The Ties That Bind
There was a sharp rap on the door that once it began became a ceaseless knocking. “Uncle Eric! Daddy made me wait until it was okay, but he said once you were awake I could come in! Can I come in? I need to tell you and Aunt Sookie about what happened today!”
Sookie laughed as she heard Susie start to rattle the handle on the door. “I don’t think we have a choice,” she said as she rolled out of Eric’s arms and grabbed his discarded shirt.
Eric sighed, quickly pulled on a shirt, and his discarded pants. He looked to make sure Sookie was covered before unlocking the door…that promptly flew open to reveal a blonde pint-size human bounding for the broken bed that rested on the floor. “Uncle Eric! Come join us!” Susie cried, making herself comfortable against Sookie’s side.
Sookie smiled up at Eric as she threw her arm over Susie’s shoulders. She wasn’t sure what had put her niece in such high spirits, but she couldn’t help but be infected.
“I thought I was Mister Eric, Susie,” Eric said, sitting on the bed with them.
“You’re still Mister Eric!” Susie giggled at his forgetting of his name. “Daddy said you’re my uncle now since you and Aunt Sookie are together. So can I be in your wedding? I can be a flower girl! My bestest friend May-Anne was a flower girl and she looked so pretty in her thoughts. I want to be in your wedding and be able to wear a fancy dress too.”
Sookie fought a smile as she looked over Susie’s head at Eric while she listened to her niece/sister ramble. “What do you think, Eric, can Susie be in our wedding?” She asked teasingly, wondering what he would say.
“I don’t know, Susie. I’ve heard of brides who get jealous when the wedding party is almost as pretty as they are. Your aunt might get jealous because you’re just as pretty as her,” Eric replied to the half-fae.
“Mmm,” Sookie pretended to muse as she furrowed her brow. “You have a point, Eric. I guess we shouldn’t get married after all.” She tickled Susie as she added, “Why’d you have to be so pretty?”
Susie pouted and sighed. “Fine. I won’t be in the wedding. I want to call you Uncle Eric!”
“Fine. You can call me Uncle Eric,” Eric replied with a smirk. Susie pouted up at him, studying him closely before nodding.
“Now what did you want to tell us?” Sookie asked, biting back a laugh at the put-upon look on Susie’s face.
“OH!” Susie cried. “Well, today Daddy and me SLEPT IN! We stayed in bed until almost twelve o’clock. Then we went downstairs. There was a human lady in the kitchen there who made Daddy and me breakfast. Then we went outside and…did you know? …There’s a POOL! So Daddy and me went swimmin’ for a while and then I got tired, so I took a nap. Then I went back in the pool for a LONG time! I was hungry again, but the lady in the kitchen said I needed to wait until you all were up to have dinner, but she said I could have a snack. She made me ants on a log. ANTS ON A LOG! They’re not really ants…they’re raisins, but they’re called ants! That was yummy and then I came up here to wait, but Daddy came out of our room and made me wash all the pool water off myself. Then he made me wait for a while…until just now…to come in here.”
Sookie smiled as she listened to Susie ramble on, her enthusiasm catching. “It sounds like you had a fun day,” she said. Susie nodded enthusiastically.
“I missed you though, and…” she took a breath and closed her eyes. Her words were soft and her tone completely different from what it had been seconds before. “Mommy isn’t coming back.” There was no question. It was as if the young fairy was informing her aunt and uncle of the fact.
Sookie felt a stab of pain go through her at Susie’s words. However, she knew she had done the right thing in killing Claudine; she would have never left Susie alone if she hadn’t, and she truly deserved to die for the part she played in what had happened. Sookie still couldn’t help but feel a little bit guilty. She had deprived a child of her mother. “No, she’s not,” she replied, her tone equally as soft.
“She…she was your mommy too?” Susie asked quietly. Eric watched the two telepaths, realizing that this was the true reason Susie was so eager to see them. She needed her aunt. Though new to her life, Susie obviously saw Sookie as a mentor, a model, and a guide.
“That’s what Fintan told me,” Sookie answered as she pulled Susie into her lap. “I never knew that until last night.”
Susie shook her head. “So your mommy won’t be coming back either,” she sighed and laid her head on Sookie’s chest. She was quiet for a few minutes just listening to her own heartbeat, probing the minds of those on the same floor. “She wasn’t nice.”
“No,” Sookie whispered as she wrapped her arms around her and held her tight. “You know you still have loads of people who love you, right?”
“Like Daddy,” Sookie agreed. “Lafayette, Jesus, and me. I love you too, Susie.”
“Me too, Susie,” Eric said gently.
“We all love you,” Sookie added as she raised her head and smiled at Eric.
Susie crawled over to Eric and climbed onto his lap. She clung to Sookie’s hand as she did and sighed softly as she got comfortable. “Can we get dinner now?”
“Why don’t you let me and Uncle Eric clean up first?” Sookie said with a laugh. “Then we’ll go and get dinner.”
Susie nodded, standing up on the mattress. “Umm…why’s your bed on the floor?”
“Er,” Sookie started struggling with what to say. She wasn’t sure how forward Susie was at her age. Regardless of what she knew, telling her it was on the floor because they broke it making love wasn’t something she wanted her niece to know.
“Sookie and I thought the mattress on the floor would be more stable to jump on,” Eric replied with a smirk.
Sookie was grateful she couldn’t blush as she heard Eric’s explanation. “We’ll be down in a few minutes,” she said as she stood up.
Susie grinned before standing on the mattress and bouncing. She squealed as Eric grabbed her midair and flew her around the room. He brought her to the door, told her to go downstairs while they showered, and gently closed the door behind her. Sookie had started the water in the shower, but had left the door open. Eric didn’t hesitate to walk into the bathroom, stripping down as he did.
It was almost thirty minutes later when Eric and Sookie finally made it downstairs where everyone was waiting. The two of them had been reluctant to leave the shower or the bedroom. It was only knowing Susie would undoubtedly come looking for them again if they didn’t that had them getting dressed and leaving the room.
Roman eyeballed the pair as they entered. Susie was to his right, eating chicken nuggets and broccoli. “We need to discuss something,” he said to them quickly, eyeing Susie to his right.
Sookie nodded as she took a seat opposite them. She rested her hands on the table as Eric took a seat beside her. “What is it?”
“When did you find out that Susie here can read vampire minds?” he prompted, never one to beat around the bush.
“I suspected she could the night we met Warlow,” Sookie answered truthfully.
“When did you plan on telling me?” he asked, smiling at Susie before turning a stern face to Sookie.
“Truthfully? I wasn’t sure I was,” Sookie admitted.
“I don’t want my great-granddaughter to be exploited,” Fintan interrupted.
Sookie gave Fintan a small smile as he entered the room. She wasn’t sure she trusted him fully yet, but she had to admit she agreed with his words. It was just one of the reasons she didn’t say anything about her suspicions regarding Susie.
“Grandpa!” Susie called out, pointing to the open seat next to her. Jason was just coming back with his own plate of food and a beer. “Aunt Sookie! Uncle Eric! I forgot to say Grandpa played with me all day too. He’s really nice and funny, and his mind’s safe.” Susie tried to wink at Sookie, but wound up only blinking.
Sookie smiled at her niece, happy to see her in high spirits after the last several days. She knew technically Susie was her sister, or half-sister, but she believed that would confuse everyone, her included.
Fintan sat next to his youngest heir. He had done more throughout the day than just play; he was training her, working on her skills, and giving her gifts as he had Sookie.
“So you had fun with Grandpa Fintan today then?” Sookie asked as Nora entered the room.
Susie nodded, but her mouth was stuffed with nugget. “Sookie, I’m going to work with Susie,” Roman said. “Her skills could be utilized and be very beneficial in these circumstances. Nora said she was able to read Warlow.”
Sookie flicked her eyes from Roman to Nora, and then finally to Susie. She couldn’t say she was happy that Susie would be involved in this, and, if she had her way, she wouldn’t be. Nevertheless, Warlow wasn’t just coming for her, he wanted Susie as well. She was in just as much danger, if not more.
“No,” Jason put his plate down next to his grandfather and sat down. “Susie has been through enough. I don’t want her to have to deal with anymore, let alone be near that guy to hear him.”
“Warlow is coming for your daughter whether or not you want her to be involved,” Nora said, taking a seat next to Sookie. “No one wants to put Susie in more danger, but I’m afraid she is already, thanks to your great-grandfather.”
“I don’t want her involved,” he said gruffly.
“Neither do I,” Sookie told him. “I don’t want any of us to have to face this, but Jason, Nora’s right. Warlow is coming. Last night he wiped out every vampire in Mississippi, and that was just his opening act. Roman, when you say you want to work with Susie, what do you mean?”
“I’ll teach her, as best as I can, to probe minds with your help. We’ll work with the skills she has and see if they can’t be enhanced in any way.”
“Jason? I know you don’t want this; none of us do, but if it has to happen, I promise I’ll be by her side at every step,” Sookie said. “I’ll protect her with everything I have.”
“You gotta promise, Sook. She’s all I got now,” he said, looking at the sister he thought he’d never see again.
“I promise,” Sookie replied. “I will… we will,” she amended, looking to Eric, “protect her with everything we have.”
Eric nodded and looked at the man he’d become surprisingly close to once he got over his resentment. “She’ll be as safe as we can make her and we’ll protect her with everything we have.”
“I want my baby safe,” Jason said after a moments’ pause. “She’s everything to me. You’ve both given me yer word that you’ll protect her and I’m holdin‘ ya to it.”
Roman nodded to Sookie. He was about to speak when Fintan interrupted. “I will ensure her safety as well, but I will warn you all. Warlow is not to be trifled with.” He had an almost pained look on his face as he said it before the blank masque covered it with stoic strength.
Sookie eyed Fintan, not missing the look that had flashed across his face. She was convinced there was more to his story. The look into his mind told her she could trust him, but these days trust didn’t come easily or freely.
“You can trust Grandpa,” Susie supplied aloud after listening to her aunt’s thoughts. Fintan had told her to practice keeping her mind open constantly as it would help her learn to filter the important and distinguish the vocalized.
Sookie tilted her head to the side as she stared at her grandfather. “Susie says I can trust you, and the look into your mind tells me this is true, but my instincts are telling me there’s more,” she said. “I learned a long time ago to ignore my instincts is a bad thing.” Memories of Bill flashed through her mind; she shuddered and slammed her shields down. There were some things Susie didn’t need to see.
Fintan closed his eyes and let his mind drift. He had let himself think of her, of Sile. He knew thinking of how he lost her would bring back the pain, and he had known Sookie and Susie had caught his pain before he had hidden it.
“You need to know about Warlow…all of you.” He paused for a moment, thinking of the past before explaining a history that had been lost, intentionally, and was only known now by those still alive who experienced it. The number of people now was very limited. In fact, he and his father were the only fairies still alive who had knowledge of this future altering event. He explained.
“Six hundred years ago, war broke out in the Fae realm. The Water Fae rose up and tried to seize power from the Sky Fae. The Prince of the Water Fae, Breandan, opposed the Prince of the Sky Fae’s, Niall Brigant, plan to reintegrating the fairies into the human realm. Breandan believed that for his people to continue to grow and prosper they should stay away from a world where iron and vampires were commonplace. Both of those things were and remain deadly to fairies, and both could, then and now, be found in large quantities in the human realm. Vampires had decimated the fae thousands of years before. What was once a thriving culture dwindled to just a few thousand, five at most.
“Breandan decided to save his people from what he believed was almost certain death; he challenged Niall for the throne. The lines were drawn and war broke out, and just as in all wars, lives were lost and homes destroyed. The blood of the Fae flowed freely saturating the land and destroying the magic, the life that lived in it. The war raged on for many years and much was lost. The people wept as the rivers ran red; they begged their princes to stop, to call a truce. While Breandan was willing, Niall was not. Despite the fact that Niall was losing the war, he refused to concede defeat and broker a truce with his nephew. It was clear to all that the defeat laid at Niall’s feet. Some of his own advisors abandoned him. It was just a matter of time before Breandan took his uncle’s head and called an end to the fighting.
“Defeat was knocking at Niall’s door when something unexpected happened. The tide of battle started to change. A new force had joined the battle and they were destroying Breandan’s soldiers. In one changing of the season, Breandan’s forces were overcome and as defeat lay at Niall’s feet just a few short months before, now it was at Breandan’s head. Niall cut the heart out of his enemy, an enemy whose only crime had been wanting his people to survive.
“It was not until a month later did the truth of what Niall had done come to light. To keep his throne and defeat his nephew, Niall had made a deal with a rogue group of Britlingens, and in exchange for their help, Niall had promised them riches beyond their wildest imagination as well as the spoils of war. He gifted them with the prisoners; those who’d spoken out against him and those he claimed who had betrayed him. In total, there were eleven of them. Eleven Britlingens and dozens of fairies.
“The Britlingens took them to another realm, a realm between the fairy and Britlingen realms. There the fairies were treated as slaves, used as sport, for pleasure. Their lives belonged to their new masters, they had no voice and they could not say no. It was not surprising when the first child was born, and then the second, and third. The Britlingens were not indiscriminate about spreading their seed, and soon the population doubled and then tripled.
“It was many years later when the first-born were approaching the age that they would be considered adult when something unexpected happened. The gateway that leads to the realm sprang to life and a lone figure walked through. He was dressed in the garb that the Britlingens wore, but held none of their evil. The first ones were shocked to see him and tried to run, but he stopped them before they could escape. Before anyone knew what was happening, they were all on their knees before him. The words he spoke were foreign to all ears, and then with a flash of light, they all disappeared.
“The fairies and the children were left behind and life continued much like it always had. Some of the fairies did stand up and try to take charge, the children were after all just that, children, but they were unable. The fairies were unable to control the children, and there was little power left in them at that point. They had been treated as slaves for so long that was all the children knew. Eventually some of the fairies found their way out of the realm; they found their way into the human realm.
“The ones who remained in their realm — Danann — watched as the children grew. In that time, a leader was crowned. He was the first-born son of the Britlingens, Dagda Warlow. Dagda was a particularly cruel boy, but he was a fierce and cunning warrior. As Dagda grew, so did his anger and need for violence.
“He took pleasure in the stories he had heard as a child of the Britlingens ways and the war in Fairy. He craved battle, the desire to honor his Britlingen father, and be the greatest warrior there was. He trained hard, often from dusk till dawn, until he was the best, until no one could rival him. And when he was the best, he renamed his people the Tuatha de Danann.
“It wasn’t until many years later did the realization of another problem become known. Despite many of the children mating, no new child had been born. It was not clear why, but the children of the Britlingens and fairies could not reproduce with each other. Some claimed it was because of how they were conceived, through violence and force, while others claimed it was due to the nature of their abilities. All that was known was that they could not reproduce.
“Dagda, not wanting his people to die out, sent a small group of his warriors out of the realm in search of a solution. A changing of the season later, they returned with some kidnapped humans, much like the original Britlingens did. The Tuatha de Danann spread their seed among the humans and waited for the next generation to be born, but the humans proved incompatible; the females couldn’t carry the pregnancy to term. Few made it past three months and none passed five. Their bodies were ill equipped to carry the children, and many of the humans died along with the babies they carried.
“Dagda killed the rest in an anger-filled rage. They thought all was lost until one day the gates to the realm opened again, and a man and woman walked through. They claimed they knew how to help the Tuatha de Danann; they claimed they had an answer to their infertility problem. Dagda was skeptical, not believing the couple. In what the man called a showing of good faith, he presented Dagda with a young man and a young woman, barely twenty-years in age. The man said the young ones seed would flourish in a Tuatha de Danann providing a child for any woman that Dagda chose. The woman, he said, would prove an able vessel, capable of birthing at least one Tuatha de Danann with each pregnancy.
“Dagda, intrigued by the promise, chose his sister to take the male and his second in command to have the female. They all gathered around and watched while the men planted their seed. Once done, the young man returned to the couple’s side. The older man said he would return in two changing of the seasons to see if the seed had bloomed. They would keep the female and do with her as they wished. Good to his word, the man returned to find both women ripe with child.
“After her time, Dadga’s sister birthed a healthy baby boy and all saw that the child was fine. The young woman birthed a set of twins, one male and one female. Dagda and the man sat down to broker a deal. The man promised Dagda the means to continue his line and all he wanted in return was when the time came, Dagda and his people would fight for him.”
Fintan paused, picturing golden hair, a bright smile, and a beautiful, musical laugh. He recalled her petite frame above his, bright blue eyes gazing down at him adoringly in the late afternoon sun after they had spent all morning making love in the flower-adorned meadow.
“Who was she?” Sookie asked softly, having gotten a glimpse of her in Fintan’s mind.
“Sile,” he whispered, pronouncing it “Sheila” with a strong Irish lilt. “He . . . she . . .” he started, but paused.
“Your daddy stole her,” Susie supplied, wide-eyed.