Yes, I've started another multi-chapter fic. Don't kill me.

Disclaimer: I'll be drawing off character-background plots from a extremely brilliant, extremely underrated manga called Dazzle (or Hatenkou Yuugi, if you want the Japanese name.)

They aren't big enough references for this to become a crossover; mainly similar aspects in the back-stories of a couple of characters. I thought it would be ethical/moral if I informed everyone, though.

Basically, this story is (hopefully) different to anything else I've written - most particularly in my characterisation of Erik and Christine. Especially Erik. If you've read my one-shots...yes. That sort of thing. Except he'll be more brilliant, more dark, and more insane, in a dark brilliant way. Also, I'm rather hoping this story will turn out better; though if the beginning's anything to go by...

Anyway, I'd really appreciate criticism on this story - some of the aspects are going to be a bit...bizarre. And I like criticism. Unless its on my hair, or my font, or the way I draw treble clefs.


Chapter 1

Looming trees, darkened by the fall of night, surround the small clearing. Like a prison, they stand guard against the near-impossible escape of their captive from the cage within.

She waits; still within the stick-drawn circle, back straight, eyes staring forward unseeingly. The wind, lightly ruffling her pretty dress and tossing her unruly curls, has no effect on her.

She waits.

"What are you doing?"

The surprise she feels, hearing a stranger's voice in such a place, is dulled by the numbness pervading her body and mind.

"What are you doing?"

Melodious and beautiful though the voice might be, the person is starting to get on her nerves. In fact, the voice makes it all the more worse.

"Why are you standing over there?"

Irritation takes over; enough that she forces herself to answer the man, hoping the answer is enough to satisfy him.

"I'm waiting." Now leave me alone.

"Waiting for what?"

What are you waiting for, little girl…?

"Father!" Christine groaned, "is it even possible to drive any slower?!" Her father's glance held quite a large degree of smug complacency – which of course served merely to make her the angrier.

"You'll live, dear," he told her, eyes fixed firmly on the road ahead.

"But I'm going to be late!"

"I don't care. I refuse to be fined simply because you weren't able to spend less than half an hour on your hair."

"But it's my audition! And it's opera - you said yourself that being on time is important! Do you really want me to be late for my first audition?" she pleaded.

He shrugged. "It's your hair, too. And if you really want to blame something, blame New York traffic."

She struggled for some sort of comeback, but was forced to admit to herself that he was right - about the traffic, anyway. She refused to consider the comment about her hair.

With a "hmph!" of annoyance, she leant back into the seat, and tried to force herself to calm down.

"I'm going to be late…!" she moaned again. Stifling a grin, her father shrugged with deliberate indifference.

"And who might you be?"

Her heart sank just a bit more as she wearily turned to see one of the many rich-looking, pretty girls there at audition looking down on her haughtily.

"Christine Daaé," she answered meekly, trying to look as humble and unthreatening as possible. Somehow, she had retained the futile hope that she wouldn't attract the attention of any of these people.

And, for all of about 5 minutes, she thought she had pulled it off; even though she had ran in panting, face flushed from exertion, most of the other entrants had barely spared her a glance - they were too busy bemoaning the state of their hair, or reapplying makeup.

"Really?" the other girl sneered, looking her up and down. Though she was tempted to meet the girl's eyes, Christine managed to keep her gaze averted.

"Hmph." The dismissive, contemptuous sniff infuriated Christine, enough that she looked up.

"And what's your name?"

Though she looked slightly surprised, Christine's new acquaintance didn't seem to have noticed the tone of annoyance in her voice.

"I'm Carlotta Giudicelli," Christine was informed, with all the arrogance of an overly-made-up rich man's daughter in the deliverer's tone.

"That's nice," she said politely, as she sat herself cross-legged on the welcoming carpet. It was quite a nice carpet, as far as carpets went – far nicer than the girl standing near her, in any case – the girl who seemed to still be standing near her, actually; as if she was waiting for something. The silence seemed somewhat…outraged, if that was possible.

How on earth can one create an emotional silence? Christine thought with a certain degree of amazement, as she resigned herself to acknowledging the taller, older-looking girl's presence.

"Yes?" Christine asked, still with the polite tone, as she looked up once more – after all, her father always told her that offending people was not necessarily a good thing - according to him, it tended to get one killed.

Sometimes I wonder what he used to do before he became a musician...

"You…" there was, unsurprisingly, a large amount of outrage in that one syllable, "do you know who I am?!"

Is this a trick question? Christine asked herself. Perhaps this was part of the audition – seeing how long an applicant's memory span was, or something along those lines? It wouldn't be surprising – the room that they were in seemed so expensive and elaborate, after all, that it hardly seemed possible that its only purpose was to serve as a waiting room.

She smiled as inoffensively as possible. "Of course; you introduced yourself just then. Carlotta Giudicelli, wasn't it?" Christine smiled again. "It's a nice name," she added, for good measure. "Italian, isn't it?"

"How can you – well, yes, it is," Carlotta admitted, seeming slightly taken-aback by Christine's last question. "But anyway," she rushed, as giggles and murmurs started to ripple through the crowd of girls, "how can you not know who I am?"

A slight frown touched Christine's features, despite her best efforts. "Well," she attempted to reason with the other girl, "I've never met you before, and I don't really know anything about you, so…" she trailed off there.

More girls were starting to laugh, and Carlotta's scowl deepened slightly.

"You mean to say," Carlotta asked disbelievingly, "you've never heard of me? You've never heard of Antonio Giudicelli?"

Christine thought for a moment.

"No, I would have to say no…but he must be your father," she surmised. "It's alright," she said, suddenly understanding, and she felt a sudden wave of pity for the girl. "That's the thing with coming from a small town to a big city – you live in a small town for a long time, and everyone knows you by your parents – but then you come to somewhere like here and no one's ever heard of them even though you expect them to."

The attempted smile of sympathy and understanding seemed to have failed, much to Christine's dismay. There were actual gasps from some of the onlookers, and Carlotta's features darkened (was it possible?) even further.

"You little…" she started to hiss, but then the door opened, and a man walked in. He was Middle-Eastern, Christine realised with surprise – it was strange to see someone like that in an opera house.

"Greetings, ladies," he said smilingly, white teeth flashing, "My name is Nadir Khan; I'm co-manager of the Metropolitan Opera, and I'll be one of the judges today." He looked around the room as he spoke, evidently taking in the general atmosphere and Carlotta's not-quite-faded scowl.

Co-manager? That was strange - she had thought there was only one manager - some old fat man, if she remembered correctly. Certainly she would have recalled this man...

"It's certainly nice to see you all getting along," the man commented, raising an eyebrow. Christine smiled, partly due to the words, and mostly because of the ugly flush that rose on Carlotta's face.

Opening the door wider, he gestured with one hand. "If you would like to enter…"

The last to go through the door, Christine ventured a small smile in the Middle-Eastern man's direction; he winked at her, and her smile broadened. And then it disappeared completely, as she followed the other girls onto the huge, ominously unwelcoming stage.

I should be fine, she tried to reassure herself. As long as I don't faint, anyway...

Somehow, as they stood on the stage and gazed out into the empty audience seats, fainting didn't seem that unrealistic a possibility.

Yep, I'm going to ask the dreaded question.

How was it?

This chapter wasn't very impressive (though I like the beginning). But it actually gets better, and I should know because I've written the next chapter and half of third.

As I've said before, and have probably said every chapter of every story I've posted, I welcome criticism, the chance expression of adoration, etc.

That said...enjoy your day?