“Can’t they afford some decent hard ground around here?” my favoured niece complained as she stumbled over the wet grass. Her shoes, undoubtedly a product of perfect craftsmanship, were sinking into the ground with each step soiling the satin material. Thankfully her many other redeeming qualities made us all put up with her petulant bouts of whining. “Why are we here again?”
“Eric’s unfuneral,” Sookie replied knowing Pamela’s question really needed no answering. Her royal highness had blocked out her busy calendar especially for this night. “Though you vampires really need to think of a better word for it.”
“You’re the one who thought of it,” Pamela retorted. “Don’t put it on us…” her reply was cut short as she toppled over with an aggravated scream. I caught her before her immaculate wardrobe sustained any damage and I couldn’t help but chuckle at her fluster.
“You could fly instead,” I offered, only turning her face more sour as she brushed off the imagined dust. It was a sore spot for Pamela, our entire house were known to be expert flyers. Her skill resembled something akin to the flight of the bumblebee. It was nowhere near as beautiful as the interlude of Rimsky-Korsakov’s composition. “Hover?” My eyebrows lifted along with feigned innocence.
She huffed in return before moving forward steadily on her feet. “Sookie likes it when I act human,” Pamela offered as a weak excuse. Sookie’s attempt to stifle her giggle was to no avail with our heightened senses but for the sake of my niece I silenced my own amusement as we continued on to the gravesite.
It was a strange sight before us candles and white roses, from what I understood Sookie had been placing those flowers on Eric’s grave every week since installing the empty grave. It jarred with the sight of the small excavator flooding the grave site with its harsh artificial lights.
I was never given a grave. With my death no one had missed me, it should be a sad memory but it’s not. Until recently vampires didn’t have the luxury of returning to loved ones. I never had any of those to return to; it was my fortune, not having anything to leave behind. There was nothing to miss.
Eric had travelled ahead of us, though he hadn’t explained to me fully why. When we were walking towards the assigned spot in the cemetery I overheard his motivation. Eric wanted to be assured the headstone would be kept intact. Apparently he wanted to keep it as a memento.
It alleviated my worries. I know my young child lacks my niece’s flair for the dramatics but the two of them together were turning into mutually bad influences. Had this been Pamela’s unfuneral I would not have put it past her to jump out of the ground like one of those women inside a giant cake. Flawless without a speck of soil on her of course. It would be a look only Pamela could pull off successfully.
“Hi,” Sookie said softly as she caught Eric’s eyes. The two of them were a real marvel to observe, they were either orbiting around each other or colliding into each other with great force. It reminded me of the time I first saw them together, it was a decade ago to this day. Neither one was aware of the anniversary of course, as I had been hiding in the shadows then. I was but a ghost of their shared past in that moment of time.
Despite Pamela’s admonishing I had ventured out into the sun that afternoon, regardless of my required appearance at her court that night. The sun didn’t burn us to our final death like the Impurus but we did sport the appearance of a nasty sun burn. No SPF had proved strong enough so far, much to my regret.
My niece found it unbecoming, whilst I knew my reddened skin would heal in time. Pamela had been predictably sceptic as she wore the signature quirked brow of our bloodline in accusation on her otherwise flawless face. I had merely returned the same upturned gesture when I had returned without a hint of pink on my skin.
I wasn’t looking for anything in particular that day but when I walked past the large glass window of the diner something inside called to my attention. They were exactly the same as then. Both afraid to make a wrong move, trying to look everywhere but at each other. I sat huddled in a dark corner of the diner where I could observe them unhindered.
I tuned out all sound, I simply wanted to watch a story as it was captured by sight. Observing everyday humans and their relations had always been a favourite pastime of mine through my many centuries. Unfortunately reality was always far more mundane than my imaginations, so I silenced that and wrote my own dialogue in accordance to their performance.
I had asked Eric once what their conversations had truly consisted of. He was able to tell me from his restored memory each and every single line of dialogue that they had exchanged. There weren’t many and as I had anticipated they were incredibly uninteresting. A mild flirtation at most.
The things of interest had happened in their minds and unfortunately I wasn’t gifted with telepathy like young Sookie but she had shared some recollections when I met her properly for the first time. Just as Sookie had never left Eric’s thoughts, he had remained firmly inside hers.
I had found Eric as accidentally the second time as I had the first. He had interested me more than Sookie at the time. It is a strange revelation now, knowing that she carries this extraordinary gift. Yet Eric was a gift to me without possessing such skill, there had been a pull to him I could not explain. He simply belonged by my side.
I had briefly looked into him and found he lived the life of appearances but was far from comfortable living them. He doesn’t remember much from his turning but I remember all. I found him whilst taking a nightly stroll through the otherwise uninhabited woods beyond Pamela’s estate.
Two weres were beating him within an inch of his life but he fought valiantly even though it cost him his life. He refused to give up and at my growl the weres instantly retreated. I too then refused to give up on him and I did what I had vowed never to do. I would make him my child for he belonged among the living. I gave him a choice, something I had never been given but I thought he deserved. He answered yes and with that acceptance I opened up my veins to another for the first time.
I decided in that moment I would go to war with my own family were he not to rise as a Sanguine. He belonged by my side, full blooded or otherwise.
His amnesia became apparent shortly after rising. We were all somewhat at a loss in our new state initially, with Eric it lasted longer than it should. It made him somewhat helpless but I saw it as a great opportunity. As I had no one to mourn me, he had nothing to mourn. I worried for his safety so I kept him hidden, our House of Aurelie accepted him with reservations. He had a decade to prove he was a capable Sanguine.
To my great pride he proved that what was asked of him within a year but I relegated him into the shadows as rumours of an impending reveal grew with possible truth. He would be the first of a generation that could hold their true identity in the world of humanity as well as ours. I owed Eric the opportunity I never had and whilst no one missed me, there were those that missed Eric.
I looked forward to this change in times, yet the cause of it was less settling. Our relations with the Impurus ebbed and flowed in varying degrees of turbulence. The standoff had been tense for many decades now and intelligence reports had reflected organisation of breeding programs.
They were gathering an army, so the Houses of Sanguine knew they could not stand idle. We could never compete with their ease of procreation, the probability factor never lay favourably on our side. However, we held the light where they were relegated to eternal darkness. Exposing them along with ourselves secured the hierarchy and the power base.
My sympathy had always gone out to the Impurus. My intended unlife had been as a mere prop for my maker under the instruction of my grandsire. I was a disposable human and expected to be a single use exercise. I was simply the material for a lesson in turning. To be staked upon rising, for the Sanguine never sourced their children amongst what they considered unworthy humans like myself. I didn’t even have a first name that I remembered, let alone a last one.
Godric was the name my grandsire christened me with. Despite the Roman origins of my grandsire he chose the Anglo Saxon name that meant rules with power of god. I was simply ‘boy’ or ‘slave’ before that. When I proved a more impressive specimen than my maker, the honour was bestowed upon me to carry our House’s name, Aurelie, as my last.
My birth had been a serendipitous one just like Eric’s and my full name carried that reverence. If Eric continued to prove himself with the strength he had displayed so far, it would not surprise me that he too would carry the Aurelie name alongside his own at some point in his existence.
As indicated by the headstone that was carefully being secured into the hold of fabric belts, his name would remain Eric Northman for now. Sookie had chosen to adorn the slab of stone with carved lilies of the valley. She would have chosen it for the meaning of return to happiness and its Christian significance in her bible. She was most certainly unaware that the flower was the reigning symbol of our house of Aurelie.
It is said a lily of the valley stood in affection for a nightingale that sang above it night after night. The lily of the valley fell in love but was too shy to show herself. When the nightingale no longer came, she waited for him in vain and out of sadness she never bloomed again till the nightingale returned to her in May.
To our house it stands symbol for our successful retrieval of our full blooded children and their continued devotion to us. I had always disliked it for this reason, the discrimination of those considered imperfect. There was beauty to be found there.
Tonight that legend held meaning for me for the first time. It was not unlike the path Eric and Sookie had walked apart these years, only for the creature of the night to return to the other finally ready to bloom. She had not fallen in love with his nightly song but she had told me his mind had spoken kinder words of her than any other.
Nor was she as painfully shy as when I had observed her that first time. Despite struggling to retain control of Eric’s estate she had grown to be a woman in a right of her own, the only resurgence of that early hesitance surfaced whenever in Eric’s presence.
“Thank you all for coming tonight,” the little blossom spoke after clearing her throat. She made a small wave to the camera that was set up so Eric’s sister and Louvelle could join us for the ceremony. Sookie fumbled at the sharp corners of her index cards before continuing. “The last time I stood here with a congregation it was just me, my brother and Lovisa. None one of us really knew what to say then, his sister and I were unwilling to resign to the finality of it all. Eric deserved to be remembered and that’s why we stood here. It was a cold and windy day and Lovisa said Eric would have liked the chill, never having adjusted to the warm climates of Louisiana. Though I hardly knew him then, I knew of him.
“Through Lovisa, his things, his actions. Eric Northman was an admirable man to me then but his true character showed in the little things that no one else seemed to see. He never stopped visiting his grandmother long after she forgot who he was. I read many letters of his former employees that said he would always help them out when the need was there, whether they had asked for his help or not.”
Sookie pulled nervously at the next card though she seemed to be reading from memory. “Eric was no saint,” she continued to which everyone attested with a round of laughs. It occurred to me then it was the first time I saw a true smile grace my son’s face since that day ten years ago.
“The boy toys and Corvette stand witness to that. He made my brother envious with the remnants of his life. But I’ll always remember the first time we met. He was by far the richest and…” A small cough escaped her as she lowered her volume, “handsomest man in the room but he never treats anyone as less than himself. It’s rare as a waitress to be treated with that level of respect but it was even rarer for me as a person. I never wanted any of the things he left to me but I am thankful that he did. It’s how I got to know him when he couldn’t be around to meet.” Her hands shuffled once more to the last of the cards.
“This is the place where Eric entered back into my life and though I wished he’d have come out of hiding sooner, so he could have dealt with his crazy ex-wife.” A small tear escaped from the corner of her eye with the intended humorous statement but it only sought to highlight the moments of struggles her life had been without Eric’s presence.
“But I’m glad that he did. For that this spot should not stand as a monument to his death, it should stand testament to new beginnings,” she paused briefly before warmly looking up at my son. “Welcome back Eric.” Her last sentence was repeated by some of the other attendees as Sookie gave a curt nod to the operator of the excavator who proceeded to pull the stone from the ground.
Eric took possession of the stone as soon as it was released whilst Sookie planted two rose bushes in the disturbed ground. Pamela held an upturned nose at the sight of Sookie’s dirtied hands and at that I couldn’t help but throw a clump of dirt on her virgin white dress suit. We both knew the dirt was too dry to set a stain but the minute changes in her facial expressions informed me she was incensed nonetheless.
“Unfuneral,” I whispered innocently in defence, indicating how important this was to Sookie and she best not fly out in rage.
“You’re lucky I like her more than you,” she returned brushing off the offending soil. In apology I hovered Pamela and myself over the path back to Sookie’s ancestral home. It still stood empty but for tonight the living room held a large round table that was tastefully decorated with the same candles and roses by the gravesite. Here it didn’t feel like a place of passage anymore but rather it spoke of celebration.
We all sat down in our assigned seats after which Eric held a speech of thanks to all those present to celebrate his defiance of death. Glasses were raised and people merrily drank and ate into the early hours of the night. My eyes danced across the table as I once again took in what travelled between my son and his intended. They spoke without words just like then, but I did have insight into Eric’s range of emotions now. I had felt his paralysing fear earlier when Sookie answered Pamela she probably would be saving Eric’s plot for herself now.
I knew I had neglected to prepare him for the inevitability of death for the non-immortal we associated ourselves with. His draw to Sookie had prevented me from doing so, I did not want to ruin something that felt so pure in spirit. I had described it as tingles back then as I had no reference for it myself.
She had held an affection for him beyond the grave. She would not have been so upset otherwise with what she had termed Eric and Pam’s highhandedness in reacquiring her home through manipulation. Thankfully Sookie had come to reason when she discovered it was through my conscientious actions that her former home was hers again. I didn’t truly understand her upset till I sat on Sookie’s couch not many nights ago.
A human man once told me true love is the only thing that survives death. I had laughed at the irony at the time, as I was a survivor of death and it had nothing to do with love. That night I had understood it in its entirety. She had built up a high moral character for Eric and my gesture had momentarily shattered that. That had been the cause of the upset, not the set of keys that rested firmly in her grasp.
I was only granted any semblance of love when I proved formidable in my skills and aptitude. Pamela held me dear despite of it. She liked me for who I was not what I could mean to her. I was reminded of it during Sookie’s speech, Eric had been like that as a human. Never one to see anyone as less than, despite his fortuitous upbringing. He deserved my love for him and I have given it to him freely, though I have never been good at expressing it.
“How does Eric know a prepubescent wolf?” the man next to me asked. His name was Alcide Herveaux and he was the head of Sookie’s security team. They had been invited by her to join the dinner feast. I had never socialised with weres before.
Many had worked for me but as a rule weres circumvented Sanguines in fear of what we could do to their entire bloodlines if they aggravated us. The houses of Sanguine considered themselves to be the echelon of the supernatural order. Only to be rivalled by the Fae but they have been extinct since long before I was born.
“She is the groundskeeper’s daughter at my estate,” I offered in explanation. I had allowed Eric his friendship with the little were since it seemed to be helping him along with his memory better than my attempts. I was never one for adhering to the required etiquette anyhow and saw no harm in it. “They have a unique friendship.”
“Unique, yeah,” the werewolf replied in between bites of food before he returned a conversation to his other side. Apparently that was all he wanted to know from me. I was undisturbed by it as it allowed me to observe for the first time that night Sookie and Eric standing ready to collide. Whether it be an eruption or union I was assured it would be entertaining.
He had stolen her away from the table and she had followed him to a darker corner of the room. I didn’t tune out their speech this time, for tonight I intended to listen rather than paint the imagery with my mind.
“Thank you for this Sookie,” my son said to her sporting that foreign smile. She beamed back, the alcohol that had flowed that night loosening her inhibitions somewhat. She rested her dainty hand on his forearm to steady herself ready to reply.
Instead of the anticipated response she nervously turned her head towards Pamela who was engaging with another Sanguine. Our natural alertness had responded to her upsurge of fear instantly.
“Are you expecting any other vampire guests?” she asked fretfully of Pamela. The uninvited callers answered before my niece could as Molotov cocktails crashed in through the windows from all sides setting the room to flames.
I had expected a crash, a detonation of sorts when the telepath and my son had finally stopped dancing circles around each other and stood to truly meet as equals. Standing witness to the heat, fire and sparks flying between them in conjunction with all the other phrases my son’s novels had described about highly anticipated moments such as these. Instead I was forced to stand witness to the inferno that had not been ignited by the heat smouldering between their eyes but from the malicious intervention of fate.
I knew little of what stood to occur from now, but I knew for certain that these were not the images I had conjured up in my mind marking their new beginnings.
A/N: Updates on this will be twice weekly to start on Tuesdays and Saturdays (days and interval may change at a later date and I’m taking a vacation in August so we’ll see how it goes). I will warn that the plot lines for this story progress slowly and the focus will reside on the budding relationships between the different characters. There will be twists and turns but also an exploration of the different facets that build up this universe. I hope you will (continue) to enjoy the chapters ahead.
Next chapter will be EPOV picking up right where we left off and a bit of reflection on what happened after the events at the end of Memento Mori.
Special thanks to VAlady and treewitch703 for taking the time to pre-read and their invaluable feedback.