Mark Stonebrook reinforced his protective barrier as Appius Livius Ocella studied him and his sister, Hallow.
For his part, the elder vampire seemed to be amused at Mark’s effort and reached out to test the magical blockade again. This time, he pushed a little, seeming to “bend” the barrier inward, though he looked a bit uncomfortable doing so. Clearly satisfied with his experimentation, Appius scrutinized his hand for a moment, watching the slight burns that had been created heal.
He chuckled and retracted his fangs. “This really is an impressive piece of magic—a marvelous defense. But I have always preferred offense when I fight.” He sat back down into his chair, stretching out comfortably as if he were chatting with friends.
The two witches studied him pensively.
“The barrier is no longer needed. I assure you,” he promised.
“Take it down,” Hallow instructed softly.
Though he was still wary, Mark obeyed his sister’s directive.
Appius nodded in satisfaction as the magical barrier collapsed. “Ah—that’s better. Now, we can speak with civility. I must apologize for young William. You see—he has only recently taken his place by my side and has yet to learn mastery over his emotions. Do you not think that emotional control is essential—for vampires, I mean?” he asked with a smile.
Mark Stonebrook looked at the ancient vampire with trepidation, even as his sister was looking at him with a mixture of pure bloodlust and fascination. The brother found himself exponentially worried in that moment—worried that, at any moment, Appius might lose his amusement of the witches and kill them; worried that his sister would follow Appius into any insane rabbit hole he fancied. Mark wondered if either he or his sister would get out of their acquaintance with Appius Livius Ocella alive. Yet he knew there would be no way to talk his sister out of working with the clearly twisted vampire.
For Hallow clearly admired his twistedness.
And she shared it.
“You would know better when it comes to vampires . . . .” Hallow’s voice trailed off.
“You—and even your barrier-wielding brother—may call me Ocella,” the vampire grinned. “I am quite curious about something—related to your little love spell.”
“What is it?” Hallow asked.
“You said it was designed to create a single-minded obsession for one’s heart’s desire. But how would you have compelled my child to believe that he desired you?” Appius asked curiously.
Hallow glanced at her brother and then back at the vampire. “The basic spell would have compelled Eric to immediately seek out his heart’s desire. However, I adapted the spell by infusing it with two additional elements.”
“Tell me about them?” Appius probed.
“First, most of his memories would have been erased. Second, I inserted a beacon spell.”
“A beacon spell?”
Hallow nodded. “Yes. Eric would have come directly to me, and once in my presence, I could have used yet another spell to insert within him the belief that I was the one he desired above all. He would have done anything for me. Anything,” she emphasized.
“Intriguing,” Appius said, sitting forward. “And what did you plan to do with him—once he was your puppet?”
Hallow looked momentarily pensive.
“Do not fear any retribution on my part for plans you have not yet had the opportunity to carry out against my child. Surely you must know by now that I will not allow you to do anything I do not wish to Eric. I am merely curious about your original plans for him. Your endgame—as it were.”
Hallow took a deep breath. “I desire him.”
“He is desirable,” Appius stated. “You intended to use his body and his blood however you wished?”
“Yes,” the witch nodded.
“But you also wished to have his,” Appius paused, “affection?”
Hallow looked almost rabid in that moment. “Yes, but more. I wanted power over such a being!”
“How would you have left him?” Appius asked. “Still undead? Or would you have ultimately drained him.”
“I don’t know,” Hallow admitted, her voice barely audible as she gazed at Appius with apprehension.
The ancient nodded. “I believe that I understand you, witch. And I like what I see in you. You are powerful, yet crave more power. You seek to assert your control over the most desirable being you have encountered. That is why you admire my Eric so much.”
“Tell me—how did you evolve your spell. You said earlier that you have two versions—that you have been working on the original since January to improve it.”
Hallow nodded, her eyes showing excitement and pride. “I strengthened the spell so that the memory did not have to be taken away in order for me to gain Eric’s,” she paused, “love.”
“How? No spell can create love where it does not exist.”
“I found a way to,” she paused, “compel love—similar to how a maker can compel a child to do whatever he or she wants.”
Appius smiled almost maniacally. “Just how similar is your spell—to a maker’s command?”
Hallow huffed a bit—like a petulant child might if she couldn’t get exactly her way. “I still haven’t been able to create love where it doesn’t exist. But—my spell will compel the actions related to love, if not the feeling of it.”
Appius cackled as if he were the witch. “Are you saying that you can make Eric act as though he loves you, though he won’t feel the emotion of it?”
“He’ll feel obsession,” Hallow clarified.
“But nothing sincere,” the vampire commented. “It would always feel a little,” he paused, “wrong to him. And he might struggle against it, but to no avail?”
Appius sat back in his chair, his eyes glittering with possibility. The ancient continued to lament that his own maker had commanded him to let go any child he made after 200 years; thus, he’d not had ample time to fully break his first child—to fully perfect him. Since those initial 200 years had ended, he’d only enjoyed toying with his elder child directly a few times, and he could never withstand being close to him for long periods of time. Moreover, every command he’d given to his child—after his first 200 marvelous years with him—had hurt.
And Appius didn’t like to hurt. Pain was a weakness.
But the witch’s scheme offered him so many wonderful possibilities!
“You asked earlier what you get out of all of this,” he reminded.
“How about my child as a plaything? Let us say for a year?” Appius asked. “You must allow him freedom enough to continue functioning as Sheriff of Area 5—to a small extent—despite his obsession with you. But—beyond that—he would be all yours.”
“And after the year?” Hallow returned.
“I must insist that you let him go free. By then, his Sookie will be trained adequately, and I will ensure that she is turned three nights before you release Eric,” Appius mused.
“Do you hate him? Your child?” Hallow asked somewhat brazenly.
Mark tensed—at the ready with another protection spell.
“No! No, my dear woman! I love him,” Appius said, his voice cracking a bit. “And love is not an emotion I can abide.”
Hallow nodded a little. “And I can do anything with him—for a year?”
Appius considered for a moment. “More-less—yes. As I said earlier, I wish to have him in my power for a week—to punish him and to remind him that no matter how free he believes himself to be from me, he exists at my pleasure—as he has for a thousand years. As he will for thousands more.”
The elder was silent for a moment. “After I am done with him, you can begin your fun—with three caveats.”
“One?” Hallow asked.
“Though I do not require nightly reports, I would like for you to catalogue Eric’s time with you—so that I can enjoy experiencing it at my leisure. A video would suffice—especially, of the more depraved things you ask of him. And,” he paused and closed his eyes, “of particular interest to me would be any signs that Eric is suffering underneath your spell. Moreover—if you could push him to a level of suffering at times—I would be profoundly grateful.”
“How grateful?” the witch asked.
“Two,” Appius said, ignoring the witch’s question for the moment, “I would like to have the opportunity to have input in your actions regarding my child—from time to time.”
“And three?” the witch asked.
“You cannot end him. If such an occurrence were to happen, I would end you in the most painful manner I could devise,” the vampire warned.
“What if it were accidental?” Mark Stonebrook asked, concern etched upon his angular face.
Hallow hissed at her brother.
Appius shared a look with the male Were-witch. “You’d best make sure that your sister has no accidents with my child,” he said in a deadly tone.
His jaw locked with tension, Mark nodded.
“I will make no mistakes!” the witch yelled out peevishly, glaring at her protective older sibling.
“Then I am comforted,” Appius smiled, the tension having left his body. “So—are my three conditions agreeable?”
“Yes,” Hallow responded immediately.
“And after a year?” Appius asked.
“I will move on, leaving Eric intact—though likely much poorer,” the witch stated.
“You are limited to a total of ten million of his assets. I would hate it if he couldn’t pay me a reasonable tribute,” Appius countered. “Of course, you can sell his blood for whatever price you can get for it.” He chuckled a little. “You know—I’m generally a stickler for the purity of vampire blood, and I have always been careful not to give my own away too freely. So—under any other circumstances—I would torture you for taking my child’s blood against his will.” At these words, he looked at both Were-witches with an intensity that caused them to lean back a bit.
“However, my child has given his blood to the telepath. He has sullied himself by creating a bond which seems to be based upon,” he paused and smirked at Hallow, “sincere affection. And—because he has cheapened himself in this way—I find that I am anxiously looking forward to your whoring out his blood to whomever can pay the price.” He smiled sickly. “The gods know that I once did the same with his body.” He leaned forward. “Tell me—will you share his body with others?”
Hallow shook her head. “No. I want his body for myself.”
“Pity,” the vampire sighed. “Oh well. Perhaps, you will change your mind and, at the very least, pass him around to your coven members. From experience, I can tell you that there are those who would pay a great deal for the use of him.”
Appius seemed to be moving to rise, but then stopped. “Oh, yes! The other matter I wished to speak with you about!”
“Does this have to do with the vampire in the crate?” Mark asked perceptively.
“Astute. Cautious. And quick at producing strong barriers,” Appius commented, looking at the male witch with a lascivious smile. “I think I like you.”
“That’s—uh—good,” Mark stuttered, though he was clearly uncomfortable.
“As it happens, the woman in the crate is what I wished to speak with you about. Now that William no longer has use of your original spell for his human, I would like for you to use it upon my guest.”
“Who is in the crate?” Mark asked.
“Pamela Ravenscroft?!” Hallow exclaimed.
“No. He made another child—one that I thought was long dead. I think that it would be amusing if she aided in our little plan tomorrow night. It’s not that I don’t think your Debbie Pelt will be an,” he paused, “interesting distraction for everyone. It’s just that I think that the appearance of Karin would create a wonderful dilemma for my child, as well as ensure that he would be completely useless when it came to harming anyone in our group.”
“How?” Hallow asked with curiosity.
“Karin loves her maker,” Appius explained. “She is in love with him. Indeed, it is abundantly clear to me—after only knowing her for a little while—that she desires to please him above everything. That she covets him,” he added. “However, her loyalty and her affection for him also prevent her from acting upon her stronger and more violent inclinations toward him.” The elder smiled a little. “I suppose it is ironic that her feelings toward Eric are of the type which I’d always wished that he would grant to me, but alas.” He shrugged. “Eric has endeavored to hide the existence of his elder child from me for many, many years—even going so far as to sever all control he had over her so that I would believe that Karin was dead.”
“That is extreme,” Mark said somewhat cautiously.
“And such an extreme measure must be answered with something even more extreme,” Appius said with a definitive nod. “My child requires punishment for his deception—for hiding his first child from me. Thus—the spell.”
“What do you intend?” Hallow asked.
“If I understand correctly, your spell will remove Karin’s memory, but morph her love for her heart’s desire into pure obsession. With her memories gone, she will be,” he paused, “more malleable to influence—correct?”
“Yes,” the witch confirmed.
“As a bonus, there would be no need to influence her to believe that it is Eric that she desires; conveniently, that is already the case! She would be easily convinced to seek out Eric—damned the consequences! And you and I could be her benevolent guides.”
“What would we guide her to do?” Hallow asked wryly.
“To eliminate the one standing in her way,” Appius informed.
“Wait! You want her to kill the telepath, Sookie Stackhouse?!” Mark asked, his confusion clear.
Appius shrugged. “Not really, though I won’t be heartbroken if she is collateral damage. No—what I believe will happen is that Karin will get just close enough to threaten her so that Eric will be forced to choose between them.”
“You expect he’ll kill his own child?” Hallow asked incredulously.
“Very likely,” Appius relayed. “What he feels for the woman he has bonded with is,” he paused, “profound. I do believe that he will kill Karin to protect her, though his gesture will ultimately mean little, for he will not be able to protect his beloved from me. Still—it will be poetic justice. He once did everything he could possibly do to make me believe that Karin was dead in order to protect her from me. Now—to protect Miss Stackhouse—he will be the one who truly ends Karin. And I will be the one pulling all the strings.”
“Diabolical!” Hallow chuckled.
“Yes. It is rather—isn’t it?” Appius agreed as he stood up. He looked at Mark and then Hallow. “Andre—little pissant that he is—is correct that it would be ill-advised to harm the queen or her people. However, all that you can do to stop them from interfering with the amusing production I have in my head would be greatly appreciated.”
Both siblings nodded.
“Excellent!” Appius said, clapping his hands. “Feel free to take a vial or two of blood from Karin tonight, but do so with care. She is quite powerful and cunning for her age.” He looked at Mark. “Use one of your barriers.”
The male Were-witch nodded.
“I shall return here at around 10:30 p.m. tomorrow; wait to use the spell on Karin until I am here. I wish to enjoy the entirety of the show!”
“Okay,” Hallow agreed.
“Good. One more thing. Best not to let Andre or William know how we intend to use Karin. After all, Sookie very well might be killed—if Eric’s choice is different from the one that I expect. I wouldn’t want either of them to interfere with my plans for Karin.”
“We’ll keep this part of the plan to ourselves,” Mark assured.
“My gratitude,” Appius said, with the slightest nod of his head. “I look forward to our year working together.” He moved toward the door, but then stopped and turned around as if he was remembering something.
“You asked me earlier how grateful I would be to you—if all goes well,” the ancient reminded.
“Yes,” Hallow replied breathlessly.
“At the end of our year, I will give you a vial of my blood if I am pleased with you. I am sure that my child’s will already increase your power substantially,” Appius commented.
“But yours would do so much more,” Hallow panted.
“So you understand the honor of my offer.”
“Yes!” the witch exclaimed.
“Good.” His expression turned to cold stone within a second. “Until I offer it, however, you will do nothing to cross me. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Hallow and Mark answered simultaneously.
“Excellent!” Appius said before turning away again. This time he zipped out of the room and then the house.
Hallow looked at her brother with awe in her eyes. “Do you know what his blood will do for us?! Not to mention Eric’s blood?”
Mark nodded. “You’re sure you want to help Ocella?” he asked cautiously. “It sounds like he wants to be in control. And—if there are accidents with Northman . . . ,” he began.
“I’m sure!” Hallow hissed. “And do not doubt me, or I’ll . . . .” She stopped midsentence, her blood boiling with anger.
Mark held his hands up in a calming gesture. “Please, Marn. You know I don’t doubt you. I just want for you to be safe.”
“Then working with the most powerful vampire we’ve ever met seems like the best way to stay that way!” Hallow yelled.
“You’re right,” Mark placated. “And I’m with you—no matter what. Always.”
A smile slowly formed onto Hallow’s lips as she moved into her brother’s embrace. “I want to share all of this power with you, Mark. But you must not doubt me!”
“I don’t,” he reiterated, trying to convince himself as much as her. “It will all work out the way you wish. I’ll make sure of that,” he promised.
“I know,” she giggled, her earlier rage evaporated. “Anyway, we have a lovely vampire on tap for tonight! Let’s take enough for Debbie, too. We’ll want her high out of her mind tomorrow night.”
Mark smiled down at his sister and nodded, hiding his concern—though he still felt it keenly.
A/N: Hello all! I hope your week has gone well. So—now you know how Appius intends to use Karin! What do you think—did I make him evil enough? I was looking to create someone as obsessed with Eric as he wanted Eric to be obsessed with him. Indeed, this Appius is probably heavily influenced by the Netflix show Mindhunter, which I’d been watching around the time I drafted this. I’ll suggest that show only for those that like crime thrillers because it is freaky sometimes! Anyway, this is my attempt to make an Appius who is truly frightening. I hope it’s working.
Next up—after a bit more with Appius/Bill/Alexei, I promise some Eric. We need him about now!
Please leave a comment if you have the time and inclination.
Have a wonderful week!