Enjoy this, er.. interesting new idea.
And special thanks to zynaofthenight. You completely rock. ^_^
We are mere notes in a piece of music played by the angel Death-heard and lost. –Austin O'Malley
Sometimes I wonder how I ever got myself into this position.
"Please sir," the frail man whispered, cowering in the shadowy corner. He was clearly trembling, his emaciated frame shaking uncontrollably in fear. "Please. I-I beg you. I have a family, a wife, kids. What will they do without me? I am the only person in my family who earns money. Without me, my family will die!" His voice rose into a hysterical shriek at the end, and he buried his face in his hands, moaning.
I sighed. It was the usual routine They were always like this. "Sir, that's not of my concern. My master has ordered your immediate execution. I'm simply following orders." Besides, you cannot escape me any longer. Father will never allow it.
"But, my daughter," the man said, pleading on his knees now. "She's only three. She needs a father."
I rubbed the knife, a curved blade that fit around my wrist perfectly, in my hand. It gleamed wickedly in the pale moonlight, glinting sharply at the edges. "I'm sorry," I whispered. "Master's orders."
"And my son," the man began, his voice a hoarse whisper. "He's barely a year old. What will become of him?"
I shook my head regretfully. "Sir, as I have tried to explain, the matter is out of my hands."
"My wife," he said insistently. "She's got a baby inside her. I need to be there for her."
I sighed again. I had let it go too far. It was my weak spot, letting the people plead before I took them away. It made me feel cold and uncaring, and on several occasions, it had almost been impossible for me to strike that final blow. I raised my weapon, my Saber Claw, and said, "You can run, or you can stay here. Either way, the job will get done."
"Who are you?" the man asked, his eyes wide. His futile attempts to get away were taking him nowhere.
I laughed, a sad, quite laugh. "I am Death. Sir, do not try to get away. The end will be the same, always. You cannot escape."
The man's face erupted into a look of pure terror as he tried to crawl farther into the corner.
I slowly stepped forward, watching the man shiver. "I don't understand," he said. "What did I do? Why am I an enemy of Death?"
I frowned. They always said that. "You're not an enemy of Death," I whispered, my knife edging closer to the man's throat. "Death has no enemies." The blade touched his throat, and he winced. I pushed it hard against him. A line of crimson began to form. "Death is your friend." I made one quick swipe across his throat, and his eyes went blank, dead. "Death is everyone's friend."
I closed the man's eyes and stood up, dusting myself off. I walked away, another job well done, though I had nearly stopped from killing him. I lifted the black hood over my head as I made my way out of the shadows, stowing my blade inside my cloak.
It was brightly lit outside, even though it was nighttime. I kept my head down as I passed the crowds of people on the street. No one gave me a second glance—everyone was in such a good mood tonight, laughing and singing…
I slipped into the nearest bar, seeking refuge from the mob of merry people. It was equally crowded inside, mostly men, tall glasses of foamy liquid in their hands. They were all staring up at a TV screen. I looked up as well. I saw a tall pole with a large, white ball at the top. It was glowing, and there was a clock behind it. There was an extremely large gathering of people around the clock, and I held my breath as I recognized the scene.
New Year's Eve, the Ball Drop at Times Square.
Everyone in the tiny bar started counting down—ten… nine… eight…—their eyes glued to the screen. I pushed my way through the people, and made it to the bar just as everyone said "ONE!" Cheering erupted, party poppers popped, and some guy put a luau necklace around my neck. Bright, neon pink. Oh joy.
The bartender, a man with a scruffy beard and twinkling eyes, made his way over to me. "You not in a festive mood, pal?" he asked, pulling out a rag and wiping down the counter.
"I'm not a festive person," I muttered back, frowning. "I don't think I even remember the last time I was in a festive mood."
The man snorted. "Not many who are anymore."
I looked up at him and caught him staring at my eye, that old scar. He quickly looked away. I sighed, and leaned against the wall next to me, watching the partying people with a sort of numbness.
"You want something to drink?" he asked finally, putting the rag away. He produced a glass from under the counter.
I shook my head. "Just water. I've a long way home tonight." Real long, I thought to myself.
He gave me a broken smile. "Suit yourself." He disappeared with the glass.
I looked down at my watch. 12:04. He should be calling soon, I thought. Of course, he could summon me again. I still wonder what those kids think happened to me…
"Here you go, pal," the bartender said. He slid the glass of water to me. I held it up in a silent toast, and drank it.
"You got a name?" the man asked, leaning against the counter.
"Yeah, I smarted. "You?"
"Wise guy, are you?" he laughed. "You remind me of my son."
I didn't say anything. I just stared down at the ice cubes floating in the glass, fighting down the memories that had suddenly resurfaced.
"He's probably around your age. What are you, eighteen?" the bartender asked.
I didn't say anything for a moment. In all actuality, how old am I? I thought back to my eighteenth birthday. It was such a long time ago.
"Happy birthday, Nico," Annabeth said, patting me on the back. She had a sad look on her face.
"Yeah, happy birthday, bro," Grover said, putting an arm around me.
Annabeth and Grover had come to the Underworld for my birthday party. But how could you celebrate birth in a place of death? It was one of the only safe places left for our kind, though. And to call the Underworld safe… well, you had to be desperate.
"Happy birthday, my son," a voice said from behind me. A pale hand appeared on my shoulder, and my father gave it a squeeze. "Eighteen is quite the milestone."
I could only nod. My father had insisted on throwing me a party. Naturally, I was a bit on edge. Hades wasn't usually the type who threw parties, even for his children.
"It is," Annabeth said, eyeing the lord of the Underworld with apprehension.
Hades nodded amiably. "I think it's time for your gifts."
I raised an eyebrow. My father was acting especially odd today. Amiably? When was the last time he had been even in a pleasant mood?
"Mr. Underwood," my father said. "You may go first, if you wish."
Grover reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small box. "I made 'em myself," he whispered and handed me the box.
I opened it. There was a small set of reed pipes. I gave Grover a crooked smile. "Thanks. It's great."
"Ms. Chase," Hades said. He motioned for her to present her gift.
Annabeth looked at me, a sad look, and pulled a slip of paper from her jacket. "I'm sorry, Nico. It's all I could…" She didn't finish her sentence.
I took the piece of paper from her outstretched hand. I unfolded it and gazed upon the picture. There stood four kids, a tall, tan, blonde girl with grey eyes, a pale, lanky, redhead boy, a small, pale, black haired boy, and a strong, black headed boy with the most brilliant sea green eyes. We were standing with our arms around each other, happy expressions on our faces.
The summer before the war.
"So you never forget us," she said quickly, and briefly took my hand.
"And now mine," my father said. He snapped his fingers and a long cane topped with a curved blade appeared. A scythe.
"You're giving me this?" I asked, eyeing the weapon nervously. "Uh…thanks?"
Hades nodded his head eagerly. "It will be yours if you accept."
"Accept what?" I questioned.
"That's Death's Scythe," Annabeth whispered grimly.
My father nodded again, a smile creeping on his face.
Annabeth looked at me. "He wants you to become Death."
"Death? You want me to be Death?" I asked my father.
"Yes son, I would be honored if you accepted. You would be my equal, my immortal equal," Hades explained.
"Immortal? I would be immortal?" I wondered aloud.
Hades smiled. "Oh yes, immortal. Immortal just like a certain someone."
I looked over at Annabeth. She wore a pained expression.
I looked back over at my father. "I accept," I whispered.
"You okay there, son?" a voice asked, pulling me back to the present. I looked up to find the bartender giving me a concerned look.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" I apologized.
"I just asked if you were around my son's age," he said. I must have given him a blank expression because then he said, "Eighteen."
I nodded my head. "Yeah, I guess I'm eighteen."
"You guess?" he asked.
I looked back down at my glass. The ice had nearly melted.
"So," the man started. "You like the President?"
"The country. You know, Perseus Jackson," he said. "You sure you're okay?"
I shook my head and slammed my glass down on the counter. I raced through the crowd and out the door. I pulled my black cloak closer and kept running, the cold of the January air stinging my face.
"Whoa there, young man," a man dressed as a police officer shouted. He started running after me. "Come back here!"
Great, I thought. I darted around a corner into a shadowy alley. I pressed myself up against the wall and snapped my fingers. I disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
I stumbled and fell onto the rocks, scraping my palms. Golden ichor seeped out. Awesome. I wiped them on my pants and stood up.
I was standing on top of a cliff looking down at the steely grey water. The moon was reflecting off it.
Home sweet home.
I smiled and trudged into my little trailer, closing the door behind me. I flipped the light on, and looked around. Someone had been rummaging around again. Oh well, they wouldn't find anything.
I looked down at my watch. 12:17. I guessed I'd go call him since he hadn't yet. I grabbed one of the old newspapers lying on the stove and stepped outside. I walked over to my fire pit and started to rip up the paper. The headline caught my eye: President Jackson elected to twenty-second term. There was a picture of a boy, forever frozen in his youth, at age sixteen.
How could they not realize he doesn't age? I thought bitterly. I ripped the paper up and held my hand out, palm facing up. I envisioned a flame dancing in it. Sure enough, when I opened my eyes, a green flame was floating in my hand.
I lit the paper and prepared to message my father. Percy may be able to control water communication, but there's no way he could ever control fire.
It was amazing how I had managed to keep my existence a secret after all this time. I guarantee he still thinks I died with all… Never mind.
I sighed and whispered into the fire, "Hades, the Underworld."
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