A/N: Well, here's the sequel to The Immortal Child for those of you who are following Isabella's story. :) Those of you who've never heard of it, I recommend you read the other story first. Thanks very much to psscohort for her beta skills. And all recognisable characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, and her alone - don't be fooled. ;)
I bent my back and crossed my ankles, an age-old symbol of servitude and submission. The fine fabric of my dress rustled slightly against my skin as I moved back into a standing position. My eyes turned from the cracked and mouldy stone floor to the contented red gaze of Aro. He smiled slyly, each side of his mouth not quite reaching his cheeks. There was mirth in the way he smiled and it made me wonder what he summoned me for. I could count on one hand in the past two hundred years how many times he had asked for me, and gone to the trouble of sending someone to get me. I sighed warily before I spoke the words that burned my tongue each time they passed through my lips.
"Yes, Master?" He continued to smile at me for a few minutes; I took this time to try to figure out why he might look like that. And why he might need me. It was peacetime as far as the Volturi were concerned, and it had been for the past hundred years when the plague of the immortal children was pronounced over. Purged. There had been few disturbances and none of the Guard had been mischievous—as far as I knew. Were the Volturi in danger? I would have seen that, most likely. Finally, Aro spoke.
"There's trouble in London that I would like you to sort out. Take with you whoever you want, just get rid of the coven in the sewers north of the river." I blinked twice and Aro's smile was gone, replaced with concern. "Can you do this for me Isabella?" Biting my lip, I nodded quickly with my eyes to the floor. London. I never dared to deny Aro anything, because in my mind, what would be the point? I would be thrown in a cell for a few days, able to think endlessly on what I'd done. No.
"There's a group of vampires living in the sewers near the northern gates and they're giving too much away. They're reckless. Destroy them the moment you get the chance, please Isabella. Leave straight away." With that he waved a hand in the direction of the heavy oak doors. Pressing my hands together anxiously, I turned and walked out into the corridor pulling the doors closed behind me.
London. The memory of sorrowful red eyes and raven black hair passed through my mind. I stood in this corridor, the stony pathways seeming to go on forever, I felt alone. The hole that had been pressed into my chest gasped, its emptiness suffocating me for a moment. A knock on the door behind me roused me from my thoughts, a reminder of what I had promised to do.
To my left there was an echo of two people talking, Felix and one of the newcomers. They were brothers, these newcomers and had made the unfortunate decision to walk into the tree line while an unruly vampire was following them. He had been destroyed once Felix came upon him, but the boys were near to death. Felix bit them both and the change began. Recently, it became apparent that neither of the brothers—Leonardo and Marco—had any gifts like myself or Heidi. But Aro decided to keep them anyway. It sounded as though Felix was talking through the small window that allowed one to get in but not out. Marco spoke now, his rasping voice begging for blood. Felix replied with one word, "Soon."
To my right, the corridor was soundless. The air was not stirred, and no scents led in that direction. The general rule was to never go that way because it was haunted by an old hag who'd fallen down the stairs many years ago. Someone said that her neck was broken, and her head was not straight on. Someone had said she limped around the staircase that led to the stables. I wondered why I'd not gone right out of the throne room before. Perhaps it was because I hadn't been presented with a challenge before.
So I went right, my feet dragging on the floors as my superstitious mind filled with a vision of myself falling down the stairs and dying. I scoffed inwardly, ridiculous. I came to the top of the staircase and looked down, half expecting to see a crippled woman lying at the bottom. Ridiculous, I told myself as I put my foot on the first stair and advanced slowly downwards. I cheered to myself once I reached the ground and continued on to the stables.
"Ghosts," I chuckled.
"Where?" Lucian called, appearing behind me. I whirled around, my red dress swishing on the floor as I turned. How had I not heard him? Lucian smiled and placed a hand on my shoulder; he bent his head and brought his face close to mine. His breath brushed against my face gently, the bread smell rushing into my mind. "You ought to be more aware, Isabella. What if I'd been Leonardo?" He patted the collar of my dress back down from where he'd held it and stood upright.
Not to be patronised, I speedily replied. "You know as well as I do that he wouldn't stand a chance against me." He sniggered and nodded knowingly. I'd thrown him down in seconds one time when I had lost my temper. His personality irked me; his smug smiles and furtive glances served nothing but to fuel my rage.
"I know this, Isabella. Just a word of warning," he said before he continued onto the stables. Taking a breath in I looked through the barred window set into the ceiling, allowing cut sunlight to fall on the opposite wall. The image gave a perfect metaphor for how a surprising number felt when they joined the Volturi Guard. There were white clouds floating in the skies, obstructing the sun's rays before moving on. A draught blew into the corridor, pushing leaves through to the ground beside me.
As I stood here, taking in a breath of Tuscan countryside—and equally Tuscan blood—I wondered who I might take to England with me. Who might I share my hellish beginnings with? Ha. Well I had six options. Heidi—who I quite liked for her wit and sharp tongue, she had the courage to say exactly what was on her mind regardless of the consequences. Lucian? Perhaps if I was a madwoman. Felix? No, he's the kind of person who will walk into a room with cannons in tow ready to fire in any which way. Eleazar. He was Aro's ideal guard; he would walk through fire if Aro said there was a dying prodigy on the other side. Or Iago? He was a kind person in himself, his Greek upbringing meant that he was loyal to the Volturi and his friends within—I was one of his friends. The only person left to consider was Corin and I didn't like him at all. He was almost Lucian's twin in that they shared that frustrating vindictiveness.
In my mind, I could only truly consider one of the available Guard members, and that was Iago. I took in a breath and located a new scent left by him; the image that came to mind was a warm Italian night in the woods. His essence led back into the large and ancient house, turning this way and that through the corridors. Eventually my journey ended outside of his room. I knocked twice before his Grecian accented voice called for me to enter.
Pushing the flimsy wooden door aside, I stepped inside. His room was basic, with only a few furnishings. He had a couple of chairs, a bed and a cow skin rug lain on the floor. There were two torches hanging onto the walls and giving the room a swaying, seasickness. Iago sat in one of the chairs, watching me walk to the chair opposite him. Holding my dress I took a seat in the hard wooden seat that was standard for the Volturi Guard.
"What brings you here, sweet Isabella?" he smiled. His golden brown skin had been doused by the vampirism. His eyes were unremarkable except from the clearly well fed vibrant red defining him for what he was. His Mediterranean features were prominent on his face. Iago was the only friend I could trust my life with, the only person to ever defend me from Lucian's snide comments. Iago was the best thing that happened to me since I crossed into Italian territory.
"Aro has sent me on a trip to London, the normal procedure—a few dangerous vampires that need to be reminded of the rules." Iago nodded and rose from his seat, extending his hand towards me. "He instructed me to leave immediately with company. You are my company Iago," I told him as I placed my hand in his grasp. He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and walked us to his door, spinning me in a circle as we left. My dress flew about me, taking the shape of a blossoming flower before it fell again.
"Why don't you smile, Isabella?" he asked sadly. Placing his hands on both of my shoulders and forcing me to look at him, I had no choice but to let my neutral face fall into a grimace. "What's upset you?" He seized my chin in between two fingers much like I remembered Henry had, many times, and I stiffened under his grasp. Willing venomous tears not to tumble from my eyes, I removed myself from his hands and walked towards the stables.
Henry stopped walking where he was ahead of us and came to take my face in his hands, crouching with the fiercest expression in his eyes. "If you were given eternity with your mother and father, do you think they would tire of you? Would you tire of them?"
I staggered with the pain of his memory. Why couldn't I just forget he ever happened? Why couldn't he stay where he was, in the airs of England—nothing but ash? Because he was a part of me, his bite had pierced me deeper than he ever realised and I was branded. I could never escape him for as long as I was a vampire. And he would haunt me. I loved him as my father and as much as I may have hated him for putting me in this exact position; I hated myself more for letting him put me in this position. I hated myself for letting him die.
A single tear seeped from my eye before I swiftly wiped it away and carried on down the passageway. Iago's footsteps came short and rapid behind me, rushing to catch me and ask for an explanation. Soon I was at the stable door and grabbing my cloak from the table beside it. Iago's hand shot out and pulled on his cloak from the table, the heavy black velvet swung wildly at the quickness of his actions. I followed his movements as I put on my own cloak, though mine was grey with dust and wearing from where I'd been careless with it. My friend carefully put his hand on my arm and turned me to him, his eyes imploring.
I looked away and begun some sort of…justification for my actions. His hold on my forearm never wavered while he waited. "I was, am, upset because there are a lot bad memories I have of England. I can't tell you about them now, but once we get there I fear I will have no choice." I smiled grimly and sent a pointed look towards his fingers, slowly they released me and I went to open the door into the stables.
The metal chinked as I undid the lock and shuffled into the barn-like house. My nose wrinkled as the stench of horse manure and wee filled my senses. Choking, I stopped breathing and pressed my hand to my face, unsuccessfully masking the stench.
"You never get used to that," Iago chuckled at my side, in a similar stance. I shook my head and walked over to my horse, a beautiful stallion that's eyes were as black as night and coat the colour of the forest. He had a star on his forehead and I slowly brushed my hand down it. I'd named him Midnight, a fitting title for such a frightening horse. On first sight I had been intimidated, unable to believe that I would ride something so tall—so high above the ground. But gradually, I had grown to love him.
I placed his saddle blanket over him before I buckled the leather saddle upon him. Next I fitted the reins and I was ready. Midnight was ready. I turned to Iago, whose mare was in the stall next to me. "Are you ready?" I called over the wooden screen.
"Almost, Helena is not helping me today," he said with amusement. The air was still for a moment before he spoke again. "I'm ready now." I grabbed Midnight's reins and led him out of the stable into a small clearing which met with the woodland. Turning around I watched Iago and Helena wander into the grass and sunlight.
A silent signal passed between us as we pulled our hoods up over our heads and mounted our horses. The sun was high in the sky, and autumn remained warm even at the end of October. We would be at the French border by tomorrow morning and at Calais by the following evening. It would be a long trip but with Iago at my side, I was sure I could manage it unharmed and perfectly sane.
Renita Lilia Swan
Loved Mother and Wife
Who died peacefully in her sleep
It had been a memory of what I was doing the morning I disappeared out of my parents' lives that spurred me to seek out their final resting places. I found I could feel no sadness as I gazed upon this simple gravestone. At least she could sleep; she was resting now and would forever more. I only wished this grave wasn't in the grounds of a church that had been Protestant in my time. My family had been heavily Catholic and my mother deserved to be buried beside people who'd shared her beliefs.
Beloved Father and Husband
Who rests here in waiting of his daughter's return
He was buried beside me.
Isabella Mary Swan
Missed and Loved Daughter
Who fell into the wrong hands
It was disorientating to see my own grave. It was devastating to see my father had been more affected than my mother. But it was downright painful to see it lain down in front of me. I truly had just gone, without even a footprint left behind to show them the way. My mother and my father, by blood anyway. I was an orphan now. There was no-one to rightly show me the way, and tell me what to do. I was alone.
"Isabella, we should get onto those vampires now," Iago bellowed from the gates of the graveyard. I turned around slightly and beckoned for him to come and see my parents. He looked puzzled for a moment before he squelched through the rain beaten grounds of the church. He crouched beside me, looking at the grave markings. I smiled hesitantly, brushing my hands against the writing upon Charles' grave.
"This was my father, and I honestly don't remember a great deal about him. The only thing that comes to mind when I think of my father, is how it felt to hug him. How it felt when he would take me in his arms and tell me he loved me; that was the best feeling you could ever imagine." I wrapped my arms around myself and felt my father's embrace, a ghostly cold crawling over me. I smiled and moved to my mother's grave.
"My mother, I can remember something more of her. Though it isn't pleasant. I can remember her terrified cries, when the moon had fallen out of the sky and all that was left was darkness. She would scream for help and I would wake, and I would shake her awake. When she woke from these dreams she would smile and thank me, I would smile back and bid her to go to sleep. But I never could, I would lie in my bed and I would cry. It wouldn't stop until mother would come into the room and tell me to get the morning water.
"I think she chose to ignore my tears because she didn't know how to deal with them. Maybe she thought I got the dreams she did. I suppose I'll never know now." With a sigh, I stood up. Iago placed his hand on my back and rubbed it in a gesture of understanding. "Let's catch those fiends by the north gate," I said, wanting to forget all about my parents for a few hours.
Iago nodded and looked to the skies, "It's just about dark enough I would say." He took my hand and we walked out of the graveyard, our long cloaks dragging behind us on the ground. The church had been magnificent when I was human; I only remembered this because my father had been upset when I wandered into the grounds one day. The stony church was small, but comforting and the pews had candles rested on each end. The priest had been kind to me when he saw my bewildered expression…then father came in and gathered me in his arms. He took me straight out of there, not a word to the old man, and set me down in the house and gave me the worst telling off I'd ever received. I never went to that church again.
These were just pieces of my human life that I recalled, but in each of them there was a sense of acceptance; I was amazed to realise I did not resent my parents for the control they had over me. After all, it was normal then and it still is now. It's only because I no longer have parents, and I am removed from society by my vampirism that I can see how skewed it all is. Perhaps I'll become a famous philosopher I scoffed to myself.
"Isabella, come along, those vampires aren't going to sit around waiting for us once they catch our scents. Let's go." I was surprised to find I had been standing and staring at the church for goodness knows how long. Iago stood at the gate of the grounds and gestured for us to leave with his hand.
"Sorry," I breathed.
The smell of smoke was heavy in the air, the large group of humans stormed through the streets of London towards the sewer we knew there were vampires hiding. They shouted in rage at what they considered an abomination, baying for blood. And why shouldn't they? One man placed a rag soaked with fresh blood over the sewer cover and they stepped several feet back—waiting. I felt Iago put a hand over his nose and cut off his breath next to me, his eyes darkening with the wonderful smell pushing through the stench of London's waste. My throat burned strongly and I stopped breathing at once. We had to be silent and still while we watched these men taunt the underground vampires.
I could hear splashing footsteps under my feet and then a clink of metal. The drain cover moved aside and black eyes peered above the ground. His expression was filled with hunger for a moment as he took in the group of men, before he raised himself out of the ground. The men's heartbeats speeded as they took several steps toward him, as he stood in filthy rags of clothes. He most likely hadn't washed in months. The vampire looked at the men once more when he turned and ran through the streets. The men gave chase, shouting, "Demon!" "Vampire!" and "Evil" into the night.
I looked at Iago beside me, my eyes questioning him on our next move. Should we leave it to run its course? Or should we attempt to catch the other vampire before he kills anyone else? He took his hand away from his mouth and began to speak.
"You try to catch that one they're running after, and I'll go into the sewers for the other vampires." I knew he would be all right no matter how many mad vampires there were down there, but I couldn't help myself.
"Are you sure you could cope? There might be as many as ten there…" Iago smiled.
"Do you remember Isabella? How I sent you flying into the walls of my chambers?" He chuckled at the memory before he patted my back and walked into the street. "Now go."
Iago went to the sewer cover, jumped to the sewer floor with a splash and pulled the cover back over. I heard his footsteps as he ventured under my feet to where I supposed scents led him. Now, I needed to find the vampire who Aro sent me here to London to find.
My feet were quick as I ran through the streets in the direction of matching fast footfalls. But I stopped short at the bloody massacre left in the middle of an alleyway. The delicious smell of blood filled my nose as I covered it and bent to the remaining survivor. His face was bloodstained and his heart beat with infectious vampiric venom. This man had been bitten and sucked near to dry and he had just left him. Evil vampire. Cruel vampire.
The man cried out in pain, his body was crippled and there were bite marks everywhere. His blue eyes begged me to save him and to kill him for he could not articulate words with his lips. I was stunned at the head of this alleyway, watching him plead for death amongst the dead. There were two men beside him whose bodies were torn in half and the smell of blood poured out into the street, trickling onto the cobbled floor.
He lay on his side, leaning against the wall, his hand gripping to the wooden house. He wore typical woven fabrics, not that they concealed anything much of his broken body. He was dirty from being shoved to the ground in the sewer, his face covered in human waste. His hair, however, was what made me move towards him—that made me want to help him. This man was what I imagined Ransley may have looked like when he was human, perhaps a tad older. The full head of blonde hair and pale skin. Ransley.
"Ransley!" I called insanely, running to him, this man. I knew it wasn't him, but I hoped for a moment. Ransley was dead. He looked up at me and reached out one hand to me, grabbing the skirts of my dress. He tugged on it weakly before he let out another anguished cry. The vampire had left him, just as Ransley had been left and so I was compelled to care for him.
His hand dropped from my skirts and he clung to the wall once again, his eyes tightly shut. I pushed one hand under his knees and one under his back before I pulled him into my arms, cradling him. The man pushed against me as I stepped back into the street and clambered into a small cellar, underneath a butchering shop. I had no better place to put him but on top of a sack of potatoes. He pressed his fist into his mouth and screamed into it, a muffled cry of a dying bird.
I never pitied anyone as much as I pitied this man. I wished I could help him somehow…but of course, the skin was one of the first things to form. But truly, could I kill this man? Ransley's memory was so strong in him. No, I needed this man to live on; I needed him to be like Ransley. Or even better.
He may have loathed our kind for all his life, but humans were under so many misconceptions. Although it was obvious where they might get such ideas from, I wished they could see some of the good we did. Occasionally. Rarely. Such vampires were hard to find, but I was sure he would survive. He had to.
A/N: Whatcha think?