A Maidstone Production.

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Original poster


Shinedown - The Sound of Madness.

"Yeah, I get it,
You're an outcast.
Always under attack.
Always coming in last,
Bringing up the past.
No one owes you anything.
I think you need a shotgun blast,
A kick in the ass,
So paranoid. . .
Watch your back!!"

The birds, black blotches within tress left her somewhat uneasy. Their cawing and cackling echoed in the growing dark, the only light being the few lanterns set to distinguish the path of Natalia's manor. The lights reflected a golden glow off the cars that drove along slowly, the never-ending trail of guest. In the darkness of nighttime the mansion and it's illuminated windows were an impressive sight, silhouetted against the moon light like a crumbling, dangerous beast. Abandoned over half a century ago, Maidstone's Manor was now indulging in another yet eventful night. The mansion was most famous for the gardens that it had out front; always kept neat and tidy, always a gardener working away in the hot slaving sun; though the mansion itself was now a blackened ghost of its' former self; brier brambles clawed their way up the mansions' walls, dead and gray, tapping at windows and clogging drainpipes. The lawns were left to run wild and now, at their deepest; Natalia was going to try and relive the mansions' dreams.

The guests started climbing the walk way towards the entrance of the manor. Hoping that with the invitation received in the mail, they would be easily let in. Of course they didn't have to worry about identifying themselves; for everyone already knew what everyone was, for their race. Once they've reached the outside of the manor, a man that stood about 6 feet or so stood at the door with one hand behind his back; dressed in a tuxedo of black color, and a bow tie that just stuck out under the flaps of his collar. He nodded his head once as the first guest handed him their invitation. Inside the manor, the walls were of stone, and brick. A fire place on the far side of the main floor, and a few end tables that had nothing on them except saucers for the glasses that were passed around that evening. A stair well, that lead upstairs, swirled around as if it were leading to somewhere special. Only though the upstairs contained, 3 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, and 2 master bedrooms with a door on the end, leading to the balcony outside; where music could still be heard, and the people's laughter.

Further inside the mansion, you came across the ball room. A room that was lit with different sized candles and a chandelier that hung from the ceiling which swung just a tiny bit, to show some effect. On the side of the room were the tables for vampires, were blood. For humans and the rest; shrimp, finger sandwiches, quiche, nuts, a chocolate fountain, and some strawberries, were on the far table across from the blood. Though there's enough to go around for everyone. If you wanted something special to eat, all you have to do is ask one of the waiters that are at hand, to get your message to the chefs in the back.

Nataliya stood at the top of the stairs, as the guests started to enter into the mansion. Things were going to be interesting tonight. While dressed in her long blue dress, with a peacock neck, her hair was tied up into a few small twists and then a bun at the back neatly pulled away. The dress reached her feet, as a few large waves creased up the front of it. With short sleeves and some beads hanging from the sleeves, she continued to stand there placing her hand on the railing of the staircase making her way down into the front lobby to greet the people as they entered in.
Catreis A'Vandais looked once more in the mirror before getting up from her vanity table, and smoothing out her dress. She was beautiful, stunning, gorgeous! And it was all thanks to Lorenth, her personal designer. Catreis was always wearing the most expensive and sexy dresses, and beacause of Lorenth, no one ever wore the same dress as her, and every dress he made always came out eviously stunning. Every high class party she had ever attended, she was always the best dressed, and the most beautiful, so, of course, for this particular ball, she was absolutely gorgeous beyond comparison. Catreis was very excited to have found out that her best of friends, Natalia Deroches, was having a ball, and a masquerade ball, at that. Natalia knew how much Catreis loved masquerade balls, so the volumptous vampire had to wonder whether or not she had done it for her. Catreis looked at the mirror at herself again and sighed. She had promised, and Natalia made her swear not to upstage her at the ball with one of her gorgeous dresses, and, yet, here she was, doing it anyway. Oh, she'll get over it, I'm sure. It's not like It's that big of a deal. She knows that I have to be prettier than everyone else. It's been that way for years now! She'll get mad, I'll apologize, and everything will turn out wonderful! Catreis laughed to herself, her beautiful, wavy, dark brown hair, falling in beautiful tresses to the middle of her back. This was going to be an amazing night, she could tell. She looked down at her simply gorgeous red dress. It was long, flowing in ruffles, all the way down the floor. Complete with a diamond brooch at the waist, and beautiful beading at the chest. She slipped on the matching red gloves that went to her elbows, and turned toward her maid servants that had been standing behind her gazing in awe the whole time. "Quit looking dumbfounded, and tell Sebastian, I'm ready," she ordered.

Lorenth quckly followed Catreis down the stairs and slipped a very small, fur cover over her shoulders. "It's brown and compliments the whole dress mi'lady!" he exclaimed, following her towards the limo. Catreis smiled at him, solemnly. "Thank you, once again, for making me such a magnificent dress! I'll be sure to get plenty of compliments for you at the ball," she said, touching his cheek with the palm of her hand. Lorenth blushed in response, and as Catreis went through her handbag, she noticed her mask was missing. "Abigail! Genevieve! Where is my mask?" she shouted towards the servants at the front of her stately mansion. The servants ran quickly inside the house, and into her bedroom to grab the mask. "Can't very well go to a masquerade ball without a mask," she said softly while flicking her hair back and behind her shoulders. After retrieving the mask from her servants, Catreis stepped inside her limo delicately. As her chauffeur quickly closed the door behind her, and plopped in front of the wheel, Catreis had to ask, "What is the time, my good man?" "11:00 exactly, ma'am," he replied. Catreis was late by an hour and a half. Good! She loved being late beacause she'd be the last person to come in, meaning that as soon as she stepped into Maidstone Manor, all eyes would be on her and her remarkable beauty. And that is exactly what she wanted. As the limo drove through the streets, the night sky filled with stars beaming down on the world, alongside the moon. Looking over her invitation, she knew who would be there, and not just beacause Natalia let her take a peek at the guest list, but she was a popular face around this town, so she knew everyone and everyone knew her.

The limo came to a gentle stop, and the 27-year-old (in human years), vampire took a deep breath. This was it. Although she couldn't figure out why she was so nervous since she had attended hundreds of parties, balls, and social gatherings before. And in every last one, she was the center of attention. But who couldn't resist the temptation of talking with the beautiful, rich, and sophisticated Catreis? She was the envy of every woman and all men, even humans, couldn't resist a night with her. With all of these thoughts in mind, she gracefully got out of the car accompanied by her chauffer, and walked up the walkway of Maidstone Manor to the entrance. The 6 foot man standing at the door nodded amicably at Catreis after eyeing her beyond gorgeous attire, as she pulled out her invitation, handing it to him. After looking over the card, he opened the door, allowing Catreis access to her 489th party. Catreis sighed and smiled. She slipped on her glittery mask and stepped inside, and as she had predicted, all eyes instantly fell on her. All the women whispered in jealousy at her gown, and all the men stared awestruck at her lovely curves. She had done it again, and Lorenth would be instantaniously exhilrated when she would arrive back home in the morning. As Catreis stepped forward gracefully to take in the atmosphere, she noticed someone in a pretty nice blue dress with a peacock neck. I wonder who that could be? And when the stranger turned around, Catreis' smile vanished. It was Natalia, and from the looks of it, she wasn't too happy. Catreis sighed and walked on over. She had some explaining to do.
Mary-Lou smoothed her dress for the seventh time in as many minutes, turning sideways on in front of her mirror. Paranoia. Her dress fit her nicely, and truth be told, looked rather pretty, but she was hardly confident in her appearance. From across the room, Seba raised an eyebrow at her, patiently waiting for her to finish adjusting herself as he threw on his mask - a black mould that fitted perfectly onto the right of his face - and his customary cape before opening the door. Minutes passed, and he finally approached her, a look of faint amusement crossing his face.

"Come, child. It is high time we left, or we shall be late." Mary-Lou glanced up at him, then back at the mirror, smoothing her dress once more for good measure before stepping back. Seba wrapped her in the folds of his cape until they reached their car, keeping her from sight. She was still in her hometown after her blooding, and he was overly wary of letting other see her. Only when they had stepped into their car did he allow her free again. She stared into the front, watching the dials move and the little lights flash.

Arriving in front of the Manor, Seba shook Mary-Lou from her trance before stepping out of the car himself. Mary-Lou shoved her own mask on as an afterthought, a cute little white and silver thing that left the majority of her face visible. She then scrambled out after Seba, her actions hardly elegant, catching up to cling onto his arm and smile up at him. "You told me yourself that I should stay close; if I hold onto you then logically I can't go anywhere." Her enthusiasm shone in her face as she tightened her grip and turned her eyes to the Manor itself.

"Calm yourself, child. We are not even inside yet." The pair of them walked past the suited man without problems and entered just after Catreis; Mary-lou stared at her as they walked past, Seba carving a path towards the vampires' tables. Mary-lou needed to acclimatise to the atmosphere of the ball, he had decided, and he would keep her busy at the tables until she was. She was still gazing mindlessly around, eyes flitting between extravegant decorations and costly ball gowns, drinking in the vibrant colours.
Agravaine was already well into a second flute of champagne, which he balanced carefully between his two fingers. He was observing this party from behind his mask. The women at this party seemed tasteless and gaudy so far, and possibly too aware of their own, faux elegance. The men were bland, and thus, the devil was unimpressed. He was, after-all, afflicted with an ennui that was both great and terrible, allowing him to be subjective and forcing him to not find pleasure in very many things. The devil didn't let such things bother him, ennui was actually useful in the Hells, it made the misery bearable and the berable miserable. In the end, it evened things out.

He watched as the first vampire woman, Catreis, entered the room. He watched with some disdain as the lesser people fawned over her. Agravaine could never see himself fawning over anybody like that. He adored, he charmed, but he did not fawn, not even when he professed to be in love. Besides, all that attention tended to go to women's heads. He sipped his champagne, and then watched as the second vampire entered the room. She seemed young and innocent enough, and maybe saw through the gilded quality of this affair. Howeber, he couldn't help but think 'Vampires,' to himself, 'Always the vampires.' He had underwent poor experiences with them in the past. The devil shrugged and finished his champagne, setting it neatly on the table.

Agravaine walked over into the crowd, brushing past ball gowns and tuxedos. He was dressed in a scarlet, velvet suit with a small black mask, his usual attire for all occasions. He smiled at Nataliya, and got down on his knees in-front of her, took her hand, and kissed it, managing to execute the action like a perfect gentlemen. He had plenty of practice with aristocracy. He had made many deals with them in the past. None of them had ended up well for them, but they had loved him for it while all the while they were digging themselves into a deeper grave.

"Milday," he said gently to his host, "I am Agravaine of The Nine Hells. I was honoured to receive your invitation."
No one believed anymore. Married to their machines and scathing science, humanity had outgrown the age of magic and mystery. Certainly some still grasped, snapping at the fleeting myth of Bigfoot or ghosts, but the rational world scoffed at their attempts and jibed that if it cannot be seen, it likely does not exist. Even religion had lost its potency. Monotheistic dime-a-dozen churches springing from the urban jungle like weeds, painting the lives of cold science with the ironies of sustained worship. Humanity, as a whole, had become boring. The 'system' grouped people in pretty little categories, logical jobs for a an organic robotic existence. Through it all? Mankind suckled at the teat of mass media, exercising their sense of wonder in scenarios created only for entertainment.

At some point, humanity had lost its integrity and place as a fearful race.

They were the weed grown strong in a mismanaged garden, the ant that bravely scurries onto the dinner plate and is not killed. In short, man was due for some apocalypse to put them in their place.

Gravel groaned under the limo's thick tires, the glistening panther of a car pulling along the entrance to the mansion with ease and care. The windows were, of course, tinted...an air of mystery to otherwise spark wonder in a mind devoid of questions. Beyond its windows, the mysteries of the universe may lay in wait, or just another guest to an already odd party. Only a minute passed before the front door slid open. The driver slid from his leather seat with practiced care, striding along the length of the car to place one gloved hand over the door handle. His eyes were obscured by thick lenses, a tailored suite otherwise obscuring his painfully thin body. His skin had the consistency of dried oatmeal, and much the same color.

Death followed him in an odor, a cloyingly sweet scent of decay and disuse moldering without care.

Since his exit of the vehicle, his narrow chest had not risen once.

Opening the door, it revealed a plush interior, swabbed lightly in shadow. Beyond that? Another figure, smaller and with a hat set precariously against the crown of his forehead. An ivory-tipped cane preceded him, stabbing the earth with the vigor of the first conquistadors, claiming the land for Spain.

Leaning, more for effect than support, the master of the limo rose and greeted the air with a grin. Pale-faced, dressed head to toe in black, he was an undertaker with a flair, the grim reaper modernized. The driver bowed once, a stiff and cracking motion almost more painful to watch than to execute and the master waved him off.

It was now that the stiff and hesitant movements of the walking corpse were more pronounced, the fading light catching its skin and seeping through the cracked rot spiderwebbing across its skin. With mindless precision, it stepped back into the vehicle, moving it to the side in order to wait for its master to return. The undead lived lives of blissful ignorance, time itself held no more meaning to them than the off and on of a light. Eternity was only managed with the most limited of brain functions.

True resurrection was ridiculous...who REALLY wanted to be immortal anyways?

Well...vampires...but their existence was a silly storybook imagining of bottled sex and pretty cannibalism...he barely counted them.

The invitation was made out to an acquaintance of his, a Cyril Langston by name, Ambernuss by another. Unfortunately, Cyril had run afoul of a demon three months ago and had left only the burned edges of his favored hat behind, a Jets cap sitting neatly on a pile of ash. The invitation was left in the open, half opened. It seemed a shame to let such a possibility waste away with a deceased fool, so Jack had taken it upon himself to attend in his friend's stead.

Why he hadn't invited was a thought that, while annoying, he had pushed to the back of his mind. Vampires, ESPECIALLY the blue bloods, had a thing for summoners or raw elemental magics. Something about the possibilities seemed to tickle their stilled pulse and set their eyes hungrily on each and every minor cantrip uttered. It was a shame most of them hadn't the ability to use real magic, and when pushed to answer...most mages had as much clue as the vampires.


How can undead mages, called liches, cast spells yet the vampires could not? No easy words for the coffin-dwellers.

Them's the breaks.

Kessel's area of expertise made most beyond-deathers nervous. Necromancy was black magic for a reason, of course, apparently it was taboo to mess with any dead thing...mobile or not. Bunch of magic prudes, the lot of them. Experimenting beyond the cessation of life was essential to understanding the whole damn cycle. Kessel supposed it was understandable, of course, that vamps avoided the topic like a plague. They'd skipped the bill on the platter of life they ordered and any mention of reinstating that reaper's scythe sent the cowardly leeches scurrying for the shadows. Other mages disdainfully called it 'dirty' magic, and mortals immortalize the practice with all their damn villains. What was it about raising shambling bones bent on consuming living flesh that made necromancers seem so damn awful? Nothing...that's what. Except the grave robberies....and maybe zombies, but in the biz...so to say, necromancers called them the Walking Dead. Calling them zombies was treading on a shaman's job description and those suckers KNEW how to hurl a curse.

Adjusting the hat on his head, Kessel Coal (For that is what, in his magnanimous sense of self, he chose for himself) strolled to the door. High necromancer, hell...probably the best of the cult-y lot back in the city, but tonight he was Cyril, a mage of summoning and elemental ice. He doubted any of these jokers had seen Cyril (reclusive bastard) so he might as well have been him. Certainly he seemed a little young-faced for a forty year old mage, clean shaven his pale face was unmarred and almost carved of gentle marble. The black mask was a florid half-skull, his own oily black hair spilling over the top in some strange shelf of hair. The teeth and outlines stitched in silver, he was a macabre creature neither living nor dead...he'd either fit in with the vampies or make those poor bureaucrats shiver in their thousand dollar suites...death was something to scoff at or fear, rarely both.

Depended on the vampire really, he'd seen both.

Killed both too.

But that was an old story.

The man at the door stared at the invitation a full five seconds longer than normal, relegating the mage inside with a steady suspicious gleam in his dark eyes. Kessel matched the gaze defiantly, his black eyes glittering with confidence...perhaps malice...but mostly just confidence.

Entering the front hall, he slipped beyond the floridly dressed vampires...doing well to stay within the background of the other guests. His cover story probably needed work, and he would need to explain his presence eventually.

But first...the REAL reason he came.

Free food.