Amun's brow furrowed. "That she grows... quickly."

Aro smiled. "And do you believe that she should be allowed to live?"

A hiss escaped my lips, and I was not alone. Half the vampires in our line echoed my protest. The sound was a low sizzle of fury hanging in the air. Across the meadow, a few of the Volturi witnesses made the same noise. Edward stepped back and wrapped a restraining hand around my wrist.

Aro did not turn to the noise, but Amun glanced around uneasily.

"I did not come to make judgments," he equivocated.

Aro laughed lightly. "Just your opinion."

Amun's chin lifted. "I see no danger in the child. She learns even more swiftly than she grows."

Aro nodded, considering. After a moment, he turned away.

"Aro?" Amun called.

Aro whirled back. "Yes, friend?"

"I gave my witness. I have no more business here. My mate and I would like to take our leave now."

Aro smiled warmly. "Of course. I'm so glad we were able to chat for a bit. And I'm sure we'll see each other again soon."

Amun's lips were a tight line as he inclined his head once, acknowledging the barely concealed threat. He touched Kebi's arm, and then the two of them ran quickly to the southern edge of the meadow and disappeared into the trees. I knew they wouldn't stop running for a very long time.

Aro was gliding back along the length of our line to the east, his guards hovering tensely. He stopped when he was in front of Siobhan's massive form.

"Hello, dear Siobhan. You are as lovely as ever."

Siobhan inclined her head, waiting.

"And you?" he asked. "Would you answer my questions the same way Amun has?"

"I would," Siobhan said. "But I would perhaps add a little more. Renesmee understands the limitations. She's no danger to humans - she blends in better than we do. She poses no threat of exposure."

"Can you think of none?" Aro asked soberly.

Edward growled, a low ripping sound deep in his throat.

Caius's cloudy crimson eyes brightened.

Renata reached out protectively toward her master.

And Garrett freed Kate to take a step forward, ignoring Kate's hand as she tried to caution him this time.

Siobhan answered slowly, "I don't think I follow you."

Aro drifted lightly back, casually, but toward the rest of his guard. Renata, Felix, and Demetri were closer than his shadow.

"There is no broken law," Aro said in a placating voice, but every one of us could hear that a qualification was coming. I fought back the rage that tried to claw its way up my throat and snarl out my defiance. I hurled the fury into my shield, thickening it, making sure everyone was protected.

"No broken law," Aro repeated. "However, does it follow then that there is no danger? No." He shook his head gently. "That is a separate issue."

The only response was the tightening of already stretched nerves, and Maggie, at the fringes of our band of fighters, shaking her head with slow anger.

Aro paced thoughtfully, looking as if he floated rather than touched the ground with his feet. I noticed every pass took him closer to the protection of his guard.

"She is unique... utterly, impossibly unique. Such a waste it would be, to destroy something so lovely. Especially when we could learn so much .. ." He sighed, as if unwilling to go on. "But there is danger, danger that cannot simply be ignored."

No one answered his assertion. It was dead silent as he continued in a monologue that sounded as if he spoke it for himself only.

"How ironic it is that as the humans advance, as their faith in science grows and controls their world, the more free we are from discovery. Yet, as we become ever more uninhibited by their disbelief in the supernatural, they become strong enough in their technologies that, if they wished, they could actually pose a threat to us, even destroy some of us.

"For thousands and thousands of years, our secrecy has been more a matter of convenience, of ease, than of actual safety. This last raw, angry century has given birth to weapons of such power that they endanger even immortals. Now our status as mere myth in truth protects us from these weak creatures we hunt.

"Thisamazingchild" - he lifted his hand palm down as if to rest it on Renesmee, though he was forty yards from her now, almost within the Volturi formation again - "if we could but know her potential - know with absolute certainty that she could always remain shrouded within the obscurity that protects us. But we know nothing of what she will become! Her own parents are plagued by fears of her future. We cannot know what she will grow to be." He paused, looking first at our witnesses, and then, meaningfully, at his own. His voice gave a good imitation of sounding torn by his words.

Still looking at his own witnesses, he spoke again. "Only the known is safe. Only the known is tolerable. The unknown is... a vulnerability."

Caius's smile widened viciously.

"You're reaching, Aro," Carlisle said in a bleak voice.

"Peace, friend." Aro smiled, his face as kind, his voice as gentle, as ever. "Let us not be hasty. Let us look at this from every side."

"May I offer a side to be considered?" Garrett petitioned in a level tone, taking another step forward.

"Nomad," Aro said, nodding in permission.

Garrett's chin lifted. His eyes focused on the huddled mass at the end of the meadow, and he spoke directly to the Volturi witnesses.

"I came here at Carlisle's request, as the others, to witness," he said. "That is certainly no longer necessary, with regard to the child. We all see what she is.

"I stayed to witness something else. You." He jabbed his finger toward the wary vampires. "Two of you I know - Makenna, Charles - and I can see that many of you others are also wanderers, roamers like myself. Answering to none. Think carefully on what I tell you now.