I scrambled to get away from him and when I looked back, he had disappeared.
There was no sign of him anywhere amongst the crowd of people.
I realized that I could now hear the people again, smell the food, feel the heat of the chamber.
It would seem that we had returned to the proper dimension.
Perhaps Piett had stayed in that other universe, or maybe he just used magic to vanish in thin air.
I let out a sigh of relief.
It felt strange that Piett was the person Ravis was looking for.
The two men had little contact in the original story.
I was furious to learn that Piett was the one who had caused the emperor’s trauma.
I would need to let Ravis know everything that had occurred, when he returned.
I didn’t know if there was much that he could do, but every little bit helped.
As I waited for Ravis to return, I heard a familiar voice.
“Iona Why are you here” I spun around to face a man who I never wanted to meet again.
Russen Hedin, heir to Count Russen and my former master.
For some reason, he wasn’t wearing a mask and his robes were a mess of mud and leaves.
I stared at him as he stared back in amazement.
He then lunged forward and grabbed my wrist.
“Why did you do that” I asked, as I pulled my arm away.
There was no way that I wanted anything to do with this man again.
I was completely regretting ever coming to this masquerade.
If I hadn’t appeared in such a crowded place, so many people wouldn’t have approached me.
I decided this time to use my mask to my advantage and pretend I didn’t know this man.
I didn’t want to cause any more of a commotion.
Also, the ominous sensation had returned.
It wasn’t as strong, but it was still unpleasant.
“You seem to have mistaken me for someone else,” I said, though I was pretty sure he was convinced who I was.
“Are you really here” Russen babbled; his eyes wild.
“Please, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I looked for a way to escape.
I could still see the madness in his face.
“Are you talking That voice was made by me, my own voice! Why are you talking It’s mine! Your voice is mine!” His illness was not the same as the emperor’s trauma.
Russen suffered from an entirely psychological disorder.
He grabbed for my hand again.
“Let go of my hand.
If you don’t leave me alone, I will call the guards.”
His eyes flared with anger, as he gripped me harder.
“You’re a slave! How dare you!”
As Russen’s voice got louder, he started attracting the attention of the other guests.
The men and women of nobility were pointing at us and whispering.
The situation was becoming extremely dangerous.
I silently wished for the emperor to return but, as he was still absent, I needed to deal with this myself.
“Iona, I don’t know what happened, but it must be true what my father said.
You are living comfortably by selling your body to your Majesty!!”
“My body! What are you talking about” I couldn’t believe what he was saying.
He pulled me closer, almost yanking my arm out of its socket.
I lost my balance and toppled to the floor, twisting my ankle.
My entire body was in pain, especially because it was hard to break my fall while wearing a corset.
My wrist was on fire from where Russen had twisted it.
Trying to scramble away on all fours, Russen stalked me, his eyes on burning with a strange obsession.
He climbed on top of me and removed my mask, which fell to the floor as my platinum hair fell about my shoulders.
He looked at my face and smiled contentedly.
Then he placed his hands around my neck.
Time seemed to stop, as I watched the other guests crowding around us, but no one tried to intervene.
As his hands closed tighter, I heard my name called over the humming that had started in my ears.
I could hear Ravis’ voice shouting, but I couldn’t respond.
The nightmare was happening all over again.
The time that he had taken my voice.
“Iona, your voice will be mine forever!” he had whispered like a devil, his smile a poison infecting me.
It was a painful and cruel night, the night when the last of my hope left me.
Count Russen’s smile was as big and as sinister as that night.
“Iona, you’re mine,” he sneered as he pulled out a small dagger.
The silver blade flickered in the light of the lamps.
All I could think was that he was going to take my voice once more, so that I would never sing again.
I closed my eyes, trying to shut out the fear of what was going to happen.
“Let me go!” I screamed, struggling to push Russen off of me.
I didn’t want to lose my voice again.
I hated that I was helpless.
I hated that no one was helping me.
I hated this world I was currently living in.
I allowed myself to withdraw into my memories, back to a time when life had been good.
I had comforted the suffering emperor while living in the Imperial Palace.
It was when my life started becoming bearable.
I didn’t want to lose that. Please leave me alone! What did I do wrong! Why are you only doing this to me! The thoughts shrieked in my head.
I needed the only person that ever protected me.
As I clutched the wrist of the hands around my neck, I croaked out his name.
In an instant, the room erupted in screaming.
The hand that was slowly crushing the life out of me, released my throat.
I heard the man above me shriek as a warm liquid splattered across my face.
“Argh! My hand!” Russen was crying.
“How dare you touch Iona You obviously do not value your life.” I opened my eyes to find the emperor standing above me, shielding me from all those who would do me harm.