Silken dresses twirled in circles, gleaming black and gold. Glittering suits of ancient armor stood guard and tables laden with untouched food enclosed the hall while laughter and music filled the ballroom — decorated just for this occasion. The guests were dressed in their finest, from wispy silken wraps and downy velvets to ornate gold and silver masks. Peacocks and lions, wolves and butterflies spun in circles; their faces there but in a moment nowhere to be seen.
No words were spoken; partners conversed through the flashing of eyes, suggestive smiles, and tender touches. All were joyous, the time had come and soon she would arrive. They had waited for her so long, too long said most. But all was to be well now, their future secure.
As the clock struck midnight the Lord of the castle made his way through the crowd and up onto the raised dais, holding out his hand to help the young women who stood beside him. Her gleaming chestnut hair shone in the candlelight as it cascaded down her back, interlaced here and there with golden clasps and ruby pins. She was a vision. Soft alabaster skin glowed luminously against the blood-red of her gown and the deep shine of her dark hair.
The clock struck midnight for the last time and applause rung out through the hall. The thunder echoed off every wall, every crevice until it consumed the ears of the guests. But nothing echoed louder than that of the screams.