Dragon's LibraryMasquerade
by Sundara

This one rather came out of nowhere... A Halloween story.

***

Masquerade -
Painted faces on parade...

He stood in the midst of the crowd and yet apart from them, a half-curious, half-sardonic look on his face as he watched the dancers. The cup in his hand was raised in a mocking toast.

He was a tall man and slim, with black hair that fell to his waist and was caught up with a silver ring. A mask of black velvet hid the upper half of his face, save for amused, aloof gray eyes. His clothes too were black, tight hose and soft boots beneath a tunic of immaculate cut and style. Understated, even dull beside the brightly costumed celebrants. And yet there was something about the way he stood, the way he moved...

Like a king.

Or like an assassin.

Masquerade -
Every face a different shade...

She drifted silently in from the night, and within seconds the festival had rearranged itself around her.

She was tall and slender, wrapped in a silver gown that swirled and clung and suggested flaring wings. Her skin was pale, luminous; her hair black as jet. Eyes neither quite green or blue gleamed behind a silver mask that revealed nothing more of her face than that. Her steps were soft but sure, her walk an almost predatory glide.

Like a courtesan?

Like a queen?

Flash of mauve - splash of puce -
Fool and king - ghoul and goose -
Green and black - queen and priest -
Trace of rouge - face of beast -

Angel and devil. Peacock and cat. He started to walk toward her, the dancers whirling about and between them. Gargoyle and ghost. Witch and warlock.

Eye of gold - thigh of blue -
True is false - who is who -
Curl of lip - swirl of gown -
Ace of hearts - face of clown -

He was before her.

"My lady."

She curtseyed, a graceful, extravagant gesture, silver skirts pooling about her and shimmering as they caught the light.

"My lord. How fares your house this Hallow's Eve?"

"Who are you, lady?"

For a moment, a shadow passed over her eyes.
"A traveller. A wanderer of what might be. A solitary dreamer, yet perhaps I felt a kindred spirit here tonight."

He smiled a little sadly. "We are both wanderers, then. But for the moments that we dream together, will you share the Masquerade with me?"

He offered his hand, which she accepted.

"All of us wear masks," she said, "beneath the skin."

Faces -
Drink it in, drink it up,
till you've drowned
in the light
in the sound...

Masquerade -
Look around -
There's another face behind you!

Elf and dwarf. Swordsman and saloon girl. Phantom and princess. They danced through a sea of faces, spinning to the beat of the drums and the guitar's croon.

"When the clock strikes midnight," she warned him, "I must be gone."

"Ah." They were silent for a moment, as the dance whirled them apart and together again. "Is this a fairy tale, then?"

"Perhaps not so far from the truth."

Black and silver, they were silhouetted before the open doorway, arms encircling each other but never quite possessing. The clock was striking one.

"Will you return?"

"Will you? This dream is no more yours than it is mine."

Two.

"Yet sometimes a dream can be recaptured."

"Sometimes it can. Sometimes the dreamers are too far apart."

Three. Four. Five.

"Is it by your own choice that you go?"

"Yes. And no. The reasons would take many hours to tell."

Six. Seven. Eight.

"Leave me something," he said, "to follow you by."

Laughter lit her eyes. "Do you think that you can?"

Nine. Ten. Eleven.

"There are always chances."

A night-owl cried. A shadow fell. And she was gone.

He walked outside as the last chime struck. Something gleamed upon the stone steps. A crystal slipper, delicately crafted and seemingly impossible to dance in.

"Ah," he said softly. "Tradition..." He bent to pick up the slipper, turning it in his hands. "Yes, the forms must be followed. But a shoe may seek its foot, under the right spell... and there will be other dreaming nights."

The dancers continued to whirl.

Masquerade -
Hide your face
So the world will never find you...

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