A/N: Once more, I’m going to pimp my playlist that I used while writing and editing this chapter. It’s called “Angst Tunes.” If you are interested in listening as you read, check it out by clicking the picture below.
Chapter 194: Step Eight
Russell Edgington looked—really looked—into the eyes of the Viking whose family he had killed a millennium before.
He’d heard the human saying that one’s life flashed before one’s eyes in the moments before death. But the only memory that Russell could evoke in his own last ticks of time’s clock was one that he’d not recalled in any of his dealings with Northman up to that point.
Russell’s mind worked quickly thanks to gears greased with three thousand years of use, and suddenly, he was in a memory from a millennium ago. It was a cool night in the North. He smelled the salt of the close-by sea. A modest-sized lodge was warmly lit by firelight. The people inside were dressed in furs and coarse undyed linens. There was fresh meat and fish being cooked. There were people laughing. And inside, there was an item that Russell had craved for his collection. And there were goats that his wolves were anxious to steal.
Russell remembered an aging and inconsequential king—who must have been Eric’s father—and his pathetic attempts to protect his wife. He remembered a screaming female infant, whose cries were silenced forever by a single bite from one of his wolves. He even remembered an annoying little dog, who actually managed to kill one of his wolves.
Russell had always remembered all of those details with clarity—though he and his Weres ransacked many such settlements both before and after that night. However, he had not recalled the grief-stricken―though fierce―eyes of the young Viking man before.
Oh—because of the crown that Eric had re-stolen from the display case in Mississippi, Russell had recalled the situation that Northman was trying to take revenge for, but he’d not remembered Eric’s being there. Until now.
Now, those blue, pain-filled eyes were all Russell could vividly remember.
The ancient vampire thought that it was strange—ironic even—that the one recollection that would have warned him about his ancient connection with Eric Northman had been lost to him. Until now.
That young Viking warrior—hardly even old enough to be called a man—had wanted to pursue Russell into the darkness in order to seek his revenge and to retake his father’s crown.
Russell remembered every detail of that Viking now. The sword that had been in his hands was the same one now in the basement. It was stained by blood from a fight he’d had with one of the Weres, a Were that was dead on the floor of the lodge because of his efforts. The young man was taller than most, and though he’d not yet grown into his full adult strength and size, he was well-formed and handsome.
Russell had liked the looks of the boy—had thought for a moment about glamouring him so that he could use his body for sex—but he had already chosen a few lovers from another village for that night. And the young Viking had a blood type—now known as O+—that Russell simply wasn’t in the mood for. So Russell had let the boy be. In fact, he now recalled enjoying the thought that the boy would have to suffer through the loss of his family and most of the people in his insignificant village.
Russell had been “merciful.” He had even glamoured the young Viking so that he would not follow the raiders into the night.
Plus, Russell had thought that he might return the next night or the next week to take the boy—if it suited him—but one of his new lovers proved to be an eager study in coitus and was quite satisfying to Russell for several months. He’d also been unusually delicious—Russell’s favorite type at the time, A+—so Russell had no need to return to take the young Viking.
Now—after all this time—Russell remembered his words to the young man, “Don’t be a hero, Viking.”
Eric Northman, it seemed, had not followed that advice.
Thankfully, the vampire in front of him turned his searing gaze to look at Sookie Stackhouse. However, Russell could not stop the penetrating blue eyes of the young Viking warrior from burning into his memory. That young man had almost resisted Russell’s glamour. And—alone—he would have run after a hooded “monster” and a group of man-wolves to seek his revenge. But the boy had stopped—his eyes questioning the force that compelled him not to follow his new enemies. A piercing blue.
Russell Edgington looked up as those same eyes turned back to him. He wondered how he’d not known the second he saw the vampire Eric Northman that it was the same boy from those many years before. Those eyes should have told him, but—almost as if it had been the Viking who had glamoured him to forget—Russell hadn’t been able to access the moment of their first meeting. Until now.
Perhaps, it was poetic justice that Russell had had the opportunity to slay the being that was destined to kill him. It was certainly a quirk of fate that he could have killed the young man a thousand years before when he was a mere human.
If he had, the Eric Northman before him would never have existed.
Those eyes would have never had the chance to become the last thing Russell was ever to see. Russell had run across thousands of humans that wished to kill him because of his brutal actions, but as he looked into the all-too-familiar eyes of the Viking boy he’d let live on the off chance that he’d return later to fuck him, he realized that his time of taking what he wanted was at an end.
The blue was unrelenting.
Eric approached Russell, even as he undammed Sookie’s magic, and it once again began to pool into his hands.
A thousand years of emotions, along with Sookie’s magic, threatened to overwhelm Eric.
“You know what to do,” his human father had told him a millennium ago. “Vengeance,” Ulfrik had urged him with his dying breath.
“Forgiveness,” his vampire father had instructed—so many years later.
Eric felt Sookie by his side, and he looked at her. She was looking back at him with tears in her depthless brown eyes as she felt everything that he was feeling.
In his periphery, Eric saw that Russell was no longer struggling to get out from under the silver chains that were holding him―chains that had been perfectly placed by a tattooed Were, chains that had been imbued with Niall’s magic so that they would fall silently and truly upon the first being that exited the basement.
As he continued to gaze at his beloved, Eric’s thoughts turned to Niall for a moment. If all had gone as planned, the elder fairy had killed Mab that night. Eric couldn’t help but to wonder what reflection had populated Niall’s mind as he’d slayed his greatest enemy. Had it been vengeance? Could it have been forgiveness? Eric smiled to himself. Knowing the fairy, it was a combination. And knowing the fairy, there was likely regret in the act as well.
Eric smiled a little, but did not look away from Sookie to acknowledge the appearance of his wife’s back-up plan. Pam, Duncan, Batanya, Jessica, Isabel, Rasul, and Kibwe entered the warehouse, each holding swords and stakes. Eric also smelled Weres and shifters gathered in force outside the front entrance. Jesus and Tara were with them, as were Sam and Luna. Chow, Clancy, and Molly were at the side entrance with another group of Weres, which included Quinn. Diantha was also with them, and Eric could smell demon magic.
Would have the army Sookie had gathered been enough to kill Russell Edgington if he’d succeeded in all of his plans that night? They would never know, but Eric knew that every single being who had joined their force would have died trying.
Eric had never felt more honored; to be at the center of such an army was one of the most meaningful moments of his long life.
On the last night of his life, Ulfrik had told Eric that he wanted him “to learn to be king.” Eric had never wanted to become a king, but he now realized that somewhere along the way, he had indeed learned how to be one. He’d learned to inspire loyalty from those who themselves deserved loyalty. He’d learned to act with honor, even with his enemies―instead of brutalizing their bodies like a sadistic animal. He’d learned to protect and nurture his people, and in exchange, they were willing to fight for him. He’d fostered a way of life with his family—a way of life to be proud of and that others wanted to emulate and be a part of.
And, most importantly, he’d learned that beside his father―not behind him—had always stood his mother, a true queen. Astrid was strong, and Ulfrik was wise enough to let her help him carry his burdens. She was intelligent, and he was strong enough to listen to and follow her advice. She was compassionate, and he was clever enough to let her nurture his heart. Most of all, Eric’s father had learned to treat his queen as an equal, for that is what she was.
The day that Hunter had called him “Daddy” for the first time, Eric had finally understood why Ulfrik had wanted so much from Eric—had wanted Eric to meet his potential. Ulfrik had simply wanted for Eric to stand in the center of a night like this one. And his mother had wanted him to stand next to a woman like Sookie as he did.
Eric’s pride for his wife and for his son and for his way of life all surged into the vampire bond, along with the rest of his swirling emotions.
And through it all, Sookie’s eyes held his. Tears were streaming from those beautiful eyes now, and he knew that his own emotions were a part of that torrent. He had always hated her tears before, but now they buoyed him. They kept him afloat.
The Fae magic had settled warmly upon his palms, and Eric knew that it was time. His wife’s brilliant plan had worked exactly as it had been meant to, and it was time for him to complete the final step.
Step Eight: Kill Russell. Finally.
Eric pulled his eyes from Sookie and let them burrow into Russell, whose own eyes were glistening with a mixture of hatred and defeat.
Eric spoke, his voice clear and even, “I hate you, Russell Edgington. I hate what you did to me—how you tormented and raped me in that basement. I hate that you are so insane that you think of others as nothing—except playthings for your own amusement. You have thought this way for at least a thousand years. I hate you for what you did to my human family.” His voice caught on an edge and a red tear rolled from his eye, but he continued, “I hate you most of all for what you would do to my family now. In the past, that hate ate at me—controlled me—but now, I finally understand that I must put it aside to focus on what is important—that same family that you would have taken.”
Russell sneered, “You will never deserve one minute of happiness because of what you did to Talbot.”
Eric sighed and nodded, “Maybe I will not deserve them—but I am going to hold to every one of those minutes and be grateful for them.”
Russell couldn’t help but to focus on the look in Eric’s eyes, just as intense as the night of their first encounter when Eric was a human―but strangely softer too. In his periphery, he saw the light in Eric’s hands, light that made Russell’s skin craw—light that he knew would be as the sun when it impacted his body. He prepared himself for death, but he could never have prepared himself for the last words that he ever heard.
Eric spoke in a soft voice—not gentle, not kind, but full of something unnamable, something wise. “I am glad to be killing you, Russell Edgington. May you find your own peace after you are dead. May you find it with Talbot.”
As soon as Eric’s final words to Russell had left the Viking’s lips, he fired the whole force of Sookie’s magic at his ancient foe. The light tore through Russell’s body, and Eric heard the clicks of the other vampires’ fangs as they recoiled and turned from the light, but Eric was not harmed by it. He saw Russell’s look of awe and then there was no expression at all as his body broke apart and then spattered into sludge.
Eric lowered his hands, and his dropping fingers were met by his wife’s, which entwined into his.
He leaned into her as she leaned into him. Using Sookie’s magic had taxed him―just as it had before―but he immediately felt a new dosage of her healing light renewing his strength.
Eric turned his gaze from Russell’s remains to Sookie, who was looking up at him with love.
She gave him a little smile and lifted his hand to her lips. “I love you,” she said.
Eric could only nod as another tear slipped from his eye. His human father had been right. Russell had needed to be punished for all of the innocents he had killed—all of the needless, thoughtless cruelty he had masterminded. Godric was also right. Eric had to let go of his hate, and even if he could not forgive Russell Edgington, he could forgive himself for not dying in order to protect his human family. He could take responsibility for his own mistakes. He could seek his own forgiveness for taking Talbot’s life.
In the end, what mattered most was not revenge. It was not past mistakes.
What mattered was that Sookie was alive and with him. Hunter would be safe. And they could go home.
A/N: I am a nail-biting mess after this chapter. I hope that Russell’s death was not a letdown to you. Many of you may wish that he had suffered more. But Eric had already become uncomfortably like Russell when he’d taken Talbot’s life. And this Eric is too “good” and too evolved to benefit from torturing Russell. He simply has more important and better things to focus on. I hope—in the end—you are as satisfied with Russell’s death and the way he was killed as I am.
Don’t worry. There is still more story to come, though you will likely be happy to know that the angst will be at a minimum the rest of the way (at least for the most part). I hope that you will stick with me for a while longer. There are reunions to have. There is healing to be done. There are loose ends to tie. There’s a cat to name. And, if I’m not mistaken, Pam is “officially” queen of Oklahoma.
I’ve been an emotional mess this week for several reasons, but I found myself crying some grateful tears when I saw that you all had lifted this story to over 5,000 reviews on Fanfiction.net. It is difficult to find words to say how grateful I am to everyone who is reading this story and who has taken the time to tell me their opinions or to give me support. It’s strange how sometimes a simple phrase like “Give me more—hurry!” or “I loved it,” can lift my day. And many of you write much more than that so that you can let me know what you are thinking/feeling about the story. I know that I have the best group of fans in all of fanfiction-dom. No one could ever convince me differently.