Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Caroly ( Chapter 66 )
[ 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.
"Occasionally a blood drinker would come through these lands, but they were taken by surprise, not expecting the wolves." —Old Quil, Eclipse
I'd never been free.
This wasn't Washington. We were really in some forest in China or Slovenia or France. Any second, Demetri would lope out from the trees and we'd hunt down our target.
"Edward!" she called out, sliding down from the rock. She'd crossed the distance and threw her arms around me. The scent of her cloak, her skin, was exactly the same. "I was worried you wouldn't turn up," she said.
She drew back, holding me at arm's length. I saw my reflection in her thoughts. Everything was going to be all right now.
I made myself remember where we were, what was happening. "What are you doing here?" I asked.
"Aren't you glad to see me?"
"Caroly," I repeated. "Why—what are you doing here?"
She ducked down to my height, hands going tight on my shoulders.
"The master sent me to bring you home," she said.
"Aro," I repeated, as if not sure what she meant.
She nodded, showing me the scene in her mind. "He said, 'Tell Edward he may come back on any terms he wishes, so long as he comes back.'" She smiled all the way to the hearthfire in her eyes. "We need you, Edward. It isn't Volterra without you."
I think I took a step back.
"He said he'll let you visit your old master, give you any boon, but he wants you to come home. We all do. Master Marcus misses you. I think even Felix misses you. Demetri—" she looked away, eyes sharp with pain. "Demetri needs you more than anyone." She swallowed. "I made it back to the others and they told me you and Bella were gone. I thought they meant you were dead."
Not even a goodbye. Her thoughts. Or mine.
I could barely process what I was hearing. The reason Bella and I hadn't met with a team of hunters set to recapture us was because Aro had no intention of dragging us back in chains. Perhaps... perhaps keeping me as a prisoner, as an enemy, had been nearly as taxing for my master as it had been for me. Aro was a fascinating man, and many times I'd thought we might have been friends. I couldn't say I'd never missed Marcus or Renata or the others, and losing Demetri had been worse than losing an arm.
Back on any terms meant I could ask him to excuse Bella for her crime. We could acknowledge Caroly publicly. We could...
The sound of a wolf howl coursed through me like ice.
"Where's Bella?" asked Caroly. "I've been hearing strange sounds all day. We should—"
"You have to go," I cut her off. Back the way I'd come, I could hear frenzied thoughts, newborn and feral, heading straight toward us.
"Edward," she said, holding up one hand. "I think I might've gone crazy when you were gone. Even Chelsea said she couldn't work with me."
"Leave now." I put my hands on her shoulders and actually pushed, my feet making useless trenches in the show as she folded her arms.
"Edward, what the hell is going on?"
"Head north. Don't stop until you're in Canada. We'll find you there, but go now."
Her thoughts cleared. Perhaps the sounds approaching were audible in the air now.
"Go! I can talk my way out of this but you can't. They'll think you're the one who—" I froze. The image in Seth's head hadn't been wearing a cloak, but... I breathed in. "Caroly, it wasn't you, was it?" She managed to open her mouth before I added. "You haven't killed any humans nearby? That wasn't you?"
"No," she said firmly. "I haven't fed since I left Italy, but Aro said there was this place on the coast called La Push and I should—" I clapped my hands over her mouth. She stared at me as if I'd lost my mind. In the distance, the big one, Embry, turned a newborn into shrieking scraps, but most of the horde was still headed our way. We had minutes.
I shook my head. "I'll explain later, but you have to start running. We'll meet you in—" I stopped moving. Had Caroly just said... "You haven't fed since Italy?"
"No. What does it matter?"
"When did you leave?" If she'd been tracking us through Europe and Florida and the Ozarks, her eyes should be pitch black.
"Two days ago. I took a flight to Sea-Tac and came straight here."
Another howl. Bare feet on the ground. We had to run but I couldn't move.
"How did you know we were here?" I asked taking a few steps away, staring into the woods as if they had answers.
"Master Aro told me to come to the old Cullen territory and wait. He described the spot. He said you would turn up sooner or later."
"He told you to come here. He said, 'Caroly, go to Forks, Washington'?"
"And he told you to feed at La Push?" my voice was quiet.
She nodded again.
Caroly in her storm-gray cloak. Caroly who'd been Aro's loyal creature her whole life. Three more of the wolves howled.
How could he possibly hate me that much?
She sighed, putting her hand on my shoulder. "I've even missed how weird you are. Whatever this is, we can talk about it on the way back—"
I spun to face her.
"I am never going back!"
The words echoed against the rocks, the frozen trees. I found I was breathing hard. My reflection in her mind was sharp. I looked like Achilles after going mad.
I wasn't ever going back. I didn't want to go back. Whatever I'd built inside myself to survive as Aro's creature, it had broken.
Weeks on the road with no lurking Felix or sniping vampire women, no feast day, no screams in my head as I tore another person apart, no helplessness, no Heidi, no Afton, no Chelsea, no Caius and no Aro dredging my thoughts for...
He'd been looking for something, I realized. He hadn't just been reading my mind to punish me all these years, he'd been looking for something, something I'd buried.
I blinked hard as I felt it start to build. I couldn't afford a migraine right now. Whatever it was... I'd done something to myself. I'd bent myself the way Chelsea bent others, and Aro...
I had defied him. This wasn't just about marrying Bella. He hated me because I'd actually done something wrong, and then I'd made myself forget about it.
Caroly looked up. She could hear them now, the wolves and the newborn army both; she could feel the edges of the connections between then. Pounding feet and claws and snarling voices. I could see her shoulders tense under her cloak the way they had before a thousand fights. So many... she thought
"Edward," she said quietly. "Edward, get up."
My hands were flat against the ground. Had I fallen?
Another wave in my head nearly blinded me. What had happened?
"Caroly..." I tried to speak, but three different thoughts ran together in my head. The sound of howls and screams and running feet bore down on us as I forced my eyes open.
I had to say, Help me up, Caroly. We have to go.
Leave me here and start running.
The master wants you dead. Don't go home.
But the words mixed together and came out wrong, came out as—
SECOND PART OF CHAPTER:
Who's Alice? Caroly heard her own voice in her memory, asking Bella the same question on the run back from Paris, the night we'd run found Rose and Emmett. There had been stones in her eyes. Bella. She knew.
Caroly hauled me to my feet by one arm.
"They're coming," I said.
It was too late to run. She waited for me to say it. She always waited for me.
Caroly dropped into place beside me, and I felt my strength come back to my arms and legs. The first one broke through the trees and at the top of the gully, a pale-limbed man with torn clothes and blazing red eyes. A second and third were close behind, coming right for us.
"Kill them," I said, my voice too tight in my throat. "But just the criminals. Not the others."
Her brow furrowed. "Who else is—"
A gray-black wolf the size of a hammerhead shark burst through the top of the ridge, like the great beast itself breaching the water to catch the second vampire in its jaws by one leg. Someone screamed. Another wolf, sandy gray that might have been Seth, took the fallen man by the throat and tore him apart.
"What are they?" Caroly breathed, something off in her voice.
"She's not one of them!" I screamed until I thought my larynx would rupture. "She is NOT one of them."
Three more of the newborns came through the trees, and twenty years of conditioning took over. Maybe it was Alice, but I think I broke again. On one level, I knew the wolves were there, but on another the only other people were the criminals. I had Caroly with me and I had my duty, as sure as if Aro and Caius were watching from ten feet away, and I had to ignore everything else until they were helpless and fit for flames. What had that man done to me?
I didn't need to think. When one poor wretch got past the soot-gray wolf in front of me, I lunged, snarling. Caroly was with me, in perfect step. The only thing missing was Demetri.
Bella had been my partner in the careful dance of Volterra's politics, though she'd also moved to shadow steps, a rhythm I hadn't allowed myself to hear. But Caroly had fought by my side a hundred times. She knew which victim I'd choose, how I'd use their thoughts and plans against them, where to catch, where to bite, how much strength to bring to bear until we two could separate limb from trunk. A wolf went for Caroly and I kicked it in the chest. Another newborn hurtled toward it before the pack could retaliate.
A voice, at the edge of my awareness, clearly Seth's: Holy shit.
Should we kill them? came another.
I say we let them kill each other first.
No damned bloodsucker does my job for me.
Seth again: Jake, you better get the HELL down here.
It felt like hours but wasn't. I don't know how many came into the clearing. Not twenty. How could Aro have failed to notice a coven making twenty or Caius to eliminate it? But when I came back to myself and counted the heads, and the limbs and the voices, there were so many...
When I came back to myself, Caroly and I were standing back to back. There was a heap of body parts, fingers trying to crawl, a knee flexing uselessly. We were surrounded by a ring of wolves, two deep. I could see Caroly's gift through her eyes. The bond between them was deep, stronger than any coven, closing us in like some spell a sorcerer might use to bind a demon.
Seth was the first to think in words. If he'd fought like that earlier today, Jake might have said yes when he offered to help, heh, right guys?
We don't need their help, the gray wolf followed with a snarl.
Get the Cullen too. Don't know what Grandpa Uley was thinking letting these freaks stay. Voice after voice joined the others.
I've wanted to do this since Sam's day!
Don't be an asshole, Uriah. Wait for Jake! snapped Seth, but he wasn't having much sway. He wasn't their Alpha.
Take down the red-eyed bitch.
"You don't need to!" I shouted. "She's not with them."
She's a blood-drinker. If she hasn't killed on our land, she's killed at all.
Nothing came out of my mouth this time. Only memories of my girl with fresh, red eyes after every meal. I swallowed. This was my end, then. They'd go through me to get to her. There were worse times to go.
"Edward, what are they?" Caroly asked again.
"They're—" I stopped. In Caroly's mind, these weren't hulking shaggy beasts with bodies twisted by spirit magic. That was just the paper on which someone had written in brilliant color. The bond between them could have been painted on burlap and she wouldn't have cared. She was about to be killed by the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.
Edward, they're like us, like the three of us! she said, like a child pointing out a rainbow. Did you always know they were here? Only they don't... They aren't... She reached for the words, the thing that had tainted the love between Demetri, Caroly and me.
"They're not slaves, Caroly," I said quietly, looking at any wolf but Seth. "They kill to protect their home and no more. No one is forcing them to do it."
I heard her swallow. "Why aren't they..."
"They're waiting for the leader," I said. "The pale one convinced them to—" I looked up as the underbrush crashed again. Another newborn—the last, I could read in its thoughts—barreled into the clearing, Black and Paul hot in its heels. He'd already lost his left forearm somewhere, and the gouges on his head meant he wouldn't last long. Jake and Paul clamped down on him from either side, like two dogs fighting over a bone. Thick necks twisted, clawed feet churned the ground, and the man's screams ended in a gurgling sigh.
Black fixed me with a baleful eye and managed to glare, even out of an animal's face. I held his gaze.
I told you to leave, leech, but there was an undercurrent.
"You used us to flush them out," I said, completely unsurprised.
Didn't force you to be where you were, though, did I? Then he grew serious. I called my brothers to uproot their lives and come out tonight. I won't order them NOT to do their jobs. The Cullen amnesty doesn't cover a plus one, he thought. And then he looked directly at Caroly for the first time.
Some thoughts are in the forefront of the mind, like leaves floating on top of a pond, and others, the deepest and most fundamental, are further down. Something written on Black's foundation was saying. "Oh. There you are."
More toward the surface, he was thinking:
Caroly watched in fascination as the bonds surrounding Jacob Black thrummed and turned inside out like a cat's cradle.
There was a pitched, vocal sound as Jake's thoughts rippled out through the pack.
Wait, I'm confused, said Paul.
Seth caught on faster. No way, he thought.
You're not serious.
It's not possible.
Jake had turned back to look at Caroly very carefully, taking one step closer and then another. The air had turned cold again. His breath was steaming but ours wasn't.
Oh damn, he thought. He was remembering somewhere else, somewhere less frozen, where the darkness had hung on the night like moss. Long ago in Taiwan. Vampires had been active all across the northern half of the island. He'd been on watch, and he'd noticed something in the dark, far away. It had seen him, and he'd seen it right back.
And then he'd suddenly known what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
How the HELL could you imprint and not know you imprinted?! snapped Uriah. When I met Marisol it was like my brain shut down!
I'd been living human-only for like five years, Black snapped back. And how was I supposed to know it was even possible with a— He exhaled. I'll be right back. The russet wolf turned and loped away.
"Where's it going!" Caroly protested. I pressed one hand hard over my eyes.
"The single most dangerous thing in the world to you does the courtesy of leaving and you ask where it's going?" I snapped.
"What? It's ...neat," she said.
"He's going to get clothes," a voice piped up. I almost jumped. "Hi, I'm Seth," he said, holding out a hand for my girl to shake.
"Caroly," she answered, head turning to the side. "You're terribly naked, aren't you?"
"Yeah, shapechange does that to you. There's only so much Hulk-style ripping a werewolf can do, you know?"
"Kinder des Mondes?" Caroly asked in German.
I shook my head. "The Children of the Moon are something else."
"The who on the what?" asked Seth. "Another time." He clapped his hands together. "So before Jake gets back, maaaaaybe I should tell you what 'imprinting' is."
"You mean like with a baby duck?" Caroly asked.
"No," said Seth. "A very adult duck."
There was a series of growls and whines as the rest of the pack began to slink away.
Anything but Seth's welcome to the family speech.
Let's just get some matches and torch these leeches. I gotta help my kid with her homework.
"So about what just happened—"
"I know what happened," Caroly shot back. "The important part anyway."
Seth leaned back a little. "I'm confused that you're not confused."
Caroly rubbed her hand across her forehead. In her mind's eye, I could see something shining, bright as vampire skin in full sunlight. She'd seen it when Jacob Black had looked at her. "Look, I'm not—" she said.
A twig snapped behind us and I could see Black, in sweatpants and probably the cheapest Keds he could find. "Hello," he said, pausing just long enough to be awkward. "I think I might need to talk to you... Anyway, I'm Jake."
The explanations didn't take as long as I thought. Caroly had no memory of a time without vampire pair bonds, so imprinting wasn't so strange to her. The part she did have trouble accepting was—
"Master Aro tried to kill me?" she said for the fifth time.
"Yes," I answered from my shoulders. "He knows about the wolves. He knows they live here. He knows they kill any vampire who harvests a human nearby. He sent you here expecting they would kill you."
"Which we would have," Seth added.
She shook her head. "No, no, the coven needs me. Demetri needs me. When I get back—"
"If you do he'll have you accused of something. He'll burn you in the front hall." I took both her hands. "You can't go back."
Caroly was shaking her head, but her thoughts were dark. For weeks after Bella and I had left, she'd tried to help Demetri, but he'd gone distant. On her first mission without either one of us— She swallowed hard and emphatically thought about something else, focused on the being in front of her.
"Leave with Bella and me," I said in Italian. "We'll go to my old coven."
"Io capisco," said Jacob. He looked at Caroly and me and said, "Plus it's kind of rude."
Caroly tipped her head to the side.
"Don't take his side; you'll only encourage him," I said.
"Oh come on. It's not like I've agreed to any of this," she said.
"Haven't thrown your hands up in the air and run away screaming either," added another voice.
"Shut up, Seth," said Black without turning around.
He exhaled, his breath steaming even in the only half-frozen air. "Look, this isn't fun for me either," he said. "I didn't ever want to imprint, but that's what's happened, and it means none of my brothers will kill you. Or our sister if she ever comes back."
Caroly looked up.
Black crouched down to her eye level. "So let's be practical about it. You say some vampire king sent her here so that she'd die?" there came something like a growl in the back of his throat, but he shook and it stopped. "And used us to do it?"
"Close enough," I said. Caroly was still shaking her head.
"So he's expecting her to walk into the Olympic range and not walk out again," he said. "So maybe that's what should happen."
Caroly looked at me pointedly.
Milk diet? she thought.
"Why are you asking? Don't' tell me you're actually considering—"
"Just answer the question," she told me.
I leaned back, exasperated. "Yes," I told her. "Cold turkey."
Black looked from Caroly to me and back. "If you mean human blood, then he's right. We don't tolerate killing humans here. If you did, then—" he stopped, and I could see the possibilities move through his mind. Honoring the imprint was one of their oldest laws, but protecting humans from vampires was even older. Now that Black was Alpha he could issue a direct commend in such a way that a lesser wolf couldn't go against it. I watched the corner of his lip twist, just barely, in a flicker of disgust.
It was jarring, after so much time with Aro, to see someone who found forced obedience distasteful.
"If you bite a human, I don't know if I can stop the others from killing you," said Black.
"A simple solution," I said. "Caroly will leave here with Bella and me." I turned to her. "Caroly, if you decide you want a visitor, I certainly won't stop you from contacting Black and telling him where we—"
Caroly opened her mouth, "About that—"
"No," said Black, "no, you just said that some weird vampire king wants her dead. Well that means that he's expecting her to walk into the Olympic range and just not walk out again, so maybe her staying here is the best way to—"
Caroly stood up fast enough to raise dust from the wet earth. "Both of you shut up," she said. She breathed in all the way to her stomach and shot it back out again. "I have had a really weird month," she said. She pointed at me, "You left. Demetri lost his mind. We may or may not have just killed the people who've spent the last year and a half attacking our soldiers with the help of people who aren't Children of the Moon but kind of are. Now you're trying to tell me that the men I've worked for my entire life just tried to kill me using you—" She pointed to Black. "—but you think I should be some kind of moon bride instead."
"Ew," said Seth. "We're werewolves, not hippies."
"Whatever," she snapped. "I am not making any life-altering decisions in the next twenty minutes." She pulled in a breath and stepped back. "I only have two questions," she said.
I stood, patiently. There was no way that my girl was going to agree to stay behind as some kind of werewolf girl and live in—
"How do we know that was all of them?" Caroly asked, pointing at the smoking pile of vampire remains. "And where the hell is Bella?"
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