A/N: I do not own any characters or situations from Phantom, Beauty and the Beast, Rigoletto, Sleeping Beauty etc. They are not mine, and are used for entertainment purposes.

Time, it's such a mere, nonexistent thing really. And yet, it has the ability to destroy, heal, and corrupt. It also has the ability to tell a story, which is how this one begins; with once upon a time.

Once upon a time there existed a far away kingdom called Larcosia. It was a beautiful place with lush, green pine tree forests, and clear blue lakes and streams. The kingdom was a happy one where villagers were governed justly and fairly buy their rulers. King and Queen Destler were known fondly for their kindness and good judgment. They were well respected throughout the land and lived very peacefully in their castle.

Their castle was very beautiful and regal with towering spires and high stone walls, and the interior fairly glittered with finery. Originally the castle did not have a name, but it became widely popular for its curious architecture. For inside the castle were rooms with many mirrors. The whole interior of those rooms was made purely of mirror itself. The mirrored rooms became so widely known throughout the land, that the people of Larcosia named this curious place the Castle of Mirrors. It wasn't an uncommon thing for travelers to come and tour the wondrous place.

The Land of Larcosia was never a corrupt or war torn place. Disputes were settled fairly and justly by the King and Queen. It was always said by the people in the kingdom that as long as a Destler ruled, there would be no turmoil. However, the King and Queen feared that there wouldn't be a Destler to rule after them, for they had no children. From day to day the King and Queen had to mask their sadness, for they had royal duties to attend to.

One day, as the King was signing a document with another kingdom, the Queen had discovered some wonderful and much awaited news. They were to have a child! The King and Queen were so elated that they decided to hold a ball and feast in honor of their unborn son or daughter. Preparations began immediately, and the whole kingdom was simply buzzing with excitement. That is, except for one.

Far away, close to the borderline of Larcosia, sat a small but sinister looking place. It was a castle of sorts, but no one knew its name and no one cared to. The walls were dark and sinister, and the trees that sat on the grounds were twisted, odd shaped, and virtually lifeless. There was no sign of life to be had in at least a one mile perimeter of the place, but Xania preferred it this way.

Xania was the perfect match to her home. Her knotted, bony hands were cold and thin, her hair was reduced to wisps and patches of clumps, and her hunched figure could inspire fear in the bravest of souls. Xania was nothing short of a witch, in a very literal sense. For a good portion of her life she secretly studied black magic and horrible potions. This was the kind of magic that if it was ever found out, it could mean a death sentence. Xania wasn't always this way. Oh no, at one time she had a purpose in life, and a station. Xania used to be a physician in the Castle of Mirrors.

While she worked there, Xania performed many unbelievable medical feats. Her potions and remedies were miracles in a bottle. The King and Queen were awed by her, and constantly called on her for medicinal advice. As Xania continued to work in the castle with the two royals, a very unlucky circumstance transpired. Little did the royals know that the after effects of such a circumstance would change the lives of the King and Queen forever. For you see, Xania fell in love with the King.

Little did they know that with each passing day Xania's hatred towards the Queen grew even more intensely. Then one day, Xania decided that she would rid of the Queen once and for all. She prepared a seemingly normal sleeping draught for the Queen to take, as the Queen usually like to have a little extra help getting to sleep, but in this draught Xania laced it with heavy poison. Xania took the draught up to the Queen like usual, and presented her the drink. As the Queen stood to reach for the drink, she tripped on the hem of her nightgown and knocked the concoction from Xania's hand. As the contents spilled all about the bed, the acid in the poison ate away at the bed sheets, foiling Xania's plot. As if on cue, the King strode into the bedroom to behold the horrid scene. Understanding immediately hit him as he banished Xania from the kingdom in a horrible rage. Xania fled from the castle, but as she did so she yelled that she would one day have her revenge. It was at that time that Xania began to participate in the black arts of magic.

These memories were the ones that pervaded Xania's mind as she rode toward the Castle. Ah yes, she thought to herself, revenge would most assuredly be sweet.

The Castle of Mirrors fairly glowed with merriment as the festivities were at their height. Everyone was in a jolly mood and full of anticipation for the upcoming ceremony following the feast. Word had spread throughout the place that the midwives had told the King and Queen to expect a boy, for the child was being carried low in the mother's stomach. It was in this ceremony that the King and Queen were to announce the selected name of their child, and following the announcement the three good fairies of the north would bestow upon the unborn child a gift. The magic of the fairies was well known throughout many kingdoms, and it was a rarity to behold them using it in action.

As the last plates were cleared away, the King and Queen rose to address their people. The room was in such a buzz that no one noticed a hunched, black shadow slip into a dark corner of the hall.

"People of Larcosia," the king announced, "It is with great pleasure that I announce the anticipated birth of our child, whom we will call Prince Erik."

A great roar went up among the crowd, and murmurs of assent quickly spread throughout the room. The king held up his hand to silence the boisterous crowd as he addressed them once more.

"Would the good fairies of the north approach the throne to bestow their gifts?"

The audience watched as three pleasant looking, middle aged women approached the King and Queen. The first fairy, the fairy of talents, kneeled at the Queen's feet as she placed her hands on the Queen's stomach to bestow her gift.

"Fair child," the fairy began, "I bless you with the talent of music. Your voice will be more heavenly than the angels, your skill will be such that you will master any instruments your hands touch, and your ability to compose will be revered as pure genius."

The fairy finished by bowing to the royals as the next fairy, the fairy of knowledge approached the Queen and repeated the same motion.

"Child, I bless you with acute intelligence. You will be known for your accurate discernment and brilliance of mind."

The fairy finished and moved back with the fairy of talents. The last fairy, the fairy of human nature approached and began her blessing.

"Dearest One, I bless you with agility and grace, strength, a strong will, and a beautiful heart."

Then it was over, the awed crowd broke into a lively applause as the fairies seated themselves once again. Just as soon as the happy nature of the room came, it left once again as the black shadow darted from its hidden corner and addressed the room.

"I also have a gift for the child!" Xania cackled.

Before anyone could stop her, Xania cast a powerful incantation that physically froze everyone to the spot excluding her. Although the people were physically frozen, their minds and other senses were still in perfect condition, and they gazed on in horror as Xania placed her hands on the Queen's swollen belly and began her "blessing."

"I curse this child with a death's head!" Xania screamed in a wicked rage. "May this child's body be thin and cold to the touch, and may he inflict horror upon those who gaze on his hideousness! If no one will come to love and accept this child, may he perish on the eve of his thirty fifth year!"

Xania cackled as she broke the freezing incantation and disappeared in a cloud of black smoke. The horror and despair that was felt in the room was overwhelming. The deed had been done, and there was nothing anyone could do.

The Queen's pregnancy continued on as normal as could be expected. This inspired hope in many that perhaps there was nothing wrong after all. But they were soon to be disappointed. It was a stormy night, and the King had ridden out with his cavalry once again in hopes that they would catch Xania. He had been gone for so long that the Queen had become worried. She could not help but feeling that something was terribly wrong. Her feeling would prove to be correct.

It was in the very late hours of the evening when the soldiers brought the King's body back. He was dead as a result of black magic, and Xania was nowhere to be found. The Queen had no time to despair, for she was immediately seized with incredible labor pains. The midwives were immediately brought in, and the birthing of the Prince began. It was a hard, long process, when finally the new born babe was delivered into the new world. The midwives shrieked in horror as they gazed upon the child's face. Xania's curse had proved successful. The new Prince had the head of a corpse. Where there should have been a nose, there was a gaping hole. The child's sunken eyes had a strange yellow color, and his skin was thin and yellow. Blue veins were visible through the child's skin, and uneven lines and bumps coursed across the child's face.

The Queen, in terror of her own child, hastily ordered the castle seamstress to fashion a mask to place over the horrific face of her son. Then something curious happened, the child cried. This wasn't any normal baby wail. The child's cry was strangely unearthly, and even musical to hear. The Queen was fascinated and horrified by it at the same time. This was the beginning of Prince Erik's life.

Years passed and Prince Erik progressed increasingly in his music and his studies. He was considered a quiet, mysterious child, but extremely intelligent and musical. Ever since the day he was born, he was never permitted to remove his mask. All mirrors had been removed from the child's presence, and he was never permitted to enter the wing that contained the rooms filled with mirrors. Life was a seemingly normal for Erik, until the day the Queen mysteriously passed in Erik's ninth year. No one quite knew why, but rumors spread that the Queen died of a broken heart.

Prince Erik was furious when he heard of his mother's death. In a blind rage he ran from his music room and somehow ended up into the wing that was forbidden to him. He could hear pursuit of people behind him, so he dashed into the nearest room and closed the door. What he found there was a room full of mirrors. Curiosity seized him as he gazed at his reflection. Carefully he examined the rest of the room, but only to find his reflection mirrored on every wall. He seized the opportunity to finally glimpse at his true face. His hands reached around to the back of his head to find the tassels that held his mask in place. Gently he untied them and removed his mask. When he saw his visage he was so terrified that he cried out in repulsion and despair. Prince Erik became so enraged that he smashed all the mirrors that showed his reflection. Blood dripped down his hands as he continued until shards of the destroyed mirrors filled the room. The image of his death-like face was engraved in his subconscious mind, and forever would stay there. Prince Erik then became what he would be known as in his adult life, a Phantom.

Years passed and Erik committed himself to his music and nothing else. He secluded himself from the rest of the castle, and refused to show himself to people. He later dismissed everyone in the castle and renounced his throne as king. The only title he would now hold would be one that would inspire fear, and the Castle of Mirrors became nothing more than a monument that inspired rumor and folklore.

Larcosia had now become a self-governing place. Although Erik had renounced his title as King, he still had a powerful presence that struck fear in every villager's soul. Occasionally Prince Erik would make demands of the people, which usually were hastily met for fear of the Prince's respite. Other than that, Erik kept to himself in his castle as he continued to progress in his genius.

As life went on, folklore and tales remained of a disfigured genius that dwelled within the castle. People often told of a madman that dwelled in the area, and children were told tales of a Phantom dressed in a black cloak that haunted the woods near the castle. And this, readers, is where our story really begins.

A/N: Ok so that is my prologue! As many of you may have noticed that the whole idea of the gifts from the fairies came from Sleeping Beauty. I would also like to note that the prediction based on the positioning of the baby in the mother's belly is a wives tale. Many people used the assumption that if the baby sat low in the mother's stomach, it would be a boy. If the child sat higher, it was a girl. Just thought I would mention that. Anyway, please read and review!