Sookie jogged down the grand hallway as she hurriedly made her way to her great-grandfather’s parlor. Muirne, her nurse, had roused her early before dawn, rushing her to dress while she blinked sleepily. She had been awakened so that she could welcome the prince and his son back to the palace, as they had returned unexpectedly on furlough. Sookie had not seen them for several weeks while they fought on the fronts of the Great War, a bloody battle that had raged on for years, systematically decimating her kin. She was beyond excited to welcome them back, for however long they might be staying.
Sookie had asked Muirne to wake her before the rest of the court in the event of her grandfathers’ return. She wanted to greet them before her cousins did, as she knew they would be competing with her for their attention. Since Sookie was a fae-human hybrid, she was often treated disrespectfully due to her “impure blood” by some of her extended family and other nobles. She had a tendency to be pushed to the side by her cousins during large gatherings and Muirne suspected that Sookie’s treatment was due in part to jealousy because of the favoritism shown to her by her grandfathers.
As Sookie slowed her pace and quietly approached the parlor doors, she overheard the conversation taking place within.
Niall was speaking. “The slaughter of the ancient one and capture of the great warrior is a tremendous boon. The loss of their leadership and skill on the battlefield will be devastating to the súmaire.”
She heard Fintan respond, “Yes, indeed it is. I was thinking, father, that perhaps we can use him as barter for…”
Niall interrupted him. “No. There will be no barter with these míolra…and to return him back into the ranks of our enemy would be folly. We would suffer his wrath back upon us one hundred fold, as his thirst for vengeance is legendary. He can never be allowed to leave Faery.”
“Yes, of course, father. What are your thoughts?
“We may attempt…interrogation to gather intelligence on tactical plans, their numbers bivouacked at the border, allies of the súmaire that are unknown to us…” Niall’s voice was thoughtful as he continued to muse. “If nothing else, we may be able to utilize his blood as a type of lure, drawing them out for our ambush while they hazard a possible rescue attempt. They are not capable of true loyalty, but I deem that the Viking is a valuable asset to them and one that they would likely attempt to recover.”
Fintan paused briefly before agreeing with the prince. “Excellent plan, father. It shall be done. When shall we begin? Although he is now dead for the day, he is reputed to be mighty and stronger than most súmaire. He may rise ere the setting of the sun.”
“Tonight, after the feast. It matters not if he rises early. He is heavily bound and is in a weakened state from suffering much blood loss. We must…” His voice was stilled as he suddenly became aware of his great-granddaughter’s presence at the door.
He was delighted. “Dear one, come in! Why do you wait in the hall? Come, come!”
Sookie had tiptoed up to the great double doors, her ear pressed against the wood while she strained to listen to her grandfathers. She was fascinated about the topic of their conversation. In addition, she could also hear their thoughts as they visualized the “legendary” súmaire they had captured and was being held prisoner in the palace’s dungeon. She had heard tales about the dreaded súmaire, or vampires, since she was but a young child and brought back to Faery after the death of her parents and brother.
Somewhat sheepishly, Sookie crept into the room but then grinned broadly when she saw their expectant expressions. She rushed into Niall’s waiting arms as he smiled and wrapped her in his embrace, twirling her around.
She beamed up at him and kissed him on the cheek. She then turned to Fintan and began to give him a similar welcome, but with care as she had noticed that his left arm was in a sling. Both men seemed pleased but Sookie couldn’t help think that they looked haggard and their once pristine clothing worn under their silver armor was torn and soiled.
She gazed at Fintan’s arm with a horrified expression on her lovely face. “Grandfather! You are injured! Why have you not gone to the healers?”
Fintan smiled tiredly and said, “No, we have not yet had time to convalesce, dear heart. We have only just arrived and were taking brief counsel. We will make our way to the healer’s wing soon enough, not to worry.” He gestured for her to sit on the silk lined couch next to him.
Sookie took his uninjured hand into hers and held it up to her face. “I have missed you both and have been so worried. I have had no word about your welfare and doings with the exception that you both still lived to defend the border.” She started to tear up.
Niall looked at her lovingly and softly chided, “Never fear, child. You must have faith that we will be victorious against the vampires. The súmaire are many, but we have recently won our most fierce battle yet and have captured a great prize.” His eyes glinted before he changed topic. “But enough about war. How fares my favored grandchild? How are your studies coming? I know Muirne is a worthy woman and has been keeping you to task!” He chuckled at his joke. Muirne was indeed a taskmaster, but one with an undeniable soft spot for his granddaughter.
“Oh yes, sir. I have just passed all my exams with superior marks. In addition to all my academic courses, I have also excelled in advanced magicks, intermediate fencing and archery, and Muirne has been teaching me how to improve my tapestry weaving.” She said proudly, “I have been working on a new wall hanging with the Brigant family crest. Muirne even said it is fit to be displayed in the great hall!”
Niall and Fintan both smiled proudly at her. Fintan caressed her hair back from her face and said, “That is excellent, you do us proud, child.”
Niall stood and gestured for Fintan to rise. “Dear one, we must harken to the healers. We have withstood great hardships and my son has suffered a grave injury to his arm. We will see you and your cousins later tonight at the celebratory feast.”
Sookie smiled and nodded her head, but caught disturbing thoughts in Niall’s mind. She saw images of a great blonde warrior, wrapped in chains and held captive in a cell behind heavy silver bars. Sookie kept her face stoic, her intentions hidden as she gave them one last kiss on the cheek before returning to her chamber.
Later that night, the palace held a great feast in honor of the return of the prince and his heir. Many of the royal family and other nobles were present. Niall had made a grand speech detailing their recent victory while toasting those who sacrificed themselves to protect their people and have gone forth to join their ancestors in the Summerlands.
Sookie sat near the end of the great table reserved for the royal family, next to Claudine, her one cousin who always treated her with kindness. Claudine was in an animated discussion with her sister, Claudette, and a famed knight, Kathel, who was credited with helping capture the great súmaire warrior. The knight bragged about how he had thrown silver nets on the vampire and bludgeoned him with his mace while he fell trying to protect one of his vampire comrades.
Sookie had been thinking about the prisoner since this morning and could not hold back her curiosity any longer. As the nobles ate and drank spirits, and were otherwise occupied in their revelry, she stealthily crept away unobserved out a side entrance. She had had the foresight to pilfer a bottle of dewberry wine from the cellar, a rare and coveted vintage only consumed by royals during special occasions. Unobserved, she had slipped the bottle into a silk bag, which was secured under her skirts.
Sookie looked around to assure her privacy and then teleported to the lower levels of the palace. She quietly made her way down the great stairs that wound deep underground to the dungeon as the firelight from the torches cast a reddish glow along the walls. When she approached the massive door that led to the cells in the catacombs, she was stopped by two of the guards. She wished she could bypass the hassle of bribing the guards by simply teleporting inside, but the dungeon was heavily warded with spells against intruders.
A tall platinum blonde fairy who was counted as young amongst their kind spoke first. “My lady, why are you not at the feast? You should not be down here, especially while others make merry. Besides, only a select few have been given clearance.”
Sookie smiled and held her head high, assuming an official demeanor. “Well met, Bairre. My great-grandfather granted me permission this morning to come down here. He said I was to try to read the mind of the new súmaire prisoner.”
The other guard scoffed. “I think not, princess. Prince Niall and lord Fintan have clearance, as do a select few…with official business.” He smirked at her. “I am afraid that was a transparent attempt at chicanery, my dear.”
Sookie sighed. She had anticipated their hindrance, which was why she came prepared. “I apologize. You are quite right. But,” and here she paused, all wide-eyed with feigned innocence. “I come bearing a gift for you both.” She turned and demurely pulled the silk purse out from under her gown, triumphantly holding up the bottle of wine as both guards’ eyes lit up.
Bairre cleared his throat before asking hopefully. “Is that…dewberry wine? A gift, for us, princess? You are too kind.” He licked his lips and reached out for the bottle while Sookie tsked.
“Now, wait a moment. I ask but one small favor.” The guards eagerly nodded their heads and gestured for her to continue. Sookie adopted a serious expression as she said, “I ask brief admittance to the dungeons. I beg only for a few moments. I merely want to see the súmaire…I am curious as to their appearance. I promise I will keep this between us, and none will be the wiser.”
The other guard, Ciaran, raked a hand impatiently through his long coal black hair. He was miffed that he had unexpectedly been called to guard duty on his night off and was not at the grand feast. He turned to Bairre and smirked. “Well, comrade, against my better judgment I think we cannot turn away such a gift, what say you?”
Bairre smiled and clasped his hand. “Aye, I for one have not had the pleasure of imbibing the royal vintage and cannot wait to sample a taste!”
He turned towards Sookie with a bow and said, “Princess, we are obliged to honor your request, but please heed our warning. You can only stay for a few moments, as the prince has planned on interrogating the beast later tonight. He is bound in silver, and greatly weakened, but do not approach his cell. He may still have the power to enchant you with his eyes! I will come to retrieve you if you do not return shortly.”
Sookie rapidly nodded her assent as she handed them the bottle. Ciaran turned the key in the great lock and pulled the heavy steel bound door open. Sookie smiled nervously as she was allowed admittance.
Bairre called to her. “We are leaving the door ajar, princess and are awaiting your return. Please make haste.”
“Yes, I won’t be but a moment,” Sookie said distractedly as she crept inside. Now that she was actually in the dungeon, her fear began to override her curiosity. The stench and cold moisture leaking inside the catacomb was oppressive and she found it difficult to breathe.
She walked past the barred cells lining either side of the corridor, adamantly avoiding looking at the poor wretches languishing inside. Many were silent but there were some who called out and reached pitifully through the bars, beseeching her for help. She shored up her mental shields, as she could not stand to hear their tormented thoughts in addition to their cries.
She continued walking down the long corridor past several empty cells until she came to the end of the hall. She paused as she looked inside the last cell to the left. A large man was on his knees, his muscled alabaster arms stretched to their limits above his head and manacled to the wall. His body was bound in silver chains, and she observed blood dripping and smoke rising from where the metal burned into his flesh.
Sookie stood and stared at him with a mixture of horror and fascination. So this was an actual súmaire! He was an enormous hulk of a man, but aside from his size and pale skin, he did not seem that different from her fae brethren.
He was shirtless and wore only a pair of weather stained and torn leather pants. His head hung down on chest, his long blonde hair reaching down to his waist. Sookie felt strangely drawn to the man and ignoring the guard’s warnings, approached the bars of the cell.
Sookie gasped and felt a thrill shoot down her spine as the vampire suddenly lifted his head, his sapphire eyes glittering and eerily luminescent, catching her own with their intensity.
His handsome face was streaked with blood and grime, but she could still see the majesty in his demeanor despite his ragged state. His nostrils flared as he scented her and his eyes began to glow as he spoke to her softly and seductively despite the hoarseness of his voice. The man’s speech sounded foreign to Sookie, notable for a distinct but unidentifiable accent.
He had felt a surreal jolt when he beheld her. He was shocked to see such a beautiful young woman in this foul place, but took advantage of the situation immediately.
“Hello little one,” he crooned. “Look at me. Look into my eyes.”
Sookie stared at him, mesmerized. Not only was he breathtaking in appearance, but she could not hear his thoughts when she probed his mind!
He continued to speak. “Come closer, girl, and listen closely. I need your help. I need for you to get a key to this cell.” He paused, grimacing in pain before continuing. “You must do this in secrecy. You will need to be clever, and come back again, with the keys to the door and these chains. You will do this immediately. Yes?”
Sookie blinked, momentarily speechless. “I…I can’t do that, sir, I’m sorry…”
He couldn’t believe it! His attempts at glamouring the girl had failed! He realized it was a long shot, for her to be able to access the keys and make her way back to him undiscovered. Even if he was freed, he was greatly weakened by blood loss and exposure to silver. He would have to feed from her to help renew his strength and healing. After that, he would have to dispatch the guards and acquire their weapons. And (he thought it unlikely, but had to try), he would need to find the nearest portal out of Faery and into his own realm, all the while risking exposure to daylight.
It was an impossible situation, but Eric was a warrior and would not surrender even in these dire straits. He anticipated his enemy’s plans to torture him, as well as the inevitability of his true death in the near future within the walls of this cell if he did not escape.
But…the girl should not have been immune to his glamour. He thought his powers may have been diminished due to his weakened state. He tried again. “Look into my eyes, you will…”
Sookie interrupted him. “You don’t look like a monster. You look like a man. I had thought súmaire were…,” her voice trailed off as Eric stared at her incredulously. He had heard that some fae could resist glamour, but not without enchantments. And those with immunity were typically powerful and older. This girl looked to be young, likely no older than eighteen human years, but then again, fae did not age as did humans so she may have had more years upon her than her appearance suggested.
She cast her eyes down, blushing as she noticed his appraising gaze. “Pardon me, I must mind my manners. I didn’t mean to remark on your appearance. It is not seemly to do so.”
Sookie was quite close to the bars as she stared at him. She noticed the great warrior grimacing, and how the silver chains cruelly ate through his flesh. Indeed, his skin was ragged and hanging open in some places, exposing muscle and sinew while oozing blood. His manacled wrists also slowly dripped blood trails down his pale arms.
She felt strangely attracted to and moved by this creature, this…man’s plight, despite knowing him to be a mortal enemy. She had been indoctrinated as a child to believe that the súmaire were monstrous and mindless beasts, driven by their berserker like thirst for fae blood. She had no doubt that this vampire was extremely dangerous and had he not been chained and shackled, would be likely be ravenously reaching for her. But…his beauty, quiet mind, and soft voice had surprised her and drawn her in to him.
He had obviously been a mighty warrior. From snippets of the conversation between her cousin and Kathel she had overheard earlier tonight, it had taken several fae, armed with silver weapons and nets, to capture him when the vampire had rushed in to try to rescue one of his kind from final death. Surely he had the capacity for loyalty, as he had reportedly risked capture and imminent death to save his comrade. Surely he was not completely evil?
As she continued to gaze at him in wonder, she heard Bairre calling down the corridor to her. “Princess, you must hurry. The prince is due to arrive any moment, you must depart!” She heard the urgency in his voice despite the slight slurring of his words (dewberry wine was infamous for it’s potency, as well as delicious flavor).
The vampire raised his head slightly when he heard her royal title, surprise evident on his face.
Sookie studied him, her voice thoughtful, “Sir, I doubt my ability to secure the keys you requested, but I will try to come again.”
He stared back at her with shock. She obviously had not been glamoured but was wanting to come back for…what? Gawk at him like a caged animal? Laugh at his plight?
His anger flared as he bit out, “Well, princess, you needn’t bother then. I likely will not survive to see another night after your family is done with me.”
Sookie looked at him with a strange mixture of pity and anger. She retorted, “Sir, even if I was able to secure keys to allow for your escape, what is to prevent you from draining my blood?”
The vampire smiled grimly, as this girl was not as innocent as she appeared and seemed spirited. He didn’t acknowledge her question, but instead quietly replied, “You needn’t call me sir, little one. I am Eric.”
Sookie blinked at him before offering a shy smile. “I am called Alana, but that is my fae given name…I prefer Sookie, my human name.”
Eric was puzzled. Human? She smelled of fae…but now that he scented the air more closely, he could detect the humanity in her blood. What was a fae-human hybrid doing in Faery? Usually mutts were outcast, disdained for their diluted pedigree. Her royal lineage must be the reason…
Sookie turned to the fae guard who had staggered unevenly down the hall. Bairre grasped her arm and huffed, “Really, princess, I know not why you bother to converse with this animal. Come, now. We are risking our necks by allowing you to visit. The prince will be leaving the feast soon and could make his presence here at any moment.”
Sookie turned and began walking with the guard while sneaking a sidelong glance at Eric, careful not to betray her intentions to return as soon as possible to visit the mysterious vampire.
As she emerged from the dungeon, Ciaran cursed under his breath, “Damn! I can hear the prince and his guard coming down the hall. He will have our heads for allowing the princess admittance!”
Bairre nervously looked back and forth from Sookie to the stairwell. He looked as if he would bolt, which wasn’t far off from his thoughts, Sookie noted.
She whispered to them, “Never fear, I have learned how to cloak myself. I will disappear from view and none will be the wiser.” Sookie quickly chanted a spell (ironically one that she was recently tested on in her advanced magicks class) and disappeared from view, her guards staring at the air in surprise.
Sookie quickly slunk, invisible, to the far corner of the hall, her back against the cold stone wall.
Soon she heard her great-grandfather’s voice coming down the corridor as he conversed with Fintan and two other men. They soon emerged in front of the tipsy guards, who were doing their best at assuming an official (and sober) air.
Two of the men who accompanied her grandfathers were officials in the court, both high-ranking members of the intelligence department, and notorious for their “interrogation” techniques. Sookie noticed that they had carried down a cart lined with various silver instruments, as well as a large rectangular device that was covered with a black cloth. She began to sicken as she read the intent in their thoughts.
Sookie’s heart skipped a beat as Niall stopped and seemed to be scenting the air, facing in her direction for several seconds. Had she been discovered? She considered teleporting away, but refrained when she saw him continue walking towards his destination after being summoned by one of the interrogators. Sookie held her breath as she saw the guards grant Niall and his entourage admittance to the dungeon, the door clanging heavily behind them.
She continued to wait for several minutes until she began hearing screams coming from the dungeon, which echoed across the stone hall.
Sookie was horrified while listening to Eric’s torture. She began crying, tears streaming down her face as she covered her ears. She teleported back to her bedroom, sobbing into her pillow. She cried for several minutes until a firm resolve settled over her. She realized that she felt an intense and overwhelming attraction to the vampire, which both confused and excited her. She didn’t know how she would do it, but somehow she would find a way to rescue the fair-haired prisoner…
Thanks for permission of Kittirose to use his wonderful fanart “Chains” to represent Eric. You can admire his wonderful work here : http://kittrose.deviantart.com/