We'd speculated about it, before heading into Cullen territory. I thought that Carlisle would be one of the casualties. He was just too... unbalanced to concern himself with minor details like survival. Jane accused me of being an optimist and said Edward was the one more likely to be a pile of rubble. All that angst had to wear on a body, she said. Demetri said his money was on Carlisle's mate. After meeting Edward, Master Aro had said something about her being a mother for the whole brood. A mother would put her children first. Stood to reason, he declared. We all knew the domesticated human wouldn't be elevated yet, so we didn't even bother to mention her. She was guaranteed to be dead. Too bad, really. Master Caius had already promised her to me.

What none of us were prepared for was to see the entire coven still standing. Even the human, cuddled up with her lover. I could smell the tangy adrenaline mingled with her sweet scent from across the clearing. Intoxicating! When she lifted her eyes to mine, I winked. This was turning out to be far more enjoyable than I had expected.

There was also another girl, a newborn. Carlisle was wrong in the head. Just plain wrong! Offering quarter to a vampire who attacked him? Then it occurred to me; Carlisle, the empire-builder, was adding to his guard. He must have known we would come, but we'd arrived sooner than he'd hoped. He hadn't had a chance to train her or anything. She didn't even try to lie to Jane. I grinned despite myself. Few tried to deceive her; none succeeded.

It was good Jane was with us, or I would never have believed the newborn. An army of eighteen? PLUS their leaders? Against this coven? This group of pacifist, human-hugging, religious nuts? Something was seriously wrong here. It unnerved me, made me edgy. Maybe it was the scent of the place, reeking of battle and that lone human and... something else. Some unpleasant smell danced around the edge of my senses, coming and going with the breeze...

Jane and Carlisle finished negotiating the fate of the newborn, negotiating meaning Carlisle and his coven backed down. Then, Jane addressed the Cullens' pet directly. "Caius will be so interested to hear that you're still human, Bella. Perhaps he'll decide to visit."

"The date is set," that little runt of a seer answered. How in the wide world had she survived? "Perhaps we'll come to visit you in a few months."

The Cullens were going to come visit us? Was that supposed to be a threat? The newborn army had been impressive in size, but it was nothing compared to the Guard. With our talent, training, and experience, they couldn't even hope to challenge us, much less succeed.

Then that unfamiliar scent fluttered on the wind again, and I was suddenly unsure. We — especially Master Aro — knew the Cullens, but whatever secret talent or tactic they'd used today was an unknown element. How had they all survived? The human? The only thing we knew about her was that she was an unknown herself. And unknowable. Could some talent of hers have been responsible for this? And how dangerous did that make them?

"Take care of that, Felix," Jane said, her voice carefully bored. "I want to go home."

I'll bet she did. Our espionage assignment had already yielded far more than the Volturi expected. Our Masters would be pleased. Hopefully.

Well, at least I got a little fun out of the trip. And I could still hope for a luscious treat later.