“Oh please, Godric! I know you’re all ancient and worldly and whatnot, but seriously!? Wasn’t the Delphic Oracle some poor virgin that they sat over volcanic fumes and let babble while she was high as a kite?”
In a flash Godric was inches from her face. “Look at me and deny that magic beyond your comprehension animates me,” he said heatedly, his accent lilting more heavily than usual. His boyish features were gone now and he was entirely fearsome. “Deny it!” he barked at her.
“I…I don’t,” she stammered. She expected Eric to tell him to back down, but judging by his complacent look, he knew this side of Godric all too well. She had clearly crossed a line questioning him. In fact, who was she to question him?
“The prophetesses were some of the most educated, wisest people in the land. Great philosophers, mathematicians, and kings sought them as their tutors and advisors!” he seethed.
“I’m sorry! You know far better than I what you’re talking about. It’s just hard, you know, with so many explanations and histories in my head that I presume are right. It’s the hubris of our time. It’s completely undignified that I should speak to you in that manner. Please accept my apology. I didn’t mean to speak ill of the oracle you knew. I just can’t possibly see how I have anything to do with the kind of stuff that dreams are made on.”
“But you already do, Lily. You’re already in the midst of it. You accepted us easily enough. Is it that hard to accept yourself?”
“She doesn’t have proof yet, that’s the problem,” Eric interjected.
Godric came to the edge of the bed where she was seated. Squatting at her feet, he crossed his arms on her knees. “Tell me, in your vision, the swamp you were in…was it the Louisiana bayou, the Florida glades, or somewhere else?”
“I don’t know how I would tell the difference.”
“Close your eyes and think.” She did. Godric reached to her shoulders and massaged them gently, relaxing her. “If you wanted to find that old tree, the tree that scared you. If you wanted to find it and burn it to ashes, let’s say. Where would you go?”
“The bayou…where the Mississippi runs into the sea,” she said automatically.
“Very good,” he reached to her temples and rubbed them in slow circles, settling her into a sort of light trance. “Where exactly? If you wanted to keep all of us safe, where specifically would you tell us to avoid?”
She waited silently for some instinct, some vision, but there was nothing. “I…I don’t know. I’m sorry, Godric.” She opened her eyes. “I’m trying, I want to help, but I just don’t think I am what you want me to be.”
“It’s okay, darling. Give it time. You already gave us something.”
“I’m just guessing.”
“Eric shook his head in exasperation. “You’re not guessing, lover.”
She sighed, fed up with their persistence. “I’m hungry.”
“Come. Let me make you some breakfast. Do you like omelettes?” Godric asked.
Upstairs Pam was flipping through a magazine and watching a daytime fashion tv show she had TiVoed. “Oh praise god, they emerge! I thought I was going to have to go down there with reinforcements and start stuffing bread, cheese, and blood bags under the door.”
“I was held hostage while these two tried to convince me I’m a priestess of Apollo.”
“Oh honey, you may be Eric’s priestess, but you can be my goddess any day!” she cackled, winking. “Come here, look at this woman’s wardrobe. Can you believe she owns overalls? Overalls?! Yes, that’s it! Suck those babies down the garbage disposal!”
Lillian shook her head in laughter and went into the kitchen to see what Godric was whipping up. Eric grumbled as he set to work at his computer.
“We’re going to all need to go to the club tonight. There’s a metric fuckton of work to catch up on. Lila, I’d prefer if you tagged along, but we can get Jeremy back over here if you don’t want to go.”
“Oh…no, it’s ok. I’m happy to go in. I should catch up with Pam’s ‘vermin’ anyway,” she said teasingly. Pam punched a fist in the air, victorious that Lillian was starting to come around and see her side of things.
“Actually, I meant to ask. Where is Jeremy from, like ethnically? He was speaking some language that I swear sounded like Klingon. He said it was Daemoni?”
Eric and Godric eyed each other. Smiling, Eric said, “Yes, he speaks Daemoni. It is the language of demons.”
“You’re not serious.”
“Jeremy is half demon.”
Lillian laughed like a madwoman. What would come out of their mouths next? “Let me get this straight. My Viking vampire lover hired a half demon to babysit me while he left me alone in his kingdom.”
“Territory,” he corrected.
“And where, pray tell, do demons come from?”
“Aww, Eric! You need to have ‘The Talk’ with her!” Pam couldn’t resist jibing.
“Can it, Pamela. Demons are from an alternate plane of reality, another dimension. Humans have often called it the underworld.”
“Is it hot? It is ruled by Beelzebub? Osiris?” Her mind buzzed with questions. “Have you been there?!” she hissed in a lowered voice.
“No, and I don’t intend on going there. The point is, Jeremy is good at what he does. But if you’re coming tonight, we don’t need him.”
Distracting her, Godric said, “Lily, could you hand me the salt from that cabinet?”
She went for the canister of Mortons. “Not that, darling. The finishing sea salt, it is in a little jar that says Sel de Gueron.”
Godric dashed a bit of the grey flakey substance over his eggy creation and passed the plate to her. “Now, tell me what you think.”
She took a bite and her mouth melted. “OMmhhgoddric!” she mumbled through a full mouth. He laughed sheepishly and left her to it, joining Eric at the table.
The omelette was perfection. He’d done some kind of a caramelized shallot reduction in balsamic vinegar. There was wilted spinach, some cheese she didn’t realize was even in the fridge, and the slightest hint of fresh nutmeg. It was divine.
Lillian wasted no time devouring it, and soon they were off to the club. The reappearance of the club’s main attractions caused quite a stir, although Lillian had crept around to the front and entered as she usually did. She tried to act casually when her vampires came out on the stage, but they hadn’t intimated to her their plans for the evening. Pam entered in a Victorian getup, except it was entirely black leather and the corset, she was sure, was cut far lower than anything anyone would have been caught dead wearing (pun intended). When Godric appeared and took Eric’s throne, she gaped and stopped midsentence. The kid she was talking to turned to see what she was staring at. Godric had changed into leather breeches that tucked into boots and wore leather bracers on either arm. Around his shoulders nothing hung save for a thick grey fur linked across his chest by a chain attached to two bronze dragon clasps on either end of the pelt. People began whispering and taking pictures, shocked to see anyone but Eric in his chair. Lillian realized it was going to be that kind of night. The real chaos broke out when Eric strolled out casually in full Viking regalia – a chainmail tunic, fur laced knee-high boots and a fur stole similar to Godric’s, and his hand on the hilt of a broadsword that looked similar to (but wasn’t) Grendl, the blade resting on his shoulder. Women and men alike were screaming to get his attention. Chow stood in front of the red robe blocking off the dias, making sure no one came too close. His heavily tattooed arms crossed, he looking foreboding wearing only a scowl and pair of Hakama pants. Eric made a slight bow in greeting to the clubgoers and brandishing his sword theatrically, he jammed the point into the wood floor making it stick up straight next to his chair as he sat down. Raising a chalice that Pam handed him, he declared loudly, “Let the real party begin! Skål!” He toasted the audience and the screams and music became deafening. Lillian wondered if he was ballsy enough to actually drink blood in front of people. Probably, she reckoned. People were going crazy speculating about the feral looking Celt sitting in the throne. Lillian had herself forgotten that now he was here, he was technically the Lord of this fiefdom, hence the seating arrangements.
“Ohmygod! You’ve met Master Eric, right? Can you like, introduce me!?” her young informant squealed at her. He was barely out of high school, and still hadn’t really finished puberty, judging by his squeaky voice.
“Oh, well, it was just that one time really. He probably doesn’t even remember me,” she feigned ignorance.
“Aw bummer. He’s seriously, like, my hero.”
“You know this guy isn’t really Eric Northman, right?”
“Yeah, but. It’d be cool if he was,” he said sheepishly. “Eric’s so tough, all man. But like, you know how in the books, he’s also fair and just? That’s awesome. I wish he’d kick my step-dad’s ass.”
Now Lillian felt bad. “Your step dad is a bum, huh?”
“He’s a piece of shit. I bet the real Eric could take his head off with, like, a single blow.”
Lillian chuckled. “Yeah, but that would be capital murder, and that’s not cool. How ’bout we try to get close for a picture instead?” His eyes brightened. She didn’t know the fellow’s story, but she sensed it wasn’t a particularly happy tale. It was hard enough being young and powerless without having assholes for family members. She decided to play a bit of a game. She’d get Eric to notice him and maybe brighten his day (or night, as it were).
Taking his arm, they wove through the pressing throngs of people. She tried to nudge past a particularly rowdy biker guy, who turned and got in her face. “Back off, bitch. Wait your turn.” He shoved her roughly. Oh, that would not do. Her temper flew off the handle. Nobody called her offensive names and nobody touched her. From the corner of her eye she saw both Eric and Godric stand and growl menacingly, seeing the scene in the crowd. The audience screamed wildly thinking it was part of their act. Little did her vampires know that Lillian had been dealing with dipshits long before she had a supernatural backup posse.
“You know what? Go fuck yourself and the piece of scooter trash you rode in on, you mannerless cretin!” she grabbed the scruff of his jacket and hauled him backwards, pushing him to the front door and the bouncer there. The man’s feet scrambled underneath him, and he was stunned into submission by her shocking strength. She guessed her ingestion of vampire blood had a lot to do with her sudden raging temper and He-Man strength. “He’s not welcome here anymore,” she shot at the bouncer, shoving him out into the street. Returning, people gave her wide berth and let her pass. She and the kid moved to the front of the rope next to Chow, who nodded in a silent greeting.
“Holy crap lady, you just tossed that guy on his butt!”
“Damn straight. Rudeness is a despicable quality. Now, let’s see if we can’t get the big Viking hunk to see us.” Eric didn’t move, but she knew he’d heard her. She felt a tinkling laughter over the bond.
Wait, she told him.
She and the kid waved frantically at the stage for some time, just like everyone else.
Kid. See now, she pushed at Godric and Eric.
Finally, Godric turned and whispered something to Eric and he looked out into the crowd and Godric pointed out a young goth dressed off the rack from Hot Topic. Eric flicked a finger at him.
“Ohmygodohmygod! Is he calling me up? NO! Me?! Ohmygodohmygod!” he started to hyperventilate.
“Yes! Can you believe it!? Here, wait, don’t forget your camera. I’ll take pictures for you!” she helped him and pushed him through the rope Chow was holding up for him.
He’s sad. Cheer. Hope, she sent, praying they’d understand what she meant.
The boy clambered up the stage and knelt deeply in front of Eric and Godric. The poor darling was shaking.
“Rise youngling. Whom am I addressing?”
“Andrew? What is your father’s name?” he said a little harshly.
“T..ttt..Thomas Ccc..Coleman, sir. But…he’s…he’s dead, sir.”
“And so am I,” Eric responded dryly. Before he could continue, the human spoke again.
“That’s so rad!” he said breathlessly. Eric resisted the urge to roll his eyes hearing someone address him like a surfer boy.
“This is Master Godric. You may bow to him to show your respect,” Eric said, curtailing any attempt to shake hands. Andrew awkwardly bowed in imitation of something he must have seen in Lord of the Rings. It really was precious, to be honest.
“I am so freakin’ honored, ya’ll.” Godric humored him with a nod.
“Sit, Andrew of Shreveport, son of Thomas Coleman!” Eric commanded. Andrew took the chair and looking out in the audience, lit up when he saw Lillian still there and gave her a thumbs up and a big goofy grin. She snapped several shots of the trio. The club was absolutely packed. Word got out quickly when something was happening at Fangtasy. No need to advertise. It was pretty crazy.
Eric was a good showman. Pam brought Eric’s guest a coke in a glass and he made an ordeal of smashing it on the ground and demanding that she bring him a drink in a chalice like his and Godric’s. The people went wild, loving every minute of it. Pam stomped off to replace the soda.
“You are young yet. Tell my liege and I what your plans are for yourself.”
“Well, I don’t really know. Sometimes I think it would be cool to go to art school. I like drawing stuff, like comic books, graphic designs, and stuff. You know? But, uh…my mom’s not got a lotta money and her new husband’s unemployed, so…”
Godric interrupted. “My son,” he said, using the Swedish pronunciation, “Every man must be his own man. You say you ‘think it would be cool’ to pursue the arts? You either want to do it or you don’t. If it is the former, then you should forget the rest and see that it is done. You are the only one at the helm of your ship.”
“Wow, man, that’s like, a really good way of seeing things.”
“Have you any talent?” Eric inquired.
“Like, at drawing? Yeah, I used to win these local contests and stuff!” his face visibly brightened. “But now, you know, I gotta work two shifts to keep the lights on, put food on the table. It ain’t easy.”
“No, it is not easy. Nothing worth having is. This man in your home, he does nothing to support his family? Your mother is struggling by herself?”
He nodded in embarrassment and suddenly found his shoes to be the most interesting thing in the room.
Eric continued. “He is no man. You are the man of the house now, whether anyone else sees it or not.”
“You must prove it by being true to yourself and finding your fate,” Godric added.
“In my day we went Viking, maybe college is this for you? You must do what is necessary. Only then, when you are armed with knowledge of the world and can make use of it will you be able to come home and take charge of matters.”
“Woah, that’s like, majorly deep. I’m gonna seriously think about what you’re saying. You guys are good actors, man!”
“Now, I see there is a pretty girl over there that’s been looking at you ever since you came up here. See the woman there with the pigtails?
“Oh, nuh uh! The one that looks like the NCIS chick?”
“Uh…yes.” Eric lied, having no clue what he was referring to. “Why don’t you go buy her a drink.”
“Yes sir, Master Eric!”
“Good. You can keep the cup,” Eric added nonchalantly.
“Really!” his voice cracked, clutching his goblet.
He shrugged noncommittally.
“Thankyouthankyou sooooo much! You guys are the best! Wait till I tell my friends!”
Andrew scrambled down the stage and a crowd of people came crushing around him to ask what the men had said.
Thank you. Love, Lillian pushed at Eric.
LoveloveLust, Eric sent back.
From somewhere deep in the recesses of his loincloth, he produced his phone and typed a quick email to his dayman, Nathan Riley.
Riley – Arrange acceptance + 2 years tuition/books/etc at Bossier Parish Community College for Andrew Coleman, fa. Thomas Coleman (dec.), age approx 20. Anonymous per usual.
Eric hit send and his phone magically disappeared back somewhere into his garb. An imperceptible smile snaked across his face.
Lillian spent a few more hours catching up with folks and talking to a few new faces that interested her. When she’d had her fill, she slipped into the back and let herself into Eric’s office. He and Godric had already escaped there some time ago and she was sad to see they’d switched back into their regular clothes.
“Oh darn! And here I thought I was going to get a closer look at that loincloth!” She set her things down by the door and greeted Godric with a squeeze on the shoulder.
“Mmm, well lover, I am always happy to show you my broadsword,” he waggled his eyebrows.
“Oh, I bet!” She wound around behind his desk and sat on it, giving him a long kiss.
“Thanks for humoring me with that kid. He just broke my heart. I could tell things weren’t going so well for him. What did you say to him?”
Eric summed up their conversation and it made her laugh. “Oh man, you guys went Yoda on him. ‘Answers we have given him!'” she teased. “Poor thing is probably reeling.”
“I think things for him will soon take a turn for the better.”
Lillian glanced and the pile of papers he and Godric had been sorting through when she’d come in.
“Oh lord, did all this pile up in just the last week?”
Eric gave a sigh. “Yes.”
“What is it?”
“Where to begin. These two here,” he held a file up, “are filing for residency permission. That requires a background check and yet more paperwork. Godric’s handling all the public safe house accounts, that’s his specialty, that pile there involves annual fealty taxes, and all of this crapola is related to public food security.”
“It is my duty to ensure an adequate food supply for my subjects, for the protection of my kind and humans alike. We run a network of charitable nonprofit blood banks specializing in supplying children’s hospitals and trauma units, although naturally we help many other types of patients. Sadly, not all donated blood is suitable for human use, and there are always unforeseen losses.” He gave her a fangy grin. She got the drift.
“Classy. But it is refreshing to hear that a politician, however bloodsucking, is actually busy with the work of governing, providing public services for the common good and whatnot. What is your safe house network?”
“We keep publically known safe houses for all subjects. Every vampire has the right to shelter. Most are vampire-owned homes and donated to the commons, and the cost of maintaining them comes from a portion of everyone’s annual fealty tax. If someone needs to use one in a pinch, then they must also pay the costs they incur – utilities, etc. My biggest headache is that we keep getting residents from Russell Edgington’s territory who use our houses then refuse to pay their bills. I’m not running halfway homes for fucking Arkansas!”
Godric looked up from his papers. “We are having a border issue.”
“Can’t you just forward the bills to Edgington? I mean, jeez, what vampire is so cheap they don’t want to shell out $15 for an electricity bill?”
Eric sighed again. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. “That’s exactly what we do. It’s just time consuming and stupid. Arkansas can be volatile for vampires. The state has a lower population, less population density and the people are very insular. Vampires stick out there like sore thumbs…but it isn’t MY problem to manage.” He was getting extremely agitated.
“Well is this just with the housing you’ve got along the border?”
“Yes. I know what you’re thinking. Shut them down? I can’t leave my own people high and dry should an emergency rise.”
“No, that isn’t what I was going to say. Why don’t you just cut a deal with Edgington where he pays your estimated costs up front then you settle the difference at the end of the year?”
“Edgington is a pain in the ass. I already tried that. We’re at a deadlock and I’m not about to press the issue. He’s an ancient.”
“Well fudge. Looks like you’re stuck as the unofficial governor of Arkansas then.” He raised an eyebrow. “Honestly though, is there anything you think I can help with here?”
“Nah. We work fast.”
“You’d think vampires wouldn’t bother with stupid bureaucracy.”
“We wouldn’t, except that we have to play by human rules. If we want to own anything, it’s got to be all above board and then double backed by layers of shell corporations, offshore accounts.”
“It makes me miss Rome,” Godric said wistfully. “Stamp your ring on a hunk of wax and bam, business concluded. Leave the rest for the scribes to deal with.”
The vampires worked late into the night, although at vamp speed, they really were powering through things. Lillian sat at a side table with her own work, but in the end it grew tedious. She got up to check out the mens’ costumes in Eric’s closet. She’d been dying to see them out up close and figure out if it was all reproduction, or if they’d snuck in some of their own things. Running her hands along the soft furs, she couldn’t resist trying on Godric’s pelt.
“What do you think, boys?” She posed, pin-up style.
“I think you are lovely as ever, but women didn’t wear furs like that, especially not wolf skins. That’s a hunter’s stole,” Godric said with a smile.
“Aww, too bad. It’s neat. Is this really wolf fur?”
“Yes,” he replied.
She took it off and carefully set it back on its hangar. She gingerly fingered the bronze dragon clasps. They were new, but still very lovely with all their fanciful Celtic knots. She was tracing the outline with her finger when a wave of heat came over her and she smelled something terrible…then darkness fell.
“Lila!” Eric cried seeing Lillian suddenly wobble on her feet. He’d no sooner spoken then he and Godric flashed across the room and caught her before she cracked her head on the floor. She has passed out cold and was trembling all over and sweating profusely.
“Lila! Answer me!” he called to her frantically.
She suddenly opened her eyes and stared at Eric dead-on in a wild and terrifying gaze.
Then she spoke, huskily, in a voice that was otherworldly and unsettling to the core.
“Where the waters run red. Deep, deep inside. The dragon awaits, the stormbringer sits. But the wolves will have their revenge.”
“Jävla skit,” Eric cursed [Holy shit]. He and Godric stared at each other in bewilderment.