Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
Big love to Meridian (yet again) for helping work out the kinks in this story. Padore has patiently nudged me along the way, and since this story is almost done, I hope she enjoys what I turned it into!
This chapter is short but so action-packed I think I might be doing you a favor by not making it longer. Are you ready? Take a deep breath and dive in.
Eric, Pam, and Sookie formed a circle, standing back to back, the women with their weapons at the ready. A tremor moved through Eric’s legs as they waited for the approaching fairies. “I need a sword,” he whispered.
“I’ll get one for you,” Pam promised.
“Where is Niall? I can feel the portal, we’re right next to it.” Sookie touched the space in front of her, making the air shimmer for a moment. She started saying something else when one of the fairies surrounding them broke formation and ran toward her, swinging his sword wildly back and forth.
“I will kill her for my master!” he shouted.
Pam dropped to her knees and rolled toward the attacker, knocking his feet out from under him. His sword fell to the ground with a solid thud as she sank the rusty tines of her garden rake into his forearm. She yanked on the handle, ripping his hand away from his arm, blood spraying out of his newly formed stump. She gripped him by the throat and threw him to Eric, who waited with an open mouth to feast on his delicious blood.
Each swallow brought him closer to full health, the poison being forced out of the muscles in his legs, replaced by the fairy’s essence. He roared when he reduced the body to a heap of twinkling powder. He dusted his hands and stood to his full height.
Pam gave him the sword, which Eric held above his head and bellowed, “Who’s next?”
No one stepped forward. They seemed to be waiting, but for what?
Eric tried to fly, but the gummy air wouldn’t let him, holding him to the ground. He grunted in frustration. “What are you waiting for?”
“Me,” a voice called out across the hills, thundering through the air. Breandan strode toward them, his head held high, his brilliant red hair streaming behind him, visible even in the murky light coming from the sky. He narrowed his eyes as he approached. “Where is Oran?”
Eric licked his lips. “He was delicious.”
Breandan’s eyes flashed gold as he growled. He walked around the group until he faced Sookie. “You must be the filthy hybrid causing so much trouble. Niall’s beloved human offspring.” He scrunched up his nose. “To think someone so ugly and pathetic could cause so much trouble.”
“I would watch your tongue, if I were you,” Eric warned.
Breandan’s attention flickered to Eric, the same look of disdain on his face. “There is nothing you can do to stop me, vampire.” He spat the last word and kicked Eric’s sword out of his hand.
Eric reached into his pocket with his free hand and gripped the medallion, holding it tightly in his palm.
“No, but I can,” Niall answered as he and a group of sky fairies joined the fray holding their weapons menacingly. He was surrounded by many familiar faces, including Claudine, Claudette, and Claude.
Breandan whirled to face him, walking away from the trio of captives. “Your time to reign is done, old man. I intend to lead the Fae into a new world, a world where our blood isn’t tainted by those pathetic creatures. They steal our magic!” he yelled to his group of supporters, who all shouted in agreement to answer him. “They have ruined our realm. We must seal them out!”
“Yes!” they cried in agreement.
Breandan looked at Niall in disgust. “You shouldn’t be allowed to stand in my presence. You have consorted with humans for a millennium.” He scoffed. “Taking them to bed. Filling them with your seed.”
“Yes, I have loved humans,” Niall admitted.
The water fairies booed him, grumbling their repulsion.
Niall went on, “But would you rather have a prince who practices tolerance and love, or a mad man intent on ending countless lives?”
Breandan’s group turned on Niall’s and began screaming, intent on showing them where their loyalties were when Eric spoke.
“The tide rises and falls, bringing us together,” he said, waiting for Breandan to react. The din of the crowd was too loud, so he repeated himself, louder, more clearly. “The tide rises and falls, bringing us together.”
That time, Breandan heard and turned to look at him. He took a step closer; voices subsided as they watched Breandan approach Eric.
“The sea calls to me, but I love you more than life itself,” Eric recited the words that seemed to be flowing out of the medallion and into his hand. He smiled. “Atla,” he said.
Breandan walked toward him, pushing through the barrier of guards again.
The medallion urged him on, whispering the next line against his skin. “Because you love me, I forsake my world, my rites, my kin.”
Everyone went silent, listening to Eric and watching Breandan.
Breandan glowered and raised his sword, stopping when the tip pressed against Eric’s torso. “Stop.”
Eric didn’t flinch. “I will not let the sea pull us apart. I will ignore the tide.” He paused, looking Breandan right in the eye. “I will give my life for your love.”
Breandan frowned, a bewildered look on his face.
“Breandan is a hypocrite,” Eric announced to the crowd without breaking eye contact.
“Stop,” Breandan whispered.
“Breandan loved a human too. So much that he was willing to leave Faery for her.” He lowered his voice. “Did you know she was with child?”
Breandan’s eyes widened.
“He loved Atla more than anything,” he declared.
“Don’t. Say. Her. Name,” Breandan warned through clenched teeth, the tip of his sword piercing Eric’s skin.
“Atla,” Eric echoed quietly. The blade cut into the muscle between his ribs. “If you cut me, you spill your own blood.”
Breandan gasped and pulled away.
“Breandan and Atla had a son, Håkan the Red: King of Adelsö.”
A collective gasp rippled through the fairies, and Breandan’s silence only confirmed that Eric spoke the truth.
“Håkan the Red was my father!” he proclaimed. “Breandan is my grandfather. I am the last of his line!”
That announcement fractured the uneasy peace that kept sky and water from war. Niall attacked, and his supporters followed suit. Some of Breandan’s warriors fled, refusing to fight for a lost cause.
“How dare you speak such lies to me,” Breandan said, spitting each word in Eric’s face.
“I speak the truth.” He held the medallion up, the shiny metal reflecting the lavender sky. “How many people have you murdered in the name of your cause? The cause you, yourself, have not been true to?”
“Not enough,” he replied as he stabbed Eric in the chest, sinking his sword into his flesh.
Eric cried out in pain and fell to his knees just as two of Breandan’s fairies descended with silver chains, pinning him to the ground.
Sookie crumpled next to him, reaching out to him. Pam growled and swung at him with her weapon, but Breandan stopped her with a swift kick to the sternum, sending her flying backward out of sight.
Breandan raised his sword and sliced into Sookie’s neck, her scream rising above the sound of battle.
“Stop!” a man yelled, knocking the sword away from Sookie and putting himself between her and Breandan.
“I’m just finishing the work you were meant to do, Dermot.” Breandan pushed the sword into Dermot’s stomach and turned his attention back to Sookie. Dermot fell to the ground next to her.
Sookie had covered her neck with her hand, blood oozing through her fingers and running down her arm. When Breandan turned his attention on her again, she clutched her knife in her palm, the blade hidden safely inside.
“When you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” he said as he hovered over Sookie’s bleeding body. He sliced at her with his vicious blade, obviously enjoying her cries of pain, but that stopped suddenly when she stuck his arm with her knife.
“That’s for my parents,” she croaked and then she fell forward, onto the mass of Breandan’s disappearing form.
Eric fought his attackers with every ounce of strength, shifting his restraints around and burning new areas on his exposed skin. He could feel Sookie’s life force slipping away.
Pam loomed over him, slicing through the two fairies and coating him in fresh blood. She used the tip of her sword to lift the chains off him.
He rolled to Sookie and bit into his palm, moving her pale fingers out of the way and healing the gash in her neck. Her heart beat faintly against his skin. Next, he healed the wounds in her arm, licking her skin clean.
“She needs blood,” Pam said, squatting next to them, pushing Sookie’s hair out of her face and caressing her cheek.
“She’s too close to death,” Niall said as he approached, his regal face bleeding and his clothes ragged. “Let me heal you. We can live together here.” He put his hands together, forming a ball of pink light between his palms.
Sookie exhaled, her eyes blinking slowly. “No.”
Eric shifted Sookie in his arms, feeling the pain of each movement through their bond. Tears streamed down his face. “I love you too much to lose you.”
“Don’t let me go,” she murmured, struggling to form each word.
“Never,” he said, holding her tighter.
“I want to be with you,” she whispered and then added, “forever.”
Eric smiled and nodded. He bit into his wrist and held it to her lips.
On to Up All Night: Epilogue