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Maledictum Magae - Ch. 15

Disclaimer: I own nothing. All characters are property of Stephenie Meyer. And I do not get any sort of profit from this.

 The curse happened in 1692. For over 300 years, Isabella Swan has lived alone, afraid to be close to anyone again. But when she finally meets someone who captures her heart, the unthinkable happens, leaving her in a kind of danger she never thought possible.


A/N: As always, a HUGE thanks goes to my fab beta, ohfiyera . I apologize again for not updating sooner, but I hope it's worth the wait! Two to three (maybe three... yeah, I know I said this last time) chapters left guys! Get ready for some craziness to ensue in 3... 2... 1...

Chapter 15: An Extinguished Flame

Silence filled the air. Not even the soothing cadence of a cricket's song could be heard. The wind snaked through the cloaked, motionless figures staggered amongst the trees. Their black robes rippled, creating a wave of death in the darkness.

Frozen, Bella could only stare helplessly at the figure in the center of the group – Aro, he called himself.

"Forgive me, my dear." His voice shattered the night air, like nails dragging down a chalkboard. "May I introduce my brothers?" Aro held out one pale hand to his right. "Caius." He held out a hand to the left. "And Marcus."

Marcus absently watched the sporadic motions of an owl high up in a tree. He didn't turn his gaze on her, but she noticed the tightening of the muscles in his jaw as he clenched his mouth shut. There was anger there, hidden beneath the pale layer of skin. But there was also bewilderment – something that Bella didn't quite understand.

She turned her attention to the other vampire at Aro's side. His blood-red eyes glowed in the dark from beneath the rim of his hood. Unlike Marcus, his gaze followed her every motion with interest. She felt herself cower in his presence. The red within his irises was as bright as the liquid that flowed so freely within one's carotid artery. Panic trickled through her nerves as he slowly lifted his lips into the shape of a grin.

"Those you see behind us are part of the Volturi guard," Aro continued on. "Jane, Alec, Demitri, Felix and Chelsea." Aro nodded toward the last. "I believe you've already met her."

The blonde took a small step forward, her teeth glimmering like knives as she smiled at Bella.

"There are more members, but these are the ones I treasure the most. They travel with me at all times."

Eight pairs of claret eyes shone within the shadows of the forest, watching her.

"You understand, of course," Aro murmured, his smile growing wide. "I see you've also met other members of my guard as well."

For a brief moment, a vision of perfect clarity flashed through her mind. Dismembered limbs lay in a tangled heap on the ground. In front of the carnage, Edward knelt before his master. A limp body lay, cradled, within his arms. Grief swam heavily in his eyes as he stared up at the man before him. Though she could picture the body perfectly, everything seemed blurry from the shoulders up. But Bella knew without a doubt, that it was she Edward held so reverently within his grasp. It was her death that brought sorrow to his eyes.

Be careful, Izzy.

Alice's voice invaded the vision, bringing her back to reality. Bella glanced up to see Alice, along with the rest of her family, walking back to where they had been previously, their approach ever so cautious before the Volturi.

Aro turned his gaze to all of them with amusement. "It's so fascinating," he murmured. "Seven grown vampires all overcome by one human." He turned his attention back on Bella. "She took you all down without even so much as a flinch."

She swallowed nervously, trying to bury herself within the tree that held her upright. Everything about this situation made her want to run.

"It's extraordinary," Aro whispered, clasping his hands together beneath his chin as if in prayer.

Caius growled lowly to his right. "It needs to be disposed of."

The eldest brother tilted his head to the side, examining her, and smiled widely. "All in good time."

"Why don't you go to her, Aro?" A deep, hollow voice penetrated the air as Marcus finally glanced toward the witch. "You know what you want to do, brother. She won't stop you." His eyes slid warily to the side where Edward clenched his fists, readying to attack. "Though he might."

"I am not worried," Aro said, never taking his eyes off of Bella. "The rest will handle him."

He took a step forward, outstretching a cold hand. "Come to me, dear child," he sang. "Let me have a look at you."

He walked a few more steps until he was nearly hovering over her. She cowered away from him and the hand he so readily offered.

"If you touch her…" Edward warned menacingly, his entire body shaking.

"You'll do what?" Aro spit back, turning his gaze on the young vampire. "I could rip your head off before you could even move. Do not test me, boy. You work for me. I own you and you will do as you're told. Don't forget it."

He looked back down at Bella; her body huddled in a ball. The stench of blood hung dangerously in the air around her. Aro licked his lips. "No harm will come to you, Isabella. Please, take my hand."

Her gaze nervously flickered from his hand back to his eyes, which were now steadily growing dark, like a storm rolling overhead. Her breath pillowed into blankets of smoke within the cold air as the snowfall began to grow thicker around them.

After a moment, Aro's smile faltered, his patience waning. "It is not polite to not speak when spoken to. Take. My. Hand."

Bella frowned, the lines in her forehead wrinkling her skin as she stared back at the pale, empty hand. The snowflakes seemed to freeze into small crystalline diamonds as they fell on his frigid skin.

Tired of waiting, Aro reached forward, wrenching Bella to her feet. She cried out as he grasped her left hand, cracking the already broken bones in her arm. Hot tears streamed down her face, leaking off of her chin. With his other hand, he clutched her jaw, bringing her face close to his. "I asked you take my hand," he seethed, his mouth inches from hers.

Edward was nearly to them by the time Aro grasped her, but was stopped by a hand firmly pushing against his chest. Carlisle stood protectively in front of him, blocking an oncoming attack from one of the other guards.

"Don't do this," Carlisle whispered desperately in Edward's ear. "You'll only get her killed."

"That is wise advice, my friend," Aro spoke loudly.

Caius snapped his fingers, signaling the guard to withdraw from them. "Leave them be."

"Now," Aro muttered, inhaling Bella's scent. "Let me see you." He stared fully into her eyes, his hands never leaving her skin. She tried to jerk her face away from him, but found it useless. The searing pain that radiated up her left arm left her feeling dizzy and nauseated. Aro was the only thing keeping her on her feet.

After a few agonizingly silent moments, a disappointed expression cascaded over his face. "Interesting," he whispered. "I can't see anything."

Bella's body began to sway and through the pain-induced haze, she remembered Edward telling her about Aro's special ability. He could read someone's mind by just touching them, but for some reason, he couldn't read hers.

Unnerved, Aro began to withdraw from her. But in that moment, a flash of colors danced behind her eyes. Instinctively, she gripped his hand tighter, ignoring the pain. The colors transformed into scenes, people, landscapes. As she held onto Aro's hand, she began to see images of things she had never known. Finally, a vision of Aro stood within her mind's eye. He was discussing something with Caius. The words, "Didyme" and "death" rang loudly in her ears.

With something new to focus on, her body became strangely alert. Reaching forward with her right hand, she grabbed onto Aro's robes, pulling him back to her with surprising strength.

"How dare you," he snarled, his words barely reaching her.

He moved his free hand back, ready to strike, but she caught his wrist firmly. "You will not leave. Not yet," she breathed, seeing more images race through her mind.

Aro may not have been able to read her thoughts, but she was certainly reading his.

She felt him struggle within her grasp, but her powers seemed to hold him in place. They surged through her body, their heat resonating within her limbs, numbing the pain within her arm and chest. It was as if she was drawing his own power from him and into her own body. She was able to think… to see what needed to be seen.

Everything else around her seemed to fall away as the thoughts became clearer in her mind.

"Marcus has told me that he and Didyme want to leave," Caius spoke solemnly, his hands clasped behind his back as he stared up at the domed ceiling above. "They want to put everything about what we've created behind them. They want to start off afresh."

"Impossible," Aro snarled, pacing back and forth.

Caius sighed, a reaction from his human days. "I do not even begin to imagine the feelings they have for each other. It's too human, if you ask me. But I know that we could trust them to depart. If it's what he wants…"

"Since when are you the bearer of feelings, Caius?" Aro hissed, rounding on his comrade with a fury. "Since when have you, dear brother, ever cared for another living creature – alive or undead?"

"Let us get something straight," Caius seethed, stalking toward Aro. "I am not your brother. You took me in when I came here thousands of years of ago, and I am grateful for that, but you do not address me as part of your blood. We are only mere allies. I am not the same as you and do not forget that."

"No… you're not," Aro murmured appreciatively. "But you do answer to me, Caius. So when I ask you a question, I expect a suitable answer to it."

Caius' jaws locked in quiet rage, refusing to answer him.

Aro ignored his ignorance and continued on with the matter at hand. "Marcus cannot leave. He is bound to me as is Didyme, but Marcus is someone I treasure more than his wife."

Caius followed his movements as he began to pace across the floor again, his mind racing. Finally, Aro stopped, an idea suddenly forming in his mind.

"Didyme must be destroyed," he whispered, the pupils in his eyes dilating.

"But she is your sister," Caius bargained. "Do you not care at all for her life?"

A beat of silence passed between them before Aro spoke. "No."

"Marcus will kill you," Caius warned. "Is that what you want? To leave our rule in turmoil? He will not take this lightly, Aro."

Aro smiled, a sickeningly sweet curl of his lips. "Ah, but he will, dear Caius. Marcus is so consumed by the human feeling of love, that he will also feel the human feeling of loss. And being that we are vampires, he will feel the loss on a much deeper level than any human could ever hope to imagine. Marcus will be my puppet. He will be my shadow. His soul will be mine and there will be no option of him leaving. Not after that."

"Tell me, Aro," Caius sneered. "How exactly do you propose such an endeavor?"

"I've been using Alice," he divulged, his smile growing wider.

Caius' gaze narrowed into tiny slits. "The seer? Why is it that you trust the Cullens? Half of them don't even drink from humans."

"Yes, but we let them live out their lives in return for their service, Caius. They are all special."

"And they all portray that of a human as well. I'm supposed to eat humans. Not live with them."

"Now, now," Aro chided lightly. "I knew there was something more behind Alice's little story of going to Salem. So, I found her the day of her departure and made her open her mind to me. You know how much she tries to block me with her powers as a witch."

Caius nodded.

"Well, I threatened the life of her mate – Jasper. He would be able to tell if she was lying to me and Chelsea would be able to tell if he was lying to protect her. Chelsea is so very loyal to us."

"Are you telling me that you blackmailed her?" Caius wondered, the idea lifting his lips into a satisfied grin.

"That's exactly what I'm saying."

Caius moved to sit on his throne, an ornate chair decorated in obsidian and gold. He rotated his wrist lazily in the air. "So how, pray tell, does Didyme's death factor into all of this?"

"Ah, that's the beauty of this whole story, Caius. You see, Edward has feelings for the human that Alice has befriended."

Caius' wrist froze and his blood-red eyes slid over to Aro. "Does he now?"

Aro nodded. "Yes. From Alice's thoughts, I was able to discern that the human would undoubtedly learn about our kind. She needs to be destroyed. If I let slip a little… oh… information in front of Didyme, she will take it upon herself to destroy the girl on her own. You see Didyme is a marvelous creature. I believe that she would take on this task in order to gain more of my favor and in succeeding she will hope that I will grant them leave. But you see I know that if she leaves, Edward will follow. He would kill her to save his human, which would leave me free of her and Marcus would be mine for eternity. Edward will come back to reveal his disloyalty and betrayal but Alice will block some his thoughts from mine. I will, of course, know the full truth but Edward will not realize any of that. In his thoughts, it would appear that the girl – who is also a witch, I might add – is the one who killed Didyme. Marcus and everyone else here will know that as the truth. You and I will have to play a little game of pretend. It will all work out well, you see."

Caius hummed appreciatively. "Your idea is very grand, Aro, but I foresee several little black holes in your plot."

"So we jump over the little black holes, brother."

Caius' smile was tight as he turned to his master. "And tell me, the future that you've seen? Is it solid? Can you discern what happens after?"

Aro's smile dissipated slightly. "No. But I have faith that things will work out."

"Alice's visions never stay on the same path once, Aro. You are being too risky with this idea of yours. You're so thirsty for more power that you cannot see the damage that this whole thing could create!"

"SILENCE," Aro growled, instantly hovering over Caius. "I will not be contradicted on this matter. Remember that you are also mine. Be glad that I do not strike down Athenodora as well and leave you just as soulless as Marcus will be. Because I could, you know."

"If you even try – "

"You'll be dead too," Aro whispered menacingly. He brought his nose down against the side of Caius' face and dragged it along the length of his jaw, inhaling his scent. "Your soul will always belong to me. If you dare try to refute me on this plan, your wife will meet her end. Make no mistake about that."

Bella gasped, her mind thrown back into the present. She stared at the vampire before her in shocked disgust. "You," she hissed. "You betrayed everyone."

Aro's eyes widened, his voice barely above a whisper as he questioned, "How can you see my thoughts?"

"You blackmailed Alice into telling you everything!" Bella accused, ignoring his inquiry. "You were the one who had Didyme killed – your own sister – just so Marcus could stay with you. You even blackmailed Caius to keep your plan silent."

Aro's fingers were suddenly wrapped around her neck, squeezing ever so slightly. "I am the leader. I rule over everyone here. They listen to me and do not question my laws. If I say something is to be done, then it will be done without question. And not even you can change that."

Bella struggled to breath in the oxygen that her body craved, but she managed to speak within his tight grasp. "Because of you Jacob was killed," she stammered, her voice trembling with ire. "You took his life."

Aro smiled pleasantly at her. "Ah yes, it was such a misfortune that the Indian died."

Fury coursed through her veins and on impulse, she spit in his eye.

Startled, his smile instantly vanished as his irises turned to a sickening black.

"I've done my research," Bella spat. "You were right in that I would know of your kind. I know that the sun does nothing to harm you. I know that a stake through the heart won't kill you or that garlic will not affect you. But there is something that you have in common with the vampires of myths and legends."

"Oh?" Aro hummed, his voice unusually high. "And what is that?"

Bella leveled her gaze with his and smiled. "Fire."

She grabbed a hold of the hand around her neck, and though flames did not spring forth, their result became evident on his skin. Aro howled in pain as his flesh began to singe and peel away from the bones in his hand as smoke filtered high into the air.

He let go of her, her body dropping to the ground with a loud thud. She winced and turned her gaze back on him, her chest heaving with the anger that spread through her soul.

The moment he released her, his skin began to heal, the tendons in the muscles of his hand twisted together until the translucency of his flesh was back to normal. He held onto the once injured appendage, staring at it in awe… and fear.

His gaze instantly shot up to Edward. "Regardless of what she says, you are the one who betrayed us! You killed Didyme to save her… a human. And you will suffer for this."

Alice suddenly gasped and raced forward to Bella, her eyes wide with horror. And just as she was about to reach her friend, white-hot pain shot through her skull and she fell to the ground, her hands clutching her hair as an agonized scream escaped her lips.

Jasper raced to her side, but was stopped by another guard. As strong as this guard seemed to be, Jasper's moves were precise. He dodged the oncoming attack and with a twist of his body, grabbed the guard's arm and detached it from his torso.

Another scream filled the night.

Utter terror began to fill Bella's heart. She had no idea why her best friend was in so much pain and as she watched the other guard hit the ground in agony, Jasper too collapsed to his knees as pain distorted the features of his face. It was as if an unseen force were torturing the two vampires whose screams grew louder with every second.

"Felix is one of our most faithful guards and you have tainted him!" Caius raved, his whole body trembling as he stared down at Jasper's crumpled form. "You will feel death, my friend."

At that moment, more guards seemed to appear from the trees. They encircled the rest of the Cullen family, preventing them from aiding Jasper and Alice. A thunderous roar rang into the night as Emmett tried to tear his way through. Bella watched, horrified, as a fight broke out amongst the vampires.

Desperately, Bella searched the guards who stood behind the rulers of the Volturi. These were the ones that Aro claimed were his most treasured. There was a small, thin one, his eyes as piercing as a hawk. Beside him, two children watched the scene within gleeful expressions – one male, the other female. Something about the small girl drew Bella's attention. The girl's eyes seemed to be focused on Alice and Jasper, as if she was in a trance. Bella put two and two together, realizing that pain must be this vampire's gift. She struggled to stand up, but was suddenly confronted with Aro once more.

"Do you see what you've done?" he asked her. "Do you see what you've created amongst my community? This is why humans should not intermingle with vampires."

"But I'm not a mere human," Bella hissed, her gaze deadly as she focused on him.

Aro smiled – something she noticed that he did quite often. "No, you're not. You're a witch." The way his voice rolled over that last word made a shuddering chill snake down her spine, interweaving between the vertebrae. "Do you know what they do to witches, Isabella?" he whispered in her ear, his face suddenly too close to hers.

Suddenly, a book was produced in front of her on the snow-covered ground. Malleus Maleficarum. She inhaled sharply, panic thrumming beneath the surface of her skin. She pushed herself away from the book, away from the vampire as her adrenaline suddenly awakened the nerves within her body.

"There are many ways to kill a witch," Aro hummed excitedly. "Do you know what my favorite one is? I do believe it's the most efficient way, you know."

Bella's heart beat uncontrollably fast within her chest, slamming against her sternum in an unsteady rhythm.

Aro's eyes were as black as onyx, two bottomless pits of hell. His sharp teeth gleamed within the snowy night as he smiled down at her. Slowly, he pulled out a sword from within his robes.

Bella's eyes widened and she could vaguely hear Edward's voice screaming her name in the background.

Excitement fed the sudden animal that emerged from within Aro's soul. "Beheading," he whispered.

Hands suddenly encircled her arms, holding her in place.

"NO!" she cried out, desperately trying to break away from the guards who held her. Her feet slid in the snow, smearing mud that bled into the serene white of the ground.

She tried to move her arms, but her left arm would not give, and she cried, her body tipping forward as the pain came searing back.

Edward broke through the mass of guards, his speed carrying him closer and closer to her.

Bella looked up to see his enraged face, his body catapulting toward them at an inhumane speed. She had witnessed his protectiveness and glimpses of the monster that lived within his body. She had heard his menacing growls within the shadows and seen his golden eyes glow like embers in the dark. However, the Edward that rushed to save her now, was nothing of the person she had known. The monster within him had truly come alive. The amber that normally filled his eyes only shone at the outer edges of his irises. It was as if black ink were bleeding within the lines of the color that resided there. Like the startling mixture of hues in molten rock, his gaze was hypnotizing, yet deadly all at once.

His body slammed into Aro, who had the blade raised high over his head. Upon impact, a thunderous bang ricocheted between the trees, shaking the branches high in the air.

But within seconds, Aro had tossed him aside, the force of his throw slamming Edward hard against a tree. The wood splintered and cracked in the charged atmosphere.

"Edward!" Bella cried out, her vision blurred by her tears.

He fell to the ground, limp, his eyes starring unseeingly up at the heavens.

Hysteria licked at her veins, threatening to overtake her as Aro turned his attention back on her, the sword gripped tightly in his hands.

It was as if everything slowed down, as if time had stilled in that very moment.

Bella saw past the black robes of the vampire before her; they rippled lazily in the breeze. She saw the vampires of Edward and Alice's family attempting to fight their way through the guards. The brunette, Esme, took a violent blow to the head and she was flung backward. Carlisle's eyes turned dangerous and he released a guttural howl that would have frightened even the most feared vampire around. Her eyes slid over to her friend and the southern vampire on the ground. Alice had become nearly catatonic in her pain. She lay lifelessly in the snow, the frozen flakes falling gracefully around her, as her body would twitch every so often. Jasper, though his limbs shook and his teeth gritted together with each blow the small child-like vampire bestowed upon him, crawled slowly over to his beloved. Bella watched as he gasped Alice's name, his hand reaching out to clasp her wrist.


It was Alice's voice. Bella watched as her fingers flinched in the snow, the palm of her hand kissing the ground.

Find me, Bella.

The guards that held Bella bent her head forward until she was facing the ground, the chestnut waves of her hair draping down on either side of her face.

Bella, Alice called again. Find. Me.

Understanding dawned on her and as Aro stalked toward her, the blade of his sword lifting into the air over the back of her neck, Bella used her powers to rip her right arm free. She fell forward, placing the palm of her hand flat against the snowy turf.

Aro's sword lowered down upon her.

A burst of energy rippled through the ground in a glowing yellow line that spread from the tips of Bella's fingers until it reached Alice's hand.

The blade moved ever close to the flesh of her neck.

A gasp escaped Bella's lips the moment her power connected with Alice's.

She expected to feel some kind of searing pain that would instantly turn to nothing the moment her head was disconnected from her body. She expected to never see Alice or Edward ever again. She expected to never know of Carlisle's family or what they all truly meant in her life.

What she didn't expect was what happened next.

The wind picked up, swirling the snow around them in a gigantic cyclone. Her hair blew up and away from her face. She lifted her head to see Alice staring at her, her golden eyes wide. She pushed herself up from the ground and began crawling toward Bella.

"Master," a guard called from behind her. "What is this madness?"

Aro had suddenly forgotten about the sword and stared helplessly around him, as did the rest of the guard. Snow, dead leaves, and other debris swirled in a thick mass, surrounding them.

Alice was coming closer to Bella now, the young vampire's focus distracted elsewhere and no longer on her.

Follow your instincts, Alice's voice flooded her mind. You have to trust me, Izzy.

Bella nodded and glanced up to Aro, who towered over her, the sword at his side. She knew what to do.

"Do you know what they do to vampires, Aro?" she asked him suddenly, her voice carrying over the wind.

Aro turned back to her, startled.

She smiled, mimicking the sardonic grins he so often wore. "They burn them."

In that moment, Bella launched herself forward, breaking away from the guard's hold. Her hand reached forward just as Alice reached out to her. The moment their hands touched, a brilliant blaze of flames sprouted up from the earth. They joined the swirling snow – fire and ice together as one.

A flame – a startling electric blue – shot out of the swirling mass and struck one of the guards that encircled the remaining Cullens. It engulfed the vampire, his shrieks echoing noisily. And just as in the domino effect, the blue flames spread from guard to guard, leaving the Cullens untouched.

"What have you done?" Caius cried out, running to Aro's side, his gaze hard and cold as he stared at his superior. "What have you done to us all?"

Aro watched the massacre unfold before his eyes, his body slowly becoming numb.

The vampire children screamed in terror as blue flames spread across the snow, chasing them. The remaining guards who had been blocking Carlisle, Esme, Emmett and Rosalie, were now lying in a heap of fallen bodies, creating a large circle. The blue flames dance merrily over their flesh, devouring it.

Bella's insides seemed to tremble with the power that surged through her. Her bones shook, her organs quivered, her blood bubbled. She felt hot liquid seep from her nose and ears and knew that it was her own blood as her body struggled to maintain the power that she had harnessed for so many years. She could even feel it leaking from her eyes. She could taste the coppery liquid on her tongue as it seeped into the corners of her mouth.

The power she released could kill her. But if she died trying to save those she cared about, it would be worth it.

She turned her head to the side, her eyes finding Edward's body lying in the snow. Slowly, he pushed himself up, his own gaze finding hers. Despair instantly crossed his face and he tried to make his body move to hers but found the strength within him was nearly depleted.

She was keeping him back. She didn't want to have to suffer the moment of saying goodbye to him. Not so soon after she found him.

"I love you," she mouthed, salty tears intermingling with the rusty blood that slipped down her cheeks.

Edward shook his head. "No," he ground out. "Let me move."

She closed her eyes, turning away from him.

"BELLA!" she heard him wail, anger and pain laced in his voice.

"Stay with me," Alice murmured. "You can do this. I know you can."

Bella swallowed hard, her eyes squeezing shut as she tried to focus.

"Insolent," Aro seethed above them. His deadly raven eyes locked on them both. "You think you can defy me?"

He shoved Caius to the side and bent down to grasp Alice's hair, yanking her head up to look at him.

"Why don't you look at me, instead?" Bella spat, snapping her gaze on the raven-haired vampire.

Momentarily startled by the blood that covered her face, Aro staggered back a step. The usual scent of her blood did not meet his nose. Instead, it smelled sour, foreign. As if she was undeniably protected from his bloodlust, the smell of her blood disgusted him. He released Alice's hair and turned to Caius who merely snarled in his direction.

"I said," Bella insisted, releasing Alice's hand to grasp onto Aro's. "Look. At. Me."

Once again, the singeing of skin igniting on Aro's flesh and he fell to his knees in agony before her. Bella curled her left arm to her chest protectively, but her right hand held onto Aro like a vice. "You will not harm the Cullens. You will leave them be. And from this moment forward, you and your guards will return from where you came from. You will not speak to any of us again. And if you do," she murmured, bringing her face close to his, her scent nearly overwhelming him. "I will kill you."

"And what if you're dead before that happens?" he breathed.

"I wouldn't count on it," Alice suddenly said. In a blindingly fast motion, her arm sliced through the air until it pierced the flesh and bone of Aro's torso. He opened his mouth in a silent scream as her hand found its way around his dead heart.

Bella turned to her friend in shock. She never knew Alice to be capable of anything so destructive.

Like Bella's power burning the skin of Aro's arm, Alice's burned him from the inside out.

His flesh began to melt away from the bone and in turn, set flame to the garments that he wore. Bella could see white bone from his ribs peaking out from the burnt clothing.

"Swear you will not come to us again," Alice hissed. "Swear it!"

"I… swear…" Aro gasped, his eyes rolling into the back of his skull in sheer torment.

She stared at him for a moment more before withdrawing her hand. "Release him," she commanded calmly.

Bella let go of him and as soon as it happened, the spiraling wind around them suddenly died. Debris and heaps of snow fell to the ground and the once blue flames that sparked in the air and over the ground had dissipated into swirls of navy smoke.

Bella's eyes became unfocused. She felt her body sway slightly.

"It will take him time to heal," she heard Alice telling Caius and Marcus. "I suggest you leave immediately."

Black began to seep into the corners of Bella's gaze and she felt her stomach give way as nausea rolled over her in waves. Her whole world began to leave her.

She felt hands on her back as her body collapsed. She could feel cool fingers brushing hair out of her face and could see the blurred vision of someone hovering over her. The blaze of cinnamon waves that danced atop of their head was unmistakable. She smiled. "Edward," she heard her voice murmur.

And like a candle's flame that suddenly is extinguished, the light of her world was blown out.