Author's Note : I think by this point we all know the drill. I've been trying to get this chapter out for 2 weeks and it just hadn't been feeling right until this last rewrite. We're nearing the end of this story, probably two or three more chapters and it'll be over but don't worry. Sookie's finally starting to come around that it's time to decide what she wants and go for it, which is going to open up a lot of possibilities for her if she decides she wants them, both emotionally, physcially, and mentally. There's a big cliff hanger at the end of this chapter but ll I can say is there is a plan here, even if it's taken a while to get it ironed out.
Thank you, everyone, for all the wonderful reviews and the PMs. Even if some of you have been tapping your foot for an update I hope you're still enjoying the story.
Last Chapter : Maive battles against the shadowdancer, Xan, and seems to be able to hold her own. But after a few exchanges with Cory blocking her attempts to accurately deflect Xan's attacks, the Huntress decides it might be easier to fight the vampires if they suddenly lost their focus. She allows the scent of her blood to permeate the air, and the result costs Cory and Sookie their ability to watch the fight through their blood-bonded's eyes.
This Chapter : As the vampires go into an uncontrolled blood lust, Sookie and Cory are exposed and helpless.
The first one to move was Eric. Eyes wide, pupils dilated, and a look that screamed desire etched onto his face, he dove at the Huntress. When one of the dogs got in his way he wrapped one powerful hand around the scruff of its neck and flung it aside. I'd lost track of which dog was which but this one yipped in alarm before colliding with the side of the building. It dropped to the floor, lucky not to have gone over the side and apparently dazed enough to somehow make the flames surrounding its upper body flicker like they might go out. The rest of the vampires flung themselves into the opening.
As it had earlier, a bubble of energy surrounded the Huntress and pushed the vampires back. Xan's second familiar was caught inside the perimeter and whined in pain, its ears flattening and head swinging around as though it couldn't figure out what was causing the hurt. Cory and I watched helplessly as all the vampires hissed at the Huntress in frustration before throwing themselves against the barrier and I saw the Huntress stagger.
Suddenly our view was blocked as two figures appeared out of nowhere between us and the fight. They were tall, one distinctly male and the other female, wearing body armor that somehow looked familiar and draped in an eye-widening amount of weaponry. Britlingen, I thought, just as one of them reached down and ripped the table Cory and I were hiding under off its bolted supports. Before we could even scream they each reached out and hauled us to our feet, clamping their hands over our mouths while the vampires continued their assault on the Huntress.
"The Prince sent us," the woman said to me quietly as her partner muffled my shocked yells. "We need to leave." Cory and I would have protested but the two of them didn't give us a chance. Before I could even think about reacting I felt my feet go out from under me as a cloth was pulled up behind my knees. But I didn't go crashing to the ground. Instead I felt my suddenly limp body being lifted into the air with my legs tucked under me as I was wrapped up inside a cloth sack. I caught a glimpse of Cory being subjected to the same treatment and then being hoisted onto the front side of the female Britlingen like she was in some sort of sling. I felt the pressure of the man's body against my side as I was put in the same position on him with the cloth sack slung over one shoulder and across his back with me in the front. Neither of them seemed effected at all by the added weight.
My voice finally came back to me as a flap was raised over my head to tuck me completely into darkness. "Wait!" I shouted but that was all I could get out before I couldn't see anything. And just as suddenly as all this had happened, we were moving.
I screamed. One second we were standing still, albeit in a very unusual situation, and the next we were moving at a pace that probably would have put the fastest sprinter in the world to shame. In a moment of lucidity I wondered just how these two intended to get us off the roof but in the next instant I really wished I hadn't thought about it.
My stomach dropped into my feet as gravity suddenly started doing what it did best to things (and people!) that jumped off of roofs. This time I wasn't the only one screaming as Cory's shrieks joined in with my own.
With a jarring suddenness, we stopped falling at the dizzying speed of objects crashing towards the earth. But we were definitely still falling. I reached out and pushed the flap obscuring my vision aside and looked out at the lights of the buildings of Vegas. Dazed, it took me a minute to spot the female Britlingen in front of us, a pair of gliding wings spread out across her back and Cory hanging in the fabric sack underneath her body. Looking up I suddenly realized that the Britlingen I was attached to was looking down at me with an amused expression.
"Oi, Maru!" he called out to his companion. "This one opened the flap!"
"Just make sure she doesn't fall out!" came back the heated reply. "How many are behind us?"
The sack swayed wildly as the man swung his head around to look over his shoulder and I clamped my eyes shut to avoid picturing just what would happen if I did fall out. What was this thing made of anyway? And who were these guys? They had said they were from the Prince – that meant Niall, right? I certainly hoped so. I don't think I knew any other Princes.
After a moment the Britlingen relaxed back into his forward facing position, just in time to adjust his flight so he didn't crash into the side of another casino. "None!" he said at the same time as the woman – Maru? – shouted at him, "Ryu, watch!"
His deep chuckle was not reassuring. I was able to see two builds drifting by on either side of us but somehow I really just wanted to know who this guy was that had, for all intents and purposes, kidnapped me and Cory.
"I'm sorry, who are you?" I asked up at him, trying to keep my voice steady and loud enough that he could hear me through the wind rushing around us.
"Name's Ryuusei," he replied, not looking down this time. "My partner and I were sent to keep you safe by Prince Niall, though I'll be damned that we didn't expect you to actually need rescuing."
My mind reeled as I thought back to the other two Britlingen's I'd met in Rhodes. They'd been able to turn themselves invisible so that not even the vampires could detect them while they protected the King of Kentucky, which must have been what these two had done, but Batanya and Clovache had definitely possessed thick accents and had both been women. "You guys are Britlingens, right?" I asked, wanting to be sure and having nothing better to do at the moment than ask him questions.
He grinned at me, taking his eyes off his flight again. "You must get around," he commented before turning his focus back to navigating Vegas's skyline.
As I relaxed slightly a very clear sense of worry pierced through my adrenaline haze. "Are they going to be okay back there?" I asked.
"You mean the vamps?" he said, his tone implying that he didn't really care. "It looked like they wouldn't be going down without a fight at least."
"What do you mean, down without a fight? There were nine of them!" I couldn't quite believe that he thought the Huntress might actually stand a chance against that many vampires, even with her fancy powers. I was more worried about the blood-lust craze Eric, Bill, and Xan had been submerged in when we left them.
"Nine, or fifty, that's what the Huntress is built for," Ryu said conversationally as though it was common knowledge. Maybe for him it was. "We don't mess with her, she don't mess with us. Simple. Vamps are crazy, can't keep away from her, but that's how she hunts. Everyone wants a piece of her, she takes them apart."
"Can we go back for them?" I asked and then changed my mind about making it a request. "We have to go back for them!"
He looked down at me again and this time I noticed his eyes were a brilliant violet color. His features were what you might call 'rugged' and under more normal circumstances I might have looked at him twice, though I didn't care for his lack of empathy. "Keeping you safe first," he said firmly. I reached out to hear his thoughts almost as a reflex to get around his tight-lippedness and to my surprise I could 'hear' him quite clearly.
Them fairies never make nothing simple. Summer, winter, seelie, unseelie, the hunt, whatever they want to call themselves. At least this job is more interesting than our last one. Maybe the Guild is finally starting to appreciate our work. Hard to believe we were summoned by a fairy. Always a first time for everything. Ah, there's our landing spot.
Ryu's thoughts turned towards navigating himself in for a graceful touchdown, which I had to admit he pulled off a lot more smoothly than I would have thought possible.
"Let me go, you've got no right taking us like that!" came Cory's voice from where Maru was unslinging the cloth sack from her shoulder. I felt the bag around me shifting as Ryu moved to release me as well. My legs weren't quite steady as the cloth dropped away from me and I was grateful when he offered me his arm to steady myself while I concentrated on not being sick. Cory pushed Maru's hand away when she tried to offer her the same assistance and promptly fell to the ground. "Oh, God, Xan…" her voice trailed off as she was overcome with emotion.
I felt steady enough after a few seconds to walk over and put my arm around her. She turned her face into my shoulder and I felt her tears start soaking through my dress but I didn't really care about it just then. My anger and indignation boiled right up to the surface and I turned to look back at Ryu with a scowl as he folded up the wings from his and Maru's gliders into pouches that looked entirely too small to hold them. "Just why couldn't you two have shown up before the vampires went into blood-lust? And don't tell me you couldn't have helped them because you're both carrying more weapons than the entire Bon Temps and Monroe police departments combined and I'd bet anything they're more than just decorations."
Ryu raised both eyebrows at me as he continued folding but it was Maru who answered, "Not our mission, not our business." She'd moved to stand next to him after Cory refused her help and it was the first time I was able to really get a good look at both of them.
Their armor was deep red, not black like Batanya and Clovache's had been, but it looked like it was made out of the same lusterless material. I was pretty sure it was actually separate pieces but it covered them from neck to feet as well as down to the backs of their hands on their arms. Their gloves were fingerless and showed the only skin on their bodies besides their faces. Ryu was built like a body-builder with thick arms and wide shoulders that tapered down to a slim waist. Maru was slender but not skinny and although she wasn't as bulky as her male counterpart I didn't doubt that she was just as strong as he appeared to be. The one feature that stood out on her was her hair. Until then it had been hidden under her helmet, which sort of looked like something you'd see on a kick-boxer where it covered their heads while leaving their faces visible, but as she pulled it off it revealed long silky strands of a shocking silver hue. Vegas was so bright at night that I didn't for a second doubt that it really was silver, not white or grey. It matched her eyes.
Ryu had a very large sword strapped onto his back and Maru didn't, but that was the only real difference in their equipment. I guessed it was useful to be tall so they could carry more gear – Maru was only a few inches shorter than Ryu and he was definitely about as tall as Eric. If I'd even been inclined to count I'm sure I would have lost track of the number of knives sheathed on their bodies, and they each had a cross-bow and bolts strapped around them in appropriate holsters. There were several large pouches attached to their armor too and I didn't even want to start thinking about what might be inside them.
The more I noticed about them the more my brain cleared from the terror I'd been experiencing back in the club and I suddenly realized I had no idea where we had landed. That made me think to look around. We were on a tan floor, next to a very tall building. I could see a big road lit up with headlights and tail lights down (down? I half wondered. Are we on a roof?) to our left but I had no idea what road it might be. Heck I didn't even know where the Palms was, or Felipe's home compound.
Realizing that I was suddenly separated from the only people I really knew here was a chilling moment. I couldn't help it as I shivered, my arm tightening reflexively around Cory who had leaned back enough to wipe her eyes. And what proof did I have that these two Britlingens were really sent by my great-grandfather? He wasn't exactly on my list of popular people at the moment either.
But we were at least still in one piece, which was something I guessed. I just had no idea where to go from here. "So how long are you guys supposed to baby sit us for? And could you tell us where we are, please?" My Gran had always said that saying please was the fastest way to get a positive response and I wasn't about to throw my manners out the window just because I was scared, confused, and not a little uncertain about my present circumstances.
"We're on the roof of the Rio complex. We are awaiting further instructions from the Prince, who was aware of our activity the moment we broke stealth," Maru said crisply.
"And just how long had you been following us?" I asked. Cory was starting to come out of her stupor and indicated she wanted to stand up again. I wobbled a bit on my heels as I stood but Ryu was there again suddenly, helping both of us up and I was irrationally grateful to him. "Thanks."
"Can't have you two pretty things all shaken up, now can we?" he said as he flashed us a smile but neither Cory nor I was going to forget that he'd taken us against our will, dazzlingly handsome or not.
His partner was also less than amused. "Ryu, could you restrain yourself please? Or is that too much to ask?"
And as crazy as it might sound, the six-foot something warrior actually pouted in response. I almost snickered.
There was an audible pop that sounded from off to my left and although I recognized the sound my head still whipped around like I was expecting an attack. Instead I saw a woman who was almost six feet tall, with long, dark hair that was tucked behind slightly pointed ears, and a smile that was entirely genuine. "Hey, Claudine," I greeted, hoping it came out friendly enough.
"Sookie I'm so glad you're safe and sound," she said coming over with open arms to give me a hug. "What were you thinking, going to a meeting with vampires and the Huntress?"
"Well I was thinking that it wouldn't turn into a free-for-all since they were supposed to just meet to 'talk'. Not like I put myself in these situations on purpose you know," I said smartly.
"You're just so much trouble," she said brightly. Claudine was 'on her way up' in the fairy world, or so she had told me. I took it to mean that she was trying to become an angel. I'd asked my great-grandfather what that meant once and he had confessed once that angels were another form of fairy, one that had gone through a physical and moral transformation, whatever that meant, so I figured I wasn't too far off the mark. It was something that took hundreds of years but I think Claudine was fast-tracking her journey because I needed to be helped so often. Extra brownie points or something but she assured me that she wasn't anything like a brownie. "Is this a new friend of yours, Sookie?" Claudine asked as she looked over my shoulder.
For a second I thought she was talking about the Britlingens. "No, I mean, yes, sorry. Claudine, this is Corrine Platt. Cory, this is my, um, god-mother Claudine," I said politely, leaving out the fairy part. I wasn't sure what I should tell Cory about my relationship to Claudine but it was still a little surreal to suddenly be somewhere relatively calm and safe after what had happened in the night club. I was still shaky as my tension slowly unwound. It's hard to explain how scared you get in the middle of a fight even if you're just watching it from the sidelines. It really takes a toll, too, and I was starting to feel exhausted as the adrenaline seeped out of my system.
"Hi, it's nice to meet you," Cory managed between sniffles. She was not handling the rapid change in circumstance all that well.
"Oh, you poor thing," Claudine said in genuine concern. "Here." She bent over and gave Cory a quick kiss on the cheek, leaving a faint outline of her glossy lipstick behind.
Cory's eyes went wide as her tears dried up. She reached up one shaky hand to brush against her face where Claudine had touched her. "Wow, what was that."
My cousin beamed. "Just a little pick me up. It's a new trick, nothing harmless. I thought it would help."
Maru cleared her throat and I felt a flash of annoyance at her rudeness but decided not to say anything about it. "Do you have any further instructions for us or are we to proceed with the extraction?" she asked.
"No, no, change of plans," Claudine replied quickly, her tone losing some of its bright chipper quality as she got down to the real reason for her visit. She turned back to me. "Sookie, this, well, I'm not sure how to say this, but –" I started bracing myself for bad news. What? Oh, God, please, don't tell me they're dead! Please, please, I wouldn't have left them – "one of the Prince's enemies has gotten word about your relationship to him. Marubori and Ryuusei were supposed to just keep an eye on you in case the vampires got too rough or if you needed to leave in a hurry, but too much happened. He asked me to repeat his offer."
The discussion with Niall had only happened earlier tonight but it took me a minute to remember what it had been about. "I'm not leaving them Claudine," I stated firmly. "Cory and I would still be up there right now trying to help them if Bonnie and Clyde here hadn't abducted us."
Claudine smiled sadly. "He said you would probably say that, so he also asked me to offer an alternative."
"Can he help Eric, Bill, and Xan against the Huntress?"
"No, sweetie, he can't, I'm sorry. That's up to them to sort out."
I had to resist the impulse to throw my hands up in the air in exasperation. "Alright, then, what's this alternative?" I asked as I crossed my arms over my chest.
"He wants to know if you would accept training to be able to protect yourself and to find out the extent of your powers."
"Woah, extent of my –" I started just as Cory was asking, "You have other powers besides telepathy, Sookie?"
"No, I don't," I told them, "and the telepathy is more than enough. I wouldn't want other powers."
"Yes, he thinks that's why you can't use them. But you've got them, Sookie." Claudine said with a trace of something in her voice that almost sounded like jealousy.
I looked at her like she was a little green alien that had just hopped out of a disk-shaped space craft. "Claudine, that's ridiculous. Why would he say that?"
She shifted her feet uncomfortably and mumbled, "He sort of spied on you."
"He what? When?"
"After he came to you earlier tonight. He left the looking glass open to see if anything Bill or Eric said after he left would change your mind."
"Oh. Well. Wait, what does this have to do with me having other powers?"
Claudine looked at me funny. "You weren't listening to what Bill and Eric were saying at all, were you? He said you might not have been."
I blinked. "Umm," I said stupidly as I racked my brain for a hint of what she was getting at. I remembered zoning off into my own little world for a bit after Eric had asked what I'd meant by saying my life would be miserable without the two of them in it. Had he and Bill been talking then?
Their conversation swept back into my mind in a rush as though I was listening to them right now. They'd talked about …blood bonds? Bill had told Eric how many time's I'd had his blood and why. They'd made some cutting remarks about me putting words in their mouths and never asking them their side of things. My face flushed as their words rolled over me but nothing jumped out anything that would have interested my great-grandfather. "You don't mean from the vampire blood, do you?" I asked worriedly.
"No, silly. But I can see it's bothering you so I'll just explain. Bill mentioned the attack where you almost lost your life just after you met him. Niall was curious to see the circumstances, in case it was something more sinister than human retaliation. He had one of our scryers look back to those moments and that's when he found out you have more powers than just being telepathic."
I felt slow but somehow I wasn't tracking what Claudine was saying. "I…what do you mean? I found Bill in the parking lot because I could hear the Rattray's thoughts but that's it, and it didn't even save me from them getting the jump on me later because I block everything out most of the time."
"I watched it, Sookie, and it was more than that," Claudine said with certainty. "You remember the chain?"
"Sure. I hit Mack with it twice and the second time it got caught around his neck. It wouldn't come off and I felt bad about losing it but I wasn't about to ask for it back."
"And you never wondered how it 'got caught'?" she asked as she looked at me intently.
"Nope, it just got caught." Part of me understood what she was implying but the rest of me was in full blown denial. I didn't want extra powers. I just wanted to be human. It wasn't possible.
"Sookie," Claudine said softly, "It happened. You used telekinesis, or something like it, to disable a man who otherwise would have killed you while Bill was bound by silver and helpless. You knew that the danger and tapped into your gifts to stop them."
"Then how come it never came up any other time I was in danger, huh?" I retorted angrily. "I've been beaten, shot, staked, bitten, and almost burned, blown up, and raped more times than I even want to think about. And you're telling me that I might have had the power to stop some of those things if only I knew about it? I don't think so. The chain was a fluke."
"Were you ever protecting someone you cared about in any of those other cases?" Claudine asked gently.
That confused the heck out of me but I thought about it before answering. "Sort of. When I got staked I was protecting Betty Jo Pickard. And I'd only just met Bill."
Claudine looked thoughtful for a moment before speaking again. "But you liked Bill when you met him, right?"
"Sure," I said evasively, not wanting to go back down that road again.
"Sookie, just trust me. You've got other powers, ones that might only be triggered when someone you care about is in danger but you can learn to control them if you let Niall teach you."
"Niall would be teaching me?" I asked, surprised.
"Not all of the time, no, but he'd be there to keep an eye on you," Claudine said carefully.
Something she'd just said didn't sit quite right with me. "What do you mean, 'be there'? Where would I be?"
"Oh, well, it would be easier if you were protected until you were trained so you'd be in one of the lower parts of the fairy realm. Close to where I started out actually. Less of a strain on you than some of the higher places, since you're mostly mortal."
I blinked. "Claudine, no. I'm not leaving Bon Temps, let alone 'this realm' or whatever you want to call it. If Niall is so concerned about me he can come explain to me who this enemy is and why I need to be worried about him. I haven't done anything wrong, so if you'll excuse me, I'd like to figure out a way to find out how Bill and Eric are, and Xan for my friend Cory's sake, and that's it. No training, no being taken away, just us figuring it all out like we've always done." I remembered my resolution to myself about being honest about my life and I wasn't about to start letting some fairy Prince, my great-grandfather or not, start dictating what I should do. His enemy's were his problem, not mine.
It was Cory's eyes that brought me out of my internal stewing. They'd gotten really wide and were reflecting the neon lights of the Rio like small pools of water. She was in shock all over again. "Cory, what – " I reached out to get her attention and as soon as my hand brushed her arm I was flooded with her thoughts.
The club is on fire. Oh, no, oh no. Xan! Can I feel him? I don't think I feel him! Xan!
I jerked my hand back and looked up at what she was seeing. Across the road, where it seemed so close but at the same time very far away despite us having been there not even twenty minutes ago, one of the terrace's on the building that said "Palms" was on fire.
My stomach suddenly felt like I'd eaten lead as I ripped down my shields and reached out to my vampires.
Disclaimer : Charlaine Harris retains sole rights to the SVM and its characters and I am in no way attempting to infringe on the world she has created. Her characters are being borrowed as creative inspirations, and are being portrayed here merely through my interpretation of their interactions. Cory and Xan are my own creation solely for use in this fanfic. Maive, Ryu, and Maru are all my original characters as well. Thanks for reading.