There was only fifty yards between us now, an easy distance to overcome should the order be given. I listened as Caius argued fervently with Aro, his long-fingered hands curled into deadly claws at his sides.
"How can you abide this infamy? Why do we stand here impotently in the face of such an outrageous crime, covered by such a ridiculous deception?"
Hope stirred in Bella Cullen's face, and I wondered briefly what she was thinking.
"Because it's all true," Aro replied, his voice calm and steady. "Every word of it. See how many witnesses stand here to give evidence that they have seen this miraculous child grow and mature in just the short time they've known her. That they have felt the warmth of the blood that pulses through her veins." Aro swept his hand across them, motioning to each in turn.
Caius reaction surprised me, and I felt Marcus stiffen at my side. The anger drained from the ancients face to be replaced with another common look of his: cold calculation. He glanced towards ourwitnesses, his face slightly nervous. I glanced over, following his gaze, and flinched. Our angry mob couldn't be described as angry anymore- their faces showed utter confusion. Whispered conversations fluttered between them. I was no longer sure whose side they were on.
Caius was silent, pondering what should come next. I hoped that he would ignore Aro's words and order the attack. What he said next surprised me, yet again.
"The werewolves," He murmured.
I glanced towards the group, and saw horror flicker across Bella's face. It was quickly replaced with concentration.
"Ah, brother..." Aro looked pained, his brows furrowed in displeasure.
"Will you defend that alliance, too, Aro?" Caius demanded. I let out a slow breath when I realized what they were talking about. Alec made an interested noise beside me. "The Children of the Moon have been out bitter enemies from the dawn of time. We have hunted them to near extinction in Europe and Asia. Yet Carlisle encourages a familiar relationship with this enormous infestation- no doubt in an attempt to overthrow us. The better to protect his warped lifestyle."
My eye flickered toward the leader of the Cullens, but moved quickly towards Edward when he cleared his throat. Caius glared at him, while Aro covered his face with one hand, ashamed.
"Caius, it's the middle of the day," Edward smiled, gesturing towards the wolf closest to him. Jacob. "These are not Children of the Moon, clearly. They bear no relation to your enemies on the other side of the world."
"You breed mutants here," Caius hissed.
Edward stiffened, but when he spoke his voice was even.
"They aren't even werewolves. Aro can tell you all about it, if you don't believe me."
Caius turned to glare at Aro.
"Dear Caius, I would have warned you not to press this point if you had told me your thoughts. Thought the creatures think of themselves as werewolves, they are not. The more accurate name for them would be shape-shifters. the choice of wolf form was merely chance. It could have been a bear, or a hawk, or a panther when the first change was made. The creature purely have nothing to do with Creatures of the Moon. They have merely inherited this skill from their fathers. It's genetic- they do not continue theirs species by infecting others the way true werewolves do." Aro once again looked pained as Caius glared at him, accusation written all over his face.
"They know our secret,"
We had them! The most important rule was keep the secret, and they had broken it. There was no saving them, now.
I glanced at Alec with excitement, though he didn't seem to share it. He was watching Aro, his face dark.
"They are creatures of our supernatural world, brother. Perhaps even more dependant upon secrecy than we are; they can hardly expose us. Carefully, Caius. Specious allegations get us no-wheres."
Caius took a deep breath, nodding. He and Aro exchanged a look. I could feel the significance, and wondered what would happen next. Excitement seemed to replace the venom in my veins, and I shifted on my feet. I understood this look, though our enemies did not. False charges wouldn't convince our witnesses, but true ones would. It was time to move on to the next strategy, though Caius seemed unwilling. He, like I did, wanted nothing more than to rip the Cullens apart. He wanted a fight. He wanted to spread the ashes of his enemies, whether it came with a tarnished reputation or not.
"I want to talk to the informant," He announced, turning his glare of Irina.
She wasn't paying attention. He eyes were locked on her sisters, her face scrunched up in agony. Her accusation was false, and she had lined her sisters up to die.
I had to fight back a laugh.
"Irina!" Caius barked.
She looked up, startled and afraid.
Caius snapped his fingers.
She moved slowly, frightened, to stand in front of Caius. I hoped she's run. I knew Caius would send me after her, and then I could have an appetizer before the meal. At my side, Alec twitched. He, too, was ready to act.
"So you appear to ahve been quite mistaken in your allegations..."
"I'm sorry," Irina whispered, eye with with horror. "I should have made sure of what I was seeing. But I had no idea..." She gestured towards the Cullens.
"Dear Caius, could you have expected for her to guess in an instant something so strange and impossible?" Aro asked. "Any of us would have made the same assumption."
Caius flicked his fingers in Aro's direction to silence him. I was only half surprised when it worked.
"We all know you made a mistake," He snarled. "I meant to speak of your motivations."
"Yes, for coming to spy on them in the first place."
Irina flinched, and I felt a smile spread across my face. Caius had something, and it was going to be grand.
"You were unhappy with the Cullens, were you not?" He pressed, eyebrows raised.
She glanced at Carlisle, isery plastered over her face.
"I was," She admitted.
"Because...?" Caius prompted.
"Because the werewolves killed my friend," She whispered. "And the Cullens wouldn't let me stand aside to let me avenge him."
"The shape shifters," Aro quietly corrected, and I glanced at him. He was watching with fascinated eyes.
"So the Cullens sided with the shape-shiftersagainst our own kind- against a friend of a friend, even." I stiffened with anticipation as across the clearing, Edward made a disgusted sound. Caius was ticking down through the list of his accusations, and he was getting closer and closer to one that would stick.
"That's how I saw it." Irina stiffened.
"If you'd like to make a formal complaint against the shape-shifters- and the Cullens for supporting their actions- now would be the time." Caius smiled, tiny and cruel.
Irina's jaw jerked up, and her shoulder's squared. I hissed, knowing what was coming.
"No, I have no complaint against the wolves, or the Cullens. You came here today to destroy an immortal child. No immortal child exists. This was my mistake, and I take full responsibility for it. But the Cullens are innocent, and you have no reason to still be here. I'm so sorry," She said those last words to the Cullens, and several smiled back at her, helpless. She turned, now, towards our witnesses. "There was no crime. There's no valid reason for you to continue here."
I felt my shoulders crumple, but perked up immediately when I saw what Caius was holding. In his hand was a tiny metal object, carved and ornate.I had seen it before, and the excitement once again pumped through me.
At the signal, three of our brawniest men leaped forward and surrounded the Alaskan vampire. She disappeared behind their grey cloaks, just as the familiar screeching sound filled the air. Caius slipped into the center of the melee, and the sound gave way to a shower of sparks and fire.
I stood on my tiptoes, trying to see. So I wouldn't get my appetizer, but I would get to watch Caius eat his. It was almost as good.
The soldiers lept back into their places, leaving Caius alone near the burning remains of Irina. Fire continued to spout from his hand, until with a small click, it stopped. A gasp sounded from behind us.
Caius smiled coldly.
"Now she has taken full responsibility for her actions." He glanced towards the Cullens, and I understood. He had thrown a match onto a gas soaked piece of wood, and he was ready to watch it burn.
I watched as the same conclusion spread across their faces.
"Stop them!" Edward roared, grabbing the blonde's arm as she hurled herself towards Caius with a screech of pure rage. Carlisle leapt behind her, his arms fastening around her waist in an attempt to calm her.
I watched, overjoyed. Around me, everyone slipped into a crouch, preparing for the coming attack. I followed suit.
"It's too late to help her," Carlisle cried, trying to reason. "Don't give him what he wants!"
Doesn't he know? Caius always gets what he wants.
The other one- who's gift was so strikingly similar to mine- was harder to control. Rosalie Cullen leaped towards her first, but collapsed on the ground from the shock. Her husband, Emmett, leaped forward and caught her arm and threw her down, before he, too, crumpled to the ground. She started back up, and I thought- no, hoped- that no one could stop her.
One of the nomads leaped forward and tackled her, and though she shocked him as well, he didn't let go.
"Zafrina!" Edward shouted frantically.
The eyes of the sisters went blank, and they stopped struggling.
"Give me my sight back, " The blond hissed.
As the nomad gained control of himself, I heard him whisper: "If I let you up, will you knock me down again, Kaitie?"
Somewheres behind me, I heard Chelsea sniff. I glanced back to see amusement cross her pretty face.
Kaitie snarled in response.
"Listen to me, Tanya, Kate," Carlisle's voice was desperate. "Vengeance doesn't help her now. Irina wouldn't want to you waste your lives this way. Think about what you're doing. If you attack them, we all die."
Thank you, Captain Obvious, I snorted. That's what we want.
Tanya slumped into Carlisle, finally giving up. Kate, the other sister, did the same. I heard the hurried comfort they provided.
Caius and Aro were both watching Kate and the nomad- Caius with disbelief, Aro with incredulity. I could hear the witnesses shifting behind me, and could only imagine what they were thinking now. Aro glanced back, his expression- only for a moment- worried. Our audience had backfired. They were turning against us.
That could be taken care of.
Aro reached forward, placing a calming hand on Caius' shoulder. "Irina has been punished for bearing false witness against this child. Perhaps we should return to the matter at hand?"
He moved forward, Renata, Felix and Demetri following.
"Just to be through, I'd like to speak with a few of your witnesses. Procedure, you know." He waved a dismissive hand.
Edward hissed, his hands balling into fists. I wondered briefly what Aro was thinking, though I had confidence in him. Like Caius, he would get what he wanted.
Aro moved to the outer edge of their numbers, ignoring the growls of the wolves. I half wanted to go forward, to join him, but I supposed Felix and Demetri were enough. I wasn't sure if Renata's gift would work with them.
"Ah, Amun, my southern neighbor!" Aro cried warmly. My eyes flickered from him to the Egyptian vampire, certain this conversation would mean nothing to me. I started to block it out. "It's been so long since you've visited me."
Amun was motionless, his mate a statue beside him.
"Time means little; I never notice it's passing."
"So true," Aro agreed. "But maybe you had another reason to stay away?"
I had to admit, I was intrigued. My plan of tuning out this conversation was gone.
Amun said nothing.
"It can be terribly time-consuming to organize new members into a coven. I know that well! I'm grateful I have others to deal with the tedium. I'm glad your new additions have fit in so well. I would have loved to have been introduced. I'm sure you were meaning to come see me soon."
"Of course." Amun certainly was emotionless, wasn't he? But I could make him scream. I would make as many of them scream as I could.
"Oh well, we're all together now! Isn't it lovely?"
Amun nodded, his face blank.
But the reason for your presence here is not as pleasant, unfortunately. Carlisle called on you to witness?"
"And what did you witness for him?"
His voice was cold. "I've observed the child in question. It was evident almost immediately that she was not an immortal child-"
"Perhaps we should define our terminology," Aro interrupted, "now that there seem to be new classifications. By immortal child, you mean of course a human child who had been bitten and thus transformed into a vampire."
"Yes, that's what I meant."
"What else did you observe about the child?"
"The same things you saw in Edward's mind. That the child is his biologically. That she grows. That she learns."
"Yes, yes," I could detect the impatience in Aro's voice, and wondered where this was going. "But specifically in your few weeks here, what did you see?"
"That she grows... quickly." Amun's brow furrowed, and he looked uncomfortable.
Here it comes.
"And do you think she should be allowed to live?"
A hiss erupted from most of the Cullen clan, the loudest coming from the beasts mother. Behind me, the same hiss sounded from our witnesses.
Amun glanced around, uneasy.
"I did not come to make judgements."
Aro laughed lightly, pleasently. "Just your opinion."
Amun's chin lifted. "I see no danger in the child. She learns even more swiftly than she grows."
Aro nodded, before turning around. Amun called him back.
"I gave my witness. I have no more business here. My mate and I would like to take our leave now."
Aro smiled warmly. "Of course, I'm glad we were able to chat for a bit. And I'm sure we'll see each other again soon."
Amun nodded, a motion suggesting he understood the barely concealed threat. They turned, disappearing into the woods.
They won't stop running until I catch up with them.I thought cruelly.
Aro had drifted to the other end, and was now standing in front of an extremely large vampire.
"Hello, dear Siobhan. You are as lovely as ever."
She nodded, waiting.
"And you?" Aro asked. "Would you answer my questions the same as Amun has?"
"I would," She answered. "But I would perhaps add a little more. Renesmee understands the limitations. She's no danger to humans- she blends in better than we do. She poses no threat of exposure."
"Can you think of none?" Aro asked soberly.
Edward growled, while Caius' crimson eyes brightened.
I watched as Renata reached out protectively towards Aro, her demeanor more nervous than ever.
"I don't think I follow you."
Aro drifted back towards us, though he tried to hide it. Renata, Felix and Demetri were closer than his shadow.
"There is no broken law," Aro started,a nd I could hear the qualification coming. I tensed with excitement. "No broken law. However, does it follow that there is no danger? No. That is a separate issue."
Anger hurled itself through the Cullens and their witnesses. Aro paced, his movements like dancing, and each pass brought him closer to us. To our protection.
"She is unique... utterly, impossibly unique. Such a waste it would be, to destroy something so lovely. Especially when we could learn so much..." He sighed, and I sensed his unwillingness to go on. "But there is danger, danger that cannot simply be ignored."
No one said anything. My breathing quickened, and Alec placed a calming hand on my shoulder.
"How ironic is it that as the humans advance, as their faith in science grows and controls their world, the more free we are from discovery. Yet, as we become ever more inhibited by their disbelief in the supernatural, they become strong enough in their technologies that, if they wished, they could actually pose a threat to use, even destroy some of us.
"For thousands and thousands of years, our secrecy has been more a matter of convenience, of ease, then of actually safety. This last, raw, angry century has given birth to weapons of such power that they endanger even immortals. Now our status as mere myth protects us from these weak creatures that we hunt.
"But this amazing child-" He reached towards Renesmee, though he was much closer to us now, than he was to her, "If we could know but her potential- know with absolute certaintythat she could always remained shrouded within the obscurity that protects us. But we know nothing of what she will become! her own parents are plagued with fears of her future. We cannot know what she will grow to be."
Still focused on the witnesses, Aro continued with his impressive speech. "Only the known is safe. Only the known is tolerable. The unknown is... a vulnerability."
Caius smiled viciously, an expression mirrored on my own face.
"You're reaching, Aro." Carlisle's voice was bleak.
"Peace, friend." Aro smiled, his face as kind, his voice as sweet as ever. "Let us not be hasty. Let us look at this from every side."
"May I offer a side to be considered?" The nomad spoke from where he stood next to the sister, Kate.
"Nomad," Aro said, nodding his permission.
The nomad's chin lifted, and he spoke directly to our witnesses.
"I came here at Carlisle's request, as the others, to witness. That is certainly no longer necessary, with regard to the child. We all she what she is.
"I stayed to witness something else. You." He jabbed his finger towards them. "Two of you I know- Makenna, Charles- and I can see that many of you others are also wanderers, like myself. Answering to none. Think carefully on what I tell you now.
"These ancient ones did notcome here for justice as they told you. We suspected as much, and now it has been proved. They came, misled, but with a valid excuse for their action. Witness now they seek flimsy excuses to continue their true mission. Witness then struggle to find a justification for their true purpose- to destroy this family here." He gestured towards Carlisle and Tanya. I felt Alec stiffen beside me, and Chelsea once again sniff behind me. She liked this no more than I.
"The Volturi come to erase what they preceive as competition. Perhaps, like me, you look at this clans golden eyes and marvel. They are difficult to understand, it's true. But the ancient ones look and see something else besides their strange choice. They see power."
"I have witnessed the bonds within this family- I say family, not coven. These strange, golden eyed ones defy their very nature. But in return they have found something worth even more, perhaps, than mere gratification of desire? I've made a little study of them in my time here, and it seems...'
I grew bored with the nomad's speech quickly, instead turning my attention to Aro. As the words washed over him, hsi face remained calm, politely amused. I glanced towards Bella Cullen, who was watching with surprised eyes at the Nomad's words. The witnesses, now more to my side than my back, were watching the nomad with careful eyes. Their bodies were tense, not in anger, but wariness. They were still confused.
What a pity.
"...Perhaps the Volturi have finally met their match. I promise you this, though- if we fall, so do you."
He ended his speech, half of which I had ignored, by sliding back next to Kate. He sunk into a crouch, prepared for the attack.
Aro smiled. "A very pretty speech, my revolutionary friend."
These words angered the nomad. His eyes darkened. "Revolutionary? Who am I revolting against, might I ask? Are you my king? Do you wish me to call you master, too, like your sycophantic guard?"
Sycophantic? Excuse me?
"Peace, Garrett," Aro said, tolerantly. "I meant only to refer to your time of birth. Still a patriot, I see."
The nomad- Garrett- glared back furiously. I wondered if Aro had been insulting him- I made a mental note to ask Alec later.
"Let us ask our witnesses," Aro suggested. "Let us hear their thoughts before we make our decision. Tell us, friends, what do you think of all this? I can assure you the child is not what we feared. Do we take the risk, and let the child live? Do we part our world in jeopardy to preserve their family intact? Or does earnest Garrett have the right of it? Will you join them in a fight against our sudden quest for domination?"
"Are those our only choices?" The one that spoke was small, with dark hair. "Agree with you, or fight against you?"
"Of course not, most charming Makenna. You may go in peace, of course, as Amun did, even if you disagree with the council's decision.'
The woman glanced at her mate, who nodded.
"We did not come here for a fight..." She paused, exhaled, and continued. "We came here to witness. And our witness is that this condemned family is innocent. Everything that Garrett claimed is truth."
I bit back a snarl.
"Ah, I'm sorry you see it that way. But such is the nature of our work."
"It is not what I see, but what I feel." Makenna's mate spoke in a high pitched voice. "Garrett says they ahve ways of knowing lies. I, too, know when I am hearing the truth, and when I am not." He moved closer to his mate, terrified.
"Do not fear us, friend Charles." Aro said, chuckling lightly. "No doubt the patriot truly believes what he says..."
"That is our witness. We're leaving now." Makenna and her mate slowly backed into the forest, and four more followed them. They quickly disappeared from sight, no doubt in a dead run. The rest of the witnesses were uneasy, some unsure, the rest only sticking around to watch the fight, not join in.
Aro turned back towards us, his pace measured, until he stood just a bit infront of me.
"We are outnumbered, dearest ones," He said, "We can expect no outside help. Should we leave this questioned unanswered to save ourselves?"
"No, master," We answered. My voice sounded strained from lack of use.
"Is the protection of our world worth perhaps the loss of some of our number?"
Yes, of course.
"Yes," We answered out loud, our voices blending together. "We are not afraid."
Aro smiled and turned back towards Caius and Marcus.
"Brothers," He said somberly, "there is much to consider."
"Let us counsel." Caius was practically jumping in excitement.
"Let us counsel." Marcus' voice was dead from beside me. I glanced over, annoyed by his lack of interest.
Aro moved forward, until all three were engaged in their silent counsel, forming their own private triangle. I noticed a few movement from across the clearing as two more witnesses slipped away. Near the Cullen's, there was something going on, but I couldn't hear what they were saying. Goodbyes, I assumed, as a few of them kissed farewell, and caressed each others cheeks.
Behind me, I heard Chelsea murmur something to her mate, Afton. I few seconds later, I felt her gift rush by me, straight towards the Cullens.
Finally, it was starting.
Please, review if you enjoyed it.
EDIT: Thanks so much for all of the reviews, alerts and favorites. I'm glad you guys liked this so much. I just have one little note to add, though. the next chapter may take a little longer than I thought. I'm enrolled in a AP course this year (in case you didn't get the memo on my profile) and since I got back to school on the fourth, I really need to get started on the summer homework. I will not update until this is finished- or at least, it is very unlikely. I'm sure you will understand.