Continuing Tales

Demons

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Wandering Child

Part 6 of 38

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Demons

"Why so silent good Messieurs?"

Christine stood in her large rose ball gown, riveted to the floor, her eyes drawn to the terrifying man on the staircase, a man from who she couldn't look away. He was dressed from head to toe in blood, the red color surrounding him like a shield of power. Across his face he wore a black domino mask and a wicked smile.

"Did you think that I had left you for good?"

Christine's entire body started to shake. He was enjoying this, she could feel it. Erik's rage and pain had hardened into a maddening desire for revenge, a revenge that had manifested here, tonight, before her eyes. In his hands he held a black leather case...what did it hold?

Christine racked her brain frantically, wondering why she felt as if she should know what was in his hands. Her soul echoed with foreboding and terror. She knew that this night would change her life forever; nothing would ever be the same. Looking up, her eyes locked with Erik's...

God help her...it wasn't him on the stairs. No, her Erik had a brilliance to his eyes that never failed to take her breath away. The man before her now held nothing but perfect hatred within the icy blue depths that glared at her.

Christine's heart bled into her chest.

What had she done!

God in heaven...what had she done!

Between her breasts, the weight of Raoul's engagement ring mocked her...

Christine blinked furiously.

Erik still stood atop the stairs, but not dressed in red, and certainly not in the Opera house. Her mind reeled. Seeing him standing there before her, anger brutally etched over the elegant planes of his face, had brought back the memory of that horrible night almost a year ago. The masquerade...the night that he had returned...the night that she had first worn Raoul's engagement ring...the night that she had learned she would be performing in Don Juan Triumphant.

She swallowed the bitter memory and gathered her bravery, daring to look Erik directly in the eye. It had been weeks since she had seen him, though he certainly looked different. The unkempt, disheveled, drunken man that she had first laid eyes upon was replaced by a steely silhouette of perfection. Black trousers fell elegantly over his long sturdy legs. A silk vest of midnight blue was buttoned over his torso, almost obscuring the white linen shirt that he wore. A black jacket framed his torso and wide shoulders, while a black cravat was tied gracefully about his neck. Even the mask, which seemed to only enhance his power and control, gleamed perfectly.

Erik's eyes coupled instantly with hers. For a moment his anger dissipated and his breathing slowed. Every muscle in his body wrenched in agony at the sight of Christine, dressed in black, the pale skin of her breasts barely visible above her corset, her glorious hair spilling all about her, slightly messed from her outburst...

For a moment he imagined that hair spilled gloriously over the linens of his bed, sinfully messy from an entirely different sort of exertion, her skin not pale, but rosy from his touch...

He quickly shook the disturbing fantasy away. It was all too easy to remind himself of the hatred that he felt for Christine. She had betrayed him, left him to die at the hands of an angry mob, and had all too happily run off with her precious Vicomte...

Twice in my life I have had love loved ripped away from me!

He had walked into the grand foyer just into to hear her utter those soul crushing words. Two loves...her father, obviously

...and Raoul.

The despair that he had felt was instantly replaced by self-loathing. Of course her father and Raoul! Why should he have expected any differently! She hadn't loved him...Christ it was why she had left!

Christine tried to read Erik's expression, but his eyes were fathomless. She felt as if she could gaze into his soul, and she trembled because she saw nothing there.

"Amanda."

His tongue rolled over the name, almost hiding his anger with the silkiness of his voice. Christine never knew that simply hearing him say another woman's name could feel like sacrilege.

Amanda, whose face up until then had been a twisted palette of anger, instantly softened to once again reveal the charming beauty. She plastered a smile on and curtsied low, though Christine hadn't missed the terror that had momentarily flashed through her eyes.

"I despise being disturbed from my library, but as it were, I despise even more so being dragged away only to bear witness to the squabbling of childish women." He didn't yell, and somehow that was more frightening than his screams could ever be. Childish women had been thrown directly at Christine, and she hated him for it. She hated him for reminding her of her obvious weakness.

The terror returned to Amanda's eyes, and she instantly melted into a puddle of whimpering feminine sighs.

"Forgive me, my Lord, it's just that-that, I haven't seen you in weeks now and I was beginning to, to miss you terribly, that is. Please forgive me my Lord...I'm sure that I can find a way to make it up to you."

Erik raised an eyebrow.

Christine blanched.

Amanda smirked. "I'm sure that you and I could-"

"That is quite enough Amanda!" This time, Erik yelled, and the sound of it bouncing off the foyer's golden marble made Christine wince. She looked down to the floor. She didn't want to see Erik's eyes as he made excuses for his lover.

Erik nodded sharply. "Amanda, you may go to my library."

For a moment, no one moved.

"I'm rather certain that I implied 'now' Amanda!"

It didn't take her another moment to run past him up the stairs and around to the next corridor, a smile, albeit a nervous one, on her lips the entire time.

From the bottom of the stairs, Magda watched with horrified curiosity as the Master approached Christine, her face still watching the floor. She said a silent prayer that he wouldn't be harsh with the poor girl...

Erik knew that he should never have moved, but he simply couldn't help himself. Down the stairs he went, his sanity calling him a fool all along the way, until he reached where Christine stood. She would not look at him. Taking another step closer, he tried to erase from his mind the knowledge that she smelt like lavender. Images of her in a bath, slick with water, her small hands running the scented soap all over her body, filled his mind. For a fraction of a second his eyes closed as he imagined his own hands running soap all over her body, soothing her muscles after loving her in his bed...in their bed...afterwards he would love her again, making sure to taste every inch of her satin skin and then...

Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!

He almost retched. For a year he had kept these thoughts at bay, successfully hating the woman that he had once loved so well. Violently, Erik purged the traitorous thoughts from his mind with images of her as a young Viscountess, happy with her handsome husband, never giving a thought to the dark and broken man that she had left behind.

His muscles relaxed as the soothing comfort of hatred filled him.

"Madame de Chagny. I will expect you to behave more appropriately in the future. You are a grown woman." He hissed the statement out. "I won't have you flying off the handle the moment something displeases you." With that, he turned on his heels and strode back up the stairs, pleased with himself for keeping his interaction with Christine to a minimum.

"Then please, Your Grace, enlighten me. How should I properly greet your whores?"

Erik froze on the stairs, not sure whether to be furious with her insolence, or surprised by her gumption. He took another step up, praying that she would not continue.

"Or perhaps you would prefer another term for them? Tell me, does Amanda spit such poison when she's lying in your bed?"

Erik turned around, his face flush with his rage, but Christine felt no fear. Instead, she felt a perverted sense of exhilaration streaming through her. She didn't care any more of what became of her, and she had spent much too much of her life keeping her mouth shut. No...Erik would not escape her anger today.

He nearly flew back down the stairs, meeting her face to face, his eyes burning holes back into her own. If he thought to intimidate her, he was wrong. Christine stared right back, unblinking. When he spoke, his voice was shaking with his effort to control it.

"It is easy Madame, to blame others for eating Eden's forbidden fruit. But at least they know that in eating it they are hell bound. It is the fruit that seems harmless, the fruit that tastes sweetest, that poisons the soul."

Christine narrowed her eyes

"Why?" She whispered desperately. "Why have you destroyed the man that I once knew? Why have you banished him, imprisoned him within your soul?"

From a distance, Magda strained to hear what was happening, relieved that the Master wasn't yelling, but rather annoyed that they were speaking outside a range conducive to eavesdropping.

With a quick hand, Erik pulled Christine against his body. She instantly molded into him, relishing the contrast between her soft curves and his hard, lean length. She could feel the muscle that ran beneath his well groomed fašade. She suppressed a shiver as he bent his head to her, lowering it so that his lips touched her ear. Christine's eyes slid closed at the sensation.

"Banished him?" He whispered. "No my dear, I have not banished him. I have killed him. That man is dead. He died long ago, suffocated by blood and hate. I suggest that you forget him, for he no longer exists. I slit his throat with my resolve."

With a violent spin, Erik wrenched himself away from her, blocking out everything except for the fact that he needed to leave that room before he did something that he would regret. Behind him, Christine sank to her feet, speechless. Sobs started to rack her frame, but no tears fell. She simply sat there, shaking under the burden of something she could not name....something she dared not name.


"I was wondering if you had gotten lost." Amanda laughed, allowing her beautiful, sultry voice to blanket the air. Erik shut the door of the library behind him and turned to stare at his favored mistress.

"The home in the town is yours Amanda. Live there in peace. The gowns, the jewels, the furs...keep them with my blessing." He walked over to a desk and flipped opened a large leather bound ledger book. "You will be provided with sufficient funds to live out your life comfortably and-"

"My Lord, why would I need sufficient funds when...?" Her voice trailed off. "You mean to replace me? To cast me aside!" Erik continued with his former train of thought.

"I will see to it that you are never in need again. Even I would find it unfair to give you everything and then snatch it away." His tone was resigned; at the moment he only wished to placate Amanda, however acid-tongued and waspish she could be. His encounter with Christine had drained him considerably, and her lavender scent still swirled through his nostrils.

Amanda could only stare opened-mouthed. "But I thought that we-that I, I thought that I-"

"Would become a Baroness?" Erik finished with a small laugh. "My girl, do not pretend that you had any interest in me besides my money, and I will not pretend that I had any interest in you other than your body. I'm not the type of man that falls in love and marries."

With any other man, Amanda would have thrown a fit to end all fits, but not with Erik. Not only would it have been pointless, but the two of them had always been rather honest with each other. Even she had known, in her heart of hearts, that she would never be a Baroness. And besides, she would now be provided for for the rest of her life..."

"Yes Erik...I am rather desperately in love with your money." His face remained stone, but a smile lit his eyes. There had always been something entertaining in Amanda's tasteless, witty humor. She was an intelligent woman, there was no denying that. "Though do not lie to me by telling me that you have no heart. It's in a terrible knot over that insipid little servant girl of yours, so it must exist."

The smile that had been dancing in Erik's eyes instantly fell away to reveal his usual iciness.

"Don't be ridiculous Amanda. It doesn't flatter you."

She only laughed, delighted that she had gotten under his skin.

"Fine, I'll pretend that the entire time we were downstairs your eyes weren't making love to her face...however scarred. God, did you even blink?

Silence filled the room.

Amanda sighed.

"Have you any new diamonds for me Erik? Or is this day to be one of complete frustration?"


Narica dunked the white china into the sinking, scrubbing it thoroughly, the warm water of the giant tub splashing up her arms. Beside her, Magda dried the washed plates, placing them neatly in a small pile to be brought back into the kitchens.

"Is it true Magda?" Narica looked up through her long black bangs. "Is it true that the Master sent Mademoiselle Amanda away?"

Magda quickly looked over her shoulder, ensuring that the two women were alone. Leaning in, she quickly whispered.

"Yes. Three days ago, after the incident with Madame de Chagny." The "incident" as it was referred to had become almost mythical among the small band of gypsies. They all marveled at the audacity of the quiet, reclusive servant girl who had not only challenged their Master but also insulted his mistress.

Narica's eyes went wide. "Really? She gave a relieved sigh. "I was becoming so sick of constantly being ordered about by that awful woman."

Magda nodded.

"Roman told me about it right after. The Master ordered him to secure funds for her, so that she might live comfortably on her own." Disbelief crossed Narica's small, delicate features.

"And she went without a fight?"

Magda laughed.

"I'm sure the money that the Baron offered her soothed the sting of being cast aside considerably. Besides, she knew that it was coming. The Master hadn't called on her for weeks."

Narica nodded her head in agreement, dunking another plate into the sudsy water. "Yes, ever since Madame de Chagny came, not a single one of his mistresses has been here. I for one have no complaints. They are all too bossy and high browed for their own good anyway." She paused. "How is Madame de Chagny?"

Magda shook her head. "Quiet, as always. Even more so since the incident a few days ago. I just don't know what would cause her to act like that...plus I'm worried about her wound. It's been growing angrier with every passing day. The redder it grows, the paler she becomes.


Roman found Christine in the corridor leading to the ballroom, doubled over and trying to catch her breath, the bucket of water that she was apparently trying to lift lying abandoned beside her. Her hands wrapped protectively around her stomach as took deep, shuddering breaths.

"Christine!" He called, but she had not responded. She was shaking, he could feel it, but from what? Frantically, Roman hauled her to her feet, standing her upright, and instantly he knew.

The wound on her face was not the healing gash that it had been only days ago. Now it oozed a heavy white puss and seemed to glow with raw blood.

Infection.

Christine was shaking because she was racked with fever. Her face was infected dreadfully, and her body was already falling victim to the consequences. Roman swallowed hard. All too many times in his life he had seen grown men cut down by the raging, hellish fevers caused by infections of the blood and flesh.

How was this mere slip of a girl to survive?

Halfway back to her bedroom, she fainted into his arms, and he knew instantly that darkness had settled over her.


"Master?"

Erik looked up from his ledgers, surprised to find Roman before him in a state of dishevelment. His hair was messed, his cravat undone, and his sleeves pushed up to his elbow. A gloss of sweat seemed to be dampening his forehead.

Something was wrong.

He motioned for Roman to approach him, his fear growing with every step that the man took

"What is it?"

Roman let out a long sigh.

"Madame de Chagny, my Lord. Her wound has become infected...I'm afraid...I'm she's overcome with a fever."

Erik's face paled considerably. Several times in his life he had had to deal with infections to his face, one nearly took his life. The fever that accompanied them was deadly, an unholy demon that ravaged the body and purged it of its life and vigor.

"How bad?" He didn't look at Roman, he couldn't. The last thing that he wanted was for his valet to see the fear in his eyes.

The gypsy shook his head. "I've spent the last 20 minutes trying to cool her body with damp rags, Magda is in there now, it doesn't seem to be helping. She is also talking in her sleep...delusions have started claiming her. When I found her today the fever had already set in."

The pen that had been in Erik's hand snapped, and black ink oozed all over his hand. With a curse, he instantly mopped up the mess with a handkerchief, trying desperately to assess the situation in his mind.

He should have known that this would happen. He was a fool to ignore it! Had he only know the nature of the...then Erik realized, he had no idea how exactly she had gotten the wound. He had informed her rather loudly that he didn't care to know. Guilt and shame riddled him. This infection had taken a long time to set in...he could have done much to prevent it.

He shut his eyes tightly as Roman began to describe the pus that poisoned the skin of her face. The flesh was open and raw and seemed to split the areas that had begun to heal. If nothing was done it would soon begin to rot, and once that had happened, only the angels could save the young girl. Nearly choking on his pain, Erik ordered Roman to Paris. There were still doctors there that could provide the medication needed to help her, medication that was nowhere to be found in the dark North France. With a heavy heart, Roman bade his master farewell, promising that the young Madame would be healthy as soon as he returned.

Once the door of the library clicked closed, Erik let his face fall into his lap.

Christine, Christine, Christine...


Her entire body was on fire. That was all that she knew. Perhaps she had died. Perhaps this was hell. All that Christine could see was darkness, and all that she could feel was the fire. Her vocal chords hummed as she released a great cry, but she could hear no sound. The heat and the pain were drowning out all of her senses.

Magda flinched at the sound of Christine's cry. Night had fallen and the only light in the room was a small candle, but still a layer of perspiration was easily visible on the poor girl. Dipping a rag into water, she gently applied it to Christine's forehead, cooing softly into the darkness. The girl had been writhing in unconscious agony for hours, screaming in response to dark, dark nightmares that had dragged her away from light and sanity.

"If you please..."

Magda turned at the sound of the low, gentle voice, surprised to find her Master behind her. He looked nothing like the cold, powerful man that she was so used to dealing with. His black hair hung loosely around his masked visage, and he was dressed in only trousers and shirtsleeves. The hard lines of his face seemed softer and more caring...

He looked like a normal man.

"She's been like this for hours, Sir."

Magda regarded Christine with gentleness and worry. It broke her heart to see the girl who had survived so much struck down and lying in such agony.

Erik's throat constricted at the sight of Christine on the bed. Her hair was a soaking mess of sweat and water, and her limbs were twisted around the damp sheets. Her face was twisted and her lips parted, but Erik knew that she was anything but conscious.

"Please Magda, you may go. I will watch over Chris-Madame de Chagny." Magda glared at him, wondering whether or not to reprimand him for his lack of manners. It was highly unheard of to leave a man alone with a woman that was not of his family, and yet something within her stirred. For the first time, she saw a hint of something in her Master's eye that had never been there before. It was very small, and yet he lavished it upon the sickly body of Christine de Chagny...

...he cared for this girl.

"Very well." Giving her a quick kiss on the forehead, Magda relinquished her spot next to Christine's bedside and silently walked from the room.

"But Your Grace..." Erik turned to her, the bowl of water already in his hands. "Do have a care Sir, she has been having terrible nightmares."

A tear rolled down his cheek.

"I know."

Demons

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Wandering Child

Part 6 of 38

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