Sookie opened her eyes.
She stared at the Archangel sitting calmly in front of her and fought with the urge to run to the bathroom and throw up. Everything, the uncovered memories, the gory images, the damning knowledge, all were beating viciously like a sledgehammer at her head.
Thump, thump, thump…
She wanted to run and hide, and forget and block out everything she’d learnt. It was crazy. It was all crazy and mind boggling and certifiable. She’d lost her mind. This would be a good time to start screaming.
But she kept sitting in front of the archangel who claimed to be her brother in some lifetime she still couldn’t fully reconcile herself with.
Her life was over. She knew it. So she decided to get over her fear of the Archangel and ask the questions she had.
“Why did you tell me all of this? Why now after so many lifetimes? Clearly I wasn’t supposed to remember. It was part of my punishment, right?”
“I came to you the day your runes appeared. You felt me too, you just didn’t know what you were feeling at the time. But your grandmother died and I felt best to give you time for the funeral and put her affairs in order. I thought you deserved that at the very least.” Michael paused, as if considering his next words carefully. “Your eternal light shines again. Not as bright as it was, but not possible to ignore either. It must have started building, the day you unlocked your healing abilities to help a roomful of injured and dying people at great cost to yourself. As power goes, it grows with each trial and triumph of soul. You see it as the runes on your body. Those runes weren’t supposed to be visible on you in this lifetime.”
“Ok.” Sookie took a deep breathe, trying to keep the nausea and her heart rate down. “So why would the runes appear now, of all the times, when they have clearly been gone for a thousand years? I am a human in this life. I shouldn’t have angelic runes!”
“No you shouldn’t. But you do. Divine Orders work on their own, witnessing, perceiving, recording everything. You must now stand on the edge, at the crux of your mortal penance, and the curse put on you has loosened the chains. There must be a purpose for it.”
Sookie was overwhelmed. Nothing made sense any more.
“That right there raised a lot more questions than it answered. Its all a lot to process Archangel.”
“Yes it absolutely is.” he replied quietly.
They watched each other for a few silent moments, before Sookie nervously worked up to her next question.
“Is this why you are here? Because my runes are showing and you need to step in? Because of the curse? And because I…I uh have been seeing Eric again? Is this like a divine intervention?”
A shard of hard obsidian entered Michael’s calm gaze.
“You exchanged blood with him. That shouldn’t have happened. Even if your grace is returning, getting back together with Eric is just inviting another Council hearing little sister. I doubt they’d feel very accepting of everything that has been happening. And yes, I am here because of your runes. I had to intervene.”
Sookie thought about what ‘intervene’ meant. Was it an intervention to remove her from Eric or an intervention to remove her from the world of the living? To start the cycle of penance again? For falling in love?
On top of the nausea, feeling small and chastised did not sit well with Sookie. She wanted to lash out and break something. As it were, she was barely sitting still. That took all her effort. She didn’t have the capacity to control her spiraling temper too.
“I didn’t know everything. Heck! I didn’t know anything. Suppressed memories and all” she smiled bitterly, “I didn’t know I had that much gruesome history with Eric. I didn’t know I was not just a regular human, living a normal human life, with regular human choices to make. Sure I am telepathic. But, I still had a pretty uneventful life before vampires started showing up in Bon Temps. You say you know everything that happens to me so I don’t need to hash it out for ya but even you would agree with me that everything that happened wasn’t in my hands either. If God didn’t want me with Eric, he could have ensured I never met him. I mean, how could I not fall for him after I met him? After he saved my life multiple times? Him being how he is…”
Sookie lifted her trembling hands to pull at her hair, trying her best not to break down from the sheer weight of all her history suddenly dumped on her.
“And now what? You just came here and told me stuff my head still can’t properly believe. You might be a little disappointed in me but really, how can you blame me for not knowing things that were forcefully wiped from my memories? And some protectors the Council proved for the Earth fae. Tell me brother, why, after everything, did they let Eric get turned to vampire? He was the Earth Fae heir and the safety of his people depended on his life. How could the Elders let him get killed and turned? And whatever happened to the Earth Fae after he was turned?”
Michael took a deep breathe and exhaled noisily, in a very human way, but remained stubbornly silent. Sookie folded her arms across her chest and glared at him.
“Don’t even think about holding out on me now. We’ve come this far. I am guessing I won’t get a better chance at knowing things about me than this one, in this lifetime anyways. If I can go through a thousand cycles of misery, then you can very well tell me what happened afterwards.”
“We didn’t think he could be turned Sookie. He wasn’t human enough to be turned. Vampires do not have the self control to stop themselves from killing a fairy, long enough to turn them. Erik continues to defy all known logic. You continue to defy all logic. And between the two of you, I have my hands full.” He paused to consider his words again, “When he stepped on his vessel that evening, after being with you, the old treaty gained purchase again. Sky fairies suddenly found themselves in a kind of limbo, stuck between two dimensions. Though they eventually spirited back to their world, a great number of them didn’t make the transition because all of them didn’t have the same teleportation capabilities. It took two days for the vikings to reach back to see that their home was destroyed beyond repair, their kin had been murdered and the enemy soldiers were stuck right there in the village, in between two worlds.”
Another gruesome picture took form in her mind, directly from Michael’s memory this time.
“They killed the fairies left behind.” Sookie whispered.
“Vengeance drove the vikings hard. It was a bloodbath all over again. And then came the vampires. A group of them caught the scent of the copious fae blood being spilled and were lured in. More followed. ” Michael shook his head and lowered his gaze, “You cannot possibly imagine the gore that land saw. Utter chaos was what followed. I never got to Eric before he was killed. Actually killed this time. You were his guardian, you were attuned to him. Maybe if you were there, you could have gotten to him in time. But you weren’t there to save him that time.”
A sob broke loose this time, and Sookie clutched her throbbing head in her hands.
“I couldn’t get to him because I was in prison.” She yelled.
“Yes you were in prison. And Erik got killed. And more people died.”
More images beat against her head, all the way to her battered soul. Michael went on.
“All we could save of the Earth fae was their queen Zisa, barely alive, who we took to another world by the council for protection. And I wasn’t punished for these deaths because Erik was not my charge. I was the general and was not obligated to take part in that battle. The laws let me go free.”
“So you left him to die?” Sookie asked, hoarse from the huge lump stuck in her throat.
“No sister. I fought with them. Albeit in human form.”
Sookie went silent again, bone tired and sick to the core.
“That was the fate of the Earth Fae. They died. That’s all of it. Now you know everything.”
And there it was again, guilt and shame, at having being the first dominoe bone to affect the fall of a race of proud Earth fae people. Ages had passed since an angel had loved a Fae prince forbidden to her. Hundreds of years, since that angel was cast out from her people and punished for taking what wasn’t hers to take.
What still wasn’t hers to take.
Her heart hurt at the thought of letting go of Eric once again. At the loss of the fragile hope of being with Eric that she had yet to accept in dreams. What she wouldn’t give for a right to that hope again.
“So now that you’ve told me everything, you must be planning on ending my life here aren’t you?”
Michael took his time to reply.
“I haven’t decided exactly when your life ends. But you can’t stay here any more.”
Sookie stared at Michael, a consuming wave of dread settling in her spine. Of all the things she could have imagined that would tear her life apart, this one looked absolute. Unconquerable and inevitable.
Without even thinking it through, Sookie jumped to her feet and held her hands in front of herself, as if she could shield herself from her certain fate. As if her small hands could save her from certain death.
“Stay away. Please…please just…” Sookie turned away. Her eyes roamed her empty house just as her heart saw how empty her life was, how empty all her lives had been. “We are supposed to hope and pray Archangel. Look forward for a better life and a future. We are supposed to have choices in our lives. We are supposed to believe in the possibility of a miracle. I can see that I don’t have that hope, that I have nothing. What use is being granted a life then?”
Michael got on his feet as well. His serene presence did nothing to reassure her or ease the horrible fear growing in the pit of her stomach.
“Fair or not, that was your punishment little one.”
Yes it was her punishment. Her cross to bear and her pain to endure.
Sookie wiped her eyes.
“So are you going to kill me?”
“No. Your grace is coming back and this changes things. I would like to believe that it is so because you are ready to end your exile. But even I do not know everything. I need to find out more. While I do that, you have some more time with this life. Think about what you’ve learnt and remembered. Make peace with yourself.”
Michael touched Sookie’s cheek and saw fear in her tear stricken eyes. He bent to kiss her forehead and with the kiss he cloaked her runes for a little while.
“There is always hope Sookie.” He murmered against her brow, ” There is always the possibility of a miracle. And in darkness, there is always prayer for those who have nothing else. I’ll come back for you in a little while, after I have the answers I need. Don’t hide from me.”
“Wait!” Sookie clutched his arm, “That’s it? I have a little while till you come back to wrap up my whole life?”
A light crossed the Archangel’s enchanting eyes.
“Don’t be so quick to disprove a little while or a whole life Sookie. It takes only a second to end a life. Even lesser to save one. You are still alive. Maybe that’s how it plays.”
And then he…was gone…Just gone. Sookie turned and looked around the room, but there was no sign of the Archangel who had just been there a second ago and in the course of an evening, had turned Sookie’s beliefs, her life, her faith, upside down on it’s head. She was alone now. The sudden quite felt oppressive and for the first time, her empty house gave her chills.
Fintan looked at Niall, face blank of the rage he was feeling inside. With effort, he controlled himself enough to speak out the question he needed answering.
“Niall… father, may I know why you forbid me to avenge the death of my love and not only that, but also conspire against the one individual who tried to save her life?”
Niall remained stoic and stared out to the palace gardens instead of facing Fintan.
“If it were just your lover, I would have had nothing against going after those who dared touch her. If only it had been just Adele. If only she didn’t have that grand daughter. If only that grand daughter had not sought out the vampire.” he mused, voice low, as if talking to himself.
“What of Sookie’s involvement with the vampire? I don’t care who she lays with.” Fintan bit out of clenched teeth, “Adele is dead… And my sword needs blood right now.”
“Oh but we need to care Fintan, don’t we?” Niall turned to regard his angry son, “I have had doubts about this family. The girl specifically. And those nagging doubts just aren’t going away. If they were just plain old humans, well that’s fine then. But if they are not…I need them gone then. I won’t have old spells threatening to come to life again just because I was squeamish about taking a life or because my son is a lovesick fool!”
“What in the hell are you talking about?” growled Fintan.
“You don’t know of that time son, when the humans and their land was a distant dream to the sky fae. When we couldn’t set foot on it. This world was a hard won battle.”
Fintan stood, silently staring at his father, and trying to make sense of the nonsense he was going on about.
“There was a glitch, one glitch, one window of opportunity, that we took advantage of. We had just one chance. And we swooped in to take it. Five thousand sky soldiers I took with me, almost emptying my lands in the process, so that the opportunity won’t slip from my hands, and one strike would prove to be enough. And it was enough. At least till it lasted.”
Niall stood up and walked to the window he had been staring out of.
“We were fine. Until the prodigal son returned.”
A measure of curiosity stayed Fintan from shouting at Niall. This was a story that was so seldom spoken of within their ranks, that most sky fae knew next to nothing about how they had come to win over the human realm as their territory. Most elders that had been in the fated attacks were dead or close lipped about it. Worse of them was Niall. And yet here he stood, rehashing ancient history now, however untimely the discourse might seem to Fintan.
“He drove us away again. I lost too many good soldiers. Everything turned out to be for nothing. The battle, the deaths, the opportunity. Earth slipped from our hands like dust and we couldn’t do anything about it. Trying times son, two days of debilitating doubt and humiliating vexation. Some of our most trying times. My judgement was questioned throughout the lands. My rule was threatened. A number of children were orphaned by our losses. My people were turning against me after talk of the massacre on Earth reached their ears. My soldiers joined the dissent too. Whiny ungrateful wenches! People die in battles. What I did wasn’t so different from what has been done throughout our history.”
Fintan stood, quite and hardly breathing, as he listened to his father and sire.
“However son, fate turned again. What happened was beautiful in it’s simplicity and effect.” Niall turned to Fintan and smiled. A reminiscent, fond smile. “All in the form of our mortal enemies, the creatures of the night. The blood drinkers. The eternally dead ones. I couldn’t have defeated and killed the Earth Fae prince on his turf, even with all my soldiers. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t be killed.”
Niall’s smile turned sinister.
“Look at the irony son. His presence banished us from Earth. But once he was dead…eternally dead…the treaty became null and void, even if he would always walk the Earth. The Earth that would have been rightfully his.”
A prick of suspicion touched Fintan.
“Who was this vampire father?”
Niall came up to Fintan, clutched his shoulder and looked straight in is eyes.
“Eric Northman is the Earth Fae prince turned vampire. After he was turned and we could step foot in that realm again, I killed his sire to leave him more alone than he’d ever be. And just like that, I got Earth back for the sky fae. The same lands where you met your many loves. Adele being the latest.”
The number of revelations in the last sentence his father just said were staggering. Fintan struggled to get to grips with the significance of the revelation.
Meanwhile Niall debated whether to tell Fintan about his suspicions about angels aiding the Earth Fae or not. He had not quite seen an angel himself after all. Only heard rumors of beings so powerful that power became an insignificant word in their midst, of a light so bright that it could eclipse the sun, of presence not encumbered by the chains of space, time or dimensions. Everyone knew of them. No one saw them. But if the mystical, mythical beings had indeed been aiding the Earth Fae, then no way would he have had the chance to obliterate the weaklings when he did.
Still the doubts wouldn’t go away. The white light that had been witnessed in the Northman’s club bombing incident, the light that saved many humans from obliteration and still didn’t leave magical traces…Neave and Lochlan’s report on the strange vibe around Adele’s house…The vampire’s involvement with Sookie…Sookie’s questionable status as a being they could not identify…The light he himself had witnessed at the back of the run down bar Merlotte’s when Andre had disappeared…All of this was too much to ignore as coincidence. He had spent days researching and ticking down lists of magical beings. Sookie didn’t belong to any of them. And now she was aiding the Viking. If the angels were trying to meddle with Eric Northman’s life, then Niall had better nip that threat in the bud. Who knew what they could do. Keeping the Earth Fae prince permanently dead and walking had ceased being amusing anyway.
With that thought firmly settled in his mind, Niall turned to Fintan for the real reason he had agreed to speak to his son at the time.
“Son, I told you all of this so that you grasp the severity of the situation, the threat it can become for our rule. Forget about setting up an alliance with the vampire. Sell him out to his queen instead. His trial, the one trying him for being responsible for killing that Andre, is coming up in three weeks. We can’t kill a vampire sheriff outright without a good reason. His trial might go in his favor. I want you to not let it come to the trial. Prove your worth as a fae general Fintan. Kill Northman and end this game once and for all. Do your duty to your people, to your family, and to me.”
Fintan nodded numbly “I’ll do what I can sire.”
“Do this. Your people need to look up to you as their future leader. My detractors keep questioning the time my heir spends on that realm, close with the humans, and away from here. If you eliminate this threat, you will go far with strengthening your position in court.”
“Yes sire.” Fintan bowed and straightened.
“Go then. And bring good news.”
“Eric? Are you sure you have the proofs of accounts?” Pam paused her pacing to ask.
Eric shrugged distractedly, eyes on his phone, dialing Sookie’s number again.
“How old am I, Pam? Five?”
Pam threw him a scathing look. Followed by her phone she’d been fiddling with. On his head. Eric caught it easily before it hit the mark. Sookie’s phone went to voicemail after ringing for a full minute.
“You will realize the seriousness of the situation we are in once you stop smelling the roses and climb out of the Sookie Stackhouse love canal you’re drowning in!” she huffed.
Eric cocked an eyebrow in annoyance. He did want to swim and drown in ‘Sookie’s love canal’. He could have been swimming in it right now if it weren’t for the urgent summons he’d received from Sophie Anne, his queen. The message clearly stated he was expected in New Orleans, in a few hours, whereupon he would have a private hearing with the queen regarding his upcoming trial. The summons was a surprise. Still Eric considered it to be a good thing. If he could sort matters with Sophie Anne before the trial came up, come to some kind of understanding with his crazy monarch, he might be able dodge the hearing altogether.
But between the various non-urgent vampire emergencies of his area and his duties at Fangtasia, it had been a full thirty six hours since he had seen Sookie and the distance was bothering him. He’d been planning to spend some quality time with her that evening. The summons put a wrench in that plan. He’d been trying to call her since he woke up an hour ago, to convince her to spend the night at Fangtasia under Pam’s watch. But every time he called, he’d been frustratingly redirected to the answering machine.
Where the hell was Sookie?
“Stop pacing Pam. I need to leave right away so that I can finish the meeting in time to come back before sunrise tomorrow. I don’t want to spend a single extra minute with Sophie Anne. So I need you to go check on Sookie and bring her to Fangtasia to keep an eye on her till I come back.”
Pam stopped pacing and whirled towards him.
“You’re planning to go alone? You know we can’t trust that bitch Eric. Please let me come with you.”
“I’ll be fine. And with you watching Sookie, I would be able to concentrate on my meeting.”
Pam came to sit beside Eric on the couch and touched his elbow.
“I don’t have a good feeling about this master. Have you thought about what all can go wrong there? Have you thought how many backstabbing creepy enemies you have accumulated over the past centuries and our bitch queen can sway anyone against you? One damning witness is all she needs Eric. And then she will kill you, with relish, before the trial even happens! At least at the trial you would’ve been heard in front of a few people. Nothing of the sort is going to happen there. You’ll be cornered. It is well within her rights to do as she pleases with her sheriffs if she gets hold of something against you. ”
“She will not do anything that removes her precious crown from her head Pam. With her head in tow.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Eric took hold of both of Pam’s hands in his own and tried to sooth her as best as he could.
“She can’t kill me. I am her strongest sheriff. Now that Andre is gone, she needs me more than before. The most she can do is punish me. And I am going to make sure that punishment, if it happens, is as benign as possible. She is well within her rights to summon me anytime she wants and like always before, I’ll go alone. If I take an entourage with me, Sophie might feel threatened.”
“I don’t care about her feelings! I care about your safety.”
Eric stood up.
“I’ll be fine Pam. Just get to Sookie and keep her safe till I return. Keep me posted.”
“No. Not another word. Stop doubting my judgement and get to work.”
Pam bowed her head in supplication “Yes Master”