“Where were you?” Rage bubbled up in my throat.
“It’s not like you were obliged to come find me,” I said, “but I hoped the whole time – I hope you would come, I prayed you would come, I thought over and over you might hear me…”
“You’re killing me,” he said.
“You’re killing me.”
~Dead and Gone~
Eric’s whereabouts during Sookie’s torture by the fae in Dead and Gone stands as the number one question I (and I’m betting most of you) would like to have answered in Dead in the Family.
All I have to judge Eric on is what I see written on the pages of these books. Eric can be twisty. He can manipulate people and situations to his advantage with an ease that only comes with a thousand years of practice. He is cunning, intelligent, and often self serving. He rarely does anything without more than one motivation. Lest you think I’m about to tear him down, I love these things about him because book by book, he is tearing them down himself. Nine books into this series we have uncovered a vampire who still has all of those character traits – but who is learning through a human woman that even after so long in his skin, it’s still possible to become more than he was without her. This vampire always has Sookie’s back – even when it’s put him in danger, at political disadvantage, or just been an outright pain in the butt. This vampire has taken more bullets for, and been involved in more skirmishes over this woman than I care to recount. This vampire is finding more and more that he is doing things, and feeling things that would have been unthinkable to him before a small town waitress walked into his bar. His story arc has shown him becoming increasingly willing to take big risks for Sookie, even to the point of risking his undead life as his feelings for her have deepened. Whatever else you want to throw at him no one could accuse Eric of apathy, stagnation, disloyalty, or backing down from a fight.
Yet in Dead and Gone while the Fae are engaging in all out war – with his blood bonded, fae descended wife right in the middle of it – Eric is suddenly a no show. Where was he when Sookie was as close to death as she has ever come, and why did he send others to help her?
I thought we might kick around a few theories and see if we can find something that fits. I’m effectively throwing the proverbial at a wall here to see what sticks, so feel free to grab a handful in the comments.
THE BLOOD BOND
The crux of the blood bond theory runs like this: Eric felt Sookie’s torture through the blood bond and was somehow incapacitated by it, unable to come to her rescue.
As I understand the blood bond (and I could well get flamed here since interpretations of the bond and its effects vary wildly), it acts as an emotional conduit – Sookie and Eric can feel eachother’s emotions through the bond. It has been hinted at in the text that the two-way nature of their bond is unusual, and that blood bonds don’t normally see the vampire as affected by the human as Eric seems to have become by Sookie. Certainly in traditional vampire lore, the vampire would usually retain the upper hand over the human. And while we don’t know if Eric has ever fully bonded to a human before Sookie – he makes a couple of comments that indicate some aspects of his bond with her are not what he expected:
“We’re bound a bit too tightly to suit me, Sookie.”
He was visibly tense; I couldn’t remember ever seeing Eric so notably anxious. “I’m here to die right along with you, it seems.” – ATD
“The blood exchange has worked both ways,” he said. “I’ve had the blood of many women. I’ve had almost utter control over them. But they never drank mine. It’s been decades, maybe centuries since I gave any woman my blood. Maybe not since I turned Pam.” – DAG
While the bond is an emotional freeway, it does not conduct physical sensations or pain. Again, this is supported by the text. When Eric and Felipe are accosted by Sigebert outside Merlotte’s (bad juju in that parking lot, I tell you) they are beaten and burned with silver; but Sookie, driving away just before the attack, is not aware of Eric’s physical pain and that’s not the impetus for her to turn her car around and go back to check on him. She notes that she feels anxious, that she is overcome by what is almost a panic attack. She realises that it may be possible that her feelings are Eric’s, decides to trust her gut and returns to Merlotte’s. Interestingly, she points out that is her genuine regard for Eric motivating this decision and she makes a point of telling the reader that these feelings are separate to the blood bond. At no time does she mention feeling the physical effects of his assault and though she does experience some mental fogginess, she still manages to quickly assess the situation, come up with a plan, and dispose of Sigebert single handedly.
Charlaine Harris gave this answer last July to a question on her board about the difference between the sire/child bond and the blood bond:
If Eric were to be staked, Appius and Pam would both feel it, and Sookie would feel his absence emotionally and know he was in pain, though she would not actually experience it”.
And this in May last year:
Q. Can the bond can have an effect from afar? Sookie felt the impact on the road to go to save Eric, but would it be possible that she felt it from Shreveport in Bon Temps?
A. Yes, but not as vividly as when they are closer.
So what’s the point? Well, let’s pull it all together.
We know that Sookie does not experience Eric’s physical sensations through the bond – that is supported in the text, and has been confirmed by the author.
We know that the blood bond is working both ways, as confirmed by Eric. So if Sookie can’t feel physical sensation, it’s reasonable to assume that Eric can’t either.
We know that the intensity of the bond is affected by distance – and we are told in DAG that the shack Sookie was tortured in was in Arkansas. This is some distance from Eric, who was in Shreveport.
So if we accept that only Sookie’s emotions were flowing to Eric through the bond, and we accept that the distance between them would have dulled their intensity somewhat – the idea that the blood bond incapacitated Eric starts to come undone.
Despite being in very close proximity to Eric while he was attacked by Sigebert, Sookie was clearly nowhere near “incapacitated”. So if Eric was hundreds of miles away during her torture, it’s not likely he was incapacitated either. And this is not even taking into account Eric’s age, which should make him harder to keep down than some 26 year old human – telepathic part fairy, or not.
And then there are the phone calls – one taken from Bill, and at least one more to mobilise Niall. In the context of the blood bond theory, Eric called Niall in because he was physically unable to go to Sookie himself and he assessed Niall to be the only other being with the balls, and the commitment to Sookie to take on the fae successfully. Looking at the way the phone calls went down, that doesn’t pan out either.
Bill called Eric as soon as he saw the abduction, making Eric aware of what was going down even while Lochlan and Neave were still moving Sookie through the portal. The Things had not started torturing her at this point (recall also that they waited for their spell to wear off so that she was aware). Bill told Eric to “call Niall”. Eric really had no choice but to enlist Niall, knowing that fae had taken Sookie and that he wouldn’t be able to find them without his help, so he wouldn’t have needed to think about this for more than five seconds. Eric’s call to Niall then, was almost certainly made before Sookie was being tortured – and before Eric could be affected by that torture. This makes it unlikely that Eric called Niall to rescue Sookie because he was incapacitated by the bond.
It seems to me that Eric’s call to Niall was to formulate a plan to get Sookie and enlist his back up, rather than to ask Niall to go in his place. So how did Niall end up rescuing Sookie with Bill? Either something happened after this call that pulled Eric out at the last minute – or else whatever kept him away was actually in play beforehand, and Eric knew immediately upon hearing from Bill that he would not be able to help her.
While the blood bond has played a huge role in Sookie and Eric’s relationship in the last few books, I feel that this is probably the least likely reason for his absence. It’s a heady romantic notion – that Eric and Sookie are so tightly bonded that Eric could be rendered useless by an attack on her – but I just don’t see support for it in the text.
So I ain’t buying it.
NEXT POST: Meet Your Maker