Queen Sophie Anne would undoubtedly know of Sookie’s royal lineage by the time she woke only further complicating their position. A summons already lay at the foot of the door. He was technically following her orders of finding an appropriate escort but Russell was not wrong in pointing out their inequality in titles. In the world of the Supernatural Eric was clearly reaching above his station.
As self-absorbed as Sophie Anne was, she would only see it as an unfounded threat to her crown despite Eric’s claim to hold no interest in it. However, as it stood, the only way Sophie Anne could usurp his unintended coup was by showing up at the summit at the arms of the reigning Prince of the Fae. That was as likely to happen as the petulant queen having a bowel movement again.
At sundown he kissed her so carefully she felt like a fragile piece of porcelain with his restraint. He promised to return as soon as Sophie Anne would dismiss him. She intended to stay put and wait on Pam to appear, but instead she walked the plush carpet of her dream following the path to the wall that had caused her such pain.
She recognised every corner, every changing décor exactly as it was in her dream. When she came across the large white expansive wall and she adjusted her view to reveal the hidden doorway once again.
The current of her light ignited as she dragged her fingers over the closed entry as if it were warding her off. She threw out her telepathic net but just as her light it was halted from exploring further beyond the invisible barrier. Sookie tried speaking through the wall but no sound was returned. She lingered a moment longer splaying her hand wide against the barrier causing her to take notice of the ring she wore, only then remembering the matching crown that resided on another floor.
Unsure what to do next Sookie decided to return to her room but as soon as she rounded the first corner with little concentration she crashed into Talbot holding a tray of foods. She stammered an apology but her eyes widened as she took in the strange items that now littered the floor. She had only ever seen them in illustrations before, sketched depictions in the ancient tomes in Eric’s library. Undeniably they were the fruits from the lands of the Fae.
“Did you get lost Milady?” Talbot requested politely although Sookie detected a nervous edge to his demeanour that was not previously there. He hesitated only momentarily about the ample display of exotic fruits on the heavy metal tray.
“I’m afraid so,” she lied while her eyes continued to rake over the carefully arranged foods. “Your home is so vast. Am I heading in the right direction for our suite?” Talbot only seemed to grow more nervous becoming unusually silent in contrast to his usual continued prattle about superfluous nothings. In order to alleviate their individual anxiety she spoke nonchalantly, “Are these for me?”
“Yes,” he answered with a bright smile. “I was just coming to bring them to you. I heard you had quite the day.”
“You personally?” Sookie noted with some surprise. “I would expect a servant, not the consort of the King. To what do I owe the honour?”
“You are our highest visiting guest,” he explained hastily while leading the way back to her room. “Had we known ahead of time, we would have made more appropriate arrangements.”
Talbot’s usual chatty nature returned while she answered and hummed at the appropriate times. Sookie merely smiled politely as Talbot sat the tray down of strange fruits in the upturned living.
Talbot’s eyes seemed to bulge somewhat as he took in the damage Eric had caused in getting to Sookie when confronted with the sensation of a severed bond. “I’m sorry for the damage we caused,” Sookie offered apologetically. “Be sure to inform of us of the costs.”
“Think nothing of it,” he returned with a kind smile. “Now I have an excuse to redo this room.”
“I must insist,” she said, uncomfortable with the thought.
“Very well,” he finally agreed before bidding her goodbye.
Sookie eyed the plate of fruits warily, sniffing and prodding before deciding it was probably best not to ingest anything so unfamiliar in strange surroundings opting for some protein bars from her purse instead.
“You do make life interesting,” Pam drawled when Sookie entered into the bedroom which had become Pam’s command post judging by the exploded wardrobe and makeup counter. “I have never experienced my master in such bloodlust as last night. I had to go out and find a dozen donor to satiate that hunger vicariously.”
“Sorry,” Sookie said softly before sitting down without further comment not in the mood to rehash the events of the previous evening and subsequent day with Pam, it had been disconcerting enough to go through it all. Her thoughts were firmly set to the girl from her nightmare and the mysterious sealed entrance that existed in a reality beyond that dream. The hair stylist set to work under Pam’s strict instructions while another assistant was steaming away at her dresses for the evening.
She was soon the picture of perfection by Pam’s judgement and critical eyes. Sookie sat perched daintily on a stool with her legs crossed and skirt bellowing out around her lost in continued thought. She enjoyed the silence for what it was as Pam had departed to her own rooms, the young girl’s insistent pleas occupying her thoughts. She had cast out her net of telepathy multiple times in varying approaches, each and every time she was confronted with the barrier wall of the hidden room.
“You look the picture of grace,” Eric complimented as he pulled her from her internal musings. She granted him a rewarding smile though she felt little to be settled about. “Are you feeling well?”
“Yes,” she replied softly. “How was the audience with your queen?”
“Predictable,” he acknowledged with a small shrug. He sank to his knees in front of her putting their heads at the same height as he carefully looked her over as he tried to assure himself she was indeed as well as she claimed to be. “Petulant.”
“Calling me a Princess has its repercussions then,” she replied as her face melted into his caressing hand. In this moment it was the only thing that offered her comfort so she basked in it momentarily and didn’t note anything odd about his continued silence where he would always offer an answer. “The announcement for their impending nuptials will be saved for another time then?”
“I’ve taught you too well,” he said in compliment of her perception. It was as if it was born into her to understand the tedious movements of court life. To predict and anticipate the currents that ran rampant among those that sought power of their own through politics. “It is all anyone speaks of now, the lowly Sheriff that has ensnared the Princess. The truth matters little in surroundings such as these.”
“You still think I entrapped you,” she said with a hint of disappointment sensing through the bond there was truth in that particular statement, where she failed to pick up on her status as royalty.
“No,” he replied. “I know you spoke the truth even if you have delayed telling me all. I trust you. Your promise to tell me everything once we leave still stands?”
She nodded in accordance as his fingers trailed over her usually bare hands that were now hung with white gold and precious gems. He was satisfied his blood had healed her back to health tough he sensed her energy continued to be low.
“Why introduce me as a princess?” Sookie asked. She had understood the necessity for her safety but it was a station that could easily be verified as fraudulent. Eric could be ridiculed as being deceived or accused as the creator of the deception. With vampires it would most likely be the later and in both scenarios leave him vulnerable to those willing to take him down. “It seems so unlike you to risk yourself like that. It will damage your reputation more than mine.”
“There are many things we must speak of after tonight,” Eric said regretfully as he pulled her up to depart the room. “Just know that you are safe by my side.”
“Ok,” she whispered, leaning into his embrace for what she assumed might possibly be one of the last times before he led her out of the room. He kissed her softly ruining the carefully painted lips Pam had filled in diligently.
“I love you, no matter what,” he spoke softly in return, not quite sure why he felt it important for her to know in that particular moment. “Nothing will change that.”
“Thank you,” Sookie said swallowing an impending sadness she didn’t quite understand. It almost felt as if they were saying goodbye. “I’ll remember that.” Sookie set to recover the damage Eric’s lips had caused to Pam’s handiwork as best she could but feared they would both be at the end of Pam’s scornful look that nigh. In the grand scheme of things it was probably the one they would have the least worry about.
A set of almost identical scantily clad men came to knock on the door to retrieve their luggage by the door to take to their car. Sookie was glad Eric had arranged for that, as she wanted to leave the tense atmosphere of the compound as soon as protocol would allow them to. Despite that instinct, she still felt the urge to uncover what was beyond that wall and without realising she had moved in its direction again as Eric diligently followed her closely behind without questioning her.
“Do you know what this is?” she asked as the light fizzled from her fingertips over the wall again.
“A safe room most likely,” Eric explained as he recognised some of the safety features. “It’s warded to keep anyone out. My home in Europe has a similar setup.”
“Oh,” she replied, her brows knitting together with her continued inability to pass whatever was keeping her out. Whatever remained inside compelling her to keep trying? “That makes sense I guess.”
“This was the wall keeping you out?” Eric asked as he remembered the fragments of her dream that she had shared with him. “A strange coincidence.”
“You believe that as much as I do,” she said knowingly. “Something is drawing me here but I don’t know what.”
“It could simply be the presence of the ward,” he offered as he tried to inch her hand of the solid surface sensing it was further depleting her energies. “The magic could be enticing you.”
“You would know better than I,” she said with a small sigh as the magnetic pull released her. For the first time she resigned to the fact that her unknown heritage would always make her question what was truly her and what was outside of her. “I guess we should move on.”
“I fear there will be more talk of us with a noticeable absence,” Eric commented as he led her towards the announcing line. “Time to face the music, as they say.” A smile crossed her face but it was clear to him there was little genuine about it.
While the thought of these supernatural balls and soirees had seemed interesting to Sookie initially, observing in them in real life had changed her stance. The endless demands dictated by ancient laws of custom, protocol and decorum simply had them waiting, be it in a car or in a line of attendees.
Sookie clung a little harder to Eric than she intended as she was looked over by the rest of the Louisiana entourage that they were to join. She knew exactly who was who in the vampire hierarchy as Eric had instructed her extensively in his lessons. The one who made her shudder the most was the Queen’s prodigal child, Andre. She had been undressed by many eyes before but Andre was clearly in a league of his own, the hunger that subsided with a donor no less than hour ago all but leapt out at the sight of her. The angelic blonde curls and soft pink lips disguised little as fangs that ran out pierced that picture of false innocence.
Now she truly began to understand Godric’s warnings of their fair vampire race and had to own up to her own naiveté. There was little beauty or honour to be found among them. She had merely been fortunate enough to meet the selective few that stood above the rest. The populous was as lethal as the shark womb she had compared the royal marriage to be. Eric’s strength held her standing but she knew the only way to survive the night was by steeling herself and become the pretence of the royal Fae princess he had introduced her to be.
“Lady Brigant,” a page addressed her, she gave a small smile in acknowledgement encouraging him to continue though she had been slow to respond to a name they had not practiced. Something the rest of their waiting party had not failed to notice. “The King has requested for you to take part in the auction.”
Like any decent Southern Belle she remembered all the iconic scenes of Gone with the Wind that Russell seemed to be emulating throughout the night with his version of the barbecue. The Atlanta Bazaar raised money for the war effort then and Sookie had absently caught word of Russell’s intent to raise money for the Vampire Rights Amendment in a similar re-enactment. The auction had been for a dance with one of the ladies and she prayed the arrangement was the same in Russell’s incarnation considering his interpretation of the sleepover was an all male orgy in antique lace nightgowns.
She looked warily towards Eric for guidance but she already knew it wasn’t a request she could answer with a ‘no’ to. Her newfound station simply wouldn’t allow it. One did not insult the host in such a public manner, and with vampire hearing there was little privacy to be had. Nor could she be seen as unsupportive to their particular civil cause with a vampire ‘mate’ by her side.
“Very well,” she replied to the impatient page. “One dance and that is all.”
“Of course, your Majesty,” he replied before sauntering off to his next objective.
“You should really punish him for the improper address,” Andre sneered at her disdainfully as she continued to avoid eye contact with him.
“I have been taught it is far more disrespectful to demand proper address than inadvertently use the wrong form,” Sookie replied coolly, reciting the exact words of Eric’s teachings that were not dissimilar to her Gran’s. She supplemented with the correct form of address that applied to them both, “Your Highness.”
Eric had a hard time holding his own amusement at Sookie’s schooling of Andre within the allowances of the etiquette. The petulant child of Sophie Anne’s had all the education Sookie had received for centuries but had yet to understand the intricacies of it. Most likely due to the fact there was never an insistence for him to act accordingly as his maker doted and indulged him in all pursuits, excusing poor behaviour to youth.
Sophie Anne was rewarded with an exceptionally loyal and loving child but it left him inept to a world without her. As Sookie had so elegantly demonstrated as her ‘kill him with kindness’ actions left him incapable of forming any proper response.
It had been the relationship between Sophie Anne and Andre that had always forced Eric to hold back with Pam. Yes he was indulgent with her materialistically but never to the point that it was detrimental to herself. He encouraged her independence while still keeping her close, allowing her to stumble and fall in his presence but he would never hold the reins as tight as his Queen.
To Eric’s pride, Pam had proven to be a formidable entrepreneur despite her initial failings in the world of business. Fangtasia’s success would in his opinion always be attributed to her. He had simply wanted an informal setting for his Sheriff operation as well as meeting the AVL’s directive for a human friendly encounter business post Great Reveal. Pam had turned it into the incredible money spinner that it was; bringing in busses of tourists, the merchandise and his detested throne displays.
He sought out the sight of his child dancing happily on the ballroom floor with an old acquaintance, unhindered by the demands of protocol he and Sookie were subjected to. To be completely without her still unnerved him but allowing Sookie in had shown him that sometimes seeking something new was not a wasted path either. Pam had proven in her short existence in comparison to Andre that she would be ever more capable on her own than Andre could hope to be with all the tutelage in the world. For a brief moment he didn’t fear the repercussions of their bet being a success, the prospect of a releasing her from his total command. As Godric had once afforded him. She might stumble, she might fall but she would always be a terrific success in the end.
Sookie caught his small sigh of relief but didn’t question it verbally. She simply took it as a reassurance that they would come out of the night unscathed. Their delegation had started to move towards the double doors as their names rang through the ballroom between dances. As per the prescribed protocol Sookie and Eric were the last to enter the room as his position as Sheriff dictated as much.
Usually little attention was paid to these processions. Vampires held their stations for centuries and new arrivals were often not acknowledged until they had proven their worth after a few decades. Tonight all eyes in the room were firmly vested on the woman that had lips loose all over the palace since her arrival.
Had she not arrived in the company of Eric she would have warranted a procession all of her own and the attention would have been no less for it, a royal Princess of the Fae was a rare sight anywhere but especially among creatures of the night. At his arm she simply deferred her station to his, which was truly a unique sight. The gazes she received weren’t pleasant on her body. They were either hungry, jealous, discerning, and adoring or a convoluted mixture of all.
The silence of observation was soon overtaken by whispers. Admiration spoken of the vampire that had landed such a prize. Words were exchanged of her grace, beauty and that particular dress. Their joint beauty and the unmistakeable blood that was shared amongst them. Incidentally the different supernatural species crossed themselves in romantic entanglement, however, it was not often found among the upper echelon of their prospective races. Binding by blood was practically unheard of.
The hardest gaze came from Eric’s own queen. The unintended spectacle stood in place of what was meant to be her engagement night. She looked ridiculous in her historically accurate dress once worn by Vivien Leigh when the bright fairy wore the modern rendition with insuperable grace. Her most powerful sheriff had displayed his might in defiance at her own instructions. Defeat, trapped in Sophie Anne’s own words. On the board of chess he had inadvertently declared check. It would not take much for mate to be added to that declaration and by all appearances these two blonde creatures had found that designation in one another, radiating the power that union would bring.
The room fell silent once more as the couple bowed deeply in front of the two regents upon their high thrones. A dainty wave of the hand from the state’s regent and the orchestra resumed their play as they were beckoned forward for an informal chat.
“You certainly know how to dress for the occasion Ma’am,” Russell remarked as his amused eyes darted from Sookie to his future wife’s failed spectacle of a dress that now screamed mockery. Sophie Anne seethed in anger and despite her carefully plastered façade there was little to hide that to the large audience that knew her so well.
“Thank you Sir,” Sookie returned politely with a small curtsy. “I thank you for your kind hosting of me and mine.”
“Had Sheriff Northman not cloaked your identity, I would have afforded you accommodations in accordance with your standing,” Russell returned as his eyes lingered over Sophie Anne’s a fraction too long. The message was clear to all, the lavish accommodations his future Queen had enjoyed these past few nights would have been Eric and Sookie’s quarters.
That statement had not been the only one thing grating Sophie Anne with Sookie’s unexpected arrival. The carefully negotiated marriage contracts were once again being reopened without a word spoken between the two parties. The Sheriff’s standing and alliance reshuffled all positions on the board and despite Eric’s continued assurance of loyalty had done little to alleviate the queen of her previously secure position. In this moment in time Sophie Anne would consider herself lucky if she were able to announce her much needed engagement at the Summit in a few months’ time.
“It was on my request,” she explained in attempt to minimise any blame to Eric for her intended incognito presence. She was the fraudulent one and she did not wish him to carry any of the burden that would undoubtedly come upon him at her cost. “I wanted to attend as a private individual.”
“Understandable,” the Queen of Louisiana drawled out with venom feigning politeness, she held her lethal gaze exceptionally long on her most influential Sheriff before moving it to the fairy beside him. In that instant she deeply regretted the day she allowed such a gamble as Eric Northman into her service. She had been greedy to have such a powerful ally in her retinue and this was the eventual repercussion of it. “We all understand the allure of privacy that isn’t always afforded to us.”
Eric remained silent at his Queen’s passive aggressive dig that he was clearly not part of the literal royal ‘we’ she spoke of that included Sookie among her and Russell and punctuated his lowly status among them. Sookie shifted uncomfortably at the insult unsure how to respond to the veiled nature of it. She coursed on her Gran’s sage wisdom and chose to leave the statement unacknowledged.
Russell watched with glee as the insults volleyed between the Louisiana delegation and was somewhat disappointed to note that the music was nearing its end, which meant the next delegation would soon be introduced in favour of this amusing mini drama. “I hope you will spare a dance for me Lady Brigant,” Russell chanced before they would vacate their spot in place of the next attendees.
“Her dancing card is quite full,” Eric spoke with a low threat, finding it hard to stand any further insult that night. While the supernatural were never that demure and chaste to follow such an archaic human custom his blood inside of her spoke the same message to all. She was his, no matter the title that followed her name, and therefore not to be pursued by any others despite their unequal standing in their relationship.
“Pity,” Russell said before his eyes gleaned with mischief. “She will certainly be quite the entertainment come auction time.” Sophie Anne beamed with equal glee at Russell’s comment. It was clear to Eric then that the two regents would be the ones outbidding each other for a dance with his Sookie. Almost like a droit de seigneur, no one would dare intervene on the frenzied bidding privilege granted to those two royals.
Thankfully he knew Sophie Anne’s pockets weren’t as deep as Russell’s but her spite was certainly greater. Eric could easily predict that it would be a good night for the coffers of the American Vampire League. The cost to Sookie and him, however, might be immeasurable.
They bowed out politely as the next contingent was announced. Eric moved her carefully through the crowd till they found their assigned table. It was an odd sight at a vampire feast but it was in accordance with Talbot’s emulation of the human royal courts.
“You did very well,” Eric complimented as he pulled a light vial from his inner jacket pocket sensing how weak she was still feeling from the nightmare that had haunted her rest. She clasped her hand onto his a little longer than necessary when he placed it in her palm. Sookie looked up at him in relief as she mouthed a thank you. He kissed her forehead in reassurance before they were offered drinks, blood and human foods but neither one wanted to partake in anything this court had to offer any longer. The only thing they dared trust in that moment was each other and to a certain extent Pam.
“I think you look much more handsome than I,” she said in response to their conversation with the monarchs wanting a real moment just to themselves. His tuxedo suited him so well, the white expanse of his chest framed so brightly by the dark sharp tailored lines. “I never enjoyed a man in a suit much before you. Even if you do seem to wear it reluctantly.”
Eric smiled softly as he tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “The trappings of formal wear have never been comfortable,” he offered in explanation. She couldn’t help but agree in the tight constraint of her dress. They didn’t speak much after simply enjoying the brief uninterrupted moment for what it was.
“Sookie Stackhouse,” a familiar voice interjected into their private sphere with a rather loud volume. “What has you wondering outside of our beloved Bon Temps?” Sookie shot white with the sudden reveal. Right then and there to a room full of vampires her home and true identity was known to all. She could no longer afford the option of being safe on her own again.
“So this is the job you’ve been entertaining,” the shrill voice of his escort came. “Explains a lot I suppose. You were awfully eager to entertain him and his child when they threw some money at you.”
“Bill, Lorena,” Eric growled in warning at the insult that denoted Sookie to the status of a prostitute. “You’d do well to address Her Highness as befitting her.”
Lorena cackled with malicious pride. “Her Highness?” she retorted disbelievingly. “You really expect me to go along in this ridiculous charade. Thank you though Eric, it has been decades since Bill and I laughed so much.”
It hit Sookie then with the attraction that their conversation had garnered and the whispers that ensued she would be ever dependant on Eric. The tie by blood had not made her feel as constricted as much as this realisation had. Their relationship was tumultuous at best in its early days. There was no guarantee for something long lasting but she would be a burden to him the rest of her life. She was a lone fairy in the backwaters of Louisiana ripe for the picking.
“You think the wards surrounding her home are the mere workings of a talented witch?” Eric warned not just to Lorena but all those listening in.
“Speak not publicly of your incompetence Lorena,” the Southern drawl of the King of Mississippi bellowed out from his faraway throne. It had been spoken loudly enough for even Sookie to catch across the distance. “She is a Brigant through and through.”
She feigned innocence as best as she could. Pleading eyes begged Bill and Lorena to believe or partake in the deceit, whatever would save Eric from the public humiliation. Then it suddenly hit her as she noticed the difference of their respective states in their bond, she was acting to the best of her ability but Eric was seething in anger from indignation.
He wasn’t acting.
Sookie’s head snapped to the side, a little sharper than intended with the sudden movement, silently she requested the confirmation with her eyes as they bore into Eric. He flooded their bond with affirmation as she tried to swallow a sob as regret soon followed in offering.
It was the one emotion she couldn’t stand and now he felt it for her. Sookie held her poker face high, the depth of her disgust and anger only living between the two of them as she connected the words royal, fairy and Brigant from the depths of her subconscious. It was a truth she intrinsically knew but had ignored.
Her Imperial Highness Sookie Brigant, Princess of the House of Sky.
It was the only truth among all the lies.
A/N: Suzyq591suzy mentioned this lovely quote in her review last time, “Oh what tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”- Sir Walter Scott Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17. It was too good not to share since we are definitely tangling further in this deception as the game of chess continues, which probably has you wondering what will happen to Sookie’s carefully held composure with this sudden reveal and an impending bidding war… Next time I promise… and yes I’m well aware that I’m being unnecessarily cruel here.
Today’s Thanksgiving Fixin’s can be found here.