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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chapter 57 ~ Technological Exploits

Eric streaked through the sky, propelling himself faster than he'd ever flown before, and less than five minutes after being called home by Sookie, he was landing at her side in the yard. He touched down smoothly, his fists clenched as he took in the sight of her, his already significant rage rising. His Sookie was lying on the ground, curled in on herself like a wounded animal. Low, desperate, keening sounds escaped her throat. She seemed completely oblivious to her surroundings, to her guards pressing in around her, to her friends who were horrified and trying to comfort her, to the numerous questions of what was wrong by those that had formed a ring around her. Sookie only continued to cry, calling his name over and over, crying out for him through their bond, begging him to come to her. He pushed through the group as they quickly moved to the sides to part ways for him. Dropping to his knees beside her, his fingers cautiously pushed the hair from her face. Her tear streaked face was clammy and hot.

“Sookie! Sookie, what is wrong?” He smelled no blood, felt nothing physical to explain her condition. His senses were on high alert.  Expanding.  Searching for the cause of his mate's pain.

Clawing up through her mounting fear, the horror, Sookie heard him and stirred. His voice washed over her in a comforting wave, and Sookie looked towards him with tear-glazed eyes. Eric's voice cut through her terror and pain, the only sound that could pull her back from her abyss of despair. She felt his cool hand take hold of her upper arm as his piercing blue gaze drew her in. She could feel his mind reaching for her through their bond, just as she had him. Her eyes focused. “Eric!” With a sob she threw herself in his arms, burying herself into his chest, her fingers tunneling into his hair, as she begged, “Don't leave me! Please don't leave me! You can't die! You can't leave me alone!”

It was not the response he expected and her words stoked his anger higher. He cut a quick glance around him, acknowledging the anxious group before settling his attention completely on Sookie. He didn't know what had happened to render his bonded into such a state, but Eric swore whoever was responsible would pay in blood. A lot of blood! Gathering Sookie up into his arms, he nuzzled her hair, and soothed, “I am here. I am here, Sookie. What happened? Why are you afraid? Who has harmed you?”

In her rush to touch Eric, to feel his arms around her, shielding her from the world she no longer understood, Sookie had dropped the canister and talisman that Sargon had given her. Thus as he held Sookie protectively in his hold, Eric's gaze was drawn to the two artifacts immediately. He could easily detect a foreign scent on the items aside from Sookie's. It was not hard to deduce that something had happened while he was gone, and he was certain it had something to do with the two strange articles on the ground before him that carried a scent that should not be inside the barrier. “Sookie …” his lips feathered her forehead. “Sookie, speak to me. What has happened?”

Sookie's body shook. Sargon's words echoed in her head, the horror of losing Eric an anguish knifing through her body. She was furious at her Viking for the way he was treating her, behavior and attitude indefensible, but the notion of losing him forever robbed her of breath. Her chest seized painfully, her heart clutched and cried out in denial at having to beat if Eric was no longer bound to her. Sookie could not bear the thought. She gripped him tighter to her. “Eric! He was here! Sargon was here!”

For a moment, everyone and everything save Sookie struck still in shock, as if in some posed tableau. The silence was deafening. As Sookie continued to shake and sob in Eric's arms, time stood still and her guards dropped into a defensive stance as they scanned the area for their enemy. Eric's entire body went rigid. His mind blanked for less than a second before it kicked into high gear. Dozens of scenarios, precautions, dangers, counter maneuvers, all of it rushed through his mind as he stood, tucking Sookie possessively against his chest, while his gaze swept the area for any hidden threats. When he saw none and could detect nothing in the forest beyond with his preternatural senses, Eric addressed Sookie's guard surrounding them. “I will speak with you all later! Each of you will pay for failing me this night and allowing my enemy anywhere near my bonded! You fools!” he spat.

Having said his piece, Eric held Sookie securely in his hold and darted into the house to take them to the solitude of their bedroom. In its darkness, lit only by the soft light of the aquarium, he sat on the bed with his back to the headboard, Sookie cuddled into his lap. He pushed back her hair and bent his head to kiss the soft curve of her shoulder before murmuring into her ear. “Sookie, you're safe now. Talk to me.” He felt every incremental movement of her body as her shoulders continued to shake with her quiet sobbing and he vaguely wondered if there was a man anywhere who could cope with his woman's tears. He hadn't the time to take it slow. He didn't know if there was an imminent danger and he had to know. His voice tight, fighting with impatience, he demanded, “Sookie, what happened? When was Sargon here? How did he get in the barrier? Did he touch you? Are you hurt?”

“Eric! He said—he said—oh God!”

Sookie was sobbing so hard she couldn't talk. Her body convulsed in Eric's hold. “He's going to—Eric, we have to ….” She was crying so hard she began to choke and Eric shook here gently, his voice a mix of concern and tenderness. “Sookie, Sookie, breathe. Take a breath and let go. I'm here. It's alright.” She was hysterical now and he did not know how to reach her.

He whispered, his mouth against her cheek, “Please, Sookie,” stroking her back. Her stricken face shook his confidence and agitated him as nothing else could. He felt her tears accused him of failure to protect her from harm, being useless and too volatile, incapable even, and something deep inside him twisted and scalded, tore at him demanding he stop whatever was hurting her. “Sookie, Sookie, please stop crying. You know I can't stand it.”

Gasping for breath between sobs, all the cool determination she'd been building for herself over the last few days was lost; Sookie was clinging to Eric like a young girl. Desperately seeking assurances he couldn't give her. “Eric! Oh God, Eric! You can't die! You can't leave me! Don't let him get me! Don't let him get our baby!”

Her fear punched through his chest like a stake. Eric's fangs snapped down. His beast was raging inside him, and his protective and possessive instincts were tearing at his control, demanding he protect his mate and son. He wanted to shield her with his very body, snap his fangs at any that drew near, and make it oh so very clear that if anyone tried to take Sookie from him, he'd kill them. Slowly. Painfully. Brutally. He wanted to roar in fury that anyone had come anywhere near his Sookie without his permission. She was his! No one had the right to even lay eyes on her without his approval!

The idea that his enemy had so easily gotten to his bonded, had frightened her like this, had wounded her so badly, enraged Eric. He was furious that Sookie had not been safe inside the barrier he had been assured would protect her, that he had not been here to shield her from whatever Sargon had done to her while he was gone, that Sargon had dared to threaten his unborn son in his mate's womb. All of it fueled the burning rage that lived inside him, the unrelenting fury he had worked all his life to control. All of it, all the darkness inside him, everything was raging at him to track his enemy down and viciously defend what was his … but he knew he could not. Until he knew more about Sargon he could not rush into battle, even if Sookie was able to provide him a direction to go in. So for now all he could do was try to find out what had happened so he could take care of it.

Pushing Sookie back, cupping her face in his hands, Eric pressed, “Sookie, my älskade, you must tell me what happened! When was Sargon here? Why did you not call me? What happened?!”

Tears pouring down her face, Sookie cried, “He just left before you called! He … he couldn't get in the barrier, but … but he could—oh God, Eric! He's so powerful! Let's run! We have to run! Let him have the world if I can keep you!”

As Sookie broke down into sobs again, Eric realized trying to talk to her now would do no good. She was too overcome by what had transpired and as much as he wanted answers, right now, he would not be getting them. He needed to calm her first.

Burying his face into her curly locks, she continued to press as tightly against him as possible. With her face tucked against his neck as she cried, Eric murmured, “It's ok, Sookie. It's ok. I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere. No one is going to kill me. I promised you eternity, lover, and I meant it. Shhh … shh, little one. Stop crying.”

“Eric! Eric, he—he said—he could—oh God! I want it to stop! I want it to all stop and go away! I want us to be back at the cabin! I want the world to go away and leave us alone!”

It was the night Jason had been lost all over again. His bonded had suffered so much recently he couldn't stand to see her knocked down again. Tightening his arms around Sookie's body he moved them so that she lay on her back on the bed with his body over her. He would shield her from the world for as long as she needed him to. Using his mind he shut the bedroom door behind them, and tucked Sookie's face into his chest. As she continued to struggle against her own fear, he soothed, “I'm here, my älskade, I'm right here, and I'm not going anywhere. Shh, my Sookie. It's ok. It's just me and you, lover. Just us. Hear me, Sookie. Know only me.”

Sookie's innocence was so precious to Eric and his darkness screamed for vengeance. Her inexperience, her youth to cope with the raging forces that were maneuvering even now to position themselves for conquest left her achingly vulnerable and Eric angry with himself for not better anticipating this danger. He saw her exhaustion, her spirit crushed like a stone in this moment … and he hated it!

Sookie clutched desperately at Eric above her. In this moment he was literally her world. All she could see was his eyes, intense and dark, his face hard as he watched her. All she could feel was the strong brace of his arms on either side of her head, the immeasurable sense of security of being caged this way, and she was desperate for her reality to stay unchanged. It couldn't return to the few moments in time when Sargon had made her imagine life without her Viking. She couldn't stand to think about losing Eric again. All she wanted was him. Just Eric. As long as she could have him everything else could go away. 'I just need him. I need Eric. I can't lose him. Oh God! Please! Please don't let me lose him!'

For long moments the only sounds in the room were Sookie's muffled sobs as she cried into Eric's chest, and the soothing timbre of his voice as he tried to bring her back from her hysteria. Eric sensed the guards and Sookie's friends entering the house, but they all wisely did not disturb them, so he focused solely on his bonded. He nuzzled her hair, her cheeks, her neck and shoulders, while pleading with her to stop crying, but Sookie couldn't. She couldn't find steady ground again. She couldn't latch back onto the strength she had been building within herself the past few days. All she knew was fear. Bone deep fear that Eric might be taken from her.

Her Eric. Her beautiful Viking. Her Viking who was too hard headed to realize he loved her as much as she loved him. Her Viking who got that adorable smirk on his face right before he said something naughty to her. Her Viking who put her in the stars and bought her a puppy. Her Viking who had cried in her arms over the loss of his Maker. Her Viking who had promised to break every law his people had handed down to return her lost brother to her. Her Viking who made her feel beautiful, and perfect, and happy. Her beautiful, arrogant, stubborn Viking.

She couldn't go back to a life without him. She just couldn't. There were so many unknowns between them, so many uncertainties, but one thing was for sure, she would never be able to live in a world Eric no longer walked. He had tricked her, manipulated her, stolen her freedom, and brought her to her knees more than once, but he had given her so much more. He had given her love, even if he denied it. He had made her realize she was not broken, or cursed, or unworthy, or dirty. He had made her see she was special, that she deserved to be happy. With his own hands, Eric gave her all he could. He handed her dreams and knowledge freely, asking only for her smiles in return. He had taken away her ability to leave him, but left the choice to choose him for her. He had made it clear he considered her body sacred, and had worshiped her again and again. Every touch of his war hardened hands, every tender caress he bestowed upon her body, had been a prayer of its own.

Sookie knew her life might never be easy with Eric, but without him she would be a woman destroyed, and she knew that now. She knew it with everything she was, that the moment Eric met the true death, she would have to follow. If she had learned anything from her meeting with Sargon tonight, it was that if Eric fell in this battle, she would as well … one way or another.

“I love you, Eric! I love you so much! You can't leave me!”

“Sookie, I'm right here, lover! You must calm down!”

“He said he was going to kill you! He said we can't stop him! He froze everyone! Everyone in the barrier, all the guards, they were all frozen by his magic!”

That made Eric still. Hearing of the strength of Sargon's magic, his enemy that had so easily gained access to his heavily guarded bonded, did not sit well with the Viking king. Not well at all. Brushing his own concerns aside, Eric insisted, “He will not. The One has not worked so hard to get us here for us to fail. We will prevail, and I will spend eternity basking in your love. No one will take you from me. No one!”

“Do you promise?! Do you promise you won't let him separate us? You won't let him break our bond?”

“I promise. I will watch you grow heavy with my son, and I will raise him and those that follow with you. We will have eternity together, lover, I swear it.”

The strength of Eric's voice, the conviction and determination in his tone, cut through Sookie's desperation. Finally, the tight ball of hysteria that had coiled in her chest and gripped her so brutally, at long last began to ease. Sookie's sobs slowly began to abate as she fell still beneath Eric's protective form. He continued to shield her from their world, shield her from the dangers outside of their bedroom. Eric continued to stroke, kiss, and send soothing waves to his bonded while he waited for her to let him know she was ready to tell him what had happened.

Almost a half hour later, Sookie was finally ready to tell her Viking what had transpired between her and Sargon. She was still lying beneath him, and was in no hurry to move. Eric was being careful not to crush her with his weight, and so Sookie merely pressed closer to him and took a steadying breath and whispered, “I'm ready.”

Not needing her to clarify what that meant, and sensing her desire for him to remain where he was, a barrier between her and the world, Eric nuzzled her hair and then kissed her temple before replying softly, “Tell me.”

In a soft voice, occasionally broken by her fragile emotional state, Sookie repeated her altercation with Sargon from the moment the phone had first rung. Through it all Eric remained silent and still, only offering gentle encouragement when Sookie choked up from the unwelcome memory of her fear. When she was done, Sookie forced herself to look up at him. She had never seen his eyes so cold and hard, so filled with deadly and vicious intent, and strangely, she felt only comfort in his terrifying gaze.

Eric's mind was running at warp speed, and he felt a ruptured continuum, like a bomb had detonated, spewing shrapnel everywhere. Sookie had just given him so much information he was finding it hard to make sense of it all, and he finally understood why she had been so hysterical. Things had just gone from bad to worse, and he wasn't entirely sure what to do. He ran through Sookie's recitation again and again, and finally, in a chillingly soft voice, he asked, “Why did you not call me immediately?”

“What?”

Looking into his bonded's eyes, Eric pressed, “The moment you knew something was wrong, the moment you heard Sargon's voice and saw what he'd done to those in the barrier, why did you not call me so I could come protect you?”

Sookie had known Eric was going to get upset about that particular decision she'd made, and she knew her only option was honesty. “I wanted to see what he had to say about my brother.”

His fangs snapped angrily, and Eric hissed, “Your brother is not worth your life or my son's!”

Sookie winced, her pain and exhaustion transmitting viscerally through their bond. She couldn't bear for Eric to be her enemy right now. She knew he was angry, and she knew they were going to have to talk about her decision to meet with Sargon alone, but she didn't want it to be now. She couldn't do it now. Reaching up to cup his cheeks, she saw a muscle in his cheek twitch. She begged, her voice barely audible, “Eric, please! Please not now! Don't do this now. I—I can't do it! I need you to be here for me right now. You can be mad at me later.”

Eric held Sookie's gaze for a moment, saw the truth of her words in her eyes, and finally nodded. “Very well. We'll discuss the stupidity you displayed this evening later, and be assured you'll be punished for endangering yourself in any way. You know I do not tolerate danger to you, and the fact you walked right into it, knowingly, infuriates me, but you are right; you are not in any shape to discuss it.”

Sookie could only let out a tremulous sigh. “Thank you. I'll let you know when I'm ready to hear you bitch at me.”

A small smile softened Eric's harsh face. Moving to sit up, he positioned Sookie bridal style in his lap. Wrapping an arm around her waist to keep her tucked against his chest he used his telekinesis to float the box of tissues towards him. Her eyes were swollen, her nose was clogged, her head ached. He took one out while leaving the box hanging in the air, and put it to Sookie's nose. “Blow.”

Sookie felt a brief flash of embarrassment as she realized she'd been crying so hard that her nose had run, but since Eric seemed unfazed by it, she let it go and did as he'd said.

Eric had Sookie blow her nose three more times, before picking her up and carrying her into the dark bathroom. He set her on the counter and began to strip her of her clothes as he again used his newest gift to open one of the bathroom drawers to retrieve the lighter and light the scented candles Sookie had decorated her new bathroom with. As soon as they were lit, he flew the lighter back in the drawer, the lambent light of the candles sending up tongues of flame. When he had stripped Sookie entirely, Eric carried her to the tub and set her on the rim before reaching over to turn the water on and set it to the right temperature.

As the tub began to fill, the candle flames danced lazily. Eric knelt down in front of his bonded, his voice tender, “Do you want me to stay here and hold you, or do you wish to bathe alone?”

Sookie looked hard at Eric, and said, “You want to go downstairs and see what Sargon left, don't you?”

“Yes. I wish to start sorting all of this out, and begin making additional preparations in accordance with what you've told me, but if you need me to hold you, the rest can wait until you are ready.”

Smiling softly, Sookie answered, “I do want you to stay, but it's more important for you to go downstairs and start making things better.” She set her hand atop her stomach, and added, “For all of us.”

In the glow of the candlelight, her skin looked like satin, she a celestial goddess, if he'd been human, Eric knew his breath would have caught inside his chest. He took both of Sookie's hands in his own and leaned forward to kiss her belly with reverence. “I will make the world safe for you and my son, Sookie. I swear it.”

Leaning down to kiss Eric's lips tenderly, Sookie replied, “Then go do that. I'm ok now. Just a little shaken up still.”

He helped her into the tub where she sat with a sigh, the heat of the water licked up her spine, placating the tension in her body immediately. Placing his forearms on either side of the massive tub, trapping Sookie in his hold, Eric leaned forward and kissed her again. Neither kiss had been about lust or arousal, they were about reaffirming their connection to one another, and, because of that, Eric didn't try to deepen his. When he pulled back, he declared, “Sargon was trying to scare you, Sookie. He is trying to make you doubt me. Doubt us. Don't let him.”

Cupping her Viking's cheeks, stroking her fingers along the rigid planes of his face that made him appear so regal, so handsome and commanding, Sookie explained, “I can't help it. He … the way he spoke to me, he was so sure he was going to take you from me, Eric. He was so sure he could separate us, break our bond.”

She clenched her hands into fists and slapped at the water. Frustration speared through her ”I will not cry again, damnit,” she grimaced. Eric started to speak and she put up her hand, palm out, to stop him.

“I didn't want this, I didn't want any of it, but … but I can't lose it now. I used to resent the bond, hated how it tethered me to you, but that's changed. I need the bond now. It grounds me. It makes me feel whole. I feel like I've been alone my entire life, and now I'm not. I'm with you. I'm part of you just like you are me. You're wrong in the way you treat me sometimes, but you're still my Viking, and I can't lose you. I still don't understand what is between us, or how it's going to work, but I can't be without it now that I know how great it can be.”

Looking deep in Sookie's eyes, Eric maintained, “You're not going to lose me. I won't allow us to be separated.” When his bonded still looked doubtful, he pressed, “Sookie, you told me that Sargon frightened you with his power, with his confidence. You are afraid now that we don't have the power or resources to defeat him, yes?”

“Pretty much,” Sookie whispered hesitantly.

“Then answer me this, if he was so powerful, if he can do everything he says he can do, if he is so invincible, why did he not force you out of the barrier to speak with you? Why did he not come to you during the day when you are most vulnerable, and your vampire guards cannot protect you? If he can see so much, why did he not stop Compton from interfering in our destined bond? Bill prolonged our bonding, and as Sargon tells it, prolonged the steps necessary for him to take over the world. So if Sargon was as all powerful, and all seeing as he told you he was, why did he not stop it? If he is all seeing, and so powerful, why did he not stop the attack in New York when you first left the safety of Ahmose's underground lair?”

Sookie paused. She rolled Eric's words over in her mind, and finally exhaled, “I didn't think of that!”

Feeling the rush of hope and relief flood his bonded, Eric smiled. Leaning forward he kissed her forehead, and promised, “I'll take care of you, Sookie, and I promise Sargon will pay for scaring you tonight. Just as you told him, he is not invincible, and he is a fool to underestimate us. He is powerful, but so are we. We will win this.” His voice was filled with authority, resonating in his soft tone.

Sookie smiled. “I believe you. I'm sorry I freaked out.”

“Do not be. It is alright to be afraid, Sookie, just do not let your fear paralyze you and prevent you from doing what you need to. Fear is useful, it makes us cautious, but do not let it rule you.”

“I'll try.” She gazed at him, his self assurance reminding her that her Viking was turned at the peak of his physical strength, a virile animal, honed and taut, exquisitely muscled for battle.

“And I'll always be here to help you.” Placing one last kiss on her brow, Eric stood and finished, “Enjoy your bath and relax. Calm yourself and join us when you are ready, though I would prefer you to stay here and rest. This turmoil is not good for my son, and the both of you need to recover.”

Rolling her eyes, Sookie laughed, “I'm not made of glass, Eric, and I doubt anything about a son of yours is fragile. We're fine. I'm going to relax for a bit and then I'll be downstairs.”

“I will send one of the Weres to collect appropriate fruit for you from the natural store we spoke of earlier. You need a snack.”

 “Isn't the store closed?”

“They can break in undetected.” Cocking his head to the side as he looked into her red rimmed eyes, Eric asked, “Do they make natural ice cream? Or will I be unable to give you your Rocky Road when you are upset until after the baby is born?”

Now Sookie really laughed. Eric looked so hopeful at the prospect of there being natural ice cream he would be able to give her since they'd been forced to throw all her other cartons of Rocky Road away after Ludwig told them she couldn't consume any artificial ingredients. He really couldn't stand her tears, and she couldn't help but be warmed by that fact. “I doubt it, but there are ways to make ice cream out of natural ingredients. That's how all ice cream used to be made before they started mass producing it with chemicals.”

“Then I shall find a way to make sure you have some Rocky Road soon. Enjoy your bath, and take your time. There is much to go over. We will be there when you are ready, so do not rush.”

Lying back in the tub, Sookie whispered, “I don't think I would if I could.” When Eric turned and headed from the bathroom, she called softly, “You haven't said anything about it yet.”

Eric stilled. He knew what Sookie meant by it. She was wondering why he had not mentioned Sargon's declarations of love, or his offer to spare their child. He was, of course, enraged at anyone, male or female, making such claims to his bonded. He was so furious at Sargon's advances and intentions for his Sookie he wanted to kill something, and if it wouldn't upset Sookie so much he would order Compton brought before him to quench that thirst for death and blood, but knowing his mate's tender heart, he would hold himself in check for now. Until he could unleash his beast away from her eyes.

Not only was he furious Sargon had told Sookie he loved her, but the deal Sargon had offered Sookie was an insult that could not be ignored. Eric did not tolerate threats to Sookie, and he was most certainly not going to tolerate threats to the son she would bear him. There was no doubt Sargon would pay for his words tonight. Eric vowed it. For now, he had too many other problems to see to than to allow his jealousy and rage to rule him. Far too many problems.

Standing at the bathroom doorway as he thought on the many transgressions committed against his mate tonight, Eric found his gaze drawn to the tiny red beta he had won his bonded what seemed so long ago. Everywhere he looked he was reminded of the intimacies between him and Sookie. He was reminded of how she had brought life back to him, had shown him what life with her was like. As his eyes scanned the room he saw the picture of the star he'd bought her that covered the safe he'd had installed. He saw the tank of colorful fish Sookie told him she'd dreamed of. He saw his shoes next to hers in the closet, an end of one of his socks hanging out of one of his drawers while Sookie's remained closed and certainly organized within. He saw the copy of American Gods Sookie had borrowed from him with the book of world religions beneath it sitting atop her nightstand. He saw it all, and suddenly he realized, 'Home. She has given me a home. She is my home. For a thousand years I have traveled the world tirelessly, always on the move, never setting down strong roots. Even when Pam and I settled here, I was always prepared to go should the need or desire arise, but no more. Sookie has become my home. Wherever she is, is my home … I will not let her be taken from me. I will not lose her.'
Long moments passed in silence, before he finally announced, “I would not blame him if he does love you, and if it is true, I will use his emotions against him … but it changes nothing. You are not meant to be his, and you will never be his. You were born to be mine, Sookie. Mine and mine alone. Furthermore, your heart belongs to me. You gave it to me, and I'll never return it. You are mine, Sookie, that is all you need to know. As for the deal? You and I will speak more about that later.”

Sookie watched Eric's retreating back as he left the bedroom, and when he was gone, she thought, 'He's right, I do love him, and my heart will always be his. Together we're stronger than we are alone. Sargon might be able to beat us separately. He scared me tonight, but together, Eric and I will defeat him.'

Eric was downstairs all too soon for those who understood how truly angry he was. Sookie's friends looked eager for news of her, but all the supernaturals watched with hesitancy as he entered the room. His rage was a palpable thing. An entity itself, and as Eric came to stand at the entrance to the living room with his arms clasped behind his back, they all prepared to face his wrath for failing to protect Sookie from Sargon tonight.

Eric let his eyes scan the room slowly. The largest of Sookie's guards, and most of the newer ones, were still outside. Only one centaur, one griffin, one minotaur, and one Fae had come inside with Han, Ivan, and Sookie's friends. The beasts were massive inside the room and furniture had been moved to accommodate their bulk. Thor wagged his tail brightly upon seeing his master, then resumed his watchfulness of the strange creatures in the room. Eric ignored the humans as he announced, “You will not be punished for tonight.”

There was a noticeable relaxation from the others as Han asked, “My king, what happened? One moment Ivan and I were standing at attention in the front, all was well and Sookie was inside speaking with the human girl, the next second Sookie was on the ground at the edge of the barrier in tears and you were here. We do not understand.”

Nodding, Eric replied, “The fault is not yours. Our enemy used his magic to freeze everything inside the barrier.” Moving to take a seat in the wing backed chair Han and Ivan had obviously saved for him, Eric focused on the shifter and human friends of his mate. Absent was Eggs, still refusing to leave the guest house. “You three are not privy to the information I am about to share. Return to the guest house and wait to be summoned.”
Lafayette, no longer terrified of Eric due to his recent glamouring, denied, “We can't leave until we know Sookie is ok. Why was she freaking out like that?”

Eric wasn't in the mood for pleasantries. If the humans complained to his bonded later, he would just have to make it clear to Sookie that he had held himself back by not tossing the fools out on their asses. His eyes were unbending steel as he looked at the Minotaur and ordered, “See them out and make sure your fellow guardians know they are not allowed back in until summoned.”

The giant beast nodded its head before letting out a harsh bleat at Lafayette, Tara, and Sam. The massive creature pointed towards the door and jerked its head towards the exit. His message was clear.

Tara, terrified but still determined to aid her friend if Sookie needed it, stood, held her ground, and maintained, “We're not going until we talk to Sookie.”

Eric swiftly closed the gap and loomed largely before the girl that had caused such trouble between him and his bonded. His voice was pitched low, the menace clear. “Go! Or be made to! I am done tolerating your foolishness. I am not Sookie, and I will not put up with your childish tantrums as she does. I do not have time for this.” Looking at the Minotaur, he added, “Haul them out.”

As the beast came towards them, Tara, Lafayette and Sam backed up towards the door on their own as Tara boldly added, “Fine! We're going! But don't think Sookie's not going to hear about this!”

“And who do you think she'll side with?” Eric sneered. Waving his arm to indicate Han, Ivan, and the new supernatural guards, his voice reverberated like thunder booming with threat, “Look around you, idiot girl. Do you think you have a place in these proceedings? Do you think you have a voice in the world I am creating for my bonded? You are no longer her closest confidant, human. I am. Her secrets are my secrets, my enemies are hers. There is only room at her side for one, and that place belongs to me now. Get out and be glad I allow you the scraps of Sookie's attention that I do.”

Tara gasped, her breath harsh like a wild animal being pursued. She gawked at him with outrage even as her eyes betrayed her fear. She spun about and dashed from the house. Lafayette glared at Eric as he said, “Let's see what Sookie says about that.” He flipped his plaid skirt irritably before following after his cousin. Sam simply shook his head sadly and followed silently.

When they were gone, Eric took his seat and gestured for the other guards to sit around him. It was awkward for the Minotaur, Griffin, and Centaur, and Eric made a mental note that he would need to build some sort of meeting area on Sookie's property. “Where is the canister and talisman Sookie had?”

Han immediately produced them. “I collected them off the ground after you took Sookie inside. There is an unfamiliar male scent on them. I take it that it's Sargon's?”

“Yes,” Eric replied as he took the items. He examined the talisman and canister before focusing on Han and ordering, “Call Fangtasia and find out what's happening there. I simply left. I don't know if the Ancient Pythoness and Niall are still there or not.”

“Not,” Niall replied as he appeared in the room with the Pythoness at his side. They'd left the others back at the bar. “We were unsure why you left so soon, and waited a bit to see if you'd return. When you did not, the Pythoness arranged for her guard to keep everyone under control and waiting at the bar until you decide what to do about the interrupted meeting, and we came here to see what had happened. We rightly assumed you'd only leave as you did on account of your bonded. So what has occurred in our brief absence?”

With that, Eric began to give everyone the rundown of what Sookie had told him. He left nothing out, not even Sargon's declarations of love. For twenty minutes he filled in those around him on what Sookie had told him occurred between her and Sargon. When he was done, he focused on the Pythoness and asked, “So do you think it is true, seer? Do you think he loves her?”

“There is no way to know for sure, my king,” the Pythoness replied, her milky white gaze unerringly honing on to his. “He could be trying to fool her—and us with such a tactic, or it might be genuine. There is no way to know at this point.”

“For the time being, despite his show of generosity if these items he left Sookie actually work, we should assume he is without compassion,” Niall asserted.

Nodding his head, Eric agreed, “Indeed, but if there is a way to find out if his affection is genuine we should. If he loves her, that is a weakness I can exploit.”

Focusing on the items in his hands, Eric ordered, “I want all the most powerful witches loyal to us here by tomorrow night. I want these talismans tested, and if they truly work, I want duplicates. However, I would prefer to find some way to prevent Sookie's guards from being frozen that is not so precarious. These charms could be lost in battle or broken.”

Han spoke up then. “My king, I examined the talisman. The item itself appears to be simple wood. Nothing special. The carvings on the wood seem to be a spell of some kind. If it can be cast into a talisman, perhaps we can get tattoos with the same spell. Those are not so easily lost.”

Eric's eyes blazed with admiration. “Good idea. I'll have the witches and sorcerers see to it. Now about this scroll … could it truly contain the secret of how to free Sookie's brother?”

The Pythoness spoke up here. “There is a legend that the first vampire kept a record of his life. Legend has it that he simply rose from the dead one night, blessed by The One to be the start of the immortal race. According to the old tales, the first vampire walked the world for centuries alone before he learned how to create a child. As he had no one to teach him, he had to learn our ways on his own, through experience. Legend says as he began to create children so he would not be alone, he wrote the stories of his creations. I have heard that the first vampire kept records of us, of our creation, of our ways, and of our magic. According to legend, these teachings were lost when the first vampire tired of his undead existence and met the dawn. Perhaps these are part of those records.”

Eric considered the canister before handing Han the talisman so he could open the canister. Nudging out the scroll inside, he handled it delicately unrolling it. He did not recognize the writing. “It looks like Cuneiform, but is not. Do any of you recognize it?”

Han and Ivan both shook their heads no, as did each of the new supernatural guards, but Niall nodded his head. “I recognize it. It is a very old language that I haven't seen in over four thousand years.”

“What is it?” Eric pressed.

“It has not been discovered by man, and I doubt many vampires know it. It was an ancient language that suddenly appeared in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago. No one knows how it suddenly appeared, nor why it just as suddenly disappeared. I know of only a few other documents written in this language that are still in existence, and all are part of my personal library. The Fae consider all knowledge sacred and we collect texts from any civilization we come across.  I'm a tad rusty, but I'm sure I could translate it, and if not, my father certainly can.”

Eric handed over the scroll and said, “See if you can at least tell me if it will help my pursuit of saving Jason.”

Niall took hold of the scroll, and scanned it quickly. He did not understand everything and would need some time to decipher the entire text, but he picked up enough. “It details vampires, children, bondeds, and bonded children. It certainly can't hurt. If you will allow me, I shall take the scroll back to Faerie and have my Father, High Lord Oberon, perform an authenticity spell. That will tell us whether or not the text is true, and not some forgery by Sargon. If it is, I will translate it entirely, and return it to you as soon as possible.”

Eric nodded his head. “Very well. How long will the authenticity spell take?”

“Only a few days, and it should only take a few more to translate it all.”

“Very good.” With the matters of the scroll and talisman taken care of, Eric continued, “Now we need to talk strategy. I am uneasy with all Sargon knows about us and our movements. We must find a way to find out exactly how he is monitoring us, and how to thwart his surveillance. If what he told Sookie is true, he is watching us even now.”

“I think I know what he's doing,” Sookie offered softly from the doorway. She had soaked for nearly twenty minutes, her mind racing, before something Eric had said suddenly gave her an idea. As she'd thought it over she'd realized she knew exactly how Sargon was watching her. So she'd hurried out of the tub and gotten dressed to come downstairs and tell Eric.

All eyes turned towards his bonded, though practically everyone had heard her coming, as Eric said, “I wanted you to relax longer than that. You are carrying and need to rest.”

“I know what he's doing,” Sookie insisted, ignoring Eric's not so subtle hint for her to go back to their room and lay down. Thor padded over to Sookie who stooped down to give him a reassuring pet.

Wanting Sookie to rest, but understanding that if she had figured out what Sargon was doing, they all needed to know, Eric asked, “What is he doing?”

Smiling, Sookie replied, “He isn't psychic. He can't see with his magic like he says he can. In fact, he's not using magic at all.”

“A spy?” Eric hissed, fangs snapping down in fury at the thought. His eyes trailed the room taking in each occupant with deadly scrutiny.

Shaking her head, Sookie replied, “No. Technology. I think he's planted cameras in the house and is using them to watch us. I think he has hackers tapping into our phones and recording us. I don't think his magic is allowing him to keep track of us at all. I think human technology is allowing him to keep tabs on me.”

Eric smiled softly at his bonded. “Sookie, this isn't Mission: Impossible. You've seen one too many movies.”

“Says the half god turned vampire high king bonded to a telepathic part fairy who's about to give birth to the first vampire god,” Sookie quipped.

The room went silent. When no one said anything, Sookie continued, “Think about it. If he could see with his magic, why didn't he know I'd left Ahmose's lair? He knew everything we were doing, where everyone was, until he took out Ahmose's security system. Then he only had the eyes and ears of the men he sent in. I think he had hackers in Ahmose's system watching us until he was forced to take it out to stage his mock attack … if that's what it was. Everything he knows about us he could have found out through human surveillance means.”

Eric still wasn't buying it. “If he can't see us with his magic, how did he know of your birth in the first place? How did he learn of it six thousand years ago?”

Shaking her head, Sookie argued, “I'm not saying he can't see some things with his magic. What I'm saying is he can't see much with his magic. I think he can only see big important things with his power. Everything else he's learning through surveillance. It's the only possible explanation for why he didn't know I left Ahmose's lair, or why he didn't stop the Queen from sending Bill.”

Eric was beginning to see the rightness of her words. Looking around the house, seeing hundreds of areas hidden cameras could be, he pressed, “How would he plant these cameras with the barrier up?”

“I think he's had them up for some time. He probably has had some type of surveillance system in both my parents' house and Gran's anticipating the moment I was born. He knows so much about my childhood not to have. Not to mention once you installed your system here, if Sargon does have hackers, all he's got to do is hack in. And I've seen in movies that hackers can remote activate a cell phone to turn the microphone on and basically use it as a surveillance technique without people knowing. They must be able to do that in real life with technology these days. If Sargon has been around this long, he'd have to have known that human technology was a powerful weapon, and if he's using the Fellowship, what's to say he isn't using bigger human organizations? Organizations like the CIA or Interpol or others? He could have unlimited technological resources.”

Before anyone could say anything else, the house phone rang again and all eyes snapped to it. Sookie looked to Eric who held her gaze for a moment before he stood and went to answer the phone.

“Northman.”

“Hello, Mr. Northman, this is Sargon. Apparently I made a grave mistake in visiting Sookie this eve. Well, at least in divulging so much. She is quite clever, isn't she? She figured out one of my many secrets. And so quickly too!”

Eric forced himself to remain in control. “You were a fool to underestimate her intellect. If you knew her half as well as you say you do, you'd know Sookie's mind is without equal.”

“Touché. May I speak with her?”

“No. You'll never speak with her again, and you'll damn sure never get that close to her again. You will pay for frightening her.”

There was silence on the other end for a moment. “I did not mean to frighten her. For that I am truly sorry, and in reparation I will give her another boon, and by extension, you as well. Please tell her that, yes, my magic is not how I watch your comings and goings. I rely on technology. Anything with a transmitter is subject to my use or resources. For some reason, the statue of Isis interferes in the transmission in Sookie's room, and I am unable to see in there.”

“You have told us nothing that Sookie hasn't already figured out. Some boon,” Eric sneered.

“That was not all I wished to say. I was simply affirming Sookie's hypothesis for her. To put her mind at ease. I'm sure now that you know I'm using technology to keep tabs on you, you'll rid yourself of these weaknesses in your security and it will make her feel better. She seemed to be horrified at the idea of being watched, and as she had already deduced my methods, I wanted to lessen her fear. Now for your boon, I do have spies. Two. None are in the room with you at present. You can trust no one else fully. Good luck, Northman. You're going to need it to keep her.”

Click.

Eric slammed the phone down so hard it shattered, the table it had been sitting on collapsing under the force. “He thinks to play games! He thinks to take what is mine from me! I will crush him!”

Spinning about to face those around him with furious, glowing eyes, Eric hissed, “Spread out! Rip every device that transmits a signal from the house and grounds. I want cell phones, laptops, TV's, everything! Get it all out!”

His fists clenched as the air became charged with deadly energy. “I will kill anyone that touches Sookie! Anyone that looks at her! SHE IS MINE!”

Sookie could see that Eric was losing control. Stepping forward she held her hands out peacefully, and said, “Eric, Eric, we need these things. The phones and everything. We can't be without communication. You know this. We need to be able to talk to our allies wherever they are.”

“I will not lose you! I will not let him watch you! He will never lay eyes on you again!” Eric roared. He took hold of her upper arms and pulled her against his chest. “You are mine! No one else will have you! NO ONE!”

Everyone in the room watched Eric's eyes ignite with his power. Deadly energy radiated off him in waves, and it made them all uncomfortable. Eric angry was bad. Eric angry and afraid of Sookie being taken from him was just a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Sookie could see Eric was being pushed to the limits every bit as much as she was, and just as he'd helped hold her together upstairs, so would she help him keep his cool now. “He's not going to get me, Eric. We're going to beat him. We're going to win. You promised, remember?”

Eric was paying no attention to anyone else in the room except Sookie. He focused only on her as he replied, “I did not expect him to have such resources. I know how to battle magic. I know how to fight supernatural wars. I do not know how to fight technology. No vampire does. It is why we had to come out of the coffin.”

Setting her hands on his chest, trying to pull him back from his darkness and rage, his fear of losing her, Sookie soothed, “I know … and I think I know how to beat him at his own game.”

Eric's eyes slowly cooled as he asked, “How?”

Smiling confidently, Sookie replied, “Sargon isn't the only one that knows hackers. Being a telepath allows me to know which people are really interesting. Just because I don't spill people's secrets, doesn't mean I haven't kept track of them.”

Eric's fear that Sookie was going to be stolen from him slowly began to fade. Realizing what she meant, he let out a bark of laughter. “Oh my Sookie, how you please me!”

Smiling up at her Viking, Sookie insisted, “He wants to play dirty? Let's play, but it's our turn to pick the game.”

“And what game does my little faery wish to play?”

“One we're going to win.”

Eric's fangs flashed as he smiled darkly. Sargon had been a fool to underestimate them. It was time to show him how big a fool.

2 comments:

  1. at least she held it together till Sauron left. Eric is going to make even more of a cage now. Tara just wants to die doesn’t she? Wonder if the Fairies will be useful with the scroll. Go Sookie….good catch with technology. Oh Eric is a bit pissed huh? Sookie knows hackers huh?

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  2. look at Sookie go.... she is being awesome right now, so strong is our girl, making everyone proud Ky


    OOPs
    1-Caps "“Very well. I will send one of the weres to collect appropriate fruit for you from the natural store we spoke of earlier. You need a snack.” "one of the Weres to"
    2-CAPS "the others as Han asked, “My king, what happened? One moment Ivan and I were standing at attention in the front," "My King" its a title and should be capitalized
    3-Caps "“There is no way to know for sure, my king,” "my King"
    4-CAPS "Han spoke up then. “My king, I examined the talisman. The" "My King, I"

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