A/N: I wanted to get this up yesterday, but I had a headache and couldn't quite finish it. But at least it's not nine months late! Also, there may be some minor typos, for which I sincerely apologize.
This was a monster of a chapter, and took forever to write. I wanted to go a little farther, but I came to such a natural stopping place in it that I decided that it would be best to end it there. You'll see what I mean when you get a little farther down. The next chapter will probably be up on Sunday, as I've a little going on these next couple of days, but I'm pretty determined to get to the end.
The New Order
It takes a minute to regain my balance. Edward desperately tugs me away from danger, but the danger disappears as we do: the Capitol makes the lava recede, though it takes time. When I'm sure the firestorm has passed, I collapse into his arms.
"Edward, I — " My voice is drowned out by the roar of the crowd in the Capitol that they're playing over the speakers. Worse, it seems to be on this hill, right by our ears, as Edward anticipated.
The hovercraft appears overhead and two ladders drop. The electric current freezes me in place, and it's as uncomfortable as it is comforting, because it means I'm going home. We're hauled into the ship and the door closes behind us, and then Edward is holding my hand again.
I can see why. The attendants are human, and my throat burns as I smell their blood, warm and pulsing just beneath the surface of their skin, like the sweet, almost liquid inside of a chocolate soufflé. The Capitol ended the bloodlust with their modified venom for the most part, and even now the burn in my throat is bearable. Even if it wasn't, I would be tempted, but I wouldn't kill them. The idea sickens me, more so than it did before the Games started.
Killing them would return me to the same Games I was in not five minutes ago. Killing them would make them the Tributes and me the Capitol. With that thought, suddenly fire is swimming before my eyes and I can't believe that it's over, it's over, it's really over. I would think this a dream, were that not impossible.
We take seats our seats, luxurious and plush, and then I see my face in the glass. My eyes are wild, my hair is matted, and I'm caked in dirt, ash, and soot. I look like a nomadic vampire, or even one of feral, mad creatures from Hollywood movies. Edward squeezes my hand occasionally, but the ride passes in silence, because it's over, it's over, it's over.
The next thing I know, we're moving towards the Capitol, but we pass it over and keep going.
"Where are we going?" I ask a Capitol attendant, my voice tired. I want to sleep, more than anything, and the idea of staying awake forever is so horrifying that I hardly notice the next electric current, this one more painful than the first. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a woman moving towards me. I recognize her vaguely as Coral, who approached me at the Capitol restaurant and told me I was the key to the revolution, and then find myself wondering why I didn't notice her scent —
"To Volterra," she says, a smirk spreading across her face. For a moment I stare — like there's anything else I can do — uncomprehendingly. Then a terror spreads through me, but I can't move, I can't turn to Edward for help, I can only feel the touch of his hand, dulled by the current.
"Most of the people here are human cattle. Avoxes," she explains. Disappointment floods me, and I'm disgusted with myself — disappointment because we can't hijack the hovercraft, disgust because I felt the urge to kill. "Innocents," she continues. "I just wanted to explain that to you so you don't try to kill them when I tell you where we're going." The current stops.
It's Edward who recovers first. "We can't attack these people," he says darkly, "but we can attack you. What does Aro want with us?"
She shakes her head. "Don't threaten me. We've planted charges throughout this hovercraft. If I am threatened, I will detonate them."
"You'll be killed with us!" I say.
"There will be no fire in the explosion," she says. "But it will kill the humans — twenty of them — that you care about so much. Do not fail your choices, Edward," she adds quietly.
"Why?!" he demands. "What do you want with us?"
"Aro wants to see you," says Coral blankly. "It's about your father, and District 13."
A storm brews in his eyes, and I realize I'm not the only one who just saw a boy our age brutally murdered. He's reached his breaking point, too. "Both of which are gone!" he says furiously.
"At least one of them is still alive and thriving," she says cryptically. "We aim to fix that."
"To fix — ?!" He can't finish his sentence. "How did you shield your mind?" he asks abruptly.
"It's my ability, fooling people," she says. "I call it shrouding. You could hear through it if you practiced, just like you could detect my scent if you practiced. Your shield doesn't work because it's more of a physical ability, Bella, and one that I use on myself — I've the ability to hide. It's mostly useless, but… Aro sent me for a reason."
"… I thought you were with the Movement!" I say, and it sounds weak. The look of pleasure in Coral's eyes makes me realize that she must think it's cliché, and that she's betrayed people before.
The hovercraft begins to descend, and I can suddenly see how fast we're moving. "I killed the one that Jane sent, from the Movement, which is the Capitol branch of District 13. A subsidiary, if you will. It's a codename, one they tell to newcomers sometimes."
My confusion increases exponentially, and my brow furrows. "There is no District 13," I say. It was wiped off the map, and is still nothing but a nuclear wasteland.
"I wish that were true," she murmurs. For the first time, she does not smirk at my discomfort, and I begin to wonder if she is deluded. "And for all I know, it very well could be. But no, Bella Swan. I am with the Volturi, opposed to District 13. It'll be so much easier to rule mankind if we can keep the Capitol — "
"What do you want with us?!" Edward demands.
"Aro wants to know if you're lying."
"About what?" he asks shortly.
"What you know." The hovercraft stops abruptly, the whirlwind of colors beside us coming to a halt. "Come," she says. "We've arrived."
"The Capitol will realize that their Tributes haven't arrived," I say quietly.
"Mm… for varying reasons, you're not scheduled to arrive for another four hours. During which a number of things could go wrong," says Coral darkly. "And by the way, Bella, my name is Elyse," says Elyse, as if reading my mind.
She smiles, and it terrifies me. "Follow me, or every human on this hovercraft dies."
Only one thought runs through my mind as Edward and I stand to follow her: the Games aren't over yet.
Elyse leads us out of the hovercraft. From here, I can see the Volturi headquarters. It's in the mountains just outside of the Capitol, a beautiful, modern-looking mansion that could very well belong to one of the millionaires here. It has a sparkling pool and a modern garden, but the scent of vampires and dust is heavy upon it. We jump instead of climb down, the Avoxes making terrified squeaking noises behind us as we do so. From here I can see that the mansion is empty, untouched.
"So you were convinced by my act, Bella Swan?" says Else as we land. "Of my being a part of the Movement and in love with the 'asset'?"
I follow her, and Edward keeps me close."Yes," I say, ashamed.
"When did she speak to you?" asks Edward, confused. "You act like you've met each other — "
Elyse laughs. "She did not tell you, Edward Cullen? How strange. I thought she entrusted her very soul to you. It appears that even her love for you has its limits."
I frown. "You told me to tell no one — "
"Did I? I implied it, certainly. But you did not tell your 'soulmate'?"
We begin climbing a steep incline, towards the mansion's pool. "You said my mind was the only one that was safe…"
"Yes," says Elyse. "Do you hear that, Edward? Bella's trust for you has its limits as well, even more so than her love. She believes you incapable of keeping a secret."
"I only know what you told me!" I say, angry. "You know who the asset is — "
"Yes, I do," she says, indignant. "He is Carlisle Cullen, Edward's father. What I do not know is his status — "
"I've already told you his 'status'!" says Edward, but I stay silent because my certainty is degrading. "Anyone with access to the Capitol's files can tell you his 'status'!"
"We have reason to believe he is being held captive by the Capitol," she says. "For information, specifically on District 13 and vampirism," she adds. We reach the pool, and she bends down to remove a large tile, revealing a hole that leads underground.
"Jump," Elyse orders. We jump, and the ground comes to us a moment later. The tunnel I am greeted with looks identical to the ones beneath Volterra, to the best of my human memory — they have rebuilt it in its entirety. I look up, and something automated makes the tile move back into place. We are in darkness that only a vampire can see through, and even then, it's dim. Worse, the scent of other vampires is heavy here, even more so than in the arena.
"What reason?!" Edward demands.
"Were you given proof?"
"The mine was incinerated," he says bitterly as we begin to walk.
"Did you go to the mines yourself? There is a certain scent associated with the 'incineration' of vampires," says Elyse matter-of-factly.
"No, but… but he was down there…"
"How do you know? Because the Capitol told you?"
"Why would they lie?" he asks shortly. "What would they want with him?"
"He was a part of District 13's resistance, of course," she says. "But he was specifically asked not to involve his family yet."
"He wasn't," says Edward. His voice has a fraction of the uncertainty in it that I currently have. My mind can't move away from the "mysterious" doctor who injected me with the venom and smuggled me morphling to smother the fiery pain, and told me to tell him and tell her right before I fell into darkness. I was heavily drugged, I wouldn't have recognized him if he was there… I wouldn't have recognized Charlie Swan if he materialized in front of me, in that state of mind…
The tell him in particular consumes me with guilt, because if Elyse is telling the truth, he was referring to Edward.
"Were his thoughts particularly guarded, towards the end?" she asks.
"I generally try to preserve my family's privacy," he says evasively.
"Maybe a little," he admits.
"Gwendolyn, my sister, betrayed him to the Capitol," says Elyse. "I doubt they would have let such an opportunity pass through their fingers."
"It was an accident!" Edward exclaims, and it feels like I've been stabbed; I haven't told him about my savior through the pain. If I did, he would have known. But now I can't speak through the thick wad of venom that seems to be caught in my throat.
"Was it?" asks Elyse sharply.
He swallows, loud enough to be audible to human ears. "Of course it was."
"Aro will determine that," she says nastily.
The scent of another vampire fast approaches, and I hear rapid footsteps that slow down when they reach us. The man startles me, though I knew he was coming, and Edward slides me almost imperceptibly closer to him.
With full lips, high cheekbones, and a prominent jaw, he's one of the more attractive men I've set my sights on. His hair is blond, the color of sunlight, giving the appearance that he's crowned in the sunset. His allure is almost unparalleled among vampires, and unheard of amongst humans, and even with my eyes, whatever small imperfections I find in his face only serve to enhance his beauty. But all of this is overshadowed by his ruby eyes, the air of arrogance that exhumes from him like poisonous fumes, and the way he looks at me like I am prey.
He wears clothing that is far behind this time, like the ones I used to see in Carlisle's renaissance clothing. A large, gold coin glints from a chain around his neck, the letters N.V.O. glinting at the top. Around the rest of its edge are the words And the Damned Shall Fight Back Through Their Unity. The face of a cloaked man is in the center. I recognize it vaguely as Aro. It draws my attention so much that I hardly notice the new-comer speaking.
"Good morning, Elyse," he says through a thick, Russian drawl. "I see you've brought visitors." Despite the accent, his English words are clean, perfect. Intelligence gleams behind his eyes, and I have a dreadful feeling that I'm being scrutinized.
"Good morning, Mykola," Elyse replies. My eyes widen; I remember her words. No one can resist the death-curse of Mykola…"And yes, I have. Our orders are to take them to Aro."
"Pity," he says, "she is so beautiful."
Edward gives a low growl, and though I know it is impossible, I almost feel the ghost of a blush in my cheeks.
"That wouldn't work anyway," says Elyse. "Her shield prevents your powers." She turns to Edward and I. "Mykola has the power of allure and persuasion. He can talk a human's heart into stopping, talk a vampire into standing in fire. He is a prized member of the Volturi Guard; respect him," she orders.
"So many gifted vampires," I mutter as we walk along.
"The Guard of the New Volturi Order only accepts the most gifted, although all are welcome to present information before the Volturi," says Mykola. New Volturi Order. N.V.O. I suddenly feel as though I am faced by something more than a reclusive, royal coven, but rather the leaders of something much larger. "It is believed that we might not have faced the disasters we did several centuries ago had we gathered more gifted, and less… mundane." He says it like a curse.
"Enough talk," says Elyse. "We must bring them to Aro, not speak with them."
"There is no harm in me talking to them; I can do it if I wish," he purrs. Her eyes glaze over momentarily, and Edward seems dazed as well. Experimentally, I stretch my shield over the both of them.
"To Aro," she growls, "and do not use that gift on me."
We walk in silence the rest of the way. The heavy silence seems almost natural, though some human sense buried protests to it. Finally we come to a hallway lit by torchlight, a carved, wooden double-door at the end of it. "Make no trouble for Aro," Mykola advises, his voice again laced with persuasion. He lifts his chin in arrogance. "We will be outside."
Edward looks at me. "Ready?" he mouths. I nod, and he pushes open the doors.
"Welcome to Volterra!" says a familiar voice. Its owner is Aro, skin pale and papery as I remember. I might not have recognized his features had I not seen the coin. The room is an exact reconstruction of their old home, down to the marble flooring, the white ceiling, the flickering candlelight, and the dark wood and gold, ornate trio of thrones. Aro's is, of course, in the middle. "It is good to see you, my friends!"
The leader of the Volturi rises. Caius still stands beside him, and Marcus's throne is occupied by a woman instead of a man. She looks much like Mykola, and I remember the name of his sister from the conversation I had with Elyse, all those days ago: Kalyna. She isn't attractive, as far as vampires go, but her eyes hold intelligence like fire.
There are other new vampires in the room as well: an intimidating and clearly mated pair, who have the look of Southern Europeans, a hulking male who is one of the darkest vampires I have ever seen, his skin the color of icy chocolate gelato, and a tiny woman, whose features are strikingly similar to that of Chinese porcelain dolls.
"Why are we here, Aro?" asks Edward shortly. "When did you approach Bella, and how did you survive the past centuries?"
His smile falls. "So many questions…" he says, trailing off. Abruptly, he clasps his hands together. "I shall start with your last one, if you do not mind. We survived the past centuries through cunning, and through selling our priceless treasures. It was a pity. I approached Bella because Jane approached her, and I was curious as to what she would reveal to my agent, Elyse. It was little I did not already know. That was just before the Games, you see; I couldn't be sure that she would survive, although I did sponsor you, Isabella…
"Finally, you are here because I am curious about your father and his whereabouts; District 13 and its whereabouts; your… loyalties… and where I can expect their whereabouts to be." Aro eyes us cooly, his eyes the vibrant red that marks someone who drinks the condensed blood they make in the Capitol.
"Aro," says Caius lazily, "they will tell us nothing. You know this. Can we get on with it?" In a startlingly moment, he reminds me vividly of Cato, and I feel my muscles coiling for an attack: he is far too eager to kill.
"Please," says Aro, "is that any way to treat our…" He gestures vaguely in our direction. "… guests?" He turns to us. "So, to begin: tell me, Edward, what do you know of your 'father'?"
"He's gone," says Edward flatly.
"Fascinating!" Aro exclaims. "You believe him gone! Did he tell you anything of the Movement in which he was so involved, of District 13?"
"District 13 is also gone," he replies, and though he sounds nonchalant, his grip on me tightens slightly. I know a vampire never entirely moves on from grief — my heart clenches as I remember Esme, the last time I saw her — and it suddenly makes me feel a newfound level of loathing for Aro.
"We already knew he would say this, Aro," says Kalyna. She speaks in a mixture of the Capitol accent and a Russian one, making me wonder how much time she has spent in the city.
"I am not finished, my dear," says Aro, in what I hope is a parody of affection. "And your loyalties, Edward? Where can I expect those to be?"
"I hate the Capitol," he says blankly.
"And do you stand with District 13 and the humans? With them, and with the deluded vampires who believe we can evolve to live in peace with our prey? Or do you stand with the Volturi, who accept the unchanging nature of vampires, and believe that we ought to remain separate?" asks Aro flamboyantly.
"That's a complex question," says Edward, "and as I see it now, there is not an answer I can give that would satisfy you entirely — "
Aro cuts Edward off by proffering a hand, then turning his palm to the ceiling. "I do not seek a foot-soldier, Edward Cullen. You mustn't pledge allegiance to me. However, I must ensure that your loyalties are not to my enemies. Come, then. If you tell the truth, you've nothing to fear."
"Go," snarls the chocolate-skinned vampire, stepping closer. Now I can see just how large he is, and for perhaps the first time I see an opponent I would hardly trust Jasper and Emmett to take down together. What's more, a coin identical to the one Mykola wore glints around his neck.
"Peace, Azubike," says Aro. "He will come."
Reluctantly, Edward leaves my side, grasping Aro's hand. As I know what is happening this time, I can see as they watch every memory that has ever passed through Edward's mind in the span of about twenty seconds. The elder vampire lets go, stepping back several feet so quickly that I can hardly see it happen. "How fascinating," says Aro, genuine curiosity in his voice, "you truly know nothing."
Edward glowers, and the temperature of the room seems to increase by several degrees. I think of the nightmare of last night and Cato's screams as the Capitol destroyed him and a rock settles in the pit of my stomach. "What, exactly, were you expecting me to know?"
Aro gives a haunting smile. "When this is all over, considering your lovely mate has not committed an infraction of the worst kind, you may ask Bella." He turns to me. "Come on, my dear. I'm certain you could push away that shield, that mirror of yours if you tried? Allow me to read your mind, Isabella. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." He offers me his hand. This time I see a golden ring on his hand, the crest of the N.V.O. glinting on it.
With no intention to "push my shield away," as he said, I take his hand. I see frustration in his eyes, and with an almost inaudible growl, Aro shoves my hand away. "Edward broke your shield, briefly, why cannot I — "
"It's the Capitol venom, my lord," says Kalyna. "They modified it, I saw myself, to ensure that every Tribute would be, not only a vampire, but a gifted vampire. Assuming that we can call the mutants they created vampires at all. They do not even feel the bloodlust the same way we do— "
"As fascinating as your analysis is, can you hurry it up?" intrudes Caius, ending a speech that has whittled my self-esteem down several points.
Kalyna sighs. "The fake venom the opposite effect on those who already had a manifested gift — changing it slightly, and making it weaker." She glowers at me, and I feel a distinct, heavy pressure tingling on my shield, manifesting on my forehead. "Perhaps I could break through it if I coordinated my efforts. But it would take a long time." Is what she said true? Can my shield really be broken now?
"We do not have a long time, my dearest one," says Aro facing her. I can't tell if his affection is romantic or paternal, and it sickens me. As much as I hate Caius, his expression is more disgusted than mine, and I sense a kindred spirit in one regard.
"Sulpicia — " he says quietly, but Aro holds up a hand, not even looking at his former second-in-command. Fury boils behind Caius' eyes.
"You see, there are other ways to break into someone's inner thoughts, some… crueler than others," says the ancient vampire, ruby eyes gleaming. "The boy, my Kalyna," he says softly.
Her eyes flare.
Edward leaps from my side, expression filled with rage and grief. "What?! She has the information you need, don't — stop! Let her go, Azubike! Aro, stop this!" His voice is half a snarl, half a desperate shout, and it happens so quickly that I don't know what's happening.
Then he lunges at open air, fingers closing around something that doesn't exist. He tugs, and acts as though the emptiness resists his efforts. In another instant, Edward's in a furious battle with nothingness, shouting curses every few seconds.
"Aro, what — "
"You'll understand in a moment, Bella," says Aro, cutting me off. "Worsen it, Kalyna."
"My pleasure," she says, though her voice strains with effort. "It is difficult to stop his telepathy, my lord, and to project false minds. But he is quickly losing his resolve."
My brow furrows in confusion.
Edward, eyes seeing shadows, suddenly turns towards the door. He lunges again, dodging something, snapping something else. Then he halts. "Don't… I'm warning you, don't…" There is a pause, and then he gives a cry of pure anguish, desperate and without help. Then I realize that his scream sounds a lot like my name. "Bella!" he shouts again.
And then I understand. "You're… you're making him watch me…" He turns to face something that doesn't exist, hands closing around its throat.
"Yes," says Kalyna. "It only took a brief look into his mind to see that that is what he fears most."
His fighting becomes erratic, and his expression is that of a haunted, broken man, eyes hollowed and devoid of life. "Edward, Edward, I'm right here!" I say. He doesn't respond, only keeps pleading with thin air while he lunges at invisible assailants, against which he is obviously losing. He can't hear me at all. "Edward,I'm right here, I'm not dead, just look at me!" I shout this time, my voice cracking.
"He won't hear you," says Aro. "They never do, they never can."
Growling, I gather the strength to thrust my shield out towards him, and then —
"And if you use your shield," says Caius, "and believe me, we've planned this well, we kill him."
"Kalyna, restrain him," orders her master.
"He's fighting the illusions well," she says, "but I shall. He couldn't win against all of us." And I know he couldn't. I know we couldn't. This is a den of lions, from which we will not escape if they mark us as prey.
Edward falls to the floor, on his knees in a kneeling position that he struggles against briefly, before letting his head fall to the floor as his shoulders shake with sobs, each one of them painful. I put my hand on his shoulder. "I'm right here, Edward…" He doesn't respond. "I'm right here!" I scream, but I know he's deaf to my pleas.
"Tell him that he's free to go if he wants to," says Aro.
"Kill me," Edward whispers, "just kill me…" And then he's shouting and swearing profanities through a mixture of fury and agonizing pain. When his arms are free, he clutches at his chest and I can't take it —
"It's me you want!" I burst out. "It's me you want! Not him. Not him… he doesn't know anything! Why are you hurting him?"
"My, I thought that was obvious," says the hulking vampire, stepping closer to me. Azubike, I remember. "She's hurting Edward to hurt you. Of course, there are other, more direct ways to do that…" I've slipped into a hunting crouch before I can stop myself. I'm still newborn, my hunting brain says, I can fight him —
"Azubike, please don't give her a post-traumatic flashback so soon into her recovery," says Katalyn. She smirks at me. "The mind is a fragile thing, you know. It's so easy to go mad — " Her eyes flare again, and whatever she's done makes Edward cry out in pain.
"Stop it!" I scream. "Just stop it! What will it take to stop this?"
"Tell us what you know of the Movement," says Aro curtly. "Tell us what you know of Carlisle Cullen. And tell me where your loyalties lie."
"They aren't with you," I snarl, gesturing to Edward.
"No," says Azubike, annoyed, "you are clearly not with the New Volturi Order."
"Are you with District 13?" asks Aro.
I'm about to reply when Kalyna adds, "and if you lie, he'll watch the execution of his mother." She gestures to Edward.
I swallow. Is it selfish to place my love for him over my desire to see the Capitol burn? Or is it best for love to remain in greater amounts of hate? I remember the promise I made to myself when I decided to help the Movement: my loyalty is to my family.
"I've heard of District 13," I say slowly. "It was obliterated." Kalyna taps her foot. "But now it's the name of an insurgency. The Movement is part of it." Her foot stops tapping. "Jane is working with District 13," I recount, and none of the vampires look surprised, except for me, because that means that her golden eyes and newfound tolerance of humans is real, not the faux colored contacts and honeyed words they could have been. "And Jane asked me to be a part of her insurgency because my mind is safe."
The room falls silent. All breath stops, there is no movement, and suddenly it feels like an ancient place out of time, filled with statues. Edward whimpers, and the reality of the situation crashes onto me, painfully. Aro rushes towards me. "Jane has contacted you, then?" he asks, hand ghosting over my neck. I exhale, and it takes every ounce of self control I have to not lunge at him.
"You know that," I say. "You sent Elyse in place of one of Jane's contacts."
"I didn't know that Jane visited you!" said Aro.
"I meant — "
"I know what you meant, Bella," he says. "She's seen you, face to face. Golden eyes to human ones, in those days, I would assume… such a traitor, such a disappointment…" He glances to Kalyna, and I shiver. "But I have found something better than a replacement." Aro turns back to me. "Now, Bella… what did she say to you?"
"I don't remember," I admit. There is a growl from Azubike. "I was human! But I remember her eyes were golden, and I could tell she wanted me to win. She wanted me to be a part of her rebellion."
"And are you?" asks Aro.
"I don't know," I say honestly.
"You hate the Capitol," he observes.
"As do you, as does everyone except the Capitol itself, and perhaps the more well-off Districts," I say. "But I don't know if my loyalty is to Jane. It's to my family."
"Yet you kept a secret, dear girl," says Aro. "You kept this from Edward. Your loyalty is to yourself." The last part is a whisper. Then he flies away from me to stand again by his throne. "Now, finally. Tell me what you know of Carlisle Cullen."
I bite my lip. My loyalty is to my family. I glance to Edward, who is still pleading and sobbing quietly, and then say the most neutral sentence I can: "I think he's in the Capitol." There, that's what they already believed.
"Why?" asks Kalyna. My eyes whirl to her. "I may not be in your mind, but I know that there is reason for your beliefs."
"Yes," says Caius, "tell us."
Azubike glowers, and my fearful eyes meet Aro's expectant, ever-curious ones. Malice hides beneath his careful mask.
"He was the one who changed me," I say quietly. There are gasps throughout the room again, but Are silences them with a gesture. "He gave me morphling to stop the pain, and injected me with the modified venom. He told me to tell Edward and Esme that he was alive, but I was heavily drugged and didn't recognize him. I thought you knew this? I told Elyse."
"You told Elyse about what we thought was a hallucination," said Aro. "A nameless doctor who said something you dreamed in your drugged state. He gave you morphine or perhaps morphling, yes. We knew that the doctors who administered the venom made the change painless — "
"They didn't," I say. "They didn't give him enough morphine to give to everyone. But he smuggled morphling to me anyway."
Aro gives me a puzzled look. "And why would he do such a thing for the Capitol?"
I shrug. "I don't know — " I stop. "There was a Capitol woman there, speaking with him. She said something about their capabilities to make him suffer." A horrible thought occurs to me. "They were probably threatening to kill and torture others if he didn't do what they wanted."
"Is there anything else?" asks Aro.
I shake my head. "That's all I know."
He gives a haunting smile. "Very well, then. Kalyna, release Edward."
Edward cries out in pain once more, then sighs in relief. There's a moment of uncertainty, and then he bolts upright. "Bella?" he whispers, hardly daring to believe, his voice as broken as my heart. I fling myself into his arms.
"I'm right here," I say. "Kalyna projects powerful illusions, she made you think I died — "
"How do I know this isn't an illusion?" he murmurs. "How do I know she's not trying to make me hurt even more?"
I glare up at her from where I am on the floor. She shrugs, as if she's seen this many times before. "The same way I know that the Capitol isn't making me hallucinate that I've won the Games," I say. "The same way I know that this isn't the night before they changed me, and I'm still sleeping, and I'm going to have to go through it all again. The same way I know that it isn't still that horrible, horrible September, and I'm only dreaming this to make myself feel better. The same way I know you aren't still gone, and that forever with you is certain:
A/N: Hope you enjoyed this chapter! Even if not, please review! They really keep me going, and make sure I don't run out of steam. 83 reviews… gosh, guys. It's amazing to know that I've got people who've read this story and liked it. You guys really have no idea how much it means to me. But, between you and me and a few hundred others on the internet, every review counts and makes me very happy. :)
A few notes that I feel like ranting about/sharing:
Elyse - she's been planned to betray Bella from the beginning. It would have had a lot more of an impact if I'd uploaded this more quickly, and not had such a long hiatus in between.
District 13/The Movement - District 13 is District 13. The Movement is the name of a branch of District 13 that's based in the Capitol.
Kalyna - she's a character I've planned on having for quite awhile. Originally, she was going to be quite big in the sequels to this story, Heart of Fire and Heart of Ashes, which may or may not happen. She's kind of the new evil!Jane, so I had a lot of fun with her.
Mykola - is also a character I've planned on having for quite awhile. I had a lot of fun brainstorming the new Volturi, after most of the old ones were either killed or left.
Azubike - kind of came into existence as I wrote. I figured that there was probably an African coven at one point — it's a big continent, though they'd have a heck of a time with the sunlight and all. He's the new Felix, and is very strong. It's an African name, meaning "the past is our strength," which I thought appropriate for a vampire. It's pronounced "ah-zoo-BEE-keh," according to the site from which I got it. The African Coven, the ones who didn't go with Aro, will play a big role in the sequels, assuming they happen.
Aro - 's infatuation with Kalyna is meant to be creepy.
Marcus - is with District 13, in case you didn't remember. :)
Carlisle - … you'll see very soon what is going to be done with him.
The next chapter - soon! Very, very soon.
~ Midwinter Sun