“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Felipe said uncertainly as he shifted his weight from one leg to the other.
“No, we are not doing that song and dance again,” Sookie said, her voice hinting at the power she possessed. “Oklahoma’s Queen, your child, command her to tell the truth about your relationship.”
“You’re misinformed, Oklahoma is not…”
“Do not lie to me,” Sookie said as she slammed her hands against the table, lightening sparked across the solid surface and small whiffs of smoke rose up from where the wood had been scorched. “Command her now.”
Felipe eyed Sookie with trepidation, his eyes flicking from her to the still smoking table. He opened his mouth, preparing to deny her again, but one look at the fire in her eyes made him rethink it. Turning his gaze to Freyda, “I command you to tell the truth about our relationship,” he said, his tone taking on a defeated quality.
“Now, Oklahoma Queen, what is your…”
“It does not matter,” Appius said interjecting himself into the proceedings as he jumped to his feet. “It has no bearings on this matter. Eric is my child, and I demand…”
“Silence!” Sookie growled as she snapped her head in Appius’ direction. She glared down the old vampire, her eyes flashing dangerously as they bled into a vivid blue color; black markings appeared on her exposed skin giving her an ethereal appearance.
The vampires in the room stared up at her in shock; they could feel her power rolling through the room, washing over them.
“Eric, what’s going on?” Pam asked in a whisper as she watched with everyone else.
“I don’t know,” Eric replied as he watched Sookie. He couldn’t explain it, but he could see the power flowing over her and the marks adorning her skin becoming darker.
“She’s…she’s…” Pam stumbled, searching for the right word to describe her.
“Magnificent,” Eric supplied, his tone filled with awe.
Rising to her feet, Sookie stared down the vampires before her. “You demand nothing of this Council nor of me,” she said. “Now, Oklahoma, what is your relationship with Nevada’s King?”
Freyda felt the command take hold of her; she tried to fight it but was unable. Opening her mouth, the words tumbled out without her permission: “He is my Maker.”
“Now, that wasn’t hard, was it?” Sookie replied almost mockingly as she pulled her power back to her. “Now that we know the truth of your relationship, it begs the question why you lied.”
“I do not advertise my children, like some vampires, in my desire to protect them,” Felipe claimed. “As a King I have many enemies that would use my children against me. I hid my relationship with Freyda to protect her.”
“You’re lying,” Sookie replied, her voice taking on a singsong quality.
“You dare accuse a King of lying,” Felipe growled.
“Only when they do,” Sookie said, her lips curling into a smile.
“I beg the Council’s pardon,” Johan said as he once again joined the proceedings. “But I fail to see what the relationship between Oklahoma and Nevada has to do with this case. King de Castro being Queen Freyda’s Maker has no bearing on the issue at hand.”
“It has everything to do with the issue at hand,” Sookie replied as she retook her seat. She ran a finger over the scorched wood of the table.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Johan admitted as he flicked his eyes to the Queen of Oklahoma. He wondered what the hell he had gotten himself into. It should have been a simple case, but as it always was when it concerned vampires it proved not to be. He wasn’t happy that he hadn’t been given all the information; he hadn’t been aware about the relationship between Oklahoma and Nevada. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to win a case when he didn’t have all the facts.
“Those three have been lying to us all from the start,” Sookie explained as she waved a finger in the direction of Appius, Freyda, and de Castro. “All three of them have stood before this Council and lied to us. They have attempted to play us for fools.”
“You have no proof of that,” Appius stated foolishly, his voice filled with arrogance.
“I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” Sookie replied smiling devilishly. “I have been researching the three of you since I heard about the case. I knew your real reasons for the contract long before I even set foot in this hotel. Would you like to hear what I know?”
“I think that might be best,” Kynan said, offering Sookie a small nod of respect. “It is clear the three of them are not going to tell us everything or the truth.”
Fixing her eyes on Appius, she stared at the arrogant looking vampire, “Would you like to set things straight before I begin?” she asked, offering him a chance to come clear.
“I have no reason to,” Appius replied, refusing her offer.
“Fine. You stood before this Council and claimed you set up the pledging contract with Oklahoma to protect your child. Do you still claim that?” Sookie asked.
“I do. It is the truth,” Appius declared.
“I see. If, like you claim, your reasoning was to protect your child, to assure his safety, why didn’t you seek a pledging contract with a more powerful Monarch?” Sookie asked as she tapped her fingers on the table. “The Sheriff of Area Five is five times her age; it seems to me he would be the one doing the protecting. He is older, more powerful, and I think we can all agree a lot stronger. So how would this contract protect him? How would Oklahoma keep him safe?”
“Eric would have had the protection of Nevada as well,” Appius replied without really thinking. “King de Castro would have extended his protection of his child to her husband.” ”Yes, except for the fact that they were hiding their relationship from everyone. So for him to offer his protection they would’ve had to reveal their relationship. And again, correct me if I’m wrong, I believe Eric is also older than King de Castro. In fact, I believe there are only three Monarchs in America that are older than your child. The King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington but he is pledged to the King of Indiana. Eric’s current Queen, Sophie-Anne Leclerq, and the Queen of California, Katherine de Roet. Why not try and seek a contract with The Queen of California? If your goal is to protect your child.”
“She’s unworthy,” Appius replied dismissively.
“Unworthy?” Sookie repeated. “It is to my understanding that the Queen of California has held her throne close to three hundred years now. No other Monarch can claim that feat. She is respected by her subjects and is a skilled warrior. She possesses power and grace; a true Queen, she is not a Queen by default…”
“How dare you!” Freyda screeched as she jumped to her feet.
“Be quiet,” Sookie snapped. “It is common knowledge you were appointed Queen because you were the first one on the scene, and no one challenged it.”
“I am Queen because…” Freyda’s words were cut off as the Ancient Pythoness threw the gavel at her, hitting her on the forehead.
“de Castro, control your child,” the Ancient Pythoness ordered.
“Perhaps instead of concealing your relationship all these years, you should have been teaching her how to respect her betters,” Kynan interjected, a wicked smile spreading across his handsome face. He chuckled as he saw the look of indignation on Freyda’s face. “Trust me Oklahoma Queen, the Soul Seer is your better.”
“Silence,” De Castro hissed as he saw Freyda open her mouth to speak. He was still confident he could turn this into his favor, and he wasn’t going to let his child wreck it.
Freyda glared hatefully at Sookie as she felt her Maker’s command take hold. She might be young by Monarchs’ standards, but she was far from foolish, or so she believed. She was convinced Sookie was questioning them so thoroughly because she desired Eric for herself.
She can’t have him, Freyda thought as she flicked her eyes to where Eric sat. He’s mine. As she stared at Eric, her mind started to wander to those few nights she had with him in Louisiana, before Sophie had so rudely interrupted. She smirked as she recalled the look of hatred on his face when Appius had commanded him to his knees in front of her. She felt her body reacting as it remembered the feeling of his tongue sliding through her wet folds. Freyda bit back a chuckle as her mind played over the fun she and Appius had at Eric’s expense. She loved the look of disgust on Eric’s face when Appius would assert his control over him. Each of them trying to outdo the other. She couldn’t wait for this to all be over and for Eric to finally be in Oklahoma with her. Appius had already promised her that he would command Eric to follow her every command, and Freyda couldn’t wait to take control of him. She vowed to make him pay for the trouble he had caused her and she would start with his child. Oh, how Freyda hated Pam; just like she planned to with Eric, she would make Pam pay as well for the disrespect she had shown her.
Let’s see how you like being the fuck toy of my guards, Freyda thought cruelly.
So lost in her thoughts Freyda hadn’t noticed the deathly silence that descended over the room, nor the bitter chill, but seem to have risen up out of nowhere, affecting even vampires. Turning to look at her Maker, Freyda frowned as she saw the look of absolute terror on his face, following his gaze, her eyes widened in shock as she saw what caused it; she took a step back as her eyes fixed on Sookie.
Sookie had been preparing to ask her next question when her shields had dropped suddenly and she has slipped into Freyda’s mind. She saw everything Appius and Freyda had done to Eric, and she heard all of what the Oklahoma Queen planned not only for Eric, but for Pam as well. Something inside her snapped. Her power unleashed itself, rolling over her body, her skin taking on a light green tinge as her eyes bled into blue. Lightening sparked at her fingertips as she rose up out of her seat, and her fingers itched to reach out and strike Freyda down. But fortunately her mind was still in control and she knew that as much as she wanted to, it wouldn’t be wise. Sookie stared down the young Queen, making Freyda cower before her. The message in Sookie’s eyes was clear: I am your superior.
The Ancient Pythoness ‘watched’ as Sookie rose up and asserted her power, cementing her place in the supernatural world. Her withered lips curled into a smile as many of the vampires present cowered before the force of Sookie’s power. She cast her ‘gaze’ to the Viking and wasn’t surprised in the slightest to see the look of wonder and fear on his face. But unlike the rest of the vampires, she knew Eric’s fear wasn’t for himself, but for Sookie, he feared for her, for what the power was doing to her. While the other vampires saw Sookie’s power, Eric saw the woman behind it. It wasn’t the power that had him in awe, but the woman.
Picking up the gavel, that the tiger had once against returned to her, the Ancient Pythoness banged it on the table as she attempted to regain order. “Child, sit down,” she said softly as she placed her wrinkled hand on Sookie’s arm.
Closing her eyes, Sookie took a deep breath and centered herself before sitting back down. The room slowly returned to its right temperature as Sookie ‘corked’ her power once again. “My apologizes,” Sookie said, “but I grow tired of the lies. It’s time we got to the truth of the matter.”
“Agreed,” Kynan said as he cast her a concerned look.
“Now, where were we?” Sookie asked as she shook her head slightly dismissing his concern.
“Appius Livius Ocella was reiterating his reasons for brokering the contract,” Kynan answered.
“Ah yes, for his Child’s protection,” Sookie said. “Do you still claim that?”
“I do,” Appius replied, his voice losing some of its bluster after witnessing first hand some of the power Sookie possessed. “I am trying to protect my child. I am trying to keep him safe.”
“In the sea of lies that rings out as true,” Sookie said taking the room by surprise. “You say you want to protect your child and I believe that; I can see it as truth. Only child to seek to protect is not Eric, is it?” Sookie smiled ruefully at the look of surprise on Appius face. “No,” she added not giving him a chance to reply. “The child you were trying to protect is your youngest, Alexei. He’s the reason behind the contract.”
“How?” Appius spluttered, for once at a loss for words. He thought he had concealed Alexei’s existence from the council.
“How do I know about him?” Sookie said, guessing what he was thinking. “It is unimportant. All that is important is that I do. I know Alexei is the reason behind the contract you brokered to keep Alexei safe.”
“This is ridiculous,” Freyda said, regaining her voice as de Castro released his command on her. “Appius promised me Eric; he promised me Eric would marry me. He signed a contract and has his Maker he had that right. The Council has no business interfering in that.”
“That’s not exactly true, isn’t it?” Sookie replied. “Appius never actually promised you anything, at least not directly. He promised it to your Maker; the contract was between Appius and Filipe de Castro, and that changes everything.”
“I do not see how,” Jonan interjected. “As the Queen’s Maker King de Castro has the right to broker any contract he sees fit.”
“The contract is a precursor to take over,” Kynan announced having realized what Sookie had discovered. “Nevada’s King seeks to weaken Louisiana and her Queen by removing one of those who stood against him in his failed takeover attempt. Although I don’t understand Appius Livius Ocella’s role in this yet. His complicity.”
“The child,” the Ancient Pythoness croaked.
“To save one child, Appius sacrificed his other,” Sookie explained as she shook her head sadly. “It is quite tragic really; you really have done all this out of love for your child. A child you know you can’t save, despite the assurances you have been given by Nevada’s King.”
“He’s my child,” Appius said simply.
“And you would do anything to protect him,” Sookie replied as if she was talking only to him. As much as she hated what he had done to Eric, she couldn’t help the twinge sadness she felt she began to understand it all.
“What child?” Pam whispered as she leaned in closer to Eric.
“I do not know,” Eric replied, confusion filling his voice as watched with everyone else as Sookie and his Maker had a seemingly private conversation.
“Perhaps you would like to explain it to the rest of us,” Aime said, not happy about being left in the dark. ”The child is unstable,” the Ancient Pythoness said, taking over the tale. “He is unable to control his urges; he kills when he feeds, and he does not conceal his actions. That is left up to his Maker.”
I don’t understand how this involves Nevada or its King,” Aime said. “Nor what relevance it has to this hearing.”
“Your lies had been exposed, Appius Livius Ocella,” the Ancient Pythoness said. “Bare your soul to the Soul Seer and reveal your sins to us all.”
“I can’t,” Appius said as he shook his head. Revealing what he had done would mean admitting his guilt and his failures, and he was too proud to do that. As he stared stand up at Sookie, he realized he would be exposed anyway, but he still couldn’t bring himself to speak.
“The child cut a bloody path through Nevada,” Sookie said as she smiled sadly. “He killed countless humans, including the day person of King de Castro. As you can imagine, the King wasn’t happy; although he held no affection for his day person, he still considered her his. De Castro took the vampire responsible into custody and sentenced him to death…”
“As was his right,” Aime interjected as she offered the Nevada King a small nod.
“As was his right,” Sookie repeated barely restraining from rolling her eyes. “However, when the King discovered that Appius’ other child was Eric Northman, he hatched another plan. He offered Appius a way to save his youngest child’s life, and all it would cost was a betrothal contract between Eric Northman and the Queen of Oklahoma. If Appius made Eric marry Freyda, de Castro promised to release Alexei…”
“You have no proof of this,” de Castro said, hiding his shock and fear. He didn’t know how Sookie had discovered his treachery, but without proof she was powerless to act. Neither he nor Freyda would admit to anything, and as long as he held Alexei, neither would Appius. With no proof, the council would have no choice but to honor the contract, and once Eric and Freyda were married, he would move on Louisiana. He would take what he thought was rightfully his.
“Are you sure of that?” Sookie asked as a small smile lit up her face, causing de Castro to pause.
“What does it matter?” Langdon said interjecting himself into the proceedings once again. “The reason behind the contract has no bearing on the outcome. In fact, I would go as far to say if King de Castro brokered the contract with Appius Livius Ocella it would only strengthen it. Two Maker’s agree to marry their children, the contract has been signed, and it is legally binding.”
“Langdon is right,” Kynan said. “In the vampire world the wishes of a Maker are paramount. If the contract was arranged by both the Norseman’s and Oklahoma Queen’s Maker, there is little that can be done to overrule it.”
“I see,” Sookie said that she pondered the situation. “But Nevada is claiming no involvement in these affairs unless…” Sookie trailed off as she prepared for what she was about to say. “Do you still claim that you had no part in the drawing up at the contract?”
de Castro let a smile spread across his face as he listened to Sookie’s question. The Were and Demon representatives had practically gifted him with Louisiana. All he had to do was admit be set up the contract, without admitting to the rest, and they would force to Eric to honor the contract. de Castro sneered at Sookie, delighted in the pain the words caused her. He could see she didn’t like saying them.
“For the wellbeing and honor of my child, I shall acknowledge my role in the brokering of the contract,” de Castro said. “My child came to me with her desire for a consort, someone to help protect her state, and by luck, I happened to be entertaining Appius at the time when he informed me of his child, Eric Northman,” he lied as he spun his tale. “We both thought my Freyda and Northman would be a good match and arranged the contract between us.”
“You’re saying you brokered the contract with Appius Livius Ocella?” Sookie said.
“The contract outlining the marriage of Freyda Queen of Oklahoma and Eric the Norseman was between the two with you?” Sookie asked, seeking clarification. “Freyda had no part in the negotiations, nor did she draw up the contract?”
“That is correct,” de Castro replied smugly.
“I see,” Sookie said quietly. Casting her eyes towards Kynan, she gave him a small smile as she saw his amused look.
“Then the whole reason for this hearing was pointless,” Kynan said, turning his attention away from Sookie and towards the smug looking de Castro. “The pledging contract between Freyda of Oklahoma and Eric the Norseman is voided.”
“What?” Freyda shrilled loudly. “You can’t do that.”
“I think you will find we can” Kynan replied very barely paying heed to Oklahoma’s tantrum
“On what grounds do you void the to contract?” de Castro asked.
“On the grounds that it is invalid.” Kynan answered, a smile tugging at his lips as he thought how Sookie had maneuvered de Castro.
“The contract is legally binding,” de Castro argued. “My lawyer saw to that. We followed every law, every rule.”
“Except for the part where your child signed it instead of you,” Sookie informed them.
“The contract is not legally binding because it was between you and Appius Livius Ocella,” Kynan explained. “By your own admission it was drawn up by you and Appius. Your child had no part in it; therefore, legally, she can’t sign it. The contract is invalid. Ancient One?”
“The council votes in Louisiana favor. The Norseman is free of the contract. This case is over.”
“No!” Freyda shouted as she glared hatefully at Sookie. She knew this was all her doing, and she swore she would make her pay. Eric would be hers.
The news that the contract was invalid caused Eric to let out a sigh of relief. He marvelled at Sookie’s cunning as she had outsmarted the King of Nevada. He watched with everyone else as she had basically manipulated de Castro into revealing the truth.
By the gods she’s magnificent, he thought as he gazed at her. He felt his heart swell as he ran his eyes over her. He longed to talk to her again and prayed that we would get the chance.
“It is no matter,” de Castro said, internally seething at the turn of events. He wasn’t happy that Sookie had manipulated him as she had. He was a vampire King, and he would be dammed if you let some little girl outplay him. “We will simply draw up another contract and this time will make sure all the signatures are in the right place. Perhaps the council would like to witness it, so we can avoid another situation like this.”
“That might prove to be difficult,” the Ancient Pythoness said as the doors to the room were opened again. ”Alexei!” Appius exclaimed as he saw his youngest child escorted into the room. de Castro eyes widened as he saw Alexei marched into the room. He cursed the Council and their interference. The boy was still supposed to be locked up in his dungeon. He wasn’t supposed to be freed until after Eric had married Freyda, and de Castro was the new King of Louisiana. de Castro swore that whoever had betrayed him would suffer. It was the only explanation he could come up with as to how Sookie knew about his involvement. Someone must have betrayed him.
Sookie felt tears well in her eyes as she stared at Alexei. His soul was screaming at her; it was full of pain and suffering.
“Child, what is it?” the Ancient Pythoness asked.
“His soul,” Sookie choked as she bit back a sob. “It is broken.”
“Are you an angel?” Alexei asked as he gazed up at Sookie. He could see a glow surrounding her, and he was drawn to it. “It’s so pretty,” he cooed as he took a step forward.
“Alexei, stop,” Appius commanded as the guards tried to prevent his child from moving. As was the norm with Alexei, he bade his Maker no attention, his mind too broken to comprehend a Maker’s command, which was why Appius had no control over him. Appius had finally created the monster he desired, but in a twist of fate was unable to control him.
Alexei’s eyes dilated as he moved closer to the Council members, a sweet scent invaded his senses and he snapped his head to the left and fixed his gaze on Aime. Her blood called to him and he was powerless to resist.
“Mask your scent,” Stefan growled as he saw Alexei jump onto the platform.
“It is,” Aime replied, her eyes darting to the other vampires in the room who were unaffected.
Alexei’s fangs snapped down as he rushed towards Aime. He easily overpowered his guards, snapping their necks and dropping them to the floor. He launched himself over the table when a burst of flames leapt up at him and sent him flying backwards.
“Alexei, stop,” Appius called out again as he tried to control his child.
“You dare attack a Council member,” Kynan growled, his voice booming over the room, flames danced along his hands as he rose to his feet.
“What is going on?” the Ancient Pythoness asked as she turned her head in the direction of Kynan’s voice.
“The child attempted to attack Aime DeMichael,” Kynan said, informing the Ancient One of what had transpired. Turning his furious gazed on Appius, “You have no control over your child,” Kynan barked. “He is a danger to everyone around him.”
“He is just a child,” Appius countered. “He will learn in time.”
“No,” the Ancient Pythoness said. “He is incapable of learning. He is too broken for that. Your desire to protect this child is proving detrimental to the rest of the supernatural world. Your actions of late could have altered the fate of our world. The moment you discovered the child didn’t heed the command of his Maker, you should have ended him. Instead, you sought to hide his existence from the Council. Your selfish actions have left me no choice. The child Alexei Nikolaevich, shall meet the true and final death.”
“No,” Appius cried. “Please your Grace, I beg you.”
“Silence,” the Ancient One replied, her tone harsh. “You have brought this on yourself. If you had one ounce of honor you would have ended the child yourself; instead you tried to force your other child into subservience to cover up both of your crimes.”
“He is just a child,” Appius pleaded. The thought of losing his child caused him great pain.
“He wants to die,” Sookie said softly as she continued to look at Alexei. “He’s tired of the hurting. He wants the pain to stop.”
“You’re an angel,” Alexei said as he rose to his feet, his flesh singed from where the flames had touched him.
“Alexei, stand down,” Appius ordered, his voice taking on a desperate tone.
As Alexei stepped onto the platform, a ball of fire flew through the air and engulfed him. A scream tore from his throat as he stumbled backwards. He twirled around as the fire burnt away his skin, a mad cackling laughter spilling from his lips.
Appius watched on in horror as his child burnt to death. His laughter was evident in his eyes as Alexei’s madness encroached on his mind. Appius let out a cry of pain as he saw the fire destroy his child.
“No, no, no,” Appius repeated. “My child, my child…” His eyes flicked around the room, not registering anything as he tried to process it all until they landed on Sookie. He glared at her, madness swimming in his eyes. “You,” he spat. “You did this. You had to stick your nose where it didn’t belong. You will pay for this,” he swore as he rushed towards her. Leaping onto the platform, he wrapped his hand around Sookie’s throat and prepared to strike her down when a gush of wind sent him flying backwards. Jumping to his feet, Appius moved to attack again, but found himself unable to. Confusion filled his eyes as he realized he was powerless to move.
“You dare attack the Soul Seer,” Kynan said.
Appius paid him no heed as his eyes sat fixed on Sookie. He watched as she rose from her seat and stepped around the table and onto the floor.
“Sookie…” Kynan said, concern clear in his voice as he watched her walk toward Appius.
“I am fine,” Sookie replied, not bothering to look back as she stopped a few feet in front of Appius. “The fault here lies with you and no one else,” she told him. “Do not blame me for your failure.”
“I will kill you,” Appius growled lost to the madness. “I will rip out your heart and defile your dying body.”
“You will do nothing,” Sookie replied. “You are nothing.”
“I am Appius Livius Ocella,” Appius sneered. “I will make you suffer.”
“And how do you plan to do that when you can’t even move?” Sookie asked, her voice taking on a mocking tone.
“Eric, as your Maker I command…” Appius eyes widened in shock as the words got stuck in his throat. As much as he tried he couldn’t command Eric to attack her.
“No, that’s not going to happen,” Sookie told him. “You like abusing your Maker’s command, don’t you? You like making those you know are not only stronger, but also better than you kneel before you. Does your Maker do the same to you? Oh no, your Maker has already met the true death. So you don’t have to kneel before anyone, do you? Until now.” Sookie smirked as she saw the look of hatred Appius had on his face. “Kneel,” she commanded.
Fear and confusion warred in Appius’ eyes as he was forced to his knees in front of Sookie. A solid pressure surrounded him, holding him in place, robbing him of his dignity.
“Ancient One?” Sookie said softly, never taking her eyes off the kneeling Appius.
“For attacking a Council member, I hereby sentenced Appius Livius Ocella to meet the true death. Guards take him to the cells and prepare him for his sentence.”
Sookie watched as Appius was dragged away, a small smile tugging at her lips. Turning her head to the side, she met the eyes of the man who had been haunting her dreams for the last few years.
“You’re free, Eric,” she said softly.