Fuil 'o mo chuislean
Twilight characters and universe are not mine, but the original characters, storyline and wording are mine.
NB. Any of you who read chapter 14 within the first day after posting, please note that I did add an extra paragraph to the beginning of Cuch's POV.
Enormous thanks to everyone who reviewed; every review gives me such a boost! :) I wasn't able to answer the several reviews from guest Voyanisen, so please know how much I appreciated it that you reviewed all the chapters you caught up on, not just the most recent. And special thanks to SassyCass for her much needed and appreciated support while writing the last chapter :)
Any Buffy fans here? You may like…well you'll know it when you get there.
This is a shorter chapter than normal, for reasons of time, but the next won't be far behind. Happy Birthday Peyton Cummings ;)
See the fields burning, see the fields burning.
Well I see the fields burning, 'cause Hell is coming through.
I can't stop the dogs of War.
Blues Saraceno - Dogs of War
It was unheard of for vampires to have to rest, but that was exactly what we were having to do after running for only a few hours. I could see how ill that sat with everyone from their restless fidgeting.
"We've passed York, Edward," I heard Carlisle murmur to my brother, who lay on the ground with obvious pain written all over his face. "It won't be much longer now, maybe less than an hour. You must find the strength to keep going."
"I know, Carlisle. But the pain is so strong I can hardly think straight. I'm so afraid that it means something has happened to Bella, something even worse than being turned." I could feel confusion swirling under the surface of Edward's emotions. During the time since we left forks, his love for Bella had gradually changed to a deep yet nostalgic affection, something very different from the incomparable unity of adoration that I've felt from mated pairs from all walks of vampire life.
If it turned out that this truly was the mating pull, I had no doubt that it would turn both of them upside down emotionally. I had to admit that I hope that was not what he was feeling and that there was some other explanation. But I couldn't deny that the longing and desperation that accompanied his hideous pain was very much like the emotional state of a vampire that has been separated from their mate. I chose not to bring that to the attention of the others, although of course I could not hide it from my brother, who threw a worried glance in my direction. I answered him with what small amount of calm and hope I could offer him. It wasn't much, but I felt him ease a little all the same.
"You mustn't think like that, son. As hard as this is, you would know it if she had…ceased to be." Edward cringed at Carlisle's words. "Take what comfort you can in that, at least. Torturing yourself with what ifs will only weaken your state of mind. Bella needs you, needs all of us, to be strong right now."
Edward nodded, grimacing through his pain, and stood with Carlisle's help, a strong hand under one arm. As we started to run again, I stayed close to my Ali, allowing some distance to grow between us and the others so that I would be less influenced by Edward's suffering. I could not afford my mind to be clouded by pain if we were arriving only to have to fight for the freedom or life of our sister.
I knew that my brothers were currently talking to guests, but was sunk too far into my bondsight to pay much mind to who they were. Something was happening in the North, something that was as yet vague and unresolved, but that felt significant.
I thanked the stars for the unknowing gift that Demetri had given me many years ago. While my brother, Caius, had us fighting the last of the werewolves we had been able to flush out of the Urals, one of them had managed to remove my left arm. After dispatching it swiftly, Demetri had used his own venom to reattach my limb. Ever since then, my bondsight had retained a geographical element. I could see the bonds as clear as ever, but I could also see where they were.
The pale lilac bond that wended its way before my eyes was familiar enough. Its weak hue and narrow breadth denoted a human not a vampire. It belonged to the girl Aro had commanded brought to us from the Olympic peninsula in the Americas, I was certain. Yet it was no longer there. That was not news to me, or to any of us. She had led us a merry dance around the globe since the loss of our prized guard members in our first attempt at retrieving her. And now her bond was dancing perilously close to the broken and shredded bond of another individual who had been the cause of a decrease in our numbers. Not the least of which was my dearest wife and mate, and Aro's sister by blood, Didyme.
I did not know what it meant. But I knew that I could not afford to cease my vigil. My brothers would have to attend our guests without me. For now.
Asking the brothers about Alistair had set them off like fireworks, tempers and voices raised, guilt and blame flowing interminably into one another. Athenodora wasn't the least put off by this, standing between them, eyes rolling at every other sentence. I imagined she must have gotten used to taking up position as referee between two or more of the kings over a very long time.
"It is my fault. If I had been able to control myself we would not have made an enemy of someone we wished to befriend and Marcus would not have lost his mate." Caius all but hissed in frustration as he shrugged off Aro's hand.
"Brother, you cannot dwell upon this guilt forever. In three thousand years you had never before come across one whose blood sang to you. You were caught off guard. It is regrettable but it was not intentional." Aro's tone was equal parts compassion and impatience. No doubt he had heard this from Caius many times before. It was understandable that he would have grown weary of it over the last two hundred years.
"I think that made very little difference to her brother," Caius countered angrily, his usual arrogance tinged with deeply ingrained remorse. "Or to ours. It's obscene, the way he's had to survive without Didyme while we still have ours. Three brothers; two mated, one alone."
"Caius we have done what we could to help him. His level of contentment has increased noticeably since we asked Chelsea to bind him-"
"Are you sure, brother? What if the bond is simply so thorough that he cannot even tell us that it pains him?"
"I…I did the best I could, Caius. You know that." Aro was visibly upset by Caius' words, and seemed not to have considered this a possibility.
"Caius, enough. Enough for now. It was a terrible, terrible accident. And Aro deserves your anger no more than you deserve your self flagellation. We have guests who need this information. Could we please put this argument aside until we have told them what they wish to know?" Caius relaxed measurably at his mate's touch. Aro returned her silent nod, indicating that calm discussion was best for everyone involved.
"We know that Alistair's sister died here, but not why," said Emmett, shifting beside me. "What happened?"
"It was so quick," said Sulpicia, coming to stand beside her husband. "We were so glad to meet them. I could see a lot of Father Andrew in his nephew, don't you think Theena?" she asked, acknowledging her sister's agreement before continuing. "You have to understand, we meant them no harm. Although Caius is not the most sociable of creatures, even he was intrigued. He and Aro would have spent some time with our guests after they'd had a chance to look through the library and gardens."
"The guard returned from a sortie in the mountains, completely routine," said Aro, looking between Emmett and I. "The doors here are very large, a by-product of my own extravagances; I wanted no expense spared when this palace was built. The draft blew the sister's scent towards us and before we could lift a finger, Caius was beside her."
"I do not even remember it, brother," said Caius in defeat. "I try and yet I cannot. The last thing I recall was happiness. Theena was excited about our guests, and I was more interested in staying to see her laugh than I was in leaving to discuss the matters of state you wished us to address." He smiled weakly at Aro, who nodded in understanding. "The next thing I knew, my mate was reattaching my head along with every other part of me. And Marcus was screaming."
Cuch hadn't been gone more than half a minute when I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle up. My head and the eagle's moved as one to look at the other end of the walkway. Impressing even myself, I flung myself upright and in the other direction the moment the wolf's snarling face appeared around the edge of the wall.
I heard a vicious snarl and a beat of wings before I reached the door behind which I'd previously been imprisoned. I struggled with the weight of the solid wood and the uncooperative hinges but managed to hurl myself through the narrow opening I had made and swing it shut behind me, only to be knocked backwards by the wolf's heavy mass battering against the door.
"Shit shit shit shit sh-" I was down to a one word vocabulary as I scrambled backwards on hands and ass, trying to put as much distance as possible between me and this very, very pissed off furball. It must have some reason to be so goddamned persistent that it had made its way around the castle and up the entrance and up to the higher level we were on.
Maybe hunger? I grabbed a greasy handful of rabbit entrails, leftover from my earlier meal, and threw them in front of the wolf. It flinched a little, and growled a lot, but didn't move to sniff at them. OK, so hunger is out. What the hell was I supposed to do now?
I didn't need to wonder for long, and the answer seemed to be get the fuck out of the way.
With an angry shriek and the deafening beat of strong wings, Wadjet came through the door like a missile and headed straight at the wolf, talons outstretched. The wolf yipped in pain as it felt them pierce its hide and sink deep into muscle. I'd seen them as it had perched on the wall only minutes earlier and I had no illusions about them being inadequate as weapons. And I knew that golden eagles were phenomenally successful raptors, as likely to attack wolves and bears as they were goats and sheep.
But that was out in the open. I had no idea how a fight between these two powerful creatures would end when carried out in such a confined space. I edged around the wall as they tangled together in battle, teeth, talons, claws and beak tearing and stabbing amid shrill screams and guttural growls.
As I reached a halfway point along the room's wall, crabbing sideways with only my fingers and heels touching the floor, the wolf suddenly exploded out of the confusion of limbs and landed at my feet, reaching forward to grab one leg between sharp teeth. Oh holy fuck it was strong. It dragged me away from the safety of the wall and onto my back, where I struggled to turn over so I could find leverage to pull myself away from it.
The kind of mindless panic that I should have felt at many, many points in my life already finally descended upon me as the wolf lurched forward and snapped its teeth at my neck, trying to grab at the soft flesh there.
Fighting it was the most disgusting thing I had ever had to do. The instinct to defend myself made me seize and grasp any part of it that I could that would keep it away from me, hot tears spilling down my cheeks and my lips pulled back from my teeth in a grimace of fear, but at the same time I shrank away from the feel of it. The hot flesh and unyielding bone under coarse fur were anathema to my sense of touch and it was an almost conscious effort to not let go of the handfuls I grabbed at desperately.
The high pitched keening I could hear was coming from my own throat.
I was losing strength rapidly and would not have been able to keep it from sinking its teeth into my jugular much longer. To my relief, its weight eased a great deal when Wadjet pounced on it from behind, tearing unrelentingly at its face and neck. It must have lost an enormous amount of blood very quickly, some of which I had felt gush across my ankle, as although it managed to tear itself away from me to round on the eagle, it did so with obviously waning energy.
In a show of strength that defied belief, the eagle's beating wings lifted their roiling forms from the floor by several feet, before it wheeled them half around and threw a lifeless and very bloody wolf in my unfortunate direction.
I slumped underneath the weight of it, the back of my head hitting the cold stone floor and my limbs without even a shred of energy left to prise it off my body. Wadjet's shriek of victory was all I heard before everything faded thankfully to black.
"I do not envy you your absence of mind, brother. And nor would you if you had seen…it," said Aro. He turned to us. "I have never heard of anything like this outside of legend. It was a human that entered the room, but it was a monster that left. Left carrying the pieces of my sister, I can only assume, for when it was all over, there was no trace of her body, not even ash."
"I understand this guy wanting to avenge his sister," said Emmett, confused. "But not him actually being able to do it. How did a human get the drop on you and your guard? And what do you mean by monster?"
"I…" Aro threw up his hands in a gesture of helplessness, something I would not have expected from him. "I do not know. I could see the moment he realised his sister was gone. He was so still. And then…anger. I could feel it rolling off him."
"He changed," said Sulpicia in a soft voice. "I don't think even he knew what was happening. He looked at us as if we had caused it, as if we were to blame for not only the death of his sister but for what was happening to him."
"This was a time when magic was something not scoffed at as it is now," said Athenodora. "Both we and he probably leapt to the same conclusion, a curse, a spell, or something similar. Only the longevity of our experience made it seem so unlikely. It wasn't until many years later, through research, that we came up with a different hypothesis."
"He grew taller, wider," said Aro, his head moving gently side to side in disbelief. "His clothes tore in places as his limbs grew thicker with new muscle. It was agony for him, I could see that much. His hair darkened and stood up like a lion's mane."
"There was a roar like a great beast and then," Athenodora stumbled over her words. "And then he tore Caius apart. The whole process took only seconds. And once he had dealt with Caius, all hell broke loose. He attacked the guard, who tried to protect us. Jane's gift only seemed to make him angrier. When we saw that…we ran."
"Not all of us made it." Sulpicia's eyes were closed, her face grief stricken. "I heard Marcus shout, and Didyme cry out. And then there was silence. And we still ran."
"We ran so far and so fast that it took us ten days to regroup before returning to the palace," said Aro. "We found Marcus sitting in the middle of the throne room holding a scrap of fabric from his mate's gown. It was all that was left of her."
"Poor Marcus." I couldn't even imagine what he must have gone through that day, or every day since, and leant close against my own mate, comforted by the solidity of his body next to mine. I hoped Aro was right in thinking that he had eased his brother's pain by using Chelsea's gift on him. It was a gift rarely used except in guard members' newborn years to bind them to their handlers, and released as soon as they were controlled enough.
"No wonder Carlisle was so freaked out when he found out that Bella was in Scotland," said Emmett. "If he could do that as a human, what can he do now as a vampire?"
"That's the thing, you see," said Aro, his tone weary. "Alistair isn't a vampire. Or at least, we don't think that what was turned into a vampire was human, so it follows that a vampire is not the biggest part of what he is now."
"If he isn't a vampire, what is he?" I asked, unsure if I wanted to know the answer. Aro looked at me with pity.
"He's a god."