-Harvest Moon-

Twilight Fanfiction

Chapter 14.

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The Volturi’s visit left us all on our toes. Knowing now that Alice couldn’t monitor their movements in our immediate future left us all feeling a bit nervous. I myself was more curious to learn about the Vampires and Halflings that walked among the humans for hundreds of years. I began pouring into the dusty texts that adorned the walls of Carlisle’s library.

Carlisle helped me, as did Esme and Edward. We wanted to understand better what it was about Halflings that posed such an enormous threat in the past to the Volturi. Carlisle theorized that if we could find where it was that they were hunting for ‘witches’ we would find higher concentrations of ancient covens that could have possibly been perceived as a threat by Aro.

We found tales of hundreds of families that were hunted down and killed after being tortured. We found accounts of horrendous atrocities to entire groups of people that were only thought to have dabbled in the dark arts. We found witness testimonials of individuals supposedly turning into wolves and terrorizing towns that were later hunted down and killed. Many of the stories were based on complete speculation and the horrors seemed to escalate as the hunt for witches grew in popularity throughout the centuries. 

All of these years I had thought myself a monster, but seeing the accounts of the barbaric murders of innocent people truly turned my stomach. How could humans do such things in the name of faith? To think of the thousands of people living in fear that they would be tortured for a crime that they did not commit was sickening to me. I also found myself becoming more and more engrossed in the history surrounding the witch trials. It seemed that specific individuals lead trials throughout history. Those tribunals usually seemed to surround a specific geological location then spread outwards in a ripple effect as the word would spread to outlying communities of the discovery and persecution of witches. 

Carlisle was right, fear was a powerful weapon one that seemed to motivate many people to do sadistic and terrible things. Power often seemed to go hand in hand with the spread of fear. It seemed many leaders throughout these dark ages dreaded their loss of power and their strategy to maintain authority was to instigate a common anxiety among their subjects. Those leaders used that alarm as a means to control their follower’s emotions thereby ‘governing’ their masses by channeling their collective fears into hatred and war.

Was that how the Volturi were ruling us? 

It was Edward who first brought up leaving Forks, much to his mate’s dismay. I think Bella always knew that it was an inevitable truth that she would have to face, leaving Forks and leaving Charlie for a while to maintain the Cullen’s anonymity. Carlisle and his family had been living on the outskirts of the town for over a decade. While his ‘children’ were in high school it was a good cover story for them all to live and hunt in the area without raising much attention. But over the years those around them had aged and changed while the Cullen’s had remained perfect ivory statues frozen from the moment they had been turned. This was beginning to raise eyebrows in town and in an area as small as Forks, it was easy to become the unwilling center of attention.

Bella begrudgingly had to admit, Renesmee’s rapid growth made it difficult for the family to explain their newest addition’s drastic changes. To enroll her in school as Bella’s daughter was laughable as she appeared to be almost the same age as her mother. The family began discussing the possibility of relocating to be closer to the Denali coven in Alaska. 

I knew Tanya and Kate had been mourning the loss of their sister heavily since our confrontation with the Volturi on the Meadow. 

“I have wanted to discuss my theories about the Halflings with Tanya for quite some time.” Mentioned Carlisle, “And because they have a home deep in the Denali national forest, we would be free to live relatively undisturbed.” 

“Do you think they have any knowledge of the Volturi’s actions during the witch trials?” Asked Bella, who for some unknown reason wrinkled her nose at the very thought of discussing anything with the Denali.

“I do. Remember their sisterhood is actually hundreds of years in the making. When they left Eastern Europe they were escaping more than just an oppressive rule from the Hungarians, they were fleeing because their names had been raised at several trials.” Bella’s eyes widened at this news,

“You mean, they were on trial?” She whispered in horror.

“Yes.” Replied Carlisle. “Their mother Sasha who was already a vampire had a bad habit of seducing men to keep herself in a certain lifestyle. Eventually Sasha became involved with an influential member of the clergy who did not appreciate her romantic appetite for other men. He felt cuckolded and eventually that resentment led to an accusation of bewitchment.”

“What does that mean, Mamma?” Nessie asked Bella.

“It means her priest sentenced her to die for his sins.” Edward murmured angrily.

“Shhhh!” Bella scolded her Hunsband, “Go on Carlisle, if Sasha was put on trial does that mean the priest knew she was an immortal?” 

“No.” Carlisle answered almost chuckling. “His accusation stemmed from petty resentment, had he known what she really was, he may have kept quiet to keep her from killing him. Sasha was awaiting trial when she met Irina, Tanya, and Kate. All three sisters had been accused of various dark art crimes with little to no proof of any wrong-doing. Sasha took pity on the doomed girls and ‘adopted’ them and fled with them into the night, escaping their inevitable torture and execution.”

“Don’t look so shocked, Bella.” Rose scoffed from the corner of the room where she had been sulkily listening to our conversation. “Sasha and the girls made sure to punish their accusers. They had their revenge, but not before those men had executed hundreds of innocent women and children. The Denali have a lot of experience with revenge and men. In fact, they’re pretty famous for their…skills.”

Alice rolled her eyes at Roses’ statement, which seemed to drip with hateful venom. “Tanya, Kate, and Garret have been waiting for us. In fact, Garret and Kate are about to leave Tanya alone for a while to travel together. It would be the perfect time to pay her a visit and possibly stay a while in the area. In our own house of course.”

“Then it’s decided.” Quipped Edward. “We’re going to Alaska for a while.”

Chapter 13.

                                    

“They can’t do this!” Emmett raged. His anger, while usually playful, always had a frightening quality to it, now his entire body shook with a fuming hatred that I had never seen before.

“Easy Emmett. We all wondered why the Volturi had suddenly disappeared from Alice’s visions, now we know why. At least we know it has nothing to do with Alice’s gift.” In a way this was a relief, the family had been on edge since the Volturi had seemingly slipped from Alice’s visions. Now it was clear. “It was never a secret that Aro has lusted after Belle’s powerful ability to shield. It was a strategic move.”

“At Lea Clearwater’s expense!” Edward exploded the words spitting from his mouth. Belle clung to her mate. “Felix doesn’t even love her! They’re using that poor confused shape shifter! They’re adding to their collection and God knows what they’ll do to her once they’re finished.”

“You don’t know that son.” Reasoned Carlisle carefully. “Were you able to read Felix’s thoughts?”

“No!” Edward spat out, “Felix’s skills as a tracker are legendary, he knows not to allow me to read any real thought that would cross his predatory mind. But I saw the way he looked at her. He knows he must keep her for Aro’s collection above all else.”

“Carlisle’s right.” Came the pained voice of Jake. “It looks like Lea’s imprinted and you all know how strong that bond is. You wont be able to convince her –ow!” He winced at the pain and Carlise knelt down to see to Jake’s already healing wounds. Emmet, Carlise, and Jasper all carried Jake’s limp naked body into the house while the rest of us stood in shocked silence. 

“Well, at least we know I’m not broken!” Alice volunteered trying to break the ice. Rose stormed off towards the house and seconds later we all heard the engine of Alice’s Ferrari roar to life. “Oh no you don’t!” Screeched Alice and she fled in the direction of the garage to intercept her sister’s drive. This was typical of Rose lately, she would take herself on long drives. Edward seemed to know what was bothering her, but he told us all that it was something that she would have to deal with on her own.

Edward continued to hold Belle and they both welcomed Nessie into their arms to share their embrace. The worry was evident on both of their faces, but neither wanted that to get in way of comforting Nessie. Esme approached me slowly and put her arm around my shoulders.

“Come on Nahuel, let’s see how they’re doing in the house. Carlise might need us to go out for some supplies.” We walked up the porch together leaving Edward, Belle and Nessie to themselves.

Inside Jake was groaning softly. It sounded as if everything was going to be alright, mostly bruising that would heal within the hour. No telling when Jake’s ego would be restored though. Carlisle was now focusing on one of his journals pouring through the ancient writing that he had recorded while living with the Volturi.

“Can we help?” Asked Esme calmly. Her mate turned and smiled wanly,

“Yes, I believe you can my love. Do you happen to remember the year that I told you Marcus had his unwanted ‘guest’ for a few years?”

“Oh.” Esme’s eyes flickered with the memory of the story. “I believe that’s when you said that the witch hunts began right? That would have been around the time that the Church and the Voluti joined forces for a short while. Possibly the mid 1500s, I believe.”

This wasn’t a story I had heard, but it was one that I wanted to know. How could the Catholic Church and the Volturi have joined forces? What could they have possibly wanted. 

“Control” Came Edwards ice cold voice from the doorway. “Forgive us, Nessie wanted to check on the recovery of her fiancé and I need to talk to Nahuel and Carlisle in private.” Emmett had long since vacated, no doubt to go move a few mountains with his pent up frustration and Jasper followed quickly to tame his brother’s famous temper.

“What Aro wanted, what Aro has always wanted was control.” Edward continued.

“But I thought that the Volturi had control?” I had limited personal exposure to their ways, but everything that Carlisle had said led me to believe that their rule was law.

“They won control hundreds of years ago in the name of a more organized approach to the ruling of our kind.” Carlisle explained, “Their crusade was to stop the Hungarians power hungry bloodlust in place of a matriarchy that would exercise a more logical control over the complete barbaric chaos that was going on. In the old days, as I am told, Vampires and Humans existed side by side. We were called many things in those days. Angels. Demons. Sirens. Gods…”

“Monsters.” Edward continued, “We were as feared as we were lusted after and many larger than life stories still exist today immortalized by the humans that witnessed our activities. We destroyed cities. We forced humans to sacrifice for us. We controlled countries and warred with each other for more. The Volturi were formed after Aro, Caius and Marcus led the charge to take our existence away from the light and into the shadows. They ultimately overthrew the Hungarians and their reign began. There are still factions of Vampires who don’t always subscribe to the Voturi’s rules, like the wars in the south, but those are usually dealt with quickly to quash any further uprising. Our meeting 5 years ago was and is seen as a ‘defeat’ to the Voturi and they cannot stand to have that same ripple effect be their undoing.

They want to quash our coven and add to Aro’s collection, which will in their eyes restore order. Adopting Lea was a power play, the fact that she imprinted on Felix only helps them more.” Edward shook his head in obvious disappointment.

“All is not lost,” Carlisle assured us both, “The Volturi are merely showing us that they have the power to watch us more closely. They wouldn’t try anything without cause. We just can’t give them any cause.”

Edward shook his head again, this time in agreement. My head swam thinking of the days when we walked among humans. We were worshiped and feared?

“Humans needed to explain our existence.” Edward said, answering my thoughts. “Our acts of physical strength, our power to give the dying new ‘life’, our abnormal gifts that could sometimes caused adverse reactions in the world around them. At that time humans were just starting to understand just how big this world was, so to them encountering one or more of us was seen as a miraculous occurrence, or a curse. They equated us to an elevated status because of the power we were capable of commanding.”

It was hard to believe that a misunderstanding lead to us being revered in ancient cultures. If there was a time that we walked among the humans there could be more Halfling children. Many more who were thousands of years old. 

“You are correct Nahuel” Answered Edward grimly. “There were more of your kind before the Volturi and the Church forced them into hiding during the witch hunts. The Volturi knew of Halfling children, but they hoped to suppress their existence. The Catholic Church was beginning its quest to seek our and destroy our kind as we were seen as an organized threat to Christendom. It was over 300 years of wild accusations, deplorable torture, and burning Halfling victims at the stake along-side many innocent humans, shape shifters, and werewolves.”

“The Volturi and the Church have long known of each others existence. While they feared us as demons, the Church knew that they could not control our kind without a wide-spread panic among humans. Fear is a very powerful weapon.” Continued Carlisle.

“As is ignorance.” Murmured Edward. 

“Yes.” Sighed Carlisle. “Ignorance is also a powerful weapon when combined with fear it creates hysteria. Which is what the Church and the Volturi wanted. They wanted to scare humans into believing that our kind must be hunted and eradicated. Witchcraft or dark arts were the blanketed terms used to condemn thousands of innocent people and immortals.”

“But why would they need to get rid of Halflings?” I still could not understand how we could pose such a threat. 

“Because you have a rare gift. You are able to walk among humans undetected. Vampires cannot go out into sun light without being seen. You can camouflage to hunt more effectively, you can control humans without them ever detecting. That, to the Volturi is a danger. They rule with fear. Potentially, when there was more of your kind, if enough Halflings wanted control, they could have organized an uprising. The Volturi’s plan was simple, they partnered with the Church to create mas hysteria. In doing so they could kill off thousands Nahuel without anyone knowing their ulterior motives. Dubbed as ‘witches’, ‘sorcerers’, or ‘wizards’ they were burned. It gave the Church control over the masses and it allowed the Volturi to quietly kill thousands of Halfling children, changelings, and werewolves.”

Chapter 12.

                                

Before Lea could even react, Felix deflected Jake’s attack slamming him to the ground with such force that I fell to my knees. The whine that escaped Jake’s muzzle was almost as painful as the shriek from Nessie while she watched the love of her life writhe with agony. In a split second Emmett and Edward were at Jacob’s side threatening Felix’s clear strike at his prey. Jake’s impressively large limp body painstakingly took in air trying to recoup.

“There is no defection here.” Came Aro’s sweet voice from behind the conflict. “I thought you would be happy for our latest family member.”

Without a word, Felix glided to Lea’s side, took her in his strong arms and drew her body to his with crushing strength. Lea’s eyes fixed on Felix with such intensity that the rest of us drew in a collective breath as we realized that Lea Clearwater had imprinted, on a vampire. Aro’s explanation continued, 

“Lea came to us with the intent to end her life and start a war, but instead new love blossomed with our very own Felix. And how could we be angry at such a happy turn of events? As soon as we learned of Lea and Felix’s coupling we forgave her initial motivations and invited her to join our immortal clan. They make a fetching couple don’t you think?”

From the depths of my soul a low growl began to erupt, one that I had no control over and that ripped from my gut before I could stop it. I knew that something was very, very wrong with Lea’s induction into the Volturi, yet I could not put my finger it. Edward however, had no problem.

“The fact that Lea is a shield to Alice’s visions is of course no use to the Volturi.”

“Careful my friend.” Cautioned Aro, “It is not wise to question our motives nor our activity. We merely exist to keep the peace. We have no intention of ill-will to anyone in your coven.”

“We do not mean to accuse, Aro. We were all just taken aback.” Carlisle’s voice of reason rang out, “We of course understand that you have business to attend to in Alaska and I have business to attend to here, Jacob is going to need medical attention.”

Lea’s gaze broke from Felix long enough to cast a look over her shoulder to her wounded friend and former pack leader,

“I’m sorry Jake.” She said, before she could say more Felix led her back to flank Aro and the others.

“I’m sure we’ll all be seeing each other again.” Came the cool even voice of Jane.

“Yes, we’re looking forward to it.” Growled Edward in return. With that the Voturi and their guard soundlessly turned and floated away into the darkness of the forest, leaving us all in stunned reticence. 

Chapter 11.

                               

A heated emotional undertone filled the air as each member of the Cullen family and Jake wordlessly prepared themselves. Within seconds Aro, Caius and Marcus descended closer as silently as they had approached while a few members of their guard flanked them. I recognized Jane and Alec right away; their dramatically beautiful faces and calm demeanor had struck a chord with me at our last confrontation. Aro’s main trackers were of course also in silent attendance, but there were few that I had never seen or smelled before.

“Carlisle, old friend! As always, it is a pleasure to see you and your beautiful family.” Aro exclaimed as his eyes scanned hungrily over the Cullens, pausing briefly to take in Renesmee. “Isn’t she extraordinary?” He breathed.

“Welcome friends” Carlisle replied, his face a perfect plane of icy calm. The air around us was filled with tense anger and confusion but Carlisle’s voice never faltered, “Excuse our surprise, had we known you were coming we would have included you in our festivities.”

“No need for formalities Carlisle, we’re all friends here.” Aro’s mouth curled into a disingenuous smile that made the muscles in my stomach involuntarily twitch and knot into a sickening stich. From behind me Edward released a low growl, undoubtedly he had read whatever was on Aro’s mind that had motivated this visit, I wondered if he could see just what it was that blocked the Volturi from Alice’s visions.

“We were just passing through Forks on our way up to Alaska, we have some unfinished business up there that Marcus has been keen to see to. And I of course, wanted to see how the latest additions to your family have been getting along since our last meeting.” Aro’s eyes found me and his expression changed immediately. “Ah! Is this the young man that is responsible for your survival?”

“Yes.” Edward responded. He was now at Carlisle’s side, his voice cold and forceful. “Why don’t you tell them why you’re really here, Aro?”

“All in good time.” Aro replied coolly, the sickening smile returning to his face. “I didn’t get the chance to be properly introduced to you, Nahuel.” His hand stretched out to me and I immediately understood that I was being invited to ‘talk’ to Aro. Instinctively I looked to Edward who nodded his head only slightly to indicate that it was safe to have Aro read my mind. The knot in my stomach twisted ever so slightly as I stepped forward to receive Aro’s hand.

The feeling of having your thoughts and memories violated by someone whose dark motives were unclear, was disgusting. Without any provocation my stomach lurched as Aro’s eyes burrowed into mine. I somehow felt that I had betrayed the Cullen’s trust as Aro searched and from the corner of my eye I noticed Edward step forward as if to warn Aro that our time was up,

“Absolutely captivating this one is.” He sighed. “I can see now why you wanted to study this boy Carlisle, he is a treasure.” Aro’s eyes once again met mine, “You shall come to visit us Nahuel, I think you will enjoy Italy and I will enjoy getting to know you.”

From somewhere inside my bones I could feel something wrong with his statement, but I knew that in the case of the Volturi it was best to remain amicable. “Thank you for your kind offer, Aro. I have always wanted to see Italy.”

“What is taking you to Alaska my friends?” Asked Carlisle.

“We’re hunting” Mumbled Markus.

“You must forgive Markus,” Aro crooned. “Travel makes him cranky. We’re trying to locate some individuals who have been causing something of a disturbance in the North West. As you know, it is our job to keep the peace.”

“Peace has nothing to do with this.” Snarled Edward, his lips curling back over his teeth. “Aro was testing out his latest toy.”

“I am not a toy!” Came a familiar female voice from behind one of the robes of the Volturi’s guard. 

“TRAITOR!” The loud scream ripped from behind me and the enormous hairy body of a wolf sailed over my head towards the owner of the female voice, Lea Clearwater.

Chapter 10.

     

Though we no longer needed to breathe a collective gasp could be heard from the family and from the corner of my eye I noticed Bella crouch ready to attack. Edward held his mate skillfully and with Emmett’s help, she was detained unable to stop what was unfolding in front of her.

“Renesmee Cullen, from the moment I saw you I knew that I loved you. That I would die for you. That I would wait for you. There is no one in this world that I cherish more than you and if you’ll let me, I want to spend the rest of my life proving that to you.”

He slowly opened the box to reveal the most unique ring I have ever seen. It was a skillfully carved band of dark wood, with exquisitely fashioned details that only special eyes would be able to clearly see. Inlaid in the wood were diamonds of uniform size and perfect clarity that sparkled like the Cullen’s did in the sunlight. It was a dazzling ring. Wordlessly Nessie touched Jake’s cheek with an answer meant only for him to hear. He leapt to his feet and wrapped her up in a huge hug, now it was Jake’s turn to cry.

“No.” Bella protested weakly, she buried her face in Edward’s chest. Obviously hurt at her daughter’s answer and Jake’s proposal.

“Shhhhhh, it’s alright. We knew this day was coming.” Edward whispered into Bella’s ear. She immediately snapped her head back, her eye’s enflamed.

“You KNEW about this?!?!” She shouted accusingly, almost spitting with rage. Emmett tensed readying himself for a fight. Edward calmly stroked her back and held fast to his love.

“Jake came to me and asked for her hand and I said yes. You know they cannot be kept apart, why should we fight it? They will wait until it is appropriate for them to get married and Jake will continue to respect our wishes until they are officially man and wife. If we fight this, we will only push them away. You know she’s as stubborn as you are.” He chuckled at the comparison, but Bella balked at the statement.

“You can’t let them get engaged! She’s too young! And where did he even get the money for that ring? If you gave him the money Edward, I swear!” Edward laughed again and turned to Jake.

“A little help, please?” He asked.

“It’s ok Bells.” Jake answered. “I carved the ring myself from a figure that my great Grandfather has passed down through the tribe.”

“And the diamonds? Did you crush coals with you bare hands to make those?” Bella snapped back.

“No, they were my mother’s” Edward replied for Jake. Again, Bella gasped and angrily stared at her mate. “When Jake asked for Renesmee’s hand, he told me about his plans for the ring and I suggested that it have a little something from our family too. Don’t be angry love. Remember all we want is for her to be happy, and he makes her happy.”

We could all see the fire in Bella’s eyes begin to subside as she looked at her daughter and Jake, both still wrapped tightly in each other’s arms. Bella relaxed her stance and forced a thin smile to her lips.

“I’m sorry.” Bella said to the group “It just surprised me, she’s only five after all.” We all had to laugh at the truth of that statement. By the human calendar, Nessie was only 5, but to look at her she was a 17 year-old woman who was blossoming.

“Can I kiss my fiancé now?” Nessie asked her mother, which provoked another round of laughter from the group. Bella sighed,

“Sure, I apparently have no say anyway.”

Before Bella could even finish her statement, Jake had dipped his head so that his jaw could meet Nessie’s. They both became lost to the rest of us as they celebrated their happiness in silence. A small pang hit my stomach, which I was unfamiliar with. A longing that I could not place, but quickly passed.

“I hope we’re not interrupting.” Came an unfamiliar voice that was heavy with forced affection. A low hiss erupted as the rest of the family turned to view the small crowd that had silently infiltrated our bubble of joy. The faces around me twisted into a mixture of stone and fury as Aro and the rest of the Volturi slowly approached in one uniform movement. 

Chapter 9.

            


“Where’s Jake?” Nessie asked looking around. His absence made her uneasy as Jake was usually by her side day and night to protect and love her without fail since the day she was born. 

“I’m here.” Came a voice from the house. Jake strolled around the corner at an unusually slow gait, he seemed to be trembling, which usually meant that he was going to transform. Jake had obviously borrowed a suit and was slightly uncomfortable in the formal wear that bound him. The Cullen’s all tensed, instinctively moving to protect the youngest member of the family. Only Edward remained cool and collected, he was smiling as if he knew some sort of secret. Jake made his way down the front porch steps stopping just in front of Nessie and looked at her with what only could be described as longing in his eyes.

“OK you two, this is a family party, so let’s cut out the lovey stuff for now.” Bella quipped. Edward wrapped his arm around his wife’s waist and pulled her tight to his body, he cupped his other hand to her chin and kissed her longingly on the lips.

“See?” Bella gasped when the kiss paused “I want none of that from you two.”

Edward looked at his mate lovingly and said gently “We should let her celebrate any way she wants to, after all it is her birthday.” Bella frowned slightly and sighed knowing that there was really nothing she could do about Jake and Nessie growing closer every day. Jake threw his head back and barked a laugh at Bella’s pout.

“Go on!” He encouraged, nodding towards the overflowing table with a wicked grin, “Open your presents.”

Nessie tore into her gifts with the same hunger she reserved for hunting. Each new gift warranted a round of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from her captive audience. Fancy jewelry, precious scents, delicate clothes, fabulous shoes, and a very (very) expensive car. A few gifts from out of town friends drew special attention. An intricately woven bracelet from Zafrina and the Amazons, a beautiful gold and jade necklace from Benjamin and Tia featuring Renesmee’s name in Egyptian, a complicated Celtic knot ring from Charlotte and Peter to name a few. All of these vampires had bore witness to Nessie’s special circumstances and ultimately helped saved the lives of the Cullen clan. While preparing to stand together, getting ready for a fight to the death if necessary, they had all managed to fall in love with Nessie. It was not hard to see why, her spirit, her gift, her smile, she radiated incorruptibility and had captivated her audience from the day she was born. These were gifts fit for the princess receiving them.

Each giver that was there got a hug and an enthusiastic ‘Thank you!’ from Nessie. She skipped from guest to guest making sure everyone saw in her mind just how appreciated their present was.

"Yes, I’ll teach you to drive it!" Rose laughed when it was her turn for a hug. Rose was choking back what I assumed would be tears if vampires could cry. She had a strange love and commitment to Nessie from before she was born.

I myself had written her a poem and had it framed. I tried with every word to express how much her friendship and unconditional love meant to me. Though words could hardly express how much I loved my dear friend, I hope they gave a dim light into how much her existence saved my own. Nessie stopped in front of me and met my eyes. Without words, she took my hand and brought it to her cheek. Within seconds a powerful emotion swept through my body causing my knees to buckle. Carlisle’s powerful hand touched my back to steady me and he immediately exhaled as the emotion overtook him as well. For a few moments our bodies stood suspended as the rest of the Cullen’s surrounded us and placed a hand on each other. This was my family. Our family. Not bound by blood, but something stronger, something I could not comprehend until this moment. A hot substance pricked the back of my eyes and spilled out on to my cheeks leaving wet tracks that smelled of salt. I looked to Nessie and could see the same thing happening to her. We were crying.

Nessie threw her arms around me and at once the emotions that we all were connected to halted. Everyone turned and hugged their significant other, each with a renewed sense of gratitude for the other. Jake cleared his throat uncomfortably,

 “Ahem, I hate to break up the family bonding…but you forgot one gift.” Nessie released me and looked to the table, which was now empty. The family all began to look around wondering what Jake could be referring to.

 “Jeez, for a bunch of immortal predators you sure are bad at hunting.”  He said, with a teasing smile. Jake walked over to the table where Nessie was now searching.

"Oh, here is is!" And without another word Jacob dropped to one knee and pulled from his pocket a small velvet box.


Chapter 8.

            


“Don’t just toss the tablecloths down Nahuel!” Alice trilled from across the room. “You have to smooth them down so the corners come to a point, see?” I watched intently as she effortlessly brushed the crisp white linen down. She grinned up at me encouragingly,

“Don’t worry,” Jasper called “it took me years to understand what an acceptable table arrangement meant to Alice.” He winked at his mate playfully and she rolled her eyes while keeping the smile on her beautiful porcelain face. Their connection was a funny one. They both seemed to play an invisible game of catch tossing their dialog between the two of them fluidly as if it were an orchestrated dance.

“Don’t mind Jasper,” Alice responded “it only took him years because he was born in a barn.” She then stretched to her tiptoes and kissed Jasper’s cheek delicately making sure he knew that barb was thrown out of love.

“Sadly, having been born in the jungle has left me as unprepared for civility as Jasper, if not more so!” I retorted, hoping that my smile would be interpreted as a joke. Jasper grinned and thumped me on the back while keeping his other arm wrapped around Alice.

“Man I like this guy!” he laughed as he spoke and I knew my (very true) statement went over well. “C’mon Nahuel, Emmett has some more masculine chores that you can help us out with.” Jasper led me to a large tree in the Cullen’s yard that was filled with tiny hanging mason jars. Each jar was filled with sand and held a tiny candle that twinkled in the Northwest twilight.

“It was a son of a bitch getting those candle lit by the way!” Emmett called out to Alice.

Jasper guffawed and explained their predicament “Emmett misunderstood his instructions to simply hang the candle jars. He also went to the trouble of lighting each and every one. We now have to take them down and replace the candles without breaking the jars or ripping the ribbon they’re tied with.”

“This is a manly chore?” I questioned. Emmett’s laugh boomed across the forest and bounced from tree to tree.

“That’s what I said! But what Alice wants, Alice gets.” Jasper and Emmett laughed at that statement and we began untying each tiny jar.

Rose came over to give Emmett a quick kiss and to show us the sign that Esme had made for the party. In large silver letters it read “HAPPY BIRTHDAY NESSIE!”

“How mad do you think Bella will be?” Rose asked with teasing hint to her tone. It had become a growing joke among the family how much Bella hated her daughter’s accepted nickname. The Cullen’s liked to prank one another and this joke had only strengthened over the years, much to Bella’s dismay and everyone else’s amusement.

“Hey, where’s Jake?” Emmett asked “He would be perfect to help us with more of these manly tasks, maybe he could make tea!” This time his laugh shook the trees in the immediate area as his siblings joined in.

“He’s picking up Nessie’s gift.” I volunteered, which stopped the merriment dead in its tracks.

“Do you know what it is??” Alice squealed in delight. I did of course know what the gift was, but I had been sworn to secrecy. The only other immortal who knew about the gift was Edward (as he had also played a very large part in it’s creation). I suddenly had center stage and I felt myself squirm uncomfortably with the attention.

“No, I have no idea. Jake just told me that he would be back by 7 tonight.” I spoke with my most steady tone and willed my blood to keep from flushing my face in embarrassment over my lie. I had only been told pieces of the gift so as to keep it hidden from Alice’s relentless prying.

“You know don’t you?” Rose growled and approached me with tiger like intensity. “Get him!” She called and I suddenly found myself the center of a playful attack. I deflected the first few jabs but Jasper managed to tangle me into a solid headlock and I found myself hissing with defeat. The family laughed with intensity and I felt the pressure of Jasper’s grip loosen enough for me to slip out of his grasp. Emmett slapped me on the back and we got back to our masculine charge of rehanging what Alice called tea lights.

When we were done I marveled at the vision that Alice had managed to create in the backyard of the house. Picnic tables were set up underneath a gigantic tree that dripped with the birth of spring. Our tea lights (now lit again) hung throughout and twinkled bright against the dusky night sky bouncing light off of the white linen tablecloths. Each table was piled high with elegantly wrapped gifts from family, friends and admirers of Nessie from around the world. The newly hung tea light flickered delicately as they hung around the tables (our many task complete with some further help from Alice). A tiered birthday cake I had made took center billing on one of the tables. I had baked a red velvet cake (our own inside joke) and decorated it with Nessie’s favorite colors of yellow and blue. Much to Alice’s chagrin the top tier held a beautifully carved wolf howling at the moon, a gift from Jake when he found out I was to be the one making the cake. Each table also held bursts of flowers in Nessie’s favorite colors that added a lovely delicate smell of new life. Finally her sign was hung between two budding apple trees that Emmett had uprooted and replanted earlier that day. It was truly beautiful, just like Nessie.

Nessie had spent the day with her Grandfather, Charlie, who is a very nice man. A very nervous man when he was around the Cullen’s, but that was understandable. His request for the day was to take her fishing, so she and Bella had left around 6 am (apparently that is when fish bite). We had taken advantage of their private party and used the time to set up while Jake and Edward took a trip to pickup Nessie’s secretive gift.

We all stood admiring our handywork when the sound of tires turning off of the road could be heard.

“It’s almost as beautiful as she is” Edward marveled. He had been anxious all day during the absence of his mate and his relief was almost audible when he heard the tires connect with the dirt road leading to the Cullen’s house.

Nessie skipped calmly up to the family wearing a bright orange silk scarf around her eyes and grinning from ear to ear. Her mother, Bella, was holding her hand as a person would a small child’s. I think Nessie’s birthdays are difficult for Bella. She had watched as her daughter sprouted into a young woman while most new mothers would normally be dealing with diapers and teething. But then again, nothing about Bella’s life has been normal since joining her new family. Still I know there are times that she wished Nessie would stay her little girl for just a while longer.

Bella ceremoniously removed her daughter’s scarf and Nessie squealed in utter delight at our handiwork. Everyone clapped and began singing Happy Birthday loudly. To hear Vampires sing is something of a marvel. One of our gifts is a silky smooth voice that soothes and invites in potential prey. I have heard stories from Carlisle of a group of female vampires in ancient Greece who would use their siren songs to lure in unsuspecting sailors who were trying to locate a port in the storm, a very effective hunting method. As we finished, the family began to hug Nessie one by one and lead her to the tables to open her gifts.

Chapter 7.

            


I became very attached to the Cullen’s over the years, but none so much as Nessie. She and I shared a commonality that the others couldn’t quite understand. Neither human nor wholly vampire, we had the advanced senses of the Cullen’s, but the overall appearance and habits of humans. Nessie continued to grow over the next 4 years into an absolutely gorgeous woman. She would always be frozen at about 19 it appeared, just like her mother. This brought up an interesting theory for Carlisle. He thought that since all halflings received part of their DNA from each parent, that the human part of us would ‘age’ to the year of our mother’s death. This made sense to me as none of my sisters appeared to be the same age as I was when I had met them. They ranged from about 16 to what looked like their mid 20s in appearance.

I appear to be around 18 years old or there-about according to the Cullens. I assumed that was the age that my mother had conceived me. She was young by today’s standards to be a mother, but in her lifetime she was at the prime age to be a mother of several children. My Aunt had always told me that my mother was picky. My mother was to marry to a man in her village 20 years her senior and her impending marriage terrified her. My Aunt told me that my mother had been out gathering food when a handsome, pale stranger approached her. My biological father seduced my mother over the course of a few days and he convinced her that he would take her back to his home in Europe and save her from marrying a man she hardly knew. My mother’s innocence fell victim to my father’s predatory nature and soon she found herself pregnant, alone and terrified of what her family would do to her.

My mother had confessed the affair to my Aunt and begged her to help her keep the secret of my father’s existence. Begrudgingly, my Aunt agreed to help my Mother. They devised a plan to spend an afternoon gathering food from which only my Aunt would return. The rest of the tribe would be left to think that some wild animal had killed my Mother. My Aunt would then nurse her sister through her pregnancy and I was to be born into solitude. As my Mother grew weaker by the day, my Aunt began to accept the fact that she would loose her little sister to the monster growing inside her belly, the monster that she was willing to die for, me. They discovered that animal blood would satiate my Mother’s hunger and temporarily build her strength, but with each day her little body still grew weaker.

The day I was born was one that my Aunt will never forget. As fuzzy as her human memories are, she told me that day would always stand out for her. I will always be the reason she lost everything. That burden has been difficult to live with and not one that I could forget easily. It is something that I carry with me everywhere I go and that weight is at times almost too much to bare. I cannot look at myself without feeling responsibility for her death. Why should I, something so evil and dark survive?

Nessie would often ask about my mother and my Aunt. Her innocent curiosity made our conversations about my life before the Cullens bearable. Over time I came to understand why she asked so many questions, I believe she genuinely wanted to understand my sadness. She had been conceived out of love, and accepted from the day she was born. In many ways she could not understand that I did not have that same upbringing. I had been brought into a world of pain, regret and sadness.

“Do you remember your mother at all?” Nessie asked once two years ago as we sat together taking in the afternoon.

It was a summer day in Forks and we both had taken a walk to the clearing that Nessie’s parents had spent countless hours in. She told me that it was a special place that brought them peace. I had spent too many decades dealing with the crowded messages in my brain and craved nothing more than a little peace. Sadly, the meadow did not have the desired affect on me. There is no escape from who I am.

I closed my eyes, and allowed the single painful sensory memory that I had of my mother rush through my body, he scent. The nonexistent smell filled my nostrils as if she were there in front of me and I bowed in the wake of the burning sensation behind my eyes where no tears would come. Nessie watched wordlessly and gently leaned forward to touch my cheek. I brought my hand up and laced my fingers through hers for support where it rested. A sound much like a strained cry escaped her lips in response to the strength of my emotional memory. Nessie leaned in and touched her forehead to mine and for the first time in my life someone truly could see my world and its torture. She felt the intense aching that my soulless body carried with it. A single wet drop hit my cheek and startled me out of the moment. I looked up to find tears spilling down Nessie’s face, her eyes searching mine. From that day forward Nessie never asked about my mother again.

When you are born into love as Nessie had been, you have an innate sense of support. Your family might not be near you, but you know that they will drop everything for you, they will love you no matter what may come and they will always be there when you feel to weak to go on alone. I don’t think she truly understood the emptiness that threatens to crush my body at times or the hatred I feel for my existence, but she saw it then. Some may call my situation ‘unfair’, that it is really one of choice. I could have chosen to disregard life as my biological father had done, I could walk the earth an undead murderer and embrace my frozen humanity without regard for anyone else. I instead chose to morn the loss of my Mother and the good she could have brought into this world had she never encountered my father. I chose to walk alone and I have only myself to blame.

 

Chapter 6.

            


Edward and I had been playing chess for hours. Which is a very frustrating pastime when your opponent can read your every move on the board. I began to recite poetry in my native tongue to block him out, which I got pretty good at. Sadly it meant I had less room in my mind to think about my next move and I found myself losing. Still it was better than talking.

“This must drive you mad.” Edward chuckled as I scowled down at my eminent defeat.

“Truthfully, yes.” I replied.

“Would you like to ask me what you’ve wanted to know?” He wasn’t annoyed; I could tell that all he wanted was to make me feel at ease. My apprehension was taking over my every sense, but I wanted to know what it was that changed Edwards perspective. What was the one thing above all else that he found to live for?

“It was her.” He nodded upstairs to where Bella had retreated earlier in the evening.

“She is my reason for living. Her love was my turning page. Had I not met her, had I killed her as my instincts wanted me to when we first met,” He shuddered involuntarily at the thought “I never would have changed my opinion of who we are. I thought myself incapable of loving another; I thought I was unable to share the connection that seemed to come so easily to the others in my family. I was sure I was doomed to walk this earth alone with my thoughts and the thoughts of strangers.”

I finally understood something that Edward was describing. My life had been just that, a lonely journey. Though my Aunt had been by my side since my birth she had to learn to attach to me emotionally and that was only after the first years our of insatiable bloodlust had subsided. Her emotional attachment felt in some ways conditional, I was my Aunt’s only connection to her sister.

“That changed the day that I met Bella.” He continued, “I knew that I wanted nothing more than to be with her for the rest of our days. I couldn’t imagine going on without her by my side. She is the greatest love that I have ever known and for that, she is my reason for living. Her safety, her survival, her love is what I know my purpose on this earth to be. She gave me life.”