An hour after Sookie’s practice had begun, Niall was decidedly unruffled. However, Sookie felt that she was making some progress. She’d been able to do a much better job keeping Claude ‘frozen’ when he tried to attack her. She’d also been nailing the hell out of the tree with her light bursts, though she was having to concentrate on taking her power from more than just her shared magic with Eric. It certainly wasn’t an automatic process yet, but she knew that she was doing better.
At times during her practice, she’d felt herself tiring, and Claude would be able to overpower her ‘freezing’ field a bit and get a little closer to her, but she kept remembering what Eric had said about tapping into her second source of magic when she needed to.
However, what helped most was what Eric had said about their shared magic always being the undercurrent of everything she was doing. The thought of Eric being right next to her and working with her helped her more than she could say.
“Stop for a moment,” Niall said after Sookie had been holding Claude relatively still for about ten minutes and hitting the tree with her light bursts at about thirty second intervals.
The distinguished-looking fairy smiled at her. “You are doing much better today, my dear. I think it is good that you made your plan with young Eric. Now―we can try some more challenging things.”
Sookie glanced at Claude nervously. He gave her a nod and ‘knocked’ before speaking into her head. “It is okay, Tanah. You are doing very well. Just keep doing as you have been.”
“Thanks,” Sookie returned to his head.
“Are you two finished?” Niall asked good-naturedly, as he looked from his great-granddaughter to his son.
Sookie rolled her eyes and then nodded.
Niall chuckled. “Okay. This time, I want you to begin by erecting a protective shield around yourself.”
Sookie gulped. She’d never been able to erect a force field around herself and use her other new abilities at the same time before—not even a little bit—unless, of course, she counted the time in Mab’s palace when Eric was fueling her directly with his own magic. Holding Claude in place and shooting her light bursts at the same time was one thing; they were both ‘offensive’ moves from Sookie’s perspective. Therefore, doing them at once seemed easier than trying to do one defensive thing and one offensive thing at the same time.
Claude knocked again. “Don’t freak up, Tanah.”
Sookie looked at him and giggled. Claude had been picking up some human slang from her over the last week. “It’s ‘freak out’—not up,” she corrected Claude aloud.
He winked. “I know. I just wanted you to lighten out.” He winked again—this time in an exaggerated way.
She rolled her eyes at her goofy fairy brother and his deliberate wrecking of another slang phrase he’d learned from her. Still―if his goal had been to make her lighten up a bit, he’d succeeded. She smiled at him gratefully. “Thanks Tanu.”
Claude smiled brightly at her calling him that.
Niall was pleased with both of them. He was happy that they had connected and formed what he was certain would be an abiding friendship. They were both in need of it.
He was not surprised that they had connected so quickly, for there were many similarities between the two of them. In their own ways, they both ‘cared too much’ about people—to the point that they were willing to sacrifice themselves. They were both selfless with others, but demanding of themselves. And they were both naturals with their use of magic.
But there was more. With both of them, Niall felt a strong sense of kinship that went well beyond family ties; it was deeper, and he’d felt it only with three individuals in his very long life. He suspected that he knew the cause of that feeling; however, it would be impossible to confirm unless he took Sookie back into Faerie, which was not something she wanted to do. Despite his curiosity, it was also not something Niall wanted to do—unless he was left with no other choice.
When he thought about young Eric and the suffering it would cause him to experience another large gap of time without Sookie, Niall was even more certain that he didn’t need to confirm his suspicions—not at that price. However, he would have to take Sookie back into the realm if her Fae abilities could not be harnessed in the ‘in-between’ place, where the magic was considerably less potent than in Faerie proper.
As Niall continued to watch his son encourage his great-granddaughter, he prayed to his ancestors in the Summerlands once more that he would not have to take Sookie into Faerie again. However, he knew that if nothing else worked to help Sookie reach her full potential, he would eventually have to take her there in order to save her life and the vampire’s life. And he also knew that time would soon be running short.
Niall sighed. There was only one way that he could certainly save Sookie’s life from the impending danger. He could force Sookie to go with him to Faerie right away, and he could keep her there. The Ancient Pythoness had guaranteed that she would have a long life if he simply kept her there. One full day in Faerie would ensure that she would live and that the trouble in the human world that she might face would be over. Of course, it would also mean—even with the pull Sookie would make on time itself—that all people whom she loved there would be gone. And Eric would be long gone.
The A.P. told Niall that keeping Sookie in Faerie would guarantee that Eric would die within a human year. Moreover, once Sookie was gone into the realm, the vampire would suffer from desolation and heartbreak—more than ever before—to the point that he would be glad to meet his end when it did come.
Sookie’s suffering―if Niall forced her to stay in Faerie―would be no less profound. The A.P. told him that Sookie would attempt to take her own life every day she was there once she felt her mate meet his final death. She told him that he’d have to stay Sookie’s hand each and every day for the rest of her very long, unhappy life.
She would be dead inside, but Niall could keep her alive.
Niall sighed heavily. It was within his power to save Sookie’s physical life—and part of him wanted to do it, but—again—the price was too high. He did not wish to see Eric and Sookie suffer because of separation. He was not that cruel.
No—he would give them their small chance at happiness.
And now, it seemed, that he would likely have to risk his own son as well to do it.