I soon fell asleep with my head on Erik`s chest. I vaguely remembered him putting my head carefully down on the pillow and leaving.
The next thing I noticed was a slight knock on the door. When I didn`t open it, the knock was louder.
I sat up in bed and yelled “one moment” while looking for something to cover myself up with. Erik might find it natural to answer doors naked, but I wasn`t quite there.
Then I saw a robe laid over the bed, I grabbed it and put it on.
On the outside of the door there was a smiling woman with a cart with what appeared to be a healthy amount of breakfast. She also had a suitcase on wheels.
She wheeled both of them in and said her goodbyes. After a quick trip to the bathroom, I started eating. Then I opened the suitcase. It had sweaters, thick trousers, woolen mittens and scarves. Everything needed for a trip to a very cold place.
There were also plane tickets and a note. I picked it up and read:
My dear bonded and lover.
I am sorry I cannot sit with you on the plane, but we will meet again soon after it has landed.
No mention of the trial or the accusations he was going to face. I couldn`t help but let his confidence rub off on me.
I took a shower, put on some warm clothes and headed for the airport. In my Polo, I might add.
Checking in was a bit of a surprise. I hadn`t really looked at my ticket before I came to the airport. I just assumed I would be flying SAS or Icelandair, but it turned out the tickets were for Hugin & Munin Air – the Scandinavian airline that catered to vampires. I mentally hit my forehead. Of course I was flying Hugin & Munin Air. I was travelling with the vampire-queen and her people.
Hugin & Munin Air was actually owned by Queen Thyra and the other Nordic vampire kings and queens. Since most of them were of Viking heritage they chose to name it after Odin`s two ravens who were sent out at dawn to gather information and return in the evening to whisper the information in Odin`s ear.
I bought myself a paperback to read on the plane. It was a cheap love-story. What can I say? I`m a sucker for cheap love-stories. They always end well. Which is more than you can say for real life love-stories.
I went to the gate and sat down with my book and I was just building up to the first kiss between Roland and Rosamunde when I heard my name in someone`s mind. I looked up just fast enough to see Quinn walk into the mens` room. He had apparently noticed me, but wanted to take care of urgent business before saying `hi`. It was fine by me because I didn`t particularly want to small-talk with Quinn right now.
I kept half an eye on the door to be prepared when Quinn might show up, but he didn`t. It was time to board the plane and I was mystified by Quinn`s disappearance and almost worried if there was something wrong with him. But I figured he was a big boy who could handle himself and went onboard the plane.
It was a normal size plane, but the passenger compartment was rather small, probably to make room for all the vampire coffins in the back. I had a first class ticket and sat on the first row in a luxurious seat. I felt like a princess because usually when I fly, and that is not too often, I have to sit in the back in tiny seats with no space for the legs.
A man was already sitting next to me. He nodded slightly and smiled. He was a loud broadcaster so I braced myself for a long flight listening to all of his thoughts, but just when I was putting up my strongest shields, I heard “Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie” from a very familiar brain.
Quinn was getting on board and my presence apparently made him think my name over and over again. He almost ran to the back of the plane when he was stopped by a flight attendant.
“Sir, you have tickets for the first class. Your seat is in the front.” She smiled to Quinn.
Quinn looked like someone had poured a bucked of cold water down his back, but he just shook his head and said:
“I would prefer to sit in the back.”
Flight attendants are apparently used to the strange wishes of first class passengers and found him a seat in the back, but I thought it was rather strange. Was he that embarrassed over having abducted me or had Erik frightened him into keeping his distance?
“Well, at least I won`t have to listen to him calling me `babe`” I thought and snickered to myself.
I picked up my book again when the load broadcaster next to me turned up the volume on his thoughts. I tried to block them, but they were too loud or maybe I was just too tired.
Suddenly he thought something that made me listen in, my nose still being buried in the book.
“Master Vladimir is so clever. He`ll outsmart them all and I`ll be right there with him when he gets a new king elected. Something will definitely happen on Iceland that can be used against the queen in an election campaign. She has reined this stupid little country for over a thousand years. Enough is enough.”
My many years of practice in keeping a straight face certainly came to use now. So Vladimir was not only Queen Thyra`s campaign manager, but also managing the campaign for her, as of yet, unknown competition at the upcoming election.
I fumed inside. I had always felt I couldn`t trust Vladimir, but for him to pull a stunt like this was just so…. I couldn`t even find words in my thoughts. I looked forward to telling the queen and Erik about this.
The plane was now over Iceland. I tried to look discreetly out of the window over the shoulders of what apparently was Vladimir`s day man. Important vampires had humans to look after their businesses when the sun was up and this was, judging from his loud thoughts, Vladimir`s helper.
Iceland was truly as beautiful from the sky as everyone claims. I could see glaciers, lava desserts and some green grass with little white dots which I figured had to be the sheep Iceland was so famous for.
We approached Keflavik airport and I started to wonder where I was going to go. Would someone pick me up? I could have walked back and asked Quinn, but he seemed very determined to stay away from me. I could also ask Vladimir`s day man, but I didn`t really want him to know who I was.
I figured everything had been taken care of. What I hadn`t thought of was the fact that it was just getting dark when we landed. Before I had retrieved my suitcase, Erik was awake. I couldn`t see him, but I could feel him through the bond. That actually made me happy.
I loved travelling to the North in the winter. The amount of hours I could be out of the coffin were perfect. Especially now that I had Sookie to share those hours with.
As soon as I had jumped out of the travel coffin, I looked for Sookie and with the help of the bond, I quickly retrieved her. I enveloped her body with mine and kissed her deeply. One would think we hadn`t seen each other in years. Sookie gave me a smile that would have made her dentist proud.
Then she saw someone that made her lose her smile and she pulled at me to get us to a place with a little more privacy.
“I sat next to Vladimir`s day-man on the plane. You have to tell the queen that Vladimir is a spy!” Sookie whispered.
“For Victor Madden?” I asked in surprise.
Sookie looked as if I had given her something to think about.
“No, Vladimir`s day-man never thought about Victor Madden. He is a spy for someone who wants to win the election. Someone who thinks Queen Thyra has ruled long enough.”
She was quiet for a little while, then she looked up at me. “Of course, I only hear what people are thinking there and then. Vladimir could be a spy for Victor Madden too.” Then she gasped. “That might explain how Victor Madden knew I had a brother. Vladimir met Jason when he lived at my farm.”
I pushed a little at Sookie. I did not want to stay in the airport longer than necessary and was anxious to get us to the Volvo XC90 that was waiting for us. It was definitely no Koenigsegg, but it was a car fit for the unpaved Icelandic roads.
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is about an hour drive from the Keflavik airport. Well, for humans it is an hour. I drive faster, of course. Much faster.
“Are you going to tell the queen about Vladimir, Erik?” Sookie asked.
“Yes, of course, but not right now. The queen is meeting with the King of Iceland to get more details on when the trial is going to be held. She is trying to convince him to hold it this night.”
Fear came through the bond.
“Why so soon? I thought she said in two days?” Now fear was also in Sookie`s face. I grabbed one of her hands in her lap.
“The sooner the better. We have everything planned and we really don`t want to give Victor Madden too much time to learn about those plans.” I pulled her hand to my lips and gave it a kiss.
“It will be a marvelous trial. It will be held at Þingvellir which is where the first Icelandic Parliament was held back in around 930. It was the center of Icelandic culture for centuries. Men would come to fight each other for fun or test who was the bravest by jumping over the canyons. It was a fun place to be.” I smiled at the good memories I had of that place.
“It is also where America and Europe meet, literally speaking. You can see the two tectonic plates grow further and further apart at Þingvellir. So this is a fitting place for Victor Madden`s trial.”
“I thought it was your trial too.”
“And my trial, of course.”
We drove without speaking for a while. Then my phone broke the silence. The ring tone was Kid Creole`s `I`m a Wonderful Thing, Baby`.
When I heard Sookie snicker I started considering changing it into something else. Maybe into that song Sookie loved so much when she listened to it at Quinn`s place? `Kvinde min`/ `My Woman`. No, that one would be Sookie`s ring tone. I would keep `I`m a Wonderful Thing, Baby`. It fit me well.
I smiled and answered the phone.
I couldn`t help a little snicker escape my mouth when I heard his phone play the old Kid Creole hit. I have always loved that song, but now it was hilarious, and yet endearing somehow.
He definitely was a wonderful thing and my heart swelled. He was actually my wonderful thing. I could suddenly understand where the possessiveness came from. I wouldn`t want Erik to look at any other women now. He was mine.
“We need to get some food for you and I have to have a good amount of blood before the fight.”
My eyes widened and my voice was just a scared whisper. “Fight?”
“Oh, I anticipate a good fight this time.” His face told me he was looking forward to it.
“But…” I couldn`t even form a sentence. A minute ago I was thinking about how Erik was mine and now he was going to fight someone. It wouldn`t be a little fistfight, I gathered. My suspicions were confirmed.
“Don`t worry, Sookie. I brought my old sword. It has served me well for a thousand years and will do so tonight too.”
As if the prospect of a sword fight was making me feel easier. I held his hand tighter.
“I don`t want to lose you, Erik!” I whispered looking out the window. I knew I would cry if I looked at him.
I swear that my heart made a beat when she told me she didn`t want to lose me. It was so sweet and tender of her, but I had to smile a bit inside me. As if I would ever let anyone kill me.
“We need to get you something to eat, Sookie. It`s going to be a long night for you.” I stopped at a nice looking restaurant, parked outside and took Sookie by the hand.
The restaurant looked very cozy and we sat down at a table by the window. After a few minutes a sweet waitress came by. She had obviously heard us speak Danish because she addressed us in Danish with heavy Icelandic accent. Danish was apparently still taught at Icelandic schools. I speak Icelandic, but I didn`t want Sookie to feel left out so I answered the waitress in Danish.
Sookie was brought a little bowl with some small, grey squares. My nostrils flared a little, but very quickly I stopped myself from taking in the foul smell. I knew very well what that was.
I got in my playful mood and refrained from telling Sookie what she was almost putting in her mouth. Unfortunately her sense of smell caught up with the stench and she threw the shark meat down in the bowl again without tasting it.
“What the hell is this?” She yelled.
“Rotten shark meat.” I laughed.
“Rotten? Why would people eat rotten food?” She shook her head.
“Well, in the old days before refrigerators, the people here dug meat and fish down in the ground in the autumn to have it last all winter. Iceland was not like Italy or Spain where you could get fresh food all year, you know. There could be months where the weather was too rough for fishing and they had to make sure they would make it through winter. So they dug the food down. And in the spring, when they could fish again, they would make a huge sort of left-over party where they ate any food that was still in the ground. That food would be pretty rotten by then, but eaten with large quantities of alcohol, it made the party so much more fun.”
“You talk about it as if you have actually been to one of those parties?” Sookie asked.
“Oh, yes. When I was human I was fortunate enough to see Iceland. I lived there one winter because the weather was too rough to sail home in.” I laughed. “So I have tasted the rotten shark meat. Let me tell you, it does take almost lethal amounts of alcohol to keep it down.”
Sookie smiled and had sort of a dreamy look.
I loved getting these little tidbits of Erik`s past.
The waitress came by again and wondered if we were ready to order. Erik asked for two Bloods and I asked for puffin as an appetizer and whale as my main course. Environmentalists could just line up because my conscience was white as snow. Puffin and whale are not threatened by extinction on and around Iceland. I had some mineral water to drink. I didn`t want to be drunk at the trial – and the possible fight.
The food was delicious and soon Erik looked at his watch and said we needed to get going.
“I don`t want to be late for my own death sentence.” He joked, making me roll my eyes. I felt almost sick, but I didn`t want to ruin his self-confidence.
I excused myself to make use of the little girl`s room, I really didn`t want to break off a sword fight because I needed a potty break; and we were off.
I could feel Sookie getting more and more nervous for every minute we drove and it wasn`t just because of my reckless driving that had her bite her nails. I sent her calm through the bond, but after a while I figured that nervousness was natural in a situation like this, and let her bite her pretty nails. They would grow out again.
I was looking forward to this. I would finally get to meet Victor Madden again and with any luck, he would leave the place one head shorter. I was going to make sure Sookie was safe during the fight. I didn`t want her to be in any danger. I would probably also have to make sure she was far away from Vladimir. If he was a spy for Victor Madden, there`s no telling what he might do to Sookie.
I didn`t pay much attention to the beautiful Icelandic landscape. I was mentally preparing my defense, the accusations I was going to make against Victor Madden and any fight we might end up in.
Erik was deep in thought and I was worrying. I couldn`t help it. I have never seen a fight, apart from the minor fist fights the guests at my bar entertain themselves with from time to time, and I didn`t like the prospect of watching one. I deeply regretted coming here.
But the regrets I might have had in the car were nothing to the ones I had when we got out of the car and I realized what I was getting myself into.
On the ragged cliffs of Þingvellir there were vampires and humans lined up in a huge circle. All the vampires looked fierce. More than half of them were wearing what looked like Viking gear. Was the Viking age some kind of fetish for them or were they all turned at the same time?
Even scarier was that all of them carried heavy swords in their hands and some also had knives in their belts. In a larger circle around the vampires, humans were scattered. I assumed most of the humans were lovers or day people to a vampire and they probably stood close to their vampire. I even saw a few weres, among them Quinn who stood near Queen Thyra.
In the middle of those circles I saw three women. I figured they were the Norns, but gasped in surprise when I got a closer look at them. I had always figured that the Norns would be very old and wrinkled, but these three women looked like they were in the Marvel-cartoon about Valkyries. They were tall, strong and very sexy. They all had long flowing hair, but one was blond, one brunette and the last one`s hair looked like it was on fire.
This was an amazing, but also frightening sight. I turned around to Eric and almost fainted when I saw that he had changed his normal clothes and now looked like the Viking he had once been. His blond hair was blowing in the wind and he was wearing a tunic with a leather belt in his waist. The belt had the largest belt buckle I had ever seen, it looked like a golden snake crawling on his stomach. The tunic had fine embroidery in red and blue.
He wore leather pants that were so tight I almost jumped him. They were so sexy. But when I looked down at his feet, I felt bad. He did not wear anything. In November. On Iceland.
“Oh, Erik:” I said with a sad voice pointing at his feet.
“I`m fine, Sookie. Having bare feet gives me more control and the temperature doesn`t bother me.”
I pulled my eyes away from his feet and looked up again. He must have felt how much I liked this outfit because he started teasing me.
“Do you see anything you like, Sookie?” And all I could answer was an eloquent “Uh huh.”
He went back to the car and pulled out the largest sword I had ever seen. If men with small penises had large swords, Erik`s penis would be the size of a baked bean, but I of course knew the truth. Some men apparently had very large swords because they could handle very large swords.
He gave me a deep kiss, holding me close with one hand and the sword with the other.
“It`ll be just fine, Sookie.” He said. “Please go to Queen Thyra`s crew. Stand by Quinn. He`ll look after you.”
Erik followed me over to Quinn and then we noticed that Vladimir was standing just in front of him, smiling his usual smile. Erik went over to Queen Thyra and whispered something to her and Vladimir was called over to stand on her other side. Rasmus laughed. Erik had apparently not told her the real reason why Erik didn`t want Vladimir close to me and Rasmus had assumed it was jealousy.
Quinn gave me a nervous smile. I couldn`t help wonder why he would still be nervous; Erik had followed me to his side himself, so he couldn`t really be afraid that Erik wouldn`t want me close to him?
I listened in on his thoughts and they were just the same as in the airport. “Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie.” His mind was chanting my name.
Before I could speculate more about Quinn and his strange thoughts, one of the Norns started to talk and everyone else went silent.
“We are gathered here to…” Then the next Norn took over. “Hold trial over two vampires…” The third Norn started talking. “Victor Madden and Erik Northman.”
The way the three Norns were finishing each other`s sentences made me think of Huey, Duey and Louie and I couldn`t help letting out a schoolgirl giggle. I suppose I was very nervous. People around me gave me looks to make me shut up, but Erik winked at me and that made my heart swell.
Erik walked down to the Norns and so did a much smaller vampire with brown curly hair. He was not wearing Viking clothes, but a tailor made suit that made him look like he had jumped right out of one those magazines for the metrosexual man that had become so popular these last years. Only, the men portrayed in those magazines rarely carried swords.
He was very handsome in a ruthless way. Or maybe I just thought he looked ruthless because I knew he could be the reason for Erik`s final death. He smiled a smarmy smile and said “Eric.” Erik smiled a more lethal smile and just nodded his head. I assumed it was Victor Madden.
I looked over at the side of the circle Viktor Madden come from. All of those vampires wore modern clothes.
In the front row I saw a dark haired vampire with a haircut that made me think of the television series North and South. He looked as if he had jumped out of the American Civil War. Next to him was a female vampire who must have been made after World War II. She was small, round and wore silver rimmed glasses. And next to her, I squinted my eyes, because it looked just like a bad copy of Elvis. I quickly swallowed another giggle.
The Norns explained the rules. First Victor Madden would have his trial, because the accusations against him were less severe than mine. I was after all accused of killing a king.
Queen Thyra was the one to voice the accusations against Victor Madden. As expected Victor Madden denied any knowledge of Quinn`s mother, Sookie`s brother or the spy at Queen Thyra`s castle. He looked pretty confident, thinking we had no proof.
“What do you base these accusations on?” The Norns asked in one voice.
“We have a telepath at our court and…” She didn`t get any further because the word `telepath` had stirred commotion in Victor Madden`s camp. Victor Madden himself looked a little less confident, but it was obvious he knew about Sookie.
“Let us meet this telepath.” The Norns said. I didn`t like it and I could feel Sookie almost faint across the bond. But she complied. She looked so lovely walking down to us, but there was also a feeling of a lamb to the slaughterhouse in her walk.
I smiled my most reassuring smile to her. Unfortunately my sentiment was ruined by Victor Madden sniffing her when she went by. “Delicious.” He said. I wanted to break his neck, but I`m not stupid. I knew his game.
“So you are a telepath?” The Norns said. All three of them touched her head for some time and looked at each other. They nodded.
“I congratulate you, Thyra, for having such a valuable attribute in your court.” They said to Queen Thyra. Then they turned to three different directions and said with a loud, clear voice: “This woman is indeed a telepath. We have looked in her head and found that the accusations against Victor Madden are true.”
Then they turned to Victor Madden. “You are to release the brother of this telepath and the mother of the polar bear up there. You are also to pay damages to all four and to Queen Thyra. We set the damages to one month of what you earn to each of the five parties, which would be five month`s earning all in all.”
Victor Madden cursed, but kept his calm. It was obvious that he was more interested in the next trial than his own.
Sookie went back to stand next to Quinn. Now it was my turn to be on trial.