Written for [livejournal.com profile] buhfly's Halloween Challenge.

***** ***** *****

It's never been the sort of event that advertises. There were no flyers, no posters, not even a few discrete lines in a specialist magazine. The only reason I found out about it is because I have a good memory even when I'm drunk. Drunk and exceedingly well fucked, in this case, and apparently my companions of the evening – old friends but not a couple, on the lookout for new blood to play with, both well hung, and sure of what they wanted – had assumed I was too far gone to be listening. It's never been the sort of event that advertises, but apparently knowing the right name and the right shop, and being willing to drop a significant amount of cash – no credit card records please – is enough to secure an invitation. Or it was, four years ago. I doubt it's that simple any more.

*****

Have you ever noticed how threatening facelessness can be? Youths with their hoodies pulled up, hanging out in packs under the street lights, and kids with plastic masks demanding candy with menaces? Those Scream masks that every other unimaginative fucker thought counted as a costume for Halloween last year? It's unsettling, isn't it? Not being able to see who they are, what they're thinking. Me, I like that.

I like the anonymity, yes, but I like the little curl of fear that never quite goes away better. The adrenaline edge to your thoughts while you're trying to work out what's going on behind there and what you should do next, and how you should do it to get the result you want. It's power play really.

Now, I should set you straight, most of the fetish scene bores me rigid. It's bored me in thirteen cities and two continents, so I'm pretty sure it's me, not that the local clubs are particularly awful. It's just the clientele seems to be mostly breeders looking to spice things up with a little Anne Summers PVC or miss-wired pain freaks. Master / slave, dom / sub top / bottom – it's all so binary and boring. Each to their own, but that's not my thing. Not my kink. So why keep going back, in thirteen cities over two continents? Because the scene does provide something I want. It provides a framework, pretty much, a gathering point for people who do share my own particular interests.

I started off with glory holes, but I find there's something depressingly mechanical about it, once the first forbidden thrill's worn off. Masked, yes. Hidden, concealed, yes, mostly anonymous, yes, but I find that even I want to know more about a trick than whether he moisturises his hands and if anyone's ever told him to keep his teeth covered when he's doing that. When I was 19 it was hard to separate the threads. Now I'm ten years older, not so much.

I've had relationships too – lived with Marco and met his family, even - but I have to be honest and that sort of togetherness is neither what I want nor what I need. Breakfast in bed and regular sex with someone who knows you and can make you laugh isn’t something to be sneezed at, mind you. It's very nice, but it's not perfect either.

It's taken me a long time to make my peace with that.

I liked it well enough, but it doesn’t meet my needs and it takes a lot of energy, especially when you work in the industry I'm in. 16 hours days and international meetings are hardly the stuff of Harlequin romances, and I have to be honest. I've found that lying, either actively or by omission, is just banking pain with interest for the future.

I'd reached that conclusion eighteen months or so before I met Greg and Nick at one of Carlos' back room bashes, and a few hours later, sated and heavy limbed from the alcohol and orgasms, that's when I first heard about the Marquis' parties. You could say that that's where it started.

Just the little that I could gather from Nick's comments – invitation only, high quality gatherings for those of us with very specific preferences – gave me that tingle. Don’t get me wrong, Carlos throws events that most organisers don’t have the imagination to dream of, and for the most part they've been excellent arenas to meet partners with compatible kinks, but these Marquis events just sounded – more. If nothing else the setting Nick sketched in negative sounded like a very pleasant change from endless warehouse clubs and black-lit back rooms. Quality furnishings might sound like such a prudish thing to care about, but when you reduce your world to pure sensation, the details make all the difference. And, of course, there's always an allure about the private and restricted.

That the invitations didn’t seem that hard to get was almost a disappointment, but then again, I'd been around the scene here for the best part of six years before I'd heard whisper of these parties, so maybe I just got lucky. I've certainly never mentioned them to anyone myself, at least, not before now. Why now? Well – you'll see.

So I went to a shop that I knew. Patent and Nue's, which was over on Deacon Street then, and I took my time building up to asking. Stood there like a tourist running my hand over the supple leather on the rack, letting the scent of it settle inside me, and eyeing the metal plated masks above the till, until there was no one but me and Bella in the shop and she straight out asked me what I was after. "Actually, just tickets today"

She was on autopilot, reaching for the folder under the counter when I mentioned which tickets, and she froze. That little lick of curiosity in her eyes I still remember, the look someone gives you when you don't follow the expected path and they're wondering just what you know and what else you're capable of that they never forsaw. I do love that look, and she's a pretty tough cookie, so it just added to the sense I had that these parties must really be something.

The invitation itself only added to that – and every one I've received since has been just as desirable. They're quarterly events, and in the fall they offer a masked ball for Halloween. You do see why the idea appealed so much? Heavy cardstock envelopes, hand written calligraphy, ambergris and musk scented paper, a sleek black key card and those all important words "Masks must be worn – unveiling at midnight strictly optional." I stroked myself to completion with that stiff scented envelope on my chest more than once in the long weeks between purchase and party.

They do say that anticipation is the greatest part of pleasure, and there's a deal of truth to that. By the time I was driving out of the city, soft cotton jacket over my outfit, and the hatbox containing my mask carefully belted into the passenger seat, my skin was practically crackling with anticipation, nerves and lust together tightening in my belly. I remember driving over the bridge, with the street lights strobing past my window and Schubert's strings spiking through the speakers, and all the power of that V8 engine underneath me, wanting the evening so much I could taste it. It seems like a long time ago.

The Marquis' estate is – it's something out of a story made real. Acres of woodland surrounding a 1860's mansion, with all the out houses and manicured grounds you can imagine behind tall gates – hence the keycards - and discrete uniformed staff to valet the cars and coats. No staff to be seen inside though. Music piped through invisible speakers, and what felt like a hundred inter-connected rooms, upholstered and decorated and artfully lit so the bodies moving through them became magical creatures in their leather and feathers, metals and silks. I don’t think I'd ever felt so underdressed and overwhelmed. Certainly I hadn't in years, and I stumbled through it in a daze for hours, more watching than watched, certainly more prey than predator, and the novelty value of that was as intoxicating as the wine.

Clocks in several rooms chimed the witching hour and the ebb and flow of guests turned into a tide, all heading one way, and I let myself fall in with them, curios as to why they were gathering. I ended up pressed tightly against the bare muscled back of a broad shouldered black woman, with the feathers of an over tall angel-boy brushing my face, and a well matched couple wriggling together against me on the other side. It's a memory as clear as cut glass, the sex smell of the bodies pressed against me and the anticipation in the room, all those voices hushed and masked faces turned towards a central staircase. The music was quieted and as the clock chimed someone who I assumed was the pseudonymous Marquis entered the hall. I was most of the way to dismissing him as someone milking his position to bolster his self esteem - his costume was far beyond my own, but drab compared to some of the fancies on display, and his physique wasn't particularly striking – when he spoke.

"Good evening" he said, and to this day I've no idea what came after, but that voice has echoed in my fantasies ever since. Rich and deep, with spellbinding cadences, he had the whole room, men and women, in the palm of his hand, the charged atmosphere palpable, and within seconds the room was more of an orgy than any of the side rooms had been earlier in the evening. My last glimpse of the man on the stairs was him sprawled back against a crushed floral display, legs wide with a dark curled head working over his crotch, and a group of masked boys pushing and twisting to be the next to serve him. Me? I was about to be fucked by the broad shouldered woman, who's costume turned out to be nothing but her mask and strap on. They matched in carefully replicated cold, emotionless marble, and she glowed like a furnace when she moved over me.

The following February I was in Carlisle, Scotland, with only a glittering engraved glass invitation and a clear swipe card to fuel my imagination. The beginning of May was given over to a security project the details of which I'm legally obliged not to mention, if you follow, so it nine months until my next visit to one of the Marquis' gatherings. Midsummer's Night Dreams – if it's good enough for Heff, clearly it was good enough for the Marquis as well, and while the humid heat of the season might have affected costume choice, it certainly didn’t seem to affect attendance.

No, the Midsummer Night's Dream was all fairy lights and white draped marquees and woodland grottoes and fantastic fair folk – wings and wisps and body paint for a lot of people. It was sherbet and ice cubes on heated skin and a pair of twenty three-year-old twins with bronzed Bangladeshi skin and dark dancing eyes and makeup so magical it was almost as good as a mask. I have no recollection at all of the Marquis' grand centre piece, because the three of us never quite made it out of the plush tree-house they'd commandeered before plucking me from my path.

The second Halloween Masque was as inspiring as the first. Fantasy fodder for life, and a reality twice as mind blowing. What I had lost in innocence – nothing could have been as intoxicating as that first immersion – I made up in greater confidence; in selecting my outfit so as not to be out of place, in knowing how to find the metal gates without a map, and how to use the glossy key card without instruction. Just enough familiarity for me to step out with my frock coat tails flaring and my imported Venetian half mask at the perfect angle for the candle light to catch on the gemstones. I was determined that this time people would notice me and that I wouldn’t miss the midnight announcement. I wanted more of that voice, more of it's effects, and I was almighty curious about the mysterious Marquis. I tailored my flirtations accordingly – left an Iranian genie panting behind a secluded fountain as I walked away, licking delicately at the corner of my mouth, which lead to proposal in French to join a married couple. Refusing them caught me the interest of a dextrous cat-boy, his sleek costume so tight he'd had to be sewn into it, and so the evening swirled through pleasure and temptation until the clocks began to chime.

The central hallway hadn't changed all marble and red carpeted decadence, but the Marquis? Oh the Marquis had changed. Our host for the evening was no longer an insipid middle aged blond, but tall bear of a man, dark oiled curls framing his perfectly plain Noh mask. I wondered, after the event, how many people there even realised it was a woman's mask. At the time there was no room for anything so mundane. He was clearly a different individual, but his voice was that of the first Marquis I had seen, and the effects equally dramatic. Even with all my forethought I was still too far from the steps to be amongst the flock of guests who feasted upon the Marquis' pleasure, drawn down instead into my own. The memories are impressionistic – the original fragments overlaid with a haze of time – but there were girls and men, giving and receiving, and a heady disconnect between action and sensation that was somehow more than the sum of it's parts.

After that I redoubled my efforts to schedule my career around the Marquis' parties. I flew 14 thousand miles over three days to attend the next February, with a white latex surgeon's gown and mask packed between Saville Row suits, and the Marquis was short and muscled and filtering his voice through an oxygen tank.

For Mayday I was within driving distance, which permitted me to transport the carefully articulated dragonfly wings I had commissioned and spend a full twenty four hours in a hotel outside the city recovering from my indulgences. In May the Marquis was tattooed and pierced, and took only women although his voice reached all of us.

The more events I attended, the more the Marquis, the changing figure at the heart of the festivities, fascinated me. Fascinated and to some degree frustrated. The events themselves were clearly organised by a well co-ordinated team, every detail taken care of in a way that screamed of money and professionalism, so smoothly that unless you stopped to think about the logistics of several hundred cars, cards and sensualists, all concerned for their privacy and their indulgence. Equally obviously, however, the Marquis was not the same person from quarter to quarter, and the parties were not simply lavish and luxurious. No amount of costuming and performance could make the same man appear so different, but as far as I knew, no one had seen any of their faces, and the subject itself was something that most guests I spoke with seemed happier to ignore. Over time, my fantasies became explanations, and my explanations fantasies: magic, transformative surgery, secret societies, fairy tale princes and porn rings. Elaborate confections that only served to titillate further.

Midsummer saw me jet lagged and unhappy with the effects of too many long days behind a desk, which damped my appreciation for the feasts of flesh around me. I took refuge in an alcove off the sweeping staircase early in the evening, and with no additional stimulants in my system, the impact of the Marquis' entry was almost painful. Pleasure pain and ecstasy in aural form, and despite it all utterly unexpected.

The Marquis was Oberon, slender and dusky skinned and eyes made black with lenses as though he could see other worlds. All my masks – or all the masks I have had made, the ones that are purely mine – I keep, displayed around my home. The small gold-painted half mask I wore that Midsummer is an unlikely display piece, but it hangs on the wall, close to my desk, where I can lean out and stroke a finger across the top edge, where there's a chip from butting heads with a Cernunnous that night.

Another year's cycle of events, and another year of long hours and competing projects, and I was no closer to an actual answer, although I had a few more favourites amongst my fantasies for nights spent alone in identical hotel rooms. This year's May Marquis was an emaciated Christ, face obscured in layers of gauze, blood flowing real and gleaming from hands and feet and lacerated back. I was close enough to reach out and touch. Blood on my fingers and burning in my throat and throbbing through me. Revulsion adds an indescribably flavour to uncontrollable desire. My costume for this Midsummer was modelled on that of a Sicilian marionette.

My costume was that of a puppet, but I did return, although I turned that decision over a hundred times beforehand. I returned, and I spurned the lingering touches of the other guests, and I walked in enchanted gardens looking harshly for the mundane tricks that supported the illusion, and yet by midnight I was giddy and delighted with the young man on my arm, and crowding close around the stairs, stealing kisses here and there and waiting with anticipation tight inside me for the Marquis to be revealed.

I do not remember his costume, only that the lights were bright and the buzz of his voice in my blood made me gasp and that as the crowd surged forward I was there – right there – and taking his hips in my hands and the head of his exposed cock in my mouth was the most natural thing in the world. The sensation of his come in my throat, his hand on the pulse in my throat and my own orgasm drawn from me by unseen hands is the last and only thing I remember of that night.

It was morning when I awoke, and unlike all the other mornings, I was not entwined with bodies or sprawled on a couch or bed in a playroom. It was morning and I was clean and dressed and back in my own apartment, and utterly utterly disorientated. The reason, I convinced myself was drugs. Drugs and a team of well-trained staff dedicated to ensuring the smoothness of the Marquis' parties. Nothing else I could imagine seemed plausible to me then.

Perhaps a sane man would have stayed away after that; maybe even called in the police. I never said I was entirely sane.

Halloween had come, in four short years, to mean the Masked Ball. So I prepared for the Masque. I had been designing for months, and selecting craftsmen for years, and I finished out a contract in late August to dedicate nearly a full two months to shaping my body to suit my costume and perfecting my performance. The masked ball was my territory, and no disconcerting drug experience was going to distract me from my goal of making myself truly worthy of the Masque. I was driven.

Worthy.

It's funny how much can change in less than a season.

Ohh I was glorious that night – perched on gleaming metal fawn's legs, towering eight feet six, torso bare and oiled and drawn with dark swirled tattoos, and my face entirely hidden between helmet and face-plate, tusks and horns. Even in the rarefied company of the Marquis party I stood apart, and I revelled in the sight of all those faces, all those masks, turned towards me, the admiration clear.
It was before the Marquis's speech that the girl came for me. A waif of a lass, half buried in her uniform jacket and I recall that I was surprised to see a member of staff in the play rooms, but when she reached up to touch my elbow I didn’t think anything of it. I followed her lead, and when I thought that I'd been selected to meet the Marquis in private I almost stumbled on the stilts, my breath trapped in my throat. Waiting in the small anti-chamber I ran hands over myself, as though to check that everything was in place, and tried to control my breathing, not wanting to give myself away as an over eager acolyte.

I was not there to meet the Marquis. I was there to become the Marquis.

I don’t think I fully understood that even as they gave me glass after glass to drink and flunkies brushed hands lightly over my skin, drawing up my nipples and highlighting the trembling muscles of my thighs with fresh oil. Not until the doors swung open and three of the young men drew me forwards, onto the staircase, did it hit home, and I was almost sick with panic. The words 'Good evening' found me in desperation – one had to say something – and as I spoke something else took over, words spilling from me in a voice not my own, and a sensation like snakes under my skin, heavy and horrible, and my head was thrown back so I couldn't see and I was terrified.

Terrified and in pain with a hundred hundred souls shivering with my voice like silk velvet and fingers digging into my skin and hot breath on my groin and agony spearing my temples, my calves, my feet, my lungs burning as something that was not me, is not me, forced air and words through them. There was no merciful black out for me this time, only agony and orgasm, and everything that I though I knew about myself torn away. I was conscious when I killed the boy – Neil I know his name is now – and when I spilled my seed and cursed the next Marquis. I was aware of the crunch of his spine in my hand and the grind of bone and horn in my own skull. I was awake to feel my skin break and my flesh move and the prosthetic limbs fire nerves I shouldn’t have and to hear myself scream.

I am awake and in the months that have passed, I have not slept. I will not wake from this nightmare.
ext_12410: (Default)

From: [identity profile] tsuki-no-bara.livejournal.com


yikes. i didn't quite expect that.... very sensual and intriguing and rich, and a little creepy too. really good.

From: [identity profile] ephemera-tales.livejournal.com


I feel like the whole story was me putting off the final paragraphs of description, but if it worked at allm then I'm happy ;) Thank you

From: [identity profile] morgaine-x.livejournal.com


I truly did enjoy that. May I copy it to H?

PS Carlisle is in Cumbria - the English side of the border! :-)

From: [identity profile] ephemera-tales.livejournal.com


Of course you may, - thank you for wanting to - and thank you for the correction ;)

From: [identity profile] meridae.livejournal.com


Oh wow. That so does not suck! It's a feast of sensation . . . and while the curious cat in me wants the end explained (dammit!) I really think it doesn't need any explanation at all cos that would spoil it. Somethings are perfect just as they are.

From: [identity profile] ephemera-tales.livejournal.com


why, lady, it's magic. All that desire has to go somewhere, no?

Thank you hon.
ext_1650: (chris dark)

From: [identity profile] turps33.livejournal.com


Oh wow, that was just so rich and visual and just gorgeous.

You painted such a vivid picture of the scene that I could almost reach out and touch it. I didn't expect the end at all and it chilled me reading it.

This is a wonderful story, thank you.
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