|“Godric, what are you doing?” Sookie whispered, looking up at me from her chair at the table. I had taken the goblet of wine from her hand when she picked it up, acting as if she had retrieved it to hand to me.
“It will be expected that your slave test your beverage for poison before you drink it.” I feigned dejection as I looked at the ground and bowed to her.
Her eyes shifted to Mark Antony and Julius Caesar who were now looking at her with rapt attention. “Poison? Are you serious? Do they really poison people?”
“Quite Serious.” I answered. “It was very common, and they believe you to be either the daughter of a foreign dignitary or part of a conquered noble family who was incorporated into Rome. They will expect it.”
“Then neither of us will be drinking it!” She hissed under her breath quietly, even though they could not understand a word she was saying.
“Do not fear.” I tried to assure. “They will not poison you when they do not even know of your political allegiances.”
“Very well,” she waved her hand imperiously as she turned back towards Antony and Caesar. I smiled inside at her antics as she tried to play the part. Sookie Stackhouse was the most humble and down to Earth woman I have ever met, and she was now forced into the role of an aristocrat.
We had to quickly adapt when we were thrust into this situation, having only expected to confront Antony at his mother’s home to request an audience with the Pythoness. Instead, we were greeted by a dozen Roman guards who had orders to escort Sookie to Caesar’s palace should she return. Now she was being wined and dined while they dubiously scrutinized her with skepticism. Ancient Roman aristocrats dwelled in a cloud of suspicion, plots, and political maneuvering.
I sipped the wine as an obedient slave would and handed it back to her. Alia was standing duteously on the other side of Sookie with her head bowed. We had agreed that she would remain quiet since female slaves typically did not speak unless asked a direct question.
Caesar looked at Sookie and spoke. “Markus Antonius informs me my lady, that it is you I have to thank for foiling the senators diabolical plot to strike me asunder.”
I detested Julius Caesar as much as Antony. They were equally responsible for the destruction of my people.
Sookie knew what he said but she waited for me to ‘translate,’ so as not to rouse suspicion. I turned to Sookie with a straight face and said, “He says he is a cock-sucking bastard who enjoys licking the shriveled balls of Markus Antonius in the public latrines.”
Sookie was taking a drink of her wine, and she nearly choked on it when I spoke. Caesar and Antony looked at her curiously. “Godric, don’t make me laugh! They will suspect. I can’t believe you sometimes!”
I turned to Caesar and dramatically twirled my hand in front of my body as I bowed sarcastically low. I had seen this on a television sitcom once and thought it to be quite amusing. “My domina graciously accepts your thanks, oh noble and imperious master of Rome. She is happy to serve you as your loyal subject.”
“Speaking of the ghastly conspiracy that those rebellious senators plotted in the darkest bowels of Rome,” Caesar asked, “How did you, my lady, become so cognizant of the treachery at hand to warn Markus Antonius?”
I turned to Sookie, “He says he has no penis because it was devoured by cockroaches when he dipped it in the darkest bowels of Markus Antonius.”
Sookie bit her bottom lip to stifle her laughter and furrowed her brow to give the impression of distress. “Godric, you are awful! I swear! Caesar is looking at you when you say those things!”
I turned back to Caesar and ‘translated.’ “My domina says she saw a few vile-looking men, who she thought might be senators. As she is a woman and unfamiliar with these matters, she was quite uncertain. It was the knives she saw clutched in their hands, and the name Caesar falling from their lips in the most dubious manner that had her concerned.”
“It is quite fortunate that Rome is blessed to have such an intelligent and observant lady as yourself, Sookie Stackhouse. Most women are quite oblivious and foolish. Such a lady as you must feel quite honored to be in my presence,” Caesar said wiping his mouth with a towel and looking at Sookie with more interest. I noticed his eyes rake over her, and I wanted to reach across the table and rip them from their sockets.
“He says he is but a worm that grovels before your feet. He is unworthy to share the same air, unworthy to sit in the glorious presence of a beautiful and stunning lady such as yourself, Sookie Stackhouse.”
Sookie’s face turned crimson and she smiled. Caesar thought it was because she was flattered by his attention. I continued to stand straight faced, staring blankly ahead, which made her giggle more when she glanced up at me. It was quite endearing and I struggled to keep my lips from twitching into a smile.
“Godric,” she said from her seat beside me, her eyes widening, and craning her neck to look up at me as I stood at her shoulder, my hands clasped behind my back. “I forgot to tell you. When I was standing on the steps of the theatre, I detected a senator entering the building who was glamoured by a vampire. Do you think a vampire was behind his assassination attempt?”
I remembered Titus’s proclamation when I was first hurtled back to this time period. He bragged that his most hated enemy would be destroyed, and that on the next day Rome would be forever changed.
As I thought deeply on the matter, Fluvia, Mark Antony’s wife, put a grape in her mouth and began to speak. “Markus, dearest husband, have you any news on the murdered Roman boys?”
Realization swept across my mind. “My domina wishes to know of what murders you speak?”
Titus had an affinity for draining Roman noble boys. Their blood tasted better because of their rich diet and he had a nasty inclination for young males. He would buy slaves and fatten them up, only to drain them. I was one of the few he kept long term. He kept Alia as well under the pretense of cleaning the domus, but we knew it was because suspicion would be roused further without at least one female slave in his possession. Originally, he kept us because he found our tattoo’s interesting and different, but he had grown a perverse attachment to me over the years.
Fluvia looked at Sookie without acknowledging my presence. “Have you not heard my dear? For months high-born boys have been found upon the streets come morning, the poor children murdered in the night by a demon.”
“The unfortunate boys were slaughtered in a most offensive manner,” Antony said shaking his head and stuffing his mouth with mullet. “They had strange bites upon their neck, their faces sunken in as if their souls had been drawn out through the small punctures.”
“We have our suspicions who the culprit is,” Caesar said rubbing his abdomen from stuffing his face full of too much food. I would love nothing more than to rip his guts out and stuff them up his anal cavity. “There is a Roman noble who has been living in the city for several months, always lurking at night. He has never been seen during the day, but claims to be a follower of Nox. He is a curious fellow indeed, a very unnatural character”
I looked at Sookie. “Nox is the Roman goddess of night. Her followers typically come out only during dark to gaze upon the heavens.”
“Could it be Titus?” Sookie asked.
“I believe so. He is using Nox as an excuse to not be out during the day.”
“Do you know of Titus Markus Batiatus?” Antony asked, recognizing the name of their suspect. The name Titus sounded the same in both languages.
“Crap,” Sookie said. “I shouldn’t have said his name. What do we tell him?”
My mind quickly grasped for an explanation to give the disgraceful Antony. “My noble domina has only heard the name spoken from the lips of her closest family friend here in Rome.”
“And who would this family friend be?” Caesar inquired curiously.
“Sookie, I believe we can use this opportunity to gain access to the woman we seek.”
“I think so too. We should request to be taken to the Pythoness. I really don’t like being here, and I want to leave as soon as possible. It’s getting close to sunset.” She looked at me with worried eyes. “I don’t want you and Alia to have to go back to that place Godric.”
“I am sorry Sookie,” I said softly. “There is no other way.”
“The family friend is a former Oracle of Delphi. My domina was sent here from her home in Thrace, by her family, to study under the noble priestess. But our caravan was robbed on the outskirts of the city, which is why she sought refuge in a strange home on the morning she was found by you Markus Antonius. She sent me and her other slave,” I nodded toward Alia. “To try and find the home of the Oracle, but alas, only the driver of our carriage knew the location, and he was killed in the outlandish skirmish. We barely escaped with our lives as the wretched thieves pursued us relentlessly through the Roman roads.”
Caesar, Antony, and Fluvia all stared at Sookie with a new sense of respect and reverence.
“Oh dear gods!” Fluvia exclaimed. “What an extraordinary tale! You are truly fortunate that you yourself were not killed by the wicked vultures.”
“Indeed,” Caesar said wide-eyed. “We know of the former Pythia. She hales not far from here, and I occasionally seek her prophetic advice on political matters.”
“She is a quite revered figure among the Roman upper-class,” Fluvia said in a hushed voice. “No one has actually ever seen her. She only sends her aides out to consult with Antony when Caesar tasks him to seek her out. And she will only accept visitors at night because she consults the gods during all hours of the day.”
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea Godric? Maybe she won’t even see us?”
“We need only convince them to take you to her. I will know the right words so you will be granted an audience with her.”
“But you have to go back to Titus before nightfall or he will come after you and Alia. I have no idea how to speak in their language.”
“I can give you the proper words to gain entrance. After that Sookie you must use your intuition. You must try to reach out to the Pythoness’ mind. You must inform her of everything that has happened. And you must tell her that Titus is openly draining Roman noble boys, putting the entire vampire population of Rome at risk of being exposed. I believe she will sense you reaching out to her and understand you as you understand the Romans when they speak in a different language.”
I turned back to the leaders of Rome and directed my attention at Antony. “My domina would be most indebted to you, noble sir, if she could be escorted to the home of the Pythia. She will be known and allowed entrance within. She has ordered me and her other slave to go collect provisions for her in the market if you would be kind enough to give us directions to the domus of the Oracle.”
“I would be honored to assist you in your most virtuous and honorable design!” Antony exclaimed.
“Yes, after all my lady, we are in your debt, for you have gained favor among us.” Caesar stood as he spoke. “Markus Antonius will grant your request.”
Finally, our plans were coming to fruition, but we must move quickly before Titus sensed our deception. And I feared that if Alia and I remained in his clutches for one more night our lives would be in peril. This was our only hope. The Pythoness was our escape. Antony gave me the directions to the domus of the Pythoness, and I requested that Sookie be excused momentarily to give me my instructions in the market. Alia and I followed her outside as the Roman’s watched us leave.
Once outside, Sookie and Alia embraced, and my sister walked down the steps to give Sookie and I a moment to speak.
“I can’t stand you guys going back to that place for one more night. I have this dismal feeling that this might be the last time I see you Godric.” She looked down and frowned.
Stepping inches in front of her, I put my hand on her chin and raised her gaze to mine. “Sookie,” I whispered, looking into her concerned eyes. “I give you my word that neither Titus, nor a thousand demons as malicious as he, can keep me apart from you.”
“I’m so sorry I got us into this mess.” She blinked as the tears in her eyes began to well. “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t used my freak of nature disability to plop us here in the past, you wouldn’t be all battered and bruised up, and we wouldn’t be in such danger.”
“And I would have met the sun. I would have never gotten to know what an extraordinary person you are, Little One. You are the first human I have ever truly gotten to know since I was made a vampire. You have given me a chance to right all the wrongs of my past.”
She smiled and put her hand on mine as it slid to cup her cheek. “How do you feel being a human now?”
“It is different. There are some aspects I like, for example, experiencing the warmth of the sun again. I do not remember anything about what it was like to be a human. I have a few fleeting memories of people I knew such as Alia, and certain events I recall. But I do not remember what it felt like. It is strange.”
“Do you like it?”
I frowned. “I do not dislike it, however, I desire to be what I once was, a vampire. I feel as if I have lost something, an important part of myself. Although, many of the vampire tendencies are such habit for me that they are ingrained within me.”
“I know. I can hear what you’re thinking. You’re trying to sniff my scent and frustrated because you can’t smell it like you did on the roof in Dallas.”
My lips quivered in a small smile as I put my other hand on her face and stepped so close that my chest pressed against hers.
“Then you must also know what else I am thinking this very moment,” I dared thickly.
“Yes,” she whispered in a shaky breath.
“And it does not frighten you?” I coaxed, my eyes sweeping across her face.
She shook her head as she returned my gaze. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to read your thoughts.”
“Do not apologize, Little One. You are coming to understand me as no other living soul ever has. I can hide nothing from you while my body is human. And yet, you look at me with eyes full of affection. I always thought that if I revealed my true self to another being, they would be so repulsed that they could not bear to look at me. You can see my inner beast, yet here you remain. I have been stripped of my power, yet here you remain, looking at me with those eyes.”
“Godric, we must go brother. Nightfall will be upon us soon.” Alia mumbled apologetically as she approached us.
I felt the adrenaline pump through my body, an odd but invigorating sensation. I bent my mouth down to Sookies, so closely that our breath mingled together, and I caressed my lips to hers. Ah, this closely to her I recognized the smallest glimmer of the scent I noticed in Dallas. But it was not her scent that compelled me to this woman. She was a beautiful person, within and on the outside. My hands lowered to her back, pulling our bodies tightly against each other, and I gently captured her plump bottom lip in my teeth, something I have wanted to do for some time. After pressing my lips to hers one last time, I pulled back and looked into her eyes.
“I will see you tonight, Little One,” I promised. “And do not forget the words, tell the Pythoness that you too like the smell of candied lemons on warm summer nights.” I repeated the phrase in Latin several times for her so she would not forget.
She nodded and smiled. “Be safe,” she whispered before turning to walk back into the palace.
I watched her leave before joining my sister at the bottom of the steps. Yes, this ravishing human, Sookie Stackhouse, has managed to capture my heart. A heart I once thought was incapable of such tenderness. I was once known as death, as the most frightening vampire who ever walked the Earth, now I was but a mere mortal who was bewitched, enamored, enraptured! I have been charmed by the most captivating treasure I have ever laid my eyes on. I was her hostage, a prisoner on the end of her leash. She tempted me without even realizing it and she was mine. I reveled in the feeling of it.
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A/N: I never did actually mention this, because I thought ya’ll could figure it out. But the bold dialogue is anything spoken in a language other than English. It indicates that Sookie is reading their mind to understand them.
Historical Footnotes: (thanks Navidasti)