A/N: Hullo! I am Hitsugi Zirkus and I'm afraid I don't have a lot of time to explain myself (darn these public terminals...). Well, would you look at that, I'm making another Pandora Hearts series 8D Clockwork Circus is almost done, so I figure, why not? This has been buzzing in my skull since my orchestra class played a song called Dance of Iscariot. Do give it a listen. It's also what Lacie is humming later in the chapter :)

This is a birthday fic for my good friend, Haunani. She's such a dear and it's so much fun talking to her. I'm so glad I met you, dearie~ I want to fling endless praise and love and cookies at you~~ -insert many hearts- Happy early birthday :3

Sinister Cabaret

Prelude in Presto

Tea stains had the tendency in smelling weird when they were left alone to soak into a rug, but with just a glance at his younger sister, he knew that this was not a concern of hers. With a sigh, he rose from his chair, grabbing a napkin to dab at the spill, as he'd seen maids do in the past. The only reason he was doing himself now was because it was only himself and his sister in the parlor they hadn't known existed below the castle.

"If you're not going to take your afternoon tea, then why don't you stop spilling it everywhere?" he asked his sister, chastising her patiently. He said this already knowing her answer.

Her eyes, large and a perfect ruby color, bore onto him. He once heard that rubies didn't change their color no matter what light shone on them; their red hue would only become more brilliant. It was an unchanging gem that had no qualms with bending others and asserting itself. To be honest, he thought the color of his sister's eyes only fitting because of this. Princess Lacie Annabelle Marie Baskerville may have been seven years of age, but it never stopped her from developing the strong personality she had.

"If I use up all the tea in the pot, the maids will have to come if I ask for more," she reasoned simply, slouching over the table with its lacy tablecloth. She must have known that he'd get upset about her improper posture, because even though he was glaring she was smiling.

He huffed out a breath and stood up once he had cleaned his sister's mess away. He was just about to return to his own cup of tea when he heard a small clink and looked up to see Lacie grinning. Following the trail of light-yellow, he saw that she had knocked over another cup.

"Lacie, stop that," he groaned, bending down to clean up the spill again. "Why do you keep doing that? Drinking the tea would work, too, you know!"

Her small legs rocked back and forth beneath the tablecloth. "I'm waiting to see when you'll do a cleaning spell or something," she admitted, her tone excited. "I never get to see Brother do magick unless he's in lessons. And sometimes your tutor won't allow me in the room."

Gradually, his scowl went away. He knew younger siblings had a tendency to act innocent, but he wasn't fooled by such things. Nevertheless, he knew his sister's reason to be sincere and he sighed, smiling. "I don't know anything like that, Lacie," he told her, dabbing away until the rug was only slightly wet.

"Brother, I'm bored, though!" whined Lacie, wringing her dress that was varying shades of red. "We've been down here for hours. Maybe even a day!"

"Come, it hasn't been that long," he said with a shake of his head. Although it had been quite some time since their head butler and maid took them down the stone steps and placed them into the well-accommodated room. He recalled how peculiar their expressions were – although they were smiling and saying reassuring things to the two royal siblings, he couldn't shake off the feeling that their cheeriness was a mask to hide something.

"You'll be here for awhile," their maid had told them gently, ruffling the dark hair on each of their heads. Then, quietly and calmly, she explained, "Your parents – Your Majesties have reasons to believe some…bad people might come. And they requested we keep you safe."

The notion of "bad people" wasn't a foreign one for him. He recalled that his father once told him that when Lacie was born, someone attempted to assassinate his mother and take his newborn sister away. Of course, the operation had failed, and since then life had been relatively quiet. Never did he think such a thing would happen again, but to be honest, he wasn't all that worried.

For one, if there was one failed attempt, then what would stop it from failing a second time? Second, everyone knew that the Baskervilles were a royal family very well practiced in magick. Granted, he had never seen his parents use attack magick in earnest – since he never had the cause to – but that didn't mean the power wasn't obvious. Anyone who thought they could pull something over his family was very mistaken in this notion.

And so they waited in this secret room. No one came to check on them, but he still wasn't worried – at least, not for himself.

Every so often he'd warm up a new pot of tea with a simple fire spell his tutor taught him or go over and pull out a few volumes from the shelf only to not know any of the words. His purple eyes glanced over at the pure-white upright piano leaning against the wall more than once. He had never touched the instrument before, but had seen his father tinker with it and was always entranced by the enchanting music pouring from it.

Probably noticing his interest, Lacie piped up, "Go play on the piano. I want to hear a song."

Startled, he looked at her dumbly. "What? I've never played that before."

"Father does," Lacie pointed out, reaching out for the pot of tea.

Quickly, he sat up and took the sleek pot out of her reach before more of her antics continued. Although he hated to admit it, he was getting pretty curious himself, and he felt his cheeks grow warm with an embarrassed blush. "I don't know any songs," he told her.

When he took the tea away from her she pouted, but at his declaration, she smiled. "Can you write songs?"

"Well, no," he relented, sinking into his chair. "But maybe I can play something by just listening to it. Father can do that." Lacie's clap of approval was all he needed to prompt him to the piano. He turned back to see his sister sitting expectantly, her back straight and lips clamped together in forced silence.

A clear sound rang in the room when he pushed down on one of the milky-white keys. He couldn't tell if it was in tune or not, but it didn't sound wrong…

"Well?" he prompted, tilting her head at her.

"Well what?"

He scowled lightly at her. "Sing a song or something, and I'll try to imitate it on the piano."

Now it was Lacie's turn to tilt her head in question. "What does imitate mean?" she asked, blinking her red eyes in confusion.

Patiently, he explained, "It means trying to copy something. Lacie, do you want me to play or not?" he said, trying to get the conversation back on track.

She eagerly nodded, sliding out of her chair and going over to sit next to him on the bench. She wiggled about as she tried to think, making him grow slightly impatient, but then she gasped in clarity. "I've got it. I made it up, so you can't say it was you, okay, Brother?"

He couldn't help but smile at her insistence. "That's why I'm imitating it. Alright, you can start when you want," he said, poising his fingers over the keys as he had seen his father do countless times. He even remembered to keep his back straight as he waited for his sister to sing.

Most everyone in the castle knew of the beautiful singing voice Lacie had. She wasn't good in recognizing notes if her music lessons were any indication, but she was surprisingly good at coming up with something out of nowhere. He never said it out loud how much he admired her – not because he was jealous, but merely because he couldn't express his emotions well. The fact that he wanted to play her song as the first he'd play on a piano spoke for itself, and he hoped Lacie knew that.

Closing her eyes, Lacie sang. It had no words, so she was merely vocalizing, but he sensed un underlying emotion embedded deep within it, waiting to be born. Her voice unexpectedly took to a crescendo, a fast pace and dramatic tone. Dramatic and somehow…powerfully ominous. Without realizing it, his eyes were transfixed only on her and a smile was on his face, his palms now flat on the piano's glossy keys.

When her short tune repeated itself, she admitted, "That's as far as I got."

"I'm surprised you remember that much without writing down any notes," he said breathlessly. He ruffled her hair. "I wonder if your magick gift is with music. A Music Worker," he said, remembering what his tutor referred to as the title a practitioner of magick was given when they found their gift. Only one person was given a single title at a time, because only one person had a particular gift in a lifetime. It was complicated explanation that he had yet to memorize in his head, but since he didn't have a clue what his gift was, he didn't think much about it.

Lacie's gaze met his. "So will you play it for me?"

"I think I got it…," he tried to reassure himself. He remembered how it was her song went, and so he positioned his fingers again, listening in his mind how the notes would be translated on the piano.

Only a single note fell when a loud crash rattled the entire room. Books fell from the shelf and the tea cups clinked on the plates, tea sloshing onto the cloth. Lacie trembled and tumbled onto him, and he held her tightly, looking up.

"Brother, what is that?" he heard her ask, but only barely as every noise sounded muffled in his ears. He held Lacie. Something was wrong in the castle. He couldn't remember his father saying something like this happened last time. The small hairs on his arms stood on end, and it was as if a faint sensation were humming all over his body, like static. He was startled to realize that meant he was sensing someone using magick.

He shot up and grabbed Lacie's wrist tightly, dashing them over to the tea table as quickly as he could as the room continued to shake and rumble like an earthquake. Lacie stumbled more than once, but he scooped her back up and then picked up the cloth over the table, shoving the two of them under it. With no windows or light save for the simple chandelier above them, the underside of the table was like a dry cave sheltering them. And shelter was what was most important right now. And protection.

Letting go of his sister, he racked his mind for any defensive spells his tutor had taught him. Since he was still a beginner and had yet to know his gift, his spell-weaving involved a lot of murmuring and drawing symbols in the air that glowed a faint yellow color. All the while he kept thinking desperately, Please, please keep us safe. Please let Mother and Father be okay

Lacie was gripping his lacy cuff tightly. "We'll be okay, right?" she asked in a steady voice, but there was no denying the trouble in her eyes. "Or…are we going to die?"

He rushed through his last spell before turning to her. "Don't say that. We're fine."

"But if Mama and Papa can't even stop the bad people, how can you when you're not-?" She stopped talking when he clamped a hand over her mouth to keep the truth from leaving her. At the same time, the rumbling also came to a lull until the room settled to a shudder, then froze completely. A numbing silence met them, filled with his rapidly beating heart and Lacie's breath on his palm.

For a few seconds, he didn't dare move, and thankfully neither did his sister. He thought about relaxing when a woman's shill voice screamed, "NOOOOO!"

He jumped and Lacie's eyes began to glass over, making him bite the inside of his cheek. He was hoping she wouldn't recognize their mother's voice in such a state.

There was a sound like someone choking on water and a thud heavy on the wall nearest them. Slowly, he pressed a finger to his lips and then let go of Lacie's mouth. He lifted up the table cloth a few inches to peer outside. His purple eyes barely fell on the red spilling into the room through the door when it splintered apart with a great crash, small bits of brick from the doorframe crumbling with a bang. He recoiled immediately, grabbing Lacie again and holding her close.

Trying to steady his breathing proved to be a near impossible task, but he tried to keep himself as calm as a nine-year-old could be in this situation, especially given he didn't want to scare his sister. He glanced down at her to see her wide eyes search him for answers. He only squeezed her hand in return, not even having the strength to fake a smile.

Something else was in the room now. He could just feel it in how heavy the air suddenly seemed to get. There was still the static electricity feeling, only now it seemed to be dancing freely through the space in the room, cackling with energy he couldn't even begin to fathom. It set his senses and mind on edge, and he didn't even dare to draw a breath into his small chest.

Dead. His parents had to be dead. Otherwise someone would come for them right now.

Then he saw it – blackness stretching out from under the cloth and wrapping itself around them. Its shapeless and ink-colored form reminded him of the tea that Lacie had continually spilled.

He was too late to cover up Lacie's mouth when she wailed. She quickly clamped her lips closed, but realized her mistake too late.

The shadow-stain made a terrible shuddering gesture, and he heard something that sounded like a smirk. The stain lunged for them, but just when he thought he had to cause to fear it, it took a tangible characteristic by forming a clawed hand that grabbed Lacie's ankle and dragged her from beneath the table. Both siblings screamed. He scrambled for his sister's outstretched hand, but only fumbled with the tablecloth, spilling china and liquid everywhere with a crash.

"Lacie!" he called, tearing away from the floor. Every spell he knew seemed to disappear from his mind, leaving a painful void – which may have been just as well: "If Mama and Papa can't even stop the bad people, how can you…?"

The screech of his little sister's terror brought him back to reality, and he focused his gaze on her – she, who was cradled in the personification of shadow and everything abysmal. The glass-orb eyes stared at him through the darkness, the blackness making their color a dull gray like a peering monster.

And yet…and yet all he could do was remain terribly frozen when, before she disappeared in the shadow's arms, Lacie screamed, "Help me, Oswald!"

Once, a twin boy and girl worked to make the world from their gifts within a box. When they opened it against the "Abyss'" warning, it is said that all the chaos within the Abyss' heart was released upon the world. Fearing the punishment that would be bestowed upon them for disobeying the Abyss, the twins escaped from their bodies, their souls living on in the flesh of mortals for centuries and centuries.

Nevertheless, the Abyss continues to search for the twins – the ones who opened Pandora's Box.

Ending A/N: I told myself I wouldn't use "Oswald"... so many apolgies! :'D -waits for flames-

Sorry Jack wasn't in this chapter, Haunani-chan, but he will next chapter, I promise~ :3 I started DW, by the way owo

So...I hope this worked out well so far. Please drop a review with your thoughts 8'D