From his centuries of experience, Caius knew he needed as much information as could be gathered before charging into battle. When the young Cullen had come to them and begged for death, he’d not been impressed by or concerned with the melodramatic, sophomoric ramblings of the childish Mind Reader. He had not shared Aro’s glee with the alleged visions of the Seer when she and the little human pet had burst upon the scene. He had only been truly concerned, and quite incensed, when Aro allowed them to leave Volterra with the girl’s humanity intact.
His gut told him the problems stemmed from the human and that rain-drenched town in which the Cullens had found her. He wondered if they had granted her immortality as they’d been instructed.
Loath to bring further torture upon his bereaved brother, Caius hesitated before knocking on the age-darkened wood of the door to Aro’s private apartment. He sighed wearily. Though he had learned quite a bit, Aro had the details he required. Caius knew he must tread carefully so as not to cause greater harm.
Sulpicia responded quickly to his quiet knock as if she’d been standing behind the door, and sadly directed him to Aro’s unchanging position. As on previous visits, he was sitting by the window, matte black eyes staring out at, but not seeing, the green and gold rolling hills that surrounded their ancient home.
Caius delicately, but thoroughly, questioned Aro to learn everything he could about the Cullens, their coven, and the small, blighted village of Forks.
Even through his crushing grief, Aro understood Caius’ intentions and spoke at length, his customarily expressive voice flat and absent of all emotion. He trusted his fellow king to know what needed to be done.
As Aro detailed what he had learned from the young Cullens’ minds, a fire ignited in the pit of Caius’ belly. In his private thoughts, he questioned why Aro had not spoken to him before of the deadly secrets hidden within the misty forests of the Olympic Peninsula, but it no longer mattered. Caius did not, and would not, place blame. He had the knowledge, experience, and ability to completely eradicate the threat.
New strategies began to form in the ancient warrior’s mind. After making assurances and thanking his brother, Caius excused himself, bowed to Sulpicia, and left the room to begin issuing new orders.
It wasn’t long before the first puzzle pieces of the mystery began to arrive in Volterra. Within twelve hours, reconnaissance photos began to accumulate. Within twenty-four, images of scanned charts and maps were printed out, cataloged, and spread across a shining mahogany conference table.
As more information filtered in, Marcus ordered a second large table to be brought in to make room for the growing stacks of documents and photographs. The large bulletin boards set about the room soon became obscured with charts and still more photos.
He frequently called on Aro in his private quarters. Unhappily, he relayed to Caius that Sulpicia was still unable to offer any comfort to her despairing husband.
Never having seen Aro so despondent in all the centuries they had been together, Caius worked feverishly—coordinating movements of small fact and rumor-gathering teams, organizing and disseminating the masses of information they fed to him, and periodically joining Marcus to officially greet their subjects who had begun to arrive in Volterra.
Once Caius had informed his guard that the Cullen Coven had been decimated, he knew the news would spread like a virulent plague throughout their world. What had taken him by surprise was the number of nomads and small covens who made the pilgrimage to the ancient city—some seeking news, others paying homage to the memory of Carlisle, and still others offering their assistance.
Carlisle Cullen had been thought eccentric in his views, and though he had been dismissed by some and beloved by others, he had been grudgingly admired by many.
One fact stood out above all others—no matter how curious those of their race were, after learning of the Cullens’ demise, even the most inquisitive had avoided traveling to the state of Washington in America because they all held the same deep fear.
What could have massacred the entire coven? Though large and powerful, they had strived to live peaceful, unassuming lives—even the known warrior who had joined them in recent times.
What could have overtaken them all?
Could what had befallen the pacifist clan quit the Pacific Northwest, search them out, and end them?
Would the leaders of their kind be able to contain and destroy the threat?
Caius, Marcus, and the several Lieutenants rotating through the citadel took the time necessary to convey discreetly worded explanations about the previously unknown danger and reassure the fearful vampires.