Though the eyes of a five-year-old child, carnival is a wondrous thing.Zillions of people flowed in an excitingly chaotic dance, laughing and giving themselves over to the enchantment created by the acrobats, jugglers, barkers, and entertainers of all varieties, who plied for their attentions and coin.Huxters bellowed over the den of the crowd hawking their wares from tiny stalls.Things to be had, one-of-a-kind trinkets to be found no where else in the world (except a couple of stalls down)! Faces and objects of intrigue flashed by, burning images in her mind that would colour her dreams for years to come.Aromas she had never experienced before assaulted her senses; some so wonderful she wanted to stop and breathe them in deeply so she would be able to smell them in her later memories and others she hurried past and felt sorry she had been exposed to them.
Nikki was entranced.So awe-inspired was she that she did not notice when her aunt Taarna stopped to look in one of the stalls, until she excitedly turned to point out a new fascination and found herself alone in the milling crowd.Suddenly the smiling faces became nefarious sneers and the abounding dreamlike wonders, became ominously nightmarish threats.She panicked, running through the mob of merrymakers, frantically trying to make her way back to where she had last seen her aunt.The further she ran without finding her aunt, the more desperate she became.At last, she threw herself down on the ground and cried.Her sobs racked her tiny body, so that she could barely breathe, but she was an IronWolfe child, and sobbing on the ground was undignified.Training given from the time of her birth, kicked in and she sat up, smoothed out her dress, calmed her tears to a moderate weeping, and began to look around her for anything or anyone familiar.
A bright red, blue and green blur appeared approximately twenty meters directly in front of her.She was not sure if her imagination was playing tricks on her,but she thought that the blur might have been staring at her.She tried to make herself small and unassuming.She did not want to be eaten by a viscous carnival blur her first time ever at a carnival.In fact, she did not want to be eaten by a carnival blur at all… or any blur … or eaten ever!
She wiped the tears from her eyes and blur focused, becoming a tall, red-haired young woman, in a flamboyant peacock-inspired blue and green costume. Her sparkling blue eyes were locked unwaveringly on Nikki.She twitched her cute turned-up little nose and brightened her impish smile, as the little girl’s attention turned to her.With a suddenness that caused Nikki to start, she threw herself into a series of acrobatic flips and landed on her knees in front of the young girl, proffering a small bouquet of flowers.The devilish smile broadened and her eyebrows raised.
“You have the distinct look of an IronWolfe.If memory serves, only Richard, Taarna or Castellan might have a child your age.To which do you belong?”
Nikki giggled taking the bouquet, excited and relieved to meet someone who knew her, sort of.“Castellan is my daddy!”As soon as it came from her mouth, she remembered her mother’s death and that her family had enemies.She began to panic again and clamped her lips tightly shut.
“There is no need to be scared, Kiddo.I am your Aunt Terra’s cousin, Niki.”The woman’s smile grew softer and warmer.
“Me too!” Nikki bounced up and down and giggled.
“You are Terra’s cousin?” Niki asked in mock wide-eyed surprise.
“No!” Little Nikki giggled.“I’m Nikki!”
“Oooohhh! I seeeeee!” Niki responded rocking smoothly back and forth to the rhythm of the drawn out words. “She took the young IronWolfe’s hand and shook it in a ridiculously exaggerated manner, sending Nikki into another fit of giggles.“I am Niki Darling.”
“What a cute name!” Nikki squealed.A shower of glitter fell over her and turned into gold butterflies, flying up to tickle Nikki until she squirmed with laughter.When she fell over with laughter, they turned back into glitter and flitted down, settling over the ground and her gown.
“Who is your friend, Niki?”Asked the glitter thrower.To the little girl she was a golden Pixie-esc goddess.From the exotic features of her face, glinted the same blue eyes as Niki, but dark hair and deeply tanned skin set the women in stark contrast to one another.This new person was clad all in shimmering gold, down to a glittering layer of gold over all of her exposed flesh.In her hand she had delicious looking sweetmeat.Nikki suddenly realized she was hungry.
“This is Nikki!”
“Astounding!” the new woman exclaimed as she sat down beside the little girl.She divided her sweetmeat in thirds, giving Niki and Nikki each a piece.“I’m Majik Starshyne.It is a pleasure to meet you Nikki,” she said with a polite nod, taking the girls hand and shaking it in the same exaggerated way that Big Niki had.Nikki was lost in giggles again.
“More over,“ Niki continued, “She is not just Nikki.She is Nikki IronWolfe.Paul’s niece.” Niki got a slightly, but not too much so, stern look on her face, “What are you doing here by yourself?”
“I was here with my daddy and my aunt, but I got lost and could not find my Aunt Taarna.” Nikki looked like she was fighting to keep her eyes from welling up again.
“Aunts can be slippery things sometimes.They wander off so easily.You really must keep a better eye on her next time.We can’t be having lost adults running around the place without the supervision of their children.It would be havoc!”Niki said, trying to cut of the onslaught of tears before they started falling again.“It is a good thing you found us.”She leaned in as if sharing a secret.“We tend to get into a lot of trouble when there are no children around to keep an eye on us.”
Majik looked at Niki Darling.“Tall, blond hair, blue eyes, pretty as a rose, but mean as a minx?”
The redhead nodded. “That would be Taarna.”
“I will find her or Nikki’s father.Can I assume he looks either like Taarna or Paul or both?”
“Something like that,” Niki Darling smiled.
For the next half an hour, Nikki was entertained by a troupe of jesters, jugglers, freaks, and geeks, until she found herself being swept up in her father’s arms.“You scared me to death! I was so worried!”He was hugging her so tight that she had to wiggle to breathe.At last he let her loose enough to look into her eyes.
“I am sorry, Daddy.I promise that next time I will be more responsible and not let Aunt Taarna wander off like that.You adults can get into so much trouble in a place like this, when we children do not look after you.”
Castellan smiled and hugged his daughter close again.In the eyes of Niki Darling the world seemed to brighten when that smile shone.Castellan looked to Majik and Niki.“Thank you, so much.I appreciate you taking care of the angel of my heart for me.”
“No problem,” Niki Darling said, in a jovial, light-hearted tone.“ She really is an angel.Besides she is sort of family and very delightful family.If you ever need a sitter, look me up.”
“I am sure that Nikki wold like to have you over sometime,” Castellan stated.
Niki shrugged the impish smile sneaking back over her lips. “ I suppose I could watch her too.” She winked at Castellan.“I know things are still raw for you right now, but if you ever decide you are ready to date again, get in touch with me.Terra always knows how to find me.”
With a smile and a flamboyant bow the two ladies took their leave, sauntering off.Castellan smiled, shaking his head.Carrying his daughter, he headed off the opposite way, to where Taarna was waiting for them.
“I really like them, Daddy,” Nikki said.She pulled back and looked at him, her head cocked to the side, like she was considering something.“But I do not think that Mommy would have approved.”
Castellan smiled bigger at the thought of Dawn meeting those two.“Neither do I, Sweetness.Neither do I.”
Original work and all revisions © SAM Blaize and Self-Spirit Jo.