Without drawing energy from the connection to Rico, I doubt I could have brought Eric back from Hotshot with me. I drew the energy to teleport from him and he gave it freely. But I was so weak by the time we arrived to the compound that I could hardly stand. The wound in my back had not fully healed, even though it wasn't the silver that seemed to affect me. I wondered if the demon and fae blood was causing me to heal more slowly? The energy of Rico's blood was very strong for my form because I felt like I had been battered as time wore on. Eric carried me upstairs to our room and set me onto our bed then undressed me carefully while I shook. He cringed looking at the wound but even more so at the bruising that seemed to be spreading everywhere on me, the cost of the magic I had let flow through me. It definitely seemed that Rico's blood, while increasing my strength had weakened my resilience and ability to heal. Eric looked at my back and all the bruising all over my arms and torso. He murmured to me, wondering if he should get Dr. Ludwig. I just shook my head.

"Just cover me. Leave me. No matter what, I should recover, right?" I asked weakly. I felt dizzy. I really hoped I wouldn't just pass out.

He stared down at me as if he wasn't at all sure of anything anymore.

"You aren't… exactly like us. Especially after having Rico's blood. I think we should…"

I tried to follow his words but then I seemed to fall into a state of semi-consciousness. After a while I was aware of voices, of being shifted around.

I opened my eyes as I felt the cool edge of a glass being pressed against my lips and opened my eyes to see Pam and Eric near me, with Eric holding a glass that smelled like real blood to my lips. It smelled of Were. I felt a sharpening of my senses and a bit more alertness. My nostrils flared.

"It's from a Were," I said puzzled. "How did you get blood from a Were?"

"Edwin gave it for you," said Pam softly. Edwin was our housekeeper Emily's twin brother. He'd been my bodyguard often when I was human and a student at Tulane. I drank but still shivered uncontrollably.

Eric moved aside and tiny Dr. Ludwig took his place, looking at me with her usual disapproval. She examined my arms and hands closely, then looked at my eyes. She said,

"Turn her over so that I can see the wound."

Eric stepped around her and murmured something to me that I couldn't quite catch, lifted me up then turned me over. It hurt like hell just being shifted. I felt the loose t-shirt, that I didn't even remember being put on me, being pulled up and heard a sound of dismay from Pam and a clucking sound of disapproval from the doctor. The next thing I remembered clearly was crying out, as if in pain, when Dr. Ludwig examined the wound. Was that really me crying out? I guessed then I lapsed into unconsciousness again.

When I next woke, Eric, Pam, and Thalia were in the room, all somehow looking rather pained. I was very disoriented but as if struggling against something and I felt incredibly weak. I realized that Eric was holding me down. Dr. Ludwig pulled a needle from my arm and Eric released a firm hold on me and lifted me up and saying firmly,

"You need to drink, Sookie. Drink." He said, pressing his torn wrist to my lips. I tasted his thick, almost sweet blood. I felt as if a spark illuminated inside me. Several moments later he withdrew his rapidly healing wrist and pressed a glass with blood to my lips. "You've almost been drained dry. Drink. You must drink," he said in a whisper.

I hesitated, confused. Drained? Drink? And it was that slithery voice echoing in my head, though he spoke softly. Commanding me to drink. Compelling me to drink. Drink. Suddenly, another spark seemed to kindle and I was absolutely overwhelmed with the hunger. I drank glass after glass after glass as they opened one bag of blood bank blood after another. Finally, I began to feel better and as if my back was healing from the inside out. Dr. Ludwig looked at me and scowled.

"You better not to go drinking demon blood again any time soon. It's really not good for you. Such a lot of trouble you are. The second time I've had to have you drained to fix you. A demon is much, much worse than a maenad. You're even worse trouble as a vampire. You deliberately had his blood? Ridiculous!" she said.

"Half-demon. He's only half-demon," I managed to whisper. I wasn't crazy.

"You are crazy. Half or not, it was too much for you. If you do it again, take less and prepare to be drained." She shook her head at me disapprovingly and then she turned and left. She was out the door before I realized she'd read my thoughts.

Pam looked at me and shook her head. "You tasted awful. If that's what Rico tasted like, even a bit, I don't even know how you had more than a drop. It was disgusting. I just don't know how you did whatever you did. Ugh! We couldn't stand it. She had to drain you into bags. Your blood was almost black."

Eric sat on the bed and picked up my hand, turning it over and back, looking at the color of my skin, which was back to normal and even a bit pink. He shook his head and smiled.

"Is it close to dawn?" I asked weakly, puzzled by how we could all still be awake when I'd thought we'd gotten back in the middle of the night.

"Well, that was about three nights ago, Lover," he said with a chuckle. "Dr. Ludwig has been here every night, several times a night. You were so out of it, and you weren't healing. We gave you blood, then we gave you my blood. No improvement. She finally decided we should just drain you and start all over from scratch."

I had trouble taking it in. "Three nights?" I looked around at them and still felt a little confused. I still felt pretty weak. I had been out for so long?

Thalia came over and patted my hand, saying,

"I'm going to go find someone to bite. I've got to get rid of this taste. You were always a little on the crazy side, Sookie, but this time was really something. Rico's going to be so happy he didn't kill you for real. He has been quite concerned. Listening to this music downstairs that you can't imagine. Thank goodness you're looking better. If you had died for good, I don't even know what I would be forced to listen to during the day while I try to rest. And no one can tell them a damn thing, those two. Except you, of course…" she said with a shrug and a sour face.

She left and Pam turned to Eric and said, while looking down at me,

"I want to know what she did. Really. No one would have drunk that blood without a very good reason. What did she do with it?"

Eric, still holding my hand, turned to Pam and shook his head. He looked back at me with eyes that just shone with pride and merriment.

"Really Pam, you probably won't even believe me. She opened the gates of the Fae Underworld. She recruited demons. She set fire to a forest that was thousands of years old, one tree at a time. She frightened fairies and elves. She killed a half-fairy with something that was barely even a weapon." He shook his head again. "Pound for pound she's the most frightening little vampire you're probably ever going to meet. I don't even know what else she can do but what I saw was quite enough."

"Does this mean we're officially not worrying about her anymore, then?" said Pam with a smirk.

Eric rocked my hand back and forth in his two hands.

"I think we should worry about staying on her good side," he said chuckling.

After a while longer Pam left and Eric rose from the bed, and kissed me gently on the lips.

"Just rest. I have to get back to work. You should call Claude when you feel up to it. He's very much wanted to talk to you." He paused for a moment and shook his head. "No one could believe what you did, Sookie. When you decide to do something, it's never in a half-hearted way, is it?"

I looked up and said wearily, "We're very alike in that way, you and I." I looked at his deep blue eyes. He'd stayed with me, without even questioning me, even after I'd had Rico's blood. I knew what risks I was taking but really, he didn't. And yet he went with me.

"Thank you for going with me, Eric. You gave me courage. I felt much safer because you were with me. I was… so afraid. I could do it because I was with you."

He stroked my cheek and smiled down at me with glowing eyes.

"I love you," he said with a whisper, and then left the room.

Two nights later we cremated Claudine's remains on a hill in Northern Louisiana. Niall brought Hunter and Eric and Pam drove from New Orleans and spent the day in Shreveport. I'd stayed in Monroe with Claude. Although Claude had long been in my mind one of the most self-centered people I knew, I had to say he was totally brokenhearted by Claudine's death. Their sister Claudia had been murdered about ten years before. Claude wanted the funeral to be at night, specifically so I could attend. He held my hand as we watched the burning pyre. His energy was so similar to Claudine's that it didn't bother me, though somehow, having Rico's blood seemed to have improved my hypersensitivity. Claude seemed to take great comfort in the fact that I had killed Claudine's killer, his own uncle. I was finally able to meet Séamus, Méav and Líadin, Niall's full Fae children, also my great uncle and great aunts. Claudine, Claudia and Claude were Líadin's children. I was very sad for her. Claudine had been such a gentle and vibrant soul. I knew the only reason Dermot had been able to bring himself to kill her was because she was so well loved. Perhaps the only thing that had exceeded his self-loathing was his jealousy. I wondered how it was that he had been so twisted with jealousy and hatred. The only way that I could understand it was to believe that he was mentally ill. Guilty but insane. I wasn't sorry that I'd killed him. I was just sorry that it had been, in my eyes, so necessary to do so. Niall had told me that for the past six hundred years Dermot had killed members of his own family and worked against the Brigants' interests time and again. He was hated by his siblings, even Fintan, my grandfather. Niall had never been able to bring himself to the point of killing Dermot or getting anyone else to do it. He kept hoping that Dermot would change.

I mourned Claudine. I couldn't imagine my world without her in it. She had died because someone had gone after me, albeit indirectly. I thought of the irony of how she had protected me so many times but that I would 'outlive' her. I had lost so much family in my short time on this earth. She had been precious to me. She had been my catalyst for understanding why I should be turned, to stay with Eric. She had looked at people as individuals, just like me.

Hunter came and stood next to me, with his arm around my waist. Claude, Hunter and I stood there watching the pyre, a fairy, a mostly human boy and a vampire, all of the same blood. It was an utterly bittersweet moment of family unity. Niall looked at us sadly and for the first time he truly looked his age to me. Weary and ancient. Séamus stood with his arm on his father's shoulder. His piercing green eyes regarded me with much interest.

Eric waited more than three weeks to talk about it, which I thought showed a lot of forbearance. In that time, I was aware of his watching me closely but giving me space. He didn't hassle me at all about only drinking True Blood. He let me brood about Claudine. He left us alone when Claude came and gave me Claudine's jewelry and some of her photo albums. And he didn't even intrude when I sat outside in the courtyard on the cool spring evenings talking quietly with Rico. But he watched me. The unasked questions in his mind were obvious.

In the end, Eric got his answers about most of it. As usual, we were in bed, snuggled up just a while before dawn. He got all the answers he wanted about the actual events. About what I owed Rico (my friendship) and why had Rico even been willing to do it (our friendship) and whether we were indebted to demons (they weren't like the Fae in that way, and they'd really loved eating German spruce according to Rico who had negotiated the whole thing and enjoyed seeing his cousins and some friends) and how I'd figured out how to open portals on the Crossroads (all with Rico's help and a very old book of his Fae paternal grandmother's that talked about the nasty Christians and their foul language) and could I find more (you bet and I had even read of an ancient way to make them, too, but had no inclination to try that one.) But the one question that Eric asked that I couldn't fully explain was why I hadn't told him that I could do some of these things months before.

On the one hand, I already felt like I was too difficult for everyone to fathom. I'd been there and done that so much of my human life. Finding myself in the supernatural world had been so gratifying. And then by fully joining it, I had lost myself again in the sense of not quite fitting in among my "kind". Of not meeting expectations because of some internal voice that made me different. And all those other voices in my head that set me worlds apart from everyone else by virtue of what I could hear. Feeling that even the person that loved me most found me frustrating, even maddening, because I wasn't like I was supposed to be, had been difficult. Pam, Rico and Claudine had helped me somehow work through all of the issues a second time. Claudine and Rico didn't fit the mold of their own worlds and Pam… Pam just liked me, loved me, however I was without being too critical about it. She'd chastise me to my face about how utterly impossible I was, then turn around and laugh about it and just find some way to make things work. But with Eric, I'd spent months somehow feeling like I was a frustration or a disappointment. He knew how I was before, knew me better than anyone I thought. So what gives? I'd ask myself. Why the great surprise that I wasn't like other vampires? I would never be a strong and aggressive vampire or a super efficient vampire. I would never be like Thalia or like Pam. But if things really went to hell and you wanted someone who could pull out all the stops and do the least expected thing, crazy Sookie Northman was the vampire you'd want to have in your pocket. In the end, I was grateful that Eric did finally, really get that. But that night we also understood each other better, maybe than we ever had. In the weeks that followed Our Little German Adventure, as he now called it, Eric had relented and decided that Stan was right. I was just fine. Actually, what I overheard him saying earlier that day to Pam was that I was magnificent.

When we went to the Alliance Summit the first week of June, a hush spread through the room as I walked in with Eric. Heads craned to see me and there were murmurings. I took Eric's hand nervously, because really I could see that all eyes were on me for a change and not on the dashing Viking King of Louisiana. I was usually just the Liaison in the cranberry red dress who was married to him. People just stood silently and stared in undisguised interest. Winston, the King of Missouri, regarded me with no small apprehension. He was on my list of people I really did not like and he knew it. Stan walked over and kissed me on the cheek, and chatted cordially with Eric and me. Roberto and Liesel hugged me warmly and greeted Eric. Eric and Roberto had sort of patched things up. Plus, I knew that Roberto thought he had really dodged a bullet by not having me in his care. Demon-recruiting, Fae-threatening young vampires really didn't appear to be high on anyone's desired list of assets. Eric was enjoying himself as the King who had turned the rather awe-inspiring crazy telepath who fought elves and slew Fae relatives and came back to tell about it. Word had spread far and wide thanks to an over-talkative bunch of werepanthers and one Séamus Brigant, who thought that the Brigant family name could only benefit from some fearsome supernatural PR. I was their crazy dead Brigant and, surprisingly, they embraced me. Even though Rico and Hubert were glamoured, as always in the most pedestrian fashion, people murmured as the four of us passed, drawing back as if considering their distance from us very carefully. I was happy to think that no vampire in their right mind would ever, ever go after Eric and try to take the state of Louisiana away from him now. My much larger than undead reputation probably ensured that he would be King as long as he wished, which was probably eternity. He was enjoying himself these days. He was protected by the Fae and had that totally crazy wife who read minds, binds half-demons and would know in advance what you were up to and probably kill you with her bare hands.

So what did I want to do with all this magical power I'd happened into? With my fabulous reputation as the 'Liaison Who'd Literally Walk through Hell and Back'? I sat at a table that night drinking True Blood with Eric, Roberto, Liesel, Stan, Joseph and Joseph's human girlfriend Montse and what I took away was the beginning of an idea. None of us could vote. Rico and I had discussed the fact that he and Hubert, who had long lived hidden in the US and who would love to have the Fae equivalent of a green card that fairies could get, were unlikely to ever be able to vote, even in their local community's elections, even if all the Fae came out and even if they became naturalized citizens. This, Rico thought, was very unfair and I agreed with him. Eric had lived in the US for well over a hundred years. So had Pam. So had Roberto and Stan and Joseph. Liesel had been naturalized a US citizen as a Were but now as a vampire she had lost her right to vote because she was, technically speaking, dead. I was in the same boat. What did I really want? I wanted to vote. To have a say in my country's future and its laws. I wanted my friend Liesel to vote again. I wanted Pam to stop having to talk about Tan's vote as "our" vote, which she said she owned half of, since they'd married last month and it was a community property state. I wanted my husband, who had, brick by brick, rebuilt entire neighborhoods in New Orleans, to be able to cast his vote on tax issues in a state he'd helped in no small measure. In fact, all the older vampires I knew were so experienced with so much history under their belts, I really thought that if anyone could make informed decisions about elected officials or important issues, it would surely be people 1100 years old or people who were 600+ years old and licensed attorneys in multiple states or people capable of running very large state administrations. So much for all my magical heritage. When Roberto asked me what I was up to these days I had a question for him.

"After you get the Federal District and Appellate Court Bar, do you remember how many recommendations you need for the Federal Supreme Court Bar?" Mr. Abbis, my US Constitutional Law professor at Tulane was a member of the Federal Supreme Court Bar. That was one. I thought it was only two that you needed.

Roberto just smiled at me. I might be a freaky vampire, but I was still the same old Sookie. I was already taking the July Bar exam in Nevada to represent Liesel's suffrage case in District Court as soon as I was licensed to practice in Nevada.

Every head at the table, including Eric's, turned to stare at me, rather puzzled at my question about the US Supreme Court Bar. Then Eric's face broke into a smile as his eyes met mine. Still same old me. Never anything halfway.

Some plans are even crazier than vampires recruiting demons to gang up on feudalistic elves.


September 19, 2024

BBC World News….. Breaking News

In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court has today rendered an opinion granting voting rights to all naturalized supernatural race citizens of the United States of America. A similar case dealing with suffrage for US-born supernatural citizens is now rendered de jure. Schall, et al, a federal class action case brought before the Supreme Court in July 2023, sought voting rights for a class of twenty eight naturalized US citizens, including the vampire kings of four states, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nevada and Texas, fifteen Fae citizens and various hybrid citizens, including Liesel Schall an Austrian-born vampire, formerly werewolf, and for whom this case was named. The contentious case, fought by a legal team headed by well-known supernatural rights attorney Sookie Northman on behalf of Schall, and the remainder of the class, which included Northman's own husband, an 1100 year old Scandinavian-born vampire, has gripped legal headlines worldwide as a case dealing with fundamental civil rights in the United States. Chief Justice Jasper Roberts cast the decisive vote, joining an opinion written by Justice Dale Souter on behalf of four liberal Justices, offering the opinion for the vampire rights portion of the case that, as Northman had argued, the fundamental and underlying principles and rights offered in the US Constitution do not constitute rights solely for the 'living', but in the founding fathers intent rather constitutes rights for those with any manner of provable 'sentient existence'. Drawing on federal legal precedents of indigenous and native peoples, the legal term 'existing sentient races' has been used in language redefining vampire rights in multiple Vampire Alliance state statutes across the US. Building upon that platform, the US Supreme Court formally recognized vampires as the sentient race equivalent of humans in a prior case, Northman/García vs. United States Attorney General Robert Latham, heard in 2021. On the basis of the present decision, granting voting rights to undead or 'existing sentient races', the Court found no basis to deny the voting rights of naturalized Fae citizens who formed the other portion of the class suing for suffrage. The class, which originally centered on a suit brought in US Federal Court in 2019 on behalf of Schall and several other vampires, was joined by the Fae group who had sought suffrage under a similar class action case brought before the Louisiana State Supreme Court by Northman in 2020. Northman, herself disenfranchised after turning vampire in 2014, heralded the decision as 'another turning point in the US Civil Rights Movement'.

In other news, the government of Zimbabwe underwent a…

If you made it this far, thanks for reading it. Catch you all on the flip side after Dead and Gone is published on May 5.