Hoping to be back tomorrow,
The prospect of seeing the rain was too alluring for Amy to resist, so she set down her glass of water and got up to go to a window. She hoped not to attract any attention as she stepped away, but as she moved farther from the dance floor she got the feeling that more and more of the party-goers were turning to stare at her, wordlessly.
Halfway to the windows, she nervously looked around, and was alarmed to see that the ballroom had grown even dimmer and more empty. Only a small number of people remained, and even those had a sort of ghostlike un-present quality to them like... like paintings.
Paintings. The idea seemed pertinent, but she couldn't put a finger on why. Her sense of wrongness remained, however, and as she turned and walked the rest of the short distance to the windows, she chewed on the idea. At last she reached a window near a small servants' door, after what felt like minutes, and she could see the rain pasting the windows in sheets. It was a downpour of cool water, so intense that the warm inside of each pane was misting.
The furious purity of the rain outside made her feel free, and in a flash she remembered what she had so nearly forgotten: The prince was no prince; he was a painting, a replica, an imitation. The hall was empty, the chandeliers dormant, the phonograph a poor substitute for an orchestra. She whipped around to confirm her suspicions, and as she did, she witnessed the last of the enchantment faded away.
Around the painted prince the circle of fawning noblemen evaporated abruptly. Surprised, he turned his head to look straight at her, the peculiarly bright white eyes driving into her across the distance. A gasp escaped Amy's lips as he turned his body and began to walk towards her through the dark ballroom with purpose, his strides impossibly long, his pace insidiously quick. He seemed almost two-dimensional now, a flat facade for his illustrated enchantment, and he moved across the ballroom floor and between the tables in a way that a normal person could not.
Deathly afraid now, Amy backed up against the wall by the window in panic, her heart as cold as the driving rain, as the painted prince advanced upon her. Desperately she half-turned and tried to open the servants' door, feeling the wrathful eyes of the prince and sure that he was nearly upon her. After three violent shakes of the handle, the thick door flung open and she was drenched by the onslaught of vengeful rain. Without any hesitation she hurled herself through.
She leapt into a cobblestone courtyard, surrounded by walls and tall trees and a gateway leading around the keep in each direction. Her beautiful dress was drenched instantly and clung to her, hindering her movement. She made it halfway through the courtyard to a statue of a fish and slipped, falling to the ground. She was sure the fall had cost her, and turned back to look at the door into the keep.
A man stood there in the doorway, radiating anger, but he dared not come directly out into the rain. It had already soaked him where he stood, and Amy could see the paint dripping off him. In moments the painted prince was gone, leaking into the cobbles, and the stark figure of the man in white remained. He plainly realized his ruse was past recovering and after one final look, he grasped the door's handle and heaved it shut, disappearing from view.
As if awaiting that signal, the intensity of the rain lapsed until it was no more than a sprinkle. A few rays of sun peaked out from behind the gray clouds as if in reassurance. It mattered not; Amy welcomed the relief of the rain, and had to take a minute to process how nearly she had come to succumbing to the man in white's illusion.
How will Amy proceed next?
Navigate to somewhere warm to wait out the rainstorm.
Never let an enemy out of her sight: Peer through the windows into the ballroom.
Nothing is as important as Irena; find a way outside the keep to the garden entrance.
It's been lots of fun writing for you. If all goes according to plan, our dear AJ should return to helm the story once again with the next passage. I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to regale you!