Leonie held out a business-sized card to Eric. It was blank, save for a phone number.
“What is this?” the vampire asked.
“It is my phone number in this realm. Though Claudine is returning to Faerie tonight, I will be staying in this realm for the foreseeable future with my grandson, Claude.”
“Why are you giving this to me?” Eric asked, looking down at the card.
“I’ve been told that you will need it.”
“You know whom—Pythia.”
Eric shook his head. “What the fuck does she want from me?”
“For you to win,” Leonie said, her eyes flashing.
“Then why won’t she tell me how?” Eric asked somewhat petulantly.
“Because—with too much knowledge, you might just mess things up,” Leonie said with an amused air.
“Knowledge is power,” Eric said stubbornly.
“Sometimes,” Leonie agreed.
Eric scowled with frustration. “Fine. Are we finished here?”
“I have a message for you from Klymene,” the fairy said.
“What is it?” Eric gritted out.
“She will be sending you some information soon—through someone you trust. She has been busy collecting what you will need to plan the battle at Rhodes. She regrets that she cannot help you make these plans beyond what she will supply; however, the Ancient Pythoness has made clear that the plan must be yours—and Sookie’s—if it is to work. Thus, your allies will simply be awaiting your orders.”
“Allies?” Eric asked with his eyebrow raised.
“Yes,” Leonie said. “You have many assets at your disposal, Viking. Klymene and I are but two. My grandson will also help you and his cousin; I am sorry I cannot offer more people, but I do not want Niall getting wind of all of this. He would order all Fae from this realm and then would close the portals if he knew of the potential danger. Of course, if you fail, I will help him to do this. But it would be best if you succeeded.”
Leonie went on. “The demon, Cataliades, is also willing to help and will be at Rhodes with Russell and Sophie-Anne. I have a feeling that he will bring his nieces, Diantha and Gladiola, with him. Perhaps, your witch friend will come as well?”
Eric was already moving chess pieces in his mind. It was September 28, and the Rhodes conference went from October 29th to November 2nd, with a masquerade ball on Halloween night being its central social event.
Leonie continued, “Did you know that the Werebears inside your cabin are meant to accompany the king of New Mexico to the summit in Rhodes?”
Eric smiled, adding more pieces to the board. “I did not.”
“Yes. Queen Dulcina of Texas and King Mitchell of New Mexico are to marry at Rhodes. They will be using the conference as the opportunity, and many of their people—who otherwise would have no reason to be there—will also be attending.”
“It seems that my maker’s maker has been finding out some helpful information,” Eric smiled.
“I’m sure you will think so when you are in possession of all she will offer. But, of course, Russell and his cohorts have many assets as well.”
Eric nodded in agreement, already placing them on his chess board as well.
“I pray for your success, Eric,” Leonie said.
The vampire looked at the fairy through narrowed eyes and saw only sincerity in her countenance.
“I thank you,” he said.
“To thank me—you must make a very good plan during the next month, or the Ancient Pythoness will be forced to watch a show she does not enjoy, and—much worse than that—I will be forced to watch my great-granddaughter die,” she finished soberly.
Eric cringed at that thought.
Leonie reached out and touched his arm lightly. “Hold to that fear, and keep her alive for us.”
The vampire nodded. “I will try.”
Just then, both of the supernaturals on the porch turned their heads toward the door—Eric because of his nose and Leonie because of her hearing. Eric had smelled that Sookie had exited the bathroom.
“Just how good is your hearing?” Eric asked.
Leonie used the same joke Claudine had used earlier as she showed Eric her pointy ears. “They are not just for show.”
Eric nodded, adding that to his list of assets, even as he looked down at the table. For the first time, he saw the box that Claudine had brought for Sookie.
“We brought Sookie something of her grandfather’s as well as a picture from home.”
Eric opened the box and picked up the pocket watch. “I would ask you to send my thanks to Niall, but I doubt you want him to know we spoke.”
“Correct,” Leonie agreed, even as she seemed to be studying Eric. “Have you ever heard of a cluviel dor?” she asked, looking for his reaction.
“Your coming here to speak with me was not a last minute decision, was it?” Eric asked grasping the watch tighter.
“No,” she responded. “So you have heard of it?”
“I have heard a myth—one of a fairy princess whose tears were so powerful that they resurrected her beloved from death. Some believe that her lover was the first vampire. The princess’s tears also fell onto a flower, which has never died. A cluviel dor is said to be made when a petal of that flower is plucked, and its juice is placed onto an object that symbolizes great love.”
Leonie tilted her head to the side. “Where did you hear this story?”
“From your friend.”
Leonie smiled fondly. “Klymene always did embellish stories a bit; of course, we exchanged our myths many years ago, so I might have been the one to make up the part about the vampire being made—you know, to add more drama.” She winked. “However, I believe that she was a bit drunk from my blood the night I told her the story of Ione, and I had had much mead as well, so I cannot remember exactly what was said.”
Eric couldn’t help but to smile. “I find that I like you better than your husband.”
Leonie smiled. “Niall has his moments.”
“Tell me about a cluviel dor,” he requested.
“Here is the myth as it was told to me by my mother,” Leonie began. “A beautiful fairy maiden named Ione was the first to use magic to make a portal to this realm—the human realm. An explorer by nature, Ione impulsively decided to visit this realm without telling anyone, and she did not return to Faerie for many, many years—for, then, what was nine hundred years there was only sixty here. When she did return, she carried only one thing with her, an unusual plant. For the rest of her long life, she said not a word.
“Once back in Faerie, Ione found a home with her sister’s child, a girl who had been named for her. But, still, the elder Ione did not speak. She spent many years at her loom, however, and eventually she wove the story of her time in this realm. The tapestry she made showed how she traveled here and met a man—a human. She bore him a daughter, and they were happy. But one day, the man was mortally wounded by an enemy bent upon taking his wife and daughter, who had grown into a lovely maiden in her own right. Ione killed the foe and tried to heal her mate with her Fae magic, but it was not strong enough. In desperation to save her father, Ione’s daughter ran to collect a plant, which the humans of the area believed had magical qualities of healing. The daughter took a sprig of the plant and ground it into a paste, but still her father’s fever rose.”
“However, by luck, one of Ione’s tears fell onto one of the plant’s white berries, and from that, a beautiful white flower bloomed—though that particular plant had never been known to flower in that way before. Ione’s daughter tried to save her father again—but, this time, she made a paste from the lone white flower.
“Ione’s husband was healed. Together, Ione and her family lived on, and—again—they were all very happy. However, the man eventually died of old age. Ione and her daughter placed many springs of the plant that had once helped to save his life onto his grave, and Ione spent many days weeping at the place where his body was buried. Eventually, all the sprigs—save one—withered and died, for there was nothing in the ground by her husband’s grave to sustain them.”
“And the one that did live?” Eric asked. “That is what she returned to Faerie with?”
“Yes,” Leonie answered. “That plant has stayed perpetually green—though it is rooted to nothing.” Leonie smiled. “Well—it is rooted to nothing but love. Some say it does not die because of a magic spell—something like a stasis spell.”
“But you don’t believe that,” Eric commented.
Leonie shook her head. “No—I don’t. I believe that there is magic in the plant—the magic of this realm, seeped into the plant and then mixed with Ione’s tears,” she said with a sad smile. “I believe that the plant will exist for as long as Ione’s love for her mate exists.”
“What of Ione’s daughter?”
“According to Ione’s tapestry, the plant produced another flower as it lay on the grave of her husband; this occurred many years before Ione left this realm to return to Faerie. Ione ground that flower and made a paste, which she put onto a brooch that her husband had given to her. She gave that object to her daughter, who had twins: a boy and a girl. When the little boy died of a fever, the daughter made a single wish. She called upon the magic and the love within that brooch to resurrect her child. And the child revived. Thus, the legend of the cluviel dor was born. However, not long after that, tragedy befell Ione yet again. Her daughter, her son-in-law, and her grandson were all killed in a raid. Ione had been at the grave of her husband when it happened. The tapestry depicts how Ione hunted down the raiders.” Leonie paused. “Even represented in thread, the deaths of those raiders were the most gruesome I have ever seen. And Ione carried their blood with her to Faerie. The plant, too, was soaked in blood.” The fairy sighed. “It is there that the tapestry ends.”
“What of Ione’s granddaughter?”
Leonie shrugged. “That girl’s fate was not woven into the tapestry. And—of course—Ione never spoke of her.”
“And what happened to Ione—after her return to Faerie?” Eric asked with interest.
“After she completed the tapestry, she died. According to legend, she withered away, while the plant stayed the same.”
“What became of the plant?”
“It was passed down—along with the tapestry—by her family.” Leonie winked at Eric. “My family. The plant has—on two other occasions over the years—produced a single flower. The first time, my great-great-grandmother discovered the flower and added its magic to a charm that my great-great-grandfather had given to her. That charm has passed through many hands, and—as far as I know—has not yet been used. I do not know where it is now.”
“And the second flower?” Eric asked.
“When I retrieved Fintan’s watch, I saw that Ione’s plant had produced once more, and I took that as a sign. This watch symbolizes the love of Fintan and Adele, and now it has been infused with the love of Ione for her mate and her children and her children’s children—the love of family.”
“So this is a cluviel dor?” Eric asked in wonder.
“I don’t know for sure,” Leonie answered honestly. “But I have faith that it is. As I said, the only other one to be made has either not been used or not been spoken of. And all we have is the legend depicted in Ione’s tapestry. But,” the fairy said brightly, “it can’t hurt.”
“Does Sookie know of this?” Eric asked.
Leonie shook her head. “I have not even told Claudine or Klymene of it. I am telling you, and that is all.”
“Why not Sookie?”
She sighed. “I can only speculate about who can use the cluviel dor and how it can be used.”
“Then speculate,” Eric said.
“I believe that only the mixing of great love and grief can unlock a cluviel dor‘s magic to create a miracle. Sookie certainly has love for you, but she would not grieve at your death.”
Eric looked at her in confusion.
“She would not have the chance to grieve, Eric,” Leonie clarified. “If a bonded fairy dies, then the mate of that fairy dies but a moment later. No—in the same moment—as soon as the bond registers the loss.”
“So Sookie wouldn’t have time to use it—to save me or herself,” Eric observed astutely.
“No. She would not.”
“But if she dies?” Eric asked stiffly.
“You are already dead, so I am hoping that will change the rules and that you would have time to use the cluviel dor to wish her back to us. Of course, you might die along with her—just as fast as a bonded fairy would. Or Ione’s tapestry may have been interpreted wrong. Or—if you are right about not truly loving Sookie—then your affection would not be strong enough to enact the spell. Or you might even decide not to try to resurrect her, for—if you survived Sookie’s death—you would be free of the Fae bond and could continue your life as before.”
Eric tensed a little.
“It is in your hands now, Eric,” Leonie said softly, “but I have decided to have faith in you.”
“Because—Ione’s plant was viscum album, Eric.”
“European mistletoe,” he whispered.
“Yes. A beautiful parasite that granted life where there had only been death. A beautiful parasite that found a way to resurrect love itself.”
Overcome with emotions he didn’t want to show the fairy, the vampire stood and turned away from Leonie. He opened the watch and read the inscription from Adele to Fintan: Always remember—if I could love you for all time, I would.