A young dwarf dressed in circus silks of white, black and red
Dhvaras (de-var-az): Sanskrit, demonic being
Pazhar (pah-zhar): Russian for “fire”.
Dhvaras is a Dwarf tinker-rogue who has developed an array of mechanical aids to assist in his roguish endeavors. (Think Batman’s utility belt.)
Dhvaras is an adept second-story man, a picker of locks, expert climber, and acrobat. He is also talented at crafting useful little gizmos and gadgets of a clockwork nature. Most of these gadgets fulfill mundane needs, or would be considered toys.
“Dhvaras get those pots lit, and get that net o’er top!” Grandma shouted. Grandma was always shouting. Dhvaras chipped away at the flint, desperate for a spark. The tinder flared briefly and he blew gently, nursing the flame. He passed from pot to pot, igniting the pitch that would warm the grove, protecting it from the night’s frost.
The oranges were their lifeblood. They fetched a good price in distant Rivelda. At least that was what Grandma told Dhvaras. The boy wasn’t allowed to travel to the city after the harvest. He was always left behind to tend and defend the grove. From ants, pitch bugs, and – at spring’s dawn – from a late frost. He scrambled up the tree and danced out to the end of a sturdy branch to drape the net over the immature fruit. Dhvaras was small for a dwarf. Treetops felt like home to him. Something his more earthbound kin never seemed to let him forget. “Monkeyboy” was one of the kinder names he was called.
When the Festered Claws finally swept out of the hills like everyone had said they would. Dhvaras was in the trees. Grandma wasn’t so lucky. She’d been in the hut and had come out, her “cooking knife” in hand, to see what the ruckus was about. Just in time to see Dmitri take a goblin arrow in the eye. The farmhand fell screaming to the gravel path at Grandma’s feet. She’d howled in fury and charged a horde of Claws, waving the short sword in front of her. No rhyme or reason to the charge. Dhvaras knew it now, years later. Charge a lone target, one you know you can either finish, or fright into fleeing. Charging a crowd is death. It was for Grandma.
With Grandma, Dmitri, the hut, and the grove in flames, Dhvaras had stumbled from shadow to shadow, a juice-soaked bit of canvas clutched over his nose and mouth to keep the smoke at bay. There wasn’t much to loot from Grandma’s. The Festered Claw had quickly moved on down the valley toward the village. Kesk had been wiped from the map within minutes. Not that it had ever appeared on any map that Dhvaras had seen since. The circus had a few maps. But they mostly featured cities. Places with coin to spare. Dhvaras learned the proper place for spare coin from Marvolo.
When Dhvaras had first encountered Marvolo’s Circus Perilous!, he’d been on the road. Walking. The wagons had thundered by, a seemingly endless train. Dhvaras had watched in wonder. Marvolo was a master at provoking wonder. The breakneck pace came at cost though, and when Dhvaras caught up to the circus at their encampment that evening, the wheelwrights were grumbling at the damage done by the day’s pace.
“No need to run so fast. Bad for the horses. Bad for the gear.”
“Heard the Gobs has been raiding in these valleys.”
“Sacked a place name of ‘Kesk’ just up Tarn Vale way, Flossi says.”
“Big town, this Kesk?”
“No. Just a scatter of huts and some bloodfruit groves.”
“I like me some oranges. Shame the Gobs got them now.”
“Do Gobs even eat fruit? Thought they just ate each other?”
The wheelwrights laughed and set back to their work. Dhvaras slipped in amongst them and began handing them tools, or fetching water. Whatever they seemed to need. Years of doing the same at Grandma’s shout had trained him to anticipate the needs of others. At first there was some commotion. But the wrights quickly assumed that Dhvaras was there for a reason. Mistook him for someone’s child in the dark. Thanked him for his help. Within a week they considered him their own.
Dhvaras insinuated himself into the circus community gradually. Ylina, the “bearded lady”, and the tallest dwarf Dhvaras had ever met, took a liking to the boy right away. When the inevitable confrontation with Marvolo occurred in the pay line, it was Ylina who spoke first.
“And who in Optri’s light are you, asking a share of my coin?” Marvolo barked.
“Dhvaras Pazhar, sir. I work with the ‘wrights.”
“’Pazhar’ means ‘fire’ in the old speech,” Ylina said from the next spot in the pay line. “Boy can light a fire with seaweed and saltwater.”
Marvolo scowled, unmoved, his purse clasped shut. Alexandr the Hammer spoke up. “He’s right useful keeping us rolling, master. Kept us on the road out of Tarn Vale and the uplands. A good lad. Earned his keep.”
“You pay him then. I’ve enough ‘wrights as is.”
Dhvaras cleared his throat. “I can walk a wire. Throw a knife. Fix a wheel. You get an act and a hand. And only one coin for both.”
Marvolo looked Dhvaras over, his scowl deepening at the dirty hands and crude farm garb of the dwarf. He looked more beggar than anything else. He pointed to the tent. “I’ll see the act before I pay. If you play as sharp as you talk, I’ll give you your due next payday.”
Dhvaras shrugged and strode into the tent, frantically trying to create an act that might amuse Marvolo in the instant available. The wire was up. Grandma’s short sword was at his hip. He turned to Flossi, one of the wheelwrights. “Borrow your knife?” The ‘wright unsheathed his blade and handed the hilt to the dwarf. Dhvaras nodded thanks and scrambled up the rope ladder to the wire above. The act was taking shape in his mind. Whether he could pull it off, he had no idea.
He unsheathed Grandma’s blade and flipped Flossi’s end over end as he stood on the high platform. “C’mon then, boy,” Marvolo shouted, “I’ve not got all day to dally!” Dhvaras inhaled, fixed his gaze on the far pole and stepped out onto the high wire. The walk to the center went smoothly. The circus folk murmured their approval. Dhvaras tossed Flossi’s blade overhead and readied Grandma’s to throw. He had to reach out to recover the knife, and wobbled precipitously. Zbigniew the Acrobat snickered. Dhvaras caught himself, managed a few tosses of the two blades. Actually juggled them briefly, and then paused to thank Optri’s light for the luck that had gotten him this far. He stepped the rest of the way across the wire and shinnied down the far pole, not wanting to risk another crossing with his knees knocking almost audibly.
Half way down the pole he clasped it tight. The muttering of the circus folk muted, assuming the boy had frozen in fright. Dhvaras thrust out with arms and feet together, flipped himself in the air, and landed with a shout of triumphant relief at Marvolo’s feet.
“You’re rough, boy,” Marvolo said, “But you’ll do. Not in those pants, mind you. But you’ll do.”
“You got something against these pants?” Dhvaras said.
Marvolo laughed. “I do Dhvaras Pazhar. I said I would pay you a coin at our next pay day? I’ll do you one better. Proper circus garb. An actor’s silk. I’ll grant you that. Work on your act, boy. Prove your worth and I’ll consider giving you two coins for your efforts.”
Ylina clapped in delight. The wheelwrights patted the dwarf’s shoulders as they welcomed him to the company. Dhvaras Pazhar had joined the circus.