Sookie knew that teleportation was practical—and necessary—at times, but it wasn’t her favorite thing to do.
Not by a long-shot.
Even when she’d teleported just herself, Sookie hadn’t liked the sensation of it. Maybe it was that her first experience with teleportation would have taken her away from Eric forever—if Niall had gotten his wish. Or maybe it was simply that her human DNA was protesting a process that wasn’t natural for it to undergo.
Brass tacks? It fucking hurt.
Of course, Sookie had set aside her thoughts of the discomfort and had become much better at the process during the past month. Twice a week Leonie had visited her at the cabin during the days and had practically drilled her into the ground as they’d worked on her fairy skills. She’d even learned how to teleport with Eric, which had been something that Leonie had thought she might be able to do because of Eric and Sookie’s bonds and blood sharing. Still—teleportation wasn’t a “natural” gift for Sookie. Teleporting with Eric had worn her out for an entire night—and the day after it! Plus, she’d needed to meditate for five full minutes before she’d been able to accomplish the feat to begin with.
Nope—not a natural gift to her at all!
Sookie’s “natural” gift? Her light. Fighting.
Claudine had been right. Sookie was inclined to fighting and not fleeing, though Leonie and Eric had both been trying to guide her to understand that sometimes it was best to go against instinct.
She smiled slightly as she recalled a quote from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”
Sookie tried to center herself as she looked in the mirror in her and Eric’s room. She put her hair up into a ponytail and then looked at her outfit—jeans, a comfortable T-shirt, a jean jacket, and tennis shoes. She shook her head. What did one wear to meet the fabled Ancient Pythoness?
She was about to change into something else—not that she had anything too formal other than her Masquerade dress—when there was a light knock on the door: Leonie.
“Hello, dear,” the fairy smiled as she walked into the room. She looked ethereal in a gown of green silk that complemented her red hair and freckled, pale skin to perfection.
Knowing that Brady was in the suite, Sookie automatically zoomed into his head. Yep—he was “mentally” drooling.
“Ready?” Leonie asked with a smirk, as if she knew whom Sookie had been listening to.
“You tell me,” Sookie said, gesturing down at her clothing. “This meeting was a bit of a surprise to me, and I’m not exactly sure what to wear,” she added somewhat apprehensively.
Leonie waved off her concern. “You look lovely, dear.”
Sookie shook her head and chuckled. “And you look like some kind of goddess—and that’s not just according to the Were you’ve leashed,” she added with a wink.
Leonie giggled like a schoolgirl. “This? It’s just a uniform really. All of Pythia’s handmaidens have to wear them.” She laughed as if she’d just told a joke.
Though she didn’t “get” the joke, Sookie couldn’t help but to laugh with the fairy as she walked over to her.
“Then I guess I’m ready,” Sookie said.
“Eric?” Leonie asked.
Sookie’s smile faded for a moment. “We figured it would be best if I left while he was in the other room, so he wouldn’t try to hitch a ride by instinct.”
Knowing how tightly bonded the pair were, Leonie nodded and reached out her hands. Sookie seemed reluctant to take them.
“What is it, dear? Are you nervous about leaving your bonded? Meeting Pythia? You shouldn’t be. I wouldn’t exactly call her ‘nice,’ but I think you will like her, nonetheless.”
“Well—yeah. Both. But it’s neither of those things,” Sookie responded. “It’s that I still don’t really like this teleporting thing.”
Leonie laughed heartily as Sookie took her hands and was still laughing when they arrived in a room with no windows. The room was bare of furniture and empty except for one individual: a beautiful brunette vampiress with clear blue eyes. She was dressed in a gown similar to Leonie’s; only hers was orange.
“Klymene?” Sookie guessed with a gasp.
“Yes,” the gorgeous vampiress confirmed. She approached Sookie and took her two hands before falling to her knees before the telepath.
“What?” Sookie asked, startled by the lovely vampiress’s action. “Um—what are you doing?”
“My child,” Klymene responded simply. “I could not save Godric. But I know that you did in a way, and—for that—I will forever be in your debt.”
Immediately, Sookie’s tears began to fall, and she felt a ping through her bonds with Eric. She sent back comfort—letting him know that she was okay.
She took to her knees with the vampiress. “I just stayed with him at the end,” Sookie whispered.
Klymene shook her head. “Godric could not hide his feelings from me as he could from his children. For years, I felt his despair. Then, I felt his despondency. Finally, I felt it when he decided to die. But—right before the end—I felt his hope. You gave him that.”
Sookie sniffled, trying to stop herself from sobbing at the memory of Godric killing himself.
Again, she felt Eric’s concern through their bonds; she sent back her love as she thought of him on his knees on the rooftop.
As she thought of the touch between them which had started their Fae bond.
Klymene’s beautiful eyes full of a mixture of sorrow and gratefulness, she rose to her feet, bringing Sookie with her. “I was pulled to make Godric as soon as I first saw him, though I waited a while. He was so beautiful.” She smiled. “None but me know this, but he was a warrior during his human life, as vicious as he was honorable.”
“Like Eric,” Sookie observed.
Klymene nodded. “Yes. I was staying with a vampire monarch near to where Godric was based. I kept up with him.” She smiled proudly. “After all, how many boys of thirteen are feared generals?” She frowned. “I was biding my time—waiting for him to be older before I asked him if he would join me in the night. It was several years after I first saw Godric that I made a brief visit to a neighboring king. When I returned, I learned that Godric’s army had been decimated—though it had taken a force ten-times larger than his own to do the job. Godric had been captured and made a slave. And he had been horribly mistreated and humiliated. He was but seventeen then.”
“But you went to him. You turned him,” Sookie said.
“I could not help myself,” Klymene responded.
Sookie nodded. “The pull. Eric had it with Pam, too.”
Klymene smiled. “As Godric had it with both Eric and Duncan.”
The vampiress’s smile quickly faded, however, and was replaced with a look of sadness. Instinctively, Sookie took her hands again.
“Godric was a magnificent vampire,” Klymene sighed, “however, two years ago—the last time we were together in person—he told me that he hated his existence as a vampire. Nonetheless, I could feel that he was glad that I had made him one.”
“Because of Eric and Duncan,” Sookie offered.
“Yes,” Klymene responded. “Godric was made to be a maker. And—when his duty was done to his boys—he could not find reason to go on.”
“You loved him,” Sookie said.
“Yes,” Klymene responded. “Had Leonie not teleported me to Duncan’s side after Godric died, I might have sought my child in the sun myself. Duncan believes that I was there to comfort him; however, it was he who kept me sane.”
“You were there when Eric called Duncan?” Sookie asked.
“Yes. I listened as Eric told him that he had begged Godric to stay. I listened as he told him of a human woman—a woman of good heart—who had stayed with him until the end.”
“Godric was,” Sookie paused, “the good one.”
“Yes,” Klymene agreed, “though he was always doubtful about that. At almost six hundred years old, I was not a young vampire when I made him. I had made two children before him, but it was with him that I felt the strongest pull.” She sighed. “Neither of my other children lived long lives as Godric did.”
Sookie nodded, remembering the test that Godric had given to Eric—the one Godric had learned firsthand from his own maker. The hand of a vampire was exposed to the sunlight. The vampire had the choice of either allowing the sun to burn through his or her hand or marshaling his or her magic in order to fight against it. The second choice would lead to the vampire’s death.
Magic spent until the vampire was sludge.
Sookie had found the test to be cruel; however, Eric had pointed out that it had been instructive—that it had taught him that giving up a part of himself was sometimes necessary for a greater good. He pointed to the lesson as one of the reasons he’d survived a millennia. Godric, too, had once faced this test—and had passed it. However, Eric had explained that Klymene’s other children had failed the test. At the time, Sookie had judged the ancient vampiress who had allowed two of her children to die in that way as heartless, but—seeing the pain in Klymene’s eyes—Sookie knew that wasn’t true.
“Godric felt so much guilt,” the vampiress sighed.
“Because he had much to be guilty for,” Klymene responded sadly. “I have never been shy about killing my enemies, Sookie. And I have no compunction about draining a human miscreant, but I have never had the desire to kill innocents for sport or greed for blood. Therefore, my conscience has remained clear—though most would consider me a murderer.”
“But Godric?” Sookie asked with a sigh.
Klymene looked down for a moment. “He was so young when I brought him over—so used to seeing slaughter. Yet—unlike Eric—Godric did not have a human father who taught him how to temper his violence. He did not know mercy. He did not have a hearth and a home as a human; thus, he was not taught warmth.” She sighed deeply. “I kept Godric by my side for the first four hundred years of his vampire life, trying to give him a sense of family and peace. But he seemed always restless—though he learned to control his vampire urges quickly.” Her body tensed a little. “Eventually, there was no excuse but selfishness for me to keep him with me, so I gave him the freedom to venture out on his own. It was during that time that he turned wild,” she continued, her eyes brimming with red tears.
“Wild?” Sookie asked.
The vampiress nodded. “It was a more brutal time for humans and vampires alike. Still, I tried to do right by my child—to teach him to show mercy to innocents. But, once he was on his own, Godric allowed his baser instincts to have reign. He fell under the influence of a vampire named Appius Livius Ocella, Russell Edgington’s vampire brother.”
“No!” Sookie said with surprise.
“Russell is older—by several centuries. Appius and I are close in age, in fact. It is difficult to know which one is worse. While Russell can feign civility, Appius has never really tried to. Centuries ago, the kings and queens of the Old World established order by forming a Supernatural Council; soon after, Appius was expelled from Europe after rampaging through a village in Lisbon. However, the King of the Russian Empire still allows him to enter his territory, so he shows up there every now and then. He has continued his old ways in Asia, Africa, and South America. He’s been given many nicknames, but most translate roughly to ‘the monster in the night.'”
A tear dropped from Sookie’s eye. “And Godric fell under his influence?”
The vampiress nodded. “My child spoke to me of that time only once, but yes. It was before the Council was formed. For a while, his brutality outmatched even Appius’s. But—thankfully—my child was able to pull himself from Appius’s side. Godric was nomadic after that—until he chanced upon Eric.”
Sookie gasped, finding it difficult to imagine Godric so brutal. “I always wondered why he seemed so racked with guilt—in the end. I mean—I know that Eric isn’t shy when it comes to killing enemies, and he’s told me that he has killed innocents accidentally or when he would have starved otherwise, but it was clear to me that Godric believed that he’d done worse.”
“He had,” Klymene whispered as a red tear fell down her alabaster cheek. She wiped it away with her fingers and—in true vampire style—brought the blood to her lips. “I believe that it was his making of Eric that turned things around for him—made him,” she paused, “more civilized. Eric gave Godric a sense of purpose—and family.”
“Eric told me that he’d met you only once before,” Sookie said, feeling the need to change the mood of the conversation.
“Yes—Godric returned to my side about a hundred years after he had made Eric. He stayed with me for a month. Eric was respectful, but still growing into his gifts. After that visit, Godric and I would meet periodically, but I did not see Eric again. There was no need.”
“And Duncan?” Sookie asked.
“I intended to meet him only once as well, but our connection was,” she paused, “immediate—powerful.”
Sookie smiled at the ancient vampiress for a moment—before she felt compelled to ask a question that had been replaying in her mind ever since Eric had told her about his maker’s maker. “You’re almost Russell’s age. Could you kill him?”
Klymene sighed. “I have very much wanted to try. My mistress has told me that I can help Eric in the upcoming battle—but she has made clear that if I engage Russell directly, I will meet my end and harm Eric’s chances of defeating him.” Her eyes darkened with anger and her fangs came down. She looked terrifying, and her power seemed to fill the small room in an instant.
Intellectually, Sookie knew that Klymene would not harm her, but her fairy instincts were a different story. It was only with difficulty that she was able to resist the impulse to allow her hands to light up in the face of the deadly vampiress.
“If my mistress had not stopped me, I would have confronted Russell Edgington well before now,” Klymene growled. “And his monstrous brother too, for that matter! I am old—and strong.” She paused and reigned in her emotions. Her fangs clicked upward. “Alas, Russell is stronger than I, and he has a craft in battle that I could not match.”
“A craft that Eric has,” Sookie said, her pride for her mate clear in her voice.
“Yes. He is Russell’s equal in strategy. And—as far as battle acumen goes—he is even craftier.”
Hearing a call, the vampiress tilted her head toward a door in the room.
“She will see you now,” Klymene said, putting an abrupt end to their conversation.
Sookie’s anxiety rose as she looked at the door; immediately she felt Eric trying to calm her. She smiled a little. She’d grown to love the give and take of emotions between them.
Leonie, who had stayed silent throughout Klymene and Sookie’s exchange, opened the door to the Ancient Pythoness’s chambers. As Sookie went into the room, it was clear that neither Klymene nor Leonie was coming inside with her. She took a deep breath as Leonie closed the door behind her.
It took Sookie’s eyes several seconds to adjust to the low light of the room. Instead of a bed, there was a pallet in the corner—which was probably where the Ancient Pythoness intended to die for the day. There was also a seating area—though, instead of modern chairs, there were a few padded benches.
One of the benches was occupied by a woman whom Sookie could tell was old by both human terms and vampire terms.
The Ancient Pythoness had been silently regarding Sookie as she took in her surroundings. After Sookie had, the vampiress gestured for the telepath to sit with her.
“You are Sookie,” she said as if telling her something that she didn’t already know.
Sookie nodded, but seeing that the old vampiress’s eyes seemed to be clouded over, she decided to verbalize her response as well. “Yes. Um—why did you wanna see me? I mean talk to me?” she asked nervously. “Um—without Eric?”
The Ancient Pythoness chuckled. “I can see you, despite the way my eyes look. The clouding came with my human age—cataracts I think they are called now. But—when I was turned—my vampire sight evened things out. I cannot see as well as many of my kind, but—then again—I do not need to.”
“Oh,” Sookie responded, clearly surprised, “I figured your eyes were like that because of your—uh—other sight.”
The vampiress laughed again—though it seemed more like a cackle to Sookie. “Yes—most assume that, and I find no need to correct them.” Her eyes seemed to twinkle despite their glossiness. “It is an advantage that many perceive me as being blind.”
Sookie nodded in understanding.
There was silence between the two for several minutes as the Ancient Pythoness seemed to slip into downtime.
“Um—so why did you want to see me?” Sookie finally asked again—this time even more nervously.
“Sorry,” the vampiress responded. “It is sometimes difficult to focus on the now.”
“Oh,” was Sookie’s only reply. In truth, she didn’t know what else to say to that information.
“I have always endeavored to surround myself with women who were strong and who possessed strong gifts—like your telepathy and your other fairy traits. These women are my handmaidens, my protectors, and my friends. Tell me, Sookie, would you like to be one of them?”
Sookie gasped, not expecting that question at all. “What? Uh—what about Russell? Eric?”
The ancient lady frowned. “If you become my handmaiden now, you will be assured to live on. It would be difficult. Because of your bonds with the Norseman, I would have to turn you into a vampire as soon as your mate was killed by Russell, but—because of my second sight—I would know exactly when to do the turning. And you would survive on as a vampire.”
“But Eric would be dead?” Sookie asked in horror.
“Yes,” the vampiress responded, closing her cloudy eyes. “The Viking would die. You would mourn greatly. But you would find a measure of contentment during the centuries to come. You and I would become good friends. We would live quietly through Russell’s reign. But—eventually—he would become careless, and we would defeat him together. After that, the world would settle down into relative peace again.”
“That’s the future?” Sookie asked, tears in her eyes.
“Only one possible future. However—know this—it is the only future in which I can guarantee that you live on in this plane of existence.” She paused for a moment. “I felt that you deserved to know this. You can live on as my child if that is your choice.”
Sookie didn’t need to think about her response.
“No offense, but no thank you. I won’t live on without Eric,” Sookie returned fervently.
The Ancient Pythoness nodded. “I did not think you would choose to be my child, but—selfishly—I had to ask. As I said, you and I would have been good friends, and I think that I would have liked to have experienced having you as my child. You would have been only my second.” The vampiress shrugged and opened her opaque eyes. “But that future is now gone,” she reported, her tone a strange mixture of acceptance and resignation.
Sookie suddenly felt sorry for the ancient woman before her. Her own strife with her gift helped her to understand the burden that the Ancient Pythoness must have experienced many, many times throughout her long years. She felt an odd connection toward her, but there was no way she would ever choose to leave Eric.
“Maybe we could be friends anyway,” Sookie offered, “once this is all over?”
“Let us become friends now,” the vampiress said with a smirk, “just in case we do not have the chance to do so later.”
Sookie let out a rueful chuckle.
“You may call me Pythia, and I will call you Sookie. That is,” she paused, “friendly—I think.”
“Okay,” Sookie agreed, this time with a sincere chuckle.
“I am sorry to say that I must begin our friendship by asking you to do something that might end our friendship very soon indeed,” Pythia said, her smirk fading.
“And what’s that?” Sookie asked with trepidation.
A/N: I hope that you enjoyed this chapter. It’s always fun for me to think about the AP, and I’ve enjoyed conceptualizing characters like Klymene and Leonie. I hope that you are enjoying them.
P.S. I have to thank Kleannhouse for the beta-ing help and Seph for all the banners. These ladies are so giving! Speaking of Seph, I want to point out one of my favorite character banners–the one for the Ancient Pythoness. Seph spent a lot of time altering the original pic she was working with in order to transform Lynda Carter–a dark haired beauty into the A.P. Simply amazing!!!! Remember that you can always click the “banners by Sephrenia” pic in order to see more of her amazing work for my blog.