I walked back out to the lobby desk. “Hey, uh…” I started, but didn’t know the woman’s name.
“Abigail,” she replied kindly.
“Abigail, I’m Sookie. I’ll take this little guy here. I’m wondering if you have a box or something I can carry him home in?”
“Oh, of course! We’ve actually got a carrier for you. If you could just get started on the paperwork.” She reached into a drawer in her desk and handing me a small stack of papers attached to a clipboard. She spun around in her chair, bouncing into the small office behind her. She came back out with a white cardboard box dotted with inch-sized air holes.
“Thanks Abigail.” I put Bubba in the carrier and started filling out the information they needed.
“I don’t know if you know, but kittens are happier when they are taken home in pairs, so if it’s possible, you really should adopt two instead of just one.” She smiled, not pressuring me, but it seemed that if it would make Bubba happier, I definitely was on board. Besides, it would be good for him to have a friend while I was out of town. Cats were far more independent than dogs, and I knew I could count on Jason to stop by and make sure they were fed, but I didn’t want him getting lonely.
“I definitely have the room. Will you keep an eye on Bubba while I run back? I know just the friend for him.”
“Bubba? So you’ve already named him. Go on, I’ll keep him company.”
I hurried out of the lobby followed by Bubba’s small mewls. Sweeping into the room I found the cage I wanted and picked out the orange and white tabby. I checked the sign on the cage and it said that he was actually a she. It made no difference to me since I’d get both of them fixed as soon as they were old enough. Couldn’t have a bunch of little baby kitties running around no matter how much land I had. She practically hopped into my arms, obviously excited to be going home with me and Bubba.
When I came back out, Abigail had a second box ready. The little tabby squirmed around as I tried to wrangle her into the box. She’d need a powerful and feisty name to suit her. Hmmmm. Something to consider.
“Oh! She’s such a cutie. If I wasn’t one step away from becoming a cat lady at twenty-five I would’ve adopted her too. She’ll make a good girlfriend for Bubba.” I finished filling out the paperwork and handed it back to her. “Now you’ll need to get them fixed when they’re around six months. We’ve got coupons for it if you need them and here’s a list of vets in the area. Do you need any food to tide you over or anything?”
“Nope, I planned on stopping on the way home anyway. Thanks for everything.” I gave her a bright smile and grabbed the two boxes. I hipped open the door and headed towards the car. Putting Bubba and No Name in the backseat, I drove to the store to pick up the stuff I’d need. I’d kept Tina’s cat dishes but not much else. I don’t know why I held onto them, but probably because I tend to be a sentimental fool.
“So Bubba, what should we call your new girlfriend?” I got a duet of meows which made me laugh. I considered naming her after my Gran or Claudine, but they didn’t seem to fit. I thought about maybe Scarlett or O’Hara or even Tara, but those didn’t suit the fiery fur ball in my backseat either. She scrabbled around in the carrier trying to escape. She was definitely a fighter. Maybe I should call her Pam. That would definitely entertain me. Then the perfect name bubbled to the surface.
“I’ve got it, we’ll call you Buffy. Buffy and Bubba.” I liked the way the names sounded together. I picked up what we needed, dropping Bubba and Buffy off at home, and, after hanging out with them for a little while watching them exploring their new home, headed to Fangtasia.
Thursday was a blur of kittens, planning, and Eric. He hadn’t minded one bit that I picked up two instead of one and loved that I had named the second one Buffy. I baked and cooked during the daytime for Sunday. There weren’t a lot of humans coming to the wedding, but I was Southern. We feed people. That night Eric and I popped in and out of Fangtasia, meeting with Mr. C. and hanging out with Pam who was also busy with her own plans. She was happier than I’d ever seen her with preparations for the wedding. You’d have thought she was getting married herself.
Eric was preparing to leave for Fangtasia on Friday night when Pam walked in followed by Tara, Holly, Halleigh, Win, and Karin, while Thalia, Palomino, and Genevieve waited outside.
I was completely gobsmacked. “Um, Pam? Explanations would be nice.”
“It’s your bachelorette party silly girl. Now, let’s not forget our manners. Be a good girl and invite in the rest of the group.”
“Oh of course.” I did so, introducing myself to Genevieve since I hadn’t officially met her yet.
“I am pleased to meet you Miss Stackhouse.” Her voice held a lilting French accent, adding to her already stunning beauty.
“Well since we fought together it seems that you should call me Sookie.” She smiled and passed me to take a gift out to the kitchen table that Pam had covered with a pale pink linen tablecloth.
“Eric,” Pam called to Eric, who stood stunned in the center of the room, surrounded by chattering women. “You’ll be heading to Fangtasia now for your own party. You may return before dawn, but then you will stay in Shreveport tomorrow evening.”
“What?” Eric’s voice was a low threat.
“Now, now Eric, its bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding. I’m sorry you won’t be able to have King sex after your coronation, but the rules are the rules.”
I chuckled at Pam. Who would’ve thought she’d have been such a stickler for the traditional details. It seemed oddly appropriate though. I skipped over to him and gave him a kiss goodbye, assuring him that we would find a way to sneak off for a quickie after his coronation. I reminded him that there would be a party at Fangtasia afterwards and that his office was soundproof. Pam would never know. He seemed assuaged at that thought and kissed me back. With one last glare at Pam he walked out the door. I turned back to the Holly and Halleigh.
“What are you two doing here?” I was surprised to see them to say the least.
“What? Did you think we’d let you get married without us? How long have you known us? I mean, sure you’re marrying a vamp, which ya know, not the normal, but Tara explained that you were happy and that’s what matters to us. Right Holly?” Halleigh turned to Holly who smiled and nodded to her.
Holly handed me a massive glass of gin and tonic. “Your poison.”
Tara came around and draped a pink sash over my shoulder. “Couldn’t let you get married without a proper bachelorette party darling. You’re our last friend to tie the knot. So cheers!” She tilted her glass to me and Holly and Halleigh added theirs to the circle of upheld hands.
I quickly wiped away the tears that formed in the corners of my eyes. “You guys are the best girlfriends. Hopefully I’ll be as happy as y’all are.” We clinked our glasses together. The vampires joined us and Pam headed to the living room taking over the stereo and moving the furniture out of the way.
“Now, I’m not big on all those silly games, but I am a big fan of dancing. So get your ass out here Princess.”
The music of Prince echoed through the house and I realized it was Little Red Corvette. I blushed furiously and glared at Pam.
She zipped over to me and whispered, “Don’t worry, I didn’t watch, though I did consider it, but I thought you’d definitely get Eric to take away my credit cards. I made sure that everyone else stayed inside until I knew you all were gone. Your secret is safe with me, don’t worry.”
I giggled embarrassed, but decided to let it go and have fun. We danced for a while and then I took a moment to walk out to the kitchen to grab my bottle of gin. When I turned I noticed that Win had followed.
“Heya Sookie. Listen, I just wanted to say…well…I’m really glad Eric found you. I haven’t seen him this happy as long as I’ve known him. He’s been like a big brother to me so I’m real protective of him, but I can tell that you love him. I mean you were willing to die to rescue him and that’s proof enough for me. Be good to him, will you?” Win’s quiet demeanor was at odds with the normally vivacious woman I had begun to know.
I took her hands in mine. “Win, I have every intention of making him happy for a very long time to come and I’m hoping, as well, that you and I will remain friends. So…now tell me about Ritchie.” She blushed and we gossiped in the kitchen for a while before Pam demanded our presence again. We danced some more and then she corralled all of us into the kitchen to open my presents. There were the normal gifts, lingerie and body oils, as well as a set of edible panties and a copy of the Kama Sutra from Pam who winked at me when I opened her gift. Tara had given me a beautiful long white satin nightgown trimmed in lace. I thanked everyone profusely, blinking back tears at their kindness.
We drank some more and danced our butts off. By the time everyone left in the small hours of the night I was quite drunk and Pam put me to bed after filling a glass of water and making me swallow two aspirin. She even tucked me in and kissed me on the forehead. She assured me that Eric would be home shortly and before she left, I thanked her for putting the party together for me. It was truly kind. She smiled slightly and turned out the light. I was barely conscious when I felt Eric slip under the covers and behind me.
He placed a small kiss on the back of my neck asking, “How was your night lover?”
I mumbled, “Fun. Drunk. Pam’s an ass.”
I felt the low rumble of Eric’s laugh against my back. “Yes, that she is, but you must be drunk if you’re swearing. Sleep, love. We have a long night ahead of us tomorrow.”
Sookie was already awake when I rose the next evening. I climbed out of the cubby and walked into the kitchen where Sookie was sitting, a plate of eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast in front of her. The house was in much better shape than it was when I had returned this morning and she didn’t look as bad as I had expected.
“Morning, beautiful. How are you feeling?”
“Not as bad as I should be. Thank God for my fairy healing kicking in or I’d be going nowhere tonight. How was your party?”
“Fine, though I would have much rather spent the evening with you. I was thankful that Pam hadn’t arranged for a stripper so it was tame comparatively, I imagine.” She nodded and through the bond I could tell she was happy that there wasn’t a stripper, not that she would have said anything about it.
“So tonight’s the night then,” she said to me in between bites.
“Apparently,” I replied as I settled myself at the table across from her. “I will need to head to Shreveport to dress and prepare for the ceremony. There isn’t anything that you will need to do during the ceremony itself, but I want you standing by my side. If you are there they won’t have a choice but to accept your place. They will have no reason to since the Oracle will be there as well and will show no issue with your presence either. The only time I will leave your side will be during the actual coronation. Afterwards we will take this opportunity for your official presentation into vampire society. They know you only as the telepath, but this will mark you as mine, as my chosen Queen. Are you sure you’re okay with that?”
I watched as she swallowed, “Yes, I’m ready. Nervous, but ready. There’s nothing I want more and I’m proud to be yours as well as glad that everyone will know since it will also mark you as mine.” I felt the fierce truth behind her words. After so many misfires and misunderstandings she truly meant every word. It gave me indescribable pleasure hearing her say the words. “Do you expect any problems?”
“No, I don’t. If the Oracle weren’t the one performing the ceremony, there might be, but with her there no one will dare step out of line. Not to mention that the pack will be there with Alcide keeping an eye on the situation, and with Quinn in charge of the event, that will add yet another layer of security. Now, I think we have enough time for one last hurrah as simply Eric and Sookie. What do you think about that my love?”
“Well your Majesty, the Queen commands you to get your scrumptious butt into her shower before she drags you there by your ponytail.”
Her King was happy to oblige her.
I arrived at the Riverdome shortly after ten knowing that there would be plenty of last minute items that needed attending. Everything would start at midnight, as per the usual vampire customs. Pam assured me that she would make sure that she and Sookie were here by eleven-thirty. It would be enough time to bring her backstage with me and go over everything one last time. I had donned my three-piece grey Armani suit that Pam had instructed me to wear for the occasion, complementing it with a lighter grey shirt, and a deep blue tie. I had no idea why it was important to her, but when Pam instructs one on fashion, it’s best just to go with it.
I met with Quinn, Alcide, and Cataliades going over the final details for the ceremony. I hadn’t seen the Ancient Pythoness yet, but I assumed she would show up out of nowhere at the last possible moment. I walked the entire perimeter of the room ensuring there were no surprises. I had the utmost confidence in everyone, but I hadn’t made it to be a thousand years old by doing anything halfway. I briefly considered just grabbing Sookie as soon as I saw her and making a run for it. Instead we could live our lives in anonymity in some foreign country just basking in the love that we shared, but I knew it was a dream, a pleasant one, but a dream none the less. When the Ancient Pythoness declares that you have a destiny, it’s useless to argue.
I made the rounds to all of my allies trying to keep my mind off of waiting for Sookie. I knew Pam had gone over to her place to help her get ready, but knowing I wouldn’t get to spend the night with her, I was anxious to get the ceremony over with and head back to Fangtasia where we could just enjoy ourselves. Quinn had assured me that the after party would only be people I considered my allies. So after talking with my allies I started mingling with the vampires I didn’t know as well. I was in the middle of talking to a New Orleans vampire when I could tell from the bond that Sookie was near. My eyes scanned the room, but I couldn’t see her. Since our reunion, I had a hard time being separated from her for even the shortest of time. Despite the fact that she was able to defend herself, I still worried that something would happen to her.
Excusing myself from my present conversation, I used the bond to search for her. The crowd was thick, but my reputation preceded me so I had no problem wading through the hundreds of vampires that had gathered for the unprecedented occasion. No one had ever seen four regents crowned at the same time, but I was never one to do anything by halves. The bond told me I was getting closer, but I was still in the middle of the massive gathering. I stopped and closed my eyes, using the bond as a compass that would lead me to my north. There. I could feel her. I opened my eyes and began walking directly towards where I knew she was. The vampires opened up the path ahead and suddenly she stood not twenty feet away from me.
If I had had breath it would have been stolen from me. I’d always thought Sookie was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, but tonight I couldn’t have imagined anyone more stunning than the woman who was in front of me. Her dress was a pale pink and grey with tiny beading. A sheer fabric tied behind her neck and flowed down the length of the dress. She lifted the layers of skirt and revealed a pair of heels whose straps crisscrossed her golden calves. She looked like a fairy princess. She looked like my Queen. Her hair was piled atop her head and curls trailed down one side of her neck. I felt a surge of lust and the desire to forget everything that still had to be done tonight. I realized that I was still riveted to the spot where I stood and I moved towards her as she did the same.
I held my hands out to join hers. “You are exquisite Sookie.”
She blushed and I was glad to see I still had that effect on her. She let go and twirled in a delighted circle, only to grip my hands again. “The dress was a gift from Pam. I saw it when we went shopping before the battle and she totally surprised me by buying it for me. I’ll have to think of a way to repay her.” I glanced over her shoulder at the vampire in question, telling her with my eyes how much I appreciated her kindness to Sookie, who continued her thought, “And you Eric, you are every woman’s dream, but only my reality. You are so incredibly handsome right now I have half a mind to drag you off into a darkened corner and have my way with you.” I took one of her smaller hands and draped it over my crooked arm as we walked together towards the stage.
“Soon enough my dearest.” I would have to take care not to shred the dress later, when I most certainly found us a darkened corner.
Pam followed as we made our way backstage and where the Ancient Pythoness stood silent surrounded by three of her handmaidens. We nodded briefly to her and waited off to the side for the ceremony to start.
Sookie looked out at the stage at the three hanging velvet banners illuminated by simple white lights and then up at me. “Now, lemme see if I remember everything correctly. The feather is for the Amun clan, who was an ancient Egyptian god: that’s Louisiana and Arkansas. The lightning bolt is for the Zeus clan and he was Greek: that’s for Oklahoma. The eye is for the Narayana clan and he was a Hindu god: that’s for Nevada. The last one is the Moshup clan which comes from Native American tradition and they are represented by a whale.”
I had no idea she had been studying the different clans. Pam stood behind her proud, and I knew who her tutor had been. “Very good Sookie. I had no idea that you were interested in any of this.”
“Well, I know that I really blew off y’alls history when you ran it by me before, but I wanted to know, so I got Pam to help me out so that I could surprise you. But one thing we didn’t get around to was where vampires come from. Can you tell me or is it like a vampire secret and only those who are in the club get to know?”
The laugh that erupted from the Ancient Pythoness was a shock. When it subsided she turned and spoke to Sookie. “Young one, it is not a secret, but not many of your kind care nothing for history anymore. These modern times are only concerned with moving forward, never looking back. I am one of the few who know the legend for the truth it contains. But it is time for all of you to know the truth.” She paused, her milk white eyes focused directly on the three of us, which was unnerving to say the least. “The four you call gods are the earliest known vampires. They originated from deep in eastern Africa in the Great Rift Valley around what is now known as Lake Victoria. There human and vampire lived a peaceful coexistence. They were two sides, dark and light. Humankind has since rewritten the story to claim their status as first among the many, though they came into existence at the same time as the vampires. One could not exist without the other for the four protected the small band of humans from the predators that roamed the night as the humans protected the vampires during the day when they were at their weakest. In those early days there was balance in the world.
“Soon, because the humans were granted procreation, they outnumbered the vampires and there were some who felt that they no longer needed our protection. There began the cracks of the eventual separation. It was around this time that Amun fell in love with the daughter of one of the chosen chief. Her name was Kandassa, but her father disapproved of the union because of the differences between them. Neither of them was willing to give up the other. Late one evening, when the moon rose high in the sky Kandassa’s father discovered the two. Her father vowed to punish his daughter and seek revenge on Amun. In his anger he attacked Amun, who was shocked that such a thing might occur, and was overpowered by the man who smashed his head against a nearby rock, rendering him unconscious.
“Kandassa’s father dragged her into the center of the village, beat her fiercely, and left her bleeding as a warning to the others. None of the villagers dared interfere and the other three, Zeus, Moshup, and Narayana, had been away for their nighttime vigil of protection. It wasn’t until Amun regained consciousness that he raced to find her on the precipice of death. Knowing of its healing properties, Amun fed her his blood, but he did not know that she had lost too much of her own. Thinking that he had lost his love, he took her body and retreated to his home: a cave deep in one of the cliffs where the sun could not reach him. He lay there unmoving, refusing to seek sustenance, until the third day when unexpectedly Kandassa rose again. She was the first vampire to be created from another. She and Amun raced to find the other three who went to the center of the village and made known their intention to leave the humans to fend for themselves. They offered protection to anyone who would travel with them to seek a new home and a few brave souls joined them on their journey.
“After many years of wandering they eventually made their way north and settled around what became known as the Tigris Euphrates river valley. Knowing now how to create other vampires they offered a select few the same immortality. For several centuries they continued in peace, building civilization from their unity. They created cities and pyramids, language and writing, until both the vampire and human populations became too large to sustain them. The four decided to take the clans that they had created and head off to discover the rest of the world. Time passed, the truth faded, and the original four became gods to the people. From that point until the Great Revelation, vampires lived in secrecy.”
The tale seemingly at an end, she fell silent. I had never known the full truth of our beginnings and I let the words sink in.
“Holy heck,” Sookie exclaimed, breaking the weighty silence. “So that’s how the pyramids were built.”
The Oracle once again laughed. “Yes child, how else do you think those stones were moved into place? The pyramids provided darkness provided shelter for the vampires against the intense daytime. But there is more to the story that has never been told. I had a vision once of a couple whose love would mend the ancient rift.” She paused, once again looking unnervingly right at us. “You two, Eric Northman and Sookie Stackhouse, are the beginning of a new unity. Northman, yours has been a lonely journey. You have survived for a thousand years to meet the woman whose soul would fill the empty spaces in your own. Sookie, though short, your life has been more difficult than many who have outlived you by centuries. You were given the essential spark needed to light the darkness in your chosen mate and have finally proven worthy of him. It has given you the strength to survive and the ability to see good where others have only seen evil. You are two halves of the same whole, a balance of dark and light. You were always meant to be.”
“We were meant to be,” Sookie’s voice was quiet with wonder. “Everything we went through was like the universe preparing us.” She wrapped her arms around my waist.
“Yes young one, though your fate was never assured until the two of you chose to fight for the other.” Her blind eyes found mine. “I have known since Rhoades when Sookie saved the two of you in the bombing. Eric did you never think it odd that she was able to wake you in the middle of the day? That you were able to fly while the sun was high in the sky?” She stopped and looked at Pam. “And you, Pamela Ravenscroft, you are as integral to the future as the lovers. You are like those that followed the four into the unknown, believing that a better world could be created. You are their right and left hand, their sword, and their shield. You will stand by them when others wish only to destroy what the three of you create.” She paused, letting her revelations sink in. “Now, I believe we have a coronation to attend to.” And with that, she walked onto the stage, leaving us standing there stunned. I could feel Sookie’s amazement at what had just been revealed to us.
I shook my head from my whirling mind and looked to see that the jet black stage was filling with the new regents and their seconds. There would be time to discuss our future further. For now though, four empty thrones sat waiting to be filled by those who had been chosen. At the center a black linen covered table held an ancient ceramic bowl and the same jewel-encrusted knife that I had used for the original blood bond with Sookie as well as our marriage. I turned to them and took their hands and together we walked out to join the others.
The Ancient Pythoness called each of the regents to kneel before her, starting with Harrison, then Karin, and followed by Thalia. To each she endowed the caretaking of their states and sliced their palms to mingle their blood in the ancient copper bowl. They remained kneeling when the Oracle finally called to me. I squeezed Sookie’s hand and made my way to the center of the stage, kneeling before the Pythoness.
Her voice boomed across the silent stadium, belying her small stature. “Eric Northman, you have been called by the spirit of Amun to lead your chosen people. Do you solemnly swear to govern the state of Louisiana according to the laws and customs laid down by the council and to the best of your given abilities?”
“Do you solemnly swear to protect each vampire under your rule, to treat them fairly and mete out punishment when needed as laid out by those same laws and customs?”
“Do you solemnly swear to lay down your life not only in defense of your state and the vampires who reside within, but also to come to the aid of your chosen allies and in defense of any that threaten the stability of the united vampire community?”
“Then rise and spill your blood, sealing your oath before those gathered here in representation of the four states of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Nevada, and Arkansas.” She handed me the knife and I brought it swiftly across my palm, mixing my blood with the three who had gone before me. Harrison, Karin, and Thalia rose to stand beside me. “These four have chosen to unite their states, to govern not only as separate entities, but also a unification of the larger whole. Blood is our life force, without it we wither and die, but these four drink it as a symbol of their combined strength.” She took the bowl of mingled blood and passed it to me. Because it contained four different samples of our blood it would not create a physical bond, only a symbolic one, and I took a sip and passed it to the others.
I glanced at Sookie whose love and pride burned brightly through the bond. She stood tall and held Pam’s hand tightly in her own. I sent love and pride right back to her, happy that we had weathered so many storms and come back together stronger than we were before.
The Ancient Pythoness nodded to the four new regents who turned to face the gathered crowd of vampires and weres. “All here who witness these oaths do you swear fealty to the four who stand before you? To serve them faithfully and to help protect those who stand beside you?”
The vampires knelt as one and responded. “We do.” The only ones left standing were the weres who were gathered around the outer rim of the crowd, though I noticed that even a few of them had knelt and recited the vow as well, most notably Alcide Herveaux. He would support us and all that we looked to accomplish. Including them had been a good idea. We really were creating a new world.
“Then rise and go forth stronger than you were before tonight.” The Ancient Pythoness proceeded to introduce each of the new sovereigns and their seconds. When it was my turn I gestured to Sookie to join me and Pam followed right behind her. The Ancient Pythoness shocking not only the gathered crowd, but me and Sookie as well, by saying, “Eric Northman has been proclaimed King of Louisiana, but he has chosen a woman who is not vampire to rule beside him. They are unique in the history of our kind. Those have risen above the challenges they faced separately and have proven themselves warriors who are stronger together. As vampires we have never known a Queen who was not of our blood. Tonight that changes. You will serve and respect her as you do her chosen King. I present to you, Queen Sookie Stackhouse, Princess Brigant of the Sky Fae and King Eric Northman, Chief of the Viking clan of Oland.”
The room was silent for what felt like an eternity, but then surprisingly, as we walked down the stairs, the crowd erupted in cheers. They parted as we walked through them and knelt in deference to both of us. I didn’t know if it was that they were ready for fairy Queen united to a vampire King, or if it was simply the pronouncement of the Ancient Pythoness. Either way, I was glad Sookie stood beside me, and I knew that tonight we had taken a huge step in creating the future we were only beginning to envision.