Message in a Mustapha Bottle

Happy New Year guys. I’ve been in 2012 for a couple of days now, and hopefully the rest of you have now joined me. No signs of Nostradamus’ comet yet (the Mayan apocalyse is December – phew, it’s a big year) but if it hits, I’ll try to post to warn you all, since I’m in the future. It won’t do you any good unless you have a rocket to the moon, but you’ll have time to kiss your kids and post to those living in the past to you, like you are all to me. The Canadians should have a long time for goodbyes since they seem to be the people most in the past. Since Ooshka and AoifeNZ don’t have LJ’s, but live even further in the future than me, I do hope they post anonymously here to tell me of the comet, and give me a couple hours warning.  😀

So this is another post speculating on the new book, Deadlocked. Note the key word SPECULATING. Once I do all my speculating, I’ll get back to what I polled you all and what you wanted. But at the moment, this stuff just consumes me. For those of you who don’t like spoilers from the new books (I’m telling you about the comet, “I don’t want to know” be damned) I’ve got another tag on for all my deadlocked spoilery posts. It is you just got deadlocked.

If you see that tag, read beyond the cut at your own risk. I am a spoiler addict.I got to thinking about a quote from the excerpt – the one everyone is questioning – what did Pam’s message mean? And I think I might have a theory.  Now, I should warn you that I was reading through my old thoughts on Felipe right after Dead Reckoning. So this post is based on extrapolating that logic out. Just a quick recount – basically, that Felipe isn’t going to go soft on Eric just because Victor’s dead. Vampire royalty are ruthless, and they have complicated plots. They don’t go easy on their underlings, and they’re not known for their generosity and magnanimous gestures.

Every time I see contempt for Felipe – and his cape – I think about how well his camouflage would work on people. People find that “Latin lover” stereotype largely contemptible – and so too do readers. They discount him based not on the fact that he’s a vampire who owns many casinos and is tough and smart enough to run a few states and keep Victor from overthrowing him; but rather because he wears a cape, he’s often portrayed deeply stupid or interested only in sexing things. Which proves how effective a cape can be. Much like a pocket protector is in Dallas, or looking like a teenager in Louisiana. It makes people have contempt for you, so you can rise through the ranks, for the price of a cape.

So Felipe’s visit is going to be tough – cape or no cape – it’s not going to be an easy visit with a contemptible guy who wears a cape. But how can we make sense of Pam’s very cryptic warning? Now, I can’t think that Pam – who has always been pro-informing Sookie would deliberately be cryptic unless she has a reason to be so. Here’s the relevant quote:

She says, ‘Tell Sookie that this is the hard time that will show what she is made of.”
Deadlocked Excerpt, p. 12

The real question is what does Pam think Sookie is made of? Obviously, it’s not going to be sugar and spice and all things nice.  In fact, I make no secret of the fact that I desperately wish Sookie was a lesbian, because Sookie would have found the love of her life in Pam years ago. Pam is all of Eric’s strengths, and few of the things that fuck him up every time he comes at their relationship. Pam has that same go-getter personality, but she understands how to deal with things better than Eric does. She loves adventure like Sookie, yet understands when it’s time to go soft and when it’s time to go hard. She understands when it’s time to be harsh and when it’s time to be friendly.

Pam has had it right all along, in my opinion:

Well, I don’t approve of this, Bill. I don’t usually care about keeping secrets from humans, but Sookie is valuable and keeping secrets from her will discourage her from working for us in the future. It would be much better to keep her co-operation.
The Secret Dialogues of Eric, Bill and Pam, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, p.110

Pam has been brutally honest with Sookie – telling her the truth at every opportunity – although I should note that that is qualified by “knowingly” according to CH. But it is Pam who forces Eric to tell Sookie the truth about where Bill is gone, it is Pam who says outright in Dead in the Family that she’s not sure Eric is thinking straight caring about Sookie, it’s Pam who hands Sookie a knife to handle Bruno and Corinna, and it is Pam who tries to rat out Eric on Freyda. That is the only time we’ve seen Pam be all cagey about her warnings – when Eric refused to allow her to speak about it.

I should note that Sookie hasn’t lashed out at her – she’s gone above and beyond in dealing with things, proving Pam’s point about truth to be…well…truthful. Sookie won’t shrink from blunt truth, but she hates lies – even lies by omission. Eric doesn’t get that yet – he thinks somehow that Sookie feeling like she’s getting made a fool of by the marriage with Freyda helps his cause. By God, that man so needs Pam. He makes such a ballsup of it by himself.

But here, Pam isn’t being truthful or blunt – which leads me to think that perhaps Pam is hedging her bets. She knows that the bad time is coming with Felipe there, but she doesn’t know what is coming. As Sookie said at the time of Victor’s death:

Until Felipe de Castro comes down on us like a ton of bricks because he wants to
know what happened to his regent,
I thought, but I didn’t say anything. A, I
wasn’t sure I could. B, we’d already wondered what would happen, but
Eric’s opinion was that it was better to ask forgiveness than permission.

Dead Reckoning, p. 298

It being better to ask forgiveness than permission doesn’t mean Eric will get off scot free. It means that had Eric asked Felipe, Felipe could have tilted it in Victor’s favour. From Eric’s viewpoint, it’s better to kill Victor and say “oops” than let Felipe arbitrate it and still have Victor around. And I agree with the way he did it – way better than leaving it up to whatever agenda suits Felipe best. Plus, it’s one thing to conspire to kill your underling, and another to punish one underling for killing another. It looks way worse if Felipe is conspiring. So I would have done it Eric’s way. But that doesn’t mean that way is absolutely risk free.

So, we know that Felipe is coming to town the next night too – that’s the other piece of information that the excerpt gives us. That Sookie is to come to Shreveport when Felipe’s in town. A few theories have been that it is because Felipe is bringing Freyda. Eh, I’m not on board with that one – as I’ve discussed elsewhere. If Freyda was coming to town, it would be to pick up Eric – and give him no place to run. I doubt that this is the “hard time” – if she was coming to Louisiana, it’s all over.

Previously, Freyda didn’t come through Felipe – she went straight to Eric’s personal phone number (and Sookie didn’t get it until after they were actually married – for shame Eric – see why he needs a Pam?). She made it clear what she was asking him too – and she offered things:

In the meantime, she calls me every week offering me a share of her kingdom if I’ll come to her.
Dead Reckoning, p. 253

Three weeks or more she’s been trying to get him to come to her, and if it was as easy as asking Felipe for permission, there would be no reason to offer shares of her kingdom at all. All she’d have to do is wait for a couple of weeks, lose nothing, and come and get Eric herself. Or at least negotiate with him face to face if that was what she had planned. She wouldn’t be offering him bits of her state over the phone.

If Freyda could easily enter Eric’s area without a brouhaha, she would. But vampires need permission to cross into areas. And what do they do while they’re there? Access and collect spies. Get information. Bribe someone on the ground. That’s what Eric does every time he leaves the state when Sookie’s in Dallas or Mississippi – he gets into Stan’s nest and has a look around, talks to inconsequential vampires. We know that Stan suspects him of spying, because it is ‘Leif’ Stan accuses of planting the bug. And of course, in Mississippi, Eric spies while Sookie’s out snooping around for Bill:

“I have searched Jackson. I have looked in warehouses, cemeteries, farmhouses,
and anyplace that had a trace of vampire scent about it: every property
Edgington owns, and some his followers own.”

Club Dead, p. 152

While Eric is looking for a trace of Bill, that’s a lot of places he’s looked at – undoubtedly at vampire speed over one night. I doubt that Eric would just forget about it as irrelevant – what he saw there. He saw it was pretty wide open and that Russell was inattentive. It doesn’t surprise me that this is the first state that Victor and Felipe try to make incursions into, in Two Blondes. I’m sure that some of that intelligence came from Eric. He also has a drug dealer he knows has a Lincoln – because he gets the car from the drug dealer (the one Sookie is trapped in). Imagine if Felipe let Freyda into his area for a night – she could look all over the place, even if he were to keep to vampire places, then she would still be able to scope those out. That would be a huge risk.

Not only to Felipe of course, but to Freyda herself. I doubt any Queen would be silly enough to come alone. Once she brings a retinue, that could end like it did for Peter Threadgill or Sophie Anne – but even just one guard is enough. Felipe and Freyda are rivals – there’s almost no way he’d have a friendly chit chat in person on his own territory with someone whom Eric says is:

“When leaders are spread thin, the sharks gather round to see if they can take a bite.”
Dead Reckoning, p. 186

And it’s not as if Eric’s area is particularly secure. Yes, it is the strongest area in Louisiana at this point, when almost everything is wiped out (in part thanks to Eric) but he’s not up to full speed either:

“He has a bullshit excuse about there being enough vampires in my sheriffdom,
when actually my numbers are low.”

Dead Reckoning, p. 186

Bringing a rival Queen into an area with few vampires on the ground, in an overstretched Kingdom would be Felipe’s worst nightmare. Even if she didn’t have a whole heap of Oklahoma vamps come into the state in secret on her coattails, she’d be able to gather information on the strongest area in Louisiana – the one area she’s just made all that more weak since she’s taken Eric home with her. She could send that whole heap of Oklahoma vamps into Louisiana, and then set about pressing Arkansas from all sides. Or kill Felipe and have the lot.

So I don’t think Freyda is coming with Felipe. But certainly, Felipe is coming to “come down like a ton of bricks” on everyone. It’s possible that he’s coming with a decision about Freyda, as Eric has asked him just as he pleaded to Victor:

“And as my regent, Victor could plead that his wishes supersede those of
Ocella, and that I’m too useful to him to leave the state.”

“I’ve appealed to Felipe, but I haven’t heard from him.”
Dead Reckoning, p. 253

As I’ve pointed out previously, Louisiana is wide open if Eric leaves – he really is too useful to leave the state. So Felipe will have to make that decree – I don’t see how he can get out of it in eventuality – but before he does that, he’ll hold it over Eric’s head as a threat that can go either way. So I think that Eric will play a bit of political chicken with Felipe – and that will be one of the things that is a “hard time” for Sookie – because she’s a valuable asset that Felipe could try to force out of Eric. But Felipe isn’t going to be so stupid as to swan around his weak state with a rival ‘shark’ who’ll have her eyes and ears open. And if he is that stupid, expect a takeover before the week is out unless CH gives us some compelling reason why that is not so.

When it comes to what Pam’s warning means though – that’s not all I think it means. Because I don’t think Felipe is going to play nice with any of the vampires. They have decimated his state – they didn’t take out Victor in a surgical strike – but they killed all the other vampires there that night – Victor’s inner circle as well.  Pam in the books seems to value Sookie’s strength, her will and determination. In fact, one of the things Pam praises Sookie on is this:

“You did very well,” she said. “You did what had to be done.”
Dead in the Family, p. 94

That’s what floats Pam’s boat – when Sookie does what needs to be done. She knows that Sookie has it in her to do things that others would flee from. Sookie has after all, helped the vampires now to do a whole heap of things. She rescued Pam at Rhodes, and she helped them break through many barriers they couldn’t themselves – like figuring out a way to kill Victor. Just previous to the above, her advice to Sookie on the fight was:

“Sookie, be brave and ruthless,” Pam said and she opened her door and disappeared from sight.
Dead in the Family, p. 88

This is not a Pam disgusted with Sookie, as she often sadly is in fanfic. This is a Pam who knows that Sookie can be brave and ruthless – thanks to all the times she has been before. She showed bravery and ruthlessness in freeing Bill from Lorena – and even Eric doubted that would be easy. This is not some quality Sookie has never shown possession of – but something she’s shown in the past.

I should also note something that is often forgotten – or sort of ignored by readers. This could be a hard time for Sookie – in more ways than one. It seems like readers have kinda forgotten (or don’t care) that Sookie has officially thrown her lot in with Eric. Her fate is tied in tangible ways to his. Observe on the night of the Vegas vampire takeover:

Bill said…..”Know this: I will die for her, If you harm her, I’ll kill you.”
“You must also know this,” Eric said to Victor. “Even more pertinently, if anything
happens to her, forces you can’t imagine will be set into motion.”

From Dead to Worse, p. 178

Yes, there have been lots of arguments over the “Who Loves Sookie More?” stakes – but that’s largely irrelevant to the whole point. This is before Eric accepts his new fealty agreement – but one thing Bill and Eric both agree on is that whatever Eric chooses, Sookie may also be killed. It’s not just Sookie ‘foolishly’ thinking:

If he didn’t cave, we’d all die. That would be Victor’s way of “taking care” of us,
despite Eric’s out-loud thought about me being too valuable to kill.

From Dead to Worse, p. 175

Bill and Eric both fear that if it all goes pear shaped, Sookie will be killed. Yes, their threats might have been inappropriate and completely ignoring the immediate danger of Victor, but their fear that she would be harmed is valid. Since the both of them care about her at that point, they may be overstating their fear, but I think it’s something that they would assume out of nowhere as if it wasn’t a danger.

Part of the problem is that since then, Sookie has become Eric’s asset more than the kingdom’s asset. She’s officially the property of Eric. If she was possibly at risk and tied to Eric’s fate in From Dead to Worse, it’s so much worse for her now. Her loyalty is explicit – Eric had her hand the knife to him, and she chose to stay with him. She’ll be seen as unalienable from his retinue – an owned asset.  When Pam says that Felipe could kill them all, she might be including Sookie in that as well.

But my take on it is not that Felipe would kill them all (there’s another book! they can’t die) but rather, it’s going to be bad, and it’s probably going to be physical. We know from the synopsis that:

With Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada),
in town, it’s the worst possible time for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front
yard — especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank.

Now, if Felipe was in town when the drinking of blood took place, it probably wouldn’t be a problem. Eric’s movements would be accounted for – and Felipe would know that Eric hadn’t murdered her, and Eric could claim that he was distracted from watching his Area while Felipe was there. Just like Felipe knew that Eric had nothing to do with sicking Sigebert on him – because they were together. But if Eric is drinking this woman’s blood before Felipe gets to town, then that would make Eric look suspicious.  So I’m thinking that’s what ‘has to get ready’ means too:

“He has to get ready,” Mustapha said, shrugging. “I don’t know if he got to clean
out his bathroom cabinets or change the sheets, or what.
‘Has to get ready’ is what he told me.”

Deadlocked Excerpt, p. 12

At that point in time, I think Eric is drinking it up in order to get ready for Felipe’s visit. Now, as I’ve spoken about before, Eric probably drinks from others, but this particular time, he’s taken a whole heap of time to get ready. Drinking blood means more physical stuff to me – which could also be the bad time. Like a fight. Like torture. Both of which would qualify as hard times to Sookie – she would find it difficult to deal with torture, or seeing Eric hurt – not just because she loves him, but because she might react to it worse thanks to being tortured in her past.

Before I get any theories about Eric being King, and that’s what the fight is about, we have it from Eric’s own lips that he doesn’t want to be King:

BILL: “You are the strongest sheriff of the four of you.”
ERIC: “Yes.
BILL: “Yet you do not wish to lead.”
ERIC: “No.”

The Secret Dialogues of Bill and Eric, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, p. 161

He doesn’t wish to be King, so I doubt that he’ll do anything that will make him King. Being King wouldn’t get him out from under the marriage – Kings and Queens marry all the time. It would give Freyda another reason to make sure he comes to her. It is more sensible for Eric to stay Sheriff. And being a King is a fatal job. Just like it was for Sophie Anne and will be for Felipe – it’s something Eric’s better off out of. As I’ve previously discussed, Eric would make a terrible King. He’s far better as a Sheriff, and he likes being a Sheriff.

So I think that Eric expects Felipe to take his pound of flesh – quite literally – and he’s preparing the only way he can – making sure to get his affairs in order, debrief his staff and get lots of blood into himself. Kings and Queens have special tortures when you displease them, like Sophie Anne did:

“Yes,” he said finally. “The queen immersed me in a a tank for a few years.”
“A tank of what?” I was all at sea.
“Saline solution,” Bill said, very quietly. “I’ve heard of this punishment.”

One Word Answer, A Touch of Dead, p. 99

Royalty like doing cruel things to their vampires – to show them who’s boss. And I’m thinking that while Eric’s torture might be short, it might be brutal and try to prove a point to Sookie. After all, Felipe knows how important Sookie is to Eric:

“He wants the leverage having you would give him over me.”
Dead and Gone, p. 97

Felipe will play a hard game to get Eric – and he’ll probably try to terrorise Sookie somehow just because it will hurt Eric. Felipe knows that even in tough times, when you have a new King, Eric will trot over to Merlotte’s to go and see Sookie. It’s not actually a good thing to be beloved of a vampire as far as other vampires are concerned. Like Eric threatened to hurt Bill to get Sookie to do as she’s told, so too will Felipe make use of Eric to put the screws on Sookie. And he may use hurting Eric to fuck with Sookie’s head.

It looks like the “hard time” will be bad things coming up for Eric – probably paying money, and maybe getting hurt. Those would by extension mean hard times for Sookie – the stress of what’s going to happen to her future, the political game of chicken – seeing who’s going to blink first, and the stuff that will be going on with Eric. Things aren’t going to be made easy for him. Fortunately, thanks to the pledging, at the time that Sookie is married to Eric, she can’t be tortured by Felipe for her part in what happened to Victor:

“Understand that he can’t touch you now, that no one can unless they
petition me first. This is under penalty of final death.”

Dead and Gone, p. 97

I doubt unless he wants a fast and painless (for him) breakup that Eric would allow Felipe to do anything to Sookie, or take her away. So we don’t have to be concerned that even though Sookie’s life is now tied in a tangible way to Eric’s that Sookie will be tortured by some vampire King. I don’t think Felipe is going to kill Eric and decimate the state, but of course, I have the advantage unlike all the characters in the book to know I’m reading a story and see the whole picture. Pam, Eric and Sookie don’t have that comfort. So they should  be worried they’ll all die.

I think Pam’s message essentially doesn’t tell us much, except to expect bad things to happen to Eric, since Sookie is untouchable. And I’m sure that Eric wants Sookie to be untouchable. If he has hopes of resurrecting the marriage he bit himself into the doghouse in, then he’ll not want bad things to happen to Sookie. But Felipe can still use hurting Eric to terrorise Sookie, and probably will. So it will be a hard time for Sookie, without a doubt. I just don’t think that Pam knows enough about what’s going to happen or what Felipe will do in order to tell Sookie exactly.