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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:


7. Illusion Part 2

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Goosey Goosey Gander,
Wither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my Lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

It was a very clear night when Caius and Marcus finally came head to head. Lidia had been romanticizing the moon to pass the time.

“The moon is a wraithlike orb tonight,” she sighed, glancing out the window. “You can see so many stars, so many fragile pinpricks.”

“What the hell do we care?” Caius snapped. Marcus whirled, eyes flashing.

“Don’t take out your frustrations on her,” he threatened. “She didn't make you fall for a newborn.” He spat the last word like a curse.

Caius stood so quickly his chair fell over.

It was at this point I walked into the room. I’d just returned from a meeting with the Lucca coven and Amadeus was waiting outside. I stepped into the Main Room to be met by a roaring Caius. Lidia, standing a meter away, had him pinned in place, and Marcus had sunken into a half crouch, lip curled viciously.

“Well,” I blinked, “if you’re going to kill one another, at least have the decency of warning me so I can find a good seat.”

Lidia turned to answer me sweetly, “They weren’t about to kill each other.” I raised an eyebrow but she ignored me. “It was just a disagreement. But it’s over now. Correct?”

“Yes,” Marcus answered after a curt pause, turning to look at her.

“Yes,” Caius spat between gritted teeth.

Lidia relaxed her glare. Caius’ body suffered a short series of spasms as he regained control of his limbs. She turned to Marcus, gliding toward him. Caius’ eyes flashed twin onyxes and I knew what he was about to do.

“Lidia!” I yelled in warning. I sped to Caius, grabbing him before he could dive at her. We stumbled to the ground where I wrapped one arm around his neck and latched the other around his torso to restrain him. Lidia clung tightly to Marcus, stroking his face and whispering to him. Soon his posture relaxed a bit, but the fury did not leave his eyes. I kept my grip on him until the jumble of his thoughts quieted and his typical calm and unbothered attitude returned. Then, I let him go. He straightened his robes and stalked from the room. Lidia whispered something to Marcus and he stormed away in the opposite direction from Caius.

“Lidia?” I questioned. She stepped closer to me, her usually bright eyes dull. She held out her hand and I gently laid my palm on hers.

Her memories of the past events flooded my mind before receding into the book housing her Story.

We need to do something,” she thought. “This can’t go on.”

“There’s nothing we can do,” I replied so softly she had to strain to hear.

He’s truly in love?”

“Obsession describes it more closely. It’s too late.” At my words, her gaze fell. Off-handedly, I continued, “This is why I’d much rather lose that bet. This love thing is much too destructive and pathetic for me.”

A bitter smile crossed her face as her hand dropped from mine.

“Too bad, Aro,” she said. “I have a feeling you’ll fall the hardest.”

I scoffed at her words. Lidia suddenly brightened. “Tell me what happened. How did it go?”

The “it” she referred to was my meeting with Leo. Shortly after our failed attempt to reconcile the warring covens, our own clans had had their own falling out. The Lucca coven favored helping the Belverde coven, the first to have been established in the region and the second strongest of the three. However, Paganico preferred to help the Bagnaria coven, a group composed mostly of once Greek slaves. The third coven, Murlo, was the weakest of the three It was also Adelina’s coven and the source of one of our many disagreements. Caius wanted to fight for them but Marcus, Lidia and I stood steadfast with Belverde, siding with Lucca. The war had swallowed us all. Even inside covens, divisions were coming to light threatening to tear us apart. The first break was against the Paganico coven.

I had traveled to Lucca to meet with Leo and his coven. Amadeus met me at the border between our territories and led me toward the city. The sun had set so we had little to worry about in terms of humans seeing us. We ran to a tall building near the outskirts of the city that gave the deceptive look of being unfortified. Amadeus ushered me through the wide doors and down a cheerfully lit hall to a large receiving room. Leo, with Amaranta and Sofia—the latter Leo’s mate—flanking him on either side, stood when he saw me.

“Welcome Aro,” he had said.

His tone had been calm, his face attentive. His eyes were rubies, cold and hard. “No problems during your trip?”

“None at all,” I’d replied smoothly. “Amadeus was an excellent guide.”

“Good, good. Would you like anything?”

“I’d dined before I left, thank you.”

“Shall we, then?” One hand had swept away to point at a half-open door in a shadowed corner. We had walked toward it, leaving Amadeus, Amaranta and Sofia in the receiving room. Inside the room, which was smaller than the one before, there’d been a circular table with handsomely crafted willow-and-weave seats. We’d settled into them and Leo turned to me.

“Before we begin, bear in mind that in Lucca everyone is responsible for their words. So choose them wisely.”

I’d nodded graciously and he continued, “Then tell me. What has the Volterra coven decided?”

“It was a difficult decision and we did not take it lightly. The decision we came to is this: We will lend whatever aid necessary to the Belverde coven.”

“As we decided,” Leo had nodded thoughtfully. “And what are you thoughts on the Bagnaria coven? They may not be as numerous but are slightly stronger and are dependant on the Paganico coven’s support.”

“They are of no threat even with Pius’ aid.”

“And what did you decide to do with the Paganico coven?”

“We desired your say on that,” I’d evaded the question, “to help in our decision.” I did not tell him that we had already decided that if Paganico sided against us they would be destroyed as well.

“It’s simple,” Leo had replied coldly, his eyes hard as rubies. “We kill them. During our meeting, they knew of our promise to support one another. They did not agree and split from us. And so, they’re enemies.”

“I will relay your words,” I had replied, “and return to inform you of our decision.”

“Rather,” Leo had stood abruptly and Amadeus had appeared at the door, “Amadeus will accompany you. Tell him and he will inform me. Agreed?”

His tone may have worded it as a question, but his face had said it to be a command.

“If you deem it a wiser course of action,” I’d answered.

I quickly narrated my meeting with Leo to Lidia who promptly looked alarmed.

“Amadeus is here?” she whispered, horrified. “How much could he have heard?”

I held up one hand. “One way to know. Get me some parchment and a quill. And some wax.”

Lidia disappeared and returned within a second, holding out all three items. I rapidly scribbled our decision, signed and held it out to her. “Can you make a seal to close it?”

She nodded and narrowed her eyes. The parchment curled shut into a tight scroll. A piece of torch nearby suddenly wrenched away and shaped itself into a seal. The stick of wax hovered in the flame until it melted then dabbed a piece over the scroll. The makeshift seal stamped quickly into the wax before it hovered back to me. The seal, wax and quill continued hovering in midair. As we walked away, they trembled and clattered to the ground, the notes struck against the ground sounding oddly final.

Outside the door, Amadeus stood some distance away. His face was impassive. I went up to him and held out the sealed scroll.

“Take this to Leo,” I said. As he took it, I shifted my hand and my fingers brushed his fingertips. He had heard all from my exclamation until Caius and Marcus left. It wasn’t enough to prove dangerous to us but I still worried. Leo was enamored of war and had had his eye on Volterra. By then, the city had become the seat of the Etruscan civilization. Marcus and Caius had bought a truce yet Leo needed only the smallest excuse…

Lidia, who had remained behind the door, suddenly barged in, furious. Anger made her fair skin appear fairer, her hair cascading down her back like a beautifully macabre cascade of blood. Her features were aglow with the brightness of her fury, making her look all the more like an avenging angel. A gown of black silk bared her back, shoulders and arms and she held her head proudly. Long inured to her near-terrifying beauty, I had to make a conscious effort not to have my mouth drop open at the vision of an angel from the Apocalypse storming into the room, wrath alighting her flame-red eyes.

“Men,” she shook her head disgustedly. “Incredible how they’ll act over a simple choice of Corinthian columns or—oh.” She drew up short, blinking her bright eyes. I had to stifle a smirk upon looking at Amadeus. He had fallen prey to her unearthly beauty and collapsed onto his knees, staring at her as the gods must have looked upon Aphrodite when she rose from the sea foam. My hand, still near his while holding the scroll, grazed him again. Lidia’s unorthodox display had driven the discussion from his mind and his memories lingered on the image of Lidia, drinking in her magnificence.

I cleared my throat loudly and Amadeus jumped and turned to me, looking stricken. “Take this to Leo. Quickly,” I hinted. Amadeus bowed hastily and turned though he continued sneaking glances at Lidia as he walked away. When he was gone, I turned to Lidia and smiled appreciatively. She smiled back. Deciding to taunt her, I allowed my gaze to drop rakishly and inspect her body. Her hands wrapped around her as if to ward off cold, her smile turning into a glare. I snickered.

And a stand suddenly flew into my stomach, knocking the wind out of me and hurling me backwards onto the floor.

Lidia stormed away. I swore in every language I knew as I wrenched the stand off. I dimly heard it crash against the opposite wall. As I stood, I realized something interesting. Lidia had followed Marcus to the gardens behind the palazzo which meant she wouldn’t be in their room…

“So it has definitely come to war,” Marcus muttered once we had gathered. Caius was silent and I could infer without needing to touch him what was passing through his mind. “When are you meeting again, Aro?”

“Within two days,” I replied promptly, remembering the last words shared with Leo.

“We are to support Belverde,” Caius interjected. His tone was dead of all emotion but Marcus and I heard the unspoken words at the end—and not Adelina.

“It’s the wisest course,” Marcus replied quietly. “You had told us we should support them. As for the woman, there’s no need for her to be hurt. We can find a way of securing her safety without jeopardizing our position.” It was a shot in the dark. Caius’ only response was a cynical smile that did not reach his eyes. Instead, the black orbs reflected a sharp void of pain, tinged with the heat of anger.

“ARO!”

We all jumped at Lidia’s unholy shriek. Her scream one of the rooms upstairs and she could be heard running toward us, her screams giving her away.

She threw open the doors and stood framed in the doorway, She still wore her clothes form before and held in one hand a filthy, torn cloth and in the other a piece of rubble. Her entire frame shook with barely repressed anger. I hadn’t looked upon something so comical in a while. I hid my laughter, however, knowing when not to push her.

“Lidia?” Marcus walked toward her, worry evident in his face. “What is wrong?”

“He’s what’s wrong!” she screamed, pointing at me. “I want him dead! I am going to tear him into pieces, then tear the pieces into pieces before burning them!”

“But, Lidia, what did he do?” Marcus enunciated carefully, trying to calm her down and look furious at me (though he still had no idea what I’d done) at the same time.

I was very close to my breaking point.

“Look!” she cried. She held up the tattered remains of a once sky-blue dress that had seemed to flow around her body like water.

“Oh, would you look at that,” I said off-handedly. “It seems like someone used something—maybe pieces of a wall—to tear most of your clothes before dashing them through mud. Who could have done something like that?”

I knew when not to push her. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t push her.

If she had looked furious before, she was downright terrifying now. I couldn’t bite it back anymore. I burst out laughing.

“That’s it. I’ll kill him now!” The stone in Lidia’s hand suddenly rose from her palm as if held by something invisible.

Uh-oh.

I ducked and felt it brush my head. When I looked up, Lidia was looping around Marcus to run at me.

“Oh damn!” I jumped back and ran around a table, barely keeping outside of Lidia’s range.

She chased me throughout the room, hurling everything that entered her range at me. Marcus followed her, trying to get her to stop. Caius laughed cruelly.

“Help me!” I yelled at him as I passed. He grinned maliciously.

“I don’t think I will. It’s just too fascinating,” he mocked me.

I swore violently at him before throwing myself on the floor to avoid a table that just barely missed me.

Marcus finally caught Lidia after I was pummeled by a few objects. I think he’d been waiting until I was hit before finally grabbing Lidia and hauling her to him. Lidia, though she had stopped using her power, continued shooting glares at me and I was almost ridiculously relived her ability wasn’t literal death glares.

“All right! Lidia, don’t throw, grab, trip, or otherwise harm him,” said Marcus. He turned to me, frowning, “Aro, no childish attempts at revenge. We are adults, have been so for five hundred years, so there is no reason we cannot behave in a mature and rational way.”

“You’re not my father,” I groused. Lidia started and I flinched. Marcus grabbed her arm and glared at both.

“Behave,” he intoned severely.

“All right,” Lidia grumbled.

“Yes, Father,” I complained, though I still clung to future plans for revenge.

“Aro,” Marcus said warningly. He must have seen the color in the cord linking us change to dark grey tinged with black signifying lies, a mistrusting, almost traitorous relationship. I sadly bid farewell to my dreams of revenge and his gaze relaxed. “Now we have a lot to do. Let’s plan how we’ll carry out our attack.”

We stepped closer, forming a circle until there was hardly any space between us.

It was then I realized something I’d long known but never faced before. I had called them my coven for some time but it was then that the truth of the statement sank in. We were a coven in the truest sense of the word. Our bonds had evolved from simple convenience to strong ties of kinship. We fought, we argued, Lidia screamed and threw things without ever touching them. But we always returned to this point.

Caius and Marcus were discussing land elevation and wind direction to determine which would be the best place to mount our defense, Lidia reached around Marcus, one delicately long-fingered hand wrapping around my wrist. Her memories seeped through along with her last thought.

What else did you learn about Lucca from observing them? I’ll never forget you diving through the air to avoid that table just to land on your face, by the way.

I chuckled and she grinned unabashedly.

That was why we were able to succeed where so many other covens—some many times more powerful than us—failed. We were, are, a family. And we will always defend our family from every threat. If protecting our family requires a simple rule—human suspicion must not be aroused—to be enforced strictly and without hesitancy, then we shall do so, if only for the sake of Lidia’s memory.

That, loves, is a promise the Volturi shall always keep.