I didn’t get a warning before the hit.
Of-fucking-course I didn’t!
As soon as I pushed open the door to my thrown room, it hit me like a burning spear from hell. Right in the middle of my ribs.
My last conscious thought was relief that I’d muted my bond with Sookie and that she’d be spared the immediate pain I was feeling. Next came the debilitating fear for my mate’s safety.
And then there was dark…
I saw my maker go down on his knees before I felt the sledgehammer on my maker-child bond. Ghost fingers closed around my throat, cutting off air and circulation and I clawed at nothing to get them off. I ended up clawing my own neck. Years of Eric’s training kicked in, in an instant, and I went to crouch behind my kneeling maker, acting that I was down too, while I scanned the room for danger and attackers till my wits lasted.
A large part of Eric’s security force stood in the room, weres, vampires and humans. They just stood there, like freaking zombies, staring lifelessly towards the throne. I followed their line of sight and my anger exploded like a nuclear bomb.
Another group of soldiers surrounded the raised platform of Eric’s throne, these ones alert and ready and very Fae, making a clear formation around the three people standing at the place where only my maker deserved to stand.
And wicked witch from the fifteenth century. At least that’s what she looked like.
I bet she heard what I thought when her eyes narrowed to me and boy did she look pissed.
“His progeny, isn’t she? They were your task witch.” she said spit out.
Hallow’s jaw moved as if she wanted to growl.
“They are all too tightly bound. Fucking family bonds of love!” she spat, “My spell worked on every single person in this place but not on his children. He is protecting them.”
The strange woman just shook her head in exasperation. “I should have known. The magic wielders of this realm are scum…”
Hallow lunged towards the her but Freyda pushed her back.
“Give it a moment.” the woman-not-from-this-fucking-realm continued, “The viking will drown on my command and pull his children under with him.”
As if it was waiting for her to say that, a darkness started creeping in my eyes, followed by excruciating pain coming from my maker’s bond. Eric’s head dropped. Was he going to become a zombie too?
“Eric? Eric wake up!” I yelled and tried to move towards him, but the invisible fingers that had tried to choke me a second ago tightened like vices around my body.
“ERIC…” I called out to him, before my voice failed. Followed by sight… Hearing… Thought…
I was in the shower when a gut wrenching spasm hit me in the middle of my ribs. I slipped and fell flat on my butt, all breath leaving me suddenly. Along with the breath, it felt as if my insides were being pulled out, while my body folded in upon itself from a vacuum being created inside. My sight went black. I tried to scream, but my throat didn’t make a sound. Clawing at the slippery glass door of the shower enclosure, I barely managed to open the door and stumble out of the steam filled bathroom, on my knees. A part of me thought it was a nightmare, those bad kinds where everything looked and felt like death, with no rescue in sight. But another, bigger conscious part knew that this was real. Something had gone seriously wrong.
Eric’s suite was not yet familiar enough for me to navigate without looking, especially on my knees. Panic wouldn’t get me anywhere so I tried to calm my thudding heart and blinked to try and clear my eyes. Slowly, the blackness lifted and the clouds in my eyes cleared enough for me to vaguely see the swirling patterns of the carpet under my hands and feet. Breathing was still a struggle. The empty vacuum settled like lead inside me, weighing me down, making everything painful and hopeless.
Two excruciating breaths down, I knew I had to try ‘calling’ Eric. He might have muted our bond, but he would come when he felt my pain. However, when I went to that place inside me where I had felt our bond grow to life just yesterday, all I felt was… a big nothing. A black hole of a space that had consumed the beautiful pulsating thread that I saw as my bond with Eric. Tears started in my blurry eyes even before I realized how acutely I felt the loss of something so new that I had not been aware how much I had come to love.
I madly pushed at the darkness and felt myself begin to drown in it, the blackness reaching my eyes again. The darkness felt oily, reaching…Evil…I backed away and scrambled to regain what slivers of sight I had recovered seconds ago. The dark vacuum tried sucking me in again. I resisted.
Maybe if I hadn’t been a telepath and shielded myself from hundreds of stray thoughts everyday of my life, I wouldn’t have known how to block out the reaching darkness and would have gone under. But I was a telepath. Shields were my only sanity and something that I was an expert at. So I did what I knew best. Brick by brick, stone by stone, I started building a mental wall against the darkness. And I fought it. I fought so hard that I didn’t realize when I collapsed on the floor. Or when my ears and nose started bleeding. For sometime, I didn’t even notice my sight clearing up.
The darkness fought me too. Knocked down a the bricks as I laid them. But I kept building and I kept plugging the holes. I kept putting up blocks till I couldn’t spare another bit of mental energy to throw in. Only when I was sure that not an inch of the dark could get to me, did I stop.
That done, I finally blinked and looked around. I could see that I was curled up like a baby on the floor- naked, covered in sweat and shivering, every muscle stiff like I had just run across Louisiana. Small blots of blood from my nose and ears stained the carpet under my cheek, sticking my skin to the soft fiber. The bite on my neck hurt like a bitch. I prayed that wound hadn’t opend again. I twisted my face and pulled my face off the blood stained carpet. Then I braced myself and sat up. The nightgown I had left out on the bed was still there, but I needed something warmer. I started crawling towards the closet, stopping to rest twice before I reached it. Somehow I managed to pull on a set of underwear, a long sleeved T and a pair of jeans. Slowly, methodically, I pulled on a pair of socks and my old tennis shoes.
I checked my shields and said a small prayer of thanks that they were still holding. Only then did I allow myself to think about the pain of the vacuum inside me. I hadn’t felt anything like it before. Outwardly, my body was fine. No signs of additional injury or damage. I’d been shot before. Shot, strangled, fang-raped…The list was a long one. But not one of incidents had made me feel like this. Not one of them had attacked me from the inside, like this darkness I was still fighting in my head, keeping away with my shields.
And where was Eric? What was the matter with our bond? Why couldn’t I see our golden thread connection? Had Eric felt it disappearing too?
I gasped at a sudden thought. What if Eric was in pain too? What if this darkness hit him first and was now coming for me?
Adrenaline shot in my nerves as I thought about my viking being brought down by the same kind of hit I had taken. No. That was not going to happen. I could see a lot of things through. But I would not see Eric helpless again! Not my viking!
I clutched a shelf and hauled myself up. My hand hit something and a pile of clothes spilled on the floor of the closet. On top of the pile dropped my purse, zipper open, and things from inside it clattered all around me. My eyes went to the dark velvet pouch that had dropped out of my purse. My foggy mind vaguely registered my movements as I took a step and picked up the pouch. It was that beautiful but sharp dagger I had found before and had meant to return to Eric. I pulled out the dagger and stuck it in my pocket. It felt immediately better to have some kind of weapon on me, small enough to not be detected but sharp enough to matter when used in a pinch. I sorely missed my shotgun. But the pretty dagger would have to do.
With that sorted, I dragged myself out of the closet and out of Eric’s suite.
The foyer was deserted and silent. I pushed my senses out, around me. The suite behind me, Eric’s suite, was empty. So was Pam’s and what I guessed was Willa’s. The entire floor was empty. I limped out, the pain receding to manageable levels with each determined step I took. Or maybe, I was getting used to it and consciously blocking it out, just like I was blocking out the darkness. I didn’t care about the reasons. I was fine as long as I could haul ass and find Eric.
I tried checking out the two other suites. They were locked. So I moved to the exit door from the foyer. The hallway was brightly lit, but empty as I’d expected. I crept out and decided against the elevator. Farther down the hallway, I found the emergency stairs and started going down. The floor right under seemed empty again.
Pin pricks on the back of my neck told me that somewhere in my determined mind, I was getting scared of the empty rooms and hallways. Something was horribly wrong. I knew in my gut that Eric needed me. Nerves wouldn’t help me find him. So I pushed my fears away and kept moving.
I checked the second floor hallway similar to the one upstairs, refusing to overthink my reasons for checking an empty floor. The biggest one being that I couldn’t sense the truly dead.
It was empty too.
I took a deep breath and continued down the stairs. Each step revealed more disturbing emptiness. After the commotion of the past few days, the silence was too much to take.
Where the hell was everyone? Where the hell was Eric? Or Pam? Or Tara? Or Willa?
My eyes misted but I gulped and shook my head to clear them off. A hard push on my shields brought me down again. I clenched my jaw and took out the dagger. The gleaming cool hilt strangely helped with my resolve and in turn strengthened my shields. I mentally checked around, checked inside. The entire residential wing was deserted. I got up and started towards the tunnel connecting the residential wing to the more public areas of the compound.
Here and there, I caught strange thought patterns. A few weres entered the tunnel behind me. I tried listening in, but it was like a block had been placed on their thoughts. Strange, and not what Eric did with his weres. Not friendlies then! I hurried forward and found an empty store room to hide. Their footsteps rang near. They were not speaking and I couldn’t hear what they were thinking. So I prayed to any God that was listening that they didn’t catch my scent. The footsteps hurried across the door of the dark storeroom and started going farther. I breathed a sigh of relief. Just when I thought they were far enough for me to get out of hiding, another set of footsteps echoed down the tunnel. These were different. I tried getting a read on who they might belong to. And froze as the signature registered.
Only once had I sensed minds like these. And I had not been on Earth at the time!
I carefully backed away in the darkness, trying to get behind a heavy set of shelves. Maybe there was a door out.
The feet stopped outside my door and I knew there was no where to run. I pocketed the dagger and brought my hands together to call my light.
The doorknob rattled. The door was thumped from the outside but the lock did not budge. A few seconds and the whole room rang with a blast that hit the door, loosening the hinges.
“Tiny! Stop blowing doors and hurry along. Her Majesty is waiting!” Another voice from far. Male voice.
What the hell kind of a name is Tiny. No wonder this fairy was so angry.
And, Her Majesty? Could it be…
‘Tiny’ rattled the doorknob again.
“Something is in there.” came a rough snarling male voice.
That was Tiny?
My stupid, scared, adrenaline junked out brain thought this was a good moment for a snort. I clamped both my hands on my mouth to stop myself from making a sound. Luckily for me, Tiny thought against double checking and trotted along. Immediate danger gone, I started freaking the fuck out.
What the fuck were those mad fairy Queen Mab’s lackies doing here?
Were they responsible for this chaos?
Had they done something to Eric that now I couldn’t feel him or get to him?
After all, they were well versed in the art of capturing thoughts. The thought of the insects fucking with Eric brought out the famous Stackhouse temper. I had outwitted them once. I’d sure as hell do that again. And this time, I wasn’t alone. With as much mental muscle I could muster, I screamed at the top of my inner voice –
‘GREAT GRANDDADDY! IF YOU’RE LISTENING, THIS WOULD BE A GOOD TIME TO POOF TO ME!’
In true Niall fashion, he didn’t appear immediately. By now, I knew he would come when he would. So without wasting more time, I concentrated on reading the surroundings once again. I found something, signs of life, a lot of minds and voids from one location. Like a crowd in a small space. I stopped to feel their thoughts. But their thoughts were not working like they should have. They felt far far away from me. But I knew they were nearby. It made no sense.
I stepped out of the room, making as little noise possible and started following the cluster of thoughts. I passed the tunnel and came upon the grounds. The thoughts were vague, not giving me any visual markers of their location. This was unlike anything I’d done before and I was running on pure instinct. Maybe because I was concentrating on those thoughts so hard that I didn’t notice another brain signature creeping up on me from behind. By the time I noticed, an arm was around my throat and another around my torso, trapping my arms within his grip. The arm on my neck tightened as he pulled me back to whisper in my ear.
“What do we have here? A muddied half fairy!” He took a breath, “Smelling of Northman no less. Her Majesty would be pleased with this discovery.”
He started steering me forward.
O hell no! I was so not getting kidnapped or bullied today!
I guess my anger was enough of motivation to trigger my microwave fingers. My hands lit up like a Christmas tree and I pushed them on his thighs. The man yelled something in a foreign language, loosening his grip for a moment as I literally lit his ass up. That moment was enough for me to slip out my dagger and stab him. In his balls. In my defense, they were right where my arms reached at my back. He went down all right!
I jumped away from him and gave him another shot of my light. He passed out. And then I noticed how strange his clothes were. Like a medieval knight’s in golden armor.
Where the heck did this piece of historical artifact come from? Was the Fairy queen renting clothes from a drag store these days?
I didn’t stay to find out how long he would remain down. By then, I was sure we were under attack. I ran towards the direction where I’d felt the crowd, this time taking care to scan around me for medieval knights too. I entered the buildings through a narrow side window, thanking heavens for my jeans and boots. As soon as I jumped in, a couple of weres pinged in my head, some still and some approaching fast. I didn’t know what size they were or whether I could take them down in time without making a noise or not, so back to window I went and jumped out. I had to find another way in.
I didn’t count how many minutes or hours I searched, hid, ran or how many rooms, halls, guards I passed or dodged in trying to find my way to Eric. I was only aware of the thickening tension in my blood, the increasing push of the insidious darkness in my head, my sweaty and tired body and the absolute feeling of wrong in my gut. My flight instinct was screaming for me to run as far away from where I was trying to get to. My ears started bleeding again, maybe because of the strain on my shields. I still went on, following that big group of mental signatures I had found. They led me to the great hall, aka, Eric’s throne room. I got a wall first. Call it a woman’s instinct but I just knew Eric was on the other side of this wall, even if I couldn’t feel him where I should have. I started creeping along the wall, looking for a way in, dreading what I’ll find when I did get in.
At the end of one short hall, there was a floor to ceiling window. There were a few tall palms in huge vases arranged around it. I went to the window and peeked out to get a bearing of where I was. Turned out, I was on the second floor and had no idea what part of the outside grounds I was looking at. However, at the left, by the wall I had been creeping along, I saw a partially concealed door inside a side alcove. It was painted the same white as the wall and had a completely smooth outer surface; so no door knobs or even keyholes. If I hadn’t come to the very edge of the window behind one of the palms, I might not have even seen it. It must be a hidden getaway door or something.
My heartbeat did double time as I ran my hand along the wood, praying for another miracle to somehow open it and still remain hidden in the unknown situation I was going to walk in to. My hand swept a spot in the center and a small light LED blinked on the top edge of the door. I again ran my hand in the same area, slowly this time. The light blinked again and I froze my hand on the spot. A red laser line, coming again from the top edge, went over my hand, first in one direction and then in the other. The LED changed from red to green and the door gave way, the movement quieter than my breathing. I pushed. And all I saw was darkness.
Muffled voices were coming from somewhere beyond the darkness. Physical voices my ears could detect. As silent as the door, I stepped into the dark area and shut off the door behind me. The voices grew. They were high pitched female voices. Was it the bitch fairy queen? I blindly put out my hands and touched soft velvety fabric. Must be some kind of curtains then. There was a space of a foot or so between the curtain and the wall. I pressed myself to the wall and started moving sideways along it, straining my ears to understand the voices from the hall. They got to me in snippets, like a bad radio, muffling words here and there.
I don’t have to… … …witnesses… …
Don’t care for… …he is… …can’t wait… …horrible realm… …
Bonded to… …challenge… …no one… …
Do it Freyda…
Oh hell no!
The voices trailed out. And I fumbled frantically to find an edge and see what was happening. I was sure I’d heard them talking about Eric. My fingers found an edge and I peered out. I almost wished I hadn’t.
I saw Eric.
Locked in an embrace with Freyda on the podium.
His fangs in her neck. His hands gripping her shoulders.
And her fangs in his neck.
They were moaning.
A cry left my mouth before I could think about it, as the scene hit me like a mac truck and I ran out of the hiding place, my small dagger in one hand and my heart in the other.