Epilogue: Father

February 1st, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

Northern Wisconsin
Late November, 1918

The sun streamed down through the trees, casting a dappled pattern on the forest floor. Each beam glinted off Edward’s skin as he dashed ahead of Carlisle, sending tiny rainbows skittering across the snow.

They were running. Carlisle couldn’t remember running for fun; he did it only when he needed to hunt, and he kept that practice brief; a perfunctory act required by his nature, but certainly nothing in which to revel.

But he and Edward had fed and were satiated, and now they were running.

For fun.

Edward was wonderful. Carlisle could never have conceived that he would enjoy having a companion; he had been so desperate to take himself out of his own melancholy that he had barely paused to consider what having another share his home might mean. But Edward brought joy and laughter. Even his incessant questions were useful; why vampires were driven to kill, why Carlisle had chosen another way. Why did Carlisle choose to be a doctor? Why hadn’t Carlisle taken a mate? Who had the brothers in Italy been, and why did they abhor Carlisle so much?

It seemed every day Carlisle found himself forced to reexamine his own life in more detail than he’d ever forced himself to look at it before. Edward took nothing for granted, and as they talked, Carlisle understood himself better in turns.

They had moved away from Chicago that night. Carlisle took the boy out hunting; they ran together all the way to the woods of northern Wisconsin where they came across a herd of moose. Edward killed as Carlisle had in the beginning; with fierce determination and almost no forethought; his kills became little more than splatters of bloody entrails and fur. But even in six weeks, he had gotten better. He was more careful now, and even though Carlisle still insisted that the boy hunt nearly every three days, his willpower seemed to already be increasing.

Carlisle had not created a monster; he had saved a young man.

Edward laughed as he ran. He was faster than Carlisle, which was to be expected for a newborn. Carlisle’s own speed had slowed substantially around the time he had been a year into his new life, and he suspected this would happen to Edward also. But Edward would remain fast, he thought. The boy seemed most at home when he ran like this, dashing into the forest, even when he was not in pursuit of prey. He enjoyed this new life in a way Carlisle had never been able, and his joy was Carlisle’s.

His heart swelled as he watched Edward.

He loved him.

Edward halted so abruptly that snow sprayed into the air. Carlisle nearly ran into him, and only managed to avoid this by dodging Edward at the last minute, running several steps to the boy’s right.

“What did you say?” Edward asked when Carlisle had come to a stop.

“I didn’t say anything,” Carlisle teased. This had become an ongoing joke between them—when Edward would overhear something Carlisle had not meant for him to, and Carlisle would insist that anything that was not audible didn’t count. At first, hiding his thoughts from Edward had been nearly impossible, and he had divulged many things he wished he could have delivered to the boy with more finesse. Yet as the weeks went on and Carlisle grew more adept at keeping the boy from knowing his thoughts, he also felt less and less the need to do so.

“No, but you thought—”

He had thought the words he hadn’t dared say aloud.

Carlisle took a step closer.


A faraway look had come over Edward’s eyes, and frowned. “Is that true?” he asked.

“Is what true?”

“That you love me.”

Carlisle’s instinct was to say “Of course,” but such answers did not work for Edward, he knew. Placating him was as good as patronizing him, and Carlisle had no intention of doing that.

But there wasn’t much another word for it. His human life had long since faded, save a handful of recollections that occasionally flared like a flame which had been blown on just enough. If he had loved; if he had been loved-he didn’t remember. But with Edward, it was different. At first, the fear of losing Edward had purely been a practical one-if he lost the boy, then he would be responsible for setting a newborn on the loose, and that might mean the Volturi. And then there had been the fear that Edward himself would reject him, that the boy would think of him, rightly, as having created the monster that he still saw himself as.

But now?

Now it was Carlisle who would break if Edward were to be lost. It was irrational, he thought, but maybe that was the point.

Rational was the head. Love came from the heart.

Slowly, Carlisle nodded, and his whole body tensed as he waited for Edward’s reaction. Surely, others had told him he was loved before? His mother, of course-Carlisle had been there to hear those words. And his father.

“My mother,” Edward answered, still frowning. “I don’t remember that my father ever did.”

At once, Carlisle remembered the man whom he’d met at the hospital. Edward Masen, Sr. had been delirious upon arrival. But even he had tried to throw his wife out of the hospital, had insisted that they take “Junior” home, and keep him away.

For a brief second, the forest spun, and his memories shifted. To one of his earliest memories from this new life, not so long after he had discovered a way to live. He hung in England at first, hunting in the forests and, only when freshly back from a large feeding, around the towns and hamlets. It had taken him the better part of a year to feel sure enough to make his way back to London and its overwhelming population, and when he did, he’d found his father was already gone.

He had skulked around Aldgate in a cloak, and from what he had been able to find out, the Reverend’s illness had hit in full force after he lost his son. “As though he didn’t have the will to live,” one woman had said.

William had died not long after Carlisle had.

And so Carlisle had left London entirely, running again to Dover and swimming across to France, where his new life began.

It was funny that he should think of this now, when he was talking to Edward about his own father, for the two had been so different—Edward Masen, with his protectiveness, and William Cullen, with the choke hold on life and death and everything in between…

But then…

Carlisle thought of Edward, running. The way every time the boy took off before him, it crossed his mind briefly that he might never come back. How thoroughly his heart would shatter if that happened. How much his new happiness and joy depended on this child; how much he could not bear to lose him.

And what was that, if not a choke hold?

Edward was still staring, his eyebrows now raised as he listened to Carlisle’s thoughts.

Carlisle cleared his throat, closing the gap between the two of them and resting his hand on Edward’s shoulder. “Your father loved you,” he said quietly. “I know it. You changed his life, as you’ve changed mine.” He squeezed Edward’s shoulder gently. “I do love you, Edward.”

It was the first time he had spoken the words aloud.

For a moment, Edward didn’t respond. Then he nodded, solemnly, and placed his palm on the back of Carlisle’s hand. Saying nothing, he flashed Carlisle a shy smile. Then suddenly the tiny embrace was broken, and Edward took off like a shot.

“Catch me, Carlisle!” he called, his laughter echoing in the trees.

Carlisle blinked as he watched the figure retreat. As he watched the sun glinting off Edward’s hair, turning it from brown copper to the color of coal fire, he understood why his mind had made the connection he’d been unable to.

He had been meant to get here. His father, the Brothers, all those years alone—they were meant to lead him here, to this moment, with this boy. And now he was being given the opportunity to do it differently, to make sure that Edward understood that he was everything. To be certain Edward understood he was loved.

And he would seize it.

Edward’s footsteps were already growing quiet as Carlisle stood; he was so amazingly fast. But instead of dashing after him, Carlisle bowed his head. He still wasn’t sure if the God of men listened to him, but he occasionally directed a few words Heavenward, just in case. Today, he uttered only two:

“Thank you.”

Then, with the sun alighting his skin and laughter bubbling up from his chest, Carlisle ran to catch up with his son.



Historical Notes for Stregoni Benefici
Stregoni homepage


February 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

This fic was the fic I always wanted to write. The one that I began literally the moment I posted my first one-shot, “The Talk.” Then it was called Absolution, I was planning to write it simply from the beginning of Carlisle’s life to the confrontation with the Volturi in Breaking Dawn, and I had no sense of the incredible depth of the character I’d just stumbled onto.

Fortunately, I waited. Waited until I knew where I wanted to go, waited until I’d figured out the right structure, waited until I knew Carlisle better. And I think the story that emerged is all the richer for it. Most importantly, waiting gave me time for a lot of wonderful people to come into my life who have been utterly invaluable in the process of writing this fic.

My beta, Openhome, saw me through two full years of writing this fic and then some, correcting historical errors, correcting canon errors, telling me where things didn’t mesh, where I was being too repetitive, and much, much more. Many times over the course of this fic, the thing for which I would get the most compliments in a chapter would inevitably be something she had told me needed to be changed in the draft, and the change made the chapter so significantly stronger that everyone noticed. And along the way, she went from reader, to beta, to one of my dearest friends. A friend whom you can trust with every aspect of your creative self is worth all the treasure in the world. So I thank her first and foremost.

I also owe a lot of thanks to Viva Viva and Julie for betaing the early parts of this novel; to twitina and sleepyvalentina for holding my hand and prereading chunks when I was struggling to write them; to malianani for her wrenchingly thorough evaluations of each chapter that always left me seeing connections in my own work that I hadn’t even noticed I’d made; to kittandchips for always asking the right questions, and to minisinoo for helping with initial sources.

And of course, I owe a great debt to my readers—those of you who were willing to go on a two-year journey through a book the length of Twilight and with barely a hint of Edward and no Bella at all. To you all who love Carlisle as much as I do, or who’ve come to love him as much, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As always, I wish you happy reading.

With my thanks,


Stregoni Benefici Main Page

Stregoni Benefici, Epilogue: Chapter notes.

February 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

By way of a note for this chapter, I leave you with this: the progression of chapter titles through this fic.

The 1667 titles
Infant Lowly
Sarah’s Son
Spectator at Tyburn
William’s Son

The 1789 titles
The Young One
The Student
The Fourth Brother
Stregone Benefico

The 1918 titles
Cheater of Death
Motherless Child
Infantry man
Night Watchman
Invisible Man
Miracle Worker

Yes. There has been a method to this madness. 🙂

Thank you so much for reading.

28. Carlisle

January 31st, 2013 § 4 comments § permalink

England and Scotland
August-October, 1667

Carlisle was thirsty.

Everything about him felt parched, and when he went to try to make a noise, the only sound he managed was a feeble squeak.

His hands thrust beneath him, at once squashing the vegetables on which he lay. Turnips; long since spoiled in this dark, burned-out larder. They mashed beneath his palms as he pushed himself to a sitting position

Something like moonlight shone down the ladder that led to where he lay. He frowned. Moonlight meant darkness, but it wasn’t dark. If anything, the larder was more brightly lit than it had been when he’d crawled into it—how long had it been? Two days? Three?

That he wasn’t sure frightened him.

He inhaled, and was at once overwhelmed with scents. Not merely ash, but what had been burned—this ash smelled faintly of iron ore, that one of oak. The rotten, squashy turnips, but amidst them he could smell turnip, and not only rot. The acerbic scents of vomit and dried urine—his own, he realized after a moment. While he easily imagined that his pain had been great enough that he had wet himself, he did not recall this having happened.

The room spun when he tried to stand. How far away was the floor? The wall? A strange nausea rose in the pit of his stomach, and he retched once, but nothing surfaced.

He forced his eyes closed, and at once recovered his balance.

It was his sight.

He took a few steps with his eyes closed, and, when the floor stayed very solid, opened them again.

Everything was so clear.

On the far wall there was a fly, scampering its way toward the cracks in the stone. He could see it from where he stood, just as easily as he might have if he stood with his nose against the wall. Its tiny body, its miniscule wings…

How could he see something so small? And in the dark, no less?

The panic gripped his chest with an iron fist and he found his breath coming short—which strangely did not seem to matter. He remembered being lightheaded when he could not breathe; the way the world would spin around him and spots would appear at the edges of his vision as his heart began to race. But no such thing happened.

Especially not his heart.

He lifted an arm to his own breast, resting the heel of his palm on the middle of his chest.

If he thought about it, he could possibly make out each individual thread in his shirt with his fingertips; count them, and find even the slightest mistakes in the weave of the cloth. And through the shirt he could feel his own body; the fair hairs on his chest, standing one by one.

He could feel everything, and yet one sensation was missing.

His heart was still.

At once, his mind seemed to go in a thousand directions.

Was he dead? But he couldn’t be. He remembered crawling into the larder. Days ago, perhaps, but he was still where he remembered himself to have gone.

And then he was on the street. Hoof beats echoed from somewhere to his right, clopping against the stone.

In the direct light of the moon, he could see his own skin. He had always been pale, burning easily. But now his skin shone almost a brilliant white; reflecting back the blue moonbeams and making his arms seem aglow.

How had he gotten onto the street?

The hoof beats drew nearer, and as they did, his throat erupted with a dry, burning feeling as though he had never had water before in his life.

He needed to drink. At once he began to search for a well. In the moonlight, he could see the ghastly shadows cast by the ruins of St. Paul’s; the way the walls sagged toward each other as though trying to reach across the nave. He hadn’t managed to crawl far when he’d been attacked.

Before he had a moment to process this thought, his throat all but screamed at him for relief.

Right. If he was at St. Paul’s, then he knew where the river was from here. He could find water.

The hoof beats grew louder. And with them, a second beat; this one steadier and oddly muffled. It was more a sound of the rhythm of liquid sloshing back and forth.


It took him several repetitions to realize he was hearing a human heart.

The most wonderful sound he’d ever heard.

The driver’s scream was undignified for a man. Carlisle nearly looked for the small girl who had issued it but saw instead the tall figure in his traveling cloak, in the driver’s seat of the cab, with its dark horse. Still a ways away down the street.

The heartbeat sounded so lovely.

And the man’s scent was incredible. Not the smell of sweat and days’ old clothing that permeated the rest of London, but the best, most succulent dish. Salty, heady, refreshing. His whole body seemed to call out for it, whatever it was.

He needed that.

A whip cracked, the tack jangled, and the horse reared and bolted, taking the man and the cab with it.

As the hoof beats pounded away from him and grew quieter, the air cleared, and the intoxicating smell went with it.

Had it been one second? Five?

His throat felt as though it would rip in two.

He should give chase, he thought. But then he looked behind him and was startled by what he saw.

St. Paul’s wrecked spire was lit in the moonlight, reaching up toward the sky with its thousands upon thousands of stars. Even burned as it was, the spire still stretched taller than the rooftops around it…

…of which there were dozens.

He blinked.

He was, somehow, at least a half mile away.

The house where he had spent the last days—where was it? He could barely make it out among the other ruined homes.

How had he gotten so far, so quickly?

An image came to his mind. The demon, as it moved in the ashes that were left of the sanctuary. The way his eyes couldn’t track it, the way he had not seen the attack, but only felt it.

And the salty smell that seemed to light his whole body aflame with need…

He found himself before the neighborhood well before he’d fully thought to run there.

He drew the leather bucket up with such force the water slopped down his front, and then, plunging his head in, he sucked it down. It sloshed down his insides and landed in his stomach audibly; his stomach began to distend.

The burn subsided at once.

So that was it, he thought. Just that whatever had happened, it had depleted his water. That made sense, seeing as he had awoken next to his own vomit.

He would go home, and he would find food. He would look for someone who could cure whatever this illness was. Pressing his hands against the edge of the well, he pushed himself upright.

The pain rocked him so completely he fell to his knees before he was even aware of it; his stomach wrenching. Water and sticky bile spewed from his mouth, splattering the dirt and turning it to mud. The burn ripped again through his throat and his hands flew there, scrabbling ineffectually with his fingers and raking at his neck with his nails.

It did nothing to dull the pain.

He couldn’t drink water. Or had the well not been filled with water?

On all fours, he crawled back to the well, and peered down.

At first the shimmering reflection at the bottom looked wholly familiar. The ragged cut of his hair, the way it curled just high of his collar. The nose, still jagged from the fight…

He blinked. He had been in a fight. He remembered that much. The sweaty body of another man, tumbling over his. The searing pain as his nose was smashed into his face.

This line of thought, however, was cut off abruptly when he noticed his own eyes.

In the darkness, reds appeared a different color, somewhere between brown and purple. But he had seen a red, in the window of one of the homes, and he recognized the color in his own countenance.


It had been what the beast had said, and the memory seemed to call to him. To beckon him to remember the moment when another had squared off with him.

Another who shared these eyes…

He stumbled backward with such force he fell on his bottom.

The burning. His eyesight. The way he could move. How he was suddenly able to pick out individual scents, feel things through his shoes.

And the cab driver, with his hat and his girlish scream. His heartbeat. That tantalizing whooshing sound. The intoxicating aroma—the burn in Carlisle’s throat.

Iron and salt.

The smell of human blood.

The reek of what this new body craved.

For the second time in mere minutes, a horrified scream rent the air, but this time, it was Carlisle’s own.


He was still running half a day later. Dense forests crowded the landscape of this part of England, and Carlisle dashed through the trees as though it was some sort of game. With every step he grew more afraid.

Was he to spend the rest of his life desiring to kill? This awful thirst that ate at him like fire; was there no way to quench it, except through the blood he knew he craved?

“You will not starve yourself to death,” he heard a voice in his memory say. His friend, he remembered, who had come to visit him when he had lain on the bed and counted the cracks in the wall.


His thoughts came to him as though in a drunken haze. Like his vision, it seemed whatever he had experienced before the days spent in the larder had been experienced with a dulled consciousness; his very mind had been nearsighted. The past half day, however, came back to him in perfect clarity—the sweet rotting stench of the turnips, the sharp smell of stomach bile and urine. The coolness of the packed dirt beneath his body. The precise direction his stomach twisted when he vomited the well water.

And, of course, the red-eyed beast that stared back up at him from the well.

He shook his head again, trying to clear these fogged thoughts.

Perhaps it was that before had been dead, and now he was alive. Could that explain why now he thought with clarity, saw everything through perfect eyes?

As seemed to happen now, he found himself sitting on the forest floor before the thought even occurred to him to sit. Leaning his back against the trunk of a hulking tree, he realized he could feel every indentation in the bark through his shirt.

Thomas was the name of the dark-haired man. What had happened to Thomas?

He had suggested that Carlisle was trying to kill himself. Why had that been? Surely, he had not been like this beast before. He pressed his eyes closed and at once an image spun in his mind. A woman, her dark hair falling over her shoulder as she stood, staring resolutely out over a crowd.

“Elizabeth,” he mumbled, and at once, his chest clenched; his breath drew in short gasps.

The Elizabeth woman hurt to think about.

He recognized the ragged ingress of breath, the panicked feeling that he couldn’t breathe over the emotion he felt. Yet his shoulders heaved and no sound came; no mucous ran from his nose, and no tears fell from his eyes.

Again, he found himself lying down before he’d truly thought to do so, as though his body had responded to the very kindling of the desire. The soft grass and moss felt comforting beneath his cheeks; the ground felt solid as he lay upon it.

He was terrified. What if he killed someone? He was impossibly fast, now. And so little in control.

And whatever had happened, he had lost people.


Another flash came through the haze. A giggle. Teasing him for blushing so easily. Soft lips on his.

He had loved. And she had loved him.

And now they were both gone.

His gut twisted, and he pressed himself to the forest floor once again.


It was several hours later that he stepped out of the shade of the forest, and then, in the same instant, found himself back within it.

He had exploded.

Running his hands up and down his arms, he found them as pliant and solid as ever. His chest, his legs—all there. But he had seen a brilliant light, white as fire. Yet just as the night in which he’d been attacked, he smelled no burn.

Cautiously, he stepped out from under the trees again.

At once, his whole body went alight. His arms and his neck, and the small swath of skin between his breeches and his stockings; they shone as though they had been illuminated from within. But it was not he, he realized at once. He stepped back so that his body was still in the shade, but the sun shone on his forearms, which emitted the near-blinding light. Now that he examined it, he realized it was a shimmering light, bouncing off one section of his arms and onto another.

It was no wonder he had encountered the other demons in the dark of night. A human would see him and be terrified.

Of course, they had good reason to be.

As the day stretched on into darkness, he waited for sleep to overtake him. But he didn’t feel tired.

He lay all night with his eyes wide open.


Three nights passed before Carlisle conceded that sleep would never come for him again, and instead began to use the nights to his advantage. He found an axe in a farmer’s yard, but the blade snapped in two when he brought it down on his own thigh. He stole a pistol from the bedroom of a sleeping couple and fired it into his chest. The shot flattened into a disk.

Knives, pitchforks, awls…in the dead of night he stole them and tried them all. None of them so much as made a scratch in his skin.

And so he found himself after a week standing at the edge of white cliffs, the furious wind whipping through his hair. Another hazy memory floated up from somewhere deep in his consciousness: asking his father if he could see Dover.

It was too far for them to travel, he remembered. Too much money.

But now he was here, in the darkness, with the moon making the cliffs shine an eerie, almost translucent, white. The wind buffeted him, though it didn’t cause him discomfort. Below him, the tide in the water below him was high, the water pummeling the rocks. It was a deadly night. A night when humans would drown from so much as being too near the edge.


Had he already stopped using that word to describe himself?

One moment he would exist in the current world, the next, he would be assaulted with the hazy memories of the life he had lived until such a short time ago. Elizabeth would appear and he would feel as though he had been rent in two, then Thomas would laugh somewhere near his ear. The earth would reveal itself to him in all its splendor—every blade of grass, every small creature in the wood. He would notice the spots on the back of a mouse, the single ant crawling out of line on the tree fifteen feet ahead. Elizabeth would hold his hand. He would scream and yell at a man who must have been his father.

William, that man called him.

“Carlisle,” he said feebly.

The wind only howled in answer.

His throat still burned. It had been what, six days? Eight? Everything in his body seemed to cry out for the deadly nourishment.

He would never allow that to happen.

The cliffs were a drop more than long enough than the distance necessary to kill a man. Even as strong and fast as he was, surely the Earth’s behavior would not bend for him. The wind still blew, the seas still churned, the rocks were still solid.

The woman’s image swirled in his mind. Elizabeth. He repeated her name to himself.

Would she be looking for him? Wondering where the man she’d kissed had gone?

He reached out to the open air, letting it smack his hand. Below him, the waves slammed into the rocks, then rushed back out to sea as quickly as they’d come.

And then he felt something. Not a real sensation, he realized quickly, but the ghostly memory of one. A hand sliding into his outstretched one, fingers sliding against his as the entire body to which the hand was attached went slack.

Someone began to cry.

Was it him crying, now?

Or had he been crying then?

Clenching his hand, he tried to remember the sensation. He would hold it here, he thought. The gentle feeling of a hand sliding against his, the way his palm tingled against another’s. If he focused, if he forced all his mind to it, he could hold the sensation and it wouldn’t slip.

And he would hold it for only a minute, anyway. Elizabeth was gone. And that was the source of his pain.

He would not repay her love by becoming a killer.

Below him, the water spun wildly. Even with his new eyesight, he could see that its surface was menacingly dark.

For a moment, he stared.

Then, with the image of Elizabeth fixed firmly in his mind, he leapt.


As the waves crashed over his body, Carlisle found himself staring at the night sky; the stars splattered across an inky background.

He’d landed on rocks; the huge boulders carved out by how many centuries of flow through this strait, their sides smoothed by the ingress and egress of tides. There had been a huge booming sound, and a boulder had smashed in two, leaving Carlisle lying on the beach pebbles as he refused to open his eyes.

For the better part of an hour he lay there, hoping that somehow, he would find himself shattered. But then he opened his eyes and forced himself to acknowledge the truth.

He had destroyed the boulder, not the other way around.

A large wave washed over his face as he took a breath, and water rushed into his mouth and nose. He rolled onto his stomach and pushed himself onto his hands, sputtering and spitting, the water turning the sand dark. At once, he recalled the way the dirt had turned to mud beneath his feet as he vomited the well water.

As soon as he’d thought it, he found himself inside a sea cave, tucked safely within the cliffs. Waves rushed in and out, leaving the walls of the cave dripping. He crouched on a ledge, just a foot or so above the sea. The tide would come in, he knew, and when it did, the whole cave would be filled in a rush, too quick even for the fastest to escape.

Sitting with his back to the cave wall, sliding against the algae, he allowed himself to try to think. Again, he found his insides twisting as he thought of the woman.

It was his fault.

He clenched his fist, remembering the touch of her palm in his.

That much he knew to be true. But he’d gone over a week with no sustenance, and his mind was weakening already, The dulled memories of what he was already beginning to think of as his other life slipped from his consciousness like wisps of smoke.

It is your fault, his mind told him, but what “it” was, he could not pull through the haze.

Had he murdered her?

But if he had been a murderer once, then why was he so repulsed by the idea now?

With each hammer of the waves, his throat seemed to scream for nourishment.

For human blood.

“I won’t,” came the defiant reply, echoing in the darkness.

Had he said that?

Or had the sea?

He thought of the woman, and of the man who was his father, and of the man named Thomas. Of the demon. Of the days in the larder. The burning—had that been his body turning into this new one? Or was he indeed still dead, and that was why he remembered so little?

Perhaps that was what hell was, he thought. Not fire and brimstone, but simply loss.

A loud crack issued from outside the cave. The darkness around him went to an odd, milky blue/black, as the sunlight bounced in the water. It pounded in his ears, throwing him back against the wall of the cave, and tangling his feet in tiny crevices he hadn’t noticed.

He did not try to break free.

By instinct, he held his breath as the water swirled around his head, and he closed his eyes. His body floated to the top of the cave and sank, and he was thrown from side to side like milk in a churn. When he finally did take a breath, water rushed into his lungs instead, burning their way down his throat and making his chest feel as though it would explode. He coughed the water out, only to suck more in, and, in doing so, lost his precarious hold on the cliff wall.

His head slammed against the rock, and he heard a sickening crack.

He closed his eyes and prayed that death would come quickly.

As he floated, the sound slowly died. The water slowly ceased its rushing and went still. With his eyes open, he could see out into the channel. A school of some medium-sized fish swam past the mouth of the cave, the sun glinting off their scales and making them shimmer.

The water stopped burning his chest, and he found himself breathing it. In, out…it was no different than breathing air, now. Gradually, he wriggled himself free of the cave, and swam back to the beach.


When he left Dover, he turned north. He found himself skulking around the darkest hiding places; those which would keep him and his brilliant appearance from ever showing in sunlight. He huddled in the darkness during the day, again consumed by fire. But this time not the fire of whatever it had been those days in the larder. This was not the fierce, consuming flame that caused him to writhe and cry out and wet himself. This was a slower burn, the dying embers, taking the charred log and reducing it to nothing but ash.

The Thomas man had told him he would not be successful at starving himself.

Perhaps now he would be.

A memory of himself had swirled in his mind the day before; screaming at his father. Beasts did not exist. There simply were no such things as the demons he hunted.

Was this his punishment for being such a wicked young man? Someone who was willing to inflict pain on his own family by taking his own life—that he be rendered into a being whose entire existence seemed to call out for the lives of others, yet who could not destroy himself?

At first, if he caught the scent of a human a long ways away, he could force himself to turn and run. He was the one who deserved to die, he told himself. He had been a terrible person.

No one deserved to die because he had been stupid. But each day, his resolve weakened.

One week turned into two. He couldn’t think any longer. The burn was no longer in his throat, but it consumed his entire body. He felt it from his fingertips to his toes.

Kill. Kill. Kill.

It hammered at him, taking over all rational thought.

Every day he pressed himself farther.

His memories became even foggier. The man with the dark brown hair. The woman. The other man who called him William.

His name was not William. It was Carlisle.

But Carlisle who, exactly?

Had he even had a family?


The day came when he no longer remembered the woman’s name.

Her memory caused him pain, that was all he knew.

He was north, somewhere. Had he managed to get as far as Scotland? It seemed so, because wherever he was, it was cold. The cold didn’t bother him, but the altitude did. Not because he couldn’t breathe—obviously, after the cave at Dover, he knew that was not necessary—but because the terrain was steep and he was weak.

Carefully, he put one foot in front of the next. But he stepped on a pebble that slipped out from beneath his shoe and suddenly he was stumbling face first into the dirt.

He stayed there.

He had been strong. He had been fast. But now his body weakened. When he walked, he stumbled. And when he closed his eyes, his mind swirled—memories hurling themselves at him and springing off in every direction. The drunken memories of Before—that was what he thought it, now. Before. Before now. Before this.

Without nourishment, his mind wouldn’t function.

But to feed would be to become the monster he feared himself to be. He didn’t have the strength to put out his arms, and he slammed into the earth with such force the ground shuddered. For a long moment he lay still.

Above him, the stars began to swirl. He closed his eyes. The near-dead hallucinated, did they not? They would see things like swirling stars…

When he spoke, his lips trembled. “Please,” he begged. “Please…I’m ready.”

Then he curled up on the cold ground and prepared himself to die.

The mountain wind whipped over his body, and the stars whirled themselves into a frenzy as they fell, silently, landing on Carlisle’s skin, tiny pinpricks of cold that sat there, waiting for him to move. It didn’t make him uncomfortable. He had learned that about this body—that it did not feel cold or hot, that it did not register discomfort no matter how he twisted it. And so these little bits of white landed on his skin like sawdust.

It was snow.

Staring at the sky, at the way snow appeared, first flake by flake, and then, in a rush, a whiteness so thick even he had difficulty seeing. His body became covered; the snow barely differing in hue from his own skin.

He would be buried before long, and perhaps that was just as well.

Squeezing his eyes closed, he tried to draw forth the memories from Before: the young man, whose name had become lost these weeks as Carlisle’s mind became as feeble as his body, the woman, whose memory caused him such pain. The father, who had called him William. But so little of them came to him, now. His starved brain no longer could draw forth enough memory for him to understand. Had he killed the woman? Had the young man been his friend? Where had his mother been?

These things he had no answer to, and for that, he sobbed some more.

“Please,” he begged. To God? God wouldn’t listen to a demon. To the wind? To the snow?

To whatever will listen, he thought. He would beg whatever forces would listen. “Please, I have to die. Please let me die.”


He heard thunder a day later. Or perhaps it was a few minutes later, he couldn’t be certain. But he heard thunder, so loud and so furious that the ground beneath him shook.

As the ground continued to vibrate, and the low rumble continued toward him, Carlisle realized it wasn’t thunder at all. Someone was running his way—a lot of someones.

The move was utterly automatic. He’d thought himself safe because he was so weak—how could he attack in this state?—but like all bodies, his still contained the crucial element of being able to protect its own well-being. His teeth sank into flesh, ripping it. The body struggled beneath him, but he grabbed it and held it still, feeling the sickening crunch of bone as he pressed the body into submission.

This was his. This life was his. This kill was his.

And he would have it.

He felt a pulse, the way the body pumped blood into his mouth in a rhythm. It was amazing, this. He felt his strength returning as though he were a fire just doused in oil. And the taste—not the seawater or well water he’d vomited, but a taste so pure, so heady, that he thought that he’d faint just from the sensation of it on his tongue.

This. This was what he was made for.

He drank, and drank, feeling his mind and his body come back to him. Beneath his fingertips, the sensation of fine hair; obviously, he would have grabbed his victim’s head. The neck, he knew as if by instinct, was where one bit. Where that lovely sensation of pulsing blood would be felt; where the body would feed you; where you didn’t need to suck.

The pulsing slowed. The struggling body went slack.


Triumph and horror at once waged war in his mind.

He shrank back, squeezing his eyes closed.

Had it been inevitable? Given his speed, and his strength, and his weakness—was this his way of protecting himself?

The body stank. It didn’t smell anything like the sweet scent he’d been drawn to these past months. It was almost enough to cause his now filled stomach to turn.

Perhaps this was the smell of death. Rotten.

He had killed.

His anguished scream echoed ominously off the rocks.

The rocks.

The ground.

His fingertips remembered the way the ground had shook beneath them. Where had the others gone, he wondered?

Unwilling, he opened his eyes to search. And when he saw what lay beneath his hands, he fell back.

A stag, magnificent in size, with eight points on its antlers. Its coat shimmered in the moonlight, the blood that Carlisle had missed glistening where it ran, stickily, down the animal’s neck. a huge wound exposed its innards at its throat, cutting from just below its head almost the entire way down its chest.

He, too, was covered—dark red dripped down the ragged remains of his shirt and spattered his breeches, making him appear ghoulish. A true murderer, bathed in the blood of an innocent.

But it wasn’t a human he had killed.

The laughter bubbled up from somewhere deep in his chest.

Not a human.

And had he not eaten venison before?

His mind began to return to him, and with it the dulled memories; now even duller for the time he’d spent lying weakly here on the mountain. He could stand. He could maybe even run.

He stood, beginning to walk away from his kill.

The burn in his throat was still there, a twinge which reminded him that no, he was no longer human and never would be again. He would live with this…for how long, he wondered? Sixty years? Eighty?

His mind took him back to the hazy memory of the other, the only others of his kind he knew. The odd Latin they spoke, so unlike what he had been taught in school.

Was it possible they were old enough to have spoken the language when it was still the common speech?

The idea caused his stomach to wrench.

It would perhaps be a long time, then. But he could. This little bit of pain, this tingle of a reminder that he was not human; he could endure it. He would kill animals as often as he needed to, and he would find a way.

“I am Carlisle,” he muttered.

William, his mind told him at once.


The name he refused to use, but the name he and his father shared. William Cullen.

As he looked out over the mountain, up into the swirling snow, he laughed.

“My name is Carlisle Cullen!” he screamed. And, with his name echoing off the rocks, he ran—but this time, he ran down the mountain. Toward the humans.

Toward life.




Every new beginning: Notes on Stregoni Benefici, Chapter 28

January 31st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I never intended to put a 4-week break between the penultimate and final chapters of this fic, but the reality of fanfiction is that real life sometimes gets in the way. Chapter 28 was penned in November, but taken to pieces several times.

One of the things a canon writer has to face is having a moment that is part of canon, that dozens upon dozens of writers have written before. I was grateful for every review of Chapter 26 that said that this version of Edward’s turning felt new. There is honestly no higher compliment, as far as I’m concerned.

When I first envisioned what would become Stregoni (it was at the time called Absolution), I’d planned to do exactly what almost ever writer who has covered these years has done—begin at Carlisle’s turning, or very near to it, and then barrel through two hundred seventy years of history until I reached Edward. But over the year plus it took me to even put the bones of this story together, I came to realize that the real story of the end of Carlisle’s life was rooted in the relationships he lost, and those he then had to forge anew.

So for that reason, I chose to end Stregoni Benefici at exactly the point others have chosen to begin. For when you are immortal, every ending is really only another beginning.

I will post the epilogue tomorrow, but if you’re chomping at the bit, check the Stregoni main page. 

Happy Reading.

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