Please note this chapter was not reviewed by a beta reader.
I don’t know how it was even possible but I must have fallen asleep on our way to the location because one moment I was looking at Salon Rouge from the back seat of an Escalate and the next, I felt the car slow down and saw us pull off to a dirt road. I wasn’t sure where we were and now that I had slept my entire way to it, there was no chance for me to even venture a guess.
“Hello Sleeping Beauty,” Eric smirked as he looked at me from the rear view mirror; he was driving. I offered him one of my sleepy smiles while I stretched my upper back by raising my arms in the air and letting them slowly come down behind me. It didn’t take long for me to remember where we were heading and for the stress to come back crashing within my stomach.
“Where are we?” I asked without any manners. I guess I was a bit snappy.
“We are almost there. It’s an abandoned factory.” Pam replied and I squinted in an attempt to get a better view of what was outside.
There were no street lights to light up the dirt road having only the headlights of the SUV to guide us through the thick forest that bordered it. After a few minutes of driving none stop, the road finally brought us to a clearing. You could see the road twisting and turning up a small hill where a giant building was sitting. There was a fence surrounding it with barbwire on top and if it wasn’t for the lack of lighting, it looked anything but abandoned.
Once we made it up the hill, 2 guards immediately came up to the window. They were dressed in black and were holding some kind of assault rifle with a three point harness mounted on it.
“Names?” one of them said and Eric replied with our 3 names.
The guard nodded and let us through the gate. We past the fence and headed forward, passing in between 2 giant cylinders. From my seat, it looked like the factory had not been used, or at least it looked like it wasn’t utilized for its original purpose anyway. The more we ventured forward the more it was obvious someone had turned it into something else.
I guessed we must have reached the middle of the complex before we stopped where other cars had already parked. As I got out of the car, all I could smell was a strong earthy and metallic smell that was saturating the air. I frowned at it, trying to place a finger on what it reminded me of but was unable to.
We entered the main building and the further we walked the stronger the smell became. I was following Eric and Pam from behind, having no interest in being too close to the front. I was scared and anxious but I wasn’t letting any of it interfere with what I had come here to do.
The hallways were large and tall and their walls were peeling off with age while the floor was so full of dirt it was hard to know what they were made out of. A handful of time, Eric warned me before I could put my foot in a hole in the floor. As if the place was not giving me the creeps enough, there were a couple of crows following us around or at least seemed to. Anytime we came across a room, they would remind me of their presence with a crow. Most of the rooms were empty and some had walls destroyed. We went up at least 6 flights of stairs and walked another corridor before reaching what I guessed was our destination.
The room was at least 200 feet tall, it was gigantic, imposing and possibly the creepiest thing I had ever seen. Most of the roof was made of metal tins with broken windows all over while spider web and who knows what else hung from the giant metal beams that held it. The room was the home to giant rusted metal cylinders and we were just walking above them. I couldn’t be sure what the purpose of this factory had been but if I had to guess, it had something to do with metal. The air was heavy and charged with the disgusting smell we had encounter earlier but this time, it was a lot stronger. I could hear echoes of moans and as the crows watch us silently, I could hear the metal cling under my feet with every step we took. I had no idea where the moans were coming from but when the crows stopped making noises and just got quiet, it meant something bad was about to happen.
We walked through a couple metal platforms before I risked an eye down the metal cylinders and truth be told, I wished I had not. The metal bins were filled half way with barbwire and I could clearly see a couple bodies within its mist. As I gasped in horror, the initial shock of the discovery wasn’t the worst part of it. Barbwire, bodies, identifying the smell of blood in the air, all of it, my brain had processed it and I had quickly closed my eyes. No, the worst part was in the darkness. That is where it hit me; the moans were coming from these bodies, they were still alive!
I felt someone grab my hand and I had to use my other one to hold a real scream this time. Eric was holding me tightly and began stroking the back of my hand with his thumb. I could feel my eyes filled with tears so I squeezed my eyes shut harder.
“We are almost there” he whispered and I nodded positively desperately trying to gather some courage to keep walking.
“What is this place?” I quietly asked keeping my trembling voice in check.
“Think of it as a prison?” he asked me and then Pam back traced to us as she had kept on walking.
“I am sorry you had to see this.” Eric added while Pam stared down at me.
“I don’t understand, why the barbwire?” I asked shaking. Why the hell was I trying to understand anyways?
“Because it is impossible to get out of it without taking off your entire skin. Our bodies may heal but not fast enough. It’s a punishment and most don’t survive it because they bleed out before they come out.” Pam explained and I shuddered under the realization that the more someone would move, the more the barbwire would ripped their skin off.
Eric squeezed my hand and gently tugged on me to keep on walking. I swallowed hard, trying to keep my stomach inside of me but if this kind of torture was any indication of what was to come, I didn’t want to be here anymore.
We finally reached a giant platform and I felt voids enter my minds. It was obvious that I was the only human here which, of course, stressed the fuck out of me. As we walked over the group, I saw a higher table were a man was sitting with a gavel. He said something in a language I did not understand and then smack the desk in front of him with it in a loud bang. A vampire immediately started screaming while 2 others grabbed him under the armpit and dragged him kicking. Eric squeezed my arm harder as I followed them with my stare. They brought him to one of these giant metal cylinders and I wheezed at the thoughts that were now flowing through my mind. He had been sentenced and they were now throwing him into it.
They threw him inside without much reverence and as I heard him hit the barbwire his screams got louder and louder. The sound flesh makes when it rips apart is something I will never be able to forget and as the tears flowed down my cheeks again everyone else was stoic and silent; their faces betraying nothing of their feelings. The screams eventually stopped and were replaced by something worsts; loud moans.
Another vampire signaled us to come forward and I followed Pam and Eric. Eric went straight in front of the desk while Pam nudged me to follow her. I didn’t want to let his hand go but as soon as I did, I missed it as if I had held it for dear life and it was now leaving me. Where the hell was all my courage?
“Magistrate” Eric said slightly bowing his respect to the vampire with the gavel.
The Magistrate must have been turned later in his life, because he looked much older than everyone else in the room and if I had to venture a guess, I would say he looked somewhere in his 60s.
“Eric Northman, Sheriff of Area 5, you stand before us for the murder of Coen Longshadow on the 9th of June. The penalty is death, what do you plead?” the Magistrate stated with a slow and monotone voice.
“Guilty” Eric replied and I heard a couple whispers go through the room like an electric wave of shock.
“Very well, what is you defence?” he replied coldly.
“Praesidium” Eric replied and I had no clue what it meant.
“Of what exactly?” the Magistrate demanded.
“Praesidium Res” Eric replied and I heard the same whispers going through the room again.
“At the time of death, Longshdow was threatening my asset. I killed to protect what is mine.” Eric explained with such an icy tone, I shivered. He had warned me about referring to me as an asset and as much as I had tried to prepare for it, it still stung.
“Alright, I will ask the crown to come forward.”
A tall man with long black hair came forward. His shoulders were sagging and he had greasy hair partially covering his face as he stared at the ground. He walked forward with a lack of energy which I found particularly out of character; vampire never acted like that. Normally so secretive of their emotions, seeing one so demolished was shocking and made me feel bad for him.
“Coorain Blackfoot, you stand here as Coen Longshadow’s maker. Do you accept the defence presented by Mr. Northman?”
“No” he hissed and I shivered. He had turned his body towards me while his head was still looking at the magistrate. He was pointing at me with a trembling finger. “This human is no asset, it’s a fucking human!” he exclaimed with disgust.
The magistrate looked at Blackfoot then at Eric to finally look at me.
“Come forward.” He instructed me and I did as I was told although my instincts were telling me to run the fuck out. I mean, who in their right mind would freely come to a vampire trial and not run the minute they realize what kind of sentence could be given? Maybe I didn’t have an instinct like everyone else or something.
He looked me over a few times, his nostrils flaring and then cocked an eyebrow.
“What is she?” he inquired with a very demanding tone.
I heard the Queen Sophie-Ann from behind the Magistrate chuckled but after a few minutes, she gestured to stop and stood in front of the Magistrate on Eric’s side.
“This asset is mine and I will not have her qualities divulge in front of an entire audience.” She declared before walking around the desk and whispering something in his ear.
The magistrate then looked over to Eric and, with an evil smile; he hit the gavel to bring order to a room that didn’t need it. He then looked over to Blackfoot and signaled to continue. The vampire blinked a few times but eventually, his eyes lit up and I became nervous.
“Perhaps the human is an asset of the court now, however, it is my understanding that Queen Leclerc here, did not claim her until after my child’s death. One could argue that it is impossible to defend a royal asset if said asset isn’t even one in the first place. “He said slowly as if he was trying to ensure everyone understood the gravity of it. I felt Eric shift beside me and I wondered if what he had said was enough to dismiss me as an asset therefore giving Eric no chance of a defence.
“I had already claimed Miss Stackhouse” is all Eric said before Blacktooth continue.
“Eric Northman has no proof of such claim. The human wasn’t marked, how was my child supposed to know she belong to Northman? Therefore, I must all inform you that my child was murdered for nothing else but the weakness of feelings.” He continues and everyone whispered in disbelief.
Eric shift again and I wonder if he was as nervous as I felt? He was now closer to me and he looked ready to pounce. Was this it? He was finished and was not going to go down without a fight?
I wasn’t sure what to do or what to think. How did this vampire know about the Queen claiming me after the events, and what was to happen if Eric was found guilty of killing a vampire for no good reason. The words weakness of feelings also lingered with me. I couldn’t be sure exactly what it meant, but it was safe to assume it was about me. Eric had killed to save my life no matter his reasons and it was clear that the vampires around us disapproved including the Magistrate.
“Your honour,” Eric said with a loud voice in order to be above all the whispers. “You could debate semantics whether Miss Stackhouse here belong to me or not, after all I was the first vampire to lay claim on her but Praesidium Res is not just for my pet, but also for Salon Rouge.”
I was growing tired of the whispers anytime something was said and I could feel my blood boil with the mere mention of me referred to as a pet. As he reached for my hand, I put my feelings aside and felt a bit of pride that he was reaching for me in front of all this vampires. The small gesture help ease me and as I braced myself. Clearly what Eric had said stirred the room to no end.
“Excuse me?” Blackfoot replied completely in disbelief.
“Longshadow had been stealing from me for months now. He used the humans I hire, glamoured them and had them steal for him. He controlled them, made them remove entries from our logs and simply took what belong to me. This combined with his attempt murder on my property should be grounds enough for the punishment I have already inflicted.”
The room was silent for once; even the moans had stopped as if everyone was holding their breath to see what was to come.
“What are your proofs of these claims?” the magistrate demanded.
“I have brought my books, my accountant, and a witness.”
A tall female vampire walked forward with what looked like the log book Eric used at the bar as well as many piles of paper and bills. She handed them over to the Magistrate who took several minutes to look them over. Actually, it felt like an eternity. Here I was standing in front of him with Eric, hand in hand as we waited for him to go through the paperwork but all I could think of was how to get the hell out of here if things didn’t go according to Eric’s plan. I watched the Magistrate carefully, trying to read a shift in emotions, perhaps able to venture a guess to what he was going to say next. As he took his time, everyone seemed to look at each other with a surprise look. None of them were showing emotions other than surprise, the vampire way of course, but it was obvious from the actual feel of the atmosphere that was surrounding us that they were all on edge.
“Witness?” the magistrate finally broke the silence.
“Miss Stackhouse has witnessed Longshadow not only glamouring my employees but take the money.” Eric said coldly. My back stiffened at the words, I knew everyone was now looking at me and if I could have, I would have made myself as tiny as possible to avoid the spotlight.
“Of course!” Blackfoot exclaimed sarcastically but the Magistrate banged on the desk again which shut him off.
“Human, is this true?” the Magistrate roared making my jump in my shoes.
I cleared my throat as Eric squeezed my hand gently.
“Yes your honour.” I replied.
“Describe what you saw.” He insisted and I obliged.
“On many occasion,” I paused, unsure how to word any of it. I wasn’t expecting having to talk. “I saw him glamouring Lexi and Kim. They would remove entries from the black book and would give him the money instead of putting it into the till.”
“Please come forward.” The Magistrate asked and I did. I was standing right in front of the desk when he bend forward and stared into my eyes.
I felt the brush of his mind onto mine as he attempted to force me to tell the truth. The initial shocked made me blinked a couple times which made him try harder until I realized what he actually was doing and played along. I guess he did not know I couldn’t be glamoured, and I would be crazy not use it to my advantage.
I retold exactly what I had just said with the same monotone voice I had heard people speak under glamour. He nodded after I was finished and signaled me to go back beside Eric which I did in a robotic way unsure when I was supposed to stop pretending I was under glamour. Was I supposed to look surprise once I reached his side or maybe confused? I opted for the confused look but of course said nothing.
The magistrate proceeded in retelling exactly what had happened in the past hour and I tuned him out. A part of me did not want to know the final verdict and when he asked Longshadow’s maker whether there was anything else to add, she heard him argued that protecting a human and a business is not a good enough excuse to kill his progeny whom he added he missed dearly.
Even though I was thankful Eric had save my life, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Blackfoot. If his relation to his child was anything like Pam and Eric was, I could understand his statement and his grief. If I could, I would have reached out to him but of course, he wasn’t human and definitely didn’t need my sympathies.
The Magistrate finally began his final verdict shortly after the last statement but I wasn’t listening. Instead, I was distracted with a thought that had popped in my head. It was one of precision and of patience, whomever had thought of it was tucked in the shadows and waiting for his prey to make a mistake. I shivered; the thought had only one word; kill.
I looked around trying to pinpoint where exactly the thought was coming from but instead I met his eyes. I could see the concern on his face and I figured he could feel mine somehow. I resumed looking in every direction. It was frustrating to know that there was a human near, one who wanted to kill but somehow I was unable to tell from where and vampires didn’t even seemed to notice the intruder. How was that possible? I hadn’t been around them for long but if there was one thing you could bet your ass on, was their hunter instinct. Vampires had cunning ability, killer instincts and a sense of smell that would put any tracker to shame. Picturing the vampires as being a prey was almost impossible. Yet, I could hear the word kill over and over again in my head as if the more the thought repeated, the more it became real.
I looked back at Eric, how could I tell him about it without alerting everyone? The long and boring voice of the magistrate came back to me, he was about to give his verdict. I held my breath as I kept hearing the same word over and over again.
‘’I find the defendant,’’
NOW, the thought yelled in my head and I instinctively lunged sideways to Eric. I grabbed his waist so hard he had to take a step back.
“Fly now!” I screamed as he caught me and without any hesitation, jumped upwards.
As we made it near the roof in a split second, we heard an explosion and I looked down at where we had stood. There was too much smoke to see anything but it was safe to assume someone had fire some kind of explosive exactly where we had been. I couldn’t see any other vampires and truthfully, anything else and couldn’t help but think that the death count must be high. I winced at the thought and looked away tucking my head into Eric’s chest as he flew outside onto the roof.
He dropped me right on top of it and looked at me straight in the eyes with such calm, if I didn’t know he was a vampire, it would have seemed strange.
“How many?” he said to with a snarl on his face that told me he was ready to kill.
I closed my eyes and reached out below us. I could count 3 minds; they were moving quickly and I imagined they were attacking whoever was still alive down there. I immediately thought about Pam; she was still there, alone, fighting and there was nothing I could do about it.
“I count 3 but there could be more.” I managed to say trying to compose myself as best as I could. I was a shaky mess.
“Stay here” he growled and as he ran to the broken window we had come from, he jumped down and disappeared in the smoke.
I took a couple deep breaths trying to calm my heart rate down but it was really difficult. How did they not see this coming! Who were the people attacking them? Hell, how did they even know about the location of the trial? Had someone talked?
I quickly ran back to the broken window and lay down on the gravel roof top to look through it. The smoke was slowly dissipating while more explosions at other location could be heard. The entire building shook every time they went off. I could feel more minds coming in, more humans and some fuzzy one too. Shit.
I saw 4 hooded figures run from one end of a cylinder to where the Magistrate had been. They were shooting guns with precision and synchronism. They were clearly a team; there was no doubt about it.
I saw a flash, and figured it must have been a vampire. One hooded figure felt on the ground limp. I saw the flash again but this time it stopped at the second figure and as I watched Pam yell, she bit the person in the neck. There was nothing human about what was going on, it was pure instincts, it was animal.
She didn’t spend too much time on the body; she moved at vampire speed and disappeared again. I looked for Eric but couldn’t find him. I couldn’t help but feeling useless and worried that something could happen to him. The more I searched the room with my eyes, the more I grew terrified. My eyes were busy looking for him but my ears registered a metal noise from the roof and I looked at the access door in horror. Someone was coming. I immediately got to my feet and ran for cover behind an old vent. I reached out and read nothing coming from the door meaning they were vampires. I stayed hidden, having no idea which vampire it was and as I couldn’t be sure they were on my side, I waited.
I heard the Queen order someone around and then some radio chatter. Sophia-Anne looked like she had been spared by the explosion and other than the poor state of her clothing; you would have never known she had escaped a death trap. I heard a helicopter at the distance which covered any words I could have picked up from her and her team. I could see her talk but couldn’t hear anything. I got up on my feet and looked to see if Pam or Eric were with them but was sorely disappointed; only bodyguards. Sophie-Anne was looking into the other direction but the minute I came out, her head snapped back to me and she eyed me with her big green eyes. Her nostrils were flaring and I figured she had smelled me.
“Sookie!” she exclaimed as her bodyguards turn to look at me.
Our hair started to whirlwind as the helicopter made its way to the roof. It landed not too far from us and I watched the bodyguard help the Queen to it. I waved to her, made my way back to the window and looked for Eric or Pam without much success. As I settled into my post, I looked quickly looked in her direction and saw they had all boarded the helicopter which looked ready to take off. I searched the room again with my eyes and grew desperate to get a glimpse of Eric or Pam.
My stomach was aching with anxiety and as I felt the pit growing wider, someone grabbed my shoulder and lifted me off the roof top. One of the guards had picked me up and had thrown me over his shoulder. He was vampire and way too strong for me to fight but it didn’t stop me, I started punching his back, kicking and screaming despite the helicopter drowning sound and demanded to be put down.
“Not a chance.” He said to me in a low growl.
“Eric is still down there, put me down!”
He ignored my plea and ran back to the helicopter where I was thrown into and then restrained.
I looked at Sophie-Anne with fury but she simply looked the other way.
“Let me go!” I yelled at her.
“I am sorry Sookie but you are too valuable to risk” She said still looking through the window and not at me.
“I don’t belong to you!” I spit at her as I felt the helicopter taking us away.
“If I don’t hear back from the Sherriff of Area 5, I am afraid you do, child. Now, now, settle down, you are making your wound worst” she added as she finally looked at me, her fangs elongated.
I couldn’t help but yelped in pain at both the thought of him not making it and what she meant by using the word child.