Chapter Thirty-One

It's Not My Time

"Eric, Eric" My child's voice was frantic. Well as frantic as Pam could ever sound. My eyes opened slightly to her peering down at me. She was on her knees. My head and some of my upper body were in her lap. "Master" Concern marred her pretty features. I gave her a weak smile. My eyes were searching for Sookie. I reached my good arm out for her. Ordinarily I would refrain from exhibiting such behavior in the presence of other vampires. I was having a very bad night. I felt I was allowed "She is coming" Pam gently pushed my hand down and wrapped her hands around my neck. We were behaving like a pair of humans. It was grossly obscene. Sookie was speaking with the fairy I couldn't make out what was being said over the noise. Bill and Judith were finishing off those of our enemies that had only been wounded. It was a noisy affair.

The fairy disappeared and Sookie began walking to me. I could tell she had been crying. She knelt down to my right and gingerly took my hand. "Hello lover" Tears escaped her eyes. "Hi sweetheart" She rubbed my hand and just stared into my eyes. Her expression was unfathomable. "Well?" Pam asked. She was obviously awaiting a response to a question I missed. Sookie responded without looking at her. "There is nothing he can do"

"That is not acceptable. Make him come back" Her voice was flat. The taste of my child's blood in my mouth told me it was too late. All of my injuries were still unhealed. Her blood could not cure the poison in my body. She was in denial of the inevitable. Sookie continued with her eyes still boring into mine. "There is something he said I can try" Pam's body relaxed slightly. Something in Sookie's tone concerned me. "That is not all" I said. She shook her head. "I can kill you or me or both of us" She had already accepted these terms. "No" I wanted my tone to hold finality but it carried very little weight. Pam was about to argue when Anthony spoke.

"I have seen it" He was looking at me. "If you refuse you will die and you don't even want to know what will become of her" As he spoke more tears fell from Sookie's eyes. "I won't survive this Eric. I wouldn't even want to" I wiped her tears away with my thumb. She held my hand to her face. I nodded. Anthony stood and went to the table that held the butchers tools and handed Sookie a long carving knife. Then he went and sat at my feet. "You will save him" Pam said calmly. It was a command and a plea. All the while Sookie was looking at me. "This is going to hurt a lot" I nodded.

She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on my lips. "I love you" She whispered. "I love you dear one" She wrapped her hand around my neck and held unto me as she pulled away. Pam was bracing my back. I was not able to sit on my own volition. Sookie pushed the blade into me. The cut was made between my ribs right under my heart. She didn't stop until it went through me. I hissed in pain. She was sitting on her haunches and my head was leaning into her shoulder. I was pulling in deep breaths with my face buried into her hair. I was forcing myself to feel nothing else but the warmth of her skin and the softness of her hair. She removed the blade and replaced it with the middle and index finger of her right hand. I felt her fingers forcing my ribs apart. I whimpered.

The fact that her fingers were inches from my heart made me feel like the worst was over. I was wrong, so very wrong. After a few seconds the blood in my body began to burn. Breathing technique be damned. Instinctively I began to struggle. Anthony gripped my legs. Pam's arms braced my upper body in place. "No baby" Sookie wrapped her free hand around my neck. She knotted her fingers in my hair and held me to her. I suppressed the urge to fight her hold. I wrapped my right hand around her waist and held onto her to keep from screaming and trying to break free "That's right" Her voice was soothing. I relaxed into her and continued breathing no matter how useless it was in managing my pain. The fire in my body erupted. I was burning from the inside out. My cries filled the room. After a full minute of this hell I realized I had better control over my toes. The damage that Victor had done to my ankle was gone. Pam was no longer supporting all my weight. Unfortunately the higher up the relief went the more painful the procedure became. I clutched her waist tighter. She also tightened the grip she had on me. She was calling the silver out of my body. I barely registered the burns on my back as it leaked from the exit wound she made. The remnant of the silver was in my chest. For the first time in over a thousand years my heart gave a physical reaction. It contracted. I screamed. There was nothing left in me to block pain or to be strong with. I was raw and empty. Just when I thought my heart would explode it was over. Pam wiped away the silver residue from my back as the wound closed.

Sookie pulled away to look at me. There was blood running down her nose. There was so much of it was pooling in the hollow of her throat. The front of her shirt was soaked in it. I was horrified. She gave me a small smile. Then her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she fell to the side. I caught her and arranged her on my lap.

I tore into my wrist and brought the wound to her mouth. I was brushing her hair back while I fed her. She wasn't dead. I could feel her but just barely. The part of her that was within was peeling away as the life left her body. Her pulse was very faint she was failing fast. "Wake up" I said forcefully. Her heart rate was irregular. It was slowing. My wound closed and the beating of her heart was only declining. I tore into my wrist again. "Eric" Pam called out in warning. We all knew what I was in danger of doing. This couldn't be happening. I refused to let her die not now and not like this. My vision was becoming blurred. "Please lover wake up" My plea was whispered. My voice was choked with dread. Her pulse hadn't picked up. My wound closed for the second time. Giving her more of my blood would turn her. I struggled to obey her wishes as her life hung in the balance. I brought my wrist to my fangs again. "No" Anthony said. "She's dying" I growled at him. He shook his head. "Wait" Her heart gave a few labored thumps and it failed. Her breathing stopped. My hands were full of my hair. I couldn't feel her within me. She was gone.

Anthony was staring into her face with his head leaning to one side with a curious expression on his face. I was going to rip him shreds with my bare hands. A full minute hadn't passed. Sookie's eyes snapped open; her back arched. She pulled in a sharp breath like someone who had been submerged under water. "Hi" she said weakly. I smiled in relief so exquisite it was beyond words. "Hello" I wiped the blood from her face and neck. Anthony came over to intrude on the moment. "Here" He handed me two bottles of blood. Then he passed some out to everyone else. They were cold but they satiated the hunger and restored our strength. He also gave me a pair of jeans and a sweater. They were not at all my taste. He handed Sookie a packet of something. She looked at it and gave a weak chuckle. "What kind of vampire carries wet naps?" He rolled his eyes and smiled "The prepared kind"

Anthony's smile faded and he stared ahead at nothing. I was curious as to what he saw. "You need to move your people from there" Pam looked at me. I nodded. I would be a fool not to adhere to him. She flashed to the place where Victor was still writhing on the ground. "May I borrow your phone Vick" She fished in his pockets and retrieved his phone. She was not above stepping on a few of his fingers with enough force to break them. Anthony winced. "Sorry about your bar" My night was getting better and better. "Are you always in this much trouble?" His eyes were now focused on me but he managed to include Pam in his sarcastic remark. We both scowled. Sookie smiled.

Pam dialed the bar but got no response obviously. She dialed Maxwell's cell. When we were both absent he was in charge. He answered and she gave me the phone. "This is Maxwell Lee" His voice was defiant and laced with hostility. Then again I was calling form Victor's phone. "Maxwell" I said. He actually drew in a breath. "Master, we heard from your day man about your home. Victor's men had the bar surrounded for some time. I sent someone to check your wife's home she is missing there appears to be signs of a struggle. The scent of Bill and Pam were present as was a fairy and two unknown vampires. Pam cannot be reached Compton is missing as well." His briefing was bleak from his stand point. "Was anyone else lost?"

"No. When Victor's men left I closed the bar and called everyone here, tonight is not a good night to be roaming about if you are of the old regime" Pam chuckled. I smiled. "Is everyone there?"

"Yes. Rasul as well" That was a bit of good news. "Well done. Leave now; lead everyone to the place where we first met Thalia" I already heard movement in the background as I hung up.

I got dressed. "What's the plan?" Bill asked. "We need to regroup with the others. Victor is going to answer to his king tonight" I didn't think it would do much but he would be my act of good faith. Deep down I felt this fight was only round one. If I were Felipe I would be coming to clean house. That was one explanation for why he had taken so long to respond to the unrest of this state. He was massing the full force of his Kingdom. At this point he thinks I had been eliminated. He would use it as a valid justification to rid himself of Victor. Quashing the fragments of the old regime would ensure he would not have any more problems in the future. This was a win; win situation for him.

The urge to kill Victor was overwhelming but his life did not belong to me. It was a pity that he could die once for his many crimes. Pam threw him into the trunk of her car. Again I was sure she broke something on him. We exited the building Bill remained behind to start a fire. There has been a lot of that going around tonight soon we were on the highway. It was fairly deserted. "Are you feeling better" I asked Sookie. She nodded. Physically she had regained all her strength. I kept stealing glances at her. She seemed calm she felt calm too. I was unsure what to make of it. On the other hand I wasn't sure what I was expecting; hysterics; guilt maybe. I remembered how guilty she had felt when she killed Debbie pelt in self-defense. Less than an hour ago she had killed five vampires that I counted. We had both come within inches of leaving this world. I was certain she had seen more blood tonight than all her past adventures combined. It was obvious she had grown and changed to survive all that has conspired against her. I asked myself if I should be concerned. I wasn't, not if it helped her survive.

"What are you thinking about so hard?" She thought. She was sitting with her eyes closed and her hand in mine. "You" I replied. She picked the gist of what I was implying out of my head. "You want me to feel guilty?" Her mental tone was peppered with amusement. I could see the humor. A vampire was concerned about the conscience of a human who had spilt blood. "No. I'm curious" She shrugged her shoulders delicately. "Let's just say my morals got a makeover" I smiled. I saw what she meant. Her guilt was reserved for people who didn't want to kill her. We continued the rest of the journey in silence. We flew; never going below a hundred. The drive would normally have taken over two hours we made it with time to spare.

We were pulling into the parking lot of 'The Six House'. The night I met Thalia she had been involved in a fight here. It was gruesome. She narrowly avoided having her fangs and hands removed. We were the first to arrive. "You two stay here" I told Anthony and Sookie. The rest of us crept into the shadows to await the others. Less than ten minutes later four other cars joined us they were seconds apart. I recognized all of them. The presence of Pam in my body suddenly got stronger. A black and red sporty motor cycle joined us. The vampire riding it made a very deliberate showing of removing his helmet. Assuming he liked his head on his shoulders it was best. He was already surrounded. We all came into view. Pam remained at my side with strenuous effort. It was her child. "He is mine" She said coolly. Her words were laced with threats.

He removed his helmet and finally stepped off his motorcycle. Strapped over his shirt were two sabers in sheaths. We were similar in height and build. Our physical features were opposing. It was hard to tell what Pam saw in him. He walked to his maker and dropped on one knee at her feet. "My lady" His voice was full of reverence. She waved for him to rise and he did. "Master this is my child: Tristan; Tristan this is our maker" He bowed deeply. I nodded in acknowledgement. I knew she had a child I had never met him. She had never gotten over the fact that she created him unintentionally. There was only a decade or so between them. "Tristan what has brought you here?"

"Forgive me. I felt you had been badly wounded two nights prior." Counting Rhodes, the attack by Alexei, and the coyotes it was reason to worry. The look on his face said she had been too gravely injured too frequently and in a too short a time. "I took it upon myself to come to you. Pin pointing your exact location was proving strangely difficult. So I went to your bar. I knew something was amiss. I waited. When they all left I followed" He paused and looked at the four of us. No doubt he smelled blood and ash. "You are well" She nodded. He stood in position behind her.

I turned to everyone else that was present. Total there was fifteen of us. Some were native to my area. Others took refuge here after Katrina and the takeover. Rasul was the only surviving member of the queen's guard. "Felipe is here" They all nodded. "I believe he has thought better of his decision to leave us in peace" This did not illicit any reaction from any of them. "Victor has been subdued. His people have been wiped out" Everyone that was not there for the fight was wide eyed. I was not going to explain how that came about. "The king is in the country estate"

"I will go ahead you will all stand ready in case I have need" I was searching their faces for signs of hesitation but saw none. I turned to Pam to continue. She would fill them in on what they missed. I went to check on Sookie. It was a shame she could not fight with me. Anthony was a good fighter but it was vital he remained safe. If things took a turn for the worse he could keep her safe until Cohan came. He owed her a great debt. One that I was certain he would repay. She would be made safe for the rest of her days. Anthony got out of the car as I got in. "Tell me you took so long because you can't decide on a hotel" I said nothing. She must have assumed we met here to figure out a plan to hide or run.

"When we leave I need you to get far away from here with Anthony" She closed her eyes. "Eric. Let's all just lay low. I know you want to be king but it doesn't have to be tonight" Her tone had turned wheedling. If I thought we would live out the night I would wait. I wrapped my arm around her and brought her head to my chest. "This isn't so much about being king as it is about being free. Even if he wasn't here to wipe out the old regime which I believe he is. It would only be a matter of time before I made him anxious. Then we will be in the same place all over again. I will never be able to orchestrate an opportunity as good as this" I paused to allow her to see my point. "Do you remember the offer I made you the night we fought Hallow?" She nodded. "I am offering it again tonight. If everything works out I will make Pam queen and we can live simply"

"You would do that for me?" I nodded. I would be lying if I said it was a small sacrifice because it wasn't. She has given concession to be with me; she has fought and bled to remain at my side. I wanted her to have a good life. One that did not always call for her to face death. It was easier to live her lifestyle than it was to live mine. If I could not freely give this for her then I did not deserve her love and all that she had given me. "I would be happy" She said. It was as though she could almost see it. I smiled. "Yes" Then she let out a deep breathe. "But you wouldn't be" I knew she was going to refuse-again. "Our bond aside I am still happiest with you" I said honestly. "And I'm happiest with you. There's no debating that but you want to be king" She waited for me to respond. I nodded. "Taking that from you no matter how short a time isn't something I can live with. I would feel like I'm robbing you in the worst way. It's the same reason I said no that night." She chuckled. "I'm an idiot" Some would call her act idiocy others would call it the embodiment of selflessness. I was not yet decided. I kissed her head and said nothing. "I'm coming with you" She opened the door. I could feel that arguing was meaningless. Since she was insisting on coming then so was Anthony because I didn't care what happened to him if she died.

We walked back to where the others were gathered. The wind blew Sookie's scent into their faces. They turned and snarled with exposed fangs. Tristan was in front of Pam with his swords drawn. Confusion was plain on all their faces. "Give me a break" She muttered under her breath. She smelled of death more so than anyone else. My guess was the shield she used to protect them during battle absorbed the scent of it and remained on her. She didn't come any closer. She found a nearby stoop and sat. Anthony sat next to her. He appeared tense. Everyone eyed him but said nothing. Telling them who he was would only shake their focus before a possible battle. "Exactly like the bogeyman" Pam chuckled. She stepped from behind her child and joined her where she sat. "That's not my fault. You started the stories" Sookie retorted somewhat embarrassed. Pam laughed and threw an arm around her. Tristan stood with me but he clearly didn't want Sookie that close to Pam. He was eyeing them implicitly.

"Hey Rasul, long time no see" Sookie greeted. "You cannot be the one in the same" he replied. She shrugged her shoulders to say she was leaving it for him to decide. Anthony stood and went back into the car. I followed him. "You should not leave right away" It was irritating not knowing why. "Do you trust me?" He asked. I trusted him because Sookie did. He had nothing to gain from my demise. He has helped save both my life and that of my child. I trusted him even more because I didn't have a choice. "I do" He nodded. "Why" He was strange. I didn't see what difference it made. "I know you do not mean me or my wife any harm" He smiled.

"You are walking into a trap. If you take the main road you will never reach your destination. The short one in white, he has given us away" I made to leave the car as to deal with Graham but he stopped me. "This is where your trust comes into play. You still have to go" I was wrong about him. He wasn't strange he was insane. "Why tell me if I should march to slaughter anyway" He was wasting time I didn't have. "It would have betrayed the trust you have given" I was torn. "Is there anything I can do to save her?" I finally asked. "Stay the course" I nodded and we returned to the others. Everyone eyed us but said nothing.

"Tristan" I called out. He turned to me. "My lord" I pointed to Graham. "End him" He was already behind him before I finished my order. He made quick work of him. No one spared the now flaking filth a second glance. No one questioned me. "Figures" Sookie said dryly "No one flinches at that but I get growled at" She was muttering to Pam feeling genuinely irritated. Pam chuckled. Tristan gave her a smug smile and wiped his blade clean. "Jealous much" He asked. She frowned. "No. I'm just saying" We discussed strategies and teams. When Anthony gave his mark we left.

I would be driving to the estate with Sookie, Anthony and Bill in Pam's car. The drive to the kings country estate was short from our current location. It was an enormous mansion set over sixty acres of plush green grounds. It was complete with an Olympic sized swimming pool and tennis court. Except for the fountains that added a touch of Vegas to the landscape, not much has changed since the last time I was here during the rule of Sophie Anne. We took an alternate route suggested to us by Rasul. A few minutes later we were in front of the tall black gates.

We stopped to be checked in. They let us enter un-accosted. The fact that the smell of death coming from our car was ignored let me know Anthony was right. I called Pam. We drove to the main entrance and I could already see the grounds come to life. I got out slowly as did everyone else. Felipe and Nathaniel were visible on the front porch. I bowed. "Your majesty" He looked surprised to see me. "Northman I had feared the worse" I nodded. "Victor?" He asked. I nodded. "I have brought him to you" He arched an eyebrow. "I also have proof that he has been stealing from this state and has been using the money to pay for aid from Raquel of New Hampshire" He nodded. "Sandy was aiding him" At least he believed that part of my story. I didn't have time to inform him of Anthony's origins.

Several vampires came from the shadows and were forming a front line in front of the house. I sighed internally. It wasn't a good night to be a Viking. I had hoped my assumption along with Anthony's prediction were wrong. I felt Sookie's mind shift. She got out of the car and handed us each a weapon. They watched her with expression ranging from amusement to awe. "I would say we didn't come for a fight but this appears to be an execution" Felipe nodded. "You have much potential to go from a pain in my ass to a thorn in my side very quickly" I smiled. He assumed this would be easy. There was no way I hadn't incurred losses with my fight with Victor.

I twirled my sword in my hand as I spoke to get a better feel of it. "I don't suppose it would make a difference to inform you that this is a child of Kováll and that Victor has killed another?" I knew they would not believe me. Even to my own ears that sounded like the tallest of tales. All eyes immediately went to Anthony, who waved. "I'm even psychic" he added. There was a humor in his voice. He had already seen this fight was inevitable. Nothing we said now would change it. With the corner they thought they had me backed into they would assume it was act of desperation. Felipe surveyed him for a long second then he smiled. "He must be some psychic to have marched with you into your final death" Nathaniel said with a bored expression. Anthony chuckled. "I didn't say I was a good one" I smiled. He hasn't been wrong yet. "Nice try Eric" Felipe concluded. Through the gate Pam and the others came to join us. At least I get to fight in the second round.


Chapter Thirty-Two

My Ascension

"I really wished I had gone to work" Sookie said with a smile. I laughed and kissed her then we stood back to back. Pam came to my right with Rasul at her back. Tristan was to my left. We were partnered evenly. The pairings Pam created were balanced. Strength complimented lack of experience and skill balanced size. The blitz ensued. Our formation held through the first wave. No one was dead. Those who Sookie couldn't shield were paired with those that she could. "Eric" She called. She was exhausted. "I only have another minute in me" I nodded. The numbers were now in our favor even counting the King and his guards. Felipe pulled back he was beginning to see this may not go his way.

We took the time to regroup. "I have missed the action of this state" Rasul said. We all laughed. Nothing could mitigate the enjoyment of a good fight, not even imminent death in fact it made it sweeter. Sookie was on her knees with her sword in the dirt. She shook her head ruefully. Head lights washed over the scene. Reinforcements had arrived this where the real fight would begin. We no longer had use of Sookie's shield. "So what do you think Anthony. If we die would it destiny or choice" He smiled and took her hand. "No my dear friend, today destiny is our friend. I know it" She smiled. "My father is here" There were only a few of us that knew what that meant. When we heard it we were relived. That feeling did not last. Felipe's men had regrouped. We all stood out of our various crouching positions except Sookie. Anthony's posture was completely at ease. I wish I could share his certainty. But when I looked around I could see no signs of Cohan. There was a circle of vampires that surrounded us and they were closing in quickly.

"Drop your weapons" Anthony said. By all rights it appeared to be suicide. I did as he asked. Everyone else followed reluctantly. He thrust one end of his staff into ground. He reached behind his back and pulled out a small dagger. He cut deep into his wrist and fanned his wound through the air. No one knew what to make of this. The instant his blood hit the air the wind began to howl. He said something in a language that was long lost. At his words there were several flashes lightening that illuminated the night sky followed by deafening cracks of thunder. This was strange. Vampires could smell a storm from hours away. This was unnatural. Both sides watched as a tall ring of fire surrounded our circle. It wasn't dangerously close. It was stagnant it did not flicker or move with the wind. It served to keep us out of reach.

I was wearing a grim smile. Cohan was here. Someone appeared quite literally out of thin air. He did not fly nor did he travel the way fairies did. He just materialized; blew in with a particularly strong gust of wind. He appeared into the circle completely bypassing the flames and stood in front of Anthony; prince Atéyo. "He is a God" Rasul whispered. The roaring flames died instantly. Only a small amount remained it surrounded both of Atéyo's hands and caused him no harm. Felipe's men skirted back several feet. His presence preceded that of his father and siblings by seconds. They were aligned in front of us and facing Felipe. Both sides dropped to their knees. Just like that the fighting came to an abrupt end. "Somehow 'I told you so' just doesn't quite seem to cover it" Anthony muttered."Father" he called.

Cohan turned. He looked at Anthony as though he were seeing an impossible dream. He raised both his hands and brought them to either sides of his face. Tears escaped his eyes. He pulled him into a long embrace. He was murmuring and patting his back. "I knew you were real. I have been searching everywhere for you" He whispered. Cohan pulled away and caught sight of his bleeding hand. His eyes flashed. "Who has done this to you" His voice was barely audible it was so choked with rage. I would guess Anthony was checking the future to see what answer to give that wouldn't result in all our deaths. When he did not answer right away Cohan turned with Anthony's hand still in his own.

One instant his other hand was empty. The next it was wrapped around Felipe's throat. He held him off the ground so they were eye to eye. DeCastro looked frozen; he looked paler and most unwell. His eyes were fixed upon the one true king of vampires. I could not process what I just saw. There were over a hundred feet and a front line of people separating the two of them. Cohan hadn't moved he still had a hold on Anthony's hand. "What have you done to my child" From the sound of his voice it did not matter to him that his child's wound was well its way to being healed. He would slaughter masses just on principal.

"He stormed my compound" Felipe replied. His words sounded strangled, duly so. That was very fast thinking on his part. Cohan was not unjust as mighty as he was. "Is this true my son?" Anthony nodded. "It is father" Cohan released Felipe. "Why would you do such a thing?" He sounded surprised by this. Anthony answered. While he spoke Cohan did not respond his gaze did not veer from Felipe. I had no hopes of discerning what was being said. Their tongue had no basis in any known language, it was completely other. Anthony spoke for a few minutes. Finally he gestured to Sookie. Cohan turned his back to a still petrified Felipe and looked at us for the first time.

"Rise" he said and we did. He was emanating a kind of power that made you uncomfortable from looking into his eyes. His gaze was fixed on Sookie appraising her. "This is your friend" Cohan asked there was a smile in his voice. Anthony nodded. "Your majesty" She offered him a deep nod. It was all she could manage. She was tucked between Pam and I. We were keeping her up right. He smiled at her "Hello there little one" His gaze moved and examined the rest of us. "What of them? Are they friends to you as well?" Anthony grinned. "Yes. Pam is especially fond of me" Cohan's gaze moved to Pam. She was not going to concur but she would be a fool to disagree. "You, come here" Cohan said. He pointed behind himself at Felipe without turning. Felipe presented himself.

"This Victor you want him?" Cohan asked. DeCastro nodded. There was an unmistakable glint in his eyes. Victor had been conspiring with outside states. He has stolen from him. He had nearly gotten DeCastro slaughtered. Not to mention he had cost him Louisiana and Arkansas. I lacked the ingenuity to imagine the things he would suffer. I wondered if I would be allowed to watch. Perhaps I would be allowed to partake in the festivities. There was no doubt it would be public. The king had no fear of retaliation or causing uproar within his ranks. In fact he needed to make an example of him. The Kováll's spoke amongst themselves briefly. Then Anthony spoke. "We forfeit our right to his life. He is yours to do with as you wish" DeCastro nodded.

"First bring him to me" Cohan ordered. Pam left my side to do as he asked. She dropped Victor at his feet. He crouched to face him. He removed the silver from around his neck with bare hands. That wasn't Sookie's doing she was exhausted. "I see into your very soul and I know a quick death is a mercy you do not deserve" He placed a hand over Victor's head and pushed it back. His other hand was over his heart. He kept his hold even as Victor's body began to convulse. Sookie turned into my chest. I had to admit I was unsure about watching myself. I wasn't sure what I would be seeing but I simply couldn't look away. Victor began screaming it was a chilling sound. Cohan released him. He fell to the ground. His hands were clawing at the dirt. He continued screaming. To describe it he looked as though he had been driven mad. No one dared move even the winds were still. Our eyes were fixed upon Victor. It was unsettling to witness an immortal be completely dismantled from the inside out. "Wha…what is…what have you done to him" Felipe looked down at where Victor was sobbing and moaning into the dirt. "I can show you" Demetrius said. His tone was matter of fact. He wiggled his fingers with his palm up in an open invitation. Felipe recoiled.

"Is she well?" Princess Eráh asked. She came to stand in front of me. Concern was plain on her face. She had a hand outstretched and gently rubbed Sookie's back. This lot had a harder time keeping their hands to themselves than fairies. I nodded. Sookie turned "I've had a very long night" She said weakly. All at once they turned to look at Felipe as if it has been his responsibility all along to see to her needs. "You are welcome to rest here" he said in a restrained tone. I wanted to laugh at his discomfort but it simply wouldn't do. "Your majesties you are most welcome as well" They nodded. Together we all made our way into the house.

All the guards were ordered out except Adam, Uric and Nathaniel. We were arranged in the Kings grand sitting room. King Kováll sat in the sofa with Anthony between him and Atéyo. Instead of making use of the ample seating the others arranged themselves on the floor around their maker. They seemed to center around Anthony. This was like all their pictures. It was nauseating and it portrayed weakness. Then again when you were truly invincible you could afford to appear soft. Their behavior was strange to the vampires in the room. Sookie was touched and a little confused by what she was seeing. It was difficult for her to see vampires in this light.

I sat in a chair with Sookie tucked next to me. Pam, Tristan, and Bill remained. Anthony told the story of his maker's final death. As he spoke they all wept and reached out to comfort each other. Sookie was the only one who seemed affected. The rest of the vampires in the room watched with stony faces. In this matter we couldn't relate to the depths of their love or the extent of their pain. He told them about the time he spent with Sookie. He over stated the protection I provided him. He spoke of the first war he fought.

By the time Anthony finished speaking all eyes were now on Sookie, who was asleep. In the audience of the greatest vampire of all time she was sleeping. No one could fault her. She had reached exhaustion long ago. Cohan was smiling at her. "She is an extraordinary little thing" I nodded. "Thank you your majesty" Pam came and lifted her from my side. She would help her get clean and find a place for her to sleep.

"I will leave you two to settle your dispute of kingdoms" Cohan said. "Know this I owe him a great debt if he asked I would have no choice but to aid him" Nathaniel's eyes widened. "I willingly relinquish both Louisiana and Arkansas" Felipe said quickly. Cohan turned to me. I nodded. It was nice of Felipe to offer but he didn't have a choice. He was fortunate I had no desire for Nevada. Nevada was indeed a sweet kingdom; three times richer than Louisiana. It wouldn't be worth the trouble in the end. If I took it the territory would be made weaker. No other states within it would be satisfied until I was gone. That is not something I wanted to be dealing with as a new king. On top of that everything smelled of sand in that damned desert. Felipe can keep it. I only wanted what should have been mine. I rose and Felipe followed we would go and work out the details. There has never been a takeover where the loser lived.

He wasn't losing entirely. He had bitten off more than he could chew. If I knew it other kingdoms did as well. They were probably waiting for him to spread himself dangerously thin. Then they would strike. He had been plagued with problems from the start; Victor; the F.B.I; the uselessness of Arkansas; the rebuilding efforts of New Orleans. This was an out he needed. He could save face and he would be free to go and strengthen his base. Contrarily I needed DeCastro to remain King. He could make a worthwhile ally. If nothing else he would serve as a buffer. Logically if anyone wanted to expand their rule they would go for him before me.

We began walking through the house and found ourselves in the study. We were accompanied by Tristan and Nathaniel. "I had often wondered why you did not rise as king when Sophie Ann was wounded" It was true that I could have done so when Sophie Anne was incapacitated after Rhodes. I could have usurped the throne. My hesitation was due to my own weakness. Even more than that I respected her; I was loyal to her. Mostly I didn't want to be king. I was content as sheriff it provided me with the perfect balance of power and responsibilities. I have seen the reigns of King's rise and fall like the sun in the sky. Now there was no other choice. I had always known I needed to take back Louisiana. Nothing else could ensure the safety of Sookie and I. "I was loyal to her" I said. He smiled. "You are doing it for her" he said. It wasn't a question. There was no point denying the obvious. So I disregarded the statement.

We discussed the major details, one being that none of his people were to be harmed. As long as they all vacated my states by midnight tomorrow. Mostly we discussed my restitutions. I was not going to let him live for free. I found out exactly how much his kingdom and his life was worth when he paid what I asked without argument. He would be going home several million dollars lighter. Mr. Cataliades was on the phone as we made our agreement. He would draw the documents and have them delivered by the next afternoon. He also had knowledge of any and all documents that I needed in terms of finances and making a smooth transition. He would make me aware of anything that Felipe was trying to hide. This went on for over an hour as these types of things went it was fast. Mainly because I was making demands and he was meeting them. I was not robbing him. I was fair-mostly.

When that task was done I called my day man and left him a long list of errands. I informed all of my people of the change in leadership. Then I went to check on my guests. They had all broken into several small discussions across the room. Bill was prattling about his computer program. The endeavor was lucrative but it bored me greatly. I went to where Cohan was sitting. "Dawn is fast approaching you are welcome to rest here" he nodded in thanks. I spent some time speaking with them. The majority of the questions were about Louisiana and Katrina. They were curious. None of them had been to the Americas since before the times of the Native Americans.

While we talked I gained much insight. Their country had some of the strictest policies on hate crimes against vampires. The Fot's had no splinter cells in France. They went afforded the same liberties there as they received here. In turn Cohan had severe penalties in his Kingdom for cruelty against human. He didn't have all the same political red tape in his kingdom that we had here. There were no trials or an Ancient Pythoness or a council. He was the law for vampires in his country. Eráh was the judge in the cases. Negy was the Jury and his sons kept the peace among everyone in his command and acted as enforcers (not that anyone had ever challenged them). If I were able to adapt even a small portion of his method to my rule it would be a great step in vampire public image. "It's going to rain that day" Anthony said. I arched an eyebrow. "The day you have settled on to celebrate your accession and wedding. It will rain. We will be happier when announcing our formal attachment to your states if we aren't wet" My eyes widened slightly. I turned to Cohan. He nodded. I bowed deeply. "Thank you" This really was not something I had never dared to hope for. He has helped me gain the most allowances in taking back Louisiana. I held his debt fulfilled. If they pledged themselves to me in such a flagrant way we would be safe from any kingdom. I could focus on rebuilding my state and strengthening my regime. We would be untouchable. For the first time in a very long Sookie would be safe.

When dawn was close we began making our way towards the day chambers. Pam and Tristan walked beside me. She handed me a bag. I raised an eyebrow in question. "For her human needs" She shrugged "They require a lot of upkeep you know" she had a coy smile on her face. "Pam you must explain to me what you both see in her" We laughed because it was hard to know where to begin. I was grateful she was able to help Sookie prepare for her day tomorrow. She had also placed her in the King's day chamber at the very end of the hall. Hers was next to it. They followed me to my door "Good day your majesty" She was the first to address me by my new title. I very much liked the sound of it. She knew I would "Sleep well"

I began peeling my clothes off the second I entered the room. They smelled of Anthony and this very long night. Sookie was lying in bed she was just as naked as I was. There was a coffin in the room but I crawled into the bed instead. She would sleep better. I tucked the blankets tighter around her and pulled her to me. Even though I knew she couldn't hear me. I talked to her. I told her how I proud I was of her. I told her about how lucky I was to have her. I told her how much I loved her and how happy she made me. I shared my plans for our future. I wanted her as my queen vampire or not. I talked until the rising sun silenced me.