The tyrant’s ball

The musicians played beautifully, their practiced pieces bouncing through the halls of the palace. Men in their velvet brocades and starchy linen blouses paraded through, guiding their ball-gowned women in the intricate steps of traditional dances. The full silk and taffeta skirts swished and swayed, sweeping lightly across the smooth-as-glass-floor.

The royals, a high prince and his lady, sat upon a dais, high above the crowd. They observed the festivities through jewel-encrusted binoculars, held to their eyes by servants in black crushed velvet. Murmured conversation passed between the two, decisions of life and death, the balance of the kingdom in question.

Flickering light wavered through the crowd of dancers, yellows and reds twisting and cavorting in time to the music. Painted, feathered, and jeweled mask-covered faces turned to the dais as the revelers passed, a quick bow or nod to acknowledge the royals sitting in judgement.

Beneath the plexiglass floors, four stories down, battles raged and fires burned. Cries of anguish and terror drifted into the silence of distance. Charred velvets and stinking silks drifted along in a heat-fueled vortex of air, ash flung far and wide.

With a nod, a wink, or wave of a hand, the high prince decided who lived and who flew. Soldiers moved, untouched in the crowds, to escort the lucky few. Men and women, unfit for the new order, pushed to join the battle, fodder for the usurper’s war.

In velvets and silks, cotton and taffeta, the unwilling soldiers in a tyrant’s crusade, died by the hundreds, their blood cementing his resolve, building his walls.

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