The Rhodes Less Traveled: Chapter 3
I woke on the second night in Rhodes dreading my little harem routine in the booth. Yes, it was boring, I thought, but at least there weren’t any bombs. So I got dressed and Eric and I had room service before heading downstairs. We met Pam in the hallway as her room was right next to ours.
Eric left us in our cheesy little booth and went upstairs to some meeting while Pam and I sold cds. I promised him that I’d try to control my temper. After a few hours, Eric reappeared with a grim look on his face. “Did you bring something to wear that looks a little more business-like, lover?”
I was so happy to be relieved of cd duty and thanked Pam profusely for minding the booth while I changed. I wanted a quickie in the room, but Eric was uncharacteristically serious and said we couldn’t be late. That actually gave me pause and I wondered what I was headed for.
Eric led me down to the third floor and I knew we were seeing somebody important because it seemed that the lower the floor, the higher the vamps. The door was flanked by two tall black female vampires carrying swords who didn’t look me in the eye. Eric and I stepped inside to a sitting room with four vampires in it. An old woman on the sofa stood and introduced herself and dismissed the other three. She was the Ancient Pythoness, the oldest looking vampire I had ever seen, and by that I mean that she was old when she was turned. I had no idea how old she really was. I quickly realized that she was also blind.
“I am so pleased to meet you. May I call you Sookie?”
“Yes, please do.”
“I understand that you are new and therefore have issues controlling your gift. As a precaution, I have brought you here to my suite. If I am stunned, I will be surrounded only by those that I trust. May I dismiss your maker so that we can be alone?”
I looked at Eric who sent me a wave of calm. “Yes, ma’am.”
Eric stepped out into the hall but I could still feel that he was near. The Pythoness explained that she was the judge in the vampire court cases being conducted in the ballroom downstairs. She had several cases coming up that involved humans and wished for me to read those on the witness stand for her. “You may deny my request, of course. No one can force you to comply. But you should also be aware that I have agreed to pay the state of Louisiana the fee that Andre Paul negotiated with my people in return for your assistance.” I felt my temper flare at the mention of Andre’s name, but I tamped it down. “You should also be aware that your maker objects to our agreement. His position is that he wants what is best for you and not just your state. You should also know that he incurred a heavy fine by interfering. I negotiated waiving his fine as part of our agreement. I find his concern for you to be touching. Fascinating, actually. He asked that I provide a Britlingen for your protection. They cannot be stunned, you know. And they are very expensive. But it was his personal request and so I agreed.”
I thought about it as she explained what I’d be doing and I made the decision to do it. It made me mad that Andre had rented me out as a commodity, but I felt like reading humans on the witness stand would make for a much more interesting evening than selling cds would.
And so our entourage made quite a little show as we entered the court that was set up in a ballroom downstairs. I was flanked by Eric and a Britlingen named Clovache who made the Pythoness’ tall women with swords look like pansies. We all found our places on stage with the help of Quinn (who gave me a wink that I hoped Eric didn’t catch). Eric was seated below the platform but in the front row of spectator seats and never took his eyes off of me. I sat beside the Pythoness.
The cases were very interesting, and I simply sat quietly and listened until a human was put on the stand. Then I approached the stand and held the human’s hand while he or she testified and then if I had anything to report I walked across the stage to whisper to the Pythoness as quietly as possible. I knew that there were probably plenty of vampire ears that could hear me, but at least the humans couldn’t. Fortunately, they all spoke the truth as directed and we had no problems. This went on for several cases and most of the night until the final case began. I read two humans from Arkansas on the stand and as I finished with the second one, she was stepping down as the next witness was called—a vampire named Henrik Feith. I was crossing the stage to return to my place beside the Pythoness and glanced at Henrik as I passed him. He had a look of absolute horror on his face which I found very odd until I looked down and saw the wooden arrow protruding from his chest. The entire room grew silent as every vampire hit the floor—that is every vampire except for Eric. I heard the Pythoness shriek since she was the only one who hadn’t seen what had happened but clearly knew that something was wrong. I vaguely registered Eric’s movement as he flew to me with vampire speed, but it was Quinn who was closer and got to me first and took the second arrow in his shoulder. Everything seemed to happen at once—poor Henrik disintegrated, Clovache produced a throwing star and decapitated the vampire who had thrown the arrows, Eric knocked me to the floor and Quinn lay bleeding beside me. The smell of blood hit me and I was grateful that Eric had ahold of me.
Very quickly, Clovache and Eric had me out the door and into the stairwell. We ran up to the ninth floor and Eric had me in our room in a flash. Clovache waited outside our door. I sat on the bed and watched Eric pace mostly. He kept pulling his phone out of his pocket and calling someone, but clearly all he got was a voice mail. Finally, he got a person and told them he’d be right down. He knelt on the floor in front of me and took my hands in his. “I’m going down to find out what happened. It didn’t appear to me that you were the intended target, but I’ll feel better when we learn more. Don’t leave this room, okay? Clovache will be right outside.”
I kissed him and promised I’d wait. After about an hour, he finally called and told me to change into my formal and to have Clovache escort me back down to him. He was still in a meeting, but the ball was going ahead as planned. I was excited that I’d finally get to have some fun and quickly changed into my ice blue dress that I knew Eric would just love.
I called the front desk after I’d changed and asked where Quinn had been taken. Then Clovache and I headed downstairs together. My first stop was at the infirmary. Two weres were tending to Quinn, but when he saw me, he told them that he wanted me to come in. Clovache and the weres waited outside as I sat beside Quinn’s bed.
“Quinn, you’re the bravest of the brave.”
He smiled his broad smile in spite of being in obvious pain and I told him what happened even though I really knew very little. I thanked him for his selfless act and he just said, “That’s what friends are for.”
I was overwhelmed at his courage and only thought about it for a brief second before I pricked my finger on my fang and held it out to him. His smile faltered and his eyes never left mine as he took my finger in his mouth. As I withdrew my finger, he said, “There aren’t many vampires that would offer their blood to a were. I don’t know what to say.”
“That’s what friends are for, Quinn.”
And then I headed downstairs to dance the rest of the night away with my beautiful boyfriend.