“You don’t have to sit out there all night, you know,” I called out to Niall, who had taken up residence outside of his residence. “I said I was sorry.”
And I was sorry for attacking him.
Just not to the degree I thought I should be.
I couldn’t explain it though. Without Eric-er there, I felt like one huge ball of high tension wire, ready to snap at the slightest breeze.
I hadn’t put too much thought into the whole feeling his feelings thing, other than the fact that it was there. But now that he’d left me there all alone, Niall’s earlier words gave me a whole new perspective.
I could only imagine the monster I could have turned into if Eric-er had left me to fend for myself from the get-go.
With Eric-er, I could let myself relax.
With Eric-er, I knew I was safe.
With Eric-er, I could still be me.
The me, with or without fangs.
But without him there, I felt a deep-seated need to be on guard, hyper aware of everything around me, as though I was seconds away from being attacked. In a constant state of fight or flight mode, Eric-er had taken away my ability to flee before he up and fled the house.
He was the one who’d left me with no choice but to fight.
It was exhausting.
“I know,” Niall called back through the open patio door, from the lawn chair he’d been sitting in for the last hour, and sounding exhausted himself. “And as I told you before, there is no need for you to apologize. I should have known better than to tease you when you are still so…when your new state is still so…well, new.”
I knew from his thoughts that he meant what he’d said. That he didn’t blame me for flying off the handle by flying at him in a rage and pinning him to the wall.
Just like I couldn’t blame him for deciding to stay outside until the sun was up and I was down for the count.
But I also knew from his thoughts his judgment was likely colored by not only his affection for me, but the chance to learn all there was he could about vampires.
One would think he’d learned enough by now to know neither vampires nor I were docile creatures. He’d seen for himself both me and Eric-er showing just how violent we could be and yet I could see in his thoughts images of the two of us in his lab, while they ran test after test on us both.
Turning us into the equivalent of vampire lab rats.
He saw it as the logical next step, instead of the nightmare I would see it as, and was already planning how he would go about unveiling us to the world.
Vampires – the greatest discovery of mankind.
The thought of being under either a literal or figurative spotlight was doing nothing to help keep me calm and my anger was quickly turning into panic, but I had no way of telling Eric-er what Niall was thinking without Niall’s help.
Maybe Google could come to the rescue, with an English to gobbledygook translator?
I don’t know when I stood up and only realized I was already on my feet, when the room was flashing before my eyes, while I paced the length of it at my new Fast & Furious speed.
But the room wasn’t the only thing flashing before them.
Images of my gran and my brother – of my friends and the life I had back home – were flashing before them too. I’d done such a fine job of avoiding them altogether – back when I was dying of a terminal illness and didn’t want to worry them with the news – karma must have seen fit to whack me over the head with my selfishness.
Boom! – You can never go home again.
Pow! – Your family can never know what happened to you.
Splat! – You’ll have all of eternity to beat yourself up with the irony that your virtual disappearance will haunt them more than dying of any illness ever would have.
I suppose I deserved it. I’d avoided not only them, but the reality of my new reality, thereby avoiding the reality of the fact they could never know about me.
I only knew I was crying when I smelled the gross and yet intoxicating scent of my own blood, trailing down my face. But it reminded me of the fact I tended to feel a little more levelheaded after I’d eaten, so I went into the kitchen and downed another two glasses of blood.
Closing my eyes once I’d swallowed the last drop, my mind was still going a mile a minute, but I could make more sense of it all now. And when the various puzzle pieces fell into place, I knew there was only one thing I could do.
If I could manage to do it.
But I had no choice. My life and Eric-er’s life was on the line.
Any life I would find worth living anyways.
We would just have to find a way to survive without Niall’s help.
God forgive me, there was no other way.
My heart was already breaking as I made my way to the backdoor and meeting the eyes of the man I would always view as my family, I softly whispered, “Come here, Niall.”
Reaching up and gripping my shoulder, he smiled and proudly said, “I knew you would survive brother.”
“But how?” I asked, still unwilling to believe what I could see.
I’d first met Godric during my eighth winter as a vampire. He was nearly the same age as Ocella, but he was so different than my Maker. I had never witnessed him be cruel for cruelty’s sake and he had voiced his disapproval over Ocella’s methods of discipline several times over the years.
He stopped once he learned Ocella would always make me pay the price for his condemnation.
Godric was the only vampire, younger than my own Maker, I had ever seen Ocella be wary of. He had nearly a century in age over Godric and at least a half more in body mass, but he never attempted to engage him in a fight.
I no longer wondered why after seeing Godric fight.
He was fast – more so than any other vampire I had ever seen, regardless of their age – and he was undoubtedly lethal.
We became closer during those times when Ocella had attempted to make another child. Commanded to not flee, I’d had no choice but to wait nearby for the three nights he would spend in the ground, with my hope oscillating back and forth between selfishness and selflessness.
Selfishly hoping the human would survive the turning, thereby taking some of Ocella’s focus away from me.
Selflessly hoping the human would die in the grave Ocella had taken him to, knowing no one deserved the fate that awaited them otherwise.
Being a great tracker, Godric had inevitably found the isolated locations Ocella had thought were remote enough to go to ground for three nights. And it was during those nights and others like them when I was able to learn more about him.
Unlike me, Godric relished in his new vampire state and viewed his turning as a gift. Where I had been the reluctant chieftain of my village, he had been a slave. His Maker had been kind where mine was cruel, so we had nothing in common.
And yet I’d always felt a special kinship towards him.
A kinship that seemed to have survived a thousand year hiatus because he smiled warmly at me now and replied, “That is a story I will have to learn from you, my friend. How.” Then gesturing towards the structure that sat atop my hidden stores of valuables, he added, “Let’s go inside and you can tell me all about how you managed to fool your fool of a Maker into believing you had met the true death.”
My feet began moving without thought, when I felt the sudden onslaught of rage flowing through my bond with Soo-key.
She was in a state of bloodlust.
Having no way of knowing the cause, I could only imagine several scenarios that would make her feel that way.
Each one was worse than the last.
There was still enough time left in the night for me to return to her now and there was no way I couldn’t. I had been foolish to leave her alone, when she was still so young, but I had thought it the safer option, not knowing what I would find when I arrived here.
At best, I’d thought I would be spending the rest of the night pulling treasures from deep within the ground, so that I could return to her with them at the next sunset with the proof in my hands that I would be able to provide for her.
Now, at worst, I would consider myself lucky to still have my Child come sunrise.
“I have to go,” I said, stopping my progression mid-step and turned to face Godric to explain, “My Child. Something is wrong. I have to go to her.”
“Your Child?” he questioned, with wide eyes and without waiting for an answer, he added in a determined voice, “I will go with you.”
I wouldn’t have argued with him, even if I’d had the time to, and instead shot up into the night’s sky, with Godric right behind me.
Our gift of flight had been one of the things we’d bonded over, once upon a time.
Having been passed over my Maker, it was yet another thing he’d chosen to express his displeasure over.
But I forced all thoughts of Ocella out of my mind and instead focused on Soo-key. Her rage was still there, but it was interspersed with feelings of betrayal and sadness. Not knowing what was causing her to feel such a wide range of emotions, I could only send her my determination through our bond.
Not just my determination to get to her, but to embolden her with both the fortitude to do whatever she must to survive and for her to know that I would see us through whatever was causing her maelstrom of emotions.
Soo-key was mine and as her Maker, I would be sure to express my displeasure to whoever was causing her to feel that way.
“Tell me again,” I ordered in a questioning tone and walked at a normal pace, while I circled the chair Niall now sat in, in the middle of the living room. “What happened to Sookie?”
It put me in mind of a badly acted vampire cop show, with me playing the role of the rookie getting to put the squeeze on her first perp.
CSI – Crazy Sookie Interrogator.
All that was missing was a spotlight trained on his face and an array of wild accusations being thrown around the room.
The blond – with a big rack and without a clue – was already present and accounted for.
But this wasn’t some bad TV show.
This actually was my life.
I was sure it was karmic payback for all of the Buffy shows I watched.
“I don’t know,” he sniffled and wiped at the corners of his eyes. “The last time I saw her, she was in the lab with the body. But someone must have come in and taken them both. It looked like there was a struggle.”
He sounded so distraught, which only added to my guilt, but I hadn’t seen any other way.
Niall couldn’t remember what had happened to me, if I wanted to have any kind of life – undead or otherwise – so I’d had no choice but to wipe his memories of the last twenty-four hours.
I hadn’t been sure I would be able to do it, but I remembered what the minds of the other humans felt like, when Eric-er had taken over their control.
The foggy haze.
The low soothing tone he used when he stared directly into their eyes.
Having the added benefit of being able to read Niall’s thoughts, I just concentrated on his mind, willing it to bend to my own, until I knew he was mine to control.
I felt both horrible and relieved when it worked. There was something so rape-y about what I was doing to him, despite there being nothing sexual about it.
But rape wasn’t about sex.
It was about dominance and forcing your will on someone else.
Taking someone’s control away like that – compelling them to do something they wouldn’t do otherwise – I hated myself for it.
I did it anyway.
I didn’t have a choice.
And since my disappearance had already been reported on by the media, I figured the best thing to do was to keep it simple, by sticking with the truth.
Both me, and the body of a frozen Viking, had disappeared from the lab.
As far as they would know anyway.
“That poor girl,” he choked out, making me dab at the bloody tears pooling in my eyes with the tissue in my hand. “She was already destined to die before her time. It’s so unfair someone would take what little time she did have left away from her.”
In spite of what he’d been planning to do with me and Eric-er – when he could still remember what we were – I knew his motives hadn’t been malicious in nature.
But all the same, as much as it pained me to do this to him, I really did believe it was for the best.
We each had nothing but the best of intentions.
The road to Hell was paved with them, after all.
So I tried to give him some small measure of solace by saying what I’d been trying to convince myself was the truth.
“Maybe it’s for the best. Now she won’t wither away and die a shell of who she once was. Now you and the rest of her family and friends will only remember her how she was when she was young and healthy. She had a quick end instead of a lingering and painful death.”
It only seemed logical, when I didn’t turn up – alive or dead – after some time that I would be declared dead.
It was better for him to believe that was already the case, if only so he wouldn’t feel compelled to look for me.
Being thousands of miles away from home, I hoped that would hold true for everyone back home too.
I wanted Eric-er. I needed him there with me, even if I couldn’t understand a damn thing he said.
He was all I had left.
Or so I thought, until he blew through the front door with his fangs down and snatched me into his arms, turning me in a way I could see a little guy standing on the other side of the door, who was up way past his bedtime.
“What is wrong?” I asked, taking her face in my hands until her eyes finally met mine. Then seeing the remnants of her tears staining her eyes, I softened my tone and added, “What happened?”
“For all I know you just asked me to recite the pledge of allegiance,” she sadly replied, before shrugging and adding, “And act it out through interpretive dance.”
But whatever she’d said made Godric chuckle from where he stood outside of the dwelling and say, “I like her spirit. You have chosen well.”
Turning to look at the Niall and seeing he was the only other in the room with her, I accused, “What did you do to her?”
But he didn’t even look at me, much less acknowledge my presence in the room, and it only took another moment for me to realize he was glamoured.
My Soo-key had glarmoured him?
A fact Godric had picked up on as well because he sounded awed when he asked, “How old is she?”
Knowing he could sense she was new to this life, I heard the pride in my voice when I answered, “She rose for the first time last night.”
“Remarkable,” he smiled and then looked at Soo-key when he added, “You have an astonishing amount of control for your age.”
“Thanks?” she replied in a questioning tone. “I’m sorry…who are you?”
“My name is Godric. I’m a very old friend of Eiríkr’s.”
“I’ll say,” she muttered before a sense of relief flooded through her when she added, “And I’ve been saying his name wrong this whole time, but can you tell him I had to make Niall forget about us, with that mind whammy thing? He was planning…I heard him think…”
Shaking her head, she was filled with sadness again as she said, “It was for the best that he doesn’t remember what happened to us.”
As much as it still pained me I couldn’t communicate with Soo-key yet, I was thankful he had come with me, since Godric seemed to understand her strange language.
And I was relieved to finally be included in their conversation when he looked towards me and said, “She said she had to glamour him based on his thoughts.”
Then looking even more impressed, he asked, “She is a mind reader?”
“She is,” I confirmed, but recalling her distress hearing the thoughts of the humans I had initially tried to feed her with, I added, “It was a gift she rose with. I do not believe she had the gift as a human.”
She had felt too shocked for it to have been something she had been able to do all along.
“Interesting,” he replied with a calculated look.
One I didn’t care for and I turned to put myself between Godric and her, when he said in a questioning tone, “Can you read my thoughts?”
“No!” she exclaimed in a way that made me bare my fangs at him.
We only had the safety of the dwelling to keep him from getting to us, if he chose to attack, but I knew from experience once it was torn down, the magical barrier would be torn down with it.
“Calm down, Eiríkr. Your Child said she cannot read vampire minds and I believe her. But even if she could, I would not harm her.”
I could only take him at his word, but the vampire I’d known a thousand years earlier was a man of his word.
I hoped that remained true now.
“Daybreak is coming,” he said, effectively changing the subject. “I have a safe house not far from here where we can rest for the day.”
Then looking at Soo-key, who was now peering around my side, he said, “Gather whatever you need from here and we will go to rest at another location where we will be safe.”
Tugging on my garments, I looked down to see her looking up at me with the question in her eyes.
Silently asking for my approval to do whatever it was he’d said to her.
For some reason, her seeking my approval made me both proud and wary.
I was glad she looked to me for guidance. As her Maker, she should look to me for answers and trust in my judgment.
But at the same time I was wary of leading her down the wrong path. This world I’d risen in wasn’t the same one I’d plunged into the icy waters of.
Without having any way of speaking to her directly, we were forced to rely on the translations of others.
I trusted Godric as much as I could trust another vampire I didn’t have a blood tie with, but trusting him with my Child’s welfare didn’t come as easily as I would have once thought.
So I could only hope his intentions were good, when I was left with no other viable alternative than to trust in him now, and gave her my nod of approval.