And the last was a young man... not quite as fast nor quite as fluid in his run. His skin was an impossible rich, dark brown. His wary eyes flashed across the gathering, and they were the color of warm teak. His hair was black and braided, too, like the woman's, though not as long. He was beautiful.
As he neared us, a new sound sent shock waves through the watching crowd - the sound of another heartbeat, accelerated with exertion.
Alice leaped lightly over the edges of the dissipating mist that lapped at my shield and came to a sinuous stop at Edward's side. I reached out to touch her arm, and so did Edward, Esme, Carlisle. There wasn't time for any other welcome. Jasper and the others followed her through the shield.
All the guard watched, speculation in their eyes, as the latecomers crossed the invisible border without difficulty. The brawny ones, Felix and the others like him, focused their suddenly hopeful eyes on me. They had not been sure of what my shield repelled, but it was clear now that it would not stop a physical attack. As soon as Aro gave the order, the blitz would ensue, me the only object. I wondered how many Zafrina would be able to blind, and how much that would slow them. Long enough for Kate and Vladimir to take Jane and Alec out of the equation? That was all I could ask for.
Edward, despite his absorption in the coup he was directing, stiffened furiously in response to their thoughts. He controlled himself and spoke to Aro again.
"Alice has been searching for her own witnesses these last weeks," he said to the ancient. "And she does not come back empty-handed. Alice, why don't you introduce the witnesses you've brought?"
Caius snarled. "The time for witnesses is past! Cast your vote, Aro!"
Aro raised one finger to silence his brother, his eyes glued to Alice's face.
Alice stepped forward lightly and introduced the strangers. "This is Huilen and her nephew, Nahuel."
Hearing her voice... it was like she'd never left.
Caius's eyes tightened as Alice named the relationship between the newcomers. The Volturi witnesses hissed amongst themselves. The vampire world was changing, and everyone could feel it.
"Speak, Huilen," Aro commanded. "Give us the witness you were brought to bear."
The slight woman looked to Alice nervously. Alice nodded in encouragement, and Kachiri put her long hand on the little vampire's shoulder.
"I am Huilen," the woman announced in clear but strangely accented English. As she continued, it was apparent she had prepared herself to tell this story, that she had practiced. It flowed like a well-known nursery rhyme. "A century and a half ago, I lived with my people, the Mapuche. My sister was Pire. Our parents named her after the snow on the mountains because of her fair skin. And she was very beautiful - too beautiful.
She came to me one day in secret and told me of the angel that found her in the woods, that visited her by night. I warned her." Huilen shook her head mournfully. "As if the bruises on her skin were not warning enough. I knew it was the Libishomen of our legends, but she would not listen. She was bewitched.
"She told me when she was sure her dark angel's child was growing inside her. I didn't try to discourage her from her plan to run away - I knew even our father and mother would agree that the child must be destroyed, Pire with it. I went with her into the deepest parts of the forest. She searched for her demon angel but found nothing. I cared for her, hunted for her when her strength failed. She ate the animals raw, drinking their blood. I needed no more confirmation of what she carried in her womb. I hoped to save her life before I killed the monster.
"But she loved the child inside her. She called him Nahuel, after the jungle cat, when he grew strong and broke her bones - and loved him still.
"I could not save her. The child ripped his way free of her, and she died quickly, begging all the while that I would care for her Nahuel. Her dying wish - and I agreed.
"He bit me, though, when I tried to lift him from her body. I crawled away into the jungle to die. I didn't get far - the pain was too much. But he found me; the newborn child struggled through the underbrush to my side and waited for me. When the pain ended, he was curled against my side, sleeping.
"I cared for him until he was able to hunt for himself. We hunted the villages around our forest, staying to ourselves. We have never come so far from our home, but Nahuel wished to see the child here."
Huilen bowed her head when she was finished and moved back so she was partially hidden behind Kachiri.
Aro's lips were pursed. He stared at the dark-skinned youth.
"Nahuel, you are one hundred and fifty years old?" he questioned.
"Give or take a decade," he answered in a clear, beautifully warm voice. His accent was barely noticeable. "We don't keep track."
"And you reached maturity at what age?"
"About seven years after my birth, more or less, I was full grown."
"You have not changed since then?"
Nahuel shrugged. "Not that I've noticed."
I felt a shudder tremble through Jacob's body. I didn't want to think about this yet. I would wait till the danger was past and I could concentrate.
"And your diet?" Aro pressed, seeming interested in spite of himself.
"Mostly blood, but some human food, too. I can survive on either."
"You were able to create an immortal?" As Aro gestured to Huilen, his voice was abruptly intense. I refocused on my shield; perhaps he was seeking a new excuse.
"Yes, but none of the rest can."
A shocked murmur ran through all three groups.
Aro's eyebrows shot up. "The rest?"
"My sisters." Nahuel shrugged again.