Stealing Face

Fire, oh fire brings my blood to a boil.

I was wonderfully dangling torches against my shoulders and juggling to no dismay in hope to please the crowd before me. It hadn't been long before I had started my routine; I am always precise, to every whicker of the forte applied to the orchestra that had been beside me. My assistants hoisted on the stage I stood on gulped the pointed tips of knives and swords, and set the torches blazing when they brought the weapons to a sheath. Like I had been told to do, I flicked out the drips of oil from my finger tips and threw the torches into the air. Like seagulls everyone seemed to gape, like drones did they watch the torches form into a massive ball of red and orange fizzes, transparent white smoke diluting the high ceiling of the ballroom above.

The chandelier beamed greater than any heavenly ray, and it took no less than a second for me to spot Baron Walter and his prized possession, squandering behind him like a scarlet flower in the back of the room. The orchestra ceased on their final note, and only silence ensued as crystals fell from above, like slowed raindrops making way to their deaths. Caterina's eyes sparkled as she watched the array, the illusion before the stage. The seconds passed, for I counted each one, and the mesmerized child turned her gaze to me while everyone else had attempted to grab at the falling crystals for some sort of rich souvenir. It was no doubt she remembered the glinting silver leafing of my mask, the bells that sat silent as the whispers of fascination echoed.

I shifted my gaze away, and the Baron had left her side quite stonily.

"La ringrazio," I said, flicking my wrists to signal my assistants to head up the spiraling stairs on the sides of the ball room. "May I present, Baron Walter."

The Baron was quicker than I was when it came to fulfilling plans. While the stage and the opposite end of the room was quite apart, enough to make one's legs tremble if strode, he had no trouble appearing justly and dignified on queue. And to compare and go above than my own self, that is a true compliment.

I bowed lowly, and pranced off of the stage as the audience clapped their silk gloves into flattened mitts. I had no need to pay attention to Caterina, for there was no reason to when darkness was my only companion.

Baron Walter stood at the center of the stage, and the crystals dissipated into nothingness. A haughty smile came on his lips, and his hands met at the core beneath his chest. His violet eyes roamed across the people who watched so intently, awaiting for a voice they assumed was like the angels singing to the sounds of bells.

"Friends," he at last eased the tension among those pitiful folks. "We are well into the night, are we not? I hope you are all enjoying yourselves, as much as I am."

It is quite safe to say darling Caterina blushed to the tips of her ears: after all, her dear Baron had been with her throughout most of the night so far.

The Baron continued: "Now, dear friends. Without further ado, may the orchestra of the famed king bring your souls into a dance!"

But terrible fate was relentless.

Darkness came like a cancerous crutch within the ballroom. The chandeliers had given out, every possible light source had become part of nothing. "What is this!?" Baron Walter's voice had shouted in a slight tremor as the darkness only continued. Worried spouts came from the invisible mouths, and people attempted to move in the darkness, causing only tears to their attire and breaking of fine ware.

For if even I couldn't see my own hands, it was no wonder terror struck everyone's hearts. Questions, like on pouring rain, came from the men who attempted to sound composed, and the women jittered out whispers and even a few yelps. The clinking of glass and silverware was especially daunting, for it gave most a start and they yelled in frightened anger.

But a yelp and a shout were no match for a dreadful shriek that suddenly sounded in the depths of the darkness. Silence came when the scream happened; it was certainly a man's voice—one that had seemed to struggle, as if something had attempted to squeeze his vocal cords into nothing but shriveled paper, and then dragged away into the black world with a lingering croak.

Breaths panted and huffed in the ballroom now. And almost too quickly did the chandeliers alight, brighter than the eons of the sun. My own eyes dilated and suffered a great pain when the world came to everyone again, and I leaned upon the floor, cringing my brow beneath the mask I wished so repulsively to take off.

The women cried out in fear when their vision settled, though it was merely because everyone had either been toppled over tables and the floor out of excitement, or because they had broken something they thought was far too expensive for their repayment. The men stood, and tried to console their patrons beside them.

Caterina's heart was behaving quite badly, for her face was like the red moon during a magician's eclipse, and sweat trickled down her forehead. Her eyes seemed to desperately search the lot of disarray for the Baron.

And indeed did she find him, slightly leaning forward and rubbing his eyes. The Baron shook his head a few times, and glanced up. His mouth rounded into an astonished wonderment, and he grimaced almost worriedly at the scenery before him.

From the side came Argo and Efisio, and they eyed him distraughtly. "Walter, something dreadful has happened," Argo said, almost stammering if it weren't for his pride while beside Efisio. "Marco is gone. He's missing."

The light in the Baron's eyes almost too quickly died out. "Then… you are saying that scream was…Marco's?" His mouth frowned as the two nodded.

From afar, Caterina could see the three concerned in their affairs; she looked sheepishly at the toppled table before her, the people bickering about how dreadful their attires had become because of the wine spilt on them. She gathered the folds of her dress into her hands, so that such a fine wear would not be ruined, and she lifted her foot out of the broken wooden arms and legs of chairs to head towards the Baron.

"My dear friends," the Baron suddenly sounded, a voice all too powerful to go without a hearing. The guests turned their heads to the stage, silencing themselves. "Some sort of mischief is at play here… this was not an act. Please, do not be worried. For now, I ask all of you to stay in your places as I and my fellowmen try to find the one behind this."

Caterina plodded her feet across the floor, attempting to inch herself closer to the Baron. Her eyes glistened as if tears were to fall from her eyes, and she reached her hand out to wade across the bodies blocking her goal.

I had been standing on top of the balcony, watching the unfortunate outburst. The young girl was so desperate to keep her love, though it was such a foolish thing at such a time.

The silver mask I adorn did not keep my limited vision from noticing the culprit. Quite unsure, did I seem, I turned my head slightly to the right—and behold! There, a black shadow, cloaked with the nightmare's darkness, stood looming over the balcony.

"Devilish creature, be gone from me!" I shouted as loud as I could, jumping away from the thing to the near edge of the steps of the stairway.

Almost immediately did everyone's gaze turn to the cloaked being, and almost too quickly did the screaming begin. The guests clutched onto whatever body they found beside them in terror as they witnessed the creature who glowered down to them with a faceless black.

Caterina yelped herself, and when she did, Baron Walter at last turned his head to the direction she stood, recognizing the very sweet voice he was infatuated with.

The cloaked being vanished into the lowly lit rooms beyond the balcony.

"Heavens aid me," the Baron said when the misfortune retired, and he turned once again to the crowd. "I fear that someone has been taken by the demon." His voice wished not to waver. "Marco di Loreto is missing…"

The room stayed no longer in a hush, and they spat out their troubles and worries to one another as they gazed around the room. Looking around would not bring back a man taken for the devil himself.

Baron Walter sighed heavily for his guests, and stared upon the steps as he departed from the stage. He was to make way to darling Caterina so that he may comfort her, but she had already been accompanied by a daunted Dario.