ERIC POV, CONTINUED
“This governing body does not make its decisions based upon coercion,” Russell growled at Queen Michelina’s words.
The Queen of New York scoffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “This Council—just like the one in Europe upon which it was modeled—has done whatever is required in order to accomplish its goals for as long as I have been a vampire! You being so old should know this better than anyone.”
“Times have changed,” Russell returned. “I have changed with them. I suggest you do the same Michelina!”
“Come now, Mississippi, what’s a little blackmail among friends?” she smirked.
“Please, Micky, stop this foolishness,” Agnes sighed.
“Yes, stop!” Stan agreed.
“Did you not hear that a Fae princess has a prior claim upon Eric Northman?” Desmond reinserted himself, aiming his comment at the Queen of New York.
“But a maker’s claim is paramount. And—if Northman were made king—he could do worse in a marriage than Freyda, who is undeniably beautiful,” Michelina reasoned. “So—you see—I am trying to do him a favor.”
Sookie stood up next to me, and—in that moment—she seemed to glow.
“I’ll only say this one time! Eric was mine before his maker strove to sell him like a common whore! Appius hated his own child’s happiness! Can you imagine such a thing!” she demanded of the New York queen.
“My maker is dead because of Northman’s child!” Michelina spit out—though I didn’t think she’d intended to do so.
“Micky, please. Mateo had gone rogue,” Agnes said compassionately. “If you hold a grudge against Northman and this child, then you must also hold one against me. I was among the group who hired the Slaughterer,” she added softly.
Michelina gasped and then glared as if wishing to harm the California queen.
“Micky,” Agnes entreated, “search your heart and your mind. Mateo was my friend; he is why you and I became friends. But you know as well as I do that—after your vampire brother met the sun—Mateo lost the aspects that had made him a great vampire. You know that he had to go. However—even during his deepest periods of insanity—can you imagine that he would have ever knowingly harmed you? Of course, he wouldn’t have!” Agnes answered her own question.
Michelina looked away from the camera.
“Karin did her job, Michelina,” Russell spoke up, his voice compassionate. As the oldest vampire on the Council, he would know.
“And it was the Ancient Pythoness herself who rang the death knell for Mateo,” the King of Mississippi continued. “But she did so reluctantly. And—those of us who supported her decision—did so with heavy hearts.”
Michelina shook her head and wiped away a red tear before it fell. “Again, we have moved too far from the matter at hand!”
“No. We have not,” Russell said powerfully. “We are talking about legitimacy of rule. Appius kept a grip on Eric for over a thousand years, even though vampire precedent frowns upon a maker controlling a child for more than 300 years. Appius also worked to imprison his child further! And Felipe was no better a sovereign! A good ruler should be a father or a mother of sorts to his or her subjects. But Felipe lost his way. Felipe broke covenant with Eric. And he acted to take Eric’s blood-bonded from him. I, for one, am ready to vote on this matter!”
Michelina frowned. “Was it not Felipe’s right to demand his asset’s service? Northman should have been forthcoming with the telepath.”
“I am not the telepath!” Sookie insisted, still on her feet next to me and still glowing a little.
Like the fairy she was!
I smiled a little. She had—indeed—embraced her nature. And—in so doing—I could only imagine what strength she might find.
“I am Sookie Stackhouse, and—soon enough—I’ll be Sookie Northman. I will not allow myself to be controlled or owned or stolen or bartered for! As a Supernatural, I am afforded the right to choose when and to whom I will offer fealty!”
“Yet you pledged against your will,” Michelina challenged. “I have heard the rumors.”
“Rumors can be misleading,” Sookie responded. “Here are the facts! Number one: I have chosen to be Eric’s mate. Number two: I have claimed him, and he has claimed me. Number three: Appius had no right to steal my bonded or ruin his happiness. Number 4: Felipe had no right to try to harm a loyal sheriff!”
Sookie took a breath. “Appius would have slain Eric’s spirit. Felipe would have slain my bonded in order to take me. And I’m fucking glad they are both dead!” Sookie yelled out, glowing even more than before.
She was fucking magnificent! And she was saying all that I wished I could say, but could not—given the nature of the proceedings.
“Dearest,” Desmond cautioned his goddaughter in a whisper, “perhaps being calm would be better.”
“No!” Sookie yelled out with a vigorous shake of her head. “No! The issue is simple! Felipe was a horrible king! He took advantage of his people and undermined at least one loyal sheriff! That much is irrefutable. From what I can tell, you all knew Felipe was—at the very least—mismanaging his territories,” she accused the Council. “Yet you all did nothing!”
“We had no right to step in,” Stan said.
“Maybe y’all need to amend your policies so that you can keep kings and queens from doin’ things that’ll get you all into trouble! Many of the vampires I’ve met have a lot of honor. I get that y’all can be cruel and ambitious too. But—from what I can tell—most of the time your cruelty is against enemies, and your ambition doesn’t crush those who ought to be respected!”
Sookie sat down forcefully into her chair, having never let go of my hand. “I just hope I’m not wrong about y’all,” she muttered.
“The world is changing, as Sookie said,” Nargal offered. “Eric would be a king able to negotiate that change.”
“He strives to work with the two-natured, and he has fair-dealings with humans too,” Calvin said.
“And respect for the witches of the world,” Octavia echoed.
“And the Fae,” a surprising voice said from behind me. I looked back to see that Niall had “popped” in with is son, Dermot. Sookie looked over her shoulder, and I could tell that—in that moment—much was being healed within her relationship with her great-grandfather.
Meanwhile, Nan looked about ready to shit herself as she noted the fairies’ presence. She backed away from them a little.
“And the Norseman has ever been a noble leader of vampires,” Thalia averred. “And I am old enough to know when an illegitimate leader is best dead!” she muttered for good measure.
“I know that Eric is ready to die if your Council finds him guilty, but that would be a grave error on your part,” Niall said firmly—his tone very near to threatening. “Felipe de Castro needed to go. He endangered my great-granddaughter at least once because he did not reign in his minion, Victor Madden! And Madden’s petty actions against Sookie’s bonded forced her to endure an indescribable level of torture at the hands of my enemies. Felipe shirked his duty to my great-granddaughter even after she had saved his life and he had committed his kingdom to her safety! If anything, you should be celebrating the one who removed him from this plane. And—just to be clear—I am willing to fight for the lives of these two,” the fairy added, surprising the hell out of me. “I am willing to die for their right to rule in Louisiana.”
“Their?!” Michelina asked with exasperation.
“But of course,” Niall smirked. “Sookie is of my line. If she is bonded and pledged to a vampire king, then what else would she be other than a queen?”
Agnes chuckled a little. “Northman, I do not know whether to be envious of your cornucopia of friends or frightened of you because of them. Regardless, I agree with Russell that a vote is called for, but—I want it known for the record that the implicit and explicit threats from your friends have not swayed my decision.”
“Understood,” I acknowledged.
The California queen smiled at Sookie and me, her gaze warm even through the monitor. “I support your kingship, Eric Northman. I believe that Felipe de Castro broke his covenant as king long before you broke faith with him as subject in order to protect yourself and your bonded. Moreover, I believe that he went against the laws vampires have established since mainstreaming and that—even if she were fully human—Sookie Stackhouse ought not have been thought of as chattel by the king. Eric, I thank you for ridding this nation of someone whose ambition would have ill-affected us all. Further, I recognize the claim of your fairy mate upon you. And, on a personal note, may I say that I am glad that her claim has undermined the ill-begotten plans of your maker, who—quite frankly—would have done the world a favor by meeting the sun the day after he made you!”
Clearly done speaking, the Queen of California sat back in her chair.
“I echo the sentiments of the California queen,” Russell stated. “No matter his promising beginning, Felipe was a rat by the end. And vermin must be exterminated. Perhaps, Miss Stackhouse is correct that this Council needs to evolve to create greater checks and balances to prevent monarchs from preying upon those like Queen Sophie-Anne when they are in a vulnerable position due to no fault of their own. In my friend Sophie-Anne’s memory and upon his own merit, I support Eric Northman’s claim to the Louisiana throne. And—as king—he can strike aside that farce of a contract his maker planned for him. Eric,” the Mississippi king said, addressing me directly, a slight smirk on his face, “like Agnes, I am glad that Appius has no more claim on your ‘love life’—as the humans call it—for the fairy princess by your side clearly seems to own that aspect of you.”
“She does,” I said, nodding in agreement.
“In that case, I’ll just call you a lucky bastard and wish you well,” Russell added with a wink toward Sookie.
The vote was two for my continued life and kingship, but there were still two to come, and I didn’t hold out any hope of receiving Michelina’s support.
But it seemed that Niall’s visit and direct support would not be the only surprise I received that night.
The Queen of New York spoke next, though her words seemed to pain her. “I will not block you from taking the throne, Eric Northman, nor will I call for your head. However, I think that the action you took this night could set an unwise precedent for future sheriffs. Indeed, if an underling of yours decides to take your life because of that precedent, I won’t be overly sorry,” she growled. “But the testimony of Miss Sechrest has made me aware of Felipe’s shortcomings, and—as California said—there is a case to be made for a monarch being just as obliged to his or her followers as an underling is to his or her ruler. As to Miss Stackhouse’s claim upon you as opposed to Queen Freyda’s, I abstain from weighing in on that matter any further. I remain steadfast in my belief that a maker should have ultimate authority over a child, but,” she paused, “you are well beyond the age when Appius ought to have freed you. And there was no reason why he should have tried to enslave you further. I will hate your child until my final death,” she said matter-of-factly. “I won’t be able to help myself. However, my own maker—before he declined—taught me that only the worst of vampires reward their loyal children with pain. I will not tarnish his memory by causing you more suffering just because of the way I feel on a personal level.”
Shocked by Michelina’s words, I looked at Sookie, who was also quite stunned for a moment. And—then—elation filtered into the bond from both of us; my beloved’s smile was the most beautiful expression I’d ever seen.
Three votes meant that I would not be sentenced to death!
“What a fucking waste of my fucking time. I’m out of here,” Nan huffed, her heels clicking against the dance floor as she moved toward the door, her minions following along like puppies. “And may I say again—what a colossally fucking waste of my time! Not a good beginning, Northman! I’ll expect your pretty mug on a couple of talk shows to make this up to me! And your bonded too! You can be the poster boy and girl of inter-species love!” she added sarcastically before slamming the door behind her.
Stan smiled and pushed up the glasses that he didn’t need. “It’s always a relief when she leaves, but she’s excellent at her work.” He chuckled. “Anyway, it seems as though my vote isn’t needed. But I will make the decision to ratify your kingship unanimous, Viking. You have the qualifications to be a king—and you certainly have the age, given that you are older than I am! And—as to your fairy’s claim upon you—I agree with Russell. Her claim predates that of Freyda of Oklahoma, and now that your bonded has made her heritage known, it would be foolhardy for any to challenge that claim,” he commented, seeming to look first at the demons of our group and then at the fairies.
“You asked for Louisiana only, Viking,” Russell said. “Do you have opinions about Nevada and Arkansas?”
“Sandy Sechrest was in Vegas long before Felipe, and all know her to be a good businesswoman. I believe that she should be given Nevada. As for Arkansas—there are few vampires left there,” I commented. “My resources will be spread thin enough getting Louisiana back on her feet. I would suggest that another neighboring monarch be offered Arkansas.”
“Oklahoma could have it—as a consolation?” Agnes offered. “Wait—never mind. Freyda has a difficult enough time managing what she already has!”
“Indiana and I could hold the territory in a kind of guardianship until a worthy candidate for monarch is found,” Russell offered. “As Eric said, there are very few vampires in the state right now—only eleven permanent residents when Felipe’s people are not taken into account.”
“Any opposed to these plans?” Michelina asked.
When no one on the Council said anything, the New York queen sighed. “Then I propose that Sandy Sechrest be granted the title of Queen of Nevada. Do you accept?” she asked, looking at Sandy.
“I do,” the vampiress affirmed.
“Fine. Then, by the power vested in me as the Official Chairperson of this Council,” Michelina said in a clipped tone, “I believe that congratulations are in order, Queen Sechrest and King Northman. I am sure that your attorneys will file the required paperwork in a timely matter?”
“Of course. And there will also be paperwork petitioning that Sookie be declared Queen of Louisiana as well,” Desmond said.
Agnes chuckled. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Desmond. After all, a non-vampire has never been a queen.”
“Perhaps, as long as she did not have succession rights?” Russell suggested with a smirk.
“Just file the goddamned paperwork!” Michelina snarled right before her part of the screen when black.
“Do not hold this night against her. She would not have acted that way had Karin not been the one to do what was needed regarding her maker. Micky really is of a good sort,” Agnes said with a little nod. She seemed to be looking right at Sookie. “Most of us are—you know.”
“Most that I know—yes,” Sookie agreed.
The California Queen’s portion of the screen went blank after she gave another smile to Eric and Sookie.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to oppose you,” Stan said with a lopsided grin.
“God, you’re an asshole!” Russell commented as the ancient’s screen went black.
Stan winked before disconnecting his communication link.
“And that’s a cut,” Molly said, disconnecting our own link.
For a moment, no one else in the room made a noise.
“That went a lot better than I thought it would!” Desmond finally laughed, turning to face Sookie and me with a lethal-looking grin on his face.
“So Eric’s—uh? And he’s—um?” Sookie stammered.
“Eric is king. And your claim to him has been verified,” Desmond confirmed.
“So Freyda’s?” Sookie asked.
“A nonissue,” I smiled at my bonded as I turned to kiss her forehead and sent all of the affection I felt for her into our bond.
She smiled at me. “We really won?”
I nodded. “Yes. And now we get to rule.”
“That sounds hard,” Sookie grunted.
I chuckled. “We’ll make it look easy!”
A/N: I hope you enjoyed the chapter. The trial was really fun to write! And-in the end-I didn’t think Michelina was bad; I did need her in order to infuse the trial with a bit of suspense though. Initially, this was to be the last chapter, but I ended up adding several more just to wrap up loose ends. I hope you are still enjoying this and will drop me a line if you have the time.
As always, all kinds of thanks to Steph and Kleannhouse!!!!