A/N – Thanks to frol, my amazing ficwife and beta. Thanks also to Gasaway Alley, Twiliteaddict and Viridis73 for pre-reading and showing me where the holes were.
Thanks especially to those of you that read and reviewed Broken Doll, which has been nominated for "Best Supernatural" in The Silent Tear Awards. Voting is up until June 20. I would be lying if I said I didn't want your vote...but check out the other amazing stories too! Please see my profile for the link to the voting site.
From Chapter 29 "Broken Doll"
Xandru turned to Aro. Hate boiling in his eyes and rippling across iron skin. My great uncle smiled, reaching out, putting his hands tightly around Aro's neck. In an instant, the vampire Lord jolted with the unexpected Judas kiss of Xandru's impeccable deceit flashing him all the images he was denied for centuries.
"How dare you betray me? I gave you eternal life! Power! You were my left hand!"
A terrible roar ripped from Aro, he threw his head back, violently connecting with Carlisle, knocking him to the ground. As Carlisle scrambled to his feet, Aro swung a crushing two handed blow to Xandru's chest, the mighty crack as he made contact rang in my ears as I watched my uncle fly through the air, landing in a large burning pyre...
The irony of my death being delivered in the form of conflagration was not lost on me. My deceit was born in fire, and so it would end. I cheated my execution to be burned at the stake when stolen away by the Volturi. I cheated mortality when I burned through the change.
I'm sure Lachesis is eying my steel strand smiling; "Third time is the charm." sliding over her tongue.
As licks of flame bit into my flesh, death undeniably imminent, I gathered my last reserves of strength to take what was mine down with me; my sister - if there was anything left of her within that demon who called itself Jane.
I could search those cold claret eyes that looked so much like my own until the end of time, and never find Ioana's reflection within. My beloved twin was gone. Whomever said blood was thicker than water, knew not of the sociopathic nature of a vampire with no ties or memories of their humanity. She was a cold killer, nurtured by Aro's poisonous politics, and the pirated blood of innocents.
In my weakest moments, I envied her ignorance of her human life, the knowledge she was innocent once; with no internal demons to slay, she atoned for nothing. I spent centuries beneath the stinging rusty barbs of shame for the bloody and immoral acts executed to keep my illusion intact.
For over three centuries, I was two beings; I was Xandru, brother to Ioana and Leda, the last of the Striga line whom I was sworn to protect. I was the keeper of The Scriptures of Aesa, and my destiny was to make sure the Volturi were brought to their knees as foreseen by one of the most powerful witches of our line - Adrastea. To achieve this, my existence as a vampire was a masquerade as Alec, Aro's prize pet, second only to my twin Jane. I gripped the edge of depravity's abyss when my vampire nature was indulged for show; for survival. The carnality of the bloodlust, the head-swelling power of dominance over whole armies of feral newborns with nothing but a thought whispered from my lips; it was inebriating. Like all deadly highs, coming down was a razor sharp lesson in guilt for which I bled copiously.
Did the end justify the means? All the lies I told, the lives I took...and yet, I force my burning body forward to take one more.
As I approached her from behind, I had just enough strength left to wrap arms aflame around my stunned twin, dragging her into a blazing pyre so that we would leave this world the way we came into it...together.
Jane was immobilized; her shrieks piercing the din of battle announcing the shift of victory passing back to my great niece Bella and her family; The Cullens and The La Push Pack. With a roar that would wake the Titans, Bella burst open the deepest veins of her power and exploded into furious apocalyptic beauty. Propelling herself to the heavens, she filled the zenith of the night sky with her transmogrification into a Phoenix of Fire who would deliver a dire brimstone judgement upon the scattering remnants of Aro's great army. My grip tightened on the burning body of my sister, our flesh melting from our titanium bones. I could not help but smile as I watched Bella plummet like a meteor to the earth; the keening screech of her descent like a banshee's victory cry.
Ashes to Ashes.
These hungry flames were but a tender kiss compared to the incendiary hell endured when I transformed into vampire. Freeze-frames of my existence, mortal and immortal alike, panned before my mind's eye. A macabre movie of my dual existence as monster and mage. Jekyll and Hyde.
Did my sacrifice outweigh my sins?
When I look back on the centuries spent with the Volturi, if it wasn't for my Sire, Eleazar , I would have gone mad. He alone was my compass, my companion, my Brother. He knew all my secrets, and I his. This secret bond with him kept the loneliness of my situation from eating me alive and leaving a demon in its wake. As I began my journey into the afterlife, my last thoughts were of my time with him and the important role he played in helping me fulfill my own destiny.
Our communion was wrought on the day he brought me over from man-child to monster...
The year was 1785 and my family had congregated to perform a Wiccan rite of passage for my older sister Leda. At the very height of the ceremony, when the Goddess placed her blessings upon Leda, the flickering of torches announced the arrival of very angry self righteous townspeople. They did not understand our ways. Accused us of being in league with demons and other ignorant mutterings about our magic being the seed of evil. Their fear and suspicion tainted the air with an oily angry tension that coated us all with thick panic. We tried to flee, but we were herded, captured and heralded as heretics and witches.
Leda was the only one who had not been caught in all the confusion. I caught a flash of red hair sinking into the deep cleft of the Great Oak as chaos reigned. She hid herself from the skirmish amongst our most precious, sacred relics.
Marched through town in a chain gang of rope with bayonets waving threateningly alongside, my entire family was pelted with rotten food and foul curses by the onlookers. Coming to an end at Town Hall, judgement was swift, and we were all to burn at the stake three days hence., but those three days were not a reprieve by any means. Our jailers were sadistic low-lifes who got off on our humiliation and terror.
After being tortured mercilessly, listening to the screams of my twin and cousins being violated and beaten, I was wretched with fear and despair. On the day of our execution, yet another holy man entered my cell to save a soul that did not belong to their God. His robes identified him as a Bishop from the Vatican, but his presence sent prickles of warning along my skin shouting, Impostor!
The moment his cowled hood was thrown back from his head, I knew this was not a man of the cloth...let alone a man. This was a Moroi that stood before me. Vampire. His eyes were shocking red, like wet rubies, taking my measure as I cowered in the corner of my cell, a broken disheveled heap. Recoiling, I pressed my back against the wall of dirty damp stones, and whispered a prayer to my Goddess. His beauty stunned and disoriented me, I could do nothing but stare at his god-like features; shoulder length black hair, pulled back tightly from the face in a leather thong, thick-set brows arched slightly, emphasizing an exotic aristocratic air. A finely trimmed goatee set off the hard masculine angles of his handsome face. Despite being a deadly predator of human blood, he smiled, and I actually found genuine kindness there. Empathy even. A rumbling, heavily accented, voice filled the dank cell, the words sounding eerily similar to the utterances the men of the cloth had given me; except he offered not salvation...but destiny.
"Be not afraid Xandru. I come to set you back on the course of your destiny."
In a blink he moved closer to me, his eyes intensely assessing more than just my vulnerable mortal form. I felt the ghostly fingers of power pick and prod along my aura, looking for the mechanics of my own burgeoning powers. I had barely the energy to fight back and shield myself. Appearing satisfied when I was finally able to block his attempts at reading me psychically, he stepped back and bowed in courtesy before me. My mouth went dry as sand, the energy it took to call forth my mental and emotional shields exhausting.
"You will not be executed this day. Your destiny, Xandru of the Striga, is to come with me to help us find what was lost."
"Destiny?" I scoffed. "What could you know of my destiny, vampire?" For all I knew he could be Volturi. Given my ancestry, they were the only vampire coven who might have interest enough in me, and I cautioned myself..this could be a trap. I desperately wanted out of my situation, but to what end? Out of the frying pan into the fire?
His lips pursed as his hands reached for the hem of his cassock, and pulled it up to his waist. Fearing what was about to happen, I shrank back, Ioana's violations fresh on my mind. But the vampire put up a hand to stay my anxiety. Beneath his priestly robes he fumbled with the waistband of his pants pulling it aside to reveal a heavily muscled abdomen and a small circular tattoo on his hip bone. It was a Celtic rendition of a snake swallowing it's own tail.
My breath left me in a rush, my heart galloping after it.
"It's the Ourosboros symbol. I know you've seen it before," he said softly. I recognized the ancient glyph immediately. My father bore the exact same tattoo proudly on his chest. Despite the Sahara parked in my mouth, I began to sweat profusely as the knock of destiny pounded my heart into a frenzy.
Had my father known him? Was this salvation?
"Who are you?" I whispered.
"My name is Eleazar Morales. I am a member of the same society your father Ulfgar belonged to; The Brotherhood of the Eternal Return. I have been placed within the Volturi Guard as a spy."
"The Volturi?" dizziness swept through me like a tempest, cold sweat beaded on my forehead as I realized the gravity of my situation. "Consort, help us."
The Volturi were deadly, devious dictators who believed in a disturbing version of Arianism . Their belief hailed vampires as the most superior of the supernatural. Humans didn't need to know who they were until it was time to glut on their blood. The Striga had long been hunted by these mad monsters given we had three strikes against us. We were human, with supernatural abilities and last but not least, our powerful ancestor Adrastea had cursed the Volturi to meet their end by one of our descendants.
The Brotherhood's main directive was to protect the Striga bloodline, in particular the women as they were the vessel to bear The Legacy that would take down the Volturi. I had no idea there were members within the Brotherhood who were vampires, but then again, it was the only possible cover for anyone who would dare enter the Volturi den as a spy. He deserved my trust, yet, I couldn't help but wonder...why was he here for me? What about the women?
"What about my mother? My sister?"
Sadness pooled in his eyes. He righted his suit and said brusquely, "There's no time to explain."
"Where are they?" I demanded through gritted teeth.
With a heavy sigh he delivered the answer I was loathe to hear, "Your mother is to be burned within hours Your sister will be taken by a Volturi Guard named Felix this afternoon. Aro wants to change you both and make you his own." Eleazar's lips set in a firm line. "Xandru, there is no time. I must take you now before they come to get you for the execution."
"No! Please, there must be something you can do for them. Leave me. Take them to safety while you can. This can't be our fate!"
My mother...burned...Ioana and I? Changed?
Fate was all my race knew, our stories and legends were saturated with prophecies, which set the course of destiny for our entire race. My culture demanded I accept what comes.
But this...both of us changed into vampires? Misery seeped around the edges of shock as one painful fact stood front and center; From what we knew of transforming into vampires as young as we were, it was very difficult for the human memories to remain after the change.
"If my twin and I are changed, we won't remember our pasts! Each other!"
"I can help you through the change if I do it myself, make sure you remember who you really are to prepare for the tasks to come."
"Which would be?"
"Your duty to your bloodline and the Brotherhood.
"My duty is to my family! I was always led to believe that above all things, the Brotherhood protected the family line."
"You will be protecting the family line...just not your twin or your mother. There is another..."
"Leda? You have news of Leda?"
"All we know about Leda at the moment is that she escaped and managed to avoid being caught by the Volturi guard sent to collect you three children. As a vampire you will be immortal Xandru, you will have centuries to find Leda or her progeny should she have any, not to mention, the resources of the Volturi at your fingertips...there is no better place to be for this task than behind enemy lines."
The hot sting of tears blurred my vision. I was flayed to the bone at the thought of losing my family and my humanity. The sharp edge of my lack of options cut deep
Live and avenge them or die alongside them?
My mother would be lost to me, but Eleazar had a very good point; going with him and allowing him to guide me through the change was the best option on the table for making sure Ioana was protected within the belly of the Beast, and that Leda was never found.
Could I be my sister's keeper even if she had no memory of our blood tie? It was not even a question of would. I would kick at the darkness until it bled sunlight for her, but the thought of her not knowing me was devastating.
"You are sure there is no other way?"
"I'm sorry son, this was the best I could manage for you."
His shoulders rounded, regret wearing heavy on his preternatural frame.
"Will I become a member of the Brotherhood if I my human memories survive the change?"
Being initiated into the secrets of the Brotherhood was my birth right, and right now I was being tested as no other initiate before me. Eleazar crouched down in front of me and placed a hand on my shoulder, luminous red eyes peering intently into mine.
"You will be that and so much more. You can trust in me to guide you and help you navigate our purpose...your purpose. When you were a small boy, your father came to me and asked me to look after you should anything happen to him. You have an important part to play within the Brotherhood, Xandru. Please...do not make me go back on the oath I have given, I am sworn to protect you and this is the only way."
"All right," I sighed softly. Looking up at him I saw relief ghost across his face and blossom into hope. With great difficulty I attempted to stand, only to fall to the ground again. "How are you going to get me out of here if I can't even stand, let alone walk?"
"I'll carry you."
"But the guards..."
"They won't see you if I don't want them to. I have certain...abilities." His mouth quirked in a half smile. "I was chosen by the Brotherhood as a spy for good reason. I'm only seen when I want to be."
The tender care he took as he reached down to pick me up put me at ease. Cradled against his cold hard chest, with the cassock covering my body, I relinquished my doubts that we could pull off this escape, and closed my eyes in sorrowful resignation to my fate.
Eleazar carried my body to him as if I were weightless, and within mere moments , we were out of doors; the light of day lightly filtering through the fabric I was concealed under. Nausea, dehydration, and the rush from the break-neck speed we traveled caused me to lose consciousness. The velocity was such that the remainder of the journey was spent in and out of lucidity due to my sorry, battered state.
When we finally stopped, I felt him lower me to a soft bed. The yielding comfort of the bed drove the nails of my crucifying discomfort in deeper. My body was tormented with pain from the various dislocations, contusions and broken bones.
I begged him for death.
His answer was eternal life, delivered with a searing chemical burn, flushing through my veins as he infused his venom into my body. I was crazed, cauterized from my humanity from the inside out; my bones forged into steel, my organs seized, rendered inert and impotent as I was baptized by fire. Yet through it all, Eleazar remained. He whispered prayers in strange tongues over my body, spoke to me using my birth name, assuaging me with stories about my people and the Brotherhood. He alone helped bridge the gap of what I was, to what I would become. Looking back on it now, it astounds me he was able to pull it off, risking so much to see me through.
My Sire's abilities put him in a very favored position within Aro's Guard. Eleazar's job was to discern a human or vampire's latent supernatural skills. He explained to me Aro's obsession with finding , capturing, and changing humans with extraordinary talents; such as telekinesis, mind control, and shielding. The victims were then brainwashed into joining the Guard after being turned into vampires. Imagine how tempting this made Ioana and I to Aro. His contrivance was to mold us in his evil image, thereby adding us to his collection of powerful supernatural underlings.
In his blind arrogance, Aro was not aware Eleazar could not only discern abilities, but he could block them. As my powers revolved around mind control, he in turn taught me how to block Aro from the thoughts which revealed my true nature.
The very first chance I had to get away from the Volturi compound was spent retrieving the holy Scriptures of Aesa . These time-worn codices had been passed down generation after generation for over a millennium.
They documented that prior to 500 AD, the Striga were the allies of the Moroi and Pricolici of Romania. The triumvirate was disbanded involuntarily when the Volturi attacked the Romanian kingdom, but the great Striga witch, Adrastea, cursed the Volturi; prophesied their end by One of wolf, witch and vampire blood. Aesa, the twin of Adrastea bore witness to these events and kept record of it in the Scripture so we could prepare for the Three That Become One. This Scripture would be key in helping me to destroy the Volturi.
Within the codices I discovered the original curse referred to the coming of a Queen with golden eyes who was descended from our line, and that of the Pricolici. Astonishingly, this descendant would also be a vampire; "Three become One, all three she becomes.." I wondered if Aro believed in turning Ioana, he was keeping this prophesied nemesis under his control. I now understood why he favored her so. He wanted the bond strong to control her.
It wasn't until I discovered the second mention of the Golden Eyed Queen written in an appendix of the codice, that I realized the possibility of Leda making it to safety was not hope made in vain. The last information given to the Volturi of her whereabouts was she had been lost at sea as the boat never made it to port.
The entry was in my father's handwriting. The same Ourosboros glyph tattooed on his flesh was finely drawn at the top of the small passage. My hands shook as I peered down at the words scrawled with difficulty by my father's large calloused hands.
Aesa came to me in a dream. Told me Leda's great-granddaughter would be the One. She gave me these words to place in her scripture;
From ash she will arise
with wings that no longer fly
the Queen with the Golden eyes.
For her there is one course
Born to protect The Source
The foundation must be shaken
before she can awaken
and devour The Forsaken.
I took it to Eleazar immediately. As he read the words, his face puckered like a man working on a complicated puzzle. After his third read of the passage, he smiled brightly and told me it was time for me to learn the initiated secrets of the Brotherhood that I had been waiting patiently for.
He began by teaching me the secret handshake with which I could recognize any of the brothers the world over. Then he told me he would answer any question I might have about the Brotherhood and it's purpose.
"How long have vampires been a part of the Brotherhood?"
His eyes held a twinkle and a laugh skipped across his lips, "It's more like how long have the Striga been a part of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood of the Eternal Return is actually an ancient group of vampire priests who serve The Source, a goddess of Creation."
"How do the Striga fit in with your band of priests if we worship other goddesses and serve by protecting our own?"
"Long ago, The Source lost her champion, her protector. He was stolen from her. So she needed a new one. A renown Seer told her there would be born among the Striga a queen with golden eyes who would be the strongest witch of their line, powerful enough to bring down that which seeks to end Creation.
The Striga Brothers, such as your father, were inducted into the Brotherhood to make the oath to safeguard the women of their line, for it is through them, the Golden Eyed Queen would be born."
My last question made goosebumps pop along my flesh.
"What would a powerful goddess of Creation...need protection from?" I barely whispered.
I will never forget the cold vacant look in Eleazar's eyes. He couldn't look at me when he said her name. I wish I hadn't heard it.
"The Forsaken. But you would know her as...Sulpicia. Aro's wife."
At that moment, my world shifted into sharp clarity. There was a huge spider within this web. Sulpicia was no fan of mine, I had always assumed she was heavy handed in her jealousy of Aro's attention on Jane and I. Given how powerful she must be, she was being polite. We represented for her, a painful visual reminder of the very bloodline prophesied to keep her away from the one thing she wanted more than anything: The Source.
Eleazar explained to me that Sulpicia was the true power behind the Volturi, the reason he was sent to spy on them; to make sure she did not find The Source. As the last surviving male of the Striga line, it was my job to find the Golden Eyed Queen. To that end, Eleazar set me up with the Romanian Coven, even though he thought it was a long shot, as the Roms had very little luck in finding out anything about Striga ensuing our Exodus from Romania.
After three centuries of searching, the long shot paid off when the Romanians were contacted by Carlisle Cullen. He lived with his golden eyed Coven in the Pacific North West of America. His son Edward had a human girlfriend named Isabella Swan who came into the possession of a Book of Shadows which bore the Romanian Royal Seal. The grimoire was none other than my sister Leda's, who had bequeathed it to her great granddaughter. The Legacy. Leda had survived the shipwreck after all. Fate had pushed her across the waves of the ocean into the arms of a descendant of Taha Aki - the Pricolici!
Fate smiled upon me. Or should I say, coldly smirked?
Caius, in his relentless pursuit of the Children of The Moon, found these same descendants of Taha Aki. He convinced Aro to make a move to eliminate them and the Cullens. Aro wanted Eleazar questioned about all of the members of the coven since he was close friends with Carlisle. I decided I could kill two birds with one stone, and since I needed an excuse to get off the compound, I volunteered to go question the now-retired Guard, and get to Isabella before Aro did. The Romanians had already convinced her to let me train her. She was barely aware of her ancestry, uncontrolled in her abilities, but she held the promise of great power.
I had hope.
The Cullens have golden eyes...she would be one of them some day.
The Golden Eyed Queen found at last...the question was, would she be ready to deflect the evil that wanted her powers for themselves?
Aro was amassing the entire guard to kill her whole family. What if he discovered who she actually was? The Romanians said the resemblance to the twins Aesa and Adrastea was downright spooky. From them, that was quite a statement.
Before I left for Forks Washington, I sought Eleazar's counsel one last time. I wanted to discuss how much should be revealed to Bella; she was still so new to her powers, and would be going up against two of the most sinister generals ever to walk the earth in Aro and Caius, this confrontation could be pure suicide. I had such little time to hone her skills, I worried telling her about her role as Golden Eyed Queen and what to expect in Sulpicia as an adversary would frighten her into catatonia. Eleazar agreed it was best not to tell her about Sulpicia just yet, that the odds stacked against my great niece were overwhelming at best.
Yet, she overcame them. She was magnificent in her vengeance upon Aro's immortal army.
Melting into ruin and ash, I left this earthly plane with a heavy weight of trepidation for Bella. I should never have doubted her ability to survive. I should have...
Although the formidable fence of the Volturi Guard surrounding Sulpicia had been eliminated, she was now exposed and devious acts of desperation would ensue. The fallout Bella will face after the dust of battle settles will be swift and merciless for Sulpicia was legendary in her ruthlessness.
All I could do was pray as I passed unto the Fade;
We beseech thee to protect Bella and her kin
As The Forsaken will strike hard and true
When she discovers
The Golden Eyed Queen has come,
when Three become One.
Show her the way as she rises...
from the ashes.