A nighttime fog settled in the forests of Lunsen, blanketing the mosses and spongy leafbed with a dense, misty quiet. From a distance, Godric’s cabin was modest and unobtrusive – a garden gnome’s den sprouted out of the ground. It was meticulously crafted. Godric had hewn the beams of the cabin and hung each pane and shingle himself. Every piece of furniture had been carved by his own talented hands. It appeared no less lovingly made than one of Eric’s homes, fashioned with the same unhurried precision of an immortal. But it was nothing like the flashy glass temples and stone fortresses Eric built. This was not a home. It was a weapon.
The cabin and its surrounds were heavily warded. Curious humans wandering from the restaurant at the bottom of the hill or hikers straying from the forest’s paths would retreat from the place in apprehension. Crossing the wards, the rustic house suddenly turned ghostly and hostile. For a vampire, there was no need to come so near. The cabin was clearly possessed. It screamed a death threat, as though it might dismember itself and launch bodily at an intruder in a volley of a thousand stakes. Only those few allowed to pass inside would experience the cabin as it truly was: a sentinel house which protected its occupants with a terrible magic. Eric never asked how or where Godric came by the spells he sometimes had placed on his homes – and Godric certainly did not offer to elaborate.
Inside, Lillian and Godric were sheltered momentarily from the world. The resinous logs in the hearth popped and hissed, and the flames danced on their coals in languid rhythms. Lillian toyed with the gold circlet on the chain around her neck. Pythia’s charm worked, Godric had assured her. Her aura appeared tender and green, as a newborn’s should. Without the charm, other vampires would sense something dreadfully ancient and foreboding about her. The only other vampire in possession of such a terrifying countenance sat across from her, watching her intently. Godric was perfectly still save for the leaping fire reflecting in his gaze. He waited patiently. It was a silence that demanded answers.
Lillian felt no urgency to respond. They could talk tonight. Or in a decade. But judging by the look in Godric’s eyes, probably tonight. Lillian marveled at the play of the firelight on his skin. It limned his sharp features in shadow and gold. How dreadful the invention of electric light must have been for their kind. She preferred the night like this – a world lit only by fire.
Lillian thought at first that the pulsing, colorful movement all around her would lessen as she grew accustomed to her reborn senses. It did not. The world constantly threatened to mesmerize her with its beauty. Every animal and plant and rock burst with some kind of wondrous energy. ‘Can all supernatural creatures see this?’ she had asked. ‘No,’ Godric had replied. Not even the witches and fae folk who could manipulate these lively forces could see them as vampires did, he had explained. One had to be undead to truly apprehend what was alive.
The night before, Lillian had been too overwhelmed initially to register the sensations coursing through her. Only when she had gone to make love did she understand. In the master suite of the Cave House, she let her newly undead hands wander over Godric’s bare chest and she startled at the electric shock that passed through her. She very nearly dropped to the ground when Eric kissed the secret place on the back of her neck. Their touch and breath, each sigh, every cresting wave of pleasure – it was a communion.
The sparks between their bodies were not just bundles of nerves and cells communicating as brute matter collided in empty space. They were sharing magic particles, giving and taking and thriving off an elemental, universal force. The heat of their cocks inside her, lips on hers, nipples caught between teeth, the wetness of lust between legs and the elixir of blood sliding down her throat – all of it was magic energy. ‘My god,’ Lillian had said. ‘There’s a kernel of truth in the myth.’ Vampires did deal in energy. They positively thrived upon it. And though the trio had wiled away many more hours in bed, delighting in each others’ flesh, Lillian knew it could not all be pleasure. She would have to confront her new nature.
During the drive to Lunsen Forest, she had hounded Godric with a hundred questions. “We are not gods,” Godric had insisted, his knuckles tightening on the steering wheel. He took a corner far too fast, as if to prove a point. Her body had known, bone-deep, that she was in no danger. “But vampires are frighteningly god-like,” he had added. Her mind had whirred in consideration.
“How do witches make magic?” she had asked.
Godric was not flapped by her non-sequitur. In fact, he had appeared to have anticipated it. “They don’t. Witch, fairy, or elven magicks- it doesn’t matter. They borrow elemental energy.”
“Does it weaken them?”
“Of course. Or it kills them.”
“They die if they try to take too much power,” she had confirmed.
“They always die, Lillian, in the end. They are mortal, as is their hold on energy.” His tone was grim. They had driven the rest of the way in silence.
In the quiet of the cabin, Lillian revisited these conversations, mining her thoughts with a newfound acuity that could scarce be believed.
In the wheel of life, all creatures, even magical ones, were subject to death. All except vampires. They lived untouched by this one hard and fast rule, and they spun the wheel of life as they pleased. For those enchanted beings inside the system, there were consequences to disrupting the balance of life. Not so with vampires. Disruption was their power.
Like card sharps at the poker table, vampires reshuffled vital energy unequally in their favor. Where others borrowed it, they took it outright. Drinking draughts of human blood strengthened them over time. Draining humans completely and swallowing their deaths grew a vampire’s powers faster. Everyone had conveniently failed to mention that ugly detail until after her rebirth. Eric worried about Lillian’s unwillingness to kill. Today’s newborn vampires were far weaker for abstaining from the ‘true’ hunt, he had told her. Godric and he had both fed her at length in addition to the donor blood she had consumed. While it did not provide nutrition, the blood of her kin would enhance her supernatural gifts far faster than a human kill. Normally, the practice was hampered by all sorts of in-built restrictions. Age determined strength, first and foremost, and no youngling could take what was not offered. Except, in her case…
Godric watched as full realization unfolded on her features. He could feel her shock ricochet in their bond. He tilted his head a fraction, as if to say, ‘See?’
Lillian hadn’t just eaten of the undead. She had devoured her maker’s death whole.
The full implications of Lillian’s actions struck her in a sudden, staggering blow. Godric might have told her what he had done to his maker, but nothing he had said could have prepared her for what it meant.
Godric’s calm demeanor was practiced. “Take it off,” he finally said, gesturing to her necklace. Lillian set the necklace with the ouroboros charm on a side table. Godric’s gaze flickered over her silhouette. The dark cloud that bloomed around her threatened to overtake the room. Between his own aura and hers, the walls shivered in resistance against the power radiating off the two vampires.
“Is it worse than yours?” she asked.
“I cannot be certain.” Godric was not one to equivocate. There was simply no way for him to know. Ordinary mirrors did not reflect magic. Neither could see their own auras. They took turns describing what they saw to each other.
They debated the contrasting shades of black and silver at the edges of the void where a normal aura should be. The extreme age difference between them was complicated by the fact that Lillian’s maker had been far, far more ancient than Godric’s – and an older blood brother of Godric’s maker to boot. But then, it stood to reason, Godric had taken Gaël’s life much later in his undeath; Lillian had taken Marduk on the threshold of her rebirth. Perhaps that made a difference, though what difference neither could say. Confounding matters further, Lillian was bonded to Godric and had his blood within her when she had lured Marduk to his doom.
The calculus of millennia and blood ties entangled and crisscrossed was dizzying. Ultimately, it was pointless. Both had committed this act. To eat of one’s own magic was unnatural enough. To take from one’s older kin nearly impossible, as Godric had discovered. It took incredible discipline and power to coerce a fledgling to feed off his maker. But to pervert the supernatural order of things and eat the death of Undeath?
Wild, unchecked power coursed through Lillian’s body. She possessed every one of Marduk’s powers. Undiluted. Without time to give her wisdom and patience to still her hand. Without a maker to harness her. And the secret knowledge that she could destroy any of her bloodkin in the same way to steal their powers filled her with more shame than she had ever known.
“Eric doesn’t know, does he.” Lillian said. The raw glimmer of horror in Godric’s glassy eyes confirmed it. Like her, the foundation of Godric’s extraordinary powers had been stolen, not earned.
“He suspects I gained my maker’s powers on that accursed night, but he doesn’t understand. No one could.”
“He thinks this is beautiful.” She had heard Eric call Godric his ‘dark angel’. He spoke of her newly acquired ‘black halo’ with unveiled admiration.
Godric bit the inside of his cheek. “Eric doesn’t question the value of power, only the judgement of those who use it poorly. He has only ever known me like this. That you are this way now too does not seem so strange.”
“It should,” she said. “You must promise to end me if I become a danger to others.”
“I promise to train you.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
When Godric did not reply, Lillian reached across the gap between their chairs and took his hand. “Can you ever forgive me?”
He huffed. “That is not the right question, I think. You taught me to ask whether you can ever forgive yourself.”
“I would do it again. Without question. It was the only way.”
Godric gave a resigned nod and thought for a long moment. “You chose this burden. If it is any consolation, I will bear it with you.”
The compassion in his voice and the promise of his full lips ignited a flame of desire in her belly and she wanted to slide into his lap. Yet the sadness lingering in his words stilled her. “Godric, my love. You do know that you are my sire in every way that matters but one. We were meant to be this way.”
Godric’s mouth stretched into a tense line. Lillian withdrew her hand. The tension that flowed from his fingertips was unpleasant. He met her gaze with an unflinching stare. “I was making preparations to turn you.”
She swallowed needlessly, a residual human tic. “I know.”
“Yes,” she said quietly. “We will need to keep your oathing knife close. It may be needed.” The oathing knife Godric had used when they bonded was no ordinary dagger. Already feeling the undeniable maker’s call toward her, he had recorded their three-way tie in the seams of its fae steel as a sacred memento. It should have been a prelude to a far greater tie, used in her turning. Now, Lillian intended to use the knife dishonestly. Presented to other supes, the legitimacy of Lillian’s claimed parentage would be nearly impossible to dispute.
“You took something from me,” Godric said. His voice was low and dangerous. “You have denied me the experience of being your maker.”
“Not exactly. I denied you the experience of turning me.”
“Don’t mince words with me. Have you any idea how irreplaceable that was?”
Tears stung at the corner of Lillian’s eyes.”More irreplaceable than Eric? Turning me would have destroyed your relationship with him. I denied you the agony of losing Eric. I dare you to tell me I was wrong.”
“Truly?” Godric said, astonished.
“He is an only child, Godric. He will always be. Having a true sibling would have driven him away, mad with jealousy. You couldn’t bear watching him move on unhappily without you. You would have ended yourself in the rising sun.”
“Gods…And Eric would have killed you for it,” Godric said, connecting the dots.
Godric’s shock was palpable. “I guess my days as a maker are truly over.”
Lillian laughed softly. “As if. Your work with that Viking will never be finished.”
Said Viking was presently prowling the streets of Uppsala, handling business that required electricity and a reliable internet connection, neither of which Godric’s remote cabin possessed. At the moment, Lillian was grateful for his absence.
“You say you’ll help me bear the burden of Marduk’s death,” she said.
“Perhaps I should have said ‘stigma’. You will be feared and worshiped in equal measure, impossibly so when your gift of foresight is known.”
“But I won’t be alone.”
“No. Not alone. That I promise you.”
Lillian shifted in her chair, another human movement in a decidedly inhuman body. “Whatever it is that makes us who we are, the being that chooses how to be and how to use what it is…”
“The soul,” Godric supplied.
“Yes, I suppose. The identity that contains and drives our magic. Call it a ‘soul’ if you like. You should know that all of the bits of Marduk’s makeup are still right here. All his strength and his memories – but none of his will. None of his impulses or desires or madness. Marduk himself has dissipated. His energies are content to be me. His soul was tired and sickly and now it is released.”
Godric furrowed his brow. “You think he is free.”
“Yes. Free and yet not lost. And that is beautiful.”
Godric’s psychic bond to his maker had not been formed correctly. He had never been able to communicate with Gaël. All these years Godric lived with the shattered remnants of Gaël’s broken memory. Only rarely did one of the indecipherable shards Godric had inherited from him suddenly make sense. The onslaught of information revealed in the blood was something most makers jealously controlled. It was why so few willingly shared theirs.
Lillian, with an imperiousness so breathtaking she rivaled Eric in her high-handedness, had demanded that Marduk mentally narrate the torrent of memories they shared when he turned her. She did not intend to have a maker around who could explain things later on, nor did she intend to be born in total ignorance. Marduk had given her a framework to interpret the legacy she carried in her blood. And what a fearsome legacy it was.
“You feel none of his emotions then?” Godric asked.
“None at all. But I know how I feel about him. About the parts that were noble and good, at least. About the beautiful things he created. About how he saw me.”
“You love him.”
“Of course,” she said simply. “We are their guardians, Godric. They could have fought it had they wanted to. But they gave us everything they were instead.”
Godric ran a hand over his breastbone. “Gaël,” he whispered almost inaudibly. He almost never uttered the name aloud. It sounded foreign in his mouth. He blinked back tears and smiled. “We can save each other then.”
“Yes, I suppose we can.”
“You must try, if ever such a horrible day comes. You must salvage all that is Eric. Don’t let him dissipate into the ether.”
“Jesus Christ, Godric. Eat of my kin again?”
“Yes!” Godric popped up in his chair and folded his legs under himself in excitement. “We must all promise to save each other if at all possible. I had never imagined such a thing.”
“Because it’s wrong,” Lillian said.
“Oh, yes. It’s unnatural and completely brilliant!”
“It probably counts as incest, or at least cannibalism.”
“Oh, forget your silly human concepts. You do realize your discipline is wholly unsuited to capture our social lives, don’t you? Anthropology is for anthropos. But we aren’t human, are we, darling. Give it up. You’ll have to come up with a whole new field.”
Lillian nearly choked. “You might have said something earlier if you thought I was so far off track.”
“Nevermind that. Lily, you’ve discovered a marvelous thing. We can be truly immortal in each other!”
Godric was so overjoyed that he swept Lillian into his arms and began waltzing her in wide circles through the den. His touch set her ablaze and he licked any final protest on the matter from her mouth. He kissed her deeply, growling as his hands ran over her preternatural curves. “Gods, you must be the most dangerous vampire alive. Is it wrong how much that turns me on?”
“Definitely,” she said and nipped his bottom lip.
“I’m going to devour you, woman.”
“Do,” she said. Lillian took a careful step backwards, breathing heavily. She pulled open her wrap dress and traced a line down her chest over her heart. “Drink.”
The invitation sobered Godric immediately. “Your heart vein. Lily, we don’t offer that lightly.”
“Oh, I know.” There was no secret a vampire could hide there. Godric would know all her dreams and fears. Nowhere did the font of blood speak so clearly. Nestled in the ribcage, it was blood that could only be given freely. A vampire attempting to feed there risked having his fangs snapped off on a preternatural rib. It was the ultimate act of trust.
“Are you sure?” Godric asked. “Eric was yours first.”
“And he’ll have his turn too. But you’re the one who has volunteered to claim me as your progeny. You’re the one who will shoulder the responsibility of my missteps. Who will answer as my maker. I couldn’t let you turn me, Godric, but you can still be my maker. You have an eternity to choose me as yours, over and over again, and do right by me. If you want.”
Godric blinked heavily several times as he realized why she was offering to feed him from a most sacred place. Adopting Lillian was a chance to make up for every unspeakable thing that monster Appius had done to him. To be better. To give a vulnerable, makerless newborn the opportunities he was denied. Lillian watched a series of emotions flicker over Godric’s face before the centuries of wariness slipped from it completely. He looked like the boy he had been millennia ago, abandoned and helpless. He was neither alone nor helpless any longer. Godric stifled a sob of joy with the back of his wrist.
“Drink my heart’s blood and know me as yours,” Lillian said.
In an instant, he had Lillian in his grasp. “You would give yourself to me?” he asked huskily.
“If you’ll have me.”
“Will you walk the endless nights with me, by my side?”
“Always.” Godric scented her deeply, running his nose over the delicate curve of her chin. He guided her down to the rug beneath them and stroked the spot over her heart. She had seen a version of this when he hoped to turn her. There were words that mattered to him, words he needed to hear. “I will be your mother, your sister, your daughter.”
A heartbreaking smile spread across his face. “And I your father, brother, and son. We will make each other, Lily, as equals. We will be all things to each other.”
“I love you,” she whispered. Godric’s fangs slid between the narrow reach of the ribs over her heart and he cried out. He gave her a wrist and Lillian felt him melt when she bit. She cradled his head and closed her eyes as the truth of her poured forth. In the perfect union of their bond, they were one, and as one, they knew only unending faith and love.
The cabin hummed, letting the lovers know someone had crossed the ward perimeter. Eric found the two curled up in front of the fire. He set down a large brown paper bag. It gave a telltale slosh. Dinner.
Lillian leapt into Eric’s arms and stole a long kiss from him. “Mmm, hello lover,” he said. “You smell delicious.” He carried her to an armchair and plopped down with her in his lap.
“Did you get things squared away with Sophie-Anne?” she said.
“Everything is peachy. She and de Castro agreed to issue edicts on Victor Madden and that fool Compton. I expect they’ll be apprehended within the week.”
Lillian let out a sigh of relief. Condemning two vampires had not been easy, but between her own visions of how they planned to harm her and the shady histories Eric and Godric recounted, they were dangerous loose ends.
“And Pamela?” Godric prompted.
“It turns out she likes Minnesota a lot more now that she’s in charge,” Eric said. He had not liked lying to his progeny about Lillian’s transformation, but it was a necessary evil. “She sends her congratulations to you both. She was surprised, to say the least.”
“I am overjoyed to find myself a maker again after so long.” Godric said. Eric studied his maker carefully. Godric spoke earnestly. The gloominess that had hung about him since the bombshell news of Lillian’s turning had lifted completely.
“How are Greysolon’s orphans?” Lillian said.
Eric glanced at Godric. “They are faring well. The response from the community has been positive. Most have already been placed with a foster elder.”
“Wonderful,” Godric said, kicking his feet up on a stool. “What, Eric?” he said, seeing his child’s skepticism. Eric started to say something but Godric cut him off. “Am I not allowed to change my mind? I view the matter of adoption rather differently now that I find myself on the other end of it. Be happy for me.”
The joy flooding their bonds was undeniable. Eric laughed in amazement. “Your happiness is mine.”
“Once Pamela feels things have stabilized, she should visit us for a long weekend while we are still in Sweden,” Godric said.
“Are you going somewhere?” Eric asked.
“We are going somewhere,” Lillian said, tucking a strand of Eric’s hair behind his ear.
“Where’s that, my little Oracle?”
Eric crooked an eyebrow. “Our beloved comes to us with an inheritance, it would seem,” Godric said.
“Oh shush, Godric, it’s not mine. Not really,” Lillian said.
“Don’t tell me. Marduk had a horde?” Eric said, his interest immediately piqued.
“Marduk’s priests smuggled his treasure out of Babylon when it fell. He showed me how to find it. But that’s the least of it. There is so much more in his memories – potential archaeology sites throughout the ancient world that can be excavated.” Her excitement was infectious.
“I see you already have your next project worked out.” Eric smirked.
“Absolutely. I’ve got to keep busy somehow now that all I have is time.” Lillian hopped up and took Eric’s large hands in hers. “Come on. Let’s go back to the Cave House. I’ll tell you all about it in the car.”
Godric snuffed out the fire with a bucket of sand and Lillian put her necklace back on. Eric’s eyes wandered over pendant nestled between her breasts. The sight made his fangs drop. Traces of her blood were dried on her skin.
“Eric, remember how I dreamt that you made love to me under the northern lights?” she asked.
“How about we make that dream a memory?”
He hummed and licked his lips. “On one condition.” He hovered over her for a long moment before dropping to one knee.
Lillian searched his face. “What’s this?”
“Will you share a dream of mine?” He bit his lip, anxious and full of raw hope. “Maker has accepted you as his progeny. He will give you more than you can possibly imagine. Words cannot express how great a gift this is and how happy I am for you. Let me give you something I’ve never offered any but him. When we get back to the Cave House, when we’re lying together on the sacred ground where we both rose vampire, take my heart’s blood, my bonded, and know that I am yours. Be mine.”
Lillian blinked back crimson tears. She fell into his arms and kissed him. “Yes, Eric, of course. I was going to offer the same.”
“Yes?” he said with a fangy grin.
“Always yes,” she murmured and found his mouth once more.
“Come on, you two. Let’s get going or you’ll end up consummating your vows right here,” Godric said.
Eric hopped up and snatched the car keys from Godric. “Fine, but I’m driving.” He was out the door in a blur.
Godric locked up the cabin and the three vampires slipped silently down the path through the woods. At the fork in the path, Lillian paused, looking longingly down the hill towards the restaurant. The sounds of human laughter and the smell of fresh, sweet blood filled the air. Godric had a firm hand on her wrist. “Another time. You are not eating my chef.”
“I just want to -“
“You’ll say yes.”
“No, I most certainly -“
“Will.” She winked and bumped him playfully with a hip. “Trust your oracle, old man.”
Godric leaned over and nipped the secret spot behind her neck, making her flesh tingle in a shiver. He whispered into the shell of her ear. “You listen to your maker and we’ll see.”
A/N: Thank you, amazing readers, for following me on this adventure. I am so grateful for every favorite, follow, and review you have left over the years. You’ve kept me inspired. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey. Much love, xx, Melusine