“Do not speak to me of loyalties,” Eric hissed baring his fangs and allowing the shrill woman to feel the full force of an ancient vampire’s strength around her neck. It was only the encroaching black forms of her guard that made him loosen his grasp of her. “Keep this up and you’ll find yourself fighting on all frontiers.”
“You don’t want to be aggravating the Authority, Northman,” she said baring her own incisors. “You’ll find yourself without allies far too soon.”
“The only power that the Authority has is the one they proclaim to have,” Eric informed dismissively. If anything the situation with Godric and the maenad had proven to him it was exactly that. The political power scheme was upheld by supposition of power there was no army backing up these claims. “Talk to me when your precious Authority dare show themselves instead of hiding behind the likes of disposable baby vamps like you.”
“Caution yourself underling,” she growled out. Nan hadn’t been called a fledgling for a good hundred years and it brought back the bile of tainted memories.
“Three ancient vampires, an army of linen clad vamps that will follow my maker into death. By your admittance I have sway over my maker and add to that my disbanded retinue,” he listed off his fingers. “And let’s not forget Stan Baker. He’ll join any bloody fight you invite him to. We go back far. Save your cautions for The Authority Ms Flanagan. Perhaps look into that lovely ‘church’ that seems to be fine with us all of a sudden despite vampires clearly killing their leader. I’ll never carry the title or the crown but unofficially I run the South and no authority has the power to claim otherwise.”
“This isn’t over Northman,” she spat out before speeding off.
“It certainly isn’t,” Eric replied to the muggy air. “It’s only the fucking beginning.”
Godric followed his blood to find Tara sitting by the shallow pond of water behind Merlotte’s Bar and Grill. He sat down quietly next to the silent girl nursing a bottle of beer. She looked over at him and cracked a tiny smile.
“Don’t take this the wrong way Godric, but I wouldn’t talk to you under normal circumstances. Is your blood doing this to me?” she said pointing between them in demonstration as if to give physiological evidence to her premise. “Don’t ask me why but I feel at ease with you. I don’t feel at ease with anyone. Especially people I just met.”
“I’d like to say my company is enticing you, but alas it is the blood in this case.”
“Fucking A! This is why Sookie was mooning over Vampire Bill so easily,” she announced pleased with her own deductions. “No wonder she’s already on vamp number two. Sure she stuck a straw in that giant juice box too.”
“They genuinely care for each other,” Godric informed with a discerned face.
“Right,” she huffed scornfully. “Like a vampire is capable of that.”
“We care for what is important to us.”
“Yes,” she agreed pointedly. “Other vampires.”
“He loves her,” he whispered as if frightened of the word itself. “But he is too stubborn to admit it to himself just yet. She is a good match for him.”
“A death match maybe,” Tara retorted with a roll of her eyes. “She’s gonna get herself killed by hanging around you dead fella’s.”
“Eric will protect her with his life.”
“Too bad he doesn’t have one anymore,” she snapped back before sucking at the neck of the bottle swallowing down the liquid gold with great satisfaction.
He let out a small chuckle. “I am sure he will protect her with his undead life.”
Her derisive snort indicated she put little stock in that presumption.
“How did you end up in the company of a maenad?” Godric probed.
“Well I knew her as Maryann, the miracle social worker,” Tara explained. “Apparently I called her here to Bon Temps. You see I thought I had a demon inside of me,” she said emitting a small groan with the last sentence as she remembered her own stupidity.
“You don’t seem the type to believe in that,” Godric observed.
“I’m not usually,” she agreed. “But my mother, who is the unrivalled champion to you when it comes to the Jesus crap, did. I had seen her try and fail so many times but alcohol always won.” A small sigh escaped her lips as she took inventory of the derailing mess her life had become in the process of a few months. ”I stood by her ‘cause I love her. But at some point enough was enough and I couldn’t stand witness to her own destruction.”
“You left,” Godric deduced.
“Yes.” Tara stared down at the label on her bottle as if taking the information in for the first time to mask the embarrassment she felt over the abandonment of her mother. Shame and guilt fluttered through the bond that Tara was unwilling to display to the world. “My mom came to me convincing me she had it in her to change. She just needed my money to rid her of the ‘demon’. I was sceptic but apparently some fraudster named Ms Jeanette with a trailer in the middle of nowhere did the impossible.”
“She rid her of the demon?”
“No,” Tara laughed. “Figured you would fall for that too. It was a placebo; she believed it so it worked for her. I’d have to check, we only just returned, but she was doing better than I have ever seen her do.”
“How are you so certain it was false?”
“I honestly believed it. When Ms Jeanette told me I housed an even greater demon inside of me, I believed that too and underwent an exorcism. Rather I wanted to believe it,” Tara sighed. “It would be so simple if we could just be absolved like that. Too bad I came across her in the pharmacy the next town over. When I confronted her she admitted to drugging me with peyote just to rid me of my cash.
“According to Maryann my inner turmoil was the perfect amount of chaos to seek me out,” she shrugged. “She seemed in the habit of collecting the disenfranchised.”
“You are lucky to not truly house a demon inside of you,” Godric noted sagely. “I have been forced to bear mine for over two millennia.”
“You don’t really believe that shit you spew do you?” Tara asked disbelievingly.
“I have found much comfort in Christ’s teachings,” he explained. “I have been keeping journals on different humans tracking them through the ages. Where they evolved my species have not. We stand in different moments in time beside each other. I don’t blame humans for fearing us so much and I don’t see anything wrong in seeing you as our equal and moral superior.”
“And you sought out the gospel of Christ for the moral superiority,” she snorted. “Predictable I guess, if you’re looking for atonement.”
“There is much my species has done wrong. Too much to make up for in your lifetime but I believe our sins can be absolved through sacrifice.”
“You’re not broken Godric,” Tara said earnestly, for the first time in her life she observed the same amount of pain she always carried mirrored in another’s eyes. In their locked gaze there was an understanding between them that communicated through their weak bond. Pain was their friend, one they happily shared. A comfort too familiar to simply let go. Her hand rested tentatively atop his as she offered him the only wisdom she could afford that applied to her as much as to him, “You’re just lost.”
“What if I was never whole,” he mumbled to himself as they sat staring at the trembling surface of the water while insects danced their own un-choreographed performance.
“Trick or treat?” Russell drawled out seeking Pam’s advice on the young man before them. He was well aware her tastes were decidedly divergent from the pageant of boy toys that were paraded before them but that only made her discern of the opposite sex all the more interesting to him.
“Treat,” Pam answered as she finished her critical examination of the fangbanger in his golden speedos. They found themselves in Mortalis, Jackson’s own version of Fangtasia. Although Pam would never allow the comparison, as Mortalis was clearly an inferior imitation of her own carefully crafted establishment.
The vampires of Mississippi had taken little persuasion to side with their former monarch as soon as he reappeared. After retaking the throne, vampire businesses had wasted no time in fanning Russell Edgington’s ass. Everyone was now seeking his favour to hold onto favourable positions or move further up the ladder. Those that were nervous had reason to be, Edgington was the last vampire you would seek to cross.
So it had come to be that their impromptu visit to the night club had turned into the auditions for his personal donor pool. Dr Ludwig had been called in to draw blood in preparation of final approval. It had always been Talbot who had arranged these things and although Pam was an entertaining sidekick the loss of him was far from compensated.
The Great Reveal was an interesting thing to a vampire who had sat out from the world for over a decade in which it took place. As a vampire, others of his species had lived in fear of him for well over two millennia. With age came distance and the number of ancients that could commiserate in their mundane existence were limited.
Talbot had been an exception, he was never scared of Russell even when he revealed himself to be a vampire when they had met at a masked ball. Perhaps foolishly on Talbot’s behalf as he was soon his child. The table had quickly turned on the maker however, as he found himself at the mercy of Talbot. There was little he wouldn’t allow his beloved consort, not like a spoiled child but rather an indulged spouse. They fought like the best but made up all the better.
Revisiting the home they had once shared had stirred his melancholy over his loss once again. Despite Pam’s best efforts to show him all the advantages of being out in the open he could care little for it. For a young vampire like Pam it was exciting indeed, to be looked at with awe and desire. Willing humans seeking her favour at every turn. He was surprised this behaviour hadn’t incited an obesity pandemic amongst the vampire population with the quantities of blood that was on offer. He thought Talbot would find the whole charade pathetic.
Russell had experienced similar attentions from other vampires as king and as ancient for centuries. The humans’ attentions did little to surprise him with their misplaced admiration, his wolves held more true affection for him than any willing fangbanger present that night. He was bored already and was wondering why he bothered to leave the comfort of his cave at all.
“We still have a treat waiting in the basement,” Pam crooned as she dismissed the next candidate with a flick of her wrist. She had never held the fangbangers of Fangtasia in high regard but the offerings at Mortalis had elevated them to a new light.
“The ones that speak so easily rarely speak the truth,” Russell said dismissively. There was much truth to be found from the edge of a silver knife but a silver tongue revealed very little. The king of Mississippi wondered if there was anything impressive when it came to Bill Compton. He vaguely remembered the surly vampire hanging onto his maker’s apron strings in the past. Russell had merely noted then that his chances of survival as a vampire was only by the protection of his maker and his capability of narrating false truths. The ancient vampire had nothing against liars, especially those that were good at it, but to stand the test of times one needed more than a singular skill.
Russell had dealt with the investigations of Talbot after he felt his ultimate demise and his inability to find truth had set off his blind rage. He had spent many weeks searching for his partner that was supposed to be his for eternity. When no definitive trace for his true death could be found he had satiated his lust for blind vengeance with the blood of any other that crossed his path. It was quite the contingent that was finally able to sedate him.
“I think I’ve seen enough kitten,” Russell whispered to Pam as another group of potential donors were sent to the exit. “Let’s see what your friend Mr Compton wishes to share with the rest of the class.”
“I don’t have friends,” Pam stated bluntly. “I have a maker and enemies. The rest is insignificant.”
“If you had something enticing dangling between your legs you would be my perfect consort,” Russell cooed as he patted her head like a small child.
“Surprisingly enough you’re not the first to say that to me,” she returned sardonically as she led him back into the limousine along with the single chosen donor in the golden speedo. His blood was of a decent flavour but his eagerness to please was grating to both vampires. They quickly glamoured him and shoved him out at the next stop light, neither one of them concerned with how the almost entirely nude man was to get home on this cool night. Alcide and Logan who had been designated as royal security wisely held their tongues only sharing a mere look of concern.
The dungeons of Russell’s elaborate mansion were a familiar sight to the ancient vampire. Talbot had always tried to civilise their reign imitating the life of human royals. ‘Dinner’ was served from the finest porcelain on a fully dressed table every night. While Russell coddled Talbot much, he did not refrain from asserting his power with an iron fist to the rest of his subjects. He adhered to the simple logic of his ancient times when law was simply equated in strength and he possessed a lot of it. His cells saw many customers in the past and would undoubtedly continue to do so with his reassertion of the crown.
Bill Compton was silvered in place on a simple wooden chair, writhing against the restraints showing off his inexperience with captivity and torture. He had clung to his mother’s teat for far too long to be considered healthy among vampires. Russell had procured Lorena for her cruelty, for it was not unlike his own and she was an easy scapegoat to placate to Talbot’s sensibilities. Her child rearing skills, however, left much to be desired.
“You sought an audience Mr Compton,” Russell enquired, wanting to get the business of traitors over with expediently.
“Yes, your majesty,” Bill replied as he attempted to bow through his silver chains.
“Spare me the protocol and get on with it,” the king replied motioning for him to do exactly that.
“Lorena was responsible for Talbot’s disappearance and death,” Bill informed with pleading eyes.
“Those silver chains must be really uncomfortable,” Russell replied kindly, his tone completely void of reaction to the confession as he softly caressed the vampire’s cool cheeks.
“Yes,” Bill replied with some relief thinking his torment had come to an end. “I will share all I know if you grant me asylum in your territories.”
“Care for a drink Mr Compton?” Russell asked. “I tried this thing called True Blood tonight. It is just awful but my little PamPam tells me you are quite taken with it.”
“I am a mainstreamer,” he replied confused at the trajectory change in their conversation. “I have become accustomed to the flavour.”
“Mainstreaming. Such an odd word,” Russell said contemplatively. “Running with the currents of time is not exactly innate to our kind. Tell me Mr Compton why a vampire like yourself would subscribe to such follies.”
“We must evolve with the times,” he stated hungrily as Russell placed an opened bottle in front of him just out of reach. Russell had recognised his malnourishment easily, silver was never kind on the system but the desire for sustenance always brought one to a quicker confession.
“We have nothing to do with time Mr Compton,” the king informed sagely. “We do not serve it as we have no fear of it passing or coming. You must come up with a better lie than that.”
“I belief in the cause,” he offered but even to Bill it sounded unconvinced. Russell simply shook his head while a maniacal laugh escaped him. He poured out the blood over the table ensconcing the small room with the scent of synthetic blood. Bill could hardly contain his fangs that were emerging with a Pavlov reaction to the mere perfume of it.
“Such a strange substance,” Russell observed as he fingered the liquid between the pads of his fingertips. “It feels like it, it smells like it but frankly it tastes of shit. I’m surprised they didn’t go with I can’t believe it’s not blood. No one drinks this willingly.”
Bill continued to fight the restraints that held him firmly in place as he was itching to get any taste, even if it was of the foul concoction. Never had the Civil War vet gone without feeding for this length of time and he feared delirium would soon set in and soon after that true death. “I wish to confess,” he strangled out.
“Don’t we all,” Russell noted ignoring the pleas as he continued to paint the table top with the synthetic substance using his fingers as brushes. He gave a small smile as he saw the smiley face he had painted. “Pity there is little of interest in that for me. This however is far more interesting,” he continued as he pulled a donor bag of blood from the fridge.
“My Talbot collected rare vintages you know,” Russell said as he tasted a few drops on his tongue, swirling it around and pulling in air as if tasting a fine wine. “He would approve of this one,” he assessed with a discerning expertise. “Mediterranean notes with a hint of apple.”
“You can taste that?” Bill asked with great longing, salivating at the thought of tasting humanity again. The opened blood bag was now urging his instincts even further to do anything to reach the nourishment. Beyond that the thought of one day being able to taste the flavours of his human memories urged his desire to continue to exist. Russell smiled with glee as he recognised the young vampire succumbing to his survival mode where he could barter anything for nothing.
In response to the posed question all Bill received was a cacophony of cackles. “So trusting you are little mouse,” Russell said as he painted a line of synthetic blood from his forehead down his nose. “No wonder you find yourself here without the protection of your maker.”
Bill hissed as he desperately tried to concentrate on something other than the blood on his skin which he had no hope of reaching but assaulted his senses. Russell tore the bag of blood open wider spilling the contents over the concrete floor in a dramatic fashion.
“Oops,” he spoke unconvincingly of the accidentally of events. “I guess this all of it left,” he said holding up his wet forefingers in front of Bill’s mouth. “Hungry, pet?”
“Starving,” he choked out as his tongue darted out desperately for the blood that remained tauntingly unobtainable.
“You had something to confess,” Russell reminded indulgently. The terror that was slowly overtaking the eyes of this pawn reinvigorated the ancient passion for this endangered art.
“I…” Bill tried not knowing what he could offer anymore. He had only ever suspected his maker of masterminding the carefully orchestrated coupe that had her sitting upon a throne. He had nothing to offer in evidence for his claims. So instead he remained silent.
“I thought as much,” Russell said wiping his bloodied fingers on the white linen drawstring pants Bill was still wearing from his transfer out of Louisiana. “I have met many like you Mr Compton and I assuredly will meet many more. Think wisely next time you seek an audience with a regent.”
“But Lorena,” he tried desperately not following through with a convincing argument. Within the blink of an eye his tongue was ripped from Bill’s body pulling its extrinsic muscles from the bone. The scream was frightening to Pam, who in her long existence had seen much but this was unprecedented even to her.
“You think I did not have your maker meet every single inch of this dungeon before I was convinced she had no hand in Talbot’s disappearance. Do you think me so inept?” he hissed out. Bill tried to gargle a no but phonetic enunciation was now lost to him.
“You betrayed not one but two queens and a king. Most offensive of all you dare betray your own maker.” The fear that resided in Bill washed out any rationale left in the vampire, all that coursed through him was pain, fear and hunger.
“I do not bargain with traitors,” Russell growled out as he kicked the chair from beneath his bound body expertly landing him in the puddle of spilled donor blood and splinters of wood. Bill cried out as he desperately writhed in his confines while trying to move a tongue that was no longer there to ingest the intoxicating liquid.
“Sorry poppet that was supposed to be your treat,” the ancient vampire offered in commiseration to Pam as they closed the cell door on the agonising and haunting cries of the civil war veteran who desperately sought to feed the plenitude of blood he now resided in but would remain unable till the blood was well and truly spoilt.
“That was treat enough,” she drawled out contentedly as if in a haze of post coital bliss. “Perhaps we should offer that offending item to your wolves.”
“I would not want to soil their mouths with such offal,” Russell returned testily as he threw the bloody tongue down a garbage disposal which Pam excitedly switched on not caring that Compton’s filthy blood stained her impeccable wardrobe in the process. “If my wolves are to feed off men, at least let them not be the broken ones.”
“Am I interrupting?” Eric asked as he approached the two silent figures regarding the creek.
“Go ahead,” Tara spoke to Godric before she returned her gaze to the trembling surface of the water. The ancient vampire stood to follow his child to a secluded area.
“I wish to stay with Tara for a while,” Godric said before Eric could speak to him of the news of Mississippi’s demise.
“Are you attracted to her?” Eric wondered aloud.
“She is quite beautiful but no,” Godric answered with a small smile.
“Then why the interest?” Tara’s blood seemed uninteresting at best to Eric and his maker didn’t even willingly partake in that anymore. There was some intelligence to her but nothing to warrant the intrigue his maker was granting her.
“My blood tells me many things inside her,” Godric regarded thoughtfully of his first blood connection to a human. He had been filled with a void with emptiness for many centuries and releasing Eric had only deepened that further. This spirited unknown human had woken things long forgotten in him. “I believe God has put her on my path, she deserves as much redemption as you and I.”
“It doesn’t appear she wishes to be saved,” Eric observed as he had recognised Tara’s recalcitrance to any proclamations based on faith all too well as his own.
“I seem to be collecting a whole host of those,” Godric expressed with a hint of disappointment as he carefully regarded his son for the first time in what appeared seemingly never ending nights. “You have bonded with Sookie.”
“Yes,” Eric answered simply to his maker’s observation.
“In the past you would have sought my council on such a large decision,” Godric noted nostalgically. In their many centuries together Eric had always lived independently of his maker but he would always seek his maker’s insight on such altering events. It pained him that his advice no longer seemed necessary in his child’s decisions.
“We no longer live in the past,” Eric responded with the apparent truth. He had mourned the loss of his former maker with anger but now he simply dealt with fact. It was simply easier that way. Everything that he felt now resided far closer to Sookie and the bond that emerged there. “I stand on my own now.”
“You are truly hers now,” Godric understood with a twinge of regret as he too grieved the forfeiture of their connection. When the voice inside him had spoken to him to sacrifice his eldest child he had taken it literally. A venture to be a collective one, where their binding would bring them to redemption together in whatever the afterlife may bring. In his mind he was saving Eric where his child had simply been unable to see the light that was offered to him. He should have known that sacrifice was more than that. It was standing witness to loss. The sacrifice he had intended to demand was no different of the Maenad’s that caused Eggs’ death and nearly had killed Tara too. Godric had to admit that Sookie was the brighter light that had saved Eric from eternal darkness. Eric was lucky to belong to her.
“As she is mine.”
“I am happy for you,” Godric declared what he truly wanted to feel but all he could experience was a deep sense of loss. That of his own and Tara’s. That perhaps neither one of them would know what Eric and Sookie had found with each other. A sense of belonging to this world.
Eric simply refrained from commenting as he saw the pain in Godric’s eyes. He still sought his approval but the weight of it was no longer determinate to his own appreciation.
“Russell has returned to his post,” Eric finally informed in an attempt to distract his maker’s downtrodden thoughts. “How do you wish to deal with your intended?”
“She has not left New Orleans,” Godric noted as he only just received the latest communications on the pending marriage negotiations a few hours ago. “I think she is not even aware herself. I owe it to her to inform her in person.”
“Nan seeks to expedite her to the Authority. Her troops are already on their way to confine her,” Eric explained as he regarded his maker’s sudden pensive pacing.
“Russell only kept his head due to his age. I doubt they will offer her the same arrangement,” Godric voiced sadly after a moment of silence. “Perhaps I should uphold my intent to marry her. Offer her diplomatic immunity as my wife.”
Eric looked at his maker disbelievingly. In that moment he decided that honour did not suit Godric, it turned him into an unnecessary martyr for a cause Eric had no confidence in. Redemption seemed to him a personal fight, not an apologetic gesture to settle a score no one bothered to keep. To Eric each individual act, be it good or bad, deserved its own repercussion. One dealt with facts not supposition, reckoning was in the here and now not in the after.
Eric didn’t know what he could have done to deserve the affection of Sookie Stackhouse in his long past but he knew it was not for services rendered. He wasn’t a reward to her suffering through the manipulations of Bill Compton either. Their joining was simply a fortunate consequence of circumstances. A mutual attraction. It might very well turn out to be the biggest wound inflicted on his existence but he dealt with it knowingly nonetheless.
“She owes you nothing,” Eric said coolly of the woman who had manipulated them all like pawns. “Let the Authority deal with her.”
“Sookie would be forever tied to Bill Compton without her intervention.”
Eric hissed with venom at the mere thought of it. Not so much for his own loss but the thought of her fate, everything that he cherished in her spirit would be extinguished from her bright eyes that he loved so much. No liked so much.
“Her manipulations and Sophie Anne’s placed Sookie in that position. One doing does not recuse the other. Do not see it as your calling to save her too,” Eric advised his maker with disbelief that Godric would even consider such actions.
“Without those manipulations you and Sookie would never have met,” Godric pointed out. “Is that how you would have preferred for events to have unfolded?”
“If it had spared Sookie that pain, then yes,” Eric replied, his honesty on the reversal of his opinion even taking him by surprise. There was nothing in the world he would not give up for Sookie and it was an odd realisation that it could even include his own presence in her life. Now that he had felt that ache that Bill Compton had created inside her, robbed her of a rare purity, there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t give to liberate her from it.
“You were always a better man than I.”
“You were always the better vampire,” Eric offered sincerely of their shared past, somewhere inside him believing it could be a truth once more.
“I fear I can no longer take pride in that,” Godric returned as he failed to meet his child’s eyes.
“Know that I always will, for the vampire that was and raised me.”