Twenty minutes later, the limo pulled into Fangtasia’s parking lot. Eric looked at Russell expectantly.
The ancient vampire’s voice was once again laced with a patronizing tone, “Eric, you may proceed. My dainty flower and I will follow along directly.”
Eric nodded and dashed away. Within moments, he was in the basement of his business where the Magister was getting ready to pierce his child’s eyelids.
“Well, well, well, Mr. Northman,” the Magister intoned, his creepy voice immediately grating on Eric’s nerves.
However, the Viking’s eyes were only for his child. She was chained to the table with silver; there was hope in her pain-filled eyes.
“Where is our Mr. Compton?” the Magister asked snidely.
“Mr. Compton did not accompany me,” Eric said, keeping his tone even. “But I have brought along the true culprit behind the V sales in my area.”
“Ah,” the Magister said in a bored tone, “the ‘true culprit.’ Do tell. I’m all atwitter with anticipation.” He pulled the chains tighter around Pam’s waist.
Eric cringed as he felt his child’s pain and saw her agony. Luckily for the Magister, Russell chose that moment to enter the basement. Otherwise, Eric would have pulled his fucking head off—consequences be damned.
The Magister’s expression immediately changed from smug satisfaction to surprise as he saw Russell coming down the stairs, pulling a pouting Sophie-Anne behind him.
Russell clapped his hands together once as if he were a director trying to get the attention of his cast and crew. Eric figured that was an accurate simile. After all, Russell was most definitely orchestrating things.
Ignoring the Magister, the ancient vampire addressed Eric, “I just love what you’ve done with the place, my boy! And this basement! Inspired! Why—it’s your own little torture chamber/playroom! We absolutely must discuss franchising! You will have to open one in New Orleans—when you get there! And I want one in Jackson, too! Perhaps your child could run that one.”
Eric nodded deferentially before his eyes darted to Pam.
“Ah yes,” Russell said his own gaze following Eric’s, “here is your child now. Pam—correct?”
Russell bowed in the prostrate vampire’s direction. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, my dear,” he said pleasantly.
“Pleasure’s all mine,” Pam drawled, despite her obvious pain.
Russell grinned and slapped Eric on the back as if in celebration. “I like her already! Now—let’s get her out of those ridiculous chains! Skin like hers ought not to be tarnished with silver! And then—we’ll talk some strategy about our new franchise!” He clapped his hands together again.
“What is the meaning of all this?” the Magister asked, finally finding his voice. His confusion at the appearance of the two monarchs was clear.
Annoyed, Russell sneered at the Magister and spoke in a condescending tone—as if the Authority representative were a bug underneath his shoe. “Your purpose here is three-fold. One—you are to shut your goddamned mouth unless I give you permission to open it—because your nasally voice fucking annoys me! It always has! Two—you are to perform my wedding ceremony to my lovely queen here. Three—you are to get the fuck out of my sight and crawl back into your usual hole! Oh—and on your way there—you are to let Northman’s progeny go.”
Eric seethed on the inside. He had known that Russell’s helping him rescue Pam was more of an afterthought than the main objective of the king’s “visit” to Fangtasia, but he was still enraged at that thought. Russell needed the Magister to perform his wedding ceremony to Sophie-Anne so that it would be legal and binding among vampires. And Eric had given him the perfect opportunity to find the Magister in a relatively vulnerable position.
The Magister scoffed at Russell’s words, “What makes you think I’m going to let Northman’s child go? There has been an offense against the blood, and until I have the real culprit or culprits, Northman and his progeny are to blame for it in my eyes.”
Russell chuckled. “Well—have no fear. The culprit is here!”
“What are you talking about?” the Magister asked, his face twisted as if he were constipated.
Russell smiled cheekily at Sophie-Anne. “I’m afraid it was my beautiful honey blossom here that was responsible for the V sales. However, she is very sorry and has promised to mend her ways—right my little peach?”
“Sure snookums,” Sophie-Anne intoned sarcastically. “You know I will do anything to please you, sugar lips.”
“You are responsible for the blood sales?” the Magister exclaimed in Sophie-Anne’s direction.
“What? Are you slow?” Sophie-Anne asked, rolling her eyes. “That’s what I just said. But I’m very contrite—blah, blah, blah.”
The Magister leveled a heavy stare at her. “Then it is you who needs to be on my table.” He gestured toward where Pam was still lying prone.
“Enough!” Russell yelled impatiently—as if having any words spoken against his plans caused him to “snap.”
Within the next second, the king of Mississippi had freed Pam and had replaced her on the torture table with the Magister. He was wrapped securely in silver. Even Eric had not been able to follow all of Russell’s lightning-quick movements.
As Eric reached for Pam and took her into his arms, the Viking once again wondered how in the hell he would ever be able to defeat Russell.
“Master,” Pam said weakly as she sank into his embrace. Eric knew that Pam sinking into him for comfort was a clear sign that her torture at the Magister’s hands had been very profound indeed. He also knew that she would hate being perceived as weak, especially in front of Sophie-Anne and Russell.
“Go feed on Ginger,” Eric ordered in a low tone. “Then, arrange for other donors for our honored guests. Make sure they are of good quality and variety for their majesties. And stay in the bar,” he added, not wanting his child to be anywhere near the dungeon at that moment. If things went south and Russell killed the Magister, then there would be consequences for anyone who had been a witness to his final death.
“Ah—yes!” Russell said gleefully. “Thank you, Eric. I foresee that I will be quite parched after I’m done here.”
Pam bowed to both of the monarchs as she left the basement at human speed. Eric knew that it was the fastest she could move at the moment, and his anger at the Magister threatened to boil over.
With expert precision, Russell quickly cut off all the Magister’s clothing with a small dagger that had been lying on a table that held other implements of torture as well. The king smiled down at the prone man as he picked up the Magister’s thin silver sword.
“This is truly lovely. It’s Spanish—correct? Made during the Inquisition?”
The Magister didn’t answer. His face was contorted in both rage and pain from the silver chains around his neck and knees. Eric couldn’t help but to think that the more appropriate emotion would have been fear.
Russell used the sword to open up a shallow, sizzling wound from the Magister’s throat to his sternum. The king waited for it to heal—as if he were a scientist following the progress of an experiment. Then he drew another wound in the same spot. Again, he let it heal, and—again—he drew another. After letting it heal a third time, he looked back at the Magister’s face.
“Now,” Russell said with his voice full of contempt, “you are going to perform a marriage ceremony between me and my queenwithin the next ten minutes, or you are going to become disenfranchised from your mother-fucking head!” He paused and sliced a deeper line in the Magister’s body, this time from his throat to his balls. “Which will it be?”
“Why must you be so melodramatic?” Sophie-Anne sighed, the picture of melodrama herself.
Russell glared at her, and Sophie-Anne proved her stupidity once more when she rolled her eyes. Eric, on the other hand, stood motionless and expressionless, every single one of his muscles taut and ready for whatever happened next. The Viking was very much aware of both Russell’s power and his insanity in that moment. Luckily for Sophie-Anne, the Magister began speaking, which took the king’s attention away from her.
“How dare you!” he half-growled and half-groaned, even as Russell made another cut into his flesh. “When the Authority hears of this,” he grunted, “you will be removed from your position as king and placed into silver for a hundred years!”
Russell sneered. “The Authority! Ha! That antiquated institution is on its way out soon enough, and they will not learn of our time here, Jorge, because you will not tell them. Will you?” He made another wound, this time all the way from the Magister’s throat to his thigh, before dragging the blunt edge of the silver weapon over the vampire’s cock.
Sophie-Anne cringed and wrinkled her nose at the smell of the silver burning the Magister’s flesh, but Eric remained stoic.
“Will you, Jorge?” Russell repeated.
When the Magister clenched his jaw to keep himself from speaking or crying out in pain, Russell seemed to momentarily lose his grip on sanity once more.
“So—you wish to,” he paused, play rough? Good.” The king snarled as he picked up another of the Magister’s toys, a small silver knife with a bone handle. Soon he was flaying the skin off of the Magister’s thigh, and as Russell’s knife work approached the tortured vampire’s cock, he broke.
“I’ll do it!” the Magister yelled out in agony and defeat. “Just let me the fuck off this table!” he begged as blood fell from his eyes.
Eric scoffed. The torture had been going on for only seven minutes at that point. He couldn’t help himself as he spoke to the prostrate vampire. “You may be able to dish it out, Magister, but it seems you cannot take it.” In that moment, Eric felt pride in his child. She had withstood ten times more agony, and she was hundreds of years younger than the Magister.
“Now, now, Eric,” Russell chided almost lovingly. “We were not all designed with a warrior’s mentality. And Jorge’s decision is a wise one—as I was beginning to lose my patience. After all, we have better things to do this night.”
“Of course, my liege,” Eric bowed to the elder vampire.
Russell motioned for Eric to take the silver off of the Magister and then allowed the Authority representative a few minutes to compose himself.
The Magister looked up at Eric. “Clothes!” he demanded.
Eric smirked and walked to a closet at the end of the room. He pulled out a sheer, pink woman’s robe, which Pam liked to have her pets wear when she was in a “romantic” mood. He threw it at the Magister, who glared and growled at him as Russell laughed gleefully.
“I don’t want to have to get married staring at that—thing!” Sophie-Anne said, gesturing toward the Magister’s sorry excuse for a penis. “And that robe is see-through!”
“Come now,” Russell said, “Jorge’s cock was just frightened of being cut off.” He winked at the Magister. “I’m sure it’s generally more impressive than a roll of pennies.”
“Eric,” Russell said with a chuckle, “would you be a dear and find something that will better cover up the Magister’s little friend? It seems that my lovely summer rose is offended by it.”
Eric smirked and quickly found the Magister a black sheet to wrap around his waist.
“Will that suffice, sugar plum?” Russell asked Sophie-Anne.
The queen of Louisiana glared at him. “Just great, cupcake!”
“Wonderful!” Russell exclaimed, clapping his hands together once more and then looking expectantly at the Magister.
The broken vampire sighed and then spoke formally, even as the visible parts of his body healed. “Russell Edgington, King of Mississippi, do you pledge yourself to Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Queen of Louisiana?”
“I do,” the king answered eagerly, putting his arm affectionately around the shoulders of a disgusted looking Sophie-Anne.
“Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Queen of Louisiana, do you pledge yourself to Russell Edgington, King of Mississippi?”
Sophie-Anne looked like she was about to vomit, but she answered in the affirmative. “I do.”
“By the power granted to me by the one, true Vampire Authority . . . ,” the Magister started.
“Wait—aren’t you forgetting something?” Russell interrupted.
The Magister glared at him.
“Where’s your ceremonial knife?” Russell snarled. “I know that you carry it with you at all times. And I know that it is steeped in magic so that it records all ceremonies you conduct with blood.”
The Magister’s eyes darted to his suit jacket, which he’d hung on the back of a chair before he’d started his torture session with Pam.
Russell motioned for Eric to get the jacket. In the inner pockets of the garment, Eric found the Magister’s cell phone and a small leather pouch. Inside of the pouch was a small knife, no more than three inches long from handle to tip.
“Well,” Russell sighed, “it’s not that impressive—I have to say.”
Sophie-Anne giggled. “It looks like he has two little daggers,” she said, gesturing toward the Magister’s sheet-covered crotch area.
Russell chuckled along with her. “True, my dear. But I suppose that at least one of them is utilitarian.”
With a growl, the Magister took the knife from Eric. “Do you have a chalice?” he asked Eric.
The Viking laughed a little and produced a bright red plastic party cup. “Will this do? Or I could go get a wine glass from the bar?” He quirked his eyebrow in Russell’s direction.
The king laughed heartily. “No—I think that will make an appropriate ‘chalice’ for my angel and myself. Don’t you agree?” he asked the queen sarcastically.
“Perfect,” intoned the redhead.
Nonplussed, the Magister approached Russell and Sophie-Anne. He quickly made shallow wounds on both of their wrists and let the blood drip into the plastic cup. “Drink and bind the pledge,” he recited.
Sophie-Anne took a tiny sip of the blood before Russell finished it off. Both seemed unimpressed by the taste of their essences mixed together.
The Magister sneered. “By the power granted to me by the one, true Vampire Authority, I pronounce that you are pledged in marriage for a period of no less than one hundred years.”
Russell and Sophie-Anne made movements as if they were kissing each other’s cheeks, though neither one of them touched anything more substantial than air.
“The pledge must be consummated before witnesses for the marriage to be legally binding,” the Magister said, looking somewhat self-satisfied since he knew that such a “duty” would be most unwelcome to both monarchs before him.
Immediately, Sophie-Anne looked disgruntled, even as Russell’s smug expression remained. He chuckled, “I think that my blushing bride and I will forego the usual exchanges of,” he paused, “affection.”
“You can’t do that!” the Magister insisted.
“Oh—but we can,” Russell said confidently. “You are going to report to the Authority that you witnessed the consummation after you performed the ceremony, or I am going to pick up where I left off with skinning you alive. Again—the choice is all yours, Jorge.”
Russell signaled to Eric, who threw the Magister his phone.
“NOW!” Russell’s yelled, his voice echoing in the basement. The king once again picked up the Magister’s sword and held it threateningly.
Defeated, the Magister began to dial.
“Please be so kind as to put the call on speaker,” Russell said, his rage-filled tone having been replaced by one of pure congeniality.
Eric studied the Magister for a moment, wondering what he would do. The Magister, Jorge Alonso de San Diego, was reputed for being strong and resilient. He had been turned in the 1500s and had been one of the most feared Inquisitors of the Spanish Inquisition. He’d advised some of the greatest leaders—both human and vampire—throughout history. He carried with him the protection and the sanction of the Authority. A man in that position ought never to succumb to coercion in any form. A man in that position ought to yell out what was really happening as soon as the phone was picked up—whether it cost him his life or not. But that was not what the Magister did.
On the contrary. The Magister kept his voice even and detached as he reported the marriage of Russell Edgington and Sophie-Anne Leclerq. He also indicated that the marriage rites had all been properly adhered to and witnessed by Eric Northman. Finally, he reported that the ceremonial knife had sealed the pledge. Indeed, he was incredibly cooperative—until after he hung up the phone.
At that point, it seemed as if the Magister’s self-preservation skills simply left the building. He should have kept his mouth shut, but he didn’t.
“You won’t get away with this coercion,” the Magister seethed, through clenched lips.
Russell laughed flippantly. “I already have.”
And with that, the—at least partially insane—king launched himself at the Magister, whose head was separated from his shoulders with one swift swipe of his own sword.
Sophie-Anne recoiled in shock and fear when she realized what Russell had done.
Not really surprised by the king’s irrational act, Eric kept his face stoic and nodded his head deferentially so that Russell would not think about taking it too in the midst of his obvious bloodlust.
When Russell nodded back, Eric knew that he’d dodged one bullet and caught one ball. Pam was safe.
However, in that moment, another one of his balls in the air moved further away from him, as his blood in Sookie Stackhouse sensed that she had weakened once more. She was slipping away.
And he could do nothing to help her—at least not while Russell lingered.
Nothing at all!
A huge thanks to everyone who has started this journey with me!