Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Nautical Note: The appearance of surface fog on the water is seldom a good thing. Fog prevents you from seeing hazards. Fog distorts sound, making things seem closer or farther than they really are, but if you are trying to lose a rival or turn the tables, fog can be a powerful ally. With a crafty turn of tactics and a firm handle on navigation you can trick your rival and gain the advantage.
“I’m so sorry I’m missing her!” Angie prowled around the living room, pausing briefly to examine objects, the knickknacks that graced Misha’s tables and shelves. Misha almost immediately recognized the common element to those things that attracted the Nevada vampire’s attention; they contained some element of gold. There were paintings and wood reliquaries on display that were far more valuable, more artistic in their rendering than those objects Angie chose to admire or stroke with bony fingers, but De Castro’s Second passed them with no understanding. It was the shiny thing that called to her, and that summed her up as far as the New York King was concerned.
“I am sure Pamela will be sorry she was not here to greet you,” Misha replied, his voice giving no hint of the disdain he felt. Pam had told him a story about this woman being invited to her Maker’s home and repaying her host’s hospitality by dancing on his expensive coffee table, digging her heels in, and causing such damage that the table had to be replaced. While Misha understood the use of a demonstration of power in making a point with a wayward Sheriff, he did not feel that art needed to be compromised in the process. Bodies healed. Art was irreplaceable.
“Well, I’ll be in town for several days,” Angie leaned over to look at a gold-rimmed snuff box. The way she angled herself was to provide the King a view of her breasts. Misha found the equally clear view of the bony projections of Angie’s shoulder blades removed any attraction.
‘My Pamela is lithe without appearing emaciated,’ he thought. ‘I am a fortunate man.’
“The clubs are really catching on and I had some ideas. Do you expect Pam to return soon?” Angie raised her eyes and Misha was reminded of a snake, a baby snake, trying out its wares.
“Pamela’s business in Shreveport shouldn’t keep her much longer,” Misha smiled. “She informed me she would have a better idea of her travel schedule when we speak later tonight.” The King realized that only yesterday he would not have been confident in his answer. Pam hadn’t returned his texts for several days. He was able to find out she was resting with the Area 5 Sheriff, he knew she was visiting Bon Temps, but beyond that, nothing. He assumed when Maude called to thank him for his concessions with Sanctum that Pam’s would be the next message he received. It hadn’t happened.
Finally, last night, she called. Her voice sounded so strained it caused him to ask how he might help her. He even offered to come to her in Louisiana to stand by her side. Pam laughed, denying she was having any significant problems. “Eric’s returned from Rhodes. It was a terrible tragedy,” she told him, “and he felt the need to see both his progeny. That’s all there is to it.” When he asked about her Maker’s condition, Pamela laughed again, “Oh, Eric is always in the best of health,” but he heard the tightness return to her voice. When he called her on it, asking again if she was sure all was well, Pam told him that if she did sound stressed, it was because of her businesses and launched into a perfectly plausible explanation involving her events planning and nightclub expansions and the need for more liquidity. Yes, it was all perfectly plausible, but knowing Pam now as he did, he could tell she was not being totally honest with him. Misha had no doubt that the business troubles his companion was describing were real, but he was also certain that her business was not at the root of what troubled her.
“Well, since everything is going so well, when do you think you can return to our home, Zolotse?” he asked when she paused in her story. “I never noticed how quiet this house is, but now, without you, it seems an empty place.” Misha heard the catch in her voice and the King experienced a moment of insight. Someone was warning her about him. Someone was telling her she shouldn’t trust him, and Misha knew who would have that kind of influence with his companion. It was the same vampire who could call Pamela, making her leave her house full of guests and travel long distances because he wished to see her. If things were as Pamela said, and Eric Northman had summoned her, that was his right. It seemed another thing altogether to have freed his progeny and then to interfere with her choice in whom she trusted.
“Soon,” she said after a moment and he was sure he heard longing in her voice. “I will be able to give you my schedule at tomorrow’s rising,” she assured him, and then after a second, “I miss you, too.”
Earlier, while Misha waited for Angie to arrive he found his frustration growing. Eric Northman was the progeny of Appius Livius Ocella, and Appius had traditional views about the role of one’s progeny. The old Roman hadn’t hesitated to place his child in a contract although he had freed him many hundreds of years before, so why would that same child hesitate to place restrictions on his progeny? While Misha admired Appius and tried to model his life after the Roman’s example, he now found the close relationship most annoying. Misha concluded rather sourly that as long as Eric Northman continued, his Pam would be shackled to her duty as the Viking’s progeny. Their lives together would be hedged by the uncertainty that came with a capricious Maker and his ability to command.
Angie didn’t appear to have noticed Misha’s distraction because she continued to prattle on, needing no acknowledgement from him. The Nevada vampire assumed the New York King would be interested in hearing about the progress of Felipe de Castro’s solar power endeavor with Eric Northman as well as his interest in rebooting his mixed martial arts business to include more extensive overseas exposure.
Misha settled back, made sure his face looked attentive, and allowed himself to mentally review the conversation he had with Carlo. It had been a busy evening, first Pam, and then his Second calling to report his findings following his search of Bill Compton’s quarters in Jackson. Misha was surprised that his current Second survived his time in Jackson at all. ‘Edgington must have terrible security,’ he concluded. Misha really more than half expected to receive a terse message from Russell Edgington and a set of fangs, but that hadn’t happened. Instead Carlo reported he made it into Compton’s quarters and found clear evidence proving the writer made the bomb used in Rhodes. Receipts, scraps of silver and drawn plans were scattered around the quarters along with a letter addressed to Sookie Stackhouse. Carlo confirmed he cleaned up and destroyed all the evidence, including the letter. Carlo confirmed he found nothing that implicated New York and he emphasized his search had been thorough. Carlo finished by saying he was heading to upstate New York to clean up the vampire spawning operation. He thanked Misha again for the opportunity to test the prospective Sheriff candidate from Boston. He would be meeting the vampire in Pennsylvania and they would travel together to the upstate New York facility.
Misha had been careful in how he worded his responses, leaving just enough unsaid to have Carlo stumbling over his words. Misha purposely fueled his Second’s hopes, allowing Carlo to fill in the blanks with his own assumptions that the King intended to give him regency over the Carolinas kingdom. It never failed to amaze Misha how easily someone could fool themselves when they desired something. Their avarice colored everything to make the words they heard appear as they most wished. Instead of the power Carlo imagined, Misha’s soon-to-be former second would find himself at the pointy end of a stake and the Sheriff candidate from Boston would have proved his worthiness to work for the King of New York.
Misha couldn’t help the smile that crept across his face and then realized his mistake. Angie must have been making some sexual proposal because she brightened and started unbuttoning her shirt. “I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression,” Misha tried to sound apologetic. “I leave all decisions about bed companions to Pamela. Your offer,” and he could see he had guessed rightly, “must be made to her.”
“It’s rare to find a man who values his woman as highly as you do,” Angie replied. She re-buttoned her blouse, shrugged, and said, “So, what do you make of the rumors about Eric Northman?”
“Which rumors?” the King made sure to sound slightly bored, “the rumors that the Viking was involved in the death of those Silent Witness women?” Misha paused. While the King was in possession of correspondence between the two women which implicated Eric Northman in a series of murders, he hadn’t decided whether to use it. For now, it was enough to see what reaction this kind of bait might produce.
He didn’t have to wonder long. A greedy look marched across Angie’s face as she said, “I hadn’t heard that one. Is there proof?”
“I’m not sure,” Misha smiled, “but I have heard there is a link between the women and Northman, one that has been overlooked. Of course, if I were to come into such proof, I would turn it over to the human authorities. I hear their investigation has stalled. So sad.”
“If the FBI arrested him it would be sad for him. They don’t like vampires,” Angie purred. “It would create quite the power vacuum.” She glanced at the King, “I hope you wouldn’t find it inconvenient.”
“Not likely,” Misha shrugged. “Pamela would be concerned about her Maker, but she is a free woman.”
Misha settled back, enjoying the speculation that animated Angie’s face, but after a minute she seemed to pull herself back from her imagining to say, “No, I meant the rumor that Eric Northman is alive and well in Shreveport.”
“Oh,” the King shrugged. “That is not a rumor, Angie. Pam is in Shreveport now because he summoned her to him. He is certainly there.”
Angie leaned forward and her expression was angry, “How do you think he managed it? We all saw the videos. He was standing there right next to those Vampire First members. One minute he’s in Rhodes, the next he’s in Shreveport. There is no way he could be that close to that explosion with that amount of silver and escape without a mark! He may be in Shreveport, but I’m betting he’s in rags,” and then Angie seemed to catch herself, “No offense meant.”
Misha laughed and stood, walking over to pick up the blood decanter and then returning so he could fill Angie’s goblet, “No offense taken! My interest is in the Viking’s progeny, not in the Viking! I don’t mind telling you that my life would be substantially less complicated if Northman were no more, but, of course, I wouldn’t wish ill of my companion’s Maker.” He gave Angie a knowing look, one that said he could wish ill of Northman. He set down the decanter and continued, “There does seem to be something more here than meets the eye. Of course, our lucky friend in Louisiana is married to a Fae and they are a notoriously tricky breed. It could be that she was involved in this somehow.” Misha sat back down, pursing his lips, inviting Angie to speculate further.
It didn’t take much. The Nevada vampire launched into a long list of kills attributed to Sookie Stackhouse. It was all information Misha had heard before and it allowed him the space to remember his own reaction when he heard the initial report that Eric Northman was among those killed in Rhodes. It felt far sweeter than he would have anticipated. Misha had experienced actual joy thinking that the problem of Pamela’s Maker was over with no effort on his part. Pam’s near panic in rushing from his home seemed to reinforce the idea that Northman was finally dead and Misha had eagerly anticipated his companion’s confirmation that she was truly free, but his joy was short-lived. Within twenty-four hours there were new reports denying Northman’s death and then Misha received Pam’s call telling him that her Maker was with her. To have the solution to his problem with Pamela so quickly snatched away was infuriating. Although he had no real basis for it, Misha felt betrayed.
“It’s not right!” Angie’s laughter was brittle. “Northman lands in shit over and over and yet he keeps finding a way to come out of it even better than before! For once I’d like to see some of it stick to him! There’s luck, and then there’s witchcraft. I don’t think he comes by his luck naturally.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t!” Misha chuckled. “We vampires admire strength and guile, but let’s call things as they are! Northman has stacked all the odds in his favor. Fae alliances? Witch alliances? Were alliances? Who isn’t in his pocket?” Misha watched Angie. It was laughable how easily she was led.
“If there is truth to the rumors about those Witnesses all his fairy luck won’t help him!” Angie protested. “Humans will lock him in silver and chain him to the top of the highest building. It won’t matter how old he is or which mythical family he married into. With all that truth and justice talk Edgington and Crowe are making they couldn’t afford to let Northman get away with it.”
Misha nodded sagely, “Of course, it would be a scandal at a time when we wish to be seen as good allies. I worry for my poor Pam. If the rumor is true, I don’t see any way she could avoid getting dragged into some part of it. Northman had law trouble before and my Pamela found her name publicly linked with her Maker’s disgrace.” Misha waited for another moment before adding, “How I miss the old days. Monarchs who became inconvenient became finally dead. I wonder…” and he looked at Angie’s face. “I wonder if it is as you say. How could he have been so close and not sustained some injury? That bomb was loaded with silver. Most vampires were killed outright and more succumbed to silver poisoning. Only a handful survived…” and then the King laughed. “Oh, it’s déjà vu, in a way! Louisiana monarch laid low by Rhodes.”
“I’m never going to Rhodes!” Angie shuddered. “It’s a cursed city!”
“You aren’t planning to attend the memorial services?” Misha allowed his amusement to show.
“What a shit show that’s going to be!” Angie laughed. Andrew chose that moment to join them, another decanter of blood on his tray. Angie continued talking as she walked toward the housekeeper, holding out her goblet for a refill, “They’re creating some kind of memorial to Bill Compton! Can you believe that? You’d think he was some kind of saint the way the humans and Russell Edgington are carrying on. He wrote a book, big deal!”
“The television reports show mountains of flowers and candles left by his many fans. They had to designate alternate sites for the humans’ offerings,” Andrew offered. “Of course it is King Crowe and his entourage who are heading up the planning for the memorial. Crowe has become a beloved figure, a symbol of unification,” and Andrew met Misha’s eyes. The whole turn of events with the Indiana King was unfortunate. Crowe’s timely arrival at the scene with his mate and the vampire police, the involvement with the local press and law enforcement in the investigation, the donating of blood to victims was making Crowe too popular. For Misha, it meant he needed to focus his attention elsewhere for now. Carlo would complete cleaning up the rogue rookery and New York’s plans for revenge against Bartlett Crowe would go dormant. There would be another opportunity in the future, and the waiting would make it sweeter.
“All of this goes to prove how truly stupid humans can be,” Angie snarled. “Compton was a barely competent spy who ran at the first sign of trouble. He was nothing but a scavenger, waiting for the scraps to fall from the tables of his betters. Now they are going to make him some martyr; Saint Bill,” and she sniffed.
“Speaking of scraps,” Misha lazily held out his goblet, his eyes meeting Andrew’s as the vampire poured, “I hear it’s more than trifles pouring from the Viking’s kingdom these days. You’re in business with him,” and he smiled brightly at Angie. “Solar panels, isn’t it? It seems too good to be true, the turnaround in fortunes for that kingdom. But, you were there ruling that kingdom when it was at its worst. I suppose there must be some pleasure in seeing all your hard work coming to something, even if it is under someone else’s rule.”
“The kingdom was stolen from my King,” Angie snapped and then she schooled her face, “but then again, who am I to question my King’s new allies?”
“Still,” Misha smiled “It does seem like déjà vu, doesn’t it: A kingdom with a wounded monarch surrounded by a weak crew? I’ll grant you he does have two of my own; three if you count Jane; all money makers. You know, I still hear from Thierry. After all these years, he continues to value the lessons he learned while serving me. He thanks me for them.” Misha looked away, his eyebrows pulling together, “I wonder.” When the King felt he’d left the silence hang enough he looked at Angie and said, “I think I’ll contact him, ask him for a better idea of what’s going on down there; nothing that would compromise him, of course, but Pam’s feelings in this matter can hardly be expected to be objective. I have no interest in these matters for myself, and as Pam’s companion, I would hardly act on it if I did, but as one of my business partners, I think it’s important that you and your King understand whether your investments are safe. Of course, the money you’ve invested with Pamela is as good as money in the bank. You know I stand behind her, although she has no need for my support. But the energy investment…” and he looked at Angie expectantly.
He could see her almost bouncing with excitement. ‘Yes,’ he thought, ‘you put all the pieces together. You are drawn to the possibilities.’
“My King was impressed with Thierry. He told me he has rarely seen a shrewder vampire with a better head for business. I suppose he has you to thank for that,” and Angie lifted her goblet in salute.
“Most kind,” Misha replied, “Yes, yes I’ll send a message. I find I too am curious, and what about his lovely wife? What about the charming Miss Stackhouse? I know you have told me she is a formidable fighter in her own right, but if Northman is injured, then our dear Miss Stackhouse would be weakened as well through their famous bond, don’t you think?” Misha had to bite his cheek to keep his expression from morphing into open gloating. Angie was not bothering to hide her ambition. The words the King used had done their job and Misha had no doubt that the minute she left, Angie would be on the phone with Felipe de Castro agitating for a takeover of Eric Northman’s kingdom. “Come,” he said instead, “Let’s sample another goblet of this most excellent blood and toast to better days,” and they did.
It had been three nights since Eric Northman and Karin the Slaughterer had gone to ground. Now, on the evening of the fourth it was expected that the Viking would rise with the coming of the moon. “Can you feel him?” Sookie asked Pam. Yesterday the telepath found herself standing next to the grave, her face turned up to the moon and searching for some sign, some feeling that he was there below her, but there was nothing. Pam explained that it would be unusual for anyone, even a vampire, to feel a connection during this time.
“He was severely injured, Sookie. The magic of regeneration works differently for us. It is almost as if we go into hibernation. It’s as if we are starting again,” Pam assured her. “Even I can’t feel him, but I don’t feel his absence either, and that tells me things are progressing.”
Now, as the time approached Sookie looked around her. Bubba was standing near her elbow. He smiled and nodded in that reassuring way he had and Sookie patted his arm. Heidi was there, too, and Jane. Jane had spent the past few nights glamouring those at Doctor Ludwig’s hospital, making them forget how Eric Northman had arrived and the horrible hours that followed Rhodes. She told Sookie that when she offered her services to Doctor Ludwig, the small woman had threatened to glamour Jane instead. Sookie smiled as she thought about it. Her eyes traveled to Charles and Owen, standing together, waiting. It struck Sookie how much both she and Eric owed these two Weres. They had become more than guards. They were friends.
“They come!” Pam suddenly hissed and Sookie’s eyes snapped to the ground at her feet. At first she could see nothing, but she could tell the vampires around her were hearing something. It was a slight movement of the soil and then a hand, his hand, emerged. Sookie wondered if she should take hold of it, but the vampires around her stood entirely still in that way they had. As if sensing her thoughts, Pam laid a hand on Sookie’s arm, holding her in place. Eric’s hand was followed by an arm and then another hand. It almost appeared he was swimming up from the soil, and then his head and shoulders appeared.
“Eric!” Sookie couldn’t hold back any more. She fell to her knees and grasped his hand. When he looked at her she could see that although there were still features that weren’t quite right, his face was almost entirely there. His nose looked smaller and his mouth was oddly sunken. His jaw was too small for his face but his skin was there. His chest emerged followed by his torso, and then, almost as though the ground expelled him, he was on the surface, lying face up. “What happened to your clothes?” Sookie whispered almost to herself, but she didn’t wait for an answer. She moved so she was kneeling beside him. She leaned down and kissed each of his eyes and then his mouth and he reached up, still weak, to lay his fingers against her cheek.
“Älskade?” he rasped.
“Let’s get him inside and into the shower,” Pam interrupted. Charles stepped forward and helped Eric to his feet. The Viking staggered and Owen moved to his other side, grabbed his arm, and slung it around his own neck.
“What about Karin?” Sookie looked toward the ground.
“She’s coming,” Pam assured Sookie, and then wrapping her arm around her sister, Pam steered her toward the house ahead of Eric and the guards. “Come on now and get that bathtub filling; warm water, not hot. I’ll help lift him upstairs and while things are filling you should warm up a half dozen bottles of blood. He’ll be hungry and it’ll help him. I’ll be giving him blood and if you’re up to it, you should, too.”
“Of course,” Sookie stammered. Sookie could see Eric was not entirely himself and she realized there was more to this spending time in the ground for a vampire than she had been told. While Sookie wondered what she was missing, she also got the sense that this was not the time. ‘But you better believe I’m getting some answers once things settle down!’ she promised herself.
Sookie ran up the stairs and threw open the doors to the bathroom. She turned on the water and made sure the temperature felt right before heading down the back stairs to the kitchen. As she opened bottles and shuttled them through the microwave she listened to the sounds of Eric being half carried, half dragged up the three flights of stairs. ‘We need to move,’ Sookie thought. ‘We need to live somewhere that works for us,’ and she found her breath catching in her throat, but the telepath wouldn’t give in to her emotions. There were much harder discussions to be had and if she lost her steel now she wouldn’t have what she would need later. Taking a deep breath, Sookie recapped and shook each bottle, eliminating any hot spots, and then headed back up the stairs to her waiting husband.
When she walked into the bathroom, Charles and Owen had already left. Eric was standing in the shower stall. Pam was naked and standing behind him, supporting him as the water sprayed over him, washing away the dirt. “I’ll do that,” Sookie said calmly. Without a thought about modesty or being embarrassed in front of Pam, Sookie set down the bottles and slipped from her clothes. She stepped into the shower and nudged Pam, “Go ahead,” she told her. “I can handle this. If I need you, I’ll call.”
“He’s steady,” Pam told her, “but I think there’s some lingering vertigo. He’s still having trouble talking,” and then she turned, picked up her clothes, and left, leaving the door open.
Sookie slid in behind Eric and wrapped one hand around his waist and then slid another over his beautiful backside. She laid her cheek against his back and she could hear him chuckling, the noise rumbling in his chest. “Love my butt,” he rasped.
“Love you,” she whispered and wrapping both her arms around him, Sookie turned her head to kiss his back and hugged him as tight as she could.
‘Sookie,” he called her after a minute and he untwined her hands to pull her around to the front of him. Sookie made sure her best smile was in place and she gifted him with it. She reached for the soap and worked up a lather between her hands. Slowly she began to wash him, every part of him. “Do you remember?” he rasped.
“Yes,” she smiled. “Of course I do.” Sookie was sure Eric was talking about their first time when he didn’t know who he was and he joined her in the shower. He was smiling and although it was more lopsided than usual, it was a good smile. Sookie scrubbed at Eric’s chest, then followed the happy trail of hair that led down to his navel. When she started to slide her hand down further Eric placed his hand over hers, and Sookie stilled. She could feel his vulnerability, but there was also a vague disorientation. “I know!” Sookie said more brightly than she felt, “Let’s get in the bathtub.”
Reaching around him, she turned off the water, and then taking his hand back in hers, she led him, dripping wet, across the room to the bathtub. While in past Eric was the one to get in first, pulling Sookie against him, tonight was different. Sookie stepped down into the water and then, taking both his hands, helped him to step down and then settle into the water. Their tub was made for a man as large as Eric so he was able to stretch out enough that his head rested on her shoulder. Wrapping her arms and legs around him, Sookie kissed the side of his head. “I’ve got you,” she whispered. Sookie glanced over and then reached to take the knife from the shelf beside them. Sookie sliced her wrist, not deep, but enough to provide blood. When she held it out before him, Eric took her arm in both hands and brought it to his mouth. He lapped and suckled at the blood that flowed and Sookie could feel the tiny points of his fangs that were starting to regrow. ‘Baby fangs,’ she thought and she felt the sudden clench in her throat of sorrows she knew she would need to share with him soon.
“Sookie?” She had startled him. She could see his eyes were becoming clearer, but they still held a lost quality as Eric slowly emerged from his dormancy.
“It’s nothing,” she assured him. “Drink, Eric,” and she held her wrist before him again and stroked his hair as he lapped her blood with his cool tongue.
While Pam helped Eric into the house, Heidi waited at the side of the grave for Karin. It took several more minutes before Karin’s hand emerged. She came from the earth more slowly. Like her Maker, Karin was naked. Heidi threw the blanket she had waiting around her Chief. “I offer you my blood,” the tracker told her, tilting her head to allow access. Karin didn’t hesitate. She struck and drank several mouthfuls before withdrawing.
By the time Karin finished Pam had returned. “How are you?” Pam asked.
“He was very damaged,” Karin nodded. “If the magic here wasn’t so strong I think we would both be finally dead.”
“He drained you?” It was the risk a vampire took, taking one so severely damaged into the ground.
“He struggled. He was pure instinct and little else,” Karin shuddered.
“Come on,” Pam glanced around her. There were some things best said in privacy, “Let’s get you into a warm shower. I would be pleased if you would allow me to care for you.” Karin nodded, and then turned to Heidi.
“Thank you for being the first to welcome me back,” Karin told the tracker. “It is a kindness and a favor I won’t forget.” Pam nodded as well before steering her sister toward the guesthouse. Heidi bowed and then picked up the shovel. She would bury different scents and use rocks to hide the burial spot. If others suspected Eric was less than perfect they would come looking for it.
As Pam and Karin walked down the path that led to the guesthouse beyond the line of trees, Bubba approached them. “Well hey, Miss Karin!” Bubba was wearing jeans and a yellow shirt that resembled one he had worn in a movie when he was famous. As Pam continued to walk them past the vampire, Bubba’s face became worried, “Miss Karin? Why do you smell like Mr. Eric? You know he belongs to Miss Sookie now. It’s not right you should smell that way!”
“It was an accident,” Pam told him quickly. “It’s not what it seems. Eric and Miss Sookie are together in the main house. Everything’s fine.”
Bubba looked confused as he trailed after them, then after a minute he said, “Well, I guess that’s all right then. Maybe I’ll head over to that house and see if they want something.”
Pam didn’t look at Karin as she helped her into the bathroom. There was no large tub here, but the shower stall was wide and easily fit them both. Pam turned the water on as warm as it would go and once she had stripped, stepped in behind her sister, and wrapped her in a hug. “You sure you’re okay?” she asked.
“Heidi’s blood helped,” Karin answered, and Pam offered her own wrist, which Karin accepted. When Karin finished drinking, Pam helped her wash first her body and then her hair.
“Wishing I was Thomas?” Pam teased her.
“Yes,” Karin replied without a hint of amusement.
“He’ll be here for the Sheriff’s meeting,” Pam told her. “Maybe it’s time to get things settled before anything else happens.”
“I hate that word,” Karin sniffed, “Settled.” Karin lifted her arms to allow Pam to dry her. “Still, it doesn’t feel quite so poison in my mouth anymore.” Karin found a robe to wrap around herself. “Is Sookie going to be ready for the Sheriff’s meeting?”
Pam was shaking a bottle of blood, “Yes. She’s different, stronger. She’s talked with Mustapha and he’ll impersonate Eric. He’ll drive out here using the back way so no one sees him. Charles will drive them both over to Fangtasia. We thought that if people see the car and see the couple together it will go a long way toward getting the rumors to stop.”
“The way she can do that; change people’s appearances is eerie,” Karin shuddered. “I trust Sookie, but there is something too Fae about this. Still…”
“Still it’s a masquerade that could save us all,” Pam sniffed.
“The child is dead?” Karin changed the subject.
“Yes,” Pam replied. “We buried her while you were in the ground.”
“It will be terrible when he finds out,” and Karin looked at Pam. “You can feel him now. His emotions are raw. He is like a newborn. I know it will pass, but we should be prepared,” and then Karin smiled. “I’m glad you’re here, Pam.”
“Sisters!” Pam told her.
“Sisters,” Karin answered.
The cream envelope sat on the desk, the heavy wax seal weighing down the flap. The bond was so heavy the tension in the paper pulled against that weight, and Thierry tapped the wax twice with his finger watching it bounce. The note was from Misha. “Do you still have a Master worth your loyalty?” One sentence only, written in the New York King’s textbook perfect penmanship on heavy cardstock, one question awaiting Thierry’s answer.
‘As if you were ever worthy of my loyalty,’ Thierry sneered, his finger tapping against the wax seal again. Upstairs his travel coffin was being readied. When he attended the Sheriff’s meeting in a few days he would stay in a hotel in Shreveport. Indira invited him to stay with her, but he wasn’t interested in the scrutiny sharing close quarters would invite.
He had received no invitation to stay in the guest house at Bon Temps, but in view of the news about the King’s child, Thierry wasn’t surprised. The French Sheriff found himself troubled by the idea that his King, any vampire, would be involved in creating an actual baby. There was something distasteful about it, and yet, Thierry couldn’t help remembering the look that had crossed Eric Northman’s face when he saw that toy rabbit on their recent trip to Minnesota. The Viking had placed the toy in his lap and stroked it the entire flight home. He had a bemused expression on his face as he stared out the window.
Thierry had not taken offense at being ignored. The Sheriff’s relationship with the King was healing slowly, but Thierry knew Eric would continue to punish him for a while longer. Thierry also knew the King’s preoccupation on the plane had nothing to do with punishment. Eric Northman was happy and Thierry knew the Viking well enough to recognize it. Now the reason for the toy was gone.
In his brief human life Thierry had only thought about children in terms of hoping he didn’t have any bastards that would come back to haunt him. During his much longer vampire life he had never felt the pull to create progeny, yet Thierry found he felt sad for his King and the Queen.
‘Do you still have a Master worth your loyalty?’ Misha’s question had nothing to do with Eric Northman’s values or integrity. This question was far more straight-forward and invasive than any sent before. There was no way to interpret this as other than a request for Thierry to spy for New York. ‘I will wait until I get to Shreveport to form an answer,’ Thierry thought. He realized he was hoping that Thalia would be attending the Sheriff’s meeting, and that surprised him.
Thierry started to mentally tick off those he would expect to see at Fangtasia. Rubio Hermosa would attend. It was being hosted by Indira. Karin the Slaughterer would be there and Maxwell Lee was traveling up from New Orleans. ‘Stop pretending!’ he scolded himself. ‘Acknowledge it. They will also be there.’ ‘They’ were Thomas and Nabila. The reports he received detailing the growing relationship between his great friend and former lover were regular. After one particularly descriptive email, Thierry wondered if Thomas knew of his spying and had paid off the informant to paint a picture guaranteed to infuriate his brother. Thierry couldn’t think of the two of them together without growling. He blamed Karin for not claiming Thomas as she should have. He blamed Misha for being the kind of bastard that required demonstrations of loyalty. He blamed Nabila for not trusting him enough to know he would never hurt her without a reason. He blamed Thomas for not being enough of a friend to not touch what had been handled by his friend. Mostly, he blamed himself.
‘If you were truly clever,’ he told himself, ‘she would be here, by your side now and you would be scheming to take New York together.’ “But you are not clever!” he said out loud, “Which is why you need Thalia to help you form your response!”
“Sheriff?” Thierry’s dayman asked from the door.
“Nothing,” Thierry replied. “Let me know when the van arrives. It’s time this play entered its next act.”
Thalia sat on the corner chair in the bedroom of Bill Compton’s quarters behind the main house in Jackson. It was clean and everything was set just so. For anyone who knew Bill Compton that wasn’t surprising. For a vampire born during the time of the Civil War, he had been surprisingly fussy. The clothes in the closet were all hanging in an understandable order. The shoes were perfectly aligned. Items in drawers were folded and then folded again. Still, there was something about the space that wasn’t right. Perhaps it was the lack of dust after more than a week. Perhaps it was the way the bed was almost too perfectly made. Compton would have used the bed to pack. There should have been a crease or two.
Thalia walked back to the guard room in the main house. “You are sure there were no visitors?” she asked the young Were at the desk.
“Not during my shifts,” he replied. Thalia glanced around the room. When she had been here supervising the guards this area was kept organized, surfaces were clean, and trash never accumulated. In the months she had been gone it was clear that the discipline she had worked so hard to instill had slipped.
“Bring up the film on both corners of the garage and the back gate,” she snarled. The guard’s hands shook as he glanced her way. She knew he was hoping she hadn’t seen it, so she dropped fang, letting him know she had. The footage started to play. Thalia increased the speed and then stepped it up again. She watched people she could identify run/walk back and forth across the screen, and then on the footage from two days ago, an unfamiliar face appeared. Thalia leaned forward, stabbing the button that froze the feed. “Who is that?” she asked, pointing at the dark-haired vampire.
“I… I don’t know,” the guard was stammering.
“Who was on duty during this time?” and Thalia pointed to the date and time stamp on the screen. Without waiting for an answer, she grabbed the clipboard. She wasn’t surprised to see the name of the Were who was trembling in the seat in front of her.
“Well, Mr. Gates, it would appear you should know this vampire’s name.” Thalia pushed the call button and waited.
The supervisor entered the room in a rush, annoyance on his face, but as soon as he saw Thalia he stiffened and then bowed. “Thalia! I was not aware you were here visiting,” and he bowed again.
“I don’t require your permission,” Thalia snapped. She turned back to the screen, “This guard was on duty when this person entered the grounds. He was in the buildings, including Compton’s quarters and he left without anyone challenging him.” Thalia turned back to see the supervisor turning pale, “Who is this?” She didn’t need to wait for the answer. She could see the supervisor didn’t recognize him either.
“You realize I will be reporting this to the King?” Thalia snarled. “An unidentified vampire has breached the King’s grounds. He has entered the King’s buildings. He was not detected, much less challenged! I will be making recommendations, and the first is that neither of you will ever work here again.” The supervisor’s mouth opened and closed like a grounded fish. “I will recommend that a vampire be hired to oversee security. When I was here this would not have happened! It is clear to me that when the Kings are away their security is gone! You were hired for your expertise! You were hired for your loyalty! I find neither! If it were up to me, I would end you both now!” Thalia was rewarded by the warm smell of urine. She was pretty sure it was the man seated at the console.
“But it is not up to me. It is up to the King and your Packmaster, but know this! I will be back and if I don’t find improvement when I return, if either of you are here I won’t wait for your Packmaster’s permission, or the Kings’. I’ll take matters into my own hands and you will both be the example. Do you understand?” The Were at the console was silently crying, so Thalia poked the supervisor who jumped, “Get me copies of that,” and she pointed at the unidentified vampire’s image. “Make sure they aren’t grainy!” she added.
When the Were at the console continued to snivel, she lost her temper, “Get out!” she shouted at him, “Get out!” and she aimed a kick as he ran past her. Thalia held her breath so she wouldn’t have to smell the man’s foul odor. Although she inspired it, Thalia found she didn’t like the smell of fear. She studied the video again, moving the frames ahead second by second. “Who are you?” she asked.
She left that night, traveling swiftly. It was late and she would be lucky to make it to Bon Temps before sunrise. She could have asked Indira for a place to go to ground, but she knew there was a Sheriff’s meeting being called. Although Thalia was no longer officially working for Eric Northman, her name remained on the email distribution list so she knew others would be headed there crowding Indira’s rooms. Besides, the person she really needed to see would be staying at his wife’s ancestral home in that crappy backwater hole twenty minutes away from Fangtasia. Of course, now the home was more of a McMansion care of Sookie’s interfering Fae relatives. Thalia thought again of that night in Nebraska and the vision Niall, Prince of the Sky Fae, showed her in his basin of water under the stars. She thought about what she had seen in Rhodes and the film that showed both Eric and Sookie on the red carpet that night. ‘I should have been there,’ she thought, and then giving a mental shake, she depressed the gas pedal and drove faster.
Thalia pulled up to the house and was surprised she wasn’t immediately challenged, but then Heidi stepped out onto the porch. Thalia nodded. It seemed unlikely, but it was possible there was sufficient surveillance in place now. Maybe they caught a video of her face before she approached. “You knew it was me?” she asked.
“No,” Sookie answered. She walked out onto the dark porch. She was in a robe, her hair damp. “We didn’t know you were coming. It’s been a while.”
“If I was a stranger to you, why weren’t your guards waiting for me when I exited the car? I could have emerged fighting!” Thalia challenged.
“There are wards here,” Sookie’s voice took on a hard quality Thalia didn’t hear often. “If you had meant us harm you would have been prevented from coming anywhere close.” Sookie crossed her arms, “So, why are you here?”
“I have been investigating the bombing,” Thalia started to walk toward the porch, but there was something in the way Sookie was standing that made her stop. “I came to talk with the North Man about my findings…”
“You can talk with Eric at tomorrow’s rising,” Sookie said. There was a finality to the way she said it.
“This is important…” Thalia started
“Well, I’m telling you how it is, so you’re just going to have to accept that!” Sookie was angry and then she directed her anger at Thalia, “Where were you? You told me you cared for him and you abandoned him? What was more important than making sure he was safe? That what he cared for was safe?”
Karin was beside Thalia now. She touched the warrior’s arm, “Pam and I are in the guesthouse. Come and join us. It will be sunrise soon.”
Thalia turned back to look at Sookie. The telepath was wiping tears from her face and without another word Sookie turned and walked back into her dark house, shutting the door behind her.
“Come,” Karin gestured toward the lit building Thalia could just see through the trees.
“What happened?” Thalia asked.
“My Maker grieves for the child he made with his Queen,” Karin replied.
“Was the Viking injured as well?” Thalia asked.
“We live in interesting times,” Karin replied and together they walked down the path.