And then Garrett was in command of himself again, holding Kate to the snow.
"If I let you up, will you knock me down again, Katie?" he whispered.
She snarled in response, still thrashing blindly.
"Listen to me, Tanya, Kate," Carlisle said in a low but intense whisper. "Vengeance doesn't help her now. Irina wouldn't want you to waste your lives this way. Think about what you're doing. If you attack them, we all die."
Tanya's shoulders hunched with grief, and she leaned into Carlisle for support. Kate was finally still. Carlisle and
Garrett continued to console the sisters with words too urgent to sound like comfort.
And my attention returned to the weight of the stares that pressed down on our moment of chaos. From the corners of my eyes, I could see that Edward and everyone else besides Carlisle and Garrett were on their guard again as well.
The heaviest glare came from Caius, staring with enraged disbelief at Kate and Garrett in the snow. Aro was watching the same two, incredulity the strongest emotion on his face. He knew what Kate could do. He had felt her potency through Edward's memories.
Did he understand what was happening now - did he see that my shield had grown in strength and subtlety far beyond what Edward knew me to be capable of? Or did he think Garrett had learned his own form of immunity?
The Volturi guard no longer stood at disciplined attention - they were crouched forward, waiting to spring the counterstrike the moment we attacked.
Behind them, forty-three witnesses watched with very different expressions than the ones they'd worn entering the clearing. Confusion had turned to suspicion. The lightning-fast destruction of Irina had shaken them all. What had been her crime?
Without the immediate attack that Caius had counted on to distract from his rash act, the Volturi witnesses were left questioning exactly what was going on here. Aro glanced back swiftly while I watched, his face betraying him with one flash of vexation. His need for an audience had backfired badly.
I heard Stefan and Vladimir murmur to each other in quiet glee at Aro's discomfort.
Aro was obviously concerned with keeping his white hat, as the Romanians had put it. But I didn't believe that the Volturi would leave us in peace just to save their reputation. After they finished with us, surely they would slaughter their witnesses for that purpose. I felt a strange, sudden pity for the mass of the strangers the Volturi had brought to watch us die. Demetri would hunt them until they were extinct, too.
For Jacob and Renesmee, for Alice and Jasper, for Alistair, and for these strangers who had not known what today would cost them, Demetri had to die.
Aro touched Caius's shoulder lightly. "Irina has been punished for bearing false witness against this child." So that was to be their excuse. He went on. "Perhaps we should return to the matter at hand?"
Caius straightened, and his expression hardened into unreadability. He stared forward, seeing nothing. His face reminded me, oddly, of a person who'd just learned he'd been demoted.
Aro drifted forward, Renata, Felix, and Demetri automatically moving with him.
"Just to be thorough," he said, "I'd like to speak with a few of your witnesses. Procedure, you know." He waved a hand dismissively.
Two things happened at once. Caius's eyes focused on Aro, and the tiny cruel smile came back. And Edward hissed, his hands balling up in fists so tight it looked like the bones in his knuckles would split through his diamond-hard skin.
I was desperate to ask him what was going on, but Aro was close enough to hear even the quietest breath. I saw Carlisle glance anxiously at Edward's face, and then his own face hardened.
While Caius had blundered through useless accusations and injudicious attempts to trigger the fight, Aro must have been coming up with a more effective strategy.
Aro ghosted across the snow to the far western end of our line, stopping about ten yards from Amun and Kebi. The nearby wolves bristled angrily but held their positions.
"Ah, Amun, my southern neighbor!" Aro said warmly. "It has been so long since you've visited me."
Amun was motionless with anxiety, Kebi a statue at his side. "Time means little; I never notice its passing," Amun said through unmoving lips.
"So true," Aro agreed. "But maybe you had another reason to stay away?"
Amun said nothing.
"It can be terribly time-consuming to organize newcomers into a coven. I know that well! I'm grateful I have others to deal with the tedium. I'm glad your new additions have fit in so well. I would have loved to have been introduced. I'm sure you were meaning to come to see me soon."
"Of course," Amun said, his tone so emotionless that it was impossible to tell if there was any fear or sarcasm in his assent.
"Oh well, we're all together now! Isn't it lovely?"
Amun nodded, his face blank.
"But the reason for your presence here is not as pleasant, unfortunately. Carlisle called on you to witness?"
"And what did you witness for him?"
Amun spoke with the same cold lack of emotion. "I've observed the child in question. It was evident almost immediately that she was not an immortal child - "
"Perhaps we should define our terminology," Aro interrupted, "now that there seem to be new classifications. By immortal child, you mean of course a human child who had been bitten and thus transformed into a vampire."
"Yes, that's what I meant."
"What else did you observe about the child?"
"The same things that you surely saw in Edward's mind. That the child is his biologically. That she grows. That she learns."
"Yes, yes," Aro said, a hint of impatience in his otherwise amiable tone. "But specifically in your few weeks here, what did you see?"