Thanks to the little bit of blood I’d already fed her, I could feel her incredulousness as she stared back at me. It was apparent she had no idea of who she might very well be related to, but it explained her more appetizing blood. It also somewhat explained her new powers.
Possessing sunlight as a weapon could surely only come from an intrinsic connection to the sky.
The Sky Fae.
I’d known of Niall Brigant, of course, back when I didn’t give a shit about fairies, other than whether or not I might be able to dine on one, but I knew him to be powerful.
Was Sookie of his line? A Brigant?
She continued to stare at me in stunned silence, while I foolishly continued to look for similarities in their appearances I would have no way of recognizing. Fairies were beautiful creatures, as was she.
By the same token I could’ve assumed her lineage stemmed from Pam’s – or my own – given our naturally blond hair. At least that might have been easier to spot.
Eventually the silence became too much for the maybe-fairy in my midst when she arched her brow and offered me her wrist as she frowned, “Fairy Princess? Your giant head might block the thoughts of everybody else, but maybe it isn’t so empty after all. You must have a concussion or something, so take a bite. You obviously need to replace whatever blood that’s sloshing around in there from your internal injuries.” She ended her misdiagnosis with a harrumph and snorted incredulously, “Fairy Princess.”
“Sookie,” I glared, with no real malice.
There was no point in trying to appear agitated because while I may have felt somewhat irritated at her flippant attitude, I couldn’t fault her over her ignorance of the facts. Or the fact I still felt relieved more than anything else. After all, she was still there.
Safe and sound.
“Buttercup?” she softly smiled in return, dismissing my false ire completely.
Her actions only served to make me feel things other than relief.
Things we didn’t have the time for. No matter how much I wanted to fuck her through the mattress and back into the human realm in that moment, Neave or any of the other guards could return at any time. And while she might not have been able to read my mind, it would do her well to know the cause for my concern.
“I do not know much about the Fae,” I admitted. “Fairies and vampires were never what you would call allies, but the civil war between the Sky Fae and Water Clan was legendary. Even those of us who didn’t keep up with such things knew of its existence. Up until recently the Fae realm was ruled by the Prince of the Sky Clan, Niall Brigant. I can only assume he fell to the Water Clan. Breandan, the fairy who just left, is their leader and if what I suspect is true – that you are of – and perhaps the last of – the Brigant line, you are in more danger than either one of us could have known. And the fact you’ve ended Lochlan – something known to his kin – puts you in even more danger.”
But Neave was nothing compared to Breandan and his interest in her was what concerned me the most. I needed to get her out of there. But that was impossible. If there had been a way to escape, I would have found it by now. She was just as trapped as me, so we needed to try and figure out what it was that made her invisible to the eye. She needed to remain hidden for as long as possible from everyone. I could only protect her as much as their fucking magic allowed.
A fact I hated to admit, even if only to myself.
I was a warrior at heart. Up until my time in the Fae Realm, I had always met every challenge and succeeded. But the rules of the game were different in this realm. The Fae held the upper hand with their boosted magical powers.
It made me want to boost my boot up their magical fairy asses.
I hated feeling so weak. I hated having no reference for the trials that lay ahead. No strategy. No plan other than to find all of us a way out of the fairy hellhole.
But how, if only one of us was guaranteed our freedom?
And how was it I’d become so attached to her when my complicity in hiding her, very well would threaten my own survival should we be caught?
I would think on that later.
Preferably from my office back in Shreveport.
While Sookie sat across from me, smiling without a care in the world.
So perhaps my publicist should issue another statement.
Eric Northman has lost his mind. If found, please return. Reward!
Her eyes were still narrowed at me in disbelief when my own returned from their scenic tour of the back of my head, so I packed away my frivolous thoughts in a silver box in my mind and concentrated on her next words as she asked, “You think I’m a fairy princess?”
Among other less sensible thoughts, “Yes.”
“So what do I do? Demand a fairy DNA test? Hope they can snap-crackle-pop Maury Povich to wherever we are and wait for the commercial break to end to see if he’s 99.999 percent sure I’m a Brigant?” She was becoming more hysterical the more she spoke and even though I could feel her exhaustion, she still leapt over me and onto the floor to begin pacing the room.
“No,” she argued aloud. “No, I would’ve heard it from my parents’ thoughts – my Gran’s head – if I was adopted. If my momma had cheated on my daddy. I look just like my brother only not as clueless, so there’s just no way!”
Her voice grew higher – louder – with every word spoken, so I put myself in her path, hoping to calm her down before she was overheard by one of the guards, and said, “Sookie. You must calm down. The guards could return at any time.”
“Does it matter?” she whispered, stopping in her tracks and stopping her tirade completely. Looking up at me despondently, she added, “There’s nothing I can do to stop them from doing whatever they want to me.”
“Here in this realm their powers seem amplified,” I explained. “On our world they have some magic, but not the kind of power they have here. Here they are able to restrict my movements and freeze my limbs, with seemingly nothing more than their will. It is why I haven’t been able to rip Breandan’s heart from his chest.” She didn’t appear frightened over my plans for the fairy leader, so I moved closer and put my hands on her shoulders, reminding her, “But even you have admitted to having new powers here. We might not be sure of your lineage, but we are not without advantages.”
My eyes followed hers, trailing down to her now outstretched hands at my reminder, but I could feel her skepticism as she said, “I don’t know if I can do it again.”
It wouldn’t be prudent to practice her explosive hands in the small cell, but it wasn’t the only power she had in her arsenal, so I said with more confidence than I felt, “I believe you can, but that isn’t all you have proven you can do. Try to become invisible again.”
At the very least, if she could hide from any and all who sought her out, she could remain safe. While I too would be unable to see her, I could still sense her with my blood. I’d known she stood before me, no matter what my eyes tried to tell me was the truth, when Neave first arrived. But unlike a chameleon who merely blended in with their surroundings, Sookie’s power acted more like a cloak.
Her standing on the evidence – the charred floor proving my version of events told to Breandan was a lie – had hidden that from view too.
Our blood connection was a boon considering even her scent disappeared when she masked herself. If she was somehow thrown into the hunting grounds, as Breandan had alluded to, she could hide herself from everyone.
“I don’t know if I can,” she replied. But perhaps connecting the dots to my own thoughts, Sookie closed her eyes, while her concentration was fed back to me in our newly formed bond.
She remained that way for several minutes and even though she’d been fed my blood only a short time earlier, I could feel her body weakening with every passing moment. The more she concentrated, the more drained she felt and I nearly spoke up – either to tell her to rest or insist she drink more of me – when she whispered out, “Can you see me?”
Both fortunately and unfortunately, so I sighed, “Yes.”
Her brow furrowed, but her eyes popped open as her hand shoved against my body, while she said, “Maybe it’s because we’re touching.”
She took a step back and redoubled her efforts, but my own thoughts made me revisit the idea of giving her more of my blood. A single exchange was enough to establish a connection, but it would fade with distance and time. Each was something we had no control over, but I kept my thoughts to myself for the time being. I wasn’t one to share my blood – ever – and if she were to be gravely injured I already knew I wouldn’t hesitate to shove my bloody wrist to her mouth. The fact I had already done so without thought when she passed out earlier was proof of that and if I had recently fed from her before doing so, it would only take two more exchanges before a blood bond would be formed.
Thoughts of tying myself to her in that way was incomprehensible.
However I also felt…not an obligation but a debt I owed to her nonetheless. She’d saved my life. Twice. My true death could have been brought about first by her hand or later by Lochlan’s and yet I’d been spared. Both times. By her.
And feeling just as incensed over the thought of her death due to my pragmatism, I shoved those into my mental silver box as well and softly said, “Try to remember the fear you felt at Neave’s arrival. Everything you were thinking and feeling when Breandan came into the cell.”
Her powers likely stemmed from an emotional response. It was the only thing I could think of that made them manifest in such a way when up until then she didn’t even know she’d possessed them. And try she did, but it was all for naught. She would likely have to be truly afraid before they would make themselves known again, but for now she was only truly exhausted. So I held back my own urge to tell her to rest and instead wondered aloud, “Can you teleport?”
It was another magical power I knew the Fae to have, but not realizing how odd my question would sound to the more-human-than-fairy in front of me, I wasn’t all that surprised when she squinted her eyes at me in response, as she asked, “Can I what now?”
“Teleport,” I repeated and explained, “The Fae have the ability to travel via teleportation. Perhaps whatever magical essence within you will allow you to do the same while in this world.” It made sense in my mind. If she could shoot sunlight from her hands and become invisible to the naked eye, then I saw no reason why she wouldn’t have the same ability they all seemed to possess, even in the human realm.
At the very least, she might be able to pop away from an attacker.
I stood back and looked around the cell I’d memorized long ago. I didn’t want her to travel far. Certainly not to anywhere I would be unable to reach her, but she needed to at least try. So I pulled her around to stand with her back to me and having no idea how their magic worked, I went with what seemed plausible before pointing to the far corner of the room as I said, “Concentrate on that space and see if you can will yourself into it.”
“Why not just will myself home?” she asked, not sounding convinced.
Or more like she sounded convinced I was crazy.
“We’ll try that next,” I playfully retorted, hoping to ease her anxiety. “But first we must see if you can do it. Even if you can only move short distances, it might be enough to keep you out of their reach.”
She shuddered involuntarily over whatever images my words brought to mind, so I gently rubbed her arms with my hands and whispered, “Close your eyes.” When she’d done as I asked, I added, “Now picture that spot in your mind’s eye. Focus only on it and the desire to be in that spot.”
I could feel her concentration – her determination – for a long moment, even above her weariness, until I eventually felt her defeat just as she said, “Maybe it’s like a manual transmission. I never was any good at working a clutch, so it’s no wonder I can’t pop it into gear.”
I’d taken my hands from her body while she was concentrating, but seeing her sway on her feet had me reaching out once more to grab ahold of her. Deciding she had done enough for now, I moved her back towards the bed and gently pushed at her body until she was lying down. Once she was settled, I retook the spot in front of her and said, “You’re exhausted. Get some sleep and we will try again once you’re well rested.”
What she needed was sustenance. Real food to nourish her malnourished body. But I had none to offer her, nor any way to procure some, so I said nothing and instead stared back her until her eyes fluttered shut. By her slow and steady breathing, I knew she was nearly asleep when she whispered out, “Thank you, Eric.”
She could have easily shoved the stake into my chest when I’d been too weary to stop her.
She’d fed me her blood when she didn’t even know my name much less whether or not I would still kill her for her troubles when I awoke.
She’d struck down Lochlan like a true Valkyrie in my defense and she was thanking me.
Perhaps Sookie resembled her clueless brother more than she realized.
But recalling all that she had done for me and knowing she would need to build her strength if she were to survive what we would face in the coming days, I resolved to feed her more of my blood when she woke up. I wouldn’t need to feed again for a few days and even if we did end up forming a blood bond – if we somehow managed to survive this world together and reenter our own – we could deal with the repercussions then.
With that issue resolved in my mind, I allowed myself to go into downtime. I planned for as much as I could for what would take place in the hunting grounds, now with the added variable of the possibility of having Sookie there with me as well. She would need to try and cloak herself from the others. Vampires and Weres alike would be able to track her scent easily. At least here, in this world, I wouldn’t have the sun to contend with and if she could remain invisible as well then it would only add to her safety. But even as my mind raced through every conceivable threat I could imagine, my internal clock remained steadfastly ticking through the passing minutes.
It was how I knew barely an hour had passed by when the inconceivable happened.
My muscles were once again frozen against my will just as I heard the soft pop ring out behind me. I couldn’t turn my head to see our newest visitor. I had no command over my lungs or voice to warn Sookie of the danger.
We had no fully formed bond for her to feel my alarm.
“I thought I would find her back here,” he whisperingly gloated, before leaning over my prone body and allowing me to see his face.
My total recall told me the fairy guard’s name was Preston.
He’d always been jovial in my presence – not unnecessarily cruel – but then why wouldn’t he be when their magic wouldn’t allow me to pop his head from his shoulders and drink his blood like a human would with an ice cold bottle of beer on a hot summer’s day?
My body remained still while my mind roared in fury as he reached towards Sookie – still blissfully unaware of the danger in her slumber.
And even I hadn’t guessed just how dangerous things were until he suddenly transformed into an exact replica of me before my very eyes.
But I could now understand why Pam had once admitted to sometimes wanting to smack the smirk from my face.
His only acknowledgement to me was a wink before my newest nightmare came to fruition and he popped away with her.
Into the ether.
Into the unknown.
Taking not just Sookie away from me, but somehow taking away our newly formed bond as well.
I didn’t know if it was due to distance, magic, or her death that broke our weak tie, but whatever the cause, it only fueled my rage. With his – their – disappearance, my limbs were once again under my control, so there was nothing to stop me from moving like a roaring cyclone around my cell. The pitiful cot – the cell’s only furnishing – was instantly shredded. As was my skin when I bounded and rebounded off of the brick walls. Both of my hands were broken when I’d flown straight up into the air, trying to break through the magical barrier denying me access through the cell’s skylight with my fists. So I waited the few moments it took for them to heal before wrapping them around the silver bars, relishing in the scent and sensation of them burning my flesh as I fruitlessly attempted to rip them from their posts.
At least I could feel that.
At least I could smell that.
But I could do neither where Sookie was concerned.
But I could berate myself for not strengthening our bond when I’d had the chance. Even a permanent bond no longer had any downsides in my mind. Like Sookie had thought of me as a piece of home, so too did I come to see her.
She didn’t deserve whatever treatment they would undoubtedly bestow upon her.
But I would make them pay.
I would make all of them pay.
I swore to myself then and there – game or no game – I would not return to my world until I had completely decimated theirs.
So I spent the remaining days planning. Plotting my revenge. Ironically, it had been Breandan’s own words that had given me hope Sookie was still alive, if not well. He’d said he had plans for her. Alluded to it in a way that made me believe she would be present for his asinine tournament. It was what gave me a sliver of hope that she would survive whatever had been happening to her during our time apart. It was what fortified me with renewed vigor when the day finally came for the games to begin.
I’d had no contact with anyone since the night Sookie had been taken away. No fairy guard to check on me. Not even another human to dine on.
And I was hungry.
But my hunger was focused. Refined, if you will. The only thing I would be sated by was the death and destruction of Preston. Neave. Breandan.
On any and all who had any hand in the mistreatment of one human girl from Bon Temps, Louisiana.
But I would make do with a Were or two until I could lay hands on one of them.
It was my only thought when my body was magically transported without any notice or fanfare and I found myself inside of a blindingly bright cylindrical tube. It made it easy to see that at some point in my magical travels, my attire was magically transformed as well.
And I took a moment to reflect it was a fairy power Pam would appreciate.
But she would not appreciate the skintight black leather vampire cliché they had dressed me in. However I didn’t care what costume they’d chosen to adorn me in. Nor did I care that the dried blood no longer covered my body. I was only anxious for the asinine game to begin, hoping with it I would find – feel – see the blond girl who had dominated my thoughts for the last week.
My body was coiled. My muscles so tightly wound that I nearly jumped feeling the platform beneath my feet begin its ascent, just as I heard Breandan’s voice thunder around me.
“WELCOME MY FELLOW FAE TO THE INAUGURAL GAMES AT THE HUNTING GROUNDS!”
He continued to blather on, but I paid his words no mind. Instead I dug deep within myself, searching for Sookie with my blood. She’d only had a few mouthfuls, but only a week had passed. If she were still alive and nearby, I should have been able to sense her presence. So with every inch my glass cage rose, my hopes dropped when I still couldn’t feel her at all.
By the time my ascent came to a stop I still couldn’t see anything beyond my own enclosure, so there was nothing for me to do but listen to the deranged fairy.
“As you all may have noticed,” he said conspiratorially and then laughed, “Well, at least those of you who can see all of the participants, we’ve added five more contestants. Another flavor, if you will, just to spice things up.”
The unseen crowd jeered, cheered, and booed as he went on to chuckle out, “Now, now. They have their strengths, or so I’m told. But regardless they too have the ability to gain their freedom should they emerge victorious. So, shall we get this show on the road?”
Over the thunderous cheers, his voice boomed out, “LET THE GAMES BEGIN!”
The brightly lit enclosure slowly dissipated around me and I was suddenly shrouded in darkness. I hadn’t been subjected to even a dimly lit room since I’d been taken from my resting place weeks earlier, so it took a moment for my eyes to adjust. And when they did, my body froze of its own volition, although I was sure I would still be unable to leap down just yet.
There were fourteen others around me. All on identical platforms, wearing similar attire, and each wearing identical confused expressions. We were put in the formation of a large horseshoe.
Quinn, the pit fighting Were tiger, was on my left and the younger Herveaux was on my right.
My eyes moved on to see Sigebert glaring at me from Quinn’s left.
Andre from Herveaux’s right.
Fuck. My. Life.
Andre had always been exceptionally close to his maker and exceptionally sadistic. And quickly taking in the remaining two vampires, who I didn’t recognize on sight, told me perhaps Sophie-Anne hadn’t survived her battle.
It would explain his even more crazed expression.
Each of our species was separated by the other and a hundred feet, but standing directly across from us, with a small lake in between, was a much smaller band of five.
I knew because at the center stood the one I still couldn’t feel, even though she was no more than two football fields in distance away.
I barely noticed the rest of our surroundings. Real or imagined, I knew we appeared to be in a forest in the dead of night. But my eyes were only for her, searching but finding no wounds on her body. They could still be there, underneath her own costume of sorts, only instead of black leather, she and the other humans were adorned in blacks, browns, and greens. I could only guess at the fabric, but I didn’t have to guess at the reason behind the choice.
I took in every inch of her, noting she appeared to have gained a lost pound or two, but beyond that looking better than I could remember. Better than I could have hoped for. All the while she strained her eyes, staring at each of our group in turn before moving onto the next. Only when her eyes finally met my own could I see the relief light up on her face.
And her slight fright when the sound of a horn blared out into the night.
At the same time I could sense the rest of the magical barrier keeping us tethered to our platforms dissolving. The only thing that halted my own descent from the platform was feeling my tie to Sookie suddenly flaring to life.
It was unexpected.
But it was a welcome relief.
By then all of the Supes were on the move, but a large group of clouds I hadn’t noticed before then moved too, revealing a full moon.
All five Weres fell to the ground where they stood a second later, with each of them now being forced to shift into their animal form. Most of the humans seemed too shocked to move, but I only cared about moving towards Sookie and avoiding Sigebert at all costs. Now that I could see and – more importantly – feel Sookie was unharmed, it strengthened my resolve to try and find a way to free us all.
Now, however, wasn’t the time to campaign for taking a stand or making a united front. Now my only concern was getting to Sookie, but when I tried to take to the sky to close the distance that much faster, I found I couldn’t. It made me falter for only a moment, but it only took a moment for that fucker Andre to gain ground. He’d set his path towards Sookie and the other humans as well and just as I looked over at her, prepared to call out my warning to her, I could see she was watching him too.
And then she looked back at me, not with fear in her eyes, but with a confidence that had been missing on that night a week earlier when she wasn’t so sure of her abilities.
Right before she winked at me and disappeared into thin air.