Niall could think of nothing except trying to restart his great-granddaughter’s heart. He sent even more of his magic into her. He would send it all if his could. As she lay still in his arms, he felt guilt burden his shoulders. He’d been so certain that the book would not really harm her; had his certainty killed her? Had it killed young Eric too?
When he felt Sookie’s heart beat again, he breathed a sigh of relief, but she was still dangerously weak, and Niall realized that she was still expelling what little strength she had to keep a hold on Eric through the fairy bond. All he could do was to continue to send his healing into his great-granddaughter in a steady flow. But—automatically—she kept transferring that magic to the fairy bond.
Thankfully, Claude appeared at the door moments after Sookie’s heart began beating again. One look into Niall’s mind told him what he needed to know. Undergoing the Ritual of Acceptance had once overwhelmed him as well—but nothing like this.
Immediately Claude took action. He pulled Sookie into his arms. “Keep doing what you are doing,” he ordered his father. “You are keeping her alive, but we have to get her back to the pool. Now.”
Niall nodded; in his weakened state, he barely managed to “pop” himself to the border of the “in-between” place before proceeding inside. Claude―with Sookie in his arms―was right next to him.
As soon as they passed into the “in-between place,” Niall felt a difference. He was still sending healing magic into Sookie, but she had begun to stabilize. He sighed with relief.
Claude popped himself and his Tanah over to the pool and, without hesitation, he went into it with Sookie still in his arms.
As soon as Niall joined them at the side of the pool, Claude spoke, “I think her grip on the fairy bond was literally holding the times of our two realms together. I was here, and suddenly I felt the times line up; it was,” he paused, “jarring—painful.”
Niall nodded. “Yes—she was holding on with all she had as well as drawing upon everyone in the village as well.”
“How?” Claude asked.
“Her vampire,” Niall smiled a little. “His gift to her.”
Claude looked at him in question.
“He shared with her the gift of being able to ‘call’ him—something like the maker/child bond. However, I’m sure that the way she used that ability was beyond anything he has ever imagined. Certainly, she was calling him to her in a way. But at the same time, she connected herself to the magic being shared within the village and was literally calling it into her.” Niall shook his head. “I have never felt anything like it. I felt a drain because of her call even before the ritual,” Niall reported. “And once she started reading from the book, she took the strength being passed into her and added that to the hold on her mate.”
“She literally pulled time together,” Claude said with reverence. His tone changed to concern, “And she almost pulled herself apart to do it!” He held her closer to his chest in the water.
“Yes,” Niall confirmed. “How did you know to come?”
“She was screaming for me in my head,” Claude said. “She was begging me to help Eric, but when I looked in the pool, it was,” he paused and looked ashamed, “too late.”
Niall was continuing to send a steady stream of healing magic into Sookie even as Claude continued to hold her in the pool. She was still unconscious.
“What happened?” Niall asked.
Claude sighed. “A diversion. I had been with Eric tonight. Soon after you and Sookie went into Faerie, Eric and I decided that his most vulnerable times were when he left the protection spell around the home to conduct his area’s business. I had been going with him, popping him back and forth from Fangtasia each time. The witches also placed wards around his office, which would make it difficult for other magic to work there.”
Niall nodded. “So you had greatly minimized his exposure; that is good. What happened?”
“Mother,” Claude stated flatly. “She seemed to have discovered our routine somehow. She created a diversion to get me back here. And I,” he looked down at Sookie with regret, “left Eric at Fangtasia. After Sookie called out to me, I checked in the pool again.”
“What did you see?” Niall asked.
“The enemy they have been waiting for,” he whispered. “And if I had tried to help him then, it would have been suicide.”
[Ten minutes earlier]
As soon as he’d called to her, Eric felt Sookie’s strength surging through their fairy bond.
Suddenly, it was as if the distance between them didn’t matter. It was as if all the time they’d been forced to be apart didn’t matter. All that mattered was that her spirit was there with him. He flew faster than he thought was possible before. Still he felt his attacker catching up. Eric would be home in six minutes, but he knew that even with Sookie’s booster of strength, he’d be caught in three.
Eric closed his eyes to the wind that was blowing against them and made his plan, the elements of it flowing through his head quickly.
He knew that he could not defeat his foe. He could hope only to slow down his own demise to give Sookie the time she would need to get to him, and he felt through the fairy bond that something important was happening, something that would help her to reach him.
Thirty seconds before he was caught, Eric landed in a field full of a wildflower called evening primrose. His sharp eyes took in the yellow of the flower. It had—before Sookie—been his best reminder of the sun that he had left behind as a vampire.
But now his bonded was his sun. He grabbed his father’s sword, always sheathed to his back when he left the confines of his home and the protection spell. However, he knew it would not save him this time. If he was lucky, it would merely delay the inevitable.
He turned around to face his enemy as he landed, but it was not his foe that Eric was focusing on. It was his wife. It was only his faith in her.
Eric sent her a burst of his love and strength through the fairy bond, knowing that it might be the last time he’d be able to do that.
The diabolical laughter of an elated Russell Edgington met Eric’s ears as the three-thousand-year old showed him no quarter. Russell hurled himself at Eric at full speed. Eric felt Russell’s blow to the front of his skull before he could even lift his sword to defend himself. He felt a last bolt of strength from Sookie―as if it were a prayer—and then his whole world went dark.