Chapter 29: Granddaughter
Siobhan's eyelids fluttered and she toppled off her feet, but Liam caught her and settled her gently on the floor. "It took you a day?" Liam asked me.
"Almost, including a night's sleep," I said, "but I'm not sure if sleeping made it faster or slowed me down. I did come to right after I woke up, though."
Liam frowned and brushed some of Siobhan's hair out of her face. Siobhan started mumbling words in various languages, sometimes imitating their sources closely enough that I could figure out exactly what memories she was thinking of. Jake, whose sleep schedule was more flexible than mine, was able to nap. I spent most of the plane ride listening to Siobhan babble, mostly because it made it easier to ignore Cath and Ilario, who were off behind a stack of suitcases making ill-fated attempts to be discreet.
Ilario had managed to find a plane that would carry on to Alaska after an overnight in Chicago. I was asleep during the plane's downtime, but since some of the luggage was continuing to Fairbanks, there was enough to hide behind; nothing disastrous happened. Partway through the second leg of the trip, Siobhan sat partway up and looked around.
"Still on the plane," she muttered. "What time is it?"
Liam told her, and she nodded slowly. Her eyes rolled around in her head a bit; when I frowned, Liam said, "You did that too, when you didn't close your eyes outright and were looking at a memory."
"Allirea," murmured Siobhan. "Elspeth, why didn't you tell me about... oh. You probably couldn't..."
"Huh?" I said. "I sent you everything. And even before that I told you everything important."
"My point exactly," said Siobhan.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
Siobhan pursed her lips and closed her eyes. "Elspeth, how many children does Joham have?" she asked, slowly and carefully.
"Three," I said.
"And their names are, from oldest to youngest...?"
"Noemi, Nahuel, and Iseul. Don't you already know -"
"Is Noemi the eldest child in the family?" Siobhan asked.
This question threw me for a loop. When the answer didn't come to me immediately, I mentally tried out possible responses - "no" and "yes" both felt wrong. "Kind of" felt closer, but still not correct. "I..."
"Don't hurt yourself," Siobhan said mildly. "Is Jacob awake?" I shook my head, since Jacob was sleeping (with unusually few snores) on top of a garment bag in the other end of the hold, and Siobhan said, "Cath, Ilario, your attention please -"
"One sec!" cried Cath shrilly. A couple seconds later they appeared at the edge of their luggage barrier. "What?"
"Elspeth's about to behave very strangely, but ignore her," Siobhan said. "There is a half-vampire called Allirea, who..." I started zoning out, picking at a loose thread in my sleeve, while Siobhan said a lot of things that didn't matter. I worked on my summary composition a bit, although it was mostly done. Ilario kept looking at me strangely.
"Is the wolf affected?" Cath asked when Siobhan seemed to be finished.
"There's no way to tell without asking him, since the memories I have wouldn't necessarily contain the information if she'd been near enough to him before - the only people I have memories for between today and May 26 are Adelaide and Elspeth. But he should be awake soon enough," said Siobhan. "All the Denalis have certainly met her. The Cullens and their other allies may or may not have done so, depending on whether she is still in Denali. What Elspeth saw when Santiago and the wolf pack captured her indicates that Eleazar resists the effect, at least partially, so he should be able to tell us if we ask him directly, but he might not have enough of a resistance to remember her independently if she's left. She has no reason to stay - has reason to go, in fact. Her habit when running away from Demetri is to board airplanes at random. If nothing else, we'll be able to ask the people at Denali if Demetri has been by."
"Who?" I asked, bewildered.
"Allirea," said Siobhan, raising an eyebrow.
"Not important," I said, confused. "Don't... don't you know that?" There was so much to do, so much Siobhan should be making magical plans about, and she was wasting time...
"Liam," said Siobhan, turning towards her mate and ignoring my question, "I want paper. See if you can find any to take out of the luggage. Allirea is clearly not on this airplane or I'd either notice her or be unable to have this conversation. However, we could encounter her at any time after landing, in which case I'm going to want a written note to make sure I follow through with what I have in mind."
"What's going on? Are you okay, Siobhan?" I asked. "I didn't really stick around to see how the Volturi recovered from Addy's blast, I don't know if vampires react differently or something -"
"She's fine, Elspeth," said Liam dryly, starting to rummage through bags. Cath patted me on the head twice and chuckled, then seized Ilario by the wrist and disappeared with him again. I blinked, but decided whatever was the matter with Siobhan couldn't be that bad if Liam wasn't worried. When his search uncovered a toiletry kit, I borrowed a passenger's hairbrush, putting it back when I was done teasing the tangles out of my hair. I really needed it. Siobhan kept muttering to herself and to Liam, but nothing she said was important.
Cath called Carlisle when we'd landed. He hadn't expected her to buy a ticket - she was between legal identities at the moment, which turned out to be another advantage to having her call instead of Ilario - and told her that she could find him and Esme waiting in the parking lot. It was dark in Fairbanks, and that plus a mad dash had us quite safely away from the airplane and headed for my grandparents. Siobhan talked to Jacob briefly about something that they seemed to think was important, but I was focused on other things.
I was apprehensive about meeting Carlisle and Esme. I figured I could let them hug me if they seemed inclined to, but beyond that I didn't know at all how to behave. Should I call them "Grandma" and "Grandpa" still? Their adopted children usually called them by name. They might not take it badly if I did the same, except that I hadn't before, either when I was little or when I'd been on the phone with Carlisle from Nashville.
I had Carlisle's memories, up to the day he'd gone with Esme and my father to pick up my mother from Volterra. I poked at them, trying to use them to reconstruct what Chelsea had taken, but it didn't help much.
It gave me plenty of material to admire and trust Carlisle. He was a strong, dedicated person, surpassing anyone else I could so much as remember hearing of in self-abnegation, having not only independently committed without misstep to vegetarianism as a newborn, but also having left his mate while she was human out of the belief that it would be best for her. Carlisle wasn't the only vegetarian in the world, but he was the only vampire who'd been able to do the second thing. It hadn't worked out so well in practice... Esme had gone on to marry a man who'd turned out to be abusive. She'd run away from her husband once she discovered she was pregnant, not wanting to raise a child in that household, only for the baby to die of a lung infection soon after he was born, and then in despair she'd jumped off a cliff. I noted with some bemusement that my father had made it sound to my mother like Esme had simply fallen, accidentally, without mentioning either the fact that it was a suicide attempt or the reasons behind it. He hadn't wanted to taint my mother's opinion of Esme, and suspected that a nearly-successful suicide attempt would offend the sensibilities of anyone so enthusiastic about eternal life. I wondered what my mother would think of that. But regardless of the fact that Esme would have been better off if Carlisle had swept her away when she was sixteen, his intentions and self-control in refraining were still unparalleled.
And knowing all this wasn't the right kind of thing to restore the way I used to feel about my grandfather. He was supposed to be special to me, his only grandchild, in a way that had nothing to do with his status as an upstanding moral person or anything else the memories I had could tell me. He was supposed to be special to me because he was my father's father, because he'd played a part in bringing me into the world, because he'd helped bring me up when I was little.
Because I'd known all of that when Chelsea had gone snip, snip, though, feelings wouldn't attach to those facts any more. I didn't know if they ever would, but sifting through Chelsea's memories (and, gingerly, Marcus's) didn't leave me optimistic. Regeneration was possible when she'd snipped something once, twice, half a dozen times... but threads stopped coming back, for the most part, when they'd been destroyed over and over again on a daily basis for as long as I'd been in the village.
Anything new I came to feel about Carlisle would probably be exactly that - new.
The six of us - Cath and Ilario in the lead - approached the parking lot, and I saw my grandparents. They turned to meet us, and I saw their eyes widen. "You... must be Cath..." said Carlisle slowly, "but... Ilario? Siobhan and Liam? And..." He was staring at me in disbelief.
"It's me," I confirmed softly, knowing he'd recognize my voice from the phone call once he heard it.
Carlisle blinked twice. Behind him, Esme made a quiet noise of confusion. I noted that they were both black-eyed, hungry. "I see there is much to discuss," my grandfather finally managed, sparing a silent Jacob one quick glance before looking at me expectantly. Siobhan gave me a nod.
I pushed out the finished summary to bring my grandparents up to speed on why we were there, the reasons behind Cath's subterfuge, the Denalis' betrayal and what I hoped would reverse it, and everything else they were likely to need to know.
"With Elspeth so convenient," Siobhan said, "there is less to discuss, but still some. Specifically, we need to get your cousins to listen to us without having the chance to contact Volterra. Oh, and I have a question for you Elspeth wouldn't have been able to include in her summary. Are you aware of the existence of a half-vampire named Allirea?"
"I've heard the name mentioned..." Carlisle began.
"Good, then she's not there anymore," said Siobhan. and then I yawned while she prattled about something irrelevant. I was beginning to worry a little about the quality of plans she generated while so weirdly obsessed with trivialities. I started paying attention to her again after a few more sentences: "- could have left the quarter-vampires some failsafe method to contact her for help. Since we need all the help we can get, I'm going to try contacting them once we've spoken to your cousins, especially Eleazar. Based on the timing involved, it's also possible we can find Bella that way, but no promises."
"They lied to us," Esme said faintly. "They told us our children and granddaughter never arrived, they told us - they lied -"
"Can you," Siobhan asked sharply, "forgive them, assuming they are sincerely sorry? If necessary I can get Maggie on the phone to confirm anything they say, if that will help -"
"Of course we can," said Esme at once. "Of course. They're family." Carlisle nodded in agreement, jaw set firmly, though he looked troubled.
"Good," Siobhan said, "because that's probably important, at least for Kate. I know almost nothing about how you've been arranging the guests in Denali. What's the best way to get the sisters and Carmen and Eleazar all in one place without giving away that more people than Cath have arrived ahead of time?"
"We've been hunting together," Carlisle said. "Often not all of us at the same time, but it wouldn't be unheard of. We can bring Cath to Denali, and the rest of you can wait somewhere for us. Oh - Kate has found a mate..." - Siobhan looked slightly smug when he said that, probably about having anticipated the possibility - "and he's been attempting to change his eating habits, so he's liable to join us."
"Who is he?" asked Siobhan."
"Garrett," replied Carlisle. "Do you know who -"
"Yes," Siobhan said; I remembered too, from what Addy had heard about the attendance in Denali. Garrett was one of the American nomads acquainted in some way with the Cullens who'd agreed to come join the enclave when asked. "All right. Cath, you go with Mr. and Mrs. Cullen and act as though you're the only one who showed up -"
"Don't I smell a bit too much like him?" Cath asked, pointing her thumb at Jake. "From being in the same cargo hold for ages?"
Esme sniffed. "We'll stop somewhere where you can take a shower, and get you a new outfit," she said.
Cath looked down at her clothes - heavily embroidered, drapey linen - and sighed. "Oh, all right, but I'm not getting rid of these, I'll stash them somewhere, I spent a long time on the hardanger in this blouse." With a glance at my grandparents' eyes, she said, "This won't take long all told, will it?" Her hand darted out to clutch at Ilario's as she said this. "Getting the whole hunting party put together and on your way, I mean?"
Carlisle glanced at their joined hands, and said, "Tomorrow afternoon, at the latest, we'll hunt. I hope that will be satisfactory."
"I'll live," sighed Cath, looking dreamily into Ilario's eyes. "I guess." He leaned down and kissed her. Siobhan coughed and asked Carlisle for directions to a suitable waiting place, which she received; then, we all stood around awkwardly for half a minute, waiting for Cath to be ready to leave with Carlisle and Esme. During this time I took a few steps forward and exchanged hugs with each grandparent, mostly because I didn't think I'd enjoy looking at Esme's face if I let them go without. Esme petted my hair. I remembered she used to tie ribbons into it, when I was little.
Cath hauled herself away from Ilario with visible effort, muttering something about not wanting to have taken too long if someone looked up the flight we'd taken and noticed it was on time, and followed Carlisle and Esme to their car. Ilario swayed on the spot, watching them as they drove away.
"Tomorrow afternoon at the latest," repeated Siobhan, looking appraisingly at Ilario. "Come, now, we need to be ready for them when they go hunting, and it could be sooner than that."
We just walked, until we got far enough away from the airport that we could break into a jog (for me and the vampires) and a flat run (for Jake). Speed wasn't so essential that anyone had to carry my wolf. He still didn't dare phase without an emergency calling for it, lest he have a pack remaining that would give away his location, or he could have kept up with the vampires even carrying me. "Next time we go somewhere don't tell me where," he muttered.
"Won't help; you'll still have information we don't want them to have," commented Liam.
Jake frowed. "I... don't actually know how long I'd have to go without phasing to quit my wolf."
"It varies," I chirped. "At least a few weeks, though. You're okay for now."
Jake nodded, but still looked worried. "How do you know?" he asked after a moment.
"My father and Carlisle and Rosalie - I have memories from all of them that cover the time when they first lived near Quileute land. They met your great-grandfather Ephraim Black, he was the alpha then, and the other wolves who were around at the time, and learned most of how wolves tick," I said. "What they knew at the time, anyway - there was some misinformation. Like, they didn't think girls could be wolves, but that's probably just because girls with wolf genes didn't happen to meet vampires much."
"Huh," said Jake. "It always did seem sort of strange to me that the legends wouldn't mention any wolf girls. There are tons now."
I thought. "The ones now were all activated by touch," I said. "It seems a lot faster and more consistent that way. Just being around a vampire doesn't seem to always do the trick... my father always thought it seemed like even in wolf-gene families, it looked like the ones who were more emotionally volatile activated. That might have kept girls from activating too, if they were less likely to get mad enough and less likely to be around vampires?"
"Makes evolutionary sense," Ilario put in, "from what I've heard, if it's harder for women to activate."
"That too," I said. "Since girls can't have kids while they're activated. But it seems like if a vampire actually touches an inactive wolf the activation's pretty automatic, so..."
We ran in silence for a minute, and then Jake said, "Why did the old pack quit their wolves?"
"I don't know about the generation of wolves before yours," I said. "My family left the area first. The ones they heard about from before that would tend to quit so they could age along with their imprints, when they had imprints, or they'd die in fights with vampires, or they'd just mellow with age and not want to be wolves anymore. Why?"
"I'm just thinking about whether I would ever decide to quit," Jake said.
"Would you?" I asked. "If you quit you age and die like a human, you know."
"I know," he said. "I guess I probably won't." He paused. "Unless something happened to you, maybe. But we'll make sure that doesn't happen."
"Unless something..." I didn't like the idea of Jake deciding to slowly kill himself on account of me. I didn't like the idea of anything dreadful happening to me, either, but it seemed like him dying too could only make it worse. "You shouldn't even if something does."
"I don't know," Jake said. "Do you have any memories about what happens to imprinted wolves without their imprints?"
"Mm," Jake said.
Siobhan said, "I'll just mention now that it would be the height of foolishness to deliberately involve Elspeth in any physical fighting that includes full vampires and phased wolves, and anyone who finds her to be an actual threat worth lethally addressing outside of that context will be someone she hasn't memory-blasted yet and can therefore incapacitate more than long enough to make a run for it. She may actually be the single person most likely to survive this entire mess."
"Good," said Jake softly.
There was more silence, and then Ilario piped up, "Do you think it will really take them until tomorrow afternoon to get to us...?"
My grandparents, aunt and uncle, and four cousins and new cousin-in-law arrived at the mountain peak Carlisle had described at noon. Cath wasn't with them, which visibly deflated Ilario, but I'd told him and Siobhan had told him that he couldn't expect her - it wouldn't make sense for her to join the vegetarian hunting trip, even if she did plan on changing her diet for him (which he hadn't asked her about in the handful of actual sentences they had exchanged, anyway). She wasn't thirsty, and her eyes proved it; and anyway, years of knowing a vegetarian Maggie hadn't converted her, so a sudden change before she announced to the Denalis that Ilario was her mate would be strange-looking and might have prompted a memo to the Volturi.
They spotted us as soon as we spotted them, of course, and it would be an understatement to say that the Denalis were startled. Emmett and Rosalie were obviously flabbergasted, too, but took in the situation with less alarm and more bemusement. I couldn't hear what was being said from so far away, though I assumed the vampires could - but I saw the effects, namely that the Denalis were coaxed to approach. Carlisle had a comforting hand on Tanya's back, and Carmen and Eleazar were clinging to each other, and Kate was lagging behind skittishly despite encouragement from Esme.
"...okay, it's okay," I finally heard Esme saying as they drew nearer. "We understand, Kate, but it can't continue -"
"Katie," said a man I'd never seen before who I assumed was Garrett, "I don't understand." He had sandy hair in a ponytail and his eyes shone dark gold as he looked at his mate with concern. Tanya, near them, seemed to shrink into herself and let the scrutiny fall on Kate rather than attract attention to herself.
"I didn't dare tell you," the witch whispered to Garrett. "I didn't dare. You're always talking about revolution, revolution is in your bones, you still have the uniform you wore during the revolution, how could I expect you to accept what had happened? I was already in it before you came here, I didn't dare, and then... David is a brother to me, Garrett -"
"Can I just state now," said Emmett, "that I have less than zero idea what is going on?"
"Elspeth!" called Carlisle. "If you wouldn't mind -"
I tried, but Emmett and Rosalie didn't react like they'd received my summary. "I don't think I have that much range for summaries yet," I called back.
"Elspeth, is that really you?" exclaimed Rosalie, jogging ahead of her hunting party. "Oh, my word, you've gotten so big -"
Everybody I was standing with had at least a foot on me, so I didn't feel very tall, but I had grown significantly since Rosalie had last seen me, so maybe it wasn't silly of her to say it. "It's me," I acknowledged. Rosalie broke into an outright run, threw her arms around me, picked me up, and spun me around before setting me down again, beaming all the while.
"How -" she began, and I sent her the condensed version of events, including Emmett as a target when he crossed within a plausible distance. Rosalie blinked; Emmett said something that didn't sound like a word.
Emmett reached me, pulled me into a familiar bear hug, and then turned to look back at cringing Tanya, dawdling Kate (trailed by her confused mate), and sheepish Eleazar and Carmen.
The vampires started all talking over each other, too many conversational threads for me to keep track of. From what I did catch, everyone was spending a surprising amount of time talking about topics that didn't matter at all. Rosalie spent most of the conversation with one hand on the back of my head, and Tanya tentatively touched my cheek at one juncture. Occasionally Siobhan asked me to announce something so it would be more compelling, and I obediently recited various facts and opinions. Jacob kept back the entire time, wrinkling his nose and keeping a suspicious eye on Garrett and Kate in particular.
It took about half an hour for everyone to simmer down, for all the explanations and reassurances and incredulity and anger and expressions of forgiveness and hugs and Ilario's repeated interruptions inquiring about Cath's well-being to all be over and done with.
"Well," said Emmett finally, "dunno about the rest of you, but I could use lunch."
"Not thirsty," said Ilario. "We'll go to the houses and -"
"Elspeth," said Siobhan suddenly, "you and Jacob need to stay here."
I was confused for a moment, and then understood. "Alice," I murmured. "She might look; the place can't be blacked out until it's all right for the Volturi to know."
"Right," Siobhan said. "Me and Liam and Ilario and Cath all make sense to have there. And a casual look won't have her reading lips closely, so as long as there's nothing suspicious to see, we can talk freely - but you and Jacob need to camp out."
I looked at Jacob, who seemed mostly relieved about not having to crash in one of three crowded houses full of vampires, and then back to Siobhan. "Okay," I said.
"We can bring you sleeping bags and so on," said Esme, patting my shoulder. "You'll be all right by yourselves, won't you? It's not too cold or -"
"We don't get cold," I reminded her. "We'll be okay. Jake would probably like some food, though I'm happier hunting."
"We'll bring you plenty to eat," Esme promised. She hugged me again, and then so did Carlisle and Rosalie and Emmett and Tanya and Eleazar and Carmen and even (gingerly) Kate, and with that, Jake and I were left by ourselves on the mountain for a time.
Esme came back just before nightfall, with sleeping bags and food and similar camping amenities. She helped us get set up, thanked Jacob graciously for looking after me, gave me another hug, and then departed reluctantly. I went to sleep soon after, muttering something about how sooner or later all the time zone jumping would probably catch up with me.
Shortly after I woke up, I noticed that we had company.