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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chapter 55 ~ Pages From a Book

The shower was soothing for Sookie who lingered under the spray, eyes closed, palms resting on the cool tiling. Her body ached for Eric, remembering the long, steel feel of him wet against her in the shower just a day ago, the feel of his lips moving over her slippery flesh. She'd come to memorize the sinew and muscle and reveled in who she was with him and what they were together. She sighed at the irony of all of it. How many months had she spent resisting him only to fall so hard by the time they were in Sweden? No, longer. New York. Even after the spanking, he had become inexorably part of her heartbeat, a thrum inside her chest that pulsed wildly just at the sight of him. Physically, the pull he had on her was a force like none other and it took every ounce of courage to keep him at bay. Her hand gliding silkily over her tummy; she wondered when she would start to show. She ached but she was resolute. He would apologize. The line had been drawn and she could not back down. She loved him to the farthest reaches of her soul but he had a lot to learn about being a partner.

When she emerged, she stopped to feed her beta, her fingers trailing lightly over the glass surface. It was such a gorgeous fish, too bad they were so warring with others. 'Just like my Viking,' she thought wryly. She wondered idly if her fish experienced loneliness. She decided to do some reading about betas to see if there were things she could offer him to enhance his tank.

She quickly changed into a black bodysuit over which she donned a clingy grey 3/4 sleeve sweater dress and black leggings. She was pulling her drying hair into a ponytail when she suddenly stilled, realizing there was not a trace of blood in the room. Eric had used his vampire speed to shower much faster than Sookie so he could clean the blood he'd thrown up in her room before she had to deal with it. She smiled to herself acknowledging his effort and approached the fish in her aquarium mindful they needed food too. She was scattering their pellets on the water surface when she felt Eric's presence in the doorway and she willed her mind not to think about him or his gift and all that it meant to her before she raised her eyes to catch his.

He was dressed in black linen pants and a simple pale blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled to just below the elbows. His exposed forearms, wrists and hands, so well muscled and masculine, affected her more than she was comfortable with and she shifted uneasily as his eyes drank her in. She couldn't remember ever seeing him in a pastel; it lent him a softer look, more vulnerable, more … was that tension she saw in his face? He had a lot to be tense about and it wasn't only her at the root. She could almost feel remorse that she was putting him to task at this juncture but if they could not stand united now, they would never have the strength to stand up to Sargon. 'It's only the beginning, vampire,' she thought ruefully. She heard the table being moved downstairs and saw Eric react.

“The Ancient Pythoness and Niall are here waiting for us in the living room,” he said by way of explanation. She nodded. With his acute vampiric hearing, Eric had heard them enter the house and he had, in fact, sensed their presence long before they had even stepped foot inside. He was eager to see what extra protection they had brought for Sookie.

Heading downstairs with Sookie a step behind him, Eric saw Han and Ivan standing guard at the entrance to the living room, and he saw both men shoot him a look that spoke volumes. The judgment he saw in their eyes only compounded his guilt, and Eric forced himself not to let the newly found emotion consume him. He knew he had wronged Sookie this night, and from the dark looks Han and Ivan sent him, they knew it as well.

Knowing now was neither the time or the place to let his mistake distract him from the larger issues at hand, Eric came to a stand before the seated Pythoness and Niall with Sookie at his side. He clasped his hands behind his back and demanded, “Where are the extra guards?”

The Pythoness replied, “They stand outside of the barrier. They cannot come inside it until the Chosen One invites them into her sanctuary.”

The seer's words brought another question to Eric's mind and he asked, “How is it you and Niall were allowed into the barrier?”

“Finally getting around to asking that are you?” Niall laughed. Focusing on his great granddaughter, he explained, “The Ancient Pythoness is able to come into the barrier because she is connected to you through your link to The One. You are both of the same line. As for how I am to gain access, that is more complex, and has to do with the fact that this home is built in the middle of a faery meadow.”

“How is that possible?” Eric questioned.  He was annoyed the Faerie prince had turned his attention to Sookie.  He was High King.  People answered to him.  Not his bonded. “I would have sensed the presence of fairy magic the first time I came here if that was the case.”

“Not if it was suppressed,” Niall countered easily, focusing on Eric. “Fintan used a great portion of his magic to ward this land and connect it to Faery when he fell in love with Sookie's grandmother, Adele, in order to protect her from the militant faction of fairies I told you of before.” Sadness darkened Brigant's features as he looked back at Sookie and continued, “It was why he died so quickly. He could have lived for several centuries more had he not depleted his magic by warding this land so heavily. He literally used his essential spark to create a link between this land and Faery.”

“Why did I not sense this power?” Eric pressed.

Niall smoothed his elegant robes as he crossed his legs and met Eric's eyes. “Because the power of the land fell dormant when Fintan died, it began to reawaken the night Sookie first accessed her faery powers when she faced the maenad. The power of this land truly came alive the night of your bonding when Sookie's own power began to really come forth. As it is a faery meadow, I can access this area. The barrier does not keep me out as long as I intend no harm to you or Sookie.”

Sookie moved to seat herself in the flower upholstered chair and Eric followed, coming to stand beside her as she brought her knees up comfortably. She felt his hand come to rest on her shoulder.  His stance was protective and possessive, Niall noted with satisfaction. Turning to look intently at Sookie, the Faery Prince added, “There is an additional benefit to this land being connected to Faery, my child. Should you ever need to, and one day the need might very well arise, you can escape to our world. This land is connected directly to my personal estates in Faery. You would be safe there.”

For the first time, Sookie spoke. “How would I go there, and how would I get back?”

“That is simple,” Niall explained. “This land is connected to you now. Fintan originally created a portal in the woods so he could come visit Adele at will, but the portal closed when he died.”

“Then how would I get there, and more importantly how would I get back?” Sookie asked.

Niall smiled, “You simply wish to be there. The same to get home. As I said, Sookie, this land is connected to you now. The Faery Star on your chest binds you not only to your faery powers, but to Faery itself. When you are on this land, you can simply will a portal to open.”

The Prince's words made Eric curious. “If Sookie is bound to Faery itself, does it not stand to reason she could create a portal to your world anywhere she wishes?”

“Eventually,” Niall agreed. “But it will be some time before she'll be able to do that. Faery magic is very complex and dangerous.  Without the proper control and know how, trying to wield that amount of magic can harm the one casting the spell.  Not to mention anyone nearby. Fintan laid the foundation for a portal spell here on this land. He used the majority of his spark to do so. Once Sookie learns her magic, yes, she could create a portal to Faery anywhere in the world anytime she wished, but that is many, many years down the line. For now, it is enough she can escape to my world from here anytime she needs to.”

“That's good to know,” Sookie said, giving Niall the benefit of her smile. “I guess it's time for me to meet these new guards. Do I have to invite them all individually?”

“No, Chosen One,” the Pythoness answered. Her voice had that heavy accent Sookie could not place. “Simply state 'My royal guard may enter' and they will be able to pass through the barrier.”

“Royal guard?” Eric questioned.

“Indeed. These warriors are not on loan. They are yours. Permanently. Some will remain with the Queen at all times, and some will stay with you. All are considered the royal guard, and belong to you both as long as you reign.”

There was something so unnerving about the Pythoness' milk white eyes that turned to fix on Sookie as she spoke. “Well I guess we'd better meet them,” she said. An idea popping into her mind, she asked, “Why can't Eric invite them in? Why am I the only one that can bring people inside the barrier? You said that the barrier would kick out anyone that tried to hurt me or him, so why can't he invite people in?”

“Because he is your king, Chosen One,” the Pythoness stated bluntly.

A smile appeared on Sookie's face and she looked up over her shoulder at her Viking who looked less than pleased and was growling softly. “My king, huh? Somebody try telling him that.”

“Sookie, now is not the time for this foolishness. Invite the guard in. We have much to do tonight.” Eric's voice was hard with anger. He did not like anyone questioning his complete ownership of Sookie. She was his! No one and nothing could change that. Worse, he did not like anyone putting foolish ideas in her head that would only cause more problems between them. Looking at the seer and Niall, he demanded, “Is everything ready at Fangtasia?”

“Yes, my king. Sophie-Anne and her entourage have been summoned, and await us at Fangtasia as we speak. My personal guard collected them, delivered them to Shreveport, and watches over them now,” the seer answered.

“Good.” Facing Sookie, Eric confidently ordered, “Invite your guard in. We will meet them, I will determine if they are worthy, and then I must leave for Fangtasia to deal with Sophie-Anne. We will speak more tonight when I am finished in Shreveport.” Eric's tone left no doubt as to what they would be talking about.

Sookie rolled her eyes at Eric's high handedness before saying, “I invite the royal guard in.”

Nothing was said as Eric took Sookie's hand and led her out of the house with Han, Ivan, the Pythoness, and Niall following after, stopping long enough for her to slip into a pair of flats. Sookie's were guards were stationed around the house, and were tense as they sensed something was waiting in the night. Everyone stared intently at the tree line for a moment before Sookie let out a gasp.

From the trees emerged the Royal guard. There were twelve Minotaurs, four Griffins, a three headed dog that was as large as a truck, ten Centaurs, and twenty Fae guards. The Minotaurs were huge ferocious looking beasts with shaggy beards. They wore dark black armor plating over their chests and some type of loin cloth around their midsections. They were all heavily armed with massive maces, battle axes, clubs, and swords. Their feet were large and cloven, and their eyes as dark as midnight. Each one stood well over eight feet tall, and was so broad Sookie was sure that two body builders could stand side by side and still not match the Minotaurs.

The Griffins looked much like the mystical creatures pictured in mythology books. They were fearsome looking creatures with the heads and huge wings of eagles and the bodies of lions. They were a beautiful golden color that reflected the moonlight, and Sookie could only imagine what they would look like in the sunlight. Each one stood as tall as her and was as long as a car. Their eyes were bright and intelligent, and Sookie knew they were not simple minded creatures.

The centaurs were just as striking. Eight of them were male, and there were two female. They were of different races apparently. Some were black, some were white, some were so tan Sookie was actually jealous. All had long hair worn in braids, and had a weapon of some kind strapped to their back as well as armor that was fitted to their bodies.

Cerberus was a giant beast. His heads moved separately, and his massive size was intimidating as hell. He, or they-Sookie didn't know how to address them-had huge fangs that glinted in the moonlight. Did they count as one entity because there was only one body? Or three due to each head? Regardless, Cerberus was certainly a sight to behold.

The Fae guard could only be described as awesome. They were all golden haired men in shining armor. They stood in perfect formation with their faery swords strapped to their sides, and their bows and arrows strapped to their backs. Their faces were obscured by their helmets, but Sookie was sure that each one was as handsome as her grandfather. As she understood it all faeries were beautiful. She didn't know it, but each one wore a magic talisman to shield their scents from the vampires.

Leaning close to Eric, Sookie asked, “Are they what I think they are?”

Nodding his head, Eric answered, “Yes. That is actually Cerberus. He belonged to Hades. The others are minotaurs, centaurs, griffins, and faery guards.”

“I thought they were only mythological, like fairytales!” she mused aloud, shaking her head in awe. Eric gripped her shoulder and leaned down to murmur into her ear, “And we all know there's nothing real about fairies.”

He stepped off the porch and walked towards the line of royal guards. He strolled down their ranks slowly, taking measure. Finally, he turned back to Niall and the seer, and announced, “I am pleased.”

He alighted back onto the porch, retaking his place beside Sookie, and demanded, “Your pledges.”

As one, each creature knelt (as best they could since it was harder for some species). The Minotaurs and Griffins let out mighty roars and screeches to show their loyalty as they were incapable of understandable speech, and the Centaurs and Fae guard recited the pledge as was expected of them.

When they were done, Sookie tugged her wrist from Eric's grasp, stepped forward, and greeted, “Thank you all for coming here to help protect me. I really appreciate it. I—“

“Sookie,” Eric interrupted. “You are their queen. It is their duty to protect you, and a queen does not thank her subjects for doing their jobs.”

Glaring at Eric over her shoulder, Sookie hissed, “Well this queen does! I'm tired of trying to fit into molds everyone keeps trying to stuff me into. I may be The Chosen One, and I may be a queen, but I'm still Sookie Stackhouse, and Sookie Stackhouse thanks people for helping her!”

Focusing back on her guards, Sookie continued, “As I was saying, thank you all for being here. We're a little short on housing right now, but that's a problem that will hopefully be settled soon.”

One of the Fae guards stepped forward, slapping his chest with his closed fist and declared, “My lady, we are all honored to be here. I am Liam, Captain of the Fae guard. As your king said, no thanks is necessary. It is we that should be thanking you. You are the savior to this world and our homeland. We were not ordered here. Each of us petitioned for the right to be your guard. Worry not over living space. We can sleep on the ground outside if we must.”

“It's nice to meet you, Liam, and hopefully we'll be able to fix up my neighbor's house for you all to stay in or something,” Sookie promised.

“Lodging will be arranged,” Eric said as he took hold of Sookie's arm again and pulled her back to his side. “For now, it is time for me to deliver orders.” Looking down the ranks of the royal guard, he continued, “The fae guard will accompany Sookie during the day at all times, but nights will be handled by vampires. You will procure clothing befitting this world to blend in. Liam and two of his best soldiers will remain at her side along with her were guard, and the others will shadow her to protect against unseen threats. The rest of you will guard this land day and night. Housing and food will be provided for each of you according to your specific needs. You will give Sookie your requirements tonight so she can order Alcide and his men on what accommodations to build for each of you, and so food can be procured for you. You all have free roam of the woods around her home, but you are to patrol it in shifts so that some of you are always near the house. Be aware that Sookie has several human friends staying here at the moment, and they are not accustomed to the supernatural world. They are to be protected as well.”

Turning back to face Sookie, Eric said, “I must leave for Fangtasia. I have much to do tonight in setting up my regime. Get to know your new guards, find out what they need in terms of food and housing, and I'll be back as soon as I can.”

“Take Han and Ivan with you,” Sookie urged.

“No. They are your nighttime guard. They stay with you. With my telekinesis, I am in little danger, and the seer's guards will be there. Han and Ivan will remain here with you to see to your safety,” Eric countered.

Sookie wasn't having that. “Then take Quinn and the other Weres.”

“Sookie, I don't—“

“You promised to give me whatever I want as long as it isn't being free from you. Remember? Well, I want you to take the weres with you if you won't take Han and Ivan.”

Eric thought it over for a moment. With the new guard here, along with Han and Ivan, Sookie would be well protected. If it eased her mind for him to take the weres, he would do so. He did owe her amends after all. “Very well. I will take the weres if it pleases you, but they are not needed.”

“Yeah, yeah, you're the mighty Viking king. I got it.” Stepping closer and lowering her voice, Sookie dropped the posturing and looked up at him with urgent eyes. “My brother?”

Something in his undead heart spasmed looking at her pain. “I will allow no harm to come to him. I swear it. I cannot separate him from Sophie-Anne until we have some means to sever her bond. Bonded children cannot be away from their makers for long without going insane from pain. So I must allow him to leave with her for now.” Leaning down to kiss her forehead, Eric vowed, “But I will do everything in my power to free him, Sookie. I swear it.”

“Don't let her hurt him either,” she begged.

“I swear to do my best. I must go. Do not leave the barrier for any reason, Sookie. From this moment on, you are not permitted to leave the barrier without my permission, and until things settle down, you will not leave these grounds without me.”

Neither Sookie nor Eric were paying the least bit attention to anyone around them, despite the fact all eyes were on them. Sookie felt anger coiling inside her. Eric was locking her in a cage, and she wasn't going to put up with it. “I know safety is a big concern right now, but I don't want to live in a cage.”

“It is not negotiable, Sookie. Until I believe you are safe, you will not leave this barrier without me.”

“Eric, I'm not—“

“Enough, Sookie. I have much to do tonight. As I said earlier, we will speak more when I return. Your concerns can be voiced then. For now, I must go.” Looking over Sookie's shoulders, he addressed Han and Ivan, “I leave the two of you in charge of security in my absence. Help Sookie organize her guard.”

Turning to face the Pythoness and Niall, he said, “You will teleport us there.” Eric wanted to arrive at Fangtasia before the queen, her entourage, and his subjects in such a way so that no one would doubt his strength or allies.

After the Weres had gathered around Eric, Niall, and the Pythoness, Eric gave one last lingering look to Sookie before Niall used his magic to teleport them all to Fangtasia.

When he was gone, Sookie shook her head at her Viking's stubbornness and swore she'd win this particular battle of wills before she turned to face her new guards. Laughing nervously, she said, “First, I'm going to have to ask you not call my 'My Lady', or any other titles. I'm Sookie, just Sookie, and I'd like to be called by my name. I get that the supe world is all about titles and power and such, but I don't hold with that. You guys are helping me out, so in my book that makes us friends, and my friends call me Sookie. Ok?”

All the guards exchanged a look, before the largest of the centaurs stepped forward. He was well built with a rich olive completion and black long braids hanging to his waist, and a huge battle axe strapped to his back. “I am Lucas, Crown Prince of the Centaur nation. If you wish to be called by your given name, so be it. Your will is our command.”

“Great.” Sookie smiled at them all and said, “Well then, would any of you mind answering some questions for me? I've never met anyone like you guys before and I have so many questions. I also need to know what you each need in the way of food and lodging. I'd like to have a list prepared for Eric when he returns so we can get started on setting you guys up with what you need as soon as possible.” Glancing at the Minotaurs and Griffins she added, “I'd also like to know how to talk to you guys. It's easy to see you're all very intelligent by the looks in your eyes, but I'm guessing you don't speak like I do.”

The largest Griffin stepped forward and bowed his head. He had a solid white star pattern on the middle of his forehead, and it shown clearly against his golden feathers.

We speak. We are mind speakers. As we have no words, we speak through our minds. As a telepath, you can hear us where all others can't. You will have to translate our words to your king and others as they cannot hear us as you do.

Sookie's eyes widened. “You're telepathic?”

In a manner of speaking. We can communicate with each other through mind speak, but not to other species. However, since you are telepathic you can hear our thoughts as we do each other. This is the manner in which we can communicate with you.

A smile broke out on Sookie's face before she asked, “What are your names?”

We do not have names. We know each other by the feel of our minds. As a telepath, I'm sure you understand that each mind feels different. If you would be more comfortable giving us names, you may. It might be useful for us to have titles so that your king and those under your rule can know us.

“It seems kind of wrong for me to name you. I barely know you,” Sookie replied.

We do not mind. A name is just a name. We never understood the importance two- leggers have with naming things. What is, is. Whether it has a name or not.

“I never thought of it that way,” Sookie mused. “Well, in any case it's something I'll have to think on for now. You're right that we'll have to call you something. Since Eric and everyone else can't hear your thoughts, they'll have to be able to call you something.”

Turning to look at the Minotaurs, she asked, “You're not by chance telepaths too, are you?”

The largest Minotaur shook his massive head and pointed back to the Griffin Sookie had been speaking to. He let out a series of grunts that was obviously some form of communication, but Sookie could not understand it.

They speak, but there is no common language you can understand. They understand you, but they are not able to speak yours. The same goes for Cereberus. He can understand your words, but cannot communicate back in them. We understand their language however. One of us will always be near the Minotaurs and Cerberus to translate for you.  We can understand their words, but again, we cannot speak in them.  We can translate for you, and you will have to translate for everyone else. Do not let their inability to communicate with you directly lead you to doubt their intelligence. The Minotaurs are a noble, strong, loyal, and wise race. They will make excellent guards.  Cerberus will serve you admirably as well.

Sookie smiled at this and said, “I never doubted their intelligence. When I was little, it was hard for me to communicate with people because of my telepathy and they all thought I was stupid. I try not to let my inability to understand people allow me to judge them. I don't think any less of any of you just because we speak differently.”

You are as they said you would be. Mighty indeed.

The leader of the Griffins was silent a moment, looking at the Minotaur as it spoke in its primitive tongue. When the massive creature was finished, the Griffin nodded and then projected his thoughts to Sookie.

He says they thank you for your words. It is not often they are thought of as equals. He says they look forward to protecting you.


“Well I look forward to getting to know all of you.” Sookie looked around to acknowledge everyone and continued, “I guess we had better get down to figuring out what all you guys are going to need while you're here.”

“If I may, Your Majesty,” Han offered as he stepped forward to stand next to Sookie to draw her attention.

“I thought we've been over this, Han. It's Sookie. Just Sookie.”

Han smiled softly. “Forgive me, Sookie. After living in a world where titles and shows of subservience are necessary, it is hard to remember how you prefer familiarity. As I was saying, perhaps you should speak with the Griffins and Minotaurs as to their needs while Ivan and I show the fae guard the perimeter, and current safety measures we are putting in place while at the same time learning of what they need in terms of living conditions. Since you are the only one that can speak to the Minotaurs and Griffins, this could save time.”

Nodding her head enthusiastically, Sookie replied, “That is a great idea.”

Before Sookie could say anything more there were shocked exclamations from the side of the house. Spinning around, Sookie saw Tara, Lafayette, Eggs, and Sam standing there with dumbfounded expressions on their faces as they took in the sight of her new royal guard.

“Oh shit,” Sookie whispered.

At Fangtasia, Eric and his entourage had appeared in mass in the center of his club. He watched as Sophie-Anne's face clearly showed her shock, before she schooled her features. As per his orders, Pam had arranged for all the sheriffs in Louisiana to be in attendance, as well as several highly regarded vampires throughout the state. In short, the bar was packed. His child immediately left her position near the door and came to stand behind him as he clasped his hands behind his back, stepped forward, and remarked, “Wondering why you are here, Sophie-Anne?”

“Do not address your queen with such insolence, Northman,” Andre hissed from his position to the left of his maker. Jason stood at his side and, similarly dressed in black, they both flanked their queen where she sat on Northman's throne. Truthfully, none of Sophie-Anne's entourage knew why they were there. The Pythoness's guards had arrived moments after sunset and ordered them into a convoy of black suburbans. They had been told nothing, but it was obvious the night was not going to go well. They had been forced to sit in silence for the past hour, none of the guards answering any questions. Sophie-Anne and her children had watched as more and more of her soon to be former vampire subjects arrived. Not wanting to let anyone know that it hadn't been she who had called this meeting and appear weak, Sophie-Anne remained silent and waited to see what would happen.

Eric, in no mood, raised his hand and with a quick flick of his wrist sent Sophie-Anne and her entire entourage flying through the air to smash against the wall, save Jason who he simply floated slowly and set down next to her. Without looking at them he strode forward and reclaimed his throne. He waited for those he'd brought with him, as well as Pam, to take up positions behind him before addressing Sophie-Anne who had regained her feet, along with all of her children, and announcing, “I renounce all fealty to you. You are my queen no longer. In fact, you are no one's queen. I claim the state of Louisiana and hereby banish you and all those loyal to you from my kingdom. You will leave and never return.”

Sophie-Anne's fangs snapped down as she snarled, “Who are you to order me from my own state? How dare you speak to me like this! I will have your head, Northman! I will have your fangs for earrings and then I will claim the telepath as my own!”

Eric's fury ignited. His eyes lit up, and he roared, “NEVER!”

All around the bar tables, chairs, glasses, stools, etc exploded into millions of tiny pieces. The air became heavy with electric energy as Eric vowed, “Sookie is MINE! Any and all who threaten her or try to take her from me will die by my hands!”

Knowing how tightly wound the Viking was, the Pythoness stepped forward, and in her sonorous voice announced, “The Council backs the Northman's claim to the throne. As he said, you are banished. You are stripped of all titles and rights as queen, and if you fail to leave, you will be put to final death.”

Niall stepped forward as well, and declared, “The House of Oberon, High King of the Faeries, has aligned itself with the Viking as well. I have pledged to him my loyalty and aid. His enemies are the enemies of my people.”

There was a rumble of disbelief throughout the bar, as Eric continued, “You are lucky to escape with your life, Sophie-Anne. I banish you, and you will leave here with only the clothes on your back. I have taken steps to have your accounts emptied and all your worldly possessions seized. You literally have nothing. All that was yours is now mine.”

Using his telekinesis, Eric carried Sophie-Anne through the air and forced her to her knees before him. Leaning forward, he gripped a hand in her hair and jerked her head up to snarl down at her, “I will find a way to sever your bond with my bonded's brother to free him from your control, and once I do, I will hunt you down and kill you. Do not hope for a quick death, however, for you won't get one. I will spend centuries torturing you to the brink of madness, just to heal you and start all over again. You will rue the day you ever took a stand against me, Sophie-Anne. By the time I'm done with you, your mind will be so shattered from the pain I will enjoy inflicting upon you, that you won't even remember your own name.”

Sitting back in his throne he planted his boot in the middle of Sophie-Anne's chest and kicked her. She flew through the air once more and landed in a heap on the floor before Adriana who was looking at Eric with a distinctive glint in her eye, calculating her odds of aligning herself with her new powerful king. Sophie-Anne frantically cast about the bar as she demanded, “My sheriffs! I order you to protect me! Kill the traitor! Kill Northman!”

Adriana looked down at Sophie-Anne and laughed, “Kill our new king? Kill a king backed by not only the council but the entire faery realm? Kill a king that could tear the heads from all our bodies with nothing more than a thought? We would have to be as insane as you are to defy him.” Stepping over the fallen former queen, Adriana sank to her knees and vowed, “I swear fealty to my king. All hail Eric Northman, King of Louisiana.”

One after the other, every vampire in the bar that was not a child of Sophie-Anne's sank to their knees and pledged their loyalty. When they were done, Eric looked down at Sophie-Anne and sneered, “Do you see? A hollow ruler has no true subjects, inspires no loyalty, and can count on no one. I tolerated your position as queen as long as you knew not to cross me, but your direct attack on my bonded was a declaration of war, and I have never lost a war.”

Sophie-Anne, her world reduced to a blistering rage, used her link with her children to order Jason to attack Eric. Her newest child was a blur of motion as he launched himself towards the Viking while she shrieked, “Kill him!”

Jason's fangs were down, and his eyes were bright with madness. He was little more than a killing machine at present as he mindlessly threw himself towards the man that was defying his Maker and queen. “I'll kill you!”

Eric could have stepped out of the way at any time, but he allowed the attack. He waited until Jason was only a few inches from him before taking hold of the boy with his power to halt him in mid air. Shaking his head, he looked over Jason's shoulder into Sophie-Anne's enraged features, regarding her calmly, he sneered, “Did you really think that would work? Truly, you are more of a fool than I thought.”

Eric set Jason down gently and released him, holding the boy's feral gaze. “For your sister's sake, I spare your life.”

“She is not my sister,” Jason hissed, returning to stand next to his Maker. “Only those turned by my Maker do I care for. Sookie is nothing to me until she comes to her senses and allows Sophie-Anne to turn her.”

Eric's features darkened. So much had gone so wrong in the last few days, and with what had happened between him and Sookie earlier tonight he felt the surging need to lash out. Hearing Sookie's brother, the brother she had lost because he failed his bonded, speak so poorly of his sister, caused Eric's anger to rise. He glanced across the room to look at Sophie-Anne's children. All were poised and ready, waiting for their queen's command. He knew each would give their lives for her, even against the impossible odds they now faced. Eric decided it was time Sophie-Anne felt a fraction of the pain his bonded had felt over the last few days.

With that in mind, his eyes landed on Andre, Sophie-Anne's first child, and the only one she was even close to loving. “Sophie-Anne, I think it only fair you lose part of your family as my bonded was forced to lose part of hers.”

Pinning Sophie-Anne and her diminished group of devotees in place with his telekinesis, he focused on Andre and said, “You will die tonight as punishment for Sophie-Anne's arrogance and cruelty.”

“No!” Sophie-Anne roared. “Kill anyone else, but not my Andre!”

“I don't think so.” Eric flew Andre through the air towards him. Before the other vampire had a chance to react, Eric had taken hold of his head and ruthlessly twisted, severing it from Andre's body. There was a stunned silence in the air as Andre's body began to flake and decompose in moments, leaving behind only a viscous puddle of blood on the floor.

“NO!” Sophie-Anne's voice shook with her wails as bloody tears rained down her cheeks. “Andre! My Andre!”

Eric dropped the rapidly decomposing head of Andre and kicked it towards Sophie-Anne where it immediately disintegrated before her. He watched as his former queen buried her hands in the blood and sobbed as she rocked back and forth, crying and calling for her beloved child. Looking out over the crowd, he announced, “I am king. I will be a just and wise ruler, but I will rule with an iron fist. Any and all who oppose me shall meet the same fate. What is mine, is mine!”

When everyone was silent, waiting for his commands, Eric looked out over the crowd and continued, “I will begin auditing the state immediately. Pamela is now the new Sheriff of Area Five, and I am bringing in Isabel from Texas to become Sheriff of New Orleans. I shall rule from Shreveport. Each sheriff is to have their books sent to me tomorrow night for review. Pamela.”

Pam stepped forward, bowing her head. “Yes, Master?”

“See to it that Sophie-Anne and her remaining children are escorted from the state. Take the Pythoness's guards with you to see it done. Return here when they are beyond my borders.” Looking over his shoulder at the Pythoness, Eric added, “Remember my previous orders.”

The Pythoness bowed her head to show that she had already taken measures to assure that Sophie-Anne and her entourage would be followed so that they could cause no more trouble without Eric knowing beforehand.

“I will kill you for this, Northman!” Sophie-Anne howled, her face contorted with grief and outrage. “I will kill your bonded and make you watch! I will defile her and rob her of any innocence she has! She will beg me to die and you will watch! I swear it.”

Eric was but a flash as he charged across the room and backhanded Sophie-Anne. She went flying and smashed through the bar. Wood and glass shattered around her as Eric used his telekinesis to bring her crashing at his feet while holding her remaining children pinned to the wall. She gazed up at him with crazed eyes, the fury rolling off of her, as Eric snarled, “No one will ever touch Sookie but me. Everything she is, is mine! Her pain, pleasure, joy, sorrow, all of it is mine to give or take. You will never be near her again.”

Kicking Sophie-Anne in the face, he shattered her jaw, then reached down to take hold of her. Lifting her body up over his head by her shoulder and hip, he lifted his knee while bringing her down against it and snapped her back. Her anguished scream tore through the bar as he hurled her across the room to smash into one of his booths. “Pamela, collect that pitiful bitch and her children, and see to her banishment as per my orders.”

“Yes, Master,” Pam said as she strode forward with the Pythoness' guards and dragged a screaming and wailing Sophie-Anne and her struggling children from the bar.

When his child was gone with Sophie-Anne to carry out his orders, Eric retook his seat and said, “I am changing many laws. My kingdom will be run much differently than Sophie-Anne's. I am not as foolish as she, and I will not allow the mistakes she made.”

Letting his eyes wander the crowd around him, he continued, “Many of you are unsuitable for the stations you hold. Sophie-Anne allowed you to buy your positions through monetary means or favors. I do not hold with such methods. You each will have one week to prove to me you deserve your position, or you will be replaced. Now, some immediate changes I wish to take place are ….”

While Eric was busy laying the groundwork for his new kingdom, Sookie was back at home trying to calm her nearly hysterical friends. Eggs had reacted the worst at the discovery of Sookie's new guard, and had gone into a fit. He started screaming that he and Tara had to get the hell away from Sookie. He'd been so out of control that Tara had given Sookie permission to lay hands on him to draw the terror from his mind in order to calm him. Han had held the hysterical man while Sookie did this, and when his mind was quiet again, and he was able to be reasonable, he demanded to be let go.

It was beyond comprehension and any semblance of tolerance for him anymore. He'd left terra firma and was living in a nightmare. Every molecule of his body was juddering for flight. He let his eyes scan the large group of creatures that looked ready to kill him in a heartbeat, and then looked at Tara. “As soon as the coast is clear, I'm gone. I can't do this, Tara. You're either with me, or not.” He'd turned around and left for the guesthouse without looking back.

When he was gone, Tara looked hard at Sookie and demanded, “We need to talk. Right now.”

“You do not order Sookie, girl. She will speak with you when she is ready,” Han insisted.

“It's alright, Han. She's right. I need to talk to them.” Looking at her new guards, Sookie said, “I'm really sorry, but I'm going to have to speak to you later. Is that alright with you all?”

Liam, the captain of the fae guard, stepped forward, bowed, and replied, “The Centaurs and we will walk the grounds with your vampire guards. Cerberus, two of the Griffins, and some of the Minotaurs can stay to protect the house while you speak with your friends.”

“Thank you for your understanding,” Sookie said. Looking at her friends, she continued, “Let's go inside and talk.”

A few minutes later, Sookie was sitting in the living room with Sam, Lafayette, and Tara around her. Thor curled up at her feet working on a chew toy. She sighed, looking at all their expressions and began, “First, I guess you all have questions about what you just saw outside.”

“Damn right we do!” Tara's eyes were wide and fearful. She wasn't sure what to do about everything that was changing around them. “What the hell were those things?! What the hell is going on?!”

She spoke to them as if they were children and hadn't seen for themselves this parade of mythological creatures stepping out of a fantasy book. “Well, the armored men are faery guards, the ones with the big horns are Minotaurs, the ones with wings are Griffins, the part horse creatures are Centaurs, and the three headed dog is Cerberus. I don't know much more than that since I just met them as well. I promise to tell you anything that I learn if it is something you need to know.”

“Why are they here?” Tara pressed.

“They're part of my new guard,” Sookie explained matter-of-factly.

“Oh baby girl, you really are in some shit, ain't you?” Lafayette muttered sadly, running a hand over his face.

Nodding her head, Sookie confirmed, “Yes, I am.”

Tara jumped up from her place on the couch and began pacing. “This is what I'm talking about, Sookie! Ever since you got involved with these damn vamps, bad things have happened to you! You have got to come to your senses and get the hell away from them! What the fuck are you thinking getting involved with shit like this? Have you lost your damned mind?”

“Tara!” Sookie got to her feet as well, and declared, “Tara Thorton! Sit down!”

“Sook, I'm not just—“

“The hell you're not!” Sookie's body shook with barely suppressed emotion as she continued. “I'm done being yelled at. I'm done being called stupid! And I'm sure as hell done with people lashing out at me. If you want to talk, that's fine, but you will sit down and have a calm, rational discussion with me. The time for temper tantrums has long since passed. I don't have time for bullshit like that anymore. Do you understand?”

Tara, Lafayette, and Sam all looked at Sookie in awe. She stood strong and resolute before them, her eyes holding an ineffable fire in their depths. Despite whatever was causing Sookie such grief, whatever it was she couldn't tell them about, she was refusing to be cowed. She literally radiated power, and there was no doubting that she was a force to be reckoned with.

As Tara slowly sank back down to her seat on the couch, Sookie stood before her friends with her fists clenched at her sides. She looked each in these eyes as she insisted, “I love each of you more than I can ever say, but I can't afford to let things go anymore. Just as I told Eric, I'm telling you that it is time for me to take a stand. I can't afford to be a pushover anymore. I can't afford to let people yell and scream at me. I can't afford to let people wage psychological warfare on me in order to get me to do what they want. I can't afford to let anyone intimidate me anymore. My entire world is changing around me, and I need to be able to count on my friends and allies to stand with me. I need to be able to count on them to come to me when they have a problem, and, most importantly, I need to count on the fact that they won't attack me physically or verbally over these problems. My world is crazy enough, and it is only going to get worse, so here in my home there is damn well going to be peace. Got it?”

When no one said anything, Sookie retook her seat and added, “I am more than willing to discuss any concerns you may have, but the time for childish tantrums and screaming matches has come and gone. None of us have the luxury of being so juvenile anymore. It's time to grow the fuck up.” Looking directly at Tara, she said, “Now, if you have questions or concerns, bring them up, but you will not raise your voice to me just because you are upset. If anyone has the right to lose it right now, it is me, but here I am, trying to hold it together. I expect you to do the same.”

Tara could only gape at her friend as Lafayette asked, “What the hell happened to you, Sook? It's like you're a whole different person.”

“Maybe I am. Frankly I'm not sure if I ever really knew who I was before now, but I'm learning to be me the best I can. As I said, Lafayette, my world is changing fast, and in big ways. I can't help but be affected by these changes. What's going on in my life requires me to move beyond being a simple telepathic waitress in Bon Temps. I have big problems that require even bigger solutions.”

Hands twisting in her lap, Tara demanded, “Sookie, what the hell is going on?”

“I've already told you that I can't tell you, Tara. All I can say is that the changes coming are going to impact us all. Whether you stay here or not, sooner or later what is after me now will catch up to you all.” Tara cringed and Sookie remained sangfroid. “I can only tell you that the changes I'm going through are permanent. Things will never, and can never, go back to the way they were. This is beyond Eric and me now. This has to do with so much more than that. Is Eric a part of my life? Absolutely. Am I sure how much of a part or what kind of part he will play indefinitely? No, I'm not. All I can say for now is that shit is about to hit the fan in a powerful way, and the only hope any of us have of surviving it is Eric. That's all I've got for you,” Sookie explained.

Turning to look at Sam and Lafayette, she asked, “From what you two have said, I'm taking it that you are intending to make a stand with me, right?”

When both nodded their heads, Sookie continued, “Then the three of us will definitely have more time to talk. So with that in mind, I'd like to ask the two of you to go back to the guesthouse and wait with Eggs while I speak to Tara alone. I promise to make time to speak to each of you later on. If not tonight, then tomorrow for sure. Together or separately, whichever you want.”

Sam and Lafayette were both aware of just how badly Tara and Sookie needed to talk, and, as Sookie said, since they were intending to stay, they could speak with her later. It was enough for now. They nodded, stood, and left the house. When the door closed behind them with a distinctive click, Sookie looked at Tara. Tears filled her eyes, as she whispered, “You're going to leave.”

“I won't if you answer my questions.” Tara's voice was equally as soft. The truth that things would never be the same again was finally sinking in and she felt a hollow desperation grip her. She was literally at a crossroad in her life, just as Sookie had been. Sookie had taken her path, and now it was time for Tara to take hers. “You're not going to tell me, are you?”

“Tara, honey, I can't. I can't because telling you would not only put you in greater danger, but it could get us all killed. Telling you could cause a chain reaction of catastrophic proportions. Telling you what is going on could literally cost us all our lives, and I can't take that chance. I love you as a sister. You are my best friend, you've stood by me through some of the most painful times of my life, and the thought of having to watch you walk away for good breaks my heart, but more is on the line than my feelings.”

Tara buried her head in her hands as she sobbed, “I don't know what to do!”

Sookie moved from her chair to sit next to her friend. She pulled Tara into her arms and directed her friend to lie on her side with her head in her lap. She began stroking Tara's long braids away from her face as her friend continued to cry, and whispered, “You have to follow your heart, Tara. You have to do what you think is best for you. You have to weigh your options, and, in the end, you have to make your own choice. I want you to stay because you'll be safest here, but I won't force you to. If you can't be happy here, if you can't accept the permanent changes taking place in my life, then you need to go. Don't stay for me, Tara. I have what I need to find happiness in life. If what you need isn't here, then go find it.”

Tears slipping down her cheeks, Sookie continued, “Eggs has to go. His mind can't handle what is going on, and will break if he has to face too much more. You saw what happened to him out there a minute ago. He literally can't afford to stay here, but I don't want you to leave for him.”

Looking down into Tara's own tear filled eyes, Sookie added, “If you leave you need to leave for you. You need to make the decision if you can handle the changes in my life. The truth is that I will exist more in the supernatural world than the human one for the rest of my life. Even if I survive what is coming, even if Eric and I win, I can never go back to being what I was before all of this happened. From this day forward my life is going to be filled with strange and unimaginable things. For the rest of my life I will always have more concerns than for myself and my friends. I can no longer be selfish in my decisions. From this day forth, my life will always be complicated. That is the beginning and end of it. Now you need to decide if you can live that way. If you want a normal life, it can't be here with me.”

Tara was silent a moment as she stared up at her best friend who looked so much older and wiser than her now. Sookie's eyes held strength, determination, and knowledge in them that made Tara feel small and insignificant. “This is it, isn't it, Sook? This is the end of everything we know.”

“Yes, Tara, it is. But everything ends sooner or later, honey. Endings don't have to be bad just because they are hard. Endings mean that something else is about to begin.”

As Sookie stroked her hands through her hair, Tara whispered, “I don't know if I can stay.”

“Then go. I give you my blessing, and I'll make sure Eric gives you all the money and means you'll need to get as far away as you can. Go and be happy, Tara Thorton. You deserve it.”

“Sook, I don't want to lose you!”

A sad smile appeared on Sookie's face as she whispered, “You won't lose me, Tara. I'm always going to be here. If you ever want to come back, I'll be here. You can come see me whenever you want. Just because our lives are no longer on the same path, doesn't mean they can't intersect from time to time. We still have phones, honey. You can call me anytime you want to talk. No matter what you choose to do, you'll always be my friend and the sister of my heart.”

“You won't hate me if I go?”

“Of course not! Tara, I won't judge you for doing what you need to do to be happy. No one has the right to tell you how to live your life. If being happy means you have to leave Bon Temps behind, then girl, that's what you should do. Don't let anyone or anything hold you back. Not even me.”

Tara fell silent as she rolled over on her side to face the wall. She felt the gentle, soothing strokes of Sookie's fingers through her hair. Long moments passed in silence before Tara sighed, “Do you remember the first day we met?”

Sookie nodded tenderly. “You bet. It was the first day of kindergarten. I was sitting all by myself in the back of the class since none of the other children wanted to sit near me after everything their parents had told them about me. You got there late that day because your mom was passed out, and you walked to school all by yourself. I remember watching you walk in with your head held high. You had a crumpled paper bag in your hand, one notebook, and were wearing the brightest orange shirt I'd ever seen. You scanned the room, your eyes landed on me, and you marched right to the back of the room and sat down next to me. I remember thinking I wished I were as brave as you.”

Tara laughed. “Did you hear my thoughts that day?”

“Yes. You were thinking that you hoped I wouldn't pick on you for being the daughter of a drunk if you didn't pick on me for being crazy. That thought is what gave me the courage to say hello to you.”

“We were quite the pair in school, huh?”

“We only had each other.”

Silence.

“I have to go, Sook.”

“I know.”

Tara sat up and they grabbed hold of one another in a bone-crushing hug. Both were crying freely now. They did not cry great, gasping sobs, however. No. They cried silently, holding tight to one another as they both accepted the fact it was time to say goodbye.

Burying her face into Sookie's shoulder, Tara pleaded, “Please don't hate me, Sook! Please, but I … I can't stay here. I can't be here and not know what's going on. I … I can't keep waiting to see what is going to come out of the dark and hurt me.”

“Shh … shh, girl. It's ok,” Sookie soothed as she held tightly to her friend.  “I understand and I'm not angry. Sometimes life doesn't go the way we want or plan, and all we can do is weather the rough times when they come. I don't blame you for leaving, and I could never hate you. I'm sorry you're being forced to choose because of me, and I hope the opportunity to make it up to you arises in the future. For now, all I can offer you is my blessing. Go, Tara. Go and find what you need in life to be happy.”

Tara pulled back and wiped the tears from her cheeks, as she said, “I love you, Sookie Stackhouse. You're my sister in heart, if not blood. I wish I could stay here and see this through with you, but … but I just can't.”

Setting her finger over Tara's lips, Sookie promised, “It's going to be ok, Tara. It's all going to be ok. I'm not sure if our roles were reversed I would be able to stay either. There is no shame in not taking part in a fight that isn't yours. You have the right to do what makes you happy, Tara.”

“How do you know it is going to be ok, Sook? How can you have such faith? I'm terrified and I have no idea how bad things are. You know, and you're calm.”

Sookie let out a strained laugh. “Calm? No, not at all. I'm just trying to compartmentalize as best I can. I think being a telepath helps with that. I'm just as terrified as you are, Tara. I would be a fool not to be afraid, but I can't afford to let my fear paralyze me or keep me from doing what I need to do to see this through. Believe me, if I could run, I'd be half way to Timbuktu right about now. The problem is there is nowhere in the world for me to run. I can either lose everything, or stand and fight. I've chosen to fight.”

Holding Sookie's gaze, Tara said determinedly, “If you need me, Sook, if you need to get away, you call and I'll come. I don't care where you are, or what shitstorm you're standing in the middle of. If you decide you want out, you call and I'll come get you.”

“That means a lot to me, Tara, but I'm not running. I can't. For me it's fight or die, and I don't plan on doing any dying.”

Before Tara could respond, the house phone rang and Sookie said, “Let me get that. It's probably Eric. He can feel my emotions through our bond, and when I get upset, he checks on me. Give me a sec.”

Getting up Sookie went to the corner table and picked up the phone. “Eric?”

“No. This is Sargon, and I'd like to have a little chat with you, Miss Stackhouse.”

3 comments:

  1. At least the barrier mostly works. Too bad Niall and AP arent kept out too. Awww E doesn’t like been ignored. Hee hee. Ooh the portal thing is interesting. E prob wont like that option available to her. lol for the AP raining on his parade a little. Wow cool guards. E isnt going to like them all calling her Sookie. The scene with Skanky Anne was great. Glad at least Andre is finally dead. Kinda knew Tara would leaveesp after Eggs' freak out. . uh oh Sargon calling. interesting.

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  2. Love the seven latest chapters kept reading late in to the night just to finish :) I must say Sookie is amazing bout' time she stood up to Eric. He seriously need to get his head out of his ass. And Sookie telling Tara off - brilliant. Hope to see more soon :)

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  3. what a shit storm and then Sargon calling at the end... big shitstorm.... but Tara oh Tara what a mistake you are making KY

    oops
    1-Caps "After the weres had gathered around Eric, Niall, and the Pythoness, Eric gave one last lingering look to Sookie before Niall used his" "after the Weres had gathered"
    2- Caps "Sookie wasn't having that. “Then take Quinn and the other weres.” "the other Weres"
    3-Caps "I tolerated your position as queen as long as you knew not to cross me," Queen should be capitalized here..."as Queen as long as"
    4- Caps "towards the man that was defying his maker and queen. “I'll kill you!” "his maker and Queen"
    5-Caps "He watched as his former queen buried her hands in the blood and sobbed as she rocked back and forth, crying and calling for her beloved child. Looking out over the crowd, he announced, “I am king' "former Queen" "I am King"




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