“Sookie,” Claude said softy after they’d been staring into the pool for about an hour, “I need to take a rest for a few minutes and take in some water from the pool. We have to shut off the image for me to do that.”
Sookie, who had been leaning into Claude, sat up straight. “Okay.”
Claude dropped her hand, and the image in the pool disappeared.
He grabbed two cups and filled them with the water from the pool. “You should drink again too.”
Sookie nodded and took the offered cup.
She looked into the pool. Despite having tried many times, she’d been unable to see Eric in the pool on her own. Niall told her that it was because she’d not yet fully embraced her fairy nature. Sookie agreed that was likely the reason. In fact, she had been scared to do it—scared that if she embraced it, that she would somehow become lost in the fairy―that she might lose some more of her humanity.
After seeing her glorious husband fighting, however, she realized that she shouldn’t be afraid anymore. He’d actually been able to wield fairy magic—her magic. It seemed to have taken a lot out of him—especially since he’d done it during the day—however, he’d used the shared power from their bond without question and without hesitation.
She shook her head and wondered why she was so afraid of losing herself. Eric was not worried about “losing” who he was if he took on some of her gifts—even if they were fairy gifts. She chuckled, thinking about how Pam was going to react when she found out that her master was throwing around fairy light.
“What’s so funny?” Claude asked.
Sookie sighed and shook her head. “Life.”
“Care to be more specific?” Claude teased.
Sookie smiled. “It’s just funny that my vampire husband seems to have less reticence using fairy magic than I do. And he was willing to use it with such abandon and without any questioning.” She paused. “It’s just funny that I haven’t been able to do the same.”
Claude teased. “You are right; you are funny—defective even. I must remember to trade you in for a new sister as soon as I have the chance.”
She punched his arm good-naturedly.
He smiled sincerely, “Sookie, you sell yourself short, and you need to stop it. I have seen you use your gifts with just as much power as your mate—more even. You are willing to sacrifice yourself for him and he for you. And once you let go of the doubt inside of you—which is telling you that you ‘can’t’ do it—I believe that you will find that you already can.”
Tears welled up in Sookie’s eyes. “Promise me that you will stay safe while I’m in Faerie.”
“That will depend on your Viking, Tanah,” he smiled. “But I will try. Hopefully, I will simply watch over him and Hunter for a short while. And then you can return to them and watch over them yourself.”
Just as Claude was about to retake Sookie’s hand to that they could continue their vigil watching over Eric, Niall appeared in the pool. Sookie rose, thrust her hands onto her hips, and looked at him expectantly and impatiently.
“I hear you and my lump-headed husband wanted to keep me from knowin’ about the fight today,” she said.
Niall chuckled and looked at Claude. “I was hoping that you would have already taken the bulk of her wrath, my son.”
“Oh―he got an earful at first, but he made it up to me by helpin’ me protect Eric,” Sookie said.
“How exactly were you able to help young Eric?” Niall asked with curiosity. “I have seen you connect to the bond emotionally through the pool, but I wonder how you were able to send him healing magic today.”
Sookie looked down at her feet guiltily. “Claude helped me.”
Realization hit Niall, and he closed his eyes for a moment. He brought his hand up to the bridge of his nose and then rubbed his forehead. He looked at his child and great-grandchild. “So, let me make sure I have this right. You saw that Eric was injured and wanted to help him heal.”
Niall continued. “But your body was not generating any healing magic because you were not injured and you could not feel your mate’s injury.”
Sookie nodded again.
“I am sure that it was your idea to ask your tanu here to injure you—just so you could help your vampire?” Niall asked.
“Yes,” Sookie said softly.
“That was very reckless, my dear,” Niall chastised, though the worry was clear in his voice too. “And you,” he said looking at Claude, “should not have helped her in this way.”
Claude stood up a little straighter. “Of course I had to help her, Father. And I would do it again.”
Sookie gave Claude a sideways smile. She knew that he didn’t often go against Niall’s wishes.
“Oh?” Niall asked, his eyes now brightened with mirth in addition to concern. He was prouder of Claude than ever. Between his son’s new goals and his coming out of his shell because of Sookie’s influence, Claude was becoming more and more extraordinary by the day. And—though Niall was certain that he was biased—he had always been confident that his son was quite extraordinary to begin with.
“Yes,” Claude answered him with certainty. “We were next to the pool, and I made sure that I did not hurt her badly. It was just enough to make sure her body would produce healing magic, which she could then pass along to her mate. Any one of us would have sacrificed in this way to protect a mate,” Claude challenged.
Niall chuckled. “I suppose you are right. I was just concerned since Sookie had already depleted herself.”
“Well,” Sookie assured, “I’ve bathed in the pool and drunk a lot of the water. Plus, I don’t think you’re really mad about the fact that I helped Eric like I did. I think that you are trying to distract me from the fact that you and my husband were being high-handed in keeping the knowledge of the attack from me in the first place.”
Niall chuckled again as he looked at Claude. “You actually got her to stop watching over him long enough to get her to bathe?”
Claude smirked. “With difficulty.”
Sookie glared at Niall, “Stop deflecting. I can’t believe that you were gonna keep all this from me!”
Niall held up his hands as if in surrender, “I had never intended not to tell you what happened, child. And Eric wants simply to keep you here and safe until you are ready to face your foes.”
The anger went out of Sookie almost immediately. “I know,” she relented. “And I do understand.” Her shoulders slumped a little. “Claude had to put a shield around me to keep me for goin’ to Eric, so I know that you were right, but I,” she stopped mid-sentence and let out a big sigh. “I need to trust myself not to do something stupid, and maybe I need for y’all to do the same—even before I ask it of you.”
“We do trust you, Great-granddaughter,” Niall insisted. “Your vampire especially. It was not a lack of trust that made him want to keep you from the fight today. It was not a lack of trust that made him want to ensure you did not worry. Sookie, it was love—his love for you.”
Niall raked his hand through his hair in an uncharacteristic movement. “In fact, he trusts in you so much that he never doubted that he would survive this day. He trusts that you will be ready when he needs you, and today, he bet his life on that trust.”
She sighed and sat down heavily, suddenly feeling very tired. “I know, but I was able to help him, Grandpa. I don’t like being kept in the dark.”
Niall smiled at her warmly. “That is the first time you have ever called me that.”
Sookie chuckled, “Well—you deserve it. You kept that,” she paused, “thing from biting what is MINE.”
Niall chuckled as he sat down next to her; Claude also took a seat next to the pool.
“I suppose you will not agree to sleep until you know everything that has happened?” Niall asked perceptively.
Sookie’s hand was unconsciously resting over the fairy bond. “You’re right, but right now, I need to see him again,” she said, looking at the pool a little desperately. There was something about Niall—something about the paternal “feel” of him—that gave her license to fall apart a little. A few tears spilled from her eyes.
Niall’s eyes grew concerned, and he quickly took Sookie’s hand into his. As they both looked on as Eric’s image fill the pool, Niall comforted her, “Young Eric is well, Granddaughter. He fought bravely and well.”
“Hunter?” she asked.
“He is well too. The demon and his mate are looking after him now, and the Britlingen is by his side as always. He was never in danger.”
“I know,” Sookie said with a little smile. “If there’s one thing I knew for sure, it was that Hunter was completely safe.”
“Your mate saw to the child first,” Niall commented.
Sookie nodded. “Eric was burned,” she said softly. “I hate to think of him burning.”
Niall squeezed her hand. “It looks worse than it is. I would have healed him myself otherwise. I offered, but his stubbornness rivals even yours, Granddaughter. And he will finish healing soon after he awakens.”
Sookie shook her head as another tear fell down her cheek; she felt like she could finally stop being strong now that her great-grandfather was back. “He can’t burn, Niall. I’m so afraid of him burnin’.”
Niall’s voice was soft, “He is safe from the sun now, child. The damage has been done, and though you are right that your magic and your blood could finish healing him faster than anything else, he will be fine on his own.”
“But what if this is it—the time when he’s defenseless and someone comes to kill him? What if this—right now—is the time that I’m needed. He’s not protected in the cubby, Niall. What if de Castro has more resources coming to attack my family? The protection shield is down.”
Niall sighed, “Even if your fears were founded, going there right now would mean only both of your deaths because you are not ready to protect yourself or him. Try not to fear, child; your Eric is well-guarded. I made sure of that myself before I left. All in the household are well.” He gestured toward the pool. “As you see, the Werewolf Tray Dawson is guarding him even now. His beloved, the witch Amelia, is also there. A force of thirty Werewolves from Mr. Dawson’s pack is guarding the house. The protection spell was re-raised before I left, and I supplied my own power to bolster it. Few would have the ability to take it down—as the witch Hallow did. The Werelioness, Miranda, and the shifter, Jarod, are overseeing the guards. Your mate is well-protected, my dear.”
Sookie nodded slowly, keeping her eyes on the image of Eric. “I’m not leaving this pool until he wakes up. And if something does get through all those things you just told me about, you won’t be able to keep me from goin’, Niall. I might die trying to protect him, but I will go to him!”
Niall smiled and nodded. “I will not stop you, my dear.”
Sookie asked, “Tell me what happened?”
Niall began, “From what I learned from your mate and then the Werelioness, a force sent by another vampire king attacked this morning.”
Sookie nodded. “De Castro’s people. We’ve been expecting them.”
The fairy chuckled. “Young Eric did seem like he was expecting someone. He had a well-thought-out plan in place. You have surrounded yourselves with able allies as well. The battle was over relatively quickly with only minor injuries to your side. It was a precise and overwhelming victory,” he said with admiration in his voice. “I was,” he paused, “proud of the Viking. He uses his assets with great skill, and he is also very formidable in battle.”
“So everyone else is okay?” Sookie asked quietly even as she kept her eyes locked on Eric in the pool. “I saw that Miranda was hurt.”
“Yes,” Niall said, “but it was little more than a scratch. Your friend Jesus was hit with a painful spell from Hallow’s brother, but he will be fine.”
“Will you tell me what happened with Eric? I mean—I saw it—but I couldn’t hear anything that was going on.”
Niall grew more serious, “By far, the biggest threat of the day came from the witch, Hallow, and her brother.”
“I saw Eric tryin’ to get to her while she was in her circle,” Sookie said quietly.
Niall nodded. “Yes. The witch had reasons of her own for being there and had intended to,” he paused, “take Eric.”
Niall sighed. “It seems the witch wanted your mate for her own. She seems to have desired to bind him to her through magic so that she could take his blood a bit at a time for profit. She also had sexual desire for him.”
A low growl emanated from Sookie.
Niall chuckled again. “You two never fail to fascinate me, my dear.”
“And when she tried to attract him with her blood?” Sookie demanded.
Niall sighed, “She was trying to emulate a fairy scent, but even her powerful spell wasn’t able to compel your husband to crave the blood of another; however, he was also not able to breach the circle to kill her.”
Sookie relaxed a bit, but Niall’s next words made her tense up again.
“The Were-witch determined that it was your own witch friends who were preventing the spell from working. She had no way of knowing that it was actually a fairy bond—your fairy bond—that was keeping her magic from working on your mate. I sensed that the young demon had used his gift to negate Hallow’s chants from affecting Eric, but he was weakened, and could not stop the spell she used on her own blood. However, your fairy bond with your mate is quite formidable on its own, so that spell failed as well. After that, the Were-witch had her brother cast a spell to injure the Brujo and Amelia, hoping that—if she did so—her magic would begin to affect Eric.”
Sookie gasped. “Are you sure they’re okay?”
Niall nodded. “I was able to heal their minor wounds easily. However, for the most part, their pain ended as soon as the spell ended.”
Sookie motioned for him to continue.
Niall smiled, his expression full of what Sookie sensed was pride. “Most of what I have told to you so far was told to me later by your friend Jarod. I suspect you saw more than I did if you were watching Eric in the pool during the battle. I had been fighting alongside my great-grandson on the other side of the house. But the next part I saw for myself.”
“Jason’s okay?” Sookie asked.
“Yes,” Niall said, his expression conveying even more pride. “He fought well. And he was understanding about my not showing myself to him before. He seemed anxious to make sure that his own beloved one, the redheaded vampire—Jessica I believe—stayed safe through the day.”
Sookie sighed with relief.
Niall continued, “When I came around to the front of the house, where Eric had been fighting, I saw a sight that I still cannot believe is true. By that time, only three of your husband’s opponents remained alive. There was a Weretiger, but the Werelioness had him well in hand. The two Were-witches were in the circle with Eric trying to get in. That is when the seemingly impossible happened. I saw the fairy light, magic like yours, coming from his hands. He wielded your gift, Sookie. It was quite the spectacle. The two Were-witches were thrown from the circle, which took a great force.” Niall shook his head. “My own magic would not have been enough to expel the witches from their protective circle, but your magic combined with the power that resides in Eric was.” Niall gave her another proud look and then turned to look at Eric’s image in the pool.
“We saw that,” Claude said, his voice showing his wonder. “I couldn’t believe it at first.”
Niall nodded and squeezed Sookie’s hand in comfort, “You must have seen that your Eric was quite literally drained of all the strength and protection that your magic had been affording him after he wielded the fairy light.”
She nodded. “I felt his exhaustion—even here. That’s when I knew I had to try to heal him.” She paused. “What else happened?”
Niall smiled at his great-granddaughter comfortingly. “Well—you must have seen that your vampire fell to the ground, seemingly unable to defend himself. The brother of the witch was attacked by your friends, Lafayette and Jarod. The brujo’s mate shot him, and then the shifter finished him quickly. The wolf was no match for the lion, nor was the tiger for the lioness.” He chuckled. “Your friend, Miranda—as it turned out—was taking great pleasure in toying with the tiger. After Eric was injured, however, she subdued him quickly so that she could oversee things.”
“That sounds like her,” Sookie smiled. “And Eric?”
Niall sighed and continued, “As I’m sure you saw, Hallow transformed into her Werewolf form to attack your mate. I did not want to see young Eric further damaged, so I struck her down, and then Jason and your other friends took him safely inside. He drank some TruBlood before he had to fall into his daytime slumber.”
“You saved his life,” Sookie said looking away from Eric for a moment in order to embrace her great-grandfather.
Niall hugged her back affectionately. “No—he would have been fine, even if I had not been there. The others would have prevented the Werewolf from injuring him fatally. And out of her circle, she was no longer a major threat. Her magic was not innate, and she needed the circle to wield it.” He chuckled. “Plus, young Eric was mustering the strength to kill her―despite his wounds—even before his burning stopped. I simply kept him from further injury.”
Sookie broke their embrace and looked up at him with blazing eyes. “You kept him from being bitten. You kept that thing from taking his blood—my blood,” Sookie said possessively.
Niall chuckled yet again. Several minutes passed as they continued to watch Eric in the pool.
“Thank you,” Sookie said quietly as she looked from Niall to Claude. “Thank you both.”