“Ready?” Niall asked.
Sookie looked to Claude for one more nod of assurance.
“Yes,” she said to Niall, trying to sound confident. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and erected a protection field around herself.
“Good,” Niall said. “Now, Claude and I will fire our light energy at you.”
Claude gave Sookie a wink and then joined his father in sending several energy bursts toward her.
“Beautiful shield,” Claude encouraged enthusiastically.
Sookie smiled as the two fairies increased the frequency and strength of their light bursts; her shield was holding and stronger than she’d ever felt it before.
“Yes,” Niall agreed. “You have made an excellent protection shield. Now I want you to keep it going, but add a shield to freeze Claude.”
Sookie nodded and closed her eyes. She knew that she was going to need to take some energy from her secondary power source to do what Niall was asking, but she felt the flow of Eric and her connection underneath everything. That thought comforted and relaxed her a little; she heard her husband’s voice in her head—no, it was in her heart—telling her that he believed in her.
Sookie visualized her own protection shield as the faucet in the kitchen. She turned it on a little more and took a deep breath. She left it running, trusting that it would stay on until she came back to turn it off. And then she imagined that the force field she needed to make in order to ‘freeze’ Claude was the faucet in the downstairs bathroom, and she turned that one on as well.
She opened her eyes and looked at Claude, who was smiling at her. “A little more power, Tanah,” Claude encouraged as he moved a little towards her.
Sookie nodded and turned the faucet on a little more. Claude was frozen in his tracks. He winked at Sookie. “Good. I cannot move at all now.”
“Very well done,” Niall complimented. “However, eventually you need to learn how to do these things more quickly—more instinctively.”
“Now,” Niall said. “Try to shoot the tree with your light.”
Sookie looked immediately worried.
“You can do it, Tanah,” Claude encouraged.
Sookie left on the faucet for the shield that was holding Claude and tried shooting her light at the tree. However, nothing happened; there was not even a little spark visible on her hands. Sookie refocused and thought for a moment. Her light bursts were not like the steady streams she needed for her fields. They were a different kind of power.
“Yes,” Niall said. “They are drawn from the same source as your shields, however. Since your connection with Eric was the catalyst for your light power as well, you should be able to find that ability in your fairy bond.”
Sookie glared at Niall. “You aren’t supposed to be in my head like that!”
Niall smirked and challenged her. “Then keep me out, Sookie.”
“Ugh,” Sookie sounded as she quickly turned on a faucet to keep Niall out of her head.
He chuckled, “Well done, my dear. I like this new way you have of thinking about your abilities. It is useful. But I am still waiting for my light burst, and so is the tree.”
Sookie scowled at him. She tried again to activate her energy bursts, but nothing happened. “Okay,” she said to herself. “The light bursts are different, but how?” She shook her head; she wasn’t sure how. It was almost as if in leaving the faucets on to her fields, she couldn’t use her bursts. But then she rethought that. She had been able to shoot the tree with her light when she’d just been holding Claude. The only difference now was the protection shield she’d constructed around herself.
Could it be that the protection field was preventing her light bursts from escaping? And if so, what the hell could she do about it? She tried again, but there was still nothing. Her frustration was rising, and she felt the force field holding Claude slip a little.
“I can’t do it,” she said to Niall, the exasperation clear in her voice. “I think that my own shield thingy is stopping my light from firin’. Are you sure it’s even possible for me to fire my light while I have the force field up?”
Claude spoke reassuringly, “This was a difficult thing for me to learn as well, Sookie, but it is possible.”
“How long did it take you to learn?” Sookie asked with some trepidation.
Claude hesitated. “About a year to get it right.”
“Fuck,” Sookie muttered under her breath.
Claude quickly added, “But you are more advanced already than I was when I first attempted it. In a way, the Water Fae in me works to counteract my ability to produce shields in the air, so it took me longer. You have no such hindrance, Tanah.”
Sookie rolled her eyes, “Except for that whole humanity thing.” She was still muttering.
“Enough,” Niall said impatiently. “Try again.”
Sookie nodded and once more attempted to harness her power into a burst of light. She looked at her hands and saw nothing there. She tried visualizing faucets turning on, sprinklers watering the lawn, the washing machine running, and even the frickin’ toilet flushing, but still, there was nothing. “Son of a bitch,” she cursed softly.
Niall watched as the frustration mounted within Sookie. Though she had shut him out of her head, he could still sense her magic, and it was faltering. The shield holding Claude immobile was losing strength, and the shield Sookie had put around herself was beginning to weaken as well. Niall was concerned, and he realized that he needed to spur her on somehow.
Sookie was run by her emotions, and Niall knew that he could likely use them to help her understand what she was capable of, but he also knew that Sookie couldn’t rely on her emotions as a crutch. He had been told by the Ancient Pythoness that the time would come when Sookie would have to be able to place her emotions to the side and control her power without them. Otherwise, she and Eric would both perish.
However, despite the ancient one’s warning, Niall intuited that if Sookie didn’t believe she could do something, then she wouldn’t be able to do it. She needed to believe. She needed to see. And then—hopefully one day soon—she could recreate what she was capable of with control. However, before he pushed her emotions, he wanted to remind her of what she already knew. Perhaps, that alone would do the trick.
“Sookie,” Niall said gently, “you have done before what you are attempting now—when young Eric was here. So you know it is possible.”
Sookie nodded and tried again. She felt that she had access to plenty of power to generate one of her light bursts, yet it wouldn’t—for some reason—break through her protective force field. And as she struggled to attempt to make it do so, she felt as if tiny leaks were forming in the other things she was doing—in her shields around Claude and herself.
Niall felt the further slipping of Sookie’s magic and made the only decision he could. He had wanted to protect her—to save her from knowledge that would bring her only pain. He had wanted to help her use her gifts without her emotions being involved. But that now seemed impossible.
“I can’t do this part without Eric!” Sookie cried out with frustration.
“Can you do it for Eric then?” Niall yelled as he too rushed toward Sookie as if to attack her.
Caught off-guard, Sookie’s self-protection shield dropped immediately, but she managed to stop Niall with another ‘freezing’ force field when he was only a few feet away; however, Niall was much harder to hold than Claude was. Claude made a move to back off.
Niall shot him a harsh look. “Do not stop, Claude. Her protection is down. Keep attacking her―even as she is at her most vulnerable. That is exactly what her enemy will do!”
Claude gave Sookie a tortured look and then continued to try to break free of the freezing spell.
Fighting against her hold, Niall inched toward her. “Hold me, Sookie. I know that you can do it.”
“No,” Sookie said as she struggled, “you are stronger than I am. I can’t.”
Niall decided that he would try to use Sookie’s fear.
“Sookie,” Niall said sternly. “What if it were not you that I was attacking? What if it were your mate?”
Sookie bristled at the thought.
Niall turned briefly and faced Claude. He spoke into his son’s head, telling him not to defend himself no matter what. Claude gave Sookie a concerned look and then nodded slightly to Niall in affirmation.
Niall looked back at Sookie, and she withered in the heat of his intense glare. “Let us go now, Sookie. Drop the fields.”
Sookie quickly obeyed.
Niall’s stare bore into her. “Now, Sookie, I am going to attack someone you love. He will die if you cannot defend him!” Niall turned and hit Claude with a burst of light. Niall knew that the blast would merely stun his son, but it still sent Claude to the ground—hard.
“What the fuck?” Sookie yelled even as she harnessed her magic to erect a protection spell around Claude.
Niall turned back toward her and once again rushed her. Caught a bit off-guard, Sookie barely managed to erect a freezing spell around Niall. However, it was not as strong as it needed to be, and he was once again able to inch toward her.
“Sookie, you need to be able to hold me properly—to stop me!” Niall yelled. “I can still move, which means that I can still fire upon you or—better yet—the person you love!”
“I can’t,” Sookie gasped. “You’re too powerful.”
Niall turned and shot at Claude again. This time Sookie’s protection field kept Claude from being hit, but she could feel that field slip a bit as she tried to keep Niall still.
Niall once more looked at Sookie. “You know that I will not kill Claude, and you know that I will not hurt you, but the same will not be true when you must try to save your mate’s life from your enemy, Sookie!”
She gasped as a tear fell from her eyes.
“Could you stop me from killing your mate if I was his enemy? Would that be enough motivation for you to truly stop me?”
He shot another burst at Claude. With difficulty, Sookie managed to sustain the field around her adopted fairy brother.
Niall kept inching toward her. His voice held true menace. “It is daytime, Sookie, and Eric is―helpless.”
Another inch and another shot at Claude.
Niall was unrelenting. “Eric will die in front of your eyes if you don’t stop my attack.”
Sookie shook her head and wept openly, “I can’t. You’re too strong.”
“Yes,” Niall said, seemingly unfazed by her tears. “You are right! As a fairy, I am much stronger than you are, but your power is augmented by your mate’s strength. Why do I not feel that power from you now? Where is Eric now, Sookie? Why aren’t you keeping him safe?”
“Eric’s not here!” Sookie cried as she kept trying to hold Niall still.
Niall stirred her deepest fear. “Could he be under attack even at this moment?” Niall asked cruelly.
Another inch and another shot at Claude.
Niall kept speaking. “And I do not feel your own strength and spark as I should either. Where is the fairy in you, Sookie? Why do you flirt with her and refuse to embrace what you could become? You snub your own potential, and that is why you fail!” He scoffed. “You will make both your and Eric’s deaths very easy for your enemy, child.”
Another shot at Claude. Again the protective shield slipped a little.
Niall went on. “Your Fae magic is waiting to come forth to aid you! Your mate’s blood is in you! Eric’s magic is in you, and it aches to join with your Fae magic fully, yet you hold back. Why don’t you draw upon his magic and your own as you did in Mab’s palace? You have done it before!”
Sookie shook her head, “But you won’t let me call him! And Eric was sending me strength when I was in Mab’s palace. I could feel him. I need to fuckin’ feel him through the vampire bond to do what you want me to do!”
“No!” Niall said harshly. “That would make it easier, but you will not have the luxury of ease or Eric’s aid when you are required to save his life, Sookie. Eric will be in no condition to help you. He will die without you, and you may follow into death—or worse.”
Niall knew that he was now pushing Sookie’s fear to her breaking point, but he needed to stir her anger as well. He needed to find the fire within her.
Another shot toward Claude.
Sookie’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?” she yelled out, even as she continued to hold Niall. She could feel the shield around Claude slipping even more as Niall sent yet another shot in his direction.
“I mean that I have been told that young Eric’s life will hang in the balance. The enemy you face will have mastered Eric. Your mate will be down. He will be powerless. He will be near-death.” Niall spit out his words with cruelty. “He will be unable to help you, Sookie. He will barely be able to keep himself alive. It will be you who must come to his aid! Or he will turn to ash and sludge in front of your eyes! He will not be able to fight by your side, Sookie, for his body will be broken and at the mercy of your enemy! Will you shout out a chorus of ‘I can’t do its’ to your enemy, Sookie?” Niall taunted.
“No,” Sookie gasped, even as she felt her hold on Niall slipping again. He moved another inch toward her.
Niall shot at Claude once more and then continued. “The burden that you will face in order to save Eric’s life is not fair, but it is required if you are both to survive. Do you wish to save him, Sookie, or will you claim to be too weak?”
Niall’s voice was now mocking. “Your foe will be even stronger than I am, Sookie. And you will let your mate die. He is lying before you—broken and battered. His blood is spilling. He is at the mercy of his enemy, and you are doing nothing!”
Niall almost broke the role that he had assumed when he saw his great-granddaughter’s eyes turn red with the fire rising within her. He braced himself.
“No!” Sookie yelled as she imagined the picture that Niall was painting. She sensed her anger growing almost uncontrollably, and her flesh felt hot all over. “That’s my fucking husband! That’s my fucking blood!” She felt her power multiply as she felt Eric’s blood seem to combust with her own spark. “His blood is my blood!” she yelled. With those words, she pushed Niall back and then sent him flying thirty feet away. He landed on the ground with a loud crash.
Claude stumbled back as Sookie’s power vibrated in the air.
Shaken by the force of her magic and feeling it continuing to build within her, Sookie looked down at her hands fearfully. A huge pool of reddish light was gathering there. She wasn’t sure how to stop it, and it felt as if it might burn her from the inside out. She looked at her fairy brother helplessly. “Claude! What do I do?”
“The tree!” Claude said. “Hit the tree.”
Immediately, Sookie aimed her full force at the tree, uprooting it. The recoil of her powerful burst of magic sent her backwards, and she landed on her bottom with a thud. “Shit,” she exclaimed as she looked down at her now unlit hands.
Niall stood up and brushed himself off. He was decidedly ruffled.