They crossed many rivers and passed through many lands, but the people here were tough and wary of strangers, and the carnival found little welcome. Women were chaste and not easily baited. Men never walked alone, but always in little clusters. Mothers watched their children like hawks. There were no easy pickings amoung these frontier people. Shivv had brought them to the very edge of the known world, in a strange, narrow country on the banks of a wide, dark river, when he decided to turn north again, and back to more familiar climes. But then they began to get sick.
They had always been a somewhat sickly bunch, but this weird new malady laid hold of their bodies with a ruthless, withering gripe. Beast and man sickened, and Diggle lay amoung his beloved charges, shivering and weeping to hear them moaning in their pain. Ecclavia said it was because they had given no sacrifices to the Master, that he was angry with them for ignoring him and that he had unleashed his terrible judgement like a fire within their flesh. But there was little they could do. When the people had seen the carnival folk begin to sicken they had driven them from them. The little clutch of brightly painted wagons lay far out in a meadow, watched from a distance by mailed horsemen who carried tall spears.
On the last night Ecclavia was caught trying to steal a babe from the village to give to the Master. It had been a desperate gamble, and it had failed. The women of the town belabored Ecclavia with stones and Axe handles, and put flame to her flesh while she yet breathed. Shivv and a few others who were still hale enough to move tried to make off north, following the river, but the horsemen espied them, pursued them, speared them and cast their bodies into the dark waters. Then they went amoung the wagons, where they killed and burned everything they could find.
He came at last to a pool, a black welter amoung the sharp stones, and here the great beasts found him. They were huge and tall and strong, like his children. Much mightier than he. He waited for them to rend and devour him, but they sat down around him in a crescent and studied him, as if waiting for him to tell them what to do. At last he rose and went to the pool to drink, and there he saw his reflection, and now he knew why the great beasts seemed to wait upon his word. He had changed. The fever had melted part of him like candlewax, but the other half of him had grown massive and strong. His face had formed into a parody of his former self, crowned with a pair of mighty horns, split with a wild grin that reminded him of old Otho, the Carnival clown. His suppurating flesh was enclosed in splendid steel armor and in his one good hand he carried a mighty staff shod in iron that throbbed with the sacred Word of the Master. He turned and looked at the great misshapen things hunkered by the pool, watching him in fascination, and he knew the Master had sent them to him. He knew the Master loved him.