DROWN is set sometime in the future beyond SVM Book #8. Setting is A/U Supernatural-Fantasy with heavy magical influences. Witches, Fairies, Cool Chicks with magical powers & other inexplicably awesome stuff will be involved. Just consider yourself forewarned – the first chapter is kinda rough on our favorite Viking vamp, but I promise – our man is gonna have his revenge. Besides, there’s plenty more coming that will make you laugh your happy arse off, so grab a hammock and enjoy!
Written for my friends – you know who you are.
Chapter 1 – High Treason
I love you, Eric.
And I love you, Sookie – with all my heart. Three days, and we will be together forever. Now, close your eyes, lover. Close your eyes and sleep. Sleep my beautiful Sookie . . . S o o k i e . . .
“Another,” Niall commanded.
A crisp nod to his king, and the silver-haired enforcer he called Rhys stepped forward. Rusty hinges screamed as he jerked a cell door open, then dragged a vampire out. He was slightly shorter than the fairy with a powerful build, dark in the hair, regal and furious and offended as he twisted against him in an immaculate grey Armani suit.
“Have you any idea who I am? The repercussions of-!”
Rhys never hesitated. A hiss of metal and the vampire’s head went bouncing across a cavernous torch-lit chamber of stone. Stalagmites steeped in a millennia of slime hung like rotten teeth around the man strung up in the middle.
Eric blinked thickly, blood dripping from his eyes as the need for sleep ripped and tore at his mind. Heavy silver manacles locked him to the wall, his own head ready to split beneath the flaming shock of pain. He still managed to spit in the fairy’s face.
“The head of an ignorant human tourist?” he rasped, throat as raw as the skin of his wrists and ankles as he hung suspended in the bowels of an ancient fey oubliette. “This is what you intend to force me with? Dead tourists and fangbanger whores?” He spit again. It hit the small black cross fastened on the end of one earlobe. Dismissed the tangle of limp hair now clinging to what recently was a thick, tanned neck. “Svartálfar! I will never tell you where Sookie is!”
Rhys slammed a fist into his chin. “Yes, you will, vampire,” the muscle-strapped fairy hissed in a tone only a fool would ignore. “Yes. You will.”
“Go fuck yourself,” Eric grunted. Only this time, ice cracked up the walls.
“You best mind your tongue, nightwalker. Less Rhys carve it from your throat.”
One flick of a silken finger, and bars parted as thick as his wrist. Air wet with salt and the stench of fresh death stained Niall Brigant from the inside out, yet the King of the Fey paid it no heed. Shadows exploded when he stepped inside. The caldron of fire shot flames to the ceiling as if Hell itself would bow at his feet, painting everything in a wash of orange and red as it licked the crown of thorns set high on the back of his ethereally blond head.
“My, my. Stubbornness certainly does not become you,” Niall admonished with the soft click of his tongue. “But then the mind of a vampire does dull quickly when deprived of its sleep.” He came to a halt just in front of where Eric bristled in his chains, and soaked in the scene; hands mildly clasped behind his back, the rich, burnished copper of his coat gleaming against the fire’s moving light. “So, you believe we waste your time with inconsequential human tourists? Let us refresh my terms.” Plucking a sharp white canine from the mat of filth festering on the floor, the Fairy King held up a two-inch fang so Eric could see. “One head for every time you say my great-grandchild’s name without her location attached. Eleven times you have uttered it, and I have delivered in turn. Seven unfortunate nightwalkers harvested from that black and red ménage you tout as a bar, three Fangtasia wait staff – and that last one . . . Alas, I fear that vampire was of far, far more importance in your pathetic sunless world.”
“Vampire?” Forcing his swimming vision to focus, Eric threw a horrified look over lumpy, bubbling dungeon floor. “Dammit, Niall! What have you done?”
“Oh, throughout the millennia, I have done so very many things,” Niall answered implacably, the level lilt of his tone belying the fury that boiled underneath. “Tonight, I merely saw fit to introduce myself to a few of your friends.” The toe of his boot shoved the head on the floor, flipping the chocolate bangs back. “I do trust you recognize the former Vampire King of Virginia? Correct me if I am wrong, but you were solely responsible for his safe delivery to your territory, were you not? The skull exploded in a ball of black flames. “Pity then. Not one of his delegation arrived.”
“You killed him? Killed the Virginia vampire king?”
Pounding his back against the moldy stone, Eric went crazy against the chains, rattling them so hard the entire cell block echoed with rage. Fifteen fey guards dotted the cavernous room, but his head jerked left quick as an adder, ripping Rhys’s cheek to the bone when he snapped fangs in the Commander’s face that damn near took the point off one ear. The fairy was just as fast with a knee slammed in his side. Something cracked, but it only enraged Eric more. Drugging fairy dust sparked on his pale white skin, fighting to suck the truth from his tongue just as hard as the sick, red strings of blood dripping from the mat of his hair – but not one whimper would ever cross his Viking lips.
“Niall, you listen to me,” he seethed. “This has to stop right now, before you start another war! There’s already unrest in the southern states. Now, with the death of a king . . .” Muscles bulging against the shackles on his arms, he jerked his chin up, facing the fairy head-on. “Your fight is with me. You fight it with me. And as much as you may not want to believe it? I did not turn Sookie against her will. I love Sookie, loved her so much I claimed her as my wife. She asked to make the change. Begged me . . . even smiled with joy as she faded away.”
“Perhaps, she did,” Niall returned, far, far too mildly for anyone to believe. “But I would surmise that you did, too.”
A feral rumble ripped through the fairy’s throat, then the king was suddenly so close, frost was crisping on Eric’s skin. “Correct me if I err, but the Vampire King of Virginia’s visit was of rather peculiar timing, no? To show up the exact same night you chose to turn Sookie? But then, a little birdie told me this was to be far more than a diplomatic social call. Felipe de Castro has riled against the Southern States Council one time too many, so tonight, you were to be named the new King of Louisiana . . . And what a massive coo it would be. The mighty Eric Northman would not simply ascend to the throne. No, you intended to claim it with what you prayed by some miracle would be the world’s first telepathic vampire at your side, and the fairies at Sookie’s back. Indefensible against any and all of your enemies.” The air in the entire dungeon began to steam. “And I trust you did assume I would be at Sookie’s back, didn’t you, Northman? Because as you can clearly see – unlike a worthless piece of speaking dead flesh, a fairy fights for one of their own.”
It took a moment for the full brunt of it to sink in.
“None of that is true, Niall. None of it!” Eric finally to choke out in answer, taking in the barred cells that lined the room. Proof of just how far a fairy would go. He could see the people trapped inside. The vampires. The ones Niall intended to kill. “If I was to be named king, I knew nothing of it,” he honestly swore. “And that stupid rumor does not change one thing.” Eric fought to jerk his chin up, faced them with a primal proudness that demanded their respect. “Sookie chose to be a vampire. She chose me. Now, she is gone to ground, and on the third night she will rise as my child. You may kill anyone you wish. The deed is done.”
“It is not done!” A mighty crack split the air. “For Sookie could not chose, when she had no idea the things she stood to lose.”
A twist of his fingers, and Niall jerked a thick piece of parchment from the air. Folded. Embossed. His royal seal of a unicorn etched heavy across the top. Your Royal Majesty, King Niall Brigant, does request the pleasure of your company at the blessed union of Miss Sookie Stackhouse . . . One furious blink, and the café au lait ink dripped right off of the page.
“I crossed an obvious line of ignorance by allowing you to touch that child,” Niall seethed as he threw the invitation at Eric, watching it fall in the mass of sickly, red filth. “But blood of my blood, so long as you made her happy, I bore you no ill will. Indulged you both – the wedding, the reception, the house. I offered you any and everything I possess, all save one condition. Never, ever would Sookie be turned.” He yanked the wedding band off Eric’s crushed left finger. “Sookie has no idea the magical life stretching in front of her years – yet, you do. The power that boils through her veins. The kingdom she stands to inherit. She is so sheltered, so naïve, but one day very soon, her soul will begin to bloom and embrace everything that she is. I will not allow you steal it away!”
“Niall, I –”
An invisible hand clamped around Eric’s throat. The King of the Fey could be one scary son-of-a-bitch when he wanted to be. His bottomless sea green eyes melted to a pure, dead red. He wanted to be.
“Now you listen to me, nightwalker, and you listen well. The only reason you still exist, is that I hold the power to stop Sookie’s change – so you best pray I do, because if my great-grandchild rises as a vampire, she will be the only one alive in the whole of Shreveport when she does. After tonight, no crown will ever sit on your head, no title hang at the tail of your name. There is but once choice left in this universe of any consequence to you, so either you give me the location of Sookie’s body where she lies in wait, or an army of fey will descend on Shreveport like the hounds of hell have been thrust through the gates.” The grip tightened another inch. “And on your life, I do swear, I will not stop until I have exterminated that entire quadrant of your race. Now – you choose. Sookie or every vampire of Louisiana Area 5. Who dies tonight?”
The grip released in expectation of an answer, and it was all Eric could do not to go summarily insane.
With a guttural cry of defiance, he threw himself against the chains, caring nothing for the singe of burning flesh as he fought for any way free. “You bastard, you’re insane! Insane!” The captive vampires began to pound on the bars and yell. Every wild scream urged him on. “The vampires fought you before. We’ll fight you again. Tear your god-damned hearts out and eat them before this ends! You send your men to Shreveport, and watch to see who dies. The–“
Once again Eric’s voice was snapped off by a hand, only this one had an arm attached. And a blade – wicked, curved, etched with magical runes as it dug deep in his chest, directly over his heart. “Shut. Your. Mouth. Animal,” Rhys spat. “You will address my king with respect. And less you wish to find yourself sealed in a silver coffin and tossed in the oceans off Tír na nÓg for the next thousand years, you best answer his question before he asks it again.”
Hands battle ready at his sides, fangs still glistening over his lip, Eric nailed a glare on the Fairy Enforcer’s face. He slid it down to his still bleeding cheek. “Fuck. You,” he told him again, proving he needed no air to speak. “Better yet, get these damn manacles off me. Niall wants a fairy to fight a vampire? Unlock these chains.” A thousand years of Viking burned in every word, “Or don’t you have the balls?”
“Rhys.” One word from Niall held the enforcer in check. “Northman. For the last time – Sookie’s location.”
Eric met their condemning stares no fear or regret. “It was Sookie’s choice.”
A muscle ticked ominously in Niall’s jaw, then the almighty immortal slowly stepped back, his restraint at not crushing Eric to death simply to hear the snapping sounds proof of the enormous power – and waning patience – he held. “As you wish, vampire.” He inclined his head to Eric in profound acquiescence. “Just never forget – the weight of this day rests upon your soul.”
With a haunting refrain of long-dead language spilling from his lips, Niall opened a portal in the wall, viewing window straight to the heart of Shreveport. One last time, he turned to Rhys. The Commander of the Fey Guard stood in front of the other guards like a God, hair like pure spun silver wafting all the way to his waist. His body tall and immortal and endlessly lethal in leather and chain offset by swaths of royal blue silk.
“Decapitate all remaining captives. And since I would hate to be an ungracious host, do let us provide our guest with some worthy entertainment while the troops make ready to depart. Bolt the doors and burn Fangtasia to the ground. The plantation home on the outskirts of the city. The others in London and Belize. Not one blade of grass is to remain.”
“Niall – N i a l l!”
Eric’s face, already so pale, went dead white when the fairy flatly ignored him and walked away. Struggling to stay sane, he only yelled louder, stronger – praying at least one being in that cavern possessed a soul as he screamed, “Rhys – Rhys, you cannot do this! Every one of you know it is wrong. My people have done nothing to you! I have done nothing to you. Sookie wanted this. She asked. She begged to be turned!”
The images already rippling across the portal told him it was too late.
Fey warriors spread over Shreveport like a living disease, daggers strapped to each thigh, evil cross-bows armed with silver-tipped arrows promising death even as he watched it delivered – but it was the roar of flames that ended him. The fire burned so close, Eric gagged on smoke as Niall Brigant declared war on any and everything he had ever touched. His Corvette caved to the thrust of torches. The door of his and Sookie’s new home shattered to splinters as fire boiled its way inside; the eaves of Fangtasia hemorrhaging flames as the roof began to burn.
Eric frantically thought of Pam, imagining everyone inside being burned alive, wildly searching the rank prison where he was about to die. Every flicker scorched his soul until his bones bled its tears. He prayed it was all some twisted dream. A side effect of the drugs. Anything but the truth – yet, the heaviness of his heart proved that it was real. The cry of another vampire echoed in his ears, proving how many would be sacrificed for his refusal until this came to an end. Unless he made it end.
“Stop!” he finally conceded, the dream of eternity with the woman he loved fractured until it nearly cracked him in half. “Please . . . stop.”
Each syllable was a struggle to get out, his throat constricted with emotion as he watched Niall silently glide back out of the shadows. Eric Northman would rather spend eternity roasting in the seventh ring of hell than submit to that fairy’s pompous puckered ass, but he didn’t survive ten centuries by being stupid. You fight the battles you can win, and kiss ass to get your own out of the ones you can’t. Just so you stay alive to come back and kill the bastards another day. “If I tell you where Sookie is, you swear on your life this stops. The fire at Fangtasia is extinguished, and not one more vampire dies – including me. Sookie and I are bonded. Murder me, and martyr your own flesh and blood. She won’t survive if I die.”
Niall blinked back at him, though the victory was not there. Nothing but a profound sadness as dark as the black sand beach that stretched outside. “It has never been my desire to end your life, Eric,” he said, addressing him as he had in the past for the very first time that night. “Only to save Sookie, and see that she reaps everything to which a Princess of my crown is entitled.”
“Swear it,” Eric demanded hoarsely.
The fairy mused for barely a heartbeat, then nodded. “On my crown, I meet your terms. Now – where?”
Eric cast another long look at the portal. “Southwest corner of Bill Compton’s barn under heavy guard by weres. They are under orders to kill on sight.”
An abrupt shudder and Niall was gone. Eric did not notice. All strength left him along with the reluctant confession, like one more drop of blood falling from a wound he no longer possessed the will to heal. He slumped in his restraints, unaware of the passage of time. Minutes—hours—days? The slap of a hand brought him back, fingers that smelled of rich, warm soil and summer rain on gardenias blooming in the spring.
And indeed she was there, an angel as she lay curled on a tufted, peacock-blue bed with beautiful, ethereal creatures hovering all about. Delicate crystal chandeliers threw rainbows off the wide diamond wedding ring on her hand, a grandiose chamber with walls of marble as pure and pale as her skin. Eric could see the gentle curve of her lashes as they lay against the pink flush on her cheek, the gold shine of her hair brighter than he’d ever seen it before.
“Take a good long look,” Niall said, face painted in rage all over again by the horror of having to dig her out of the ground. His jacket was gone, his soft cream shirt and breeches streaked with dark tunnels of mud and hair from the werewolves who fought them, before they finally tucked their tails to run.
“Is she . . . alive?” Eric managed to murmur.
“Yes. Alive and well, with no fangs and no memory of you. She will be going far, far away from Shreveport to live the rest of her life in mundane happiness, while you – you will be rotting on the bottom of the ocean until the end of time.” Niall straightened and stepped back, head held high, no trace of remorse or pity, though Eric would have sworn he saw the gleam of dampness in his eyes. “I promised I would not take your life, and indeed I shall honor my oath – but there are some fates worse than death. I welcome you to yours.”
The delicate linen strip that had bound his hand to Sookie’s during the wedding floated down to drape Eric’s chest, the pastel embroidery she had toiled over so many months now streaked with dirt from the enraged fairy’s hand that had just dug her up. It was followed by the dumping of a half-dozen rats, rats contained by . . . the walls of a coffin?
Rhy’s hissed out warning hit him like a bucket of ice.
Fighting to sit up, Eric found he could not move, binding spells holding him down like concrete blocks. Fury gave way in a wash. He choked on the unfamiliar feeling of fear. “What – what is happening?”
“The Royal Council has sentenced you for high treason,” Rhys said with a mirthless smile. A wave of his hand beckoned the other guards. “As I warned you, one thousand years sealed in an ocean-bound coffin – the highest punishment of our law. I am sorry, vampire, but you agreed to be bound by the Fairy Oath the day you took the princess, Sookie Stackhouse, as your wife. It was a choice. The second, I trust you never forget.”
“But Sookie . . .” he forced through cracking lips. “Sookie!”
Reality bottled his throat as guards began lowering the coffin’s silver lid, sound dead to the grind of latches and levers. Eric’s fingers bit the velvet, mouth opening and closing in disbelief. With only a foot of light left to spare, he threw a last frantic glance to his beloved wife, determined to memorize every smell, every curve and freckle. It should have been impossible for Sookie to look so beautiful in the midst of such a nightmare, to be so painfully unaware as he screamed to her through their bond. Damn Niall Brigant to the lowest level of Hell, no one would ever make Sookie forget him, ever erase the imprint of his love.
“This is not over, fairy,” he swore. Then a rat sank its teeth in his leg, and everything went black.
The sound of metal being bolted shut is unmistakable, whether it be a padlock, the top of a coffin, or the bars of a prison; but the orchestral clang that shook the walls of the royal palace of Tír na nÓg was immeasurably worse. An inescapable prison for one who had committed the ultimate sin – and it was soon followed by another. The unmistakable gurgle of salt water as Eric Northman sank to the bottom of the ocean, while Sookie Stackhouse sat up and sucked air – and Niall Brigant smiled.