Quinn wandered over and indicated that it was time. I nodded, bent down, and reached for the spiked bottles of blood. I made sure to keep those on my left and the untainted bottles on my right. Barry and I had arranged that he would take only trays from my right side, while the other servers grabbed the ones on the other side. It was an effort not to watch as Barry made his way to our allies, but I managed. There was no way for us to get the poisoned blood to Freyda since she only drank from her personal bottle, but I trusted Eric to take her out without help from tainted blood. I took calm steadying breaths as Quinn walked up the stairs to the stage and Bubba graciously allowed him the microphone. I was ready to explode. A few more minutes and it would start.
“Welcome all,” the smooth bass of Quinn’s voice carried through the room. “I hope that you are enjoying the evening. Your servers are coming around with glasses of Royalty to raise in toast to our host for the evening. If you would, please welcome Queen Freyda of Oklahoma to the stage.”
There was a smattering of applause as Freyda made her way front and center and the chattering of the guests died down as they turned their attention to her.
“I welcome you all to my humble abode,” She began and I sniggered to myself tuning her voice out. I fingered the hilt of my katana under the bar and looked around the room to locate everyone. Pam stood at attention on the edge and middle of the crowd. Karin and Bill were directly across the room at the right corner of the stage. Mr. C and Diantha stood towards the back next to one of the other bars. The rest of our allies were well-placed scattered throughout the gathering. I watched as Barry escorted all of the staff to the back of the room nearest one of the exits. It would appear that they were simply being deferential to the Queen, but I knew better.
I looked back at the stage and saw Eric standing on the floor directly in front of Freyda as she lifted her glass and the assembled vampires imitated her gesture, all of them sipping in unison. Right then Bubba prompted the band and they began the song that was our cue. The first bars of A Little Less Conversation overtook the room and there was no time for hesitation. I unsnapped my katana from beneath the bar, strapping it to my waist. Pam slipped her hand beneath the draping velvet, and I saw each of our allies grab the hidden weapons overturning several tables in the process. Eric bent down and swept out a huge broadsword from its place, whirled around decapitating the vampires behind him and jumped onto the stage before Freyda’s look of shock could even leave her face.
“You dare!” I heard her scream.
“You bet I fucking do,” Eric replied as a huge smile overtook his features. She darted to the right, but Eric leapt after her. I had no time to appreciate his beauty in battle as I dropped my glamour and came around from behind the bar and the fight began in earnest. I had a split second to see realization dawn on Freyda’s face. I smiled at her widely and swung my sword into action. Just then the floor to ceiling windows shattered as Thalia and Palomino crashed through them, propelled feet first and landing in the center of the crowd. They were trailed by Mustapha and Warren climbing over the shards behind them.
The vampires in attendance were shaking with the effects of the ingested silver, but I knew it wouldn’t last long. I took out the two vampires closest to me who were dressed in Elizabethan costume. It was incredibly satisfying as I watched their heads fly from their bodies and erupt in an explosion of goo. My body was coated in their remains as I waded into the crowd. The effects of the tainted blood had worn off and chaos began to snake through the mass of seething vampires. Some tried to run, but I didn’t bother to follow, I trusted the rest of Team Eric to take care of them. Instead I focused on staying alive. I had trained for this and, surprisingly, I reveled in it.
The Queen’s guards scrambled into the fight, but I focused only on the enemy in front of me. I swirled and ducked, slashed and thrust my katana at every vampire who attacked. I didn’t feel the wounds that sliced my skin, nor any of the bites from vampires who got close enough. I only felt the bloodlust that I finally, truly understood. I realized I hadn’t used my fireballs yet, sheathed my sword, and readied my power. The vampires thought to take advantage of my brief fighting lull, but they didn’t get the chance. I flung fire at them, one by one, and they exploded into dust that coated the blood that already covered my limbs. It was glorious and I felt like a true warrior. I was Eric’s Valkyrie.
Finally, my blood and body roared into action. I took out the vampires behind me before I leapt at Freyda. The look at her face was worth every single day of servitude I had been subjected to.
“You dare!” She screamed at me.
“You bet I fucking do.” And I launched myself at her. She propelled herself across the stage, not quick enough to escape me, but it gave her enough time to catch a sword thrown at her from one of her guards who was then killed by Ritchie, a fierce grin on his face. The windows shattered and Thalia and Palomino joined the fight followed by Mustapha and Warren. All my allies were here and we would be victorious.
I used the surprise and didn’t hesitate. She didn’t stand a chance against me. I was born to battle and had a thousand years to perfect my skills. The band scattered except for Bubba who jumped off the stage and into the fray. I grinned maniacally and toyed with Freyda a bit, allowing her to think that she had the upper hand. She really was stupid. I knew it, but to see her fall for the mistaken belief that she might even remotely be able to take me was satisfying. It even allowed me the time to glance over at Sookie. She was a magnificent avenging angel.
As I noticed her, so did Freyda. Her face filled with fury. “You would dare choose that…that…human barmaid over me. I am a Queen. I am immortal and she is nothing but a mere gnat that I will use as my plaything once I kill you for your disobedience. I warned you both that she would die if she stepped foot in Oklahoma and I intend to keep my promise.”
I just laughed at her. “It is you who is nothing Freyda. You couldn’t sway me to your side even with all your money, power, and prestige. You thought to seduce me. You thought to take my love from me. I have waited a thousand years for a woman such as Sookie and I will enjoy bathing in your blood.”
Our swords met and the clashing steel was drowned out by the sounds of the surrounding battle. I backed her down the stairs and she tripped, falling over her trailing gown. I allowed her to stand and right herself, it would not be near as gratifying to take her while she lay there. I noticed as Felipe fled the battle and silently cursed the fact that he had escaped. I would have to deal with him later. Freyda’s guards tried to come to her aid, but my allies kept them busy. The glinting of our meeting swords glittered in the candlelight. We were on the main floor now and I saw her notice an exit behind her. I stepped up my fight not wanting her to allow her escape. She turned and tried to flee, but was greeted by Harrison followed by the rest of the shifters.
“Going somewhere?” he asked caustically. “I don’t think so. Do you remember Eloise Freyda? Did you think that I wouldn’t eventually exact revenge on you?”
She sputtered in disbelief. “You would betray me? I am your maker.”
“Absolutely,” he snarled.
“I am your maker,” she roared. “I command you not to fight me.”
“Oh, I don’t have to. Eric is going to take care of that for me.” He nodded to me and joined the battle, staying close enough to watch as I came at her again.
As I fought her I glanced around the room to see how my allies were faring. We were outnumbered, but the poisoned blood had given us enough time to take out several of the guests before they even knew what was happening. Ritchie and Win fought back to back as they were killed vampires one after another. Several fires had started around the room from candles that had been knocked over onto the velvet. I inwardly thanked Quinn for the idea and saw him in his tiger form ripping the oncoming vampires limb from limb. The fire was spreading and more of my enemies began to try for escape. They were cut down by Genevieve and Jean-Pierre at one exit and Mac at another.
Bubba was in the center of the room fighting against a wolf and two vampires, but he wore a look of fierce happiness as he took them out. Pam whirled on the five opponents that surrounded her and as one tried to attack her from behind I saw Karin come up and decapitate him. The demon and his niece swung their swords slicing apart any enemy that dared get too close. Sookie’s blonde hair spun out around her as she twirled, flinging fireballs at anyone who dared come near her. I noticed that she was injured, but not bad enough to incapacitate her. Surprisingly I saw a look of incredible joy on her face as she fought.
Guards had finally made it to Freyda’s side and I took them out one by one while Harrison fought them from the other side. He couldn’t fight her, but he could combat them. She was stuck in the middle with nowhere to go and simply using her guards as a shield. Not for long, I thought to myself. Delight burst into my bloodstream as I realized that we would win this battle and I refocused my energy on taking down Freyda without killing her. I wanted to enjoy her death.
My body was covered in blood, but I released every ounce of pent-up aggression that had been stifled while we waited for the night of the battle. We had spent months in the planning and now we were in the thick of it. It had been far too long since I had killed anything and I was seriously enjoying it. Blood stained the blue satin of my costume that was shredded around me. I felt the smile that spread across my face as I was attacked from all sides. It wasn’t like the night of the Peter Threadgill’s attempted takeover. We were prepared. I took out every adversary that attacked. I was surrounded at one point and might have lost my life if Karin hadn’t come up behind me. I nodded my thanks at her and we fought side by side. I saw Sookie and felt a moment of pride well up inside me as she took out anyone who approached. The fireballs were especially handy since they didn’t allow anyone to even come close to her. I watched as a vampire tried to sneak up behind her and bent down, picked up one of the wax-coated skulls and whipped it across the room. It smashed into shards as it came in contact with the vampire’s head, stunning him. Sookie twisted around in time to launch a fireball and then the vampire was nothing but dust. I spared a second to check in on Eric and he was moments away from subduing Freyda.
The flames that licked up the velvet were growing and Karin and I moved as a team, getting closer to Sookie. When we reached her, the three of us formed a whirling dervish semi-circle fighting a ring of guards that had finally made their way to our side of the room. A straggling group of wolves edged towards us as our allies on the other side of the room pushed their opponents into the center. We were corralling them. The fight would soon be over. Just as the thought flickered through my brain I saw a look of utter horror cross Sookie’s face. I whipped my head around as she screamed and propelled herself across the floor.
Time stilled and I watched in slow motion as she threw her fireball at the vampire whose sword sliced through Bubba’s neck and killed him instantly. The vampire responsible turned to dust only a fraction of a second later, but it was too late. Sookie lost it and her screams of rage cut through the roar of the battle. She fell to her knees where Bubba had been, sobbing. She knew that the price of this battle might be paid in our own blood, but I don’t think she ever really considered the cost. Heartbroken, I abandoned Karin knowing that the others weren’t far away and would come to her side. I had to save Sookie. I couldn’t let Bubba’s death be the end of hers as well. I saw Eric’s eyes search for Sookie as her scream echoed through the room and when he realized what had happened he sliced off Freyda’s arms, and she collapsed wailing in pain. He leapt over her leaving her helpless in a puddle of her own blood. Those who were left fighting for Freyda redoubled their efforts, blocking my path, as well as Eric’s, to Sookie.
The flames were everywhere. There was no way for Eric even to fly to her side. I was relieved when I saw her rise and pull out her sword. Evidently she wanted to feel the deaths of those she fought and I didn’t blame her. Knowing that she was back in the game, both Eric and I continued battling until those that were left of Freyda’s followers finally surrendered, realizing the fight was over and that no hope remained for them. We had only lost one of our own, but it was too much. We were surrounded by the spreading fire, but still I took the time to glance around and gauge the extent of the injuries we had suffered. We were all covered in blood, our costumes reduced to rags. I noticed that Warren had knelt down, leaning heavily on the wolf form of Mustapha, while Genevieve cradled Jean-Pierre’s body as it healed itself. The rest of those remaining looked worse than they were.
As I searched the circle I realized that we were missing two people besides Bubba. I knew when Eric realized the same thing because a primal, gut-wrenching roar of anguish tore through the sudden silence of the night. Bill had betrayed us and taken Sookie. We had expected and planned for it, but there had been no time to tell Eric. He whirled on those that knelt before our circle in surrender. He was lost in bloodlust and rage and slaughtered every single one of them. When he finished with them he turned and saw Freyda’s body, still alive, where he had left her. I knew that he had wanted to take his time with her, but I knew also that there was no way that would happen now. Her eyes widened as he stalked over to her. He was terrifying.
He grabbed her by her hair, dragging her across the bloody glass that littered the space beneath the windows. Shards clung to her as he pulled her up, feet dangling below her. He ignored the flames that licked at her gown that hung in tatters around her mangled body. He seethed his eyes completely black, his fangs elongated fully. Frozen, none of us said anything as his head bent down and he used his teeth to tear out her throat. Her blood ran down the front of him and he spit out her larynx, spraying her face with gore. He wrapped one massive hand around what remained of her neck, twisted, and with the other hand ripped it off, ending her as she dissolved at his feet.
He had exacted his revenge, but was still caught in the grip of bloodlust. I needed to calm him, but chunks of the burning building were slamming down onto the floor around us. The rest of the group streamed towards the gaping holes that used to be windows despite the fact that the flames were being sucked out into the night. Better to catch fire escaping with the chance to douse the flames once outside than to definitely be burned to death inside. Eric fell to his knees as the flames grew. Ashes tumbled around us like snow and we were both pelted with falling debris. His head whipped up as I approached. His eyes met mine and I knew that despite the fact that anger still raged through his body that he was coming out of the haze of bloodlust. It took only moments, but it felt like years and then my maker, the warrior I knew and loved through centuries was back. We rose together, sped to the same windows that everyone else had already exited through, and escaped just as the glass ceiling shattered from the heat of the fire.
Once safe I turned to reassure him. “We have a plan. We will get her back.”
His eyes bore into mine. “You’re fucking right we will and I will strip the skin from his body piece by piece. He will feel agony like he never has before. He will suffer and only when I have gorged myself on his blood and screams will I finally send him to his true death.”