An icy gale whipped sporadically across the wide expanse of the nearly level plain. The rustling sound of brush, agitated by these winds, intermittently sounded from alternating swathes of nearby ground. A gray and black overcast sky was being partially illuminated by a moonlit night. Thick clouds rolled about overhead in all directions in a seemingly angry dance, concealing from view the vast open star filled space above it. The land below this was almost pitch-black by comparison. The dark of the night would have obscured nearly all of this terrain from the sight of mortal eyes, but for the travelers, here and now, this was not a problem.
Nine, darkly clad, figures raced one behind the other across the windswept plain. Their garments billowed violently behind them as they sprinted at a pace too fast to be the performance of humans. The male leading the way was of average height. He steered a straight line, deviating only to avoid brushes and large rocks. An hour later the group stopped and pooled together at the ridge of a broad shallow depression in the landscape. A lake, a quarter as large as the basin it was in, filled the center. The depression extended across an area greater than a half-hour's walk, at its narrowest point. The lake could easily be traversed within a quarter-hour at its widest point. The group scanned about the expanse as though they were looking for something or someone. A brief time into this study, the lead male fixed his attention on a point to the left of him and at the near-end of the lake. The other members of the group, one by one, redirected their attentions to this area.
"What's wrong?" Jane queried with annoyed concern.
"I lost them," Demetri answered back in a surprised tone.
"All of them?" Jane spoke back with incredulity.
"They should be here," Demetri insisted as he continued to stare at the spot where he expected them to be.
"They must have heard us coming," Felix blandly suggested.
"I'm sure they did," Demetri retorted heatedly. "We should still be seeing them. They were right there a few seconds before we arrived," he exclaimed with a point.
Standing there, upon the ridge, with Demetri, Jane and Felix were Alec, Renata, Peter, Efren, Maya and Gerard, all of the Volturi Coven.
"All of them couldn't have just disappeared, Demetri," Jane angrily responded. "Find them, now."
Angered by the rebuke Demetri began to scan back and forth over the surrounding terrain.
"Well?" Jane challenged insistently.
"I'm not sensing anything, anywhere," Demetri replied defensively. "I'm telling you they've disappeared, all of them."
"That can't be, Demetri," Jane insisted with bated breath.
"I'm telling you that it is," Demetri almost shouted.
Jane glared at Demetri in retaliation to his vehement response. An obvious expression of rage shortly curled up upon her face. Demetri instantly stiffened himself in anticipation of what he feared to come. The rest of the coven, minus Alec, inched back from the duo. A second of silence passed at seemingly the pace of a snail.
"Jane," Alec called out to catch her attention.
She turned to acknowledge Alec's call.
"This isn't helping," Alec continued in a slightly exasperated tone of voice.
An instant later, Jane turned away and sulked.
Immediately after the demise of Aro and Caius, Jane and Alec became the de facto dominant members of the Volturi Coven. The absence of the mind bending poison that their previous leaders were feeding them reconfigured the perception that the remaining members had towards one-another. The brainwashing that kept them tightly bound around their masters was gone. Without it they had only their relationships with each other to bind them together. For Jane and Alec, the value of a coven quickly took on a whole new significance. The thought of losing these allies made them feel isolated and vulnerable. Using their abilities to inflict pain or to do harm to one of their number had suddenly become an unthinkable act now that their relationship was dependent upon mutual respect and trust. There was no blood poisoning within them to keep them anchored to the coven.
"C'mon," Alec spoke up insistently. "If they were here then we should be able to detect their scent."
"They were here," Demetri angrily retorted an instant before following Alec's lead down into the basin.
The entire Volturi Coven raced down the depression towards the near end of the lake and stopped fifty yards from it. The group began to meander about as they sampled the smells emanating from the ground.
"I don't smell them," Gerard announced hesitantly.
"They were here." Demetri rifled out angrily.
All eyes turned toward him.
"There were eight vampires in this vicinity recently," Demetri declared as he looked up to scan the area.
"You smell them?" Gerard questioned suspiciously.
"No," Renata answered softly as she slowly tested the scents around her.
The other members of the coven began to follow her lead, more so out of intrigue then belief.
"Do you smell them, Felix?" Jane questioned the six-foot-seven vampire pointedly.
"No," Felix responded gruffly. "We're the only vampires here."
"How about the rest of you...?" Jane quickly called out for a poll.
"No," Maya announced shortly.
"I don't smell them," Efren reported in turn.
"I'm not getting anything," Peter solemnly replied after Efren.
"There's nothing here," Gerard softly spoke after Peter while shaking his head back and forth.
Alec looked to Jane out the corner of his eyes and gestured no with a nod of his head. A second later Jane turned to look at Demetri suspiciously. Alec followed her lead.
"I'm telling you, I can feel them" Demetri roared as he continued to track the sensations that was radiating into his person.
Jane did not think to respond as she studied the only Volturi to claim to discern something she could neither see, nor smell.
"This can't be happening," Alec announced with a tinge of anger.
Demetri continued to slowly track forward as though he did not hear this remark. With each new step he moved closer to the lake. Jane, now ever more suspicious, began to back away from it with a look of anxiety about her face. Demetri suddenly took note that his course was taking him to the lake. Eagerly, he raced forward to the water's edge.
"You think they're in the water?" Jane angrily spoke out her query as she scanned across the water's surface. Suddenly, and much to her surprise, an eruption of water spewed up into the air from ten yards out upon the lake. Demetri studied this peculiar effect with great curiosity despite Jane's call to do otherwise.
"Demetri, look out."
Demetri heard the call, but ignored it as he watched the display with impunity. Despite whatever force, natural or unnatural, that was causing this strange event, in Demetri's mind it was nothing that he needed to react defensively to. He continued to watch, without concern, as the water flew straight up into the air. Two seconds into this observation he noted a few streams of water that appeared to be arcing on a trajectory directly towards him. An instant later, a sudden impact into his torso pounded him to the ground. Demetri was caught unaware by this and by the sudden appearance of the large male vampire on top of him. His assailant grasped him about his head, even as his body was slamming into the ground. Demetri's instinct to resist this attack was cut short by a quick, wrenching, force that twisted his head free from his spinal column and then tore it free from his body a second later.
The rest of the Volturi Coven saw nothing to frighten them at first. The sudden water display simply gave them reason to be cautious. Jane's warning scream, the sudden appearance of the enemy vampire, and Demetri's abrupt decapitation that followed shocked them onto their guard. Before anyone could think to say anything in response to this attack, seven more water eruptions simultaneously spewed into the air. Peter, Efren, Maya, Gerard, Felix, Alec and Jane instantly raced back, nearly one-hundred yards, from these invisible threats. Renata's first reaction was to employ her shield to repel the attacks.
Unlike the other members of the Volturi Coven, Renata's defensive instincts did not manifest itself with a physical posture. Her need to be mentally in control overruled her fight or flight reflex. What the others perceived to be an invisible threat that needed to be evaded, she perceived as a physical threat that needed to be repelled. Renata deftly directed her repellant shield towards the spray of water that was coming at her. Suddenly and very much to her surprise, she sensed nothing there to repel. An instant later something slammed into her and knocked her to the ground. Renata's composure was gone, and so was her shield. In the first few seconds of their fight Renata barely held her own. A second later she was outnumbered. Within that moment, she comprehended the error that she had made. Like a revelation that illuminated suddenly in her head, she understood that her coven reflexively darted away from, what was to them, an unseen enemy. Within that instant, she was overpowered by the combined might of eight vampires. The rest of her coven could do nothing but watch as she was dismembered. The kill was too quick. A second after the deed was done the eight enemy vampires vanished before their eyes.
"They're invisible," Felix yelled out to no one in particular.
"That can't be," Alec exclaimed to same.
The remaining members of the Volturi Coven moved a step back in response to the sudden disappearance of the enemy vampires.
"Alec," Jane called out a second later. "Stop them."
Alec began projecting his anesthetizing haze the moment he heard his name. A broad front of debilitating psychic energy quickly spread out in front of them. Almost immediately two enemy vampires, a male and a female, crumpled to the ground within the middle of Alec's haze. Their cloak of invisibility instantly fell away as they curled up into fetal positions. The Volturi members were surprised and heartened by the sudden visage of these previously unseen vampires. They paused to ponder these quivering masses of flesh. Suddenly a rock, the size of a man's fist, hammered into Alec's chest and knocked him backwards two steps. The debilitating haze quickly began to retreat as Alec redirected his attention to this attack. A second later, a fourth enemy vampire appeared from out of nowhere and slammed Alec to the ground. His defense against the vampire, that was suddenly weighing upon chest, distracted him from all else that was happening. A brief instant into this fight the attacker doubled over in pain as Jane directed her powers upon him. Alec had just gathered himself back up on his feet when a fifth and sixth vampire hammered Jane to the ground with a savage assault. The two vampires were invisible up until the moment of impact. They were also airborne. The two vampires flew in from the rear, passing all others within the Volturi Coven. Their attack looked to Alec as if it was being directed specifically at Jane.
Dazed by the multiple impacts, Jane was at that moment at the mercy of her attackers. Felix, Gerard, Maya, Peter and Efren quickly came to her defense and peeled her assailants off of her. Two more enemy vampires raced to the aid of their outnumbered colleagues. Alec quickly jumped to his feet as the enemy vampire he was fighting continued to slowly recover from Jane's excruciating assault. Alec whirled about and began to re-extend his crippling haze, but the previous two victims of same quickly evaded a second envelopment and dashed away under the cloak of invisibility. An instant later Alec abandoned the attempt, raced over to Jane and collected her into his arms.
"You okay?" A desperately concerned Alec queried his sister.
Jane was still groggy from the pounding she absorbed. Alec was convinced; nonetheless, that she would soon be herself and quickly turned his attention to the battle raging not far from him. The enemy vampire that he had been fighting moments earlier, now newly recovered from Jane's psychic powers, vanished before his eyes. His sudden disappearance, coupled with the unknown location of the two that were captives within his haze earlier, generated an intense sensation of panic within him. Alec quickly scanned about him, all the while knowing that he would not see his assailants until the moment of their attack. He thought to project his haze all about him, but this was an effect that was beyond him. His anesthetizing haze was limited to the direction he was viewing. His scanning about stalled his ability to project. His panic was quickly ballooning into terror. Suddenly something new caught his attention. The fight that Felix, Maya, Gerard and Efren were savagely waging, with their intermittently visible assailants, shortly drew the attention of the remaining three enemy vampires. What he noted an instant after was that Felix was drawing the bulk of this attention.
The six-foot-seven vampire was putting up a furious fight that no three of the enemy vampires could defeat by themselves. Peter, Efren, Maya and Gerard, appeared to be merely a distraction for the enemy vampires. He and Jane had seemingly been forgotten altogether. Several seconds later, Peter, followed by Maya, were caught off guard by the on-again off-again firefly effect of their opponents and were decapitated out of the fight. Jane reawakened in time to see Maya go down. An instant after that she threw herself up to full stance and prepared to insert her debilitating powers into the battle. Alec quickly wrapped his arms about her and spun her away from the fight before she could do this.
"No!" Alec yelled as he swung her around.
"What are you doing?" Jane yelled frantically.
"They'll kill you if you do that," Alec vehemently declared.
"Let go, let go," Jane complained as she struggled against Alec's restraint.
"Jane, look," Alec yelled as he wrenched her around to see the fight. "They concentrate on the greatest threat. If you use your powers, then that threat will be you."
Jane paused as she began to comprehend the truth of his observation. She could see that Felix was the principal target of these enemy vampires and that Efren's and Gerard's effort to intercede in his behalf was the extent of their roll in the fight.
Efren was two inches shy of six feet tall and Gerard was six feet one in shoes. The two of them together appeared to have less than half the effect that Felix was producing.
"We have to get out of here," Alec exclaimed while pulling her away from the fight.
"Efren," Jane called out to the attractive young male Volturi vampire who was still intent upon asserting himself into the battle.
Jane pulled away from Alec and grabbed Efren by the arm. With a tug, she pulled him away from his opponent. To her and his surprise, the enemy vampire promptly lost interest in him and turned his anger onto Felix. Alec, Jane and Efren, turned and began to flee into the direction that they came. Gerard took note of their escape and, in turn, followed behind. Felix too took note of their flight, but the combined efforts of eight enemy vampires made his escape impossible.