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I heard a deafening pop and felt an extreme heat, like fire, radiating from beside me. My eyes were still tightly closed in fear, but I could hear a high pitched scream and the Volturi guard yelling in confusion.
Abruptly, I felt a sharp jerk pulling me in the opposite direction of the scorching heat. At first I began to panic as I imagined the worst, but then I could feel Jacob’s hot breath on my back through my clothes. He had the arm of my shirt in his mouth, and I felt myself being rapidly dragged backwards across the wet grass. He stopped about twenty yards away from our grouping behind his pack.
“What are you doing?!” I yelled at him, “I have to go back!”
Only a few seconds had passed as I pulled myself back up to my knees, preparing to break into a dead sprint, but I couldn’t move. Jacob had hold of my shirt again and I couldn’t pull away from him. I thought briefly of tearing it off at the sleeve, but he tugged harder growling a warning to me and motioned for me to look into the clearing.
The entire formation had broken into complete chaos. My family was free from Alec’s debilitating hold, and were quickly pulling themselves to their feet. The other wolves had managed to pull Nahuel and his sisters across the field over beside us. Demetri released my mother and my father leapt towards him, quickly pulling her out of his grasp. Aro and Caius had moved to stand next to each other; a frantic Alec standing guard in front of them. Across the field, almost forty yards directly in front of them, stood Marcus and his newly formed guard.
Marcus stood in the middle flanked by Zafrina and a vampire I didn’t recognize. He was very tall, almost matching Jacob in height, and well proportioned. His hair was so blond it was almost white, which looked strange against the light pallor of his skin. Renata stood behind them both, along with another foreign female vampire.
“ENOUGH!” Marcus bellowed across the field. His commanding voice was a great contrast to the stoic look he held on his face as he spoke.
I looked over at the Volturi, who were visibly shaken. I felt a wave of relief wash over me as I realized that my family had all gathered together and were cautiously making their way closer to us. The fire was still burning giving off black smoke and a pungent smell that reminded me of incense.
All of this had transpired in a mere moments and with all the chaos I was having a hard time taking in what was happening. Jacob let go of my shirt and nudged me forward to meet my family half way.
“Are you okay?” my parents wrapped their cold arms around me so tightly I could barely
breathe. I wiped my tears away so I could see their perfect faces more clearly.
“Yes, I’m okay” I replied. “What happened?
“I’m not exactly sure. Someone in their group has a shield like Bella’s so I can’t hear their thoughts,” my father replied incredulously. “All I know someone in Marcus’s guard stopped Jane from hurting you as they advanced.”
I looked back over to the Volturi. Something about the formation was off…smaller. I felt the blood slink away from my face as I took in who was missing. It all began to sink in; the explosion I heard, the heat. I thought it was an attack against us but I was terribly wrong. I turned away in horror as I realized that the fire that was still burning was Jane! Whoever did that had a very powerful gift, and the relief I felt for that brief moment vanished as I realized we would all burn like that soon.
My father noticed the expression on my face and took my hand in his to comfort me. He seemed determined to be positive so I turned my attention back to Marcus and his followers. The groups had moved closer to one another standing less than twenty yards from each other. Marcus stepped forward still wearing the same unreadable expression. His charcoal grey cloak flowed behind him like it was connected to his tall frame.
“The Volturi have no purpose here, Aro.” He stated.
Aro stiffened and Caius moved closer to him so they could touch hands. Aro nodded at Caius’s silent thought.
“We are here to protect this family from you, Marcus. Nothing more.” Aro responded.
Marcus tilted his side to the side slightly, bemused. He glanced at my family and then back to Aro when he spoke.
“Interesting tactics you take to protect them. You think they would be safer anesthetized? Or maybe writing in pain?
“Nonsense!” Aro trilled. “I don’t see how our tactics are your concern, regardless. You pose your own threat to this family. Why else would you be here?”
For the first time Marcus’s face gave way to an emotion and he was frightening to look at.
“Artifice!” he snapped pointing his finger at Aro and Caius and taking another step closer. “You have given them nothing but lies!”
Aro and Caius bristled at Marcus’s accusation and looked abashed as they looked over their shoulders at us. We all looked around each other in confusion. Marcus followed their gaze and addressed us directly now.
“My brothers here have greatly deceived you,” You could hear the disdain he put on the word brothers.
“They told you I have broken away from them to enact my own vendetta on your family….which is false. They sent Felix to warn you as soon as I left their company in case I got to you first. When in fact, I was the one coming to send warning against them.”
Carlisle and my father exchanged a long look and you could practically see the light bulb flash above our heads. I swallowed the ball of fire I wanted to spit through my teeth as I realized this was all an elaborate ruse.
I was torn- I couldn’t tell if I was relieved to tears, or incensed to the point of violence. The Volturi had used our fears and weaknesses against us to penetrate our defenses.
I thought of how they would have put together their plan- learning to guard their thoughts to fool my father, which was no easy task. They must have planned to use Carlisle’s trusting nature and compassion to make their initial breech, and then our faith in him to follow along blindly. I looked over at Felix and remembered his valiant stand against everything he believed in to save us. He was incredibly forlorn as he stood between the Volturi and our family with a lost expression.
I squeezed my father’s hand to get his attention and nodded towards Felix. He looked sympathetically to Felix and then down at me. The whole family had witnessed our exchange and Emmett stepped out of our loose formation and took Felix by the arm. He whirled around stunned by the close proximity.
“You can stand with us if you’d like, brother” Emmett said warmly. Felix didn’t smile but he stepped back into our group, anyway.
“I was unable to reach your family in time so I headed to South America, but Demetri had already moved the hybrids here with your family,” Marcus continued. His expression changed from cold and informative to repentant.
“I have grown bored with my brothers’ lust for blood and power and I wanted no part of this genocide. I was against this from the beginning, so I sought out to find anyone who would side with me to help your family.”
Zafrina who had been quiet through the entire exchange stepped up to stand next to Marcus. Her wild face begged silently for us to understand.
“It is all true,” she said in her heavy accent. “I would never stand against your family or your lovely daughter,” she smiled at me and winked when she said it. “I didn’t want to risk contacting you after Marcus told me the close proximity of the Volturi to your family.”
The lump in my throat subsided and I felt the bitterness of her betrayal fade away. I knew the circumstances leading up to this point left me no choice but to think the worst- but I was deeply disappointed in myself for every doubting her loyalty.
The Volturi gave no further response to Zafrina’s confirmation. The guard moved in solid unison again as Aro and Caius took another step toward Marcus. I could see Caius strategically place himself; crouching to spring towards Zafrina.
It was evident that all diplomacy was lost at this point, and the battle would ensue. Even though it had only been minutes I felt a connection and a great deal of gratitude towards Marcus and the other vampires I had never met. I was horrified to think of any harm coming to them.
The tension of battle began to fill the air as everyone took their places. Sam and Jacob fell into place behind us as the rest of the wolves flanked behind Marcus’s group. The Volturi spread out into a solid straight line and Marcus’s group matched their formation. I quickly counted the numbers of each group and realized that Marcus’s group was out numbered. My father swiftly moved myself and Nahuel’s family to the very back of our grouping- obviously he had noticed the same thing.
“Keep them here,” he ordered turning to Jacob and Sam. Both wolves moved in front of my mother and I while my father, Carlisle, Japer and Emmett ran to join in with Marcus.
“I want everyone to remain groups so no one can be singled out, understand?” my father called out to Alice and Rosalie over his shoulder. Felix wasn’t far behind him, and Rose and Alice stayed moving behind us to complete the blockade as we waited for the massacre to begin…..