‘You do know there’s this wonderful new invention called the cell phone, right? Or email?’ Bella complained knowing full well the answer as she let the Messenger in the front door of the Cullen house for the third time that month. The Volturi had been checking in more and more frequently since Renesmee had grown into her full power and statue. No doubt making sure she hadn’t suddenly gone feral and run off into the woods with outcast wolves.
‘We’re old fashioned.’ The Messenger smiled warmly. Bella did not smile back.
‘Aro doesn’t like talking on the phone.’ Alice called from the landing. ‘I’ll go get Carlisle.’
‘So he’d rather send people to talk to people to go back and talk to him instead of what? Skype?’ Bella continued, ushering them into the lounge.
‘Can’t read people over the phone.’ The Messenger explained as Alice disappeared upstairs.
Bella frowned, not for the first time thinking that Aro has issues.
‘Oh hey Messenger’s here!’ Emmett’s voice boomed, entering the room well before the rest of him. ‘Anyone got any rude messages for the Volturi?’
‘Yeah I’ve got a few.’ Rosalie snarled, folding her arms and leaning heavily against Emmett.
‘Now now play nice.’ Carlisle scolded softly as he descended the stairs with the remainder of the clan and Jacob in tow. ‘No biting the messenger.’
Several sets of eyes rolled in their sockets and many voices groaned. One went so far as to whine ‘Laaaaame’.
When the hubbub eventually subsided, the Messenger went into their official spiel in that tired monotone specific only to customer service.
‘As official representative head of this coven, do you accept delivery of this message? Do you accept responsibility for any consequences following delivery of said message? Do you accept that on acceptance of these conditions forthwith you and your clan forgo the right to bite, maim, destroy, or otherwise be angry with the deliverer of these tidings under Volturi statute nolite interficere nuntius?’
Carlisle gave the official response of, ‘Proceed.’ and the Messenger visibly relaxed.
‘Right so, message begins: As per our agreement you yourself, your… mate? Wife? Anyway, you,’ here they gestured to Esme who was trying to decide whether to be amused or insulted. ‘Are welcome always to the halls of Volterra. As are you, dear Alice. Not you,’ Here they pointed to Rosalie, ‘or you,’ and Emmett, ‘or you,’ and Jasper. ‘Darling Edward, Isabelle, and of course the dear sweet little one are.’ Bella looked as though she was going to be sick. ‘The dog is not welcome unless it is thoroughly washed first and is kept on a very short leash. Tanto amore, Aro. Message ends.’
The silence seemed endless until Renesmee began to laugh. Great howling laughs that forced her to cling to Jacob’s arm to keep herself upright. She had no real memory of Aro, meeting him only that once across the snow-covered field. Her father would speak of the Volturi often and in broad terms as part of her history lessons and when speaking of the leaders themselves often did so with a kind of begrudging respect and slight disgust. He would speak of their gifts of telepathy and she would think of a large smooth hand held out towards her. Remember watching the understanding dawn in deep red eyes as she gave her short life’s experiences willingly. The cold under her palm. The soft voice. The flash of fear and horror. Her mother when forced to speak of Aro would do so in a voice and vocabulary that would make the Devil himself rethink his life choices. So she stopped trying. Grandma Esme, she thought, pitied him. And Grandad Carlisle when pressed would speak with such sympathy you couldn’t help but wonder how much of it was repressed regret. But of what? After being introduced to the wonders of internet-archived entertainment and the many messages over the last few months she had formed a very definite impression. For never was a story of more woe…
Rosalie silently continued to shred the arm of her leather jacket with her nails, fuming enough to spontaneously combust.
‘He’s just toying with us.’ Alice soothed, rubbing Jasper’s hand.
Carlisle sighed, catching Edward’s eye in a look that clearly said Well I don’t know what we expected. and That’s Aro for you.
‘Apart from that,’ chirped the Messenger completely oblivious to the sudden upheaval in atmosphere, ‘continue to not go out of your way to stir things up with the humans and the big bad wolves and your coven will be left alone.’
Jacob growled deep in his throat and barred his teeth.
‘Uh no, thank you, I think that’s pretty straightforward.’ Carlisle cleared his throat. ‘I’ll walk you out.’
The Messenger fell in step behind him, suddenly conscious of how very stab-able their back looked now their official duty had been done.
Suddenly Carlisle stopped with one hand on the front doorknob.
‘Actually, yes. I do have a message.’
The Messenger raised an expectant eyebrow.
Carlisle took a long, slow breath that he didn’t actually need. Then smiled sadly and shook his head.
‘Oh he knows.’ He smiled again, more warmly this time, and clapped the Messenger on the shoulder. ‘Safe journey.’
Carlisle closed the door between them and rested his forehead against it.
The Messenger raised the hood of their jacket and faded into the tree-lined background.
Thousands of miles and a day or three away, a sudden cry of ‘He knows what?’ Shook through the halls of Volterra with such force Caius dropped his lunch and stained his favourite shirt. ‘What is it that I am supposed to know?’
‘I’m not a mind reader.’ Caius mouthed mockingly as he dabbed at the blood with a napkin.
‘I KNOW I’M A MIND READER JUST NOT THAT SORT YOU UTTER HEDGE-BORN LOTTEREL!’ The shouting continued.
Caius poured himself another goblet and sighed.