Here we are again. I'm so grateful for those of you that have stuck around this long. I truly appreciate your support.
Much love to my pre-reader, Sazzledazzled and my beta, Edwardsfirstkiss. They donate their time and talent to this enterprise just like I do and I can't thank them enough.
SM owns Twilight and I own, well not much but I do have a Cullen crest belt buckle a friend found at a garage sale. I don't know what I'll do with it but it's mine!
The Devil's Plan
Bella and Edward sat quietly side by side in the Cullen's sunroom watching the snow pile up outside. Each one in their own worlds as the heaviness of Edward's past swayed and dipped around them like weighty curtains caught in a strong breeze, never covering them completely, but reminding them it was there. Although they sat silently, their hands remained tightly clasped, neither wanting to let go of the other. Finally, as the sun began to set and night crept in to take its place, Edward realized that they hadn't discussed Bella's nightmares. Even though he was emotionally spent from his own admissions, he garnered his strength because he owed Bella. He owed her so much but tonight he would begin with listening and hopefully helping her solve what had made her so upset.
"Bella, would you please tell me about your nightmares?" Edward asked quietly, feeling her breath hitch at his question. He feared that she would say no, not wanting to burden him. It would be such a Bella thing to do he thought. But he was determined to be a full partner in their relationship. "Please," he pressed. "I want to help." Bella pulled away to look at the beautiful boy sitting beside her. She wanted so much to lean on him, demand that he put his arms around her and hide her from the darkness that kept finding her when she was at her most vulnerable. But as she looked into his tired eyes, her heart broke. He had already gone through so much, could she really add her problems to the pile?
"Please," he asked again, with more conviction. "It would mean so much to me to give something back to the person who has given me so much."
"I just listen." She reminded him, reaching out to softly trace the masculine arch of his eyebrows, hoping to ease the tension she could see building between his eyes. Edward reached up and removed her hand from his face, bringing it to his lips, gently kissing the back of her hand.
"You've done much more than just listen," he whispered, willing his voice not to waiver.
Bella's heart soared with his words. Growing up thinking that she hadn't been enough to make her mother want to stay with her had taken a chunk out of her self-esteem. She knew how much she meant to Charlie and would never deny that he made her feel loved, but Edward trusting her enough to bare his soul, especially since he'd felt as if his soul was permanently blackened by the affair, filled her heart with meaning.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"You're welcome." He answered. "Now, please let me help you." Edward encouraged her gently, while rubbing soothing circles on her back.
"I don't know where to start." She confessed.
"When did they start?" He asked.
"Soon after we started looking at the book. You remember the part where my ancestor claimed that the Devil was after her and her daughter?" Edward nodded, remembering the note added in the book by the woman's brother, a monk that had tried to help her.
"I found more entries like that one. In fact, I found a few my mother had added." Edward's eyes widened.
"Really?" He asked, leaning closer to her. He was surprised and a bit dismayed that she had kept this from him.
"Yeah, not a lot but it appears she was suffering from the same delusions that her ancestors were."
"What did she write?"
Bella licked her lips and glanced at Edward's face to reassure herself that he wasn't feigning interest to be nice. The sincerity reflected in his eyes was proof of his conviction.
"Basically, she was writing random notes about her own theories. It's kind of crazy. But she also thought there was a dark force working against her. She even went so far as to say that she was worried for my safety, for all of her childrens' safety."
"You're an only child. What did she mean by 'children'?"
"I have no idea," Bella said, shaking her head in bewilderment.
"What else did she say?"
"Um, she made a comment saying that her parent's death wasn't an accident and that she was starting to believe that the family wasn't cursed but rather that there was a plan. A plan that someone or someone had set in motion for a specific purpose."
"Did she say what she thought the purpose was?" Edward asked with a furrowed brow.
"No, just that nothing was an accident. But my dad told me that in the weeks before she left, she'd begun pressuring him to have me baptized and that she was spending a lot of time at the library researching the occult."
"The occult? You mean witchcraft? Why worry about baptism?" He asked, baffled by her mother's actions.
Bella shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know but I think it's more about the Devil and his powers on Earth. You know, how he can affect things here? As far as the baptism, my dad said that my mom was suddenly adamant that my soul needed protection. He thought she was being unreasonable and refused, claiming that the decision should be mine to make when I was older."
Edward nodded as he took in what she had said. He decided not to push the baptism question. He knew from experience that sort of thing was very personal. "You think there's something to what happened on Halloween, don't you?"
"That night…It felt real. I truly felt as if my grandmother was there trying to warn me. What she said made no sense at that time but after reading what my ancestors thought was happening to them and now learning how my mother was acting before she disappeared- I don't know if I can continue thinking it was just a prank," Bella said, shrugging slightly. "I don't know what to think, the pieces don't fit but there are so many unknowns."
"I don't know how to help you with that," Edward said, rubbing a hand across his forehead. He was beginning to get a headache, no doubt he was a bit dehydrated from earlier. "Let's put that aside for now. What are the dreams like?"
Edward watched with concern as Bella shivered. He grabbed a blanket from the back of the couch throwing it over her shoulders, feeling badly that he hadn't noticed the room becoming chilly and hating that she'd been in discomfort. Bella accepted the blanket with a grateful smile. She didn't tell Edward that her chills had nothing to do with temperature of the room but rather the memory of her last dream.
"In the beginning the dreams are good. You and I were in a meadow. It's sunny and we're having a picnic and then we..." Bella took Edward's hand, smiling coyly up at him.
"What else were we doing?" he asked with a mischievous grin.
"Just kissing," Bella said returning his smile. "maybe a little bit of touching. Nothing above a PG13 rating." She added with a small laugh. Edward couldn't resist leaning in to kiss her curved lips. Bella instantly pressed forward, wanting more of the warm tingles his touch was providing. She took his warmth and the pleasure it provided hoping to borrow from it as she delved deeper into her nightmare. They kissed for several moments, before Edward pulled away.
"Tell me the rest." He urged, pulling her to him so that she sat snugly at his right side with his arm tightly around shoulders. Bella melted easily into his embrace.
"We were lying on the blanket and suddenly the clouds turned dark and menacing. The sunlight faded as did the happy sounds of the woods. The birds, insects…everything went silent until the wind started to blow, practically moaning as it began to whip around us. The blanket turned to stone; I could feel its hardness underneath me as it scratched my skin. My body felt heavy as though I was being retrained but I didn't see any restraints." Bella's words came out in a rush, her body leaned forward as if it was caught up in the momentum of her speech. Edward shifted his body to match hers, wanting to keep their contact.
"I heard low words like someone chanting, but I didn't understand the language. I struggled with my invisible binds to try to find who was chanting, I couldn't see them because he's holding me down." Bella shivered, grabbing at Edward's arm, bringing it tighter around her as if to ward off some unforeseen force.
"Who was holding you down?" Edward asked with trepidation, alarmed by the fear in her voice.
Bella began to rock back and forth within Edward's arms. "I looked up thinking you'd help me but it wasn't you anymore, not really." Her eyes looked absently into the darkening room.
"It was your face and body but, the eyes…The eyes were wrong. They were cold and dark, void." She hurriedly tried to explain. "I grab his arms, trying to get him to help me pull away from whatever is holding me down, his skin is ice cold. I struggled harder until I realize he's holding me down."
"What do you mean it wasn't really me anymore? I was holding you down?" Edward asked as sickness and fear began building in his system.
His question went unanswered. Bella was lost to her dream.
"I yelled for him to release me, he doesn't say anything, he just smiled, no, it wasn't a smile," she says, correcting herself. "It was a cruel, arrogant leer. I struggle harder and started screaming as loudly as I could, but the chanting got louder, drowning out my screams." She added with a shiver. "I heard a voice. It was my mom, she was somewhere behind me pleading with me to fight harder and to not give in. I couldn't see her. All I saw was the you that's not really you, and then you were on top of me." Suddenly Bella's body became rigid as her eyes focused absently out the window. "I pulled harder; trying to get away…he pushed me down until he was between my legs. I could feel him pressing down on me. The wind picked up, and I could feel things…maybe leaves? They were swirling around my head, never touching me but I could still feel them. My moms' pleading continued. I tried to turn my head to see her, I wanted to see her! But he grabbed my chin, forcing me to look into his dark, cold eyes." Her voice drops off until it's almost impossible for Edward to hear her.
"Bella, what happened next?" Edward's stomach churned with heated bile as he waited, dreading her answer.
Hearing Edward's voice startled Bella from her trance. She expelled a shuddering breath and turned towards him with glassy eyes. In a low and halting voice, she said, "I always wake up when the baby starts crying."
Bella left the Cullen home emotionally drained but oddly at peace. After she finished telling him about her dream, he'd brushed the tears from her face and kissed the tracks they'd left on her cheeks, all the while promising her that he was going to figure things out and take care of her. She'd smiled and sighed, loving the feeling of being cherished. His presence had comforted her immensely and she was surprised at how easily she was able to shake off the aftermath of relating the dream. Her mind was usually much less likely to rest after an episode and she would constantly keep trying to decipher every little moment. She would replay every note she'd read scribbled in the margins of the book. Headaches and mild nausea were equal companions in her search for answers. But sitting on a couch beside the boy who owned her heart lock, stock and barrel, she felt none of those things. Would they reappear later after she left Edward and was alone in her bedroom? Maybe. But she wasn't concerned with that possibility or probability. For now, he'd taken all of that away with his touch and softly voiced assurance that everything was going to be all right. That he would make sure everything was going to be all right.
To her surprise, Edward hadn't asked many questions regarding the dreams. Although it was obvious that he was serious about seeing to her comfort and putting her fears at ease, he also seemed to shut down, becoming almost robotic. He'd automatically taken her hand as they wordlessly walked through the house towards the front door. Whereas she was constantly glancing at him hoping to catch a glimpse of the crooked grin she adored or perhaps a flirty look through his impossibly long eyelashes, his eyes, however were unwavering set on the path in front of them. She supposed that after everything they'd shared the idea that he would be in the mood to flirt with her was ridiculous. Yet, after their talk she felt as if a burden had been lifted from her and the desire to flirt with her hot boyfriend was strong. Somehow, she was able to tamp down her baser instincts and accepted the gentle kiss he bestowed on her at the door with just a smile and a few parting words.
Bella walked to her car feeling pounds lighter than when she'd made the walk into the Cullen house. Mentally, she ticked off the reasons she had to be happy; school was out for the holidays, her father loved her, she was in love with beautiful boy who made her feel beautiful, smart and cherished, and Christmas was only two days away. Despite the book of mysterious notes scribbled in the book by her probably unstable ancestors, and the nagging questions she had regarding her mother's disappearance, Bella's world was good.
It was almost a full hour after Bella left for home before Edward stopped shaking. He'd held it in as long as he could, holding her in his arms while she recovered from reliving the horrible dream. Standing at the front door he'd pushed her sweat-matted hair away from her forehead, kissing her gently, promising her that everything was going to be okay. He'd promised her that together they would figure out what those notes in her family bible meant and not to worry about the dreams. Bella smiled gratefully at his promise, kissing him quickly before walking to her car. Standing in the doorway with glassy eyes he'd watched her drive away, working to keep the nausea at bay until she was gone.
As soon as Bella's car was no longer visible, he'd bolted towards the nearest bathroom, barely making it to the toilet before his stomach emptied what little he'd eaten at lunch. The sounds of his dry heaving alerted his mother. Her worried knocking did little to help his headache. After assuring her he was okay and that he'd be out momentarily, Edward struggled to lift himself from the floor and staggered over to the sink. Edward splashed cold water onto his face and neck, before rinsing his mouth in an attempt to hide the fact he'd just vomited from his mother. His hopes of escaping to the dark solitude of his room would be completely gone if she were to smell regurgitated ham sandwich on his breath.
Avoiding looking into the mirror, to avoid seeing the monster that visited Bella in her dreams, he quickly wiped his face with the burgundy hand towel hanging by the sink and crept towards the door. The clicking of the lock was loud and obtrusive as he leaned out into the hallway expecting to see his mother waiting. Her absence gave him the window of opportunity he needed. Seeing that the lights were on in the kitchen and dining room, Edward surmised his mother was busy preparing dinner. He took the stairs two at a time rushing to find the comfort of his empty room. Edward laid down on his bed, clutching his pillow closely to him as the trepidation that had been hanging over his head since Bella finished her story, poured out of him in a tidal wave of emotion.
Curled into a tight ball in the middle of his bed as the moon rose to overtake the day, Edward Anthony Cullen sobbed.
"It is nearly time. I can feel my body changing, readying itself for the task ahead," Satan exclaimed to his gathered minions, flexing his muscles as he spoke. "Soon I will take my Swan and with her I will renew my claim to the throne!" All but one of the condemned, cheered when appropriate as not to incur Satan's wrath. The lone holdout stood in the back, behind the cheering horde. His thoughts were racing with words and images he didn't completely understand as his head pounded to a beat that made his entire body throb in pain. Slipping from the crowded hall, Aro rushed to his cell, holding a hand to his aching head. As a once great seer, Satan had bestowed onto him his own room, complete with a stone bed, none could be too comfortable in Hell, and a low wooden table. He'd been further gifted with writing implements. Satan had done this not out of some sort of real kindness for the man, no but rather in an attempt to garner an affection from Aro lest his visons returned and The Devil would find them useful.
Aro gasped for air as white hot pain shot through his temples. Using both hands, he clutched at the sides of his head, hoping the pressure would lessen the pain. Suddenly, bright light flashed behind his closed eyelids.
Three words appeared on the stark whiteness of the flash. Non poterit pugnare
Followed quickly by three more. Ipse est pugna
Aro scrambled to the desk, grabbing for his quill, he recorded the words.
Et iustus non poterit anima neglecta a bestia, came next, followed by, Oportet vicit illum
Aro's shaking hand hovered over the page as he waited for the next sentence. As quickly as the flashes appeared, they were gone as was the worst of his pain, leaving only a lingering ache. He slumped heavily onto the stool, it shook with the movement of his body giving out.
Had his visions returned? Had the Lord forgiven his sins? His fevered mind ran with questions. In the past his visions had come in the form of dreams. They were subtle and painless, often ignored until triggered as important by an event or words spoken. This vision had come upon him with the force of a boulder dropping from the sky. Their meaning was not yet clear however their sharp talons had carved the words onto his brain, not to be ignored. After several calming breaths, Aro looked again at the words that had come to him in a haze of agony. He recognized the language immediately. It was Latin, his mother tongue. Aro traced the words as his lips soundlessly repeated them.
He can fight.
He must fight.
His righteous soul cannot be ignored by the beast.
He must be victorious.
Aro sat rocking back and forth in his chair, repeating the words over and over. His back creaked with his effort. He had no concept of time as he worked out the words. But he was determined to learn their importance as he was now convinced he'd been once again gifted by God. And he would not let his lord down a second time.
Suddenly, Aro's head lifted and his eyes widened as they stared at the stone wall before him. Reaching beside him, he unrolled and smoothed out the Swan Prophecy, reading the memorized words again, before unrolling yet another page. This page while not the Swan prophecy, laid out the commands that the Devil would use in order to complete his control over his vessel. Aro's eyes raced over the lines, repeating them in his head lest somehow the Beast would overhear his mutterings and know what he was about. Aro knew little of spells, but he was well versed on manipulating the written word with slight changes that would be unheard by the speaker, at least he hoped that his skills were up to the task.
With quill in hand, Aro began scribbling out the commands. Over and over he wrote them until, at last, he'd managed to change one verse so minutely that the Devil wouldn't be able to hear the change as he spoke the words. Aro let out a deep breath and laid down his quill. This was it, he thought. This will allow a measure of control to the vessel's poor soul. Aro knew that just changing the spell would not guarantee that the vessel would understand the power he still had, but it was all he could offer. Aro rolled the new verse up to sit with the prophecy. Satan would be calling for both soon and as his servant, he would have no choice but to hand them both over. He only hoped that what he'd done would be enough.
Aro folded his hands and lowered his head in prayer, understanding the magnitude of his actions. He was challenging Satan with this show of defiance. He would accept whatever punishment Satan bestowed as Aro would not be deterred from offering words of thanks up to his God.
I have to admit that writing about Aro as a good guy is a bit weird. What are your thoughts?
Until next time,