SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 12 • 7:00 p.m.
Desmond Cataliades sighed deeply as he looked at a picture of himself and his dearest friend, Fintan Brigant.
“I miss you, Finn,” he said as he took a handkerchief to wipe a smudge off of the frame’s glass.
The demon knew that he would never forget the conversation the two of them had regarding Adele and Finn’s offspring and how the fairy wished that all of them born with the spark of the Fae would be “blessed” with telepathy.
“So that they would always see danger coming,” the part-demon recalled his friend’s exact words.
The problem was that the spell he, Finn, and Octavia Fant had dreamed up to transfer the demon’s telepathy had been faulty. Instead of developing her own telepathy at the age of fifteen—after she had been told of her lineage and taught how to control her ability—Sookie had suffered from it throughout her life.
“From her first memory,” Desmond sighed. “How can I ever make up for that?”
The part-Dae’s musing was interrupted when the thoughts of another being entered his own telepathic range.
A fairy! And one whose brain he didn’t recognize! And one whom he could not scent!
Quickly, the demon took an iron dagger out of his desk drawer and stood—ready to face a fight if need be. There were wards around his office, but many fairies had ways of getting around the combination of Dae and witch magic Desmond used to protect himself.
There was a knock on his office door.
That was a good sign; a fairy with malintent would have likely just “popped” into his office or burst through his door.
“I mean you no harm,” came a soft female voice.
Another good sign.
Fairies weren’t in the practice of lying, though—contrary to the popular belief among the Supernatural community—they were capable of misleading their foes.
“Who are you?” Desmond called out.
“I am of Pythia,” the woman claimed. “And I know that you can sense deception from a fairy with your gift—though you cannot read my thoughts unless I allow it, Desmond Cataliades.”
“Pythia?” Desmond grasped.
“The lady asks for your service.”
Desmond moved toward the door and took a deep breath before opening it.
The woman on the other side was beautiful—as all fairies were. She looked to be about eighteen human years old, but was likely quite a bit older by fairy standards. She was dressed in a long red dress and deep blue cloak—the garb of one of the Ancient Pythoness’s handmaidens.
“Who are you?” Desmond re-asked his question.
“I am of Pythia,” the woman repeated patiently. “She saved my life long ago, and I serve her. And I will continue to serve her until she tells me that I am finished.”
The demon nodded automatically. He’d heard rumors that Pythia had “collected” her handmaidens by using her gift to save the lives of worthy women of all species. How the vampires and the fairies in her group coexisted was a question that Desmond had long had—though the woman’s lack of a discernable scent explained a lot.
“I have come because she requires a favor of you,” the fairy stated.
“Of me?” Desmond asked, still dumbfounded. “But she and I have not met—at least, not formally.”
The fairy’s eyebrow lifted. “A seer often meets people in unusual ways. She has seen you in some of her visions, and she knows you can deliver that which she requires tonight.”
“And what is that?” the part-Dae asked.
“A meeting with the Britlingen you hired to protect Sookie Stackhouse.”
Desmond frowned and shook his head. “Batanya is needed close to Sookie at this time; she is in New Orleans, away from the safety of the nest the Viking has created for her in Bon Temps.”
“The Britlingen will not be required from the hour of 3:00 a.m. until 4:00 a.m. this night. During that time, Sookie will be safely with her mate doing what mates do best,” she smirked. “It is at 3:10 a.m.—at that precise time—that my lady requests that Batanya come to her. You are able to contact the Britlingen—correct?”
Desmond nodded. “To ensure Sookie’s comfort with my involvement, I gave her and Eric Northman complete control over determining the full range of Batanya’s duties while she is Sookie’s protector. However, I do have a way to request that she call me; however, she may well refuse to leave her charge’s side.”
The fairy smiled serenely. “She will not refuse once you tell her who is asking for her. Contact her, and have her meet the great lady at this address,” she said, handing Desmond a small card. “You need not worry about this information getting into the wrong hands, for only you can read it, and only Batanya can hear it.”
“I can smell the magic on it,” Desmond commented on the complex concoction that literally weighed down the small object in his hands. “Am I to accompany Batanya?”
“No!” the fairy responded quickly and definitively. “Pythia does not need an audience with you, though she does appreciate your willingness to do her favor.” Her soft smile returned. “My lady did ask me to tell you that—if all goes as desired during the next few days—Miss Stackhouse will—soon enough—wish to have a robust relationship with you.”
“Will she?” Desmond asked hopefully.
“Oh yes! She will call you ‘uncle’—as will her brother Jason,” the fairy said with almost youthful enthusiasm.
She looked at the demon a bit more sharply. “Do not discount the young man.”
“He has no spark of the Fae,” Desmond commented.
The fairy’s brow rose. “You are but part-Dae. My lady charged me with reminding you that it was a simple genetic happenstance that allowed you to develop Dae gifts, instead of predominantly human traits. And what of any children you might have? Would you care less for them if they lacked the power to wield Dae magic?”
“No,” Desmond responded quickly, clearly dismayed at the thought of his obvious prejudices. “It is just that Finn asked me to be a caretaker only for his offspring with a spark,” he tried to explain.
“I know of Fintan Brigant—from my mistress,” the fairy said evenly. “His was a tragic story in many ways. And he was an imperfect being—as are we all. You will like Jason Stackhouse tremendously once you let yourself know him. It is your relationship with him that will open the way for your closeness with Sookie, according to my lady. But you will discover greater kinship with him than with her.”
Desmond’s features and posture seemed to relax a bit, and he smiled at the fairy. “Will you tell your mistress that she has my thanks for her insight. It is,” he paused, “valuable to have help in seeing one’s own hypocrisies and flaws.”
The fairy nodded.
“I will contact the Britlingen immediately,” the demon assured as the fairy turned to leave.
“My lady knows,” she said from over her shoulder before “popping” away.
The demon stood frozen in place for a moment before pulling out his phone.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 12 • 8:00 p.m. (one hour after the previous scene)
“How long has it been?” Russell Edgington asked the being behind him.
Niall Brigant chuckled. “About a million years.”
The vampire smirked, stood, and turned to face his old adversary.
“Even we are not that old,” the ancient vampire stated as he nodded in greeting.
“Sometimes I feel it,” Niall responded tiredly, before returning the nod.
“I must say that the years have been kind to you, though they have been kinder to me, old friend,” Russell smirked.
“That is because you do not age—not even slowly. And since when have you and I been friends?” the fairy asked with a twinkle in his bright blue eyes, even as he moved to sit in the companion chair to the one that Russell had been relaxing in.
“I don’t suppose we are friends. But we haven’t found ourselves in a conflict in a while either,” Russell remarked as he retook his seat.
“Do you miss them? The wars that once occurred between your kind and mine?” Niall asked curiously. “Surely, you miss getting your hands on one of us—now and then?”
“Your kind is delectable,” Russell acknowledged with a lick to his lips that was meant neither to intimidate his company nor to offend him. “But no. I do not miss the wars. Too many of my kind were lost when they fell victim to your honeypots.”
The two elders sat silently, each remembering the great wars that had once occurred between vampires and fairies—decimating many among their numbers. The fairies’ most effective tactic was offering up a “treat” to their enemies, usually a prisoner they allowed to “take his or her chances.” The individual would be “set free” two hours before sunrise near a vampire encampment. He or she was the prey; the vampires were the predators. If the prey survived until daytime, he or she could escape and live freely in the human realm. If not, the vampires gorged and became drunk—sitting ducks for the Fae army.
Time and again, the vampires succumbed to such tricks because most of them lost their reason completely around fairies, even after only a single sip.
“I have lost my appetite for war as well,” Niall sighed. “It has taken much from me.”
“I heard that the Fae realm is split—that there is a Civil War—not that I’ve heard many details,” Russell shared.
“The realm is split. My brother and I are at odds.”
“Rogan always was a loose cannon,” Russell remarked. “But a formidable foe.”
“Yes. His son Breandan is his lieutenant. And my child, Dermot, serves them both.”
“Are the rumors that he was the cause of Fintan’s death true?” Russell asked the tired-looking prince.
“Yes,” Niall confirmed. “In a move of gross hypocrisy, Dermot now believes—as does my brother—that any fairy-human hybrid should be destroyed. Rogan has convinced many to go along with his insane notion that the gods are angry at the Fae for polluting our bloodlines—so angry that they have made it difficult for Fae women to procreate.”
Russell shook his head. “I suppose that Dermot is conveniently forgetting the fact that he is part-human.”
“He intends to kill himself—once he’s eliminated the second-to-last human-fairy hybrid,” Niall disclosed. “Telling Neave and Lochlan where—and how—to hunt for his brother was how Dermot gained Rogan’s trust.”
“I am sorry to hear of the breach within your family,” the vampire spoke sincerely.
Niall exhaled deeply. “I maintain the upper hand over my brother—for now.”
Russell nodded. “That is welcome news. Rogan is an ass and would likely breach the vampire/Fae peace accords that have survived a millennium.”
Niall nodded in agreement and the two ancients were silent for a moment.
“I have come—after all of these years—to collect on the debt you owe,” the fairy finally said.
Russell stared at him for a moment—as if he might be trying to glamour him. Of course, Niall could not be glamoured.
“What is the favor you ask?” the vampire monarch finally asked. “Do you wish for me to kill Dermot for you? Or Rogan?”
“No,” Niall returned softly. “I still hold out for a magical intervention with my child. And Rogan and his son will die by my sword,” he added fiercely.
“Then what are you here to ask of me?”
“I believe you turned down Queen Sophie-Anne’s invitation—to her Valentine’s Night Ball?” Niall asked.
“Yes,” Russell confirmed. “Threadgill is not a horrible king, but I despise being at any event that involves Jade Flower.”
“An old foe?” Niall asked.
“Not really, though she did assassinate Queen Josefina of Portugal. Josefina was lovely, but not a particular ally of mine.” Russell shrugged. “Plus, that was years ago. And, of course, powerplays sometimes happen. Miss Flower just comes across as one always ready to stab someone in the back. I don’t want to give her any opportunities to make that someone—me,” Russell chuckled. “And—to be frank—I have no desire to go to such a social gathering as the ball. I must admit to being rather the isolationist these days. I was tempted though. Eric Northman has apparently bonded with a human.” His eyes narrowed as he came to a realization. “A human whose eyes she seems to have inherited from family and who has an uncommonly sweet smell.”
Niall smiled a little. “You always were a bit too observant. As it happens, the favor I need involves Eric Northman and his bonded, Sookie Stackhouse.”
“She is brave,” Russell remarked.
“I did not know that you had interacted with Sookie,” Niall returned with some surprise in his tone.
“She came to my territory under false pretenses,” Russell chuckled. “Of course, she cannot make an entrance like you do! No ‘popping,'” he grinned.
“I don’t ‘pop,'” Niall scoffed.
“Then what do you call it?” Russell asked.
“My teleporting is soundless,” the fairy prince emphasized somewhat sullenly. “And I worked very hard for it to become that way.”
Russell smirked. “Ah—yes. Your silent approach—added to your rare ability to hide your scent fully—once made you the vampires’ most deadly foe.”
“Except for the fact that I did not kill you,” Niall stressed, his eyebrow raised.
“No. You did not,” Russell chuckled. “And that is something I have remained grateful for. However, I did do you service in exchange.”
“After I let you go, you took a message to the one in command of the vampire forces,” Niall reminded flatly. “It’s not as if that was a difficult task.”
“Thus, the favor I owe,” Russell nodded.
“So—what is this favor you need?”
“I need for you to go to the Valentine’s Night Ball and subdue Appius Livius Ocella—but only when the time is right,” Niall responded.
Russell’s eyes widened. “Don’t fucking joke!”
“I’m being serious,” the fairy said.
The vampire shook his head. “As much as we might joke about being a million years old, you must be aware of Appius’s age in comparison to mine!” Russell exclaimed.
“I am aware that he is older than you,” Niall said evenly.
“And you are also aware that he is a malicious psycho?!”
“I am aware of that too,” the fairy chucked. “And that is why you must wait until a very precise moment to make your move against him.”
“Oh—and how am I to know that moment?” Russell asked sarcastically.
“A mutual friend told me just when you must strike—for the greatest chance of success.”
“You and I don’t have any mutual friends!” the vampire scoffed.
“We have one,” Niall responded.
“You can’t mean . . . ,” Russell began.
“She’s exactly whom I mean,” the fairy answered.
Russell closed his eyes tightly. “Does she guarantee success?”
“No,” Niall sighed. “And—if you fail—it will mean your final death.”
“That information is not really an encouragement for me to go to Louisiana!” Russell hissed.
“That is why I am here,” the fairy spoke, “asking for that debt—in person.”
Russell shook his head in denial.
“It was 1100 years ago that I chose not to kill you—that I protected you from Rogan when he disagreed with my idea to use you as a messenger,” the fairy said in almost a whisper.
The vampire nodded—almost imperceptivity.
“You were but 200-years-old then.” Niall gestured around the room. “I saw something in you—the promise of this,” he emphasized. “And you have become a good king, Russell Edgington. However, had it not been for me,” he paused, “the magic that animates you would have been extinguished when you were a very young vampire, indeed.”
“I know,” Russell acknowledged in barely a whisper.
The two elders were silent for a moment.
“How is my great-granddaughter brave?” Niall finally asked when Russell seemed to be almost in down-time as he stared at the fireplace.
“That’s what she is to you—your great-granddaughter?”
The fairy nodded. “Fintan loved a human woman, and with her, he produced two children—though both are dead now. Neave and Lochlan killed the boychild, Corbett. The girlchild, Linda, was taken by the human disease—cancer. Corbett had two children. One of them has the essential spark.”
“Sookie. She did seem different to me. But—to be honest—I did not connect her to you until I saw you again. The color of her eyes did, however, nag at me for several nights, but I could not place it.”
“The memory slipping?” Niall asked with some amusement.
Russell looked sideways at his companion. “My attention span—really. Though I found the girl oddly familiar, I was more focused on why Northman was in my territory in one of his guises.”
Niall chuckled loudly. “I have heard that the Viking is not above taking on another persona to infiltrate a place.”
“Of course, he knew that I would know him,” the vampire king commented. “But he didn’t want his presence away from Louisiana to be immediately known to his queen. I played along, of course.”
The fairy nodded. “Do you believe he truly cares for my great-granddaughter?”
“Undoubtedly,” Russell responded simply.
The fairy looked relieved for a moment and then seemed to be studying his one-time foe and—now—quasi-friend. “Will you do what I have asked of you?”
Russell was quiet for a moment. “Even the immortal life can seem short at times. And—in a flash—it can be ended.” Again, there was a stretch of silence. “I don’t often find myself at Josephine’s.”
“Josephine’s?” Niall asked with confusion.
“A bar—also called Club Dead by the Weres—in an almost-abandoned part of downtown Jackson.”
The fairy nodded for Russell to continue, though he clearly didn’t understand the sudden subject change.
“I am not often there, but I was feeling a bit restless one night. An entourage quickly formed for the outing.” He smirked. “I enjoy showing up somewhere unexpected. The goblin who acts as the doorman, Mr. Hob, was amusingly nonplussed by my presence. It is at Josephine’s that I met your great-granddaughter. She saved my second-in-command, Betty Joe Pickard.”
“Saved her?” Niall asked.
“Have you heard of the Fellowship of the Sun?”
The fairy nodded. “A bit. Are they not a fundamentalist religious group—intent upon the eradication of your kind?” he asked with a smirk.
“That’s the one,” Russell chuckled. “Usually, they are a mere nuisance, but Steven Newlin, one of the group’s leaders, and a flunky discovered the existence of Josephine’s and decided to do a little vampire hunting. Betty Joe was their chosen target. Sookie stepped between the stake and my second’s heart, and—in the process—was injured in the side—quite badly.” He gestured to the place of the wound on his own body.
“I arranged for a healing for her,” the vampire continued. “Eric did not leave her side, though he continued to pretend that he was someone else. And he also pretended that he wasn’t about to rattle apart due to his concern for her.” He smiled at Niall. “But affection like the Viking has for your kin cannot be faked, nor could he hide it—given the direness of the situation.”
“I know only a bit about Eric Northman—mostly rumors,” Niall commented. “Is he as arrogant as I have heard?”
Russell chuckled. “He seems to be so at first. But I would say that he is more confident than arrogant. And his status and wealth in this world have been hard-earned. When I first met him, for instance, I wanted nothing to do with him, given who his maker is. But he has gained the respect of many—including myself—despite that unfortunate connection.”
The fairy smiled faintly. “I would not have had my kin link her life to a vampire. But—clearly—she has made her own choice, and it seems it is a good one for her.”
“And now you wish for me to help her and Eric—to risk myself by trying to subdue a vampire exponentially more powerful than I am.” Russell leaned forward a bit. “Why don’t you simply do it?”
Niall was silent for a moment, his visage reflecting both guilt and regret. “I would like nothing better. But she has told me to do nothing to try to affect Sookie’s life at this time.” He shook his head. “I’d even arranged for my granddaughter, Claudine, to watch over Sookie, but I’ve been told that—even that much—would lead to a chain of events that would put Sookie into grave danger.” He inhaled deeply. “I want nothing more than to know Sookie—to gain the trust and the love of Fintan’s granddaughter. To know my beloved son again—through my great-granddaughter. And—the gods help me—I am tempted, despite even what she told me, to try to play the savior so that I can ingratiate myself to Sookie.”
“But going against her advice is not a wise move,” Russell stated.
“It would be idiotic,” the fairy chuckled. “But a part of me,” he paused, “stubbornly believes that I could keep Sookie safe even if my enemies learned of her.”
“Ah—so Pythia told you that your enemies would harm Sookie if you helped her,” Russell guessed.
Niall nodded in confirmation. “And anyway, Sookie does not even know me. She has only recently learned of her familial connection to the Brigant line, and she recognizes—rightly—that it has done nothing during her life to aid her. Fintan—in his desire to be as nondisruptive to the life of his human beloved as possible—found a way to hide all of his descendants with Adele Stackhouse from me. And that way held firm until he was killed by my enemies. Now—if I interact with Sookie, her connection to me will be known. I have been told that any contact I have with her—at least, at this time—will lead to immense suffering for my great-granddaughter. And I would not have that,” he added softly.
Niall spoke his next words with a mixture of resolution and regret. “I am sorry to burden you with a duty I would like to fulfill. But she was very clear. If I show up to subdue—or to try to subdue—Appius Livius Ocella, then my enemies will learn of my connection to Sookie quickly. And even a Britlingen can be overwhelmed—not to mention the agony Sookie will feel when all of her other guards are slain by Rogan’s forces, which Pythia has foreseen—if I interfere.”
“There is a Britlingen guard?” Russell asked with surprise.
Niall nodded. “But before you ask—she will be busy when you are needed.”
The vampire king shook his head. “Will Pythia—at least—offer me the details that will ensure I have the greatest chance of success against that monster?” he asked with a certain amount of resignation.
“Details? Her?” Niall queried with a twinkle in his eye.
Russell rolled his eyes. “What can you tell me then?”
“She said merely that you will know when and how—that it will become clear to you when you should take your chance against Appius. However, it is essential that you subdue him, rather than kill him. Killing him is not your role. Oh—and you must not tell anyone else about our conversation or her instructions, not even that you expect Appius to be in attendance.”
The vampire scoffed. “I fucking hate you right now—you know that?”
“Do this, and it will not just make up for the debt you owe. It will leave me in your debt,” the fairy prince offered with sincerity.
Russell scoffed. “I’ll take your debt. But I will do this because I don’t want to owe you anymore, because I am in the debt of Sookie Stackhouse, and because,” he paused, “I don’t like many vampires.”
“And you like Northman?” Niall supplied.
“Enough to know that he deserves an existence without the need to worry about his damned maker.”
“Damned is correct,” the fairy remarked darkly.
“Let us hope.”
“At least, tell me one thing,” the vampire requested.
“If this all goes as we hope, will Appius be gone? Permanently?” Russell asked.
Niall nodded. “He will. And I will have taken my first step toward earning my great-granddaughter’s trust—when I am finally able to make contact with her safely.”
“But I will have done all the work,” the vampire snorted.
The fairy grinned. “It has been too long, Russell,” he said, getting up.
“Let’s make it even longer next time,” the vampire intoned, “unless—of course—I need to call in my favor.”
With a smirk, the fairy teleported away.
Russell closed his eyes tightly for a moment before moving to leave his study. He didn’t bother chastising his chief vampire or Were guards, who were both in the office they shared right next door.
Niall Brigant was not a fairy whose teleporting could be discerned by most. Plus, the wards to the king’s home protected that space only from beings of ill-will. And—despite the fact that Niall’s visit might ultimately get Russell killed—the fairy’s purpose hadn’t been a malicious one.
The vampire monarch spent a few seconds contemplating whether or not he should call Bartlett Crowe, with whom he’d begun negotiating an alliance of his own. He shrugged off the idea, however. He and Barty were not yet ready to “go public” with their potential alliance, and it already seemed as if the “thunder” caused by Sophie-Anne’s engagement was going to be stolen enough—by Appius.
“Talbot!” Russell yelled out to his human companion.
The attractive Greek man appeared in the hallway as soon as Russell topped the stairs.
“My love?” he asked, his accent causing Russell’s loins to stir.
“You know how you wished to get out more—and, specifically, to go to Sophie-Anne’s ball?”
“Yes?” Talbot responded excitedly.
“Call your tailor,” the vampire winked. “He’ll need to work overnight and into the morning.”
Talbot jumped up and down excitedly.
Russell chuckled. “I’ll arrange for us to leave for New Orleans at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow. How does a suite at the Hotel Monteleone sound to you? I know you developed a crush on the head concierge there,” the vampire winked. “And the ball does not begin until midnight. Plus, we will plan to stay one additional night as well.”
This time, Talbot’s reaction was to squeal. He quickly ran to Russell and kissed his lips before running off to his bedroom to begin packing. Chuckling to himself, the king progressed to his own luxurious chambers. Before commencing with his packing, he took out his phone and dialed.
“Betty Joe,” he greeted when the call was picked up.
“Your majesty,” his second-in-command returned respectfully. “What can I do for you this evening?”
“I have decided to go to New Orleans—to the queen’s Valentine’s Night Ball. And I wish for you to accompany me and Talbot. In addition to yourself, please arrange for an appropriate day and nighttime security force. We’ll stay at Hotel Monteleone, fly from Jackson tomorrow at 4:00 in the afternoon and return when we rise on the 16th.”
“You don’t want me to stay in Mississippi?” Betty Joe asked, surprised that her king was including her in the trip. She had a right to be. His trusted lieutenant generally stayed in Mississippi whenever he left the state. But this time, he had two reasons for wishing her to go.
First, if he was slain, he wanted his second-in-command there to immediately take over the leadership of Mississippi—if she lived through the night. Plus, if she was alive, then it would mean that Appius had been killed—even if Russell was slain. Alternatively, if both he and Betty Joe were slain, then his third-in-command, Tomás, would take over. While Betty Joe might very well wish to retaliate if her king were slain—and retaliating against Appius would likely lead to the decimation of the Mississippi vampire population—Tomás would be much more cautious. And—to be frank—his sensibilities would be better for Mississippi if prudence was called for.
Second, Russell knew that Betty Joe would do anything in her power to come to the aid of Sookie Stackhouse if her life were threatened. The vampiress owed her. And the king figured that—in the coming nights—Sookie could use all the help she could get.
After all, he had designs on hiring her soon!
It took the king only a moment to shift through his thoughts. “I think it’s high time that you had a bit of fun, Betty Joe,” he said to his second-in-command. “Tomás can manage things for the couple of nights that we are gone. And—of course—it’s only a fifty-minute flight back to Jackson.”
“And—driving—we would be across the Mississippi state line in less than half an hour,” Betty Joe stated.
“Exactly,” Russell responded, grateful that his lieutenant was clearly concerned with the security of their state.
“I will make all the arrangements,” the vampiress stated after a moment. “And I will contact Tomás.”
“Excellent,” the King of Mississippi responded before hanging up to dial the direct line to the Louisiana Queen.
“Goddamned fairies and prophetesses,” he sighed to himself before the call was answered.
A/N: Hello all! Sorry I’m late getting this to you. I had some work that had to get prioritized. I also might not be back to post next week. The wonderful Kleannhouse has a group of chapters for this story to get through, but she’s been incredibly busy. And she is also being affected by the hurricane right now. So I’m not about to pressure her time. Just know that I’ll be back as soon as I can.
What did you think about this chapter? It’s always fun to bring in the fairies, and I love Mr. C. If you watched the show, you might wonder at the age I gave Russell. In the books, his age is never really set down in stone, though I always had the impression he was older than Eric. I decided to make him around 1300.
Please let me know your thoughts if you have the time/inclination.
All the best,
To everyone in the track of Hurricane Dorian, you have my thoughts.