Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Stephenie Meyer created this little world I like to play in.
Okay, okay…to those that have emailed or PM'd the last two weeks, here it is. Smile.
I apologize for not responding to reviews for the last chapter. One of my friends, AngelycDevil, convinced me to write a story with her for the Fandom for Oklahoma. So I've spent the last week and a half writing my part (18,000 words – yeah, I know, but I wrote Edward's POV, so that should explain it). Anyhow…our story is about Bella and Edward going through the horrors of a tornado in Oklahoma City. See a teaser below this chapter.
Hope this meets your desires and don't kill me.
Wars may be fought with weapons,
But they are won by men.
It is the spirit of men who follow,
And of the man who leads that gains the victory.
George S. Patton
The meadow below was transformed in a twinkling of the eye. What had been idyllic was now the scene of a horrific, fierce battle as vampire clashed with vampire. Interspersed was the magnificent prowess of the wolves as they moved swiftly into the fray of battle to destroy the opposing army. Then, as quickly as the battle started, it exploded outward. From behind the invaders rose another force out of the river, dripping with the water that had hidden them within its depths. Sheltered within the watery refuge, they'd waited for the word from Renesmee.
Her ability to send messages was an amplification of her original gift; she was the personification of her mother's determination and her father's brilliance. Today, she gave the signal that would allow Enoch and his forces to surround those led by Edward. As with all wars, timing was everything. To engage a minute too soon could mean the loss of the advantage of surprise. To engage a minute too late might mean a battle already lost. This time, Renesmee Cullen's gift was synchronized to perfection. The opposing army was trapped betwixt two.
Such was the age old process of conflict. The give and take. Death and destruction. And survival.
Peace, delicious peace, would be so much simpler, but not easy. For it to be easy would mean that all deceit and avarice, all hate and discord, all jealousy and strife…wrath…greed…sloth…pride…lust…envy… and gluttony had dissipated.
And they had not… Would not.
It would be easy to label the group now attempting to tear apart Carlisle Cullen's family, friends and allies as evil, but to do so would be to fall prey to the human vice of apathy. Or superficiality. For to assign every action or thought in either black or white was really an indulgence in indolence. Nothing was ever that defined, except for what those involved wanted to make so in order to cast blame or deny culpability. No, what was happening below was a battle led by the desires of a few to destroy the many.
Such fragile beings. Some doubted the existence of their hearts, yet they battled with them…ferociously.
Above and around the battling immortals, another war swirled with ferocity in the ethereal realm. Silent except to those involved, shrieking dark demons battled against angels. The howling sounds rose in a discordant din; as unholy as any ever heard. William Black had transformed into the avenging angel he was born to be. The perfect mixture between Nephilim and wolf, he charged through the vast swirling melee, intent on doing his duty. The dark, twisted hounds of hell were closing in quickly on him. For even though William was as black as the moonless, starless night, though his eyes dripped the blood of his heart, he was as pure a spirit as any, and the evil forces found this abhorrent.
Accompanied by two who had once been lost to fire, William fearlessly charged through the ethereal melee. But just as the dark hounds prepared to leap upon him, they passed through William, his form becoming translucent momentarily. Crashing up against the wall of bright light that emanated from Stefanie, they fell flat onto their faces, before rising with snarls to tear at her bright white glow with their sharp talons. Confused at his inability to find purchase on any of the demons surrounding him, William raced back to Stefanie, passing through the hounds like mist.
"I don't understand!" William telepathically yelled to his sister as he drew up close.
When she didn't answer, he looked to see her struggling, her face grimacing with the energy she was expending. Not knowing what else to do and wanting to howl in fury at the onslaught of demons facing them, William leaned against her. When in frustration he did give voice to his disquiet, his howl was covered by the booming crack of electricity that arced between the two siblings. The snarling hounds were thrown a great distance from the twins, landing in lifeless heaps. The haze of blood, the color of red, the tint of atonement, atonement that had been clearly reflected in the color of William's wolf eyes, blanketed the ethereal vicinity.
Supported by her brother, Stefanie Black focused on harnessing the power she felt flow into her at his touch and directing the sprits surrounding her. Without hesitation, they obeyed her orders, recognizing the authority that had been given her. Stephanie had the power in this realm, and the fire within her green eyes and the aura around her grew vibrant, piercing…ethereal as the atmosphere around her seethed. As her eyes shone brightly in the darkness surrounding the twins, her aura was that of restoration and eternal life…exemplified in the color of green; those directed by her fed off the energy bestowed upon her.
Her forefathers, legions of all those who stood as wolves, stood as guardians and protectors behind her. Generations upon generations of ancestors, making Billy, Old Quil, Ephraim, and even Taha Aki, who stood to Stefanie's left and right, appear as infants in the vast breadth of life that had flourished on Earth. Their Phoenix, their totem, come once again to protect the tribe in the hours of greatest need…for those below them, walking the earth, belonged to the Quileute Nation now through the connection of blood and love. For it was not the fact that spirit walking was so dangerous because of what would be left behind as Taha Aki had once thought…it was the pull of what was in the spirit world. The communion with their ancestors and all that they stood for. The elemental simplicity of sharing with fellow spirits. It took a great love to pull away from such nirvana.
A sharp cry of pain from Carlisle below drew Stefanie's and William's eyes onto the family and on the fight transpiring in the physical world, as the spiritual forces around the twins clashed. Skeletal arms and razor sharp talons attempted to rip into the two, battling against the barrier of souls protecting them, grasping, clawing. But neither flinched, secure in the knowledge that they were protected.
Below, the twins' physical bodies were also under attack and just as well guarded. Crouched before Stefanie and William, Fred's gift held a group of Edward's troops at bay…the ones rushing in against them were unable to do anything but turn away in revulsion and dry-retching. Aden and Anata stood just behind the handsome vampire, straddling the peaceful bodies, protecting them. The scene was reminiscent of the one that had fueled Taha Aki's fear when Utlapa attempted to steal his own body. But unlike the ancient Quileute leader's nightmare, Stefanie's and Williams' bodies were well protected against any malignant spirit or vampire who might think to harm them.
A myriad of bright and dark spirits swirled in a circle above the twins and their three guardians. Unbeknownst to Fred, Aden, and Anata, they were being protected by blonde and raven haired beauties against the demons that would plague them should they make it through the first line of defense. Green eyes glittered in love, even as the blonde's gaze strayed across the battle field as quickly as the next foe was defeated. Equally as inspired, the raven haired, dark-eyed woman watched as the love of her life trailed a young man who held his affection.
Love was a powerful motivator.
And love had Stefanie ordering two defenders to assist Carlisle as he fell. Powered by the malevolent being behind him, the vampire who'd challenged Carlisle had gained a foothold. However, the immortal stumbled back in surprise as he was hit with a hefty gust of air that he had felt but could not understand whence it came from; the air was not that turbulent. Isabella's shield had been attenuated and given more solidity by the ethereal spirits that Stefanie had sent in defense and knocked the vampire away. Seeing what happened, Stefanie waved even more forward to help bolster her grandmother's shield.
Having done her best to secure those she loved under her shield, Isabella moved toward her husband, needing to touch him. But a shriek of rage blanketed the air of the meadow from her throat as she was taken to the ground by the hands of fate - or in this case, the women of her family. Rosalie and Anna Cullen had taken Isabella's feet out from under her as she attempted to cross the meadow toward her husband…her eternal love. She hissed at the two women in outrage, and for a moment, her shield wavered.
Unheard by those below, Stefanie cried out, seeing the demons prepare to lunge upon seeing Isabella's shield falter. "Nonna, no!"
At that very moment, the physical and ethereal became even more chaotic. Their family and friends fought against the enemy on the meadow, while on the overlapping plane light and dark spirits swirled between and amongst them. Her Nonna's shield surrounded large portions of the meadow, blanketing loved ones. And around the shield, the brightly shining spirits that Stefanie had sent braced it with supernatural aid, bleeding their energy into the shield's fabric. For the malignant dark spirits could help those attacking the Cullens, but couldn't do so themselves, impeded by the protection that their adversaries lent. A great hiss of expectation rose as the shield wavered, then a howl of defeat replaced the hopeful noise as it snapped firm and tight again around them. A chorus of chiming voices sang in jubilation from the bright spirits as they felt Isabella regain control, causing the dark specters to hiss.
On the battlefield, Bella's gift was becoming intricate…weaving between individuals. It would've been easy to worry that her gift and control would soon fail. Even now in the midst of battle, her shield was still necessary, because even as he attempted to continue scanning those facing them, Eleazar's attention was focused elsewhere. Led by Tanya, the Denali Coven had rushed first into the frenzy. Garrett, unfortunately, had been too brave, and Kate now stood over the pieces of his body as the others fought against a large horde. Nahuel fought with Tanya against a particularly vicious duo.
It was both fortunate and unfortunate that Bella's shield did hold. For had it fallen, the swirling spirits would've had the ability to directly attack, but then Edward would've also been able to hear Stefanie's frantic call, as well. He would've seen the desperation in Isabella's mind as she tried to get to him, the memories that she tried to project out to him. As it was, he saw two of the Cullen women attempting to stop her flight. The momentary feeling of anger as the women kept them apart, particularly the blonde one bowing over Isabella…the one called Rosalie, unexpectedly angered him.
How dare she!? Again!
Edward faltered as a feeling of sharp déjà vu washed over him…as he stared at the golden eyes of the blonde woman facing him. He threw a man away from him as he twisted the man's head from his body. A cry of grief issued from a nearby large red-haired female, but Edward felt neither pleasure nor joy for the distress he'd caused. Little did he know what he'd done.
Liam, Edward's friend, lay in pieces as his mate, Siobhan, attempted not to scream.
Not over yet, she chanted as she attempted to work her nebulous gift of Irish luck, knowing Liam could still be saved.
Edward's thoughts rang similarly but for far different reason. Not a victory yet, he thought, seeing others go down as well. He and his fighters wouldn't be able to light funeral pyres for the Cullens or their friends until after the fight. He could not spare time or effort to light a flame at the moment, too distracted with the chaos of the battle. There was no time to reassemble any one now, anyway. If he was fortunate to survive and triumph, he'd dance a jig around the pyre of his enemies.
The blonde statuesque woman…her eyes seemed to mock him as he stared at her again. She arched her eyebrow at him in a challenging manner. A manner that oddly seemed familiar. She appeared arrogant, as if she knew what was best for him and everyone else, as if she was the one that often spoke her mind. Her stance irritated Edward immensely. He imagined he would enjoy ripping the woman's head off and watching the arrogance fade from her face. As Isabella Cullen pleaded for Rosalie and the dark headed one to release her, Edward attempted to force down the feelings of déjà vu. For a moment, the look on Rosalie Cullen's face had been so familiar, so irritating…and unexpectedly filled him with such a feeling of…homesickness.
"Rose, I have to get to him." Edward heard Isabella's words even as a new enemy rose before him.
"Master Edward," the two vampires spoke in greeting, moving to block his way.
Master, indeed, Edward thought as he prepared to destroy them, troubled that the blonde woman's stance bothered him so much. He reasoned that it couldn't be because Isabella was attempting to get to him, but because they'd delayed him getting to her.
Even as Rosalie Cullen cursed that she and Anna's ploy hadn't worked, the two looked at one another and nodded that it was time to advance on Edward. In front of the two women, Felippe and Louis put their lives on the line to delay Edward just a little longer…or to hopefully capture their most esteemed leader.
Emmett and Esme Cullen had formed an unlikely pair. They fought together as just a few feet away Ellie attempted to escape the protection of Lance and Myval. She'd finally realized that her parents had ordered that she be protected…their plan clear as the two Volturi Guards continued to stand in front of her and keep her busy with the task set to them, tossing her half-maimed vampires to finish off as they went for the next ones that challenged the core group. She could see Lilith not far away, biting at their allies and trying to make her way through the crowd as her victims fell to the ground in excruciating pain. The ancient woman's face appeared panicked, as if she would do anything to disengage herself from this battle she had not planned to enter into yet. Ellie watched Lilith turn and look back across the field gauging the distance between herself and Enoch. Determined to do something, Ellie made a break between her two guards, heading for the woman that had left her to die in a dusty tunnel, determined to help the family that had allowed her to live.
Henry Cullen and Seth Clearwater fought side by side to get to Carlisle. One of the vampires came close to tearing into Seth's left flank, but Henry spun his friend away from the man just in time. However, when they came to rest from the maneuver, it was to find Henry face to face with Cimil, who fingered his pale bone necklace and smiled with malice as he drew close to his soldier bearing down on Carlisle. The ancient Incan Dreamweaver had been making his way, at his Mistresses' prior order, toward the heart of the Cullen coven. Henry's snarl at the blond vampire facing his Poppa was unnecessary as Carlisle had forced himself up again, standing taller and stronger than ever before. Enoch's gift had refined Carlisle Cullen, and having found his bearing, the Cullen patriarch quickly dispatched the aggressive attacker.
"Go," Henry shouted toward Carlisle, nodding in the direction of Edward.
And as the Cullen patriarch blurred forward and away from Henry, Cimil found himself facing off with the Volturi prince. Seth protected Henry's back as suddenly they were surrounded by more of Edward's troops. Cimil's look of pleasure stretched his face in a ghastly manner.
Howls rose over the battlefield from many wolves as the female wolf sank to her paws in pain, the young male wolf standing beside her, grief and fear plain on his lupine face even as the offending vampire's limbs hung from his mouth. Carlisle stopped his flight when he saw the young woman transform back into her human form, twisting in agony. For just a second, he glanced toward Edward in longing, but then acceptance flashed across his face.
"NO!" the female wolf struggled to scream, urging him on, but Carlisle was true to the way he'd been fashioned.
One last longing glance toward his son, and the physician turned toward Leah.
His action wasn't lost on Edward from across the field. The Volturi king's destruction of the two men that had challenged him stopped for a brief moment as Carlisle's actions made him pause in confusion. Why would the Cullen leader rescue a woman? Particularly a human woman capable of shifting into a wolf? Edward's observation of Carlisle didn't fit with what he'd been told. He cocked his head slightly as he stared at the man. Carlisle Cullen was a demon, not someone who would cater to a mere female human. A brief memory of something flashed through his mind, making his head hurt. It was of Carlisle bending over something that appeared to be a hospital bed. Edward grunted at the memory and the pain; it must be one where he must have been present for some of the man's experiments.
But the confusion in Edward over Carlisle's compassion was another key to the outcome, and Carlisle's display of empathy caused the next ripple. His nature was not lost on the other troops fighting against the Cullens. More than one began to question just why they'd been brought here.
It was in that same moment that Jacob Black pushed his way toward Henry and Seth, determined to help. Alice's shriek was all but covered by the melee, but it captured both Edward's and Renesmee's attention. Jacob was being careless, and unfortunately, his haste was paid in full.
"NO!" Renesmee screamed as she saw Jacob go down under several immortals. She turned to Edward with such anguish. "Daddy! Please!" Tears rolled down her face as she pleaded.
Daddy? Edward stopped, before two immortals knocked into him and threw him off balance as they engaged in combat. As Renesmee's agonized plea washed over the copper-haired man, her cry caused his world to tilt slightly, and compassion began to flicker quickly deep within Edward's mind. Near her, Henry's hybrid strength began to wane against the two fully immortal vampires he faced.
Above, the war raged between dark and light. Tortured by what seemed to be their father's imminent death, Stefanie leaned even harder against William. The scream that tore from her throat and the howl that escaped his seemed more of a battle cry than the shrieks of tortured souls, but the world shuddered around them either way, shimmering from the pure light that blazed from Stefanie.
"Go!" Stefanie sobbed to her brother even as she shivered from the effort of maintaining her concentration. Stefanie knew that William could be of great help in the fight occurring below them. He was stronger than the other wolves, and suddenly she wondered why he was even with her.
Why had Enoch told them they must go together?
"Stef, no!" he argued, unwilling to leave her, uncertain as to how strong she would be without him. William had heard Stefanie's question, their mind working together as they always did when they walked together. The electricity of their connection raced across them.
"William, you're a wolf!" Stefanie gasped, having just realized that her brother had never transformed before in their walking together. This was a new event. "And I can hear you!" She moved away from him for a moment, breaking their contact. It was still there…the feeling of being supported. She'd just had to calm enough to realize it.
William's thoughts took the same turn, and then he shifted to gaze behind them…to see the faces of all those that had come before them…of great wolves, leaders, and chiefs. Stef wouldn't be alone; the Quileute could protect her.
No… They couldn't assume that their connection would last once he moved back to the land below them.
We have to try! Stefanie argued in her mental link to her brother as they heard their father's rasping breaths. The fear of his loss motivated them to think beyond their "box."
"I'll keep myself together, I promise!" Her declaration of intent echoed her then-human grandmother's words when she was determined to bring an unknown creature, their mother, into the world. Stefanie stepped back a half step and joined her hands with Billy and Quil, who gripped hers firmly.
"Just come back to me as soon as you can," she pleaded softly. "Now, go!"
When William disappeared into thin air, Stefanie took a deep breath at the absence of her brother and best friend. For this is what Enoch had told Stefanie…that her ability to spiritwalk had been given to her so that she could lead, and that she would be tested mightily in this journey. As much as she wanted to go to her Nonno, to go to her father, to be with her brother, she needed to remain here, to provide the direction to the forces entrusted to her, to remain the light to which they could return. For darkness was overwhelming and could confuse even the greatest of souls.
Taking strength from the hands that held hers, Stefanie began chanting in Quileute. It was an ancient song that tore out from deep within her, and the heavenly realms joined in, rising and melding into one polyphonic harmony. The words rose above the melee in the ethereal realm and amongst the physical; unbeknownst to her, as she focused on the harmony, the bright aura surrounding her grew stronger and shone deeper into the darkness, guiding back to her many of the souls that had become lost in the black mist during the fight. As the spirits broke free, the black ooze that had surrounded them, insulating them from their true nature and from the light, attempted to suck them back, sliding along the pure white limbs and raiments as if to stain them. The darkness did not win.
"Henry!" Anna cried out as she saw one of the vampires land a blow to the hybrid's chest…a weak spot. The sound of a stuttering heart was suddenly more apparent for the lack of its constancy.
Seth moved to stand over Henry as he fell heavily to the ground, to protect him; then a sound so ferocious that Seth's hackles rose broke over the land. William appeared virtually out of thin air. In fact, William had barely returned to his body before he transformed into his wolf form, leaping over the shield of revulsion that Fred's gift created. At Fred's urging, Aden and Anata flew behind the huge black wolf.
The young Brianna, furious at the woman who'd tortured her, harassed the Cullens, and destroyed her biological family, rushed after them even as her mate attempted to call her back. It was the first time she'd willingly placed herself close to William, but this day, her fear of him was transformed. She only hoped that his particular "uniqueness" might mean that they would be able to destroy the ones standing against them. Her desires were realized as vampire after vampire began to fall at William's advance.
Sensing a potential weakness, more demons converged on Fred and the two women who protected him. Against the rising forces, Didyme fought as only a mother could, her blond haired companion doubly so. At the same time, the demons and vampires surrounding the critically injured Henry and Seth began to close in, led by Cimil. Marcus focused on battling the demon who powered the Incan vampire. Trying not to cry out in agony at Henry's condition, Marcus held his hands to Isabella's fluttering shield.
I must give Henry time to heal, he chanted.
But Marcus was overwhelmed, besieged as he were by the dark spirits attempting to break through the shield. It wouldn't be long before the opposing forces would win and defeat the ancient leader. Yet, he fought with his heart, attempting to protect the young man he loved, while his wife defended Fred and the young ones. Unfortunately, even as Marcus' love for his nephew was pure, it would only be a matter of time; Henry was in trouble. For the demons knew what Lilith did not. The ancient woman had discounted Henry, not understanding the power of his gift, but the demons knew better. The young man was part of the key to unlocking Edward's true self from his self-imposed prison. A moan sounded out from the heavens as Marcus slid backward and Isabella's shield faltered.
It was time…choices and destinies had to be defined.
Above Marcus and the immortals he protected, the sound of Stefan's and Vladimir's hisses filled the air as another form began to materialize from the malignant fog attempting to engulf and overwhelm Stefanie.
Capacity for greatness.
Every creature had the ability to grasp it. Some attempted but failed, unable to rise to the challenge. Others tried, but fell from the path along the way. Still others reached the threshold but then turned away, unable to sacrifice. A few aspired to greatness, but then fell victim to that which would distract them. Only a handful actually achieved what they were capable of. Of those, more failed than stayed true to their course. It was an extraordinary person who learned from their mistakes and broke away from the patterns he'd set.
The din of dark spirits suddenly hushed to a low, furious susurrous as this new figure struggled to pull away out of their midst…to right wrongs. Seeing the struggle of the new figure, Stefanie augmented her voice even further in song, hoping that her melody might help whatever or whoever fought so valiantly to break free of its shackles; the pit of Tartarus did not want to give up any of its own. But the cries of pain and sorrow from below seemed to energize the creature, as well. Whether or not it was from pleasure or sorrow at what was occurring was yet to still be seen. The figure flickered as it approached, white and black twisting around its form, but when Anna Cullen's sobs grew and Stefanie's song reached its crescendo, the man broke free of his past, and shards of darkness fell from him like metaphorical chains.
Love, even love built from the smallest kernel of emotion and refined by decades of regret, was a powerful motivator.
The man's transformation caused the heavens to shake and brighten, and the mass of darkness to flicker. For it signaled an ability to make a choice again. Many demons howled and shrieked at the defection, while others began to struggle as well. For the first time in the battle, the oppression seemed to lighten, whispering of hope. This thread of hope was tenuous. Too many other things needed to occur for hope to materialize, but as the physical battle below reached epic proportions…friends and foes falling across the meadow…it was a spark. Stefanie grasped at this spark, seeing the aura of the man as a brightly golden fiery mist. It reminded her of William's aura, and when she grasped it, the light around her magnified even more. The angels took over her song while she gawked as the man came to kneel before her, his arms outstretched slightly…his startling crystal blue eyes boring into her green ones, just before he nodded in respect.
"La Principessa…" he murmured in a voice of respect, acknowledgement, and request. His eyes begged, waiting for the permission that only she, the chosen one, could give. It was perhaps the first time this man had been humbled in this manner, that another held all the power.
"Go…" she gasped, her body shaking in disbelief. Stefanie hoped that her instincts had been right, that she hadn't just made a tremendous mistake.
And then the raven-haired man was there…beside Marcus…standing over his son.
"Aro?!" Marcus breathed out in shock, even as his brother reached for Isabella's shield.
Aro's ability to focus was torn between his brother, the shield he needed to help bolster, and his child, who was possibly dying at his feet. Henry's heartbeat was still there…weak…but the venom he carried within was attempting to heal the damage.
Just a few precious minutes…to allow his heart…that of his son to heal. Just a few moments to have this very rare and special opportunity to right wrongs and make amends.
Aro's blue eyes flashed across Marcus' face as his brother's broad smile beamed. Together, shoulder to shoulder, they pushed back at the overwhelming numbers attempting to break Isabella's protection.
Isabella felt a surge of unexplained power run through her when she felt the added presence, but her surprise was short-lived, because appearing before her was the one being, other than the long-dead Jane, that she'd ever personally wanted to destroy. In a blur, Isabella stood with Rosalie and Anna against Lilith. Rage filled Isabella when she thought of what this woman had done to their family. She'd heard her daughter's scream and couldn't help but worry about Jacob, the man who was her sun, her friend, and best man.
Rage was not what Jacob felt as he struggled under the mass of vampires. For him, it was more of a sense of déjà vu. He'd been bitten at least once, and the burn of the venom felt familiar. It was just like when he'd been bitten by the Child of the Moon in Italy, when they'd fought Lilith before. Going to hurt like a mother... He swore. His ribs were the worst, the pain echoing the time they'd been crushed by one of the flame-haired Victoria's newborns when he attempted to rescue Leah. Just as he thought to breathe his last breath, the mass seemed to lighten, and opened his eyes to see Datuu and Gimhae hurling away enemy troops. The Volturi showed no hesitation in lifting the wolf and carrying him away from the fighting toward where Carlisle still bent over Leah. Annius, Tancred, and Duarte were left to engage the ones who'd thought to end Jacob. "Carlisle…go to Edward," Jacob swore out through his teeth immediately as he phased down to human form, blood leaking out from between his lips.
"Jacob," the doctor said in chastisement, but Jacob's dark eyes glared.
"Broken bones…no bites. But it is bad," Carlisle murmured, snapping the last bone into place, earning a moan from the now barely conscious woman.
"Then go," Jacob ordered. "Been there and done this before."
Carlisle glanced at the vicious crescent-shaped bite on Jacob's upper arm, the blood seeping from his mouth, and didn't have the heart to state otherwise. With incredible speed, he blurred over Jacob, setting the bones before they could knit together on their own, and left Jacob unconscious on the grassy ground, protected by Gabriel and several of the newest changelings. The fact that they were very young and lacking in fighting experience hadn't rendered them useless. Far from it. In fact, many vampire parts were strewn around the area where they protected the wounded.
Seizing the opportunity when Carlisle dashed away, Fred took the chance that moving Stefanie's body such a short distance wouldn't keep her spirit from returning just yet. With great hope that the bonds formed over the past two weeks would stand, he bent to pick the young woman up, marveling at the heat radiating off her; it was almost uncomfortable for the vampire. Greeted only by a raised lip from Gabriel and a huff from the other young wolves, Fred pushed through them, hoping his fear of the giant beasts would not materialize. Carlisle had left Jacob and Leah next to each other. Just a mere foot separated them, but Fred placed Stefanie's body between the two prostrate wolves, her arms sprawled across their chests as he gently settled her and turned to face the battle once more, his gift protecting his charges.
Little did Fred know that his decision was an act of providence. Unseen to immortal eyes, healing light enveloped the brave woman and man.
What Fred did realize, as he came to stand before the wolves, was that they did not feel the necessity of his help or protection. In fact, their yipping let him know that they were insulted that he would think either was even needed. Then an idea occurred to him. The fighting was growing fiercer as Enoch's forces began decimating the enemy vampires as they surged into the field of battle. William and Enoch were dividing the crowd as the immortals began to attempt to withdraw from the two.
Yes, Fred could fight, and he would put his skills to use in this battle, but the heart of this family was their love for one another. Fred dashed toward Henry as he focused his gift, attempting to amp up its potency, knowing that to get the youth to safety would mean less distraction. And they needed Henry to unlock Edward's mind. For Fred refused to accept that this would end any differently than them having Edward back.
Yards from Fred, Jasper and Alice had stealthily moved toward the heart of the battle, protecting each other's backs as they pressed inward. Alice's visions continued to shift as friend and foe fell to battle, but she attempted valiantly to ignore the darkness and despair that threatened to engulf her…the grief.
Zafrina and Kachiri had been together when they were overrun, as had been Benjamin and Tia. Nahuel's sisters lay dead not far from the edge of the meadow. They'd turned to flee, and their unwillingness to stand with the Cullens had cost them their lives. Unlike Henry, Jacob, and Leah, whose fate was still in question, their hearts had already stopped. Senna and Huilen had attempted to help the women, seeing them fall to the ground, but it had been too late. Hyun Su and Naresh had risen with Enoch, and although their forces still moved with the man, the leaders had fallen, along with Carmen.
As each life faded from Alice's visions, it became difficult to focus; it was so much harder than when she had first searched for a way out for the Cullens and to protect Renesmee. Her only hope was that for the immortals, they could win and then allow Carlisle to help their friends. She couldn't fathom their family's grief, though, if they lost Henry, Jacob, and Leah. Using her visions, Alice directed Jasper through the fights as she saw openings. Jasper's plan had been for them to approach Edward in the opposite direction of Demetri and Heidi. Now, it seemed that fate had thrown a gift in the way. Bella, Anna, and Rose were faced off against Lilith just feet from them.
"Bella, as much as I know you would like to tear this bitch to pieces, might I suggest you allow Anna and me the pleasure? You focus on getting to Edward!" Rosalie snarled, her lips curling in disgust as she moved her body into a crouch. Anna's hum of agreement was filled with retribution. This was the woman who'd left Anna as an experiment after stealing her life.
At that moment, another voice joined the trio, and then another, and another. Brianna was the first, her face full of fury for the death of her family and for the brutal conditioning that this woman had inflicted upon her. Ellie stood stoically next to Brianna, glaring with hatred at the woman who'd intentionally made and then abandoned her to die. But the group dynamics changed with the last woman to join them.
"You chose to mess with the wrong family…mine," Esme Cullen hissed, moving to stand directly in front of the ancient vampire.
That Isabella left the group was noticed only by Demetri, Heidi, Alice, and Jasper. They swiftly joined her as she strode away toward her husband. They formed a defensive shield around her, moving toward Edward. Carlisle, accompanied by Aden and Anata, was closing in as well from the other side.
"Stefanie, you are doing well, child," Taha Aki's murmured in encouragement from just behind her as he watched, pride filling him as he observed his descendants move through the battle below. So far, and amazingly, the wolves had suffered only Jacob and Leah as casualities. Edward had tried to prepare his fighters, but it was difficult to overrule his troops' natural aversion and fear. The vampires had avoided the wolves as much as possible even in the beginning of the skirmish, but now, they were frantic to escape them.
Perhaps it had to do with William…
As black as night, the boy moved through the group shredding vampire after vampire. Barely noticing when he was bitten, William made his way toward his grandfather. Behind him the wolves loped in formation, widening a pathway. As Aro's defection had provided the first ray of hope, William's appearance added more. It seemed that his decision to press toward Edward gave heart to the wolves and family, pumping in oxygen into the fire and renewing them.
But again there was hope…
Brought to a feverish pitch by the events below, the battle around Stephanie flared. The dark spirits knew she was crucial to the campaign. To defeat her would mean they were one step closer to winning. Eyes closed, Stefanie focused on the song flowing from her, attempting to ignore the shrieking pitches around her. But it was hard, and she felt the distractions seeping in and threatening her concentration.
Focus, Stefanie. Remember what Enoch said, they will try every way possible to distract you. You and Nonna have to focus. Her shield, your energy. It is our advantage.
Henry's voice came clearly into the forefront of her memory, reminding her of what the ancient vampire had told them during their preparation. And the memory of the times that Enoch had pushed them helped her stand fast. That her brother was still with her, still able to communicate in the way they'd always had gave her strength. So much strength…
I'm here Stef, I'm here.
Stefanie felt satisfaction as William ripped the head off a particularly nasty attacker. Then her heart almost stopped as she saw two men circling their mother, focusing on her fragile heart.
William, to your left! Mama needs your help!
Enoch's directions to them crystalized then. "You will need to stay together, no matter what."
Stefanie's grunt of understanding and William's huff of acceptance of the ancient man's directions came in tandem. They needed to work together; one on the physical plane and the other on the ethereal, and the connection they had gave the Cullens a great advantage.
He was making his way slowly, but surely, toward where the women surrounded Lilith. Instinctively, the vampires shied away from him like they did the wolves, skittering away at every opportunity, but a few had fallen to his gift.
One, having found himself in a precarious position and unable to get out of the ancient vampire's way, fell to the ground, curling into a fetal position. His garbled speech was a mixture of pleas for forgiveness, ancient names of loved ones, and calls for help. That man's sudden abasement horrified Edward's forces, causing them to shudder in dread as he moved forward, his long black hair flowing over his shoulders.
Stepping over the shrieking man, Enoch continued toward the women, for although their hearts were pure and strong, they were not meant to eliminate Lilith. No…Enoch had been sent for a purpose.
Even as he meant to focus on the woman that had started this all, Enoch couldn't help but look to Edward. Amazed at the ferocity being displayed, Enoch marveled at his leadership. It was no wonder the skirmish had reached such epic proportions. Pride threatened to fill his heart, but he quickly turned to avoid such temptation. A sudden glimpse of William making his way forward, tearing a path toward him focused Enoch. Indulging himself, a smile broke across Enoch's face seeing the young man. Pride again threatened to derail the appointed one at the way the young defender made his way, along with his kin, through the masses.
Across the field, Fred reached Henry, and he took an unnecessary breath of relief. The man's heart beat was shallow but steady. He was alive for the moment and that relieved the vampire.
"I'm taking him to safety," Fred hissed to Seth. Released from protecting Henry, the wolf lunged forward, intent on giving chase to Cimil. The strange vampire had fled as the vampires who'd joined him fell to the Volturi Guard. That the Guard members followed Seth wasn't surprising. Seth's yip at William, as they joined paths, was almost humorous. The two wolves bumped shoulders in sign of solidarity, and they were both off toward their intended prey.
"Brother?" a hesitant voice echoed in the now calm space.
"Marcus…" The name was said with such shame and regret.
Neither could stop from embracing each other, even though the show of affection was brief. So many unspoken words. Finally, Marcus spoke. "Later, there is someone who needs your help." It wasn't said with hate, only love.
Aro's eyes followed his son, draped carefully in the handsome vampire's arms. He had to trust that La Principessa's magic would work for Henry as well. Then both sets of eyes gazed forward…to the copper headed man that was battling valiantly to get to the woman attempting to reach him. Love and hatred waiting to collide.
"Edward…" Aro's voice murmured softly in understanding before the two brothers blurred forward.
Several fighters engaged Jasper and Demetri, and Heidi and Alice joined the already unequal fight, wanting to hurry their progress. But the damage was already done, as Edward flung a woman, Maggie, away, her headless body crumpling to the ground. Now there was nothing between him and Isabella but air.
"Edward!" Isabella cried out, flinging herself toward him, hoping against hope that she would finally get to touch him again.
In her haste, she forgot that he wasn't aware that he was her husband, that he was the father of her child, that he was the love of her life. She mistook the joy on his face as he reached for her, believing that all was well. Carlisle saw it happening, as if in slow motion. He was but feet away from his son, and Carlisle saw the look on Edward's face. It was one he'd hope to never see again.
"Son!" Carlisle screamed out and Edward turned to roar in rage at the blond leader.
Fury and betrayal had morphed into something deadly. Carlisle could see that Edward tensed to leap at him in anger, and even though he knew better, Edward's actions hurt Carlisle deeply. However, just as the two began to move toward each other, Isabella crashed into Edward. In horror, Carlisle saw Edward's hand wrap around Bella's throat preparing to destroy her.
"Edward!" Jasper shouted as began to lunge.
Demetri did the same, having seen the misstep of his Mistress.
Realizing that the light in Edward's eyes wasn't of love, but of disgust, Bella sagged, allowing her husband to raise her to the sky, her legs and arms dangling helpless. Her golden eyes locked to his red, she attempted to whisper, "I love you, Edward." But no sound came out…his hand effectively closing off any flow of air.
Shouts of "NO" echoed across the land, just as Marcus and Aro arrived. As they attempted to unsettle the dark forces swirling around Edward.
But they were all too late.
Demetri and his leap.
Jasper and his lunge.
Carlisle with his pleading words and dash to his son. A dash fueled by a blond haired angel encouraging him to save Edward, again.
Aro and Marcus, aided by a newly appearing Didyme, in their efforts to deflect the darkness that helped blind Edward.
William as he tore the last vampire between them to pieces…the wolves still being challenged by the numerous vampires still in Edward's allegiance.
Renesmee's screams of "Mama" and "Daddy." Abject horror couldn't even describe the tone of her words.
It didn't matter that Carlisle began to tell Bella to drop her shield, no matter the consequences so that Edward could see…would see.
Or…that a delirious Henry, having seen his life flash before him as Stefanie's magic surrounded and healed, knew the word now. The key to unlock Edward's memories.
"If you ever feel alone, I want you to look up in the night sky and when you see the infinity above you, know that our love for you can only be measured in the same manner."
"How much do you love me?"
"To the moon and back."
"I love you to…" "Infinity…" Henry tried to mumble as his chest burned, the healing torturing him.
Because before any of the interventions could be enacted, before Bella could even consider to drop her shield, a single word rang out over the meadow in a hoarse, velvet voice. A horrified gasp and the tremors of horror proceeding it.
(to be continued…)
As always, I can't thank ColdOnePaul enough for his faithful editing. He keeps me on my toes and makes sure that this comes to you with a degree of intelligence. He puts up with me, what more can I say.
And a kind and happy welcome back to Charles for joining my and Paul's debates. Once he realized where I was in the story and where I was going...he was kind enough to jump back in! Oh...you should see the texts...and the corrections…and the way he dashes my flimsy plot lines…
I would also like to thank Crystal and Dawn for their pre-reading, notes, and corrections. I feel like I need a Team Full Moon Rising shirt for them! ;)
If I had my way, I'd send FMR t-shirts to you all.
And here is a little teaser for AngelycDevil and my one-shot for the Fandom for Oklahoma fundraiser. The story is called Hope on the Horizon, and our combined call name is ContentDevil. If you don't know about the fundraiser, go on twitter or Google it. There will be a ton of great stories, and it is a great effort.
Dark eyes sharpened by stress, Aro quickly said, "Carlisle, you did some triage work while you were in the Peace Corps, right?" At my brother's nod, he gave us our orders. "Good, because your help is needed. The tornado hit downtown, and I need you the two of you to go with your other brother and Jacob to the front line."
Ten minutes later we were in an ambulance screaming out of the parking lot. I should have known it was bad when I saw Em's face. He'd waited until Carlisle and I were contained in the ambulance before he lowered the boom.
"Carl…Edward…it hit Crown Heights."
Not long afterward, we heard Esme scream Carlisle's name, and from across the plaza, she came running. I felt both relief and jealousy as he captured her into his arms and then spun her around. I did turn away when they kissed feverishly and then wished I hadn't. Because from across the way, Emmett was stepping out of the disaster area, and in his arms a tiny dark haired female hung lifelessly. Blood clumped the woman's dark hair, staining it a sickly color. Even across the way, I could see the agony in his eyes.
NO! There were no colors in the woman's hair. It couldn't be her…
The blood would have covered it up, a voice tried to rationalize.
I was frozen at the image of Emmett approaching us, but Carlisle moved quickly.
"Edward, it's not Bella," he said softly after moving the woman's hair away from her face.
But there was still agony in his voice. Someone had lost a daughter, possibly a wife or girlfriend, a sister…cousin. It wasn't right that I felt a small kernel of happiness, and I felt horrible, even though I'd studied it, knew it for what it was…survivor guilt.
"I have to go," I said harshly and started to move forward. But Jake caught me by the shoulders. He'd been behind Emmett.
"Edward, you can't."
"Because it isn't safe." The look in his eyes gutted me. I knew I was about to hear something really bad. "Edward…the building, your house…I made my way there with Riley." Riley was a cop and had gone to school with us; I could see him sneaking Jacob in to the area. "It's demolished."