Disclaimer: The SMV universe and its inhabitants all belong to Charlaine Harris
A/N: A huge shout-out to ALL ABOUT ERIC: Beta extraordinaire, FF's benevolent Patron Saint and multi-talented goddess. Her story Immortal Beloved is the direct inspiration for this fanfic.
Song for this chapter : Hunter by Björk
Chapter 1: THE HUNT
As I awoke from my day slumber, the first sensation to assault my senses was the pungent smell of the rich earth in which I had spent the day lying. As I clawed my way back to the surface, I could feel the anticipation and bloodlust surge in my chest.
When I emerged from the ground, naked and covered in wet soil, I made my way towards the meadow where I knew my Weres were waiting for my rising. I had carefully glamoured them to stay put around the edge of the clearing and not to attempt to follow my scent to my resting place in the ground. A Vampire cannot be too careful with his safety.
It was very unusual for me to rest beneath the ground. Ever since the invention of modern plumbing I had favoured the comfort of human homes, only resorting to such drastic measures when necessity called for it.
This time, however, it was not my survival instinct that had led me to spend the day in the dirt but my predatory nature. Tonight, I was in full hunter mode.
The two Weres smelled me before they saw me and closed the distance separating us. The first to reach me was Arnold, a hulking male who seemed to be made of muscles layered upon muscles. I knew for a fact that in his wolf form he was monstrously huge, and yet as agile and fast as Weres half his bulk. Strength and speed: a lethal combination. He was dressed in head to toe Navy Seal-style black gear. I observed him with satisfaction, pleased with my selection: he would make a fearsome hound.
"Report," I commanded.
"Everything is in place, sir. There has been no activity in the meadow all day, but the smell hanging in the air started shifting about an hour ago, and it's getting more intense."
I took a deep pull of air into my lungs. The smell of magic was indeed strong now and I could feel the ancient power humming on my skin and energising me.
Behind Arnold was the Were-bitch, Amy, a petite woman who appeared positively dwarfed by her massive companion. She was dressed in a similar fashion to Arnold but her slight frame looked out of place beside the powerful bulks of the Were and myself. She was, however, a world-class tracker (the best in Louisiana in fact) and the reason why we were all here tonight.
Amy handed me a small cooler from which I extracted two donor blood bags. I drank long and hard, making sure my hunger was satiated. I needed my senses to be razor-sharp and my concentration to be absolute. I tolerated the cold, slightly bitter taste of the blood, consoling myself by thinking of the ambrosia on which I would feast later.
Tonight, I would feed from my first Fairy in more than two decades.
The Weres watched me consume the blood, barely acknowledging my filthy and naked state: they regularly saw worse. When I was done, Amy handed me a large bottle of water, the contents of which I poured over my head and body to wash away the dirt. After discarding the empty container, I gave my orders:
"Arnold, take your position at the edge of the clearing. Amy, I want you to circle around in the woods and report immediately if you smell another presence, especially another vampire." I would not be cheated of my prey by a rival.
Both Weres nodded and sped away. I moved at Vampire speed towards my own observation perch in an old tree at the edge of the meadow, and began the wait.
When Amy had contacted me 16 months ago with the news that she had found a Fairy portal, I had at first dismissed her claims as fantasy. Fairy portals were shrouded in secrecy and guarded by heavy magic. They had to be: they were the only doorways between Faerun and the human world, and as such a major vulnerability of the Fae.
While Fairies could teleport anywhere within the human world (making them extremely hard to catch) they could only cross dimensions at specific locations on the planet. Some of the older portals in Ireland, France, England and Spain had been discovered by my kind during the Vampire/Fairy wars, and had been abandoned by the Fae. However, the location of the North American portals remained a mystery.
The revelation that there could be one quietly sitting within my Area, practically in my back garden, had made my head spin. When Amy had led me to the backwater town of Bon Temps, I had fully expected the whole evening to be a futile exercise, possibly even a pathetic assassination attempt.
Amy was indebted to me after I had helped cover up the quadruple murder (a couple and their twin four-year-old sons) her degenerate father had committed while high on drugs during a full moon. I had been Sheriff of Area 5 for less than two years then and it had been one my first real challenges. I had needed not only to clean up the crime scene but also to glamour the witnesses and arrange for the morgue where the bodies were stored to burn to the ground before the mangled remains could be fully examined. Amy's father should have been executed (this was the penalty for nearly exposing our world to the unsuspecting humans through reckless behaviour) but when I had learned of Amy's unusual ability, I had opted to make her a deal instead. I had arranged for her father to be incarcerated in a special high-security Supe prison in exchange for the lifelong free use of her tracking gift.
So, when she had come across the distinctive smell of Fae magic in the woods her Pack had used in Bon Temps for their monthly run, she had thought she had found a way to settle her debt and gain a pardon for her father. Amy clearly hoped that bringing me such a valuable prize would free her from lifelong servitude. While I had made no promises, I had already decided that I would release her if her intel turned out to be good and led me to a succulent Fairy buffet (her father, however, would remain in jail).
The first few months after her discovery had proved to be utterly disappointing. While I had been excited to see that the meadow she had discovered did indeed bear the signs of Fae magic, the portal itself appeared to have been abandoned. The Fairy magic smell was so faint that if I had not been looking for it I would have missed it (hence the fact that Amy, with her extraordinary sense of smell, was the first Supe to notice it) and my spies had reported no activity at all. After four months of no results I had given up interest and called off the operation, now convinced that the portal was sealed, but Amy had refused to give up on her golden ticket to freedom and her resolve had paid off.
Days after I had called off my spies, the portal burst into activity during one of Amy's midnight watches. Crouching in the trees at the edge of the clearing, Amy saw a male Fairy materialise in the middle of the meadow before making his way into the woods. Unable to contact me without betraying her presence to the Fairy, she had elected to follow him at a distance. The Fairy had walked towards the house built on the other side of the woods. The background information file I had read on the property had informed me that this was the home of a human widow called Adele Stackhouse who owned the stretch of land where the woods (and the Fairy meadow) rested. She also had a brother and two children living nearby with their respective families but I had deemed that information to be irrelevant.
The Fairy had silently sat on the porch outside the house all night. Amy had not dared to risk taking her eyes off the Fairy or attempting to contact anyone for fear that the slightest movement would alert him. When morning came, the Fairy knocked on the front door. He had been welcomed by the widow and invited inside. While it would have been a perfect opportunity to contact me at last, it was now daylight, and the Weres she called to help her secure the Fairy for me did not make it in time. According to Amy, the Fairy spent an hour inside the house before taking his leave. However, as he bade farewell to the human woman, Amy overheard him telling her that he would be back in a year's time.
A year. That was tonight.
My investigators had been unable to discover the nature of the relationship between the Fairy and the widow but that was of little importance to me now. I could feel through the steadily growing power and magic smell in the air that the Fairy was going to make good on his promise. My excitement had reached breaking point when, around midnight, the air in the middle of the meadow begun to shimmer and glow.
My muscles tensed in anticipation and I swiftly took hold of the objects I had concealed in a cache in the trunk of the tree. Three large iron arrows, their tips lethally sharp, gleamed in my hands. I had no need for a bow: my own strength would be more than enough to propel the weapons. The aim was not to kill (Fairy blood was much more succulent when drawn from a still-beating heart) but to greatly injure my prey so that he would be too weak to teleport to safety. Arnold and I would then run him down in the woods, flanking him on each side and cornering him until he had nowhere to go. Then, I would finish him. Slowly.
The shimmer was intensifying and turning gold, and the air was pulsing with power. I prepared myself, an arrow at the ready. I would have only one chance to strike: once the Fairy realised he was under attack, he would teleport away and be lost to me forever.
I could now distinguish the outline of a long-limbed and longhaired male. When the silhouette began to solidify, I took my chance. Now was the time: the Fairy was still slightly disorientated from the dimension-crossing and would not see the attack coming. I launched the arrow with all my might, aiming for the Fairy's upper chest. A long swoosh sound broke the silence of the meadow before a cry of pain echoed across the clearing. Bull's eye!
The Fairy was staggering on his feet, the iron arrow protruding from his chest on his right side. I zeroed in at Vampire speed towards the injured Fairy, but I had underestimated his resilience. Before I could reach him, he pulled the arrow out and began to gather his magic. I saw the glow form in his hand before I was hit by a blast of energy. I felt as though I had hit a concrete wall and was thrown back twenty feet. The Fairy took advantage of my brief setback to attempt teleporting away. However, the iron-induced wound had crippled his magic and he was only able to teleport over a distance of a few feet at a time. As he was attempting to flee in the direction of the house, Arnold leaped out of his hiding-place in full wolf form to join the chase. The desperate Fairy kept throwing balls of energy in our direction but we managed to dodge them for the most part. The continued use of the offensive magic as well as the teleportation was taking its toll on the Fairy and he was quickly draining his batteries. Arnold and I were closing in fast, but we had to reach him before he could make it to the Stackhouse home. The house would offer him only partial sanctuary: while I could not enter without invitation, Arnold would have no such issue; but I did not want to involve the human woman at all.
As the Fairy drew clear of the woods, I managed to throw another arrow through one of his lower legs, just as he was popping in front of the house. He stumbled on his back and Arnold was on him in an instant, crushing him with his weight. I zoomed to their side, a greedy smile gracing my lips. I was high on the exhilaration of the hunt, my body coursing with electricity. Tonight I would have my prize. The scent of Fairy blood rose in the air, oozing from the fresh wounds of my prey. Bloodlust was threatening to overcome my reason but I had enough faculties left to know I needed to take my captive away from any possible human witness.
Just as I was ordering Arnold off the Fairy so I could soar into the air with my prey tightly secured in my arms, I caught some movement on my peripheral vision. I looked up to see a little white form behind a windowpane on the first floor of the house. It was a human child, staring down at us with wide eyes.
I was only distracted for a few seconds but it was all the time the Fairy needed to make a last-ditch break for freedom. Taking advantage of Arnold's shifting weight, the Fairy swiftly pulled the arrow from his leg and stabbed the Were with it, using Arnold's own momentum against him. My attention was dragged away from the child back to the matter at hand but it was too late. Drawing from an unsuspected reservoir of magic, the Fairy directed one last attack at me, blasting a ball of energy right into my face. I was too close to dodge and suffered the full force of the attack: I felt my bones fracture painfully as I was blown away towards the woods, before crashing into the trunk of a tree. The pain was excruciating and when I regained control of my body, I saw with horror that a large splinter of wood was embedded in my side: it had only missed my heart by a couple of inches. I howled in pain as I extracted it and searched for the Fairy.
He was gone.
Arnold was sprawled on the grass in his human form, bleeding profusely from a belly wound. As I was taking in the scene, the light was switched on inside the house. Shit, shit, shit. I quickly grabbed Arnold's body and sped towards the woods. I felt Amy quietly join me, and she immediately began to tend to Arnold's injuries.
I watched as an elderly woman in a baggy nightgown and with dishevelled hair barged out of the front door. I had to silence a chuckle when I realised she was carrying a large shotgun. That lady had balls.
"Who is there?" The woman cried out. "Show yourself!"
When no answer came, she looked around her in confusion before asking:
"Fintan, is that you?"
That name, it could only be…
I let out a growl of frustration: I had nearly feasted on a Fairy Prince. Still, that revelation explained the unexpected strength and power of the Fairy that had just escaped me. Fintan was a Brigant, the most powerful of all the Fairy families. Even a half-breed like himself was a formidable adversary.
After a few moments, the elderly woman retreated inside her home and the house was dark and silent once again. As I lifted my eyes up to the first floor, I could see that the little white figure had not moved an inch. I took to the air, flew towards the human child and paused outside the widow. The child was very young (how young exactly, I could not tell). She had blonde hair, gorgeous dark blue eyes and a round face. Despite the expression of shock on her face, I could see that she was a very pretty little girl. However, that was beside the point at the moment. Behind her in the room I could see another human child, male, fast asleep in a bed.
Since she was openly staring at me, I began my glamour. I would need to wipe the child's mind of all memories of this night before I could start the clean-up (not to mention find an outlet to spend all that pent-up bloodlust and frustration). Except… it wasn't working. I furrowed my brows when I sensed that my glamour was failing to take hold of the little human's mind. It was as if my influence met a slippery surface. The child was completely unresponsive and was still staring at me. I was utterly confused. Was the house protected by a Fairy charm that would prevent its inhabitants from being glamoured? I had never heard of such magic, nor had I ever encountered a human that could not be glamoured.
While I was pondering on this enigma, the child surprised me by reaching up to the window frame and slowly lifting up the glass between us. Her scent reached me for the first time: she smelled absolutely delicious. She pointed a finger in my direction and slowly extended it. Just as she was about to touch me, I realised that I was still stark naked, not having bothered with clothes for my hunt. When her finger made contact with my skin, the child was still for a few seconds before letting out a piercing scream.
Once my original shock subsided, I immediately soared away in a hasty retreat.
I was utterly mortified.
I had been chased away by a human child. A human child I could not even manage to glamour.
I, Eric Northman, great Viking Warrior and powerful Sheriff of Area 5, had been routed by a braying brat.
Tonight had turned into a complete and utter disaster. I would have to glamour the Weres to forget about all that had occurred, as I doubted my reputation would survive if the tale spread.
As I touched down in front of the entrance to my resting place, I resolved to put that miserable night out of my mind; especially the little human who had so humiliated me.
Yet, somehow, the enigmatic little girl was the last thought on my mind as I felt the pull of the dawn.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Next chapter Crime and Punishment should be up by the end of the week.