Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Restoration ( Chapter 50 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Twilight and its three and two half sequels are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. This story is fanfiction based on characters, settings and concepts from Twilight, its four sequels and the first half of Midnight Sun, all of which are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. No party other than the submitting author may alter this work in any way other than font size and other reasonable accommodations to formatting.
The original version of this chapter was one of the first scenes I wrote for this story. It was pretty cool to see how it had to change to reflect the things that I hadn't predicted.
"But your kind can be put back together, right?" -Jacob, Breaking Dawn
I can't believe you're doing this.
"Shut up," I muttered. Rolfe had stopped his mental screaming as soon as he'd realized I wasn't going to burn him right away. Now that I was stashing his head in the hollow shell of a dead tree, he was starting to get nervous again. He was trying to think of ways he could signal to the Romanians or Andrew's nomad—or anyone else—to come and put him back together.
"Only I know where your body is," I pointed out.
No, only you and I know where my body is. He pictured Aro holding his head, ordering a team to collect the rest of his loyal Rolfe. If your master finds me first, then I'll walk again.
That plan would only work if I died before Aro could touch him, if I couldn't tell Aro the truth.
You don't have to do this, you know, Rolfe thought intently. You could run away. Demetri's dead or as good as dead. You could take Bella anywhere in the world, and they couldn't track you. You'll die if you do what you're planning.
"You better hope I don't," I said. It would take a telepath or a tracker to find a vampire who'd been dismembered and stranded. I really should have just taken him with me, but I was still wary. Whatever he'd done to me in the forest—it was getting hazy but I remembered him disabling me with a word—he might try to do it again.
If you leave me where the guard can find me, I'll tell Aro you're dead. He constructed a perfectly solid memory of me being ripped apart by Romanians. Just go. Then we'll both be free. Even if Aro wins, I'll never fight like I used to. He'll let me leave Volterra.
I lowered the stone and looked Rolfe in the eyes.
"Aro would have let you go intact," I said, letting him read the shapes of near-silent words on my lips. "You were never more than a grunt to him. Not gifted like Demetri. Not a genius like Corin or Felix. If you'd kept asking him, he'd have stood the loss of you just so he could play the magnanimous leader."
You're lying. Rolfe knew what he was—thoughtful and complex, with a subtle understanding of power and group dynamics. What he didn't seem to understand was how little that mattered to Aro or even Marcus. In Volterra, the only thing that made him unusual was how he could pass for kind, and only Bella and I had cared one whit about that.
He wasn't Bella. He couldn't tell truth from falsehood on my face. Aro had let Eleazar go, and dozens of others before him. Yes, he used Chelsea to keep people from wanting to leave, but that didn't work on the pair bond, and he knew it.
"You ruined yourself for nothing," I said.
Not nothing. For love. For my freedom. Would you have done less?
Yes, I realized. Yes I would. Now that I thought of it, now that I knew how the world truly worked. Aro was a necessary evil. The Volturi or someone like them had to exist. My master might be a cruel and greedy man, but he was the best man for the job.
Edward, don't leave me like this! Edward, you're going to get yourself killed! Rolfe thought as I walked away. I thought we were friends!
Banishing the sound of his voice should have been harder than it was. Soon I lay in the grass, hiding carefully outside the entrance to the Romanian fortress, and tried to focus on the thoughts of the vampires guarding the door. They were sullen about missing all the fun below. Demetri's reputation had preceded him. There were new guards at the door, and the automatic security system had been switched to high gear. If anyone crossed the threshold, it would activate, and they were expecting a visit from Demetri's famous partners, Caroly and me. It couldn't have been half an hour since I'd last been here, but I felt like the whole world had been inverted.
I stared at the entranceway. They thought that Demetri had been leading a small team. I only had minutes, but I spent one of them watching. Codes for the door. The way to get past the alarms. They would be expected to check in every few minutes, or else others would come to investigate. They didn't know there was a major attack under way. Rolfe hadn't told them when he had the chance. One of them had a distorted mental image of Caroly and me, probably from a verbal description. They were expecting to see other Volturi tonight.
I did not disappoint.
Five enemies who were alert and struggling were one thing. Two who were distracted were another. The second the senior door guard had completed his check-in, I had launched myself toward the door and thrust my fingers through his throat. I threw the cartilage at the second guard, startling him enough for me to tear his legs out from under him.
I made it a quick and basic dismemberment. They'd be able to pull themselves together in a matter of minutes, but if I couldn't save Demetri by then... I slipped back into the tunnels that Demetri and I had walked together not half an hour earlier. I pushed my gift to its limit.
The halls were nearly deserted. Everyone was gathered in their version of a feasting chamber. I felt my lip curl at the image. Instead of the high, airy windows that let the sun just barely touch the throne, instead of carved walls and columns that celebrated human art and mathematics, the Romanians lived in the dirt like worms. My masters fed on humans, but at least they had an appreciation for their sense of beauty.
I used my memories of my previous trip and what I'd stolen from the guards to lace my way through the compound, keeping my mental eyes open for anyone who might notice me. As I left the half-finished tunnels that Demetri and I had first explored, I noticed a pattern in the shadows of the ceiling. Narrowing my eyes, I jumped, finding hand and footholds. Probably because of the narrowness of the tunnels, the ceiling had been made for easy grasping so that parties could move past each other in both directions without slowing down. For now, the shadows plus my cloak offered a shred of extra concealment.
The mass of minds was concentrated below me. There was some kind of savage cheering, mental and vocal. It seemed an entertainment was under way.
Neither my gift nor my memory could tell me where to find the staircase, but I turned my head left and right and saw a nearly vertical tunnel with a steep angle. I wondered what it was for until the stench of human met my nose. Were people pushed down into the feeding chamber below? Was it like a knocking station in a slaughterhouse, so that they did not see their fate in time to fear it? It was navigable and unoccupied. Slinging Rolfe's head into the hood of my cloak, I clambered down as quietly as I could.
I was in enemy territory, but I had the advantage of knowing where everyone else was looking. I had the advantage of being still and light and quick. And I had my cloak, which absorbed light, both day and artificial. I'd gotten very practiced at moving quietly even when surrounded by swishing cloth.
I caught Demetri's thoughts first, feeling relief wash through me like a clean rain. He was still alive. Through his familiar eyes, I saw the world: The Romanians, new recruits and old, were celebrating the capture of the famous Demetri. Three strong men held his arms while others took turns striking at his face and stomach. Some of the women snatched hair from his forehead or spat venom into his eyes. I blessed their barbarism. It had kept them from killing him yet.
The lower chamber was wide, slightly larger than the secondary feeding chamber in which Bella and I took our meals. The vampires within were packed close together. Vladimir and Stefan did not have thrones. They did not presume so. They would serve their ambition before they celebrated it. They would keep their eyes bright and their limbs free of calcification so that they could gouge their enemies' eyes from their sockets and tear their limbs from their places. But it was similar to Volterra in one respect: The scorch marks on the floor that even the most diligent among the Volterran cleaning staff had not been able to bleach away. The sweet-smoke scent stung me, and I covered the lower part of my face with my cloak.
This part of the fortress was unfinished. The chamber was to have an open roof one day, I could see. For now, the rafters remained visible and shadowed, offering possible concealment. From what I could hear in the thoughts below me, the Romanian intelligence system had its limits. Some of the people here knew that Demetri usually worked with partners, but they assumed that Caroly and I were elsewhere today. Some of them even remembered him primarily as Felix's partner.
"Can it be?"
The voice was like the creak of a mausoleum door. A frost-white figure walked out of the shadows, upright like a man. I'd seen that face in other people's memories many times, but never in real time, never through eyes that I knew as well as my own. Demetri didn't usually get poetic, but even he thought of a demon. It was the first time I'd ever heard Stefan's voice anywhere but in a memory. It creaked, but it was strong. It was creased and wrinkled with age, but it showed no signs of breaking.
If anything, Stefan's face was even more petrified than Caius' or Marcus' but instead of the crags of new rock, he looked smooth and veined, like cave stone. When he raised his right hand, I could see that the last two fingers were fused together the way a stalactite and stalagmite would fuse to form a column. When he moved, it was with some difficulty, but there was a quiet, understated grace to him. His movements were even more fluid than Aro's. This was a vampire who could bend in any direction, take any action at any time.
"I think it can, my dear Stefan. This is our great enemy's man." The second man was taller than the first, with light brown hair, but their faces projected the same quiet, focused manic energy. The goals might be madness, but each plan would be executed with precision and patience. If my masters were like new-cooled lava, still living rock underneath, then Vladimir was like the constant, steady formation of limestone out of silt and living beings. His hatred was a rock that would grow back.
Demetri did not answer, looking at Vladimir with unflinching eyes. He was not intimidated, but he had an entirely realistic idea of what would happen next: They would kill him and celebrate his death and probably figure out that he hadn't come here alone. Then they would prepare for the attack and one of the bloodiest scenes in the history of our kind would play out in a cloud of his ashes.
There was a metallic thud as someone punched Demetri in the stomach. It was mostly a symbolic blow, but air forced out of unwilling lungs still made a satisfying noise.
"Oh Vasili, this is not just any intruder," said Vladimir, calling the man who'd captured Demetri by name. Even with what was going on, it was fascinating to watch the inner workings of another large coven. No thrones, no barriers, no titles or cloaks whose color indicated rank. Stefan and Vladimir worked by memorization, by rote. Everyone knew a person's rank because everyone knew everyone else. This didn't mean that there was more freedom. The two Romanians expected their followers to follow unwritten, unspoken rules the way Aro expected me not to hate him for meddling in my personal life. Different acts earned points with the bosses, which entitled people to different privileges. It could be something as simple as who moved first through an open door, or who got to interrupt someone else when speaking. It should have been fascinating. This was a whole subculture with its own etiquette. If it hadn't been highly illegal, I would have wanted to publish a treatise comparing the whole place to the court at Versailles.
"No, not just any intruder at all, my dear Vladimir," said Stefan. "In fact, you may as well have caught the devil himself and brought him bound and exorcised before us." Religious imagery, and lots of it. Orthodox. Post-iconoclast but not by much. I wondered if they'd work in any Hindu or Islamic metaphors to accommodate their local recruits.
The feeling of the crowd was edgy with anticipation. A captured enemy was a rare treat. Stefan didn't have Marcus' or Caroly's gift, but he had an excellent sense of his followers as a group. He could work their collective emotional state into a whirlwind if he wished, and he always knew to start slow.
"Demetri, my old friend," said Stefan. "What brings you to call on our hospitality? Have you come seeking better employment?" The first movement. He allowed the crowd to wonder if Demetri would live.
"No, my dear Stefan," said Vladimir, waving one calcified hand. "We could not possibly keep this Demetri. He knows all of Aro's secrets and is about to tell us every one of them. How could we trust him after treating his former employers so?"
"You are right, Vladimir."
"I thank you, Stefan."
Above us, the guards' sectioned limbs would have had time to crawl toward each other. Even if no one had found them yet, they might have begun to reassemble. I listened to the crowd. Demetri could not help me, and I didn't have Caroly or Felix or Jane or even Bella to wisecrack me into courage. I imagined she was watching me. That always made me act as if I were still brave.
After years of practicing on the guard and on criminal covens, I was able to construct an image of my surroundings easily. The chamber was as unfinished as the rest of this compound, and it was clear that it wasn't meant to remain so. The wooden frame that held up the ceiling had too many exposed nails and boards for a human to grab onto during a feast. There were even uncovered wires and tubes. Electrical burns could damage vampire flesh, and no one liked the power going out in the middle of a meal.
Vladimir made some motion to an underling, and I could smell the scent of propane. It took me a realize to figure out what it was for. Then the fire pit blazed to life.
"For years the Volturi have thwarted us, prevented our coven from taking its true place in this world!" said Stefan. "With men like you, Demetri."
"And with their foul slanders!" added Vladimir.
"All talk of capturing other vampires, dismembering them and consigning their bodies to the flames!"
"Keeping their heads as trophies." I pushed away the thought of Rolfe trapped above me.
"Lies! All lies!" snarled Stefan.
"The product of Caius and his demented imagination," agreed Vladimir.
There was a long pause, with no sound but the crackling of the bonfire.
"It ...probably wouldn't even work," said Stefan.
"Probably," agreed Vladimir.
"Only one way to find out, I suppose, Vladimir."
"You are right as always, Stefan."
There was a sickening crunch and a voice that I recognized as Demetri's. I buried my head against my arms and choked down the noise inside me. I'd never heard him scream before. Arms and legs pulled wide, ripped apart, worse than being stripped naked. We'd done it. We'd done it to so many people, so many times, and here was someone of mine. I might be hypocrite to hate it, but I did hate it. I'd been worse things.
Fortunately, what I needed to be right now was silent, and I was. Stefan was entertaining the idea now, imagining Demetri's head as his captive, tracking abilities intact, a gruesome compass to turn on his former masters.
"Of course, you could convince us not to," said Stefan.
"Yes, Demetri, you could. If you were to pledge your loyalty, for example."
"And prove it."
"And prove it well."
He had the ability. He could tell about the invasion, and probably only get token punishment for it. But I knew he wouldn't. He'd cut his loyalty razor-sharp of his own free will and Chelsea had polished it until it shone. Demetri could be broken but he would have to be broken. There was no turning him.
If it had been me, I would have caved. Aro had never truly gotten me to love him. Demetri snarled something in Russian that I didn't have the mental energy to translate, but his thoughts weren't so confident. The perfect ice was forming white cracks, as if every tear were a hammer striking it over and over.
"You do us insult, Demetri," said Stefan in a mock-wounded tone.
"You have done us injury," added Vladimir, more darkly. "Now you will revisit that upon your masters, our enemy."
I couldn't close my mind against the images in their half-dimmed eyes. It was too important. There was a metallic shriek of flesh tearing.
"What is your right hand worth to you, Demetri?" He kept still as another metallic scream reached my ears. He kept still before this the way I'd once kept silent before Jane.
"No? Nothing to say?" There was a crackle and a sickly sweet smell of something burning.
In Demetri's eye, Vladimir was starting to seem twice as tall, his teeth elongated like fangs. Stefan's voice seemed the low cackle of a demon from a Russian story. The vampires around him seemed like wild dogs coming after a man left alone in the snow. The others had taken the horses and left him. They'd left him.
Whatever I was going to do, I would have to do it fast. But it seemed like this part of my brain had gone cobwebby. I'd had Demetri and Aro and Caius to be my strategists for years. When had I lost the ability to plan for myself?
Whatever it was, it would have to be big.
Whatever it was, there were still thirty of them and only one of me.
I thought back to Emmett and high school. Pulling the fire alarm wasn't going to cut it this time.
Oh ...this was a terrible idea.
Emmett would have called it a Death Star move. It never would have worked if the fortress had been complete. I did a quick mental inventory. I had little equipment on me, only my interrogation needles, and they were...
In one motion, I grasped three of my largest tools between my knucles and dropped out of the chute into the chamber proper. Praying that I hadn't lost my aim, I thrust from the shoulder—
—hitting the unsecured fuel line bolted to the side of the wall. I'd hoped for a few good punctures, but the three strikes crushed it below the joint, leaving the upper portion free. During the first half-second, a fine mist of flammable material covered the room. Then it reached the open flame in the fire pit.
There was a collective shriek. This was not Volterra. The discipline broke down. "Protect the Brothers!" someone shouted in Hindi and again in Romanian.
I had my moves planned, ducking and grabbing as much as Demetri as I could in one move. He was in worse shape than I realized. As I was trying to gather him up, someone laid both hands on my head and I thought for a second that I would never see Bella or Caroly or the open air again, but there was a pained shriek and I pulled away, dragging most of Demetri on one side and carrying more on the other. Then the rest of the gas line gave. Most of the Romanians went for the main exit, the stairway. I shimmied back up the way I'd come, moving less quickly than I'd have liked.
"Edward?" So Demetri's throat was still attached to his lungs. They'd needed him to be able to speak. For once, his mind wasn't a perfectly oiled machine, exploding into many questions at once. What had I thrown at the fuel line? Why had Caius decided to attack early? Where was the rest of the guard?
Edward, tell me you didn't come back for me alone.
I reached the upper hallway and came face to face with a tall Indian man and a woman with a face like a brick wall. They'd been guarding another one of the exits and had come to see what the noise and smoke had been.
"Perhaps we could discuss this later, Brother," I said, dropping Demetri and lunging for the tall man's throat before he could react. They were both trained fighters, but I was faster, I was gifted and I had had it up to here with whatever the world felt like dishing out tonight.
The lighting was poor. I dropped down to collect Demetri. His treatment had been torture, not incapacitation. He'd only been broken into three or four pieces. I made a hurried sack of my cloak and bolted. If I could make it to the woods, which they probably knew better than I did, I might be able to lose them. That would require making it to an exit through their own stronghold, which they definitely knew better than I did. Worse, they'd probably have trackers, at least some of them gifted.
For the rest of my life, I would never be entirely sure how I did it.
Caius would be furious. Even if the Romanians hadn't figured out that there was a large-scale attack coming—within a few minutes if my message had gone through—this kind of chaos hadn't been in any of his plans. It disorganized the enemy, but Master Caius's tactics were usually so sound that it would be a net disadvantage. Aro would be angry that I'd not put the mission first and come straight to him.
I dragged Demetri into a depression in the ground behind a lattice of dead branches. We wouldn't be immediately visible, but the moment our enemies put up any kind of organized search, it would be over. "Demetri," I whispered. "There's not much light here. I can try to put you back together or—"
Just do it.
I'd done it before, of course, but never working only by touch. My hands shook and I lost whole minutes willing them to stop. Demetri's eyes pointed straight ahead through the whole process, discipline over humiliation.
Rolfe betrayed us?
"Yes," I murmured. "Can you move your toes?"
There was a metallic, tearing, sucking sound as I forced my hands to do the job. "Now?"
No, but I think I can feel it. The sensation in his mind was not promising.
"I don't want to do any more," I said. "I might make it worse."
Demetri leveled a bitter eye at me. I looked down.
You should not have disobeyed orders, Brother.
"Give me your shoulder. I'll try your arm."
You should have gone to the masters, even if I died. He did not want to be a cripple, not after being one of the most feared men on the planet. He'd seen cripples in his human days.
"This isn't the end for you, Demetri."
Just fix me. He looked away and I didn't try to catch his eye again. In a way, losing his self-command was worse than what had happened below.
I listened for nearby thoughts, but there were none. I took a deep breath and worked more slowly this time, carefully lining up his left arm, remembering the location of each nerve, the way Rolfe had once done for me, long ago. I closed my eyes as I felt the flesh knit. Rolfe.
I'd really done it, hadn't I? The past hour seemed a blur, like something that had happened to someone else. There were blank spots in my memory, things that he had said that I couldn't piece together. But I did know this: He had been working with the spy. He knew something about me, something that... Something.
I felt Demetri's fingers move against mine with a weak, uneven grip. Almost without meaning to, I leaned forward and held him tight around the shoulders. His chest heaved and there was a sound in his throat.
I thought that was the end.
I shook my head. What would I have done if he'd died? I loved that man the way I'd once loved ...something.
"If my message got through," I said. He nodded, not needing anything more.
He wouldn't want anyone to see him like this. I helped him stand, helped him put his clothes to rights as best I could. Demetri met my eyes and I watched him try to force his dazed mind to clear. For the rest of his life, he would pretend that the only thing he'd lost today was an arm.
Mentally, I was planning how to defend myself to Caius and Aro. It wasn't until I was half-dragging Demetri out of the hollow that I fully comprehended what had happened.
I had done the right thing.
I hadn't done the expedient thing or the practical thing or even the thing that would best serve my borrowed mission of melding my own ideals with Aro's. I'd looked at the situation and seen a person.
It had been so long since I'd done that that I'd forgotten what it felt like. I'd done what Carlisle would have done. I'd have done what Carlisle's son Edward would have done, the boy who'd come to his senses and given up human blood, stopped a van in broad daylight. The boy who'd walked away from the girl he loved rather than harm her. That was him.
That was still me.
Demetri turned his head, and I could see his gift work, tracking those who had started to track us.
"We have to move," he said.
Ranty A/N follows. Feel free to skip.
I think I've figured out one of the reasons why it ticks me off when people rip on Twilight. It's not that these books don't have big flaws; they do. Frankly, I don't think the Twibooks should be on any high school recommended reading list (but if I saw teenagers reading them on their own, I wouldn't tell them to stop). It's that it's open season. People make cracks that give no indication that they've read the books or even know what they're about. Got a zinger with a blank spot in it? Just drop the word "Twilight" in where it says "insert butt of joke here." In any other fandom, there's an expectation that if you make fun of it, some people will be offended. Take a crack at Star Trek and you'll expect to tick off at least a few Trekkies. Make fun of comic books and you can expect a response from a Marvel or DC fan. Even things that, like Twilight, have little intellectual value, like the Game of Thrones books, don't get this type of unreserved flak. Defending Twilight surprises people. Admitting that you don't think Bella Swan is the antichrist of feminism makes people assume you're an airhead.
We don't talk about how Green Lantern is sexist. We talk about how fridging is sexist. The term got its name from a specific event that happened in the GL comic, but it refers to something that was and is widespread in comics—killing or harming a female character solely to advance a male character's development or storyline. We address the problem at the level at which it occurs, not the individual work but the genre. Twilight's major problem is that its main romance wouldn't be healthy or realistic if it were taking place in the real world. Like fridging, it's not remotely rare. Snow White. The Game of Thrones books. Lots of movies and anime. Heck, ever been to Xanth? "Everybody does it" does not make it automatically good (and not everybody does it—been to Valdemar?), but it does raise the question of why people say "Twilight" when they should be saying "problematic fantasy romance." Maybe it needs a shorter name. Like "fridging," the name could be reminiscent of Bella and Edward so long as it was clear it didn't apply only to them. Who's liking "sparkle context"? ("Ugh! What is with this love interest insisting that the protagonist not go anywhere alone? That's really stalker-y." "Yeah, but there's a swamp monster who wants to rip out the protagonist's kidneys, and love interest is the only one who can use the Weedwhacker of Fate. It makes sense in sparkle context.")
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