Twisted trees, bare of leaves, reach like skeletal hands towards a full moon as you stride down the worn path through the abandoned orchard. This plot of land was once alive with merry harvesters, but it has long been neglected, the trees becoming overgrown, vines and weeds tangling about their trunks. Still, the faint fragrance of apples, ripe for the picking, surrounds you. For a moment, you almost stop to search for one, but something draws you onward, a faint whisper of music coming from the woods beyond. What could be the source this far from town?
The orchard gives way to forests, bare-limbed apple trees replaced by tall conifers with boughs that block out the sky. The path disappears beneath these, and for a moment you walk in darkness before your eyes adjust to the gloom. The music is louder now, the lilting piping sound of an organ mixing with the melancholy drone of a hurdy gurdy. You see lights flickering beyond the trees and soon fairy lights in various colors twinkle to life in the branches on either side of the path. A great clearing opens up before you, filled with colorful tents, fluttering streamers, and brightly painted wagons.
A ticket booth bars your way. Behind the booth is a massive man in a purple coat. A plumed top hat sits upon his head, and he eyes you with keen interest, silently putting out his hand.
Flustered you try to explain that you did not know you would be coming here and have no money to spend, but he simply nods towards your pocket. Confused, you reach your hand inside and find a single silver coin. You pass this to him, and he hands you a roll of red paper tickets.
"One per game, two per show," he says before he waves you in.
You stumble into the merriment. Other folks mill about, playing at games or clapping for acrobats and musicians. You note their clothing appears from different times or even worlds. A man in a top hat and long coat walks side by side with a woman in a glimmering flapper dress, both holding bags of popcorn. A lady in queenly gowns argues with a man in motley--who seems to have pointed ears, though you don't wish to risk staring.
A concession booth attracts your attention. Striped paper bags stained with butter and overflowing with popcorn stand next to caramel apples, mugs of steaming coffee, and glistening lollypops. At first you think the stand is unattended, but then a short stout woman hops upon a stool to see over the counter and smiles at you. Her red curls bounce as she offers you a cup of coffee in exchange for a single ticket. You make the exchange and walk away, the cup warm between your hands.
Joyful cries and laughter draw your eyes up to where a Ferris wheel turns a circle in the sky. You consider taking a ride, but before you can choose, a voice calls out and you turn to see a slender man with almost cat-like eyes beckoning you towards a booth.
A game of ring toss awaits. He holds out three golden rings and bows when you give him a ticket. You draw a deep breath, focusing on your targets. The first ring goes long, crashing into the painted background of the stand. The second falls short, landing dully in the dirt. The third, however, sails through the air and lands lightly around a peg. It spins for a moment before settling.
"Good show!" the booth keeper exclaims, his voice peculiarly accented. He reaches into the pocket of his scarlet vest and withdraws a single candle. He passes his hand over it and it immediately lights without the use of match or lighter. He offers it to you with a smile. "To light your way home."
You take the candle and step back, entranced by its flame. This is a night you will not forget.
Midnight Carnival is a Guild Exclusive Candle, available starting September 15th, 2022 (subject to availability). To find out more, visit our Guild.