Chapter Twenty-Six: The Devourer
Sookie stood shyly behind her Bonded as an impressive stature of a man greeted them in the main entrance of a rather regal estate. His golden beard and broad face were surprisingly kind for a vampire.
“Frøkn,” Eric grinned back as he and the King bowed their heads to one another, “Detta är min lagerförråd, Sookie (This is My Bonded, Sookie.).”
“En sådan vacker varelse (Such a beautiful creature.),” Frøkn gave her a quick appraisal. “Jag kunde se henne som önskvärt att andra, utan att gå så långt för att du var tvungen att fly från Nordamerika? Att jag har svårt att förstå (I could see her as being desirable to others, but to go to such lengths that you had to flee North America? That I have difficulty understanding.),” he admitted.
“Vi hade ytterligare svårigheter på vår avresa. Jag måste informera er om att vi var accosted på asfalten. Jag var tvungen att döda Jorge San Diego. Han försökte ta henne från mig, rätt där på planet (We had further difficulties at our departure. I must inform you that we were accosted at the tarmac. I was forced to kill Jorge San Diego. He attempted to take her from me, right there at the plane!)!”
“Du kan inte mena allvar (You cannot be serious!)!” Frøkn frowned disapprovingly. “För vilket ändamål (For what purpose?)!?”
“Jag har inte den vagaste begreppen (I do not have the vaguest idea.),” Feeling Discomfort in the Bond, Eric remembered how easily he had fallen into his native tongue and glanced ruefully at Sookie. “I am sorry, Dear One. Old habits. Sookie, this is Frøkn, the Vampire King of Sweden.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir,” Sookie forced her voice to sound clear and steady.
“The pleasure is all mine, Northman’s Mate,” Frøkn inclined his head to her. “Your accent is very charming.”
“Yours is amazing! You speak English better than I do,” she jested timidly.
Frøkn and Eric both laughed at her joke, her Bonded stroking her hair reflexively. “I hope that we can all get better acquainted tomorrow evening, but seeing as it is nearly five in the morning, I would appreciate a chance to get my Bonded settled in for the day,” he suggested.
“Yes, of course,” Frøkn nodded, understanding. “Please, any room you would feel the most comfortable in, feel free to take shelter. Stay as long as you need.”
“We will be leaving at the end of the week for Öland.”
“Ah, I remember, you have an estate there, yes?” Frøkn asked.
“Yes. It is mostly equipped for our stay, but a few renovations need to be made before our arrival. Would you be so kind as to direct me to a good contractor?”
“Certainly,” the King nodded. “I will have his information prepared for you this evening.”
“Thank you,” Sookie piped in.
“There is also the matter of Sookie’s dogs,” Eric added hesitantly.
“If you would like, the room on the east end of the third floor has a suite. I can have the day crew handle the needs of your pets while you are at rest. The lightproof chamber is secure against entry during the day, so you will be perfectly safe,” Frøkn assured.
“You are most kind,” Eric nodded.
“Please, rest and relax in my home for as long as you desire. It will be good to catch up again, right, Northman?” he laughed.
“Yes. Thank you,” Eric nodded and turned toward the door just as Mags and Junes came bounding into the foyer. “Ah, these are her dogs, Mags and Junes,” he gestured to the animals. The pair skidded to a halt at Sookie’s side and immediately sat down though their eyes and ears flicked to and fro, taking in the sounds and sights of the new room. Their noses twitched with new scents, but they seemed more excited rather than scared.
“Beautiful animals,” Frøkn nodded with a chuckle. “Well behaved, too, it would seem.”
“Quite,” Eric agreed. “We shall take that suite you mentioned. Until tomorrow evening.”
Departing the entryway with an assistant carrying their luggage while simultaneously showing them to their room, Sookie took Eric’s hand in hers. She squeezed it nervously while they walked up the stairs, Mags and Junes trailing behind them.
When they were alone, bags on the ground and dogs jumping onto furniture, Sookie let out a long sigh. “That was nerve wracking,” she laughed, a little baffled.
“You were charming as ever,” Eric pulled her toward the bedroom.
“I was practically a shadow,” Sookie contested.
“You did not portray your unease at all,” Eric assured. “You were lovely and sweet while still being humorous. As I said, you were charming, despite being quiet.”
“I guess,” Sookie accepted.
“Being sociable does not mean you need to be pressed for speech,” Eric reminded her. “Sometimes being social is about listening and you have always been good at that.”
She rolled her eyes before barking on a short laugh, “Yeah, I really never had a choice on that one.” Glancing at the clock, Sookie sighed, “The sun will be rising soon. We should probably finish getting settled in.”
“Ah, first I would like to call upon Dr. Ludwig. After the incident at the airport, I would feel much better if she looked you over,” Eric suggested apologetically.
Sookie groaned, but nodded in consent, “Fine. If it will make you feel better.”
“It will,” he kissed her forehead before going to the phone on the bedside table and making the call, “Dr. Ludwig, this is North-… Yes… Yes, we did… There were events occurring. I had to get Sookie out of the States… Yes… Yes, something happened at our departure. I have something for you to review. I will give it to you after you have looked over Sookie… Yes… Thank you,” he hung up the phone and turned to his Mate. “She will arrive shortly.”
“Apparently very shortly,” Eric chuckled, turning his head toward the door and waiting for Ludwig to come into the bedroom. When she did not appear immediately, the Viking frowned and took Sookie’s hand, leading her into the common room of their suite. “Doctor?” he called curiously, spotting the small creature standing before the couch, frozen. “Is something wrong?” he asked at the shocked and terrified expression on her face.
“These dogs,” Ludwig whispered. “They are yours?”
“Sookie’s,” Eric answered. “Why?”
The doctor shook her head quickly, and turned her attention to Sookie and Eric, “Nothing, none of my business, I suppose. Let me look your Mate over,” she suggested.
Sookie came to the couch, sitting between Mags and Junes who promptly put their heads in her lap. Ludwig cringed slightly, but shook off her discomfort so that she could begin the examination.
“Your temperature has gone up slightly,” Ludwig sighed. “That is interesting. You said something about reviewing some sort of material?”
Eric extracted the small disc sleeve from his jacket pocket and handed it to the doctor. “This is only meant to be viewed by your eyes. I do not want any copies made, and I wish to have it returned to me by tomorrow night,” he explained before handing over the disc.
“Of course it is only for my eyes,” Ludwig snapped before snatching the disc from his fingertips. “I will look it over immediately and it will be returned as you have requested. As for this one,” she jerked her head at Sookie, “she is in perfect form. Other than a slight increase in her warmth, I sense no particular wear. Would you like me to take a blood sample to examine alongside this document?”
“Please,” Sookie requested. “I would rather walk the line of caution and redundancy than miss anything.”
“Smart girl,” Ludwig crowed approvingly, digging into her black medical bag and taking out a syringe. Sookie did not bother offering a limb. Ludwig merely jabbed her, pulled the plunger, and then forced the red fluid into a vial. “Very good. I will have a report for you first thing tomorrow evening.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Sookie smiled appreciatively.
“You two get settled,” Ludwig suggested. “These past evenings have been far too stressful for a Youngling like yourself. It’s a miracle you have not gone rampaging yet.”
“Please don’t say “yet,” Sookie laughed nervously. “You make me feel like it could happen.”
Ludwig’s eyes turned stony, “It could very easily happen if you are put under much more strain. I would say that your composure is rather miraculous under these circumstances.”
Sookie’s eyebrows rose and replied almost shrilly, “What do you mean? I’m fine!”
Looking to Eric, Ludwig raised her eyebrows and tilted her head at the young vampiress questioningly.
“She actually is fairing extremely well, all things considered, especially after the events that transpired last night,” he nodded toward the disc he had handed Ludwig. “I dare say that this is the most level she has been since her rising, perhaps even before that.”
“Strange,” Ludwig whispered to herself. “Well, I will be going now. I will return at first dark.”
“Thank you,” Eric nodded to her, and the small doctor vanished immediately.
“Am I really capable of going on a stress-induced rampage?” Sookie asked quietly.
“You? I doubt it, Dear One,” Eric laughed. “If that were to happen, it would have happened at the Shreveport terminal.”
“I suppose,” Sookie remembered the anger and fear that had consumed her when she saw her dogs’ crates rolling across the airfield. “In a way, it sorta did,” she realized with a gasp. “Eric! That thing I did to Jorge! What if that is how I rampage? What if I just burned it out of me in that one move-”
“Shh,” Eric hushed her, “we cannot speak of those things here.”
“I thought we were safe?” she whispered.
“We are, but anything to do with…your uniqueness is better only discussed in the privacy of our own home,” he explained.
“Walls have ears,” she whispered.
“And keyholes have eyes,” he agreed.
“Okay, should we get ready for bed?” she asked.
Smiling at the suggestion, Eric nodded, “Yes, that sounds perfect.”
“How long until dawn?” she asked.
“It will be very, very soon,” he told her, pushing Sookie toward their bed and securing the door behind them. “Only another ten minutes or so.”
“Dang, that’s early!” Sookie frowned.
“Yes,” he agreed. “Just wait until December. The sun sets before three in the afternoon and does not rise again until nearly nine in the morning!” he laughed as he began to disrobe. Sookie followed suit and they crawled, naked, into bed.
“Ooh, that sounds like fun!” Sookie laughed as she curled into his side.
“It will be,” he agreed, but laughed to himself when he felt Sookie succumb to the sun before he had finished his remark.
“Good evening,” Eric purred as Sookie arose abruptly, fully awake and raring to go.
“Evening,” she grinned up at him, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“You seem in spectacular spirit,” he noted playfully as she tugged his lips towards her own.
“You bet I am,” Her legs wound around his waist as her mouth captured his.
Eric groaned as Sookie’s tongue tangled with his own and he pressed his hips tightly against her. Her pelvis rocked gently in response.
“Why does it feel as if I have not had you in so long?” Eric mumbled against her mouth as his hand reached down to stroke between her folds. “Gods, Sookie, you have only just risen and you are already wet for me!” His fingertips gently rubbed her clit causing her to arch beneath him.
“Oh, please!” she gasped at the attention he was giving her, holding him tighter with her arms and legs. Soon he was drawing back, and then slipping his length inside of her until their hips were pressed tightly together.
Sookie wriggled beneath him when he did not begin thrusting, aching delightfully at being forced to wait. Instead of focusing on moving his hips, Eric occupied his attention on her breasts. With just the right tug on her nipple, he could feel her walls contract around him. A firm suckle earned a sharp buck beneath him.
Tracing his tongue up her breast, he nibbled her collar bone, continuing toward her throat where he let his fangs pierce her skin. Her blood trickled into his mouth and Eric moaned with delight. Even as a vampire, her blood was delicious though it offered no nourishment. His Mate shuddered enthusiastically beneath him, and he felt her walls thrum wildly.
“That made you cum?” he laughed gleefully.
“I always cum when you bite me!” she protested weakly.
“I suppose I never noticed,” he said. “I usually saved that for the end when you were mortal.”
“I like it when you save it for the end,” she told him cheekily. “It makes the orgasm go on longer.”
“Ah, now that I did notice,” he chuckled, finally beginning to move his hips. “What if I bit you again? Would you cum?”
“I don’t know,” she confessed, gasping as his strokes became short and quick. “I would have been too worn out as a human to find out.”
“But you are no longer human,” he pointed out. “Shall we test this theory?” he teased before encasing the other side of her throat in his mouth and spearing it.
Once again she contracted violently around him in a rhythmic pulse. “Oh, that is nice!” he groaned. “I could just bite you over and over, never even thrusting. Your sex would pump me all on its own.”
Sookie whimpered at the thought, and when her clenching began to slow, Eric bit her breast and repeated the cycle all over again. Her left breast, her right shoulder, her left shoulder, then, finally directly over her nipple. The intensity that orgasm brought flung Eric into oblivion and he roared into her ear as her body dragged him over the edge with her.
“Oh, Sookie,” he tugged her earlobe with his blunt teeth, “your body is marvelous!”
Another mewl was all she could offer in reply until the contraction subsided, and she could finally wiggle out from beneath him, “Don’t do that too often, Eric,” she pleaded. “It was amazing, but I like it better when I work up to a release.”
Eric grinned at her comment, “Another time, would you like me to make you wait?”
“How do you mean?” she asked him curiously.
“What if I fucked you for hours, Sookie, and you only were allowed to cum once?” he explained.
“Let’s try for one hour, and see if I don’t beat the hell out of you for it,” she stuck her tongue out at him playfully.
“Sounds promising,” he chuckled. “Shower?”
“Shower,” she agreed, climbing out of bed and following him to the en suite. He ravaged her again between shampoo and conditioning, and then a third time after he had finished washing her body. Once they were clean, he threw Sookie back onto the bed and straddled her waist. “Oh, you’re not going to get me all dirty again, are you?” She batted her eyelashes at him coyly.
“The thought crossed my mind,” he taunted, reaching down to squeeze her breasts.
“Oh, I take it I am early,” Ludwig frowned at the naked vampires and their positions.
Sookie looked to her left to see the small creature standing at the foot of their bed, then back to Eric straddling her with his semi-hard cock resting on her sternum. “Oh my God!” Sookie shouted in embarrassment as she tugged a sheet over her and Eric.
“I suppose I should have called to remind you, but you did say first dark,” Ludwig snickered.
“Please, please just let me get dressed!” Sookie begged.
“Oh, it’s nothing I haven’t seen, baby vampire,” Ludwig waved off the young vampire’s distress.
“Yeah, well, right now it’s humiliating to me,” Sookie grouched. “I still have this terrible human necessity to keep my intimacy private.”
“Of course, of course,” Ludwig rolled her eyes. “Well, considering the matter you wished me to look into cannot be discussed, I have written up a report for your review. I have a copy of that report in the event you wish to burn this one after you have examined it. Here is your material and the paperwork. Call if you need anything else.”
With that, Ludwig vanished, and Sookie flung her arm over her eyes in frustration before letting out a small bark of a laugh, “Well, it was good while it lasted.”
When Eric did not reply, Sookie uncovered her eyes and found him with the open folder in his hands while he remained sitting astride her. Confusion was ringing through the Bond, but Sookie was relieved to find no Concern or Anxiety.
“Everything okay?” Sookie asked.
“Read for yourself,” Eric handed her the document.
~My opinions after studying and evaluating the materials submitted have lead me to the theory that somehow Ms. Stackhouse is still capable of utilizing the Fae ability known as “Fairy Light.” This is particularly noteworthy due to the fact that “Fairy Light” is a concentration of energy that emits the same rays that cause vampires to combust in the presence of the sun. Seeing that neither Sookie Stackhouse nor Eric Northman were negatively affected by this energy causes further inquiry to their inability to be harmed by the sun. Seeing as Ms. Stackhouse remains incapable of rising during the daylight hours, further tests cannot be conducted in regard to possible immunities. I would like the opportunity to consult with an outside source regarding a possible testing platform. Please call me after you have made your decision. The consultation will remain between the four of us, and I assure the utmost discretion will be maintained.~
“I know we can’t really discuss this, but what do you think about the very last part?” Sookie asked.
Eric shook his head, “On one hand, I am certain she would keep this matter confidential and whomever this second party is would not be someone she would expect to breach the confidentiality. On the other hand, the notion of bringing in someone else, even on consultation for this, is disconcerting.”
“Agreed,” Sookie nodded. “Still, if she thinks this person could benefit the situation…?”
“It will not be decided until we are in Öland,” Eric stated firmly.
“Okay, we’ll just leave it there for now,” Sookie knew that Eric was feeling strained though masking it much better than her.
“So, young one,” Frøkn addressed Sookie, “I understand that you are only several evenings old now. How are you finding your new existence?”
Sookie reclined into the arm Eric had draped over her shoulder, “Honestly, it’s been real overwhelming.” The king nodded gravely at her admission. “My transition wasn’t exactly what you would call a smooth one.”
“This was not planned? How unlike you, Northman!” Frøkn laughed.
Shimmying in her seat uncomfortably, Sookie confessed, “I was mortally wounded on the job. Eric was forced to turn me.”
Eyebrows rising in interest, Frøkn asked, “What was your occupation?”
“I was a police detective with the Shreveport P.D.”
“Intriguing! My condolences for your loss,” he offered.
“Thank you. Like I said, it was very unexpected. Eric and I had planned to wait a year or two before bringing me over. I probably would have tried to put it off even longer. I was sort of dependent on my job. You could say it was more of a calling than an occupation.”
“Those who serve their community are usually inclined to agree with you,” the king nodded in understanding. “Your sacrifices are admirable, I dare say, much more strenuous than vampire law enforcement. Your Mate was a vampire Sheriff, as I am sure you know. Nonetheless, even with his age and reputation, he would not have nearly the amount of complications that I would assume crossed your path. For most situations, he has the privileges to investigate, pass judgement, and punish at his leisure.”
Eric laughed, “You make it sound like I was performing executions on a nightly basis!”
“A century or so ago, I might have implied just that,” Frøkn jibed. “However, from the time when his Maker bonded, Northman has mellowed significantly. As they say, happiness for one, happiness for all.”
“Yes, basking in Godric and Emily’s relationship did have a rather soothing effect on me,” Eric admitted begrudgingly. “Still, the happiness that Sookie has brought me is far, far greater.”
“You are so lucky,” Frøkn bemoaned, “to have found your Mate so young! I am nearly thrice your age and have not yet had the privilege.”
“Perhaps if you left your estate more than once a month?” Eric suggested in faux innocence.
Frøkn laughed at the suggestion, “Perhaps you are correct. I have reigned over Sweden a very long time now. However, the leisure it brings me is quite luxurious. You see,” he turned back to Sookie, “many vampires flock here in the winter months due to the lengthy nights. Still, though the temperatures can become quite frigid, it is imperative that we maintain constant public acceptance. We are quite dependent on a capacity to stay warm enough not to freeze to the spot and be trapped by the rising sun. Visitors adhere to a very strict guideline near the Arctic Circle to bask in the many advantages. That means that the Nordic countries have some of the most well-behaved vampires in the world. Well, Northern Canada, too, I suppose,” he chuckled.
“You do seem far less severe than the vampires I’m used to,” Sookie offered. “You are very personable.”
“Oh, well, United States vampires have become a rather painful thorn in Europe’s side. No offense.”
“None taken,” Sookie assured.
“You see, a great deal of the vampires in the States are having a similar issue as those in China. Those countries are just too large for one vampire to reign over, and the necessity for several kings and queens in a single country causes great strain on the chain of command. Since the States are one country, they may only send a single representative to the International Summit. That causes a great animosity between all of those regents! There is the added problem that vampires old enough and experienced enough to reign do not wish to deal with the headaches your humans cause. Those… Oh, what are they called? Foots?”
“FoTS? The Fellowship of the Sun?” Sookie supplied.
“Yes! Them!” Frøkn nodded. “I hear they give the States’ vampires severe issues.”
“Definitely,” Sookie agreed. “I helped with a raid on one of their armories two years ago. They were developing silver shrapnel bullets.”
“Deplorable,” Frøkn shook his head sadly. “You must understand, Sookie, there are many of us who have grown old enough to realize that being a vampire does not make us privileged. I know you probably find that hard to believe, given the environment in which you were introduced to the culture, but it is true. Godric and Russel Edgington are probably the only two on that continent old enough to have come to that realization. Oh, there is Eshe. She is still part of the North American Council, yes?”
“Yes, but she is in Canada,” Eric replied.
“Eshe?” Sookie asked.
“Diedra Thorn,” Eric told her.
“Oh, that’s right! I forgot all about that name change,” Frøkn chuckled. “I will actually be conference calling her with the European Council shortly. Would you two like to sit in?” he offered.
“That would be appreciated. We will not interject unless instructed, of course,” Eric assured.
“I appreciate that,” Frøkn nodded.
“Do you mind if I slip away before that conference and call this contractor you have found for me, Frøkn?” Eric asked
“Of course not, go right ahead. Here,” he lobbed his phone to Eric. “Why don’t you and your Mate wander a while? I will send someone for you before beginning the conference.”
“Thank you,” Eric rose with Sookie and they stepped out of the sitting room. “That is a relief,” he sighed once they were alone and out of earshot.
“Frøkn did not try to keep you alone with him. He practically pushed you out the door with me.”
“What does that mean?” Sookie whispered.
“It is a silent way of saying he does not wish to give me any reason to doubt him. A comforting gesture, to be honest. He respects the hardships we have gone through and is going to great lengths to assure us he will not laden us with further injustices.”
“I’m glad you have a friend here,” Sookie smiled though it did not reach her eyes.
“Yes,” he agreed.
Eric quickly made the call to the contractor Frøkn had retained for him, and was relieved to find that the necessities that required immediate action could be accomplished in a single evening. They would be able to leave for Öldan the next night.
“What did you need?” Sookie asked.
“General walkthrough,” Eric shrugged, “and a lightproof check on our resting chamber. Everything else we can take care of ourselves. I just want to be sure that the security system is still operational, the locks are still resilient, and our resting chamber secure so we are not trapped there during the day. I can perform my own grounds check after we arrive and then take care of other things as needed.”
“Mr. Northman,” a cool, professional voice called from down the hallway. A platinum blonde woman approached them in quick, human stride, “His Majesty is ready to begin the call upon your arrival in his study. If you will follow me?”
“I remember the way,” Eric nodded in a respectful, but dismissing manner.
Leading Sookie through the estate, Eric opened a large, wooden door that stretched out into a huge library. Frøkn was seated at his desk and two red, wing-back chairs flanked the massive bureau’s corners. The vampire king gestured to the chairs, and both of them sat as Frøkn dialed a series of numbers.
“This is King Frøkn of Sweden. Is the European Council ready?”
“Yes, Sir,” a clipped male voice replied. “I have Ms. Thorn on the line as well. They are ready to begin when you are.”
“I am prepared.”
“Frøkn, this is Diedra. I understand that you are currently hosting Eric Northman and his newborn Mate?”
“I am,” Frøkn answered. “Might I say that their narrative on what brought them to my door is a troubling one.”
“Could you please elaborate?” Diedra requested.
“It seems that your Magister, Jorge San Diego, willfully separated Ms. Stackhouse from her Bonded, threatened her, then proceeded to try to manipulate her into becoming a direct subject of the North American Council.”
“I see,” Diedra sounded annoyed. “I assure you that his actions were not condoned nor requested by our Council. After the trial of the Louisiana Queen, Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Jorge informed us that he had discovered a vampire we could find extremely useful. He did not elaborate on the matter, nor did he tell us whom the vampire was. I can only now assume it was Ms. Stackhouse. Of course, we would never have accepted her as a direct subject unless she came to us with some sort of extraordinary gift, and of her own free will and power.”
“Extraordinary gift?” Frøkn raised his eyebrows at the couple curiously.
“As I said, the subject was not elaborated on. He wished to present the vampire in question to us directly.”
“Diedra, this is European Council Member Brauer,” a new male voice piped in, “Are we to understand that your continent’s Magister acted upon his own power to separate a freshly-risen newborn from her Bonded Mate?”
“So it would seem,” Diedra replied shamefully. “I guarantee that we will look into this situation once Jorge returns to us.”
“That does not seem likely to happen. When Northman and his Mate were fleeing the States, Jorge arrived at the airport, accosted Ms. Stackhouse, and then tried to physically remove her from the airfield. Northman was forced to destroy him. Since the Council’s standing on the situation was still unknown to them, they fled,” Frøkn supplied.
Brauer’s voice blasted over the phone, “You are harboring the murderer of a Magister!?”
“I am hosting a vampire that rightfully protected his Mate!” Frøkn roared back. “This Child was only a single night old, and was forced to attend an extremely stressful trial that should have been handled by the Ancient Pythoness! She was then physically, emotionally, and psychologically threatened by a vampire she believed to be her Mate’s superior, only to be violently confronted the following evening! We have never put that sort of pressure or anxiety on a newborn! She could have rampaged under that sort of pressure, and then where would we all be?”
“They should be deported back to the States!” a new female voice declared.
“Why are you allowing this American problem to come to our lands, Frøkn!?” Brauer demanded.
“That is enough,” Diedra silenced the uproar. “I will clear things up on my end. I do not see Northman’s actions as a threat, but a direct response to protect his Mate. Please inform him, and Ms. Stackhouse, that they have nothing to fear returning to the States, and that no action will be taken against them or their Bloodline. We do not request extradition. If the European Council finds it prudent to send them back, they will be welcomed.”
Frøkn looked to Eric curiously, tilting his head toward the phone as if to ask if the younger male wished to speak. Nodding, Eric rose.
“Northman has something to say,” Frøkn announced.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Councils,” Eric began smoothly, “Sookie and I appreciate the offer Diedra has given us. However, we wish to remain here in Sweden for a time. Over the course of the past week, I fear that my Mate has indeed felt a great strain, and I believe remaining here is in her best interest. We would deeply value the opportunity to merely exist in comfort and ease for a few years while Sookie adjusts to her new existence.”
“As long as you remain in Sweden, I do not object to you remaining in the European Council’s realm,” Brauer finally offered after a moment of silence.
“I concur,” the female voice added, joined by several other begrudging agreements.
“This is settled then,” Diedra sighed. “Northman, I hope you will return to us again soon, someday. North America has suffered a great loss this evening. I promise, upon your return, you will know that you were greatly missed.”
“Thank you, Diedra. I hope to hear from you again soon.”
As the call ended, Sookie slumped into her chair.
“Your poor Mate,” Frøkn sighed. “She looks positively destroyed!”
“Believe me, Sir, you don’t even know how bad this can get,” Sookie gestured to herself.
“Here,” Frøkn leaned forward to his call button, “let me call a donor for you.”
“Thanks,” Sookie softly, but graciously replied.
“Does she have a preference yet?” Frøkn asked of Sookie’s Mate.
“AB negative if you have it available, but she is not picky,” Eric chuckled.
“Anything for you?”
“I am still strong from her turning,” Eric assured.
“Of course,” Frøkn pressed a button on the paging system before saying, “Theresa, please bring that new donor to my study for Ms. Stackhouse.”
“Yes, Sire,” a voice that sounded much like the platinum blonde who had summoned them to the conference call replied.
Moments later, a leggy brunette with blonde highlights strutted into the study on nail thin heels. Sookie squirmed nervously in her presence. The way her tight, short skirt barely fell past the curve of her bottom and the way her bodice sent her breasts reaching for the skies, all while looking bored and complacent, set Sookie on edge. It was not in Sookie’s nature to prance around half-naked for the world to gawk at, and she was intimidated by women who did.
“Hur kan jag tjänst du, Sire (How may I service you, Sire?)?” the donor purred.
“Den unga som behöver en förfriskning (The young one needs a refreshment.),” he gestured to Sookie, making her eyes widen.
“Naturligtvis, Sire (Of course, Sire.),” the offering turned sharply on her needle heels and strolled toward Sookie, who clutched the cushions on either side of her hips for dear life. The way the woman leered at her made Sookie uncomfortable, and the telepath feared she was just about to receive a lap kitten.
“Hon behöver inte tillägg (She does not need the add-ons!)!” Eric snapped at the donor. “Erbjuda din hals och vara borta (Offer your neck and be gone!)!”
Startled by Eric’s command, the donor immediately dissolved her seductive saunter and instead sat neatly at Sookie’s side with her back to the vampire.
“D-does she need to be glamoured or something?” Sookie murmured tentatively.
“No, she is a professional donor. She does not need to be glamoured,” Eric explained.
“Oh, okay,” Carefully, Sookie drew the woman’s hair from her neck and nervously looked toward Frøkn before tentatively tracing her tongue along the donor’s throat. At the sensation of a pulse against her tongue, Sookie’s fangs descended like micro lances to pierce the thin membrane of skin that held her nourishment.
“Ah!” the donor moaned pleasurably, causing Sookie to growl in annoyance.
“Håll tyst!” Sookie snarled against the woman’s throat, making Eric’s eyebrows rise at her sudden Swedish fluency, even with the awkward articulation of a full mouth. Frøkn looked equally surprised. Nevertheless, Sookie ignored their curious looks and continued to feed. Despite the frustrations this donor was giving her, Sookie had to admit she tasted delicious.
“Sookie,” Eric warned, “that is enough.”
“But,” she raised her eyes to Eric’s, and he gasped, and then let out a chuckle.
“Enough for now,” Eric encouraged her to disengage the artery, which she did woefully. “Look at those eyes,” he whispered as he shoved the human out of the way and traced his Bonded’s bloodstained lips with his thumb before kissing her deeply. Sookie’s eyes were wide and dilated until she shut them to surrender to her love’s lips on her own. After the meal had scrambled out of the study, Eric pulled away to gaze once more into Sookie’s ebony eclipsed irises, “She was rather tasty.”
“Best one I’ve had so far,” Sookie agreed.
“I do have a knack for keeping good vintages,” Frøkn laughed, clapping his hands as if to change the topic. “Well, seeing as you two will be heading to Öland tomorrow evening, perhaps you would like to take your newborn Mate on a tour of Stockholm tonight? If she is still ravenous, there is Vampyr Krog on Strandvågen. Amusingly enough, they do allow dogs there if you would like to take your four-legged companions. The waterfront is quite lovely, even at night. There is also a large park near there though the dogs would have to stay leashed.”
“Thank you, that sounds exactly like what Sookie and her dogs need right now,” Eric smiled gratefully. “We will see you in a few hours.”
Returning to their room to gather Mags and Junes, Eric asked, “When did you start learning Swedish, Dear One?”
“Oh, I’ve just picked some stuff up here and there listening to you two speak,” she pointed subtly to her head.
“I see,” Eric laughed. “Well, I was quite impressed.”
“I got it right, right? I was telling her to shut up?” Sookie checked.
“You told her to be quiet, but with the sternness of your voice, your irritation was on point. Besides, that form is much better for you to use under those circumstances with the King present.”
“Cool,” Sookie nodded as she took Mags and Junes’ leashes and lead the dogs back out of the room. “Huh, they’re hardly even limping now. I thought they’d be wrecked for weeks after what happened the other night.”
“As did I,” Eric frowned as well. Instead of exploring the topic further, he asked, “Would you rather walk to the wharf or drive?”
“Is it too far for the dogs?”
“Not at all.”
“Then I think we should walk. We could always catch a cab back if they’re too tired to make it home, right?” Sookie suggested.
“That is fine,” he agreed and took her free hand in his as they strolled through the lamplights.
When they arrived at the waterfront, Sookie loosely held the leashes of her dogs as she leaned casually against the rail. She watched the waters shift beneath them and watched the images ripple against the sides of illuminated vessels.
“It’s really beautiful,” Sookie remarked. “I feel really at ease here, and the girls seem to be comfortable too.”
“That they do,” Eric replied, wrapping an arm over her shoulders and pulling her against his side. “The scenery is that much more lovely with you here.”
“You big flirt,” Sookie nudged her shoulder into his ribs, making him laugh.
A beautiful melody of wind chimes sounded nearby, and what seemed like a silent firework flashed in the peripheral of Sookie’s vision. When Eric’s posture tensed momentarily before relaxing, Sookie’s calm broke and she began scenting the air worriedly. The flavor that burst upon her tongue calmed her nerves, but she could not understand why.
“What is it?” Sookie whispered.
“We seem to have a visitor,” Eric answered quietly.
“Good evening,” a warm voice greeted from behind them, and the pair turned to see a slight, but tall figure approaching them from the park. Sookie took in the stranger’s appearance with a critical eye. A powder blue, button down with slate gray slacks, his shoulder-length brown hair fell in ringlets around his beautiful face. He was charmingly handsome, she reluctantly admitted to herself.
“Endymion,” Eric greeted gruffly with a nod.
Sookie’s back straightened anxiously when she remembered the conversation before leaving to catch their plane.
“A-are you here to mediate?” Sookie stammered nervously.
Smiling, the Voice of the Pantheon shook his head, “No, my presence here has nothing to do with the Magister, your heritage, nor your gift. Well, not this one, at least,” he tapped his head.
“You know about that?” Sookie squeaked.
Endymion laughed at her worry, “Of course I do, Mrs. Northman!”
“Oh, I like that so much better than being called “baby vamp” and “youngling”!” Sookie laughed contently, realizing that he had a slight, lilt to his speech.
“I thought you would,” Endymion grinned at her impishly, and Sookie could not help but think of him as a mischievous teen rather than a divine being. “My appearance before you this evening actually has to do with those two,” he pointed at Mags and Junes.
“Excuse me?” Sookie looked at her dogs, and swiftly knelt to wrap her arms around them protectively. “Just what do you want with my girls?”
“The other evening the Magister caused them to sustain brutal damage, which is forcing me to come before you much earlier than I had planned,” Endymion began. “Shall we go sit in the park comfortably? This explanation might take a while, and I would prefer to have as little an audience as possible.”
Sookie looked to her Bonded for direction, and Eric merely nodded his head in the line of sight to the park. Turning sharply on his heel, Endymion began the procession, going deep into the darkness where no public lamp post could illuminate them. Once they were seated on a park bench, Mags and Junes with a muzzle on each of Sookie’s knees, Endymion began once more.
“To explain my interest in your dogs, I must first explain how they came to be in your care and why. To do that, I must tell you something about The Voice of the Pantheon. You see, there are many Voices between the endless amounts of dimensions for this universe. Many different Endymions if that helps you understand. I protect several of these dimensions, you see, and I have one of the best records for thriving worlds,” Endymion smiled ruefully, as if he were actually embarrassed that he might be bragging. “I have two dimensions with a prosperous Elfyria, one of which is extremely successful. To the point, even, that many other dimensions that I am not in charge of can draw off of its magical energy.”
“That sounds pretty impressive, even to me, and I don’t hardly understand it at all!” Sookie chuckled.
Endymion smiled at her good humor before continuing, “You see, no two dimensions are identical, but the ones I have been charged with are quite parallel with only minute differences between them. I was placed in charge of these dimensions because they have a remarkable symmetry to the world in which I was originally born.”
Eric was staring at the Voice with rapt fascination, centuries of curiosities being put to rest.
“Now that you have a vague understanding of my responsibilities, it is time to explain my interest in Mags and Junes. Your Bonded will recognize some of the myth I am about to speak, and I am certain he will be more than surprised by what I say. I ask that you please let me explain and not interrupt,” he beseeched of both of them, sighing in relief when they nodded. “There is a Norse legend about two mythological hounds, Garm and Fenrir.” Sookie did not miss Eric’s posture going rigid. “Garm, the hound that guards Hel, and Fenrir, the devourer of the Cosmos. Part of the legend is that Garm’s bay will call all of the souls of Earth to the Underworld, and Fenrir will then devour the Cosmos,” The telepath’s eyes widened in disbelief that such creatures that could bring forth the apocalypse actually existed, but she kept her mouth sealed as she had promised.
“Garm and Fenrir have so far destroyed twenty-six dimensions in the past three thousand years. This may not seem like much in that context, but when you consider the catastrophic loss as a whole, it is heartrending. For a Voice to lose one of his dimensions, it is the loss of billions of his children in one fell swoop. There is no consoling it. I have known of Voices to be present at the time their world was consumed just so they could end their existences with their children and not know that pain.”
A red tear dripped from Sookie’s eye, and she tried discretely to brush it away.
“You are sweet to mourn for them,” Endymion smiled. “Ten years ago, Garm and Fenrir were planning to reincarnate within another dimension. You see, what makes them so special is, like the Pantheon, they only have one manifestation. That might be why people feel God does not listen,” he shook his head regretfully. “The Pantheon is watching over so many people in so many dimensions, that they cannot help everyone who calls to them…” with a sobering clearing of his throat, Endymion got back on topic. “Those ten years ago, I begged Garm and Fenrir to wait just another three years to be reborn. In exchange, I would direct them to a dimension that they would finally have an entirely new experience in. This one.”
Sookie’s jaw slung open at that, and she clutched Eric’s hand worriedly. ‘Great, I finally start getting my life together, and now the world’s literally going to end!’
Endymion snorted at what Sookie assumed was her expression, “I have always chosen a hero to overcome the dark possibilities of my dimensions. Whenever possible, that hero has always been you, Sookie.”
“Me!?” Sookie could not resist her yelp. “Why me!? I’m just- just,” she floundered for a word to describe her miniscule existence, but she could not find one.
“To be considered a viable hero, the subject must overcome a series of trials,” Endymion looked at his palms. “In each world I have called upon you, you have overcome so, so much. Overwhelmed, overpowered, insecure, terrified. You still came through for me with grace. You have never let me down, Sookie.” Looking now at Mags and Junes, Endymion added, “That was why I knew in this world, you would be the only one that could stop Garm and Fenrir from devouring any more dimensions.”
“Mags and Junes… They’re… Are they…?”
“The manifestations of Garm and Fenrir? Yes. Why they chose to be born as females, I do not know,” he laughed to himself. “Perhaps they wanted a change of pace?”
“But… They’re just German shepherds!” she protested weakly, tensing when Eric squeezed her hand.
“Right now, yes. Garm and Fenrir need to be born just like anyone else, but when the lifespan of their vessel expires, they will become the full realizations of their true selves. I have performed similar rebirths for Angels.”
“Why did you let them be reborn at all?” Sookie asked.
“They are stronger than me. They do not need my permission, just as the Pantheon does not need my permission to take human vessels around the block for a few decades. Everyone needs a vacation, Sookie,” Endymion shrugged.
“So, you’re saying, when the shepherd part of Mags and Junes dies, our world is going to end?” Sookie asked tightly.
“But you just…”
“I said that they will take their full manifestation. Thankfully, I was very, very right about this version of you,” Endymion grinned at her. “You see, you loved Garm and Fenrir so much as Mags and Junes, and treated them so well that they don’t want to stop being Mags and Junes. They want to love you forever, Sookie. When their mortal bodies expire, they want to stay the image of your shepherds. It is their vow that as long as this world has you in it, they will not end it. Seeing as they can only exist in one dimension at a time and that you are immortal, this means no more dimensions will ever be devoured again.”
Eric looked between the two dogs that were staring up at Sookie with tentative stillness. Suddenly, he realized why Endymion was telling them this now of all times. The Magister’s attack had been enough to kill Sookie’s dogs. The host vessels were too damaged, and soon Garm and Fenrir would erupt from their dormancy.
Gazing at his Bonded, he felt a burst of love and happiness, and it stunned him into the same stillness that Mags and Junes were experiencing.
“I get to keep my girls!?” Sookie sobbed happily as she buried her face between the two dogs’ heads. “I get to keep you forever!?” she asked around chest rattling cries. “You’re not leaving me… You’re not leaving!”
“Shh, shh,” Eric tried to calm her back down from her hysterics, though this ecstatic joy was far more welcome than her distress of the past few weeks had been. His hand was stroking her back soothingly as he took in the importance of his Bonded’s existence.
“You’re staying with me forever, babies,” Sookie continued, oblivious of Eric’s attempts to quiet her. “I love you so much! We’ll make the whole dead for the day thing work-”
“Ah, well,” Endymion stopped her there, “that will not exactly be an issue. Once they are fully manifested, they will not have the requirements of normal dogs. They will not need to be fed, or let out to evacuate themselves. After they have completed their transition, they will probably prefer to guard you while you are at rest.”
“Um,” Sookie held the dogs’ heads to her breasts, covering their ears, “are they sentient?”
Endymion laughed, “To a degree. They maintain memories, they can be reasoned with to an extent, but for the most part, you should just think of them as dogs. Garm and Fenrir were not bad animals, they were just feared. They had powers that no human or supernatural could comprehend, and they were shunned from love and affection. Even as puppies, no one wanted them. In all of their incarnations, they have never had an owner. They were abandoned and grew into feral dogs. When their hosts’ bodies shut down, they were filled with anger at the worlds they were born into, and they destroyed those worlds. Like any other creature, all Garm and Fenrir wanted was to be loved. They know as well as you do what a treasure love is, how covetable.”
“Who couldn’t love these faces!” Sookie crooned at her dogs and kissed their noses.
“No one but you,” Endymion assured. “The second you adopted them, you changed their whole existence. Their first scrap of affection to the first love of their lives. No matter what dimension I call upon you, Sookie, you never let me down.”
Rising from the bench, Endymion smiled down at the four he was walking away from, “I do not know how much longer their vessels can remain, but I suspect it will not be much longer. With hope, they can manage to hold on until you arrive in Öland tomorrow evening. I want you to know that even though they might cry out as their host bodies die, Mags and Junes are in no pain. All right?”
“Thanks, Endymion,” Sookie smiled up at him, her eyes red with more unshed tears. “You gave me a very great gift.”
“It is you who is giving a gift to this entire dimension, and all the dimensions. No more Cosmos will ever be devoured by these two so long as you exist in this world. I will be addressing the International Council on the matter and explain the miracle you have given all of us,” With that, the Voice turned to leave, but paused when Sookie called out to him one last time.
“Endymion!” Sookie rose from the bench, reaching for the Voice. “Why do you always pick me? Not that I’m complaining or anything. I only have to experience this stuff once, personally, but why is it always me?”
Smiling shyly, the Voice murmured, “Because you were my hero long before I ever became the Voice of the Pantheon.”