A Fool’s Masquerade

Part Eleven of the Sonata in Red series.
Part One: A Song of Glory
Part Two: A Choir of Intrigue
Part Three: Etude in the Sun
Part Four: A Requiem in the Dark
Part Five: Hymns of Terror
Part Six: Refrain from the Past
Part Seven: Refrain from the Past (pt. 2)
Part Eight: A Fugue in Three Parts
Part Nine: Rondo Alla Contrattempo
Part Ten: Interlude

“Impossible! There’s only seven more nights until the Royal Moon,” he exclaims. Laughter bursting from my lips at the sight of the old man’s expression of disbelief. The face he wears as fake as the ones he crafts.

“And I must look my best for the ball,” I wink to him letting him know I’ve no time to play his mercantile games. “You have until the the clock strikes twelve tonight.”

“Midnight!? Do you think I am a miracle workers? You’re the only one here with monster blood in their veins!”

“Midnight.” I repeat with firm finality. Matthew glares at me one last time as I leave him to his work. The darkness preceding the dawn still holds sway over Night Town in the cool morning air. The sun has yet to rise since I’d received the truth of my employer’s identity. With this revelation the reason it had taken so long for Olivia was now apparent though the meaning behind the connection continues to elude me. The petty lordling I’d imagined at that first meeting was but a crudely crafted illusion only capable of deceiving me due to the unbelievable nature of the truth.
My employer was none other than The Most Honourable Marchioness Madeleine Wilson, illustrious mistress of the distant Eastmark and an exceedingly powerful woman. If such a human term as that could truly hold any meaning to one of the nobility. The crow that met with me was likely just one of an entire murder under her control. Why a woman with such vast resources at her disposal would bother enlisting the services of a flash for so menial a task, I had only theories.
The name of the crow I’d met with is Daniel Thomas. The youngest son of an aristocrat himself, he had been an officer in the Eastmark conflict before he disappeared from records. He had reemerged as a member of the Marchioness’ retinue in the year following the campaign’s success where he’s served ever since.
Of Ava even less could be found, the household staff of the baronet’s estate knew her as the daughter a younger daughter of the Baron of Ambersvale. While the least of the noble rankings, a Baron is still a true noble and difficult for even Olivia’s network to infiltrate. She did however manage to discover a record in the registry confirming the existence of Ava as the Baron’s third daughter.
Despite this there was some information that would be useful to me in the days ahead.

Entering the Baronet’s estate through unaided stealth had proven beyond my ability. The grey was a formidable tool but it had a number of flaws that the aristocracy exploited in securing their sanctums from my peers and I.
First, the drain it puts on our stamina is so strenuous that an hour under the grey represents my absolute limit. Longer than that and death was the most favourable outcome I could hope for.
Second is that the grey is not perfect when concealing the user against an observer with the proper training or similar enhancements. Skilled individuals like the Gate Watch can see us as plain as day. For Monster Blood users like the Crow’s or Devil Men it was like it shone a bright light on us.
Petty nobles such as Baronet Thierris could afford to hire guards with these skills, even going so far as to treat such servants as status symbols. My last incursion into the estate I had managed to count as many as four men forcing me to turn back long before I even made it close to where Sophia’s room would be. Stealing the letter I’d been hired for had been simpler than breathing, but it had never been my true objective here.
I shadowed James on his strolls around The Day several more times, with much greater caution this time. He had not visited The Angel again since that first time, nor did I ever see him accompanied by his wife or the Baronet beyond the walls of the estate.

I’ve grown quite familiar with the bell tower this past month. The only tall vantage point accessible nearby, I’ve spent a lot of time here during my observation period. In this time I’ve developed an intimate familiarity with the staff and visitors that frequent the estate. As with all aristocrats, the Baronet boasts a vast number of servants from Night Town who tend to their daily lives.
If my gut was right I had a very narrow window of opportunity to reach Sophia before The Royal Moon. There is a saying in Night Town, that only starlight shines on the finest string, it means that the order of things follows a strict order that only the stars can see through the mysteries of the Nobility. The Royal Moon marked a once a century event when The Queen would return from the war to oversee the apotheosis of new Nobles. Only the most powerful members of the Aristocracy could ever dream of attending the Celestial Ball. Whatever game the Marchioness and the Baronet were playing, I knew deep in my soul that it would end then. Unable to rely on the grey, another option remained to me. The Monster Blood that fuelled the transformations of the shadows, devil men and crows could also be used by the lesser miracles of certain artisans like Matthew.

The tolling of the bell signalled my moment approaching. Exhaling softly, with the drawing of my next breath I feel myself shift into the grey mist. The dull watery quiet covers my senses and the familiar icy chill fills my extremities as I release the rigid constraints of human flesh and pitch forward over the clock tower ledge.
Silently landing behind her as she steps from the servants entrance and crosses the road heading towards Night Town. One of the night shift handmaidens, Scarlett is my key to reach Sophia’s room of the Baronet’s estate. Under the grey the short journey back to Night Town feels agonisingly long, the only challenge is passing the gate captain. It had cost a significant bribe for his blindness this once, a price I could scarcely afford again any time soon.
At last we arrive at the maid’s home, my aberrant transformation has grown sharper and more painful. The vast overwhelming hunger bubbling up from a place deep inside me as the alien instincts convey meaning beyond my ability to comprehend from the chaotic causality of nature. Abandoning my ephemeral fog, I conceal myself with my mundane skill in her home until Scarlett turns in to sleep. To ensure she will not interrupt I give her an elixir so she will sleep for a full day and night before drawing from her veins a vial of blood.

Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

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