Characters: Carlisle, Aro, Santiago, Francesco Solimena, mentions of multiple Volturi
Category: Backstory, Humor, Buddyfic
Spoilers: Twilight, I guess? Minimal, though.
Summary: Yes, I am still on this. Volterra, c. 1722. Aro, a nighttime patron of the arts, shows his new friend his special gallery, and asks him to pose for a painting. Carlisle POV. Adapted from a series of posts at Pan Historia's Twilight - Eternity.
Disclaimer: Property of Stephenie Meyer. Other than Solimena, of course, who really did start painting Classical gods and 'ideal beauty' near the end of his career. One would almost think she actually researched when she picked him! Shocking!!
“Ah, I thought I would find you here!”
I looked up from the many volumes of books and old scrolls spread out on the ancient desk. "Aro," I said, smiling slightly as I stood. “What can I do for you?”
“I realized I have yet to show you my gallery!”
“I have in fact seen the art galleries. I was so surprised to see the collection. So many unknown paintings by famous artists. It's truly remarkable.”
“No no, my friend,” Aro said, shaking his head and placing a hand on my back to direct me toward the hall. “My personal gallery! I keep a special collection that is very precious to me. Let me show you. . .”
Aro cheerfully led me into the private apartments of the Volturi leaders and their wives and I soon found myself alone with my strange new friend in a large, surprisingly well-lit chamber. It was long and narrow with an arched ceiling, and each wall was hung heavy with grand paintings in thick, ornate frames.
“This is my personal collection,” Aro explained, sighing with a serene smile as he looked at the masterpieces lining the walls. “Here is where I keep the treasured portraits of all my dear ones!”
Aro drifted down the hall and I followed a few footfalls behind before he stopped in front of a painting depicting Aro and his brothers as the Greek deities Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. I was a bit surprised that he had not gone with the Roman counterparts—the iconography was distinctly Greek—but I suppose the Greek was older, truer to the source.
“Masterful, isn't it?” Aro asked, gazing appreciatively at the larger-than-life depiction of himself as King of the Gods. He clasped his hands behind his back and turned to face the opposite wall were a similar portrait of the three wives—Sulpicia, Athenodora, and the deceased Didyme—was hung, depicted the stunningly beautiful women as Hera, Amphitrite and Persephone.
“She was so beautiful, my sweet sister,” Aro sighed, reaching out to touch the raven-haired woman holding a pomegranate. I found the moment oddly unsettling, and merely nodded before strolling down the hall, admiring the various works. Nearly every member of the guard was depicted at least once as some figure from Classical mythology.
“This one woman appears in many of the paintings,” I observed aloud, and in an instant Aro had floated to my side. In this particular painting, the brunette of unspeakable beauty was depicted as Pandora.
“Dear Heidi is one of our artists' favorite models. Such a vision of loveliness! Perhaps we should have her painted as a muse, because that is what she is!”
“I am afraid your muse would be without a leader."
Aro laughed. “For a Christian, you seem to know a great deal about Greek mythology.”
“I have had a fair amount of free time in which to read and study these last sixty years or so,” I remarked. “But it is fairly common knowledge that Apollo is regarded as the leader of the muses, and that particular Olympian is noticeably absent.”
“Yes,” Aro drawled, a grin spreading across his face. “Sadly, we have been lacking a golden-haired youth to be our Apollo for quite some time.”
I stared at him dumbly for a moment. “You would like me to pose for a painting?”
“Oh it is great fun!” Aro enthused. “And our artist friends are quite. . . motivated to portray us at our best. And who better to be our god of light than our dear Carlisle, a light in the darkness of our world! And you know he was also the god of healing! There is no other choice! You are our ideal Apollo!”
I continued to regard my elder with wary apprehension.
“It would mean a great deal to me to be able to hang your portrait in my gallery,” Aro added with a slight pout. “It would not feel complete without you.”
Resigning myself to the inevitable, I gestured towards a painting of Hercules with an uncomfortable grimace. “I should hope that I would be wearing substantially more clothing than Felix is in this painting.”
“Oh, it will be very tasteful! Of course! We wouldn't want to offend your sensibilities in the slightest! Just a nice robe over one shoulder. . . and a crown of laurels in your hair, and a lyre of course.”
“Very well,” I agree with not a little reluctance. “It will be a good experience for me, I suppose. I have never posed for a painting before.”
* * *
I couldn't help but worry what my father, were he alive, would think of this. But I quickly dismissed such concerns as ridiculous. Surely pretending to be a pagan god was not nearly so great a sin in his eyes as actually being a vampire.
Aro led me to the “painting room,” which as already waiting for my arrival. It was slightly unnerving to realize that he knew exactly what he wanted when he found me in the library, that my comment regarding Apollo and the muses was a mere coincidence and not the cause of the strange situation in which I now found myself.
A human stood on the far side of the room. He wore richly colored robes and a serious expression. Somehow it seemed to me he was vaguely aware of the danger, but determined to focus on the task at hand.
“Our artist, Solimena. Oh, it will be a sad, sad day in the world of art when his fragile humanity finally claims him,” Aro said with a shake of his head.
My mood improved immediately and I strode across the room to introduce myself. “You are Francesco Solimena? I am such a great admirer of your work! The Birth of the Virgin was incredibly beautiful.” I held out my hand, but the artist's eyes went wide and he backed away, clutching his brushes to his chest and trembling slightly as his heart rate soared.
“Never you fear, Solimena!” Aro laughed. “Your talent is too precious to us to waste! Besides, my friend here is perfectly harmless, much to our amusement!”
“Carlisle Cullen,” I smiled as the artist cautiously shook my hand. “Apparently I shall be your Apollo.”
“Santiago!” Aro sang. “Be a dear and bring the costume!”
Santiago vanished and then reappeared in a matter of seconds, depositing a bundle of fabric with a crown of gilded laurels wordlessly at my feet.
“Will you need help dressing, friend?” Aro asked, his smile and murky eyes both still beaming.
“No, no!” I insisted. “I am certain I can manage.”
“Hurry along then! We don't want to keep Francesco waiting! He is mortal after all, his time is precious!”
I returned in a few minutes, rather thankful I was incapable of blushing and desperately missing the layers of my usual attire. Instead of the safety of breeches, coat and waistcoat, I had a short white tunic clasped with golden buttons at the shoulders and cinched with a belt at the waist. A longer, brilliant red cloak hung over one shoulder and arm, conveniently hiding the scars from my attack in London, not that Solimena would have been able to see them with his human vision. The crown of golden laurels was set in my similarly-colored hair, and I cautiously glanced at the others for a reaction.
The gathered members of the guard did not seem to care, Solimena nodded in approval, but Aro very nearly squealed and delicately pressed his hands to his mouth.
“Phoebus Apollo!” he exclaimed, “It's as if you just descended from Mt. Olympus!”
Aro threw the golden lyre into my arms and pushed me towards the center of the room before flitting over to stand near Solimena, pressing his fist thoughtfully to his chin and admiring the tableaux.
Hours passed, Santiago coming and going to attend to Solimena's human demands—food, water—as I stood perfectly still; as a vampire, I could hold the pose indefinitely without any discomfort. Aro observed Solimena's progress from a respectful (if no doubt still intimidating) distance, and occasionally drifted closer for a better look.
“Master Aro?” Solimena called softly, and I watched as Aro floated over to appear at Solimena's side.
“Yes?” Aro prompted, smiling sweetly.
“I know well that I am forbidden from painting the eyes of . . .” he paused, choosing his words carefully, “your kind as they are in reality. But I have noticed that Master Carlisle's are a different shade, and the golden hue fits the composition and theme so well, I humbly ask permission to paint his eyes as they are.”
Aro broke into a grin and looked up me.
“Yes, yes! Certainly you may!" Aro announced, clapping. "You have noticed, then, that 'Master Carlisle' is indeed a bit different. Apollo Apotropaeus!”
Apotropaeus, I thought to myself, trying not to smile and thus change my expression. Apollo, like his fellow Olympians, had many epithets but the one Aro had chosen this time was particularly pleasing to me. He who averts evil.