“You have the ability to teleport,” Claude smiled at Danika, who’d just materialized in front of us as if from thin air.
“Teleport?” Andy asked, looking as if he were still trying to catch his breath.
“Yes. It is a common fairy trait, among those of half-blood or more,” Claude said calmly—as if he were speaking about the weather.
“So she can just ‘pop’ anywhere she wants?” Andy asked.
“No—generally Halflings can teleport only to others who share their blood. Full-blooded fairies with the skill can also teleport to locations where they have spent significant time before. As Danika grows, she will learn of the full extent of her power through practice.”
“Oh,” Andy sounded, still looking floored. “Anyone else able to do that?”
Adilyn raised her hand somewhat tentatively. “Sorry we didn’t tell you, Daddy. We just found out earlier when we were tryin’ to avoid Aunt Portia.”
“Oh!” the sheriff said with a little nod. “Um—that’s okay. But don’t be doin’ that to avoid me—you hear now?”
“Okay, Daddy,” the two little fairies with “popping” capabilities chimed in.
“What about you, Braelyn, or you, Charlaine?” he asked.
Both girls frowned. “We can’t do it. We’ve tried and everything!” Charlaine pouted.
“You might learn in the future,” Claude smiled at the girls. “For some, it is a less natural talent. And others can do other things.”
“Like what?” Andy asked cautiously. Nervously.
I was nervous too as I looked at Sookie’s belly.
“Well, their telepathy is the obvious thing,” Claude informed.
“All of them can read minds?” Andy asked.
“Yes,” Sookie was the one to confirm. “Two of them are stronger though—Braelyn and Adilyn.”
“Yes,” Claude agreed. “They have natural control over how to listen and how not to. The other two are lucky, however, for Sookie can teach them how to build shields. This is not a normal fairy trait; Sookie learned it herself,” the full-blooded fairy said proudly.
I was proud of my bonded too.
“Will they be able to do other stuff?” Andy asked.
Claude shrugged. “There are many ways in which fairy magic can manifest. And there are different degrees of gifts. It is safe to say that the girls themselves will be the best reporters of their gifts.”
Andy looked at them. “So? Uh—anything else?”
Braelyn looked at him shyly before producing a little ball of white light on her palm. Danika produced a similar one.
“A defensive weapon,” Claude observed. “They can be trained to use this light to fight any enemies.”
“Mine’s a different color,” Charlaine said with a little smile.
“Show us,” Claude requested.
The little girl produced a reddish light on her palm.
“An offensive weapon if I’ve ever seen one,” Claude chuckled. “I’d always wondered if Maurella was part Dae.”
“Dae?” Andy asked.
“Demon,” Claude responded as the human sheriff went ashen.
“Another kind of Supernatural being,” I offered, trying to keep my voice calm—for Andy’s sake. After all, I’d realized that he and I were in an oddly similar boat as we learned of the various things that fairy children might be capable of doing. “Do not worry. The Dae are a mostly benevolent race and known for great wisdom.”
“Uh—oh,” Andy said, his hands trembling a little.
Claude chuckled and spoke to Charlaine. “Your light will become more powerful in time. Even at full maturity, your two sisters will have the ability to only stun with theirs. But yours will potentially cause much more damage. You must be careful not to use it in anger.”
The little girl nodded as everyone looked at Adilyn.
The last of the four sisters bit her lip and then produced a light that was emerald green in color.
“A healer!” Claude said with awe. “A rare and wonderful gift!”
“Healer?” I asked. I still remembered when Sookie’s light saved me from Marnie’s spell and restored my memories.
Claude nodded. “Few fairies have the power to heal, and it often works on only those whom they love.”
I felt Sookie’s grip on my hand tighten. I wondered if she was recalling that moment at the Festival of Tolerance, too.
The moment when I’d been about to kill Bill as Marnie had controlled me.
The moment when Sookie’s light had not harmed me—as it had always done to others before. And after.
The moment when her light had healed me.
Part of me had known that her love for me had been true—even then.
But—after everything—it felt fucking nice to get validation of that.
As I’d mused, Claude had continued. “A true healer like Adilyn here is not encumbered by emotional connection; she will be capable to healing anyone—not just fairies and not just those whom she cares about. However, using this gift will weaken you,” he cautioned. “So you must show care for yourself.”
The little one nodded. “Okay.”
“So—uh—when will they stop growin’?” Andy asked as he put aside the discussion about their “light” and moved onto a topic he could understand better.
Sookie looked at Claude with just as much attention as the full-blooded fairy responded.
“When they sleep again, they will likely grow into what humans would call late adolescence—near the age of consent for humans: the equivalent of seventeen or eighteen years old. At that point, they will have access to their full fairy powers and need only receive training for them,” Claude informed.
Andy, still looking dumbfounded, nodded in understanding. “Will they—uh—slow down after that?”
“Yes,” Claude smiled. “From then on, they will grow even slower than a “normal” human. As Halflings with the essential spark, they will have an unusually long lifespan—by human terms—as long as they have contact with other Fae so that their essential sparks may be strengthened.”
“So—uh—they’ll be stoppin’ growing soon?” Andy asked again, obviously wanting to confirm what Claude had told him.
The fairy nodded. “Yes. I imagine one—maybe two—more growth spurts will see them at what the Fae consider as the age of linhanpen.”
“Uh—linhanpen? What’s that?” Andy asked.
“It is something like your adulthood,” Claude responded. “The Fae grow unusually fast compared to other races so that we can achieve an age when we can defend ourselves from potential threats. Most of the girls’ gifts are instinctual—as you have seen,” he smiled, looking at the four little ones. “However, they can all learn to strengthen those gifts. Once they achieve linhanpen, my sisters and I would be honored to guide them,” he added, bowing his head a little.
“And I’ll help the two that need a little extra oomph with their telepathy,” Sookie volunteered with a smile.
I looked at Claude. “Sookie and my children? Will they grow at the rate of Mr. Bellefleur’s daughters?”
“Andy,” the human sheriff said off-handedly. “Call me Andy.”
“I am Eric,” I returned, glancing at him before looking back at Claude.
Sookie was holding my hand tighter than ever.
“Yours do not have quite so much Fae blood. Reaching linhanpen will take them approximately the same amount of time they took to grow birth-ready inside of their mother,” Claude informed, looking at Sookie.
“Eight or ten days,” Sookie whispered, holding onto her belly.
“So long?” Danika pouted.
Claude chuckled and looked at Andy. “Watch out for this one. She will mate before you know it—if you do not reign her in.”
“Huh? Mate?” Andy asked with horror. “No!” He looked at Danika hotly. “You can’t date until you are—uh—one year old?” he half-demanded and half-asked.
“Daddy!” the little girl pouted as if she were already over twenty-one.
“A reasonable restriction,” Claude chuckled.
“Not helping!” Danika said, stomping her foot next to Sookie. Again, I didn’t see her as a threat—even when she put her hand over one side of Sookie’s belly and looked up at her with wide, dark brown eyes. Those eyes seemed like chocolate as she spoke. “This one is mine. He’s gonna be like me.”
“Like you?” Sookie asked.
“He has a light like mine,” Danika smiled. “The white kind.”
“You can tell that?” Claude asked, his amazement clear.
“Uh-huh,” Danika reported. “Just this one though,” she said, keeping her hands over just one side of Sookie’s belly. “I don’t want that one,” she said with distaste, nodding toward the other side of Sookie’s belly.
I couldn’t help myself. I started laughing. “Why not?” I barely got out.
“He’s too,” Danika paused, “complicated.”
“Complicated?” I asked.
She nodded and then shrugged. “Yep.”
Claude smiled. “It appears that Danika here also has a gift that allows her to understand the abilities of other fairies—at least when it comes to how they manifest their light. It is a useful defensive trait.”
“What does ‘complicated’ mean?” Sookie asked with trepidation.
Claude shrugged. “Danika?”
“Too many colors to see just one,” she frowned and then looked up at Sookie. “Like you.”
“Huh?” Sookie asked.
Claude nodded in understanding. I was beginning to understand too. “Your light, dear cousin, is more diverse than most fairies’.”
“Diverse?” Sookie asked.
“You can heal,” I said softly. “You have used your light to stun others, too.”
“And you could use it to kill if you so choose,” Claude added.
“Yes. Complicated,” Danika nodded as if her words had just been utterly confirmed.
“It is the Brigant light,” Claude smiled.
“Brigant light?” Sookie asked.
Claude nodded. “Niall Brigant—my grandfather and your great-great-great-grandfather.”
I’d heard the name—heard it in stories that most vampires, including myself, had discounted as myth.
“The prince of the Sky Fae,” I found myself whispering in awe.
Claude shrugged. “There really are no more princes or princesses anymore—not for a long time,” he added sadly. “Millennia ago by earthly standards—back when the human and vampire races were both very young—this realm had all the magic of the Fae realm; in fact, it had more in some ways. Still, there were only a few scattered settlements of fairies here. You see—there had always been peace among the different groups of the Fae. However, the Water Fae began to believe themselves to be superior to the others, and they enslaved many. Niall’s grandfather, Cian Brigant, who led the Sky Fae, tried to negotiate for a renewed peaceful coexistence, for it was the magic of all fairies—earth, water, fire, and sky—which kept the Fae realm stable and lush.”
“What happened?” Adilyn asked. I could tell that all the girls were enthralled by the “fairy tale,” as was my bonded. I couldn’t blame her. She was learning about the ancient history of her fairy family for the first time.
“Cian attempted to unite the clans with a truce, formed between himself and Braden, who then ruled the Water Fae. Cian even arranged for a marriage between his son, Redmond, and Braden’s daughter, Ailbe. But Braden had tasked Ailbe with killing her husband and father-in-law. Ailbe defied her father, however, for she had fallen in love with her husband. Later, she told Cian and Redmond all about the plot. Cian planned revenge against his own daughter, and—one night—he attempted to kidnap her, but he failed. He did, however, take Redmond and Ailbe’s firstborn son. Braden renamed the boy Breandan and used the child as leverage. Wanting to avoid Civil War as well as the murder of his grandson, Cian relocated to this realm, and many prosperous fairy villages were established here.”
“What then?” Charlaine asked, when Claude paused.
Claude sighed. “The fairy villages thrived—all but one, that is.”
“What happened to that one?” Braelyn asked.
“It was decimated,” Claude paused, “by a vampire named Macklyn. Macklyn Warlow.”
“Warlow,” Sookie gasped, even as my fangs clicked down. Sookie had told me about the vampire who had made a contract with one of her male kin for the first Fae-bearing female in the Stackhouse family.
A contract for my beloved.
“Why didn’t you tell me this whole story when I first discovered that it was Warlow who’d killed my parents?” Sookie asked her cousin.
Claude shrugged. “You were upset enough. I did not wish to burden you with the fact that Warlow killed Cian, Redmond, Ailbe, and all the other Brigants who lived in this realm at the time—save one.”
“Niall,” I speculated.
“Yes,” Claude returned.
“How did Niall survive?” Andy asked, also engrossed by the story.
“Niall was merely a child—born only two days before the attack. Redmond and Ailbe put Niall into the family’s home while they went to fight Warlow. But Warlow could not be defeated.” Claude paused. “You see—Macklyn Warlow had once been a fairy. He was turned, but hated his new vampire nature. Niall believes that Macklyn returned to the village, longing to see his kin, but that—as a young vampire—he couldn’t control himself. And, once he became high on fairy blood . . . .” His voice trailed off.
“He was in a drunken frenzy,” I said with understanding.
Sookie looked at me. “But you weren’t,” she said. “That night . . . .” She stopped and glanced at the children, clearly trying to use guarded language. “That night you met Claudine, you showed control afterwards.”
I touched her cheek. “That is because I saw you. I would have never,” I paused, “met Claudine if she’d not been a threat to you—a threat to take you away. I was not about to protect you from her, only to harm you in my,” I paused again, “confused state.”
The girls were looking at me carefully; from the look in Danika’s eyes, she’d caught on to what had happened to Claudine, and that meant that the other girls would “hear” it from her. Still, I wanted to spare them to gory details. I found myself wanting to spare Claude as well.
I glanced at Sookie’s fairy cousin—distant cousin though I’d learned that he was. And I saw that he wasn’t looking at me with hate—despite my having killed his sister—though there was some sadness in his eyes.
I still didn’t understand the Fae.
“What happened to Niall?” Danika asked.
Claude smiled at the little girl. “He went on to marry my grandmother, and the two had my father. When my grandmother died, Niall had children with a human woman. One of those children,” he paused, looking at Sookie, “was named John Stackhouse.”
“The one who signed the agreement with Warlow,” Sookie gasped.
Claude nodded. “According to grandfather, Warlow regretted what he did to the village he’d once been a part of. He wanted—very badly—to become more ‘fairy’ again.”
“By mating with a female descendent of Niall’s,” I growled.
Claude nodded. “Niall is a,” he paused, “good man—and a good grandfather. But he has always been consumed with his desire for revenge upon Warlow. When the magic in this realm became ‘lesser’ and the vampire population grew, my father tried to reconcile with Breandan and his cousin, Mab.”
“Mab,” Sookie practically growled.
“Yes,” Claude confirmed. “For many years, the reconciliation seemed sincere. The older generation was gone, and Breandan seemed to embrace that his blood was both Water and Sky Fae. He seemed the key to peace, but then he died.”
“And Mab took over,” Sookie speculated.
Claude nodded in confirmation. “War broke out in the fairy realm, tearing at the fiber of the very world itself. The Fire Fae, whom you now know as Daemons, left the realm, finding sanctuary in another world—as well as in this one. My own parents fought Mab, but were killed. Many of my sisters and I fought against her, even as she attempted to bring fairy hybrids to the Fae realm as breeders since her numbers were dwindling. Niall,” he paused, “would sometimes join in the battle, and his presence would always bolster our side.” He paused. “However, he was often pursuing Warlow in one realm or another.”
“Claudine?” Sookie asked.
“She fell under Mab’s influence—as did many who longed to see the magic of Faerie replenish itself.” Claude shook his head sadly. “Not that it ever could replenish itself as long as the Fire Fae are not there and most of the Earth Fae have been enslaved.”
“And you and others have fled here?” I asked Claude.
“For respite mostly,” Claude informed. “Time here is slow compared to time in Faerie. We will stay here to refuel our magic in this realm—as well as to train and to try to bolster our numbers.” He looked at Andy almost apologetically. “I’m sorry to say that Maurella likely sought you out because you are a figure of law in this realm.”
“And she wanted our girls to be soldiers in the fairy war!?!?” Andy exclaimed.
Claude nodded. “Yes. But my group and I are not in the business of forcing the allegiance of anyone,” he assured, partly to Andy and partly to Sookie and me. “In a decade or so, I will return to Faerie with any who choose to follow in the hopes of defeating Mab.” He sighed. “It is in this realm that I am most likely to find Niall, too. And, honestly, he is the best suited to destroy Mab and to reunite our people.”
“But his vendetta against Warlow is still paramount on his mind,” I observed.
“Um—I don’t know if this is a suitable topic for the children,” Andy said.
Claude practically snorted as the shy Braelyn spoke. “Daddy, we already know that there are bad people in the world.”
“And we need to be able to defend ourselves—even if that means killin’ them,” the ‘sweet’ Charlaine said with a pleasant smile.
The others agreed with nods.
I sighed and spoke toward Andy, even though I was mostly speaking to my bonded. “We will ensure that our children get the training they need. We will do what we can for them, but I know that most vampires will be threats to them. And now we know that some fairies will be too. If I still had command over my vampire child, I would require that she leave your progeny alone; however, I have command over no living creature right now—except myself. But I vow this: when it is night, only three other beings will take priority over the safety of your girls for me.” I placed my hand over both of my sons in Sookie’s womb.
“And I will train them as soon as they have stopped their rapid growth,” Claude vowed. “My sisters will help.”
“And—like I said before—I’ll help too,” Sookie smiled at Andy.
“And—uh—you won’t ask nothin’ of them in return?” Andy directed toward Claude.
“No. You have my vow,” he promised.
“And mine,” I added.
“Oh,” Andy said, looking at me. “I wasn’t worried about you.”
At that, I chuckled. “It is ironic that the vampire in the room has your trust more than the fairy,” I observed.
Andy shrugged and looked at his girls. “I might not be telepathic, but I know my girls. And they trust you,” he added sincerely.
I nodded at him as Sookie looked up at me with pride in her expression.
“So—do any of you have any other questions?” Claude asked.
“Where is Warlow now?” Adilyn asked.
“Where’s Niall?” Danika echoed.
“Warlow is—I believe—in another realm. Trapped there by my sister, Claudine, when she was tasked by Niall to look after Sookie.” He looked at my bonded. “Before she was corrupted by Mab.”
Sookie nodded in understanding. “And Niall?” she asked, just as curious as the children.
“I do not know,” Claude answered honestly. “Like I said, part of the reason I came to this realm now was to seek out Niall. I believe that he could turn the tide against Mab—if he would only . . . .”
“Fight with you,” I supplied.
Claude nodded and then looked at Sookie. “I think it is fate that brought me and my sisters here at this time.”
“Fate?” Sookie asked.
“Fate is beyond us all,” Claude smiled. “Why were we here when Lilith was reborn? Why is there a cluster of fairies so near to the girl whom John Stackhouse’s contract promised to Warlow? Why are many of us your kin? Why do we need to find Niall for what is sure to be a decisive battle in Faerie?”
“‘Cause y’all are gonna help to protect Sookie and our babies from Warlow,” Adilyn said confidently.
“We’ll help too!” said Danika before she looked at her father. “Right, Daddy?”
Clearly Andy Bellefleur could deny his children nothing.
“Of course, sweetheart,” he said, his gruff voice softening just a bit. “After you are grown and get your trainin’ from Claude and his sisters.”
Four very pleased little girls looked up at their father, and I was grateful to all of them—and to the sheriff who was making the vow with them.
Who would have thought?
A/N: Sorry for the delay in posting this! I had some early morning meetings and overslept! So just getting around to this. I hope that you liked this chapter as we get to know the Bellefleur girls a little better.
Next week: Will Eric get around to officially proposing? 😉
As always, thanks to both Seph and Kleannhouse for their many, many contributions!