|“The Oracle has resided within the walls of this great temple since before my birth.” Mark Antony craned his neck to look up at the crumbling stone building. We were in the middle of nowhere; scrub, brush, and dirt dotted the landscape. “We believe her to be blessed by the gods, for she has lived longer than any known person. Our war records reveal that the Pythia was brought to Rome 147 years ago, when the sanctuary at Delphi fell to the great Roman Empire. Some believe she has been blessed by Apollo himself. Caesar gives her sanctuary here, in exchange for her prophetic council.”
Antony looked at me and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose you know not a word I speak, fair maiden. I could speak many a profane primp to you, and you would be completely unaware of my brazen tongue. I could profess of the fire you make burn in my loins when I look upon your ample breasts, and you would know not.” He smiled arrogantly. “I could tell you of the desire I have to lick your dainty toes while you wiggle them upon my lips, and you would know not. I could confess to you…”
I rolled my eyes and walked up to the door, leaving Antony standing at the bottom of the steps mid-sentence.
I lifted the ornate knocker and banged three times. My heart started to beat more rapidly in my chest as I stood on the steps and waited. What if I didn’t say the words that Godric told me correctly? What if the Pythoness turned me away? Antony would think I lied and become even more suspicious of me. Even worse, our plans to get Godric and Alia out of that prison and away from Titus would be in jeopardy. What would happen when Titus showed up with Godric and the Pythoness had no idea why they were here?
The door slowly creaked open, and I was greeted by darkness.
“Um, hello?” I said, peering into the shadowed room beyond the door. There was no movement, no sound, nobody waiting on the other side. It was eerie as hell. I looked over my shoulder at Mark Antony.
He pointed at the door. “You must enter alone fair maiden, for I am not permitted entrance within the Sanctuary.”
I turned back around and took a deep breath. Slowly taking a step, I entered the darkness beyond the door. I continued to walk further in the room. I saw no one.
The door slammed shut behind me, and I quickly whirled around.
“Good day der cheche.” A young woman standing at the door said as she turned to me. She had a friendly face but was dressed oddly, even for this time period. She had on shorts, which I didn’t even think existed yet. “Dat slimy swine make me heebie jeebies get da creepers. Why cheche does ye make your presence here upon our humble house of horrors?” She chuckled.
“Um, I too like the smell of candied lemons on warm summer nights,” I said in Latin as Godric had taught me.
“Huh?” She said, curling her lip up so high her top gum showed and her nose scrunched up. “Lemons?”
“I too like the smell of candied lemons on warm summer nights,” I repeated.
“What wrong with ye der cheche? Ye a half wit? Been sniffin’ da horse exhaust down at da stable have ye? Always da ones ye never expectin’ be da ones who are da worst. Oh, forgettin’ me manneristic greets, me name is Assbellfugradiabylinia Ursdalabayforkalia, but ye can say me name just Ass. All da people, and all da spooks just call me Ass.”
“I don’t know… uh… Hi Ass… My name is Sookie.” I was so confused. Godric was sure the phrase would work. But the woman hadn’t turned me away. I was also having a difficult time following what she was saying.
“For what tongue ye yack der cheche? Ah, Whatforever. I know what ye be seekin’. Ye want da audience with da great Pythia of Delphi?”
I nodded my head.
“Ye know what rollin’ from me tongue in me head? How ye know of da jingle jangle I be yackin’? No one ever understandin’ a word of da Ass. Ye see in da Ass brains?”
I nodded again. “Yes.”
“Slap me stupefied and strip me Syphilis. Ye one a dem der fates? A spook are ye of the fate sort?”
I raised my eyebrow. I had no idea what a fate or a spook was.
“Whatforever. Da Pythia be wakin’ up from her ‘death sleep’ soon.” She shook her head and opened her eyes really wide when she sarcastically said death sleep. “She be seein’ ye den. For, she be hugely interested in da likes of ye, and I maginin’ she probably even expectin’ ye cheche. Or was ye name Sucky ye yacked? I be da assistant of da Pythia. Yep, she save Ass from a great forsakenin’. Pulled Ass right out da crack of damnation she did. We not ever get no fate visitors here unless da council be meetin’ on matter of import. Bunch a spooky rat droppin’ hocus pocus cock pebbles if ye ask da Ass. Every one of da ambassadors on da spook council full of pompous yackin’ and no wackin’, except da Pythia of course who be representin’ da pale darkies. We get lots of spooks of dat sort as ye be imaginin’. Da blood sippin’ sort if ye know what Ass mean. Dey be comin’ and goin’ all hours of da night lookin’ around like dey want a piece of da Ass. Did ye know da Pythia see in da brains too? Come Sucky, I wanna show ye me pickled eyeballs.”
I fondly thought of today as I sat at the table. I had spent the entire day with Sookie, and it was the most enjoyable and memorable time I have experienced in so very long. I touched my lips with my fingertips as I remembered the feel of them against her mouth, her lips softly brushing against mine. I remembered how my hand caressed her soft face, oh her skin was so very soft, her eyes so very trusting as she looked up at me with what I could only describe as devotion and trust.
I do not know how any human could trust me so fiercely, but she did, and I trusted her with equal fervor. I would put my life in her hands and not think twice, as I am now with the Pythia.
I longed for the feel of Sookie in my arms again. I never imagined how right it would feel to pull her against my body and become lost in her beautiful eyes. I do not remember ever looking so deeply into the eyes of a woman, looking so deeply into them and seeing everything I felt and desired reflected back.
“Do you love her?” Alia asked, handing me a goblet of water.
“She is claimed by another in the future, but he is unworthy of her,” I hissed, my fond mood quickly turning sour at the thought of the young Vampire who Sookie smelled of on the rooftop in Dallas.
“Are you so sure of this brother? Perhaps her lover in the future cherishes her as you do.”
“No.” I slammed the goblet down on the table. But I was more shocked and angry at the term lover than anything. “I cannot bear to tell her of Bill Compton’s treachery. I cannot bear to break her heart.”
“Are you so sure he has deceived her? Perhaps…”
I stared up at my sister with eyes full of rage, and she stopped speaking. “Sister, my people do background checks on all new vampires, demons as you call them, when they enter my territory.”
“What is a background check?”
“In the future, many records are kept concerning ones affairs. My underlings obtain these records to find out information about any newcomers. In Bill Compton’s case, I had a close acquaintance that served in the court of Queen Sophie-Ann, the monarch who holds dominion over the adjacent territory to mine; the same territory that Sookie hales from.”
“And what did your acquaintance tell you brother?”
I took a drink of my water. “That Bill Compton worked as a procurer for the Queen, and that he was on a special mission in the village of Bon Temps, the same village that Sookie lives in.” I looked at my sister’s confused face. “A procurer is an individual who works for high ranking officials. He obtains human meals for them. Sometimes he is given the task of a bounty to procure a special human of interest.”
“You believe this Be-el Cock-ton,” She said the name slowly trying to pronounce it. “You believe he was tasked to procure Sookie?”
“Yes, perhaps because of her unique smell, which most likely indicates her blood is flavorful to vampires, or perhaps because of her telepathic gift,” I said.
“Then why brother? Why did you not warn her before you attempted to meet the sun?”
I looked away. “You must understand sister. Such a small matter as a procurement is, or rather was, a small insignificance in the grand scheme of things. So many other vile things plagued my mind, vile things that were occurring in the world.” My voice lowered in regret. “At the time the information mattered little to me. I did not know Sookie as I know her now.”
“And now she has captured your heart, brother.”
“It matters not how I feel sister. A chaste kiss is one thing but Sookie will never yield to me. Her heart belongs to Bill Compton, and I cannot be so cruel to tell her that she gave her love and her innocence to a disloyal man.”
“You know brother that you cannot hide Cock-ton’s deception from her. She will pull it from your mind. And I tell you this brother, she does not love him as much as you might think. I have seen the way she looks upon you. It is the look of a woman falling in love.”
“Perhaps,” I sighed.
“I suppose this demon that claims her in the future matters not. For she is here now, with you in the present. And you have the chance, brother, to love her, to take her as a wife, to have children with her.”
My eyes widened, and I gasped. “Children?” I breathed.
“Yes, of course brother. Is such a notion so foreign to your thinking? Is this not what all couples in love aspire to accomplish in life?”
“I have always avoided such impossible notions.” I was suddenly overcome by the realization that I was capable of rooting my seed in the womb of a woman. I rubbed my hand over my mouth and chin to quell the desire that started to blaze deep within me, the desire to take Sookie to my bed and make passionate love to her.
I closed my eyes imagining what she would look like lying under me as I pleasured her body. Curiosity overwhelmed my senses as I wondered how she would feel as I spread her silky legs and slid my length inside her, making her hot sex stretch around me, milking me of my seed. My erection grew stiff and hard in wanton desire, and I yearned with the need to run to a hidden place and relieve myself as images of Sookie flashed across my mind.
I wanted to slip away from this table. I wanted to disappear to a secret spot and wrap my hand around my aching cock while I envisioning her atop me as I lifted her body up and down, while I fantasized of her under me on her hands and knees as I grabbed her hips and thrust into her with reckless abandon, while I imagined her on her back with her legs over my shoulders as I pushed into her with deep powerful movements, burying my length in her fully. My name would fall from her lips as she screamed in pleasure. Oh by the gods, I wanted this woman! I needed her, I longed for her. I rubbed my hand through my hair and shifted in my chair uncomfortably at the feel of my sensitive erection throbbing against the seam of my pants. I looked up at Alia with the eyes of a man that held a forbidden secret.
If I had such brazen thoughts around Sookie, she would know. She would see everything that danced within my mind. She already knew of my desire for her, and it had been so very hard to keep the explicit thoughts at bay when I looked upon her today. There had been several instances when I looked upon her body admiring her, when I thought she was not looking, forgetting that she knew everything. She would turn to me with blushing cheeks and knowing eyes. I would clear my throat and swallow hard trying to replace my fiery thoughts with more gentlemanly intentions. But I was no gentleman, and I have never been so. My desire for her was like an insatiable animal that pursued what it wanted relentlessly.
“I thought you had two children, brother.” Alia said, bringing me back to the here and now. “You spoke of the Viking and the Briton.”
“Yes,” I said hoarsely, drawing in a deep breath of air and trying to gather myself. “But these are not children grown from the seed of my body, only children of my blood, magically mingled with theirs to form an eternal bond that strengthens over the ages. I love them as fiercely as I would any child of my flesh.”
“Tell me of them brother. Tell me of the Viking.” She sat down across from me and put her chin on her hand, staring at me with soft eyes.
I smiled. “I spent centuries with my child Eric Northman. Just he and I, taking the world in the palm of our hands. He loves being a vampire. Loves it so much, and he has a zest for life that inspires me.” I closed my eyes sadly. “Oh, how I miss him.”
“What will become of him now that you are here? Now that you will not have the opportunity to make him as you were?”
I frowned and looked away. “He will die in battle, a young man who has not yet seen the wonders of the world, not yet discovered the greatness of love and life. He will not even be born for another 1000 years. My eyes will never gaze upon his face again.” I felt wetness upon my cheek and reached up to wipe it away with the back of my hand.
“Do not be sad brother.” Alia said softly, putting her hand on mine. “If it is written in your destiny, then you will see your Viking once again.”
I forced a smile as I looked back to my sister’s eyes. Perhaps she was right. But the only way to see Eric again was if I was turned to a vampire, and I refuse to damn myself into the role of Titus’ progeny. I would not walk at his side again, nor would I repeat the sad errors of my past. I rejoiced in the opportunity to lead a different life, a life worthy of honor and dignity. I would willingly walk into the sun the first day I rose before I lived one night with Titus as my maker.
I suddenly felt my body swaying as my eyes started to close.
“Brother, what is wrong?” Alia said, coming around the table and supporting my weight with her body.
“I know not, sister. The death sleep seems to pull at me. I can no longer fight it,” I whispered.
“How long has it been since you slept?”
“I slumbered for the day in Dallas, before Sookie brought us here.”
“So you have been human for two full cycles of the sun, nearly three. Your body cannot remain awake for such a lengthy time brother. You must sleep eight hours within one cycle.”
“Look sister, out of the window. For night has fallen and I cannot sleep. Titus awakens from his slumber. Go sister, run! Hide in the courtyard while Titus prepares to travel to the Pythia. I do not want you to fall in his clutches before we leave. He will be so preoccupied with his task that he will not think of you if his eyes do not fall upon you. Go Alia!”
“Brother,” she cried. “I cannot leave you in such a state.”
“You forget yourself sister. I may be five years younger than you in appearance. But I have walked the Earth for 2000 years. I have survived battles with supernatural beings that could rip fiery chasms in the Earth and monstrous creatures that could devour the souls from a dozen humans at once. I will survive the likes of Titus.”
I had been listening to Ass ramble on about every subject known to man for the better part of an hour when she finally left me in some sort of library so she could go to attend the Ancient Pythoness. It was finally night time and she had risen. My mind wandered to Godric. I hoped he was okay. I hoped Titus still planned to bring him here tonight. I hated this. I hated not knowing what was happening, if he was safe or in danger.
I heard a woman speaking in a strange language from the entrance way of the library and I stood from my chair, turning to face her.
I looked at her face, which was old, imperious, and serene. Her clouded eyes stared back at me, no pupils present, only milky orbs boring into me with shock and curiosity. She was garbed in simple black robes that flowed to the ground, her streaks of long gray and white hair flowed over her shoulders in uneven waves.
She spoke again, and I had no clue what she was saying. I couldn’t read her mind. But then again, of course I couldn’t. She was a vampire.
I took a deep breath and once again said the phrase that Godric told me. “I too like the smell of candied lemons on warm summer nights.”
Her eyes widened and her lips parted as she stared at me. Then she leaned her head back and laughed hysterically. I furrowed my eyebrows with concern. Maybe she had no clue what I was talking about.
“I am highly allergic to lemons and warm nights enhance the smell. Makes the crystallized honey encasing the lemons sticky and allows the aroma of the citrus to overpower the senses. Only a great friend would know of this and set you to jest upon me in such a manner,” she said in modern English, a smile stretched across her wrinkled face.
“How do you know my language?” I gasped.
“Who knows how I know the things I know, my child. Even I am in awe of the wonders of this world,” she said approaching me.
She slowly made her way to a chair, and settled herself in it, muttering something under her breath that I could not understand.
“Sookie Stackhouse, of Bon Temps Louisiana, traveled here from 2000 years in the future and half way around the Earth, part fae with the gift of telepathy. I have dreamed of you often. I never thought I would lay eyes on you, child. It was a very long time ago when I first dreamed of you, but you were never far from my thoughts. So long ago, when I was still a young human woman. That was about 1000 years ago, or maybe it was 1100,” she sighed as she leaned back in the chair. “I have lost track of time. Life can be tedious.”
“So it’s true that I’m part…”
“Ah, life back then,” she interrupted. “It was so carefree. I had so many hopes and dreams. To have a family, to raise children. Little did I know what my father had planned when he took me to the annual Theophania festival at Delphi. I remember entering the Apollo temple and being offered up to the priests there by my father in exchange for favors and blessings. They only accepted the most beautiful virgin girls to serve in the temple you see. And oh my beauty was considered one of the highest caliber. I became a hand maiden to a nasty Pythia who beat me often. It was a terrible life. One night she beat me so severely I fainted in the toxic fumes of the pyres. That is the first time I dreamed of you in the future, Sookie Stackhouse. That is when the priests decided I had the gift of the Oracle. That is when they decided I would be the next Pythia. They usually only chose the eldest virgins at the temple because of the agonizing life a Pythia had to endure, but they chose me. I was only eighteen.”
I looked down at my hands. “I’m so sorry that happened.”
“Do not be sorry, child,” she sighed. “For it was my destiny. But at the time I cried. Oh did I cry, for becoming a Pythia was a death sentence. The Oracles only lived a few years, their life leeched away by the toxic fumes of the pyres that induced their false prophecies.”
I wondered how the Ancient Pythoness lived to be so old as a human and why the poison fumes didn’t kill her. She had to have been at least in her eighties or nineties when she was turned, if not older.
“Interesting question,” she said dryly. She had read my mind! “I too wondered the same thing as the years passed, as I aged from a young woman to a matured woman to an elderly woman. I never died. I never got sick. In fact, I aged slowly. I served in the temple for 600 years as an Oracle. 600 hundred years I lived as a human, or so I thought I was human.” She leaned forward and stared at me intensely, knowledge and intelligence dancing in the depths of her milky eyes. “But I would come to know otherwise, that like you my child, I am part fae, born of a halfling mother.”
She leaned so close to me that I flinched, but I remained still.
“Do you want to know a secret child?” She grinned causing the wrinkles on her face to deepen. “I was not a virgin. My human father rid himself of me as punishment for my indiscretions. I became pregnant and bore a child. After the child was born, he took me to the temple to be rid of his disgraceful daughter. He told the priests I was a virgin. Later, I would learn he sold my child to slave traders. It took me centuries to learn what became of the babe after I was sent to the temple. For the longest time I did not understand the visions that came to me regarding my child. It all seemed so foreign and alien.”
“That’s terrible.” I cried. “What happened to the poor baby?”
“I learned that the slave traders sold the newborn babe off to a man. A man that turned out to be a relative of mine. As fortunate would have it, he was my grandfather, and he was a full blooded fae. My half fae mother had begged him to intervene on behalf of the child of his blood-line. He saved the child from a life of miserable servitude. I have lived over a millennium, 600 years as a human-fae and 400 years as a vampire, and I never got to touch my child’s face in all that time. All I have had of her to remember is a name. The name I blessed her with before we were parted.”
“What was her name?”
She reached out and put her hand on my face. “Her name was, Sookie,” she whispered, a single blood tear trailing down her pale and wrinkled cheek.