Chapter 61 – The Exchange
August 17, 2004
“Well everyone, King Carlos has fallen and Russell and Bart now control all of New England in addition to Mississippi and Kentucky.”
Eric was back from the trip and was filling in the crowd at the farmhouse. They’d heard from the Were guards that traveled with Eric that he was fine but no other details, so they waited anxiously for him to rise and join them in the living room. Gran asked the question he’d expected from her. “Was anyone hurt?”
Since Cecelia was in the room and she had not been told, Eric moved to pick her up. Given that Godric was still by Toni’s side in Boston, he was tasked with filling in the little shifter. “Cecelia, your Mommy is healing with Godric, but she was hurt.” Gran knew it must have been bad if they were telling her that she was still healing; meaning Godric just couldn’t heal her completely.
Tears started rolling down the girl’s cheek. “I want to see her, where is she?”
“She’s in Boston, and they’re waiting for you to call. We’re going to do a video conference in about 20 minutes. Dr. Ludwig is there and she sent me a text saying your Mommy’s doing much better.”
“Is she going to be OK? Is she coming here?”
“As soon as Dr. Ludwig says she can travel she and Godric will be here and I’ve been promised that she will be just fine.” There was more going on, but Toni wanted to tell Cecelia herself that her father had died when rogue Weres attacked his house in Mississippi looking for Cecelia. Everyone was convinced the plot was personal: Something to hurt Godric since he had grown to care for the little girl in addition to loving her mother.
Gran’s eyes grew as big as saucers. “I guess I’ll need to move up to the new house.”
“We can’t do that because our spies will question the move. I have a plan already in the works,” he looked at Alcide and Alcide nodded back. “We’ll be fine soon.” With a turn back to the young girl in his arms he asked, “Should we get online so we’re ready for the video conference?”
“Can Gran come?”
“Sure. We’ll go to her room.”
“Let me go first with Gran to make room; then I’ll call for you.”
Gran knew there was more to the story so she walked quietly with Eric to her room. He turned on the humidifier immediately to try and cover their conversation; then proceeded. “Cecelia was also to be taken or hurt when Toni was.”
“How do we know this?” Gran’s tears started in empathy for the little girl.
“There were rogue Weres in Mississippi who broke into Toni’s home and when they didn’t find her, they broke into her father’s home and he was killed. We suspect this was done to throw Godric off of finding Toni in Boston – to divide his focus. Obviously it was poorly thought out but then Carlos is a pretty young king and not the most brilliant strategist.” He sighed at the situation. “Toni will tell her, but we’ll need to care for her.”
“Of course. Will we be going to a funeral? Should I pack?”
“She can’t go Gran. She was hidden before out of paranoia, now it seems it was absolutely necessary.”
“I’ll do something here; call the reverend in for a memorial service here to help her.” Her hands were wringing from worry as she continued. “And Toni? She must have been hurt badly if Godric couldn’t just heal her.”
“She was nearly drained. If he gave her too much, she would have been turned.”
“But she’s fine now?”
“She is weak, but healing. When she arrives, Godric will stay a day or so, but he can’t stay in this territory for long. It will up to us to get her stronger. Russell offered to help her and take in Toni, but she wanted to be closer to Godric. This way he can sneak in a flight occasionally.” After fiddling with the computer he saw Toni and Godric. “I’ll just get Cecelia; I’ve been filling in Gran.”
The call with Cecelia was difficult. Her father and his friend had both died when several large Weres surprise attacked them the same night Toni was taken in Boston. Cecelia was too young to be concerned about a funeral, but she was grieving for her father. Toni was as well. They didn’t have a romantic tie, but had been good friends while they co-parented Cecelia and she would miss him. The good news was that Ludwig had approved Toni for travel and she would be returning during the day; Russell was providing secure travel for Godric in addition to Toni.
Cecelia was glum when she returned to the crowd in the living room. “Mommy will be here tomorrow. Dr. Ludwig said so. But my Daddy died.”
Angie who’d been helping to care for the girl stooped down to give her a hug. “I’m so sorry Celia.” Wanting to distract the girl a bit, she offered. “How about we go up to my room and move my stuff to Michael’s for tomorrow night. Maybe we’ll move some of your stuff upstairs so you can stay with Mommy when she arrives.” She looked at Eric. “Unless your plan will be ready by tomorrow night?”
He just turned to Alcide and let him answer. “I need about 3 more days.”
“Ok then, shall we start on that Celia?” Celia nodded and they were off to Gran’s room. “Michael, can you stay and play with Hunter? Celia and I are going to have some girl time.” Eric knew the child was in good hands.
Gran got her frustrated stance on – complete with hands on hips. “Is one of you going to tell me this plan for the house?”
When Eric answered, “Nope.” Alcide felt comfortable saying, “Not me.”
Godric woke in his coffin in the living room as per his instructions – he wanted to get to Eric as soon as he could – he didn’t want to wait for sunset. Alcide just gave up on getting the vampires to rest in a more protected space. If they felt the living room was fine – who was he to argue? It didn’t prevent him from having Jason take the day off from work and sit next to the coffin with his shotgun though. “Jason, is that you?”
“How’d you know it was me sitting out here?”
“My nose is 2000 years old; it is very strong and discerning. Can you wheel me into the hall so I can get to my son?”
“Sure.” At Godric’s request, Jason wheeled the coffin into the hall then put the light tight drapes up at each end. “OK, you’re safe.”
He opened the coffin. “Thank you Jason. Is Alcide very angry about my resting here?”
“More frustrated than anything. Basically he just gave up and left muttering about damn stubborn vampires.”
At the image of Alcide’s frustration, Godric started chuckling. “I can feel Toni is asleep but it Cecelia awake?”
“No, she went up to take a nap with Toni about 30 minutes ago. All the kids are napping now.”
“Very well, I will be in with Eric working until he rises.”
“Ah, Hunter’s in there napping. Are you making phone calls or anything?”
“No, I will be quiet.”
He entered the room and had to take a picture for Sookie. Eric was resting on his side with Hunter snuggled in. The boy had even purposely picked up Eric’s arm to place over him. ‘I don’t see how Hunter is going to want to leave when this is all over. I do not see Eric wanting that either. Maybe they can build a house for Hunter and Remy on the property. I will suggest that later to Eric. Of course, Eric will be a king then, is that safest?’
He worked for an hour before Eric started to stir, then Hunter did. “Good evening Little Dude.”
“Good evening Big Dude.” They were still snuggled but Hunter could feel Godric’s mind so he peeked over. “Godric is here.”
“Yes, I can feel him. He’s likely trapped in here until the sun sets.” He turned his head to look at Godric, but still stayed wrapped around Hunter. “Did you give Alcide a coronary by resting in the living room again?”
“Yes, and he had Jason sitting next to me with a shot gun.”
“Jason enjoys feeling needed like that.” He finally sat up taking a still sleepy Hunter with him to rest on his chest for a few more minutes. Godric watched at Eric held the boy close and rubbed his back. The love and comfort flowing between them was evident. “Toni is welcome here if she’s up.”
“She is not. I’m not sure about Cecelia though.”
“She’s asleep.” Hunter reported. “Do you want me to go so you can spend time with your Daddy?”
“Hunter, that’s very considerate of you to ask, but you don’t need to leave. We can do a chapter in your book before I do any work or have any discussions.”
“COOL! I’ll get it.”
He scampered off to the living room with Eric and Godric laughing at his pounding feet. “No doubt Cecelia will wake if he keeps the noise up.”
“His foot stomps have woken her when she was across the hall, but she’s upstairs and probably can’t hear them.”
Eric and Hunter read their book while Godric worked and after a chapter, Hunter left them so they could talk ‘bizniss’. “I have news from Stan. They received an RSVP from both Felipe and Freyda AND Sookie. They declined the wedding invitation.”
“That’s pretty much an insult to another monarch.”
“I’m certain that Felipe saw the Pledge as a threat. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same if I were him.”
“You would never put yourself in that position – to be hated by so many.”
“True. I know you’re disappointed, but if things work as we planned, it will be shortly after the pledging that we descend upon Felipe and Appius in Vegas.”
“Good point. I will focus on the benefit of having a last minute planning session in person.”
“So let me see the floor plans you’ve been working on.”
Eric pulled them out and used the bed to spread them out and pointed to a square on the page. “This outbuilding?”
“Yes, it appears disconnected?”
“It is. The two heads of security: Night and day, have their rooms in that building. It’s unlined – we can teleport to it.”
“I remember that but how is that an advantage? We still need to make our way to the palace.”
Flipping over the floor plan, he revealed a slightly different variation below. “This is the set we purchased via Alcide’s contacts. The hidden tunnels are shown.”
“Yes, we plan to use this hidden tunnel, as we discussed in Boston. How are you ensuring the fairies can teleport?”
“I spoke to Niall after Boston, the fairies only need to have an image of where they’re headed. I have a plane flying over to take pictures since the fairies will need the visual to teleport.”
“This is excellent.”
“It is.” He traced a track on the map of hidden tunnels. “We can use this tunnel to head directly to the donor room or a room behind the dais in the throne room.” His eyes sparkled as he got his maker’s attention.
“The element of surprise will be a great advantage.”
“We’ll still need others to come in via conventional means, we can’t all teleport.”
“Agreed. From Bon Temps we are teleporting since we can’t leave the property via conventional means. I have several in Shreveport who will do the same. Rasul wants to fight, but I might need him in New Orleans with a few extra I send to fend off anything that happens once our battle starts.”
“We just need to figure out the exact date after Stan’s pledging.”
“I need to get in contact with Octavia.”
“What are you thinking?”
“Maybe she can create a reason to have a session of court, like she found the spell to break the bond.”
“We heard that when he discussed that with her the first time he almost emptied the throne room so only a few very loyal vampires were present to hear it. We want a full court to surprise.”
“We’ll come up with something.”
“What will you come up with?” They’d been so involved in their planning they didn’t hear Pam rise.
“We need a date where Felipe’s court will be as full as possible. Something shortly after Stan’s Pledging.”
“Felipe and Freyda will be pledged 25 years in September.”
“No, it’s only 24. It was 1980. If there was something, how would we not know?”
“I remember Eric, it’s been 25 years. Check with Quinn, I guarantee his company’s involved in something for it. It might just be for local vampires, or the invitations aren’t out yet – it’s just six weeks ahead of time now.”
“GODS, in another 6 weeks she’ll be 18 weeks pregnant. This is getting too close.”
“I know we are all angry at her, but I’m sure Pythia wouldn’t risk Roo again. There must be some way to cover up the pregnancy.”
“There better be.”
In Vegas a few nights later, Bill had requested a meeting with Felipe to discuss Sookie. “I beg you to let them exchange blood. I don’t care if she feels ill, but now she’s begun vomiting and you have us locked in the meeting room off the palace while you have court. The smell Felipe, please.”
“I care not for your comfort Compton. I will allow your request only to ensure she’s in the best health for her insemination. Get Ludwig here.”
“Ludwig? What does she have to do . . .”
“YOU QUESTION ME?”
“No your majesty. I’ll call her right away. Shall I have her brought to court?”
“No, I’ll wait for her in my meeting room. Escort her there.”
Ludwig had been scheduled to see Sookie once a week, and was surprised at the summons since she’d already seen her just the other day. “You summoned me Felipe?”
“Are you really that powerful, that mighty that you don’t feel the need to recognize a monarch? I should punish your insubordination.”
“Do you know how old I am? Do you know what the consequences of touching me would be? I’m sure you’ve been told as has every other vampire in the world. I’m a healer, not a politician, so I suggest you get to the medical purpose of this visit before I grow bored of indulging you.”
He knew she was untouchable. It was an unwritten but well shared rule in the supernatural community. True healers were rare and when they were needed, nothing else could be substituted. As a result, Ludwig could not be harmed. He moved on to his request. “I want you to see to the telepath and Northman’s blood exchange.”
“I’m not sure I understand. I can’t teleport with another being. You’ll need to arrange traditional transport. . .”
“You’ll be transporting their blood back and forth.”
“That’s not an exchange between bondeds and you know it. The magic of the bond requires that they exchange in person.”
“You can time it so they will exchange at the same time, but I won’t permit them to exchange together.”
“Felipe, this will be used against you if Northman calls a trial. You’re keeping bondeds apart.”
“We both know the blood bag will choose to stay here with her children, no trial will occur.”
“But they are bonded.”
“ENOUGH. This is what I am permitting. Will you help them or not?”
She realized he had no power over Felipe to insist any further. She would damn well testify when needed that he wouldn’t permit them to exchange as was required for bondeds. “I’ll start by collecting from Sookie.”
That same night in Bon Temps, Alcide came out of Sookie’s room to enter the kitchen for a late dinner, startling everyone. “My Lord Alcide! How did you get here? You were working up at the new house.”
Eric was already at the table waiting for Alcide to pop in. He grinned and yelled, “Surprise!”
Gran gasped out his outburst. “Eric Northman! You know I have a weak heart. You can’t shock me like that!”
“Gran, you do NOT have a weak heart. Ludwig told us that Pam’s last blood donation made you right as rain.” They stared off for a moment before he continued. “Alcide just used the new tunnel his crew installed from the new house to here.”
Little Michael perked up immediately. “A tunnel? Does it go through the cemetery? That would be COOL!”
Eric smirked at the young boy’s fascination. “Sookie would have my hide if I disturbed graves for a tunnel. It goes up above the graveyard.”
“It wouldn’t just be Sookie that would give you hell for that.” Gran got a sparkle in her eye. “Can we check it out?”
“Don’t you think you should finish dinner? Alcide just sat down now.”
She scowled at Eric but stayed put. “So Hunter, did you know about this? Potts?”
Hunter nodded his head wildly. “Yeah, once the workers got close to the underground chamber here, I heard ‘em – I mean, they were working under me, I just did a quick listen. It’s not like I was reading anyone on purpose. After I told Eric what I’d heard, he confirmed it for me.”
“And of course I knew Gran. I’m the one that had you up at the new house today reviewing the cabinets so Alcide and crew could finally break through the wall downstairs.”
“You’re a devious one Potts. I was wondering why everyone thought it was so important for me to check out Remy’s work.” With a worried expression she turned to Eric. “I don’t like folks going in and out of the chamber downstairs. It’s a risk to Pam or any vampire that’s resting there.”
“We’re making some changes down there. The tunnel gets bigger right near the house, creating enough room that new doors will be installed at the bottom of the stairs. One goes to a resting chamber, the other is the tunnel.”
“As long as you believe it’s safe, then I’m OK with that.” For a few minutes Gran sat quietly waiting for the family to finish eating; she really wanted to check out this tunnel. After everyone but Alcide was done, she pointed to Alcide’s plate. “Hurry up and finish. I know I’m excited to check it out. I bet Angie, Michael, Hunter and Cecelia are itching to be anywhere but the farmhouse right now.”
“But it’s pot roast Gran. Some things can’t be rushed.”
“Alcide, I’ve seen you inhale food before. What do you do with the deer you catch on your runs? Pull out the good china and candles?”
Hunter’s face scrunched up. “Yuck Gran. Now he’s thinking about the last deer he had and there’s no china or candles.” Eric gave him a stern look, knowing the boy was just a bit too fascinated by what he was watching and reminding him he was supposed to use shields in the house as much as possible. Hunter got the message right away. “Putting the shields up. Sorry for ‘truding Alcide.”
“No problem Smurf.”
The group took the walk up via the tunnel to the new house. The entryway and 10 feet just outside the tunnel at the farmhouse still needed finish work, but it was done enough for them to travel. The tunnel ended in a large room in the underground portion of Tara. The group was stunned when they entered the room: Eric made a large play area for the kids as a surprise. Gran was the first to shake off her stupor. “Oh my Lord Eric! What have you done?”
“Well, they can’t go outside; I thought they might appreciate the space with the play equipment.”
“This isn’t just some space and play equipment Eric.” Toni exclaimed. “This is . . . I don’t think there are words for this.”
Hunter offered, “How about AWESOME! Dude – this is awesome.” Then he was off to captain the play ferry in the center of the room. “Come on Michael! Cecelia!”
Potts took in the room. She knew it was being built, but hadn’t seen it. A mural on the wall depicted a city on a shore, something New York (ish). The mural turned the corner and illustrated an amusement park. The floor was painted half blue like you were standing in water. Toys, large playground like equipment, a bouncy house and games were placed throughout the room. SHE wanted to play, so she did.
The adults stayed and enjoyed the kid’s playfulness until they were interrupted by a call from ‘the hostile’. This time however, instead of scowling after Eric greeted ‘his Lord’, he was smiling. The group was silent as they waited. “They are finally allowing an exchange.”
Gran looked almost as pleased as Eric. She knew he meant blood exchange as all the adults did. “When?”
“Tonight actually. I’m to wait at the farmhouse for next steps.”
“Well you best get back there. A group of us can stay with the kids for a while.”
“Gran, Michael needs to go to bed soon.”
Angie cut in. “I think we can make an exception tonight. We’ll stay here for a while. Go on; go see what the next steps are.”
Before he left, he added one comment. “For anyone who can go outside: If you take the tunnel over, you need to take the tunnel back. I can’t have any spies wondering how people were suddenly in one location versus another.”
“That makes sense Eric. We’ll all be careful and watch for each other.” Potts responded. “Now, like Angie said, GO ON!”
A short while later, Ludwig found herself outside Sookie’s door. She couldn’t believe she was going to be the bearer of this news, the executor of the actions Felipe had requested, but while it wasn’t optimal, the exchange WOULD help Sookie and Eric some. With a last calming breath, she knocked on the door
A quick check confirmed it was Ludwig and Sookie smiled. “Come in.” One look at the elf and she knew she wasn’t delivering good news.
She sighed before speaking and Sookie knew it wasn’t going to be good. “Sookie, I’m here to collect your blood so I can transport it to Eric, then I will return with a bag of his blood for you.”
“WHAT? I thought we were going to exchange blood TOGETHER! When they talked about maybe this week, nobody ever said via a bag!” She started shaking as her hope to see and touch Eric was dying.
Ludwig’s head was shaking before she explained. “This is the only exchange Felipe would permit. It’s against my recommendations, but I believe it will help some. Please calm down and let me do this.” When Sookie was still in a near panic, she tried soothing her with thoughts. ‘Your giant IS working to end this. Please Sookie, please calm down. His blood, even from a bag, should lesson some of the aches you’re having.’ She guided her to the bed. ‘Come on girly, you can do this, but you need to stop shaking so I can take your blood. Then I’ll pop to the farmhouse, collect the bag from him and return.’ She instructed Sookie on the next steps by talking. “I need your arm out and hold still.”
With her arm out as steady as she could, she answered. “O . . . Kay.”
Ludwig worked quickly. “I’m all done. You just stay in bed now and I’ll be back with his blood.”
She popped to the front porch of the farmhouse and knocked. The news was bad enough that she didn’t want to pop in the house and start with him being agitated.
The knock stopped Eric’s pacing and he ran to the door and found “Ludwig?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Let me in giant and I’ll tell you what’s going to happen.”
He reeled back when she walked by him to enter the room. “Her blood.” His anger and panic grew. “WHY DO I SMELL HER BLOOD?”
There was no point in breaking it to him gently, so she just started explaining. “It’s the exchange. It’s being done via bagged blood.” She motioned to the sofa. “Sit so I can draw your blood and get back to her. I don’t want the blood sitting in the bag for long.” His anger flared first but he realized Ludwig was right and there was no point in arguing with her. He nodded and put his arm out, just as Sookie had done, only without the shaking. “Wait 15 minutes then start drinking.” Then she popped away.
Fifteen minutes later, they both drank their bags and the effect was immediate, but not as healing as exchanging in person. Sookie’s constant dizziness was reduced, Eric’s mind became clearer and for both, the aches and pains that had become part of their daily life diminished. Through the bond, they sent love and a bit of sadness. Eric knew he needed to go back to the playroom and collect the kids and move on with their night; he just couldn’t face everyone. Instead of calling them back to the house in person, he chickened out and texted Pam.
E: Pam, everyone can come back to the house if they’re done in the playroom.
P: When are you leaving?
E: I’m not. It was done via collected bags of blood that Ludwig transported. It’s already happened.
There was a delay because Pam couldn’t think about how to respond to his text.
P: I’m sorry Eric. Do you at least have some relief from the aches and pains of bonding sickness?
E: Yes the pain is lessened. Can you please explain what happened to everyone? I can’t.
E: I’m taking a flight, but I’ll be back before Hunter goes to bed.
P: I’ll tell him.
With her confirmation, he took off and flew almost a half hour before letting his anger go. The long flight guaranteed that he wasn’t followed so he knew this was without risk. He kicked and pushed over trees while growling and yelling as loudly as he could. Animals in the area scurried to get away from the danger. The movements and screeches didn’t stop for an hour and Eric found himself wishing that he could grow tired, but as a vampire it didn’t matter if you ran the entire time you were awake for the night; vampires just never got tired. Knowing he promised Little Dude that he’d be back before bedtime, he stopped and brushed the dirt he could from his clothing and took to the air.
Pam felt him returning so she had everyone vacate the common rooms at the farmhouse. Only she and Hunter remained in the kitchen where she was getting his snack for him. Hunter knew what had happened, Pam told the adults and he read it right away. He knew he was supposed to keep shields up, but he was worried about Eric so he had to listen. As soon as he heard the WHOMP of Eric’s hard landing out front, he ran to the living room even while Pam followed calling him back. She wasn’t faster than Eric though and he welcomed the boy into his arms. “I’m sorry Big Dude. I know you wanted to see Aunt Sookie.”
“I did Hunter. But we still got the exchange we needed so I feel better. And now . . . you’re the only person I came back to see tonight.”
“Really?” Eric nodded. “You know, I know what the exchange is, you don’t need to hide it from me.”
“A little smarty-pants are you?”
“He’s a dirty smarty pants now that you covered his already bathed body in bark, dirt and grass. Lord Eric, did you create a meadow out of a forest?”
“Something like that.”
“Now he needs another bath.”
“It’s just a little dirt; I’ll wipe him up before he goes to sleep.”
“I’m not changing your sheets if you don’t get him clean before you put him to bed.”
“Since when do you change sheets anyway?”
“That’s so NOT the point.”