I followed the ornate corridors that would lead me to Freyda’s office. Jerry had fetched me like a good puppy and said that it was urgent that she saw me. If we hadn’t been so close to the masquerade on Halloween, or if my position here hadn’t been so precarious, I might have made her wait while I took my time. Unfortunately, with every day closer we got to Halloween, Freyda seemed easier to aggravate. I didn’t wish to take the chance that I wouldn’t be given any freedom between now and then, so I grudgingly obeyed. I approached her door and shoved down the irritation I felt at the fact that I was at her beck and call. Not much longer, I reminded myself.
I knocked, was admitted entrance, and promptly greeted. “Eric. Finally you are here.”
“I came as soon as I received your summons Your Highness,” I gritted out while bowing low to her. As I brought my body once more erect I looked around the room and noticed that we were not alone. Harrison, her number two, a big man with mussed brown hair, stood slightly behind her clothed in a red collared shirt tucked into blue jeans with a black belt decorated with a ridiculously large buckle. I could only surmise that it was a hold-over from his Texas heritage. Jerry hovered around the edges of the room looking as if waiting for a smile from his master.
Siohban sat to my right, with Charlotte perched sideways on the arm of the chair that Siohban occupied. The two had become friends despite the differences in their heritage. Siohban was a five hundred year old vampire who had fled Ireland during the infancy of this country. She had never spoken of the events that brought her here, but she was reserved, even for a vampire. Charlotte was turned by Freyda in San Francisco at the height of the sixties, too stupid and trusting to see Freyda for the predator that she was. The Queen had refused, many times, to give Charlotte her freedom despite the fact that anyone could see that the girl craved it. She was loyal, but only because of her friendship with Siohban. They spoke little to anyone but the other and both were fiercely protective.
“How may I be of service this evening?” I asked the Queen who sat imperiously gazing at each of us in turn.
“It seems one of my vampires was sent on a mission recently and has not returned Eric. I have questioned those in this room in an attempt to find him, but no one seems to have any information. As you know, with the masquerade coming up I cannot allow any surprises.” Her gaze narrowed as she continued. “If he is planning something he must be found immediately. This party is not only a celebration of my reign, but also a warning to those who might seek to usurp my throne.” Her voice had not risen, but become an icy stream of caution to those of us in the room with her.
“May I ask where this mission might have taken him?” I detected something in her tone, but didn’t have enough information to puzzle out the truth.
“He was sent to Dallas. It seems that those who were protecting the human that I captured are gathering in an attempt to bring their forces against me. I wish you to go there, find him and also put a stop to any of their plans, however you must. I want them brought back to me for punishment. Nothing will ruin my party, do you hear me? NOTHING!” She stood and pounded her hands on her desk, the display seeming petty and beneath a vampire Queen.
I kept that thought to myself and only replied, “Of course your Majesty.”
“Good. Harrison has all the information you need on where to find them. He will accompany you to Dallas, but he has his own commands from there. The two of you will take the jet and return to me by tomorrow evening. Siohban and Charlotte will stay here to entertain me while you are gone.”
It would be a short flight to Dallas, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle the situation with Bernie. I couldn’t hurt her because she was Sam’s mother and that would upset Sookie, but I would need to find a way to get her to come back with me, which would be difficult to say the least. Supes and vampires didn’t get along under the best of circumstances and this most definitely was not the best of circumstances.
With a wave of her hand Freyda dismissed the two of us and I turned quickly walking out of the office. By the time I reached the hallway, Harrison had fallen in step beside me.
“We will speak on the plane about further instructions.” He turned into the next corridor taking him away from me. I didn’t know much about him, but knew enough not to cross him. As Freyda’s number two her safety was at the top of his responsibilities. I would have to be careful not to say anything incriminating while in his presence.
I entered my suite and quickly packed an overnight bag. I wouldn’t need much, but on the off-chance that I had to go to ground, literally, I wanted to ensure a fresh change of clothing. I wasn’t sure of the reception I would get in Dallas so it was good to be prepared.
I boarded the plane less than an hour later, not anxious to carry out the Queen wishes, but definitely anxious to be as far away from her as I could possibly get. Harrison was already seated and ready to go and I sat in the aisle across from him. The flight crew was all human and able to fly through the day as well as night, but they had also been checked several times to ensure their loyalty. While the flight attendants ran through the normal pre-flight checklist, Harrison stood and seated himself across from me.
A petite brunette came through the plane ensuring that everything was in order. I was surprised when Harrison looked at her saying in his deep southern drawl, “That will be all Kelly. I need to speak privately with Mr. Northman and you will see that there are no interruptions during our short flight to Dallas. Now be a good girl: bring us two True Bloods and then leave us alone for the duration.”
“Yes sir.” She left and returned shortly with two bottles and then disappeared again. I raised an eyebrow is his direction and gestured for him to get on with it.
“Mr. Northman. I know you don’t know much about me, but I am hoping to prove that I am someone that you can trust as both of our lives depend on it.” I leaned back in my seat, one leg crossed over the other and waited for him to go on. “The Queen is testing you. She is aware of your connection to Bernie, the woman who was protecting Barry when he was taken. She does not believe that you would be able to betray the woman you left behind in Louisiana, ahhh Sookie I believe her name is.”
I tensed at the mention of her. “And then why has she sent me on this errand?”
“She believes that you will find a way to warn those in Texas who are planning Barry’s rescue. That is why I am here. I am to keep an eye on you and report your actions back to the Queen.” He looked directly in my eyes as if I would simply believe him because he told me to.
“Why then are you informing me of this plot? Should you not simply be waiting for me to betray her as she believes that I will and use that against me?”
“Because there is much you do not know about me and I need you to trust me.” I stifled a laugh at that, but he proceeded. “Freyda turned me over a hundred years ago, which I am sure you have already discovered on your own, as well as the fact that we had a falling out in the early 20th century. What you probably don’t know is the basis for our parting. I was in love with a human woman, not unlike your Sookie. Freyda wanted me for herself and thought that if she controlled Eloise, the woman I loved, that I would do as she wished. Instead I fought her.”
He took a moment to gather himself. “Eloise suffered the consequences of my foolishness. She chained me in silver and brought Eloise before me. I had to watch as she repeatedly tortured and then healed her until I could take no more and agreed to serve her. I unwisely thought that she would free Eloise if I agreed. Instead she drained her before my eyes. After a year or so, when she tired of me, she freed me of my commitment to her until twenty-years ago when she called me back to her side to help her attain the position she has today.”
Silence fell between the two of us and I was glad once more that I had thought to ensure Sookie’s safety before I came to Oklahoma. “I am sorry to hear of your loss, but I am still unsure what you wish of me.”
“My only hope of freedom lies in her death. I have waited a long time for the right person to come along to help me plan and accomplish this. I can see, no matter how much you try to hide it, that you despise Freyda and your position under her. I know also that she holds your woman’s safety as the trump card for your obedience. I am here to tell you that she has already broken your contract.”
It took every ounce of self-control I had not to wrap my hands around his throat, but I needed more information. “Excuse me? What the fuck did you just say?”
“Jim, the vampire she sent on the mission, did not go to Dallas. Though it is true that those there are planning a strike against her, Jim was actually sent to Bon Temps to collect Sookie.” He stopped and looked at me to gauge my reaction and when I didn’t rip his head off he continued. “Evidently he failed or he would have returned by now.”
I felt my chest constrict at the idea that Freyda had sent someone after my love. “She had better be safe or I swear by everything I own that I will end you for knowing about this and not stopping it. If you loved your woman so much, you would never have allowed such a thing to occur.”
“I could do nothing about it Mr. Northman. My hands were tied when Freyda first revealed her intentions. I only hoped that if the plan succeeded that I would be able to help your Sookie.”
“So why do you mean to do now?” I asked acidly.
“I mean to allow you an evening to go and see your woman to ensure her safety for yourself.” He let the words hang in the stale air of the cabin. “I will go to Dallas and proceed to gather Bernie and those who are helping her with the understanding that this way they will be in place to launch some kind of attack. I figure the night of the party will be a good distraction and give them the best time to rescue Barry. When we land in Dallas you and I will leave like we are simply following the Queen’s orders. You do have the ability to fly if I understand correctly? It should not take you long to get to Bon Temps, but you must ensure that you are back by tomorrow evening. We will meet back here by ten pm so that we can arrive back at the compound by midnight. I will report to the Queen that you are loyal to her and ensure that those we are bringing with us know of this as well.”
I decided to take a leap of faith. I didn’t know that I had any left, but I felt that if I could trust anyone in Freyda’s retinue, it would be the man who sat before me. I sensed no deceit from him, only a wish for his own freedom. It didn’t mean that I trusted him completely, but that is why it was a leap of faith.
“I have a plan timed for Halloween during the party.” I explained a limited version of my plan to him though inside though my mind was already elsewhere. I was anxious to see Sookie again. Would she be happy to see me? Just because she and Pam had decided to rescue me didn’t mean anything. Win had hinted at something more when we had spoken last, but I was unsure of what she kept from me. I wished now that I had pressed her to reveal what she knew.
Knowing that I had someone on the inside eased my worries a bit more. We had been gathering quite a fighting force, but who knew if it would be enough. Every person we added took us one step closer to victory. In days it would be decided, I would either be free or dead. If I died it was certain that many would be taken down with me, but even this did not concern me at the moment. I could feel the plane’s descent onto the tarmac and I reminded myself that I could not simply go flying off to Sookie. We needed to stick to the plan. I followed Harrison as he exited the plane and entered the interior of the airport.
I walked as quickly as possible, knowing that he would keep up with me. We reached the automatic doors and I felt the dry wind brush against my face. It would not be soon enough before I saw her again. I nodded to Harrison and sped out into the open field that lay beyond the building. I launched myself into the sky and reassured myself that Sookie would be safe when I saw her again. The usual peace that I felt when flying was noticeably absent as the sky streaked by above me, I felt nothing but the fact that soon enough my sunshine, my light, my life, would be near enough to touch. And if anything had happened to her, I would crush anyone who got in my way, plan be damned. I would not wait for Halloween. I would rip the Queen apart, piece by piece and accept the death that would assuredly follow.