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AB Type

AKA The Greatest Story Ever Told, by the Greatest Historian of the World. Aro's lived, figuratively speaking, for three thousand years. Ever wonder what he's seen and done?


17. Gone

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Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirdsr
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
They all began to sing.
Now, wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the King?

Anna’s skin glowed softly under the gentle rays of moonlight. Her head rested lightly on her pale arms, her gem-like eyes closed. Her even breathing soothed me. If I didn’t know firsthand that it was impossible, I would have believed her to be sleeping.

Slowly, I mapped the contours of her spine with my fingertips, grazing each bump, following each line from her lower back to her neck. I gently brushed her dark curls aside. She did not move, but I saw the slightest upward draw at the corners of her lips.

Her thoughts drifted in an almost lazy fashion. She focused on her senses, lingering on little else. Except the desire to tease me by not reacting to my advances.

Oh, ho, ho. I am the wrong man to try to tease.

I replaced my hand’s touch with that of my lips, following the same trail. Her body tensed underneath me, her hands clenching shortly before she regained control of herself.

Easy. Don’t give him any sign…

I hid a smile. I focused on the more sensitive parts of her body, using her thoughts to gauge her reaction. Where before they had been calm, they now raged, awoken by the sensations rolling down her body,. I continued torturing her until she finally groaned, her eyes fluttering open. She tilted her face toward me, mock-glaring.

“Can you not let me rest?” she complained playfully. She tucked an errant curl behind her ear only to have it slip free moments later. She sighed in annoyance.

I brushed it away from her face, allowing my fingers to linger. “Love, you don’t need rest,” I reminded her, raising an inquisitive eyebrow.

“There are times when I like to pretend otherwise,” she answered softly, leaning toward me.

I took her hand in mine, gently kissing each knuckle. “I thought you despised the memory of being human.”

Her thoughts came to a sudden halt—metaphorically speaking. Her body grew absolutely still. I immediately realized my mistake as her thoughts took on a dangerous route. Despite my care, I sometimes accidentally alluded to things the person in question had not confided to me. That was one of those moments. Suspicion laced the calm manner of her voice. “I have never spoken of my human past to you.” As she spoke, she slowly slid her hand from my grasp.

“No, you have not.” I responded truthfully, holding onto her hand, rubbing gentle circles. Then, I lied. “I simply inferred such from some comments you’ve made and the manner in which you spoke them. Why so tense, love?” I continued massaging her hand, calm, slow.

Lies. He’s lying.

She, however, forced her body to relax. “Forgive me. I overreacted.” She shrugged apologetically, her eyes searching my face. “A sensitive topic for me.”

I nodded sympathetically, smiling at her.

What can you do?

Contrary to her convincingly relaxed act, her thoughts remained suspicious. She wondered about my strange knowledge, and worried as to how I was obtaining it.

Of all the women to accompany Piero, it had to be an observant one.

Luckily, you will learn that my kind is easily distracted. I kissed her deeply until both our thoughts were in disarray.

Later, I dressed slowly, not wanting to leave but knowing I had to. Anna lounged casually on the bed. She was the very picture of lust incarnate: shameless, her every movement carefully measured to draw all attention to herself.

Even now, she still snickers at the fact that I have to dress with my back to her every time to avoid temptation. Not that she helps me control myself either.

She stretched and glanced behind her, examining a hole on the wall. She smirked.

“You need to control yourself, Aro,” she teased. Her good humor had returned. “If I have to keep borrowing new houses every time you break one down, there will soon be no village here.”

“But what’s the fun of restraint?” I aimed a rakish grin at her. “There is nothing entertaining in it at all.”

Anna rolled her eyes. I chuckled as I wound my robe expertly around me.

“Whatever happened to your sign? I’ve not seen you with it since the day we met.” There was no laughter in her voice, just curiosity.

I stifled a grimace at the memory of the wretched thing. I had burned it with a vicious sort of glee. Only Caius’ distraction with Piero and the Persian threat kept him from noticing that I wasn’t fulfilling my end of the bargain—and saved me from the consequences. This is, I will admit, the only thing Piero has ever been good for.

“Oh, I…disposed of it finally.”

“Did you? It’s too bad. It suited you so well. As hideous as you with the lack of intelligence to match.”

I wheeled around, indignant. Anna’s face was the perfect visage of innocent sincerity—until a mischievous glint alighted her eyes.

A playful growl shuddered its way from my chest. Anna shrieked as I tackled her, sending us both reeling to the floor. The crash shook the floor and walls. Our laughter soon died as my clothes again found themselves on the ground, this time in tatters. Anna was going to have to acquire another outfit for me. And Lidia was going to have yet another fit as I returned in a “filthy vagrant’s rags.” That would be the fourth time this week alone. It is a good thing our hearts no longer beat; I’m sure I’d have killed Lidia from a heart attack otherwise.

After I finally—if grudgingly—managed to extricate myself from Anna’s side, I hurried to Volterra in my new, ill-fitting clothing. I tiptoed into the palazzo, taking care not to make any sound. I hurried to my room and the change of clothes awaiting me. I was almost there…

“Aro, what are you wearing?” An indignant voice called after me.

Lidia stepped out of my room, her arms crossed before her, her eyes trained on my filched clothing as if it had insulted her.

I cursed my ill luck.

I shall spare you the details of my confrontation with Lidia. Surely you humans are intelligent enough to have deduced the manner in which Lidia and I negotiate. We argue, I berate her with a few highly cunning—if I do say so myself—remarks, she throws half the room’s contents at me and then we kiss and make up. Simple enough, really.

Hours later—wearing clean, expensively designed robes—I strolled through the plaza, heading to a small stand, set under the shadow of an archway.

“Master Aro!” Decimus, the old craftsman, gasped upon seeing me.

“Good morning, Decimus,” I greeted him politely. “Is my order ready?”

“Y-yes, my lord.” Decimus stumbled comically in his haste. “Finished it just last night. My most beautiful work.” He unearthed a small, intricately carved wooden box and opened the lid. Nestled on the purple cushion within, a tiny onyx bull tossed its head. The detail on the animal was fantastic. I gently took it from its place and held it in my hands. Decimus had captured the bull mid-charge. The lines of the muscles revealed its strength; its eyes, outlined in gold, could almost burn right through you. The tall golden horns were sharp and massive. I was quite impressed.

“What do you think, master?” Decimus asked carefully.

I smiled. “It’s perfect. Here is your payment, as agreed.”

“Oh, thank you, master.” Decimus snatched the bag filled with coins from me as if it were likely to disappear. Poor man, so terrified of me and never knowing why. I set the bull inside the box and closed the lid, slipping the small parcel into my sash. Whistling, I turned to the palazzo.

“Aro.” Adelina called from the door, crossing her arms before her. “We need to speak with you.”

I followed her to the Great Hall and paused before my coven. I knew what they wanted; their thoughts had been occupied with this intervention for days. As I knew what they were going to discuss, I cut to the point even before they had a chance to speak.

“You want me to stop seeing Anna,” I began dryly.

“Yes.” Marcus’ face was solemn. “There has been nothing to report. And we cannot ignore the danger of these meetings.”

“You were certainly able to when I was providing information for you,” I snapped.

“But you no longer are,” Caius interrupted. “As such, there is no reason for these risks. You risk antagonizing a deadly adversary further and we will not suffer the consequences of your foolishness.”

I didn’t respond. I was too furious to speak.

Marcus frowned at Caius in warning. “Aro,” he said gently, “you need to end this. You knew this would not be able to last forever.”

I paused for a moment. “I can’t,” I finally sighed.

Adelina scoffed. “You can find courtesans anywhere. She’s not the only one.”

I glared at her. “Not for that reason,” I snarled. “Rather, she won’t agree.”

“Surely you can use your oft-boasted oratory skills to convince her otherwise,” Caius said, waving his arm dismissively.

“Not precisely. Her ability will hinder any attempt to persuade her.”

Four pairs of ruby eyes snapped to attention.

“Ability?” Marcus, Caius, Lidia and Adelina chorused.

“You never mentioned an ability,” Marcus finished.

“You did not ask.” I hid a smirk behind a façade of childish innocence.

Caius was furious. “We do not need to ask! You are supposed to tell us!”

“Nevertheless,” I ignored him, “I’ll tell you now. She can manipulate others’ desires. If I tell her something she disagrees with, she will probably use her ability to influence my decision.”

“This certainly changes matters.” Lidia danced forward, a cocked eyebrow completing her bemused expression, one hand reaching out to grasp mine. Such a coincidence that her ability—and what an ability!—is revealed when you’re supposed to leave her.

“Yes.” I hid my smile.

“Nevertheless, you must try, Aro,” Marcus decided. “We’re not doing this to be hateful. There is considerable danger involved and we cannot expose ourselves.”

“She’s a valuable source of information. We can keep her nearby…”

“And how do you plan on doing so? Will you storm the citadel, kidnap her and bring her here?” Marcus grabbed my arm. “How will you fight off the vampires there? How will you defeat Piero? You’ve been sleeping with his mate! And how can you be certain that Anna will defend you? You cannot risk it, Aro. You cannot risk us.”

“I know,” I acquiesced. Before anyone could say anything else, I turned on heel and strolled out of the room.

When sunset finally came, I tied my cloak around my shoulders and ran into the rapidly darkening sky. I traveled as slowly as possible, trying to postpone my meeting with Anna, but trying to do so only made the journey seem even faster.

I arrived before she did. I frowned as I verified that the house was empty; she was always the first to arrive. Piero or Livius must have held her up. She would surely come through the door, cursing their names.

To entertain myself, I lit a cheery fire and settled into a low chair. I fingered the box holding Anna’s gift as I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

She did not come.

Mere hours before daybreak as I returned to Volterra, I pondered the strange occurrence. Anna had never missed a meeting before. There had been nothing in her thoughts about not wanting to return, never wanting to see me again. She was suspicious, yes, but that made her want to pursue me. She wanted to know the truth about me. What could have kept her away?

Caius was strolling through the city when I arrived. He moved toward me and raised a quizzical eyebrow when he caught sight of my foul mood.

“I take it she didn’t agree,” he asked rhetorically.

“No, she didn’t hear the decision at all.”

“Aro, you were supposed to tell her! You cannot possibly maintain this affair simply because—”

“She wasn’t there,” I interjected shortly. “She didn’t appear at all.”

Caius blinked. “Aro, what—?” I shoved past him, not wanting to hear him speak.

I returned to that remote village over the next few days. Her scent grew older and older until I had to strain to find it. Soon, it disappeared completely. I then ran to Belverde, planning to break in and confront Piero any way possible. She would not have cut our meetings short in such a manner, but Piero could have forced her to if he had learned about us. He knew how to control her. Only one thing could make Anna panic: a dark, enclosed space, a product of her torture as a human. If he had done anything to her…

I hunted through the city for any trace of them, but the scent was also old, fading. The coven was gone. Anna was gone.

That night, I tasted true desperation. I raced madly through the city and its outskirts, but I could find no trail.

Adelina found me. My coven had grown worried after I did not return. Lidia, convinced I had gotten myself into trouble by another stupid move, had persuaded them to search for me. Adelina alerted the others and they soon caught me. By then, I was almost deranged with fury.

“She’s gone!” I raged. “The entire coven is gone! No sign of them! Nothing!”

“Aro, calm down.” Marcus tried to pacify my anxiety. “I’m sure there is a perfectly logical reason.”

“Which one?”

Marcus opened his mouth—and closed it, frowning.

“There isn’t one,” I snapped. “There was nothing in her thoughts about leaving. Nothing in her memories hinting to this. Their coven was firmly established. There is no logical reason for them to leave.”

“What if they were recalled?” Lidia’s soft, bell-like voice broke the silence.

“What do you mean?” Marcus asked her.

Lidia bit her lower lip. “Piero is a Persian advisor. What if they called him? A meeting to plan the invasion? It would explain the abrupt departure.”

“If that is true, then they must be mobilizing.” Caius may be annoying, but no one knows more of war and its warning signs than he. “Lidia, can you call upon your friends, ask them for any news regarding Persian movement? And keep it subtle.”

“Of course.” She nodded quickly.

“We will need to send word to the other covens,” Caius continued. “Any that prefer to continue living as they have. Adelina and I will contact some of the outlying covens. Aro, you and Marcus will need to travel to Lucca. We will need physical reassurance as to where they will stand. I don’t trust Leo, at all.”

As Caius continued delegating, Lidia slid her hand in mine.

I have many good friends. Surely, one of them will know something. We’ll find her, Aro. I promise.

Her smile was heartbreakingly kind. I squeezed her hand gently in response.

Two days later, Marcus and I traveled to Lucca. Unlike past times, Amaranta greeted us.

“Where is Amadeus?” I asked her conversationally, once we had exchanged pleasantries.

Amaranta tensed for the briefest of moments. “He is sending a message to another coven,” she responded stiffly and did not speak again.

I caught Marcus’ eye. A brush against his palm revealed his suspicions.

Leo and Sofia waited in the Great Hall, but they were not alone. Two young vampires stood to each side, their manner reminiscent of guards.

“Aro! And Marcus too. What brings you here, old friends?” Leo was cheerful, his manner inviting. But I did not miss the tightening of his eyes, already cold, an unholy red shade.

Something about his eyes was oddly familiar.

“I’m afraid it’s nothing good, my friend.” Marcus was grave.

“Has something occurred?” Leo’s eyes widened in false sincerity.

“Not yet. But we have credible sources warning of a—”

As Marcus spoke, I observed Leo. A tiny smirk shaped his mouth.

I realized who he reminded me of. His character was reminiscent of Piero.

“Leo, where is Amadeus?” I interrupted Marcus. Amaranta froze. A flicker of something spasmed across Sofia’s face—regret? Pain?

The long lines of Leo’s body grew hard and cold. “Why do you ask?” he intoned carefully.

I shrugged. “I simply wondered as he was the one to escort us before.”

“He favored nomadic life. If I see him again, I will let you know you asked for him.” Leo nodded his head slightly, and turned to Marcus. “You were saying…?”

I did not need to look at Marcus to know he also realized there was something wrong.

“We wished to verify our alliance still stood. We’ve heard of a coven seemingly wishing to take Volterra for themselves. While we are confident we would be able to defeat them easily, we would feel more comfortable knowing we still had a friend to rely upon,” Marcus lied smoothly.

“Why of course, Marcus!” Leo smiled. “You need but to ask. Tell me, which coven is this?”

“We’re not aware of any name for them. Nomadic. Perhaps Amadeus may know of them.”

“I will seek him out. Is that all?”

“It is. Thank you for listening.”

Leo stood respectfully to watch us leave. I needed to find some way to touch him and I remembered the figurine I still carried with me.

“Please accept this small token as a sign of our thanks.” I stepped toward him, pulling out the bull. The two strange vampires came closer. Keeping a close watch on them, I set the figurine on his palm, my fingertips barely grazing his skin. I allowed his new Story to filter its way into my previous records as I smiled blithely. Marcus nodded to the group as we turned to leave.

Piero had promised him Volterra if he sided against us. He was of no use as an ally. He promised Piero to contact the other Etruscan covens and sway them against us. Amadeus spoke against the plan as we had done nothing to warrant such treatment. Leo had no need for Volterra, he had argued. As a proof of his commitment, Leo had calmly strode over to Amadeus and killed him before Piero, Amaranta and Sofia. Pleased, Piero had left two guards, vampire mercenaries, to protect him and serve as messengers between them.

I wanted to kill him. When we returned to Volterra, I narrated the story to Marcus, Lidia, Caius and Adelina.

After I finished, Caius shook his head slowly. “We also failed. None of the Etruscan covens is willing to risk their security.”

“Then there won’t be a single coven to come to our aid,” I snarled, furious. Marcus bowed his head. For the first time, his face reflected utter hopelessness.