A/N: WOO! Updates ON TIME! Awesome, right? :D Gotta love holiday breaks. Anyways, this chapter is... mostly filler, a few important details tossed in, but it's all wrapping up the loose ties before the big day. So yeah! Read on!
Within the hour, hordes of new troops arrived, one after the other. After the ex-cons showed, and we were still expecting another seventy or so looking for amnesty, I sent the Vampires out to clear some of the trees on our land to make room for more barracks, which I hurriedly built. Carlisle eagerly introduced me to his friends and we discussed their gifts in short. They, like all the other vampires and the wolves of course, were baffled but we gave them the same promise as everyone else. One group in particular set me smiling. Stefan and Vladimir of the Romanian Coven.
"An honor to meet you," Stefan said with a polite little bow.
"An honor to meet you as well. Thank you for coming," I replied.
"Our pleasure. We told Carlisle years ago that it was only a matter of time before the Volturi would need overthrown, and to kindly contact us when he decided to take action. His call was more than welcome," Vladimir mused, seemingly delighted.
"Ah, we've brought some friends of our own, if you don't mind over much."
My brows shot upward. "Any friend of yours is a friend of ours, I'm sure. Enemies of the Volturi, I assume?"
Stefan chuckled. "There's deep hatred and bad blood between them, I assure you. They merely need your permission to cross the border, I believe."
My brows knit together and I realized for the first time that with so many creatures here I had a poor sense of the border, but there were indeed several beings waiting for admittance. Sensing them finally, I gasped. "Children of the Moon?" I let the barriers down.
Carlisle looked surprised, but said nothing.
"How did you get them to band together? Their packs are so well hidden..."
"A promise to bring down their oppressors was enough to join them. We've had contact with them over many years, struggling to plan a rebellion of our own, you know."
Now Carlisle did speak, his voice laced with laughter. "Vladimir, Stefan, how naughty of you. Caius will be most displeased to see them here."
Stefan snorted derisively, "We don't much care what Caius thinks, thank you very much."
"Of course not," I said, laughing.
The Children of the Moon, or rather, real werewolves arrived then. The stalked through the trees, in human form but stealthy none the less. They stiffened upon seeing vampires, naturally, but approached nonetheless. A quick count, once they had all come to stand before me, set them around forty in number. I recognized a familiar face and smiled, walking forward.
"Well, if it isn't old Skyler McAllistor."
A tall, willowy woman, no more than twenty years old in appearance even though I knew her real age to be closer to two hundred, fixed her gaze on me. Her blond hair was flawlessly straight and so pale it was nearly silver. Her skin was tanned and lightly freckled. She wore boiled leather armor and a mix of chainmail.
"Isabella Ravensage," she mused, stepping forward with a hand extended, a frisky light to her eyes. I felt Alice's bubbling jealousy within my mind and I soothed her quickly.
While stepping forward to shake her hand, I pulled Alice with me, into my side. "It's great to see you again. I'd also like to introduce my newly discovered mate, Alice Cullen."
Skyler beamed at us both and shook Alice's hand as well. "A Cullen, eh? You couldn't have done better, Bella. I'm very happy for you both."
"You've heard of us?" Alice asked, curiosity piqued.
Skyler chuckled. "Of course! Any self respecting Child of the Moon knows of the Cullens. The Volturi's worst enemies, and thus, our allies. It's an honor to meet you."
Alice would have blushed if she could have.
I redirected the conversation, turning back to Skyler and the wolves that stood in loose ranks behind her. "Are you in command, Skyler?"
The pale wolf grinned, "Naturally."
I met her confidence with a dry smile. "Naturally," I agreed. "Thank you for coming, I suppose."
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," she sighed.
Just then Holly appeared at my side, several wolves at her tail. "The screens are up Bella, but I can't cast the scrying enchantment. Do you think you could..." she trailed off, looking sheepish.
"Of course. I'll be right there." I looked to the horizon and saw the sun was just dusting the farthest tree line I could see. I turned to the crowd of gathered supernaturals and smiled. "Alright, you lot!" I called out as loud as my voice would go. A quiet fell over us. "The time has come! Our War Meeting will begin momentarily. Will those in command please enter the house to be led into the War Room, and the rest of you head to your barracks, where scrying screens will be set up so all might participate. Recent arrivals, my Tribe can help you find places to settle. Within the week we will be moving to larger living arrangements, so don't get too comfortable just yet. We still have a long road ahead of us."
They answered me with a roar and I smiled. I jogged along with Holly to find the screens they had erected. They were large pieces of canvas, maybe twelve feet by twelve feet. First I knelt down and, palm on the ground, searched for precious metals and gems that would hold a spell. The fragments of each were minute, infantile, but I reached far into the earth and drew up what I could. I ended with a lump of diamond, a lump of gold, two sapphires, and a lump of emerald. I held the diamond in my palm and around it wrapped a spell.
"Alice?" I asked, looking around for her.
"Here," she said with a smile.
"Can you go find one of your family members, have them run this down to the HQ, tell them to put it somewhere up high. It'll decide what projected onto the screens."
"Sure," she said with a smiled, leaned up to peck me on the lips, then dashed off. I watched her go.
"Eyes over here, killer. We've got work to do," Holly laughed.
"Aw, shut up," I grumbled then turned back to the other precious stones. Around each I wrapped another spell that would receive and them project the magic from the diamond. The stones would act as a battery, almost, for the screens. To each screen, I link it to a stone. The closest screen was link to the gold, the next to the emerald, and the two farthest were linked to sapphires. With that done I turned to Holly and said, "Alright! I'll head down to the HQ then, set this up and hope it works."
"We all know it will," Holly said with a laugh.
I punched her lightly in the shoulder and we jogged back to the house where the rest of my tribe waited. "Well?" I asked.
"It's pretty crowded in there," Rafael said. "We decided that I'll accompany you down there, the others will stay above with the troops."
"Who all is down there?" I asked.
"Carlisle, Tanya from the Denalis, Zafrina from the Amazons, Amun from the Egyptians, Siobhan from the Irish, Vladimir from the Romanians, Sam from the Quilleutes, Arin, Skyler is representing the Children of the Moon, Ki'mal is representing the WereClans, Oielun from the Elves, two leaders from Dwarven and Goblin clans, and Zeus. I think."
I rubbed my temples. "Oh dear. Alright then, yeah, staying above sounds like a good idea." I sighed.
"Now or never," Alice said with a smiled and I smiled too.
"Right. See you guys when this is all over with."
The bid me adieu and Rafael, Alice and I walked inside. We made our way to the double doors that led to the stairway that would descend into our recently built HQ, which I still hadn't seen. I walked down slowly, taking in the scents of freshly hewn wood and general newness. Finally reaching the bottom of the stairs I was blown away. Esme had outdone herself.
The room had been dug out, widening it by perhaps ten feet on every side, then reinforced with metal and wood. Cedar beams supported the walls and from them hung maps. Between the beams, book shelves rung the room. The very center, however, had been lowered by about a foot increment every few feet, and chairs circled that so everyone would be able to see the focus of the room, our large map. The map had been set up onto an ornate table, around which sat ten large chairs. I smiled.
"Wow," I muttered.
"Isn't it awesome?" Rafael beamed.
"It really is. Esme outdid herself." I walked quickly over to where Emmett, I assumed, had placed the diamond. I adjusted it slightly then lay my hands against an unfurnished section of the wall. In four quadrants I set up the secondary scrying points, the receiving feed, and like a TV screen the pictures popped up. On each smaller screen I saw rows and rows of elves, dwarves, goblins, werecreatures, the wolves, the dragons, all of them. I smiled and waved. Some smiled and waved back, other saluted. "Can you hear me?" I asked and a volley of affirmations came back. "Wonderful. Let's get started then."
For the first few minutes I caught up everyone who did not already have a basic knowledge of Hunters and my clan in particular. I outlined the atrocities my family had committed and also mentioned why I didn't want to take the throne, and how I had come to Forks in the first place. Once we were all on the same page we discussed logistics. We did a headcount, and found that at that very moment we had three hundred and seventy six fighting bodies at the ready, with possibly thirty five to forty more coming in, if the centaurs arrived and the gods were able to recruit some of their children. Using the map we discussed possible battle positions, what landscapes we could use to our advantage.
"Right now, we have the advantage," Rafael said, looking over the map. "We know they're coming and we have the home field. They're coming to find us, so we can decide just where that will be."
"Do you think they'll get suspicious if suddenly we just relocate?" Skyler asked with a frown.
"Possibly," I said. "But by the time they realize we're not where they thought we would be, it will be too late for them to gather more troops. We could take the offensive then."
"An ambush?" Sam asked.
"We should plan for one," I said. "And for them ambushing us. And for night attacks and day attacks, snow and rain, and storms. We need to cover all the bases."
And we did. Hours were spent discussing possibilities, strategies, what everyone brought tot he table. It was endless, the things we could do. We needed to figure out what our best advantage would be, was the problem.
"And if they attack on a New Moon?" Skyler asked. "The Children would be practically useless."
Carlisle turned to me and said, "Bella was able to create an amulet that negated our natural thirst. Would you be able to assist the Children in that possibility?"
I nodded slowly. "I should think so, yes."
"The dragons would be the most advantageous against the Volturi," Arin said. "If we could hide them and have them swoop in and torch the Volturi, possibly a few Askari, that's half their force down right there."
"We can't just torch the forest," Rafael frowned.
"Advantages of choosing our turf," I said. "I can spell it against fire."
"So it is imperative we bring them to us," Carlisle said.
I scanned the room and finally said, "What do you think of this. Arin, your thieves would be the first wave. You can get around without anyone seeing you, and you have deadly accuracy with bows and the like. We will pick a terrain that offers only one way to reach us and hide your thieves along it. Get behind them and begin picking off Hunters. You will have the best odds of getting in and getting out unseen, taking them down from their full power and the fewest casualties that early in the game."
He just nodded.
"After, the dragons can come in. We... we won't spell the forest against flames," I said quietly.
"What?" Rafael asked, eyes narrowed.
"We'll have to get in an evacuate before the battle, but we need to make sure the Volturi can't escape. Hunters will be reluctant too, it's no mean feat to put out dragon flames. Then we'll have them."
"What about our vampires?" Carlisle asked.
"I can spell our battle area but leave the surroundings to burn," I said. "Anyways, after the dragons cage them in, they can do another sweep over the Volturi and Hunters. I'd wager the Askari will be protected, but it's not in my family's nature to protect those under their command. I doubt the Volturi will be able to escape it. Besides, they probably don't even know we have dragons on our side." I looked up at the screen that showed Thorskir and his friends and smiled. He smirked in return.
"After that, they should be substantially weakened," I said. "Our main force, which we can put together in ranks once we've seen the skills of everyone during their training, will be waiting for the survivors. The shapeshifters and the Children of the Moon are geared to destroy vampires, the Volturi can be your responsibility."
"Caius hates them so much, he may even divide the Volturi from your family's cause, Bella. He might split their force," Carlisle mused.
"We can only hope," I sighed. "After that, it will likely be a free for all. We will need to have everyone warded and protect from most magics and with magic weapons of their own."
"That is an enormous amount of work," Skyler said, her brows furrowed.
I just shrugged hopelessly, "Yes, but it's also necessary. I know every casualty will haunt me until the day I die. I never wanted it to reach this point, so I'm going to do everything I can to protect everyone, even if it means running my magic dry."
"You're going to spell the entire battle area, all our weapons and armor, you're maintaining these barriers as we speak and all these spells, along with organizing this entire army?" Arin asked, his normal joking tone strangely quiet.
I just shrugged, helpless once more.
"Well," he said. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I think I feel quite safe." He smiled, as did the others.
The troops outside cheered my name, a chant growing into a roar and I blushed. I quickly called them back to order and we were back into it, discussing weapons and armor, what was there and what needed to be made, how much food we would need a day. Finally, with the time reaching near midnight, we filed outside to the waiting troops. Many approached me and clapped me on the shoulder, said words of encouragement I really didn't feel I deserved. Mostly to distract them, which I will admit to no one but Alice because she knew anyways, I announced that it was time for the feast to begin.
As it was, Arin's thieves had brought with them barrels of mead and ale, which flowed generously. Vast quantities of meats were eaten, carcasses picked to the bone. Stews had been made and pies, sweets and breads of all sorts, from those you could buy at a store to those ground and baked from acorn flour. It was a medley of different cultures. The dwarves had brought candies and the fungi they feasted on in their cave homes, which they generously shared. Goblins were famous for their spicy dishes, and the elves had a way with greens and the like. I felt bad for the vampires who couldn't enjoy such things until the Children of the Moon decided to feast their other bodies as well. The Vampires left with them, a symbolic hunt in many ways I suppose. The elves brought out their lutes and lyres and played until the sun rose again. I told them to rest well, because training would start at noon.
The next day we gathered deeper into the woods. Before me stood three groups. On the far left the Cullens and the Quilleutes stood with a few younger members of the werewolf packs. They identified themselves as having no skills with weaponry at all. In the middle, the largest group, were proficient. These were most of Arin's thieves, many of the WereClans, the ex-cons and those looking for amnesty. On the far right stood the experts, the masters in one discipline or another. My tribe stood there, and many of the commanders from our War Meeting. I stood before them all.
"Alright, kiddos!" I called out, even though many of them were much older than I. "This is your last easy start! Pat your biceps, prod your thighs, go ahead! If you feel any give, well, that's going to change. Tomorrow we're up at dawn and training all day!"
Some looked weary, some looked excited... some still looked hung over, but that was expected.
"My experts," I turned to the far right group. "Please organize yourself into disciplines. Archery, hand-to-hand, short swords, long swords, small blades, spell craft. If you have mastered multiple disciplines, please place yourself where you appear to be most needed."
As it was, things were well aligned. I looked between my remaining two groups and thought for a long moment. "Alright, Cullens and Quilleutes. Today you are going to fight one another. I know, I know, a long awaited prospect." They grinned amongst themselves. "You wolves are going to need real training against vampires, I'm not just throwing you in willy-nilly. If any Children of the Moon would like some of these lessons, feel free to join them." I watched as they rearranged themselves once more.
"Alright, then. The rest of you! Split yourselves up in the discipline you need the most. I want to cover them all before the big day, but for now, the most important for the part you'll be playing in the battle." Once more they rearranged themselves. I smiled.
"Well? What are you waiting for?" And so it began. I walked from group to group, giving advice and offering myself up as a sparring partner. Depending on the level of the training, sometimes we used wooden staffs, sometimes sharpened swords. We went over forms and techniques, blocking and how to properly hold a sword even. I gave each person I practiced with homework, of a sort, forms to practice and exercises to do. The archers made targets from bales of straw and meadow grass, and were practicing drawing and shooting. Arin took a group into the woods to teach silent walking and concealment. I took special pleasure in watching a burly dwarf take down full grown elves with a double-handed sword, despite a four foot height difference.
During one of these scans I realized something seemed off. I did a quick headcount, and noticed two people were missing. "Raf!" I called out and from the seething masses my sweaty beta trotted up.
"Yeah?" He asked.
"Where's Jake and Skyler? I saw them both before, Skyler was going to help teach hand-to-hand and Jake was with Sam and them."
Rafael frowned and scanned with me. "I don't know," he said finally.
"Something's going on. I'm gonna go find them."
Rafael nodded and trotted back to his group.
"Loki!" I called out and he materialized beside me. "Have you seen Jake or Skyler?"
He just shrugged, a sly smile on his face.
"You do know! You know everything. Where are they?" I questioned.
"I can show you," he said, his ethereal form turning solid. I vaulted onto his back and he loped off into the woods.
I heard a series of muffled curses and thumps and Loki came to a stop. The first thought that entered my mind was... highly unpleasant. I paled. "Are they..."
"It's not what you think," Loki chuckled.
I hopped off his pack and padded silently through the brush. Spotting them, I sighed and shook my head. Jake was cowering, actually, trying to cover his face as Skyler swatted at him, tan face flushed with anger, blond hair askew. "What! The! Hell! Mutt!" she growled out.
"I'm sorry!" Jake said. "I just thought you should know!"
"And what am I supposed to do about this? I don't want an imprint!" she seethed and I blinked.
I sighed and leaned against a broad tree, crossing my arms over my chest. The movement alerted them to my presence because they both froze and turned to me. Once more I shook my head in a disparaging way.
"Dammit, you need to wear a bell!" Skyler muttered.
"As loathe as I am to break up this little scene, we've missed you at training. Jake needs it, you know. He's the perfect mixture of hot headed and no experience. Of course him getting torn to bits would certainly solve your little problem, wouldn't it, Sky?" I asked with a lopsided grin.
She shoved Jake away and turned to me. "You can't tell anyone about this! My pack would disown me if they knew I'd bonded with one of... of them!"
I saw the hurt flash behind Jake's eyes and I frowned, sympathy welling up. "One of them? I don't know Skyler, the Quilleutes are formidable warriors. Besides, Jake is the rightful alpha. He has a prestigious bloodline. Sam only leads because he turned first and Jake hasn't bothered to fight him for the right."
Both Jake and Skyler looked surprised. "How did you know that?" Jake asked.
"I'm me, that's how," I said, sniffing. "Anyways, be gentle with the guy. Not everyone can handle spitfires like you right off the bat, yeah?"
Skyler smiled mischievously and Jake gulped. I turned to the young male and said, "In advance, I'm so, so sorry. Now both of you, get your fluffy asses back to training or so help me, I will announce the nuptials myself."
"But Bella!" Jake said. "If I transform, the entire pack will know..."
I sighed and stalked up to him. He flinched but I ignored him, laying a hand on his temple. I muttered a few words under my breath and then stepped back. "There! I've blocked your thoughts from them. If they ask why, tell them I'm doing an experiment for the battle, and because you snuck off, you were the test subject. Skyler, you saw him wander off and went to fetch him. In truth, he was just using the bathroom. Fill in as many embarrassing details as you'd like."
She smiled and Jake paled.
"Now get going!" I said, shoving them back towards the practice field.
The weeks progressed that way. I took astounding pride in watching an already proficient batch of creatures turn into deadly, battle ready troops. The centaurs arrived the day after training began and settled right in, adding new skills to our training medley. The dwarves, dragons, my tribe and I spent long hours in the forge, smithing and enchanting anything that we could get our hands on, and even after expanding the forge twice we were still cramped for space. I took special joy in teaching the Cullens swordcraft and outfitting them in their armor. Alice in particular, was surprisingly proficient in battle. Her armor was black steel plate, wrought with every damn spell and enchantment I could think of. Her sword was a short sword, with metal to match her armor.
Finally, after a week of intense training, we were all coming together. I made the decision one night in front of a camp fire, surrounded by the group I had come to call my Generals, that we wuld move to our battle grounds tomorrow.
"It won't be long now," Apollo murmured and nudged Birch. "Isn't that right."
Birch just smiled and nodded.
"How is all that coming along?" I asked, curious.
"He's a natural," Apollo said. "I swear, some of your special juju has rubbed off on everyone you come into contact with."
I just shrugged, then, "Anything specific?"
"Before this time next week, I think," Birch sighed, obviously distraught.
I looked around the fire at the glowing faces and listened to the sounds of the camps around us. Laughter and music and the sounds of ringing steel echoed through the air. I smiled. "It's alright. We're ready."
A/N: Well? Whaddya think? (: A little boring, most likely, but next chapter? THE BATTLE! DUHN DUHN DUHN! You pumped? I'm pumped. You should let me know just HOW PUMPED and REVIEW! Because I love hearing from you all ^-^
Your reviews fill my heart with joy.