It seems Queen Mab hates you most of all.” Russell leaned down conspiratorially. “That is what happens when you kill someone’s family. People tend to,” he paused dramatically and winked at Eric again, “overreact. They might even hold a grudge for a thousand years!” he chortled.
This time Eric couldn’t hold in his growl.
Russell playfully kissed Eric’s cheek and inhaled deeply. “It really is too bad that you couldn’t be more agreeable, Viking. We could have had so much fun together―you and I.”
Eric growled again, and Russell chuckled, “Fine.” He paused, “As I was saying, Queen Mab truly despises you.”
Once again, Russell whispered into his ear, causing the Viking to cringe. “Tell me, my pretty, what was it like to drain a whole fairy? And a full-blooded one at that?”
Russell rose up, and Eric could tell that the elder vampire expected an answer this time. Eric muttered a strangled response, “Drunk.”
“Ah!” Russell cried out with relish. “How delightful! Imagine that—to feel that kind of effect after three thousand years!” He sighed contentedly. “My payment for helping Mab―and for delivering your remains to her―is to get a full-blooded fairy of my own every decade or so, and though I hardly trust that she will hold to our bargain, even the thought of it was enough to make me agree to turn over your carcass to her. After all, I’d always meant for you to die, and the first fairy is to be mine even as I hand over what’s left of you. Apparently, there’s a whole subset of fairies that the queen doesn’t mind getting rid of! Who knew?” Russell asked with triumph.
“I plan to drain the first one all at once!” Russell leaned down again, getting closer to Eric’s face than he would have liked. “Tell me—how long were you able to stay in the sun after draining yours?”
Eric’s voice was a rough whisper, “Hours—about two.”
“Two hours,” Russell said longingly. “Why, I could go horseback riding in the dawn light! Tell me—what did you do?”
“Swimming,” Eric said quietly. Of course, Eric left out the best part of that morning, which had been simply looking at Sookie and seeing those green flecks in her eyes.
“Ah,” Russell said with a wistful look in his eyes. “Swimming in the sun sounds divine! A ride and then a swim. And it is still summertime! How wonderful!”
Russell opened another TruBlood and started feeding it to Eric.
Russell sighed heavily and then spoke in a matter-of-fact voice, “Now—where was I? Oh yes—your little fairy and especially you have angered this Mab character.” Russell chuckled, “Have you met Mab?”
Weakly, Eric responded, “No.”
Russell continued, “Well—it is not much of a loss for you. She was a bit of a bitch and then there was her temper! She requested that you suffer greatly. If you ask me, she was off of her rocker, so to speak; she reminded me a bit of Lorena actually.”
Eric had to force himself not to roll his eyes at the irony of Russell’s words. The ex-Mississippi king hadn’t seen his own fucking “rocker” in years—probably more like a century or two—and the thought of the manic vampire calling out someone else for his or her temper was laughable.
Russell smiled. “However, in spite of her mistrust, she was quite reasonable during our negotiations. In addition to the fairies she’s promised, she has given me so many helpful tips. And all I had to promise in return was that you and Miss Stackhouse would suffer greatly―preferably while the other watched. The vindictiveness of women!” Russell winked. “Apparently, she doesn’t want to get her own hands dirty with your deaths because she fears breaking a treaty with her own husband.” He laughed. “It seems fairy politics are just as antiquated as our own.”
Russell sighed wistfully. “Sadly―she was able to mask her scent from me, and she seemed ready at every turn to shoot me with that power they have,” Russell rolled his eyes, “despite the fact that I had given her my word of honor that I would not harm her.”
He scoffed. “Can you believe that she did not believe me? Really! There is so little trust left—so little integrity.” He sighed dramatically. “But she was very helpful nonetheless—and informative too.”
Russell looked over at Eric to make sure he was listening. “As you aptly guessed earlier, Mab agreed to help me get some of my blood into my soon-to-be pet. Sadly,” he paused, “from the smell of Miss Stackhouse, the queen has not yet succeeded with that task, but I still have hope. Even if she doesn’t succeed, however, my alliance with her has already yielded so much more than I’d hoped for.”
Russell gestured dramatically around the room. “For instance, I would have never known to reinforce this room with iron if it had not been for her. It is basically fairy proof now, which—I also found out from the fairy queen—was quite necessary. It seems that your Sookie has made some friends in the fairy realm too—powerful friends that could have just appeared here and spirited you away. But, because of Mab’s information and a little spell Yvetta was able to do—before you killed her, of course—no full-blooded fairies can come in here, nor can any of your quaint little army.”
Russell chuckled, “You see, with Mab’s guidance, the lovely Yvetta made it so that this particular space can only be accessed by specific invitation. Do not worry, however,” he cackled, “your little Sookie is right at the top of the guest list!”
He tossed the now-empty TruBlood bottle into a waste bin and smiled triumphantly.
Eric closed his eyes as if in despair because of Russell’s words. Earlier that night, Russell’s words would have tormented him; in fact, they still frightened him. But now, his fear did not paralyze him because the doubt that had gone along with it had disappeared. He steadied himself. He had a feeling that in hearing the rest of Russell’s plans, he would have a lot more to be scared of, but he also knew that he would never again doubt his wife and their fate together.
Jesus had recently read something about “fated pairs,” which he’d shared with Eric. Becoming Sookie’s mate and Hunter’s father had made Eric truly believe for the first time in things like fate and soul mates. How could he deny them, after all? However, he’d always resisted such notions before because of the passivity that people most often associated with them. He’d seen human, Were, and vampire alike “accept” horrible things because it was Fate that had determined them. However, since he’d met his bonded, he had come to realize that such passive acceptance was not what Fate had in mind—not at all.
His mother had taught him about “Fate,” what his people had called Urðr. She’d taught Eric that he should honor the Nornir, who set the paths of men’s and women’s lives and who would visit each newborn child in order to determine his or her future. For a long time—for all of his human life and for most of his existence as a vampire—Eric had kept in mind his mother’s lessons about Urðr, but he’d not honored the Nornir. He’d resented the idea of his path in life being determined by anyone other than himself; he’d hated the notion that he would have to passively accept his fate. It made him feel powerless, so he had labeled his people’s beliefs as superstitions.
But now that he was literally living his fate with his mate—a soul mate that the Nornir seen for him so long ago—he had come to understand that there was nothing passive about it. One had to fight and struggle and survive in the face of the bad things that Urðr might toss into one’s path. And one had to strive and change and grow and deserve the good things that Urðr brought.
Now, Eric looked back on his mother’s lessons about Urðr with understanding. She’d told him that it was a good thing—a wonderful thing—that the Nornir cared enough about people to actually visit and then give them the lives that they were best-suited for. The Nornir were able to see the worth in people―his mother had said―and that meant that the fates that they would dole out would both test and reward that worth. After a thousand years, Eric finally understood the paradox: a fate had been given to him, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t need to “make” it himself.
After feeding Eric a second bottle of TruBlood, Russell decided to continue to crow about his plans and his power over the Viking. It was fun for him, after all! With a flourish, he tossed the empty bottle high over his shoulder, and it crashed and broke against the others in the trash can.
Eric’s eyes refastened themselves onto Russell’s.
“It seems that Sookie’s humanity counteracts most of the negative effects of iron, but she still won’t be able to come directly here with the fairies’ little beaming technique, nor will she be able to spirit you or herself away after she is here. Nope—we want her to walk in the door.”
Russell opened a third bottle of blood, put it to Eric’s lips, and then continued. “That’s when my trap will be laid. There is a trigger that will cause the door—an iron door—to close behind her; that way she will not be able to use her magic to blast through it. According to Queen Mab, even the strongest fairy magic can do nothing to destroy iron. So your fairy will be trapped―like a little Tinker Bell! But you needn’t worry about my welfare! If she comes during the day, instead of at night, two doors will close around her so that she will not be able to get into me—or you for that matter.” He winked at Eric. “So close, and yet so far,” he said sinisterly.
Russell smiled. “I can’t have her doing anything while I’m asleep―after all. I don’t want to miss the show! No—if she comes during the day, she’ll be kept in my little trap until I am ready for her to be let out.” Russell chuckled. “I can only imagine how frustrating that will be for her.”
Russell continued, “Now—the hard part was to figure out how to make sure little Sookie could not fire her light at me, but again Mab was very helpful! Though she had no way to stifle Sookie’s magic completely, she was able to provide me with a spell that makes it impossible for Sookie to shoot her power at me.” Russell lifted a talisman from out of his shirt. Eric had seen it the night before as well. “See this little bauble?”
Eric looked closely at the pendant and nodded.
“It’s a little device that Mab helped Yvetta cook up the day after you arrived here. The story of how it got made is excellent—” Russell began, “very stirring. Would you like to hear it?”
Eric didn’t move.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Russell cackled. “Now—all I needed was hair and blood from you, Miss Stackhouse, and myself, but that last part was easy enough. And then you were kind enough to contribute what I needed when you arrived. Mab was able to provide a strand of your fairy’s pretty golden hair, which Sookie conveniently left behind when she so mercilessly scorned the fairy that Mab had intended to breed with her.” He winked down at Eric.
Eric couldn’t help his growl at the thought of what Ivan had wanted to do with his beloved.
“It’s too bad—really,” Russell remarked. “It would have been a way for Sookie to pass along those genes of hers. You—I’m afraid—are useless in that arena.” Russell clapped his hands together. “I know! I will breed her myself before I turn her—perhaps even with one of the fairies Mab gives me. I shall request a male first!” He continued excitedly, “That way, I can have other little fairy telepaths under my control! Just think—whole generations of Sookies calling me Uncle Russell!”
A deeper, piercing growl emanated from Eric’s chest.
Russell continued as if he hadn’t heard it. “Now, as I was saying, getting Sookie’s blood for the spell was the hard part. Mab had a plan to retrieve it and to give her my blood as well, but apparently our dear Sookie was not where Mab expected her to be the other day, so I feared that I would have to do without the spell. However, as luck would have it, one of my more intelligent Weres stumbled upon a very interesting article about a woman with no blood type.”
He grinned. “Imagine my surprise as I read about a mysterious girl who had been taken to a hospital in Ruston—which is conveniently located between Jackson and Bon Temps—after she’d been attacked by some kind of wild animal. Even more strange is that the doctor swore up and down that it looked like a vampire attack, but given the fact that it happened during the day and the doctor was a Fellowship sympathizer, his story was not believed.” Russell smirked.
“I was even more intrigued when I saw that the date of the hospital visit was the very day that Miss Stackhouse spirited Mr. Compton away from my compound. Now this could have just been coincidence, but after 3,000 years, I don’t believe in those.” Russell chuckled, “Anyway, this girl’s blood was apparently so unique that a lab tech working on his Ph.D. decided to send a few samples to a special lab.” He chuckled again. “And that was very good luck indeed—given the fact that someone—I’m guessing you—wiped away all other traces of our intrepid Miss Stackhouse’s visit to Ruston Community Hospital.”
Russell clapped his hands together. “Now—here’s the really fortunate—even providential—part. My Were—figuring I’d want to know about the discovery of a new, unique blood type—gave me a copy of the article the very night that I’d brought you here and that Mab had disappointed me with her failure!” He grinned sinisterly. “It was nothing at all for me to send my Weres to the New Orleans lab where the mysterious blood ended up so that they could retrieve it for me. It arrived that very day, and Mab more than made up for her failure by helping Yvetta make this.” He held up the pendant. “So you see? The fates are on my side this time, Viking.”
He thumbed the talisman lovingly. “Now—what this talisman lacks in looks it makes up in functionality. You see, its purpose is to transfer whatever Sookie tries to do to me onto someone else. Do you want to know who?” Russell smiled devilishly.
“Yes,” Eric said in a raspy voice, though he already knew.
“That’s really the best part―you know. Anything that she fires at me will go straight to you!” Russell once again clapped in glee. “So I might not even have to kill you! Your own little fairy will likely save me the trouble. It is marvelous―is it not! She will come in here guns a blazin’, ready to fire all of her pent-up anger right into me. And one look at your broken body will leave her very pissed off—I think. At least, I hope!” he said gleefully. “The more she wants to kill me, the more she will hurt you! And according to Queen Mab, Sookie packs so much more punch than she used to!”
Eric’s mind churned as Russell cackled on about irony and fate. Eric knew his wife would indeed come into that room with ‘guns blazing’—as Russell had said—no matter how he tried to warn her to stay away through their bond. He also knew that the kind of magic Sookie would send to Russell would not be the healing kind. Eric wondered if the magic would change on its own when it struck him instead of Russell; the Viking’s logic told him that it might. After all, his wife’s magic might recognize its mate and be unable to harm him. On the other hand, Mab’s spell might prevent that recognition from happening. If Sookie did hurt or kill him, she would be crushed, just as Eric would be crushed if he inadvertently harmed Sookie. Grieving over what she’d involuntarily done, Sookie would be trapped and unable to harm Russell. She’d literally be powerless against the ancient vampire at that point. And that thought scared Eric.
The Viking wished for the first time in a thousand years that he was a human again so that Sookie could read his mind and know what Russell had planned. Then, he thought about their shared dreams and wished that he could get a message to Sookie telling her to leave him before the sun rose and call him into her dreams, but he didn’t know how to do that.
That’s when he thought about the fairy bond. They’d communicated through it earlier—of that he was sure. However, she’d been at the pool when it had happened.
“Real” Sookie—during those brief, precious minutes—had been inside their bond with him. The problem was how to get her in there in order to give her a message. Moreover, since he was almost certain that he’d spoken out loud as he’d talked with Sookie in the bond—and he didn’t know how to avoid doing that—the second problem was how to make sure that Russell didn’t grasp what he was trying to do, while at the same time making sure that Sookie did.
Mercifully, Russell had begun another one of his rants, so Eric was able to concentrate and figure out what he would say to Sookie if he could get her into the bond. The message was simple and short. Most importantly, it was something that would not arouse Russell’s suspicion.
Eric thought for a moment and then tuned back into what Russell was saying with one ear. The elder vampire was still going on and on about the concept of fate. Eric sent a few jolts of warning and urgency to his wife through the vampire bond. He then moved his consciousness into the fairy bond. As usual, bond-Sookie was in there waiting. He took her outstretched hand into his and called upon all of the magic that was within him. He concentrated on the things that connected him to his beloved—their bonds and mostly their love—and he called her to him, just as he might call Pam.
He heard Russell summing up his point, “So you see, Eric, fate has given me the perfect way to get my revenge, and it provided me with the exact tools that I needed! I will stand safely by as your Sookie attacks—YOU! I will get to see the horror on her face as she realizes that she’s harmed or—better yet—killed you. And then, I will simply capture her; it will be as easy as capturing any human, and she will be unable to do anything to stop me, for if she tries to attack again, she will hurt you again! And once you are dead, Mab assures me that the talisman will still work; however, since you will be no more, Sookie’s magic will simply dissipate harmlessly!”
Eric felt a stirring within him just as he heard the prompt he needed from Russell. He looked into the eyes of his beloved, which had suddenly become more “present” and spoke as strongly as he could, “I dream that I could warn Sookie.” Sookie’s eyes seemed to light up with understanding for just a moment. Eric closed his eyes and sent up a prayer to anyone who was listening that the “real” Sookie had indeed heard him.
Russell, of course, had heard the utterance from Eric’s lips and chuckled, “Dream away, Viking. But there will be no warning from you. No—we can’t have that!” Russell went to a bag in the corner of the room, putting on a pair of gloves along the way. “I’m afraid,” Russell said with a note of regret in his voice, “that now that I have told you about my plans, I will have to make sure that you can’t yell out a warning to my fairy. It’s really too bad. I was hoping to enjoy some nice conversation with you, but now that you know everything, I’ll have to gag you.”
Russell chuckled, almost embarrassingly. “Unfortunately, I didn’t think the matter through carefully enough.” He looked down at Eric’s neck. “And that means you did all that work to heal your vocal cords for nothing!”
The Viking—now elated because his message had been answered by a surge of love and comfort through the bond—held the older vampire’s gaze without a word.
“Now this is a very special kind of gag,” Russell said. “The outer part is leather, as you can see, but inside is silver, so I suggest you do not try to bite through it, or it will become quite painful, I’m afraid.”
The older vampire sighed. “Well—it looks like dear Sookie is not coming tonight; there’s only an hour until dawn now.” He opened another bottle of TruBlood. “Here—let’s give you one more of these before we have to gag you.” He raised the bottle to Eric’s lips and sighed again. “I’m afraid that if she doesn’t come during the day today, I will have to start hurting you again. That―I’m sure―will draw her back. She won’t be able to ignore your pain for much longer, especially when it is being freshly inflicted.”
Russell slid his fingers almost lovingly down Eric’s cheek; the Viking didn’t even try to stifle his disgust at Russell’s touch. “Perhaps, if I took you again,” Russell said thoughtfully, “she would be more hurried in coming to you. I shall have to consider whether that is our best plan for tomorrow.”
Despite him best efforts, Eric felt a flicker of horror cloud his face at the thought of Russell raping him again, and the elder vampire saw it.
Russell chuckled. All it had taken for the mighty Norseman to fall had been the knowledge that his fairy had been near but had not come for him. Perhaps, Sookie Stackhouse was not as “in love” with Northman as he thought she was; otherwise, she would have come bounding in to try to save him. He’d seen her impetuous acts before.
Russell felt almost sorry for Eric. Women could be so cruel—Russell thought to himself. He looked down at the fallen Viking and felt his loins stir. Eric really was quite a beautiful man. Perhaps―if he played his cards right―Russell could change the game a little. Perhaps, he could find that which had been taken from him the night Talbot died with the very individual who had taken it. He thought about what Sookie would think if she walked in on Eric and himself in a compromising position.
Russell spoke sincerely, “I could make things pleasurable for you—very pleasurable—if you’d let me. We have gotten off on the wrong foot, but I know that you have enjoyed men before. I would even let you live—my deal with Mab be damned. If you agreed to be mine and you broke your bond with Sookie, you and I would be unstoppable, and you would find that I am not so cruel after all. You could take Talbot’s place by my side.” Russell stroked Eric’s cheek lovingly. “I loved Talbot, but he was never my equal in strength or cunning. You could be a very worthy consort for me.”
Eric recoiled from the touch, but Russell went on. The elder vampire’s eyes closed as if he were in a fantasy. “You would find me a giving lover if you only gave me a chance. We would live in luxury—at the top of the food chain—and I would even share Miss Stackhouse with you. In fact, though I would insist that you break your bond and not give her your blood again, I would let you see her—in controlled situations, of course. You could still bed her if you found that you required a female at times, and I would let you take her blood on special occasions—on our anniversary, for example. And once she was tied to me and accepted her place, then she would learn to be content with us as well.”
Russell opened his eyes and looked down at Eric expectantly. “What do you say? All you would have to do is break this ridiculous bond that you have and then swear fealty to me and stand by my side. After that, the three of us would be a family.”
Eric shirked the pretense of his despair and allowed his hatred of Russell Edgington to show. “Our bond is unbreakable,” he seethed.
Russell laughed heartily. “In three-thousand years, I have learned that everything is breakable.”
Eric kept his disgust-filled eyes on Russell as the elder vampire secured the ball-gag into Eric’s mouth.
Russell felt his own anger rising again at the young one’s blatant disrespect. After all, had he not just offered Northman the world along with his life? He grabbed the dagger and stabbed a few times into Eric’s body, making sure that he landed a couple of blows into Eric’s throat so that he could undo any good that the TruBlood had done earlier. The petulant Northman didn’t deserve his mercy anyway!
Once Russell had worked out a bit of his anger, he put down the dagger. “That will give your fairy something to think about, while you think about my offer.” Russell sighed, “Surely you can see how much better it would be for both of you to work with me. Yes—initially Miss Stackhouse would see your being with me as a betrayal, but she would come around in time. And remember that the first law of the vampire is self-preservation. Also remember, the misery that will face you and her if you do not agree—an eternity of separation from each other, an eternity of suffering for her. If you truly loved her, you would make this small sacrifice for her—I think.” Russell nodded with certainty.
The older vampire sat down heavily in his chair. “Now—we will wait to see if your little fairy is drawn by your new wounds and comes before dawn. I’m afraid you will now be too weak to stay awake past it.” Russell shrugged. “But don’t worry. I suspect you will see her as soon as you rise tomorrow.”