If you will read no matter what, skip this note so that you won’t be spoiled.
Hello again. I need to give you the warning that dark times are ahead as Russell once more injures Eric. As I promised, there is no more rape, and the worst of Russell’s “injuries” to Eric are mental, but I wanted to give you fair warning so that you can mentally prepare. The things that Russell says and does are disturbing because Russell is disturbed, but I have not done an alternative chapter for this one because my summaries were quite close to the original, so hopefully that is a sign that I am not being too graphic here.
Chapter 170: Alone in the Dark
Eric woke up a few minutes before sunset the next night feeling a little groggy and weak, but whole.
Memories from the previous night came into focus. He remembered Yvetta trying to rape him and then killing her with the power of his blood. He remembered Russell raping and then cutting him again and again. He remembered Lillith caring for him. He remembered his talk with Bill’s vampire sibling. But most of all, he remembered the face and the grip of his wife, his bonded. And he remembered that Russell and de Castro did not—as of yet—know about Hunter.
However, Eric was still somewhat surprised to be alive and pleased to find that his injuries from the previous night had healed completely. He was, of course, still secured to the table with the leather-covered silver chains, which accounted for the weakness that he felt. He knew that the longer he was chained down with them, the weaker he would get.
But he was whole both physically and—more importantly—mentally. He knew from past experience that there would be emotional wounds that went along with Russell’s violation of his body, but he also knew from past experience that those wounds would eventually close. There would be scars, but Russell Edgington would not haunt him.
And unlike the other times he’d been violated, he would have his wife to help him through. Godric had—with great patience and care—helped him after the first time his was raped. The second time, Eric had kept Godric’s teaching in his mind and had healed in solitude. This time, there would be Sookie, Hunter, his ætt, his home, and even the damned cat to help him.
Eric shook his head a little. He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve to be so fucking blessed, but if he got out of Russell’s clutches alive, he was not going to let the three-thousand-year-old vampire follow him out of that room and affect his life when he went home to his family. Oh—he knew that he’d have to take his emotional wounds with him; there was no way to stop that. But Godric had taught him that those wounds need not control him.
He’d never had so many physical injuries on his body as he’d had the night before, and―as a vampire—he’d never lost so much blood. However, even though Lillith’s aid had been appreciated, Eric was pretty certain that he would have held his body together without it. He had already begun healing before she began to take care of him, but he knew that he’d still be fighting for his life if he’d not gotten the blood she’d given him.
He also knew that he’d had other, more important “help” the night before. He’d kept himself “in” the bond until near morning when he talked to Lillith. During that time, as he’d begun to heal each new wound, he saw a small light appear in Sookie’s palm. He was almost certain that the light was actually Sookie finding a way to help him with her healing magic. He didn’t feel her through the vampire bond, so he knew that she was still in the fairy realm, but she’d somehow helped to heal his physical injuries nonetheless.
As soon as the sun set, Eric felt Pam’s concern through their bond, but he sent her the signal to hold, as he’d done the night before. He knew that she could not marshal enough forces to take out Russell and his Weres, not even with Thalia’s help. Plus, the A.P. had been clear. It was Sookie who needed to come to him—to save him.
Eric internally cringed as Russell Edgington entered the range of his senses. However, the Viking warrior did not let his disgust of his enemy cloud his expression. The whir of the camera and listening device had returned soon after Lillith left that morning, and he didn’t want to give Russell or his Weres any signals about his mental state. Above all else, he needed to remain in control of his emotions, for he knew that psychological torture was likely high on Russell’s priority list that night.
After a few minutes, Russell walked into the room slowly, seemingly reluctantly. “I must again,” the Southern accent said, “apologize for losing my temper.”
Russell came to sit next to Eric. The three-thousand-year-old sighed. “I’m afraid that I failed to control myself again.”
Eric met Russell’s eyes with an unwavering look. He hated Russell, but he did not—would not—fear him. And he could take some control of what was going to be happening. Eric spoke evenly, “You were truthful.”
Russell looked at him in question. “Huh?” Russell asked inelegantly.
Eric clarified, “You said that I would regret leaving you alive in that cement. I do.”
“Ah,” Russell said with understanding, smoothing his truly god-awful green velvet smoking jacket. “Why did you leave me alive?” the elder vampire asked.
Eric smirked a little, despite his circumstances. “I was a dumbass.” He paused. “And I was stubborn. And I was unsatisfied by the feeling of my revenge. And—you were right; in those days, I was—I think—a little crazy. After I realized that it was you who killed my family, I no longer felt,” Eric paused, “in control.”
Russell nodded. “It can happen to the best of us,” he said in an almost-paternal tone. He opened a TruBlood from a four-pack that he’d brought down with him. He put it to Eric’s lips, and―knowing that he’d need all the energy he could get for what was to come—the Viking drank the whole thing down quickly.
Eric spoke again, feeling a little stronger now that the fresh blood was counteracting the effects of the silver chains. “Like a kind of spirit or ghost, Godric appeared to me in the parking lot of Fangtasia as you and I both burned. He told me that I should forgive you. He said that you would find only peace in your death. I did not want you to have that because I did not—could not—feel peace at the time; things have changed now.”
Russell snorted, “Godric was a sanctimonious, self-righteous son of a bitch in the end—no offense.”
Eric held in his growl but spoke stiffly. “None taken. Still—I didn’t want to risk you having peace by allowing you to die. At least that is what I told myself at the time.”
“And is that what you tell yourself now?” Russell inquired, the curiosity clear in his tone.
Eric knew that every minute he was lengthening his conversation with Russell was another minute that his beloved might come to him. If he could stay in control of the exchange to some extent, that would be even better.
“Sometimes,” he answered Russell honestly. “Other times I think about the mistake I made.”
“The mistake of keeping me alive,” Russell said with a nod.
“No,” Eric said. “I made a mistake when I killed Talbot, one that I have regretted since then.”
Russell’s shoulders tensed up, and Eric could feel the elder vampire’s anger roll around the room in waves. Russell grated out, “You said that you were sorry for Talbot yesterday night.”
“Yes,” Eric said in a whisper. “That—I am sorry for.”
“Why?” Russell asked.
“It turned me into you,” Eric said evenly. “I should have simply tried to kill you from the start. Even if I had failed, it would have been better. I would not have lost my honor.”
With a clap of his hands, Russell’s demeanor changed from dark to almost light-hearted—though his breeziness betrayed his manic temperament. “I have always liked you, Eric! I cannot think of another being that has threatened my life, but is yet living—though you are not long to live. Of course, I plan to make you suffer a bit first.” He winked. “Well—a bit more than I already have.”
Eric nodded, knowing full well that Russell would keep his word. “Still—for Talbot―I am sorry. He was not the one responsible for the deaths of my human family.”
Russell sat back into his chair and looked at Eric through narrowed eyes. “I have heard from Compton’s sister that you made a bond with your little fairy.”
Eric nodded. “Yes.”
Russell sneered, “I should have known. The second that you stepped between us to keep me from harming her after her insolence that night at my mansion, I should have known that you were enamored by her.”
Eric smiled a little. “Enamored doesn’t even come close. And I was barely admitting it to myself back then, so don’t feel bad.”
“Still―Northman,” Russell continued conversationally, “a bond with a human? It is beneath our kind. It is abnormal.”
“Perhaps,” Eric said, keeping his voice even, “but Sookie and I are anything but normal.”
Russell scoffed and became angry again at the turn of a screw. “I could kill your bonded one in front of your eyes. You killed mine!”
Eric shook his head and spoke in a low voice. “You and Talbot were not bonded.”
Russell stood angrily and struck Eric’s face with a hard slap; the insanity once again glowed in his eyes as all pretenses of gentility melted. “We were! We were bonded!”
Eric once again shook his head, expecting another blow. He’d take physical torture over threats against Hunter or Sookie any day. And beyond that, Eric had to trust in Sookie. His job was simply to stay alive as long as he could in the meantime. Given the fact that Russell was clearly insane, Eric knew it might not be for long, but he had faith that it would be just long enough.
“We were bonded!” Russell insisted again, though the expected blow did not come.
“You could not have been,” Eric said in a whisper.
“What would you know of Talbot and myself?” Russell asked angrily.
“I know of bonds,” Eric said, his voice now almost inaudible. “I know that it is impossible to want another—to even look at another—after being bonded.”
“And you think that just because Talbot wanted you, we didn’t have a bond?” Russell asked bitterly.
“You wanted me too,” Eric reminded Russell, looking him in the eye.
Russell looked ready to explode and certainly ready to unleash his anger on Eric, but he didn’t. Instead he sat down again and began talking in a voice that was almost a sulk. “We had intended to bond someday, but your actions prevented it.”
There were several minutes of silence between them.
“Russell,” Eric began, ready to use all of his own manipulative capabilities to keep the former king talking. He needed to make sure Russell stayed tuned into the conversation, and that would not be easy given his erratic behavior. Eric needed to try to draw out more information about Russell’s plans if he could. But he also needed to walk a fine line so that he would not anger Russell too much. “You may have thought my human family beneath you and inconsequential all those many years ago, but they were not that to me. And what did you kill them for? You said that you killed them for a couple of goats—goats for your fucking wolves in a land where there were forests aplenty where they could have easily hunted in for food. My father was caring for my people. The milk from those goats would have fed children through the winter.” Eric shook his head. “I do not believe for a second that you wanted only goats. What did you really want? Merely to cause havoc anywhere you could? Could you really have wanted my father’s crown so much that you killed my whole family to get it?”
Russell chuckled, “All right. I admit it; I did like that crown very much. Wonderful craftsmanship—the best I’d seen in the region. And it was a wonderful addition to my collection,” he paused, “as this will now be.” Russell walked over to a corner of the room that Eric couldn’t see from his prone position. When he returned, Russell was carrying Eric’s father’s sword—the sword meant for Hunter.
“This is magnificent,” Russell said, admiring the blade in the light. “And perfectly preserved too. I must commend you for that.”
“It was my father’s,” Eric said, not quite able to keep the emotion in his voice at bay.
Russell latched onto that emotion. “Ah,” Russell said with glee, “excellent. The crown was stolen from my things―I’m guessing by you—but this will replace it.”
Not able to control himself, Eric growled.
Russell chuckled, “Do not worry, Viking. You won’t even notice it’s missing; you’ll be too busy—being dead!” Russell laughed maniacally at his own joke. “Perhaps, I’ll even take your life with this sword.” Russell gave Eric a triumphant smile, knowing that he had tapped into the Viking’s emotions and was rattling him at last. “Maybe even your precious wife will lose her life to this weapon.”
Knowing that Russell was trying to egg him on, Eric kept silent and tried to keep himself calm. He simply leveled a glare at his enemy—an enemy that had killed his whole family for a symbol of leadership. However, somehow the thought of Russell having his father’s sword—the sword meant for his own son—bothered him even more. Still, Eric knew that there was only one way he would escape, and it was not by provoking Russell or by becoming overly emotional. He needed to keep his wits.
“Does it bother you that I will once again treat your father’s precious possessions as the trinkets they are?” Russell goaded. “They are mere artifacts.” He paused dramatically as if an actor on a stage. “I am living history—do you not know that? This,” Russell said with insanity in his voice as he held up the sword, “is nothing compared to me!”
Steeling himself, Eric nodded. Russell might be insane, but he was also an egoist. And Eric knew that stroking that ego would buy him some time—buy Sookie some time.
“Yes,” Eric agreed. “My people—there entire culture—rose and fell within your lifetime. Swords like that one―I know―were not even being made yet when you were a human, and the technology of today means that they will never be made again, except as curiosities. Trinkets.” Eric had to choke out the last word.
Russell sat down, his face a picture of contemplation. He was not looking at Eric. “That is what mainstreaming with the humans—coexisting with them as if they were equal—would make vampires into.” He paused. “Mere curiosities. Even in your quaint little bar, you are little more than that. You are an object to be gazed upon and tamed by the masses.”
Russell shook his head. “That cannot happen. Humans are the ones with short, fleeting, meaningless lives. Even their most wonderful artifacts—” he held up the sword again, “even those things worth preserving and remembering of the human world—will fall into ruin one day, and I will still be here.”
Russell propped the sword against the table and looked at Eric. “You are not old enough to feel it yet, but time can be crushing; the scale of what I have witnessed—what I have done—is sometimes too much.”
“I can only imagine,” Eric agreed softly.
“No, you can’t,” Russell said regretfully, looking away from Eric and deep into his own memories. “No one can. Talbot―for all his zest and life―did not even try. I made him to renew myself, you know,” Russell said. “He was beautiful, and when he was a human, I tied him to me. His blood was lovely as well—my favorite at the time A+, with just the right touch of Greek spices, cardamom and anise. Younger vampires have no idea how wonderful blood used to be before all the pollutants and the food preservatives.”
“I know,” Eric agreed.
“Yes,” Russell said, returning his gaze to Eric, “you would, wouldn’t you? Each region had a different flavor all its own, and then when this country formed, it was divine at first.” His voice was dreamy.
“The mixing of all those flavors,” Eric said, also remembering.
“Yes!” Russell exclaimed. “Exactly! All those colonies and people from different places coming together. What divine vintages were found in the humans of those days! And the natives—so unique and exotic!” He licked his lips. “I remember the first time I got a taste of juniper.” He closed his eyes. “It is a pity that many of those lines of the native peoples of this country are already gone, wiped out and wasted by time and useless slaughters. All in less than a blink of the eye to me.”
Russell shook his head regretfully. “Talbot and I came early to America. We were among the first to chance the voyage. So we sampled everything. It was truly incredible! But Talbot did not understand how precious the time was—how matchless. Of course, he always preferred to create his own vintages.” Russell chuckled. “The diets he had some of our humans on were quite eccentric!”
“I remember tasting,” Eric offered.
“Ah yes—Talbot was experimenting with all-fruit diets for the donors when you met him,” Russell said wistfully. “The humans never could survive Talbot’s diets for long, but while they did, they were quite flavorful.” He contemplated. “The citrus was best—ruby red grapefruit and key lime—though the B+ who had just begun the blackberry diet was shaping up quite nicely. Talbot was a wizard with getting the blood to accept the flavoring, a true sommelier.”
He paused―licking his lips as if remembering the taste―before his expression became more somber. “Sadly, despite even my Talbot’s best efforts, the blood was never quite as good as it was in the past. It’s the air now—too full of the trappings of industry.”
Eric nodded. “True.”
“I had not tasted a truly remarkable meal for almost a hundred and fifty years—until I tasted your little fairy,” Russell said with a wry smile.
Eric couldn’t hold in his growl.
Russell chuckled. “You were the one to offer her to me on a silver platter that promised the sunshine. Do not forget.”
“I won’t,” Eric said quickly and passionately.
Russell looked at Eric incredulously, “You actually love her—a human?”
“Yes,” Eric averred.
Russell spoke as if trying to justify Eric’s emotions for the Viking. “I suppose I can understand to a certain extent. I mean, her blood does taste exquisite—truly an experience. Yes―she is a fairy too, so that explains your desire for her. Love is a bit too strong of a word—I think—but it would be difficult to resist her flavor.”
“It is not her taste that pulls me to her,” Eric said, looking Russell in the eye. “And ‘love’ does not even begin to explain how I feel about my wife.”
Russell looked at Eric and shook his head. “Whatever compels you, Viking, will be irrelevant soon enough. For you will soon be dead.”
The two were silent for a few moments, and then Russell stood up.
The elder vampire scoffed. “Recently, I have had a lot of time to myself to think―thanks to you, a silver chain, and a ton of cement. I contemplated all kinds of ways to kill you and your little fairy and even Mr. Compton, though it seems you took that pleasure from me. Tell me—how did he die?”
Keeping the emotion from his eyes, Eric looked at Russell. “He died on a table not unlike this one. I wished to make him suffer, but I gave him a quick death in exchange for information. He died by stake.”
Russell shook his head. “That was too easy for him.” The elder vampire moved closer to Eric and spoke to him in a conspiratorial tone. “As I said, I thought of many scenarios for your deaths—different orders, different methods. I feared that Miss Stackhouse would not be alive when I was finally released from my entombment, but I was hopeful. I wanted her to be a witness as I killed both of her lovers in reparation for what she did to my Talbot’s remains.”
Eric tried to keep his voice even. “I saw the footage, but there was no sound. I have often wanted to ask her what you said to her that day; it must have angered her very much to cause her to do what she did.”
Russell growled. “That little bitch dared to question why I was keeping Talbot with me.”
Eric’s fangs extended at Russell’s calling Sookie that.
Russell continued, “She figured out that I hoped to bring Talbot back. I’d already consulted with some witches, and after tasting your sweet fairy, I’d decided that her blood could help to revive him. I was going to tie her to me, and if she survived the process of Talbot’s reanimation, Talbot and I would have kept her as a pet. However, she made that impossible when she did what she did to my love.”
A low, feral growl emanated from Eric’s chest.
His mood changing immediately, Russell chuckled. “Ah—have no fear! With any luck, your little wifey-poo is already well on her way to being tied to me even now. You see, there happens to be a vial of my blood out there with her name on it, and I have a friend who is going to make sure she gets it.”
Eric’s growl became even more untamed if possible. He pulled at his bindings. “It wouldn’t matter,” he seethed. “Sookie and I are bonded. Your blood would not break that.”
“If you are truly bonded—” Russell said with a dismissive wave of his hand, “and I am not sure that I believe Lillith’s word about that—then you are right. But my blood inside your little lass would enable me to sense her once she’s back in this realm. We wouldn’t want her to sneak up on us―now, would we?”
Another rumble came from Eric’s chest and reverberated through the room. “That’s not possible. She’d have to take the blood from you directly for you to be able to track her like that.”
Russell shook his head. “Generally, I would be forced to concede that point to you,” Russell said snidely, “but my friend assures me that she will keep the magic in my blood alive long enough to get it inside of my little pet.”
“Mab,” Eric seethed.
Russell did not respond to Eric’s supposition about his “friend’s” identity. Instead, he kept goading Eric. “And, of course, once you are dead, your bond with Sookie will be gone. And I will be free to tie her to me then. Your Sookie will soon be mine,” he said in a cold voice. “And once the tie is permanent, I’m sure that I can mold her into a lovely, docile pet—happy to please me in any way I want.”
Eric shook his head. “You will never touch her again,” he said firmly. “I’ll kill you first.”
Russell burst into laughter. “Is that what you fear most?” Russell sneered. “Me touching her the way I touched you last night?” Russell leaned down and blew hot air into Eric’s ear. “I’m getting hard even thinking about your lovely ass. Are you hard?”
Eric kept his cringe inside and met Russell’s gaze with a stony stare.
“No?” Russell said with a smirk. “I suppose you didn’t enjoy it as I did, but in time, your fairy might. Of course, I don’t care for women, but I will make an effort with Sookie—if for no other reason than to make sure that you will go to your final death knowing that she will be at my mercy in all ways. I wonder if her little ass is as sweet as it looks.”
“You will not touch her,” Eric growled again.
“Or perhaps you fear that I will rip into your pretty little fairy’s flesh as I ripped into yours?” Suddenly, Eric felt a searing pain in his bicep as Russell stabbed into him with the silver dagger. “As I rip into it now,” Russell added as he leaned down to once more whisper into Eric’s ear.
Eric did not move with the physical pain. Instead he steadied himself to it.
“Do not worry, Eric,” Russell said in a quiet tone that could have been perceived as soothing if it wasn’t coming for a deranged enemy. “I intend to injure you only to the point that your little Sookie feels compelled to come to you. We wouldn’t want her calm when she sees us—after all.” He chuckled. “And the best part is that we can do this every night until she graces us with her presence.”
Eric made no response. He could take the physical pain much better than he could take the thought of Sookie being tied to Russell.
The three-thousand-year-old vampire grinned. “I had a revelation as I was going through the long process of healing. Despite my disappointment about not being able to punish Compton, I finally decided what I would do with you, Viking—and with your ‘bonded’ woman.” He used air quotes to indicate that he still didn’t believe that Eric and Sookie were actually bonded.
Russell’s gleeful tone sounded like poison to Eric. “I was going to let you watch our dear Sookie die and then keep you alive to suffer in your grief—just as I suffered in my loss of Talbot—but I realized that would not be the best way to punish you. Or her.”
He stabbed Eric’s other bicep.
“No—if I did that, I now know that you would simply use that little power―which you have found to control your blood so skillfully―to kill yourself. Wouldn’t you? You would refuse to allow your magic to heal your own wounds. You would shut down and die. In truth, I considered doing that myself while I was in the cement. But I will not give you that way out.”
Russell laughed maniacally, “No! Sookie will watch you die first. That will be best. She will watch as you turn to sludge. And then I will bathe in you as she watches you go down the fucking drain!”
He continued, “Then I will tie her to me. I will break her spirit slowly until she is nothing. If need be—I will even cut off her fucking hands with your own sword so that she cannot harm me with her fairy power. But I will not let her die. I will enjoy her blood for years, for centuries—hell, why not millennia! Why should I ever allow her to die? After she is tied to me for a few years and accepts her status as my housetrained little pet, I will turn her into a vampire myself and let her live on and on and on and on and on and on without her great true love.” His voice oozed sarcasm. “The only storybook ending will be for me,” he grinned.
Eric growled as Russell stabbed him in the stomach.
“And your punishment, Viking, will be knowing—going to your true death knowing that I will have all the time in the world with your love.” Russell laughed cruelly. “If your maker was right about peace existing in some kind of afterlife, I will be robbing you of that. You will spend whatever afterlife you have tortured with the knowledge that I will forever keep your little fairy from joining you there.”
Eric’s growling grew louder, and though he knew it was useless, he couldn’t help but to fight against his restraints once more. Red, hopeless tears rose into his eyes as he began to lose control of his emotions. Fear gripped his heart.
“This,” Russell said, once again stabbing Eric in the stomach and gesturing to the wound, “is really nothing to you, is it?” He chuckled. “It’s the thought of me biting your lovely fairy daily—feeding on her delicious blood whenever I want―that makes you suffer.” He sliced a gash along Eric’s breastbone. “It is the thought of me breaking her spirit throughout eternity that makes you suffer.” He smiled and stabbed into both of Eric’s shoulders.
Unlike the night before, Eric could tell that Russell’s stabs were deliberate; he was avoiding the major arteries and veins in this time, but he was still inflicting great pain. Eric tried to ignore the stabs.
Russell continued, “It is the thought of me removing all that was once her that gives you so much pain—isn’t it, Viking?”
Russell’s words had hit Eric exactly where they would hurt him the most, and the elder vampire knew it because Eric could no longer hide it. Eric had to close his eyes to those words, and red streamed from his eyes. Seeing the glee in Russell’s dead orbs at the prospect of torturing his wife had been too much for the Viking. Eric shook his head, trying to move past the pain and the thought that Russell might be able to do just as he’d threatened. Eric knew that Sookie would come for him—hell, he was counting on her to come for him.
But what if she wasn’t ready? What if she fell right into whatever trap Russell had surely set for her? What if all of Russell’s plans came to fruition?
The ex-vampire king of Mississippi would not have forgotten the magic Sookie could wield. He would have accounted for it―strategized against it. And if he had Mab’s help, then he might have learned of a way to counteract Sookie’s magic. For the first time, Eric was truly terrified of what Russell might do to his wife, and that dread hit him again and again with each blow of the silver dagger. And it grew as each new rivulet of blood streamed from his body—not the least of which were the trails left by his now free-flowing tears.
More than any physical wound, Eric’s abject terror threatened to take away all his faith, all his hope, all his belief. It threatened to take away the vampire he had become because of Sookie and Hunter’s love.
Eric could feel himself beginning to break underneath the avalanche of his fear. The rational part of his brain could feel himself beginning to crack and knew that he had to find a way to stop it. The torturer’s goal was to break the tortured. And once broken, that was it. There was no coming back from it.
But Eric felt alone in the dark as Russell stabbed him once more.
A/N: Hello all. Thanks for sticking with me through this difficult chapter. It was another painful one for me to write. William McKinley once said that “In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.” I hope you all will remember that.
So many of you have continued to support this story that I don’t know quite what to say, except another “thanks.”