Chapter 22: Planner
Maggie parked us in an underground lot. It was quite sunny out in Dublin, so rather than climb the stairs to the street and find Siobhan and Liam, she phoned and told them where to find us. We all got out of the car, and I kept a restraining hand on Jake's elbow, not wanting him to start a fight even if it would probably come out in our favor. I had no suction-device, and a lucky bite could kill him even if Addy lost. He looked daggers at her, but she stayed a respectful distance back and he didn't phase.
"Can't go wolf anyway," muttered Jake, leaning down to speak in my ear, although all the vampires could certainly hear him anyway. "If I still have a pack, and any of them are wolves at the time, they'll hear me thinking and I know where I am. Don't want to make it easy for them to report that we're in Dublin."
We waited for a couple of minutes, trying to look casual to the gazes of humans who passed through the garage to retrieve their cars or drove in to park. A couple of them looked twice at us - we made an odd group - but no one tried to interact with us. Addy kept her eyes closed in case anyone was capable of discerning their color in the dim fluorescence from a few yards away.
Siobhan and Liam came down the stairs into the lot. I recognized them at once, from Carlisle's memories and my father's. For a moment I thought those were the only people whose memories I had who'd ever seen Siobhan and Liam, but that wasn't quite true - Aro had gone to the "trial" of a Scottish vampire from Liam's former coven, and read him and then had him executed upon determining that he wasn't useful enough to keep around or safe to let free. That vampire contained the only memories I had of Siobhan and Liam fighting, all out, not just sparring for practice or scuffling for dominance. Liam was okay at it. Siobhan was terrifyingly powerful.
I tried, but I had no way to figure out whether Aro had ever accessed any of the memories available to him about the Irish vampires. He hadn't dwelled on them, or there would have been at least a minute or two of memories of him planning or musing or something; but he could have thought about them, had no special reaction, and not put down anything I could remember beyond the copied memories themselves.
"Hello," said Siobhan, seeming to aim the greeting mostly at Maggie. Addy was looking at the huge woman with a fascinated, almost hungry expression. Siobhan glanced at Addy, then held out her hand to shake her former covenmate's, and Maggie moved to clasp it. Before they touched, Addy darted forward to seize Siobhan by the wrist and then spring away. She was out of the parking lot and up the stairs in a fraction of a second.
I thought I heard her cackling.
"What the -" Siobhan began. Ilario chased Addy into the stairwell, and Maggie sprinted after them, muttering something I didn't quite catch that might or might not have been family-friendly, plus a warning to her brother-in-law about sticking to the shade.
"What was that?" asked Liam, looking edgy, like he was considering running after the others.
"Addy copies witch powers by touching the people who have them," I murmured. "She... here, I'll show you, if that's okay -" I started composing a summary in my head.
"Show us?" asked Siobhan.
"I'm Elspeth," I said, and that got a stunned reaction from both of the pair, but sufficed to explain what I was talking about, at least. "It's faster my way, if you don't mind -"
"Why don't you "show" me first, then we'll see about Siobhan," suggested Liam, suspicious. Jacob shifted his weight behind me, and when I glanced up, he was locking eyes with the other man, not quite hostile, but implacably announcing allegiance. Liam looked back at him with a distasteful frown.
"Okay," I acquiesced, and a few moments later Liam frowned and nodded, and Siobhan made a "get on with it" gesture and I gave her the summary as well.
Just after that had been sent along, Ilario and Maggie jogged back down the stairs. "She jumped off the quay," snarled Maggie. "Nobody saw her do it, but that's where her scent ended. And once we started asking if anyone had seen a lady fling herself into the river, of course, we had so much attention that there's no way we could have tried to follow her at any speed without getting noticed."
"I don't even have a power," Siobhan said.
"I think you must," I said. "Addy must have tasted it. If she hadn't I think she would have stuck with us and said she was just checking."
"How could I not have noticed being a witch?" asked Siobhan. "People - your grandfather mostly - have been insisting that I am for hundreds of years, but don't you think I would be able to tell?"
I shook my head; Memory supplied me with a few cases of witches Addy had met who hadn't been aware of their powers, and I was dimly aware of the availability of more examples if I wanted them. "Some powers don't feel like anything, or usually don't. Mine usually doesn't. A lot of witches don't know what they are, or think it's a non-magical knack or something. I'm sure Eleazar could have told you if you'd ever met him, but you didn't."
"My word," said Siobhan.
"I'd like to get out of this car park," said Maggie, glancing at a passing human family on their way to their minivan. "It doesn't seem the best place to talk. Siobhan, is that old hotel still...?"
"Yes," Siobhan said. "Can we all fit into the car?"
"I'll sit on Jake," I said, and with that, and Ilario moving to the middle of the backseat so Siobhan - a hair taller than even Jake - could ride shotgun, we managed to squeeze in.
"It's very odd," murmured Liam. "I have a lot of questions, but as soon as I think of them clearly enough that I could ask, I realize I already know the answer."
"Elsie's handy like that," said Jake proudly. "So... Where are we going?"
"Abandoned hotel," said Maggie. "Nice place to hide out in while a vampire in Dublin. Out of the way, lots of big shade trees 'round it, collects squatters nobody's going to miss, so - uh -"
"Is there any chance the squatters could be allowed to live today?" I asked solemnly. Siobhan and Liam's eyes were darkened, but not black.
"If it matters that much, I suppose," said Siobhan, shrugging. "We can climb in through the back to the part above the wrecked staircase; there's never any humans in that section. Liam and I do need to eat, though, so you can only make so many requests that we put it off before we ignore you; do you want to spend one on the folks camping out in the hotel?"
I kept silent, and Siobhan turned her head to look at me appraisingly. Liam sighed. "Did you inherit the moralizing from - well, I guess Carlisle's not your biological grandfather and Edward never seemed to think he had the high ground on the subject - or from your mam, maybe? She managed to convert Maggie, rather more effective than Carlisle..."
"I don't think it's the sort of thing I particularly had to inherit," I said softly. "If I went back in time and asked your parents they probably wouldn't be in favor of eating people, would they?"
"S'pose not," said Liam negligently. "Are we having hobo for lunch or not, dear?" He addressed Siobhan with that comment, and she looked at me again.
"If not them, who?" I wondered, not making eye contact. "How do you pick?"
"Generally depends on who'll go missing with the least fuss," Liam said. "Anyone who's already lost or cut off from other folks - or dying, occasionally there's a good accident or some of the less repulsive diseases. Got to lie low, you see. Haven't a stable address and a legal identity like Maggie and company have got themselves, mustn't make anyone too curious. Oh, and mustn't form a pattern. Can't kill half a dozen streetwalkers in a row with the same hair color or initials or what have you within spitting distance of a single city, or they start babbling about serial killers and then everyone gets very excited."
"You are serial killers," I pointed out.
"I suppose," Liam said, "but we're not the human sort. Not trying to rid the world of some particular type, or bitter about our childhoods, or whatever it is that motivates that lot. Just thirsty. Oh," he added, "and people on drugs are not so toothsome. We avoid those when it's convenient. Usually can tell by smell. That's all I can think of for in general; other than that we could nosh on anybody."
There was a silence, and Siobhan announced, "We'll clear out the hotel the usual way, Liam. All else being equal it would be best not to do anything this complicated on an empty stomach."
Ilario, Jake, and I followed Maggie into the upper stories of the hotel through the back way Siobhan had mentioned. Siobhan and Liam went in through the front. I covered my ears and asked Memory to give me something loud, and spent the minutes we waited remembering a metal concert that Heidi had once attended. (She had later encouraged some of the audience to follow her into the bus she used to bring prey back to Volterra, but I concentrated on the music.)
Siobhan and Liam climbed up the elevator shaft and joined us after a short while, eyes newly bright. Jake squeezed my hand, which was comforting, but I felt... almost unwilling to be comforted. Like I should have said something clever or done something heroic, such that I wouldn't need it, so if I needed it, that was because I'd failed. I didn't pull my hand away, in case Jake was the one who needed it.
"So," said Siobhan, pacing around the hotel room. It was breezy from the broken window we'd come through, and everything inside was moldy and water damaged and faded beige and blue. Jake seemed uncomfortable, and kept prodding the half-collapsed bed with his foot as though he thought it might become a suitable place to sit given enough kicks, but the vampires and I were all reasonably comfortable standing. "Elspeth, is there anything pertinent left out of your summary?" Siobhan asked.
"I don't think so," I said. "But I don't know what might be pertinent."
"People," said Siobhan, "players or potential players in the field, their resources, their abilities, their skills, their motives, their needs, their personalities, what will and won't surprise them. Constraints on what we can do, places we can go, that sort of thing."
I spent the next couple of hours listing and describing every person in the Volturi guard and what I could remember on my own or from the blast about the allies my relatives were accumulating in Denali. Intermittently I'd pause to answer Siobhan's occasional clarifying questions - everything from "how willing is Vasanti to send the animals she possesses into danger?" to "do you see any patterns Adelaide didn't in Pyotr's compulsion?" to "in a toe-to-toe physical fight, is Renata actually any good without her power?"
"Depends on if the animal is a long-term pet or not," I told her about the Indian witch. "I don't know what she's gotten since she was let out of the dungeon, but in the past she's usually kept some birds and rats and other random animals that she's gotten attached to around all the time, and those she likes to keep safe if it's convenient. Others she doesn't care - she'll make mice feed themselves to her other pets, sometimes."
"No," I concluded after a long search through Pyotr's memories, "it seems just about random. Sometimes it'll work on a person and then not, sometimes it'll work for a specific command and then not, I don't see any connection to time of day or location or whether he says it with a different accent or even anything he's thinking about when he gives the order. It does only work when he means for it to, so he doesn't compel people by accident, at least." Siobhan asked me if I had memories for anybody he'd bossed around before, and I shook my head; he hadn't been one of Addy's original pupils and spent his entire time in Volterra in pieces unable to talk to anyone. When Addy had borrowed his power she'd avoided using it against any of the Volturi, so I didn't have information from that end about how it worked in her hands either.
"Hard to say, but I don't think so," I said of Renata's fighting capabilities. "She can't turn her shield off, so nobody's ever actually been able to attack her. She can hit people who can't hit back just fine. I think she'd be confused by someone who could go after her without getting turned away."
There were more questions. I consulted Memory to get her to sift through what I knew and extract short answers from long life stories. Siobhan asked about things I never would have considered even slightly relevant - "how many teeth on that saw?" (thirty), "what part of New Zealand is Emere from?" (near what's since become Christchurch) - along with likely useful things - "does Jane have any direct combat ability?" (almost none), "where do you think your mother is?"
"I don't know," I said, regarding my mother. "I don't think she ever actually arrived in Denali. If she did, Addy never heard about it, and she spent a lot of downtime with my father's power and would have probably noticed - from him if nobody else - if someone was thinking they'd found her. But she was heading there when Alice saw her, and I don't think Alice lied. My father would have noticed."
"So somehow," said Maggie, "Bella changed her mind - knew to change her mind - and turned around instead of going to Denali, but where would she go?"
"Or she got there and knew what was going on before anyone noticed her," said Jake. "Smelled the field team, maybe, if she came in from the right direction at the right time."
"That sounds plausible," said Siobhan, nodding in Jake's direction without quite looking at him. "But while Bella is currently not in the Volturi's possession immediately or remotely, Alice can see her. If her capture is a priority and Bella isn't aware that Alice is alive, she's a loss unless we get to her first. Where would she go, Elspeth?"
"I don't know. She might have gone to Volterra looking for me but she had long enough to do it; that would've been noticed. I guess she could be in San Francisco waiting to see if I make it there on my own somehow, or trying to meet new allies to help her who aren't in Denali."
"Allies like who? Existing vampires in North America? Would she try turning an army?" prodded Siobhan.
"I... I don't know. She's turned someone before to save his life. I don't know if she'd do it to attack Volterra. Especially since she probably doesn't know my father's alive. But she might be doing something like that if she can find volunteers. She might have gone to see her parents or her friends from high school or something. Her dad knows about stuff and her mom and stepdad don't, or didn't."
"Do we have any allies we can scrape up?" Maggie asked. "Cath might help if I asked. She might get other Brits to pitch in on her account. Anyone else?"
"Cath is...?" Jake asked.
"Catherine. She turned me," Maggie said. "We still get on - less since Molly, but still. Calls Swindon her own, has to at least be on speaking terms with the Bristol coven and the Londoners and the ponce in Oxford, I know she's friends with the lot who prowl around the Isle of Wight and thereabouts, and that twit in Cardiff she once had for a penfriend..."
"So a fair chunk of the U.K. vampires," summarized Liam.
Maggie nodded. "Via Cath. Maybe. Anyone else who's not already in Denali or all Chelseaed to bits in Volterra who likes at least one of us?"
Jake said, "The Makah tribe, or at least the families of the Makahs who live in the village, but they're all human."
"That can be fixed if need be," Siobhan said. Jake frowned, and she shrugged. "Or not if needn't be. But I try not to plan things by pretending I don't have options I have. Newborn armies in general are worth thinking about, Makah or no. What else?"
"Are there still Children of the Moon?" asked Liam. "Or are they all really extinct?"
"Caius didn't stop hunting them until he was as positive they were gone as could be," I said. "He might have missed one, he knew he couldn't be completely sure, but it didn't seem likely at all unless it was a mutant that could control itself during the full moon and left no evidence. Even if there was one like that back when the hunt was on, it would be dead by now - it would either have bitten people and they would have made themselves obvious or it wouldn't have and they'd have died out that way. There's been no sign of them."
"Who else do we need to worry about?" asked Maggie. "Addy? Where's she swimming off to?"
"She's got a few dozen old friends, all around the world, with powers minor enough that the Volturi left them alone. She might be looking for one of them," I said. "Or she could just be striking off on her own. Or going back to Volterra hoping to make some kind of deal."
Siobhan was still pacing, occasionally running a hand through her short hair, usually touching Liam's arm or back briefly when her path took her near where he stood, all with an intent expression and her eyes focused on nothing. "What else? Who else?"
"Molly's a weak point," Ilario muttered. "Can't turn her, she can't help, and realistically Gianna and Maggie and even I will do whatever it takes to keep her safe." Maggie nodded, looking troubled.
"Good to know. What else, who else?"
"The Denalis didn't seem to really like working for the Volturi," I said. "If we could get hold of David so they didn't have to worry about him, and maybe find some other thing to push them, they could defect. Then it would be safe to talk to the other people who are in Denali with them now. Also I think David would help."
"Or the Denalis could just be tricked into passing false information, if we had a way to talk to the Cullens and sundry others without tipping them off," Ilario said. "Even without David in hand."
"Who else?" asked Siobhan.
"Peter and Charlotte are..." I leaned my face on my hand to ask Memory if I knew anything. Addy had heard the news: "They're alive. In Nashville. The Volturi decided they weren't a threat and let them go home. They probably want to stay out, but also probably couldn't hurt to ask them."
"The other wolves - and the imprints and the puppies - get visits from Chelsea nearly every day," said Jake, "but take that away and wolves'd be natural enemies with vampires." He glanced around at the vampires who were all looking at him quizzically, since he was a wolf and standing right there and not attacking them. He sputtered for a moment and went on. "I mean, I'm with Elspeth," he clarified. "I go where she goes. If she goes and hangs out with vampires so do I. Other wolves could work with specific vampires too. Rachel and Bella were pals for a while. But I mean that it might be possible to get the packs aimed at the Volturi. Who are vampires. And who most of the wolves have no non-Chelsea reason to like. What I'm saying is if you put a wolf and a vampire in a room together and there aren't special circumstances going on there's going to be a fight, and we know what the special circumstances are there and maybe could get rid of them."
Maggie whispered too low for Jake to hear, "You are so lucky to have such a formidable intellect in your corner, Elspeth." I didn't dignify that with a response. "Here's a thought," she said, more loudly. "Are we going to bother hiding from humans?"
"Hm," acknowledged Siobhan. "Depends. Good to keep in mind as a possible constraint to drop, though, given that the Volturi are still the only enforcers."
"Demetri won't be off on his personal project forever," I said. "When he's done with it - he's typically been gone for a week or two before, and he left Volterra two days ago - he'll be able to find us. Where should we be when that happens - what's the staging ground?"
"Good question," Siobhan muttered. "What else?"
"Elspeth, is your resistance to half of Chelsea's power communicable?" Ilario asked. "To wolves, to the Volturi, to anyone?"
I blinked. "I don't know."
"Try me," said Jake.
"You're not a great test," I said. "The mere fact that I don't like the Volturi anymore would carry a lot of weight with you that it wouldn't for anybody else."
"I'm better than nothing and I'm here," he pointed out. "It'll at least give you a chance to practice on somebody easy, right?"
"Do you even actually still like Chelsea and so on?" I asked. "Even now?"
Jake blinked. "Chelsea? Sure, sure. Everybody loves Chelsea. Chelsea's great."
I shuddered, clapped both hands on his face, and tried. I didn't know exactly what I was doing, just the result I wanted, but that was more or less how my power functioned anyway since I couldn't normally feel it as it worked. Don't lie to yourself, I thought, although it wasn't part of what I sent, just the theme. Don't leave anything out. Don't make excuses for her. You know what you need to know.
Jake closed his eyes, and looked like he was listening to something intently. "Ng," he said after a moment, and I jerked my hands away to wait for him to explain the noise. "That... was... weird. Was Chelsea always that insanely creepy? Why does she smile like that all the time? Seriously weirds me out."
I smiled faintly, and he returned a lopsided grin. "That's promising," murmured Siobhan. "Wouldn't like to count on it too heavily, though - I don't think most people would hold still for it... What else?"
"I don't know how the Volturi that Addy caught in the memory blast are going to react to the memories," I said. "They almost definitely won't go through them in the same order as me, and they're probably all faster than me at it even without a Memory to help. There's a lot of room for something unexpected to pop up that they'd know and use that I don't or can't."
"It's possible that you should blast some or all of us," Siobhan said, "as a defensive measure against Addy doing it later if nothing else, but I'd like to hold off on anything that might put us out of commission for that long until we have downtime." She closed her eyes for a long moment and said, "...Why didn't Aro dare to cross Addy, Elspeth?"
Why didn't -
I fell into a nest of memories.