Jewel in the Crown

Disclaimer: All the characters in the story are the property of Stephanie Meyer. I have borrowed them for my entertainment and (hopefully) your reading pleasure. I make no profit from their use.

Chapter 116: Man-to-Man

We all are standing in stunned silence. I have known for weeks that Aro was responsible for his sister's death, but my bond with him would not permit me to reveal it. But Elisabetta has no such bond. I have suspected that she was dissatisfied with life in here. However, the greatest shock of all was Isabella.

I could see that in the end, Elisabetta was going to be unable to carry out her intention to "out" Aro. Then I realized that Isabella was determined to do it. As Elisabetta "fed" her the information, it burst forth in a torrent of words. Isabella had been harboring a great deal of anger and resentment for the last few months.

And like our daughter, Chelsea's bonding gift simply had no effect on her. It is impossible to imagine how much she must have been struggling to contain herself for these last months against Aro's oppression.

Edward, I had to do it. I couldn't stand one more moment of pretending to obey that man. It is time for him to be stopped. And Marcus is the only one who can do it.

This is all for the best, Edward. Marcus needs this. He has been suffering for centuries and he will finally get his revenge. I do not think that he will hurt your son.

I would agree with Carlisle except that since he and Marcus left for South America, Aro's actions have become more and more unpredictable. He has been living in a state of paranoia and delusion for so long that I don't think that he has fully come to grips with the fact that everything that he has spent the last three millennia building is about to come tumbling down.

I am finding out for myself how blind Alice feels when the wolves are around. Only I am deaf. I can hear the thoughts of everyone in the room except Aro. It somewhat spoils the excitement of hearing Isabella's mind after all the time. At last Marcus responds to Isabella's revelation.

"Aro, my brother," he says slowly. "Is this a lie or the truth?"

"It's a distortion," Aro responds, trying as usual to avoid the truth at all costs.

"Tell me then," Marcus says patiently. "What part of her speech was distorted? Was it the part about Didyme convincing me to leave Volterra? Was it the part about your valuing my gift over hers? Or was it the part about you killing her?"

"It's all a twisting of the facts," he says smoothly. "Isabella has not read my mind. The child probably was confused about what she thinks that she saw. After all, as you yourself have pointed out, she is barely more than two months old."

"Elisabetta, dear," Marcus says turning to her. "Do you believe that you might have been mistaken in what you saw?"

Elisabetta swallows hard and shakes her head no.

"Look at the poor child," Aro says with false pity. "Even now she cannot speak because she knows that she is uncertain."

I'm going to tell it, Edward, as she saw it.

You might as well, since she can't speak for herself.

Isabella looks deeply into Elisabetta's eyes.

I am going to tell them how Aro killed Didyme. You don't have to say anything, just think of the pictures in your head.

Yes, Momma.

"I will tell you what Elisabetta has seen, not heard, in Aro's mind," she says calmly.

Aro grimaces

"Stop me when I get to the points of distortion," she adds sacrastically.

Marcus closes his eyes.

Do I really want to hear this? I suppose that I must.

"Didyme was sitting and reading in the library one day," Isabella begins. "It was at the time before the wives were isolated in their rooms for their own 'safety,' before they had their own personal guards, and before they had Corin to keep them happy. She was alone.

"You came up from behind her and asked her why she was turning Marcus against you. She answered that she was not turning him against you. He was unhappy living as a part of the coven. He hadn't been happy when you had invited Caius and Athenadora to join you. He wanted to leave with her to form their own coven and travel as nomads.

"You became angry with her and accused her of treason. She became angry with you and accused you of tyranny. You told her that there was only one way to deal with traitors, and she said that there was only one way to deal with tyrants. You were so angry that you saw the room through a red haze. You had worked so hard to build the Volturi coven into the most powerful in the world and your own sister was going to destroy it all.

"You were standing and she was sitting. You were able to grab her by the neck and shoulders and snap her neck off by biting. Then you continued to take her apart in this way. When she was in pieces, you set them on fire. You knew that Caius and Athenadora would be coming soon, so you slipped the secret passage."

"What secret passage?" Garrett interrupts. "I thought that I found them all."

"It appears not," Marcus say thoughtfully. "There are only two who know of it, Aro and myself. But I thought you put it in after Didyme's death as a precaution."

"It was there before," Isabella says. "I, he, told you he had put it in after to cover himself. He said that it was a security measure after Didyme was murdered. And by not telling Caius, he was laying the foundation of your distrust as well as dislike of him. But it was really about divide and conquer."

"Divide and conquer," Marcus muses. "Yes, I believe those were the words of our old friend Julius Caesar. Those were the glory days, weren't they Aro? Lots of bloody battles with easy feeding every night. Now how did Caesar die? Oh, yes, he was stabbed to death in Senate House by his enemies and former friends."

"Marcus . . . " Aro begins.

"Standing around here surrounded by your enemies," Marcus continues. "Are you thinking 'et tu, Marce?' How silly! Caesar never said anything that. Shakespeare put those words in his mouth for dramatic effect. Oh, brother! But then you always have liked drama."

"Marcus, my favorite brother . . . "

"Well, now you have the consummate drama," Marcus continues, ignoring him. "And like any tragedy, the man with the greatest hubris, takes the greatest fall."

"How can you trust that the pictures that Isabella has painted for you are not lies?" Aro asks in an almost pleading tone.

But Marcus will have none of it. His mind is filled with pictures if his beautiful wife, the brutality of her death at the hands of her brother, and his centuries of bitter loneliness without her. Although he is maintaining a facade of perfect control, the room is shimmering with red light around him.

"Marcelo," says Marcus quietly. "Drop your shield and get out of my way."

"No!" he says firmly, with a cross look on his face. "I took an oath."

I don't know what's going on, but I have taken my oath to protect them forever.

This gives me the opening I need to break his concentration.

"You took an oath to give your allegiance to the Volturi coven," I say, thinking quickly. "Did you not?"

"Yes, Daddy," he replies uncertainly, sounding much more like the child that he is than he has in a while.

"And you promised to protect them in battle and while under attack," I continue.

"Yes, Daddy," he says, now sounding even more uncertain.

"Is not your Uncle Marcus a member of the coven?" I ask.

"Yes, Daddy," he says faintly.

"You have done your duty, son," I say kindly. "You have protected Aro from attack in battle, but there is no longer any battle going on. And Uncle Marcus is a member of the coven. You should be a good boy and obey him. Drop your shield and get out of the way."

I can see him pondering my words. I have presented him with a new paradigm, one that he had not thought of before.

I am most grateful for your help in this matter, Edward. If I can get my hands on my brother and destroy him, I will only be too happy to free you from your bondage when I am finished with him. Will any of the other guards prevent me from attacking him?

I slowly turn my head once to indicate no, once. Isabella is looking hopeful as she hears his words in my mind. Elisabetta, of course, is looking rather pleased with herself, despite the fact that she is still hiding behind her mother's skirt. Marcelo is baffled.

"Will you obey me, Marcelo?" Marcus asks.

"Don't let down you shield, Marcelo!" Aro orders sharply.

"But you are both in the same coven," he says, as Aro's angry tone begins to tip the scale in Marcus's favor. "Why should I keep up my shield between you?"

Edward, get ready to get him out of the way.

I am very glad at this moment that I am much faster than Emmett, who no doubt has been unable to keep up with the silent communication. Marcus takes a step forward and I hurl myself at Marcelo and grab him, rolling us both across the floor and away from the brothers. There is a mighty crash as Marcus' body soundly hits Aro, quickly followed by the sound of my own body hitting the stone wall.

I get to my feet immediately and rush back to the others. I thrust Marcelo into Rosalie's surprised arms and turn to Jasper.

"Who's winning?" I ask quickly.

It's a dead heat right now. They are very evenly matched.

I listen to their minds, but they are moving too quickly for me to follow. All I can hear is the tenor. This is going to be a fight to the death. However, Marcus has the advantage. Aro is desperately fighting for his life. Marcus is fighting to kill, his anger fueled by centuries of hate and a desire for revenge. But most importantly, he doesn't care if he lives or dies. His single focus is destruction.

There is a certain terrible beauty in watching the two vampires fight. Human eyes would only see a blur of black with the occasional flash of pale skin. The noise is almost as bad as the big battle was. Marcus is holding nothing back. His movements are strictly offensive. Aro doesn't have time to think about anything except his own defense.

It is difficult for one vampire to defeat another in man-to-man combat. Vampires are never rendered fully unconscious, so there is no pause in the action to position one's self to go for the final kill.

Should we try to help him?

"No," I say to Jasper. "This is not our fight."

Marcus will be very angry with us if we steal away his sweet moment of revenge. Besides, the tide is beginning to turn as more often than not, Marcus lands on top of Aro, slamming his body into the stone floor over and over. The fissures are beginning to appear on his face, but if he were not fully swathed in black, I suspect that we would see them all over his body.

What the hell are you waiting for? Let's just help him get it over with!

"Be quiet, you mongrel!" Elisabetta says, smacking him hard on the nose again. "Mind your own business!"

Man, that kid packs a wallop!

"Shut up, Jacob," I mutter, thinking about what a stupid, impatient dog he is.

This is about to get ugly, Edward. I think that we need to get the children out.

I look at the fight and see that Carlisle is right. In a very short time, one or both of them will be in pieces. Marcelo is already clinging to Rosalie's neck and sobbing, not that she's in much better shape. Rosalie has never had a strong stomach for violence.

Isabella is staring at the fight horrified and frozen. She can't get Elisabetta to look away. Gunnar looks over at me.

Should I get them out, Edward?

I nod and mouth, "To the nursery with the others."

He immediately puts an arm around Isabella's waist, scoops up Elisabetta, and leads them to the exit to the wives' quarters.

"Carlisle," I say. "Take Rose and Marcelo out."

He has no trouble leading them out as well.

Sulpicia's mind is now in a full-blown panic, because Santiago is trying to get her out of the room before things get really gruesome. He has already guessed that we aren't going to let Marcus lose this battle. And if he does, we will go in and take down Aro.

I can't leave! I can't leave! He is my husband! He is my life!

I can't let her get away from me. If she gets mixed up in the fight I may have to hurt Marcus.

Edward, I think that we've got this. Let me move my men around. I don't want to give Aro any chance to get away.

I give Jasper a nod without looking at him. He positions Emmett, Peter, and Garrett so that they are surrounding the dais on four sides. Behind each of them are Tanya, Charlotte, and Kate, with Alice behind him. He gestures to Jacob and the wolves to keep Sulpicia and Santiago out of it.

From behind me, I can see through Santiago's eyes that the dogs are snarling and snapping to help him keep Sulpicia in place. It's not so much that she is strong, but she is small and quick. He is large but not as quick as her and also bound to her by Chelsea in such a way that he won't hurt her even to save her life.

As Aro and Marcus continue to twist and turn at the speed of lightening, the crashes between their bodies become louder. Then, Aro gains the advantage by pinning Marcus down. He looks up in triumph before going for the final kill and that single, arrogant gesture is his undoing.

From behind him, Emmett barrels into him, dragging him off Marcus and smashing him into the floor in front of Peter and Charlotte who instantly get to work efficiently dismembering him. As two former warriors from the newborn wars, this is what they do best. As they tear, Jasper, Tanya, and Alice grab the pieces and leave the room to dispose of them with the others in the cistern.

Sulpicia lets up a howl of pain and anguish that pierces our ears. Kate leaps over to help Santiago hold her by stunning her with the electric force of her body until she collapses. Santiago picks her up and relays his intentions to me through his thoughts.

I'm going to take her back to her room and watch over her. I don't know what we will be able to do with her when she wakes up. It may be more merciful to kill her.

I agree, but at the moment there are more important matters to be concerned with. Garrett and Emmett have picked up Marcus from the floor. He surveys the room and then walks over to me and tears off my cloak.

"Edward, you are free!" he says simply.

With a single sweep of my arm, I tear off his cloak.

"So are you, Marcus," I reply.

Marcus looks at the cloaks lying on the ground, and turns to Alice.

"Would you please toss those out wherever you are tossing my brother?" he asks her. "We won't be needing them anymore."

I take a deep breath and sigh in relief.

I feel it too, young Edward. He had me bound to him as well. When I was with Carlisle in South America, I felt the greatest yearning never to return to Volterra again. But I couldn't help myself. I couldn't leave Aro. Now I know why.

"At least you weren't sworn to keep him safe and protect him with your life," I answer him out loud. "I couldn't do anything but stand here while everyone else was destroying him. In fact, it took a great deal of self-control to prevent myself from fighting you."

"But you didn't," he says.

"If I had, I would have ended up dead also," I reply. "And I was determined not to lose my family. But that is also why Santiago wanted to keep Sulpicia out of it. He had no desire to die for Aro. But he has been bound to protect her life with his own."

"As soon as we can," he says. "We will contact Chelsea and tell her to break Santiago, Kristof, Corin and Gunnar's bonds. They deserve to be free men, and she deserves to be free to choose her own life. Without Aro around, I suspect that we will all be a lot happier. And Gunnar deserves to be with Corin."

"Corin's bonds were broken when Aro died," I say. "And so were Gunnar's. Gunnar was never bonded to Isabella and the children. But when she protected him, it created an emotional bond with her. He was determined to repay her for her kindness to him."

"It appears that he has repaid his debt," he says. "Now why don't you introduce me to these friends of yours. I do recognize a few."

"Yes, I know that you recognize Garrett," I say. "And I believe Kate and Tanya."

"Ladies," he says. "I am sorry about your mother, but you must realize that there was no choice. She had to be destroyed with her creation."

"We know that," Tanya answers. "We have never resented your actions."

"They are not here for revenge," I add. "They came on my behalf. These are my brothers, Jasper and Emmett, and this is my sister, Alice."

"Of course," he says. "You are the cause of all this trouble. I'm afraid that because Aro coveted you, he created a very bad situation for you all. However, in the end you prevailed."

"Are you sorry you lost your brother?" Alice asks him.

"No," Marcus and I say together.

"Aro did me a great wrong many centuries ago," he says. "He tried to place the blame on Caius because we didn't get along, but that made no sense. Caius had nothing against Didyme or me. What Isabella said earlier rang true. And by then I knew that the child's gift could not be doubted. But who are you two?"

"This is Peter and this is Charlotte," I reply. "They are friends of Jasper from his early days as a general, so to speak, of a newborn army."

"You are both excellent fighters," he says. "If my brother had survived, I am sure that he would have wanted you as a part of the Volturi."

"And finally," I say. "These are our wolf friends from Forks. You know Jacob already, but the other two are Embry and Seth. Embry came because he is actually Jacob's half-brother. Seth came because it was the right thing to do. You will all have more stories to add to your tribal legends."

Tell him that we certainly will.

"Jacob says that they certainly will," I repeat.

"If you have clothing close by," replies Marcus. "Why don't you put it on so that we can have a proper conversation?"

It's in the reception area. We'll go change. I'd like to be able to speak for myself.

The three wolves go trotting off to get dressed.

"I never thought that I would see the day," says Marcus shaking his head. "When vampires and werewolves would work together."

"That's because we have never had a common goal," Tanya answers. "And besides, these aren't real wolves."

"Felt real enough to me just now," Jacob comments as he walks in. "What about you guys?"

"Yeah, I felt pretty much like a real wolf," Embry says in agreement. "Boy does it ever stink in here!"

"I could say the same about you," Marcus replies drily. "However I am grateful for your part in the destruction of my brother."

"Yeah," Seth says. "It was great to have the chance to kill some vampires that deserved it."

"Our work is done," says Jasper coming in. "That was the last of him."

"What are you going to do now?" Tanya asks. "There aren't many guards left in the tower."

"Eleazer said that he had a few ideas about that," Alice says.

"Well, I believe that we can go get that coward, Eleazer, out of the wives quarters now," Peter says cheerfully. "It should be safe enough for him now!"

"If Eleazer just spent the last couple of hours in the wives' quarters with Athenadora," Marcus remarks. "He is no coward."

"What do you mean?" he asks.

"Peter!" Garrett says cheerfully. "It's time for you to meet Athenadora."

"Who would have more properly been named Hecuba," Marcus mutters.

"Huh?" Emmett asks as we all start down the hallway laughing. "C'mon what's the joke, you guys?"

Author's note: Some of the details that I have included about the Volturi and other vampires mentioned come from The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide. The details of Didyme's death were my own invention based on the sketchy information given in the guide.