Eric and Sookie’s hands were entwined as they walked down the stairs. They met the stares of those who had guarded them during the day and the night thus far.
“Something happened—didn’t it?” Leonie asked knowingly, though not judgmentally. “A kind of exchange you didn’t expect?” She sounded hopeful—and in awe.
“How do you know?” a pensive Sookie asked.
“I felt the magic of a fairy of my line in this house,” Leonie said even as a tear of joy seeped from her eye.
“What do you mean?” Eric asked.
“You, Eric,” she smiled as more tears fell from the fairy’s eyes.
“Me?” the Viking asked.
“I don’t know how it could be,” Leonie practically whispered. “But—not fifteen minutes ago—I began to sense a fairy who shared my blood in this home. It is not Sookie. And there are no other fairies near here. You, Eric. It is you. I felt your magic. I felt your light. Your bonding with Sookie—fully bonding with her in your way and in hers—has made the magic within you grow. And that magic includes Fae magic.”
“How can that be?” Eric asked.
“There is only one way,” Leonie said, as Eric sat down, settling Sookie onto his lap. “Search your heart and you will see it.”
“Ione,” Eric whispered.
Leonie nodded. “Yes. One of her grandchildren was unaccounted for in her tapestry. That child, Eric, was a relative of yours.”
“My mother,” Eric whispered with realization. “She was taken in by the people of my village when she was only a small child. She’d been left at the lodge of my grandfather, who was—then—the chieftain. There was gold left with her—a fortune unlike any my people had ever seen. My grandparents took in the child and raised her with love. They said she was a gift from the gods, and they were incredibly prosperous after she came to them. To honor the gift, they never used the gold. They set it aside for her. That girl—Astrid—grew up to be the most beautiful woman in the village. And the strongest. My father loved her from the time they were children. And—when given the choice,” he continued, pulling Sookie closer to him, “she picked my father. She said that his family was hers and that her wealth was theirs.” He looked at Leonie. “But how is that possible. Wasn’t Ione in this realm many, many years before my mother could have been born?”
Leonie’s tears were falling freely now. “Time, Eric. The time between Faerie and this realm shifts as the wind. But—what you say about your mother, Astrid—rings a bell in my heart. The Ancient Pythoness told me that you were the great-grandson of Ione; I was almost afraid to believe it, and then tonight I felt that you are my blood—my kin. And I am,” she paused and brushed away her tears, “joyful. You are the evidence that Ione’s line continued in this realm. The flower—Eric—it bloomed for you.”
“Flower?” Sookie asked.
Eric could feel the watch in his pocket—the token that could help him cheat death itself if Sookie were to be taken from him.
He turned her gently in his arms. As he looked into her eyes, he knew that he would never lie to her, but he also knew that he didn’t want her to know about the cluviel dor—not because it wasn’t her right to know, but because he didn’t want her to know its function. If she knew of it, she might be more reckless. She might risk herself for him—or for someone else she cared for—hoping that the cluviel dor could save her. But Eric couldn’t take that risk.
“You don’t want to tell me,” Sookie said perceptively.
“You’re right,” Eric whispered.
She nodded. “You have a good reason?”
“I think so,” he responded.
She leaned in and kissed him. “Okay then.”
Sookie looked at Leonie. “No offense. I’ve begun thinkin’ of you as my great-grandmother—though you look like you could be my older sister. But right about now, I’m really, really glad that we aren’t related by blood.”
Leonie’s tinkling laughter filled the room. “Me too—though your Eric and I are not closely related. Ione was my great-great-great Aunt. So we are very distant cousins—indeed!” the fairy smiled.
“The light that came from me,” Eric said. “Is it like Sookie’s?”
“Can you show it to me?” Leonie asked.
“I don’t know how,” Eric said truthfully. “It came from me when . . . .”
“Eric Northman!” Sookie interrupted. “Do not finish that sentence!”
All of the supernaturals in the room laughed heartily, knowing exactly what Eric would have said.
“Emotion brings on a fairy’s light,” Leonie said. “And yours was freed as the Fae bond and vampire bond strengthened you both. So hold out your hand and think of your love for your mate.”
Eric nodded and reached out one of his hands, palm up. He closed his eyes, and before long, a small ball of bright gold light appeared.
“Eric,” Sookie whispered, causing him to open his eyes.
“Nothing like this has ever happened to me before,” Eric said with awe, “even when I was a human.”
“For many human-fairy hybrids, powers never manifest fully, for the spark within them never matures. However, this color of light isn’t often seen—even among fairies.”
“So—as a human—I was part Fae,” Eric observed still seeming to disbelieve the evidence of his eyes.
“Yes. You were—are—the same proportion of fairy as Sookie is,” Leonie responded with a smile. “Like found like. Because of you, Sookie’s spark was lit, and—when she offered you the Fae bond—the fairy in you would have known that you were the same. You would have instinctively found a connection in each other.”
“Wow!” Brady said from across the room.
“Agreed,” Duncan added.
Eric took a long breath, filling his unnecessary lungs with air from a realm that he didn’t fully belong to.
“You okay?” Sookie asked.
“Yes,” Eric answered, smiling down at her. “This is just more confirmation that you and I are matches for one another.” He kissed her lightly, even as the warrior within him came to the forefront. “Okay—so I have this light. Can it be used as a weapon—like Sookie’s?”
“No,” Leonie said, “at least not a traditional one. The color of the light you made is gold—a rare color among the Fae and signaling a rare gift. Unlike Niall and Sookie, you and I are not Sky Fae—at least not fully. Ione’s parents were not both Sky Fae. It was with them that the Sky Fae and the Earth Fae made a lasting alliance, and that alliance was secured with the marriage of Aengus, of the Sky Fae, and, Ajthne of the Earth Fae. The golden light you produced is from your Earth Fae roots, but it is rare even among them.”
“What does it do?” Eric asked.
“Like a match, it is a light that rekindles strength. That is why it is not often seen, for this kind of light provides a fairy with greater than ordinary strength and prowess. I imagine that—even as a human—you did not tire in battle. I imagine that you had stamina well beyond other humans, and—when you did tire—your fairy magic would have worked within you to rekindle the strength you had lost. And I am guessing that this trait has continued for you as a vampire. I imagine that it is easier for you than most to force yourself to stay up with the day. I imagine that, in battle, you are rarely bested—even when facing older vampires. I imagine that your vampire gifts and traits were strong almost from the start—and that you noticed an unusual endurance when your gifts were needed the most. For it is need that activates a fairy’s magic.”
Eric didn’t speak, but he nodded in confirmation of her words.
Leonie shook her head. “I noticed something that day in the Phoenix garage. As Claude and I arrived, you were fighting despite the fact that it was daytime. Yes—you were spurred by love and the desire to protect your mate. I thought it was Sookie’s blood in you—or the Fae bond. But there was so much more to it. Your own fairy gift kept you going for much longer than would have been otherwise possible.”
“So—I wouldn’t have manifested this light externally,” Eric began, “because it works to strengthen from within.”
Duncan sat forward. “Eric, so much of this makes sense. I once heard Godric and Klymene speaking of the way that you fought like a much older vampire—of the way that you could withstand pain or torture that would break or even kill other vampires.”
Leonie nodded. “Yes. And now your ability to awaken Sookie’s spark with your blood is even more explainable, for your blood would have held your Fae magic too—the power to light what had been unlit before. You lit Sookie up—quite literally—from the inside.”
“Yet another way you complement each other,” Brady observed.
“Yes,” Leonie agreed. “And in fully accepting the Fae bond and consummating the vampire bond, the nature of your light is trying to strengthen your mate as well now. That is why you were able to see it tonight.”
“The Fae bond works to strengthen us both,” Eric said with awe. But then he looked at Sookie with regret.
“Don’t say it,” she said. “Don’t apologize for not accepting the Fae bond before you did.”
He sighed, but nodded.
“Okay—so we can add this gift to our assets,” Eric said practically, even as he gave Sookie a look that let her know that he considered her to be his greatest asset of all.
“That sneaky hag,” Duncan chuckled.
“Huh?” Sookie and Brady asked as one.
“The Ancient Pythoness was so insistent that Duncan and I both be here to guard you at this time,” Leonie relayed.
“But there have been no signs of anything amiss,” Brady said.
“However, she knew that you would see evidence of your fairy blood tonight,” Duncan added.
“So we are here,” Leonie finished.
Eric and Sookie both let out sighs.
“Fine,” Eric said with a shake of his head and a smirk on this lips. “Enough of the revelations for tonight. It’s time for me to learn about the assets I have at my disposal. All of them,” the vampire said to Duncan.
A/N: Despite its brevity, I do hope you enjoyed this chapter. It really does act as a transition point—since with the next chapter, we are jumping to Rhodes (though there will be a few flashbacks of “cabin time”). As I told Seph (or was it Kleannhouse? Or both of them?), the fast-forward is occurring so that I stop myself from committing innumerable crimes of Rocky-style training montages.
a training montage – I mean, Day one at Rhodes.