“Are you sure this is going to work?” I asked skeptically.
It felt silly – or rather, I felt silly – pouring a wide circle of salt onto the ground, but I’d seen enough episodes of ‘Charmed’ to know salt was a common ingredient.
In supernatural silliness.
But I was superstitious enough to throw a pinch over my shoulder when I was through.
I wasn’t sure if Eric now felt like he had to get on the ball – supernatural-wise – because I’d taken the human reins the day before and that was why we were out there, but he wasn’t saying much for now and just stood back and watched.
Like the warden he’d turned into after I struck out on my stakeout the day before.
I wasn’t sure which one of us deserved singing the classic Sam Cooke ballad of, ‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen’ more, but I would guess we were neck and neck. After my hellish day – and having been awake for the better part of thirty-six hours by the time it was through – I’d fallen asleep on the couch, mid-make-out session with him, after he’d come to my rescue.
Yet another reason why I suspected he was so surly.
Because surely the rescued maiden put out for her pale white Knight of the Night in his bedtime vampire tales.
But I’d slept the rest of the night and the entire day away, waking up in his bed to find him already awake and in the get-shit-done mode.
Apparently getting–shit–done meant playing twenty questions with me, without answering a single one of mine, and then heading back to Bon Temps.
Given our location, I guessed my answer to the question, “Is there anywhere you can think of where you’ve always felt the most grounded – the most at ease or perhaps, powerful – during your lifetime?” was the cause for us to be out in the woods next to the Sweet Home Cemetery.
He hadn’t appeared to find it weird that my favorite place to be was a literal hop, skip, and a jump away from a bunch of dead folk, but then again, my preference could also explain my ease around him.
A proverbial Catch 22/can of worms, if there ever was one that didn’t need to be opened.
A Can of 22 Worms, if you will.
But it was the first place to pop in my head as soon as he’d finished asking the question. There had always been something special about that little spot of land. Something that I’d always felt drawn to, regardless of my age.
Regardless of where I lived at the time.
Regardless of how many people I’d put into that very cemetery.
I couldn’t explain why, but that little patch of grass, made into a perfectly spaced pentagon, thanks to the trees sprouting up around it, had always been my safe haven.
Or maybe I really did just have a thing for hanging around dead people.
But because Mr. Dead Silent hadn’t answered my last question, I asked another one with, “Now what? Unless Pam’s on her way here, we’re one shy of invoking The Power of Three.”
Seeing his lips twitch led me to believe he knew exactly what I was talking about.
But instead of admitting to having crushes on witches with names starting with the letter ‘P’, he handed me the plastic shopping bag he’d been schlepping around and said, “Arrange the contents within the circle of salt.”
“It puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again…” I muttered under my breath, while digging into the bag.
But pulling out the first item, I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “Did you buy Liberace’s Thanksgiving Day turkey carving knife at his estate auction or is this something you got from SkyMall?”
It was a jewel encrusted dagger from the Williams-Sonoma sister company.
Le Fancy Schmancy.
But I’d forgotten that Eric was only asking questions this evening – not answering them – so it was no surprise hearing him mumble out, “What is that doing in there?”
So…SkyMall it was.
I’d seen a copy of the catalog on top of his coffee table.
And I made a mental note to grab it the next time he was going to fly me anywhere, so I could be like everyone else who traveled the friendly skies.
But instead of bringing up the danger he could cause with a credit card, I simply made an ass outta me that it wasn’t needed for whatever in the hell it was we were doing and handed the knife over to him before I was forced to duel Tinker Bell with it and reached into the bag for the next item.
Stopping in my tracks when I saw the movement in my peripheral, I laughed out, “Did you just kiss that?”
And not giving him the chance to respond, I jokingly added, “Should I be jealous?”
“Not at all,” he smiled cryptically.
I couldn’t quite describe the look he was giving me.
Whatever it was, was gone from his expression just as quickly when he tucked it away inside of a velvet pouch he’d magically produced from his coat pocket.
So maybe it had been Liberace’s after all?
But sensing something was up and having no clue what it was, I narrowed my eyes at him and accused, “What are you up to?”
“Finish your task,” he volleyed back with a smirk.
Turning the bag upside down, I let the odd assortment of remaining items fall at my feet – still inside of the circle, so I had technically done as he’d asked – and repeated, “What are you up to?”
“I’m up to a little over six-four,” he grinned. “But I don’t think I’m going to grow anymore.”
“I don’t think you’re ever going to grow up either,” I smiled back.
I really didn’t care what he was up to, now that he’d lost the attitude and was back to his usual self.
Taking another step forward, Eric made sure to stay outside of the salt circle and asked, “Do you know what a houngan is?”
“Do you know what Amazon is?” I chuckled rhetorically.
And we both knew I wasn’t talking about the rainforest, either.
But instead of opening up a can of 22 worms even his Big Mouth Billy Bass couldn’t gobble up, I only said, “I was born and raised in Louisiana. Of course I know what a voodoo priest is.”
And then putting two and two together – and getting The Power of Three – I looked down at my feet and asked, “We’re not just littering, are we?”
Finally. He’d answered a question.
Not that I was particularly fond of his timing.
“We are merely setting the stage for who will come calling this evening,” he replied with a rarely seen seriousness on his face. “But Henri Decoudreau is no ordinary houngan. He is a houngan asogwe. A high priest. And he is also a bokor.”
“A sorcerer?” I choked out in disbelief, but I couldn’t help it.
Nor could I help the fact all I could picture was Mickey Mouse in his Fantasia outfit.
Which then only made me picture Eric in his Fangtasia outfit.
But I shook it off just when his eyebrow asked, “With all that you’ve seen firsthand – all of the things you know your blood can do – you find it so incredulous there are others who possess magic?”
“No,” I huffed. “But try to keep in mind that I’m still on a learning curve. A week ago vampires were the only things that went bump in the night.”
Two weeks ago it was just raccoons, in my neck of the woods at least.
“The same could have been said about last night,” he smirked. “But someone needed their rest.”
My mind was back on Eric’s backside in his leather pants, but just as quickly, he got back to business and said, “Decoudreau is particularly powerful. His faith forbids him from telling tales and the strength of his power prevents others from compelling him to share his secrets. He has been around for a very long time, so I am hoping he will be able to tell us what you truly are and – if need be – summon the appropriate Loa for the remaining answers we seek.”
After trying and failing to stare a hole into his forehead, I finally asked, “You’re serious?”
“Sometimes,” he smiled. “Mostly around others, but around you…less so.”
“So…” I began where he had trailed off and then ended up trailing off myself into a bunch of mental, ‘No fucking way!’s’.
When that was through, I eventually followed up with, “How do we get him here?”
“You must close your eyes and concentrate very hard on pulling his focus onto you, while chanting, ‘I have built it. You will come.’”
“What is this?” I asked with an eye roll. “Field of Fantasies?”
Kevin Costner wasn’t my favorite flavor of fantasy male, but Eric didn’t know that, so I added with a leer, “Does he come with his own bat and balls?”
It would seem someone may have needed his own nap because Mr. Grumpy Pants looked like he wasn’t in the mood for any silly games – baseball or otherwise – when he stared back at me stone faced and asked, “Do you want answers or not?”
“I’d tell you to lighten up, but if you get any paler, you’ll be translucent,” I grumbled before closing my eyes and chanting the phrase.
FYI…I sounded nothing like James Earl Jones.
I couldn’t say for sure how much time had passed, but it wasn’t very long before I had the sense that we were no longer alone in the woods. And upon opening my eyes in full-on peek mode, I gasped out loud seeing the man – who oddly enough favored James Earl Jones – standing alongside Eric and shrieked, “Holy shit! It worked!”
“What worked?” Not-Terence-Mann asked, looking back and forth between Eric and me.
“The spell,” I answered. “Or the chant. Or whatever it is that got you here.”
Who was I to question it?
It was no less fantastical than Archibald “Moonlight” Graham going from rookie to old man doctor when he stepped off of the playing field because Kevin Costner and Amy Madigan were piss poor parents to not figure out their own kid was choking on a hotdog.
And wondering if perhaps he would disappear if I stepped outside of the salt line, I made sure to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground inside of the circle.
But if I had been paying attention, I would have noticed Eric’s grin sooner.
However my eyes were firmly locked onto Father Voodoo as he replied confusedly, “Eric’s email request and Google Maps got me here.”
Smelling something rotten in the land of Northmanistan, I whipped my head towards the stinker in the bunch and snarled out, “Eric. Lucifer. Northman!”
Seeing his wide grin, I guessed he enjoyed the liberties I’d taken with his middle name and I eventually lost the battle, with my own lips mimicking his.
I did nothing to stop him when he reached out and pulled me from my sodium enclosure, saying with an unapologetic shrug, “Consider it payback for your stunt yesterday and a reminder that there is much you still have to learn about our world. I will teach you all that I can, but until you become as adept at supernatural ‘fact vs. fiction’ as you are at ‘tit for tat’, you will be at the mercy of everyone around you.”
“You said tit,” I whisper snickered. But running through the rest of his words, I asked, “So we came all this way for nothing more than you teaching me a lesson?”
Before I could decide whether or not I was pissed at the thought, he argued back with, “No. The chant was a spur of the moment way to pay homage to a movie classic, while we waited for Henri to arrive. Everything else has a purpose.”
“You’re just predisposed to root for the dead guys,” I taunted back.
But Father Hexagon ignored our default banter setting and chimed in with, “I have been here for some time. I was intrigued, reading between the lines of your email, so I arrived a little early, hoping to watch your interaction with one another without any filters.”
It was good thing he was okay with no filters.
Neither one of our mouths had that particular enhancement.
And then fixing his stare onto Eric’s coat pocket – where his Horcrux was safely tucked away – he added knowingly, “Quite fascinating.”
The mixture of his island/cajun accent was quite fascinating too, but Eric acted like he had no idea what the man was talking about. But before I could direct him to SkyMall’s most expensive and least necessary, he glanced around at the surrounding trees and asked, “Do you feel the power emanating around us?”
At least he hadn’t asked if we’d felt the Power of Three – or gone a decade further into the past and brought up The Power of Love, circa Huey Lewis and the News – so I tried to be a good sport and feel the power.
Or feel the power.
But I felt nothing.
And maybe having the power of telepathy, Father Not-Christmas looked over at me and took a step into the circle, gesturing for me to follow him inside of it, just as he said, “Close your eyes, child. Just feel. Don’t think.”
At least he hadn’t told me to click my heels and chant, ‘There’s no place like home,’ so I closed my eyes.
I didn’t think.
I just felt.
So I didn’t think anything about the low indecipherable murmurs I could hear coming from him at my side.
And what I felt was his warm hand making contact with mine.
And then I was almost certain I felt a lightning bolt shoot straight out of my ass.
It wasn’t what I imagined the Power of Three to be. Or even the Power of Love.
But Christ Almighty, who would have thought The Power of Greystoke would pack that much of a punch?
No wonder it was reserved for He-Man.
My eyes snapped open, unable to remain closed now that I had experienced Thunder Ass, but that same ass puckered just as quickly seeing something that couldn’t have been real.
Maybe I was still in the warehouse, waiting on Eric to come find me?
That was the only logical explanation because there was no logical explanation seeing what my human mind told me was a tear in the time/space continuum.
Or maybe it was a wormhole?
But there was no maybe about the seven foot around window of sorts, hovering in the air, like a cheap knockoff wall hanging I picked up on my last trip to Hogsmeade.
The edges of it rippled, like water lapping at the edges of a lake, only instead of being filled with water, it was filled with something else.
I could have easily gotten it confused with any other barren landscape here on earth, if it weren’t for the glowing fruit dangling from the trees.
So maybe that was Chernobyl?
But what was it doing in the woods out behind my house?
“Is that what I think it is?” Eric’s awed voice whispered from somewhere outside of the circle.
“I do believe it is,” Darth Father replied.
And when neither one of them said anything else, I huffed out in exasperation, “What is it?”
“The Fae Realm.”
They had both answered at the same time, but all I really heard was static.
Or maybe that was just the residual Power of Greystoke leaving its mark in my underwear.
But it was Simba’s Father who walked forward and then dragged the tip of his walking stick along the ground at his feet. Moving in straight lines to and from the five trees surrounding my favorite little patch of earth, he never lifted the stick from the ground. And when he was through I gasped again, wondering why I had never seen that before.
Because I had seen that before.
It all made perfect sense.
Five trees perfectly spaced apart in the form of a pentagon.
Of course they would form a perfectly lined pentagram.
With the salt border it was, without a doubt, a pentacle.
But what did any of it mean if the fairy portal was in the dead center of it?