It took two nights, but they were finally ready for the vampire teleconference to go ahead. Sookie was sitting between Eric and Russell at the large conference table in Nora’s office waiting for the conference to begin. Her nerves were shot despite both Eric’s and Russell’s reassurance that everything would be fine. She had spoken to Jason earlier in the evening and he had told her everything was quiet. They hadn’t seen nor heard from Niall or Warlow since the night they discovered the truth.
While the five faces on each monitor were exchanging pleasantries among all of them, Roman’s cell phone began to ring. He growled at Nora as Britney Spears’ old hit “Hit Me Baby” blared out from his pocket. “Quite mature, Nora,” he scolded her for altering his ringtone.
“It wasn’t me!” Nora argued. “You know I would use a soundtrack from a porno.”
He glanced around, eyes resting on a smirking Sookie. He let the chorus play all the way through once before grinning and picking up. It was Betty Joe, his second in Mississippi. “Yes?”
“Roman!” Betty Joe cried, a hint of panic in her voice. “We… attack… stop them…” the words came through in a broken rush, making little sense to anyone there.
“Betty Joe?” he called into the phone, as if speaking louder would help. He heard the phone fall on the ground, followed by a scream and two more falls, one lighter and one more of a wet sound, as in the true death of a vampire. There were footsteps, and then the phone was picked up.
“Guardian,” Warlow’s voice came clearly through the phone. “I was so disappointed to learn you weren’t in Mississippi.” He laughed, his voice gravelly and deep. “Congratulations are in store though! You are Mississippi’s only remaining vampire resident. I suppose your position as King will be much easier now!”
All eyes snapped to Roman’s as they listened into the conversation. What Warlow was saying couldn’t be true. Mississippi couldn’t be gone!
Roman’s eyes looked to Nora, silently asking her to have everyone call around and see if they could get in touch with anyone from his state, or perhaps any living makers of his vampires who lived out of state to see if they felt their children die.
He forced himself to reply calmly, but were he human; his face would have been red with repressed rage. “Just what do you think this will accomplish, Warlow?”
Nora’s fingers flew over the touch screen on her phone as she sent messages to everyone she knew as well as trying to call a few more. She shook her head as no one answered or replied, a sense of dread welling up inside her as each message went unanswered. Roman grit his teeth and pressed the button to put Warlow on speakerphone so they all could hear. He trusted his vampires to remain silent.
“I’m sure you’re working to confirm what I told you,” Warlow said with another laugh. “All I want is Sookie and her niece. Neither of them will be harmed. They’ll be mine. They’ll live better lives than they do now, especially the fairy girl. Her father can’t afford much for her. She watched her aunt kill her mother, not a good situation for a growing girl.”
Sookie bit her lip to keep from screaming at Warlow through the phone. She raised her eyes to Roman’s to see what he would say. “They’re property of vampires,” Roman replied, using the law to try to reason. Really, he’d rather burn down the dimension where Warlow resided, but he needed to keep cool. “Sookie is Russell’s child, and Susie as well as Jason are both claimed by multiple vampires. They have the protection of the Queen of Louisiana, are claimed by Eric the Norseman, and I have the paperwork for Russell Edgington and Sookie Stackhouse both also granting their protection,” he looked pointedly at Russell when he said this.
Russell nodded as he felt Sookie squeeze his hand. He could feel his child’s fear and wished he could comfort her, but they couldn’t reveal their presence just yet. He sent his reassurance through their bond as he continued to listen to the creature who demanded his child.
“Yet, contractually, they’re mine, so even with your reasoning, they’re to come with me,” Warlow responded. “I want delivery, Roman. I want what’s mine or Mississippi will just be the start. We will destroy every vampire in existence until she is all that remains if we must.”
Sookie squeezed Russell’s hand to the point of pain as she listened to Warlow speak. There was no way they would allow her to remain if those were the choices.
“Let me see. I bet you’re not listening to me alone, are you? If you’re where I believe you are, I assume Ms. Gainesborough’s there. Hello, Nora.” Warlow continued.
“Good evening,” Nora greeted, after getting the sign from Roman.
“And if Nora’s there, so is Mr. Northman, yet he won’t greet me, so I’ll say, ‘Hello, Eric,’ and move on. I wonder…is Mr. Edgington there? I bet he is! Good evening, Russell. If he’s there, are you there, love? My sweet Sookie, say hello,” Warlow crooned.
“I am not yours!” Sookie said, anger clear in her voice.
“Oh, the timbres of your voice,” Warlow cooed. “I can only imagine how you’ll sound when I make you scream in ecstasy. Come to me with your niece. You may care for her and raise her as you see fit. I’ve been alive longer than your Guardian, and if I understand, you’ve been sent to orgasmic height by him, I’d bet I could take you even higher.”
Sookie looked to her maker for what to do. Her mind was on overload. How did Warlow know she’d fucked Roman?
“If you don’t,” he continued, “you can guarantee that every vampire who dies will die by your will. If you will it, they will be fine. Just come to me. We can even negotiate your niece. Maybe exchange her for your cousin — or did you not know Hunter was living in my realm?”
Sookie’s head snapped up at the mention of Hunter, “What have you done to him?” she hissed, her fangs snapping down in anger.
“Nothing,” the voice came through the phone. “But he is in line to breed one of our women. He’s almost the age we allow, a few more months and he’ll be sixteen. He’ll be kept on his back for years. Do you really want to do that to him?”
Sookie felt pain wash over her at the thought. She didn’t want that for him, but she also couldn’t condemn Susie to the same fate. She was an innocent child, as was Hunter. “How did you get him?”
“Oh, my Sookie, I can’t give away all of my secrets. So why don’t you chat with everyone there. I’ll keep this phone. You let me know if you want to save your cousin and keep vampires from finally dying.”
Sookie was speechless as she listened to his words. This was a whole lot worse than she had first thought. She barely registered the call disconnecting or Eric’s hand squeezing her knee in comfort, so lost was she in what Warlow had said.
“Sookie?” Russell prompted.
“What am I supposed to do?” Sookie asked, directing the question to the room in general.
“We’ll figure it out,” Eric assured her softly.
“He has Hunter…” Sookie said, her mind stuck on that.
“Sookie,” Russell said, getting her attention. He waited until her eyes were locked on his. “We will figure it out, but we need to focus and work on the problem.”
“What problem? Just fucking turn her over!” one of the vampire on the monitor boldly suggested. “No one has to die. Mississippi was wiped out for no reason but her!”
“Shut the fuck up, New Jersey!” Nora growled. “We are not handing her or her family over.”
“So you’d let Roman and Eric be killed? For her? I don’t want my state destroyed,” another voice growled from a different monitor.
“Sookie is a vampire in my state, making me her Queen, and I am telling you all now, I am not handing her over to them!” Nora snarled.
“Then do not expect us to support your decision. You are willing to kill off the entirety of vampires to keep one from living what he indicated would be a life of luxury. Don’t think we will let this stand!” New Jersey said harshly before disconnecting her call.
“She’s no doubt contacting all of her vampires. Expect an influx of hostile vampires from New Jersey after this, Nora,” Roman warned. “Allow me to make clear to the rest of you, and guarantee I will be calling Phoebe too, as Guardian I am saying I do not want anyone taking this into their own hands. We will have solidarity.”
Roman turned to look at Sookie for a moment before continuing. Her face showed her fear, her unease. He had not yet seen that look on her, and she had reduced a vampire a hundred and fifty times her age to a shaking pile of burnt skin on a table in the conference room. “The Authority will back its Chancellor and its Spokeswoman. I will discuss strategy with the chancellors, but expect to mobilize your vampires. We will have some for defense, but the majority will be coming to fight the Fae and the Tuatha de Danann.”
“This is madness,” one of the vampires shouted. “Give Warlow his whore and save the rest of us!”
“Really, Illinois?” Roman growled. “Warlow isn’t the only one willing to take out a monarch.”
“You would kill us for her?” Illinois questioned. “Is she that good at sucking your cock?”
Roman growled and stood up in his seat. But another hand was suddenly on his shoulder, pressing him into his seat. A fairy had teleported into the room. “You talk about my Granddaughter that way again, Illinois, and I’ll rip your fangs out and wrap you in silver before I stake you. Know this would all happen before you’re awake enough to defend yourself. I know where you sleep,” the middle-aged fairy growled. “Would everyone like to know the address? Or does no one else here know about your home in the Blackwell Forest Reserve?”
“I…I…” Illinois sputtered, at a loss for words.
“Granddaddy Earl!” Sookie exclaimed, having regained her voice.
“Fintan actually,” he corrected sheepishly. “You and I need to have a long talk about your origins, Sookie,” he said. “In the meantime, I will speak with the chancellors, the Norseman, and my granddaughter about strategy.” He glared menacingly, “None of you will move against us!”
“Guardian, you can’t allow this fairy to threaten us like this,” Illinois blustered.
“I can do as I wish, Vampire,” Fintan growled.
“He is only supporting what I ordered, Illinois,” the Guardian said with a shrug.
“This is outrageous!” Illinois argued, anger clear on his face. “You would take the side of this fairy over your own kind. I don’t care how well his whore of a granddaughter fucks you! Your duty is to us, the vampire race.”
“It is my duty to the vampire race I decide what is best. I do not feel it is in our best interest to kowtow before Dagda and Niall,” he replied scathingly.
Illinois snapped his mouth shut as he heard the firmness in Roman’s voice. The fairy-vampire whore would get them all killed, but as far as Illinois could see the Guardian was following his cock. The bitch really must be a good fuck if Roman was risking open warfare.
Fintan glared at the monitor before instructing, “I have information and bring help. Why don’t we call the rulers back later?” While Roman nodded, Eric was looking at Sookie.
For the second time in as many days Sookie was at a loss of what to say or do. Her grandfather, the man she thought had died over thirty years ago was standing before her and he was a fairy, a fairy named Fintan.
While Roman disconnected the calls, Fintan looked to his granddaughter. Though both seats beside her were taken, he somehow slipped beside her, fearlessly blocking Russell’s view of his child. He crouched down. “It’s very nice to meet you, Granddaughter. We have much to speak about,” he introduced. As he spoke, his appearance slowly shifted into his typical self, a slightly younger more muscular man, and shifted back. “I am sorry it has taken me so long to be able to see you again.”
“Why are you here?” Sookie asked, a hint of bitterness in her tone. “Or perhaps I should ask who you really are?”
“Can we speak in private, please?” he asked her, voicing the question loudly enough that everyone could hear and leave the room or indicate a space for them.
“No,” Sookie replied, not even trying to hide the distrust in her voice. “Whatever you have to say to me you can say in front of my maker and friends.”
“Fine,” he magicked a chair for him to sit in right behind her and waited until she was facing him to begin. “When your Grandmother was a girl she fell in love with a man. You’ve seen images of Earl I’m sure. Pictures of them dating, before they married.”
“I have,” Sookie said. “Granddaddy Earl was a handsome man and Gran loved him very much.”
“Well, your Gran was a beautiful woman, Sookie. When she couldn’t have a baby, she and your Granddaddy agreed to have someone help. I was in the woods by your house one day and she just captivated me, so I offered to help. I have the same ability as Claudine; I can make myself look like anyone, so when your Gran asked me, I did,” he explained.
“Why are you here now?” Sookie asked. The news that her Gran had cheated on her grandfather, even if it was with his permission, was a shock to her, but she didn’t have time to dwell on it at the moment. She would deal with that bit of news with Eric’s or Russell’s help later. For now she had to deal with Warlow and his threat.
“There’s more, Sookie,” he continued. “Your daddy, my son, Corbett, married Michelle but at some point when my father Niall discovered neither Corbett, Linda, nor Jason had fairy abilities, he decided his granddaughter Claudine would replace your mother. She made herself look like your father’s wife. They got rid of Michelle and Claudine took her place… as your father’s wife.” He waited for the truth to be understood.
“Claudine was my mother?” Sookie said, not sure if she heard him right. He had to be wrong; Susie couldn’t be both her sister and her niece.
“Yes, Sookie, she was. They killed my son and dropped Jason’s mother’s body off at the scene, enabling Claudine to do as she pleased since you were one of us,” Fintan closed his eyes; his pain from losing Corbett obvious on his face. He had been forced to leave, but he had loved his son.
“Why?” Sookie asked, tears filling her eyes. “Why would they do this?”
“Niall,” he supplied, shaking his head. “My father is willing to do anything to get his way. He was angry with me . . . when I used my time to be here in this realm, and when I was willing to father Adele’s children. You see, I’m a half-breed like you. Eight hundred years ago Niall took a human lover, and my brother and I are the result.”
“What does he want?” Nora asked, injecting herself into the conversation.
“He needed to fulfill the contract you found, Sookie. My brother and I were birthed to fulfill this contract, but we had never had a female from our lines who had fae ability. Claudine was ordered to step in,” Fintan sighed.
“So Claudine stepped into my daddy’s wife’s shoes and raped him, just so Niall could give a female heir to Warlow!” Sookie snapped, narrowing the whole things down to its basics.
“Then when you were turned, the same was done to your brother. Once Niall realized you were thinking about returning to the States, he ordered your death.”
“The poison,” Sookie whispered, turning her eyes to Russell. “It was him.”
“Yes,” Fintan answered. “I think I got to the boy’s flat just hours after he had left. I tried…”
“Why didn’t you come to us then?” Sookie hissed, her anger growing with each passing second. “For eight months I suffered while we tried to find a cure or someone who knew of one.”
“I knew you would destroy me, and then I wouldn’t be here to help you now,” he responded.
“If I would’ve died, then what?” Sookie asked.
“Then I would have taken down my father before joining you in the Summerlands, child,” Fintan replied. “Do you think this is easy?”
“I don’t think any of this is easy,” Sookie said. “I think I’ve had my life planned out before I was even born.”
“As have I, child,” he said. He wanted to reach out to her. She reminded him of his Adele, so strong and stubborn.
“What of Hunter?” Sookie asked. “How did that monster get him?”
“That was my granddaughter, Hadley. When the vampires were about to war with the Fae because of your turning, Niall confronted her and told her Hunter would be safe with him in Fairy. He said he could protect her; instead he gave the boy to Warlow. He was not a part of the contract, but he was meant to appease the Tuatha de Danann, to keep them from destroying the Fae,” Fintan explained.
At this Eric’s eyes widened and his fangs extended in anger. “When I was speaking with Niall, thirteen years ago, he said he would protect Sookie from Russell…”
“By giving her to Dagda and fulfilling the contract,” Fintan replied with a nod.
“You saved me in more ways than one,” Sookie said softly, turning her attention to Russell. She gave her maker a warm smile before turning back to Fintan. “Niall knew that I had been turned. He knew where I was the entire time.”
“Yes,” Fintan replied. He watched Eric for a moment, as the Viking looked like he wanted to rip someone’s head off. He struggled to calm himself, realizing the part he almost played.
Sookie reached for Eric’s hand and squeezed it hard. “Why did he not try to rescue me?” she asked, needing to know everything he did.
Fintan sighed. “As far as I know, he didn’t find you worth the risk. The Fae are having a hard time breeding, and to send any Fae into a vampire stronghold would more than likely mean losing a few Fae. I didn’t realize where you were until after you were turned.”
“Why didn’t he tell Eric where I was?” Sookie questioned. “Surely he knew Eric would’ve come for me.”
“Plausible deniability,” Fintan replied. “They said Claudine couldn’t sense you. They said they had no idea where you were. The bonds can be explained by how quickly you were taken out of the country and how contrived the blood bonds were with both vampires’ blood in you. However, Claudine always knew where you were, Sookie. Your Eric being so preoccupied only worked to the Fae’s favor; or did they not tell you how much they paid my father for his loss of you?”
“Nora said they put a price on my ‘death’ the night after it happened,” Sookie said, nodding towards her Queen.
“A hundred million,” Eric replied quietly.
“I wasn’t worth that,” Sookie said, her eyes widening as she heard the sum placed on her life.
Fintan looked at her, truly she was priceless. “Regardless, it was what he demanded and what they paid.”
“You gave them a hundred million dollars!” Sookie said, looking from Eric to Roman.
“And I would again, dear,” Roman added.
Sookie smiled softly at Roman before turning her gaze back to Fintan once again, “There’s more though, isn’t there? It wasn’t just money they wanted.”
“Nothing. Unless… well, Niall saw how you were strengthened by vampire blood. Claudine felt your powers grow, your spark strengthen. You had half Fae power, but with the vampire blood? You are as powerful as a full-blood fae, if not more.”
“So I was right,” Sookie said softly, turning to face Eric. “That was why Claudette magicked you.”
Fintan looked to Eric surprised. “She took your blood?” With his nod an affirmation, the fairy examined him. He knew the Viking wouldn’t want to be viewed with pity. “You’re very good, Norseman. Most they use do not survive,” he said respectfully.
“They’re draining vampires?” Nora asked.
“Mostly from areas where The Authority does not have jurisdiction. South America, Africa, South Asia. Areas where they would not be missed,” Fintan supplied.
“To what end?” Nora questioned. “They’re not drinking vampire blood to strengthen their abilities just so they can sit around and have tea. What are they planning?”
Fintan smiled sadly. “Remember, Nora. I’m a breeder as much as Sookie. Claudine was set to be his heir. I don’t know their end game.”
“Well, you must have a theory, an idea at least,” Nora said.
“The only thing I can imagine is either breeding or war,” Fintan responded.
“Why have you come to us now?” Nora said, asking another question plaguing her mind.
“Claudine, Niall’s heir, is dead. Warlow is joining Niall again and both are on the offensive. If you expect to survive, you will need my help. I would not see my granddaughter or great-granddaughter further injured.”
“What of the brother?” Nora questioned. “I believe Eric met him, though I do not know his name.”
“Claude was the bane of Niall’s existence; he was too obsessed with being significant to the human population and getting laid while refusing to sleep with any female, let alone a fairy. Now with his sisters dead, I imagine Niall is finding Claude very helpful at this point.” Fintan sighed, thinking of his nephew. He had tried to help the boy so often, but Claudine and Claudette had always pushed him away.
“What help can you give us?” Nora asked. “What do you want in return?”
“I gave you information to start, and I can bring you to Fairy and to Danann. In return I want the safety and happiness of my line. Sookie, Jason, and Susie need to be protected, and I’d prefer not to be eaten.”
Nora looked to Roman; he was in charge there. She would follow his command.
“Of course, old friend,” Roman said. “They already have our protection, and in all our years as friends, I have never once bitten you,” he joked.
“You know him?” Sookie said, shock clear in her voice.
“I did not know he was your grandfather, Sookie, but I have known him for centuries. Your grandfather once saved my undead life,” Roman added.
Sookie nodded, but said nothing. She was on information overload and didn’t know up from down.
Fintan leaned forward and placed his hand on her cheek. Despite her vampire nature, she still drew strength and calm from her kin’s touch as he gave it. “All will be well, child.”
“You can’t promise me that,” Sookie replied softly.
“No, but I will do my best, and as Niall’s son I do not come without my own set of skills,” he replied. “I am sorry… I never wanted you to know the truth of your origins. I wanted to protect you.”
“You can’t protect someone from the truth,” Sookie said with a small smile. “It’ll always come out eventually.”
“Of course, sweet Sookie,” he replied. “Did you know Sookie was my mother’s name? I was happy to be there for your birth, and happy to name you for your ancestor.”
“Why didn’t you stop Claudine then?” Sookie asked.
“My son… he was so happy. I thought I would be able to protect him and you,” he responded.
“So what happened?” Sookie questioned. “If you were there, where was Granddaddy Earl?”
“Earl passed away. He’d had a heart attack when he was 45, before Jason was even born so I came to live with and take care of Adele. She was so upset. The kids didn’t know and she didn’t want to tell them.”
Sookie nodded at his explanation, “So what do we do now?”
“Now we need to plan a strategy. Warlow won’t threaten and not follow through,” he looked to Roman and Nora, since he was a guest here.
“We need to know everything you know about him.” Nora said. “We can’t go into this blind.”
“Everything I know. Okay. Dagda Warlow is vicious, more bloodthirsty than a vampire, and probably just as hard if not harder to kill. He is a smooth talker, always has been, but he is brutal. He has no problem decimating people, his own included, if necessary. He is very strong, has the Fae attraction ability and the fighting power of a Britlingen. He can go between realms and be invisible if he wants. Warlow will not be an easy entity to destroy.”
“Doesn’t that sound like fun,” Nora snorted. “What of the rest of his people?”
“Various skills along the same lines. Most can use invisibility. Most are strong and excellent fighters. There’s a reason why they’re Niall’s work horses, but Warlow is not just strong, he’s intelligent.”
“Brain and brawn, a deadly combination,” Nora said.
“Exactly,” Fintan agreed. “He is ruthless and will be deadly.”
“What are we going to do?” Sookie asked, directing the question to no one in particular.
“We need to speak with Warlow. His attacks now will be random and large-scale to try to draw you out, Princess. We need to draw his attention somewhere so we can go behind him and stab him in the back. If he is as powerful as the fairy says, that will be how to destroy him,” Russell replied.
“You won’t let him get me or Susie?” Sookie said, talking directly to Russell.
“Never,” he and Eric replied at the same time.
“Nor will I,” Fintan added.
“None of us will, Sookie,” Nora said, agreeing with the others. “Right, darling?”
Roman nodded. “We need to call the monarchs — get them to understand the situation and our expectations.”
“At some point,” Fintan added, “I expect I’ll have to help you get into Danann.”
“So in the meantime?” Sookie questioned.
“Just as I said — we need him focused.”
“How’re we gonna do that? Sookie asked.
“You need to call him,” Eric supplied.
“Now?” Sookie asked wide-eyed. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for that just yet. She needed at least a few minutes to think.
“Tonight,” he said with a nod and a gentle squeeze to her knee.
“Okay,” Sookie replied softly as she leaned back in her chair.
“Take some time. Figure out what you want to say. We need him to focus here rather than on destroying random vampires,” Roman added.
“What am I going to say?” Sookie asked, looking to Russell and Eric for guidance.
“It depends on where you can take it. Part of it will be feeling out his responses. You might need to say you want to meet him first, or get to know him before you agree. You might need to challenge him right off,” Eric supplied.
Russell snorted, “See if he wants to date first?”
“I hate this,” Sookie admitted, her voice small. “Why can’t they just leave us all alone? It’s not safe for me to meet him though.”
“It might be under the right conditions,” Fintan supplied.
“If he can travel to any of the realms, how will we stop him just taking me?” Sookie asked.
“I can help there as well,” her grandfather answered, “but you will need to trust me as it will involve magicking you.”
“The last time someone used magic on me, I ended up almost dying,” Sookie said, recalling her poisoning.
“That is why I need your trust. I would never hurt you, blood of my blood, but, if you want, I can let you read my mind.”
“I’m sorry, but, yes,” Sookie replied, a slight look of shame on her face. “I learned the hard way how people can be deceitful.”
“Feel free, child,” Fintan replied, opening his mind to her.
Sookie took his face in her hands carefully and slipped into his mind. She saw his history play out, what Niall was really like, his hunger for power, and what he was willing to do to keep it. She saw everything Fintan told her was true. She saw it all.
“He’s telling the truth,” she said softly as she pulled back.
“You’re certain there’s no way for him to deceive you with his thoughts?” Eric asked, being cautious. He thought of Rene, Hugo, and the fae telepathic ability.
“There are ways to get around my telepathy,” Sookie admitted, “but his mind was completely open. There was no deception in his mind, and he hasn’t been glamored. He was being honest.”
Eric nodded, satisfied if she was.
“You want to trust him?” Russell asked in Romani.
“I do,” Sookie replied, switching to the language herself. “Do we really have a choice?”
He shrugged, resolved to keep an eye on the Fairy. He didn’t care who knew him or who trusted him. He’d need to prove himself to Russell.
“We’ll work with you for now,” Sookie said.