A/N: My dearest readers, after a long absence I have decided to return to this story. I wish to take a slightly different direction than before, so I will be updating chapters and completely changing others. I hope these changes will better develop the story line and characters. Please R&R and leave any comments or suggestions! I hope to hear from all of you! I don't own any characters from Phantom of the Opera—whether they be Kay, Leroux, or Weber based.

Time, it's such a mere, nonexistent thing really. And yet, it can destroy, heal, and corrupt. It also tells 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 palace.

The Land of Larcosia was never a corrupt or war torn place. The King and Queen fairly and justly settled disputes. The people of the kingdom claimed that if a Destler ruled, there would be no turmoil. However, the King and Queen feared that there wouldn't be an heir to rule after them, for they had no children. From day to day the King and Queen had to mask their sadness as business and pressing matters called their attention.

One day, as the king was attending to pressing matters of the kingdom, the Queen had discovered 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, near the farthest 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. She awed the King and Queen, 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.

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 finally. She prepared a seemingly normal sleeping draught for the Queen to take, as the Queen usually liked to have a little extra help getting to sleep, but Xania laced this draught 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 train herself in the black arts of magic.

Memories of her the queen's near demise pervaded Xania's mind as she secretly planned for her revenge.

After this incident, the king hired bodyguards from an exotic, desert kingdom as a means of protection for his wife. These men were specially trained in self-defense and protection; however, they were particularly infamous in the art of assassination by Punjab lasso. A rather curious art form, but deadly and efficient. The king ordered that these foreign, copper-skinned men trained all members of his guard in their peculiar art. One of the captains of the exotic guards, a young, skilled assassin known only as the Daroga, became a confidant and personal guard of the king and queen, swearing to protect them and their unborn child with his own life if necessary.

The Castle of Mirrors glowed with merriment. The festivities celebrating the pending birth of the prince were underway. 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 it.

Throughout the celebration, the guards stood erect and ominous at every possible entrance—the Daroga planted firmly by the king and queen, observing every movement and passerby in the main hall suspiciously. 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 that of the angels. Your skill will be such that you will master any instrument 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. However, the minds and senses of the crowd were perfectly active yet helpless as they gazed 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 as normal as could be expected. This inspired hope in many that perhaps there was nothing wrong after all. It was a stormy night, and the King had ridden out with the Daroga and his guards once again in hopes that they would catch Xania. He had been gone for so long that the Queen feared the worst. She could not help but feel that something was terribly wrong. Then, one day, her anxiety became a horrific reality.

It was in the very late hours of the evening when the young Daroga brought the King's body back. He and his men had been hijacked and killed by black magic, and Xania was nowhere to be found. Miraculously, the Daroga was the only survivor. The Queen had no time to despair, for she was immediately seized with incredible labor pains. The midwives were rushed 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, was a gaping hole. The child's sunken eyes had a strange amber 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 his face.

Then something curious happened, the child cried. His wail 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.

The queen desperately attempted to love her son, but the image of his deathly countenance plagued her memory and her affections towards him. Immediately following her son's birth, the queen ordered the palace artists to create an elaborate mask that would hide Erik's horrific deformity. Soon thereafter, one over-arching rule dominated Erik's young life—he was never to remove his mask, nor was anyone else permitted to remove it. All mirrors had been removed from the child's presence, and he was never permitted to enter the wing containing the rooms filled entirely with mirrors. Meanwhile, Prince Erik's astounding musical talents progressed. He was considered a quiet, mysterious child, but extremely intelligent, with unnatural acute senses. Few individuals dared to be near Erik because of his peculiarities—all except the Daroga. Ever since Erik's birth, the Daroga delegated himself as Erik's personal confidante, companion, and protector—just as he had with the king. He was the only person with whom Erik communicated in a normal fashion, and over time the Daroga began to instruct Erik in the exotic arts of his land: ventriloquism, magic, and the skillful use of the Punjab lasso. In Erik's ninth year, tragedy struck the kingdom once again. Since Prince Erik's birth, the queen gradually isolated herself from others, refusing to eat. For years she suffered of malnourishment and ravaging fevers. Despite the help of skillful medics, she quietly died in her sleep. In addition to her deteriorating health, rumors spread that the Queen suffered and 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.

With the passage of time and constant reminder of his curse, 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 other than the Daroga. He later dismissed everyone in the castle and renounced his throne as king. The only title that remained was one of trepidation and fear, and the Castle of Mirrors became nothing more than a monument that inspired rumor and folklore.

Larcosia had now become a self-governing kingdom. Although Erik had renounced his title as King, he still had a powerful presence that struck fear in every villager's soul. Occasionally he would make demands of the people, which were hastily met for fear of his respite. Other than his persistent demands and threats towards the village people, Erik remained isolated in his castle as he continued to progress in his genius and doomed to the fate his curse promised him.

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

A/N: Again, I hope you will all be patient with me as I attempt to re-write this story. R&R and leave suggestions!