Maybe blocking everything is the only way a soul can sometimes save itself from destruction.
Sookie tugged at her conscience but got no answer. After a bit, she left it like that, and stopped knocking. Maybe she could come back when she was ready for everything.
She looked at Eric, standing defeated at the door. Right then, she knew that his face was her tether, the only thing keeping her from falling down into an abyss. But she needed every ounce of her strength to hold on to that face. She could not have him falling down too.
Then there was this strange sense of foreboding in her heart that won’t go away. Sookie could almost see something bad waiting to happen. But hadn’t it happened already? Her gran was dead. What could be worse? She had nothing left to lose. Except…
Sookie looked at Eric again. “You didn’t kill her.”
“I could have saved her.”
Why is he beating himself? She couldn’t let him feel guilty for someone else’s crime. And he was there for her when she needed him… “While you were saving me?”
Eric shook his head vehemently. “I knew this could happen. I should have protected her better.”
‘We can’t handle guilt. First, we need to get through with the night. First I need to make sure Eric and I are safe again. I just can’t shake the unease building up within me. I need him to stay strong. Then we can go ahead. I am already close to breaking down again.’
“She was my responsibility too. But here we are, incapable of making it go away now. Pull yourself together Eric. We have a lot to do. I am in no condition to handle your guilt and mine too, in addition to her loss and everything else.” She said out loud.
Sookie hoped to sound as cold as possible. Pity and reproach won’t do.
He seemed to wake up a bit from that. He straightened up and took a step towards her, wrapping her in a huge bear hug. Their eyes met for a moment in the mirror again and he nodded at the small determined girl, before finally leaving to go look for a shirt. As soon as he left, Sookie closed her eyes and splashed her face with cold water, trying to focus, to shake of the growing dread in her heart. Eyes still closed, she tried listening in around her, spurred by her unease, to check if there was someone physically present around, who could harm them. She was sure there was something else around that was waiting to go wrong.
Sookie sensed a void a few feet away across the wall…Eric…then concentrated further and increased the sphere. The house was empty…She lowered her shields further and again increased the span of her hearing…At first she got nothing but garble from humans in the neighboring houses.
Then she heard his voice…
It was a strange voice, not human, not anything like she had ever heard before. She couldn’t catch exactly what he was thinking. She toned everything else out and concentrated on that one mind, frantically trying to understand.
But it was too much.
Sookie felt so small against his mind, so insignificant, so powerless…
Eric felt a stab of fear from Sookie and rushed to her side, thanking the Gods to have felt some emotion from her, even if it was fear and pain. Maybe she was coming out of her shock. He found her kneeling on her knees in front of the bathroom sink, her hands still grasping at the basin, her head hidden in her tangled hair in between her raised arms. She seemed to be struggling to breathe deeply.
Careful not to alarm her, he called out gently, “Sookie?”
She did not answer. Eric took two steps towards her and kneeled. Her knuckles had gone white as she clutched at the cold sink. Eric pried one hand and then the other from the death grip and held both her hands within his own. Sookie was still not looking at him. He turned her towards him and caressed her hair back from her face so that he could look at her. Sookie’s eyes were closed tightly, her forehead creasing a little, in concentration. Her face was still dripping with the water she had splashed but her hands and temples were sweating. Her jaw was clenched. Eric could almost feel her mind desperately looking for something.
“Sookie can you hear me?” he whispered.
She showed no response to his words. But she went stiff and her eyelids scrunched more in concentration. Eric gently picked her up and sat her on his bed. He dried her face and then tore the remnants of her shirt from her body to put her into one of his pristine white cotton button down shirts, never taking his eyes off her face, minutely noticing every tiny change in her facial muscles, her pulse, her heartbeat and her breathing. He took his hair brush and standing in front of her, carefully started untangling the knots in her hair. He kept on meticulously brushing her beautiful long hair, silently sending her as much love and strength he could manage through their newly started bond. He kept on brushing till her hair started tingling with static and then proceeded to braid her hair like he used to do for himself. He barely needed to look, as his hands automatically created the intricate pattern of braids. More minutes passed in the tense silence as Eric tried keeping himself busy and calm with working her hair, so that all he was sending Sookie through his blood was peace, love and strength.
At last her forehead smoothed and Sookie opened her eyes to look directly into Eric’s anxious gaze. It was now Eric’s turn to frown as he saw the shift in her expression. If it were possible, Sookie’s eyes were cold and warm at the same time. Eric was confused.
“Are you alright?”
Sookie looked at him intently and then nodded. “Yes. We have to go. There is not much time.”
Adele Stackhouse was Sookie’s anchor. Her parent’s death, her uncle’s abuse, being the town weirdo and then through heartbreak, Adele was the only strong constant in Sookie’s tumultuous life, the only positive constant. Everything else kept going from bad to worse. Everyone broke and left her. But Adele was always there. Adele had always been there. Sookie had never ever considered what would happen if Adele left her.
And now Adele was gone. Buried six feet under…
She had looked so small in the huge casket, so frail, too cold for the wet soil in which she was buried. And then there was just dirt. More and more and more, piling on top of her fragile body, each new scoop of the shovel taking the beloved face farther from her granddaughter’s anguished eyes. But Sookie stood through it all. She said her prayers, she said the last lines of remembrance and she gracefully accepted the sympathy of each and every person who walked up to her, even when her heart was screaming inside. Screaming and pushing Sookie to run away and hide from it all. But Sookie didn’t run.
She stood by her gran, just as Gran would have stood for her. She did not break down because Gran would not have broken down.
She now sat in the porch swing, staring at the gloomy yard, and swung her legs absently, still a little numb from the funeral two days back. People came and went. They brought a lot of food that Sookie didn’t want to eat but they kept bringing it. She hadn’t gone back to Merlotte’s and Sam hadn’t asked when she was coming back. She silently thanked the lord for that.
The sun was still high in the afternoon sky and the air was warm and moist. Sookie had spent the whole morning and early afternoon in cleaning up the house. Now she sat in the swing, calming her mind and absorbing the slight sounds around her…the bees buzzing in gran’s flowers, twigs falling from trees, the creak of the metal chains sounding with every other pass of the swing, the chirping birds… Apart from that, it was absolutely silent and she was absolutely alone. Sookie absently drew invisible circles on the wooden boards of the porch as she swung herself slightly. Lulled by the gentle swaying of the swing, the comfortable warmth and the solitude, her eyelids started getting heavy.
Her head snapped up at the voice, all her senses instantly going on alert. A man stood on the top of the steps of the porch looking at her with a wistful reminiscent expression. Even if he was a stranger and had sneaked up to her when she was dozing off, Sookie felt no alarm on seeing him there. It was almost as if she didn’t know him yet but had been waiting for him. It was unsettling and strange for the girl and she stared at the intruder who stood there as if it was the most natural thing to sneak up on strangers and then not introduce themselves.
Finally, her brain and inner gracious hostess kicked in and Sookie rose from the swing. “Hello there. Can I help you?”
The stranger tilted his head and smiled, a very beautiful and warm smile, “Placere momento…” and continued looking at her.
Sookie felt a strange urge to walk up to him and embrace him, the way one embraces loved ones when meeting them after a long time. She took a step towards him. “I am sorry, have we met? I can’t recall…”
The stranger held out his hand and Sookie put hers in it without thinking, in a very comfortable and natural gesture. “I’ll tell you all about it.”
As soon as her hand clasped with his, the strangers smile widened and his eyes shone. Not only his eyes, but his face seemed to light up from within. Sookie looked at his lovely radiant face and felt so much peace coursing through her that her eyes filled up with tears, of relief, of joy, of letting go. More than the face, his mind was weaving through a pattern of tranquility so extraordinary; it was the best place to be, till date, even compared to silent vampire minds for Sookie.
“Who are you?” she asked in wonder.
“I am your brother in blood.” he replied.
“Frater?” she whispered, struggling to remember how she knew him, how she knew he was speaking the truth, and what language she just spoke in. Even if Sookie didn’t remember the name of the language, she knew the words. How?
“Yes…” she repeated the word he spoke, in English, as if reacquainting her tongue with the forgotten language.
His smile never faltered. “So you remember. Do you remember what you used to call me?”
Sookie frowned. What an unusual thing to ask a stranger, even if he didn’t feel like a stranger, she thought to herself. He circled his arms around the girl and held her in a gentle embrace. Sookie sagged into his warm body, feeling almost at home with him, and sighed. He kissed the top of her head and said in almost a whisper, “Sentio, Sookie…admitto…”
Sookie closed her eyes and let go. Her mind’s eye was immediately filled with a soft light, pooling in from everywhere, drowning her conscience completely and bathing her insides with a familiar glow. She had seen and felt this light before, at the time of that bomb blast when she lay helpless and overwhelmed by the suffering around her. The light had come from within her at that time, when she was desperately trying to hold on and regroup. This time it was different. This time peace and tranquility were flowing into her with the light, through the strange and beautiful creature holding her.
Her heart swelled with emotion and she saw a memory of gran indulgently smiling at her in the bright sun of the kitchen, serving her a plate of pancakes and telling her to eat as much as she could before they went out to the town fare. It was one of her most cherished memories.
The image shifted and she was now seeing herself at the prow of a wooden ship, looking across a crystal blue ocean, towards the faint strip of land ahead. Cold, salty wind was blowing her hair around her face, raising goose bumps in its wake. She felt happiness, anticipation and a pair of strong arms came around her and held her from behind, against a hard smooth chest when she felt love. A lot of love…
Before Sookie could turn around and see who held her, the vision shifted again and now she was standing in the shadows of a dark forest, looking out towards a field stretching far beyond where her eyes could reach. There was a bloody battle going on in the field. Scores of fur, leather and iron clad men clashing with each other in an ear splitting din of clanging swords, thudding bodies, tearing flesh, ringing shields, neighing frantic horses and men shouting war cries, shouting in pain, in challenge and in exultation of a kill. Sookie stood transfixed, pinned on the spot by the outlandish bloodbath going on, not able to take her eyes off the gore.
Mangled, bleeding bodies lay all around, some still sputtering gibberish, some being mauled by ferocious blood hounds. Those who still stood on their feet, sometimes stepped on the remains strewn on the red Earth. The noise grew and grew and the clash reached a fevered pitch, where the warriors were barely standing, barely keeping their eyes focused and barely alive. A warrior swung his sword and a huge gash appeared on the neck of his adversary, cutting off the blood supply to his brain. Before falling down in a heap of bloody mess for the blood hounds, he stabbed his killer in the thigh with a short knife and as the other man dropped to his knees, he lunged at the falling man and impaled his forehead with the same knife. The two men fell side by side, never to rise again. A blood hound jumped at the fresh blood and made for the neck of the first warrior.
Suddenly, a hand roughly grabbed the hound’s hind leg and swung it off the body. The hound was flung at the side and behind it appeared a dash of gold in the middle in all the red. The gold was familiar. Sookie looked at the face under the tangled golden mess of the long hair and saw pure sunshine for the first time in her life. She concentrated on the face and entered his thoughts. Her mind, clamoring with the cries of death and hate, was pulled into a vortex of cool shimmering energy. Pure, unadulterated, incandescent, exuberant life wrapped up her frazzled, overstretched senses and pulled her into a state of stillness, and of restful serenity. Sookie closed her eyes and sighed in relief.
Sudden grief entered her thoughts again and she opened her eyes and saw the man kneel at the side of the other dying warrior. Three huge warriors stood around them, their backs towards the two on the ground, in a defensive stance, ruthlessly cutting down any who advanced towards the group. The kneeling, grieving man rose and picked up the fallen warrior on his shoulder, hurrying towards the edge of the trees where Sookie stood, concealed in the shadows. As he came closer, Sookie noticed that he looked young, around eighteen or nineteen summers’ worth of lines on his forehead. Most of the men around were tall but he was a head taller than most, and though young, his muscles were clearly very well nurtured and developed, sharpening the plains of this torso and rippling in the sinews of his arms and legs, in long graceful lines.
He carried the dying man of arms up to the first tree line, being followed closely by the other three protectors and lay him down, gently on the ground. “Fader… kan du höra mig…”
The dying man, the young man’s father, spoke in between gurgling sounds from his throat. “Hämnas oss Erik” he coughed and the son, Erik, held his head a little higher from the ground, in his lap, “Bli den man du är född att vara.” He paused and struggled to breath. Sookie closed her eyes again and channeled her powers to strengthen the last breath the dying man needed to talk to his son. “Bli kung du är född att vara.”
He gently nudged his father, “Nej, du är fortfarande vår kung.”
The father didn’t hear the words his son was speaking. He died the moment the last words left his mouth. Erik touched his forehead to his father’s for a moment, not letting the tears forming at the corners of his eyes, escape, and locked his jaw in an effort to control the emotions threatening to surface. After a few forced deep breaths, Erik kissed his father’s brow, and then lowered his head carefully back on the ground.
“Farväl!” he whispered silently, “Kan Odin underlätta din väg…” and then straightened up. When he stood, his entire demeanor transformed from a grieving son at loss to that of a leader and a general, radiating power, wisdom and responsibility. He stood straight and looked at one of the three guards, “Hermóðr, tar far i skogen till säkerheten” and then gestured the other two to follow him towards the waning battle.
Sookie staggered back, and held on to a hanging branch tightly, in a barely successful attempt to not follow the golden haired Erik into the battle. Someone pressed a hand to her shoulder and she turned around to find the stranger from her porch looking at her with mounting concern.
“You are not ready. I should send you back.”
Sookie hung her head in exhaustion, not wanting to meet the perceptive gaze of her brother for some reason. “Yes. I should go back. I am not ready. I …” she paused and met his eyes again, “I feel for them Michael. I feel so much. I hear so much.”
“You are supposed to feel it all. Believe in yourself beloved sister. You’ll grow stronger. I can see you are stronger than most of us. You’ll learn to take it all in without breaking up inside. Just give it time. Go now.”
She nodded and turned around to look at the battlefield for one last time, silently searching for the beautiful thought pattern of that young warrior.
Sookie’s awoke with a start to see a man standing on the top of the steps of the porch looking at her with a familiar reminiscent expression, his angelic face framed by the last rays of the setting sun, the angle of the rays obscuring his face a little. It was growing cold outside and her legs felt stiff when she slowly rose from the spot where she had been curled up on the swing. The change in her line of sight made the stranger’s face visible.
Sookie gasped in recognition at the sight. “Michael?”
The stranger smiled and held his hand out for her, “Placere momento…” Sookie walked up to him and held on to his offered hand. He sighed and the radiance of his smile lit up his face, “Yes little sister. You remember. They called me Michael here, the Archangel Michael.”
Placere momento – A moment please…
Frater – Brother
Sit – Yes
Sentio – think/feel/perceive
Admitto – admit/let-in/let-go
Fader – Father
kan du höra mig – can you hear me
Hämnas oss – Avenge us
Bli den man du är född att vara – Become the man you were born to be
Bli kung du är född att vara – Become the king you were born to be
Nej, du är fortfarande vår kung – No, you are still our king.
Farväl. Kan Odin underlätta din väg – Farewell. May Odin ease your path.