SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13 • 10:55 p.m.
As soon as Andre was out of earshot of the old plantation which was serving as the witches’ lair, Mark Stonebrook spoke. “You didn’t tell Andre about Karin?”
“No,” Appius confirmed with a wave of his hand. “I still intend for her to be a surprise.”
The vampire looked at her with approval. “The level of magic you produced to keep Andre quiet was truly remarkable. I wonder if you might not work on something very special for me—a final parting gift I have in mind for Eric.”
“For after my year with him?” Hallow asked for clarity.
“Of course,” Appius confirmed with a nod of his head.
“Then what is your request?” Hallow asked congenially.
“A combination of the things you have already cooked up—actually.”
“You want Hallow to leave Eric in a spell that makes you his heart’s desire—don’t you?” Mark guessed.
Appius looked at the witch almost fondly, causing Mark to cringe a little.
“I will admit that having Eric’s full devotion would be pleasing—in some ways.” Appius did not mention the fact that a command—issued long ago by his bitch of a maker—would have made Eric’s continual presence in his life impossible for the elder vampire to bear. “But I wish to do something a bit more ,” he paused, “unconventional—with your and your sister’s magical help, of course.”
“What do you have in mind?” Hallow asked.
“Well,” Appius began, sitting forward in his chair a little, “if I understand correctly, you are able to take away an individual’s memory. And you have spells that will make an individual very susceptible to influence. And, of course, there is your lovely Heart’s Desire spell. What I have in mind will require all of these spells of yours, though used in an,” he paused, “unusual way. Avant-guard really!” he chuckled.
“How so?” Hallow pushed.
“After you are finished with Eric, I have decided that I wish to have more time with him; a week or so should do it. Just long enough to introduce him to my ward’s new child.” He grinned. “After Eric learns that his beloved Sookie has been made William’s child and has had a few nights to mourn that loss, I would like for you to strip Eric of his memories and—if possible—work a bit more of your magic to give me total influence over him.”
“But you are his maker. Don’t you already have all the influence you could ever want?” Mark asked with curiosity.
“I can order him. But Eric was always stubborn about resisting me. He would not be shaped into what I wished him to be. However, if he were memoryless and if I had the benefit of your Influencing Spell, I believe I could,” he paused, smiling sinisterly, “craft him to my will completely.”
Mark gulped audibly.
“Regardless, it will be fun trying,” Appius chuckled. “After a few nights of my molding him, I believe he would be ready to return to his sheriff’s role with new gusto! At that point, another of your Heart’s Desire spells would be lovely—again with that element of influence added.” He looked at Mark. “You are right; I want for your sister’s final spell upon him to make me Eric’s heart’s desire. And—after that—I will leave him.”
“He would follow you,” Hallow said. “He wouldn’t be able to stop himself.”
Appius chuckled. “Not if I issued a maker’s command upon him to stay away from me.”
Mark’s eyes widened. “He would exist in perpetual agony! Forbidden to go to his heart’s desire—because that individual has the power to do the forbidding!”
Appius shrugged. “Indeed.”
Hallow considered for a moment. “I will modify my spells and have them ready for your purposes at the end of my year with Eric.”
“That pleases me. Of course, given these wonders you will perform for me, I will happily give you an additional vial of blood from me at the end of our association,” the vampire offered.
“And that pleases me, Ocella,” Hallow smiled. She sat forward a little. “Speaking of spells, I have tweaked the spell for the vampiress—a little.”
“How so?” Appius asked with interest.
“Nothing too different from before. The earlier spell had been designed to strip Eric’s memories and pull him to me with magic—at which point I would implant within him the idea that I was his heart’s desire. Since you say that Eric is already Karin’s desire, the beacon spell would likely compel her directly to him.” She shrugged. “In fact, the spell might have even ‘popped’ her directly to his side as soon as it was unleashed. You would not have been able to,” she paused, “guide the process of her obsession if that were the case. And it is clear to me that you wish to guide her.”
“I do,” Appius nodded. “So—what is your solution?”
“I believe that I have added the necessary components to my potion in order to counteract the aspect of the spell that would make its recipient ‘pop.’ Once the Heart’s Desire spell is delivered to Karin, she’ll still lose most of her memories, and she will crave her heart’s desire to the level of obsession—greed even. She’ll want to be with Eric, but magic won’t ‘pop’ her to him.”
Appius looked intrigued. “But she would have teleported before?”
Hallow shrugged. “Likely. I took all steps I could to ensure that Eric would come to me once my spell was upon him.” She paused for a moment. “I did not want to risk his being stopped—by anyone.”
The room was silent for a moment.
“So—you’ve created a spell that causes teleportation?” the vampire asked.
Hallow shook her head a little. “Yes, but it’s a tricky spell and not as well-tested as I would like. Eliminating that variable in Karin’s case seemed prudent.”
“It was,” Appius smiled with approval. “You truly are proving your worth. And I hope that you will keep that up.”
“I will,” Hallow said with certainty. “In fact, I’ve done even more with the spell.”
“Yes. You’ll recall that I was intending to bring Eric to me and then influence him to believe that I was his heart’s desire. I still have the Influencing Spell ready. You can use it to make your suggestions to Karin,” Hallow offered. “Instead of changing whom her heart desires, however, you can use the Influencing Spell to control her to a certain extent.”
“Excellent!” Appius smiled sinisterly. “Shall we go see how your spells work now? I’d like to get Karin ready for my deployment of her before Bill and Alexei arrive, and they are due soon.”
“We’re ready,” Mark said, pushing the discomfort he felt from his tone.
“Come,” Hallow said, leading the men from the living room up the stairs to what had once been one of the mansion’s many bedrooms.
The crate with Karin inside was against the back wall of the room, and Appius could feel the magic barrier around it.
With a nod from his sister, Mark went over to the crate and lowered his barrier spell before opening the crate.
Karin spared him only a glance before focusing her glare onto Appius.
The elder chuckled. “Do not look at me like that, granddaughter. After all, I’m about to help you embrace your feelings—your desires for the one you crave the most,” he taunted.
Karin’s expression was a mixture of defiance and fear as she jutted her chin out as much as possible, given the confines of her bindings and her cramped quarters.
“Do it,” Appius ordered the witches.
Hallow nodded and took a vial from her pocket. She held it between the palms of her hands and extended her arms out in Karin’s direction as Mark moved to stand next to her.
The witch began chanting, and the contents of the vial—a royal blue liquid—began to glow. Karin’s eyes fixed onto the object in Hallow’s hands, even as the witch moved closer and closer to the vampiress—still chanting. Once directly in front of Karin, Hallow crushed the vial between her hands, and her blood mixed with the potion.
“Fero sanguine uires. Ut totum effundatur sanguis,” Hallow said as she wiped her hands—potion, blood, and glass fragments—onto Karin’s face. She repeated her words in English. “My blood to strengthen the spell. My blood to make it whole.”
Hallow took a step back and seemed to wobble on her feet. Immediately, Mark was there to stabilize her and take her to a chair. He then took care to wrap her hands in a large towel before pulling a vial out of his pocket—one containing vampire blood.
“That is not very potent,” Appius remarked of the blood in the vial.
Mark glanced at him, though he immediately wished that he hadn’t when he spotted that either the magic, his sister’s blood, or a combination of the two had drawn out Appius’s fangs—and given him an erection.
“It’s not,” Mark agreed before holding the vial of blood to his sister’s lips so that she could drink it. “But she had some of Karin’s blood last night. So this will be enough to heal her hands and bring her energy back.”
A clicking noise signaled that Appius had regained control of his fangs. Mark breathed out a sigh of relief.
“Will she not get drunk on vampire blood long removed from its source’s body?” the ancient asked.
“Hallow has adapted herself—through blood and magic—to be immune to V’s debilitating effects.” He looked again at Appius. “At least, when that is her choice.”
“All the benefits and none of the side effects that reduce humans due to their sacrilegious taking of our blood,” Appius commented with a sneer.
Mark nodded and then let out another sigh of relief as his sister’s energy returned to her. He stroked her cheek affectionately.
Meanwhile, Appius’s attention had been transferred back to Karin. Still secure in her bindings, she had very limited movement; however, she was trying very hard to move. The ancient vampire studied her eyes.
Heavily dilated, they looked like the eyes of a rabid dog.
“It seems to have worked,” Appius grinned.
Hallow stood up and brushed away her brother’s attempt to have her lean against him. “Of course, it did!” she said defensively.
Appius rolled his eyes at her tone and moved over to Karin in order to ungag her. Untying her, he thought, wouldn’t yet be wise. After stripping away the leather enclosed silver ball gag, he stepped back as her fangs descended. However, he could tell that her violent thoughts were not meant for him. She was looking toward the door.
“Eric!” Karin cried out, even as she tried to pull against her bindings. “I must go to him!”
“Who is Eric?” Mark asked, moving to stand next to Appius. His expression was one of pity—and curiosity.
“He’s . . . .” Karin’s voice trailed off. “I don’t know! I have to go to him!”
“Where is he?” Mark asked.
Karin closed her eyes. “Southeast of here. Please, untie me!”
“What are you?” the male Were-witch asked her.
“Who are you?” Appius followed-up.
Karin looked confused—as if someone had just asked her to solve an impossible equation. “I—uh—I . . . . I am Eric’s!” Karin yelled out, clearly frustrated.
Appius looked at Mark, who nodded at him.
From behind them, Hallow spoke. “Move back.”
The two males complied, for they both recognized that her voice was—once more—magic-laced.
Again, the powerful witch approached Karin. And again, she chanted, though there was no vial in her hands this time. As she finished her spell, she turned to the vampire; clearly this magic had not weakened her, which spoke to just how difficult the Heart’s Desire spell had been to perform.
“I am through with her,” Hallow proclaimed. “She is now your creature to influence, though her obsession will remain with Eric no matter what you say.”
“Eric! Yes! Eric!” Karin cried out mindlessly.
“She is in your hands,” Mark reiterated in a tone of regret as he moved to his sister’s side. “We will be preparing Debbie.”
“Eric!” Karin yelled again, struggling once more with her bindings.
Appius grinned and waved the witches out of the room. And then he turned to his quarry.
“Dear Karin, look at me,” he said softly.
The vampiress complied; clearly, the witch’s Influence Spell had worked like a charm. “I am Appius. We are vampires.”
Karin nodded. “Yes. I know what we are. I don’t know Karin. Is it me? Eric. Please. Let me go. Eric!” she panted with desperation.
“Oh—I intend to help you go to Eric, my dear. Do not fear. And—yes—your name is Karin, and Eric is the vampire who sired you.”
“I love him! I need him!” she yelled fervently. “Please—let me go to him. I can’t be,” she paused, looking around the room like a lost child, “safe without him.”
“I am Eric’s maker. You are safe with me,” Appius assured.
“But why am I tied up here?” Karin asked. “Please, let me go.”
“I will. But I must tell you what has happened to you,” Appius said with concern in his tone. “And why you don’t remember.”
“I remember Eric! That is enough! Please!” Karin said, her one-track mind floundering to listen to Appius’s words.
“If you listen, I will let you go to him,” Appius assured. “In fact, I will take you to him.”
Karin registered his offer and nodded her assent, even as she tried to focus on him.
The ancient smiled, but then his face grew serious. “Eric once loved you more than any other. And he would still do so, but he has been captivated by a telepath—a woman who can control his mind!” Appius said with intrigue. “She stole him from you, took away your memories, and put you into this crate. She tied you with silver coated in leather so that you could not get out of the prison she intended for you to waste away in.”
Karin’s fangs clicked down. “Why did she separate me from Eric?!”
“Jealousy,” Appius said soothingly. “She was jealous of his love for you. So she trapped you and used witchcraft to take away your memories, for she wanted you to suffer and rot.”
Karin frowned. “There were witches in here—just now.”
“Yes,” Appius nodded. “They are in my employ. They have done their best to counteract the magic that cursed you, but have only been able to mitigate the amnesia spell. Before their work, you did not even remember Eric or the fact that you are vampire. You were thrashing around mindlessly! But I have found you, Karin. And I have helped you. And, now, I want only to help you more—and to help Eric escape from the harpy who has him in her thrall.”
“Why am I tied up?” Karin asked.
“Because I worried that you would immediately go to Eric.”
“But that is what I want to do! What I need to do!” Karin insisted.
“I know you feel that way. But to do so would only get you killed. We must work together to save Eric from Sookie Stackhouse’s clutches, or we will lose him forever!”
“No!” Karin yelled.
“Look at me!” Appius ordered, projecting all of his power toward her.
The vampiress shook her head for a moment, but then focused on Appius. She found herself drawn to him—somehow. Trusting him.
“Let me guide you,” Appius entreated. “I will take you to Eric and will ensure that he is protected while you kill Sookie Stackhouse. Then, he will be yours again, and all will be as it should be. The black magic keeping him from you will be eliminated only after the telepath dies! All you have to do is listen to me—to wait to go to him until I say. Can you do that, Karin?”
The vampiress looked confused for a moment, but then nodded. “Yes,” she responded.
“I promise that—if you follow my guidance—you will have Eric by the end of the night,” Appius assured.
“And I will kill the one who’s keeping him from me. I will kill Sookie Stackhouse!” Karin asserted.
“Yes. But not until I tell you to do so,” Appius reiterated, using all of his power to hold her gaze—almost as if he were glamouring her. The ancient could feel the magic in the room, encasing Karin and him within its grip. He knew—from his gift—that Hallow’s magic was not harming him.
No—the harm was for Karin alone. She just didn’t know it.
“Will you obey me?” Appius pushed.
“Yes,” Karin promised.
The elder vampire smiled sadistically. “Good. Then I will unbind you.”
“Yes!” the vampiress said desperately.
“If you try to go to Eric before I permit, I will recapture you. And then I will have to save Eric myself.” Appius took on a false look of concern. “And I fear that—without your help—I will fail.”
“I will obey you,” Karin promised. “As long as I get Eric and kill the one who took him from me, I will obey.”
“What does she mean?” Bill asked from behind Appius as he and Alexei entered the bedroom.
Appius turned to give Bill a taunting smile. “Karin here is going to kill the telepath who has taken her maker.”
“Kill Sookie!?” Bill gasped. “But, Master!”
“Silence!” Appius yelled. “You of all people should know that I have no patience for explaining myself. Do you not trust me, William? Do you not trust that I will meet my commitments to you as I see best?”
Bill looked down, his expression a mixture of confusion and fear. Appius gauged his appearance as the younger vampire seemed to realize something.
“You are testing me,” Bill said softly. “You have determined the best course of action, and I will trust in you, Master,” he added, the indecision leaving his expression. “Thank you for giving me a lesson in faith.”
Appius chuckled. “Faith—yes. That is a good word, for I am your god now, William. Do not forget.”
The younger vampire nodded.
“Now—go downstairs and wait in the living room with Alexei,” Appius said gently. “I will be down with Karin in a few minutes.”
Bill nodded and took his “brother’s” hand.
The ancient turned back to Karin and once again captured her gaze. “You must ignore William. He, too, was under the spell of Sookie Stackhouse, though I have been helping him to heal. When you kill her, he will become truly free, just as Eric will.”
Karin took in Appius’s words with an expression of complete reverence.
He moved to unbind her, making sure he stayed vigilant—just in case either of Hallow’s spells was not working as he’d been led to believe. After all, Karin the Slaughterer was known for her prowess and her deceptiveness.
Untied at last, Karin itched to rush out of the room, but she looked to Appius instead. “I am ready to obey,” she said vehemently.
Appius smiled. She—too—now had “faith” in him.
Like William, Karin was his creature—to do with as he willed.
A/N: So—what did you think? Are you enjoying Appius the puppeteer? If I didn’t hate him so much, I might admire how absolutely evil he is. I have to say that—as I was writing him—I was reminded a lot of a Bond villain.
Poor Karin. Even as I continue to draft this piece, I have no idea whether or not she is going to make it out of all of this alive (or still undead). The “Muse” has decided the fates of pretty much everyone else; I guess we’ll all have to see with Karin.
Please leave a comment about the story/chapter if you have the time and/or inclination.
P.S. Happy New Year!