Chapter 1: The Invitation

The town of Casablanca, California had for decades been quiet and calm. With a population of one hundred and two the denezis were quite happy with their own little joys of life. Working on their gardens, fishing in the nearby stream, and sending letters to each other about gossip and local rumors. At least, until He came to town.

Bartholomew Orwell was an eccentric man who brought adventure wherever he went. He was always thought of as an oddball where ever he came and usually left there short after, causing everyone he met to think "what an odd man, thank goodness i don't need to see him again" before going back to their daily lives. But he had not come to Casablanca just to blow out again like some summer monsoon. He had come to settle.

And so the town of Casablanca's first glimpse of the man was entering city hall to get a building permit. As he walked out again shouts of joy could be heard from the mayor's office. Orwell was as rich as he was eccentric. Money had been no object. In exchange for filling the banks vault past it's maximum capacity Orwell received 50 acres of land.

It was a few weeks later when an army of construction workers and lumberjacks marched into Casablanca. Soon after a collection of cooks, butlers, and other crew came. Eventually with little fanfare the mansion was complete.

With the exception of the occasional van filled with material headed up the hill not much changed from before. The odd man never really came down from his mansion in the hills. Of course, this only made him more of an oddity. The town fluttered with rumors, each more outlandish than the last.

"I heard he's and adventurer who had a curse placed on him and chose here to suffer for eternity." One citizen would say. "No, he has to be an alien who gets a check from the government as a bribe to not invade." would come the rushed conclusion of another.

But one townsperson who was not at all affected by the gossip was a young Damien Drake. Damien was a relaxed boy who never took anything too seriously. He would "go with the flow" as others described. He did not like Bartholomew, not at all. "All this fuss over some new idiot moving out in the middle of nowhere." and with a huff he would stop thinking of Mr Orwell and move onto more important matters, like what he would have for lunch.

Bartholomew Orwell had other ideas though. Ideas that required the entire town. He was a smart man and knew his sudden arrival and non-existent presence would stir up the town. He had a secret, one he wished to share with the it would start with this town.

-X-

The citizens of Casablanca awoke to a surprise one thursday morning. When they walked out their front door to open their mailboxes each and everyone of them had an envelope with a red wax seal. Inside each and every one of them held a yellow parchment bearing an invitation.

Good morning my friends. It is my honor to invite you to an extravagant ball hosted by me, Sir Bartholomew Orwell. It is expected to be quite an exciting event and, I have a surprise for all of you at the end of the night.

This is to be a masquerade party. All men must wear tuxedos and the ladies must wear ball gowns. Simply speak with Jasmine at the shop on 3rd street for all of your fittings, free of charge. The party is to be held friday night. The masks will be sent via mail tomorrow.

I hope to see you all there,

The Good Sir Bartholomew Orwell

The townsfolk were suspicious at first, yet the promise of a surprise and the free costume won them over. By the end of the day Jasmine had sold out all her evening wear, the enormous bill sent to their gracious host. Even Damien had gone to get a suit, telling himself he would just get some food and then leave.

Thursday came and went and as friday dawned the denizens of Casablanca waited impatiently for the clock to strike six. Nearly the entire town stood in the gathering darkness outside the imposing gates. And, as the clock stuck six, the doors opened.