Silence – and I’m not talking about the four voids in my head representing my Bill and the three other vampires that had just walked through the door. I’m talking about the absolute silence that followed their entrance into Merlotte’s. You could hear a pin drop as the Bon Temp residents took in the sight of Eric, Pam, and Chow in their Fangtasia attire.
“Great.” I muttered it under my breath but of course the vampires heard. That earned me a smirk from Eric as he walked over to where I was standing by Bill’s booth.
“Ms. Stackhouse. Bill. I need to talk to both of you outside.” He stated with a nod towards Bill before he walked back out the door.
“Rude” I stated with disdain without bothering to lower my voice.
“Sookie.” Bill chastised me as he stood up. “Let’s go see what he wants so that it’s over with.”
“Bill. If you and Eric haven’t noticed, I’m working. He’ll have to wait until my break.”
“If we don’t go out there he’ll just cause trouble.”
“Ugh. Fine. Let me tell Sam that I’ll be right back.”
Of course Sam had been watching and he was not happy about Eric wanting to speak with me or about the other two vampires that were passing out flyers around the bar, but he agreed with Bill that I might as well get it over with.
Pam and Chow followed us out into the parking lot where Eric was waiting – not patiently I might add.
“We need to leave for a tribunal.” Eric started without preamble as I noticed Bill stiffen slightly beside me. “You can’t be that surprised Bill. You staked another vampire. You knew there would be consequences.”
“I take it that it couldn’t be avoided then.” Bill asked.
“I wouldn’t know. I didn’t try.” Eric said dryly.
“But he did it to save me. Which he wouldn’t have needed to do in the first place if you didn’t ‘require my skills.'” I argued.
“No matter.” Eric was trying to brush me off.
“Great response. That will be my reply the next time you ask for my help.”
“Sookie. It will be fine.” Bill started to try to calm me down.
“Oh really Bill. Like when you told me last night that this was all over and done with and everything was fine?” I argued back.
“I didn’t say there wouldn’t be consequences. Just that everything would be fine. I’ll be back soon.” Bill was still trying to soothe me.
“She’s coming too.” Eric interrupted our scene smoothly as both Bill and I whipped our head in his direction.
“NO!” Bill stated angrily as if there would be no argument. But I had a sinking suspicion that neither of us had any say in the matter.
“Yes.” Eric responded smoothly. “The magister stated that we were to bring the human that you staked a vampire to save.”
“He just wants her there to take her for her telepathy!” Bill was incensed.
“Even if that were true, it wouldn’t matter. However, I didn’t even include it in the report. As far as he knows, she’s just your pet. I suggest we keep it that way if at all possible.”
“Why does he want me there then?” I was angry myself but seeing as how I couldn’t really fight off three vampires I figured I might as well find out what I was heading into.
“I don’t know. I’ve never known a tribunal to include humans but we haven’t needed one in my area since the revelation. Now, we must leave. We are due back in Shreveport in an hour.” Eric responded as he turned to open the door of an SUV.
“Wait!” I called. “You mean now? I’m working.”
“Not anymore.” Eric’s response was accompanied with one of his icy glares indicating there would be no compromise.
“Fine.” Sighing I turned towards the bar. “I’ll get my purse and tell Sam I have to leave.”
Obviously Sam wasn’t happy and he was worried but he couldn’t fight off three vampires either. The ride to Shreveport was relatively quiet except for some type of foreign music that would have been soothing if I wasn’t so anxious. Bill tried to talk to me a couple of times to calm me down but I was past that. I was mad at him, mad at Eric, mad at everyone, and just hoping that I had a slight chance of making it through the night alive.
As we pulled into a junkyard, I was wondering if there was some secret hidden building entrance along the way. But as we turned in between two large walls of junk I saw dozens of vampires perched along the wreckage. On a flatbed truck, there was an older vampire (meaning older looking – I have no idea how long he’d been undead). He was sitting in a chair playing with a walking stick. Just looking at him made my insides clench and the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
It was while I was appraising this sinister character that I knew I would not leave the junkyard unscathed.
Before we got out of the SVU, Eric addressed me.
“Sookie. If you want any chance of making it out of here alive, don’t talk and don’t react. Control you emotions and reveal nothing unless you are directly asked. No one here will be able to save you if the Magister decides your fate. Everyone answers to him and he’s stronger than all of us.”
What could I say? He’d basically said, “Welcome to our court system Sookie. You may die here if you screw up. No appeals. Sorry”
Nothing. There was nothing I could say or do. So I just nodded (well and glared at him).
Eric led us to the left side of the man with the walking stick, whom I came to understand was the Magister. As we walked over to the grouping of vampires, most of them started hissing and staring at me like a person lost in the desert for days would look at a glass of water.
“Quiet down!” The magister spoke softly but his command was followed without delay. This was a man they all feared. “We’ll get to them in a minute. Back to the matters at hand.”
On the ground in front of the magister was a vampire on his knees chained in silver. There was blood pouring from his mouth where one of his fangs had been removed. The Magister started talking about how starving for three months without his fangs should teach him not to feed on another vampire’s pet. At his command, another vampire went to pull out the remaining fang. I started to turn around but Eric, who was standing to my left, grabbed my shoulder and held me still. He also gave me a quick glare to remind me of what he said in the car about not reacting and calling attention to myself. I took a deep breath and stared forward.
I decide to look past what was going on in front of me and just try to “zone out.” During this time I accidentally let my shields fall. I barely stifled a gasp. There was another human in the junkyard. It seemed like she was confined somewhere in a small place. She was praying and pleading in her mind.
“Please God. I’ll do anything. I was walking home from church you know I’m a good girl. Please help me and let me go home to my momma and daddy and little sister. I’ll go to church everyday if you want. I’ll become a nun. Please don’t let them hurt me. Oh god, what do they want with me. What if they kill me? I wanted to have kids. . . “
I was really close to crying. She was only 17 and she was scared out of her mind. I had to take a deep breath and raise my shields. I couldn’t keep a stoic exterior and keep myself alive if I kept listening to her. There wasn’t anything I could think of to do for her anyway. I was just a human surrounded by supernatural beings that could crush me like a bug.
The Magister had finished with the pet feeder and was looking at some computer thing in his hand.
“Moving on. This looks interesting.” The Magister continued in a bored voice. “Eric Northman, Sheriff of Area Five.”
“Magister.” Eric stepped forward.
“Well then, bring me your murderer.” The Magister directed and Bill was pushed forward into the area in front of him.
“So, tell me Mr. Compton. What made you think that you could murder one of your own kind?”
“Magister. Longshadow attacked my human. He was choking the girl. He would have killed her.” Bill explained confidently.
“So, you murdered a higher life form for the sake of your pet!” The Magister said angrily. “You’ve broken an ancient and fundamental law. You decreased our numbers at a critical time in our history. Very bad. Very, Very bad.”
I was really struggling to bite my tongue. Higher life form! As if!
“Magister.” Bill’s tone made it clear to me that he was losing his cool. “Longshadow broke the law first. She was mine and he knew it. He would have killed her and fed from her.” Normally, I would have been offended that everyone was talking about me in front of me. But right now – right now I’d love to just fade into the scenery. I knew there was nothing I could do for Bill even if I said anything. I’d probably make it worse.
“Hello! HUMAN! Irrelevant. Happens everyday.” The Magister interrupted Bill’s argument. Oh Bill, you better pick a different tactic.
“He was stealing from Eric.” Bill’s declaration this time did get a little bit of a response from the judge as he raised his eyebrow in Eric’s direction for confirmation.
“Yes Magister. It’s true.” Eric answered. This seemed to make a little bit of a difference and I started to feel a little smidgen of hopefulness. “Longshadow was a thief and a liar. He was hurting my business.”
The Magister sat back and contemplated. “The business part . . . that is a serious offense.”
Bill seemed to see his chance and took it. “And it was the human who exposed Longshadow. Would you tell him Eric?” Bill seemed to be agitated with Eric for not helping him more. I was agitated for getting brought back into the conversation. I was hoping to be forgotten. Sure I was worried about Bill. I loved him but what good would my love do if I were dead.
“The only reason the girl was there was because I called her.” Eric replied.
“To protect your wealth.” Bill stated.
“Yes. To protect my wealth.” Eric explained. “Magister. The girl is . . . valuable.”
“Humans exist to serve us. That is their only value.” Ugh. I wanted to gag at the Magister’s words.
“There are those among us that think differently.” Oh shit Bill. Even I know you shouldn’t have said that.
Now the Magister was pissed. “Do you question my authority? I am the Magister. I was trained in the Inquisition.” Yep, knew he was scary. “And I am the adjudicator for every vampire territory in North America. As the humans say – the humans you love – more than your own kind. BACK YOUR SHIT DOWN!”
Bill looked like he was going to say something but Eric interrupted him. “Bill.” That one word was a command.
Bill responded and took a step back after glancing at Eric.
The Magister surveyed Eric and Bill. “Well, you haven’t bored me. That works in your favor. And you seem to be obedient to your Sherriff.”
Eric looked a little put out at Bill too and responded, “For the most part.” This had Bill looking at Eric incredulously. Then Eric continued to address the Magister after a slight pause. “When it matters, yes he is.”
After the Magister considered, he stated. “The usual sentence is 5 years in a coffin chained in silver. During which time your body will waste to leather and sticks. You’ll probably go insane. However,” the Magister paused menacingly, “I’m feeling a bit . . . creative.”
The Magister motioned to a car and it was backed up into the open spot and closer to Bill. After the car was in position, the old man continued.
“You have no nest and prefer to consort with humans. You seem to have lost all sense of our priorities.” Again, a dramatic pause. I really wish he’d get on with it already. “William Compton, you owe us a life.”
With the Magister’s declaration, the car trunk opened and the teenager, Jessica, emerged. She was distraught and I was trying to whole down my dinner while my stomach twisted in knots as I realized what Bill was going to be made to do. This was insanity and it was tragic.
The girl was thrown at Bill’s feet as she continued to plead to God and cry.
“NO!” Bill stated, “No. Put me in the coffin. I’ll take that punishment.”
“Please Lord Jesus. Please save me. I’ll do anything.” Then she turned towards the Magister. “Please, I’m a good girl. I go to church and choir group. Just let me go home to Momma and Daddy …Please. I won’t tell anyone.”
While she pleaded for her life, I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my eyes. She was terrified and she was only a little girl. Looking at her, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Sure, I didn’t stake Longshadow, but he was staked to save me. I would be dead if Longshadow hadn’t been staked. This girl was going to lose her life, her ability to get married, grow old, and have children because my life was spared. Was my life worth this price? The price of her future?
It seemed that the Magister believed in an eye for an eye – or a life for a life in this case. So, I was going to be forced to watch this little innocent girl lose all her hopes and dreams for the future. This was the price for my life. It wasn’t a fair trade. She could get married, have kids, and have a normal life. I would never have a normal life. I havenever had a normal life. I’ve come to accept that the moment I met Bill Compton I was forever intertwined with the supernatural. I could run, but I knew they would find me.
I wish I could talk to my Gran for just a minute. My heart and my conscience were fighting a war against my self-preservation instincts. One screaming at me to do whatever I had to in order to save this girl because she was here, in part, because of me. The other part of me was screaming at me to keep my mouth shut.
I was interrupted from my internal debate by the Magister’s low mocking laugh. “There’s no hope for you now child.” And then he pointed towards Bill. “Meet your Maker.”
Jessica moved towards Bill and started begging again. “Please, please . . . I don’t want to die.”
Again the Magister was unmoved and the girl started repeating the Lord’s Prayer over and over again. My heart was breaking for her. She had so many people she was thinking of going through her mind. With my emotional distress, I couldn’t keep my shields up. She wanted to be a teacher, she had a crush on a boy named Ted, her little sister played piano, she wanted to have kids and live in Texas with a ranch and horses.
Her thoughts were making my guilt worse and worse. She had so many people who would mourn her. She had a bright future and so much to give. I only had my brother and a few friends that I loved but they all had problems of their own and hated the path I’d chosen when I started dating Bill. I didn’t have any real prospects for a “bright” future. No husband. No children.
Every day . . . every day I will have to look in the mirror and know that Jessica lost her human life because of me. Oh my God! She would be staying with Bill. I’d have to look her in the eye and watch her mourn her life while I knew that I was partly to blame. How could I live with myself?
The Magister interrupted my thoughts again. “According to our records, you’ve never been a Maker. Is that right?”
“But you are familiar with the process?”
“Well then, continue.”
Bill stayed still for a moment staring at the girl. How could I watch this? How could I sleep at night? Why was my life worth more than hers?
“Wait! There’s an alternative.” I stated strongly while stepping forward, but before I could say another word Eric had pulled me back into his chest, wrapped an arm around my stomach, and covered my mouth with his other hand.
“Ah,” the Magister stated, “the pet.”
“I apologize Magister.” Eric stated apologetically, “she has not been his pet very long and he has yet to train her well.”
“Hmmm. Well, let’s see what other entertainment you have for me. Remove your hand.” I felt Eric’s body stiffen behind me at the command but he slowly complied. He pulled his hand away from my mouth but kept me held to his body. “Human. What makes you think I care to hear your alternative? I could just feed you to the crowd.”
“Yes sir. I’m positive you could. However, I’m only trying to help. The girl is only seventeen and has a lot of acquaintances. If she were to live with Bill so close to home, someone would recognize her. This could cause problems for the local vampire movement since she is underage for being turned.”
“Like I care.” He stated in a bored voice.
I glanced at Jessica again and she was staring at me. Her eyes were full of tears. They were pleading with me and they started to shine with hope that I could get her out of this mess.
That look of hope is what killed me. Literally.
“What good will she be? She’s young, cowardly, and inexperienced in everything life has to offer. She will add nothing to your numbers but another cold body that will probably not survive a year.” I closed my eyes for one second as I steeled myself with a deep breath. “Agree to let her go . . . and I’ll take her place.”
“NO!” Bill roared. Behind me, Eric’s arm that was still around me tightened almost to the point of pain as I heard him quietly gasp at my offer.
“Quiet Compton!” The Magister admonished and then turned to study me inquisitively. “Just because I find this slightly less boring than most nights, why would you be a better alternative?”
“Because I’m older and more experienced. Because I’m used to surviving in a world that fears me and alienates me. Because I’m used to keeping secrets and deceiving others. Because I’m agreeing to be turned willingly. And because I’m a telepath.” Yes, now I really had his attention.
“Sookie,” Bill pleaded softly but I ignored him. I’d chosen my path and there was no going back. The most I could hope for is the girl’s life to be spared.
“And let’s be honest.” I continued as if I hadn’t been interrupted. “How long is it going to be before someone abducts me, kills me, or turns me anyway? At least this way, I’m a willing participant and you don’t have a newborn trying to meet the sun.”
The Magister reclined back studying me. “And why would I make a deal with you? Why not turn you both or turn you and kill the girl.”
I shrugged. “Why cause yourself the work? Sure, you could hide her or come up with some cover story but why bother. In a small town like hers, humans take the disappearance of a child extremely serious. TV appearances, newspapers, FBI hunts, and the like. Why not just glamour her and send her home? You still get a life for a life and you’re saved the work of a cover-up or possible public backlash if she’s found.”
The Magister laughed slightly again. “I don’t make deals with humans.” My heart sunk. “But I guess you won’t be human much longer.” My emotions were so far past reason that I wasn’t sure if I should be happy or relieved or terrified. “Fine. The girl will go home and you will take her place.”
“No. Magister she doesn’t know what she’s doing and besides we don’t know if her telepathy will survive the change!” Bill stated emphatically.
“I’ve known a telepath that was changed and it was retained. Have no worry. Now,” and again the Magister turned towards me with a slight grin. I didn’t trust it. Not at all. “Shall I choose your Maker.”
Oh my god! I didn’t see that coming.
“WHAT? She is mine!” Now Bill was incensed and roaring at the Magister as he stepped forward. That is NOT good. One of the other vampires moved to restrain him.
“Compton. You are already in enough trouble. Try my patience again and you’ll meet a stake.” Bill relaxed in the hold of the other vampire and turned his eyes towards me. He looked calculating and resigned at the same time. “This tribunal is to punish you Compton. Do you really think I’d let you be rewarded by being the Maker for your telepathic pet?” the Magister sneered.
Looking back towards where I stood, still being restrained by Eric I might add, the Magister tilted his head to the side regarding us both. “So, who should I entrust a newborn telepathic vampire with . . . Hmmm . . . Sherriff?” Now it was my turn to stiffen. I hadn’t seen this turn of events. “She lives in your area. You’ve been a good maker to the child that I see still standing by your side and you’re strong enough to fight off any other vampires who would try to steal her. If you want her, she’s yours. Otherwise, I’ll choose someone from the crowd.”
Okay. Now the crowd was rambunctious and several were volunteering. I’d surveyed the crowd earlier when I arrived and I was truly terrified now. What if Eric says no? What type of sadistic vampire could I be stuck with for eternity? When I volunteered, I at least felt some comfort that Bill would be my Maker.
Very quickly I took stock of the last five minutes of my life.
Five minutes ago, I agreed to be turned by my boyfriend to save a seventeen-year-old stranger. Three minutes ago I learned that said boyfriend could not be my maker but I would still be turned. One minute ago I was frightened that Eric would be my Maker. Now? Now, I’m praying to GOD that he says yes.