SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13 • 9:54 p.m.
“Oh shit!” Molly exclaimed right after Eric’s phone vibrated.
“Issues?” Eric asked.
“Is that the signal?” Molly asked nervously.
Eric looked down at his phone. “No. That’s your two-minute warning. You are to take over the system at the next signal—approximately two-minutes from now. Is that going to be a problem?” the Viking asked the young vampire.
“No! I’m ready!” she answered quickly.
“Then why the ‘oh shit?'” Maria-Star intoned.
“I’ve never been involved in this sort of thing,” Molly responded, her fingers flying over her keys.
Eric chuckled as he squeezed Sookie’s hand. Along with Molly and Maria-Star, Thalia, Pam, Padma, Maxwell Lee, Paloma, Chow, Indira, and Amelia were all positioned in the large sitting room which was at the center of the suite shared by Sophie-Anne and her children.
It seemed that—after Eric had told Thalia to be extra cautious the night before—she’d called in reinforcements in the form of the best vampires Area 5 had to offer (beyond the ones who’d already been in New Orleans, of course). Given the fact that Eric had experienced a second, distinct feeling of dread right when he’d risen for the night, he couldn’t be mad that Sookie’s Head of Security had ordered Chow to close down Fangtasia and gather the troops. The Area 5 reinforcements had arrived half an hour earlier and had been snuck over to the queen’s quarters through Molly’s ingenuity as she’d taken over various camera feeds so that Margeaux, who was one of two vampires on duty in the surveillance room, could not detect them.
There was a knock at the door. Eric motioned to Pam, who was closest to it.
A moment later, King Threadgill and Jennifer Cater entered, trailed by Jacob, the king’s trustworthy guard.
“Did we miss anything?” Peter asked with a nod of his head toward the Viking and Sookie.
“No, Your Majesty,” Eric quickly answered.
Peter took in the people in the room, who all gave him respectful nods. “Intros later. In the meantime, I like that,” he said to Chow, who was mindlessly playing with one of his wooden daggers, which were his weapons of choice.
Chow gave the king a smirk. “I make them myself.”
“We’ll talk about a commissioned order later.” Peter nodded appreciatively before looking back at Eric, who was now looking down at his bonded.
“Remember,” he said to her softly.
“Stay here with Molly, Amelia, and Maria-Star,” she whispered. She and Eric had already agreed that she should stay put—and safe—in the queen’s sitting room. “I will. Thank you for taking Thalia with you.” The elder vampiress going with Eric had been a compromise on their part.
“Thank you for agreeing not to get into the middle of the fight,” he smirked.
Sookie shook her head and they shared a smile as they remembered all the times when the telepath had put herself into the middle of harm’s way. Both were glad that she was now fully considering where she could be of best help (or just plain out of the way) during times of danger. The next ten minutes, which would be ripe with close-quarter vampire-on-vampire fighting, were not meant for her telepathic skills.
Eric nodded slightly even as he glanced at his phone as it buzzed.
“Now, Molly,” Eric said to the young computer savant.
She nodded and pressed some more keys.
“I’m in,” she said. “I’m playing the earlier feed now,” she added.
Sookie tensed next to the Viking as they turned their attention to the room’s large television screen, which was currently showing images from nine different camera feeds. In one image, Sigebert and Hadley exited the queen’s office.
However, it was an image of the surveillance room that had everyone’s attention.
“There she goes,” Thalia said, her sharp eyes picking up movement from Margeaux. Sure enough, the “extra” camera that Molly had Rasul install right after he left her bedroom twenty minutes before dawn the night before was picking up Margeaux sending a text.
“She’s taking control of the feeds for cameras six through thirteen,” Molly reported. “Or—at least—she thinks she is.” The young vampiress chuckled as everyone watched several of the camera images seem to skip before empty images of hallways returned. “That’s what Margeaux wants everyone to see, but here’s what’s actually happening.”
Again, the images seemed to skip.
“So you’ve taken over her takeover of the feeds—without her knowin’ it?” Peter asked.
“Yes,” Molly responded.
Peter chuckled. “Where can I get one?” he asked, looking at Molly covetously.
“Try Washington. That’s where mine came from,” Eric smirked.
Peter winked at Molly, who looked ready to blush—if only she were able.
“Heads up,” Sookie said, her eyes still focused on the cameras.
Jade and three other vampires came into view, slowly stalking toward where they expected Hadley and Sigebert to be coming from.
Sookie took a shaky breath. “They have silver nets.”
Her bonded gave her a quick kiss on the forehead.
“That’s proof enough of Jade’s duplicity,” Peter said with a scowl. “Let’s go kill that bitch!”
Eric nodded and sent a quick text before dropping Sookie’s hand and then moving quickly to the door to lead the attack group out.
“Be careful,” Sookie said, mustering her resolution.
Eric nodded and then exited—all the while sending her comfort and strength through their bond.
Only Sookie, Amelia, Maria-Star, and Molly were left in the room. And, of course, Batanya was there too—though no one knew exactly where.
“Do you wanna watch?” Molly asked sheepishly.
“Molly, if you try to turn off the feeds, I’ll stake you myself,” Sookie said, her eyes fixed on the image of her bonded as he guided the others down a corridor. Meanwhile, Jade and her group took a position where they felt they would have the advantage over Hadley and Sigebert.
Of course, they were not actually in the hall. Thanks to Molly, the image of them leaving the office was earlier footage.
The “live” Sigebert, along with Wybert and Andre, came into view in another corridor.
Chow, Pam, and Jennifer branched away from the others in the group in order to go for Margeaux in the surveillance room. The other vampire stationed there already knew to help apprehend or kill the vampiress when the time came.
“Take a breath, or you’ll pass out,” Maria-Star said to the telepath as she continued to watch her beloved.
Amelia rushed to Sookie’s side and took her hand. “It’ll be okay,” she soothed softly.
Sookie nodded, even as she began to breathe again. She watched Eric until he reached a corner. Sookie knew that—once he was around that corner—the fighting would begin.
Her vampire looked up toward the camera—toward her. He gave her a little nod and she felt intense love through their bond, along with building excitement.
Her Viking was ready for the fight.
Eric glanced back at the king, who was right behind him.
The Viking had to admit that, with his Bowie knife in his grip, Peter Threadgill was one intimidating son of a bitch.
Knowing that the scent of their group would reach and warn Jade if they lingered, Eric gave the signal to attack. However, only Peter, Thalia, and he rushed around the corner. The others still with them—including Paloma, Padma, Indira, and Maxwell Lee—were left behind in the corridor to intercept anyone who happened to get away.
And to make sure they never got anywhere near where Sookie and her group was waiting.
And because too many vampires in one narrow hall was not a good idea!
Jade intuited that something was wrong. Hadley and Sigebert should have arrived at the ambush point by now. Perhaps, they were called back to the queen’s office. She glanced at her phone—no message from Margeaux.
The Asian vampiress looked at her companions. However, just as she was about to give the signal that they should abort, she smelled the threat. She already had a silver net in one hand, which was gloved. Quickly, she dropped her phone and took out her yubi-bo.
“Get ready!” she hissed right before her fangs dropped.
Her companions had no time to respond as they were rushed from two sides. The short corridor that Jade and her group had been waiting in—a connector between the hallway from the office area and the main hallway leading to the queen’s residence—was suddenly teaming with fighting vampires.
All of the queen’s male children came from one direction. From the other came the Viking, Thalia, and Jade’s own king!
And—just like that—Jade knew that she was done for. However, she planned to die well and to take at least one of her attackers with her. Her gaze moved to the Viking.
He’d do very well!
The yubi-bo was a weapon that the Viking could appreciate. Eric had trained with the bō, which was a wooden staff weapon developed in Okinawa. Kenshin, Eric’s technologically savvy friend who now lived in New York, had been the one to introduce the larger, taller man to the weapon.
Arrogantly thinking that a sword could easily defeat a staff, Eric had gotten knocked onto his ass by Kenshin, who wielded a bō like a maestro conductor. And then—after Eric was humbled—the lessons had begun. The bō that Eric had first learned to use was just one-inch shy of six feet, which was the customary length of the weapon in Japan.
Of course, there were variations of the staff weapon. In Korea, Eric had learned to use the hanbō, which was about half the length of a bō.
It had taken the Viking a while to learn the discipline of wielding a bō and even longer to perfect the usage of a hanbō. However, he had become lethal with both. Of course, he still preferred his sword.
But diversification never hurt.
Of all the staff weapons he’d practiced with in the Far East, however, the yubi-bo was truly the most practical for vampires. Between six and eight inches long, the yubi-bo was a shorter cousin to the bō, but no less lethal in the hands of someone skilled.
Eric had heard that Jade attained mastery of the yubi-bo as a human. It was simply a convenience that the weapon was a stake-sized piece of wood. It had—quite literally—been the perfect weapon to have trained with.
Indeed, the Viking had a fleeting thought that he might want to have Sookie train with such a weapon—because it would be an amazing vampire killer whether she was still a human or a fledgling vampire.
Of course, these thoughts burst in and out of his mind quickly as Jade engaged him in battle.
Well—as Doc Holliday had said in that amusing movie Tombstone—Eric would be her “Huckleberry.”
He had his sword drawn, but Jade was evasive, and he had to beware of the silver net. Already Wybert had fallen victim to one as he and his brothers engaged two of the people with Jade. Not surprisingly, Sigebert—as soon as he had the opportunity—had ripped the net off of Wybert with his own bare hands.
On the other side of Eric, Thalia and Peter were in battle with Jade’s other “friend.”
However, despite keeping track of the others, Eric only had eyes for Jade as she made a move on him, twisting his sword with her net and drawing it from his hands.
And—just like that—the Viking had no weapon!
Oh well—he’d just have to kill her with his bare hands!
“No!” Sookie yelled out, even as she saw Eric’s sword yanked from his hands thanks to the net Jade was carrying. The others looked to be in good shape, but Eric’s situation seemed dire as Jade approached with what looked to be a stake that was sharpened on both ends!
Jade drove the wood towards Eric’s heart, though he was able to grab her hand and push her away. They circled each other for a moment.
“What’s he doing?” Maria-Star growled from next to Sookie.
“Fighting!” Sookie yelled.
“No, him!” the Were said.
“Who?” Sookie asked.
“The fucking king!” Maria-Star pointed.
Reluctantly, Sookie moved her eyes from Eric to Peter, who had raised his Bowie knife ominously, his eyes trained on Eric.
“Wait! Was I wrong? Has Peter been in on it all along?!” Sookie lamented as the king seemed ready to throw his knife—right at her beloved! “No!” she screamed.
A MINUTE EARLIER
“Fuck!” Peter muttered as the silver from his opponent’s net grazed the back of his hand. Clearly, the asshole wielding it was trying to entangle his knife!
That asshole’s name was Jasmine, who was as sweet-smelling as her name suggested. Peter had enjoyed her company—both in conversation and in the sack. He would have even said that she was “more-less trustworthy”—up until earlier that evening when he’d learned that the 700-plus-year-old vampiress was in league with Jade.
“Fucking cunt!” he gnarled out as she—once again—tried to dislodge his knife with her net.
Of course, it was just a matter of time before he and Thalia did her in, and Jasmine knew it, which was making her all the more erratic in her movements. Moreover, she seemed confused that her king was even there; perhaps, Jade had been feeding her comrades lies. It was of little matter now. All who stood with Jade—whether they knew that they were fighting against their king’s wishes or not—were going to meet the true death.
Soon, it would be Jasmine’s time.
However, if there was one thing Peter knew, it was that the cornered animal—or the dying one—could be the most lethal kind, especially if its foe let his guard down for even a moment. That’s why Peter never let his guard down until a battle was won.
David and Travis, the other two vampires helping out Jade, had a combined thousand years between them, and they were engaged with the queen’s children. That battle, too, was just a matter of time.
More interesting was the battle between Northman and Jade.
How Peter wished that he was the one fighting her! However, he was a realist. Jade was older and stronger than he was, and though the king hadn’t let those factors come between himself and a good win in the past, Jade was also in possession of information about how he fought, for he had sparred with her many times in the past.
Still, he was envious that the task of killing her had fallen to Eric. On the other hand, a part of the king just wanted to order everyone else in the hall to stop fighting for a while so that they could all enjoy the battle taking place between Eric and Jade. For a while, it was Eric’s sword against Jade’s short staff weapon and silver net.
What a sight that had been! Eric was more graceful than any damned prima ballerina that Peter had ever seen (or bedded), despite the fact that his weapon of choice was a large broadsword! Most people whom Peter had seen wielding such a weapon relied on forceful moves and slices. On the contrary, Eric’s movements with his sword were a series of swooshes and loops that cut the air as if they were aimed to sever tiny atoms. Only Jade’s quick countering moves had prevented her from being that sword’s bitch many times!
But—Peter had to admit it—Jade was a damned good fighter. He’d seen her kill vampires as old as Northman with her yubi-bo. And it seemed as if she’d been practicing with her silver net for hundreds of years with the way it was being used for both offense and defense.
However, the canny king had seen enough battles to know that Eric would win against Jade nine times out of ten.
Still—there was always the one.
Even as Peter’s fight wore down, the king saw Jade’s net rip Eric’s sword from his hands. Eric was weaponless!
Peter knew that he needed to act to help the Sheriff, whose chances had just gone from 9 out of 10 to about even, given that Jade still had her weapon of choice. Oh—Eric was dodging her thus far, and looking for an opening of his own, but Peter wasn’t willing to risk the loss of such a warrior to his disloyal lieutenant.
He caught Thalia’s eye and gave her a look that told her she’d need to finish off Jasmine herself, an arrangement he figured that the vicious vampiress would actually prefer.
The king found an opening and kicked Jasmine further toward Thalia before turning to look at Eric and Jade again, his Bowie knife raised and ready for a throw.
However, he need not have bothered—or worried. Just when it seemed that Jade might have a winning move, Eric side-stepped her at vampire speed and grabbed the wrist of her right hand—the hand holding her yubi-bo. He spun her around at almost impossible speed. In the next moment, Jade’s scream filled the hallway, and her whole fucking arm—severed at the shoulder due to the momentum of Eric’s twisting motion—was in the Viking’s hand!
Eric’s fangs were prominent due to his taunting smile as he took Jade’s own yubi-bo from her disintegrating hand. Gripping it like an expert, he moved toward his incapacitated and—quite literally—unarmed foe.
He growled as he took the short staff weapon in two hands and pushed it forcefully against her throat before shoving her against the hall wall with it. Jade’s legs kicked uselessly as she tried to hit Eric with her one remaining fist, even as she continued to bleed sluggishly from where her other arm had been severed.
Eric simply kept smiling and pushing her weapon into her neck.
Not needed in that fight, Peter shifted his knife and threw it into David’s calf muscle. David yelled out as the knife lodged deeply into its target. In the next moment, David was no more as Wybert lopped off his head with a sword. Almost at the same time, Travis met the wrong end of a stake in Sigebert’s hand. And Thalia finished off Jasmine the old-fashioned way—with her fangs.
The sight of that made Peter harder than he’d been in a while.
However, he curbed his desire and focused back on Jade.
Eric still had her in the little prison he’d made for her, the yubi-bo slowly crunching into her flesh.
“Would you care for the honor, Your Majesty?” Eric asked as he smirked at Jade, who was hissing at him in her powerlessness.
“No,” Peter answered, even as Sophie-Anne gave the same answer from behind Wybert where she had emerged as soon as the danger had passed.
She’d wanted to be involved in the fight; however, it had been more prudent for her to stay back just in case anything had happened to Peter. Given that the betrothal contract had been signed and was now binding, she would have been able to take over Arkansas had the king met an untimely end as he took part in the slaying of the rogue vampires from his state.
Peter, in fact, had insisted upon that.
However, there had been no way that he would have stayed out of the fray—not when the disloyal Arkansas vampires were his responsibility and Sophie-Anne’s trust was his to earn.
He just wished he’d been able to kill every damned one of the treacherous group!
The king walked over to where David’s body was decomposed and took his Bowie knife out of the sludge that remained of his leg. He lifted it to his lips and took a taste before using his pant’s leg to clean the knife. And then he reached out his hand to Sophie-Anne so that he could gallantly guide her over the bodies’ remains as if she were a genteel lass as opposed to a millennium-old vampiress.
Of course, she didn’t need his help to navigate the sludge. But she sure liked getting it.
He walked her to the best vantage point—to watch what the Viking intended to do with Miss Jade Flower.
Eric felt exhilaration! The rush of a battle won!
He also felt relief—Sookie’s. He knew that she was watching through the cameras.
She’d never seen him kill in cold blood before.
That was about to change.
He had Jade helpless. The pressure of his ever-increasing force upon the yubi-bo against her throat was slowly changing the shape of her body, her neck becoming concave.
“I’ve decapitated people with my bare hands. And with a sword. With knives of all kinds, really. And axes,” he growled as Jade once again tried to kick against him. Too bad the back of her spine had been pushed so hard against the wall that her legs could barely move.
“Your C-7 and C-8 vertebrae have been crushed. If you were a human, your beautiful yubi-bo would have choked you by now, but you cannot be choked; thus, the pressure must be absorbed by the back of the neck. Your cervical vertebrae are taking the brunt of the pressure, I’m afraid.”
Jade once again tried to kick, but there was even less movement than before.
“This kind of trauma to a human causes quadriplegia. Of course, the magic in the blood you have left is trying to help, which is why those little stems of yours are still a-kickin’,” he grinned. “But,” he said as he leaned his weight into her more, “I can stop that.”
Her legs did, indeed, stop moving completely as her C-7 vertebrae snapped. And then her remaining arm went completely limp.
“That’s C-6 letting you down,” Eric chuckled as Jade’s neck seemed to disappear even more into the wall.
She tried to make a noise of protest—or growl—but only a strained gurgle passed her lips.
“You chose to fight me—out of everyone here, Jade,” Eric taunted. “You picked me especially. And I feel—oh so special. Any regrets?” he grinned.
He pressed a little harder.
“Do you want to question her? To see if she had others that she has been working with?” he asked Peter.
“No, thank you,” the king said. “I’d rather watch you do that until her head pops off.”
“I was hoping you’d say that,” Eric replied coldly. The vampire took a moment to assess his bond with Sookie. He could feel a mixture of emotions from her now. There was still some relief that he’d won the battle. However, she was also uncomfortable due to the violence she was witnessing from him. He kept steady pressure on Jade’s neck, even as he contemplated killing her immediately so that the situation would be more palatable to his bonded.
Sookie must have felt his doubt, for in the next moment, she sent him acceptance and love.
Love more than anything.
The Viking knew that this moment was testing Sookie and him as a couple. Knowing what he was going to be doing to Alcide Herveaux had been one thing. Seeing him perform cruelty upon another being in the way he was now doing to Jade was another.
A part of him had always feared that a moment might come when Sookie rejected him because of the violence he was capable of when it came to protecting those under his care. He wondered if she had any idea how much worse he would be torturing Jade if Sookie—and not Sophie-Anne—had been her target.
He would have spent hours on her. And Jade’s pain would have been profound.
“I suppose you are mostly past pain now,” Eric said, taking in Jade’s completely unmoving body as he pressed the weapon further against her throat, again changing the shape of her body. He could feel as each vessel and tendon snapped beneath Jade’s beloved weapon.
“But you suffer beyond pain,” the Viking continued. “Your eyes tell me that you do. Your eyes say that nothing has ever scared you more than losing your power. Your eyes tell me that you wish I would just finish my decapitation of you with something sharp so that you did not have to spend another second feeling so powerless.”
Eric tilted his head a little as he pressed again. “I wonder if—almost at your end—you are sorry that you betrayed your king. I know that you are sorry that you attempted to kill my queen. If you had kept your vow to Peter, you would not be in this mess, Jade. Indeed, you and I may have even fought on the same side. I could have learned from you, for your technique at wielding your yubi-bo really was sublime. Tell me—what do you think of my technique?”
He pressed her further into the wall.
And further still.
He could feel more things tearing as her neck could not withstand the wooden weapon on one side and the hard wall on the other.
“You were a warrior,” Eric said quietly. “But you were not warrior enough for me.”
The intensity and power in his voice made her dimming eyes regain a little of her sense. She blinked—as if in agreement with him.
Seeing that he had punished her to the fullest extent he had time for, he pressed the yubi-bo further into her flesh.
And he watched the blunt, smooth weapon cut off the head of its mistress with a loud popping noise.
Blood covering him due to his proximity to Jade’s “explosion,” he turned to face the monarchs—both of whom he now served, given their alliance. He nodded to them and pocketed the yubi-bo. It was a good weapon, after all.
“Margeaux?” he asked.
“Pam killed her with her katana—decapitated her in a more,” Sophie-Anne paused, “traditional way.”
Eric shrugged and reached down to pick up his sword, careful of the silver as he untangled it from the damnable net.
“I had to improvise,” the Viking grinned.
“You’re one badass motherfucker,” Peter said, reaching out to shake forearms with Eric in the way of warriors of old. “I hate to admit it, but I thought she had you for a second there. I was even going to help, but—clearly—it wasn’t needed. I’ll remember that about them cervical vertebrae though,” he chuckled before bending down and laying a deep kiss onto Sophie-Anne’s lips.
She giggled as he let her up.
“I guess we’d all better change,” the king said, looking around at the blood-covered group. “Close quarters fightin’ is always messy.” His eyes became mischievous. “Unless you want to attend the ball like this.”
Sophie-Anne hit him playfully. “Go get presentable, you brute!”
Peter winked at her and then quickly left, Jacob following behind.
“Well—I think we’d all better be getting changed. And I’m sure there’s a telepath who’d like to see you about now,” Sophie-Anne said in a low voice.
“There is,” came Sookie’s voice from behind Palomino, Maxwell Lee, and Indira, who had ventured into the corridor to witness Jade’s end. Meanwhile, Padma had gone to resume her post outside.
Eric walked to his bonded with purpose, and she threw her arms around him, unmindful of the blood. After a long kiss, she came up for air.
“You were amazing!” she said sincerely. “I hated it, but you were amazing.”
The intimate moment was broken by Sophie-Anne. “Where the fuck is Andre!?”
A/N: Yay! Jade’s dead! I hope you all enjoyed the scene. It was definitely fun to write, and I thought it fitting that Jade be killed by her own favorite weapon. And Peter has proven himself here, though I wanted a moment of worry.
I hope you will let me know what you thought of the scene. Thanks!
And have a wonderful holiday—if you celebrate American Thanksgiving! If not, then just have a great regular week. I *may* not be able to post the next chapter next Sunday. It will depend on holiday travel. If not, I will post early next week.
All the best,