For a minute or two, nothing seemed to happen, but then the room began to brighten and the floor beneath Eric began to shimmer. He looked down at his feet, and then suddenly they were bare, and it looked like he was standing on water. His clothing was different too. Instead of the black garments he had been wearing, he had on light tan linen pants and a tunic of a slightly lighter color. Eric reached behind his back, feeling for his sword, but he did not find it there.
Eric heard chuckling and turned around to face the person making the noise. A distinguished-looking fairy stood before him, his light golden hair shining in the sun. Eric looked at him warily as the fairy continued laughing―not maniacally as Claudette had done, but what Eric could only describe as jovially.
“She said you would come, but I admit that I didn’t totally believe her. I didn’t think you would find a way. I suppose I should have never underestimated your love for my great-granddaughter,” Niall said, still chuckling.
“Who said I would come? Sookie? Where is she?” Eric looked around.
Niall shook his head a little sadly, “No―not Sookie.”
Eric inhaled deeply, “I smell her here. She was here recently.”
Niall nodded, “Yes, quite recently. She was here looking in on you―as a matter of fact—but I think you know that already.”
Eric moved quickly so that he was in front of Niall. His fangs clicked into place. “Where is Sookie?” Eric snarled, trying to use his nose to pick up her trail.
Finding it, he turned from Niall and began to follow it; however, Niall sent a ball of magic Eric’s way that effectively stopped the vampire in his tracks, though it did not hurt him.
“Let me go!” Eric demanded. “I need to get to Sookie—now!”
“I cannot allow you to do that,” Niall said, shaking his head. “If I do, I’m afraid my great-granddaughter would never forgive me.” He walked over to Eric, who was struggling against the magic that was holding him.
“If you leave this ‘in-between’ place and try to pass fully into the fairy realm, you will die, vampire. There is a powerful spell around all of the borders of Faerie, and if a vampire breaches our world, he or she will be burned in seconds. The fairy blood that you ingested will keep you alive and safe in this place; however, it will wear off before long and you will have to go back to your own realm. I’m afraid that I cannot let you go to Sookie.”
Eric scrutinized the fairy in front of him, “You said that Sookie is your great-granddaughter?”
“Yes,” Niall answered. “Now―I am going to let you loose so that you can sit with me and talk for a while until you must go back. I would like to get to know my great-granddaughter’s chosen one a little. But I’m afraid you cannot stay too long.”
Eric looked beyond the fairy toward Sookie’s trail.
Niall chuckled, “I will not let you follow, vampire. You would not survive it, and your death would do Sookie and Hunter only harm.”
“I need to get to her,” Eric said with desperation in his voice. “Please. I cannot come all the way here and then not have her and Hunter’s mother with me when I go back.”
Niall walked over to the immobilized vampire and patted his shoulder in a comforting gesture. “That is exactly what you must do, Mr. Northman―though I know it will be difficult for you to do it.” Niall gestured toward the bank next to the pool, “Will you join me?”
With one last glance down Sookie’s path, Eric nodded, knowing he had little choice in the matter and wanting to hear what Niall had to say. Perhaps he could convince the fairy to bring Sookie to him if he couldn’t go to her.
“Excellent,” Niall said, releasing Eric from his magical hold.
The fairy went to sit next to the pool and Eric joined him. The vampire asked, “Where are we? You said we are in an ‘in-between’ place. What does that mean? Are we not in the fairy realm?”
“Almost,” Niall said with a smile. “As I said, this is a space in-between our worlds. Here, time is not different between them, so when you go back to your realm, you will not have lost any time with my great-great grandson. If that were not the case, vampire, I would not have let you in. Your son requires you in his life too much right now, young one. And your and Sookie’s paths are destined to drift away from each other for a time.”
Eric looked at Niall in question. “So here I am losing no time with Hunter?”
“That is true,” the fairy assured. “In this place, time is the same between our realms.”
“How is that even possible?” Eric asked.
Niall chuckled, “I have no idea, but I know it to be true.”
Eric couldn’t hold in his sigh of relief as he thought of Hunter. At least he was not missing huge gaps of his son’s life. He looked back to Sookie’s trail and fought the impulse to try to speed after her.
As if reading his thought, Niall chuckled. “You are not that fast, vampire.”
Unconsciously, Eric ran his fingertips over the grass; he was startled when his fingers seemed to charge with some kind of magic. He felt Sookie presence very strongly in that moment, and his emotional connection with his wife through their vampire bond stirred a bit with each movement of his fingers.
Niall spoke in a voice full of wonder, “It is amazing to watch.”
“What?” Eric asked.
“The way your bond—or I should say bonds—with my great-granddaughter work. I have been alive much longer than you, and I have never seen anything like it before.”
“I can almost feel Sookie’s emotions here,” Eric said, still running his hands across the tops of the grass blades. “They’re,” he closed his eyes, “just out of reach, but I feel her presence strongly.”
“She was sitting where you are sitting earlier. And she was also moving her hands over the grass―just as you are doing now―even as she saw you in the pool,” he gestured toward the water.
“Saw me through this?” Eric asked, gesturing toward the water where he had entered the realm.
“Yes―and do not pretend that you did not see her as well. Your connection with each other is quite magnificent. I would not have thought you able to pass your emotions and gifts through the pool, but―then again―I ought not to have been surprised. After all, the bond between you worked to keep her alive even when she was inside Faerie, a place where no vampire has ever been.” Niall reached out his hand for Eric’s. “May I?”
Eric took the fairy’s hand with some reluctance, but as soon as he did, he saw the pool change shapes and then show him a sleeping Hunter. Eric smiled as he looked at his boy, safely tucked into his bed with Odin and the cat sleeping next to him and Dino cuddled into his chest. There was a little pool of drool on Hunter’s pillow. Eric was able to see Batanya as well, whom he had told to stay closer to Hunter since he was not there.
Eric asked, “This is how Sookie saw me last night?”
“Yes,” Niall confirmed, “but you should not have been able to see her watching you; you should not have been able to feel each other’s emotions or share your strengths. That is new—even to me.”
“Everything is possible,” Eric chanted in a whisper as he continued watching Hunter.
“So it seems with you two,” Niall said as he dropped Eric’s hand. The image in the pool disappeared, and Eric looked back at the fairy.
“What did you mean that I was able to keep her alive? Is that what I was feeling about five months ago―when I felt her calling to me for strength.”
Niall nodded, “Yes. She had just been force-fed the light fruit.”
“Do not worry, vampire. Her body―because of your fairy bond―rejected the fruit completely. She was willing to die rather than do something that would permanently take her from you. She would have died if it had not been for your strength keeping her alive until I could get to her and heal her with my magic.”
“She’s okay now?”
“When last she was here, she had recovered her strength―thanks in no small part to what you sent to her through the pool.”
The two were silent for a moment.
Niall finally spoke, “Tell me―how did you get here? I’m afraid that I cannot read the answer from your thoughts. However, I cannot believe you would have taken enough blood from Jason, and I can see that you did not take it from the boy. And ingesting a large amount of fairy blood is the only way your body could have passed here—well, that and an invitation, of course.” He winked at Eric.
“I used synthetic fairy blood, created from Jason’s DNA. It is similar to TruBlood, which is the synthetic human blood vampires can eat. And a witch coven created a pathway for me to come through, a portal.”
“Fascinating,” Niall said. “And very clever. But though the witches and the blood showed you the way, it was I who allowed you in. You see, a fairy must always give an outsider permission to come here.”
“How did Bill Compton, the other vampire, get here then?” Eric asked a question of his own. “I did not believe the blood alone would be enough. Did he not pass through the portal near the cemetery in Bon Temps?”
“You are very clever indeed, Mr. Northman. Or may I call you Eric?”
Eric nodded warily.
“Oh,” Niall said. “I am being rude. My name is Niall Brigant, and as you surmised, I am Sookie’s great-grandfather. Now―let’s see―the vampire, Bill Compton, had taken much of my great-granddaughter’s blood, but you are right; that was not enough. However, it was not the portal alone that brought him to this place. I also called him here.”
“But he talked to Claudine,” Eric said.
“Yes―my daughter. That was an error, I’m afraid. I did not know that Claudine would be here.” Niall paused. “I meant to bring Mr. Compton to this place when he would find himself quite alone. I knew that he would follow the scent of fairies into the realm where he would be instantly killed.”
Eric smirked, “You would have led him to his death.”
“Indeed,” Niall said without remorse. “He hurt my great-granddaughter, so when I saw the opportunity, I attempted to arrange for his demise. Unfortunately, Claudine happened to be here that day—unbeknownst to me. Bill found her and convinced her to answer questions about Sookie. The power of Sookie’s blood wore off, and he was sent back to the human realm—before he could be killed, sadly enough.”
“Compton died by my sword,” Eric reported.
Niall nodded. “I have seen the hurt he caused my great-granddaughter in her thoughts. I am glad you finished him.”
There were several moments of silence between them.
“Claudine was your daughter,” Eric said soberly.
“Yes,” Niall said.
“Do you know that she also died at my hands?” Eric asked, knowing that his fate lay in the hands of Niall in that moment.
“She is dead because of a series of events that led her to be in your hands, young one,” Niall said evenly. “You were the agent but not the cause.”
Eric nodded, “Still―I am sorry for killing Sookie’s kinswoman and your child. In my incapacitated state, I was unable to resist her scent.”
The two were silent for several more moments.
“Why have you not tried to attack me, vampire?” Niall asked with a twinkle in his eye. “You must smell me, and I have been doing nothing to mask my scent from you for the last several minutes.”
Eric looked at Niall, “There are two reasons. The first is that I do not wish to be drunk on fairy blood.”
Niall chuckled, “Very wise, vampire. And the second?”
Eric shook his head, “You do not smell that good to me―to be frank. For a long time—ever since we first bonded—I have thirsted for none but my mate.”
Niall laughed heartily. “Fascinating! To imagine! A vampire that does not covet a fairy’s blood―that finds the smell unappetizing!”
“Sorry,” Eric said with a smirk.
Niall smiled. “It is clear that you are a good mate for my great-granddaughter. And a good father to my great-great-grandson. There is much precious cargo in your hands, vampire.”
Eric nodded and spoke seriously, “I know.” He contemplated for a moment. “Can you tell me why Sookie isn’t here? Can you tell me why she did not use this pool to come back to me?”
Niall smiled at Eric sadly. “She wanted to. I watched her heart break when she chose not to.”
“Chose.” Eric whispered.
“Yes―she chose. She did what I could not; she went to try to save her cousin, Hadley.”
“Why are you not helping her?” Eric asked.
“I cannot. Both a treaty with my enemies, who have Hadley, and magic prevent me,” Niall said ruefully.
“When will she be back? Can I wait for her here?”
Niall smiled. “You may wait for the fairy blood to wear off, but then you must go.”
Eric said passionately, “I will drink more synthetic blood and return.”
Niall shook his head, “You are needed at your home by Hunter.”
Eric shook his head, “No―Hunter will understand. And you told me that time is no longer against me here. So I want to be here when Sookie comes back; I feel,” he paused, “so much closer to her in this place.”
Niall shook his head, “I’m afraid I must stop you from staying here, Eric. I will not call you again into this realm. She has told me that Hunter needs you. He will be facing danger soon, and it will be necessary for you to be there with him.”
“Is Hunter alright?” Eric asked, looking nervously at the pool.
“Yes, for the time being, he is fine, and if you return as you should, you will be with him before the danger comes―I’ve been told.”
“Then after the danger passes, I will come back.”
Niall shook his head sadly. “The danger for you and for Hunter will not pass for quite some time. And if you leave Hunter, then she is not certain that he will survive.” Niall sighed deeply. “And if Sookie returns before she is supposed to, you and she will both die. Sookie must remain here for a while, and you will return to your realm. You must both endure your separation in order to protect your family, young one.”
“Who―who is telling you these things? Who is this ‘she’ that you have mentioned several times now? What do you mean that both Sookie and I will die if we are not separated?”
“I do not know myself the answer to your last question,” Niall said a bit sadly. “She often limits what she will tell me as well. And as for who the ‘she’ is, I cannot say. She has forbidden it. However,” Niall said with a smile returning to his voice, “you will―I imagine―figure it out for yourself soon enough. You are actually quite clever.”
Eric looked toward the path of Sookie’s scent, “Will Sookie be okay?”
“I do not know,” Niall said, also looking worriedly at the trail. “She still doesn’t have much control over her powers, but she is learning and she has much raw power.”
Eric nodded and brushed his hands along the grass again. “Do you know how long I have left here?” he asked quietly, wanting to prolong his time as much as he could.
“You still have a little while,” Niall said with a twinkle in his eye.
At that moment, Eric felt a strange sensation coming from the fairy bond. In his human days, he’d once had the air knocked out of his body when he’d taken a fall from a horse. Now—it felt as if all the air had been knocked from the fairy bond. “She’s in trouble,” Eric said fearfully. Unable to stop himself, Eric began to stand, but Niall’s magic pulled him back down.
The fairy closed his eyes. “I cannot tell. She is in the confines of Mab’s castle, and I cannot monitor her there. And she is not communicating with Claude at this time either.”
“I know she’s in trouble,” Eric said with desperation in his voice. “Please—Let. Me. Go.”
“You would not help her that way, vampire,” Niall said sternly. “But there may be a way for you to aid Sookie—if you will listen to me and calm yourself.”
Eric looked in the direction of Sookie’s path but then nodded and turned to Niall. “How?”
Niall picked up a cup and filled it in the pool. He handed it to Eric. “Drink. This might help.”
“I can’t drink this,” Eric said, looking at the water, though he instinctually licked his lips.
“Truly amazing,” Niall remarked softly, having noticed Eric’s reaction. “I think you can drink this, and I think it will make you feel closer to Sookie; moreover, if you can drink, the water will bolster the fairy bond. As you know, the fairy bond enables you and Sookie to fuel each other. If she is in trouble, she may need you to help her by passing her your strength.”
“Why doesn’t she just call it like she did before?” Eric asked, still looking at the water as if drinking it were an impossibility.
“She may be unable to call your strength as she did before,” Niall said quietly. “She may be incapacitated.”
Without any more hesitation, Eric brought the water to his lips and gulped the liquid. He closed his eyes, waiting to see how the water would affect him.
He felt the fairy bond become stronger; the vampire bond also enlivened, and through them, he felt Sookie’s fear. “You were right. I feel her emotions now.” His eyes popped open. “She’s afraid! She’s literally paralyzed with fear!”
Niall spoke firmly, “Then send her your strength, vampire, and knock her out of her paralysis. Send her your love. It will remind her from whence to draw her magic.”
Eric didn’t question Niall. He closed his eyes and sent his strength and all of the love he felt for his wife through their fairy and vampire bonds. At first, he felt nothing, but after a few moments, he felt an answering surge from Sookie. He sighed with relief, knowing that she’d ‘woken’ up from her fear. After a few more moments, he felt a surge of love coming to him through the vampire bond—answering him. He felt her gratefulness. But most of all, he felt her power. “She feels me,” Eric said in a low voice.
“Of course she does,” Niall mused. “I feel the magic traveling between you now.” The fairy had also closed his eyes. “It is truly magnificent.”
Niall handed Eric another full glass of water. “Drink.”
Eric quickly obeyed and sent Sookie another surge of his power.
Niall watched the vampire weaken himself through his empowerment of his great-granddaughter. The fairy couldn’t hold back either his smile or his feeling of pride as he watched Eric’s concentration. Finally, after several minutes, Eric relaxed and opened his eyes. The fairy noticed that the vampire seemed to be panting a little, so he gave him a third cup of the healing water. “One more,” Niall said softly, “this time to strengthen yourself.”
Eric nodded gratefully and drank down the water. Then he spoke. “I don’t know what just happened, but Sookie seems to be okay now.”
Niall patted Eric’s arm. “Good. You have done well. Now rest for a while, child.”
The two sat in silence for a few minutes. Niall could feel that Eric was still sending his bonded his love, and he could also feel love being returned to Eric, but the magic between them was no longer surging. It had calmed and steadied, and Eric had calmed with it.
Finally, Niall spoke. “I loved Sookie’s great-grandmother, my Viola, just as you love your mate. I bonded with her as you have with Sookie.”
Eric opened his eyes and took in the stately fairy.
“Well,” Niall qualified, “not quite as you two did. She was human, of course, so our bond did not produce the powerful,” he paused, “effects that yours does. Still, it was very profound to me.”
“Viola was beautiful like Sookie. They have the same eyes, you know,” he winked, “and the same fire in those eyes.”
Eric couldn’t hold in his own smile, “Sookie’s fire is the most beautiful thing in my world. I cannot lose it. I won’t.”
“As was her great-grandmother’s fire to me,” Niall said with a twinkle in his eyes. He reached behind him and grabbed a piece of wood. He handed it to Eric.
It was a type that the vampire had never seen before, but Eric immediately recognized the color as being one of the many shades he’d found in his mate’s eyes. The wood was almost as dark as walnut and felt of similar strength.
“It is called carlottan,” Niall said. “It is the wood that we make most of our furnishings from in Faerie.” The fairy smiled and then continued his previous line of conversation. “I spent many years with Viola and my son—our Earl.”
“Sookie’s grandfather, who was married to Adele,” Eric said.
“Yes,” Niall confirmed. He chuckled. “It is funny, vampire, but you and I share a common interest―other than my great-granddaughter and my great-great-grandson, that is.” He gestured toward the wood. “My grandfather taught me to create things with wood, and over the years, it has become my chief pastime.” He smiled. “Before I had to leave my son to return to this world in order to keep him safe, I taught him some of my craft, and you, I believe, were responsible for repairing his work, the part of his legacy that was inherited by Sookie.”
Eric returned the smile even as he continued to monitor his bonds with Sookie, “It was good work. You taught your son well.”
Niall nodded, “And now you are teaching my great-great-grandson well.”
Eric nodded proudly, “Hunter has a talent for it; now, I understand that talent is―at least in part—because of hereditary.”
Niall’s look became more serious. “You are―as I said before―a good father to the boy, much better than his genetic father.”
Eric scoffed at the mention of Remy.
Niall chuckled and then spoke in a serious tone, “I have scoured my books of magic and the records of my people, Eric. I have consulted wise men, whom I trust, but none of us can figure out a way to make it possible for you and Sookie to have a child of your own.”
Eric was surprised and taken aback by the topic. He shook his head, “It is my biggest regret that I cannot father a child for Sookie. She would be a wonderful mother, and she has given up much to be my mate.”
“She has gained more,” Niall said confidently. “Just watching your bonds today, I see what all she has gained. But I do not deny the fact that I had hoped there would be a way for you two to reproduce.” Niall smiled, “Imagining such a child is,” Niall paused, “gratifying – especially given the fact that he always looks a little like me when I imagine him.”
Eric couldn’t help but to chuckle. He went to hand the wood back to Niall.
The fairy shook his head. “I have placed a spell on this wood so that you may take it with you. Carlottan is a symbol of eternity for my people and of everlasting blessings. Perhaps, you can work it into one of the pieces you are making for my great-granddaughter or my great-great-grandson.”
Eric nodded, “I will.”
Niall exhaled audibly, “It is time, Eric.”
Eric looked around apprehensively. “But what if Sookie needs me again?”
Niall sighed. “Trust her, Eric. Trust that you have given her enough strength. And trust that she will use it to good effect.”
Eric looked at Niall with certainty in his eyes. “I do trust her.”
Niall smiled. “You are right to trust in each other. It has been nice to meet you, Eric Northman. I hope we will meet again.”
With those words, Eric felt himself somewhat disconnect from his body. He touched the grass beneath his free hand one last time, but then felt that grass turn hard and cold as the wooden floors of Octavia’s shop came under his fingers. Eric was still sitting, but he saw that his clothing was once again as it was before, and he felt the weight of his sword on his back. Instead of seeing Niall before him, his eyes fell onto Octavia, Lafayette, Jesus, Tara, and Amelia, who were now looking at him like he was an alien.
“You’re back already?” Jesus asked.
Eric nodded and stood up.
“Where’s Sookie?” Tara asked.
Eric shook his head sadly. “I could not go to her. She is trying to save her cousin Hadley, and I was stopped at a crossroads of sorts by her great-grandfather—a fairy named Niall. I could go no further without dying, and I could wait only as long as the fairy blood was potent enough to keep me there. But while there, I was able to give her my strength, and before I left, she felt very,” he paused, “powerful to me.” Eric closed his eyes and focused on the feelings he’d felt from Sookie in his last moments next to the pool. She would be alright; she had to be.
Tara looked at Eric strangely and then yelled out, “Oh my fuckin’ god! You are in the fuckin’ sun, you fuckin’ idiot!” Out of instinct, Tara began to chant one of the shielding spells that Amelia had taught her, trying to protect Eric from the sun’s rays.
Eric felt Tara’s magic and chuckled, “It is okay, Tara. While in the fairy world, I drank some of the water. I think it helped me to absorb some of Sookie’s gifts like before.” He quickly added for the benefit of those that didn’t know, “When Sookie was with me, I was able to stay in the sun for a bit of time in the early mornings or late afternoons without problems.” Eric winked at Tara, “But thank you for that.” He smirked. “I didn’t know you cared, Miss Thornton.”
“Me neither. Fuckin’ fairy water!” Tara muttered. “I must be drinkin’ some fucked up irony Kool-Aid. Mother fuckin’ twisty ass fate.”
Eric chuckled. He looked at Lafayette. “Did you arrange for my travel coffin to be available for when I got back?”
“Yeah, bitch, what do I’s looks like, someone incapable of followin’ simple directions?”
Eric laughed as Tara looked on stunned at the casual way Lafayette addressed Eric.
“Excellent,” the vampire said. “If you are up for a drive to Bon Temps, I would like to wake up to see Hunter. He is worried, and Sookie’s great-grandfather told me Hunter is facing some kind of threat.”
Jesus looked at Eric worriedly, “Should we call Miranda?”
Eric nodded. “Not Miranda though; she is too,” he paused, “testy right now. Call Jarod―just in case―but according to what I was told, I will be there in time to face the threat; however, I do not know exactly when it is coming. The fairy didn’t seem to know either.”
Jesus nodded and pulled out his cell phone.
Eric looked at Octavia, “You have my thanks.”
The witch smiled, “So it worked?”
“Like a charm,” Eric winked. He turned to face Amelia, “Miss Broadway, you too have my thanks for making my little journey tonight possible.”
Amelia smiled broadly, looked at Tara a bit sadly, and then took a deep breath. “If it’s okay, I’d like to take you up on that offer to come to Bon Temps for a while to work more with Jesus goin’ through those books of yours.”
Eric bowed a bit, “Thanks, Amelia. I have some additional information I learned regarding the fairy realm as well―which I will tell you later.”
Amelia’s smile widened even more. “Sweet!”
Tara rolled her eyes, “Fuckity, fuck, fuck, fuck!”
Eric looked at her with a raised brow.
Tara said sarcastically, “Looks like I’ll be goin’ back to that shithole too then.” She looked at Eric, “but you better tell Pam to keep her fuckin’ fangs to her fuckin’ self.”
Eric smiled, “Miss Thornton, I can promise you one thing with certainty. You will be safe from all the vampires of Area 5. And Bon Temps is not so fucked up. Take it from me—you will find a good home there—if you let yourself.”
Tara looked at Eric and shook her head, “Fucked up, fuckin’ fate!”
Eric laughed as he approached the windows and enjoyed the sun for a few minutes, knowing that the gift of the morning light had come from his beloved. He was still processing all of the enigmatic things the fairy had told him, but feeling his wife’s magic flowing through him even then, he felt hopeful that Sookie would soon return to him.