I didn’t know what had happened. All I knew was that my back hurt like a bitch and I felt like I was waking up mired in mud. I tried to move but couldn’t, and that right there made me panic. But my body refused to panic along with me. It was separated from me. Think, Sookie, what was the last thing you remember?
I had been to Lafayette’s funeral, and had stayed behind to visit Gran’s grave. When I approached it I saw a man, the same man I’d seen at her funeral, the one I’d compared to a vampire. He was leaning against Gran’s brand new tombstone, the one that had been placed there just the week before. In his crouched stance I couldn’t tell if he was crying or praying, and I didn’t want to interrupt, so I’d stayed back. The man looked over his shoulder, sort of seeing me but not, stood up and left towards the woods south of the cemetery. I’d found it mighty odd, but I didn’t want to intrude into somebody else’s grief. When I approached her grave, I found he had left one single bloom of a flower, a flower that looked remarkably like the brooch I was wearing: lilac-colored petals with a large yellow center and leaves the color of mint.
After saying a few prayers at Gran’s grave, I’d gone to Cleo Hardaway’s house, which had more room than Lafayette’s family’s house to host his friends and mourn him properly. Sam was there briefly but had to leave. I was talking to Mike Spencer about… What had we talked about? Eric.
I had to call to Eric. Whatever was wrong with me was not normal. I wasn’t home, I could smell it. The place smelled old and stuffy, and like suntan lotion. If I didn’t know any better I would have said it was a lake house, the kind that dot some of the lakes (natural or otherwise) around the area.
I knew I couldn’t call to Eric if it was daytime. I would not put him through that agony. He would come. He would burn trying to get to me. I clamped down on my panic and tried to think. I had to make heads and tails of this situation, and see if I could get myself out of it. I tried to remember…
Cleo Hardaway had given me a Coke, and we continued talking. Then I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach. She bustled about me and I sagged into her, grateful for her comfort. She was a lunch lady at my old high school, and had always had kind things to say to me. Try as I might I couldn’t remember anything between sagging against Cleo and waking up in this place.
Was I even really awake? I couldn’t move. Only my mind was working, and not very well. I couldn’t hear anybody else’s thoughts. Had somebody taken me against my will, or was I sick? Either way, there should have been somebody there to look after me, I thought.
I tried to see if there were any minds nearby. I came up with a couple, but they weren’t thinking anything in particular. I kept listening. Neither of them was easy to decipher, and I wondered if it was because I was immobile and my brain had become addled. I kept getting pictures, like those pictures you get when you’re trying to sleep and you’re upset: tangled demon bodies, dark, glistening with some oily substance. What the hell?
“I wonder what she tastes like,” said a male voice. I wasn’t sure if it was someone’s stray thought, or if it was an actual spoken phrase. I kept listening as best I could, but I couldn’t catch anything. I didn’t know if the person was talking about me, or thinking about me. Such a thought wasn’t alien to me, but for somebody to actually say that out loud…
“I’m here!” announced a very loud female voice. She was a great sender, so I latched on to her mind immediately. I could see me as I lied on a sofa inside a cabin. I spared a thought to the fact that I’d been right. My senses were still acute even after more than two weeks without Eric’s blood. The woman was holding up several bottles of Red Stuff, the cheapest blood substitute. And she was thinking she’d make dinner first, before the party. What party?
Then she imagined me naked in the same position I was in. If my body could have, I would have convulsed. The next images had me scrambling to shield my mind, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop the onslaught of everything that woman wanted to see men do to me. I didn’t know if they were wishes, or something that was going to happen for sure, but it was a fine line of distinction that I did not care for anybody to cross.
“How much did you give her?” asked the male. He had been speaking aloud, after all. I still couldn’t get his mind. He was just that kind of person. Some minds are easier to read than others, and his wasn’t easy to read at all. I could barely get images and they weren’t anything concrete.
“Enough to knock her out for four hours, it seems,” a different female voice said. This was Cleo’s voice, I knew it. She’d given me something, spiked my drink. I took the drink from her without thinking. Why in the world would I suspect Cleo of spiking my drink, and for what purpose? At the get-together I’d been heavily shielded from the mourning, and hadn’t seen this coming. How could I? I’d trusted Cleo as much as I’d trusted Mrs. Fortenberry! Think Sookie!
I’d gotten to Cleo’s a little after one in the afternoon. Four hours had passed. It had to be well after five, because I’d been at the get-together for some time before I passed out. If I could open my eyes… if I could see what kind of light was coming in from the windows… Could I call to Eric now? I decided not to wait any longer. If I waited and these people followed through with their wishes… I didn’t want to think about it. Only one person had touched me without my permission, and I had sworn that it would never happen again.
I called to Eric the only way I knew how, by repeating his name in my mind over and over. He’d told me we had the ability to do that, to call to each other, but he didn’t explain how to work it. Something inside me moved, shifted, and I felt the intense desire to not only get the hell out of that cabin, but go west. It was him, he was calling me too. The only problem was… I can’t move!
Or could I? I could tell I was the one in charge of my breathing now, and I could regulate it. Could I open my eyes? Not yet. Could I move my hands? Only a finger or two.
“I think she’s starting to come around. Do you really think she’s into this?” Cleo had asked the question. Her thoughts had turned apprehensive. You spiked my drink, bitch! And now you’re sorry?
“I betcha she does. She’s a fangbanger! I betcha she likes it rough. Don’t you sweetie?” the man said. He touched my thigh, lifting my skirt as his hand started moving up. I managed a whimper, when what I really wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs. “See? She likes it.” His touch on my skin was transmitting his thoughts better. He definitely wanted to have sex with me, and was imagining me in every depraved position he could muster. I couldn’t see his face inside his thoughts, but I knew he was white. I could see the way he had… raped… Lafayette. Lafayette had cried, but somebody else had held him down, choked the life out of him. Jesus Christ, please… don’t abandon me…
“Hello, hello!” called out a new voice. It was Mike Spencer. Bile started to rise in my throat, but I managed to swallow it. Another part of me was working. Somehow it should have been a comfort. “Aww… she’s so pretty. Can I take a peek?”
“Go ahead,” the one man moved and let Mike take his place. The only way I could tell was by the sudden shift on the sofa where I was lying. Eric, Eric, Eric!!! Please…
I felt tears running down the sides of my eyes, and Mike Spencer’s clumsy fingers taking off my suit jacket and unbuttoning my shirt. When he touched my skin I saw what intentions he had, what he wanted to do with my breasts at that very moment.
My eyes and mouth finally worked, and I opened them both at the same time to let out a scream. If I could have moved, I would have hit Mike Spencer so hard, he would have landed several feet away from me. He ignored me completely, as if I’d just said “hello, how are you.”
“Are you sure she’s a fangbanger? I don’t see any marks,” he said, moving my neck this way and that. “Unless they’re down here. Are they down here, Sookie?” he asked me as his hand started making its way up my thigh too, with his thumb exploring the inside of it.
My heart was hammering wildly now, and I couldn’t catch my breath. That familiar buzzing sound started pressing against my ears. “I don’t want this. Please don’t do this,” I blurted out. It came out slurred, like I’d been drinking too much.
Mike was about to say something when everything stopped. Everybody within my line of blurry vision was looking intently at the front of the cabin. One by one they filed out, and I was left alone. I dared to speak his name out loud in a harsh sob. “Eric, please… Where are you?”
Sookie wasn’t home, and at first I didn’t think anything of it. But something was off. Usually I awoke with Sookie’s emotions thrumming gently in my consciousness. They were there, but they were muffled. I got dressed slowly, examining the bond. Sookie was going to Bon Temps to her friend’s funeral, probably stayed for the get-together afterwards. She should have been back by now.
I checked my phone. No messages. I called her phone. No answer. I called to her, the way I can call to my child, but it didn’t work. Either she wasn’t able to feel my call, or else she…
I suddenly felt it. I felt her pull on me. She was calling to me, desperation flooding our bond. I took to the sky and headed east. The last rays of the sun touched my skin and burned me a bit, but I couldn’t care. I couldn’t lose her. Sookie was my life, my half. If anything happened to her, it wouldn’t be like losing a child. It would be like losing my soul. I would die along with her, of that much I was sure. Better to keep her alive. I’d never flown faster.
During the time it took me to reach Sookie’s house, her desperation had given way to cold unrelenting fear. I was tuned to her, but not enough. She hadn’t had my blood in too long. She wasn’t at her house, but perhaps I could follow her scent from here, and then kill whoever had made her scared. They better not have hurt her, because I was very ingenious when it came to torture.
“Viking!” said a female voice from the woods behind Sookie’s house. It was the maenad, naked and terrible. Even from afar her smell was rancid, like that of rotting meat. It was her defense against blood-drinking demons.
“What have you done to her?” I asked, getting close to her, but not too close. I did not want to incur the rage of her god. Again.
“I have done nothing to anyone. Where is your bonded?” she asked, looking like she truly did not know where Sookie was, and really wanted to know.
“Somebody has her. If not you, then who?” I raised my voice. I needed answers. Sookie was scared, and I was scared for her. I felt vulnerable for the first time in… too many years.
The maenad’s eyes became wide with fear of her own. “No! Not her. Follow me Viking,” she said, and turned into a panther. She ran through the woods agilely, and I ran with her, keeping up easily. I couldn’t smell Sookie through the woods, but the maenad seemed to know where she was, and I had no other choice but to follow. The maenad took me to a lake, where we were joined by a second panther. I could tell it was a shifter, but wasn’t sure if it was Sam Merlotte, or someone from Hot Shot, and at that moment I needed Merlotte.
“Sam Merlotte. Please tell me that is you,” I said to the panther. It seemed to nod, though I wasn’t sure what was left of the man when he turned into a beast. I hoped it was enough to help.
It must have been easier for the maenad to turn at will, and soon she was a woman again. “See that house, next to the lake? That’s where they have her. That’s where they killed her friend. If you go in there and kill everybody, your bonded will never forgive you.”
The maenad spoke the truth. “I have to get her out. She is in agony.” My voice had come out like a growl, and I started moving forward. I didn’t care if Sookie never forgave me, as long as she was alive and whole. I could hear her scream. It tore at my insides like somebody had just driven a stake through me.
“Let me do it. She doesn’t trust me, so I have nothing to lose,” the woman said, and moved forward faster than me. The panther was at her heels. “Stay in the shadows and go get her when everybody is outside of the house,” she ordered.
“Fine maenad,” I said, cross. I wanted to get this over with and get Sookie out. She better be safe. She better be whole.
“The name is Phaedra.”
“The name is Eric.”
“That’s better, isn’t it?” she smiled. She was a fucking lunatic.
I got close to the house but stayed in the shadows, while she called to whoever was inside and bid them to go outside. It’s what she did when she called upon her god.
Sookie was whimpering, pleading. My urge to strike was fierce, but I had to trust the maenad would draw them out and that they hadn’t done anything to my mate, because if they had I would not care about Sookie hating me forever. I would seek revenge.
Footsteps filed out of the house, and I could hear Sookie cry my name and ask where I was. I entered through a window and found her by scent. Something was off about it, like she had been drugged.
“Eric, please,” she sobbed, daring to say my name aloud because she was alone.
“I am here my love,” I knelt beside her and her eyes fluttered.
“I can’t move,” she cried.
I picked her up, and her body was completely limp. I was surprised she could even open her eyes or speak. What had they done to her? She was missing parts of her clothes, and her blouse was unbuttoned.
They were going to rape her.
The knowledge hit me and I almost lost it. More damage. More damage to my precious beloved. As it was they probably raped her in thought, and she had read each and every single mind’s intention. A garbled cry escaped my throat, mirrored with one of hers.
I made my way out slowly through the front door. The maenad had every person that had gathered there within her sights. Whatever powers she was exerting over them, they didn’t affect me or Sookie.
“Eric,” Phaedra said with a lilt in her voice. “When I’m done I will need your help with your mind-bending capabilities. The murderer of Sookie’s friend cannot go unpunished.” She looked feral, her features turning into that of a panther. Sam joined her, and I didn’t really want Sookie to witness any of what was about to happen.
Phaedra’s god would be angry with these people for raping an innocent. A true bacchanal was supposed to be consensual, fun, a worship of the god. These people had twisted it into something perverse. And here I thought vampires were the perverse ones. Humans could be just as cruel, and they didn’t have the ability to erase people’s memories of the event.
“They killed Lafayette. They thought I would like what they were doing to me,” Sookie said, soaking my shirt with her tears.
“What did they do to you Sookie?” I asked. I knew my voice was strained. We were outside in the woods. I leaned her against a tree and took off my shirt, putting it on her. She needed whatever extra warmth I could provide, which wasn’t much. The night had turned very cold.
“They took off my clothes and they started touching me,” she said. Her voice had taken a different cadence. I thought she would still be fearful, but everything told me she was angry. “I want them dead,” Sookie said in a small voice, as if saying the words alone were a sin.
“If the maenad doesn’t do it, I will,” I promised her. Nothing would satisfy me more than to drain a couple of bodies, dismember them, and burn them inside that cabin.
But first things first. “Dear one, let me give you my blood to get those drugs out of your body,” I said, not waiting for an answer. I sat next to her and cradled her close, giving her my wrist. She drank without protest and soon her scent was back to normal. I felt aroused, but my thirst for revenge warred against my thirst for Sookie. Revenge was winning.
“I feel better, and now I don’t have to hear them. The drug… I couldn’t shield their thoughts from me,” she said in a low grave voice. She must have been feeling what I was feeling.
I heard the maenad call me in a sing-song voice. “Oh, Viking! Come do some damage.”
“Stay here,” I ordered Sookie, getting up.
“No. I’m coming with you,” she said, getting up too, though with effort.
“Sookie,” I warned her with my voice.
“Eric,” she warned me with hers. “If it gets to be too much, I’ll leave,” she said, and I couldn’t deny her this. It would be the only time she would get immediate revenge.
We made it to the clearing, and there were two bodies lying on the ground, with wounds to their necks, their blood wasted in a pool beneath them. At any other time I would have drank whatever was left, but I thought better of it. Sookie needed me the way she knew me, the one in control.
“These two killed Sookie’s friend,” the maenad pointed at two men.
“Oh, my God! Eggs!” Sookie yelled from my side, and ran to him. “You fucking, no good, son of a bitch! You sick bastard!” She hit him hard in the gut. I knew she was not the hitting kind, so obviously something else was going on. “He’s engaged to my friend Tara! Lying piece of shit!” She hit him again, this time in the groin with her knee. He hadn’t retaliated. He was still under the maenad’s spell.
Sookie turned to the other man. “I hope you rot in hell,” she said in a low menacing voice, and hit him in the throat, hard. My blood inside her had taken full effect, and she was very strong. The man collapsed, gasping for air, before she kicked him and returned to me. She was shaking.
“I don’t care to know who that panther is or who killed those women. Do what you need to do. I wanna go home now,” she commanded. She stood with her back to the scene in front of the house.
I glamoured the men into forgetting tonight and into feeling so guilt-ridden that they went to the police to confess to the murder of Sookie’s friend, as well as the murder of the women in front of the house. The bite marks on the women’s necks were a telltale sign that it hadn’t been done by humans, so I moved both bodies to the house, and set it on fire by allowing a set of curtains to touch the flame of the stove in the little kitchen. The maenad, the panther, Sookie and I watched for a few minutes as the house became engulfed in flames.
“They’ll confess to arson as well,” I said, to no one in particular.
“Oh, I’m so stupid!” I berated myself. After everything that had happened, I had forgotten that Gran’s brooch was on the jacket that had gotten burned inside the lake house.
“Sookie, you were in shock,” Pam said, trying to soothe me in her very Pammy way. In other words, she wasn’t doing a very good job, but I appreciated the effort anyway.
A thought had begun to form, that none of the bad stuff I had experienced lately would have happened if I wasn’t Eric’s wife. I knew, though, that if I wasn’t Eric’s wife I would be Sophie-Anne’s indentured servant. Jesus Christ, Shepherd of Judea, one of these days I might kill Hadley.
“Are you hungry?” Eric asked. He was trying. I’d been pacing my small living room since we’d gotten home. His blood had cured me and rid me of the drug, but it had also made me antsy. And horny. But my brain wasn’t following along with my body. My brain was running a million miles an hour, trying to see where the next threat would come from.
“Obviously the maenad wasn’t bad,” I said, following my own train of thought. I saw Pam and Eric exchange a glance. “What? Tell me.”
“She’s waiting outside,” Pam blurted out, and earned herself a murderous glare from Eric. “She won’t harm Sookie.”
“I need to see her,” I said, remembering my conversation with Sam.
I pretty much ran outside, and Phaedra came out from behind a tree. She was naked, and I just couldn’t deal with that right now. “Phaedra, I would love to speak to you. I know you’ve been looking for me. Would you accept one of my dresses so we can have a civilized conversation?” I asked, trying to sound polite.
“Yes, thank you,” she said, also polite. I ran back inside the house, past the two vampires who had followed me outside, and grabbed a blue button down dress. When I returned she put it on right away.
“You’ve given me a gift. My god will be very pleased with you,” Phaedra said and touched my cheek. Her thoughts didn’t transfer at her touch. All I could see was the colors of her mind.
“Don’t mention it. So… What was it you wanted to tell me?” I asked, suddenly curious. I’d thought I wanted to wait, since there had been so much information swirling in my mind lately. I found myself not wanting to wait anymore.
Phaedra looked beyond me, to Eric. “This concerns you too, Viking,” she said, and waited until he stepped forward. He laced his fingers through mine and stood next to me. It’s as if he already knew what she was about to say. “Sookie, you’re part fairy.”
I blinked, thinking Tinkerbell, Cicely Mary Barker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream… “What?”
Eric sighed. He had known, or suspected, because I had expected him to be a little more surprised than that. “At some point your predecessors mated with fairies,” he explained.
My mind was reeling. “I need some time,” I heard myself say. Pam was by my side and helped me back into the house. I sat on the couch and then decided that I was allowed to curl up. Pam put a blanket over me and I closed my eyes.
Eric sat on the chair beside my head, and Pam sat at my feet. And there they stayed all night until it was time for them to sleep.