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Summary:
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?


Notes:


5. Volterra

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Make new friends but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold
A circle's round, it has no end
That's how long I want to be your friend.
A fire burns bright, it warms the heart,
We've been friends right from the very start.
New made friends like new made wine
Grow and mature to the end of the time!

Volterra at the time was a bustling city, one of the many born under the Etruscan era. It had fallen under Etruscan control two hundred years before around the same time Caius, Marcus and Lidia returned to the city. Lidia had been born in Volterra and it had been her decision to settle permanently there. Marcus, always ready to please her, agreed, overriding Caius’s opposition with a majority vote. By the time I joined them they had already constructed a massive palazzo with numerous turrets and had perfected into an art form bringing humans from other towns to feed upon. Lidia was capable of walking anyone hand-in-hand to their very death.

Yet, I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even reached Volterra in the story and I am already telling you about my coven!

Following the thread of my previous story, I told you a vampire had spoken to me about a strong coven forming in Volterra. Hopeful that I would finally find Piero there, I raced toward it, a silent ghost but for the gust I created from my speed. I managed to reach Volterra just before dawn and dove into a tall building’s welcoming shadow just as the sun’s first fiery rays shot through the sky.

It wasn’t too difficult to pick up their scent. As I’ve told you before, vampires have a very sweet smell that underlies all other scents. If you know what to look for, it’s easy to find. In this case, as there were three vampires, the scent was easily distinguishable Humans wouldn’t be able to discern it, but other vampires would know this was another coven’s territory.

I tracked the scent to a wide plaza. Many humans had already begun setting up their stands and several others were shopping or gossiping with the shopkeepers. The scent led clearly across the plaza but there was a slight problem; the early morning sun had already washed the plaza in a clean white light.

Glancing around, I spotted one man hanging up scarves, shifts, and cloaks. He was a few meters away but one group of humans was walking toward him. If I huddled behind them, I could hide in their shadows until I reached his shop.

“I wouldn’t buy anything from him. Passes off his wares as being fine and charges an exorbitant price for absolute trash.”

The soft voice made me jump and I turned quickly, sinking into a defensive stance—and froze. Despite my carefully disciplined upbringing, I couldn’t stop my jaw from falling open.

Looking back on it, I realize my response was actually well-controlled. Most who met Lidia would be struck dumb by the very sight; many would fall to their knees in awe. Her beauty was legendary. In fact, even you know of her, the face that launched a thousand ships. At the time, she and Marcus were using pseudonyms. Helene and Paris.

Their Story has always been one of my favorites.

Which goes to show you how proud I am I didn’t make a fool of myself. The most beautiful woman of all time (for no one before or since has ever come close to her near-ethereal beauty) standing before me and all I did was gape.

Don’t tell Anna.

As I was saying, she was wearing a long silver-gray cloak. Her hood was pulled over her head, concealing her hair. Pale, delicate features contrasted the vivid red of her eyes. In her small, slim hands she held a black cloak of marvelous silken quality.

“If you want good clothing,” she continued, stepping closer, “try Aquila. He made this. Put it on once and you’ll never want to remove it.” Her red eyes never shifted from mine. I saw my hands move to relieve her of the cloak and could not remember when I had told them to move. “Might I enquire as to your name?”

Her question snapped me out of my reverie. “Deofilion,” I replied promptly.

Her laugh was all silvered bells. “We have heard of your exploits, even here. The others will be interested to meet you.”

“Others?” I asked politely. I couldn’t touch her; she carefully kept a small distance between us. Her stance was casual but one that could quickly drop to either aggressive or defensive, depending on the circumstances. Now that I think about it, it was very wise of me to preserve that distance. Looking back, I am astonished at how reckless I was at times. Though I did not know it at the moment, Lidia could have ripped me to pieces without lifting a single finger. In all my years, I have never encountered an ability like Lidia’s, powerful as an offensive and defensive move.

“My coven,” she replied. “I shall take you to our home. Follow me, please.” Pulling her cloak closer around her, she turned and almost floated away. Nearly tripping over myself to pull on the cloak and watch her at the same time, I followed her, the silver-gray cloak a beacon as she led me down the narrowest and darkest streets. My wariness grew with every step until she stepped before a blank stretch of wall. Before I could question her, she bent down and grabbed a large slab of stone off the ground, her fingers sinking through cleverly disguised grooves I had not seen.

“Please,” she motioned for me to jump in. “I must replace the cover when I go in.”

She could jump in however many holes she liked but I certainly would not until I was certain of what would greet me. Before I could tell her this, my legs began moving toward the hole. I tried to stop but my legs did not respond as they fell through. It was but a short fall and I felt my knees bend as I fell, easily absorbing the blow, then straightening and moving me out of the way. The little light cutting through the inky darkness was abruptly cut off as Lidia jumped, pulling the grate shut behind her.

“Follow me,” she said and I was suddenly in control of my legs again. I took two furious steps toward her before I felt my legs again fastened to the floor. “Now, now,” she replied breezily. “Let us behave, hm?”

I had a reply on the tip of my tongue but that’s where it remained. I couldn’t open my mouth. And when she turned and moved away, I followed after her docilely.

Of course, “docile” only describes the movements. My thoughts were anything but as I thought of every rude name to call her and every uncouth action I could think of that she could do in every language I knew. Since you’re human, that may not sound like much but, with some aid from my vampiric memory, I had learned Latin, Greek, Persian, Egyptian, Dacian, Mycenaean, and the early dialects that would eventually evolve into Italian, German, French, Spanish and English.

But I digress.

Soon, a certain cool-headedness descended. I’d always been able to think clearly under moments of stress. I focused on trying to understand what was happening to me. As I observed, I realized there was a very slight pressure surrounding my body, soft and light but strong and unbreakable. It was also flexible as I felt it move me, bending my body, forcing me to walk.

The pressure around my face was different. I could feel it pushing on me from above and below, keeping my mouth closed.

I tested my body and found I could not move my limbs or head. I couldn’t blink but I could move my tongue and I could still swallow. I tensed the muscles in my chest and abdomen and curled my toes inside in my shoes. In short, I could move everything that wasn’t visible.

Testing my theory occupied my time but didn’t divert my attention from my now silent companion. She watched me carefully, her piercing gaze revealing nothing but frank curiosity. Her hood had been pulled back, revealing a cascade of silken dark-red hair. A delicate band of intricately woven gold wrapped around her forehead and kept her hair away from her face. A single garnet dropped from it, flecks of gold surrounding it, making her fair face appear slightly warmer.

I tensed my arm but could not break through the invisible pressure. She smiled, however, and a mischievous glint crowned her eyes.

“Don’t bother,” she replied merrily. “No one can break through it. Relax; we’re almost there.

“My name is Lidia. I just remembered I hadn’t introduced myself. I’m curious, how did you come by the name of Deofilion?”

The pressure around my face faded and I found myself capable of speech. There were several retorts crowding my throat but I swallowed them all. In that state, it wouldn’t have been wise to irritate her.

“My father had been nicknamed ‘Deo’. As his son, I was named ‘Deofilion’.”

“Do you remember him?”

“Not clearly. My memories of him have been fading.”

"I don't remember much of my human life, either. What brought you here? Oh, here we are."

I tried to turn my head but encountered an invisible wall. Lidia danced out of my range of sight and a funnel of light washed over me.

"Come, Deofilion," she said and my body twisted toward her, bringing her into sight. Once again, my legs moved without an order from me and I stepped through a stone archway. Lidia held the thick stone door open for me.

Unlike the tunnel behind me, the hall I now found myself in was more cheerful. There were no windows, but numerous torches provided enough light to see easily by. Large tapestries hung at regular intervals.

"This is the Main Hall," Lidia explained. "We began building several years ago. This was one of the first areas completed." As she spoke, she floated down the hall toward one of the larger tapestries on the opposite wall. She grasped one edge and peeled it away, revealing a wooden door. She grabbed the knob and pushed it open. A stone stairway arched above and away. We climbed quickly and silently and soon found ourselves before another door like the one below us. Lidia gently pushed it open and waved me inside.

Like the other hall, this one was also windowless. Tapestries were interspersed with doors, the largest of which were a pair of wide double doors at the end of the hall. These had been made of a better material than the others and it was toward these that Lidia headed. As we came closer, the doors swung open and two vampires glided toward us.

The second drew my attention first for the shock of white hair that crowned his head. He was clothed in fine navy blue shot through with silver and his face was solemn.

The first, though, would leave a lasting impression. I'll never forget my first view of Marcus. Not because I can’t, but because he was so different from the apathetic being he is now.

His hair had been pulled back and tied at the nape of his neck. He wore a dark-green tunic with gold embellishments. His red eyes glittered and a small smile danced around his lips whenever he looked at Lidia.

Lidia had pulled her cloak off, revealing a pale-green gown that hugged her body. A golden girdle emphasized her slender waist. The look on her face spoke more than words could. I wouldn’t have needed Marcus’ talent or my own to know they were mates—or very much in love.

The initial greeting lasted less than a second and anyone other than me would have probably missed it. I’d told you before, as a human I’d had prodigious talent into reading other’s facial gestures and body language. As a vampire, I did not even require my mind-reading ability to learn about others; I picked up on visual clues. Absorbing the Story later simply provided me with more information—and proved my initial beliefs correct, of course.

Marcus quickly turned from Lidia and observed me. His critical gaze made me feel as if he was examining me—which, indeed, he was. He must have been pleased with what he found because his face relaxed into a welcoming smile. He looked behind me and I heard Lidia respond cheerfully, “This is Deofilion. He wanted to meet us.” Marcus nodded.

“Welcome to Volterra,” he said. His voice was soft like all of our species stronger than most and confident. This wasn’t the type of man to be swayed easily or act rashly. Of the three, Marcus was always the most steadfast. “My name is Marcus. He is Caius and you have already met Lidia.”

“Thank you for your greeting. But first, could she?” I gestured as well as I could (which wasn’t very well) to Lidia. She laughed, Marcus chuckled and Caius smirked.

“I am sorry,” Marcus grinned. “Lidia?” I was released so quickly I stumbled. Only the grace ingrained in me from childhood kept me from landing embarrassingly on the floor. Marcus smiled apologetically. “I do apologize. I’m sure you can understand that one can never be too careful.”

I glanced quickly at Lidia and she grinned unapologetically.

“Deofilion, correct?” Caius spoke up for the first time. His voice was very soft yet hard and it carried. I had no doubt he would have no problem controlling a crowd with his voice alone. He eyed me curiously but his gaze, like his voice, was harder than Marcus’. Caius has never been friendly to newcomers. He has always been distrusting by nature. It took months for him to warm up to Carlisle and Carlisle was one of the most amiable vampires I have ever met. I nodded once at his question and he continued, “I’ve heard of you. Supposedly, you killed two covens in a single night. Is there any truth in that?”

“Some. I killed one coven and the other two nights later.” I kept as close to the truth while maintaining the legend that had formed about me. Though it was a double-edged sword, it was safer to keep others in fear of me. It lessened the chance of fights.

“How did you do this?” Though his stance remained wary, I could hear the interest in his tone.

“Before,” Lidia interjected calmly, “perhaps our guest would like something to drink?”

Marcus clapped his hands together. “Correct. First, why don’t we get you settled in? Then, you can regale us with your accomplishments.”

It wasn’t in a way I’d imagined, but I was with them. We strode towards the wide double doors with the sole exception of Lidia, who went to find some nourishment.

I hadn’t managed to touch any of them. Though certainly not from lack of trying.

After I’d fed, we settled into the room. Unlike everywhere else, this room had windows, large rectangle hewn into the stone high above and producing twinkling patches of light on the ground. The vaulted ceiling extended high above us.

We sat at a round table where they questioned me closely. It took all my talent to deflect the more sensitive questions without arousing suspicion. Even so, I could see Marcus’s eyes tightening slightly at my evasions though he made no comment on them. I was in awe as I was certain I was giving nothing away and I wondered if he could somehow have an ability like mine.

Lidia asked me again why I had come to Volterra and I gave them the old story of looking for my friend. They were sympathetic enough and offered and help they could. Lidia was the one to raise the suggestion that I stay with them because it wasn’t “right for someone so educated to wander like a vagabond”. Marcus rose at once to show me to my “bedroom”. Caius and Lidia requested my presence later after I’d settled. Laughing, I agreed.

As Marcus led me out of the room and down a different hall, I thought about Livius and Fortunata and compared them to Marcus, Caius and Lidia. It was like comparing a shrub to a tree, similar only in their origin. Though I hadn’t touched any of them I’d noticed the strong bond between them. They weren’t together simply for convenience. A more fraternal feeling united them. It was a very interesting group I had found.

Unlike Lidia who had watched me the whole time, Marcus never even glanced at me as he led the way. He stopped before a door and pushed it open.

“This will be your room for so long as you wish to stay. We haven’t had visitors in a long time. There is a table and chairs, a lectus for relaxing and a large bathroom through that door.” He paused and turned to face me. “I don’t trust you,” he began bluntly. His eyes searched me. “But you don’t appear to be a threat. Caius and Lidia are very dear to me and I don’t want anything dangerous near either of them or me for that matter. While I don’t have reason to doubt you, I can’t help but worry at the amount of information you keep concealed. You’re good but not near that good,” he replied to my raised eyebrows. “If whatever you are keeping a secret is dangerous, tell us. We can help. If not, we know of places you can go. But we don’t want any trouble here. It cost us to settle into this city. We don’t want our sacrifices to have been in vain.”

“I understand, Marcus,” I replied. “My secrets are simply for safety’s sake. You understand, of course, why one would not wish to reveal all to someone they don’t know. But there is nothing after me, nor do I wish any harm to this fair city. On that, you have my word.”

Marcus smiled. “Then you can be sure that this vampire is of no threat to you…Aro.”

My mouth dropped open. “What—? How—?”

Marcus laughed. “I told you. You’re good. We’re better.”

He clapped me on the shoulder and walked away, still laughing. When he turned the corner, I allowed myself a small smile. His hand had fallen upon a rip in my robe and his finger had just barely grazed the skin underneath.

And I was suddenly in possession of his Story.

I practically skipped into the room, collapsed onto the lectus and lost myself in the liquid images of another’s life.