This fic was inspired by some of the prompts at the 30 Memories and 31 Days communities on LiveJournal. This first chapter was inspired by the prompts "Wonderland" and "Only in fairy tales" (and I couldn't resist slipping in the Lord of the Rings reference). Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, except for Giselle and Sybille. Thanks to kayra-pauline for plot help!
It began as a quiet evening in the Chagny estate… of course, the evenings never stayed that way for long. Raoul had been listening to his wife, Christine, practice her singing when their two daughters burst into the room, banishing all quietness. They had been in the middle of their usual after-dinner activity, chasing glow-worms, but something else had intrigued them.
"Papa! Mama!" the elder girl, Giselle, exclaimed.
"We saw an elf!" the younger girl, Sybille, said.
Christine stopped singing to glance at her children. She then exchanged glances with Raoul, and the both of them had to look away to avoid laughing.
"We really saw one!" insisted Giselle, who seemed to read her parents' expressions. "It was in the back garden!"
"It was little, and it was dressed in green!" added Sybille.
Raoul didn't want to point out that it was probably just a poor, unfortunate cat that some child decided to tie a green cloth around, so he decided to go along with the story.
"Mind that you're careful if you want to chase it," he said to his daughters.
This immediately earned him a simultaneous "Why?" from both inquisitive girls.
"You're not really supposed to chase elves," he explained. "It is said that they are able to sense mischievous children, and that they love to lead them right into troubles and misadventures."
"Careful, Raoul," said Christine, with a smile. "You're implicating us with that statement."
"Were you mischievous children?" asked Giselle, with an air of suspicion and curiosity.
"I suppose we had a slight tendency to find trouble," said Raoul.
"…Says the one who ran headlong into the sea to find my scarf…" mused Christine.
"It isn't as though your record was spotless," Raoul informed her, with a smile.
Now Christine laughed.
"Oh, I guess we were both partners in crime…" she said, between giggles.
"And did the elves really lead you into troubles and misadventures?" asked Giselle, wide-eyed and amazed.
At this, the couple exchanged glances.
"Do you remember, Christine?" asked Raoul.
"Of course; it may as well have been yesterday," she replied.
"Tell us! Tell us!" pleaded the girls.
Of course, there was no turning away from the subject now that Giselle and Sybille were determined to hear it. And so Raoul and Christine began to recount the tale of yesteryear.
Christine had just turned seven, and was once again spending the days by the seaside. Her father's illness had started to take a turn for the worse, so she was grateful that Raoul, just a few years older than she, was there to keep her company. They had been acquainted with each other for a couple years by this time, and enjoyed each other's company.
On that warm, summer morning, Christine was reading a book on legendary creatures beneath the shade of a willow tree. It was a favorite book of hers; her father, in his healthier days, would read from it every night before she fell asleep, and when Raoul would visit, he would narrate the legends to him, as well. Christine adored the book, and her dreams would be filled with the creatures she heard about. Even in her waking moments, she would often daydream that she would ride off on a unicorn and encounter sprites and goblins. Or she would imagine riding to a settlement of forest elves, or perhaps even as far away as the legendary Lothlorien.
"Good morning, Christine!"
Christine looked up from her book to see the young Raoul hanging by his knees from one of the lower branches of the tree so that he was at eye level with her (albeit upside-down). He had achieved what he had intended to: get Christine to laugh. She didn't laugh as much anymore, he realized. And he knew that it was due to her father's worsening health. But she was laughing now, and that made hanging upside-down from the tree all worthwhile.
"Oh, honestly, Raoul!" she said, between giggles. "What on earth would your governess say if she finds out about this!?"
"Nothing, because you shan't be telling her!" he replied, with a grin.
"You're right; I wouldn't," Christine agreed. "But come down from there before that branch breaks!"
"You sounded just like her then…" Raoul mused, but he came down to solid ground anyway. "Are you reading that book again?"
Yes; I can't read it enough!" she said. She paused as an idea struck her. "Raoul… do you think you and I could go in search of forest elves today?"
"We have before; I don't see why we couldn't…"
"No," said Christine. "Normally, we only stay at the forest's edge, and that must be why we haven't found any yet! I say we go in bit further and look; we're sure to find them!"
"Are you allowed to go that far into the forest?" asked Raoul, doubtful that Monsieur Daaé would permit such a thing.
"Oh, we shan't be going all that far; just a little bit further than we normally do!" she said. "I'm going to go to back to the house to bring a picnic to take with us. Are you coming?"
"…And you shan't be telling Father, right?" she asked, as they began to walk back to the house.
"Of course not," Raoul answered, with another smile. "If I do, you would be sure to tell my governess that I was climbing trees."
"And she would tell Philippe, and then you would be getting a right earful!" Christine reminded him.
"Yes, and I know just what he would say…" mused Raoul, and he then launched into an imitation of his elder brother. "'A Chagny does not climb trees or wander through forests; he acts as the nobleman he is, and trains for his life on the sea. Our ancestors were captains and commodores; you must become one as well, and you must prepare for it now!'"
"Come on then, Commodore Raoul," she said, running ahead of him. "A mariner must be swift-footed!"
And so they raced back to the house. There was no clear winner; Christine was running through the front garden, nearing the door, so Raoul took a shortcut, charging through the hedge, and they both got to the door at the same time.
"And a mariner must always use his wits," Raoul said, with a triumphant smile; he had, of course, let her remain in the lead until the very end. He wasn't sure why he hadn't used his full stamina and win instead of just tying. He would have outrun any other girl without a second thought, and would then stand back to smirk at her furious rants; he would frequently outrun his elder sisters in the races he held with them, much to their annoyance. So why didn't he outrun Christine? Was it because he knew of her gentle spirit? Or was it for another reason?
"I cannot believe that you ran right through the hedge!" Christine said, indicating the twigs and leaves in her friend's blond hair. "I'm sure that is something a commodore would never do!"
"Well, I know that a commodore would hold the door open for a lady," Raoul said, and so he held the door for Christine.
"Thank you, Commodore," she said, with a polite curtsy.
"Have you been promoted already?" asked Monsieur Daaé, who had overheard their conversation.
"Not at all, Monsieur," said Raoul, going along with his jest.
"And what, pray tell, is the state of my poor hedge?" the violinist asked, as the children entered the room.
Raoul exchanged glances with Christine before turning back to Monsieur Daaé, replying with a shrug. The boy hastily brushed the incriminating remnants of the plant from his hair.
"How are you feeling, Father?" asked Christine.
"No change as of now," he replied, visibly weak and tired. "The doctor is coming back later to see what can be done."
"He was here only a few days ago," said Christine. "Why is he coming back so soon?"
He did not want to tell her the real reason—that the doctor had delivered a prognosis, and was coming back to see if he was to confirm it. And so he said nothing, which concerned her.
The happiness that had been in Christine's face a moment ago began to fade like sunlight on a cloudy day. Sensing this, Raoul brought up the idea of the picnic, though omitting the location. None the wiser, Monsieur Daaé granted them permission to go, instructing that Christine be back in time for supper.
"You are free to join us this evening, as well," he added. "And mind that you don't get my daughter into any trouble!"
"Of course, Monsieur," Raoul promised. "I'll watch over her."
"Raoul need not watch over me, Father; I'll be fine," assured Christine. "And you need not worry."
Monsieur Daaé took his daughter's hands in his.
"And you need not worry, either," he said, and everyone present in the room knew that he was referring to his health. Yes, he knew he was ill, but the last thing he wanted was for her to worry about it. She would have plenty to worry about later if the doctor's prognosis came true.
It was in silence and a great deal of thought that Christine and Raoul began to prepare the sandwiches for their excursion. Raoul knew that there was no point in trying to say that she shouldn't worry, and that her father would be back to perfect health soon; Monsieur Daaé had already told him of the doctor's prognosis.
"But you must not tell her now," he had pleaded to Raoul. "I am waiting for the right time to tell her. The reason I told you is because you need to know why we shall soon be leaving this place. There are supposed to be better doctors elsewhere, and I might have a better chance. You have been a good and kind friend to Christine, and I know that it must sadden you to know that she will be leaving. You deserved to know the reason why."
And Raoul had understood; he didn't like it at all, but he understood. And he promised not to breathe a word of it to Christine. And it was also why he had been so willing to go on this little adventure with her; normally, Christine would have had to convince him a lot longer to get him to break the rules, but he had accepted today, knowing that these last few weeks with Christine would be precious. For all he knew, he might never see her again after she left.
"So…" he said, as he helped to make the sandwiches. "Do you think we'll see any elves?"
This raised Christine's spirits slightly, taking her mind off of her father's condition.
"I know we will, Raoul," she said. "Something's telling me that we shall have an adventure today… and we cannot have an adventure in the forest without seeing at least one forest elf!"
"…We could if we saw a bear…" Raoul thought to himself, but he didn't voice this aloud. After all, they wouldn't be going all that deep into the forest, and he had never heard of bears wandering out to the forest's edge, especially when they were so close to the sea.
"There!" exclaimed Christine, looking at the small pile of sandwiches that they had constructed together. "That should be enough to last us for the rest of the day, right?"
"I don't see why not…" the boy answered, storing the food in his rucksack. "And even if they don't, we can always come back."
"But only if we have to," said Christine. "Why, those elves could run far away by the time we came back!"
Raoul suppressed a laugh.
"I shall miss her when she goes," he said to himself. But he soon banished the thought from his mind; he was determined to have this adventure with Christine, without thinking about her imminent departure.
"Raoul!" she called, bringing him back.
Christine indicated the front door.
"Are you coming, Commodore?" she asked, with a smile.
"Right behind you, Little Lotte," he replied.