AN: here's the next chapter :)

Chapter 21


We arrived at Volterra a few minutes later and Edward gaped up at the building as we pulled into the carriage drive.

'I thought the castle was small to fit in with the village.' He said.

'Part of it is. There are several buildings that make up the entire complex. One of them is in the town. It's connected with underground tunnels to this part. This is the other entrance, just outside of town.' I told him.

'The inside is even bigger.' Jane told him with a smile.

We got out and the heavy wooden doors opened. Two cloaked vampires stepped forward and bowed. 'Milady.' They greeted me.

I nodded to them and swept past them into the hall, with Edward a step behind me and the siblings and the rest of the family trailing after us.

I heard the shocked gasps travel through the Cullen coven.

'This is amazing.' Carlisle breathed. 'so much history so perfectly preserved.'

The vestibule was a large marble entrance hall with gilded features and an ornate painted ceiling by none other than Michelangelo himself. A large crystal chandelier threw rainbows across the marble floor as the light from the rounded window over the entrance struck it.

'Come on.' I told them, walking on through another set of heavy wooden doors, intricately carved with vines and animals. There was a reception like area with a receptionist sitting at a small wooden desk in the corner. She nodded to us as we walked in. I nodded back.

Edward jerked. 'she's human.' He whispered to me.

I nodded. 'the castle is open to human visitors every once in a while. Can't have a vampire staff because of that. By opening every once in a while, ot makes the humans leave this place alone. Their curiosity is satisfied and there is no mystery for them to explore.'

Edward nodded thoughtfully. I lead the group to the left, and up the large marble staircase.

'The west wing is clear, Bella. We made sure to keep it that way.' Alec told me.

'Good. And my things?'

'We made sure to keep them protected. The brothers did enter your room but they didn't find anything of note.'

'Good. Thank you.'

I guided everyone to the west wing and stopped in the hallway outside my quarters. 'This is the west wing, every door holds apartments which you are free to use. You may chose whichever one you like. If there's something you wish to change, let me know and we can make it happen. My apartments are over here.' I gestured down the hall. 'and the siblings are across the hall from me. I would suggest you rest for a while. And we will meet again at midnight in the throne room.'

'I suggest you stay in your rooms for now. Not all the guard may take kindly to you being here.' Jane suggested.

Rosalie frowned. 'We're prisoners?'

I shook my head. 'No, of course not. You are free to leave if you wish to leave. But roaming around the castle is ill advised right now. After tonight it will be fine. But until I am sure who is here and what their reasons are for being here, it is better to err on the side of caution, especially since you also don't know your way around this castle yet'

'Fine.' Rosalie huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.

I nodded. 'I will see you at midnight.'

I turned around and headed down the hall. Edward remained with his family a moment, urging them to listen to me. He reminded them that this was my world, and that they had to follow my rules. They reluctantly agreed with that.

I headed into my chambers, and just before I closed the door Edward's hand on the wood stopped me. He stepped into my room and closed the door after himself.

'I'm sorry for my family.' He muttered.

I shrugged. 'I know it's strange for them. I don't blame them.'

He nodded. 'So what are we doing?'

'we are doing nothing. I am going to see who is here and what their plans are.'

Edward frowned. 'you mean I have to stay here too?'

I nodded. 'it's better if you remained here until tonight as well. I have no idea what we're facing, right now. And you are the one weakness I have that can be exploited.'

'But I don't want to leave you alone to face who knows what' he argued.

'Edward, I can take care of myself.'

'I know that.' He sighed. 'I know you can. And I'm not trying to be difficult. I know this is what you do. but I just got you back.' He whispered, stepping closer to me and taking me into his arms.

He held me tightly against his chest for a moment, his nose buried in my hair. I relaxed against him and pressed my face against his chest, soaking up his comforting presence.

'I know.' I muttered, as I placed a soft kiss on his chest. 'I know you worry. But this is what I need to do, and I can't have you in danger while I do it. So please, stay here. For my sake.'

Edward groaned and pulled back. He took hold of my face as he regarded me for a moment. Then he nodded.

'Alright. I'll stay here.' He murmured. 'but can you please lift your shield every once in a while? So I can hear you and know you are safe?'

I smiled at him and nodded. 'of course.' I promised him, then I stretched up on my toes and pressed a kiss to his lips. 'I'll be fine. And I'll be back before you know it.'

'I doubt that.' He muttered, grabbing me tighter and pressing his lips against mine more firmly. For a moment longer we kissed, until I pulled back.

'I have to go now.' I told him.

He nodded. 'Alright, be careful.'

'I always am.' I assured him, then I headed out of the room. I'll be fine I thought to him as I turned the corner.

Then I headed back down the stairs. I wanted to ge the lay of the land first, but I didn't want to announce my presence too much yet. So I threw my shield tighly around myself, disguising my presence and stuck to the shadows and back passages as I traversed the castle, keeping my ears open.

There were quite a lot of vampires still here. Most of them were a bit aimless. They hung around the library and training rooms, just passing time. a few were in the gardens, enjoying the sunshine away from human eyes. It seemed there was no indication of trouble yet. But it could be the quiet for the storm, it probably was.

No take over had ever gone without a hitch. So I wasn't expecting this one to go smoothly either, especially not with so many witnesses to see me take down the Volturi. This was unchartered territory for me. Never before had I had witnesses of my destruction of a senate. I had always made sure to keep to the shadows, my presence only known to a select few vampires. But now I had announced who I was and that I was actually the one in charge before more than fifty vampires. So I wasn't sure how things would go this time around.

The vampires could start to see it as an invitation to challenge me more often and more openly. Though they had seem how it would end for them, the rumors could distort the story enough for vampires to at least try it. Some vampires really thought they were invincible. Sadly being changed into a vampire didn't cure people of their overinflated ego's. In fact it usually made it worse.

As I slipped into the lower levels of the castle, I started to see more vampires. It seemed there was an influx happening. The guards had all returned, so most were familiar faces, but there were new faces among the crowds. New faces I didn't recognize, and that made me apprehensive.

Something could be brewing. So I kept to the shadows, just another face among the crowds. I glided among them, hidden by my shield, listening to their conversations. There were rumors. A lot of them. But none of them were cause for concern yet to me. It seemed word had travelled that something had killed the Volturi in a great battle. It seemed the rumors were still undecided on what exactly; some referenced me, others blamed werewolves, spinning the tale that Marcus had found the a large group of children of the moon and valiantly strove to eradicate them, but the pack had been more populous than the Volturi had imagined and they had succumbed after killing the entire group.

Preposterous really, as if the Volturi had been that noble. But I kept my mouth shut and moved on. There were some murmers about who would take over now, especially among the old guard. They were antsy, unsure of their positions and it seemed they were willing to fight to keep what they thought of as theirs; riches, status and all the blood they wanted.

I rolled my eyes at that.

Mostly though it was quiet, everyone seemed to be waiting.

I went back up to the throne room. Jane and Alec were already there, they'd done their own reconnaissance these past few days. I signed for them to follow me, as I headed past them towards the hidden private library just off the throne room that I had always used and which was expressly forbidden territory for everyone else.

Alec closed the door behind him. 'There's murmurs but not much else. No sign of a coup.' He stated.

Jane nodded in agreement. 'The guard is antsy though. They're worried for their positions.'

'I've seen more unknown vampires filling the lower levels. Have you heard anything about them?' I asked.

Jane nodded. 'A few guards have invited their friends to come. The castle is open now. It seems vampires are taking advantage of that, to have a free roof over their head, warm water to shower in and a comfottable bed if they want it.'

That did make sense. The castle was vast and known for its luxuries. I didn't blame vampires for trying to score some free room and board while it was still possible.

'What of the rumours about the Volturi borthers' death?'

'Not much, yet. People are curious. The guards are getting a lot of questions. Some are blaming them, there are a few symphatizers who stayed behind who want to know what happened and are creating a bit more of a rucus.'

'The wives?'

Jane nodded. 'they've been besides themselves.'

I rolled my eyes. 'They hated their husbands not that long ago.'

'I think they're playing up the widow card, even though everyone knows they're not mates, to keep their places. Perhaps even take over their husbands places.'

'But they have no support as of yet. The guards are keeping them in their tower and refusing to let them out.'

I frowned at that. 'that's a bit harsh.'

Alec shrugged. 'They're just keeping their orders.'

'I'll head over to see the wives myself in a bit. I'll see if they're a threat or not.'

'When are you going to seat the new council?' Jane asked curiously. 'And who is it going to be?'

'We'll talk about that tonight. The cullens will join us then. They're willing to help settle things down.'

Alec frowned. 'why won't you tell us?'

I levelled him with a look. 'Are you questioning me?'

Alec paled and quickly shook his head.

Though I accepted and tolerated a lot from the siblings, as I did care for them, there was a limit to what I tolerated. And being questioned about my actions was one of them. I told them what they needed to know and that was that. And right now I was still thinking things over, which meant they didn't need to know anything else.

'Good.' I said curtly. 'We'll meet in the West wing living room at midnight. Until then I want you to start asking some questions. Try to see where people's loyalties lie and question a few of the newcomers as well. Are they all just there for a free roof over their head? Just make sure to keep your talents hidden and stay inconspicuous.'

Both nodded and quickly set off.

They were doing their jobs well. They were a bit insecure still, looking to me a lot for guidance, but I was pleasantly surprised with how well they were handling everything. Still, they had a lot to learn.

Sunken in my thoughts of what the best solution moving forward would be, I headed to the east wing. The wing where in the wives were kept in the tower. I hadn't realized their treatment of their wives had gotten this inhumane. They were literally imprisoned and kept compliant with the help of Corin. Which reminded me, I would probably have to deal with her soon as well. If her gift was really so powerful that she could manipulate the entire guard, she had to be dealt with. But that was a problem for later.

I ascended the stairs of the east wing tower and was met with two guards.

'This area is off limits.' One muttered in a bored tone.

'The volturi is gone. You don't need to follow their commands anymore.' I responded.

'Didn't you hear me?' he spat. 'this area is off limits'

'You don't know who I am do you?' I asked him with a slight smile.

'I don't give a fuck.'

'You should listen to me while I'm still giving you a chance.' I smiled sweetly at them. 'Go and leave your posts, the Volturi are gone.'

'And you should listen to me while you can still walk, leave or I start tearing off limbs.'

I tutted him. 'So violent. Is that what the Volturi told you to do? Threaten anyone with bodily harm that wanted to come up here?'

'It's none of your business what our orders are.'

'Well, you see, it actually is. So one last time leave now.'

'Fuck off.'

I sighed. 'Alright then.' I grabbed the man by his neck and ploughed him into the wall beside him. I tightened my grip on his neck until I felt his skin break under my fingers. 'it seems you don't know who I am. So I'll just introduce myself. My name is Isabella the First. The Volturi are gone. And you will abandon your posts right now, or face my wrath.'

The other man gaped at me. He was slightly smarter than his colleague it seemed, as he was backing away from me with his hands up.

'Why are you still loyal to masters who are no longer here?'

'They're… they're not gone!' the one in my grasp wheezed out.

'Pardon?' I was dumbfounded.

'They're alive and in hiding because some bitch tried to take over. The call went out to stand our ground and that the masters would rejoin us with an army any moment.'

I stared at the guy in disbelief. 'Who the fuck told you that?'

'The inner guard, Renata and Felix.'

I blinked. They had been present at the demise of their masters, why were they spreading lies? Were they planning something themselves? But then it didn't make sense that they would claim the brothers would be returning… it was an odd situation.

It seemed there was something going on after all. I debated for a short moment what to do with idiot 1 and idiot 2 in my grasp.

'Are you loyal to the volturi?' I asked them.

'Always.' They both vowed.


That threw them for a moment as they stared at me like I had grown a second head for asking them this question.

'Why would you stay loyal to tyrants? Did you not see their tyrannical ways? Or did you like it? Did you like lording power over those who were lesser than you? Did you like the freedom the Volturi gave you to slaughter and murder and harass people to your liking? Did you like being able to use your powers to intimidate others?'

'We're vampires! Of course we're better than others!' the one not in my graps said cockiliy.

It seemed he had grown some balls, simply because he was still out of my grasp.

'Inferiority complex…' I shook my head. There was no hope for these bozos then. Within the next second I had beheaded the first vampire and sprung onto the second, beheading him as well. I quickly tore apart their bodies. I couldn't set them on fire here though. There was a distinct chance it could set the entire castle on fire if I did that, but the bigger risk was alerting other vampires at what had happened. And I didn't want that. So I quickly bundled their parts up and stuffed them into a hall closet. They were dead. They weren't going anywhere anyway until I had time to properly deal with their bodies.

I hurried on to the chamber that housed the wives and tore opend the door, breaking the lock easily. Though why it even had a lock I couldn't fanthom.

Anathodora and Sulpicia let out a scream.

'Calm down, ladies.' I told them as I stepped into the spacious living room. At least they weren't living in squalor. They were in an opulent living room with separate bedrooms off of it, and an office it seemed. There were large double doors leading to a balcony that overlooked the castle courtyard. They were being treated as queens it seemed.

'Ms Isabella' both stood up and bowed immediately.

'What are you doing here?' Sulpicia asked.

'Have you come to tell us the rumours are all lies? That our husbands are safe and well and home again?' Anathadora asked clutching her hands in front of her chest.

I stared at them in disbelief. 'for fuck sake, ladies. You hated your husbands. Why the fuck are you acting like meek little damsels when I know damn well you are powerful vampires that are thousands of years old and could have a life far away from all of this, being able to make your own choices and live your own lives. We're in the 21st century! You can actually go out and do things now.'

Both ladies gaped at me. 'We don't hate our husbands.' Sulpicia spluttered after a moment.

I cocked a brow at her. 'Sulpicia, have you forgotten how often I have heard you bitching and moaning about how Aro is a good for nothing asshole who should rot at the bottom of the sea?'

'That… that's just marital strife!'

'Vampires don't have marital strife where they wish their partner dead, honey.' I sat down on the couch as I regarded them both. I wasn't sure what their play was, yet. It could be that they really had no clue how to function outside of their role as queen. But it could also be a ploy to gain sympathizers to their side and try to take over.

'You wouldn't know' Anathadora snapped.

'I know more than you will ever know.' I snapped back. 'now sit down.' I ordered them both, my voice carrying an inescapable authority, that had both ladies sink down on the couch opposite me in the next second. 'I don't know what you're playing, but I will warn you once.' I told them, leaning slightly forward to let them know I wasn't playing. 'Any fealty to the Volturi won't help you from this point on. It will be a detriment to you. You know who I am and you know it is I who controls the vampire senate. I will install a new senate and any opposition will be met with a swift end. Do I make myself clear?'

The ladies swallowed and nodded.

'You both will never be candidates for the new senate. You've proven yourself to be meek and unreliable and only care about appearances. You like the status, but not the responsibility. Planning a coup would be the dumbest thing either of you could possibly do. Understood?'

Both nodded again.

'Alright. Now I will give you a choice: continue as you have, seeking sympathy and pretending to be wronged widows, to gain supporters, and meet your ends at my hands. Or, leave the castle, stop your rumors and for once in your existence actually start living your own lives.'

The ladies just stared at me, indecision clearly on their faces. I wasn't sure if they were undecided about giving up their bid for supporters, or if they were simply too scared to leave the castle and the opulent lives they had lived so far. The carefree lives of always being taken care of, of never having to do anything by themselves. It would be quite a change for them, I was sure. But it was time they learned.

'I will give you until tomorrow. If I get word before then that you are actively rallying people, I will return sooner.' I told them, making sure they knew it was a threat. 'the doors will remain open. Make the smart choice.'

I didn't give them the opportunity to respond. Instead I stood up and walked out of the room. I hoped they would make the right descion. It would be a waste for them to be killed because of a misguided fear of live. They had potential, that much was true. They could live amazing lives if only they grew the courage to step foot outside these castle walls and leave behind the lives they had known so far.