The Pilgrimage by Camilla 10
A/N Indeed, a change of scenery … and of date!
Chapter 22 – Epilogue
After seven centuries - Forks
Bride and groom had gone, incredibly happy - deliriously so - that even Rosalie's selfish heart had mellowed today. Carlisle and Esme were saying goodbye to the now departing human guests, while Jasper and Emmett were still keeping watch on the house's perimeter, making sure that the damn dogs had also left. For good, hopefully.
"Jazz, Em, you can come back, I don't have black holes in my vision and I See Edward and Bella taking their plane with no problems. The wolves are not coming back, nor are they going to Seattle. All is well," Alice said at vampire speed.
Soon after, a still sniffling Renee left too, with her husband in tow, and so did Charlie Swan. Freed from the need to keep up appearances, the house and garden became a flurry of extremely fast activity as the vampires put everything in order, piling neatly the caterer's belongings, which would be picked up tomorrow.
After such a long time in the company of humans and their enticing smell, the Cullens and the Denalis decided to go for a quick hunt. They all left, separating in small groups.
Instead of going with Emmett, though, Rosalie went with Tanya, after they had changed from formal dress to jeans. Pity was not a feeling she entertained often, but today she pitied the Alaskan vampire. Her passion for Edward had been genuine, Rosalie believed, and seeing him marrying another - a human at that - and having to put a brave face on it, must have been harrowing. Still, Bella was Edward's mate; Rosalie accepted that now, as well as the fact that Bella would, quite soon, become a vampire too.
Fated, some things are fated, and you have to deal with them, much as the love story between her brother and the human girl had irked her, at the beginning. To think that Bella could have a baby but said she was not interested in having one, never ceased to puzzle Rosalie. She would have done anything to have what her immutable body precluded forever. Still, her new sister had made her choice…
Having quickly disposed of a couple of uninteresting deer (but Rosalie took blood because she had to, not because she particularly liked it, and she felt that her friend shared the indifference, at least today), they perched companionably on two low branches of a tree.
Hoping to distract Tanya and to avoid the Edward issue, she finally asked, with her usual bluntness:
"How did you became a vegetarian, Tanya? You weren't one, at the beginning, I understand."
Tanya, however, was unfazed. She took no offence to such a personal question.
"Indeed I was not… I am a succubus, as you know. I seduced human males and killed them. It was my nature and I didn't know any better."
"So, how did it happen?" Rosalie was really curious: she and most members of their family had been changed by Carlisle, who had discovered by himself the possibility of abstaining from human blood, and taught it to the members of his coven, a rarity among vampires.
As Tanya was taking her time answering, Rosalie wondered if she had blundered into something very private, but finally the other vampire spoke.
"You are bringing me back to a very distant past and to the worst night of my existence. The one when my maker, Sasha, was executed by the Volturi, along with her little…" Here Tanya voice broke.
"I am sorry, I should not have asked…"
"No Rose, it's OK. It was also the night I did something good, unwittingly, unintentionally, and, because of that, I was rewarded beyond my expectations, many years later… That story I can tell you. My sisters know, of course, as it affected them too, eventually, but I didn't tell anybody else, not even Carlisle knows the details. When we met for the first time he was travelling, but still residing with the Volturi, and I didn't think it wise to tell him, lest Aro read him, for any reason. Then it never came up again. But now, if you wish, I'll tell you."
Rosalie nodded eagerly. Imagine, to learn of something that even Carlisle, who knew everything, didn't know …
Tanya resumed her tale:
"My coven was spending time in the Balkans and one night I was hunting in my particular way. In a tavern I noticed a very handsome human, exactly the kind I liked, and I decided to have him. He was young, strong and… a virgin, I later discovered. Delightful. So I had him and he pleasured me to no ends. He was so lovely that I felt a pang of regret, when the time came to assuage my thirst, but the call of his blood was impossible to resist. However, I didn't manage to drain him completely, because Irina came for me, crying that Sasha was in mortal danger. She told me to kill the human and follow her. I should have snapped his neck then… but I couldn't do it. So I left him alive and ran after my sister.
"Well, the tragedy that followed and the despair in which my sisters and I found ourselves made me almost forget that encounter. Later on, I wondered fleetingly if the man had died from the blood loss or if I had turned him. Another crime, according to the Volturi law, because a Dam is supposed to take care of her newborn, lest he kills indiscriminately and gives the secret away. But I had left the Balkans with my sisters and did not want to go back there. We returned to our land of origin, Russia, and decades passed.
Here Tanya stopped speaking, her eyes unfocussed, probably remembering the long, somewhat bleak years of her long existence. Rosalie was mated, and that helped her to endure a life she disliked. She certainly did not envy the Alaskan vampire. The forest's noises reasserted themselves till the cry of a night bird roused Tanya from her reverie.
"Something had happened to me, however," she said. "I still hunted men, of course, but sometimes – not always - I let my lovers live, and drank from strangers. As for my sisters, they occasionally took vampire lovers, and hunted with them. In fact I was alone in our isba when two visitors came.
"One was him, the man I had seduced and turned that night in the Balkans. His name, he told me, was Adso, and he was with his mate, a young vampire called Alina. She still had the red eyes of newborns, while seeming well in control of herself. But what surprised me completely were his eyes. They were the color of amber, not the dark, almost black, red of mature vampires."
"A vegetarian!" exclaimed Rosalie.
"Yes, the first one I ever saw. At the beginning I did not understand what he wanted. He said he had been looking for me and I was scared. If he was looking for revenge it was one against two, and I would have been overcome."
Rosalie understood revenge. In fact, those who had caused her to become a vampire (not counting Carlisle, who had only wanted to save her), had not survived. But, evidently, this was not the case, because Tanya added:
"Adso was not vengeful, though. In a strange way he was even grateful:
'If you had not turned me I would never have met Alina,' he said, 'and, while I reviled your name for decades, the fact remains that you did not kill me.'
"He told me," Tanya continued, " what had happened to him afterward. He joined the Volturi and became one of their Lures, diverting pilgrims, not tourists, like it happens now, of course. In the fourteenth century the coven members were impersonating monks, with Aro as their Abbot, imagine."
Indeed, what a story! Rosalie was enthralled.
"Well, Adso was leading one of those pilgrimages when his existence changed completely. He met his mate – she was still human then. And, in a chance encounter with a nomad, he learned that we could live on animal blood. This revelation came to him at exactly the right time. He hated what he was doing more and more every day, and so he changed. He took his leave from the Volturi – how he accomplished it I do not know, because he never said it and I did not insist on knowing – and left them. His mate's was the last human blood he drank, and he did it only to change her, something she wanted."
"But why did he look for you? What was his reason?" asked Rosalie.
"To tell me that it was possible to abstain from killing men, what else? And, unwittingly, he had found me exactly when I was ready for it. As I didn't kill all my lovers the first time I went with them, I had longer relationships, sometime. Therefore I came to know humans better and the need to feed from them was troubling me. I had been wondering if I could change my habits and, on learning it was possible, I embraced the animal diet and never looked back. Eventually I convinced my sisters to do the same, and here we are, almost seven centuries after.
"His reason, you ask? He never told me, but Alina did, a moment we were alone before their departure:
'Adso wants to atone for all the murders he has committed,' she told me. 'After a while he decided that instead of self-flagellating he should try and convince another vampire to change like he had. He could not bring back to life his victims, but he could spare the life of future ones. And then he thought of you, Tanya. He believed that, as his Maker, you would be more responsive than others, and he was right, I think.'
"You, see, Rosalie, Adso was – still is probably, as I have no reason to believe he is dead – a deeply religious person. He was a novice in a monastery before becoming a vampire. When I met him he was no longer in the cloister, but he had left it because he was disgusted with the Church, not because he had completely lost his faith.
"So, another vegetarian, and another vampire of faith. Carlisle would love so much to meet him," Rosalie mused.
"He would go by another name now, not Adso, because he would fear the Volturi, and in general he never kept the company of vampires. I have not met him again, and I have no idea in what part of the world he is now. Sometimes – and this happens more frequently in the mass communication society - I find a bit of information which makes me wonder if it is about him, but I am not sure…
Tanya hopped out of the tree and stretched daintily.
"But you are right, you know, Rose. It would be fantastic if he and Carlisle could meet. Who knows, maybe it will happen, one day...
A little later the two vampires heard the others coming back and joined them, returning to the Cullen's home.
Yes, The Pilgrimage ends here, but I have the feeling that Carlisle and Adso will indeed meet, in a not too distant future. When I have figured it out I hope to write an outtake and tell my readers about this momentous meeting. I'll not mark the story complete till then.
I have to thank again all the people who joined the pilgrimage and walked with me: In Italy they are: Raum, who pre-read, helped me with all the images I posted elsewhere and edited the Italian version, and my husband, who hates vampires, but still gives me historical tutoring, when needed. Over the Ocean my thanks go to Aleea b4u, Maniac Motherland, Serendipitous, Miaokuancha and JMolly. Do check their stories out. My incomparable final editor is Stefanie, The Hobbit Ivy. And thanks to those who read, despite The Pilgrimage has no Edward and Bella in it, and to those who reviewed. Your comments made me very happy. In this sense I have heartfelt gratitude for Lissa Bryan, TwiLoverSue and Lion in the Land.