The surreal and the extraordinary collided and mixed. An effervescence of colors, emotions… Light and dark, sound and silence, love and hate, happiness and sadness, it all combined in one moment, on one tiny little bead in both time and space. It was sensory overload of the best and the worst that the world can offer. We were lucky to emerge alive!
There really is no good enough way to describe what making a cluviel dor is like, nor would I ever do such a thing. My ritual was mine and Eric’s alone. Even if I shared it, it would be ridiculously difficult for another two souls to replicate our accomplishment. At the same time, it is absolutely possible for anyone to make a love token, therefore sharing how we did it would be completely insane.
Following our successful first attempt and subsequent physical, mental, and even psychic exhaustion that lasted a whole week, Eric and I decided that making another love token would probably not happen in the near future. Not to say our feat had been a one-time thing, but first we had to forget the bad parts. Of course there were bad parts to the whole ritual, and much suffering, but it had been the price to pay to make such a powerful magical object.
Nevertheless, we had a gorgeous millefiori bead that seemed to emanate love and beauty from within. What had once been a small, lackluster, ancient artifact now looked like it was made by the gods and meant to be worn by kings and queens. As such, we decided to thread it onto a long, sturdy gold chain that I would wear around my waist.
At first, we debated whether we should lock it away inside our safe. It would be foolish to keep it in such a place. Emergencies don’t come on a set schedule, and I’d been noticing that although the deaths of those that I knew would die were still happening, they weren’t happening exactly when they were supposed to. The timeline I knew kept changing the more time passed since I’d used the first cluviel dor.
I suggested we put the millefiori bead on a chain that could be worn by either one of us around our necks, but Eric decided against that. The less visible, the better. We never knew if we would meet another fae that would know immediately that the bead was a cluviel dor.
So we settled for the chain around my waist. Since I had a narrow waist and flaring hips, that chain would be going nowhere. It guaranteed the bead would be on me at all times without resorting to putting it in a pocket, and Eric had never wanted it for himself anyway. The upside for me was, of course, that the love token always made me feel happy, for the most part, although the effect wasn’t as strong as when I’d been human.
Our success in making the cluviel dor was dimmed by the fact that Victor Madden seemed to be giving us the cold shoulder with regards to turning Pam’s lover. He communicated with his sheriffs through Sandy Sechrest and she loved Area 5. Of course she did. It had the largest concentration of vampires outside of New Orleans. It was a veritable cash cow, with so many vampires owing fealty to Eric, and also with Fangtasia doing outstanding business, ever since people realized who ran the bar. Eric, Pam, and I made regular appearances and people flocked to buy overpriced drinks and mementoes whenever we were scheduled to be present.
However, no matter how successful we were, Sandy loved to exercise her minimal amount of control over Eric by not quite answering his questions to his satisfaction. When the question of turning Miriam was asked, she deflected it neatly by saying it was something that the regent would have to decide. That was not the only issue that Sandy would deliberately evade.
That’s how we found ourselves traveling to New Orleans one early evening at the end of January. Pam agreed to watch over the bar so that we could go force the subject of turning Miriam directly with Victor Madden in person, as well as all the other issues that Eric needed to clear with Victor, all of them important for the success of Area 5. Victor had agreed to play host – one did not show up unannounced – as long as we attended a party he was throwing to commemorate the Chinese New Year. Many important people would be attending, and we were one of the main attractions.
When we landed at a private airport not five miles away from Victor’s mansion, we were greeted by none other than Rasul. He would accompany us as our own, personal guard, although, if Victor had sent anybody other than him, it would have been to keep an eye on us.
“Victor doesn’t much care for you,” Rasul confided in Eric. Both of them were seated in front of the large Lincoln SUV.
“What has he said?”
“Not much, but he’s asked me many questions about you. He believes me loyal to Sophie-Anne and I have earned some of his trust, since I have been forthcoming with information about your family.”
Eric was quiet. Rasul didn’t need to go into detail about the questions. It was safe to assume that he had always answered honestly. A quick look through his mind told me so. There wasn’t much that Rasul knew that he would have to hide, since he didn’t know that I could still read minds. All the information he had given Victor concerning us was readily available from any source that had known Eric during Sophie-Anne’s reign.
“However,” Rasul continued, “there must be something wrong with you, in his mind. You are like an itch he cannot scratch.”
As witty as Rasul had described Victor’s curiosity about Eric, it certainly didn’t fill us with confidence about our visit. Rasul had meant for us to be on our guard, and now we were.
Victor’s quarters were very grand. He had kept the land that Sophie-Anne had developed and built a new site for his regency. Obviously, Felipe De Castro must have funded the construction, and it was as garish and impressive as any of the hotels in Las Vegas, except this mansion had a Mardi Gras theme. Some of it reminded me of Sophie-Anne’s old quarters. Some of it reminded me of what I’d seen of Disney World. All of it was meant to shock, awe, and stimulate the senses.
The gate had a visitor entrance, just as Sophie-Anne had done, with pedestrian access where one could buy tickets. We passed it because the vehicular access was on the side, and it led to a cobblestoned driveway in the shape of a half moon. The luscious gardens were lit from below and several spotlights shone onto the mansion’s façade, which was painted yellow, as a backdrop for all kinds of gaudy, glittering, giant sculptures of things like masks, beaded necklaces, feathered hats, and joker hats. Interspersed within the plants were speakers feeding zydeco and cajun music, not too loudly but with a definite presence.
Flashbulbs went crazy all around us when we exited the SUV and the visitors realized who Eric and I were. He grabbed me and kept me close, but we definitely posed for the cameras on purpose. Some of the visitors that were already inside the gates even asked to pose with us, which we readily agreed to. There was a method to all this madness and chaos: the more people saw us and recorded our visit to Victor’s, the harder it would be for Victor to harm us in any way.
Since we remained outside for much longer than we should have, Victor himself came to get us in time for our meeting with him, for which we were already late.
As soon as we were on our way to his office, he felt the need to bring up the fact that we were more famous than him. “That was a very big crowd of fans you two have.”
“Our apologies for not keeping track of the time,” Eric said holding my hand tight in his. He needed me to read minds all around and try to feed him information as best I could. I’d only attempted to give him information telepathically the one time, when I’d tried to explain how and why I understood his pain. Now I would do it with a different, yet just as important, purpose.
Victor’s office was another grand affair that seemed to drip with status from its very walls, which had been sponge painted a dark crimson color. The large wooden desk in the middle of the room looked like it had belonged to the Sun King himself. Leave it to Victor to have such an opulent symbol of his place in the world. There were no chairs for his guests, the opposite of what one would want in order to resemble power. Victor had no power, none that couldn’t be taken away by somebody else, that is. He’d always be at the mercy of Felipe De Castro.
What I found funny in all of this was the irony. Victor wanted power, but had to rely on others in order to get it. He wanted to seem powerful, but denied chairs for his guests, which meant that he would be the one sitting, which meant his guests would look more powerful since they had to remain standing – therefore taller than the sitting Victor.
Rasul entered the office and remained standing behind us as Victor took his seat. Then, as we had almost started our business, a fifth person entered the office: Freyda.
My heart plummeted to my feet and a wild, jealous rage swept through me, making Eric do a doubletake to see if I was all right. He had never met Freyda and couldn’t understand what he was feeling from our bond. He would understand perfectly in a minute. I was sure I knew why she was there.
“Darling,” Victor stood up again and opened his arms in welcome. Freyda hugged him like one would hug an acquaintance, rather than a friend or lover. He turned to us to show off his prize. “Meet Freyda, the Queen of Oklahoma.”
Freyda’s smile did not reach her eyes. She had lost Eric and her presence in New Orleans did not bode well for us for so many reasons. Her mind was snarly, for lack of a better word, because she was so upset that her plans to marry someone strong like Eric had been foiled. She had not done so well afterwards, solely judging by whom she had chosen to marry instead.
After we gave Freyda due deference, Victor explained her presence – which I’d already gathered. “We are finalizing our marriage contract.”
“Congratulations,” Eric offered and flashed the most genuine smile he could muster.
“Your loss is my gain, Northman,” Victor said and sat down again, leaving Freyda to fend for herself. She thought he was a fool for the same reasons everybody else thought he was a fool. Unfortunately, he was a fool with wealth and strength behind him. “So, tell me Sheriff: what is on tonight’s agenda?”
Eric let go of my hand momentarily to retrieve a stack of papers from a briefcase he had brought. We both looked like we were going to a job interview at a Fortune 500 company. However, as elegantly put together as we were, and as hoity toity as Victor wanted his office to look, there was no other way to conduct business than to plop the briefcase on his elaborately carved desk and let him have the list of complaints.
Keeping professional was not one of Eric’s fortes, but he tried his best when he handed the stack of papers to Victor. “Each one of those is a request from people residing in Area 5 which need your approval. Some have been pending for months.”
To my amazement, it wasn’t Victor who answered. “Why did you let them pile up like that?” Freyda asked Eric, righteously indignant.
“With all due respect, madam,” Eric looked her square in the eye, “it is our regent who has let these requests pile up. I have sent them repeatedly through every channel available.” He used his fingers to add emphasis, “Email, fax, certified letters, pleading with his emissary; nothing has yielded results.”
Victor narrowed his eyes before answering. “Eric, you wouldn’t understand, I’m sure, but setting up a new order requires time and patience…”
“Give me those,” Freyda interrupted and took the papers from Victor’s hands giving them a cursory glance and dividing them into three piles as she gave Victor a lesson in governing, her accent becoming thicker in direct relation to her annoyance. “You cannot ignore your subjects when they’re needing your attention for important matters. To you they may seem trivial, but to your people these are serious concerns. It only takes a moment to decide on each, so what has taken so long?” She finished sorting then turned to Victor with her hands on her hips. She was rethinking her marriage to the regent and wished, not for the first time, that Felipe had accepted her proposal instead.
For one very long moment, Freyda rose in my esteem like she never, ever, would have. Ever. We were all speechless. I suppose this is what made Freyda a queen in her own right, and Victor… not. Then she went and ruined it, at least for Eric and me.
“These are yes,” she pointed at one pile, “These are no,” she pointed at another, “These need more information before an answer.”
Pam’s request to turn Miriam was in the “no” pile. Eric was livid. “Why did you deny my progeny’s request?”
At first Freyda was about to say that she didn’t know that Pamela Ravenscroft was Eric’s progeny, but then wisely thought better of it. She would have known everything about him before accepting Ocella’s scheme to marry Eric. Then, of course, the real answer formed in her mind: she had told Victor that it would be prudent not to give Eric more power by allowing any of his children to turn another. After all, one of Eric’s progeny was a queen in Europe, a position which required a substantial amount of physical strength, cunning, and wisdom. She didn’t know that Meg had ascended easily using mostly her charisma. Freyda’s brain scrambled to find a suitable answer, even if it was a lie. Her eyes turned to me and she smiled.
“Eric,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone and pointed at me with an open palm, as if showing off the reason for the denial: me.
“You are punishing my progeny for something I did outside of this jurisdiction, something that had been vetted and approved by another monarch?!” he asked, incredulous. “It’s not like I can undo it!” He even directed his attention to Victor, who was the one that was supposed to answer. However, Victor remained quiet and shrugged his shoulders, but what he really thought was that Eric could easily undo me in exchange for Pam turning her lover. Because, as he saw it, besides being pretty, I had no added value.
Since I’d been channeling as much information as I could into Eric’s mind, his anger rose to dangerous levels when he realized that he was being doubly snubbed, which was my cue to do my thing. I stopped everything, leaving only Eric out of my mental control.
“Breathe,” I said to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. He turned his eyes to me and calmed down enough to listen. “Do you want me to fix this or do you want to send Pam away with Miriam?”
“We worked so hard to come back home…” he said, running a hand through his hair in exasperation.
I nodded slowly, the picture of tranquility. “Okay. I’ll fix this.”
All this needed was a little mental tweaking, erasing a past conversation here, a little more admiration there, moving Pam’s request from the “no” pile to the “yes” pile and voila: turning Miriam was approved and we were all happy. And I mean all of us. I didn’t manipulate Eric in any way, but Victor and Freyda were ecstatic to grant the approval for Pam to turn her lover.
However, as we left the office, I caught Freyda’s distinct thought that she knew with certainty that Pam’s request had been in the “no” pile. She questioned her sanity after that, since everybody else had seen her put it in the “yes” pile. But, she remembered seeing it, clearly remembered it, as the first piece of paper on top of the “no” pile.
“Shit,” I said under my breath as we entered our room. We were to stay at Victor’s for the day, and normally would have refused under other circumstances, but with my ability to wake up during the day and the fact that the sun didn’t bother me, we decided to chance it. However, it would be difficult to tell Eric what was wrong without arousing suspicion, since it was highly likely that the room was bugged.
Eric handed me a piece of paper from his briefcase and a pen from his breast pocket, then I went to work explaining the problem as best I could, leaning over a small desk and obscuring the paper, just in case there was a hidden camera on top of the hidden ears. My husband, ever one to take advantage of any situation, caressed my butt lovingly as I bent over the paper.
I wrote: I think Freyda has a photographic memory. She remembered Pam’s paper on the “no’s.” Stop touching my butt.
Eric, just because he’s a know-it-all, wrote: you mean eidetic memory. And your butt is gorgeous.
“Jesus Christ, Shepherd of Judea!” Whatever she is, she thought she was going nuts since we were all sure she had approved it.
Let it go, but don’t mess with her mind too much.
I nodded, shredded the piece of paper, let Eric finish worshipping my derriere, then flushed the pieces of paper down the toilet little by little. Several flushes later, I emerged from the bathroom and announced that I was hungry.
“There’s no shortage of donors.” Eric picked up the phone and ordered from an actual menu. Within minutes, two hand-picked donors were knocking on our door.
The faint smell of fairy blood nearly knocked me sideways before my body took over all reason and I pounced on the first donor that walked through the door. Only Eric’s command as my maker stopped me from ripping the human’s throat. Slowly I backed away and into Eric’s waiting arms, my body shaking with hunger and want the likes of which I’d only experienced once. When he sent the humans away I started to cry, until the scent vanished and I was able to regain some sort of control over my body and emotions.
Eric held me tight to stop me from following after the donors. His desire for the blood was only a mirror of mine and had almost undone his restraint, but the fact that he was older, and the fact that the donors were not actual fairies, meant that he was able to resist. He soothed me and calmed me as best as he could, given that we had both been affected by my bloodlust.
I wiped my tears with the heels of my hands and took deep cleansing breaths. “That would have been disastrous,” I mumbled. “Why would Victor do that?”
“To have a motive for killing you and punishing me.” An obvious answer if there ever was one. He sighed and helped me up from the floor, since I was still a little shaky from the incident. “True Blood for you, dearest one.” Eric’s fake jubilant tone had the effect that it made me smile, until he opened the mini fridge and found it empty. With a growl he slammed the door and uttered every manner of curses he could think of.
Another knock on our door had the effect of putting us on guard. Rasul’s distinct cologne was the only thing we could smell, though, when Eric opened the door.
“Compliments of His Majesty,” he said, handing Eric a large golden tray with two fancy bottles of the royal blood and two crystal flutes.
“Victor sent this?” I asked perplexed while Eric took the tray and smiled.
“No, ma’am. His Majesty sent it,” Rasul explained and winked conspiratorially. There was a note.
“It’s from Russell Edgington,” I said, reading the small handwritten message. “He says he’ll be here for the party tomorrow and can’t wait to see us.”
“Good man, Russell.” Eric opened both bottles and gave me one to have all to myself. “Sometimes it’s good to marry people,” he said after gulping noisily.
I drank all of my blood in several loud gulps and felt immediately better. Eric passed me his bottle and ordered me to drink what was left, which was about half. When I started to decline he shushed me. “Just in case you need to wake up during the day,” he tried to reason. He knew it took a lot of energy for me to do that.
“Fine,” I grumbled and grudgingly drank his share.
The morning was near, so we went to bed in our clothes, minus our blazers. If Victor or Freyda were planning something, it was best we remained fully clothed. Obviously, the fact that one or both of them had tainted the donors’ blood was enough to put us on our guard.
“I didn’t know they could do that?” I mused. “Where did they get the fairy blood?”
“You know several fairies with an axe to grind,” Eric answered.
“But Niall was supposed to close the portals,” I said, even knowing that when he did so, there were bound to be several fairies still on this realm.
Slowly, Eric shifted his body on top of mine, pinning me to the bed before kissing me softly. “That you were in control of all your instincts,” he mumbled, the half thought tumbling out of his lips. I didn’t need him to explain what he’d been thinking, nor did I need to look into his mind. I understood perfectly.
“Or that I were human again?” I asked.
Eric buried his face at my neck and nodded, the bond telling me that he felt guilty for thinking it. “I am selfish,” he admitted, “and I want you with me forever. If you were human, you would leave me eventually. But now you can’t. It still scares me that I’m making mistakes concerning you because I forget how young you truly are, in every sense of the word.”
“I wanted to be with you; I wanted to be turned.”
“And sometimes I think that I should have stayed away and kept you safe by ensuring that no vampire could have you.”
He’d said that before, and he’d felt that more times than I could fathom, I’m sure. Each time he thought it or said it, I was filled with an immense sadness, both our hearts breaking at the same time. That was the only reason he hadn’t stolen the cluviel dor and wished upon it to reverse it all, to turn it all back to a moment when he could stop Bill from trying to procure me. If at any time he felt like only his heart, only his soul, would ache from our separation, he would turn it all back. I was sure of it. I’d go back to my simple life in Bon Temps and die of old age, unhappy but safe.
“Swear to me you won’t ever leave me, Eric. I’d rather die loving you than to have never known you.”
He brought his head up to look into my eyes. “I swear it.”
We kissed to seal his promise, but it was hard for me to believe that he would give in so easily. After all: he always gave me what I needed, not necessarily what I wanted.
I held him tight and we fell asleep in each other’s arms.