My body was experiencing a level of fear that I didn’t know was possible. All types of gruesome scenarios were rattling around in my brain showing me the ways a Maker could make my undead life unbearable. I was starting to doubt how much longer I would be able to keep up my false mask of calm.
It felt like an eternity had passed since the Magister offered me up to Eric, but in reality it had only been a few seconds. Finally, Eric voiced his answer.
“Magister. I do not wish to have a child that does not want me as their Maker. They take up more time than they’re worth, regardless of their talents, and their loyalty is always suspect. I have not lived a thousand years by making children that turn on their Makers if given the chance.” I felt like I’d been gut punched. Eric was going to leave me for the wolves to fight over. “So, I will accept this Human as my child, but I want to hear her agree to have me as her Maker first.”
I wasn’t sure if I believed all of Eric’s speech. Part of me thought that he just wanted to hear me say I wanted him. Or perhaps he thought my rising terror was directed at the thought that HE might be my Maker. Regardless though, he was a much better choice than the alternative of the unknown. Gran always told me to stick with the devil you know over the devil you don’t know. I may have only been in Eric’s company three times, but I hadn’t really seen him be cruel during those times – just stoic, intimidating, and egotistical. Besides, he seemed to have a good relationship with Pam.
The Magister raised an eyebrow at me. I guess that was my queue. I tried to speak as confidently as I could but I think it was more like a whisper. “I accept Eric as my Maker.” Eric instantly tightened his grip again and his whole essence seemed to exude a feeling of triumph. Well, at least someone was happy. Ugh!
“Finally, we can move on. Sherriff, you may begin”
As Eric began to respond, Bill requested to speak again by calling everyone’s attention back to him. “Magister.”
Honestly, so much had happened in the past few minutes that I’d forgotten all about him. Fleetingly, I began to realize what this new development would mean for my relationship with my first love, but I batted the thought away to think about later. A girl can only handle so much.
Then, I caught Bill’s gaze momentarily before he continued to address the judge. The look on his face was hard to decipher. Guilt? Regret? Loss? Finally settling on what looked like determination maybe? He then spared a quick look of pure hatred for Eric before turning back to the matters at hand. “I am duty bound to inform you that the Queen intends to make Sookie her child. As her Sherriff, Northman should defer to her.” What? What Queen? We don’t have Queens?
“WHAT!” Eric roared at him. Apparently I wasn’t the only one suffering from confusion.
“Enough.” Again, the Magister spoke softly and controlled everyone with one bored word. How old is this guy that he causes everyone to cower? “Compton. Explain.”
He sighs slightly and begins to explain in a soft, resigned voice with his head slightly bowed. “My job for the Queen of Louisiana is as a Procurer. My most recent assignment involved moving to Bon Temps and confirming the talents of a telepath that she had learned of from one of her pets. If the talents where confirmed, then I was to get her accustomed to vampires and eventually deliver her to the Queen where she would be turned as her child.”
My knees started to buckle and tears ran down my eyes as my heart broke into a thousand pieces. Only Eric’s arm, which was still wrapped around my waist, kept me from falling to the ground. It was all a lie. Everything. Every touch, every laugh, every smile. I had saved his life. I had given him my virginity. I had told him my darkest secrets. He was the first man I had trusted in my life and he didn’t even really want me. I was just an assignment. Oh my god! GRAN! If he had never come to Bon Temps, then I wouldn’t have been targeted and she would still be alive. It was HIS fault. Him and his Queen.
If the feeling of my heart breaking caused my knees to buckle, then the thought of Gran’s death brought a tidal wave of rage that pushed adrenaline through my veins and caused all rational thought to leave my body as I tried to lunge at Bill. I hardly moved before Eric had me pinned against his body again but I continued to kick and flail my arms. “YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE. I HATE YOU. YOU. . ”
Before I could say anything else, my screaming was cutoff when Eric’s hand covered my mouth. As I continued to fight, he leaned down and whispered in my ear so softly that I could barely hear it. “Calm down Sookie. You can do nothing here. I promise you though that you’ll get your chance.” His voice was so low that I don’t think even Pam could hear him and she was standing right behind him. However, even with the low volume, I could hear that the Viking was barely containing his own anger. I turned my head slightly to look him in the eye. His rage was evident in the hard set of his jaw but as we briefly locked eyes I thought I could also see a slight indication of something else. Concern?
Regardless, I had no real choice but to comply so I stopped my thrashing about and attempts to talk. Eric slowly removed his hand and we faced the Magister again. Who apparently decided to ignore my outbursts. I am still only human after all.
“Well Compton, it seems that the Queen should pick someone better for procurement the next time around as it doesn’t seem like you’ve done a very good job.” He was smirking at Bill now and I had the distinct impression that he didn’t like this Queen. Whoever she was. “So, am I right to believe now that the real reason you chose to stake the vampire to save the human was to protect the asset that you were under orders to obtain?”
“Yes. I was told to take whatever actions necessary to protect her and deliver her to the Queen.” Bill stated with confidence.
“Did she specifically tell you that killing another vampire was within the realm of whatever actions necessary?” The Magister inquired carefully.
“Well, no Magister.” Bill answered hesitantly.
“So, what we have here is an underling who took things too far and will have a very irate Queen to deal with after she learns that he lost her new toy.” Bill looked shocked. He really believed that he had played his ace in the hole. “Northman is twice her age and is better equipped to handle the telepath. Plus, the girl already responds to his direction.” He added this while motioning to my still form in the arms of the Sherriff. “My ruling stands and the Queen will not be allowed to interfere with my decision. You, however, I’m sure will have to endure her punishment.”
With that statement, Bill fell silent again and seemed to accept his defeat.
So, now I have saved the girl, found a Maker, discovered the betrayal of my first love, and I’m apparently safe from this mysterious Queen. The Magister seems to loathe Bill even more than before and Eric seems to share my newfound hatred for him. I’m beginning to wonder what’s next on the menu.
“Northman. I think its time we get this done with.”
Oh, right. I’m next on the menu. I stifle a giggle and I’m sure that Eric thinks I’m crazy. Perhaps I am. I’ve given my life away to a vampire I loathed 20 minutes ago. Funnier still, that same vampire now makes me feel safe even though he’s about to kill me. I’m nearing the end of what I can emotionally or mentally handle with all the twist, turns, and irony.
“Magister. As I don’t believe I’m the one being punished, I would like to enjoy the process in private.” Oh, that doesn’t sound good. Yuck! Does he expect sex? God, I should have thought of that. I can’t do that. “We can certainly present ourselves before you once she rises.”
“Sherriff, I don’t see the point and I want this done. It was entertaining to begin with but I’m finding myself irritated by this never-ending drama and I’m ready for a snack.” The Magister growled out. So, apparently vampires are grumpy when they’re hungry too. Good to know.
“I apologize Magister I should have explained fully. As you pointed out, others who want to steal my child will no doubt target me. To protect myself, I intend to bond with her before I turn her.” Eric explained evenly.
Bill gasped but was silenced by the vampire restraining him. The Magister seemed to be measuring Eric’s words and I was just as lost as I had been for most of the night. “Hmmm. I’ve never been a fan of that process, as I couldn’t stand to have my children around longer than required. However, I can see in this case that it would be a strategic advantage and prudent for your own protection. Plus, I’m sure that it will be helpful to keep such an asset close.” He paused again, considering. “I leave a week from today from the Shreveport airport. I will come to Fangtasia to confirm that you have completed the process.”
Turning back to Bill the Magister continued, “Well, you’ve lost your telepathic pet and we’ve replenished what you took, but where was your real punishment?” Shaking his head he stated, “Two weeks bound in silver in a coffin without blood. This will also prevent you from interfering with the bonding and turning. I’m sure whatever the Queen does to you afterwards will be sufficient to complete your punishment.” With the flick of his wrist, the vampire restraining Bill moved him further away and out of sight. I didn’t even bother to watch him leave. The sight of him now made my stomach turn.
“Northman, you and your party may leave.” As Eric began to turn us away, I looked at Eric with pleading eyes and nodded towards Jessica where she still laid curled up in a ball in the middle of everything. It appeared as if she was hoping to be invisible.
“Magister, with your permission, we can return the girl to her home per the agreement.” Eric stated carefully.
The Magister made a “go ahead” motion with one of his hands without raising his eyes from the handheld computer thing that he had been studying earlier in the night.
I started to move towards Jessica but Eric tightened his grip. I glanced at him and he finally nodded and released me. As I approached her, I noticed that she still seemed to be repeating the Lord’s Prayer but no sound escaped her moving lips. She was staring off into space, apparently in an attempt to ignore everything around her. I’ve never seen someone have a nervous breakdown, but she seemed very close to what I would imagine it to look like.
Kneeling down to her, I whispered very close to her ear. “Jessica?” But I didn’t get any response. Placing my hand on her shoulder with a tiny shake, I tried again. “Jessica. My name is Sookie and I’m going to take you home. But if you want to go, you have to get up now and not say a word.”
Jessica finally roused slightly and turned her swollen, tear filled eyes towards me. “I can go home?” Her whisper contained the unmistakable tenor of disbelief mixed with wonderment.
“Yes.” I answered her kindly. “But you must come now.” With that reassurance I stood and offered her my hand. Cautiously, she took my hand and stood at my side. As we walked back towards my group of vampires, I could feel Jessica getting terrified again.
“Don’t worry. They are just driving you home. I’ll be with you.” I placed my arm around her wait and she eagerly settled into the embrace for the comfort and reassurance it provided.
I didn’t look at Eric or any of the others as we approached. I didn’t want to see what was on their faces. All I wanted to focus on was Jessica. Consoling her, calming her, and getting her home. After all, she was the prize for my sacrifice so I should be allowed to use her as a distraction until I was ready to deal with my new reality. With that in mind, I walked us up to the SUV.
“Stay so you can report on the rest of the tribunal. Then go close the club. Pam and I will not return tonight.”
“Of course, Master” And with a nod he was gone.
The only words spoken once were situated in the SUV were to get Jessica’s address. Eric and Pam were sitting in the front being as silent as only vampires can be and Jessica had laid down in the fetal position beside me with her head resting in my lap. She looked and acted exactly like a small child needing comfort from their mother. The notion sent a sharp pain through my heart, but again I pushed away all thoughts of what I’d lost. I wasn’t ready. I’d think about them later.
The silence was making it harder for me to avoid thinking though. So, I tried to just listen to Jessica’s thoughts to distract myself, but she was still in a daze. In an effort to keep myself from any emotional topics, I started thinking about practical matters. Kind of like some people do when someone they love dies. They drown themselves in the preparations for the funeral and taking care of the business aspects instead of really facing the loss.
So, I started thinking about emotionally meaningless things. Like how I was going to have to get a new driver’s license that carries your vampire age on it. Its kind of funny to think that my age would be zero. Also, I wonder if there’s any legal issues with keeping what you had before you became undead, like my house. Wait, would I have to live with Eric? What about Gran’s? I need a new topic before that makes me cry.
I should probably take a shower and shave before I’m turned. I’d hate to have to shave everyday for an eternity. I wonder if I’ll have time to file my nails too.
Yes, I was good at avoiding the pain.
We had been driving east on I-20 towards Jessica’s home in Arcadia for about 15 minutes when Jessica looked up at me and caught my eye. Before I could think to read her mind to determine her intentions, she spoke with the raspy whisper of someone who had cried for hours.
With that one word, I saw Eric and Pam shift slightly in their seats. Apparently, they were wondering the same thing.
“Why what honey?” I didn’t really want to discuss this topic and maybe she was asking something different than I thought.
“Why did you give up your life to save me?” her voice was so tiny, like she was still afraid I could change my mind.
I sighed and responded kindly. “It doesn’t really matter, does it? Besides, you won’t remember any of this tomorrow anyway?”
“Of course I will. How could I forget?” She stated defiantly.
“When we get to your home, the vampires will help you forget?”
“What do you mean? Are they going to hurt me? I thought I was safe?” Crap. Now I’d scared her.
“No, sweetie. They are going to just make you forget. Kind of like being hypnotized. It won’t hurt at all. Besides, you don’t really want to remember this do you?”
“No.” she whispered as she relaxed. “No, I don’t”
I returned to looking out the window, hoping that the conversation was over. We should be getting close to her home soon anyway.
“I still want to know why.”
I couldn’t help myself. I was annoyed and I closed my eyes for a few seconds. Hadn’t I given her enough? Why couldn’t she just let it go?
When I opened my eyes and looked down at her, I intended to tell her to just let it go but her expression stopped me and I listened to her thoughts. Her thoughts were familiar to me. She was feeling guilty. She was still relieved and thankful but the guilt was there as well.
I gave up and gave her a partial answer. “You wouldn’t have been there at all if he hadn’t killed the vampire to save me. I would have been dead and you wouldn’t have been there. Why should your life be forfeited so I could live? Why should my life be worth more than yours? I wouldn’t have been able to live with the guilt.”
She considered for a minute and I hoped that my answer was enough or that we would arrive at her home, but luck obviously wasn’t on my side tonight.
“But why did you think that my life was worth more than yours?” I found myself wondering why she would ask these questions. Really, it was almost like she was trying to talk me out of it somehow. But a quick trip through her thoughts revealed that she was just hoping I would say something that would lessen her guilt.
Wanting to look away from her for a second, I glanced forward and saw Eric’s sapphire eyes boring holes into me through the rearview mirror. I realized then that I was going to be having this conversation one way or the other. At least here I could pretend that I was just talking to Jessica instead of having to go through this with Eric when we were alone. I steeled my emotions and gave her my answer.
“Because you have a future. You’ll grow up, get a job, get married, and have kids and eventually grandkids. You can have all those things and I couldn’t watch them be taken away from you.”
“But you could have had those too.” She insisted.
“None of those things were ever in my future.” I told her evenly.
“Why?” Boy, she was persistent but I knew that question was coming.
I gave a small, sad smile as I continued. “Jessica, think about all the teenage boys you know and all the hurtful or insensitive things they say, or how they look at you when you’re wearing something nice. Can you imagine what’s really going on in their heads that they don’t say aloud? Let me tell you that you don’t want to know and it’s even worse as they get older. It’s impossible to be with someone when you know everything that passes through their minds, and touching someone just makes their thoughts that much louder. So, no. Marriage and children were never in my future. I might have wanted them, but I’ve known for years that it could never happen.”
“You could have adopted or had a donor.” I had to laugh a little. I was coming to realize that now she was just interested in the conversation and distracting herself.
“I could never bring a child into my life. I’m surrounded by danger at this point and there’s no getting out of it for me. A child would just be a target. Besides, telepathy is a curse. Yes, people who benefit from it think it’s a gift, but to live with it is a curse. I would never wish it on my worst enemy so I wouldn’t risk passing it on to a child.”
Finally, we felt Eric turn off onto the exit ramp and Jessica had to sit up to give him directions to her house. In another five minutes we had pulled up in front of her small ranch home where several lights were still on. Obviously, they were still waiting for their teenage daughter to show up.
Eric had exited the SUV and come around to Jessica’s door when she turned to me.
“I may not remember you, but know that I am eternally grateful. Thank you.” She reached over and hugged me tightly with tears in her eyes before stepping out of the car and shutting the door.
“The family is still up waiting for her.” I observed aloud.
“He’ll glamour them too.” Was Pam’s bored response before she turned to look at me appraisingly. “We’re going to have to go shopping soon.”
Well, that was random. “Ummm. Why?”
“No sister of mine will be caught undead in discount store clothing.”
“I should really be offended but I’ll save the offense and point out the obvious. I can’t afford what you would pick out Pam and besides that I’m not really a pastel kind of girl.” I responded tiredly.
“No, your more of a red type but the cost doesn’t matter. It’s one of the perks of being Eric’s child. His credit card.” She replied with an anticipatory grin.
“Now you’re just telling me your spoiled.” I jabbed back at her.
To which she gave me a meaningful look and responded very seriously, “No, I’m telling you one of the small ways in which you should count yourself to be VERY lucky.”
Before I could respond, Pam turned back around and Eric entered the car. I glanced at the clock on the dashboard to find that it was only 2:00 in the morning. There was still plenty of night left for them to plan my death. I decided to spend the rest of the drive resting my eyes and trying to keep my thoughts blank.
Before I drifted off to sleep, I heard Eric and Pam have a short conversation but they were talking in another language so I had no idea what they said.
“Hon är för lugn” Pam whispered.
“Jag vet” Eric replied.
“Vad ska du göra?” she asked.
“Jag har en plan”
“Hon är för lugn” – “She’s too calm”
“Jag vet” – “I know”
“Vad ska du göra?” – “What are you going to do?”
“Jag har en plan” – “I have a plan”