It was barely twenty minutes later when Eric found himself outside of the cell holding Appius. There was a mood of tense anticipation in the air, yet at the same time a sense of dread. Despite everything Appius had put Eric through and forced him to do, he was still Eric’s Maker. Appius was the reason he was standing there, and not ashes on the wind over a thousand years ago. Appius had given him new life and now, a thousand years later, Eric was going to give his Maker a final death. It was most fitting in a way. They had come full circle. Death to life to death. Only this time, it was Eric who held the power. He wielded the whip. He was the Master. No longer would he be bound to a man whose only gratification in life came from inflicting brutal and relentless pain upon him. After that night, Eric would be free.
That was something Eric never expected. He knew his Maker well enough to know that he would have never released him of his own volition. Appius revered the hold he had over Eric too much to ever willingly give it up. He enjoyed the fear that he had instilled and that lived deeply inside Eric, the apprehension of never knowing when or where Appius would next appear. Appius enjoyed hanging that over his child’s head. He wanted that dread in Eric. He wanted Eric to be afraid of when he would next turn up and rape him once again. For a thousand years, Eric had lived with that terror. He had never truly allowed himself to become completely comfortable because he knew the moment he did, Appius would appear and ruin everything.
In many ways, Eric was grateful that Sookie had run when she did because he knew if she would have been present when Appius finally turned up, his Maker would have used his sadistic ways on her to hurt him. It filled Eric with dread to even think what Appius might have done to her, or commanded him to. The sexual abuse he had suffered at the hands of the vermin in Area Five, a crime that Eric swore every man who had taken him against his will would suffer, was nothing compared to the horrors Appius would have inflicted upon Sookie. Eric knew his Maker would have used him to brutalize the only woman he had ever loved. Eric’s body would have been the weapon Appius would have used to break both Eric and Sookie.
Anger swelled inside Eric as he thought about all the appalling things Appius would have commanded him to do to Sookie. He would have fought against the command as he always had when Appius forced him to hurt an innocent, but no matter how much or how hard he would have fought, Eric knew he would have eventually succumbed to his Maker’s command. Eric would have once more been a victim of his own body and destroyed his love and himself at the whim of a horrifying monster.
Hatred like he had never before felt surged in his veins as he thought about what his Maker could have cost him. There would have been no way back for him if he would have hurt Sookie. He would have met the sun the first chance he had. His anger grew until it was a raging inferno, set to consume everything in his path. Eric was prepared to march into Appius’ cell and rip off his head when he felt a small, soft hand slip into his. Eric chuckled softly when he looked down at Sookie. With a single touch she could strip away the anger and hatred that threatened to take over him and cleared his mind.
“You don’t have to do this,” Sookie said softly as she gazed up at the vampire she loved more than anything. She could feel his emotions and she knew what they were doing to him. They were eradicating his senses and making him react on a baser level. Not that there was anything wrong with that, however; Sookie suspected Appius would try to use those emotions against Eric. The Roman vampire was not above exploiting his children for his own selfish needs and gratuitous desires.
Sookie had seen a small fraction of what Appius had done to Eric in Freyda’s mind. She hadn’t seen it all, but she had seen enough to be disgusted. Those glimpses had her wanting to be the one who sent Appius to his True Death. In spite of that, she wouldn’t take that right away from Eric. She meant it when she told him he didn’t have to do it, but if he chose to, she would support him every step of the way. Sookie was firmly in his corner. Never again would he suffer the evil of his Maker alone. She would stand at his side through it all, offering him her constant, yet silent support and love.
“I do,” Eric replied, ignoring the guards in the hallway and pulling Sookie into his arms. “It would be so easy to walk away and let someone else end him, but I need to do this. I need to end it. I…”
I won’t trust his death by any hand but my own, Eric told her telepathically, not wanting to voice his reasons aloud. There was no shame in what he wanted, or the reasons why, but he didn’t want anyone else to know them. I need to end him so I know it is over. For a thousand years he has tormented me, even when he was not near. I need to witness it with my own two eyes. I need to feel him die by my own hands.
Sookie ran her hands over Eric’s back as she pressed her head to his chest. I understand, she replied in her mind. You need closure. You need to know he’s gone. Pressing her lips to his shirt-covered chest, Sookie kissed the place where his heart lied before lifting her head and peering up at him. “Then let’s do this,” she said, her voice filled with conviction. “Let’s end it. Let’s send that bastard to Hell.”
A small smile tugged at Eric’s lips as he reluctantly let her go and reached for the cell door. He unlocked it with the key he had taken from one of the guards before pushing the door open and stepping inside. He could feel Sookie at his back and he took comfort in her presence while he faced his Maker for the last time.
Eric wasn’t surprised to see Appius chained in silver and hanging from the back wall, yet it still seemed like such a surreal sight. In his thousand years, Eric had never seen his Maker look so small. Appius was an arrogant and proud man who held the belief he was better than everyone. He took what he wanted without impunity; without the care of the cost of or who he might be hurting. Appius had always held himself above anyone else but as Eric stared at him, hanging by his wrists in clothes that belied his true station in life, Eric finally realized he was nothing. He was a weak man who only pretended to be strong. Sookie had been right earlier when she said Appius was weak and insignificant. Eric was now finally seeing that with his own two eyes.
Moving further into the cell, Eric stepped closer to Appius and just stared at him. Since the night he had turned him, Eric had carried a deeply rooted fear of Appius. He had taken his life, his body, and twisted his beliefs, but never had he been able to take Eric’s soul. His soul had always been far beyond Appius’ grasp. That it still wasn’t something his Maker had never been able to touch was because Sookie had kept it safe. A thousand years before she was even born, she had protected him, and he couldn’t have loved her more for it. The fear that had been a constant from the moment he rose as a vampire was gone. As he looked into the eyes of his Maker, Eric felt nothing. Not hate, not anger, nor fear… Nothing. Because that was what Appius was; he was nothing, and any power he had was gone. Never again would he wield his hold over Eric and abuse him for his own twisted pleasures. After that night, Appius would be nothing but a memory and, given enough time, memories fade.
Appius sneered at Eric as he stared at him. He had heard his child enter along with the Council whore, and he knew it would only be a matter of time before he was sent to his True Death. As he stared at his child, Appius felt an all-consuming hatred seep into every part of his body. He despised his child. In Appius’ mind, everything that had gone wrong was Eric’s fault. Alexei’s death rested solely on Eric’s shoulders. If Eric had only done as he was ordered the entire mess could have been avoided. As his Maker, Appius had the right to sell Eric to anyone he wanted, and Eric should have fulfilled that right.
But the one thing Appius hated most about Eric was that he could never break him. For a thousand years he had tried. Appius had done everything in his power to break Eric’s spirit, but nothing he did worked. He had whored him out, made him abuse and kill the innocent, he had used him for his own deviant perversions, and yet, at every turn he had been met with resistance and outright defiance. Appius had once desired to remake Eric in his own image. He wanted Eric to be exactly like him, evil and twisted; when that failed, he wanted to break him down completely. Now, however, knowing that he was going to die, he wanted to not only break Eric and the whore he was with; he wanted to absolutely destroy them. His end might have been drawing nearer, but Appius swore he wouldn’t go alone. He would take them both to Hell with him.
“Eric, as your Maker, I command you to release me,” Appius forced out quickly before anyone could stop him. He was filled with anticipation as he waited for his command to take hold, and for Eric to release him.
Eric stiffened at the command and was about to scream at Sookie to get out when he became conscious that nothing was happening. The command that should have taken hold of him and had him moving to release Appius had not compelled him; instead he felt nothing. A look of shock flashed across his face at the realization. Nothing. I don’t even feel him. The tie that linked me to him is gone.
“I command you!” Appius screamed again. Fury built inside him as his command continued to have no affect on his child. It was not possible. He was Eric’s Maker. His command should have been all it took. “I am your Maker. I command you! How is this possible? What have you done?!”
“Yeah, sorry, that’s me,” Sookie said, stepping out of the corner where she had been standing. Moving out of the shadows, she flashed Eric a smile as she moved to stand by him. She may not have known Appius as well as Eric, and truthfully, she didn’t want to, but she knew enough to know he would try and use his Maker’s command to his advantage if he could. He was nothing if not predictable. “A bond with a human/Fae/Dae Soul Seer hybrid trumps a Maker’s command. Well, actually it trumps the whole bond. It broke it!”
I’m sorry, Eric, I should have told you before we came down here, Sookie projected to Eric. I should have told you before we exchanged blood. Being bonded, fated, mates, or whatever you want to call it supersedes all other bonds. You belong to me as I belong to you. In doing so, you can’t belong to anyone else. Or in this case, Appius has no control over you.
Unexpected, but not unwelcome, Eric replied in his head, grateful for their new way to communicate with each other. Hearing the bond he now shared with Sookie broke the bond he had with Appius was not something he was expecting, but he couldn’t find it in him to be angry, or care for that matter. He had wanted to be free of Appius for centuries, and now he was, even without his Maker’s death. In a way it was even better because he now knew he wouldn’t feel Appius’ death as he would have if the bond had still remained. Eric should have realized it was gone the second he stepped into the room, or even before. That realization should have come when he hadn’t shared Appius’ pain after he had been chained in silver. He knew his Maker well enough to know he would never block the bond to keep his child from feeling his suffering. He never did. He always liked to share the pain.
Does this mean my bond with Pam is broken as well? Eric asked before he searched for Pam through their tie. He frowned when he felt her; she was fine and enjoying herself. How can I feel Pam if our bond breaks all others?
It doesn’t break all others, Sookie replied, flicking her eyes to him. It only breaks the ones that try to claim you as theirs. Pam belongs to you, not the other way round. You’re the master in that bond. Appius, as much as I hate to say it, was your master. Our bond refused to allow that. We belong to each other, so we can’t belong to anyone else.
Eric nodded his head in understanding, although he had still had some questions. Now was not the time though. The questions could wait until later. Appius couldn’t. He needed to be ended before he could poison anyone else with his hatred.
Appius’ eyes widened in shock at Sookie’s words. He might not have understood what a Soul Seer was, but he knew all too well what a Fae and Dae meant… She is a fairy and daemon. The power she must possess. I want it… Appius pulled on his chains as he tried to get to Sookie. He knew if he could get his hands on her, he could rule them all. With her under his control, he would be unstoppable. Try as he might, Appius couldn’t break free of his chains and he sagged in defeat, refusing to give up and yet not sure how he could continue.
Anger raged in the ancient vampire at the realization that not only was he doomed, but Eric, his worthless and undeserving child, would have the thing he desired the most… Power. Eric would have the life Appius had always wanted. He would sit as King of the Mountain. No! Appius screamed in his head, madness twisting his soul and making it darker.
Sookie fought the urge to flinch when she saw the darkness encompass Appius’ soul. It was obvious to her that he was too far gone to ever recover even if he was given the chance. His soul was the darkest shade of black there was. No light would ever shine on it again. It was painful for her to see, knowing much of that darkness had come at the expense of her vampire, at Eric.
Insanity swam in Appius’ eyes as he glared at Eric and Sookie. He swore if he couldn’t have them, no one could. He would not let Eric have the life he wanted. He didn’t deserve it. He would break their minds and spirits. He would destroy them and everything they believed in. It would be his parting gift to them.
“So you have exchanged one master for another,” Appius sneered, contempt dripping his words. “Is that how you won your freedom, þræll? Did you offer your services to her in exchange for her help?” Appius chuckled darkly as he saw anger flash over both Eric and Sookie’s faces. “A pretty mouth and tight ass, that is your whole worth. You were good as a whore and nothing else.”
Eric clenched his hands into fists while Appius continued to torment him. He knew what his Maker was attempting to do, and he swore he wouldn’t let him. Sookie was right; he was stronger than Appius Livius Ocella. He wouldn’t allow him to have any power over him any longer. His words were just that… Words. They had no power over him. They would not shame him into lashing out. He wouldn’t let Appius drive a wedge between him and his love. They were stronger than childish games.
“You should let me speak with your new master,” Appius continued, spitting out every vile thing he could think of. “I could tell her all the things you like…”
Sookie stared at Appius with disgust as his deviancy knew no bounds. Even then, knowing he was going to meet the True Death, he showed no remorse nor sought any redemption. He just continued to spew his hatred, to try and break her and Eric apart. Sookie knew that was what he was doing. As she already knew, he was nothing if not predictable. Despite everything she had seen and learned in the previous two years, Sookie still wasn’t comfortable with the loss of life in any capacity; she still wept for those lost lives whether or not they deserved her tears. Still, as she stared at Appius, Sookie knew she would offer him no tears. Her eyes would remain dry as he was sent to the True Death. He deserved no tears or mourning of any kind. He just deserved death.
“There is nothing you can tell me,” Sookie replied, her voice firm and filled with strength. “And, unlike you, Eric has no chains holding him down. He’s freer than you have ever been. He has no master.”
“Foolish child!” Appius spat as he eyed the young woman who held so much power. Oh, what he wouldn’t have given for a small taste of that power. He was never a fan of the fairer sex, but to claim that power and destroy his child, he would have taken her as his own. I would have made you watch, Eric, while I tore her apart. I would have made her scream while I ripped her insides up. “So much power in such a disgusting package. You are unworthy of the power that runs through your veins.”
“You think I can tell you nothing, but you are wrong,” he continued bitterly. His need to inflict pain on both his child and his whore was overriding any common sense he might have had left. He refused to go to his death until he broke them. “I was his master for a thousand years. He answered to my call whenever I desired his services. I had him on his knees every night for three hundred years, pleasing me as was his duty…” Turning his gaze to Eric, Appius ran his eyes over him in a way that had always chilled his child to the bone. Eric had always known that look was not good. It usually meant he was going to suffer at his Maker’s hands. Appius licked his lips as memories of his time with Eric played over in his head. The fact that he was so fiercely resisted had made Appius’ pleasure so much more thrilling.
Sookie was filled with unrestrained anger as she unintentionally slipped into Appius’ mind and witnessed the countless horrors he had inflicted on his child. In the space of a few moments, she witnessed centuries of abuse. She cursed her telepathy as she saw her beloved Viking being forced to his knees and made to pleasure two men at the same time. She wanted nothing more than to lash out and strike Appius down. She wanted to burn him from the inside out, and she knew she could. It would have been easy for her. A snap of her fingers and it would have been done.
Appius’ eyes widened in terror when he saw Sookie transform before him. He could see the dark markings on her skin, and he realized they were the words of an ancient language, a language that had been dead for thousands of years. He may have been able to recognize them, but he couldn’t read them. He doubted anyone could. That language was beyond dead. In his long life Appius had never feared a woman, but right then, he feared Sookie.
“You are a sick man, Appius Livius Ocella,” Sookie replied, her voice taking on a musical quality. “You preyed on those you knew were better than you. You used a Maker’s command like a coward because you knew it was the only way you could ever beat Eric. He is stronger than you, better than you. He always has been and you know that. You may have been his master, but he was never yours. You never owned him. He never belonged to you…”
“No,” Appius growled, cutting her off. He refused to believe that. Eric had been his. He had been his master. He owned him. He was his in a way he would never be anyone else’s. “He is mine and always will be. You can kill me, but it won’t make any difference. You won’t keep him…”
“That is where you are wrong,” Sookie replied firmly, the conviction in her tone clear for everyone to hear. “Eric is mine in a way that he would never be yours… Willingly. He gave himself to me just as I gave myself to him. He’s been mine since the dawn of time itself. You will never break us apart. I want you to go to your death knowing that. A thousand, two, or even ten thousand years from now we will still be together. Not even death can separate us. You failed, Appius.”
Eric watched as his lover spelled it all out for his Maker. Her faith in them was humbling, and he swore he wouldn’t ever do anything to break that faith. She was right. They were forever. He didn’t need a Seer or fate to tell him that. He knew it deep down in his soul.
Turning his gaze to his Maker, Eric grinned when he saw him sag under the weight of Sookie’s words. “Forever,” Eric said as he moved to stand directly in front of Appius. He felt Sookie take a step back, and he sent a burst of appreciation through their bond. He would end this. “That is what you gave me when you turned me, and now you can go to your death knowing I will spend that forever with Sookie.” Running his eyes over Appius, Eric shook his head in disgust. The man he once feared was nothing but a coward. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
“So this is the end,” Appius remarked, barely finding the strength to lift his head to meet his child’s gaze. All his attempts to break them apart had failed… He had failed. They were stronger than him.
“It is,” Eric replied with a nod as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out the stake he had been given by one of the guards. “I have thought of this moment from the very beginning. I dreamed that I would be the one to send you to your final death. Each time I imagined it, I thought of all the ways I could hurt you, of how I could make you suffer. I dreamed about slicing your skin off inch by inch. I imagined breaking your body like you did mine. However, as I stand here now, I understand something…” Grabbing Appius by the jaw, Eric forced him to lift his head and made sure he was looking at him as he added, “I realized… You are not worth it. You are not worth the time or effort. Goodbye, my Maker. May you burn in Hell for eternity…”
Letting go of Appius’ jaw, Eric took a step back and lifted the stake. He kept his eyes on his Maker’s as he drove the stake deep into Appius’ heart, making sure Appius knew who it was who was ending him. As he watched his Maker explode into a bloody mess, Eric felt relief wash over him. It was over. He had done it. He was finally free.
“It is over,” Eric said, his voice barely above a whisper.
“No, my love,” Sookie whispered as she stepped toward him and slipped her hand into his. “It has only just begun…”