NOTE: For those of you who are mariners you will recognize the reference. For those of you who aren’t mariners the title refers to an exercise in which the points of a compass are named in the order in which they occur in a clockwise direction. It’s a matter of study and discipline and requires a well-ordered mind.
Eric’s first order of business following Freyda’s death had been to walk away from the ballroom that held the puddle that had been his wife and go to his own chambers. He had ripped down the wall sections that held the listening devices and cameras his dear wife had installed to spy on him and he destroyed each one. He then shredded the clothing and every gift that had been given him by Freyda.
It gave him satisfaction to sit down in the middle of the wreckage and start placing calls to his progeny.
The days that followed the takeover were difficult. Even for a vampire as old as Eric, keeping all the details straight was impossible.
As soon as the change in monarchy was registered; first with Narayana Clan and then with Zeus Clan; the paperwork started. Mr. Cataliades was awaiting them as they rose the next evening. He brought a team of individuals; each with a specialized area of expertise.
He bowed to the king then turned to Eric. “Greetings, Mr. Northman. It seems that we are meeting under slightly different circumstances than the last time.” Eric nodded. His last conversations with the demon lawyer had been in connection with his attempts to finding a way out of the marriage.
“Yes it is different,” smiled Eric. “But it would seem we have arrived at the same outcome.”
Mr. Cataliades smiled back. “Yes. Just so.”
Eric spent the majority of those first days with the team that specialized in public relations. As the grieving spouse Eric was expected to present a certain image. His wardrobe was reviewed and selections made for public appearances. He was drilled in scripted phrases that would be used to convey to anyone who asked the very picture of a sad but determined husband just ‘trying to carry on her memory.’
Because Freyda had visibility within the human world it was necessary to arrange a formal memorial service. Announcements needed to be posted and offices closed. Flowers were ordered and pictures of Freyda were arranged complete with black draping.
Formal statements for all the media sources were prepared. Some were tailored to the general public. Some were tailored to the business concerns of the crown. In all cases a photo of Eric Northman was included, identifying him as succeeding his wife in all her ventures. Within days the team was orchestrating public appearances. There were television interviews and meetings with both existing management teams and representatives of key business partners.
All in all, it was taking all of Eric’s acting skills.
Parallel campaigns were underway involving the unravelling of the complexities of the estate. There were injunctions to file and bank accounts to access. There were quick claims to be drafted and affidavits to be processed. Freyda had not bothered to have Eric’s name officially placed on all of her assets. Mr. Cataliades nagged the Viking that it would be better to have more competent legal counsel involved the next time he married a monarch. Eric had always thought well of the demon but he found himself wanting to rip the man’s head off by the time that particular discussion was over.
Eric’s first call had been to Karin. She told him she would have to wrap up a few things but should be able to reach him by the end of the following week. Eric knew that Karin would be required to formally pledge fealty to de Castro if she was to be at his side. Since Felipe would still be in the state Eric instructed her to come directly to Lake Aluma.
Pam had been his second call. His child had been so overcome to hear from him that the call had not been long. She had started preparations to travel to him immediately.
She was due to arrive momentarily and Eric found himself pacing in anticipation.
Pamela Ravenscroft stepped out of the black car and stood before the doors of the palace entrance. Like magic the doors opened and servants flowed forward. A kind gentleman bowed to her and gestured her forward. Others headed to the back of the vehicle to retrieve her luggage. Almost before she was up the front stairs Eric was standing before her.
“Master!” Pam cried and fell to her knee before him. Eric stooped to lift her chin and then took her hand and raised her into his embrace. It was in that moment that he re-opened the bond between them. Pam felt his emotions roll over her like a great wave in a warm ocean. His feelings of affection and longing eddied around her heart. She felt touched and touching as they gazed in each other’s eyes.
“It is good to have you here, Pam.” Eric said. “Do you wish to see your room? Or we could sit and talk first.”
Pam looked up, her happiness shining on her face. “I’d like to catch up first.”
Eric gestured toward a room that had chairs and a fireplace. As they entered the room Eric pulled the doors closed behind them. “This room is somewhat secure,” he told her. “ Felipe and his retinue are in Oklahoma City tonight meeting with Zeus Clan. Zeus was not happy about losing a state they felt was in the middle of their territory. Felipe informed me they had no need for me to attend.” Eric waited until he was sure he had Pam’s attention. “I am now his regent here in Oklahoma.”
Pam looked up at him. Eric felt her surprise and shock through the bond. “Felipe’s regent? How?”
Eric sat and turned his gaze to the fire. “Felipe told me he was taking over the kingdom. He told me that Freyda’s treachery in breaking the terms of the contract affronted his honor. “
Pam walked to stand in front of Eric. “Master, did the king tell you the nature of the affront. What Freyda did?”
Eric nodded. Pam fell to her knees before Eric. She bowed her head. Eric could feel guilt and regret from her.
“I am so sorry, Eric. I should have checked in on her. I had no idea. I never liked the shifter. I wish I’d killed him when I had the chance. When I think of how she looked; how close she was to death…”
His reaction took Eric by surprise. He felt a great pain lance through this chest. He lifted his hand and placed it over where his heart would be beating. He wanted to tell Pam that she was worrying over nothing; that Sookie Stackhouse meant nothing to him, but he found he couldn’t speak the words.
Pam continued; “Karin had told me she thought something was off about it; the marriage and how he treated her, but I wouldn’t listen. She just wasn’t right after you left. She looked so lost. I stayed away because I thought it would help her adjust. I can only beg your forgiveness.” And Pam bowed her head until her forehead touched the floor. “Eric, Sookie is alive and in good hands now. You will be together…”
And then Eric Northman found his voice. “Stop! I command you.” Pam sat up. Red tears were running down her cheeks. Eric thought of all the times he had offered Sookie his protection and all the times she had thrown it back at him. He told himself that his reaction was not right; not vampire. Sookie Stackhouse made him weak and he was done; finally done with her. Appius had been right. There was no place for this uncertainty in any vampire’s life. “Pam, I will not command you not to speak of her. I will only ask that you not mention her name to me.” He laid his hand on her cheek. ‘Yes,” he thought. ‘If I have affection or love left from my human time it is for the children I have made. They are my legacy and are ever loyal.’
Eric stood up and took his child’s hand. He raised her to stand before him. He wiped the tear tracks from her face with his thumb, licked the blood from his hand and smiled. “Pam, I have watched everything you have done. I heard about Fangtasia and read about your success. I am proud of you.” And he let his pride and his affection pour through the bond.
“I say this to help you. My maker tried to teach me that to be vampire means to not give way to emotions. Emotions are for humans with their brief lifespans. For us; for vampire, life stretches like a great river before us. We have no horizon, only more journeys. We need to learn discipline if we are to survive. This time apart from you has been a hard lesson for me. I was trapped in a prison, unable to move forward. It gave me much time to consider how the walls were built and how I handed my jailor the key.” Eric smiled at Pam. “Sookie Stackhouse was a mistake. How could I think that loving a human would end in any good way? I suppose I was so caught up in the hunt that I lost sight of the impossible nature of it. I have paid the price and I assure you I have learned the lesson. It is a lesson I intend to pass on to both you and your sister. I do not want you to experience the pain I have felt. I would not wish this for my progeny.”
Pam knew in her heart that what Eric was telling her was not right. She thought of Miriam and the brief happy days they had spent together. She knew in every fiber of her being that that time when she had known such bliss in her lover’s arms was worth the ache she felt now. She couldn’t imagine living a life that was not punctuated by the promise of finding that kind of love again.
Pam bowed her head to let Eric know she understood. After a moment she raised her eyes and asked, “Would you tell me how this change came about?”
Eric gestured Pam to the chair opposite him. “Felipe sent a message through Angie in the week before he arrived. It was a risk. We flew out and away from the palace.” He smiled wryly. “I thought there was a good bet that she had come to end me and I gave her my back.”
Pam looked at Eric. She couldn’t think of what he must have been experiencing to have been willing to allow Angie to stake him without a fight.
“You meant to offer no resistance?”
Eric shrugged. “To fight; even to win would mean that I would be hunted. And there was you to consider. You are under Felipe’s dominion. He would have surely killed you as a lesson to others had I resisted. I considered what was to be gained by ending me. I was sidelined here and posed no threat to him. As a former subject and one that had willingly supported his agenda, I had to consider the more probable possibility that Felipe wanted something from me. To offer Angie my back was an obvious display of trust and loyalty.”
Pam shook her head. She appreciated her maker’s pragmatic view, but she couldn’t help but think of what losing Eric would mean to her. “Eric, if you had gambled wrong I don’t think I would have been able to continue.”
Eric smiled. “Pam,” his voice was warm. “You are among my greatest achievements. The chances of my being wrong were slim.”
Pam looked at Eric directly. “Eric, you are ever my Master. I am yours in all things.” They were rarely so formal with each other, so this phrase had been developed between them when they needed to say things that required secrecy.
“And I am honored to have that place.” In other words, he understood. Eric stood and led Pam to the throne room and then out the doors. He lifted her and flew them to the same hill he had used with Angie.
As they flew, Pam grumbled, “I can’t believe I can’t do this yet. It’s really unfair” Eric chuckled.
“When you are older, you will begin to manifest your gifts.” They landed and Eric turned to her. “What else do you wish to say?”
“Eric, do you really trust Felipe? I know he hasn’t been a problem recently, but he hasn’t been particularly helpful either. Do you think this is all a ploy to lead you into a trap?”
Eric turned to look back across the fields. “I don’t think that the regency was for my benefit. When he announced me as regent Horst was surprised. He may have thought that the position would be his.”
Pam smiled. “He’s worse than Victor Madden. At least Victor made some effort to appear civilized. Horst rips first and then throws the spectators the sponge mop.”
Eric nodded. “He made quick work of Freyda though. Not a lot of blood or drama.”
“I thought you would want to end her,” Pam said quietly.
“Because she made my life miserable? To have done that would have given Felipe too much leverage. He could have thrown me to the press and called me out as her murderer. Why would I bother? She was nothing; less than nothing to me”
“Because she paid the shifter to torture Sookie.” As soon as she said the name, Pam looked down. “I’m sorry. I won’t stumble again.”
Eric felt another unexpected pull at his heart. “He tortured her?” He felt his emotions boiling in his chest. He clenched his hands into fists. “Like Neave and Lochlan?”
Pam couldn’t meet his eyes. “Worse in some ways. Neave and Lochlan didn’t break her spirit. The shifter did. It was terrible. She didn’t know me for a long time. She would just scream and scream.”
Eric remembered that terrible time after she had been rescued from the fairies. She had suffered night terrors. She had been unable to achieve completion in his arms. She had jumped at her own shadow. But she had still been herself. “I think Felipe has Merlotte. I think he lives still.” Eric’s jaw was tensed. Pam could feel the rage running through him.
“Will you ask for him?” Pam looked at Eric. He seemed lost in thought.
After a time he turned to her. His eyes were clear and she could feel his emotions had settled. “No. I have no right to him. She is no longer mine. To ask would be to court trouble.” Eric waited a moment, then continued. “There is more. Sookie had been placed in Sanctum. Felipe told me. He believes that she found her way to Mississippi and is under the protection of Edgington and Crowe. Pam?” He paused. “Did you have anything to do with that?”
Pam shook her head. Eric visibly relaxed. Then he told her “De Castro has tasked me to bring her back to Bon Temps.”
Pam looked into her master’s eyes. “Will you?”
Eric didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
Pam considered this. “There is something else you should know.” Eric raised his eyebrow and waited. “Before I came here I saw Minnesota. She told me she had seen Sookie in Jackson. She was a guest of the kings. Eric? It was Thalia and Bubba that took her. They are in Edgington and Crowe’s retinue now.” She gave Eric a minute to absorb that information. Eric and Thalia had been on good terms.
Eric looked at her. “There’s more.” It wasn’t a question. Pam nodded.
“Maude wanted me to pass along a request from Amun. They want you to become King. They want you to take Louisiana. “
Pam could tell that this was indeed news to Eric. “Is there any chance that Felipe knew of this?” he asked.
“I have heard nothing to suggest it.”
“It could explain why Felipe decided to tie me to him. Why he offered me the regency and not Horst.”
“Eric. If you were king it would end a great deal of uncertainty.”
“Yes,” Eric agreed. “And it would end the ability of any monarch to use us as leverage against the behavior of the other. As it stands, Felipe is in perfect position to keep us both in line. But it makes no difference. I have pledged my fealty to Felipe. I have sworn to serve.” Eric wondered, not for the first time when his luck had abandoned him.
Bartlett picked up the phone. He recognized the number as a Connecticut area code. “Lydia? How are you braving your New England winter?”
Lydia smiled to hear the monarch’s voice. Where Russell was the more social of the couple it was Bartlett who was better at listening between the lines of any conversation.
“Cold but beautiful. I can arrange to send you some snow in a baggie.”
Bartlett smiled. “I can turn on any tap down here and get the same effect. So how fares the beautiful Miss Stackhouse?”
“Better.” Lydia thought through what information she could share without violating her guest’s confidentiality. “You should know that when she returns to you she will need a trainer.”
“Oh?” Bartlett asked. “Martial arts? Basketry? What kind of training?”
“The fairy kind.” Lydia waited.
“Fairy? As in Fae? I had heard a rumor…”
Lydia made a decision about sharing Sookie’s lineage. She knew that the kings had pledged both support and protection. She trusted them and trusted that they would not undo all her hard work. “More than a rumor. To the best of my knowledge Sookie Stackhouse is the only living descendant of Niall Brigant.”
“The Niall Brigant? Sky King? That Niall Brigant?”
Lydia couldn’t help chuckling. “Yes. The Prince. She is his great-great-grand-daughter. There may be another great or two in there, but you get the picture. He is fond of her and acknowledged her before he closed the portals.”
“Well. That’s something to consider.” Bartlett’s mind started racing. “Will this create a problem? Do you think we can expect trouble from that quarter?”
“No.” Lydia told him. “From what I am hearing the portals in Ireland remain open. Although I have not heard any reports of Niall himself. It is possible that I can make arrangements if you would be willing to allow a member of the Fae to visit your areas.”
“Well, you know that contact between vampires and Fae is not without challenges. Just being in proximity makes my fangs itch. Aside from the obvious there is the deep mistrust that exists between our races.” Bartlett considered. “Look if you feel this is essential I’m sure we can make some arrangement. It’s not that I don’t want Fae here based on some kind of principal. We do have a large vampire contingent. If something should happen to give offense there could be repercussions. It’s a risk.”
“I would not ask if I didn’t think it will be important to her recovery. Before we left she was demonstrating some powers that I think were Fae. I think she’s capable of shape shifting and teleporting objects. There may be more. I can get her emotional state stable, but with the dampening effect of Sanctum I can’t lift it enough for me to get a good read on her capabilities. We know she’s telepathic and she told me that’s tied to demon intervention before she was born. A gift. But the other things she’s doing are purely her.”
“All right,” said Bartlett. I’ll let Russell know and we’ll do some brain storming. Any idea on when she might be coming home?”
“If it all continues to go well I could see her returning within two months. She has come out of the general depression and is now in the general anger phase.” Lydia smiled. “I will say that she had quite the mouth on her when she gets riled up. Which during this part of her process is pretty often. I know I’ve said this before and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, she is surprisingly resilient. The way she is coming to terms with what has happened to her is amazing. I have known men and women who were fighters all their lives and who went through fewer traumas but were not able to find their way back as well. I don’t know if it is her Fae heritage, her southern backbone or just her stubborn unwillingness to give up. All I can say is that she is doing very well.” Lydia paused. “Well, except for the subject of Eric Northman.”
“Northman? Why do you say that? Weren’t they bonded or pledged or something?”
“Yes,” Lydia said. “That’s the problem. There is clearly something that happened; something that was a catalyst to her marrying that shifter. But she can’t bring herself to talk about it. I have a call into Pam Ravenscroft. It sounded like Sookie and Pam were close. I’m hoping Pam will have more background to help me navigate through this.”
Bartlett tapped his finger against the table. “I wonder if Thalia knows anything,” he said, half to himself. “I’ll see if Thalia has anything to share and I’ll let you know.”
Lydia and the king agreed to talk again the following week.
Bartlett walked into the living area following his call to find Russell reading. Russell closed the book with his finger in the page. “What’s the news? Should we fix up the guest house soon?”
Bartlett sat in the leather chair opposite. “Soon,” he said. “Did you know our famous telepath is also Fae royalty?”
Bartlett nodded. “Sky Fae. Niall Brigant’s grand-daughter. Needs a fairy skills trainer.”
“Hmm,” and Russell smiled. “Sounds like we got a bonus.”