*Chapter 6*: Chapter 5
Disclaimer: Southern Vampire Mystery characters belong to Charlaine Harris. My original characters belong to me, and others are loosely based on historical or literary figures.
Thanks again to my beta, Lady Doughnuts. I ended up rewriting parts of this chapter after receiving her edits, and so any remaining errors are mine.
It was time. Earlier that night, Eric had observed the arrival of many of the vampire and non-vampire guests (weres, demons, and even some prominent humans: all who hobnobbed with supes, for political or business dealings). Unbeknownst to Freyda, he was aware that Felipe had arrived yesterday and was staying in the mansion in one of the guest suites and that they had held a meeting in her private chambers before dawn.
Eric paced back and forth in his bedroom suite, musing.
Tonight, heads would roll, blood would spill, walls would crumble, and the American vampire political hierarchy would be altered. If everything went according to plan, Sookie would soon be safely back in his arms (and bed!). He longed for his lover with an ache that resonated deep within him and he could feel his anticipation and bloodlust steadily rising.
Suppressing his fire with some effort (which required him to first retract his fangs and will down his enormous rock hard erection), Eric strode out of his suite and turned rapidly down the hall, making his way to Freyda’s study for their final prenuptial meeting. He chuckled darkly to himself; aware that he was shadowed by Freyda’s guards the entire way (at a safe distance, as they all tended to feel ill at ease when in close proximity to him).
Eric strode into the study after being admitted by the omnipresent guards stationed at the door. Freyda was sitting at the end of a heavy and intricately carved rectangular wooden table. She was wearing a white velvet dressing gown with brocade adorning the sleeves, her light brown hair loosely draped around her shoulders. Her attorney sat to her right, a vampire who had been practicing law since his days as a human during the 19th century. Mr. Cataliades stood, gesturing to the other empty chair closest to Freyda.
Eric nodded at Freyda and Mr. Cataliades before approaching the chair. “Desmond. Thank you for coming. I assume you brought finalized copies of our contractual agreement as requested?”
“Mr. Northman, greetings. Yes, we were waiting until you joined us to begin.” At this, he popped open the briefcase, which was extra large and capable of accommodating the thick bound documents. He handed the copies to Eric and Freyda.
Over the course of the next half hour, Eric and Freyda reviewed the documents with the two lawyers. It was only a formality, as the specifics of the contract, which pertained to Eric’s role as consort and their business dealings and personal holdings, had already been haggled over between the four of them and had gone through several iterations before it was finalized. Eric flipped to the back of the contract and approved of the final clause, which stipulated the transfer of assets in the event of true death. Of course, Freyda was advised to include a provision that blocked transfer should final death occur as a direct result of the actions of the other (translated: as a result of assassination). Eric could not care less about Freyda’s assets, and he would feel this way even if he did not have his own near unlimited financial resources. Under vampire law, however, rule of Oklahoma would revert to him, the consort, should Freyda be incapacitated or finally dead. This was a matter that her attorney had contested, but Cataliades had dismissed the attempt, citing legal precedent. The documents were signed and witnessed in blood using a special pen that had a needlepoint stylus used to puncture the vein.
After the meeting concluded, Eric had hoped to speak with Mr. Cataliades briefly prior to the ceremony. As Eric turned to prepare to exit the room with him, Freyda called out. “Eric, if I may, I would like to speak with you for a moment.” She nodded to the guards on either side of the door to leave their station so they could be afforded a façade of privacy.
Eric waited until the two attorneys exited the room (Mr. Cataliades had glanced briefly at Eric with one eyebrow subtly raised as he walked past him) before turning to her with a cool expression. “Yes, your majesty?”
She glided over in his direction and gazed at him with an intense expression. With her hair down and absence of makeup, she looked young and vulnerable, which Eric suspected was a calculated move on her part. Nothing Freyda did was without forethought.
“Eric, please call me Freyda…after all, in a few hours we will be wed, and I think that entitles us to be on a first name basis, don’t you?” She began to smile but it quickly faded when she took in his grim expression.
Eric bowed slightly to alleviate the tension, and although he was aware of the need to continue the mask of civility but for a little while longer, he had difficulty adopting a more cordial demeanor. “If that is your wish…Freyda.”
A seductive heat had quickly infused her eyes. “I know that you still feel an infatuation with that human, but I was informed she is now your child’s pet. She is truly no longer yours. I am allowing you to see her tonight prior to the ceremony with the hope that you realize it is time to let go of your passing fancy. It is my wish that, with time, you will come to regard me with…fondness.” With these words she edged closer to him, lust heavy in her expression as she licked her lips.
As she approached, she loosened the clasp on the front of her dressing gown, causing the top to slip down her shoulders and expose her breasts. She paused and slowly trailed her fingers down her throat, leading to the swells of her bosom, and lower, attempting to direct his attention to her nipples before she reached out with one hand to caress his cheek.
Eric stared at her with a severe expression, his gaze never leaving her eyes. He caught her wrist in one large hand before it touched his face while pulling her gown up with the other hand, effectively covering her chest. “Freyda. I know we are to wed tonight, but…this is a contractual obligation, nothing more. I love… another.”
She stepped back abruptly, as if slapped. Her eyes narrowed as she venomously hissed, “That may be, but as your wife and queen, I am still entitled to a yearly physical consummation of our union, and I require this of you tonight. I care not for your “love!”
Eric regarded her silently for several seconds. He was raging with a near blinding fury but kept his expression neutral. He refused to respond to her demand and instead bowed stiffly. “By your leave,” he said as he turned and quickly left the room.
Freyda smashed the heavy door closed behind him, cracking the doorframe. She barely restrained herself from ripping it off its hinges. She closed her eyes and clenched her fists tightly, nails digging into her skin, causing blood to stream unheeded onto her gown, the red splattering into lurid Rorschach stains on the white velvet.
She thought to herself, “We shall see. I hope you enjoy seeing your little toy tonight. It’s the last time you will. I am not as blind to your maneuverings as you think, Northman.”
As Eric turned down the corridor leading towards his suite, he slowed when he saw the imposing figure leaning against the wall near the door to his room.
Eric was unsurprised. He had already predicted a confrontation by the hulking Bavarian warrior, quite frankly much sooner than on the eve of the wedding.
Eric spoke first. “Hans.” He slowly adopted a subtle fight stance, with his right leg slightly behind his left, which shifted to the front as he turned his body slightly.
The huge vampire glared with his his one remaining eye, aware of Eric’s maneuverings, but did not shift from his leaning position, arms crossed in front of his massive chest. He paused for several moments before speaking in his thick accented baritone, “Northman. You do not wish to marry my queen and yet you persist with this charade.”
Eric begrudgingly gave one nod: an assent. “You are aware that my maker arranged for this marriage prior to his final death. Despite my wishes, I must honor the contract.”
At this, Hans pushed off the wall suddenly and barked into Eric’s face, “You have no honor. She should be mine!”
Eric did not flinch, and stared unblinking at the enraged vampire. “I see,” he paused and looked thoughtfully at him. “Then you must plead your case to the queen. I would like nothing more than to walk away tonight from this farce and return to my former life…”
At this, Hans hung his head, defeated, all hint of violence deflated. “I have tried, to no avail, Viking,” he said quietly. With this, he turned without another word and disappeared down the hall.
Eric stared after him, only now realizing that the conversation had taken place in an empty corridor. He assumed Hans had sent the guards away from the post and so took advantage of the rare moment of privacy by entering his room, quickly shutting the door.
While he had predicted a confrontation with Hans, the underlying motivations of the man were…intriguing. He had suspected Hans was threatened by his role of consort and upcoming appointment as her new lieutenant, which would thus demote him to a lower rank in her court. He had not counted on rousing his ire due to his perception of Eric as a romantic rival. He would have to further consider how he would use this information to his benefit.
He also thought about the recent conversation with Freyda that had taken place in the study. He knew that he had humiliated her, thus enflaming her wrath. He was inwardly cursing himself, knowing he shouldn’t have baited her, but at the same time, he was beyond tired of the ruse and his anger over the situation had been rising steadily. Now, on the eve of his “wedding,” he could barely contain his rage. He would have to make a concerted effort to better contain his bloodlust, and could not allow his fury at Freyda and Felipe to affect the plan that he and Pam had so diligently put into place.
He was also frustrated. Since he had returned from his safe house, he had been unable, due to circumstances of his confine, to safely communicate with Pam or his allies. This was the point in his plan that was most maddening: he would now have to rely on his co-conspirators, to have faith that his child and the trusted few allies would come through for him.
He mentally reviewed the list of allies he had contacted. Some were close friends; others owed him a blood debt to be repaid, while others wished to gain in power following a successful coup.
Bodvar Bjarki, a large bear of a man, was a former Norwegian prince who he had fought alongside in numerous European campaigns. He had a mirthful and loyal personality, and had always been happy to swing a blade on behalf of his Viking friend.
Dragos Voda was a Romanian voivoid, or warlord, who he had befriended in the 16th century during his time as a mercenary. He had rescued Dragos from a beheading during the war in Hungary against the Tatars and so owed Eric a blood debt. He had also readily agreed to help Eric, in part due to a longstanding grudge against Hans, as he had sent his child to his final death centuries ago.
Aloysius Gonzaga was an Italian Jesuit priest who was turned in 1591. He had been an introverted and stoic man, and these personality traits only intensified over the centuries (Pam had had particular difficulty locating him due to his reclusive nature). He had historically strived to live a pious life, both as a human and as a vampire and he deeply disapproved of Eric’s pagan beliefs. However, he had agreed to come when called upon, as he also owed him a blood debt.
Lozen was an Apache warrior who had fought alongside Geronimo until her capture and imprisonment. Her maker turned her before she succumbed to tuberculosis after hearing rumors of her prowess as a fighter and gift of prophecy. While Lozen was a relatively younger vampire, she was nonetheless powerful, in part due to the ancient blood of her maker as well as her fierce nature. She had befriended Eric after meeting him through business dealings after his arrival to America and he regarded her as an honest and loyal ally.
Grace O’Malley, “the Sea Queen of Connaught,” was a vampire from Ireland, and had been a pirate and chieftain of her clan before her turning. The fire-haired vamp was a former lover of Eric’s since he had met her sometime in the 17th century (actually, they were more like immortal fuck buddies, enjoying the occasional romp when their paths crossed over the centuries). Pam reported that Grace had been amused that Eric had fallen for a mortal and was taking such great pains to avoid marriage to Freyda. However, she agreed to help Eric given their long friendship and her intense dislike of Freyda. In addition, she was burning with curiosity to meet the woman who finally tamed the wild Viking, as he had historically been a voracious lover of women but never before given his heart to any he bedded.
Miyamoto Musashi was a famous samurai while human, and who over the centuries became an unparalleled warrior and tactician. He had trained Eric in the art of Shinto-ryu, or classical Japanese swordsmanship. They had developed a strong friendship during Eric’s training, and had himself likewise trained Musashi to wield a broadsword.
The two American kings that were allied with him both had a desire to gain territory through their alignment with Eric against Freyda and Felipe.
Francois Levis, King of Oregon, was not a close friend, but had traditionally been on good terms with Eric and respected him as a warrior. He had primarily agreed to assist him after a deal was made to allow him reign over Nevada, as he coveted the wealth of the state and had no love for Felipe.
Stan Davis was also to be in attendance to the wedding and agreed to assist with Eric’s plans. While he had been severely injured in the Rhodes bombing, with his maker’s blood and Dr. Ludwig’s treatment, he had recovered and restored to his former strength. Although he was a friend of Eric and owed him favors, he also had a vested interest in seeing that Eric’s plans came to fruition (namely, rule of Oklahoma). He had planned to bring three of his most powerful and trusted sheriff’s to accompany him to the wedding to help execute the plans.
Thalia and Palomino were also on Eric’s “list” to attend the wedding. The fierce Greek vampiress was a formidable and loyal underling, and her vicious nature would be invaluable in the execution of his plans. Palomino was to assist Thalia in her maneuverings.
The plan was to have Thalia, Palomino, Francois, Stan and his sheriffs attend the wedding as guests. Eric had obtained a blueprint of the Marland Mansion, which had been distributed by Pam to the allies. The blueprint outlined the layout of the entire estate, including the tunnel system that led from the lake house and artist studio. The plan was for the other conspirators to infiltrate the compound using Lake Whitemarsh as the entry point. From there, they planned to travel via tunnels from the boathouse into the main mansion.
Although Eric was aware that all of the estate was well guarded, including the tunnel system, he had to trust in his allies’ abilities to subdue and dispatch any guards they encountered before the rest of the compound was alerted. His comrades had centuries of skill as warriors between them and were all well versed in various combat techniques. He had to trust in their ability to breach the mansion’s defenses in time to come to his aid.
Eric also had placed his trust in his child to help guard his biggest vulnerability, his Achilles heel and the woman who held his heart. Eric seldom experienced true fear, but he had been afraid for some time about the welfare of his mortal lover. He hated to bring her here in the den of their enemy, but knew she had already been targeted, and her days of living freely were numbered. He had chosen tonight of all nights to make his move, as all of the key players would be in attendance and could be dispatched in one fell swoop. He had tasked Pam with one assignment during the wedding, and that was to protect Sookie above all others, by whatever means possible.
Eric walked over to the French doors in his room, gazing out towards the direction of the lake, his long blonde hair and white skin glowing silver in the moonlight. He knelt with his sword clasped between his massive hands and bowed his head. He quietly whispered an ancient prayer in Old Norse that he had not uttered in centuries.
“Oh, mighty Odin and merciful Freya, I pray you grant me strength so that I may fight bravely after each oncoming tide. Let blood be on my sword, let sweat fall from my brow as I go on the battlefield to strike my foes down. And if I should at last fall let me die a death with honor, to take my place among my forefathers in the great halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever.”*
He raised his head and continued to gaze at the moon for several minutes before rising. He quickly dressed in the suit Freyda had tailor made for him, special for this occasion. The tuxedo had tails and was charcoal gray. Underneath, he wore a white silk shirt secured at the collar with a silver gray cravat, which matched the vest. It fit him well but he hated it, because it had been chosen for him by a woman he despised.
He walked to the en suite bathroom and stoically pinned a platinum tiepin engraved with Freyda’s royal insignia through the cravat, which she had insisted he wear. He then plaited his long hair in an intricate braid. He gazed unblinking into the mirror for several minutes, mentally reviewing every facet of his plan, evaluating every conceivable tactical possibility.
He then sheathed his broadsword at his hip in its special jewel encrusted scabbard, which was carved in runes that matched Sookie’s comb. He was tall enough that the sword hung comfortably at his hip without hindering him as he strode from his room, heading towards the parlor where Freyda had previously agreed to allow him to have his “final” meeting with Sookie before the ceremony.
He paused, stilling momentarily before increasing his pace. He could barely contain his excitement. Pam had arrived. He felt her through their blood bond, which meant that Sookie would be with her, here at the mansion. But then his excitement abruptly turned to worry and then panic, as he began to feel waves of tension and anger shooting through the bond. He began to literally fly down the corridor towards the parlor, startling the guards that stood sentry at various intervals.
As he neared his destination, what he saw from his vantage down the hallway stopped him abruptly in his tracks. He watched the backs of his child and his beautiful lover as they were escorted into the room by guards, followed closely behind by Freyda, who was now coiffed and dressed in her wedding gown. He stood frozen as he watched Freyda turn towards him with a predatory smile as she closed the parlor doors with a resounding boom.
*Adapted from “A Vikings Prayer” by Aiden Lucid (2007) and from the 13th Warrior
AN: I know, evil cliffy. Sorry about that (wink).
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