Two nights later found Eric gripping Sookie's hand tightly as their procession of bullet proof SUV's headed towards Fangtasia. She wore a one shoulder, floor length red silk dress that bore a side cutout just above her hip, and a long reveal up the side of her right leg. Thankfully the necklace she was wearing, spelled by their witches, made certain the tiny bloom of her pregnant belly was only discernible to her and Eric. To everyone else she looked as she normally did. Eric was in a black Dior suit, and she knew they made a stunning couple.
This marked the first time Sookie had left the safety of her home since Sargon had revealed himself, and Eric was feeling the stress of the situation weighing on him heavily. Tonight was the coronation, and he wanted nothing more than for it to be over. He wanted her safely back behind the barrier as soon as possible. While he had agreed to take Sookie baby shopping, he was comforted by the fact it would be during daylight hours and in a place Sargon wouldn't expect them. Tonight was very different: Sargon knew about Fangtasia for sure, and this was a highly publicized event, so the chance that he might come for Sookie at the coronation was forefront in Eric's mind. Because of this he had ordered Liam, the captain of the Fae guard, to stay right beside Sookie the entire night. At the first sign of trouble he was to take hold of her and immediately teleport her back to the house.
His thousand years of survival assured he had other means of protection in place: there were snipers on every roof within a mile of the bar, the hackers were monitoring every signal in a fifty mile radius, and he'd brought nearly a hundred men to fight in case Sargon did make an appearance. His witches had already warded the bar and the cars, and Sookie promised to scan continuously. Still, Eric was leery; he hated having her out and exposed like this, though he knew he had to bring Sookie to introduce her to his retinue of new sheriffs and underlings as his mate, and give an official decree for her protection. Once all the formalities were seen to, he intended to get her back home as quickly as possible.
Beside him, Sookie could feel Eric's body electric with tension. She knew how much he wanted her not to be here, and truthfully she wasn't exactly happy about being in a location Sargon could easily get to either, but tonight was necessary. She and Eric had duties they needed to see to now that they were monarchs, and they couldn't be lax with their responsibilities just because there was a threat. Grimly, she acknowledged there were always going to be threats and they would just have to meet them head on.
She squeezed Eric's hand in hers, her voice soft and melodic. “It's going to be okay, Eric. Liam is right here and he can have me out of there in a flash. Everything is going to be fine.”
“You don't know that. Sargon could have a plan in place for tonight. He could be just waiting for us to get out of this car to snatch you away from me.”
Despite Eric's apology for forcing her to kneel before him, Sookie had still insisted on keeping their relationship professional until he could accept that she was his equal, however in this moment she knew he needed her support. Despite all that was wrong between them they were still partners, and she knew that Eric needed her confidence in him right now to bolster his own.
Smiling, Sookie assured, “Eric, Liam is right here. He can have me back behind the barrier in less than a second. You've got all kinds of security here, and I'm sure everything will be fine. And let's not forget your telekinesis is getting more powerful every night. I know you can protect me. Let's just get it all over with as soon as possible so we can go home.”
Eric raised their joined hands to his lips and kissed her fingers entwined with his own, pleased with her concern for him. Holding her gaze, he replied, “I will not allow anyone to take you from me.”
“I know, Eric.”
“Come, let's get this over with. If we hurry I can dismiss the old sheriffs and replace them with my new ones within an hour, and then I need only read the royal decrees and make you my queen. Then I can call an end to the evening and get you home.”
It was the 'make you my queen' part that Sookie was having a little trouble with. The night before Eric had told her that supernaturals had a marriage ceremony that all supes recognized. He'd told her that while he wanted to marry her in the fashion she held dear, he needed to marry her in supe fashion in order to establish her as his queen. She would be the first “human” queen in any supe kingdom, and it would be hard enough for others to accept her, Eric had told her, but it would be impossible at the moment unless she married him in supe fashion.
She had been very hesitant to agree to some huge supernatural ceremony marrying her to Eric in the eyes of his people, but when he'd explained that the entire ceremony consisted of handing him a ceremonial knife and his asking if she gave it to him willingly, she found herself less panicked over the whole scenario. The marriage would only be recognized by his people so she was doing her best to view it more as an engagement ceremony.
Still she felt the need to point out, “Just because I agreed to this whole knife exchange doesn't mean I think we're married.”
“You've pointed this out to me already.”
Sookie heard the edge to his voice and bit her lip fretfully. “Are you upset with me?”
“Upset with the fact you find marriage to me to be an inconvenience? Why would that upset me?”
“Oh Eric, please, it's not that at all!” she protested.
“Really? Because you have pointed out to me several times that you consider the ceremony to mean nothing to you.” His voice was tinged with his regret she remained ambivalent towards a ceremony he held sacred.
“Okay, maybe I said it wrong. I meant that it doesn't mean to me what it means to vampires and other supes. To me, exchanging a knife like this doesn't make us man and wife. I'm trying to think of it as more of an engagement ceremony. I'll recognize you as my husband by supe standards, but my last name won't be Northman until we have a real wedding. Okay?”
Logically he knew that Sookie wasn't opposed to marriage to him. He knew she wanted a Christian wedding with the white dress and flowers, and he was determined to give it to her, but that didn't mean that this ceremony was any less important to him.
When Eric remained silent, Sookie repeated, “Okay?”
Turning to look at her, he stated simply, “It means something to me.”
He turned to her, his face suddenly showing his long years and she inwardly winced as he let out a soft sigh more like a groan of pain. He explained, “I understand what you are saying. I understand that to you we will not be joined until you have your ceremony, but to me, this ceremony binds us. We are bonded. Already we are more closely bound than any two people have ever been before, but tonight this ceremony, in my eyes and the eyes of my people, will make you my wife. I wish you would not dismiss it so easily.”
Sookie immediately felt contrite. Eric had been going out of his way lately to be considerate of her feelings, and while he still had a long way to go, that didn't give her the right to dismiss his own feelings.
She apologized, squeezing his hand. “Eric, I'm sorry. I should have thought about how you'd see this. I understand what this ceremony means to you and I'll do my best to treat it with the reverence it deserves, but I can't help it if my human side doesn't see it the same way you do—the same way you can't understand some of my customs that you share with me. I'm sure we'll find a middle ground.”
It didn't take them long to arrive at the bar and soon enough Sookie was making her way into the club with Eric leading her by the hand. Pam had outdone herself in changing the once tacky bar into a venue worthy of a coronation. Invited were the old sheriffs, those replacing them, as well as those he was building his inner court circle from, along with their human pets, making those in attendance there only fifty vampires and 20 humans in the entire building. Pam had taken out all the tacky bar decorations and had the walls draped with ruched black silk. Eric's throne was elegantly decorated and a second smaller throne was placed to its right. Sookie could only assume it would be for her, but she ignored it in favor of taking in the vampires assembled.
She was momentarily startled to see Bill standing near the back, and realized with an equal start that she hadn't thought about her former lover at all in weeks. When her eyes moved over him with only the faint curiosity of why he was present, she found herself amazed that she felt absolutely nothing of the emotion she would have expected herself to feel. She very much doubted that Eric was going to give Bill Compton a position in his retinue. The pain she had expected to feel at seeing the lover that had so grievously betrayed her was nowhere to be found, and Sookie was moved with a new kind of clarity.
'I never loved him at all. It was all a lie. He used his blood and my inexperience to manipulate my emotions. What I felt for Bill is nothing like what I feel for Eric, and that's how I know what was between us wasn't love.'
Sparing Bill one last glance, Sookie thought to herself, 'He means absolutely nothing to me now.' Her gaze then traveled over the rest of the crowd and immediately zeroed in on Adriana and Richelle. Again, she hadn't given much thought to either woman in the last few weeks, but Richelle's thoughts were practically hurling themselves against her shields, and she could clearly see the desire and intent on Adriana's face as she gazed at Eric. It was plain to Sookie that both of Eric's former lovers were intent on getting back into bed with him, and Sookie intended to set them straight first chance.
Facing forward again, she kept her head held high as Eric led her to the dais. She forced herself not to let her hand go to her belly in a protective gesture. She knew that the spell the witches had warded her necklace with prevented anyone from seeing she was pregnant or scenting the changes in her own body chemistry, but being in a room full of so many vampires with so many unknowns facing them made her afraid for Peanut.
Eric quickly seated Sookie on her own throne before turning to address the crowd. “You are here tonight to witness my coronation, and so I may appoint my royal court. I shall read my decrees after all ceremonies are finished.”
Eric gazed out over the gathering and decreed, “I have found all the sheriffs Sophie-Anne appointed to be lacking.” He turned to direct himself to the vampires now squirming uncomfortably. “The manner in which you ran your territories was substandard. I will not tolerate such incompetence in my retinue. You are all relieved of your positions and will vacate the state this very night. If you are found in my territory after tonight you will immediately be sentenced to the true death. See Pam before you leave and she will help facilitate the removal of all your belongings.”
There was a stunned silence as Eric gave everyone a moment to process his announcement before he added, “I am appointing Isabel Beaumont as the Sheriff of Area One. She will oversee the restoration of New Orleans, and begin implementing my new Human Outreach Program. Isabel.”
Stepping forward the former Texas Sheriff of Area 9 bowed her head to her Eric. “My King?”
“Do you accept your position?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Do you swear to be loyal to me and the Kingdom of Louisiana for as long as I reign?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Very well. I take you into service. Speak with Pam about filling out your paperwork after the coronation. Take your place.”
Isabelle gave another bow of her head before moving to stand at the left of the stage facing the crowd. When Eric had called her and offered her a position she had leapt at the chance. She'd always known he was destined for greatness, and she knew any kingdom he ran would be the most fair and justly ruled kingdom she'd ever have the luck to live in. Eric was one of the few vampires that believed in honor. She greatly admired that and couldn't wait to take up her position and begin helping him restore his great state.
Eric looked into the crowd again. “I am appointing Akihoki Takahashi as the Sheriff of Area Two. Akihoki, step forward.”
The small, unassuming Japanese man stepped forward. He appeared to have been turned in his late thirties. The man bowed his head as he addressed Eric, “My Lord.”
“Do you accept your position?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Do you swear to be loyal to me and the Kingdom of Louisiana for as long as I reign?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Very well. I take you into service. See Pam after the coronation about filling out your paperwork. Take your place.”
As Akihoki moved to stand next to Isabelle with his hands behind his back Eric called out, “Ian Samuels.”
One by one, Eric called forward the seven vampires he had summoned to serve under him and appointed each to an area. Sophie-Anne had divided her state into five territories, but Eric felt the arrangement did not provide enough vampires keeping control of the daily goings on of the state. Louisiana was one of the most densely populated vampire states in the country, and thus he rethought the division and sliced up the former areas, instead creating eight smaller territories. The only one he left fully in tact was Area Five, and it was the area he left as last to appoint a new sheriff.
When the other seven sheriffs had been appointed, Eric called out, “Pamela Ravenscroft.”
Outwardly Eric was stoic and without emotion, but on the inside he was bursting with pride as his child stepped forward to bow before him. He could barely keep the pride from his voice as he stated, “I am appointing Pamela Ravenscroft as the Sheriff of Area Five and my second. Pamela.”
Pamela bowed her head and replied, “Yes, my Lord.”
“Do you accept your positions?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Do you swear to be loyal to me and the Kingdom of Louisiana as long as I reign?”
Pamela broke protocol and raised her head to meet Eric's gaze as she slowly sank to her knees and swore, “I, Pamela Ravenscroft, pledge my life and loyalty to you till final death takes me. Where you go I shall follow. Your life will always be my utmost priority. I will shed blood for your safety. I will face any foe that threatens you, and fight to the death to keep you safe. As long as I walk this earth the only way to you during the night will be through me. This I solemnly vow.”
There was a stunned silence as Eric and Pam held one another's gaze. Their Maker/child bond was humming and alive with Pam's love and dedication to her Maker, and Eric was broadcasting just as loudly to her his love and pride. Pam had just sworn to never leave him. She had sworn to spend eternity at his side serving him, and he wanted only to take her in his arms and tell her just how glad he was that she was his child. His chosen child.
He felt a father's pride as he pointed beside him and declared, “Rise my child, and take your place.”
Pam kept her face neutral as she stood up and moved to stand beside Eric's throne on the stage on the opposite side from where Sookie sat. Haldar, who had been standing at the back of the stage with Han and Ivan gave her a wink and she simply rolled her eyes before turning to face forward as Eric addressed the crowd.
When Eric began giving out his royal decrees, in effect demolishing each and every one of Sophie-Anne's formal laws, Sookie let her gaze shift to the side to Pam. She'd realized the importance of what Pam was doing as she did it and she had desperately wanted to smile at the vampire woman, but she knew she could not. Eric had coached her on what was expected of her tonight, and she was not to show any emotion whatsoever. Instead she reminded herself to let the other woman know when they got home that she was very proud of her. She'd remind Eric to do something nice for Pam, too.
Sookie's attention was suddenly drawn back to Eric as she heard him announce, “My next decree is going to upset many of you, and it very well may have many vampires migrating out of Louisiana, but this law is nonnegotiable and the only sentence for breaking it is the true death.”
Letting his hard gaze sweep across the room, lingering on some of the old sheriffs especially, Eric commanded, “From this day forward the keeping of forced human pets is banned in Louisiana. You may only have companions, willing pets, or take what is eagerly given by fangbangers and donors. Any mistreatment of human companions or the glamouring of them to force the acceptance of your attentions will be considered a breach of this new law, and punishment will be meted out. Sophie-Anne was notorious for keeping forced pets and allowing those in her territory to do so. She allowed the trading and sale of pets, and she did nothing about their disposal when their vampire owners tired of them. I do not hold to that. Humans may not be our equals, but we are the ones that depend on them for survival, not the other way around. That gives them purpose and meaning, something vampires have ignored and belittled for too long. As it is wrong for humans to mistreat animals, so it is wrong for us to mistreat them.”
There were several stunned gasps from vampires in the room as Eric continued, “To kill when feeding is henceforth outlawed in Louisiana, and any found guilty of this will be given the true death. I am not talking about those who simply leave evidence behind, I mean anyone that kills their prey, period.”
Before the outrage of the vampires in the room could grow any larger, Eric added, “I realize, however, that it is our nature to kill, and that instinct cannot be suppressed by all. Because of this I am building a containment facility. Humans guilty of rape, murder, pedophilia, and other heinous crimes will be brought there. If you desire to kill while feeding you may purchase one and do with them as you please.”
Sookie, along with everyone else in the room registered shock. She didn't know whether to be pleased or horrified with Eric's decree. On one hand, he was making a stand in the supernatural world by outlawing the keeping of forced human pets, or the mistreatment of innocent humans by vampires in his territory. No vampire monarch or ruling body anywhere in the world had done such a thing, not even those pushing the mainstreaming movement, and the fact Eric had just done so was groundbreaking. However, on the other hand, this containment facility he was envisioning was barbaric to the extreme. While Sookie did believe some people deserved the death penalty, she did not agree with the killing of them for sport.
'We will definitely be talking about this later. There is no way I'm going to let him establish this place,' she thought to herself.
When everyone had a moment to process his decree, Eric commanded, “Sookie, scan the minds of the humans in the room. Tell me if any are here against their will, have been glamoured into being a pet, or are being abused by their vampire.”
Sookie quickly scanned the room and found only one human here who had been forced into being a pet. Her name was Nicole. She was 19 years old and had been studying to be a nurse until Matthew, the former Sheriff of Area Two, had glamoured her into becoming his pet. Worse, not only had he done so, but in such a way that she knew she was unwilling, was aware each and every time he raped her, but couldn't speak out. The glamour she was under kept her from uttering a sound.
At this very moment Nicole was screaming inside her head to be set free, but her lips didn't move because of what Matthew had done to her. Sookie could see each and every one of the horrific memories racing through Nicole's mind. Matthew had done brutal and vicious things to her, and there was literally nothing she could do about it because of his glamour. Sookie's hard gaze flew to the vampire Matthew. He looked to be about 30, with dark black hair and brown eyes. Had she not seen the horrible things he'd done to Nicole, she would think he was handsome.
Her voice was laced with her disdain as she said, “Matthew Shiller has a forced pet. The blonde girl beside him. Her name is Nicole, and Matthew has glamoured her into never leaving, attempting to leave, or attempting to alert anyone in any way that she is unwillingly at his side. However, that is all he's glamoured her to do. He still likes it when she fights him as he rapes her. He never takes her memories of all the ways he tortures her. He's kidnapped her out of her life and taken everything from her. Even now she is screaming inside her head for help.”
Everyone waited to see what Eric would do, and he did not disappoint. With a wave of his hand, Matthew was sent flying through the air to land in a heap at Eric's feet before the stage. Glaring down at the vampire, Eric demanded, “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
Jumping to his feet, 300-year old Matthew let his fangs snap down and argued petulantly, “She is just a human! What I do with my human pets, what any vampire does with their human pets is none of your concern!”
“I am king of this state and it is my concern.”
“As you have relieved me of my position and banished me from your state you are not my king. I will take my pet and be gone from your territory by dawn.”
Shaking his head, Eric set his jaw. “No. Your pet will be glamoured appropriately and heartily compensated monetarily so she can get on with her life. You, Matthew, are now on trial for your life.”
Matthew's eyes narrowed in rage as he challenged, “You have no right to take her from me!”
“I have every right, and more importantly, the power to do so.”
Eyes slanting towards Sookie, Matthew insisted, “So you are the only one allowed to have a forced pet? All know of how you tricked the telepath into being yours and forced her to your side. Are you above your own laws?”
His own fangs snapping down, Eric roared, “Sookie is not a pet! And my relationship with my bonded is none of your concern. I judge you guilty of human abuse and sentence you to the true death, Matthew.”
Everyone gasped as Eric used his telekinesis to explode Matthew. The huge pool of blood did not hit the floor though, instead it swirled into a tornado-like funnel and moved through the air to fly down the sink in the bar. The faucet handle turned on and the blood was then washed down with water. When the water turned off all eyes snapped back to Eric as everyone waited to see what he would do next.
Eyes scanning the room, Eric maintained, “I do not allow human abuse in my territory. I do not condone it, will not allow it, and will do my best to eradicate it. Any that oppose my laws will meet the same fate.”
Eric knew that many vampires were going to vacate his state because of this, but they were the kind of vampires he did not want to begin his reign with. He also knew just as many, if not more, vampires who, while probably not viewing humans as equals, did not kill and torture them for fun. It was these vampires that he wanted to build his army from, and this was the first step towards recruiting them. Of course he would not deny that part of the reason he'd enacted this law was to impress Sookie and prove to her he could be the kind of king she'd be proud to stand beside.
Beside him, Sookie was equally as stunned but outwardly her expression remained impressive. Eric had told her he was going to make several announcements tonight that would probably not go over well with his vampires but hoped would please her, but she certainly hadn't expected anything like this. He'd also warned her that he would need to engage in an act of dominance and violence to ensure those under him, his peers and his enemies, would know that he was more than capable of protecting what was his.
After a moment of silence, Eric called, “William Compton.”
In the back Bill stiffened, and if it were possible, his heart would have been hammering in his chest. He hadn't understood why Eric had summoned him tonight, but he'd known it wouldn't be anything good. Now, seeing how Eric was intent on making a big impact with his coronation, he couldn't help but wonder if he was about to go down the sink as well. His eyes went to Sookie, silently imploring her to speak up as he made his way to the front of the bar to bow before the stage.
Eric's eyes narrowed at the sorry excuse of a vampire before him. He was practically giddy thinking that his plans for Compton were finally coming to fruition. He despised this vampire, was filled with disgust and contempt and rage for what he'd done and taken from his Sookie, and tonight would be the beginning of the end for Billy Boy. Eric intended to banish him before all his court, and especially Sookie, but in truth Haldar was going to escort him to a secure location so that as soon as Eric had some spare time he could deliver the violent and gruesome end the piece of shit in front of him deserved. Eric knew Sookie wouldn't want to see Bill dead despite all he'd done to her, so he'd be publicly banished, and hopefully Sookie would never ask about him again.
In Eric's mind, as long as Sookie never asked if he tortured and killed Bill then his honor didn't demand he tell her what his true plans for the bastard were. Hopefully she'd see the banishment and that would be the end of her concern for the vampire vermin. Eric literally couldn't wait to get his hands on Bill. His palms were actually itching.
Gazing down at Compton, Eric commanded, “I judge you guilty for crimes against my bonded. I banish you from my state, and be assured, Billy boy, that if I ever lay eyes on you again, here or elsewhere, I will end you. Do you understand?”
Bill's eyes darted to Sookie, but when he saw nothing but cold indifference in her stare, he focused back on Eric and said, “I will be gone from your territory by dawn.”
Already Bill's mind was formulating ways for him to ally with another monarch. One who hopefully despised Eric or wanted Louisiana. He had sworn to Sookie he would help her be free again, and while she had foolishly succumbed to Eric's charms, he was no less determined to aid her. He would leave her now, but he would be back.
Eric, watchful, could almost read the intent in Bill's gaze, and he couldn't believe the fool actually thought he was going to walk out of here scot free. Bill Compton really was an idiot. “Haldar.”
Stepping forward, already aware of what Eric wanted him to do with Compton after Sookie saw him escort the fool from the building, Haldar replied, “Yes, your Majesty.”
“Escort Compton to the Texas border, then destroy his home and all his property with fire. I want this shit out of my territory now.”
“As you wish, your Majesty.”
Haldar moved forward and grabbed Bill's shoulder before shoving the younger vampire towards the door. Bill tossed Sookie one last mournful look and was dismayed to see she had absolutely no emotions in her eyes. There was no anger, no sadness, no regret, nothing. 'She couldn't care less if she never sees me again,' he thought in sadness. Part of him had hoped that once his blood had worn off, once Sookie had come to terms with everything, she'd realize that the emotions between them were real. He truly loved her and it hurt his cold undead heart to think her emotions had been due entirely to his blood influence. Regardless, he loved her and he would do his best to free her.
Sookie watched neutrally as Haldar escorted Bill from the bar. She felt nothing. She felt less than nothing. Dipping inwardly, she was astonished to find that she couldn't care less if she never saw him again, and really, considering how much Eric hated him, he was getting off pretty light. She'd been afraid that Eric would kill him now that he was king, but apparently he was going to take her disdain for unnecessary violence to heart and allow Bill to simply vacate their lives.
Looking out over the crowd, Eric announced, “There is one more item of business to see to.”
Turning to look over his shoulder at Pam, he watched as she darted to the back of his office to obtain a bundle cloaked in black velvet that was secured by a gold tasseled cord. She presented the bundle to Sookie and inclined her head. Sookie rose to accept it, untying the material as she'd been taught to do earlier in conversation. She folded back the velvet and lifted the ceremonial knife within and brought it to her lips.
Sookie came to stand in front of Eric. The entire room had gone silent. Every vampire in the room recognized the knife and stilled, most shocked that Eric was about to marry her, and in effect make her his queen. Ignoring the crowd and looking into only Eric's eyes, Sookie gave him a soft smile as she held out the knife to him. This ceremony may not have meant to her what it meant to him, but she wanted to make him happy.
Returning her smile, Eric, knowing that all the vampires present could hear perfectly well, asked softly, “Do you give this to me willingly?”
Her smile bright and filled with love, Sookie affirmed, “I do.”
Reaching out to take the dagger, Eric kissed it before taking Sookie's hand. Pam stepped up on the dais and extended a chalice under their joined hands as he handed her the knife. With it, Pam carefully made a tiny nick across Sookie's and then Eric's wrist, her nostrils flaring as she watched the drops of crimson drip into the chalice.
Having been prepped, Sookie drank first, a tiny sip of the dark liquid. Eric then took the chalice from her and finished off its contents, handing it back to Pam before taking Sookie's hand once more and quickly licking the wound to seal it.
"We are here to witness the joining of our king and queen," Pam said solemnly. "They have sworn by verbal agreement to ally themselves to each other in perpetuity."
The humans began to applaud. Eric pulled Sookie into his chest, unable to even begin to parse the heights of happiness he felt as she became his wife. Giving Sookie a rakish grin, he quickly leaned down to claim her lips in a ravenous kiss.
When they broke apart he kept his arm wrapped around her waist to keep her pressed against his side as he announced, “I proclaim Sookie Stackhouse my wife and queen. All who owe me fealty will protect her with their lives. Any that attempt to harm or disrespect her will die by my hand.”
Again there was a moment of stunned silence before Adriana finally left her place near the back wall to move towards the stage. Truthfully, before now she had simply been too angry and shocked to react before now. Even when her position as sheriff had been taken from her. She couldn't believe the mighty Eric Northman was standing here and saying these things.
“You cannot be serious!”
Eyes going to Adriana, Eric assured, “I most certainly am. Sookie Stackhouse is the queen of Louisiana. My queen.”
“She is human!”
“She is mine, and that makes her worthy, and you are in no position to challenge my authority.”
Eyes darting around to the new sheriffs and the vampires Eric had summoned to be a part of his court in other various positions, her expression was twisted with resentment as she shrieked, “Are you all insane?! How can you accept a human as your queen?”
Derrick, an unassuming vampire of about a century who had leapt at the chance to work for Eric, replied, “Because the Northman has appointed her. We would have to be fools to go against him.”
Moving forward, Derrick bowed his head and said, “I pledge my loyalty to you, Queen Sookie.”
One by one the rest of the vampires in the room, save the former sheriffs, came forward to give their pledges of fealty. Sookie was surprised that so many of the vampires Eric had summoned seemed perfectly at ease with her being made the first queen of a vampire state. When the last pledge was made she gripped Eric's hand and said, “Thank you all for accepting me.”
“You have no right being queen! Least of all Eric's queen!”
Adriana's outrage was ramping by leaps and bounds. Not only had she been stripped of her position and banished, but she was having to bear witness to Eric putting a human in the position she had so desperately wanted for decades! Looking at the vampire she had admired and sought to align herself with for so long, she beseeched, “You will be the laughing stock of the supernatural world! How can you allow your weakness for this girl to disgrace you so?”
Sookie may not have liked Adriana, but she fervently wanted to slap her hand over the foolish woman's mouth to get her to stop talking. Eric never responded to insults of her well. His reaction was usually swift and violent and nothing good could come of Adriana's caustic indignation. The vampiress had known her king for years and yet she knew nothing of the man. Sookie didn't need their blood bond to feel Eric's body go tense beside her, feel his power vibrating inside him, begging to be released.
Eric's fangs gleamed in the light as he hissed, “You are fined $250,000 for insulting my wife and will be given 100 lashes with a silver whip before you are banished. Pam, take her to the basement and see to her punishment, then collect her fine and make sure she is thrown the hell out of my territory!”
“Yes, my King,” Pam said as she moved towards Adriana.
Adriana's own fangs gleamed as she snarled, “You would punish me over some human whore? What the fuck happened to the great Eric Northman that he could be so blinded by some backwater inbred pussy?”
Eric was a blur as he dropped Sookie's hand and rushed from the stage to rip Adriana's head from her body. There was a beat of silence where even the humans present had stopped breathing as they took in the savagery that was quickly followed by the sickening, liquid sound of the dead vamp's body exploding, her blood spraying onto Eric's suit and all over floor. He disdainfully dropped the head and kicked it away a moment before it, too, disintegrated. Looking around the room, he snarled, “Any that insult my wife die by my hand. Is that clear?”
No one dared to speak so each vampire simply nodded. It was obvious the queen was the one thing that could quickly unhinge Eric Northman, and anyone that valued their life-or undead life for that matter-had better treat her with the respect Northman deemed she deserved.
With everyone's attention now on him, Eric said, “I have a few things to discuss with my new court. Those of you who are former sheriffs get out of my territory as fast as you can, and be glad I spare your lives.”
No one spoke as the former sheriffs, what were left of them, quickly retrieved their human companions and fled the bar. When they were gone Eric returned to the stage and took Sookie's hand as he looked down at her earnestly. “The rest of tonight I can see to myself. I need to log my new sheriffs with the Council. Liam will take you home. I will see you as soon as I am finished with all of my business.”
Sookie didn't have time to say anything else as she felt Liam's invisible hand land on her shoulder. She blinked and when she opened her eyes she was back in her living room. She watched Liam drop his invisibility and gave him a weak smile as she acknowledged, “That was not fun.”
Nodding his head, Liam agreed, “No it wasn't, but it was necessary. I think you and the Northman both handled yourselves very well tonight. He established that he is going to lead fairly, but ruthlessly. He will be much respected. Many vampires will come to give him fealty. Especially the kind of vampires we want fighting with us.”
Thor came running into the room, having heard Sookie's voice and took a running leap at her. She couldn't help but laugh as she knelt down so he could fly into her arms. As he began wiggling in her arms and licking her face she asked, “Did you know he was going to make that announcement about humans and that facility?”
“I did not, but it is a radical idea. I am interested to see how it unfolds. No vampire has ever truly promoted human rights before. The abuse of them has been such a part of vampire culture and heritage for so long I doubt he will be able to make changes as quickly as he would like to, but it will certainly ensure those vampires with human companions, like Isabelle, will come here to live under his rule. He already had quite the reputation for being fair, and this will only strengthen that perception.”
Liam looked carefully at Sookie as she struggled to hold the rapidly growing Thor, and gently admonished, “You should not hold him in your arms anymore.”
He regarded the puppy. “He is growing quickly. He will not be a puppy forever and he will be far too big soon for you to hold. By allowing him to jump on you as he is and holding him in your arms all the time you are teaching him such behavior is acceptable. When he is too big to be held he will still expect it. Not to mention soon you will be too heavy with child to either carry him or allow him to jump on you.”
Sookie looked down at her squirming dog and pursed her lips thoughtfully. Thor really was getting big; Sookie realized he was right. Thor was not a pocket puppy, but she had been treating him like one. She had gotten him when he was little more than a ball of fluff and hadn't been able to keep herself from having him in her arms as much as possible. Liam was right, and it was time to start making it apparent to Thor he couldn't jump on her. It could be dangerous once she was heavily pregnant.
She sat Thor on the ground where he immediately jumped up to put his paws on her thighs and bark at her, clearly expecting to be picked up again. She reached down, ruffling the dog's ears before she scratched him under his collar and then stroked his side. The dog's tail thumped happily against the floor and he barked again, pleading. Sookie denied, “Sorry baby, but Liam is right. You're getting too big for me to carry, and you can't jump on me now that I'm pregnant.”
Thor sat back on his haunches and cocked his head as he stared up at Sookie. She thought it was adorable and gave him another scratch on the head before telling Liam, “I'm going to go change out of these clothes. Eric warned me earlier that they might not make it back tonight before dawn so I think I'm going to go ahead and go to bed. My adrenaline is wearing off now and I'm getting tired.”
“Very well my Queen, would you like me to have a snack sent to your room? Lafayette put some grapes in the fridge earlier, and I know he made extra lasagna for tonight in case you were hungry when you got back. He's asleep at the moment, and while I'm not sure how to cook, I think I've figured out the microwave. I can warm some for you.”
Sookie had to only give the offer a moment of thought. “I really should eat. I couldn't eat much of my dinner earlier because I was so nervous. Would you mind bringing me a small portion of the lasagna and a bowl of grapes? Just leave it in my room. I'll probably still be in the shower.”
“Very well, my lady.”
On the outskirts of the city Haldar turned his SUV off the highway and headed for the location Eric had prepared for Compton's arrival. Eric would not have much time to devote to torturing the younger vampire for what he'd done to Sookie, but Haldar had no doubt his friend would break the fool before he delivered him unto the true death.
Bill, getting a bad feeling in his stomach as the car turned off the highway, asked, “Where are we going?”
“Where we're supposed to.”
When Haldar fell silent again Bill's unease grew. He knew that he'd have no chance taking out the much older vampire if he meant him harm. As they turned down several dirt roads before pulling into the parking lot of an abandoned factory Bill realized that the banishment at Fangtasia had been a show Eric was putting on for Sookie. He obviously meant to kill him. So Bill did the only thing he could. Instinctively, he tried to run.
Haldar laughed as Bill tried to escape. The fool had barely made it twenty feet away from the car before Haldar grabbed him by the back of the neck and hurled him into the building. Bill's impact created a dent in the wall as he crumpled to the ground for a second before he darted to his feet. If he were going to die he'd rather die by Haldar's hands than Eric's. He wouldn't give the Viking the fucking satisfaction. With his decision made, he rushed Haldar.
Laughing even harder, Haldar backhanded Bill into the side of the building again and mocked, “You really are a fool. You do not actually believe you can kill me, do you?”
Bill didn't reply and instead attacked Haldar again, and again he was thrown into the side of the building. This went on for several more minutes before the truth finally hit Haldar. He regarded the young vampire remorselessly. “I understand. You want to die by my hand, and not Eric's. Well I'm sorry to disappoint, but Eric has been so looking forward to his time with you. And after hearing what you did to Sookie, who I've become quite fond of, I can understand his need to hurt you personally. I will not rob him of his pleasure.”
Moving forward, Haldar quickly dislocated both of Bill's arms and one leg before grabbing the other and dragging Bill behind him into the building. It didn't take him long to secure him in his containment cell. Once Bill was chained to the wall Haldar's gaze met the uncertainty of the other's. “I must return to Fangtasia now. Eric has need of me, but be assured the moment he gets some free time he will be here to see to you. I wouldn't try to escape if I were you. This building is being guarded night and day by those loyal to Eric.” Haldar turned and headed out of the building but was stopped as Bill called out to him.
Knowing that he was more than likely facing the end, his chances of escaping the trap Eric had set for him minimal, Bill declared, “He's going to break her, you know. He can't be what Sookie needs and he'll end up breaking her spirit.”
Looking back over his shoulder at the vampire that was otherwise beneath his notice, Haldar denied, “I sincerely doubt it. From what I've seen, Sookie has a will harder than iron and stone combined. I think Eric is going to be the one doing the changing. Farewell, William Compton, I'm sure this is the last time anyone other than Eric will ever see you again.”
Haldar didn't spare the pitiful excuse of a vampire a backward glance as he strode out of the building. He wanted to get back to Fangtasia. He didn't like not having Eric's back with Sargon out there.
Several hours later Eric made his way into his office in the back of Fangtasia with Pam and Haldar behind him. He had spent several hours going over details with his new sheriffs and court personnel, and at the moment all he wanted to do was go home to Sookie's arms. He wanted to make love to her and have her touch drive away all the tension from his body so he could find peace again, but he knew that would not be happening. While things were better between them, and he hoped that his new laws pertaining to human abuse would please her, he knew he was a long way from returning to her bed.
Eric sat heavily in the seat at his desk as Pam kicked Haldar's feet out from under him causing him to crash heavily onto the floor before she sat down on the couch beneath the blown up portrait of Sookie. Eric's reaction was only a quirk of his lips and snort at their continuing antics.
“So how do you think it went?” he asked.
Haldar quickly regained his feet as he tossed a glare at Pam before sitting next to her on the couch. “I think half, at least, probably as much as three fourths of the vampires currently residing in this state will choose to leave.”
Nodding at Haldar's estimate, Pam added, “And probably two times that many will be applying for residency just as quickly. You realize you've really and truly put yourself in the spotlight tonight, right?”
This spotlight referred not only to his new human abuse laws but his marriage to Sookie, Eric conceded. “It is necessary. Sookie is right; it is time to change, and the only way we can survive the war that is coming is if we have human allies.”
“Humans cannot fight Sargon, Eric,” Pam denied.
“In fact they're the ones unwittingly helping him,” Haldar added.
“I am not speaking of the war against Sargon, I am speaking about the war with humanity that looms on the horizon. I have no intention of simply destroying the majority of them and enslaving the rest. I will ally myself with the tolerant and rational and together we will fight against those humans too short sighted to see what is best. Tonight I laid the groundwork to build my human army as well as my vampire army.”
“And perhaps scored a few of those brownie points Sookie is always talking about,” Pam laughed.
Eric didn't respond. It was one thing for him to acknowledge to himself that part of the reason he was instituting human abuse laws was to please Sookie, and another entirely to give voice to those reasons to the two vampires in the world that loved to annoy him most. Instead he looked to Haldar and asked, “He is secure?”
“Indeed. He kept attacking me trying to get me to kill him, so I had to rough him up a bit, but he's whole and perfectly coherent. You'll have your fun with him.”
“You know,” Pam interjected, “if Sookie finds out what you're doing to Bill it won't help things. She may not have feelings for the fool anymore, but she won't want you killing him.”
“Which is why no one is to mention it to her. She saw me banish him, and more than likely he won't even cross her mind again. The three of us are the only ones who know what I'm planning for that idiot.”
“Trying to hide things from a telepath isn't a bright idea, Eric.” Pam wanted Bill dead out of sheer dislike, but she did not think Eric should be doing it behind Sookie's back.
“I do not wish to discuss this. I have to finish all this paperwork for the Council detailing my new laws. I want the two of you to meet with the sheriffs and work out the new nightly check-in protocols, the emergency evacuation protocols, and the new resident registration requirements. I should be done by the time you are.”
As Haldar stood beside her, Pam inquired, “Do you want me to have some donor blood sent to you?”
At first Eric thought to agree, but then he remembered Richelle was here tonight. While he wasn't particularly interested in the woman, and after tonight he'd probably never see the girl again since he had already signed Fangtasia over to Pam, he did remember her taste wasn't repugnant, and she did have a pleasing body. It had been weeks since he'd had any type of sexual relief and a quick feed and fuck from the girl might help relieve some of his tension.
“Send Richelle in.”
Haldar headed out of the office to the bar to carry out the orders Eric had given him thinking nothing of their intent, but Pam remained behind. While she didn't believe in monogamy, she knew Sookie did, and she knew if Sookie found out Eric had done anything with Richelle tonight she'd be devastated. In an effort to spare her Maker emotional pain, she suggested, “Eric, I don't think that's a good idea. If Sookie—”
“Sookie does not control my actions. Do as you are told, Pamela.”
Pam bowed her head, recognizing that tone and headed out to the bar. She quickly spotted Richelle serving donor blood in wine glasses to the vampires present along with the only other waitress in attendance and moved to her side. “Eric requires your presence, bloodbag.”
Richelle's face lit with delight as she quickly put her tray on the bar and headed to Eric's office in the back. After knocking on the door she smoothed her hands over her hair and dress and put on her most seductive smile when she heard a sharp, “Come in!”
Stepping quickly into the office, Richelle observed Eric doing paperwork. He hadn't even looked up at her, but she didn't mind. She wanted him all the more now that he was a vampire king. She was just as shocked as everyone else when he'd apparently married Sookie and made her his queen, but he obviously didn't love her or he wouldn't have called for her.
Eric didn't even look up from the royal decrees he was signing into law so he could fax copies to the Council as he commanded, “Strip.”
Richelle quickly divested herself of her clothes and stood waiting for a command. She knew that Sookie would never be enough to please Eric, and she couldn't wait to rub it in the telepath's face that he'd chosen her yet again to give him pleasure.
At his desk Eric signed the last decree and finally sat back in his chair to look at Richelle. A year ago he'd have called her beautiful and thought nothing of summoning her to him, but at the moment when he looked at her body he found nothing pleasing. Her breasts were too small, her waist too thin, her skin not tan enough, and her hair wasn't blonde. In fact, he couldn't even get hard looking at her. She wasn't his Sookie, but the fact remained he needed relief. He couldn't be walking around with a perpetual hard-on. It would affect his thinking and he couldn't afford that.
Realizing he had no other choice he ordered, “Come bend over the front of my desk.”
“Do not speak!”
Eric had decided to close his eyes and picture Sookie as he made use of Richelle, but he wouldn't be able to hold the illusion in his mind's eye if she spoke. Her voice lacked that sweet southern lilt that Sookie's had.
Richelle clamped her mouth shut and moved to bend over his desk as he'd ordered her. She couldn't wait to feel his big hard cock plunging deep inside her again and again. If she played her cards right she could become his personal pet and live with him. It was a future she so desperately wanted. She would make sure that Sookie walked in on her fucking Eric at some point. Teach that whore her place. Richelle was certain Eric only showed any favor to Sookie because she could read minds. Richelle might not be able to read minds for Eric like Sookie could, but she could definitely pleasure him better than that country hick.
When Richelle bent over in front of him Eric quickly closed his eyes. He found nothing appealing about Richelle's body. He just wanted to make use of her cunt for a quick fuck. In fact the sight of her ass had caused the slight erection he'd managed to achieve to immediately deflate. Sookie had a much better ass, more peach shaped and oh so tan. So now, with his eyes closed he began to build the image of Sookie in his mind before he remembered the large portrait he had of her on the wall opposite his desk.
Ignoring Richelle, he focused on the photo of Sookie lying among the rose petals with that secretive smile on her face. Grinning, he imagined stalking towards her while she was on that bed of fragrant red flowers. He pictured himself moving to hover over her as she ran her hands up his arms while spreading her legs so he could kneel comfortably between them. He saw her raising herself up into his embrace to meet his kiss with equal fervor as one hand kept him balanced above her while the other caressed her leg and slowly trailed up her smooth thigh to dip between their bodies.
The fantasy in his mind was so vivid that Eric's erection came roaring back and he stood to quickly free his length from his pants before taking hold of Richelle's hips and thrusting into her. However, instead of finding any kind of relief being inside a woman after so many nights without his Sookie, his erection deflated immediately. His cock knew the same thing Eric did: this wasn't his Sookie. Nothing about Richelle felt right. She wasn't warm or soft enough. Her hips didn't feel right in his hands, and her scent was repulsive to him.
'I don't want anyone but my Sookie,' Eric realized as he pulled back from Richelle before quickly tucking his limp dick back into his pants. He couldn't believe it, really couldn't believe it, but he didn't want to have sex anymore. He wanted to make love. He wanted to make love to his Sookie, and if he couldn't have her he would have no one. He was just as equally surprised by the fact that this revelation didn't upset him. A few months ago the thought that he would never touch another woman but Sookie would have angered him, it would have made him feel caged and controlled, but he did not view it that way now. In his mind it was only further proof that he and Sookie were destiny. There was no one for him but her, and he would make damn certain there was no one for her but him.
Grabbing Richelle's shoulder he spun her around quickly and captured her gaze as he ordered smoothly, “You will forget everything that has happened since you came in here. You will dress and you will leave and never come back. Go to school, get a job, marry a nice human man, and be a productive member of society. You have no future with vampires.”
Eyes glazed over, Richelle answered numbly, “Yes, Master.”
Eric watched, gnashing his teeth as Richelle quickly redressed, leaving his office without a backward glance. When she was gone he grabbed one of the True Bloods from the mini fridge in his office and downed it quickly. 'Vile crap' he thought, angrily tossing it into the trash as he gazed at the picture of Sookie and whispered, “I want my Sookie.”
Seeing no other alternative he let out an aggravated growl and ripped his desk drawer open to retrieve the bottle of lube he kept in the farthest reaches there. He'd used it often with his past meals, but now he was actually going to sink low enough to use it on himself. Pulling out his cock that had swollen once more at the sight of Sookie's photo, he dribbled some of the lube on the head before taking hold of his erection in his hand and began jerking off. He never took his gaze from the picture of his wife as he brought himself to a quick and very unsatisfying release. He'd felt no true satisfaction from his orgasm, but it was enough to take the edge off his hunger.
Swearing softly, he quickly cleaned himself up and put his dick back in his pants. He swore if Haldar or Pam muttered one fucking word he'd make them volunteer to work with the homeless.
'Or smelly children. Surely there is some human charity that involves smelly children I can force them to work at,' he thought in amusement. He needed to look into it because apparently he and his hand were going to be spending a lot of quality time together until Sookie let him back into her bed, and he just knew he wouldn't be able to hide what he'd been forced to resort to from Pam and Haldar. He could just imagine the grin on Haldar's face now, and he could practically see the gleam in Pam's eyes. His child would never let him live it down if she knew he was going to be jacking off every night until Sookie had mercy on him. He could picture her now. She'd be foaming at the mouth thinking of all the ways she could embarrass him over such a thing.
“Damn women are driving me crazy,” he muttered as he headed into the bar.