A/N: This would have been the next-to-last chapter in HNT, but I decided to split this chapter into two parts because it was getting REALLY long – and still wasn’t done. Hopefully you didn’t want to wait to read the next chapter until Canada Day or July 4 any more than I wanted to wait that long to post it. J
Thanks to everyone who has read, favorited and reviewed this story and the first part of the series, She’s Not There. If you like it, please leave a review! It’s so lovely to get feedback. Special thanks to my regular reviewers who keep me encouraged in working on this, especially as I venture into my own turf away from strict canon. You inspire me, truly. What a great bunch of Sooric lovers you are! XOXOXOXOXOX
Brief recap of the previous chapter: After having an intense mystical experience with Sookie following their blood exchange, Eric is lured out of the house by Antonia – and Tara!
Chapter 11: Sic Semper Tyrannis
They put me in a closet.
Granted, it was a walk-in closet, but it was still a fucking closet.
I was having a tremendously hard time staying focused on what was happening to my body; everything seemed distorted and distant, and yet I was still dimly aware of what was occurring around me. Riding through the night in the car; arriving at a low, flat mobile home; being met by a small knot of people, including a short, bearded man who invited me in so that I could cross the threshold. The group gleefully shepherding me towards the closet off what had to be the master bedroom.
When they had thrown the door open, a light had come on and I had seen another figure standing silently inside the cubicle, light hair pulled back into a ponytail and dressed in a casual tracksuit.
Everything inside me was muted, but I could still feel the faint echo of Pam’s terror and helplessness. And, oh, yes, her fury. It was a good thing for the witches that my progeny was unable to move or they would have been reduced to a mound of disarticulated body parts.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” grunted the dark woman (Tara, Sookie’s friend Tara), waving a hand in front of her face and stepping backwards. “Antonia, she stinks to high heaven. I am down with the justice of the spell you threw at her and all, but if we have to have her here, can we do something about that reek? I do not want to spend the next 24 hours smelling a dead body.”
The chestnut-haired witch (Antonia, I filed away) stepped closer and studied Pam. “I cannot scent her,” she said with a hint of a Spanish accent. “But for your sakes’ I will restore her to her unnatural self. She will be gone from this world altogether soon enough.” The woman raised her hands in some mystical mudra position and began to speak in Latin. Even within the confines of the small room, I could feel gusts of air begin to circle around our bodies and a green light began to crawl slowly and steadily around Pam’s form until she was enveloped. As I saw the damaged areas of her face begin to transform into her previous beauty, I felt a rush of relief flow from her through our bond.
The wind and the light died together and the sorceress dropped her hands. “Better?” she asked the huddle of humans in the doorway.
“Wait!” The bearded man left for a few moments and then returned with a spray bottle of some kind and proceeded to puff its scented contents around the tiny space. “Sorry. I just want to be sure she didn’t permanently stink up my stuff. A little Febreze ought to fix it, though.” He squirted the spray a few more times. “Yeah, that’s better.”
“Then we must plan for tomorrow,” Antonia said, turning as if to leave.
“But shouldn’t we have someone stand guard over them?” Tara asked, frowning.
The witch cocked her head. “Do you not have faith in my power? We have brought two strong vampires to this home with almost no effort. They are bound to my will now. They can harm no one unless they do it at my order.”
Tara still looked uncertain. “But what if someone else comes looking for them?”
“No vampires can enter this human home without Ray’s permission,” Antonia replied. “We have nothing to fear here. We are much safer than we would have been at the magic shop.”
“Wasn’t vampires I was thinking about,” Tara muttered beneath her breath.
The necromancer shrugged slightly. “If you are so concerned, then you may spend the night here in the bedroom guarding the door.”
Tara looked at Pam and me and raised her chin defiantly. “Fine.” She pulled out a small gun from the pocket of her jacket. “Although if either of them gives me an excuse to use these wooden bullets, I’m going to do it, to hell with whatever you got planned for tomorrow.”
“Fair enough. But only in extreme circumstances. We need at least one of them to survive until the event tomorrow night,” Antonia replied before gesturing for the others to follow her.
Tara stood in the doorway of the closet looking at Pam and me as we remained motionless, trapped by the spell of the necromancer. “If you weren’t both fucking psychopathic killers, I’d almost feel sorry for y’all,” she finally said. “How does it feel to not be in control for a change, huh? Bet you’re enjoying it as much as we humans do, you motherfuckers.” She spit very deliberately into Pam’s face and then mine. “Enjoy what I hope is your last night on this earth, you fucking monsters.” She flipped the light switch off and plunged Pam and I into the dark.
And through our bond, I could feel that if Pam survived this situation, she was going to kill Sookie’s friend Tara in as painful and horrible a way as she could contrive.
In another room of the house, I could hear the witches planning. The conversation came to my vampire hearing like fragments of a dream and I kept finding myself losing the thread of the conversation as if my short-term memory was not working correctly. Nonetheless, I was able to piece together the rough outline of the coven’s plan. Pam and I were to be used to show what vampires are really like. We were to kill the King and some female vampire at a public event, preferably in as gory and shocking a way as possible. It would make the news and people would see the truth.
When one of the witches had asked if humans might be killed or injured, the doublewide trailer owner, Ray, had protested that anyone at this “Tolerance Rally” would be a vampire collaborator and consequently fair game. I suspected the silence that followed this pronouncement meant that not all the witches agreed with that callous assessment, but I didn’t hear any of them protest or leave the house, either.
Perhaps it was my spell-fuzzed thinking, but I didn’t understand how vampires killing vampires was supposed to do anything but create transitory fear in any human witnesses. Surely vampire-on-vampire brutality would be seen as a way for our own kind to reduce our numbers without the humans even having to exert any effort. We’d be doing any eradication work for them.
The only way a vampire on vampire attack would make any strategic sense was if collateral damage (i.e., dead humans) gave the world the excuse to imprison or kill us all. To make the witches’ point about the danger we presented, we would have to kill humans.
Perhaps the witches were too naïve to have thought of that, or some had and – like Ray – just didn’t care. Possibly some of them were even under Antonia’s influence and thinking no more clearly than I was.
The coven’s plot seemed rather pointless to me. And yet I was probably going to die for this foolishness, if not at the hands of the King’s guards, then at the hands of the Authority, who I imagine would not appreciate unauthorized regicide.
I was so fucked.
Tara was right. Being stripped of my free will, of my ability to direct my own actions was torture. I wanted nothing more than to be home with Sookie instead of standing here waiting to be used as an automated weapon by the witches in an ultimately meaningless gesture.
As I stood silently in the dark, feeling helpless against my apparent fate, I reached out to feel for Sookie.
Worry. Fear. Anger. Determination.
Although her emotions were not happy ones, it was pure joy to feel the strength of the newly formed link between us. My Sookie. Mín blóðfrig.
My love for her welled up inside me and I tried to direct it towards her despite the magic binding me. If I was going to die in the next 24 hours, I wanted her to know – to feel through our mystical tie – how strong my love was for her. My will felt disjointed and weak, like an atrophied muscle, but I concentrated on sending the waves of my emotions, and although they still felt like faint ripples to me, I could feel their delicate vibration along the bond. Too delicate. I could have cried with frustration; as intense as my love for Sookie was, it was as if I could only just barely nudge the feelings in her direction, like feathers that might drift in a wrong direction on the wind at any moment.
As curtailed and disconnected as my feelings seemed to me, they must have been more discernible than I realized, because when Sookie sensed them, her reaction was instantaneous and palpable.
Her love for me rushed back along our tie like a tsunami wave. It was as if upon detecting my tenuous supernatural touch, Sookie had thrown herself at me, grabbed at the thread of my emotions and followed it to embrace me, sending me reassurance and deep, boundless love that suddenly immersed me in a sea of passion and tenderness. It also seemed to amplify my own emotions, strengthening my outflowing energy as well.
At feeling the full power of our connection, something in me relaxed a tiny bit, knowing that at the very least, even if I never saw Sookie again, she would finally have experienced the depth of my love for her first-hand, even if only for a short while. I could face the True Death more easily knowing that my desire for Sookie to know my love was true had finally been satisfied.
Overjoyed as I was at the rush of feelings from Sookie, it took me a few moments to realize that she was now moving towards me in what felt like a steady, deliberate fashion. I felt a flicker of hope as it dawned on me; our blóðfesta, much like my maker-progeny bond with Pam, could lead Sookie to me.
I was torn; while I did not want Sookie to put herself into danger, I knew that she had the heart of a warrior and I had to think she would not be willing to give me up without a fight. My instant fear for her safety was tempered by the knowledge that my Sookie, while sometimes courageous to a fault, could also be careful and cautious. I was going to have to trust her not to do anything unnecessarily risky to herself. I hoped she would choose to enlist reinforcements such as the King to liberate Pam and me rather than attempt a rescue on her own.
As I waited for Sookie to locate me, I realized that my mind seemed to clear bit by bit as she drew closer. Somehow, Sookie’s increasing nearness was making Antonia’s enslavement spell less effective.
As my mind cleared, I became aware that when I had been overwhelmed the bliss of my connection with Sookie, I had also been able to feel Pam’s attachment to me react in a kind of domino effect. As my feelings had blossomed, I had felt Pam’s own emotions respond, first with curiosity and confusion then a surprising mixture of disgust and hope.
With a pang of guilt, I realized that Pam didn’t yet know what Sookie and I had done and that she might be…distressed at the change in my relationship with Sookie. I knew that Pam and the old me had been very close and my taking Sookie as my blóðfrig – especially given the circumstances – might be hard for her to accept. If we survived the day, I felt I owed my progeny an explanation, even if my feelings for her were not what the other Eric’s had been.
By the time I could sense that Sookie was somewhere near the house, I was still physically paralyzed, but the haze over my mind felt considerably lighter. She was somewhere to the east of me, and her feelings were like a beacon. Relief. Confusion. Wariness.
I felt her move around the house, but she didn’t get any closer and I could feel her increased frustration. Whatever was vexing her, she must have had a sudden idea how to change it because after several minutes, I felt an increasing sense of resolution. And then my Sookie was inside me, flooding me with reassurance. She loved me. She knew where I was. She was going to get help. These were not thoughts; they were more like emotional impressions: Love. Found! Helpfulness. Rescue. It was like a new language, one without words, but Sookie’s soul and my soul spoke it intuitively.
I sent her acknowledgment. I knew she was there and I trusted her to come back for me. She responded with shock that was in turn followed by an emotional reaction that would have made me laugh if I had any control over my body: it could have been translated as, roughly, Whatthefuck!?
She must have felt my amusement but her own response was not so delighted. My Sookie’s first response was fury, quickly banked and smothered over by the need to get help.
Well, that was unexpected.
I had been ecstatic at realizing the newfound power of our bond, but apparently Sookie was not quite so happy with it. I felt a little pang of disappointment – and felt Sookie feel it as well. Confusion. Whatthefuck, a little more subdued this time.
“Did you hear something outside?” It was one of the witches, whispering to Tara. “I swore I heard something. Maybe it’s the other vampires!” I didn’t need a mystical connection with the woman to hear the terror in her voice.
“My gun has wooden bullets and I know how to use it if is,” Tara answered grimly. “I’ll go look.” I heard her move carefully in the next room, probably to look out a window.
GoGoGoGoGoGoGoGoGoGo! I ordered Sookie.
And as my blóðfrig fled from the witches’ headquarters – escaping successfully, to judge by her relief – I allowed myself to feel a tiny bit of worry for what her anger had meant. But as Sookie traveled further from me, the clouding aspects of the spell overcame me again and I found myself increasingly confused and dazed, unable to remember in detail what had happened. I was able to cling to one little crumb of certainty: Sookie was going to try to help me. I didn’t know how or when, but I trusted that it was true.
A few minutes after Tara had determined that nothing seemed to be outside, the closet door opened and reflected moonlight shown into the impromptu prison Pam and I shared. Tara, flanked by the other witch, a timid-looking blonde, peered into the dark at our still forms. As Tara listened to the eerie silence of Pam and I standing immobilized in the gloom, I felt the prickle of Pam’s hatred for Sookie’s friend.
“Freaky dead motherfuckers,” Tara muttered before slamming the door shut, apparently satisfied that we were not the source of whatever had alarmed the other witch. I heard the coven members consult and agree that they should take turns standing guard for the rest of the night, keeping their eyes and ears open for activity in the surrounding woods. That they hadn’t been doing that already deepened my sense of doom; I was being sent into battle by fools.
For the rest of the night, I hoped for Sookie’s return with reinforcements to give the witches something worth waiting for, but I hoped in vain. I could feel that Sookie was working on a solution, and she seemed to cycle regularly between a range of feelings for me: Worry. Love. Fear. Hope. Most troubling of all, anger, always quickly suppressed.
When dawn came, I discovered a side effect of the spell I hadn’t expected. Despite my age, I no longer had the strength of will to fight the call of day sleep. As soon as the first rays of sunlight rose over the horizon, Pam and I both lapsed quickly into unconsciousness.
“Who the hell schedules an event with vampires to begin at 7 p.m. when the sun doesn’t even set until nearly 6:30?” a female voice was grumbling when I woke. “We’re going to be late if they don’t wake up soon.”
“Better to be late than early,” said Tara’s voice. “If Bill Compton knows we took them last night and spots them, it’ll be over before it starts. Better to be late enough that they are all too caught up with their lame-ass speeches or whatnot to notice us come in.”
“According to the app on my phone, the sun just set in Shreveport. We should check on the vampers.” Ray’s voice was eager.
The closet door opened and a small ring of faces peered in from behind Antonia. Tara, Ray, the blonde and another woman with hennaed hair. I was surprised to see so few; I remembered a large group of intimidating faces when they had cast that first spell that had left me, well, me. I wondered why the number in the coven had been reduced; I didn’t hear anyone else in the house but this handful of people. Perhaps the others were elsewhere?
“We will prepare these two here. When we are at the event, we will have other work to do. First, the vampiress. Pamela, come with me,” Antonia said.
Such a simple command, but I shivered at the magical weight Antonia’s voice carried. She could do anything with Pam and me and we would be utterly compelled.
It didn’t matter how few of the coven remained, clearly; the power was all inside Antonia.
In the bedroom outside the closet, I heard the witches begin to chant and felt the now-familiar gusts of wind that accompanied Antonia’s magic as they rattled the hangers at the sides of the closet. My connection with Pam began to hum with a sort of mystical static; it was still there, but Pam…the signature mix of emotions that I had come to know as Pam-inside-me … had vanished. Instead, I felt only my progeny’s single-minded resolution to kill.
And whatever the witches had done to Pam, I would be next.
Where was Sookie?
I felt for my blóðfrig and knew she could feel my desperation. She responded with a powerful wave of hope and determination. My Sookie apparently had a plan.
I could also feel her fear, though. And I knew she felt mine when Antonia finally commanded me to come from the closet into the room.
As the witches began to chant, raising the malevolent wind around me, my befuddled mind coalesced and focused on an overwhelming desire to kill my King.
We were a caravan of two vehicles when we finally left the house. I rode with Antonia, Ray and the henna-haired one (Casey), who appeared to be the only one of the three witches who had a car and could drive it. (Ray apparently got around by bicycle most of the time.) Pam was taken by Tara and the blonde. As we rode, Antonia gave me further instructions. I was to lure any other vampire I could to the kitchens, where she would be waiting with Ray and Casey. Only then was I to seek out the King and perform my primary mission.
“I assume you are a good strategist, Mr. Northman, or you would not have survived 1,000 years,” Antonia said grimly. “You will put your battle skills to use for me fully. I will give you that much freedom of action, but only in my service.”
“Yes, Antonia,” I answered obediently.
We parked behind a large hotel, and as we got out of the vehicles, I felt her. Sookie was here.
I could feel my mind clearing again somewhat thanks to mín blóðfrig but I said nothing to Antonia. I was still under the witch’s control, but at least I could think for myself a bit more if not act. It was as if a tiny piece of me – hopefully undetected by Antonia – remained an island floating amidst the sea that was the witch’s will acting in my body.
It was quiet outside the hotel, but I could hear the rumble of a crowd inside and faint sounds of applause. The event had started.
We split up: Tara and the blonde taking Pam; Antonia, Ray and Casey searching out the kitchen, and me vamp-speeding up the outside of the hotel to seek out other vampires for Antonia. As I expected, three vampires were standing guard outside the front doors. They were all considerably younger than I was, and now that I knew my own strength after the sun spell, I suspected I could easily handle all three of them if they attempted to capture me.
I made sure they saw me. Their reaction was as predicted – they gave chase, although I had to move a bit more slowly than necessary to ensure they kept up with me. I led them inside the hotel, first into the catwalks above a stage where I could see King Bill and an icy-looking blonde vampire seated with a young girl and another young female vampire; and then through an access hallway into the kitchens, easily locatable by the smell of human foods.
Hidden out of sight around a corner beyond a line of ovens were Ray, Antonia and Casey, their combined scents overlaid with the reek of whatever magic they were already working in their little huddle.
I came to an abrupt stop just beyond the edge of the wall where the witches were hidden and turned to face the trio of pursuing vampires. “You have cornered me. I surrender,” I announced flatly.
As the witches stepped out of their hiding place, their chants increasing in volume, the three vampires turned in confusion. They didn’t have long to process the nature of the trap before it snapped shut on them. Even from behind them, I could see from their postures the moment when Antonia took control of their bodies and they became mere drones, their wills as imprisoned as my own. When the male witch Ray laughed with elation at the vampires’ enslavement, the tiny part of my mind that was still outside Antonia’s control took grim note and I decided that if I had the chance, this was one witch who would pay when I was myself again.
Maybe the Other Eric wasn’t so far from me as I had believed.
“Come, vampires. Let us see what these ‘tolerant’ humans have to say when they see your true nature,” Antonia said, nodding her head towards the kitchen’s exits.
We followed like automatons, the witch Roy practically capering in his giddiness.
As soon as we entered the area of the ballroom where the rally was taking place, I could feel Sookie’s physical presence.
We had entered the room on an upper level, along a ring of balconies that ran above the main floor. Across the way on the same level, I could see King Bill’s dark-clad human guards, armed with weapons, discreetly standing back from the upper rail and positioned so that the crowd below was less likely to notice them.
I could sense that Pam was beneath us on the ground floor, somewhere close to the stage, which was festooned with streamers and a shiny array of metallic balloons spelling out “TOLERANCE.” In a hushed whisper in Latin, Antonia directed the three other vampires towards their mission on the other side of the auditorium while I stood, passive and hidden behind a curtain in a balcony close to the stage, waiting to act on Antonia’s order. Antonia, Ray and Casey selected a centrally located balcony to my left from which they could oversee their magical operation, like generals directing their troops.
Sookie’s presence drew me like a magnet, and although it was a challenge, as soon as I was alone I pushed the limits of the magical restraints on me to peer from behind the curtain and scan the crowded room for my blóðfrig. I found her at the back of the crowd, with two men, one short and dark-skinned and the other of lighter complexion. It was a shock to realize that I could I could feel the dark-skinned one inside me as well as Sookie; not as strongly as I felt my blóðfrig or even Pam, but a steady little pulse of fear and determination. Who the hell was that?
Sookie felt me as well and I saw her eyes search the balcony where I was trying to hide myself. For a brief moment, our eyes met and I felt the explosion of her feelings. Joy. Terror. Resolve. From behind the wall of Antonia’s will, I sent out a feeble pulse of love and regret. And then I dropped the balcony curtain, unable to sustain my momentarily shifted attention. I felt Antonia’s imperative tug impatiently at me again. I needed to kill William Compton.
Below us, the blonde female vampire introduced the King, who began speaking about the evils of hatred and intolerance, just as Antonia and her witches began to chant. With a sudden blur of violence, the three vampires across the room struck the row of snipers on the opposing balcony, disemboweling them at lightning speed and displaying the mutilated bodies at the balcony rail before launching the corpses into the crowd below.
Chaos erupted as panicked humans fled in all directions, screaming with terror and horror, and the three vampires across the way leaped to the main ballroom floor and began to cut a bloody swath through the human crowd. Bodies and parts of bodies were flung out of the way as they made their way towards the scaffolding at the front of the room.
At a signal from Antonia, I leaped over the balcony onto the stage like a vampire John Wilkes Booth. King William Compton, his attention focused on the three blood-soaked vampires moving towards him and the others on the platform, didn’t notice me until I landed in front of the podium, which I tossed out of my way like an empty cardboard box. The King scrambled backwards, stumbling over the wires that had torn free from their taped positions on the floor when I threw the podium aside, and fell awkwardly to the floor, his arms and legs flailing as he tried to regain his balance.
In the distance, I heard Sookie scream my name and felt the rush of her panic, but the emotional noise dimmed in comparison to my need to fulfill my mission. I seized Bill Compton by the shoulders and prepared to rip his head off. Sic semper tyrannis.
A/N: Yes, I made up another word: blóðfrig. I’m not going to be specific on what it means just yet, but there are some hints if you look up Frigga. It’s a stretch, but I know what I was trying to get at, so please indulge me.
Some of you may also appreciate that Word whined quite a lot at me about passive voice in this chapter. That is a deliberate choice.
For those who may not be familiar with US history, actor John Wilkes Booth leaped from a balcony onto the stage at Ford’s Theater after assassinating Abraham Lincoln, shouting “Sic semper tyrannis,” translated “Thus always to tyrants.” Booth broke his leg in the process since he wasn’t a vampire.