When Eric landed on Persona Non Grata he looked around carefully, taking in his surroundings. ‘David’ seemed to live in a lean to, with a hammock off to the side hung between two trees. At the moment he was sitting on an upside down 5 gallon bucket fiddling with an old transistor radio that had aluminum foil on the antennae. Eric stopped and waited for his host to look up and greet him.
As he waited he listened to the man curse under his breath as he adjusted the radio. Instinctively, Eric inhaled, taking in this man’s scent and found nothing.
Well, I didn’t really think he was human, he thought to himself as he waited, silent and still.
Finally, his host turned his attention to Eric, his gaze traveling from his head to his toes and then back up again as though he was seeing Eric for the first time. His gaze rested a moment on the beer in Eric’s arms and then flickered back to meet his eyes. He nodded his approval of the beer and reached behind him to produce another five gallon bucket, indicating Eric should join him.
“What do you bring, Viking?” David asked him. Sliding into the ritualistic tones of the question Eric answered in kind, feeling the words more than thinking them.
“I bring tribute.”
“Your tribute is accepted. Sit with me. Drink with me. Tell me of the many things you know.”
Eric passed the man a beer, and opened a blood for himself, more a courtesy to his request than a desire to drink the foul stuff.
“I know nothing,” Eric admitted, looking down willing to humble himself before this new being if it would help him get to Sookie.
“There are many things you don’t know you know, Viking.” Eric looked at him sharply, and listened to the voice in mind that told him this was not a man, and his name was not ‘David’, at least not in the beginning. In the beginning he had another name, and another face. Eric could almost hear it and see it. Almost, right on the tip of his tongue, just beyond his reach. “You thought you came here to ask me questions. I will be the one doing the asking.”
“Then this will be a short conversation, ‘David’.” He was not able to keep the sarcasm from his tone. The anger he felt at this own powerlessness was driving him to move and not sit there. He needed to find her, and if there would be no information forthcoming from this source then he would waste no more time here!
Before he could stand to go, David took a deep drink of his beer, and wiped his lips, “You’ve been around a fair amount of time, Eric. Not as long as some, but longer than most. In that time, you ever take notice of the patterns the consistencies in the seeming chaos?” Eric nodded, waiting.
“One of the patterns is that no one is ever given a problem they can’t solve. Before the problem hits, tools, information and experiences are offered that can be used to conquer the problem at hand. Sometimes, folks miss the clues and skip the lessons, which leaves them unprepared, but they do get a chance.” David stopped, cracked another beer and looked at Eric expectantly, silently.
Eric, thinking about what he had just been told, nodded suddenly, as the realization hit him that this pattern was true here in his situation as well. Both he and Sookie had been given a chance to develop the power they would need to face this situation. As if he heard Eric’s thoughts, David smiled.
“Tell me,” he commanded Eric.
Before Eric spoke he let his mind play back what Sookie had told him after his first encounter with The Dwarf.
“Can you tell me anything about The Dwarf, the Baroness or the Master?”
“Yes,” was the answer from all three in unison.
“What do you know?” he finally prompted them when they didn’t’ speak again right away.
“One is a Liar, one is a Fool, and one you will face before your journey ends.”
“And what is it that I need to remember?”
“Which one is which, Viking.”
“So, once I knew this?” The three nodded in unison. “And if I do not remember?”
“Then you will be deceived, fooled, and this existence will end.”
“The Dwarf is The Liar, Sookie warned me about.” David nodded, waiting still. “The Baroness was The Fool?” Eric was less certain this time. Again, David nodded and then he prodded.
“Why is The Baroness ‘The Fool’?” Eric asked himself, searching his memory for why she was foolish. Closing his eyes as he remembered her words, he savored the sound of her voice, squashing again the raw bleeding ache in his chest from where the Bond remained silent.
“The woman in the film that is who I want to be. She didn’t give a damn about what anyone thought about anything… She did what she thought was right…She fought a lion with a whip, Eric. She stood her ground and fought him back!”
Realization dawning, Sookie was the Baroness in his dream! He had perceived her as The Baroness because of what she said to him.
“Because she didn’t understand she already was that woman,” Eric spoke aloud, and again, his host nodded, smile growing wider as Eric demonstrated a deeper understanding of things than he realized he possessed to this point.
“Why must you face The Master, Eric?” Remembering the feel of Sookie in his arms, in his now empty heart, he answered without thinking.
“Because he has taken what is mine, and I will get her back.” David shook his head at this answer.
“You were told you would have to face him before he took Sookie. While this is the impetus for your meeting, one could argue that he took her so that you would have to face him, not that you are facing him because he took her.
“Why did he take her, Eric?” He thought of David’s question and remembered what The Master had said to him as he faced Russell.
“I must confess, Viking, I never thought you would make it this far. I wiped your mind, sent you back in time a thousand years into the timeline of another fucking world and still, STILL, HERE YOU ARE! Jones surely is one crafty son of a bitch. Vampire! Who the fuck would have guessed?”
“I made you, do you know that? Every step you took, every experience that made you the warrior you are, it was my hand on the rudder. That was me at your knee, do you know that, Viking?”
In Eric’s long life, there had been adversaries that he had gone to great lengths to defeat. In each case, they had committed what Eric believed was an egregious wrong against him. Something that dug into the core of him and demanded that he utterly annihilate them from existence. Somehow, he had offended The Master in this way.
“How did I offend The Master that he would go to such great lengths to destroy me? I have no memory of him or what transpired that led this.” Eric rested his elbows on his knees and leaned closer to David, hoping that first that he had answers, and second that he would be willing to share them. David opened another beer, and took a long drink before sitting back, clearing his throat and looking at Eric.
“Do you know why people speak in parables?” David asked, sidestepping Eric’s question.
“Because anything too easily given has no value. To be told requires no thought, and no effort, so it is often dismissed. A puzzle that engages the mind and unfolds over time that requires much thought and consideration is of more worth.” Again, David nodded, smiling.
“Very, very good, Eric.” He shifted his weight on the barrel and mimicked Eric leaning his elbows on his knees. “Once upon a time, there was a Librarian who maintained the greatest library that ever existed. Its shelves were lined with books of lives lived, dreamed, past, present, and future from the beginning of time to the end of time. If you wanted to know anything about anyone ever, you had but to find the book of them on the shelf.
“The Librarian was very happy here, performing his function of caring for the books until one day, as he roamed the stacks he met The Writer. Until he saw her there among the books it had never occurred to The Librarian to wonder where all the stories came from. His job was to care for the books there was nothing else, but when he met The Librarian he was spellbound. She was lovely, and kind and her laugh made him feel things that he had never known before. In time, he would seek her out among the stacks, and as they grew closer they learned of each other, their functions and what purpose they served in The Library.
The Librarian held her at night when she cried over something terrible that had happened in one of her books, and rejoiced with her when something great and wonderful happened in another. Sometimes, she would read passages to him of her favorite stories.” He paused here a faraway look on his face as he became lost in the forest of his memory. “Her favorite was always a love story, one in particular. The story of”-
“Eric and Sookie,” Eric whispered, finishing the sentence that David had started. His host smiled sadly, nodding.
“Yes, it is a grand tale. One worthy of telling again and again.” He stopped and looked at Eric expectantly.
“I have seen them,” Eric whispered, recalling his first shower with Sookie and the flood of images of all the Sookie’s and all “the pretty Eric’s” as she had called them. Mysticism and religion, her voice echoed in his mind, so soft and so close he looked around quickly, half expecting her to be standing there beside him.
Shaking himself and turning back to focus on what he had just learned he let it play out and tried to comprehend. “They are all us, but they are not?” he looked to David for confirmation.
“Each choice they make, each twist and turn leads them down their own paths. There are stories where they never met, stories where they met and lost each other, stories where they destroyed each other, but then, oh then,” David’s face lights up from the inside and Eric is transfixed at the change in his demeanor. “Then there are stories where their love conquers all, no matter what the universe throw at them. Those, those are the best ones, those are the right ones.” Sipping his beer again, internal light fading now, he pins Eric with his stare. “Those stories are so powerful they can inspire one to do great things,” he sighs, “Of course, they can also inspire one to do horrible things as well. Do you know why, Viking?”
“Because…to see something as beautiful as my Sookie and not be able to have her would drive some beyond the edge of reason.” David nodded and leaned back, draining his beer and opening another.
“Close, but you are partial to the faery, so your answer is no surprise. It’s more than that, though. Can you push back and see more?” For a moment Eric thought of all the things he had sensed that there was more, something beyond what he could see he knew he stood on the edge of it now. He was afraid, knowing that to realize would change him forever, and he was elated for that same reason. Here in the middle of all this was what he had sought for so long. It almost overwhelmed him to realize that he had had most of the answers all along.
“Because to see the beauty of Sookie and me together, what we can be, what we can accomplish and not be able to experience that for yourself that would be too much. That longing could spur someone to do horrible things.” Eric hesitated, looking into David’s eyes, demanding the truth. “The Master, this all started because he was jealous?” David, chuckled indulgently at Eric’s disbelieving tone.
“Why is it so hard to believe that envy could drive someone to do horrible things? Have you not in your time, Viking, ever felt driven to foolish and terrible acts from envy? I believe there was a certain incident in Dallas, something about a bullet, and ‘sucking it out’?” The smirk on his face caused a moment of discomfort for Eric, but rather than address or acknowledge that feeling he pressed on.
“Comparatively that is small thing. How can you compare that to the atrocities that The Master has committed?”
“Well, it’s all about perspective, really. From his perspective, all of this is a bullet in Dallas, meaning a ‘comparatively small thing'” He paused letting that sink in. “Why did you trick Sookie in Dallas, Eric?”
“Because I wanted her to be mine.”
“Then if all this has been nothing more than ‘a bullet in Dallas’ to The Master, what do you think he wants, Eric?”
“NO! Sookie is mine! HE. CAN’T. HAVE. HER!” Eric screamed his denial as he jumped to his feet ready to tear someone apart. David looked him, compassion showing on his face as he softly spoke. Eric felt his dead heart seize as his worst fears were realized in the next words from his host.
“He already has her.”