It’s two hours till sunset and before this night is done, I will finally be free.
Sookie has healed my body and heart once more and I vowed to her moments ago I would never put myself in danger of that kind again. I would stay safe, well, and happy so that she always would be too and I swore to never leave her side again for good measure.
She just gave me a knowing smile and told me she would not hold me to it.
It stung a little, but she is probably right. The chances of me keeping my body unmarred for eternity are not good, but my heart and soul, those I swear to keep whole for her as long as we live. And if I can not take her with me wherever I want to go, then I will just stay put.
I will never hurt her again. Never.
Sookie breaks me out of my musing by grabbing my hand in hers and pulling me outside of our little cottage.
I stop us short at the sight that greets me.
“Sorry, I forgot to warn you,” she whispers, squeezing my hand.
We are in the middle of a human village surrounded by dead bodies, dozens of them. It only takes seconds for me to know how they all died.
“Appius,” I growl.
“Yes, I think so too,” Sookie quietly agrees with me.
It is a grizzly sight even for a vampire and I’m sure this is not the only village he drained either. There are probably many just like this one within a night’s reach of him. It’s very possible that Alexei’s parents may be laying dead only feet from me right now. If not here, certainly in some other village.
So many lives have been lost because of Appius and his black heart, but no more will die at his hands after tonight.
It’s surreal knowing he will meet his end. For one hundred years I have waited for it, to kill the monster that has caused me a century’s worth of pain and suffering, but now that it is so close I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around it.
I dreamed of it over and over again for countless hours in the beginning. Those dreams kept me alive and gave me hope as I hung from burning, silver chains or laid in a broken, bleeding heap on a cold stone floor. After twenty years or so I began to realize I would probably never be free of him and I quit letting myself dream. What hope I had allowed my heart to have began to disappear.
But then fate stepped in and I met my bonded…… and everything changed.
So now, because of her and all she has done for me, Appius will finally meet his true death and I will have my revenge.
Never again will I have to worry what his next plans are for me. No more will panic grip me at the thought of him taking away my bonded and hurting her. His dark shadow will no longer haunt my every thought and Godric will finally be able to rest in peace knowing I exacted revenge from his killer.
I will truly be free.
But I will not be the only one freed from his chains this night.
Niall and Sookie have their own demons because of Appius and the pain he brought with him. Their family will be able to rest in peace too, their killer’s life ended in retribution for the taking of their own. Not to mention the countless human lives he has ended, hopefully their souls will rest well after tonight too.
Vengeance will be carried out and then we will all truly be free of him.
I plan to bleed my maker’s killer of every drop of blood he has after my wife and Niall have taken their pound of flesh from him. He will suffer by my hand this night and I can not wait to hear his screams.
It’s Niall that breaks me out of my thoughts this time, “You both look well again. How are you feeling, is everything right with you once more?” he asks us.
“Right with them? Pfft. Did you not see the light show they gave us or hear the moans and screams? They are certainly well again,” Claude mutters under his breath.
Before I have a chance to even think about making him regret his words, Sookie has one of my daggers, she somehow removed from its sheath tied around my thigh without me feeling it, and is pressing it into his cheek.
“This is your last warning cousin. I love you, but if you do not keep your nasty trap shut about us I will cut you. Then you will have scars on your beautiful face to remind you to think before you speak,” she tells him, her voice as sweet as sugar despite its threatening edge.
His huge eyes dart over to Niall, who just shakes his head at him, so they land on me next.
Stupid faerie, does he really think I would take his side in this?
Raising one eyebrow in his direction, I warn him, “I would listen to her if I were you. I promise she means it.”
“I’m sorry,” he gulps at her.
“No more, Claude. Swear it,” she orders him.
“I will not say anything rude about your love life again, I swear it,” he promises her.
And just like that, Sookie puts my dagger back and acts as if nothing happened. I return the smirk and wink she gives me though.
Ignoring Claude I give Niall my attention once more and answer his question, “Thanks to you and Sookie, yes, I am tremendously better and back to rights,” I tell him gratefully, but my remorse quickly takes over.
“I can not tell you how much I regret my choice to leave the way I did. I beg your forgiveness and will be forever grateful to you for saving me from my idiocy,” I bow to him deeply before looking him in the eye. “It has to be the stupidest, most asinine decision I have ever made and even enduring Appius and his evil, it is not the pain I suffered, but Sookie’s that hurts and shames me the most. My intent was to protect her and I achieved the exact opposite of that and I will kick myself for the rest of eternity for it. Being the amazing woman she is, she forgave me, but it will be much harder to forgive myself,” I finish with my head down in reproach.
I see his feet come into my view of the ground and his hand grasps my shoulder shaking me gently until I look at him.
There is only understanding in his eyes.
“You have my forgiveness and I must beg yours as well. I have pushed you both too hard and did not give you time to accept things as I should have. I put my need for revenge ahead of your well-being and I am sorry for that,” he apologizes too my surprise. Letting me go and looking at the ground himself, he sighs, “We all make mistakes. I have made many in my long life. If I had not made the ones in the past I would not have had the experience I needed to be any help to you at all. We have learned a hard lesson and will not forget it, but it will come of use to us in the future I’m sure.” Patting my shoulder again and looking back up at me with an eager smile, he asks, “Now, enough of that, what is your plan to end your maker?”
The smile I give him in return is more cruel than eager, “I have many painful plans for him.”
Not a half hour later we are at the bolt hole, standing in the waning light of the day, all dressed in the fae armour Niall provided with weapons in hand.
All of them are looking at me for direction, but before I can tell them what to do I need to speak to Sookie alone. I should have done this when we were still at the village, but I can not go inside until I clear something up with her.
So glancing at Niall and Claude I ask them to give us a few minutes, “I need to talk to Sookie a moment, we will be right back. Please stay here,” I tell them, taking her hand in mine and popping us to the other side of the ruins.
I can feel and see her confusion the second we land. “What is it, Eric? Are you okay?” she asks worriedly.
I take her beautiful face in my hands and lean down to kiss her forehead, then hug her to me tightly. “I’m alright, I just need to talk to you a minute before we go in,” I sigh.
She pulls out of my hold a bit and looks up at me nervously, “Okay, I’m listening.”
“I need you to know that I……. I may be different once I walk in there. I do not want you to be scared of me or what you see me do. I need you to remember that I love you…… that no matter what I say or do once we are inside, I love you, Sookie. I will always love you,” I stress to her, looking deep into her eyes.
She smiles softly at me and reaches up to run the back of her fingers across my cheekbone, “It’s okay, Eric. Whatever you do in there I’m ready for. I’m sure I will say and do things that could be unsettling for you too, but I know you love me, just as I do you, I have never doubted that and I never will.”
I can feel in our bonds she meant every word she said, but I still want to make sure. I do not think we can deal with another Andre situation right now.
“Thank you my love,” I say and kiss her sweet lips before looking down at her again, “but there is something else. We never talked about what you were feeling when I was with Andre. I felt your disappointment, älskare. I understand it and I know you can not help the way you felt, but I may need to block you so I do not feel anything similar while……”
“Eric, stop,” she orders me, grabbing my arms tightly. “You are wrong about what you felt that day, I swear to you. Please listen to me and our bonds, baby. I was NOT disappointed in you, I swear it,” she tells me with tears in her eyes.
I hate to see her upset again so I immediately have her back in my arms trying to soothe her, “Shhhh, kära en. It’s okay. I’m sorry.”
She pulls out of my arms again and tugs on my armour, “NO! Listen to me! It was not you I was disappointed in, it was me Eric! I was disappointed in me,” she cries.
“What? Why would you….” I start to ask completely confused, but she cuts me off.
“I was disappointed with myself for not helping you enough. For not taking that pain from you. Watching you with Andre was like having my heart ripped out. It nearly killed me to see you so tortured because of him. I felt everything you felt, not just because of the bonds, but because of the love I have for you. I suffered with you, I hurt with you, and I even raged with you, but the guilt and shame I felt were mine for not being able to heal you from all of the pain you have endured. I should have taken it from you long ago, I thought I had, but I failed you,” she sobs against my chest. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”
I hold her tightly to me and whisper to her, “No min kärlek, no. You have never failed me, never. You have done so much for me, Sookie, more than I ever deserved, please know that. Failing me is the last thing you have done. That day was my fault, I let my rage get so out of control that I could not think rationally and it hurt us both. It’s me that needs to apologize. I’m so very sorry, kära en, please do not cry anymore,” I beg her.
It takes her a few deep breaths but she calms down some, “I will…..if you stop apologizing. We both messed up that day, can we just leave it at that and start over? I forgive you, and you forgive me?” she asks, her voice catching several times.
“There is nothing for me to forgive you for, älskare, but if it will make you feel better I will,” I reply as I rub the back of her neck gently.
She pushes herself out of my grasp, scaring me for a second, only to climb me like a tree, wrapping her arms and legs around me in a fierce hug, “I love you Eric,” she mumbles against my neck after a moment.
My bonded’s heart is so strong yet so fragile all at once. Nothing prepared me for what loving someone so precious would do to me.
Holding back my tears, I hug her as tight as I can without hurting her, “I love you too, Sookie. More than anything,” I whisper.
“One kiss before we go?” she asks when she looks at me again a small smile on her lips.
“It would be my pleasure,” I whisper before touching my lips to hers and kissing her slow and deep.
I manage to stop us before we get too worked up though, “As much as I want to keep kissing you, we have to go,” I tell her leaning my forehead against hers.
“I know. I’m ready if you are.,” she tells me hopping off of me and to her feet.
When she looks up at me I can see her change before my eyes, going from loving wife to determined fighter in a blink.
I pull myself up to my full height and steal my heart away to protect it for her, leaving only the warrior in charge. What we are about to do has nothing to do with my heart.
When I hold my hand out to her she places hers in mine and I pop us back to the bolt hole. Niall and Claude are right where we left them and I immediately get down to business.
“Claude, I want you to stay here in case Alexei somehow makes it past us. If he does, I ask that you do not harm him, but pause him with that spell you can do,” I request.
Claude tilts his head at me and gives me an unbelieving expression, “I will do as you ask, but are you really sure you want any of his spawn running around?” he asks, clearly not agreeing with my decision.
“I’m sure he was not given a choice when he was made vampire, but he will be able to choose his path once his sick bastard of a maker is no more. I can not bring myself to condemn him yet, he is very young and impressionable. If he chooses to continue I believe he could be saved without much difficulty. I have been a spawn of that evil for much longer than him and I have been redeemed,” I tell him quietly while looking at my wife. With a smile and a squeeze of my hand from her I continue, “If Appius evades us, leave immediately. Pop to safety and do not come back because more than likely if he does make it out, the three of us will already be dead. Your kingdom will need you, so make yourself top priority. Understood?”
“I would hope at least one of you would call me for help if things start to go wrong in there, but yes, I understand,” he sighs.
I nod at him and then look to Sookie and Niall, “I hope he is still down for the day once we get in there, be prepared for him to be ready and waiting on us. I can feel he is still among the undead, but that is all. Our tie is very muddy, whether from him cutting me off or the bonds giving him a large dose of sun yesterday, I’m not sure. We should keep our shields down and only communicate telepathically with each other too. The more he is off-balance the better. Once we catch him, I’m looking forward to chaining him up and all of us playing for a while, but I want him ended by sunrise. It is far past time to finish this. Agreed?” I ask them.
Sookie squeezes my hand and sends me a wave of support and loyalty through the bonds while Niall gives me a silent nod of approval.
We all three turn to look at Claude but before we can say anything he waves us away from him, “I know, I know. Go and kill the bastard. I will be right here when you get back, godspeed to you,” he tells us in his “you are annoying me” tone.
With one last kiss to Sookie’s head, I squeeze her hand before letting go then turn to push the boulder that hides the entrance out of the way. I walk into the tunnel without looking back, knowing Sookie and Niall are right behind me.
What is left of the day’s light helps us see about half-way down the tunnel, but by the time we make it to the door its pitch black. Luckily for Sookie and I, we can still see, so I’m not surprised to find her looking back at me when my eyes find hers.
“I want to go in first and see if he is still down, stay here,” I tell them both, not waiting for their agreement before slowly opening the door and stepping inside.
“Please stay safe min kärlek,” I whisper into her mind.
“You too, my love.”
They listen, staying quiet when I shut the door on them.
Other than the few remaining torches that are still burning there is nothing but silence to greet me. Everything is still the way I last remember it before Appius scrambled my brain.
He is right where Niall left him, in a heap on the floor, completely motionless. Our tie is still as blurry as before so instead of trusting that he is out cold I cautiously make my way over to where he is laying, ready for him to pounce at any moment.
But he never does.
He does not move a muscle as I walk up to him or even when I nudge him roughly with my boot. If he was human I would definitely think he was dead, but I know better.
The bastard is still among the undead.
I just stand over his body for who knows how long, frozen with the emotions that are coursing through me as I stare down at him so helpless below me. It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling right now. There is definitely rage, lots of rage, but I also feel a strange sense of calmness begin to take me over the longer I look at him. The thing that surprises me most though is my utter lack of fear.
No matter how much I have hated him over the last century and even after obtaining so many powers, I have always had a healthy dose of fear when it comes to him.
But I do not feel an ounce of it right now. I am only filled with calm assurance that he will never hurt me and mine again.
His reign of terror is over.
I bend down and grab him, hauling him over my shoulder as I call to Sookie and Niall, “It’s safe, you can come in.”
They both stop in their tracks when they see him hanging limp from my shoulder. My wife is the first to speak up.
“Please tell me that fucker is not dead already?” she asks with her hands on her hips.
I let myself laugh out loud at that, “Oh no, he is just sleeping in today, kära en. Help me hang him up. It will be fun to see his face when he wakes up in chains,” I tell her with an evil grin.
She has the same one on her face when she hurries over to help me.
While I hold him up she locks the silver cuffs around his wrists and ankles. I make sure to keep a death grip on his throat in case the burning of his flesh wakes him up while she works. I will snap the bastard’s neck if he tries to bite her.
But, once again he stays lifeless. I have to say I’m a bit disappointed, I’m more than ready to have him awake. I can feel sunset fast approaching though, so maybe he will wake soon. If not we will just start the torture without him, he will wake up then.
I can not help but wonder though, “Niall, did you happen to spell him before you took me out of here this morning and forgot perhaps?” I ask him as Sookie and I step back to look over our prisoner who is now hanging from the wall.
“I did not, though I probably should have. I would imagine the bonds did this too him when he bit you. They made sure the vile bastard was knocked out, good and proper it seems,” he grins at me.
My mind switches to our other problem who should be waking any moment now.
My little brother.
“I need to get the boy before he wakes. Watch him,” I point towards our captive, “but stay out of his sight if you can. I want him as off balance as possible,” I tell them and pop outside of Appius’ room.
I have never been inside it because he would not allow it, but I’m not surprised to find the door unlocked, Alexei would have left it open for his maker.
The boy is just where I thought he would be, laying on his side in the middle of the bed. The fact that he is naked turns my stomach and adds to my rage. He was clothed the last time I saw him, so he must have stripped knowing Appius expected it of him. I look quickly around the room and find his pants flung across a chair, I grab them, then scoop him into my arms. I run us back to the main hall, he will be disoriented enough when he wakes without me popping him there.
Sookie walks up to us cautiously as soon as we enter the room. I can feel her emotions fighting with themselves. She wants to hate this child because of his maker but the longer she looks at him the more she softens.
She slowly reaches up and brushes some of his hair out of his face, “Oh gods, he is just a baby,” she whispers when she brings her eyes up to mine.
It’s hard to miss the tear running down her cheek, or the flash of anger in her blue eyes either.
“That sick fuck,” she grits out between clenched teeth, “He will pay for this too.”
“He will, I promise. Would you get these on him?” I ask her as I wiggle the pants in my hand enough for her to notice them. “Then I think it best for Niall to spell him so he does not feel what we will do to his maker.”
Sookie has Alexei dressed with a wave of her hand, but before I can get him to Niall he wakes.
“Brother? Why are you holding me?” his small voice asks.