The Phantom of the Opera: Prologue
Disclaimer: DC Comics owns "Teen Titans." Gaston Leroux owns the original story of "The Phantom of the Opera." Andrew Lloyd Webber owns the musical version. I own whatever I write/create. Don't steal and don't sue.
A/N: To define this story, it is a blending of Leroux's novel, Webber's musical, and my own ideas. If some original characters in this story confuse you, please refer to my story "Book of Demons" for more information about them.
The man was elderly, but not at all touched by the crippling effects so often seen by the old. He strode down the street with purpose, the walking stick he carried clicking sharply against the cobblestones. He rounded a corner and stepped onto the broad avenue, his eyes turning before his body.
The Paris Opera House—that great building known the world over—stood at the end of the avenue. His chest tightened painfully, both at the sight of the building and from his age. Swallowing forcefully, he started down the avenue. His imposing stature spoke of the bearing of nobility, and he never had to dodge about or stop suddenly. Those who bothered to look at the man with long white hair saw the embroidered patch upon the left side of his coat, and hastened to move out his way that much faster.
A banner strung across the two pillars at the entrance to the Opera House fluttered in a faint breeze. The man read the words on the banner, translating the French with an ease that belied his years away in America: "Public Auction Today." He walked up the steps, relying more strongly on his walking stick than ever.
The strike of the auctioneer's gavel echoed from the stage as the man strode into the theater. Everything was immaculate, without a hint of dirt or decay anywhere. The only thing that hinted of the Opera House very quietly acquiring new owners after years of emptiness was the auction itself. Hired hands took away a plaster carving, the most recent of the items sold to the small crowd gathered on the stage.
"Sold!" the auctioneer cried. "Thank you, Monsieur de Morcerf." He looked up at the sound of the man's walking stick tapping sharply on the stage, instantly recognizing the patch on his coat. "Ah, le Comte de Wayne! Here for the auction, I hope?" The man nodded, and the auctioneer's smile grew. "Good, good! Now, item number six-sixty-four in our auction today." A hired hand brought forward a laden platter. "From a production of Robert le Diable, three polished human skulls and a wooden pistol."
The confirmation that the white skulls were not plaster made all but two of the small crowd wince. The Count was one of these two, and the other was an elderly black woman. Their eyes met, and they did not start in surprise despite the fact that they recognized each other. The woman nodded to the Count, and he gracefully returned it.
"May we start the bidding at, say, ten francs?" the auctioneer asked. The woman's hand went up as she nodded. "Madame Stone, thank you! Am I bid fifteen francs?" He cast his eyes about, but only found shaking heads. He hid his disappointment and lifted his gavel. "Ten once—ten twice—sold! Thank you, Madame Stone." The man carried away the platter before the strike of the gavel had stopped echoing, and another came forward carrying something covered by a silk handkerchief.
"We have now come to the last item in our auction, ladies and gentlemen!" he said loudly. He paused and cleared his throat, leaning on the podium before him purposefully. "Now, you all know of the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera, do you not?" A soft murmur of assent rippled through the small gathering. The Count started, turning to stare eagerly at the silk handkerchief. "Well, we have here something that proves the Phantom was not just a myth."
He reached over and lifted the silk handkerchief up. A carefully crafted white mask, one that would have covered the eyes and forehead, was revealed lying on a silver platter. The Count's eyes went wide, and he was unable to turn his gaze away. The auctioneer grinned broadly, standing straight and puffing out his chest.
"Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the very mask that the Phantom wore!" he said. "It was discovered in the catacombs beneath the Opera House, after the famous incident involving the lovely soprano and her disappearance. May we start the bidding at thirty francs?"
The Count's hand went up immediately. The auctioneer smiled at him. "Thirty, from le Comte de Wayne! Do I hear thirty-five?" Madame Stone's hand rose with a small nod. "Thirty-five! Thank you, Madame! Am I bid forty francs?" The Count lifted his hand again, glancing to Madame Stone quickly. "Forty francs! Forty-five?" Madame Stone looked at the Count, seeing the fire in his eyes. She smiled at him and shook her head. "Selling for forty once—forty twice—sold, to le Comte de Wayne! Thank you so very much, Monsieur."
The hired hand started to take the mask away, but the Count struck his walking stick against the ground and gestured for the young man to bring it to him. He took the mask from the platter and waved the young man away. The Count put his stick under one arm and held the mask in shaking hands. His fingers caressed the curves of the mask, and he bit the inside of his cheek. When the auctioneer spoke again, the Count realized that he had drawn blood.
"Thank you so much for coming today, ladies and gentlemen," he said. "The new owners of the Opera House would like to show you their gratitude by giving you a preview of how they plan to bring this wonderful place back to its former glory. Gentlemen!" In the center of the theater sat a massive shape covered with a cloth tarp. At the auctioneer's behest, the men standing by the tarp pulled it away to reveal a chandelier.
"This," the auctioneer said, "is the chandelier that caused the death of one very unfortunate woman during the time that the Phantom ruled the Opera. It was hidden away for years because of this disaster, but because the new owners found that it was a truly great wonderful piece of art, they restored it and fitted it with those new electric lights. And now, ladies and gentlemen, we shall raise the chandelier!" He gestured, and the hired hands began to pull at ropes and chains.
The Count watched the chandelier rise up toward the ceiling. Light flooded the theater, showing him every statue carved from stone and wood and every tassel on the drapery hanging in every private box. The red velvet looked that much more like the color of blood and fire when the light shone upon it. The fresh gold paint seemed to glow, and the brightness of it made his eyes ache. His breath came faster as he looked about, and his chest was tight as he quickly made his way out of the theater.
He stopped on the front steps of the Paris Opera House, leaning heavily on his walking stick and pulling in deep breaths. Wiping away a cold sweat from his brow, he looked again at the mask in his hand. He scowled, wanting to dash the thing against the ground.
"Been a long time, Robin." He whirled to find Madame Stone standing behind him. She smiled at him, but he did not return it.
"I suppose it has been," he replied. "You were—they called you Bumblebee when you were a dancer here, didn't they?"
"They did," she said with a nod. "Victor still calls me that. You remember Victor?"
"As well as I remember everything else," he murmured. After a moment, sighed and nodded to the woman. "It was a pleasure seeing you again, Madame Stone. Please, give Victor my regards." He turned away from her and started to walk away.
There is nothing more fascinating to humanity than a story. It is fortunate that there are those who can tap into the well of imagination from a creative soul and craft stories, because it is so rare for great stories to come from reality. In Paris, however, long before le Comte de Wayne purchased the mask of the Phantom of the Opera at the auction, one such tale did occur.
It is the tale of the Phantom of the Opera and the young soprano who captured the Phantom's heart completely. It is the tale of a young man who yearned for the soprano despite the Phantom's love for her. It is a great tale, once that has been repeated so many times that it has become such stuff of legends and myths. There is only one failing of the story that has been told over and over, whispered amongst children and adults alike. No one knows how the tale truly ends.
It is common knowledge that both the soprano and the Phantom vanished, never to been seen or heard from again, but it remains a mystery what transpired on that fateful night when they disappeared. Many things about the soprano and the Phantom remain a mystery—but no longer. This tale is not a bare-bones repetition of the myth. No, this story—the words that are written here and now—this story is the absolute and entire truth of the Phantom of the Opera.
—to be continued—