The Dance with the Devil
"Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night,
and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."
― Sun Tzu
Jacob awoke to the smell of burning leaves and blood. He tilted his head to the side in an attempt to lessen the smell, but the slight movement caused his entire torso to clench in protest. Groaning, Jacob's head shifted forward and his eyes fluttered open. For a moment, his eyesight was blurry and dull; he could see the flickering of light and the rough edges of moving shapes, but nothing solid or distinct. The haze caused panic to swell in his chest, the feeling instantly making him forget his previous pain as he attempted to lift his body from the ground.
"Siyo!" a woman bellowed. Jacob frowned at the gruffness of her voice and the strangeness of her language. She continued to rattle off words as her calloused fingers pressed harshly into Jacob's shoulders and pushed him back to the ground. Jacob fought against her weight, but she was strong and his body was weak and riddled with pain. "Siyo," she repeated.
Jacob's struggles slowly quieted until his back was once again flat against the cool, damp ground. The muscles along his chest and stomach ached from his exertion, and a sharp pain shot through his lungs and into his back every time he inhaled. The woman was still an obscure shape above him, her fingers running carefully over his chest and along his sides while foreign words continued to bubble from her mouth. Jacob frowned at the pain as he ran a shaky hand over his eyes. He recalled a fight—the sound of splintering trees and the roar of water—and he could see the massive form and gleaming eyes of his opponent.
Without warning, Jacob shot to his feet and pushed the woman from his body. He fumbled as he attempted to walk in his muddled state, but the ground was uneven and his heavy legs refused to do more than drag. After stumbling a few steps, Jacob finally fell to his knees. The woman was a chatty mess of words and noises, the tone of her voice indicating that she was angry with Jacob's refusal to stay still. "Stop," he said meekly, his voice rough and dry. The woman ignored his pleas, her rough fingers pushing and pulling and prodding until Jacob had no choice but to forcibly shove her away. "Stop," he shouted before collapsing completely.
Jacob felt the woman shift beside him when another ghostly figured materialized. It was a man, his voice deep and smooth as he spoke to the woman is their native tongue. She argued briefly, only to be silenced with one simple, gruff word. Moments later, Jacob felt the absence of her body as she rose to her feet and disappeared into the blackness that surrounded him. Jacob's eyes squinted as he forced his head to lift. Standing before him was a dark, foreboding figure, the sight of it making Jacob's stomach coil uncomfortably and his instincts scream that he needed to phase and flee.
Jacob's body stilled at the voice. "Bron?" he questioned as he tried to clear his eyes.
"W-why didn't you kill me?" Jacob licked is dry, trembling lips. His eyes were finally beginning to focus, and for the first time he was able to decipher the edges and contours of Bron's human form. He was a massive man with shoulders wider than Jacob's and skin that was as rich and dark as the soil at his feet. His jaw was hard and square and even though his chin was covered by a tuff of wiry, grey hair, his scalp was smooth and gleamed slightly in the dim light.
"Thera," Bron replied simply.
Jacob's heart tightened. Thera. Instantly his mind flashed with images of her in pain. Screaming. Crying. Pleading. "I have to save her," Jacob said desperately. "I need your help."
Bron stepped close to Jacob and crouched low. The older man studied Jacob silently before wrapping his thick fingers around his arms and hoisting him to his feet. Jacob winced at the contact, his torso throbbing as his muscles stretched against bruised and fractured bone. As carefully as possible, Bron led Jacob back to his makeshift bed of woven branches and helped him ease back into it. "Stay," Bron commanded as he slipped away from Jacob.
When Bron returned, he pressed a cup to Jacob's lips and commanded him to drink. Jacob did as he was told, the lukewarm liquid leaving a bitter taste in his mouth as it moved down his throat. "Tastes like piss," Jacob sputtered before Bron forced him to swallow another large gulp.
"It eases the pain while you heal," Bron explained as he set the cup down and turned his attention to a small fire burning only feet from Jacob's bed. Jacob took the moment to finally take in his surroundings. His bed was situated under the ledge of a small, rock alcove, and apart from the flickering flames of the fire, there was little to no light. Beyond the alcove, Jacob could vaguely make out the forms of Bron's resting family, their eyes glowing back at him as they watched their captive silently.
"How long was I out?" Jacob asked softly as he attempted to rise onto his elbows. The pain was still constant and persistent, but the piss-tasting concoction seemed to have dulled it slightly.
Bron set two new logs on the fire before situating himself into a sitting position. "Not long enough."
Jacob released a huff that quickly turned into a wince. "I don't have time to rest," he responded, his connection to Thera suddenly buzzing in his chest. He could sense her presence even when thousands of miles separated them. Her pain. Her fear. Her longing. His chest ached with the pain that had become an innate part of him since his eyes had first met hers. He welcomed the pain now. It meant that she was alive. It meant that they were still linked in a way that only they could understand.
Bron's face softened at Jacob's words. "You care greatly for her." It wasn't a question.
"I do," Jacob confirmed, his dark eyes locking with Bron's. "She's—she's everything." Bron held his gaze before nodding briefly.
"How did Aro find her?"
Jacob looked away from Bron, the older man's gaze suddenly heavy and penetrating. Here was a man that had served and protected Thera for hundreds of years. How was Jacob to explain that in only a few short weeks of knowing him, Thera had already been imprisoned by her greatest enemy? "He took a child," Jacob stated vaguely. "Thera agreed to help with the rescue."
Bron remained silent for a long moment. Jacob could feel his eyes studying him, his mind turning Jacob's words over as he attempted to decipher any underlying meaning. The weight was unsettling and intimidating. Finally, Bron spoke. "She did not go for the child."
Jacob licked his lips and swallowed. "No," he said softly, "I don't think she did."
Alex tightened his grip on Thera's hand in an attempt to keep his body still. Felix stood before them, his massive form purposely blocking the entrance to the hall. His former companions were scattered at their feet—a head here, an arm there—and the air was tinged with the smell of venom and blood. "How many do you think there are?"
"Enough," Thera responded evenly.
Above them the ceiling reverberated with the hum of dozens of feet. Alex found the sound both intoxicating and terrifying. Only a few seconds separated him and Thera from all of the Volturi guard, and while he felt powerful and ready, he couldn't help but fear the very real possibility that both he and Thera could end up like the vampires at their feet.
Then the moment came.
Felix blocked the first few guards easily; their eyes wide with surprise as their superior ripped their heads from their bodies and tossed them carelessly to the ground, but it didn't take long for the continuing onslaught of guards to become too much for Felix to handle alone.
"Try not to kill them," Thera commanded as the first few guards broke past Felix's barrier. Alex offered a curt nod before ducking away from an oncoming blow. It was difficult to fight with only one hand, but he was stronger and faster than his opponents and after a few awkward maneuvers, Alex managed to wrap his fingers around a guard's neck and pin him to the ground.
"Protect us." Thera's voice was even and cold as her fingers gripped the vampire's jaw and forced him to look into her eyes. A moment later his struggles quieted and his eyes became empty and focused. Alex smirked as he watched the vampire climb mechanically to his feet and sink his teeth into the neck of a female guard. A moment later her cries were silenced and her eyes were as vacant and focused as her attacker's.
It didn't take long for a pile of limbs and torsos to emerge on the once spotless floor, and before they knew it, Felix was leading the newly acquired army up the staircase and towards the second floor. Alex and Thera walked in the middle of the group, their fingers still clasped tightly together and their strides filled with confidence and determination.
"I know you're there, Aro," Thera called in a sing-song voice as she breached the top of the stairs and looked down the long corridor that stretched before them in glistening marble.
"I see that your hunger finally consumed you," Aro replied with a sardonic chuckle.
"Yes," Thera responded, "I thank you for the gift. He has turned out to be quite useful."
Aro smirked. "I'm just surprised to see him alive."
Thera's chest tightened at the remark, but she quickly pushed the feeling aside. "Hunger can be an all-consuming feeling," she responded as she and Alex came to a stop beside Felix. "Hunger for blood, for freedom, for love—hunger for power. The latter I'm sure you know a great deal about." Thera's lips twitched into a smile when Aro's jaw visibly tightened.
They stood before each other now, each stationed on opposite ends of the corridor with their combatants behind them. Aro's face was pulled tighter than usual, and his skin was so gaunt that the outlines of his veins were visible in his neck and hands. "Jane." Jane stepped forward dutifully, her maroon eyes soft with boredom as she offered Thera a cocky grin.
A second later Thera's entire army fell to their knees and began writhing in pain.
"The boy too," Aro added with a flip of his hand.
Thera's body jerked to the side as Alex crumbled at her feet and attempted to wrap both arms around his torso. The agony in his voice gripped Thera's heart, but she kept her demeanor calm and her face uncaring. Alex's pain would be short lived.
Aro smiled softly. "You seem to be standing alone."
Ignoring Aro's taunt, Thera kneeled beside Alex, her fingers still clinging to his as his body contorted unnaturally. Carefully, she turned his face until his eyes locked with hers. Thera could feel his gift surge from his body and into hers. "You feel no pain," she whispered. Instantly Alex's muscles relaxed and his face slackened.
An incredulous sound irrupted from Aro's mouth. "Incredible," he commented as he stepped backwards slowly. "I had wondered how you managed to turn my guards against me."
Thera simpered at the comment and stepped purposefully towards Felix. With harsh fingers, she gripped his jaw and forced his eyes to hers. "Kill Jane," she commanded. Jane's eyes widened as Felix pushed himself from the ground and focused solely on her. His body was still riddled with spasms and gurgles of pain still slipped from his lips, but his feet moved towards her with purpose and his eyes never strayed from hers.
"Protect her," Aro ordered in a shrill voice. Instantly, Aro's remaining guards moved in front on Jane. She stumbled back, her constant sneer now gone from her face. It didn't take long for Aro's guards to force Felix to the ground, but the short distraction Felix caused was all Thera needed to set more guards on Jane.
They began to attack two or three at a time. Aro looked around wildly as his once obedient and loyal servants mercilessly attacked his most powerful weapon. Jane used her gift to increase the pain that her attackers felt, but Thera's command was a stronger master, and even though it slowed them down, it did little deter their focus.
"Stay close," Thera said to Alex as she released his hand and began to push her way through the commotion. Few paid attention to their movements, for the main concern was now the protection of Jane, who was quickly becoming surrounded and overpowered by the sheer amount of bodies attempting to reach her. After a few long seconds of struggling amongst the crowd, Thera finally found a clear shot of her prey. With her heart pounding in her chest, she launched herself forward.
Jane screamed when Thera's body hurled her to the ground and her fingers wrapped tightly around her neck. Instantly she lost control of her power, the feeling of complete immobilization making her body go rigid and her mind slip into a state of complete panic. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Aro's face go as cold and still as hers. The room moved in slow motion—a moment of peace before hell consumed them.
Then the nightmare came.
Alex looked around with wide eyes as all of Volterra fell to the ground at Thera's feet. Even Aro—the monster that had kept him caged and smiled at his pain—was nothing more than a twisted figure whose face finally matched the ugliness within. "Holy shit."
"We aren't out of here yet," Thera commented breathlessly.
Proving her point, Jane began to struggle against Thera's grasp. Her legs kicked sporadically and her fingers clawed at Thera's face. "You won't get away with this," she sneered.
Suddenly both Thera and Jane collapsed; the latter's tormented voice ricocheting off the marble walls. "I already have," Thera responded. "Now get up." Thera pulled Jane back to her feet and turned towards the staircase. Slowly, the group began to move.
Alex trailed behind Thera as she moved through hallways and up stairwells. It was obvious from the dramatic expression gracing Jane's features that Thera was keeping a steady flow of pain moving through the sadistic vampire's body. Alex found the knowledge invigorating, and even though it was difficult for the small-town southern boy to admit, a part of him wanted Jane to attempt to flee. He wanted a chance to wrap his fingers around her neck and feel her venom ooze onto his skin.
"Are we going to kill her?"
Thera's eyes shifted to Alex's and a shallow sigh pushed past her lips. "I don't know," she responded blandly, "but I do know that her gift is waning. Much further and I'm not going to be able to control the others." Alex's brow furled as he took in Thera's fatigued form for the first time. A thin sheen of sweat was forming on her forehead and her fingers were unsteady around Jane's throat. "Once I lose control, I don't think I have the strength to get it back."
Alex nodded in understanding. "What are we going to do?"
Thera pulled Jane to a stop and looked around. They were still underground, and the elevator that led to the true entrance of Volterra was still a floor away. Within a few steps, she would lose all control of Aro and his Volturi followers, and while they would be weakened for a short period, they would be far stronger than Thera. She felt drained and lethargic, her mind and limbs aching from controlling Jane and the others. She was so close to freedom, and yet, the last steps would be the hardest to make.
Suddenly an image of Jacob materialized in her mind.
It was a strange moment that made Thera's brow crease in confusion and her eyes close. He was speaking to her, and yet, the mouth of his image wasn't moving at all. Keep moving his voice pleaded. Keep moving. Then memories began to flick before her eyes. Jacob smiling. Jacob laughing. The first time he wrapped his arms around her. The first time they kissed.
Then they stopped.
Thera tightened her grip around Jane's throat and stepped forward. "Let's move."
By the time they reached the next set of stairs, Alex could hear the others running and yelling two floors below. Thera had lost control, and in her weakened state, her pace was slow.
No longer feeling Thera's consistent tug on her powers, Jane began to do all she could to hinder their progress. "You aren't going to survive," she sneered after managing to knock Thera so harshly in the chest that she nearly tumbled to her knees. "Aro will catch you—as he always does—and he will rip your head off."
Thera laughed sardonically as she regained her footing. "He might," she agreed, "but I will make sure your head is in the same place as mine."
Jane's body stiffened before suddenly exploding into a fit of kicking legs and flailing arms. "Why don't we just kill her," Alex questioned as he attempted to grab Jane's legs to keep Thera from slipping backwards down the stairs.
"Because she is the only leverage you have."
Both Alex and Thera stopped at the sound of Aro's voice. He stood at the bottom of the stairs with Marcus and Caius behind him, all three looking slightly disheveled and less than amused. "Let her go, Thera. You haven't the strength to defeat us."
"I don't need strength."
An ear piercing scream sprung from Jane's lips as Thera harshly shoved her neck to the side and sunk her fangs into her cold flesh. Bitter tasting venom pooled into Thera's mouth as her teeth clenched together and ripped. "Aro," Jane sputtered, her mouth and clothes now wet her own fluids.
Aro's fingers were fisted tightly at his sides and his eyes were wild. "I warn you, Thera," he forced out through gritted teeth. "You go too far."
Smirking, Thera spit Jane's skin at his feet. "I've just begun," she taunted.
"You are beginning something that you cannot end," Aro responded, his eyes now fixated on the deep, oozing gash that ran from Jane's ear to the front of her throat. For the first time, his eyes glistened with fear.
Thera merely smiled in response. "Alex, up the stairs," she commanded as she began to inch her way backwards.
By the time she and Alex reached the top of the stairs and moved onto the landing, Thera's heart was pounding painfully in her chest and her arms were nearly shaking from the strain of keeping Jane still. She showed no indication of either as she briefly tore her eyes from Aro's and glanced down the hall. "The elevator," she said to Alex with a flick of her head.
Understanding, Alex took off down the hall and jammed his hand rapidly against the button. A moment later a soft ding sounded and the doors slid silently open. Alex positioned his body in the doorway and watched with twitching fingers as Thera slowly backed her way down the hall. Aro, Marcus and Caius were now standing at the top of the stairs, their eyes fixated on Jane as she whimpered and gurgled in Thera's arms.
Finally, Thera reached the doorway.
"Give her to me," Aro pleaded, his arms reaching before him. "You have no use for her now."
"Do you care for her?" Thera questioned. "Or is it the power she provides that you fear to lose?"
"She is a daughter to me," Aro responded.
"In that case," Thera replied, her fingers loosening from around Jane's neck. "You leave me no choice." Aro's eyes widened and his throat clenched tightly as Thera latched on to Jane's hair and her leg rose to kick her harshly in the back. The force caused the petite vampire's body to split.
A second later, Jane's body slipped unceremoniously to the floor at Aro's feet.
Thera collapsed on the floor of the elevator as the doors slid closed. Alex kneeled before her and pulled one of her shaking hands into his steady grasp; the other, he noted, was still holding tightly to Jane's head. "You need to get up," he said softly.
"I know," Thera replied, her words muffled slightly by the sound of Aro's screams. The noise was so desperate and filled with rage that it caused Thera's skin to prickle with dread. What had she done?
The word danced around Thera's mind and jumbled her thoughts. She had started a war. Aro would make her pay for what she had done. He would hunt her now; he would hunt her until one of them no longer walked the earth. Thera sucked in a ragged breath and ran her fingers through her hair. This is what you wanted she told herself. Revenge is what you wanted.
Thera thought back to all of the pain that Aro had caused her. She recalled the first time she found her handmaiden, Sulpicia, locked in Aro's embrace—her lover, her husband. She felt the longing and self hatred that had consumed her when Aro amused himself by keeping her bolted in a cell with Gunnar's rotting flesh. She replayed the day that Aro murdered her entire family and burned her home to the ground.
Yes, war is what she wanted.
Thera pushed Alex's hands aside and forced herself to stand on steady feet. She was not afraid. She would end this. She would win.
A moment later the elevator shuttered to a stop and the doors opened to reveal what remained of Aro's followers. Alex tensed at the sight and tried to shove Thera behind his body, but Thera's hand shot forward to stop him. Ignoring his questioning gaze, Thera tossed Jane's head onto the floor. It rolled a few yards before coming to a stop near the middle of the foyer, her deep, red eyes staring vacantly at those that once followed and worshiped her. Quietly, Thera stepped out of the elevator and boldly looked at her enemies.
I dare you her eyes said.
No one moved as Thera and Alex walked calmly through the foyer, out the main doors, and into the bright light of morning.
I'm incredibly sorry that it took me so long to update this story. I've been working on an original story that has consumed most of my motivation and time. It should not be too long before the next chapter is uploaded-I already have it started. Plus, Jacob and Thera will be reunited, so I'm excited to write about that. Thank you for reading! Please leave a review :)