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
Thirty days passed, and then another five. There was still no word from Rick. No one reported the boat, but Eric assured Sookie no news was good news. “If there was a problem, they’d have radioed in. It’s just taking longer to get to England,” he reassured her.
Deciding the best way to pass the time was by keeping busy, Sookie summoned Hunter back to New Orleans to work on identifying glamour. It was challenging. While Sookie had come to recognize it when she had her telepathy, she’d never had to try putting how she knew where to find glamour into words. At first, she asked Eric, and then Pam, to glamour their test subjects, but Hunter continued to struggle.
Finally, one night they found themselves alone. Pam was visiting Indira and Eric was busy in town, so Hunter asked. “Come on, Aunt Sookie, why don’t you just glamour our guinea pig yourself?”
“Because I worry that once I do, I’ll have crossed a line I can’t come back from,” she answered, almost without thinking.
“Well, if that line is being vampire, I think it’s a little too late!” and Hunter laughed. Sookie laughed, too, but she realized something about herself, and so when the human reported, she glamoured him. It was odd and, at the same time, almost too easy. It wasn’t like reading the human’s mind, exactly. Instead, it was more that Sookie could see all his thoughts so clearly when she placed her suggestion, almost as if she’d slipped a book onto a crowded shelf.
This time, when Hunter searched for the glamour, Sookie was able to direct him right to it, describing the slight variations. “I see it!” Hunter exclaimed. “Let’s try it again!” He missed the next two, but detected the third. The fourth time escaped him, but by the end of the evening, Hunter’s skills had shown a marked improvement.
“And, how did you find glamouring?” Eric asked as he held her that night.
“Different,” and Sookie curled closer. “Unsettling.”
He kissed her hair. “I am proud of you,” he whispered.
“I almost wondered if I’d be able to do it,” Sookie chuckled. “I mean, it’s not like I was able to be glamoured myself. I half-expected I wouldn’t be able to do it to anyone else.”
That day, as she rested, Sookie dreamed. She found herself walking beside Karin. They were on the campus of a university. Somehow, Sookie knew it was the school near the Sheriff’s residence where Karin and Peter were living. As they turned the corner of a brick building, they saw a vampire Sookie didn’t recognize. He was talking with other vampires. Sookie couldn’t hear the words, but she knew the vampire was threatening those with him. He was demanding money, telling them he’d expose them to the sun if they didn’t pay. After a moment, the scenery shifted and Sookie saw the same vampires she’d just seen only this time, the angry vampire was missing. The two vampires who were being threatened were packing. ‘Tell Carol,’ one said to the other. ‘Texas is safer. I knew the Northman thing was too good to be true.’
When she rose that night, Sookie told Eric her dream. “He was loansharking them. I don’t know who he is, but I’d recognize him if I saw him.”
Eric pulled up his computer and together they called Karin. It didn’t take long. Sookie described the vampire she’d seen in her dream. “It must be Howard,” Karin answered. “You’ve described him perfectly. I’ll make inquiries.”
“I hope I’m right,” Sookie worried after the call. “If this is nothing more than my overactive imagination, I’ve just made trouble for some poor vampire.”
“I have a feeling about this,” Eric assured her. “Besides,” and he grinned, “Karin won’t do anything that won’t heal.”
It took a few nights, but Karin called back, confirming Sookie’s vision. “He was slick about it. If I hadn’t known what I was looking for, I would have missed it. Thank you. This kind of thing is like a cancer. It makes us look weak.”
Eric was ridiculously pleased. “I always knew you were clever!” he crowed. “A clairvoyant!” and his eyes glowed.
“Slow your roll!” Sookie protested. “One lucky dream doesn’t make me…”
“A Pythoness!” Eric finished.
“Oh, thanks!” Sookie groused. “The day I look like her, stake me! You’d be doing me a favor!”
Eric’s good spirits were boundless. He scooped her up into his arms, twirling her around and around. “My wonderful, clever, talented wife! Mine!” and he proceeded to show his appreciation in other ways. Sookie almost protested, but then she didn’t, her words getting lost in a long, low moan.
It wasn’t until much later they made their way downstairs. “I was just getting ready to go out,” Hunter scolded her.
“Sorry,” but Sookie wasn’t, not one little bit. She glanced around, “Feel up to trying someone else’s glamour?”
Hunter had been doing better, practice helping him hone in. During their last session, he’d caught eight out of the ten thoughts Sookie planted. “Sure!” he answered, and Sookie summoned a guard, having him glamour their evening’s test subjects. For whatever reason, Hunter found the guard’s glamour easily. “I’d say this calls for a celebration!” he grinned, when he found five out of five.
“I think I’m all celebrated out!” Sookie protested, but seeing Hunter’s quick disappointment, she gave in. “Sure, the night’s young.”
Eric agreed to meet them and they set out into the City, a set of guards trailing discretely behind them. They found Maxwell Lee in the first club they visited, and Sookie soon found herself dancing, first with Hunter and then with Max. The music was fast and the crowd mostly supernatural. She was recognized and people called out to her. Sookie’s cheeks hurt from smiling so much, and then she turned to find herself in Eric’s arms. He twirled her in, then twirled her back, releasing her hand so they could stomp and circle each other, shaking their bon-bons around the dance floor.
When she returned to their table, she was surprised to find Hunter waiting. “I thought you’d be all coupled up by now,” she chuckled.
He gave her a rueful smile, “I guess.” He looked across the floor, “I don’t know, Aunt Sookie. Thalia may have to find a new nickname for me. Could be my coupling days are over. I think I may have found the one. Can’t stop thinking about her.”
“Heidi?” and Sookie could see it: the mother who lost her son, and the son who lost his mother. “What does she say about it?”
“Don’t know,” and he ducked his head a little. “Guess it just crept up on me. Haven’t really talked with her about it.”
“When were you thinking you’d head back to Area Five?” Sookie asked, and when Hunter looked surprised, Sookie just arched her eyebrow.
“Soon,” and Hunter shook his head, looking back toward the dance floor.
The ride back to the Palace was comfortable. Sookie leaned against Eric, her fingers loosely entwined with Hunter’s. ‘Family,’ she thought. It was everything she could ask. Even though it was late, there were fans who stood behind the barriers, shouting and waving. Sookie smiled and waved back. The night was clear and Eric smiled down at her, his golden head shining under the glow of the streetlights.
As they walked in, a guard hissed to Eric that there was an urgent message from Pam, and Sookie felt her sense of well-being evaporate as they walked toward the office.
“There’s been another death in Area Five,” Pam told them. “It was Doug, Rubio Hermosa’s Second. Somehow, they knew where to find him. Humans. They silvered him and took the tithes.”
Eric swore in another language. Sookie knew the practice of dealing in cash irritated him, but for many vampires the aversion to technology and human banks was too deeply ingrained. It meant there were vampires like Doug in every kingdom, carrying large amounts of cash on a regular basis. “You said he is finally dead?” Eric asked after a minute.
“It’s bad,” Pam sniffed. “They videotaped it. It showed up on the Internet tonight. They were laughing as they staked him. His nest is demanding justice.”
“What does Rubio say?” Sookie felt her voice catching in her throat. Eric shot her a quick look and her heart sank. This would be viewed as another failure by the Area Five Sheriff to protect his own and the tithes from Area Five were gone.
Eric didn’t bother answering her. Instead he told Pam, “I want you to take charge of the investigation. Tell Rubio to step down,” and at Sookie’s sharp sound, he added, “Order him to go home and stay with his family.” He squared his shoulders before facing Sookie, “You know this must happen, Lover. Rubio has failed. His vassals are dying.”
“You don’t know this was his fault,” Sookie groaned. “You said it yourself. There’s something going on up there, we just can’t figure it out yet.”
“That’s suspicion,” he told her. “It doesn’t change the facts that all vampires see. A high-ranking member of my retinue is dead. He was tortured and the humans laughed. It happened on Rubio’s watch. If I fail to act, matters may pass out of my hands and that’s dangerous to more than Rubio.” Eric turned back to the computer. “Pam, I want you to make Rasul your Second, but don’t get too comfortable. You will need to test him. He’s only recently returned to us and his loyalty is not yet tested.”
“We’ve known Rasul a long time. He’s made his pledge to you,” Pam pointed out.
“So have many others, Pam,” and Eric shrugged. Sookie felt her heart drop. Banishing Rubio to his home was ominous. She knew how her husband operated. He would give his Sheriff time to say goodbye to his loved ones before pronouncing sentence, and Sookie knew with certainty what Eric was working around to saying.
She couldn’t stay silent. Rubio was her friend. He’d almost died trying to save her. “Let me go up there with Hunter,” she interrupted. “I’ve been working with Hunter on his telepathy. He’s so much better at detecting glamour than he was before. We can help Pam with the investigation. I’ll mentor him. You know there’s something else going on! We can help get to the bottom of it.”
Eric frowned. “Sookie, as you said yourself, we don’t know what’s happening in Area Five. I don’t wish you someplace where you could be…”
“In danger?” Sookie finished. “When have our lives ever been without that? You think I can’t take care of myself?” She grinned, glancing at Pam. “Remember when we took care of Bruno and Corrina?”
“That was a knife fight!” Pam chuckled.
Sookie chuckled, too, forcing her feelings about that incident to match the carefree attitude she was trying to project. She could sense Eric watching her and she knew he was sifting her feelings. Truth was, she’d been terrified, but in the end, it had been almost as though her body knew what to do. “Sookie Stackhouse, vampire killer!” Pam was laughing.
“I suppose I could use a little practice,” Sookie joked. “Been a while since I earned my reputation, but I’ll bet all the same parts work pretty well.”
“You were never easy about fighting,” Eric growled. He clearly didn’t approve of the direction the conversation was going. “You told me often how you didn’t mean to kill anyone.”
“And, yet I did!” and Sookie tried to look playful. She could tell she wasn’t quite pulling it off, so she smiled extra bright. “That sign in Fangtasia warning bartenders about me? No lie!”
Eric’s eyes narrowed, “Well, then…” and Sookie knew she was in trouble. It didn’t matter. At least she’d succeeded in distracting her husband from pronouncing Rubio’s death sentence and that was enough.
When they finished the call with Pam, Eric stood. “Come with me,” he said a little too nicely. “Let’s see how your skills have held up.” He led her to the elevator. She could feel his irritation. It radiated through their bond, and as the car descended toward the basement, he asked, “Are you sure you wish to continue with this performance?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Sookie answered flippantly, and had to struggle not to flinch as she felt his irritation turn to anger.
When the doors opened, they walked through the donors’ area, heading further back. Sookie knew there was an armory down here, but she’d never actually been in it. On the rare occasion she’d carried a weapon, someone else presented it to her. Now she was seeing the place herself. Light flicked on as they walked through a long corridor lined with weapons. It ended in a large, empty space that lit up as they stepped into it. “You’ll need a sword,” Eric told her, looking back toward the weapons.
He just stood there, his arms loose. “What?” and Sookie found her chin lifting. “Who am I fighting?” and when he continued to stare, she asked, “What about you? You’ll need a sword, too.”
His eyebrow rose just a fraction. He didn’t bother hiding his sneer, “I don’t think so.”
“Well, screw you!” and Sookie was well and truly angry. If she were being honest, she was pretty sure Eric could easily defeat her, but it pissed her off that he was so sure of himself. She stalked back into the weapons area and tested a few blades until she found one that fit her hand. It was short and thin, almost like a needle, and it didn’t weigh down her arm. She stalked back into the training space, because now she knew that’s what it was. “So, now what? You going to charge me?”
“You can give this up any time,” Eric told her, using his oh-so-superior tone. “There’s no need for you to get hurt, Sookie. Just admit you can’t defend yourself and we’ll go back upstairs.”
“I’ve killed more folks than I like to think about,” Sookie answered. “They died, Eric. Not me! Think you’d give me a little credit for that!” Of course, until this moment, Sookie hadn’t given herself any credit, always claiming the vampires, Weres, and Fae she killed were more accidents than righteous kills. Lifting her head, she said, “I really don’t want to hurt you. Maybe you should just admit I’m right.”
“Oh, you won’t hurt me, Lover!” and Eric laughed at her.
It was exactly the wrong thing to do. He came at her, but Sookie found she anticipated him. It was a near thing, but she managed to let him rush past her, her blade finding the skin on the backside of his thigh. “Oh my God!” she squeaked when he drew his hand back bloody. “Oh, Eric! I didn’t…”
“You’d better!” her mate growled, and came at her again. He had her by the shirt and she felt him pulling her forward. Sookie knew once he had her in his grasp, she’d be helpless, so she twisted, falling down and out of her shirt, deftly shuttling the sword from one hand to the other. She rolled to one knee and came forward, finding the tip of her blade pressing against Eric’s vital parts.
“Give?” she gasped.
Eric stilled, then leaned forward ever so slightly, allowing the point of her sword to start piercing his pants. “I do,” he conceded, and stepped back.
“So, you agree I can defend myself?” Sookie asked, wishing her voice wasn’t so shaky.
“I agree I underestimated you,” Eric countered. “But, perhaps, others will, too.” He held out his hand and Sookie took it. “I still don’t like this. I would prefer you remain in New Orleans.”
Sookie shook her head, “Rubio’s my friend, Eric. Hunter may be the key to proving what’s endangering us all up there, but he’s still learning. I can help him. If those humans were glamoured, we’ll find out. I just know there’s someone behind this. I don’t believe it’s just people being hateful,” and Sookie hugged Eric, speaking against his chest, “and neither do you. Killing Rubio won’t solve anything.”
“There is no reason for you to place yourself in danger, Älskade. Pam is perfectly capable. She will get to the bottom of things.” He held her and through their bond he pressed her to agree. “Even if you do find there’s someone who’s sending this trouble to Area Five, it may not change Rubio’s fate. Vampires are dead. Someone must pay.”
“I have every reason to go there,” Sookie countered. “I wouldn’t count myself any kind of friend if I didn’t at least try.”
Later, as they lay in each other’s arms, Eric having taken his revenge in far sweeter ways, Sookie remembered her husband’s words. She knew enough of vampires to know he was right. This was a blood offense and someone would have to pay if they were to hold their kingdom’s allegiance.
The first came from Pennsylvania. They were a pair. They weren’t smart and they weren’t subtle. Thalia figured they hadn’t heard she was in the Area, which said a lot about their preparation. Their American clothing and American accents marked them from the moment they hit the docks. Thalia tracked them for three nights before approaching them. It was too easy. They were younger than she, but most were. She stood outside the cargo container they’d started using as a resting place and waited.
“Welcome to England,” she snarled when they pushed open the door to start their night.
One was stupid enough to drop into a hunting stance, but the other simply stood taller, trying to hide her surprise. “We failed to check in,” the female stammered. “We apologize. Please take us to your King and we will correct our error.”
“Your first error was in coming here at all.” They were clearly taken aback, but Thalia knew the easiest way to determine their intelligence was to wait. When the vampires continued to look puzzled, Thalia explained, “I’m not from the King. I’m here for my own purposes and I suspect you are, too. Why don’t you tell me yours and maybe I’ll let you live?”
“You don’t own the docks!” the male sputtered.
“It won’t matter who owns what when I separate your head from your shoulders,” and Thalia pulled aside her coat to reveal her sword.
“Who are you?” the woman asked, and when Thalia told them, she had that warm feeling she always got when she saw shock, which was quickly replaced by fear on the faces of the two.
“We mean no harm, great Thalia!” the woman exclaimed, bowing low enough for any King. “We’re just passing through.”
“There’s two of us!” the other jeered at his companion. “We can take her!”
“Shut up!” and the female literally stepped away from her companion. It was the opening Thalia needed. In one smooth movement, learned over centuries, she drew her sword, beheaded the female and threw the male to his knees, all before he’d had a chance to shove his companion as he’d clearly intended.
He started shrieking. It was most annoying, but Thalia needed to know what this vampire knew, so she wiped the blood from her blade on the sniveler’s shirt before placing the tip of her sword in his mouth and applying pressure until he shut up. “There!” she said in her friendliest voice. “See how much nicer it is when you’re quiet? Now,” and she shoved him so he sprawled on his back. “Now, we can have a little chat.”
It didn’t take long. She knew killing the female was the right move. Of the two, she’d seemed to be the brains of the partnership. The male tried to posture, but like the coward Thalia had rightly judged him to be, after very little torture he was willing to tell all he knew.
He told her they’d been sent there with no clear plan. He repeated news Thalia already knew: Tania, the Queen of New England was dead. Then, he confirmed news she’d suspected; the Pennsylvania Queen was behind the assassination.
The falling out had to do with Karin the Slaughterer. Tania had promised Karin’s skills and taken a great deal of money in advance. Pennsylvania’s list of enemies was as long as her ambitions, and her plan involved killing her way to the top of several kingdoms simultaneously, waiting until Seconds and fighters were eliminated before carrying out some grand sweep of crowned heads. Thalia was certain this plan was not sanctioned by Amun Clan. It was too disruptive. Vampires were vampires. Taking over one or another kingdom through combat was one thing, but consolidating through something this underhanded would have all the kings and queens in an uproar.
“So, if Tania is finally dead,” Thalia pointed out. “Surely, your Queen and honor has been served. Why should she bother sending you here? Her plans are finished. What more is to be gained?”
“My Queen is never satisfied,” the male whimpered.
“I find your noises make me tired.” Thalia leaned forward, allowing her fangs to drop. “You need to explain this to me in a way that makes sense and you need to make me believe you are telling me the truth.”
He was weeping now, holding his crushed hand. When he didn’t look anxious to keep talking, Thalia simply took his foot. He shrieked again, cowering when she gently laid her hand on his cheek. “There, there! You stopped talking and that made me impatient. Why don’t you spin your tale and prolong your life? Tell me everything! What’s your mission?”
“To find Northman’s creature,” he gibbered. “We need to find him and keep him here… somewhere…”
“Here? In England?” Thalia asked, and when he nodded, she asked, “Why not take him back to your kingdom? It would seem easier. You snatch and run back to the safety of those you know.”
“Too dangerous!” he said quickly. “We aren’t supposed to hold him long. She doesn’t want this traced back to her. The Queen doesn’t want a blood feud with the Viking.”
“So, you grab him and hold him in England. And then what are you supposed to do?” and Thalia leaned forward again.
“Nothing!” the male half-screamed. “We keep him healthy and the Queen contacts Northman. She tells him she found out about the kidnapping, wasn’t in time to stop it, but she’ll use the information she has to rescue his child.”
So, she’ll play the hero, but for what price I wonder?” Thalia flashed her rare smile as the pieces fell into place. “Karin,” Thalia said, and was rewarded with the male’s quick nod.
“Yes,” he confirmed. “She will ask the favor of the Slaughterer’s services in exchange for…”
“The creature,” Thalia said dryly. “Yes, you said.” She stood, waiting until he almost believed she meant to leave him, then turned for the kill. The female was already falling apart, so Thalia retrieved her fangs from the dust she left before hunkering down, awaiting the male’s disintegration.
“Interesting,” Edward said from behind her.
“You could have joined in,” Thalia offered, leaving her back to him to let him know she didn’t consider him a credible threat.
“And miss watching you in action?” and the King’s Second laughed. “So nice to see you haven’t lost your touch.”
“Vampires don’t forget.” Thalia turned her head now, “Are you here to bring me news or was this merely a social call?”
“Some news,” he replied. “Your King’s child seems to be most popular. Another pair of miscreants slipped across from Scotland last night. They were picked up and are resting in my King’s dungeon.”
“Is he going to let me interrogate them?” Thalia asked.
“He’s a vampire,” Edward laughed. “He doesn’t forget either.”
“So, no?” and Thalia shrugged.
“So, no,” Edward confirmed. “He’ll never forgive you; you must know that.”
“Is that all?” and Thalia waited.
Edward stepped forward, poking the corpse with his toe. “So, you should show the appropriate gratitude when the opportunity presents. An apology might do for starters. Offering your services…?” and Edward laughed at Thalia’s low growl. “I thought not,” he sniffed. “You should know he’s not flattered by the increase in interest and he would like to know when you plan on leaving England.”
“The minute Arseling and his little friend show up,” Thalia grumbled. The moment finally came and the finally dead vampire’s body shifted, then dissolved into dust. Thalia leaned forward a bit more, scooping out the fangs and then shook them in her hand, making them clink.
Edward laughed, “The sound of vampire dice! Do you remember when we kept bags of those?”
“It was darker times,” Thalia answered. “Is there anything else?”
“Did you know it’s not just the North Man’s progeny that’s been attracting attention?” and Edward went from studying his nails to staring at her. “What about his companion? What’s so special about her?” Thalia didn’t answer. Instead she returned Edward’s stare and as expected, he blinked first. “The King has been offered a great deal of money for the companion. A woman,” and Edward didn’t bother hiding his interest. “We were assured she isn’t vampire, so she is of no interest to us.”
“And what did your King say?” Thalia asked. It was in the way she said it. Edward became still, and then his eyes narrowed.
“She is of interest?” he asked.
“Not to any other vampire,” Thalia told him, “Just my King.”
Edward didn’t move, but then he did, coming closer and making a show of visibly relaxing. “So, satisfy my curiosity, great Thalia. What would a Viking, bonded to his great love, a King, with progeny of his own, want with a human? What is so important about this girl that she is worth a half a million dollars? And why would Thalia the Destroyer be sent to retrieve her?”
“I wasn’t sent to retrieve the girl. I was sent to retrieve Northman’s progeny. The girl is Rick Northman’s woman, and so, by extension, the Viking’s.” Thalia shrugged as though that explained everything. “And this great love of the North Man’s has extended this companion her personal protection.”
“Ah,” and Edward smirked, “I see. A matter of honor. Still, a half a million dollars is a great deal of money. It’s not as if she’ll last. Humans never do. Are you sure she is worth it?” Now, it was Edward’s turn to wait, but if he thought Thalia would change her mind, he didn’t for long. “As you wish,” he winked. “But you understand. If we are not to accept the offer, it would be as a favor to you, personally.” Thalia felt the bile rise in the back of her throat as she gave a quick nod. “Good!’ and Edward pulled out his phone. “I’m sure my King will find something interesting for you.”
Thalia had no doubt that whatever favor this King claimed, there would be some aspect of humiliation involved. She allowed a growl as she asked, “These people who offered him money,” Thalia asked. “Were they Cranes?”
“Are you telepathic?” Edward grinned. “Perhaps I should consider moving to Louisiana if being the Viking’s vassal gives one access to his Queen’s gifts.”
She didn’t bother correcting him. “When did they make the offer?” she asked.
“Last night,” he told her. “They were most insistent.”
Thalia frowned. “How’d they do it? In person?”
“They sent an agent to meet with us,” Edward explained
Thalia’s eyes narrowed, “What exactly were they suggesting? Did they want you to grab her and take her to America for them?”
“Why, no,” Edward shrugged, “Nothing so complicated. Apparently, they have someone staying in town. They asked us to remove her from the boat. They are worried that Northman’s progeny being vampire, they would need a vampire or Weres to overcome him. We secure her and deliver her to a family member who is staying in town.”
Thalia laughed. It didn’t come out right at first. She knew it sounded as if she was choking, but then she found her voice, leaving Edward looking puzzled. “Did they mention this family member is Fae?” Thalia’s eyebrow lifted, “Or, at least close enough.”
“Fae?” and Edward’s eyes glowed. “I thought they were gone from this world. Do you think they taste as delicious as I remember?”
“There’s only one way to find out,” Thalia pointed out.
“And the girl?” Edward’s eyes were still glowing, so Thalia decided to end any speculation.
“Like father, like son. Rick Northman has claimed her, now you understand the attachment. Still…” and Thalia grinned, “With another one in town, there’s nothing that says we can’t do a little fairy hunting and find out.”
“A pint of half-Fae might satisfy your favor to my King,” Edward was grinning, too. “Who would have thought we’d have the opportunity again? He may even decide your visits are welcome.”
“In another century,” Thalia huffed. She looked around, “I suppose I should leave it to you, though. I don’t want to wander too far from the harbor. With this much interest in Northman’s child, I don’t believe I’ll have the luxury of delay. I must be close to retrieve the Arseling when he finally shows up.”
“Don’t be silly!” Edward exclaimed. “No boats are due this evening, and between your contacts among the pilots and my own, we’ll be alerted well before they clear the breakwater. The Fairy’s hotel is less than fifteen minutes from here, fewer if we run.”
Thalia cast one last look out to sea before making her decision. “Why not?” There’d been a strong wind from the east and it had been blowing for weeks. Without a tow, dependent on the wind, Rick Northman and his little friends would be tacking their sailboat against the wind, making the slowest of headway. There was no way of knowing how much longer she’d be stuck here, reporting to the Viking and looking over her shoulder. Sighing, she jerked her chin, indicating the Second should lead the way. At least tonight she’d feed well.