“Fuck your logic,” she disputed good humouredly. He chuckled not normally enjoying course language since his conversion but it was a joy to feel her give in without resentment. With Tara he had ascertained that a curse word indicated she was at ease with someone, offering her a strange sense of comfort. Her verbal shields put her at ease with others, saving her from attack by always being on the offense. It gave her an inner strength he admired.
“I sometimes think my logic is the only thing you tolerate in me,” he returned enjoying the light emotions that tickled through the tie. He wanted her happy. It was a strange realisation as it was something he never aspired for himself. Godric wanted to be right, just but not happy. He had little to do with the elusive concept, never thinking someone like himself would be granted something like that.
“When it’s directed in the right path,” Tara said with a small laugh. “Maybe.”
“You concede little,” he remarked at her frugal compliment. Godric considered inviting her to join him in New Orleans again, remembering Eric’s advice to surround him with advisors that dared to defy him. He refrained already knowing her answer to be negative. She wouldn’t return to the scene of the crime, that was asking too much of her. He would enjoy these few hours before sunset over the phone. It wasn’t about seeing her anyhow, it was the conversation he appreciated most.
“You win more when you don’t concede,” she countered continuing their light hearted banter.
“False victories are no triumph.”
She snorted before her tone fell more serious, “How long have you been lying to yourself Godric?”
Niccolò was an expert at surviving in the shadows. He had risen through the ranks with little exceptional physical skills. It was no different from his human life, he had been relegated to a position behind the heavy draperies that adorned the noble halls of power comfortably then too.
His titles were interchangeable, never truly expressing his actual role. He advised, schemed and predicted. His insight was unparalleled and kept him a wealthy man though he came from humble beginnings. An aptitude for learning saving him from a life of manual labour. It had also granted him immortality.
Niccolò was the child of the Emperor of Italy. Recruited for his political acumen, he had continued his life much the same as his human one. The consultant, the secretary or the advisor. The titles meant little in comparison to his influence. On that alone he should have been named the Guardian that resided over The North American Authority.
He knew, however, that the title meant as little as the various ones he had carried through his long existence. Power resided amongst the ones who knew how to wield it, not the stations that pertained it. The only difference between him and the Guardian who sat in the identical linen garbs beside him was the decorum and respect he was granted for his position. However, unlike Niccolò the Guardian was as inept at wielding a sword as he was power which only further strengthened the Italian vampire.
Niccolò listened intently to the sermon the Gaul was preaching to his followers. They never made it inside on that Sunday night due to the sheer volume of vampires that had showed up that night. Thankfully Godric was to recite his sermon for a second time the following night for those who were unable to attend. The self-styled prophet had chosen to speak of the book of Hosea. The Italian knew it well, the teachings of the old and new testaments standing at the footing of his education. However, his inert empiricism didn’t take him to find meaning in the words beyond the definitions of the script. He wondered if the ancient vampire realised the irony of his discourse.
Hosea was a predictable choice in reference to his recent defeat of the Maenad on the grounds not far from where they were gathered. It spoke of spiritual adultery replacing the ‘just’ god with the worship of an idol. The cycle of repentance, redemption, and restoration aptly fitting the message that this congregation came to hear. The book of Hosea spoke of God’s unrelenting love that carried through despite his follower’s departed faith in exchange for another.
The average preacher would infer lessons of forgiveness to his congregation. Godric used it as a means to introduce his followers to the promise of restoration, displaying he was the path to their collective salvation. Niccolò took little lesson from the words just as he did the first time he heard them. There was no place for theology and moral philosophy in politics as far as he was concerned.
Pragmatism was a currency one could deal with. Idealism had proven to reap no rewards in his five centuries of existence. An understanding of reality was what had ruled cities, states and nations. Ideals had stood at the destruction of them all. Nothing had quite survived the times like fear and manipulation, amongst men and vampires alike.
However, in his idealism the prophet at the pulpit had discovered that mystical trifecta; love, fear and promise. Fear that resided not with the imminence of death but rather in the continued existence without it. Godric had found a wound that resided in every fanged being and continued to agitate it to a fully bleeding one and there was nothing more enticing to a vampire than the sight of blood. A loving ‘God’ provided the rest.
Had the Gaul set out to erect this masterful arrangement, Niccolò would have admired him greatly. Most likely he would have offered his services and resided by the realm of power as closely as possible. However, it was quite apparent that Godric believed what he preached rather than fed the lie in a masterful power play even if a hint of reluctance tainted his tone.
Niccolò cared little for how he had become susceptible, his esteem was drawn to the one that had stood at the groundwork for this house of cards. It didn’t take him long as he scanned the faces of Godric’s closest confidents and locked on the human who recited the text with the same ease as the ancient vampire who spoke them aloud.
He would most definitely not be seeking out the young reverend. Nor would he be offering him his services. Niccolò knew instantly that the power held over this contingent of vampires did not reside with the unparalleled strength of the ancient one. No it lay with the weak and feeble human who had hidden in the shadows of his nature from the day he was born, reminding Niccolò of someone not unlike himself.
“Ms Stackhouse, may I have a word?”
“Hugo?” she startled aloud as the man in question suddenly appeared behind her in the reflection of the mirror of the otherwise emptied women’s bathroom. While she had been sympathetic to Godric’s invitation to his second sermon of the week, the congregations of minds were too much to handle even with Eric’s close proximity, which had caused her solitary escape down to the palace cellars.
“Don’t startle,” he instructed insistently as he clasped his hands over her arms, pinning them to her body. “I mean you no harm.”
“You are-” Hugo’s hand clamped over her mouth before she could utter another word and he tapped the other hand towards his temple in demonstration of the preferred communication method. “A telepath?” Sookie finished mentally as she turned towards him.
“No,” Hugo replied with a finger to his lips. “Fae.”
Confusion marred her features with both those statements. “The fairies are aligned with the Fellowship of the Sun?”
“No,” he chuckled which reverberated to her mentally. “I was sent on a mission to spy on them.”
“Why did you make me think you were a Fellowship spy?” Sookie questioned trying to understand his motives.
“It’s what you needed to tell your vampire,” he returned with a grin. “You did, did you not?”
“You used me!” she exclaimed aloud before his finger silenced her lip again in warning.
“We needed to know if he was trustworthy,” Hugo explained with a shrug. “Now we know he truly cares for you.”
“I could have told you that,” Sookie returned with an agitated huff, crossing her arms for good measure.
“The information you received was not false,” he spoke with more seriousness. “Their most important members are warned of your unique skill. They have devised methods to keep you out of their mind. They know of your ability but we do not know how.”
“You can’t just read that from their minds?” she asked with surprise. Though she was glad to find an explanation for why the thoughts of Steve Newlin and his entourage, that had come unannounced to Godric’s sermon, weighed so heavily on her shields.
“We of the Fae cannot simply read other species like you can. An average fairy only has the innate ability to communicate like this,” Hugo explained. “You have an extraordinary gift.”
Sookie refrained from rolling her eyes of the so called gift that she could only ever consider a curse, especially considering the headache she was carrying now. “Isabel knows of this? Of your true nature.”
Hugo shook his head, “She is part of the mission, my ticket into the Fellowship’s inner circle, if you will, operating as counterintelligence. I pretend to care for her but it is nothing more than that.”
“Why would you infiltrate an organisation that persecutes your natural enemies?” Sookie asked sceptically. “How do I know you’re not really helping them?”
“They are a threat to us all, remaining unaware at this point of what else is out there. Suspicions are rising among them now that they have captured a were from their own congregation.”
“Yet you’ve been pursuing this since the Great Reveal,” she pointed out, remembering how Godric had mentioned the length of Hugo and Isabel’s relationship.
“We started preparing from the moment there were rumours of the Great Reveal,” he said smugly. “The Fae tend to be more organised and forward thinking than the rest of the supernaturals. We saw the threat for what it was instantly.”
Sookie groaned a little, surprised to find a species with more proclaimed self-importance than vampires. Taking notice of her fluttering emotions, Sookie suddenly became aware of Eric questioning her through the bond. Despite her insistence there was nothing wrong, she sensed Eric’s scepticism and determination to seek her out when she shut him out.
Sookie nodded which urged Hugo to finish up quickly what he came to speak of, “I am needed at this court by the Fellowship but we need someone close to their inner circle again.”
“I’m not going in there if they know of my ability,” Sookie instantly protested.
“We were thinking of your brother,” he grinned with a knowing smile. “He is close to Mrs.Newlin, is he not?”
Sookie bit softly at her bottom lip wondering if this was a sensible course of action in regards to her brother’s safety.
“I will look after him,” a decidedly lighter voice suddenly rang through her mind as Cecily appeared beside Hugo.
“Cousin,” the redhead smiled widely before kissing him on the lips.
“Cecily,” he returned in a whisper before taking her in properly. “You are different.”
“Things are changing are they not?” she spoke cryptically.
“Indeed,” he returned knowingly. “Sookie, your vampire is approaching. You will instruct your brother?”
Sookie looked doubtfully before Cecily gave her an encouraging nod causing Sookie to mimic the gesture of accordance. “I’m not hiding it from Eric,” she supplied. “I won’t lie to him.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Hugo taunted jovially. “He passed our first test, we trust him. For now.”
“My brother is always to be trusted,” Cecily spoke viciously at her cousin baring her dainty fangs. “He is not your plaything.”
Hugo merely cocked his eyebrow at his cousin’s statement before kissing his cousin goodbye who remained incredibly cool to his affection. “Understood,” he finally acceded with a sigh as he heard the heavy thuds of the ancient Viking vampire approach down the long and darkened hallway that lay beyond the door. He motioned to pop away, knowing Cecily would follow from her scrutinised glare, their argument far from finished. A goodbye was given to the telepath before he departed on serious words, “The Viking is to know and no one else, and Sookie, be careful around Isabel. She is not as harmless as she appears.”
The door creaked as it revealed Eric’s tall form, the residual magic of teleportation still palpable in the air, causing his fangs to run out. “Sookie,” he whispered as he instantly ensconced her body with his in protection. “What happened here?”
Unsure exactly what herself, Sookie merely repeated the cryptic words spoken by Cecily, “Things are changing.”
If it wasn’t for the ridiculously mundane name, one would expect Stan Baker to be Texas born and bred. His clothing still referred to the glory days of an unchartered frontier; of snake pits and tumbleweeds. It was what had attracted him to the New World, this lawless abyss where a man was still a man who sought his own pleasure without repercussion. He thought the Great Reveal was the worst mistake his kind made and longed for those glory days when no one would miss a body as man was as vicious in violence as his own true nature. The elements were just as harsh as the people that inhabited them.
Stan had enough of playing by the rules of others. While he had always respected Godric beyond his impressive age, he detested the restraint he demanded of his subjects. The cuffs may not have been silver but they were certainly there and he preferred his existence untethered. By being Godric’s second deputy gave him a certain amount of freedom he would otherwise be without. When the Sheriff passed the torch of succession to Isabel it didn’t take Stan long to move out of the area he had called home for such an extended period of time.
Their relationship was frustrating to say the least. Passion had roared between them at great heights but cooled just as suddenly. What was left was an inexplicable hostility that flared at the merest spark. The vicious fights that occurred often ended up far more tender with far less clothes but since her interest in the human Hugo there was only hostility left behind. Stan saw no possibility of serving under Isabel in the same capacity as he had done for Godric.
His new Sheriff in El Paso was not much of an improvement. Violet was of the same Spanish temperament as Isabel and she demanded more than he was willing to give. He had liked the grittiness of the city and its proximity to Juarez. The Mexican city was the only one a vampire could visit without incurring the wrath of the Mexican regent. There was an allure in moving on to that country, where the violence and unchartered landscape was reminiscent of his early Texas days when it was but a frontier. The King of Mexico was, however, the antithesis of that unbridled lack of law and order.
Stan had always enjoyed being present at the birth of unexplored territories. He never stayed around long enough to watch the pieces fall to the ground. Regardless of that, he did recognise the writings on the wall when they appeared at the Royal Court of Texas. Godric’s departure had dislodged the power base and the former King of Texas was quickly losing his backing. The moderately minded followed Godric to the neighbouring territory leaving an increasingly discontent populous behind.
It didn’t take much effort for Stan to put together a makeshift army and take the crown for his own. He had sat content, glutting himself on blood and women for nights upon nights savouring his victory as he was now free to do as he pleased. His bubble was soon burst by the arrival of Nan Flanagan. Stan found his lawless state under the thumb of the Authority and his gained freedom was lost to another once again.
He may have been a rogue but he was smart enough to recognise that his band of misfits were nowhere capable of fighting the Authority. They were barely sufficient to ward of neighbouring attacks. He had vaguely recalled the lessons on diplomacy his maker had once taught to his uninterested self when he immediately took the call from the Louisiana court.
Stan had not spoken to Eric Northman since before he had traded the old world for the new. They had sparred together in some tournaments, friendly fights, otherwise Stan was sure he would not be walking about in the reanimated form he did now. Stan had only learned to wield a sword as vampire, his bulky muscles formed through the chores of hard labour rather than agility. It lay beyond Eric’s seniority in years that had allowed him to stand undefeated in such tournaments, even as a human the Viking’s skill as a warrior had him unequalled amongst his peers.
It was an ironic twist of fate that Eric’s mortal wound had been inflicted by a young boy on his first raid with an overly sharpened sword. He could not have been more than nine winters old. In his amusement Eric had entertained the child, reminiscent of himself, before he would have otherwise cast him aside. His defences were slacked, only searching out for an impending legitimate threat.
After leaving the child writhing in the hardened ground he had moved to toss him out of the midst of battle but he had not accounted for the rage of humiliation that had given him an unprecedented amount of strength for one so young. His attack was clumsy and fumbled as he landed hard on the frozen soil.
Eric had turned around on him with laughter seeking out his next opponent when the blade cut cleanly above his heels gashing through the artery that held his feet submitting him to the same position in the field falling on a discarded blade, hitting a vital organ in the process. Instead of finishing him off, a courtesy that was to be expected, the child ran off in fear while two of Eric’s most loyal men dragged him to safety, where he lay dying of a mortal wound by the chance blade till Godric descended upon him.
His underestimation of the enemy in all its forms had cost him his life once. Eric refused to entertain the possibility of a historic recurrence by treating the Fellowship of the Sun in the same manner. His caution had given way to comfort for too long and it was with this knowledge that he addressed Stan Baker, newly crowned King of Texas.
“Northman,” Stan greeted in return.
“I hear you are king now,” Eric offered with false admiration for the station.
“Well one of us has to step up to the plate,” he returned to the long forgotten voice.
“I wore a crown once, that was more than enough,” Eric replied with his true disdain for the station now shining through. Stan merely huffed a small breath of amusement understanding him all too well mere days into his reign.
“Are you applying for a job?” he probed with contentment in his voice. “Area 9 just opened up. Like father like son.”
“I’m fond of my independence,” he responded. “I am consulting for now.”
“What are you consulting for now?”
“The Fellowship,” Eric informed coolly gaging the reaction of the bullish vampire. “They hail from your area.”
“Are they not your maker’s allies?”
“The alliance is far from holy,” he retorted with a clipped tone. “How reformed do you consider them?”
“As much as your maker,” Stan said honestly, knowing the Viking valued bluntness over diplomacy. He held little regard for the sudden change of winds in both Godric and the detested church. He had personally seen to it that Newlin Sr. was no longer a legitimate threat. Even his blood had tasted of hate to the aged vampire. It was clear to him what the Fellowship was getting out of the unholy alliance but Godric’s motivation had still eluded him. It made no sense from a true vampire’s perspective.
“I assure you my maker is no longer who he was,” Eric replied. Dignified as his response was the other vampire detected the discontent hidden inside.
“I don’t trust them,” he spoke brusquely of both the Fellowship and his former area sheriff. “When you have been around as long as you and I have, you recognise hate is a constant that does not simply shed its skin.”
“What intelligence do you have amongst them?”
“None,” Stan answered with disquiet. “Godric never saw them as threat. The deposed crown followed his lead.”
“You saw it for what it was?” Eric queried to confirm his suspicions of the ‘accidental’ death of the former leader.
“I protected what was mine,” he supplied in answer. “From what I hear the most fanatic reside with the Authority now.”
“Would you voluntarily hand over the strongest of your retinue?”
Stan laughed at the Norseman’s insight. He had been playing within the snake pit that was vampire politics far too well and for far too long. “Crash test dummies,” he agreed. “They may be human but they do not lack for intelligence and strategy.”
“Yet you have not prioritised infiltration in your new reign,” Eric commented off handed.
“I have held the crown for three nights,” he said unapologetically. “My head has been elsewhere.”
“I am sure you speak of the cerebral one,” he remarked slyly, knowing exactly that both the man’s heads had been residing in between another’s thighs. Stan merely answered with a knowing chuckle of his own.
“I hear a human claimed you as her own,” Stan countered.
“Don’t believe everything you hear,” he replied. Eric wasn’t lying necessarily, he fully admitted to himself that Sookie was as much his as he was hers. However, human she was not and it seemed to gain more importance by the next night. Whatever it was that bound them together so tightly was difficult to understand on an intellectual level alone in their short time together. He preferred to stand witness to it rather than define it from the side lines. Stan Baker was the last person he was going to be discussing the intricacies of it with.
“Everything still resides closely to your chest then,” Stan commented dryly. “I will keep you informed of their movements.”
“I plan to send in intelligence of my own,” he informed. “You will liaise with them? Protect what is mine.”
“We are brothers in arms are we not?”
“So for the drawing room I was thinking cerise,” Pam explained in demonstration with the table erupting with paint, wallpaper and fabric swatches. “Amaranth for the dining hall. Puce for the study and carmine for the foyer.”
Russell regarded her with narrowed eyes as he momentarily flinched. “Is there any colour not associated with pink that you propose?”
“Carmine is hardly pink,” she huffed, though the evidence in front of her clearly contradicted her statement.
“As you wish Peaches,” Russell returned dotingly. Her next spoken sentence was lost to him as he twitched involuntarily once more. Pam eyed him warily, she had caught it the first time but written it off. The second time was no accident and the usually trained mask of the ancient vampire was jerked for a third and final time. She waited obediently not willing to fan the flames of insanity.
Pam had ascertained that Russell was mostly sane but he teetered on the edge most nights. It wasn’t necessarily a temper that could ignite but an unearthed reminiscence could easily set him off. So far the casualties were minor, an antique piece of furniture and an injured were.
“Is the blood sitting right with you?” Russell queried of their shared donor. “Is the praegustator fine?”
Pam gestured to one of her newly procured minions receiving the information the court taster was in perfect health just like herself. “Shall I call for one of the Ludwigs?” she asked referring to the roaming supernatural healers. In Louisiana they had always been stuck with the scornful Amy, she hoped Mississippi was served by her more amicable younger sister.
Russell shook his head putting the jolts of life down to his advanced age. He had incurred many ailments he would never be able to explain, they were not physically degenerative but the permanent stasis of their bodies was more of a presumed myth than a factual accuracy to him.
It couldn’t be Talbot, he had fooled himself into believing this once and the truth had him nearly seeking out the sun in comfort. Talbot is gone. He repeated the sentence over in a multitude of inner chants causing the grief to settle over him again. Painful as it may be, it was preferable to the slivers of hope that detonated in his system. The emotional pains were real, whereas the physical jolts could only ever be lies.
“Where’s my puppy?” Russell finally enquired as he came back to himself.
“He’s off to make puppies of his own,” Pam returned of Alcide, to which Russell had taken such a liking to. “I sent him to clean up some things I left behind at your cave first.”
Russell let out a disappointed sigh reminiscent of a thwarted toddler. Pam feared he might take to sucking his thumb next. She offered to procure something for him but he declined whistling for his true wolves to join him instead.
He saddled a horse from the stables and took off for a midnight gallop through the dense forest while Pam hovered in the periphery with Logan for company. Russell was shocked twice more as the livewire ignited from his deceased bond. The horse residing between his thighs was whipped and prodded to accelerated speeds as he tried desperately to ignore the falsities his body was encouraging him to believe again.
It was only with the soft light of dawn minutes before the first rays of the sun peeked over the horizon that he returned. His horse thoroughly expelled with exhaustion. In the privacy of his chambers before his day death took him he felt it once more for an extended period of time. It was as if his lover was walking this plane again through a muted distance.
“Zoi se mas,” he whispered, the traditional condolence of his lover’s native tongue to the empty room.
For a brief moment it was as if his Talbot responded but he could only think it a lie.
 May life be granted to us (said amongst mourners and to family members at the funeral and at memorial services).
A/N: Lots of new characters coming into play in this chapter as the different storylines are slowly merging together. As you may have noticed I went with TB Stan Baker rather than the book’s Stan Davis. I mentioned in an earlier A/N that I thought the ‘rogue’ vampires of Dallas were an intriguing storyline that never got explored much. A few proclaimed their dislike of Hugo already last week but from this chapter you can probably tell it’s a different Hugo and Isabel, make of them what you will from this chapter.
Kleannhouse pointed out, as she diligently has been inhaling every single word I’ve written over the past week, that some characters never got banners. Which is true, I’ve been a little behind on making them and since I had a bit of unexpected spare time I managed to make a couple today which will be helpful with the arrival of all the new characters, aside from them I finally made one for Logan too. I stuck with the actrice who played Isabel, basically because I liked her, but I recast Hugo as he will be vastly different. Banners can be found here.