At the top of the staircase, a magnificent palace loomed above them. Its white limestone walls dominated the picturesque landscape. The windows glowed with light, and flickered with the shadows of those inside. A steeple made for a stoic crest. Perched atop the plateau, and the sea, it was an architectural wonder.
The base of the palace featured a sprawling courtyard. There lay a scene that would have made Dionysus marvel with delight. Dozens of guests (all in costume) milled around picnic tables lit with torches, as waiters weaved through the crowd carrying food and refreshments. A live band played from a stage. There were burlesque dancers, and jugglers. Trapeze artists and tumblers. A woman wearing a boa, and a man who breathed fire. And a clown.
She gazed out in awe at this spectacle. Feeling out of place, she clung to the stranger’s arm as he led her through the fray. Soon they were at the steps of the palace.
“Good evening, sir!” said the man at the palace door. He turned to her. “I see you have brought a guest with you?”
“I have,” the stranger responded.
“Well then. The more the merrier,” smiled the doorman. He bowed and gestured inside. “Please, come in, and make yourself comfortable.”
The palace was brightly lit, and filled with the most elegant decorations. Statues and fine paintings adorned every room and hallway. Many of the paintings were of the dead, but the palace was very much alive. Everywhere she looked, costumed guests were loitering, walking, chatting, laughing.
The stranger led her down a spacious marble hallway. As they continued, she could hear the distinct sound of violin music. It grew louder and more urgent with every step.
At last the hallway opened up into a foyer, girded with railing. An enormous chandelier hung over a ballroom dancefloor on the story below. Peering down from the railing, she saw rows of masked couples stepping to the rhythm of a heated violin. It was a style of dancing she had never seen before.
Abruptly, the music stopped. Applause erupted from the foyer.
“What type of dance was that?” she whispered to the stranger.
“It’s called the Paso Doble,” he answered quietly, staring out at the dancefloor. “It is a French dance with the character of a Spanish bullfight. Not for the faint of heart.”
He turned to her. “Would you like to go down there?”
“Okay,” he said. “But first, you’ll need to follow me.”