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The Mythical Creature's Guide to Modern Warfare (25/26)


"Revolution is not a dinner party, nor an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery;
it cannot be advanced softly, gradually, carefully, considerately, respectfully, politely, plainly, and modestly.
A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another."
Mao Zedong


A/N: if you've not read the four-shot How Jacob Black Survived the Worst Day of His Life, which is Jake's POV for Victor - X-ray, you might want to take the time to do that now. It's not vitally important, but it may be helpful...


Chapter Twenty-Five, Yankee

The sugar-and-flowers smell of many leeches, with undertones of sand and snow and bitter herbs, suffused everything. Stirring slightly, I could feel a body sitting beside me – hot, almost running as high as I was, and was very piney, and very earthy, and very comforting to be around. Closing my eyes again, I burrowed closer with my blankets to the source of the wonderful smell.

"How do you like the name Luke?"

"I'm trying to sleep here, Kate."

"Well, everyone's being all serious downstairs, and making a big deal over the snow and the Rumunie downstairs... Freaky lot, Vladimir and Stefan. Tanya and Sasha and I ran into them once about twenty years after I was created. Creepy old buggers even then. Not to bad, I guess, to have around if you're going against the Volturi, but still, they give me the shivers. Used to take humans, drain them slowly on metal benches, and drink their blood from gold goblets. That's what Sasha said Aisha, her creator, said they used to do, or had heard from her sire that's what they did. Still, they were bad enough to generate the worst sort of rumours, and made the Volturi look civilized compared to them. Good in a fight, I'd imagine, and they're still angry over them killing their covenmates all those centuries ago... But, my point is that everyone, even Tanya, is being serious and it's boring me so much I wish I could sleep through it, and nobody wants to watch Star Wars with me, and so now, Jake, I'm asking you, how do you like the name Luke for one of your twins?"

"One, 'Luke Black' sounds horrible and, second, if the next name you're going to suggest is Leia, I'm going to find a cross and-" There was the clinking of metal and, then, slowly, "While I realize that a crucifix nor any of the other religious symbols out there will harm you, it is the point of the threat that matters. Which is, no to the name Luke, a hardy no to Leia, and a putting of Star Wars watching until I'm awake enough to see straight."

He yawned, making me, still partially asleep, yawn too. "Too bad," I said, yawning again, "I liked the name Luke too. Why you have to have such a troublesome last name, Black?"

"It's yours now too, you know."

"Nuh-uh," I said petulantly, pulling myself into a half-sitting position beside Jake. Jacob. My friend and my Alpha and my lover and the father of my children. Who smelled so good they should bottle his sweat or something and make the next Axe body wash out of it. Who went through who knew what hell while I was gone. It'd almost killed me to leave him...

As if sensing my thoughts, he bent his head down enough for me to capture his lips in mine without hurting myself. They were hard and desperate at first, his lips chapped and rough (not that I cared), but became slower and deeper with time, our tongues meeting, dancing, tasting; one of his large, warm hands rested just above my hip, curving around the side of my bare torso, palm resting on the bulge in my belly that was too round and high to be confused with anything but a child growing underneath. Two children, shifting a little as I kissed their father, but not phasing, or doing really anything but saying, "Mom, it's nice Dad's back and all, but do you have to be so gross in front of us?" and going back to their own technocolour dreams. I half expected one of these days to be in wolf form with them and start hearing their thoughts.

When we, at last, broke apart, Kate was nowhere to be seen, though her scent lingered and we were both breathing heavily. But even the simple touch of Jake's lips on mine had done more to remind me that I was home, that I'd be here to live – or die – with Jake and my pack, and that it wasn't all some strange dream but real, so real that it hurt to remember how hard it'd been to force myself on that plane, to fly to Seoul without knowing if I'd ever see him again...

I reached up and began to play with his dark, shaggy hair. "It might be time to think about a hair cut."

Jacob wouldn't have that though, and gently tugged my hand from his now chin-length hair. "You have no idea how much I missed you," he said slowly, running a thumb along the soft, sensitive skin of my palms. Every nerve in my body was magnetized to his touch, surging towards the place where he held my hand.

"I know I should've stayed gone... kept the twins safe at least... but I couldn't leave you. Not even for that..."

"I-"

But he got no more out, 'cause I took his hand, still caressing mine, and put it where you could feel the twins start to kick, if they chose to. "We really do need to start thinking about names." I could feel his curiosity rising as I said this, as well as a tinge of hope. I'd never talked about names before, not willingly. We'd never talked about the future at all, even before the business with the Volturi started and we still thought we'd a chance at one. And for me to be the one to bring it up... "For the twins. Not Luke or Leia, of course, but something that we both like. Or we could each pick a boy and a girl's name and go from there. Or we could ask Billy – you know he'd be thrilled – or Kate to find anything not absolutely insane. And we need to figure what we're going to do about everything, 'cause as cool as the rock is, we can't raise children there, and maybe see about a proper wedding... one for our families and friends to get all worked up over. I'll even wear a stupid marshmallow dress if that's what Alice wants – 'cause you know she'll start planning one as soon as she finds out, and will shamelessly rent us the Taj Mahal and fly food in from Paris if that's what she thought would make a perfect wedding... And I never want to go anywhere without you ever again, even if that means I have to chain you to me..." My hand raised to the necklace he'd given me – the one with the dog-tag on it – and continued, "And we need to get you one of these. With the proper phone number on it. And-"

Jake kissed me again, on the forehead this time. I could feel the upturned corners of his lips brushing against my still energized skin. "Edward thinks the Volturi will kill us eventually if we don't kill them first. We might not have to worry about a future at all."

"Well, that's lovely. I'm personally thinking we take over the manor. Big, in the woods, furniture and everything. We start with the top floor and work our way down..." I started to struggle out of the blankets and look for clothes, "We can steal Emmett's pudding gun and-"

There came an exasperated sigh from under the bed the moment my feet touched the floor, and a slinking noise as Kate, strangely, climbed out from under it. Strangely, a small silver cross – the kind that isn't more than a thumbnail in size – clung on a short, near-invisible chain around her neck. I'd never seen it there before. I'd never even given thought that, despite it all, Kate might actually be religious, not just using biblical stories to annoy people. Then again, her cousin the Grand Prince whatever was a saint for forcibly converting people. Maybe it was force of habit. Or show for the Volturi. Maybe they were religious... "Przez Boga, wy dwóchare at it like psy w upaleall the time and you never let me watch and there are no other werewolves out there płeć istnienia z other werewolves and it's just so unfair and here you are, the perfect opportunity for make-up sex or whatever the proper type of sex it is after this sort of thing, and I've the perfect opportunity to watch and and this is just gorsza część nadsfałszowanych nerek słonia ja ma kiedyś musiał zajmować się-"

"If you're going to yell at us for not letting you have your voyeuristic fun, can you please do it in a language I understand?"

Jake, leaning his head back against the pillow and groaning, "You've creepy friends, Leah."

I, poking around in the bedside table drawers for clothes, took a moment to glare at her. "Friends? No. Stalkers? Yes."

"Oh, you know you love me," Ekaternia Dobryninva, the worlds most annoying vampire, said, going to the closet and tossing a pair of jeans and a shirt at me. "I even braved Alice's closet to find something for you. She'll probably kill me when she finds out." She, lucky, headed towards the door after that and, door half closed, told me in a way that made me somewhat worried, "As soon as you're up, I've samples of a couple of china patterns I want you to look at." The door clicked shut behind her.

"Why," I asked Jake, reluctantly dressing in a horrible pink shirt that said I grow people, what's your superpower? that I'd rather have burned then wear, but what choice did I have? "does she think we need to worry about china patterns when we don't have any shelves at the rock to put them on?"

"More to the point, why does she think that any plate in any future house we have might last longer than a week?"

"Seth's only my brother. It's not my fault if he thought dinner plates make great Frisbees again."

"I was thinking more along the lines of anything you cooked sticking to it so badly..."

Whatever he said, I didn't pay much attention to it. I was just revelling in being around him again, his heady, pine-and-earth scent; the way he loved me more than I deserved; the comfortable, familiar feeling in me that rose when he smiled at me... It was bright and steadying and certain and teasing and everything about him was muscles and that perfect smell and his shaggy hair and his beautiful, deep, gorgeous eyes I could fall into with the smallest of glances from him, and he was the person who loved me so much to think of being apart again tore at my heard, and the boy who adored me (I remember him from when we were younger, a constant presence in my life. As Seth's best friend and Rachel and Rebecca's little brother, how could he not be? I remember him after Billy got in his wheelchair, and he'd walk with us from school to Old Quil's until Mom finished whatever it was she was at that day and picked us up, dropping Jake and his sisters at home. I remember he'd been at the house the day Sam broke up with me for my cousin, and rather then talk Seth out of it when my brother professed a desire to kill my ex, he said they should go over to his house and get Billy's shotgun, 'cause it had larger rounds or something like. I was listening from in my room, not crying, but feeling the could sense of shock and inability to understand how Emily could do something like this wash over me. He was always there) as if I were something magnificent; and the man who could make my heart leap and dance with a single touch, or glance, or word. He might still imprint on somebody else if we lived or we might all die whenever the Volturi got their asses around to showing up, but I loved him, and I could take that risk to be with him. I felt girly and ridiculous even thinking it, but I did because of him.

"I love you," I said, drawing closer to the bed. The jeans Kate had thrown at me were still in my hands, and only slowly did I at last put them on, acknowledging that a council of war (or weather watching) would probably go better if the Alphas were there.

Sliding out of bed, he stood easily a head taller than me and was looking strangely at me.

"What?" I asked self-consciously. I looked down. "It's the bump, isn't it? I look bloated rather than pregnant, don't I?" I tried to turn to look at myself, which didn't help matters any, and I guessed I was still more than a bit tired and hormonal and whatever else from earlier today. Or yesterday... "I look like a stick figure with half-a-balloon under my shirt, don't I? And what day is it? How long have I been asleep? Last think I remember it was six in the morning on Saturday and we were leaving Seoul, and then it was one in the morning and we were leaving Sea-Tac, and do you think it's the shirt? Why oh why do vampires like to buy novelty maternity clothes so much?" Or, the bigger question, why do people like to make such annoying maternity clothes for the vampires to buy?

Shaking his head at me, Jake lifted a hand and brushed a tendril of hair out of my eyes and behind my ear. "It's almost dusk. And you look beautiful."

"You didn't even look," I glared at him, which was to no effect as, of course, he wasn't looking. Well, not at my eyes at least. Nor at my chest, which I suppose would have been a decent second. "Why exactly are you staring at my ear?" It was, to say the least, rather annoying. Here I was, asking him an honest question about whether or not you could tell I was pregnant without the writing on the shirt, and he was staring at my ear. Boys. I loved Jake, but God he could be weird sometimes.

In a way that did not invite debate, "You've sexy ears."

"How," I laughed, thinking it a joke, "can an ear be sexy?"

"I dunno. Yours are though." He was still serious though. It was more than a little weird.

"Everything about me is sexy," I said, tugging him out of the bed and towards the door. "Just don't start a shrine to my toenail clippings or something. But come on," I said, flinging open the door, "you know the vampires are hopeless downstairs without us." I was feeling, rather then groggy from all the time changes, strangely energetic. "No idea how to plan anything other than birthday parties." I was home. I'd a battle to fight and a determination that we were going to live – and, even if we didn't, that it was for the best – and a will for the future that had somehow materialized during my sleep, screaming at me that, if we made plans and chose names and even china patterns, these things would be palladia against the terrors the future could hold. The power of positive thinking, or some such.

I do not think I've ever been a good person. I can be cruel and bitter and violent when the mood strikes me, and perhaps the only thing I deserve is death, but I have travelled halfway around the world, thinking and worrying and trying for the life of me to figure out what I wanted. And I could come up with only one thing:

Jacob.

I should've known it already. I should've moment from the moment I realized how much I truly liked him that I'd ever be able to live without him – at least, not in a way worth living. We just had to survive, and I'd do anything never to leave Jake again. End of story. No, make that never leave Jake or the pack again. That's the end of story.

In the living room, nearly every vampire in the house (and two more, standing stiffly by the unlit fireplace, dressed in black clothes that made me think they'd walked straight out of Hamlet, looking very odd and very out of place in such a modern and white room, and, imperceptibly, so old dim memories of the creation of the universe lingered in their dusty old minds) was gathered around the TV. It was opposite the wall of the marble fireplace and a large, sixty-five inch flat screen number, below which stood a low but solid cabinet from why any number of gaming systems, DVDs, or similar could be pulled out. On this bench-like cabinet, most the younger-looking vampires sat – Maggie, Benjamin (who, with his oddly pallid olive-skin and his dark, night black hair, showed clearly why Kate had once gone after him), and Senna – with Zafrina standing close to her mate, but angled enough that she could watch the weather channel without craning her neck. Even standing there in jaguar skins and watching HD on a TV most human males would kill for, she seemed more in place here than Rozencratz and Guidenstern (as I'd decided to call them) over there.

Peter and Charlotte were sharing a couch with Emmett and Rose, their eyes all intently following the large storm system making its way over us. The Egyptians (minus Benjamin) were standing near the window, looking at the snow falling, but occasionally quickly glancing back to the TV or to check on their youngest member, as if he might run away if not properly looked after. Siobhan and Liam had resumed their positions on the stairs, now that Jake and I had come down, and were whispering intently among themselves at such a low pitch that even my ears couldn't make out their words. Mary, who I must kill one of these days for giving me the "spirit name" Kiwidinok, which Kate had, naturally, shorted to Kiwi, was beading on the piano bench again; the other nomad, Randal, was standing at the other end of the instrument, rolling his 'coon hat in his hands as he watched the weather, eyes darting from TV to windows to door in a dizzying display of internal balance.

But they were all standing fifteen feet or more from Rozencratz and Guidenstern. Well, except for Kate, who was sitting cross-legged against the mantle and clicking away on a laptop while Garrett, who seemed to find Kate as curious as she found us, was working through a book of sudoku puzzles at her side.

"Where's the rest of them?" I whispered, clambering to take a seat at Kate's other side.

"In the kitchen," she said as Jake took a seat next to me. "Except for Edward. He's out with your lot, trying to hear the Volturi before they get here. Tanya's in a bit of a tizzy with Carlisle though about the Rumunie," Kate said, inclining her head to the Shakespearean extras, "being here. But how do you like the Fine Bone English Lace? White, but with an embroidered-looking embossing – and Wedgwood. You can't go wrong with them; they're almost as old as Gilead here."

I looked to Garrett – who for some unknown reason Kate was calling Gilead now, apparently, then to the dark-dressed men. "I see... What's the deal with Tall, Dark, and Brooding over there?"

"Remember the Romanians I was telling you about?" I nodded. "They're it. The taller one's Vladimir, the other's Stephan. Like I said, creepy lot. Finish each other's sentences and're at least twice again as old as I am. But the English Lace is too plain, isn't it? You need something more... rakish."

"Is it even possible for china to be rakish?"

"Don't argue with her about it. She's already in a snit over not being able to pick out your dress."

Ah. Alice. Thank God for some things. "I am not in a snit. I have simply not been in a wedding since Louis XV married Maria Leszczyńsha in September of 1725 – before you were even born. So forgive me if I'm getting overexcited. So, how do you feel about the Seville? Or are you more of a," she clicked, "Pearl Strand werewolf?"

I opened my mouth to ask Jake, who was eyeing the Romanians wearily, if it wasn't such a bad idea to just give up on giving our parents the proper wedding they undoubtedly wanted and just submit ourselves to their torture for the rest of our furry lives, when Carmen strode through the door from the kitchen and, somewhat soberly, said, "Edward 'as 'eard The Volturi. They 'ave brought ten guards, twice that in witnesses, and," she made a reflexive swallowing motion, "the wives."

There were several sounds of faint shock and confusion – I'd learned from Kate that the wives had rarely, if ever, left Volterra since Marcus's wife was killed by the Romanians...

I looked at the two aged vampires near us as the rest, like schoolchildren, began to file out of the house through the kitchen. Couples gave each other quick kisses or small touches as they walked, dead eyed, outside. They lingered, the Romanians, talking quietly but clearly.

"It will be great pleasure to have our revenge at last."

"Not our revenge. Dumitru and Lizuca's revenge."

"They should not have blamed us for Didyme Sempronia Flora's death."

"We would have burned her body and placed her head on a pike in Castelul Rosu for a week and let the sclavi listen to her screams before destroying it."

"Or would have sent the pike to Aro Sempronius and Marcus Lartius and enjoyed hearing their pain resonate into the countryside."

"But leave the ashes in daylight with her soiled clothing?"

"That is not us."

"Shall I kill Athenodora Ulpia Flava?"

"It shall be my pleasure to rend Sulpcia Mucia Atella limb from limb, Stefan."

"After you, Hrabia Stefan."

"No you, Hrabia Vladimir, ultimul Rege al Yamna."

"Together then, fratele si prieten meu," and, with that, they walked out of the room.

"Weird," I said to Kate, who, along with Jake, Garrett, and myself, was the last one in the room.

"They are the sole survivors of a lost culture, Kiwi. Creepstastic as they may be, they're good fighters. Or so the legends go. They were the first to rule the vampiric world. They were the ones who instigated the rules on hiding and not being seen. And, if anyone can destroy the Volturi – the Regilli, they call them – they can." Then she left, her Gilead at her side.

I looked at Jake. Now or never, I suppose. "Let's go show these pups the real way you fight a war." I took delight in phasing still in my clothes, ripping the stupid maternity shirt to pieces.

The voices were loud, a hum of almost palpable worry spreading from one of us to all the rest and back again until it was an undercurrent that could barely be ignored. ...demented Little Red Riding Hood in black is Jane – the pain one – and the short boy next to her is Alex- no, Alec. He can paralyse the senses, Seth was saying, running back towards the open field the Cullens used as a baseball pitch with Edward and Matty, from where they'd been rounding the south-eastern edge of the border. He was busy relaying all the information Edward was telling him about the guards the Volturi had brought, but he paused a moment when he felt me join them, long enough to say, If you ever leave again like that I'm going to tell Mom. So don't, before continuing, We need to get to them first if we're do do any damage. And...

As Seth went on, the other members of the pack joined in running through the snow towards the clearing from their various positions on the border, shouting out welcomes and I missed you, Aunt Leah's. Jake was in Alpha-mode, working us around the leeches until we were fairly well spaced. The scared ones, the ones too afraid to fight –Amun and Kebi on the far right; Alistair, who'd been brought back with Carlisle and Esme from England, was on the left, eyes already seeking escape routes – on the edge of the group, Embry and Quil nearby to take up their broken flanks if necessary. The veggies were in the centre of the line, the others arrayed around them, with Nessie standing just behind, the pups making up her guard.

Like guard dogs at the feet of our masters, Jake and I stood before the line – me, close to Kate; Jacob near Emmett's side. Normal dogs, though, would've been lost in the snow, nor would they have melted it where they stood. Now that the moment came to it, I felt both oddly calm and ready to explode at any instant.

"Żeby umierać będzie bardzo wielką przygodą, Katya," Tanya whispered, taking Kate's hand in the corner of my eye as the mass of what seemed like hundreds but could not have been much more than thirty leeches drew closer, a line of ten black-clocked shapes looming in front (the two shortest, the terrible twins Alec and Jane, in middle) with a group of three in the centre. They were tall, old looking men – older, physically, then most the leeches I'd seen, and that included the rag-tag looking group of twenty or so vampires loitering behind them.

They've brought witnesses of their own – the Eurasian and African nomads, I'd guess.

We out number them, then, if their witnesses won't fight.

They look scared, Judy offered, pushing Nessie back from the line still further. Not many will fight, if it comes to it.

Firmly, It will, said Jake. They are looking for any excuse to kill the Cullens.

But they're the most decent vampires out there!

That's why they want to kill them, knuckle-brain. The Cullens are eight – well, eight-and-a-half – now. The Volturi are but five. The rest are guards, not proper members.

The wives don't fight – Kate told me that. The guards are nasty, though.

What's the plan?

Kate, squeezing her sister's hand, whispered back to Tanya, "Death? An adventure? I'm sure it is, but I'm still too busy living to take it."

Pups, stay on Nessie. It looks the least like we're going to loose, take her and run. Rose said she slashed the tires on all of them but the Guardian and rigged the others to blow if someone tries to turn them on anyway. There's cash in the glove compartment. Drive south and don't stop 'til you get to the desert-

Zack rolled his eyes. Get the hell out of Dodge.

Damn right, I agreed. Vehemently. Pups do not die. That is the rule. We'll need to knock out the guard first, I've we've any chance. Go for the middle ones first – Jane and Alec – and the one that looks physically attached to Aro. She's a shield, Kate told me. Don't worry about the others unless you have to until we get them.

When the fight starts, Quil, Embry, you're with me. We'll go for Jane. Distract her as best we can to keep her from using the pain-thing she does, take her down if we can.

Aye, aye, Alpha sir.

Whatever you think is best, Jake.

I turned my head slightly towards Jacob, Good. Seth and I can go after Little Boy Blue. He was so handsome, so strong looking, that I wondered how we could fail. If we were going up against other wolves, we never would... but it was kinda like that first part of 2001: A Space Odyssey with all the human-monkeys fighting each other. We had the bone clubs, yes, and would be good against human-monkeys without them, but what good was a bone club going against aliens with phaser pistols and Holtzman shields? But I wasn't afraid. Concerned, yes, but afraid? Never.

If anyone has too much anger to be able to block, it's you sis.

I'll resent that later, when we're not dead.

Cool, Seth said, still beaming with odd happiness that I was back.

Bet we can kill our vamp first. Whichever team looses has to clean the lean-to.

You've got yourself a deal, Ateara.

"How long have we been waiting for vengeance, Stefan? Twenty-two hundred years?"

"Two thousand two hundred seventy-nine years its been since they killed Lizuca. Dumitru they destroyed three years before that."

We must trust Ed-weird to tell the others of our plans. Pups, keep an eye on everything. If you see they've reinforcements hidden somewhere. And-

Don't get killed! they said in unison.

Yes, don't, I said. Worry coursed through me. They were my children, in a way. My cousins at the very least. I'd been instructed to take care of them, and here I was, bringing them onto the battlefield. They'd not have stayed away had I asked, so I supposed it was better know where they worry then worry about where they weren't.

Yes, Aunt Leah, Judy giggled.

And then Carlisle moved forward from the line and spoke. Unthinking in our movements, Jake and I strode forward too, waiting a pace behind him, but showing our teeth and ready to fight. Wanting to fight. The twins were phased inside me (I could tell from the doubled kicking) and ready to help me, even if their help was likely to only give me an interior haemorrhage. "Aro, my old friend. It's been centuries."

Slowly, stepping through the banked snow himself, he came forward enough to be just level with Plain Jane and her twin. The other, Renata, followed him as if her hands were glued to the back of his robe. What little skin showed in the falling snow at dusk looked even more pale and sickly than most leeches, and a cloudy film dulled his otherwise sickly crimson eyes. "Fair words, my friend," he said, his voice tissue-paper thin. It annoyed me to have to listen to it; a leader's voice should be strong and clear and powerful like, well, like Jake's. No so soft werewolf hearing had troubled discerning his words. They sounded just slightly too slow, too, like a person whose fluent in a language but still picks his words. Two thousand odd years ago, there was no English, and even Latin was in the cradle at their births. I think. "They seem out of place, considering the army you've assembled to kill me, and to kill my dear ones."

"Kill? Have you forgotten me so quickly, Aro? It's only been two centuries since I was last at Volterra and I still desire war as little as I did then, if not still less. But touch my hand and you shall see that was never my intent."

Cold, fish-filmed eyes narrowed, "Yet you have openly defied a law which has been standing for fifteen hundred years."

"I have not committed the crime you are hear to punish me for."

"Then step aside and let us punish those responsible. Truly, Carlisle, nothing would please me more than to preserve your life today."

"Nor have we broken any laws, Aro. But let me explain-"

A man with white-blonde hair darted forward, the other remaining tired and bored-looking where he was, hissing like a snake on a bender. "So many pointless rules you make yourself, Carlisle, and force yourself to live this unnatural, unnecessary life, and yet you break one of the oldest rules known to our kind. How do you defend that action, friend?" This last he spat out, and I half expected to see a forked tongue dark out from his thin, withered lips.

"The child you seek is not-"

"But she is still a child! It does not matter how well you think you have trained her; if she is of less than fourteen mortal years, she is not allowed."

"She was never-"

Edward, ever the idiot, came forward, a pace in front and to the right of Carlisle. "Take my hand then, Aro, and read my thoughts. Renesmee if not of Carlisle's making, but my own."

"I sus-"

"I fathered her and my wife birthed her while still human. Can you not here her heartbeat? Ask any of the witnesses we have assembled and they will testify that she has grown."

Idiot! I thought loudly, You do that and he'll see everything you've heard, in everyone's head. He'll know we're-

"Is that so, young one?"

If Edward was offended at being called such, he did not show it. "You know Amun and Siobhan; your guards have told you of Zafrina. You know Carlisle, and Eleazaar once served you. Why would they lie?"

The blonde – Caius, I guessed – spoke again. "It does not matter what the child is, but that she is a child. We banned Immortal Children for good reason, and even if it were possible for a half-human, half-vampire child to be conceived and birthed, how would it be any different? We know nothing of what she will become! We cannot know what she will grow to be."

"Only the known is safe," Aro whispered, so I had to strain to hear him. "Only the known is tolerable. The unknown is a vulnerability. I should have stopped this long ago... clearly your... unnatural ways have destroyed your judgement, Carlisle. Animal blood has destroyed your mind, turned it feral like the filthy creatures we have risen above. The man I once called friend would not have been tricked by so open a lie as your... children have tricked you."

"It is not a lie-"

"And consorting with Children of the Moon-"

"They are not-"

Fiercely, sharply, but in still no more than a whisper, "Do not interrupt me."

The entirety of our collected force bristled at this insult to our, well, our leader. Carlisle was a kind man, a good man, better than most humans even, and the crazy old leach here had not only called him a liar, but was treating him like a wayward five-year-old? The growls of the wolves deepened, and several of the vampires went into defensive crouches and readied their special powers, if they had any, behind me.

"That's what you said to her," Edward said softly, speaking in the silent space between the gentle falling of snow and the low, foreboding growls of the amassed fighters.

What is he talking about?

Aro's sister, Jake said quickly.

Why-?

You'll see. Everyone, get ready.

In tone that brokered to misunderstanding, "Ignoscas mihi?" Aro turned towards Edward. The wrong answer, whatever it might be, would earn him a quick death. Jane was waiting. The others were waiting. They wanted to kill us, even if Aro might have reservations about hurting his old friend Carlisle. They'd kill everyone in the world if given half the chance.

"You know what I speak of, Aro. They wanted to go away, travel the world for a while. But you couldn't have that. You had plans, Aro Sepronius Regillius. And Marcus and Didyme leaving-"

"Kill him," the leader snapped, giving a quick signal to a nondescript boy of about eighteen mortal years. I did not know him, but I guessed him to have a power like fire or extreme strength that might come in handy for destroying vampires.

He chuckled and moved to step forward as Jake and I tensed, ready to attack. On my signal, he kept on saying. On my signal. Not before.

And then the impossible happened: the dull-eyed, bored-looking one that had held back near the drab-looking women, suddenly came to life, saying, "Wait a moment, Afton," and moved to stand by his kindred. "What mean you, young Cullen?" he said to Edward, looking at him almost eagerly behind veiled eyes, "They killed Didyme."

Vladimir and Stefan snorted, the former saying, "If we could sneak into your stronghold and murder one of you, Marcus Lartius Regillus, why would we murder your wife?"

"You were just pompous upstarts back then anyway. Why would we have bothered with any of you?"

"We were kings of Yamna, Dumitru, Lizuca, Stefan and I."

"And now," said Stefan bitterly, "Yamna is gone, as are Dumitru and Lizuca, all at your hand."

"I can see it in Aro's mind, Marcus. He said he'd let you both go, but he needed your power if he was to take over-"

Aro, somewhat desperately, turned towards Caius and Marcus. "See how wildly they lie, my brothers, now that their initial lie is shredded?"

But Edward continued over him, and his voice louder than the old one's. "The night before you were to leave, he took her into the village near the river where you found her. He told her he had found a particularly ripe young girl for her to drink from – Didyme liked to drink children, breaking their necks with a smile still on their young faces – as a going away present. He brought forward the girl, and as his sister was drinking, he snuck up behind her and broke her neck, cauterizing the wound with a torch he carried. After that, it was quick work to burn her body. He left a blue sash that had been her favourite at the scene, and a partially melted dragonfly broach."

Before the mind-raper, putting his talents to good use for once, had finished, Marcus had already turned on Aro.

"Eam necavisti?" he said, the milky clouds starting to disappear from his eyes as he began to rage, first like a lit fuse, quietly, and then with all the force and sound of a bomb.

Wait for it, Jake said again.

Is that true? Aro killed his own sister? And here I thought pack life was a soap opera-

Wait for it.

"You believe the mad gold-eyes, brother? He must have gotten the details from her murderers, who stand there with them."

But Maggie was shaking her head and saying, "That is a lie. A lie," and looked more like a demented bobble-head with each lie the Volturi told.

"Sororiem tui – uxorem mei – necavisti!"

"Marcus, this is absurd. Why would Aro have murdered Didyme?"

But it was too late by then, Marcus, seeming beyond reason, let loose a deep and feral growl, leaping at Aro. The guard, being called upon by both sides and Caius seeming uncertain as to his allegiance, began to edge back towards the wives. Some of their witnesses – and Alistair – had run, but the others stayed as if rooted to the spot, starring in disbelief at the leaders of the vampire world trying to rip the other's throats out.

Jake gave the signal, and the pack rushed forward: he, Embry, and Quil taking Jane by surprise as she fretted over which call for aid to go to, while Seth and I did similar with her shocked brother. And it was all the word the others needed.

The revolution had begun.

Chapter Twenty-Six