This is why I never wanted to be a king. There is just too much official business!
But, in my infinite wisdom, I did become a king and was now dragging my ass after a puny little hand maiden, being taken to a cranky old crone, who liked to talk in cryptic monosyllables and often drove me crazy. I had no idea why I tolerated her funny little remarks and why she kept me around. I didn’t even know why she supported my rule and edicts and why she had made such a public statement by officiating over my coronation. I tried asking her once, in a more politically correct manner of course. She chuckled, rubbed her hands, winked and offered, “Vikings are funny.”
Yeah that’s it…
So, here I was, answering her summons and following her hand maiden like a licked puppy, when I really wanted to follow a certain half fairy trolling my home turf, who by the looks of our tie, was having a very good time indeed. I would never have left Sookie’s side at the party if it hadn’t been for that drag of a meeting with other monarchs. I could have returned to her when she went back, to check on her safety of course, if it hadn’t been for that last minute farce of a meeting with Freyda. Now, as if to mock me, she was traipsing around, close enough for me to get a hell of a homing signal in my blood and far enough that I couldn’t see her, or better still touch her.
Sigh! I hated being a king already!
This meeting, thankfully, was not brain numbing or useless as my two previous ones had been. A few other council members were present too. I saw Niall and we nodded at each other cordially.
The urgent matter was a breakthrough in our knowledge of the nature of the Hep V virus mutation, on which the Council’s team of researchers were working day and night. We caught all the infected vampires we could and used a few to study the virus and its possible cure. They had been drawing blanks since some time.
The AP called everyone to pay attention and gestured towards the young demon researcher Damian Cataliades, who was heading the research team, to enlighten the others with what they had found. The kid is a genius and one of the greatest minds in the field of medical and cellular research of our day. But for all his earned stars, he has a major fear of spotlights and avoids company like a plague. He took his time, clearing his throat and shuffling the papers in front of him, clearly struggling with where to start, when all the eyes in the room were on him.
I was sorely tempted to get him some of what Sookie was clearly ingesting and consequently getting merrier by the minute. Maybe it would loosen up our man of science a bit!
Niall Brigant was sitting next to Damian and perceiving his nervousness, gently squeezed the kid’s shoulder as a gesture of support and encouragement. The small action from the ancient fairy seemed to ease Damian’s nerves. He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath before starting.
“Worthy members of the Council, as you know, we have been working on the blood mutation effects of the new Hep V virus which was recently developed by the humans in pure spite. They must have been planning on a large scale chemical war with vampires. Their endeavor was somewhat contained, thankfully by the quick measures taken by our council member Mr. Northman and his aides.”
He looked at me and bowed and I nodded in acknowledgement.
“Hep V is a destructive and parasitic virus. Injected into a vampire, it pushes each and every blood cell into a frenzied war like state, in effect to save itself from being destroyed by the host’s blood. The vampire feels extreme hunger and pain when this happens. If injected in a highly concentrated form, the host cells turn against each other and the vampire’s blood kind of self-destructs. Again it is a very painful process.”
The memory of a dying Nora assailed my conscience and for a moment there, I was deeply aware of the hole my sister had left in me in her wake. But I needed to pay attention to Damian and could not start on this path which would now take me nowhere. I shook the depressing thoughts away and turned my attention back to what the kid was saying.
“In a lighter concentration, the individual blood cells would be driven into a crazed state but as long as the vampire continues feeding and ingesting more blood, the foreign blood cells would be the first to be destroyed, leaving the vampire’s blood till the time the foreign blood holds up. This gives rise to a maddening hunger for blood and crazed behavior in the infected vampires. Their blood is at a constant battle within them. They cannot think, cannot reason, do not answer to commands. They are essentially out of control.”
We already knew all of that. So what was new? I asked as much.
Damian’s eyes sparkled for an instant when he replied. “You see, up until now, we were studying their behavior when they were at their worst. And we were missing a very important detail. Mr. Northman what happens to a vampire at dawn?”
“We effectively die for the day. In a way, our blood sleeps and becomes dormant till the time the sun sets.”
Damian gave me a triumphant smile and nodded again. “Exactly! And this happens with the infected vampires too. The Hep V virus mucks up the vampire’s blood cells, but even then it cannot keep the blood awake when the sun comes up. That part of magic in a vampire is not affected whatsoever. So along with the vampire’s blood cells, the virus is forced to stay dormant while the host blood cells are dormant. I have been working with the humans researching cancer, a deadly disease to humans, which works in a similar fashion as Hep V in vampires. The difference in behavior and bloodlust is because vampires are inherently stronger and their blood is magical.”
Someone asked. “Yes but how does this knowledge solve the situation?”
Damian continued. “I have been working with a team of cancer researchers since a few years, to develop a form of nanoscale particle that has the ability of specifically attaching to the cancer cells in a human’s bloodstream and destroy the bad cells selectively, without adversely affecting the other healthy cells. When a bunch of these particles are injected into the human’s blood stream, they spread out and latch on to the cancerous cells, owing to their cellular shape and affinity, and selectively destroy the malignant cells.”
He looked significantly at all of us before declaring with muted pride and emotion in his voice, “My team successfully cured a human suffering from leukemia, a kind of blood cancer, with our lab developed nanoscale particles. We confirmed positive results just two hours back.”
All of us looked at each other with bated breaths. This was some news indeed.
“For vampires, nanophytes may not work within dormant blood cells, as the blood stream needs to be constantly moving for the particulates to latch on, so we can’t try this out during the day. During the night, the nanophytes may not be quick enough to latch on to the virus cells in time, because they may be blocked by the crazed vampire blood cells. But, I have enough data to surmise that while a vampire’s blood is partially dormant, certain specially created nano particulates may work for them.”
I thought about the UV torture chambers at the AVL headquarters and offered my two bits. “During the night, if a vampire is subjected to a controlled amount of UV rays, it considerably weakens a vampire. The AVL and then the human government have used it as a torture technique. Is it possible that the UV rays slow down the vampire by bringing his or her blood to a semi dormant state?”
Damian gasped and gawked at me for a whole minute.
Then almost to himself, he mumbled in a low whisper, “Now why didn’t I think of that!”
Everybody was quite again.
The Ancient Pythoness was the first to break the silence. “Can this work for vampires Damian? We do not want another mutant version of the virus through another failed cure, like before.”
Damian clasped his hands and said emphatically. “I wasn’t there before, when your cure went wrong. I have brought the test and cure details from the human patients. You can all look at the data here. I need express permission from the Council to carry out the nanoparticle tests on vampires. I believe that our research combined with what Mr. Northman has shared, we have a good chance of a cure to the Hep V epidemic.”
This was good news indeed! We didn’t even have to take a vote…
The permission for vampire testing, with the authorizing signatures of all core council members, was granted in three minutes flat and all of us finally had a good reason to be hopeful for this project.
Dawn was approaching and the council members slowly filed out, as the meeting came to an end. I had just risen from my chair when the Pythoness called out to me.
“Northman…I need to discuss another matter with you. Stay…”
More matters?! Would this night never end?
She stopped Niall and it looked like Niall was tired and perplexed too. We shared a dry smile and sat down again.
It was about the same time, when I felt the alarm bells going crazy within me and rattling my ancient vampire blood cells into a different kind of frenzy…
Sookie…In trouble…fuck! What were the odds here?
I didn’t even realize I was already standing and ready to rush to her aid, when I got a stink eye from the old timer.
“I need to be somewhere” Did it come out like whining?
The Pythoness looked at me with a slight smirk. Why did I get the feeling that she knew exactly where I had to go and she was stalling me on purpose?
“And I would say it again- Patience Viking!”
I changed tactic. “It is dawn already.”
She remained unfazed and kept smirking. “Does it bother you so much at your age?”
I looked at Niall and surprisingly, he was looking very distracted and worried too. Maybe he could hear his granddaughter as well? Maybe the ancient relic would let him get to Sookie…
With an effort, I controlled the growl forming in my throat, “Ancient one, there is someone under my protection, within confines of my grounds right now, who is in some form of trouble. I need to get to her.”
Niall spun his head to look directly in my eyes when he asked, “Sookie?”
I nodded silently.
Niall raised an eyebrow at me, “How do you know?”
I cocked my own eyebrow in response, “How do you think?”
The AP interrupted our exchange. “Oh come now you two. Everything is as it should be. You must let fate take a turn once in a while. Northman, you can’t save everyone all the time. And you, Niall, need to take a break. The kids are getting really pesky these days.”
Niall and I both gaped at the old vampire, speechless and at a loss of what more to say. I got another anxious spike in fear and gripped and tore at the table’s edge in front of me in frustration. My frustration grew as I saw Niall sitting with eyes closed, apparently concentrating very hard on something.
“There are two of my kin in trouble here!”
His body started glowing faintly and I felt Sookie’s resolve and determination grow. Was Niall doing this? Who knew whatever the fairies could pull! Whatever it was, I pushed at the frail bond and tried sending as much support and strength as I could. I felt another spike of shock and disgust from my fairy and then suddenly, she was filled with relief.
Thank. The. Gods!
I slumped into my chair; my mind filled with relief too, and took a deep calming breath. I noticed Niall was staring at me and I smiled wryly at him. We shared another nod, acknowledging our averted crisis.
The AP cackled as only she could and left us with another one of her infamous cryptic remarks. “The stage is set…Vikings and fairies are fun…”
What the fuck?!
Freyda paced manically around the hotel room, her ears and eyes starting to bleed already because of the dawn.
“He wouldn’t do it. I have watched him carefully for some time. If Eric was ready, he wouldn’t have stalled.”
“Stop wearing out a hole in the carpet Freyda. Sit down and listen to me.”
“You don’t understand Stan. You don’t know Eric Northman.”
Stan Davis sighed and resorted to the only way that would still his agitated child for a bit. “As your maker I command you to sit down, be quite and listen to me.”
Freyda suddenly skidded to a stop and comically plopped down a chair. She had the expression of a landed fish, as she tried speaking out but the words wouldn’t just come. Finally she closed her mouth and crossed her arms angrily.
“Thank you…Now listen to me. I knew he wouldn’t sign the contract. You are a clever vampire my girl but you lack far sight. You still need to learn to cover your bases and make back up plans.”
Unable to respond or get up, Freyda huffed and sank further into her chair, still glaring angrily at her maker.
“But I agree with you that marriage to the Northman would be very beneficial to your position with the other monarchs. Good for you that your maker thinks of everything.”
Freyda raised her eyebrows in sarcasm.
“None of that now… I gave you your chance to talk and you have been doing it since a few months. It earned us nothing. Now we will do this my way. You see child, there is little that can’t be won in a war of wits. We just need the right weapons. And of course there is magic to make everything right.”
Stan walked over to his desk where a large stole covered something. With the flourish of a magician, Stan uncovered the object and looked expectantly at his child.
“You can speak now.”
Freyda gasped “That sword? How did you get it here? What will this serve?”
Stan smirked and waited a moment before he answered. “That my dear, is our back up plan. I couldn’t get my hands on it before but we got lucky tonight. There is an extremely gifted werewitch who owes me and holds a grudge against Northman. She came up with a binding spell sometime back, which was disproved and banned by the pussies in the Supe Council. Northman cast the damning vote against her and she was turned away from Mississippi after all her rights to practice her craft were stripped from her. Luckily for us, she sought asylum with me and I saw how useful her craft could be for us.”
Freyda’s eyes widened as she realized what Stan was saying.
“She can magically bind me to Eric?”
“Do you know how a blood bond works?”
“Yes…two creatures become one in their mind and blood. Each can tell the other’s thoughts, emotions, needs, location, anything that a conscious mind can come up with.”
“Yes that is what it does. As far as how this happens is concerned, we are magical beings and our blood is magical too. Our blood follows what we truly want to do. It holds dear what we hold dear and it rebels against what we detest. So when the blood of two magical creatures that hold each other dear, is mixed, their blood starts following the other’s blood, flows with the blood of the one we desire and feels whatever the other is feeling. A shared conscience results from this. It is a true connection. The strength and the exact magic of the bond, grows from the feelings the two participants have for each other.”
“Eric would never share his blood with me.” Freyda interjected.
Stan waved casually at that. “That is where Hallow, our witch, comes in. She just needs something from Eric that he considers precious and dear. Something he can depend on, an object that embodies his spirit. His Viking sword, for instance. And then she can work her spell to bind that part of him to you. In effect, the dearer the object to him, the dearer you will be to him.”
Freyda was smiling excitedly now. “In this case, I will become precious and dear to him. I will become his warrior’s spirit. He will depend on me.”
“Yes exactly. You don’t need to exchange blood. This spell will replicate the magic of mingling blood and bind him to you. I tried to procure the Council’s Ceremonial Dagger too. After the binding, it would just have taken you to give that enchanted dagger to Eric in front of witnesses and he would have been married to you by the law of the Supernatural Council. But no matter! We will think about it after the binding. Maybe we won’t even need it later.”
Freyda’s brow furrowed skeptically as she considered everything. “Forgive me master, but I see a flaw here. I do not want to be bonded to him this way. I don’t want him to know what I am feeling and I do not want him for eternity. That is the reason I wanted a paper contract and not the ritualistic wedding.”
Stan smiled knowingly and looked proudly at his child.
“That is why you are a great queen. You do see every small detail Freyda. But don’t worry about that. I have discussed the spell at long length with Hallow. If we do not use your blood in any way for the spell, you will not be blood bound to Eric. If you had wanted that, it would take just a scrap of your blood on the sword in the ritual and you would be bound to him too. Eric’s progeny cleans and polishes the sword for him every night just before dawn. There won’t be any interfering particles on it for the spell to go wrong. In our way, without your blood, it is only he that would be irrevocably bound to you. I know you are creative. You can make him do whatever you would want, including breaking the contract and attracting punishment.”
Freyda was speechless. Mustering all the respect and awe that she could in one gesture, she bowed her head to her maker. “Stan, Master…You have really outdone yourself this time.”
Stan walked towards his child and raised her chin to look at her. “I would do anything for you love.” And he bent down and kissed her passionately.
Freyda was the first to break the kiss. “How soon can the witch do this?”
Stan caressed her hair and pulled her up to stand. “Hallow is on her way. I informed her as soon as I got my hands on the Viking’s sword. Everything else is already set up for her.” He knelt down and picked up Freyda in his arms, before adding in a breathy whisper. “Which means we can celebrate our win while our pieces move themselves on the board…”