Piero di Veroli: Part One
The banquet had begun. Rays of lights lit the ballroom, and the freshly polished floors continuously sounded with its ill clacking. Plenty of shoes made their mark upon the marble, certainly something the maids would have fun cleaning later on. Some guests stood, (mostly the women who couldn't sit because of their circular contraption that kept their spines straight and their waists thin) and some sat on the rounded tables plotted around the sides of the walls. Candles—thousands of them perhaps, but surely enough to have me forget how many there had been—burnt on the sticks protruded against the wooden frames.
Miss Caterina floated against the sides of the walls, like a spider who hid from men's shoes. Still certainly shy, she turned her eyes away from every passerby's gaze; no mask could hide the reddening spouts forming within her cheeks, and her black hair wafted along the side of her ears to shelter her in whatever little possible way it could. Quite darling.
Now, this young childish bird did something I least expected of anyone as she lightly stepped across the many tables present. I cannot say if she did this out of notice, or perhaps just out of whim—but Miss Caterina's long lashes fluttered up to the ceiling; first, she placed her delicate eyes onto the chandelier. Ah, the magnificent chandelier—its glow was unlike any other. It was as powerful as the sun's blare upon the earth, and just as wide in magnitude. The reminiscent of candle-sticks made the hands of the chandelier, but there was no fire. Not a little bud of flame was lit. So how was it then that it gave light unlike any other?
Yes, indeed. In fact, there were five important figures within the manor. Two were sitting at one of the white-laced tables, near the center of the festivities. Another two were scanning the library shelves, loitering and eying the many clustered manuscripts. And one of them was within the lord's chambers, preparing alongside Baron Walter for their proper introduction. Might I bring to attention, during this time it was my duty to know where each of these important figures were. My eyes remained everywhere, you see, and every little thing—every little throttle of a spoon, or tap of a foot—would come to my attention and be printed within the parchment of my memory.
And, of course, I took notice of Miss Caterina's gaze that lifted to me while I stood on the balcony of the ballroom. Her temperate eyebrows crinkled at the sight of my silver mask, the completely hidden face she tried to imagine beneath. Besides my devious ways, I do enjoy my quips. So to her perplexity, I shook the gray tassels and bells of my three-pointed mockery of a crown upon my head, and pranced into a low bow—graceful, because I am an elegant jester. I faded back into one of the corridors, so that Miss Caterina may save herself of a broken neck from staring up at the balcony for too long. If you don't wish to say it, I'll say it for you—I'm also a considerate jester.
In Miss Caterina's good fortunes, it was time for the lord of the manor to appear, wholly and charmingly. Baron Walter passed through one of the ballroom's large maple doors, smiling and strutting like the stubborn decorum of rich men. He stood at his round white table—flowers and candle sticks flaunting—with five seats open, other than his own.
Beside him was another man, well into his middle-age and pampered with a gray beard and patches of hair combed neatly back. He had the tendency to twitch the corner of his lip, widening one of his black-hole of a nostril and chortling a cough within his throat. He was my favorite out of the five important fellows.
Baron Walter needed no tap of a glass in order to gain the attention of the guests; the masks gleamed towards him, smiles beaming from halves, and hidden grins beneath others. Miss Caterina, too, had been staring with the air of a love-struck dove often found in the young woozy eyes of a girl. Baron Walter tilted his head gently, and brought his gaze around the room.
"I hope dinner is satisfying for you all," he said. "Tonight we have a few special gentlemen that have so courteously accepted my invitation. May I present Piero di Veroli," Baron Walter held out his arm to the gray-bearded man. "He is known for his grand accomplishments in scientific liaisons and the art of astrology." Baron Walter then stretched his arm outward, to where two of the important figures sat, "May I also present Marco di Loreto and Dario di Loreto, sons of Carlo di Loreto," the two brothers stood and bowed humbly. "And I believe Argo Ballati and Efisio di Benedicto are elsewhere-" My lord turned his eyes to the large white pillar in which I hid myself. It was silly of him to think that I had lost them. "They will be here shortly. But until then, shall we continue the festivities? I'm looking forward to meeting all of you."
Perhaps you have begun to think and question what I will now answer. Those five men were indeed of royal and noble blood, which had the guests in a hush simply because they couldn't fathom the fact that there were such men of high status still lingering within their town. Baron Walter was already a huge surprise, but now that there were more—no, the only noble and royal men left around their part of the country…all in one manor. A manor which now did not seem so large anymore. There aren't enough fingers upon my hand to count out how many horrible things can spurn from this fact. Ah, but it was a delicious mystery.
Miss Caterina placed her delicate palm against her waist, wavering within the crowds who stood to dance in the center of the ballroom. Her delicate figure leaned against the gilded golden walls—why she didn't just take a seat, I do not know. She is an innocent one after all.
But of course, no beauty cannot go without attention, and especially darling Caterina who held no mask to hide such blossoming youth. It was certainly a surprise when young nobleman Dario di Loreto (one of the Loreto brothers) stood from his chair, after eyeing the pure dove, and paced to her.
If I recount correctly, Dario di Loreto was only about a year or two older than her and a much more suitable age than half of the courtiers within the manor. His skin was lightly tanned—his father had controlled the local marine-based businesses where young Dario often played as a child—and his hair was thick, inky, and shrewd. His emerald eyes were lithely, similar to the racing waves of the moors, and his grin was of a boy's.
But Miss Caterina was, too, a young girl inside; she could not differentiate a nervous, rather curtly bow-if I may say (which I will say anyhow)—from a graceful one as Baron Walter's. But poor Dario was no Baron, nor was he Baron Walter.
"Ahm, Mistress-," Wrong word, dim-witted Dario. The young man stammered. "—ahm, Madam. Pleasant to make acquaintance, miss…"
The young girl was no better at etiquette, but she at least had a reason not to remember. "Caterina," she said softly, and gave an unruly curtsy. Now, if you ever find yourself within such a situation, and you are a girl, woman, or female, be sure to hold out your hand for a gentleman's handshake or kiss. That is, if you are pretending to be from a superior lineage. Which is also the very reason why the young lady did not give out her family name.
Dim-witted Dario at last realized his over-emphasized, dreadfully rigid bow, and he quickly snapped his spine back to his proper stand. He cleared his throat. "Lady Caterina. A lovely name…" he paused. Caterina stood frozen like the ice sculpture I had forgotten to mention (and for good reason—a dreadful thing). "Have you an accompaniment?"
At this time, Baron Walter had begun greeting every table, recognizing—or, as I like to call it, pretending to recognize—every name that came from a maschera's immovable lips. Though, in secrecy, he had been looking for that lovely dove he had seen out in the courtyard—the one which he now found being chatted up by one of the Loreto brothers.
"Ah eccoti, Dario!" Baron Walter slipped in between the tables, until he reached the end of the wall where they stood. Caterina was certainly a solid statue by then—and quite red. The graceful host turned his violet eyes to the young girl—she flickered her long lashes elsewhere. "Baron Walter, as you may know."
Caterina's lowered gaze caught sight of the lingering white-gloved hand that hovered. Timidly, she placed her palm into the Baron's, and almost too slowly did he bend his head down to kiss her bare fingers.
Something Dario wished he had done. Miss Caterina rocked her head in a nod. "I am Caterina."
"A name with such lavish beauty, Miss Caterina." Baron Walter twitched his eyes from the lovely dove only for a second; he gave a quaint grin to Dario. "Is she your lady for tonight?"
Silence. Lingering distraught for Dario. Even I felt pity for the poor boy. "No…not at all. I just made my acquaintance with her recently," he retorted.
The Baron smiled to Caterina—something that made the girl's heart beam and pang against the cage of her bones. "Dario, if you may, Piero needs some assistance with the guests."
The boy grew a scarlet streak across the bridge of his nose; he might have not wanted to admit it at first, but now he had to admit it. He was of no absolute match for the charming Baron Walter. Dario di Loreto hesitantly bowed, gazing sadly upon the girl he had taken such a liking to, and departed from them.
If I were to say Baron Walter didn't mean to take Caterina for himself, I would be lying. After witnessing their burning infatuation spurned from the courtyard, it wasn't a surprise to why the lord of the manor had decided to court the young dove. All the guests he was meant to greet was the least important thing to him now.
The Baron held out his arm to the young girl. "If I am allowed, I would love to show you around my manor."
Words seemed to slip Miss Caterina's mind, and all that she could do was simply stare at the handsome face of the man before her. Almost a whisper, she said: "Yes."
The young dove held onto the Baron's arm, and together they slipped back into the center of the ballroom. It was only a matter of time before Piero di Veroli would…face his own time.