Sookie looked down at Hadley’s sleeping figure and was grateful that her cousin seemed to be resting comfortably on the pallet that Claude had brought for her.
Niall gestured for Sookie to join him about ten feet away from Hadley. Her great-grandfather looked at Hadley and shook his head. “Her toil is only beginning,” he said quietly.
“What do you mean?” Sookie asked.
“Hadley will soon have to face a very difficult decision. It may be in my power to reverse the effects of the light fruit. After what happened to my son―to my Earl,” Niall stopped for a moment as his voice caught. The fairy closed his eyes, composed himself, and continued, “I did not want that to happen again, so I have been looking for ways to counteract the light fruit’s ability to permanently binding a hybrid to this realm. The fruit essentially severs a hybrid’s connection to the ‘time’ of your realm by tying him or her to this world; therefore, if a hybrid tries to go back, his or her body is ripped apart because it can no longer function at the “speed” of your realm. That is what happened to my Earl.” He paused again, needing another moment. Sookie put her hand on his arm to comfort them both. She had witnessed the effects of what Niall had been talking about, and she quickly constructed a shield around that memory so that her great-grandfather would not have to.
He gave her a smile. “Thank you, my dear.” He continued, “The high-level of magic in a full-blooded fairy can usually compensate for the disparity in time, though there are some fairies that cannot travel to other realms at all.”
“So not all fairies can travel between our worlds?” Sookie asked.
Niall shook his head. “No—some of them are bound to only Faerie.” He sighed. “The reverse principle is also true: only fairies may come to this realm—those with fairy blood. And the amount of blood must be significant. That is why I was never able to bring my Viola to this realm with me.”
Sookie patted his arm again.
“Before Mab started bringing hybrids here to,” he paused and looked at the sleeping Hadley, “use them, only a few had ever traveled to this realm over the millennia—and those always came and stayed by choice. They were given the option of taking the light fruit, which can enhance a fairy’s magic, but they were neither tricked nor forced into doing so.”
Sookie nodded in understanding.
Niall continued, “A spell to take away the effects of the light fruit would require a great deal of magic and would hurt the hybrid greatly—perhaps even cause his or her death. It would be similar to the kind of spell you once used to sever your ties and bond with the vampires. However,” he sighed deeply, “despite the dangers, I believe it would work.”
Sookie sat up straight, suddenly remembering something. “Shit, I ordered Mab to let all of the hybrids go. I gave her two hours, and that was like an hour and a half ago.”
Niall chuckled. “Yes, I read your ultimatum to Mab from your thoughts. And I also read how you ‘put her on her ass.’”
Sookie bit her lip and shook her head. “I couldn’t do anything much to hurt Mab right now—not without the fairy bond to take my power from. That’s where most of my power seemed to be coming from, Niall.”
Niall nodded. “I know. But do not worry. I will send Claude and others to collect the hybrids when it is time and once the hybrids are clear of Mab’s magic.”
“How do you know that she will do what I asked?” Sookie inquired.
Niall chuckled, “At heart, Mab is a coward, and from your head, I can see that she is quite afraid of you.”
“She’s got nothin’ to be scared of right now.”
Niall smiled kindly. “Do not fear, child. Often the specter of fear is enough. And she doesn’t know that you lost your connection with your vampire.”
Sookie nodded. “And you will do the light-fruit severing spell on them too?”
Niall nodded. “If they wish. Some of them have been here long enough to lose their whole lifetimes in the human realm. Others may have been treated well and may wish to stay in this realm or even return to Mab’s palace. But I will take into account the wishes of anyone who wants to go back to your world. And they will be brought here immediately until the spell can be prepared to send them home.”
Sookie nodded and sighed with relief. “At least Hadley and I haven’t lost our lifetimes. And soon we will be able to go home. I’m sure that she will choose to do the spell―no matter what the risks are—or at least, I think she will.” Sookie paused, suddenly a little uncertain. Then she continued in a more confident, though somewhat false tone, “Yes—she’ll want to go home to Hunter.”
Niall nodded sadly. “I will conduct the spell if Hadley wishes it. Of course, if she does, she will lose her child.”
“Hunter?” Sookie asked confused.
“No,” Niall said quietly. “Hadley conceived tonight.”
Sookie gasped as realization hit her; her body slumped. “No,” she whispered.
Niall nodded. “I feel the magic of the child even now. Like Hunter and like you, this child has a prominent spark. She will be a strong fairy―if Hadley chooses to bear her. However, carrying the child to term would irrevocably tie her body to the fairy realm, and Hadley could not go back to your realm after that.”
“She,” Sookie said in a whisper.
“Yes,” Niall said. “The child is a girl.”
He sighed. “After a Fae woman has given birth to a child here, her blood and magic become tied to this realm. And she can travel to your world only if she has the ability to project a stasis spell around herself, and very few have the ability to do that. And even if I were able to teach Hadley eventually,” Niall sighed, “a spell of this sort would be only short term, and she would not be able to stay in your realm for longer than an hour or two at a time.” Niall looked over at Hadley and shook his head sadly. “She would never be able to live there again.”
A tear dropped from Sookie’s eyes. “So Claudine and Claudette?” Sookie asked.
“Were both childless,” Niall said.
Sookie shook her head gloomily and looked at Hadley. “It’s too much for her. I don’t know how she will ever choose. If she keeps her child, she’ll be forever reminded of what happened to her tonight, and if she doesn’t, she’ll always carry with her the fact that she killed her child. And if she stays here, she won’t be able to live with Hunter again―unless he comes here too.” Thinking of the effect that would have on her husband, more tears streamed from her eyes. “Eric and Hunter,” she whispered.
Niall nodded and reached out to pat Sookie’s arm this time. “Yes―Hadley will now face choices that should not have to be made by anyone. And those choices will affect both Hunter and your Eric as well.” The fairy smiled comfortingly at Sookie. “But I have felt and seen the strength of Hadley’s mind. She has rarely been encouraged in her life, and she feels unworthy of happiness in many ways. She has been used by vampires, humans, and now fairies. But―if she does choose to stay here, whether she keeps her child or not, then that will change. She will never be lacking encouragement as long as I am alive.”
“What of Hunter?” Sookie asked.
“I don’t know.” Niall said solemnly.
“How do you seem to know some things about the future but not others? Can fairies see the future?”
“No, fairies do not possess that skill. I know only what she tells me.”
Niall smiled, “She is the source that told me you would be coming to this realm and would need my help. She is the source that told me that you would have to stay in this place for a while in order to prevent your death and the deaths of those you love in your realm. But,” he smiled more widely and with a twinkle in his eyes, “she never tells everything she knows―only what suits her purposes.”
Sookie thought over Niall’s words for a moment. Strangely, they sounded familiar to her―like what Eric had said about someone. Sookie gasped, “The A.P.? The Ancient Pythoness?”
Niall chuckled, “You both really are quite clever. She was right about him, and you have always impressed me with your ability to see connections between things others would not see.”
“You’re talking about Eric and me now—right?”
Niall nodded. “It didn’t take him long to figure out the source of my information either—though I think you were quicker,” he added with a wink.
“Wait―you’ve talked to Eric?” Sookie tried to keep the volume of her voice and her excitement-level down so that she wouldn’t wake Hadley.
“He was here. While you went to Hadley, he found his way here, just as―what did you call her? Oh yes―the A.P. said he would.” Niall chuckled. “I allowed him into this place. And we spoke. Your young man is quite devoted to you. It took a great deal of magic on my part―more than I let on to him at the time―to keep him from running after your scent into Faerie, but that would have killed him―at least I am almost positive it would have.” He shrugged. “However, after meeting him and seeing the other seemingly impossible things that occur between the two of you, perhaps I am wrong.” Niall chuckled again, “I have observed him much over the last several years―since he first appeared in your life. He probably would have proven me wrong and found a way to survive in Faerie. Perhaps your blood in him and the fairy bond would have kept him from burning there, but I could not take that risk.”
“Wait―so you brought him here?” Sookie asked, still trying to get caught up with everything Niall was telling her.
Niall nodded. “Young Eric also helped. With a sample of Jason’s blood, some scientists in his employ actually produced synthetic fairy blood.” Niall chuckled again. “Who would have thought? Anyway, your vampire had a coven of witches open a portal so that he could come here. And I let him in. He was perfectly safe in this place and stayed here as long as the fairy blood was strong enough to keep him here. However, the spells protecting Faerie itself are fatal to vampires—at least normally.” He gave her another wink.
Sookie put her hand over the empty spot that was the fairy bond. “He was here when I felt that burst of strength. He saved me.” Tears welled into her eyes.
Niall nodded as he read Sookie’s thoughts, picking up all of the details of her experience with Ivan. “Yes―the power that you felt when you were trapped in your fear was your mate pouring his strength into you. And it seems that he also infused you with the power of his vampire magic as well. That is the only way I can explain the force you exhibited in killing Mab’s fairies.”
Sookie shook her head sadly. “I didn’t intend to kill anyone when I walked in there, but,” she paused as a sob rose in her throat.
“But you had to defend yourself and your cousin. Do not feel guilty, Great-Granddaughter. Mab would have shown you no pity—as you well know.”
Sookie nodded and pushed her tears away. “So Eric was here,” she said wistfully, trying to imagine his skin lit up by the light of that place. “Can you bring him back?”
Niall shook his head, “I could, but now is not the time. The ancient one has told me many times that Eric must stay in your realm with Hunter and that you must remain here for the time being. Plus, your vampire would have to prepare his body to come in the way he did before.”
Sookie tilted her head, “So there’s another way in? How?”
Niall smiled, “I do not know of another way, but then again, I have faith that with you two, something else might be possible.”
“Anything is possible,” Sookie whispered, still holding her hand over the empty bond. “I miss him. I need to feel him in here again.” She looked down at her hand on her chest. “I feel so empty.”
Niall nodded sadly, “It has been the same for him as well.”
“Can you heal me―with your magic? How about the water?” Sookie looked at the pool and then made sure that Hadley was still sleeping peacefully before her eyes moved back to Niall.
Her great-grandfather shook his head, “I cannot, I’m afraid. Claudette’s curse in him will have to run its course―unless, of course, you once again find a way to do the impossible.”
Sookie looked down at her hand again and saw her ring shining there. She also felt the pendant Eric carved for her under her hand. She tried to muster up her magic to heal herself somehow, but its source seemed to have been taken from her. She shook her head. “It’s like my light isn’t workin’ at all anymore.”
Niall looked at her with concern. “Is your telepathy still working?” he asked.
He sighed, “The power of your light will likely―I’m afraid―remain stifled until your bonds come back to life. I believe Eric’s blood and his magic were the catalyst for your light ‘turning on’ to begin with.”
Sookie looked at Niall with confusion, “But Claudine said that she had awakened my light power. She said that she sent a surge of her own light to help me with that Rattrays; she said that her power turned on mine.”
“Hmm,” Niall considered. “Yes, she shared this theory with me as well—before she was forced to join Mab’s faction. However, I was never certain of it.”
Sookie looked at him in question.
He smiled. “If Claudine had indeed activated your power, I think you would have used it well before you did.”
Still confused, she looked at him with tilted head.
He asked, “When did you first use your light for yourself, my dear?”
Sookie thought for a moment. “When the Maenad attacked Bon Temps—right after Bill and I got back from,” she paused, “Dallas. Shoot! That was right after I’d had Eric’s blood.”
“Yes,” Niall smiled, “there was great love and magic in his blood when you took it in place you call Dallas. It was only after that moment that the light power in you was truly brought to life. After learning more about you and the troubles you faced after you met Bill Compton, I believe that Claudine was mistaken about the moment of true awakening for your light. That is the only way to explain why you did not use it to protect yourself before.”
“With René,” Sookie said softly. “Or Longshadow. Or the Maenad the first time. Or in the Fellowship of the Sun church.” Realization hit Sookie. “So Eric,” she stopped mid-sentence.
“So Eric’s magic—even if Claudine’s did start the process—was needed as the catalyst for your actually using your light.” He closed his eyes. “And since you do not feel his magic through your bonds, your light seems just as dormant as they are. That aspect of your fairy nature seems to depend on its ability to link with his magic.”
“However,” he smiled a little as he squeezed his eyes closed more fully, “I still sense some of his blood inside of you, and there is magic in that blood.” He opened his eyes and winked at her. “Perhaps, it could tinder a little spark in you for a second time?”
“But how do I make it do that?” Sookie asked, looking down at her hands.
Niall smirked and began to speak, but both of their attentions were drawn to Hadley, who was now thrashing in her sleep because of a nightmare. Sookie rushed to her side, followed quickly by Niall.
“It’s okay, Had,” Sookie comforted, trying to wake her cousin up.
Hadley’s eyes popped open, and recognition slowly came to them as she saw Sookie and Niall, who had also knelt down next to her. She nodded timidly.
Niall reached out his hand and gently took hers. Sookie sensed that he was speaking into Hadley’s head, but she also noticed her cousin calming down. Within a few minutes, Hadley was asleep again.