Chapter Thirty-Five — The End
I had become what Isabella had hoped to spare me from: A Volturi guard. At least in appearance. I had donned the ash grey cloak to walk in the sun. It felt ironic that I had been given what I once begged for to enable me to be with her, while I now sought the death of those that had ended her life.
The castle had been almost emptied of all life. The only ones that had remained were Aro, my family and a few guards. Aro had wanted to come but Caius cautioned him against. If they were both to fall in the fight there would be no one left to lead the guard and therefore the vampire race.
My family had wanted to come, too, but when I requested that they stayed in the protection of the castle, they had acquiesced. It was partly for their protection that I asked them to stay—I did not want to lose more of my loved ones today—and partly for my own. To defeat Stefan and Vladimir I was going to have to take up the mantle of warrior again. I had not tapped into my abilities since my time in Maria's army, and I did not want my family to see that side of me.
We made slow progress across the Tuscan countryside. The Volturi moved at steady pace, borne of centuries of dedication and tradition. I grew impatient with the speed, but there was nothing to be done. I needed Demetri to find Stefan and Vladimir, and he moved at the pace of his master.
Things became more complicated when we reached the small harbor town of Piombino. There were too many humans around for us to hope they wouldn't notice a dozen people disappearing into the water fully clothed. We searched and found a deserted area of cliffs where we could get into the water unseen. I felt a pang of grief as I remembered cliff diving with Isabella all those months ago. It was before she had known of the mating, when I was besotted with her but she was oblivious. Never could I have imagined then the happiness we would share nor the heartbreak I would suffer.
I dove into the water and immersed myself immediately. Demetri led the way and I followed dutifully. Were it not for the ache in my heart I would have enjoyed the journey. As it was, Isabella's death had stolen all joy from me a replaced it with a burning need for revenge.
We left the water at a deserted bay on the south coast of the island and the slow funeral procession started again.
As we approached Mount Capanne, Demetri came to my side. "Do you wish to see where she fell?" he asked.
"Yes." I did not need to think of my answer. I needed to see the place my love had met her end. I needed all the information possible to make it real in my mind and heart.
We made our way around the base of the mountain, still moving at an excruciatingly slow pace despite the fact we were now out of sight of the humans.
I knew when we were close to the place the battle had been fought as the heady scent of burning vampire was still thick in the air. To think that part of that scent was made by my Isabella threatened to steal the strength from my legs. I forced myself to go on. I needed to see where it had happened.
We stepped out into a large clearing, and my strength did fail. I swayed on my feet and Caius steadied me with a hand on my shoulder. Spread about the clearing were small piles of ash.
"Oh, God, Isabella," I said in a kind of moan.
I was not the only one affected. The faces around me all betrayed the sadness of the moment. I had been doing all I could to shield myself from the emotions around me, but as they all took in the sight before, them I was pelted with shock and depression.
Caius' grip on my shoulder tightened and he spoke. "Can you handle this, Jasper."
I nodded curtly, irritation flaring inside of me. I was not weak, despite what they and Isabella believed. I may have honed my persona into that of a gentleman, but I was as dangerous now as I had been at the height of the Southern Wars. With that thought came anger, surprisingly, even to me, directed at Isabella. Had she not been so hell-bent on protecting me I could have fought alongside her. I could have been an asset not a liability to her own skill. If she had known the real me, she would have known there was little risk to me in battle.
"Jasper, are you well?" Caius asked solicitously, evidently concerned by my sudden stillness.
I nodded but did not attempt to articulate my thoughts. It felt like I was betraying Isabella by thinking these things. She was gone now and I was thinking ill of her. Surely all ill feeling should have been negated in the face of her death. I was grateful that Edward was not there to hear my thoughts. He would have tried to comfort me and I could not have borne that.
I looked at the small mounds of ash surrounding me. Any one of them could be Isabella's, there was no knowing which. Even if I knew which was hers, what could I do? I could scatter her somewhere, but the wind would do that for me. It seemed right that she would leave from the place she had fallen.
Something happened then to draw me out of my thoughts of Isabella; someone nearby was feeling a wave of intense terror. I spun on my heel and searched for the source of the emotion, but no one here looked scared. They were still staring about the clearing with a mixture of shock and sadness.
My feet moved of their own volition across the clearing in the direction of the emotion. I found myself standing outside a large cave at the very foot of the mountain.
"Jasper, what are you doing?" Caius asked with evident concern; perhaps he thought I was losing my wits in the face of my bereavement.
"There is someone here."
The eyes of everyone snapped to me, and they all stiffened visibly. Could this be Stefan and Vladimir cowering in a cave? The idea pleased me immensely.
"You can come out now," I said stiffly, anger building inside me. "We will come in after you if you don't."
There was a whisper of hushed voices in the cave, but no one showed themselves.
I turned to Demetri. "Is it them?"
He shook his head. "It is not them, but the trail is familiar."
Could there have been another survivor of the battle that had taken refuge here? It was not impossible; Eleazar, Afton and Demetri should all have fallen, but had been spared by someone's quick thinking. Not once did I think of my Isabella being returned to me. I had felt the pain as our bond was broken, and that could only have happened if she had died.
"Felix, please retrieve them," Caius said carelessly, flicking an invisible dust mote from his cloak and looking supremely unconcerned. I suspected that, like me, he was tired of delays and wanted to get to the real business of the day—destroying the Romanians.
There was no need for Felix to venture into the cave, however, they came out on their own, albeit slowly. Figures formed in the darkness and then appeared at the mouth of the cave. It was Tomas and a female I supposed was his mate, Lucy.
I felt a wave of mingled sadness and anger at the sight of him. Sadness because I knew how much Isabella had cared for him, and anger because he had been party to Isabella's death. Anger won out and I surged forward to attack him only to be held back my Felix's restraining arms about my chest.
"Let me go!" I struggled against his grip, but he held me fast.
"Calm yourself, Jasper," Caius cautioned. "You will have your revenge, but there are processes that must be observed.
I cared nothing for their processes or purpose. I wanted the satisfaction of feeling another life extinguished at my hands, and seeing through the Volturi version of a trial would not sate that need.
"Don't kill us!" Tomas held his hands up in front of him in a placatory manner. "We didn't do anything wrong."
"You were part of it!" I snarled at him.
"No, Jasper, you don't understand," Tomas said frantically. I growled at the use of my name. He had no right to address me directly.
"We saved her!" The female said boldly. "Didn't she tell you?"
"Whom did you save?" Caius asked.
"Isabella of course."
The words reverberated around my mind. Isabella of course. They registered but did not make sense. How could they have saved her if Isabella was dead? What they had said stunned all around me too, and I was able to break from Felix's slackened grip. I tackled Tomas to the ground and pinned him with my knees on his chest.
"Explain!" I said in a low growl.
He had trouble filling his lungs to speak, so I lifted myself slightly, keeping a hand at his throat holding him in place.
"She was hurt," he gabbled. "We took her away and killed Shelly. We healed her."
My mind reeled. What he was saying was beyond my capability to process. Isabella couldn't be alive. I had felt the pain as our bond broke.
"The pain…" I whispered, remembering how it had started at my throat and spread down my body at each joint. The same pain I would have felt had I been dismembered and healed.
Unthinkingly, I released Tomas and got to my feet raking a hand through my hair. Lucy rushed to his side and clung to him as if fearing I may attack again.
"Are you saying Isabella is alive?" Caius asked, the faintest trace of hope in his voice.
"Yes. We healed her," Tomas said.
The strength left my legs and I found myself kneeling on the floor. A strange reaction was taking place inside of me. I was being overwhelmed by waves of elation that were not completely my own. Everyone around me was feeling that same joy.
"Alive," I whispered and then broke into laughter. "She… she's alive!"
"Yes," Tomas said again. "We healed her."
"Thank you." I could think of nothing more to say.
I would have stayed there babbling my gratitude forever were it not for Caius. He gripped my shoulder and I turned to him.
"I rather think we have somewhere to be." He smiled wryly. "Imagine her displeasure if she reaches the castle only to find you gone."
I laughed again. I could easily imagine her ire as she realized I had left to fight without her protection. My wonderfully silly Isabella.
"How long ago did she leave you, Tomas?"
"Not long, an hour at most."
An hour. She would still be on the island then.
I turned to Demetri. "Can you track her?"
He shook his head solemnly. "Her shield blocks my gift."
That damned shield. The same shield that blocked her from Alice's sight. If Alice had been able to see her, we would have known her true fate all along.
"I suggest we find her scent trail," Caius said with an indulgent smile.
Now I concentrated I could smell her distinct scent at the cave and leading away east. I sighed to myself. If I had been paying attention before, I would have noticed it sooner.
"Shall we go?" Felix asked, grinning widely.
"Let's." I smiled back and we set out along Isabella's path.
We no longer moved at the slow, funeral procession march of the Volturi; we raced across the island, all of us eager to find Isabella.
I imagined our reunion. Would she throw herself into my arms or would she still be darkened by Marcus' death. Whatever she was, I planned to take her in my arms and never let go.
I should have known it would not be that easy, however. We were passing through the densely grown trees on the south of the island when echoing bangs reached our ears.
"Is that thunder?" someone asked.
"No," Demetri growled. "That is the Romanians and..."
"Isabella." I finished for him.
Of course it could not be easy. It was Isabella after all. She lived to complicate matters.
I surged towards the sounds, pushing my legs faster than ever. Soon I had left behind the rest of my fellows. My fear for Isabella lent me speed.
The closer I drew the louder the sounds became. I could hear hisses and growls among the collisions. My concern for Isabella grew, and I shouted in my desperation. "Isabella!"
I burst through the trees and into a small clearing. And there she was. My wonderfully beautiful, miraculously living, Isabella. My breath huffed out of me at the sight of her.
My elation soon became concern, though, as I saw the position she was in. An ashy-blond male had her pinned against him with one hand at her chest while a dark-haired male pulled at her left arm, stretching the sockets to breaking points.
"Jasper," she gasped, and then marshaled herself. "A little help, please."
My shock-induced inertia broke and I rushed forward and tackled the man holding her arm to the floor. Aro was right, he was a fierce opponent, but I was better. I slammed him to the ground, and then took one hand in my own and twisted. His hand came away at the wrist and he howled in pain. The sound was music to my ears. I had not felt this surge of battle-lust for almost a century, but now I felt it and relished it. This was the man that had dared to lay his hands on my mate. The man that had plotted against my love's coven and had—or so I had believed—been the cause of her death. I wanted to cause the same pain in him that I had felt upon hearing of Isabella's death.
His arm joined his hand on the floor and I eyed him looking for another target. His left arm was lost to my teeth, and now he was completely at my mercy. I kicked him in the chest sending him stumbling to the floor.
"Please!" he moaned.
"Begging, Vladimir?" a soft voice spoke behind me. "That's not very dignified of you."
I turned to see Isabella kneeling on the back of the dark-haired man, pinning him to the floor. She smiled at me. "Carry on, love."
I laughed and returned my attention to the man flailing on the ground in front of me.
"You can beg all you like, but I used the last of my mercy already today."
He saw the truth in my eyes and I felt his emotion shift to grudging acceptance. He knew he was going to die, but was evidently going to do it like a man. I used one leg to turn him onto his stomach and knelt on his back. My teeth found his neck and I tore away his head and then tossed it to the ground. I quickly tore away his legs and piled the pieces ready for burning.
That done I looked to Isabella. She was still kneeling on top of the vampire I assumed was Stefan.
"Ready for another?" she asked with a quirked brow.
I laughed again. "If you wouldn't mind."
She jumped to her feet in one smooth movement. Stefan stood and looked for a moment as if he was going to try to make a run for it.
"Don't bother, Stefan," my love said. "We'll catch you. Die with dignity."
I rather hoped he wouldn't, I would enjoy fighting him. Unfortunately for me, he seemed to decide dignity was the way to go.
He bowed once to Isabella and then dropped to his knees in front of me with his head tilted to the side. I had never seen anyone act like this in my vampire life, but it reminded me of my human life. A fellow officer once made a blunder that cost us many lives. When the battle was over, he bowed to his superiors and then disappeared into the trees surrounding our camp. A moment later, we heard the gunshot as he took his own life. He had lost his honor in his blunder, but wanted to have the dignity of his own choice of death.
I gave Stefan his dignity and made short work of decapitating him. His body flopped to the floor with an anticlimactic thud.
I stood panting as the finality of death settled over me, then a hand took mine and pulled me from the moment.
"I underestimated you," she said softly. "You are quite the warrior after—"
The rest of her words were cut off as I pulled her into a fierce embrace.
"Oh, Isabella. Oh, my Isabella. I feared I had lost you."
"My Jasper, silly thing, you should have known better than that." She smiled but the horror of what had happened to her was still there in her eyes.
I kissed her, pouring all the love and unsaid words into the kiss. It felt like I would never be able to hold her enough, to kiss her enough, no matter what happened from now on, I would always be left wanting more.
"Jasper." She leaned back and looked me in the eye. "You're projecting, dear. You should really learn to control that."
I laughed again. "Isabella, my Isabella, I love you so very much."
She grinned. "I know."