OOO

1890

Phillippa continued to stare straight forward as the carriage she was riding in ground to a halt. From up front came a suspicious gurgle that might have been from the driver. This did nothing to unnerve her, however; instead she waited patiently with her hands folded on her lap. When the door swung open, she turned to face the man responsible.

"My father thinks I am spending the break at school, does he not?" She asked placidly. Though she had never seen the man she was addressing face to face before, her tone was controlled, as though the course of events was entirely natural.

"And your school believes that you have returned home to your family in the interim." Erik smiled. "Somebody has been eavesdropping and opening letters. You are quick to learn, aren't you?"

"Tell me," she said, staring at his mask, her eyes alight with a frantic fire, "is it truly as they say?"

"My but we cut to the chase, don't we?"

She frowned. "Don't patronize me."

"You do know my conditions about its removal?" He lifted her chin up with one lank, bony finger. "I am sure that your mother would have told you that, if nothing else. Wouldn't want you repeating the same mistakes."

"I will never repeat her mistakes," Phillippa replied coldly, jerking her head away. "Remove it now or I shall walk the three miles back to the boarding school."

"Feisty. I like that. Very well, you shall have your wish – pray you do not regret it." He reached behind his head and unfastened the cord that bound the leather mask to his face. It slid away into his hands, revealing the pallid, stretched skin beneath, the gaping hole where the nose should have been, the thin lips and the sunken sockets.

There was the sound of a breath being sharply drawn in. "Marvelous," she murmured. "Not in all my imaginings could I have conceived of something so splendidly horrid."

He gave her a wry smile. "The one who conceived of it has an imagination infinitely larger than yours, so I cannot blame you. But you parents, they never described it?"

"My parents tried very hard to pretend that nothing happened, as though there were no other sources of information, as though I could not hear the echoes which reverberated…" A bemused look spread across her features. "And what in my face so entrances you, that you stare without thought, without pause?"

Erik was silent for a moment before he replied. "I am trying to decide whose daughter you are," he told her at length.

She laughed, a light sound. "Well that's a simple question." Her lips curved into a sly grin. "I am the child of Christine Daae."

At this, Erik burst into laughter as well. "And so you are! Now come, child. Sit back and we shall depart. The road is long and the day is waning."

"As you like." She settled back into the plush cushion. "But I doubt either of us has anything to fear from the dark."

OOO

1897

"He knows!" Olivia repeated the phrase over and over amidst a spate of choking sobs.

Borden did his best to embrace and comfort the sobbing woman, with Fallon watching uneasily. Borden wondered if he shouldn't motion Fallon over; he would be better at comforting the girl as he was the one whose feelings for her were genuine. Today was not his day, however, so it was left to him to console her.

"What has happened? Who knows?" He whispered, rubbing her back.

"Angier knows I betrayed him…" she moaned eventually. "He knows, he knows… oh it was awful, terrible…"

Borden gripped her shoulders, harder than he'd meant to. "How do you know? What did he do to you?" The magician demanded.

"He… he sent someone, he must have… he had me followed… everywhere, the creature follows me, haunting me…" She wiped her eyes with a crumpled handkerchief. "At night, my room is full of strange noises. Croaks and growls echo off the walls, glowing eyes appear at my windowsill but nobody is there when I look. And always the music, creeping in at night, faces looming in the darkness, claws touching me…"

"Has he…" Borden swallowed. "Has he violated you?"

She shook her head doubtfully. "Not… not per se. But it's always… I don't know how to explain it! His man is everywhere, it's absolutely awful. And he wants… he says that he… it's the book!"

"The book?" He frowned. "What of it?"

"He wants the key to decoding the book," she whispered.

Abruptly, he pushed her away. "No. Not that."

"Please!" She pleaded. "I will never have a moment's peace if you do not!"

"Olivia, what you are describing – it isn't possible. You must be imagining. You must be." He tried to quash his own recollections of hands in the darkness.

"I am not!" She shrieked, almost hysterical. "Please, just give him what he wants so that he will go away!"

"You do not know what you are asking!"

"Is that all I am to you?" She demanded in a sudden fury. "So little that you will not even give him a single word for the sake of sparing my sanity? So insignificant that you dismiss all of my fears, all my pain out of hand?"

"I am sorry. Truly," he said with a glance at Fallon. "But the diary… it is too important."

A long silence passed between them.

"I should never have left Angier," she opined bitterly. "At least then my night would be silent and I would not see such… such nightmares when I sleep. Nothing in the world is worth this agony."

She fled the room, leaving the two men alone.

"She will return," Borden assured Fallon in a whispered. "She will."

Before she could return, however, Fallon left and before long found himself being buried alive. Whatever he might pretend the word was worth, it was not worth that, and so Borden whispered the word to the girl waiting at the graveside.

Tesla.

OOO

1892

Raoul stared into the grave listening to the whispers all around him, his wife and daughter by his side. The hole in the earth was small, no larger than the space of a few meters. So small, so small…

Just like his son had been.

People came up to them, wave after wave, shaking his hand and offering their condolences. It was terrible, they said, that such an accident should happen, that one so young should be so cruelly taken away. Disapproving voices murmured about the nanny. Wasn't she supposed to have been watching him? Who could be so careless as to let a child drown like that?

And his sister to find him too! Too cruel, they murmured, that a child like that should have to be the one to find her brother dead and floating in the lake. Too cruel, too tragic. One never understood why such things happened to such pleasant people. The old women sighed and shook their heads; hadn't they all had enough tragedy already?

Privately, Raoul looked at his dry-eyed daughter, terrible yet unprovable suspicions lurking, and wondered if the tragedies would never end.

OOO

1897

"I don't understand why we are chasing after this… after this absurd MacGuffin that will lead us nowhere." Charlotte glared at the book while she applied her makeup. "We already know how he is performing the trick. We already know about his twin. There can't be anything Nikolai Tesla knows that will change that. The Bordens merely want to coax Angier to go on another absurd chase and take advantage of his absence to promote their own show."

"Be that as it may, ma petite, Angier does not know about their secret and will not believe something so simple. He is a man who must be led to his conclusions, not given them. All the better to let him think himself clever." Erik leaned against the wall, observing her work.

"And that is the only reason you won't tell him outright? Foolishness," she spat. "He will believe what I tell him regardless. If he is persuaded to leave, he will lose money."

"I shouldn't much worry about that. Between his family, my resources and – dare I say – yours, we will be fine. But I have other reasons as well."

"Reasons you care to explain?" She smeared on lipstick with an agitated gesture.

"I should like to meet Tesla. Now that the matter has come up, I see no reason not to pursue it. He may very well possess a soul, a mind like mine and you know as well as I how rare those are in this world. Why not seize the opportunity while we're given the chance? An overshadowed genius whom the world will not pay attention to, whose progress the world fears… yes, I think there is something we can learn from him. Or at the very least a spirit with which we can commiserate.

"By now I should hope you would have some respect for the strength of my instinct, trust that it will not lead us astray. I feel very strongly that we should go to meet this Tesla. See what we can see, learn what we can learn. It might prove invaluable." He walked over and set his hands on her shoulders. "So tell me child – do you trust me to lead you, even across oceans?"

"I'd trust you to lead me into the depths of hell," she replied, standing, turning around and kissing him. "I must go. The performance starts shortly. And in the interim…"

"I will begin to see to the travel arrangements. Now go – dazzle them."

OOO

1893

"I don't see why you're so surprised. We neither of us brook disappointment easily." She gave the violin peg a twist. "You know how the laws are written."

"And what of my disappointment?" He glared at her thunderously. "What are you doing to rectify that?"

"I don't know!" She yelled, infuriated and on edge. "I am trying! I play until my fingers bleed, go over the scales until my voice is sore, try and try and… it isn't there, Erik! It isn't there and nothing we can do will make it be."

His eyes narrowed. "You were lying to me then."

"What?!"

"No child of Christine Daae's – no child of mine- could be so musically clumsy, so dreadfully untalented, so utterly awful! Not a single modicum of skill or grace, no talent at all no matter how I try to teach you…"

"Oh, I have talent." Phillippa scraped rosin across the bow. "Only not the talents that anybody wants me to have." She frowned. "Not the talents I wish I had." The girl turned towards Erik with a pleading look. "I want to be up there, Erik. I want to hear the applause, I want to have it all, to be perfectly splendid and clever, to take them in with illusion and make such scenes of beauty for them…"

"And that is an illusion, isn't it?" He cupped her face in his hand. "Make them see beauty while underneath lurks such malformed ugliness…"

"Don't be hypocritical."

"I'm not. Simply observational. In fact I find much to admire in that. Quite like myself as I am sure you know. A perfectly wretched combination of my Christine and the Sultana."

"She is not your Christine. For now."

"For now." He paused. "You know, perhaps you are right. Perhaps I am merely being like a petulant stage parent, ignoring the obvious talent in order to live my own dreams. Perhaps there is another profession I can teach you, one which you would excel at far more. Come child, let us go to my torture chamber."

"That old thing? I have already seen it, many times."

"Seen it, yes. But I think it's time that I fully explain to you how it works – and how it is constructed. You see, Mirrors are wondrous devices, ma chere, and invaluable in helping people to see only what you wish them to see.

OOO