A Singer's Prelude
The beginnings of the la tua cantante story. The first chapter starts in Florence in 1600, as the Volturi are introduced to the idea.
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Carlisle, for once in his existence, was not certain he had done the right thing. Here he stood, in the middle of a small Italian town, with the head of a now-dead vampire. Several humans had witnessed the kill, and now they were not certain if they should be frightened more by the red-eyed vampire who nearly killed them, or the golden-eyed one who had killed that vampire.
“Non avere paura,” pleaded Carlisle, but he was mostly certain his request would fall on deaf ears. Here he stood, with the carcass of a sentient being, asking the witnesses to not fear a predator. To them, it didn’t matter that he would not move to kill any of them. They all stood frozen, as any prey would.
An old woman rushed out of her house, and broke the stillness that consumed the town square. “Stregoni Benefici!” she cried as she rushed towards a cluster of the still-motionless humans. “Ringraziamenti,” she said as she bowed to Carlisle.
Not knowing how else to respond, he returned a bow and fled the town, still carrying the carcass of the vampire. Once he was in the darkness and safety of the forest, he set about burning the remains. Surely the Volturi would show mercy, since he had prevented the newborn vampire from threatening more exposure. They most certainly hadn’t bothered him earlier when he’d disposed of wild vampires. He tried to convince himself that this was true, and that he was not in danger, but he couldn’t shake the fear that the human lives he just saved would be forfeit.
While he busied himself around the fire, he almost did not notice the approach of two cloaked figures. They had nearly arrived at the fire when the sound of a cloak against the forest floor alerted Carlisle to their presence. He could not see much detail through the billowing cloud of smoke, but he instinctively knew these two were vampires.r32;
"Seguirmi," demanded an authoritative soprano voice hidden inside the smaller cloak; as soon as she had given her order, she turned on her heel and started to go the way she had arrived.
Carlisle wondered why the speaker was so hidden, despite the grey cloud-cover, but he did not have much time to ponder. He had more pressing mysteries to deal with. r32;"Dove lei mi porta?" inquired Carlisle. His Italian was not the best, and he hoped not to offend the cloaked figures, but he really did want to know where they were going.r32;
"Per vedere il Volturi," said the girl without sparing a glance at Carlisle.r32;
Carlisle nodded and followed the two figures. He knew resistance was futile, especially if these two cloaked figures were members of the infamous Volturi guard.
The journey to Volterra was quite short and thankfully uneventful. Though it was quick, Carlisle had time for a prayer to God. Even if the Volturi did not show mercy for Carlisle’s actions, certainly God would. He sent his prayer to heaven, and then refocused on the journey.
Once inside Volterra, they headed straight for a small sewer grate, and all three plunged into what would've been a pitch-black tunnel, if not for the enhanced eyesight. They then ran through the maze, and emerged in a calm corridor. There were several vampires waiting here, though a trio of males stood as if they were in command. All had the hoods of their cloaks down, and the two vampires who had escorted him lowered their hoods as well. r32;
One of the trio then glided forward, and extended his hand. Carlisle took it, and marveled at how civilized these vampires seemed. Why were they not fighting as he'd seen all other vampires do? How could this many possibly live together without killing each other? Thousands of questions surged through his mind, but he wasn't able to voice them, because the man whom he was shaking hands with grinned and said, "Welcome to Volterra, Carlisle. I am Aro, and this is Caius and Marcus." He waved his free hand to a white-haired man and a black-haired man, the remainder of the trio.r32;
“It is an honor," Carlisle said as he dropped Aro's hand and bowed to all three. He then turned to Aro again and asked, "But how did you know my name?"r32;
Aro chucked and replied, "I know everything about you, now." He paused ominously, and then grinned. "I can read thoughts when I touch someone else, so I must apologize, but I could not contain my curiosity! I finally meet the fabled Stregoni Benefici, in the flesh. And your eyes are the oddest color I've ever seen!"r32;
"I drink only from animals," Carlisle replied automatically. He’d never been comfortable around other vampires, but something about Aro’s enthusiasm took the edge off what could have been a tense conversation.
r32;"How dreadful," murmured Caius, responding to Carlisle’s diet.r32;
Aro spared Caius a dark glance, but then he returned his attention to the curious guest. "Surely you don't pity the humans? What could possibly lead you down this twisted path?" cried Aro. Surely he must know, thought Carlisle, if he truly has invaded my thoughts.
r32;"I don't want to murder anyone, especially if it is unnecessary. My father was an Anglican pastor, and I try to follow the teachings,” replied Carlisle calmly. This conversation seemed less and less like a trial, so he gradually became comfortable.
r32;"But the taste is so horrid! Why give up the finest feast for dirt when that feast is so easy to attain?" Aro’s face contorted in the vilest way, as if he had been forced to consume dirt, or worse.
“I’ve abstained from drinking human blood,” explained Carlisle. “There is another way for our kind to exist, and I’ve followed this path.”
Aro laughed, but it wasn’t a harsh, spine-tingling laugh. It was a friendly laugh, thankfully. “So is that why you’ve been hunting the vampires who flaunt their existence?” Aro waited while Carlisle nodded. “You’ve certainly made our job easier, although I was tense at first when I heard of a vampire who harmed no humans and instead hunted vampires.” He chuckled for several seconds more, and then suddenly sobered. “Surely you’d like to be rewarded for your service? A spot on the guard, perhaps? A grand feast, maybe?”
“Nothing is necessary. Although I would enjoy staying here, if that’s at all possible. It’s been so long since I have enjoyed civilized company,” Carlisle said.
“But of course. We have a large library at your disposal, if you’d like. Oh, you’d be the most entertaining guest we’ve had here in a long while! How I’d enjoy reading your mind for hours on end…” Aro’s voice faded as some possibility consumed his thoughts. After a minute or two, he broke out, and asked Carlisle, “Are you certain you don’t want anything to drink? I can send out a guardsman to get you something.”
“No, thank you,” Carlisle politely declined.
“Ah-ha! What we need to find you most desperately is la tua cantante. A fascinating phenomenon, if I do say so myself. One that most of us could only dream of!" Aro closed his eyes as his face became euphoric at the memory. "In 1600, we traveled to Palazzo Pitti to see the wedding of Henry IV and Maria de Medici, since we were friends of the Medici. Anyway, all was going well, until a rogue vampire crashed the party. He blantantly disobeyed our law, and drank all the blood from an opera singer. In front of a large audience, as well!" Aro's face gained a sharp edge, but he still kept a smile. It was a deadly combination. "The perpetrator was, of course, killed, but not before I could hear his mind. The human girl's blood - the singer's - was so strong that he followed her scent-trail from across town. It sent him into frenzy, unable to think clearly; he was consumed by it. The blood was like a siren's call, pulling him to his doom..." Aro's voice grew distant, as he relived that day. "I think that, if we were to find your singer - la tua cantante, if you will - then you could be cured of your unnatural aversion to blood.” Aro stopped and waited for a response, but Carlisle was too shocked to respond immediately.
After a short while, he responded, “Is this a common occurrence?”
“Not at all! It’s only occurred once that I know of, but if you’d like, I can send my guard out to look for potential singers. Is there a scent that you’re particularly attracted to? Something floral or perhaps more earthy?” Aro seemed more cheerful, now that he thought he could cure Carlisle of his unnatural diet.
“No, thank you,” Carlisle politely declined yet again.
“Very well,” said Aro with a sigh. He wanted to convert his new aquaintance to the more natural diet, but he did not want to drive someone as interesting from his home over a silly quarrel. "Let us use our time for richer pursuits, then."
r32;"I couldn't agree more," replied Carlisle. "I'm anxious to tour the library."r32;
"Ah, an intellectual! Certainly, my friend, certainly," said Aro with a grin.r32;
That day, they came to a shaky truce that allowed them to devote their time to higher thinking and the arts. After a decade or two, they became known as the "Nighttime Patrons of the Arts." It wasn't until the third decade of Carlisle's stay that the truce weakened. In the end, Carlisle chose to leave the Volturi so that each could maintain their own habits, and a long-distance friendship.