Welcome to the Masquerade

For today’s daily prompt: Masks Off. I give you a tale of four men swept up in a masked ball. They’ve got an assassin to stop the only question is which mask is he hiding behind? Hidden behind their own masks they set out to find him.

He stepped forward and offered a bow to the lady before him. “May I have this dance?” he asked her. She agreed readily and he led her towards the dance floor glad that his snake mask concealed the lack of smile on his lips. He spun her around in steps that were as natural to him as breathing, his eyes focused on her and yet not at the same time.

As he moved his eyes scanned the crowd for any threat to his charge. His eyes landed on a man with long hair that fell to his shoulders. A beautiful fox mask covered his face from view, matched by the dusk red of his clothing. A he looked the man turned and their eyes met giving them a moment to communicate. They hadn’t found their target yet. The man looked away as the dance caused him to turn and spin his partner.

The fox was sneaky if he hadn’t found their target that meant the target wasn’t using his real name. By now the fox would have gathered the names of everyone at the ball and would have discounted them all. Now the fox’s only job was to keep an eye out for a signal from the other and then to steer the target toward the balcony for his escape.

He continued to scan the crowd searching desperately. The dance ended and he bowed to his partner thanking her for the dance and moved away. As he did so he brushed past a man with a bear mask covering the upper half of his face. A silent signal that he hadn’t located the target and that they were to switch places. He retreated to the edge of the room whilst the bear asked a lady for a dance.

The bear was the most imposing of their team. His job was to try to scare the target out. He had to look threatening and see who looked unusually scared of him. The bear bore the strength in the team and he would be the one to make sure the target didn’t emerge back into the ball from the balcony.

While he waited he met the fox’s eyes across the room and frowned. The fox tilted his head to the left and he looked left. There was the last member of their team dancing with a lady. Younger than them his hair was cropped short and he shouldn’t have stood out so much in the crowd. And yet his clothes seemed to fit him perfectly drawing the attention of the young ladies. The only mask on his face was a strip of orange cloth that he had wrapped across his eyes with two holes that let his starting black eyes show through. Yet he had lines of black paint across his face and that along with the bright orange of his clothes left little doubt. This man was a tiger ready to pounce on his prey.

The tiger wasn’t the strongest, or the slyest, or even the fastest of them all. The tiger wasn’t the imposing one, he wasn’t the silent one, he wasn’t the uncatchable one. The tiger was the one who wore confidence like a cloak, he was the one who had the power. The tiger wasn’t in command, he refused to take it but if he spoke you listened. He would be the one to close down the target and cause him to start his escape. He would be the one to stalk the target if he got away from the rest of the team. He had been the one to say that the target was here.

As he watched the tiger spun his dance partner away to another man and received another lady in return. That was the agreed signal if they found the target now all he had to do was spot which person near the tiger that target was. Ah, there close by.

He started to move closer the fox and the bear mirroring him as the tiger danced on regardless. Then the dance was over and the tiger was moving towards the target and then the target was running. But the fox was there forcing him to turn towards the balcony and then the bear herding him out the door. Finally the viper was there, his clothes a mixture of greens that blended together so well you couldn’t tell where one colour ended and another began. The viper’s hand snapped out grabbing their target by the back of the neck stopping his escape. “Nice try,” the viper hissed in his ear.


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