Chapter 9 – A Risky Arrangement
Bill tightened his grip on John, making John even more scared than he had been before. His thoughts barrelled into me like a freight train. He was thinking about how he could tell us about the silver chain in the bed of the truck without pushing the Vampire to rip his throat out.
“I’ll do whatever you want – just don’t turn me!” John pleaded.
Bill took his eyes off me and Claude long enough for me to gesture to the truck bed and mouth ‘silver chain’ to him. My cousin nodded and jumped on the back of truck before teleporting directly behind Bill and looping the chain around his neck. Bill let go of John and dropped to his knees as the metal sizzled against his bare skin. Claude ran around him, pinning his arms to his body with the chain as John scrambled back toward me. When he was incapacitated, Claude stood back with his arms folded and his eyebrow raised – daring Bill to make a move.
I gripped John’s arms as soon as he got close enough. “How far to the portal?”
“How did you know about …”
“Never mind that right now.” I missed out all the parts about me being a telepath and Claude being Fae when I told our story. We were simply sucked through a portal. “How far is it to the portal?”
“Maybe another ten miles or so to where I was gonna drop you off.”
I nodded, that was close enough. “Go back home, John, go back to Adele. You love her and your kids and your grandkids and your great-grandkids too much to risk it all for two odd strangers.”
“Tell me how you knew about the chain?”
“I read your thoughts, John, now you need to go.” I went to the cab and grabbed our bags. John was still standing in the same place as before, so I gave him a little push toward the truck. “Drive fast and don’t look back.”
John kept his eyes on me as he walked backward to the cab of the truck; he was completely taken aback by my admission. And a little scared of it. He climbed in and started the engine, gunning it as he turned it around and headed back the way we came. I blew out a breath and started to walk over to where Claude was keeping a watchful eye on Bill.
“You got me, yes you did.” Bill coughed and smiled ruefully. “I don’t know why you fairies came back to this hellhole, but could you just stake me? You smell worse than a week old corpse.”
He looked up at me when I got close enough and a saw his nose twitch before his eyes widened a little. Frowning, I told Claude to go and break off a branch from some dead trees at the side of the road. I wouldn’t have the guts to stake Bill, but Claude would. And I knew we couldn’t chance Bill getting free from those chains and coming after us.
“You’re the one we’ve been looking for.” Bill looked at me like I was a puzzle waiting to be solved.
“Who?” Even as I said it, I knew exactly who he meant – Eric and his blood that ran in my veins. But then, I’d had Bill’s blood too. It wasn’t too long ago he used it so I would find him in the destruction at Rhodes.
There was a scuffle in the trees and I turned toward it to find Eric snarling at the ground at the tree line. Claude appeared behind me. “Cousin, your blood tie with this Vampire is becoming a serious issue!”
“In this universe, yes, it’s a problem. But don’t forget that it’s saved us too.”
Claude huffed and crossed his arms, standing directly behind me. I wasn’t sure if it was because he thought me having the tie to Eric would save him or that he hoped they would attack me first so he could escape.
“Eric, I know you must be confused right now and really, really pissed off but we’re from an alternate universe where things are very different to this world.”
Eric stopped his slow advance on me and started laughing, Bill joined in – which annoyed me. Still chuckling, he went over and pulled the sleeve of his shirt over his hand before helping remove the chain from Bill.
“I sent you to play dead so you could catch us some dinner, Bill, and you end up netting a fairy and a strange woman, who I have a blood bond with no less, that don’t even belong in this universe. I’ll need to pick you for this job more often.”
“I … I’ll give you a vial of blood if you let us go.”
I turned to Claude with my mouth open; Fairy blood was intoxicating to Vampires – but highly unpredictable. Any humans in the vicinity after a Vampire tasted pure-fairy blood were very unlikely to survive, especially with younger vampires who lack control. Eric nodded and seemed to mull that over.
“A vial of pure-bred fairy blood would be nice. But not as nice as finding out how you managed to get to this universe from whatever one you came from.”
Claude and I looked at each other; he shrugged and told Eric how he had used some magic on the portal to mutate it – enabling our jumping from universe to universe. Eric never took his eyes off me the whole time Claude was talking. I held myself a little straighter, raised my head a little higher but when I ‘heard’ another void coming in fast, my head snapped towards it and Pam suddenly appeared next to Eric and Bill.
“That’s very interesting.” Eric mused, almost to himself. “However you got here, however you managed to get my blood in you, isn’t important – right at this second, anyway. What is important is that you’re going to get to another portal … and you’re going to take us through with you.”
Right there, that’s when I found out why we hadn’t been attacked yet. Me having that little bit of Bill blood and a whole lot of Eric blood was one thing but as soon as I opened my trap and mentioned being from another universe, Eric’s brain had been ticking. They wanted out, they wanted to escape and I didn’t blame them one bit. I know I didn’t want to spend another day in the dark – but that’s not why they wanted out. I could see Claude was as apprehensive about this plan as I was.
“The jumping is unpredictable, I’ve got no way of telling where we’ll end up, what time of day it will be or what kind of world we’ll jump in to. We could come out the other side of the portal at noon or we could end up in a world where everything is silver plated.”
Eric nodded and came over to stand just a couple of feet away, his nose wrinkling in distaste at the stench coming from us. “I’d rather perish while escaping than live, feeding from undernourished humans who never see the light of day. They don’t know it yet, but they’re dying. Humans need fresh air, fresh fruit and vegetables and sunlight to stay healthy. Feeding from healthy humans makes healthy vampires. Here, vampires are weak and underfed and we have an entire country looking for us. As Salazar said – It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.”
It was three vamps against one fairy (and a human with extras), but I could tell that Claude was weighing up his options. I grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight, just in case he was considering popping off to find the portal by himself and leaving me here. Despite everything we’d been through and the fact that he knew I wouldn’t feed him to the wolves, I wasn’t quite as confident. Now that Claude had his elixir and knew where the Cluviel Dor was, I needed him a lot more than he needed me.
I looked at Bill, Pam and Eric in turn. “I know your word doesn’t mean much, vampires are full of false promises, but you need to promise that after we come out of the portal – when it’s safe for everyone, we go our separate ways. No playing ‘chase the fairy’.”
Eric smirked at me and cocked his head to one side. “Can I play ‘chase the strange woman who senses when vampires are approaching’?”
“No.” I huffed. “You can’t. And my name is Sookie, this is my cousin Claude.”
All three vampires looked at each other and said, in unison. “Sookie?”
I rolled my eyes and inhaled deeply through my nose. It didn’t have the calming effect I’d hoped, I started coughing as my own stench filled my nostrils. Claude looked at me and raised an eyebrow.
“I feel much the same way, Cousin. It’s unfortunate that bathing is now even less likely with our new travelling companions.”
Nodding, I sighed and took the map out of my bag. It took a moment of squinting in the dark before Eric came over and plucked it from my hands.
“Where is the portal?” He stood next to Claude holding the map between them.
Claude pointed to the map and looked out into the woods before holding an arm out in front of him. “It should be this way, maybe about 20 miles.”
There had been some deliberation of how best to travel. Claude had made the suggestion that he teleport further ahead and the vampires could follow his garlicky, onion tainted fairy scent. Eric had been all too willing to carry me on his back. Running through the desiccated forest with my arms around Eric’s neck brought back memories of another time when he barely knew who I was. He had trusted me back then and he trusted me right now. I guess it helped that he would be able to feel if I was deceiving him through our bond.
My eyes stung from the dust drifting into them as Eric hung back behind Bill and Pam. My stomach churned as the landscape passed by at a speed I wasn’t comfortable with. I squeezed my eyes closed and buried my head into the nook between Eric’s neck and shoulder. Breathing deeply, I noticed this Eric smelled different. He still had that same dry smell that all vampires have, but it was stale – harder to deny that he was a dead thing brought to life. I wondered if this is what my Eric would smell like if he didn’t wear cologne and then remembered that I’d smelled him without cologne plenty of times.
It confirmed, for me, his suggestion that this planet was dying.
“It’s close, I can feel it.” Claude shouted from up ahead.
I felt my fingers digging into Eric’s shoulders as I prayed that our next jump would be the jump home. When we stopped, Claude was already concentrating his powers on the gateway to our fate. I stood next to him, waiting for the inevitable pull from the portal, and the Vampires followed my lead. This was as dangerous as it got, not only were Claude and I jumping into the unknown once again, we were taking three lethal weapons with us who could turn on us at any moment. Closing my eyes, I let myself get pulled into the vortex and kept them closed until I felt myself roll onto hard ground.
I blinked as a light shone into my eyes, its harshness exacerbated by the pitch black of our previous location. Once my vision had adapted, I noticed we were at a very brightly lit gas station. I stood up and turned around, Claude was sipping his elixir and the Vampires seemed to be struggling to get their bearings. I understood, and almost laughed at how I was about to comfort them about how it gets easier the more you do it. Shaking my head, I surveyed our surroundings, spinning at the sound of breaking glass.
My eyes settled on a man dressed in rags with a full, unkempt beard and then to the bottle of hooch he’d just dropped at the sight of us. It was then that I realised that the portal we’d just fell out of was in the middle of a brightly lit gas station. My mind whirled, wondering if there were security cameras or other witnesses to our arrival. A quick glace around confirmed my fears as looked at the attendant staring out of the window and at the trucker who had been just about to go in and buy snacks and at the woman who was standing with the pump in her hand, dispensing gas all over the concrete at her feet. I sucked a breath in through my teeth and wondered what the hell we should do now.
Before I could open my mouth, Claude pushed me toward the (now standing) Vampires and told us to run. I was confused until I saw him close his eyes and flick a small spark into creation from his fingertips, throwing it toward the puddle of gasoline. Screaming, I started to run, only to be picked up in Eric’s arms and moved through the scrublands surrounding the gas station at Vampire speed. As the gas station exploded, Claude appeared next to me with a cold look in his eyes.
“Witnesses are a bad, bad thing, cousin. It had to be done.”
I went limp in Eric’s arms, knowing that that result of not taking action against those who had seen us would have possibly meant us running from the authorities – again. “The Vampires could have glamoured them, Claude.”
“You can’t glamour a CCTV camera, Sookie.”
“We could have removed the tapes.”
I grit my teeth. Eric, my Eric, had told me that Fairies were just as ruthless as Vampires once. I had been operating under the impression that they weren’t quite so impulsive. I was wrong. I sighed and stood up, nodding to Eric, Bill and Pam in the orange glow of the burning structure.
“Well, this is where we part ways. Best of luck and all that.”
Eric smirked at me and nodded back. “And to you, Sookie who is interesting enough to develop a blood bond, I hope you find a way home.”
I nodded and watched them all run off into the distance. At least they were going to keep their word … for now. As long as Claude and I stayed here, they’d always be able to find us. I sighed and turned to my cousin, he put his arm around me and teleported us to the roadside. We went along the road in this manner for what must have been miles, until we came to a large sign.
“Welcome to Sunnydale.”