Author's Note: Fondest greetings to you all. –grins- Here we are, down in Erik's lair again. For the last time, I'm afraid. I don't think I'll stay for the fireworks –shudders-

Padme Nijiri: Of course I don't take any offense, on the contrary, I appreciate your regular grammar checks. I will be re-editing the whole thing thanks to your efforts. Thanking you my dear!

Mademoiselle Kates: I am truly left speechless by your praise. –hugs- It's truly a pleasure writing this phic for u guys. Indeed, I think it's the main reason I returned, I've got the best readers, who am I to let them down. Hmm, we have descended to the deepest pits of darkness indeed, as you said my dear, I can only hope you will like it, because we're steering from the dark path into total chaos in this chapter.

SarahBelle: I know, the guy's a creep! Thank you very much for your review, it made me smile!

Morleigh&Starfire: You guys are terrific! Thanks!

"Where no hope is left, is left no fear."

-John Milton

"Long is the way And hard, that out of Hell leads up to light"

-John Milton

"Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey."

-Lord Byron

A wraithlike beauty greeted Raoul's vision as he stared through the dripping iron portcullis that barred his path, transfixed by the scene unfolding before him.

Christine seemed to be made of pure moonlight, ivory silks and snow lace fused to clothe the seraph, crowned with winter lilies and radiant pearls, a luminous gossamer veil streaming elegantly down her shoulders and back like morning mist upon the long, silken tresses shaded in autumn sienna and burnished copper, dark against her flawless, milk white skin.

The Devil's Bride was beauteous in blasphemous white.

Rose-petal lips were unsmiling, but her cheeks were suffused with a soft blush, sculpted face tilted back slightly like a slender wintry flower bent to greet the sunlight it craved, so was Christine arched back to gaze upon the Phantom with her eyes sparkling, as he brought his face down to hers, his darkness eclipsing her pristine pale beauty, a white gloved hand seizing that of a long, black gloved one, fingers intertwined and ebony and ivory laced together in a silent, passionate bond, echoing the frenzied bliss that was the fervent kiss they just shared.

I did it all for you, and all for nothing…

She had not seen him there standing, broken and humiliated…Was this the indecisive, innocent young girl afraid of the dark? A maiden pure and soft? What a fool he had been for allowing himself to believe she was his, a true jester indeed in this drama, entertaining his manipulative, cruel court…

A white lily she had been, a bright red rose at times, but beneath the surface all she had truly ever been all along was a nocturnal flower waiting for the moonlight's cheer and the right season to bloom in her full black glory.

Azure eyes flooded with tears, streaming down dirt and sweat streaked hollow cheeks as he looked on in defeat.

Something tore at his heart, in that moment, something snapped inside Raoul, something that had lain dormant too long stirred to life, shredding logic and reason, as Christine's Phantom kiss shredded his heart.

The Phantom was the first to notice his presence.

"I bid you welcome, monsieur." Was the cold greeting as the iron portcullis began to rise. Stormy depths of grey-blue eyes were mocking, daring him to come forward, closer even, and play out the part fate had written for him, cruelly so.

Erik's vengeance was complete.

Raoul, hand gripping the hilt of his rapier, dripping blonde hair plastered across his wan face wildly, staggered forward to claim the tattered remnants of his dignity.

A lost crusader adorned with jester's bells, struggling in vain to rescue a maiden who had willingly given herself to monstrous Darkness.

Christine snapped her attention toward the haggard man, blue eyes blazing with a strange gleam, almost a little bestial he seemed as he approached.

Christine was rigid, colour drained from her face, standing lifeless as the mannequin, frozen by remorse, steeling herself instinctively for the final confrontation.

I'm past the point of no return…The masks have fallen away…

Raoul's accusing gaze fell on Christine first, his eyes hardening like frost layered blue waters, his rapier now drawn, candlelight glinting on its vicious blade.

"I see you have made your choice, beloved. How could you…" He choked, fresh tears flooding his eyes despite his best efforts. "You're still my fiancé, Christine, have you forgotten?"

Erik's half-demon, half-angel face was marble-like, eerily, inhumanly calm as he stepped between his nemesis and his bride, his own sabre drawn with a flash of steel.

"Step aside, fiend! I don't know what black witchcraft you concocted to sway her thus, but I swear, I will kill you for this! Only one of us will claim her hand tonight!"

Christine shook her head, aghast, her eyes wide, brilliant brown orbs shining with fear.

"No! Erik! Raoul! I beg of you, stop this madness now! Please!" Her feeble pleas fell on deaf ears as both men, fierce in their grim determination, advanced on each other.

"You forced her into this, you foul serpent!" Snarled Raoul.

"You're right monsieur. There's room for only one of us in her heart, and tonight, no more make-believe. We finish this, here and now." Erik said darkly, slowly.

Raoul lifted his blade, almost dizzy from the turmoil in his soul.

Either way she chooses, I cannot hope to win. If she goes with him, I lose her forever. If she stays with me, his memory will always haunt her.

The Opera Ghost called Erik stood, Spanish sabre in hand, his eyes an endless void, fathomless and bottomless, resolute and fearless.

Raoul blinked, disquieted, his eyes reluctantly flicking to the Phantom's shadow with a weird instinct, his courage faltering in the face of the unknown terror. Fear seized his heart as he glimpsed the ebon image of the abyss that defied human logic… The phantom's shadow was alive, reflecting a shape humanoid, sinisterly so, but not human at all. The amorphous black mass coiled serpentine like, bleeding primordial darkness from times that humans worshipped pre-Christian deities long forgotten and demonized.

I must be going insane! I'm delusional or spellbound…

With a furious cry, Raoul sped forward, bringing his rapier down, aiming for the Phantom's neck. The sabre blocked the blow, sparks flying as the blades met and clashed thunderously.

"You stole her from me!" Roared Raoul as he flung himself at Erik with renewed zeal, his rapier whizzing past his opponent's ear.

Erik ducked just in time, swinging his sabre in perfect deadly grace, parrying the attacks that kept increasing in force.

Then, suddenly, his eyes locked onto something a few yards behind Raoul.

Flames licked the stone walls, rising up to the ceiling, searing the rock faces of gargoyles guarding the catacombs and the subterranean Voivodate. Even the lake seemed to surrender to the devouring flames…The divine fire that gorged itself on Opera Populaire grew ravenous, marching forward in single-minded greed like merciless efreet horde with blazing scythes bent on ruin and destruction, harvesting ash and death in their wake.

Soon, the fire would spread to the lower recesses of the cavern…

The heat was unbearable, the air was already becoming thick with smoke, suffocatingly so.

Christine's sweat soaked face contorted in horror, seeing in the red-orange flames all her nightmares merged in tenebrosity and brimstone.

They were trapped in this dreary dungeon that was to soon become a furnace, and their grave.

In bridal shroud, with a Phantom's love in my heart and Raoul's curses I go to meet the Devil at last. Poor Raoul..I had no right to condemn him so…

Raoul took full advantage of the moment's distraction that was the Phantom's downfall. The sabre was knocked from his hand, falling with a clatter. The vicious tip of the rapier blade pressed against his throat.

There was a slight twitch of the sculpted lips, seeing his defeat.

"Tell me monster, tell me why! Why! All I wanted was her love! You ruined it all!" Raoul cried, half-sobbing.

Erik was silent, his calm reserve not once flinching.

Raoul realized his efforts were futile, there was only one victor in this battle, one possible outcome. Legends and legions trembled at his name, kingdoms crumbled and eons turned to dust at his withering touch.

Death. Victorious death, arrived on fiery chariots to claim the three sin-tarnished souls.

We are doomed, and we are going to burn forever in purging flames.

Erik gritted his teeth in sick anticipation, Christine was hauntingly quiet, torn between the two men.

Then, Vicomte de Chagny lowered his blade.

"It's over." He said on an ominous tone, quietly, a ragged breath blended with a low, sorrowful laughter. There was another flash, as Raoul pulled out his heirloom pistol, bringing it to his temple, feeling the cold metal soothingly pressed against his hot skin.

"Raoul, no! Don't! Put the gun down!" Sobbed Christine, hot tears rolling afresh down her face.

Erik's storm grey eyes swiftly cut to the pistol, surprised and suspicious, he watched the young man about to end his own life.

"Here the curtain falls at last. Goodbye, Christine." Raoul said quietly, and pulled the trigger.

He thought he heard her whisper to him, a sweet angel descending from the mists, her mouth opening, forming the words he came to cherish, live and die for.

It did not matter anymore.

Nothing mattered, as Raoul's vision forever blackened.

A single gunshot reverberated through the cavern, its hollow echo imprinted on the rock walls now a rich sanguine tapestry with Raoul de Chagny's blood.

Christine's scream was a siren's deepest mourning, an anguished banshee song that ended on a trembling note as she collapsed unconscious, unable to bear the tragedy.

Erik cursed furiously, somewhat relieved this pandemonium was finally over.

He was about to grab Christine and head for the exit known only to him, the twisted architect, Erik paused, seized by a sudden urge that was uncharacteristically superstitious.

Turning, he lifted the dead body and hauled it into the Charon boat. Staring down at the pale face of his defeated nemesis, still beautiful, frozen in death's quiet serenity, Erik produced two coins, and placed them on the dead man's eyes with a rare, solemn reverence. He then pushed the boat into the lake shimmering in firelight, burning bright like funeral pyre for a soul's final journey.

Erik hastily turned away, rushing to Christine and lifting her in his arms, carrying her to the inner sanctum. There, he stopped in front of a large mirror that stood against the wall like a chimerical entrance to netherworld. Tearing off the velvet cover, he smashed the glass with a kick of his booted foot. The flawless, reflective surface cracked, then dissolved into a carpet of brilliant glass shards at Erik's feet, revealing a dark passage beyond.

Without looking back, Erik stepped into the dark tunnel as Tenebrion merges into abyss, and disappeared down its endless pits, never to ascend.

Well, poor monkey music box is no more, Opera's gone, Raoul's dead, Erik's running for his life with Christine.

In the next chapter, we will find out if the fated two will find their Eden at last. Mme Giry, Rurik and Meg will be there too of course.

We're almost at the end, guys, so next chapter will be a grand one I think, to make up for the depressive one you just read.

Oh, don't forget to review, please. Thank you all!