Dawn was coming soon and I had just finished up the meeting with the other monarchs and their reps. It had just dragged on and on. It took all my patience and sense of responsibility to sit through it all, because after a dance with Sookie, I was a lost cause. All this time, I had kept my distance from Bon Temps because I knew this would happen. I knew the moment I had her in my arms again, I would be hopeless. For all the moving on speeches I always had on standby in my head, my heart was one conflicted, possessed hot mess.
Pam knew what exactly was going on with me and treated me all evening with her personal arsenal of lethal eye rolls and smirks. I had to command her to not say anything about Sookie for me to even try to do my tasks for the night. The distraction in my rambling head was enough. I didn’t need added reminders. Willa was just plain confused. She could feel the raw emotion I was feeling and it was hard for her to comprehend that many conflicting emotions and make sense of them. So she tried to avoid me as much as she could for the evening.
Find me the wise man who said that women were the emotional species of our lot!
Because here I was being downright pathetic! And the women in my life were perplexed by it…
She wasn’t leaving me alone either. I noticed a tug in my blood and felt Sookie getting nearer and nearer to me by the minute. Out of nowhere, a genuine smile appeared on my perfect poker face. Belatedly I realized that I had smiled at the vampire in my office, who I was currently giving a cold treatment to. Said vampire sat up and looked expectantly towards me.
Crap! I wasn’t supposed to smile at this one!
“So you’ll consider my offer? It will really be the best for both of us…”
“I am still building up my states Freyda. We are all neck deep in shit. This is no time to think about this sort of…arrangement!”
She placed her elbows on the desk and leaned towards me. “You are not seeing the bigger picture Eric. You know my sway with Arkansas. If we do this, Texas will never think about a coup. We would both be stable and powerful.”
I pinched my nose to gather my wits for this conversation. Sookie’s growing proximity was not helping my focus and I tried to push her thoughts aside to concentrate on what the vampire queen of Oklahoma was saying.
Arkansas was ruled by Freyda’s maker Stan Davis. Even though I was internally cringing at her proposal of entering a marriage contract to consolidate state lines, I still needed more information to make any decision and I had to let her down very carefully to avoid two angry neighbors.
“What do you have on Texas?”
“Nothing but intelligence and fore sight, which I know you do not lack in either. You know I’ve never had a marriage alliance before. Part of the reason is that I know how to protect my state and to keep ahead of any mischief. The other part is that there are a very few vampires that I can respect with actual brains on them. You are one of them.”
I gave her a very dry smile, not like the previous one at all. “You seem to know me well. You also know I am much older than you or your maker and have seen a lot more world than both of you put together. What is making you trust me enough to want this contract with me?”
Freyda smiled and looked at Eric for a while before answering. “I may be a lot younger than you are. But that means much more sense of security to me than a sense of threat. You will get two secure neighbors in return. Plus, I am almost perfect at gambling. I can spot a winning chip when there is one. The stakes are high for both of us here. Think it over Eric.” She stood up and walked towards the exit. On reaching the door, she turned back, a small smirk playing on her lips, “Oh and one more thing. This contract is nothing personal. The doors of Oklahoma are wide open for any fairies or half fairies that would like to visit.”
God dammit…Was I that fucking obvious? And what the hell is she insinuating? Maybe she was just groping in the dark…
I could not let her see that her remark had affected me and controlled my expression before giving her my own parting smirk, knowing full well she was not immune to my charm. “They usually are very busy within my doors… Good night Freyda.”
She waved her hand and nodded before closing the door and leaving.
At about the same time, I felt Sookie enter within the confines of my residence.
Good timing lover! Let’s go receive visitors…
Just as I got up to leave my office, one of the Ancient Pythoness’s hand maidens came up and bowed to me. “The High Priestess requests a word with your majesty…”
What caught me here was the odd timing of the request. The ancient one usually reserved the early part of dawn for her rituals and meditation. No one, and I mean no one, was allowed an audience at that time. “Right now?”
“Very well…Lead the way…”
What could she possibly want to say to me?
Perplexed and curious, I made my feet follow the hand maiden while my blood was following someone else around my home and my hands wanted to follow my blood.
The car, a freaking limousine, took me back to that huge beautiful place I visited earlier in the evening. I seriously didn’t know what to call it. I could certainly not call it a house or even a manor or something because the thing probably spanned a couple of blocks. It had several interconnected buildings and was surrounded by lush green grounds. I could call it a palace because a king lived there. Or I could just call it by its damn zip code!
Tara met the car just inside the gates and climbed in with me. She came with my welcome drink of gin and tonic…
Ahhh happy times…
I drained my drink and declared theatrically, “Tara you are my true friend…” much to the amusement of the vampire driver.
“You drunk already?”
“Nope! But I am hung-over on lack of sleep…I may need one of you all’s light tight rooms today cuz my head feels like someone hammered it and I am going to sleep like the dead when I go down.”
Tara laughed and led the way.
The good thing about drinking with vampire BFFs is that they would remain alert enough to not let you fall in a ditch or get rid of your clothes or something silly like that…
The bad thing is that by the time I was inebriated and laughing and falling all over the place, it was dawn and Tara was dead for the day. I knew I was smashed because seeing Tara dead like that was sending me into peals of laughter I could not control.
Shit! I was giggling so hard that I couldn’t even breathe. My sides were aching, my head was swimming and I could see two Tara’s when I shut one eye and looked with just one. That sent me into another fit of laughter.
I got up to use the bathroom and splashed my face with cold water to get out of the fit. The water felt so good, I dunked my head in the basin and let my hair get wet. Several splashes and a glass of ice cold water later, I could finally see my face in the mirror, without the additional cross eyed Sookies to make me laugh at my own reflection. I shut off the water and stepped out of Tara’s room to look for some open space to clear my head. It took just ten minutes for my drunken ass to get lost in the strange passages…They all looked the same and they were all empty.
I giggled again…In a very spooky manner, it echoed all around me and rang loudly in my head. That did something to my balance and I clutched at the wall to my side to stay on my feet.
Shit! I need more cold water…
I wobbled a bit but reached for the door in front of me and shook the knob. The door could have opened to anywhere but as I said before, I was drunk and I needed water and I didn’t care. Maybe it was Tara’s room or maybe it was a secret portal to Wonderland…Maybe the good natured rabbit would be awake and help me out with a map of this labyrinth or something?
The knob turned and the door opened into a large room, seemingly at the end of the building because I could see part of the grounds outside from the floor to ceiling windows in the farthest corner. It looked like someone’s office. There was a huge dark wood desk and a plush leather chair behind the desk.
“S’cuse me? Anyone here?”
So I called out again. “Nope! No one there!”
Things were twinkling on the window. I blinked my eyes but they were still twinkling. I stepped inside and started towards the glass to see what was twinkling. As I went further inside, I noticed that two walls in the office were entirely made up of huge book shelves, carrying hundreds of books. I turned on my heels and slowly gazed at the entire room. Books on two walls, glass for another wall and the fourth wall was decorated sparsely with just a huge sword. It was fascinating. I decided to investigate the twinkling later and gingerly stepped towards the sword. It was not very high up and I lifted a hand to touch it.
The blade was must have been very sharp because I suddenly winced and jumped back as just touching it cut my finger. Bleeding fairy body parts in a vampire city equals drained fairy and drunk vampire, so I quickly put my finger in my mouth to staunch the bleeding. Pain was better than cold water to further clear my head. Suddenly I realized that I was probably in a vampire’s office, touching their personal stuff and spilling blood on their belongings.
What if someone came right now and caught me tresspassin? Shit! I need to get out…What was I thinking?
I hurried to step back and get out of the room when another voice reached my head and I froze.
“Please help me…”
Adyline? What the hell?
I was hearing her mind and she was somewhere close by. Maybe I hadn’t heard her before, when I was inebriated and stumbling on my feet. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, reaching out to her through my mind.
“Adyline? Honey? It’s Sookie…Where are you? What’s wrong?”
“Oh thank God! Sookie…Help me…I don’t know what to do…”
“Where are you Adyline?”
“I don’t know. I uh…umm don’t tell dad…I was just having fun…It went outta hand…”
She was crying and hysterical and between my sleepless head and drunken ass, I couldn’t understand her very well…
And here I was, thinking I’ll have a night of drunken abandon, without anything going wrong! What was I thinking really!
“Adyline calm down…You have to tell me where you are…And what the hell happened?”
“I am so sorry Sookie…I snuck out. Dad warned me and made me promise I won’t do this but I snuck out and came to that place where we came for the party earlier…with a vampire… when dad slept…But, but, the vampire, Stephen, won’t let me go and said something about me being his forever and I told him I am nothing of the sort but he didn’t let me go for the night and I liked him a bit and now, uh umm, he is ummm sleeping and it’s so dark here that I can’t even see my hands in front of me and I can’t locate the door and I am stuck…Dad will wake up and find out I am not at the hotel and he is going to kill me or ground me like forever….and then I….Oh Sookie….”
“Hey! Slow down honey…”
“Sookie what will I do?”
Shit is she crying? How can someone cry in their head?
“I am crying and I can cry in my head…You would too if your dad was sheriff and you snuck out with a vampire…Help me…”
“Ok ok…just stop crying and let me feel where you are. Can you feel me near you?”
“I guess…I heard you cursing in your head and I have been trying to call out but you were not listening before…Are you in the palace as well?”
“Yes I am…Now try to calm down and I’ll try to locate you…”
I closed my eyes and concentrated on Adyline and her thought signature. In a moment, I started getting a feel of her location. I started walking towards the general direction where I was feeling her rant, and walked head first into a wall.
“Hey! I heard that…”
“Yeah long story…”
“You sound funny tonight!”
“I am drunk…”
“Even your thoughts are sounding drunk…”
“Hey watch it! Who’s the one rescuin’ ya?”
I just started walking into the general direction of where I could feel Adyline and considering this was not my backyard, and I just had very low and useless ambient lights on the floor to guide my way, I was fast getting lost and frustrated. I completely tuned out everything else from my mind and focused on the lost toddler.
That is how I didn’t notice another mind moving towards me at an alarming speed. I was standing at a turn in the corridor and he must not have seen or heard me, because a moment later I was savagely knocked forward on my face, and a panting, growling creature landed heavy on my back. I could have cried out if all of my breath hadn’t been knocked out of my lungs and a familiar sword hadn’t clanged and dropped in front of my eyes.
Hey I just saw that thing in that office earlier!
My mind was invaded by the snarling mess of thoughts, no doubt coming from the grissly sitting on my back, and I could just pick up a few words here and there.
Bust…growl…growl…need to get away…snarl…snarl…Stealing…can’t get caught…
That was it! So now I had a fleeing thief on my hands too, or, more accurately, on my back. Welcome to a perfect day in the life of Sookie Dangerho Stackhouse!
I tried to move and wiggle but whoever lunged on me, seemed to have realized that I could raise an alarm and get him caught. Before I could raise the said alarm, a large hand came from behind me and pressed on my mouth to affectively gag me. I was pulled roughly on my feet and pinned against the passage wall, both of my hands held in an iron grip behind me. My bones were crushing against the huge weight of the thief, keeping me still. I knew I had surely reached a certain limit to a night’s quota of adventure. I was just sick of it all now.
“Sookie? Sookie what is happening?”
“Adyline…I am being attacked…There was a thief…He is holding me tight and I can’t move…I think he is going to crush me”
“Sookie nooo…Concentrate on your light…Try blasting him with your light…”
I couldn’t breathe… I couldn’t see… I certainly couldn’t think…
“Sookie please hold on…concentrate on your light…You cannot QUIT!”
I felt a foreign spark of light in my mind. It was coming from the place I was connected in thought to Adyline…It was my last straw in the swirling flood that was taking me down. Desperate for anything to hold on to, I grasped at that thought, that shared spark and held tight. It started to grow inside my head, spreading to my heart and I could feel it spreading to my limbs, to the very ends of my fingers and toes. Just as the light reached my fingers, the weight that was crushing me against the wall was blasted away from me and I could breathe again.
It was not as dark as I thought it was. I could make out the shape of a huge man crumpled on the floor, thrown a few feet from me. He appeared dark and bald and clearly knocked out.
“Oh my God Adyline, what happened? We just knocked the thief away…”
“I felt I was with you…”
“I felt the same sweety…it’s wonderful and weird and…noooo…no no no.”
“He is moving…He is moving again…He is going to kill me…”
“Blast him again…”
I tried summoning my light again but my exertion of the past day and night was showing and my light flickered. My hands shook in terror and I tried summoning my light again but the giant heaved and sat up, his eyes yellow slits in anger. They scared me to my core.
It was one of those moments when you know that this could be the end and after this, you might not be alive any more. I had had my fair share of these moments before. I knew what it was like being there on the brink, the very edge where a single movement could end you or save you. I was standing on that brink again…I knew I wanted to live…I knew I couldn’t outrun this giant…And I knew I needed to do this alone because no one was coming to help me.
So I stepped forward and took hold of the stolen sword that had landed in front of me. I didn’t know how to fight with a sword but it was sharp and it was my only option. And goddamnit it was heavy! I had to clutch it with both my hands. The tip of the blade was on the floor in front of me, and it must have been almost as long as my body.
Shit! This isn’t going to work! It’s too heavy…
The giant hauled his body up and slowly started to creep towards me. He was being wary, no doubt because of the light blast earlier. I knew I could not show any fear and tried to school my face, years of practice at hiding my emotions, coming to my immediate rescue. The giant stopped short when he looked at my face, and gasped. The change in his thought signature was immediate. From a red swirling hunk of snarls, it turned into a red swirling hunk of lust!
A chill ran down my spine and I shivered involuntarily. He closed the distance between us in three strides and looked me right into my eyes as he snatched the sword from my hand. I was struck dumb by his strange purplish eyes and the unnerving look of greed and lust in them. To my utter astonishment, he took a step back and in one lithe move, bowed and darted away, with a parting shock of – “I’ll see you again!”
It all happened so fast.
The relief I felt when he just took the sword and went away was so overpowering that I just slumped down to the ground in a daze. Maybe it was just the adrenaline but my hang-over was gone. My head ache was gone too. I could see again and I was seeing just one of everything.
“Sookie? You ok?”
“Yes Adyline…And I’m not drunk anymore…”
“He ran away…”
“Just like that?”
“With the sword! Shit he took the sword…”
“What sword Sookie?”
“That sword from the office…But he left me alone. He didn’t kill me…Oh thank god he didn’t kill me…”
“Just get away from where you are in case he decides to come back.”
“I don’t think he will. But I need to get to you…So sit tight kiddo, I am going to find a way to get to you…”
“Oh yes we were rescuin’ me!” she snickered…
We laughed at that and I started to get up to go after Adyline. Something caught my eye. It was a small pouch and, call me weird, but I think it was glimmering in the small amount of light in the passage. How strange! I got to it and picked it up. The pouch was embroidered dark velvet, with a drawstring decorated with beads of some kind. It absolutely did not look like something that could be lying around in the middle of the corridor.
Maybe the thief was taking this too and dropped it here when I blasted him…
I debated peeking inside, my mind arguing that it was bad manners to look into a purse that didn’t belong to me. However, I had found it lying around and I just wanted to know what was inside before handing it over perhaps to Tara, who could find the actual owner. After all, a small peak could hurt no one.
I opened the drawstring and peered inside, cursing the lack of proper light. Something was shining. I reached in and clasped the cool metal to pull it out. It was a dagger of some kind, small and decorated with stones on its hilt. It had a dull glow around it, the same one which I must have seen on the pouch. Even if I could not see it properly, I knew that it was absolutely beautiful. It was certainly something that a thief would want to steal. The Hulk may have taken the other sword, but I felt a little better inside thinking that I had saved something of value. I quickly put the dagger back inside the pouch and decided to turn it to someone I could trust, to return it back to whosoever it belonged to. Then I started towards Adyline again.