Previously: Afton betrays the Volturi Crest by telling the Romanians about Isabella. The Romanians decided to send Afton back to Italy with Fyodor (the Romanian brothers' right hand man) to tell them that he has betrayed both sides even though the Volturi will find out that there is more to Stefan than meets the eye...


Chapter 12: Such a Decision

Volterra had been abnormally quiet since the day that Afton had left for Romania. The ball was to be held in a week and a half. I was growing agitated. Aro was still refusing to speak to Sulpica, and every time that I considered speaking to her myself, Aro intervened somehow and would distract me.

To my great surprise, Caius and I had grown quite close, and his wife, Athenodora, had become a very dear friend of mine. It was often the three of us, joined by Demitri, seen speaking together and laughing. As was usual, Demitri and I were present in the throne room, socializing with Caius, when the human secretary rushed into the room.

"Kings, Fyodor is here with Afton."

I stood quickly, worry gripping my unmoving heart. Without thought, I spoke. "Send them in."

Once she had left again, I turned to look at Caius, and he motioned for me to take Aro's throne. I opened my mouth to suggest that we send Demitri to fetch Kings Aro and Marcus, but Caius just raised his hand and shook his head. "I want to hear this first." His voice was cold and sure. Caius was in full battle mode, and my warrior temperament responded automatically to his command.

The vampire that I recognized from the thoughts of others, the Romanian Fyodor, walked in first, and Afton followed obediently behind, looking intently at the ground. Fyodor inclined his head respectfully in our direction, his gaze intent on Caius. He did not even glance at me in curiosity. I could not help but think that he was a very good and loyal messenger. It both impressed and worried me further.

"Quid lingua loquis faciemus?" Fyodor asked in broken Latin. Still, I found myself respecting the man that was here to represent our enemy for speaking our official language while on our lands (even though we did not often speak it ourselves).

"Let us speak English. It would be easier on us all." Caius replied, motioning for Fyodor to go ahead and say what he came to say.

"Very well, sir. I am here to deliver this man back to you. I doubt very much that he is of any use to anyone in this conflict. This man has lost all honor that he might have possessed long ago." Fyodor said, standing in a militant fashion as he spoke dispassionately. "Do with him what you will. I would suggest you have Aro of Velathri read his thoughts before disposing of him, but I would understand quite well if you did not take the advice of a vampire of the Romanian order."

The room was silent. I felt my thoughts moving quite fast, and my head was spinning. Had I heard that correctly? They believed that Afton had betrayed us all, and not only the Romanians. Surely, that was not what was happening. More importantly, Chelsea was nowhere to be seen.

Caius finally moved to lean forward, resting his elbows on his knees and crossing his fingers together in the space below his chin. He said nothing. He only watched Fyodor for a moment before turning his head toward me.

"What say you?" Caius asked softly, watching me carefully. I watched him back for a long moment, wondering exactly what he was asking of me. His expression was quite open, and it seemed as if he were looking to me as an equal, so I took a chance and replied as one. Instead of suggesting getting Aro, as I would have done had he not looked at me in such a way, I advocated for something a bit more unconventional.

"I can find out the truth of the matter." I suggested, not taking my eyes from his. Caius regarded me for only a short moment before nodding to me and waving me forward. I stood from Aro's throne and walked confidently down to where Fyodor and Afton were standing. Once I was standing in front of Afton I reached out, tilting his head up so that he was looking into my eyes, and spoke. "These are very serious accusations. Has your mind lied to me, Afton? Have you betrayed us all?"

"I dare not lie to you, Leading General." Afton tried to say, his voice breaking violently on my title. His next words were so quiet that I could hardly hear them even with my advanced senses. "I told them of you..."

"Such is certainly in the name of treason, Afton." I replied dryly, causing him to flinch. Concentrating, I brought forward Aro's, Jane's, and some of Peter's gifts that I had still stored in my shield, and I unleashed them upon him. He screamed, his legs giving out, but I continued to hold him up by his jaw as his pain cleared his thoughts of lies. I read them all, in their complete form, and random facts and feelings related to his betrayal flowed into my head. If it were not for the torment that I had endured in the South and in training from Jasper, I would not have been able to keep my face impassive.

First came his thoughts and memories.

"I would kill your love." I cannot let it happen. Chelsea must be safe.

"Her name is Isabella…" I am now truly dead.

"Did you really think you could serve two opposing masters?" No, only the Volturi and my mate. Still was not possible. I have killed us both.

"Only because you will lose!" Never realized how shaky my loyalty was to the Crest.

Next came the truths from Peter's gift.

Stefan's gift is not a gift. It is a curse. It lives within him.

They come in a week, just days before the ball.

The future has changed. King Aro begins to fall from what little grace he still owns within him.

I was shocked back into myself too quickly, and I staggered back, dropping Afton to the ground where he shook and spit up venom. My eyes shot up to make eye contact with Fyodor. He was watching me with cautious eyes.

"You are Isabella. You are King Aro's third." He said to me, not bothering to try and hide his awe and hesitation toward me.

"I am. Thanks to the rat, you and your master's know a good amount about me." I replied, careful not to give too much away.

"Do you know how much we know?" He asked, obviously genuinely curious on top of trying to get information for his masters. I could not hide the grin that stretched my lips.

"I know many things." I said no more, and his mouth twitched as well, but the beginnings of the smile died on his face when the double doors burst open. I knew who it was right away.

"What is going on here? Isabella, you should leave." Aro said, looking slightly shaken to see me standing right before Fyodor, obviously conversing with him.

"Afton revealed me to them. They already know." I replied, holding out my hand in offering so that he could read me. Perhaps that was when I made my first mistake. I hid the fact that I had used Peter's gift as well, and I kept the bits of knowledge from him using my shield. Not only that, but I absorbed a bit more of his gift than I probably should have. I should have seen that this was the beginning of something far more dangerous. I was losing faith in King Aro of Velathri, master of the Volturi Crest. "What are you going to do?"

Aro stared at Afton with a great and angry sadness for but a moment before composing himself, bending down, lifting Afton to his feet, and turning to Caius. "Mortum."

"Mortum." Caius replied, agreeing on a death sentence. With that, Aro waved me forward and turned to walk to his throne.

I did not let my hesitation show in my movements or my expression. I waited until Fyodor had stepped back slightly before turning my attention to Afton. I said nothing. I could not think of anything to say to him. I simply nodded in order toward the floor, and he obediently knelt.

I could not stop the sigh that escaped me before I lifted my hands and decapitated him as quickly as possible. It sickened me how natural it felt, how easy it was for me to do. My insides seemed to twist in rebellion against the execution, the lack of a fair fight. I did not burn him. I left that to the kings. I nodded to Fyodor to dismiss myself and turned to walk passed the kings and through the door behind the thrones to my rooms.

As I passed him, Aro reached out as if to grab my arm. "Isabella, surely you will stay-"

"Shall I stay for the fire that shall symbolize the beginnings of the next war?" I finished dryly for him, my mind going into a cold and dark shutdown. I did not look at him as I avoided his touch. "I am no executioner, Aro. You may do it yourself, and you do not need me here for it." Without another word, I left the room, letting the door close heavily in my wake.

Without really thinking about it, I pulled out my blackberry and dialed the Major's number. It did not even complete a full ring.

"Isabella." He answered, seeming concerned.

"Please, just talk." I replied, letting him hear the struggle in my voice. I arrived to my rooms then and shut myself inside.

"The three of us are headed there for the ball already. We will probably get there within the next few days. Peter insisted that it would be easier to move without suspicion if we were to be done with our journey before the others with invites even leave for Italy." I simply stood by the window and listened to Jasper speak. It was something concrete to concentrate on, and before I knew it, the darkness returned to the back of my mind. I was calm once more, but I had a feeling it would not last for long.

I am not sure how he knew, but Jasper seemed to sense my change in emotion. "Can I ask what triggered it?"

He was the only one that I felt like I could really talk to about it, so I did. "I met Fyodor today. The Romanians know of me now. War is coming."

"Who was it?" He asked quietly. I sucked in a sharp breath. I knew what he was asking. I answered on my exhale.

"Afton." There was a long silence after my confession. It was the calm before the storm, and I knew that he was working to ask me a shattering kind of question. Still, I was not prepared for his words when he spoke them.

"Are you going to have to choose?"

"Between the Whitlocks and the Crest?" I tried to clarify. I was in shock.

"No. Are you going to have to pick between yourself and your mate?" He whispered, softening the blow of the inquisition with his kind tone. I actually shuddered at the possibility. Even more quietly, I replied.

"I don't know, Major. I don't know anymore."

.:!*!:.

It was four days later when Aro finally approached me. I was sitting in the training room, watching Demitri spar with Jane and Alec. I was not really instructing, simply observing. During a particularly close part of the match, Aro entered, throwing off Jane's concentration. Demitri took the chance and had them both beaten in but three seconds.

"Come on, Jane. You are better than that." I heard Demitri scold as she stood and they prepared for another round. Aro walked across the room, ignoring them entirely, and sat cross-legged next to me. I did not acknowledge him. I kept my eyes trained on the spar starting in front of me.

"I came to give you an update." Aro said, obviously trying to start a conversation.

"Very well." I replied, waiting for the news he had to bring me.

"Fyodor said that the Romanians are keeping Chelsea with the mates of those in their forces. Her safety has been guaranteed by them."

I could not help the snort that escaped me at that. I also could not stop my mouth from spouting my thoughts on the matter. "She will burn with the rest of us."

"You think that the Volturi will lose?" Aro asked, actually sounding surprised.

"Don't you see, Aro?" I insisted, turning at last to meet his eyes. He looked as if he took umbrage at my words. "We have already lost."

The reality of my own words hit me as I said them. There was no winning this war because there would be no ending. As long as vampires lived, there would be loyalties to the Crest and to the Romanians. This conflict was as immortal as the people that fought it. My words only seemed to cause his frustration at me to grow into something akin to anger.

"I have been waiting countless centuries for this moment." Aro said between gritted teeth.

"The throne not enough for you, then?" I replied, shocked at my own audacity.

"You know that isn't what this is about, Isabella."

"I know nothing of the sort!" I shouted, rising to my feet to tower over him. He automatically stood as well, going on the offensive. His aggressive stance did not stop me. "I have seen it for myself inside of your mind, Aro! Not even you know what this is about… not really. You do this because you do not know what else to do. Your whole life you have manipulated, stolen, bargained, and killed. You have lived for multiple millennia, and still you stay stuck in your ways! Has it never occurred to you that the Romanians may only fight your authority because they are as clueless as to what to do with eternity as you are?"

"Isabella!" Aro yelled, shocked to the core by my blatant disrespect. Jane, Alec, and Demitri were silently watching our standoff with worried expressions. Aro's expression was threatening when he spoke again, and I knew then that I was now seeing the darkness within him. "You would do well to remember who I am."

"Pedicabo ego vos!" I cursed at him in retaliation before stomping away. I heard Aro follow nearly silently, and so I would have had adequate warning even if it weren't for the frightened faces of Jane, Alec, and Demitri. Aro grabbed my arm roughly to spin me around, but I used the contact to attack him with the gifts that I had stored up. I did not even try to separate them before unleashing them upon his mind. As I hit him with the onslaught, I absorbed just enough of his gift to leave him helpless but not damage him.

Once he had fallen to the ground, barely conscious, I ignored the mating pull telling me to comfort and heal him and looked down my nose at him.

"I think that it would do you well to remember who I am." I said before abandoning him where he lay curled in on himself on the ground. I left the room without looking back.

.:!*!:.

"Isabella." Caius called, entering my rooms where I stood staring out the window.

"Yes?" I answered, keeping my voice steady and strong.

"What are you leaving out? What are you not telling Aro?" Caius asked. Then, just as I was about to reply, he added on another question. "Better yet, why are you keeping secrets from a King at all?"

"He is compromised." I replied, surprised that I was actually going to go through with my plan. It was risky. I could be discovered, but I knew that I would at least have the Whitlock's at my back when I walked into the lion's den. At Caius's silence, I turned to face him and looked him dead in the eye. "It is time for the Volturi to go in a different direction."

"What are you saying, Isabella? Do you realize how long Aro and I have fought alongside one another? You know of how we met in the land of Pharaoh before the change. You know that I have sworn myself to him just as he did to me all those ages ago." Caius said, watching me with a disbelieving gaze. "Do not ask something of me that I cannot give."

"I am not asking for you to forsake your loyalty to Aro. I ask the opposite. I need you to prove how strong your loyalty to him is." I took a deep breath and decided to just spit it out. "I need you to make me a queen, and then, I need you to let me betray you."

After a beat, I saw the light go off in his mind. "You wish to take Afton's place as a double agent. How do you expect me to convince Aro to go along with this?"

"That is just it. You do not need to tell Aro anything. You have to act as if you believe I am truly a traitor. You have to shun me, hunt me, hate me, and forsake my name. Then, you will have to call me friend and act traitor yourself." I said, watching as he got a dark look in his eyes. He was completely still. I held out my hand as if to shake his. "What say you?"

Caius did not react for a moment, but then I saw a look come into his eyes that I had only ever seen in Aro's memories. It was determined, accepting, and desperate. He stepped forward and took my hand.

"Aro took the initiative for me in the beginning, saving me from execution when Egypt was conquered, and then he came back for me and gave me this immortal life. I shall return the favor."

"I am with you, Isabella." Caius said aloud, taking back his hand. I nodded in return.

"I leave for Romania before dawn." I left the room without another word. This was my last chance. If I could not infiltrate the Romanian forces and stop this war before it started, then I would be forced to choose between my mate and myself. I was not sure I could make such a decision.


A/N: Hey! I was able to update two months before I thought I could. That is exciting! I hope that you guys enjoyed the chapter. Please tell me what you think. I will still be updating after Christmas. Those months at the beginning of 2014 will be a lot less crazy since I will be taking less credits. I hope to finish this story instead of taking a full course load. =D On that note, this story should be done in just over six months! Crazy! Thank you all so much for sticking with me through my random updating. I hope you continue to do so. You guys mean the world to me!