Her words trailed off as Sookie took in the sight of her friend. Tara was sitting on the couch, half turned around, arm extended, where she had moved to keep sight of Sookie when she went to answer the phone. The problem was her friend was completely frozen in place. Literally. She wasn't even breathing. Inching to her friend slowly, Sookie held her hand out and touched Tara's cheek. Tara was cold and hard as though she were stone.
Sookie began to shudder violently as her gaze landed on Thor, who had gotten up to follow after her when she went to get the phone. Her puppy was frozen in mid-step. Tongue hanging out the side, and front paw up in the air where he had been about to take another step.
“Oh my God!”
She had to get help! Sookie twisted around and ran out of the house. “Han! Ivan! It's Sarg—“
Again her words died. All around her house her guards were frozen in time. No one and nothing moved. Each person and creature was literally frozen in mid-motion. Nothing. No one breathed. No one blinked. Nothing. No sound, the very air had been stilled.
'What do I do? What is going on? What's happened to everyone? Oh my God!'
Sookie could feel the crushing, enervating power of her terror. Her attention was drawn back to the house when she heard the phone begin ringing again.
'Maybe it's Eric? He's probably feeling my fear and calling to check on me! Oh please! Let it be him!'
She pushed through the deathly ambiance. Eric would save her. She had to get to the phone. She staggered back into the house more quickly and reached hesitantly for the phone. “H … hello?” She closed her eyes, gritting her teeth.
'Please oh Please.'
“Miss Stackhouse, please be assured that I mean you no harm,” the voice was richly masculine and went on kindly. “I'm sorry I am frightening you, and I hope to put your fears to ease as quickly as possible. I merely wish to speak to you this evening. That is all.”
Sookie's breaths were rasps sawing in and out of her chest. She was starting to hyperventilate. She had never been so afraid, and she could barely hold onto the phone she was shaking so hard. “What happened to everybody? What did you do?” she gasped, clinging to the sanity of her own voice.
“It is a freezing spell. The barrier around your home prevents me from entering, but I can still use the earth as a conduit for my magic. I cast a spell and anything inside the barrier touching the ground is frozen in time.”
“But I'm not!” She was moaning, her lungs dragging in air.
“You are different. Very little magic will ever affect you directly due to your innate power. I would not have cast the spell if it would have affected you. I will also inform you that for the time being I have an interference spell preventing your bonded from sensing your fear. The spell will only last another five minutes or so. The bond between the two of you is strong and I cannot disrupt it for long.”
Grabbing at straws, Sookie countered defiantly, “If the phone works, I can still call him.”
“That you can, however, I'd like to ask that you do not.”
Sookie let out a strangled laugh, and asked, “Why in the hell would I do that?”
“Because I have information on bonded children that your Eric can use to help your brother.”
Sookie fell silent. The entire situation was unreal, and she honestly didn't know what to do. She was a checkers girl, not a chess player; this required strategy, this required Eric. She was terrified. She needed coherency to pull her rambling thoughts into order. She wanted Eric here with her. Now. She wanted him to hold her, and make everything better. But she also wanted to help her brother.
“Miss Stackhouse, obviously the barrier protects you. If I had a way to get to you, does it not stand to reason we would be having this conversation face to face?”
When Sookie remained silent, Sargon continued, “I realize my word means little to you, given our circumstances, but I assure you that my only goal tonight is to speak with you.”
There was soft chuckling on the other end of the line. “Tonight is all I can promise you. I have my goals, as you and your king have yours, but for tonight I vow only to attempt to speak with you,” he assured.
Shifting nervously, Sookie asked, “Why did you freeze everyone? And how do I undo it?”
“I froze everyone so that they would not interfere with our conversation, and you cannot undo it, but I can. I fully intend to revoke the spell once our discussion is done. It is my hope that we will part amicably tonight. I will also provide you with the means to ensure a freezing spell can never be used on your people again.”
“Why would you do that?” Her hand drifted absently to the flat of her belly, stroking it with her thumb.
“Believe it or not, Miss Stackhouse, I do not desire us to be enemies. I will give you the means to prevent this particular spell being used against you again as an act of good faith.”
Sookie mulled his words over. She looked at Tara, frozen in time, the arm fisting into dead air, and decided that it would be worth braving the unknown to find out some more about her enemy. “A … alright. I guess I can speak with you.”
“Wonderful. First, I would ask that you take several deep, calming breaths. As I said, I cannot interfere in your bond with the Viking for long, and the spell is already waning. In a few moments your bonded will be able to feel you, and if he senses your terror he will come here immediately, and a fight will definitely ensue. Neither of us wishes for that at present. I give you my word that no harm will come to you tonight, so please calm yourself.”
Confused, Sookie asked, “Fight? Why would there be a fight?” She raked her brain for the meaning to his words before her eyes became as large as saucers. Her breath left her in a rush of air, and she felt like she'd been kicked in the gut. Understanding finally dawned and she whispered, “You're here, aren't you?”
“Yes. I am calling from my cell phone and am standing just outside of the barrier where it ends at the cemetery. I cannot cross the barrier, Miss Stackhouse, and had there been a way for me to bring you out of it, I would have done so. Please, Miss Stackhouse, remain calm. Nothing is going to happen to you or any of your loved ones tonight. I intend for there to be absolutely no fighting this evening, and am merely here to talk. If you will calm yourself, so as not to alert your bonded to your fear once my spell breaks, then we can learn much tonight from each other. You must calm yourself, however. Once my interference spell ends, your bonded will sense your fear and come immediately. If we are to speak tonight, this must not happen.”
Feeling her stomach roll, Sookie said, “I don't know how to stop being afraid. I mean … well …” she tried desperately to control the wobbling pitch of her voice. “Damnit, you're the big evil of all big evils! How do I simply stop being afraid?!”
There was another soft laugh on the other end. It was smoky and deep, like liquid velvet. “That is simple, Miss Stackhouse, you simply do it. I have observed you quite a bit since you were born, and I have faith that you can do anything you put your mind to. As I suggested, take several calming breaths, focus, and will your fear away. You are the most important and powerful being on this planet. The world itself waits for you, Miss Stackhouse, you can certainly conquer your own fear long enough to have a conversation with me.”
Sookie did as suggested. She bent over, taking ten deep, calming breaths to slow her heart rate. She reminded herself again and again that the barrier was keeping Sargon away from her. She did have some security. 'I can do this. I can keep calm long enough to find out as much about Sargon as possible. Any information I can get is information Eric can use to defeat him. I just have to make sure to give away as little as possible. I can do this.'
Sargon waited a few moments and said, “You are doing admirably. The interference spell will break in a matter of seconds, and your bonded will once more be able to sense your every emotion. When you are ready, come to the edge of the cemetery and speak with me. I shall wait for you, Miss Stackhouse.”
The line went dead, and Sookie pulled the phone from her ear to stare at it before setting it down slowly. She truly had no idea how to go about this. Her heart rate was slowing due to her deep breathing, but that did not take away the sheer terror of the moment. The greatest adversary the world had ever known had just phoned her up and politely asked to speak with her. The entire situation was so ludicrous and frightening, Sookie was tempted to pinch herself to see if this was actually taking place. What the hell.
“Ouch! Well fuck, I guess this is really happening,” she said to herself as she rubbed the reddening spot on her arm she'd made when she pinched herself.
She stood in the foyer of her home, looking hard at the back door that was still wide open from when she'd run through it without thought a few minutes ago. Part of her wanted to run upstairs and hide in her bedroom until Eric came back. She wanted to crawl under her covers and pretend the world was safe and sound. She did not want to go outside and speak with Sargon. Not at all.
'But if I don't, he will probably just come back. Or he might do something worse right now to force me to come out,” she speculated. 'If he could freeze everybody inside the barrier he could do other things to them. Refusing to speak with him could get everyone hurt. I can't allow that. Besides, maybe if I speak to him he'll give something away and I'll tell Eric about it. Then Eric can use it against him.'
Nodding her head at her logic, Sookie steeled herself to take a step forward before stopping again. Was she really about to walk out of her house, her house that was surrounded by her frozen guardians, and speak to the most powerful vampire in the world? …. Damn right she was!
Squaring her shoulders, Sookie reminded herself that she was a queen now, and it was damn time she start acting like it. Her enemy was literally at her doorstep, and she refused to cower inside and wait for Eric to come home to make everything better! This was her home, damnit! Taking another fortifying breath, she moved towards her front door and walked out of it. With slow, steady steps, she headed towards the area that Sargon was supposed to be waiting. Her mind conjured up dozens of pictures of what her enemy might look like, but the actuality was far different.When Sookie neared the edge of the barrier she immediately caught sight of the man/vampire that was threatening everything she held dear. Sargon stood nearly as tall as Eric, merely an inch or so shy by her estimations. He was muscular and rugged but not overly so and dressed in a dark blue silk shirt draping very broad shoulders and worn casually, its first few buttons open revealing a thatch of fine dark chest hair. Her eyes followed down his chest as it narrowed to a trim waist, catching his thin leather belt and then continuing down to observe his black slacks encasing powerful thighs and ending at his Italian loafers. She didn't know what she had been expecting but it certainly wasn't this.
His was an arresting face, dark olive in complexion, strong of jaw and stubbled with dark shadow. He had a sensual mouth with a full and pouting lower lip, a long, straight nose that would make any male model envious. He was framed with thick black hair that had a tendency towards curl and hung down past his shoulders. His eyes were every bit as dark as hers, piercing and intent over the inky slashes of eyebrows and held such wisdom in them that Sookie felt sure he'd forgotten more than she'd ever know. She was shocked by how handsome he was. Were she not so head over heels for Eric she'd be drooling right about now, because Sargon was easily the most attractive man she'd ever seen. He even beat Eric when it came to looks. She felt the stirrings of something completely unexpected: the attraction was instantaneous. A frisson of fear raced down her spine.
Sargon inclined his head when Sookie came to a stop a few feet from him. He saw her perusal of his person, and the obvious shock on her face. Putting his cell phone back in his pocket, he asked, “Not what you were expecting?”“I thought you'd be ugly. Or have a moustache or something,” Sookie laughed nervously. She was wringing her hands in agitation as her eyes darted everywhere, looking for anything that could be wrong, anything that would signal the fact Sargon had lied and was here to hurt her in some way. She saw nothing, just Sargon standing before her for all intents and purposes here to have a “chat”.
Sargon smiled, a glorious display of even white teeth. “Would you like me to wear a big black hat as well?”
“That might help.” Stinging heat flooded her cheeks and crawled down her throat. She took a steadying breath.
“I'll keep that in mind for next time. Thank you for coming to speak with me.”
Sookie's voice held a bit of sarcasm as she replied, “Did I have much choice?” There was a cosmic inevitability to all this, she felt it, he knew it, and it made her terribly anxious.
“You could have remained inside until your bonded returned. I'm sure you thought about it.”
She grimaced; she wasn't happy that he could predict her so well. “I'm here now, so what is it you came for?”
“First, let me say this is the last time I will intrude upon your sanctuary,” his tone was kind and respectful. “The world is dangerous enough, and you deserve to have a place of peace. I regret I made you afraid in your own home, and I promise not to come here again. Second, I commend you for having the courage to come out and face me despite the unknowns. I can only imagine what horror stories Eric and the Council have filled your head with.”
“Are any of them untrue?” she asked trenchantly.
He watched the muscles in her jaw clench, uncertainty shone in her shadowed gaze. Beneath a thick fringe of black lashes veiling his eyes, Sargon grinned and teased, “Miss Stackhouse, surely you must know that it is not the facts of the story that decide whether or not it is good or bad, but how it is told. The Council and your bonded view my past in one light, and I view it in another. As to my accomplishments and power? I am the only vampire alive that can wield magic, and I did nearly conquer the world six thousand years ago. Had I not used my magic to see the future and learn of your birth, then I would have succeeded in conquering it. Instead, I faked my death to be here now. I forsook one path to take up another. Just as you have done.”
Her breath caught in her throat. She tensed against the sudden barrage of unwelcome memories. Private, personal memories. Sookie asked, “And your power?”
“Unrivaled on this Earth. Not even your bonded's telekinesis poses a threat to me. I assure you, Miss Stackhouse, this war you think we are engaged in is nothing more than child's play for me. I have had six thousand years to prepare for this moment in time. I have left nothing to chance. I am merely waiting for a few necessary pieces of this particular puzzle to fall in place before making my final move. The actual fight you all think shall happen will, in actuality, be over in a matter of moments.”
His voice had taken on a preemptory tone that made Sookie bristle. Sargon was every bit as high handed and self assured as Eric was. With her bonded and mate, she was learning to appreciate those attributes as his quirks. In Sargon? She found it damn right insulting. “You think you're invincible? You think no one can beat you? Don't underestimate us. Don't underestimate me.”
Realizing he'd offended her, Sargon hurried, “I did not mean to belittle your talents, skills, or resources. Forgive me my words. I should have phrased that differently. What I meant is that despite the considerable threat you and yours pose to me, I have been preparing for this altercation for thousands of years. I am supremely confident that I will be the victor, and a large part of my victory is due to my lengthy and arduous preparations.”
Again, Sargon smiled. “You wish me to tell you of my plans? That wouldn't be very intelligent of me, now would it?”
Shrugging, Sookie replied, “Maybe not. I'd sure appreciate it though.”
“I bet you would.” Sargon was silent a moment, his expression contemplative. Finally he gave a small nod of his head, and announced, “To prove to you that I do not desire to be enemies with you, I shall give you some information that your king will find useful. I was the one that designed the pill The Fellowship is using to disable vampires and question them. I designed it, and I arranged for certain anti-vampire organizations throughout the world to get their hands on it.”
Sookie's eyes flared wide. “What?! Why would you do such a thing?”
“Simple. Causing as many problems for the supernatural community, the human community, and especially your Eric, ensures that I have ample opportunity to move in the shadows. As long as everyone else is preoccupied trying to fix problems I've created around them, they can't focus on the doom approaching. It was a purely tactical maneuver on my part. I have been playing Humans and Supes against each other for some time to further my own endeavors, and I shall continue to do so.”
“But you're killing your own kind!”
“Yes, but all in the interest of the greater good,” he suggested, his eyes enigmatic and impenetrable.
Sookie let out a strangled laugh. “Greater good? Are you crazy! You're talking about pitting humans and Supes against each other in a way that could cause world war like it's nothing!”
Shaking his head softly, Sargon argued, “Miss Stackhouse, war is coming whether you wish it to or not. The time for Humans to decide the direction of this world is over. The One has handed down this order. Whether you wish it to or not, the world is about to change drastically. Hundreds of millions of people, if not billions, are fated to die very soon in a war that cannot be stopped. That fact cannot be helped. You were made aware of the prophecy, and you know this. What is up in the air at the moment, is whether or not Eric will be the king to stand by you through this change, or me. I have simply put into place measures that ensure I am the one that will spend eternity with you. Not the Northman.”
Silence stretched between them before Sookie whispered, “Are you going to kill Eric?”
Sargon watched Sookie stiffen at the soft menace of his tone, her shoulders rigid, her mouth pinched, and added, “It will be quick, Miss Stackhouse, and he will die fighting, as a true warrior should. For your sake, I will make sure he does not suffer.”
Tears filled Sookie's eyes. “I love him.”
“And I'm sorry for that, but there is no other way. I can, however, promise that, for the time being, I have no intention of harming your son.”
Sookie's hands went to her belly. “What does that mean?”
Sargon clasped his hands behind his back and explained, “I watched you be born, you know. I watched you grow, suffer, cry, laugh, play, and so much more. I watched you become the woman you are now, and it took everything I had to let the Viking lay claim to you. It ate at my undead heart to allow you to claim him with your power and create the child in your womb.”
Sookie gasped before Sargon continued, “You see, Miss Stackhouse, the only way for the true power of The One to come alive inside you was for you to claim the mate of your heart. So I had to allow you and the Viking to bond.” Indicating her belly, he added, “I had to allow you to become pregnant with his son despite my intense desire that I be the only one to ever touch you. Allowing that fool Compton anywhere near you was truly a test of endurance, and then allowing the Viking to garner your heart for his own? Nearly drove me mad.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Unfortunately you cannot have two mates. Your body will only accept the seed of the one bonded to you. Right now, that is your Eric, and thus he will have to be dealt with when the time comes.” Nodding at her stomach, “Your son is the means I will use to sever your connection with the Northman, and the means through which I shall forge my own bond with you. I need your son alive to do this, and it is my hope that once your Eric is gone, if I vow to raise the boy as my own, you will settle into your place as my mate, bonded, and queen. So for now my plan is only to kill your bonded, and not your son.”
Fire raced through her veins as Sookie cried, “I won't let you kill Eric!”
Sargon's voice was softly disconcerting as he murmured, “You cannot stop me.” When Sookie let out a rush of air as a strangled, wounded sound escaped her, Sargon added, “We will take a moment for you to calm yourself. I would also suggest we move to another topic. My plans for your Eric are well known. You cannot change them, and this discussion is upsetting you. We should speak of other things when you are ready to continue.”
Sookie turned away from Sargon. Her hand went to her throat as she took several deep breaths. She could feel Eric reaching to her through the bond, feeling her rising fear and despair, and she hurried to calm herself. Sargon was right, she certainly didn't want Eric showing up here. She pushed strength at the bond, hoping to hold Eric off, and when she felt him probe at her emotions for a moment before pulling back, she knew she had succeeded. Taking another deep breath, she turned around to face Sargon, who was still standing before her so relaxed it made her want to scream.
“I'm not going to let you kill Eric. I'm going to find a way to stop you.”
“I will not argue with you.” Sargon thought about telling Sookie how wrong she was in that assessment. He thought about urging her to make peace with the fact she was going to be his. He thought about proving to her in this very moment that he was without equal with regard to power in this world … but he decided not to. Sookie was going to have to face those brutal truths soon enough. She deserved the short time he could give her to live with her delusions. Reality would come for her soon enough.
As tears slipped down her cheeks, Sookie asked, “So you watched me my whole life? Why not introduce yourself before now? You could have wormed your way into my life so I never would have even met Eric or Bill.”
Sargon watched the tears slip down Sookie's cheeks, and begged tenderly, “First, I ask you to please stop crying. Your tears bring me no pleasure.”
Sookie wiped angrily at the evidence of her pain, and hissed, “Stop talking about destroying the love of my life so casually and maybe I can stop crying at the mere thought of losing him!”
His eyes were stark, uncompromisingly masculine. Remaining silent a moment, Sargon whispered, “Your words wound me. I did not come here tonight to harm you.”
She didn't know what to say to that, so instead she continued on. “Just get on with it. You obviously came here for a reason. So let's get it done.”
“Very well. You asked why I did not reveal myself before now, and the answer is simple. It would have interfered with your chosen path. Much of what has happened to you over the years was necessary,” he said carefully, mindful she would not agree. “You had to suffer in order to become the woman you are, and the woman you are is great.”
Sookie's eyes were hard and accusing. “Do you think flattering me will get you anywhere?”
Sargon's lips displayed a ghost of a smile. “No. I would not be so enamored or impressed with you if you were so shallow a creature. No, Miss Stackhouse, your worth lies in the fact your heart does not yearn for materialistic things. You do not preen under flattery. You do not melt when showered with gifts. No, you thrive best when loved. You desire nothing more in life than the simple things. A home, a husband, children, friends and family. Those are what are important to you. You have some of the most powerful creatures in the world kneeling before you, and you demand no obedience. Only friendship. You are truly the greatest of us all.”
His words confused her. He was supposed to be a diabolical being: the epitome of evil that she and Eric were destined to battle against. Instead he was so shockingly charismatic, she faltered. “I don't understand any of this.”
“Much of life is not meant to be understood, Miss Stackhouse. It is meant to be lived, and often, endured.”
Biting her lip, Sookie asked, “Why did you try and kill me in New York?”
A frown marred Sargon's features. “You were never meant to be hurt in that attack, Miss Stackhouse, and those that did harm you were punished accordingly. I orchestrated that attack to see if the old gods are speaking with you. I have been actively blocking the Pythoness' sight for some time, so I knew the only way you would know of it beforehand was if the old gods warned you. You and your bonded were never supposed to even be reached. It was supposed to be a test. As I explained, it was never my intention to take you before you completed your bond with the Viking, before you laid claim to him with the power of The One inside you.”
Sargon's eyes hardened, “My speculations were correct, the old ones do watch out for you and communicate with you. I was very distressed to learn of your injury. As I understand it, you left the sanctuary of Ahmose's underground chamber for some reason. Why would you do such a thing?”
Feeling chastised, Sookie defended, “When I couldn't hear anyone's thoughts anymore I wanted to see what was going on.”
Shaking his head, Sargon ordered, “You will not make such foolish choices again. You are lucky your bonded was already immune to sunlight by then, had he not been, you would have died. I used a silencing spell that afternoon so you couldn't hear the thoughts of my men, and I will use such measures again. In future, when you can no longer hear thoughts it means I and my men are near and a fight is taking place. Any time fighting happens, you are to secure yourself somewhere safe.”
Blinding rage engulfed her. Hands going to her hips, Sookie hissed, “Don't talk to me like that! I'm not taking crap like that from Eric anymore and I'm sure as hell not going to take it from you! I can make my own damn choices!”
“Then make smart ones.” Sargon cocked his head to the side and remarked, “Do you not understand that you are literally the only means to which this world can survive? Regardless as to who wins the fight between your Viking and I, if you are not left standing, then there will be no one to lead the supernatural world against the humans to prevent them from destroying this planet. You, above all others, even myself, are more important. You must survive at all costs. Thus, there is no reason for you to ever endanger yourself because nothing is worth your life. Nothing and no one.”
Sookie was startled by the proclamation. She gazed at his tall, muscled form in spite of herself and when she worked her way back up to his face, her exploration stalled as her gaze locked onto his speculative expression. “You're really not what I expected.”
Sargon shrugged. “Few things in life turn out to be as we expect or imagine them to be. You were certainly a surprise for me, and considering I have walked this world for over six thousand years and seen things that would even astound your Viking, that is saying quite a bit.”
Sookie was silent a moment before asking, “What do you want from me?”
Sargon smiled a true smile. It lit up his face and made him appear even more handsome if that were possible. “I want everything. You must understand, Miss Stackhouse, for thousands of years I have walked this world alone, waiting for you. I have had no one to depend on or confide in. I made no children so that my loyalties would never be divided. I have known loneliness the likes of which you could never imagine. I have waited so long for you, and I can honestly say that these last 25 years have literally been hell for me. Being so close to you, watching you grow, denying myself when all I wanted was to hold you during the worst parts of your history, all of it has tested my control as nothing else ever has.”
As Sookie's mouth fell open in shock, Sargon continued, “I want you to be my wife, my friend, my mate, my bonded, my queen. I wish to bind you to my side for eternity. I wish to share my past with you, and build a future together. I wish to teach you all I have learned in my six thousand years on this earth. I wish to guide you and help you learn to be the queen you were born to be. I want to share secrets with you. I want to be able to talk my problems over with you, as you discuss yours with me, so that we may find solutions together. I want to watch you grow heavy with the son you carry, the son I shall claim and raise as my own. I wish to watch him play with the children we shall have. I want to make a home with you while we remake this world together. I want it all, Miss Stackhouse, and I mean to have it.”
“But … you're supposed to be-“
“Evil? Yes, that would make things easier, wouldn't it?” Sargon laughed ironically. “Sadly, I am as your Eric is. I am a vampire, but that does not negate the man in me. I have hopes and dreams as any other man does. I might be planning to conquer the world, Miss Stackhouse, but that does not mean I don't long for a home and family. That I do not long for a woman to stand at my side. A woman to hold at night. A woman to share my troubles and burdens with. A woman to share joy with when the time for fighting is done. I am no more evil than your Eric is. In fact, he is far more primal and aggressive than I am. As you are aware, due to his half god status, the beast in him is strong.”
Sookie's eyes narrowed with indignation. “You're not going to turn me against Eric!”
“I never thought I could. I am not here to turn you against your Eric.”
“Then why are you here?”
Snapping his fingers, Sargon used his magic to teleport an ancient scroll to his hand. It was encased in a golden canister etched with ancient glyphs. “First, I came to give you this scroll. It contains the most detailed descriptions of vampires, bondeds, children, and bonded children. If there is a means to sever your brother from Sophie-Anne, the solution will be here. Give it to Eric to give to the sorcerers he is calling in to see to the problem. Perhaps they can find something.”
Leaning down, Sargon set the canister on the ground and rolled it forward. The canister rolled on the ground through the barrier to stop at Sookie's feet. When she backed up from it with a fearful expression on her face, Sargon explained, “I cannot get in, nor can anything dangerous. The magic of the barrier is specific. As the canister contains a scroll that will help you, it is able to get through the barrier. There is no need to fear, Miss Stackhouse.”
Reaching out he sent his hand on the barrier. The effect was immediate. The barrier burned his hand, though it healed in seconds, and then the magical perimeter rippled in waves of bright blue energy before falling still again. “You see? I cannot get past the barrier. Were I to shoot a gun at the barrier, the bullet would be stopped as well. The scroll was only allowed past because it is meant to help you. You can touch it without fear.”
Sookie held Sargon's unwavering gaze for a moment before leaning down and picking up the canister. She unscrewed the top and pulled out the scroll. Of course it was written in a language she didn't even recognize, let alone understand. “What is this?”
“An ancient language. If your Viking does not speak it, he will know someone who does. It will be useful.”
Putting the scroll back in the canister, Sookie asked, “Why would you give this to me?”
“Because you need it. I sincerely doubt your brother can be safely and successfully separated from his maker, but you need to try. You will never move past his loss without giving everything possible to the effort of saving him. I cannot allow such a shadow on your heart, as you have suffered so much recently and will inevitably suffer the loss of your Viking. You deserve whatever victories I can give you, and for now, this is all I have to offer.”
Sargon's voice was strained, pain evident, as he continued, “I regret I could not stop Sophie-Anne from taking the boy. I should have been keeping watch over him. I knew she wanted you, but expected her to strike out at your Viking to get you. I was counting on her arrogance, not her cunning, as she was never known for it. I was too caught up in my surveillance of you, and failed to protect Jason. I will endeavor to make sure you lose no more loved ones.”
Indicating the canister, he added, “I have a copy of this scroll, and am investigating the matter as well. I will contact your bonded with any information should I discover a lead, but do not put too much faith in this endeavor, Miss Stackhouse. I truly see this as a lost cause, but, like your Viking, I shall do all I can to deliver your brother back to you if it will please you.”
“It would please me if you went away and never came back,” she returned bitingly.
Sargon smiled, slow and infuriating. “Unfortunately, I cannot so easily abandon six thousand years of planning. I will however give you my word not to use your friends or loved ones as a tool to manipulate you,” he said, folding his arms against his chest. “As I understand it, Sam and Lafayette have agreed to stay here with you and see this fight through, but your best friend, Tara, is intending to leave. You do not need to fear I will capture her once she does to use her as a bargaining chip. I will also make sure Sophie-Anne does not get to the girl or her boyfriend. You can rest easy that they will be safe when they leave here.”
Now Sookie was truly astounded. A small nugget of hope was building in her chest, but she ruthlessly shoved it down. “How can I trust you? How do I know you won't snatch them up as soon as they leave the barrier?”
Sargon's smile was soft. Not quite condescending, but it was obvious he was amused by Sookie's statement. “Miss Stackhouse, let's be honest, I could have taken them or you at any time I wished. Obviously I am quite aware of the comings and goings of you and yours. Your friends would be useful tools, but not ones I shall use. You have suffered enough, and I wish you to know as little pain and distress during all of this as possible. I know my word means nothing to you at this point, but I am still giving it. Your friends will be safe from me.”
“I can't trust you,” she insisted, biting back a snarl of pain.
“You can, but you won't. I am not offended. I'm sure if our roles were reversed I would be equally cynical,” He finished guilelessly. His eyes sparkled.
Sookie was silent a moment before asking, “How do you know so much of what is going on with me, my friends, Eric, and my home here in general?”
Sargon's lips curled into a teasing smile. “I have my ways, Miss Stackhouse. Many ways, in fact, but none that I'm willing to share with you. Just know I am always watching.”
“Yes, though I will concede that since you erected the statue of Isis in your bedroom, she guards you from my sight. I cannot see in that room, but anywhere else is open to me.”
“So you know everything Eric is planning? Everything we're doing to fight you?”
“Indeed. I know of the army your bonded is building. I know of the men Ahmose is sending to your bonded, and those he planted in Sophie-Anne's court to aid your Viking. I know Eric forced you to kneel the other night due to Tara's callous and angry words. I am always watching you.”
Sookie felt another jolt of fear seize her. “You're scaring me.”
Sargon seemed surprised. “Forgive me, it was not my intent. Is there something I can do to ease your fear?”
“Stop watching me,” she pleaded defensively.
“I can't do that. I did, however, give you a boon by alerting you to my inability to see into your bedroom with my magic. The statue of Isis protects your bedroom. Perhaps you should seek protection from other such relics of the old ways. Putting other statues of protection in key places in your sanctuary would protect them from my magic so I couldn't see these areas.”
Clutching the canister to her chest, Sookie asked, “Why are you telling me this? Why would you give up such an advantage?”
Sargon shrugged. “Truthfully, I don't know. I find myself questioning quite a few of my actions regarding you. Just as I'm sure your Viking has since meeting you, and continues to do now. You, Miss Stackhouse, have the power to change worlds. As vampires, your Eric and I never stood a chance. We are powerful and strong, and yet your presence changes us in unimaginable ways.”
Holding Sookie's gaze, he continued, “I no longer need to watch you and your Viking as a means to defeat you. I watch you now because I cannot stop myself. I try to keep from looking in on you all the time, I try to focus on other things, but I cannot. I should be focused on this fight between your Viking and I. I should be going over my plans to organize the supernatural community under my rule. I should be focused on goals I set six thousand years ago, but I'm not. Thoughts of you consume me.”
Sookie rolled the canister in her hands as she pressed, “Is it me you're after, or the idea of me?”
“Clever girl.” Sargon looked up, regarding the moon quietly for a few long seconds. His face smoothed as he explained, “For thousands of years I have plotted this moment. I planned sweeping victories. I planned building a kingdom to my liking. I planned creating a civilization that suited my desires. For thousands of years I have planned how I intended to shape the world. For thousands of years I viewed you as just another stepping stone in my path to greatness.”
His gaze moved back to Sookie. “That has changed. From the moment you were born, things have changed. I watched you as a child. So alone, afraid, and misplaced in this world. Truly a goddess child in a world that could not appreciate you as you deserved. I watched you overcome your telepathy and learn to harness it for yourself. I watched you weather the abuse and neglect of your parents. I was forced to stand back and watch you live through your uncle's molestation,” he said, his voice a dark rasp.
Pain flashed across his tense face. “Though I assure you I made him pay for it. You don't know it, but I was the one that caused his infirmities and crippled him with my magic. I was the one that haunted his nights and gave him night terrors that required him to take more and more medication to simply function. I took vengeance in your name. I have watched you work for everything you have, and yet still remain so soft and loving in spirit.”
He paused. She hadn't realized she was looking at the ground until she glanced up and found his gaze waiting for her. His eyes raked over her face. “For the last 25 years I have learned what love is, for I surely love you, Sookie Stackhouse.”
Sookie stood dumbfounded. Truly speechless. Every muscle in her body tightened in distress, every nerve ending fired. She knew in her bones this was not a calculated gesture on his part. He meant it. For several long moments she and Sargon stood in silence. She trembled before him, overcome by the events of the last few days, clutching desperately at the canister in her hands she hoped held the key to freeing her brother, while at the same time gazing in total bewilderment at the oldest, most powerful vampire in existence … the same vampire that had just quite vocally professed his love for her.
Sargon could tell Sookie was struggling to maintain control, and thus remained silent to give her the time she'd need to do so. He had not lied. He truly loved this mortal girl that was so special she made the world itself seem ordinary. He had never meant to come to care for her so much so soon. No. His initial plans had been for them to form a mutual respect and affection for one another once he had succeeded in procuring her for his own. He had been prepared for it to take centuries, but had been ready for it. His initial plans involved acquiring her as quickly and efficiently as possible. No matter the cost, or means through which he had to make it happen. Obviously, that was no longer the case.
In studying his prey to better predict and manipulate the Chosen One, he had fallen victim to his own plan. Yes, he knew and understood Sookie Stackhouse well enough to manipulate her, but unfortunately in studying her so closely, he had fallen in love with her. It was a stunning realization. A turning point, actually because now his plans had to not only secure her at his side, but do so in a way that she would not hate him. Sargon knew he would have to work his plans very carefully to keep from breaking Sookie's heart beyond his ability to repair. Now, standing here before her, he waited for her to come to terms with his declaration.
After several long moments, she mentally pulled herself up and finally said, “How can you say you love me? You don't know me. You know nothing about me. Just because you've been stalking me for years doesn't mean you know me. You can't love me because you don't know me, and if you did love me you wouldn't be plotting to destroy my entire world.”
Prepared for her anger and skepticism, Sargon argued, “I know you better than you think. I have watched you from the day you were born. I know your favorite color, your favorite food, your favorite book, singer-so much more. I know you like to sing in the shower. I know you keep the locket your mother gave you with your parents' pictures in it in your nightstand. The locket your mother gave you after the very worst beating she ever delivered. I know you cry every time you look at that locket. I was there on the nights you would sneak out of the house to play in the woods with your Guardians. I was there when—“
“The lights you played with as a child.”
Eyes widening, Sookie asked, “Those were real?”
Nodding, his voice laced with amusement, Sargon replied, “But of course. Those lights are called Guardians. They are energy sources direct from The One. As you are a vessel of The One, they were assigned to guard you. You have but to call them, and they will come to you. Had you called them in New York when you so foolishly entered into a dangerous situation, they would have been able to protect you from the bullets and you would never have been hurt. Keep that in mind. Next time I will be most displeased if you are injured because you failed to use the safety measures provided for you.”
Eyes narrowing, Sookie pressed, “If you know The One is protecting me, why are you going against me? If you know The One wants Eric and I to rule, why are you standing in the way of fate?”
“I thought we were discussing my love for you.”
“You don't love me. You won't be able to convince me that you do, and even if you did, it doesn't matter because I love Eric. Not you.”
Sargon actually flinched. “Miss Stackhouse, I have come here under a banner of truce. I came here to help you, and to clear the air between us, as humans say. I would ask that you at least pay me the courtesy of not intentionally trying to wound me. I have proclaimed my love for you, something even your Eric refuses to do, and seconds later you strike out at my heart. You may doubt my feelings, but I ask you at least respect the fact I have a right to them. Please refrain from saying things simply to hurt me and this conversation will go much smoother.”
Sookie could only gape at the vampire before her. His expression was open and honest. His eyes shining with truth. She tried to reach for a cool response but there was none. “You really care about me?”
“More than is healthy for my goals. My original plan had me killing your bonded and forcefully binding you to me moments after you both left the barrier in Sweden. My original plan included me killing the Northman's son after the child had served his purpose. Those plans changed quickly ever since you were born. As my love for you grew, so did my plans change. Originally, I cared little for how hard the transition would be for you. I know how time heals all wounds, and knew you would adjust. However, since I have fallen in love with you, I wish you to experience as little pain as possible through all of this, and thus changed my plans.”
Gesturing to her stomach, he continued, “No longer do I intend to kill the child you now carry. His death would hurt you immeasurably, and I cannot allow that. For you, I have literally reworked thousands of years of planning. For you, I will watch you grow heavy with another man's child. For you, I will raise this child as my own. My love for you moves me to feel things I thought long dead inside me.”
Sookie swallowed thickly. “I … I can't think about this.”
Understanding how confused she must feel, how conflicted, Sargon offered, “Very well. Would you like a few moments to compose yourself, or shall we continue with our chat?”
“Let's continue. I … I think we should hurry. So … uh … why are you trying to interfere with fate?”
“Fate is a tricky thing, Sookie. May I call you Sookie?”
“No. We're not friends,” she corrected him.
Sargon smiled softly. “I understand. I hope you come to see it differently, but I can understand your current resentment and hostility.”
“What were you saying about fate?”
“Ah yes, fate. You see, Miss Stackhouse, fate works on a grand scale. The One has preferences for how things are to go, but overall the dream of the universe is what is most important. The One desires a united universe. Truly united, and the only way to achieve this is through human imagination. Human imagination will carry us into the frontiers of space. It is humans that will conquer the problems of space travel and settlement. Their lack of natural magic makes their minds incredible. Only through them can the groundwork for The One's overall dream of life itself come about. Sadly, humans are killing themselves by destroying their own world. The only way to save them is to enslave them. The One desires for you and Eric to accomplish this and form a new, truly united, Earth society. This society will be the beginning of the universal society The One longs for.”
“So why are you trying to fuck it up?”
Sargon chuckled. He was highly amused by Sookie's spirit and bluntness. “Tsk. Tsk. Your Gran would be shocked at your language. I don't intend to 'fuck up' the overall plan. Merely interchange a few key players. The One does not wish me to be your King, but The One will accept my place at your side if Eric is taken out of the equation. The One will have no other choice. If I am not accepted then The One would have to start all over again to begin enacting the dream of a united universe. I don't see that happening. I may not be the original choice to stand at your side, but I shall be there nonetheless.”
“You can't beat fate!” she spat bitterly. “And don't mention my Gran to me! You don't have the right to speak about her so familiarly!”
Sargon understood Sookie's sensitivity over her Gran's death. The woman had meant the world to his soon-to-be mate, and she was right, he didn't have the right to mention the woman so casually. “Forgive me. I know how much your grandmother meant to you, and you are accurate in your assessment that at present I do not have the right to speak of her with such familiarity. I will not do so again.”
Wanting to move on, Sargon continued, “As for beating fate? I have before, Miss Stackhouse. My fate was to die as a human, and yet here I am. My fate was to die in the Great War six thousand years ago, and yet I am still here. Fate demands you live. You shall. Fate demands you have a named and claimed king to protect and guard you so that you can lead this world towards the ultimate goal of The One. This will come about, but it will not be Eric by your side, but me. You are key to fate. Everything else is secondary, and thus subject to negotiation. When the time comes, I shall stand next to you and together we will remake this world and others. We shall make fate work for us.” His voice was propitious and feeling. It serrated her control.
“So was Einstein, and yet he accomplished so much. There is a fine line between crazy and genius, Miss Stackhouse, and I have spent eons walking it.”
Shaking her head, Sookie affirmed, “Eric and I are going to stop you.”
Again, Sargon smiled. “I'm sure you'll try.”
Sookie glared. “What else did you come here for?”
“I came to offer you a deal.”
“What deal?” The corners of her lips turned down in skepticism.
“When the time comes for you to bind yourself to me, if you do so willingly, I will raise your son as my own. He will call me father, and I will care for him as though he were my own flesh and blood. He will want for nothing, just as you shall want for nothing. However, if you refuse and I must bind you to me through force, then I shall have no use for your son as our bond will be built on hate, and thus I shall have no other choice but to kill the child. If you refuse to allow me a piece of your heart to willingly complete the bond, then your connection with the child will cause him to inherently hate me, and thus make him a threat. If you wish to save your child, Miss Stackhouse, then you must use your power to bind yourself to me when the time comes. Just as you bound yourself to Eric. Do not, and I will force the bond, and afterwards kill the child that could grow into my enemy and the enemy of our children.”
Sookie gasped and stepped back as she cried, “You said you weren't planning on killing him!”
“And I'm not. My plan now entails you making the logical choice when the time comes. My plan entails you accepting defeat and doing what you must to suffer as little loss as possible. My plan entails you willingly binding yourself to me once I sever your bond with Northman. However, if you refuse to bond with me willingly you'll be leaving me no choice.”
“Why? Why can't you leave my baby alone?!”
Sargon's voice was gentle as he explained, “I will have no choice, Miss Stackhouse. I am not the child's father. It is not my blood that nourishes you and thus him. The child will always be connected to you as you are his mother, but he shares a connection with his father through the blood Eric provides you. Once Eric is gone, there will only be your connection with the child. If you do not willingly bond with me, willingly open your heart to me so that love may grow between us, then I will have no other alternative but to force the bond. This will cause hate in your heart for me, and your connection with the child will cause him to hate me as well. I cannot allow that. It is a risk enough to allow the child to live without a maker hold over him, but if we bond willingly and I can raise him as my own, I can create affection between us. I will be his father, and provide him a home and family. That will bind the child to me. This cannot happen if I must force the bond between you and I.”
Holding Sookie's gaze, Sargon continued, “When the time comes, when I have removed Eric from the equation, you must make the logical choice. The only choice that will save your child. Save Eric's son. When the time comes, bond willingly with me, Miss Stackhouse. If not to make things easier on yourself, then to save your child. This is the deal I offer.”
A strangled sob escaped Sookie. Tears poured down her eyes as she begged, “Please! Please don't kill Eric! I love him! I love him so much!”
The hurt on her face nearly knocked him to his knees. His eyes skidded away from hers as he grimaced in pain for a moment before schooling his features. “You have no idea how much your words pain me, how much seeing you cry pains me. These emotions are so new to me, but I welcome them. I welcome the changes you bring in me, and hope to experience many more.”
A strangled sob escaped Sookie as she begged in explosive bursts, “Please! I need Eric! I can't live without him!” Her emotions raged and she could feel Eric reaching for her through the bond, but this time she was too overcome to calm herself. Her fear, and hysteria was reaching new heights and she felt Eric's anger ripple across the bond. Eric knew she was upset and he wasn't happy.
Sargon looked towards the house before focusing back on Sookie. “Your bonded is sensing your distress. He is calling the house. Our time grows short.”
Snapping his fingers again, a talisman appeared in his hand. “This is a magic talisman. It prevents the wearer from being frozen. Give it to your bonded, and he can have his sorcerers replicate it. It will keep me from freezing your guard again.”
Sookie watched as Sargon tossed the talisman through the barrier, and again, since it was meant to help her, it passed through easily. Tucking the canister under her arm, she caught the talisman with her free hand, and begged again, “Please don't hurt Eric! If you want to rule the world, then take it! Just leave Eric and my baby alone!”
Sargon couldn't stand there and watch Sookie cry over a man that wasn't him. It was hard enough for him to watch Sookie be happy with the Northman. It was unbearable to have her standing before him, begging for the life and love of another man. Looking up at the moon as a blood red tear dripped down his cheek, Sargon whispered, “I love you, Sookie, and, like your Eric, I love you too much to let you go.”
He turned from her, and began walking away. “I will not disturb your sanctuary again. I came to let you know of my intentions so you have time to prepare for your inevitable place at my side. I have done this, and I have given you what leniency I can. Goodbye, Sookie.”
And he was gone.
Sookie sank to the ground on her knees. The months of mounting fear, uncertainty, change and tension had worked corrosively and she was feeling undone. Every shred of confidence she'd had, every molecule of hope she'd held in her heart, every bit of determination she'd clung so fiercely to that she and Eric would win this war and live happily ever after had just been torn from her. She was unraveling, piece by piece, strand by strand, she was losing it. Now all she had was doubt, and steadily mounting terror.
The shock of confrontation and what Sargon had had to say metamorphosed into a gripping pain that started low in her chest and worked its way up into her throat. She couldn't breathe past it, she could only scream her agony. She pitched forward and she began to sob in ragged spasms. She felt the ground ripple as a wave of magic overtook her home, and behind her Sookie heard her guards come back to life, but she didn't care. She didn't care about anything other than having Eric here with her right now. She didn't care that she was mad at him, or anything else. She didn't care about making a stand, or keeping distance, or any of the other problems that had been so paramount to her just a short time ago. All she cared about was having Eric here with her. The time for setting boundaries was lost at present, it could return after her mate made her world right again. In this moment all she needed was her Eric! She sent her need for her mate through the bond, and thought, 'Eric! Eric, come home! Come home to me now! I need you!'
At Fangtasia Eric slammed the phone down in frustration. He'd been feeling ghost sensations of fear, anger, sadness, and so much more from Sookie through their bond throughout the evening. He'd written it off for awhile as her just being overly emotional while with her friends, as she tended to be, but as the sadness and fear grew he became uncomfortable and kept probing their bond to see if he could get a sense as to whether or not Sookie needed him to go to her. He'd been sitting on his throne detailing the changes his sheriffs were going to have to make to keep their positions when a wave of horror, despair, and terror overtook Sookie. He'd stopped mid-sentence and rushed to his office to call her. As the phone had rung, he'd opened the bond fully and felt anger shake him as Sookie's fear hit him full force.
While the phone continued to ring, the bond suddenly ignited in his chest and he heard, 'Eric! Eric, come home! Come home to me now! I need you!'
He didn't know how she'd done it, but Sookie had connected to his mind. He could feel her in his head. Connected to him, reaching for him, needing him! Her fear and desperation washed over him like a burning wave. He felt her need for him overtake all his senses, and a roar erupted in his chest. With no thought to everyone he was leaving at the bar, he shot out of the building and into the sky in less than a second.
'I am coming, min älskade!'