I stood behind the Queen’s leather chair, stock still and with the appearance of emptiness. Behind the façade, my mind raced. My allies should be arriving any day. I needed to be crafty to speak with them without Freyda knowing. I didn’t dare glamour any of the human servants since that could be revealed with ease. All it would take would be for her to look too closely, and though it wasn’t her normal style, I couldn’t risk it. I needed an opening. I wasn’t worried about them drawing attention; more vampires arrived every day in anticipation of her party. Word had spread that Bubba would perform and it was a rare occurrence indeed, drawing vampires from all corners. Some the Queen sent away, not wishing the riff-raff to soil her event, but some met her standards. My people would not be turned away, of this I was sure. Each of them brought style and power that would reflect well on her Majesty.
Freyda held court like the royalty of the old world, though she herself had barely counted a hundred and fifty years. She sat hearing the complaints of those vampires beneath her. I rarely left her side these days, as she chose to keep me close. Only at dawn was I allowed to retire to the silence of my spacious bedchamber. Though a slave, I was well provided for. Though she only permitted me to feed on blonds thinking she could subconsciously train me.
Jerry, her brown mop-haired lackey, called in the next supplicant, and when the door to her office opened I stifled the excitement that built in me. A beautiful, bosomy redhead glided into the room, a tall, graceful man attending her. She wore a jet black silk shirt with a pencil skirt that skimmed just below the knees. His suit, also black, was impeccably tailored and accented his thin but well-defined frame. Her arm linked through his, they approached and offered a small bow in the direction of the Queen. Freyda nodded to them and gestured towards the seats in front of her ornate antique desk.
“To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?” The Queen exuded an air of confidence and indifference, as if Oklahoma was used to guests that radiated the class that hung in the air around these two.
“Your Majesty, I am Genevieve and this is my husband Jean-Pierre,” her soft, lilting accent spoke of Paris and the cafés of Montmartre. They’d been in New York since the late 60’s, having come here to explore the freedom that decade offered, and though her accent had softened, Genevieve had never relinquished it for the harsh tones that babbled through that city.
“May I ask what brings you to my fair kingdom?” Her suspicion leaking through, Freyda was anything but completely unwise. It had served her well in her time as a vampire.
“Oh yes, your Majesty, we heard of the masquerade ball that you are throwing and could not help but find our way here. We have heard that it is to be the event of the year and that you have acquired the talents of the man with such a voice. We do not wish to impose, but never had the opportunity to hear him while he still lived and hoped that we might impose on your hospitality.” Neither she nor Jean-Pierre even glanced in my direction, their casual posture belying any sort of duplicity.
Her husband spoke, continuing Genevieve’s thought, “I must admit, that I have always wished to see him,” his sincerity came through the charming smile he cast in the Queen’s direction. “We will head to Paris afterwards, Genevieve finds herself missing our home. It has been too long since we have returned.”
Freyda relaxed and gave them a gracious smile. “Well then, of course, you must stay. Will I need to see to your accommodations?”
Genevieve appeared enchanted, “Oh no, we would not think to ask such a thing. If there is someone you could spare to guide us to a suitable hotel and where we might find sustenance, it would be appreciated. We find ourselves strangers here and are not accustomed to your fair city. Jean-Pierre, unfortunately, has a fondness for the fresh blood. We are very old and set in our ways, but do not wish to draw attention.”
The Queen laughed quietly. “I completely understand and there are ways to oblige you. I will have two of our donors sent along with you. I shall ensure that they are of only the highest standards and rarely used. I have a young man who has a bit of something extra in his blood, gives it a bit of kick, as they say. He is unwilling, but I prefer that to the fangbangers who throw themselves at our feet, wishing for debasement. It’s not like the old days, is it?” Freyda asked callously. She didn’t like to lend him out, but she wanted to impress her guests with her procurement.
The Queen continued, “I ask only that you keep a tight leash on him.” She touched a button on her phone and called to Jerry who awaited his every chance to please her Majesty.
He entered anxious to do his master’s bidding. “Yes, my Queen, how may I be of assistance?” God I despised his nasally yes m’am attitude. After I killed Freyda I would take great joy in ripping him limb from limb.
“You will fetch the telepath for me, as well as one of the females who isn’t too depleted.”
I felt a bit of shock when I realized she must have somehow acquired Barry the Bellboy. I should have known that when she found out about Sookie, she would seek to control her own telepath. It could be opening I needed. Patience, I cautioned myself.
He bowed low and backed out of the room, never looking her in the eyes. “Oh yes m’am, of course your Majesty, whatever I can do to be of service to your higness.”
“Shut up and get out. Do what you are told and do it quickly.” She turned back to Genevieve and Jean-Pierre. “Good help is so hard to come by these days.” Her eyes glittered and her grin was icy with pride. She thought she impressed her guests, but I knew better. They were only playing a part to seduce her into trusting them.
Jean-Pierre responded, his tone haughty, “In the old country the servants were well-trained, like your man there. He is silent and knows his place.”
“He is my trophy and personal champion. He has come to know what I expect of him.” She waved her hand in my direction and I swallowed my retort. “He is not quite broken yet, but it will not be long. He is learning to heel well. How would you like a bit of freedom, Eric? I think you are ready for a small foray into the outside world. Would you like that, my pet?”
What I’d like is to rip your throat out with my teeth and paint the walls with your blood, which, of course, I did not say. I only responded. “If it pleases your Majesty, I am here to do your bidding.”
She never looked at me, choosing instead to focus on her guests. “You will keep him in line, I trust? I would be quite sad to have to rehabilitate him. He will take you to the vampire hotel here in town. Please use my donors for the evening, but the hotel will be able to provide you with humans after that.”
Jerry reentered and they rose. “We quite understand. He must be especially glorious. We will take good care of him.” Jean-Pierre glanced in my direction as he said it, the edges of his lips turning up slightly.
I came out from behind her and walked in their direction. I could feel freedom tugging at the edges of my consciousness. All I wanted in that moment was to be away from Freyda.
“Eric?” The Queen’s tone grated on me, “Do not take advantage of this kindness I have offered you. You will see my guests settled appropriately and return immediately afterwards.”
“Yes your Majesty. I live to please you.” Maybe I was laying it on a bit thick, but I was anxious to be out of her compound and her sight. I would have to move quickly if I was to inform Genevieve and Jean-Pierre of the plan.
“Good. Genevieve, Jean-Pierre, enjoy my city as it were your own. There is plenty to entertain you during your stay here. If you need anything else, in the meantime, do not hesitate to contact me. Eric will ensure that you have the appropriate numbers. Good evening.”
I bent low to Freyda and then followed the small group out. I could tell Barry chafed at his bindings, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that yet. Tonight I would attempt to draw him into this tangled web. I didn’t anticipate any trouble, even if he didn’t like me much. I would give him every assurance of his freedom if he helped me, and make sure that he was well-compensated for his troubles.
I led Genevieve and Jean-Pierre through the winding hallways of the old mansion, wishing only to be gone from the place. We exited and found their car waiting at the entrance. Once we were on the road I pointed out landmarks and made small talk. I couldn’t risk talking in front of the female donor whose name I learned was Jenny. I would have to wait until we were at the hotel and then send her on an errand.
We arrived and I got them settled and asked Jenny to head down to the concierge to arrange for future donors. As soon as she left I embraced my old friends. It had been too long since I had seen them. I had spent some time in New York with them a few decades ago, but nothing recently. Barry’s face showed the shock he must have felt.
Genevieve clutched at my hands, “Eric, how is that you have come to this deplorable position?” Her concern for me was evident in her words.
“My maker, Appius, sold me to her. I have yet to find out what he would have gained, but it is neither here nor there since he was killed some time back. Please, I must fill you in quickly before the Queen considers that I have left her too long.”
I turned to Barry. “Listen Barry, I have no idea how you came to be here, but I would like to remedy that. I know you don’t like me, but it will be beneficial for both of us. I will not lie, it will be dangerous, but your freedom hangs in the same balance as mine and I need an ally on the inside.”
He looked hesitant, but nodded to me. “Whatever you need, I can’t stand to be here even one second longer than I have to. I was staying with Sam’s mom when I was snatched. Bernie was at work and neither of us considered that I’d be in any danger. So as long as I get to go on my merry way after, I’m in.” I hid my shudder at his mention of Sam and shoved away the thoughts of Sookie that were forever just below the surface.
I filled everyone in on the plan. Barry would have to play the complacent donor for a few more weeks, but it would be worth it in the end. Genevieve and Jean-Pierre would continue in the ruse they had already assumed and knew what their roles would be come Halloween. It was a risky idea, but it was a chance. I would have to be ruthless, we all would, but in the end I would bring down my enemies with a vengeance that would be delicious after months of kowtowing to Freyda and playing her lapdog. I looked forward to it.
I embraced both of my old friends once more and took Barry’s smaller hand in mine, looking him square in the eyes. “I know what you are suffering and know that you will have my eternal gratitude for the part you play in this. I will not forget my debt to you.” I heard the door open. Jenny had returned.
“Genevieve, Jean-Pierre, I hope you find your accommodations suitable. I left the numbers for the Queen’s compound on the notepad. Please do not hesitate to call if you need anything.” I glanced one last time in their direction, hoping to convey the gratefulness I felt at their coming.
“That will be all Eric, you may return to the Queen now. We have no more use for you this evening.”
I nodded and walked towards the door, letting myself out. I would have to take a cab back to the compound, but even that didn’t dull the delight I took in knowing that I would soon enact retribution on those who thought they could control me. They were silly children if they believed that they held any power over me. Not only was I a thousand years old, I was a Viking warrior before they had even killed their first victim. I held a vengeance inside of me that was unknown in this modern world. My enemies had no idea what was coming and I was going to enjoy it.