Rasul, head of security for Queen Sophie Anne, met Eric at the entryway and gestured for him to follow.
“How are things in the capital Rasul?”
“Strained sheriff. It has been one wild fire after the other since Andre went missing. You wouldn’t happen to know his whereabouts, would you?” Rasul gave a sidelong glance to the viking.
Eric smirked. So Rasul knew why he’d been summoned and was fishing.
“I am afraid not. But I am investigating his disappearance.”
Rasul gave him a nod and kept moving briskly through the halls of Sophie Ann’s New Orleans mansion. Eric kept pace.
“Lets hope you find him Eric. We all know what would happen if Louisiana were to lose you. Too many vultures circling…”
Eric knew what would happen very well. In terms of might and battle worthiness, he was the one piece on the queen’s board that was tipping things in her favor.
“I hope her majesty knows that as well.”
“She does Eric.” Rasul nodded, pausing in front of the closed door to Sophie’s private office. “But the loss of family makes us irrational sometimes. Good luck my friend.”
With that, Rasul knocked and was asked to enter. He opened the door and motioned for Eric to go in.
Eric entered and bowed low.
“Ah Eric. Good evening. You can go Rasul.”
Eric straightened and Rasul left, closing the door behind him. Sophie Anne Leclerq sat pretty in a dainty very gold and very French chair. She motioned to the ottoman at her side.
“Please, have a seat.”
Eric went to the Ottoman and sat.
“My aren’t we all agreeable tonight.” The queen chuckled.
“Anything for you.” Eric gave her his most disarming smile. If he was going the charming route, why not go all in then. “I am honored that you have offered me a private hearing in a matter of life and death. I will be willing to assist with anything to help find Andre.”
All good humor vanished from Sophie Anne’s face.
“He is dead Eric. Why don’t we stop pretending he is missing for starters?”
“Did you feel his passing?”
Her fangs dropped with a snick as the queen swept off the chair to her feet.
“Do you think I say this without being sure?”
Eric bowed his head.
“My apologies Sophie Anne. I was out of line.”
Sophie started towards the fireplace to the side. Reached it, paused and started back again.
“Your apologies mean nothing. I already lost Andre. The only thing to do now is that I don’t let his killer walk away unscathed. What have you found in your investigation sheriff?”
Eric sat straight and regarded his monarch carefully. Whatever he said now was crucial.
“I saw him talk to Bill Compton. Then I saw the two of them enjoy a snack.” He inwardly flinched at the thought of Sookie as that snack. Even now, he wanted Andre to reappear so that he could kill the asshole himself. Disappearance had been too good for him. “There was a flash of light and Andre vanished with it. Just like that. I smelled magic around the area. I tracked Andre’s scent but the trail was old and already cold. I tried to look for him but there was no trace of his left. You sent your trusted witches to investigate too. They must have filled you in that there was nothing to find. I might be a powerful and old vampire my queen, but I cannot evade magic. I swore fealty to you and my word means more to me than my life. I would never betray you in such a way.”
“Was Compton detained?”
“I have him in custody.” Eric replied smoothly, evading all the pesky details in between the incident and the arrest.
“And what does he have to say about it.”
“Nothing useful I’m afraid.”
“What of the snack they were partaking in? Could have had some kind of enchantment on her. Did you detain her as well?”
And there they entered the truly dangerous waters. One slip on Eric’s side would be Sookie’s end. Somehow in the last couple of days, her safety had started preceding Eric’s own in his list of priorities.
“Compton drank from the human too and he wasn’t affected. I checked on her. She was clean and very ordinary. Didn’t even taste that special.” he lied through his teeth.
“Nevertheless, I’d like her investigated too.”
“I did that. Thoroughly. I have strong glamor. Humans sing like canaries under the influence.”
“But what if her brain was tampered with as well? How can you be sure she was not tampered with beforehand?”
“The human was a dead end. You have to trust me on this. If you don’t, nothing I am saying holds any value and this discussion is worthless. I am working for you. I do not have any other ulterior motives.”
Sophie Anne silently paced some more and then came to stand in front of Eric. She stared at him intently.
“You have been a reliable sheriff. Your area has been profitable for me. We’ve never had any major problems. Then why do I doubt you right now?”
Eric met her stare head on.
“What can I do to win your faith again your highness?”
“State your defense. Show me all proofs. If I am satisfied, we might not even need a formal trial.”
Eric knew why she didn’t need a formal trial against her strongest sheriff at the time. If he had had any doubts before, his short talk with Rasul and now the queen’s willingness to listen to him pretty much confirmed the fact that there was a threat to Sophie Anne’s rule and she knew it. It was time to wrap this matter up as neatly as possible, without pulling any threats, any dirt or any suspicions. Most importantly, without bringing Sookie into picture in any way.
“I have a witness. Magical. Not vampire. Not witch. He can attest that what took Andre was magic, the kind we don’t have access to, not the kind human or shifter witches can manage in any case. If you can guarantee that he can testify safely, then I can get him to talk to you.”
“Who is this mysterious witness? Can we trust him?”
“He is a fae prince. Highest up, second only to The Prince. If he takes the risk to talk to you, he has nothing to gain from lying. He won’t gamble with his life lightly.”
Sophie’s pupils dilated and her mouth opened in surprise.
“A fae prince? A Brigant?”
Sophie started pacing again.
“I’d like to hear what he has to say before being convinced of your innocence in any way.”
Eric took a breathe of relief. Sophie Anne might not trust the fairies a lot but they had a lose sort of truce and she couldn’t ignore the words of a prince lightly, if said prince spoke for Eric. In court, truth didn’t matter anyways. Connections and appearances most always did.
“How soon can we talk to him?”
“He waits my word. We can talk right now.”
When Pam came to fetch Sookie, spending a night at Fangtasia was the last thing she wanted to do. For one, Eric was not in town, as Pam very helpfully informed her, and being at Fangtasia without him did not sound attractive. Two, she needed to think and come to terms with the story Michael had told her earlier, absorb the repercussions of it somehow. She needed a plan and currently she had nothing. Three, she needed to decide how much she could tell Eric, if she told him about the past at all. What would he say to the fact that Sookie was the same being who destroyed his life, family and his people? Would he want her then? Would he look at her the way he looked at her after coming to know exactly who and what she was? After all, of the two of them, only Sookie now knew exactly how deep and old their connection ran, and how the source of most of the feeling was only her, not Eric. Hell, he didn’t even remember his one encounter with her angelic self. For Eric, that time simply never happened. All he knew was her human self. A couple of months being the only amount of time he had actually known her.
And what of her own life? She was practically on borrowed time and the clock was ticking. What was she supposed to do now? Keep slinging burgers and beers at Merlotte’s? Was that the only thing she’d ever do?
She needed to see Jason. They may not be the closest of siblings out there, but he was still her brother, her only living relative in the world, and Sookie cared for him enough to meet him once before her time ran out.
She tried making a mental list of people she needed to see and talk to before she saw her end in this life. The list was pitiful, comprised only of a couple of friends from the bar, Jason and Eric.
Spending a night at a crowded club was not on the list. But she went nonetheless. Pam was persuasive and on a mission.
Sookie kept silent on the way, watching things go past the window as questions bumped and ground inside her head.
“You are very quite tonight.”
“Just tired.” Sookie shrugged.
During the days following her gran’s death, Sookie and Pam had formed a tentative friendship. Pam was with her when Eric couldn’t be and constantly thought of things to do. Sookie was grateful for Pam. But she couldn’t talk to the vampire about what was going on with her.
“You should think about Eric’s offer to come work at Fangtasia again. That small dive bar will suck you dry. And you won’t even enjoy the sucking.” Pam grinned and showed fang.
Sookie shook her head.
“You know what, maybe I would come work at Fangtasia. Don’t have much to loose in the process do I?”
“No you don’t. But you have everything to gain. The boss is gorgeous for one. Makes hard work a lot less hard on the nerves.”
Sookie couldn’t help but laugh.
“Second, your uniform would be much much better.”
“What else?” Sookie smiled, thankful for the small distraction of Pam’s fashion talk.
“What else does a girl need but a nice dress and a hot boss to flirt with?” Pam raised an eyebrow, eyes still on the road.
“Not a damn thing else Pam.” Sookie snickered. If only life were so simple. But she appreciated her somewhat friend to have pointed that out.
“Well good. Glad that I could convince you. Beats the hell out of always keeping track of you. At least at Fangtasia, you’ll be within sights most of the time and Eric wouldn’t be hormonal all the time you’re not. You know-”
Pam shoved her heel on the break. Her car tires squeeled and dragged and the car swerved. The abrupt shock of breaking against her seat belt winded Sookie for a second. Then she saw the reason for their sudden halt.
A woman stood in the middle of the road. A tall beautiful woman. The woman she saw in Fantasia, in that silver dress on Halloween. She seemed unfazed by the car that had just come to stop mere inches of her. All her attention was creepily focused on Sookie.
“Stay in the car Sookie.” Pam pushed open her door.
The woman’s eyes went to Pam as she stepped out.
“Move out of our way.” Pam hissed.
“We need to talk.” The woman replied evenly.
“No we don’t. Now move!”
“It’s about your master.”
Sookie unlocked the door and flung it open. Pam shot her a look but she was already out. The tall blond glanced at Sookie and her eyes captivated the human for a split second. A strange echoing hum hit Sookie’s ears, making her hearing fuzzy. Sookie shook her head and the sound cleared. The woman’s narrowed eyes moved over Sookie’s face and widened.
“Who are you?” Sookie asked the woman.
“Who are you?” she asked her back, her attention now completely on the human’s face.
“Sookie?” Pam whispered.
“I have seen you before. In Fangtasia. You’re not human are you?”
“My name is Claudine.” The woman answered.
Pam started backing away and went around the car to come to Sookie’s side.
“What do you want Claudine?”
“With what?” Sookie asked.
Pam touched Sookie’s elbow, trying to get her attention.
“I believe Eric is in trouble. And I want to help getting him out of it.”
“Pam do you know her?”
“Yes. She is a fairy. And a fucking spy.” Pam hissed.
Sookie sucked in a breathe at the words fairy and spy.
“A spy for whom?” she ground out.
“Fuck if I know.” Pam shrugged, trying to pull Sookie back towards the car.
“I promised to help Eric. I promised I was on his side.” Claudine interjected, looking a little desperate, “I have sources and have more information than you can afford to miss. I might be a fairy, but my loyalty doesn’t lie with my family.”
Sookie resisted getting pulled to the car.
“The sky fae. Eric knows this.” Claudine looked at Pam, “I thought you knew too. And I really do not have time to waste.”
“Tell us what you know about Eric.” Sookie asked.
“Sookie don’t listen to her. Fairies can’t be trusted.”
Sookie knew that. But the same went for everyone. And she really needed to hear this information about Eric.
“Tell us Claudine.”
“Your queen is going to kill Eric. His one favorable witness is going to turn his back on the truth. And they won’t even get to the trial. At this point, there is no one who can attest to the fact that Eric didn’t kill Andre, and commit treason in the process.”
Sookie had known nothing of this trial. She hadn’t known anything about Eric being in any sort of danger. She turned her accusing eyes to Pam.
“Pam where did you say Eric was?”
“Out of town. On sheriff duty.” Pam shrugged.
“In New Orleans. With the vampire queen of Louisiana.” Claudine amended snidely.
Pam gave Claudine a death glare.
“Butt out fairy.”
“Pam!” Sookie clutched the vampire’s elbow and turned to stare in her eyes, “Is he in danger? What trial is she talking about?”
Pam inhaled and blew out a long breath, muttering curses she didn’t bother to hide.
“Yes, there is going to be a trial. But Eric’s meeting today is not it. He was summoned by the queen but he is not in danger. I trust him Sookie. He said he’ll be fine and gave me orders to follow. I believe he’ll be fine and follow his orders. If we try to interfere in any way, then we might put him in danger.”
“No…” Sookie groaned and squeezed her eyes shut in despair. She prayed for the impossible miracle she knew she won’t get. Would the hits never stop against them?
“He’s already fucked Pam.” Claudine shook her head, “For once, forget about my family and listen to me. My people are trying to get rid of Eric. I just found out that someone from my family was called to vouch for Eric in his case. They are going to turn against him. And then all bets are off. You know this Pam. One witness against him and the queen won’t let Eric walk away.”
“Shit!” Pam whispered, “Shit shit shit! We need to warn him.”
“And we need to get him safely out of there.” Claudine added.
“Whether he can be run out of there and still maintain a working relationship with Sophie Anne is the question though. I’d much rather warn Eric and let him decide what he wants to do. Between all of us, he has the most experience with averting disasters.” Pam whipped out her phone and typed a text:
‘Solid intel-Fucking fairies cannot be trusted. Don’t involve them.’
She sent it to her master and prayed he read it as soon as.
“What if he doesn’t read the text in time?” Sookie asked out loud the question that was bothering all three of them.
“We’ll think about that if it comes to that.” Pam replied, her voice devoid of all emotion just like her eyes, “Get in the car Sookie. For now, I will follow Eric’s orders and get you to Fangtasia.”
“What about her?” Sookie pointed to Claudine.
“She is welcome to the bar.” Pam glared at the fairy, “I bet she won’t accept the welcome though.”
Claudine stepped off the road.
“I’ll see you later.” The fairy called out and disappeared in the trees by the road.
The minutes ticked by and Sookie’s anxiety kept growing. Pam had brought her to Eric’s office to avoid the rush of the bar. Now though, Sookie longed to go out to the floor, just so she could distract herself from her own imagination. Things kept taking a turn for the worst in her head. Eric kept dying.
Sookie tore the magazine she’d been trying to read and got up to pace.
Eric should have gotten the text by then. Eric should have read the text. He should have contacted Pam by then.
But he hadn’t.
A sharp stab of pain slashed her insides, bending Sookie with it’s force. With the certainty of watching a train veer off course to crash, Sookie knew Eric was in mortal danger. She saw a glimpse of him dying. And nothing; not punishment, not banishment, not torture could have prepared her for the crushing blow of what’s Eric’s death would mean for her.
In that moment of excruciating despair, all doubt, all regret, all complaints against fate vanished and crystal clear purpose settled upon her soul. Past life or new, guardian or lover, angel or human, nothing mattered. What mattered was the man she still loved with all her heart. What mattered was that even after a thousand years of relentless exile, Sookie Stackhouse was going to reclaim her right to live and breathe, and love Eric. And she was going to save him. After all, hadn’t not saving him ended her own life one time too many?
Sookie didn’t stop to think. She didn’t wait to second guess her intuition. She just ran out the door towards the bar where she knew Claudine and Pam were lurking. She saw Claudine first.
“Eric’s in trouble. Get me to him.”
“What?” Claudine blanched. “How do you know? Did he call?”
Sookie clutched the fairy’s arms and got in her face.
“Do not ask me how.” she hissed, “I know you can teleport. Take me to him.”
“I can’t just teleport you in the middle of a vampire stronghold.” Claudone hissed back.
“Listen…” Sookie pressed her nails in the fairy’s skin and Claudine let out a very audible gasp at the strength in the strange little human’s hands, “In and out. That’s what I need. You drop me and go. I need to get to Eric. I can’t do that on my own right now. I wish I could tell you how I know something’s wrong but we don’t have time. Let’s go!”
“What would Pam-” Claudine shifted her eyes to the vampire standing by the door and saw that she was busy carding a few underage and already intoxicated party hoppers.
Another jolt inside her heart and Sookie could all but brace her feet on the floor and shake Claudine.
“It’s going to be too late Claudine. Take me there.”
Claudine finally caught on the look in Sookie’s eyes- desperate and dead serious.
“I can take you there. But then you’ll be on your own.” the fairy warned.
“My life is already over. You have no idea how much on my own I am.” Sookie smiled sadly at the clueless fairy. “Just give me this. Eric is all I have.”
Claudine grabbed Sookie’s elbows and gave her a small nod. “This is going to be nauseating for you.”
“Ah nausea. My old friend. Just get us going.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Pam registered the flash which turned Claudine and Sookie into smoke. She rushed to where they’d been standing just a split second ago. Just as Pam reached the bar, a sharp pain stabbed at her heart and she went down.
Eric watched as Queen Sophie Anne listened to Fintan speak on the other side of the phone. Fucker was so quite, he could hardly hear what the fairy prince was saying. Sophie Anne, true to form, was blank faced and silent.
The door clicked open and Rasul walked in, followed by five other palace guards. Eric wandered when the Queen summoned them to the party. He tried to catch Rasul’s eye but wasn’t everyone blank faced and stoic tonight?
The Queen thanks the fairy and ended the call. She was yet to look at Eric. It started making Eric uneasy.
“Chain him Rasul.”
Before the last word was out of her mouth, the head of security and his five lackeys dropped silver chains on a shocked Eric, covering all sides. The silver hissed and burned wherever it touched naked skin. The viking went down on his knees at the onslaught of the sudden pain.
“Sophie Anne?” he growled out.
Sophie Anne turned to Eric, her gaze cold as ice.
“I have recorded eyewitness testimony that you killed Andre, my second. That makes two witnesses against you adding to all circumstantial evidence. Eric Northman, I pronounce you guilty of malicious murder and treason. As your Queen I have the right to revoke your right to open trial in face of irrefutable proof of guilt. I sentence you to true death. Sentence to be carried out immediately in front of my court as witness.”
Sophie Anne moved towards the door and the guards pulled Eric behind her.
“You have to listen to me. It’s a mistake my Queen. Somebody is framing me. Give me a chance to make my case.” Eric gritted out, struggling with the silver and the shock of the turn his evening had taken.
Without turning back, the Queen of Louisiana replied in an even tone. “If you keep talking sheriff, I’ll sentence Pamela to true death too. Do you want me to do that?”
Eric stopped talking and frantically thought of a way out. A thousand years he had existed in the world. A thousand, endless, sunless, hopeless years, the monotony of which had only broken twice. One when he made Pam and then second when he met his Sookie. The minuscule time he had gotten to spend with the fiery telepath looked like a lonely drop of sunshine in his dark life. He wanted to grab onto that drop and just, just for a while, live again. But no way out came to mind. He couldn’t even concentrate on an escape. All his foolish brain came up with was glimpses of Sookie and she refused to be ignored.
The Queen, followed by her guards dragging Eric reached her throne room and walked up to the gilded chair set on a pedestal at the end of the room. The guards stopped in the middle of the cavernous hall. Summons in Sophie Anne’s stronghold traveled fast and vampires trickled in from the three entrances, all leaving whatever they were doing and rushing up to the promise of the gruesome spectacle that was to take place shortly.
However, the queen was in no mood to delay and milk out the sentencing. Whoever had arrived, would have to be enough. Andre waited to be avenged. And tonight the score was going to be settled.
Rasul repeated Eric’s offence and listed out the witness statements. He then announced Sophie Anne’s sentence for Eric. All of ten sentences. Ten sentences that sealed Eric’s fate. Rasul stepped back to make way for the queen, who approached the kneeling Viking with a stake.
“Do I get any last wishes?” Eric looked into her eyes and asked in a voice that did not shake.
“You think you deserve last wishes?” Sophie Anne sneered.
Then without waiting for an answer, the Queen of Louisiana brought the stake down to Eric’s heart and pushed it through. A reverberating scream rang through the room. It was nothing a vampire was capable of. Nor a human. Nor a fairy or a shifter for that matter. A blur moved past her, that even her old vampire eyes couldn’t see. Sophie Anne pushed the stake in with all her might and lodged it completely into the Northman’s heart. No vampire could get back from there. There was nothing else left for the Viking.
Sookie saw it all happen in a kind of slowing time warp.
Claudine brought them inside the Throne room, the only room in the Vampire stronghold the fairy was familiar with.
Eric knelt, kept down by the numerous silver chains on him, in the middle of the group of vampires watching on like buzzards. Six guards held the chains. A small female stood in front of Eric with a raised piece of wood. Stake.
Sookie began running. No one paid mind to the small human as she ducked into the crowd to reach Eric.
The woman brought the stake down and pressed it to Eric’s chest.
Time slowed another notch for Sookie.
She was now behind the woman stabbing Eric.
The stake was pushed inside. Sookie screamed and shot to Eric. Her hands landed on his heart, where the stake was starting to turn all flesh to dark thick blood.
Time stopped. Sookie didn’t pause to consider whether it stopped on her command or whether the clock just stopped ticking for her when she saw Eric getting staked.
Pure, incandescent light shot from the Sookie’s frantic hands and entered Eric’s heart.
“You can’t die. Live Eric!” The girl yelled the command to the dying vampire, her hands pressed on his heart. “LIVE!”