Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
I wrote this chapter while coming down from the crazy-making meds I was given after my surgery in November. Forgive me if it doesn’t make sense.
Sookie’s scent clung to Eric’s skin, reminding him of their brief encounter. He wanted nothing more than to keep her all night long, but knew she had a lot on her mind, he could tell from her silence as he drove her home. Niall has that effect on people.
Eric still couldn’t shake the conversation he and Niall had about Breandan and his ties to the human world, but hadn’t had the opportunity to think about it much, beyond setting up a meeting between Niall and Sookie, but he knew that he should arm himself with as much information as possible before the outbreak of another fairy war.
When he got home, he turned on his computer and typed Breandan’s name into the search engine. He knew of his connection to the Irish, having read his history before. They thought him to be one of the twelve apostles in Ireland, calling him The Navigator, never realizing he didn’t belong to their realm. As his eyes scanned over the list of Breandan’s travels and accomplishments, he saw something he’d never noticed before. Breandan had spent quite a bit of time on the island of Adelsö.
“Adelsö,” Eric murmured. He started a new search, finding pictures of scenic Swedish land: rolling hills, peaceful forests, and ruins. Ruins of a castle he had once called home: Hovgården.
He closed his eyes, letting his mind take him back. The modern house that surrounded him dissolved in a cloud of memories, slowly replaced by the cold stone walls of the castle he grew up in. The faint laughter of a child echoed down the corridors. His older sister.
“Marina,” he called out, smiling when she materialized. “I have missed you.”
Marina smiled and took his hand. “And I you. Where have you been?”
Eric opened his mouth to explain, and then looked down at his young body. “Playing by Lake Mälaren,” he answered, knowing it to be the truth. When he was ten years old, he had always been by the water.
“Have you eaten?” She took his hand and led him to the kitchen where the cooks worked over huge open fires to prepare a meal for the royal family. Wooden bowls filled with vegetables covered the counters, and fresh herbs hung from the ceiling. Eric inhaled. Summer.
“Mistress Marina,” the cook said, “can I get you something?”
“My sweet Eric is hungry again. Do you have something for him?”
“Yes,” the cook answered, and slipped something into Eric’s hand. The cook had been around forever and seemed to know everything. Tending to the children and telling them stories was the highlight of her days. “I remember how hungry you were when you were born,” she began, as she always did, with his birth. “I have never seen a child with such an appetite! Your mother was absolutely ravenous while she carried you.” The cook laughed. “Probably preparing for the fight of her life to get you out. You were a massive baby, just like your papa.” Eric ate and listened to her tell the story of their father, Håkan the Red, when he had been a child. He never tired of hearing about his father enter the world like a warrior and command soldiers by the age of five. Rumors were whispered about Håkan the Red and his divine creation, the son of the gods. Eric never knew if it was true or not, but it didn’t matter. Even if they were fictitious, the stories were as much a part of his life as anything else.
Eric blinked, and then they weren’t in the kitchen anymore. They were in the grand hall. Elaborate tapestries hung from the gray stone walls, and the room was filled with an audience. Everyone from town sat, patiently waiting for the arrival of Håkan the Red’s last son, Bram. A few years had passed, and yet, Marina still sat with him, watching over him as she always did. They sat with their other sister, and the three of them smiled as their tiny brother appeared from the back of the room, swaddled in white, being carried by their mother.
“She’s so beautiful,” Marina whispered as she gazed at their mother’s serene face. The baby cooed in her arms. Although in the prime of her youth, Marina’s eyes were rimmed with dark circles and her skin had lost its radiant glow.
Their oldest brother, Gustav sat stiffly by their father as the entire village admired the baby. Gustav never sat with the children, despite the fact that he was only fourteen.
“Long live Håkan the Red!” the crowd chanted. Their father, the king, beamed at his wife and kissed her forehead before addressing the masses.
Eric turned toward Marina, but the multitudes of people dissolved. He stood alone, next to her bed, where she lay motionless. A mysterious illness had infected his dear sister, slowly strangling the life out of her body. Ignoring the warnings from the healer, Eric sat with her while her light, which had always shone so brightly up until a year ago, waned. “I loved you more than anyone,” she whispered through dry lips. “The Gods brought you to this world for me. I know it.”
Tears streamed down his face as his heart broke.
His memories darkened. With Marina gone, Hovgården wasn’t the same. He had no purpose there. No one needed him. No one cared for him. He withdrew, spending more time than ever at the lake’s edge, wishing to move away, where he could forget about her and the hollowness she had left inside him.
For the next years, he focused on a way out, working wherever he could be anonymous. Fisherman never asked questions, happy to have help, and so he worked on one vessel after another, determined to escape his sorrow.
That was when he met Appius.
Eager for a permanent change, Eric gave himself to Appius, welcoming the gift of immortality he offered. He became a mentor, a teacher, and a lover.
Appius promised Eric the world, and at first, he gave it to him. They traveled, and for a while, Eric forgot about his pain. But then, strange news from home found him. A rebellion. People whispered. The crown had been passed.
Against Appius’ wishes, Eric returned to Hovgården, and arrived to find his father dying. No longer welcome in the castle, Håkan the Red had been banished to the stables. His mother wept. A keening sound of tremendous sorrow spilled out of her body, as if it came from the depths of her soul. She stared through Eric, as if she were seeing a ghost.
Eric held his father’s hand and promised to exact revenge on the one who had stolen his life: Gustav.
Gustav’s guards didn’t stand a chance against Eric’s fury. And when he faced his brother, sitting in the throne wearing their father’s crown, he wanted to tear him to pieces.
“That doesn’t belong to you,” Eric bellowed.
“Guards!” Gustav called.
“They won’t save you,” Eric whispered, knowing they lay in an unmoving pile outside the throne room.
Gustav tensed, keeping an eye on the door he was sure his guards would burst through at any moment, obviously ignoring the blood covering Eric’s hands. He gripped the hilt of a knife tucked inside his belt and offered Eric a fake smile. “Rule with me, brother. I would be willing to share if you fall into line. No one will get in our way. I’ve made sure of that.” His eyes glinted in the dim room. “The children are all gone, and Mother cannot have more.”
“Gone?” Eric frowned. He wondered for the first time about their sister Gilla and their tiny brother, Bram, who would now be seven.
“The throne belongs to me. No one can take it.”
At that moment, Eric realized that his mother’s wails were more than the loss of a spouse. She had lost everything. “Where have you taken them? Our sister and brother?”
“Helheim. Where they belong.”
“They’re dead?” Eric’s mouth hung open, his fangs hidden by the shadows.
Gustav nodded slowly.
“You killed your sister, brother, and father for what? A piece of metal?” Eric pointed at the crown on his head.
“It is my right. I belong on this throne.” He narrowed his cold eyes. “I would’ve killed you too, but I thought you had taken care of that for me. Imagine my surprise finding you here.” He unsheathed the knife and sprang toward Eric, wielding the sharp piece of metal over his head expertly.
Eric growled and dodged out of the way.
“Guards!” Gustav shouted again.
Eric lunged for him, and caught him around the throat with a tight grip. Gustav struggled for a moment and then the knife clattered to the floor as Eric began to squeeze the life out of him. He plucked the crown from his head. “This is not your right. You’ve taken something that doesn’t belong to you, and now you’ll pay for it.” He sank his fangs into his brother’s neck and drank deeply, unable to stop himself until Gustav’s body crumpled.
That was the night Hovgården burned.
Eric blinked. His fangs brushed against his lip and anger welled inside him. The corpse of his brother vaporized as the memory receded, but the taste of his blood lingered in Eric’s mouth.
It stirred something inside him. It connected him to the present: the first time he smelled Sookie’s blood.
Gustav tasted like Sookie. Or, more accurately, Sookie tasted like Gustav.
How is that possible?
Eric flew down the hall and grabbed the crown and book from the shelves in the front room. He turned the crown over in his hands, looking at it like he’d never done before. The ancient metal was worn thin around the edges, making the carvings difficult to read. All but one. It appeared to be an engraved medallion that had been incorporated into the framework of the crown, held in place by fine metal clasps. He traced the outline of the word, wishing he could read runes. He frowned and opened the fragile text and scanned the faded words. Appius had taught him how to write the modern language, and now, centuries later, he stared at his ancient words grateful that he had taken the time to record his history.
His fingers followed the words on the pages, sifting through entries until he found what he was looking for.
Before he left Adelsö, he had written down everything the wise old cook had ever said. He read the story of his birth, how Marina, only three at the time, held him like he was her own. Tears stung his eyes.
The cook’s stories always started with the birth of whomever she was talking to, and then worked her way backward. So, Eric’s story began with his delivery and then he read about his mother’s pregnancy, and how difficult it had been for her. Marina, on the other hand, had been a gentle birth, and Gustav’s birth was celebrated across the land because a male heir had been born. Eric hadn’t recorded the birth of Gilla or Bram because they weren’t part of his story, only what came before.
He wrote about how Håkan the Red had won their mother with his charm and wit, although she always swore that he had cast a spell over her, enchanting her. But, as the story always went, it was she who enchanted him … taming him. Conquering him with her love.
Further back, Eric read of Håkan the Red spending his youth fighting for the people of Hovgården. He had always been their champion, even as a child. He was revered for his strength, having survived a long and arduous delivery that ended his own mother’s life. And so, Håkan the Red was born.
Eric’s finger hovered over the next words, the tale of Håkan the Red’s birth: Atla died giving birth to her only son.
He read out loud, “Håkan the Red, was thought to be the son of gods. Atla was the daughter of Ran and Aegir, and Håkan’s father…” He scanned the words, but found nothing. “Who was his father?” Something nagged at him. A detail he was missing.
“Atla,” he repeated her name, sure that she had something to do with it. And then it hit him.
He loved Atla more than anything. Niall’s voice echoed through Eric’s head.
“Breandan loved Atla more than anything,” Eric murmured. The pieces fell into place. “I am Breandan’s grandson.”
When I ask Padore what she thinks should happen next, and she suggests that Eric is also part Fae, this is what I come up with. I hope you enjoyed it (and all the craziness that was happening in my brain). ❤
On to Up All Night: Chapter 15