“Drink this,” Elina ordered, prompting Eric to open his eyes.
The Viking was disoriented for a few moments—until his internal clock reset itself. He’d been unconscious for only five minutes or so.
The Werebear was back in her human form and was wearing a long plain housedress.
“I can’t,” Eric said as he sat up. His eyes had already found Sookie, and she was still asleep. Her fingers were interlocked with his, but he didn’t know how they’d gotten that way.
Leonie was hovering over her, tears still in her eyes.
“It worked?” he asked the fairy.
She nodded and smiled through her tears. “Yes. She is alive, and there are no signs of her wounds. She is simply sleeping. Resting.”
“Drink,” Elina ordered again.
Eric shook his head. “I can have no other blood than my bonded’s.”
“Yes you can!” Octavia said insistently from behind Elina. “But just synthetic. It will taste like shit, but you need it. You were quite taxed, vampire,” she said.
“And Sookie will need some of yours when she wakes up, Brother,” Duncan said, his words immediately breaking through his stubbornness.
Eric sighed, but nodded. “Fine.” He took the blood and drank it like medicine.
Another bottle seemed to appear out of thin air, but Eric drank that one without protest—at least of the verbal variety.
“No more,” he said when a third bottle appeared. “I couldn’t choke it down even if I wanted to,” he added—when it seemed as if Elina and Octavia would continue in their roles as mother hens.
He looked around at the destruction in the ballroom even as he pulled Sookie into his arms. In her sleep, she snuggled against him.
It was the best feeling in the world to know that she was moving—to feel that she was resting.
To feel that their bonds were alive and intact.
That she was alive.
“Report,” Eric said to Duncan.
“We have won,” his brother said matter-of-factly, “but the cost has been high.”
“Who did we lose?”
“Roman,” Duncan said, his eyes full of pain. Eric knew that Duncan and Roman had been near brotherhood in their friendship.
Eric acknowledged his brother’s loss with a deep nod. “Who else?”
Duncan straightened his shoulders. “Other vampire losses include King Isaiah of Kentucky, Rosalyn Harris, Isabel, Miguelito, and Chow. Jacob was very badly wounded when he tried to avenge his maker’s death. But he will regrow his limbs—in time,” he added darkly. “Queen Dulcina was also hurt badly; she lost both her legs, but she is already with Ludwig, as is Jacob.”
“Ludwig?” Eric asked.
“She was on stand-by,” Duncan informed. “She’d been called in by the Ancient Pythoness herself—last week.”
“Figures,” Eric muttered. That elder vampiress frustrated him to no end, but he figured she’d had her fingers in a lot of pots that night—despite her claims that she would stay out of things.
“The others?” the Viking asked.
“Maggie is dead,” Duncan sighed. “And we cannot find Brady, though a lot of his blood was found near his mother’s body. He is presumed lost as well.”
Eric heard a sob from Leonie. He, too, felt the loss of his friend greatly.
Klymene spoke up from behind Duncan. “Brady is not lost,” she said, holding up her phone. “He was mortally injured, however. Pythia has turned him.”
Leonie gasped. “Really?”
Klymene nodded. “That is what this text from Batanya says.”
“Who’s Batanya?” Duncan asked.
“One of Pythia’s chief guards—a Britlingen,” Klymene responded.
“He will live!” Leonie said with a smile.
Klymene nodded. “Yes. He will live for a long time now.”
“Good,” Eric said. “Another finger, another pot,” he added to himself.
Duncan went on. “Twelve of Henry’s pack members have been lost, but he wanted me to make sure Sookie knew that Alcide Herveaux was alive. Tray Dawson has lost a leg, and Onawa, the Werebear, has lost an arm, but those wounds were done by sword and are clean; the limbs have been found. Niall was able to enliven the nerves, and Tray and Onawa were taken to the hospital. Rasul and Queen Lena of Quebec went with them and will make sure the doctors are glamoured to perform reattachment procedures immediately. Then they have agreed to give them both their blood to hurry the healing.”
“Niall?” Eric asked with disbelief.
“Yes,” the fairy elder said, stepping forward.
“Why are you here?” the Viking asked.
“I came to help. The Ancient Pythoness called in a favor,” he said, looking at Leonie. “I still dislike you very much,” the fairy added, glaring at Eric. “But I have learned of your,” he paused, “association with my wife.”
Eric nodded. Clearly Pythia had told Niall that Eric was the great-grandson of Ione, Leonie’s own relative. But that didn’t make the vampire any less embittered toward the fairy for his treatment of Sookie.
“I can see that you still don’t like me much either,” Niall smirked. “But I did blast the vampire who stabbed my great-granddaughter—before he could do the same to you.”
“That is a start,” Eric said through clenched teeth.
Niall chuckled. “Perhaps I will like you more in the future, but for now, I have other things to attend to,” he added before popping away without so much as a goodbye.
Leonie rolled her eyes. “And that is why I take lovers!”
Those in the room laughed collectively. They needed it.
“Any more casualties?” Eric asked after a few moments.
“Desmond Cataliades was also wounded, but he will survive. The kings and queens who allied with us lost many people altogether. These numbers are not yet known.”
“Our remaining enemies?” Eric asked his brother.
“Our remaining demon enemies fled after the patriarch of their clan fell. All the Weres and the Weretiger, Quinn, were killed during the battle. Queen Freyda yet lives, but she was captured by King Mitchell, who is likely already torturing her somewhere because Freyda was the one who injured Queen Dulcina. And Sophie-Anne yet lives,” Duncan informed.
“Kill her,” Eric said in a flat tone.
“Happy to,” Peter Threadgill said from the other side of the room before thrusting a Bowie-knife-shaped stake into her heart.
The redhead hadn’t even had time to mutter a protest.
“Dammit, Peter. You are gonna owe me for that,” Pam pouted.
“I will gladly pay,” Peter smirked.
“Are our other enemies dead?” Eric asked, ignoring the banter between his child and the king.
“Talbot fled at the first sign of battle—with Hadley. They are holed up in Russell’s suite.”
“Bill?” came Sookie’s voice as her eyes fluttered open.
Eric didn’t much care for the first word out of her still-alive mouth, but he was glad she was awake.
“He’d better be dead too,” Sookie clarified.
Eric smiled. There was his warrior.
“He hasn’t left Russell’s suite since he returned after killing Hallow,” came Kuruk’s voice. He was clicking away at a laptop.
“Kuruk?” Elina said as a question.
“When I told Brady I liked computers, he showed me some stuff,” the young Werebear explained.
His grandmother nodded and looked at Kuruk with pride.
“You should be with Onawa,” Sookie said, her voice scratchy. Obviously, she’d heard at least some of Duncan’s report.
Elina smiled at the young woman and offered her some water. “My place is here. My daughter will be well, and my medicine couldn’t help her anyway.”
Sookie took the water and nodded.
When she was done drinking, she looked up to see that everyone was looking at her.
She turned to her Viking.
“I died?” she asked.
“How am I here?”
“A piece of magic locked up inside of the watch you gave to me,” Eric responded.
“Fintan’s watch?” Sookie asked, looking at Leonie.
The fairy nodded in confirmation.
Sookie took a deep breath and looked at her bloodied and torn dress before looking at her mate.
“Are you okay?”
“The magic healed me too,” he said caressing her cheek gently.
“Okay,” Sookie said after a minute, during which the others in the room allowed for the couple to reunite with as much privacy as possible. “What now?”
Eric kissed her forehead. “My warrior,” he whispered.
“Now we get the fuck out of here—right?” Kuruk spoke up.
Elina turned to glare at him.
“I learned that word from you, Gran,” he returned. “And I’m eighteen now. And I killed the leader of that bomb squad group. That’s gotta entitle me to saying ‘fuck!'”
The elder Werebear rolled her eyes. “No. It does not.”
Eric chuckled, feeling lighter than he had in . . . .
Lighter than he had forever.
“We need to get out of here. What’s the status of the staff?”
Henry stepped forward. “After the fight broke out, the staff followed protocol and moved to their safe-room. Only a few donors were lost in the melee, killed mostly by fleeing vampires.”
Eric could feel his mate’s regret over their lives, but there was no time to pause for grief over people they didn’t know. Grief would come later—for Maggie, for Roman. Now there was practicality to consider.
“Tell the Were staff that we will be moving all the bodies to this room and that we will seal it,” Eric ordered. “Tell them that we will take care of it tomorrow night.”
He looked around at his allies in the room. “This hotel is going to be blowing up tomorrow. Fellowship members have already set bombs in place. We need to quietly inform any remaining neutral vampires to leave here—without saying why they need to do so. I’m sure that if they thought Russell or Appius was still running amuck, they would run too.”
The Viking turned toward Henry. “Place Russell’s dead Weres in here, and take the bodies of your people and get out of the area. There will be restitution for them.”
“They died in duty,” Henry said. “There is no need.”
“I know,” Eric said gratefully. “But I will do the right thing by them, nonetheless.”
The Were Alpha nodded respectfully.
“After the room is sealed, Amelia and I will do a spell to make sure it stays that way until the hotel is brought down,” Octavia said.
Eric nodded. He looked at Kuruk. “I will need you to continue doing what you are doing until the hotel goes down. Can you do that remotely?” he asked, pointing at the computer on Kuruk’s lap.
“Sure,” the young Werebear answered with a proud smile.
“Make sure that Talbot and Bill do not come out.”
“A human woman is also in Russell’s suite,” Kuruk informed.
“Hadley,” Sookie whispered.
Eric looked down at her.
“She made her bed, Eric,” Sookie said sadly.
“Yes. She did,” he responded.
“What of the Authority?” Queen Agnes asked, stepping forward. “With Roman gone, stability will be needed.”
“You are the oldest Councilor,” Dieter Braun said from the side of the room. “By the rules we decided upon ourselves, you are automatically nominated as the new Guardian. And I would like to second that nomination.”
“All in favor?” came Edwin’s voice.
“Aye,” Peter said.
“Aye,” Kibwe echoed.
“Aye,” Dieter and Edwin said at the same time.
“And I’m certain that Lena will confer,” Duncan said. “Do you accept?”
Agnes looked at Edwin and then at Duncan. “Yes.”
“Then by my authority as Magister, I confer upon you the status as Guardian—yadda, yadda, yadda—and for your first act, I ask that you release me from your service,” Duncan added.
“In a fortnight,” Agnes responded. “We’ll need muscle for a bit.
Duncan growled but nodded in agreement.
“Okay, let’s move,” Eric said, as he rose with his mate still in his arms. She seemed happy to be held, and he was certainly happy to be holding her. “Oh,” he said, looking again at Kuruk, “did Brady tell you about Scenario 1?”
“Yes,” Kuruk responded. “The emails are all ready and I’ve activated them so that they will be sent at the times specified.”
The Viking nodded, feeling his bonded’s relief that the warnings Brady had previously set up to go out to the human and Were staff of the hotel would be distributed as planned.
A/N: So—Eric and Sookie are okay! Thanks to everyone who offered me support for how I wrote the battle. I really appreciate it!
Of course, “General Northman” is dealing with what must be dealt with. But—don’t worry—there will be a reconnection scene for our protagonists soon (they deserve it).
So—do you think I’m being too cruel to Hadley by not allowing her to be saved? I went back and forth about what to do with her.
As always, thanks to Kleannhouse and Sephrenia!