A/N: This chapter begins shortly after Warlow attacked Charlaine, Braelyn, Adilyn, and Danika (in “INNER-Lude 5”); thus, we will be going “back in time” a bit. However, it will “catch up” with the previous chapter of From the Inside Out. Thus, it should be read after Chapter 35 of From the Inside Out.
After gorging on one of the half-Fae children, but being denied the other three, I was astir with mixed feelings.
I wanted more blood.
But I was ashamed of that which I’d already taken.
I closed my eyes as I ran quickly away from Bon Temps—sticking to the rural areas, of which there were plenty in Northern Louisiana.
At that point, I knew that there was only one being who could bring calm and balance to my life.
“I want Sookie! Need her!” I yelled petulantly—again and again—to the thick foliage as I made my way northwest toward Caddo Lake.
I needed to join—finally—with the woman destined to be my wife and helpmeet. I needed her comfort and steadying spirit during the times when I could not control the monster within me.
But she was lost to me for the moment. And—worse—she had been befouled by the vampire.
Awash in grief and anger, but not wanting the complications involved with rampaging a human town—as I’d done the last time I tasted Fae blood—I withdrew to one of the two “homes” I kept along Caddo Lake. One of them was sublime, a testament to the talent of its architect. The other was a shack, seemingly spawned from the marshes.
The shack better served my needs—and my mood—in that moment.
The dwelling had suffered over the years, crumbling more and more with each storm, but I’d never been one to need “creature comforts.”
As I’d run from Bon Temps to Caddo Lake, the blood upon my clothing had dried and caked, so I stripped and threw my soiled garments into the dwelling’s old hearth before burning them.
It was approximately 3:00 in the afternoon, and I was tired, for—despite being immune to the sunlight—I did need sleep. So, with my belly full of delicious half-Fae blood—sweetened even further since the “donors” had been children—I lay upon the old mattress that served as the only furniture in the dwelling’s bedroom. Of course, my other home on the lake was more comfortable, but I intended to share that one with Sookie, so I did not want to soil it—with either my blood-laden scent or my dark humor.
I pulled a shabby, moth-eaten blanket over my body and curled into a ball.
“Fairies,” I muttered
I still considered them my people, and I hoped that making more of them would lead to my salvation—a “re-turning” which would cure me of my thirst for their blood.
“Curse you, Lilith!” I cried out into the afternoon light. “Curse you for making me a monster to my own kind!”
Fairies had been my bane since I’d been turned—tasty temptations that were difficult to resist when I allowed myself to actually “smell” them. On the rare occasions when I’d stifled my senses, I had been able to be around them—safely enough. For example, when I’d found the part-Fae, Ethaline, I’d controlled myself enough to make her my ward—not that I spent more than a few weeks a year with her. I’d given her a comfortable life in a comfortable home with a governess to oversee her day-to-day existence. I’d always intended to “match” her with John Stackhouse, so—once Ethaline had been of age—I’d arranged for her to become a governess in Bon Temps.
From there, John and Ethaline did the work of getting together; both being part-Fae, they were drawn to each other from their first meeting.
On a few occasions after that, I “visited” the Stackhouse family as Ethaline’s guardian under the pretext of “checking in” on the young couple. Of course, I’d had to stifle my senses during those visits too. But I’d eventually gotten what I wanted: the signed contract with John.
However, limiting my senses in any way—especially when I was in one of Niall’s old haunts—was dangerous. Thankfully, my old adversary didn’t discover that he’d fathered a child with John’s mother, Kate, until after the contract was signed and sealed.
But, then again, my sense of smell wasn’t always that useful when it came to Niall, for he had the ability to cover his own scent—a rare skill, though it had been prominent in his family.
I smiled. Unbeknownst to Niall, I had been born with that same ability, and it had carried over to my vampire existence. Ironically enough, though Niall tended to cover his scent only at night—in order to hide from vampires—I covered mine most days so that no one would become aware that I did not suffer a daily “death” as other vampires did. During our millennia-long game of cat-and-mouse, I’d let Niall smell me many times—always at night and sometimes at inopportune moments for me. In this way, I’d successfully covered up the fact that I had the skill to cover my scent at all.
As a matter of fact, my ability to manipulate my scent had become more nuanced and powerful since my turning; as I’d aged and grown stronger, I’d learned that I could cover my vampire or my fairy scent at will—leaving me smelling like only one or the other.
Covering my Fae scent so that I smelled 100% vampire was so easy that I could quite literally do it in my sleep. Covering my vampire scent so that I smelled completely like a fairy was almost as easy—though I couldn’t do it as I slept. This skill also “slipped” a bit when I let my emotions get the best of me. Ironically enough, covering both of my scents at once was easier than covering just my vampire scent; however, I could maintain this complete “lack” of scent for only about ten hours at a time before I began “slipping.” And I was always tired afterwards.
I’d also spent years learning witchcraft in order to develop potions which could manipulate my scent even more. I was currently wearing a potion that would make me smell like a human-fairy hybrid to any Weres, shifters, or fairies I ran into—a needed “disguise,” given the fact that a fairy community was rumored to exist in the area. Plus, I had no idea whether Sookie had inherited the common Fae ability of an enhanced sense of smell. Sadly, the potion didn’t fool vampires, for the “mechanics” of their senses worked differently from a fairy’s. Thus, they could smell the “magic” over the human scent I had fabricated; however, one could not have everything.
Especially not where magic was concerned.
Plus, that deficit shouldn’t have ever fucking mattered! Because Sookie wasn’t supposed to be consorting with vampires!
I growled. I’d spent years working on the potion—all so that I could court Sookie as a hybrid just like herself! And now all of my effort was for nothing!
In anger, I hit a hole into the wall next to the mattress. By now, I should have been becoming more and more important in Sookie’s life! I’d planned so carefully! She was to help “discover” me following my “attack by vampire.” Then her compassion and her curiosity about my telepathy should—would—have caused her to take an interest in me. I’d hoped to be the “first of her kind” that she’d met—a fairy-human hybrid who could commiserate with her about the difficulties of being “different” among humans. I had been confident that Sookie would quickly begin to love me, and only when she was already mine—body and soul—did I intend to reveal more about myself and our shared destiny.
Perhaps it was hubris that made me want to win Sookie, rather than just take her—despite the contract giving me the right to her. Hell—I’d hoped to keep that document’s existence from her completely! Selfishly, I’d wanted her love and devotion to be the foundation of our union, rather than the scribbled signature of her forebear.
However, my plans would now never take root because of Sookie’s poor life choices! I punched another hole in the wall, and the shack creaked tenuously around me. I took a few deep breaths, inhaling swamp air.
After a few minutes of rhythmic breathing, a practice I no longer needed to do—but one which refreshed me in ways it could have never done for a “normal” vampire—I finally calmed myself. “I will be able to convince my Sookie of her errors in judgment soon enough,” I assured myself.
Once again, I lay on my back, looking up through a hole in the ceiling and studying the changes in the sky’s color as the afternoon waned into evening.
Still unable to sleep, I found myself cataloging my three unique abilities—the “gifts” which had kept me alive for millennia as I’d waited for my chance to make amends for the sins I’d committed in the past—sins against my own kind.
The first, of course, was my ability to manipulate or suppress my scent.
The second was my telepathic prowess, which had also grown and evolved over the years. Though my ability to read the thoughts of others had remained virtually the same after I’d been turned, I could now shield my whole mind—or just parts of my mind—at will. That was how I’d been able to let Sookie in to only thoughts that I’d wanted her to “hear,” thoughts that had been complete fiction. Indeed, practicing on Ethaline when she was younger—under the pretense of helping her with her telepathy—I’d learned to “create” memories that she’d not been able to distinguish from truths. Moreover, I’d been able to hide most facets of my “true self” from her. I knew that these skills would come in handy when dealing with Sookie.
Over time, I’d also learned to shield my mind so well that no telepath—not even Niall—could pick up any signs of me whatsoever unless he or she was literally within a few feet of my position. Again, this skill cost me much energy to maintain for longer than a few hours; however, it had helped me to elude Niall, an extremely powerful telepath, many times throughout the years.
My third unique ability was—by far—the one that I most treasured: my ability to walk freely and safely in the sun. As a vampire, I should have been destroyed by the orb, but fairies were creatures of the light, and my turning had not negated that fact. Hell—I hadn’t even lost my tan completely! Thus, I could easily fit in with humans.
These three gifts—rooted in my fairy nature and strengthened following my turning—had served me well over the years. And—of course—I’d also received the normal vampiric gifts upon my turning. I’d been strong as a fairy, but that did not compare with my vampiric prowess.
I was also faster as a vampire; indeed, I grew faster with each year I lived. Having never had the fairy gift of teleportation, I’d moved only slightly faster than an average human did before I was brought over. Disappointingly, I’d never developed the gift of full flight as a vampire, though I’d eventually been able to “hover” above the earth so that I didn’t have to leave tracks behind in it.
I’d also gained the ability to glamour. In fact, given my advanced age, I could now glamour almost anyone of any species—even younger fairies and demons. Moreover, I could glamour the occasional weak-minded vampire! The two-natured had failed to be a challenge to me many, many years before, and I’d made sure that I could glamour fairy-human hybrids by experimenting with Ethaline and John Stackhouse, though I’d not needed glamour to convince him to sign away his descendent.
Indeed, my gifts—both Fae and vampiric—had served me very well throughout my long years—years which now felt like they were catching up with me. I sighed. I needed to rest. In my excitement to finally begin things with Sookie, I’d been up for almost nine days straight; plus, I’d been expelling quite a bit of energy to cover up my vampiric scent for much of that time.
I closed my eyes, willing myself to sleep. Sometimes I envied “pure” vampires for their ability to simply die for the day—no matter what their toils were. My own worries kept me restless for an hour longer before I finally drifted into dreamless peace.
I woke up refreshed and recharged, having slept for almost twenty-two hours. This amount wasn’t that uncommon for me, however, considering the fact that I tended to sleep in spurts so that I could stay awake for several days and nights in a row.
I’d once been forced to stay awake for 21 days—my record. That incident had occurred more than two thousand years before and was the closest that Niall had ever come to destroying me. To escape him, I’d had to use magic to hide in another realm—learned magic rather than innate magic.
And learned magic was always trickier to wield.
Inadvertently, I’d banished myself to a realm where the inhabitants would certainly not have welcomed me if they’d found me. I’d had to stay awake to elude them. However, eventually, I figured out how to return to the human realm. Upon getting to safety, I’d slept for almost as long as I’d been gone—just to regenerate my strength.
I inhaled deeply. Unsurprisingly, the scents of the marsh and the rotting wood of the shack were prominent. And—with those scents—came my memory of why I was in my current location.
Immediately, I found myself livid!
The face of the little girl whose neck I’d snapped seemed to pulse in my brain—as did the face of the other child whom I’d done my best to drain. Had she lived? Or had I murdered two more of my kind?
“Why could I not maintain control?!” I yelled out, reminding myself of something I’d “conveniently forgotten” before I’d sought my sleep: that I’d intended to use the Bellefleur children as tests of my control.
I’d failed those tests.
For, indeed, I’d not planned on killing the children! I’d planned to feed generously from them and then practice my glamouring of Halflings!
“Fuck!” I yelled.
I growled and wallowed in my guilt, shredding the musty mattress in my anger.
If only Sookie had not betrayed me by coupling with a vampire!
If only she could “feel” the fate that had been pulling us together for centuries!
“She’s mine!” I said assuredly, even as I tasted blood.
My own blood.
I closed my eyes and—once again—tried to take ahold of my emotions.
“It’s being so close to my dreams. That is what has me so volatile—so apt to lose control,” I proclaimed to no one.
Plus, I had already been depleted by the time I’d “challenged” myself with the girls. I silently promised myself that I would rest as much as possible and feed plentifully in order to ensure that I didn’t accidentally harm Sookie once she was mine.
And, of course, Sookie’s blood would be much more diluted than the Bellefleur girls’.
“She’ll be perfect,” I said confidently to myself. “As soon as the vampire’s blood is out of her. And his spawn is removed,” I added to the walls of the empty shack.
Resolved, I did my best to bathe in the marsh before making my way to the “legitimate” safe house that I kept on Caddo Lake: a home I’d acquired with Sookie in mind.
My short run having dried me, I used my fingerprint to open the back door.
To calm myself further, I surveyed the home for what must have been the hundredth time—making sure that everything was perfectly placed in anticipation of my soon-to-be bride.
“Perfect,” I muttered.
Though the dwelling was extremely secluded, I’d made sure that it was decorated by a top-rate interior designer—before I’d, unfortunately, had to kill her.
After all, by the time I was done with her, she’d been missing for a month, and—though I could have glamoured her—I’d not wanted to take any risks too close to the time when I intended to secure Sookie as my own.
Of course, before I’d abducted the designer, I’d glamoured her to leave behind evidence to suggest that she’d been planning to attend a meeting in downtown Shreveport, which was where the authorities had begun looking when the woman had disappeared.
I’d kept the designer glamoured and at my newest home for weeks, feeding upon her intermittently, even as I required her to design every aspect of the home in her “free time.” I’d drawn pictures of the humble Stackhouse house from my memory, so that some quaint elements could be added to the lake house’s interior in order to make Sookie feel “at home” there. Even after the designer had given me a complete list of everything I needed in order to make our “collaboration” come to life, I’d kept her glamoured—until I was certain that the finished product was satisfactory. And then I’d drained her and “given” her remains to the swamplands—as tribute.
For her good service, I’d made sure that she’d not suffered.
I smiled as I tread into the perfect bedroom—where I intended to make love to Sookie for the first time. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a way for the house to have turned out better. The design was a mixture of the elegant and the rustic, and I was certain that Sookie would fall in love with it.
Despite my confidence—it took everything within me not to destroy something as I thought about what Sookie might be doing even then.
With a fucking vampire no less!
Was he fucking her?
Was she moaning his name?
I shook my head, determined not to think about such obscenities!
Instead, I went into the bathroom to shower, reminding myself that I could not blame Sookie for her ignorance. She likely didn’t even know about the contract I’d made with her ancestor. She didn’t realize that she’d been mine since she was born.
Before her birth, in fact.
Confident in destiny, I reminded myself that Sookie had been fated to be mine. And I recalled my own shortcomings, mistakes, and iniquities throughout my life. Sookie was allowed to have her own before we came together.
But not after.
As I dried myself, I resolved to be patient, though firm, with her once she was with me. I did not want to break her, after all. The vampire, Northman, and the children she carried were mere complications, but temporary ones.
Plus, I reminded myself that the vampire’s spawns were also positive signs. They proved that Sookie had the ability to bestow her light upon even a corpse! And I was so much more than that. I was still as much Fae as I was vampire, despite the efforts of my maker.
Yes—Sookie would soon understand that I was preferable to the vampire scum. I could exist within the sunlight with her. I could even eat food in small quantities. And our children would restart a line of the Sky Fae that should never have been broken—and wouldn’t have been if Lilith hadn’t interfered in my life.
Sookie and I were nothing less than destiny incarnate!
And—once she’d borne our last child—years from now—I would become Sookie’s maker. She would walk the world with me until the end of time—as my true mate.
“My soul mate,” I smiled.
Feeling more positive, I dressed after tidying up after myself. If Sookie had foolishly bonded with the vampire as I suspected she had, based upon the existence of the children, I’d not be able to bring her to our home until Northman was dead, but I wanted it to be ready for her nonetheless.
Hopefully, Northman would prove careless. If not, there were places where I could take Sookie that he’d never “feel” her—places between realms where few could track her and even fewer could enter.
I left the house pristine—and hungry.
Though needing my energy, I didn’t dare feed from any humans who lived along the sparsely populated Caddo Lake. There was no need drawing attention to myself if an “accident” occurred.
Instead, along the way back to Bon Temps, I stopped at a house in a subdivision on the outskirts of Blanchard. Inside were three adult humans. Because I would need to have the energy to completely cover my scent and maintain my mind shields for a long period of time, I decided to drain the three and then cover the deaths of my victims with a good dousing of gasoline and a match.
Other than weighing down dead bodies and putting them into the ocean, a fire was still the best way to cover up a thorough feeding. With a smirk, I considered simply leaving the humans as a mess for the area’s sheriff to clean up; hell, giving Northman extra work could help my cause! But I’d not yet covered up my scent. Plus, though it was almost sunset, details such as times of death were more accurately determined by human authorities nowadays. The last thing I needed was to alert Northman to the possibility that there was a vampire who could exist during the day.
The Bellefleur brats were already a loose end that I hoped to have the chance to tie up. However, I doubted anyone would really take the frightened ramblings of children seriously. And there was little chance that they would know who I was anyway.
I was careful as I approached Sookie’s home, and I immediately sensed that the area was not nearly as deserted as it had been the day before. In addition to several Weres patrolling the perimeter, I could sense magic.
“Wards,” I muttered to myself angrily.
And I couldn’t even take out my frustration by killing the fucking Weres, for they were carefully staying within the magical barrier!
Perhaps the vampire was a more formidable strategist than I’d thought.
Although I couldn’t kill them, the Weres were easy enough to avoid, given their limitations—though one or two of them had more talent than the others. Notably, there was a female among that group who seemed to have especially good instincts.
By then, I’d stifled my scent completely, so I knew that the bitch’s nose couldn’t pick me up; plus, I was careful not to make any sound. However, the Were actually seemed to “feel” the stirring of the air around me when I moved quickly, so I slowed down as I tracked away from her to the other side of the property.
Once there, I used my sense of smell to “study” the wards around the house, for there were several woven together.
They were composed of a deceptively simple kind of magic—an old kind of magic.
I grunted in anger. It was the overcomplicated magical spells that tended to be the easiest breached. Determined to make and attempt, however, I followed the outermost ward to where I knew the cornerstone would be located—if the witch was worth her salt (pun intended). I found the cornerstone easily. The cornerstone was where a group of wards was at its most “vulnerable.” For, if a cornerstone was damaged or removed, then the wards could be easily breeched with a single blast of fairy light.
First, I tried digging under the cornerstone’s location. I had tunneled under many a ward in my day, after all. However, the witch who’d constructed the magic had been clever enough to have made sure that her wards extended well into the earth. Next, I tried to steal the cornerstone by digging it out, but—whatever the object was—I couldn’t get close to it. Finally, I attempted to destroy the cornerstone by firing my light toward where I knew the object was located, but, again I was denied!
Enraged, but not wanting to give any of the patrolling Weres the opportunity to find a sign of my failure, I made sure that the disturbances I’d made to the ground were obscured before leaving the area and making my way to the home where I’d killed the girl the day before. Unfortunately, the only beings there were a team of construction workers, already assessing the damage I’d made to the house. I could smell that quite a few Weres and a shifter had been in the area, obviously trying to track me. I flew back to the spot I’d destroyed in the woods and found two distinct vampire scents there: Northman and another vampire who smelled vaguely familiar.
However, I couldn’t quite place her scent.
After I removed myself from that scene, I decided to scout out a hiding place so that I could observe as much as possible of Sookie’s property without being seen.
However, it was impossible to find a place that would give me a vantage point of the house! With difficulty, I refrained from yelling out my anger. Clearly, the vampire was trying to cut off my access to Sookie, but, at least, she was back in Bon Temps. The wards clearly muted the fairy scents on the property, but I could still smell what I was sure was Sookie’s human scent.
She was approximately one hundred yards away from me, but it might as well have been one hundred miles.
So close and yet so far—as the human cliché went.
Frustrated, I finally found a decent hiding place in one of the taller trees in the area. It’s dead leaves provided me with plenty of foliage to cover me from below, and the upper branches gave me a high enough vantage point so that I could see most of Sookie’s driveway, though—infuriatingly—none of the dwelling itself. Still, I determined that I would stay there until morning in an attempt to better understand the defenses and tactics of my foe.
From my hiding place, I could tell that the witch’s wards were as impenetrable from the air as they were from the ground, so even if I could have flown, that gift would have been useless in the situation. I had to admit that I was impressed as I began my survey of Northman’s other defenses.
Inhaling deeply, I discerned eleven Weres. Seven were patrolling the grounds. Three were inside or very near to the house. The final Were, the bitch who’d seemed to sense my presence earlier, was scouting the property lines with the vampiress, whose scent I’d thought I’d recognized from the grove. As she drew closer, I could pick up that the vampiress was likely “related” to Northman, which may have been why her scent had seemed familiar to me.
I also smelled the witch who’d set the wards drawing towards the Were bitch and the vampiress. She was likely surveying her handiwork.
In the house, there was another witch too—though one who was much less powerful—and, therefore, not of concern to me. I immediately refocused on the ward-setting witch.
She smelled of sage and ammonia. The clever bitch had made sure to eradicate the scents of the ingredients she’d used to construct her wards by using both magic and human chemicals.
I frowned. Sadly, despite the common belief among the ignorant, killing a witch didn’t negate all of his or her spells. On the contrary, a witch’s death actually helped to “set” his or her work—making the spells permanent!
Thus, killing the witch would actually be counterproductive. Even torturing her wouldn’t help my cause. Magic didn’t allow for a protection spell to be “breached” when the ward-setter had suffered physical harm. Indeed, the only way I knew of to lower wards was to counteract them through opposing magic, and to do that, I would need to know exactly how the witch had made her wards. However, witches didn’t give up their secrets easily. Still—I determined that I would find out any information I could to help me to coerce the witch into giving me the complete recipe of her wards.
If she had loved ones, I would “detain” them. And then she’d spill her guts without my needing to touch a hair on her head.
I inhaled deeply—”looking” for Sookie’s scent, even though I could pick up only her human essence.
Unfortunately, as soon as I scented her, I also scented the seed of the vampire.
Fresh—as if Sookie had been recently fucked by him.
And maturing—the children.
At least scents of Sookie’s offspring were interesting to me—in an academic way. As with Sookie, the wards prevented me from smelling their fairy blood. So I was able to scent only their “other” blood.
Undeniably, I could smell Sookie’s part in them. But I could also pick up the vampire’s contribution to them. What little “man” Northman had left in him was reflected in their scents. Humans nowadays tended to be tainted by the scents of pollution and processed foods, but the babies Sookie carried smelled “fresh”—as if they’d been conceived when the world was unspoiled. Sookie smelled wonderful, but it was her fairy nature which supplied her “cleanliness.” The children seemed to have inherited their father’s untarnished scent as if his DNA had been in stasis—and protected from the world around it—for a thousand years.
I suppose it had.
My fangs longed to pop downward, as I contemplated feeding on the Northman children. I could only imagine how delectable they’d be. Since they were part Fae, their unspoiled human blood would actually make up the “inferior” part of them! And that inferior part would be a hundred times better than the sludge that even the “cleanest” and healthiest humans could offer nowadays.
I licked my lips. Indeed, it would be difficult to spare Sookie’s children once she was mine, but I was resolved to do just that if their lives could buy me Sookie’s gratitude.
Of course, I could also smell Northman himself in the reinvigorated homestead. I found myself hoping that he had needed to dig a hole in order to escape the sun’s wrath.
Finally, I scented the presence of Andy Bellefleur in the home—as well as his daughters—at least the human parts of them.
I stifled a growl. Their presence was a complication. In my bloodlust, had I given my identity away to the young fairies, some of whom were bound to be telepaths? Was it possible that the dots had been connected between Ben Flynn and Macklyn Warlow?
I shook my head as I realized that the persona of Ben Flynn was no longer viable to use with Sookie. This was an inconvenience, but I was determined not to lose hope.
I had waited millennia for Sookie; waiting longer for her to accept me was merely an annoying delay. What she might already know about me because of my ill-advised attack on the Bellefleur girls wouldn’t be significant in the long run.
I contemplated dropping my mental barriers just long enough to try to pick up the thoughts of those on the property, but I determined that wouldn’t be wise. I didn’t have any idea what Sookie’s range was. The possible telepathic powers of the Bellefleur children were another variable. Plus, because of the wards, I had no way of knowing if there were full-blooded fairies in Sookie’s home. No—I couldn’t risk allowing anyone to find my mind among the trees.
Resolute to be patient, I continued my watch as I formulated plans about how to keep Sookie “in line.” Seduction was no longer a viable option, but coercion certainly was; I would discover all whom she cared about and use their safety to buy her cooperation. Indeed, the only life I wouldn’t “give her” in exchange for her cooperation would be Northman’s. He had to die so that any blood he had inside of Sookie would lose its influence upon her.
However, I would make sure that she knew that his death was because she’d inadvisably formed a bond with him. That bond left me with no choice but to destroy him.
Over time, I knew that the cooperation I coerced from Sookie would turn into a grudging acceptance of her situation. Next would come affection. And, finally, she would learn to love me. Of course, once Sookie and I had bonded by blood, I intended to hurry along the stages of her emotions.
I watched Northman’s hired animals as they continued their systematic prowling. In my opinion, Weres were fucking useless. They made poor food sources, and they weren’t “enhanced” enough beyond humans to be worth the effort of interaction.
I shook my head in judgment and tried listening—with my ears, rather than with my mind—to the goings-on in Sookie’s home. However—just as the wards interfered with my ability to pick up fairy essences—they impeded the movement of sound through the air.
I could make out the words spoken by the guards when they were within a few feet of the property’s perimeter, but even those voices were distorted. The sounds originating from further away reached my ears only in undecipherable waves.
As I continued to breathe in any scent I could, I noticed that—if anything—the wards around Sookie’s home were strengthening, their magic thickening in the air and seeming to extend outward. In fact, after a while, even being as close as I was to the properly line became somewhat uncomfortable.
However, I wasn’t about to allow Northman to push me further away from Sookie than I already was!
No! I was determined to stay where I was, just as I’d planned to do—unless, of course, a foolproof opportunity to kill Northman or to kidnap Sookie presented itself.
As the night dragged on, I will admit to suffering from boredom, though I was becoming better informed about Eric Northman. He was a tactician, and he seemed to think that—if he gathered an army—he could defeat me.
Indeed, much to my chagrin, Northman certainly knew about me—more than I would have wanted! My name came up several times that night; in fact, as soon as the vampires had moved beyond Sookie’s property line, I could hear that I was the chief subject of conversion.
I was almost flattered.
Despite my own boredom, there had been quite a bit of action swirling around the Nordic vampire. At around midnight, another vampire arrived—younger than Northman, but clearly powerful. Not long thereafter, Northman and the two other vampires on the property took Andy Bellefleur to the king’s mansion across the cemetery—where there were already seven other nondescript humans. From my hiding place, I could easily hear them all—even though they were inside the large dwelling.
Come to find out, the King of Louisiana, Bill Compton, had been killed, and Northman was the acting monarch.
I was annoyed at myself. During the past few weeks, I’d focused so much attention upon getting my home at Caddo Lake ready—since I’d just returned from the exile that Claudine had subjected me to more than a decade before—that I’d made only a short study of local vampire politics.
More frustrating, however, was what was shining on Northman’s finger: a fucking wedding ring! It seemed as if the vampire had actually married the woman who was to be my wife!
And another reason for him to die—slowly!
I might have decided to use “kid gloves” with Sookie, but—with Northman—I was ready, willing, able, and—especially—hopeful that I would have the opportunity to levy ample punishment upon his body.
Once inside the previous vampire king’s mansion, Northman and Bellefleur discussed how the witch—named Amelia—intended to set wards around that property too. I considered attacking before that could happen, but almost as soon as the wards were mentioned, I saw a tell-tale whitish light surround the mansion—indicating that the dwelling was now owned by a human.
Of course, all vampires could tell whether they’d been invited—or uninvited—from a human home when they tried to enter or were forced to exit. But—around my sixteen-hundredth year, I’d also begun to see a faint light encapsulating homes I couldn’t enter.
Andy Bellefleur’s next words confirmed my suspicions about the dwelling’s new ownership.
“Oh shit! Uh—Eric, Thalia, Ian—come on in! Uh—back in! Uh—y’all don’t have to leave!” he yelled out in a quick jumble, clearly trying to issue his invitation even as the vampires in question were being expelled from the house.
Northman chuckled out his thanks.
A few minutes later, the vampires whished back to Sookie’s property and returned just as quickly with two witches: the strong one, Amelia, and a weaker one called Holly. Moments later, I heard “popping” sounds indicating that more than one person had teleported, and then suddenly I smelled the Bellefleur girls. I growled, the sound was barely audible even to my own ears.
Obviously, the ward-setter truly was capable of fully obscuring Fae scents, and the girls’ scents being reintroduced to me without a warning made it difficult to maintain my control.
I wanted to throw myself against Andy Bellefleur’s brand new home, but the rational part of me knew that I wouldn’t be able to breech the home in time to get what I wanted. Moreover, there were three very powerful vampires—not to mention two witches and a couple of Weres—between me and the owners of those delicious scents.
Of course, I was stronger than all of those Supernatural beings combined, and I was confident that I could defeat them, but there was a slight possibility that I could be killed—especially if I allowed myself to be overtaken by bloodlust. Moreover, I knew that Northman was a warrior. My brief research into his background had indicated that he’d bested quite a few vampires well-beyond his own age.
One-on-one, I had absolutely no fear of him. However, surrounded by allies who were formidable in and of themselves? No—the risk wasn’t worth taking when none of the vampires would be a factor during the day.
I inhaled to enjoy the Halflings’ scents for a moment longer, but then tried to ignore them—for my own sanity—even as I began to plan my next move.
The existence of the powerful wards around Sookie’s home was a variable I’d not contemplated before that night. As long as Sookie was inside of them, I could not reach her. No—my best strategy would be to find a way to get Sookie to leave the safety of the wards. Perhaps, she would be foolish enough to keep working for the shifter; snatching her from that shit-hole would be easy enough. Otherwise, I figured that I could lure her out by threatening her friends and family.
And, of course, manipulating the witch to spill her secrets was still a viable option.
I was determined to work through my current dilemma to secure Sookie using both of these angles—unless a better option presented itself.
Just as I’d determined my immediate strategy, I noticed Amelia step out onto the wide porch of the restored antebellum mansion. The female vampiress and the female Were accompanied her. Amelia was chanting, and I studied her as she progressed toward what must have been a corner of Andy Bellefleur’s new estate.
Again, I contemplated killing her and her companions before she could begin setting her wards, but I decided that this would be counterproductive. Instead, I took a mental note of how she worked in case I needed that information later.
Amelia began by digging a hole and setting her spell’s cornerstone in place. Then she raised the first ward directly around it. From there, she worked outward—until I could tell that the whole property, which was quite large, was surrounded with a basic ward. Contrary to what some might have thought, an effective ward system was actually composed of many wards, each with a slightly different design.
As I looked on, I could tell that Amelia was not only a natural, but also a creative witch, as she set layer after layer of magical barriers around the home. Each “resident” was given his or her own unique barrier, and then all of these wards were “braided” together. Not surprisingly, the human occupants were unable to inspire wards that were very strong, but once braided together—and then added to the wards inspired by the Halflings, the other witch, and the vampiress—the barrier around the home amplified exponentially.
After that, Amelia, bolstered her wards with the energies of the others on the property—the other vampires and the Weres. Even if they weren’t to reside permanently at the home, their strength as “concerned parties” contributed.
Next, she recited an ancient Fae spell, which immediately hid the children’s scents from me. I was surprised that the witch was able to speak the incantation in a flawless fairy dialect. Clearly, she’d learned it from one of the exiled Fire Fae—now commonly referred to as Daemons.
After that, Amelia used a simple privacy spell to distort the noise from within the home.
And, finally, she “encouraged” her wards to draw their strength from the cornerstone—a cornerstone based upon “love” rather than “power.”
Each of Amelia’s wards was simple, but together they were a wonderful construction—each as unique and vibrant as the individual or motive that inspired it. And—all of them immediately began to strengthen even more as they fed from the cornerstone. The witch’s last incantation involved “legacy.” Basically speaking, if any of the people inspiring the wards died, the wards would become even stronger.
I couldn’t help but to marvel at Amelia’s creativity and genius. Knowing that she’d constructed similar wards around Sookie’s home didn’t leave me hopeful that they’d be easy to counteract, even if I had the recipe.
However, what did give me a little hope was finding out something “personal” about the talented witch. As soon as she was done setting the wards, she almost fainted, having expelled much of her energy. However, she didn’t hit the ground. And it hadn’t been the vampiress who’d caught her either. It had been the female Were, who immediately began to comfort and kiss the witch.
It didn’t take Amelia long to recover adequately enough to walk, but the female Were, called Maria-Star, continued to fuss over her well-being. Clearly the two were a couple—and a close one at that. I filed away that potentially important information for later.
The wards set, I watched Northman and several Weres clear a path through a thick patch of trees and Louisiana underbrush. Northman uprooted several large trees before leaving the others to complete the work. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the site being worked upon was located at the only point where Sookie’s property shared a border with Bellefleur property.
Again, I had to hand it to Eric. He was a smart motherfucker.
Soon after a rudimentary path was completed, Maria-Star and another Were, whose name I learned was Tray, escorted Amelia back toward Sookie’s home, but they quickly returned, joining the three vampires at the border of the two properties. From their position near the wards’ edge, I was able to hear them as they discussed the “hunt” they were going to conduct—a hunt for me.
After the “search party” left, I continued to watch Sookie’s property, amusing myself by imagining Northman and his friends flailing uselessly in the dark as they attempted to track me. Hell—for the diversion—I almost followed them, just to witness Northman’s failure, but I didn’t want to risk being spotted. At this point—if they saw me without an accompanying scent—they would likely figure out that I had the ability to hide myself from them. And I didn’t want them to get wind of my “extras.”
I also contemplated tracking them so that I could just kill them and get them out of the way, but—again—I put aside my more violent inclinations. I was already feeling the strain caused by my continuous efforts to camouflage myself, and I didn’t want to meet Northman and his allies when I wasn’t at my best, especially when there really wasn’t an advantage in pushing the issue.
Plus, if I acted now, then Northman’s death would need to occur right away—so that I could deal with the others.
Better to wait for a situation which would allow me to take the Viking captive.
So I could have some fun with him.
As amusing as tallying the ways that I wanted to torture Northman was, the most amusing part of my night—by far—was watching a vampiress, who was clearly up to no good, approach Sookie’s home from the direction of the cemetery.
Despite the entertainment value in watching her, I had to give her credit for some things.
First, she was clearly wearing some kind of potion which greatly muddled her scent. If I hadn’t known that she was a vampire from her movements, I would have thought that she was a Were. She was stealthy enough and careful enough to avoid the Were sentries, but it was difficult to hold back my laughter when she was repelled by the ward. As soon as she tried to touch it directly, she was repelled fifty feet toward the cemetery.
Quite amusing, indeed!
And the look on her face was priceless, racing from pain to frustration to anger to scheming.
A woman after my own heart.
After a few moments, she withdrew from the site, and—though Northman and his group had yet to return—I decided to follow her.
She dashed quickly to a car she’d parked on one of the remote access roads at the back end of the cemetery. Amusingly, she kept to the speed limit as she made her way to a vampire-friendly motel in Bossier City. She checked in under the name Jane Jones before glamouring the attendant to remember her as a blonde human male.
More and more amusing!
I watched as the vampiress parked her car near her motel room and gathered her few belongings, and then I struck, knocking her out before taking her into the room she’d just rented. Her belongings included a silver chain, and I used her own gloves to secure her with it.
An intolerance for silver was the only vampire weakness that had befallen me—though my sensitivity didn’t compare to that of “pure” vampires. Certainly, silver was an irritant to me, causing me to break out in a rash of sorts, but it didn’t actually burn me. Still—there was no need for any irritation, thanks to the woman’s supple—and stretchable—gloves.
Clearly, they were very expensive.
Thankfully, I didn’t have long to wait until she woke up.
“Who the fuck are you?” she asked with an icy British accent.
“You go first,” I grinned.
A/N: Howdy! A lot of you wondered how Nora would manage to find Warlow. I figured it would make sense that he “find” her. I’ve designed Warlow as a kind of bipolar character–though most bipolar people aren’t violent. So I guess he’s a mix of bipolar plus sociopath. He truly doesn’t take into account anything that is in the way of what he wants, and he can’t fathom why others wouldn’t understand that.
I’m so sorry that I didn’t get you a piece of the INNER-Verse last week. I was hurrying to do final edits of my piece Time after Time so that I could get it all out into the world quickly.
Thanks for your patience!
There will be more of Eric’s POV and From the Inside Out tomorrow.
The BACK button will take you to Chapter 35 of From the Inside Out; the NEXT button will take you to Chapter 36 of From the Inside Out.