The story takes place at the castellated abbey of the "happy and dauntless and sagacious" Prince Prospero. Prospero and one thousand other nobles have taken refuge in this walled abbey to escape the Red Death, a terrible plague with gruesome symptoms that has swept over the land. Victims are overcome by "sharp pains," "sudden dizziness," and sweat blood. The plague is said to kill within half an hour. Prospero and his court are indifferent to the sufferings of the population at large. They intend to await the end of the plague in luxury and safety behind the walls of their secure refuge, having welded the doors shut. One night, Prospero holds a masquerade ball to entertain his guests in six colored rooms of the abbey. Each of the first six rooms is decorated and illuminated in a specific color: blue, purple, green, orange, white, and violet. The last room is decorated in black and is illuminated by a scarlet light, "a deep blood color". Because of this chilling pairing of colors, very few guests are brave enough to venture into the seventh room. The same room is the location of a large ebony clock that ominously clangs at each hour, upon which everyone stops talking or dancing and the orchestra stops playing. Once the chiming stops, everyone immediately resumes the masquerade.