The first volume of the series introduces the reader to Elena Gilbert, a popular and beautiful high school student in Fell's Church, Virginia (a fictional town possibly named after the actual city of Falls Church, Virginia) and her best friends Bonnie, Meredith, and Matt. A former childhood friend, Caroline, is also introduced and revealed to be Elena's antagonist. As their senior year at Robert E. Lee High School begins, Elena meets and becomes involved with a mysterious new student, Stefan Salvatore. As Elena and Stefan fall in love, strange attacks begin to happen in the town and Elena discovers that Stefan has a dark secret—he is a centuries-old vampire. Soon after Elena and Stefan meet, another charismatic stranger later revealed to be Stefan's estranged elder brother, Damon Salvatore, begins to make appearances. The reader learns that the brothers both fell in love with a young vampire named Katherine in Renaissance Italy. Fueled with rage at Katherine's refusal to choose one brother over the other and her subsequent suicide, Stefan and Damon kill each other in a sword fight. They are interred in the family crypt but soon awaken as vampires, at which point they part ways until they encounter each other once more at the beginning of the novel. The Awakening ends with Elena seeking out Damon, whom she believes to be the prime suspect for Stefan's disappearance after the townspeople begin to suspect him as the one behind numerous violent animal attacks and the recent murder of the high school's history teacher.