Chapter 76: The Many Face-Palm Moments
My Major's declaration had every one of the alphas and betas shifting. Edward nuzzled my neck with a slight chuckle as Jake let out a rumble of laughter against my back. At my questioning look, Edward whispered into my neck, “Jake and I are finding it a bit funny, is all, that before the fights every single one of them thought they would be a good fit for your mate. Now, every single beta, as well as 2 of the alphas, have withdrawn.”
I rose my eyebrow at that, then watched as the final selection stepped forward from their spots around the clearing. The Minnesota coyote alpha- Zander, the Alaska falcon alpha- Jeremy, and the Arizona jaguar alpha- Malachi, were the ones to step forward.
When my head spun around to look for Kendrick, he was sitting tall next to Edward. I patted his front paw, asking curiously, “Kendrick? You aren't choosing to try?”
He looked down toward me, then Jake licked my ankle as Edward said for Kendrick, “Both he and the buffalo alpha -Joshua- feel that they are not the right fit for Major, so they are not stepping forward. Both feel that their fighting styles wouldn't compliment his, and their shifted forms are too bulky to fit well and stay with him in battle. I agree, Kendrick.”
I nodded at that, then said, “Watching him... how feline and fluid his movements are, how he slinks in and out of the fray... I suspect he will be best suited with a feline protector. It'll be quite interesting to see who ultimately earns the right of being his protector, Kendrick, but I understand perfectly your reasons for withdrawing.”
He gave me a serious nod in response, then we both turned our attention back to the field just in time to see the fight starting for Major and Zander against all the unpaired vampires.
I watched Zander's moves intently. Though he was a good fighter on his own, paired with my Major, it was a complete blunder. At one point, I even heard Jake's deep rumbling laugh join Edward's smooth one, then saw Kendrick's animal form face-palming. It was immensely funny to see this huge, towering bear hiding his face in his paw out of sheer embarrassment for a fellow shifter.
At that, I giggled and saw that both Major and Zander were a tangled heap on the ground, Major guffawing loudly as he patted Zander, “I don't think ya coulda managed that again if ya tried, Zander.”
They untangled themselves, then Zander bowed his head deeply as Edward translated, “He thanks you deeply for the opportunity, but says he is clearly not the right one for you. He'd rather not be the cause for another blunder like that, especially in battle. Inevitably, that would be the case if he were to fight at your side again.”
Jeremy was next up. His falcon form and fighting technique were brilliant, but there were several more epic face-palm moments that happened during their fight. When it was all said and done, Major having taken too many wings to the face, I pointed out for all to hear, “Well done, Jeremy, but I want to point out your major fault. Your shifted form is very deadly, as is your fighting style, but the enemy turned your wingspan against your partner. When your opponents noticed how you were picking them off from the air, they purposely chose to rush Major in groups, so that one of two things would happen. Either, A, he would be caught by your wings while you were trying to protect him, or B, you would back off because you knew your wings would be a detriment to him. Don't use your beak when that happens, use your talons. That way, our side of the fight can still keep fighting, you can balance your chest and wingspan higher, and you can use your talons to rip and shred the enemy. They are just as deadly as your beak, Jeremy. When you see that one tactic isn't working, adjust, and use the other weapons in your arsenal. Never stick to only one tactic.”
Jeremy, along with all the other shifters took a moment to let that sink in, then he nodded his thanks to me before bowing his head to Major. It was officially Malachi's turn. I was honestly looking forward to watching Major with a feline ally.
They were attacked in groups, as with all the other fights, and they honestly didn't do too bad to start with. The problem arose after Major flipped expertly onto Malachi's back, and someone went to attack from the side. Malachi kicked out against his opponent, twisting his lithe jaguar form in the process to make use of his claws, which threw Major directly into the oncoming group of attackers. The movement was so quick and unexpected, that Major had no time to adjust his trajectory. I heard a sickening crack as he was flung into the oncoming group.
The whole field stilled as Major let out a loudly hissed, “Fuckin' Christ!”
I was instantly up and running to him. Carlisle was setting his wrist when I reached my Major. He sent me a dose of calm and love as he offered with a kiss, “Just my wrist, Isabella. I'm fine.”
I heard a whimper next to me while Major rubbed my tummy with his good hand. I looked down to Malachi, only to see him with his body completely pressed to the ground and offering his tilted neck to Major. I shook my head at the gesture as Major offered him a pat with his already-healed hand. “There was no way you planned that, Malachi. It was a mistake, somethin' to learn from, but not your fault. I'm already healed, and as trainin' becomes more involved, we're all gonna end up with minor injuries needin' to be healed. Ya did good, all things considered. Ya should be proud of yourself.”
After Malachi stood and bowed his head in sorrow over Major's wrist, he received another pat and chuckle from my mate, then returned to his place around the edge of the small clearing. Major twisted his wrist in a circle a few times to work out the kinks, then addressed everyone. “I want a shifter and a vampire to go against each other. Isabella and myself, along with Jake and Paul, will be goin' around to analyze each pair of ya. We're gonna be lookin' for weaknesses, then pointin' ‘em out to ya. Listen to the advice you're told, make adjustments as necessary, then go again. For now, all vampires ‘ll keep their powers out of the fights. When all’a the pairs are done bein' assessed by one of the four of us, we'll break for everyone to regroup a bit.”
For the next hour and a half, we watched and analyzed each fight that was happening around the field, even having them switch up sparring partners more than once. We wanted everyone to go against different fighting styles, so that we could get a good basis on what each shifter would do in different situations.
I eventually had to take a break, so I kissed Major lightly before saying, “Your sons and I need energy. I'll have Edward sit with me under the tree right there. Peter can take over in my place.”
He hummed and bent to kiss my belly, then whispered, “Be good to Mama, boys. When we get to the house, she'll drink another bag’a blood for ya.”
I chuckled, kissed his smiling lips, then made my way over toward Edward and the tree.
He waited at the base of the tree while I refilled my energy from the earth, then sat so I could rest my back against his chest. With a kiss to my neck, he started lightly tracing a pattern on my baby bump, humming, “Hi, Sweetheart.”
I smiled, rubbed his thigh, then replied, “Hey. Ali and Paul were quite the sight earlier. So were you and Seth. I didn't think you'd work together so well right off the bat.”
He chuckled, then offered, “Part of it's the bond, I'll be the first to admit that, but the other part is just really getting to know our partners. Since the meeting field, Ali and I have spent a lot of time getting to know them. Seth is excellent at understanding my body language, along with sensing my reactions through the bond. Since he can't hear my thoughts through a mind link, like with the pack, he can rely on body language and nonverbal signals from me while I hear his thoughts. It works well for the two of us.”
I smiled at that, having seen firsthand just how well it worked, knowing that they would protect each other well on the battlefield. “And Ali and Paul? How does that work, with her not being able to 'see' Paul?”
He chuckled, “Actually, getting to know the pack mind through me, along with getting to know Paul firsthand, pretty much cleared him up in Ali's vision. The other wolves are still a little fuzzy, but they don't block her sight completely anymore. She just needs to concentrate a bit more to see them relatively clearly, until she's had the opportunity to really sit down and talk to each one.”
He took a breath, then said, “The natural bonds that are forming between us and the wolves are helping her understand them. That was one of the biggest hurdles with her sight, I think.”
I let out a relieved breath, offering, “Oh, good. That's one less thing to worry about. They really were a deadly pair to witness on that field, with the way they anticipated each others' moves. I know Ali can handle her own, Edward, but I can't help but worry for her. I'm glad she has Paul.”
After a few minutes of relaxing and talking, my hands automatically shifted to feel the soft texture of the grass through my fingers. I felt something different... off... a slow rhythmic pulsing in the earth. Then the wind shifted slightly. I let out a groan at the reason, and couldn't help but roll my eyes.
Never a dull moment.
My eyes shot to Edward's as I sighed, “Time to go. Company incoming. Not a threat so far, but there are two vampires about a mile from the perimeter shield.”
Immediately Major was at my side, gently helping me up, then handing me to Peter bridal-style. I smiled to them, “The earth let me feel their pace. It felt non-threatening. Not rushed, but steady. The wind shifted, but I felt no alarm.”
Jasper nodded, then rushed to the center of the field to make a loud whistle. The entire field stilled at the sound, so he said seriously, “Time to pack it up for a bit. We have two incomin’ vampires, but no threat alarm has been raised by any of the elements so far. They may be allies, but everyone is to be on guard until we know for sure. The wolves will be with us and Jake in the front clearing of the house. I want the other packs and crew to spread out around the woods inside the protective barrier. Go. Now.”
When I reached the front clearing mounted on Jake's back, my mates stopped at our sides, the Cullens and Denalis all gathering behind us. The wolves on duty took up stance in several open spots in the clearing as Jake let out a short but serious rumble. Major's hand wove into Jake's fur as I heard a vampire stop just outside the protective field near the road, then said in a clear but normal tone, “Peace be, Goddess. With your approval, we wish to enter your territory.”
I released a breath, something inside making me relax slightly. I said clearly, “You may enter and introduce yourself, but know your remains will be ash in the wind if you make one wrong move. The same holds true for your traveling companion.”
Upon entering the clearing, the two male vampires stopped. One gave a deep bow, while the other dropped to his knees. The one on his knees stated in awe while giving me his total attention, “Goddess... I have lived many lifetimes, hoping to one day be in your presence. My name is Garrett, and my friend here is Randall. We knew we had come to the right place when I smelled the fading scent of a friend of mine. Is Malachi safe? Is he well?”
Jake rumbled in such a way to signal me that Malachi was indeed at least civil with this vampire, so I said while scratching Jake's ear, “Your questions will be answered once I ascertain your intentions for seeking us out, Garrett. State your business, then I will hear your companion Randall state his own.”
Garrett bowed his head, then caught my eyes again before stating, “I am a revolutionary vampire, my lady. I abhor tyranny, despise those who seek power and greed. I have long heard whispers of you, not just in the Americas, but in most lands that I have visited during my time on Earth. I know you seek only justice, and many have foretold of you battling the corrupt of our world. I have fought in many of the great wars written in the history books, and offer you my knowledge and skills, such as they are. I only wish to aid your cause.”
I looked to Randall after a few seconds of meeting Garrett's eyes. He offered, “My time living is not as lengthy as Garrett's, Goddess Mother, but we both seek the same outcome. He saved me during my newborn phase, when the Volturi killed my maker. She'd done nothing against the rules, but since she wouldn't turn me over to serve in their guard, she was killed. They labeled her as a traitor, Goddess, but killed her only for her refusal to slave me out. I have been on the run from them ever since. I wish to live a free and peaceful existence. That can only happen if we are free from their corrupt rule, and I am but one vampire.”
I sensed both were telling the truth through Major. Both ended up passing through my shield successfully when asked. When Randall stopped before Jake, he nodded respectfully, so I offered, “Your maker... what was her name?”
He gave a sad smile, replying, “Mary was her name, and she was my friend.”
I nodded, “I will remember her when the time comes, Randall, but we have much to do before then.”
He explained that he was a patient man, then respectfully stepped aside.
As soon as Garrett passed into my shield, he grinned widely at Jake, whispering, “Magnificent. I've never seen a shifter with such a powerful presence.”
I chuckled as I scratch Jake's ear, saying, “This is Jake, Garrett. He is my protector, as well as the leader of our shifter army.”
He looked around curiously, then his eyes went wide at all of the shifters making their way into the clearing. I don't think he meant to say it aloud, but he whispered in astonishment, “How did I not sense them?”
I saw his eyes searching something out, then he grinned and his shoulders visibly relaxed. He excused himself, then walked straight up to Malachi's jaguar form, giving his side a few pats while saying, “Malachi, my friend. It is good to see you're well.”
In response, Malachi let out a throaty rumble, then cuffed Garrett lightly upside the head. Garrett laughed, “Yeah, still the same brute, I see. You'll have to catch me up on what I've missed, once you stop cuffing me senseless, that is.”
I chuckled, dismounted Jake's back, then said with a grin, “Alright, you two. You can catch up while our shifters eat. They've already been training, so they could use refueling.”
They both nodded, then Garrett came to walk alongside Jake, my mates and me toward the back of the house. “Your children sound strong, Goddess, which is a true blessing in itself... but... I was always led to believe that your children would come after the battles.”
He made it sound like a question, though it was clearly a statement. I chuckled while patting my belly, “Yes, strong and hungry, my boys are. It is an involved story, though, so I hope you will suffice with my mates and me filling you in while I feed.”
He agreed with a large smile gracing his features, just as we came to the large tree out back.
We all took our normal positions, with Char at my back, Peter and Major on either side of me, then Jake curled up within reach near Jasper's head. Rose brought me two large cups with lids, giving me a light peck to my lips. I hummed, “Thank you. Will you and Em be joining us?”
She grinned, then motioned Em over before sitting propped against Jasper's legs with my legs in her lap. Em took her cue, propping up against Peter, then gently started rubbing my feet. The sight made Garrett laugh, so I chuckled, “I am well taken care of, as you can see.”
With a nod, Garrett shook the hands of both Major and Peter in greeting, then sat across from me. “Good to see the three of you. It's been quite a while.”
Major smiled, offering, “That it has. A lot of changes have happened since we last spoke.”
He jumped right in, the three of them taking turns explaining everything to Garrett. They only got part way into the story, though, when I noticed Randall standing within hearing distance watching us. I waved him over. He looked like he would be blushing as he offered, “I didn't mean to intrude, Goddess. Honestly.”
I shook my head, swallowed a sip of blood, then smiled, “You aren't intruding... and please, call me Bella. You're more than welcome to hear our story, so claim a spot in the grass.”
He nodded his appreciation, choosing a spot near Garrett before my mates continued.
When the abridged version of everything was finally finished being told, Randall and Garrett were both looking at me in awe. Major cooed to my baby bump with a brush of his fingers as the babies both fluttered, then Randall asked softly, “The mate soul pieces... they actually have form? I've always been fascinated with learning of mates and their bonds. May I see it?”
I grinned, then showed him the projection of Jasper's, Peter's, and Char's soul pieces that I hold safe within me. Both of them gasped as my mates grinned widely, then I told them which belonged to who. With a close and reopen of my hands, I projected the piece of Major's soul I held. Garrett gasped, “Jesus... Major? No wonder you're a force not to be trifled with. I mean I knew, having heard the stories, but Christ. I can feel the immense power emanating from just the projection of your soul piece.”
I nodded seriously in understanding, then said, “But you'll understand why I am his true mate, now, seeing this.”
I closed my hands, then reopened them to show them the soul piece of me that Major held. Garrett let out a shaky breath as he looked on in awe. Randall gasped with his hand over his heart while averting his eyes, while Em and Rose whispered reverently, “My Goddess.”
Major's chest rumbled loudly in pleasure as he kissed a trail up my neck. Peter and Char both hummed pleasantly, then I heard several loud purrs. I looked, noticing each of the jaguar shifters laying on the ground near us, their paws kneading lightly at the ground as they looked at the projection. I gave them a smile, knowing they were acknowledging my inner goddess.
Garrett patted Malachi's head before saying sincerely, “Your power is astounding, Goddess... truly beyond anything I have heard from legends and myths. I am at your service. However I may be able to aide in your journey, you have but to ask.”
It was just as the sun started rising that I felt the need for some quiet time. Major and Jake made sure everyone knew their duties. While some split off to run patrol, others found spots to rest in their animal forms. The last group chose to try practicing the pointers they were given earlier. I quickly nabbed Em and Rose on the way to the treeline, then called to Edward before he was out of earshot, “I'll have someone let you know when it's time for my massage.”
His answering chuckle faded as my mates rushed me toward our cabin, with Rose, Em, and Jake in tow.