When his family decides to take a tour of Persia and he manages to get lost, Raoul discoveres a set of memories that he wishes he could forget.
By Kashu Arashi
She was beautiful. Dark skin, dark hair, dark eyes, all offset by the richest, brightest clothing he'd seen since they arrived, all combined with the lazy grace of a big cat lounging on silken cushions. There were at least a dozen other women lounging around the room in much the same manner, but none were quite so regal. The way she eyed him made him feel like a mouse.
"I...I'm sorry Mademoiselle..." He stammered, shrinking back against the legs of the very large men who had grabbed him as soon as he walked into the room. He had the feeling that he wasn't supposed to be here, but he'd gotten lost somewhere in the city and had rather thought that someone in this big, impressive building might be able to help him find his way back to Philippe. There was only one problem... "I don't speak Persian."
The woman frowned and snapped something in a short, unhappy voice. The response was cool and indifferent, but at least it was male. "Her Royal Majesty, the Sultana of Mazenderan would like to know who you are and what you think you're doing entering her private chambers."
"The...the Sul...?" He squeaked, blue eyes widening. Oh, he'd screwed up this time! If he didn't wind up in jail, Philippe would have his hide! He bowed, quickly and low, although his eyes did dart around trying to find the speaker. "I'm Raoul de Chagny...the Viscount de Chagny. I'm visiting this land with my older brother and my sisters. I...I'm terribly sorry for the intrusion! I did not mean it, but I'm lost. I came here..." Here. The Palace. How had he not realized what such a grand building must be? "...hoping to find my way back to him."
The voice repeated what he said in the strange language of the region and the woman laughed. She asked another question which was translated as, "How old are you, boy?"
"T..ten, sir." Straightening, Raoul craned his head around, unable to resist the urge to try and find the speaker. One of the guards cuffed him.
"Do not be too curious. You've already seen too much of the forbidden chambers as it is. Besides, what here could insight the interest of one so young? I highly doubt you'd know what to do with a woman if you were given one."
His fair cheeks flushing, Raoul stammered. "What you suggest is indecent, Monsieur! I simply wanted to know where you are and who you are since you're permitted here when others aren't and why I can hear you but I can't see you!"
The voice laughed, then rattled off a long string of words that made the women around the room titter and giggle. They rather reminded Raoul of the rich girls he knew. The Sultana looked over her shoulder and gestured.
Behind her, part of the ornately decorated wall moved. It detached itself from the surrounding marble and plants and stepped forward, wrapped in black clothes that were accented here and there with onyx. Two dark pits watched the small boy intently as the figure stepped up behind the reclining Sultana.
Raoul wanted to scream, but he couldn't get up the breath. Death was staring at him.
"I have many names. I am the Angel of Death, the Prince of the Trapdoors, the Spirit Counselor. I am the Sultana's personal magician." The man continued to stare at Raoul a moment, longer, then dropped his gaze, the shoulder length curtain of his black hair hiding his face, and said something to the Sultana. It wasn't until the man's face was out of sight that Raoul realized with a start that he, the Prince of Trapdoors, Death incarnate, couldn't be any older than Raoul's brother, Philippe. Here he'd always thought that Death was as old as the hills.
The women laughed again.
"Well, M. de Chagny, fortune has indeed smiled on you today." The magician raised his head again, causing Raoul to bite back another scream of fright at his skull of a face. "For any man who is not a guard or a servant to enter the Sultana's private chambers and look upon her grace is an instant death sentence."
"However, since you are here by accident, are foreign to this land, and are clearly too young to fully appreciate the beauty around you, the Sultana has agreed to have you spared and let the guards take you back to your brother."
The guards didn't look too pleased with this. The Sultana looked amused. Raoul simply felt so relieved that his knees nearly gave out. He bowed again, as low as he could. "Her Mage..er...Gra...er...the Sultana is very, very kind. Too kind. I thank her with all of my heart."
The magician smirked and murmured something to the Sultana who laughed again and made a dismissive gesture. As the guards guided Raoul from the room, he closed his eyes and tried to forget the beautiful woman with Death standing behind her.
"You're letting me go? But you've won."
"No. I've not won. Christine will never truly love me as long as you're here and she'll never forgive me if I kill you. I'm damned regardless, curse you to hell. I should never have convinced the Sultana to spare your miserable hide."
"...so that was you. I've...not been certain."
"Yes, it was me. Remember that, every time you hold her, every time you kiss her. Remember that on your wedding day that if it were not for my interference, you would be dead and she would be mine."
In the darkness of the Opera's cellars, Raoul de Chagny closed his eyes, blotting out the image of dark eyes staring at him. He wouldn't be able to bury that face and that voice a second time, he was certain. He gritted his teeth. "I'll remember."