Chapter 9: Witches and Werewolves

Author: Alicorn. Link to original: http://luminous.elcenia.com/chapters/ch9.shtml (English).

Translations of this material:

into Russian: Сияние разума, глава 9: маги и оборотни. Translated in draft, editing and proof-reading required.
Submitted for translation by Remlin 16.01.2014

Text

I wondered, during Biology as the teacher nattered on interminably about cell walls, how much it was going to hurt the Bella-and-Edward-are-Together Show that I'd changed lab partners. Angela and Mike at least knew I'd done it deliberately. I didn't know what they thought my motives really were - Mike at least had seen the way Edward had first looked at me.

And it would be just like Mike to jump to conclusions about that, decide I was in an abusive relationship, and think I must need him available to turn to... I hoped Jessica would distract him enough. If Mike had any sense - or, if he lacked sense in certain possible ways - he wouldn't be thrown off by a sappy public image: there was no actual reason it couldn't coexist with dreadful mistreatment behind the scenes.

It wouldn't just be annoying to me if Mike got too nosy - he could get himself killed or have to be vamped, if he found anything out. (Although... just what surveillance mechanisms did the Volturi have, anyway? Did they have an Alice-equivalent among their guard, or something less effective? If someone bugged the Cullens' house while they were all out, saw some things, figured others out - could they go to the grave never telling, without being hunted down?)

I crossed my fingers. I didn't think this would accomplish anything, but it was a way to put my hope out in the world without writing anything down, and I knew what it meant whereas Alice would likely be puzzled. Although perhaps, I reflected, I should warn the vampires anyway - but Mike hadn't shown signs of being insufferable about it, let alone dangerously inquisitive. Yet. I'd make Wednesday my sit-with-the-humans day and check in... or I could let Edward, just him, know, and get him to spy...

I made a face, tilting my head forward first so my hair would get in the way of Angela or anyone else noticing. Edward had such a convenient power. It was just outrageously tempting to ask him to use it when I wasn't even sure of its necessity. Alice had been right - show me a mystery and I would poke, poke, poke at it until I figured it out or I was dead. I bit my lip: I would not ask Edward to invade Mike's privacy based on vague concerns that I could probably check up on without needing any telepathy at all. I valued my privacy so much - it would be the absolute height of conceit to assume Mike's was less important.

On that subject, it was about time for me to pin Alice in place long enough to see about getting myself some notebooky privacy, too. I'd visit that afternoon and try to catch her then - but after that, homework, definitely homework. Negative academic attention - from teachers or from Charlie - was the last thing I needed.

I supported my chin with my hand, let jargon about cell anatomy wash over me, and wondered what fjords looked like up close.

I did get Alice to conduct a quick experiment with me as soon as I got to their house. Although vampires could see in the dark, she didn't have the ability to move her vantage point quite as she pleased. She tended not to see things as though she were peering out from under beds or behind picture frames. It was more like she was standing, at her normal height with her normal visual acuity (except for uncertainty-induced blurriness), in whatever place she looked at.

It wasn't impossible that she would be able to see what I typed if I put my keyboard under something opaque and turned off my monitor, but it almost certainly wouldn't happen by accident, and she promised not to try for those visions outside of dire emergencies. (I made her specify, in this promise, that "dire emergencies" were those where she could see likely futures in which the situation was explained to me and I agreed that she had to look at the writing. I wasn't sure enough about Alice's judgment, this early on in our acquaintance, that I was prepared to leave it entirely up to her.) So I could type in privacy, and if I draped a thick blanket over myself and pressed my nose right up against the backlit screen, I could re-read later in privacy, too.

The notebooks were not as easy to address. I touch-typed, but if I tried to write longhand without being able to see, I wound up with illegible scribbles that meandered all over the page. And if I ducked under a blanket that was thin enough to admit lamplight, it would also be thin enough that a vampire could see through it pretty effectively. They had a better-than-human ability to separate out the noise of an intermediate layer of material from the objects behind it. A vampire would have no trouble telling what was going on behind a screen door, even a painted one with a distracting picture on the near side, as long as there were enough intact little perforations. A human would see the screen and stop there and ignore anything spotted through the holes.

So I decided to continue writing anything private in confusing personal code, and use my computer more, when it was available. This plan had the weak point of relying on my shifty, wobbly memory to fill in the gaps that the shorthand inevitably left, but it was only for a few months - after that, I expected to need no notebooks at all.

After I'd had this discussion with Alice, I set up at the kitchen table and did homework, only half-concentrating on the worksheets and the index cards for my presentation in Government. Edward sat with me. He was good about not doing anything to distract me; he only watched. No one could hold still like a vampire. But he still had that property, whatever it was, that made my eyes slide towards him; whenever he shifted position to better have a look at what I was doing, my ears perked up to listen.

He was sitting close enough that I could smell his breath - it didn't smell like a human's breath at all. It didn't smell wet in the same way - it was almost floral. That was peculiar - it had to be the venom I was smelling, but why would it smell like lilacs? Or not lilacs - I wasn't sure what flower to compare it to. Something nice, anyway. But why? It wasn't as though vampires needed to attract prey. They just needed to catch someone alone, somewhere inconspicuous, and once they did that, the result was already overdetermined by their power and speed. Vampires were certainly ridiculously overengineered, and I couldn't wait to play with all the new abilities...

With effort, I wrenched my attention back to the rectangle of cardstock I was trying to transfer notes to. The executive branch, it said already in my awful handwriting. I made a small grumbling noise and completed the sentence. Perfect recall was going to be mine in a few short months. And I was learning pointless things I wouldn't remember in two weeks, let alone a hundred years, because I was seventeen and that meant I had to go to high school and spit back the right information in the right format at the right time.

"Don't they assign you any homework?" I asked, pulling out a new index card.

"I can do it at night," he said. The unspoken reason was so I don't have to lose any time with you. I was learning to read Edward's face and tone fairly well, at least when his feelings were expressed one at a time, not in a tangle.

"I can't be that interesting to watch. I am me and I'm bored out of my skull," I muttered, writing a note on the new index card.

"You're the one who wanted to do homework," he said lightly. "I'm not bored, though, Bella."

What had put me on Edward's list of possible soulmates? I took another card and almost wrote that question on it instead of the presentation note that belonged there. I stuck my tongue out at the card, wrote the correct note on it, and then pretended not to know what to write on the next one. What was it about me? He couldn't have known instantly, or he would have acted differently when he'd first seen me. So it probably had nothing to do with my looks. That was comforting, on some level.

I'd thought it correlated with the potential for extra vampire powers, which correlated with actually being turned, to explain how many vampires seemed to pair off without eating their mates first. Or possibly beauty, which was another selection criterion. I didn't think of myself as pretty, and didn't trust my parents' evaluations to the contrary a bit. But even if Edward's feelings could be explained away by magic, Mike's and Eric's couldn't, and it was pushing it to speculate that they'd only been interested because I was new. So maybe I was pretty.

I wrote the next note, pulled out another card, and sighed. I was probably decent-looking enough to make a pretty vampire, at least - I was looking forward to that for so many reasons, and that was a trivial one, but it still existed.

I wrote a note. I grabbed a new card. I hated Government. I normally felt neutral about it - the material was undertaken laboriously slowly, but at least it was new to me, and the teacher was reasonably competent. But why did it have to assign me a presentation when I wanted so badly to have time to think? I supposed the teacher had no way of knowing - and shouldn't have had any way of knowing - when these times were.

I wrote another note. I had a little stack of fifteen cards after I added it to the pile. That might be enough. Dealing with my impromptu public speaking issues was on my to-hack list anyway; going on sparser notes would be a potentially useful step towards that. I was rationalizing, of course - I just wanted to be done with homework. But I really, really wanted to be done with homework, and so as long as there was some way it could be made not to bite me in the rear later, I might as well give in to that want.

"Right, I'm done," I muttered to myself, and started putting school supplies away.

"What would you like to do with the rest of your day?" Edward asked, smiling. I looked at him. Radiating from his face was the undiluted desire to see to it that I got exactly the Tuesday I wanted. It was gratifying, mostly - and still a little weird, but I was getting used to it.

"So," I said, sitting back in my chair and recalling a note to myself from the previous day, "witches and werewolves, hm?"

"Witches and we- Oh. I mentioned those when I told you about Carlisle," remembered Edward. "Well - yes, they exist. There are actually two kinds of werewolves that I know about, and every witch is different."

"Besides two kinds of werewolves, witches, and vampires, is there anything else mythical that I should know about?" I asked.

"Not as far as I know," said Edward. "But I might not have seen everything. Anyway, witches. That's the technical term for a human with a power - the kind that turning into a vampire generally intensifies."

"I didn't know witches were the sorts of things that would have technical terminology about them," I said, and then I sat up suddenly. "Wait a minute, that would make me a witch, wouldn't it?"

"It would," agreed Edward. "Although you wouldn't have been the sort of witch that used to be burnt at the stake if you'd lived earlier - your power seems only to protect you from mine, and maybe others. It doesn't seem to do anything otherwise detectable."

"Were you a witch? Jasper?"

"I don't think either of us would have qualified. Extra vampire powers don't have to be preceded by witchcraft. My ability to read people and Jasper's charisma proved useful, but were quite natural when we were human. Alice was probably a witch, but we don't know."

I nodded. "And the two kinds of werewolves? Do they have other names, to tell them apart?"

"The Eurasian variety," said Edward, "are sometimes also called Children of the Moon. They're much closer to myth than the other sort. Silver won't do anything - that's a human myth to make it sound to one another like they'd have a fighting chance, if they ran into one. But they do infect humans by biting, and change during the full moon. They're fierce, solitary creatures in wolf form, not at all the sort of animal you'd want to meet."

"Are they normal humans during the rest of the month?" I asked.

"I think so. I haven't actually encountered any of them. They're extinct now, or close to it - Caius doesn't care for them a bit and had them hunted down. I only know what Carlisle's told me, and he learned it all from the Volturi."

"Hunted to extinction with, not silver, presumably - what?"

Edward tilted his head back a little and laughed. "With members of the Volturi guard, of course. I'm sure there were casualties on their side. Werewolves - either sort - can give vampires a run for our money in a fight. But a transformed Child of the Moon isn't very intelligent. That is, they're smarter than normal wolves, but they don't retain their human intellects. A group of vampires bent on hunting one down could accomplish it. Especially if they managed to work out who it was as a human. Then it would be quite easy." He kept switching tenses - I supposed that made sense when talking about the traits of a species that might or might not be extinct.

"Okay. What about the other kind? Where do they live?" I prompted.

"Not far from here, actually," Edward said, "but I doubt there are any of them left, either. We were here seventy years ago and met a pack of them. They don't like vampires, but we were able to convince them we didn't prey on humans, and made a treaty - we stay off their land and don't bite anyone, and they don't attack us unless we're on their turf. But it takes vampire presence to activate the genes that let them shapeshift. The pack that was active seventy years ago is likely all inactive now, or dead. And we haven't been close enough to their land to trigger any new changes."

"Where do you mean by "not far from here"?" I asked, aware that vampires might easily conceive very differently of distances.

"The Quileute reservation, La Push," Edward said. "They probably still tell the stories, even if the actual wolves are all gone now."

"That's quite close," I said. It was just over a half an hour away - driving like a normal person. "I know some people from La Push."

"You do?" Edward asked, looking interested.

"Charlie's old friends with a guy from there called Billy Black. He sold Charlie my truck. I used to play with Billy's daughters sometimes, Rachel and Rebecca, when I was little. I've been out of touch with them lately, though. I think they had a younger brother. I can't think what his name was, though."

"I don't know either," shrugged Edward. "They might be descendants of one of the wolves we met, though - same surname."

"So how do the - do they have their own name besides "wolves"?" Edward shook his head. "The Quileute wolves, then, how do they work?"

He explained. They were indistinguishable from normal humans until the gene was activated by vampire presence. Wolves were quite fast and strong enough to kill vampires, at least when they worked as a pack. They also healed with extraordinary rapidity, and retained some of these powers even in their human forms. When the gene woke up and did its work, a gradual buildup of emotion eventually provoked the first shift, which, while potentially dangerous to people around the wolf (as they expanded quite a bit in size very rapidly) was not harmful to its subject. Shifting continued to be provoked by lost temper until more practice managing both shifting and temper accumulated. After that, it was possible to "quit one's wolf" and go back to being a relatively normal human. A Quileute wolf who didn't quit, also didn't age.

"What makes you so sure the ones you met seventy years ago aren't still alive, then?" I asked.

"They have secrets to keep, too," Edward said. "If they're alive, they've probably faked their deaths and moved away. The tribe council likely knows, or at least has enough details to recognize the events if anyone should activate now. But arbitrary Quileutes, like your friends, almost certainly think of the wolves as mere legends."

I nodded, and sighed, dropping my chin onto my arms where they lay folded across the table. "Why - why - don't people want to be immortal? Why don't people care that everyone is dying? Why do they want to cure some deadly things like cancer and malaria and then the Quileutes had a cure for aging handed to them on a silver platter and they gave it up? Is everyone in the world but me actually suicidal and I just never noticed because they aren't all taking razors to their wrists?"

"It's natural," murmured Edward.

"Cancer's natural."

"Cancer isn't inevitable," he said.

"Neither is aging!" I cried, sitting up and gesturing emphatically at Edward. "You're going to be seventeen forever. I'm going to be seventeen forever once we've got everything sorted out."

"What, do you want to turn everyone into a vampire?" asked Edward.

"I told you already, I can't. I can't turn everyone or it'll be entirely counterproductive," I said, folding my arms and resting my head on them again. "The Volturi want to be immortal, I suppose, but they don't want to share, do they?"

Edward reached out to stroke my hair. It was a soothing, regular motion.

"I'm tempted to find Rachel and Rebecca's phone numbers. And their brother's. And call them all up, and demand that they come visit right away, and have you all sitting there when they show up, so they can live forever - it wouldn't be as bad as turning them without permission, I think, since if they were insane and decided they didn't want superpowers and the chance to live forever they could quit their wolves. If they were insane," I growled.

He kept stroking my hair. I closed my eyes and tried to calm down, concentrating on the cool, careful touch. "Is there," I asked, after having managed some success at this task, "any reason I shouldn't collect all the Quileutes I can, here on "your turf" where you're allowed to be, and activate them?"

"Immature werewolves are dangerous," Edward said softly. "The connection between their transformations and their tempers means the latter is unstable until they learn control. They aren't as likely to kill as newborn vampires, but it is not out of the question, and injuries wouldn't be surprising."

I inhaled as deeply as I could, held the breath until it hurt, and then let it out slowly. "We could set up a werewolf summer camp," I said. "Put them someplace away from anyone who can't heal like they can, help them..."

"The presence of vampires would not help them. They instinctively see us as enemies," Edward said. "Vampires and Quileute wolves do not smell pleasant to one another or serve as comforting presences for one another."

"Jasper," I said, desperately. It was a sign that I was very serious, wanting to bring in Jasper... "He could activate them, then help them stay calm until they could do it themselves, until they were safe."

"Maybe," said Edward, surprising me. He was still petting my hair. "That might work. But the Volturi don't know about the Quileutes, I think... and are unlikely to come to know about them, unless Aro reads one of us, which might not happen for centuries if we fly under their radar. At least, as long as they remain as unobtrusive as they presently are."

I swore. Edward did not, apparently, share Angela's philosophical dislike of strong language.

And then I swore again. "Edward, you said the treaty is that you won't bite a human. And seventy years ago, if you were rounding, could have been after Carlisle turned Emmett. He's the most recent turning. Was it?

"Yes," he said. "Does rounding count as lying? I don't understand."

"Have any of the slip-ups in the family been since then?"

He shook his head, slowly.

"Will it break the treaty if you turn me? Even if you don't do it here?"

Edward was silent. "Technically," he said. "Yes."

I thought quickly. "Does the treaty say bite - that exact word?"

"It does," he confirmed. His hand had stopped moving over my head and was resting on the back of my neck.

"Can you turn me without actually biting me? Alice said something about crying into an open wound..."

"She did? That's a bit of a fanciful way of putting it. We have venom in our eyes... but we don't really cry. You'd have to collect it over a long time, and get it into the bloodstream indirectly. I can't think of anything less efficient. The mouth is the better source."

"But it doesn't absolutely have to be a bite. You could fill a syringe and inject it, maybe."

"Yes," he said. "Yes, that would work."

"All right," I said, letting out another sigh. "So if I figure out a way to activate some wolves without getting the Volturi's attention, I won't necessarily have a war on my hands over my having been turned."

"Ambitious, aren't you," he remarked in a soft, almost admiring tone.

I lifted my head, and he drew his hand back to the table in front of him. "It shouldn't be ambitious," I said. "It shouldn't be uncommon or special or rebellious or anything like that to want people to live. If I were holding down a job and giving half my income to oncology researchers or something, I wouldn't be ambitious. Altruistic - plenty that - but not ambitious."

"You know, if you keep saying this sort of thing, eventually I might agree with you," Edward said lightly.

"I can't help but see that as a good result," I said, fussing with the end of my sleeve. "It looks from here like you don't have any sound reasons for believing the way you do - just tangled-up emotions that won't let you hear what I'm saying as though I'm talking clear English. If I can get through to you in spite of that by saying that death is bad a lot, well, then, I guess I'll say it a lot. Death is bad. Death is bad. Death is bad."

"It really bothers you, what I said about souls," he observed in a low voice.

"It did, I guess, at the time. Now I'm just sort of generally bothered by everyone who wants to tolerate death like it's their annoying-but-harmless old uncle who comes round every Thanksgiving and without whom the family would be incomplete, or something. It's not harmless. And there's no ineradicable reason it has to exist at all."

"Let's talk about something else," said Edward, breaking eye contact and frowning.

"I'll dole it out in small doses, if you need me to, but I'm not apt to quit," I warned him. "Ask Alice. You'd have to stay away from me entirely to avoid hearing about it."

"I could never stay away," he said, looking back into my eyes. "I thought at first that I should... but Alice was right, when she told me I wasn't strong enough to do that."

"Good," I whispered.

I got home late - well after Charlie had already given up on a fresh dinner and microwaved himself some leftovers. "Hey, Bells," he said when I let myself in. He turned off the TV and turned half-around on the sofa to look at me. "Where were you?" He didn't say it accusingly or as though he were disappointed; he didn't think I'd been spraying graffiti on buildings or knocking over mailboxes, and wasn't upset that I hadn't been home to cook one night out of the week. He was taking an interest in my life.

I had taken a little time to think through how Charlie modeled me, and accordingly, what the best way to convince him that I was plausibly going to elope with Edward in the summer would be. And so I had a script ready.

"Oh," I said, with an absent sort of smile on my face, "I was with Edward."

Charlie raised an eyebrow. "Edward Cullen?"

I nodded rapidly. "Yes, you met him on Saturday when he came by..."

"Studying Biology again?" asked Charlie, although he didn't sound like this was his first guess.

I shook my head, carelessly letting a lock of hair fall into my face and then tucking it behind my ear again. "We did some homework," I said slowly (well, between the two of us, some homework had gotten done), "but mostly we were just talking..." I let my eyes fly wide open, and said, "I mean, I'm friends with his sisters. I hung out with Alice some too, that was the first thing I did when I got to his house."

"I see," muttered Charlie. And he didn't pry. I hadn't expected him to. But I thought I'd pretty effectively planted the idea. Charlie would probably grill Edward a little bit the next time he was by the house to pick me up for some outing. Sometime during the ensuing week I would have to casually drop the word "boyfriend" in Charlie's earshot - possibly on the phone to Jessica or Angela.

I smiled brightly at him, promised that there would be dinner at dinnertime on Thursday, and trotted up the stairs.

Sort-of-pretending with Edward was more fun than it had any business being.

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