A/N: Well. Making a new TB story, and I thought why not make it a vain and eccentric character. So I would greatly appreciate reviews letting me know if they like it or not, or if it should be continued. Thanks a bunch, fellow Trubies! :)
- Prologue –
Nero the Reaper
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just ourselves,
It is my very unfortunate duty to inform you that one day, you and I shall meet. That's sounds quite ominous and threatening when I say it like that, as if I am some kind of loan-shark that you owe a lot of money to. Although I am after something of yours, it is not your money. Perhaps introducing myself would make the impending meeting easier for you? You can call me Nero. Like the Roman Emperor. I hear he was quite conceited and narcissistic, so I don't see why I'm named after him. I mean, I might be beautiful, intelligent, charismatic and have a wonderful sense of humour that seems to draw people in like a moth to a flame, but that doesn't make me conceited, does it? It just means I know greatness when I see it. That's not a crime, is it?
Even if it is not me you meet, I'm afraid I must tell you that it will be another of my kind. Someone less important and interesting, I'm sure. There are as many of us as there is of you, assuming that the very unsuspecting person who chose to read this is a human. Maybe you aren't. Maybe you're just a troll who happened to discover this beneath a bridge someplace, or a mountain giant who stumbled across it in a cave. Actually, that's completely stupid. Everyone knows trolls can't read. Anyway, there are a lot of us to deal with the fickle little humans. Far from being a Roman Emperor, I am but a humble Reaper. It's awfully fun to introduce yourself as 'Nero the Reaper'. Go on, just say it out-loud, you know I'm right. Though I think I'd make a brilliant Emperor. Imagine having so many servants. It'd be paradise, getting to boss someone around and yet still know they love you simply because you're better than them and they'll always think you're a beautiful ruler. Huh. A Reaper can dream. But that's not why we're here.
We're here purely to take your souls when you die.
Depressing subject, I know. Death tends to put a downer on things, it's just his way. He can be a nice guy once you get to know him. After all, I should know. He is my boss. We call him Grim though, it's much easier than calling him Death all the time. That's too morbid, right? At least now you know that when you die, you could ask to meet Nero the Reaper and see how it goes. I promise to take extra care with your soul on your departure to the afterlife. It will be like those plane journeys humans take, where I will check your ticket (or in other words, take your soul), tell you about the fantastic food and service we offer on the flight and tell what you what to do in event of an emergency. Brilliant. Only, I'm not exactly well-known by my fellow Reapers for being particularly…caring, when it comes to souls.
Then again, I work for Death. No wonder I'm so careless. Although Grim's charming and all that, he does not understand the term 'worker's rights' and he definitely doesn't know what a Trade Union is. I haven't had a holiday since 1802, and that was only for three whole days. Sucks, right? Oh well. I'm not gonna go storming to Alliyah, whinging about all my puny little problems. I should probably tell you about Alliyah, since I've told you about myself. Firstly, she's nowhere near as interesting or entertaining as I am. She's more demure, rather boring at times. She likes to think she's wholesome and good, though that's a bunch of bull-honky. A Reaper, being good and wholesome? Hah! You have more chance of getting a Leprechaun to willingly hand over his gold to you.
Alliyah is one of his Secretaries. One of Grim's, I mean. It's quite similar to the vampires. They have Sheriffs, like we have Secretaries. All our problems, complaints or just plain irritation is passed straight onto them, and in turn they tell Grim and he'll probably do something to sort it out, being the nice guy he is. Luckily for me, I live with Alliyah. She's rarely ever there, being the busy lady she is. She controls most of Louisiana, dealing with any Reapers who aren't very happy. An unhappy Reaper is not something you want to run into.
Anyway, back to me, I'm in a bit of a tizzy now. I'm not currently after your soul, no sir, you're lucky about that. I'm after a woman called Maudette Pickens, and in order to find her I have to ask one of the vampire Sheriffs for permission. Which I really, really don't want to do.
"Nero, I am begging you," Alliyah called from the kitchen area, a room we rarely if ever use. "Just for once, can you please forget your pride? We have very strained relations with the vampires."
"That's because they're arrogant and full of themselves."
"Looks who's talking," she replied curtly, with some annoyance in her voice.
I lounged on the sofa, painting my nails a bright red colour, thinking deeply. Meet a vampire, ask permission to do my job in his area and for his protection from other vampires in order to so? Or just do as I please and deal with the vampires myself? Huh. They'd probably get the Magister after me if I didn't ask for permission first, which means a lot of trouble on my part. If the Magister gets involved, Alliyah as Secretary of Area 5 has to get involved to, so she can defend me. And if that doesn't work…my Boss gets involved. I've only met him once and I don't actually remember it.
Why, you wonder in bemusement? It was at least a thousand years ago, and I had just died and he was offering me a chance at being a Reaper. I don't remember my real name, or anything about my human life, just waking up and beginning my career as a Reaper. After pleasantly chatting with Grim, he decided to name me after the Roman Emperor, Nero because it 'fitted my personality'. Gee, thanks a bunch. I did a lot of research on Nero, and found I like him a lot, despite his descriptions of being cruel and uncaring. So here I am. Sitting on a couch in Shreveport, debating whether or not I'm going to ask for permission before I get skinned alive by a furious vampire Magister for breaking vampire laws.
"Why should we bow to the vampires anyway? It's never worked like that before."
"Nero," Alliyah sighed, walking into the living room and taking a seat in the armchair across from me. "Do you not see how hard the vampires are working to fit in with the humans? We should do the same."
"Fit in with the humans?" I repeated before snorting in laughter. "Alliyah, we're there to take their souls, not make friends wit them. Besides, look what's happening to the vamps. Staked by the crazy religious humans. I, for one, do not want to have crazy humans after me."
"You don't die if you get staked though," she shrugged.
I stared at her, incredulous. "But I still feel pain, Alliyah. You'd have to be stupid to follow the vampires lead and come out to the humans. They can't know we exist. It would mess up the entire balance between life and death. Our job is to keep that balance."
She rolled her eyes. "You are going to go to Eric Northman, Nero. He is Sheriff of Area 5, so he's the guy we need to talk to. I don't care if I have to drag you, you are going."
I stuck my tongue out at her, grinning childishly. "Make me."
She laughed, chucking a cushion at me. I'd rather ask Grim for a raise before I bow to someone like Eric Northman. Shall I tell you about the wonderful Eric? I haven't seen him since…huh, it must have been World War II, if I remember correctly. He was with his polite Maker Godric then, who seemed a bit of a depression case if you ask me. Very quiet, subdued. Eric, on the other hand, was still a little baby vamp. He had no control over his temper, which is never a good thing for vampires. They like to be in control, every minute of every day. I mean night. Not day. Oops.
I've heard through the usually correct grapevine that Godric is somewhere in Texas now. And his little baby Eric is making a name for himself down here in Louisiana, owning a bar. A vampire bar, to be exact. Perhaps he'll buy me a drink, for old time's sake. Human alcohol doesn't affect me, but it sure tastes nice. I sighed, realizing it would be much easier to ask Eric instead of having to fight with a bunch of vampires myself. This Magister guy doesn't sound very friendly. I looked Alliyah in the eye, and nodded solemnly.
"Alright. I'll do it. I'll go to his bar tonight. Happy now?"
Alliyah beamed at me. "Of course. And no jokes about meeting the Sun. Or sharing a coffin with him. Or being staked."
"You never let me have any fun."
In the human world, it is quite common to greet someone with the word 'Hello!' in order to begin a conversation. I find the words you say after saying 'Hello' to be far more important than the actual greeting itself. For example, if I turned to you and said, 'Hello! I just hid that dead body in the woods, like you told me to!' then that means we are probably going to have a conversation about the dreadful crime we had just committed and marvel at our genius for coming up with the heinous and totally original idea of burying the dead body in the woods. Perhaps I might say 'Hello! I see you've cut your hair!' which would thus lead us to a boring, monotonous conversation about your latest hairstyle, which probably looks hideous anyway. Or maybe, just maybe, I'll start the conversation with, "Hello! I was just wondering if I could have permission to take souls in your area?"
Which is exactly how I'm beginning a conversation with Eric Northman, who funnily enough isn't even human in the first place. Vampires don't usually say 'Hello' or even a 'How do you do?'. They don't even shake hands. Eric, a particularly old vampire, would never lower himself to shaking hands with a mere human of course, but luckily for me, I'm not human anyway. It just sucks that he doesn't shake hands with any species, so I was left smiling like a fool at him. He seemed a little shocked at first, but he knew exactly who I was, which is flattering.
"Nero. What a…" – he dragged his gaze up and down my body slowly – "lovely surprise. To what to I owe the honour?"
"I just told you. I need permission before I can take souls in your area."
"Permission?" he repeated, seemingly surprised. He had his hands crossed behind his back, standing behind his desk with a deep, thoughtful look on his face. He was wearing a nice black wife-beater that accentuated his lovely muscles, I must say. He even stretched for my pleasure – or amusement, because honestly vampires really love showing off. Though I'm not one to talk.
"Yes, Eric, permission."
"I've never had a Reaper ask for that before," he smirked.
"Yeah, well, aren't you lucky it's me asking eh?"
"Oh trust me," he murmured sarcastically. "I'm thrilled."
I glared at him. This was my valuable time he was wasting. I could be doing something else right now, something important. Like re-painting my nails. Or watching grass grow. Or pondering philosophy. Anything other than this. "So do I have it or not?"
"Well, I want to know a few things first."
"Seeing your kind only means one thing, Nero."
"Whoa, hold on Mr Charming, 'my kind'?"
He winked. "Yes, Nero, your kind."
"That's a bit rich coming from the vampires looking for equal rights, going around making fun of other races."
"I was not making fun," he sneered. "Just stating that seeing you means someone is going to die."
"Oh don't make it out to be such a depressing thing! Death can be good, too, you know it means change, something new and fun to deal with in the afterlife!"
"Right. Take a seat, Nero," Eric murmured, motioning at the comfy-looking chair in front of his desk.
Surprising myself, I did as he asked. He was smiling in a secretive way, like he knew something I didn't. I watched him very carefully, noting every move. It seemed crazy when you think about it, a Reaper asking a vampire for some help. What is happening to our world? I sighed and leaned further in my chair. I felt restless. "What else would you like to know?"
"Who is going to die, of course."
"Classified," I grinned. "At least, until you agree…"
He narrowed his eyes, smirking. "You're playing a dangerous game Nero."
"Tell me something I don't know," I muttered under my breath. "But if you really want to know, you either agree to give me permission and protection from the evil little vamps lurking around your area, or I just leave right now." I stood up, but he quickly motioned for me to sit back down.
"Not so fast. We have a lot to talk about Nero."
Great. Just great.