What Have We Done
Chapter 21: Edward's Endgame
A/N: See, I really am back. Another new chapter, this one in Jasper's POV. Song: "Leave Out All the Rest" by Linkin Park.
The emotions in the room were overwhelming, but I fought to push them back and rein in my inner Major. If he had his way the next Guard member to come in the same hallway as our room was liable to lose a limb, even if they genuinely meant well, like Jane had minutes ago. No I needed to employ calm and careful thought to solve our current problem. Dismembering first and asking questions later would only exacerbate our current situation…
"How's he gonna to that?" Emmett was the first to shake off his shock and speak. Bella had yet to move an inch. She was still staring at my phone in her hand, as if she could will Peter's text to change.
"With his eyes closed," I answered, releasing the last bit of tension in my stance and walking over to my mate. I gently pried the phone from her hands and sat down on the bed, pulling her down onto my lap and wrapping her in my arms, placing the phone on the bed beside us. Bella instinctively relaxed in my embrace and drew a few calming breaths, but she still didn't move much, her shock and confusion only infinitesimally shaken by my touch. I stroked her mussed mahogany hair soothingly and turned back to Emmett. "And I don't say that boastingly. I mean that literally. The only way to fight Tristan without Bella's shield is to surprise him from behind or fight with your eyes closed. Edward's tried it with us before, remember? His telepathy makes it possible, though certainly not easy."
"He could easily be distracted or overwhelmed by all the other thoughts around him," Carlisle worried aloud. Despite everything Edward had done, Carlisle and Esme still cared deeply for him, and they were as concerned for him as any unconditionally loving parent would be for a misguided, troubled child. I had to admit, I was concerned for him too, and not just because of how his potential death could hurt my family. Moments ago, I'd been poised and prepared to kill him myself, but Bella was right. Something was off there. We were missing an important piece to a big puzzle, and now that I'd regained my composure, I knew in my heart that killing him would have been a mistake I would have regretted forever.
"He's still all we've got," Bella finally shifted in my lap and spoke. "Without my shield, and with all of us stuck here, Tristan's unbeatable unless Edward can kill him."
"Or at least keep him busy enough for someone else to do it," Kate chimed in.
"Peter and Char can easily handle the six newborns," I offered. "If the wolves can handle Victoria and Annabeth by themselves, I'm sure they'll help Edward. It just might work, and it will keep us out of trouble with the Volturi."
"Speaking of which, what about Irwin?" Eleazar asked, automatically looking to Alice, even though she was blinded by her new mate's proximity to the wolves. The anxiety and anguish radiating from my ex-wife would have been crippling if Bella weren't amplifying my gift, consciously or not. I was able to keep Alice's emotions at bay and keep the rest of the room relatively calm. I felt a strange tugging sensation through my gift, and then Irwin appeared at the foot of the bed before anyone could even attempt to answer Eleazar's question.
"I'm sorry I couldn't stay and fight," he spoke even as Alice flung herself across the room at him, locking him in her tiny arms. "I wanted to," he continued, reflexively hugging Alice back, "but the scarred male I assumed to be your comrade, Peter, insisted I leave Edward and return here for now. He arrived seconds after we did, and I could hear many other footsteps fast approaching. I wanted to stay, especially since Edward seemed to have lost his mind, but Peter told me it was imperative that I return immediately and report back to Aro."
"Wait, what do you mean by 'he seemed to have lost his mind'?" Bella asked anxiously. "I mean, I agree; I still don't understand what was wrong with him before he left…" Bella trailed off, momentarily lost in thought. Irwin understood her nonetheless.
"After Aro dismissed us, I headed this way, but I ran into Jane," he explained. "She warned me I might want to stay away, and then we both heard you growling and shouting. Jane seemed uncharacteristically distraught, so when she asked me to teleport her to Alec, I couldn't refuse. It only took me a minute or so to find him, and I teleported back immediately, but just as I reached the door, Edward came barreling out, grabbed my arm, and dragged me along with him, saying there was only one way to save Bella's friends and redeem himself, and he needed my help to do it." Irwin paused and frowned. "Well, he said a version of that," he corrected himself. "He was actually babbling rather frantically and incoherently, but I wanted to help you all as well, so I just went along with it. He dragged me out into Didyme's garden, out of earshot of everyone else I suppose, and kept rattling on about needing to redeem himself and what a monster he'd become. 'I don't understand,' he kept saying. Over and over, 'I don't understand… What have I done? I don't understand…' It was frightening, really."
"After our fight, that makes a little sense," I surmised, "but what happened next?"
"He described a clearing just outside Forks and La Push, a circular meadow full of wildflower buds and surrounded by blossoming trees, and he told me to teleport him there. When we arrived, he collapsed to his knees and said, 'Of course it ends here in our meadow. Fate has been so cruel, and I am truly the April fool.' Then he went back to rambling incoherently about Saturnos, and memories and delusions, manically laughing at one point about finally remembering what it's like to dream. When Peter arrived, he suddenly seemed to get control of himself. After Peter told me to leave, just before I teleported, Edward grabbed my arm and told me to give a message to Bella."
"What message?" Bella asked softly, her eyes brimming with hybrid tears again, her emotions chaotic and painful. Irwin looked her dead in the eye.
"Tell her I never knew what she was, that I love her, and that I wish her and Jasper well." Bella gasped and shimmering tears spilled down her face. "Peter insisted I leave then, so he could say no more…" Irwin trailed off uncomfortably. "He said I have to go straight to Aro with this, Bella. I don't know why, but I have to. I'm sorry…" Irwin tried to put Alice back on her feet, but she clung to him tightly.
"Let's go, then," she grumbled into his shoulder. Irwin shook his head and pried her arms open, setting her down gently and gripping her delicate shoulders in his broad hands.
"No," he spoke gently but vehemently. Wariness, protectiveness, confusion, and conviction were warring within him, but protectiveness and conviction were winning out. "Peter didn't say anything about you, but I don't want you in the room with me when I confront Aro with this. I don't think we broke any rules, so everything should be fine, but I have a bad feeling about all of this that I just can't shake, so please, mon petit fleur, wait here for me." Alice frowned in response, but then she nodded once and gave him a quick peck on the lips before he teleported away.
"French, huh?" Rose quipped, "At least you won't have to beg this one to go to Paris with you on your every whim." Alice stuck her tongue out at Rose.
"Literally," Bella half-laughed, clearly still hurt and lost in thought. "On a whim," she clarified. "French and a teleporter; Alice's dream come true." Alice turned her mock glare on Bella, but despite her joke, Bella was still too preoccupied to actually engage in the play fight.
"How much of the fight did the rest of you actually hear?" Bella asked the room, changing the subject.
"All of it," Esme responded contritely. "We did consider leaving and giving you more privacy to work out your personal matters, but then we heard it escalate so quickly…" Bella nodded understandingly.
"Just as well," Bella said, and I felt a hint of genuine relief ripple through her. "That would have been difficult to explain. It's still confusing, trying to sort it out in my own head… Edward actually seemed to believe he saw Jasper hurt me, and he really didn't recognize those men… With vampire senses and nearly infallible memory, how is that possible?"
"I've never heard of such a thing," Carlisle answered. Everyone else shook their heads, but then Eleazar abruptly stopped, staring off into space instead, sorting through his own memories.
"I might have," he finally said. Confusion. Denial. Frustration. Sadness. Anger. Self-loathing.
"And that realization is making you loathe with yourself?" I asked, thoroughly perplexed, and fighting down my own frustration and anger again.
"I may have this all wrong, but if this epiphany is well-founded, my involvement in all that followed… No, that just couldn't be true. I mustn't give such weight to idle gossip… It's certainly interesting that Edward went to Didyme's garden, of all places, though…" Eleazar mused aloud, either not recognizing my query as being directed at him, or momentarily ignoring it. I fought back another surge of anger and frustration. The Major was on the brink of bursting forth again. My mate seemed to instinctively sense the change, because she snuggled closer to me and kissed me lightly on the neck, trying to calm her own emotions as much as possible so I could draw soothing energy from her.
"What do you mean, Eleazar?" Bella asked him directly, raising her voice enough to make sure she was heard. Eleazar blinked, coming out of his stupor of memoriam, and smiled fondly at her.
"Back in the 1700's, cara mia," he began. Unlike she did with Aro, Bella did not flinch at his endearment for her. "You remember my story about the battle with the Romanian coven, and Didyme's death shortly thereafter?" Bella nodded.
"Marcus' mate was killed by true werewolves," she said.
"That's what we were all told, at least," Eleazar amended. "Now that I think about it, something strange occurred around that time as well. The two vampires hunting with her when they were attacked were executed. That they survived and only she died spoke of either carelessness or treachery, neither of which are acceptable from such high-ranking Guards. No one else witnessed Didyme's death, unless you count Aro witnessing it through the minds of her Guards… He's told me on more than one occasion that he wishes he could erase that horrific image from his mind, but I digress. I vaguely remember various vampires among the Guard questioning whether Children of the Moon were involved at all. Some suspected Didyme had been murdered, and that her Guards and the werewolves had been framed… In the end, the rumors died, the tragic truth was accepted, and everyone but Marcus gradually moved on. After Aro, Caius, and Marcus destroyed most of the werewolves, though, the day Marcus was subdued and bound by Chelsea, I overheard two guards saying they heard Aro and Marcus fighting…"
"What about?" Irina asked.
"I don't remember," Eleazar answered promptly. Everyone stared at him in disbelief. "I don't remember everything they said," Eleazar rephrased. I was on the edge of earshot for most of the conversation, so I only caught bits and pieces of it. I do remember Sulpicia's name came up, so I went to Aro and asked him about it. After reading what I'd overheard, that's when he told me how Marcus nearly harmed Sulpicia in his rage. Aro declared that was the final straw that made them bind him." Everyone nodded, saddened but understanding. Something about Eleazar's story didn't sit right with me, however, and I felt a stirring of suspicion in Bella, too.
"Which Guards overheard the fight?" I asked as casually as I could manage. I felt a wave of encouragement from Bella. She agreed with my line of questioning and saw where I was going with it.
"William and Catherine," Eleazar answered.
"Those names don't sound familiar," I said, "and Bella and I have been dragged around to meet everyone here, by now."
"Including every human temporarily working here," Bella added, cringing. "Far too many names for me to remember yet, but those two don't ring a bell for me either. What happened to them?" Eleazar shrugged.
"I met Carmen about three years later and left," he replied. "They were still part of the Guard then. They must have died or quit sometime after I left." I stared at Eleazar expectantly, and I noticed everyone else doing the same thing. Eleazar was sharper than this, yet I felt no surge of suspicion from him. If anything, his other feelings of sadness, anger, and self-loathing were fading. Confusion and frustration remained strong, but he seemed oblivious to the fact that he'd just given us all another clue, another curiosity. Something strange and potentially dangerous was going on here, and one of the oldest and wisest vampires in the room was slow to catch on to what good and loyal Irwin was already beginning to sense.
"It's Chelsea," Bella blurted, wriggling out of my embrace and pacing the room. "It has to be Chelsea," she continued, "and maybe someone else…" Bella paced silently for a moment before rounding on Carlisle and Eleazar. "Do either of you know when Chelsea was inducted into the Guard?"
"I'm not exactly sure, Bella, but I believe it was sometime in the 1400's," Carlisle answered.
"In the 1460's, I believe," Eleazar affirmed, "though I am also uncertain. I joined in the 1520's."
Bella resumed her pacing, obviously deep in thought and struggling with her emotions: frustration, sadness, anger, suspicion, and growing, blooming hatred. Such a foreign emotion to the beautiful creature before me; that hatred in and of itself was enough to cause her restlessness. Better to let her grow accustomed to that emotion than to smother it, so I left her to it. In times of war, hatred was ever-present. As much as a part of me hated witnessing the slow dimming of her innocence, it would be good for Bella in the long run to shed some of that youthful naïveté now.
"It's a chess match," I thought aloud. "One with three kings on one side, and Chelsea the queen in terms of power, some other key players, and a lot of brainwashed sacrifice pawns."
"No," Bella surprisingly countered. "It's puppetry. The chess board is a stage, the apparent three kings aren't all what they seem, though toppling them still may be the key to victory, and the queen…" After a small pause, Bella huffed in frustration and lightly kicked the bedpost. "Never mind, I can't eloquently combine my theory with yours. This just sounds to me more like the newborn vampire wars you described, fought with strong but ignorant warriors, not like human wars with clearly explained causes and knowledgeable soldiers. Chelsea and one or more of the so-called 'kings' are the puppeteers pulling all the strings, and all the others here are their puppets. Chelsea or someone else here has the power to alter memories, and when that power fails, the strings are cut and someone conveniently disappears, commits a crime punishable by execution, or gets attacked and killed!"
"No one here has such a gift, Bella," Eleazar argued gently. "I would know."
"That's true, Bella," Carlisle agreed. Bella glared at him. "Sweetheart, Eleazar served here for around two-hundred years, and he's met everyone else here. Only your shield blocks his gift. If anyone could tamper with memories, Eleazar would know it-"
"What if it's not merely my shield that blocks him?!" Bella nearly shrieked. I shot a wave of calm and wariness her way and she quieted. "What if his gift works like Edward's?" Bella turned back to Eleazar. "What if your gift is limited, letting you see only one gift even when others are present? My dominant gift is a shield, so I block you out entirely, but what if you can't identify Saturnos?"
Before Eleazar could reply, a cowbell chimed. Another text from Peter. I read it aloud to the room: "Fight's over. Victoria, Tristan, and newborns eliminated. Annabeth fled early on. No casualties. Cleaning up the mess now, full report later."
"That was fast," Emmett commented, looking for the clock. "Twenty minutes." I shrugged.
"Average for a skirmish like that really," I corrected. "Newborns are easily disposed of with proper training, so six newborns would be no problem for Peter and Char, especially with all the wolves there to distract them. The flier apparently deserted, and Victoria was too overconfident to realize she was done for before it was too late. Tristan was the only one we were really worried about, and Edward's last minute plan seems to have worked."
"He didn't say that," Bella and Alice both spoke at the same time.
"He didn't say that," Bella repeated worriedly. "He said there were no casualties, but nothing was said about injuries or petrification. Even if that was a little skirmish by your standards, we don't have a full report yet. Someone might've been hurt…"
"Bella," Eleazar reclaimed her attention, pulling her from morbid thoughts surely filling her mind. Her rapidly mounting anxiety stuttered to a halt. "Though you are one exception, I can read your kind just fine. Saturnos may be near extinction now, but I told you I've met two others before. You're just the first human Saturno I've met, and the first mental shield. In the 1600's, the day I and a number of the Guard, Demetri among them, went to save Jane and Alec from execution for witchcraft, we crossed paths with two Saturnos fleeing the area, one of them older and one mid-change. The newborn was never found, but his sire was the first Saturno to be tracked down and executed. That Saturno, Piers, was an elemental capable of manipulating the four natural elements, and a phantom-conjurer capable of creating the illusion of other people around him, or even multiple, insubstantial copies of himself. Now, I mentioned Demetri because you are not the first Saturno to thwart his tracking gift. We never got the newborn's name, but he was telekinetic and a morphman. The latter was the gift that hid him from Demetri. That morphman Saturno could change his appearance and scent at will, though not like your shape-shifters. He could not take the shape of another specie. We don't fully understand why Demetri couldn't track him, since the morphman altered his bodily form, not his mind, but we suspect his inconstant physicality prevented his mind from giving off a consistent 'signature' Demetri could follow. I would know if there was a Saturno among the Volturi, Bella."
"Unless you did discover one, and they altered your memory of it," Bella muttered stubbornly. Before the argument could continue, my phone started playing 'Ladies Love Country Boys' by Trace Adkins, Peter's ringtone. I grabbed the phone and pressed the speaker button.
"You're on speaker, Captain. Report."
"Major," Peter's familiar southern drawl was much more pronounced than mine. He hadn't spent a century suppressing his natural accent, as I had. "The newborns were as green as they come and easily disposed of, though some pups without proper trainin' did sustain minor injuries, they healed quickly on their own. That flier, Annabeth, you're not gonna have to worry about. Like I said, she left the battle, but not before ripping Vicky's head off and takin' it with her. Seems she only came along because Vicky told her the pups killed her mate. When the enemy troop initially arrived, Vicky saw Eddie and shouted, 'That's him! That's the human bitch's mate! He killed James!' Well, of course Tristan started taunting Eddie 'bout that one, but Eddie called him a fool for helping Victoria hunt a human Saturno under the protection of the Volturi. I guess Vicky didn't mention that detail to him, because he faltered a little, and Eddie almost had him, but that's when Annie distracted him…"
The room was frozen. Everyone was hanging on Peter's every word. I gave Bella a gentle shake to remind her to breathe. She still needed to, unlike the rest of us. "Go on," I ordered Peter.
"After hearing what Eddie said, Annie suddenly flew up out of range and called out, 'Has anyone seen a male vampire, just under six feet tall, with short auburn hair?' I guess Eddie read Vicky's mind, because he answered, 'Never! Victoria lied to you! She killed Seamus herself!' Annie screamed and swooped down on Vicky, tearin' her head off and flyin' off with it. The commotion distracted Eddie enough for Tristan to land some hard hits, so Char ran over to help. You know what happens when you cut off one sense though; your other senses and instincts go into overdrive. Char was just grabbin' Eddie to pull him out of the way of Tristan's kill-strike, but Eddie reacted reflexively and tossed her. He ended up throwin' her into Tristan, so I instinctively growled and ran to help her. Eddie must have been overwhelmed by the chaos, because he opened his eyes and ended up lookin' right at Tristan. He was instantly petrified, but in that moment that Tristan was distracted, Char and I ripped him apart."
"S-so he was o-only petrified?" Bella stammered, struggling to breathe normally. I held her close and sent her gentle waves of ease. "Edward's s-still alive?"
"Yeah, sweet pea, it looks like he'll be okay," Peter reassured her. "He's still completely paralyzed, but he's breathin', and you know we don't need to do that, so he's just provin' a point."
"From what my visions from weeks ago told me, the petrification should wear off in about an hour," Alice supplied. "An hour from the moment of Tristan's death, that is." I felt Bella's anxiety plummet, and she visibly relaxed in my arms. "I guess I'll go tell Aro. He'll want to send Irwin back for Edward." Alice almost made it out of the room when Peter called out to her.
"Pixie, hold up a minute." Alice paused in the doorway.
"There's a reason I told your mate to go straight back to Aro, and it ain't good. You know my gift has it's own hang-ups like yours, and I see you and Irwin gettin' through whatever happens next alright, but I saw an image of you two standin' by a pillar of purple smoke, and we all know what that means…" Alice gasped and her eyes widened, then her eyes glazed over as she searched the future for the rest of whatever scene Peter only saw a snapshot of. Suddenly, Alice let out a horrified scream and bolted from the room. We all started to follow, our phone conversation forgotten, when Peter spoke again.
"Irwin! How did… Whoa, man, what the hell! Irwin!"
"Captain!" I growled, the Major instantly responding to Peter's tone and resurfacing, "Speak clearly! What happened?"
"Irwin just reappeared and took Edward, Major," Peter responded promptly and urgently. "Going off the scream I heard on your end, I think I know who's gonna be a pile of ashes in a minute." I hung up the phone, picked up Bella, and ran after Alice. Everyone else followed behind me, their emotions pushing me faster. Horror. Terror. Shock. Sadness. Denial. Outrage. The tumult of terrible emotions chased me like a deadly avalanche. I clutched Bella so tightly I probably bruised her and ran as hard as I could after Alice's scent. The trail ended in the throne room.
Both Irwin and Alice were being restrained by the anesthetizing fog that was Alec's gift. Jane was standing in a far corner near her brother, her expression ambivalent and her emotions warring. Edward stood before Aro, Caius, and Marcus, physically restrained on either side by Felix and Demetri even though he was still paralyzed from Tristan's attack. Renata stood right behind Aro, her fingertips touching his shoulder, and Chelsea stood beside Marcus. Various lower Guards ran over to form a wall barring me and my family from the scene before us, and a terrible scene it was:
"It's such a shame," Aro spoke clearly, obviously aware of his audience, shaking his head in feigned contrition. "Such a waste," he continued. He suddenly looked directly at Bella and I felt her shiver in my arms. I fought back the threatening growl that erupted from my chest, but a low rumble of warning emerged despite my efforts. Aro completely ignored me. "Don't fret, cara mia, I know none of you were made aware of dear Edward's defection until it was too late to stop him, and Irwin will not be too harshly punished for his involvement. I saw in his mind that he was truly unaware of Edward's inclusion in the contract binding you all here." What? Edward's inclusion? Since when? Before anyone could utter a word of protest, Aro plowed on, "I'm truly sorry, but the Volturi do not forgive such treason. That said, we will show mercy this one time and end him while he is still mostly unaware." Aro waved his hand, and that was it. Felix and Demetri ripped Edward into pieces and set him alight in a matter of seconds.
Shock. Confusion. Anger. Agony. Fear. Desperation. Devastation. I felt everyone's pain as we all stood helplessly, watching Edward burn.
A/N: Reviews make me happy. Happy people write faster. To answer some questions posed in recent reviews, and to keep you all reading, Cryptic Captain Peter Whitlock sends a little riddle regarding what's to come in the final two chapters of COS1, and what will follow in COS2:
Three Volterrans are mere victims
Two will walk away
Some characters are black and white
Some are shades of gray
At the end of one, in a preview of two
The puppet master will be revealed
Edward was killed because his strings were cut
With a taste of a bloodborne shield.