ROUGHLY TWO MONTHS EARLIER (than chapter 22)
At approximately two thousand years of age, Appius Livius Ocella was considered ancient, even by vampire standards. As a Roman Legionnaire, he’d honed his strategic skills as a human, and he’d worked to increase those skills as a vampire.
Yet there had always been something missing from his existence.
As a child in Thrace—a piece of Europe which was now considered to be a part of Bulgaria on the humans’ ever-changing maps—he’d watched his entire village be razed to the ground when the men within it tried to fight the seemingly unstoppable Roman army.
His people had once been thought of as fierce soldiers, but they’d proven grossly ineffective against the Romans, not understanding their own deficits. Even as a small child, Appius had recognized that his people should have accepted Roman rule, rather than fight against it. But his father had been a strong voice for opposing the swarm of Rome. Appius sneered. The foolhardy man had deserved his fate of crucifixion, which was the “fashionable” way for the Romans to get their point across to their loudest dissenters during that era.
Appius’s mother, whom he could remember was a beautiful woman, was taken by a Roman Legionnaire as a prize of battle; indeed, many of the women had been taken by one soldier or another; sometimes they were shared among the lower ranks. It was not a pleasant time to be a female by any stretch of the imagination.
Appius sneered. He’d never much cared for women in any fashion, not even his own mother, whom he recalled was a stern woman, who did not have much time for him, for she was too busy producing child after child for his father—not that they did him much good.
Still, Appius had witnessed other mothers showing their children at least some affection, especially when they were promising—as was Appius himself. However, his mother never offered him anything resembling love. Thus, when she was taken away, he felt nothing for her plight.
However, he could still recall the sound of her screaming—her begging for a quick death, rather than having to become the sex toy of an enemy.
As for Appius and the other children in his conquered village, their fate depended on the “mood’ of whatever soldier came upon them. The one who found Appius was an important Centurion named Marcus Decius. Marcus happened to need a new boy to look after his horses and armor, for his last such servant had been trampled before the battle.
Appius could not remember the name he had before Marcus took him. Even as a vampire, his mind could not quite repair the connection to his 6-year-old self. However, that first name really did not matter, for it was the name Marcus gave him, Appius Livius Ocella, that truly identified and formed him.
Marcus had seen the promise in the young boy from the start, and Appius had worked vigilantly to prove himself to his new master. Marcus had been well-pleased, even arranging for Appius to have a set of papers (forged, of course) that labeled him a Roman, a citizen.
So Appius was Thracian no more. That fact had pleased the young boy, who’d idolized Marcus as a savior, rather than thought of him as a captor.
When Appius neared the human age of eleven, Marcus was named a Primus Pilus, making him one of the men who formed war councils. In turn, Marcus made Appius an understudy of sorts to his optio, who was a soldier who aided the Primus Pilus in matters of strategy and during the battle itself; indeed, it was the optio‘s role to keep the troops orderly and in formation. In his new role as understudy, Appius was taught to read and write, and he was witness to the great war councils of his day. He absorbed strategy as if he were born to it, and—by the time he was nineteen years old—he had become optio for Marcus.
Of course, he’d needed to kill the one above him in order to take that role, but Appius had learned stealth by then, so he was not suspected.
It was around that time in his life that Appius solidified his preference for men over women. From the age of thirteen or so, he’d realized that his body was desirable to many of the soldiers around him, but he was wise and calculating, allowing only important men, such as Marcus, to take pleasure from it. Appius did not have to learn to experience his own pleasure from men either—as Eric had needed to do centuries later. Indeed, Appius had enjoyed his sexual experiences with men from the start.
What he’d not enjoyed nearly as much were his sexual encounters with women. His master had ensured that he could participate in the spoils of war once Appius reached puberty; however, taking a woman to his bed had never pleased the young teen, though he’d participated in the defilement of many a captured woman, for it had been expected of him and seemed to please Marcus.
Appius frowned as he recalled the night he’d “met” his maker, who had found him injured on a battlefield almost thirty-five years after Marcus had taken him under his wing. Marcus was long dead by then—killed by a rival Centurion, a coward, who had stabbed him in the back. Appius had avenged Marcus, whom he still considered his “true maker” and had become a Centurion not long after.
He’d distinguished himself by conquering all armies he’d been sent to face—until the last of them.
Appius scoffed at the memory of his last day as a human. His army had been overrun because one of his fellow Centurions had failed to hold his flank. Still—Appius and his men had almost prevailed, even without the help of their so-called “allies.” But—just as the line of his enemies had weakened—Appius had been struck in the neck, one of the few places his armor did not cover, by an arrow. Indeed, the gap into which the arrow had glided was almost impossibly narrow, seemingly not a gap at all.
Yet Appius could still recall the pain from the shot—and the shock that he was on his knees and bleeding profusely. The Centurion had been too much of a realist to have hoped for recovery once the blood began to pool into and then drip from the hand he’d used to try to staunch the wound. He had known his death was coming at a fast pace, so he ordered his men onward.
Once they were out of sight, he had lain down in the muck and blood of the battlefield, ready to die.
He could remember how cold he was as he looked up into the stars—sneering at them for supposedly depicting gods and goddesses. Appius held no such beliefs in the supernatural.
The ancient closed his eyes for a moment. She’d seemingly come from the stars down to him, her eyes glassy and her fangs coated with blood. She’d laughed at him darkly.
“You are the one I must make my child,” she’d said, her voice holding a mixture of disdain and inevitability.
And turn him she had.
His maker had been a young vampire then, yet she’d still been powerful, despite her feeble appearance. She’d taught him how to feed from humans with control, even as she’d muttered about how she knew that he would not follow her teachings.
Indeed, in the two months Pythia kept Appius with her, she often rambled. Periodically, she would have debates—seemingly with herself because she never invited her child to speak with her—about whether or not it would just be better to kill Appius. She would look at him in her “un-looking way” and tell him that she knew that nothing she did would make him any less of a monster. Apparently, she had “seen” that—even if she treated him with love in an attempt to curb his “foul nature”—Appius would turn out the same. She would also debate about commands that she might give him.
In the end, she determined—again with herself—that the world would be “better” with him in it, though it was clear that she could hardly believe that fact was true.
She cursed her fate for “having” to turn him. He cursed his own for having such a maker.
Yes—Appius had scorned the vampiress who made him from the night he rose a vampire. However, he could not even blame her for being a “bad” maker. What he did blame her for was making him feel unwanted—just as his “human mother” had done. He’d welcomed the night—the sixtieth of his new existence—when she’d looked at him with her “unseeing” eyes and told him that he had learned what he needed to survive and—unfortunately—thrive.
But first she’d spoken words that he’d never forget. His mind drifted, and he could hear her weathered voice in his ears even now that the nights between his release and his current life measured 731,360.
“You are a blight upon this world; nothing I do could change this. Yet not making you would have made things worse. You will cause many deaths and much pain, Appius Livius Ocella. Yet you will also do good along the way—though most of that good will be unintentional. Ultimately—it is your destiny to live a long time, just as it was my destiny to make you.” His maker shook her head. “Even I cannot fight or stop some things from happening, though you could!” At that point, she’d looked as if right through him. “You will go on to be a maker. I command that you never kill your progeny and that you teach them to survive as vampires to the best of your ability. And I command that you release any that make it two hundred years in your company. I would command you to never harm your progeny, but—if I did . . . .” She sighed then, though the sound was anything but “human.”
“If you did?” he asked.
She did not answer. Instead, she continued her farewell speech to him: “The actions you take beyond my commands are your own. It will always be your choice—in any given moment—whether you do good or bad.” She caressed his cheek then, the only “tender” action he ever felt from her.
He resented her for doing even the one and recoiled from the touch.
She cackled at him, and then she sent him on his way with a mere shooing gesture of her withered hand.
Appius opened his eyes and turned his head to look at his child. Alexei was still not a century old, so he could not wake up before sunset. The maker could not help but to worry about how his child would behave when his 200th year as a vampire came and Appius felt compelled to release him. Ironically—similar to his own maker—Appius had spent much time second-guessing whether or not he should have changed his younger child.
Though Appius certainly did not believe himself to be the devil his own maker clearly thought him to be, he was not known for his “goodness” either. In many ways, Appius was still as he had been as a human: he took or fought for what he needed and wanted. He enjoyed power and pleasure.
What was wrong with that!?
The ancient scoffed. Why his maker thought he was some kind of “blight” was beyond him! Yes—he’d killed humans on occasion, sometimes even because they simply annoyed him. However, it wasn’t as if he created a fucking bloodbath every night!
Of course, he had caused them on rare occasions—when he was bored or angry. Or when he needed to teach his eldest child a lesson—or his youngest child needed to be indulged. Yes—he could admit to those events.
Perhaps those isolated incidents were what his maker had “seen” when she looked at him with such derision.
He didn’t fucking care!
What he did care about was his child—his children.
Eric was the first that he “made”—the first that lived, that is. Appius had tried several times to be a maker before Eric, but some vampires had difficulty making progeny; to his despair, Appius was one of those.
But he had more than made up for his deficits with the two he had successfully turned!
The ancient smiled, and his fangs dropped. He licked them as he thought of his first child, his golden Viking. Eric was magnificent, and Appius had desired him greatly at first sight. So Appius had taken him.
Eric had been full of life—yet tightly tied to his duty—as a human, so much so that the fledgling resisted the new life that Appius had gifted him with. Still—as commanded by his own maker—Appius had no choice but to teach Eric how to function as a successful vampire. He had spent 200 years of nights doing so!
Along the way, he had also helped his child to overcome his hesitation about fucking men. Indeed, Appius had celebrated inside the first night that Eric fully accepted lovemaking with men—with him.
A twinge of guilt stirred within the ancient. Like himself, Eric had also had clear sexual preferences. Had Appius not desired Eric so much, he might have even let him keep those preferences; he might have not forced his child to accept his own amorous advances. However, it had been Appius’s carnal desire for the young man which had compelled him to turn the Viking in the first place!
And it was not like he could just kill the child when Eric tried to reject Appius’s sexual advances! The command from his maker prohibited that.
So Appius had trained him—sometimes harshly. It had been Eric’s own stubbornness to hold onto aspects of his humanity which had most often caused the child to face Appius’s punishments. However, ultimately, Eric had become a model child. The ancient sneered, still bitter that he had felt compelled to release Eric the very night the child had been undead for two hundred years.
He had even tried to resist his maker’s command at first, by Pythia was nothing if not powerful—even across centuries and through his resentments of her.
Otherwise, Appius would have kept Eric—likely for centuries more.
Of course, Eric had been more than ready to function on his own by the time he was released. Indeed, of all of his accomplishments as a vampire, Appius was proudest of Eric. On his own, the child had thrived, gaining wealth which exceeded Appius’s by quite a bit. Oh—Appius had certainly accumulated more wealth than he let on, but his earning of it was somewhat sporadic. Plus, the elder enjoyed going long periods of time without “working.” And he also enjoyed a lavish life.
Neither of those things was conducive for gaining the kind of bottom line Eric enjoyed.
Or the favors he was owed.
Not to mention that—especially in recent years—Appius had needed to use a substantial amount of his hidden wealth and accrued favors for pay-offs and bribes—to keep his youngest child safe and happy.
He looked again at Alexei, his beautiful, but troubled, child. A hemophiliac during his human life, the young man had been sickly; thus, vampirism had given him a kind of freedom and strength incomparable to his human days.
Admittedly, Appius had indulged him in enjoying this “good health.” However, it was becoming harder and harder to do that without repercussions.
“It was a simpler time then—before vampires revealed themselves,” the elder mused nostalgically to himself as he got out of the bed he shared with Alexei. Unlike Eric, his second child (he didn’t count the ones who hadn’t risen, though there were six others he’d attempted to turn) did not resist any of the facets of having Appius for his sire.
Firstly, Alexei enjoyed sex with men very much; indeed, he was insatiable—to the point that Appius and he relished each other at least once per night, though often much more than that—especially when they combined the act of copulation with feeding. Appius ran his finger lovingly over Alexei’s bare chest. Undeniably, both of them were extremely sexual beings, and nothing pleased them more than an orgy with donors and/or other vampires—all men, of course.
Secondly, Alexei—unlike his vampire brother—had enjoyed feasting on human blood from the start. More importantly, his youngest child had immediately understood a truth that Appius had literally needed to beat into Eric: That being a vampire made him superior to all other types of beings. Oh—the two-natured had their place; indeed, they could even be useful. And fairies—the delectable creatures—were powerful in their own right. Demons also had their uses, though their blood tasted like shit. Others, like Britlingens, had earned his begrudging respect as well. And Appius had even come to appreciate witches for the power that they could wield when properly ambitious or motivated. However, none of these beings rivaled vampires.
Certainly, humans did not! They were useful only for recreation and sustenance as far as Appius was concerned.
The elder frowned in disgust as he remembered how Eric was concerned about the fates of his human family members.
The Viking had also bucked the stereotype that his people were rapists and pillagers (though these so-called “evil” practices were not actually as common as modern humans thought). As a human, Eric had been a powerful warrior—in charge of his clan’s “army.” He had led successful raids all of the years that he had been the leader of his men. However, as a raider, Eric had not indulged in the spoils of war in the same way that Appius had learned to enjoy them from Marcus.
By contrast, though Eric had killed men in battle without remorse or hesitation, he had frowned upon “sacking” the target of one of his raids. As a conqueror, he would take all material treasure from a vanquished people, but it was his practice to leave the old men beyond fighting age, the children, and the women in peace. Instead, Eric would offer the widows and the orphans of slain soldiers a choice that was quite revolutionary in his time: the choice of whether or not to become a part of Eric’s people group.
He only took the willing!
Of course, it was not uncommon among what were now called the “Vikings” for a conqueror to take women and children as slaves—just as Appius had been taken. Some, like Appius, even rose within the ranks of their new societies to become important and trusted members. What made Eric an anomaly back then was that he would offer mercy to the vanquished—but not in the form of a quick death, like Appius’s mother had begged for.
No! In the form of choice! A choice to live on in freedom!
“Mercy,” Appius practically spit out.
Eric had also been guilty of the crime of mercy throughout his early vampire life, rarely killing his human meals, even before Appius ensured that he learned to contain himself, which the elder did only when he felt compelled by a maker’s command that haunted him still.
He would have liked to have seen Eric really become vampire.
“No mercy!” he spat out, creating a fist. “Especially not for humans.”
Yes—Alexei understood this fundamental of vampirism from his first night, while Eric had fought it from his.
If anything, Appius had needed to teach his younger child how to hold back. He sighed. The Great Revelation had been a difficult transition for Alexei. In the past, it had been much easier to cover up one of his child’s messier adventures, which Appius had indulged the boy in—as long as doing so did not make too many waves in whatever territory they were traveling in.
Since the Reveal, even the “old school” monarchs frowned upon too many deaths in a region—even though Appius was an expert at making those seem like human-wrought.
Indeed, fewer and fewer kingdoms now welcomed Appius.
“What has you troubled, Master?” Alexei asked, having awoken with a jolt as he always did. All vampires became fully aware as soon as the sun’s journey across the western sky allowed them to be; however, Alexei did not simply awaken in stillness. He sat upright as if enthusiastic to begin the new night.
Appius looked at the child fondly. “I have heard from the King of Russia.”
“When will we leave for there?” Alexei asked enthusiastically. Of all places they’d traveled, the younger vampire preferred his human homeland.
“The king asked that we wait a decade or so before we travel there again,” Appius said gently, even as he flooded their maker-child bond with calming feelings.
Despite this, Alexei’s emotions erupted.
“Why?” he cried like a petulant child, thick blood tears seemingly leaping from his wide eyes.
Appius soothed his child with gentle touches. “You know how cross the king was with you after our time in St. Petersburg. That was too close to the Reveal to be ignored,” he reminded softly. “And it is not as if we will have no amusements. The King of the Philippines wishes for us to visit him again. Don’t you remember the fun we had there?”
Tears still falling, Alexei seemed only slightly placated and only for a moment. “But I want Russia! It was just a few children that I ate! Orphans even! Why is the king still so cross?” he whined.
Appius took his child and lover into his embrace. “I will try again with the king in a few months. Winter is coming anyway, and I know you prefer the Russian summer. Am I not right?”
Alexei sniffled. “Summer? We’ll go then? You promise?”
Appius sighed. He knew it would cost a pretty penny to “convince” the Russian king to lift his ban on them sooner rather than later. And he was not sure he wanted to invest those pennies.
“Why don’t we go to the Philippines and enjoy our time there. And I will write to the King of Russia again.”
When Alexei seemed ready to push Appius to make a more committed promise, the elder shushed his child. “Come now, my little Lexi,” he cajoled, calling him by the pet-name only he used, “we will have fun in the Philippines. The king is much freer with visitors than the King of Russia, and humans are treated as they should be—as cattle.”
What Appius did not mention was that one of Alexei’s inevitable “slip-ups” would cost Appius much less if it happened in the Philippines—because of the corrupt human and vampire governments them. Moreover, decimating a small village of people on one of the smaller, less-populated islands of the country would be fun sport for Alexei—and very easy to cover up.
Appius decided to offer that scenario to his child as a “carrot” for good behavior. The last thing Appius wanted to do was “command” that his child stop mentioning or desiring to be in his old homeland—though Appius would do that as a last resort. He did so hate to see the young one so upset, after all.
“How about this?” Appius began in an upbeat tone. “We shall go to the Philippines and spend a month or so at court. And—while there—we will ask around in order to identify a nice, secluded village.” He lifted his child’s chin. “Once there, we could have a great deal of fun hunting. Do you not think?”
Alexei’s tears stopped and he smiled widely. “A whole village? A real hunt? Will I be able to do anything I want on the hunt?”
Appius smiled tolerantly. “Well—if you give me a few months—perhaps even half a year—to find the perfect place, somewhere without much connection with the outside world, then I will arrange things so that you can have your fun without any rules for a full week!”
Alexei wrapped his arms tightly around Appius. “Oh, thank you, Master. I love you so much!”
Appius frowned. Alexei often spoke of love, but it was an emotion the elder considered to be a weakness. “Child,” he said with a hint of sternness, “do you not remember what I have said about love?”
Alexei looked up at his maker with confusion. “But what am I to call the way I feel about you? You are my maker, and you give me such wonderful gifts.”
Appius patted his child’s cheek affectionately. “You may say that you prefer me more than any other—just as I prefer you more than any other.”
“Even Eric?” Alexei frowned as he named the brother he’d never met.
“Even Eric,” Appius said, though he felt a hint of uncertainty about his words. He wondered if Alexei could feel it too.
“When shall we leave for Manilla?” Alexei asked, seemingly forgetting all about their discussion about proper emotion.
“I will tie things up here, and we will leave in a week,” Appius said. “Now—why don’t you go shower so that we can find a decent meal.”
“No bottled tonight?” Alexei asked hopefully.
Both he and Appius resented the fact that they sometimes had to consume bottled blood in order to satisfy the Queen of Portugal, whose hospitality was waning.
Appius had a rule to leave before any monarch’s hospitality was fully eroded; however, he knew that the queen was frustrated that Alexei had accidentally put someone in the hospital the week before, despite the fact that Appius had “cleaned up” the situation so that no vampire involved was suspected in the matter.
“No bottled,” Appius promised. “We’ll celebrate our upcoming trip.”
Alexei grinned and then kissed Appius deeply before bouncing into the bathroom.
The elder smiled at child’s improved mood. He knew that the Philippines would be good for Alexei, and it would distract him from his fixation on Russia for another year or so. Moreover, if Appius had learned nothing else, it was that his child made more “mistakes” if he was not allowed to indulge fully every five years or so. A small village for a week might serve to curb Alexei’s more rambunctious behavior for a decade!
And—if Russia did not work out after that—Appius knew that he could tempt Alexei with a trip to the United States, where Alexei had been longing to travel. Appius had avoided the States for many years because it was more difficult to cover “mishaps” there due to the fact that Appius had very few connections in the New World.
However, he did have a few. Felipe de Castro was one of them. And Freyda, the relatively new Queen of Oklahoma, was the child of a vampire whom Appius called “friend”—well, at least as much of a “friend” as Appius was willing to have.
Of course, Oklahoma was near Louisiana. Appius had long-since contemplated a trip to see his eldest child. Likely because of his bitch of a maker’s command that he release Eric after 200 years, Appius still grew uncomfortable not long after he initiated a visit with his eldest child, a feeling which only increased with every night he spent in Eric’s company, which was why he so seldom visited his eldest child.
But that did not mean that Appius did not long for him. He closed his eyes, thinking about Eric’s body and the kinds of things he enjoyed doing to it. He stroked his cock absentmindedly. “The Philippines will be a good distraction for me as well.”
Appius had never told Eric—or Alexei—of his own maker’s commands. To do so might have made him look diminished in their eyes.
He contemplated once more how he might eliminate his maker so that her final commands upon him would be lifted. However, how does one succeed in killing a seer?
Still, Appius had tried.
Yet every machination he had set into motion against his maker over the years had been met with failure. And—invariably—a note would arrive with her scent on it.
Her scent and a single phrase. “I am still here.”
He hated her more with every one of those missives!
But—even with her commands—he knew that a short visit with Eric would outweigh any discomfort he would feel. Such visits always had before, and he’d not enjoyed his eldest child since Alexei was turned.
“Alexei,” Appius sighed, even as he heard his child singing a Russian lullaby in the shower. “My beautiful Lexi.”
Appius wondered if—perhaps—meeting Eric might help to “improve” his youngest child. Though Appius loved Alexei’s exuberance, it could not be denied that a little of Eric’s self-control could benefit his younger brother in the long run—especially when Appius was forced to “free” Alexei.
Perhaps, it would be best if Appius started taking Alexei to visit Eric once every decade or so. Maybe he could even pass Alexei’s care onto Eric once Appius’s own 200 years with his child was up.
And, of course, a visit to Eric might be needed anyway—just for maintenance with his elder child.
To make sure that Eric had not forgotten “how” to be a vampire.
After all, Appius had, in the times when he stretched out his blood within his maker-child bond with Eric, “felt” that his child was displaying an odd—and troubling—myriad of emotions.
In fact, the last time Appius had checked on his child, he’d felt a sense of fascination, wonder, and affection that spurred Appius’s curiosity. And his jealousy.
But Eric could wait. It wasn’t as if he was going anywhere.
“For now—the Philippines,” Appius said to himself before calling a black market “dealer of people.” Such dealers were expensive, but they provided donors who had the delectable combination of high-quality blood and no inhibitions.
He ordered five for the night, knowing that Alexei would be well-pleased.
And then he decided to join Alexei in the shower; thinking of Eric had aroused him, and—if he couldn’t enjoy his eldest child in that moment—he would certainly enjoy his youngest.
A/N: Well—if you needed a shower after the Bill POV, you likely need a delousing after this one. So—yeah—I wanted to offer you a little history/insight into Appius. I always thought of him as a monster who didn’t have the conscience to be bothered by his monstrosity. In some ways, I also found him to be similar to Bill; Appius seems to want to mold the young men that he turns—to possess them. Bill, I think (especially on the show), seemed to want Sookie to be what HE wanted her to be, not recognizing or understanding her own preferences. And he preyed on her insecurities. Yes—I see Appius as an even more screwed up version than Bill. After all, Bill attempts to rationalize his actions; Appius doesn’t believe he needs to. He believes his world-view is the right one; any others are completely discounted by Appius. I’ve written him to be truly amoral, a sociopath. And—yes—I made the Ancient Pythoness his maker. This has been done in other stories by other authors. In my Back & Forth Universe, I had the A.P. be Eric’s grandsire, but that is a True Blood story, and Godric is Eric’s maker in it. I thought that introducing her as Appius’s maker would be interesting and would help to explain why Appius isn’t a large part of Eric’s life anymore. Appius so loved toying with Eric’s life in the books, so it seemed very odd that he’d left him alone for so much of this existence. By introducing the A.P.’s maker’s command, I’m hoping to explain that gap in the CH series about why he isn’t around Eric more. Anyway, what do you think of Appius? Are you even more anxious for him to get staked now?
I promise that next week we’ll be away from the villains’ POVs and back to “real time.” It’ll be Friday (day) and from Sookie’s viewpoint as she mentally prepares for her confrontation with Bill.
Have a good week.