The pain was overwhelming, but I knew my body would heal. I wished with all of my being that I could say the same for my best friend and sister-in-law, Didyme.
My chest heaved and I screamed with horror as I thought of what had happened. I couldn't help the thoughts that were streaming through my mind. Aro was pulling them out, reliving the events of the night with me.
"I'm sorry, Sulpicia, but I must know what happened," he said, grasping my hand even tighter.
Didyme laughed as we walked through the dim light from the torches on the walls of the castle. Her tinkling laughter made me laugh, as well.
She reached over and took hold of my hand.
"Marcus was so funny. I don't think I've ever seen a look on his face like that before. In more than two thousand years, I've never surprised him like that!"
I laughed harder, trying to imagine Marcus in such a state. He was fun to be around, but much more serious than Didyme. At least, most of the time. But he was always extremely happy. It was so easy to be happy with her.
We turned the corner, getting near the part of the castle where Chelsea lived.
A strange shadow flickered across the hallway, and a shuffling sound met my ears.
Someone was waiting in the darkness.
The scent was vaguely familiar, yet it wasn't one of the many vampires who lived in the castle.
I stopped, pulling on Didyme's hand.
"What, Sulpicia?" She turned to look at me, a questioning glance.
"Someone is there, in the dark."
"Oh, Sulpicia, are you jumping at shadows?" She laughed.
"No, really Didyme, someone is there, waiting. It's not someone we know."
A chill travelled through me. I was suddenly sick – which doesn't happen often to vampires.
She stepped away from me, nearer to the dark corner.
Before I could react, a dark shape flew out of the corner. It was a vampire. It took a fraction of a second to realize that I didn't recognize the face.
"Didyme!" I screamed, reaching for her.
I wasn't fast enough.
Before I could react again, Didyme was on the floor, the stranger straddling her back. I watched in horror as he grabbed her head, wrenching with his incredible strength.
A sickening screech echoed off of the walls as her head was ripped from her shoulders.
I jumped on his back, trying to pry him away from Didyme. He was huge, and strong. I couldn't move him at all.
He reached behind him, pulling on my arm and grabbing me. I was flying through the air in a second, smashing into the stone wall. It crumbled beneath me and I was stuck, trying to free myself from the debris.
When I looked again, the stranger was pulling at Didyme's arms, separating them from her body. He was tearing her apart!
I gathered all the hate and anger I could manage and pulled myself out of the wreckage of the wall, throwing myself at him across the open space.
He was ready. He grabbed my arm as I crashed into him and twisted it. I felt a horrible tearing and realized my arm was no longer attached.
At that moment a strong arm pushed against my chest and I was thrown across the hall again.
I watched, gasping in horror as the man opened his palm and blue flames appeared.
He was gifted in a most dangerous way.
His hand reached Didyme's body and flames instantly engulfed it. He turned, grabbing the pieces he had flung on the floor around him, tossing them on the pile. Finally, as I struggled to rise, he grabbed her head and threw it into the blue flames.
"You're next," he growled.
I stood; ready to fight for my life.
The sound of running feet caught my attention just after it caught his. He hissed and turned to run.
A huge mass with dark hair barreled over him and they crashed into the wall behind them, breaking through into the room on the other side.
Demetri had come to save me. It took only a half of a second before Felix was there, as well.
They each grabbed an arm of the attacker, twisting. More screeching and screaming accompanied their moves.
"Aro," the man screamed. "I need to talk to Aro!"
His arms were thrown into the blaze.
Felix wrapped the man in his arms from behind and he was rendered helpless.
Before I could move again, Demetri's strong arms had lifted me and I was staring up into his face.
"Who?" Demetri asked, nodding toward the fire.
My mouth moved, but no sound escaped. I swallowed and started to howl.
He soothed me, rubbing my back and hair while I cried out.
"It's Didyme," I finally managed.
Demetri looked as though he'd been hit in the stomach. He dropped to his knees, still sheltering me in his arms.
If there was one person in this castle who had needed Didyme's happiness, it was Demetri. She was the world to Marcus, and they loved each other with everything they were. But, she was the only source of comfort for Demetri as he adjusted to his change, and an extremely strong friendship had formed.
He had held tightly to her hand at times, learning to cope with the loss of his human dreams. She could make him smile when he thought his world was ended.
Demetri sobbed quietly and we embraced, comforting each other.
"We need to get to Aro," Felix said, interrupting our mourning.
"He's right," Demetri said. He stood, grabbing my disconnected arm, and started to move.
"He's in our private quarters," I told him.
Felix lifted the attacker - who was still asking for Aro - and started to run ahead of us.
We passed Marie and her eyes spoke the horror that she saw.
"Get Marcus. Alert the guard. We'll be in Aro and Sulpicia's quarters," Demetri ordered.
The flow of memories stopped. I sighed in relief.
I could still feel the strong arms around me. Demetri had not put me down. Alicia was helping to reattach my arm, but I was barely conscious of the motion she made.
I watched Aro, his face a mask of hatred and pain, as he walked toward the strange vampire.
"I will find out your purpose here," he growled at the man.
"Aro, you know why I'm here. Please, let me go. I won't do anything unless you tell me to. Please, Aro. Please, let me live."
The man looked scared, but hopeful.
Aro walked forward and placed his hand on the man's cheek. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the memories he was seeing.
"Ah, it is as I suspected," Aro said. "Stefan and Vladimir suggested that you could get into their good graces by doing something for them!"
"No. Aro, you know that is not true! Please, Aro, tell them the truth."
"For you, Aro. Only for you. I don't care about Stefan and Vladimir!"
"You are a murderer! You killed my sister! How dare you call me a liar?"
"What are you talking about?" A new voice had entered the conversation. Marcus had arrived.
"Marcus, we need to talk," Aro said. He held up his finger, indicating that Marcus should wait for a moment. Marcus looked tortured.
"Felix, Demetri, take care of the assassin!" he ordered.
Demetri sat me on the bed and moved across the room, joining Felix.
"Aro, please," the stranger called again.
"Do it." Aro's voice was flat, unfeeling.
The scraping and screeching noises began. The end of the attacker's life was at hand. I buried my head in the blanket from my bed.
"Take the remains outside of the castle gates, burn them there," Aro said.
"I'd like to stay for a moment," Demetri said.
Aro looked at him, considering his appeal. He nodded once.
"Felix, Rolf, take care of the mess."
"What is going on here?" Marcus asked. His voice was strained. "Where is Didyme?"
I gasped. We had to tell Marcus about his wife.
Aro turned. "Brother, there has been an attack."
Marcus looked up at him with fear in his eyes. "Who?"
"I'm afraid there was nothing that Demetri and Felix could do. They arrived just a few moments after he had started a fire."
"No," Marcus whispered.
Aro placed a hand on Marcus' shoulder, looking him in the eye.
"She's gone, Marcus. I'm so sorry."
Marcus stood for a moment, looking at Aro, searching for some sign of deception or mirth. His mouth fell open, a scream working its way out. It built for several seconds, finally the sound was overwhelming. I covered my ears, the sound was burning me.
It was despair, pure and undiluted. Pain incarnate.
He fell to his knees, dropping his head into his hands and sobbed.
We all stood, looking at him, not sure what to do.
Finally, I walked to his side, crouching down to speak.
"Shall I take you to her?" I asked softly.
His screams turned to moans and he looked up.
His eyes were black, empty of all hope, flat. He nodded once, the moans and gasps that were escaping his mouth continued.
Demetri walked up behind Marcus and lifted him to his feet.
"Come with us," he said.
I took one of Marcus' hands and Demetri wrapped an arm around his waist, holding him up as we walked.
"Are you coming Aro?" I asked.
"After I make sure we are safe here, my love."
We left him behind as we moved through the passageways of the castle.
The fire was still burning, although the smoke was mostly gone. The flames were low and there were only ashes remaining.
Marcus approached the fire, a low mewling sound coming from his chest. He dropped to his knees at the edge of the fire.
"Didyme, my Didyme," he cried. "Let me join her, Demetri. Finish me now."
"I can't," Demetri said.
"Please," he begged.
Demetri fell to his knees next to Marcus. "I'm so sorry I couldn't save her, Marcus. I can't be responsible for ending your life as well."
Marcus moaned. "Maybe Felix will help me. I must join my love."
Demetri shook his head. "None of us will be able to harm you, Marcus."
I knelt on his other side. "We will heal."
"There is nothing left of me to heal," Marcus whispered. "My unbeating heart died a final death today."
He crumpled onto my lap, and that is where he stayed for the next four days. None of us moved.
His quiet sobs were the only sound in the hallway. The members of the guard each stopped in the hallway to pay their respects to Didyme. One by one they passed. None dared to touch any of us, least of all Marcus.
Aro came several times. His eyes would meet mine and he would shake his head. The longest span of time he stayed was an hour. Then, he would leave, off to deal with the politics of the vampire world.
Finally, I spoke to him. "Marcus, we must feed. You will wither and fail."
"Then let it happen." His voice was small, defeated in every way.
"Go, feed yourselves," he said after a moment. "I will stay here with my love."
After two more days, Aro came again.
"Demetri," he said, "you are needed. There is a small problem."
"Marcus, will you be alright? I have to leave."
"I will never be alright again, Demetri. You have not loved another like this. You cannot know the pain I feel."
"No, Marcus, I can't."
Marcus looked at Demetri as he started to stand.
"Who did this? Why?"
"He was a vampire who wanted to please Stefan and Vladimir. We were destroying him as you came."
"Shall I go to Romania?" Demetri asked.
Marcus was silent for several minutes. "Will it bring her back to me?"
Demetri shook his head.
"Then, there is no point. Maybe someday I will find a way to seek revenge, but I can't feel enough to want it now. There is nothing. My heart is empty."
Demetri growled. "Let me destroy them for Didyme."
"Didyme," Marcus whispered, shaking his head. "My Didyme is no more. I don't care what happens anymore."
He fell to his side on the ground, curling up in a fetal position. This is where he remained for the next month.
By the time we finally convinced him to move, his eyes were black and his face seemed gaunt. He was trying to die.
Our dear, sweet Marcus was no longer with us. Only a shell remained.
My faith in our Volturi leadership was shaken. How could one of our own die in such a manner? And, within the confines of our castle, how was that possible?
Something changed after that day in my relationship with Aro, as well. The love and trust that we had always shared seemed marred. I still loved him, but the depth paled when compared to the love that Marcus and Didyme had experienced.
I suppose I was less happy. My best friend, the one who made me laugh and shared my secrets was gone. I was in a great deal of pain each time I looked at her husband. My world was forever changed.
Volterra was no longer the safe haven it had always been.