With one shaking hand, Kiannah pushed the curtain away, taking the opportunity to feel the thick, blood red fabric, before stepping quickly into the wings. Her heart jumped into her throat as she saw how many people there were backstage, each one of them bent on completing their own individual task. One woman was hell-bent on finding a man named Gregory, and did not care how loudly or how many people she had to ask about him. A small weasel of a man with a moustache that resembled a caterpillar stepped forcefully into Kiannah’s path, cutting her off. This was the Opera master, the most respected and yet the most dull and dreary character in the country.
“And where do you suppose that you are going?” he asked, his nose twitching with irritation.
“Which way to Salem’s dressing room?” she blurted out, before her head could stop her. The Opera master’s eyes widened in surprise, one eyebrow rose.
“No one other than me is to enter Master Salem’s room unless he has dictated so.” He said, defiant.
“I beg your pardon?”
“No one can see him unless it is his command.” His voice had dropped to a sarcastic tone a parent adopts when talking to a child. Kiannah placed a hand on his arm gallantly, a lent down to his eye level.
“But this is his command.”
The Opera master was clearly shocked. He took a step back from Kiannah like she had some form of disease. Without any subtlety, he picked her hand off of his sleeve and dropped it down to her side, disgust shining through every pore of his skin.So she’s one of those girls.
Glancing quickly at the watch her had pulled out of his pocket he sighed; since the social side of the Opera was just as popular as the music itself, the intervals of such stately events were long and arduous things. No doubt the champagne was still poring, tongues were still wagging and seeing as the Countess was in such poor disposition, feathers would also be flying. He raised his eyes once more to Kiannah, taking in her low cut gypsy dress (only slightly out of style with the masses) and he shining green eyes. At least if his judgment had been misplaced, how furious could Salem be?
After this final statement of defiance to his conscience, he raised a finger to Kiannah, bidding her to follow. They pushed through a seemingly endless crowd of slim girls and boys dressed fully in black. These were often referred to by society as the underlings, the underdogs, the minions etc. They were the orphans of the City who had been taken in by the Opera house. Their job was simple; aid all those who require it, move silently at all times and never be seen by the public. Kiannah remembered the outcry when a minion had fallen through the curtain and into the sight of the audience, and straight before curtain call.
Kiannah suddenly noticed that the floor had started to slope downwards. They were heading underground. The walls also changed, making the corridor narrower and darker. Ahead of them a black curtain hung from ceiling to floor, with a low red light gleaming dully from behind it, which the master pushed to one side, silently bidding her inside. She took the curtain in her hand and turned to face him, giving him a nod, watching him walk away.
A light breeze seemed to be coming through the corridor. It blew gently past her, blowing her into the curtain. She watched her hair sway gently in Salem’s direction. Realization hit her. What am I doing here?
“Please, enter.” A deep voice as smooth as water rippling over a brook appeared from behind the curtain. Kiannah steeped inside with one quick breath, gasping at what she saw inside. Despite the glow seen from outside, the walls were such dark shades of blue that they almost appeared black. Torches hung on the walls, giving off strange blue flames, highlighting the figure that sat in the chair at the back of the room. The shadows that fell across his face hid his eyes in darkness.
“I did not think that you would come. You surprise me, and that is a very rare quality.” He motioned quickly with his hand, and a minion appeared with a chair in hand, and set it down behind Kiannah. “Please, sit.” She sat down gingerly, suddenly terrified. “I have a feeling that there is something you wanted to ask me. There is not much time until I have to be onstage, so I humbly suggest that you get it off of your chest.”
“I want to know who you are, and what it was that you tried to do to me in the theatre.” She said, not a quiver in her voice.
“That is not a question. But in view of the circumstances I will try my best to answer.” A coy smile appeared on his face. He leaned back lazily in his chair, unfolding his arms. “I am, of course, Salem. I am an Opera singer. And as for whatever you are accusing me of, I’m sure I do not know what you are talking about.”
“I think you do, and just so you know, I will never yield to you.”
A sudden burst of laughter erupted from his lips, making him uncharacteristically cheerful. It was very unnerving.
“How very charming, you say that as if I need your permission and co-operation, of which I need neither. If I need something I take it. Luckily for you I require nothing. You were simply another human to be conquered. If I had wanted you I would have taken you.”
“I would not be so certain of that.”
With impossible speed Salem had leapt from his chair and within the blink of an eye had pushed away her chair and pressed her against the wall, his lips poised at her neck, one hand holding both of hers to his chest.
“Maybe I should simply rip out your throat now and save myself the bother. If your blood tastes as sweet as your thoughts, then I am in for a most pleasant treat. When I sent you those thoughts I had never dreamed you would be so responsive.. And so loud! All of your thoughts are like screams. No matter. I might enjoy draining a psychic.”