Rosalyn burst into the office, all panic and tears. She had not been gone more than twenty minutes before resurfacing from Fangtasia’s basement covered in Constantine and Eva’s blood. “Did you kill them?” Godric asked calmly.
“What? No! I snapped. It was awful!” She reached for a hug, desperate for the comfort of his embrace. Godric shied away. He held her back with a single fingertip dug into her shoulder. “Why won’t you – ?” she asked, struggling in frustration.
He gave her a look. “I suspect you’re about to tell me that we need to leave with some haste. I don’t have a change of clothes on hand if you ruin mine.” Rosalyn glanced down at herself and let out a sob in shock. In a babble of confession, she told him what she had done. The horsewhip. Her ease with it. Almost like she had been primed to use it. Godric said nothing.
He inspected a splotch of saliva smeared at her temple. He rubbed it between his thumb and fingers and frowned. Constantine. He asked whether Eric had killed him for it. She shook her head. “Bloodlust,” he surmised, dismissing her actions with a shrug. “You did nothing that they have not already healed from. Better it was you that lost your temper than one of us.”
“Godric, are you even listening to me? I beat the crap out of them! Eric’s got them hung up like sides of beef and…and…” She dropped her voice to a low whisper, horrified by the secret excitement of it. “I didn’t flinch. I helped hurt them.”
“And yet you are the one crying.” There was a sudden edge to his tone that cut.
“What? Why would you even say that!” she cried, astonished.
“I told you that you would suffer for your mercy,” he replied coldly. Her jaw dropped. “Your tears are for yourself, not Amleth’s children. They are complicit. They abused your good will, and for all the extra blankets and meals you gave them, it did not change the fact that they are guilty. Your mercy was borne of false hope. It will get you killed. Do you understand me?”
Her brow knitted up in disbelief. “No, Maker. I don’t.”
He tossed her a handkerchief. “I shouldn’t have to remind you that they would have attacked you the second you turned your back. You did, and Constantine tried.”
Her lip trembled as she fought against the truth of his words. “You’re cruel.”
“Yes. I can be. Just like the world.” He stared at her dispassionately. “But I’m not a traitor. Still better than your pitiful prisoners.”
Her nostrils flared in anger. “Considering how many traitors we’ve got in the family, I’d say you’ve set the bar pretty freaking low!” Rosalyn turned on her heel and stormed past Sebek, who had silently materialized in the doorway.
Godric let out a measured breath between his teeth. Sebek raised an eyebrow. “That one has many gifts.” He sounded concerned.
Godric nodded minutely. “What did she do?”
“It is more what she did not do, young friend.” Sebek tipped his head thoughtfully. “Though what she does stands out well enough.”
Godric shuddered. The ancient had seen something more than Rosalyn throwing off the heady thrall of bloodlust of her own accord. Sebek’s scent had been on her clothes. She had touched him willingly – yet again. How many times had it been now? Godric prayed she had not accidentally compelled him.
The ancient gestured at the phone on the desk. “Is this secure?”
“Plug it back in,” Godric said with a grunt. He had disconnected the internet and phone lines while working on his plan of attack.
Sebek dialed a number and had a brief exchange with someone in Arabic. When he hung up, he appeared satisfied. “Calla is in Athens. Still no sign of Thea or Amleth. It is your call.”
They exchanged a look and Godric gritted his teeth. “We move.”
The ancient gave a chilling grin. “Excellent. I’ll arrange our air travel.”
“We’ll meet you at the airport,” Godric agreed. “I have a few pit-stops to make.”
Thalia was on her feet the moment Godric descended into the leaky basement. He snapped at her to leave. She offered her favorite knife to him, handle first. He stared at her. “Fine,” she snarled, and left him to it.
The locker in the corner contained an array of possibilities. Godric chose only a leather apron, knotting its ties carefully and rolling his shirtsleeves up high on his biceps. He left his loafers by the stairwell, lined up side-by-side, as Eric had taught him to do long ago. After hiking his pant cuffs for good measure, he strolled to the shallow wall of cells holding Amleth’s children. His hands were folded behind his back, as if he were perusing a museum collection. He stood in front of Eva for a long, disquieting moment, dissecting her with his unsettling grey gaze. Then he turned to Constantine and scrutinized him with the same menacing intensity. They spoke, but Godric had long stopped listening. Their mouths moved, working through yet more excuses, conjuring up more lies. They were certainly very frightened. They ought to be. The smell of Tarquinii blood in the air enraged him.
Bill Compton let out a shrill scream when Godric shifted toward the other cell block. He slumped against the wall in a half-faint when Godric set upon the door adjacent to his. “God have mercy on me. God have mercy!” he stammered repeatedly.
Godric pulled out the Council member who lately called himself Dieter. The rangy vampire was not young, but centuries of desk work had made him complacent. He talked of paper trails and legal proof. He demanded evidence of his sentencing. The other Councilors, Vera and Kibwe, made similar noise. “On whose authority?!” Dieter demanded to know. “Whose!”
Godric showed him exactly what authority allowed him to act. He dragged the struggling Teuton by a clump of his hair and dropped him in front of Constantine and Eva’s partition. Silently, save for the cracking and splatting and crunch of wet bone, Godric dismantled old Dieter before the children’s terrified eyes. His hands worked automatically, blindly, with the efficiency of a master butcher. His gaze was fixed on Constantine and Eva the entire time. When he was done, he was still studying them, and his lips curved into the barest hint of a smile. He left them to contemplate two piles of Dieter’s liquifying remains until he returned.
Eva made one last plea as he left. “Amleth begs your forgiveness, Great Lord! He begs it, Grandsire!”
Amleth would, wouldn’t he, knowing what was coming for him. But there was no forgiveness in this world, not for Amleth, not for Godric. After Godric killed the man he loved as a son, he would have to live with it. One last dark sacrifice on Tarquin’s bloody altar. Godric tossed his apron in a utility sink for someone else to wash.
Eric’s ranch house appeared lifeless when Godric slipped in. “Rosalyn,” he called out sharply. His normally soft-spoken rasp pierced through the house. His progeny had returned home ahead of him. The bitter exhaust of Eric’s vintage car hung in the hallway near the garage door. The Corvette had always been a noxious, rattling nuisance. Useless if you wanted to do anything other than drive fast in a straight line. Agitated, he summoned his wife again.
Michael peeked owlishly from a guest bedroom. “We’re packing up right now, sir.”
Eric had given the humans their marching orders. “Don’t let me interrupt you,” Godric replied. In the dining room, he slid open a mid-century walnut credenza. It was organized with a dizzying array of books and memorabilia. Normally, he would hesitate to rummage through Eric’s belongings. His packrat child was particular in ways he was not. They survived each other in part because they respected one another’s quirks. Thankfully, the painting was still where he had shoved it.
He rubbed at a ding on the corner of the frame. The damage to the gilding did not appear to be recent. The Renaissance painting and its original framing were valuable, Godric knew, even if the subject curdled his stomach. He set it on the dining table and called to his wife through the blood, unhappy about having to repeat himself. She shot into the room, wide-eyed at the strength of the call. He nudged the chair beside him. “Come sit with me.”
“We’re getting ready -“
“Sit. I want to show you something before we leave.”
She crossed her arms, ready for a fight. He sighed and made himself appropriately contrite. “I’m trying to explain myself. Will you let me?” He rotated the painting toward her. She was instantly drawn to the colors as only a newborn could be.
She let out a reluctant laugh. “You?”
“Well. Saint John the Baptist,” he equivocated.
The distraction worked. She momentarily forgot her anger and confusion and joined him at the table. “I doubt good old Saint John was anywhere near as hot.” She traced a finger in the air over the red-robed man preaching to a crowd. “Look at all the thigh you’re showing. Scandalous.”
Godric shrugged. “He was often depicted as a curly-haired youth. I suppose I fit the part.”
“Right. Your curls. I’m sure that’s why you were invited to sit for a portrait. Did you eat the artist?”
“No,” he replied, not finding it funny. He often had, especially when he disliked how they had imagined him in oils.
It took her a brief moment before she recognized Eric in the flock gathered at St. John’s feet. He followed the sermon with rapt attention. Her face fell when she located Amleth tucked in a cluster of parting clouds. He portrayed a raven-haired angel peeking through the heavens to listen. “This is why you ripped it off the wall.”
“Amleth was no angel, but now…” He let the pain roiling in their bond fill in the rest.
“What started out as a joke isn’t funny anymore,” she guessed. “Frigging asshole traitor.”
“Something like that.”
He waited for her to notice a final figure hiding in the scene. Most of the women were anonymous, their backs turned to the viewer. The peasant men were grubby-faced and similar, their features filled in by the novice hand of a studio assistant.
She paused on a shepherd, half a question hung in her mouth. The figure stood apace from the crowd. Like the saint, he had been rendered in fine, master strokes that leapt off the canvas. The man was middle-aged and ruggedly handsome, with the athletic build of a soldier. Rosalyn sucked in a quick breath. “Is this…?”
Godric blinked slowly. “That, Rosalyn, was the most arrogant, pig-headed, recklessly dangerous man I have ever known.”
The proud face of Lucius Tarquinius stared back at them. She reached over the table and laid a hand on Godric’s arm. “My goodness,” she whispered. An awed, awkward silence bloomed between them as Godric struggled to find a way to describe his infuriating friend.
“You loved him,” she supplied.
Godric snorted. “He was centuries my junior. A murderer and a schemer. More disarming and toxic than Satan himself.” He shook his head in disbelief.
“And you loved him,” she insisted.
He chewed meanly at his cheek. Finally, after a beat, he nodded. “He saved me from slavery. I owe him my undead life.”
Rosalyn squeezed his forearm. “Then we are all indebted to him.”
Godric could not bear to look up from behind his burning shame. “You owe him nothing, Ros,” he said in a heated rush. “I failed him, in the end. And the man who made an oath to protect him was not the man you love or respect today. You would despise who I was, as I do.”
“Maybe you are not proud of the things you did then. That’s fine. You shouldn’t regret that you weren’t alone. It doesn’t change the good bits you two shared.”
“I outgrew him in every way but one,” he countered.
Sensing the problem, Rosalyn caressed his cheek. “Loyalty does not make you a slave, Godric. It makes you a good friend.” She held his gaze until he could bear it no longer.
He freed his arm from her grasp and brushed his knuckles over the picture frame, willing himself open to the flood of memories there. He was reminded instantly of the place, the time, the glint of coin as he paid the artist. And yes, he recalled it now, the ding on the corner. There had been a shipwreck many years later. He sighed and realized that he was so tense his skin hurt.
He hated looking back. He hated who he had been. No more than a villain in the service of Tarquin’s thirst for power. Their turbulent relationship had wrought mostly terror and misery.
Looking forward was no better. The temptation of ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only’ brought only tempting lies. He hated that he indulged himself in such fancies. “Tarquin would have wept tears of joy to have met you,” he admitted softly. “I wish I could have seen the look on his face.”
“How was he when you turned Eric?” she asked curiously.
Godric was surprised by the bark of laughter that escaped him. “So excited that he put Eric in danger nearly the moment they met. I banished him from Europe for it.”
She gave him a patient look. “So saying ‘it’s complicated’ with Tarquin is an understatement.”
“I wanted you to know his face, Ros. The violence we’re about to rain down on our enemies is done to avenge this man. You might not think he’s worth the trouble when you realize how much of him is in his vile family.”
Her gaze flicked up from the painting. “The pride? Is it true what they called him then?”
Godric laughed resentfully. “Gods yes, the pride. Amleth and Constantine have inherited that same outrageous sense of entitlement and condescension. It’s a little wonder they turned against me. I shouldn’t have been surprised that Thea murdered half of their family either. Tarquin killed his own brother and wife for a throne – and that was before he was even turned.”
“But what about Eva?” she objected. “She is so quiet, inoffensive. You’re only focusing on the negative traits in his bloodline.”
Godric pinched his brow and suddenly looked exhausted. “Thea’s sister, Sibyl, was quiet too. And fearless. Cunning. Lethal for her age. Sibyl and Thea were Tarquin’s enforcers, as Eva has served Amleth. Do not be fooled, love. Those women were all gifted with Tarquin’s ruthlessness.”
Rosalyn contemplated the shepherd with his crown of auburn hair. “Blood doesn’t carry the code for people’s behavior. They made terrible choices.”
“Oh really?” he said. “You think you went berserker tonight and calmed yourself by choice? No, dear. You’ve gained my iron-clad control – far more than Eric ever received. I can attest that he had to learn every bit of his restraint the hard way.”
“What’s your point?” she asked testily. “You don’t want me to feel guilty about going medieval on the Tarquinii? Or maybe you’re trying to convince yourself that violence and cruelty are the only gifts you’ve given me.”
Godric was not entirely sure he knew. He wanted her to stop romanticizing a long dead king. Wanted her to pick her fights without regret. Wanted her wisdom before a showdown for which he himself still felt unprepared. He covered her hand with his. “Battle is fought in the grey teeth of your mind, not in blood and steel. Are you ready?” She swallowed and her gaze unfixed as she tried to process the prospect. When she did not answer, he replied softly for her. “Not so ready to bear arms just yet, are you, my Warrior Wife?”
She shook her head. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” He bent down and tipped her chin to meet his eyes. “I will not proceed without your approval. Do we continue on to Athens?”
She studied him warily, then looked back at the shepherd in the painting. “There is no way we’re backing down now. I want this finished. I meant what I said. I’ll help. It terrifies me, but I’ll do it.”
His movement was sudden. He swept her into a kiss that reached her toes. Just as quickly, he released her. “Thank you,” he said, sounding almost pained.
“You’re happy I agreed,” she concluded.
He smiled a broken smile. “No, I am blessed. I have a wife who believes that even bad men like Tarquin and I deserve justice.” He rose quickly and left the table, lest he start to get emotional. There was still more to do before they left. Packing. Instructing the humans on security protocols. And he needed to write a letter.
Rosalyn picked up the painting and settled it back on its hook on the wall. Adjusting it, she let out a determined hum. “A saint you’re not, Godric. But you’re more than enough for me.”
The turn off Hummingbird Lane was poorly marked. Godric drove cautiously up to the Stackhouse family home in Bon Temps, windows rolled down. He scented for unwanted guests on the humid breeze. There was water nearby, and a cemetery. The rotten treacle sweet of old death was unmistakable. From the backseat of the SUV, Sookie made a noise in dismay. “Oh, cheese and rice!”
Godric slammed on the breaks. “What’s wrong?”
She gestured at the graveled country road ahead of them. “Amleth had the driveway done!” She sounded scandalized.
Godric looked over at Rosalyn in disbelief before cutting his gaze back up to the rearview mirror. “It was Eric who had it paved. Try to sound appreciative when you thank him.”
“Um, it looks good,” Michael offered.
Sookie’s mouth puckered and she sunk back into her seat. “He really shouldn’t have. It’s the expensive kind like the Bellfleurs have.” Godric pulled up to the old farmhouse. The home sagged in its footprint in the grassy lot. The spongy ground was never truly dry here. Motion-sensor lights ticked on at the corners of the house. “Those are new too,” Sookie muttered.
Outside, Godric poked around the side yard, nose tipped in the air. He was armed with one of Rosalyn’s Britlingen-style swords and it rang out as he drew it apprehensively off his back. Sookie dashed up the porch steps and started yanking out the weeds that had taken over her potted ferns. “Everything seem right?” she asked him.
“Fine,” he called over his shoulder. It seemed normal, if normal was a hair-raising sense that Bon Temps sat on an invisible ley line steeped in ancient magicks. It thrilled under his skin like an electric current. Rosalyn did not seem to notice. He kept half an eye on her, relieved that she had accepted what must be done, but still cautious about her general state of agitation. The last thing they needed was an incident. He side-stepped a patch of grass that had been rolled in and marked. “Your shifter friend has been here recently,” he told Sookie.
“As long as Sam didn’t pee on Gran’s roses, we’re good,” the blonde grumbled.
Michael gestured toward the door. “Uh, actually Sookie, speaking of taking a leak, could I…?”
Sookie let him inside, apologizing profusely for the dust. “Use the lacy hand towel on the rack, hon. That’s for guests.”
“Which ones are for roommates?” he teased. They would be bunking down in Bon Temps until their vampire guardians returned. A costly security detail had been arranged, whether Sookie liked it or not.
Rosalyn followed, curious about the supernatural side-effects of her condition. An invisible barricade stopped her at the entryway. “May I come in?” she asked.
“It’s not that I don’t trust you,” Sookie said awkwardly. “It’s just…vampires tend to bring a lot of drama with them.” She shrugged helplessly, as if she had no control over her prejudice. Godric pivoted in astonishment and lowered his sword. His House had sheltered her, and yet she would not return the favor for someone based on their ‘difference’. Southern hospitality at its finest.
Rosalyn dropped her head, and in an instant Godric materialized by her side. He set a grounding hand on her shoulder. “You live among a lot of memories here,” he observed. The interior of the house smelled of wood polish and humid books and a hundred years of deep-fried Southern cooking. Sookie made a noise in agreement. Silently, Godric asked whether Rosalyn was alright.
“Go on,” she reassured him.
“You do not attack her,” he ordered, too quiet for human ears. She gave him a reassuring nod, and he made his way across the slope of the yard to the forest.
Rosalyn toed the white gravel edging the lawn. “You’re worried about the cost of regrading the road the next time it needs it,” she guessed. Sookie’s expression hardened. “I’m sorry Eric didn’t ask you about the driveway first. It must feel like a violation of your space.”
“It don’t feel great, that’s for sure.” She stared off the porch.
“Look, I know Eric was high-handed about it, but if he thought it was important -“
“He probably just doesn’t want to ding his fancypants car,” Sookie snapped.
Rosalyn paused. “Sure. Or maybe it’s because emergency service vehicles can’t get in here easily and he was worried about your safety.”
“I’m sorry, but Eric doesn’t think about anybody but himself.”
The vampiress spun around. “He’s a Sheriff, Sookie. Putting the community first is literally his job description. It wouldn’t hurt to ask him nicely about his intentions face-to-face.”
“I would if I’d known what his intentions were! Anyways, what’s it to you?”
“Everything,” she growled.
Sookie jumped back with a squeak and Godric laughed to himself. It pleased him to no end to hear her fiercely defend Eric. Still, he figured he ought to interrupt their stand-off before Sookie reaped what she sowed. “The Fae portal is by the old oaks?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Sookie hollered, still glaring at his wife. “You’re almost there. Keep going, it’s maybe twenty yards out from where you’re standing.”
Godric pressed into the woods alone. A shiver ran up his arms. Gazing about, he could not see it, but he sensed it. Long ago, someone had warded the area. The inked spell on his bicep tingled. “Come show me,” he called.
They found him peering up at the largest tree in the stand. He placed his hand on it gently and spoke secret words into its bark. The woods around them fell silent.
Sookie made a face in confusion. “The portal is over there.”
“Just paying my respects,” he said. An owl called out and Godric smiled inwardly. He stroked the ancient tree before turning to the spot Sookie had pointed out. He pulled out a letter. It was addressed to the Fae Prince in his spidery hand and sealed with thick red wax. Indented into the wax was the sigil of their House. “Keep back,” he warned. Tentatively, hesitantly, he pushed the letter forward, holding it between two fingers. He poked at the air with it, as though there might be some invisible mail slot. Nothing happened. “Ms. Stackhouse, would you mind?”
Sookie waved the envelope at the empty air. “I don’t think they’re open for business.” No sooner had she spoken than a breeze picked up, rustling the trees and swaying the lazy snarls of Spanish moss. The letter vanished from her fingers with a whoosh.
“No way!” Michael said, whipping his head around in disbelief. He clapped a hand over his mouth. Sookie dusted off her hands, unimpressed. “C’mon Michael. I could use a hand with the bags,” she said.
Godric lingered with Rosalyn, breathing in the night. The moonlight filtered purple through the leaves, bathing their skin in an ethereal glow. He felt Rosalyn’s eyes on him as he reached out to another tree. “What are you?” she asked reverently.
He gave a gentle smile. “Yours.”
She went to ask something more, but thought better of it. Sebek and their family were waiting for them. Godric offered her his elbow and they made their way back up toward the brightly lit house.
A/N: Thoughts? Theories? OMGodrics? I hope you enjoyed a little bit of magic to temper the red haze of revenge. Buckle up, because the crew is headed to Athens and it’s about to get real. Who knows what they are going to find?! I know you still have questions, and I promise these are going to get resolved in due course. Thanks to each and every one of you who have commented. It’s great to hear your reactions and know you’re still following along. Reviewers get to bathe in the moonlight with Godric. xx, M