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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:


6. Illusion Part 1

Rating 0/5   Word Count 3141   Review this Chapter

Little Boy Blue,
Come blow your horn.
The sheep's in the meadow;
The cow's in the corn.
Where is the boy who looks after the sheep?
He's under a haycock, fast asleep.

It was almost too easy to settle into a new life in Volterra. Marcus and Lidia were very welcoming. In Marcus, I found a fellow aesthetic soul. We admired many of the same poets, painters and sculptors. We could spend days discussing a single work of art or literature. As you know, I had gleaned his Story. From it, I discovered that he, like Lidia and I, was talented. He could see relationships as a cord linking people together. The brightness of it told of the relationship's strength and the colors revealed which emotions linked them together. In a single relationship, the colors could vary from one person to another, with one loving the other and the other hating the first. A red cord revealed lust; black signaled hatred. Fear was an opaque gray bond. Love, the bond between true mates, was a near blinding white.

It was absolutely fascinating.

Lidia immediately assumed the role of a sweet and endearing younger sister. I was particularly taken to her because I had learned about her long before I knew she existed. She had been part of Otho’s coven but, after she met Marcus, she abandoned Otho for Marcus. The irony in that was just too wonderful.

I adore her because she was very curious and constantly questioning all around her. Her questions, though, revealed her to be greatly observant and possessed an analytical mind. Her questions provoked hours of discussion in a wide variety of subjects from the shape of clouds to Marcus Aurelius' writings.

It was during one of these discussions that I learned about her power. While I already knew she was capable of moving things without needing to touch them from my own experience and Marcus' Story, I still didn't know how she managed to do it. The opportunity presented itself when we were walking toward a garden she had planted behind the palazzo and she grasped my hand.

From that innocent touch, I received true knowledge of her power. As a human, she had been able to move things utilizing only her mind, an ability you now call telekinesis. She could only move things she could see within a range of one meter. As a vampire, her ability grew immensely but was still directly related to her own body's strength. Her range doubled but still required visual contact.

You're not underestimating her, are you? Two meters may not sound like much but within that distance she could tear rocks, trees, even building blocks out of the ground, sharpen them all simultaneously and fling them faster than the speed of sound at a target over twenty meters away--all in the span of a single second.

In terms of speed, Lidia was second only to Anna.

While Marcus and Lidia took to me quickly, Caius was harder to win over. Distrusting by nature, we were still referring to one another formally while my conversations with Marcus and Lidia had already descended into the informal. Soon, though, we came to respect one another immensely.

Caius was the intellectual of the group, enamored with philosophy, theology, and politics. We would spend weeks locked in debate, neither side winning but nonetheless coming to appreciate the other. We once spent days on a single chess match, taking up to an hour to move a single piece. As often as we played, I never won. Not once. During those matches I truly came to admire Caius, though I'll deny it if you ask me later. Caius has no extra powers like the others in the coven. One could imagine this to be a disadvantage in a coven such as ours. Well one could if one were a fool. Before he was turned, Caius was a proud general, leading an army. This gifted him with incredible military and strategic prowess; capable of considering every possible situation, anticipate every problem and planning effectively for all.

Obviously, I was delighted. After years of wandering, the only educated person I ever met was Fortunata and since she couldn’t be trusted to speak up for herself, the Volterra coven was a gift from the gods.

I quickly learned how they had known about me. Lidia loved to travel and pick up news. She had learned the legends about me and grew interested. With a little help from Caius, she successfully tracked the legendary Deofilion to Ticinum where she learned my true name. It had been on her return trip that she stumbled into the old man who had told me about her coven. She was the one to mention her coven to him and how powerful they were, allowing their reputation to take root and the information to get to me at some point. Lidia had a good eye for potential allies.

It proved very difficult to keep my power secret and soon grew impossible. Not only were all three very observant but Marcus could see the subtle changes in the relationship whenever I concealed something from them. It was four months after my arrival when Marcus finally confronted me about it.

“All right, Aro, what are you hiding? What’s your ability?” Marcus was never one to waste time on florid talk.

How I miss him.

“What do you mean?” I asked. Marcus barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes.

“Aro, acting is not your forte. You are a member of our coven. Even Caius has taken to you. Yet, you continue harboring secrets. Why?”

Knowing I was caught, I admitted, “One never gives out all they know.”

“I’m aware of that,” Marcus said softly. “But if you cannot trust us, how can we trust you?”

I stared at him then began laughing. “You almost made me believe that. I may not be a good actor but you’re no better.”

Marcus dropped his pathetically wounded look and I saw the corners of his lips twitch upward slightly. “Nevertheless,” he began and I could gear the barely repressed laughter in his voice, “what I said still stands.”

We grew silent. I debated with myself. On the one hand, if I didn’t tell him my power, I would lose his and the others’ trust, maybe have to leave Volterra. On the other, if I said, I would lose the one advantage I had over everyone.

The American Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that that three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead. Marcus knowing meant Lidia would soon learn about it as well. To gain some time, I walked slowly past him and grazed the back of his hand. His thoughts wavered between worry at what horror could make me hide so much of myself, and fear for Lidia, Caius and himself. I couldn’t find any danger, for which reason I took a deep breath and turned to face him.

“I can hear other’s thoughts.”

Marcus took s step back. Obviously, he hadn’t expected that.

“Well, I hadn’t expected something like that.”

I can read minds and foretell the future!

Marcus watched me carefully. “Do you know what I’m thinking now?”

I shook my head. “I need to touch a person to hear their thoughts. Then, though, I hear everything.”

“Everything?” Marcus gasped.

“Every thought you have ever had.”

Marcus opened and closed his mouth. “I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised. You always seemed to know too much with no known reason as to why you did.”

I remained silent.

Marcus blinked then glanced at me pityingly.

“Poor Aro,” he said. “From knowing so much, you will never be allowed to leave now.” The effect was ruined with the mischievous glint in his eyes, and I chuckled darkly.

Unlike her mate, Lidia took the news of my power badly.

“How dare you?!” she screeched, yet somehow even her most ungodly sounds still sounded melodic. Her ethereal face was twisted with anger. “After all we did, you couldn’t tell us? My thoughts are private!” I was sure that if she had been raised differently, she would have been swearing. It took Marcus some time to calm her down, but I couldn’t restrain myself from one last jab.

“Do send my greetings to Clytemnestra! I so admire her.”

Marcus had to physically restrain her to keep her from attacking. I still ended up with several torches and a few chairs hurled my way.

Caius surprised everyone by taking it in stride.

“I’d suspected something like it,” he mused. “You knew too much to simply have observed it from natural senses.” I was about to respond, but Caius cut across swiftly, frowning. “Don’t think I’ll let you touch me, though.”

“I wouldn’t dream of doing that, Caius,” I replied seriously. “You’re not pretty enough.”

Caius, who until then had not even bothered looking at me, raised his gaze from the scroll he was studying.

“Jealousy isn’t becoming to you, Aro,” he said then disregarded me as his attention was fixed back on his scroll.

Anna took the news much like Caius but Adelina reacted worse than Lidia. That happened later, though.

Speaking of Adelina, that was around the time that she joined our coven.

By that time, our coven was well-established. Our territory covered Volterra and several outlying villages, a distance of over sixty kilometers in every direction. The Paganico coven, composed of two males and one female, bordered us to the south and part of the west. To the north and rest of the west, the Lucca coven lay with four members, two males and two females. To the east, three distinct covens warred over the territory. Adelina’s coven was one of these.

The first news of the war reached us on a fairly innocent, sunny day. We had just “breakfasted” and Caius and I were engaged in one of our infamous chess matches. Lidia and Marcus watched, Lidia safely ensconced in Marcus’s embrace.

During each match, I employed a variety of tactics to force Caius into making a mistake. Distracting and annoying were among my favorites. That day, it was taunting.

“Marcus,” I began after losing yet another piece, “I feel awful.”

Marcus, noting how I was gearing up, barely hid a smile. He played along, “Why would you feel that way, Aro?”

“I just feel so awful for Caius,” I breathed a heavy sigh. “With such looks and character, he will never find a mate. Which vampire do you know is both stupid and blind? She’ll probably need to be deaf too.”

Caius made a sound that seemed oddly like a snort. “And so the hypocrite speaks,” he said, taking another of my pieces. Lidia laughed.

“Hypocrite?” My eyes widened with faux innocence. “My dear Caius, I could find a mate for myself easily.”

“Yet you have none,” he cut across swiftly.

“And you think you can find one?” I snapped. The barely avoided checks had me anxious.

“Of course,” he replied. A grin suddenly spread across my face.

“Let’s bet on it, then. Whoever finds a mate first wins. And when I win, you need to let me win every chess match.”

“Very well,” Caius agreed. “However, when I win, you need to walk around for a year with a sign on your chest reading ‘I’m a hypocrite and an idiot’.”

“An idiot? How so?”

“Simple. Checkmate.”

At my stunned look, Marcus actually snickered.

A sudden knocking distracted us. Lidia leaped from Marcus’s embrace and dashed to the window, peering from behind a long curtain that kept sunlight from her skin but through which she could observe.

“It’s Amadeus, from the Lucca coven.”

We stood and walked out. Lidia ran ahead to welcome the visitor. By the time she brought him in, we were settled in our tall throne-like chairs in the Main Hall. Amadeus, a young vampire with curly brown hair, bowed before us.

“I come bearing a message from my leader, the honorable Leo. We have received disturbing news. In the east, one of the Marmi coven has been killed. The coven has declared war upon the others and the fighting has spread to our borders. Leo wishes you to remember the deal we made when we decided to settle here and help us keep them away from our territory.”

“We need to lend them aid,” Caius whispered. “It will not do to irritate the Lucca coven. Their alliance was gained with difficulty and they are necessary to control the wild newborns that crop up in the north. We also cannot allow this situation in the east to continue.”

“For that,” I muttered back, “we’ll need a meeting between all the covens to decide what is to be done. The Lucca and Paganico covens can come here to plan what we shall do to keep the situation from deteriorating further.”

Lidia lowered her head slightly as if thinking then raised it proudly. No one but us would have known she was nodding.

“Amadeus,” Marcus turned to him. Amadeus stood at attention. “Tell Leo that we will aid him in any way we can. And tell him that we shall have a meeting with his coven and the Paganico coven to decide what to do.”

Amadeus bowed again. “Thank you, Marcus. I shall send my master this message.” With no further word, he turned on his heel and walked out.

“Oh Aro,” Lidia giggled. “What if Caius meets his mate in one of those covens? The Lucca coven has one female who has no mate.”

“Who’s to say I’m not the one to find a mate?” I challenged.

“Because you’re an idiot,” Caius replied dryly. Marcus’s and Lidia’s laughter covered my indignant response.

It was just my luck that he should meet Adelina a month later.

The situation in the east had become desperate. There was constant fighting over territory, of course, but I had never witnessed something like that before. Each coven would take humans and turn them, using them to fight. Those early groupings of newborns would prove to be the precursor of newborn armies that would so annoy us later after achieving control of the vampire world. Adelina was one of those newborns. She had been a slave, captured and imported from far north, and it was partly because of this that she was turned. Unlike the typically dark hair of those born near the Mediterranean, her hair was practically a beacon of bright yellow strands that fell to her waist. After she was turned, however, her coven realized she had an extra ability, an extraordinary one, which made them train her past her first year and use her to command the newborns.

By that time, we were hosting the first, and last, meeting of our three covens. The Paganico coven favored watching and waiting. Pius, its leader, suggested sending someone to serve as a mediator and see if a truce could not be achieved. The Lucca coven wanted to attack them immediately to keep the situation form deteriorating further. If the three were allowed to remain as they were much longer, Leo, a burly, serious vampire, argued that the humans would take notice and try to attack. He reminded us of what had happened several years ago in Rome. The humans had also tried to respond to a war between covens but succeeded only marching to their deaths, leading to a massive food shortage for the Roman covens.

Marcus, long favored for the wisdom of his decisions, begged some time so he could meet with us and come to a decision. Lidia came to me grimacing and took my hand. In my mind, her Story opened and it was like new chapters had been added to it. She remained to entertain our guests while we stood and exited to a small antechamber. I told Marcus and Caius of Lidia’s opinion, one I had to admit was good.

“She believes we should send an emissary to them, one from each coven, to see if we can’t force an agreement that pleases all. If not, we should follow Leo’s suggestion and remove them before they threaten us.”

Marcus agreed while Caius added, “If that’s the case, the emissaries can serve a double-purpose. We shall watch and see which coven is the least dangerous to us. That’s the one we shall lend aid to and destroy the others.”

As Marcus swept from the room, I hid a grin. I had the strongest urge to tell the Paganico and Lucca covens that their cheerful redheaded hostess was the mastermind behind most plans and decisions. Just imagining how they’d take it made me hastily hide my laugh behind a cough. Caius glanced at me strangely and I smiled brightly at him. He rolled his eyes and muttered something unintelligible under his breath. Chuckling, I followed him.

As we returned, Lidia humbly came to us, the perfect hostess. I caught her eye and winked. She subtly elbowed me in return.

Marcus explained our, well Lidia and Caius’, decision detailing it carefully. He specified that they should pick one among their number, patient and slow to anger, to speak to the warring covens. Despite some disagreements, the two covens agreed.

A few days before the meeting, my coven and I had a small disagreement.

“I’m the best orator here,” I snapped. “I should be the one to go.” Caius rolled his eyes and Marcus frowned.

All right, so it wasn’t that small.

“We know that,” Marcus replied, eyes narrowed. “The choice wasn’t easy. But Amadeus is an excellent orator already. We needed someone who can scout the land and learn from which direction and how it would be best for us to attack if it comes to war. Caius has much greater military training, is a keen observer–”

“I’m an excellent observer!” I retorted indignantly. They just didn’t understand. I wanted to go. It was just too fascinating!

“–and he can control his temper,” Marcus finished, enunciating the last four words carefully through gritted teeth.

“I’ll have you know,” I began hotly.

“Aro! Come here, look at this!” Lidia ran into the room. She was smiling divinely, her dark red strands of hair flying behind her. “Come! No, you stay,” she motioned to Marcus who had moved towards her. He looked surprised and narrowed his eyes at us. She beamed at me. “Come!”

She turned on her heel and half-walked, half-ran gracefully away, motioning me to follow her. We stopped in a room we had been expanding. The walls were bare and one needed to be knocked down. I turned towards her to ask her why we had stopped there but froze at the wicked gleam in her eyes.

After seven hours spent as Lidia’s personal battering ram, I realized my coven was right and Caius should be the one to go. It was then she let me go, dazed, on the pile of rubble that had once been a wall.

On the appointed day, Caius, to my great annoyance, joined Amadeus from the Lucca coven and Regina, the only female in the Paganico coven. They returned several hours later. It had been a failure. Amadeus and Regina returned to their covens to plan for war, but Caius came back to us shaken and haunted by the image of Adelina’s golden hair.