Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Enemy Territory ( Chapter 5 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

On this section in particular, I welcome your input not only on the style of writing but on the content itself. In contrast with most of my other fandoms (Inuyasha in particular; if Green Tea was elitism, then vive le snootypants!), I don't participate in any reputable Twilight forum and as such have never discussed the mechanics of the Volturi at length with fellow writer-fans. Correspondingly, I've decided that IKMD will be different from my other stories: It will be, at least for a while, subject to change. Each chapter, rather than the story in its entirety, is at this time a work in progress. So if you have a take on how Marcus, Aro and Caius really devide the tasks of running the Volturi or an opinion on Bella's post-vampitude mindset, then I'd love to hear it. I might not work it into the story, but I'd love to hear it. I can be reached by email at ffnet, by private message at MMorg and I'm a frequent participant at the Bloodfued (url below), which is also where I post my first drafts.
As for the stuff I was working on while I should-ish have been working on this ...I hope you all liked Marvel Zombies. Yeah. That rating's going to change.
www . invisionfree13 . The_Bloodfeud / index . php ? act = idx
EDIT: Apologies to t wrecks, whose reviews keep getting cut off. I spotted a continuity flaw that I just had to fix and removed the chapter after t had already reviewed.
"I can't hear anyone anywhere. The more familiar someone's... 'voice' is, the farther away I can hear them. But still, no more than a few miles. It's a little like being in a huge hall full of people, everyone talking at once. It's just a hum—a buzzing of voices in the background. Until I focus in on one voice, and then what they're thinking is clear." -Edward, Twilight

I hadn't counted on this part.

Aro had chosen my punishment well. There was nothing, nothing that he could have done to me worse than this. If he'd called for Jane or had me torn to pieces, I would have felt less than I did now. Here I was, able-bodied and well, while someone I loved, someone for whom I was responsible was withheld from me, and me not knowing where she was or what Felix or God-knew-who was doing with her.

Absolutely not. It was impossible.

I scoured the thoughts of the vampires around us for news of Bella, even reached out into the city around us, to the slightly dimmer minds of humans. For the second time that day, I truly wished that I could hear Bella's mind. I would have been able to find her, pick the needle out of the haystack on my first try. Instead, I searched for her using every set of eyes I could find. Unfortunately, the few images of Bella that I saw in the eyes of the Volturi were all memories from earlier in the day, and usually not kind ones.

I noticed that Aro's hand was back on my shoulder, but if that was supposed to mean something, I couldn't remember what.

Next, I listened for Felix, the vampire who'd been with Bella last. I'd spent enough time around him over the past twenty-four hours to have a loose sense of his mental voice. I reached outward, listening for his tone of low, dominating thoughts. What a man like him might do to a helpless, transforming human...

Enough, Edward, thought Aro. Felix will not harm Bella.

I could see in Aro's thoughts that Felix had been told to use no more force than was necessary to protect himself and the coven. But there was harm and then there was harm.

I found Felix a block and a half away, in one of the older buildings. He was climbing the stairs toward the transit level. He was thinking about Heidi, something Heidi had said to him as he'd handed Bella off, and—

I focused on the image. Heidi had been standing next to a thick wall that looked like stone but was really steel. They'd been below ground. Felix was wondering why the Volturi still had these cells. They hadn't been necessary since Jane, and Jane had been here since—

I knew where she was. I knew where she was!

"Hold him," Aro was saying.

I barely registered Aro's quiet, pleased amazement, barely felt his chalky fingers slipping off my shoulder. I was halfway across the hall, dragged to a stop by the dark-haired woman while Demetri's arms lifted me off the floor, all before I even realized that I'd moved.

"Edward..." Aro said warningly.

I didn't bother telling him that it hadn't been intentional. He already knew. "Let me go to her," I said.

Can I put him down now? Demetri considered asking the question out loud but thought the better of it.

Aro took a step closer, looking at me speculatively, but my focus was on more immediate matters. I twisted sharply in Demetri's grip, almost getting loose. Demetri was a better fighter than I was, but I could hit him when he wasn't expecting it. He struck back with a loud snarl.

"Don't be too hard on him, Demetri," said Aro. "He's not actually trying to escape. And his response is only natural, all things considered." He nodded and Demetri set me back on my feet. Aro clapped his hand on my shoulder just in time to watch Demetri react.

In my mind's eye, we both saw his thoughts sour as he figured out what Aro was talking about. His mind twisted in disgust, then smoothed. No sense in making an issue of it. What's the point of curing him of his nonsense if she'll be one of us by week's end? A vampire obsessed with a human, as I had shown myself to be, was a fool in Demetri's eyes, a dangerous fool. It was his coven's duty to bring him to his senses. But if that human was to be turned, then the problem would be mitigated. Demetri wondered if there was any chance that some madness might pass to Bella through my venom. If so, would it not have been better to let Felix try, even with the risk that he would lose control and—

I hissed. Demetri stared at me.

I didn't care if Demetri thought I was damaged. I didn't care if he thought Felix would have had as good a chance of resisting Bella's blood as I had. He'd wished her dead. He'd wished another man's fangs at her throat, and he'd wished her dead.

"Fascinating," muttered Aro. He addressed Demetri, "It seems young Edward doesn't like the thought of Bella in harm," he said, "even if those thoughts are not his own."

I watched Demetri realize that I'd been reacting to thoughts that he'd hardly known he'd had, but I didn't care. Then I watched him realize that Aro could now read his mind without touching him, without the protocol of the guard, at any moment.

He didn't like that. Not. One. Bit.

Aro released my shoulder. Demetri looked at Aro and then at me and back. Aro was no longer the problem. Now I was.

But Demetri wasn't mine. Aro was.

"Let me go to her," I said again.

"No," Aro answered me. "No, Edward, and you know why not."

I searched through the compound again, found Heidi's thoughts. She was leaning back against the wall—no, the door of the cell. She wasn't thinking about Bella; she was ignoring the sounds...

Aro was smiling gently. "Edward, do you realize what you did just now?" he asked.

I'd found Bella. That was all. That was everything. Everything but being there with her.

Focus, Edward, I thought. Aro had meant something by that. I looked into his mind.

My stomach nearly dropped out of my body. This time, I was the one who'd been outmaneuvered.

He had chosen my punishment well, but not for the reasons I'd supposed. Aro knew every thought I'd ever had, but that only told him so much. He'd wanted to see the limits of my gift for himself, how far I could reach, how many voices I could comprehend at once, whether I could pick one or several individuals out of a group. I had just shown him, and he was not disappointed.

I hadn't had any memories of extracting information from enemy territory, so Aro had commissioned one. And I had delivered it like a master smith.

"Then you have what you want," I said carefully. "Let me go to her."

Aro looked to Demetri and the woman, our small audience, and then thought his answer. I also want you to know that you cannot defy me unpunished, Edward, he told me. You did not embarrass me publicly; you took quite a care for that, so I will not publicly shame you. It would get you off to a bad start with your new brothers. I will never give you more or less than you merit through your actions. It is my hope, young Edward, that we never find outselves in this situation again.

I couldn't answer, not even in my thoughts.

"She will be well looked after," Aro said like a promise. "Her immunity to Jane presents a problem—" if it persists past her change, he thought, "—and that forces us to rely on more medieval methods." I must have gone tense because he snapped back, "Edward, you know perfectly well that I mean that literally. The barbarous practice of locking newborns in a steel room—or chaining them to the walls—is what we used to do before Jane joined us. Jane's gift has been invaluable in keeping newborns under control, even to the point at which we do not need to restrain them unduly."

I couldn't tell if he expected me feel better or not.

Aro took two smooth steps and his chalky hand was on my shoulder again. "I told you that Bella would be well tended," he said. I dimly noticed Demetri wondering at that. Aro hadn't said it out loud, of course. "I keep my promises, young Edward. All of them."

As horrific as it had been to see Bella's pain, it was worse not to see it. My mind kept racing back to my own transformation, Rosalie's screams, Emmett's moaning, reimagining every last agony suffered by someone I loved as it burned her out of the world. Aro bore my agitation like a houndsman with a skittish new beast. I'd settle, he knew. He'd seen too many vampires in too many situations not to be confident. And he was right. I would settle, because I would go to her, I resolved. But the hours ticked by and Aro did not change his mind. He had other plans for me.

Between missions, the Volturi guard had two main pursuits: One of them was gathering food. Aro supposed that my talents would be an asset with regard to rounding up prey without suspicion, but his knowledge of my inner self showed him that ordering me to bring in humans for the slaughter would not turn out well. He had decided not to set me to this task—for now. After a few decades, he supposed, once I'd grown used to proper ways of feeding, perhaps then he would send me and I would embrace my natural food source.

I held back a shudder. Surely he knew that this could never be.

Never? Aro asked, holding an image in his mind.

It was one of my own memories from the late nineteen-twenties. There was an alley. There was a man.

My friend Carlisle never fed with us, but you are not your father. You've shown yourself fully capable of pursuing human blood when you think it is the right thing to do, he explained.

It was never right, I thought.

The Volturi did not feed on criminals. As a rule, they sought out people who would not be missed or, if missed, not traced back to the area. Many criminals certainly fell into that category, but Heidi's gift for luring and herding people wasn't perfect. There was always some chance that someone would wander off or break loose. Volterra was too important to risk.

We were in the west hallway. We'd been wandering the compound for hours, and Aro's palm remained on my shoulder the entire time. To anyone watching, it might have seemed that I was leading him, preceding him into every space like an attendant to a blind man, but it was Aro who set the pace and called the shots, and everyone we passed knew it.

The guard's second task was collecting information. Not every act of indiscretion went reported, at least not by vampires. The Volturi had to stay on top of what was happening in our world, and a large part of that consisted of looking at the human world, at the outside edges of events that found their way, in shreds and scraps, into human newspapers and rumors. Caius and his aides ran the most extensive and well-updated private library in Italy. At any given time, five or more vampires were poring through periodicals in dozens of languages, looking for signs that someone had lost control in a public place or lingered too long in one town or turned a newborn without taking responsibility.

If a problem looked genuine, the Volturi would first contact any law-fearing vampires in the area for more information. Sometimes, this was as far as anything went. The neighbors provided a rational explanation, and Caius was satisfied or he wasn't. I saw in Aro's memory that he'd twice spoken with Eleazar for this purpose, one time very recently. Something about unexplained deaths in Seattle...

But sometimes there were no vampires of suitable reputation to ask, or they could be asked but didn't know anything. Most nomads had little use for cell phones, making them hard to find on short notice. In those cases, Caius would select a team to investigate in person. This, Aro saw, was where I would be of most use. As an interrogator, Jane was reasonably effective, but there was always the possibility that her subject would lie, tell her what she seemed to want to hear. And then there was the matter that, while Jane couldn't use her power without her subject's knowledge, I could collect information gently or even secretly, and I'd proven that I was damned fast.

But, at the moment, sending me away from the city, even surrounded by other Volturi, was out of the question. Aro knew that I wouldn't run away, not with Bella here, but he didn't know if I could hold it together or work with my new covenmates. For the time being, my place was Volterra.

He certainly had enough for me to do. He hadn't gotten tired of me yet.

I was sampling thoughts for him. Members of the guard, human employees, the flow of the crowd as the festival wound to a close. The human thoughts in particular particular fascinated Aro. He hadn't touched many humans in his long life. His appearance was such as would startle casual guests and he'd long ago learned to keep his hands clear while he was feeding.

They concern themselves with such trifling things. Imagine...

I don't have to, I thought back.

Yes, and neither do I, it seems. I saw the smile on Aro's face in his own mind's eye. Still, I would not have thought they were so very different from us.

I had chosen not to argue with him, but I couldn't help my thoughts, not today. They're not that different, only more difficult to read. And it doesn't mean Carlisle is wrong.

Of course not, but it suggests it, don't you think? He changed the subject. He had decided not to argue with me as well, for now. I'm surprised you don't find it frustrating, seeing momentary thoughts out of context. Aro directed the thought at me deliberately this time. He hadn't yet tired of it.

My mind flickered back to Carlisle's speculation on the source of my gift. Like Jasper, I'd been in tune with the people around me even when I was human. Perhaps that natural intuition was complementing my ability, allowing me to fill in the blanks between what I could hear and what I could not. That and, after all these years, I just didn't care.

What I cared about was Felix. The hulking vampire had returned from his delivery errand and was passing the time loosely following Aro and me around as Aro got a feel for seeing through my eyes. He expected Heidi to text him for help soon. It made sense. Physically, Felix was the strongest vampire in the coven, the best choice short of Jane for dealing with hostile newborns. I didn't know how grateful to be that Jane's gift did not work on Bella if it meant that the brute would be her caretaker.

His thoughts were ...not pleasant.

So the Master has a new pet. I wonder if he'll let me teach it a few tricks.

The thought was directed at me, deliberately. I wondered at this. Demetri was smarter than Felix by a great deal, but it hadn't yet occurred to Demetri that he could use my gift to send me messages, and Felix was already on top of it. Of course, his messages were nothing but taunts, but still.

Don't say anything to him, Edward, Aro thought. A touch of mischief grew in his mind. He wanted to see what Felix would do when he didn't know that Master was watching.

Felix's thoughts were less deliberate now. He was weighing his options. I didn't bother to hide my distaste. I'd seen it too many times in too many situations not to recognize this wasteful, selfish animal urge. It had been a long time since Felix had a new member of the guard to push and dominate, and here I was, so excitable, overreacting to every little thing—he remembered my savage hiss at him in the feasting hall, when he'd imagined himself at Bella's femoral artery. He could tell that Demetri didn't like me either, and he was used to following Demetri's instincts. But which sort of torments to bring forth on me? He ran through them all like a man selecting which tie to wear with a certain suit. I filed each one mentally away. Some I could head off now that I knew they were coming. Others I could not stop no matter what. In time, Felix would realize that childish provocations would make no headway with me, but would he tire of it or turn to more serious matters? Now that Alice was safe, the only way to truly hurt me was to go through Bella, and I could not allow that.

But Felix did not make a move and Aro's attention drifted elsewhere.

It was a lesson to me. Aro knew perfectly well that whatever he planned I would see coming, so he built his plans like a freight train barreling down an incline: I could see, but I could not stop.

Not all of what Aro saw displeased him. Now that I was firmly in hand, the discrepancies between what I read for him and what he'd been expecting came off as pleasant surprises. It had been a long time since he had truly allowed anything to surprise him. We were in the library, watching Caius's agents scan through a half-dozen Romanian newspapers. I registered the thoughts before any of us heard the footsteps in the hallway outside. So did Aro.

I looked at him. I looked toward him like a skittish child unsure of permission, like the half-trained dog he wanted me to be.

Edward Cullen, when you went against my wishes on your first day here, you took great care not to embarrass me publicly.

"Yes Master," I answered out loud. Demetri looked up. So did some of the others. Only Demetri had figured out what Aro was doing with me, but the others would in short order. Like child with a secret, Aro wanted to have his fun before then.

That day, you promised me that I would never mistake the crowd again, not while you were in my service. Can you keep that promise, Edward Cullen?

"Yes, Master," I said out loud.

"What is it?" Caius asked carefully. He'd been out of sorts these past few days while Aro ignored him to play with his new toy. Marcus's thoughts had been more peaceful. He took my addition to the family dynamic like any other new development.

"It seems our new resident is even more talented than we had believed, brother," Aro answered. "Heidi sent Gianna a text message about a minute ago. Edward has just told me what she's going to say."

"I thought it was the other one who could see the future," said Caius.

Text message... Marcus mused. Is that the one where they type with the number keys?

"Yes, that's the one," said Aro.

Marcus looked up. "Hm?"

He's not used to having his thoughts read this way, I explained quickly. He doesn't know that you were answering his question. May I go? I so wanted to go.

The door opened and Gianna walked in, her sensible pumps clacking loudly on the hardwood floor. Aro looked up.

"A message came for you, sir," she said, holding out a modest cell phone.

"Did it now?" he asked in amusement.

Caius raised his gray eyebrows. Marcus smiled, as if the matter wasn't quite funny enough to laugh about. I felt like a violin string that had been plucked too hard. I couldn't stop shaking.

"Allow me, Master," Demetri said quietly, reaching out to take the phone from Gianna's hand. I watched her thoughts carefully, looking for any further news. She was only mildly disappointed to see Mr. Demetri and not Mr. Felix.

I wondered what Demetri was doing for a moment and then realized that Aro must have been in the habit of having things read to him. Why hadn't I noticed? Was it his eyes or just another way to express his power?

"Our new arrival is awake and your orders have been followed," Demetri recited simply.

My focus was entirely on Aro. What orders? I had to know. But Aro was ready for me. He stubbornly kept his thoughts away from the past, concentrating entirely on the question of whether Bella would be able to confound his gift now that she was one of our kind.

Our kind...

Three days had passed. Three whole days had dawned and withered and faded from the earth. Bella was gone now, and there had been no kind face to witness her last moments. This message meant that her human time was up, her human spirit damned or escaped, and her soulless shell would climb the walls craving the blood of the living.

It made no difference. Whatever was left of Bella, she was my newborn and, until she could control her hunger and take care of herself, she was my responsibility.

...a responsibility that Aro could well prevent me from meeting.

"Yes, Gianna, would you please fetch Felix?" he was saying.

"Right away, sir," she said.

Aro gave me a long look, as if he could possibly need to size me up when his gift had already stolen all my secrets.

Better to say this part out loud, thought Aro, make sure no one's mistaken anything important.

"You take your duty to your turned very seriously, young Edward," said Aro.

Everyone was watching. Caius and Marcus had both looked up. Even the staff had set aside their papers at Aro's official tone. And they all heard what Aro wanted them to hear. I made sure of it for him.

"Yes, Master," I answered.

"Can you see to your duties to the Volturi with similar devotion?"

Of course not. Nothing could match what I owed to Bella, nothing. There could be no desire for me but the desire to atone. And he knew it. But that wasn't why he'd asked.

"Yes, Master," I said. And the crowd heard me say it.

They also heard you acknowledge Bella as mine, I added, more than a little smugness in my thoughts. There was no reason not to be thorough.

I noticed, Aro added. I hadn't meant to emphasize that, but that's why you're here, isn't it?

The library door opened behind us and Felix walked in. "It seems that our dear Bella is awake," Aro said as if to no one in particular. "I imagine that she would like a chance to speak with her maker."

Demetri's eyebrow twitched. Speak with a day-old newborn? Good luck with that. I ignored him, focused on Aro.

He nodded to Felix. "Show him the way."
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