I am the way into the city of woe,
I am the way into eternal pain,
I am the way to go among the lost.
Justice caused my high architect to move,
Divine omnipotence created me,
The highest wisdom, and the primal love.
Before me there were no created things
But those that last forever—as do I.
Abandon all hope you who enter here.―Dante Alighieri, Inferno (III, 1-11)
Before my human life ended, my fighting skills were marveled at by both my friends and my foes alike. It wasn’t that I was the best fighter, though I was. It wasn’t that I practiced more than others, though I did. It wasn’t even that I made sure that my mind was as fine-tuned as my body, though I did that too.
What truly set me apart was that I could stay on a battlefield for days if need be—for as long as it took for my enemies to be vanquished. I would not tire. I would not weaken. I would not take rest.
Even the night I was mortally wounded, I didn’t leave the battlefield until hours after I’d sustained the injury. As usual, my force was outnumbered when we engaged our enemy, but we fought well and would have likely won if I’d not been hurt.
I do not recall being wounded. I do not recall who did it or how it was done. I do not recall pain until the blood around the wound had already gone cool to the touch.
I was too busy fighting—slaying my enemies—to notice any of those things. The men around me didn’t notice my condition either—not until I fell to my knees from blood loss. By then, it was too late for them to do a damned thing to save my life. So they did the only thing they could do for me; they took me off the battlefield and were determined to watch over me until death found me.
As it turned out, it found us all—in the form of Godric.
However, instead of finishing me, Death “recognized” me and chose me as his child.
It did not surprise me. I was already death’s servant by then.
After Russell killed my family, all I could think about was dealing out the deaths of my enemies, and there were many to deal out. My father and mother’s decades-long work had built a safe haven amidst the factions that surrounded us, but that haven was no more after Russell and his Weres attacked. They killed over half of our people—including many of our best warriors. They stole the livestock that had made us affluent. And, as a final fuck you, they burned our almost-mature crops on their way out.
I was a sixteen winters old when my parents died. I’d certainly been brought up to use a sword, and my body was already hard. But my practices up until then had been mostly with wooden swords, and my own blade had never seen blood until the night the wolves came.
It was not long before it saw much more.
In the wake of my parents’ death, marauders and so-called friends alike—who would have never dared strike our village before—came in droves, attacking us while we were weak.
But the village did not fall.
I. Would. Not. Fucking. Let. It. Fall.
During that time, I tortured the raiders—if need be—to discover where they were from and how I could find their villages and hiding places. I did not have enough men to raid—yet—but I kept an accounting of everyone who sought to take away that which remained from the life that my parents had created for my sister and myself.
As the leader of the decimated group left behind by the Weres, I became Eiríkr, Dauða Gjafarinn—Eric, the Death Dealer. For the first five years, my remaining people and I rebuilt our village and our numbers, and we fought off all attempted invasions. After that, I led carefully-planned offensives against the villages that had attempted to conquer us in our vulnerable state, always keeping an eye out for the marked beasts who had killed my family. I did not come across them again until long after my human life was over, so I had to settle for the blood of other foes.
However, that blood left me unfilled. And even as I cleaned my sword following a battle, I itched for it to be caked with gore once more.
When I became a vampire, Godric taught me other ways to kill—more intimate ways—with bare hand and fang. And—the older I became—the better I got at it. Ironically, my opportunities to kill became less in number as I became a better killer.
However, despite the many lives I have ended, I was never what my human people would have called a berserker, one who annihilated without control or reason. I invaded many villages, but never killed an innocent. And even as a vampire, I never took life without cause. My father’s teaching and my maker’s sense of justice prevented me from dealing deaths indiscriminately.
However, when someone decided to make me or mine an enemy, there were no lengths that I wouldn’t go to in order to eliminate a threat. But—even in my human life—I had been forced to exercise patience at times. I was certainly not shy when it came to killing one of my enemies, but I always tempered that desire with the need to survive or to protect.
It was early in my life as a vampire that I first became familiar with the teachings of Sun Tzu. He said, “The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.”
Those words gave voice to what I always tried to practice, but recently—and recklessly—I had ignored them. I could have blamed Godric’s death for that. Or I could have blamed Sookie for coming into my life and stirring up my emotions in ways I’d never experienced before. But the true problem had been a lack of thought—on my part—before I acted. I had grown impatient during the last several years. For instance, I’d killed Talbot without already having Russell’s death planned out. That sloppiness had almost cost Pam, Sookie, and myself our lives. More recently, my arrogance had led to Nora’s final death. I’d never for a single second thought that I couldn’t defeat a human like Governor Burrell; however, I’d underestimated my opponent, and he’d made me pay dearly by punishing my sister.
As I approached the Vamp Camp, I was more determined than ever to avoid similar errors, so I sifted through my plan one more time, looking for any flaws or unseen variables. I also recalled why I was there. I was motivated by a cruelty the likes of which I’d not seen since Godric and I had destroyed one of the death camps in Nazi Germany. I was motivated by my desire to avenge Nora’s death.
But there was so much more.
I was driven by my need to protect that which I had left—Pam, Willa, and Tara—just as I’d done so many years before when I defended my dead parents’ legacy from all attackers. I was also driven by the certain knowledge that what waited for me if I succeeded would be more fulfilling than any victory that I’d celebrated or blood that I’d taken.
What waited for me was life itself.
My body now tingling with energy, I cleared my mind of everything except the first step of my plan.
Shock and awe.
I did a quick sweep of my enemies’ territory. The Vamp Camp and the TruBlood factory abutted one another, and I knew from firsthand experience that there were corridors connecting them together. The best approach was from the east—where a new and larger loading dock was being built, obviously so that the distribution of the tainted TruBlood could be hurried along.
There were thirteen guards roaming the area. They had on night vision goggles and were fully decked out in combat gear. I had no doubt that the large guns they carried were “vampire-ready” and loaded with silver or wooden bullets.
But there was a funny thing about guns. They couldn’t be fired if one’s arms had been removed. And there was a funny thing about humans. The last place that they expected to be attacked from was above.
Since I could fly, my favorite Sun Tzu aphorism was, “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”
And like a bird of prey, I hovered over the group of guards that would be my first victims, calculating the best strategy to inflict the most damage in the least amount of time. I quickly outlined several scenarios, for often the most obvious targets were best left for the end. I chose my best course. I saw every move in my mind—every gunshot the guards would fire, every place they might position themselves so that they could take a kill shot at me. I anticipated where reinforcements would come from and how long they would take. In my head, I won the skirmish several times and in several ways.
It was a very good thing that I was wearing all black. Because Eiríkr, Dauða Gjafarinn had come to play, and blood could stain like a son of a bitch.
The last man to come at me outside the TruBlood factory was as easy to kill as the first, and since he was the last—for the moment, at least—I made it “special” for the both of us by kneeing him in the balls before I ripped his head from his shoulders.
I threw his severed head at the last remaining camera in the area, and my aim was true.
I looked around and took a moment to enjoy the carnage I’d left. Thirty-three dead guards in all: the original 13 plus 20 reinforcements—which had come in four waves of five each. I could hear that there was another squad of five nearing the door, but they stopped. Apparently, now that the outside surveillance had been completely cut off, they were going to wait until I came inside to engage me.
Not that it would matter.
I smiled. Step one of my “invasion” was complete, and I was relatively unscathed—despite all the blood on my clothing. Only a single silver bullet had hit me, ripping through my thigh, but not lodging in my body. The wound was already almost healed, though I decided to finish that healing and replenish my strength by taking blood from a newly-dead foe.
He didn’t seem to mind.
After quickly doing that, I made my way through the slaughter, kicking severed body parts out of my path. I was thankful that Sookie couldn’t yet feel my emotions. It would have been disconcerting for her to have to experience how happy I was to be on a rampage that made the Tokyo nightclub scene in Kill Bill look like an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
I knew that my bonded understood—at least on an intellectual level—what I was and what I was capable of doing. But knowing and seeing or feeling were different things. However, I knew—absolutely knew—that Sookie was capable of being ruthless. If her friends, her brother, or I were in danger, she’d stop at nothing to save us. I just hoped to spare her from such spectacles of violence as the one I had just created.
But even though I would spare her when I could from seeing the battlefields where I’d fought, I would not apologize for my actions. The best part was that I knew that Sookie’s days of asking for such apologies were behind us.
I’d learned by finally killing Russell that revenge was a tasty dish, and with each limb and head I had taken, I had felt “better,” as my needs for both vengeance and justice were appeased. I was taking limbs that would gladly kill Pam or Willa or Tara. I was tearing apart men who had laughed at Nora’s illness.
I was doing the world a fucking favor. And now I would do the vampires inside a favor.
I walked over to the storage canister closest to the factory and confirmed that the charges Alcide had set were in place. I smiled, impressed with the Were’s skill in concealing the explosive device. Since all had gone according to plan, I knew that there were eight other similar devices around the perimeter of the complex, each placed where it would wreck the most havoc. Right next to the explosive was the jamming equipment I’d asked Alcide to leave. I crouched down and activated the next-generation military apparatus, knowing that as long as my enemies couldn’t track me with their surveillance equipment, I would maintain the advantage.
They would not see me coming, and that would compound their fear, which would make them easier to defeat.
After checking for immediate threats one more time, I picked up the biggest corpse I could find and proceeded inside. After all, a fully armored human corpse, even without a head, made an excellent shield against silver and wood.
As I had promised my bonded, I was determined to liberate those in the Gen-Pop 1 room for females first—so that I could get to Jason before even more hell broke loose. However, before I could go to him, I needed to eliminate those in the control rooms that monitored the Gen-Pop 1 rooms.
I was able to get inside the building quite easily, though my “shield” was worse for wear afterwards. I eliminated five guards near the entrance, and then—after making sure that the little red lights on the cameras were indeed unlit—I proceeded to the Vamp Camp side of the complex—with a new human corpse as a shield, of course.
I’d memorized as much as I could of the layout of the building during my previous “visit” there. And even I had to admire the ingenuity of the design of the building.
Each Gen-Pop room was flanked on two sides by control rooms. In all, there were eight Gen-Pop rooms that were arranged in a square so that each control room monitored two Gen-Pop areas.
The vampires were—for all intents and purposes—sitting ducks. In the room I’d been in, there were fifteen cold storage units where some of the vampires—the well-behaved ones—were allowed to take their rest during the day, but the actual “common space” was not very large and perfectly square. All the furnishings were bolted down with silver, so there was little cover to be had. Along the sides of the room were approximately fifteen hatches at various heights. I’d witnessed three of them open at once when a couple of the younger vampires had a fight. The guns that must have been always at the ready behind those hatches were no fucking joke, and the vampire who had initiated the conflict was put down within a couple of seconds. Part of the ceiling of the room was silver grating, so guards could also fire from above.
Thus, I couldn’t just proceed willy-nilly into the Gen-Pop rooms without first seeing to the threats that surrounded them.
Happily, cleaning out the control rooms turned out to be easier than I’d thought it would be. A severed hand taken from my newest human shield offered me entrance. And, though the control room was staffed, there were not gunmen at each hatch. All told, there were only three individuals in the first control room.
I quickly moved on to the other control rooms flanking the Gen-Pop 1 area. After finding a similar lack of difficulty in those rooms, I zipped quickly to the floor above, taking out the four guards who were patrolling over the grated areas.
I completed each part of my plan moving methodically and noiselessly.
Oh—it was clear that my enemies knew that I was in the building. The blaring sirens and the radios screaming out instructions and requests for help made that much clear as a bell. But there was a lot of confusion about where I was. The remaining guards seemed to be concentrating their forces around the scientists and upper-level staff in the building; they obviously thought that I’d come directly for my chief enemies and/or my children.
They thought wrong.
Thanks to my bonded and her wonderful mind, that was not my plan at all. It was Sookie’s suggestion that I “recruit” the starving vampires to do most of the “heavy lifting” in the building. And her idea had been as brilliant as it had been simple. All I really needed to do was to free a few “soldiers” and let them take care of the rest.
After checking one last time to make sure I’d eliminated all the threats around Gen-Pop 1, I used a severed hand from a person who had been in one of the control rooms to open the door to the ladies’ side.
I was dripping with blood, and I was immediately met by the hungry eyes and fangs of many vampiresses. In another life I might have indulged a few of them.
But I was not in another life.
“Now, now, ladies,” I said as I swaggered into the room, “there’s no need to look at me like I’m a drinking fountain. There’s plenty more blood to be had.” I smirked. “Go forth and kill humans,” I said as I motioned to the door with a flourish. “But seek shelter elsewhere before sunrise,” I added firmly. “And don’t drink any TruBlood; it’s poisoned.”
Almost immediately after I’d finished my speech, twenty vampires zipped past me. I knew that they would make their way through the building like locusts. I sighed; I also knew that some of them had likely drunk the tainted blood already, leaving trace amounts in their bodies. Sadly, it was only a matter of time before they would die.
After the stampede to get out of the room, only one being was left behind: Jason Stackhouse. I went over to him; there were bite marks all over him, and he was barely conscious. His breathing was labored.
“Your sister is worried about you,” I said as I crouched next to him.
He opened his eyes a little. “Hey—you ain’t gonna kill me are you?” he asked weakly.
I chuckled. “Have you done anything that I should kill you for?”
“No,” he answered immediately, “at least not today.”
I chuckled again.