Before her rule, Queen Sookie knew she'd been a person who had an opinion or emotion about everything, no matter how slight, even her clothes. She remembered herself as a little girl when her father would have elite fashion designers create custom, opulent dresses for her birthday party every year.
They were always heavy, full of tulle, and pink or some other pastel color. She had always hated them. She hated the dresses, but had so loved the man who forced her to wear them. That girl was forever gone. With every day that passed, memories of that former life, the one where she'd been alive continued to fade into oblivion.
The Queen who stood before a mirror looking at her reflection had no idea where her clothes had come from or who had done her hair or her nails. Her eyes, so odd in their many shades of blue and green, stared back coolly. They were lined in jet black and her lids were artfully hued in smoky shades. Her hair was coiffed in a severe fashion that somehow complimented the shape of her face. Whomever had put her together knew what they were doing. Admittedly, she looked just as a great queen should.
"The car has arrived," Dorian announced, entering the room.
Sookie held out her hands as her coat was shrugged over her oyster-colored chiffon dress. Dorian dismissed the maid, and pulled on her white leather gloves and fastened her scarf. As like all those she ruled over, Dorian was a vampire. She was her assistant and managed her time as the Queen divided it amongst all three of her states.
Her father was Felipe De Castro, the vampire king of Nevada. He hadn't given her life, but he was the only father she'd ever known and he had made her what she was. Her origins were those of a vampire hybrid who was the living Queen of the Undead. She was part-Fae, and that attributed to some aspects of her unique physiology. She was also telepathic, but these days she spent so little time around humans that it didn't matter much. She was a genius and to her enemies, she was their worst nightmare.
Her title had been written in blood, but fortified by peace. That was why she alone was the sole Queen in the New and Old World to rule three separate territories. It should have filled her with as much pride as it did her father, but she had lost the ability to feel anything twenty-five years ago. If she had been silently hoping time would heal her, she had been was wrong. It hadn't. Oddly enough, it hadn't made it any worse.
Tonight Sookie had a meeting with her appointed General of the Louisiana, Bishop. During the drive, the ever-efficient Dorian filled Sookie in on the postings on the message boards and all the poll results of the many various posted issues.
In all her years of training and the time it took Sookie for ascend to the throne, and every experience she'd had in between, she had learned much. The one thing that stayed with her was the concept of a Republic. While she had reclaimed her first two states, the ideology never left her. It shaped her rule.
The message board that Louisiana and Arkansas used for their voting was still in place, and she enhanced it to include Oklahoma. With the exception of the soldiers and the generals, every vampire citizen under her control had a voice.
In her states, there were no vampires who kept other vampires under their control or protection. No longer were there sheriffs and the divisions of the areas. There was a single army and The Queen controlled it. Her soldiers acted as a police force. They patrolled the borders, enforced her laws, and protected her citizens. Conversely, the elected Prefects saw to the needs of the citizens directly. They informed her of any trends in the 'day to day lives' of vampires from their delegated states.
For instance, a vicious gang moved into Louisiana a few years back. Their insurrection began with killing off the current gang in a series of drive by shootings and street fights, and then came the drugs. The social effects it brought were so great that it had pulled vampires into the area from elsewhere. The Prefect of Louisiana, Indira, brought it to the Queen's attention. In conjunction with the local human police, Kale, the General of that state, removed them all with extreme prejudice.
"Prefect Rava has an emergency case he requests you to preside over while you are in the state." Dorian said.
"He is en route now, but his estimated time of arrival will make us tardy for our flight to New York."
She had a standing date with Caspian. He would understand and tolerate tardiness as long as she came. With that in mind she gave another nod to Dorian. The car pulled in front of the General's home. Bishop was waiting and when she emerged, he bowed in greeting.
"Good evening, Your Grace."
"Bishop," She replied with a respectful nod of her head.
Barring anything major, Sookie only needed to see her generals once a month and, in those instances, they came to her. This time of year, with the annual VFL on the horizon, it was more frequent and it wasn't always possible for the hosting general to travel. . She would have like to have said that she kept the vampire football games out of sentimentality, but she hadn't. They had evolved from a dozen or so vampires in the backwaters of Louisiana playing monthly to a major event in the state. Ever the opportunist, she capitalized on it and used it as a means to unite her citizens in all three states.
Between the entry fees for each team, advertisements, and ticket sales, the games raised considerable revenue. It allowed her to offer a multimillion dollar championship prizes but more importantly it kept the taxes low. In fact as the revenue from the games increased she had been steadily able to reduce taxes by fifteen percent in the past decade alone. It made citizenship into her states, a very coveted thing.
In the past five years, teams from other states had been allowed to compete. It made things complicated, but again, it had the added purpose of socializing, lest she isolate herself. It also quelled all the talk that her methods of ruling made her monarchy appear weaker somehow.
Oddly enough, there had only been one instance of violence, which was impressive considering that vampires were gathered by the hundreds in one place and engaged in an aggressive game. While that altercation had resulted in serious injury, heavy fines, and a decade's long ban, it had been fairly small and not enough to have her consider barring outside states.
Since the games were going to be in Louisiana this year, Bishop was in charge. He laid out his security plans, shift rotation for the soldiers, and contingency plans. He was so efficient in his tasks that there wasn't much for her to add. Leaving no margin for error, she wound holes in his plans. The two were wrapping up with Rava finally arrived.
"Good evening, General."
"I am not expecting you," the ever-direct Bishop said.
"I am," Sookie replied. "Should Bishop be present?"
It was his house, but Sookie was Queen. If Rava wanted him absent for this discussion, then absent Bishop would be.
"Yes, Your Grace," Rava replied. "I have a report of brutality perpetrated by a soldier, a Captain," He said. "He raped a female, Ashley Bynam. Her citizenship is approved, but not yet finalized, and he threatened to have it revoked if she reported his crimes."
"Who?" Bishop asked.
Bishop dialed the number with vampire speed. "My house, now," He growled the instant the phone was answered.
Sookie ran through the roster of soldiers and she attached a face to the name. Desh was young, but powerful, if only a little hotheaded. Before he was Captain, he had been reported enough times for excessive force and assault against other soldiers that he had been brought before her. She warned him that the next time their paths crossed, she had better be congratulating him on a promotion; otherwise she would take his badge, his citizenship, and quite possibly his life.
Desh, indeed, rose to Captain with acts of bravery when there had been a deranged Werewolf shaman on the loose ten years prior. Sookie recognized smugness in his expression at the time of his warning, but no hint of anything else that indicated capabilities for this kind of behavior.
Generals evaluated the soldiers regularly. Outside of being known for being a jerk, nothing in his personality profile suggested Desh would offend in this manner. To double check what she already knew, she held her hand up and out. Dorian placed her electronic tablet in it. She read all through Desh's personnel file. It held his origins, his past violations, and all other pertinent information about the Captain. He got into fights with other soldiers that were stronger or older in the beginning.
When Sookie brought up the image of the victim in question, it became clear someone wasn't being honest. Ashley Bynam was only thirty years into her undead life and had been only seventeen when she had been turned. Sookie was older than the vampire in question and at only fifty-four-years-old that was saying a good deal.
Truthfully, she just didn't see it. It was clear that Bishop didn't either. The things Sookie did to soldiers that thought to abuse their power was horrific, even by vampire standards. Everyone knew that. So why would he do this, and then leave his victim alive? It made little sense, but be that as it may…
"The victim, she is here?" Bishop asked.
Rava nodded. "I do not believe she will be able to face him. It took much persuasion for her to give me his name."
They waited for Desh. He arrived at the house and when he entered, Bishop turned to her with a brow raised. The reason was obvious. If Desh had been guilty, the Captain would have run. It wouldn't have done him much good and he wouldn't have gotten very far, but it was what a guilty person would do. The Captain had raced over in record time. No one spoke to him and he knew better than to ask questions.
"Prefect, bring me the claimant," Sookie ordered. "Tell her Justice awaits, she has but to claim it."
With a bow he left. Still, no one spoke to Desh and still, he remained silent even as Bishop took his weapons. His eyes were fixed on the door. The Queen's eyes were fixed on him. Sookie saw all she needed to see the instant Ashley entered the room. She recorded Desh's facial expressions and could identify them as confusion.
"Your Majesty," he replied coolly turning to face her.
"In violating this female," Sookie waved her hand to Ashley. "You have broken your oath to me, an act of treason. Your sentence is the True Death to be carried out immediately."
His expression cleared him, but she showed no signs of this, not even as he tried to implore her.
Bishop was already at his back. He kicked his legs out from under him and held him face down on the ground. Rava handed Ashley the sword Bishop had taken from Desh. She held it awkwardly. The closer she got to Desh, the more trouble she had looking at him. Sookie watched blandly and waited for this farce to reach its inevitable end.
"I see this is difficult for you," Bishop said.
She nodded with bloody tears rimming her eyes.
"Then allow me to be of service," Bishop let go of Desh's hands and placed his around his neck. Bishop was built like he could tear off your head with his bare hands. He could, in fact, do just that. She'd witnessed it and that was exactly what he looked as if he was about to do now.
"Mercy!" Ashley said facing the Queen. "I beg her Majesty's mercy."
Sookie knew that she should feel something at watching this. After all it wasn't everyday vampires showed this much expression and rape was a horrible thing for any female to endure. She knew that, but it was all fact, there was no emotion to accompany it.
"The only thing I have less of than mercy is time," She waved for Bishop to carry on and it was then that the victim broke.
"It wasn't him!" she shouted. "He just told me to say that, but it wasn't! He didn't do it!"
"Who?" Rava asked.
"Caleb," Ashley sobbed. "He said if I did not do as he said he would have me deported, and he had friends that would find me and do worse to me every night until forever."
It was times such as these that Sookie knew she was really nothing but clockwork inside. Her thoughts weren't on the deep, personal pain or the shame that was common for rape victims. All Sookie could think of was how anyone had thought such an asinine threat to be credible.
For what Caleb thought was a just a pawn, he wouldn't invest that much time. He would just end her. Sookie just didn't understand it. The Queen dismissed Ashley. Rava looked as if he thought about touching her as he led her from the room. It was an immense sentiment coming from one vampire to another of no blood relation. That confused her more as she watched them go.
Bishop helped Desh up. Neither of them spared a second in remembrance of the fact that two seconds ago, the general had his hands around his neck and knee in his back. This matter needed further investigating, but she didn't have the time nor the emotional faculties, it seemed.
"Bishop," she called, getting to her feet.
"Would you need my Special Investigator or can you see this through?"
It was her assumption that Caleb didn't just want Desh gone just for a chance to be Captain. If that was the case he would have used other, less aggressive means, discredit him, show him up or slight sabotage. He had done something incredibly bold. What Sookie needed to know about were the friends that he used to threaten one of her citizens and she told Bishop so.
"You have my word, I will find out all there is to know and Caleb will face justice."
Sookie had no doubt in Bishop's abilities even under the current weight of his other many duties in overseeing the games. He and Desh walked her out. "How would you like Ashley punished?" She asked the Captain.
"I do not," he said as if baffled. "She was attacked and coerced."
Another one of those moments where she couldn't understand how someone was missing something so obvious, so logical, and so crucial.
"She falsified a report to her Prefect, she bore false witness in a trial, and she stood in the presence of her Queen and lied," Bishop explained. His tone made all those things sound like the capital offenses that they were.
"She also wasted a good deal of Her Majesty's time," Dorian added, though that wasn't a punishable offense.
Desh was deliberating, but Sookie had no more time. She made the decision for him as she saw Rava and Ashley.
"Your Grace, I should have questioned her further. My apologies."
Sookie nodded her head deeply at him to both dismiss his words and assuage any worry he may have. "You did exactly what you were assigned."
It wasn't a compliment. It was the truth. His job wasn't to investigate or interrogate. He was supposed to listen to the people and bring her their concerns. The end.
"You," Sookie said facing Ashley. "You insulted me."
She took a knee immediately with her head bowed. "Forgive me."
Were she looking for blood, the young vampire's immediate and total show of subservience would have appeased Sookie. She was looking to send a message.
"On your feet," The Queen ordered.
Automatically Ashley obeyed.
"You trusted the words of a person who harmed you without provocation and disregarded a promise made to you in blood by your Queen. This cannot go without consequence."
Fear. Sookie watched as it took over the features of the younger vampire. If she was afraid, then this single act of intimidation should be more than enough to prevent anything of this nature from reoccurring. This wasn't about Ashley. It was about the integrity of the system Sookie had set in place to protect every vampire in her monarchy. The only reason she was walking away with her life was because Sookie didn't have the time in her schedule for a trial and an execution.
"Your punishment for the slight is as follows; sixty days in the prison of the General, after which you will be placed on house arrest for ninety days. Thereafter you will adhere to a curfew that prohibits you to be out on any given streets four hours before dawn on any given night, barring imminent threat to your personal safety, for a full year. Lastly, you will pay reparations to Captain Desh in the amount of a quarter years' salary, in the amount of…"
"Twenty seven thousand and twelve dollars," Dorian chimed in.
"This can be paid over a period of seven years without interest."
Sookie levitated off the floor and flashed well into Ashley's personal space faster than she could follow. She allowed the predator to leak from her eyes. When Sookie had been younger, it was effective in making people see she was dangerous. Now, with her soul missing it petrified vampires, and seemed to suck the life out of humans. Ashley was getting the full force of it at point blank range.
Sookie saw her cringe into the car to get away. Beside her, Rava inched a fraction of a step away from her, like she mentioned, his duties only went so far. Every one of her subjects knew she was powerful but not knowing exactly how, was what they feared most. Over the years she was rumored to be a demi-god and a Titan. She has done nothing to quell any of them.
"I will make you another promise, Ashley Bynam. If you ever do anything of this sort ever again, I will have you carved into a thousand parts before I cook you in the sun. Do you understand me?"
Ashley nodded her head, and Sookie knew it was because her fear was making words hard. The Queen backed away and returned to her vehicle where Bishop was holding the door open and Dorian was waiting.