Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters in True Blood or the Southern Vampire Mysteries. So neither copyright infringement nor offense is meant. I simply want to make the characters do what I wanted them to do for a while. I am especially “unownerly” when it comes to this story. You will recognize a lot of the dialogue throughout as being quoted from Season 5 of True Blood, though I’ve tried to use Eric’s thoughts to make this story “different” from its source. That said, I claim no ownership to the quoted material and have placed it in bold so that it is set apart from my own words.
That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough.
from “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.
I glanced at Nora, even as I processed the fact that it had not been she who had freed Russell. At least that was some consolation—though Nora had clearly been involved in the Sanguinista movement for quite some time.
“Why?” Bill asked Salome. He was still obviously reeling from her confession.
“Russell Edgington was the only vampire I knew of powerful enough to take Roman Zimojic out,” Salome said coldly, considering she’d been the Guardian’s lover for years. As she spoke, Russell bowed like he was a goddamned virtuoso.
“Power aside,” Bill commented, “you had unparalleled access to the Guardian. If you wanted him gone, wouldn’t it have been easier to do it yourself?”
I almost scoffed aloud. Salome clearly didn’t want to dirty her dainty little hands. And she was also ambitious. She wanted to stake her claim to Roman’s position. She wanted to be the new Guardian, and that meant that she could not kill the old one.
“The Book is very clear on this subject,” Salome said to Bill, who’d clearly not read the entire Book of the Vampyr. “‘The Guardian’s blood is sacrosanct. He alone shall determine when his essence shall flow,'” she quoted.
Russell wasn’t the one with the “new maker” in the room. Nora was clearly Salome’s creation; I saw none of Godric in her anymore. None of herself. She’d been someone that Salome had made in order to have a handy scapegoat when the occasion called for it. I could see that Salome had used her, but it was clear that Nora couldn’t recognize that.
I almost pitied her. Almost.
“What happened tonight was inevitable,” Salome said, still focusing on Bill. I was struck by the fact that she was appealing to him, much more so than to me. Indeed, it seemed as if she did have him in mind for her next leading man. “But I say this with the deepest regret,” she added.
I was proud of Bill as he called her out for what he aptly labeled her “Bullshit!”
“No,” Salome assured passionately. “I want to share it. With Nora, with Russell, with the two of you, with everyone. Too much vampire blood has been spilled in the singular pursuit of power. But why? When Lilith gives us more than enough to go around?”
Even as she spoke, I was disgusted at Russell’s pious performance and Nora’s spiritual fervor. Moreover, I was trying to reconcile Salome’s words with the facts. And they simply didn’t fit. Though Roman had been brutal to his known enemies, what Guardian hadn’t been? Indeed, though the Great Revelation had made vampires the targets of human hate groups, very few deaths had actually occurred at human hands—until, that is, Russell Edgington’s display on television.
That act—by the Sanguinista’s new fucking mascot—had been what led to more blood loss. And it had been the efforts of Nan Flanagan—with Roman spurring her on—that had helped to reestablish vampires as “safe” to be around.
Yes—Roman had desired power, but it seemed clear to me that the blood loss had grown as the Sanguinistas had coveted that power. Just because Salome meant to place her own regime on a foundation of fundamentalism didn’t automatically make it any more preferable to Roman’s regime. In fact, to me, it was less preferable.
And it would likely be much bloodier—for both humans and vampires.
I’d witnessed many wars between humans, and—without question—the bloodiest had their roots in religious differences. The greatest of the wars involving vampires, too, had been justified by the same fanatical beliefs that were being spouted by Salome and Nora.
Those beliefs had almost destroyed the soul of my maker—as religious zeal had fueled rampages against humans, Weres, fairies, and even other vampires. Appius Livius Ocella himself had not, according to Godric, been particularly religious; however, he was happy to give religion lip-service in order to stir up his “devoted followers.”
And, looking at Russell, I could see the same kind of widespread violence occurring—all in the name of religious “truth.”
Russell had never been shy about killing in order to get what he wanted—whether that be a monarchy from a vampire queen or simply a crown from a low-level human chieftain.
My father’s crown.
I let my mind wander to what would come of a partnership between Salome and Russell.
Shared power? That was a fucking laugh. Likely, Salome and Russell would eventually tear each other apart for more power—leaving all others in their wake.
I could see whole towns being decimated, justified by Salome’s religion and Russell’s madness. After all, the Book of the Vampyr said: “And their flesh [—human flesh—] shall nourish yours, their blood shall flow within you, for as the beetle nourishes the lark so shall human nourish vampire.”
I blinked and saw Bon Temps burning as vampires swept through it. I saw my bonded in her home—the home I’d remade for her. She was frightened as vampires led by Russell lit her only sanctuary on fire.
I blinked again and remembered Russell’s Weres tearing through my village, biting into the throats of my mother, my sister, and my father—and so many others.
I looked at Nora. A part of me still cared for her—deeply. Otherwise, her actions wouldn’t be hurting me. However, everything she advocated stirred up my worst memories and would lead to my worst fears.
Anger tore through me. I was angry at myself for not killing Russell when I had the chance. I was angry at Bill for making it possible for Russell to know what Sookie was. I was angry at Nora for letting herself be taken in by Salome. I was angry at Godric—for being gone.
I was angry at my bonded, for it was her hand that I wished to see outstretched before me—not Nora’s.
“Never, you Bible-banging cunts!” I seethed being purposely hurtful to her. Maybe I hoped that my strong distaste for my sister’s cause would shake Nora. Maybe I was just being petty and wanted her to hurt as much as I was hurting. Maybe I was just trying to hide my fears.
Maybe there were some roles that I simply wouldn’t play.
Nora shook her head as if her very foundation were shaking. I’m sure that she expected Salome to kill me for my derisive words. I expected nothing less.
As would be expected, Bill’s reaction was less inflammatory, though it was clearly just as disappointing to Salome as my response had been to Nora. “I still believe that without peaceful coexistence between our species neither species will survive. Mainstreaming is the only way,” Bill added with a certain amount of regret.
I had to admire him in that moment as we stood next to each other, ready to be attacked. Ready to be killed.
Salome sighed and then looked at her confederates before looking back at Bill and me.
“Tomorrow night we’re having a ceremony,” she shared, her voice conciliatory—as she obviously attempted to practice the “tolerance” she was preaching. Of course, the ceremony’s aim would be to get us to comply. “An initiation, of sorts,” she went on. “I still would like to give you the option to participate.”
“Mercy”—my ass. I knew what would happen to Bill and me if we didn’t go along with Salome’s little ceremony. “Option”—my shiny pale ass!
“No. Lilith has shown Her mercy,” Salome contradicted.
“Tomorrow night, then,” Salome said, her eyes imploring us—especially Bill—to reconsider.
“Yes,” Bill said, clearly thankful for his continued existence, but also suspicious.
As Bill and I turned to leave, I felt a hand on my shoulder—a gentle touch from which I would have sought comfort in the past.
“Please, Brother,” Nora implored, “reconsider. If you only knew of the transcendence that a connection with Lilith can bring, you would never doubt Her.”
I turned around, ready to ask Nora to reconsider her own position, but the fervor in her eyes told me that she was incapable of doing so. Instead of speaking, I pushed her hand from my shoulder. Her body shook a little.
“I don’t want to lose you, Brother,” she whispered. “Please.”
Salome sighed. “Let us table this debate for the evening,” she said, coming over to place her arm comfortingly around Nora’s shoulder.
I scoffed, knowing that Salome was open to “debate” even less than Roman had been.
Salome ignored my reaction and spoke to Bill and me with something akin to regret in her tone. “I am afraid that—given your response—you will have to spend the rest of the night in the holding cell; however, I will make sure you have fresh blood. And I have arranged for you both to be given copies of the Book of the Vampyr—the true testament of Lilith. I am certain that—if you have the courage to read it and to truly open yourself to the words—then you will be swayed to think in a new way.”
Nora smiled. “Oh yes! Please read it, Brother.”
I didn’t respond to her, instead opting to turn toward the door.
Kibwe appeared, and Bill and I walked toward him. I, for one, was ready to get the fuck out of Salome’s stifling room.
“I very much hope that you choose to read, Mr. Compton,” Salome practically purred.
Bill turned around briefly and gave her a little nod.
“You had not read the book before?” I asked Bill as I lounged as much as possible on the uncomfortable bed in our holding cell. Molly had been gone when we returned. I wondered if she was still un-dead.
I imagined that she was being given the same “choice” we’d been given—the join Salome or meet the truth death “choice.”
“No,” Bill responded even as he continued reading the book. “Lorena wasn’t really big on educating me in vampire matters. And—after I had left her side—I began my service for Sophie-Anne. She was not exactly,” he paused, “known for religion either.”
“No. She was not—though she was certainly of the mindset that humans were only useful in the ways that they could please her.”
He nodded in agreement.
“I am surprised, however, that you didn’t read it after you became king,” I observed.
“It seemed unnecessary,” Bill admitted. “The Authority provided me with the,” he paused, “relevant bullet points.”
“Ah,” I chuckled, “as with any ‘sacred’ text, the Book of the Vampyr can be twisted to support any movement—just like your Christian bible.”
Bill frowned. “I was a devout Christian before my turning.”
“And after?” I asked.
The shame clear in his eyes, Bill looked down. “With Lorena as my maker, I had difficulty hanging onto my,” he paused, “morality.” He raised his head and caught my gaze. “What about you? Did you retain a belief in your gods?”
I considered for a moment. “As I told Roman, I’ve never been overly religious—though I did believe in the Norse gods and goddesses during my human lifetime. And some of that was,” I paused, looking for the right word, “brought over to my un-death. However, I don’t like the idea of my fate being in any god’s hands. Anyone’s hands.”
Bill chuckled. “No—I don’t suppose you would.”
I shrugged. “Maybe my gods are real—or were real for a while. Or maybe it is the Christian God who rules all,” I said contemplatively. “Or maybe it is Lilith. Regardless—when a god or gods is made too significant on the earth, troubled times ensue. For all. That—is one rule that I have learned during my long life.”
Bill frowned. “Yet—without the morality that such books and beliefs lend to us, would we be civilized at all?”
“All species are practical,” I smirked. “They are anxious for their continued survival; once they have established that, then they pursue other things: art, literature, science, technology. They have time to question their existence and—with too much time—trouble ensues,” I added with some distaste.
“You don’t believe we should question our existence—our nature?” Bill asked.
“We are,” I said definitively. “Why question ‘why’ we are or ‘who’ made us so? How could the answers to such questions even be verified,” I asked.
Bill considered my words for a moment.
“What if you are wrong?” he asked. “What if it is incumbent upon us to,” he paused, “believe in a true god?”
“Then I will learn of that once I pass from this plain to the next—if I ever do,” I shrugged. “However, any god of worth would not punish me for a lack of presumptuousness. Anyway—any creator would be lucky to have me in his or her version of Valhalla.”
Bill chuckled. “I believe you are the most arrogant person I’ve ever known.”
I smirked. “Perhaps.”
Bill’s expression sobered. “Have you read it?” Bill asked me, gesturing to the bible still in his hands.
I nodded. “Yes. Unlike Lorena, Godric wanted me to be aware of various beliefs.”
“And what did you think of it?” he asked holding up the book in his hand.
“Like most religious texts, there are things to take and things to leave,” I answered honestly, not giving a fuck who might be listening into this particular conversation.
“And what part of it do you ‘take’?” Bill asked.
“The part that allows for self-determination,” I returned with a smirk.
Bill chuckled. “Figures.”
“But not the part that allows vampires free reign to destroy anything they choose,” I added.
“So you do have morals,” Bill said with a smirk of his own.
“Only when morality lines up with my idea of the practical,” I returned.
“What will you do—tomorrow night?” he asked. “When we are asked to participate in the ritual Salome has in mind, will you do it?”
I shrugged, though I had already made my decision. I simply didn’t care to share my response with anyone—including Bill. In truth, I was not concerned one way or another about a ritual. What concerned me was what would take place after that ritual—what acts I would be asked to perform in “Lilith’s” name. I was concerned with how to best protect the lives of those I cared about: Sookie and Pam.
Thus, I was determined to watch and to learn what my new enemy wanted of me—so that I could formulate a plan and get myself out of my current clusterfuck. After all, that was the practical thing to do.
A/N: I hope you liked this chapter. I wanted to add a scene between Salome’s chambers and the ritual the next night b/c I thought that Bill and Eric’s participation was odd. They both seemed so certain that they wouldn’t go along with Salome, so I wanted to explore what was going through Eric’s head as he was deciding to participate. In the end, he’s a practical being. And, of course, he wants to stay undead.
Thanks for continuing to read.