Prologue – Legacy
20 September, 4032
My father is finally gone. His memory will fade soon enough as well.
24 September, 4032
I have been in counsel with my advisors all day. We received word early this morning from scouts at the border that a large army is moving onto our lands. The first reports assumed the army was from the Quileute nation to the west, given the man-sized wolves that head the party; subsequent reports have confirmed this. I have no choice but to believe that they come with the intention of exterminating me, my family, and our people.
We have, up till now, always been peaceful, if wary, neighbors, and their king, Ephraim Black, is a wise, fair ruler, I am told. I cannot imagine what could have sparked this aggressive move, but as yet, none of my scouts or messengers have been able to make civil contact with them.
Even as I write this, I am preparing to leave the Capital, my home, my wife, son, and unborn child… I go to meet the force that would annihilate all I hold dear. I will ride out at dawn tomorrow to meet with Ephraim Black himself and, God willing, make him see reason.
26 September, 4032
It is all madness. To think that my people, subjects of my own court…
The crimes Ephraim described to me were committed by foolish, spoiled, rich, young men, men scarcely younger than myself. Low, foul men, not even worthy of that title… As my esteemed neighbor said, how despicable that the daughters of the Quileute cannot even venture into the forests that have always been their ancestral domain, cannot enjoy the gifts of nature as is their right, without being set upon by lusty, disgusting men…
I would renounce these men if I could. I would try them in the highest court of my kingdom, strip everything from them, but they are unknown, undetectable. And the Quileute are adamant in their cries for blood.
I cannot believe the audacity of his demands. I cannot believe that one thinking, feeling person could require such a thing of another… Appealing to him father to father only seemed to strengthen his resolve. It is for the daughters of his people, he said, that he does this.
It will break my poor wife’s heart. My dear, sweet, Esme… I cower at the thought of relating these things to her. I am sickened myself by what I must agree to, what I must give up to save my people.
I tried to convince Ephraim that my people are not wholly bad, that every society, no matter how sweet and light, will have its share of villains. His response: “Prove it. Show me yourself how good you people can be.”
I have no choice. God forgive me.
30 September, 4032
Esme wept as I told her of my meeting with Ephraim Black. She wept and clutched her swollen belly as though I would take the child from her myself. I wept with her, for I know not what else to do.
18 November, 4032
It’s a BOY! A boy, I tell you! A son! Another son!
We will name him Edward, after Esme’s father’s brother. He was born just before daybreak this morning, my sweet wife laboring through the night to bring him into the world…
And yet, beyond all the joy of parenthood, most of all I feel… relief. The uncertainty of the last month and a half is ended; we will not have to give up our child.
Emmett and Edward. They will grow up good and strong, and we will all live secure in the knowledge that our family will never be torn apart by the threat of war.
15 January, 4039
Another emissary has returned empty handed. The Quileute king will not budge, will not even hear negotiations. He is as stubborn as his father was when first laying out his demands. I do not even have any daughters… His only reply is this: “We will wait.”
3 December, 4043
My emissary returned late last night, beaten and bedraggled. On his horse’s flanks were large bite marks, larger than any normal animal could inflict. This new Quileute king is offended at the mere mention of reviewing the terms of our peace.
1 October, 4059
Edward has just announced that his wife Isabella is pregnant. They expect the baby in the spring, and, like all of us… they hope for a boy.
I will send again to the king of the Wolves… How much longer can they insist on such a brutal sacrifice?
12 April, 4060
I have a granddaughter. They have named her Renesmee, after my wife and my daughter-in-law’s mother, Renee.
This should be a day of joy. She is a beautiful, sweet baby… but despite the unconditional love of a grandparent, all I can feel is dread.
13 April, 4060
A Wolf appeared at the city gates today. When he was led into the palace, he said simply that they would be watching… and they would come for her when she came of age. She is but a day old, and already her days are numbered… God help us all.
Chapter 1 – The Big Bad Wolf
He phased back with an inward breath, the transformation ending as he exhaled, human once more.
The capital city of the Cullens’ domain rose up out of the farmland before him, fields giving way to barns and silos, then houses, shops, and finally the bustling city center and white stone palace that overlooked it all. They were a strange people, living for nothing but the sunlight, their buildings and industry never quieting, tiny figures crisscrossing each other with no rhyme or reason, utter chaos.
It hurt his eyes to watch.
Bending down, he untied the leather strap binding his folded trousers to his calf. The patch of skin underneath was rubbed raw from the long run, even through the callus built up there. He massaged his leg for a few seconds, then straightened and stepped into his clothes. He had traveled all yesterday and through the night, stopping only briefly to catch some game and rest by a glade at the edge of the forest before beginning the long final leg of his journey, crossing the dry prairies that surrounded the Cullen lands.
He almost wanted to walk up to the gates in his wolf form. The little city guards would probably piss themselves running away. Either that or try to stick a spear in me, he snorted, tying off the knot at his waist. No, it would do better to simply announce himself in human form, man to… well, whatever these little pale people considered a ‘man.’
He’d never been to the Cullen kingdom before – he’d never been this far from Quileute lands at all, in fact – but he’d heard stories. They were all small and pale, almost womanly, with eyes the color of gold or gems. They didn’t hunt, or even eat meat, and they spent all their time buying and selling, inventing things and studying in great libraries, burning their lights through the night without even a thought of what the world around them actually held.
Wistfully, he glanced back over his shoulder, back toward the forests and mountains of his home, though they were beyond even what his eyes could see now, miles and miles away to the west. Soon… He did not have to stay here long, in this bright, deafening city with its bald fields and lanes. He had only to perform his task, and then he could return home, to run and hunt and feel the forest floor beneath his paws again…
With a deep breath in and out, Jacob squared his shoulders and stepped out onto the road to the palace.
They couldn’t send me away if they couldn’t catch me.
I darted down a side corridor in the castle, paused at an entrance to the servants’ passages, then thought better of it. Even my friends on the kitchen staff couldn’t be trusted today.
Not that I could blame them. I knew what was at stake if I didn’t go. The future of our entire kingdom hung in the balance today, on my being a dutiful daughter and princess and going to my doom so save them all. It was my life calling, what I had literally been born to do. There was no running, no escaping.
That didn’t stop me from trying, though.
I flew down a set of stairs and burst out the doors at the bottom, emerging into the gardens near the stables. Some groundsmen across the way perked up at the sight of me, no doubt with orders to bring me directly to my parents and grandparents should they find me. I made a hasty retreat toward the stables before they could come after me.
I was glad to disappear between the horse corrals. These gentle, powerful creatures asked nothing more from me than a pat on the nose and a cube of sugar now and then. I walked down the lines, pausing to greet any horses I was familiar with, before finally stopping in front of my own horse’s pen.
Noble nuzzled my hand affectionately with his big black nose, then proceeded to nip at my hair and the bits of leaves and grass sticking out of it. I really was a mess; I’d been climbing trees, diving into bushes, and running full-tilt through the palace all day, desperately avoiding all human contact and the fact that today, finally, was my sixteenth birthday.
For most girls my age, this was a glorious occasion, celebrated with balls and being presented at court, and finally being fair game to all the handsome young suitors of the land. For me, it was the end. Sixteen years of childhood, and now it’s time to say goodbye.
I knew what I had to do, and I would do it. My country and my family needed me. I knew I would do the right thing in the end – I just needed a few last minutes to be selfish, one last time.
I wrapped my arms around Noble’s neck and sobbed.
I don’t know if it took the stablehands that long to notice me, or if they were content to let me be for a few last precious minutes, but either way it was nearly a quarter of an hour before anyone disturbed me. I was all cried out by then anyway, hanging onto Noble’s strong neck for support and the feeling of someone simply being glad I was there without any other expectations.
It was one of the elderly horse trainers who finally approached me. “Miss…” he said softly, and gently reached up to pull me away from Noble.
I sniffled once, scrubbed at my eyes, then nodded and let them lead me away to my parents.
I was taken directly to the great hall, where my parents and grandfather waited. I’m sure if they’d known how things were going to play out, they would have sent me to get cleaned up first. I should look presentable, after all, for our… guest.
The man standing with my family was unlike anything I’d ever seen. He wore nothing but a pair of soft-looking leather trousers, bare foot and shirtless despite the cool air in the hall. His massive arms were folded over a well-muscled chest, the lights in the hall glinting dully on the exposed planes of coppery skin. Long black hair fell unrestrained past his broad shoulders. He was like a walking social faux pas – unkempt, half-dressed, positively wild.
My parents looked decidedly unsettled by him. I could tell Grandfather was trying to be diplomatic, despite the glower the man was leveling at him. The guards in the hall all watched him anxiously, shifting their weight from foot to foot every few seconds.
And me? I stopped dead on the threshold, something like ice shooting through me at the sight of him.
My mother was the first to notice me, followed by my father and then my grandfather, who actually winced at my appearance. Apparently, negotiations were not going well.
The strange man was the last to look over, glancing impatiently in my direction.
Our eyes met, and the ice became a bolt of lightning, coursing bright and wild through every fiber of my being.
Only one thought ran through my mind in that instant: This is the face of my future.
The universe had just realigned itself.
He had been sent here by Sam to complete a forty year old peace agreement. He was the hand delivering the lesson from his king and his own great-grandfather to these pale-skinned strangers that no Quileute could be taken advantage of without the entire kingdom rising to exact vengeance. He was the messenger and the deliverer. What he was doing now was the key to keeping open war from breaking out between their peoples.
And yet, none of that was as important as the slight figure in front of him.
“Renesmee,” my mother said, and took half a step in my direction. I glanced at her briefly, my eyes quickly returning to the Quileute man who was still staring at me.
“Come here, child,” Grandfather said gently, holding his hand out to me. Wordlessly, I crossed the room to them, never shifting my gaze from the dark eyes that followed my every move. “May I present my granddaughter, the princess Renesmee,” he said, addressing the foreigner.
There were twigs sticking out of my hair, the bottom of my dress was tattered and dirty, there were scuffs and scrapes all up my forearms from climbing trees, and my face was still a blotchy red from crying. And yet, I dug deep inside myself and was able to pull out the most graceful, dignified, princessly curtsy ever to have been performed in the entire history of the kingdom. Aunt Rose would be so proud.
He stared at me as I rose to my full height once more, black eyes unreadable. Then he responded with a low, fluid bow, his arms spreading out to either side, hands open and palms forward. His hair slid silkily in front of his shoulders, and was carelessly shaken back as he straightened again, towering a good foot over me and at least half a head over my father and grandfather.
“I am called Jacob,” he rumbled formally, speaking directly to me. The sound sent a shiver down my spine, like the far off beginnings of a thunderstorm.
“You often find yourself ruining people’s lives, Jacob?” I quipped humorlessly, before clamping my lips tight shut. It figured my rebellious mouth would choose now to present itself, without so much as a wave to my brain first. I didn’t need to look at my family to know they would all be in various states of embarrassment and horror.
Jacob blinked down at me, his eyebrows rising in surprise. “Not as often as I find myself taking lives, no,” he responded evenly. Behind me, my father seemed to be choking on something.
Grandfather cleared his throat just as my mouth was opening to retort again. He placed a hand on my shoulder, smiling easily up at Jacob as only a seasoned politician could. “We can continue this conversation at the banquet tonight,” he said. “Which, as you can see, the princess still needs to go prepare for.”
“Banquet?” Jacob repeated, frowning.
“To celebrate her birthday, of course,” Grandfather said, giving my shoulder the gentlest of squeezes. So they weren’t going to just let this wildman carry me off into the wilderness without further ado. Huh.
“Uh, yes,” I continued for him. “I need to go get ready… big event and all that.” I smiled at my parents, offered Jacob an air-headed nod, and then turned to leave, practically skipping out of the room.
I made the mistake of glancing back as I paused in the doorway. Jacob was watching me go, his eyes looking somehow almost regretful. He looked away at last when my parents insistently tried to engage him in conversation once more, and I took the chance to slip out, ignoring the ache that was settling in the center of my chest. Beg, plead, or stall, there was nothing they or anyone else could do.
My fate was sealed.