DISCLAIMER – The Twilight saga and all the characters mentioned in it are the undisputed property of Stephanie Myers. This story was written entirely for non-profit and the sheer love of the series and its memorable characters. Spoilers are included from pretty much included for every single book associated with Twilight.
Be aware that this is a supplement story for my other fanfiction The (Not So) Short Second Life of Bree Tanner so this story might be somewhat confusing for those who haven't read that yet. (HINT*HINT)
Ashes through an Hourglass
By: Oy! Angelina
It was business as usual in Volterra and, usually, business was dull. Perhaps Aro enjoyed these little court intrigues but, after a few centuries, I thought they all sounded like different minstrels who harped on the same couple cords. I envied humans the ability to yawn. It would be nice to have some way to express how bored I was.
I stood to Aro's right and Jane on his left as he absorbed in the memories of Rudolph; a "guest" of the Volturi. Rudolph tried to look at ease but I caught the nervous flicker in his eyes as Aro broke from his beguiled state with a look of enlightenment.
"Thank you, Rudolph," said Aro, nodding to himself over something. "Why don't you join your lovely, Olivia, while I confer with Caius and Marcus?"
"Certainly," Rudolph said, bowing.
Rudolph returned to his anxious, ginger-haired mate. Behind them was another female, Annette, who tried unsuccessfully to hide her willowy frame behind her long brown hair. All three in the coven looked wary of what came next and their fears weren't unfounded.
By nature, our kind is hard to manage. We are driven by instinct and prone to impulsive behavior when it comes to sating our thirst. Over time we develop a tolerance for temptation, though some show a greater measure than others. That is what the Volturi represent to all vampires. We are the embodiment of control – over ourselves, over our kind and – arguably – over the world itself. We are the envy of vampires and rightfully so since most exist as nomads nibbling at the fringes of society or miniscule covens who offer meager companionship and limited cooperation. The Volturi, however, are a different breed and that distinction in excellence and endurance is like comparing the Sistine Chapel to wall graffiti.
We are ancient. We are absolute. We are what most vampires only aspire to be. And – because we are such busy, important people – the Volturi rarely bring three mangy vampires to the seat of our power purely for a social call.
Aro folded his fingers as he receded back to the thrones of the Volturi leaders. Caius drummed his fingers against his armrest impatiently while Marcus sat, impassive and hollow. They were undoubtedly as bored as I was but, unlike me, had an option to leave if they wanted. I suspected it didn't matter much to Marcus where he happened to be and did so for the sake of duty to the Volturi and – never one to be out done – Caius remained out of paranoia for losing face or authority amongst the ancients.
"Well, Aro?" Caius asked curtly.
"Rudolph's memories authenticate the account he and his covenmates gave," Aro said then sighed regrettably. "Tragically, they also confirm our suspicions."
Satisfied by this news, Caius settled back into his chair with the expression of someone waiting for a show to begin. Everyone knew Aro was the lead in these farces but the rest of us were still in the background, waiting to perform the roles we played.
Rudolph's eyes bulged. "But how? Our respect and loyalty to the Volturi is unwavering. We would never do anything to risk the exposure of our kind."
Aro cast him a heartbroken look. "Indeed, Rudolph. You have shown the Volturi great reverence over the years, which is why it so saddening that we find ourselves in this situation now. "
"But what have we done?" Olive asked shrilly.
Jane's impersonation of a cold statue through the platitudes and pleasantries thus far ended at the sound of Olivia's voice. Things rarely ended well for whoever captured my sister's interest and this instance proved no different. Olivia's knees buckled beneath her as she shrieked in agony over whatever tortures Jane conjured for her. Rudolph could do nothing but watch in helpless horror since any action on his part would guarantee he share his mate's fate or worse. Whimpering, Annette shrank away from the disturbing scene only to be stopped by Felix's hand and nudged the female back towards her coven.
It all lasted only a few seconds but any time spent in the throes of Jane's talent felt like an eternity in Hell. Once released, Olivia collapsed onto all fours, eyes wide and gasping for air.
"You will speak only when spoken to," my sweet sister said without a hint of inflection or remorse. "Am I understood?"
Olivia panted, saying nothing in reply. This was a mistake and one she automatically paid for as Jane delivered another round of torment that ripped a fresh scream from Oliva's throat. Now, Jane was smiling and it was more radiant and cold than sunlight across the snow.
"What part of 'speak' did you find unclear?" Jane asked so sweetly one might think she was cooing over a dog.
Olivia proved smarter this time around. "Yes, I understand."
"Excellent," Jane said.
I could almost weep at the beauty of my sister's cruelty.
Jane turned to Aro, seeking praise with the same smugness of a cat that just brought her master a dead mouse. Aro didn't disappoint Jane's expectations anymore than she did his and gave her an affectionate smile mixed in with a chiding look.
"Now, Dear One; you cannot expect all who visit our court to share the same level of refinement that you and your brother possess," said Aro. He placed a hand on Jane's shoulder and his other upon mine like a proud father showing off his perfect children. I gave Aro a contented smile and inclined my head cordially while Jane seemed ready to purr. Graciously, Aro nodded to Rudolph. "I apologize for Jane's overzealous respect for formality. Please, help your mate to her feet."
Rudolph needed no further encouragement to flit over to Olivia and place a comforting arm around her. Olivia was visibly shaken by Jane's reprimand and couldn't bear to even look upon my sister where as Annette was too terrified to do anything but. Jane took no notice of either female. Aro's attention was what mattered to Jane, not theirs.
"Olivia," Aro spoke as soft as leaves yet she still flinched from her own name. "To answer your question, it was your coven's visit to the Ukrainian orphanage last week that has given us cause for concern."
Rudolph and Olivia exchanged look like they didn't comprehend what exception the Volturi might take that while Annette continued cowering without so much a glance up. Eventually, Rudolph swallowed and braved a question.
"Are you upset we fed upon…children?" Rudolph asked quizzically.
"Oh, Rudolph…it's not your meal that troubles us so much as your method of disposing of it," Aro sighed heavily.
"But we burned the bodies and the building as well," said Rudolph weakly as Olivia clutched against him. "What more should we have done?"
"How about not leave all the bodies in a pile?" Caius's voice cracked out like a whip. "If you merely expended the effort to return the corpses to their beds the human authorities would have chalked it up to an unfortunate tragedy. Instead, they found a mound of corpses and that invites more scrutiny than the Volturi enjoy or tolerate. Do you see the problem now?"
"I –" Rudolph faltered with a desperate expression.
"It is alright, Rudolph. There is really nothing more we expect you to say regarding this matter," Aro soothed before turning to me. "Alec, if you would?"
Immobilizing the accused was a formality, like nearly everything in the proceedings; however, it was a necessary precaution. To attack the Volturi leaders with so many members of their Guard present would be pure insanity but, when facing execution, even a suicidal plan was better than no plan at all. Mostly, we just liked to spare them the humiliation of begging for their lives while our leaders considered their ultimate fate.
It was my cue, although I happily shared the limelight with my twin. Aro patted us each on the shoulder then went to speak with the other ancients in private. I smiled to Jane and swept a bow in the direction of Rudolph, Annette and Olivia. "After you, sister."
"My dear brother; always kind enough to share," Jane gave me her most angelic smile before showing our guests the devil within.
Once all three were crippled by their suffering I expelled my power as soft and slow as a sigh. It drifted along the floor like a mirage until the coven was swept under its influence, likely to their relief. Instead of writhing, the trio twitched lethargically as though dreaming restlessly. For me it felt like I held each one with a phantom limb tingling numb from sleep. I didn't consider the sensation unpleasant, per se, but it gave me an inkling of what others felt when gripped by it. Initially my power demanded total concentration but, after centuries of practice, I needed to do little more than keep those ensnared in the back of my head and corner of my eye.
Some wonder what traits Jane and I possessed as humans that were the foundation of our formidable talents as vampires. I honestly remember so little of my brief tenure as a mortal that it is hard to be sure but there are flecks of memories that offer some insight. I recall Jane's fondness for tormenting creatures weaker than herself even then and how I would put them out of their misery once she grew bored with their terror and agony. Jane associated authority with pain where as I subscribed to the philosophy that control was only absolute if others are helpless to stop you.
Now, Jane and I crave power as much as blood, we just have different approaches to sating our thirst and days like this barely whet our appetites.
"This is so tedious," Jane whispered in our own private conference while the masters murmured in theirs. "Our talents and time is wasted on the likes of this. The Cullens and their human are a greater threat of exposure than a few singed orphans. Every day Bella Swan remains human is an insult to the Volturi's authority. If one coven believes they can defy us how long before others follow in suit?"
I took Jane under my arm and spoke close to her ear. "Would that be such a terrible thing? When all is peaceful people begin to forget why that is. Perhaps the Volturi could use an insurrection, just to remind our kind why we are so necessary and how unwise it is to ever question that fact."
A look of glee crept onto Jane's \ face that belonged to no innocent or child. My sister always had a taste for violence and she was practically licking her lips in anticipation of such carnage.
"I hope the Cullens are the procrastinating type," Jane said.
I chuckled as Aro, Marcus and Caius concluded their deliberation. I stepped away from Jane as Aro approached placidly to issue the Volturi's sentence.
"We have decided to show leniency in this case," Aro said as though genuinely pleased to announce this. "After weighing the evidence provided from their memories against the danger posed by their negligence we will execute Rudolph while benefiting from Alec's ability. It is the least courtesy we can pay him after so many years of vocal support to the Volturi. We acknowledge how cruel it is to force one mate to survive another so Olivia shall receive the same punishment as her mate and be spared such anguish. Annette, however, will be released seeing as she bared no responsibility in Rudolph and Olivia's mismanagement of this situation."
"After she witnesses the destruction of her covenmates so she grasps why the Volturi stress the importance of discretion and how fortunate she is to be given a reprieve," Caius stipulated as he drifted towards his awaiting wife. "They can be dismembered here but then take their remains to the crematorium. I do not wish to have their stench remind me of their carelessness for the weeks to come."
"I believe we should end our proceedings on this happy note," said Aro, clapping his hands together in delight. "Corin, we would feel more at ease if you and Santiago would devise some means of remedying the problem Rudolph and his coven brought upon us. Felix, please see to it our verdict is carried out once Annette is able to witness it. Demetri, we would all be very obliged if you would escort Annette out afterwards. And, Alec, kindly accompanying Felix to the crematorium so Olivia and Rudolph will not be made to suffer needlessly as Felix concludes his work. The rest of you are dismissed for the day and, as always, your service to the Volturi is most valued."
"Yes, Master," I and the rest of the Guard answered as the ancients excused themselves from the chamber.
From there the Volturi's guard carried on with whatever instructions were left to us. Felix and Demetri waited patiently as the remaining members of the guard departed. Jane lingered behind just long enough to share a smile then closed the doors on the precession.
I turned to Demetri and Felix. "Shall we?"
Demetri and I flanked Annette's sides as I withdrew the haze she was put under. She blinked in confusion once as she took in the near empty room and her helpless covenmates then shuddered out a sob.
"Shh. There is no reason to fear. You were deemed innocent of their crimes," Demetri told Annette as he put a firm hand on her shoulder. "I promise you'll be able to leave in just a few moments."
I nodded as I slipped my hand around the crook of her elbow. "Don't worry; this won't hurt a bit."
After that all there was left to hear was a long wail from Annette accompanied by the sound of demolishing stone.
With my work concluded, I walked the corridors at a leisurely pace and carried a matching set of presents for my awaiting sister. Jane and I enjoyed a number of perks as Aro's favorites, the least of which being our private chambers. Aro wouldn't place the jewels of his collection just anywhere; they needed a gilded box with silk pillows and other shiny bobbles. It was a lot of creature comforts for us considering we were a pair of creatures who were never uncomfortable but our lavish surroundings were gestures of Aro's generosity as well as subtle reminders that Jane and I were the centerpieces of the Volturi guard.
I retired my cloak next to my sister's and saw her form in the sitting room. She had changed from a black dress to a crimson one, which was the only color Jane ever alternated into her wardrobe. Facing the fireplace, Jane sat primly on the sofa as the dancing flames made her eyes burn like embers. I assumed she lit it for effect since warmth and dark were never an issue for us and my darling sister did enjoy watching things burn.
"The only downside to being the prizes of Aro's collection is his need to always show us off," said Jane as if echoing my earlier thoughts.
"Are you afraid we will lose our mystique?" I teased. Jane's full lips curled as she gave her childish laugh. I slipped into the space next to her, presenting my gifts with a smile. "For your collection, my sweet sister."
Grinning, Jane took one of the crystal and marble hourglasses from my hand and gazed adoringly at it. Throughout the centuries I had given Jane hundreds of similar looking hourglasses by my twin always acted as if each were the first she ever saw.
"And who did these belong to?" Jane wondered aloud. With an elegant turn of her wrist, Jane flipped the hourglass and watched the indigo grains slip to the bottom as she studied the inscription. "Ah, Olivia…"
Jane rose to her feet, taking the hourglass with Rudolph's ashes from me and carried both to the shelves containing the rest of her collection. She set the lovers together so, in some sense, they would still spend eternity at one another's side. Jane took a step back and looked upon our work.
"I do love my trophy case," Jane said with a sigh both admiring and contented.
"Do you collect trophies because you're a champion amongst our kind or a serial killer?" I asked idly while settling into a more languid pose on the sofa.
"I don't see why it can't be both," said Jane loftily.
She flashed me the kind of smile most vampires saw right before they experienced the worst agony since their creation. Fortunately, I happened to be one of the few beings on earth who didn't have to writhe in torment in order to bring joy to my sister's face. Jane returned to the sofa, sitting with her legs curled beneath her and hands resting atop them as she leaned in to kiss my cheek.
"How lucky I am to have a brother who spoils me," said Jane.
"You must be confusing me with another brother we have, then," I corrected while folding an arm around her. "In fact, you should be quite cross with me for enabling and indulging all your bad habits."
"How could I hate the only thing in my life there is to love?" Jane asked with a pout as she rubbed strands of my hair between her fingers.
I smirked. "You also love yourself, Jane."
"But we are so alike that hardly counts," said Jane, shaking her head.
Truer words were never spoken. Perhaps Jane and I weren't identical in all respects but we lived in perfect symmetry to one another – two halves of a single whole. We were so complete onto ourselves I wondered if that was why, in almost four hundred years, neither of us had found a mate.
"I heard an Eastern myth that said boy and girl twins are really the reincarnated souls of lovers being punished for their sins in a past life," Jane mused, tapping eerily close into my train of thought once more.
"If that's true I can only imagine what will be in-store for us in the next life considering all our wicked ways in this one," I said with a chuckle.
Jane looked at me like I missed the point. "Anything we do must be done in this life or never at all, Alec. We are immortals with the powers of gods; no one can punish us now."
A frustrated breath escaped my nose. I hated when Jane spoke like this. I never knew what my sister was driving at and the only thing that confused me more that her meaning was how I felt about what it might be. Were Jane and I so beyond all reason, right and wrong that taboos of any kind no longer applied to us? Jane was as dangerous and haphazard as a child running with scissor when it came to severing all her ties to the humanity she once held. Perhaps Jane lacked any and all respect for the ways of mortals but was nothing sacred to her? Then again, our deepest religious experience was being burnt at the stake so, maybe, I shouldn't get too hung up on what morals I owed to God, humanity and the love neither showed me and Jane.
Aro was our true creator and the only thing Jane worshiped now. When it came to snipping her scissors around our family ties, something told me Jane was more concerned about risking Aro's displeasure than mine. Perhaps Jane assumed, as her twin, I would forgive her anything or deny her nothing but Aro saw all the thoughts I could only guess at. He knew what was in Jane's head and heart as well as the confusion in mine yet he never commented. Was that Aro's way of passively approving or did he just assume such thoughts were filled with hollow intent?
"I think I'll see if Corin needs any assistance," I said, already moving to my feet.
Jane narrowed her eyes. "Why? You just finished with your task and I don't see how you could help Corin with hers. Stay with me, Alec."
I shook my head as I went to the wardrobe and found a hooded jacket that wasn't as conspicuous as my cloak for the Volturi guard. "You may have got to travel recently but I've been cooped up in Volterra too long."
Yes, I needed to remind myself that there was more to the world and my life than the affection of my sister. Unfortunately, Jane wasn't inclined to agree. In an instant she was standing next to me with a petulant and wounded expression as she gripped my arm
"What will I do with myself while you're helping Corin sweeping up ashes in the Ukraine?" she demanded.
I laughed. "Don't be selfish. You had your fun now let me have mine. I'll be back in a few nights; maybe a week depending on Corin's plan."
Jane glowered. "I worry when I'm not there to protect you."
"I am both touched and insulted that my sister wishes to fight all my battles for me," I said, kissing her cheek as she had kissed mine.
"What would you do if someone destroyed me?" Jane asked sweetly.
"Swear my eternal hatred, hunt them to the ends of the earth, avenge your death through slow, excruciating torture…et cetera, et cetera, et cetera," I said without investing any feeling in the words. Jane had to know my answer before she asked the question but she looked satisfied all the same.
"Try not to have too much fun without me," Jane signed in resignation.
As if there was much chance of that. "Don't sound so sad. I know my clever sister can think of ways to amuse herself in my absence."
I opened the door to the hall as Jane found her way back to the couch and resumed watching the flames. Without looking my way she said: "You never ask what I would do if anyone destroyed you."
"That's because I always assumed you would find a nice hourglass for me," I said, smirking as I shut the door.
AUTHOR'S NOTE – Thus ends the first supplement chapter told from Alec's point of view. Expect random updates that will overlap with events covered in Bree's tale in The (Not So) Short Second Life of Bree Tanner retold from Alec's perspective (a la Midnight Sun) but – as seen in this installment – some will cover new information and different storylines pertaining to the Volturi.
Thank you always to those who read and review. You're encouragement is why I keep plucking away at Bree's so-called alternate life and why I feel Alec deserves his own story to tell.