bnthridiot: As typical, all references to names and places or basically any material that sounds like it is from the Twilight series is of course all due to Stephenie Meyer's brilliance, and I do not take any credit for it whatsoever.
The Freedom of Sacrifice
Preface: "Kill Edward Cullen."
Isabella Swanne stood in the tight corner of the stone archway. So encased was she in the shadows that no one human would have been able to see her. A vampire could, but usually they wouldn't bother with so inconspicuous a person. Bella was such a person.
Bella's ears picked up the sound of footsteps coming down the hall. The faint footsteps sounded like pounding hammers to her keen hearing. She pulled deeper into the shadows, stopping her breath. A moment later, the human stepped into view.
The secretary the Volturi employed at the moment, a charmingly sadistic woman by the name of Gianna, walked past, on an errand of some sort. Bella's red eyes followed her movement as she walked past. Bella's keen sense of smell noted the heat of her skin and the blood pulsing under the thin membrane of her neck. So close. Enough that she could just reach out and grab. So tempting.
Bella didn't move a hair out of place as temptation walked within reach, nor did she pursue the hateful woman. Only after Gianna had disappeared, and the sound of her footsteps drifted away completely, did Bella allow herself to relax against the stone wall. She breathed out deeply, folding her arms around her chest.
This insane hunger still tortured her to no end. The pain that twisted her up inside at the smell of blood was as exquisite as it was agony. Bella was young enough a vampire that she could still remember the freedom from such pain as a human.
She was still young enough to remember, and wish.
A sharp high pitched scream swept down the hall in a wave. Bella flinched as the harsh sound hit her ears. Her skin tingled as if she too had been hurt.
The screams continued. Jane was having fun, Bella noted. While her facial features didn't change from passive acceptance, Bella's eyes grew grave with anger.
To survive with the Volturi, you could not afford to show weakness. Only one vampire was allowed to show any emotion. And his emotions you could not trust, as Bella had so clearly learned.
Aro was just as pleasant serving you a goblet of hospitality as he was ripping your throat out.
Against her back, Bella felt something slam into the wall's other side. Bella cocked her head, her eyes sweeping down as she analyzed the feel of the vibrations. She could tell from it that the mass that had hit was soft and fragile. A human. Bella felt the slight heat through the cracks fo the bricks. The form slid down the wall, crumbling to the floor in the other room.
The screaming stopped.
Bella waited, motionless against the wall, listening to the sudden eerie silence. Then, the iron door slightly down the hall creaked open.
The small, beautiful vampire Jane stepped out into the hall, a beaming smile on her face. Her black robes swirled about her legs as she did a little twist for joy through the archway. Causing the human intense pain had made her morning!
Bella didn't react as the hateful little vampire twirled past her. Without even looking at Bella, Jane opened her little mouth and informed Bella, "Your turn." Jane flew down the corridor, on her way to other duties.
Bella stared balefully after her for a moment, and then pushed away from the wall. Slowly, deliberately, she walked quietly to the door. She entered the brightly lit room, not acknowledging who or what was in there, and shut the door gently behind her. Only then did Bella turn, standing straight and careful.
Her eyes went first to the wall where she had been standing on the other side of it. Her eyes slid over the bloody body of the man—another one of the Volturi's employed human servants—who'd earned such displeasure as to be finished like this. His back against the brick wall, his body slumped over his twisted legs. Blood dribbled from his nose and mouth. And from his eyes, apparently. The blood coated his stripped chest. Jane had ripped him apart from the inside it seemed.
Bella recodnized this as Jane's ultimate worst. Bella wondered what the human had done to possibly warrant such an end. Usually the Volturi were more merciful.
Ha. Merciful. Bella's bitter humor did not show.
Her eyes moved from the bloody mess across the room to the vampire who sat regally at the enormous table. He sat in his ancient chair as if he'd been sitting there for a while. Bella doubted he'd even moved from the spot as Jane dealt out his orders on the poor man. He might not have even watched. He seemed engrossed in whatever it was he was reading. It was one of his ancient documents, worn and dusty with age. Bella didn't need to see it to know it would be written in ancient latin.
What she didn't know was what it said. Aro allowed no one to touch his ancient books. Anyone who dared would wish they'd been given Jane's ultimate worst.
Aro made a noise of pleasure, pleased with what he'd read, and closed the book carefully. Only then did he acknowledge Bella's still presence. As his eyes lifted, a smile of absolute joy spread across his face.
"My dearest Bella!" He greeted, standing. He spread his arms wide, as if welcoming her presence into his embrace, and stepped around the table. Bella noted the way he lifted his foot over the puddle of blood effortlessly, his red robes not even trailing in it. Aro ignored the mess in the corner, as if it was mere decoration. His eyes were only on Bella as he took her hand and kissed it with deference.
He also ignored the way her hand trembled in his. There was a twinkle in his eyes as he looked up at her. Bella's recodnized a hint when she saw it.
"My Lord, Aro," she said reverently, bowing her head and looking down at the bloody floor. Submission was immunity.
Aro chuckled, patting her hand in apparent friendship. Bella couldn't help but think of the alpha wolf who growled one last time before letting the weakling stand. "You and Marcus must be related. I've never met vampires more stoic then yourselves! Cheer up my dear!" Aro said joyfully, leading Bella to the table. She went unresistingly, but unwillingly. He drew her chair out for her, a gentlemen in every regards, and pushed it in for her. Bella regarded the books on the table, refusing to let her eyes dwell on any of the other subjects in the room.
Aro placed a goblet of Russian crystal in front of her. Bella studied the warm liquid inside. It was a reddy brown, and thick with fresh nutrients. Bella looked up questioningly at Aro.
He smiled, as if he'd just placed a glass of chardonnay in front of her. "Compliments of Jane," he explained, moving back around the table to his seat. Once seated, he looked at Bella, expectant.
Bella felt the confining space of the small room keenly. The iron door didn't improve the feeling at all. And Aro was a force of strength even she wasn't capable of fighting. With every second she hesitated, she felt his displeasure grow, although the friendly expression never wavered on his face.
Bella reached out, grasping the fragile fluke of the crystal between her thumb and middle finger. She splayed her index finger over the round of the cup, feeling the warmth in her skin. Meeting Aro's gaze, Bella put the crystal edge to her lips and tilted the goblet.
The blood slid into her mouth, flowing under her tongue and down her throat. Bella's eyes creased together in pain as the fire engulfed her throat. Aro's smile widened at the undisguiseable agony on her face.
Bella knew why he did this. He loved to witness the abnormalties, and Bella was his biggest find yet. While other vampires lived for the agony that blood gave them, Bella died a little more every time she was forced to drink. Every time the thirst became unbearable.
Bella forced herself to drink until the goblet was drained. She set the fragile glass down the on the table. Her body was tensed from the pain, her muscles straining all the way to her wrist. Yet the crystal didn't shatter in her hand. Her fingers trembled with the effort to stay cool.
"Very good, Bella," Aro praised her, his innocent fascade disappearing for a mere moment as his morbid curiosity shined through his eyes. "Your control is finally impeccable."
Bella closed her eyes, humiliated he'd gotten through her shell of indifference. She struggled to reign that shield around her again, to close up her emotions. She let her hand slip from the fluke to her lap, where she balled her fists together. "You fed him before you killed him." She bit the statement out between her teeth. Her muscles refused to unlock. The hot blood was filling her system, giving her strength she refused to acknowledge.
"Yes. After all his years of loyal servitude, it was the least I could do for the man. A final meal, the finest I'm sure he's ever had." Aro sighed, as if deeply sorry to have lost the man. "But, he failed in a matter of grave importance. And Jane has been such a good girl lately. She deserved a little round of fun."
"Torturing Vampires no longer enough sport?" Bella inquired, not really caring as she tried to get control of herself again. It was slowly starting to work for her again.
Aro shook his head, still pleasant about the whole affair. "She complains it is just not the same without the blood. You know how it is." Aro winked, lifting his own goblet of blood to his lips. No pain marred his features as he drank deeply.
Bella looked down at his books again, refusing to watch.
"I hear you've taken up residence in the city, Bella dear." Aro watched her. His eyes seemed to hold interest on the subject he cared not for. "Is living under my wing no longer a pleasure?"
Bella knew when to be careful with her words. It was no accident Aro had called her to these dungeon rooms. If she wasn't wise in her words, she could very well end up like the human by the end of her stay. " Not at all." She lied smoothly. "Felix is merely aggravating."
Aro blinked once, then chuckled in humor. "Ah yes. The man's eyes follows your every move." Aro leaned on his elbows, looking over his fingers at her. "His love is so strong it has driven you from my very palace?"
Love had nothing to do with it. "Unwanted affection is stifling."
"And unrequited love is insulting." Aro said matter-of-factly.
Bella's eyes lifted, a hard glint in them. "He'll get over it."
Aro's grin grew on his face again. "No doubt, no doubt!" He chimed, pleasant once more. "But, my dear Bella, you must recodnize your own appeal. Why, there is no doubt in anyones mind that you are the most exquisite vampire to grace these halls. Your beauty is cause enough for distraction without this air of mystery you wrap yourself in. Can you blame Felix for his lack of distraction?"
Bella ignored his question completely. Her brows drew in over eyes that were suddenly cautious. "Lack of distraction?"
Aro was quiet a moment, his eyes glinting. "My dear, you really need to relax." His voice was like liquid. "Meetings like this are only as dangerous as you make them."
"Meetings?" Bella's voice rose in pitch as fear crept in.
The door slammed open behind them, and Bella jumped in surprise. Aro was unaffected; he'd been expecting it.
Five vampires entered the dungeon, all wearing the black cloaks of the Volturi. Bella stiffened as she recodnized them all.
Felix leered at her; something he'd been unable to do since she'd fled his presence. Marcus came silently, seemingly uninterested in anyone or anything. His eyes noticed Bella, the mess, Aro. He showed no sign of feeling. Yet his gift was that he recodnized all relationships and the tangled webs they weaved.
There wasn't a thread of friendly feeling between any of the occupants of this room.
"Friends, please sit!" Aro greeted them just as pleasantly as he'd greeted Bella. "Take a seat, and thank you deeply for coming to this meeting."
"My Lord Aro," Felix said reverently, taking the empty seat next to Bella, "I can only assume you've finally found something bloody and productive for us to clean up. What is it?" His eyes gleamed. "Politics need gleaning? Some havoc need creating?" His eager eyes took in the mess against the far wall. "A pocket of humans need exterminated?"
"No," Aro said slowly. He grinned. "It seems a coven has gotten out of hand, in North America."
Felix's eyes gleamed. Bella was close enough to feel the excitement radiating from him. This was a challenge he'd relish. Vampires could fight back, make the task more interesting. "Who?" He demanded, eager to rush to the airport that second.
For a split moment, Bella silently thanked whatever rampaging vampire was about to die for stepping forward. Felix would be out of Italy for a time. Bella wanted away from him desperately.
Aro slid his finger across the bloodied crystal goblet. He still had a good portion of it to drink. "I am most upset at this clan's sudden unreliance. The leader used to be such a dear friend, a true comrade. His control was impeccable." Aro paused, remembering deeply. "Ah, yes, impeccable."
He sighed. "But, he has since then made more vampires, and his clan has grown. Grown to the point their numbers are disheartening. Humans are more the wiser. They look for vampires, recodnize the signs. This clan encourages contact with humans. I've begun to notice the vampirism going on in North America is out of control." Aro motioned at all of them at the table. "I'm sending all of you to North America. You must fix this problem immediently."
Bella was out of her chair instantly. "NO!" She cried, her fears realized. "I will not take part in this!" All five vampires regarded her silently. A gleam entered Aro's eyes.
Her refusal had been a step in the wrong direction.
She fled for the door, but it was already blocked. Three vampires had her in their grasp before she could even think of any other form of escape. They took her to the center of the room, and pushed her to her knees. The blood on the floor pooled through the black cloth to her skin. Bella struggled, growling in terror as they held her arms far behind her back, more restraining than any straightjacket. Aro came to stand before her, tsking gently.
"Bella dear, perhaps I wasn't specific enough." He studied her with a caring look. "Is my offer of a task so horrible? Why, you've been cooped up too long. You'll enjoy this expedition."
Bella hissed between her teeth. "Your expedition is murder!"
Aro glanced at the men holding her, raising a brow. Felix, standing behind Aro watching, grinned.
A solid hand pressed into her back, bracing. The vampire on her left took her wrist in his strong hand and pulled.
There was a popping sound as her bones were pulled from her wrist. Bella felt and heard the serious of snaps. The vampire continued in a serious of motions, taking all her fingers in his fist and squeezing. Bella screamed with each shattering of her bones.
Her rage was warranted. The whole scenario felt alien to her with her vampire senses. The pain made every instinct she fought to keep locked stream forth. The screams mingled with snarls and thrashing. The vampires held her tighter.
"Bella," Aro said gently, cautioning as he watched her come alive at his feet. "Don't forget your mother."
Her head snapped up, utter rage on her face. In that second, if it weren't for the vampires holding her, Aro would be the one screaming.
"Remember what I will do if you do not behave? Her bones will not grow back as yours will." He eyed her evenly.
Nothing else could have cooled Bella's defiance as much as those words. Bella was a martyr; she'd endure any injustice on herself.
Pain on another was an entirely different matter. Bella went limp in the vampires' grasp. Her eyes closed as she recodnized once again how weak she was.
"You WILL go on this mission, Bella," Aro told her. "Do this, and your mother will live in comfort. She doesn't need to be where she is now."
Bella felt whatever warmth there was leave her body. She suddenly wondered where Jane had gone to. "Leave her alone!" She begged, eyes wide and desperate. "I'll do it! I'll do it!"
Aro nodded, pleased. "Felix, you shall take this team to North America. Alaska. Find a clan called the Denali's. You, Bella, and Conner shall take down this clan. Marcus, you shall take Zachary and Martin to Forks. There you will find the clan called the Cullen's." Aro grinned at Felix and Demetri. "You remember the Cullen, do you not?"
They nodded, one more eagerly then the other.
Aro croutched, stroking Bella's fallen face in comfort. "I am sorry, but it is essential you go along, my Bella."
Her eyes shut in pain, pain at what she felt and what she was forced to do. "Why?" She whispered.
He smiled apologetically. "Because you are immune to the powers that manipulate minds. Your job is simple, little one, and all I ask of you…"
Aro bent to her ear, telling her.
"Kill Edward Cullen."
bnthridiot: Thats it for now. I want to put the next chapter up in the next few days. I fixed some details I forgot about or got wrong. I wrote this in class so I was going off my memory, which is shaky on names I must admit. Thanks for reviewing!