a/n: Blame this on Hmonster4 and Profmom72's excellent story The Fates. Blame this on my own research for Aengus and My Love Shall Ever Live Young, on Neil Gaiman's Odd and the Frost Giants, Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series, or Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I have gods and immortality on the brain.


An Unnatural Life

To mark their first century of existence, Aro, Caius, and Marcus sampled the blood of the daughters of the Umbri, cutting a swath of terror through the territory of the peninsula's oldest tribe. It was a surfeit of blood, far more than the three brothers could actually drink, but it was a celebration of immortality, of prowess, of cheating Thanatos, the Keres, and Hades. Who was there to tell them to stop?

For their bicentennial, the three split: Caius travelled north to wreak havoc on the Keltoi, Marcus east to hunt along the familiar Mediterranean coast and Aro to the Upper Nile, the city of Napata, the seat of Kushite power. He rather hoped that the people of Upper Nubia tasted different than those he'd been feeding from along the Mediterranean. He was getting bored.

He spent the better part of the century traveling across the Egyptian kingdom and the Phoenician ports and cities along the north African coast. To his great disappointment, the people on this side of the Mediterranean tasted much like the people he'd been hunting on the other side. What he did gain appreciation for, however, was the scale in which the Pharaohs thought: the size of the pyramids and monuments appealed to him. Why build small when you could tell all the world of your wealth and power?

By his fourth century, Aro had stopped thinking that any group of humans tasted different than their fellows. Sons of Cyprus, the Phoenicians, Elamites, Lydians, sabini kings of Rome, Athenians, Egyptians; they varied little in flavor. Only once in a very great while did one stumble over a particularly aromatic and appetizing morsel, and it was his experience that those lovely treats followed no cultural or geographic lines.

Nonetheless, he traveled to Ephyra on the Ionian Sea, to the Nekromanteion, and sought out the nekyomanteia to feast upon, finding humor in one such as himself dining on the oracles of the dead. To the celebrants seeking contact with the dead, he used his superior speed to act the part, giving them answers that amused him, or simply terrifying them until they broke and ran. To the oracles, he was death, his sharp teeth and awful strength the last thing they knew. It was this act of defiance and sacrilege that garnered the attention of one in whom he had long ceased believing.

Hades.

There was no doubt in his mind that who was before him. No human or vampire could be as tall, as regal, or radiate so much power. Aro thought that the god towered over him by a good four feet, with proportionally wide shoulders. His himation, elegantly arranged so that the draped folds were at once graceful and masculine, was the deep black of the midnight sky on a moonless night, trimmed in dark blue with script of silver and gold along the edge, which seemed to be in continuous movement. The god's pure black hair and beard, combined with the darkness of his himation, seemed to absorb nearby light. All things were dimmed in the presence of he who reigned over the Underworld.

Faced with ten feet of imposing, angry god, Aro had a moment of fear, the first such feeling in centuries. Fear that his time as top predator in the known world was at an end. Fear that Marcus and Caius would flourish while he languished in Tartarus.

His fear grew when Hades smiled a terrible smile.

"No, little blood sucker. You are not welcome into my realm. You cannot be buried with the payment of an obolus in your mouth, and so Charon will not ferry you across the Acheron into the land of the dead. I deny you entry. Long shall you live among mortals. Great shall be your power. Great shall be your fall. Great will be your isolation. Your brothers and you will exist, but you will not be a part of the world. Of it, but not in it.

Long millennia from now, little immortal, after you have survived the fall of this civilization, and the next, and the next, when dust coats your mouth, when all you have treasured has disappeared under the great weight of time, and the teaming masses of humans you feed on are no more, your body dismembered and burned, you will come crawling to me, begging me entry into the Underworld. Yet I will deny you, for you have fed on those consecrated to me. With the passing of your physical form, you will walk the earth as a shade, tied to existence for as long as the Earth has form and Apollo and Artemis illumine the day and the night."

Hades flicked his finger, and Aro felt a cold, hollow place open within him, even as he began to see all the possibilities of the god's curse.

"You are cursed with undying life and no respite. You cannot dream, cannot sleep, can find no sanctuary from the crush of humanity around you. Enjoy eternity, small one."

Hades disappeared in a ripple of darkness and death, the spots where his sandaled feet had touched the earth now the home to wasted grass and blackened dirt.

Aro smiled. A life eternal. It was guaranteed from the mouth of a god; he would outlive all around him.


a/n: Aro, you might know, is the creation and property of Stephanie Meyer. Hades belongs to himself. (Or, really, Persephone.)

Notes:
The Nekromanteion (The Oracle of the Dead) was a site dedicated to Hades & Persephone.
The nekyomanteia were priests/oracles of the dead in Greece, and thus were associated with Hades, God of the Underworld, God of the Dead.
Thanatos was the god of death, sent from the realm of Hades to collect the souls of the dying.
The Keres were sisters of Thanatos; spirits of cruel and violent deaths.
A himation is "a generous oblong woolen shawl" wrapped about the body and draped off the left shoulder. If you're familiar with Roman togas, that will give you an idea, though they are different.