Disclaimer: I do not own The Phantom of the Opera, characters, places, etc. All rights belong to Gaston Leroux and their respected owners.

The Mask's Lament.


The Paris Opéra House, France

January 1882

Paris was the jewel of France. With its opulent display of beauty and architecture, its fellow European neighbours envied it. London and Madrid held no sway over the innate charm Paris freely offered—their citizens also flocked to the crowded streets of their nemesis.

With an endless foray of lavish parties, good wine, and female companionship, what man could deny himself the desire of living in such a wondrous city? Personal pleasure was far more important than loyalty to a country that offered nothing except taxes and extra fodder for the armed forces.

The Industrial World moved man from working in the fields to the factories. Farmlands were exchanged for a place in the city, and in most cases, a small place. Most worked in the underbelly of the city, striving to make ends meet, their lives cruelly placed in the working-class caste.

But despite the negative side of city life, many adored it. Those who lived in the life of luxury—the nobility—loved every moment. The city was a sphere of entertainment, gossip on fellow peers and new creations were the talk of the town. Paris was never dull, especially when an intriguing scandal spread through its circles like an addictive drug.

The usual affairs between lords and their mistresses and freshly tainted innocents ran the rumour mill. It almost became pedestrian to learn of a titled lady's fall from grace, the result being a good name highlighted with shame, and then, inexorably, disinherited.

Most young women who only had their good name protected it with their life, never allowing a man to bring scandal upon them. One could find honest work in a household of a lord, and luckily, stay out of sight from a lecherous eye. Others found employment in more questionable facilities.

The overly male-dominated public generally criticized female artists and musicians—Cassat and Curie shared this inequitable censure. A lady's place was in the home, not outside of it. In spite of this, the women who painted landscapes or hovered over a microscope were several cuts above those who preferred a life on the stage. Suffice it to say that actresses were at the bottom of the list.

It was true that most men desired to see a woman in scantily clad attire sauntering about on stage, but to marry one? Therein lay the rub. It was like condemning oneself to a nunnery, a self-damned act. But most who longed to marry well—or God willing, into a wealthy family—had a very slight chance in achieving that goal.

But times were changing, and sooner or later the prudent community of wealth would pass on, and the younger, more liberal generation would inherit everything their predecessors held dear—and inevitably change everything they worked so hard to create.

The nineteenth century was drawing to a close, and yet still held promise of a future with endless possibilities—endless possibilities for those who desired change…

Twelve ill-fated chimes echoed within the silent room, each strike a melodic warning of the impending arrival of midnight. It was a declaration of another lost hour; another lost moment in time, which could never be recovered or redeemed—forever lost in the perpetual sands of time.


Time itself was nothing more than a relentless adversary that assured victory over its mortal competitors. Whether falling by the hand of a premature death or by Time's wearing touch, all were at its apathetic mercy…

Even one with a plethora of unearthly talents could not successfully persuade for an extension to his or her life. Molded genius was easily cast aside like a worn shoe, which had outlived its usefulness. In the end, all embraced the cold, resolute arms of Death. It was the only assurance that Time offered.

And as Death carefully wrapped its skeletal arms around its newest lover, it offered the promise of eternal darkness and the oblivion which followed. The dead would forever dwell in that impenetrable sheath of darkness, forgetting everything in their former lives, and residing in a world of lost thought.

It was truly a fitting end to one who deserved nothing less…

But the idea of that sweet promise was still premature. Twilight was not yet on the horizon of his life. There were still a few more minutes left to his mortal existence. After the last unwanted second passed through Time's hourglass, his reserved place in Hell would be open for him.

But Hell, it seemed, was already with him. He was in the audience of the fabled Lucifer and his multitude of fallen angels. They laughed and taunted their newest arrival, basking in the visible torment of their latest victim; their revelry proceeded by the sweet intoxication of his unending agony.

It was truly a relief compared to his life on earth. But as he conceded to the punishment of his earthly misdeeds, it was only an illusion—the disjointed thoughts of his maddened persona, brought on by a lifetime of grief.

There was no devil, no portentous mantra composed by fallen angels and demons; no physical pain…only the inexorable knowledge that he was, in truth, alone; as he would always be…even in Hell.

Reality was the darkness surrounding his pitiful form. Reality was this incessant silence, but most importantly, it was the harsh realization of living in this limbo of eternal night. The cold room was shaded with an opaque shield of darkness. The only light defying its obscurity was a solitary candle, which trembled against the cool breeze coming in from the underground lake.

All was silent within the room, silent where music once thrived. A shattered cry then replaced the melodic voice that haunted the underground passages, its dulcet tones faded and transformed into a chain of unending broken sobs. The haunting melody of sorrow seeped through the corridors and onto the gentle crest of the lake.

A slow stream of music finally accompanied the sorrowful lament from a broken organ. Its distressed sound echoed throughout the underground passageways, but fell upon deaf ears. No one would be able to hear the expression of grief, for no one was there.

Long white fingers fell against the ivory keys, their agility proving that of an experienced pianist. They moved nimbly over the keys, their quiet strikes against them creating a beautiful piece fit for a royal elegy.

Tears fell against the keys as the composition reached its climax, the emotion behind it galling its creator. But wordlessly, the fingers did not stop their constant movement against the delicate ivory keys. Instead, they pressed on, desiring to reach the sonata's end—no matter the consequence.

More tears fell when the last notes played out into the darkness. A soft cry was heard, the fingers stopping their movement as their master pulled away from the organ. No more music would be heard that night.

It was the same every night: An endless sequence of cries followed by an evocative piece of music, which brought a sense life to the silent passages, albeit poignant and overcast with despair.

Amber eyes, filled with anguish, stared at the broken instrument. Although damaged, the organ still functioned to fit its purpose—his purpose. But what purpose was that, to play lamentations for an empty audience? Who was he trying to deceive? There was no one here to deceive. No one to torment, manipulate with his dark designs. He was in a hell of his own making, and no one would accompany him in his personal misery, misery which had begun the moment he drew his first breath—agony, which started the moment his mother viewed his monstrous face.

He refused to reminisce upon the past—a past, which no longer existed. It had departed his company like everything else in his life. His naïve beliefs in normalcy were shattered. He was a fool to believe that he could be like everybody else, live an ordinary life; have the things a normal man would have…obtain a requited love.

But it was not meant to be. He would forever suffer because of his face, something he could never conceal. True, he could by artificial means, but never permanently. He would never overcome his private battle against fate and gain what he desired most.

His mother was right: He would never escape what he was—a monster. His soul was maladjusted and twisted by years of perversion, mottled by the sins of others. And so, he was cursed by a cruel god to wear a mask of ugliness, one in which he could never remove.

Oh, how his mother haunted him even now. Escape from this pitiful existence would only end in his death.

But where his condemned existence held him in bondage, he could still defy the fates and curse the traitorous stars. Throughout the years, he had tormented those who stood in his way. By gaining awe and fear by those foolish enough to look upon his deformity, he acquired a certain assurance—people feared him. And for those who considered themselves powerful, they could use fear to gain favour among the race of man.

Had he not intimidated Persia's royal family? Had he not struck fear into the heart of a shah? Terrorizing an opéra house was the least of his cruel machinations. Nobility was easy to frighten, especially when they hid behind those powerless to protect them.

For years, he had observed the world and its cruel justifications, which had concealed itself behind a pretense of righteousness. He watched as countries tore themselves apart for impartial reasons; mostly over land or liberty, all of which were honourable to the public eye.

Heroes were made out of those who spilled the blood of their enemies, their praises heralded by the witless. Most were nothing more than murderers seeking fame and fortune. They were ignorant in their ideologies—which were nothing more than monsters parading throughout society in masks of virtue and morality. Their integrity tainted the ground on which they walked upon.

For they were no better…

At least he could accept the truth of his malevolent nature, and embrace the villain from within. Most did not comprehend that they were evil, let alone conscious of their malicious cruelty. A fool could damn himself to Hell without even realizing it.

But he realized it; he was already in Hell. Although he could not feel the fiery flames of torment, he could still experience the torture, be subjected to the cruel reality of knowing there would be no end to his sentence; his cell being this dark room with no one but himself to amuse.

In spite of this truth, there had once been a ray of sunlight that penetrated his dark cell. Oh, yes, there was a small perforation that allowed the sunlight to invoke everything within its path. Sunlight, which warmed his cold, dead flesh, allowed him to dream, to believe.

The sunlight was the embodiment of a child, a child shy of being a score old. She had the face of an angel; her beautiful wavy hair the colour of dark sepia. Her eyes were a deep azure, like the cool depths of the temperate sea. She was beautiful where he was ugly; light where he was dark.

Oh, how he loved her, loved her before she was recognized by the rest of the world, loved her for her poor, humble background—loved her even without her angelic voice, which he helped mold to perfection.

She was his masterpiece, his magnum opus. Don Juan Triumphant was a rough outline compared to the grace and beauty of Christine Daaé. He made her what she was, and yet she left him without gratitude. But what more could he expect? He was a monster in her eyes. He had to carefully construct a façade, which compelled her to believe that he was the angel her father had sent.

His deception had worked well, and he sculpted her shy voice into that of a glorious soprano. She would be the next prima donna of the Paris Opéra. Perhaps even be the most sought after voice to perform in other European opéra houses.

Christine Daaé was fated to be heard, meant to grace the world with her divine presence. She, the shy little dancer girl whose voice did not go above a whisper would become the lead soloist, and he, would be her mentor.

She believed in him, believed that he was indeed the Angel of Music. He reveled in her childish beliefs. With her ignorance, he could maintain the fabrication, and build a bridge between teacher and pupil. He would be a father to her, a friend she could confide in, and eventually, a protector who would shield her from the evils of the world.

Oh, if only it were so…

His hands clenched the sides of a wingback chair, the burgundy fabric distinguishing its aged exterior against his emaciated hands. With a sigh of reluctance, he slumped into the chair's comfy confines, the years of wear not distressing his need for solace.

Another headache afflicted him as he massaged his throbbing temples. The sporadic aches were common enough; at least two to three migraines visited him each day. Perhaps it was from the lack of sleep from the past weeks, but who could find sleep after what he'd been through?

Could it have been only a fortnight ago that he had lost everything? It felt as if years had passed by, and yet it seemed only hours ago that he felt her tears crashing upon his poor, misshapen face; minutes ago that he bade her farewell, and made her promise…

Why did he prolong this damned nightmare? Why did he not end his suffering and be done with it? Why could he not let go of a foolish dream?

The answer was simple: He could not give up something he wanted so badly, something he believed he deserved. He felt that the Christian god and the rest of the world denied him his right to be human, to live in the sunlight. How could a god, in whom people had a deep conviction in, curse him to live in the shadows that humanity evaded from? He did not perpetrate an unforgivable sin. He was punished for a crime he did not commit.

His faith in a heavenly deity was still in question. Until he found happiness, he would forever deny that a divine being cared for his pitiful soul. How could he be damned when he had not the chance to live the pious life of a saint? He was not born evil; society constrained him to commit his atrocious acts—it made him what he was.

How could anyone see past that horrid truth? People veiled themselves in a self-righteous cloak of vanity, their indignation just. They would search for a reason to condemn him, have his head placed upon a spike, and in public view.

But alas, their wondrous pursuit was always in vain. The enraged crowds of people from the past never found a living trace of their enemy—how fortunate for him. And now, he was safely concealed behind the precincts of his esoteric residence, left to rot away and no one care about his tragic passing.

He doubted that she would keep her promise and bury his wretched corpse with the ring. His skeleton would be entombed in this cell, finding no rest. No one would remember the infamous Phantom that haunted the Paris Opéra. No one would care to know that he was more than a villain in a malevolent plot, manifested in the mind of an infatuated lunatic.

She had probably forgotten him by now. She and the ever-so-noble vicomte were probably planning their affirmation of wedded bliss at this moment... They would leave the city and reside in a lavish country estate or travel the world without the obligations of the de Chagny family.

Either way, they would find happiness—happiness, which he would never have.

A new wave of tears cascaded against the distorted flesh of his cheeks. His crooked lips trembled, his thin hair matted against his scalp. Dirt streaked his ashen cheeks, the show of not removing it proving his disinterest in cleanliness.

His indifferent thoughts were, however, abruptly adjourned when the all too familiar sound of the ring at the siren's door shattered the temporary silence. His head turned to the incessant sound, listening to its mechanical chime.

Apparently, he had another visitor, and a very foolish one at that. But the siren would not greet its guest with a song. No, it would remain mute and entertain its caller like it had so many others.

It no longer mattered that he indulge himself in the petty pleasures of captivating his guests with a mesmerizing song before beckoning them to join him the cold, unpleasant depths of the lake. Nothing mattered anymore, nothing except the comforting image of a beautiful girl who made him believe.

"Christine," he murmured softly, the name slipping into the darkness.

It was the first word he had uttered in two weeks, and the only word that still held meaning for him. It was in that simple name which all the dreams and aspirations he harboured came to life—hope lie within it. And yet, he could not hold on to that dream, especially when another took it away from him.

Wait, he corrected himself. She wasn't taken from him, but given to another, another with fairer looks—another who could offer more than a life of darkness. The vicomte was blessed with handsome features, wealth, and inevitably, a title.

Alas, he was not so fortunate. Being born to a poor family in a small village, he lived off of the scraps his negligent mother provided. Never knowing his father, he concluded that he was at an advantage by staying oblivious to the man that had sired him. But at least where his mother had failed to love him, he could confide in his passion of music and various talents—which one day would compel him to carve a name for himself in the obscure rock of success.

And he had succeeded, rising above his station in life. He obtained enough wealth to put the French aristocracy to shame. The modern-day nobility wasted their assets on petty means of pleasure—gambling and expensive mistresses for the most part.

It was true that he also took part in many of those material pleasures, but that was long ago, and in another life. He was young, abrasive, and did not consider or even care where his destiny lay. All he knew was that his life held no meaning to the rest of the world, and it was wise to enjoy it while it lasted.

And so he had. Years of living on the edge taught him that life was truly overrated, and should be used only for pleasure. He watched as others fell on to hard times, or died from the lack of excitement in their frivolous lives. He had scoffed those who desired death, but later gave in to that weakness at last.

But now he no longer ridiculed those he had once deemed obtuse. Instead, he reluctantly agreed with them; life held no joy anymore. He was not content with the life he led, and he silently begged for a way out of it.

Sighing heavily, he rose from the dilapidated chair and walked to a large armoire. Opening the door he mechanically pulled a cloak from a hook, briefly glancing at the expensive, worn material. He instinctively covered his aching shoulders with the heavy velvet fabric, and turned to view his reflection in the side mirror.

Broken shards of the remaining mirror reflected a dark figure. The slender, lithe, muscular form was still discernible in the damaged glass, albeit a bit worn and beaten down by age and despair.

Dark, tawny eyes stared at the cracked reflection, regarding it with a dismal sense of dejection. His gaze worked its way from his feet to the shaded portion of his face. Removing his hat, he observed his visage. Forcing himself, he coldly observed the porcelain mask with visible disdain.

He scrutinized the concealed visage from memory, high cheekbones that contradicted with the sunken area around his yellow eyes. The rest of his flesh was taut and stretched over the rest of his face. The skin was mottled with age and death. A missing nose completed his horrid air.

Reluctantly, he removed the masked portion and stared at the deformity with growing disgust. His eyes glared at the misshapen countenance. No wonder Christine screamed the first time she looked upon his hideous face; he even disgusted himself.

But he forced himself to stare at the gruesome reflection. The blotchy skin resembled that of a decaying corpse, contrasting greatly from that of a normal face. The only distinctions that the skin was human—and alive—were the feral eyes staring out beyond its rotten texture. His thinning dark hair and threadlike eyebrows also added humanlike qualities to lessen the hideous features. But it did not fully conceal it.

A stray tear fell from a golden eye. The saltine droplet traveled down the uneven flesh, plummeting to the ground. The cold remnants of its passing stung his decayed cheek. He mindlessly wiped away the discomfort, and then screamed in unparalleled agony.

His heart wrenched from the pain of losing her. Either way he looked at it, he had lost her. He could not justify a lie.

Gathering the last of his composure, he gazed once more at the horrid image. His right hand clenched the fragile porcelain mask in a subtle act of resentment. He examined its delicate surface, noticing the minor cracks from years of wear. Without thinking, he threw it against the opposite wall; and watched it shatter, its broken remnants falling to the encrusted ground.

No matter, he had another to replace it. It was wise to have a spare when the situation represented itself. But he doubted he would use it, doubted he would ever conceal his ugliness to the fainthearted ever again.

Unadorned without his precious façade, he apathetically returned to the broken organ. He somewhat regretted vandalizing something so precious and comforting to him, but rage it seemed, did not maintain the consideration of a blind moment's release. And so his long fingers fell against the ivory keys once more, giving him the much-needed succour he desired.

It was not uncommon for him to play without his mask; he usually removed it before he fell into the gentle embrace of his music. However, it was the first time he allowed his abrupt temper to dictate his actions, and destroy something he needed. But when did he ever set his anger aside and listen to reason?

He was not perfect; he fully admitted that shameful fact, but at least he could work on his imperfections. He could create a masterpiece without having to worry about the criticism from others. He could stay here—alone—and be content, if only with his music. And yet that was a lie. His music could not save him from himself—only she could do that. But she was no longer here. He would have to accept that…eventually.

Faintly smiling to himself, he played a piece from when he first noticed her. The sweet, timid little girl who danced for an ungrateful public had the attention of a secret voyeur. Oh, yes, she was unique, if only to him.

And so he played, played until the sweet memory turned bitter and rapt with despair. His fingers cascaded against the keys, revealing his longing and loss of her. This would be all he had of her—a memory. But at least he could hold on to it and never let go.

The piece came to an end, and his tired fingers rested against the keys. Closing his eyes, he imagined her smiling at him, her sincere expression displaying love and trust. His heart ached for her, ached for her warmth, her touch. Well, he could dream. That would have to suffice, for she was the most beautiful and purist—

"Mon Dieu! He wasn't jesting when he said you were ugly!" a deep, disparaging voice shattered the silence.

Turning to the anonymous voice's origin, he glared at a shrouded individual skulking near the armoire. The mysterious individual was covered by the friendly touch of the lingering shadows, adequately concealing his distinct features. A black cloak concealed most of his figure; a dark hood veiled his face from inspection. This man did not want to be seen by his host—his obscure stance proved that.

Silently cursing himself for ignoring the alarm, he muttered, "Welcome to my home, monsieur." He eyed the cloaked intruder gravely.

Amber eyes followed the shrouded interloper, as he lingered within the shadows. The stranger remained in his position, rigid and ready to defend himself against the monster before him.

"I would inquire you to sit and explain why I am honoured by your unexpected visit. Surely you would care to enlighten me as to why you would wish to look upon the face of a monster?"

The stranger remained silent, refusing to answer the imposing figure. He eyed the man facing him. The grotesque sight the idle musician twisted his gut. His benefactor was right; the man was hideous. Actually, 'hideous' failed to describe him. God, the creature before him was the incarnation of Shelley's Frankenstein monster, only more ominous. He would actually be doing this man—thing—a favour by putting him out of his misery.

"I'm waiting," the Phantom said impatiently.

A wave of uncertainty crashed against him, his concealed face betraying his stoic posture. Terror seeped into his mind, tearing away his composure. The sight before him was tearing him apart just by looking at him.

He was about to walk away, not say a word, and leave the job unfinished when he noticed the creature turn away, and return to his seat; his back to him.

"Whatever your reason for being here, you may leave intact if you do so now. I'm in no mood to add another casualty to my list. Consider yourself fortunate," he said airily, and placed his fingers against the keys once more.

Feeling discarded like a dissected corpse in a university, the stranger stared at the infamous Phantom's back with growing ire. How dare he turn his back on him! Did he not realize the danger of acting so recklessly? Perhaps, his employer was right; the man was insane—insane and eccentric.

Pride replaced his momentary anger, assuring him that he could bring this crazed apparition down. Gathering his composure, he pulled something out of the interior of his dark cloak. "Monsieur, I fear I cannot do that." He watched smugly as his prey turned to face him.

"Leave, before I change my mind," he warned, then turned back to the organ.

As he placed his nimble fingers against the smooth keys, a deafening shot was heard, breaking the serene atmosphere. He felt a sharp pain enter his right shoulder, knocking the breath out of him.

The Phantom fell in the darkness.

Watching the pitiful form wreathe in visible agony, the assassin sauntered to his target's side. Laughing, he watched his prey's erratic breathing. It was truly a pleasure to watch his victims fall, knowing their life was at an end by an unknown hand. Most died with a horrorstricken expression on their face. It would be a pretty sight to see this monster's illustration of fear.

Oh, yes, he had heard of the notorious Phantom who haunted the Paris Opéra House. He was a famed killer, and struck fear in those who dared listen to the unending rumours, which spread throughout the actors' community. This creature rivaled him: a cold-blooded murderer, but he could not confess that he did his job out of demented love; he worked for the highest bidder.

Well, at least this trite obligation would rid the world of a monster and would ensure his financial status for the rest of his life. His employer was truly mad to offer such an excessive amount for a man who hid himself away from prying eyes and inquisitive ears. But the wealthy were always known for their desire of keeping their hands clean from sinful, tasteless acts of cruelty. That was where his amoral occupation came in to play.

And so he took pleasure in this last bout of murder. Glaring at the wreathing figure, he kicked him with his muddied boot. "Well, monsieur, I believe it was a pleasure meeting the famed Phantom of the Opéra. Truly, you were everything I expected you to be. Except for one thing." He stared at him derisively. "I expected you to at least put up a fight, not surrender like a beaten dog."

Amber eyes, filled with unmistakable hatred, glowered at the haughty executioner. It was one thing to murder in the defense of one's life, but strictly another when it came from the sheer pleasure of the act. It was time to educate his childish guest in the ways of true murder and how to successfully enjoy every pleasing moment.

The raw pain from the bullet seared his taut flesh as he held his left hand over the gaping wound. Blood tainted the flawless digits, making them appear gruesome, unnatural. The rest of his body was covered in perspiration from the unexpected pain. His only desire was to placate the plaguing irritation and pull away from consciousness. But first he would have to deal with his present dilemma.

Hiding his twisted grin, he feigned weakness and pulled himself away from his towering adversary like a wounded animal. With each movement, a sharp pain from the wound shattered his resolve. He bit the uneven edge of his lip as he crawled to the side of the organ's base. Only a few more inches…

Turing to see if his prey followed, he urged himself to lay on his side, pretending to fall victim, at last, to the pitiful attempt on his life. Even the devil himself, would fail in seeing him die.

His breath came out in a staggered sigh as his nameless murderer approached. He almost grinned at his improvised ingenuity; the fool has mindlessly walked into his trap. Fate had placed him in her fleeting favour today. And for that, he gave her imperious presence a silent salute.

"Tell me," he choked from the pain of the bullet. "Did it delight you by pulling that trigger, knowing that you would sign your own death certificate?"

Before his nemesis could answer, he pulled a rusted lever next to the organ. He watched, as pure, undiluted terror filled the assassin's eyes from the impending fall of a hidden scythe, the impact nearly lacerating the dumbfounded murderer in half.

He pulled himself near the freshly strewn carnage, observing his victim's horrorstricken expression. "Who sent you?" he asked, as a new throw of anger flooded his dark soul.

The assassin gaped at him, his eyes glazing over with abject defeat. He felt numb, and silently knew he was dying from the scythe's cruel impact. Feeling darkness cloud his vision, his breathing staggered; he nearly gave into the darkness, but something wrenched him away from the sweet absolution.

"Who sent you?"

Wild eyes, the colour of ardent amber bore into his soul—this man was a dark angel of judgment. And even though this judging seraph still obtained the pride and dignity of an arrogant lord. The verdict within the creature's yellow eyes was obvious.

He was bound for Hell. But he could at least remove one sin from his record. "The Vicomte de Chagny, monsieur," he muttered weakly.

A new oscillation of fury filled the feral eyes; an unprecedented onslaught of anger tainted their yellow depths. "Was there anyone else involved?" he asked, malice tainting his dark voice.

The dying assassin looked at the wreathing Phantom and almost smirked from the concept. So, de Chagny was right; this creature was obsessed with the Daaé woman. So obsessed, that he wanted to know if she played a part in his attempted murder.

Either way, he was condemned to death, and it was the vicomte's fault, after all. Why not cause some heartache for the lord and his soon-to-be lady? "It concerned a girl—a pretty wench, whom the vicomte considered important. I…she was involved, I'm sure…" He choked on a stream of blood.

"Christine," he muttered under his breath.

A sharp intake of breath staggered from the dying man's pale lips. He eyed his murderer with abject curiosity. It would be unfitting if he was to die without knowing his executioner's name. Gathering the remainder of his fading strength, he asked, "Tell me…tell me your name before I die."

The plea within his victim's eyes was quite visible. And so, the famed Opéra ghost relented. "Know that before you die that I am Erik." He suppressed a malicious grin. "It was very foolish of you to visit me. You would be in much better health had you not."

"Yes," the dying man admitted bitterly. "But you were very foolish to be enamoured with a woman, who helped conspire your untimely death."

Erik's throbbing muscles tensed from the assassin's cruel words. Even now, as he watched the dying man take satisfaction in seeing his growing anger, he still had a few questions he wished to pose.

Unfortunately, before he could obtain any more information, the assassin died from his tremendous loss of blood. He pulled away from the corpse, staggering to his coffin. Tossing aside his bloodied cloak, he tore the evening vest and white undershirt away and lay against the bed, his erratic breathing causing more pain.

Biting his lower lip, he forced himself to gather his remaining strength to find the instrument he needed. His weak hands fumbled through a nightstand drawer, searching for a knife.

His tired eyes rested upon the idle knife. Finding enough strength, he carefully placed the knife against the wound, and with a quick, precise movement, embedded the blade into his flesh.

Blood seeped out of the gaping wound. He was losing the last of his control, as he felt the small metal ball leave his skin and crash against the floor. Groaning with fatigue, he dropped the knife and collapsed against the bloodstained sheets, his last thoughts focused upon the couple that intended his demise.

His mind wavered on the edge of madness, as plots of revenge inundated his mind. He had let them go without a thought of intruding upon their lives; he promised them. And how had they repaid his kindness? By having an assassin hired to murder him! Oh, the boy would pay—both of them would pay for betraying him.

"Damn you, child," he cursed; then laughed madly at his misfortune. "Oh, yes, my dear, you will know what it's like to have the Angel of Music against you! You will pay for your betrayal against me: you and your lover!" He swore under his breath.

Closing his eyes, he constructed a vague yet legitimate plan. He would heal first, then notify his friend—the dear daroga—of his abrupt passing. Yes, all would be set into motion, and then he would have his revenge. His sweet Christine would cry when she saw her beloved fiancé suffer from the Phantom's wrath.

Oh, yes, revenge was truly savoured by the blood of thy enemy.

The Opéra ghost was coming…and Hell with him…

Author's Note: This is merely the prologue to the story. I plan to make this fic a long one, with dangers and drama galore! I hope I have kept Erik in character. It's an old, crocodile fear I have, I suppose, but I wanted to write a continuation to the original Phantom—I just hope I can pull it off!

Please, let me know what you think of it thus far. :)