**A/N: From what my muse and outline (don’t laugh) are telling me, this is MOST LIKELY the next-to-last (“penultimate” for you wordies) chapter of this part of this story. Remember, Attaining is the sequel to Anticipating and The Revealing of Andre, and that’s where the dangling bits (mysteries, unsolved plot points, etc.) from the first two fics are solved. This chapter is a long one… It should have been broken into two, perhaps even three, chapters, but…but it flowed…plus I didn’t think you’d want to wait. Go grab a coffee and a donut, and enjoy!!**
Emma straightened her skirt as she waited to be escorted into the Coronation venue. She hoped the inner room where the ceremonies were to take place would be a little cooler…and a little less muggy. The Louisiana weather might be perfect for vampires but not so much for everyone else.
The past week had been intense. Just after the kidnapping and therefore quite understandably Andre had barely managed to let her out of his sight long enough to go to the bathroom. As things sped up and he had strategy and security details to tend to, he would leave her side only after being assured he’d left her in the capable hands of trusted vampires and…and a slew of guards.
She hadn’t had a spare moment to herself at any rate. There had been fittings, information to learn about who all the kings and queens were and their positions in the vampire political scheme, coaching by sometimes Andre but usually Sophie-Anne on how the Coronation and Pledging would go, what she was to do, to expect…
After a while it had all started to blur into one indecipherable mess but she’d been determined to see the whole thing through.
Andre and, she found out later, Eric had considered postponing the entire thing, both things actually, in part to give her and Sookie “time to recover from their ordeal”, which she translated to mean “time for Andre and Eric to recover from their ordeal”, but mostly additional time to ramp up fortifications and security and hopefully catch the bad guys…
When Andre had first brought up the idea, she had honestly if briefly considered it. A respite from any “public”…anything had sounded tempting, and more time spent alone with Andre sounded even better, but her intuition urged her to go forward with their plans. He had seemed both pleased and disgruntled with her answer, and her teasing him to “buck up and become a king already” had led to a very pleasant if rushed afternoon before the final fittings and “learn how the vampire world works” lessons had begun in earnest that night.
The next afternoon she, Sookie, and Tracy had been eating a late lunch in the main room of her quarters when Andre rose and within minutes Eric appeared at the door.
Emma hid a smile. She, Sookie, and even Tracy had been extremely politely if strongly “discouraged” from leaving the castle grounds for any reason, and in fact had been strongly encouraged to remain in either their own quarters or with Emma in hers.
Andre, bless his worried heart, had even issued a decree: They were to be escorted by no fewer than three guards when moving between their quarters, and while Tracy was to continue with her duties – Emma had spoken a quiet, sweet word with Andre in private later about the difference between “maid” and “friend” and how Tracy had definitely risen from the one to the other – she was also to be escorted by no fewer than three guards at all times.
Understandably, their vampires were taking no chances…even Wybert and Sigebert had nodded sternly…and in unison.
The ladies had agreed to the enhanced security protocols with only the slightest reluctance. Their safety truly was at increased risk now, but mostly they simply didn’t want their beloved vampires to ever suffer that kind of worry again.
Once left to their own devices and before more infernal fittings, Emma and Sookie had encouraged Tracy to voice her thoughts. She had initially scoffed at the tightened restrictions but had played along on Emma and Sookie’s behalf. She took their safety to heart but hadn’t considered that she would be at risk, too, because of her duties and proximity to them.
The were knew much about vampires, but as she was new to her relationship with Rasul she didn’t quite understand how very intensely vampires felt about the ones they held dearest. Sure, they felt the heights of passion and protectiveness and adoration, but they felt just as intensely the depths of fear and despair and terror, too. Once enlightened, she had quietly agreed with her friends’ reasoning.
On behalf of her respect for Rasul’s feelings, she would take no chances, either, no matter how restrictive things were at the moment.
Once the fittings were completed for the night (again) and the room was cleared, the ladies had discussed the pros and cons of delaying the inevitable.
Later, when Andre and Eric had virtually joined forces to suggest one last time that the upcoming proceedings be delayed if only by a month, Emma and Sookie had exchanged just one look and politely declined the offer…again.
Any postponement would automatically be read as a weakness by even those vampires not involved in the kidnapping. Such perceived weakness would most certainly be both exaggerated and exploited, and could even potentially cause some current supporters to doubt Andre’s ability to rule.
He didn’t need to start out his kingship under a cloud of doubt.
Emma felt badly for Andre. He didn’t want the kingship, hadn’t asked for it, but knew it was something he had to do. He had maintained the status quo in one form or another for several centuries and the only “place” he could go was…up – the only advancement in the vampire world possible for him was to either become a Regent or a King. It was a testament to his Maker’s appreciation and respect for his loyalty and service that she truly wanted this for him.
So…he was basically stuck assuming a position he didn’t want via a ceremony he didn’t want and, to make it even worse, under circumstances that were far less than ideal. She didn’t blame him for wanting to delay the whole thing for several reasons, but knew his primary concern truly was for her safety.
That neither the Coronation nor, indeed, the Pledging were absolutely required to be public spectacles was irrelevant. Vampire tradition was deeply rooted in dramatic ceremonies and dramatic pageantry and…drama.
Unfortunately, there was no room for delicate considerations such as her or Sookie’s safety in a vampire world built on appearances – the more invincible, indomitable, and invulnerable, the better. If the stupid Coronation or the stupid Pledging, both of which she would have eagerly anticipated if not for the current circumstances, were even postponed for a month…
Apparently having felt Eric’s well-hidden turmoil about his Sookie’s safety and having a free minute, the Viking’s own Maker had called at that point, and after a quick conversation had been placed on speaker to engage Emma, Sookie, and others in the room.
After hearing various opinions about the subject and probably reading between many lines, Godric had gone silent for a moment before politely reassuring both Eric and Andre, and a silent Rasul, of the logic inherent in continuing as planned.
The ancient vampire had then smoothly suggested a few modifications to security, some ideas already in use, some new…and he suggested using a different venue – a location not already as well-known to the vampire world as the Palace would be.
Andre had immediately called his Maker who had appeared with surprising alacrity.
Emma and Sookie had exchanged shrugs as Andre, Eric, Sophie-Anne, and this Godric person began speaking so quickly that their words were becoming mere buzzing sounds.
Emma liked Eric’s Maker’s voice with his smooth tones and easy power, and she noted how all the other vampires in the room, even Sophie-Anne, seemed to take his logical advice to heart.
And he did have good advice as far as she could tell…which wasn’t far. Tracy with her were hearing had been attempting to keep up with the conversation but had only been able to conclude that the Coronation and Pledging would now definitely be held at another location.
Once the impromptu conference call had concluded with Eric promising to call his Maker again later, Sophie-Anne had remained in the room to help with Emma’s Royal Education Project while the other vampires had hastily kissed their chosens senseless before blurring off to do…whatever it was they were going to do.
Since that night Emma had seen surprisingly little of her Andre compared to the previous nights. He would pop in at various times to check on her progress and give praise and encouragement but would leave soon after. She’d seen Sigebert and Wybert only once since then, and kind of missed the big lugs. Eric and Rasul had been in and out a few times but that was usually when she was being coached on yet more super-important vampire crap.
Despite the fact that a lot of it really didn’t make much sense, and that some of it was in fact contradictory, Emma did try to remember and understand as much of what she was told as she could. She knew that she’d need this hasty if thorough information in her future life evidentially “ruling” by Andre’s side…which also made no sense to her. She wasn’t a vampire for fuck’s sake! But for whatever reason it seemed to be what Andre wanted.
That didn’t mean all the information, when thrown at her all at once, wasn’t confusing more often than not.
Her part in the Coronation, however, was easy. All she had to do was sit with practiced imperturbability when everyone else sat and stand with that same imperturbability when everyone else stood. Her main fear was that she would screw up during the following Pledging.
In a moment of curiosity a while back she’d asked Andre why they were having the Coronation before the Pledging, and his answer had both amused and saddened her.
He’d told her that once he was king, no one on the planet could object to his chosen Pledge, but if he happened to be Pledged to her, a human, before being Crowned, other monarchs could, in theory, challenge his ascension.
He was taking no chances.
Ahh, the Pledging…
Sophie-Anne hadn’t known all that much about how a Pledging worked between the two people involved since she’d never been Pledged herself, but thanks to her vampire memory, she knew everything there was to know about the ceremony itself. At first it had seemed unnecessarily complicated to Emma, but upon reflection she’d realized that it was nothing more than a dance orchestrated by tradition and some powerful figure wearing a hooded cloak and wielding a fancy knife and cup…chalice…cup…whatever.
Emma figured she would say some words, listen to some words, get cut, cut, bleed, drink, then be done…
Ok, it was a bit more complicated than all that, but it was doable.
Sookie and to a slightly lesser extent Tracy, but only because she’d had less experience being an active participant in the vampire world, had been godsends. Sookie had helped Sophie-Anne explain and clarify the few things Emma hadn’t immediately understood, and both had helped quiz her later to set it in her mind.
They had all agreed that some parts of the vampire political swamp and the labyrinth of “traditions” would make no sense no matter how hard they thought about it.
Emma’s head still swirled with stray thoughts of royal protocol, which name ruled which state, which name was which political friend or foe, when she was supposed to curtsy and when not which would be irrelevant after the Pledging…
They had even tried showing her what photos had been available of various rulers, but that had proven useless. Emma could remember either names or faces, but not both until or unless she met the person in the flesh, no matter how cool said flesh was, several times. It had been a nice thought, though.
She fidgeted – it wouldn’t be long now.
Even though vampires could be, literally, as “silent as the night”, the noise within the huge room was loud in a weirdly soft way, and it was making her nervous. The witnesses had already been seated and it didn’t sound as though they were being very patient in their waiting.
Wishing that all this was taking place in the regular Palace as they’d originally planned was useless. Moving everything over to Sophie-Anne’s far lesser known, and smaller if far more ornate, secondary palace-slash-mini-fortress had made much better strategic sense.
This place wasn’t continually inhabited but was tended by a nicely compensated team of Were caretakers. As she glanced around with well-hidden nervousness, she realized that the place had been decorated perfectly for both events scheduled to take place that night, and the fact that it had been uninhabited made adding extreme security upgrades easy considering vampire and Were speed.
Even her own hastily prepared changing quarters were perfectly comfortable. She and Andre, not to mention Eric, Sookie, Tracy, Rasul, an overloaded basket of foods and drinks, and a double-unit of security staff, had sped over just before first dark so that she, along with Sookie and Tracy, could change into the gowns they were wearing for the Coronation. The men had adjured to a separate salon for the same purpose.
It had worked out well with much giggling and chatter as they shrugged into elaborate finery specific to the event – Emma’s Pledging regalia was more subtly ornate than her Coronation garb and was her favorite of the two – and delicately applied the final touches to their makeup and elegantly arranged coiffures. The atmosphere had been as festive as possible considering the circumstances.
She had no idea what the inside of the huge main ballroom or whatever they’d been calling it looked like – she just knew it was circular and had a large raised stage for the proceedings, but so far everything else was appropriately and beautifully decorated…which was amazing considering Sophie-Anne’s extreme version of “ornate”.
This location had few visible entrances, which made monitoring attendants” movements and the verification of identities easier, and if something did happen, it would make fleeing adversaries create a bottleneck…which would make them easier to corral and end if need be.
Emma hated having to think in these terms, but knew it was a necessity of her new life; she was just glad that no humans and few other supes would be attending. As far as she knew, Tracy was likely the only were inside the building and had only been allowed to attend this vampire-exclusive event because of her position and purpose.
At least her friends were there with her, but she really wished Andre had been able to be by her side the whole time. While she hated that self-perceived weakness, he was her rock.
Immediately afterward she felt him sending her a flood of tranquility and reassurance, and would have sworn he had read her mind.
He hadn’t, of course.
Part of the information covered about the Pledging involved learning at least a little more about the whole final-bonding thing, and even after that all-important Third Bonding he wouldn’t be able to read her mind.
She’d been glad to hear that. She didn’t mind the lack of emotional privacy, had found it highly beneficial, honestly, but the idea of someone, even Andre, reading her actual thoughts? Nooo thanks…
Neither had bothered to mention they’d performed that all-important final bonding in private just before the sun rose that morning.
Some things just weren’t anyone else’s business.
Sookie stirred restlessly by her side and she just knew Eric had then subtly and briefly taken the telepath’s hand to reassure her of their safety. Emma could distinctly understand and commiserate. They were all on edge.
She wished that vampires felt freer to show care and affection, hell, to show anything that wasn’t based mostly on anger, arrogance, or aggression, but it was what it was.
For now, at least.
She’d seen and been coached by Sophie-Anne on how the fabled “vampire facade” worked, how they had to put on a strong, imperturbable front to both save face and hide weakness, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. She did, however, feel a responsibility to Andre, not to mention her other vampire friends, to support them in their world by at least trying to control her own reactions and expressions.
Being the weakest member in her newly-formed “family” sucked, but she could at least try not to be so much of a weakest link.
Maybe she should buy a Taser…
It would only be to her benefit, though, to perfect as much of that stoic facade as she could since she was about to become a mortal queen of freakin’ vampires…and especially since she already knew her position would be resented by many and dangerously loathed by a violent few.
That they still didn’t have definitive proof of which vampires and demons had planned the kidnapping had them all on highest alert. The chatter they’d heard had narrowed down a few of the options, but everyone was frustrated that nothing actionable had come to light.
Even now she and Sookie were surrounded by the Twin Mountains, Rasul, Tracy, Eric, and ten of the Palace’s elite honor guards. It made her feel hidden…and quite short…but it was necessary.
Eric, a guest in his own right, and Rasul had been dubbed her personal guards for the event while Sookie was billed as a special guest due to her position in Sophie-Anne’s Court and as Eric’s mate.
Tracy…Emma still wasn’t sure what excuse Sophie-Anne had used to include the were but wasn’t worried. This was Sophie-Anne’s jurisdiction so she could do what she wanted anyway.
As they’d previously rehearsed, after Emma, Sookie, and the guardpires were seated in their strategically defensible position on the elevated stage – she’d hidden a snicker when they’d called it a “dais” – the Mountains and the honor guards would leave to escort Sophie-Anne.
Then the games would begin.
Just then Eric, flanked by Sookie then Sigebert, silently ghosted to her side to take one elbow and Rasul, flanked by Tracy then Wybert, took his position at her other side, and that was her cue to slowly, steadily, with her chin and back both straight and her expression coldly expressionless, walk through the doors which waiting doorman-attired guards opened grandly at their approach.
The honor guards maintained their rear defensive position as they passed through the immense doorway.
Absolute silence noticeably descended in the large circular room when, as expected, every vampire eye in the vicinity instantly focused on her person as she walked gracefully down the wide aisle that divided the two broad sections of vampires. Their cold stares were obviously searching for a weakness to exploit, searching for an “acceptable” reason to disparage her future status, searching for anything to add to their upcoming gossip sessions.
Andre’s inquiry pinged through their bond and she returned what she hoped was a mental snort. This was exactly what she had expected.
Plus, even if she fainted dead away, neither Eric nor Rasul would possibly let her risk even the merest stumble.
She was fine.
Once they reached their seats, the front row of the right section which had been ostentatiously reserved for “special guests”, with great and practiced ceremony she along with her escort elegantly took their seats in unison. Emma maintained her regal persona by lightly resting her unusually bejeweled hands upon the chair’s delicately molded arms and ignoring with a majestically cool eye the audience now behind her. The room fairly gleamed with reflective surfaces and vampire sight was notoriously acute.
The faces she had passed were unknown as she had no idea which person belonged to which name – couldn’t even remember the few she’d seen in photos, but she knew without a doubt that one or more of them wished her either dead, or worse.
To the shock of most and the disgust of a few, with great ceremony Sigebert and Wybert bowed solemnly to Emma before turning to leave to tend to their queen. When the action was mirrored by the attending guards, it was also noted by every undead in attendance.
Emma hid her shock well – that…those honors had not been included in the rehearsals, but was deeply appreciated, and her regal nods of acknowledgment had been appropriately dignified.
Suddenly she was struck by an insane desire to giggle. It was all too much! The pomp, the circumstance… the hatred… the stupid games… all of it!
Evidently Eric in his seat beside her was more attuned to her state than she’d thought because he surreptitiously poked her thigh, perhaps harder than he’d meant to…or not…but she quickly cleared her mind, and allowed him to hear her slow exhale.
His returned snort, barely audible enough for her to hear, was oddly reassuring.
A few moments later and with even more pomp Sophie-Anne in all her stately glory entered the ballroom-slash-arena, and was properly escorted to the large, ornate throne placed toward the back center of the raised stage.
To each side of the gilded throne sat a bejeweled and obviously antique table with each bearing the weight of a small, dark, and appropriately ancient chest.
Once she was seated, Sigebert and Wybert took their positions standing one step behind each side of the throne, and the honor guard was silently joined by another unit as they blurred to silently encircle the room.
Emma mentally counted to ten and so didn’t jump when the set of doors opened once again and, once again, every head in the room turned to face toward the doorway. This time a figure in a black hooded cloak with his arms crossed and his hands hidden within his sleeves passed through the doorway. As expected, he was followed three steps later by Andre.
As they slowly approached the dais, the figure – Emma knew he was the Officiant, one of a handful of almost mythical figures in the vampire community who traditionally approved and performed Coronations, Pledgings, and other unnecessarily dramatic events – walked with his head bowed as if in contemplation while Andre strode tall, proud, and stern.
The blinding white of his Coronation attire matched the white in Emma’s own regalia, but his full cloak was dark purple – Royal Purple – a color worn by only one other person in the room: his Maker.
His long blond hair gleamed as gold against the regal darkness of his cloak as his steps confidentially brought him deeper into the room. His eyes, a rarely-seen shade of bright green almost eerie in their intensity, surveyed the scene before him.
Both paused respectfully before the first stone riser, Andre the traditional three steps behind the Officiant, and awaited the Queen’s permission to approach.
Sophie-Anne, always appreciative of a good ceremony, paused dramatically before gracefully inclining her head in such a way as to allow the gold and large stones in her filigreed crown to gleam and sparkle in the subtly directed lighting.
As the cloaked figure seemingly floated up the steps, Emma saw the redhead stiffen minutely in surprise. If she hadn’t known the redheaded monarch so well, she’d have missed it. The following quirk of her lips, however, was confusing, but her focus quickly returned to her Andre as the two vampires took their places.
The Officiant stood to the side as Andre knelt on one knee in the center of the dais before his Queen.
The crowed watched and listened intently, their focus so absolute that Emma found it slightly unsettling. Andre’s own focus was so strong that nothing was bleeding through their bond, but she sent him what she hoped came through as encouragement and pride.
She knew he didn’t want to do this just as she also knew he was doing it in part for her own safety.
It was also the only way she knew of to assure him of that safety during the ceremony when he couldn’t glance her way without betraying his weakness for her.
During one of their early morning conversations he had quietly revealed that he didn’t want to “take anything away from” his Maker, that she had worked harder than anyone knew to achieve then keep her current power and deserved to retain every bit that she had. Emma had thought about the sentiment behind the whispered admission, and had quickly soothed his fears.
He wasn’t taking anything at all away from Sophie-Anne, she had whispered; he would actually be shouldering part of the burden that had fallen on her shoulders whether she’d truly wanted it or not. He was also giving his Maker yet another reason to be proud of him – it would be any Maker’s pride for their progeny to become a Monarch, and that she would have the virtually unknown privilege of Crowning her own Child added exponentially to both her own prestige as well as her pride in her blood.
It would also give her unprecedented bragging rights.
When Emma had gone on to describe how Sophie-Anne would undoubtedly prance around at the next conference …there was always an upcoming conference… casually discussing her Coronation of her own progeny as if she were dropping names, his responding snicker at his Maker’s probable antics had proven soothing to them both.
She was so glad this was happening now, that he was getting done, and the sooner it was over, the better. Her back was beginning to ache a bit from maintaining such correct posture and that stone stage-dais thing couldn’t feel good to her Andre’s knee.
Andre waited the prearranged seconds of silence before his Maker started saying her words. As he waited, he allowed his instincts to take over as he searched with his every sense for any sign of trouble.
Fuck if he didn’t need to see his Em with his own eyes!
So far things had progressed according to plan, but considering the infinite number of things that could go wrong, he didn’t trust the situation to remain in control.
Although it did provide him with some small comfort that she was flanked on each side by the Northman and Rasul, it galled him that his Emma had to be so baldly exposed. Despite their admittedly overprotective guarding of her person, things could still happen and in the blink of a vampire’s eye.
Had it been up to him, this fucking bullshit pageantry would have been scrapped from the start. A public acceptance of the Throne wasn’t mandatory, wasn’t at all necessary. Sophie-Anne could have tossed him the theoretical keys to the Arkansas castle in her salon and been done with it, but no…
The value of the ceremonies, especially of the upcoming Pledging, weren’t lost on him, unfortunately.
Vampires had their asinine pomp and their fucking ceremony for ridiculously trumped-up and outdated traditional reasons. It was a fucked up shit-filled game, but it was a game he had to play…for now.
He just hated how exposed his Emma was, how she’d had to be paraded before the malevolent glares of the fuckers wishing her dead and worse.
He’d almost wished that someone had said or done something, anything, to give him an excuse to end the ones he suspected.
An invigorating blood bath would be so much more fun than accepting a Crown he didn’t want any night…
The guards had been instructed to monitor the expressions of the attending kings and queens they’d been assigned to watch, but he knew the likelihood of them actually catching anything worthwhile was slim to none.
Fuckers might as well have been wearing masks.
As he kept count of the seconds, he silently grumbled.
He truly did not want to assume rule of Arkansas, didn’t want to assume rule over any state, but he would do so, and not solely because it was his time to rule.
Emma had been right – Sophie-Anne didn’t need the added stress of maintaining rule over another state. He could sense her growing restlessness and knew she needed something of a break. Sadly, vampire monarchs didn’t normally get breaks, and especially not when saddled with two American territories.
There was always something needing a ruler’s attention, a situation needing to be controlled, and if the ruler was Sophie-Anne, a gala or something needing to be planned…
Somehow he didn’t imagine Emma throwing galas around as if they were seeds being tossed to hungry squirrels…
…and now I speak, came his Maker’s internal voice.
Andre sent her a burst of chagrined affection – she’d known his mind had wandered – then immediately refocused his attention.
“Today I have the pleasure of granting to my Progeny the title of King,” her voice rang loud and clear. “I do this not as a favor to my child but because it is his time to rule.”
Sophie-Anne remained seated as she turned to look at the Officiant. Andre could imagine his Maker oozing a dignified arrogance fit for a…queen.
“Officiant, are you empowered to Approve and Witness the Ascension of Andre with the chosen surname of Paul to the Throne of Arkansas which is currently in my domain?”
Andre wished they’d get a move on. The fucking stone of the fucking dais wasn’t exactly kissing his fucking knee.
The cloaked figure bowed and when he rose, he uncrossed his arms to reveal the ancient tome he now held in his hands.
“Yes,” came his simple intonation.
“Officiant, are there any who would be foolish enough to dare question my right to gift my property to whomever I chose?”
An odd expectancy filled the room.
“No. His path is clear.”
Andre could almost feel the surge of excitement and disappointment erupting in the room.
Too bad, so sad…
But that voice…he knew it…
“We will proceed,” the queen allowed gracefully.
With his head still lowered as expected, he couldn’t see Sophie-Anne’s face but suspected an expression of stern satisfaction was now suffusing her face. He wished he could see everyone’s face, especially Emma’s, damn it…
All is well he heard her assurance in his head.
He heard the slight rustling of fabric as Sophie-Anne finally stood.
The scraping of metal along with that rustling told him that, as expected, she had unsheathed the sword he himself had stowed in the hidden compartment between the seat and arm of the throne earlier that evening.
She took the three steps needed to stand before him.
“As my Esteemed Child you have my Maker’s protection and support. My faith and trust in you has been rewarded far beyond measure. You have been my Right Arm. You have been my Confidante, my Advisor, my Master Torturer, and my Worthy Guard long enough. My Child, your time is now.”
She placed her hand on his head.
“My reward to you is tri-fold.”
Andre, and indeed the rest of the inner retinue, hid their surprise well.
Tri-fold? The fuck? That hadn’t been in the rehearsals…
Sophie-Anne rested the long, narrow sword on his left shoulder.
“I as your Queen have the power to bestow upon you my Territory known as the American State of Arkansas. Before the Officiate I now declare it yours into infinity.”
She then rested the sword upon his right shoulder.
“I as your Queen have the power to bestow upon you the title, rank, and power to rule your new Territory autonomously, to be Sovereign King in your own right. Before the Officiate I now declare you Sovereign King of Arkansas, and thereafter of any other Territory you acquire, into infinity.”
Andre knew the addition of the bonus right allowed him as King the clear privilege of acquiring and reigning over any other land gained through acceptable means without interference. The sharp intakes of breath from the vampires in attendance proved their understanding as well.
His title was earned via his Territory but was not dependent upon retaining the named Territory.
Once a king, always a king…
Well fucking done, My Maker…well fucking done…
Traditionally Kings and Queens were either named, as with tonight, or created through right of acquisition. Named monarchy held clear and indisputable title whereas a monarchy gained by right of acquisition could, and often was, easily challenged. Logically there wasn’t much difference between the two but according to all-important vampire tradition, named royalty held more power and more sway than any royalty who had gained power through conflict.
If he chose to dispose of the state, his title would remain, and that title brought him the respect, power, and therefore increased ability to protect his Emma.
But what was the third…
Andre could have sworn he heard his Maker sniff as she lifted the sword to touch the crown of his head. He’d expected her to place a crown there, not the sword…
“I as your Maker have had the duty and privilege of honing your skills and guiding you until you came into your own in our world. You are now an old force to be reckoned with, a powerful, world-renowned force in your own right. You will always be my Child, but you no longer have a Child’s need for his Maker. While I do not sever our Bond in any way, as your Maker I hereby Release you from my Maker’s Command. You are mine, but you are free. Now is your time.”
Aw, fuck…do not cry…do not fucking cry…
Andre felt something within his mind relax in a way he hadn’t realized was possible. He still felt his bond with his Maker – nothing had changed in that regard – but it felt as though an unknown chain had…vanished.
He truly did feel…free…free in a way he couldn’t explain.
But it felt damned good.
Thank you, Sophie-Anne.
You have earned it, my child. Now stay there for another moment, dear… Her voice in his mind was the same as always, only, it didn’t seem to come from as deep as before, and he’d never heard her sound so proud…or emotional.
With his head still bowed he couldn’t tell what anyone was doing other than that his Maker had stepped over to one of the antique tables. He heard her withdraw what he figured was to be his new crown – he hadn’t been allowed to see it before since she’d wanted to keep it a surprise – then saw her step back before him.
She placed the surprisingly heavy object atop his head, adjusted its seating unnecessarily, then spoke.
“Rise as a free vampire, my Child,” she intoned. “Rise, King Arkansas.”
Andre did as he was bade, and if his eyes were rimmed with red, no one could blame him.
He had achieved a feat in one night either denied or inconceivable to the vast majority of those in the vampire world. Not only had he been Crowned by his own Maker as King, but he had also been Released from his Maker’s Command, a blessing bestowed on far too few.
Emma…bless his Emma… Strength, fortitude, pride, a large amount of shock, and a wash of pure sweet calm came flooding through his naturally riotous emotions, and he turned his rimmed gaze from his Maker to his beloved and gave her his first kingly head nod.
Her silent laughter further elevated his mood, a feat he hadn’t thought possible. With extreme effort he refocused his thoughts not only on the proceeding but on the potential threats in the audience.
As rehearsed, he turned to face the Officiant whose presence felt enormously old.
“King Arkansas,” the male vampire said in his teasingly familiar voice as he opened the ancient tome in his hands, “let us sanctify this Coronation.”
As the puzzling Officiant read words so old even Andre didn’t know them, he studied the members of the audience he could detect with his peripheral vision. Unfortunately, every expression he could see was properly…reverent.
It seemed the royally bitchy, sanctimonious, arrogantly judgmental members of this gathering were fondly reliving their own ascension to this most exclusive club.
When the male stopped reading and with finality closed the tome, as expected Sophie-Anne approached the Officiant with the ring he’d known was stashed in the second chest. The newly crafted ring, made of gleaming ornately-carved gold and a blood red ruby the size of a small bird’s egg, rested appropriately upon a red silk pillow.
Without touching either the ring or the pillow, the black-cloaked figure held the tome beneath Sophie-Anne’s hands and allowed her to place the pillow upon the book. With a nod he turned from the queen to the king.
Andre knew that monarchy rings were said to be special somehow, were rumored to contain some sort of “magical power” or “strengthening benefits” or some such thing, but had never put much stock in it.
Magic existed, of course. It was the magic in his blood that allowed him to die without death every day, the magic in his blood that gave him his vampire strength and enhanced senses and ageless existence.
Witches had their forms of magic just as fairies and demons had their own versions.
But magic rings? His Maker had never said any such thing about her monarch’s ring…
He watched the Officiant’s actions closely.
The power inherent in the age and in the psyche of the one personifying the position of Officiant flowed outward to encompass both Andre and the ring atop the tome in a way he could only explain as…warmth. Unbeknownst to him, tendrils of that ancient, ceremonial power seeped to encompass all the monarchs in the room and bolstered, if only for a moment, the comradeship of those in attendance.
A moment later the feeling of the room returned to normal, and still without touching the ring, the male offered it to Andre and inclined his head for him to place it upon his own finger. As he did so, Andre could indeed sense a bolstering of his strength and innate power, but there was also an indefinable something…
“On this night and at this hour, let it be known to the entirety of our Kind that the Free vampire King Andre of the chosen surname Paul is by the hand and will of his Maker and Queen Louisiana now and forever Crowned and is known as Sovereign King of the North American Territory of Arkansas. Any challenge to the authority of King Arkansas is now deemed an act of Treason against both Arkansas and Louisiana. It is done.”
That he was named both “King Andre…” and “Sovereign King of…” by the Officiant was not lost on any who heard.
Andre’s exulted position within the vampire hierarchy was assured.
~ TBC ~
**A/N: *whew* Did you make it down this far? You deserve another coffee and donut…heh, and so do I! So, what did you think?**