Title: V is for Valeria, Chapter 9: X Marks the Spot
Author: April Arrglington
Characters/Pairing: Bella & Edward
Rating: T+ for profanity & violence
Spoilers: Based on the Twilight universe starting out from the end of
Summary: Valeria is a seventeen year-old resident of Volterra who happens to witness the events concerning Bella Swan & Edward Cullen at the Piazza di Priori’s Clock Tower on Saint Marcus Day.
Author’s Note: V for Valeria's first few chapters are devoted to character introduction and plot set up. Bella is a huge character in this fan fiction, however Valeria crosses path with her and the Cullens after unlocking the secrets that plague Volterra. Think Twilight meets the Davinci Code. Be patient and I guarantee you'll enjoy the ride. In Chapter 9 Valeria uncovers more secrets inside Volterra.
“Come on, Valeria. The woman has obviously lost her marbles” Ceci had said. And that was the last word spoken about the whole ordeal.
Ms. Miriam had let go of me that outlandish morning after some customers had come to her shop to pick up an order. “You know where to find me if you have any more symbology questions,” were her last words.
After that I had gone straight to Ceci and Dario to relate to them what she had told me. Ceci was more than happy to finally dismiss the whole matter after that, and Dario was just too distracted that the football (as in soccer) season was upon us. So the whole vampire theory was wasted by the wayside.
I, on the other hand, didn’t know what to think about it all. Sure, the whole idea was absurd. Yet, somehow, I had been absorbed deeply by the story. And despite all of my efforts to set it aside, I kept it in the back of my head.
I spent that Sunday with Mother at the Coffee Shop, baking. I found that, when cooking, the only thing that matter was the sweet mixtures batter, sugar and butter could concoct and that made me feel better. Mother had also decided to install a new TV in the Coffee Shop as of recently, so we were kept busy with all sorts of people flocking in to watch the football games.
Days became months, and between the football season, school and the up coming holidays I was back to my old routine of just living life on life’s terms. Ceci (and Dario by connection) didn’t bring up what had transpired over the summer. I, on the other hand, still had my recurring nightmares every now and then, and I tried my best not let them bother me.
In this manner, by 2001 I was re-capturing back my normalcy. I was spending a lot more time with the Twins, for a lot of reasons. First, unlike Ceci and Dario, the Twins didn’t mind when I brought up vampires in my stories, even if they sound strange or fantastical. They actually relish story time with me, especially if it was gory.
What’s more, Mariano had developed an affinity to music and I had become his official audience. He formed a band with his sister, Maribel, in which he was the main singer/songwriter. He was not only taking guitar lessons, but his parents had also bought him a synthesizer.
Maribel had reluctantly taken over drum duty, slowly embracing her rhythmic abilities. However, what she enjoyed most about this new venture was coming up with the costumes for the band. The costumes always reflected the latest trend Mariano was into, and at the moment he was frantic about pirates and zombies. Maribel of course, fired his fanaticism by coming up with elaborate pirate costumes that included wigs, wooden legs, eye patches, and fake blood.
In an attempt to spoil their whims, one night I rented the latest rendition of ‘Treasure Island’ that had come out on DVD, and the classic ‘Night of the Living Dead’ for the three of us to watch. They loved them both, and drawing inspiration from both movies they decided to call their band “Pirate Zombies”. A few weeks later I was surprised to find that for my Birthday the Twins had written their first single for me. They performed it on an impromptu staged they had set up in their bedroom:
I drink rum and search for treasure
Don’t mind my gun
X marks the spot of all my pleasures
I look for gold
6 feet under, she said
It lays awaiting
But when I dig through soot & grunge
I find them instead awaiting
Hey Ho Hey Ho
Hey Hey Ho!
It had been the best Birthday present EVER!
That evening, after eating ‘gummy bear and fudge birthday cake’ made by the Twins, I helped them clean up their little stage before bedtime. They were particularly excited to show me the new glow in the dark stars they had stuck all over the ceiling of their room. I also noticed that, in an attempted to keep all their mess in order, their mom had gotten a huge treasure trunk for them to keep all their music instruments and pirate paraphernalia. As I opened it I gazed at a map of Volterra taped to the inside lid marked with a bunch of little red Xs.
“What is this?” I pointed out to the map.
“Is our treasure map,” Mariano said. “See? X marks all of the spots.”
I looked closely at the Xs littering the whole map. I must have been frowning, for Maribel elaborated.
“We decided to mark all the Xs we could find in Volterra. Just like you found all those Vs…”
Of course, as I anticipated, that night I couldn’t sleep. I kept tossing and turning, plagued with thoughts of Vs and Xs. At dawn a notion finally settled into my head after hearing the echoing voice of Ms. Miriam resonating in my ears:
There is vast evidence of the Order also hidden in Volterra’s architectural history. Next time you come across symbols in the city look closely, the Order’s Cross is often drawn along the Volturri’s V as a sign of the human success and defiance against the immortal power.
The next day, right after school, I asked the Twins for their map. They followed me all over town as I discovered what I had suspected all along to be true: the Xs the Twins had found weren’t really Xs at all, but crosses. And usually, beside them, there was always a V to be found.
Ms. Miriam had been right, about this at least.
I was conflicted about what to do with this new information. But soon decided I didn’t want to go back to Ceci and Dario without further proof, or at least a reasonable theory in which to explain my new findings. Through my favorite teacher, my History Professor Ms. Antonia Cosimo, I was granted access to Guarnacci Library and the map archives of the city. I figured I might find something, maybe a pattern for the location of the symbols that could give me a clue of the Order’s existence.
I found nothing really that called for my attention. Through further research on crosses, however, I found out that there was a collection of ancient crosses and crucifixes at the Chapel of San Paolo in Volterra’s Cattedrale. Apparently the collection also featured a compendium of crests of all the ministries registered in the city. Most of them were Catholic, though passing Jesuit and Anglican Missions were featured. I included, among my notes, a reminder to visit the exhibit.
I also found many botanical and medical works link to these ministries, especially during the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, throughout the malaria epidemic. I found this information interesting because at the time Malaria had been a bigger killer than Consumption in Italy, but not for too long.
The Jesuits had brought to Italy the Cinchona Bark to treat Malaria, which had been discovered by Agostino Salumbrino, a Jesuit Monk living in Peru. Years later an Anglican Doctor nicknamed Il Gaelico Uomo (The Gaelic Man) had come to Volterra with French expeditionary Charles Marie de La Condamine to inquire the Volturri family for medical funding. The medical expedition in question consisted of going back to The Americas to find the most effective form of Quinine to cure Malaria. By 1737 the venture was label a success.
Interestingly enough Il Gaelico Uomo didn’t take credit to the discoveries, so full credit was given to La Condamine. However the Volturri were persuaded by Il Gaelico Uomo, along with the Catholic Church, to found the Guarnacci Library in 1786 to keep track records of such ventures and findings. Overwhelming generous donations by The Volturri family were given to the library at the time as an eager sign to keep record of all works of theology, literature, history, botanics, medicine, geography and humanistic disciplines.
The Volturri were also very passionate about funding the arts, so they acted as the main patrons for the Etruscan Guarnacci Museum and Nine Alabaster Workshops established at the time in Volterra. The donations were consistent until the family line appears to have died by the beginning of the 19th century.
The only document baring the signature of the mysterious Gaelico Uomo was the inaugural certificate for the Guarnacci Library. Next to the X marking the signature spot for Gaelico Uomo a scribble read: C. Kuillinn.
I had to stop my research there that day. All this new information was making my brain turn into mush. Thankfully it was Friday, so I was tempted to sleep in the next day. But at around eleven o’clock the next morning I had to pick up the twins from their music class and sit them until six, at which time the exhibit of crosses at the Cattedrale -that I was dying to check out- would be closing.
I had no choice in the matter. If I wanted to make it to the exhibit that day the Twins had to tag along. The excursion, as I suspected, was welcomed halfheartedly. Maribel hated to go to churches and Marianno was just not the sort of kid to take to an exhibit, for the exhibit’s own safety. Consequently, neither was thrilled about the idea until I promised milkshakes at the Coffee Shop afterwords.
The Chapel of San Paolo was situated inside the Volterra’s Cattedrale, located mid-town. The Twins sat at the back of the Chapel, while I scrutinized the collection of ancient crosses and crucifixes in display. The show cases exhibited leather, copper, silver, and gold crosses among many other reliquaries. They were all beautiful, but none of them referenced any clues on the Order.
I then headed to the back of the Chapel were a compendium of the Ministry Crests hanged on a frame from the wall. I quickly spotted the one sporting the stag-and-cross, labeled ‘Order of Saint Eustacio’. But that was it; no further information was given on the crests. It was just an alphabetical compendium.
Disappointed, I sat with the Twins on their pew facing the framed crests. Maribel had brought her puzzle book filled with crosswords and other games to pass the time. She and Marianno were playing a very competitive connect the dots game while I stared at the crests. That’s when an idea hit me.
I asked Marianno for their map of Volterra with all of the crosses they had found in town, and proceeded to connect all the crosses together with a pencil. The final contour was hard to make out. It was as if two branches circled a cross. And that’s when I smiled because I realized that the cross was positioned in the middle, just like Saint Eustacio’s cross was featured in the middle of the stag’s ferns.
Incredibly excited, I noticed that the main cross in question on the map pointed to the Holy Cross Chapel inside the Church of Saint Michele. The Twins stared at the map with curiosity. “Come on kids, let’s go where the X marks the spot”.
My heart sank, however, an hour and a half later when we finally got to the Church and we noticed a banner announcing how the Chapel was closed for restorations. It figured.
Marianno tried to console me, “We’ll just have to come back when the Chapel opens again.”
“Restorations can take a while,” I said, defeated. “It might be months, maybe more before they open it again.”
After Saint Michele we stopped at the Coffee Shop to make good on my milkshake promise. Mr. Chaconier was there, making an emergency brown sugar delivery for Mother. His store at the Market was the most popular with restaurant and coffee shop vendors because not only would he make emergency deliveries, but also all of his goods were always incredibly fresh.
The down side of dealing with Mr. Chaconier was that he was a chatter box. While he was delivering Mother’s order he dove into a soliloquy of his three favorite past times: the firework dispensary in town he kept due to his pyromaniac passion, the latest town gossip he liked to spread around just like an old lady, and the proverbial whine about the government’s everlasting incompetency.
While listening to Mr. Chaconier mumble in the background, the Twins and I sat down on a booth with our milkshakes, staring at the Map of Volterra and the cross-and-stag contour it was displaying. I turned the map side to side, looking for further clues.
“Look,” Maribel pointed out while looking at the map from across the table. She traced with her finger the letter V that protruded from the main ferns of the figure, from which the main cross raised on the map. I looked closely and the V intersected at the Palazzo Incontri Viti, located right across the street from Saint Michele.
“Interesting… the two main intersecting points are across from each other,” I said, smiling with new found hope filling my eyes. “We might not need to go into the Chapel after all.” Maribel grinned back at me, excited, happy to have helped.
On our way out Mr. Chaconier offered us a ride since he needed to stop at the Bank anyway. That’s when I realized how the Palazzo Incontri (now -Viti) was often mixed up with the Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra, aka the City’s Bank at the Piazza dei Priori, because this last one used to be called Pallazo Incontri also.
When we got to our correct destination, the lady at the information desk explained to us that because of the winter schedule just part of the Palazzo was open for tours. The tour available included the second floor, and extended up to the courtyard. Everything beyond that was off limits, including the third floor. The Twins and I examined the courtyard, then the dinning hall (Sala da Pranzzo) and the ballroom (Sala da Ballo) on the second floor. By the time we reached sitting hall (Salotto del Brachettone), which marked the end of the tour, I had given up searching for any crosses or Vs.
That’s when Marianno tugged at my shirt and guided me towards a heavy curtain at the end of the sitting hall. The curtain was draping the wall, instead of a window, which I found odd. But then I realized that Marianno had discovered that the curtain was actually covering a secret door instead. A door that interestingly enough was sporting the Volturri Crest at the top of its wooden frame.