Eric growled at Sophie-Anne before releasing his grip on her arm and pushing her away. He nodded to his vampires, instructing them to release her children.
“Next time I will take your head,” Thalia snarled in Andre’s ear before she threw him across the room.
Stumbling backwards, Sophie-Anne stared in shock as, one by one, the vampires of Louisiana surrounded Eric and Sookie, who stood side-by-side, and turned their backs to her. She felt her stomach twist at the implications. In a roomful of powerful monarchs, the vampires in her Queendom had shown their backs and denounced her.
Eric stood tall in the center of the vampires, his wife standing proudly by his side. He wasn’t expecting the vampires of Louisiana to react they way they had. He knew they were on his side, their loyalty had never been a question, but he wasn’t expecting them to show it so soon.
Roman overlooked the room from the raised platform that would soon seat the council members who had been chosen to hear the case against Bill. He fought back a smirk as he noticed the look on Sophie-Anne’s face. As much as he would have liked to have allowed Eric to break her arm and rip her head off, he had to obey the rules of the council. Until Sophie-Anne was found guilty by the council in a roomful of her peers, he couldn’t allow Eric to hurt her.
“Tiger,” Roman said, calling out to John Quinn, who was overseeing the ceremonies. “Bring out the accused.”
Quinn nodded to Roman before moving toward a side entrance and opening the door. He held the door open while two Weres escorted out a sickly looking Bill Compton.
“Due to the serious nature of the crime the vampire William T. Compton is accused of, the vampire council had decided to intercede and sit as the judges themselves,” Roman said, grinning as he heard the murmurs of shock that went around the room.
Bill’s head snapped up when he heard the council was hearing his case personally. In all his years as a vampire, he had only ever known of one case where the vampire council heard a case instead of allowing monarchs from random states to sit in judgement. It was very uncommon, and it made him even more nervous.
A hush descended over the room as Dieter Braun, Salome Agrippa, and Roman himself took seats behind the large table that stood on the platform.
“All rise for the Ancient Pythoness,” Quinn’s voice boomed over the room.
As one everyone rose to their feet before dropping to one knee, the Ancient One was led to the platform. They all remained kneeling until she took her seat in the middle of the table, showing everyone who was in charge.
The Ancient Pythoness cast her milky white eyes over the room, a smile tugging at her wrinkled lips as she ‘saw’ the shock on the vampire’s faces. “I am not getting any younger, Tiger,” she croaked, as she banged a gavel on the table. “Read the charges.”
“If I may, Your Grace,” Sophie-Anne interrupted foolishly as she stepped forward and made a show of brushing down her wrinkled dress. “Before this trial begins I demand Eric Northman be taken into custody and punished for attacking his Queen…”
“You demand nothing of us,” Dieter said, cutting her off.
“But nothing!“ Dieter snapped, cutting her off again. “Now be quiet while we continue. Quinn, read the charges.”
Sophie-Anne snapped her mouth shut as she retook her seat. She was furious at the dismissive way she had been treated. Her fury only grew when she noticed all the Louisiana vampires had seated themselves away from her but with Eric.
Quinn nodded. “The vampire William T. Compton is charged with orchestrating the attack on the wife of the Sheriff of Area Five, Louisiana in an attempt to force his blood on her. Mrs. Northman was seriously wounded in the attack. The accusation and charges are brought by Eric the Norseman. Are the judges ready to hear this case?”
“We are,” Roman answered for them all.
“The case of Eric the Norseman versus William T. Compton has now begun,” The Ancient Pythoness said as she banged the gavel on the desk. “Proceed.”
Rising to his feet, Mr. Cataliades bowed to the judges, “Desmond Cataliades representing Eric the Norseman.”
“I will be representing myself,” Bill said, as he shakily rose to his feet, the effects of his weeks in silver making him weak.
“Acknowledged,” Roman nodded. “The floor is yours, Mr. Compton.”
Bill nodded as he placed his hands on the table in front of him to steady himself. “This whole thing was a simple misunderstanding,” Bill began, adopting a contrite look. He had put little thought in his defense, still believing that Sophie-Anne would protect him. He was loyal to his queen, and she would reward him for it. “I had no knowledge of the girl’s plan to attack Sookie… Mrs. Northman,” he amended quickly when he heard Eric growl out a warning. “It was just luck that I happened upon the scene. I was simply visiting a friend at her place of work, and when I arrived, I noticed the woman attacking Mrs. Northman. The Sheriff’s wife had been seriously injured, and if I hadn’t intervened like I did, I have no doubt Mrs. Northman would have died. When I realized just how bad of a condition Mrs. Northman was in, I attempted to give her my blood when the Sheriff’s child interfered, stopping me. I was simply being…”
The Ancient Pythoness banged her gavel on the table cutting Bill off before he could continue. “No,” she croaked, her weathered lips curling into a frown. “I am in no mood to sit here and witness this song and dance…”
“Your Grace…” Salome started.
“Do not interrupt me!” The Ancient Pythoness snapped, shooting the old vampire a withering look. “We have much business to handle at this summit; I will not waste my precious time going through the pointlessness of this trial when I already know the truth. Tiger, bring the rest of the accused out. We will deal with all of this now.”
Quinn bowed to the Ancient One before stepping off the platform and exiting the room. Whispers spread through the room as they all waited. Many of the vampires present wondered what was going on and why the Ancient Pythoness was in such a bad mood.
Bill frowned as he waited. He thought he was making a good opening statement, and for the Ancient Pythoness to cut him off like she did was highly unprofessional. He was just getting started and was quite put out that she interrupted him like she had.
It was several minutes later when the side doors to the room opened again and Quinn stepped out of them. The vampires present craned their necks trying to see who were the others accused.
Eric’s lips quirked into a small smile as he saw Godric walk through the door, but he resisted the urge to go to his maker and waited like everyone else as Godric led out Christian Baruch, Cameron, and Hadley. He didn’t miss the gasp of shock coming from Sophie-Anne, and he squeezed Sookie’s hand before linking their fingers.
“Your Grace,” Godric said respectfully before taking a place at the side of the platform. He wasn’t a part of the trial, at least, not legally. He had excused himself as a sitting judge to eliminate any accusations of favouritism if his relationship with Eric and Sookie got out.
Hadley fidgeted as she stood in front of the platform and faced the vampire judges. She still had dried blood on her face from where Sookie had broken her nose. One of the vampires who had been watching her had given her blood to heal, with the permission of Roman, but they hadn’t cleaned her up properly. She was thankful they had provided her with some clothes, even if it was an unflattering sack-like dress. She was just grateful she was no longer wearing Sookie’s nightgown.
“Now, instead of performing the song and dance that was in no doubt going to play out here tonight, we are going to get straight to the facts,” The Ancient Pythoness said. “Roman,” she prompted before falling silent.
Roman fought a smile as he rose to his feet. The Ancient One always knew how to cut out the bullshit and get straight to it. “Earlier this evening this woman here, Hadley Dellahousey,” he began, pointing at her, “with the help of Christian Baruch and one of his managers, Cameron Michaels, let herself into the Norseman’s hotel room.” Hisses filled the room at the blatant breach of security and more than one set of fangs snapped down. “When asked about it, she claimed the Norseman had requested her personally…”
“I’m afraid I don’t see what this has to do with the trial of William Compton,” Salome said curiously, “or why it’s a matter for us at all. If the Norseman wants to play away from home that is not a crime. It’s just him being a vampire,” she added, making a few vampires laugh.
“You don’t see why a woman letting herself into a vampire’s hotel before sunset without invitation is a matter for us?” Roman questioned with a raised eyebrow. “Ms. Dellahousey let herself into the Norseman’s hotel room before sunset, using a key she attained from Cameron Michaels who was ordered to do this by Christian Baruch.”
“I will concede it’s a matter for us,” Salome amended. “But I still fail to see how this has any bearing on the trial we are here to rule upon.”
“There is a connection between Mr. Compton and Ms. Dellahousey,” Roman replied. “Ms. Dellahousey’s actions here tonight are linked to Mr. Compton’s.”
“And what link would that be?” Salome asked.
“Mrs. Northman,” Roman answered simply.
Sookie tightened her grip on Eric’s hand as Roman announced she was the link. She knew what was about to come and took a deep breath in preparation.
“Ms. Dellahousey is the cousin of Mrs. Northman,” Roman continued.
“So we’ve stumbled onto a family feud,” Salome snorted.
“We have stumbled onto something much more troubling than that,” Roman countered.
“Enough!” The Ancient Pythoness interrupted, banging her gavel again. “I said I did not want a song and dance. Mrs. Northman, come here, child.”
Sookie pasted on her crazy smile as she rose to her feet. She gave Eric a reassuring smile when she felt him send a burst of strength through the bond. Sookie walked towards the platform and stopped just in front of it. She offered the Ancient Pythoness a small bow before straightening her spine and folding her hands behind her.
“Mrs. Northman can provide us with all the answers we require,” The Ancient Pythoness said as she beckoned Godric to forward to stand beside Sookie for her protection.
“And how, if I may ask, can she do that?” Salome asked skepticism clear in her front.
“Because in addition to being the Norseman’s wife, Mrs. Northman is also a telepath,” The Ancient Pythoness said, revealing Sookie’s ability to everyone who might not have heard Sophie-Anne when she shouted it.
Eric grit his teeth as he heard the Ancient One announce his wife’s ability. He didn’t miss the whispers of interest from some of the vampires present.
“Your Grace, you’re not suggesting that Mrs. Northman reads the minds of those accused, are you?” Salome questioned.
“I am suggesting Mrs. Northman read the minds of her cousin and Mr. Michaels,” The Ancient Pythoness replied. “It will be the quickest way to get to the truth.”
“With all due respect, she is the wife of the Norseman,” Salome argued. “She will no doubt back him up.”
“And Ms. Dellahousey is her cousin,” The Ancient Pythoness countered. “I am sure Mrs. Northman has enough honor not to wish to see innocent parties punished.”
“How do we know the Norseman hasn’t glamoured her to support his claims?” Salome questioned.
“I can’t be glamoured,” Sookie said, interrupting their little back and forth. She hated it when people talked about her as if she wasn’t there.
“Every human can be glamoured,” Salome replied dismissively.
“Not me,” Sookie shrugged. “You’re willing to try if ya don’t believe me.”
“If your master doesn’t object I would like to test your claim,” Salome said with a smirk.
“Husband,” Sookie corrected, her tone containing bite.
“Husband,” Salome amended tightly.
“I have no objections,” Eric said, smirking as he watched his wife refuse to back down.
“Fine,” Salome grinned as she rose to her feet and walked around the table; she moved to stand in front of Sookie and stared into her eyes. She pushed her mind against hers, sending her a silent command to cluck like a chicken.
Sookie tilted her head to the side as she felt Salome’s mind brush against hers. “That tickles,” she said with a giggle, surprising the old vampire.
“Remarkable,” Salome murmured, her eyes taking on an appreciative look as she looked at Sookie.
“Taken,” Sookie replied cheekily.
“It’s true, Mrs. Northman can’t be glamoured,” Salome said, as she returned to her seat. “I withdraw my objection to her reading them.”
“Mrs. Northman, if you will,” The Ancient Pythoness requested, flicking a wrinkled finger in the direction of Hadley and Cameron.
Sookie smiled tightly as she moved towards her cousin and the hotel manager. She was grateful for Godric being at her side as she noticed some of the looks she was getting. Stopping in front of Cameron, she reached out and took his hand, grimacing as the wave of thoughts hit her. Pushing them aside, she focused on what she wanted to know.
“Cameron, did you give Hadley the key to mine and Eric’s hotel room?” she asked.
“I did,” Cameron answered truthfully. He had no idea what he had gotten himself into; he just knew it was bad and he wasn’t about to lie and make it worse.
“Why did you give her the key?”
“I was ordered to give her it by my boss, Christian Baruch,” he answered. “He just told me to give her an envelope with the key and a small blade in it.”
“What did you get in reward?” Sookie asked.
“Ah, damn it, Hadley!” Sookie blurted out, interrupting him as she saw just what his reward was. She shook her head. “Can’t you go one day without getting on your knees?”
A smattering of laughter filled the room as they all realized what Sookie was talking about.
Letting go of his hand, Sookie took a step back and turned to face the judges again. “He was telling the truth. Christian Baruch ordered him to give Hadley the key to mine and Eric’s hotel room. He paid him a lot of money and Hadley… paid him as well. He had no idea why they wanted the key and he didn’t care. He hasn’t been glamoured.”
“You can tell when a person has been glamoured?” Salome questioned.
“Yes,” Sookie answered with a nod.
Sophie-Anne stiffened as she heard Sookie say she could tell when a mind had been glamoured. Was that why she didn’t believe us about Yvetta? She wondered.
“Truly remarkable,” Salome gushed.
Salome laughed. “What about your cousin? What does her mind tell you?”
“That I’m gonna need a bath later,” Sookie mumbled before turning back to face Hadley.
Hadley pulled her hand back when Sookie went to grab it. “Don’t touch me, you freak!” she spat.
“Do you want me to hit you again?” Sookie threatened, as she heard Eric growl. “Your nose looks like it has healed nicely; I can break it again.”
Hadley glared at Sookie but said nothing. She wanted to scream and shout at her cousin, but one look around told her that wasn’t a good idea. She would just have to trust that Sophie-Anne would get her out of this. Despite what Sookie had said to her before she slammed the door in her face, Hadley was sure she couldn’t know that much. If she did they would’ve acted on it already.
Grabbing Hadley’s hand, Sookie shuddered as she got bombarded with her cousin’s memories. Half the things she saw disgusted her. It wasn’t just her that Hadley had helped Sophie-Anne procure, or in this case attempted.
“What do you see?” Salome asked. She was fascinated by Sookie’s ability. In her two thousand years as a vampire, she had never encountered a telepath.
“Everything,” Sookie replied with a grimace. “Hadley let herself into Eric’s and my hotel room because she was trying to break us apart. She was hoping that I would walk in on them while they were having sex. Apparently it worked before on some French diplomat and his companion…”
Sophie-Anne’s eyes widened as she listened with everyone else. There was no way Sookie could know that. Her mind kicked into overdrive as she tried to think up a way to stop this. They couldn’t learn of her part in all of it.
“Why would she want to break you and your husband up?” Salome asked curiously.
Taking a step to the side, Sookie released her Hadley’s hand and turned her head and looked up at the judges, “She’s a jealous, selfish brat, and she always has been. I’m used to it by now,” Sookie said. She grinned as she saw Sophie-Anne relax out of the corner of her eye and she knew the queen thought she was in the clear. Not so fast, your majesty. “Although it seems this time is a little different,” she continued. “Hadley was following the orders of her mistress…” turning her head, Sookie stared at Sophie-Anne, “the Queen of Louisiana…”