Author's preface:

Disclaimer:

I do not own The Phantom of the Opera, nor any character or place, etc. mentioned therein by Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical or Gaston Leroux's book of the same title. Do not even think about a lawsuit. I am up to my ears in school loans and you will never see a cent.

Note:

This story is quite literally the prelude to the phantom of the opera story we all know and love. I do not feel bound by any version—though readers fluent with Leroux's work and Webber's musical will recognize the influences. To give fair warning, this story is not for Susan Kay purists. While I find her history for the Phantom to be entertaining, there are many aspects of it—namely some interpretations of the leads—that I did not agree with.

Without father ado…

Caveat lector


Prelude to the Mask
1848—Rouen

Adèle Deniau removed the hood of her crimson cloak, a strand of blonde hair falling onto her shoulder. She stared at the metal grate, flinching as it opened.

"Yes, my child?" said the deep voice. Her hands gripped her thin skirt.

"It has been five years since my last confessional, Father." She closed her eyes, waiting to be rebuked. Instead, she was met with silence.

She peered closer to the grate, wondering if the priest was still listening. Leaning her head against the wall, she stared into the shadows.

"I could not bring myself to enter these walls, not when I am damned…"

"The Lord is a Lord of mercy. There is no sin beyond his grace," the priest interrupted. Adèle shook her head.

"No, Father, you are mistaken. I must look at the face of my sin every day since its terrible conception, and know that I shall never be rid of it. Our God is a God of vengeance."

The majestic hum of the organ began, echoing within the church walls, its tender beauty scorning her.

"What is it you speak of, my child?"

Adèle lowered her voice, its coldness striking the priest. "Do not mock me, sir. Though you be a man of the church, there is not a single person in this town who does not whisper of the bastard child I bore."

"The Lord is just," the priest answered slowly, his tone resolute. He could see her ice blue eyes stare vacantly through the shadows, their utter hopelessness. Sighing, Adèle pulled up her hood.

"Wait!"

The woman paused, her flawless, pale skin bathed in the dim light.

"Who are we to understand God's plan?" the priest continued. "The result of your sin may yet bear great blessings."

She pushed the door open, her eyes distant. "I would have rather seen the flames of hell than have lived to see that face."

Aghast, the priest stepped out of the confessional, watching her move quickly through the aisle, her cloak billowing out behind her. Eyes looked upon her as she passed, their stares akin to their whispers.

A small figure appeared from the shadows and followed a few feet behind her. At the door, he paused, looking back at the magnificent sanctuary. The boy was very young, a thin white shirt hanging over lean shoulders, contrasting sharply with the dark gray fabric mask covering the whole of his face.

The priest shook his head sadly, only then realizing the poignant organ music had been silenced, replaced by the dull thud of the closing door.


"Edmond, no!"

The sabers clashed over and over again, her brother's skill dominating the desperate parries of the mason. She ran past the surrounding gentleman and grabbed her brother's arm. "Stop this madness, I beg you!"

Edmond threw her to the ground, glaring at her with the same malice that had been directed at her lover.

"You foolish girl!" he growled, pressing his saber point against her pale neck. "I am here defending your honor! Our family's honor!"

Her chest heaved as she looked up in terror at the poor figure standing a few meters away, his filthy clothing drenched in sweat.

"Please, no more, Edmond!" she said cried, "I love him." She drew in her breath as she felt the metal press further into her skin, drawing a thin line of blood.

A yell broke the silence. She backed away at the same moment her brother spun, meeting his foe once again. "Gerard, no!" she cried, raising a hand to stop him. The mason sagged as her brother embedded the saber deep in his torso.

Edmond turned his eyes to her while he jerked out the bloodied blade out of the man's flesh. The mason gasped quietly, blood frothing at his lips. In one motion, he fell to his knees, his eyes distant. Edmond walked neatly around him, followed by the other gentleman.

She held him in her arms, his warm blood soaking her silk dress. "Please, don't leave me, Gerard!" she sobbed, pressing her cheek against his. She received no answer.

Adèle looked up, blinking from the pale glow of the lone candle burning upon the small wooden table. Pressing a shaking hand to her forehead, she tried to block out the horrible dream.

Turning her head, she saw him seated in the corner, bent over an old book, humming softly. Shrouded in shadow, she could not perceive how the child managed to see the words. His innocent lullaby echoed relentlessly her mind.

"Be silent!" she scolded. The humming stopped instantly as the masked face turned toward her. Adèle ignored the injury revealed the innocent eyes. He lay the book on the ground carefully, his head lowered.

"You screamed in your sleep," he said timidly, "I was singing to you."

Letting out a deep breath, she stood, turning her head away from him, her eyes closed. "Go," she commanded harshly.

She could not hear him get up, or the silence in which the child stood before her. Shaking, she opened her eyes, regarding him with animosity. "You dare to disobey?"

A trembling hand offered her a piece of paper, torn from the book he carried. Her mouth parted as she gazed at the worn paper, revealing an unnervingly accurate likeness of herself, drawn with a talent far exceeding that of the artists who painted her in her youth. In it, she lay asleep, her face almost peaceful...

Her finger touched the fine lines, tracing them. They were drawn with such care, such adoration…what monster could have created such beauty? A tear fell, distorting the picture. Biting her lip, she held the drawing over the candle, the image burning into nothingness. She closed her eyes against the quiet sobs as the child moved away to his cot in the cellar.


The boy sat alone in the darkness for hours, roused by the loud pounding on the door. He could hear the brush of his mother's skirts as she walked to the door. At the sound of the angry voices, he shrank back, his breathing quickened. His heart pounding, he moved slowly to the crack in the door, peering through.

"You already had your payment for rent, Monsieur. Leave." Her voice held its usual coolness, though underlined with something he had never heard before…

The man grabbed her wrist. "Stupid whore!"

The boy's eyes widened as the hand was raised, striking his mother across the cheek. She fell back onto the ground.

His hands forming small fists, the boy turned and pushed open the side door that led outside. The old gelding was tethered outside. The giant horse lowered its head as the boy approached, its ears alert. With quick hands, he removed the rope looped around the horse's neck.

When he saw his mother again, she was pressed against the table, a hand covering her mouth. His footsteps silent, the boy took the looped end of the rope and cast it over the man's head, pulling back on it.

There was a loud curse. The man glared at him, tugging the rope off his neck. His mother flung herself away, pressing herself into the dark corner.

A heavy fist came down, and all he knew was darkness.


"No common courtesy, anymore. None!" the old woman mumbled, huffing down the stairs flanked by a teenage girl with a lantern.

At the door, she stopped, rapping loudly on the door. "I knew you're in there," she called. "I could hear you all the way…"

"Grandmother, hush!" the girl said, her hand touching the door. She drew it back quickly, her fingertips crimson. The old woman's eyes went wide. Taking a deep breath, she took the lantern from the girl and pushed open the door, holding it up.

"Lord, have mercy…" she whispered. Through the darkness, both women stared in horror at the disarray. The table overturned, broken in half; the few other possessions scattered aimlessly about the room. A woman lay face down upon the floor, her tangled, blonde hair intermixed with blood.

The grandmother walked alone into the room and kneeled beside the fallen woman. After a moment, she looked up at her granddaughter, shaking her head.

The girl crossed herself as her grandmother stood. Frowning, the old woman held the lantern higher, casting light on the small figure lying against the wall. She raised her hand to her mouth.

"Dear God, the rumors are true…" she murmured, staring at the scarred half of the boy's face. A mask rested by his hand. She heard a shriek behind her. One stern look and the girl quieted.

"Is he dead?" she asked, trembling.

"The Lord wasn't that merciful," the old woman retorted, noticing the child's quiet breaths. With shaking hands, she set down the lantern and quickly thrust the mask over his face.

"There," she sighed, taking another glance around the room. "We will take him to the church steps. There is nothing else we can do. He is an orphan now."