If it weren’t for our bonds, telling me Sookie was rapidly descending into a blackened pit of fear and despair, I don’t know that I would have been able to tell otherwise. Outwardly, Susannah had been standing beside me all along, appearing nothing but stoic with the Ancient Pythoness’s arrival, and had kept a calculated eye trained on the most ancient and revered of our kind.
But then it had always been Susannah on the outside, standing strong and fierce, all the while protecting a much more fragile Sookie on the inside.
She had made strides in the time since she’d come into my life, growing into herself and coming to believe in her own worth, but this night was a setback for her.
Being ‘born for me’ had been her one constant for the entirety of her life. Her true north which she could set her compass by in order to know what direction she needed to travel.
Every cut, puncture, and lash that now scarred her otherwise pristine skin mapped the journey which had led her to me.
Hearing she may have been born for another cut deeper than any blade ever had and was sending her into a tailspin.
But knowing she would sooner die than show any weakness in front of any other save me, I silently sent her the strength of my own conviction that she had always been meant for me because I had no doubts.
Raised in this realm or any other, I would have found my way to her.
And she to me.
A world in which she wasn’t mine simply didn’t exist.
And after taking a moment to analyze my own feelings on the matter, I realized I only felt pissed off.
Had the Ancient Pythoness been anyone else, I would have already killed the messenger.
Her initials may as well have stood for Asinine Pontificator for all of the blathering she’d bestowed upon us. I didn’t care what she claimed to have seen or didn’t see in her fogged up crystal ball of a brain.
Fuck her and her goddamn cataract colored eyes.
Mythical birds that burst into flames, only to be resurrected from the ashes didn’t exist either and fuck any faepire whose family crest amounted to a fucking Bic lighter.
I would impale his body on my sword, from his ass to the asshole in his stupid fucking faepire face, and roast him like a goddamn chicken on a spit over a fire if he even hinted at believing he had any rights to my bonded.
Kentucky Fried Cocksucker.
But I also no longer had the patience for hearing answers that told us nothing at all and knowing Sookie was reaching her breaking point, I snarled, “Enough. Feel free to ponder the fates of others on your own time, but I don’t need confirmation from you to tell me what I already know. She is mine.”
And I would slay anyone who attempted to come between me and my bonded.
Of that, I had absolutely no doubt.
But needing to learn all there was to know about this impending war of doom and gloom everyone seemed so sure would come about, I asked, “What do you know of this war? When is it to start and who will we be fighting against?”
As if the universe had been waiting for me to ask that very question, no sooner had it been posed when the floor beneath our feet rocked from the explosion that could be heard coming from west.
I felt the weight of my sword on my back in the same moment Sookie’s appeared on hers, with Godric assuming a defensive stance – putting himself between the door and his Maker – whose milky white eyes looked only at Sookie as she said, “And so it begins.”
This whole time?
And she didn’t think she should have led off with that little tidbit?
Only the slight narrowing of Sookie’s eyes told me she was thinking along the same lines, but seeing it only made the corners of my lips turn upwards.
It was all the proof I needed to see to know she wasn’t as lost as I’d feared.
I was still her true north.
And it was yet more proof she had been the missing pea to my pod all along.
While she may have been rocked by the AP’s preposterous pontifications, I believed enough for the two of us that I was the one she’d been meant to stand alongside.
And once we had the time, I would do whatever I needed to, to ensure her conviction was just as strong as mine.
But hearing the shouts coming from within the palace, we both took off in a sprint from the room.
She had the magical ability to have popped herself there.
I had the preternatural speed to have reached the blast site in mere seconds.
But neither one of us seemed willing to be out of the other’s sight, so we took the long way as we made our way down the back staircase and headed towards the west wing where my office was located.
Yes, it was oval.
Yes, Pam was to blame.
But I’d drawn the line at allowing her to hang a portrait of Vlad the Impaler behind my desk.
It had looked nothing like him anyway.
“Your Majesty,” Herveaux called out, putting himself in my path and halting my progression.
Smoke was beginning to billow out into the hallway further behind him and I could pick out the distinct scent of C4.
But being a Were, I was certain he would have detected its scent too, so I said nothing, while he explained, “You should wait here until we check the area. There could be a secondary device, just waiting to be detonated once you’re close enough to get hit by the blast.”
“Are there any casualties?” I asked at the same time Sookie questioned, “Do we know who is behind the attack?”
“Yes,” he replied, with his eyes trained on me before turning towards her and answering, “No.”
Then turning his eyes back on me, his mouth opened to say something else when the com link in his ear sounded off with, “Every available unit report to sector four! Hostiles are storming in through the south entrance…”
His words trailed off when the sound of gunfire erupted both over the com link and outside of the palace walls.
I’d heard every word thanks to my enhanced hearing, but I wasn’t the only one in our group of three with vampire blood running through my veins.
Sookie had had plenty of mine and her hearing nearly matched my own – and far surpassed my own in other ways – so she seemed to take a moment to gauge the threat level of our immediate surroundings before giving me a wink with her departing words of, “Duty calls.”
“I’ll never get used to seeing her disappear into thin air,” Herveaux mused out loud, as we both stood there staring at the empty space she had just occupied.
“You will,” I replied with a small shake of my head, knowing there would be no keeping Sookie out of the fray.
It would be like trying to keep Pam from a sale at Saks.
“Pam?” I questioned, while I tried to get a gauge on her through our bond.
Still within the palace, it didn’t feel as though she was in any fear or pain.
But the day ended in ‘Y’, so it was bound to happen at some point in the night.
“Safe. Quinn and his men are with her,” Herveaux replied, which explained her less than pleasant state.
Sookie and Pam were two peas in their own pod in some ways.
Then looking back towards where the blast had occurred, he offered, “It had to be an inside job, but if they were trying to get to you, I don’t understand the logic of taking out the kitchen.”
Turning to me, he added, “Why would you be in the kitchen?”
In fact, I couldn’t recall ever stepping one foot inside of it, but given its purpose, I snarled in a low voice, “Perhaps they were looking to take out my human companion.”
No one but those closest to me knew of Sookie’s true role in my life and her not just human heritage.
We had only returned to the palace hours earlier, so no announcement had been made to the public at large she was now the Queen of Amun.
To everyone but those in my Royal Guard, Susannah was just my pet.
Darkness had descended only a short while earlier, but enough time had elapsed that the majority of the human donors would’ve already seen to their vampire hosts and gone to seek out their own sustenance in order to regain their strength after donating blood.
So anyone could have assumed Sookie would have been there too.
Pam had even stocked the donor pool with what she called Pseudo Sookie’s – since she knew better than to think I would be willing to share mine – so any one of them could have been mistaken for the real thing.
She hadn’t been at the palace for more than a week prior to our departure for the southlands of my kingdom, so it wasn’t that far of a stretch to think whoever was behind the attack would have assumed Sookie would have been in the kitchen too.
“With all of the renovations going on at the palace, I know there’s been an influx of people going in and out,” Herveaux seemingly mulled over before his eyes narrowed, as he added, “People Quinn was in charge of keeping watch over.”
Calling Pam to me through our blood tie as soon as the implication had been made, it made little difference to me whether the Weretiger was complicit in the attack or just incompetent at his job.
Either way, I would not trust him with keeping watch over my child.
“You rang?” she asked, appearing at my side seconds later, and then looked around adding, “Where’s Sookie?”
The sound of more gunfire coming from outside of the palace filtered in at the same time, so I jutted my head in its general direction and offered, “The sale at Saks,” just as Quinn rounded the corner.
Clearly out of breath from chasing after Pam, he nearly turned blue in his attempt to hide it by slowing his oxygen intake, but hearing more gunfire erupt, I decided to go and check on my other girl.
Kentucky Fried Cocksuckers aside, I knew she could handle herself in nearly any fight and I had sensed her relief the moment the floor had rocked beneath our feet.
Fighting was second nature to her. Engaged in a battle, she felt surefooted.
She needed it after having felt so adrift, thanks to the asinine pontifications of others.
We weren’t so different in that aspect.
So perhaps I was channeling a bit of my bonded’s distaste for felines, when I moved quicker than Quinn had been prepared for and knocked him out cold.
Then turning towards the men under his charge who had just come up behind him, I cared nothing for what they’d just witnessed and ordered, “Take your esteemed leader to the infirmary and then report back to Herveaux for further instructions.”
Waiting until they were out of earshot, I turned towards said Were and explained, “I want them all watched until you can figure out if the tiger is a traitor or just inept at his duties. But if it’s the former, I want to know where his men’s loyalties lie.”
Sookie’s skills would be useful in ascertaining their true intentions, so I added, “I’m sure you’ll have help, just as soon as she’s done bathing the palace grounds in blood. In the meantime, sift through the kitty litter and see what he’s buried.”
“It’s a shitty job, but someone’s gotta do it,” he replied without missing a beat and then laughed, “Tink’s gonna be pissed she missed your right hook.”
“That’s what she gets for running off,” I shrugged, unable to not smile just a bit, imagining her wrath when she learned what I’d done.
Watching him grab a few of his men on their way by, he ordered them to head to the infirmary with him, likely thinking as I did.
Using the com link would put any other traitors in our midst on notice where our suspicions had led us to.
Sookie had chosen well for who should lead my Royal Guard.
And with my thoughts back on my bonded, I turned to head out towards the south entrance of the palace to find her. But I waited until we were alone before turning to Pam and switching to Old Norse as I said, “The tiger may be involved in the attack.”
Even while saying the words out loud, I knew they were redundant. My child wasn’t an idiot. In fact she was the exact opposite, so I’d been sure she would’ve figured out what was going on based on what she could feel through our bond, what she’d seen for herself, and everything else she’d heard.
Her loyalty to me was unquestionable, as was her confidence in me as her Maker to see us both through any obstacle in our way.
Which was why I should have realized sooner it wasn’t the attack on the palace that had her so concerned and I soon found out I’d mistaken the cause for Pam’s look of horror and for her fangs to snap down from her gums, when she demanded, “What sale at Saks?”
“Way to focus on the big picture, Pam,” I glared, just as we reached the archway that led to the south facing portico.
We both stood there for another moment in order to take in the big picture of all that we were seeing.
The hostiles numbered a little over a hundred. But they were also clearly human, with all of them draped in makeshift silver chainmail – I suspected, over Kevlar vests worn under their clothing – and armed with weapons of various kinds.
Guns of all sizes and calibers.
Wooden stakes, running the gamut from six inches in length to full-fledged spears.
A few were even armed with axes and pitchforks.
Seeing the latter made me a bit nostalgic, recalling the ‘good old days’.
But given their numbers and the silver covering their bodies, the vampire charged with defending the palace were moving more slowly in order to pick their targets carefully.
Our weapons of choice were usually swords and fangs, if not just brute strength combined with our preternatural speed. But with wooden bullets whizzing through the air, the undead in the crowd were cautiously avoiding running into what could easily be their final deaths.
The same could be said of the Weres in my guard.
Consisting mostly of wolves and panthers, they darted through the crowd, attempting to avoid sinking their teeth into any of the silver being worn by the humans and to keep from meeting their end by whatever weapons their opponents were wielding.
Our traditional methods of battle weren’t up to the test of facing off against those equipped with 21st century armaments.
However, the same could not be said of the blond moving through the crowd like buckshot.
Not only trained in all methods of engagement, Sookie was armed for them too and at some point from the time she had left me at Herveaux’s side and now, she had changed back into what I had come to view as her work uniform.
Badass Barbie – The Black Leather Edition.
Moving through the crowd quicker than they could track her, Sookie had foregone the use of her swords, choosing to engage the enemy with their own weapons instead.
In the span of a few seconds, I watched as she ripped the ax from the hand of a man twice her size and then spun around, using it to cleave the back of his head open like a ripened cantaloupe.
Before gravity could take over, she seemed to defy it altogether by using his size and her hold on the axe lodged in his head to her advantage, lifting herself up to plant her feet into the chest of the closest attacker. Then dropping to her feet, she grabbed the pitchfork that had dropped from his hands as he’d fallen onto his back, and stabbed it through his neck and into the ground beneath him.
Holding onto the handle, she vaulted over the top of it and landed on the back of another, reaching around him and using the automatic rifle still in his grasp to take down everyone within a twelve foot radius of her, while using his body as her shield when his own comrades in arms fired on them both.
And when the Kevlar saved his life, she ended it by snapping his neck with her bare hands before moving onto her next target.
“I can’t believe you won’t share,” Pam grumbled at my side, making me chuckle out, “I can’t believe you think I would.”
In the span of five minutes, we watched as Sookie felled a quarter of the attackers. I suspected the majority of the thirty or so bodies which had already littered the ground upon our arrival, had likely met their ends by her hand.
Even some of the palace guards had taken a moment to just watch her in action, as she moved from target to target, taking them down one by one.
She had yet to use her own weapons to do it.
The humans were obviously no match for a feral part-fairy, with their adrenaline and energy waning, just as rapidly as their will to fight.
Their will to live was strong enough for some of them to begin a fast retreat back the way they came, but the breach in the perimeter had already been sealed and was now under guard by the most formidable shifters in my kingdom.
Their wooden bullets only bounced off of the three lions, two grizzly bears, and one pissed off African elephant blocking their path to freedom.
But I found myself chuckling, recalling the meaning behind Ajamu’s name.
‘He fights for what he wants’.
Given the way he was tossing the humans back into the fray with his trunk, I suspected what he wanted was to see them being picked off by Sookie, who was making her way towards them.
When their numbers had been reduced to a mere dozen, all of my guards stood down and watched Sookie systematically move through them one by one. While they all knew she was mine, it was the first time they had ever seen her in action.
Only the members of my Royal Guard knew of her lethality, so for them to witness my Badass Barbie in action – doing what she did best – I was sure it was a bit like seeing a unicorn.
The men who had not only failed in their attack, but failed in making their escape, all gathered as one in a group. Dropping their weapons to the ground, one by one they held their hands up in surrender.
A move that may have gotten them a show of mercy.
Had the warrior they faced had any.
Stalking towards the men, she neither showed nor felt anything but fury. But she made no moves of aggression towards them and instead came to a stop in front of the first one she reached, appearing as though she was carefully studying his expression.
But I knew what she was really doing.
She was listening to their thoughts.
And she must not have liked what she heard from him because a dagger appeared in her hands and was lodged in his throat a second later.
Maintaining her grip on the hilt, it remained in her hand when he crumpled to the ground as she calmly moved towards the next one in line.
One by one she moved through the crowd. Some remained standing. Even more fell to the ground, gasping their last breaths.
No one said a word.
When she was done with her silent inquisition, out of the group which had once numbered over a hundred, only three remained.
I assumed they were the ones who had information we could use, but at the moment I didn’t care about them.
I only cared to watch the sway of her hips, while she strode towards me, with the gathered crowd of my force parting like the red sea as she moved through them, never taking her eyes from mine.
She truly was a magnificent sight to behold.
When she finally reached the steps leading up to the terrace I hadn’t moved from since walking outside, I silenced whatever she had planned to say by gently pressing my lips to hers.
I could sense her amusement.
Her slight confusion.
Even a little exasperation over me keeping her quiet, when she had information she wanted to share.
But it all became clear to her – and to everyone in attendance – when I traded her lips for kissing the rings on her left hand.
And then holding that same hand up in between us, I turned to face them all, with the silence that blanketed the crowd soon erupting with cheers, when I shared a little information of my own with all of them.