I was doing a search on for stories to read and it struck me that there are an exorbitant number of stories written about the main characters (i.e. the Cullen family), but there are very few stories written about the more obscure characters (e.g. the Denali clan). This irked me and to prove the point to myself, I searched for all stories concerning Carmen and Eleazar. I came up with one story. And so, as a writer and a fan of this coupling, I've taken it upon myself to add my version of events to the sorry collection of their story. Enjoy.The First Time We Met
Chapter One ~ The Threat
The tower was quiet that morning as the Guard started "waking up." I smirked, amused by this way of looking at mornings here. As vampires, none of us could really sleep, but as a detector of talents, I was used to placing behaviour into categories. It made the world so much more orderly when things fit snugly into set categories, though nothing ever perfectly fit anywhere. Each talent deserved its own category, as no two talents are ever the same, and the activities engaged in by the Guard were similar in this way; no two members of the guard spent the night the same way.
Of course, there were similarities between the activities; those of the Guard with mates always spent the night alone with them. But so few of the Guard had mates that this hardly mattered. Most of them, like me, preferred to spend the night alone in reflection. My usual activities during the night consisted of thinking, conversing with other Guard members (when they felt like talking), hunting, or roaming the streets of Voltera listening to the humans sleep.
It confused the others why this strange habit amused me. I didn't have an explanation for it myself; somehow, I found the sounds of human breathing to be… comforting, if that was even the word. It relaxed me to know that these humans were among the safest in the world… because of the Guard and the Volturi. No vampire was allowed to feed in Voltera.
The sun peeked over the horizon and cast its warm glow on my face. Rainbow lights danced off my skin and onto the walls of the loft, swirled as I turned my head to watch them, and escaped out the glassless window. I sighed and pulled myself back into the shadows of the loft, to avoid being spotted by the humans who were slowly beginning their day. Though I was happy with my life as a vampire guard to the Volturi, I found a small piece of myself yearning to walk out in the sunlight, to let the golden rays warm my cold skin. It had been ages since I was free to dance in the forest under the sun of Spain. Sometimes I missed it…
I froze and listened hard, tensed for an attack. None came.
I leaned slightly to the edge of the loft to look down at the great doors that led to the other parts of the building. This wasn't an attack, I realised, but someone knocking at the door. I tilted my head to the side, considering the other members of the Guard below me. Most of them were frozen like I had been moments before, waiting for an attack. Others, like Alec and Jane, were contemplating the door as though trying to decipher the reason for the knocking. The twins' faces were blank as they exchanged a glance and skittered to the door in unison.
For some unknown reason, I always expected a loud, grating creak when the large doors were opened, and was always unbalanced when it didn't come. I quickly moved to the very edge of the loft and let a leg dangle over the edge, waiting for the reason for the knocking.
As the doors opened all the way, I was supplied a view of the knocker and understanding instantly swept over me. Recently, the Volturi had acquired a new reseptionist; the old reseptionist had outlived her usefulness. I grimaced.
This new woman was very young, with white-blond hair and piercing green eyes. I had only seen her once before, when she was introduced to the Guard, but I remembered the way her eyes had made me feel, like I had done something wrong. This made me grin; it was a strange feeling to get from a human. The reseptionist swallowed nervously, her heart beating frantically, her eyes scanning the hall, taking in all the vampires there. There was no fear in her eyes, something I would have expected to see; instead, there was uncertainty, as though we were no more than average human employers and she was afraid that she had done something wrong. Respect flared for this little human; it took a lot to get over one's sense of self-preservation.
"Yes?" Alec asked in a dead voice, cold politeness in his tone. I shook my head to myself at his actions, but I understood their founding emotions; it took a while for the Guard to adjust to a new reseptionist. With the newfound respect still humming in my thoughts, I let myself drop from the loft, landing, catlike, on the stone floor below, and walked up behind Alec and Jane. I felt the need to come to this frail human's defence.
"Now, now, Alec, play nicely. She's only doing her job," I said loud enough for the human to hear me.
Alec gave me a sardonic glance and murmured too low for the reseptionist to hear, "She has disrupted our mourning. I am being as pleasant as I feel."
"Ah, yes," I murmured back. "About as pleasant as a rock, then."
I didn't wait for his response, but I could feel his gift pressing on my senses. His twin's gift also pressed at me, but neither of them struck out. Instead, they turned together and drifted away holding hands, leaving me to deal with the "disruption."
"You'll have to excuse them," I informed the reseptionist. "They don't like to be disturbed this early in the morning. I guess you could say they're not morning people." I smiled politely.
A strange expression crossed the reseptionist's face. "I didn't think that was a problem for v- for your kind. I didn't think any of you slept." The woman seemed confused.
I chuckled. "No we don't sleep, but the sentiment is still the same," I explained. Wanting to ease the woman's discomfort, I tried to turn her thoughts to the reason she came knocking. "Was there a particular reason for knocking this morning?"
But the woman didn't seem to hear me. She was frowning slightly, her eyebrows furrowed in concentration. I was about to repeat my question when a buzzing set off my sixth sense. Comprehender! my senses screamed at me and I realised the reseptionist had a gift: she saw truths. It didn't surprise me that I hadn't noticed it the first time I saw her; humans usually had to be using their gift for me to detect them.
"They don't like me," she stated. "Or at least, they're not used to me yet and don't trust me."
"That's exactly it, actually. I wouldn't worry about it if I were you; they'll warm up eventually," I assured her. "Now, for the reason you came…"
"Oh!" The human seemed flustered and she ran her fingers through her hair. "Yes. Sorry about that."
"Not at all. There's nothing to be sorry for." I looked at her expectantly.
The reseptionist cleared her throat. "There's someone here to see the Volturi and Aro told me to come to the Guard if I ever needed to get hold of him."
I nodded. "Who's here?"
"Another v-vampire, sir." She swallowed, as though the memory of this stranger was unpleasant.
"There's no need to call me 'sir,'" I assured her.
By this time, our conversation had attracted the attention of several others of the Guard. I could practically taste their curiosity on my tongue. Taking initiative, I exited the tower, taking the reseptionist with me, and closed the large doors, unbalanced again when no creak came. I indicated that she should take me to the visitor and we set off down the corridor.
"Did this vampire say anything?" I asked, looking down at the young woman beside me.
"Yes. He mentioned that he had information pertaining to a coven that was breaking the law. He said it was urgent, that he had to talk to the Volturi immediately." She frowned and I wondered whether her gift had told her something more. Unable to find a way to word my question without frightening her, I held my tongue and continued following her down the corridor.
The lobby was well lit with dozens of candles and the flickering was always distracting. Unfortunately, there couldn't be windows in this part of the tower because we sometimes received human guests during the day, and so we endured the incessant flickering of the candles.
The strange vampire was standing in the corner of the room, trying, it looked like, to stay out of the flickering of the candles. He wasn't doing a very good job. I stepped forward to greet him.
"Welcome to Voltera." I extended a hand to shake his. The vampire simply stared at my hand as though I had threatened to kill him. I sighed and lowered my hand.
"You're not Aro," the vampire hissed quietly in an accent, casting a glare at the reseptionist as she took her seat behind the heavy oak desk. "I asked for Aro."
"My name is Eleazar and I'm one of Aro's representatives. You can talk to me and I'll pass your information on to Aro. Have a seat." I indicated the two chairs by the wall. The Romanian vampire squinted at me warily, but did as I instructed. Asking silently to be granted patience, I sat across from the visitor and clasped my hands in my lap. "Now, you said you have information about a coven that has broken the law?"
The visitor just nodded, glancing around the lobby as though expecting a rebuff from the flickering light.
The vampire's eyes snapped back to mine and he glared suspiciously. "Why do you need my name?"
I sighed audibly and answered as patiently as I could. "It's protocol. Is there some reason why you don't want your name to be given?" I raised an eyebrow at him disapprovingly, hoping to convey that I was tired of his paranoia.
The vampire clenched his jaw and shook his head. Gracias a Dios, I thought. We're finally getting somewhere. "Your name?" I asked again.
"My name is Andrei."
"And what is the name of the coven of which you have information?"
Andrei's eyebrows knit together. "They don't have a name… that I know of."
"Well then, I'll need the location of this coven and the names of the members. We will need to be able to find them, after all. I assume you do know their names, at least?"
"Of course I know their names. Their location might be harder; they're nomads. But I can tell you where I last saw them." Andrei fiddled like a bracelet he was wearing. I found this odd; as vampires, we tend not to fidget, especially under stressful situations. I took note of the nervous tick and stored it away for further examining later; it might be important.
"Their names, please," I requested, settling back into the chair.
"Won't you want to write this down… so you can pass it on more easily to Aro?" Andrei asked curiously, eyeing the lack of writing equipment in front of me.
I chuckled. "No," I assured him, "believe me, we have easier ways of passing information than writing it down." The grin I gave him was faintly threatening. I couldn't help it; this vampire got on my nerves.
"What could be easier than a written explanation?" Andrei looked worried.
Another grin. "You've obviously never met Aro in person."
Andrei shook his head and his eyes adopted a faraway cast, as though he were imagining all sorts of frightening things about my master. I didn't bother to put the Romanian's thoughts straight; a little bit of fear never hurt anyone.
"The names of the members of this coven, if you don't mind."
Andrei collected his thoughts again and nodded. "The coven consists of two pairs of mates and a leader named Ferka. The pairs' names are Costel and his mate Sorina, and Nandru and his mate Crina." The Romanian worried his bottom lip with his sharp teeth after finishing his sentence. This nervous tick, too, was filed away for future reference.
"And the last location you saw them?"
Andrei took a deep, steadying breath. Again, I made a mental note. "I last saw them just outside of Gheorgheni, in the province of Harghita, Romania. I overheard them saying that they were heading toward Voronkovo in Moldova."
I nodded to myself, locating the coven's movements on the map in my mind. Moldova shared a border with Romania. "Was there any particular reason for them to move out of Romania? Perhaps trying to avoid notice by humans?"
Andrei shook his head quickly. Too quickly. "No, at least, I don't think so. As I said, they're nomads and move around eastern Europe constantly. It is hard to predict where they are going to be."
"If you don't mind me saying so, you seem to know a lot about this coven."
Andrei's mouth fell open, but no sound came out. He seemed to be struggling to come up with a reason for his in-depth knowledge of the Romanian coven. My suspicions were confirmed; Andrei had been part of the coven. I got the sneaking feeling that this coven had in fact done nothing wrong, and that this was personal. Andrei had a grudge or a score to settle. It didn't bode well. Perhaps it was time for Andrei to meet Aro in person.
"I-I…" Andrei stuttered. "I watched them for a while, knowing that I would need to give you information so you could find them. And of course, I had to make sure that they were really breaking the law…"
"Of course," I agreed coolly. "So what is it exactly that this coven has done to warrant coming to the Volturi?" I couldn't wait for the answer to this question; it was bound to be creative.
"This coven, they are all of Romani descent. This is partly why they are nomadic. The Romani are famous for their carnivals and for the trading of goods and services. Another word for them would be gypsies, but the Romani consider this term derogatory." Again, the Romanian fiddled with his bracelet. I examined it closer and noted a handmade quality that I recognised at once. I had seen those exact bracelets at a Romani fair held in the square here in Voltera not that long ago. I couldn't help my eyes from narrowing. The other vampire noticed. "What?"
I shook my head, not wanting to divulge that I knew his secret, but I couldn't quite erase the suspicion from my eyes. "Nothing, go on."
Andrei swallowed and obeyed. "This particular coven, in the custom of their people, holds trading sessions with humans in the villages of Romania and the surrounding countries. They are not exactly subtle when it comes to dealing with humans. They hunt the villagers freely, without concern of who knows what they've done. In their defence, the villagers often think that the coven have just kidnapped or seduced the missing humans as the Romani have a tendency to do, but there are those who are suspicious. I've heard rumours."
This last bit seemed to have been added without thought. Aha! I thought. I've got you there.
"Rumours? Really? We haven't heard a thing." I watched for signs of stress in the Romanian and wasn't disappointed. His eyes took on a look of desperation.
"Of course you haven't heard anything. The rumours have not been about vampires, but about the Romani! Still, this coven in endangering our kind and needs to be stopped. I've told you all I know. Now, please, go and tell this to Aro." There was an imploring edge to Andrei's voice.
"I'll pass on what you've said. Meanwhile, please stay here until nightfall and after that inside the city limits until the Volturi have made their decision. Also, I implore you not to hunt within the walls of this city, as it would endanger our concealment. Hunting in Voltera is a crime punishable by death. Thank you for informing us of this coven's potential discrepancy. Be assured that we will investigate the matter fully."
What I really wanted to say to the Romanian was that I knew he was a lying scumbag, but I didn't think that would go over well with Aro. My master would want me to consult him before making wild accusations. I got to my feet and turned on my heel to pay Aro a visit.
"I should warn you before you tell Aro," the Romanian called after me. I stopped abruptly at the word "warn." Was this something else Andrei was going to make up to condemn his coven, or was this actually a potential threat that we needed to know about. Reluctantly, I turned and faced the other vampire again.
Andrei got to his feet and squared his shoulders. "There are a couple of members of this coven with powerful gifts that might pose a threat to your Guard should you decide to go after them. The leader, Ferka, can freeze a person with a single glance and Nandru's mate Crina," I noticed the tightening in Andrei's eyes when he said her name, "has a strange power over nature. She can make the animals and trees do her bidding."
I contemplated this for a moment, then nodded. "Thank you for telling us." Again I turned to leave and again I was stopped, but not by the Romanian.
"Eleazar!" The reseptionist jumped up from her desk and scurried after me. "I need to talk to you about something important."
I looked down at her curiously, but nodded and walked briskly down the corridor. My sixth sense was buzzing again and so I knew before she said anything that this would involve some sort of truth that she detected. As soon as I was sure we were out of hearing range of the Romanian, I stopped and turned to her again.
"What is it you wanted to tell me?" I asked, already kind of knowing the answer.
"Well," the human paused, seemingly uncertain about how to word her thoughts, "I'm sure what you both were saying because you were speaking too low for me to hear, but I got the strange feeling that that man was lying to you, or at least wasn't telling the whole truth. I'm not sure how I know this, but the feeling struck me and I thought you should know." The little female studied her feet, ostensibly embarrassed by her forwardness.
I placed a finger under her chin and lifted her face so she could see my smile. She shuddered a little at my cold touch, but otherwise was unruffled by my forwardness. "Don't be ashamed. You are right; he wasn't telling me the whole truth. In fact, he might have been outright lying, as you said. Don't ever doubt your feelings, little one; they won't misguide you. Now, if you don't mind, I would appreciate if you would make sure the vampire stays in the lobby until nightfall. I'll send someone else out to watch him with you; I'm afraid I don't trust him very much."
"Thank you, but that won't be necessary. I'll be fine."
I shook my head at her. "Don't be foolish. He is dangerous, especially to humans like you. I'll send someone. Thank you for sharing your insight with me. You confirmed my suspicions." I gave the young woman another warm smile and hurried back to the tower to send a guard for her. Again the lack of ghoulish creaking unbalanced me, but I ignored the feeling; there were more pressing matters to attend to.
"Ásdís, I have a favour to ask you," I called across the circular room. The vampire with the long, auburn hair turned to face me and smiled politely. She drifted over to me sedately and raised her eyebrows in question. This was very typical of Ásdís; a former Queen of an Icelandic people, she was a Negotiator and had the power to calm the angered and make them see her way. She was very useful to have on your side in an argument and I again was grateful that we were friends.
"A favour?" she asked in her soft voice. "Need to convince someone to calm down?"
I chuckled, remembering the previous favour I had asked of her. It had involved convincing a new recruit, a Fighter named Felix, not to kill Alec for using his gift on him. "No, no death threats on any important members of the Guard. Actually, I was wondering if you would go and make sure the visitor in the lobby doesn't eat our new reseptionist."
Ásdís laughed. Her laugh had always fascinated me; it was like listening to a waterfall sing. "Why? Is our visitor likely to do that?"
I shrugged. "I'm not sure. In any case, I don't trust him. And our reseptionist is just a frail little human."
This made absolutely no sense to me, given the context. "Pardon me?"
"Svana. Her name is Svana." Ásdís gave me an amused smile and I laughed.
"Oh, yes. So will you?"
She nodded. "Of course." Ásdís followed me out into the corridor and headed in the direction of the lobby.
"Thank you!" I called after her. She didn't turn, but I heard the sound of a waterfall singing and knew she had heard me. I relaxed slightly, knowing that I wouldn't have to worry about Svana with Ásdís there.
It was time for me to see Aro.
The three Volturi and the wives spent their nights in three suites on the top floor of the main building. I quickly climbed the stone stairs, thankful that there weren't any candles here. The landing at the top was decorated with a painting of the Volturi and the wives in a gilded frame. The painting had been there since before I joined the Volturi centuries ago and I doubted it would move for another couple of centuries.
The first door past this painting was Aro's. His door was closest to the landing because he was the one to consult when it came to Guard duties. The others didn't want to be disturbed during the night for any reason. Also, it had occurred to me a short time after I joined the Guard, that Aro really was the leader of our coven. The other Volturi were important and influential as well, but Aro really had the last say on every matter.
I paused outside the door and lifted my hand to knock. I hated disturbing Aro in the morning, but this couldn't wait. The sound of my knocking sounded unthinkably loud in the silent hallway, though I hadn't done more than touch the door three times with my knuckles. I cringed.
There were sounds of movement on the other side of the door and I squared my shoulders.
Aro was a very tall man and I couldn't help feeling short beside him. I myself was not a short man – I was six foot one – but Aro had a good five or six inches on me, adding to his intimidating persona. However, one thing about Aro was that he was usually in a good mood, and when he wasn't, he faked it very well. Presently, he smiled down at me pleasantly.
"Ah, Eleazar! How was your night?" he asked, stepping to the side so I could enter the suite.
"Fine, thank you. And yours?" I asked this out of courtesy rather than actual curiosity; I already knew what Aro's answer would be.
"Wonderful, as always. Now," Aro said, taking a seat in a leather armchair and touching his fingertips together, "I assume you have information for me?"
I nodded and stretched out my hand. Aro smiled again and touched his hand to mine. It's strange how a person can get used to having no privacy; these little exchanges with Aro bothered me not at all, though he could see every thought that had ever passed through my mind. A moment passed and Aro withdrew his hand, looking contemplative.
"You think he's lying," he said, and it wasn't a question.
"Yes, I do. And Svana told me the same thing."
Aro smiled slightly. "Yes, that's an interesting talent, isn't it? A lie detector, or a Comprehender, as you call it. Hmmm, she might make a nice addition to our numbers." Aro trailed off, obviously thinking of the benefits of having a Comprehender on the Guard.
"Speaking of which," I reminded him. "Ferka and Crina appear to both be very talented. If Andrei's story does turn out to be a lie, it might be worth recruiting them. A stare that can freeze and the power to control nature… impressive gifts."
Aro smiled wider. "We were thinking along the same lines, my friend. I'll meet with this Andrei and discover what he's hiding. It seems, either way, that the Guard will be making a trip to Romania." Aro got to his feet.
"I'll inform Renata that she'll be needed then, shall I?" I asked, following Aro from the suite.
I nodded and flitted down the stairs to the tower. The tower was alive now and buzzing with quiet conversations. Scanning the room, I spotted Renatta talking to Felix and Demetri.
"Renatta, Aro has need of you," I informed her, nodding at both of the other Guard members. Demetri nodded back pleasantly, but Felix just scowled. I sighed inwardly; obviously he hadn't forgiven me for preventing his murder of Alec… not that he would have succeeded.
Renata nodded at me as well and she followed me out of the tower. Aro was waiting for us.
"Renata, my sweeting. How are you this morning?" Aro reached out and touched the Shield's cheek.
"Wonderful, Master," Renata breathed, gazing at Aro with love-filled eyes.
I had never particularly understood the dreamy state in which some members of the Guard addressed the Volturi. I was aware that Chelsea kept our bonds closely knit so we could all get along together, and I was grateful for this. While I was irreversibly loyal to the Volturi, my emotional attachment went only at deep as that.
Aro motioned for me to wait in the tower and set off down the corridor with Renata trailing behind him like a devoted puppy. I grimaced, but acquiesced immediately; there was no further need of my presence and I should enjoy the time alone while I still could. No doubt tonight would be spent traveling, not to mention that it would be stressful and I wouldn't get much time to myself. I looked up to the loft and prepared myself to jump.
The loft wasn't actually a loft, per se, but a stone ridge that ran around the circumference of the tower. At a height of thirty to forty feet above the stone floor, I believe it was meant to roost birds. Since birds wouldn't come anywhere near the tower, the loft was used by select members of the Guard as a place to avoid others. I smiled as I realised that I had become quite introverted in my old age. My muscles tensed and I crouched…
I straightened up and waited somewhat impatiently for Demetri to approach me. "Yes, Demetri?"
The Tracker sighed and glanced over his shoulder, as though checking to see that our conversation wasn't being overheard by the wrong person. I raised my eyebrow at him and he sighed.
"I know that Felix is taking some time to adjust to the Guard, but he's not a bad person," Demetri started, a frown creasing the skin between his eyebrows.
I raised a hand to stop him. "I know," I assured him. "Believe me, I know. I think I would have done the same thing if Alec had used his gift against me. We just can't afford to let members bicker. The slightest disagreement gets blown out of proportion when we're all clumped in here together. Even Chelsea can't prevent that."
Demetri smiled slightly. "I know what you mean. I just didn't want there to be a misunderstanding."
"Don't worry, I understand completely."
The Tracker smiled wider. "Excellent. Thank you for being patient."
I cocked my head at him in confusion. "You seem very… protective of him," I noted, raising my eyebrow again.
A thoughtful look crossed Demetri's features. "I'm not sure what it is, but I feel almost responsible for him, which makes absolutely no sense, because you were the one to discover him." I almost laughed as I observed that the Tracker was just as confused about this as I was.
"I'm fairly certain that I can empathise," I told him, my thoughts flashing to the reseptionist.
"I'm sure most could." And with this last comment, Demetri turned and went to bask in an errant ray of light. I chuckled and swiftly jumped up to the loft before anyone could claim my attention.
Time for seclusion.