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Old 08-17-2014, 10:23 PM   #1
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Masquerading (Closed)

Venice, 17th century.

Raphael listened to the sound of horse hooves on stone as the carriage he was in trundled noisily through the streets of Venice.

Even wealth can't avoid one being jostled about during travel, he mused with a wry grin to himself.

He glanced down at his seat and studied his mask that sat there, looking back up at him. The mask, had it been alive, would have seen a handsome face looking down at it: dark eyes, loose black hair, lightly browned skin.

Raphael did enjoy masquerade balls. As a wealthy merchant, he was a guest at most of the prominent events in the republic, and this one was no different. There were bound to be all manner of important people there: other merchants, members of the aristocracy, diplomats from throughout Europe and beyond. Hopefully some of those diplomats had brought their daughters...

He wondered what sort of event awaited him. Some were stuffy and dull, but others often resulted in all manner of lewd activities between two people - and often more. Those evenings were always his favourites.

"Whoa!" cried the driver and the carriage drew to a gentle stop.

Affixing his mask, he stepped out of the carriage and stood to his full 6ft2in height. He adjusted his red suit slightly around his waist, double checking that his rapier hung from his hip as he did so, then proceeded up the stairs in front of him to the entrance of the marble pillared building that was the evening's venue.

After briefly lifting his mask to the doorman to confirm his identity and that he was indeed invited, Raphael stepped through the large oak doorway as the doors were opened for him.

He immediately found himself on an internal balcony, overlooking the large dance floor below. The warmth of the expansive room washed over him, as did the sounds of chatter from other guests and the music of a string quartet by the far wall. A wide internal stairway acted as a pathway for people moving up or down as they pleased. Internal marble pillars lined one side of the lower room, while a series of doors stood opposite them, leading to small, private exterior balconies which no doubt overlooked one of the city's many canals.

Raphael caught the attention of a passing waiter and took an offered glass of champagne, sipping it quietly as he scanned the room, noting the other masked individuals, hopeful that he might recognise someone or that a pretty lady might make the evening infinitely more interesting.

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Old 08-24-2014, 07:24 PM   #2
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The clusters of well-heeled wealthy guests weren't enough. Neither was the location- it's beautiful pillars and many mysterious doorways. Even the gown- deep indigo, luxurious, flowing and decadent, failed to cheer Eleanora. She was sulking. The younger sister, graciously allowed to attend the ball by her father only because the elder daughter had taken ill.

At 19 she was hardly a child any longer, and yet it was still only when Catrina was unavailable that she was ever allowed to be a part of such an occasion. She hated being considered second best. It made her very angry- the largest annoyance in a scandalously easy life of luxury. Daughter to a supremely wealthy banking pioneer who made himself part of the historic rise of financial industry in Venice.

Eleanora adjusted her mask, preened her long, straight dark hair, and moved off into the sea of guests- realising that she should grasp this oppertunity for excitement, determined to enjoy an evening of adventure.

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Old 08-25-2014, 02:52 AM   #3
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Raphael was tolerating a half-hearted conversation with a pair of fellow merchants when he caught a flash of indigo out of the corner of his eye as it passed him by and began to glide down the stairs.

He turned his head to follow the colour, no longer pretending to listen to the other men, and he saw a slender form - covered by expensive indigo material which was in turn covered by beautiful long hair - disappearing into the crowd below.

"Mi scusi," he said to the merchants, then moved off without even checking to see if he'd been heard.

Raphael quickly sought out and found a waiter, taking another flute of champagne, and then, with a glass in each hand, he descended the stairs, eyes looking for indigo decadence, just as the string quartet started a dancing tune and men and women began to flood the ballroom floor.
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Old 08-25-2014, 06:24 AM   #4
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Eleanora made her way lightly down the marble steps, very carefully. She had tripped before, on such occasions, and it probably formed part of the reason why her father did not often allow her to be a part of them. Snide remarks passed quickly through the beautiful streets, and humorous anecodtes of the clumsy adolescent girl of the Simoneti family had been a common amusement at parties. That was, however, several years prior- before she had blossomed into the slim, delicate young lady that she was now.

The string-quartet was delightful- her favourite entertainment. This tune was clearly an invitation to dance. Dancing was not Eleaonora's forté, despite her graceful appearence. The clumsiness of youth remained, suppressed but waiting beneath the surface. She determined to avoid dancing, at her peril. Like she always did.

A greying gentleman sidled towards her, moments after she had found a suitable vantage point at the edge of the ballroom from which to watch. His mask had slipped slightly, and she recognised him vaguely as one of her father's banking colleagues- a stretch to call hm a family friend, those didn't exist in finance, but an acquiantance. One she did not wish to converse with.

"Why hello, Signorina Simoneti," the lavishley-dressed figure greeted her.

"Signor Volpe," She stammered, distressed to be recognised like this, "You really ought not know who I am, it defeats the object of such an event." She was just glad that he spoke quietly enough that others would not hear. To reveal one's identity here was considered most vulgar.

"Well, I could hardly fail to recognise you..... that elegant figure....." She might have imagined it, but he seemed to lick his lips. Surely not?! He was her father's age! Eleanora was speechless, and Volpe took advantage, taking her hand and steering her towards the centre of the ballroom.

"Dance with me awhile, and I shall keep your name a secret, as it ought to be. It's been a long time since you've been seen at an event of any signicance, and we wouldn't want a repeat of the old gossiping of your clumsy ways now would we?" His pale eyes twinkled as they started to move with the music. Eleanora flushed a deep scarlet, and felt she wanted to return home. She resolved not to look upon him, and merely to concerntrate on the music, so as not to make any embarassing mistakes.
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Old 08-25-2014, 08:06 AM   #5
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Raphael was only a few steps away from the base of the stairs when the guests began to take to the floor en masse. His masked eyes scanned people moving left and right in an attempt to see indigo, but it never quite happened. He saw blues, greens, blacks, whites, golds, and even a fellow red here and there, but the room was filled to capacity and there was so much movement that it felt impossible to keep up.

The Italian made his way towards the nearest wall, ducking behind the pillars and into the only poorly lit area of the expansive room so as not to get in the way of the dancers. Being careful to not spill either drink while at the same time making his way around other onlookers, he could only watch passively as the music picked up and the dancers began to move around each other with the familiar steps.

Eventually finding a somewhat secluded space, Raphael turned his back to the wall, leaning against it gently and watching the dance proceed. From here, looking out onto the dance floor and up to the interior balcony, he was able to marvel at the spectacle of the dancing throng - with fine dresses and suits entertaining each other - and the grandeur of the building with its internal columns and high hanging chandeliers.

And then he saw it. T'was just a flash of colour, but he knew what it was. He looked again, and sure enough, indigo came into view before disappearing again.

Raphael moved forward, stepping back into the light and leaning his shoulder on a column as the slender figure and dark hair moved with her noticeably older partner, waiting patiently with two champagne flutes in his hand and, he hoped, half a chance of catching her eye.
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Old 08-25-2014, 04:24 PM   #6
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Eleanora avoided Volpe's lecherous gaze as best as she could, keeping her eyes fixed on their feet and straining to keep time. She abhored to dance. And it, in turn, detested and continually made a fool of her. But not this time. She wouldn't give the old dog the chance to see her more flustered and upset than she already was. She supposed she ought to simply be grateful that the other guests knew nothing of her identity just now. Maybe this would be one even from which she could escape without any further social embarassment. Even if she couldnLt enjoy it.

Volpe was an experienced and confident dancer, guiding his young partner across the ballroom, weaving artfully between other couplets, humming to himself over the light tune. Darkly-suited attendents carried silver platters of colourful drinks around the perimeter for the refreshment of those simply watching. How Eleanora wished she were one of them. Observing, out of the spotlight, alone. Volpe's wrinkled hand shifted, moving lower, from her waist to her hip. She wanted to cry. Or to run.

Now they strafed along the edge of the dancefloor, and she knew why. The banker wanted to show off his catch to his gentleman friends, who doubtless would recognies the unmistakeable combination of his well-fed body and wavy silver hair. Convention strictly bade guests to conceal their identites fully, but particularly prestigious gentleman were often an accepted exception. They held the privilege of asserting themselves and being known- if that was their wish. Most opted to join in the mystery with enthusiasm, but some, like Volpe, couldn't bare the though of being judged on their conversation and personality alone.

Volpe met every eye, with a wink here and a sly smile there, whilst Eleanora stared down at her dainty deep-blue shoes, mind racing, searching for an escape.
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Old 08-25-2014, 08:23 PM   #7
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Raphael’s blue eyes trailed the blur of indigo as she was guided around the room by her able dance partner, but the more he followed her movements, the more he realised that something was amiss.

That the man opposite her was clearly much older didn’t initially concern him in the slightest. For all he knew, the man could have been her father.

And the fact that she was studying her feet seemed to imply only that she was nervous on the dance floor – hardly the first woman to experience jitters at such a lavish event.

But the way she clung to him, knuckles white for fear of falling, her torso leaning away from him, and her deliberately averted gaze that contrasted so strikingly to the man’s jovial attitude as he showed her off as some kind of prize was what truly caught his attention.

Despite never having spoken to the petite figure, or even having seen her face, the merchant felt compelled to do something.

With a swig from one glass for courage, Raphael pushed himself off the pillar and placed both champagne flutes onto the silver tray of a surprised servant, then stood at the very edge of the dance floor.

It was poor etiquette to cut in, he knew, so he waited until the string quartet were playing their final notes before he made a move.

The various couplets on the floor began to separate and applaud each other, and just as they did, Raphael made himself known. Stepping forward and moving towards indigo and her older partner as they clapped, he called out to the lead musician.

”Per favore, signore! One more verse!”

There was no doubt that what he was doing was unorthodox, but the musicians and crowd both responded positively and almost as soon as the song had ended, it had begun anew.

And by that time, Raphael had taken the hand of indigo and spun her away and towards the centre of the floor as they made good their escape.
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Old 08-26-2014, 05:33 AM   #8
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Volpe was shocked. More than shocked- Astounded. Never in all is..... did that gentleman even know.... what on God's green earth?! He stood, furious and silent, like a gnarled little tree. The sudden restart of the music had caught him off guard whilst he was complcaently winking at his friends, and, in one smooth and perfect movement, his prize had been snatched away. Volpe knew that it was a clever move- to take a partner without requesting the gentlemanls permission was outside of courtesy, yes, but not nearly so much as to attempt to reclaim her during the music would be. He would have to wait. And wait he would, he mused as he preened his silver hair. No man had yet had the best of Signor Volpe.

Eleanora's arm, despite being covered by long white glove, burned when the stranger took it. He swept her away in an instant, she, unkowingly, unthinkingly, moving with him as sea-plants with the tide. Volpe seemed to disappear into the swathe of dancers, although it was they who were parting from him. It was a dreamlike esape, silent and smooth and delicious and fearful.

After moments that felt like minutes, they were safely ensconsed in the anonymous multitude of revellers. Eleanora had not yet even looked at her rescuer. Her eyes remained on her feet. Again her face was reddened, and she dared not to speak. She felt that if she raised her gaze, the spell would be broken, and he might reveal himself as another aging wolf.
They began to dance.
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Old 08-26-2014, 10:22 AM   #9
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The surge of adrenaline that had accompanied Raphael this evening, and which had urged him to act despite his better sense, had yet to leave him by the time he and his new dance partner found themselves in the middle of the room.

There was no time to fully relax. Raphael had seen Signore Volpe's reaction. It had been a brazen act of deceit and the aged man would likely pursue them. Even with Indigo's kidnapper stranded at the edge of the dance floor, it was only a matter of time before he made chase.

And it had only taken a brief look down for Raphael to see why. Without seeing her face or even her eyes, Raphael could still breathe in her intoxicating aromatic perfumes as her dark hair swayed with the dance movements like long grass in a breeze, glistening in the light of the chandeliers above. Her arms were slim and warm even through her gloves, and her pale skin looked smooth to the touch. And her chest rose and fell with each breath, her dress offering only a glimpse of what her body had to offer.

"Bella," he spoke quietly, barely audible above the music, hoping his tone might help to soothe her - or at least get her attention. "Bella Indigo, I apologise for you having to be kidnapped by one and then another, but you looked like a damsel in need of an ill-planned rescue."

He offered a gentle smile whether she saw it or not, half trying to convince himself that their situation didn't remain dangerous.

But the matter of their pursuer remained. Raphael had half a mind to challenge the old fool to a duel, but that would only embarrass the poor girl further. And besides, he didn't like the idea of an unfair fight.

It seemed escape was their only option, and the merchant started looking around for the nearest exit.
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Old 08-27-2014, 02:03 PM   #10
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The stranger's words excited Eleanora, a dangerous fragment of possibility. Shy and socially-challenged as she was, she loved people. To her, each new acquiantance seemed a beautiful opportunity. At least until they disappointed her through dull personality or unkind deeds.

She did not reply. She could not reply. Her's was the tongue of a prisoner. It mirrored her life- a captive existence. A wealthy, luxurious captivity yes, but confinement nonetheless.

His smile was kind and encouraging, and coaxed from her a small return smile- so subtle, so slight, that it may have easily been missed altogether. She felt safe in her escape from Volpe, and thrilled by the form of it. It was akin to the many daydreams that she had indulged in, forced to remain home whilst others enjoyed Venice's lavish events and the fleeting romances that seemed to come with them.

They moved still further from the scene of the escape. He steered her surely but gently across the ballroom, nimbly avoiding other couples, the music and his touch filling her senses. They were now alongside the open doors for one of the many balconies. The sky was a deep dark blue-black, and the stars winked their approval.
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Old 08-27-2014, 07:01 PM   #11
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The two of them glided together seamlessly, the silent couplet a blur of red and indigo amidst an ocean of colourful dresses and elaborate masks.

Had Signor Volpe had the good sense to watch from the interior balcony, he might have seen them making their way across the floor, but he was far too busy blustering his outrage on the other side of the room to do something so sensible.

As they made their way past and around other pairings, Raphael’s strong arm gently guided his partner with one hand on her lower back, the other encasing her gloved palm. He caught her look up at her for the briefest of moments, the candles from the chandeliers above reflecting in her eyes, and he almost fell as thought he might fall in.

And then it happened.

Was that a smile? he wondered.

He could have sworn he’d seen the very edges of her lips turn upwards, albeit slightly and only for a moment.

It isn’t fear, he continued, so she’s definitely more comfortable with me than she was with that old fool.

Raphael’s intention had initially been to simply get as far away from Volpe as possible. He hadn’t actively been seeking the private balconies, but now that they were here, it seemed foolish not to capitalise on the opportunity.

The music was once again drawing to an end, which meant the sea of dancers would soon part and their camouflage would abandon them.

”Bella Indigo,” Raphael whispered as the two maintained their hold on each other. ”I apologise for being so brazen, but you didn’t look happy.”

The tall Venetian gently let his hold loosen, then turned to the servant by the balcony door, taking a pair of champagne flutes from the man’s silver tray. He offered one to his dance partner, then stepped out onto the balcony, hoping she might follow her lead, and allowing the servant to close the doors behind them as they entered the cool night air.
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Old 08-28-2014, 11:14 AM   #12
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Eleanora's slender fingers closed over the flute. Carefully- she'd dropped them before, and gentleman had commented. Ladies had giggled. Her father had frowned.

The night coldly stroked her when they stepped outside. Warmth and noise dropped but did not die, merely drifting into a soft background hum, and her senses were freed, open to the man in front of her. The mystery. She still had not spoken a word, seveal minutes after their meeting. She sipped from her drink, self-consciously.

She felt she ought to say something. She could thank him- but that seemed.... pathetic, somehow. She felt foolish enough as it was, like a little girl, out of her depth and in need of rescue. She wanted to be strong- confident, alluring. Attracting the gentlemen like bees to a flower. But always in control. Reality, as always, was far from her dreams.

A sentence, a sentence..... she needed a sentence, and nothing but the most disarmingly witty and fascinating utterance would do. But.... her mind was a still pool. She would have to settle for less. An observation, an ironic remark.

"I.... do not normally become ensared by ghouls threice my age, really, I....." She started quietly and then trailed off altogether. She leant on the stone and cast her gaze outwards into the night.
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Old 08-28-2014, 05:27 PM   #13
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Once they were both outside, the first thing Raphael noticed about his silent dance partner - apart from the way the moonlight rested on her long dark hair and reflected in her deep dark eyes - was the goosebumps that crept along her bare upper arms.

He slowly unbuttoned his suit jacket to reveal a silver coloured waistcoat over a white shirt. He wrapped the jacket around Eleanora's shoulders as rested it there gently. The red and the indigo didn't exactly go well together but at least it would keep her from getting colder.

He sidled up beside her as he spoke, unsure if she was shaken up by what had happened or simply nervous. Regardless, her voice sounded soft and gentle, and either way, she needed reassurance.

"Bella," he spoke quietly, "I am sorry that such a man ruined your evening. Hopefully we can still salvage something from it."

Raphael was tempted to ask about Volpe - who was he, did she know him, why did he act as though he owned her - but he didn't want to upset her further.

So instead he tried to calm her, if that was at all possible.

"Shall we drink some courage?" he grinned, holding out his glass to touch hers.

It hadn't even dawned on him that he hadn't seen the stars or any of the view - his eyes had been on Bella Indigo the entire time they'd been outside.
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Old 08-28-2014, 08:01 PM   #14
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She followed his lead, sipping more of the expensive drink. Alcohol was still new to her, a novelty, and she was nervous of it, warned of its dangers. She'd heard that it made women and men alike more clumsy, and she hardly needed that.

His jacket was heavy on her shoulders, the unfamiliar fabrics of the masculine wardrobe covering her possesively. She realised suddenly that they hadn't introduced themselves, but the thought was immediately rebuffed by a recognition once more of the setting- where mystery trumped convention. She thought that it would at least be courteous to meet his gaze, and she forced herself to do so, which required her to look upwards, he being at least half a foot taller. His face was well-shrouded, but his eyes burned.

She knew that a polite question was in order.

"Are you a veteran of such occasions, signor?" Her voice was a little stronger, but in an audibly-inauthentic way. A transparent surface-bravery.

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Old 08-28-2014, 09:53 PM   #15
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Despite having walked outside and taken his jacket off, Raphael felt warm. His first thought was that it might be the alcohol, but as he felt his chest tighten and as he breathed in another whiff of Eleanora’s perfume, he quickly abandoned that theory.

It was her eyes. Deep, dark pools of nervousness, shyness, and innocence, he felt his head swim every time they looked up at him.

Even though he didn’t know who she was, and despite having seen no more of her face than her lips and those eyes, he yearned to be closer to her.

And then she spoke.

Eleanora seemed, to him, like a frightened doe. Full of grace and beauty but unaware of it and likely to jump at the first sign of movement. But simply being alone with her made Raphael feel alive.

”I have been to other masquerade balls, si,” he replied, ”but none so resplendent as this one.”

Emboldened, perhaps by the champagne and perhaps by the realisation that such a situation shouldn’t be wasted, he slowly raised his hand and – as if Eleanora truly were an untamed and frightened creature of the wild – maintained eye contact and cautiously reached out, his thumb gently caressing her cheek, her jawline resting in his palm.

”My guess is that this is your first,” he added. ”What were you expecting, and what would you most like to remember from your first masquerade?”
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Old 08-30-2014, 06:59 PM   #16
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With his touch on her cheek, she had to look away, fighting the compulsion to grasp his hand in hers.

His reference to her "first" caused her mind to fly, for one thrilling moment, to her virginity. But he was enquiring about her masquerade experience. Of course, he was correct- she hadn't been trusted to behave suitably at such an important event in the social calendar- identities were secret, yes, but those who embarassed themselves at such balls often found their name, somehow, dragged through the mud in vicious gossiping. She struggled with the skills necessary to be a respectable lady. Her future social opportiunities depended, she knew, on remaining anonymous and graceful tonight.

"Yes, I must confess that it is my first. It truly is a wonderful spectacle, but anonymity has not protected and calmed me as I had hoped." She smoothed her indigo dress nervously. "Despite the attentions of that awful man, I hope I shall remember only excitementm from a night shared with a gentleman."
She wondered, unavoidably, what man, what truth, might lie behind the lie of the mask.
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Old 08-31-2014, 05:00 AM   #17
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Raphael withdrew his hand when she turned away, the heat of her flushed skin lingering against his palm.

It had been presumptuous of him, he realised, to expect any other response - especially given the brash manner in which he'd forced their initial meeting - but that she remained and continued the conversation assured him that all was not lost.

Raphael studied his indigo-clad companion as she spoke. It was clear that the older man's actions had truly affected her; more than a mere fright. The young merchant was tempted to return to the room to challenge the old fool, but he thought better of it.

Instead, he decided to respond to her in a bid to ease the nerves he sensed she still had.

"Gentleman?" he said, feigning surprise. "There is no such man here, milady. Just rogues and scoundrels!"

Raphael let a light chuckle escape his lips, before his champagne glass covered them as he took another slow sip.
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Old 08-31-2014, 06:47 AM   #18
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Rogues and scoundrels..... the idea was frightening but thrilling. Swimming with sharks. So far she had avoided being bitten, but the water was still..... murky.

The sounds of merriment came through the doors to them, a wash of warm chattering and the rousing strings of Venice's most expensive musicians. The hour at which the guests would begin to thin out and gradually disperse was not far away- guests generally did not linger at such an event, instead perserving the collectve mystery through a pre-midnight exit. Once ladies started to leave, the party would drain hastily- no young lady wanted to be among the last there- to be so had certain.... undesirable coonotations.

Eleanora knew she should exit soon, minimise her chances of embarassment, yet to do so would be to leave this dazzling dream. She watched, closely, the glass touch his lips, the flex of his throat as he drank. She wondered what it would be like to see a man without a gentleman's coverings. To touch him. To really touch him. It wasn't the first time she had indulged in such thoughts, and she felt no shame for doing so.

She felt suddenly emboldened. She could return his touch, she knew she could. She leaned forward, stretched out a gloved arm to him- then the doors to the balcony flew open, loudly, crashingly. It was a brutal shock to see Volpe standing there, although she might have expected it had she not been so distracted. His fists were clenched, and his whole body seemed strengthened by his rage. Grey as he was now, rumours told of how he had once been quite a fighter.

" YOU, SIR..." He roared at the gentleman, "ARE A WORTHLESS THIEF!"
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Old 08-31-2014, 06:45 PM   #19
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Raphael's body tensed the instant he saw Eleanora flinch. Instinctively, one hand immediately fell to the hilt of his rapier, while the other arm swiftly and gently moved across the front of her body and guided her behind him as he stepped towards the threat.

Raphael took a split second longer than he should have to assess the situation. He'd been so distracted by her eyes, her skin, her outstretched hand...

Volpe's aggressive tone was all Raphael needed to sharpen his senses. He listened to the accusations and rejected them outright.

If Indigo wanted excitement, he noted with a wry grin, she has it now.

Raphael's grip on his sword tightened as he replied.

"Signor, you are mistaken," he began, his tone firm but calm, hoping that by not reciprocating the older man's yelling, he might help to avoid the situation becoming something both men would regret. "It was not I who stole milady's dignity and it is not I who now seeks to steal her happiness. If anyone is a thief, signor, it is you."

He didn't wish to draw his blade and risk ruining Eleanora's night further, and he hoped it would serve as enough of a threat...but angry and jealous old men were difficult to predict.

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Old 08-31-2014, 07:56 PM   #20
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Eleanora took a step back in horror, putting her against the cold stone of the balcony. She saw no danger of severe violence, as she believed Volpe to be a coward, but the threat to her reputation was great. There was a special strain of disgust for ladies who caused altercations and disruption to the beloved balls.

She tried to place herself between the two men, but Volpe pushed her away roughly. "Away you harlot! We have a dispute to settle." He leered viciously at her, and it was evident he was stone-drunk. "I'll see to you later."

The raging Venetian set his eyes on Raphael. His efforts to supress his temper caused him to colour and shake.
"I believe we should make our way outside, sir."
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Old 08-31-2014, 10:28 PM   #21
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"You fool!" Raphael laughed, pointing upwards to the starlit sky. "Are you so blind drunk that you can't see we're already outside?"

Raphael stepped back, appearing to retreat, making sure Eleanora stayed near him. Confident that they were at a safe distance for the moment, he continued to speak, but did so in a quiet voice so that only the delicate creature closest to him could hear.

"I'll lure him out of the doorway," he began, watching Volpe the entire time but hoping Eleanora was listening. "When he makes way, go back into the ballroom. My carriage is waiting out the front. It's black with a yellow trim and a chestnut horse. Tell the driver, Antonio, that I sent you."

He paused briefly, suddenly conscious of just how much information he was telling her and hoping it was sinking in.

He released the grip on his rapier and held his hands up, as if in surrender, before turning to her one last time.

"Tell Antonio where you wish to go. He'll take care of you. I'll find you."

Raphael had been tempted to tell her his name for Antonio's sake, but this was not the circumstance under which he wished them to become acquainted.

And besides, she's wearing my jacket.

It was clear that Volpe was in no state for a proper fight, but Raphael still expected him to try.

"Very well, signor - settle your dispute."

With his hands still raised, the merchant resolved to merely best his opponent rather than giving him the proper beating he deserved.

There would be no honour in seriously injuring an aged drunkard.
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Old 09-01-2014, 10:35 AM   #22
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Volpe was momentarily halted by the braggart's observation. He craned his sinewy neck upwards. It was true, he noted, mind slowed by alcohol. They were indeed outside. He resolved not to be put off by this- this was, after all, not about words or technicalities- but about honour, and respect, and disgrace. And now the coward was withdrawing to the edge of the balcony- so be it. Volpe felt ready. He stepped forward, a little unsteadily, and raised his large, knarled fists.

Eleanora obeyed her rescuer, slipping back into the ballroom after Volpe vacated the entrance. Back into the swell of happy noise, all party-goers oblivious to the contest unfolding just feet away. She didn't like to leave, but knew her presence would not assist him. And she couldn't bear to be subject to the disgrace of provoking violence at a ball- her identity would escape and her reputation further muddied. No, she had no choice but to depart.

She made her way, head down, through the ballroom, up the steps, past the black-clad servers and the classical statues, and out of the main doors into the night again. She saw the chesnut horse right away- it seemed to her to mirror its owner- strong, handsome, refined. The driver was asleep. A half-eaten apple clenched in a hand that rested across his chest. She wanted to wake him, and depart this disaster of an evening. But climbing into a stranger's carriage.... it suddenly filled her with a fear. It wasn't conventional. It wasn't proper. And she had no wish to further inconvenience the gentleman by taking away his carriage. She had wrecked his night enough already, she reflected miserably.

Eleanora melted into the darkness, setting off for a long walk back to her father's house. Her mind was full of storms, blackening with growing despair at her social ineptitude. She hoped that she would at least be able to keep all of this secret. It would depend, unfortunately, on Volpe's conduct.
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Old 09-01-2014, 10:51 PM   #23
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Raphael was a competent swordsman, but his expertise was in negotiation. That was what he used in every day life as a merchant, and it served him well there, but neither swordplay nor a honeyed tongue would be of any use now.

His strategy was simple: let Volpe throw his first drunken fist, deflect it if necessary with his raised hands, then with the old man off balance, he would raise the man's mask, swipe up one of the half empty champagne glasses sitting on the balcony, and throw the drink into his face.

Doing so would, Raphael hoped, serve to not only distract his accuser long enough to make good his escape, but also embarrass him enough to keep him from being taken seriously if he was to complain. To others, Volpe would hopefully just look like a drunken old man who spilt his own drink on himself.

Once away from the balcony, Raphael could make his way out front and wait for Antonio to return from taxiing Indigo.

Keeping his hand up as Volpe approached, Raphael braced himself for the first swing...
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Old 09-02-2014, 07:04 AM   #24
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Eleanora walked on through the night, indulging in her disappointment, in the ruined evening. She reflected that at least she had not torn her dress, like last time, or accidentally insulted someone, like the time before that. If she was blessed, she might even avoid the shame of anyone finding out that she had caused an incident at the ball. She could tell father that all went well, and he might allow her to attend another function soon. Perhaps.


Volpe lunged. He lunged as well as any drunk in his sixties could be expected to lunge. Fury and a powerful urge to uphold his manhood fuelled him, propelling his arm at the other man.
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Old 09-02-2014, 08:03 AM   #25
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Raphael was surprised by how effective his plan was. Volpe had thrown a punch with such anger that he might have toppled over all by himself had his younger opponent simply stepped backwards.

Buy as it was, Raphael blocked the fist with one arm - and he'd be feeling an ache in his forearm for a while, he was sure - then lifted the man's mask with the other.

For the first time, he could see the face of his accuser, skin flushed red, eyes closed in blind fury, spittle falling forwards. Adding half a glass of champagne to such a canvas might have even been a slight improvement.

Rushing past the old fool and back into the ballroom, Raphael placed the flute on the silver tray of a nearby servant, then made his way up the stairs and out the front doorway hastily but while trying to avoid being noticed too easily. The lack of his red jacket may have actually been just what was needed.

Once outside, he was stunned to see his carriage still parked near the front, Antonio asleep at its helm. He rushed down the steps and looked in the back of the carriage, then shook his driver awake.

"Antonio!" he hissed. "Where is she?"

The driver stirred, surprised to see his master so soon, and without his jacket.

"Signor...?" he stared blankly.

"A sweet young lady, delicate as a flower, in an indigo dress and wearing my jacket."

Antonio's blank stare didn't abate, and it was clear to Raphael that his driver hadn't seen her.

Another driver nearby stepped forward, however.

"Mi scusi, signor," he spoke quietly and respectfully, pointing down the main street, "but the lady you speak of walked that way only a few minutes ago."

Raphael nodded in gratitude, then rushed in the direction Eleanora had left, not the least bit impressed that she was braving the streets of Venice at night on her own.
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