The room was filled with a blur of colour & lively music. Elegant ladies twirled across the tiled floor in a
kaleidoscope of brightly coloured silk damask. They were accompanied by equally
elegant and almost as brightly coloured gentlemen. Ariadne had never seen such and openly
decadent display of wealth. She gazed around the room in wonder at the tables
groaning under the weight of the sheer quantities of produce. Stuffed peacock
stared out from between mounds of ripe fruits, bowls sugared almonds and vast
jugs of wine. Beautiful as it all looked she had no appetite for any of it.
The young woman carefully began to edge her way around the room trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, feeling quite
out of place in her simple black peasant attire.
Suddenly her introspection was interrupted as an enthusiastic peel of raucous laughter brought her eyes to the centre of the room where a crowd of revellers were giving their attention to three very
strikingly beautiful men. One of the three had long white hair tied back from
his pale features with a black ribbon, accentuating his perfectly sculptured
bone structure. He was dressed in a blue velvet frock coat with a contrasting gold
brocade waistcoat, which gave him the appearance of royalty. This must be Master Caius
Caius was flirting outrageously with the women fawning around him and he had been the cause of the earlier outburst of laughter. The two other men were
both dressed in muted reds and browns and had very dark almost black hair;
although they looked very similar in appearance, one of them looked incredibly
bored with all the attention and frivolity. The other was smiling and nodding
politely to the group in front of them. Masters Marcus and Aro the young woman
deduced. Although she had never met any of the Volturi family their reputation
was legendary in Europe. Stories of how they
had brought peace and prosperity to this once troubled town now aptly named
Volterra and also brought with them a rich cultural heritage which had made it
a desirable place for the gentry to settle and conduct business.
Although Caius was the one attracting the most attention, it was Aro that held the real power
here. Ariadne had been conscripted to work for his wife Sulpicia and wondered what
kind of a Master he was. The young woman studied Aro’s face as he smiled,
politely laughing at Caius’s jokes and replying
gently to eagerly asked questions. Could
this man really be a vicious killer, were all the people in this room in mortal
danger? It was difficult to believe that such a benign countenance and noble
features hid a ruthless cold blooded monster, but she knew that if he was like
her, he was. Such was the fate of their
kind, how else could they survive? At that moment Ariadne noticed that Aro was
looking directly at her. Instantly she dropped her gaze to the floor and edged
her way towards the main inner door which was flanked by two cloaked figures,
members of the Volturi guard. As she
hurried away Aro soon lost interest in the mousey young woman who had been
staring at him so intensely and turned his attention back to his guests. Smiling
to them he said, “I apologise for my rudeness but I must drag Marcus and Caius away from
you now. Sadly we have some business to attend to which will not wait.”
A murmur of disappointment erupted from the group and Caius rolled his eyes at Aro, and then
turned his head to wink at a young girl who had been draping herself over his
arm in a most suggestive manor. “Until later.” He beamed.
Marcus looked positively relieved to be leaving the scene and as the three men turned to go, the Volturi personal body guard who had been almost invisible
in the background materialised like spectres dressed in heavy black cloaks,
quickly surrounding the three men, separating them from their guests and
ushering the hosts into the library.
Ariadne at the opposite end of the room was lead into Lady Sulpicia’s reception room where she
was instructed to wait until her mistress was ready to see her.
The reception room was enormous, with a high ceiling which had a large chandelier in the centre lit with at least 100
candles. Ariadne wondered who’s job it
was to light them and hoped it wouldn’t be hers.
Several couches with lavish upholstery and vibrant cushions were carefully arranged
around a large fireplace for receiving guests.
The walls were hung with tapestries depicting hunting and other courtly
scenes the exquisite workmanship of which must have taken years to complete. The
most striking feature of the room was a large portrait that hung above the
fireplace. It depicted the whole Volturi family. To the right of the enormous
canvass was a detailed representation of a seated Caius
with a petite fair haired woman. The couple were holding hands. This must be Athenodora Caius’s
wife, Ariadne mused, now feeling quite disgusted by his disgraceful behaviour
in the ballroom. To the right was a
likeness of Marcus and Didyme. The
young peasant girl wondered if Didyme’s untimely death had contributed to Marcus’s apparent boredom and dissatisfaction with
his situation. Didyme, Ariadne had heard was gifted with the ability to make
those around her happy, and it did appear in the picture at least that Marcus
was enraptured by her. His features animated by an adoring smile which made him
almost unrecognisable. In the centre of the portrait stood Aro and Sulpicia,
their regal gaze giving away nothing of their feelings. Sulpicia was
breathtakingly beautiful, dressed in green velvet with cascading locks of
bright auburn hair which framed her delicate porcelain features. One couldn’t
help but be impressed by the nobility of this imposing family group.
“I see you are admiring our portrait.” Ariadne turned quickly to respond the speaker and came face to face with the
beautiful red head from the picture. The young woman curtsied instinctively and
bowing her head replied, “Yes Madam.”
“You must be Ariadne.” The lady continued “I do hope that you will enjoy your stay with us here in Volterra.” As she said
this Sulpicia crossed the room and sat down on one of the couches gesturing to
Ariadne that she wished her to sit in the one opposite. The young woman complied and carefully placed
herself between two large red Chinese silk cushions accentuating the dowdiness
of her own attire.
Sulpicia threw her head back and let out a long musical laugh as she observed the contrast between the peasant girl and
the lavish upholstery. “One of the first things we need to do is get you out of
that disgusting rag.” She remarked.
If Ariadne had been able, she would have blushed at the great lady’s teasing, but before she could look up to reply the
rear doors opened and a young girl dressed in one of the Volturi guard cloaks
came to stand behind Lady Sulpicia.
“Ah, Jane!” Sulpicia exclaimed clapping her hands together. “Just on cue, would you be so
kind as to show Ariadne to her room and find her something more appropriate to
Jane smiled and nodded to her mistress and making a graceful circuit from behind the couch she bent down and kissed the lady on both cheeks before
glancing at the peasant girl and saying. “Come with me.” Jane
began to lead the way out of the doors from which she had arrived. “I expect to
see you in my chambers at 7:30am when we can discuss your duties.” Sulpicia
said rising in a farewell gesture. “Oh yes before I forget. You may hunt alone if you wish, but if you do
please make sure that it’s at least 20 miles outside Volterra or if you prefer
company, you may join the guard in the kitchen at 8pm. Demitri and Felix can
arrange extra sustenance.” An involuntary shudder went through Ariadne as she
thought of some of the colourful guests, maybe even the young woman who had
been so taken with Caius, being ushered into the
kitchen to be butchered.
“I will hunt alone if that is acceptable.” The girl whispered, bobbing to her new mistress before turning to follow Jane.
“As you wish.” Were the lady’s parting words.
Jane didn’t look much older than fifteen years but Ariadne guessed she was much older even than her own thirty years.
Jane had babyish almost
cherubic features and her smile was reminiscent of the paintings one sometimes
sees in churches of infants with wings playing harps or pouring liquid from a
ewer. Her hair was a mass of blonde ringlets and when she moved it was with the
grace of a child.
“So what do you think of Voltera so far?” Jane asked, bringing the peasant girl back into the present.
“It’s very beautiful.” Was her honest reply.
“You’ll become accustomed to it soon enough.” Jane said, beaming at her
through her curls. “Here we are!”
Jane took a bunch of keys from around her waist and fitted one into the lock of the door they were now standing in front of. “This will be your room,
it joins onto Master Aro
and Lady Sulpicia’s private quarters; and please, if
you value your life, do not disturb them unless you are summoned.” Her tone was
grave and Ariadne nodded back acknowledging the warning.
The door opened into a small but comfortable room with its own mini fireplace and bright clean walls. An iron bed with a
pretty patchwork quilt was placed in one corner of the room. Probably for
appearances sake, the young woman thought as they knew she wouldn’t need
disappeared into an adjoining closet and appeared a short time later with a
dark blue silk dress, a pair of matching shoes and a cloak, much like her own.
“These should fit you nicely” she said flashing her exquisite smile at Ariadne
before handing the clothes to her.
“You are free to explore the lower areas and may use the exit in the kitchen to come and go, but please remember the
hunting rule or your life will end quite abruptly and probably painfully.”
There was an evil glint in her eye as she said this, making Ariadne take note
never to get on the wrong side of Jane.
Jane unlatched two keys from the ring on her belt and handed them to the girl. “The gold key is for Lady Sulpicia’s private
rooms, knock before entering even if you are expected, and the other is a copy
of your room key.”
“Thank you Jane, will we see much of each other?” Ariadne asked conversationally.
“Oh I expect so.” Jane replied with a grin. “I do a lot of work for both Master Aro
and the great lady. Good night Ariadne and happy hunting!” with that Jane turned lightly and disappeared through the door,
leaving the young woman alone with her thoughts.
Ariadne walked to the window of her room and looked out into the fading sunset. It was still warm for September and the
leaves had only just begun to fall from the trees. Her thoughts drifted to an
evening not unlike this some ten years ago. She had been in love and the world
had seemed magical. The young woman had
arranged to meet her lover by the lake to make plans for their wedding the
following spring. The memories had begun to fade but she could still picture John’s earnest eyes smiling at her from his boyish
face. His hair a flaxen tangle, flopping untidily over one eye as he rose from
his seat on the grass to greet her. John wasn’t beautiful or perfect in any way, but he
had a sturdy handsomeness and a kind heart, but best of all he had loved her, loved
her so much that he had sacrificed himself to the monster for her. Now she was a monster too and that life was
Moving away from the window the young woman walked over to the night stand beside the bed. Jane
had left her a lighted candle. Picking it up the girl lit the other candles in
the wall sconces giving the room a cheerful glow helping to banish the dark
Ariadne poured some water into a bowl which had also been placed on the nightstand so that she could wash before dressing
in her new uniform. Once dressed, she surveyed herself critically in the large
looking glass above the fire. The
clothes fitted her perfectly and were a great improvement on the old ones she
had arrived in. Assessing her hair she decided that to better blend in with her
new surroundings she would stop wearing it in an austere bun as she had lately
become accustomed and began pulling out hair pins allowing her long chestnut
hair to shake loose as seemed to be the fashion here. Satisfied that she look
more like someone who belonged here in Volterra. Ariadne carefully placed both
keys into the pocket of her dress before leaving to hunt.