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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:


9. Illusion Part 4

Rating 4/5   Word Count 2147   Review this Chapter

I'm bringing home a baby bumblebee,
Won't my mommy be so proud of me,
I'm bringing home a baby bumblebee,
Won't my mommy be so proud of me!
Ouch! It stung me!

Following Caius’ announcement, my first reaction was to annihilate Adelina and him. Lidia had to use her power to restrain me.

Adelina had taken my few memories of my wife and children and utterly corrupted them. Caius had laughed.

Actually, killing would be too kind. I was going to torture them until they begged for death then kill them. Slowly.

“Aro, control yourself,” Marcus snapped, seeing my reaction. “What happened?”

“She’s an illusionist,” I snarled, struggling against Lidia’s hold.

“She’s a what?” Marcus glanced at Adelina. Even without touching him, I knew he immediately understood the implications, and even the possibilities. As an illusionist, Adelina could have Caius trapped within a vision, using him to ensure her survival.

“She has not done anything to me!” Caius glowered at Marcus and me, reading our glances.

“Aro, touch her.” Marcus ordered.

“No!” Caius exclaimed, pushing Adelina behind him. His body shook with indignant anger. “We trusted Aro when he came. You trusted me. Why don’t you trust Adelina?”

“Because she’s a conniving demon!”

“Aro.” Lidia intoned carefully, using her power to raise a large rock and dangle it threateningly. “Caius.” Lidia spoke softly, her soothing tone reminiscent of a mother calming a frightened child. “You understand that we’re not sure about either of you. You ran from us and now we must be sure you really are our Caius. It has nothing to do with her but everything to do with the war.” She appealed to his logic. Caius relaxed.

“Fine,” he sighed.

“What?” Adelina seized his arm, eyes wide.

“Aro will just see if you’re lying, that’s all,” Marcus explained quickly, answering Adelina but keeping the true reach of my ability secret. “Caius, why don’t you submit first so that Adelina sees there is nothing to fear?”

Caius nodded and, holding onto Adelina, walked toward me. He held out his hand.

I learned that when had first attacked, Caius had seized the opportunity and ran. He had gone to the main battle in a desperate search for Adelina. He had finally found her when a brawny newborn was about to attack her from behind. Caius had thrown himself into the fray and the newborn’s teeth fastened around his shoulder. When the newborn arched back, he took Caius’ arm with him. Adelina had whirled around and narrowed her eyes at the newborn. He had grown absolutely still before collapsing into hysterics. Between the two of them, Caius and Adelina had destroyed him. Then, they had run to find some shelter where Caius could heal. It was at this point I’d reached them and followed after them. Instead of Adelina severing his arm as I’d believed, she had been holding it to his shoulder, allowing the skin to rejoin.

I took a step back.

“There’s nothing to fear, you see,” Marcus said. “Adelina?”

Watching me suspiciously, she held out her own hand. When I touched her, I was consumed in a cloud of unspeakable horror.

A woman with long golden hair lying prostrate over her child protectively before being killed.

A child captured and enslaved.

The same child, older, sobbing, naked before her laughing masters.

An eleven year old learning how to find what people most fear.

An adolescent, cold and hard as silver, inspiring the terror she felt upon those around her.

A young woman, tied to a stake outside in winter, slowly losing her mind to macabre wraith-like memories.

Burning, burning, burning, a fire that encompassed her body.

Hysterical laughter as flames ravaged her body, freezing it, perfecting it.

A young vampire opens her eyes and looks to the one who turned her, his greatest fears and horrors transferring to her mind. She flinches and tries to throw the images back at him, unable to stand the fear and pain. She succeeds. He freezes for several long seconds and collapses, screaming.

I snatched my hand back.

Her ability was much worse than I’d imagined. Like me, she could access the mind. However, the information she received was limited and she could glean it without need for physical contact. Whereas I received every thought a person had ever had, she accessed only the memories linked to a person’s greatest terror. When she accessed their thoughts, she also took over their mind and forced them into a world of her own making. The images she received were the images she projected into her victim’s mind. Every illusionary world was different but for certain characteristics. Her victims always saw a yellow aura alight around her when she invaded their mind. Within the illusion, the two red moons, which I’d compared to eyes, appeared. In reality, they were her eyes, her window to her victim’s reactions to her illusions and either make them stronger or soften them depending on her purpose. She needed this entry point into a mind because her power worked quickly. I was under her influence for a second and had felt it lasted an eternity. A human could only endure her gaze for three seconds before they suffered a complete mental breakdown; a vampire lasted three times that amount of time before they too underwent the same effect. And once they went insane, there was no way to return them to their original state. It was why Renatus had Ursula killed. It was vicious and cruel and hateful, and I cringed at the thought of the possibilities.

I then thanked whatever lucky stars I was born under that Caius had stopped her. I like my mind undamaged.

“Aro?” Marcus’ thoughts cut through my reverie. Adelina watched me suspiciously. A flicker of fear shadowed her face as she awaited my verdict, knowing I could save her or destroy her with my next words.

“They’re telling the truth,” I replied tonelessly. Marcus nodded once, turning to observe the pair before us.

“What are we to do now?” Lidia’s soft voice was soothing.

Caius blinked. “There is still a war. We fight.”

“No.” Lidia shook her head. “About her coven. Won’t they react violently once they learn she’s with us?”

“My coven is dead.” Adelina’s voice was carefully neutral. “Only the newborns are left and they’re loyal to no one.”

“Oh, I am so sorry. I did not know.” If she had known her longer, Lidia would have been hugging Adelina in sympathy.

Marcus interrupted. “We will finish this,” he said, motioning to Caius and Adelina, “later. As I came here, I saw the Lucca coven finally arrive. They’ve called to us for aid. Aro, find Leo and see what is happening.”

“We need to destroy Bagnaria if we are to have any peace and have little time left. When we reach the battle, Marcus and Lidia, head to the right to cut off their escape. Adelina and I will take the left to do the same. Aro, tell Leo to use the Golden Triangle.”

I ignored him. Marcus had to repeat the order in order for me to agree to it. Caius rolled his eyes and muttered something about immature idiots.

Each couple ran in the direction Caius specified. Before she left, Lidia dashed to me and threw her arms around me in a brief hug.

DON’T KILL CAIUS! She screamed mentally. I flinched in response and shoved her away playfully.

“I won’t kill him,” I promised. “I’ll just torture him.”

“That I can condone.” Lidia gave her blessing. She hugged me again and ran after Marcus, waiting for her at the fringe of the forest.

I followed after them briefly until they turned to the right while I continued forward. Amaranta saw me and called off the newborns about to attack me.

“What do you need, Aro?” she shouted over the sounds of fighting.

“Where is Leo?” I yelled back.

“Over here. Come!” She waved me toward her.

Leo was several meters back, fighting three newborns simultaneously. Sofia was in the process of burning two. Amaranta and I each took a newborn away from a defensive Leo, leaving him to finish off the last.

“Aro!” Leo was disturbingly cheerful. And if I say someone is disturbingly cheerful, you can just imagine how he was acting. The furor of battle had lit a gleam in his eyes and he was grinning gleefully. “What news?”

“We’ve destroyed the Paganico coven; two newborns survived but the coven itself is dead. The Murlo coven was also eradicated.”

“Belverde?”

“Surviving.”

“Excellent. Only Bagnaria is left. Your coven?”

“Running alongside the battle to keep the newborns from escaping. Caius sends word to use the Golden Triangle.”

“We’ll send them some help. We have enough to spare. Amadeus, Amaranta take three newborns each and follow after Marcus and Caius respectively. You’ll be attacking with us, Aro?”

“Yes.”

Leo clapped his hands, rubbing them together. “Good. Sofia, gather the rest of the newborns. Golden Triangle.”

The Golden Triangle, better known as an arrow formation, was one where a group of soldiers aligned into two rows, forming an arrow head. Protected by heavy shields, they would then run through the middle of an opposing line, splitting it in half. The soldiers running behind would then pick out the divided and confused forces. The arrow itself would break apart, the two sides running in opposite sides and turning to close off any escape. Lucca’s newborn army would create the arrow head. Marcus and Lidia, Caius and Adelina and the newborns sent with Amadeus and Amaranta would prevent Bagnaria’s escape to the sides, trapping them and making them easy targets.

And that was precisely what happened.

Leo’s forces plowed through Bagnaria’s line. Belverde joined the fray with renewed vigor, attacking the stragglers, the hurt and the confused. Lidia was using her power to herd several newborns into a single, tight group which she then dismembered with some well shot disks. Marcus targeted the leaders, further adding to the confusion. Adelina would ensnare her victims within an illusion for no more than two seconds; it was enough for them to collapse screaming onto the floor, easy targets for Caius to dismember.

I was utterly vicious. Adelina’s hallucination had left me shaken and distraught. Every face looked like Piero’s. I cleaved through the ranks until my hands and robes were stained with venom and blood, until every vampire ran in terror, until I could not distinguish my own agonized roar amid the rapidly silencing screams.

By midmorning, we finished burning all the corpses. Tall funnels of smoke extended to the sky, suffusing the air with a perfume-like scent.

Lidia had selected ten other pieces to add to her weapons, raising the amount of deadly disks from fifteen to twenty-five. Marcus was deep in discussion with Leo over something. Caius held Adelina tightly to him, afraid to let her go.

The Lucca coven, like us, had survived. The Belverde coven, however, had lost their leader. Following Renatus’ death, Adriano became the leader. They took over the Murlo coven’s territory while Leo and Marcus split the rest of the territory between them. Lucca’s territory incorporated the Bagnario coven’s former lands while Volterra claimed the Paganico terrain. This allowed our jurisdiction to extend from Palaia in the north to Manciano in the south. Neither town had been founded by this time but I give you their names now so that you can have some idea of the massive territory we controlled. Moreover, we now possessed Piombino, one of the most important harbors of Etruscan origin. Caius and Lidia were ecstatic at the news.

As this was taking place, I had wandered away, lost in my own thoughts. Movement out of the corner of my eyes caught my attention. A figure wearing a black cloak stood with his back to me under the thick overhang of the trees. Two firm, smooth hands were pulling the hood over his dark hair before he disappeared into the forest. I followed after him. He had run on ahead out of my range of visions and I had to track the scent, the most enticing I had ever known. I lost the trail at a stream. I stood a long while on the banks, the water lapping against my legs. My skin, still smooth and perfect, glittered dazzlingly in the glare of the sun. I bowed my head away from the yellow orb.

On the ground, almost lost among the green grass, was a single strand of hair. I crouched down and picked it up, holding it to the light.

It was a sooty thread, thick and strong. Longer than my arm, it curled softly in the breeze. The scent I’d followed clung to it like a perfume. I drew the image of the figure I’d followed back to my mind and realized he had been very slender, too much so for a man. Whoever I’d been following and who left the hair had been female.

I stood slowly, glancing around me carefully. I could feel someone’s eyes upon me.

“Come out!” I called. Nothing but the soft green foliage and even softer breeze greeted me.

With one last look around me, I closed my hand around the dark strand and returned to my coven.