flesh and burning the ends of her hair as it streamed behind her.
As she dived through the opening and into the cool night air, a further explosion behind her brought the rest of the circus crashing down. As she drank in the sweet oxygen, Zara quickly checked herself. Her clothes were torn and shredded, her flesh cut and burned. She had become a dishevelled pile of blood, sweat and ash. When she got to her feet, she noticed her ankle sprain for the first time. Without the adrenaline of escaping, the pain was obvious.
Zara grimaced and set off down the street; dragging her injured ankle with her. As she passed through the marketplace, she saw further evidence of the carnage. People were streaming in from the circus, all in various stages of disarray and health. A group ahead caught her eye. They were gathered around the carcass of a man; a man whose throat had been ripped clean from his body. The tiger. Zara shuffled toward them.
“Where?” she asked. An elderly woman glanced at her through wide eyes. She pointed to a nearby alley that was half concealed by the cube-shaped building in front of it, before scampering away. Zara focused her eyes on the alley. She tore a length of cloth from the canopy of a nearby stall and tied it around one of her deeper wounds in her left thigh. The blood-flow stopped. “Now only ninety percent of me hurts” she said.
She made her way around the market, and took a deep breath before turning into the alley. They were all there before her. Ezra stood with his back to her; bearing down on the girl and her tiger. Zara could see Molly’s mouth opening and closing without a sound. Her eyes were continuously widening, and she was taking steps backwards. The tiger held its ground; but it was clearly awaiting its master’s command; which was not forthcoming.
As she entered the alley, he brother sensed her presence. “Sister” he said, without turning. “You would be wise to stop now, before our situation becomes unsalvageable”.
“I cannot do that, brother” Zara said. Ezra half turned; keeping both Zara and the girl and her beast in his field of vision. He was looking decidedly less injured than Zara, with only a small wound on his head clearly visible.
“You are injured, dear sister. What do you hope to achieve?”
“Even injured I am better than you” Zara said.
“Not when you are this injured”.
Zara glanced past him and locked eyes with the mechanical girl. “Run” she said. The girl went nowhere. She was frozen to the spot. Ezra turned his head toward her.
“Just give me a moment dearie” he said. “My sister is being an annoyance. Let me deal with her, and I’ll be right with you”. He turned and faced Zara fully, sliding his blades from his sleeves. “I would never have thought you would betray your own blood for a freak”. He took a step towards her. “I really do not want to kill you sister” he said. “I’m quite fond of you”.
“To stop me, you will have to kill me” she said, gritting her teeth. Zara rolled her ankle gently. It hurt, but she thought she would be able to move on it.
“And to stop me, you will have to kill me” he said. He launched himself at her. Zara brought her blade swinging up, and Ezra’s two met it in the shape of an X.