Personal and Political Boundaries

Aw man, I wish teenage boys didn’t eat so damn much. I spend half of my free time either shopping for them, or preparing something to eat. It would be nice if I could starve them to death, but I’ve put in so much work already to quit now, and they complain a lot. Hence why their squeaky wheel gets the grease. Still no print book, although happily, the other book I’ve been waiting on did arrive – Dear Dead Days – a reminiscence of Mr. Minty’s childhood. But I’m also happy to see this. Oh, and I haven’t had time to review anything, but I did get time to do a quick read of the story I’m going to review after I get back home – so that’s what you’ll find in the “What I just reviewed” box.

As I re-listen to the book, and splice out bits of the audio to re-listen to those bits again, I’m finding it difficult to write a post on it. Dead Ever After seems to me to have a lot of big themes, and they show up everywhere. Every time I think I want to write a post about the themes, yet another strand/mirror comes up and expands on that subject, which makes it difficult. It will come, but the themes are much more closely knit together – and I don’t want to make a giant post about it that tries to encompass giant parts of the storyline. So today we’ll stick with something simple, and something that was of concern to me before the book, that I now feel has been solved.

That being Sookie’s future safety when it comes to the supe world. I know that that was one of my principle concerns with Sookie – how she could stay safe without Eric as a buffer. I’m kind of glad that she doesn’t have to use a buffer any more, because that means that she is the one in control. Let’s face it, while Eric offered his protection, it certainly wasn’t all-encompassing protection:

“Victor insisted you go with Pam. The vampire
you’re meeting has a human companion.”

Two Blondes, Death’s Excellent Vacation, p. 29

Eric still has bosses. No matter where he is in the vampire world, he has bosses. Felipe orders her to go to a conference, just like Sophie Anne, and Eric has maybe a little wiggle room, but not total autonomy. Just like when Sookie was with Bill, Eric decided she was going to Dallas – there was no choice. And when it’s politics – particularly vampire politics – you’d have to be a right roaring dickhead to just give a blanket “No” to every request your King makes. He’ll make you pay for it otherwise. So while Eric and Sookie’s marriage means they can’t touch Sookie without Eric’s say-so, that doesn’t mean that Eric can’t be forced into a corner to get his wife to do something.

So, despite fangirlish cries of pain, it actually works better if Sookie has something of her own.  If you’ve read my Felipe’s Futures post, you’ll get this, but just a little rehash to set us up. Sookie basically made it clear to Felipe in Deadlocked that she had substantial ties with the community. What she was intending to convey to him is that she is in fact, well placed to torpedo his reputation, no matter what he did. That she was privy to information on his businesses that she could choose to use or share, or twist in whatever way that she wanted. That merely owning a telepath is not the end to it.

As I explained in that post, it’s all a matter of Sookie actually looking out for herself and not to rely on Eric’s protection (Yay Pam!). She’s making it clear to Felipe that yes, he could pack her up and off to Vegas, but really, he has no way to test her loyalty. In the conversation with Felipe over Victor’s death and the impending punishment, rather than throw Eric under the bus, and plead his mercy, Sookie made it clear that she didn’t trust Felipe to keep his promises. That his words mean nothing, and she knows that. She points out that she already acted in good faith, and nothing came of it:

“Though I can hardly complain about Sigebert, since he would have killed
me very shortly,” Felipe observed, with an air of being absolutely fair.
Finally! “I wondered if you remembered that part,” I muttered.
I may have sounded a wee tad sardonic.

Deadlocked, pp. 81-82

Immediately after this, Felipe turns to his threat about her being a thorn in his side. Essentially, there is absolutely no reason for Felipe to be nice to Sookie. I notice that a lot of vampires in fanfic are just nice, and personally, I don’t think any of them are actually nice without ulterior motive. Same with Felipe here. There is no point being nice to Sookie if she’s not going to be swayed by that. Considering that she didn’t toady to him, and remembered that he failed to honour his own promise, shows Felipe that niceness means jackshit to Sookie. She’ll do what she wants and won’t be fooled by pretty words.

So, yes, Felipe doesn’t have to be nice any more because it won’t make Sookie like him – but this is the very core of why vampires have tried to be nice to Sookie, even if their ideas of what is nice are twisted about with what they need. Certainly, Sophie Anne never quite understood that sending Bill to fuck Sookie into submission would not actually work. She didn’t see a big deal about that. She did what she saw as something that would create loyalty, even if she was totally arse backwards about it. Sookie makes it explicitly clear that she doesn’t trust Felipe, and that she can fuck him up with a word – one that he’ll never hear in context of the thoughts.

And we have a mirror of when that happened with another telepath too – a preceding example of what happens when you can’t tell if a telepath has the right kind of motives or not:

“But Joseph decided I didn’t tell him because of my relationship with Erica.
Mr. Cataliades showed up out of nowhere. I don’t know why. Next thing
I knew, I was leaving with him. I don’t know why he rescued me. Joseph
made it pretty clear I would never work for vampires again;
he was putting the word out.”

Dead Ever After, Kindle position 2433

If you look at what happened from Joseph’s point of view, and the staking of Stan, then you see a telepath who has his loyalty towards Erica. That’s less than useless. Even though you have someone who reads minds – that sounds good – then you have someone who can’t be controlled and may not like you and your agenda.

Barry’s little tale of caution is undoubtedly making it around vampire circles – that you must trust a telepath, and be sure they like you if you’re to use them. Otherwise, you too could find yourself in a crypt, getting staked by your enemies. In that case, well, what advantage does having a telepath around all the time have? Absolutely no benefit. This is the key – loyalty can’t be forced. It must be at the telepath’s discretion.

Now while the conversation took place with Felipe, probably before Barry’s King was staked, that serves to warn any vampires who might think to abduct Sookie that they shouldn’t actually think that works. Now of course, that’s only for logical vampires – and the vampire world is not exactly full to the brim of logical vampires. There are some illogical ones too. Sookie will always need to watch out for them – but she has back up in the form of her friends – supe and human.

Not only that, but Felipe took care of Sookie’s other loyalties as well. There’s no more fighting for a telepath, because basically, no one else has one either. More importantly, Felipe has made sure that Sookie is prevented from being used against him:

“You may go now, Sookie,” Felipe said. “You will not come to Fangtasia again.”
Dead Ever After, Kindle position 1683

The thing that Victor feared? That Eric could take his job because he had an asset Victor didn’t? Gone. Pam can’t call Sookie into Fangtasia for the rest of her life to help out Pam. She can’t make a show of strength to use the telepath to show how powerful she is. Yes, Sookie can still meet Pam in the middle somewhere and still help out, but she can no longer be brandished as an obvious symbol of power. People won’t be looking at Fangtasia and seeing that Pam is mighty powerful with all that firepower.

Felipe – by banning Sookie from Fangtasia and swearing to leave her alone – and Freyda – by banning Sookie from Oklahoma – have created their own Mexican stand-off. Sookie can’t be used against any of them – nor by any of them against the others. And if Felipe breaks that agreement – far more likely that he would, since Sookie is in his Kingdom, then Freyda has her old lover, who is way better leverage than the King who broke his promises. So effectively, it is in Felipe’s best interests to leave Sookie alone, because really, if he doesn’t, she might just end up working for Oklahoma for Eric’s sake.

If Felipe ever took it into his head that it would be in his interests to use Sookie, he’s well aware that that might be a fleeting concern for him – because soon she’ll be working for a rival Queen, whom Felipe has just broken faith with. That’s not good – that means that every other deal he made can potentially fall through – deals that Felipe made with a shark circling his Kingdom:

Apparently, Horst thought it would please Felipe if he came to
threaten you with something gruesome, thereby ensuring you
didn’t interfere in the arrangements Felipe had made with Freyda. 

Dead Ever After,
Kindle position 3552

We don’t really have any information of what arrangements are going on – but it could be safe to assume that Freyda – with Eric at her side – is now a far bigger threat to Felipe than she was before. Both of them might focus on killing the Goliath in their midst – Texas, which now Stan is dead, is a big arse vampire mess. Felipe could probably happily persuade Freyda to start picking off bits of Texas for her own state, and leave him alone – and that he would support her doing that. That gives him far more breathing time – if they work together, rather than if they face off – which would be likely to make Freyda win.

Felipe really can’t risk a problem with Freyda when his underlings are doing things that break the rules. Horst said that he was coming in to Sookie’s house in order to menace her for Felipe, but that doesn’t mean that that’s the truth. Felipe is shaky enough with his own leadership that he doesn’t need another threat from across the way, with Freyda using Sookie to fuck up Felipe’s Kingdom.

As well, one must not forget that while we are in Sookie’s head, Felipe is not. And Sookie showed, right to the last, that she obeyed Eric’s decrees. She divorced him when he said, she stayed away from Fangtasia, she played by his rules. Felipe has no reason to assume that Sookie would come to him in the face of Eric’s re-marriage. That would be a quite stupid assumption to make – one that would – in terms of calculation, probably end up with Sookie working for the devil she knows will actually come through on his promises.

When it comes to random vampires in the area – well, there is Karin there for a year – long enough in the vampire arms race to forget that there is a tempting telepath. The closest vampire is Bill, and he’s never shown signs of using Sookie’s telepathy for his own ends in the vampire hierarchy. Some random like say Mickey? Well, he’s not enough to threaten Felipe even if he did have use for her. As long as Sookie is in Pam’s area, then Pam will follow through even if Felipe doesn’t. So no problems there.

If Felipe uses Sookie, then he might as well just ship her off to Oklahoma, for all the good it might do him. Sookie killed his Regent, and she doesn’t much like or trust him at all. So she’s got no reason to be on his side. And even if she was – for all intents and purposes – that’s if he can trust what she says. And from Sookie’s own lips, that’s by no means sure. Then he has the example of Barry – who actually didn’t help out his own King because of his loyalties – and again, we’re going by what Felipe knows, not what we heard about from Barry’s own lips. Even if Barry defended himself, that doesn’t matter – Felipe can never actually be sure that Sookie wouldn’t do the same. This is the issue of the telepath in the first place – you can’t tell what your human opponents are thinking.

The other huge component to this situation has changed too – Sookie. If you’ll notice, she said about her time in prison:

This was the rock-bottom moment of my life. I had a lot of clarity
about my own character; I had more time than I wanted to think
about how I’d landed where I was.

Dead Ever After, Kindle position 1853

Sookie contemplated that while she was in jail for a killing she didn’t do, there were plenty of illegal things she hadn’t gone to prison for. The deaths that she’d been involved in, caused, or facilitated. This is the moment when she realises that the punishment is real, and she has no way to glamour the idea out of a policeman’s head, and no money for a rich lawyer. No big company of vampires who will work to erase her corpses. In fact, Debbie is still buried on her land. Sookie escapes police scrutiny by a smaller and smaller margin as time goes on.

Most people sort of pooh-poohed this instant, because Sookie used her Christian morality to reason it through. I’ve never quite gotten that, because Sookie has been Christian since the books started, and she has considered her own soul and her dark deeds since the first book – the whole Christian thing hasn’t exactly been hidden. But many people – even non-Christians – get their first arrest and are “scared straight”. That’s when they realise that it’s no longer a grey area – they will be caught and they will go to jail. For some people, it’s a whole bunch of self-preservation that makes them realise they have to control themselves, whereas for Sookie, a Christian, that’s her go-to reason. Plenty of people feel a whole bunch more law abiding once they realise that they personally are not exempt from the rules. It’s kinda like when you realise that you personally are going to die.

And it is after this that Sookie starts calling the police – even if she suspects there might be something fishy going on. Like say Claude in the woods:

“Kenya, I’m leaving work now, and there’s someone out back
skulking in the trees,” I said. “I got no idea what anyone would
want to do back there – there’s nothing besides Sam’s
trailer – but I’m not going to try to handle that on my own.”

Dead Ever After, Kindle position 2147

And it happens again with Copley’s message, and when the mismatched trio abduct her in the end. Sookie has stopped worrying about everyone else and how well they’ll do, and worrying more about herself. Which is really what everyone should do – not try to handle stuff by themselves, and get hurt as a result. Sookie’s had more than her fair share of that during her time with the vampires. Now instead, she’s going to be proactive in helping herself by availing herself of what help people will give her.

Sookie shows – after her time in jail – that she’s no longer afraid to reach out to the human help system. It’s so much harder for vampires that do try to come back into her life, because now Sookie will just call the police, instead of dealing with it herself. Think how easy it would be if Sookie called the police on Mickey. It’s not as if they don’t have vampire police at all – because they do:

We didn’t have any vampire cops to handle vampire lawbreakers, like the cities did.
Dead as a Doornail, p. 222

You don’t get to just do what you like because you’re a vampire. The thing that kept Sookie from calling the police in this instance was her fear of police getting hurt, and trying to do Eric a good turn. She could have easily called the vampire police in Shreveport and set them on Mickey. Sookie did Eric a courtesy, but maybe she’s not so interested in doing what she can to help out vampires any more – it certainly never actually had a pay-off. While they’re not likely to be on a routine call out for Sookie, she can certainly tell the police that a vampire is threatening her, and let them deal with it.

Nor can you just skip the whole process and make your own vampire. Apart from the fact that you need permission from the person (as Jake Purifoy shows) you also need permission from the vampire hierarchy. You can’t just make yourself an army of vampires whenever you like. That’s why vampires have designated hunting grounds – and it’s not so some dickhead vamp can make enough vampires to eat them out of house and home. You have to get permission from your hierarchy, or you can get in trouble. And of course, there’s actual rules about not turning someone against their will:

Any vampire who took a human’s blood – against the human’s
will – was liable to execution by stake or sunlight, according to
the vamp’s choice. The execution was usually carried out
by another vamp, kept on retainer by the state.

Dracula Night, A Touch of Dead, p. 51

So sure, you can turn someone, but yet again, this is going to be a problem. Sookie’s made it clear to all of her friends that she doesn’t want to be a vampire. This is not a charge you could then escape. Because there are regulations – you have to register with the BVA and the government. You either have to go on the downlow like Appius, or you have to register. Without it, no house, no driver’s licence, certainly no being used for the King or whoever turned you. Otherwise, the maker gets staked.

And of course, then you get a resentful vampire without a maker, who is probably going to pick either Pam or Eric for her mentor. You’d have to be mad to turn Sookie against her will for vampire purposes – it’s not going to bring political advantage to anyone other than Pam and Eric. That’s if she doesn’t fall on her own sword immediately after her Maker’s death, or just work for the vampire police. We’ve been subject throughout the books to the mobster-criminal type vampires, but there are vampires who work for the government, like the executioner or the police. Vampires who don’t need to fit in with the old vampire system.

So without a regime change in both Oklahoma and Nevada, then I think that Sookie has a fair chance of staying away from stuff. And if there’s a regime change, then it’ll be up for grabs. But while Freyda and Felipe are still alive, Sookie is safe. This is when the fangirls should pop in and point out that Eric is unbeatable, yadda yadda yadda – but the truth is that she’s been Queen for part of the books, and with all luck, she’ll be Queen until the whole “I want a telepath” thing blows over. And any new monarch in Felipe’s territory would be served by getting his house in order before pissing off the Consort in Oklahoma. That mere fact gives Sookie a lot of lead time. Yes, Eric might die in the meantime, and no one has to play by the rules then, but that’s why you get a happily-ever-after and not a happy-for-eternity ending.

So I think the vampires are tied up nicely. As for the fairies, well, there’s always Niall and Mr. Cataliades. That’s if she encounters any more malicious fairies. There’s only Dillon left in the family, and if he hasn’t made his ploy, he probably never will. I kinda doubt that anyway – Niall’s letter showed up after Claude’s death, which means that Claude appeared after his death to his father, who must have told Niall. I think his loyalty is pretty assured. Sookie’s not looking to take anything he has.

As for the weres and shifters? The fact is that shifters don’t have any real ability to force Sookie, and she’s shown willing to help them in the past. In Small Town Wedding, she was more than willing to help them out. As a bonus, no shifters who’ve wanted her help have threatened to torture anyone, or hurt her family or anything. I think being with Sam – and looking at the amount of trouble he’s actively invited into his life – it’s a much less troublesome burden than vampire business. Sookie’s never leaving the supe world, but the shifter demands haven’t been too bad. Because they’re not a coherent group, they just don’t have the muscle to mess much with Sookie. Plus, subject to human law – not good for press.

The weres however, do pose a bit of a problem. However, that’s where being with a shifter is an advantage. Shifters know the rules, but they’re not subject to them. In fact, Sam and Quinn know a lot about werewolf procedure, but they don’t have to participate – and most importantly – they don’t have to obey. Alcide is not the boss of Sam – Sam has no boss. When the wolves are around, Sam has shown himself to be quite content with guarding Sookie:

My boss trotted over to me and sat against my legs again. Even
in the darkness, I had suspected that my guardian was Sam.

Dead to the World, p. 160

Considering that there’s a yard of wolves surrounding them, then Sam has no problems facing up to them, and standing in the way of Sookie getting hurt. Like Quinn standing up to a bar full of werewolves, or at a pack meeting, that’s the thing – they can get the wolves to co-operate. Again, too, at the Packmaster showdown between Alcide and Patrick Furnan, Sam was there as a lion – and he bit the heads off wolves. As he pointed out in the latest book, he could even choose to be a sabre toothed tiger if he wanted to. Sam can stand up to the wolves, and he has nothing to lose by doing so. With Sookie’s land, he has plenty to run on of his own, so it’s doubtful that any wolf can bring him into line at all.

More importantly, it should be noted that the werewolves are not exactly considering Sookie as an easy target any more.

Though she was a Were, I could see into her mind clearly enough to tell
that though she’d overcome her initial fear, she had deep reservations
about me. I wondered if the whole pack now shared that distrust.

Dead Ever After, Kindle position 585

One minute, she’s just a telepath who refuses to play along and date the packmaster, and now you find that she’s had a secret magical thing you’ve only heard about in legend. Consider how well you’d dismiss such a woman, and try to use her? I don’t think that would be a sensible thing. Since she’s not only made a name by helping weres and shifters, and now has something out of fairy tales, that no fae has had for hundreds of years – and then forcing her to do stuff for you? That might not be the smartest idea a Were would have. Since she didn’t mention the first one, would she just go on and give the second one away before she uses it, possibly against you? I don’t think it would be sensible to take that risk.

The weres seemed to have contempt before – thanks I think to stink pig Alcide – but now they know that she’s not someone who’s just some insignificant human. And there’s no guarantee that Alcide didn’t lie to the pack about Sookie’s powers when she took the shaman drink. He could have been so sure she’d be next pack shaman, that he could have bullshitted that she had that magic all on her own. After all, she had to go up to a quiet room where Alcide forced her to take the drink via blackmail. The pack didn’t watch her doing it. And there’s also no guarantee that the gossip hasn’t been a little game of Chinese Whispers there too – and morphed into some weird bullshit that the weres think is true. If they know about the cluviel dor – little less than likely – then they don’t know where she got it. Even if they did know it came from Fintan, or thought it came from Niall – well, there’s no telling what other little gifts the Prince of the Fairies gave his granddaughter, is there?

He wants to know if one of his pack can scent in your house.
I told him I was capable of any tracking that needed to be
done, but he insisted the Weres help you out.

Dead Ever After, Kindle position 2579

But as it turns out, none of the Pack show up – only Alcide. It could really be that the pack are scared of her. Hence why the Packmaster turned up an hour out of his way, and on his own – without his work buddy second Roy he brought round last time. Alcide may be the only one willing to come into her presence. So while Alcide might think it’s a great idea to have Sookie on a backburner, and try to lure her to help, not only has he got to deal with Sam, but possibly the fear of the pack itself. There’s no point calling Sookie out if half your people are going to tuck tail and run as a result.

So, really, Sookie isn’t actually out of the supe world, she just gets to do it on her terms, which is better than what I had conceived for her. It’s not under the bent of whatever political desire Eric has – it’s all on her own terms. I have no doubt that she’ll help people, and continue to help out those who are kind to her, but she no longer gets forced into it, which is really the thing. If they do try and force her into it, there is always the police, who can deal with all manner of issues. As well as human security systems and other things that humans use every day to keep the undesirables away.

Then even if they do hop and skip over those boundaries, there’s always the fact that a telepath is only as good as her loyalty is. And if you ignore all the boundaries she’s set in place, and force her to work for you, then hell you deserve to get burnt in Rhodes, or whatever shit she lets fall on your head. This is a Sookie who’s learned that not asking for help can save everyone else, but it can damn you. She’s also learnt the value of telling people no, and meaning it. Not only does she have political boundaries, but personal ones too.