The first note pierced the silence as the orchestra warmed up. First the strings, their mellow tones drawn out and haunting, followed by the chords of the piano and chimes. The audience filtered in, ladies dressed in fine gowns, their fingers and necks covered in the glitter of sparkling jewels. Lords escorted them—dressed in their best, each carrying a rose for their ladies—and yet some wore masks to hide their faces for what was to come.
I stepped farther back into the shadow of the black drapery, although no one would see me, hidden in my perch in the back of the theater. Lifting a spy glass to my good eye, I took in the stage and waited. A cocktail of scents wafted past me; the choking smoke of cigars mixed with the floral fragrance of perfume. No expense had been spared in the grand hall, decked with shades of crimson, curtains of velvet black and gold, shimmering crystals.
Hushed chatter filled the air as the audience took their seats, the hum of excitement potent as they waited to be seduced by the magic of the theater. Opening night was the highlight of the theater, a fresh performance with exotic dancers and throaty singers giving a parody of life. I cared naught for such amusement, but I needed one of them for my plans.
Shifting to a more comfortable position, I brushed at the mask biting into my skin. The faint itch of my scars reminded me that hiding my loneliness and pain was no longer an option. My patience had run dry, forcing me to act. My song was ready, all I needed to do was find a singer—a strong one—cast a spell, and the rest would fall into place.
Aside from whispered prayers, they’d forgotten me, the one who haunted the tower, who brought chaos and terror into their lives. I’d returned in secret to haunt their steps, to make them realize that all along, this place was mine. I was its master, and it was time to take my freedom.
The first song began, casting a hypnotic spell over the audience. They fell silent and the dancers swayed on the stage. One caught my eye, hair as dark as a raven with long limbs accenting graceful movements. She was too far away to see clearly, yet her movements made her stand out from the others. While she danced in sync to the music, her eyes darted about the stage, and she missed a step or two. I wondered what drew her attention, and why she was not as dedicated to the dance as the others. A heaviness pinched my chest and I sighed. If I were a normal human, like the lords and ladies who filled the hall, I’d go up to her after the performance, introduce myself and woo her.
But tonight my purpose transcended the mundane, and I needed a singer, not a dancer. Still, watching her eased the ragged edges of pain that plagued my soul and increased my resolve. I would move heaven and earth to earn a chance to live life, like the mortals.