Caius returned with the vampire Joham, and dozens of hybrids. I was astonished there were so many of them in such a short time, but Joham had started breeding an army after he learned that his son Nahuel had told his secret. I was struck by one detail I had missed. Joham was fair skinned and had reddish blond hair. His hybrid children were all various shades of brown, as most had been born of mothers from either South America, or Africa.
I was surprised Cauis had not told him about our own hybrid children, but somehow in all the excitement, it had never come up. I had to beg him to keep them secret. He agreed, but only if he were not asked directly. "I won't lie to my friend," he'd declared. I realized then that I was no longer his friend, which was fine by me as he'd fallen from my good graces with his treatment of his own daughter's mother.
Volterra had her secrets, as our kind are not known for sharing. Knowledge was power in Volterra. Knowledge was one measure of age, maturity, and respect, and it wasn't something we easily gave up. We're not gossips, which was a good thing where Joham was concerned. Marcus and I kept our secrets squirreled away on the top floor, while Joham went about making "friends" with everyone.
' It wasn't even a month before he began asking to have young women brought to him for breeding. It wasn't just for himself, but for those of the Guard who had been with Caius on the trip, and who were more fully under Joham's control. Caius showed him where he'd first kept Yanna, and Joham went about setting up that whole section under Volterra as the maternity ward from Hell.
It was appalling the way he treated the first Italian woman to conceive his child. He was so beguiling and she was in love with him, even though he treated her as a prisoner. By the end of his first month, there were four women locked up – three who were being raped daily, and one going through the painfully short gestation – alone.
Marcus and I were in agreement; our families needed to be moved. We moved them to a small bungalow outside the walls, and away from prying eyes. The four of them would take care of one another when we couldn't be there with them. We both felt horrible taking these steps. We were already falling under Joham's spell, and it felt as if we were betraying him. But we were both in love with our children, and Marcus was in love with Tamara.
The secret held.
My time with Angelo and Rachele was the only pleasant thing I had to look forward to in a Volterra increasingly run by Joham. Rachele was finally beginning to show some maturity, and she was pleasant to be around. Tamara and Marcus were companionable. They may not have been romantic, but they were at least friends. I knew from his thoughts how he felt about her, though she blamed him for tearing her former life from her. Her memory of her human captivity was fading, and I hoped eventually she would forgive him and they would become a couple.
They both adored their daughter, and the girl just had a way of smoothing over the rough edges . She was like Didi in a way. She didn't make people happy, but she lessened their worries. Angelo took to calling her Hakuna Matata from the Lion King movie. No Worries.
Her nickname for him was Jedi, and they both called Dora the Puppetmaster. It was Rachele who really had the most stunning ability. I suggested that she practice, to see if she could hide others. I imagined a shield like Isabella Cullen if she could grow her talent.
But it was Joham whose talent grew. The cellar beneath Volterra filled up with captives, both pregnant, and those who were raped daily in hopes of them becoming with child. His power took hold of me, and I began to love him. When Heidi threw her fit about all the extra hunting, I could only see his side. I didn't like the woman, and I was irritated with her for giving him a clue to my secret. When he killed her and had her pieces burned, I wasn't horrified as I should have been. I helped him.
It meant we would have to hunt on our own. I still hunted with Angelo and Rachele, so the animal blood sustained me and I didn't need to drink human as often. But the area around Volterra was in the news for the first time in decades. People disappeared, remains were discovered, and it was feared there was a sophisticated serial killer loose in Tuscany. There were several actually, and I urged my brothers to set stricter guidelines before something serious happened.
It was then Caius got wind of Garrett's open criticism of us. Fortunately the four of us each had different agenda's. Marcus wanted nothing more than to coax Tamara to fall in love with him. I wanted to protect Volterra from all the negative influences that came with Joham. Caius wanted to gear up for a war with the Americans – again. And Joham wanted to impregnate every young woman in Italy it seemed. Because he was the one mostly in control, we did more of what Joham wanted. We bought a piece of property which was once a mental hospital, and we turned it into a training facility for his hybrids. From those he brought with him, and the many who were born in Volterra, their numbers grew.
These children were frightening. They often fed on their mothers, and they were not offered any love or comfort. Occasionally the mates of their fathers would claim them and nurture them as Athenodora had done, but they were most often taken care of in another part of the underground network. I went there once after reading Dora's mind about what she'd seen there. It was like a macabre daycare.
The children were being instructed by Joham's older daughters. They taught them the rudiments of reading and writing, before teaching them about self-sufficiency. They saw to it the younglings were fed and clothed, but they themselves didn't know love or comfort, so they didn't have it to give. They stayed underground for the first part of their lives, then they were moved to the school, to further sequester them and train them.
I knew in a small part of my mind that this was wrong. But I couldn't figure out what to do about it, as there were new hybrids being born daily. One of them was my own.
I had no idea I could be so thoroughly controlled. I only dimly remember coupling with Valentina. She was young and pretty, but other than that, I don't recall much about her at all. I can't remember if she was a prostitute, a runaway, or some other unfortunate young woman to cross Joham's path. All I know for sure is she conceived my child.
She died giving birth.
Aurora I remembered. I rescued her before she was forced to feed from her dead mother. Joham didn't care about newborn infants, and he only grew interested if they were shown to have a power. Most of those in the Guard had sired children. But unlike me, most weren't given the opportunity to interact with them. A few were more insistent, and Joham's daughter's relented and allowed them to take their children to raise. It lightened their burden.
I was stunned when I discovered Aurora's immense power. Hers was so much greater than mine, as she could both send and receive thoughts without even touching. I also learned there was a cumulative affect, and it became stronger the longer she was around me. Instinctively I kept this a secret, and kept her away from as many people as possible.
I took her with me when I visited Rachele and Angelo. Rachele couldn't believe that I didn't save her mother. She seemed sympathetic when I told her I feared I'd been controlled. It was strange, for even though we knew we were being controlled, unless he forbade us to speak of it, we could acknowledge it. We knew, and we were helpless to disobey his commands. Even as we loved him, we knew we were being forced to feel that way. And in this knowing, we also hated him.
I couldn't hide Aurora away, as much as I wished it. I was worried for her safety if her ability became known. But I was also worried about what Joham would do with such power in his control. He already had me, but I knew he couldn't use my power if he were controlling me. Aurora would be so much easier to control and use.
I decided to teach her to be feeble minded. I coached her on how to respond to people, as if we were playing a game. I taught her how to look vacantly through them when they asked her questions, and I told her she needed to keep her ability secret. With her power she could read their thoughts, and behave accordingly. I was worried for her, especially when I saw how Joham wanted to build an army of hybrids.
Aurora was a good little actress, and she played her part well. I kept her with me as much as possible, on the pretext of protecting her from the teasing of the other children. No one seemed to question that she should have been physically perfect as a hybrid. Even though I'd apparently failed, I was given another chance to father a child. It wasn't a chance I wanted, but I was presented with the girl, along with Joham's insistence that I breed her. I didn't know her name, only that she called herself Belle. The irony does not escape me.
Belle was a drug addicted prostitute, and she went through serious withdrawal while she was our captive. She didn't mind our couplings, though she begged for the drugs her body craved. I had some sympathy for her, though her piteous begging began to wear on me. In the two months it took her to conceive, the drugs left her system. It often took the girls longer to conceive, as many of them were on birth control, which had to run its course.
Belle clean and sober did indeed show signs of beauty. But more than that, she was intuitive, and she came to me as a willing woman. I knew she was using her feminine charms to get what she wanted, but what she wanted was so minor I was happy to give it. She wanted a small measure of comfort and freedom. I took her from the cell and kept her in my room. The precious weeks between her addiction, and the conception of our child were an unexpected joy.
She loved me.
I'm sure it was the charm of our kind; my scent, my perfection, my appearance. But she came to me eagerly, and we made love – often. I had acquired the gentleness to please her, and her warmth and softness beguiled me. I imagined turning her – in fact in my mind there was no other choice. I explained what would happen, and she promised she would stay with me afterward. It would mean setting Sulpicia aside, but I knew my wife had taken a lover, even though I didn't know who she bedded down with each night.
Belle did not make it.
I can't even blame Joham for her death; though I wish I could. Her body had been ravaged by years of drugs and mistreatment, and the pregnancy was too much for her. She was paralyzed in the third week, and I watched her fade day by day. I kept assuring her that the change would heal her. I begged her to hold on. But when my second son came into the world, her heart stopped beating even before he was free of her body.
I tried to save her. I injected her with my venom, and even bit her in my desperation. I failed.
Our son needed me. I gave him my name, and I tried to love him as I had Angelo and Aurora, but in a way I blamed him for his mother's death. I'd felt that I could love Belle, and he'd taken her from me. He was also different from my other children. He didn't bond with me, and he always seemed dissatisfied when I held him.
I found out later that part of his behavior was the lingering effects of the drugs built up in his mother's system. I also found out he had a mind reading gift right from the beginning. Exactly like the young Edward Cullen; he could read surface thoughts from anyone nearby. He'd read my own mind, and knew I blamed him for his mother's death – even though I did love him. My love for him ran deep, but what he read was the worry, the blame, and the loss I felt over Belle.
I tried to convince him to play dumb like Aurora, but he defied me. He was happy to be apart from me, and when they moved him to the school, he asked that I not visit him. He didn't want a thing to do with me. I lost my son and his mother both.
Joham didn't allow me to mourn long. He saw Armando's power, and he wanted more. The only blessing is that my son's defiant nature worked against Joham as well. He didn't show him how powerful his gift really was. Still it was enough that I was once again lead to the cellar's and expected to perform. Even Joham commented on the beauty of Marianna, and he joked that if I didn't mate with her; he would.
I should have allowed him to have her. After Belle, I imagined maybe Marianna would fall in love with me. But then I discovered why Joham didn't take her as his own. As lovely as she was, she was absolutely terrified of us. She was no prostitute or drug addict; she was Volterrani, and she knew exactly what we were. Not only that, but she'd been kidnapped from her own home.
As soon as I found this out, I refused to touch her. To be with her would break Volterra law as well as go against my own sense of right and wrong. It was in this matter Joham demonstrated to me exactly what his power could do to me.
Not unlike my own wife so long ago, I raped her. I have only the smallest conscious knowledge of this, as Joham was so fully in control of me I only remember her screams when I took her virginity, and broke her tender body. I know I visited her often – all at his urging. I recall how he buried my memories.
"You don't want to remember this, my friend. Just forget all about the girl, and it will be over soon." It was hypnotic, and I did indeed forget about Marianna for years. Almost inexplicably I had a new daughter. I didn't know why I chose her name, until the memories came back to me. Those are memories I wished I could keep buried forever. When they came back, I felt all the horror of what I'd done.
I come from a time when a woman's value was only what a man chose to grant her. Women were property; little more than bargaining chips used to seal a deal, make an alliance, or continue a line of succession. They had little or no rights over their bodies, unless it was granted by a man.
Still, even at that time what I did to Marianna would have been considered a sin if not a crime. Joham didn't care if I was gentle. He didn't care if I hurt her. He didn't care that she screamed each and every time I was near her. He only cared that I used her. He forbade me to act on the blood lust when her tender body tore. He took a perverse sense of delight in her struggles. I learned later that she had rejected him when he wanted to be her lover.
He allowed me to remember what she looked like the day she gave birth. I could hate him the rest of my existence for that alone. Yanna in the hands of Caius fared much better than Marianna. She had come to us a true human beauty, and we'd destroyed her. Broken bones, bruises, and festering wounds, tormented a body covered in filth. Once she conceived, she wasn't even offered a chance to clean herself, and her broken bones meant she could only lie in her own waste.
I wanted to flee from the sight of her and what I'd clearly done to the girl. Joham wouldn't permit me to leave, and he wouldn't let me help her either. I watched in horror as the child struggled within her. It fought, and the girl screamed herself voiceless in pain and terror. I knew I could cut the child free and save them both, but instead I was forced to watch it tear her apart to be born.
My daughter came into the world to the sounds of breaking bones, tearing flesh, exhausted cries, and gushing blood. When I was finally permitted to pick her up, her mother was dead.
In a very short time, she grew to be a living embodiment of her mother. Arianna was supernaturally beautiful, and I loved her dearly. Joham wasn't impressed with her, as she was venomous and had no talent. I wanted to protect her and raise her myself, but Joham wouldn't hear of it. Her lack of talent made her a throw away child in his mind. He wanted her trained for his army, which he saw as the only redemption for being talentless.
Of course the military training and supernatural talents were not the only uses for female hybrids. Joham made clear his plan to use these girls as breeding stock. Humans were just too weak, and hybrids could carry vampire babies, give birth with little risk, and be ready to breed again in just a month. He told me in seven years Arianna would be old enough to breed. He told me fathers could even mate with their hybrid daughters with no ill effects. He sickened me.
I tried to protect my daughter, but Joham was sleeping with my wife, and he wanted to make my life miserable as a result. I doubt he had feelings for Sulpicia; he likely believed that if she divorced me he could marry her and Volterra would be his. I knew better. The old laws didn't give the usurper any rights. Maybe he believed we were bonded to one another, as typically happens to those of our kind. Whether he was jealous or grasping for more of what was mine, I am not sure. But he delighted in keeping Arianna from me.
I was able to protect Aurora and keep her with me, but Armando and Arianna were at the mercies of Joham's loyal minions.
I tried to fight the influence Joham had on me. I knew it was a compulsion, but I was helpless to do anything about it. All he had to do was ask for something, and I'd feel a warm wave of love for him and gladly hand it over. I handed over my wife and my daughter, and my son left of his own accord.
For years he held us all in his thrall. Years. For those of us who measure our existence in decades and even centuries, it wasn't much more than a blink But the impact it had on all of us was like the passing of millennia. The only thing that kept me from losing my mind was my memories.
I don't have normal memories. I have vast stores of the memories of the thousands of people I've touched in my life. Perhaps even millions of people have given me their memories. In this age, there is a comparison, and it's the enormous amount of knowledge stored within the internet. Decades ago, I used to liken my mind to a library, and each touch had yielded a book of one person's life. But whether I am like a library, or a computer, I had access to a lot of information. What keeps me from going mad, is that I don't have it all loose in my head at once.
I spent hours on end, "reading" the books of my mental library. There were memories that could make me weep at the notions of love, joy, hope, passion, courage, friendship, and faith. To know most of those whose memories I carried were long dead could break my heart. But they were still easier to face than what Joham was doing to my Volterra and my life.
I dwelt long on the memories of my sweet Alice. The tiny glimpses of the future I'd uncovered in her mind were a puzzle, and sometimes a joy to me. I knew she'd seen us as lovers. Over and over again, I sifted through those predictions, longing for the woman like none other. I puzzled over another possible future buried in her memory, where we were not just lovers, but so much more.
In this tiny glimpse of what might be, we were not just lovers, but mates, in every sense of the word. To look into eyes that truly loved me, and make love to a woman I adored was more than a fairy tale – it was an obsession. Again and again I opened this cryptic book and fought to read more of the story. How did it happen? Where was her husband and family? When could I hope to see it unfold for real?
Perhaps I should have paid more attention to her other predictions. Her mind grappled with the idea of a war with the Volturi, but in my own mind I believed she was merely seeing what almost happened when we'd discovered the Cullen's hybrid child. I saw the formations, and the fighting, but I just thought it was something that might have happened. The way her complicated mind worked, it was like wandering through a maze, and it was nearly impossible to tell when things occurred.
I was selfish. I thought only of my needs, and my desires. Locked within the memories of that tiny young woman, was information that might have saved us, if I had only looked.
The little cottage outside of the walls was the one thing aside from my memories, that made my life worth living. My memories kept me from going mad, but my Angelo and his mother were the bright points in my bleak days. Angelo loved me like neither of my youngest children, and Aurora had yet to learn what love really meant. His mother Rachele matured in her mind as she was in her body, and we got along well. I even imagined taking her as a lover, though she never looked at me in that way.
They were my family. I took Aurora to see them, and quite often I had to take Dora along too. Angelo was patient with Aurora, though she was younger than he was. Marietta got along well with everyone, and Dora never seemed more at home than she did in that little house. All three of our first children were showing remarkable talents. Rachele was learning to stretch her ability, and she could hide all the children if she concentrated.
Tamara had finally begun to accept Marcus' attention. I knew from his own thoughts, that he entertained the idea of having Chelsea help grow an attachment between them. He was in love with her. I knew enough about him to know it was the real thing, even if she didn't want to see it. I would have counseled him against the notion, but we'd fallen out of the habit of talking to each other. I could still read him, and we didn't care to speak to each other. Joham was the reason behind our deteriorating friendship.
Joham was every friend we ever wanted or needed. If we wanted to share a secret with someone, we automatically thought of our friend Joham. If we wanted to have a heart to heart discussion, then we wanted Joham as well. He was our friend, and everyone else was just a substitute. We knew it was the compulsion, so we learned to withdraw from our friends, and curb our needs. Volterra became a silent place for those of our kind. The hybrids multiplied, and spread throughout the facilities and the training school, and we did our best to fade into the background.
We celebrated the children's seventh birthday's. They were physically like fourteen year-old's, though the first three years worth of development flew by in the first weeks after their birth. It was only a few months later my world came crashing down on me.
I was summoned to the audience chamber, and watched my worst nightmare unfolding. Joham had them. The guards held Rachele, Tamara, Marietta, and Angelo. As soon as she saw me, Rachele tore free with a scream and threw herself into my arms, begging me to save them.
"Give her to me, Aro." Joham's command was irresistible, and I handed her over to him. What followed was a trial unlike any Volterra had ever seen. There were no witnesses but Marcus and me, and no accusers but Joham himself. We were all accused of keeping secrets and telling lies – none of which was an offense by our laws. Joham tried to say it was treason, and it tore at the very fabric of leadership and control.
We couldn't argue with him; in fact every time he asked a question or made a point, there was someone who was all too anxious to agree with him. When the vote was taken, we even voted with him! We had no will of our own. We unanimously voted that Marcus and I had committed treason in keeping our first born children and their mothers from him. It was a crime he deemed punishable by death.
I was resigned to die. The guard I'd assembled myself, stood poised to tear into me, and the fire was stoked in the execution chamber. In the moments when Tamara saw Marcus facing his death, she declared her love for him.
I know I can never forgive that man for the evil in his heart. Perhaps it was Tamara's declaration of love, or perhaps it was my own goodbye to my children, but Joham had a vendetta against love – I truly believe this now. Perhaps some day I will look through his book in my memory and discover the reason behind his poisonous hatred. But I know I will never forgive him for what he did.
He turned the tables on us, and instead of demanding the lives of Marcus and myself, he pronounced that our children and their mothers would die in our place. I was horrified as Marcus went crazy. In seconds three guard members were down, as he tried to reach Joham. I too fought and freed myself, and ran to my family. I held Angelo to me, and tried to run.
Joham's command stopped me. I could not move, and everything in me fought against him – and lost.
Marcus was immobilized as well, and with a casual flick of his wrist, Joham set the guard on Tamara. Her screams were horrible, but they were nothing compared to her daughter Marietta, as she witnessed her mother's death. They were even less consequential, as Marcus screamed as she was executed.
He was a broken man, and his insane shrieks blocked out enough of Joham's control, he took down several more of the guard as he fought to reach his beloved. Joham ordered me to stop him. I fought with Marcus, and I won.
Marietta knelt by her mother's remains, crying, as she tried to put her back together. Joham ordered me to bring her to him. I complied.
He sat there on his throne, and held the girl, like he actually cared about her. He brushed her hair from her face, and kissed her small cheek. Then he tore into her neck, as only a starving vampire would. He held her tight, as she screamed and struggled, and he drank her precious life's blood, as her father watched in horror. We all heard her heart stop beating, and he tossed her onto the heap of her mother's remains. Marcus collapsed in a heap himself.
The guard brought Rachele closer, so I could watch her execution. She knew better than to beg me, and her last words were of love for our son, and a final plea for me to protect him. Her eyes never left mine as they held her, and tore her apart. She didn't scream or cry, but the sounds of her limbs being torn from her was all the more horrifying in her silence.
My son; my love, light, joy, and salvation, went obediently to Joham. He held my Angelo as he had held Marietta. He ran his fingers through his curls, and when he kissed his cheek, he left a bloody smear from what he'd done to Marcus' daughter.
"Papa, please help me." He was trying to be brave, but I knew he was terrified, even though he didn't raise his voice.
"Yes Aro, I think you should help your son." I was about to tear him free of Joham- had even crossed the floor – when he clarified his wishes. "I think you should help him die. It's only right that you feed on him, as you are the one who created him."
"You will burn in Hell for this – friend." I hated him more than I'd ever hated anyone in my life. The love and adoration I was compelled to feel, mocked that hatred.
"Take your son, Aro, and drain him dry." I felt his full power come to bear on me. I took Angelo in my arms, and he met my eyes. He would soon be a man, and I felt as if I were looking into the eyes of everything good, and noble, and pure that had come from me.
"I love you, Papa, it's not your fault." If I could have wept tears...
"My son, I..."
"Do it!" The compulsion hit me, and I couldn't even finish telling him I loved him. I held him tight, and bit into the precious neck of my own son. I was lost. I felt his sweet blood quenching the eternal thirst, and his memories flooded through me. I loved him, and he loved me without reservation. I drank him in, body and mind. It was sweet, horrible, bliss. His memories of his short life, were filled with magic, love, and joy, and I drank them in with every swallow of his blood.
I felt his heart weaken, and I felt his fear. I would have faced the fires of Hell for all eternity, if I could have stopped and let him go.
"Don't stop. Finish him."
I stroked his curls as I took his life. I folded to the floor, unwilling to let go of him, even though he was dead. I held my son in my lap, and wept tears of blood.
"Leave here now – get out of my sight!" I felt the disgust from him at our display. Marcus was in the arms of madness, and I wept like a baby. I picked up my son, and prepared to leave.
"No. Leave him here; I'll burn the remains myself. Let this be a lesson on how I treat disobedience. Do not keep secrets from me. I will find out, and I will punish you." It took all I had not to tell him about Aurora. Angelo's body on the cold, hard, floor so distracted me, I was able to walk away with my final secret. It was all the defiance I could muster.
A/N: I'm sorry this has taken so long, for those who were reading. I was afraid of dropping spoilers for Cold Fragile Hearts. And now I'm afraid Aro's (my) memory may have confused a few details. I'll just chalk this up to Aro's memories being scrambled and hidden by Angelo for so long. I've got at least one more part to this outtake/story before I can mark it complete.