Ch. 7 “Beserker”

 

{In Runic Norse}

Godrik has just finished reviewing my first attempt at documenting our early days together. He seems pleased, although he says the censors would clap me in silver for the lewdness of certain passages. He says this to me with one of those secretive smiles, so I suspect he’s not concerned overmuch. He also made a great many corrections to my runes. I should be galled at being so thoroughly remonstrated in my mother tongue, but I kind of like seeing his blue ink scribbled all over my black penmanship. It reminds me of his tattoos. He has asked me to continue my journal, this time trying out my barely passable Latin. I have to stop frequently to ask for the right words and I am struggling with the verb tenses. Amleth tells me these are called “declensions.” He can decline my perfect arse, as far as I am concerned. This is not especially my forte and I’ve hardly heard anyone actually use this language yet. Anyways, here goes, with apologies in advance, maker mine, for the shifty verb tenses and blocky prose. It is not an easy episode to convey.


{In Latin}

Note: Correction by the author for Gregorian calendar conversion. This was probably mid-April 752. Fucking humans. Signed, E., 1582 A.D.

May 752.

Spring breaks through the frozen crust of the north country. The ground is crunchy slush under our boots. My preternatural senses, bored by the endless expanses of snow and ice, delight in every sign of the coming season. Here and there patches of snowdrops and crocuses sprout up, promising to carpet the valleys in a profusion of color and scent. Eight months of brutal winter was difficult to survive as a hardened warrior; now as a draug it is tortuously lifeless and dull. This new body craves stimulation, purpose.

I do not pretend my desires have much sway with my maker, for his indecipherable reasons are always his own. Decimating the Roskilde court certainly helped speed along his decision. But Norns be praised, we are headed south with Amleth in tow. The foreign terrain, with all its strange aromas and sights, has me ecstatic.

Godrik insists that we take the journey slowly – strolling at what feels like a lazy pace. Over a matter of weeks, we wend our way through the Danelands and into Germania.

“Places change slowly, young ones. You have eternity to explore the world. And they’ll only ever be new once,” he warns. “Savor it.”

Amleth listens with rapt attention and acts as much a student as me, though he is older and seems to be somewhat familiar with these lands. We nod soberly at Godrik’s lesson and I try to understand. My maker has traced these worn pathways for a millennium and a half. There is little mystery left for him in the world. I want to be that mystery for him; I want to fill him with my own awe. I indulge him with a barrage of questions and am rewarded when he loses himself in an enthusiastic explanation. I don’t tell him how young he looks like this, but I relish it. Perhaps it is a fair trade – my embarrassing ignorance for a glimpse at his once youthful exuberance.

[-Do not quarrel with me on this point, Godrik, you promised these are my memoirs. I shall write things as I see them. If you dare scratch out those lines, I’ll burn this parchment and it will be the end of this journal experiment of yours.-]

Where was I? Oh yes…

Occasionally Godrik points out an especially distinct feature for us to memorize: an oddly shaped series of hillocks, a particular convergence of streams, a string of cities in the distance. Sometimes he accompanies these observations with random snippets from his past.

“I once ate that village,” he gestures to a small hamlet. “They used to make a particular sort of soft cheese there in great quantities. Gave everyone’s blood a funny creamy taste. It was irresistible.” He pauses in thought. “I guess we will just have to go to west to Gaul if we want that kind of blood now.”

I grow increasingly frustrated with this kind of weird commentary from him. It is too obtuse for my liking. Instead, I air my arrogance and grill him about what I think is interesting.

“Maker, tell us about Greece in its heyday. Amleth says…”

The sentence is not out of my mouth before Godrik disappears into the horizon with a blur, putting a great distance between us.

“Shhh, Eirikr! Don’t say Amla says this and Amla says that. Do you know how you sound? Godrik is an elder. Just shut up and listen to him!”

“But I don’t….”

“SHUT UP!” he hisses, jerking a fistful of my hair. “We are too young to even know what we should want to know. You are too eager sometimes.”

“Godrik likes my eagerness!”

“He likes your pretty arse, you dumb blond savage.”

I hurl an especially foul curse at him.

He gives me a sudden, sharp slap and jams a finger in my face in warning. “Case and point! That nasty mouth of yours needs improvement. Immediately. Curse at me again and I’ll break your jaw, underling.” He says the latter with an extra dose of condescension. Furious, I spit in his face then wrench from his grip and huff off to catch up with my maker.

Godrik says nothing.

Amleth’s reprimand, I gather, is sanctioned. The insult stays under my skin.

The next night, we are in a barn amongst several oblivious cows and sheep. They sleepily munch on their cud with hot breath while we make a feast of the other tenants in the structure. Godrik catches me off guard when he moans and pulls away from the shepherd boy he has chosen.

“This one is good,” he says, licking his lips. “Amleth, come try him.” Across the hayloft I see him oblige. Godrik places a gentle hand on his back and rubs circles across his shoulders as he takes greedy draughts of his reward. Neither pay any attention to me and it has the distinctly chilly feeling of a snub. I feel a hollow knot form in the pit my stomach.

Part of me knows Amleth was right, but I do not understand why. And I don’t appreciate his attempts to help me, nor do I have any intention of letting him steal Godrik’s favor. It puts me in a thoroughly nasty mood.

The insult begins to simmer. I channel the energy into a corner I keep for future plans. It stays there for some time, no more than a kernel of an idea. It has no shape, only a taste and a request. It is bitter. And it wants revenge.

Admittedly, when this toxic little seed finally comes to fruition, it had never been very well tended. I do not say that as a regret. It was simply a bad fucking idea, start to finish.

In fact, the entire thing sounds thoroughly ludicrous after the fact. But of course, I did not realize it in the thick of my anger. There were many things I did not realize at the time, it turns out.

It all came to a head in a place once known as Baudobriga, lately called Boppard. The town itself is a Frankish settlement built atop a Roman military outpost set just outside of an old Celtic stronghold. At least, this is how Godrik remembers it. The landscapes and languages are all layered upon one another, you see, sealed and yet separated by the yarns of the tapestry that is his mind. I will never forget this place, nor the lessons I learned there.

Baudobriga, Baudobriga. I much prefer this name. It sounds so melodic when it tumbles out of Godrik’s beautiful mouth in his deep, lilting base tones. Bow-doh-bREE-ga. He pronounces the syllables in their true form, the way the Celts spoke them when they first bequeathed the ground with a word.

To me, it is a place where steep green hills are threaded almost perpetually with mist. They loom over the Rhine with a heavy calm, sheltering the sluggish river down below as it coils back upon itself. On the western bank, the air smells thickly of wet pine. If you cross it, however, the acrid scent of pitch from the shipyards overwhelms everything. It is cloying and smoky and laced with the equally rank aroma of dank, rotting fishnets. This is my first Baudobriga, in the early spring of 752.

As we approach, Amleth and I bicker about something idiotic; the relative length of our fangs or some such. It begins in jest, but our insults quickly become barbed. He walks atop a low wall, precariously leaping from loose stone to stone. The mortar has long since crumbled away and he teeters and flails. I snort at his antics, hoping he’ll fall, which only encourages him to jump more wildly. He embellishes his steps with raucous spins and graceful twirls, whipping his travel cloak about him. Even through my determination to see him hurt for flaunting his superior strength and age over me, I am galled that his leonine movements are still so damned entrancing.

“You and your walls,” Godrik quips.

“What does he mean, Tarquinson?” I demand.

“Oh, nothing. Your old man never tires of reminding me of my humble beginnings. I grew up near a wall like this in Britain.”

“The wrong side, if you ask me,” Godrik retorts.

“You’re a Celt too?” The creeping twist of jealousy wells up in the pit of my stomach.

I realize suddenly with a shock that Amleth looks suspiciously like….

That silken black hair and those blazing green eyes are like…

My mind keeps running aground of one of the strongest commands Godrik has given me: We do not speak of him. We do not even think about him.

The command blocking me from considering my grandsire gives my thoughts a jagged, fractured feeling and so I focus on something simpler. Amleth is a Celt! To Hel with his undead bloodlines – Amleth’s human ties made him practically blood kin to my maker. Godrik could be his ancestor, for all we knew. Godrik is mine. Only mine! I suddenly want to destroy every living Celt who could claim a relation to my maker, beginning with the one in front of me.

The fire of bloodlust rockets through my veins and I go to jump. The barely caged animal in me wants to tear out Amleth’s throat. End him, it screams. But before I can even bend my knees, my maker has me pinned to the ground.

‘No,’ is all I hear in the bond.

His gaze is ferocious for a long moment. “Tarquin found him in Cumbria,” he explains quietly. “It is a land of many lakes, south of what is known as Hadrian’s wall. He is Roman by birth and most certainly in death, the poor fool.”

When I finally relax under his unyielding grip, he releases me.

Amleth hesitates, shifting nervously. He isn’t entirely sure what just happened. “May I tell him?”

Godrik shrugs. “Your secrets are yours to tell or not.” He shoots me another chilling look in warning.

Amleth hops down from the wall and loops an arm freely around mine. “The only blood that matters is your maker’s now. You know that, silly.”

I grunt, not quite yet given over to the idea. He jostles me in a friendly way, trying to shake me out of my funk.

“Don’t be so cross. I know you’re still angry that I hit you. Will it make us even if I tell you a secret?”

I remain silent.

“Oh c’mon laddy,” he says, falling into a well-hidden Scots brogue I hadn’t known he possessed. “It’s a good one.”

“Out with it, then,” I grind out.

“In me first life, unbeknownst to me, I was a distant descendent of the Fae.”

He paused, searching my face for effect, as if the revelation is supposed to mean something.

“I am a bastard, very-much-diluted, and now very undead, fairy!” He says cheerfully, effortlessly switching back into his usual, silken accent.

“Okay?” I say.

Amleth breaks into laughter. “No one else much cared either until Master Tarquin found me in the dodgy part of my hometown one night. He trapped me and said I was the best smelling snack he’d caught wind of in a century. Carted me off as a gift for this one here.” He gestures to Godrik. “Not before putting a few holes in me, mind you. More than a few, actually.”

“Godrik mentioned something about fairy blood.”

“My fae heritage is probably responsible for a few of my abilities.” He pauses, looking sheepish, and turns to Godrik for help.

“It’s why no creature of the night can tear their eyes away from him,” the Celt coolly explains. “Why even his dead blood somehow seems interesting. He is graced with enigmatic charm.”

My mouth falls open. That beguiling bastard. No wonder I am virtually attached to him at the hip despite wanting to strangle him half the time. It explains why Godrik avoids looking at him. But then, I think, in a turn of entirely unsound reasoning, actively not looking at him is just as much an acknowledgment of wanting to look at him! I feel my bloodlust surge again.

“Told you it was a good secret.”

“Yes, which came at an exceedingly high price,” Godrik interjects. Amleth drops his eyes and presses his lips together in a tense line.

“The Fae Prince was less than pleased about even a long lost cousin many times removed being turned into a blood drinker,” he confesses.

“This turkey practically started up another inter-species war after he was made.” My maker throws an arm around his shoulders, effectively peeling him off of me. Amleth instantly moulds himself to Godrik’s side and nestles his head on his shoulder as they walk. The unruly feeling in my stomach twists tighter and my throat constricts.

I should have read it as a protective gesture – as Godrik wanting to get the wiry creature off of his unsteady child, knowing I was about to lash out again. I should have taken his actions as a move to comfort Amleth – a salve for old wounds between the two. But I did not. I only saw Amleth curling around my maker then as something possessive. Possession over what was mine.

Godrik sighs in annoyance. “Now Prince Niall won’t have anything to do with the Consul.”

“Why would the fairies – the Fae, I mean – want to be involved in our politics?” I ask through clenched teeth.

“Because we’re natural enemies. It serves everyone well to have at least a little communication. If they build their god damn portholes in our territories unknowingly it’s not our fault when our kind eats everything that pops out of them.”

“Portholes?”

“They live on another plane of reality. Kind of like the gods,” he explains.

“Seriously!?” I screech in disbelief.

“You didn’t tell him?” Amleth asks, lifting his head in surprise. He looks at me in amusement. “Oh, you’ll love this. Guess what? Odin is a total asshole,” he says and cracks up.

Hearing the sylph insult my people’s gods was all it took.

I snap.

Before I even knew what I was doing, I tackle Amleth and twist his arm until it makes a deliciously satisfying crunch.

“That’ll teach you to touch my maker you filthy dog! He’s MIIIIINE!” I scream in his face.

Amleth lay there limply, blinking in surprise. There isn’t an ounce of concern in his eyes. He is so goddamn beautiful I can’t stand it. I start pummeling him.

“Ow! Get off of me you miserable…ouch!…you stupid…unf!…son of a…” He easily holds me back with his good arm. It dawns on me that I’m throwing nearly my full strength at him.

Godrik intervenes only when Amleth finally grows annoyed enough to try biting me. I am pulled off in the nick of time by the scruff of my tunic.

“Enough of this stupidity. Apologize, Eirikr.”

“The fuck I will! He can suck my big…”

My knees suddenly meet the ground with such tremendous force it jars my vision.

“You will apologize and you will do it now! You just assaulted your liege lord.”

“Fuck him! I bow to no one!” I exclaim in defiance and tuck my chin in case Godrik decides to hit me.

“APOLOGIZE!” he roars, kicking me into the dirt at Amleth’s feet. The ear he has bellowed into is temporarily deafened and begins to bleed.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” I whimper into the damp soil.

“Tell him why!” Godrik bends down to yell in my face, as if I and every other creature for miles couldn’t hear him clearly.

“He provoked me!”

“Have you gone mad? What the Hel is wrong with you!?” Amleth demands haughtily, brushing the grass off his clothes.

“Silence,” Godrik barks and throws up a protective hand, warning him to keep his distance. It doesn’t matter that I have a knee ground into my back. It makes me feel ever so slightly better to hear Amleth put in his place.

“Tell him why this is unacceptable!”

Against my will, I’m chattering from the anger flooding our bond. It only furthers my humiliation. “I don’t know!”

“Think!” he orders.

“I’m sick of him showing off.”

“Wrong.”

“I don’t like him touching you all the goddamn time!”

Wrong,” Godrik stresses.

“He spoke ill of the gods!”

WRONG!” He’s back to yelling again.

I scream into the dirt. “I don’t know!”

“THINK!” he rails, pushing down on me.

“BLOOD!” I finally wail in frustration, accidentally sucking in a mouthful of dirt.

The weight on my back is suddenly lifted.

“And so it is. A bloodlusted yearling utterly OUT OF CONTROL! Get up, beserker.”

I find my feet rather unsteadily.

“Now look your friend in the eyes and tell him why you’re acting like the spawn of a demon instead of a child of Godrik.”

“Bloodlust,” I mutter, only glancing at Amleth.

“I forgive you,” he offers a little too quickly.

“Great,” I say unenthused.

“It happens to us all. I should have realized.”

I grunt.

“Telling you about my heritage – I wasn’t trying to show off. I truly wish for us to be like brothers. Can we not?”

“Brothers,” I repeat mindlessly. The deep bruises to my spine and knees throb as they heal.

“Brother Eric,” Amleth announces, pleased. In the back of my head something preens at the Anglicization of my name. I like it, but I’d sooner burn in Sutur’s fiery breath than tell him that now.

“Fine,” I begrudgingly agree. I still want to punch him in the face. “Bror Amlóði.”

“Will you guard my secret?”

“Yes,” I grind out.

As if I have a choice, I think to myself. The look on Godrik’s face tells me this one was to go straight into my mental lockbox with all the other information I guard. At least I knew the reasoning behind this secret. I didn’t understand 90% of what I was commanded to remain silent about.

“I’m happy to know you have my back in case the Fae come after me,” Amleth continues. “That was quite the little display you just put on.”

I make a rude gesture with my hand and try to walk off, wanting to cool down by myself. Rather than let me go, however, Godrik sends Amleth ahead and sits me down.

I get an earful that evening about taking responsibility for my impulses and the shoddy job I’ve done of feeding my instincts with unruly, pointless emotions. There was quite a long interlude about how, given the importance of his person and those he represented, Amleth could have reported me to the Consul or even executed me on the spot if he’d been so inclined. It all seemed fairly moot since he didn’t and I knew darn well he wouldn’t dare do anything to displease Godrik. How I managed to feel both completely insecure and overly confident about my maker is beyond me. When it was all said and done, I got a firm slap on the shoulder and a tussle to my hair. It was an amends of sorts and I should have let go of my ridiculous resentment and jealousy then and there.

But I did not.

-OOO-

For the next few days, we camp in the high hills above the sleepy town. One night I am tasked with getting more firewood and it ends up taking a while to locate anything that wasn’t sopping wet from the perpetual fog that seemed to live here. As I return, I hear Godrik and Amleth talking in low tones.

“… it wasn’t, was it?” Amleth says, his voice thick with grief.

“Must we go over this again?” Godrik chastises softly.

“No…you are right. You are always right.”

I sneak closer, treading silently. I was totally unprepared for the scene I stumble upon. Amleth is on his knees, his head in Godrik’s lap. He raises it and offers his swanlike neck to him.

“Take more.”

“It was plenty.”

“Please.”

Godrik caresses his cheek and says something too quiet to hear. Amleth stands then, looking upset. I make my presence known then and dump the wood by the fire pit, saying nothing.

The coil in my stomach tightens into resolve.

The next night, Godrik sends Amleth and I out to hunt alone. He does this occasionally, when his hunger lags. His lack of appetite – and the reason behind it – only further solidifies my determination. I seize the opportunity and talk Amleth into going to a brothel I’d heard about in a city to the south. He is deeply hesitant at first, so I lay it on thick, pointing out that our “brotherhood” would be firmly sealed if we shared a voluptuous woman with questionable morals. It would be a rite of passage, I argue. We would feast upon her and take her together. I tell him that it is all I have wanted since we first met in Denmark. It is a beautiful lie, wrapped in the thinnest veneer of truth. He relents and we set out.

The hunt is beyond excellent and we enjoy ourselves immensely, if for different reasons.

When we stroll merrily back into the clearing of our sylvan home in the hills, we are arm in arm and full of blood and sex and raunchy jokes. In the camp, Godrik is waiting for us, sitting stock still on a log. When he finally looks up at us, his gaze is cold and hard. Amleth freezes.

“What is it?” he asks, sounding fearful.

A low growl rolls threateningly out of the Celt. His fangs drop and he lowers his head further, looking unquestionably deadly.

“Oh gods. What have you done, Eirikr…” Amleth gasps.

“Just a little fun, my liege lord,” I quip, wringing my arm around his neck and giving him a peck.

A look of horror crosses his face.

“No…no, Eirikr,” he stammers in disbelief. “You didn’t…you would not have…”

I smile wickedly at him.

“You fool!” he yells, pushing me away. “Were you told not to go to Mainz?!”

I begin shaking with laughter, not at all seeing how dire the situation was. I expected we’d get thoroughly reamed out.

“Don’t you know Godrik gives you just enough rope to hang yourself with!?” Amleth screeches and twists back to my maker with a shocked hand over his mouth. He drops to his knees and presses his hands together in a trembling plea for mercy. I did not realize then how well acquainted he was with Godrik’s special brand of punishment.

My maker stands slowly, folding his arms across his chest. “When are you going to start listening to your friend, child? He keeps trying to help you and yet you grow more resentful of it by the day.”

“Oh lighten up, maker. It was a joke.”

In a blink he is millimeters from my face. “Am. I. Laughing…” he hisses.

Amleth tugs my legging in warning. He is shaking like a leaf. Godric snaps at him to get up.

“Get a branch. Yew or black locust. Very green and as long as my arm.”

When I see the thick piece of hardwood Amleth returns with, I start to grow anxious.

“Godr….?”

“Go stand facing that tree. Hands above your head.”

“Maker, you’re not going to…that could kill a man!”

Godrik looks at me in curiosity, the corners of his mouth turned down. “But you are not a man, are you?”

I feel ill.

“Tree. Now. You may not move. This I command!” He unleashes a wave of sickening fury at me through our bond.

With a few efficient passes of his dagger, he strips off the twigs and shoots from the limb. He then splits one end into thin sections, making an extremely lethal cane.

“Since you saw fit to defy me and seek out pointless danger, then pointless danger you shall have, children.”

Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew Godrik didn’t intend to kill me, but the fuller meaning of his words suddenly took shape. I could now survive all sorts of torture that would ordinarily kill a mortal, but it did not lessen that the fact that the experience would still be absolutely horrific.

From the corner of my eye I could see Amleth waiting for further instructions, head cowered in fear.

“Tell Eirikr your age, if you would.”

“I am not yet 300,” he responds in a whisper.

“And when, pray, did your master first send you on missions alone?”

“Well into my second century.”

“Indeed. Do you hear that, my son? He was, if I recall, 138 the first time he was allowed to leave his maker’s area,” Godrik seethes. He snaps the stick against his thigh in agitation. The spliced sections make a thwack that sends shivers of warning down my spine. “As I have no area, Eirikr, your place – by default – is at my side!”

He paces, trying to ratchet down his fury.

“Remind me, how many are there of you now in Tarquin’s bloodline?”

“Master has six progeny.”

“And how many should there be?”

Amleth’s voice wavers and cracks. “Nine, my lord.”

“Nine, Eirikr. A cautious and good maker has lost three of his children over the ages. Two of those came before Amleth here.” Godrik saunters up behind me and traces my backbone with the business end of his weapon. My instincts rear up against the command holding me in place and my fangs snap down into my lip, slicing it badly.

“How many other children are in my line, child?”

“None, maker.”

“How many children have I lost?”

“None, maker.”

“And how many, do you suppose, am I prepared to lose?”

“None, maker,” I sputter, lips reddened with my own blood.

“Amleth, do I do anything in half measures?”

“No…” he says gloomily. “No you do not…”

Godrik turns back to me. Dread was practically pouring out of my pores. “That city you so desperately needed to go feed in? That city which I forbade you to enter? That damnable place which you thought yourself clever enough to trick Amleth into accompanying you to? Last I knew, Mainz was run by a double-agent thug of a draug who betrayed my allies and would happily cause me trouble again.”

“I did not know, maker! We saw no others,” I cried.

“I know!” he screams.

“Shit,” I mutter. Of course he had followed us.

“Why do you think this blood drinker enemy of mine has not met the true death?”

“I do not know, sire.”

“He is a good few centuries older than me. There is always someone older. There is always someone craftier or with unseen friends. At your piddling age, there is always, always danger! You are immortal, not invincible! Do not ever confuse the two.”

“I apologize, maker. To you and to Amleth. It was wrong,” I blurt out, hoping to circumvent my punishment.

“You are not your own to do with as you please! You are your maker’s creation. You are mine. Do not ever forget that. You will remember the pain of my disappointment the rest of your days, this I swear.” Godrik steps closer. “Do not think I enjoy all your firsts, child,” he whispers into my shoulders.

Before I can ready myself, Godrik strikes. I hear the crack of wood against flesh first and foremost. It is so impossibly fast and violent that it takes a long moment before my nerves can even comprehend the shock of pain. When they do, I am suddenly on fire. It is so intense, so engulfing, that the brutality has no dimension. A searing, screaming heat rages from everywhere and I think irrationally that he’s switched his stick out for a sword. I actually look down at my chest, expecting to see myself rent in two.

“Get up,” he demands, his voice emotionless. I try and find I cannot move. My vertebrae have yet to realign. The scent of my own blood perfumes the air, taunting me.

“GET UP!” he bellows. “Must I command you to follow my every order? Do as I say!”

I am grateful for the tree in that moment. I dig my fingers into the spongy bark and drag myself upright, clinging on for dear life.

“For going to a place that I explicitly told you to avoid, twenty lashes. For going somewhere unknown without me or my knowledge, another twenty. For risking the safety of Tarquin’s child, ten – only ten because Amleth should know better than to be duped by a foolish yearling barely out of the ground.” The pronouncement went straight to my gut, sending pins and needles of shock through my already overstimulated senses. A few more blows like that and I would be battered clear in half. Godrik lets me stew over this thought and turns his wrath on Amleth, aiming the stick at his chest. He grabs at the splayed ends feebly, as if he could stop the ancient Celt from impaling him.

“I am thoroughly astonished by you. How dare you endanger what is mine! Did your education go entirely to the dogs the moment I left?”

Amleth shakes his head, speechless. Godrik circles him, trying to get a grip on his rage.

“Give me one reason why you should live,” he seethes.

Crimson tears stream down Amleth’s face.

“Tarquin,” he mouths silently.

“Hm?”

“Tarquin,” he repeats, chattering.

“Oh, you think your maker will stop me?” He laughs cruelly. “If you ever, EVER endanger my child again, I will send you back to Tarquin in a jug. Am I clear?” The hate in his voice says that this is no threat. It is a promise. He hurls the stick at him and Amleth hunches defensively, shouldering the blow. It drops to his feet with a heavy thunk.

“You can have the honors. You fucking idiots got yourselves into trouble together, you can dig yourselves out.”

A violent shudder suddenly rips through Amleth and Godrik breaks into a vicious grin.

“Excellent. Your punishment begins tomorrow, Amla.”

He storms off, leaving us to the nasty business.

For a brief few seconds, I cannot see Amleth behind me and I realize I am pinned to this tree by my maker’s command, utterly exposed to him. I want to ask him to go easy, but my pride stops me.

“You utter twat,” he hisses and lays into me. After the first five lashes, he pauses.

“Why?!” he demands.

I refuse to answer, so he lets loose, wailing on my back with more force. It is horrible, but it is nothing compared to Godrik’s single blow.

“Tell me! Why do you hate me! What has earned me your ill favor?”

He lays out a fierce series of stripes, all neatly lined in a row. It is then that I realize he’s purposefully avoiding hitting the same place twice. Only, he has run out of space. I let out a breath I wasn’t aware of holding and curse.

“No chance of convincing you to throw in the towel now, hmm?” I taunt half-heartedly. He responds with a hard crack, crisscrossing the red welts on my skin. I feel the skin pop and split. And so it proceeds like this for the remaining lashes.

“I’ve done nothing but be kind to you! I want nothing but your friendship! You have used me badly, Eirikr! Badly indeed!”

He beats me until we’re both panting. When it is over, he strips off his own shirt and begins blotting the disaster that is now my back. He thrusts a wrist in my face.

“Drink,” he orders.

I don’t move.

“Drink, damn it, or you’ll go to ground like this. Godrik expects me to take care of you.”

“You pass your blood out like a whore!” I bark, surprising both of us with how hateful it comes out.

“What’s this?” he says, truly astonished. He drops down beside me where I was laid out, hands still touching the tree. Pushing back my hair, Amleth rests his head in the crook of my arm to see me squarely.

“Is that what this is all about? You perfect dingbat!” he sighs, running his fingers through my tangled, blood spattered hair.

“I’m going to kick your ass once I can stand again,” I mutter.

“No you’re not, darling. Even if you could…you’re going to shut up and finally listen to me. Is all this because I’ve bossed you around a few times and you saw me feeding your maker?”

I grunt noncommittally.

“All you had to do was ask. Assumptions are dangerous things in our world. If you must know, I was showing Godrik images of suspected spies in the Consul court. He sees very clearly in the blood. Not many of us are so talented. He won’t get anywhere near us now that he has you in tow, but it doesn’t mean he’s abandoned us altogether. I cannot stress how dangerous the situation has grown. We’re on the verge of war.” He bites his lip.

I consider this, keeping my features carefully neutral.

“I do not understand it, but he chose you. He…” A single shining tear slides down his face. “He will always choose you.” He searches for more words, but seems unable to explain himself.

“I’ll take that wrist now.”

“Mmhmm. I thought so.”

I bite carelessly, enjoying the wince my fangs elicit. Amleth’s spicy blood floods my mouth and I moan, much to my chagrin. He is absolutely delicious and utterly incomparable to anything I’ve tasted before. As I feed, he peels back his makeshift bandage. When my wounds are sufficiently healed, he takes his wrist back.

He stays with me until Godrik returns, whispering comforting words and caressing me with tender hands.

“Go to bed,” my maker growls, releasing me from the tree. He crawls into his daytime den and kicks dirt up, concealing the entrance. I was clearly uninvited.

“Come on,” Amleth offers, helping me up.

“What is he going to do to you?” I manage to ask hoarsely once we’re curled up together underground.

“You’d have me ruin the surprise? Just you wait…” He nuzzles me through the soft earth and my hands instinctually pull his bony hips against me.

The next evening I awake to find myself alone. When I work myself out of the ground, Godrik already has Amleth tied to the same tree that served as my whipping post. There is a blazing fire going and my maker pats the empty space on the log beside him.

“Watch carefully, Eirikr.”

Dutifully, I take my seat.

We sit in silence for a long time with only the owls and occasional cricket rasps to keep us company. Godrik has his hands folded neatly in his lap and he waits with rapt attention.

“What are we watching, exactly?” I finally ask.

“You’ll see,” he answers cryptically.

A tedious hour passes before Amleth suddenly shudders hard in what appears to be a near seizure.

“What have you done to him?” I demand. Godrik simply shushes me with a finger over his mouth.

It takes another ten minutes before Amleth starts gasping. He groans and squirms against his bindings.

When a half hour has gone by, he suddenly coughs up a thick burble of blood. It splats obscenely down his nude chest.

After two hours, Amleth is weeping inconsolably and writhing in pain. When he shivers yet again, a wet, crimson sheet of vomit explodes from him, painting the ground.

“Maker, let him down! What is this cruel game? Let us be done with it!” I exclaim.

Godrik is in my face and has me by the neck before I know it.

“Tell him, Amla. Tell him why you suffer!”

“My MAKER!” he screams across the clearing.

“His maker,” Godrik spits, throttling me. “The gods have seen fit to grant makers the power of command and the power of call. You cannot disobey, child. This is what disobedience looks like.” He marches me over to where the raven-haired beauty is bound, thrusting me into his face.

“Cut him down,” I beg, seeing the fear glint in Amleth’s eyes.

“I will not. YOU did this. You are the one who plays games with others’ lives. You are the one who sent shock and terror and dread through your friend. You are the reason Tarquin calls to his child. And you will be the reason he leaves us now.” He spins me around and I feel a sharp bite in my right hand. I look up in utter confusion. There was a dagger in my palm.

He had pinned me to a tree with his dagger!

“I recommend getting yourselves down by sunrise,” Godrik hisses before stalking off.

Alone in the woods, our situation seems vastly worse.

“Well, this is less than ideal,” I report.

Amleth simply groans, knocking his head back. “You have to pull your hand through it,” he says with eyes closed.

“The Hel I will!” I look up in panic. Godrik has somehow gotten it higher than I can reach with my other arm.

“Do you think this is the first fucking time I’ve been on the receiving end of this shit!” He squeals and kicks uselessly. “Pull it the fuck out and set me loose, you imbecile, before I bleed out!” Amleth’s usual composure has evaporated. “I’ll have you know he’s thrashed me worse for half of the insolence you spout on a daily basis. You deserve every second of this! It should be you up here barfing and dying! Now GET ME DOWN!”

It takes me an excruciatingly long time to work my hand out. I had thought to just jerk the hilt through my flesh, but Godrik’s knife had other plans. It involves me working my stretchy undead tendons over the flange of the cursed thing and willingly breaking a few bones to make adequate room to maneuver. Meanwhile, Amleth continues flailing and screeching inconsolably, further unsettling my nerves. When I finally manage to untangle myself, I have him down in an instant and he collapses in my arms.

“You need to feed,” I cry, jostling him into the crook of my neck.

He bites with those perfectly sharp incisors and takes a hard pull. It goes straight to my knees and I drop hard, taking the both of us down. When I manage to finally get us inside his den, he is still shaking violently and weeping. I pull him to my chest and let him drink more. He is gorging on me as the sun comes up and I pray to Frigga that he wouldn’t drain me too badly before he fell asleep. I sink my fangs into his shoulder. In my grogginess, I feel the weak flicker of a blood bond form. “Bror,” I whisper and he hums against me skin.

I had lied to Amleth that night when I said that our expedition to Mainz would make us brothers. It ended up being the truth, however, albeit through very different means. The bloodlust and the jealousy and the desire for revenge were gone and all that was left in its place was shame and a bloodbond. I hurt my friend and I felt unworthy of the love he had offered me so freely. Betrayal and ignorance do not suit me at all.

-OOO-

“I have to go,” a heated voice calls from somewhere. I am being roused from the heaviest of slumbers.

“Neeeeoorr…” I manage to slur, still too heavy with sleep. Amleth shakes me and I latch onto him, suddenly aware of what he’s saying.

“You bastard. You’re not going anywhere!” I declare, eyes still closed. I try to lock myself around him but he merely laughs in response. I feel him slip from my grip and he apologizes twice over.

When I finally drag myself out of our nest, Godrik has him by the shoulders and is giving him rapid instructions.

By the look on Amleth’s face, he is as shocked as I am when Godrik bites his own wrist. Amleth goes to drop to his knees in supplication, but the Celt catches him. He holds it up in offering and Amleth glances at me with uncertainty and awe.

“Take it,” I say, knowing what bliss he is about to receive.

When his lips meet the ancient blood, he gasps in surprise. A red tear escapes down his cheek. Godrik licks it up and presses his forehead to Amleth’s.

“Now fly along, little magpie. We expect to see you soon.”

Amleth throws his arms around my maker and he stiffens at the unexpected contact.

Then, slowly, Amleth backs away, unwilling to turn his back to us. A breeze picks up through the trees and the firs give a whispery sigh. Like that, he is gone.

Godrik turns to me, his expression blank.

“He has waited three centuries for my blood.”

I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing at all.

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11 comments

  1. Pingback: New Story: Into the Mystic | Melusine10's Fan Fiction
    • melusine10

      Thanks so much! I have so much fun writing this and doing all the research that goes into it (I try to be accurate!). It’s marked on FF.net as being complete, but I do occasionally add a chapter here and there. I’ve been working on Ch. 8 for a while and hopefully will get some inspiration so that it can be posted soon!

  2. American Android

    I just read your rune songs and loved them! I’ve often wondered what it was like for Eric and Godric when Eric was first turned. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

  3. daiyahime

    Such a brilliant story. Eric and Gordric’s relationship always fascinated me, especially their earlier days since you get to see so little of it on the show. It’s exceptionally well-written and I’m amazed how much research you’ve put into this (as a history student I’m a bit nit-picky when it comes to that). I hope you’re going to add more chapters soon.

    • melusine10

      Thank you! I’m glad you appreciate the historical details. I try to be as accurate as possible without making it too inaccessible or pedanic. There are always a few anachronistic expressions and measurement standards that worm their way in there – they bug me every time I see them!!! I do have another chapter in the works, so stay tuned!

    • melusine10

      REALLY!?!? That’s wild! When I wrote this I was trying to figure out what the obvious path that G would take to go south from Denmark and it seemed to make sense that would follow the old Limes roads…You’ll like Ch. 9 then…they soon have a bigger role!

  4. ericluver

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading these tales of the early days of G/Es travels and exploits. How it was from Eric’s pov.
    I’ll admit the thought of what Eric had to do to get his hand free from the dagger made me a little green 🤢 I’d say he learned his lesson!

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