ERIC POV, CONTINUED
“Please calm yourself, Queen of New York,” Russell said firmly. “We are well away from taking a vote. We have not even heard all of Eric’s case yet!”
Michelina scoffed. “I have no doubt where you will fall—Mississippi king—when it comes to adjudicating the murderer of Felipe de Castro!”
I responded as Russell growled at his fellow Council member. “I committed no murder; I defended myself and my bonded. And let us acknowledge facts. Vampires may be an ambitious group, but most of us have celebrated our honor for longer than I have existed on this earth. Rhodes was a tragedy which would have been ten times worse if not for my bonded, yet Felipe took advantage of what happened in Rhodes—just as, I believe, someone recently wished to take advantage of the King of Texas’s vulnerable situation. This kind of taking advantage—by a king no less—demonstrates a decided lack of honor. Humans attacked us. Felipe de Castro ought to have rallied around his fellow monarchs—not plotted to steal one or more of their territories,” I commented.
I noticed that Stan had sat up a bit straighter at my words. “You are right that many were,” the Texas king paused, “disabled by Rhodes, but had Sophie-Anne been stronger before that, Felipe might have failed.”
“My queen was not lacking in strength before Hurricane Katrina, and you all know it.” I stared unwaveringly at all the monarchs in my view. “I know that many of you have had to help recovery processes following hurricanes or earthquakes, but there has never been a natural disaster that took the number of Supernatural lives and livelihoods that Hurricane Katrina did. Sophie-Anne—while dealing with a trial because King Peter Threadgill tried to kill her in her own territory, I might add—was trying to help this state thrive again. Felipe took advantage of that fucking hurricane, my queen’s injuries from Rhodes, and the death of Andre. And he conducted a successful takeover. Whether he should have done that sets up for an uncomfortable precedent—don’t you think.”
“Are you trying to imply that you killed your king out of some kind of allegiance for your slain queen?” Russell asked helpfully.
I had hoped for such an opening.
“I will admit that I wished to fight on for Sophie-Anne, but—since she was already gone—I turned my attention toward me and mine. And their survival,” I informed. “That is why I agreed to serve de Castro when Madden made the offer.”
“It is unusual,” Agnes of California said, contributing for the first time, “that a new king would keep on anyone of power from the previous regime, especially a vampire as strong as Sheriff Northman.”
“But de Castro was wise in some ways,” Russell remarked. “He would have known the kind of profit made by Area 5 under Eric’s tenure. He would have speculated that losing that income would have been a massive detriment.”
“Is it not true that you were found—on the night of the takeover—at Sookie Stackhouse’s home?” Michelina asked snidely.
I could feel my bonded’s temper rising, but I also knew that she was in control of herself.
“Of course, I was there,” I responded, instead of becoming defensive. “Where else would I be—but with my bonded?”
“Is it not true that your story about de Castro’s so-called murder plot against you is a lie? Why—I would bet that you killed your king only for a mere bloodbag!” Michelina sneered.
Now—my temper threatened to rise up to the surface.
It was Sookie’s injection of calm into our bond that stopped me from lashing out.
Luckily, Desmond chose that moment to reinsert himself into the proceedings. “Ah,” he said, “I believe I should speak upon this point. And,” he added, “glaring toward the part of the screen holding Michelina’s image, “I would advise you not to use disparaging language against Miss Stackhouse.”
“Why ever not?” Michelina asked with a haughty sneer. “Why would you care about how I address a human, demon? You are only Northman’s counsel in these proceedings.”
“I am also Mr. Northman’s father-in-law—of sorts,” the part-Dae said with an incline of his head. “And even if Sookie were 100% human—which she is most certainly not—her behavior in Rhodes ought to be enough for an honorable queen—which is what I know you to be most of the time, New York—to speak of her with respect.”
“Are you questioning my honor?” Michelina charged.
“No,” Desmond returned. “Just your objectivity in this case.”
“How dare you!” the New York queen yelled.
“Micky, please,” Agnes soothed, using the New York queen’s nickname, which I knew was reserved for only her closer friends.
“The demon is right,” the California monarch said gently. “Miss Stackhouse saved many of our kind in Rhodes, at great personal risk. Mr. Cataliades’s request that you speak of her with respect is a reasonable one.”
“What did you mean when you said that Eric’s bonded is not completely human?” Stan asked when it was clear that Michelina was done venting out her displeasure.
“Sookie Stackhouse has my blood flowing through her veins. In addition, she is of the Fae house of Brigant. I am her guardian—instilled in my position by Fintan Brigant, son of Niall, and Sookie’s paternal grandfather,” the lawyer informed. “From this day forward, Sookie Stackhouse requires that the vampire world acknowledge her as a Fae princess and Dae ward.”
I felt Sookie squirm slightly next to me at the word “princess,” but she did nothing to deny Desmond’s words.
“What?” Russell asked. “But—as far as we all knew—Sookie was just a talented human!”
“I am sure that you can understand the desire of Sookie’s family to be discreet, given the ongoing conflict among the Fae concerning those who are not of full blood,” I said diplomatically. “Of course, Felipe knew that Sookie had Fae blood. I can produce recorded phone calls that demonstrate that I was upfront with my former king about Sookie’s lineage.”
“And the Dae connection?” Stan asked.
“My blood was a gift to any of Fintan’s descendants who possessed the Fae spark,” Desmond proclaimed.
“And my brother’s blood is my blood; thus, Sookie is my blood,” Nargal said from behind me.
“And Sookie’s blood is Northman’s,” Desmond added. “So, the vampire, Eric Northman, is also family to all of the Cataliades clan.”
“And all of our kin,” Nargal added.
I fought to keep my eyes from opening wide at that proclamation. Basically, Desmond and Nargal had both just promised that they would wage a war for either Sookie or me!
“Are you threatening us?” Michelina asked tersely.
“Of course not,” Desmond said with a toothy smile, his teeth looking as deadly as a vampire’s fangs. “I am merely indicating why I am here on behalf of my goddaughter and her bonded. And—of course—I am a witness too.”
“A witness to what?” Agnes asked.
“To the fact that de Castro entered this bar with the intention of killing Sheriff Northman. To the fact that Felipe wanted Sookie Stackhouse for his own. To the fact that he allowed Victor Madden to run this state into the ground and undo all the good that was being done by Sophie-Anne—despite the dire situation—before her death!”
“I can attest to that as well,” Octavia said.
“And you are?” Agnes asked.
“I am Octavia Fant, coven leader of New Orleans and supporter of Eric Northman’s regime.”
“Whether or not Mr. Northman has a regime is still a matter of argument,” Michelina said unpleasantly.
“You seem to have a collection of eclectic allies, Eric,” Stan said with some amusement—though some caution.
“There are none here that do not believe that Eric Northman would be a worthy King of Louisiana,” Desmond said confidently, “if you will let him.”
“What of Nevada and Arkansas?” Agnes asked. “Would you desire them too, Mr. Northman?”
“I never desired to be a king at all,” I answered honestly. “But—to protect me and mine—I find that is my only option at this time. As for Nevada, I would put forward Sandy Sechrest, who was Felipe’s second-in-command. And—in Arkansas—I would defer to the Council.” I bowed my head.
“Oh—how deferential of you,” Michelina sneered. “But we have lost focus on the fact that you killed your king! If I had my way, Council representatives would—even now—be converging upon that little bar of yours to make sure you were finally dead by morning! But I have been blocked in this and forced to endure this needless call when we all know What should be—must be—done when a sheriff kills his king,” she said, seeming to sneer at her fellow Council members.
“But we must not kill a new king either! And I see Eric’s actions as completely justified. The gods know that Northman will be a worthier king anyway—better for us all!” Russell proclaimed, making his position clear. “Felipe was a lit fuse intent upon blowing up a power structure that has worked well for us for years! Gods! He was trying to strip Louisiana and Arkansas from Amun!”
“Narayana was upset by Felipe’s ideas of expansion as well. There have been rumors that he was spreading himself too thin—much to the detriment of his people,” Agnes sighed. “Pity—he was once such a promising king.”
“Felipe’s character is not in question!” Michelina glared.
“Isn’t it, Micky?” Agnes asked. “Should it not be? As much as I hate the thought that a sheriff killed his king, I must entertain the possibility that Felipe had broken a law even more sacred than the one Eric did.”
“What law?” Michelina practically spit out.
“The law of bondeds,” Agnes said softly.
“Yes,” Russell nodded. “Long before this Council formed, the protected status of a bonded was recognized. I have no trouble believing that Felipe would have ignored that status.”
“But they are bonded no more!” Michelina yelled out.
“Whatever your source is—you are incorrect,” Desmond said.
“You are biased!” Michelina sneered. “And that is why I have sent one to you who is not!” she added triumphantly.
Just then, my attention went to the door of my bar as I heard several vehicles approaching.
“What have you done?” Agnes asked Michelina.
“I have simply asked Nan to be on hand in case Northman is found guilty of treason,” she responded innocently.
At her words, the tension inside of Fangtasia grew. The magic of the witches practically cackled in readiness. The Dae all seemed to flex their hands at once, ready to cast fire at enemies if needed. Calvin and the others of two-natures in the room seemed to shimmer. And my loyal vampires all dropped fang.
“Nan is a Council representative,” Stan said almost soothingly. “She will not act without a consensus from this body.”
I nodded and looked at my bonded, who had also tensed up.
“Six vampires,” she whispered, alerting me to the number of potential enemies who had arrived.
I nodded and then turned back to the others. “Stand down.”
The energy in the room abated somewhat right as Nan Flanagan entered; she was wearing a cat-suit that made her look about as un-sexy as any vampire could, and she was flanked by four guards.
I could tell that one of her people had waited by the entrance.
“Lovely little gathering you have here,” Nan said, looking around the room.
“Nan,” Russell said from the live feed. “I assume you are there to observe only.”
“And to act if need be,” she said, sounding bored.
“You can begin by determining whether a bond still exists between Northman and the . . . .” Michelina paused and did not complete the insult she had been surely planning. “And Miss Stackhouse.”
Sookie and I had both risen to face the spokesperson for the AVL.
Nan strolled over to us and smirked before inhaling deeply. She seemed somewhat surprised for a moment. Clearly, Michelina had a spy or a confidant in Felipe’s circle—or perhaps Freyda’s. Either way, it was obvious that the New York queen had been informed that Sookie and my bond had been broken. And she had contacted Nan with this information.
I had never been more thankful for Ludwig in my existence! Had she not created an antidote that would reestablish Sookie’s authentic scent—which included our bond and an abundance of Eau de Eric—the premeditation of my action against Felipe would have surely been discovered! I was determined to give the little troll another bonus!
I’m sure she’d expect it.
“So?” Michelina asked insistently.
Nan looked at the screen almost apologetically. “The telepath reeks of Northman. The bond is inarguable and strong.”
Michelina frowned. “But I was told . . . .”
“Rumors are often incorrect,” Stan said.
“Let us get back on point,” Russell said. “I believe that it is to the Viking’s credit that he even attempted to serve Felipe! And all that I have heard before tonight indicates that Eric served him well! Thus, it is de Castro’s failings that have led us to this point—that led him to his death.”
“But consider the precedent if we accept Eric as king,” Agnes said contemplatively. “I agree that de Castro had become a prick. Hell! Nevada was part of my own clan, so I’ve had to work with him for years! As I indicated, he began as a good and visionary king. But—during the last few years—he became so hung up on his personal ambitions that he all but ignored his people’s welfare. Still—the overthrowing of monarchs—even bad ones—has never been sanctioned by this Council.”
“And allowing a monarch of summarily kill his sheriff without cause—especially with the intent of stealing someone with whom that sheriff was bonded—should not be a policy of this Council either,” Russell said firmly.
“But to what should we give the most weight?” Stan asked his fellows.
“If Felipe intended what he has been accused of, then I cannot help but to believe that Mr. Northman was justified,” Agnes observed.
“But how can we even know Felipe’s true motives?” Michelina asked. “I still say that Northman is likely lying about his king’s intentions in order to cover up his own ambitions.”
Russell muttered. “What ambitions?”
“Northman is not lying,” Sandy Sechrest averred, stepping forward so that she was in the frame of the camera. “Sheriff Northman has been being wronged for as long as Nevada has been the ruler of Louisiana. I had hope that Felipe was turning a corner from a selfish phase to a selfless one when he ordered Madden to allow Eric to live on the night of the takeover. But—after that—Felipe let Madden have free reign in squeezing every penny possible from Area 5. He allowed Madden to interfere with Eric at every turn—once the king decided that he wished to have Sookie for his own.”
“You are betraying your liege,” Michelina accused.
“I was loyal to Felipe for a very long time, but he is dead and gone now,” Sandy said. “My loyalties—now—are to the vampires who remain in Nevada. They have been straining under Felipe’s unfair taxing. Instead of building up his existing kingdoms, Felipe had been looking outward—overlooking his people—and scheming to take even more states in Amun, Zeus, and Moshup! He had designs on all of the Mississippi River states! And upon New Jersey too—since he felt best suited to run Atlantic City! And I can produce proof of that if required. He wanted the telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, to aid him with his ambitions!”
“What?” Russell asked. “All states bordering the Mississippi?”
Sandy bowed her head. “Yes—you were on his list of conquests, King Edgington.” Sandy looked steadfastly toward the camera. “Honestly, if Felipe had remained a good king, I would have fought at his side until my true death, even if he expanded his territories to include the whole world! But he was not—ultimately—equipped with enough honor or restraint to be a just ruler, so I told Eric of Felipe’s plans to murder him and steal Miss Stackhouse. I stand ready to accept punishment for that if need be,” she said with pride.
“So, you were Cassius to Northman’s Brutus,” Michelina sneered.
“Don’t forget that Caesar was a fucking tyrant in the end. I should know; after all, I am old enough to have seen that cluster fuck firsthand,” Thalia muttered from behind me. “Everyone who stabbed him deserved a fucking medal.”
“Let us not get off track,” Agnes entreated. “Do you have more to say, Miss Sechrest?”
“Yes,” Sandy said, after glancing at me. “I have not yet told you—or Eric—about the full extent of Felipe’s interference into his life—or the true reason why Eric was allowed to live on after the takeover.”
A/N: I hope you are not finding the trial too tedious. I found myself fascinated as I wrote it. I was trying to imagine myself as every character in the scene (and there are TONS at this point-LOL). Especially fun was trying to imagine the world from the perspective of each of the vampire monarchs and infusing their words with their motives and personalities. BTW, even though Kleannhouse hated Michelina and was calling for her death at around this point (LOL), I actually found her backstory interesting and could understand her bitterness since Karin had slain her maker. It’s always really interesting to me imagine characters that might be “likable” on their own, but are “anti”-Eric and Sookie. I actually thought that de Castro would be interesting in this regard when he was first introduced in the books, but-like many things-CH didn’t use these characters to their full worth. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this; the trial will continue next week.