A Cry to Heaven, Part Two

The hands of time stilled and the chamber went utterly silent.

In eerie synchrony, all else abandoned, every stunned face slowly turned toward the dais, watching and waiting – for nothing perhaps, or maybe for an explosion the likes of which they had never seen. Even the fire that burned Edward's mind receded, Jane's cruelty doused by unreserved shock.

Forbidden words now hung in the air, reverberating off limestone walls and tiles. There was a certain electricity in the room, a palpable zinging current of anticipation, of not knowing, that made even the strongest and oldest of the Guard feel the sharp edge of apprehension.

For a moment, it was almost as though Marcus hadn't heard Edward's cries at all, as if the pronouncement of his title or her name hadn't reached him in his depths. His expression betrayed nothing, only that of the constant ghost of her absence.

But then, delayed like circuitry had that been frayed and worn from time, a light finally flickered in his dark eyes. They widened and swept from Bella to Aro and Caius and then to Edward's position on the floor at their feet. As if in disbelief, his lips parted and moved, silently forming her name in both benediction and lament.

Like the dark curtain, the present fell away, overtaken by the past. Pale white robes and long, raven-colored hair danced across Marcus's memory, the vision as clear as though it were from yesterday, not from centuries past. High on the cliffs overlooking the crashing waves, she twirled on the balls of her bare feet, spinning in the wind simply because she loved the brush of it against her cheeks. Stretched across her flawless face, Didyme wore a soft, radiant smile and her almond-shaped eyes glittered in the sun as she beckoned him to join her.

On his tongue, she tasted so lush, sweet like the vine-ripened grapes in the fields. When he buried his face in her silken hair, he could smell figs and olive groves and the salt from the sea.

For just a fraction of a second, light shined into the abyss, and Marcus felt sheer, all-consuming joy.

As quickly as it appeared, however, the image departed, dissolving into a raging bonfire and curling plum-black smoke. Now, echoing in his ears, her name called yet again, louder, this time a shriek of pain, and it pierced him through and through, shattering the invisible walls he had constructed. Instantly, the knife of grief twisted through his gut, and the great weight of mourning, undampened through the ages, threatened to descend.

Marcus's lids fluttered shut, and a short, harsh puff of air expelled from his stone lungs.

"Father," Edward softly repeated, seeing his creator's face finally come alive, only to suddenly contort in agony. That Marcus had reacted at all, however, gave him hope. Slowly, Edward rose from the floor, looking back to where Bella stood, wide-eyed and shaking. "Please, Marcus. Just look… Only you can understand this. Please, you must look at her, at me. You will see that we're the same."

Seconds stretched into centuries as, stock-still, Edward watched the memories in Marcus's mind vault across time in search of the present. Countless seasons came and went, the decades no more than fleeting moments to his permanence. Plagues ran rampant, kings were crowned, and through ancient crimson eyes, Edward saw the rise and fall of the great human nations.

Abruptly, the images halted, shrinking into a single, narrow window in time. Raven-colored hair gave way to brass and rust, and a pair of emerald eyes, dilated, sick with delirium and fever, stared up at him.

For that night, a century ago, the Volturi had ventured across the ocean, searching for the last remnants of the forbidden newborn armies. A handful of rogue coven leaders had hidden themselves in the northern cities, their blood-letting feasts veiled under the black umbrella of the Great Epidemic.

It was dark and cold outside, and fat flakes of wet snow, blowing down from the lake, fell all around. Perfectly recalled with a clarity only gifted to his kind, Edward could smell the old city, familiar scents that existed only in the shadows of his recollection – of people, of horses, of the baker's on the corner.

Only dimly did Edward remember that night through his own human senses – the frigid burst of air when he had stumbled from the hospital and his mother's deathbed, the pale white face that he had sworn was one of God's angels come to take him home, and then the sudden Hellfire that had spread through his veins.

Now, Edward could hear his own voice, garbled and incoherent and praying to God. The chatter of his teeth sounded so loud in Marcus's vampire ears. Somewhere nearby, there was the low rumble of a sputtering Packard passing by too, but to Marcus, Edward's gurgling heartbeat was loudest of all. It had been weeks since he had feed, and thirst raged, clawing up and down his throat.

He felt warmth splatter across Marcus's face, and then Edward could taste his own blood, sharp and tangy, the sweetness tainted by the disease that would have claimed his life regardless.

More than a hundred years had passed, and Marcus was still unsure exactly why he had stopped drinking the boy that frosty Chicago night – why instead of taking his fill, he had damned him to an existence he was not equipped to suffer.

Perhaps, Marcus thought, it had merely been the tint of Edward's eyes when he had stared up into the night sky, feverish and hallucinating as his life seeped away. Marcus could still remember the rush of astonishment, for the color had been so remarkably similar to hers before he had turned her, so verdant and alive, teeming with the power of youth.

Maybe he had stopped because of the softly spoken Latin prayer the boy had uttered as he tried in vain to cross himself when he had sucked down that first draught of sickened blood.

It could have been both of those or neither. Perhaps he had changed the boy in a simple second of weakness, a desire for a companion who knew not of wars and fighting and hate-filled politics. The aftermath spoke volumes, however, for it had been Aro who scooped the boy up once he awoke, fascinated by a talent that rivaled his own. Too lost and despondent to object, Marcus had allowed it.

But never, not since the time of his making, had Edward's lineage been spoken aloud, not by the Guard or Aro or Caius or even Edward himself. He was the accident – an aberration – because the two who sat on the other thrones were too petty and squabbling to share in their reign. He was the unacknowledged Il Principe, made by the eldest himself, the first in three thousand years.

Father, Edward had said, desperate and pleading. It sounded so strange and out of place inside of these walls. Such was a human thing, a human tie that was severed once blood was spilled. The word didn't seem to fit inside of his mouth when Marcus tested it.

"Pax," Marcus quietly spoke, his gaze sweeping the chamber. Silently, he uncurled from his throne and floated to the edge of the dais, the tail of his pitch-black robe rippling across the stone.

"Marcus," Aro instantly purred from his right, schooling his mouth into a smile as though nothing at all were amiss. Ever the performer, his clasped hands lifted to his chin in emphasis. "There is no need for your attention here."

Slowly, Marcus's head swiveled, and their ancient, opaque eyes met.

Aro started again, "There is no–"

"Tace! Taedet vocem tuam!"

Wide-eyed, Aro's jaw clamped shut, his teeth audibly clacking as a wave of fury rolled down his spine. If Marcus noted Aro's reaction, however, he gave no indication, nor did he acknowledge the swelling murmurs of disbelief in the ranks.

Turning to Bella, Marcus motioned her forward with a short wave. "Come here, girl."

At first, Bella could only stare, her lips parting in surprise. She wasn't certain what she had expected, but Marcus didn't sound like Aro or Caius. Instead of loud commands or crooning lies, when he addressed her, Marcus's baritone was low and soft. Each word sounded foreign, spoken with careful articulation, as if he were not used to speaking at all. His was an accent she had no hope of placing; he sounded old and exotic, like some remnant held behind a glass cabinet in a museum. Yet at the same time, however, there was no mistaking the expectation of obedience that lurked in that strange cadence.

"Come, Isabella," he softly repeated when she didn't move.

Her knees knocked in fear and there was no hiding the stampede of her heart's beats. Swallowing, Bella ducked her head and crossed the length of the chamber, stopping only when she reached Edward's side. In her periphery, a dozen sets of blood-red eyes were wide and a dozen faces followed her every move. She didn't have to be a mind reader to know that they knew little more than she did regarding their fate.

As soon as she was within arm's reach, Edward pulled Bella to him in a move of instinctual protection. When he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, tucking her into his side as closely as physically possible, she leaned against him and her fingers gripped the fabric of his shirt. So close, he could feel her body's subtle tremors, and the hammer of her heart seemed to echo inside of his own empty chest. Even here, surrounded by menace and death, gravity was meaningless; instead, she was his center, his north and his south.

From the dais, Marcus watched a scene that could have been from his own past. Apart, their bond appeared no different than any other pair. But when they touched, however, the faint glow that bound vampire to human brightened, intensifying into a pulsing cord of white light. It was blinding almost, so bright that Marcus fought the urge to shield his eyes.

"Her blood sings to you," Marcus murmured, listening to the sing-song whine of blood flowing through Bella's veins. "Yet you resist."

"Yes," Edward breathed, staring into Marcus's thoughts, mesmerized by the physical manifestation of the bond only he could see. "I love her."

"Such hasn't occurred in… many years."

Edward's eyes rose to meet his creator's as he carefully chose his next words. "No, not since you and Didyme."

Just as he opened his mouth to say more, an image blinked in Edward's mind – a fragment of a loose thought or memory – only it was too indistinct to even declare to whom it belonged. Vague and blurry, Edward could only make out the licking tips of a raging fire and the overriding scent of burning sugar and bitter ash.

Edward felt a sudden pulse of anger, and then as if its owner had consciously reined himself in, the image dissolved. Dozens of other thoughts – incredulous and angry at the affront to their quiet Master – blared, too, replacing that strange, too-fleeting glimpse.

What games you play, you fool boy! Caius snapped. Through others' eyes, he could see the white-haired vampire's curled fists and quivering frame. You dare bait one of us… You will burn if I have to tear you apart myself!

Aro's were much the same, still livid and fuming, although the direction of his fury was two-fold now. Heeling like a rabid dog at his feet, Jane imagined daggers and the fire of Hades. Her wrath, fanatical and vicious, was held by the thinnest of threads.

Yet no fury at all came from Marcus. Instead, as before, Didyme's name evoked a torrent of memories, and again, Edward saw her as Marcus saw her, blinded by never-ending immortal love.

"It's the same for me. I know you see it." Edward paused, gripping Bella as though she would be torn away. "You know that I had no choice. I could steal her life as they commanded no easier than I could stop the rise of the sun."

Moving slowly from Edward to Bella, Marcus's eyes were deep and sorrowful. "And what of you, child? What are your wishes? Do you crave immortality?"

Bella's fingers froze and she took a slow breath to steel her jittering nerves. Not looking away from the ancient one before them, she whispered, "I love him. I will always love him. Now and tomorrow. In this life and in the next one, too, if there is one. There is no alternative for me. If you won't save him – if you won't save us – kill me."

A day ago or three millennia past – Marcus knew not – waves crashed against the steep rocky coast, and gray-winged gulls floated on warm currents of salty air.

"Will you despise me if I keep you, my love? For I do not know that I can bear it when you depart this world," I murmur.

Her heartbeat sounds like the stomp of hooves against the sun-baked roadbed. Yet she does not run or turn from me. Instead, my Didyme looks up into the heavens and then folds into my arms, uncaring of the villagers who damn me and cast their chanting spells.

"I will only despise you if you do not," she murmurs, taking my cold face between her burning palms. "Make me like you. The gods wish it so. Give me eternity, Marcus. One lifetime with you is not enough for me."

"My mate, my life," I sigh, staggered by the bloom deep within my dead chest. How many years have I wandered this land alone? They matter not, for they brought me here.

She hugs her frail, human arms around my waist, holding me so close, so unafraid of the daemon that begs her for her life so that he might live. I could crush her as though she were dust, yet my body is no longer mine to command. My thirst is meaningless, and the poison in my mouth is as dry as the desert sand. Her heat is overwhelming, so inviting. It makes me feel real again and her lips on mine light their own fire beneath my flesh. My bones melt into her as I bask in the only happiness I have ever known.

"You will turn her?" Marcus quietly asked, his voice hollow and distant.

Edward's head lifted, and hope swelled inside of his chest until he swore that he felt the iron bands of his ribcage crack from its force. His answer came out in a fervent gust of air. "Yes, I swear it."

An earsplitting crash thundered in the room when a throne suddenly hurtled into the far wall, sending a rain of glittering gold debris. In a streaking blur, Caius shot from one end of the dais to the other. "You cannot override this, Marcus!" he snarled. "The law demands that boy's ashes! He is weak and his disobedience is inexcusable. He is a traitor, and you know it!"

There was a split second of absolute silence, a weighted moment where that buzzing electricity humming in the air came to life, morphing into a growing, sentient being. The hair on the back of Bella's neck stood on end and her skin erupted in gooseflesh.

Edward flinched, hearing something she knew not, and abruptly, Bella felt the ground move as they flew backward with blinding quickness. Without warning, shielded by Edward's firm grip, from half the room away, Bella watched Marcus's fist suddenly appear, circling Caius's throat with astounding strength and violence. With a deafening roar, he lifted the white-haired vampire high into the air.

At least in this moment, fueled by something – some words, some memories – gone were the centuries of the eldest's silent apathy and despondency.

"I am the law!" he growled, his eyes blazing. "Or have you forgotten? Have your years ruling at my discretion made you complacent, Caius?"

Two dozen screams of shock clamored in Edward's mind, disbelieving of the scene that lay before them. Loyalties warred with loyalties, freezing each man and woman in place. Taken aback, confused, Alec's hold on Alice splintered, and Edward could hear the faint whisper of her thoughts. The pain of being nearly ripped asunder made her incoherent, and when he looked down to the ground, she shook from it. But she still existed.

Buried deep beneath the jumble of racing thoughts, another image unexpectedly flashed, repeating and lingering longer than before. It was a sliver of something hidden away, a seep through the cracks. In this hidden-away memory, there was a nauseating snap – that of vampire bones cleaving in two – and a woman screamed in utter agony. Again, Edward felt the heat of a raging bonfire, smelling soot and cloying ash, mixed with dust and the smell of the sea.

"Brother," Aro said, crooning with sickening sweetness. "Calm yourself. We were not aware that you would feel so strongly. Perhaps something can be arranged…"

Marcus slung Caius to the floor and spun on his heel, erupting in another snarl of fury, his teeth, slick, bared, and clacking. "I am not your brother, Aro," he seethed. "Do not ever make the mistake of calling me that again. You were changed because she wished it so. Because she couldn't bear losing her brother and I wouldn't tolerate her sorrow. Do not ever forget that. You exist only because of her."

"But all these years…" There was a note of mania in Aro's voice, the sharp edge of twisting sanity.

"Were a mistake," Marcus finished. "I should have never allowed this… We should have left when she asked me the first time... This place – these walls – should have never existed to begin with. Not like this. Not with you children fighting your play wars. This…" He waved his hand at the chamber. "This is my mistake."

There was a collective mental gasp in the room. As if released by Marcus's declaration, more images, now bold and vivid, broke through, streaming past Edward's eyes. No longer dim or hidden, they flowed as clearly as though he were right there, standing amongst the trees of a long-since-destroyed primeval forest.

"You cannot be serious, sister!" I growl, grabbing Didyme's pale wrist, squeezing in anger.

"Aro," she spits, glaring. Her dark hair whips in the wind. "You and Caius grow too greedy and too ambitious. I do not wish to live like this – at war, holding hostage the lives of our kind. I do not want to rule! Neither does Marcus."

"You do not know what you are saying! You cannot leave! Our kind must be ruled! There will be nothing but bedlam and war if we do not control the savage ones." A loud fracture resounds, bouncing off the trees as her wrist snaps in my grip.

Didyme whimpers in pain but then jerks her arm away. "You will regret your actions, brother. As soon as Marcus returns from Memphis. He has promised it so. He goes there to speak with Amun and to settle the boundary dispute before we depart.

"Law is required, but avarice rules you. Your time has come to an end… Marcus will strip you both of your authority."

"I will not allow him to cede to those Dacian fools!"

"You will have no choice. I should have never asked him to spare you… You are wrong for this life. All you see is power and domination. I am ashamed of you."

White fabric dances in the wind as Didyme turns her back to walk away.

Bella felt Edward's entire body stiffen, and his eyes grew wide only to clench shut. She held onto his waist, afraid for what was in front of her eyes but more so of the silent voices only he could hear.

Before she reaches the edge of the trees, Caius strikes with lightning speed, grabbing her by the shoulders.

They struggle, tumbling end over end, a jumble of sharp teeth and flailing arms. He is stronger than she and more battle trained. Didyme shrieks as he pins her down to the forest floor, yanking her head up. Her throat is open, so delicate and exposed.

"Be done with this, Aro! Now, else I shall do it for you."

"I told you, dearest sister…" I grate, crouching to look into her angry eyes. "There will be no leaving! There will be no changes. I will rule."

The bones shatter so easily when I twist. Hers is the first head I have taken myself. My insides lurch with each roll of it across the ground. But it is done…

The heat from the fire is astounding. Her flesh sizzles and pops as we watch her body melt and turn to ash. Burned vampire is all I can smell. I can taste it…

"You killed her."

The words tumbled out of Edward's mouth before he could stop them. Dazed and reeling, he stared at Aro across the room. Beside him, as though struck, Marcus stopped and turned, his face somehow paler than before.

"You killed Didyme," Edward repeated.

As though by speaking the words aloud, the locks on the vault shattered, and now Edward saw everything they had tried to hide.

"It was never the Children of the Moon… It was you, Aro… You and Caius. When Marcus was in Egypt." His brow folded sharply as if he didn't believe the sights he saw in Aro's mind. "You killed her because she threatened to leave the Keep and to take Marcus with her. How well you hid it… I should have seen something before… I–"

"Destroy him!" Aro screeched, waving his arms to the Guard standing by as his worst imaginings came to life. "Take him down now!"

Aro jerked forward as though to attack Edward himself, but instantly, like a shot from a canon, Marcus was there, growling and slamming into him bodily, knocking him down from the dais. Before Aro could rise, the older vampire flew down the steps, tackling him and sending them both careening through one of the thick columns. The floor shook from the force of their collision.

The room instantly erupted in chaos. Stunned, frozen bodies came to life, looking from side to side, making their decisions. Then, as if a storm had cut loose directly overhead, peals of thunder rumbled all around, and the sounds of riving metal tore through the air. Flashes of pale and black whirred all around; for a moment, it was impossible to determine who warred for whom.

From somewhere behind them, appearing seemingly from out of nowhere, Demetri raced past, lithely darting around any who stood in his path. His target drifted by the far wall, already conjuring his black magic at Aro's behest, aimed to take them all out. Not hesitating, Demetri slammed into Alec with incredible force, knocking the boy through stone and mortar.

In the center of the room, Chelsea shrieked under Jane's fury, struggling to stay upright. As she burned Chelsea from within, Jane pummeled and clawed at her flesh, ripping her limbs away.

Edward had no time to react to save her, however, because in his periphery, Caius stalked toward them, ready to spring. Instantly, all else forgotten, Edward spun Bella behind him, forming an unbreakable granite wall.

"You won't touch her, Caius. I swear that I will tear you in two this night," Edward growled.

The two vampires both crouched low, teeth bared, fists curled, ready to strike. In a deadly dance, they slowly circled, each watching the other with laser precision. Caius was older, but Edward was faster. When Caius feinted left, Edward was there. When he darted right, Edward was there again, reading the older vampire's intent just a fraction of a second before he moved.

"You have destroyed everything!" Caius's fists shook and his eyes were the blackest of nights.

"No," Edward purred, edging forward. "You did."

In a blindingly fast move, arms outstretched, teeth bared, Caius launched himself headlong across the space between them. Just when he was within arms' reach, Edward twisted and ducked low, clipping the white-haired vampire at the knees as he came around.

Caius shrieked in pain as his knee socket shattered into a hundred pieces. He fell to the floor only to rise again, limping and snarling like a rabid wolf. Heedless of the risk, he attacked again, sprinting directly for Edward. Unable to dodge the frontal assault, Edward instead shot forward, meeting him head-on. They collided in an earth-shattering boom, falling to the ground in a tangle of limbs.

Edward's teeth ripped into Caius's shoulder, tearing away chunks of white flesh. When his fist connected with bone, pulverizing the vampire's sternum, Caius howled, and in a desperate move, he kicked Edward off of him.

Bella watched in horror as Edward skidded across the floor, the stone tiles shredding and rolling up like ripped paper in his wake. Yet before she could scream, he was up again. She dared to blink and suddenly he was back across the room, standing between her and Caius.

Frantically, she looked around, trying to follow the dizzying spin of movement. In the corner, Santiago and Eleazar held each other by the throat, yet she had no idea for which side either fought.

But it was the two in the front of the room that made her stomach lurch.

The two ancients were nothing but shimmers of black fabric moving at breakneck speed. She could hear their snapping teeth and livid snarls. Bones cracked and splintered, and suddenly, one of them – Aro, she thought – bellowed in agony. A mass of dark robes soared through the air, landing on top of a pile of rubble. The other one was there, however, pinning him up against the wall, tearing into his neck with vampire teeth.

"Master!" Jane screamed. Abandoning Chelsea, the witch-girl turned her baleful glare to Marcus.

A harsh sputter of air expelled from his lungs, and Marcus's knees buckled as Jane's fire ripped through his mind, melting his bones from its heat. Yet he refused to fall. Instead, he remained upright, his claws and teeth still digging into Aro's chest. Jane struck again, however, and Aro pushed back, spinning them around until it was Marcus's back to the wall.

"She made you weak!" he hissed. "You would have given it all up… why… because she didn't have the stomach to rule."

"I should have known that it was you," Marcus gasped, fighting through Aro's and Jane's twin assaults. "I allowed you and Caius to rule too long."

"You think you allowed. Volterra is all my doing." Aro's eyes gleamed black and maniacal. "You did nothing. You wasted away, living in your little dream world. She's dead, Marcus. I killed her, just like I'm going to kill you."

Across the room, fear and desperation gripped Bella. On one side, she watched Edward and Caius battling again. On the other, she saw the impending obliteration of their one hope of deliverance. Edward held the upper hand in his fight; he would destroy Caius, she was certain. The white-haired vampire was missing a limb now and he panted in pain. But Marcus couldn't fight Aro and Jane.

Abruptly, however, something changed. Jane's witchfire ceased and the girl screamed again for her Master, this time in pleading. Bella's gaze tore across the room, sweeping from one end to the other, searching until she landed on a familiar mop of inky hair.


It felt as though she had been punched in the gut. Believing her to be dead, Bella wasn't prepared for her reappearance. Her clothes were torn and mangled and her face was a mask of uncontrollable ferocity. She looked nothing like the best friend she knew. Now, she looked like the vampire she was. For her eyes were pitch and her lips curled back over her teeth in an inhuman snarl. From across the room, she watched the two girls, small and slender, fight with incomprehensible brutality.

"Your death is mine," Alice chanted.

With a horrifying yell, Alice mindlessly barreled toward the witch girl, seemingly too lost in her need for retribution to care about the consequences.

But she wasn't too lost. Just as Edward listened to Caius's mind, Alice watched Jane's future. When the girl reached for her, Alice leaped upward, landing behind her. When Jane spun, whipping around, Alice was gone again.

Over and over, screeching in livid wrath, Jane's arms wrapped around empty air, incapable of using her power against a target she could not locate. Bella watched with balled-up fists, as Alice turned into streaking arcs of color, bouncing all around Jane as she screamed in frustration.

Suddenly, those screams were cut short by the shrill rending of steel. When Alice appeared again, Bella gasped, because her shoulders were shaking and she was doubled over in obvious pain. Her right arm hung loose, detached almost completely, she limped, and venom leaked from the gaping wounds that littered her skin.

But in her small hand, Alice clutched a severed head.

One by one, vampires either fell or fled. Jane was destroyed. Santiago was nowhere to be found. And in the corner, Eleazar and Demetri held Alec, arms stretched behind him, forced to his knees. The boy didn't resist, instead bowing his head in defeat.

Two pairs still battled, however, and those were the ones that mattered the most.

"Come on, Caius," Edward crooned, his voice low, lethal, and velvety smooth. Extending his hand, he crooked his finger and motioned for attack. "Take me. Or surrender. You have no other choice."

"Never will I surrender to you!" Caius spat. His back was to the tall oaken doors and the dark tunnels beyond.

As if in slow motion, Edward rocked forward onto the balls of his feet, ready for what he knew would come. Softly, he whispered, "Then you die."

In a moment of indecision, Caius glanced back behind him, debating, calculating his chances. He shifted as if to attack, but then without warning, spun and made for the mouth of the doorway. His dark robe dropped from his shoulders, landing on the stone floor in a pool of black.

With unrivaled speed, Edward raced toward the retreating vampire, the soles of his shoes barely touching the ground before leaping high into the air. To Bella's eyes, he was the very image of predatory grace, like a black panther stretching mid-air, targeting his kill.

It looked almost as though he kissed the back of Caius's neck, his razor sharp teeth skimming across the other vampire's flesh. Yet this kiss was loud, and its penetrating shrillness filled the chamber with fearful awe.

Hearing Caius's bellow and the sound of a vampire body being torn asunder, Aro frantically looked around the room as he backed away from Marcus. Stalking toward him, his creator's expression was murderous, and when Aro saw his acolytes' broken bodies, panic seized him. For the first time since his creation, he felt unbridled fear – the fear of the unknown, of death, of eternal fires.

But it wasn't Marcus who arrested him. Aro growled and flailed as from behind him, a pair of steel arms circled him, capturing his arms in a hold he had no hope of breaking. Demetri's knee drove into Aro's spine, and he pushed him to his knees.

When Aro's eyes lifted, he found nothing but the chill of icy revenge awaiting him.

"Edward," Marcus spoke, never looking away from Aro's bowed form. His voice was again low and quiet, but Aro heard more there. He heard his own annihilation. "You will turn your mate?"

Hesitantly approaching the foot of the dais, Bella started, not understanding why Marcus addressed Edward now of all times. But when Edward's arms again surrounded her, holding her up, she no longer cared. She buried her face in his chest, squeezing her arms around his unyielding body, listening to the silence of his unbeating heart. A lone, silent sob spilled from her lips, because while Bella didn't understand what would happen to the Volturi or Aro or anyone else, in Marcus's softly spoken query, she heard everything. She heard… salvation.

Just as quietly, Edward answered. "As soon as I'm able I will turn her."

Edward stared at Aro's straining face and heard the rage that still swarmed Marcus's thoughts. "What will you do with Aro?"

Marcus's lips pressed into a hard, grim line. "Aro's fate matters not to you. He is mine to do with as I see fit." He motioned toward Alice, who now sat on the floor against the far wall, curled up with her knees against her chest and shaking silently – finally grieving. "Just as your Alice had her revenge, so shall I have mine."

Edward heard the unspoken and cringed, for Aro's fate would be far worse than all the rest. Echoing his thoughts, in Marcus's ancient opaque eyes, endless, depthless hatred mingled with the sorrow of the ages.

Shoulders folding, Marcus looked out across the chamber. More than a dozen bodies littered the floor, mangled beyond all recognition. The limestone solar, the seat of their power for so many centuries, was now in shambles, broken past repair, and the thrones on which the three rulers had sat were gone, destroyed and shattered into a thousand sparkling pieces. Two were gone. Only one still stood.

"Now, go," Marcus commanded, staring at the glowing cord of light that surrounded Edward and his mate. He offered some semblance of a smile, strange and misplaced after all that had been endured. It was for Bella alone, the living symbol for all that he had gained and lost.

"Your place is no longer here, Edward." He shook his head. "It has never been here. Take your mate and go. Go home."




Regarding the Romanians: You might have noticed that in the flashback, Aro refers to the Romanians as the Dacians. The Dacians were one of the Getae tribes and they lived in the area of present day Romania around the time of that flashback (several hundred years BCE per Herodotus).

Random OCD author note on language: The language Marcus, Caius, and Aro would have originally spoken would have probably been Etruscan or something similar (perhaps earlier). It wouldn't have been Latin, as all three vampires pre-date Vulgar Latin by a good thousand years. I take the opinion, however, that considering the various nationalities of the vampires they've ruled through the ages, as well as that of their own Guard, Latin, Vulgar and then Classical, would have been the "official" language inside of the Keep in Volterra for many centuries.

Latin [Thank you, Scooterstale and withany for suffering my odd questions]:

Pax! = Peace! Or Enough!

Tace! Taedet vocem tuam! = Be silent! I am weary of your voice!