Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Dream Descends

Part 14 of 16

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Christine pushed herself back through the pillows on the bed, until she was leaning only against the headboard, her hands trembling as they pulled the blankets up over her body.

Erik’s footsteps had long since faded, but she could hear the faint trails of his voice coming up through the floorboards. It was little comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

Later, she could not say which came first—her scream, or the horrible snap of wood as the balcony doors swung open to welcome in the night. Her lips formed the first word that came to her mind, the word that was never left her thoughts; the word that summoned her most heartfelt desires…


And then icy, unfamiliar hands seized her bare skin, dragging her from her warm sanctuary. She writhed and struggled, but bony fingers held her in a grip of stone. A shadow leaned over her, and a cloth was pressed over her mouth as she gasped for air.

She saw no more.

* * *

When no word arrived from England that night, and no message had come the following morning, Raoul had begun to relax. Returning to Paris had been good for him, as he found comfort in his childhood home. The Chagny home in France’s capital had lost none of its magnificence, and had remained untouched by the Commune’s wrath.

Perhaps it was all finally over; perhaps Bonheur had suddenly seen the light, and found a purpose somewhere in his wretched existence. Perhaps Raoul would be left alone to find his peace of mind, and nurse his smarting wounds, before another family enemy sought to bring the Chagny legacy to ruins…

In such a way this hope made Raoul’s breathing easier, and for one precious hour that day he revelled in the giddiness it graciously instilled.

“A visitor for you, monsieur.”

“Tell them I am not receiving today.”

“The man says it is urgent, monsieur.”

Raoul sat up and looked thoughtfully at the new butler, now that Deniau had left them. “Not—”

“This is no time for social decorum, idiot; get out of the way.”

Raoul started and leapt to his feet—there was no mistaking that voice.

“But his voice filled my spirit with…”

Mortal terror, the Comte finished bitterly. But any resentment vanished as he realized the implications of Erik, in France. Erik, who now stood before him dishevelled and quivering with rage, the haunted shadow in his eyes speaking louder than words.

And Raoul knew there would be no peace of mind for him just yet.

For a moment, the two men stood facing each other, rivals sizing one another up. The contrast was drastic; Raoul, with his fair hair and temperate grey-green eyes, lean but still strong, emotions simple and clear across his face; and Erik, his blazing cerulean gaze boring a hole in Raoul’s chest, the infamous mask gleaming, spotless—his entire form shaking with effort to keep his feelings at bay.

“She’s gone,” the second man finally blurted out. “Taken.”

Raoul did not inquire further—his new understanding helped him see the pain it caused Erik to come to another man for help, and the pain of knowing he had failed to protect the one thing he loved. The Comte let out a long, calming breath. “Then we must find her,” he replied. “Deniau disappeared the night before last. Bonheur is preparing for the final confrontation.”

Erik opened his mouth, and then seemed to think better of it. He strode over to the cabinet and withdrew the bottle of whiskey. With a wary glance at Raoul, he poured a glass for himself. Raoul flushed with shame, realizing Christine must have told Erik of his former weakness.

He did not ask for a glass, nor did Erik offer one. They took seats directly across from one another, still opposing forces, unwillingly working together.

“His father’s manor—it’s been abandoned for years,” Erik suggested, downing the honey-coloured liquid in his glass absently.

“Bought, less than six months ago. It’s private property.” Raoul rubbed his temples in agitation. “No, he’d go somewhere more…personal. He wants me to find him.”

Damn,” Erik muttered. “Damn, damn, damn—”

Raoul drifted into thought, Erik’s irate cursing fading as his concentration intensified.

* * *

“You are yet only a boy, brother, and you will not understand the cruelties of the world for some time,” Philippe had said, placing a comforting hand on Raoul’s shoulder. The paleness of the new Comte’s skin against Raoul’s black mourning clothes was a harsh blow. Raoul had not realized just how frail the death of his father had made Philippe.

“And that is exactly why you must promise me not to trust anyone but yourself, now that you are the direct heir to the Chagny title after I follow in the steps of father. He was a great man, but human. He made our family many enemies, Raoul.”

“But why would anyone want to hurt us? Father is dead now. We have done nothing wrong.”

Philippe gave Raoul a long, grave look. “Because, my boy, Death has robbed them of their chance for revenge. They see us as their new prey—the blood we share with father is both a blessing and a curse.”

“But who are ‘they’? You have yet to tell me that, brother.”

“You are too young to know the details. One day I will reveal all of our family’s history to you, but today I only mean to caution you. You cannot tell these men apart from other people, Raoul; they appear to be just like you or I. The difference is here,” he gestured to his chest. “These men will stop at nothing to hurt you. They know not the principles of a gentleman, and they will strike in the very heart of you, if they so chose. They will strike in your very home—the one place you believed to be safe will in fact be the area you should take most care in.”

Raoul swallowed nervously. “But our home is secure.”

“No place is secure!” Philippe bellowed, then again lowered his voice to the grim whisper used before. “That is something you must understand, brother. No place is safe for you when you have enemies. No place can keep you away from danger. There is no one—” He paused, leaning back, and gave Raoul a wary look as though he suspected his younger brother of the same threat he had just been describing.

“There is no one,” he continued, “And nowhere. They will always know more than you suspect, and always see what you keep out of sight. When you seek to find your enemies, Raoul, you only have to look inside your own borders. Then you will find them, make no mistake!”

* * *


“Perhaps he thought to—” Erik faltered mid-speech, and stared at Raoul.

“Nice,” the younger man repeated, his eyes alight. “That is where they are!”

“How the hell—how do you know?”

Raoul jumped to his feet and began pacing excitedly. “The Chagny residence, in Nice. It is exactly the sort of thing Bonheur would do, too—strike in a place personal to us both, as he must know about you somehow—Nice is your home…But in my house, where Deniau spied on us, and where Bonheur himself came when we thought the Commune was our adversary.”

Erik had now risen as well, and was watching Raoul with narrowed eyes.

“We must go at once,” Raoul cried, his brow set in determination.

“I would think you insane, Chagny, if you didn’t sound so bloody right.”

One woman has brought the two bitterest enemies together, Erik thought in grim amusement as he followed the Comte out of the room. Now if only we can bring ourselves to her.

* * *

“Charming weather, today.”

“As always in this city, sir.”

“Lady Abraham was quite delightful for luncheon, didn’t you think so?”

“To be sure, sir.”

“Stop calling me sir.”

“Yes, father.”

“And stop agreeing with me.”

“Yes—er, no, father.”

Dion picked irritably at his dinner, trying to squash the unusual feeling of restlessness that had been bothering him the entire day. Lady Abraham’s visit had been of no help; she could make a chair snore, if she set her mind to it.

His father the Baron scooped food into his mouth between each bland comment, never a hair of his curling white mustache falling out of place.

“I thought the weather was quite pleasant today.”

“So you said, father.”

“Did I?”



Dion nearly shouted in relief when the doorbell chimed throughout the halls. Leaping up from his seat, he said quickly, “I’ll just get that, shall I?”

“Nonsense, the butler can—”

“Poor man’s got a bad back, I’ll—er—assist him.” He darted out of the room before his father could raise another objection.

Dion was generally an optimistic man. It was this trait that made him such enjoyable company, and that made the otherwise dull famille Marchand popular in Nice. He always managed to cheer one up, and knew exactly when to tell a joke, or when not to tell one. He had a way with words that got you nodding and smiling dumbly in agreement.

But even the most sanguine of men would have thought the worse when they saw the haggard faces of the Comte de Chagny and Erik de la Rue, trying to push past the alarmed, bleating servant blocking the doorway. The first image that crossed Dion’s mind was one of a casket, and inside a ghostly pale woman of exquisite, calm beauty, dark curls spreading like a fan around her face…

But, no—impossible…

“Get a hold of yourself, man, this is no time to succumb to the vapours.”

The rough, critical voice of his teacher brought the colour back into the young noble’s countenance. He groped for words. “Where—how—why—”

“All in good time, monsieur,” Raoul supplied vaguely, running a hand through his hair. “We must move quickly—a life is at stake here.”

Dion grimaced in apprehension. “Christine…where is she?” He asked, already knowing the answer.

“Kidnapped; taken hostage by—”

“But the Commune’s days of power are over,” Dion cut in desperately, wringing his hands. “And how could they find her in England, why would they still search…?”

“Because it is not the Commune,” Erik said, annoyance sharpening his tone. “Please—my friend—we must make haste. Let us sit down and refresh ourselves, and we can inform you of our current…situation.”

“Of course,” Dion replied shakily. He turned and headed towards the library. “This way, if you please.”

* * *

Dion studied the two solemn faces before him pensively. “How can you be certain this man, Bonheur, would take her there?”

“We can’t,” Raoul said after a moment’s hesitation. “But I can feel it, I know this is what he would do. He wouldn’t hide her away; it’s me he wants. She’s only a lure.”

Erik’s expression said without words what he thought of referring to Christine as ‘only’ something, but he didn’t speak. Dion was quite amazed at the control Erik was showing—when he had last seen him with the Comte, his teacher had been radiating dislike—now he seemed to almost respect him.

“Will three men be enough to overpower him and his—er—colleagues?”

This time, Erik answered. “Men like Bonheur work alone. My guess is there will be no large number of guards, or colleagues, as you so delicately put it. He wants to rid himself of his enemies by himself.”

Dion sighed. “I don’t understand why we can’t just get the police to—”

“No!” Raoul and Erik exclaimed in unison, their eyes wide.

“Very well,” Dion grumbled. “What do we need?”

“Firearms,” Erik said. He pulled out his own pistol for the others to see. “I only took one when I left England.”

“I didn’t think to bring any,” Raoul confessed.

Dion stood and went to the fireplace, taking a small chest from the mantle and bringing it back to the low table they sat around. He carefully lifted the lid and withdrew three finely crafted colts, each with the initials ‘R.M.’ engraved into them. “My father’s,” Dion said. With a choked voice, he added, “Try not to lose them.”

Dion took two and Raoul took one, already having his rapier at his side, which he admitted he was better with. Armed sufficiently, they both looked at Erik with interest.

“I only need the one,” he murmured, pulling back his cape. A coil of rope was attached to his belt. Raoul found himself unable to look away, dread washing over him for the briefest moment. Dion only looked in confusion.

“A rope? What are you going to do with a rope?”

Erik gave the boy a steady look, and Raoul replied for him. “More than either of us, you can be sure of that.”

* * *

Only the slowly sinking rays of the sun lighted the house as the three men approached it. The gates were open. Reining their horses just outside, they approached the front door with caution.

The place was silent. Dead silent, Erik thought darkly, and then shook it off. The place was situated almost directly on the beach, like Erik’s old home had been, and the gardens had only low growing plants so one could see the horizon without difficulty.

The sunset was a stunning combination of amber, rose, and copper, reflecting off the ocean so perfectly you could hardly tell where the sky ended and the water began. The few scattered clouds seemed to catch fire in the brilliance of the colour. They hung unmoving in the windless sky, like smudges in an otherwise perfect painting.

Erik glanced at his companions. Beads of sweat were rolling slowly down Dion’s forehead, and Erik was suddenly struck by how young the boy was.

Not even twenty! Erik groaned inwardly. God save him, what have I brought him into?

There might be few men, but they would be accomplished fighters—or killers. Dion was a spoiled aristocrat, with the best intentions. The best intentions did not help you shoot a gun or wield a sword.

While Raoul appeared much more composed, there was a strange pain in his eyes. Regret—for Dion? Christine?

Christine. He could sense her presence now, and he knew Raoul had been right. She was here, somewhere, in this house…in what condition, Erik dared not reflect on. Her captor was mad, and without scruples—Christine had been wearing nothing when she was taken.

Erik growled low in his throat, and his companions’ heads snapped towards him. They gaped at each other for a moment, three men, utterly different, united under one banner for yet another dissimilar figure.

An innocent heir, a tormented count, a murdering composer, and a…

But what was Christine, other than herself?

Vigilantly they advanced towards the door. Eyeing it, Raoul inquired sarcastically, “Shall we knock?”

Erik raised an eyebrow. Reaching forward, he pressed down the latch and stepped inside. “No.”

“That was too easy,” Dion muttered. The foyer was grey and empty. No candles were lit, but the natural light from outside gave them enough illumination to see clearly. The quiet cracked and buzzed, whining in the three men’s ears like an insect. The tension was thicker than mud.

“Where would he keep her?” Erik asked, his tone hushed as he peered into the gloom.

Personal…your own borders…the one place… “My chambers,” Raoul muttered. “Where I would sleep, unprotected.”

Erik nodded, then abruptly stiffened.

“What is it?” Dion asked tremulously.

“Stay here.”

Raoul placed one hand against Dion’s chest and shoved, pushing them both back against the door. Erik vanished in a flourish of black fabric.

“Don’t speak,” Raoul hissed.

A silhouette appeared at the entrance of one of the attaching corridors. The man’s outline betrayed his squat, swarthy build. The form paused for a moment, and then Raoul could almost feel the figure’s beady eyes come to rest on him.

“Hey!” The man grunted in anger and surprise. His nasal voice cut through the suffocating silence as a blade would flesh. “What—”

Dion nearly cried out as a great bat-like figure swooped up over the man, seemingly out of nowhere. The brute didn’t even have time to cry out, as his flabby fingers fumbled at his throat. The black shape leaned forward, almost appearing to enjoy his suffering. Then the grating noise from the back of his throat cut off, and he collapsed. The great shadow subsided, and suddenly Dion saw Erik there instead.

In that moment, Dion knew his teacher’s past. Like a demon, he thought in horrified awe, rising up from…


They crept up the stairs, hardly daring to breath; Raoul at the front, Dion in the middle, and Erik at the back, fondling his lasso in a way that made Dion shudder inwardly. Every step he took upwards had yet another after it, as the drab walls seemed to creep closer about him. Dust drifted in and out of the light, clogging his senses. The pistol in his hand was suddenly weighing him down, as his fingers played unfamiliarly at the trigger.

But when they did reach the landing, a nauseating dread filled him that made his feet long for another stair to climb, another thug to appear out of the shadowed halls, anything to interfere with them and that door…

Please, more time…

More time to do what?


* * *

The rope used to tie her hands to the bedpost bit deep in Christine’s wrists. It wound around the bars of the footboard in a figure eight, pressing her arms together at an unnatural angle. If she tried to wriggle one hand out of its bonds, the rope would tighten around the other, and the searing pain of the threads digging into her broken skin forced her to stop. The plain shift she had been supplied with did nothing to subtract from her horrible feeling of exposure, being too short to cover her ankles and too tight over her breasts.

Her eyes burned even in the shade of dusk, tears mingling with terror.

And his hands were still everywhere.

Slithering, clawing, piercing hands that spread over all of her, though they did not move. Everything about him was just like his touch: cold and merciless. Grey eyes that lingered where a gentleman’s would not dare tread, as his imposing height was used to tower over her like a gargoyle.

When Erik had been the subject of her nightmares, the one who stalked her just out of sight, she feared his blazing wrath and scorching gaze. This man was the opposite, ice and cool calculation.

And so she shook in the humid, stifling air, her child the only thing that kept her from welcoming a faint—

—Her child that he had dared to touch.

He had asked her to call him Nicolas, and she dared not refuse.

“They are here.” She stepped out of her deadened trance and looked over at Deniau. His aquiline features twisted in a leer as she met his eyes, and she felt his hands on her now too, when he had pulled her from her home as easy as one plucking a weed from their garden. She knew exactly what he did this for. It shone in his eyes like silver; greed.

Nicolas smiled in sickening glee. Turning to Christine, he said brightly, “Now, my dear, perhaps you will smile for me. Your husband has come to rescue you.”

“Raoul is not my husband,” she repeated stubbornly, as she had whenever he mentioned him. But her heart had leapt. They found me—oh, thank God, thank heaven, they have found me…

He laughed, as he did whenever she told him. “No matter, he loves you still. See how he and his friends march so boldly into danger?” He paused and looked at her in mocking pensiveness. “Ah,” he continued softly. “I forgot—you are tied to the bed.”

“His friends?” Christine asked feebly, trying to ignore the stinging rope.

“Yes. That fop of a Baron’s son—”

Dion. Christine’s blood pounded in her ears.

“—And your dear friend, M. de la Rue. I have researched him quite a bit, my dear—I’m simply dying to see what’s behind that mask.”


* * *

There was another guard to take care of, just outside the door. They had been instructed not to harm the Comte, and so the man shifted uneasily when Raoul came forward, rapier drawn.

“Move aside.”

The man glanced back at Erik and Dion, and shrugged his shoulders hesitantly. Erik made clean work of him, and he slid down onto the floor with hardly any sound.

And then the most heavenly sound reached their ears. Inside, two people were talking—a man—Bonheur, Raoul said—and Christine. Her light, clear voice was now murky and hoarse, but it was unmistakeable.

Erik’s heart soared.

“She’s alive,” Dion whispered. “Mon dieu, she’s alive.”

“He wouldn’t kill her,” Erik hissed back irritably, though he was no less relieved than the younger boy. “She’s too valuable to him alive.”

“What the hell are we doing standing out here chatting?” Raoul interrupted.

And then the door opened.

The curtains had been pulled back in the bedroom only, allowing the full effect of the sun to pour in. When the three men entered, the first thing they saw was the bed, the centrepiece of the room, and the ashen form seated on the bench at its foot.

Only once before had Erik seen her this miserably beautiful—in a wedding dress, wading knee deep into freezing water as she gave away her life to save another. Now it was entirely different, because she was his to lose, and it was his form that she sought first before the others.

“I’m alright,” she said after a moment, her lips struggling for words. “He’s—Deniau’s behind you, and he’s at the window.”

Of course they knew whom she meant. He stepped into view, lips curved in relaxation, eyes glimmering like steel.

“Welcome, gentlemen. I confess, I was not expecting so many of you…” Bonheur looked pointedly at Dion, and then continued nonchalantly, “But a woman can hold the key to more than one man’s heart.”

“Spare us the poetic phrases,” Erik snarled. “We did not—”

“Patience, monsieur, patience!” Bonheur cut in, his casual behaviour putting all three men on alert. “It is irrationality that often gets us places we would rather not go. My associate behind you could tell you that.”

Erik threw the smirking Deniau a contemptuous glance.

“Though,” Bonheur added, “I must admit that he planned out the kidnapped exceptionally. You have him to thank, M. de la Rue, for the loss of your delectable mistress—or, perhaps something more…?” He reached down and wrapped his fingers around her arm, brutally tugging it free.

Christine cried out, then bit her lip as several tears slipped down over her blanched cheeks.

Bonheur admired the engagement ring on her finger. “She tells me she is no longer married to our Comte,” he remarked with indifference. “How quickly she finds a new interest, non?”

Erik had gone completely rigid, his eyes burning with azure flames. His lip curled at the last comment. “Your topic of conversation tires me, monsieur.”

“Indeed? Well, perhaps I can arrange for something more suiting a man of action like yourself…Deniau,” Bonheur gave a short nod to the man standing in the corner, who reached into his coat.

All at once, Erik was upon him, the catgut falling down around the man’s head and swiftly tightening—but not before a shot was fired.

The butler’s eyes widened, his body lurched, and his face slowly darkened. Everyone in the room was utterly still as the man buckled at the knees, then fell flat on his face.

Erik turned back, panting, an inhuman rage now quivering in his limbs. He glanced around the room, and everyone followed his example.

Dion blinked slowly, and at once the uncertainty was penetrated. His previously sharp gaze had clouded over, and he raised a quivering hand to his breast. Raoul stumbled forward in shock, grabbing hold of the boy’s shoulders and holding him to his chest as Dion’s legs went limp. Raoul slowly lowered him to the ground, pulling back his coat.

A crimson stain blossomed just above Dion’s stomach, like a rose reacting to the sun. Raoul looked away, covering it.

“Am I…?” Dion sputtered, as red frothed at the corners of his mouth. Christine let out a hacking sob in the deathly silence that followed his question, and then covered her face with a hand.

Raoul swallowed, nodding slowly.

“Ah,” Dion whispered, understanding. Then his eyes glassed over entirely. With a heaving last breath, his chest stilled, and he died.

* * *

Raoul got to his feet, breathing heavily. Erik was staring at his student’s body in horrified fascination, and Christine’s eyes were now averted upwards, her mouth moving in prayer.

Bonheur studied Dion’s corpse in frigid shrewdness, all the sadistic glee abruptly vanishing. “I hope that met your standards, M. de la Rue,” he said finally.

“You’re the devil,” Christine said, her voice broken.

“Possibly,” Bonheur countered.

The four stood there, staring at each other blankly. Raoul’s wide eyes were locked with Bonheur’s narrowed ones, and Erik’s desperately found Christine’s. Two bodies already littered the floor, and the boiling room reeked of blood and death.

The word echoed in each of their heads, a haunting chant—

Death, death, death…

Then some hidden signal passed from Raoul to Erik, and both men lunged at once.

Two gunshots rang out, mixing with Christine’s scream.

Raoul and Bonheur were fighting for control of the gun, both of Raoul’s hands squeezing around Bonheur’s forearm, as he struggled to maintain his grip on his weapon. Sweat broke out on Raoul’s forehead, and for once Bonheur’s face betrayed his emotions. Fear.

But Christine had not registered Raoul’s position, or his struggle with the enemy. She saw only the figure that staggered backwards, hand holding his side. Erik’s lips went white, and he looked over at Christine in mild surprise.

“No,” she said hoarsely, rejecting the image, pulling back inside herself. What she saw wasn’t real. It was another of Bonheur’s tricks, another lie…

“Christine.” Erik suddenly crumpled against the wall, his hand clinging to it to steady himself. Slowly, achingly slowly, he slid down to the floor, a faint red streak following just after.

Her lungs were contracting, hot tears soaking her face as she tried to speak. Her lips opened and closed noiselessly. The rest of her body seemed frozen where she sat, her insides dead; save her heart, which she could feel splitting apart as she watched the greatest power she had ever known crumble and fail at her feet. He was almost close enough to touch with her free arm, but she couldn’t bring herself to reach out and feel the warmth of his body for the last time.

“Christine,” he said again, his tone begging her to say something. She was mute—her tongue flopped uselessly when she tried to put words together. Death, death, death…

Blood. The faintest red spots were scattered over his mask, whether from his blood or Dion’s she didn’t know. They stuck there perfectly, a delicate pattern against pure white.

God, that he would die wearing his mask…

As his eyes fluttered shut, she felt a wrench inside her, as her heart returned twice over, beating so hard it hurt her chest. Like a woman under a spell, she yanked her arm out of the rope, the horrible burning pain not even making her flinch.


It overwhelmed her, the sheer force of it—a force that could only be conquered by the force itself.

Blindly, Christine crawled along the floor, her wrists wearing bloody bracelets that left gruesome stains on her pathetic chemise. Reaching Dion’s body, she reached into the side of his coat and withdrew the second pistol. It felt solid in her hands, something real. Steadily, she got to her feet.

Raoul and Bonheur stood there still, strengths matched, their faces flushed with effort as they fought to outdo the other. Raoul had a corner eye’s view of Christine; Bonheur had none.

Ears roaring, Christine turned and levelled the gun at the pair. Erik’s eyes, gradually closing, seemed to hang in the air in front of the pistol, though he was behind her.


Something burned within her—Erik’s child.


Every shot echoing loud as thunder, Christine emptied the pistol into the body of Nicolas Bonheur.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Dream Descends

Part 14 of 16

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