“A parasite,” Eric said nodding. “Yes. That is exactly what the Fae bond is.”
Leonie sighed. “You do not understand at all—do you?”
“I understand that something was forced upon Sookie and myself. I understand that neither of us has power over it.”
“With a blood tie, you could take power from a human,” Leonie reminded.
Eric chuckled ruefully. “Maybe feeling the effects of my own hypocrisy is the worst part then.”
“Well—at least you are not fully blind,” the fairy said almost teasingly. She paused. “Tell me—do you know of the plant, mistletoe?”
“Yes,” Eric responded. “There is a story in the myths of my people that involves the plant.”
“Will you tell it to me?” Leonie asked, sounding intrigued.
“Odin was one of our main gods and ruled Asgard, which was where the Æsir dwelt.”
“That was the name of our council of gods and goddesses. Odin had many sons, but his second son, Baldr, was thought to be the wisest of the Æsir and was beloved by all. However, he began to dream of his own death—as did his mother, Frigg. Fearful of losing her dearest child, Frigg asked all objects on earth—save one—to vow not to harm Baldr. The one she overlooked was mistletoe. In the story my mother told me, Frigg disregarded the mistletoe because she didn’t think it was important enough to ask; plus, she could not foresee how a plant so young on the earth could cause harm to her strong son. Mother used the story to teach me never to overlook a potential foe, even if that foe seemed innocuous.”
“Your mother was wise to teach you such a lesson,” Leonie remarked. “Of course, the opposite is true too. Never overlook a potential ally—even if he or she seems young and powerless.”
Eric nodded to acknowledge the truth in Leonie’s words.
“What became of Baldr?”
“When Loki heard of Frigg’s attempts to save her child, he decided to construct a spear out of mistletoe.” Eric scoffed. “After Frigg had made bargains with seemingly all things, the gods and goddesses came up with a new game: to throw things at Baldr. They enjoyed watching all things—even the deadliest of things—bounce harmlessly off of him.”
“You disapproved of this pastime by your gods?” Leonie asked with amusement.
Eric shrugged. “I had been taught not to question the ways of the gods, but inside I thought the game was foolhardy. It tempted fate. Loki gave the mistletoe spear to Höðr, who was Baldr’s brother; Höðr was blind. Guided by Loki, Höðr inadvertently killed Baldr. And then Odin made sure Höðr died,” Eric said with disgust.
“You disapprove of Odin’s choice in that matter?”
“Yes, it was not Höðr’s fault that the gods had tempted fate. It was not Höðr’s fault that Loki was a trickster, liar, and murderer. It was not Höðr’s fault that he was blind and had no idea that he was holding the mistletoe. It was not Höðr’s fault that the Ragnarök occurred.”
“Yes. Baldr’s death was thought to be a harbinger of the Ragnarök, which was the name given to a number of events that resulted in the deaths of many of our gods and goddesses—including,” Eric smiled, “Odin and Loki.”
Leonie smiled as well. “So mistletoe led to all that destruction?”
Eric shook his head. “Perhaps—but I think the story is meant to teach that no one can escape fate.”
“So even mistletoe―a young parasite that was seen to be too lowly for a goddess to take into account―can become a great weapon of fate,” Leonie remarked with a smile.
Eric sighed. “Are you trying to suggest that the Fae bond is to become a weapon of fate?”
“Perhaps,” Leonie said with a twinkle in her eye. “I don’t know.” She was silent for a moment. “Mistletoe is my favorite plant in this realm. Many believe that it harms the plant from which it is nourishing itself, but that is usually not the case. Unless it is in great distress and near death, mistletoe never takes more than the host plant can spare. It also attracts more species of animals, which feed off of its berries and leaves. It is seen that in areas where mistletoe thrives, there is a greater diversity of life. So this plant—though it is a parasite—is also “life” itself! Even when it becomes very large, it coexists with the host. And there is something even more salient to your situation, Viking—an even greater lesson to be learned.” She paused. “If you will learn it.”
“What is that?” Eric asked.
“The mistletoe, as I said, will kill the tree only in times of great distress—if the tree is weak. But it does not want to harm its host. On the contrary, the mistletoe thrives when the tree thrives and will die when its hosts dies. The Fae bond is the same. You are the tree, Eric. The Fae bond—like mistletoe—does not change who or what you are. It just takes what it needs in order to thrive, which could—in turn—make you and everything around you flourish if you let it. And,” she added with a grin, “you are not actually a tree.”
He sighed impatiently. “Do not speak in riddles, fairy!”
“What I am saying is that a tree has no brain, so if the mistletoe were to become too lush or unruly, the tree has to sit there and take it. On the other hand, you have a brain and the Fae bond need not govern that part of you—no matter how large is grows.”
Eric contemplated for a moment. “It is growing. With each day I am with her, it grows, and I am worried about it choking me.”
“It will not,” Leonie said with certainty. “The choice you have to make is whether to nurture it or to try to starve it. If you do the latter, it will make your life miserable. And hers. And I love her and would not see that happen.”
“But if I do the former, it will grow until it overwhelms me!” Eric said angrily—stubbornly.
Leonie shook her head. “I do not believe that will happen. I told you that some among the Fae think of the bond like a parasite, and, as you can see, the bond can be interpreted as having some parasitic attributes. However, the bond is more than a parasite—much more. It actually feeds the host as well. It nourishes the host in return for its own nourishment, and that is not what a parasite does! So the bond could never overwhelm you, for it would cause you to grow as well. The bond would grow larger, and it would flower in abundance. But you—Eric. You would grow strong enough to carry and sustain all of that abundance—and more.”
Eric sighed. “I will think upon these things, but I do not think my opinion of the Fae bond will change.”
“Promise me that you will not complete the vampire bond unless it does change,” Leonie implored.
“I promise,” Eric said.
“Your promise tells me you love her—bond or not,” Leonie said knowingly.
Eric didn’t respond to that statement.
“Well—at least you two are a good match for each other in the stubbornness department.”
Eric glared at her.
Leonie rolled her eyes. “As you have pointed out, the Fae bond will strengthen—no matter what you do. I suggest that you allow that to happen—that you encourage it to happen. If you do, you may come to see its beauty.”
Eric growled. “I thought that I made clear that the last thing I want is for it to grow. It is bad enough that it is doing it without my help. I will not encourage it!”
“Yet you asked for her light the second and third times she gave it to you. You were not injured?” Leonie said as a question.
“That is true,” he said stiffly.
“How did it make you feel when you received it—stronger?”
“None of your goddamned business,” he told her, repeating his earlier words.
“Fair enough,” Leonie said. “However, I hope you will one day complete the vampire bond with her, just as I hope you will accept the Fae bond. If you accept both bonds with an open heart, then you will regain what you lost when the Fae bond was first formed.”
“What is that?” Eric asked solemnly.
“You will regain your choice,” she answered sagely. “I hope that you will choose Sookie and choose love. Otherwise, it is best to leave things as they are.”
Eric looked down at his hands. “I understand,” he said quietly.
“Either way,” Leonie said more brightly. “You can make her happy. And I hope that she will make you happy as well. You deserve that as well.”
Eric looked at the fairy again and was once more struck by the thought that he knew her from somewhere. “Are we done with the first part of our talk?”
“Then why are you familiar to me?”
“You saw me once, though in passing,” Leonie said. “I was meeting with a friend of mine, and you came in with your maker. What was it?” she asked herself. “Eight or nine hundred years ago? Spain?”
Recognition dawned on Eric’s face. “You are friends with Klymene?”
“As I told Sookie earlier, I enjoy meeting strong women from cultures other than my own. I learn much from them. And I have learned many things from your maker’s maker.”
“Is Klymene alive?” Eric asked.
Leonie nodded. “We have spoken of you and my great-granddaughter. She helped me to understand vampire blood bonds and blood ties. We discussed the potential of seeing a Fae bond and a vampire bond coexist. Both of us wanted to witness it, but after hearing of Sookie’s fears today, Klymene will agree that it is best to wait until the Fae bond is your choice—just as the vampire bond has become Sookie’s.”
“Tell me how to contact her!” Eric ordered, feeling angry that Leonie and Klymene were discussing his life—meddling in his life!
“There is no need,” Leonie said breezily. “Klymene is well-aware of your current plight with Edgington and has asked me to give you a message.”
“What is it?” Eric asked with frustration.
“There are three heads to the serpent that threatens the vampire hierarchy on this continent.”
“More fucking riddles!” Eric growled.
Leonie sighed impatiently. “No riddles. I was not done speaking. Will you listen or will you growl?”
Eric gestured for her to go on.
“As I was saying,” Leonie continued, “Russell is but one of the three who would transform this country into a place where vampires become the true parasites, enslaving all other peoples and slowly draining their will to live as well as their blood. Felipe de Castro and Bartlett Crowe are the others. To prevent their miscreant behavior and the destruction they would leave in their wake, they must all be disposed of at once, and you have been called upon to lead that endeavor.”
“By the Ancient Pythoness.”
Eric stiffened immediately. “I was not aware that the Ancient Pythoness took an interest in political matters. In fact, it has been rumored that she has,” he paused, “retired.”
“She takes an interest in some things,” Leonie said.
“What does she want of me?” Eric asked.
“Just to do what you have already sworn to do,” Leonie said. “The lady has seen many possibilities for the future, but all of them involve you killing Russell or Russell killing you. She prefers the former option”
“I agree,” Eric deadpanned. “But why would she care if I live or die?”
“If you do not stop Russell, then a series of events will arise that the Ancient Pythoness does not wish to see happen.” The fairy chuckled.
“What is so goddamned funny?” Eric asked with frustration.
“Do you know the ancient lady?”
Eric shook his head. “No. Godric met her once, but by the time I knew of her, she was already in her exile from the world.”
Leonie smiled. I have been lucky enough to know her well. “She speaks of the happenings of the world as if they were on a human television program, and she simply does not like the show as much when Russell wins.” The fairy giggled. “She called the future ‘ridiculous’ if he were put in charge of it.”
“Why?” Eric asked, getting truly impatient with the fairy.
“Well—if you fail, Russell will become the poster-boy for a new fringe movement which will rise within the Authority, the Sanguinistas. And then he will begin killing humans left and right without thought—all while the Sanguinistas worship the blood of Lilith, who was supposedly the first vampire.” Leonie chuckled and rolled her eyes. “Of course, Lilith is just a myth—and not even a good one like your tales of the Norsemen. But some vampires—including Bill Compton—will come to believe in her. In fact, Bill will eventually drink all of her so-called sacred blood—which will actually just be a brew made by the witch, Hallow, and a necromancer who will possess her. After drinking this supposed blood of Lilith, Bill will rise as a new type of being, and the Ancient Pythoness does not want to have to watch that program for a single season—so to speak—let alone for a thousand years, which is how long it would apparently take to get rid of Compton and Russell’s little cohort. So—you see—she is on your side.”
Eric’s eyebrow rose. “That all sounds ridiculous.”
“Indeed,” Leonie said, “and that is why she hopes you defeat Russell. Otherwise, you can count on the fact that the Fae will definitely stay out of this realm for a millennium or two, and the demons will also exit for a while, but the humans and those of two natures will suffer mightily, and there will be very few vampires left when all is said and done.” She sighed. “Selfishly, however, I want you to win so that my great-granddaughter will be safe. Just for that. Well—and for one more thing.”
“The bonus of seeing Bill Compton finally dead. Sookie showed me the woven dreams he sent to her in the name of supposed love. Now—I am not surprised that his future existence could be as an unimaginable monster, for he is already one. I would, however, prefer that his future existence be as a pile of ash—lost in the wind of this world. The sooner the better—if you catch my drift,” she giggled, amused by her own bad pun.
“That would be my preference as well,” Eric commented, seething at the mention of Bill Compton. “Did the Ancient Pythoness say how I am to kill Russell? And two other kings as well?”
Leonie smirked. “She said that you should use your brain and listen to your mate.”
“My mate?” Eric asked.
“That is what the lady said my great-granddaughter is to you; for better or worse, you and she are bonded. You are her mate, and she is yours.”
Eric stood from his chair. “So she gave you no hints about what plan I am to enact to face a three-thousand-year-old vampire and his cohorts?” Eric asked with a scowl.
“Well—as you know, the Ancient Pythoness does not like to get directly involved in matters of the world. Klymene and I received only cryptic information from the lady, and now I am telling you what she told us, and that did not include ‘how‘ you are to accomplish your goal.” Leonie paused and grinned. “She did, however, tell us a when.”
“When?” Eric asked.
“At Rhodes,” Leonie answered with a smile. “The Ancient Pythoness is insuring that Russell acts then.”
“By being the bait,” Leonie smiled.
I LOVED your reactions to the last chapter! Wow! Apparently, it invoked strong feelings about either Leonie or Eric (or both of them), which is sort of what I wanted to do! Some of you are frustrated at Eric for being so stubbornly hypocritical and/or against the Fae bond, but he IS our Viking. I don’t think he can help but to resist the things that he cannot control—though I do think he’s trying in a way. He has simply exchanged one form a denial for another. Something “big” will need to happen for him to pull that head from the old ass (wait—is that foreshadowing?).
And some of you are a bit ambivalent about Leonie too. I have to say that I like her. Maybe it’s b/c I’m a redhead too. LOL! I hope you like her a bit more after this chapter. But I didn’t want to take away the fairy characteristics that seemed present in the books—though I did aim to change everything else about the fairies—LOL. The fairies always seemed to have mysterious motives. And they also seemed apt to do things their way—even when it was with “tough love.” This is how I’m trying to make Leonie. She truly loves Sookie b/c she was a “real” mother to Fintan. But—yes—she can get a little “overbearing.” And she’s definitely over the top at times.