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A Litany at Dusk

Summary:
Thanks to hellacullen for the awesome banner! Edward’s rebellious period wasn't just a few years; it lasted seventy. Having spent his years hunting on the edges of society, he rejoins his family in Forks ready to abstain when he runs acorss a young woman praying. Can a choice be made between one's desires, one's heart and one's soul? Will Edward be willing to fight for her instead of fighting against her? A/U a bit OOC, rated for lemons and adult content, some violence


Notes:
Thanks to PTB for their assistance and to hellacullen, who is the wind beneath my wings! Her consistent and intelligent commentary, suggestions and cheerleading were incredible and I wish everyone a beta like hellacullen. I own nothing of Twilight. Let's see who could be the owner? Possibly SM?


29. Chapter 29 The Whirlwind

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3917   Review this Chapter

Bella

I breathed a silent sigh of relief when Emmett switched the car headlights back on, illuminating the field where we stood. It was dark, intensely dark, and the drizzle created a strange sound of movement in the forest surrounding the meadow as if the trees themselves were restless and stirring.

The headlights created twin cones of light that reached into the darkness only to be stymied by a thick ground mist that reflected the light back at us. Edward had his arm around my shoulders, and I was grateful for his touch. It calmed me, even as it puzzled me. I’d have thought with him being a vampire that I’d have found it disturbing, but something fundamental in me still recognized him as my protector. I leaned into his shoulder, letting his presence affect me as it always did; it awed me, and I could feel the rumble of power that exuded from under his skin.

I was ignoring the realization that we would have to part soon. I looked up at Edward, his face intent as he gazed around, listening to the forest and to the others’ thoughts, I imagined. He had the collar of his black coat turned up, so it laid low and close to his neck, resembling a priest’s cassock. Like a warrior priest stepping out of the pages of some Celtic legend, his face shone with intensity and ferocity. He needed only a sword to make it complete. I was glad for the rain; it disguised the tears that had escaped my eyes, as I struggled with the thought that he would have to leave me soon.

Esme, standing next to me, whispered, “The wolves are here.”

From across the meadow, in the brush along the tree line, I could see the reflective circles of animal eyes. They were so high off the ground, and there was so many of them. A pack of them. A pack of the monsters that Jacob had shown himself to be. I swallowed hard and began to shiver. Edward murmured into my hair, “It’s all right. It’ll be over soon.”

From across the field and out of the brush, two human figures emerged, followed by a straggling group of huge, horse shaped shadows. Gradually, they approached us at an oblique angle, walking slowly across the dark field. Their angle of approach kept the headlights out of their eyes and the Cullens lined up on one side of the headlight beams as the wolves approached from the other. As they got nearer, I could see it was Sam and Jacob, striding towards us, dressed only in jean cut-offs with grim expressions on their faces. The moisture had collected on their bodies, and their hair dripped rain like tears down their faces and chests. The wolves loomed large and monstrous behind them, their ears held low and close against their heads, almost crouching as they padded forward, their giant heads swinging back and forth, sampling the scents. The dampness caught in drops in their fur, and they reflected the light like crystals.

Carlisle looked back at Edward, and Edward moved us forward a step so we stood a pace ahead of the others with Carlisle. I realized all the Cullens and I were dressed in coats and hoods or caps and the juxtaposition of us against the near nakedness of Sam and Jacob surrounded by the huge, menacing animals struck me. They had appeared from the underbrush as if shaped into being by the darkness, an extension of these deep, black forests. Which of us really belonged here and who were the monsters?

I had known these Quileute boys that were now men for years; I’d sat at their card tables, eaten and laughed with them, and I had never seen this. I’d never seen the mystical, supernatural sides of what I’d thought were just regular boys. I’d never even suspected it.

Memories of Jacob and me filled my mind−our nights together, how he used to carve me miniature animals that sat on my windowsill back at Charlie’s, the times we spent surfing with the others. Now he stood across from me separated by twin beams of light, and he could have been light-years away for all that I felt like I knew him.

Carlisle nodded his head in greeting. “Sam. Jacob.”

“Bella, are you okay?” Jacob called.

I started to nod and answer, but Edward replied for me. “She’s just fine.”

Jake took a step forward, his face tense and his fists flexing. “I was asking her.”

Carlisle glanced at us, silencing Edward with a look. “I’m okay, Jake,” I called.

Sam put a hand on Jake’s arm, and took a step toward us. Behind him, a handful of the wolven shadows paced restlessly. Several others had sat back on their haunches, watching us like domestic dogs, except for the intelligence and ferocity which shone out of their eyes. One smaller one had dropped to the ground, and its tongue was lolling out the side of its mouth, in what seemed almost a smile.

“I’m glad to see you’re okay, Bella,” Sam said. “Jake−we’ve all been worried.”

“You can see she’s still alive and human,” Edward retorted. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” Edward made to turn but Carlisle’s words halted him.

“Hold, Edward. There are things that need to be cleared up.”

“I agree,” Sam said. He glanced at Jacob, who was scowling at the ground. “A member of our tribe broke the agreement forged between you and our ancestors. This was wrong.”

“It’s put Bella in danger,” Carlisle said.

“A regrettable consequence,” Sam said. “However, we can take care of our own. If Bella will agree to be placed under our protection, she should be safe.”

“Wait,” I spoke up. “Safe from whom?”

Carlisle answered softly. “There are old and powerful societies among us that feel the knowledge of our existence by humans creates danger to all of us.”

By my side, Edward stared at Jacob. He must have heard some thought he didn’t like for he began a barely audible low rumbling in his chest.

“Well, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” I promised Carlisle.

Carlisle sighed and frowned, but Edward spoke up. “I’m afraid that horse has already left the barn.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The Monsignor. You told him what you knew,” Edward answered.

I shook my head. “But he’s a priest, he’s bound…”

But Edward’s face showed no relenting. “Our kind is ruled by an ancient, powerful family out of Italy. The Vatican sleeps within striking distance for them.”

“You think the Monsignor would…?” I glanced at Edward, who nodded at my understanding. I raised my hand to my mouth. “My God,” I whispered, the enormity of the situation beginning to sink in. “What have I done?”

Jake took another step closer, ignoring Sam’s hand on his arm. “Don’t be afraid, Bella. We’ll protect you.”

Edward whirled back to Jacob. “You have no idea of the enemy you’d be fighting.”

Carlisle nodded. “He’s right in this, Sam. If they came here looking for Bella, your whole tribe could be endangered. You’d be fighting dozens of the oldest, most dangerous and most talented vampires. Even with your increased numbers, it would be no match.”

Sam looked around at the others. They drew closer to him. Under his breath, Edward whispered, “Fools.”

“It’s a risk we’re willing to take,” Sam said. Jacob raised his chin, looking challengingly at Edward.

“I couldn’t let you do that.” I protested weakly. I felt the world start to spin a bit. Dozens of vampires after me? Just because I know something about them?

“Of course, we will,” Jacob said. “We’ll protect you.”

Edward’s arm dropped from around my shoulder as he took several steps forward into the beams of the headlights towards Jacob. “She wouldn’t need protecting if you’d kept your mouth closed in the first place,” Edward flared. “Perhaps it’s protecting from you she needs.”

Jacob stepped forward as well, so he was just a pace from Edward. He scowled, and his whole body was tense. “You don’t scare me,” Jacob said softly to Edward, his voice filled with disdain and arrogance. “We’ve dealt with your kind before.”

Edward replied, his voice low and venomous with implied danger. “And I’ve dealt with you before and I will again.”

I remembered how Edward said he had fought Jacob when I had run to the church. They couldn’t do that again; I couldn’t stand to see people I cared about hurting each other. “No!” I cried, and it was like dropping a checkered flag; things exploded into action.

Several things happened at once. Jacob’s body erupted, and scraps of clothing went flying from him. From the midst of the explosion, his body seemed to contract and then expand until there was the giant wolf I had seen before, crouched and snarling where Jacob had been. Jasper and Emmett sprang from where they had been standing, and they stood defensively at Edward’s side, Rosalie and Alice right behind them. The wolves that had been in the background suddenly formed a phalanx right behind Sam, all of them tensed and ready to spring, a cacophony of guttural growls and snarls coming from them.

“Wait!” Carlisle cried, at the same time that Sam shouted “No!” and held his fist up.

The air bristled with tension. On one side were the wolves, their heads down, and lips curling. Sam kept a hand on the shoulder of the wolf that had been Jacob. On the other, the Cullens, poised and ready for a fight.

Carlisle took a step between the two groups to meet Sam in the middle and held out a hand, palm toward the ground. At a pointed glance from Carlisle, Edward took a step back and the rest of the Cullens stood up, rising from the defensive stances they had taken. Sam glanced around at the group of monsters behind him and while they continued to glare at us, they settled back on their haunches. The sound of rain dripping from the trees created an eerie, staccato backdrop. Far off in the distance, a roll of thunder boiled through the clouds.

“Carlisle, look at us,” Sam said. “Tell me how many of us you see.”

“Ten, including you,” Carlisle answered.

“How many were there in Ephraim’s day?” Sam asked.

“Three,” Carlisle replied. “Your numbers have increased greatly.” He paused, looking down at the ground, and then he looked intently at Sam. “It’s us, isn’t it?”

Sam nodded. “When mice are plentiful, foxes become so, too. It’s been the constant exposure to you and your family that has forced our young people into this. It’s a protective response.”

Esme joined Carlisle, drifting soundlessly to his side. “It’s our presence that’s creating their magic?”

“No,” Carlisle said, answering Esme but keeping his eyes on Sam. “But our presence here is unnatural to this tribe. It’s developed ways to protect its own and when threatened, like an immunity, builds up the resources to defend itself.”

“Is our being here a hardship, Sam?” Esme asked.

Sam raised his head stiffly. “We will honor the treaty, if you wish to continue it. I see that you’ve kept it,” he said, nodding at me, “and I wouldn’t have it said the Quileutes broke faith.”

Down the line, Emmett whistled softly under his breath, like one would call a dog to one’s side. Across the beams of light, several of the wolves bared their teeth in response, while their giant tails wagged behind them, promising a fight.

“But these are young men,” Sam said. “They have been given great power and no chance to use it. If you create an army, you had best be prepared to use it.”

Carlisle nodded. “I understand.” He glanced appraisingly at Edward, who returned his look. “Let us withdraw and think on these matters.”

The wolf that was Jacob took several steps into the beam of light toward me.

“No, she’ll come with us,” Edward said, taking a step in front of me.

The wolf rose up on its rear paws and shrunk back into a naked Jacob.

“Well, that’s cool,” Rosalie muttered under her breath. Jasper had thrown his arm around Alice, who held her head in her hands as if she was in pain.

“Bella,” Jacob said, holding his hand out. “Come with us.” He stood in the drizzle, his arm outstretched, palm up. Edward turned to face me, his black collar making his pale skin glow almost unearthly.

Jacob glistened slickly, the dampness rolling down his skin. “Bella, come on.” It was the Jake I knew, a half smile on his face that I recognized. I flashed back to a day when we had been out on First Beach, and Jake had asked me with that same smile to come into the water to learn to surf with him. We had spent the day in the water until finally at sunset, we had come to the bonfire on the beach, exhausted and exhilarated with the thrilling rides we had gotten. We had shared our first kiss that night.

I looked from Jacob to Edward, who was watching me. Above the high collar of his black coat, his face was sparse and intense, as if restrained emotion had burnt away all extraneous flesh and left just the essence of him. He looked at me with his dark eyes that burned like black fire. I had only hours left with him, and I could have no more pried myself from his side than I could have taken off my arm. His face made a miniscule twitch when he saw the slightest shaking of my head as I made my decision.

“Bella!” Jacob said more sternly. “You don’t belong with these freaks. Come on.”

Edward stepped forward and slapped Jacob’s outstretched arm down. “She’s not going anywhere with you.”

With that, Jacob exploded back into wolf form, his paws reaching toward Edward as he phased. It ignited a chain reaction down the line of vampires and wolves, and although Sam and Carlisle turned to defuse the situation, it was too late. Several wolves sprang from their formation toward Emmett and Jasper. Jasper pushed the ailing Alice behind him and whirled to meet the onslaught of teeth. Rosalie leaped forward to Emmett’s side with her hands outstretched, her nails like the claws of a lioness. Emmett roared triumphantly as the wolves rocketed forward.

With a vicious snarl, Jacob sprang toward Edward who caught him by the ruff and wrestled his head back and forth, as Jacob reached for him with jaws snapping. Sam and Carlisle ran toward the writhing bundle that was Edward and Jacob as they rolled to the ground. Esme flew to my side protectively.

Things seemed to start flowing in slow motion, as I screamed at Jacob and Edward to stop. The rear guard of the wolves who had been springing forward to assist in the attack suddenly whirled around and faced the trees, growling and barking. Sam stopped where he was and turned angrily towards Carlisle. “It’s a trap!”

Carlisle’s face registered surprise and concern crossed his face. “No!” he yelled, just as Edward sprang away from Jacob and echoed “No!” as well at the tree line where the wolves were pointing.

Like a wave rolling across the field, animals and vampires alike started to grow still. From the back of the field to where the wolves stood, and rolling swiftly toward us, some kind of invisible cloud began enveloping the combatants. Swiftly, in turn they each began to still, their eyes turned blankly inward. It swallowed up Edward and Jacob, leaving them standing impassive and immobile where they stood. Esme had just enough time to send me a glance filled with foreboding before her eyes became fuzzy and unfocused and she became frozen as well.

Soon, it was just the sound of the rain and the pounding of my heart. In the fuzzy glow of the headlights, the wolves and Cullens were frozen like statues. I turned to Esme, whose face was calm and impassive, as if she was listening to some far off music; I tugged at her rain jacket. “What’s happening?” I cried, but I could have been tugging at a wall for all the response I got.

I ran over to Edward, who had the same faraway look in his eyes. “Edward!” I yelled, grabbing at his jacket lapels. “Edward, wake up! Please, wake up!”

From across the meadow, I heard the undergrowth rustling. My stomach jumped into my throat. I clutched at Edward, who stood immobile, peering around him trying to put him between me and the noises which continued growing louder. It sounded like a wounded animal crashing through the bushes.

At the edge of the clearing, to where the headlights just managed to illuminate, a handful of large cloaked figures emerged from the trees, moving silently. Their black and dark grey cloaks just barely touched the ground, and I couldn’t tell what kind of creature was inside them; the cloaks glided gracefully, seeming to float above the grass. Behind them several more emerged, two of them carrying a struggling figure between them. It was this figure making so much sound in his struggles, the rest of them moved soundlessly as if pushed by the wind.

Still hiding behind Edward, I continued to whisper, pleading with him. “Edward, wake up, please wake up. Now would be a really good time for you to wake up.”

They circled around the group of wolves from the east, approaching where I stood among the Cullens. As they got closer, I recognized the Monsignor as being the struggling figure held between two of them. I couldn’t tell if they were helping the aged priest or holding him captive. One figure in a black cloak moved to the front from among their ranks as they came to a stop, just a few yards from me. I cowered behind Edward, hoping they hadn’t heard me, when the one in the black cloak said in cultured accent, “What is her name?”

I closed my eyes, as a high child-like voice answered, “Isabella Swan, Master.”

“Isabella,” the black-cloaked one called to me. His voice was gentle and smooth, and it made me think of brown velvet. “Please come out and talk with us.”

Slowly I sidled out a half-step, still trying to keep Edward between us. I couldn’t say anything; my heart was pounding fiercely in my chest. I realized I was panting, quick and shallowly, like a captured squirrel.

There were eight of the cloaked figures, and the Monsignor made nine. He looked wet and bedraggled, but most of all he looked terrified, and I wondered if my face held the same fear his did.

“Greetings, Isabella,” the leader called to me, with the same lilt and inflection in his voice as if we were old friends who had run into each other at the mall. He pulled his cloak back from his face, revealing pale, pale skin, dark eyes that glittered with crimson and black hair combed back from his forehead. Thin cruel lips were turned up into what I guessed he hoped was a welcoming smile.

Inexplicably, the world started shaking. I gasped as I realized that it wasn’t the world, it was me; I was trembling violently. I turned around and pressed my face into Edward’s immobile chest, grabbing his lapels and burying my nose in his clothes. I took several deep breaths, inhaling his scent. He stood unmoving like a raincoat model in a catalog, the rain dripping off his hair. His eyes were fixed in the distance, and the moisture trickled down his sharp, pale cheekbones. I didn’t know what they had done to him, what they had done to all of them, but it looked like it was up to me. I took one last deep breath and turned around.

“What have you done to them?” I demanded, my voice surprisingly steady.

Aro’s unblinking gaze assessed me; it was like looking into the eyes of a reptile. I returned it, unwavering.

“They’ll be fine,” he said off-handedly. “But what a curious creature you are.”

“Release them,” I said, sounding much bolder than I was feeling.

He nodded and held his hand up, as if counseling patience. “In a moment.”

From between his two supporters, the Monsignor wheezed. “More monsters. I should have guessed. I’ve shown you the girl. Now let me go.”

Aro glanced over his shoulder. “A minute longer, Father. We may have a use for you yet.” He turned back to me. “You keep unusual company for a human.”

I didn’t know what to make of that. I surreptitiously reached behind me, touching Edward for strength. “What do you want?” I choked out.

“Ah,” he said cocking his head and smiling. “But we haven’t introduced ourselves. I am an old friend of Carlisle’s. My name is Aro.” He took a step forward and extended his hand. “How nice to meet you.”

He kept a certain distance from where Edward stood stock-still, and as I reluctantly left Edward’s shadow, I took the step forward to grasp his hand. I meant to quickly release it, but as I whispered, “Hello,” he grabbed my hand firmly and pulled me forward a step.

His grip was cold and viselike, and he stared into my eyes as if he expected to see something there. I struggled against his hand for a moment before he let me go, amazement crossing his face. “Nothing,” he said to the others, over his shoulder. “Alec isn’t affecting her. Jane, why don’t you give her a try?”

One of the smaller figures pulled her cloak back, and I was surprised to see the visage of a young girl. Her eyes, though, burned hotly like ancient coals, smoldering in a bed of ashes. She concentrated on me for a few awkward moments before shaking her head. “Truly unique, Master.”

I stepped back next to Edward, desperately wishing he would wake up. “What do you want?” I choked out.

“We came to visit an old friend, and it looks like we arrived just in time,” Aro said, waving a hand at the immobile figures on the field. “Evidently, we are the cavalry.” He looked around, pleased with himself as the rest of the figures tittered politely.

“Alec,” Aro said to a smaller figure behind him, waving a hand in my direction. “Release these friends. Perhaps we should keep the wolves as they are, though.”

“Yes, Master,” the boy said. There was a pause as Edward, Esme and Carlisle came back to awareness. The rest of the family, further down the line of headlights, stayed immobile.

Edward instantly snagged me and pulled me closer to him. “Are you all right?” he murmured.

I nodded, wrapping my arms around his waist. His hand rose to my hair, and I pressed my head against his chest. I held him as tightly as I could, and he cradled me snugly but cautiously. He stroked my hair and kissed the top of my head and I nearly broke down in relief he was okay.

“Carlisle!” Aro called. “How good to see you, old friend!” He gestured at the field of frozen figures. “It looks like we arrived just in time.”

“Aro,” Carlisle acknowledged. “How nice of you to visit.” However, something in Carlisle’s voice suggested that he didn’t think it was nice−no, not nice at all.