Anders broke from his trance, finally seeing eyes, eyes everywhere, just eyes in paper faces, staring at him. They were protected by their masks while he was naked, utterly naked and alone, vulnerable. He covered his face with his hands, whispering, pleading.
“Please, give it back. Give it back!” He sobbed, and then all at once, time sped up again, and everyone was rushing for him.
He cried out and ran, ran blindly through the crowd, hands tugging at his clothes, ripping the expensive silk to shreds - the beautiful garment his husband had loved so much. He screamed, uncontrolled, unabated, as he ran from the great hall.
Mitchell’s head was spinning. It was hard to breathe, hard to form a clear thought. The ball – his carefully prepared gift for Anders’ name day – had ended in a mess. The grand atmosphere, the laughter, the dance, everything had collapsed like a brittle house of cards. For a heartbeat or two pure chaos reigned in the great hall: words, whispers, shouts, the rustling of gowns and the scuttling of feet, and in this chaos Mitchell lost track for a split second. He saw Anders running away, but even with vampiric speed he wasn’t fast enough to catch him. The crowd swept forward like a wave, gawkers were pushing to the front line, soldiers were trying to hold them back, the marshal was shouting orders, all the while Mitchell frantically tried to push his way through the nigh impenetrable wall of bodies.
Anders ran – through empty corridors – everyone was at the ball; out into the yard, crossing it, in thin sandals and his flimsy clothes, through the gate – where were the guardsmen at this hour? – out, out, across the bridge and into the night, unmasked, naked, his golden gown billowing behind him.
Lauren’s green gown flashed up for a second and was gone again – Mitchell had had to let go of her when the commotion began, unable to deliver neither the speech he had in mind nor the much-desired blow to her arrogant face. The sea of people swallowed her, and she was gone. More and more people filtered into the ballroom as news of the incident spread like wildfire.