The men left for the border and spread out around several provinces. I stayed close to my father and Jake, hearing Billy's mind and sharing the events of the meeting. It started slowly, each Tender making a speech regarding self rule and offering a declaration of democracy. When Aro spoke Billy told us of his deception, detailing his real intent by reading his mind.
Edward stepped forward and announced. "I'm afraid Aro wasn't speaking clearly. He is actually planning to close down the borders of certain provinces, cutting off our people and limiting our availability to food and supplies."
"I will only do what the Overlord asked me to do," Aro complained.
"The Overlord?" Edward asked, "Don't you mean your brother whose voice it is we hear on the computer?"
Aro looked at him with shock.
"The Overlord could read our thoughts, so have him read mine right now," Edward offered.
A voice came from the speaker on the table and said, "You are considering mutiny." The room grumbled loudly and Edward only laughed.
"I think we have proof the Overlord doesn't exist. Those were not my thoughts," Edward announced to the gasping crowd. "But I do want to introduce someone who can read thoughts, Billy."
My heart began to pound and I had to lean over to breathe. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the words I was hearing in my head.
"Son, tell Aro what he is thinking," Edward said with pride in his voice.
"He wants you dead, father," Billy stated.
"Absurd," Aro screamed and the murmuring became louder.
Billy looked at some of the members of the council and began speaking their thoughts. "You are worried that Marcus betrayed you. You are worried about your southern most borders that Aro promised to protect. You Carlisle, are proud of your son and grandson."
His words made me smile and I relaxed a bit.
The group began yelling back and forth at each other and some were planning to kill both Edward and Billy. My son raised his hands and asked for silence before continuing to speak. "I have seen the future, our future. It can be peaceful or bloody, it is our decision. We will spread beyond the borders into the land of the Kosars, and not through war, but through expansion. The Kosars don't exist but the slaves from underground have grown and developed the outer lands. They are prosperous and eager to join us as one."
"He lies," Caius screamed and more Tenders rose.
"We have seen these people and what they have built. They stand ready to fight with us if it is necessary. We have all paid taxes for a war only to line the pockets of Aro, Marcus, and Caius. If it is a war you want gentleman, it is a war you will have."
"If this is true, we have been fooled too," Marcus declared and Billy interjected.
"You have known all along and taken freedom from your people. They have no weapons because you outlawed them. But we have spent the last five years rearming our people. You cannot defeat us and we insist you step down."
Jasper walked into the room and nodded to Billy. My son turned to the council and announced. "The taxes have been returned to your provinces in the exact amounts you have been giving to these deceitful men. It has bankrupted their own people, so we must decided if we will be charitable to them or not."
"Don't punish innocent people for their corrupt Tenders," someone yelled.
"Let their Tenders face their wrath, why should we save them," another yelled.
"Mother," Billy thought, "Troops have been dispatched to the borders. If they are not in Carlisle's colors treat them as enemies."
I looked up at Jake and gave him the news. He rushed out to tell his men and spread the word down the lines. The meeting continued on with loud screaming and posturing. Caius was beginning to soften and his thoughts had him considering joining the alliance. Marcus and Aro remained steadfast in their determination to take over every province. Only three other Tenders remained with them.
The meeting ended with a declaration of war. Edward gave Billy to Emmett to fly him to safety, knowing his transport would be targeted. They flew through heavy gun fire but managed to make it back to their palace in safety. Billy instructed them where to place the troops and every battle was victorious.
The women took on the responsibility of keeping our food growing and our community thriving as the men fought. I went to bed every night listening to Edward and Billy talk about strategies for the next day. I was growing tired and weak from the stress and the constant worry of war.
My father came a few times to visit my mother, but Jake stayed away. I was grateful since I was growing large with child and no idea whose baby I carried. Our men had been pulled deep into the cities and the day arrived when Edward and Jake came face to face.
Jake had moved his men to the edge of the forest to meet up with another compliment. They arrived to find the soldiers exhausted and malnourished. Jake sent his men into the forest to hunt and collect edible berries and mushrooms. When they fed all the starving soldiers they asked to speak with their leader.
Edward arrived and headed to Jake's tent. They gasped at the sight of each other. Jake looked at Billy who remained at Edward's side and then turned away. "Your men are starving," Jake yelled.
"Our supplies have been interrupted. I was working on another route," Edward explained.
I saw just a bit of Jake's inner pain before Billy shut off his mind to me. I was in the dark, and terrified for my son and both Jake and Edward. I waited for my access to Billy's mind to return and it took three days. By this time the armies had overthrown Marcus's and had Aro surrounded. Victory would be in just a matter of days.
Billy was much more careful with what he would allow me to hear and it frustrated me beyond belief. The war had become ugly and personal, with many of the battles requiring hand to hand combat. I worried that Billy was trying to keep me from knowing men had been lost, and I was too afraid to ask him which men.
It was a warm summer night when I sat outside under the stars as I listened to my son talk to prisoners. He suddenly said, "Mother, it's time." My water broke at that moment. I rushed back inside to my own mother and she called for some help.
My labor was easier and faster than the first time and my daughter was born three hours later. I reached for her, seeing her full head of dark hair, with dark eyes and skin. My heart sank and I began to cry. Billy spoke softly in my mind saying, "Mother, you are from the depths of the earth and it is my job to make sure you never return. This child is truly yours."
I kissed her sweet head and announced her name was Dawn, named for the rising morning sun. I listened as Billy called Jake to see him and informed him he had a daughter. He told Jake his daughter was dark with a lot of hair and a smile just like her father's. I cried as I felt the rejoicing in Jake's heart.
It was then I heard Edward, "Congratulations, love."
I was unable to block my thoughts as I cried out my heartbreak, letting Edward hear my disappointment that she wasn't his. He tried to soothe me, but I could hear his sadness too. Billy had seen this, but he didn't warn me. I was terrified about the other things he knew and was keeping from me.
It was nine months more before the opposition surrendered. The war was finally over, but the peace would have to be made a top priority. Billy was busier than ever advising Carlisle who was positioned to become the supreme ruler. Our men began coming home slowly.
My father had been injured and his health was compromised. He slept a lot and it took my mother's constant watch to care for him. Jake was one of the last to come home. He walked through the door and I froze. I didn't feel the urge to run to him, but he held out his arms and I forced myself to do it. I led him to the crib so he could meet his daughter. She looked exactly like him and he smiled as he picked her up, waking her from a deep sleep.
"She looks just like I imagined," he said and kissed her.
"She is a very good baby, she is very even tempered," I said and rubbed her head.
He took a deep breath and walked over to sit in a chair. He finally looked at me and said, "Bella, not everyone agrees with the direction Billy is taking things."
"Why, everyone is free now," I said stupidly.
"We deserve our own province, not to be integrated in with them."
"Jake, we are only surviving out here. Our people need to be at hospitals and universities, we deserve the resources the cities can offer to us," I pleaded but he only shook his head. "We can't pay taxes, we have nothing," I reminded him.
"They owe us restitution, they should pay money to us," he yelled loudly.
"We are all starting new; we all need to make concessions. We can't demand anything right now."
"I refuse to be led by a child, by HIS child," he screamed and I finally understood why it was so difficult for him. But he was letting his own prejudice ruin the future for our people and I couldn't let that happen.
"Don't you dare condemn me," I said angrily. "I was a slave and I rose above it. We would still be underground if love hadn't given me a purpose in life. I stayed with you Jake and helped you free our people. I'm still here," I pointed out.
"Of course you are still here," Jake yelled. "He doesn't want you. He sees you as a slave, a whore he impregnated with a future leader. You are an embarrassment to him, just as you are to me."
He sat there with our daughter in his arms calling me an embarrassment. I remembered Edward growing angry and telling me he had never treated me like a slave. I was stuck between both worlds and had no idea where I truly belonged. I looked around the large house where my parents resided, old and broken. My daughter was here too, but my son was far away at the place I wanted to be.
Jake shook his head and said, "You will not be allowed to take my daughter away."
"Do you expect me to choose between my son and my daughter?" I asked in shock.
"There is no choice," he said with a chuckle. "You have neither."
I began to feel dizzy and I grabbed onto the table. My son was now part of the government, a Cullen who I couldn't even reach if I needed him. My daughter belonged to Jake and he planned on making decisions for her. I had been replaced in both of my children's' lives. Jake came home, but not to me, and Edward hadn't asked me to join him either.
"I can't support either side," I told him through my tears. Taking a stand would mean I had to go against one of my children.
"I don't care what you do," he said hatefully, "But I don't want you here, I want you to leave."
"My father can't travel," I gasped.
"It isn't my concern," he said and continued holding our daughter tightly.
My mother and I packed up a few meager belongings and helped my father onto the porch. I turned to plead with Jake one last time, "Please, let me take Dawn with me."
"She'll never even know your name," he said and slammed the door in my face.
The wind was beginning to howl and we helped my father into a cave for sanctuary. I covered him tightly in blankets and sat against the wall as I huddled closely with my mother. I was back in the earth, hidden in a cave undeserving of the life I thought I had.
I cried out in my mind for Edward or my son, but nothing but silence greeted me. I had been forsaken, but instead of despair building up inside of me, anger rose. I would be a slave to no man. I was a mother, and that was more powerful than any army. I dug through a bag and pulled out a large knife, then headed into the wind and rain to go get my children.
What is freedom and slavery, they are concepts so closely intertwined it is hard to distinguish them. I am free, belonging to no one and left to my own devices. But my heart is enslaved by the love for my children. I will give it all up, my freedom, my conscience, my morality, in a moment of rage for my babies.
I marched back to my home, the one I helped to build, the one I gave birth in and raised my son into the happy boy he became. I threw open the door and attacked with the fury of a wild animal. Jake tried to fight me, but my first strike was to the tendon in his leg. He was unable to walk and I grabbed my daughter and ran. I took her back to the cave and tucked her between my parents where she would remain warm.
I then set out to find my son. I had to travel many days around the border to make my way into the city unnoticed. I sang songs loudly in my head to keep Billy from knowing what I was planning, if he was even bothering to look. I waited for nightfall and then entered Carlisle's house. I found my way to the nursery and saw two guards standing point. I snuck into an adjoining room and saw Edward asleep in a chair and Tanya asleep in their bed. I quietly opened the door into the nursery and saw Billy sitting on the bed waiting for me.
I motioned for him to be quiet and he shook his head lightly. "This isn't right, mother," he stated softly.
"Shut up," I told him harshly. "You are seven years old. Don't speak to me like I am simple. You are free to return when you are older, you are not my slave… you are my son."
"Don't hurt father," he pleaded and I held my hand out for his without promising anything.
We walked silently past Edward and snuck from the room. Billy never cried out or called attention to himself, he just followed along dutifully. He even warned me when we were headed into danger so I could change our path. We finally made it back to the cave.
My mother was panicked and said men had been passing constantly looking for us. I told her I was going to find a place for us all to live. I was heading deeper into the land beyond and I would return when I found us safety. I knew she was worried about my father, but I would find a way to bring him along.
I set out on my own, making sure they had plenty of supplies in the cave to last until my return. I headed in a direction I had never gone before and traveled for many days until I came upon a city of ruins. It had been abandoned and the forest had reclaimed it. We would have to plant fields but we would be spared the burden of rebuilding homes.
I searched for just the right place on the edge of the city next to land that received sunlight and water. I found a transport machine and had to practice driving it, running into trees constantly. I finally made my way back to the cave to retrieve my family. We loaded my father and then set the kids on his lap. My mother squeezed in under me and I sat on her lap to drive. We moved slowly and I could tell Billy was growing more and more agitated. We finally arrived and I showed them where we would stay. It was comfortable and filled with everything we needed.
Billy walked around and finally turned to look at me. "This is the home of the first Overlord. He ruled this city."
"Nobody rules it now," I said adamantly. "We are free here."
We worked hard together, using the machines to plant food and searching the ruins for anything we could use. I spent every evening teaching my children. I taught them their history and we grew in strength and love.
Billy never mentioned anything about his father or the fact that I cried myself to sleep many nights. He seemed content to let time pass and I tried to enjoy every moment with my children. My father got stronger and able to help out more, giving me time to rest.
I was asleep on the terrace, trying to get some air on a warm stagnant night when I heard footsteps coming up the stairway. I rolled onto my back with my eyes closed and waited for my mother to reach me. She tried often to reason with me and try to get me to return to our people. I refused to go back to where only more war was waiting.
I waited for her to sit across from me and I finally opened my eyes. I gasped loudly when I saw Edward looking back at me, not my mother. I felt the urge to run, but it was too late. I simply closed my eyes and said, "Go away."
He sat silently for several minutes and then said, "God Bella, I don't know where to start."
I reached my hand up and wiped away the tears falling from my closed eyes and remained quiet. I had no idea where the conversation was headed so I let him speak.
"I'm sorry for what I did to you," he began. "I took everything away without looking at it from your viewpoint."
I thought back to when I was so young and he brought me nothing but joy. He took me from the ground and bought me everything I wanted. No little bobble was too much; if I wanted it he provided it. Then when they began looking for me he turned me in.
"I wish you never loved me," I said through my tears.
He cleared his throat and said, "I came to tell you some bad news. Jake is dead."
I opened my eyes to look at his pained face. I understood what Billy meant now, Dawn was truly mine. I also knew he came to tell me so he could take my son back with him. I would fight to the death before I would let it happen.
"What happened to him?" I asked.
"He tried to lead a rebellion and we had to squelch it," Edward said without remorse. "We are united now, the war is over."
"And you need my son to make sure you remain in charge?" I asked with a disgusted tone.
"No, I need my family. I never wanted the life of a Tender, Bella. I would have gladly gone into hiding with you, but it is all over and done now. We are free and if you want to be free here, then I will stay here, too."
I looked over the darkened ruins and felt the absence of the innocence of my life. Dawn would never know a life like that. Whatever Billy's destiny was, he deserved to be a young boy first. I couldn't leave here and listen to the talk and speculation about my children. I didn't want them to hear anything about cave people verses the provinces. We would stay here, above and beyond.
"I'm staying here," I announced.
"Okay, I'll be a farmer," he said with a smile. "I can live in the land of Bella."
I laughed at the thought of calling this ancient city the land of Bella. I was trying to survive the best I could, not forge a new society. I had to broach a difficult subject with him and worried about seeing the response I feared I would.
"Edward, Dawn is Jake's daughter."
"I know," he said softly. "He took care of my son for five years; I can take care of his daughter for as long as she needs me."
I nodded as my tears flowed freely. I remembered the kind, gentle side of Edward, the side Aro had tried so hard to make me forget. I bit on the inside of my cheek as I struggled with how to say something.
"What?" he finally asked.
I looked around and then said softly, "It's a warm night, you'll probably want to sleep out here."
He smiled and I kept from looking at him, knowing I was most likely blushing annoyingly. He waited a moment or two and then asked, "With you?"
I shrugged and continued to stare into the distant. He chuckled and leaned into my eye line and forced me to look at him. "Bella, may I sleep out here with you?"
"I hate you," I mumbled and felt my own smile grow. He laughed loudly and grabbed me around the waist and pulled me onto his lap. I held him tightly and felt the comfort his arms had always provided. Our lips connected and all rational thought left me. This was home for me, right here on his lap. This was the all the land I needed.
He laid me onto my back on the small mattress I had pulled onto the balcony. His body coupled with the warm night set my body on fire. I needed him with a passion I had buried deeply. It all came rushing out and I locked my legs around him tightly. We weren't quiet or contained. We were the only lovers in a huge empty city so we spoke our endearments loudly.
Our lives were simple. Edward worked in the fields with my father and Billy. My mother and I stored food for winter and made our clothing and blankets. Twice a year we would travel to visit Edward's family and stock up on needed provisions. Slowly others who were having a hard time adjusting joined us for a simpler existence.
My children were happy and healthy. Edward never spoke to Billy about politics, telling him his time would come eventually. We woke early every morning and worked hard all day, and then we would sit down together for dinner and spend the evening as a family. Everything in my life was perfect.
I was changing my clothes one morning and Dawn looked at me with wide eyes. "What's on your back?"
I glanced over my shoulder feeling a familiar terror growing in my soul. I ran over to a mirror and saw the words….Will you marry me? ….written in black marker. I pulled on a shirt and shoes and ran from the large building where we lived. I ran down the semi empty streets into the fields on the edge of the forest.
Edward was working with a harvesting machine and didn't hear me running through the corn toward him. I jumped onto the slow moving machine and climbed up to where he sat. He jumped frightfully and shut off the machine.
"You scared the shit out of me," he said as he held his heart.
"Yes," I said loudly.
"You were trying to scare the shit out of me?" he asked with a hint of irritation.
"No, I didn't' mean that, I meant yes, I will marry you."
He stared at me as my words worked into his mind and then stood and whooped loudly into the air. I stood next to him and he kissed me with his sweaty body clinging to mine. His proposal was way overdue, many years overdue, but he asked and I was ecstatic.
His family traveled for the first time to the land of Bella for the wedding. They were impressed with the old architecture and all the potential the city held. Edward and I said our vows in front of a large fountain depicting the Overlord. He placed a beautiful diamond on my finger and I only saw my hand blurred by tears.
There wasn't any fear that I would not remember my husband. We were totally free and living the life we chose for ourselves. The city slowly began to fill over the years and I was so proud of Edward for remaining separate from the politics that ensued. Billy was a teenager and willingly leading the migration to our land. Dawn never followed blindly but would argue every decision with Billy, forcing him to see other viewpoints.
Edward and I had two more children, both boys and both with strong personalities. Edward Jr. loved the land and was happy working with the soil. Charles was Billy's constant shadow, learning all he could about leadership and running a government. Dawn had a special connection to Edward, the only father she ever knew. He spoiled her and loved her as only a kind man would.
We sat on our balcony looking at the sparsely lit city holding those who came to make their own path. Edward whispered in my ear, "Are you happy with your life, love?"
"Above and beyond, Edward. Above and beyond."