In whirlwind circles, hand in hand with their partners, the dancers danced to the the song of violins arguing with flutes, and a heartbeat drum collaborating up with tambourines. To the untrained eye, the ballroom was chaos, but in reality, the dance floor was a perfect orchestration, the dancers the marionettes and the music the marionettist of them all. The strings that controlled every dancer lead stranger to stranger, their identities hidden under Venetian masks and their true statuses cloaked in velvet trimmed with gold. Even their hands could not tell who they were, gloved in white silk. When the music shifted, prompting everyone to find new partners, Thalia spun into the arms of a tall, strong gripped man. He wore a captain’s hat, and his cloak hung almost to the ground. His mask was matte black with red lining the holes around his eyes. His breath was hot, and smelled of red wine. Her gaze fell to his neck, and that’s when she saw it, the black tattoo of a reaper.
That is when she knew the men here were monsters. Their eyes didn’t glow in the dark, and they did indeed have reflections in the mirrors that lined the walls. Their mouths did not bare fangs, nor this their fingers house claws. These were monsters of the worst kind; ones that exist in reality, inside of men and women alike. Thalia’s eyes darted around the room, but could not distinguish monster from soon-to-be victim, not as she danced and twirled and stepped in circles. She knew in her heart two things: that blood would be spilled tonight, and that seeing the sunrise again was not in her future.
The music stopped. Chatter replaced the hum of violins and flutes. Servants dressed in black and white made their rounds with goblets of wine on silver platters. Thalia knew what this was. She’d heard of it from a survivor before. Those without the tattoo would drink the wine, and they would fall into a permanent sleep. Those that didn’t drink the wine would fall into a panic, and would meet their end by a silver blade that these monsters tucked under their cloaks near their right hands.
I can throw the wine in his face. Go for his knife. Try to fight my way out… Thalia thought to herself. Or I can be one of the lucky ones that never have to see their own blood
A servant passed by them, and her black-masked companion grabbed just one goblet from the silver platter. Her held it delicately in his silk-gloved hand, careful not to stain it the wrong shade of red. Thalia shook, unable to process her thoughts and fear, unable to decide whether to fight or surrender until the man dropped his gaze towards her and extended out his hand.
The man’s eyes twinkled a nefarious shade of black as he gave her a half-crooked smile. “Try the wine.”