Disclaimer: You know the drill, folks: not mine. Not a drop of it.
Warnings: This story takes place five or so years following the events in the Time Paradox. As such, it will contain relevant spoilers.
Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, France
Sabine Marchix was anxious.
No, it had nothing to do with the pressing humidity that raged like a curse during the French summer. And no, it was not the overwhelming feeling of grandeur evoked by her lush surroundings or even the slow swish of lavish fabrics decking the guests that twirled around the wooden floors. It wasn't the grand and glorious décor that spanned the length of the full ballroom: the 17th and 18th century frescoes lining the ceiling and glittering chandeliers, nor the 800 hectares of carefully manicured gardens extending out behind the palace for as far as the eye could see. This was the twelfth time in all of Sabine's twelve and half years that the wealthy and famous Marchix family had rented the Hall of Mirrors for their yearly gala, after all. So no, that hadn't been it at all.
If Sabine's eyes weren't deceiving her, then it was a curiously incessant fantôme.
"That's ludicrous," commented Myles Fowl in what was his version of a comforting tone. "Surely I needn't remind you, Mademoiselle, that there are no such things as ghosts?"
She scowled prettily at the dark-haired younger boy. "I know that, dummy. I said: kind of like a ghost. Kind of. Besides she – it – had my face. I've seen it twice, Myles. And this is an old castle, after all."
She didn't want to admit it to her cynical classmate, but the night was certainly conducive to a ghost sighting or two – the thick humidity had been lingering all week and finally made good on its promise of rain at the start of their evening. Air conditioning was non-existent in Versailles, and the curators refused to allow any portable devices in for fear of damaging the priceless frescoes, but the Marchixes made up for this with flutes and flutes of instantly available chilled champagne and Rosé, not to mention mineral water and organic, cane-sugar sweetened juices for the younger attendees. But despite all this, the rain simply wouldn't be ignored, raging against the old windows brutally, the damp heat seeping in through every available crack and deflating skirts and bouffants alike.
The Marchix yearly social event was fairly regimental occasion – after Sabine finished the semester at the Académie Ste-Marie (and her yearly living stint in stuffy, downtown Paris), the soiree would usually follow. Smile, dance, smile, dance, smile -- you get the picture -- then the family would return to their summer home in Provence for two months of freedom. Collioure was a quiet paradise: a tiny, windblown village by the sea where her cat, Pissenlit, was waiting for her.
Enduring this night, however, was proving to be a considerably more taxing chore than Sabine had thought. "It looked just like me," she said, suppressing a shudder. "It was so creepy."
"A Doppelgänger, then? This wouldn't be a historical first." Myles Fowl was in the same grade as she was, despite being two years her junior. He was second in line to the considerable Fowl fortune and a family friend for as long as she could remember. Sure, he was a smarmy little know-it-all creep most of the time, but Sabine had always regarded him as the (annoying) little brother she had never had.
"Forget it, Myles," she sighed, picking up a crystal flute from a passing waiter and inclined her head in thanks. She needed air, torrential rain or not, and had every intention of poking her head out over the gardens. Just for a breath or two.
For Myles, the conversation was far from over. "No I cannot. Excellent timing, really, my brother and I were discussing this very subject a little while back. Doppelgänger, written with the customary capital letter for nouns in German, as well as the diacritic umlaut over the 'a'. John Donne and Abraham Lincoln were among the many who have reported seeing Doppelgängers of themselves. A bad omen, Sabine. I would heighten my vigilance if I were –"
What happened next stole the words right from Myles' mouth.
There was a crash, a bang, a deafening cacophony as a giant panel of glass imploded from some external force, the chandeliers near the ruined window swaying from the explosive shock in strange harmony. Lightning flashed in the distance, moments later the lagging rumble of near thunder. When everyone opened their eyes, there was a sea of silent shock, wet feathers, ruffles, silks and satin.
And one Myles Fowl, lying in a slurry of rainwater and broken glass, blinking at the empty spot where Sabine Marchix was no longer standing.
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