Hello, lovely people!
It's 2020, and that means change, resolutions, and finishing 'The Immortal Coil Saga'. I looked back at the previous parts, and decided it could be better. Nine years of writing means one changes one's style as they get older.
Please note: The main plot will stay the same! The plot holes will be filled in, and grammar/formatting should be improved.
Here we go...
Who is the betrayer?
July 16th, 2010
The night air was pregnant with the approaching storm, strange; as Anna inhaled, it burnt her nostrils with cruel ice.
Beth shifted restlessly in her crouch beside her. "Why do they stand and wait? Why don't they run?"
Anna said nothing; she didn't know. From their position on the mountain's ledge, they could see all three of their coven below.
Crudely, Antoine and Sabine looked like actors on a stage, holding hands in a final encore. The moonlight was a ghostly spotlight glimmering off their heads. Antoine, the coven's unelected leader, was the oldest vampire (being the only male in the group had absolutely nothing to do with it). He stood beside Sabine, his lunar-haired belle.
She is his mate for almost a century. Anna felt heavy with sorrow. They will never make that anniversary.
Just two days ago, she and Beth were exploring the isles of Dartmoor, without a care in the world. It had been Beth's idea to leave, of course, eager to escape Antoine's disapproval.
There wasn't much deer to hunt in France.
When Beth had asked Anna to accompany her on her travels, Anna had wavered. After spending most of a century stuck under her coven's thumb, like a caged bird, Anna had yearned to fly free, but had been too afraid to do it alone – until Beth.
Young and jovial, Beth had the gift of an invisible glamour. It was hard to believe she had only celebrated her nineteenth human year two days earlier; in vampire years, she was barely an adult.
"What's stopping them?" Beth's impatience broke Anna out of her brooding. Her topaz eyes flashed in the dark. "Why don't they run?"
"Hush, Beth," Anna said gently.
Freedom had been daunting at first, but Anna had been getting used to it until Beth's birthday. Sabine had emailed from France. Antoine had a surprise for them. Even in writing, Sabine had sounded a bit off, demanding Anna and Beth return home right away.
Anna hadn't known what to expect, but it certainly wasn't this.
Freya. She was a constant flash of movement in Anna's vision, skipping back and forth while her new family hid her behind them.
Their immortal child.
Anna knew she shouldn't love Freya, but how could she not? At only four years old, Freya's cherubic smile could melt even the hardest of hearts; she seemed innocent, despite her unquenchable thirst.
Too young to be a vampire, Anna swallowed. Oh, Antoine, why did you do this to us?
Antoine was her sire, and so it had been his responsibility to teach Anna the laws of being a vampire, and thus he had. Beth had faced the same treatment.
Rule number one: keep our existence a secret.
Rule number two: do not create child vampires.
No ifs, no buts.
So, what had made Antoine forget them entirely? Had he lost his mind? Antoine could see the potential in every human, after all. He had seen how Sabine would heal with her hands; Freya's telekinesis had only strengthened after her Change.
"Look at her down there," Beth muttered. Her yellow eyes softened at Freya's erratic form. "Does she know what's going on?"
All the anger she felt was for Antoine. He could be selfish with his gift. If Antoine liked what he saw, he took – so long as he stuck to the rules. Usually.
Despite his rash behaviour, neither Anna nor Beth could deny Antoine's good intentions, rescuing Freya from the clutches of her uncle. Anna had been the result of Antoine's best intentions all those years ago.
Similarly, that wasn't the only thing Freya and Anna had in common. Unless restrained, Anna's power was unpredictable, and soy Antoine had sent her away upon their return home.
Despite Anna's protests, Antoine just shook his head and refused to listen. Knowing him as well as she did, Anna had expected more of a fight. She remembered his anger and disappointment, all those years ago.
The first flash of lightning splintered the sky, startling Beth, and thunder growled like a cantankerous beast. Freya whimpered in fear. Antoine and Sabine had not moved at all.
It will all be over soon, little one, Anna thought as Beth recoiled against the wall.
"Oh, God. Look…"
Black cloaks whispered with quiet feet. Though their hoods blocked their faces from Anna's view by their hoods, she could make out six people – four men, judging by their height; one towered over the rest of them, like a vast tree trunk. The two smaller members were perhaps only in their teens. Unlike the other members, the duo's cloaks appeared a lot darker, almost one with the night itself.
Anna gasped as her palms burst into a fit of prickling. "These are powerful vampires…"
As soon as they were parallel to Antoine and Sabine, two of the men stepped forward. Beth strained to see as they finally lowered their hoods.
Her mouth fell open with a quiet pop. "Look at their skin!" she hissed.
Unsettlingly white in the moonlight, their skin was transparent, like an onion's. One was blonde and haughty, while the other smiled. His pleasant voice caught Anna off-guard. "Good evening, Antoine."
Antoine's proud head lifted to address him. "Good evening, Lord Aro," he said tonelessly. "I only wish the weather was more agreeable."
Beth was stunned. "He's talking about the weather at a time like this?" She mouthed.
"Where is the child?" the blonde one said impatiently. Anna couldn't help but notice that, while he appeared hungry for ensuing death, Aro looked quite apologetic about it.
Antoine's tone was cold. "Freya is here."
Sabine said nothing. She was still and blank as a statue. Beth wanted to shake her. Only Anna's hand on her shoulder stopped her from leaping down and doing so. They could only watch, bewildered, as Antoine turned to Freya.
Seeing him there, a look of pure delight lit up her beautiful face. "Ant!"
"It's alright, ma cherie," Antoine replied in a low, soothing voice. "Come."
He took Freya's chubby hand. Her crimson eyes were full of love and trust – until she saw the Volturi standing there, like a black, impenetrable wall.
She froze. "No, Ant. Don't want to go."
"I know, Freya," he said softly. "I know…"
Aro smiled down at her. "Hello, little one." His eyes flicked to the large vampire behind him. "Felix. Please."
Felix stepped forward, and Freya clutched Antoine's hand. "Ant, no! Nooo!" She began to cry, clutching at her adopted father, and the mountains began to tremble. The Volturi stared around, astonished.
Beth swore, in awe. "She could bring them all down!"
"Stay here, Beth!" Anna thanked the rumbling of rock for being too loud for the Volturi to hear them. A tearless sob escaped her throat. "Antoine broke the rules."
At least Freya's death was swift. It sounded like cracking a slab of marble in two, as Felix cut off her wails with a jerk of his hands. The mountains grew still once more, as if nothing had changed.
With a mournful sigh, Aro approached with his hand reaching into his robes. The lighter winked silver in the night as Aro flicked it open, and bright yellow flame consumed Freya, until there was nothing left. Beth was moaning, slowly rocking against the mountain wall, and Anna wrapped an arm around her quivering shoulders.
Antoine and Sabine gazed blankly at the dying fire. They did not weep.
I don't understand. Anna blinked her dry eyes in bewilderment. She could understand Antoine's reaction; he had always been good at hiding his emotions, but this was wrong. Sabine was the sensitive one. She couldn't even watch the news without weeping.
"I thought that you of all people understood our laws, Antoine," Aro said regretfully. "It was quite a surprise when Darius Tuono told me what you had done."
Beth gasped. "Tuono?" Anna snapped a hand over her mouth.
Darius Tuono had travelled with Antoine long before any of them. Intimidating in size and personality, he had left a month before. Neither Anna nor Beth were sad to hear he had gone.
Antoine blinked at Aro. His voice was hollow. "Do what you have to do."
Anna wanted to scream. No! The Antoine she knew would have fought or, at least, tried to talk his way out of this – what was wrong with them?
Tuono. An ember of fury began to glow in her dead heart. Tuono!
Antoine and Sabine, who found love during the Second World War, did not even kiss each other goodbye. They fell into the remains of Freya's fire; it leapt higher for its next meal.
"Thank you, Felix." As his servant bowed and returned to the fold, Aro said, "We are finished here."
"What about the other members of the coven?" the blonde one snapped. "The women Tuono showed you?"
With a panicked gasp, Beth grabbed Anna's hand. Anna hissed through her teeth as Beth's invisible glamour blanketed them both.
Pulling gently away, Anna grimaced at the effort it took. "Wait."
"They did not play a part in the creation of the child," Aro said. "I doubt they are aware of what has happened today."
Anna clenched her jaw. If only.
A young, female voice spoke up. "So, may we go home now, Master?"
Aro turned to smile at her. "Yes, dear one. We may."
Anna did not know what it was; maybe the wind had snatched up their scents, or he felt her eyes on him, but Aro looked up. It was like a bolt of lightning to Anna's frozen heart. Without Beth covering her with her glamour again, Aro would have found her on the rocky shelf.
"What is it, Aro?" Caius followed his brother's gaze. There was nothing to be seen but the mountain.
Aro frowned, searching for the source of the smell. "I'm not sure." At length, he said, "It is nothing. Come, let us go."
They disappeared as quietly and quickly as they had come, just as the rain began to fall.
Beth only dropped her glamour, releasing Anna, when she was sure the coast was clear. "That was close," she gasped.
"Yes." Anna swallowed, rubbing her prickling palms together. "It was."
Beth laughed nervously. "He was looking right at you."
"I know." The trembling edge in Anna's voice betrayed her. She swallowed again. "Come on."
Anna dropped down from the mountain first, landing lightly on her feet. Unsurprisingly, the alien chill in the air had disappeared. Shaking her thick hair out of her eyes, Anna murmured, "We must find Darius' scent."
Beth hit the ground with a snarl. "The coward has probably run off by now."
The rain wasted no time in soaking them through, but they paid it no heed. Wet clothing does not stop a vampire when she is on the hunt.
They passed the smouldering remains of their coven. "What made Tuono do it, do you think?" Beth said. She refused to look at the guttering fire.
"He and Antoine never were on the best of terms," Anna replied, and Beth grunted.
"No, shit." The sickly-sweet smell of dead vampire pervaded her nostrils, like poison. "He had to be up in the mountains."
Anna nodded. "Come on, the stench here is – " She caught the stricken look in Beth's eyes, and sighed. "I'm sorry, but…all that's left of them now is ash."
"I know," Beth said quietly. "I just can't believe they're gone."
That ember of vehemence was burning Anna again. "Darius Tuono has a lot to answer for."
Climbing the opposite wall was easy; the rain hitting their faces made it harder. "What will we do when we find him?" Beth's hair was plastered to her forehead, dark and wet as blood. "He's a big bloke – and obviously there's his mind-control thing…"
Anna's reply was firm. "We get him to confess."
"Can you do that?"
"I thought so."
At the top of the mountain, the rain began to stop at last. The thunder was now a harmless, distant rumble.
"Can you smell him?" Beth whispered, gazing around with flared nostrils.
Anna watched the bruised smoke rise to congeal the night's sky. "No. We need to move away from here. The smoke is too thick."
"Right." They hurried away, tasting the air like wolves as they went.
"He is a good hunter." Anna looked to the ground, in the vain hope of finding Darius's footprints in the rocky soil. Of course, there were none.
"We'll find him," Beth muttered. She bared her gleaming teeth; vegetarian or not, she was still fierce when the time called for it.
They sniffed and searched around the mountain for what felt like an hour. The land was vast and flat, bordered by tall, thin trees. As Anna started to lose what tiny shred of hope she had - she caught it, floating on the breeze.
Darius's scent was unmistakable, musky with spice, testosterone, and rage.
"Here," Anna said breathlessly. "Tuono was here."
"You sure?" Beth gave a mighty sniff. Her nose wrinkled. "Ew. Yeah, you're sure. God, he stinks!"
Nevertheless, the scent brought them to the very edge of the mountain. Beth peered over. "Oh, hell." She looked a little afraid. "He jumped that far?"
Anna nodded, amused. "Are you scared?"
"Yes." Beth gulped, smiling. "You?"
"No. Come on, I don't want to lose his scent." And with a rare mischievous grin, Anna jumped.
Beth squeaked. "Holy shit, Anna!"
It was a long way down, at least thirty feet, but Anna laughed with the exhilaration of it. I shouldn't be laughing, a small part of her thought. I'm on the hunt for the man who played a significant role in the killing of my coven – but Lord, I've never felt so alive!
Anna landed with the grace of a cat. The ground was grassy and lush here, leading into a small alcove that reeked of Darius.
"Are you dead?" Beth's open mouth was a small black hole, peeking over the edge of the mountain.
Anna beamed up at her. "Are you coming?"
Darius Tuono had always been a complicated figure in Anna's life. According to Antoine, he had come from Italy with no recollection of who had created him, or who he was. It explained why he had taken to life as a vampire so quickly. Also, his gift meant prostitutes, the homeless, and the like did not know they were dying, even as he drained them of their lifeblood.
Antoine met Darius in 1913, a year before Anna felt the agony of vampire venom; by this time, Darius had grown bored of treating humans gently. Tapping into his power, he began to humiliate his victims, stripping them of their dignity, mainly the women.
Anna saw this often. One particular memory darted across her mind, malicious and painful; it enveloped her like a choking, plastic bag.
It had been five months since Anna's Change, and she was what they called "coming back." No longer Anna the insatiable new-born, she could feel her restraint strengthening with each passing day. Anna could even walk amongst humans now, with only a little venom pooling in her mouth.
Nevertheless, depression still weighed Anna down like a blanket of lead, until she thought she would plunge straight through the ground itself; probably straight into the fiery pits of Hell. It was what she deserved.
Anna, Antoine, and Darius lived separately in Italy. It had been Darius's choice, who now seemed to know the area all like the back of his hand, despite having no human memories.
For Anna, it was a beautiful, new and exciting place for hunting at night, but that didn't stop her from feeling desperately homesick. She missed the colder, wetter climates of England. She longed for the cosy togetherness of her hometown. She wanted him.
That night, Anna wondered the streets to clear her head. With her thirst happily sated, and the humans were safely sound asleep in their beds, now the creatures of the dark could roam.
Rounding a slight corner, Anna felt their presence before seeing them. Her palms began to tingle. She was getting used to the abruptness of it whenever it came like winged insects burrowing stupidly under her skin and were now desperately trying to fly; it only worsened with every step Anna took.
Nevertheless, her gift had its uses, picking out the wolves from the sheep, and that night was no different.
A vampire is here, a powerful one. Balling up her fists to lessen the irritating feeling, Anna opened up all of her senses to assess the situation.
A woman was drenched in pungent perfume to cover her sharp-tasting adrenalin. She was the vampire's latest victim.
Soon Anna could hear the human's pitiful whimpering on the night's breeze.
"No!" Anna gasped, as Darius' scent hit her. Testosterone-charged musk intensified by lust. Anna ran towards the sounds, in spite of herself. The human's whimpers were becoming moans.
I don't want to see this. No. I can't –
Anna skidded to a stop, repulsed by the scene before her.
Darius had the human in an alleyway, shoved up against the brick wall. She was young, maybe only in her late teens, but the makeup smudged into her sunken cheeks made her look older. She was desperately thin like she hadn't eaten a decent meal in months.
The things Darius was doing to her was probably enough to break every bone in her body, but the girl did not try to stop him. Even as he sank his teeth into her bare neck, she did not protest, but only gasped with mewling pleasure.
Anna snarled. She grabbed at Darius's massive shoulder. The prickling of power in her palms exploded. "Get away from her!"
Darius jumped away from the girl against his will. She collapsed, lifeless, like a puppet with cut strings.
With a beastly howl of rage, Darius was finally looking at Anna. "You bitch!"
His eyes were bright scarlet. His black hair was coming loose from its tie, tumbling in waves around his twisted face. He looked quite mad, but even when he leapt at her throat, Anna was not afraid. A cool mist of calm had descended over her mind; Anna feinted out of his way as froth and venom dripped from his snarling mouth.
Her hand was an iron grip on Darius's forearm; her power fed greedily upon his, preventing him from moving or doing anything other than speaking. "You should have more control over yourself, Darius," Anna said. "We hunt… because we must. We take what we need to survive. We do – not –" She swallowed, "satisfy other appetites we may have, at the expense of human dignity!"
"She was begging for it!" Darius sneered, shoving his face so close to Anna she could almost taste the fresh blood on his breath. "Why deny them their final request?"
His voice, usually soft and lilting, was now a slurring bark that spat in the face of his Italian accent.
Anna did not flinch away. "We may be monsters, but we still have our morals!" She hissed, "Go home. Now."
And with a savage roar, Darius did so.
"Anna? Hey, Anna!"
She blinked, and the memory slipped off her like a frosted veil. Beth stared at her, with concerned topaz eyes. "Where did you go?" She laughed a little nervously. "Memory Lane?"
Anna swallowed. "Yes, I – I must have. Sorry."
Outside of her head, the world around her was vivid and bright. The emerald forest had diminished into a scrubby clearing. A river rushed cheerily by, winking out at them in the moonlight. Anna groaned. "We won't be able to track him through water!"
Beth howled in frustration. "Shit! What now?"
"We have to go to the Volturi." Anna sighed when her sister gaped at her.
"You're kidding. After – after what we've just seen? No!" Beth violently shook her head.
"I know it sounds foolish, given the circumstances…" Anna's mind worked fast. "But the Volturi must know that Antoine and Sabine were innocent. The true culprit is still at large."
"Well, yeah, but –"
"Darius knows we're looking for him. He purposefully came this way to block his scent from us, and there's nothing we can do about it."
Beth seethed. "So, we ask our coven's killers for help!"
"They knew Antoine," Anna went on softly. "It is likely they are as confused as we are. We can give them answers." Her eyes steeled. "And they will help us bring Darius Tuono to justice."
"Anna!" Beth was restless in her agitation. "Why do you think we hid up there? So, they wouldn't know we were there – so they wouldn't know about you. And now you want us to go straight to them? Nah. No way."
"So, you would allow Darius to remain a free man and go unpunished?"
"No!" Beth squawked. "We'll find him ourselves, Anna."
"And he will evade us at every turn." Anna swallowed. "We need a tracker to beat Tuono at his own game."
"You're a good tracker!"
Anna smiled grimly. "Thank you, Beth, but we require someone far better than I. After they found Antoine so quickly, who better to find Tuono than the Volturi?"
Beth groaned, pressing her knuckles into her eyes until it must have hurt. She sighed. "Nothing I say will change your mind, will it?
Anna shook her head solemnly. "I cannot do this alone."
Beth barked a bitter laugh. "Now that's what I call emotional blackmail. But I guess we aren't doing so great here, on our own."
Anna sighed. "Can you think of anyone else who can track better than Tuono?"
Beth grimaced. "Well, no."
"Then I'm sorry, Beth," Anna said. "But we must go to the Volturi."
To be continued...