This is a new project of mine – it's working title is 'The Devil's Chord', this is my first venture into writing the PotO fandom and would love constructive critique on my work – as I request on every work of mine I post on this site.
Full Summary: Christine married Raoul and had a son but misfortune struck and the Victome died ten years ago leaving Christine penniless so in desperation she travels to London with her young son to work in the West End. The present day and Christine is the leading soprano and an anonymous patron that wants her to sing at his stately home – and finds faces from her past in the mysterious Highgrave House.
This has some aspects of Leroux/Webber/ Kay to some extent but most are original straight from me – such as Erik aka. 'The Phantom', was born into aristocracy and wealth. This is my take on a LND sequel.
"NO!" an exasperated yelled out, the quick rapping of a violin bow on the bridge of his violin. "All wrong!" he cried out, sighing to calm his nerves as he turned round, presenting his back to his student before he lost his temper. Actors can be so pompous and self-centred and felt like they could excel at everything with ease when it came to the stage but singing and music were a way of life and a profession that had to be taught and extensively in some cases but he was reconsidering that this man over his shoulder was a lost cause. That man had to play a gaelic tune on the fiddle while on stage being accompanied with a small band in their telling of Aos Sí, and their festivities such as Beltane and Samhain – and it was the Samhain jig that Charlie Marshal was trying to play. Hopelessly, he added silently as he turned to face his older student.
"Right, start from the beginning," he said, a sharp bite to his voice that gave a warning to do as they were told and Charlie nodded hesitantly before propping the fiddle on his shoulder and his chin lightly resting before bringing his horse hair bow to the strings and began to string the notes together in a lively pace with quick changes from high up the bridge then down low to the prop, the man tried to ignore the scowl that his younger teacher had on his face as he tried to complete the piece without falter but the bow slipped and his cursed, swinging the violin from his shoulder and grasped it on the neck.
"I cannot do this," he growled out, his anger evident on his face, with his eyebrows furrowed as he glared back at his shorter teacher. Why did the manger have to let the boy teach him instead of Louie or François – no – he had to get the devil teacher that was eight years his junior.
"It's impossible!" he cried out in a last ditch attempt to end this madness.
"The music is not impossible – you are," Erik replied coolly, shrugging his shoulders, his bow in one hand while holding the neck of his violin in the other. Some people in the company thought him as an arrogant arse- a spoilt son that got his way and projected that to people around him but that wasn't the whole truth but he let the stage hands, his fellow musicians and the singers to believe what they wanted to believe.
Charlie was a slight man for his height but with some muscle he had earned with a hard life in the company but not as hard as the backstage hands that created props and backdrops. He was just a chorus man that had become an understudy over the years with many years of struggling. His skin held a healthy tan even though it with was lighter as they were in the city that got little sun through the smog from the factories and everyday city life. This life was rather unhealthy – resulting in a slight case of rickets in his youth and somewhat angry skin condition that flared up spontaneously in the colder months – this man had a hard life and it showed in his temper that erupted on occasion but the young tutor took it in his stride.
Erik glanced up, somehow managing to look down the bridge of his nose tilting his head slightly to gaze at his sandy haired pupil – he stood at 5'10" even at the age of fifteen and the poor bloke even with his slight case of knock knees was still a few inches taller than him for the seven years age difference. Erik still had some growing to do, trying to fill into his still growing frame but it was no use, he still remained thin as a rake unlike Charlie Marshal as he was fondly known.
"What?" Charlie erupted, attracting attention from cleaners in the stands and some stage hands mooching about around the stage and pit. His frame quivered in rage as he tightly grasped the neck of his fiddle to keep him sane – the balls of his knuckles turned white with the pressure. Some of his audience just tutted and continued their jobs – for they had seen this display before in one of Charlie's previous lessons with the first violinist.
"Do I have to repeat myself?" Erik asked exasperated he relaxed his shoulders and turned to walk off into the wings and off the stage. This made Charlie clutch his breath and held it to calm himself, his face flooded with colour as did his ears as he exhaled through his nose with a snort of air and continued to glare daggers into the back of Erik's cranium.
"You were 'ordered' to teach me the Samhain Chant for the Opening Show and that is three days away!" he snapped, calling after Erik but Erik didn't acknowledge that he had heard Charlie's call until he appeared in the front row of the seats and gracefully sat on the plush velvet chair, his violin hand disappeared probably been put away in its case before appearing out from the wings.
"Correction- I was asked to do so by Monsieur Renard as I cannot be in the pit and on the stage at the same time throughout the performance," Erik clarified, glancing up at the dumb struck Charles. "This ends our lessons but I would like you to practise that bit in the chorus where you slip on the strings – that's your only fault that can be picked up in the main performance and by the audience and if you're lucky we won't have any accomplished musicians in the stands to criticise your performance – understood?" he added, his dark brown eyes, so warm most of the time had a hard edge that demanded to be obeyed and Charlie nodded dumbly, a small smile appeared on Erik's face as he stood up. "Great, Now get to work" he finalised before leaving the main hall and entering the labyrinth that were the companies living quarters.
He wasn't interrupted as he journeyed through the shady corridors, the chorus girls, stage hands all too busy to in their own world or stilling and retreating into the shadows to let him pass without a word. The end of the corridor held a solitary door – an apartment for the leading lady. He entered the apartment without knocking; it was his residence as well.
The decor was homely and clearly British with dark rich colours and organic flowing wallpaper featuring flowering fruit blossoms and their corresponding fruit nestled together – plums, cherries, peaches and apples. The drawing room was plain, outdated French designed with flared arms, ornately crafted and turned in the leg.
"I'm back" he called out, his deep voice easily engulfing the room without trying, he began to loosen his white neck tie, his other hand running through his black hair, he finally let out a sigh, his shoulders dropping as he relaxed. His brown eyes scanned the dark room, the wall lamps giving a soft yellow glow.
He heard shuffling from his Mother's bedroom before she entered the drawing room; she was fully dressed in a rosy pink frock, her brown ringlet hair cascading over one shoulder and a small smile on her face.
"Hello you, how was Charles today?" she asked, her question always politely put as she went over to her dressing table to brush through her hair again.
Erik frowned, his disappointment and distaste evident on his face as he looked over his shoulder to his Mother, his white necktie in hand, the collar splaying out without the pressure of the necktie keeping the collar tight to his neck.
"He still slips half way through the Jig" he commented blandly, going over to his small desk in the corner of the room, the writing slope dresser nestled in a dark corner with only a single lamp to illuminate the papers on the open writing slope. A wooden swivel chair, with a leather padded seat was the only comfort as he slowly sat down, his back straightening on the spun wooden slats of the back of the chair.
"That's his only fault that can be picked up on by the ordinary audience." He added, leaning back as he stretched out his legs before sitting back up with his knees bent as he turned to his latest work unfinished on his open writing slope. The coarse off-white paper was splayed about the place with little to no order with an unfinished piece of music, the scales already drawn and divided into beats of four.
"Are you writing another score for the new production?"
The interruption of his Mother's took a few moments to register as he looked up blankly from his unfinished score that at the moment was unnamed. His mouth a thin line as he blinked a few to clear the fog from his mind to process her question, he opened his mouth before closing it again.
"No, this is a personal piece" he said, glanced back down at the unfinished score that took up half a side of paper. He had been working on this piece on and off for over a year. He had first begun this when he had obtained the job of First Violinist in the main Orchestra. But when the conductor and then the manager had found a score he had written on the side inspired by their new production of 'A Midsummer's Night Dream'. It was a Gaelic inspired jig that he could have seen the Faeries of Avalon dancing to in their Faerie Ring but of course the small band piece hadn't made that production but Monsieur Renard had requested him to refine the piece for their Aos Sí production. Now with some of his smaller instrumental pieces in the vetting stages constructed by Monsieur Renard he was now on the radar and had been advised to be at the ready to be requested to write more pieces for later productions.
But this song was something personal, a project larger than anything he was requested to write for the Company. This wasn't just an instrumental piece, this was an aria that was written for his Mother to sing, this wasn't something she normally sang, this wasn't about love this was the exact opposite. This was something that he had started to write in a dark time that he had hid even from his Mother that he had promised to share everything with for they only had each other.
He gazed at the unfinished piece before picking it up and discarding it to the side with other piled papers and took an unused piece with a scale already drafted in pencil and closed his eyes before turning to the small piano forte to his left and gently slid over the traditional Persian rug to the empty space in front of the run down instrument that had a long life before even he had acquired it to help him write his pieces without dragging out his violin or taking up half of the drawing room with a full sized piano. He tested the Middle C and then Low C before going up the High C until he regained his bearings on the small piano forte that was designed for young women to play adequately if they were to accomplish the arts and to be called a 'sophisticated woman'. He experimented with a few chords to accompany his wandering right hand as he began a slow waltz pace piece.
His wandering hands seized, as did the melody that he was forming, the notes slowly dying before he lifted his hands from pressing the keys. His gaze lifted from the piano keys to the other side of the room to his Mother where she still sat on her stool but facing away from the mirror and straight at him and his Piano Forte, the Piano acted like a barrier to his small corner that left him wedged with only a small walk way along the wall.
"Yes, Mother?" he asked, his black hair falling into his forehead, the slick that he applied to his hair in the morning finally losing its hold.
"Don't stay up long?" she asked, a concerned look on her face that he had seen many times before when he would sit at his piano or his desk working into the night while he should be resting especially when they were so close to Opening Evening.
A small smile graced his face, the one he used since he was a child to reassure his Mother, his eyes creased closed so he didn't see her small frown that disappeared when he opened his eyes again with his smile gone. "I won't stay up long – I just want to start this piece for the Reception Party" he reassured.
His Mother gave him a small smile before standing from her stool and retiring for an early night into the privacy of her bedroom.
The days flew by until the day of the Opening Night, the day dragged with reruns of the final dress rehearsal before the curtains would go up to a full house. The practise piano was put away for the appearance of the full orchestra in the pit with Mister Renard on his conducting stand with his baton in hand.
Erik was in his usual seat to the left of the other violinists on the front row with his violin in hand; it wasn't his personal violin because his Grandfather's violin was a family heirloom and couldn't be used in the pit for its protection against overuse. All of the orchestra were given company owned instruments to play.
The strings were light and dreamy while the brass, wood wind and percussion gave layers of depth and fulfilment in the piece as the bass drum gave a low growling rumble with each rapid beat, the symbols clashing as the bass drum reached its crescendo. The violins, violas and cellos placidly playing with their bows languidly too and throwing over the fret strings, fingers rubbing the strings to prolong the note, the violins broke off from the main string accompaniment to start their own frantic tune, the tempo picked up and the vigour was set in the musicians faces as they were engrossed in the music.
The rehearsal went without a hitch on the Orchestra's part but the Samhain Chant scene with the onstage band was somewhat mediocre and the fiddle was downright horrible and out of time with the rest of the accompaniment. Renard was not pleased.
"Enough- Charles!" he exclaimed, the rapping of his baton impatiently on his stand was enough of an indication he wasn't amused as Queen Victoria would have said. Charlie glanced up from talking and mingling with the rest of the onstage band and he felt at ease until a small frown appeared on his face at the scowl Mister Renard was giving him.
"You haven't learnt the Samhain Chant to my expectations," Renard blandly said, his icy blue eyes staring down Charlie until the young man became flustered and looked away in defeat.
"Erik de Chagny brought our lessons to an end three days ago, Mister Renard, he said that 'I was adequate if there weren't any accomplished musicians in the audience." Charlie clearly called out, his voice somewhat hesitant as it tried to fill up the expanse of the hall; it caught everyone's attention that was within ear shot.
Renard's eyes narrowed as he processed what Charles was implying, so Erik brought their lessons to a close three days ago and he was at this level of playing? Why did the First Violinist stop their lessons? He looked down at Erik de Chagny.
"Is this true?"
Erik looked up from the pit to the conductor and thinned his lips and gave a curt nod and a small "Yes".
"And the reasons?"
"Because he wouldn't have improved any" he calmly replied, his violin placed on his lap and his bow within his right hand. "The place where he stumbles would have taken more than the time I had to rectify any mistakes"
"Then the piece will have to be altered" Renard finalised, his gaze falling back to Erik.
"The Piece cannot be altered" Erik butted in.
Renard stared down at Erik, his glassy icy blue eyes piercing and resolute, a quality that brought fear to most with his silver hair, clean shaven and sharp features, his lips drawn into a thin line. The conductor scrutinized the first violinist rather indiscreetly for all of the company to see. Mister Renard was a man that ruled with an iron first and his method got the job done from satisfaction to perfection on all occasions. He didn't take insubordination likely as he bore down upon Erik that didn't fidget within his seat in the pit amongst his peers but singled out all the same.
"Oh? Then you can play the piece of the violin in the Fae Band" he ground out, his voice low and unaffected by the tension within the theatre.
Erik frowned, he wasn't one for being on the stage within a performance, and he left that experience to his Mother that was playing the leading lady as Tatiana, the Fae Queen herself. The other thing was that he didn't sing professionally, no one within the company had heard him sing even though he was the son of their leading soprano they brushed him aside and left unearthed talent undiscovered if there was any. As a part of the band he would have to sing, even if for a few minutes while he played and sang with his fellow band and the other chorus members upon the stage. He knew the lyrics of course, he were the one to write them with some influence from the Irish members of the Company. For their help he was grateful to hear their cultural music that seemed so vulgar and lower class to the English and the Western Society. If he were to take up Renard's command he would have to sing or be out of place among the sea of faces as he played without singing out joyously. His hesitation wasn't only because of his lack of experience of singing upon stage but it was his Mother. How daft, that he would refuse and most likely lose the Managers and Renard's good graces and most likely kicked out on his arse upon the street. He had promised never to sing for anyone except for her, but, if he did this he would be doing this for her, wouldn't he? He would be keeping his job within the Company and earn money for another day.
"Monsieur, you of all people know that I do not sing-"Erik began to explain, trying to worm his way out of the mess he had unwittingly walked into. Why couldn't he just let the piece be altered so Charlie could do his piece in the band and be done with it.
"Then you will start- come on now boy", Renard so curtly butted in, accenting his growing ire and impatience with light whacks of his baton upon his stand. "We haven't got all day".
Erik didn't need to be told twice, he stood up with hesitancy that everyone felt if they were the centre of attention and in the firing line of Renard's hate streak. He left the pit, it was agonizing those few short minutes before he entered stage right, right next to the were the band was located. He looked out of place with his slicked back hair and his full suit and bow tie amongst the bright colours and the natural materials that mimicked leaves and nature. Most of the band consisted of the Irish that helped him compose the piece that they would be playing; Charlie was the only outsider of the band.
Renard waved Charlie off the stage, with a disgruntled look Charlie left with barely contained silence, barging a shoulder into Erik as he breezed by. There wasn't much time for pleasantries between the Irish and himself, slacking his bow tie and removing his suit jacket. Erik was wearing a white shirt, his black suspenders contrasting as he got into position. His Mother was going to kill him.
"One, two, three"
The instruments began in unison; Erik played his part correctly, trying to calm his raising heart as the cue to begin the first verse.
And he didn't miss his cue, his voice mingling with the Irish, his French accent easily distinguished between the fellow band members. His thoughts were lost; his worries abandoned as his voice sang out the words in time, as the song died in the last lingering notes did he lift his eyes to the auditorium.
There was silence.
Was it good? bad? The context he wasn't sure as he squared his shoulders, his posture poised for verbal assault.
Renard had a face of slight surprise as he locked eyes with the young violinist.
"You never said you could sing, boy"
Erik's shoulders sagged in relief, the reaction was good, now it took a few more moments to process Renard's question before he answered.
"I have never sung professionally, Monsieur" was his short yet honest reply as he let his arms fall to his sides, his bow and violin in either hand. "So I couldn't determine if I could sing or not." He added for good measure to ease the angry creases on Renard's forehead from his constant frown.
"Hn, well, Mr de Chagny, you will be playing in the Fae band for this performance," Renard finalised, tidying the seats of music on his stand as he adjourned the Company. The orchestra began to file out from the pits while Erik remained on the stage dumb struck. He was in the performance? Onstage?
He turned a deaf ear to the congratulations from the Irish that will be playing alongside him and their playful pats on the shoulder as they scurried off into the bowels of the Opera House. His Mother was going to kill him.
Erik dumbly picked up his jacket and went backstage to place his violin back in the case before retiring back to his Mother's apartment to break the news.
Well, it was safe to say that his Mother didn't take too kindly to the news that he would be performing on stage even if it were only a small piece but there was nothing she could do, Renard had already ordered the final changes to the costume to fit Erik's measurements with the seamstresses.
The hours ticked by, the Opening slowly approaching, the final details were set and the air of ill ease waiting with baited breath for the doors to finally open for the crowds of spectators that had already bought their seats a few months prior for the Opening Night of the new production. Many of the Company's patrons were in their assigned boxes with their closest friends, associates or family, the cheaper floor seats too had filled to the brim with bustling gentlemen accompanying their wives and the few privileged minors accompanying their parents to the Opera.
Erik waited in the Wings, fussing over his colourful costume; he wasn't used to wearing the fine but itchy gossamer fabrics and the slight hint of stage makeup to make his face glow, especially around his dark chocolate eyes. The costume and his overall appearance were conceived in fairy-tales as to what the alluring Folk of the Hills would look like to the mortal eye.
"Aye, laddie, are ya ready?" one of the Irish cheerfully commented.
Erik whipped his head round to face the older red headed man to his left, taking his eyes of the performance, they would soon be going onstage – his Mother was there to celebrate the Summer Solstice. The man was bulky in the shoulders to the point it made Erik look like a gangly weed in appearance. The man was called, Frank, he was about twenty-two and he was a fourth generation Irish-British citizen, his great-grandfather had arrived from Ireland to help dig the canals used for logistics of coal and other cargo.
"Ready as I'll ever be" he replied wearily, as he cast his nervous gaze back to the performance onstage.
They didn't have to wait long, the performance had already arrived to their piece before they knew it and had to gracefully rush on the stage like nothing was out of place even though the band was in a complete fluster and some of them had to tense up to silence the fitful laughter that wanted to ensue.
Erik was at a lose, trying to numb himself to his surroundings as he took deep calming breaths, his eyes fluttering closed as his bow connected to string and he began to play like he was on autopilot, never thinking – just doing and living in the moment like there was no one on stage but him facing an empty auditorium. He sang, even though he didn't realise it himself, his lips were moving in time, his voice muted like the other voices of the band and the accompanying dancing chorus. The erupting applause was also muted as he meandered off the stage with the rest of the band, only then did the fog lift from his senses as some chorus girls brushed past him, giggling away and looking over their shoulders at him, small timid smiles gracing their rosy lips before disappearing around the corner.
"Aye, laddie, looks like you has some admirers" Frank laughed, noticing the impish behaviour of the chorus girls, oh so innocently and casual like to brush past a young man that took their fancy.
Erik looked up at Frank, a puzzled look evident on his face that made the other Irish and Frank laugh out yet again.
"Oh you're so innocent, laddie!" another one of the Irish joked, clamping him on the back somewhat roughly that made Erik slightly stumble but Erik didn't push it, he was acquainted with the man and he only meant it in jest.
"Those 'ere lassies want yah, Laddie, and I would gobble them down if I had the chance – and fast too!" another lewdly joked, giving out a wolf whistle for good measure, the others joined in the chorus of wolf whistling. The band's antics were just brushed aside by the backstage hands as the usual Irish banter.