Hey everyone! Sad to say that this is the last chapter for the story! Thanks for all the wonderful reviews! Hope you enjoy the final chapter!
Damian lifted the dusty lantern in front of us as we entered the ancient tomb. Behind us we heard the old monk muttering something about 'infernal tourists.'
"Tell me," Damian asked the man. "Has anyone ever lived down in these tunnels? Besides the first Christians, I mean."
The monk shrugged. "Bandits. Robbers. Ghosts. Who am I to know?"
"Ghosts?" I whispered. But the tunnel took my words and echoed them so that the monk heard them plainly.
"Si, signorita," The monk replied. "Why just this past week Brother Stefano came up babbling some nonsense about a ghost in the cellars. These new monks have no sense of…" His voice trailed off as Damian and I plunged into the dark.
"Damian," I whispered. "What if we get lost?"
He gave me an encouraging smile and showed me a thin string he was unwinding. "All we have to do is follow this back."
I took his arm and clung to it. The blackness seemed to press around us, despite the wavering light of the candle. We inched onwards. Every now and then we would pass another corridor, leading off into the earth. But Damian never wavered. Somehow he knew where Erik would be. I dared not question how.
Then grooves began appear in the walls. Niches filled with boxes. I shivered, knowing full well what they contained. Bones. The perfect place for a phantom. I shut my eyes, unable to bear anymore.
At last we came to a stop. I blinked and looked down to see water lapping at my feet.
"It's always the same," Damian told me softly. "A long twisting corridor ending at a lake. But I never heard of one beneath the catacombs."
"Well Erik must have known," I whispered back.
My companion nodded. "True. And this time I think we have caught him."
I glanced up quickly. "What?"
"Look," He waved his hand in front of us. "There is no boat. Always before there was a boat on my side, the one he escaped on. But not this time."
"This time the boat is on the other side…" I finished slowly. We exchanged glances. Nervous, but excited.
Suddenly Damian jerked me back against the wall. At the same time he blew out the candle flame and we were plunged into darkness. I opened my mouth to scream but he anticipated it and clapped his hand over my lips. I stared at the lake in terror. Far away, a distant glimmer on the water, was a single light. As we watched it grew closer and closer. Finally we could see the dim outline of a man, cloaked in black and guiding the boat with a long wooden pole. In the light of his lantern I could see the familiar white mask, shimmering. I reached out and grasped Damian's hand.
The boat grated against the bottom of the lake. The Phantom leapt out into the water and began pulling it up to the beach. Suddenly I felt Damian pull away from my grasp. In the dark I heard him strike a match and light our own candle.
Erik stopped. Slowly, ever so slowly, I saw his shoulders sink in defeat. Then he turned. The mask looked different than his old one…it frightened me.
In low, rasping tones, he spoke. "Why have you followed me? Cannot I live in peace?"
"Who are you? Why have you followed me like this? Every time I turn around you are there, creeping behind me!"
"Perhaps it runs in the family, Erik."
The Phantom's head jerked up. "What did you say?"
"Have you forgotten me, brother? Damian, your mother's youngest son?"
Erik studied Damian carefully. I could see his golden green eyes widen with disbelief. "Her face…you have her face…" Then I saw his own face harden. "What do you want with me? Have you come to torture me once more? Or perhaps this time you think to kill me! Was selling me into slavery not enough?"
I couldn't hold myself in. "It wasn't his fault!"
"You!" He spun around and glared at me. "His sister!" He spat at Damian. "If you wished for my goodwill, then why did you bring the sister of the man I hate most with you?"
Damian stepped in front of me protectively. "I do wish for your goodwill. Doesn't that mean something, brother? After all you've done, the lives you've ruined, I'm still here."
Erik stopped his threatening advance. "Why?"
"Why?" Damian looked at him, searching his face. "Sometimes I wonder that myself. Perhaps because I loved my mother. Our mother. Madeleine Destler. She wasn't the one who hated you, Erik. It was our father who betrayed her trust and sold you to the gypsies."
"You speak in the past tense. She…" He paused. "She is dead?"
"Many years past. As long as I have been looking for you."
The Phantom turned away. I will not say that he was crying, but somewhere deep inside of him was a love that was not his love for Christine. And my heart bled for him as I remembered the loss of my own mother.
After a few minutes, Damian continued. "There is more, if you will listen."
Erik nodded, but still did not answer.
"Our father is dead as well. And the Destler estate needs a new master."
"No, Erik. In his will, Father named you his heir."
He spun around quickly. "You're lying!"
"No." Damian repeated firmly. "I am not. The proof lies in Denmark but you may take my word for it. The land is yours."
Erik was shocked. It was written plainly on his face. He did not believe what his brother said, yet he had no choice but to accept the truth. "And what of you?"
"Oh…" He shrugged his shoulders. "The younger son's portion, as usual."
The elder man stepped forward and put his hand on his brother's arm. "You have sought me all these years to give me what could rightfully be yours?" He shook his head. "Truly you are a better man than I."
"I'm glad to have found you at last," Damian sighed. "I've grown weary of wondering. Will you come with me?"
"No." Erik refused quietly. "You will return alone. Tell the men that I am dead, that you looked for me in every corner of the earth but could not find me. Erik Destler lives no more. The land is yours."
"But you," He protested. "How will you live?"
The Phantom laughed. "I have all the money a man could ever need. As for land…I do not want it. Music is my only love now. As long as I may play and compose I shall be happy."
I ventured to speak again. "Where will you live?"
"Where?" A strange smile crept across the half of his face that I could see. "I return home as well. Word has reached me from Paris that someone else wants to buy my Opera House. I must return to see that it is well taken care of."
Damian still could not believe what he heard. "You do not want any of the money?"
"No, brother. Take it. And if I am right, you will need it when you win your heart's desire."
My own heart skipped a beat. He knew. Then I smiled. Of course. For the Phantom of the Opera sees many things, lurking in the shadows of every corner.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Well? What did ya'll think? I had a blast writing this...and I must give my wonderful co-authoress Elenatintil for helping me write such an amazing book! Thank you all for reading!