Rosalyn struggled to zip herself into the floor length gown. When she finally wrestled it on, she was momentarily stunned by the vision she saw in the mirror. Silver beaded sequins and gentle swooping lines had somehow transformed her into a luminescent, ethereal creature. She was loathe to admit it, but Pam’s judgment had been spot-on.
They had argued viciously over the phone about her attire for the ball. When Pam unilaterally declared that Rosalyn would be wearing the couture dress she had ordered or nothing at all, there was little point in arguing with the bossy vampiress. She did not want to test just how literally Pam meant the threat. Rosalyn was pretty certain that was a fight she would lose.
The dress had arrived at the ritzy New Orleans hotel early that morning packed in layers of tissue paper with sprigs of lavender. She supposed the herbs were meant to help cover the scents of the many hands that had been involved in creating the one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Rosalyn shuddered to think of the exorbitant cost. At least she pulled it off. She had been concerned that such a fancy piece of clothing would wear her rather than the other way around.
She was ready well before it was time to go, which left her plenty of time to grow anxious. Rosalyn jumped when she heard her phone ping with a text message. She dreaded that something would go wrong. It was just Eric confirming that everything was set. Ros paced her room, trying to calm herself. She was finally going to see Godric. But would he be pleased to see her?
The first guests began to arrive. Eric was double checking his playlist at the DJ table when he saw Godric stroll in across Sophie-Anne’s enormous garden courtyard. “Oh what the hell!” he said, throwing down his earphones. Early on, he had decided that he would cover his giddiness about tonight by pretending to be an absolute beast. It would certainly be nothing new for him.
“Good to see you too, child.”
“God dammit, Godric. Where is your tie? It’s a black-tie event!”
“They let me in, no?” Godric’s custom Tom Ford suit was immaculately pressed. The lines showed off his broad shoulders and narrow waist. But his dress shirt was unbuttoned at the throat and his hair tousled from flying.
“You did this just to spite me, didn’t you? You always do this!”
Godric stood impassively, hands jammed deep into his pockets. “Are you quite finished?”
“No, I’m livid. I ask you to do one simple thing for me and you refuse. I swear on Odin’s beard that every single time…”
“Leave the old gods out of this. Here.” Godric reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a little black silk roll. “I didn’t want it to get wrinkled.” Eric gave him an icy look. “Relax. I haven’t seen you this nervous since the Third Witch War. I have your back.”
Eric quickly knotted the tie. He slipped it around Godric’s neck a little rougher than necessary. His maker merely chuckled and adjusted the knot so he was not being choked.
“Sophie-Anne got wind that you might attend and she wants you to make a speech,” Eric said.
“Absolutely not. I hate giving speeches.”
“No, you suck at giving speeches, that’s different. But still, I want you to get up there and say a few words. Make them dig deep into their wallets. Politically, it is a good move for us and you’ll be able to best scan the crowd while you’re on stage.”
“Please. Just do it. No more arguing. I’ll even write out a few words so you don’t have to think about it.”
Godric grunted his displeasure. “Fine. Where’s Pamela?”
“She’s stuck backstage, but I’ve got security all over her. She’ll be okay.”
Godric scanned the growing crowds. The night was still young and so were the partygoers. There was not a single creature in the palace that he could not kill within seconds. The ancients would arrive later. These were the vampires he would watch most closely, the ones that posed the greatest threat. In the meantime, it seemed like a pleasant sort of event. Servers in white livery milled about with shiny chrome trays offering blood cocktails. The air was filled with the scent of fresh cut flowers. “You’ve fed tonight?” Godric inquired.
“Do you want me to top you up?” he said absentmindedly. He was counting the number of werewolves stationed near the exits.
“What? No! Fuck. Are you crazy? You are pale enough as it is.” Godric froze. He had accidentally brought up the uncomfortable subject. “They’re not serving synthetic,” Eric said hastily. “Can I order you something?”
“I’m going to walk the perimeter and then say hello to Pamela. Let me know when you want me on stage.
“Whatever.” Eric spun around and returned to fussing with the cables at his DJ booth.
“Ladies and gentlemen, creatures of the night and human companions, we are so pleased to welcome you to this evening’s charity ball!” Sophie-Anne trilled her introduction at the audience.
Godric stood in the wing offstage with Pamela, nervously flicking the cue card Eric had written out for him over and over with the edge of his thumb. “You look so handsome tonight, Grandsire,” Pam whispered. The compliment caught him off guard.
“Smashing. It reminds me of Paris in the roaring ‘20s. Remember?” She smoothed the flop of hair he had grown out into a shapely coif. “There. Debonair as ever.”
“Oh. Thanks,” he said. He went to say something, but another round of clapping drew his attention back to the dreaded stage. A series of famous vampires and other respected elders paraded across it, each offering compassionate words about the importance of giving newly turned progeny the best possible start in their undead lives. “What is the School of Night Fund actually for?” he asked the blonde at his side.
Pam was taken by surprise. “To help baby vamps…you know…learn our ways, be the best vampires they can be and so on,” she said, keeping it as vague as possible.
“Oh,” he said, furrowing his brow. Something imprecise nagged at him in the back of his mind.
When it was his turn, Godric strode over to the podium in his typical unassuming way. His appearance sent a wave of murmurs through the crowd. There were a number of elders in attendance. All ‘felt’ old, but Godric’s dark aura of ancient power was unique – the stuff of legends. He fumbled with the microphone, trying to bring it down to his level. It let out a horrid screech of feedback noise over the speakers. Everyone stood rapt, fascinated to see what The Boy Death would say.
Which was exactly why Godric detested these sort of scenarios.
“Good evening. I am Godric of…” He blinked several times. The powerful lights blinded him to the audience beyond. He could not see a single face. To Hell with the stage being a strategic surveillance point. He felt marooned. “…of Texas,” he stumbled, nearly saying the wrong kingdom. “…where I am Sheriff of Area Nine.” He glanced down at the card. The spotlight glaring down at him had seared into his sensitive retinas creating a phantom image that refused to disappear. The amorphous fuzzy blob blotted out Eric’s neat handwriting. He could not read a thing. He frantically blinked again to clear his vision, to no avail. He tucked the card away and folded his hands behind his back. In the DJ booth, Eric saw his maker abandon the script. Shit. He was going to try to riff.
“I had something prepared to say tonight, but I think it is best if I speak instead from the plain truth of my experience and not some eloquent but no doubt canned speech. Forgive me if my words seem unrefined. I am an old vampire, as I’m sure you can tell, and I come from a time when life was short and deeds meant more than anything one might say.” He took the microphone out of its cradle and walked along the proscenium towards the audience. Everyone in the front visibly retracted, stepping a pace or two back.
Double shit. Eric was about to panic. He could pull the plug on the AV system if Godric went too off the rails weird. He had his hand on the master plug, ready.
“I see you younglings before me, so new, so tender.” Godric sat down, letting his legs dangle off the edge of the stage. His soft voice and near submissive position were a complete act, but it drew the crowd back in. “Perhaps you are wondering what truth I have discovered after two millennia. I will disappoint you. There are no secrets to surviving as long as I have.”
Suddenly the moist bayou breeze shifted. A faint scent in the air distracted him and he momentarily forgot what he was saying. But no, it couldn’t be.
Godric frowned, falling into uncomfortable silence. “Giving one’s sacred blood does not make you a maker. It is what you do in the days and months and years and centuries afterwards. To guide, to teach, to lead by example, to allow one’s child the freedom to succeed – and the space to fail – none of these things come naturally. The same goes for being a worthy progeny. It takes work to become great. It requires commitment and focus and time. If there is no single secret to eternity, it is because we must eternally adapt and evolve and learn.”
One could have heard a pin drop in the audience. They were hanging on his every word.
“In many ways, I was born the night I turned my child.” A little smile threaded across his face, recalling the exact moment Eric came to life as a vampire. There were gasps and tears in the audience. “I have grown and changed every night since, as has he. I had nothing and no one to help me teach my progeny, but times have changed and so must we. Together we can help young vampires…and the elderly.”
The words came out of his mouth without planning them. They were the same that he and his desert blossom had spoken to each other nearly half a year ago. The breeze picked up again and he realized he was not imagining things. She was here. Rosalyn was here, somewhere in the crowd. And this cause…this was hers.
The puzzle pieces suddenly clicked together.
This was a setup. Eric, that bastard. He lied to him. Godric looked out into the darkness where he knew his child was and glared viciously. “As you might imagine, as a maker, I needed all the help I could get raising my little hellion of a Viking.” There were a few knowing chuckles in the audience. Mostly there was silence as folks imagined how terrifying it would have been to have Death as their master. “But, I think you may know, I too had a little bit of a reputation to work through.” People howled in laughter. “Which is why this fundraiser is so important. Makers and progeny need support. They need access to quality education. Tonight, let’s make sure they get it.” Godric paused. A devious ribbon of a smile slithered across his face. “I am pleased to announce that for every pledge made tonight, my son, Sheriff of Louisiana’s own Area Five, will match it – dollar for dollar – with his own contribution. Thank you.”
Godric jumped to his feet as nimbly as a cat and plunked the mic back in its stand. He walked off the stage to the sound of roaring applause. He breezed by Pamela, ignoring her completely. Her jaw hung wide.
The famous French DJ who was meant to spin with Eric was shaking the vampire by the arm, trying to get him to start the music. Eric was stock still in shock. Finally, the human shoved past him and started working the record tables, flooding the courtyard with pulsing dance beats.
It took nearly thirty minutes for Godric to make his way through the sea of faces congratulating him on his thoughtful speech and the extraordinary generosity of his family. The guests bowed and curtsied in deep respect. But every single person stayed out of arm’s reach of the infamous elder. Only a few dared to look him directly in the eyes.
When Godric finally neared the DJ booth, Eric abandoned his station to hiss into his maker’s ear. He pulled Godric into the small tent that hid the tangle of wires and AV equipment. The tent would shield them from view. “You’ve bankrupted us!”
“What?” Godric drew back in mock surprise. “No, I’ve done no such thing. I’ve bankrupted you.” Eric tried for words but failed. He had known that there would be blowback when Godric figured out that he had been manipulated, but this? This was staggering. “I doubt they’ll raise much more than a half a billion tonight. That will hardly make a dent in things.”
“I’ll have to sell off some of our most prized treasures! The Da Vinci, maybe, or Caesar’s gold.”
“And none so priceless as you!” Godric barked, making his child cower. He yanked off the loathsome tie constricting his throat and, whipping it around Eric’s neck, pulls his child within inches of his face. He fell into old Norse, lest anyone nearby understand their conversation. “You made me believe you were in danger! I’ve been worried sick for weeks now, thinking your life was at risk. I was prepared to take the state. To kill every last monarch here if need be! Do you even realize how many assassins are here, awaiting my orders? I was ready to start a war for a little boy who cried wolf!” He released the makeshift garrote and hurled the tie at Eric.
“Am I not allowed the same? I’d do far worse if it meant saving you from whatever abyss you’ve let yourself fall into! Things haven’t been right with you for decades. You won’t tell me what is wrong. You won’t let me in. And when someone finally manages to get through your inscrutable head, you command me to silence.”
“I knew you would interfere. I was relying on you to interfere. I just…I didn’t think you’d go so far. Do not ever do this again.”
“Blood of my blood,” Eric gasped, “I will do anything it takes to protect you. Even if it is from yourself. Especially if that is what I’m up against.”
Godric let his head fall back. He had pushed his child to desperation. Something stirred inside him. “Do I really seem so far gone to everyone?” The defeated look on Eric’s face was all the answer he needed. “I…oh…” It was a shocking realization.
Godric stepped back out into the balmy night air and let his gaze drift around the party. He should have realized all the tasteful catering and décor was Pam’s doing. Pleasant fountains trickled and floating candles bobbed on their surface, giving off soft, twinkling light. Tables were draped in delicate swags of cabbage roses and ranunculus. Even the gold embossed invitation should have tipped him off. It was all too lovely. All of this was for him.
And for her. For Rosalyn.
“Tell me something. Was it her?” He hesitated, fearing disappointment. “Did she send the postcards?”
“Yes, maker,” Eric said. He placed a hand on Godric’s shoulder.
A faint glitter of mischief alighted in Godric’s sea green eyes. It quickly darkened with suspicion. “Did you compel her?”
“No. It was all her, obviously. She speaks to you in a way I do not understand, but it makes you happy. You deserve to be happy, Godric. I merely gave her your address.”
“And she is here of her own accord?”
“Barring my ‘arrangements’?” he said. “Yes, of course.” Eric gambled on what he said next. “Go to her.”
Godric’s mouth twitched. He considered the crushing temptation to steal the woman away and indulge his most private fantasies. All too quickly a shudder of horror coursed through him. Eric saw the gooseflesh rise on the back of Godric’s neck. “I will hurt her. I can only give her pain.”
Eric turned Godric to face him, gently, in case he reacted poorly to being further manhandled. “Maker, I say this with a millennium of love and respect between us. You are wrong. You are wrong and you have stopped listening to your own advice. You are refusing to move on.” Godric’s eyes flickered up at his lanky child. “I thought for a while that you were simply taking your sweet time because you wanted to savor the hunt. She’s the only thing that has interested you in a century. But you’re not hunting her. You’re letting something fleeting and precious slip through your fingers and it’s the most self-indulgent thing I’ve ever seen you do.”
“That’s preposterous. I’ve done disgusting, horrible -”
“No. This will be the worst. Because if you reject her, you are rejecting yourself. You think you cloak yourself so cleverly in the bond, but I know you. I feel that darkness I knew once in you. I sense that monster again. And you’ve embraced him, Godric. Only this time, you’ve unleashed that destructiveness on yourself. You are giving up on living completely. You are choosing Death over all of us.”
Eric had run full-speed into a wall. There was nothing left but brutal honesty and the hope that things were not as bleak as they might seem. This was not at all how he imagined this night proceeding.
“Child,” Godric said. “Eiríkr…” He shaded his eyes with long, curling lashes. For a brief moment, Eric thought his maker was going to contradict him. “You are perfect. My masterpiece.” Godric sucked in a ragged breath, his voice thick with pride – and pain. “I fulfilled my promise. I taught you everything I know.”
Godric confirmed his worst fears. Eric felt the delicate filaments of his world begin to shatter. He grasped his maker’s arms with white knuckles, trembling, terrified to let go. His eyes welled with crimson tears. He tried to master the searing tangle of emotions that rocketed through their bond, but he could not. His maker’s words overwhelmed him – for the compliment so grand it defied belief and for the devastating implication hidden in between. “You would not…”
“For two millennia, I have taken from this world. I have taken untold amounts of life. I took you, Eric. There is no more purpose for me. I have nothing to give her.”
The declaration felt like a twist of a knife in Eric’s belly. His desperation turned to anger. “You’re so fucking starved you aren’t thinking clearly! You don’t even know what she wants from you! Why don’t you ask her? You are many things, but I’ve never known you to be such a stupendous coward!” Godric growled in protest. “March your ancient ass over there like the man you are and ask that human what you can give her. And good fucking luck, too, because I can’t figure her out. She’s just like you, Godric. This was the best I could manage.” Eric gestured to splendid charity ball around them. “If it costs me every dime I’ve ever saved it is worth it.”
Godric’s jaw was set hard and his nostrils flared in anger. “Decide,” Eric said. “Tonight. Right now. Choose to live or I will leave.” Tears streaked down his face. Never before had it come to such dire ultimatums. “Snäll Goðrík.”
The diminutive Celt shifted uncomfortably. Eric had fallen to his knees in supplication. Godric’s hand unwittingly ran through his progeny’s soft, gold-spun hair. “Just…ask?” he said. Eric nodded against Godric’s abdomen.
Godric pulled him to his feet and pushed a handkerchief to his chest. When Eric spins around, he saw Godric walking calmly through the crowd. With determination. With renewed purpose.
A/N: Special thanks go to Royal Ember, who listens to me whine about my plot, cry about sad!Godric, and encourages me with unflagging enthusiasm to write more awkward!Godric.
*Snäll Goðrík = Please Godric.
Please leave a review. Reviewers get to see just how adorable awkward!Godric can really be. Especially without pants. **squee**