It is with great sadness and disappointment…we inform you there will only be 12 chapters in this story…this is the last time you will be able to vote to decide what happens next…and the second to last time you will be reading The Dark Queen (unless you re-read the chapters we’ve posted on here of course).
YES! Unfortunately, this exciting story will soon end.
Deborah told us that this story will soon be over because she needs to concentrate on writing her Elvin Trilogy. We hope you will understand, and appreciate her taking the time to write this story for us! She told us that she will keep her mind open for new inspirations to write another one in the future! She even offered to write a guest post from time to time, and we’re thinking of taking her up on the offer! But as with all good things…they must come to an end!
Yes, we’re feeling a choked up as well. The good news is that this chapter is a very interesting and exciting one! Eric is still searching for Sookie, but finds out some interesting things about Gervais.
We won’t tease you any more about it, but we want to remind you…that you can order Deborah Court‘s novel, “Bound To The Prince” – through Amazon.com! Plus, she has a new novella, just released – titled, “House of Pleasure”! You can order it here!
If you would like to catch up on all of the chapters of The Dark Queen – you can read them here!
Okay, we’ve bored you long enough. It’s time for you to start reading and voting!
Please note: You will have only 24 hours to cast your vote!
Are you ready?
WARNING: This chapter ends with a nasty cliffhanger!
Read it below!
The Dark Queen
By Deborah Court
Beyond any doubt the rent of this house was exceptionally high, Eric mused as he hit the brass knocker against the door of the French Quarter villa. “Northman,” he said, presenting his card when a servant opened. The butler was wearing a livery that made him look like a human that had lived during the lifetime of Marie Laveau, and Eric caught a glimpse of the entry hall over the man’s shoulder. It was decorated to make the guests feel as if they were stepping right into the 19th century.
When the servant looked at him questioningly, Eric added: “I am invited.” How easily he could have glamored him, but he didn’t want to draw any attention to himself in case other vampires were present. He was proud to employ Xavier, the city’s best concierge, and he paid the man royally. Eric’s hotel guests valued the excellent concierge service, too – one of the reasons that made them return to the Quartier Royal every time they came to New Orleans.
Xavier had joyfully accepted the challenge of organizing an invitation to the most sought-after voodoo priestess in town. Adrienne Lavoisier’s nightly show, or Voudon ceremony, as she called it, was booked months in advance. Only a small group of visitors were admitted every night, and if they were lucky enough – or paid very well, Lavoisier graced them with a private audience after the ritual she celebrated to “keep the balance of the spirit and the human world”, as she declared.
Eric was led into a dark paneled gathering room, beautifully furnished with ornate, velvet-upholstered chairs and a small pedestal that was most probably used as a stage. The room was already crowded, mostly with tourists who were easily recognizable by their sneakers – most comfortable for a tour of the French Quarter that ended with a “real” voodoo ritual. They also smelled of fear mingled with excitement, and of sexual desire. After all, they were in the Big Easy.
He had used to hunt them for their blood now and then when he’d been new to the city, but had found soon that he preferred the exquisite taste of undiluted Creole blood. It was so hard to encounter since New Orleans had become a bright mixture of humans from all different cultures. Not that he cared about such delicacies anymore, knowing how Sookie tasted. But he would gladly have forfeited this pleasure forever, never to drink a single drop of her blood again if he could only have her back.
Some of Madame Lavoisier’s guests were true believers in the occult who had come to see the legendary powers of their hostess. Others watched the still empty stage with desperation in their eyes. Maybe they hoped to talk to the ghost of someone they’d lost, or were searching for a remedy for an incurable illness. And some of them had just come to see a good show. The self-chosen title of “the new Marie Laveau” had made Adrienne Lavoisier very rich.
Tonight the voodoo priestess had promised to receive “special visitors” after the main ritual, and Eric had paid a large sum to be the first. Only a few chosen ones had the chance to be heard out by the Mamba – depending on her mood, or what the spirits told her. He took one of the seats in the last row, ignoring the admiring glances of several female humans as he sat down.
They were blessed not to know his inner thoughts, these innocent humans. His blind, painful rage made him wish he could rip each and every one of them apart and drain them dry, showing no mercy as he stilled his unquenchable thirst for blood and killing. For their own sake, they weren’t aware of the predator he held so tightly under control, his willpower the only object that was standing between them and certain death.
With an explosion of smoke and the sound of mysterious voodoo drums – at least Madame Lavoisier had enough style to have her own band of African drummers in the back of the room – the woman in question appeared on the stage.
“Welcome to my house,” she said. Her voice was low, yet so deep and clear that she could be heard throughout the room. “I feel that there are true believers among you, but also those who dare to doubt the power of the Loa, the dark gods of Voudon. But tonight you’ll learn that it doesn’t matter if you believe in them or not. They will know who you are, now that you are here and about to attend a ritual that will conjure the Old One’s presence in our midst. Now go and leave, never to come back – or stay and be my witnesses.”
Eric smiled to himself. She was a human about forty, with a coffee-and cream skin that betrayed her Caucasian features. Eric suspected that she had applied heavy make-up that gave her a Creole complexion, trying to look more like the Marie Laveau people only knew from a few simple paintings. Combined with a long black dress, a turban and shawl of orange-and-yellow silk, and a well-faked accent, it seemed to work for her fellow humans. Everyone wanted to believe that Marie Laveau had returned, risen from the dead to serve them with their magic powers.
The show Madame performed was everything tourists expected from a voodoo ritual. She chanted, danced to the rhythm of the drums and got herself into a trance, calling out to Damballah, the snake god. She picked several people from the audience and mentioned deceased family members, or the secret wish for money, health or a happy marriage. Obviously she’d been informed well about her guests – or had they claimed their wishes themselves when they had made the reservation, asking for a private audience? However, those snippets of knowledge were enough to convince her guests that she, indeed, was a true descendant of Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of New Orleans.
Silently, he slipped out of his seat and headed to the smaller, adjacent room – the servant placed there had already told him that it was Adrienne’s private audience room. It was decorated in a dark, gothic style, with African native art – weapons, statues and masks, and a large canopy bed hung with semi-transparent white curtains. There was a comfy leather chair – most probably for the guests, while the voodoo priestess lingered mysteriously on the bed – just like a queen receiving her subjects.
The only thing that surprised Eric in this room was a book shelf in one corner that was crammed with books. It only took him a glimpse to realize that these were old, rare volumes about different practices of voodoo and other Pagan religions. One of them he recognized, The Book of Voudon. It was a very old book which contained many long-forgotten spells of the priests who had brought their new religion to New Orleans, even before it mingled with the faith of the Catholic inhabitants of the city and became a mixture of different cultures. He knew that Gervais had been looking for this particular book for years, offering large sums to get it into his possession. He wondered how Madame Lavoisier had managed to keep it from him.
“Welcome, believer,” a deep, female voice said from behind him. When he turned, Adrienne Lavoisier stood right behind him. He had been so immersed in thought that she had actually managed to sneak up behind him – a fact proving that his vampire senses were still affected by the drug.
As he turned around, she circled him once, eying him up and down. “Magnificent,” she said, running a hand up his chest. “You are exceptionally old and strong for a vampire, Mr. Northman,” she continued, doubtless knowing his name from the list of private visitors. Where were you born? You have a face that reminds me of Russian immigrants when the first of them came to my city, back in …”
“You can cease with your spectacle now, it doesn’t affect me,” he said coolly, pushing back her hand. “It is ridiculous how easily those humans allow themselves to be deceived. You’re not even a real Creole.”
Carefully she stepped back as her masterfully played façade vanished. Sighing, she pulled off her turban, revealing dark blonde hair that was pulled back into a tight chignon. She gestured to the servant who had silently followed her into the room. “You may go now,” she said, “and send the other guests home. Just tell them I’m exhausted after tonight’s ritual. They may come back tomorrow if they’ve paid for an audience.” The servant nodded and closed the door behind him.
Sighing, Madame Lavoisier sat down at a mirrored table and began to remove the dark powder that concealed the too-delicate features of her face. “Please have a seat,” she told Eric, but he began to pace the room instead.
“Tell me, new Marie Laveau,” he said mockingly. “How did you manage to fool all of New Orleans, when even a blind man can see behind your charade?”
She didn’t answer at once as she removed another layer of her theater make up and took out her brown contact lenses, placing them into a small plastic container. Her now-grey eyes met his in the mirror. “It’s simple,” she answered. “Knowledge. I know more about voodoo than anyone else in the city, except from the few real priests that still remained here after the flood. Since then, people have grown desperate to know what the future holds for them. Although you probably don’t remember being human, people tend to seek for a faith to hold on to when fate strikes. Many of them are fascinated by the magical allure of voodoo since they feel betrayed by a God who allowed a disaster like that to happen to them. Is it wrong for me to give them back some of the hope they’ve lost?”
“And make a lot of money while you play the benefactor,” Eric remarked dryly.
She laughed. “Of course. This is why I started all of this. My divorce made me lose everything. I had to sell my house to pay out my ex-husband, who didn’t find it necessary to work while living with me.”
Growling, Eric grabbed the neckline of her African dress and pulled her up from her chair to face him. He had to acknowledge that she didn’t even flinch.
“I have no time for your little games,” he said. “Tell me who you are, and what kind of business you are doing with Gervais? Where has he taken my … Sookie Stackhouse, the human woman that was abducted from my apartment?” He’d caught himself almost saying bonded, even if they hadn’t taken that step yet. At that moment, he swore to himself to make good that fact as soon as he had his lover back.
Her eyes widened as she stared up at him. “You can’t frighten me, vampire,” she said. “It would be a relief for me if you’d kill me. My real name is Amy Neill. I am a college professor from Seattle, and my subject of study was Ancient Religions. I’ve been researching on voodoo since I was a student myself, gathering every scrap of knowledge I could find. I traveled to Haiti several times, to witness the rituals myself. It took me years until I was finally admitted to the inner circle and saw by which energy the priests were inhabited, what they could actually achieve. Then my marriage failed, and I suddenly found myself without the financial reserves that allowed me my frequent travels. When they threatened to take away my son, I took him to New Orleans to begin a new life. The need to make money brought me to this idea. Now I’m earning much more than in my best years at college.”
“Charming,” Eric growled, not releasing her. “But what made you practice magic for Gervais? Don’t tell me that you didn’t. I know that he bought the Devil’s Hand root from you. Were you the one who helped to kill the dancer and the vampire in my bar?”
“No,” she whispered, “I swear. I only studied the old texts and showed Gervais how to perform the ritual.”
“Ritual – for which cause?”
“It is supposed to bring back loved ones from the dead,” Adrienne said, her eyes nearly bulging out with fear. “Gervais had a human mistress … she was killed by a fever before he could turn her into a vampire. He wants her back. It’s all he’s been thinking about for over two hundred years, searching everywhere for a description of the ritual.”
“Which you could provide,” Eric said. “It’s in the Book of Voudon, isn’t it? Why didn’t he just take the book from you?”
She grinned. “Because the spell itself is written in an ancient Haitian slang which I happen to be able to read. He doesn’t. I only revealed tidbits to him, one ingredient after the other. But I knew that if I ever told him everything, he’d kill me right on the spot. So he tortured me to make me teach him what I know … but I wouldn’t yield,” she said, her eyes now showing an expression of deep agony. “I knew that if I did, it wouldn’t only mean death for me, but for my son as well. He’s only eight years old. His name is Henry.”
Eric nodded. “And Gervais took him from you, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” she said, moving over to the window and blindly staring out. “It has been three weeks now. He has given me his word to bring back my boy as soon as the ritual is completed successfully. Gervais has a … let’s say a friend, who wants this to succeed as badly as he does. She has lost someone, too. But when we tried to bring him back, the ritual went terribly wrong. He’s imprisoned in a state between life and death – like a cruel caricature, only a shadow of the man he once was. Only when I searched another old text for a solution, I found that there had been something missing to complete the spell. A last ingredient. The ritual had been correctly brought to completion – but this one item would have given the magic enough power to succeed.”
“Which ingredient?” Eric said, stepping up behind her.
“A sacrifice,” she said absently. “Le coeur d’un v…“
The stained glass of the window shattered as a bullet broke through, hitting Adrienne’s forehead. The priestess went down, killed right on the spot. The scent of her blood filled the room as another bullet went into Eric’s shoulder. Cursing, he grabbed the Book of Voudon from the shelf and left the house so quickly that not even the servants caught a glimpse of him as he flew up into the starless sky.
To be continued…
© All characters are the property of Charlaine Harris and True Blood HBO. No copyright infringement is intended. No monetary compensation is gained. Used for entertainment purposes only.
Dear readers, you have only 24 hours to answer these questions!
What would you like to happen next?
How will Eric proceed?
– Eric will go to the meeting at Marie Laveau’s grave as planned and trick Gervais by pretending to play along with his game
– Eric will sneak up on Gervais and his accomplices, trying to kill everyone and free Sookie
In the meantime, what has happened to Sookie?
– Luckily, she’s unconscious, drugged into oblivion by Gervais
– She’s wide awake and has a plan to escape on her own
Please cast your votes in the polls below! You have only 24 hours starting…NOW!
Beware! We’ll be back soon with the 12th and final chapter of The Dark Queen!
Thank you so much Deborah! That was an amazing chapter! Wow, I didn’t expect to see the end of Adrienne Lavoisier this quick! LOL I wonder who shot her and how Eric will find Sookie now? While it’s sad that this is the last time we’ll be voting, I hope we have another fan-interactive story from you soon! (I’ll post more of those kinds of thoughts when we post the final chapter.) Anyways, great chapter and hurry up and write the next one!
Deborah loves reading all of your comments…please tell her what you think in the comment section below!