The hidden voice behind the monster's bellows caught your attention. You scramble backwards and shout, "Sparrow!" Light streams in as the door behind you opens. You go through, shaking the black sludge off your shoes. The creature screams behind you, and you look back to see. As the door closes, you hear a familiar voice call out to the monster- "Lycan?"
The door shuts behind you.
You turn around to survey the new room and jump in fright. A huge... chimera? Its fur was white, and seemed to be well-kept. It began to speak, and you recognize its voice as the one who was behind the first door.
"Oho. What a sneaky way to come visit me, little one. Do not be so afraid. I am Lalia, though I was once Frita. Does that confuse you? You have noticed that those of the Circus are... different. Allow me to tell you about the world you have fallen into. Come; sit, sit." she beckons to the floor in front of her. You take a seat.
"I am the oldest replacement. The Circus was once a real place, but someone sabotaged the tent. We were trapped inside and set aflame. The souls of the Circus members died untimely and unforgivable deaths, and the collective anger created a malevolent spirit; the Falcon Circus was reborn as a living phantom. Any traveler who enters may never leave. If their body and soul are deemed worthy, they are destined to become the puppet of an original member. Everyone you have met are such beings. Unfortunately, you encountered King, though you never saw my message, did you?" she smiles at you. "Nevertheless. King was an unsuccessful fusion. The original body and soul has been resisting the will of King. What you saw was the battle between them."
You nod, and remember what you saw when the door shut. "And what about Lycan?" you ask.
"You have been deemed worthy of reincarnating an especially vile member: Snake. Lycan and Lichen knew this when they stopped you. Lycan took a liking to you, despite knowing your fate. The key he gave you lets you see the real Circus, no? He has been saving your life without you even knowing it. As for his relation to King... the original bodies of the twins were friends with him. Neither Lichen nor Lycan have fully integrated with their Circus member, the very same as with King."
You think for a moment, pondering aloud, "I had choices back there. If I had solved the riddle..."
"If you had solved King's riddle, he would have gladly taken your body. Him and Snake were never on good terms anyway. However, you chose a different way out. Every member has something that was dear to them when they were alive. For King, it was 'Sparrow', his only child. By reminding him of her, you weakened him enough for the original soul to temporarily take back control." Lalia looked back at the door.
"I digress. You have not yet truly earned the right to talk to me or to learn more. Solve the riddle of my door and we may speak again." She beckoned towards her door. A marvelous gust of wind knocked you off your feet, whirling you back outside to the lobby.
From this point (including "tldr;") is a quick summary and instructions. You have escaped being consumed by a confused yet fierce creature. By going back the way you came, you've reached- ... a new location? You have been greeted by another large monster, though this one does not seem to be dangerous (except to the ears... will it ever stop talking?). She has sent you back to the main lobby as you have visited her before you are ready. Solve her original door riddle to proceed. Note: The lobby was recreated above for you, so you do not have to travel back to The Decision post (though you can if you'd like). As the contents of this post has changed, so too has the answer to Lalia's riddle.
The door opens once more as you say the terribly long code. Walking inside, you see that Lalia has changed her position. She beckons for you to sit down in front of her.
"Very good, little one." She squints at you. "Perhaps I should say little ones. As you were solving my riddle, an unfortunate event has occurred. King is no longer in the mortal plane. However, this is for the best. Both the host soul and the member's soul may now rest, and perhaps King will think twice before selecting his host next time." She reaches behind your ear, producing a key.
"You found this, but did not have time to acquire it. I am giving it to you."
$\hskip2.5in$You've acquired: Brass Key
"You have already noticed the difference with this key. Your first belongs to the Twins, taking the fake and showing the real. This key belongs to King, and distorts the real. It may make your journey more difficult, but you should not try to lose the key."
You ponder for a moment. A key for every member... then, does Lalia have one as well? She eyes you. "I indeed have a key of my own, but I shall not award it to you yet." You look away, embarrassed. Lalia smiles, and continues, "You may wonder why Snake has chosen you. As you know, we members choose our hosts. Most find someone who seems the most compatible, but Snake is different. He looks for a soul the exact opposite of his so that he may slowly break them down for enjoyment. He was like this in life, you know... Perhaps I should not say... no, I shall." Lalia looks stressed, and pauses for a moment.
"In life, I was the wife of Mr. Falcon himself. My full name is Lalia Falcon. I was pregnant at the time that Snake sabotaged the tent. Thankfully my child was not developed enough in my womb to become cursed and bound to the Circus. However, grief befell my husband far stronger than it had befallen me, and in his death he vowed to follow Snake into the next life and get his revenge. The tent itself is what he has become, trapping all of us in it for eternity." Lalia pats your head once more. "Don't look so dreadful. This is old history. I still love my husband, even now. Here, here. Because of my connection to this circus, I can feel where other members are. I will send you to the last physical members, don't you worry." A loud creak echos through the room, alarming Lalia.
"Now go!" she smacks you square in the chest with her hand, knocking the wind out of you and flinging you into the side of the tent. You pass through the fake wall with ease, and land roughly on the dirt floor. "Dirt... am I outside?!" Looking up, you see a dense canopy of trees and vines, and a sign hanging on one of the nearby branches. Chittering echoes through the jungle.