Prologue: Faerie World

SOOKIE SAT ON A STONE BENCH in the dreamy twin reality she had come to inhabit. She was thinking of nothing in particular, just watching the other faerie folk laugh and dance, when she noticed Claudine approaching. Claudine sat down next to Sookie, her normal cheerfulness subdued and quiet. She took one of Sookie's hands between her own, and said, "Sookie, I'm sorry to say that I have bad news. I have just returned from speaking with the Elders..." Her breath caught in her throat and she lowered her sad blue eyes, unable to continue.

"Yes?" Sookie questioned, on pins and needles, wanting her to continue. Claudine had mentioned that she might need to be brought before the Elders before her place in this hidden realm was assured. The uncharacteristic sadness in Claudine's voice unsettled Sookie. She was happy here and did not want anything to ruin it. Claudine met Sookie's eyes and forced the next words out. "Sookie, they have decided that you must return to your human life."

"What?" Sookie exclaimed, jumping to her feet, her eyes wide with horror. She paced back and forth in front of the stone bench, afraid that the ground might open up and swallow her if she stayed in one place. Claudine hung her head, clearly distressed by this sudden turn of events. "Why? Tell me why!" Sookie demanded in response to Claudine's silence.

Claudine's expressive, long lashed eyes shone with tears, but her voice was all calm serenity when she answered, "Sookie, you cannot stay here because they say that you have taken in too much vampire blood. The Elders fear that it will have a corruptive influence on you and, in time, on others. Please understand that no one knows exactly how these things work. One vampire has already tried to follow you here and they are afraid. Ultimately, they decided that the good of the many outweighs concern for the safety of just one."

Her words hung in the air as Sookie wrestled with them. She quit pacing and sat back down, suddenly feeling sick and woozy. Claudine placed her hand on Sookie's shoulder in a reassuring way, and Sookie tried to focus her thoughts on her surroundings. Every stone, tree, and rock glowed with a soft radiance; emanating a tangible sense of safety and security that soon would be only memory. Sookie grasped the stone bench, trying to center herself, focusing on how it emitted its own faint glow, humming quiet, unmoved and unmovable, completely exempt from all such tragedy.

Sookie groped inwardly for a coherent response. "I don't understand. I would never hurt anyone. Can't you talk to them again; make them understand?" She pleaded, her voice near to breaking. She could see the others in the distance, laughing, dancing, oblivious to her sudden crisis; and the cruel irony was not lost on her.

Claudine thought about telling her the whole truth then; how it might have been different if Sookie was full-faerie instead of, as one of the Elders had put it, a reckless, ill-starred half-breed who had unwittingly broken their principal law by getting involved with vampires. But she loved Sookie and could not bear to see her suffer more than necessary. "This is my fault, Sookie. Try not to blame them. The Elders remember when we tried to co-exist with vampires. It was our Great Folly and, if we had not hidden ourselves, there would be none of us left. I knew when I brought you here that it was possible that you would have to go back." Claudine shook her head and avoided Sookie's gaze as she continued, "That night when you pleaded for help at your grandmother's grave, I could not ignore your grief. I only wanted to protect you, if even just for a little while."

"But it's not safe for me there! You said so yourself. What will become of me?" Sookie stammered. The answer didn't really matter, regardless of her desire to pretend otherwise, deep down she knew that Claudine had handed her a death sentence. Suddenly, Claudine grabbed Sookie's shoulders in her small, strong hands and said, "Sookie, remember always that you are loved. You are one of us. Promise me that you will remember that… no matter what happens." Sookie avoided meeting Claudine's intense gaze, as if doing so would buy her more time to put off the inevitable. Instead, she let her eyes wander over her surroundings; trying to memorize every detail, gather every warm memory before it was all gone forever. "I promise," she whispered quietly, but it was a lie. A lie spoken for Claudine's benefit. In reality, she had never felt more bereft and abandoned, and she knew that is what would stick.

Tears welled up in Claudine's eyes and spilled down her rosy cheeks. But, to her credit, her calm composure never broke despite the ragged sobs that caught in her throat, making it hard for her to breathe. She pulled Sookie to her with surprising strength and held her close in a desperate, final embrace. Then without another word, Claudine released Sookie and smiled sadly. She turned and walked away to join the others, leaving Sookie alone. As her faerie kin faded from view, vanishing like so many ghosts into the ether, Sookie allowed her grief to overtake her. As she laid down to cry out her desolation, she could no longer hear the stone's gentle song. It was just a stone again; cold, dark, and unforgiving.