NEW ORLEANS (the same night as the previous chapter)
“I have been waiting to see the queen for forty-five minutes!” Bill Compton complained, his tone a mixture of desperation, haughtiness, and frustration. “Has she been told that I am here on a matter of great importance? Do you even fucking understand me?” he ended his question by muttering.
The Saxon warrior, one of a pair of twin brothers that Sophie-Anne brought over centuries before the so-called soldier in front of him had been born, kept his expression blank. Of course, Wybert—just like his brother Sigebert—was capable of great emotion; however, both brothers felt that it was ill-spent around the unworthy.
“Do you even speak English?” Bill hissed out.
Wybert suppressed his desire to kill Bill Compton with his bare hands. The younger vampire had lived in Sophie-Anne’s court for about a decade—leeching off of the queen like many of the other sycophants who offered their “services” in exchange for the right to be close to the monarch and feed from her wealth and position.
Admittedly, Compton was slightly better than must, for his talents in procurement had often benefitted the queen and all of her progeny. However, the Civil War veteran was clueless about a great many things—including the fact that Wybert could speak English (as well as twelve other languages) extremely well.
Of course, Compton’s ignorance stemmed from the fact that Wybert and Sigebert rated him only high enough to have earned their stilted grunts—despite the good-tasting blood sources he’d managed to procure for them over the years.
Compton’s current histrionics were only added evidence that he was unworthy of Wybert’s time and the queen’s favor. Indeed, Sophie-Anne had already been contemplating tossing Bill out of her court—and onto his narrow ass—when the younger vampire showed up with a half-starving, half-dead drug addict, whom he swore was just the kind of “steady meal and fuck source” the queen was always looking for.
Wybert had to hand it to Bill. It took him fifteen nights to get the woman—Hadley—healthy enough, polished up and detoxed so that she could be presented properly to Sophie-Anne, but the transformation in the young human had been phenomenal. Indeed, the queen’s pleasure regarding the woman—who was at first a favored “feed and fuck,” and then a pet, and finally a child— again raised Bill in the queen’s estimation.
However, his maker had lately been displeased by the lack of speed with which Compton was carrying out his current tasks.
And—in Wybert’s opinion—that lack of speed and efficiency on Compton’s part ought to have repercussions. And those were beginning with the annoying asshole waiting for just as long as the Queen of Louisiana wanted him to!
Wybert felt several “taps” inside of his thoughts, signaling that his maker was ready for Compton. Although the Saxons did not enjoy the same level of telepathic connection with their maker as Andre did, they could exchange “taps” with one another, similar to a shorthand version of Morse Code.
“Follow,” Wybert ordered gruffly as he turned to leave the waiting area, not really caring if Bill followed. Actually, he would have preferred it if the inferior vampire stayed in place. Sadly, Bill’s heavy, frustrated steps trailed his own much more silent, stealth-honed steps.
“Your majesty,” Bill said in his Southern lilt, an accent that had never held any charm for the Queen of Louisiana. She’d always been one to embrace adaptation to the times within which she found herself, holding on to older traditions only for as long as they suited her needs.
Antiquated ways of talking certainly had never been on her list of items to “keep.”
Of course, neither were pleated khaki pants and polo shirts that looked to be from the 1980s.
“Bill, it is good to see that you are no worse for wear following your time with your maker,” she said, eyebrow raised.
“You knew I was with Lorena?” Bill asked with surprise.
“Do you think Sheriff Northman would have gone looking for you if I’d not spurred him on?” she asked with a smirk.
The queen could not ignore the look of anger that passed over the younger vampire’s face at the mention of her most effective sheriff. From Bill’s past reports to her regarding his assignments, the queen knew that the sheriff had become something of a thorn in Bill’s side, but—for the life of her—Sophie-Anne had a difficult time determining just why that was. Oh—she speculated that it had to do with the telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, whom she’d sent Bill to make contact with and—ideally—to procure for her court. However, Bill had been using all kinds of stall tactics where the telepath was concerned.
And that concerned the queen.
“Did Northman tell you about Jackson?” Bill asked somewhat tentatively.
“Why don’t you tell me about it? Now!” the queen returned, ever savvy. As a matter of fact, she had not yet discussed Eric’s foray into Russell’s territory with her sheriff, and she likely wouldn’t bring up the matter with him—unless there was need. Though Andre sometimes disagreed with her almost-full trust in Eric Northman, both Sophie-Anne’s instincts and her experience told her that micromanaging an already effective manager was never a good idea.
And Eric was nothing if not an effective sovereign of his corner of Louisiana. Andre was threatened by that fact; by contrast, Sophie-Anne was comforted by it.
“I do not know what you already know and do not want to waste your time,” Bill hedged.
Sophie-Anne “tapped” out a short order to Wybert, who stepped a bit closer to Bill, just as Sigebert, who was standing behind her, moved closer to her. Moments later, Andre and Hadley, risen only two nights before, entered.
“I had not known you’d made Hadley your child,” Bill said as he took in Hadley’s beauty appreciatively. Sophie-Anne did not mind. Hadley had “come out” particularly well. Her beauty aside, she was also exhibiting amazing control for a younger vampire. Of course, Sophie-Anne was ensuring that the newborn not feel the pangs of hunger for long after she rose each night, but that did not change the fact that her new child had been controlling her blood-craving almost completely, even visiting with her witch friend, Amelia, earlier that evening.
And Hadley’s fangs had stayed up during the entire half hour of the interaction, though the witch was fetching and smelled good—at least, for a witch.
“Yes. And Hadley is understandably anxious for news of her kin,” Sophie-Anne said in a calculated manner, even as she reached out her hand to take hold of her youngest child’s.
“Yes! How are Jason and Sookie? They doin’ okay? Have you told them I’d love a visit? Do you think they’ll accept me? Like this—I mean?” Hadley effused.
Sophie-Anne looked up at her child; though she was lovely, she knew little of politics—or pretext. The queen would be glad if things could stay that way—at least for the time being—given the fact that Hadley was clearly clueless regarding the tension in the room. And regarding why the queen had raised the current line of questioning with Bill.
“Your cousins are well,” Bill said, though he looked like a human whose necktie was on way too tightly.
“Why are you lying?” Sophie-Anne asked.
“Lyin’?” Hadley asked Bill with confusion.
“I—uh—it is just that Eric involved Sookie in my rescue from Lorena,” Bill said, looking even more uncomfortable.
“Yes. You were about to tell us the whole story—beginning with why you did not inform me that you were leaving Area 5 to see your maker. Surely, you would have known that I would have wished to have been informed,” the queen probed.
Bill did not speak.
“You will tell your queen everything. Now!” Andre ordered in his most threatening tone.
Bill recoiled at the sound of it. So did Hadley, who was intimidated by her oldest sibling.
Wybert inched even closer to Bill, ready to enforce any orders Sophie-Anne gave to him.
“Lorena called me to Seattle,” Bill said softly. “She expressed her desire to,” he paused, “reconnect.”
“Why not ask me for a leave of absence then? Why not inform me so that I could send Andre to secure your work?” the queen asked.
The room was silent as Bill looked toward the floor.
“Speak!” Wybert ordered, poking Bill in the side with the blunt end of a short knife the Saxon always kept concealed under his tunic.
“And look at me when you do so,” the queen added in an almost casual tone.
A tone that meant that Bill was treading on very thin ice.
“Your majesty, I have only ever sought to serve you. I am here to tell you how Northman is undermining my project with Sookie!” Bill stammered, his fear clear in his eyes as he raised them.
“Project?” Hadley asked.
The queen rolled her eyes at her subject. “Bill, I recall asking you to be discreet about that little project.”
“What project?” Hadley pushed, jerking her hand from the queen’s.
Andre hissed at his youngest sibling’s public show of disrespect.
The queen held up her hand to calm both of her children. In some ways the two were very much alike—hotheaded and quick to act.
Wybert and Sigebert were her steadier progeny. Of course, Sophie-Anne had selected both Andre and Hadley for reasons of love; by contrast, the Saxons were chosen for reasons of practicality. Both had supplied her with brute force when needed, and Wybert had proven to be a gifted strategist as well—both in battle and politics.
“You already know that Bill was sent to Bon Temps to learn about the status of your family,” Sophie-Anne said breezily to her youngest child. “And you are also well-aware that I was made curious of your cousin, Sookie, because of your description of her. It stands to reason that I would want to have her in my retinue—if she chose to be.”
Immediately, Sophie-Anne felt her child’s jealousy.
The queen sent calm to her progeny. “You need not fear, my love. My interest in your cousin only solidifies your own value in my mind. Come,” she urged, willing herself to be patient for the moment it took for Hadley to retake her hand.
“And Bill’s project?” Hadley asked, much more respectfully than she’d spoken before.
“He was to charm her,” Sophie-Anne winked at her child. “Enchant her so that she’d work here for me when I required her to so. I had hoped that he might even captivate your cousin to the point that she would want to move here—permanently—with him.”
Hadley frowned and looked at Bill. “You seduced my cousin?”
Sophie-Anne smirked, “Yes. He was to romance her—but only if she was amenable to the idea.”
“Amenable?” the mostly-uneducated youngling asked.
“Agreeable. Receptive,” Andre supplied, though his voice betrayed his impatience with his younger sibling.
Hadley’s frown deepened. “But—uh—that’s horrible!”
Sophie-Anne shook her head fondly. “How so, dearest one? You told me yourself that Sookie was never one to have love in her life—due to her,” she paused, “oddness. And Bill matches the stereotype of the Southern gentleman you told me she fawned over in that film.”
“Gone with the Wind,” Hadley whispered. “But I never . . . .” She stopped for a moment in order to collect her thoughts. “Sophie-Anne, I don’t want her to have something fake. A—uh—phony love.”
“Do not fret, my love,” Sophie-Anne smiled softly. “Bill was never to force her—only to give her a little touch of a fairy tale,” she added, looking at Andre with a knowing smirk.
Of course, Andre had tasted the fairy blood in Hadley, though they’d yet to trace its source. Though Sophie-Anne had never heard of a fairy being telepathic, the ability was clearly a supernatural trait, perhaps an effect of the melding of human blood with the magic of the Fae. Sophie-Anne couldn’t help but to wonder if Hadley’s child, Hunter, might develop some “extra” trait as well, though it seemed that Sookie was the only one who had yet manifested an extraordinary skill in her family.
“Well, if you put it that way,” Hadley said, her face scrunched up as if she were deciphering a difficult mathematics problem, “I guess you were sort of doin’ Sook a favor. I mean, now that Gran’s gone,” she wiped away a red tear, “she’s probably real lonely.”
“So, Bill?” Sophie-Anne said brightly as she looked back at her subject. “How is your project with Sookie going?”
“As I conveyed in my last report, Sookie is stridently opposed to moving away from Bon Temps,” Bill said apologetically. “And I am still having difficulty with Northman’s interference.”
“You need to refer to him as Sheriff Northman,” the queen said, her voice holding a clear warning in it. If nothing else, Sophie-Anne respected the chain of command.
Bill nodded. “Of course, your majesty.”
“What has Sheriff Northman done?” Sophie-Anne asked.
“He has tried to undermine my relationship with Sookie at every turn,” Bill said as if he were the victim of some great affront.
“Does she prefer the Viking?” Sophie-Anne asked. “If so, let her have her preference. She’ll be less likely to wish to move to New Orleans, but—if she prefers her current location anyway—the sheriff is a fine enough caretaker. And—if she enjoys spending time with him—so much the better!”
She winked at Wybert, who was the child that made the most fun of her “match-making” inclinations; in turn, the Saxon subtly rolled his eyes.
“Your majesty!” Bill exclaimed. “Surely you are joking! You know the type of vampire Nor—uh—Sheriff Northman is!”
Sophie-Anne’s fangs slid down, her earlier levity disappearing in an instant. “Watch your tone, Bill. I selected that type of vampire as my sheriff before you turned a century old! If you question my judgement, you will feel my wrath!”
The queen rarely committed acts of violence herself, but she was adept at inflicting great pain. Feeling her ire through their bonds with their maker, all of her children—even the “Berts”—recoiled a bit.
“Apologies, your majesty,” Bill whimpered. “It is just that I do not want for Sookie to be hurt. And Sheriff Northman can be ruthless.”
Sophie-Anne took in the bowing vampire in front of her. In that moment, she wondered why she’d put up with him for as long as she had. “What of the database project?”
Bill visibly relaxed at the change in the line of questioning.
“It is coming along well—already over 500 entries! Indeed, when Lorena called me, I thought to put the only master copy in Sookie’s home so that it would be secure. It’s encrypted—of course,” Bill informed with a somewhat guilty look.
“Ah—yes. Back to Lorena summoning you. Tell me—how did you end up in Mississippi, Bill?” Sophie-Anne asked. “I thought that your maker had settled in Washington.”
The younger vampire answered guardedly, “Lorena and I spent a few nights in Seattle—reconnecting. Though she usually keeps me with her for at least a month when she calls me, she seemed restless almost immediately—a sign that she was bored and wished to move on. I expected that she would send me on my way, but she ordered me to travel with her to Mississippi instead. I tried to tell her that being in a state belonging to one of your potential rivals was not wise, but she would not listen, even insisting that we visit Russell’s court. It was there that I realized she had started a,” he paused, “V-trafficking business.”
“Does King Edgington know of this?” Sophie-Anne asked immediately, concern clear in her tone.
“No,” Bill responded quickly. “But Lorena used a group of Weres in Mississippi as some of her muscle. The group—made up of bikers—is affiliated with the Jackson pack, but roams throughout the South.”
Sophie-Anne frowned. “I know of this pack of wolves.” She scoffed. “They fashion themselves to be the two-natured version of Hell’s Angels!”
“They know better than to even rev an engine in Louisiana!” Andre growled.
“All I know is that they helped Lorena move her product,” Bill volunteered. “However, she was looking to expand and needed more capital. I made the mistake of telling her—months ago—that you had tasked me with two important projects.”
“Were you specific about the nature of those projects?” Sophie-Anne asked, both her fangs and her ire back in full force.
“No!” Bill averred. “Lorena thought she might torture me to get more information that she could exploit, but I held firm. She did send a Were to Bon Temps to search my home. I heard Lorena on the phone with him about a week ago, telling him to follow my trail to Sookie’s home,” he added with a whisper.
“Continue your account,” Sophie-Anne ordered, getting control of her anger. There would be time for it later.
“Lorena mistreated me for several nights and had some of Russell’s Weres wake me up periodically during the day with silver—so that I could not recuperate through day-death.”
“Why did the king condone this?” Andre asked.
“Russell is not the type to do so,” Sophie-Anne frowned.
“He was clearing a debt to Lorena. Thus, he looked the other way,” Bill informed.
“How were you liberated?” the queen asked.
“Sookie. She helped me escape from King Edgington’s home,” he stated.
“And why do you look so guilty about that?” Hadley asked suspiciously.
Sophie-Anne looked at her youngest child with mild surprise. Perhaps there was some hope for her yet. At least, she was capable of spotting a bullshitter when one was as overt as Bill Compton.
“Through no fault of my own, I attacked Sookie two nights ago,” Bill confessed so softly no human ear could have heard him.
“Explain!” the queen demanded.
“I was starved and wounded from the torture. As she had helped me to escape, Sookie put me into the trunk of a vehicle. Somehow, she ended up in there too. I awoke and had no control over my actions. The attack was not my fault! Yet Eric almost killed me anyway,” Bill quickly explained, once again behaving as if he had been the victim. “I have done nothing wrong,” he continued with an air of self-righteousness. “And now Eric has all but brainwashed Sookie against me. I fear that he plans to keep her—to use her for his own purposes! Without taking into account your desires, my queen.”
“Sheriff Northman,” Wybert grunted before shoving Bill slightly with his knife handle—a warning that the younger vampire better not break protocol again.
Sophie-Anne sat back in her throne, silent. She let the silence—and the tension—grow thick in the room, relishing as each vampire in her company began to become uncomfortable in her steely presence. Bill was the first, of course. However, her children eventually joined the queen’s prey—each in their own way. Hadley bit her nails, a human trait she’d likely never completely unlearn. Sigebert was next to “break,” as he shifted from one foot to the other—his own “tell” for being upset. Andre let out a puff of air, his sign of being uncomfortable. Wybert, as always, was the last to show any sign of discomfort. Her stalwart child eventually could not hold in a deep grunt, a sound that indicated he was ready to cut into something—preferably an enemy—in order to cut through the tension.
Only at that noise did Sophie-Anne speak again. “You say you have done nothing wrong, Bill. But I am currently unable to think of a single thing that you have done right in this entire situation. You were sent to discover whether or not Sookie still had her telepathic ability and provide her with a good reason to work for me, as well as to check on the rest of Hadley’s family. But, during your time in Bon Temps, the family has been less safe, not more. And you have given me excuse after excuse for why you have not brought Sookie and her brother to reunite with their cousin. After you complained about Eric finding out about Sookie’s skill, you convinced me that your being Area 5’s Investigator would solve all of your problems with him, but your moans about him grew even more fervent after I appointed you to that position. And then—once you told me that Sookie did not wish to relocate to New Orleans—you insisted that your database project would be more quickly completed if you could work away from the distractions of court. You also assured that the extra time in Bon Temps was just what you needed to solidify your romantic relationship with Sookie, which you assured me had become both mutual and real. You also indicated that—because of the solidity of that relationship—you would, at the very least, be able to convince Sookie to be in my employ at crucial times. However, I am not certain I believe anything you told me anymore, Bill.”
The younger vampire went to speak, but the queen silenced him with a stern look.
“What I am certain about is that your recent actions scream of incompetence and insubordination. A vampire might not be able to avoid going to his maker, but he can certainly inform his queen of an absence. And one who truly loves a human would not endanger his beloved by hiding a potential hornets’ nest in her home. Moreover, your explanation of what happened in the trunk is so full of over-the-top protestation that it, too, is unbelievable.” She sat forward. “Tell me—how did your maker die?”
“You know she’s dead?” Bill whispered.
“Russell surely has spies in my court. I have my own in his,” Sophie-Anne returned.
“I do not know the details of how she died,” Bill said stiffly. “She was killed when I was dead for the day. But I believe Sookie was involved.”
Sophie-Anne’s lips rose into a half smile. “The more I hear about her, the more I wish to foster a good working relationship with her,” she said in Andre’s direction.
Her eldest progeny and second-in-command nodded, though somewhat stiffly.
“Your majesty? What could you have heard about Sookie—beyond what I have told you, of course?” Bill simpered.
She sighed impatiently. “I just told you that I have spies at Russell’s court! You don’t think I have learned something about Dallas too?” She scoffed. “Moreover, the story of a mere human risking life and limb to save one of the Dallas sheriff’s nestmates by infiltrating the Fellowship of the Sun is not something the gossips among our kind could hold in!” She rolled her eyes. “And then there is the fact that Sookie took a stake meant for Russell’s second-in-command!”
“What?” Bill demanded.
“You didn’t hear that bit of gossip yet?” Sophie-Anne chuckled.
“No. But it is only evidence that she is in danger when with Sheriff Northman,” Bill growled.
“Not if my source of information is correct,” the queen smirked, not bothering to tell Bill the details of a certain tall blond vampire’s actions in Club Dead. Eric could go by assumed names all he wanted, but the queen could easily determine that the vampire who had made sure that a bleeding human survived in a bar-full of vampires and Weres during a full moon was none other than her sheriff—one that she was now quite anxious to talk to.
But first things first.
“Bill, continue your work on the database and suspend your pursuit of Sookie Stackhouse immediately,” she ordered.
“Your majesty!” Bill cried out.
“No arguments,” Sophie-Anne said firmly.
“But—uh—Sookie and I love each other. And she still has the database,” he added quietly.
The queen rolled her eyes. “Well—if she loves you, she will give you the database so that you can continue your work. And—if she loves you, then she will understand that you cannot see her for a while.”
“A while?” Bill asked hopefully.
“I will find out for myself what Miss Stackhouse wants, Bill,” Sophie-Anne said firmly. “And I’ll go with that preference. If she wants you, I will give you leave to recommence your relationship. Otherwise, focus on your other work and try to keep from pissing me off,” she added wearily.
Bill looked ready to speak—to argue.
“You’re dismissed,” Sophie-Anne said with a wave of her hand.
Luckily, for his sake, Bill relented and left the throne room with his figurative tail between his legs.
She gave Andre a look even as she told him telepathically to make sure that Bill left the residence quickly and without incident.
Then, she turned her attention to Hadley, whose pretty face was pouting.
The queen sighed. “Truly, I did not intend for your cousin to come to any harm,” she assured honestly. Though her newest child would never be told of the more difficult times of her past because she wanted to keep Hadley’s world much lighter than dark, Sophie-Anne’s aversion towards the exploitation and misuse of women was firmly established as a part of her foundation as both human and vampire. “I really did believe that sending Bill to your cousin would be agreeable and advantageous to her.”
“It just seems,” Hadley sighed, “like an artificial way to start a relationship.”
“We started ours through a procurement,” Sophie-Anne reminded gently, even as she ran her fingers along her beloved’s cheekbone.
Her child sighed with immediate contentment as she leaned into the touch, but the moment was soon interrupted when Hadley’s fangs clicked into place.
“You are hungry,” Sophie-Anne said with a little smile. She looked at Sigebert. “Call two donors to our chambers and let her feed well.”
“You aren’t coming?” Hadley asked with some concern. “I mean—you need to be there to make sure I don’t take too much and hurt someone—right?”
The queen smiled softly. “You are doing well enough to control yourself, but your brother will be able to stop you if you cannot stop yourself. And I will be close by, monitoring you all the time. Do not worry. I am very proud of you, Hadley, and I truly believe that you are ready to feed without me in the room.”
The fledgling smiled. “Really?”
“Absolutely,” the queen assured.
A/N: Okay-so that’s my conception of Sophie-Anne and her children. I drew a lot of the books, ignoring completely the show’s portrayal. In the books, I honestly didn’t mind Sophie-Anne, though I was ambivalent in many ways. I DID mind Andre and wondered by the queen didn’t check his actions more. Also, I admit to being a little fascinated by Wybert and Sigebert. And I’m fleshing them out. I struggled with my portrayal of the queen-whether to make her a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” Ultimately, I leaned toward the first. She was “brave” and smart enough to have Eric as a sheriff, after all. And, given her past, I couldn’t imagine she would have wanted Bill to do everything he did. Ultimately, I imagined a “realistic” scenario where Hadley told Sophie-Anne how much Sookie loved Gone with the Wind and romances-and also how isolated Sookie was because of her “difference.” I tried to imagine Hadley talking about Sookie-not as a commodity, but almost out of misguided concern. VERY MISGUIDED. However, that all allowed me to envision Sophie-Anne seeing herself as a matchmaker of sorts. Doing this helped me to put her into a more positive light. I hope that this is working for you all. As far as Wybert goes, I don’t know why I found myself liking him so much here. I have a more likable queen and court in GIVEN UNSOUGHT too. Sometimes it just works out that conceptualizing them as “goodish” works better and is more interesting to me in the moment. That being said, Andre is a loose cannon in this one.
Anyway, I hope you liked it and will tell me what you think of the queen and her children if you have the time and inclination to write a review.
P.S. My apologies for not having an official banner for this Andre. I forgot to ask one of Seph. I will get that taken care of ASAP though. I did decide to make him a little older than the book portrayal. That’s mainly because Paul Bettany won’t get out of my head as I write him.