A/N: Back again. (Because the Midnight Sun Reimagined project was obviously not overkill enough.)
This is a two-part short story taking place within the Eclipse Reimagined storyline, starting at around page 145 of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, and going up through a few events that were somewhat different from the original. I knew if I didn't actually write it out, I wouldn't have a clear picture of how things actually happened, and I figured if I was going to write it anyway, I might as well put it up here. This is basically just an extra, and shouldn't be considered critical to either Eclipse or the soon to be coming Breaking Dawn.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Twilight series or Life and Death. The characters from Life and Death all belong to Stephanie Meyer, as does the story of the The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner and much of the phrasing and word choices. This is all purely for entertainment purposes.
Thanks so much to all of you who have been keeping up with all these Reimagined stories, they've been a blast to write. Hope you might enjoy this one, and see you at the end!
Edit July 2021: Changed Diego's genderswapped name. I still couldn't find one that resonated the way I wanted, but honestly anything was better than what I had before.
Part 1: Second Chance
I stared across the battlefield. Everywhere, broken bodies were burning, the air thick with smoke. I searched for her—her dark, curly hair I knew so well. But of course, she was nowhere to be seen. She wasn't here.
I knew that—maybe I'd known all along.
Delia was dead.
I didn't think, I just turned and sprinted for the trees.
Dead. I didn't want to think it—and yet, I knew it was true. She was gone. I was alone. I didn't know where I was running to—where I was going—because there was no place for me to run. I just wanted to keeping running, away from the slaughter, the pain, and never look back.
I was feet from the safety of the trees when I felt something slam into me from behind like a ten-ton truck. I hit the ground hard, tasting dirt in my mouth. Something was on top of me, pinning me to the ground. I saw the flash of a hand as it slipped up under my chin—a surprisingly delicate, feminine hand. It reminded me of Delia.
"Please—" I choked through the debris in my mouth. I couldn't quite force it all out. Please kill me, was what I wanted to say. But I knew I didn't really need to say it.
However, to my surprise, the arm, now wrapped in a chokehold around my neck, hesitated.
I didn't bother to fight back, though my instincts were raging at me to. I knew it wouldn't do any good—this clan of vampires, yellow-eyed and old or not, were far too strong. And I didn't have any fight left in me anyway. Not when Delia was dead.
I felt something seize me by the back of my clothes, and suddenly I was flying through the air. I felt myself hit something hard—a tree—and bark and splinters fell behind my back before I collapsed in a heap at its base. I didn't bother to try to stand, or run. I felt oddly numb. It just kept repeating itself in my mind—she was dead. She was dead.
I raised my eyes to my assailant.
It was one of the blond vampires. She was coiled and ready to spring, but unlike Rochelle and Chris, the tormentors of our group from day one, her face was a mask of calm, not feral or out of control. Unlike the others, she knew what she was doing.
I knew she could kill me any moment. I waited for it, but she held back, just watching me. Wary? Did she really think I might be a threat?
No, that wasn't it. It felt more like she was reluctant to destroy me if I wasn't fighting back, or trying to get away.
"It's okay," I said wearily. "Do it. Kill me. I'm tired of fighting."
Maybe I was imagining it, but I thought I saw her features soften. Her golden eyes looked almost sad.
"Believe me, I know the feeling," she said softly. She had a surprisingly gentle, calm voice.
Looking into her sorrowful, serene features, it was hard to believe that she and the others had really been planning to launch an attack on us in Seattle—or at least, if they had been, not for the reasons Reilynn had told us. Reilynn had been lying to us all along, I didn't see why she couldn't have been lying about that, too.
I didn't move, and neither did she.
She glanced briefly back toward the clearing, and I thought she seemed to be listening. I listened too, and I realized the battlefield had gone quiet. It was over.
Her eyes quickly went back to me. Still alert, still poised to strike at any moment, though we probably both already knew who the victors were.
I heard the sound of quiet approaching feet through the woods. A moment later, a male appeared. He had short, wavy brown hair, and yellow eyes, same as the blond's. He hurried to her side. He took me in with confusion, though there was no hostility in his posture.
"Carine?" he asked uncertainly.
She—Carine—continued to stare at me with her yellow eyes. "He said he doesn't want to fight," she said quietly.
He glanced at me in some surprise. "You mean... he's surrendered?"
She didn't reply right away. Her eyes never moved from me. At last she asked softly, "Do you surrender? We truly have no wish to harm you, and we will not, if you do not try to harm us. We only fight to defend ourselves."
"Yes," agreed the male, and his face was every bit as kind as hers. "We don't want to hurt you."
I believed them. Yet everything in my head was such a screwed up mess. Delia was dead. My entire coven was dead—yet when I thought about it, I didn't really care about that. I could get used to a world without a Rochelle or Chris to shove people around.
But I wasn't sure if I could live in a world without Delia. Yet, these people had such a strangely kind, gentle way of talking—and the kindness made it harder to give myself up just yet. If there was one thing I was good at, it was surviving.
I nodded once.
The woman smiled a little, and straightened. She held out a hand in welcome. "Come, then. We are going to rejoin the rest of our family. In a little while, we will have some questions for you. Answer as honestly as you can, and you have nothing to fear."
She still had her hand extended, as though offering to help me to my feet. It was a strangely human gesture, and I didn't know how to respond. I didn't feel comfortable at the idea of touching either of these vampires—I felt like the slightest movement could be perceived as threatening and then I'd lose my head after all.
I didn't take her hand, and instead concentrated on getting to my feet very slowly, making no sudden moves.
I lifted my head to see another yellow-eyed vampire headed our way—and it took just about all my self-control not to bolt.
Both the blond female—Carine—and the male exuded an aura of true gentleness. The girl now approaching at a brisk stride was also blond, but that was where the resemblance ended.
Her face was covered in scars—bite marks. I'd never seen a vampire with so many. I couldn't imagine the number of fights she had been in—and won. Her tawny eyes blazed with intensity, and she moved with the power and grace of a lean lioness.
The moment she caught sight of me, her face became a lethal mask of concentration, and her muscles coiled, ready to strike.
Carine quickly stepped between us, and though I knew she was still keeping an eye on me, she said softly, "Jessamine."
The girl stopped. Her eyes flickered between me and Carine, mouth pursed, and with a touch of confusion.
Carine answered the unspoken question. "He's surrendered. He doesn't want to fight."
For a moment, she looked shocked. Her eyes quickly darted back to me, and within that split second our gazes met, I thought I saw a shift there—some snap judgment I couldn't begin to guess.
A wave of sudden, unexpected emotion crashed down on me—rage, fury. I wanted nothing but violence, to lash out, attack everyone around me, friend and foe alike.
I didn't know where it came from. And it was all the stranger, because I couldn't figure out the source. I certainly had things to be enraged about, but I hadn't let myself think on those things—not yet.
It took all my willpower to stay on the ground. I had to remind myself I didn't have a reason to want to hurt these vampires, either the blond who'd spared me, or the other with the scars. I reminded myself that, however I ended up dying, I didn't want it to be from sheer stupidity. I wasn't Rochelle or Chris, picking dumb fights.
My body tensed slightly, but otherwise I didn't move. Neither Carine nor the male noticed, but the girl—Jessamine—looked ready for my attack. There was a grim, calculating look in her yellow eyes. I could tell, this was a different breed from the other two.
I stayed where I was, and I saw the calculating look turn to frustration and—I thought perhaps I was imagining it—fear.
As quickly as it had come, the rage passed, and I felt more like myself again. I wondered what was wrong with me—after everything that had happened, was I going into shock? Could that happen to a vampire? Or was my need to escape the day's pain trying to override my most basic of common sense?
I saw Jessamine's eyes go to Carine, and her voice was even as she spoke.
"Carine..." she began, almost gently. "You must see that's not possible. We can't be associated with any of these newborns when the Volturi come—you must see that. It would put us all at risk."
The girl wanted to kill me—that much was obvious. Somehow, sparing me was going to put them in danger. Maybe I should have tried to play the hero—said I wanted to die anyway. What was the point without Delia?
But my old instincts were too strong to overcome. Keep my head low, stay alive—it was too ingrained to shake now.
"See reason, Jessamine," said the man softly, pleadingly. "He's only a boy, and he's surrendered. Surely—you wouldn't have us murder him in cold blood."
"If it is us or him, we have no choice," Jessamine replied coldly. Her voice was a little softer as she added, "I'm sorry, Earnest, but you must see—there's only one thing to be done here. We can't afford to have the Volturi think we broke this rule."
I watched the exchange from where I stood, slightly stooped to keep from looking too threatening. In all honesty, it was the way the man, Earnest, and this Carine talked that felt the most strange. They talked like—humans. Like murder wasn't an integral, unavoidable part of everyday life. Jessamine might have been out to kill me, but I understood her language better—of course if it was between me and her coven, she'd take me out. One plus one equals two.
I expected the other two to back down and step aside. Even though I'd never heard the name 'Volturi' before, I could guess what it meant—for all of us, the ultimate threat Reilynn had constantly held over our heads was taking us to him—our creator. We knew if we went to him, it would not be pleasant. We would probably die in agony. Apparently this Volturi must be like that for them—in that light, Jessamine made a pretty convincing argument.
However, to my surprise, neither Carine nor Earnest backed away. Instead, Earnest took one step to the side, putting himself physically between us, his back to me.
Carine looked startled for a moment, and she glanced at me anxiously. However, she, too, moved ever so slightly, in a more defensive position—defending me.
"We do have a choice, Jessamine," she said quietly. "We don't have to be so ruthless as others of our kind, and we do not take killing lightly. We can explain things, when they arrive."
Jessamine's mouth was pressed in a grim line. "They might believe we created our own newborns in defense."
Carine nodded. "There is that risk. However, the fact is we did not. And even if we had, there is no law against creating vampires if you control them."
Jessamine shook her head. "This is too dangerous. We can't."
Carine reached out, and she touched Jessamine's shoulder, very lightly.
"Jessamine," she said earnestly. "He has asked for a second chance, when he never had any chance at all. Are we going to deny him that?" She added, "If we did not grant second chances, we would be a very small coven indeed."
Her voice was soft, gentle, but I thought there was some hidden meaning in what she was saying, because there was a flicker of pain across Jessamine's scarred face.
For a moment, she looked angry, and I wondered if Carine was safe—then she sighed and slumped in defeat.
"Fine," she muttered. "But let me handle him. The two of you don't know how to deal with one that's been running wild so long."
Earnest smiled, and he looked happy—almost as though I were already a part of his family.
"Of course, Jessamine," said Carine. "We will defer to your judgment."
"But be gentle," Earnest implored.
Jessamine looked incredulous. I noticed she evaded making any promises on that front as she said instead, "Let's get back to the others. Archie said we don't have long."
Carine nodded in agreement. She and Earnest turned together and raced back toward the field.
Jessamine turned toward me. Her face was a mask of ferocity, and the scars stood out starkly on her face.
"You there!" she snarled. "Come here. You will do exactly as I say, immediately, and you will make no sudden movements. If you do, I will break you. Understand?"
At her hostile tone, I felt myself automatically bristling. However, I knew she would probably seize on any excuse to tear me to bits, so I didn't let it show. Obediently, I took a slow step forward.
However, Jessamine paused, and suddenly threw up a hand to stop me. "Wait," she ordered.
I paused in mid-step.
"Close your eyes," she said.
I blinked. Closing my eyes in the presence of a hostile vampire who so obviously wanted me dead went against every natural impulse I possessed.
"Do it now!" she snarled, showing her teeth, and she lunged as though to strike.
I quickly did as she said. The sudden darkness made me even more edgy than before—I was completely helpless.
"Follow the sound of my voice. Do not open your eyes until I say so for any reason—or I will kill you. Do you understand?"
My eyes still tightly shut, I nodded. I knew I just had to accept this. Being helpless was what being a prisoner was all about.
"Come," said Jessamine. "This way."
I followed her slowly, carefully. I concentrated on not moving too fast, in case she decided to take it as an excuse to take care of me. It seemed she really wouldn't hurt me, so long as I did what she said—she looked wild, but evidently she listened to Carine. I wondered if Carine was the leader.
I listened to my surroundings carefully, and I could hear the way the sound changed when we were in the open, away from the trees. The feel of the wind changed, too, and the smell of my burning coven was suddenly stronger in my nostrils. The warmth of the sun was on my face, and I knew what my skin must look like—just as it did on Jessamine's and everyone else's, like a thousand facets of diamond, like I was on fire.
The crackle of the flames grew stronger as she led. I wondered if I had been wrong, and she was planning to kill me no matter what anyway, no matter what Carine had said. Maybe she would push me into the pyre with the others.
We came to a stop beside it, and I could hear the crackle and feel the heat of the blaze against my skin.
"Sit down here," Jessamine ordered. "Don't open your eyes."
Obediently, I dropped down right where I stood, keeping my eyes firmly closed.
I kept still, my head bowed, but I could feel her glaring eyes fixed on me. Maybe that was why I felt a flare of odd anger again—that anger the source of which I couldn't identify, which felt almost outside myself. It was urging me to my feet, to do something violent and stupid—
But I didn't move. Because I knew I wasn't really mad—at least, not at the vampires who'd killed my coven, or even this vampire who I knew would like any excuse to destroy me. Instead, I simply sat where I was unmoving, finally allowing the misery that had been hovering just on the periphery to crash over me.
Delia was dead. But she was more than dead—because it was beginning to occur to me just how she must have died.
Reilynn's words drifted back to me.
"I promised Delia I'd give you a message. She said to tell you it was a ninja thing. Does that make any sense to you?"
I'd wondered how Reilynn could have known that—not unless Delia really had given her that message to pass on to me, to let me know I could trust Reilynn. And Reilynn had also mentioned the handshake.
But now, in a flash of insight, I understood. I saw it all with painful clarity.
I remembered Reilynn's oddly detailed, macabre threats, if we didn't get along as we prepared for this fight.
"Because if you can't do as I say, I'll take you to him. I'll take you to him, and I'll hold you while he tears off your arms and legs. And then slowly, so slowly, burns off your fingers, ears, lips, tongue—and every other part of you bit by bit..."
Somehow I knew she had been describing how Delia had died. How Reilynn and he—our creator—had murdered her.
Reilynn had valued Delia, that much I was sure of—Delia was smart and a good fighter, and knew how to follow Reilynn's rules. Yet I remembered the little cold smile on her face as she had described it, and I knew she had helped our creator destroy her. Perhaps killing her friend had even given her some strange satisfaction. Maybe that was how you just were, in a world of violence and blood.
I knew now the only way that Reilynn could have known about ninjas and the handshake was if Delia had broke—if she had been in so much agony she had betrayed me, given Reilynn something she could use to earn my trust.
I felt sick. I tried to push the image of her mutilated form from my mind, the sound of her tortured screams, but I couldn't. I wondered just how much she must have suffered before she couldn't take anymore. As much as I would have suffered for her, probably.
A scream in the field cut into my thoughts. My eyes snapped open automatically. Jessamine snarled, and I saw nothing but purple smoke and her furious form looming over me, and I quickly shut them again.
There was shouting everywhere, and I wondered if the battle wasn't over after all. A savage, animalistic howl tore through the air—it sounded neither human, nor vampire, and I couldn't begin to guess what it was. There were suddenly many of them together—howls that sounded like screams of agony. So many of them. Were these the calls of the yellow-eyed vampires? T hey were unlike us in other ways, so maybe there were other things even Reilynn and our creator didn't know. If they were, there were far more of them than Reilynn had known.
I gritted my teeth and covered my ears. I knew the sound couldn't hurt my vampire senses, but it felt like it would rip my head apart—especially as, in my head, the screams of agony became Delia's.
I tried to shut it out, but I couldn't. I heard beneath the howls Carine was saying something—sounded like pleading—and suddenly the yowling reach a new pitch. I heard the sound of heavy breathing, unlike any human or vampire I had ever heard, and, to my shock, beneath it came the sound of heavy heartbeats.
This was enough to make me pull my hands away from my ears for a second. Curiosity temporarily overrode my fear, and I sniffed the air, trying to figure out what the mystery might be. However, the wind wasn't blowing from the direction of the howls and heartbeats, and I only smelled smoke.
Without warning, something suddenly clamped down on either side of my head, over my own hands, holding them back over my ears. A startled breath escaped me, and my eyes opened automatically for a split second.
Jessamine's feral face was inches from my own, her lips curled back over her teeth. "Eyes closed," she hissed.
Obediently, I shut my eyes again, tightly this time. I realized then that there must be something Jessamine didn't want me to hear—or, I thought, see.
I focused on staying calm, and tried to make myself think about something else. For a minute, Freya's face flashed behind my eyelids. The friend I had gained within our savage group. She had taken off before the battle could begin, and said she would wait for us for one day. Would she? I didn't know. But I wished suddenly I could see her, at least one last time. To tell her all the things I'd learned, about the yellow-eyes and everything else. If she was going to make it in this vast world we didn't know anything about, she was going to need all the knowledge she could get.
For a minute, I entertained the idea of escape here after all, of going to meet her like she'd offered. It might be kind of nice, to explore the world, particularly with someone who had the power to make us virtually invisible—of all of us, Freya had been the one who was special, able to make herself appear so repulsive that no one wanted to look at her. And she could extend the power to protect those around her, which she had often done for me. How would it be to explore the world, free from Reilynn and our creator, and even the more minor tyrannies of Rochelle and Chris, free from everyone and everything.
But Delia was gone. And that sucked the color from the image—without Delia, it was hard to imagine the point of anything.
I could still hear some of what was going on, though it was muted. I faintly heard the thumping heartbeats and heavy breathing, and from among the murmuring voices, I was able to pick out Carine's. I thought it sounded like she was telling someone they needed to leave.
Maybe she was talking to the howlers—whatever they were—because shortly after the sounds of their growls grew quieter, as if they were moving away.
Things were quiet for a little while after that. Some of them spoke in low voices, but they were too low to make out with my ears covered. I couldn't see or smell, and I could barely hear. As a vampire, I could barely stand the lack of sensory information; however, I forced myself to bear with it. Keeping my eyes closed, trying to ignore the feeling of Jessamine's hands pinning mine to either side of my head.
At last I felt Jessamine's hands relax slightly, and I could finally hear a little better, though her hands stayed where they were.
I picked up on a new voice, one I was sure I hadn't heard among the babble before. Female.
"How long do we have?"
"Another five minutes," answered a second voice, this one male. I'd been hearing his voice a lot—he spoke a little louder than the others, and as he continued, his tone was strangely upbeat, almost cheerful. "Don't worry, it's going to be fine."
Once again, their voices dropped, and I couldn't make out any of the words. However, another new voice joined them. This one sounded off—rougher than the others.
"Three minutes," Jessamine breathed, and it sounded like she was repeating something she had heard.
She withdrew her hands from my head. "You may open your eyes now," she said.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to—the fear still had a hold of me, and there were so many unfamiliar vampires around, all rigid with tension.
But I thought not knowing what was going on had to be the worst of all, and before I could stop it, my eyes slid open automatically.
At first I couldn't see anything—my field of vision was obscured by dark smoke, and all I could see was Jessamine, standing rigidly nearby. She was watching me closely, and though she was looking just as threatening as the first moment I had seen her, I thought I saw a flicker of the same emotion I had glimpsed before. Something very much like fear.
She didn't want to be associated with me. For some reason, I was a danger to them. I supposed very soon, I'd find out why.
My gaze shifted beyond Jessamine, and I saw several other figures, standing in a loose cluster. I picked out Earnest and Carine right away. There was also a tall, powerful-looking male with long blond hair pulled up, and a woman almost as tall as he was, with dark hair that hung in curls down her back, and lean muscles in her arms to match his.
Behind them, near Carine, were three other figures. One was a guy with short cropped black hair, who looked like he might be about my height. Beside him was a girl, small and delicate-looking, with long, dark red hair. And at the very back was another figure I couldn't see too clearly.
Eight. Reilynn had said there would be only seven. And, that didn't even count the howlers, whatever those were—I was pretty sure those were different voices from the set here. It seemed the yellow-eyes had more on their side than the crafty wisdom of old age.
The wind shifted, blowing the smoke in our direction, and for a moment I was completely blind to everything except Jessamine, who stood rigid in front of me.
Then the breeze gusted back and I could suddenly see everything again—and now smell, too.
In an instant I was in a crouch, venom filling my suddenly burning, parched mouth. I saw nothing except the taller figure standing behind two of the others—the figure I'd taken for one of the vampires who was, in fact, a human. The very human Reilynn had sent us to hunt.
The blood was rich and heady, far more than I could have imagined. Exquisite so far beyond anything I had ever tasted, living off the dregs tainted by drugs and alcohol as Reilynn had instructed us to.
In the instant I got up and whipped my head around, Jessamine's hand struck me hard in the chest, knocking me back to the ground.
I forced myself to stay there. I tried to focus on the fact that if I gave myself over to my thirst, I'd be dead—Jessamine would rip me to pieces. However, the smell was intoxicating, overpowering—I'd never turned from prey I'd already decided to hunt, and this blood was so much more than I'd ever encountered.
I tried to keep my eyes fastened to the ground, but I couldn't. I raised my hungry eyes to the human again.
He was looking at me, his eyes slightly wide. I could see the flush of blood beneath the pale skin, and I could barely think.
"He surrendered," someone explained quietly. I realized it was the red-haired girl beside him. "He said he didn't want to fight and Carine agreed to spare him." She added, "Jessamine doesn't like it."
Jessamine had glanced back at the girl at the sound of her name, and her mouth was tight, as though to say, That's an understatement.
I stared back at him, unable to wrench my gaze away. For a second, the madness was so overpowering I wondered if I could use her distraction—he was so close, it would take only an instant to get to him, sink my teeth into the skin and taste that fine blood, and finally quench the burn—
Then my eyes met those of the red-haired girl beside him.
She was small, slight, hardly threatening next to the tall blond male and dark-haired woman, and certainly not to Jessamine with her impressive battle scars. But, in that instant, something in her yellow eyes chilled me to my core. They were cold, unrelenting, pitiless. And I knew if I took so much as a step toward the boy beside her, she would tear me limb from limb in an instant.
When Reilynn had debriefed us on the entire situation, the pet human that the yellow-eyes kept, I had tried to wrap my mind around it. Whatever I had pictured, this was certainly not it. I noticed the small vampire with the dark red hair was holding the human's hand in hers, the way she might a mate. So bizarre—as Reilynn had said, clearly these were not like other vampires.
I couldn't stand it. The blood was screaming to me, and my throat was on fire, agony so intense I thought I might die if I didn't end it.
The effort to keep myself where I was was too much, and a strangled howl of pain escaped me.
Jessamine was towering over me again in an instant, lips curled back from her teeth, and she snarled so viciously that for just a moment fear quieted the burning thirst, and I drew back into the ground, somehow trying to make myself into a smaller target. I sank my fingers into the dirt, trying to hold myself in place even as the magnetic pull of his blood tried to suck me in. I shook my head savagely, trying to shake out even the memory of the smell—I sensed Jessamine coiling in front of me, ready to tear me to bits.
My eyes rose back to the human—the girl was standing in front of him now, forming a barrier between him and me, but he was taller than she was, and I could still see his face.
He was still watching me curiously. There was absolutely no fear in his face, though he was surrounded by vampires, and he must know how badly I wanted his blood. Perhaps he knew the red-haired girl would destroy me before I could ever hope to lay a hand on him.
Jessamine was still standing over me, partially obstructing my vision. It was hard to think—hard to focus.
And then, abruptly, Carine was standing there, next to Jessamine. She touched Jessamine's shoulder, then looked at me. Her face was gentle, but resolute. "Be still, young one," she said softly. "We have no desire to destroy you, but you must exercise control or we will have no choice."
I thought she must have been speaking for herself, maybe Earnest, because Jessamine was looking at me like she'd very much like to kill me, and the red-haired girl was watching me with the same icy stare as before, calm, assured she would have no trouble taking care of me if I made any move at all.
I looked around at all of them, all watching me. I suddenly realized—they were all crazy. Every single one of them. Their throats had to be on fire right now, especially that girl standing right beside him. Yet here they all were.
"How can you stand it?" I demanded suddenly, my voice a low rasp through my teeth. I was still gripping the ground, shaking all over.
"You must stand it," Carine said soberly. "It is possible to learn control... and it is the only thing that will save you now."
I pressed my hands to either side of my head and closed my eyes again, trying to shut him out—shut out the smell, and his presence here.
However, it was impossible. My throat was on fire, a fire not unlike the burning of my transformation from human to vampire, and I thought I would do anything to stop the pain. Every passing second was agony. How did they live this way? What was the point?
I wondered if it was worth it. Did I want to live? Delia was gone. My instinct was always going to be to survive, to avoid the pain of being torn apart and burning, but rationally, maybe it would make more sense to give up. Let the yellow-eyes take me out, and put an end to this misery.
I opened my eyes again to stare at him. He was still peering back at me, still no fear in his face, only curiosity, almost fascination.
He finally turned his gaze from me, instead looking to the girl standing beside him. He started to open his mouth, as though meaning to say something—but this his eyes shifted, as something drew his attention.
I noticed then that all of the yellow-eyes were moving, pulling into a tighter group. Eyes all riveted to the north side of the clearing.
I tore my own eyes away from the human, and followed their gaze. I couldn't see anything through the smoke, and the wind was blowing the wrong direction to smell anything. However, I wondered suddenly if this would be the final battle—if it was Reilynn and my creator they were waiting for.
I felt a spasm of fear down my spine, followed by a surge of savage hope—I hoped they did come out here. I wanted to see the yellow-eyes do to them what they'd done to the rest of my coven. However, the more I thought about it, the more I doubted it was. No way those two could make them all—especially Jessamine—so tense.
With Jessamine no longer standing over me, I knew I could have tried to make a run for it. With all their focus on the threat from the north, I might have a chance of making it.
But I still didn't know where I would go if I did. Would I go find Freya, as she had offered, or would the reminder of Delia be too painful? Would it be better for me just to try to make it on my own? I'd been on my own before, fleeing my dad's rages, back when I was human.
However, a new thought struck me. I could go after Reilynn and our creator. I could make them pay for what they'd done to Delia.
For a moment I forgot all my fear, and I was mesmerized by the idea. For just an instant, all my lost sense of purpose surged back within me—I could make them pay. That could be my new purpose in life.
However, I didn't move, and the moment passed. I heard movement to the north—whatever the yellow-eyes were waiting for, it had arrived. And I was right in the middle.
"Hmm," drawled a laconic voice from behind the smoke. I immediately knew the voice belonged to neither Reilynn nor our creator. As I had figured, they weren't who the yellow-eyes were waiting for. This was a voice I had never heard—yet all the same, it sent an inexplicable chill down my spine.
Four figures emerged from the smoke, dressed in long dark cloaks. They moved with an almost eery synchronization, backs straight, heads held high, like soldiers. They were few, compared to the coven standing on the other side of me, but around them in the air hovered an unmistakable aura of power.
Something suddenly came back to me—a memory, something our creator had said, that day Delia and I had sat in our tree, eavesdropping on his plans.
"I can sense that they are near... for some reason, they have held back from intervening. But I doubt they will much longer. We have no choice, we must act quickly now..."
I remembered the fear in our creator's voice as he spoke of they. Delia and I had both wondered what could possibly be so terrible that it would inspire fear in our creator—the one who had been the greatest terror in our own new lives.
I don't know why I was connecting that to these vampires now. But there was something undeniably official about them, in their long black cloaks, the way they moved. Official, and terrifying.
It was the girl with the red hair who spoke first. "Jonathan," she said impassively. Her voice was flat, without a hint of fear. But even so, she was wary, as wary as the rest of her coven.
The four cloaked figures came to a stop. The figure standing at the front of the others was relatively small, and I could see beneath the shadow of his hood that he appeared to be no more than a young boy, ten or twelve at the most upon turning, I would have guessed. However, in his expression there was something much older. His face was bored, but his crimson eyes were cold.
His icy gaze slowly scanned the scene, taking everything in. No one said a word. At last, his gaze finally came to rest on me.
Under his eyes, I was frozen. He looked like a kid, but it was obvious from the way the others stood that he was the leader, and I could feel the strain in the air from the coven that had just obliterated mine, and I knew having his attention could mean nothing good.
"Hmm," he drawled again. "What is that?" He stared right at me, his voice laced with derision and disgust. I still couldn't move.
"He has surrendered," said the girl with the red hair tonelessly. The girl seemed to be doing most of the talking—I had assumed Carine must be the leader from the way Jessamine seemed to defer to her judgment, but maybe I was wrong.
For the first time, the kid looked surprised. "Surrendered?" he repeated, his eyes narrowed, suspicious.
"He didn't want to fight," explained the girl. "Carine gave him the option."
The boy's eyes narrowed further. However, it was one of the other cloaks who spoke, in a low voice like a rasping snake.
"There is no mercy for those who break the laws."
It was a female voice speaking this time. She was standing just a little behind the boy, Jonathan, and I could see her dark red eyes beneath the hood. She didn't look at me as she spoke, but instead was glaring across the field at the girl, lip curled with pure disgust.
The girl didn't respond, and instead it was Carine who spoke, voice soft. "I saw no reason to destroy him, so long as he no longer had the will to fight us. It seems he was never taught." She added, "But that is in your hands, of course."
I knew Carine, unlike Jessamine, didn't want to see me dead. She didn't know me, didn't know anything about me, yet she was strangely compassionate—and so was the other one, Earnest. However, it was clear that whether I lived or died wasn't going to be up to her. It was these vampires in cloaks—they were the ones who decided. Who lived, and who died.
"Indeed, that is for usto decide," answered Jonathan coldly, with emphasis.
I knew this was it—that was my death sentence. However, the kid seemed in no particular hurry, and his gaze drifted past me, over the to the fire, where my coven burned.
"Well," he said after a moment, "it seems that you've already taken care of the problem, so we didn't need to come here after all. Lady Sulpicia sends her greetings to you, Carine... and now, I suppose, her thanks."
Carine didn't say anything, only dipped her head.
"How many?" Jonathan continued. "All the reports say there was quite an uproar in Seattle... we would have been here sooner if we hadn't been... otherwise engaged."
I watched the boy uncertainly, not quite sure what to make of that. According to what our creator had said, if by they he had been referring to these cloaks, then they had been here days ago. Were they not the same after all? Or was he hiding something?
I saw out of the corner of my eye, the girl with the red hair eye the boy with suspicion. I remembered again what Reilynn had told us—that one of the yellow-eyed coven possessed the gift of mind-reading. I wondered if the girl was the one, and if she was hearing something different from what the kid was saying.
Carine answered. "Eighteen," she said. She added, gesturing to me, "Including this one here."
For the first time, a flicker of emotion passed across the boy's dull face. Shock. His eyes went again to the pyre, and for a moment he did nothing but stare.
"Eighteen," he repeated, slowly, with grudging awe.
"They were all brand new," Carine said quietly, something almost like a shrug in her voice. "All unskilled."
I watched Carine out of the corner of my eye. I couldn't tell if she was just trying to be modest, or she was trying to downplay the threat they posed—from what I could tell, these vampires in the dark cloaks were the ones on top around here, and nobody wanted to antagonize them. That was a strategy I was only too familiar with, being around Rochelle and Chris—make myself small, try to look weak and insignificant enough they would feel me beneath their notice. Or was she trying to keep the secrets of their other allies, the howlers?
"And what about the creator?" the boy asked.
Although his gaze was on Carine, it was the red-headed vampire who spoke.
"Victor," she said, without emotion. "That was his name. He... has been taken care of as well." Her eyes flickering toward the east, and we all followed her gaze to a pillar of smoke in the distance.
I stared, barely daring to hope. Could it be? Could our creator really be...?
"And, I assume this Victor was in addition to the eighteen?" the boy said, and his voice was bored again.
"Yes," said the girl. "He had only one with him—another young one, though a little older than most of those here, perhaps a year."
"Twenty," murmured the boy, and once again his tone betrayed him, suddenly wary. He added carefully, "And who dealt with the creator?"
The girl's expression didn't change, but her golden eyes seemed to spark with a kind of repressed satisfaction. I saw the hint of a cold smile touch her lips for the barest fraction of a moment, before her face settled back into a look of careful unconcern.
"I did," she said.
I stared at her. She had done it—killed our creator, and probably Reilynn, too, since Reilynn had been there, though that was likely so unimportant to these older vampires they didn't consider it worth mentioning. It was strange—we had lived in terror of our creator for so long, and this girl looked so small, so delicate. And yet, as I looked at the expression on her face, I could picture it only too easily. I could picture her tearing anything apart that ever came near her pet human, and reveling in it.
I felt a fierce surge of pleasure. I knew I was probably going to die, but I didn't care. Delia's murderers had been taken care of—I wondered if this girl had made them suffer much before the end. Probably, if she had the chance.
She wasn't the one who had spared me, and I had a feeling her thoughts where I was concerned were more aligned with Jessamine's than Carine's—after all, I was a danger to her pet human, too—but even so, I felt like in this one moment, we were connected. I understood the fierce gratification burning in her eyes, and I knew, even if she was the one who killed me in the end, I'd still be in her debt.
Then, her eyes flickered to me. And I wondered if she had heard what I was thinking.
Then I realized they were all looking at me, including the kid in a black cloak.
"You there!" he snapped suddenly. "Your name."
From his tone, he might have been talking to a dog. His voice was harsh, contemptuous.
I didn't answer. If this kid was going to talk to me that way, far as I was concerned, I didn't have to cooperate. What was the worst they could do? Kill me? I was expecting that anyway.
To my surprise, the boy suddenly smiled—as though he'd been hoping I might respond that way.
Before I had time to think, to guess what might happen next, an explosion of agony tore through me. I knew this pain—I had experienced three days of it when I had gone from weak human to immortal vampire. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced, like I was being burned alive, like blazing, burning snakes were writhing beneath my skin, burning, trying to saw their way out of my chest, from my fingers, toes, mouth—
A scream tore from my throat, a single, sustained note that I could barely hear over the roaring pain in my ears.
Then it suddenly stopped, and everything was abruptly quiet, as though I had been imagining it. Only the sound of my gasping breath interrupted the ringing silence.
"Let's try this again, shall we?" the boy drawled. "Name?"
"Brenden," I said, nearly tripping over the syllables to get them out. In barely a few seconds, all my defiance had been burned out of me.
The boy's grin widened, and suddenly the fire was back, blazing. I couldn't think—the whole world was on fire, and the only hope in my mind was that it would end. I didn't care if they killed me—I hoped they would. If only Jessamine or the red-haired girl would tear off my head and burn me to pieces, that would be the greatest kindness in the world.
"He'll tell you anything you want to know," said a polite voice—the red-haired girl again. "You don't have to do that."
The fire was once again gone as suddenly as it had come, and I lay on the ground, gasping.
"I know," I heard the kid answer, and it sounded as though he was fighting back a laugh.
"Brenden," said the boy abruptly, calling me by name, as if we were friends. "Is that true? Were there twenty?"
I didn't bother sitting up. "I—I don't know," I said stuttering over the words, as once again I rushed to get them out as fast as I could. "Yeah, I think so. Twenty sounds right. I think there were more, but a couple got into a fight on the way..."
I knew that wasn't much information, and this kid looked like he'd take any excuse to use his gift. I cringed into the ground, bracing myself for the next wave of pain—however, the kid held off for now and merely said, "And was it someone named Victor who created you?"
"I don't know," I said quickly, glad for any reprieve. "We never saw him, and Reilynn never said his name. She said our thoughts weren't safe."
The kid's eyes went briefly to the girl with the red hair—confirming my suspicion that she was the mind reader. Then his gaze returned to me.
"Hmm," he said thoughtfully. I didn't know what he was thinking, but it seemed to distract him from torturing me for the time being, so I was glad of it.
"So," he continued at last, "this Reilynn was your leader. Why did she bring you here?"
I knew more than the rest of our coven—that our creator had created us and sent us blindly at the yellow-eyes with no intention we would survive, merely as a distraction. But I decided in a split second only to give the part of the story Reilynn had fed us. I'd always found playing dumb a good way to appear less threatening.
"Reilynn said we had an enemy," I said, trying to talk fast in case the kid got impatient. "She told us the yellow-eyes would come to destroy us if we didn't destroy them first. This was their territory and once we destroyed them the entire city would be ours. She said we had twice as many as they did, and it would be easy. She gave us the scent of one human, and said his scent would lead us to them—and whoever got to him first could have him."
Jonathan seemed interested in what I had to say, enough he wasn't turning on the fire anyway, so I kept going.
"Not sure what happened. We split up like Reilynn said, but the other group never met back with us. And then Reilynn left us alone and she didn't come back... Then it was all chaos and everyone being torn apart... and I couldn't fight anymore..."
"I see," Jonathan said slowly. He suddenly turned on Carine. "And you're sure you got all of them?"
"Yes," Carine replied. "We split up as well."
I knew Carine wasn't saying everything. Those howlers—I didn't know what they were—had helped, I was sure. But, Carine had spared me, and it seemed the least I could do was keep her coven's secret, whatever it was. And if I had to choose a side, between Carine and her kindness and the sadistic brat, I'd choose Carine.
"Impressive," Jonathan said reluctantly, expression slightly sour. "Escaping such a large offensive intact. But what caused it, I wonder." His eyes suddenly flickered to the boy, and his gaze was almost curious. "And why does it sound like the human was the target?"
"Victor held a grudge against Beau," answered the girl with red hair, her expression even, but her eyes never moving from the boy's face.
"Strange," said Jonathan, studying the human as the human gazed back warily. "This one seems to bring out such strong reactions in our kind." He murmured, almost to himself, "I wonder..."
He smiled directly at the boy, in precisely the same way he had smiled at me—with the pure joy of a sadist with the power to cause you such pain you wanted to die.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt what he was doing. Because in that same instant the girl—the mind-reader—stared back at him, and though her face was smooth, her eyes burned with such fury and hatred I knew she wanted nothing more than to kill him. If she could have, she probably would have done to this boy what Reilynn and our creator had done to Delia.
However, the human did not react. He looked unnerved, and I knew he knew as well as we did what the kid was trying to do, but otherwise didn't respond. Maybe the kid's powers only worked on vampires.
"Would you mind not doing that?" the girl said stiffly. Her face still betrayed no emotion, but her eyes blazed with pure murder.
Jonathan laughed aloud—either he had missed the fury in her eyes, or he didn't feel particularly threatened by it. "Just checking. No harm done, apparently."
Jonathan appeared to have lost interest, and his eyes started to turn back to me—someone he could torture without interference—but one of the other cloaked figures spoke from beneath her hood.
"I have a message from Lady Sulpicia," she said in a low, rasping voice. "Your grace period is at an end. Change the boy... or suffer the consequences."
The girl with the red hair met her gaze, her yellow eyes sharp and cold. She said softly, "I'm surprised Sulpicia has the resources to expend on such minor matters in light of the... circumstances which delayed you."
I remembered again what our creator had said—that they—who by now I decided to pretty well assume to be these vampires in dark cloaks—were nearby, but had not acted. And though the girl's voice was mild, I detected a note of something like accusation. I wondered who Sulpicia was. Maybe she was Jonathan and the others' creator.
"I am only passing along Lady Sulpicia's words," the female cloak answered coldly. "You would be wise to heed them."
The red-haired girl didn't reply. Her eyes were flat.
One of the others in Carine's coven spoke up—the shorter boy with cropped dark hair. "The date is set. We're waiting to time it right, so it doesn't look suspicious. I'm sure Sulpicia wouldn't argue with that."
I realized they were talking about the human—changing him. That made sense. Keeping a pet human at all was unimaginable, but keeping one indefinitely was even more so. However, the girl with the red hair's mouth twisted slightly. Maybe she liked him better as a human.
"Soon," said the woman rigidly.
Jonathan seemed irritated someone else was taking the spotlight. As though trying to regain everyone's attention, he said, "Well, as I said, it seems our presence has been rendered unnecessary. I'm sorry now we missed the fight—it sounds like it would have been entertaining.""
His eyes turned to me once again.
I froze where I was, waiting for the pain to hit me—but his expression was more bored than excited now.
"Tacita. Take care of that, won't you?"
I knew what was coming. I was about to die. I was almost relieved—better to die now than live under the threat of that pain again. And Delia's killers were already taken care of, so I could go to my grave—or wherever we went—in peace.
For the first time, I directed my thoughts to the mind-reader girl.
Thanks, I thought.
I wondered if our creator and Reilynn had suffered much before the end. I hoped so.
My eyes were on the kid, but I watched the girl out of my peripheral vision for some response, wondering if she had heard.
Maybe I was imagining it, but I thought I saw her lips twitch in the barest hint of a smile, and she dipped her head forward like a nod.
I stared straight ahead, waiting for the end. I wanted to go out bravely—like a soldier on the battlefield, without so much as flinching. However, I could feel the fear creeping back into the back of my mind. I'd already decided I didn't care if I died, but I could feel that survival instinct I never could seem to quash rising up again, trying to make me panic.
It was the red-haired girl that had spoken. She turned her eyes to Carine, even as she seemed to be speaking to the vampires in the dark cloaks. "He doesn't seem unwilling to learn," she said slowly, carefully, "now that he knows the rules..."
I saw Jessamine out of the corner of my eye—her face was impassive, but I could tell from the slightly wild look in her eye that she was aghast. If what she had said before was any indication, this attempt at a lifeline was putting their entire coven at risk. However, Carine seemed pleased, even eager.
"Of course," she said softly, but quickly. "We would be more than willing to take responsibility for Brenden." She said my name as though I were already a part of their family.
I could scarcely believe it. Carine or Earnest, maybe, but the girl with the red hair surprised me. Had my moments of weakness made her feel sorry for me? Or had it purely been out of some feeling of kinship, born out of our mutual hared for my creator and Reilynn?
Either way, it wasn't going to do any good—that much was clear from the look of mingled disgust and incredulity on Jonathan's face. But, maybe the girl had already known it wouldn't.
"I'm afraid that was not among Sulpicia's orders," Jonathan replied curtly. Once again, he looked to the female vampire—Tacita—and nodded toward me.
I watched her come without expression, willing the look on my face to reflect what I really felt. I don't care. I have nothing left to live for anyway.
She raised a hand, ready to strike.
I imagined the pain, being torn apart and burned. For just an instant, my thoughts again went to Freya. Waiting a day for us. She would be alone now, with no one to warn her about these Volturi and the bigger world we'd never been shown.
For a moment, I was overwhelmed with the feeling I didn't want to die—not yet. Though I knew it was useless, I recoiled from the coming strike.
As death approached, and automatically I curled defensively into a ball for an instant, I had a flash of a dim human memory. My old weak, human self cowering before a tall, powerful man, eyes half mad with drink—my dad. Even though the specific memories were blurred and faded, I still remembered the fear. Fear that one day he would beat me so bad that would be the end. It was that fear that had finally driven me from my house out onto the street. Out onto the street and straight to Reilynn, who'd just seemed like a nice girl who wanted to buy a guy in a bad way some lunch. And straight to a whole new life dominated by fear.
The voice in my head from back then and the voice in my head now seemed to come together into a single thought.
I don't want to die.
All I wanted was somewhere I could be safe. I had felt safe with Delia—I'd trusted her like I had never dared to trust anyone else. And I felt safe with Freya and her bizarre power to repel people, too, in a weird way.
I don't want to die.
Tacita's hand moved—so fast I couldn't see it.
I closed my eyes, waiting for the end.
However, to my surprise, I felt nothing. Instead, I heard a strange, earsplitting sound, like a crobar hitting a plate of reinforced, bulletproof glass.
Maybe this was death—too quick to feel anything. Or was I screaming in pain and already too far gone to realize it? I was afraid to open my eyes and find out.
I heard a snarl, and then the sound again—louder this time—a screech of metal hitting something too hard to break.
This time I couldn't help it—my eyes flew open.
Tacita was standing a few feet back from me, a very ugly look on her face. Her back was half bent as though poised to spring. She approached slowly, almost cautiously. She raised her hand—and struck.
My eyesight was a hundred times sharper than a human's. I was able to see individual details of things that a slow human's eye could never hope to catch. So I was shocked by the speed her hand moved. I saw no more than a pale blur, racing toward me.
Again, I heard the noise, like the impact of metal on something that wouldn't give. It took me a moment to realize—her hand had hit something.
I looked carefully, and with my focus, it became suddenly visible—an odd curve in the air. Like a wall of glass, or a forcefield, like something out of science fiction.
My eyes went automatically to the red-haired girl. Had she done something?
Jonathan spun on the girl, eyes accusing. "He has a gift?" he hissed in a low, dangerous voice. "And you conveniently forgot to mention this, I suppose."
I realized then that Jonathan—and probably the other cloaks, too—were under the impression I was the one doing this. They thought I was special—like Freya. Like the boy, like the mind-reader.
I stared down at my palms, trying to see if they were radiating some power. It didn't feel like I was doing anything—and it was hard to believe I could have had a power like this all along and not known it. It seemed more likely the girl was doing something. She could read minds—for all I knew, she had other powers, too.
"I didn't know," she said. "He didn't know himself until just this moment." Her voice betrayed no emotion.
Tacita's eyes narrowed in annoyance, but as she looked at me again, I thought I saw something shift there. The expression was calculating, almost speculative.
"Hmm," said Jonathan, and he was looking me over coolly. "I wonder..." His lip twitched in another smile—and I knew exactly what was coming. The pain hit me again, worse than before. I was on fire, I could barely hear my own screaming over the roar in my ears. I wanted to die—Please, let me die.
It seemed to go on an eternity before it finally stopped, and I collapsed, gasping, to the ground.
"I suppose that answers that question," Jonathan said cheerfully.
I understood—he'd wondered if whatever was protecting me would protect me from his power, too. Apparently not.
And as I looked around me, I saw the glimmer of the protective force field or whatever it was was gone.
Let me die, I thought. Better dead, than to suffer that again.
Jonathan looked to the two of the other cloaks. Tacita, and now another had come to stand beside her. "Now you may take care of it," he said.
However, she didn't move right away. Instead, she continued to stare at me with the same expression as before—thoughtful, calculating.
I didn't like that look. I wanted to die quickly now—it seemed a much better alternative than to suffer the kid's sadistic power again.
"I believe..." she said slowly, carefully. "This one ought to be taken back to Lady Sulpicia. For evaluation. The potential of this power... she may be interested in it."
Jonathan did not look happy, and for once our feelings were in agreement. I wasn't any more thrilled at this idea—the idea of meeting my own creator was terrifying enough, let alone meeting someone else's. Especially this Sulpicia. These cloaks were able to terrify this powerful coven that had slaughtered all of mine with barely any effort, I hated to think what their leader was like.
"We were sent here to eliminate the lawbreakers," Jonathan said flatly.
Tacita responded, her voice so low it was hard to make it out above the crackling flames beside me. "Lady Sulpicia does not appreciate waste." She added as an afterthought, "And if she evaluates him and finds him wanting, there may be more appropriate judgments which may serve as a warning to others..."
I felt cold. I looked to Jonathan, hoping he would argue further—I could tell he wanted to kill me.
However, he only wrinkled his nose, looking annoyed, and didn't look at me again. I could tell this was his way of conceding.
Tacita was standing over me in an instant.
"Get up!" she snarled.
Terror seized me. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't go, I knew that much.
I didn't know who to turn to, so I spun on the mind-reader. She knew what I was thinking. What I wanted.
Help me, I pleaded. Don't let them. Kill me! Help me die, please. I knew she couldn't save me, I wouldn't ask for that. But surely there was something she could say... something she could do.
I saw Tacita's hand out of the corner of my eye, reaching for me, but once again it struck some invisible barrier. She growled and she looked furious.
"I think you were just given an order," Jonathan said softly, and a thin smile flickered across his child's face.
Pain exploded inside me. Fire burning me from the inside out. I couldn't think, I couldn't get away—
At last the pain stopped. I felt Tacita seize me by the arm and drag me forcefully to my feet.
"You will come with us," she said.
I looked to the mind-reader again.
"Please," I gasped, speaking to her for the first time. "Please—" Please, kill me.
She looked back at me with an expression that was hard to interpret. Pitying, maybe. But I could tell she wasn't going to help me.
The girl with red hair and burning yellow eyes was the last thing I saw before Tacita closed in on me and, before I had even finished speaking, her hand came up beneath my chin. And for the first time since gaining this immortal life, everything went black.
A/N: And, that's the end of the first part, and where the the parallel to Eclipse ends. This story was getting a little long for a oneshot, so I decided it was better split in two. However, I'll be posting the next chapter in conjunction with this one, so it should be up already.
On Brenden's backstory—you might notice I left it about the same as Bree's, and didn't genderswap it. This isn't because I don't believe mothers can be abusive (they certainly can), but it is more rare, and I felt for a teenage son to be that afraid of his mother would give the backstory a very different vibe. Since I didn't come up with a slant on the story to make it feel natural (rather than a forced switch purely out of the fact it is a genderswap), I decided rather to leave it. If I come up something I like better later, I may come back and do a bit of rewriting here.
Thanks for reading! If you have a moment, let me know what you thought, and hope to see you in the next one!