Edward and I took our places between our group's lines that formed again quickly, watching, hand-in-hand, cautiously, as Aro's guard made their way through the trees, pausing ten yards in front of us, and fanning out in their usual pattern.
The lighter grey cloaks glided to the outside, while the darker ones moved in, positioning themselves anxiously in the center.
Even in the darkness, it was easy to recognize some of the familiar faces from our last meeting. Alec, Jane, Felix, Demetri, Renata. And when the rest of the members removed their hoods to glare at us, they, too, had been part of that horrific memory. Heidi, Chelsea and Santiago—all of them—wore hardened, hateful features. No pretend friendliness this time.
They were here to fight.
The center parted slightly, giving Aro and Caius room to drift their way through to the front. Like normal, they didn't appear as angry as the guard, but no amount of pleasantness graced their faces either.
Twenty-seven stood before us, just like Adriana said.
Aro made glances back and forth across our lines, freezing in sudden anger when his eyes made contact with mine. Seeing me, meant his tree-traveling vampires had failed. I gave him a smug smile, then turned it to a fierce glare when I remembered he still had Alice and Charlie.
As I continued to glare, I noticed Marcus and the two wives were not present. I had hoped Alice, Charlie, and even Ahren would have been brought with them tonight, even if by some slim chance. I would have given almost anything to see their faces, to know they were alive.
It was evident then that Aro had no intentions of letting them go. And according to Carlisle, this would be a fight for me, here, tonight. One more 'trinket' for Aro to add to his collection.
I watched as my shield, covered over our group. One by one, each vampire and wolf became a bright light of energy under it.
Edward's hand became tense in mine as he stared at Aro, focusing on his thoughts. By the expression on his face, and the cold darkness in his eyes, I knew they weren't good.
He sensed me staring at him, and without looking, he spoke in a whisper, "Aro's main reason for meeting us here in the mountains, is so I would not be in hearing range of Alice or Charlie." He pursed his lips. "He knew something was up when everything went blank in Vienna. And he wasn't going to take his chances allowing us to show up in Volterra."
"He's upset to see you standing here…" he continued, smiling smugly. But as quick as he felt a sense of victory, his face turned back to a bitter cold. Aro was not done 'thinking'.
A low growl erupted in Edward's chest as he pulled me slightly behind him, ready to protect. What could be so bad that my shield or Zafrina could not handle?
"What? What is it?" I leaned around to look at his face.
His nostrils were flared, his eyes cold and his face hard as he glared in Aro's direction. He just shook his head at me, as if it was something he didn't want to share, then attempted to compose his expression, as if he now wanted me to believe it was nothing important. But, if it was nothing important, then what was the growl for?
I kept my eyes on Eleazar as he searched up and down the Volturi line, looking for new gifts. Had he found any that Edward caught thought of? What was he keeping from me?
"Ah, Carlisle," Aro greeted him in his usual wispy eerie tone. "We meet again."
"Aro," Carlisle replied as he crossed his arms in front of him and held his head high, with no emotion in his tone.
Aro scanned our front line, taking into account all the vampires he recognized from our last meeting, eyeing a few in a confused state, as if possibly wondering at their front line status. He seemed completely unnerved by our group.
Caius moved his eyes swiftly back and forth to the wolves, watching them closely. His dark trembling pupils contained a look of edginess in them, but he held a non-surprised scowl across his face regardless.
"Hello, Kate," Aro gazed upon her. "I'm so sorry I didn't get a chance to apologize for what happened to your sister last time," he pretended to sympathize, shaking his head back and forth, "…such a pity."
That was uncalled for. My detestation for Aro was going to grow with every word that left his mouth tonight. I could feel it.
Kate made no reply. Instead, she glared out the tops of her eyes and crouched, as a steady snarl stole past her lips. Tanya, Eleazar, Garrett and Carmen snarled in unison with her.
I stared in surprise when Kate placed her right hand behind her back, and a slight spark appeared and disappeared in her palm as she clenched and unclenched her fist.
I didn't remember that.
"We know what you want, Aro," Carlisle stared him down, "and you can't have her."
Aro's eyes moved to me quickly as a smirk grew slowly upon his lips. "Is that so, Carlisle?" he said with indifference then focused his gaze back on him.
"Yes, that is so." Carlisle stood firm, not allowing anything Aro said affect him.
"Well, I do have a very strict time limit to stick to, to bring Bella back," he paused, then turned to gaze upon Jasper, and spoke with a hint of warning, "or else, of course…"
Edward gripped my hand beyond tight then. If he wasn't careful, he was going to snap my fingers off.
Carlisle and Jasper became rigid at Aro's underling meaning, and I stiffened along with them as Caius haunted out an evil laugh under his breath.
"Or else what?" I whispered to Edward.
His body began to tremble with anger, shaking my hand along with his. His breathing became deep and unsteady as his expression turned to beyond furious.
"Edward," I shook at his hand to get his attention, "or else what?" I repeated with more anxiety and alarm in my voice.
He turned his head slightly to the side, keeping his dark black eyes focused on Aro and spoke through gritted teeth, "Or else, Marcus is going to kill Charlie and Ahren, and hurt Alice if Aro doesn't return with you…soon."
"What?" I yelled in a whisper. "Soon? How soon?"
"Marcus's orders are to wait until midnight. If Aro doesn't return by the twelfth toll, he is to…" he couldn't finish the words, but I knew exactly what he meant. He closed his eyes as he took in deep breaths to compose himself as best he could from the sadness, fear and rage that were trying to consume him.
Marcus was going to kill them if Aro didn't return with me? This night was growing worse with every second that passed. I knew something like this was coming.
I pulled my cell phone out of my back pocket and glanced at it, to see how much time we had. It was ten forty-five, giving us an hour and fifteen minutes to get back to Volterra. The run from Pistoia would take no more than forty-five minutes, leaving us thirty minutes or so out here to get past the Volturi and the guard. Hoping to make it back in time to save Alice, Charlie and Ahren before Marcus could hurt them.
My shield suddenly became uncomfortable as sharp bolts of light bounced off of it, about twenty at one time. Jane was attacking.
Then I was confused. Why wasn't Zafrina blinding them? That had been the plan as soon as Aro, or any member of the guard, showed any kind of intentions to hurt us. Perhaps Carlisle had not given her a signal yet?
I looked in Zafrina's direction. Her head was moving to the side, backwards and forwards over and over, as if she was fighting mentally with something. I didn't understand. My shield was up, what could possibly be disturbing her?
Then panic grew in me as I noticed she was not a light of energy anymore. She was outside my shield. Was someone in the guard affecting her? I tried to push my shield forward, to wrap her back into the bubble, but it wouldn't budge.
I tensed and my muscles froze. Had Aro found a defense against me? This was my deepest fear come true. I continued to push with all my might, but it still wouldn't move. It was as if an invisible wall was blocking, leaving Zafrina wide open and vulnerable.
I gazed around at the rest of our group, making sure everyone else was securely inside. Only Zafrina had been left out to fend for herself, and was failing. It was simply a matter of time before Jane or Alec would move in on her.
"We will not give you Bella, Aro," Carlisle continued in response to his previous threat.
Aro's face turned serious, more serious than usual. "It would be in your best interest, Carlisle, to hand her over," he warned again. "You see, according to Alice's vision, if you don't, the outcome for your group…well…doesn't look good." He smiled, his lips turning themselves up fiendishly higher.
Carlisle thought about Aro's words for a moment then turned back to Edward with a questioned stare.
Edward stopped breathing as he gazed through Aro's mind, seeing all the visions from Alice, based on the Volturi's decisions and ours. And for the first time in a long time, Edward appeared scared, which made me stop breathing as well.
He looked up solemnly after a moment, to meet Carlisle's gaze, nodding only once to him that Aro was speaking the truth.
I leaned my forehead against Edward's back, feeling defeated. "No," I whispered to myself.
I knew what this meant.
I couldn't let my family and friends be destroyed. Not here, not tonight, not like this and not over me. I was going to have to go with Aro. He had found a hole in my shield, he had a plan of attack against it, and I had no other choice.
This was my nightmare against James all over again, sacrificing all I had for the ones I loved, while putting my life in the hands of wrongly motivated vultures.
Without Zafrina and me, what could our group do against Jane and Alec? We were trapped. Like sitting ducks, surrounded by hunters, waiting to be plucked off one by one until we were all gone.
My stomach turned, and I felt sick as I slowly reached down, grabbed Edward's wrist and began to wrestle my hand out of his.
"What are you doing?" He glared down at my hand, then up at me.
"I'm doing what I have to to save you," I replied, not looking at him, still trying to get my hand free.
"No, Bella!" His eyes were angry, his face hard as he scowled at me for even thinking about what I was attempting.
"Yes!" I glared up at him.
He gripped my hand tighter. "You can't." His expression changed, his voice now soft and pleading.
"I…I have to." My eyes argued against his.
He shook his head and fought against my pull. "No!" His stare hammered hard into mine as I tried to tug away.
We fought against each other for a moment, and then his face turned to concluding heartbreak when he realized I wasn't going to give up. His struggle for me to stay froze and my heart broke into a million pieces at his pain.
I hung my head and closed my eyes. I couldn't bear to look at what I was doing to him. My vague memory of that afternoon at Charlie's, out in the woods, when Edward told me he was leaving me, pierced heavily on my heart. I knew the agony he was suffering. The pain of having to watch someone you love, walk away. And it didn't matter what side, or whose shoes either one of us were in tonight, the hurt was unbearable.
"Don't leave me, please." He grabbed intensely at my elbow, pleading, begging again.
I wanted to be strong for him. "I'm not leaving you, Edward. I'm saving you, all of you if I can…" I replied trying to hold back the sting of tears from my eyes. "Aro saw Alice's vision if I didn't go with him, and I could tell by your face it would be bad, very bad." I gazed deeper into his devastated eyes. "But…what if I did go? What if we change Alice's vision? We have to try, Edward," I chocked. "I have to try…"
He was quiet, motionless. Only his eyes moved about sporadically as he took in my words. I think some part of him understood what I said, but knowing Edward, he'd rather fight and take his chances than let me just walk away.
"Bella?" I heard Aro call for me, like a parent calling for a child to come home. I cringed at the tone of his arrogant command. Edward growled.
"Coming…" I barely spilled out, feeling even sicker, not wanting to bark back at him and upset him into using Jane or Alec.
I glanced around at my family and friends' faces staring at me, sad and confused at how this had all gone so wrong so fast. I scanned each one quickly, trying to hold a slight smile for them.
Meeting Edward's face again, for one last look, I memorized everything beautiful in it. He was torn immensely in anguish and grief, a mirror of my own expression.
"You have to let me go, Edward," I whispered, staring into his eyes, attempting to pry his hard, locked fingers from my arm.
"No…" He shook his head, fighting against my prying fingers, still trying to hold on.
"You have to," I pleaded, my voice shaking. "You know what Aro saw…" I reminded him as I stopped his hand from fighting mine.
"Alice's visions are not always right," he stared into my eyes, telling me what I already knew, hoping to talk some sense into me staying. But I knew better on this one.
"If I stay, it will be the exact same vision Alice has seen. The one you've seen. It won't change, Edward…you know that," I reasoned truthfully. "Everything will go the way Aro expects and wants. Do you want that?"
As quick as I said the words, all the life dropped from Edward's eyes. He panicked for a moment, looking, searching, trying, and hoping for something other than this. But I knew it was no use when his expression turned up bleak.
"I don't know how to let you go, Bella..." He shook his head. "I ...I won't survive it..."
I stroked my hand gently down the side of his face. "You have to survive it, Edward, for me."
He grabbed my hand when it reached just under his jaw. "Till death do us part…" he reminded me of the vows we had taken and pledged to one another only a little over a year ago.
But I corrected him with the one vow we had changed. "No, Edward…" I gazed softly into his tortured eyes. "As long as we both shall live, was what we'd promised."
He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath when he realized I was right. Right about surviving. We had promised that as long as we were both living, there would be no death. And if I was going to be living with Aro, then he was going to be living as well. I couldn't let him think about dying, not while we both still existed. And I couldn't think about him dying. This wasn't over yet, this wasn't the end, even though the idea of living without my husband, felt like it.
"Bella," Aro called again, his voice edgier. I was obviously pushing against his impatient clock.
I nodded dolefully when I looked across the clearing into his hardened stare.
I reached down and gently patted Edward's hand that gripped at me, letting him know it was time. He didn't want to let go, and I didn't want him to, but it was necessary.
After a few more moments of staring into each other's eyes, Edward slowly let go of my arm, one reluctant finger at a time.
He wrapped his arms tightly around my neck, kissed my hair then crushed his cheek to the top of my head. His breath flowed in and out in heavy huffs of grief, as if he were trying not to cry.
He was telling me, goodbye.
"I love you," I whispered against his chest. "I will always love you…" I broke off, gripping at his waist, holding him tightly, trying not to let the hysterics of what was about to happen take over.
"I will always love you, Bella," he replied, trembling as he swallowed away the anguished lump in his throat.
"My bounty is boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite," I recited from Juliet, for Edward to remember how much I truly loved him.
He leaned back, took my face into his hands and responded with his own quote from Romeo. "Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, having some business, do entreat her eyes, to twinkle in their sphere till they return," He tried to smile. "Till I return," he finished, giving me hope he would return for me and we would be together again.
Yet, as I studied his eyes further, they didn't seem to believe his words, and I found myself fighting against the tears of never seeing my husband again.
I opened my mouth to speak, but before I could say anything, before I could tell him that I'd wait for him forever, he kissed me. He kissed me angrily, he kissed me sadly…and he kissed me goodbye.
My breathing stopped when our lips parted company. I didn't look, but I could hear Esme crying behind me. I was dying while I still breathed.
But Aro brought the situation back to me in a bitter instant. "Bella, dear, we're waiting," he called one more time. His tone was with a hurried warning, a final warning.
I gazed gravely to him and nodded that I had heard him, and the underlining meaning.
Edward held my hands as I started to back away, pulling our arms out in front of us in one last touch. My fingers slid gently off of his as my next step back separated our skin from each other, leaving a wave of emptiness in me already. This was the end of my life and my existence as I had known it. It was the end of my happiness, and the beginning of my misery...my awful, eternal misery.
I clinched my jaw to keep from crying as I made myself turn away from my husband, trembling as I fought against the unbearable heartache.
He was my, everything.
I took down my shield as I forced my feet to move one gut-wrenching step at a time. Thinking of the lives of my family and friends was the only thing that made it possible for me to not run back into Edward's arms and accept death willingly as an alternative to this.
As I made my way slowly through our group, I caught Jacob's eyes, his distressed, furiously dark, confused eyes.
"Take care of her," I mouthed with a nod, trying to be strong when the thought of never seeing my beautiful daughter again, finished off the rest of the life that hung so loosely inside me. I would never hold her again, never tuck her into her warm bed, and I would never get to tell her how much I loved her anymore.
My little girl.
Tears ran down the front of his gigantic copper muzzle as he nodded back to me, trembling almost uncontrollably, using all the will power he had in him to hold himself back from attacking.
"Good bye, Jake," I mouthed one last time.
Jacob closed his eyes and hung his head, still shivering, still shaking. This should not be happening, this couldn't be real.
My legs wanted to give out as I continued my walk to Aro. I felt lifeless all over, and I felt dead, as if I were walking in my own funeral.
I focused my thoughts to Alice and Charlie who were back at Volterra, trying to offer myself some kind of strength. If I got to see them again, we would do what we could to break free. I wouldn't go down without a fight in Aro's hands. He would have to kill me before I ever gave up, before I ever stopped trying.
Then suddenly, without any warning, Carlisle fell to the ground, writhing in pain. I looked at Jane who was smiling in his direction.
"Jane, stop!" I yelled, throwing my shield out to Carlisle in reflex, only to have it blocked again. What was going on? Who was doing that?
Growls ran throughout our group me as Carlisle continued to scream and toss in agony. The wolves were the loudest in the background, their snarls ripping through their chests, echoing off the mountain walls.
The guard crouched and hissed eagerly in response. Caius's eyes widened when intense fear trembled throughout his body at the wolves anger. Aro sneered callously, fire burning in his eyes towards Jacob and his pack.
I rushed to Carlisle. But before I was able to reach him, Felix grabbed me up by my waist and hauled me back to his side in a hurry, just behind Caius.
"You shouldn't doddle like that, Bella." Aro glanced at me, angry. "Look what you made Jane do." His scowl turned to a grin at me.
"Aro stop!" I shouted. "You have me, now stop!" I pleaded.
Aro raised a hand in Jane's direction, causing her to frown as she halted her visions of pain to Carlisle.
His breathing was rough and heavy as he gradually picked himself up off the ground, resting his hands on his knees, glaring at Aro.
My mood in the last few minutes had shifted from shocked, to sad, to fury. I felt my eyes turn dark as I shivered in anger. Aro was going to pay for what he unnecessarily did to Carlisle, Jane was going to pay. I didn't know how, but I would find a way.
I threw my shield out over my family and friends again, but in the process, it was shoved away, only able to cover half of them this time.
Jasper and Kate fell to the ground then, screaming, moaning and thrashing.
Eleazar and Carlisle moved towards them.
"Uh, uh, uh," Aro cackled with a warning for them to stay put. They paused and backed up to their positions, only able to watch as their loved ones writhed on the ground in anguish.
"Jane!" I yelled again. "Enough already!"
I tried to head towards her, but Felix held me back.
"Aro, please," I continued to beg. "Why do you keep letting her do that?"
Aro held up his hand to silence me. I didn't take to orders like that very well, not like his guard was used to doing. It fueled the fire that was festering in me already.
"I'll have Jane stop once you shield us, Bella, my dear," Aro said without turning around.
"Why?" I asked in confusion. "What could you possibly need shielding from when you have everything you already want?" I scolded him.
"Do. Not. Question. Me!" he fumed, furiously meeting my eyes now in complete darkness, causing me to step back into Felix more, freezing.
My eyes widened. I had never seen this side of Aro, and, it truly frightened me. His whole face burned with anger as his eyes narrowed at me, warning me.
"Alright, alright." I shook in fear, seeing Jasper and Kate still writhing on the ground.
I took my shield and threw it around the Volturi and its guard, making sure they were all surrounded in light.
"You're shielded, Aro," I huffed quickly and nervously. "Now please, make her stop," I tried to say as polite as possible.
"Renata?" Aro glanced back towards her, ignoring my plea.
"Yes, Aro, the shield is up," she answered.
"That's enough, Jane," he ordered, causing her to pout, and Jasper and Kate to jump up in hissing, panting snarls.
Renata? She could see my shield? It was her! She was the one who was blocking me. I could only guess she had advanced her skill, as well. Not a hundred percent, but enough to get me to question my own talent with Zafrina and force me to Aro's side. She was the one who had distracted my shield from Carlisle. She could not prevent me from covering the whole group, but she left enough of them open to bring us to a standstill.
I had to tell to Edward.
I removed my shield from my mind while keeping the guard covered, she could not see that, for it didn't go anywhere outside of me.
My family and friends were crouched, preparing themselves for the worst, and their own coming torment.
Edward! I hollered across the group, looking for him to meet my eyes. I didn't see him at first; until I looked down at the ground, to the spot where he was standing when I left. He was bent to his feet, his head covered with his hands, his face buried in his knees. He was too distraught. I was going to have to yell louder.
Edward! Look at me!
Shoot! Even removed from my mind, my shield still covered above me, he couldn't hear.
I took a deep breath. I was going to have to take myself completely out from under it without Renata seeing, and I was going to have to hurry. I gazed at her out the sides of my eyes as I quickly lowered it down from around me, leaving me open and free to try Edward again. And as far as I could tell, she hadn't noticed.
Edward! Look at me! I said again.
He took his hands off his head, picking it up a little, acting as if he had thought he'd heard me.
Edward, please. It's Renata! She distracted my shield. I couldn't cover Zafrina, that's why the guard couldn't be blinded. That's why they could take us. Edward!
He looked around hesitantly at the ground and I wondered if he thought his imagination was playing tricks on him.
It's me, Edward! It's me! I shouted louder, trying to get his full attention. Did you hear what I said? Even in my head my voice was frantic.
Edward made eye contact with me, still down on his knees, but looking at me now. He nodded his head once, aware he really had heard me, and accepting what I was saying.
Had Aro not thought upon Renata's advanced talent, or had she distracted Edwards mind to divert him from hearing her before all this?
Either way, he knew now.
"Felix has been so faithful." Aro motioned a hand back in his big vampire's direction. "That I thought…a nice gift was in good order for him," he teased to Carlisle then looked back at me.
I paused from my conversation with Edward and looked awkwardly at Aro. A gift? What gift?
Edward stood up quickly catching my attention, turning his focus towards Felix, glowering at him. And I wasn't sure what Aro had precisely meant, until Felix reached down and grabbed my left wrist, pulling my hand up. He glared at the engagement and wedding ring on my finger, then back at Edward, smiling.
Before I could pull my hand away, reading his intentions, Felix had a hold of my rings, attempting to yank them off.
I hissed and tried to pull away, until I realized I was helping him as we both pulled my jewelry in opposite directions. So I kicked him in the shin. Hard. But it did no good. He didn't budge or fall on his face like I hoped he would.
Felix had always made comments and winks to me, but there was no way in hell I was going to let him have me for his own, or as a 'gift'. Edward would always be mine—if my rings were the last things of him I had to hold on to.
I bent my finger at the knuckle, trying to block his pull. But his yank was so hard; my hardy appendage couldn't hold itself down. The rings slid off with some resistance before Felix shoved them in his front pocket. He threw his arm around my shoulders arrogantly after, holding me close. A low growl echoed in my lungs.
"That doesn't undo their marriage, Aro," Carlisle reprimanded him furiously.
I elbowed Felix irately in the gut, doubling him over unexpectedly before he straightened back up. He heatedly put his arm around me again, making sure to hold my arms in as well this time. I tried to get in a good bite at him, but his lock on me was so tight I couldn't move, and he raised an eyebrow as he went back to smirking at Edward.
"Maybe not," Aro replied. "But look at how much fun they'll have together…" He laughed.
Edward's face was furious, hard, cold, maddening. His focus was on Felix—all his focus, all his anger. When I looked hard enough, I could see red building around the dark pupils of his sadistic eyes. Felix's size wouldn't matter if he should physically acquire the fortunate of event of going up against that look on Edward.
"Alec, Jane," Aro barked, drawing my attention away from Edward. "They're all yours," he commanded with the wave of his hand.
What? Had me coming to him not changed anything? And, did he really think I would just stand here and shield him, while he had Alec immobilized my family and friends in front of me, allowing Jane to take them down in pain? No, no way. There had to be something I could do? I had to change Alice's vision.
Quick Bella...think of something.
I wished to myself there was some way to stop Renata from distracting me.
And that's when I remembered Ian. Ian and his werewolf story, and how Edward drove me nuts seeing everything before us.
I only had seconds before Jane would fire at our group, while Alec sent out his paralyzing, numbing, blinding haze. They would be finished swiftly by the rest of the guard if those two had their chance. I needed to block them. I needed to block her…
Edward, listen! I hollered in my mind, trying to draw his attention away from Felix, and failing. I'm going to block Renata inside her mind, and then I'm going to block Alec…and Jane! Nod if you understand?
Edward's eyes lit up for a fraction of a second and he nodded as inconspicuously as possible, while keeping his glare on the big bully next to me.
When I yell 'go', you have to attack them, tell everyone. This may be our only chance. I'm going to take out Felix!
And then I smiled—because evil had just lost its opportunity to prevail tonight.
My shield could move in so many ways now. I would continue to cover the guard while Renata kept an eye on that. I could also remove it from my mind to talk to Edward. And now, I would happily block Renata inside herself before she'd have a chance to see any of it coming.
Renata, Jane and Alec stood just behind me to my right, a straight three-way shot across. But I had to block Renata first; she was in the middle of them, and my main target. I couldn't let her distract me from Jane or Alec.
I stretched out the thin film, guiding it back around Jane so Renata wouldn't see and watched as it sunk into her skull, like a knife through softened butter.
I continued on down the line to Alec, watching the osmosis process happen once again. I had caught him just in time.
Jane was next. And again, I watched as slight as possible, not to give myself away, as the steel thin film melted into her mind, blocking her completely as well.
I controlled a deep sigh of relief. And it was hard not to laugh when my insides suddenly turned giddy, because none of them had a clue.
Aro's main weapons had been shut down and turned off. We were free to resume our original plan. And I was ready to take on Felix. He had made me so angry; I was surprised my internal fury hadn't burned him to smithereens already.
It was time to move…and move now.
Edward! They're blocked! Go! I shouted mentally, as loud as I could, removing my shield from the Volturi and covering myself.
Edward broke out into a quick dash.
"Zafrina! Blind them!" he yelled, heading my way, running past Siobhan and Charles. "Jane, Alec, they're blocked! Emmett, Jasper…everyone…take them down!" he continued to order.
His brother's paused for a split second, watching Edward. When they noticed Jane wasn't taking him down...they charged.
I immediately turned, freed my arms, and grabbed Felix by the neck, pulling him stunned to the ground.
When I looked up to see Renata, Jane and Alec, in complete surprise of their inoperable gifts, Felix shoved me in my stomach, flinging me off of him towards Jane, pounding me heavily into the earth.
I stood up to fight him, but his expression abruptly turned blank. Felix couldn't see me anymore. He held his hands out in front of him, searching frantically.
Wanting to laugh at the resembling Frankenstein impression, I crouched instead, moving quietly towards him, ready to pounce—but Edward beat me to my anticipated rip and tear destination. Felix was shoved face first into the ground and dismantled within seconds, his parts sent flying in all different directions. Edward retrieved my rings first thing and smiled blissfully my way as he placed them in his front pocket for safe keeping.
"Bella!" he said, returning to fight mode. "Keep them blocked, we'll take care of the rest."
"Will do!" I replied cheerily.
I shielded my family and friends one by one as they crossed over so they wouldn't be affected by Zafrina's pictures while mixed in with the guard.
I dodged the aimlessly roaming Volturi guard closest to me, making sure to stay out of their way, while keeping an eye on my three weapons.
Carlisle, Stefan and Vladimir kept their eyes on Aro and Caius, who stood frozenly silent, listening to all that was going on. I wondered what Zafrina was showing them, hoping it was beyond terrorizing.
Jasper, Charles and Eleazar took out four guards that stood to my left, before they had a chance to know what hit them. They were getting ready to take on the fifth and sixth guard, when one, who almost got too close to Eleazar, suddenly burst into flames right before us.
I jumped, my eyes widening in disbelief. "What was that?"
After a few loud, muffled shrieks, the guard buckled and dropped to the ground, creating a dark purple could of burning smoke.
Then Jasper and I jumped a second time, as what looked like a lightning bolt, flew across the front of us, hitting the sixth guard, bursting him into flames as well.
The vampire took a few frantic, burning steps backwards, waving his arms before dropping lifeless next to a line of brush that rested just beside him. The brush caught sparks and erupted in flames instantaneously. And before I could count to ten, the whole long row of neighboring brushes were all on fire.
Esme, Maggie, Tia and Makenna were running around, picking up all thrown guards' body parts that were scattered about and throwing them into the burning brushes. Leah, Carmen, Marek and Tanya guarded them as they, too, scrambled about, grabbing what they could. A large flume of purple smoke began rising high into the trees and above.
The sound of tearing limbs should be grueling to my ears, but these limbs didn't bother me. All around, dismantling was happening, and Aro's group was dwindling quickly.
"Alec, Jane, Renata!" Aro shouted in any direction, hoping they would be close. "Where are you!" he growled. Caius echoed his sounds.
"I don't know, master, I can't see," Jane replied in hysterics, holding her hands out in front of her, fumbling around for him.
And that was the last thing the evil little girl said, before she too, ruptured into brilliant bright flames, falling to the ground in screeches.
Ding-dong, I sang in my head, the wicked witch is dead!
Aro crouched instinctively when he heard the sizzling noise behind him. "Jane!" he shouted in one last desperate attempt, and received no reply.
Aro glared out towards Carlisle, remembering the direction he'd last seen him. Ferocious snarls erupting from his chest.
Carlisle made no noise as he crouched in response, incase Aro decided to pounce.
I gazed into our group to see where that bolt had come from—when Kate held her right hand up at me, waving wiggling fingers and I saw what looked like an electricity bolt swirling through it.
Kate could throw her current? Had she been practicing? If so, Jane was all the motivation she needed. "She needs a taste of her own medicine," Kate had said once. And Jane had gotten it.
I gave her a thumbs' up.
Garrett and Rosalie made their way around me to take out Heidi and Chelsea, throwing their body parts out in front of them for Esme and the others to come by and pick up.
"He's all yours," Carlisle said to Stefan and Vladimir, with a motion of his hand toward Aro, when he stood up from his crouch, mimicking the viral leader's tone from before, and backed out of their way.
They moved in quickly, anxiously, smiling to each other.
"This, is for the rightful, royal coven you unsympathetically destroyed so many years ago, Aro," Stefan hissed before both vampires huddled around him.
"The eyes first," Vladimir sneered with eager vengeance.
Remembering what the Romanians said about wanting to gouge out Aro's eyes last year, I turned away.
Aro's screams echoed in my ears, along with the suction sounds and quick pops that followed. They had literally taken out his eyes. I would never forget that sound, or any horrifying sound from tonight. Never, never, never...
"Curse you!" Aro bellowed in hateful agony.
"No, curse you, Aro," Stefan retaliated in equal hatred, followed by, "and may you rot in hell where you deserve."
Ripping and slashing sounds made their way into my ears next as they took him down hastily, without him being able to utter another word.
Check mate, Aro. You lose. I couldn't help but slightly smile. He had been wounded, cursed, and was now in pieces, allowing me to breathe easier, while I continued to keep my block on Renata and Alec.
I shouldn't be, but I was a little regretful for Aro, that his evil, tormented afterlife destination would not be a good one, damned, or not. Because in reality of life here one earth, he'd made his choices and saw no need to change them.
Everyone reaps what they sow…in one way or another.
When I looked to my right, I noticed Emmett, Peter and Marek had taken out seven of the guard on their side, leaving more parts for Esme.
Zafrina and Benjamin held their positions while she continued to blind those that were left, and he focused on keeping the fire contained.
Liam and Charlotte moved up to guard them from the few guards still wandering, while Quil and Seth continued to patrol the back, just in case.
Edward made his way to the other side behind Caius, to Demetri.
"Demetri," he teased next to the vampire's ear, wanting him to spin and lunge.
Demetri growled in response, spun, and Edward shifted.
They reminded me of a game of Blind Man's Bluff every time Edward would say something and Demetri would move in that direction, while Edward would shoot out in another.
After finally getting bored, Edward decided to do him a favor and finish him off by removing his head clean from his neck, before running back to take out Afton and Corin.
In all the hustle, Santiago had made his way up front from the back, but Peter found him before he could do any damage, removing him from battle as well.
That left Alec, Renata and Caius.
And as soon as I counted three vampires, Rosalie came up behind Renata, tearing her to shreds, leaving the count to two.
I decided to remove the block from Alec—only after I removed his head from his body, as well, leaving pieces littered on the ground.
Rosalie patted me on the back when she passed by, applauding my second evil vampire kill tonight.
The Volturi were the only ones who could blamed for their fate this night. I would hold no regret for what needed to be done.
Everyone else was running around now, making sure all parts were picked up.
I caught a glimpse of Jacob occasionally through the thick moving purple haze that blew this way and that in the breeze as he was making his way to me.
But, what neither one of us noticed in the mayhem, was Caius fumbling his way through the drifting smoke, heading my way unknowingly as well. He had been hidden for a moment, lost in the smoke, and was still alive.
Jacob stopped when he saw him and let out a fierce growl that caused Caius to turn in a panic and defense towards the sound.
They crouched angrily towards each other. One of them blind.
Caius let out a loud hiss, showing his venom-filled razored teeth, and Jacob snarled back; not seeming to realize his growls were keeping Caius in full awareness of where he was.
Before I had the chance to take one step to redirect Caius, he leaped towards Jacob. But prior to reaching his target, one of the wolves jumped between, taking Caius to the ground by the neck, followed shortly by a loud, screeching yelp.
The smoke moved in waves among the various directions of air, making it difficult to see. Was Jacob all right?
Once upon the scene, I watched in amazement as Jacob lifted Caius up by the stomach in his large jaws, and forcefully flung him towards the still burning fire, biting his body in half at the same time. Two separate pieces soaring through the night.
Caius's top half landed in the flames, his blood-curdling screams tapering off as Jasper dashed over, picked up the lower portion, and heaved it into the inferno with the upper, leaving their vampire count…to none.
The Volturi, were gone.
Truly, truly gone. I wanted to rejoice…
But the horrible yelping continued. And it was at that precise moment, I realized it was not Jake who had been hurt.
Lying on the ground, Embry was trembling, whining and snorting in loud huffs, in terrible agony.
Oh no! I thought. He didn't!
I bent down and began to comb Embry's body furiously; looking for the marking I hoped was not there.
Jacob rushed to my side.
"I think he's been bit!" I said in a panic, still searching through fur.
Jacob sniffed, looking for the venom scent, and I gasped when he pawed just under the right side of Embry's neck.
He had found it.
I separated Embry's fur enough to make out the crescent-shaped mark that was burning at him.
Caius's bite. A venomous bite.
"Get, Carlisle!" I shouted to Jacob, pointing to where he was.
There wasn't much time, if any time at all. Vampire venom was extremely lethal to the wolves. In fact, I didn't know if there was anything we could do to save him at this point?
"Hold on, Embry," I continued to panic as I held on to his front leg and placed my hand on his head so he wouldn't try to get up anymore. He needed to be calm as possible.
His convulsions grew stronger as he continued to whine intensely between slower, heavy huffs. The venom was making its way rapidly through his body, looking for his heart.
I knew exactly how he was feeling. I could distantly remember when James had bit my wrist that one night, and the burning that—
I pulled myself back for a moment in thought, could it work on a wolf like a human? It did with Edward on me. We were two different species then also, with only one…capable of saving the other.
For Embry, I was willing to give it a shot.
Quickly, I bent down and moved the fur out of the way again, placing my teeth over the exact bite marks that Caius left, and began sucking. Not even thinking twice.
Embry's blood was semi-sweet with a mixture of venom and animal musk wrapped in. Not a taste I was used to, or enjoyed by any means. I stopped breathing to keep the scent from tormenting my nostrils.
"Bella! What are you doing?" Edward hollered as he gripped my shoulder and knelt down beside me.
"Embry's been bit," Carlisle answered for me when he and Jacob made their way back.
"Do you think it'll work?" Edward asked.
"I can only hope so," Carlisle said evenly as he knelt down beside us. "We haven't had to deal with it on a wolf before."
I closed my eyes to keep from their stares as I continued, still able to taste the venom in his blood. It had spread a long ways through him already. And my fear was that I would drain him completely before I could get it all out. I wished Edward or Carlisle was doing this instead of me.
"It's helping, Bella," Edward encouraged. "His pain, it's easing."
Because he was dying from me now?
I continued sucking, swallowing, when a moment later—and simultaneously—I gathered the last drop of venom…and Embry quit breathing.
His chest not moving up and down, no air coming in and out of his mouth, Edward put his fingers to Embry's neck—and shook his head. The wolf's thoughts were gone.
I leaned back quickly, throwing my hands to my mouth in alarm. "Did I kill him?"
Edward continued to search for signs of minuscule life while Carlisle put his ear to Embry's enormous sized torso.
"No, Bella," Carlisle said with distant relief as he lifted his head, "you didn't kill him. He's lost a lot of blood, though; his heart is very faintly struggling." He instantly rolled Embry onto his back and Edward began doing compressions to his chest.
Embry didn't change back to human form like Jacob did when he got knocked out, and I wondered if the deadly venom had prevented that.
"What are you doing?" I asked in a whisper to Edward.
"I'm helping his heart out," he explained. "This will keep moving through his body what blood he has left."
"Oh…" I replied, scared, but hopeful.
Carlisle grabbed my arm gently. "You did well, Bella," he reassured me, nodded, and then broke out in a comforting smile. "It's possible you may have even saved his life tonight."
Possible? I wanted more than the word possible. I wanted to hear 'definitely'. But I nodded back in understanding…because I'd take possible over any negative word in its place.
Leah, Quil and Seth made their way over, lying down beside Embry, watching, as Jacob paced anxiously behind them.
"Leah," Carlisle called as he tossed their common backpack to her. "Can you phase back and breathe into Embry's muzzle for me, keeping air flowing through him? I don't want to take any chances of any more venom getting into his system if I do it."
Leah nodded as she grabbed up the backpack quickly with her teeth and ran into the forest to change.
"Will that help?" I asked.
"We're going to try everything we can, Bella," Carlisle answered. "A human's blood usually takes a few hours to replace after a blood donation, and Embry's lost a lot more than that. But the wolves are quick healers. We should know in few hours if he can make up enough to survive the loss."
I placed my hand over my stomach. All the blood he needed was in me, tainted, with deadly venom. I couldn't give it back even if there was a way.
"A few hours?" I questioned his timing.
"Yes, I'm guessing around that much."
I pulled my phone out of my back pocket. It was ten minutes after eleven.
"Carlisle..." I looked at him worried. "We don't have a few hours."
He looked at my phone as I directed the current time on it at him.
"No, we don't…" he trailed off, looking around at everyone who stood motionless, concerned for Embry and waiting for word on what to do next.
Leah was back then, throwing the backpack on the ground, bending down and breathing into Embry's muzzle with every rhythmic cue from Carlisle.
Edward continued pushing on Embry's chest. "Carlisle, what do you want to do? We have to keep moving." He knew we were pressed for time. We all knew we were pressed for time.
"Here. Let me," Carlisle replied as he took Edward's place at Embry's chest. "Take with you all who want to go and should go. Get to Volterra," he commanded. "I'll stay here with a few to guard over us and keep working on Embry."
Edward stared at him.
"Go!" Carlisle snapped.
"Right," Edward said as he jumped up swiftly, glancing around. "Who's going to Volterra? We should only be going up against three that we know of, if we get there in time," he stated.
Jasper, Emmett, Rosalie, Kate, Garrett, Tanya, Peter, Charlotte, Zafrina, Marek, Adriana and I all went to stand beside him; while everyone else said they'd stay behind with Carlisle and keep guard. If there were more tree vampires roaming, they'd need to be taken care of.
The wolves kept their places beside Embry, glancing up at Edward.
"No. Stay," he told them with a comforting nod.
I assumed they'd asked if they should go. But Edward knew it was better for them all mentally and physically to keep back with Embry. They'd want to be here if he should make it.
"Be careful, Bella," Leah uttered softly, "and…thank you," she finished, slightly curling up one side of her mouth up as if she wanted to smile.
"Keep breathing, Leah," I replied, trying not to get chocked up that she actually spoke to me. I had the feeling our relationship would be different after today. It would definitely be better, maybe, friends even?
"Hold on!" Benjamin yelled, putting a hand up for us to wait. "Give me just one minute."
He directed his gaze to the fire that was contained and still burning, as purple smoke was beginning to lessen. The granite body parts were almost done disincarnating and he wanted to go.
Benjamin stuck his hand out in front of him then focused his stare on the ground before the fire. I held on to Edward's arm as the ground beneath our feet began to rumble and shake. Thundering sounds of earth began to break and small rocks falling in open earth echoed in the space underneath the fire.
As quickly as the fire had shown up, it had disappeared into the ground with the leftover carnage, swallowed up by the earth.
"Watch your eyes," Benjamin yelled.
Some of the group turned away while Edward and I held each other, watching, squinting as the fire erupted into enormous, bright-white flames from out of the ground. They rose up nearly twenty feet in the air, blazing away, until all traces of purple smoke…were gone.
Benjamin took the fire down and extinguished it in light puffing sound, signaling it was out.
My eyes adjusted quickly as the nights darkness drifted back in, blanketed only by the moon's light, taking over the clearing and the mountain once more.
The earth rumbled and shook again as the gap sealed itself up like new. Well, almost new. The few bits of remaining charred grass would have to refresh itself in time, while no one but us, would ever know what happened here tonight.
I looked up into Edward's eyes and smiled. They were all buried, sealed in an earthly tomb...forever to remain.
He breathed a sigh of relief before wrapping himself around me, holding me as tight as possible. "I never want to go through feeling like that again," he whispered.
"Never," I replied as I gripped him back just as tight, burying my face in his chest.
Edward removed an arm from me after a moment and reached into his front pocket. I turned out slightly from him while bringing my left hand up to meet his. He took a slight hold of my wrist and slid my engagement and wedding ring back on their proper finger.
"Back where they belong." He smiled.
I threw my arms around his neck, kissing him with so much happiness; I thought my insides were going to leap out of me.
Edward's response…was the same.
A light breeze began to blow in wisps around us while Benjamin set out to drive away the remains of smoke that hovered above the clearing. We watched as it scattered, lightened, and disappeared up into the mountains above. "Alright." He smacked his hands back and forth together. "I'm all done here."
I checked my phone. We had forty-five minutes till the first bell toll in Volterra.
"Time to go?" Edward asked.
I nodded. "Time to go…"