Lifting her head, Sophie-Anne placed a hand to her chest as she feigned distress. “I’m shocked and outraged to be accused of such underhanded and illegal things,” she lied, putting on one of her best performances. “I would never, never, do such a thing to Ms. Stackhouse…”
“Mrs. Northman,” Roman corrected, cutting her off. He had to hand it to Sophie-Anne; she was quite the show woman. If he didn’t already know she was lying through her teeth, he might have been tempted to believe her. But being Godric’s right-hand-man had many benefits. Roman had earned Godric’s trust, and he was well aware of the truth about Sookie.
“Sorry, Mrs. Northman,” Sophie-Anne amended, forcing the words out. “As I was saying, Mrs. Northman is an asset of my state. She has been married to one of my Sheriffs for years; therefore, I would have no reason to try something so underhanded.”
“And yet just a few short moments ago, you were claiming you were unaware of their marriage as you did not give them permission to marry,” Roman replied. “Although I suppose at the moment this is the least of your concerns. The evidence against you is incriminating to say the least.”
“I’ll admit, given the evidence presented here tonight makes things appear to look otherwise,” Sophie-Anne conceded. “I’ll also admit it explains the disrespect shown to me by both my Sheriff and his wife, so I will forgive them for that. Let me assure you that although it sounds like me, it’s definitely not me on those recordings. If…if I was going to disregard the laws our honored Council put forth, I would never be as stupid to reveal my plans or give orders over a phone line that I didn’t know was secure. I have been around many centuries; I wouldn’t make such a juvenile mistake.”
As she spoke, Sophie-Anne seethed internally. She couldn’t believe she had made such a rookie mistake. She never even considered that Eric would bug Bill’s house. Why would she? She wasn’t aware that Eric had caught Bill peeking in on him and Sookie. “I fear I’m being set up,” she continued. “Whoever is behind this is trying to come between me and my Sheriff. They’re attempting to weaken my state.”
Sookie barely restrained from snorting out loud as she listened to Sophie-Anne spin her little tale. It was just as she and Eric suspected. Sophie-Anne was attempting to play the victim. She was actually trying to make it appear as if she was being set up for a possible takeover.
“The Louisiana Queen makes an adequate argument,” Salome said, a thoughtful look on her face. “There is no way to be a hundred percent certain the voice on the recording is truly that of Sophie-Anne’s. While it undoubtedly sounds like her, it could have as easily been an imposter. Queen Leclerq just may be the target of a set-up. There’s no video footage of her instructing Compton to procure Mrs. Northman.”
“While that is a possibility,” Desmond replied, stepping forward once again. “I would like to replay an audio recording that was recorded a few nights prior to the attack on Mrs. Northman.” Seeing the judges nod in permission, Desmond replayed a short part of the message, and, once again, everyone present heard Bill report he couldn’t get close to Sookie due to Eric’s continued presence, and the Queen’s reply that she would order Eric to court so Bill could get closer to Sookie. “I would like to remind everyone of the night Mr. Compton arranged for Mrs. Northman to be attacked so he could get his blood into her. Eric the Norseman was not present. The Queen had summoned him to New Orleans for the previous night. The Queen, in fact, questioned the Norseman about his marriage to Mrs. Northman and detained him overnight, just as she said she would on the recording. Do you still claim you’re innocent in all of this, Your Majesty?”
Sophie-Anne glared at the demon lawyer as he backed her into a corner. It was clear now that he was on Eric and Sookie’s side. “I am innocent,” she lied, still refusing to concede defeat. “I don’t care what it is on that recording. For all I know you’re a part of the conspiracy against me. That recording could’ve been tampered with to fit your case against me. I have done nothing wrong.”
“Cheese and rice! Now I understand why she and Hadley get on so well,” Sookie mumbled, not really caring who overheard.
“Why don’t we ask Mr. Compton?” Salome suggested. “I believe regardless of whether Sophie-Anne was involved, he was. It’s clear to all of us that he is guilty of the crimes of which he is accused. Perhaps he will be willing to shed some light on Sophie-Anne’s alleged involvement.”
“Very well,” Roman said, fixing his gaze on the younger vampire. “William Compton, from the evidence presented here tonight it is clear that you are, in fact, guilty of all that of which you have been accused. There is no doubting this. Before we pass judgement on you, perhaps you would like to enlighten us on Sophie-Anne Leclerq’s role in all of this. Mr. Compton, I ask you now in front of this trial and all its witnesses: were you following the orders of your Queen in your attempts to come between Eric the Norseman and his bonded wife in order to procure Mrs. Northman?”
Rising to his feet, Bill straightened his shoulders and stared at the Council. Admitting he was following the orders of Sophie-Anne wouldn’t do him any good. The procuring of humans was illegal. The moment Sophie-Anne ordered him to do it, he should’ve reported her to the Council. It didn’t matter that all monarchs did it or that Bill had knowledge of two Council members who were fond of the practice themselves, as he had procured a human or two for them in the past. That, of course, was all hush-hush. No one was to know of this. If you were ever caught in the act of procurement, you said nothing. You were on your own. Bill wouldn’t get leniency by telling the truth. His sentence would still be just as severe. On the slim possibility that he would escape with his life, Bill would need all the contacts he had made and being declared a traitor would do him no good. With that decided there was only one answer.
“No, I wasn’t,” Bill lied, pleasing his queen and earning her favor. “At no time did I receive orders from Queen Leclerq. She didn’t order me to procure the telepath. She’s innocent in this.”
Sophie-Anne beamed as she listened to Bill deny her involvement. As far as she was concerned, Bill was the only one who could implicate her, and he had honored his queen, defending her from the charges.
“Thank you, Mr. Compton,” Salome said, taking the lead again. A small smile curled her lips as she added, “Given Mr. Compton’s statement, I do not believe we can in all good faith hold Queen Sophie-Anne accountable for something we cannot prove she had knowledge of. I believe it’s more than likely that she is being set up to look guilty…”
“If I may,” Desmond interrupted, trying to appear polite, even as he cut her off. “It has already been proven that Mr. Compton is a liar. To trust his words now would be unwise given the seriousness of the accusations against both him and the Queen of Louisiana…”
“Are you accusing me of being a liar?” Sophie-Anne shrilled loudly, her fangs snapped down as she snarled at the demon lawyer.
“With all due respect, Your Majesty, it wouldn’t be the first time a monarch lied to protect themselves,” Desmond countered.
“How dare you?” Sophie-Anne hissed.
“Enough!” The Ancient Pythoness said, banging a gavel on the table. “There is one simple way to solve this,” she added, once the room had quieted down. “Tiger,” she called, addressing Quinn once again. “Bring her in.”
Heads turned as Quinn walked over to the side door and opened it. The vampires craned their necks to see who ‘her’ was. A hiss tore from Bill’s throat as he watched Quinn escort his Maker into the room. Fear rose in him as he laid eyes on Lorena for the first time in over fifty years. One look at Sophie-Anne told Bill she was as equally as shocked to see Lorena.
“No!” Sophie-Anne snarled, eyeing Lorena. “She has no right to be here. This doesn’t concern her. I demand she leave.”
“Ms. Ball is here as our guest,” Roman informed her, his tone taking on a steely quality. “Given her connection to Mr. Compton, I would say she has every right to be here. And you have no right to demand anything of us.”
“I won’t stand here in the presence of that,” Sophie-Anne replied, distaste dripping off her words, as she pointed a finger at Lorena. “I won’t subject myself to it any longer. Andre, Berts, come. We’re leaving,” she added, as she spun on her heels and stormed down the small aisle between the chairs.
“Guards, stop her,” Roman ordered, as he watched Sophie-Anne throw one of her tantrums. He had been expecting her to try and leave the moment she saw Lorena, and he was prepared for it.
The guards reacted instinctively to Roman’s order. They quickly descended on Sophie-Anne and her children, blocking her path and preventing her from leaving. Neither Sophie-Anne nor her children were prepared for a fight and they knew they wouldn’t stand a chance against the Council guards. They reluctantly returned to the front of the room.
“Thank you,” Roman said with a smirk before turning his attention to Lorena. “Ms. Ball, if you will.”
Lorena smirked as she stared at Bill. She had been waiting for this moment for a very long time. The last time she’d seen Bill had been just before Sophie-Anne threw her out of Louisiana. That was only before Sophie-Anne, her children, and Bill had spent a week torturing her. Lorena had sworn, as she left Louisiana a broken, bloody mess, that she would one day get her revenge on her child and his bitch queen. It had taken her fifty years, but she was finally ready to make good on her promise.
“William, as your Maker, I command you to tell the truth,” Lorena ordered. Turning back to the judges, she bowed before them as she added, “Ask your questions. He will answer you honestly now.”
“Thank you, Ms. Ball,” Roman replied. “Now, Mr. Compton, why did you move into Area Five in Louisiana?”
“I was ordered to return to my hometown to assess whether or not the story of a telepath living there was true,” Bill answered truthfully. He cursed Lorena for her interference and robbing him of the ability to lie. “And if they were true, I was to procure the telepath by any means necessary.”
“I see. Who ordered you?” Roman asked.
“My Queen, Sophie-Anne Leclerq,” Bill replied, shooting Lorena a glare.
Murmurs spread through the room as Bill revealed his and Sophie-Anne’s guilt to all. By the time he was done, Bill had revealed everything: Sophie-Anne’s orders, her reaction to Eric and Sookie’s marriage, and how he had arranged for Sookie to be attacked. There was no piece of information left hidden. Once he was done, Bill fell back in his chair. He knew he was finished. No one could save him now. By the looks of it so was Sophie-Anne.
“When was the last time you saw Hadley?” Sookie asked, speaking up before anyone had a chance to ask anything else.
“The night before I returned to Bon Temps,” Bill answered, unable to stop himself. “The Queen let me play with her as a going away present.”
“That hole just keeps getting bigger,” Sookie said with a smile, as she leaned into Eric.
“Indeed it does, Mrs. Northman,” Roman agreed. Turning his gaze to Sophie-Anne, Roman grinned as he saw the look of anger on her face. “Do you still deny your involvement of this, Ms. Leclerq?” he asked. No one missed that he had referred to her as ‘Ms.’ and not ‘Queen.’ Not one of them had to hazard a guess as to what it meant.
“What does it matter?” Sophie-Anne replied, dropping any pretense of innocence. “This whole thing is ridiculous. She’s human, just a blood bag. Who cares if I tried to procure her? She’s a telepath for fuck’s sake. She should be chained up and used for our benefit and pleasure. I only did what the rest of you would have…”
“I think you will find Mrs. Northman is more than just a human,” Godric said, his voice chillingly calm, a stark contrast to the rage flowing through him. “Telepathy is not a human trait. Your actions could have had far reaching consequences. You have disgraced yourself, your state, and this very Council. You do not deserve the position of Queen…”
“No!” Sophie-Anne snarled, cutting him off. Anger shot through her body as the meaning of Godric’s words hit her. “I won’t allow it. I’m the Queen. I denounce this trial and the Council. I won’t listen to you any longer,” she ranted, her eyes wild. “You’re no one. You’re nothing… This is entirely your fault,” she shouted, as her eyes landed on Sookie.
As she stared at Sookie, hatred bubbled up in her. It was all the telepath’s fault. If she had only done as she was told and come with her, none of this would have happened. “The telepath is mine!” Sophie-Anne hissed, as she shot forward and grabbed Sookie by her arms. Her nails dug into Sookie’s arms, drawing her blood as she lunged at her neck intending to sink her fangs into her and drain her.
The second Eric saw Sophie-Anne touch his wife a red mist descended over him. Instinct took over and he launched himself at the Queen. His desperate need to protect his wife over-rid everything else. Grabbing Sophie-Anne by her red hair, Eric threw her backwards and away from Sookie before attacking her with everything he had. Sophie-Anne’s screams filled the room as Eric tore her apart, limb-by-limb. By the time he was done there was nothing left of Sophie-Anne but a pile of bloody goo and the blood that soaked his clothes.
“Eric,” Sookie whimpered, drawing his attention back into the now. Looking over at her, Eric bared his teeth and snarled as he noticed a few vampires creeping closer to her, his little display of violence having riled them up. Speeding to her side, Eric growled at them, warning them to back off or face the same fate as Sophie-Anne. As he pulled Sookie into his arms, uncaring of the blood on him, he surveyed the room. It seemed while he was tearing apart Sophie-Anne; Thalia and the other Louisiana vampires had torn apart Andre and the Berts. Only Bill remained, and one look at him, told Eric that he knew he was screwed.
Sookie clung to Eric, her fingers curling into his blood-drenched shirt. She didn’t care that the blood was soaking into her dress. She just needed Eric’s protection. Her fear was still high from Sophie-Anne’s attack, and having some of the other vampire try to crowd her hadn’t helped. She knew Eric’s attack on Sophie-Anne had aroused their bloodlust, and she had fresh, open wounds on her arms from Sophie-Anne grabbing her. She must have looked like an all-you-can-eat buffet to the vampires. Despite it all, she had no fear of Eric. Even after watching him tear Sophie-Anne apart, she knew he would never hurt her.
“It appears we are in need of a new monarch,” the Ancient Pythoness said dryly.