I would have to give Jacob the documents before it was too late. I would give him a note for Charlie, too. And a letter for Renesmee. Something for her to read when I couldn't tell her I loved her anymore.
There was nothing unusual about the outside of the Cullen house as we pulled into the meadow, but I could hear some kind of subtle uproar inside. Many low voices murmured and growled. It sounded intense, and it sounded like an argument. I could pick out Carlisle's voice and Amun's more often than the others.
Edward parked in front of the house rather than going around to the garage. We exchanged one wary glance before we got out of the car.
Jacob's stance changed; his face turned serious and careful. I guessed that he was in Alpha mode now. Obviously, something had happened, and he was going to get the information he and Sam would need.
"Alistair is gone," Edward murmured as we darted up the steps.
Inside the front room, the main confrontation was physically apparent. Lining the walls was a ring of spectators, every vampire who had joined us, except for Alistair and the three involved in the quarrel. Esme, Kebi, and Tia were the closest to the three vampires in the center; in the middle of the room, Amun was hissing at Carlisle and Benjamin.
Edward's jaw tightened and he moved quickly to Esme's side, towing me by the hand. I clutched Renesmee tightly to my chest.
"Amun, if you want to go, no one is forcing you to stay," Carlisle said calmly.
"You're stealing half my coven, Carlisle!" Amun shrieked, stabbing one finger at Benjamin. "Is that why you called me here? To steal from me?"
Carlisle sighed, and Benjamin rolled his eyes.
"Yes, Carlisle picked a fight with the Volturi, endangered his whole family, just to lure me here to my death," Benjamin said sarcastically. "Be reasonable, Amun. I'm committed to do the right thing here - I'm not joining any other coven. You can do whatever you want, of course, as Carlisle has pointed out."
"This won't end well," Amun growled. "Alistair was the only sane one here. We should all be running."
"Think of who you're calling sane," Tia murmured in a quiet aside.
"We're all going to be slaughtered!"
"It's not going to come to a fight," Carlisle said in a firm voice.
"If it does, you can always switch sides, Amun. I'm sure the Volturi will appreciate your help."
Amun sneered at him. "Perhaps that is the answer."
Carlisle's answer was soft and sincere. "I wouldn't hold that against you, Amun. We have been friends for a long time, but I would never ask you to die for me."
Amun's voice was more controlled, too. "But you're taking my Benjamin down with you."
Carlisle put his hand on Amun's shoulder; Amun shook it off.
"I'll stay, Carlisle, but it might be to your detriment. I will join them if that's the road to survival. You're all fools to think that you can defy the Volturi." He scowled, then sighed, glanced at Renesmee and me, and added in an exasperated tone, "I will witness that the child has grown. That's nothing but the truth. Anyone would see that."
"That's all we've ever asked."
Amun grimaced, "But not all that you are getting, it seems." He turned on Benjamin. "I gave you life. You're wasting it."
Benjamin's face looked colder than I'd ever seen it; the expression contrasted oddly with his boyish features. "It's a pity you couldn't replace my will with your own in the process; perhaps then you would have been satisfied with me."
Amun's eyes narrowed. He gestured abruptly to Kebi, and they stalked past us out the front door.
"He's not leaving," Edward said quietly to me, "but he'll be keeping his distance even more from now on. He wasn't bluffing when he spoke of joining the Volturi."
"Why did Alistair go?" I whispered.
"No one can be positive; he didn't leave a note. From his mutters, it's been clear that he thinks a fight is inevitable. Despite his demeanor, he actually does care too much for Carlisle to stand with the Volturi. I suppose he decided the danger was too much." Edward shrugged.
Though our conversation was clearly just between the two of us, of course everyone could hear it. Eleazar answered Edward's comment like it had been meant for all.
"From the sound of his mumblings, it was a bit more than that. We haven't spoken much of the Volturi agenda, but Alistair worried that no matter how decisively we can prove your innocence, the Volturi will not listen. He thinks they will find an excuse to achieve their goals here."
The vampires glanced uneasily at one another. The idea that the Volturi would manipulate their own sacrosanct law for gain was not a popular idea. Only the Romanians were composed, their small half-smiles ironic. They seemed amused at how the others wanted to think well of their ancient enemies.
Many low discussions began at the same time, but it was the Romanians I listened to. Maybe because the fair-haired Vladimir kept shooting glances in my direction.
"I do so hope Alistair was right about this," Stefan murmured to Vladimir. "No matter the outcome, word will spread. It's time our world saw the Volturi for what they've become. They'll never fall if everyone believes this nonsense about them protecting our way of life."
"At least when we ruled, we were honest about what we were," Vladimir replied.
Stefan nodded. "We never put on white hats and called ourselves saints."
Tm thinking the time has come to fight," Vladimir said. "How can you imagine well ever find a better force to stand with? Another chance this good?"
"Nothing is impossible. Maybe someday - "