AN: A heartfelt thanks to everyone who left reviews!
Warning: This chapter contains violent and graphic content.
Sookie transported straight to the shower stall in the cottage’s windowless bathroom. She immediately slammed the door and grabbed a towel that she wedged against the crack to eliminate Eric’s exposure to daylight. She also lit a large candle that sat on a shelf in order to illuminate the dark room. She turned back towards him. Eric was massive and took up most of the space, his sheer size making him unwieldy as she struggled to lean him up against the wall. By the time she had him situated, she noted to her dismay that she was covered in his blood.
She looked down at herself and sighed in exasperation. She supposed she should have planned better and brought a change of apparel, but it was obviously far too late to pop back to her chambers. She would have to search the cottage to see if Claudine had a stocked wardrobe, as what she was wearing was undoubtedly ruined.
She took off her jerkin and doublet, and also removed her boots, tossing them to the side of the little room, but left her undershirt and breeches on. She steeled herself, as the tasks ahead would be gruesome.
Her first order of business was to remove the chains that still remained wrapped around his legs. Although the chains had burned into parts of his thighs in some places, she was able to strip them off with relative ease and threw them into the corner where her clothing and boots lay.
Next, she began pulling the numerous silver knives from his body. This was a more difficult undertaking and took much longer than she intended, as his skin had attempted to heal itself and had grown around the edges. She gritted her teeth and had to work the stubborn blades out from side to side before they loosened enough to yank out. She was thankful once again that he was dead for the day and an immortal, as performing these maneuvers on a conscious human would have been unfathomable.
By the time she had removed all of the knives, she was completely drenched in blood and sweat. She panted as she rested, leaning heavily against the wall while she caught her breath before embarking on the task she had been most dreading.
Sookie squatted down while she readjusted him, gently tilting his head back against the wall for better access to his eyes. She gulped and swallowed back bile as she gingerly began trying to pull out the silver plugs with her fingers. However, they were immobile and she was mortified to see they had burned into the bone and viscera. She had to resort to prying them out with her dagger, all the while gasping for breath as she shed hot tears. By the time she finally freed the orbs from his sockets, she felt raw and emotionally depleted. With a scream, she threw them to the opposite side of the room.
Succumbing to exhaustion, she sank to the floor. She gazed at him, her thoughts morose. It was disheartening, as he looked pitiful and truly dead in his butchered state. She allowed herself a few moments of respite before forcing herself to stand. She turned the shower on and pointed the nozzle head to better reach him. She angrily grabbed the floral scented shampoo and began working on his matted hair. It took almost the entire bottle and multiple runs with Claudine’s comb to get his hair back to his natural gold color, but she was encouraged that at last the water finally ran clean.
She then began to cleanse his arms and torso but paused when she came to his breeches. She could not in good faith leave wet and bloody leather on him, but, oh…how would he react knowing she had seen him unclothed?
She mentally shored up her resolve and decided to pursue the task as clinically as possible, a mantra in her head telling her he was ill, a patient, and healers had to focus on healing and were thus immune to such trivialities as nudity. She began to carefully slice the leather from his thighs and up through the waist. She tugged the edges down, trying steadfastly to keep her eyes up at his chest level.
However, she slipped on the slick stone floor as she struggled to pull the leather from underneath his heavy body. She fell upon him as he slid on his side. Sookie scrambled to push herself up and inadvertently stared at his manhood, which lay down the side of his thigh, touching the floor. Even flaccid, it was quite large, thicker and longer than she thought possible. Although Sookie had never been with a man, she had seen countless images of naked males in people’s thoughts, and they had not seemed as enormous as this man! But then again, she supposed it was proportionate given his overall massive size. Blushing furiously, she made herself focus on removing the remainder of his clothing.
Once completed, she cleansed the lower half of his body. His boots had been removed at some point during his captivity, which was convenient for bathing but she cringed when she saw that the bottoms of his feet were raw and appeared as if they had been badly burned. She gently washed his thickly muscled legs and groin to the best of her ability though the multiple gaping wounds made the task awkward and difficult. Luckily, the stream from the shower helped to wash away most of the caked blood over the areas she was hesitant to touch with the washcloth. The giant wound on his chest made her especially anxious when the water from the shower had entered inside his chest cavity. She rolled him to lay more on his stomach in order to try to drain the water.
Weary but proud of her progress, she stood and took stock of her bedraggled condition. She would have to remove her soiled apparel and cleanse herself, including her hair since her braid had gotten bloodied when she slipped and fallen. She nervously glanced down at him, but he remained still. She cringed, knowing that she would be naked in his presence despite the fact he was dead for the day. Quickly, she stripped out of her soiled clothing and unbraided her hair. She stood straddling his body and rapidly washed and rinsed herself. Shutting off the stream of water, she grasped one of the clean towels she had stacked to the side.
She towel dried her hair and wrapped it around her body, and then proceeded to dry him off as he continued to lie oblivious on the bathroom floor in his day death.
After he was reasonably dry, she went into the bedroom and retrieved the heavy cloak she had packed, securing it around the window by tucking the top into the curtain rod. She then went into the kitchen and after searching the cupboards, found heavy earthen mugs which she placed on either side on the sill to weight the fabric in place. Looking around the bedroom, she nodded to herself, assuring that it was light tight for the vampire.
The room was dark due to the cloak and the heavy curtains, and so Sookie chanted a simple spell (“solas le dóiteáin”) which immediately lit a lamp that sat on the bedside stand. She stripped the beautiful satin duvet off the bed (she knew it to be a favorite of Claudine’s) and pulled back the sheets. She went and searched inside the hall closet and found a thick woolen blanket which she spread upon the bed. She also grabbed one of the sheets and proceeded to cut makeshift bandages with her dagger.
Working quickly, she returned to Eric and folded up a large section of the sheet and pressed it to his chest wound, securing it into place with a strip of fabric. Although it continued to seep blood, she felt somewhat better just seeing it covered. She then continued to wrap bandages around the most serious wounds, including around his eyes and feet.
Kneeling down, she placed her hand on his shoulder and teleported them into the bedroom and onto the bed. Arranging his limbs into a seemingly natural state, she then covered him up to his chest with a sheet. Glancing back nervously, she walked over to the ornately carved wardrobe that was against the wall in the middle of the room. She was relieved to find a dark blue velvet dressing gown, which she rapidly donned while she dropped her wet towel.
She suddenly realized that she was parched and somewhat hungry, in spite of the gory work she recently completed. Entering the kitchen, she recalled that while she had brought food, she had forgotten her canteen. She opened the back door and was relieved to see a small well. She quickly filled a bucket of drinking water, which she poured into a carafe retrieved from the cupboard.
She gulped several mouthfuls of water before grabbing some bread and cheese from her satchel. She quickly devoured her meal before entering the bedroom.
Exhausted from lack of sleep and stress, she fell heavily on a chair in the corner of the room and stared at Eric. Despite his bandages, with the blood washed off and his golden hair splayed about the pillow, he looked majestic in his repose, like a wounded king convalescing after a great battle…Sookie’s mind continued to drift when she was suddenly startled out of her doze by voices in the living room.
Terrified of discovery, Sookie jumped up and ran to the bathroom and retrieved her dagger. She slowly crept up to the door and peeked into the main room. She heard her cousin calling for her.
“Sookie, are you well? Please come out here! It’s Claudine and Colman. We wish to speak to you immediately!”
Blowing out a huge sigh of relief, Sookie lowered her dagger and ran to her cousin. She gave her a hug and said, “Oh, Claudine! I did it, I actually brought the súmaire…um, I mean, Eric here! I hope you are not upset with me, but I have ruined your towels and sheets, and likely your mattress, though I covered the bed with a blanket.” She continued to babble, “Not to fear, I removed your duvet before I put him in bed, I…”
Claudine interrupted her. “Sookie, I care not about the linens! Stop for a moment…this is of the utmost urgency!”
Sookie suddenly realized the import of Colman’s presence. She turned to her cousin nervously. “You…you told him? Why are…” She stared at them both, looking back and forth between the two while reading their thoughts. What she witnessed in Colman’s mind made her sway and drop to her knees as she froze wide-eyed in terror.
Helpless to stem the tide of images, she was swept away into Colman’s vision, as if she were actually witnessing events as they transpired.
She beheld a great súmaire army invading Faery, rows upon rows of vampires marching through the portals, led by two pale giant warriors. They were relentless as they invaded the land, slaying and wantonly drinking the blood of men, women, and children. She bore witness to the brutal rape of fae women who were locked in iron shackles in the palace dungeon, while leering vampires laughed. The vision changed to that of Claudine, who was nude and bleeding heavily from between her legs while being ripped from Colman’s side by undead hands. Claudine was sobbing as she reached for him, but he lay with unseeing eyes, his throat torn out. The scene then flashed to an image of her great-grandfather’s head on a tall spike, planted outside his own castle while an endless line of súmaire marched across the drawbridge.
The vision slowly dissipated into black, and Sookie was finally released from her frozen state. She doubled over and began to sob in great gasping breaths as Claudine knelt down to hold her in her arms. She crooned to her little cousin, “Shh…what you saw is but one possible future…”
Colman knelt down beside them and said, “It is true, my visions are not set in stone…there are many variables that may alter the course of the future. I believe that another path is possible where Faery remains unsullied…I caught but a glimpse before I awoke from my vision.” He paused before looking grimly at his pupil.
“My dear, I believe if we can revive the warrior you rescued, hope yet remains. It was but a fleeting glimpse at the end of the vision, but I saw him intervening…somehow changing events involving the sumaire army…I know not how, but he is the key…we must assure that he is healed enough to return to his realm.”
Sookie sat in a daze for several minutes as Claudine continued to soothingly rub her back while rocking her back and forth. She finally raised herself and said, “I do not understand, but I swear to you that I have felt compelled to save this man…and now it seems I was correct in my actions, for reasons that go beyond my perceived infatuation.” Here she eyed them both with a severe expression on her face while Claudine blushed, knowing that her cousin had heard her words to Colman in her thoughts.
Sookie slowly stood up, her resolve strengthening as she addressed them. “I see that time is of the essence, but Eric has been grievously wounded. Great-grandfather had them take his eyes, and he has numerous deep wounds, including one on his chest that exposes his…internal organs. I donated blood to him while he was in his cell, but he will require much more if he is to heal at a faster rate.”
Claudine and Colman looked at each other. Colman spoke first. “He will be dead for the day for a few more hours ere the sun sets. Mayhap I can give him some of my blood while he yet sleeps. Since my blood is pure fae, the healing properties will be magnified.” He grabbed the dagger that Sookie had dropped during her swoon and walked gingerly towards the bedroom.
Claudine and Sookie followed while Colman stood bedside. He stared down at Eric and remarked in awe, “Oh, but he is a mountain of a man! There is likely truth to the tales that he is a great warrior, they say even in his human life…” He turned to look at Sookie with his crooked grin. “And Claudine told me was fair to gaze upon…despite his injuries, I deem this to also be accurate.” He chuckled gaily to himself at Sookie’s expense, as her cheeks burned crimson.
Claudine interrupted. “Col, please! We haven’t much time!”
Colman looked apologetic. “I am glad you are here my dear…you help me to focus when my mind wanders.”
He proceeded to tilt Eric’s head back and coaxed his lax lips to open wider. Without further ado, he sliced the knife over his wrist and bled into his mouth while holding his head propped up with his other arm to allow the fluid to pour down his throat. Colman held his wrist to his mouth for some time until he gestured to Claudine, who quickly retrieved a towel to staunch the flow of blood.
He grimaced. “There. That is as much as I can give at the moment. Let us check the results of the infusion.” He removed the towel from his incision as he whispered, “A dhéanamh ar fad.” He held up his healed wrist and smiled.
Sookie, who was hovering on the opposite side of the bed, crawled closer to Eric and removed one of the bandages on his shoulder. She gasped as she saw that it was nearly healed. She then peeked under the one covering his eyes but shook her head.
“He still has not regenerated his eyes. It looks as if the orbs are starting to reform but he will need more.”
Without forethought, Sookie snatched the dagger that Colman had left laying on Eric’s chest and rapidly yanked it across her wrist, allowing the blood to pour his mouth while Colman propped his head up. As before in the dungeon, Sookie continued until she was lightheaded. She then rubbed her finger under his chest bandage, where the open wound continued to weep, and coated her incision with his blood.
Claudine’s eyes widened as she watched her cousin’s wound disappear. “Verily, súmaire blood does have healing properties! I had thought that to be naught but a wive’s tale…”
Colman chuckled as he remarked, “Aye, but there is oft truth from the tongues of wives, is there not?”
Claudine came forth and gestured for Sookie to hand her the dagger. Colman grasped her wrist and shook his head. “No, love, you must not lose blood. You need it for the baby!”
Claudine gently smiled and caressed his face. “I will give just a little, enough to help with the regeneration. Do not fear, Col.” Colman stared at her with such an intensity that Sookie felt as if she was intruding upon a private moment as she watched them.
Colman’s eyes glazed for a moment and then he adamantly shook his head. “No love, I do not wish you to bleed yourself. Instead, I will perform a healing spell. ”
Colman closed his eyes for several minutes, preparing himself. He then held his hands over Eric’s body while he began chanting under his breath. As he spoke the words, Colman’s body began to emanate a blinding incandescent white light that forced Claudine and Sookie to shield their eyes. He placed both hands on Eric’s body, which likewise began to glow and seemed to absorb the light from him. Colman continued to mutter until his luminescence abruptly snuffed out. He slumped to the floor, exhausted.
Claudine quickly knelt on the floor and leaned him towards the bed, preventing him from falling over. She swept his long hair back from his face where it was plastered with sweat. She peered into his eyes. “Col, love, are you okay?” she asked worriedly.
Colman smiled and rasped, “Yes, love, just drained. I temporarily transferred some of my power to him. His healing will be accelerated at this point, but I know not what other effects the transfer might have.”
Sookie looked in wonder from Colman to Eric. She sat on the bed and slowly unbound Eric’s head, gasping as she saw that his eyes miraculously appeared unmarred. His eyelids were whole and closed, the long dark blonde lashes fringing on his masculine face. He looked…asleep, like a peacefully sleeping man, and not a vampire who but just moments ago had bloody holes gouged and burned into his head. She marveled as she caressed his cheek.
“Teacher, I must learn this spell! Truly…it is wondrous!” she laughed softly to Colman.
Colman tiredly chuckled and said, “Aye, one day pupil, one day. Though, it is not to be trifled with and can drain one to death if not done with the utmost care.”
Sookie continued to caress Eric as she mused. “I reckon he will be beyond shocked when he awakens! To go from enduring such horrific torture, shackled in the dungeon to lying whole and hale on a feather bed…he will likely think he is dreaming or has been given the final death and awakened in the Summerlands!”
Colman smiled and said, “No, dear, not Summerlands. His people believed in Valhalla as paradise for warriors…and when he gazes upon your beauty with new eyes, he will likely think you to be a Valkyrie who retrieved him on your mount, a great wolf, to the halls of Valhalla!”
Sookie’s eyes widened as she said, “Well… he will be disappointed to hear that he remains a hunted fugitive behind enemy lines. And, he will likely be at a loss to realize he is without clothing! His boots had been removed, and I had to…” here she blushed again before continuing, “I had to cut away his breeches, which were bloody and wet from the shower…so he is naked.” She looked sheepish. “I suppose I didn’t think that part through.”
Claudine smiled as she helped Colman to stand. “I can help there, dear cousin. Ualtar is a man near in size to this Viking. He remains at the front in the other realm. I will pop into his chambers and raid his wardrobe, and he will be none the wiser.”
Sookie’s eyes brightened as she said, “Claudine, Sir Colman. I am so grateful for your help. I see now that my plans were short-sighted and I would have failed…failed us all without your assistance!”
Colman stared at her grimly. “It is you we must thank. If not for your actions, he would have been ended by the prince, and then Faery would likely fall to ruin. I feel there are other forces at work that are beyond our understanding. It is as if you were meant to rescue the warrior.”
Claudine added. “Yes, it is strange…” She stared at Sookie for several moments, deep in thought before visibly shaking herself. “But not to worry, dear cousin. I will return soon.”
Sookie nodded and went to give her cousin a hug. “Claudine, please be careful! For yourself…and the baby?”
Colman smiled at her as he slowly put his arm around Claudine’s shoulder. It was evident that he was drained from the effects of his incantation, but he said in a sure voice. “Never fear, she will be safe.” With that, he popped them both out of the room and Sookie realized she was once again alone with Eric.
She let out a great sigh and trudged to the corner of the room, sinking back into the chair. ‘I will sit here but for a moment and then clean up,’ she thought to herself as her eyes began to grow heavy. In seconds, she fell into a deep sleep.
One hour later…
Eric startled, drawing a great gasp, as his eyes popped open. Wait! His eyes! He slowly brought trembling hands to his face as his fingers probed his intact eyes. His hands! The manacles and chains were gone! Was he dreaming? He bolted up in bed. Bed…a soft feather bed with clean sheets. He scanned the room, his razor sharp mind rapidly assessing the situation. His eyes zeroed in on the beauty who was slumped in a chair, sound asleep.
He sat up in bed, swinging his legs to the side. He looked down at the many bandages on his body. He pulled back the large one that covered his chest and was shocked to see that the flesh had knitted, his muscles sound and whole again. He mused as he removed all of the remaining bandages.
How? How had this happened?
He glanced again at the girl in the corner. It must be the doing of this little fae-human hybrid. How had she accomplished such a feat? He scented the air and could detect the presence of fae in the room and also tasted fae blood in his mouth. He listened with his vampire senses and found that it was just the girl in the cottage. She must have had co-conspirators. But why would fae agree to help him, a vampire, here in their own realm? The situation was most puzzling.
Eric stood and stretched to his full height, marveling at his healed body and renewed strength. He strode over to the sleeping girl, unashamed in his nakedness.
He paused as he knelt in front of her. Ah, she was lovelier than he had remembered! As she slumped to the side, her dressing gown had gaped open at the neckline, revealing a peek at the tops of her plentiful bosom. He licked his lips and then took an exaggerated breath. She smelled incredible! Her scent…she smelled of him, her natural sunlight and honey notes deepened with the mixing of his vampire essence. In fact, she positively reeked of his blood, which he found highly erotic.
He bent closer to her, inhaling deeply at the hollow at the base of her throat while moving up her neck, resting his nose softly at the pulse point for several moments. He then gently pulled up a sleeve on the gown and stroked his face down her shoulder and arm, halting at her wrist. The scent was strongest here, where their blood had recently intermingled. He lingered there, softly running his nose and lips back and forth over her warm petal soft skin.
Sookie made a soft moaning sound and slowly opened her eyes, stretching for a moment before she perceived the massive naked man in front of her. She blushed crimson as she noticed that he was bent down, his gold mane covering his face that was pressed to her wrist. She shot up in the chair, pulling her hand from his, and yanked her gown tight around her. She squeaked, “Oh! You are awake!”
He straightened and chuckled, unabashed. He spoke to her in his accented velvet baritone. “Aye, princess, and it seems that once again I am in your debt.” He bowed slightly at the waist while looking at her. “I thank you for orchestrating my escape…and my healing. Against all odds, seemingly.”
He leaned back on his heels and steadily appraised her. Her cheeks were flaming a most delicious shade of red as she steadfastly zeroed in on his eyes, obviously forcing herself to not allow her gaze to drift down his nude body.
He continued laughing softly as he said, “Looks are deceiving, are they not? You are but a little one, and yet you have accomplished a mighty feat, and one that is a mystery to me….you must tell me, how were you able to rescue me from my cell? I last recall speaking to you before dying for the day. I must hear of what transpired…”
Sookie continued to blush before swallowing her embarrassment. “Eric, I know not if you recall, but when I visited you in your cell, I had told you I would come back to rescue you.” She held her chin up proudly. “I always keep my word.”
He stared at her with a painful intensity, studying her features as if to memorize every nuanced detail. His ice blue eyes bore into hers…eyes so like his. Her long blonde hair, a similar shade of gold, lay unbound about her shoulders, hanging down to her waist. She was stunning. So young, so beautiful…so brave! Here she was face to face with a vampire, a killer of fae and she was unafraid. Indeed, she continued to blush as she struggled to maintain eye contact with him. He could sense a faint connection to her, likely from the small amount of his blood that had entered her bloodstream. He could also feel and scent her arousal. He closed his eyes and groaned softly.
When he opened them again, she gasped to see that his eyes glowed in the darkened room. Entranced, she reached out to caress his face. She held her breath as she softly ghosted her fingertips over his eyelids, which he obligingly closed. She whispered, “Your beautiful eyes…I am pleased to see they are…,” her voice trailed off as she gazed at his face in wonder.
He opened his eyes and turned his face, all the while keeping her gaze captive with his, and lightly placed a kiss on her palm. He softly replied, “Yes, little princess, I have regenerated my eyes. I was resigned that I would never see again…indeed, I felt my true death awaiting in that cursed cell, but it seems I have been blessed with another chance at immortal life… thanks to you.” He leaned in towards her as she also felt inexorably pulled toward him by some unseen force, her heart pounding in her chest.
She breathed out, “Sir…Eric…please, call me Sookie…I am a princess by bloodline, but I am…” She looked down momentarily in embarrassment, but then her gaze was inadvertently drawn to his loins as his large member proudly jutted up from his body.
She quickly shut her eyes and gulped, “I apologize, but I had to cut off your breeches…they were ruined from the blood and water in the shower. You have naught to wear, but my cousin is to procure some clothing.”
He continued to stare at her, completely unconcerned that she had noticed his arousal, a small smile playing about the corners of his mouth. “Of course…Sookie. I deem you had to remove them to clean me and tend to my wounds. But I will…cover my body with a sheet.”
He stood up, each perfectly sculpted muscle limned in the lamplight as he headed toward the bed. He turned his head, catching Sookie watching his backside as he walked away. Chuckling, he told her “It is obvious that my nakedness makes you…uncomfortable.”
Sookie was mortified that he had caught her line of sight. Her breath hitching in her throat, she said haughtily, “Sir, it is not proper for a gentleman to parade nude in front of a lady. We are…little more than strangers.”
Eric smirked at her as he stripped the sheet from the bed in the blink of an eye and wrapped it around his waist. “True, little one, but how many strangers have pried silver from the other’s eye sockets, or removed knives from their bodies…or bathed them, tended to their wounds, and put them to bed?”
His expression turned serious. He paused before saying softly, “How many strangers have exchanged and comingled their blood…their very life force?”
He stopped when he saw her hang her head as if ashamed. He took a giant stride towards her and dropped to one knee while gently lifting her chin with his large hand. He spoke to her with sudden, blazing passion.
“Sookie, I beg your pardon. I am…astounded and rapturous that I am no longer imprisoned and have been restored to my former self. You did not yet divulge the methods used for my redemption, but I deem you did it at great personal risk. I shall not forget that.”
He reached down and pulled her into his arms, enfolding her petite body completely in his embrace. Sookie initially stiffened in shock, but then abruptly relaxed as she sank into him. She sighed, breathing in his masculine scent that pleasantly mixed with the floral soap. His skin was cool to the touch and his muscles were rock solid, but here in his massive arms, she felt safe and as if all would be right with the world.
She allowed herself some measure of comfort for a seemingly timeless moment. However, with an unpleasant jolt, she recalled the vision she had seen in Colman’s head and reluctantly pulled back from his embrace.
He allowed her to sit back in the chair, albeit with a questioning look on his face. She held his hand and met his eyes with a grim expression. “Eric, I must talk to you, I have beheld…”
At that moment, Claudine popped into the room, tossing a pile of clothing and heavy boots on the floor. Eric’s head whipped in her direction, his fangs bared while he growled menacingly as he crouched in a defensive position. Sookie kept hold of his arm and shook her head at him while pulling him back to her.
“Eric, no! That is my cousin, Claudine. She helped aid in your rescue!”
He relaxed infinitesimally while Claudine backed up several feet. She turned to Sookie.
“Cousin, an alert has gone out across the kingdom. The súmaire’s escape has been reported. Indeed, Crogher has released the chúnna draíochta, his damned hounds, and the hunt has begun…They are scouring Faery as we speak!”
A surprised expression suddenly dawned on Claudine’s face as she turned her eyes to Eric. “It is hours away from sunset…how is it that you are up and awake while the daylight yet remains?”
Eric and Sookie looked at each other, speechless, as neither one had realized the time of day in the darkened bedroom. Completely overcome with exhaustion and shock, Sookie fainted into Eric’s arms.