The Volturi came for us. They wanted me to die. And they're pretty used to getting what they want.
We waited four days. The werewolves trained with Edward and Bella, who knew the Volturi well and tried to give them lifelike training. I thought they did well, but I didn't know much. Mostly, I stood and watched. I was too much of a fragile human to risk my life saving myself. Billy and Sue and Charlie would protect me. Charlie knew we were back in town, but he also knew we were staying with Billy. He actually, I think, preferred it that way. This had a lot to do with "that magic stuff", and besides, it disturbed him how much I'd grown in five years. Emotionally and physically, according to my parents, it was a few days before my sixteenth birthday. Charlie's last memory of me was the little girl, only one month old, but who could smile, wave, walk, talk and read. I couldn't wait until I was eighteen years old forever…or would that only be worse for Charlie?
Whatever. I wasn't in the mood to worry about stuff like this. I was engaged. Of course, Charlie didn't know about that either. It was just another thing that would freak him out. But I did. Bella, Edward and Billy did. The only thing that diminished my happiness was, of course, the prospect that Jake would die. But he wouldn't. I had to stop thinking like this and hope for the best.
But that was hard to do, on the fourth day. We were practicing in the meadow when suddenly Edward froze into that eerie, completely unmoving position. "They're here," he choked out. All the movement stopped, as though it was some sort of choreographed dance. "Not nearly as many as last time. Aro, Marcus, Renata. Some new ones…they're powerful. Elena. Gianna. Pietro. But there's only about seven, not counting the witnesses." For the first time, Edward smiled. "This should be easy.
In an instant, they were gone, running with superhuman speed as I struggled to keep up. I wasn't supposed to endanger myself. But I couldn't let Jake go alone. I caught up with them just as the werewolves all phased. Edward was right; there were a lot less than last time. I touched Edward's face, asking what the new ones' powers were.
"Elena is telekinetic, I think, or something similar. Gianna can make people think the same things she's thinking, persuade them to her point of view. Lester's another new one…he seems to be similar to Eleazar. He can tell people's powers. Pietro seems to be able to make people forget things…Well. It's a good thing Bella's shielding."
I had always liked the way my father said my mother's name, even when I was a baby. It reminded me a little of how Jake said Nessie. I wasn't named after the Loch Ness Monster, as Bella had originally thought. It was a private nickname, meant just for Jacob to use for me. Other people called me the same thing, but it was different somehow.
Aro stopped. He grimaced a little. I smirked. He hadn't expected to be outnumbered again, had he? He still began a speech. "Edward. Bella. So nice to see you survived."
The werewolves growled, but Aro ignored them. "But no one stands by your side? Tell me, dear Bella, what has happened between my old friends, the Cullens?"
Bella's inexorable hatred toward Aro was more than obvious. "You destroyed them," she said, her voice trembling. "You killed Alice. You killed Esme. You killed Carlisle."
"But Jasper doesn't wish to avenge his mate's killers?" Aro questioned with a wry half-smile.
"Not alongside shapeshifters."
Edward stood protectively in front of Bella. "Aro. You needn't stay here. You needn't endanger your guard. The vampires and the shapeshifters have a rift between them now. It will never heal."
Aro arched one fair eyebrow. "Yet they stand beside you? Yet the half-breed still lives?"
"The Cullens are half of what they were," Edward confessed. "Only Bella and I remain friends with the shapeshifters."
"Because of Renesmee," Aro stated. He wasn't wrong. In fact, he was exactly right. "No, Edward. You make a wonderful plea, but we simply can't afford to have the most powerful Cullens allied with these mutant wolves."
Edward looked like he would cry if it was possible. "Please, Aro," he begged. "Don't do this."
Aro answered by lunging at Jacob.
I saw it all happen too fast for my eyes. One minute Aro was speaking to Edward, and the next he was jumping. He tore a chunk off of Jake's leg before I could even register what was happening. I tried to protect him, but I couldn't. I took in the fight. Bella was fight with the small, thin little blonde who Edward called Elena. Trees were uprooting themselves and flinging toward Bella's head. She deflected them easily. Elena seemed to me like a newborn. But like I said, I didn't know anything. Edward tore Lester to pieces in the blink of an eye, and then moved on to Pietro. The remnants of the pack were attacking Gianna and some of Aro's witnesses. No one was protecting Jake. I cried silently. I touched Bella's face quickly. Please, I thought, protect him. She looked at me helplessly. It was unnatural to see a vampire look that way. I had to protect Jake, but I couldn't.
Maybe, I thought, it was best if I was killed. Jacob was losing the fight between him and Aro. What if I intercepted it? Surely, I knew, I wouldn't survive. Did I want that? What if Jake lived? I looked back at the fight briefly. It was highly unlikely Jacob would survive. But what if he did? Would I put him through that? I wouldn't be able to bear it, if the positions were reversed. But he was dying. And I was still alive. Something was wrong here.
I flung myself in between him and Aro. I tried to push Aro away, but an awful pain in my fingers stopped me. Aro bared his teeth. He looked evil. What had I done? Suddenly, I wanted to take it back. I didn't want to die at Aro's hands. But it was too late. And I'd see Jacob.
I felt suddenly a bite on my shoulder – and then someone pushed Aro out of the way. I saw shreds of what looked like granite fly up from the fight. But my vision was failing me. My shoulder felt like it was on fire, and the fire was spreading. The fight flickered in and out like bad reception on a TV.
This was impossible! I was half-vampire; the venom couldn't harm me. I couldn't become a vampire. And yet with every second, I was proving the impossible possible. Soon, the burning encompassed my entire body. It felt like I was swimming in a pool of hydrochloric acid. I burned to ashes every second, and yet somehow stayed alive to relive the torture.
I had read about a type of medieval execution called being drawn and quartered. Each limb was tied to a horse, and the four horses all faced different directions. The executioner gave the signal, and the horses galloped off. The victim was literally torn apart. I would have traded places with them in a second. They were allowed to die. I wasn't.
Jacob. The thought was more painful then all the burning, and that was definitely saying something. Could a werewolf marry a vampire? Bella had stayed friends with Jacob, but that was different. That wasn't what I wanted. I needed to need Jacob. Would I? All my instincts said it was impossible. And yet…Sam had loved Leah, and imprinting made him completely forget her for Emily. Quil had imprinted on a two-year-old. Technically, Jacob had made out with a five-year-old. Imprinting was a powerful sort of magic; was it more powerful than vampire venom?
I managed to control my charred and burned hand and touch someone. I couldn't tell who it was. I couldn't tell what they said in reply. I didn't even know if I'd touched anyone's face, so I wasn't sure they'd heard my thoughts. I felt vaguely someone pick me up and run with me. But I didn't try to concentrate on that. I was burning.
I burned for a long time, and then suddenly, I could feel my heart racing. The fire seemed to recede slowly and painfully, but my heart was thundering like a hummingbird's. It felt like an airplane taking off inside my chest. And suddenly, it was flying away and I was free.
I blinked and my eyes opened into a new world. I was in Jacob's room in his house, I remembered from my fuzzy half-human memories. No, I hadn't been in Jacob's room like that. I just had been in Jacob's room before. I could see every speck of dirt on the walls, every molecule of dust that floated in the air. When I breathed in, I didn't feel the oxygen. I remembered in a nanosecond that vampires didn't need to breathe. Didn't need to breathe, but the potpourri smell of the air smelled nice. There was a hint of an awful smell. Jacob. Ew, he did smell bad. In my peripheral vision, I saw the motion of Edward's mouth as he half-smiled at my thoughts. I could see every movement they made.
"Renesmee," Edward said warmly. "We're so sorry. We tried to stop the venom, but it was too late. It spread too far."
I looked more closely at Jacob. There was a little depression on his shoulder, and on his leg, there was an oozing scab. I felt my eyes flash scarlet as I smelled the blood. But it smelled unappetizing, and I left it alone. Blood. That opened up a whole new realm of pain in my throat. It was faintly reminiscent of when I was burning, but it was only within my neck.
I turned to Jacob. My raging thirst could wait. I needed to see, to find out if I still loved Jake. So I kissed him.
Kissing Jacob as a vampire made my head pound with adrenaline. It gave me a rush nothing else could compare to. I felt like I could tear down an entire building with one fingernail. If I'd still had a heart, it would have been pounding like a jackhammer. I could hear Jacob's heart, picking up speed. Joyfully, I realized I was still imprinted. As long as I had Jacob, everything would be all right. I could live on forever with Jacob by my side. As I would.