The Ashen-Cloaked Child
Aro may not have been able to get Renesmee, but he was going to have a half-vampire in his guard. Somehow.
6. Immersion and Rebirth
Rating 5/5 Word Count 1356 Review this Chapter
“The way you speak of him . . . you haven't been this excited since you found Jane and Alec.”
“He's more than I ever dreamed, my dear. And I'd thought, when I met Edward Cullen, that the power of two mind readers would create such an anomaly. Julian puts the poor boy to shame.”
“And it doesn't bother you that a mere babe has unlimited access to all our secrets?”
“Exactly – he is only a child, young and impressionable as children always are. He will grow loyal to us.”
“Until he becomes disillusioned as an adult. Not to mention that he will know exactly how young and impressionable he is, and that you plan to use that weakness. He will know every word you're saying to me right now.”
“He won't care – he'd agree with me, anyway. He loves his mother to no end, and he's enough like her and like me to follow the same agenda. He likes the control we have over the vampire world, and thereby the entire world. He agrees that we must wipe out all usurpers to it, even unwitting ones. We understand each other, he and I, the good and the bad, and we like each other for it. He already is loyal; all we have to do is cultivate his potential.”
“How ironic. After all these centuries, you couldn't ask for a more fitting companion than a son.”
“Except for, perhaps, you, who has never needed to read my mind in order to know it completely.”
“You're predictable, Aro. It'll be your downfall, you know.”
“Not so long as you're around to tell me where I go wrong.”
“As if you ever listen to me!”
“I do, though. More than you know. I'm just better at taking your silent advice than spoken ones.”
“Then take this advice . . . you should let me care for the child.”
You don't seem willing enough to ensure his mind is molded correctly. I want to help. I'll teach him well, give him the education he'll need to help him be up to the tasks you've set for him. And no, reading everyone's minds will not be able to replace that.
“You also want a claim on him, since he is not your own son. You may try to hide that from yourself, but it doesn't fool me. It won't fool him either, so you might as well come to terms with it before he meets you. Just because I say you may care for him doesn't mean he will let himself become a pawn in your assertion of dominance.”
This is more than just an assertion of dominance. I want to have a bond with him as you do. He's already altered you significantly. I want to go through this change, too, so you don't leave me behind.
“I'm surprised you admitted this to me. It's very brave, to be honest in your motivations.”
Or else very foolish.
“Only if you're indiscreet in your honesty.”
Trust me, I don't intend to make a habit of it.
Later they told me I was quiet during my transformation – at least, more quiet than usual. It might have had something to do with being knocked out and having half my bones broken. And I'd thought I was in pain before. Ha.
The fact was that I was so tired and sick that I had a hard time vocalizing. The vomit hadn't entirely exited my trachea before; I was hoarse. It took all the energy I had just to feel the pain, let alone scream about it. And then I crossed the bridge between being more vampire and more human, and I developed a new capacity for it. It was still hell, though.
Nobody witnessed my awakening; they just left a few corpses in the room. I devoured them without thinking, cold as they were. The burn in my throat muted a bit, and I came to myself.
My clothes were reduced to disgusting tatters on my skin, so I peeled them off immediately. Black threads were embedded in my belly where I had been cut into – would they stay there forever? I tugged at one end, and it turned to dust. I proceeded to wipe off the rest, and found that there was no mark left behind. No synthetic thread could outlast venom. But there were scant bite indents here and there.
Dried blood still pooled around my bed, however; dry and stale as it was, it had no effect on my muted burning throat. I threw those sheets and blankets into the fire, creating a delicious smell. Still no rerelease of burning. My mind turned to other things.
How strange, to have no baby inside me. Where was it? Was it a boy or girl? Had it lived? My heart went cold – cold for a vampire, that is. If the child died . . . if it died . . . what would I do? It couldn't be dead, oh please don't be dead –
It would kill me if it was dead. Emotionally and probably literally too. What reason would there be for keeping me around if it was dead? Unless they had a psycho vampire ward around here for hysterics who'd lost everything they cared for in life.
I had to find my baby. I was about to break down the door when I remembered I was naked. Clothes, I thought. Clothes, then baby.
Once I got around to leaving my room, I found a lines of moving vampires from either side of the hallway. I crouched into a defensive position, ready for their attack. They stopped, and I heard Felix's voice.
“We'll kill you if you attack now, Gianna. You cannot prevail against the six of us. Stand straight. Act civilized. Your life depends on it.”
“Good, Gianna, very good. Now, get in control of yourself, that's a good girl.”
I hated his condescending to me. I wasn't a human anymore. Even when I was human he hadn't talked to me like this. “Where's my baby?” I hissed.
“I won't tell you until you get in control of yourself, Gianna.”
“I am in control!” I screamed.
They laughed at me then, which aggravated me further. I punched a wall.
Felix sighed. “Once you stop breathing so hard and smashing through walls, then you'll be in control. You have to be in control to find out where your baby is. It's as simple as that. We'll wait as long as you like.”
I'd been gulping in air as much as I could – standard vampire behavior when threatened – as a sensory overload measure. I breathed more slowly and deeply, a little at a time. Soon my head cleared. I was all right. “Where is my baby?” I asked again.
“He's all right, he's with Sulpicia.”
Aro's wife? What did she want with my baby? “Why?”
He shrugged. “Beats me. But she won't harm Julian. Aro knows so.”
Julian? How had they known I might pick that name? Oh – of course – it was for the same reason Aro knew Sulpicia wouldn't harm Julian. He'd read my mind. Had he done so while I was knocked out? Had he met his son? What was Julian like? “Can I see him?” I asked aloud.
“You can see Aro, but not Julian. You're too raw. You might kill Aro's prize.”
I grimaced. So my son was safe with Sulpicia but not me? This was so unfair.
“Easy now, Gianna,” murmured a female.
I sighed and unclenched.
“Good, Gianna,” said Felix. “The faster you learn control, the sooner you get to see your child. But for now, you should be content with meeting Aro and swearing fealty to him.” Felix held up a gray cloak.
Now that was something I wanted that I could have. Felix turned – how could he stand it with an unstable newborn behind him? He must be very confident, or else trained well enough to be so confident – and I followed him to the throne room.
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