Challenged by a friend to do this one:
You’ve been cordially invited to attend a Masquerade Ball this weekend, and you are allowed to take one person with you or you can go alone…
Who are you taking?
If you choose to go alone, who will you allow to change your fate?
What will you wear?
What mask will hide your secrets?
Will the night end in a romance, or a murder mystery?
Although the diamonds in the sky twinkled above the Grande Vie Moon Opre House, there was a slight chill in the night air, and a feeling of mischief afoot. As lavish draperies of gold, black, and white laced the handrails guiding up towards the establishment. Men, women, and children gathered at its steps in loud chatter as they ascended the scarlet carpet to The Devil’s Masquerade Ball.
Men adorned with masks lined the hallways, readily taking the unknown guests coats or pashmina and blockading those who did not wear a mask. For tonight was a night that came only once a year under the red moon of October, where the veil between the human world and supernatural disappeared… And the supernatural seduced the living into a dance of life or death.
As I walked up the stairs towards the Devil’s Domain, I felt eyes on me, although a mask may have disguised my looks, if someone were to look me in my eyes… They could see that my nerves were already on edge as I held my dress in my hands and gracefully paced myself up the stairs.
The red lace intertwined in my fingers teased my skin as I told myself to keep moving, the last thing I would need is to stumble upon my own two feet from the heels I was gifted for this event alone. To say the least, I wasn’t fond of these parties, however, an invite by Queen Elizabeth was something you could not turn a blind eye to.
Nodding to the butlers as they bowed, I felt my pulse quicken as the entrance glowed a faint sultry light. Candles adorned the chandeliers, gold, and sapphire gems dripping from their intricate frames as guests and servants passed beneath the ornamentations like ghosts.
It must be peculiar for those who watched me enter the ballroom alone, albeit, I chose to come by myself but now, I felt a sense of worry that I should have had someone accompany me tonight. I soft gasp of surprise escaped my red-painted lips as the dance hall came into view, the room filled the grand venue with Camille Saint-Saens ‘Danse Macabre.’
People graced the floors in almost a phantom-like grace, stealing my own breath away as I descended the stairs and watched as women and men giggled. Children ran between their elders, and loud shouts of drunkards could be heard from the far end of the room. Keeping myself calm, I lifted the hem of my dress and went to find Queen Elizabeth to pay my respects and stay only for one drink before taking off this gown and these blasted heels.
I felt a wave of unease as I could feel a predatory gaze from within the crowd, yet, I did not dare stop to find who the scrutiny belonged to. The crowds swirled around me, as I danced with the crowd, nearly stepping on other guests’ dresses. As the symphony picked up, the dancing began to become more fervid and the heat from the sensual night began to rise.
“I would suspect you to have come with an escort, Lady Grace,” a familiar voice stopped me in my tracks and turned to see a familiar set of cerulean irises watching me. I raised my chin slightly towards, an act of courage, perhaps, considering the circumstances that we were in public. I curtsied to the famed Vampire Hunter, as he as well bowed courteously towards me.
“Not all women, need an escort, Van Helsing,” I managed with a forced smile, “if you’ll pardon me, I will see her grace and be off for the night.”
I turned on my heel only to let out a sigh as I felt Van Helsing’s hand on my forearm, “I shall accompany you to her majesty.”
Closing my eyes, I balled my hands into tight fists as I glanced at the man beside me, with a demeanor that seemed to echo coldness. It would do me no good to cause a scene, considering I was here now, and while this was normally neutral territory. Enemies could meet in the enchantment of this evening and complete a deed for the Grim Reaper…
He led me through the crowd, those around part like the waves of the ocean as I kept my composure at being touched by him. A grand door christened with cherubic angels lay before us as he pushed the door open and guided me inside the dimly lighted room. I could feel my pulse skyrocket as I heard the door close behind us, and the sounds of the masquerade seemed to be but a quiet lullaby.
“Is there a reason as to why you’ve invited me to an empty room, dear hunter?” I slowly turned to face Van Helsing, a coy smile upon my lips as I heard the sound of his rifle cocked and faced the barrel of his gun. “I do find it rude that you would treat a lady unkindly by pointing a gun at her before even asking her for a drink.”
He stayed silent as he held the gun aimed at my bosom, “you already knew that tonight the palace was not of neutral power, and yet you came with no one else but yourself. What are you planning?”
I stayed quiet and studied him, the silence enveloping us becoming thicker with every passing second as I closed my eyes and then opened them to reveal ruby irises. “I came to enjoy the evening like everyone else who is in attendance, or is it wrong for an exiled princess to grace your holy domain when invited?”
I heard the shift of his fingers against the trigger of the gun, a smile unraveling upon my lips as I revealed the fangs that hid under the red rouge. Slowly I let my hand trail up to my chest and fan over my heart, as I heard his heartbeat begin to pick up as he took a step closer towards me.
“Why did you come?” He asked again, the moonlight tracing his handsome features as we both looked upon each with a strained tension that was ready to burst at any moment.
“Death called to me,” I simply answered him as I turned my eyes to the moon, “it whispered that someone would die tonight under the gaze of the red night. For the darkness is a cruel master, and claims those who desire power for heinous deeds.”
A scream pierced the dance hall as Van Helsing let down his guard and I took that moment to rush past him and back into the hall as the screams for help shattered the evening, and the fresh smell of copper filled the air.