Chapter 19: Welcome to Volterra
We wound up the hill at a crawl, as the road began to get too crowded with cars to weave through. Bella was panicking insanely and my sister was strained as she tried to soothe her.
“It’s the only way in,” my sister explained in a strained and slowly cracking voice.
I fiddled around in my bag until I pulled out the dark hoddie I packed. Pulling it on and pulling the hood around my head, so that most of my skin was out of view. The sleeves were extra long so I just pulled them down over my hands. This would be enough to protect from the sun’s rays. Bella flashed me a curious look, but I shook myself mentally and ignored her.
We went, if it was possible, even slower up the hill. The sun glared down, like an angry hot face. As we reached the top, I could see cars parked along the side of the road and people getting out to walk the rest of the way. At first I thought it was just humans being impatient – but then, as we came out around a switchback, we saw the filled out parking lot as dozens of people walking through the gates. No one was being allowed the drive through.
“Alice,” Bella whispered urgently, seeing the cars and what was going on.
“I know, she answered. Her face was chiselled from ice.
It was starting to get windy, one woman lost her scarf in the billowing wind as it whipped up from around her and flew into the air, as she hopped madly, trying to snatch it back though unsuccessfully. It was lost in the sea of red filing into the gates. Red was everywhere, red, red, red. Red robs, red hats, red scarfs, red flags…
“Bella,” Alice started to speak. “I can’t see what the guard will decide now – if this doesn’t work, you’re going to have to run along with Shayla. She’ll have to leave you at some point though, so just keep running and asking for the Palazzo dei Priori, and keep running in the direction they tell you. Don’t get lost.”
“Palazzo dei Priori, Palazzo dei Priori, Palazzo dei Priori,” Bella repeated under her breathe, trying to remember the name and to get it right.
“Or ‘the clock tower’,” I translated roughly for her, “if they speak English that is. Just keep asking if you can’t find it.”
“I’ll go and try to find a secluded spot behind the city to go over the wall,” Alice said as we crept even closer to the front of the line.
Bella nodded. “The Palazzo dei Priori,” she repeated again, getting it perfect this time and glancing at me. I nodded, trying to encourage her.
“We can do this, Bella,” I said to her. “We can and will, dammit! We just have to stay focused on Edward, okay?” She nodded, not quite paying attention.
“Edward will be under the clock tower, to the north of the square. There’s a narrow alleyway on the right, and he’ll be in the shadow there. You have to get his attention before he can move into the sun.”
Bella kept nodding furiously as we inched towards the front of the line. The car in front U-turned and went to find a parking spot down the road. The uniformed man motion lazily, not paying attention. Alice accelerated, edging around him and heading for the gate. He shouted something at us, but held his ground, waving frantically to the next car to stop it from following our bad example.
The guard at the gate wore a matching uniform. As we approached him, the throngs of tourists passed, crowding the sidewalks, staring curiously at pushy, flashy Porsche.
The guard stepped carefully into the middle of the street. Alice angled the car carefully before she came to a full stop. The sun beat against the passenger side but threw the other side, mine and Alice’s side, into shadow. Alice reached behind the seat to grab something from her bag, which I passed to her.
The guard came around the car with an irritated expression and tapped on her window angrily.
She rolled it down halfway, and he did a double take when he saw her face.
“I’m sorry, only tour buses are allowed in the city today, miss,” he said in English, but with a heavy accent. He was apologetic, now, as if he wished he had better news for this strikingly beautiful sister of mine. Not beautiful like Rosalie, but still beautiful nevertheless, which apparently I was as well.
“It’s a private tour,” Alice replied, shooting a dazzling smile at him. She reached out the window, into the sunlight with something in her closed fist. I nearly cried out in panic when her hand reached into the sun, but I then saw the elbow-length tan glove she had on and I breathed out in relief.
The man took whatever she had in her hand and folded his fingers around it. He stared at the thick wad of cash. The outside note was a thousand dollar bill and I knew there may be many more in the bundle. “Is this a joke?” he mumbled.
Alice gave him a blinding smile. “Only if you think it’d funny.”
He stared at her, eyes wide, before I glanced at my watch. We had five minutes left until Edward… yeah; we just had five minutes left. My breathing accelerated and I clenched my jaw shut, but my hands shook with panic. Fear coursed through me. We were going to be too late if we didn’t hurry up… And Edward would die…
As if she read my mind (ironic isn’t it?), Alice hinted to the man, “I’m in a wee bit of a hurry.”
Less then a few seconds later, we were speeding down a red flag-covered lane, with Alice driving in quick starts and stops while she kept urging Bella that is was, ‘Just a little further.”
We didn’t have to stop for cars but avoid the crowds of people. They squeezed into doorways when we travelled down narrow lanes, which were obviously not meant for cars, with the red flags on either side nearly meeting in the middle of the narrow road. The buildings were taller, and no sunlight touched the ground here. Alice turned down another lane with no people and over hanging balconies and fire escapes.
“Shayla, this is your land,” Alice said to me as I tightened my jacket around me. I eyed the overhanging structures cockily. A flag would make a great cloak to protect my skin from the sun, maybe.
“I’ll see you later, Bella,” I said to Bella and before she could say anything in response, I wound down the window and eased my upper body out of it, using the room as a way to pull myself out, as leverage. I then pushed myself onto the roof and stood, like I was car surfing. I crouched down as Alice sped up and then leapt onto a fire escape, which was on one of the final buildings before the square.
I ran along the tile roof and kept low, watching the red crowd just as I saw the Porsche stop in the square. Bella got out and ran through the crowd straight through the middle towards the clock tower on the other side.
She was shoved the wrong direction by the crowd but kept pushing on. She ran into the huge fountain in the middle, but launched herself over the low wall of it, and ran straight through the freezing water.
I saw my brother in the shadows of the alley, standing perfectly relaxed. Eyes closed with rings of purple shadows beneath them, palms turned forward, his arms at his side… A peaceful expression was upon his face, like he was in a very pleasant dream. His chest was bare, I saw, with his shirt at his feet.
The clock then began to ring loudly, about to give twelve for midday. A few down the square, mostly children, covered their ears at the noise.
Bella pushed her way through the crowd, with no space to move between the red-robed people. And across the square, only a few dozen feet from Bella, Edward raised his foot to take the step that would set him right into the sun, and that would confirm his death.
DONG… She wasn’t going to make it… I had to help her! No matter what it took, I was going to do my damn best to save my bro and Bella too! Screw the stinkin’ Volturi, if they wanted to kill me when my family escaped unscathed… so be it.
I kept low on the rooftop and darted to the far side, and hurled myself over the edge to land on a balcony where a bright red robe was located, obviously taken off by someone as they visited their home for a brief second. I stepped into the shadows, removed my jumper, before I tossed on the robe and leapt off the balcony and then ran as fast as I could at a human speed towards the ally.
Suddenly, I heard Edward’s voice and I sighed with relief. She made it. He was alive and so was she! And we were going to get home!
“Amazing… Carlisle was right.”
“Edward!” Bella gasped, chocking on her own words. “You have to get back in the shadows. You have to move!”
Bella was panting and seemed like she was struggling to force him back into the shadows.
“I can’t believe how quick it was,” Edward mused, blissfully unaware of the danger he was setting us all in by not moving, “I didn’t feel a thing – they’re very good. Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, hath had no power yet upon thy beauty,” he then quoted, and I recognised the line Romeo said in the tomb to Juliet. The clock above us boomed to its final chime as he continued to speak. “You smell exactly the same as always. So maybe this is hell. I don’t care. I’ll take it.”
“I’m not dead,” Bella interrupted, impatient. “And neither are you! Please, Edward, we have to move. They can’t be far away.”
There was a noise of struggling before Edward asked, “What was that?”
“We’re not dead, not yet! But we have to get out of here before the Volturi –”
I heard Edward fling himself back and him growling. And then I peered around the corner to see two shapes dishevel themselves from the shadows. One was huge, thick and hulking, almost as big and muscular as Emmett under his cloak; the other was smaller, leaner but just as muscular.
“Greetings, gentlemen,” Edward said calmly, ignoring me as I tried to hide myself from the shadows. “I don’t think I’ll be requiring your services today. I would appreciate it very much if you would send my thanks to your masters.”
“Shall we take this conversation to a more appropriate venue?” A smooth voice whispered menacingly, an unknown voice to me, and coming from the big one.
“I don’t believe that would be necessary.” Edward’s voice was colder, harder then it was before. “I know your instructions. I haven’t broken any rules.”
“Felix merely meant to point out the proximity of the sun,” the other, smaller shadow said in a soothing tone. “Let us seek better cover.” I recognised their voice as the head Volturi tracker, Demetri. He was talented, a thousand times better then James. He picked up someone’s ‘voice’ or ‘tenor’ of their thoughts and would track them over immense distances for enormous amounts of time.
“I’ll be right behind you,” Edward agreed. “Shayla, why don’t you take Bella back to the square to enjoy the festival?”
“No, bring both the girl, and the young one,” the first one, Felix, said, somehow injecting a leer into his threatening whisper. They thought I was young, and not much of a problem to them. I hissed at him and from beneath the safety of his hood, Felix smirked, knowing that he had upset me.
“You can go to hell,” I growled through clenched teeth but before I can get another word in, Edward held up a hand to silence me as he kept holding his protective stance on Bella up against the alley wall. I moved to stand next to him, forming a wall around her.
“I don’t think so,” he then responded calmly to them, basically rewording my original statement.
“No,” Bella mouthed behind us, just as Demetri and Felix exchanged sour and frustrated looks. Apparently, the Volturi hated even numbers, even if they thought one was barely a challenge. But I was. I could tear their limbs off their bodies, crush their spines, shred their faces, rip their dead hearts from their chests if I wanted too… and burn them in a blaze, all by myself. I could do it, I believed I could. I believed I could.
As I imagined killing the two guards in front of me, the conversation kept going and I blanked out before I heard Edward snarl, “Then I’m afraid I will be unable to accept Aro’s invitation, Demetri.”
“That’s just fine,” the hulking Felix purred.
“Aro will be disappointed,” Demetri sighed.
They then strode closer towards the mouth of the ally, attempting to force us deeper into the shadows and to avoid a scene. No light touched them as they were deep in their dark cloak’s protective shadows. I took an automatic step back, feeling threatened by the two warriors, but I still bared my teeth menacingly and growled, low and deep in my chest.
But Edward didn’t move an inch.
Suddenly, light footsteps caught our attention. I whipped my head around to see Alice dance out of the shadows.
“Let’s behave ourselves, shall we?” she suggested coldly as she came to my other side. “There are ladies present.”
“I’m not a lady?” I muttered under my breath, half upset but I wasn’t fussed about it right now. We could deal with that matter later – if we were still alive that is.
Then the two guards exchanged more sours looks. Now they were outnumbered fully, two to three. Thy straightened up as the wind swirled through the ally, ruffling their black cloaks.
“We’re not alone,” Alice reminded them.
We glanced over our shoulders to see a small family staring at us, a few yards away in the centre of the square, the father, I assumed, went a few feet back and tapped a red-blazered man’s shoulder before they started to talk and gesture at us.
Demetri shook his head in an irritated way. “Edward, let’s be reasonable.”
“Let’s,” he agreed. “And we’ll leave quietly now, with none the wiser.”
Demetri sighed again with frustration. “At least let us discuss this more privately.”
Behind us, more men joined the family as they watched us. Edward’s protective stance was causing their alarm but they couldn’t do anything but watch us cautiously. I wanted them to leave before they got killed by the vampires. Whether it would be them, the Volturi… or me.
Edward’s teeth suddenly snapped together. “No,” he growled, and I could not tell who he was talking too.
“Enough!” A high voice called from somewhere as suddenly, a sinister but rather small, new, cloaked vampire began to slink toward us from the depths of the alleyway.
We turned to face the new stranger.