Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Calm ( Chapter 9 )

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

The four and a half Twibooks are the creation of Stephanie Meyer.
Changes in rainfall really did cause an increase in jellyfish off the coast of Spain, or rather, it allowed what jellyfish there were to get closer to the shore. Ordinarily, rainfall on land causes fresh water to flow into the sea. The seawater nearest to the land, then, is less salty than pelagic (open ocean) creatures are used to. When there is less rainfall, as there was in Europe last year, animals that ordinarily prefer the open sea can come close to shore, where they scare tourists and clog fishing nets.
Mad props to the film Three Days of the Condor.
Nod to Holly who wasn't really like the sugar.
"It can be terribly time-consuming to organize new members into a coven. I know that well! I am grateful I have others to deal with the tedium." -Aro, Breaking Dawn

Aro's shale grip on my shoulder was my new constant. This wasn't his final plan for me, but it would do for now, an interim position until he could be certain that I would not try to escape. In the meantime, I was his eyes, ears and key to the minds of those around him. Months earlier, I had watched the young men of Forks look at Bella Swan, ignoring her true value, only dazzled by her shiny new-toy-ness, minds alight with possibility. It was far less comfortable from this side of the event.

Fascinating, though.

Two days had passed since I'd seen Bella—or whoever she was—and I felt as if my heart had gone numb, the way amphibians allowed their body temperature to drop as they hazed through the winter half-buried in some streambed. It was just as well. I had done all that I could do, for Alice and for the newborn. I would be no more help to her until Aro permitted me to visit her cell again, and he would do that at his whim or not at all.

A quiet heart allowed me to see things that panic and passion had kept hidden from me. If I had gone into hibernation, then I was looking up at the world through ice as clear as glass.

Aro almost never let me out of his grasp. Few of the vampires around us realized that he was using me to spy on their thoughts. As far as they were concerned, he was seeing through my eyes in a literal sense, preferring a view of the world that wasn't scummed over by his ossified corneas. I almost didn't mind. It meant that I had a front row seat.

My captor had one of the most vivid minds I'd ever encountered. Aro had been alive for thousands of years, and while he had never considered human beings to be his equals, he had made a study of their lives. He'd watched Rome flourish and die like an oak, leaving pathways in the rocks where its roots had fought their way in. He appreciated them the way Shakespeare had appreciated his starlings, respected the threat they posed the way humans respected bears and lions, treated his servants well the way a horseman saw to the health of his mount.

The vampire who set himself above understanding his prey would fall and risk exposing the others as he went down. Humans needed to be watched, their movements predicted. Caius managed a loose network of spies worldwide, vampires providing information on their home territories in exchange for the Volturi's favor. In Volterra, teams of vampires poured over every print and electronic news source in every language. Ostensibly, they were searching for any sign that members of our own race had been too foolhardy, but their efforts served another purpose: uncovering currents in the human world.

Currents that an old man who had had little to do but watch the flow of history would recognize. And I had provided him with a new way to do it.

This was the morning shift. Only twenty years earlier, the reading crew had waited for print editions, but now it was midnight in New York. They'd just blazed through most of South America and would be working on the eastern halves of the U.S. and Canadian sources for the next hour. By then, it would be time for Mexico City, the west coast and the rest of the New World. Then the library would empty for the Pacific break—Hawaii was thrown in with Japan and the Phillippines.

Aro could see all their findings in real time now, superimpose a report on drought in a Chilean local paper with the New York Times report on HIV infection rates in southwest Mexico with last night's article in Nature showing how changes in rainfall allowed jellyfish to clog fishing nets in Spain. He could line them all up like clues in one of the mystery shows that Emmett loved to watch.

Through me, he could see patterns forming. Through him, I could tell what they meant.

...possibly as result of the one-child policy, China faces a deficit of about 30 million women...

...fears that the Celtic Tiger may not recover as quickly as...

...challenges faced by recent immigrants to Japan...

The readers hadn't figured out what I was doing here. Master Aro would occasionally come in to watch them work, graze a wrist here and there, but my presence was a mystery. Soon, the details of my gift would circulate.

You see it as well, then, Edward? Aro asked.

I turned to look at him directly.

No, no! Watch Adrienne as she reads, he chided gently. The Baltimore Guardian, the editorial on currencies.

Yes, Master, I replied, turning my eyes back to the dark-haired vampire. She was the one who'd called my Bella a "skinny scrap of a thing" and witnessed my irrational response to her captivity after I'd returned from helping Alice escape.

A very foolish thing, Aro thought in my direction. Surely you can see how useful her gift would be to our efforts. Here, Aro imagined himself with the pair of us, watching his guard explore the present as he learned to prompt my sister's visions of the future.

Yes, Master, I thought, but I had no regret for my actions, and he knew it.

But can you see it, young Edward? It's a good fifteen or twenty years off, if it comes at all, he said.

I nodded. It's possible that they could dispel the situation before it comes to that.

Possible... he admitted, but when had humans ever been any good at that? But we shall have to be ready, prepare for all of the most likely outcomes. I nodded again. Would I still be in Volterra when the time came?

Aro raised an eyebrow at that but did not answer.

The door clicked open behind us. I didn't turn around. Vampires came and went, almost as they pleased. Caius kept the schedule, but I hadn't yet learned his method.

My thoughts turned back to the vampire in the cell. Bella or not, she would need guidance, but there was nothing I could do until Aro permitted me to see her again.

I might as well just accept it, I supposed, my thoughts taking a less bleak turn. After all, this newborn wasn't my only responsibility, not now that I'd joined the guard. At least I had an opportunity to take part in something bigger than myself. By helping to preserve our way of life, I could—

Something cracked the ice in my mind. Something wasn't right. I jerked away from Aro, searching the rows of vampires in front of us.

"Edward!" Aro protested. "What has upset you?"

The power I'd felt on me shied back. I heard half-formed words of fear and surprise.

There, I thought, fixing on one of the two vampires who'd just entered the room. My eyes found what my mind already knew, a broad-faced vampire with curly light-brown hair. As I walked toward her, a man in a medium-gray cloak stepped forward protectively. I ignored him, but I still stopped when I was several feet away. This wasn't about a physical confrontation.

"You will not attempt that again," I told her simply.

"Attempt what?" she asked bluntly. But what she was saying out loud didn't matter, and she knew it. For a second, the expression on the woman's face was fearful, but then it grew haughty and defensive. Only doing my duty, she thought indignantly. Better for him in the long run, anyway. He might even manage to be normal if we can keep him away from the rest of those yellow-eyed pig eaters. I don't know why Aro doesn't just—

I snarled, cutting off her ignorant insult. She flinched. The man growled.

"Edward!" Aro called sharply. "Leave Chelsea alone."

His spoken order was far gentler than his thoughts.

Back down, Edward, and return to your place.

I didn't turn around. If Aro had wanted the rest of the room to know what he'd said to me, he would have said it out loud. Ever so slightly, I ducked my chin into my neck. The man beside Chelsea growled again, softer, acknowledging my lowered head as I backed away from Chelsea, his mate, his thoughts implied.

"Nevertheless," I said quietly, my eyes back on the woman, "you will not attempt that again."

I will do what the master tells me to do, she thought. Out loud, she only gave me a soft snarl.

"Edward," Aro called again.

I returned to my place.

Aro clapped his hand on my shoulder, strong as old iron as his thoughts flooded through me. Chelsea's talent was weakening or strengthening the emotional bonds between people, I suddenly knew. Most of the guard had figured or suspected that she helped to separate the innocent from the guilty at executions and other punishments, but they did not yet know that her duties also included all of them, revving up their loyalty to the elders and smoothing away anything that might make them want to fight each other.

Carlisle had once speculated that abstaining from human blood made us less territorial and allowed for the existence of large, semi-stationary covens. Aro noted my memory with amused skepticism. Surely, he thought, it was Jasper's influence that kept us all at peace, the way Chelsea's kept the Volturi guard off each other's throats.

Aro met Chelsea's eyes, a silent instruction for her to continue her ordinary duties. Her mate took her by the arm. To outward appearances, they had come to look something up online and would be gone in a minute. Her real purpose here...

Again, now that the part of me that would have been disturbed had gone to sleep, I could be fascinated. Chelsea saw the minds of the vampires in the compound as knitted together like a great loom, warp and weft. She touched each thread and adjusted gently, keeping them all tight and balanced. I watched the thoughts of Caius's readers. None of them felt a thing.

I wondered how much of the vaunted Volturi cohesion was due to her efforts. Chelsea was a new name, medieval at the oldest. The Volturi had been a power for thousands of years.

She'd tried to do too much too quickly with me. If she'd been more subtle...

I should have felt sickened but I didn't. Not today.

Aro observed Chelsea's ministrations with mild interest. He'd seen it all in her own memories many times. He was more concerned with me. My outburst today could be brushed off as general instability, a side effect of my unnatural diet and my long fast, Aro mused. Perhaps it might even be safe to say that he had told Chelsea to weaken my bond to Carlisle for my own good.

And whatever lie Aro chose, I was not to contradict it.

I met his eyes and nodded.

"Edward," Aro said sternly, like a grandfather scolding a disobedient child. "You will compose yourself."

"Yes, Master," I said. "Jane is coming," I told him, glad for a chance to change the subject.

Around us, I felt the readers go still.



The small vampire's mind was unmistakable. Demetri had a clear and focused mind, but Jane was something else entirely. Days earlier, in the throne room, I'd been reluctant to look too closely, but now it bothered me less. In addition to her other deformities, she'd been turned too young, not young enough to touch upon the law against immortal children, but too young. Her thought patterns, never fully formed to begin with, had been unable to mitigate their blandness with maturity. She was what I had once thought myself to be—too young to be touched by romantic attachment. Jane's bother Alec and her master Aro were the only objects of her powerful, childish love.

And Aro, kindly or wisely, had repaid her with his favor. The results had been substantial: His most powerful slave was also his most devoted.

That was uncalled for, Edward, Aro thought sharply.

Yes, Master, I answered, but it was true all the same. Jane was a slave.
When you have lived here longer, you will see that it is not so,, he told me with firmness. On one level, he believed it. He wanted to believe it. He did not enjoy my skepticism.

Yes, Master.

The door opened behind us.

"Jane my dear," Aro addressed her without looking up.

"Master," Jane whispered to Aro, inclining her head. Her eyes were flickering back and forth between us. She didn't like that Aro would speak with me privately. She was upset enough by my presence here, with the attention that Aro paid me. She could take it all for all I cared. She'd be even more trouble if she knew just how obsolete I was about to make her, at least until her master tired of me.

He was in my head, but I was in his as well. He shared things with me because he couldn't hide them from me without great effort. Jane might be focused, but even if she had had my gift, she could not have done what I did, spoken and contributed, not even if Aro had shown her what he saw in the twisting threads of history.

"Richard sent me, Master," Jane said calmly. I saw in Aro's thoughts that that meant that she liked to be the one to bring him good news, however mild, though it had been a long time since she had had to do more than threaten for the privilege. I searched her thoughts, frowning as I saw images of filth and annoyance. I blinked. Oh. "The delivery that you asked for has arrived."

"Well," Aro said, smiling, turning to me. "It seems your food is here, young Edward."

I felt something in me that was only a little like anger. Anger was something that I remembered now.

His food? So he isn't eating normal food. More for the rest of us, I suppose.

What do they eat, anyway?

...once again asked the United States House of Representatives to review the Kyoto Protocol... Well at least someone was still working.

Jane's smile hadn't broken, but her mind was blank. No words formed, just a smooth, deep gray animosity. I turned my attention to Aro, but he was looking at me expectantly. He wanted me to ask. Out loud.

"May I bring Bella something to eat, Master?"

"That's probably best," he said, and all Caius's readers could hear his prudence and generosity. I had asked, and he had granted.

There was something else in this, something Aro was trying not to let me see...

"Edward," he said warningly.

You will do as I instruct you, he told me. And his instructions...

I saw that he would not go near her himself and nor would Caius or Marcus, not until they could be confident that she was safe—for them. There was a room that they used for things like this, a feeding chamber, but smaller than the central feasting hall. Marcus had designed it for times when only one or two of the Volturi needed to feed at once, but, with extra security, it would do for a newborn.

Extra security would consist of myself, Demetri, Felix and Jane.


I remembered what it was like to sense bile rising in my throat. Aro wanted to know if Jane's gift would work on her. He wanted me to go to Bella and bring her to this chamber, and he wanted to know if Jane's gift would work on her.

I pulled my hand out of his ...or I tried to.

If Bella was no longer immune, then she could be released from her cell into Jane's supervision.

The system had worked in the past, I saw, producing quiet, obedient vampires. I could see what "obedient" meant to Aro. And he could see what I thought about it.

Would you rather we kept her locked up?

I thought back to the feeling of Jane's gift inside my veins. Today, I could appreciate that it had been painful without being flooded by guilt and regret. Yes, I answered without hesitation.

I couldn't help it, though. I thought about Emmett. I thought about Rosalie. When my sister had been new, we'd moved out of Rochester, gone to the mountains. We'd neither threatened her with pain nor confined her in a cage. She'd harmed no one after her one night of revenge.

But this is Volterra, Aro reminded me.

"Yes, Master," I repeated, "this is Volterra."

It was Demetri who came with me this time, and I was glad of it. Though his thoughts were no kinder than Felix's, they were clear and focused. It was like fearing the cut of a whip while still admiring the whistling sound it made in the air. And Demetri had nothing to prove to me, at least not until he figured me out, and my new coldness had stymied him. He'd nearly had me set in his mind as a hothead, impulsive but predictable. He couldn't tell if I was sulking, changed or if the fury of those first thirty-six hours had been a fluke.

His eyes still followed me, but I no longer felt them. He opened the door without comment.

"It's me," I called.

There was a sound of sneakers on the stone, of denim against denim as someone got to her feet. I walked in.

Though I knew she had to be thirsty, her eyes only seemed brighter. I avoided looking at them. Her hair was tangled. No one had thought to give her a comb. I would, I resolved. Her clothes were a mess, but I didn't know how to go about getting her new ones. One of the Volturi females was in charge of keeping the communal wardrobe nondescript and up to date, but I didn't yet know her name or whether I would be allowed to touch the collection of women's clothes to find something in Bella's size.

I tried to see if she seemed calmer, but her face was as much of a mask, as always.

I held out my hand, hoping she'd take it, but she only watched me, as if she didn't know what the gesture meant.

"Edward," she said. I tried to identify the emotions in that beautiful stranger-voice. Hope? Fear? It was useless. She was watching me intently, as if she were trying to read the answer to some question on my face. I tried again to read her thoughts. There was nothing, as I'd expected. I could only guess that she wanted to know why I was here.

"They brought us something to eat—" I could see the tension build as her hands drew back from her knees and her mouth opened to speak or shout. "—It's not human," I said quickly, thinking back to Jane's memories. "I think it's pigs. They don't taste like much, but they'll take the edge off."

She calmed down.

She calmed down...

I thought of Emmett and Rosalie, of the hundreds of newborns that Jasper had helped to foster.

"Edward, what is it?"

"Nothing," I said, pulling myself out of my memories. Nothing bad anyway. Calm was good. I could attest to that. I held out my hand again. "Come on, you need to eat."

She didn't respond right away. Not wanting to meet those eyes, I watched her lips. I saw the corner of her mouth twist slightly, the way my Bella's had when she was upset.

"I don't..." She looked away, pressing her lips together.

"I know," I said, even though I didn't. "But once you've eaten you'll be able to think more clearly."

She nodded, slipping her near hand into mine.

"We're not alone," I warned her quietly.

"I know," she said.

Demetri was waiting for us in the hallway. He was leaning against the wall, as casual as a man waiting for a bus. "Lead the way," I said.

Demetri didn't raise an eyebrow. He also didn't move. "Oh no," he said, thoughts fixed on his unprotected back, "after you."

I shook my head and started down the hall, feeling Demetri watch and follow. Aro had told him to watch Bella, but now that she was no longer an anomaly, no longer human, he was more interested in me. There was nothing to be done about that.

Bella kept a death grip on my hand. It was nearly painful.

"I've been doing what you said," she told me. I waited for her to explain. "You know, with my memories." Except they weren't really her memories. She shook her head. "Edward, I keep ending up back..." she stopped. Rather, her words stopped.

"I should have thought of that," I said. "I'm sorry." It was true. I'd been concerned for my newborn's physical safety, but I'd forgotten about the long term—and the fact that she was trapped in a cell with nothing to do but think about the fact that she'd butchered an innocent woman three days earlier. For her to be safe in Volterra, she'd have to make herself useful. I'd seen flickers in Aro's thoughts of his plans for Bella, and it would be better for her if she had no gift. Better to draw Jane's malice than Aro's attention. But she would still need to make herself useful to the guard because, as long as I was here, they weren't going to let her go.

The library would be the best place for Bella, if we could persuade Aro that her gift was of no real use elsewhere. But she'd have to do more than just be able to read.

"Learn Cantonese," I told her. "Mandarin too if you can manage it."

"Chinese?" she asked, looking up at me.

"You can do it," I told her. "I'll bring you the books. You don't need to sleep any more. You'll have time to study." And her new mind would take to it. My Bella had always loved to read. Perhaps this one would too. Perhaps she'd like Chinese poetry once she learned enough to hear its beauty.

"I can try," she said. She nodded, her smooth mask of a face blank, as always. "But why Chinese?" she asked me.

I stopped. Should I... But there was no reason not to tell her.

"Because Aro thinks there will be a war."
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