[A/N: extended italics = dream]
Sookie couldn’t quite place where she was for a few moments. It felt like the wood floor under her was swaying, and it was most certainly creaking. She was in a very small room with the only light coming from the edges of what looked to be a small hatch. She barely saw the few steps leading up to the hatch and climbed them. As soon as she managed to open it, she was bombarded with bright sunlight and recognized that she was on some kind of ship. A beautiful cerulean blue sky spread out above her.
She stood up on deck and noticed what looked like benches where people might sit and row, but she didn’t see anyone. She walked carefully to the side of the boat and sat on one of the benches. There was land in the distance, and the sun seemed to be at its zenith. The air smelled of salt, and the water below her was a slightly darker shade of blue than the sky. She looked down and noticed that the boat was moving slowly through the water, running parallel to the land.
“My home is over there,” a voice said from behind her.
She looked over her shoulder and noticed Eric standing near the rudder of the boat, about twenty feet away from her. The sun shone in his blond hair. He was wearing dark blue jeans and a white patterned T-shirt, the same clothes he’d worn when he’d killed the Were in her home. He looked out of place yet very at ease on the boat.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“We are on what my people called a drekar, a kind of long ship. He walked gracefully toward her despite the slight listing of the boat. “Come, I want to show you something.” He pulled Sookie to her feet and steadied her before leading her to the front of the boat, which was all together about 70 feet long, Sookie guessed. Once at the front, Sookie saw a wonderfully elaborate dragon carved into the wood. She ran her fingers along the part of the design she could reach.
“This part of the boat is called the prow, what my people called the framstafn.”
Sookie repeated the word, trying to pronounce it like Eric, “framstafn.”
“Yes,” Eric said confirming her pronunciation. He ran his own hands along the carved pattern as well.
Sookie was surprised by the smoothness of the wood as well as the obvious craftsmanship. “This is beautiful,” she said.
Eric beamed, “Thank you. I helped to carve this when I was young. My father, despite his being what you would call the king of my people, encouraged me to learn about how our ships were made from the time when I was very young, probably 6 or 7. When he found out that I had some natural skill with the working of wood, he allowed me to learn from the town’s best woodworker, who designed this dragon.”
“Wow,” was Sookie’s only reaction.
Eric continued to smile at his memory. “Do not be too impressed, min kära. I actually did very little of the work, mostly just this part.” He led Sookie’s hands to a large patch of scales carved in the wood. “My father was generous in allowing me time, especially in winter, with the woodworker, but he also expected that I learn many other things so that I could be a good leader after his time had passed. I was in the winter of my thirteenth year when I did this work.”
Sookie looked up into Eric’s eyes, which she noticed were the same shade of blue as the sky. They were very bright and alive with his memory. She found herself lost in them.
“I have not thought of this dragon ship in many years. It was finished only a few years before my human death, but it took to the water well and was used by me in many successful raids.”
“Is it true that y’all raped and pillaged and all that stuff?”
“Ah, the all Vikings are plunderers of lands and women myth.”
Sookie looked a bit embarrassed until Eric laughed.
“Certainly some Norsemen did act ruthlessly,” he said becoming more serious, “and the women of conquered lands were sometimes treated as property just like crops and precious metals.”
Sookie cringed a bit before Eric continued.
He shrugged, “It was a very different time. The women of the conquered often became our servants and sometimes were taken as bed partners by the men, but my father was a strong king, and he did not allow cruelty toward anyone. He taught me that even conquered men and women had to be treated with respect, lest they would never be trustworthy servants. Most of the time, the people that we took back home after a raid were eventually absorbed into our people, helped to increase our numbers, and fought alongside us when our town was threatened.”
Sookie nodded, trying to imagine what things were like when Eric was human. The time between their human lives floored her.
As if sensing Sookie’s thoughts, Eric continued, “It was very different then, but still quite the same too. We had close-knit families, even more so than now, and we all worked together to create as much comfort and peace as we could. There were battles and raiding among our enemies and ourselves, but there was also a lot of peace during my father’s reign and then my own. At our core, my people were explorers.”
Sookie spoke up, “Did you have brothers and sisters?”
Eric responded, “I had a sister, who was a small child when Russell’s Weres came. She was killed with them. My parents lost several other children between me and her though―most died at childbirth or within the first few months of life. I had one brother that lived to be almost four before he died during my ninth winter.”
“Oh,” Sookie said, “I’m sorry.”
Eric smiled warmly at her. “It was a long, long time ago, and like I said, he was very young when he died.”
“Still, I cannot imagine losing my brother, so it must have been hard.”
Eric looked thoughtful, “Yes, I remember that Leif had really begun developing his own distinct personality before he fell ill. He was always what you might call underfoot with me. I had started to teach him to fish in the little streams near our home the summer before he died. I was a good brother to him, and you are right, I did mourn his loss.”
The two fell into silence for several minutes before Sookie sat on the bench closest to the dragon so that she could continue running her hands along the design. Eric sat down a few minutes later, facing her from a bench a few feet away.
“How can you be here now that our bond has been broken?” she finally asked.
“I do not know,” he said. “But I have never left you; I can tell you that.”
“How can that be? Your blood and magic were burned from me, weren’t they?”
“Yes,” he answered. “There is no trace of my blood nor the magic that it carried within you.”
Eric smiled as he reached to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear, “Anything is possible with you, min kära.”
They spent a few more moments in silence with Eric looking up toward the sun and enjoying its warmth.
Sookie spoke as she raised her hands up to Eric’s carving, “It really is beautiful. But why did y’all have this kind of carving on your ships?”
Eric answered with mischief in his eyes, “Well, one common belief nowadays is that we used the carvings of beasts to frighten our enemies, to cause them to surrender before we even lifted a sword.” He paused as she turned her eyes to him.
“But,” he continued, “this is not the main reason we had them. We believed that these carvings would protect us and the ship from real sea monsters that lived in the oceans.”
“Sea monsters?” Sookie’s eyes lit up.
“Yes,” Eric said.
“Did you ever see one?”
Eric laughed, “No, they didn’t really exist except in the beliefs of my people, a way to explain missing ships and men and to connect us to our gods. The gators and crocodiles of your time are much more real than the monsters of mine,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
“The other day when you were drunk on Claudine, you said you were a sea god.”
“Yes, Ægir, and you were my sea goddess,” he began.
“Rán,” Sookie finished.
“Yes, in the myths of my people, she wielded a wide net that could entrap men when they were at sea. She was a beautiful and dangerous goddess.”
Sookie snorted, “So now I’m dangerous? It doesn’t seem like a very good comparison.”
Eric laughed. “Come now, min kära. Rán is what you might call a badass today. And you have certainly entwined me into your net.”
Sookie couldn’t help but laugh back. “Fine, but what was this Ægir like? Maybe I don’t wanna be his sea goddess.”
“He was king of the creatures of the sea, according to my people, and he threw a grand party.” Eric winked at Sookie.
They settled into another comfortable silence as both looked at the land in the distance.
Sookie smiled brightly at Eric. “I like sitting here with you, talking like this.”
“Me too,” Eric said seriously. He looked down at his hands before looking back at Sookie.
“Why do you think we’re here?” she asked after a few moments.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m just wondering why I’m dreaming of us on one of your ancient ships like this.”
“Hmm,” Eric thought, “I don’t know. Maybe you are curious about my human life, or maybe you are still thinking about the poem of the seafarer as you sleep?”
“Yeah, that’s probably it,” Sookie said continuing to trace the pattern of the scales with her hand.
“I wonder if I will dream of Bill next, maybe in his home when he was building it or maybe during the war?”
Eric looked at her, his expression falling slightly and his eyes brightening. “Maybe. It would only be fair, after all.”
“But then again, I hope you do not dream of him.” Eric smirked a bit, “I am pleased that you still dream of me even though we no longer share blood between us. It shows that you must like me―at least a little,” he winked at her again.
“Maybe I’m just interested in history,” Sookie said, her own eyes twinkling with mischief now. “Or maybe I just like boats.”
“You are cruel to me, Miss Stackhouse,” Eric said as he brought his hands to his chest as if she had stabbed him in the heart. “You wound me.”
She laughed at his antics as he fell backwards from the bench.
As he straightened himself after a dramatic roll around the deck, she said, “Maybe I do like you a little.”
“Well thanks for that―a little is better than none, I suppose.”
The two sat smiling in silence for a few more minutes before Eric spoke, his voice serious again.
“I admit that I am selfish when it comes to you, Sookie, even when it comes to your dreams. I want you to be mine; I have wanted that since I first saw you. So I do not wish for you to dream of Compton or anyone―other than me.” He said his last words at a volume that Sookie could barely hear.
Sookie woke up feeling much stronger than the evening before. She looked at the clock and saw that it was only 9:03 a.m., and she was thankful that she hadn’t slept the day away. Still a bit sore, she sat up gingerly and then saw the glass of water Eric had brought her next to her bed. Noticing that her throat was better but still a little sore, she took a drink and thought about her dream. It had been a vivid dream, just like those she’d had when Eric’s blood was inside of her. She smiled and looked at her hand; she could still feel Eric’s carvings on her fingertips. She thought about his eyes, shining in the sunlight and so closely matching the sky. They had seemed to glow in the light, and she mourned that he could not always be in the sun like that.
She had not dreamed of Bill.