The story takes place during Breaking Dawn, Jane's POV. The Volturi are gathering witnesses for their attack on the Cullens. The Guard is waiting for the order to leave, and therefore on edge and severely bored.
Fascism is a system of government. It requires a dictator (or, in our case, three of them) and a group of followers (The Guard). There is also often a corporate feeling that bands the group together, and that makes them more dangerous, as they cannot see that what they're doing is wrong.
No, don't be intimidated. You don't need to be a genius to read this story. I don't know any more about the topic than you do.
One... Two... Three... Four...
Its ginger face had long contorted into an imitation of human features; its long whiskers beat against the floor; its paws tried to desperately escape the flood of fire I sent through its twisting, little body.
Seven… Eight… Nine…
Good grief, this one was slow. Didn't they usually give up after five? Maybe this one was different. The current record-holder was a white Persian, a long-haired, fat creature that had given me over thirteen seconds of entertainment.
Drat. So this specimen had been useless, after all.
The cat's movements abruptly halted after the first hundredth of the eleventh second of the fifth day of waiting. It now lay still on the limestone, the head leaning against one of the raised tiles – comically representing a more solid type of a pillow. Its tiny heart raced on, but I could feel its life energy being drained from every hair of its thick fur. Its brain had shut down from the pain.
And, in my disappointment, I repeated the words that I always did after failures like this:
"Well, little one, this is what happens when you are burned."
I kicked the body to the side – the rats could have it later – and tried not to think about the next eleven seconds that I'd be forced to spend. Jaded, I swiftly imagined what it would be like to sink my teeth into the petty creature that I'd discarded into the corner. How would its soft fur feel against my lips? What would the blood taste like?
Wrinkling my nose, I tried to banish that idea from my mind before it had time to root there. The smell was ghastly enough.
The clock had, one again, commenced its ticking in the far corners of my mind. But commenced was perhaps the wrong word, when in fact the ticking was always there. I only sometimes managed to drown it under something else, another sound – any sound but that of the second hand marking the seconds, and that of my own thoughts counting the points in between.
Little by little, Aro's plotting was becoming slightly tedious to me. How long could it possibly take to round together all the necessary witnesses, and to convince them of the obvious crime the Cullens had committed? Their guilt was undeniable – we had a witness, we had proof…
It was a simple bargain – if you broke the rules, you were punished. And not even the Cullens stood above the law.
I still recalled the way Isabella Swan's body had responded to my torture – or hadn't responded, to word it right. My rage was still every bit as present as on that one St. Marcus day when I'd first met the only girl that could withstand my ability, a pathetic, human girl who could barely stand up right. She'd seemed so weak, hidden under Edward's arm, that I wondered how she'd survived the first 18 years of her life in the first place.
Now she'd be different, of course, no longer the defenseless human girl who'd got lost in the wrong book. Isabella Swan was now Isabella Cullen, a vampire. Her frail bones had been strengthened with vampire venom. And, with a shudder, I acknowledged precisely what she was – a newborn.
A newborn that I couldn't torture.
But, once again, I dispelled that course of thoughts from my head. Controlling your mind was a skill that being a member of the Volturi Guard demanded. My fears and weaknesses were not something I wanted to share with Aro, and I certainly wasn't about to admit that Isabella Cullen petrified me to the very core of my being.
And I wasn't too afraid. On the contrary – I was looking forward to the day of our meeting. I was bloodthirsty, but not in the usual sense of the word. I was hungry for revenge. I wanted payback for that day last spring when she had defied my powers in front of half the guard.
Fortune had played it well for me. Though I'd always known that I would get my vengeance some day, I'd thought that I had many decades of waiting ahead of me. It had been a pleasant surprise to find that my waiting was reduced to weeks.
But, because of the unexpectedness, those weeks passed as if they were decades, one second, one minute, and one hour at a time…
Which brought me back to my ticking clock. I groaned.
I walked past the front doors of the giant castle, staying carefully in the shadows of the narrow streets. The cobbles rolled under my feet as I strayed to the side, and I counted the little stones as they escaped. They reminded me of marbles.
My hand reached for the ancient walls of my home, and I let my fingers run over the rough surface of the stones, not finding anything new in the texture of it. The stone had stayed precisely the same ever since I'd first touched it some hundreds of years ago – but instead of bringing me fulfillment, the touch reminded me of the same tedious, eternal waiting. This castle was always waiting, too. Waiting for action, for thrill.
That part was the worst, the waiting. I idly wondered what laughter it might evoke if the other vampires knew how much of the time the great Volturi Guard simply waited. They only ever saw the dynamic part of our job – the part where we destroyed the rule breakers and intimidated the still innocent vampires to never put the law into question. But other than those brief flashes of action, we were as passive as any coven would be, if not even more.
I was about to turn around the corner to reach the back entrance when a high shout from behind me interrupted my thoughts.
"That's not fair, Kevin. You're still it!"
Nonchalantly, I turned my head to see the source of the fast breathing and frantic footsteps. Two children were running across the road, a broad smile plastered upon their faces. The little boy with the flaxen hair was being chased by what could only be his older sister, a young girl of maybe ten whose grin revealed slightly crooked teeth. Her red cheeks were adorned with dimples, her freckled nose bony and sharp, and she was panting as she sprinted after her brother with a reckless look in her eyes.
The boy was screaming, making a lot of noise.
For some strange reason, the two children greatly irritated me. What right had they to play on the castle's grounds? Important decisions were being made within those stone walls. Were babies allowed to scream outside the city hall? Was the White House surrounded by shouting children?
With a pang of envy, I directed my gaze at the young boy. If he fell now, everyone would believe that he'd just tripped over his own feet…
"Let it be, sister."
A small hand appeared on my shoulder, startling me, and before I had time to react, the two children disappeared into the next alley. I growled and turned on my heels.
"Alec," I greeted my twin brother, "And I thought the day was already dull enough."
He smiled and let his hand drop. "You shouldn't torture kids in your tedium. Subtlety demands it."
"Still no news from Aro?"
Alec grimaced. "You know how he is. Carlisle was his friend. He wants to be thorough."
He stepped out of my way and settled to walk beside me as we escaped the too sunny outdoors. The heavy, wooden gate swung open easily as I grazed my fingers against the handle.
Apart from a few murmured greetings from Alec, we were silent as we crossed the atrium. The few vampires in the room strode out of our way when we passed them, keeping their heads down and their hands firmly over their chests, as if that would somehow help them if we did decide to attack. I showed no response to their fear, but in truth it stung – they were in the same state of monotony as we were, and the boredom was so much easier to bear in a group. Alec could be such a tire after all these years; I longed to converse with someone else for once.
We reached the lift quickly – Alec, too, seemed to be goaded by their needless panic – and walked in without a word. We spoke only once the two steel doors were firmly closed.
"Imbeciles," Alec murmured, more to himself than to me.
I answered with a grumble.
The lift doors opened, and we marched out of the blue light into the white one that illumined the equally white, long corridor leading to our room. We walked passed the first few doors in silence, but then Alec surprised me by bringing up an unexpected topic.
"Those children outside… you mustn't bother them."
I halted in mid-step to stare at my brother.
Alec, too, stopped walking and turned to look at me.
"The kids that were playing outside. You shouldn't try to hurt them like that. They're not to blame for what we are," he said wistfully, his face as grave as ever.
Perhaps that was the reason why I laughed. That solemn look in his eyes didn't go together with what he was saying.
"Since when do you care about whom I burn?" I snickered, "This monotony isn't good for you. You're not making any sense."
But Alec didn't yield. He continued to stare into my eyes, the dark ruby looking strange in the white light of the hallway. He changed the subject, however, as he spoke to me again.
"Why do you think the Cullens created an immortal child?"
This topic interested me more, so I tore my eyes away from my brother's absurd expression and concentrated on the pasty walls again.
"There's no logic to what they're doing," I responded spitefully, "That human girl has done Carlisle's coven no good. Does she think that because she was human when she met us, she doesn't have to abide the rules? Isabella Swan has always been a nuisance. It's about time we eliminated her."
Alec startled, then, for no apparent reason, and I shot another confused look at him as I slowed my pace. The boredom really wasn't healthy – was it Alec that was slowly going insane, or was it me?
He assessed me carefully and finally asked, "You don't know yet?"
"Know what?" I asked him back.
Alec halted completely and laid anew his hand on my shoulder. His eyes were wary, prepared to blind me if I got too agitated.
"Aro isn't planning to eliminate the newborn. He… is taking Cynthia with him."
Cynthia. The vampire that influenced decisions. The one Aro sent on an assignment when he…
"No!" I roared, and shot a furious blaze at Alec.
But my brother was faster and more prepared, and I found myself in darkness before the flame could hit him. I hadn't noticed the invisible mist swirl around my ankles.
Though the blindness should have infuriated me even further, I instantly felt all my sensations dissolve. I couldn't hear with my ears, couldn't see with my eyes – and could feel neither with my skin nor heart.
But I could think, so that's what I did, all the while knowing that there was something I was supposed to be feeling, but not remembering what it was.
Eventually, the darkness started to fade away, and the feeble lights peeked at me through the thick haze. My muted ears started to perceive quiet sounds again, and my skin felt the soft breeze coming from the ventilation and the dust particles that landed on my body as I stood still. My anger, too, started boiling again, but this time I was ready for it and succeeded to scrunch the waves of fury as they repeatedly hit me.
"Jane?" The voice grew clearer towards the end, until it was as patent as the angry thoughts in my head.
I blinked and took a step back.
"That really wasn't necessary," I lied, and hissed at Alec when he tried to reach for my hand.
Of course, he saw right through the lie, but didn't comment on my obvious outburst. Instead, he continued as if our conversation had never been disrupted.
"It's being rumored that this fight will be the biggest of the century. The Cullens have gathered together quite a bit of talents. The whole castle will be going. That's why Aro needs the witnesses to be entirely satisfied."
"But Cynthia," I snarled, "of all the people! Are you sure he wants the girl? He could be after Alice or Edward. Of what use would Isabella, a newborn, be to us?"
Alec sighed, but didn't answer the question. He was aware that I already knew the answer.
Aro wanted Bella because she could defy my ability.
My hands curled into fists.
"She isn't worth it," I added.
Alec shrugged and stayed silent, measuring my fury in case I needed some darkness again.
Slowly, I retracted my feet from their glued positions on the floor, and walked along the corridor with more haste than usual. Alec followed me, always keeping a few feet between our bodies.
Finally, he broke the cold silence.
"You still haven't truly answered my first question, Jane. Why do you think the Cullens created an immortal child?"
I sighed at his silly curiosity. "They think they stand above the law. They feel too safe in their big coven, so they make pointless mistakes. But what they don't realize is that every vampire is bound to the rules, even including those who made them. We never break them, either. It was their error to think that they could."
Alec was quiet for a second, and his brooding manner puzzled me. But just as I was about to ask him for an explanation, Alec answered my unspoken thoughts.
"The Volturi did break the rules."
I glared at my twin brother.
He was making a mistake. In fact, it was the one mistake that the Volturi Guard should never make. He was putting Aro's inspiration into question.
After all my years of servitude, there was one thing I'd learned in the very beginning and never forgotten – you never question your leaders, ever, if you want the community to survive. Humans had even invented a word for it, though they used it in a more negative sense than I could understand.
I still hadn't found the negative side to that term.
"Ah, they did, did they?" I asked him, "In what aspect?"
Alec's eyes shifted expressions, and I was shocked by the sadness that I found there.
"Look at us, Jane," he gestured towards our bodies, "We're Aro's immortal children. His experiments."
I froze in shock.
"What?" I shouted, not caring about the countless vampires that were sure to hear our conversation, "No, Alec, you don't mean that. You're joking. You… you…"
My chest heaved in fear as I pointlessly tried to draw alleviation from the air. My fingers, that, as a human, would have trembled, were motionless in my dread, and my eyes stared blankly at my brother. My mind convulsed, trying to expel the mistrusting thoughts. I couldn't have heard what Alec just said. I had just been hallucinating. Alec was not a traitor, not a rebel…
Alec didn't move, but continued to stare at me in his sadness.
"Jane, I thought about the theory already," he whispered. "It doesn't make a difference if I share it with you now. Aro will hear it, one way or the other. But I wanted you to consider it before…"
My words were now a snarl. "You wanted me to consider it? No, no! You idiot! Imbecile! What, your death isn't enough for you? You want to take me with you as you fall? It isn't going to work that way, Alec. Not with me. Aro can do as he likes to you, but I am not foolish enough to consider such rubbish…"
My anger blazed in me, burying the grief I felt for my brother. Alec was damned; I refused to condemn myself to the same end.
"Please, Jane," Alec pleaded, still strangely calm, as if he had accepted his fate, "Reflect on it. We are… still children. Is it not better to die in truth than to live in a lie? Aro is not a saint. The last days have taught me that."
"Aro… will kill you," I hissed through me teeth.
"Yes, he will."
"And you want him to kill me too? Can't you see the position you're putting me in? I have to inform Aro about this immediately if I wish to keep my life. You're forcing me to rat on my brother."
Alec took one careful step forward.
"I know what dilemma this is causing you," Alec whispered, "I was put in the same one when I heard the rumor."
"You know the gossip. It will never end. Usually, I don't care to think about it, but this time… It sounded so true, Jane. Truer than anything else here. Truer than Aro."
"Be quiet!" I hissed.
And before Alec could react, he was writhing on the floor, squirming from the fire I sent through him. I saw the ginger-furred cat in my mind again, and ignited a stronger wave of flames within him, feeling nothing but rage as my brother begged for me to stop. I knew what memories the fire was conveying him, but instead of feeling pity, I felt pure malice.
Automatically, I started counting the seconds in my mind, the way I always did with my cats.
Ten… Eleven… Twelve…
My thrashing brother stilled as my fire was smothered. I snapped my head in the direction of the sound, wanting to see who had interrupted my punishing.
Felix was rushing down the hall to us, his cape floating behind him as his feet hastened to reach the scene of my torture. His face was cautiously void of all emotion.
"Jane," he repeated as he neared us, "Aro wishes to speak to you."
My jaw clenched tight as I comprehended the meaning of his words.
But I, too, had been mysteriously spellbound by a strange feeling of acceptance, and found it easier than expected to answer with my usual, calm tone.
Felix was now standing beside us in the narrow hallway, and was looking down at Alec with a baffled expression. "The southern meeting room. He's expecting you immediately."
"Me, too?" Alec had regained his control and was slowly sitting up, still cautious as he looked at Felix.
The latter frowned. "No, only Jane."
I knew what that meant – Aro was still interrogating his witnesses.
But I let my anguish recede, and nodded.
The way to the southern meeting room was agony.
I wondered briefly whether I'd be allowed to ever walk the way back again. In my dark humor, I imagined leaving a trail of smoke behind me as I walked, as if I was already dead and on fire. My back itched at the thought, and for one short second, I even forgot that I was still alive, not yet condemned to death.
The white corridors all looked the same, each unobtrusive, gray door identical. At that moment, I wished for color – anything to distract me from my own black-and-white thoughts. My anger was still prominent, but little by little, a deep sorrow filled its place, a sorrow for my twin brother who had simply heard the wrong theory at the wrong time.
When I finally reached my destination, my emotions were well balanced between anger and grief.
I opened the door without knocking.
The white light disappeared as I stepped into the warmer glow of the vast meeting room. Its walls were the familiar gray of stone and were hung with various paintings and fabrics, all priceless items from a former century. In the very middle on the room, a sizable, round, mahogany table stood, surrounded by dozens of chairs that were each occupied by a different vampire. The three chairs nearest to the doorway weren't chairs at all – they were higher and more solid than the rest, like thrones.
Aro sat on the middle one.
"And here, my dear nomads and wanderers, is my next witness," he spoke, not once glancing at me, "Jane has been serving in my guard for many years now, and I can only complement her honesty and affection. She, like every other member of my guard, values the rules that are so crucial to our species. My dear Jane, would you please step forward."
I kept my eyes low as I stepped into the circle of vampires, stopping at a small gap between the next chair and the first throne. Caius sat on it, eyeing the witnesses with exasperated mistrust.
Though I shared Caius' exasperation, I did not keep my eyes on him for long – he didn't enjoy being stared at. Instead, I cast my eyes on Aro, my master, my father amongst the vampires. The man who would decide whether I was fit to live or die.
He was still not looking at me as he spoke to the group.
"As I am sure you have all noticed, Jane is rather young compared to the rest of my guard. Barely a teenager, she was burning on the stake when my guard rescued her, and has served us with infallible faith ever since."
A few vampires in the circle winced. They needed no introduction – my name and abilities were widely spread.
"Jane, my dear," Aro spoke to me without looking my way. "Would you please explain to us what you heard from your brother Alec this morning?"
"Sir?" I asked, swallowing down the venom that still lingered in my mouth as a result of my earlier fury.
Aro smiled, and turned his eyes to me for the first time.
"I was under the impression that Alec heard a rather interesting theory from one of my adversaries the other day. Am I mistaken? Shall I call for Alec to –"
"No, no," I hurriedly answered, "Sir, I… I did hear the theory from him a minute ago. But I assure you, I do not believe a word of it, Sir. And neither does Alec. It's the waiting that is making everyone go insane. I –"
"Don't fret, little one," Aro then interrupted me, once again gazing at his witnesses, "You have nothing to fear. I know your heart, Jane. I know your brother's interests. Your fidelity is not being questioned here."
Aro's smile calmed my twisting insides.
"We only wish to hear the theory."
I, too, smiled and turned my eyes to the witnesses. I noticed what a fool I'd been – of course Aro wasn't plotting to destroy me or my brother! The rules were set, permanent. As long as I obeyed them, I had nothing to fear.
And those who broke them should fear.
I felt needed as I spoke, an asset to Aro rather than just a witness, so I colored my tone with my confidence and cast my eyes on each of the spectators individually.
"My brother Alec shared his theory with me earlier today. You see, being passive makes us all nervous, as we would all rather be catching the rule breakers than waiting for the order to do so," I smiled harder, "But we know it's a necessity, so we wait in silence.
"But, as I mentioned earlier, the waiting makes us nervous. Some start to pass their time by telling stories, and those stories turn into rumors once they are told to the next, and that is how the most insane theories come to life within the castle, some interesting, some just plain silly. A good example for a silly one is the story Alec shared with me. A gossip about immortal children."
I paused and waited for the word to have its effect on the witnesses. Instantly, all vampires' eyes were fearful as they looked at me. Once the worst shudders passed, I continued.
"Someone – probably an adversary, as Aro said – told him that The Volturi themselves had broken the rules. That they thought themselves too superior to follow them. The tale claims that Aro created his own immortal children."
This time, the shudder was greater than expected. There were outraged murmurs, even some shouts, as my words hit the witnesses. Only a few of them stayed seated – the rest backed against the wall and glared at Aro and me.
Aro silenced them with a raise of his hand.
"My dear nomads, look at little Jane. Do you see her controlled expression, her calm stance? Can we all agree on the fact that she is a true vampire, and not a wild infant?"
Some witnesses nodded as they assessed me. I squared my shoulders as I felt their timid eyes on my body.
"Well, my guests, you have come to a conclusion, then. I have not created an immortal child of my own, as some claim. Jane and Alec were the supposed children the rumors talk about. As you can tell, the stories are lies, designed to break our vital unity," Aro sighed and looked at me unhappily. My expression mirrored his.
The witnesses gradually calmed down, but did not return to their seats. From their murmured conversations, I could tell that they were close to being convinced, and I smiled at the knowledge that the waiting would soon find its end.
Aro, too, seemed pleased about my testimony. My heart swelled with pride as I realized that I had played an important role in the witnesses' decision. I would be the one who caused the destruction of the Cullens.
"Thank you, my dear Jane, for your evidence. You will hear from us soon," Aro said, dismissing me.
I grinned at the word "soon".
I did not linger to hear what Aro would say next, but left, knowing that privacy was a key element when it came to swaying witnesses. My broad smile widened when I found Alec waiting for me as I stepped out of the room. He was still guarded, but most of his distress was gone when he smiled at me.
"The waiting isn't good for you," I told him again and laughed.
He joined me on my laughter. "Indeed."
Relief washed through me as I realized that Alec had heard my entire testimony, and that he, too, had heard the truth in Aro's reassurance. We were both allowed to live, and we both felt gratitude for that fact – after all, we were the most essential part of the Volturi guard. We were needed.
I suddenly had the joyful longing to find myself another cat, so I headed towards the lift on the far end of the corridor. Alec didn't follow me.
Instead, he exclaimed, "So, we won't have to wait for long anymore? The Cullens are as good as dead?"
"Yes, Alec, so it is."