SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13 • 4:30 a.m. (this section directly follows the last chapter)
Eric mused about how his life had changed since Sookie Stackhouse had come into it—pretty much crashing it to pieces.
Emotions that he’d suppressed for centuries had formed waves in her wake—spreading outward, becoming ever-larger.
And when they had crashed, they had altered him forever, reshaping every single part of him that the world could not see, even as his outer shell had remained what it had always been.
He’d once told Sookie that he hated feeling. He hadn’t been lying.
Feeling things was dangerous. It had always been thus with the Viking vampire.
His human parents had been attentive enough—given the times during which he was raised—but they’d had little time for great shows of feeling. Those would have been impractical. After all, death was so common and generally came to people so much sooner than it did in the modern world that it was unreasonable to become overly attached to anyone. Not only had his older brother been slain young, which had forced Eric to wed his brother’s widow (a woman he’d cared very little about at the time), but also Eric’s parents had built funeral pyres for two of his other siblings—two younger sisters. Eric had made the mistake of doting upon the first of his sisters—just three years younger than himself—and had mourned her keenly when she died of a fever during her fifth winter. He’d learned his lesson and had barely acknowledged the sister who’d been born the year after that; she’d died when she was in her sixth winter, and Eric had barely noticed. Another sister had been born in the meantime, and she lived. Eric had eventually become friends of a sort with that sister, but they had never been what any could deem close.
Yes—even as an adolescent, Eric had realized the folly of counting on the lives of others to go on. Still, he’d created friendships with his fellow soldiers, men whom he’d eventually led into battle.
However, each time one was lost, he let himself feel their exits from the world a little bit less—until losing a “friend” was just another normal occurrence of life.
Indeed, by the time Appius turned him, Eric had perfected the art of not feeling anything too sharply. For example, Aude had passed away only weeks before Eric set out to meet his new betrothed and her father in a neighboring village. Certainly, he’d felt something when he’d learned about Aude’s death and about the newly-born child who’d exited the earthly plain with her. But that feeling had been little more than melancholy, solved easily by mead.
Under Appius’s “care,” positive emotions were most certainly neither generated nor welcome. If Eric liked or even mildly enjoyed something, Appius would feel it through their bond and snatch it away. Thus, feelings became even more undesirable for the young vampire.
Indeed, the only thing Appius wanted Eric to have positive emotions about was his maker’s attentions, and—even then—Appius did not wish to inspire love from his child.
Looking back, Eric realized that Appius had wanted his child to be obsessed with him—to covet Appius’s affection with wanton desperation. Not love.
But Eric had never felt the things that his maker wanted him to feel. He was incapable of it. However, for a time, Eric had accepted the things Appius wanted from him physically; the Viking had even mustered up some form of affection for his maker—and gratitude for some of the things Appius taught him about warfare and survival. Such feelings, however, were for practicality’s sake—nothing more.
Appius knew that; he felt it.
Eric closed his eyes tightly, recalling how his maker used to punish him for his “inadequacies,” as Appius had put it.
In the darkest nights of his time with his maker, Eric had been certain that Appius would never let him go. However, on the night that commemorated the 200th year of his turning, Appius had fucked Eric brutally and then told him to get out of his sight. There had been no warning—nothing to clue Eric in to what had been coming. Indeed, if anything, Appius had been more covetous of Eric’s time and devotion during his 199th year of vampirism.
It had taken Eric a long time to stop looking over his shoulder for his maker every night. However, Eric had never gone a full night without dreading at least the possibility that Appius might choose that night to reenter his life.
Still, Eric had found a way to persevere, but he’d made mistakes when it came to feelings. He’d felt too much for Karin, his first child and first long-term companion after his expulsion from Appius’s life. That kinship had ended with pain—as it had been necessary to release Karin in the most profound way known to vampires because his maker had been barreling back toward Eric’s existence with a dizzying and terrifying force at the time.
After that, Eric had barely been able to feel his first child at all; for all intents and purposes, he’d lost her.
Appius had been feeling miserable over losing a child of his own, one whom he’d failed to successfully turn, and he had taken out his feelings on Eric. The Viking closed his eyes tightly, suppressing the remembered pain of Appius’s brutal visit so that it would not affect his sleeping bonded. Appius had given Eric only one reason for that brutalization: He’d said that hurting Eric “restored him and made him feel whole again.” The Viking had been certain that he would be chained to Appius for centuries once again, but the maker left his child battered, fingerless, and fangless in a cave only a week after he’d reappeared in his life. It had taken Eric months to fully heal from his time with Appius. And he had little doubt that his maker would have forced him to kill Karin if she’d stayed by his side. So it had been best to let her go.
Still, a part of him mourned his irrevocable break with his eldest child.
Thinking about Karin—Isolde—the vampire could not stop himself from reaching out for their broken bond. He sighed as he felt nothing but hollowness. The only thing he could feel was his own essence inside of her—like a stowaway on a ship. Still—at least—he knew that she was still alive; the ship of her existence was still afloat.
However, he’d not felt a specific sense of her location in a while. But he trusted that she was near, ready to kill her own maker if Appius returned and opted to use Eric as a threat against the woman who had compelled him to feel with a fervidness that eclipsed everything that Eric had ever experienced.
Indeed, all of the emotions he’d ever had—during his one-thousand-plus years combined—paled next to the love he felt for Sookie Stackhouse in a single night.
“I will protect you,” he whispered, barely audible, even as his dread from earlier creeped back into the edges of his mind.
The Viking frowned at the realization that he was feeling fear, an emotion which seemed a twin to his love for his bonded, for—with loving so strongly—had come the fear that his love might be taken away.
Sookie shifted in his embrace, her back pushing backwards to find more of his chest to touch, her hands finding and then grasping his, which were resting near her stomach as they “spooned” together. The vampire could not help but to smile. Even in her sleep, she seemed able to understand his unrest. Even in her sleep, she sought to comfort him.
Even in her sleep, she loved him.
And feared for him. With him.
He gripped her tighter.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13 • 3:00 a.m. (ninety minutes earlier than the previous section)
“Dear sister!” Mark Stonebrook said, trying to get Hallow’s attention.
She had the female vampire sitting on a stool, and she was behind her—greedily gulping down her blood straight from her neck. Of course, there was no danger of the vampire retaliating, for Mark had placed a strong freeze-spell over her. But keeping her that unmoving was taxing him.
“What?!” Hallow asked hotly, angry at being interrupted from her blood-taking. She held up the small knife she’d used to open up the vampire’s flesh, almost as if threatening him.
To Mark’s eyes, his sister looked too much like a vampire in that moment. However, instead of feeding for sustenance, Hallow fed for more power.
Before she’d used her magic-steeped knife to cut into the vampiress’s neck, his sister had almost silently chanted the spell that would transfer a bit of the vampire’s magic into her. The “Transference Incantation” was a spell of Hallow’s own making, and she had never shared the language of the spell with anyone—not even her brother, though she had allowed him to enjoy the benefits of her creation to a certain extent.
Having a centuries-old vampiress add to her power was clearly causing his sister to become drunken—compelling her towards ardent violence.
Mark knew that he had to stop her before she did something that would irrevocably harm them both.
“Please,” he entreated. “We must not take too much blood from her.”
Hallow hissed. “You are just angry because I have not shared with you yet—that I’ve not yet secured blood for Debbie—the waste that that will be! What if I want it all!?” she cried out like a rabid dog.
“No,” the brother said, his own voice as calm as possible. “You may take all that the vampiress can safely give, Sister. I do not question your right to her blood, though I do celebrate it when you are generous. Please believe that I worry only about the reaction of Appius—if he finds this one to be too incapacitated to do what he wishes for her to do.”
Hallow’s already yellow eyes flashed dangerously, and her body shivered with a suppressed need to shift and then tear out the neck of the vampiress in her grasp. Instead, she angrily stepped away from the vampiress and licked her knife—before sheathing it.
She stormed to where Mark stood with his head dropped in supplication.
“Take three vials from her! One for yourself. One to give to Debbie. And one more for me tomorrow night!” she ordered.
Mark nodded as Hallow huffed and then left the room. He sighed with relief as he went about doing what his sister had ordered. Stifling his own need for the vampiress’s blood, he inserted a special silver encased needle into her arm and took the vials as quickly as a trained medical technician might. After storing the blood into a small cooler, he took a six-pack of TrueBlood out of a bag and brought five over to the pale vampiress.
For the first time, he looked at her face and into her eyes. The freezing spell would prevent her from glamouring him, though it was clear that she was trying to bring him under her will.
“I am going to take off your ball-gag now, but you will not be able to bring down your fangs,” he said softly. “Nor will you be able to move on your own. Trying to do either will give you much pain,” he warned.
As soon as he removed the ball-gag, he could see her fighting against his magic. He smiled at her in an almost paternal way, even as he opened the first bottle of TrueBlood and forced it into her mouth before turning it upward and making the vampiress drink it.
Though it was clear from the look in her eyes that she did not want to take the blood, she was powerless against the Were-witch’s spell.
“I have worked very hard to prove myself useful to my sister,” he said, petting the vampiress’s lovely blond hair as he started her on the second bottle. “Only that motivation has made me powerful enough to hold you still like this,” he added, as if having heard questions about his abilities from her.
He was silent through the third and fourth bottles he made her drink.
“You are beautiful,” he said as he set aside the fourth bottle. He felt troubled for a moment as he took in the creature whom he’d helped to make helpless.
A brief impulse to let her go flooded him. He was not sure if that feeling was due to her continued attempts to glamour him or his own endlessly stifled ethics peeking through into his consciousness.
“And you are powerful,” he added as he opened the fifth bottle.
He brushed his fingers tenderly across her cheek. “I do not want to harm you,” he said honestly. “I do not want to help Appius Livius Ocella to harm you.”
Her eyes seemed to be screaming at him. They seemed to be saying two simple words: “Then don’t.”
He began to feed her the fifth bottle, though this time he did so more slowly so that she could swallow on her own. He was pleased when she cooperated, though he knew that she was doing so only because she felt he might soften towards her.
In truth, he had already softened towards her plight.
He used his own magic to reach out and to make sure that none could overhear him. Assured of his privacy, he spoke as if to a confidant, “If I had my own way—if I could determine my own life—I would be living quietly. I would have a wife by now and children.” Picturing his fictional children, he smiled with longing. “I would love them whether or not they were magical, and—if they were blessed with magic—I would teach them the,” he paused, “right kind of magic—the kind that leads to no harm or obsession.”
He felt almost pained as the bottle became empty.
“One more,” he said softly. “I know you don’t need it, but one more.” He brought the last TrueBlood from the six-pack over to her. This time, he fed her even more slowly.
“My sister corrupts magic, but I love her. I am duty-bound to her and to ensure that she wrecks as little havoc as possible.” He sighed loudly. “I try to ensure that her magic never touches innocents. And—when I cannot do that—I encourage her to focus on only one or two targets, rather than a world full of them.” He shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry that focus is on you right now, just as I will be sorry when it is on Eric Northman after that.”
Again, her eyes bore into him, the blueness of them so stirring that it made his own eyes sting.
“You wonder why I don’t just stop her—kill her,” he guessed. “I won’t though, so do not hope. It would be pointless.”
The sixth bottle empty, he bent down to kiss her cheek before securing the ball-gag again.
“All I can promise is that—if I can see a way to kill you quickly after you fulfill Appius’s purpose for you tomorrow night—I will do so.”
He took a moment to put all the empty bottles back into the bag that he’d brought them in.
“It feels good to speak so openly,” he said, turning back around to her. “I am sorry to have taken advantage of your incapacitated position to do so, but it has been,” Mark paused, “so long since I had someone that I could speak so freely to.” He sighed. “I am sorry to say that I have been able to do so only because I know you will be dead by tomorrow night.”
He picked her up and placed her back into the crate before nailing it shut again.
He put his hand over the smooth wood—where he knew her face was. “There is nothing more to say,” he said, his voice sounding eerily empty to his ears, just as his life felt empty to him when he was not fully focused upon his sister.
He closed his eyes and released the vampiress from his freezing spell. Immediately, he heard her move and grunt. Then, he created a spell around her crate so that no one could get in or out. Indeed, the last thing anyone needed was for one like Debbie Pelt to stumble across the crate and drain the vampiress.
Mark gathered the bag of empty bottles and the cooler and then moved slowly out of the room. He did not allow anyone to see how the use of so much magic affected him—weakened him. Indeed, he felt that he decreased his own life force with every spell he brought to life. He gripped the handle of the cooler. As much as he hated the thought of continuing to drink vampire blood, he knew that he needed to in order to keep his own strength up. So—as soon as he safely stowed the rest of it for the next night—he would take his vial of the vampiress’s blood and let it soothe that which was taxed within him.
And he would keep going.
The Were-witches had taken enough blood from Karin to greatly weaken her—only to force-feed her TrueBlood until she knew that she’d be completely replenished by the next night.
Not that it would make a damned bit of difference!
She had been secured so tightly in silver chains by Appius Livius Ocella that she could move neither her arms nor her legs, and a silver ball gag (though thankfully encased in leather) ensured that she could not use her primary weapons—her fangs—either.
Moreover, she now felt a strong field of magic surrounding the crate that she’d been tossed back into following her blood-letting.
Karin faced the truth: She would not be going anywhere unless her captors took her there.
And it wasn’t as if she could call her maker to come and help her either. Their connection with one another was too weak for that kind of thing. Indeed, he would not be able to feel her distress unless he was within a hundred or so yards of her.
Not that she wanted him to try a rescue.
Karin closed her eyes in lament. No matter how well she’d planned or how good of an assassin she’d become, she’d been no match for Appius—once he’d made her his target. She was still uncertain about how he had known that she was tracking him. What she did know was that as soon as he left the vehicle Bill Compton was driving toward the Manilla Airport, her defeat at the hands of the older vampire had been assured.
She shook her head in almost disbelief as she recalled the speed with which he’d flown and the power of his strike as he’d caught her midflight.
He’d easily fractured her skull. Then he’d severed her spine and followed with glee as she’d plummeted to the ground. She’d been unable to move for hours after that.
Appius had simply waited until the potions she’d been using to alter her scent and to cover up her remaining blood connection with her maker had worn off.
Of course, he’d found something to do as he’d waited; he’d tortured her for fun, “instructing” his horrid child and Bill Compton. He’d known that she wouldn’t talk, so he’d asked her nothing about why she’d been tracking him.
Finally, her potions abandoned her. And with his keen senses, Appius had known her for who she was: the first child of his child, someone he’d thought had long since perished.
And he’d been furious—striking her again and again until their landing in New Orleans was imminent. And then he’d put her into the crate.
But it wasn’t until he opened it that Karin’s true fears came to fruition. He’d guessed at her deep love for her maker.
More than that—he’d seemed to step inside of her head and understand within minutes that she was in love with Eric!
And Appius had figured out a way to use her against the one she loved—of that she was certain.
Worst of all, she did not believe that she would be able to do a damned thing to stop him!
Twenty minutes before—when it seemed as if Hallow was so compelled by her blood that the witch would drain her—Karin had felt hope. If she were truly dead, then she couldn’t be used in whatever plot Appius had fashioned in his sick and twisted mind.
However, those hopes had been crushed by Mark Stonebrook, who—despite his own interest in her blood—had stopped his sister from bleeding her dry with greed. He’d been the one to force the TrueBlood into her as well.
And he was the maker of the magic that had been—at first—holding her still and—now—keeping her trapped.
Still, she’d found hope again when the male Were-witch had spoken to her with sincere regret about his actions. Despite her weakened state, Karin had tried to compel him through glamour to let her go. But he’d been unaffected by anything other than his own seemingly “hopeless” story. It was now clear to her, however, that even if a part of him seemed to hate his sister, he was not about to betray her.
Thus, her hope had abandoned her again.
Karin’s sharp mind sifted through everything she knew about her situation, looking for any way she might manufacture the end of her own existence before she could cause harm to her beloved.
But, trapped as she was—by both silver and magic—she could think of nothing.
All of her years honing her skills as an elusive assassin were now nothing!
There was no way out.
A/N: I hope that you enjoyed this week’s chapter. Just to clarify—Eric fully released Karin—using magic to the point that there was barely anything left of their bond—so that Appius would believe that she was truly dead. Some of you have been wondering why Karin hasn’t reached out to warn Eric through their bond; she can’t because it’s so weak. And—she wouldn’t anyway because she loves Eric; I hinted at her feelings when she and Eric interacted in The Boot (Chapter 20). I hope that clears up any confusion caused by this story being started quite a while back.
I really wanted to show (at the beginning of the chapter) that Eric is feeling some dread. Undoubtedly, this is because Appius is near (though Appius is blocking their bond). I think, though, that Appius is consciously or unconsciously feeding Eric little spurts of dread—just to toy with him. Someone like Appius wouldn’t be able to help himself. And though our Viking hasn’t put together that Appius is close by yet, his mind cannot help but to be reminded of him because of his feelings of unrest. Anyway, please leave me a review if you have the time and/or inclination.
All the best,