Note: The countdown continues. Two more chapters after this one and I have to admit I’m getting excited. I hope that the ending works for you. No cliffhangers – promise. There is a sequel in the works that will pick up where Swimming leaves off. I hope that you choose to continue on the road with me.
These journeys are so much better with good company. I look forward to hearing from you.
Big hugs to Breathesgirl for her patience and editing prowess. She is a beta sans compare.
Broaching: A sudden instability in the heading of a sailboat when sailed downwind
Sookie stretched like a cat, her arms above her and her neck arching back. She reached for the switch and then turned on her side to look at her Viking in the soft light. There was something about his stillness that was eerie but even this way; in his day rest he was magnificent. Sookie shook her head. It all didn’t seem real. She was with Eric. They were together. He was in love with her. Sookie kissed her lover’s still forehead and whispered, “Please don’t be a dream.”
Officially she was registered to a room near those occupied by Mississippi. No one seemed fooled. Russell had asked that she join him at seven the following evening and wished both she and Eric a good night before leaving them in the lobby of the hotel. Of course after Kentucky’s reception Sookie figured that news of their being together was already all over the vampire community. She remembered her Gran’s scoffing at those who spent too much time gossiping. She wondered what Gran would have made of vampires. For creatures so old and full of themselves they gossiped more than any group of oldsters sitting around a card table. The heads had turned and the whispers had followed Eric and Sookie both during and after Bubba’s performance.
Sookie glanced at the clock. She had a couple hours before Eric awoke. She leaned over and picked up the room service menu and ordered a large salad and some tea. Then she flopped back in bed allowing herself a few more minutes of rest.
Bubba had been in rare form. While he had done a little dancing most of his numbers had been slower and sweet. When he sang ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,’ he had turned and sang it directly to the couple. Eric had held Sookie’s hand in his and smiled at her. In the low lights and surrounded by the sound of the piano and Bubba’s voice, Sookie had almost forgotten that their position had them on full display. Eric’s eyes had been so happy and then he must have heard something he didn’t like because suddenly he looked angry. Sookie had asked what was wrong but he just shook his head and brought her hand to his lips. Sookie had forgotten it until just now. She wondered if it was worth asking him about.
“Well, can’t spend all day lizard lounging,” Sookie said out loud. She rolled to the side of the bed and walked to the closet. Of course her things were here.
Eric, always pragmatic, had shrugged when she asked if she shouldn’t keep her clothes in her official room for appearance sake. “Why create extra work? Everyone knows you are mine now. They may assume I am luring you back to Narayana, which plays well for us.”
Sookie headed for the shower. She had just finished wrapping herself in one of the hotel’s bathrobes when the knock came. Sookie made sure the bedroom door was securely closed before walking through the sitting area to the suite door. Soon the telepath was sitting at the table enjoying the view of the Cumberland River. Truth be told she felt better knowing Eric was close. Sookie realized she had become accustomed to having a constant companion.
Thalia was gone again. She was taking Bubba to Dallas where he would be visiting Stan. Bubba and Stan had somehow developed a true friendship. The story Bubba told Sookie was that they both loved pinball machines. Stan apparently had a large room that housed more than a few of the classic models and the two of them would play for hours.
Thalia had warned Eric that ‘the breather’ needed constant supervision. Eric had promised that he would be especially vigilant and had run his fingers along the underside of Sookie’s breast making her shiver and earning him a punch in the arm. “I will be back in two days. Don’t go looking for trouble,” Thalia had told her. Sookie hadn’t been fooled one minute and had hugged the smaller woman to her hard.
“Hurry back, friend. I’ll be looking over my shoulder for you.”
“Most people are afraid when they say that about me,” Thalia had said with a straight face. Then her eyes had warmed just a bit, she had bowed and was gone.
Sookie watched the barges moving up and down the river. She found herself thinking back to that evening on the riverboat with Isaiah. It wasn’t hard to imagine him paddling canoes in buckskin and a fur hat up and down this same river. She found herself wondering what Nashville had looked like then. ‘Probably a collection of shacks with fancy gals and whiskey,’ she thought. She glanced at the clock again. One hour and Eric would rise. Sookie found herself drawn back to the bedroom. She let her bathrobe fall to the floor and she slipped back between the covers. As she wrapped herself around her Viking she let her thoughts drift her back to sleep.
“I realize it’s unconventional but you have a choice. You can sit on the panel for Moshup today or you can just sit on the final tribunal tomorrow and the three Clans will decide without you.” Bartlett turned his lips up into what he hoped was a winning smile. “Besides, my dear Nabila, what else would you have done tonight? There is some business that may attract you but there will be few who won’t be attending the session. Those that don’t want to see the ruling will be milling around the exhibitors and I know how dealing with vendors bores you.”
The Egyptian fingered the scarf around her neck and looked thoughtful. Bartlett wasn’t fooled. She was posturing. He knew she was secretly pleased to have an extra opportunity to be on display. Finally she brought her attention back. “Fine. I’ll just shuffle my teleconferences to a different time.” She graced the king with a tight smile. “Moshup should be heard in these matters.” Bartlett bowed and the queen departed.
“She really is high maintenance,” Russell said from his seat on the sofa once the door was securely fastened and the sounds of footsteps had receded.
“True,” said Bartlett. “But she is developing into a strong voice for her clan. We should anticipate hearing more from her in future.”
Russell frowned. “What of Misha? He has always held the reins for Moshup. New York is his. What have you heard?”
Bartlett shrugged. “Apparently there has been some sustained bickering between himself and Tranh. It started as a friendly rivalry; New York versus Boston. Now it’s not so friendly. Tranh is backing Nabila and Misha has alienated himself from the rest.”
Russell shook his head. “That crazy Russian. His temper was always too close to the surface.”
Bartlett grinned. “Yes, but his appetite for life is large.” The monarchs had enjoyed evenings with the New York king that would not play well in public; many evenings. Misha’s wild side demanded high emotions and adrenaline. “Remember that night on the Verrazano Bridge? I thought we would be caught out and staked.”
Bartlett chuckled. “You have to admit, his little adventures almost give you a heartbeat.”
Russell started to say something more but was interrupted by another knock at the door. Both monarchs turned their heads as Robert of California entered.
Russell and Bartlett rose to acknowledge their counterpart. They bowed formally and Russell waved the king toward an armchair. “Your majesty, you do us honor,” he said, observing the formalities.
“You honor me,” California responded and sat in the chair offered. He picked at the crease of his impeccable black suit and then crossed his leg. He was every inch a king; comfortable in his role and his own skin. The rumor was that Robert was born royal. Russell believed it.
The men waited politely for the California king to start. When blood had been offered and declined, the visiting monarch said, “I assume you have more in mind than a discussion on the propriety of claiming states that cut across Clan boundaries for tomorrow.”
Russell smiled. He had always admired Robert’s willingness to call things by their rightful name. “You can anticipate a full call on the matter. We will be asking that the tribunal return the states to their respective Clans.”
“Well gentlemen, that places me in a rather odd position. I supported King de Castro’s request to annex the territories. It was clear to me that the leadership that was in place was a danger to us all. Felipe can be erratic but he has moments of genius. What is more he seemed to have a handle on his business and showed an ability to make strong decisions. In short, he appeared to be the better solution since it was clear that the respective Clans were unable to police their own.” Robert allowed his words to sink in before adding, “No insult intended.”
Bartlett found his teeth grinding. Although he had not been the Clan Chief at the time of the takeover, the disrespect toward Amun Clan voiced by the Narayana Clan Chief was not sitting well. Russell maintained a more neutral tone as he nodded and said, “None taken.”
Robert nodded briefly in return and turned directly toward Bartlett. “I was happy to hear that you had assumed leadership for your Clan. I have watched your efforts with much interest. I congratulate you on your progress.” At Bartlett’s returning nod Robert continued, “It will be interesting to see how you develop your Clan. Such a challenging mix of new and old. I was sorry to hear about Michigan, but I would be surprised if we didn’t hear great things from Rasul. But then you still have Sybil. How she has managed to hold Alabama this long is a mystery to me. She resembles all the worst of Sophie-Ann more every day.”
Bartlett found that the softening he was feeling toward the Narayana chief froze over again. “Thank you for your input,” he managed to spit out in a halfway civil tone.
Robert chuckled then and visibly relaxed. “You are right, of course. I am patronizing you and you should resent it. I find I am also resentful of having to face this situation of my own making. Felipe has made a series of mistakes and now it falls to me to have to fix them with the eyes of all vampires upon me.” The king allowed his eyes to drift to the darkened window. “I had hoped that the slap on the wrist in Los Angeles would be sufficient warning and the king would clean up his mess. Given time, I believe he would have. But you have chosen to take this time of weakness and press it to your advantage.” Both Russell and Bartlett found themselves leaning forward, anticipating trouble. Robert looked at first one and then the other. “Relax. I would have done the same thing and I respect you for stepping up to it.” Russell made an effort to lean back and relax his shoulders. He shot a look at Bartlett. His mate chose to walk over and sit on the arm of the chair. Russell opened his hand and Bartlett took it in his own, entwining their fingers.
Robert smiled as he looked at their joined hands and it was as if a cloud passed over his face. “I envy you your happiness. There was a time that I had hoped to have such a one beside me. But I found the demands of my place before my people and the demands of my heart could never find common ground.” The king dropped the smile then and Russell could almost see California assume the mantle of his office again. “I assume you have a replacement in mind?”
Bartlett nodded. “Two, actually. The request to return the states will mean different monarchs.”
Robert nodded. “And win you support from Zeus. A strong move.”
Russell leaned forward, “Do you wish to know the candidates we will propose?”
Robert’s smile returned. “Well, Northman is obvious. It has been his time for awhile. The only surprise to me is how long it took Appius to find a stake. Evil bastard, but useful in his own way.” Then the king sat back. His appearance let the kings know he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Bartlett looked directly at California as he said, “Sandy Seacrest will be put forward as queen for Oklahoma.” Robert smiled then and nodded.
“You really are going to be good at this, King Crowe. I congratulate you.” Robert shifted back, his posture less formal. “Perhaps I could have that blood now?” he asked.
Russell gestured to the server positioned near the door. He turned back to the Robert and asked, “Will you support the change?”
Robert shook his head, “No. I can’t support this without abandoning Felipe. I assume you are not asking for Nevada.” When the kings confirmed that this was not their intent Robert nodded. “I will recuse myself. I assume you have sufficient votes with the others to carry your request.”
The kings smiled in return. Bartlett found himself worried. He hoped that all would be well. While Robert abstaining meant no negative vote it did not assure that the matter would go their way. Phoebe would vote in favor. Nabila was a wild card but seemed to have no major objection. Ralph was not certain at all. Robert not standing in favor could be the excuse Ralph would need to insist the matter be put off until some future date.
As the conversation drifted to more general matters there was another knock on the door. When the telepath was announced the men rose to acknowledge her. They all bowed, Sookie more deeply than the others. Introductions were made. Sookie thought she saw the California king’s eyes widen for a minute and hoped his reaction wasn’t a comment on her Viking perfume.
Bartlett glanced at the clock. “It is time for us to make our way downstairs.” He turned to Sookie. “It would be better if you remained here until the emergency tribunal is over. Once the change in fealty is formalized you are less likely to be molested.” The kings were heading toward the door. “I have asked Mr. Cataliades to sit with you while you wait, if that is agreeable.”
Sookie felt resentment. Eric had reminded her that she was required to check in with Russell. Then he had left her in the hallway telling her he had some business he needed to attend and that he would see her downstairs. It seemed clear now that she had been maneuvered. Sookie bit her lip, plastered a smile on her face and nodded her agreement. Inside she felt her anger burning bright.
The demon lawyer walked into the sitting area from one of the bedrooms and bowed to her. “Miss Stackhouse, I am so pleased to have this opportunity to speak with you privately.” He glanced as the door shut and they were left alone in the suite. “I’m sure it won’t take long,” he said.
“Sure. Whatever,” Sookie snipped. She could feel tears behind her eyes. Then she gave herself a mental shake and turned her attention back to Mr. Cataliades. “You’re looking good. When did you get in?”
“This morning,” he told her. “The kings have graciously allowed me to inhabit rooms adjacent to their own.”
Sookie noticed a tray with juices and waters and made an offer of hospitality. When they were settled Mr. Cataliades looked at her expectantly. “I do have some news about your divorce, Miss Stackhouse. It is not the best news but it is better to know things so that you can plan.”
Sookie found that she felt like she had stepped into another world. Her head felt very far away and it was almost like she could hear another person; not herself asking, “Not good news?”
The attorney leaned forward and took one of her hands in his. “I noticed that your husband is here. He is downstairs and has a display among the exhibitors. Did you know?”
Sookie found her heartrate was starting to rise and she was having trouble breathing. Then with a start she found herself in Mr. Cataliades’ embrace. He was hugging her, which was strange because he had never been so familiar with her before. “You are safe, Sookie,” he was saying and the more he said it the more she found herself returning to her own body. When she could breathe again she sat back and away from him.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. That was unexpected.” He handed her the glass of water that was in front of her and waited for her to drink. Sookie felt embarrassed. “I’m fine now,” she told him. “Really I am. So, Sam is here?”
Mr. Cataliades started talking to her like he would a child; slowly and carefully, looking in her eyes to monitor the impact of each word. “Yes, he is downstairs. He is going by another name now. He calls himself Sonny McMillan.”
Sookie looked out the window and waited for this to sink in. “Does Eric know?” she asked.
The lawyer waited until she looked back at him. He smiled gently. “He knows that Sam has changed his name. He also changed his appearance. Eric found out in Los Angeles but I don’t think he knew that your husband was going to be attending Amun.”
Sookie shook her head. She felt brittle; like her skin was stretched a little too tight. She pressed her tongue to the back of her teeth and breathed through her nose like she had been taught at Sanctum. It had helped with the worst of the panic. When she started to feel more present she said, “Please don’t call him my husband. I really don’t recognize that anymore.” Sookie smiled and nodded, but her eyes held hurt. “Is that your bad news? That he’s here?”
Mr. Cataliades squeezed her hand a little then and then shook his head. “It is part of it, but not all. Would you like to hear the rest now or would you like to wait until Mr. Northman can also be here with you?”
Sookie felt angry. Eric should have told her. Eric should have told her about Sam and about whatever was happening downstairs. It was like before. He was doing what he thought was best and not including her. But then Sookie caught herself. She knew she was jumping to conclusions; perhaps she was being unfair. She felt something shift inside her. She thought it might be her backbone clicking into place. She took a deeper breath then and met the attorney’s eyes; her own level and steady. “I think I’d like to hear the rest,” she said
Mr. Cataliades nodded. “He is disputing the divorce.” Sookie hissed, then nodded again for him to continue. “He is claiming that he left the state to try out a new opportunity for you both. He is saying that he didn’t abandon you and that he is committed to making the marriage work.” The attorney leaned forward. “He has already petitioned the Louisiana Court to order marriage counselling and the judge is inclined to grant the motion.”
Sookie sat back a little. This was a nightmare. “Marriage counselling? What does that mean?”
“Under Louisiana law the court can order that you attend supervised counselling sessions for up to a year before the court will be willing to consider moving forward.”
“Up to a year? In the same room?” Sookie forced herself to breath carefully. When she felt the edge backing down she asked, “But what about the abuse? Doesn’t that count for something?”
“There is only your word against his.” The attorney patted the back of her hand. “Amy Ludwig will not be able to testify. There were no human doctors to speak to your condition. No one saw him hit you or saw bruises. There is no proof.”
Sookie thought of all the years she had suffered. She thought of the flashes she still had; the nameless panics she sometimes felt. She felt the anger that had started in the pit of her stomach boiling up and up. “Thank you for letting me know, Mr. Cataliades. I appreciate that you found me and told me.” Sookie patted his hand and smiled. Then she stood up and headed for the door. She knew who she needed to find to help her with what had to be done.
Thomas ran his thumb down the line of Karin’s face from cheek to chin. “You are a most pleasant bedmate but whatever it is you’re running from, you need to resolve it. I don’t like sharing my bed with more than one person and that problem that you are dragging behind you is one person too many.”
Karin started to protest and then caught herself. She liked Thomas. They were different people and had little in common besides their tastes in lovemaking. Thomas was demanding and liked to exert control. Karin needed someone who could push her to relinquish control. It worked. Except this time.
Karin’s mind was churning too hard to be able to let go. They would get to the edge and then her guilt would pull her back. She knew Thomas was right and she told him so. “I do have something that I need to make right. And then I’m heading back to Europe. I don’t have to hide what I am there. I have something that I’m really good at and there are people who are willing to hire me to do it.”
Thomas leaned forward then and kissed her. “I am here, Karin the Slaughterer. And when you tire of cleaning up other people’s messes I will still be here.” Then he turned and headed toward the hall that had been designated for tribunal business. There was an emergency session that was due to start shortly and Thomas was expected to stand by his king.
Karin watched Thomas walk away, her mind whirling. She didn’t hear Horst until he asked, “Are you going in there?”
“You heard that?” she hissed.
Horst shrugged. Then he noticed something in how she looked at him. “Do you know what is going to happen?”
Karin smiled but not in a friendly way. “Sure do,” she told him. “And you aren’t going to like it.”
Horst looked from her to the doors. He felt a sense of dread overcome him as he walked into the hall.
Twy craned her head around to take in the audience that was seated in the large room. “Take note of how formal they all are,” she hissed at the reporter next to her. “See how they sit, like they are all at attention? And how quietly they talk? They have extremely sensitive hearing. Make sure you mention that in a good way. More Superman; less Lassie.”
Pam Ravenscroft could hear her friend’s voice from among the many almost immediately. She was sure it was the accent. She made her way over and the two women air kissed briefly and then Pam sat down.
“I congratulate you, Twy. The articles explaining our monarchy were inspired. Bartlett was a great spokesperson.” Beside her the tall woman fluttered her fingers. Pam knew the slightly bored look was just a front. Twy was enormously happy with herself. Having exclusive access to this hearing had been the icing on the cake.
Initially Bartlett had resisted the idea, but Pam and Twy had pointed out that Eric Northman already had tremendous public appeal. The story of his rise to king might work in everyone’s favor; a rags to riches story – vampire style. In the end they had prevailed.
While people were settling the reporter started asking questions about the identity of certain of people around them. Pam provided some answers, but for those she knew were more private she declined. In return for access to the event Twy had to assure Pam that the Clan representatives would be given final review and veto power on any story that was released. That compromise had not gone over well with Twy but in the end it was agree or be barred from entrance.
A sudden hush fell over the assembly as the monarchs entered. They were seated on a low dais, their chairs arranged so that they more resembled a panel discussion than some adjudicating body. Each was dressed in business attire and around their necks hung a metal collar from which was suspended the symbol of their Clan. Pam explained the identities of each of the representatives as well as the names and meaning of the symbols to Twy and the reporter as each was seated.
Then there was a noise as the doors in the back of the hall were swept open. Someone knocked a heavy stick against the floor. Twy leaned close to Pam. “Who is that?” she asked. The vampire who had caught her attention was walking with purpose down a center aisle toward the monarchs. His dark hair was swept back from a severe face. His nose was like a blade over equally sharp cheekbones. Twy couldn’t help the admiring tone that crept into her voice.
“Seth,” Pam told her. “He is the king of Tennessee. But he is not happy with the changes here in the United States. He comes before the Clan Tribunal to officially abdicate his title.”
Twy turned to the reporter who sat beside her. “You are so fortunate to be here to capture this moment,” she purred. Then back to Pam, “Does this happen often?”
“Abdications? No, not really.” Pam thought it better not to mention that the part that was rare was the voluntary nature of the king’s departure.
“So, Freyda,” Twy said. “She was what? A queen?” Pam started. She had not expected her friend to make the connection so quickly. She recovered and then nodded, her gaze forward to watch the drama that was about to play out. “So that made Northman her….”
“Consort,” Pam whispered. Around them vampires started to hiss. Twy hissed back but stopped asking questions.
When Seth reached the open area before the four representatives he bowed low and then straightened to face his fellows. “My friends. You have gifted me with your trust and your friendship. I have been privileged to serve as a king among you.” The monarchs were nodding and Phoebe Golden, as the hosting Clan’s representative, answered, “And we are privileged to claim your acquaintance, your majesty.”
The Tennessee monarch slowly met the gaze of each of the monarchs and then he said, “Our world is much changed from when we first took these seats. Our world was one of shadow. We owned the night. But now we are creatures that straddle both worlds; light and darkness. I find I no longer know my place. I have gone from hunter to hunted; from king to conciliator. It is an existence that no longer sings my name.” There was general murmuring around them. Pam could tell that the king’s remarks were speaking the thoughts of many here. “I yearn for the days when I wandered as I wished; when I could be more clearly who and what I would be. And so I resign my place here among you and will return to the place of my origin.”
Phoebe stood. “I speak on behalf of Amun Clan, and I believe for all those present when I thank you for your many years of service. If there are any who choose to accompany you their releases will be granted. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you later in company with Indiana as our Clan Chief to determine the date on which you would like us to name your successor.”
Seth bowed, turned and walked back down the aisle, looking neither left nor right. As he passed a dozen vampires stood up and followed him down the aisle and out of the hall.
“So, is that it?” Twy asked. Pam shook her head.
“No, there are a few more matters to come before this Tribunal.”
The doors were swept open with a small sound and the call to order was sounded yet again. This time there was a hiss that rose from the back of the room. Sandy Seacrest stepped forward, her greying hair elegantly coiffed; her face severe.
Like the king before her, Sandy walked formally down the aisle formed by the chairs and then stopped as she approached the dais. She faced the monarchs and bowed deeply, but unlike Tennessee, Sandy Seacrest then kneeled. From her position she raised her head to Robert of California. “I appear before you to renounce my fealty to Felipe de Castro. I pledge myself to Stan, King of Texas.” She turned her face to Ralph. “I have a letter in my hand that I would give you.” Ralph looked at Robert who nodded and then he stood and walked forward until he could take the letter from the kneeling vampire’s hand. Ralph broke the seal and scanned the contents.
“All is in order. As the representative of Zeus I welcome you on behalf of your new king. Rise, Sandy Seacrest and be counted among us.”
Sandy rose then, bowed and walked to the first row of seats. She settled herself and looked toward the back of the room. Her action caused a wave of interest from those around her. When the call to order came again the hiss that started from the back of the room was even more pronounced. It seemed to grow in volume and soon the whole room seemed to be filled with snakes.
Eric Northman walked forward down the long aisle, his head held high. Twy’s mouth opened but Pam silenced her with a look.
Pam felt a surge of pride as her maker passed her. His blond hair shone under the lights; his warrior’s stride moving him easily toward the waiting monarchs. Pam could hear Horst making some comment in the back of the room. She turned her head, ready to rush back and intercept him but then she saw her sister, Karin standing right next to him. ‘Good,’ Pam thought. ‘Karin will make sure there is no interference from that asshole.’
Eric came to a stop before the dais and bowed low. “I appear before you to renounce my fealty to Felipe de Castro.” At these words Robert of California stood and walked forward. He waited until he was sure he had the North Man’s full attention.
“You are a duly appointed regent for your king, Viking. To renounce fealty in this case is most irregular.” Robert fixed Eric with a severe eye. “To accept a regency is a matter of great honor. It requires that you uphold the trust of your king. I am sure you were aware of the responsibility when you accepted this rank. And yet, here you stand before us, ready to throw this honor; your honor aside like some piece of rubbish.”
Robert looked out across the audience. “To be offered and to accept the position of regent is a sacred trust that is only bestowed to a very few. It is a bond of duty between a king and his most trusted. To break that bond should only be done for the most serious of reasons. I see you here before me, Eric the North Man, empty handed. What possible reason could you have that would justify you treating your king with such disrespect?”
There was a murmur as Sandy Seacrest stood. She walked forward until she stood just to the Viking’s right hand. She bowed again and straightened before starting to speak. “I stand as witness to Eric Northman’s just cause in setting aside his king,” she told the monarchs. “I would give my testimony.”
Robert fixed her with a distant gaze as if considering whether to allow her to speak at all. Twy found she was holding her breath until the king nodded and then turned and resumed his seat. He waved his hand and Sandy proceeded to tell her story.
She told of the spy that was acquired when Felipe de Castro took over the combined Louisiana Arkansas kingdom. She told of the maneuvering that led to the marriage contract between Eric Northman and Freyda of Oklahoma. She recounted the way Felipe had sent Appius to Freyda in Oklahoma and exerted the push that had led to the drafting of the marriage contract. Sandy talked about the influence Felipe had over the younger queen to convince her that this was the only logical course.
Sandy then described the conditions and the terms of the original agreement and indicated she could produce a copy of the contract if it was required.
“I am satisfied as to the conditions of the contract. A copy was filed with Narayana Council since King de Castro vouched it as witness. I am aware of the contents,” Robert drawled. He was looking bored.
Twy turned to Pam. “Is this usual? That king doesn’t look too happy.”
Pam turned to her, unable to keep the tension from her face. “I don’t know if this is expected or not. But if things go against Eric he could be facing final death.” At Twy’s sharp intake Pam supplied, “Treason.”
Sandy Seacrest bowed again. “Then you are aware that Eric Northman added an extra 100 years to his marriage agreement in exchange for a promise that the telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, would be unmolested for the remainder of her years.” This news generated a general murmur from those seated around them. This had been rumored but this was the first time it had been confirmed.
“That’s true?” Twy asked. Beside her the reporter was scribbling. Pam nodded but held a finger to her lips.
Robert nodded. “Yes, that was a principal point of the contract,” he agreed.
“I submit myself as evidence. I was in charge of all payments from Nevada. I swear to this Court that I paid the spy to interfere and otherwise harm the telepath both before and after the marriage in direct violation of the contract. I did this on the express instruction of King Felipe de Castro. The contract was void and Northman betrayed almost from the first.”
Ralph leaned forward, his fangs descending. “Then the queen was likewise betrayed,” he roared.
Robert glanced over at Ralph before resuming. “I assume you have proof of your words?”
“Yes,” Sandy confirmed. “I have brought copies of all the documents. They are in the keeping of Mr. Cataliades, my attorney.”
Robert leaned back and brought his hand to his mouth; every inch the thoughtful king. He turned his head to consider his fellow monarchs. Nabila nodded as did Phoebe. Ralph was angry and glared at Eric.
Robert, King of California, stood. “On behalf of Narayana Clan I release you, Eric the North Man. You are no longer regent to Felipe de Castro. You are free to claim what allegiance you may.”
Eric bowed low, and then turned to Phoebe Golden. “I was ever a loyal man to Queen Sophie-Anne LeClerq and to King Felipe de Castro when he assumed control of her territories. I humbly ask to join the retinue of Russell Edgington of Mississippi.”
Russell walked forward from the back of the dais and stood before the Viking. Phoebe stood then and faced them both. “Do you, my fellow monarch, agree to accept this person as your vassal?”
Russell smiled and nodded his assent.
Eric turned to Mississippi, took a knee and pledged himself to Russell Edgington. The Northman had returned to Amun Clan again.