Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Wandering Child

Part 24 of 38

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It must have been the hundredth time that Christine had screamed the name of that God forsaken city.

Roman was pacing about the foyer. The two of them had just come from the stables. As he'd suspected, the Baron's stallion, Thanatos, was missing. Christine was an absolute mess. First, he had nearly assaulted her with his verbal onslaught, insulting her beyond anything he could have imagined himself doing. Then, when they had discovered that the Baron had left, she had grown even more frantic, especially because Roman had yet to tell her why exactly the Baron had left.

"Why won't you tell me!" She grabbed him by the sleeve, her grip much more powerful than one a person would suspect would belong to a frail nineteen year old. "Roman, tell me!"

"Be quiet!" He snapped, rubbing his fingers at his temples. "Go to your room, pack whatever you can't bear to leave behind. We leave for England at dawn. I'd suggest a sturdy dress, you won't be able to change until we reach London."

Christine's shock shone brightly in her eyes. "What the hell are you talking about? Roman tell me! England! Why do we have to leave for England! Why did Erik just up and leave for Paris! Why! All that exists there for him are terrible, painful memories!"

"No thanks to-" Roman caught the angry accusation before it left him fully, but Christine still knew all that he had been about to say.

She caught her breath and steadied her nerves, lowering her voice and biting her quivering lips to steady her tears. "Roman-" She took a breath. "Roman, I know what you must think of me...and I don't mind, really. Well," she quickly amended, "I mind, but I can hardly blame you. You really have no reason to hate me, though. She pa"used, a small, self-deprecating smile moving her cheeks just enough to allow the light to catch the tears that were drying along the ridge of her scar. "Well, you's just unnecessary. I have enough self loathing to last a thousand men a thousand lifetimes."


"No," she quickly charged on. "You will listen."

Roman folded his arms across his chest and regarded her now with more curiosity than anger. She truly was an enigma. Only moments before she had been sobbing like a spoiled two-year-old, confused and afraid of what she did not know and understand. Now, the fear and confusion remained, but there was somehow a quiet dignity that clung to her. She suddenly looked so much older...

"I didn't tell him, Roman, about the institution, about the doctors, and the...about the baby," she said, swallowing a small lump of sorrow, "because I am terrified. I am terrified of everything I do around him," she wailed, allowing her arms to fall to her sides with a heavy thud. "I have hurt him so many times, many! A hundred, a thousand, a million times over!" She shook her head, her voice composed, but broken. "I couldn't bear to see the hurt in his eyes...the realization that the woman he loved would always mourn another man's child...the realization that the woman he loved could be reclaimed anytime by madness."

"But you don't know that!" Roman grabbed her shoulders gently. "Christine, you were troubled because you had left Erik. Now you have him backthe rea-son for the madness no longer exists! And he would accept that you would mourn Raoul's child! Any man would!" Roman sighed and gently brought Christine into his arms. She went without hesitation. "You are very young, Christine," he murmured against her hair. "The Baron knows that and loves you for it." He gave a small laugh, trying to comfort her. "You know, the more I think about it, the more alike I realize how alike you two really are: stubborn, pig headed, completely unwilling to listen to reason..."

Even Christine had to laugh a little

"...and completely, deliriously in love with one another. So much, in fact, that you are blind to all else, including how you hurt each other."

She looked up into his eyes. "Roman, I-"

"He went to Paris for you, Christine." He felt her muscles tense beneath his embrace. He stepped back from her slowly, allowing her to find her feet. She wouldn't be able to take what he was about to tell her lightly. "We received a letter this morning-addressed to the Viscountess de Chagny." He ignored her small cry and continued on, to hell with his promise to the Baron...desperate promises had only destroyed those that he cared for. Christine, tear stained and frantic, was proof enough of that. "The Commune, they know that you are here." She clamped a hand to her mouth and turned from him, bending at the waist, trying to control the shudders racking her body. "The demanded that you appear in Paris within forty eight hours."

"God, no!" She cried against her hand.

"The letter stated that if you didn't, that they would kill Raoul."

Christine froze, her eyes wild. "But Raoul is, he's, he is dead, Roman. He's dead!"

Roman took a breath. "The letter appeared to indicate otherwise, though I believe-"

"Oh God!" she moaned.

"-that your husband is dead Christine. The Baron knew that if you went, you would be killed. The Commune is hell bent on destroying the old regime of the Parisian aristocracy."

She pressed her hands to her face. "He went because Raoul might be alive, because he," her voice grew thin and desperate, "thinks that I love Raoul...he went to spare me. Oh God, Roman...what have I done?"

Roman said nothing.

"We have to go after him! He can't go alone! And if Raoul is alive..."

He took her by the shoulders once more. "Christine...we have to leave for England."

"No," she sobbed, shaking her head. "We can't let them both die."

"Don't you think I would have gone with him if I could have?" Anger clouded his words, but not at Christine. "He has entrusted his finances to me. I alone can control them; I alone am responsible for the lives of everyone on this estate."

It wasn't until Roman heard the timbre of his own voice that he realized how angry he the Baron. The man had left him with a responsibility that he did not want. He should have been at his Master's side... "It is only a matter of time before the Commune raids...if we are here when that happens, we are all as good as dead."

...But that was the very reason he couldn't be.

"There has to be another way!" She clutched to him desperately. "Roman there has to be. He can't die! He can't!" Roman shut his eyes tightly, reminding himself that he hadn't cried since he was at least fifteen.

"I'" He sucked in a breath. "There is hope...the Baron is not of the old regime. His title is purchased. Perhaps he shall be able to buy off the members."

Christine tightened her arms around him. "I know that you don't believe that." Roman did not let himself absorb her words. He did not need reminding that he never thought to see the Baron alive again, and he was powerless to do anything about it.

"Go ready yourself," he whispered quietly. "I have much to do before the morning. Magda doesn't even know yet-"

"Please don't make me leave for England, Roman. Not while he is still in France."

"Christine," he choked out, "please do not ask me again. I shall die of shame if I am reminded once more of how helpless I am." Christine shut her eyes. She could hear in his voice how his conscience was breaking, how his honor screamed at him to fight, while his reason and his duty were forcing him to go. "Go ready yourself, and sleep well tonight. We leave for the channel at dawn. least give me the honor of protecting the one thing that meant most to him...let me save you."

The house was filled with silence. The moon shone through the windows of Erik's library, illuminating the disarray that surrounded her, even in at the midnight hour. She had been numb since Roman had told her of why Erik had left, and resolute since he had told her of leaving for England. No, Roman could make any desperate flight to Paris...but she could.

How she would find Erik and save him and possibly Raoul as well...she would leave that to later. The very thought that she might find Raoul alive was enough to make her heart bleed into her chest. Would she now add 'adulteress' to her list of sins? Who exactly would she be betraying! More than anything, Christine wanted to find Raoul spared of his cruel death...but would she only deal him a crueler blow? For him to survive and then realize that his wife had fallen in love with another man, the very man that she had never fallen out of love with...

...Her courage was on edge as it was, she didn't need anything as stupid as reason crushing it.

Raoul...the thought of her husband had been ringing through her mind all night. Christine tried to replay the last time that she had seen him in her mind. He had been shot, she was sure of it...but had it been a fatal wound? It had certainly looked fatal, but she had never seen his body after that horrifying moment. What if he was alive? What would she-

Christine pushed the thought to the back of her mind. Above all else, she knew one thing: She loved Erik. It was why she would not abandon him to certain death in Paris...why if he were destined to die, it would only be after she also lay dead by his side.

Roman would be furious...but he would understand. She wouldn't have been surprised if he had decided to lock her in her bedroom...but admittedly, the man had had a lot on his mind, and she had hardly demonstrated a bend toward bravery while he had known her.

Somewhere in this room was a pistol.

A knife had been easy enough to locate. In fact, she now had two, hitched into the garters she wore under the plain black dress and heavy black wool cloak. They had been encrusted with jewels: one gold with emeralds, amethysts, and sapphires, one silver with onyx and rubies. The man had an emperor's taste.

Where were those deuced pistols!

Erik had once mentioned a set of dueling pistols that he had acquired on cause of the exquisite artwork. What could possibly be exquisite about a pistol, Christine could only imagine. His desk was easy enough to search; the man had literally torn it apart. She winced as the realization once again prodded her mind...

This is all your fault.

Not on any of the tables...not on the right corner set of shelves, not in the book cases...

"Damn it," she hissed. "Where-"

She turned, and as she did, a shard of moonlight caught the gleam of mahogany. A box. A beautiful, mahogany box lay on a table positioned at the far corner of the room. Christine's heart leapt in her throat. Nearly tripping over everything around her, she reached the other side of the room. Carved into the gleaming wood were the words "Lux et Vertitas."

Light and truth, she mused.

She held her breath and threw back the lid...

Her eyes went wide.

Moonlight illuminated two gleaming pistols...the handles of each were coated in exquisite mother of pearl. One bore the image of heaven, with angels carved in soft blue and crème tones, tiny aquamarines adding an extra element of beauty. The other gun was equally breathtaking...the mother of pearl was carved in twisted ridges and swirling loops splashed with bright reds and oranges that reflected back up at her. Garnets and what she assumed where dark topazes were fitted into the ends of the flames that licked their way up the pistol's handle.

Hell had never looked so dangerously beautiful.

Christine couldn't even begin to imagine what Erik must have paid for these, or what type of master had made them. At the moment all that she cared for was whether they were loaded-they were, as dueling pistols always are-and whether she could use them. True, the ornamentation made them heavier, and she had only fired pistols on a few occasions-ladies of upper Parisian society would sometimes shoot for casual sport, though the guns she had used had been toys compared to this, and Raoul had always stood at her shoulder to guide her-but she held it steady none the less. From a corset, Christine had made a makeshift holster that rested on her waist; in went both pistols.

Quiet as the dead, she made her way out from the house, thankful for once that its size would conceal all sounds of her movement, and out to the stables. Erik's stables contained horses like none she had ever seen before. Cared for by the gypsies, they were the fastest, largest creatures that she had ever beheld. She almost started crying again when she noticed the empty stall...the horse that Erik had ridden to Paris obviously absent. With no groom to aid her, and no knowledge of anything equestrian besides the actual riding of a horse, she knew that she would have to ride bareback.

God in Heaven, she might be dead before she ever even found Erik!

Christine closed her eyes and steeled her nerves. Without Erik...she was as good as dead anyway.

She chose a powerful mare named Eros, a fast though decidedly gentle creature. If she had any hope of ever reaching Paris, it would be by the grace of God...and the temperament of this horse.

Using the side of the stable for leverage, she climbed up onto the creature's back, letting out a few curses as the unsaddled horse struggled beneath her, and then a sigh of relief when both she and Eros got their bearings.

"Holy angel in heaven blessed..." she whispered, a final, fervent prayer to God. Tears stung at her eyes, but Christine could not find any fear within her. Fear was far too simple an emotion, and it had disappeared from her hours ago. No...this was not fear, it was the instinct to survive. Everything that compelled her to open her eyes in the morning and take a breath, to live and to remain living, was in danger. Visions of Roman, caring and strong, floated through her memory. She saw Magda, eager to help and make her feel welcomed in a new life. Her lips curved into a smile as she recalled the outfits that the beautiful young gypsy had tried to coax her into wearing; fiery reds and passionate blues...the corsets entirely to tight for modesty...

She held her breath as she thought of Erik, of how his cold and cruel aloofness had melted into love. In her mind she saw him holding her in the dark of her bedroom, his arms a warm bower of comfort and peace. In her heart, she remembered the way that his eyes had turned nearly black with desire as he'd made love to her...

"Oh how I love you..." She whispered brokenly, as the wind tore her soft words into the night.

"Never leave me!" She heard him cry out to her in her fleeting memories.

"Never, Erik," she murmured fiercely, kicking the mare into a fast run. She had given him her promise, her solemn vow that she would never leave him...

She would die before she broke her word...

If that meant be it.

Warm in his bed, Roman never even heard the sound of hooves pounding through the estate, a horse and its terrified but determined rider bent for Paris and a future that had no guarantee of rising with tomorrow's sun.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Wandering Child

Part 24 of 38

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