24 years later...

Victoria woke up to a tickling feeling on her chin. She groaned quietly and kept her eyes squeezed shut. She heard a deep throaty noise alike to the sound of a motor. She opened her eyes and flinched when her eyes met the golden eyes of a full sized bengal tiger that was standing over her. The tiger's eyes lit up when Victoria had fully roused and it nuzzled her face, still purring.

Unlike many would be, she wasn't shocked. No, instead of screaming or panicking, Victoria raised her hands from where they had laid on her sides and pushed the tiger's head away.

"Urg...Spot...five more minutes.."she mumbled, closing her eyes again and shifting her wings, which were awkwardly spread under herself.

"Up and at 'em, sunshine."the tiger spoke in a rumbling, kind voice.

Victoria sighed before opening one eye to look at the talking tiger, whose name was ironically, Spot. The tiger placed a large paw gently on her cheek and his claws slowly unsheathed as the creature grinned as best as an animal like him could.

Victoria carefully raised her hands again to grab his wrist and move the clawed paw away. "Alright, alright, I'm up."she complained as she motioned for him to move.

Spot obliged, stepping aside now that he had recieved what he wanted. Victoria slowly sat up, glancing at the disheveled pelts underneath her. She blew a long strand of her dark hair from her mouth and raised her arms over her head to stretch. Her wings also raised and stretched, but not fully since a few crates blocked her from extending to her full 13 foot wingspan of dark feathered wings.

She yawned and looked around at the red and purple striped canvas tent she was currently in. A few supply crates were scattered here and there as well as three old tables that had makeup and face paint scattered across their surfaces. A few others occupied the tent and were laying under their own pelts on the grassy ground that passed as a floor.

Among the group were many oddities. A six and a half foot tall creature with horns, blue fur with darker blue intricate markings, a bushy tail, and a wolf head. The creature's back rose and fell where he lay as ge slept.

Next to him was a man with his blanket that covered him from the waist down. He wore no shirt and on his back the scars of whip marks criss crossed his pale skin. Noticeably, he had the head of a dog instead of a human's. The brown and white furred narrow shaped head if a colie to be exact.

Beside the dog man, another young looking man with a blanket draped messily over him, had his arm draped lightly across the dog man's shoulders. This man was shorter than the dog man, but more muscled than lean. His head was also not human, resembling the black furred head of a lynx with long, tufted feline ears.

Sleeping near the dog man was a young woman with short black hair that concealed part of her eyes, which were currently closed. She was a bit short, only 5' 4". She was currently wearing a loose plain grey t shirt and was curled up where she lay.

And finally, next to the girl was a tall man with choppy shoulder length black hair. Like the dog man, he also wore no shirt and lay on his back with an odd smile plastered to his sleeping face.

Victoria looked over her odd ensamble of friends, briefly observing them. The light shining through the tent flap and the murmur of voices outside indicated that it was not too early in the morning, but not too late either. She decided to wake the others so she stood with a stretch and another yawn.

"Hey, guys. It's train day so get up, assholes."she said.

A few of them stirred a bit and the young woman stretched with a yawn. She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes with balled fists. "You beat me to the pleasure of waking your sorry ass up."The young woman teased.

Foul language was entirely common in the circus, as were many other questionable behaviors.

"Too bad, so sad, Alex."Victoria replied as she opened one of the crates near her.

The dog man was the next to awake. As he stretched, he released a yawn that contained the usual high pitched squeak that sounded in the midst of a canine yawn. The lynx man beside him also woke, seeing the dog man and smiling lightly.

"Good morning, handsome."the lynx man said to the dog man in a gruff voice, as he had just woken up.

The dog man returned the smile with a doggy grin and leaned in, licking the lynx's face and elicting a pur from the feline man. The young woman beside the lynx threw her blanket at the cat man's head as she stood. "Get a room, Ash."she teased the lynx, causing him to snort at her and throw the blanket off of his face.

Alex made her way to the crate beside Victoria's and opened it. It contained neatly folded clothes, the ones that belonged to her. Victoria also had her clothes in one of the crates. " 'Morning, darling. "Victoria said to Alex, using the pet name that she gave to most everyone.

"G' morning."Alex replied groggily as she pawed through her clothes, selecting a few items.

Silently, the circus folk in the tent began to rouse and get dressed. The dog man, Barkley, slid on some old jeans and buttoned up a blue and black striped flannel. Next to him, Ash, the lynx man, had slid on his own lighter colored jeans as well as a black polo and thin grey sweatshirt. The huge wolf man didn't do anything, as he was already dressed in his outfit of only a pair of loose, black cotton pants. He looked around at the others in a dazed way way.

The man with long black hair now donned a white and black striped button down shirt, black slacks, and matching boots. Now that he was up and standing, it was evident that he had grey wolf ears, amber eyes with 'x' shaped pupils, and legs that were wolf like as well. He was rather unnerving and almost always wore a smile as he got ready for the day.

Alex was wearing her usual ripped, grey jeans and white long sleeved shirt with cuffed sleeves. Over the shirt she wore a black tuxedo style vest. Victoria selected her outfit for casual events or travel, not actual performances. She currently wore black skinny jeans, combat boots, and a white muscle t-shirt with a black tabk top underneath because the sides were too low cut to not have a bit of coverage. The muscle t-shirt had a flying raven on it, it's beak opened in a silent outcry and its bleak black eyes staring at whoever looked upon it. As a final accessory, Victoria pulled a black top hat that had a dark grey band across the base of it and tattered edges on the brim. She adjusted it atop her head.

Satisfied, she moved to one of the tables to begin applying her usual light amount of dark makeup which usually just consisted of eyeliner and mascara. Spot sat patiently at the side of his friend, Victoria, his tail twiching slightly.

Alex released a dramatic sigh. "C'mon, Vic. Do you really have to put that awful stuff on every single day?"she asked, standing with a thumb resting casually in the pocket of her jeans.

"Just give me a second, mrs. impatient."Victoria replied with a brief roll of her eyes.

After a few painful minutes for Alex, Victoria stood up and began to head towards the tent exit. Spot followed at her heels and so did the others not too far behind, as they were ready as well. Victoria had surely earned some perks for being born in the circus and one of them was that others naturally followed her lead, and she had made lasting friendships with others since she really had no where else to go.

Well, she would have had a chance if her parents hadn't taken the liberty of escaping without her. Well, that will be explained in due time.

Outside, the sun was still making its way into the hazy blue sky. Clouds drifted lazily overhead where the circus was just starting to awaken. The odd group made their way across the grass of the old field Mistress had bargained for. They walked passed a few other tents until they reached a half opened orange tent, the only one of that color on the whole lot.

A bit of smoke rose from it and the scent of cooked food assaulted Victoria's nostrils. "Mmm..."she mumbled, closing her eyes to take in the scent.

"I smell sausage."Barkley commented, nose twitching and tail unconsciously wagging slightly.

"Of course you like sausage..."Alex muttered with a teasing grin as she looked between Ash and Barkley, who were holding hands.

"What are you implying? "Ash asked, turning his black furred head and harsh eyes to the short, masculine woman.

"Nothing. He's a canine, so he likes his meat."Alex replied, obviously suppressing a laugh.

Ash scoffed at her immaturity and turned his head to face forwards again.

Victoria managed a smile at her friend's folly, nudging Alex and giving her a mockingly disappointed stare.

"What? I didn't do nothing wrong, Vic."Alex feigned innocence as she briefly held up her hands in defense.

As Victoria and the others entered the cook's tent, Victoria rolled her eyes at her friend.

A man in an apron stood before a grill, food crates, a few old tables, and some beat up looking ovens. He had messy brown hair with some grey in it and a stubbly beard of the same colored. The creases in his face indicated his age, as did his more lean body build. He waved at the newcomers with a hand that looked like a lobster claw. "Howdy, guys. Come for some grub?"he asked in a good natured way.

"No, we came for your extensive collection of old coins. Cough 'em up, gramps."Alex said teasingly in a sarcastic way.

"Fresh out of coins, Alex. But I have sausages, biscuts, milk, and some fruit."he replied, used to her humor.

"Aw, damn. I guess we'll settle on food."Alex said as the cook began to prepare food on cheap tin plates.

He prepared a standard plate of two round biscuits, some sausage, and an apple, as well as an equally mediocre cup of milk. Barkley received extra sausages and the big blue furred wolf was given no apple, but three biscuits and a lot of sausage.

Each took their plates, offering a brief thanks. Then they walked back outside and to the faded purple box car they usually rode in. It had a leaping red dragon with a snarling face painted on its side. They sat on the edge with their plates in their laps and glasses on the edge of the car. Like usual, the cook had swiched Victoria's drink to coffee in secret, as this was a luxary not many received.

Victoria held her cup with both hands, sipping the warm, bitter sweet liquid. The others beside her munched on food and murmured conversations as they watched the sun take its place in the sky and the other circus members spilling from boxcars and circuses.

Hey, guys! I hope you're enjoying the story so far. I apolize for the mildly lame ending to the chapter, but I wanted to have some set up for a certain important event to be described in the next chapter. Well, stay tuned, and reveiws are very welcome!