Sookie’s jaw drops in shock. She splutters a few times, trying to articulate a response but nothing intelligent leaves her mouth. She settles for gaping at Appius.
“Please close your mouth, Miss Stackhouse. That is not an attractive look for you at all,” he admonishes before sipping his glass of blood again.
“YOU wanted to be Eric’s maker?” Sookie finally manages to shout out her response. It isn’t the most intelligent thing she could have said, but it’s the only thing that comes to mind. She cannot for the life of her imagine the vampire she loves, her Eric, having been turned by the vampire sitting across from her. He’s too cold, too brutal. Sookie isn’t blind; she knows that Eric has been brutal in the past, but when she witnessed his brutality it was always been for a reason. Eric isn’t brutal for the sake of being a brute. However, Sookie can tell that it is too easy for Appius to be a savage; he has to work extremely hard to act civilized.
“I should have been Eric’s maker,” Appius replies angrily as his fangs snap down. The glass he had held shatters as his hand clenches in a fist. Sookie shrinks back in her chair, frightened by the pure rage on Appius’ face. This is the savage she knew was lurking beneath the veneer.
Appius bends down so that his face is mere inches from Sookie’s. She shrinks back in fear, but the high wooden back of the chair doesn’t give her much room to escape. “Did you know that a vampire feels a pull to his true progeny? It is true we can make anyone a vampire, but the pull to one specific human is a very special bond. I’ve been a vampire for over two thousand years and can say I’ve only felt such a pull twice in my existence. Godric stole my first child from me,” Appius seethes.
With effort, Appius rises and forces his fangs to retract. He looks at his hand indifferently before and pulling the handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit jacket. He wipes the blood off his hand so casually, as if he is used to the red liquid staining his pale skin. Before he continues his story, he pours himself a second glass of blood from the warming decanter. “Would you like something to drink? I can have one of the human staff bring anything you like,” he offers cordially.
Sookie shakes her head negatively, still shaken by Appius’ outburst. How is it that one can go from psychotic killer to sounding as proper as if offering afternoon tea in an English drawing room in a matter of seconds?
“Forgive me, my dear,” Appius offers apologetically as he resumes his seat opposite of Sookie. “I did not mean to frighten you, but the subject of the Norse Man’s maker is a very delicate one for me. Godric and I fought violently when I discovered his betrayal. I would have ended my blood brother that night if it had not been for Eric’s interference. His skills on the battlefield coupled with his newfound strength and speed made him a formidable foe I had not counted on. When I was about to deliver the True Death to Godric, Eric managed to cut off my arm with his sword. The wound felled me. Eric would have taken my head as well if it hadn’t been for Godric’s command to stop. Instead of finishing me off, they left me. I was too weak to follow, and I spent a year regrowing my arm. By the time I, healed completely, Godric and Eric had disappeared. I searched high and low for centuries, but my search was futile. Eventually, I made other progeny, but I have never forgotten the one that was stolen from me. No creature can hold a grudge like a vampire,” Appius chuckles darkly.
There are thousands of questions forming in Sookie’s mind, but she is afraid to ask them for fear of angering the volatile vampire whose company she is forced to endure. However, the same lack of self-preservation she’d shown when confronted with Russell Edgington the first time shows itself, and she finds herself foolishly questioning her captor. “Why did Godric do it?”
“Sibling rivalry perhaps. As I said before, our maker liked to see Godric and I compete against one another. We had watched Eric and his men on the battlefield for many nights. Eric was magnificent; absolutely breathtaking,” Appius remembers in a tone full of admiration. “From the moment I saw him, I wanted him. I desired his blood and his body. I wanted to fuck him while I had my fangs buried in his neck. I wanted to have his lips wrapped around my cock while I had my lips wrapped around his. And when I’d drained every last drop of his sweet blood from his body would I feed him mine, creating the perfect companion I could control for eternity.” Appius shivers with longing and Sookie cannot help but notice how visibly excited he has become talking about how much he desired Eric.
“It sounds as if you wanted a slave, not a companion,” Sookie replies clearly shaken by Appius’ revelations. She secretly cheers that Godric got to Eric first. She hates to think what would have happened to her beloved vampire if Appius had been his maker. He certainly wouldn’t be the same vampire she knew and loved. Appius would have crushed Eric’s spirit, destroying everything honorable about the Nordic vampire. Appius would not have been satisfied until Eric was reduced to nothing more than a toy to amuse him. Sookie shudders thinking about what would have happened if Eric ceased to amuse Appius. Something tells her the vampire before her would have no problems destroying or ending his own progeny. In fact, it probably amuses him to do so.
Appius narrows his eyes at Sookie. “You know nothing of what it means to be a vampire! Despite all your years surrounded by us, you are still completely ignorant about the fanged race. It is the right of every maker to decide the fate of his progeny. You watched Northman stake his eldest child because she betrayed him. You think Godric so noble, so refined and civilized, yet he sent his first progeny to her True Death before she reached her fiftieth year,” Appius says viciously.
Sookie shakes her head, vehemently trying to deny Appius’ words. In the amount of time it takes for Sookie to inhale deeply, Appius is once again in front of her, gripping her face between the tips of his cold fingers. His grasp does not hurt her, yet she cannot escape his hold. Appius’ eyes burn with emotion yet his voice is impassive.
“A maker is to teach their progeny; sometimes the progeny is resistant to learning. Those times require punishment. Does a human parent not punish a human child when the child knowingly breaks the rules?”
“Parents don’t normally torture their children or expect sex from them,” Sookie retorts.
Appius laughs cruelly as he stares at the fairy hybrid, his eyes dancing with malicious humor. “You are very naïve, Miss Stackhouse. You know as well as I that such things happen among humans. You view sexual relationships between family members to be incestuous and a sin in the eyes of your God, but to a vampire, such things have no meaning. Nothing is forbidden. A vampire child seeks to please their maker; they long to feel connected to the one that turned them. Nearly every progeny has a sexual relationship with their maker. Godric and I each had one with our maker as well as with each other. I have had sexual relationships with all of my children. Your precious Viking had such a relationship with his maker, his vampire sister, and his progeny. Tell me, does that make him a monster in your eyes?”
Sookie refuses to answer Appius’ question. She’s never been bothered by the idea of Eric having sex with a man; in fact, Sookie made her peace long ago with the fact that Eric had sexual relationships with Pam, Nora, and Godric. Sookie even speculated that Willa had a sexual history with Eric, albeit a brief one given the rapid succession of events during that time. Of course, Sookie had never asked her friend to confirm her suspicion, but she’d made her peace with it. To be honest, some of Sookie’s darkest fantasies had involved her imagining Eric and Godric together sexually. Both men were beautiful and there was no disputing the affection between them. In Sookie’s mind, she could imagine watching Eric and Godric, complete opposites physically, but both beautiful, engaged in a passionate lovers’ embrace. She’d imagined sitting in the corner of a room, watching as Eric and Godric moved in synchronicity as only two lovers with years of shared experiences could. It wasn’t frenzied, it was incredibly erotic in her mind, watching Eric and Godric kiss and caress each other’s bodies. In some of her fantasies, she watched the two men as they pleasures each other; in others, she was an active participant, enjoying two sets of hands and mouths as they worked in tandem to pleasure her.
Sookie shifts uncomfortably in her chair, trying to stymie her wayward thoughts. The last thing she needs is for Appius to know she is aroused. Although he has made it clear that he preferred men, Sookie knows vampires aren’t exactly picky about whom they use to satisfy their need for blood and sex.
Sookie decides to force the conversation back to what really matters most. “What do you want in all of this? Why are you helping me? You’ve partnered with people who are trying to kill the man I love, yet you are keeping me safe. What’s in it for you?”
All expression leaves Appius’ face which leaves him looking shockingly vulnerable. “Absolutely nothing,” he says in the faintest of whispers before leaving an even more confused Sookie alone in the room.
Sookie wonders aloud, “What the hell does that mean?”
“Sookie is being held in a private residence between Charleston Peak and Red Rock Canyons,” Hunter begins as he projects images from his laptop to the television in Jason’s living room.
“How did you find this?” Eric’s eyes are glued to the images of the multimillion dollar home on the screen. The exterior looks like an oasis, a glimpse of paradise in an otherwise barren land. The grounds are perfectly manicured lawns with palm trees and pools scattered precisely around the property to create the perfect desert retreat. Rising from this vision of nirvana is a house reminiscent of the villas Eric has seen along the Mediterranean coast. Everything Eric has seen so far makes him skeptical that this is where Sookie is being held. Felipe de Castro is known for his Liberace-esque sense of decorating. Make it bigger, make it grander; those are the words that de Castro exists by if his ostentatious casinos and bedazzled capes are anything to go by. The images of the property playing as a slideshow are extremely tasteful and well maintained; it’s actually a property Eric would have been interested in buying if it were different circumstances.
“The King of Nevada hasn’t exactly been quiet about the fact that he is preparing for a war,” Hunter begins his explanation. “He has fortified all of his casinos; beefing up security with mercenaries. Same with his residences. However, Sookie isn’t being held in any property owned by de Castro. She’s being held in a property owned by an Alric Ramesses.”
Eric inhales sharply hearing that name. Niall interrupts Hunter’s explanation to question the vampire. “Does the name have meaning to you, Viking?”
“It does,” Eric begins slowly. “They are two names that Godric used as aliases throughout our time together.”
“And do you know why he had such an affinity for those names?”
“No. I am in no mood for games, Fairy, so either tell me what you know or you can be my nightly meal,” Eric seethes. Smugness radiates from Niall and it grates on Eric’s already frazzled nerves.
“Your maker never spoke of his bloodline did he? He never told you about the one who made him?” Niall ignores Eric’s empty threat. At the negative shake of Eric’s head, Niall continues. His tone sounds like that of a history professor. “Thousands of years ago, there lived an Egyptian pharaoh named Ramesses. He wanted to become the most prolific and celebrated pharaoh ever to rule Egypt. In order to guarantee his success, Ramesses turned to the supernatural. As you know, Ancient Egyptians heavily believed in mysticism and the supernatural. Ramesses sent the call far and wide of what he was seeking. None answered him save for one creature, a mysterious woman who only met with the egocentric pharaoh at night. Her name was Isis.”
“Stop,” Eric commands as he interrupts the long-winded fairy’s explanation. “Are you telling us that Godric’s maker was Ramesses the Great? The pharaoh known as ‘The Great Ancestor’?”
“Yes, and Ramesses’ maker was Isis, the woman the Egyptians and other cultures believed to be a goddess,” Niall answers simply. Niall frowns slightly at having his explanation interrupted but then waves his hand as if to brush his irritation aside.
“Fast forward several centuries. Ramesses was released by Isis and he ended up turning two children. Godric was the younger of the two vampires. The elder of Ramesses’ children was a former Roman legionnaire named Appius Livius Ocella. Ramesses encouraged competition among his children. That competition boiled over sometime in the tenth century,” Niall ends with his eyes locked on Eric. Everyone in the room turns to look at Eric, who is an immobile statue though his emotions are an explosive clash inside him, beating up his already damaged psyche.
“Hang on,” Jason interrupts the charged silence. He scratches his head furiously as if rubbing his scalp will somehow get the hamsters spinning on their wheels or the friction will create enough heat to get the ideas firing in his head. He stops scratching his head and slaps his hands against his thighs in frustration. “What in the hell are y’all talkin’ bout? What the fuck do Egyptians, rams, and Icees have to do with who has Sookie?!?!”
“No, Jason,” Willa begins gently. “Your great-grandfather is talking about two vampires that came from Ancient Egypt. One was Godric’s maker. Apparently Godric also had a vampire brother.”
“Oh. Well, what the hell does all this have to do with Sook? She ain’t ever been to Egypt,” Jason remarks with confusion.
“Godric and his vampire brother were traveling through Britannia together after Ramesses had been ended by another vampire. Appius felt the pull to make a vampire, drawn to one of the humans the two vampires had watched on the battlefield. However, Godric turned the human instead of letting his vampire brother do it,” Niall explains for Jason, clearly irritated by the lack of intelligence his descendant displays.
“But Godric made Eric and Nora vampires,” Jason states with confusion. “Did he make another vamp before Eric?”
“He is talking about me, you fool,” Eric hisses. For over a thousand years, Eric has revered his maker. Godric gave Eric the greatest gift imaginable, immortality. Eric thought Godric had been drawn to him, felt the pull to make him as his child. Instead he learns his beloved maker stole him from another, that another vampire was destined to have been his maker. Why would Godric do such a thing? Especially to his own blood brother?
“To save you,” Hunter answers Eric’s unspoken question. Eric’s fangs snap down at Hunter’s invasion of his privacy. Hunter shrugs in response, clearly unfazed by having a vampire angry at him. “You were spiraling, and I need you to focus on the tasks at hand.”
“Then skip the history lesson and get to the point,” Eric orders.
“The history lesson is part of the point,” Hunter returns in a forceful tone. “This isn’t about Aunt Sookie; this is about you! It’s a vendetta that goes back a millennium.”
“Godric turned you even though he knew Appius felt the pull to turn you,” Niall explains. “Godric knew what his brother would do to you if you were his progeny and he admired you far too much to see you broken and enslaved by Appius. So to save you from that fate, he gave you the choice.”
“To die or live; to be a companion of death,” Eric replies softly.
Niall nods. “Appius was livid when he discovered what Godric had done and would have ended him. Do you remember saving your maker from another vampire’s attack when you were newly turned?”
“I do. I severed his arm before he could rip off Godric’s head. I would have staked him but Godric commanded me not to. Was that Appius?”
Niall nods again. “It took a year for him to heal. He searched for you two for centuries. Eventually he was forced to give up his search.”
Niall continues his explanation in a subdued voice. “Appius isn’t one to do something out of the goodness of his heart. There must be some angle he thinks he can exploit in all this.”
“Me,” Eric answers. He shifts his gaze to take in everyone in the room. “He thinks this is his chance to finally own me. Felipe de Castro wants to destroy me, to see me meet the True Death, but if Appius wants me, then he is playing de Castro for his own gain.”
A heavy silence descends over the room. No one knows what to say in the face of Eric’s proclamation though they are all thinking the same thing. To save Sookie, they must sacrifice Eric. There is no question that Eric will do whatever he has to do to save Sookie, even if it means sacrificing himself.
“How do you know so much about Eric’s history? I mean, vampires are supposed to be extremely secretive. Hell, Eric didn’t know any of this and it’s about him! So how do two fairies that spend most of their time in another dimension know about it?” Willa looks truly puzzled as she tries to wrap her head around all the information provided by Niall and Hunter.
Eric looks at his only surviving progeny with admiration. He had appreciated how quick-witted she was to bargain with him, even in the face of certain death. Given the wealth of information Niall and Hunter had provided, Eric should have questioned how they had obtained their information. Godric had always taught him to analyze every angle, to see all sides to a problem, and to see who has the most to gain in any given situation. Even now, he can still hear Godric chiding him for being reactionary instead of analytical.
“The home doesn’t belong to Appius or Victor Madden, Appius’ progeny. It belongs to Isis,” Hunter finally admits when Niall remains close-lipped.
“Isis? She’s still alive after all this time?” Thalia who had remained silent through all of this finally speaks. Eric looks at her sharply. There is a note of familiarity in the way she said the ancient vampiress’ name. Eric plans to question Thalia as soon as the meeting is over.
“She is,” Niall confirms. “She’s the one that has given us all the information we have about where Sookie is being held and by how many.”
Willa asks suspiciously, “How do we know we can trust her?”
A soft melodic laugh floats through the air of Jason’s home as the sound of high heels snap against the wooden stairs. All heads turn to stare at the intruder among them. A statuesque woman with ebony colored hair as straight as a pin walks regally towards them. Her smooth skin is sun kissed yet has a slight pallor to it that marks her as a vampire. Her round brown eyes are full of warmth and compassion, qualities rarely seen in the eyes of a cold-blooded killer. The clothes and jewels that adorn her body are of the finest quality and tailored to fit her lithe body. She is the epitome of grace and elegance.
“You are right to be wary of one you have never met, young one,” Isis answers breezily as she glides to the center of the room. Her gaze focuses solely on Willa. “You remind me of myself, my dear. I shall enjoy getting to know the youngest member of my bloodline once this is all over.”
“And how will it end?” Willa lifts her chin as she defiantly questions the supposed matriarch of her bloodline. “It appears the two sides of your bloodline are at war.”
The warmth and compassion fades from Isis’ gaze. “I will do what I should have done centuries ago. I will settle this feud once and for all,” she utters coldly.