“Good job!” Claudine praised, seeing the light forming above her cousin’s palm.
“Thanks,” Sookie smiled.
“Now—make it bigger and more powerful,” the fairy instructed.
“Just use your mind to make it grow.”
“Use the force, Luke,” Sookie muttered with frustration, even as she tried to concentrate on her light.
Claudine’s tinkling laughter seemed to fill the forest. “You know—Claude is a big Star Wars fan—at least he was until the newer movies came out.” She shrugged. “I watched Episodes IV and V, though they were the first two to come out I think,” she shrugged again, “not that that made much sense. Anyway, Claude told me that, when George Lucas was a young boy, he witnessed two fairies fighting. Of course, no one believed George.” She rolled her eyes. “I think the whole story was made up, but Claude is convinced that the ‘force’ is based on Fae magic.”
“But our magic is not really like the ‘force,'” Claudine said thoughtfully. “Fairies should not ‘let go of their feelings’ when they use their magic—as Luke must in the films. In fact, as I said before, our magic is often first exposed when we feel something very strongly—whether that be fear or anger or desire.”
“That’s what happened to me,” Sookie relayed, “when the Maenad had taken over my house—and then hurt Bill. I was so mad and so scared when I saw that Bill had been poisoned by Maryann’s blood.”
“So you used your light to protect yourself and the one you thought you loved,” Claudine said knowingly. “That is how our powers often manifest themselves—unless we have been taught, as I am teaching you now. But the instinctive way of learning is always best.” The lovely fairy paused for a moment and seemed to be studying Sookie. “You know—the fact that you did not teleport away when you were confronted with the Maenad says two very important things about you.”
“That you are a fighter,” as I said before. “And that you would not leave behind someone you cared about.”
Knowing Claudine was right, Sookie nodded. “If I can learn to teleport, will I be able to take others with me—like Niall did when he took me to the fairy realm?”
Claudine’s brows furrowed. “Not unless they, too, have a fairy spark. I could not even have teleported with you before your spark relit.”
“Okay,” Sookie said with a little disappointment. She wondered if she could ever use the gift of teleportation if she had to leave someone behind—leave Eric behind. She doubted it.
“Now, let’s get back to work on your light,” Claudine said, refocusing them both.
Sookie nodded and looked down at her palm, amazed that she’d been able to keep her light going without even thinking about it.
Claudine smiled proudly at her. “Now—make it bigger, stronger,” she commanded again.
Sookie tried to think about times when she’d been angry or afraid, but nothing happened to the light to increase its size.
“What are you thinking about?” Claudine asked.
“I’m trying to remember what it felt like when I first used my light. I’m trying to remember shooting the Maenad.”
“Oh—sorry,” Claudine apologized, “I should have made my instructions clearer. It is only your current emotions that will work to increase your light’s power.”
“But I’m not really afraid right now—or angry,” Sookie said with confusion.
Claudine shook her head. “Don’t use those emotions. They are fleeting at best. You should use emotions that are much longer-lasting than those which cause a spike in adrenaline.” The fairy smiled beautifully. “You, my dear cousin, should use your love for your vampire to empower you. That is how the magic of fairies who bond becomes more potent. It is their love that fuels their light.”
Sookie nodded and looked down at her palm. It didn’t take her any effort at all to focus her thoughts onto Eric, and she gasped as her light doubled in size and took on a bluish tint.
“Marvelous!” Claudine cried out gleefully. “Blue is the strongest kind of light a fairy can produce. I can only achieve something close to purple—but it’s actually more red, to be honest.”
“Really?” Sookie asked. “But then how am I doing it? I’m mostly human.”
“There is no ‘mostly’ when it comes to a spark. It is there or not there. It is strong or not strong. Yours is there and strong. Your human DNA has nothing to do with your spark—though it does alter the taste of your blood. Thankfully.”
Sookie snorted. “Yes. Very thankfully. I don’t want vampires to suddenly get even more rabid around me.”
Claudine’s laughter once again filled the woods.
Sookie gave her a wry smile. “So it’s blue because I love Eric?”
The fairy seemed to shake her head and nod at the same time. “It is blue because you love him with all your heart and soul.”
The sun was about three hours from the horizon when Sookie and Claudine finally finished their practice. During the day, they’d stopped only a couple of times to eat and for Sookie to rest and go to the bathroom. While Claudine still looked perfect—without even a single hair out of place—Sookie looked like she’d been dragged through the forest.
A couple of times.
Claudine smiled at Sookie. “You are a very quick study, Cousin!” she said excitedly.
“I don’t feel like it,” Sookie lamented, flexing her sore muscles. Shooting her light again and again had drained her strength, and there was an almost backfire effect when she fired her stronger blue light orbs, like a “kick” when one fired a shotgun, and—after a few of those—her muscles had begun to strain.
After they’d practiced with Sookie’s light orbs, they’d turned their focus to her scent. Sookie had been able to completely cover her scent and manipulate it in various ways, including smelling only like a human or amping up her Fae scent. Sookie had also been able to mimic Claudine’s scent after a little practice. But that ability was quite draining on her.
“Your vampire can make you well with a little of his blood,” Claudine said knowingly. “Have you bonded with him yet—in his way, that is?”
Sookie bit her lip and her anxiety immediately ratcheted up. “We’ve started a vampire bond. Actually, that’s one of the things I wanted to ask you about. How do you think the Fae bond will—uh—react if Eric and I complete the vampire bond? Uh—we wanted to wait to finish it until I could ask you. And—there’s something else. Is there a way for fairies to block a bond?”
Claudine looked a bit confused. “Block it? But why?”
“Uh—I want to be able to prevent myself from feeling what Eric’s feeling,” she paused, “if I need to.”
“But why?” the fairy asked again, still obviously confused.
Sookie shook her head a little. “It’s just that I think it would be helpful—uh—not to have to feel everything he feels.”
“Oh!” Claudine cried out with understanding. “Like if he gets hurt.”
Sookie didn’t say anything. She felt a little bad, letting Claudine believe something that wasn’t exactly true, but it seemed easier to do just that for the moment.
Claudine seemed to be thinking deeply for a moment. “Do you mind if I ask someone to join us for a little while? It’s not part of the agreement between Niall and Eric, but I cannot answer your questions about a vampire bond. And, in truth, I feel a bit out of my depth since your case is one of a kind. But I know a person who could help us.”
Sookie tensed. “Who?”
Sookie looked at Claudine curiously. “Why do you sometimes call her Leonie and sometimes Grandmother?”
Claudine chuckled. “I do the same thing with Niall and my brother and sister. It’s just that one moment I’ll think of a person by his or her relationship with me, and the next, I think of him or her by name. Plus,” she grinned, “Grandmother does not like being called ‘grandmother’ out loud, so I only do that when she’s not around.”
Sookie chuckled and shook her head at her cousin. She’d learned a lot about Claudine that day. Mostly, she’d figured out that the fairy was someone who tried to enjoy life to its fullest, and she was amused by almost everything.
“Where is Leonie now?” Sookie asked.
“She is still at my home in this realm. I am to return to her after I leave here, and then we will say goodbye for the time being since I am going back to Faerie, while she is staying to visit friends here.”
Sookie bit her lip. “I don’t know. It took a lot for Eric to trust just one fairy being here.”
“My grandmother would not harm your vampire, Sookie. And, as I said earlier, she has longed to meet you for a while. However, Niall did not want that, and she acquiesced to his wishes.”
“Why would she come now then? Won’t Niall be mad?”
Claudine smiled. “My grandmother does as she wishes for the most part, but reluctantly agreed to listen to Niall regarding you because she is not your blood kin; however, she told me to call her today if I thought you needed her knowledge or help with anything. Now that Niall has basically disowned you, she no longer feels the need to listen to him on the matter,” the fairy said, her eyes twinkling.
Sookie glanced toward the house.
“You have my word that she will not go into the house,” Claudine smiled.
Sookie took a deep breath. “It’s not that I don’t want to trust you. I’m trying.”
“But you hardly know me,” Claudine smiled with understanding.
Sookie nodded. “Do you think she would mind if I brought Elina and her grandson closer? I—uh—don’t want to offend you or her, but I’d feel better if they were inside protecting Eric if another fairy was here.”
Claudine shook her head and giggled. “Of course she wouldn’t mind that! You get them while I go get Leonie.”
Sookie watched in awe as Claudine “popped” away. Teleporting had been one thing she’d not been able to channel her energy to do, and the ability amazed her. Sookie shrugged, pulled out her whistle, and blew it. Less than twenty seconds later, two black bears approached the porch.
Sookie’s heart beat rapidly as she looked at the beautiful and dangerous creatures.
“Uh,” Sookie started, “my fairy cousin is bringing someone else up here. It’s okay—I think—but would y’all mind stayin’ in the house with Eric until they leave?”
The smaller, but seemingly more powerful bear looked to the other one and gave something that resembled a nod. The two disappeared into the woods for about a minute before returning in their human forms. Sookie was grateful to see that they were both fully clothed.
Elina smiled as she gave Sookie a hug.
“Sookie, this is my eldest grandson, Kuruk,” she said as she introduced the young man next to her.
Sookie held out her hand to Kuruk. “Nice to meet you.”
He shook her hand for about a second too long as his eyes smoldered into hers.
Elina said something rapidly in a language Sookie didn’t understand, and Kuruk immediately lowered his hand and his eyes in deference.
“Yes, Gammy,” he pouted as he shuffled inside the house.
Elina smiled. “He has been mesmerized by your practice in the woods today and has developed something of a crush on you and the other fairy. Of course, he has a new crush every other day.”
“Oh,” Sookie laughed a little. “Well, he’s cute. I bet the girls line right up for him.”
Elina sighed. “That they do, which is just one of the reasons why he will not stay with one long enough to form a commitment. His father—my son—is the chief of our tribe and the Alpha of our pack, but Kuruk is not yet ready to begin growing into his role as his father’s successor.”
Sookie smiled as she thought of Eric. From what he’d told her, he’d been similar as a teen. “Perhaps, Kuruk could stay a while after dark. Then Eric could speak with him,” she offered.
Elina looked intrigued. “Why?”
Sookie’s smile widened. “Well—first of all, Kuruk would get over his crush on me real quick if he understood that I belonged to a thousand-year-old vampire.”
Elina laughed heartily. “I bet he would!”
“Also,” Sookie shrugged, “Eric might be able to say something to help Kuruk. It was a long time ago, and times have changed, but Eric’s human father was a chieftain, and Eric went through his own rebellious phase.”
Elina was thoughtful for a moment. “We will stay past nightfall,” she agreed. “If you will permit me, I will cook dinner while you spend the rest of your day with the fairies. Yesterday, I brought some deer meat, and it would make a nice venison stew with some of the vegetables I brought.”
“That’d be nice,” Sookie smiled even as she heard two popping noises.
Elina immediately took up a defensive pose in front of Sookie as Kuruk came back out onto the porch. The air shimmered around him until Elina spoke some words to him indicating that there was not a threat.
Claudine stood about ten feet from the house. A beautiful, redheaded fairy stood next to her. Leonie looked a little older than Claudine, but she was still one of the most beautiful creatures Sookie had ever seen.
Kuruk gasped at the sight of the lovely fairy, who immediately gave him a disarming smile in return.
“I do have a taste for younger men,” Leonie said coquettishly, “but I am not certain your people would approve of the things you wish to do to me.” Her voice tingled with both amusement and interest. “However, if they didn’t mind, I would be willing. I do not mind public displays.”
Immediately Kuruk turned beet read as Leonie laughed merrily before turning to nod in Elina’s direction.
“Well met, great mother bear of the mountains,” the fairy said to the elder Werebear.
“And you as well, lady of the Fae.”
“Do you—uh—know each other?” Sookie asked.
Leonie shook her head. “No, but I make it a habit to learn about strong women in all the realms I visit. ‘Elina’s is a name I have heard before.”
“I am honored,” Elina said with a bow of her head. “I will have my grandson bring you refreshments in a few minutes,” she added before turning to Sookie. “This woman will not harm you or the vampire,” she said in a whisper.
Sookie nodded. She couldn’t help but to believe the elder Werebear, for Elina seemed to “know” things. As they’d talked the day before, Elina explained her gift as a kind of “psychic instinct” she received when she was around new people.
As soon as Elina and Kuruk had gone inside, Leonie spoke again, her intense green eyes seeming to bore into Sookie. “You keep good company, Sookie Stackhouse.”
Sookie cringed a little at that name, even as she gestured for the fairies to join her on the porch. When she felt Leonie reading her thoughts, she put up her shields tightly, but she could tell that the elder fairy had gleaned something from her head.
Leonie gave her a sly smile. “Fintan chose to be a Stackhouse—to be with his Adele. Niall, of course, did not understand, perhaps because he now resists the kinds of feelings Fintan embraced.” Leonie smiled sadly. “Or maybe, Niall understood them all too well. After all, he also loved a human once—his Adira, Finn and Dermot’s mother. Niall’s heart broke when he had to leave her.”
“Did you—uh—know Gran—uh—my grandmother, Adele?”
“Of course!” Leonie smiled. “Finn asked that I meet her when he decided that he was going to stay with her in this realm. Of course, that was before Niall wiped away Adele’s memories of all things Fae.” Her tone had become a little sad. “I have loved all the children that I have been blessed with—my Magallen and Finn and Dermot. But Finn was always most like me, though my grandson, Claude, shares many of my traits too. Claudine,” she continued, smiling at the fairy next to her, “is similar to me in temperament as well. That is why she was willing to take the risk of letting me come here.”
“What have you risked?” Sookie asked Claudine with concern.
“Niall would be very angry with me if he ever found out I’d brought Leonie here,” Claudine answered, though her eyes were still twinkling with intrigue. “But he will likely never know,” she shrugged.
“Will he punish you if he finds out?” Sookie asked, still quite worried.
“Only with the silent treatment for a month or so,” Leonie said, rolling her eyes. “Niall can be quite the pouter when things do not go his way. And his go-to punishment is silence.”
“Well, I won’t tell him,” Sookie promised.
“Then he will never find out,” Leonie said brightly. “So where was I? Oh yes! I loved—I love—Finn and Dermot as my own. Dermot took after his father in personality, whereas Finn took after me. But I could tell that he had a lot of his mother, Adira, in him, too. Niall would often watch him from afar, just looking at him with love and sadness.” She sighed. “I have not yet found love like the love Niall had with Adira; however, I could tell how special she was just by watching Finn grow up. He was different from anyone I have ever known, and he taught me as much as I tried to teach him.”
Leonie smiled as she once again looked closely at Sookie. “You have his eyes, and I believe you have his spirit too. The spark within you is similar to his own—and just as strong.”
“I don’t remember him much,” Sookie said in a quiet voice.
“I will find you in the future then,” Leonie promised.
Sookie looked at her in confusion.
“So that I can tell you all I know of him,” Leonie added with such sincerity that it made Sookie’s heart ache.
“I’d like that,” Sookie said in a whisper.
Before Leonie could respond, Kuruk came outside eagerly, carrying a bountiful tray of drinks and snacks that Elina had miraculously constructed with the food she’d brought the day before. The young Werebear’s eyes were locked onto Leonie.
The redhead grinned and winked at him, causing him to almost drop the tray. Kuruk managed, however, to get it onto the table before scurrying inside again.
“Ah. Youth!” Leonie exclaimed. “So easy to rattle—yet so energetic and enthusiastic to be rattled!” She giggled a little.
“Uh—sorry for sayin’ this,” Sookie said with a blush, “but you don’t seem like you’d be married to Niall at all. He’s—uh—quite—uh—severe, compared to you and Claudine.”
Leonie shrugged. “He is bit serious, but I have always recognized him as my complement, and he is a wonderful leader of our people. We have different ideas about our world and other worlds, but he always listens to my thoughts and incorporates my ideas into his. He is wise, but he must balance the old ways with the new. I had—at one point—wished that he and I could be,” she paused, “more to one another, but, alas, we do not love each other in that way. But he is a good man and a good partner. I would not have another,” she finished fiercely.
“I’ll take your word for it,” Sookie said tentatively, almost as if she were asking a question.
Claudine had already begun to snack on the food Kuruk had brought them.
“Now, tell me about yourself, dear,” Leonie said, changing the subject, as she, too, picked up some food.
“Uh,” Sookie stammered, “don’t y’all already know about me?”
Leonie smiled kindly, and Sookie marveled at the fact that the elder fairy seemed both nurturing and a little intimidating at the same time.
“To know about someone is not to know her,” Leonie said. “What do you enjoy doing? What would you like to do in the future? What are your dreams?”
Sookie felt a kind of tapping on her shields as she thought about Leonie’s questions. She figured that the fairy was trying to read her thoughts again, but she was a bit too overawed by Leonie to call her on it—as she’d done with Claudine.
“Um—I guess I haven’t really thought about the future much—beyond the fact that I’ll be with Eric now.” Sookie sighed. “And I don’t really know what that will be like. So far, we’ve mostly been concentrating on surviving.”
Leonie tilted her head a bit and smiled at Sookie. Once again, the fairy’s green eyes captivated her.
“My ability does not work on you,” the elder fairy said with a wide smile. “It never worked on Fintan either.”
“Ability?” Sookie asked.
“To mesmerize. It is akin to a vampire’s glamour. Few fairies have the ability anymore. Of my grandchildren only one, Claude, has the gift. I was trying it on you just now, but obviously you are immune to it; so was Finn. It makes me wonder.”
“Wonder what else you are.”
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this chapter. This one was fun to write. I am enjoying trying to capture Leonie, and I hope I’ve made her vivid for you. Also, my fingers are crossed that I didn’t leave any proofreading errors in this one. I did massive revisions on it this morning, nixing the original “training” part and adding a whole next first section. In the end, a few selective moments of the training flowed better than a Rocky-esque training montage.