Chapter 16: La Danse Macabre

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The hallway was full of gossips, their eyes daggers and their mouths full of fangs. They saw her leave the library, watched her with judgmental eyes as she made her way to the stairs and down. 

"Isn't that the Reneault girl?"

She ignored them. She only had to find Nicholas Lamoignon. She strode through the ballroom, where the music had swelled to a near-deafening volume. The musicians seemed to saw at their instruments, pound the keys, heave air through the woodwinds. The dance had become frantic, and Lucienne found it impossible to find a single recognizable face. And she realized the face she was looking for was Olivier's.

Stupid boy.

She approached a young man seated and gulping champagne. "Excusez-moi, do you know Nicholas Lamoignon?"

"Of course," the young man replied.

Lucie had chosen wisely; this boy held himself much like Nicholas did. She reached in her reticule and pulled out the note she had written upstairs. "Would you give this to him? Someone gave it to me to give to him, but I cannot find him and I must leave."

"So soon?" the young man said coolly. His eyes said that he knew she was Lucienne de Reneault and she did not belong here. Not any longer.

"I am feeling ill, after seeing that poor woman upstairs who died. They believe her champagne had been poisoned."

The man looked down into his glass with a frown.

She escaped into the dining room. That room was now dark, the table that had once held a cake gone. Had she imagined it, in some fever dream? It had not been a half hour since she had passed through here.

Suddenly there was a shriek behind her, and a lady tore through out of the ballroom and into the dining room and ran directly into the salon, screaming the whole way. Behind her, a man in a cloak gave chase, brandishing the cake knife and calling out, "Death has come for you, Elise! You may run, but you cannot hide from Death!" The hood had fallen back from his head to show his powdered hair in curls.

Lucie pressed a hand to her heart. This could not have been the hooded figure she had glimpsed upstairs. She was still not certain she had heard those words. The voice had been a soft, low whisper, the same voice as she had heard outside, only perhaps not so deep now.

"Que vivra, verra." For some reason the words reminded her of her sister, how she had interpreted them. "She who lives shall see."

More shrieking, and the girl came running from the ballroom again, this time with her hair undone, long streaming blonde locks with red ribbons tied and streaming too. Another girl came in then, and another, each with their hair loose, and they saw Lucienne and surrounded her. "He means to kill us!" they giggled and laughed. "He is Monsieur Guillotine!"

Lucie hugged her arms into herself as the girls clasped hands and danced about her. "Death has come for us!" they chanted.

The cloaked man, with his hood returned to his head, leapt into the room, brandishing his knife.

"You cannot hide from Death!"

With the hood on and the lights down low, the man's face remained in shadow, and Lucie watched him with wide eyes, wondering if he sung these words to her.

He snatched the arm of one of the girls dancing, and slashed at it with her knife. "Bastien!" the girl snapped, jerking her arm away from Death. "That hurt!"

"And it will hurt even more when I kill you!" Bastien let out a deep, menacing laugh.

The girls scattered, the now-bleeding girl calling over her shoulder, "You always take things too far, Bastien!" They headed into the salon, screaming their laughter.

"This is the Danse Macabre!" Bastien shouted back, but he did not chase. Instead, he looked at Lucie, who still had a hand on her heart. Only now, she had a different reason.

The knife, wet with dark blood, was pointed toward her.

"The Danse Macabre," Bastien snarled at her.

She would do it. She would stab this boy. She would gut him, spill his intestines out onto the parquet floor, if he so much as made a move toward her with that knife.

"The Danse Macabre!" he shouted, and with a whirl of his cape he was running off again.

He did not see Lucienne standing there in his wake, with her stiletto out and her breasts bleeding from the speed of drawing her blade. 

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