LATE Chapter 100 original

The Wiccaning

 

Sookie’s eyes flew open and she was sitting in the magick room in Elfyria again. The familiar hourglass with the golden sand sat next to her, so she flipped it and the Book of Shadows opened itself to a particular page as a gentle warm breeze blew by.

“The Fae at War” Sookie read at the top of the page. It was an enemies list of sorts, with notes as to exactly what grievance with each group or individual the Fae held. The last entry was by a Queen Mother Genevieve H’Eloise and she had written “Niall Brigant, for the murder of my daughter, Queen Titania, and the death of her dear father, Lachlan, who died of a broken heart shortly after.”

Sookie’s blood ran cold as she read it, and she wondered what ever happened to Queen Mother Genevieve. She paged through the book and found a record of births and deaths that recorded her death, exactly one year and one day after Lachlan’s, and the reason for both was marked as a broken heart. Sookie turned the page and was surprised to see her own family tree and a notation by her name that said, “Titania’s chosen heir,” after it. She ran her finger over the writing.

“Ye called, Milady?”

Sookie was startled, but was glad she didn’t jump. There was an old woman in a grey blue gown with a white under-blouse and a matching old-fashioned kerchief on her head, in a deep curtsey and her eyes cast down, holding some kind of embroidered cloth over her arm.

“Hello,” Sookie said, remembering her manners, “I’m Sookie.”

“Oh, yes, Milady, I know who ye are,” the older lady said in a thick brogue of some sort – Irish? Scottish? Welsh? “I’d have picked ye out of a crowd anywhere in the world. Ye are so like our Titania, I can scarce believe it. We’ve been waiting for ye to come home. I’m Madeleine. I’ve been with the H’Eloise family almost 400 years. I was Titania’s nurse, and now I’ll be your Lady in Waiting if ye’ll have me.”

“Oh, well, it’s nice to meet you,” Sookie stood up, noticing she was in her black ritual dress and nothing else again, and she stepped forward to shake the older woman’s hand. Sookie wouldn’t have guessed she was over 60. “Do I call you Madeleine, or…”

“Your great grandmother called me Maddy. Whichever ye prefer is fine, Milady.” She began unfolding what turned out to be a gorgeous embroidered pink gown with long bell sleeves.

“I like Maddy,” Sookie said sweetly, taking an instant liking to the older lady. “Do you work for Niall now?”

“My birthright is to maintain the H’Eloise home. The Prince has not the authority to replace me, though he’d certainly like to. The Council would never allow it, nor would the White Ladies,” she explained as she helped Sookie into the robe. It was a little cold in here, so Sookie didn’t mind having something warmer to wear.

“White Ladies?”

“Yes, Milady – ye haven’t met them yet, have ye, now?” She helped Sookie with the gold buttons on front of the gown as she spoke. “Their proper title is Witte Wieven, which means Wise Women, but they’re more commonly called the White Ladies. They’re the spirits of powerful Witches who’ve become immortal and live among the Fae. They’re the governing body in Elfyria. Only they could separate me and mine from our birthright, and Niall knows that if he were to openly oppose them, he’d lose most of his support.”

“He has a lot of support?”

“Enough to hold the throne this long, but there are those who are near taking it. It will help him a great deal when your heritage is announced at the Wiccaning.”

“Oh, you know about that?”

“Why, I’ll be there! I wouldn’t miss it for the world. We’ve waited a long time for this day. You should hear the rumors, Milady – the people are buzzing like a beehive about the idea of finally seeing the True Heir and now there are rumors of twin Princes! It’s the biggest celebration anyone has seen since poor Queen Titania married Prince Niall!”

“Do they know anything about the Princes?” Sookie asked nervously as Madeleine went to a cabinet at the side of the room and took a pair of burgundy, gold-embroidered ballerina slippers and knelt to put them on Sookie’s feet.

“Not to worry, Milady, they know about the fangs. Your little ones won’t be the first or the last of the Tuatha to have a taste for blood.”

“Oh, good – I was worried about that,” Sookie said as she let the woman lead her down a long, long corridor of white stone. Sookie ran her hand over the stone and enjoyed the cool feel of it as they walked.

“They say one is more Vampire and one more Fae – is that true?”

“Yes, so the Fae twin, Eric Auberon will have the H’Eloise name and he’ll be my heir. The other boy, Eric Alexander, will be my husband’s heir.”

“Your husband is the Fae Vampire, yes?”

“Yes, but most people only know him as a Vampire.”

“I can well understand that. The Vampires wouldn’t trust him if they knew, after the wars and all.”

“Yes, and he’s a really good king and the best possible husband.”

“I’m sure he is, Milady, or ye wouldn’t have chosen him. It’s a grand love story, I hear.”

“I think so – we knew it the minute we met, but I was afraid of him. He fought for me, though, and didn’t give up, no matter how stubborn I was,” Sookie laughed.

Madeleine smiled as she opened the big wooden door to the Queen’s chambers.

Sookie stopped cold as she stepped into the room. Tears streamed from her eyes.

“My Goddess,” she said softly, “I remember this!”

“Of course, ye do – these are your rooms. This was your favorite place in the world, my Child.”

“Nothing has changed!”

“We’ve kept it just as ye left it, Milady, and everything in here is clean and fit to use,” Maddy told her proudly.

Sookie walked over to the big, canopied bed and pulled back a dark burgundy velvet curtain. She had an overwhelming urge to lie down, so she did and Maddy pulled a beautiful quilt up over her. “I can’t believe I’m so tired.”

“You go to sleep now, Love, and don’t worry about anything. I’ll be here when ye wake up.”

Sookie was asleep, but aware of it, and she enjoyed the comfort of the bed and the warmth of the quilt, the feeling of being home… HOME! “Trygg i min säng, trygg i min säng, trygg i min säng!”

Sookie’s eyes popped open and she was in her own bedroom. “Bjorn?” she said in a little panic.

“Good morning,” he smiled at her from his usual spot.

Sookie rolled to face him, relieved, but not really sure why. She rested her hand on Aubie’s tummy for a second, then just pulled him to her and cuddled him as he slept.

“I guess Alex is in the gym?”

“Yep, Amelia is with him.”

“OK, that’s good, I guess,” she said as she stroked Aubie’s hair and cheek, tears streaming from her eyes as she looked at him.

“Sookie, are you crying? Did you have a bad dream?” Bjorn was concerned now. He half expected Sookie to break down at some point with all this change going on, He knew she had the power of a Goddess, but in her mind she was still very much a little girl from Bon Temps. Anyone would have a hard time adjusting to all this change and he figured she was entitled to give in to her nerves now and then, though he’d move heaven and earth to keep her from suffering. Bjorn didn’t have a proper title for Sookie – she sure as hell wasn’t a mother or sister to him – but she was family, just the same.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me – I was in Elfyria and I went to sleep, and then I remembered I was needed at home and here I am. I was really there, though, Bjorn and it felt so comfortable and familiar! I remembered that room and that bed, and I know my good stuff is in the trunk at the foot of the bed and where my secret hiding place is…”

“What room, Sookie?” Bjorn spoke softly, trying to be as soothing as possible.

She spoke very quickly, still weeping. “Titania’s bedroom in the castle in Elfyria. I met her nurse, or lady in waiting or whatever and she wrapped me in this soft warm gown and these cute little slippers and took me to her rooms and it was like coming home. Everything in me just needed to snuggle into that bed and hide, and I did, and she said she’d be there when I awoke, but then I remembered this is home and said my spell to be in my own bed.”

“But you were here, Sookie – I was sitting right here watching you sleep.”

“I didn’t go anywhere?”

“No. You’ve been right there all night. You haven’t been alone at any time. Jerry sat here and watched you, then I took over. You’ve never been out of our sight.”

“It was real, though! I know it was!”

“Then you’re able to be two places at once, Hon. That’s a pretty handy skill,” he teased her and gave her a big grin, trying to lighten her mood.

“Yeah, I guess so, huh?” She laughed a little. Aubie woke up and reached for her face and she kissed his lips and hugged him to her. She felt comfort and love coming from him and she mirrored it back as best she could, immediately feeling grounded.

Bjorn didn’t say anything, hoping she’d doze off and forget about being sad, and it wasn’t long before she and Aubie were sleeping peacefully.

Aubie called out “Mama!” and Sookie talked to him, never opening her eyes, and managed to open the buttons on her gown to let him feed. He fed enthusiastically and she smiled to herself as she adjusted his position and moved her arm out to the side where it brushed the velvet curtain surrounding them.

Velvet curtain?

Sookie sat up with Aubie in her arms and realized they were in Elfyria.

“Are ye awake already, Milady?” The nurse looked in to see Sookie nursing Aubie. “Oh, my! Is that our Prince?”

“Uh, yeah, please don’t tell anyone. I don’t think Niall should know he’s here!”

“I should say not! You needn’t worry, though, Milady, I’ve got guards in the corridor. Even if he came down the passageway, and he never does, he’d not get past them. They know you’re here and I promise ye, they’ll guard ye with their lives.”

“OK, do I remember a rocking chair in here I can use?”

“Yes, of course – your rocking chair is by the hearth where it always is!” She helped Sookie get her shoes back on and get out of the bed, then led them to the other side of the room where the fire felt warm and soothing against the chill morning air. Sookie sat in the gorgeous oak rocker, which was upholstered in burgundy leather and felt like it was hugging her as she sat in it. The nurse brought a soft little blanket woven in shades of blue. “Wrap him in this, Milady, he won’t like the cold. Fae children love to be warm.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that, but I know he certainly loves to be warm. He likes to be held, too.”

“Of course he does! Nowhere in this world or any other will he feel as loved as when he’s in his mother’s arms,” she said softly as she admired the baby at Sookie’s breast. “What a little Angel! So fair and such fine features! I’ve ne’er seen bluer eyes in all my years!”

“He has Eric’s eyes. You should see how they sparkle when he laughs!”

“I expect I’ll be seeing a lot of that, Milady. You’ll be coming to visit regular now that you know where we are, and what you’re about.”

“Yeah, I guess I will…”

“It’s all unfolding just as ye foretold, Milady. Have no fear, Child – the Goddess is with ye, just as She always was.”

“Hey, wait a minute – you know Eric, don’t you?”

“Yes, Milady, I do. He’s a hard man to forget, even after all this time,” the old lady said with a knowing smile.

“Yeah, I guess he is. What do you remember about them? When they were together?”

“I ne’er saw love the like of they had before or since. That kind of love lasts forever, but you already know that, Child. You’ve always known it.”

“How many people knew – about Eric, I mean?”

“But four people in this world – me, the chamber maid, and your two most loyal guards. No one else in the house ever knew he was here.”

“Where did he shelter in the daytime?”

“In your bed, Milady – no need for coffins in this world. Our sun wouldn’t burn him, though he did rest in the day time.”

“So we could sleep together like normal here?”

“As normal as any other Fae couple,” she laughed. “As long as he’s not trying to feed on the help.”

“Oh, Eric would never do that!”

“He didn’t seem tempted when he was here last, so I can believe that. He only had eyes for you.”

“Thanks. Oh, no – the baby is wet!” Sookie said, patting his bottom

“Let me run get a fresh diaper for him, Milady. I’ve got some things stored away, just in case.”

“Great, thank you, Maddy.” Sookie said as she continued to rock Aubie as he suckled, talking to him softly and looking into his eyes. “What do you think of this place, Aubie? Technically, it’s ours. Someday, when you grow up, you might live here all the time, but only if you want to. We’ll come to visit and see how we like it and you’ve got a long time to see how you feel about things, and so have I. We’re just going to keep all of our options open, as much as the Goddess will let us.”

Aubie giggled against her and his eyes sparkled.

“What was that for? Was that giggle for the Goddess?” she teased him.

“Ah!” he said playfully, and reached up to Sookie so she pulled him up into a hug. He laid his head on her shoulder for a bit, then leaned back so he could see Sookie’s face, patting both cheeks with his little hands. “Mama!”

“Yeah, I’m your Mama.” She touched her forehead to his, “I’m Aubie’s mama, and Aubie is my sweet boy!”

He giggled and hugged her again as Madeleine came back in with some white cloths.

“Would you like me to change him, Milady?”

“Oh – no, that’s OK, I like to do it when I’m awake. He’s a little shy of people he doesn’t know,” Sookie told her, hoping she wouldn’t hurt her feelings. So far, Sookie felt like this was just the Fae version of Margaret and she felt much more comfortable than was probably smart, she told herself, but then she also knew this was a confidant of Titania’s. “This might seem like a strange question, but how do we get back?” Sookie asked as she carried the baby to the bed.

“Well, I’m not an expert by any means, Milady, but I believe all you have to do is lie down with the baby in your arms and you’ll wake up there.”

“So, when I go to sleep there, I’ll be awake here?” Sookie thought she understood now, trying to process that idea and wrestle with diaper pins at the same time.

“Yes, if you like. I’m sure it’s up to you. You’ll get the run of it pretty quick, I’d say – you always excelled in your magick.”

“OK, well, I think I should go back now, but we’ll be back.”

“Alright, Love, just remember – if you want to bring Prince Auberon with you, hold him in your arms as you sleep. Otherwise, you’ll come alone.”

“Would that work with Eric?”

“I don’t know – you’ll have to try it and find out. Just as you used to say – “anyone can make a wish, but the magick is in the doing.”

“This might sound strange, too, but, is there anything here I could take back with me? Just to have something to remind me?”

“Have you got a key in your pocket there?”

Sookie reached into the pocket of the pink robe she was wearing and there was an old-fashioned brass key. “Yeah, there is!”

“That will open the trunk at the foot of your bed. You kept your jewelry and letters and such in there. Maybe you’ll find something there you would like?”

“Oh, good idea. I’m kind of curious to see what sh… I mean, what I left,” Sookie said, but as the words left her lips, she was pretty sure she knew most of what was in it.

“You go ahead and take your time, and I’ll be outside the door. If you need me, just give a call, and if you want to go back, just take the baby and go to sleep.”

“Thank you so much!” Sookie picked Aubie up and went to the huge wooden trunk with brass corners. There was a stack of big velvet pillows beside it in deep, jewel colors, so Sookie pulled a purple one next to her and laid Aubie on it.

There was a little trick to getting the brass key to open the lock and Sookie was surprised that she instantly knew how to twist it just so, so that the tumblers would snap into place. She was shaking all over as she lifted the big lid, and could barely breathe as she looked inside. There was a beautiful black silk quilt, embroidered with pastel flowers done delicately in silk thread. Sookie knew it had been a wedding present, but that Titania loved it just the same because an…. Aunt, that’s right, Titania’s Aunt Katherine… had made it for her by hand. Sookie gently lifted it out and underneath there was a stack of old letters, some books that seemed to be hand written poems and spells, and a beautifully carved rosewood box that held Titania’s favorite pieces of jewelry. Sookie was very excited to see the string of rosary beads she’d “seen” Titania use to pray, and she instantly knew that was what she wanted. She took the beads out of the box, kissed them, then closed it back up and put everything back in place. There was more to explore, but she’d do that another time. She really wanted to get Aubie back home and make sure Alex was alright, since he’d gotten upset before when she’d been away. Sookie locked the trunk and put the key back in her pocket, then took Aubie and the beads and got back into the bed. “OK, boy-a-mine, let’s go to sleep now, alright?” She pulled the soft quilt up over them and they snuggled together, both of them going to sleep quickly.

[corresponds to Entitlement Chapter 017]

Sookie was standing on the shore holding Aubie, but Freyja was nowhere to be seen. Sookie heard a gasp behind her and turned to see what looked like a mirror image of herself, dressed exactly the same, but somehow she knew this girl was younger than she.

“Who are you?” she asked, not wanting to scare the apparition, or whatever she was, away.

“I’m Sookie Stackhouse, but I think I’m you,” the Younger said, a little scared and a little cautious, but also fascinated.

“I’m Sookie Northman now,” Sookie said with a soft smile, suddenly feeling the urge to protect the girl in front of her.

“What year is it?” The Younger Sookie suddenly became excited that she knew what was happening. “I live in 2006.”

“It’s 2009 where I am.”

“Is that my baby? Eric’s baby?” The girl touched her own stomach, which Sookie noticed was just starting to form the familiar bubble.

“One of them. They’re twins, you know, don’t let anybody tell you different.”

“Twins! Eric will be thrilled!”

“Yes, he will,” Sookie beamed at her younger self.

“Are we still happy and in love?” the Younger asked hopefully.

“More than ever,” Sookie smiled, walking closer so the Younger Sookie could see the baby, “This is Eric Auberon. His brother is Eric Alexander.” The Younger looked closely, but both Sookies were instinctively afraid to touch. Aubie looked at the Younger with big blue eyes, and a tear came to the Younger’s eye.

“He has Eric’s eyes! He’s so beautiful – is he Vampire or Fae?”

“This one’s Fae, but there’s one of each, and Sookie, never trust Niall. He’ll try to keep the Fae child if you’re not careful. Ask Freyja to help you keep them together!”

“Freyja! She told me to give this to you,” the Younger held out the Goddess rosary beads she and Bobbie had made.

Sookie reached for them, but there was a shimmer of light and an identical string was hanging from her own hand.

“Freyja said to tell you that the others need to stay in…what was that name?”

“Elfyria?”

“Yes, the other rosary beads have to stay there, but She said to give you these.”

“Where did they come from?” Sookie asked as she looked at the beads. Aubie was looking them over, too, and playing with them.

“Bobbie and I made them of materials that Freyja likes – rubies, garnets, copper, rose quartz,” she listed all she could remember.

“You know Bobbie? In 2006? And you’re already pregnant?”

“Yeah, Eric and I just clicked and before we knew what hit us, we were bonded and expecting Baby E in just a week or so!”

Sookie suddenly had a thought. “Sookie, this is important – did you ever sleep with Bill Compton?”

“No, thank Goddess! Eric got me away from him before we got that close. He was just trying to recruit me for his Queen!”

Sookie closed her eyes and said, “Thank you, Goddess!”

She opened her eyes and she was lying in her bed, Aubie in her arms, and the rosary beads in her hand.

“Hey, sleepy head,” Bjorn teased her.

“Hey! Is Bobbie up yet? I have to tell her something right away!” Sookie kissed Aubie’s forehead twice and put him in the co-sleeper.

“She should be up by now – want me to call her cell phone?”

“Yes, I really need to tell her what just happened so she can tell me about these beads!” She struggled a little, pulling herself up to a sitting position.

“Where did those come from?” Bjorn didn’t remember seeing those before.

“You won’t believe me when I tell you! I don’t even believe it, but here they are!”

Bjorn buzzed Bobbie, who was just out of the shower, then Sookie buzzed down to the kitchen for some breakfast. Amelia came in with Alex as Sookie sat up, and Bobbie came bopping down the steps behind her.

“Maybe Octavia should be here for this?” Sookie asked out loud, though she was talking to herself.

“What’s going on, Sookie?” Amelia wondered

“You won’t believe it! I don’t believe it!”

Amelia handed Alex to Bjorn as she said, “I’ll go get Octavia, Hon. Be right back!”

Amelia knew this would be something juicy because Sookie was so excited.

“Sookie. is it good or bad?” Bobbie was dying to know what was up now, and she was frantically looking for a blank page in her journal that she grabbed on her way out of her room.

“It’s AMAZING! Do you know what these are?” Sookie held the beads out to her.

“Yeah, it’s a Goddess rosary. This looks like one I made for myself ages ago – I even tied the end off this way, see? I wonder where those are?”

They could hear Amelia and Octavia coming up the stairs so Sookie said, “hang on…” until they got into the room. Octavia, still in her robe, came over and sat at the table opposite Bjorn, “Mornin’, Queenie.” Amelia leaned against the doorway to the bathroom, and Bobbie sat on the foot of the bed on Eric’s side, still looking over the beads.

“OK, y’all, you won’t believe the morning I’ve had!”

“Somebody taking notes?” Octavia asked and Bobbie showed she had her journal open and pen at the ready.

“OK, this is a three-parter. First, I woke up in Elfyria this morning, in front of the book, but then I met my lady in waiting, Madeleine, who showed me to my rooms, meaning Titania’s rooms, and I knew the place instantly. I lay down in the bed there, went to sleep and woke up here. I was a little freaked out, as Bjorn can attest, then I hugged Aubie to me and went back to sleep. The two of us woke up in Elfyria, I breast fed him rocking by the fire in Titania’s room and I changed his diaper – see this weird cloth it’s made of? And then I wanted something to bring back with me so I went into this big trunk and found her jewelry box and I took a string of what I guess were rosary beads out of it to bring back with me. I got back into bed, beads in hand, Aubie in my arms, and I woke up on the shore where I usually see Freyja. Ok, are you with me?”

Everyone nodded or said ‘yes,’ hanging on every word she said.

“OK, I hear this gasp and turn around and there’s me, but a younger me. I’m face to face with Sookie from 2006!”

“Holy shit!” Bobbie was jumping out of her skin, Amelia was laughing with delight, Octavia was impressed and Bjorn was trying to digest what she’d just said.

“Ok, so I’m standing there, holding Aubie and she says she’s from 2006 and I told her I’m from 2009. She asks if she and Eric are still together, I say it’s better than ever, and I warn her that there are two babies, and not to trust Niall and I let her look at Aubie, but both of us know we shouldn’t touch – I don’t know how, but we did. She notices he has Eric’s eyes, I tell her he’s Fae and Eric Alexander is Vampire, then I mention Freyja and she says Freyja said the rosary beads of Titania’s needed to stay in Elfyia, but she’s supposed to give me these. She holds up a string of beads then there’s a flash of light and I’m holding this…” she indicated the string of beads Bobbie had, “identical string of beads, and I asked her where they came from. She said she and Bobbie made them. I said, wait – it’s 2006 and you know Bobbie and you’re already pregnant? And I suddenly understood, and I asked if she ever slept with Bill Compton and she said, no, she and Eric hooked up and were bonded and pregnant the first week they knew each other and he got her away from Bill before they got that close. Then I closed my eyes and said, “thank you, Goddess,” and when I opened them, Aubie and I were here, just now!”

“Wow!” came from Bobbie and Amelia as Bjorn and Octavia made similar exclamations.

“OK, Octavia, tell me if I’m right – that wasn’t just a younger me, it was a me from a different dimension or something – one where I met Eric and did everything right, right?”

“That certainly sounds like what happened,” Octavia laughed as she was beginning to absorb it.

“So somewhere, some version of me got it right, right?” Sookie was getting a bit giddy, which did not escape Bjorn’s notice.

“It certainly sounds like it. And she told you she and Bobbie made these beads? Bobbie, you ever done anything like that before?”

“Yeah, I have. If I look through my stuff I can show you a set I made for myself, and what’s funny is, I even tied them off the same way this one is here, see?” She held the beads out and let Octavia see how the ends were knotted and joined at the connector.

“Well, then, Queenie, I’d say your next move is to learn to use them.”

“Wait, are they rosary beads? Is that the right name for them?”

“Yep, that’s the right name. I can tell you how to use them, but I don’t know a lot about the use of prayer beads in history or other cultures, I just know they use them in these parts.” Octavia said.

“I know about them…” Bobbie said as Alicia came in with Sookie’s breakfast tray.

“OK, then Bobbie, teach her everything you know. I’m going to go get a cup of coffee and think about this.” Octavia said as she went to the stairs so she could go to her room and get dressed.

Amelia took Aubie to feed him, and Bjorn fed Alex as usual. Bobbie went upstairs to find her own beads, and Sookie wolfed down a big breakfast of her favorite, salmon and bagels. When Bobbie got back she spent almost an hour giving Sookie a rundown of the use of rosaries in different religions and cultures.

“So, they’re originally a Goddess thing?”

“Yep.”

“Do people know this?”

“Nope.”

“And the beads symbolize the petals of a rose, and the petals of the rose are the…”

“….Labia of the Goddess. If they only knew, huh?” Bobbie laughed and everyone else did, too.

“So, why do Catholics use them?”

“It’s one of those things people wouldn’t let go of when they were forced to convert, so they wrote new uses and meanings for them. Jesus didn’t approve of rosaries. He told his followers not to use “vain repetition as the “heathen do.””

“For real? I could look that up in a bible?”

“Yep, Mathew 6:7.”

“Is there a bible around here, anywhere?”

“Octavia has one, Hon,” Amelia told her.

“OK, I want to see it later. Not that I don’t believe you, Bobbie, I just need to see it for myself for some reason.”

“No problem. I had to look it up when I found out about it, too. It’s just another example of people claiming to practice a religion when they really have no idea what its sacred texts say. People will kill in the name of a religion they know very little about.”

“That’s hard to wrap my mind around, but I know it’s true. They think they know what it’s about, but they really don’t.”

“The thing that gets me,” Amelia said, “Is that they’ll do the sickest stuff imaginable if they think “god” is on their side. Some of the stuff they did in the Inquisitions in the name of religion – it’s worse than any slasher movie you’ve ever seen, and these were Catholics and Protestants both, all claiming to be doing “god’s” work.”

“Look at the stuff they did in Abu Ghraib – it wasn’t as gory, but there was no reason for it, and I guarantee you, at the time they did it, they thought they were doing the right thing,” Bobbie said.

“Some of them said they were following orders,” Bjorn said, knowing more about the situation than he could say, “who knows? Maybe they were.”

“That argument didn’t help anybody at Nuremburg,” Bobbie responded.

“There’s a book called The Lucifer Effect,” Bjorn said, “have you heard of it?”

“I haven’t read it but I know of it – it’s about that Stanford Prison Experiment,” Bobbie said.

“I’ve read it,” Amelia replied. “It’s pretty heavy reading, but it’s important information.”

“OK, I never heard of it, what do I need to know from it?” Sookie asked.

“It’s an experiment they did with a bunch of average college students,” Bobbie explained, “where they randomly assigned some as guards and some as prisoners. It only took days for the guards to begin to dehumanize and degrade the prisoners. They got so sadistic so quickly that they had to end the experiment early.”

“See,” Bjorn continued, “one of the things a dominant group does when they want to control or oppress people is to dehumanize them. Like in Nazi Germany, they started rumors that Jews ate babies…”

“They did that with Witches, too,” Amelia added.

“Right, it’s a standard tactic – they make them seem barbaric and less than human so that normal people can be convinced to stand by or even participate in things like Witch burnings, or lynchings or their neighbors being dragged off and killed in concentration camps. People are social animals and it’s in our nature to go along with the group, then most people are socialized to submit to authority through religion and education and that makes them easy to manipulate.”

“They go along out of fear, though, right,” Sookie asked, “they’re afraid they’ll be next?”

“That can be part of it,” Bjorn explained, “but more often, they’re told the “authority” in question is doing what it needs to do to keep them safe. People stop thinking when they’re scared. If you’ve already indoctrinated them to see someone as The Enemy, it’s not hard to get them to go along with destroying the perceived threat. That’s the basis for psyops – you create a reptilian response.”

“Is that the R-brain thing Bobbie told me about?”

“Right. Fear makes people revert to more primitive instincts. They stop thinking and start reacting.”

“How come you know so much about psychology, Bjorn?” Sookie asked innocently.

“Oh, uh, I just picked it up somewhere. Would you mind if I ran down to get a cup of coffee?”

“Sure, go ahead. I’m planning to hang out up here all day, though, because of the war council tonight. I don’t think being outside today is a good idea.”

“Good idea, Sookie, it’s much safer. I’ll be right back,” Bjorn said as he rushed out of the room, praying Sookie would forget about that particular line of questioning.

“Is he OK, Bobbie? He seemed agitated all of a sudden?” Sookie asked

“You weren’t able to hear anything?”

“No, he was thinking “coffee, coffee, coffee,” like he does when he doesn’t want me to pick up what he’s thinking. Did I say something wrong?”

“No, Sweetie,” Bobbie reassured her, “I think he said a little more than he intended to. That “psyops” reference slipped out.”

“What does that mean, anyway.”

“Psychological Operations. It’s a military slash spy thing. He’s not supposed to talk about that stuff.”

“Oh, OK. I won’t bring it up again, then.”

“Thanks. He’ll relax if we just change the subject.”

“So, Sookie,” Amelia changed the subject, “you’re not going down to the pool?”

“No, I think the boys and I should stay indoors and away from the windows so I thought we’d just hang out in here, or the nursery or gym. I don’t know why, I just don’t think we should go out today. ”

“Considering that you’ve had spies on the grounds about that war council, that’s probably a good idea,” Amelia agreed, knowing Sookie should always follow her instincts.

“How about doing something silly, like an indoor picnic?” Bobbie suggested

“How would we do that?” Sookie liked the sound of it, anyway.

“We spread a big quilt on the floor in the gym, we eat our lunch up there and play with the babies. Alex can fly around and show off, and Aubie can practice sitting up and we could play music.”

“That’s not a bad idea! The boys went wild when you played The Beatles for them. Maybe Aubie will fly some, too. Eric wants him to practice.”

“OK, I’ll run and ask Margaret if she can do us a picnic lunch,” Amelia offered.

“Good, Sookie, let’s take the boys and get some toys to take up to the gym. We’ll need a big quilt.”

“Amelia, ask Margaret if she’s got a quilt, OK?”

“Sure. What about music?”

“I’ll bring my boom box out of my room,” Bobbie offered. “Come here, Pookie!” She held her arms open and Alex flew into them happily.

“OK, I’ll meet you guys up there,” Amelia said as she bounced toward the stairs.

Sookie grabbed a pair of black drawstring shorts out of her dresser drawer and threw a pink knit camisole on with them. “OK, Aubie, come with Mama!” Sookie gave him a big smile and a kiss as she picked him up from rolling toward the end of the bed where Bobbie was standing with Alex.

The four of them went into the nursery and looked around. Sookie decided to take a little blue rocking pony up for them, and their Teletubby dolls, plus Elmo and their blue Teddy bear.

“Let’s find some new stuff for them to play with…” Sookie said as she looked around.

“It’s all new to Aubie, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but there’s a ton of stuff in the closet Alex hasn’t seen. Look at this!”

Bobbie read the package, “Infantino Surfboard Tummy Time Mat. That’s really cute! That would be good for Aubie. Alex is a little beyond it already.”

“Cool, it’s something just for Aubie. I like that. Ooh, look at this!” Sookie pulled a box out of the right side of the closet, where it was pushed back behind the portable highchair and stroller boxes. “It’s a dragon!”

“DWADON!” Alex said joyfully when he saw the picture on the side of the box, alarming the kitten as she waited outside the nursery door. She meowed, but relaxed when Alex giggled.

“Can’t have too many of those!” Bobbie laughed. “Fisher-Price Stride to Ride Dinosaur. That’ll be perfect for Alex if he’s tall enough to reach the handles. It’s for babies just learning to walk.”

“Yep, and he’ll go wild when he sees it out of the box.”

“Does Aubie like dragons?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think he’s ever seen one, has he? No, wait, I remember Alex trying to get him to say “dwadon” once when Alex was playing with Boss, but he didn’t really register what he wanted. Let’s find out. Grab the purple dragon out of the crib, too.”

“OK, let’s take a blanket up in case the boys fall asleep, and lets take these little teethers so they have something small to chew on.”

“This is a bunch of stuff just to go up one floor,” Sookie laughed as they stacked stuff up by the elevator with their free hands, pushing some stuff with their feet.

“Yeah, but it will be fun. It’s just something a little different to do since you don’t want to go out,” Bobbie said as she pushed the button for the elevator.

“Yeah, I don’t know why I don’t, I just don’t,” Sookie said as they pushed the stack of toys into the car. The kitten followed them in hesitantly, but it did follow.

“I’m sure there’s a reason, so don’t. Your intuition is sharp as hell now,” Bobbie said as Sookie pressed the button to take them all upstairs.

Amelia was coming up the stairs as the elevator door opened on the fourth floor, a pretty bow-tie quilt and a big blue blanket over her arm, so she helped them move the stuff from the elevator into the big room.

“Margaret says no problem – she was doing roast beef sandwiches anyway since she has to do refreshments for Eric’s meeting tonight. I almost slipped and called it the ‘war council!'” Amelia laughed. “She’ll have trays of sandwiches for the Weres and humans and RM for the Vamps.”

“How many humans will be there?” Sookie asked, not being able to think of any.

“There’s a Witch and a Wizard, then Alcide, Jerry and Bjorn, and Vincent is what?” Bobbie tried to remember what Bjorn had told her.

“You know, I have no idea. I always assumed he was a Vampire, but I think he was here once during the day when they swept for bugs – but then I also know he’s Pam’s second, so I don’t know – is there anything else? He couldn’t be Fae and work in a Vampire club.”

“We’ll ask Bjorn when he comes up,” Bobbie suggested as she let Alex go fly and helped Amelia spread the blanket on the floor, then put the quilt on top of it to cushion the hardwood floor.

“Do you suppose there are lots of things? Sookie said as she put Aubie his back on the blanket then sat beside him, “I mean, I know there are Daemons and Faeries, humans, Weres of all kinds, and Angels and Goddesses and gods, and demi-gods – what else?”

“That’s all I’ve ever heard of,” Amelia said, taking the riding-walking dino parts out of the box, “but the Fae and Daemon categories include a lot of different beings and I think the demi-god category does, too.

“Me, too. If those myths are true, though, who knows what else there might be. It would be cool to know, wouldn’t it?” Bobbie mused, then said “be right back,” as she ran down the hall to her room for her music player.

“Seems like I would need to know, but then there are a lot of things I think I need to know that I don’t. That’s a recurring theme with me,” Sookie laughed at herself as she patted Aubie’s tummy and smiled at him, teasing him a little and tickling his chin as he giggled and waved his arms.

“Did they tell you anything about that at the Summit, Sookie?”

“Yeah, now that you mention it. At some point, a lot of information will flow into me, but it will be a while before my mind can withstand it. If they do it too soon, I could go crazy, at least for a while.”

“That makes sense,” Amelia said. “You can access information now, though, can’t you?”

“Yeah, when I really need it, so it doesn’t really matter. I’ll have it if I need it to keep us safe,” Sookie said as she tore into the package for the “tummy time” mat and looked at the instructions. “Hey, you have to add water to this, and it says you have to empty it every day. That’s a pain in the butt,” she laughed.

“You won’t have to do it, Sookie,” Amelia teased her as Bobbie came back with a solid unit that had two speakers in it and a dock for an iPod.

“Do what?” Bobbie asked as she plugged the thing into the wall near them.

“Empty this little bubble thing for this play mat. You have to fill it with water and empty it every day.”

“Let me see?” Bobbie came over for it and looked it over, then looked at the instructions. “I’ll take this to my bathroom and fill it for you,” she ran back down the hall as Bjorn came up in the elevator and went into the gym with a folding chair. “Hey, Sweetie!” Bobbie called to him as they passed.

“What’s the chair for, Bjorn?” Sookie wondered

“I need to be able to move quickly. Sitting on the floor is not a good idea when you’re protecting someone.”

“You don’t think that will be a problem up here, do you?”

“I’m not taking any chances. People know about the meeting tonight. Everybody is on alert and Jerry will be up here with us when he gets up. I’m really glad you decided to do this today. I was going to try to talk you out of going out to the pool, anyway.”

“I had a feeling that might be the case. What do we need to put that dino together, Amelia?”

“A Phillips head screwdriver,” she said as she looked over the instructions.

“Eric’s tools are in the basement. I’ll be right back,” Bjorn said, setting the chair up then going quickly back to the elevator. He wanted to get what he needed and get back up there, because he was afraid Sookie was having a premonition that something was going to go wrong. By the time he got back, Aubie was on the tummy time mat looking at the fake fishies in the bubble/aquarium and Bobbie was putting little socks and white baby shoes on Alex so he could run around on the wood floor.

Alex wasn’t too sure about these shoes at first, since he’d never worn any like them, but when Bobbie set him up on his feet, he loved the way they felt when he ran around in them. He’d run over and look in the mirror, then he’d run back to Supervise Sookie and Amelia putting his “dween dwadon” together. Bjorn turned out to be pretty good at putting things like this together, and in no time Alex was pushing his new buddy all around the big room, lights flashing, sounds and songs playing over and over, Alex squealing and giggling the whole time as his little voice echoed into the rafters. Sookie turned Aubie so that he was facing where Alex was running around so he could watch as he was propped up on the little pillow. The mat itself turned out to be kind of thin, so they folded the baby blanket under it so he was well padded, and they gave him a little set of plastic keys to play with along with the little toys that were attached to the sides of the mat.

“Woogie, Obee, ahm wokkeen wi ma dwadon!”

“Ah-ahh!” Aubie tried to respond, trying to push up on his little hands. Sookie had the feeling that the little pillow was more in his way than anything so she took it off the mat and Aubie was free to push up on his hands and knees and creep around. After about 20 minutes investigating all the good stuff on the mat, he fell over on his side and with a little help from Sookie he was able to sit up and watch Alex.

“Ah, Bumby! Ah!” Aubie waved his arms and called to Alex, wanting his attention, and Alex turned the dino around and ran back toward him. When he got near the blanket, Alex let go of it and walked toward Aubie, Bobbie and Sookie both holding their hands out in case he fell, but he managed to get over to Aubie, kiss him on the forehead, then pat his cheeks saying “Ah, Obee. Dood Buggy!” before turning to run back to the dino. The women all went “Awwww!” and Alex beamed, knowing it was for him being so cute. Aubie was beside himself that Bumby paid attention to him, waving his arms, giggling and drooling and Sookie wiped his mouth with a little blue cloth and rubbed his back.

“Wasn’t that sweet of Buddy, Aubie? He gave you a kiss!”

“Ah! Bumby dahban!” Aubie patted Sookie’s cheek with one hand and pointed at Alex with the other.

“Yeah, Buddy has a dragon!”

Amelia handed Sookie the purple dragon and she gave it to Aubie. “Look, Sweetie, here’s a dragon! Yeah, this is a dragon, too!” Aubie looked at it with big eyes, pulling at the fuzzy plush fabric and holding a wing out to show Sookie. “Yeah, he’s got wings. Wings are for flying.”

“Uh! Bumby, Dada!” He pointed up and Sookie saw in his mind that he was remembering flying outside with Eric and Alex.

“Yeah, you went flying with Daddy and Alex, didn’t you? You flew up in the air!”

“Ah!”

“Can you say “fly,” Aubie? Fly?”

“Bah!”

“Fly!”

“Bah!”

“Good try, Cookie!” She snuggled him and kissed his head.

“Sookie,” Amelia said quietly, “look at Alex.”

Alex had the dino up against the mirror, looking at himself very intently, then pushing a button on the dino, bouncing a little to the music, then he’d go back to looking in the mirror, occasionally pressing his forehead against it. At one point he stuck his tongue out and touched it to the mirror.

“Alex, Sweetie! Don’t lick the mirror,” Sookie said to him, laughing.

“Wadiz wick?”

“Lick means touching it with your tongue. You can look in the mirror, but don’t touch it with your tongue, OK?”

Alex looked into the mirror and curled his tongue out and downward, looking very hard. Sookie could see the wheels turning in his head, figuring out what his tongue was and what ‘lick’ meant.

“He’s so smart,” Sookie said quietly, “sometimes, I swear, I think he’s smarter than anybody.”

“You might be right, Hon. He obviously knows things that he can’t possibly know through normal means, even if he were a genius – he knows stuff he’s never actually encountered,” Amelia agreed.

“Yeah, he does, especially about magick. I wonder how Aubie will be in that respect? Like, is it because of Freyja or is it the individual spirit that Alex is, and I wonder how alike their spirits are, you know?”

“Yeah, I’ve thought about that. I think they’re very different, mostly because of the kitten.” Amelia nodded to the other side of the gym, where the kitten was chasing dust particles in a beam of sunlight.

“I know!” Sookie said, “like, I wonder if one will show up one day for Aubie, or is it just for Alex? The cat has never really shown any interest in Aubie. It will let him pet it and all, but it doesn’t work at getting his attention like it does Alex’s.”

“Where’s your book, Sookie?” Bobbie asked, “You should be writing these questions down.”

“Good point,” Sookie agreed, holding out her hand and saying, “book and pen!” so that her journal appeared in her hands, pen attached.

Bobbie entertained Aubie for a bit, letting him put a little crab shaped toy from the play mat in his mouth, then pulling it away playfully, making him laugh while Sookie was writing in her Journal.

“While you’re at it, Sookie, write down everything that happened to you this morning,” Amelia reminded her.

“Hey, where’s Octavia today?” Sookie asked

“She went back to bed. She’s sleeping in so she can go to the war council tonight,” Bjorn told them.

“Oh – I didn’t know she was invited!” Sookie said with surprise and just a tiny bit of jealousy.

“Yep,” Bjorn continued, “she’s going to feel out the Pagans – one of them is that woman from the Coven and Eric wants someone to feel her out and see if they’re in cahoots with Niall. They’re going to do a run through of what to expect at the ceremony, then after they leave, Alcide will meet with Eric, Bill, me, Jerry, Vincent and Rafael to make sure our troops are all in place.”

“Is Rafael going to be there for the whole thing?” Sookie didn’t know why, but she was sure the answer was ‘no.’

“No, he’ll come in after the Pagans go. It’s better if they work undercover, so Niall doesn’t know who is with us, especially since it’s unclear what his relationship is to the Coven.”

“That’s good thinking,” Sookie agreed. “Hey, we were all wondering earlier, what is Vincent? He’s not a Vampire, is he?”

“No, he’s something I never heard of before. He’s a Cambion.”

“Wow!” Amelia said as Sookie asked, “what’s a Cambion?” looking back and forth between Amelia and Bjorn as Bobbie shrugged.

“I know – it’s a hybrid born from an Incubus and a human. Merlin was supposed to be one,” Amelia explained as Bjorn nodded that she was right.

“Incubus? That’s a horror movie, isn’t it?” Sookie knew she’d heard the word before.

“They made a couple based on the mythology, but I’m sure the people that made them had no idea there really is such a thing as an Incubus, so I doubt they’re realistic They’d play if for the scare factor,” Amelia explained.

“Did you know they were real before now?”

“Nope, and I have no idea what one would look like or if…” Amelia was searching for a polite way to say it.

“If?” Sookie asked, knowing it was something unsavory.

“Well, the mythology is that they’re demons or daemons or whatever that prey on women in their sleep, sexually.”

“Like, rape?”

“Maybe? That’s the mythology, but then some of the stories say they “seduced” women so the consent issue – who knows?”

“Ew. Is there a female daemon like that?”

“Yeah, they’re called Succubi. A Succubus is a female Incubus that preys on men in their sleep.”

“Weren’t they considered to be Vampiric?” Bobbie asked, “I thought their victims were known to waste away?”

“According to the mythology, yes, but again, who knows about the reality?”

“Think Octavia would know?” Sookie wanted to know more.

“Maybe, but I’m pretty sure that’s something she’d have mentioned by now if she did,” Amelia speculated.

“OK, so is Vincent immortal or undead or just long lived like a Faerie? Does he have any powers?” Sookie asked.

“He’s got some kind of powers,” Bjorn said, “because he can move faster than the eye can see. I don’t know what else he can do, but he’s Super fast and Super strong.”

“OK,” Sookie nodded, “I guess it’s as good a time as any to bring this up. My journal is writing itself again.”

“Really? What’s in it?” Amelia asked and Bobbie was practically jumping up and down.

Sookie opened the book and handed it to them. In what appeared to be Sookie’s handwriting it said:

On the small beads say one phrase for each:

Freyja, Frigga, Vanadis,

Wrap me in Your golden bliss

Lady, Lover, Warrior, Mother,

Bless Our love for one another

Wrap me in your Falcon cloak

Let Erik’s love in me invoke

My greatest good; I shall aspire

to manifest all You desire

Sun and Moon, Land and Sea

Let your power flow through me

Wise of mind and pure of heart

From Erik We shall never part

Lady Shining on the Sea,

Awaken magick born in me

With good for all and harming none

Through me now shall Your will be done

Freyja, golden boar and cats,

Let me remember my lives past

To finish work that came before

I’m ready to walk through the Door

Your power is Mine,

Now is the time,

East through North, three times three

You manifest Your dreams through Me.

On the bigger dark beads say “Blessed is the Lady, Our Mother and Our World” then repeat; OR say one line, repeat it on each smaller bead in a set, then do the Our Mother, then another line for the next group.

“Wow, Sookie, that’s what you need to do the rosary!” Bobbie recognized it instantly.

“That’s exactly what this is!” Amelia said. “You have no memory of writing this?”

“Nope, and I’ll tell you something else – that’s her handwriting, not mine.”

“”Her,” who?” Amelia asked

“Sookie 2006. Look at the “Es” – see how they’re regular loopy “Es?””

“Yeah” Amelia and Bobbie said together.

“Look at the stuff I did write. I make Greek “Es” – I read a couple of years ago that using Greek “Es” – the kind that look like backward “3s,” you know? – makes you look educated, so I taught myself to use them when I print. And look at her date in the corner – no line through her “7s.” I started putting lines through my “7s” at about the same time for the same reason.”

“Right, it makes it look like you were educated or lived in Europe,” Amelia confirmed.

“Yep. I knew it was sort of… “putting on airs” but I wanted people to think I was smart and when I read that makes you look educated, I started doing it. But that was way after 2006 – as a matter of fact, Eric was the first person I saw make a “7” like that and I asked Bill about it. Sookie 2006 hasn’t changed her writing yet.”

“Sookie, that’s amazing! I need to go get my journal – hang on,” Bobbie popped up and ran down to her room. Sookie and Amelia exchanged an amused look when they both noticed Bjorn turn his head to watch her run away. It was such a guy thing to do, and it was so cool that Bjorn cared so much about her.

“I wonder if I can get my journal to answer questions?”

“What do you mean, Sookie?” Amelia had an idea what she meant, but wanted to be sure.

“I mean, I wonder if I wrote some questions, would the book write the answers?”

“There’s only one way to find out.”

“Yep, like Titania used to say, anybody can make a wish, but the magick is in the doing,” Sookie said as she wrote the quote down in the book. “OK, what do I call this page? “Questions I need answers to?””

“That sounds good,” Amelia encouraged her. “Give it a shot. If it works, fantastic. If it doesn’t, at least you’ve got a list to remind you to ask Freyja or whomever.”

“OK, what does a Cambion – how do you spell that?”

“C-A-M-B-I-O-N,” Amelia told her.

“OK, what does a Cambion look like, what are their powers, how do they interact with humans?” Sookie said out loud as she wrote it in her journal.

“That sounds good,” Amelia said as Bobbie came back with her book. Alicia came up with a picnic basket full of sandwiches and a platter of crudités, plus a huge jug of sweet tea that Bjorn had to carry in from the elevator, and they put it on another folding chair so they could get their cups under the spigot. She also dropped off two bottles of blood for the boys, though it would be a bit before they got hungry, and she left the two Bloom Bouncers up there so Sookie had a place to put the boys if they dozed off.

About the time they each got squared away with a sandwich, Jerry came up with another folding chair for himself. “How we doin’ up here?” he asked with a smile. He was as happy as Bjorn that the girls weren’t outside today. Sookie noticed that he was wearing an earpiece like Bjorn used sometime and she wondered why he would need it in the house.

“Hey, Jerry – you want a sandwich?” Sookie offered as he came in and sat on the other side of them facing Bjorn.

“Sure, I can eat a sandwich.”

“You want mayo or mustard?” Sookie was playing hostess.

“Mayo, please,” he laughed a little at Sookie serving him. She was such a doll – so unspoiled. He and Bjorn just looked at each other and shook their heads as she got them both set. Alex was back looking at the food, so Bobbie turned her iPod on and the babies went wild.

“Mudik, mudik!” Alex looked around to see where it was coming from. He was up like a shot and over to the player to look it over. Bobbie stayed with him as he looked the set up over and she kept him from undocking the iPod, but let him touch things and feel the vibrations from the speaker. “Theen, Babee!”

“Yeah, it’s singing, isn’t it?” She knelt next to him.

“Eeah! Ah wyg theen.”

“You like SINGING, Alex.”

“Theeneen! Dat?”

“That’s an iPod.”

“Aypa?”

“Yes, iPod. It’s a music player. See?” Bobbie undocked it and let Alex look closely at it, and showed him how to change the song. His eyes popped and his mouth formed a perfect O when he heard it go from one kind of song to another. Alex hadn’t heard much music in his short life, but he really liked it. This thing was fascinating. “Hey, Sookie, you know, there’s an iPod around here that you got for Alex at the wedding reception, remember?”

“There is?”

“Yeah, didn’t somebody give you three – one for you, Eric and the baby?”

“Yeah, that does sound familiar. I wonder where they are?”

“Why don’t you let me fill one up for Alex? He might enjoy it. I’ve got a rubber skin we can put on it in case he drops it, and you can lock it on or off if you need to. It wouldn’t matter if he broke it, but somehow, I don’t think he will.”

“I don’t either, Sookie,” Amelia agreed. “I think if you show him how to use it, he’ll be fine with it.” Jerry and Bjorn nodded in agreement. You wouldn’t want to give equipment like that to a normal baby, but Alex would understand what it was for. They just needed to teach him not to get it wet and not to drop it.

“OK, I don’t know anything about filling those things, but we can ask Alicia where they are and if you can fix it up for him if you want. He loved that little music player Alicia got for them, so he’d probably love an iPod of his own, wouldn’t you, Baby?”

“Ma aypa?”

“No, but we’ll get you one, OK?”

“Eeah, aypa!”

Almost on cue, Alicia came up to see if anyone needed anything else. “How is the picnic going?”

“Great. Alex just discovered iPods,” Bobbie laughed.

“Alicia, didn’t we get some iPods at the wedding reception?” Sookie knew she would know, and probably know exactly where they were.

“Yes, you did. I think they’re in a box with some other things in the closet in Mr. Northman’s office.

“Could you grab one for Bobbie? She’s going to put some music on it for Alex.”

“Me aypa, pweezth, Eesh?” Alex looked up and tugged on Alicia’s skirt.

“Alex, say “will you bring me an iPod, please?”” Sookie instructed him.

“Wiwoo bween me an aypa, pweezth.”

She bent over to look him in the eye and smoothed his hair. “OK, Baby E, I’ll go find one for you,”

“DAYOO! Mudik! Woogie, Eesh! Dween dwadon!” Alex pointed at the walker and then ran over to it and pushed a button on its head, squealing as it played music, then he pushed it over toward Alicia.

“My goodness! That’s a cute little dragon you’ve got there!”

“Dood dwadon?”

“Yes, that’s a very good dragon.”

“Ah wuv my dwadon! Ah wuv aypa, Ah wuv my giddnen, Ah wuv ma Buggy Obee…”

“Aw – Alex that’s so sweet!” Sookie praised him, and he ran to her and said “Ah WUV ma Mamee!” Alex hugged her and kissed her cheek and she kissed him back and nuzzled him making silly noises so he giggled. Bobbie made a motion that she was going down with Alicia to get the iPod and Amelia nodded.

“Mamee, Ah wuv Meeah an Babee an Borhd an Eesh an Mahdwid, and Ayvbee an Chehwy…”

“Who, Sweetie?”

“jerry,” Amelia said proudly. She taught him how to say Jerry’s name a few days before.

“Jerry? Cool! Did you forget anybody?”

“Ah WUV ma Dadee, an Bee an Pam and Papaw and Dodor.”

“Did he say “Bill and Pam?”” Bobbie laughed

“Eeah, Bee an Pam. Pam ma bee sthisthuh.”

“Pam is your big sister?” Sookie asked, amazed.

“Eeah!”

“Who told you that, Sweetie?”

“Dadee! Pam Dadee “Masthah!”” Alex tried to imitate the way Pam said it.

“Pam calls Dadee, Master? Yes, she does.”

“Peesha Dadee Masthah.”

“Who?” Sookie didn’t know that name.

“Felicia,” Bjorn laughed. “His girlfriend.”

“Ah wyg Pesha! Me dantheen!” he waved his arms, holding one up high like they did when they danced.

“Aw – yeah, she danced with you at Dadee’s club, didn’t she? We’ll have to take you to see Felicia some time soon,” Sookie told him.

“She’ll be at the Wiccaning,” Bjorn told her.

“She will?”

“Yeah, Eric wanted her there. Fangtasia is closed that night.”

“Oh – won’t that cut into the profits?” Sookie didn’t want Pam to suffer from this.

“Yeah, but Eric wants the staff to be able to attend. It will only inconvenience a few humans – every Supe in the area will be at the ceremony,” Bjorn reminded her. “It’s getting huge.”

“I hope there’s room for everybody and I hope there’s enough food and blood.”

“There will be. Stuff is already being delivered to the site and set up. We’ve got people over there Supervising already and guarding the grounds.”

“Wow – I had no idea!”

“It’s going to be spectacular. It’s bigger than most royal weddings,” Bjorn teased her.

“Wow, how about that, guys?” Sookie teased the two babies who were both moving into place to breast feed before their nap. “you’re going to have the party of the century!” She said as she got Aubie situated on one leg.

“More like the millennium, at least!” Amelia laughed

“Yeah, there’s going to be a big party, just for you two.”

“Pahdy? Pweznan?” Alex asked as he climbed onto Mommy’s lap.

“You might get some presents, but mostly we’ll do a ritual…”

“EEAY!” Alex cheered as best he could, then latched onto her left breast like he was starving.

“…And we’ll dance and meet lots of people!” Sookie was trying to stay positive about the whole thing, war or not. She was learning to enjoy the good stuff when she could and deal with the bad stuff when she had to.

Bjorn put the IPod on a playlist of soft music and Sookie could tell it was soothing both boys. Alex was blinking slowly, moving his little foot in time to the music. Aubie was feeding well, but he had his eyes closed, enjoying the warmth and the sweet taste of her milk and the music that he loved. If Aubie had words, the word for this would be “heaven.”

Alex was the first one asleep, and Amelia took him from Sookie and gently buckled him into one of the bouncers. Aubie lasted a little longer, taking more milk and blood than Alex because he hadn’t had as much food earlier. Sookie buckled him into the other bouncer and noticed that it felt later than the boys normally napped.

“Bjorn, what time is it?”

“Ten after four.”

“Wow – is it that late already?”

“Yeah, the boys usually have their second round in the pool about now. They were so excited with the new toys and music and all that they played through their first naptime,” he laughed softly.

“I guess they’ll sleep quite a while, then. Are there more sandwiches?”

“Yep, and there’s a lot of them in the kitchen if you want more,” Jerry told her.

“I’m going to have another. You guys want another one?” Sookie offered. Bjorn and Jerry let her put mayo on a sandwich for each of them and they all talked quietly as the babies slept. When they were done eating, Sookie and Amelia packed up the basket and closed it, setting the tray of crudités on top and every one moved where they could reach it. Bobbie came back with her computer and loaded a couple of playlists from it onto the new iPod that were baby safe – no bad words or adult content – and it was ready before the boys woke up.

Since they were all upstairs anyway, Bjorn had the girls all do a few exercises with a lightly weighted bar and some small hand weights. He paid particular attention to Sookie building her forearms, and showed her what she should be doing to build them up, though she might have Superhuman strength even without it. Better to be sure, was his position and she agreed. When that was done, Sookie showed them all the moves Eric had taught her with the katana, and she gave a dramatic retelling of her encounter with Liam Cullach and Niall, a story Jerry and Bjorn could hear again and again because badass Sookie was HOT.

Alex woke up first and was quickly back to running around behind the dino, and was having a blast and raising the roof when Eric came to the door in a blue un-tucked dress shirt, jeans and black boots and Sookie motioned for him to be quiet and watch. Eric was beaming at Alex, who spotted him after a minute and yelled “Dadee!” and went running straight to him, pushing the dino all the way. “Dween dwadon, Dadee!”

“Green dragon? Where did you get that, my son?”

“Mamee!”

“It was in the closet in the nursery,” Sookie said, “we just hadn’t gotten to it yet. He’s been having a blast.”

“So I see. Why are you all up here?”

“I didn’t think we should go outside because of the war council,” Sookie said.

“And we agreed,” Bjorn told him.

“Probably a good idea. Margaret wants to know if you’re eating downstairs?”

“Yeah, let’s go down,” Sookie said.

“Dada!” Aubie said, patting the bubble on his play mat.

“What have you got there, my little elf?”

“Umma!” he pushed his finger into the plastic and looked at Eric, who got down on one knee to see what he had.

“He’s showing you the fish in the bubble,” Sookie coached him.

“Are there fish in there? Yes, I see the fish! This is a nice little surfboard you’ve got here. Have you had fun up here today?”

“Ah! Bah!”

“He’s trying to say “fly.” I was trying to get him to say it.”

“Has he been flying?” Eric asked hopefully

“No, Alex has been running around with the dino so he didn’t have any reason to.”

“Auberon, want to fly with Daddy?” Eric asked hopefully

“Ah! Bah!”

“Good boy! Let’s go up!” Eric’s body rose into the air and he offered Aubie his hand. Aubie grabbed his finger and they floated toward the ceiling. Eric stayed with him, giving him encouragement as Sookie watched them with a big smile. “Aubie, say hi to Mommy! Hi, Mommy!” Eric urged him.

“Ah, Mama!”

“Hi, Baby. Are you having fun with Daddy?”

“Ah! Dada!”

Suddenly Alex was next to them.

“Me fyeen, Dadee!

“Yes, we’re all flying, aren’t we?”

“Eeah! Obee fyeen dood!”

“Yes, Aubie is flying good. When you fly up here in the gym, bring Aubie to fly with you, alright Alex?”

“Me an Obee fy in da chym?”

“Yes, you help Aubie fly, OK?”

“Oday!”

“Come join us for a minute, Mommy!”

Sookie started to object, but then she just let go, lay back and floated upward and rolled over in the air.

“Mamee fyeen!” Alex yelled as Aubie yelled “um, Mama!” with absolute glee.

“OK, boys, once around the room then we go down for dinner!” She went up past them and made a circle around the big room and Eric led Aubie and Alex after her. When she reached the door she let herself down and said, “Come to Mommy!”

Aubie went to her instantly and landed happily in her arms, Alex and Eric right behind him. The whole crew headed down in the elevator and down the stairs and converged in the kitchen where Margaret had a fabulous dinner of shrimp Étouffée and rice, corn bread, a big salad and that strawberry/pecan cake Sookie loved. Eric didn’t say much and everyone knew he was planning what he had to say in the war council. As Sookie finished her cake, Bjorn got a call on his phone that cars were arriving, so he went out to direct them to the barn and Bill and Pam went to their chalet to greet people while Eric took Sookie and the boys upstairs to their bedroom.

He kissed Alex and then Aubie as the door to the elevator closed. “I’m going to take my sweet family to bed, then I will be in after our meetings are finished and I’ll tell you what was decided.”

“You don’t want us to go to the gym, Sweetie?” Sookie asked as they went up to the third floor.

“No, the light will call attention up there. Alicia put a Teletubbies DVD on our bed. Keep the lights out, let the boys watch the DVD, then you’ll all probably doze off and I’ll wake you up when I’m finished.”

“Can I put the light in the headboard on? I have a lot of writing I need to do in my journal.”

“That should be fine. It’s not visible with the windows closed.”

“I have a lot to tell you about this morning…”

“Does it have a direct bearing on security for the Wiccaning?”

“Uh – no, I don’t think so, it’s more about my magick.”

“Alright, then let’s talk about it later. I want to focus on my meeting now. It’s bad enough that Sandy’s people won’t be here.” Eric was serious to the point of being grim and Sookie knew he was nervous about dealing with the others that he had to coordinate with, so she didn’t give him a hard time. He gave her a kiss and put the DVD in the TV for them. Sookie knew he was just doing that as a way to take care of them because he was worried about his ability to keep them safe. He went to the mini-fridge next and came back with her Ambrosia.

“Eric, it’s going to be OK.” Sookie told him as he sat next to her so she could drink. He leaned over to kiss her as she sat on the bed with the boys propped up on pillows in his spot.

“Yes, it is, because I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that it is. It wouldn’t hurt if you scanned about to see if you hear anything amiss. Contact me telepathically if you do.”

“OK. I’m going to reinforce my bubble around our boundaries, too.”

“That’s a very good idea. Where are your special candies?”

“They’re in a box in the freezer in the kitchenette on the second floor.”

“I’ll be right back,” Eric said as he zipped down to the freezer, got the special box and took them back upstairs.

“Which is the type I ate at the club opening?”

“This one,” she pointed to one with a pecan on top of it.

“Alright,” he took one out and ate it. “Which are for prophecy?”

“The ones with the white chocolate Egyptian eye.”

“Alright, I want you to eat one now. Keep your book handy and write down whatever you get.”

Sookie popped the candy in her mouth. “Mmm – that’s yummy.”

“Yes, but only take one at a time – we don’t want a repeat of the Ambrosia mishap.”

“No, we certainly don’t,” Sookie made a goofy face and actually got Eric to laugh. He turned on the TV and spoke softly to the boys.

“Alex and Auberon, enjoy your show and Daddy will see you in a little while. Be good for Mommy.” He gave each baby a kiss, then kissed Sookie’s lips and zipped quickly down the stairs and out the back. The Witch was already there when Eric entered the door of the chalet, sitting and chatting with Octavia and Pam.

“Ms. Prentiss, so nice to see you again!” Eric had on his Lord of the Manor persona again, though it was hiding a warrior on full alert underneath the smooth façade.

“Thank you for inviting me, your Majesty. We want very much for you to enjoy the ceremony Saturday, so anything we can do is yours for the asking.”

“Thank you, we appreciate that.” Eric was very relieved to see, via the candy, no indication that the woman had any ill intent.

“This cottage is gorgeous. I don’t remember it being here the last time we visited?”

“Yes, we had these two units added very quickly. Our family is growing faster than the house alone is able to accommodate. This way, we can keep family and friends close and our servants have ample room to live in.”

“That’s very convenient, I suppose?”

“It solves a multitude of problems for us with very little inconvenience. I see you’ve met Octavia, the Queen’s advisor?”

“Oh, yes, but I had no idea of her position. May I ask, what tradition you are?”

“Dianic, mostly. I use a combination of traditional and folk magick.”

“Oh, wonderful. I don’t meet many Dianics around here. You tend to stay to yourselves.”

“That’s true, unless we’re in an area with major Goddess temples or festivals. I understand your group has quite a large grove?”

“Yes, we’re very fortunate. We’re probably the only group that could handle a party this large outside of California, Ohio, or Wisconsin.”

“I’m sure that’s right. I understand there will be a large Fae presence – is that common for your celebrations?” Octavia asked the question so Eric didn’t have to, and he was grateful. Eric excused himself as Octavia took over because Alcide Herveaux was coming in the door.

“Well, we have some very good friends among the Folk, you know, but they only rarely attend our circles. Our High Priestess has a familial connection, though she’s very vague as to the nature of it. She’s had several visits from Mr. Brigant recently, but I don’t really know the origin of their relationship or what they’ve discussed other than that it definitely related to the ceremony. Of course, everyone is anxious to see the little Princes, so we’ve been inundated with requests from every realm I’ve ever heard of and a few I hadn’t.”

“It’ll be an interesting night. It’s very rare to see an ecumenical event where humans are the minority these days,” Octavia continued to pump the woman, who seemed to have no ill intent at all, for what little information she could glean.

“Herveaux,” Eric nodded as he came through the door. There was no spotlight around Alcide as he’d seen the night of the attempted bombing, but there was a small glow around him. Eric figured that was reasonable considering his feelings for Sookie, so he didn’t worry about it.

“Eric. I hope we’re not going to make a habit of this. Seems like we just got through your wedding reception and here we are again.”

“I wouldn’t have bothered you, but this is about Sookie’s and our sons’ safety. As I understand Were custom, her Friend of the Pack status extends to our children, does it not?”

“It does. So there really are two of them?”

“Yes, there are.”

“Any truth to the rumor that one is Vampire and one is Fae?”

“Yes, the elder takes after me, the younger is more like his mother.”

“Some people think you kept him hidden because you were ashamed of him.” Alcide was pulling no punches tonight. He wanted to make sure Sookie and her kids were being treated well.

“That’s nonsense. You’ll see for yourself that the younger twin is much smaller and not as advanced as the older. We were keeping him safe while he grew strong enough to go out with us. I love both of my sons equally and I’ll protect them both with my life, just as I would Sookie.”

“That’s good to hear, but I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Once the ceremony is complete, you’ll have a better understanding of the situation, I’m sure you’ll be satisfied with what you see. Help yourself to a sandwich and a beer if you’d like,” Eric pointed to the buffet on the kitchen counter and Bill led him over to it. “We’re still waiting for two people.”

“Compton,” Alcide nodded as he walked toward him.

“Herveaux,” Bill nodded, opening a beer for him. “For what it’s worth, I’ve seen Eric with the twins, and what he says is true. He makes no difference between the boys. I’d never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, but he’s a very loving father to them both.”

“I can’t even imagine that.”

“You won’t have to – you’ll see it. I would say it’s inspiring if it were anyone but Eric,” Bill said wryly, and Alcide smirked in agreement.

Jerry came in with Vincent, and they all gathered around the dining room table, Vincent taking the lead.

“Ms. Prentiss, correct me if any of this is wrong,” he began, spreading out a big map of the camp grounds the Coven owned. “This is a fairly good representation of the grounds, is it not?”

“Yes, it’s very good.”

“Alright, this clearing in the north corner of the property is where we’ll have the helicopters shuttling guests from the airport land. Our information says there will be 25 parties that need shuttle service.”

She looked at the computer print out she’d been given, “yes, that’s what we have.”

“Alright, if that changes, we need to know immediately. Here are two of my business cards. You keep one and give the other to your Priestess so you can contact me directly if need be.”

“Thank you, we will.”

“Alright, here are the green badges for your coven and the blue ones for your immediate guests.” Vincent pulled a stack of laminated badges on green glow-in-the-dark lanyards from a black backpack and gave them to Robin. “We need you to wear them so our security and the guests know who you are if they need you. This,” he handed her another laminated badge with a gorgeous golden seal on a multicolored background that said “NORTHMAN Security Team” on it and had some kind of laser watermark so it couldn’t be duplicated without specific equipment, “is what my men will be wearing. There will be security on duty in plain clothes, but they’ll have badges like this somewhere on their person if they need to prove who they are. Unless violence breaks out, they’ll be nearly invisible and blend with the crowd. The rest of our security will be in a uniform consisting of a black t-shirt with the royal seal on the front and the word “security” on the back. They’ll hang back as much as possible and only engage in cases of emergency or if someone asks for help.

The parking areas were marked off today. Now, no one gets in through the gates from this point forward without their invitation or a badge, no matter whom they are, but that only limits Pagans, Weres, most Vampires, and assorted human escorts. There’s a stone circle on the south border of the property, beyond the perimeter of the central grove. We’re asking that all Supes who can materialize or teleport come through that portal which will be erected that morning by our specialist. There’s no way to enforce that, of course, but we’re asking that they cooperate as a favor to the King and Queen so they can check in and give us some idea who is supposed to be there. That request is going out through the Council, so it will have more weight, and they’re specifying that weapons are strictly forbidden. It’s going to be chaotic, to say the least, but hopefully the good will of the guests will help us keep it moving smoothly.”

“I’m sure most will agree to do that, Our Fae contacts had asked if there was a registry of any sort, so we’ll see that one of the books is at the portal for you.”

Vincent handed a program to her. “Alright, as I said, our team is watching the property as of tonight and they’ll be there around the clock from now through the end of the celebration. People who are using the campgrounds will start arriving tomorrow night, and the caterers will start serving food and drinks as of 6 o’clock on Saturday. The Royal family will be in place on the stage by 9 for the receiving line, the ceremony will take place at midnight, followed by dancing until 2:00 and then feasting and mingling until dawn. Our clean up crew begins at sun-up.”

“Well, it certainly sounds as if you have it all under control. We’ll all be there before 6 o’clock and we’ll have our badges on in case anyone needs us. We’ve all arranged a push-to-talk network so we can communicate with each other.”

“We have a communications network set up for our people as well. Were there any concerns you had that we need to address?”

“Actually, no, we think you’ve done everything possible. I’m sure I speak for us all when I say we can’t wait for Saturday night!”

“Wonderful,” Eric took over now. “It was so nice for you to join us, Ms. Prentiss. My wife and I are most appreciative of your help. She asked that you give this copy of the ceremony to your High Priestess for her. She made a few very important alterations where Auberon is concerned. They’re clearly marked in red. I’m afraid we must insist on them. If you need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Jerry, will you see our guest to her car, please? I noticed it’s very dark out there. We’ll need to add another security light, I’m afraid.”

“Sure, I’d be glad to.”

“Well, thank you again, and we’ll see you Saturday night.” She was too in awe of Eric to notice he was trying to get rid of her so he could get on with the serious part of the meeting.

Once she was on her way out the gate, Rafael joined them all in the chalet.

“You all know Rafael, I believe?”

“Yessss, your Majesssty, I’m acquainted with everyone here,” Rafael confirmed, nodding to Octavia, Pam, Bill and Alcide. Jerry came back in and they barely got started before Dr. Ludwig popped in.

“Hello, everyone. Sorry to drop in like this, but I thought I might be able to provide a little help.”

“Welcome, Doctor, it’s always a pleasure to see you.” Eric was lying and she knew it. He’d much prefer that she didn’t know about the meeting. Like as not, she learned about it from Niall.

As if reading Eric’s mind, she said, “I’m here representing the Council. They want me to assure you that they’ve told all parties concerned that there will be no war at this event. Niall specifically has been told, and I quote, that “heads will roll if there’s a disturbance at the blessing of those sacred children.””

“That’s good to know, Doctor, but you understand, of course, that we must prepare as if there will be.”

“Yes, of course, I just thought you should know. Also, I bring a gift from Freyja and the Council.”

“A gift?” This was a surprise. Eric couldn’t imagine what it might be as the doctor pulled a large box from her carpetbag. It was a beautifully carved rosewood box with an ornate gilt pentagram on the top, rounded edges, and a hinged lid. The doctor opened it and showed two very pretty laurel wreaths or crowns interwoven with gold thread and small gold ornaments. The smaller of the two, obviously intended for the Queen, had what Eric knew would be diamonds and natural pearls at the center front section. “You and Sookie should wear these the whole time you are at the party. They’re enchanted so that when people approach you, you’ll know who and what they are, and can give them a proper welcome and response. Eventually, you’ll both have that ability as it’s natural to most higher-order Supes, but for now, you’ll need this bit of help. Take good care of them, and I’ll be back Monday night to pick them up.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Eric said, trying not to show his displeasure at the implication that Vampires were not of the highest order among Supes.

“There are tortoise-shell combs attached to hold them in place. It’s best not to use any metal with them. Don’t let your Queen use bobby pins to hold it in place. If they were to contain lead or iron, it would make them ineffective.”

“Good to know.”

“Alright, I know you’ve all got war to plan. Expect a lot more people than you’ve planned for – I estimate between 4 and 5 thousand total. I’ll get out of your way now. See you Saturday night!” She said as she popped out of the room again.

“Alright, everyone, let’s go over our parts. Herveaux, you have a copy of this map, yes?”

“Yes, we do. Our men will be here, here and …” and the conversation continued as each person went over their part of the plan.

At one point, Octavia closed her eyes for a minute and Eric asked, “are you alright, Octavia?” with genuine concern.

“I was just blending into the energy. Can’t you feel that?”

“The rush of power from Sookie? Yes, of course. I didn’t know you could.”

“I can feel it,” Vincent said, “it’s throbbing.”

“I thought that was a change in air pressure,” Alcide said, surprised that he knew what they were talking about. The air definitely felt different, and it was, as Vincent described it, throbbing.

“Anyone with a bit of psychic energy could feel that. She’s reinforcing your borders. You need to show her this map and let her cast a bubble around this land, too.”

“Would that put a strain on her?” Eric didn’t want to exhaust her, and he wasn’t convinced she was well rested yet.

“No, that energy is Universal,” Octavia explained. “She’s just a channel for it, so she should be able to boost it up without draining herself. It’s a good way to flex her muscles, anyway.”

“Alright, we’ll take this in to her before you leave, Vincent, and let her get a clear picture.”

“That’s a good idea,” Vincent agreed. “If she’s tapped into that power I feel now, that’s the most powerful weapon we have. I had no idea she was that advanced.”

“She’s becoming very powerful,” Eric confirmed.

“Yes, she is,” Bjorn said, “I can’t believe some of the stuff she’s doing now. Did she tell you about the rosary beads?”

“Rosary beads?” Eric said with surprise, “as the Catholics use?”

“No, these are Goddess rosary beads,” Octavia explained, “that apparently came from another dimension. She’ll tell you all about it, but trust me when I tell you, she may no longer be limited by time and space.”

Eric looked at Jerry, who nodded that it was true, and he didn’t even know what to say to that. Of all Sookie’s accomplishments, this was the first thing, in Eric’s mind, that was distinctly of the gods. He’d never heard of a Witch or Wizard who could move across time. He knew some that could bend time, like Niall, but not move through it.

“Are we nearly done here?” Eric asked, thinking that catching up with Sookie needed to be his next step tonight.

Most nodded and agreed that they were fully prepared.

“I’m sure I know what my people are doing,” Alcide said.

“Herveaux, would you like to meet my sons?”

Alcide was taken aback, thinking Eric wouldn’t want him around them. “Sure, I’d love to see the little Princes. I’d like to say hi to Sookie, too.”

“Alright, Sookie will meet us in the den. Let’s go into the house. Vincent, bring the map for her. Bjorn, you and Jerry check the status around the property before you come in.”

“Your Majesty, I’ll go to rest right after if you don’t mind?”

“Of course, Jerry, I’ll see you at sunrise.”

“Good night, everyone,” Jerry nodded and went to the guard stand in back, then to the other chalet.

“Pam and I would like to remain here, if that’s alright, Eric? I’ll check in with you before you go to rest.”

“That’s fine Bill. Octavia, can I help you?” Eric offered her his arm and led Alcide and Vincent into the house, the back yard light coming on as they approached the pool area. They could all see Sookie standing inside the door with a big smile and a baby in each arm.

Eric beamed at them as he slid the door open and let Octavia go in ahead of him. She said good night to everyone and kept going on to the elevator.

“Hey, Alcide! Nice to see you!” Sookie was obviously in a good mood for some reason. “Hey, Vincent!” Sookie was a little scared of Vincent, but she was glad he was on her team.

Vincent nodded to her as Eric gave Sookie a kiss, dropped the rosewood box on the couch and took Aubie from her. “Herveaux wanted to meet the boys, Sweetheart. Alcide Herveaux, this is Eric Auberon,” Eric indicated the baby in his arms, “and Sookie is holding Eric Alexander. Say ‘hello’ to our guests, boys.”

Alex waved and said “Ah!” and Aubie copied him, “Ah!”

“Oberon – that’s from Shakespeare, isn’t it?” Alcide thought it was a strange choice of names, remembering it from high school.

“Among other places,” Eric said. “It’s spelled with an AU rather than an O, but it’s the same name.”

“As in King of the Fairies?”

“Yes, Alcide,” Eric said seriously, “exactly like that. As I said, you’ll understand the situation better after the ceremony.”

Aubie pointed to Alcide’s neck and mumbled. “What do you see, Auberon?” Eric asked him. Aubie reached to his own neck and showed Eric that he had a necklace, too. “Oh, I see. He noticed your necklace, Herveaux. Yes, Auberon, he’s wearing a necklace as you are. You’re a very smart boy! His necklace is a wolf’s head, yours is a pentacle.”

“Pendago!” Alex said happily, sticking his thumb in his mouth, making Eric, Sookie and Aubie laugh. Alcide was shocked at seeing that tiny baby speak. When the laughing died down Alex sald, “Wuff eh Bhord!” and pointed at Alcide.

“They talk?”

“Yes, they’re very bright children. Alex has quite a vocabulary at his point. Auberon is just learning his first words, but Alex is coaching him so we expect him to catch up fairly quickly,” Eric bragged.

Alex snuffed at the air and pointed to Alcide and said, “Eh Borhd, Daddy?”

“Yes, Alex, he’s a Were just like Bjorn. Does he smell like Bjorn?”

“Eeah, sthmew wyg Bhord an Chehwy! Wuff!”

“Very good, Alex! Yes, he’s a wolf.”

“Ah wyg wuff, Dadee!”

“You like wolves? Well, you’re still young,” Eric laughed, smoothing his hair and stroking his cheek with the backs of his fingers as Sookie held him.

“The only wolves Alex has ever been around have been good guys, haven’t they, Sweetie?” Sookie bounced him a little, “Alcide is a good guy, too, right, Alex?”

Alex finally noticed Vincent and his eyes got big then he threw up his arm and yelled “VBEE!” which made Eric beam and Aubie giggle as Vincent raised his fist and said “vìg!”

“Very good, Alex, Vìg!” Eric laughed and Aubie looked at Eric with a delighted, surprised look and said “bee!” in a high, playful voice. Eric laughed and kissed him and said, “you’ll get it eventually, my little elf!” as he rubbed his tummy.

Alcide couldn’t believe his eyes. Eric was absolutely doting on these little babies and it was obvious he loved them very much and that they loved him. He shook himself a little, asking, “What does that mean?”

“Vìg is an old Swedish word for “fight.” Alex came out of the womb trying to say it,” Eric laughed.

“He’s not kidding, either,” Sookie laughed and told Alcide, “the day he was born he took one look at Eric, threw his arm up that way and made a noise. He knew what he wanted to say, but he couldn’t manage it yet. He’s getting there, though, aren’t you, Baby?” Sookie nuzzled him. “Do you all want to come in and sit down?”

“Actually I just wanted to say ‘hi’ and meet the Princes. I’ll be sayin’ good night now,” Alcide said, sorry to leave Sookie, but wanting to be alone in his truck to process all of this.

“Oh, well, it was really nice to see you. You’ll have to come for a visit some time when you can have family dinner with us,” Sookie said with complete sincerity. “We’ll give you a call the next time we have a cook-out.”

“Oh, uh, yeah, that’d be nice.” Alcide was being polite because he was quite sure Eric would never let that happen. “I’ll see you all Saturday night,” he said and quickly headed back out to the garage, stopping to talk to Bjorn briefly as he went past the pool.

“Alright, Vincent, let’s spread the map out on the dining room table,” Eric said as he led them in that direction, turning on the lights as they entered the room. “Sookie we want you to put one of your protective bubbles around the property this map represents. Think you can do it?”

Vincent spread the map out on the table and Sookie instantly knew what to do.

“Yeah, actually, I think I can,” she said with surprise and confidence. “Here, Vincent, will you hold Alex for a minute?”

Vincent looked at Eric and Eric nodded to him so he took Alex from her. To his surprise, Alex talked to him. “Dadee ath sthordsth por FIDEEN in da chym!”

Everybody cracked up at that, Vincent knowing exactly what Alex meant. “You going to be a big warrior, Prince Alex?” Vincent asked him affectionately. He genuinely liked this kid.

“Eeah, bee wyg ma Dadee!”

“So mote it be!” Vincent said, bouncing Alex who responded “stho modeid bee!”

“Well now it’s definite!” Sookie laughed as she looked at the map. “OK, I need to concentrate for a minute,” she said, getting herself focused and centered. She put a hand on each side of the map and stood over it as best she could, taking a deep breath and blowing quickly around the perimeter of the map, then standing very still, saying nothing, she was able to picture the camp grounds, the roads around it and even the Northman Security guards wandering around to see that it was secure. She saw the boundaries in her mind, then she felt them in her body. She was right in the middle of the land, and the edges of the property began to glow around her. She took another deep breath, and the glow began to grow up into the sky and down into the ground. As she continued taking deep breaths, the light formed a perfect bubble and when it was complete, Sookie felt herself in the center of it and the bubble contracted and expanded with her breathing. She made the energy perfect and golden and fortified it with the suggestion that no one could wage war within the bubble, and that the bubble would bring peace and good feelings to all who entered it. When she felt that it was solid enough, she took a last deep breath, exhaled deeply and opened her eyes. Bjorn, Vincent and Eric were all standing there looking at her, the babies absolutely quiet.

“OK, it’s there,” she said.

“Yes, it is. Very strong and clear,” Vincent agreed.

“You can feel it, Vincent?”

“Yes, and I can see it, too. It’s very resilient for so little effort. I’m quite impressed,” he smiled at Sookie. “Your Queen is growing very strong now, your Majesty. I’d hate to be the person who walks into that bubble and tries to start a fight,” he laughed.

“That good?” Eric asked hopefully

“Oh, yes, Sire, very good, indeed. If you don’t need me anymore, I’ll say good night now.”

“Yes, of course, thank you for your help tonight.”

Vincent nodded to Eric, handed Alex off to Bjorn and bowed deeply to Sookie, leaving very quickly.

“Wow – I’ve never heard that guy say such nice things,” Bjorn laughed. “You seriously impressed him, Sookie.”

“I’m glad, but I’m going to reinforce that bubble tomorrow night, too. I think I should do more than anyone knows about.”

“What do you mean, Sookie?” Eric asked

“Like if somebody knows I did a 10, I’d better do an 11.”

“You don’t suspect Vincent, do you?”

“No, I don’t but there’s someone around him… I don’t know. Someone around him can’t know all that we’re doing.”

“Alright, Sookie, follow your instincts.”

“It’s not just instinct. I took one of those candies for prophecy, remember? Someone, and only one, will try something very targeted, probably at me, and it will backfire on them if I’ve got the bubbles properly seasoned. That’s why I was working on the one around this property – I know you felt it.”

“Several of us did, even Herveaux.”

“I think you scared him, Sookie,” Bjorn laughed. “He had no idea you were doing magick now. He couldn’t believe it was so strong that even he could feel it.”

“Yeah, he’s still not crazy about Eric’s influence on me – he doesn’t realize that the magick stuff is me influencing Eric, not the other way around.”

“He still wants you, Sookie,” Eric told her.

“Yeah, I know, but I’m right where I intend to stay. We need to keep him on our side, though. You know that, Eric.”

“Yes, I do. Half his pack works for me. What’s our status, Bjorn?”

“Everything around the property is secure, your Majesty.”

“What did you find out about the blue car, Bjorn?” Sookie asked.

Eric and Bjorn both looked at each other. “Did you tell her?” Eric asked him

“No, you told us not to.”

“Alright, give her the report,” Eric said, since he hadn’t heard it yet, either.

“It definitely was not a neighbor or anyone visiting them. It’s registered in Georgia, but the plates don’t match the car. We’re 90 per cent sure it was some sort of reconnaissance, but we don’t know whose yet.”

“It’s not New Centurion and it’s not Fae. That’s all I have on it right now,” Sookie said casually. “They’ll be back.”

“What do you recommend, Sookie?” Eric was dead serious, knowing Sookie knew more about this than he or Bjorn did.

“If you see him again, and you probably will at some point this weekend, bring him in and find out who is paying him. He’s a hired gun for one individual with an axe to grind, and it may or may not relate to why I want to be sure Vincent doesn’t know everything. It’s someone he knows, but doesn’t trust.”

“Should I keep Vincent in his position, Sookie?”

“Yeah, he’s trustworthy, and you won’t find anyone better. It’s this other person we have the problem with, or I should say, who has the problem with me. If I didn’t know she was dead, I’d think this was Sabrina.”

Bjorn and Eric looked at each other. It definitely couldn’t be Sabrina, but they both knew Sookie was picking up something real.

Eric nodded. “Alright, Bjorn, you update Sookie with everything you find out immediately. Sookie, if you decide on a course of action while I’m at rest, make sure Bjorn knows exactly what you’re doing. If I’m awake, you tell me before you act if possible, but don’t wait if it’s urgent – just do it.”

“Oh, I will. I told you, I’ve adopted your policy – come after me or my family and you won’t be trying it a second time.”

“Good, I’m glad to hear it.”

“I’m pretty sure whoever this is won’t come at us with a rocket launcher. I’m seeing more of a sniper-type attack.”

“Alright, Bjorn, we are prepared for that?”

“As much as is possible, yes. I don’t think Sookie should go out for a couple of days, though.”

“That might be why I don’t want to,” Sookie said, “because everything in me tells me don’t take my boys outside right now.”

“Listen to that intuition, Sookie, it will keep you alive, I’m sure of it,” Eric told her emphatically as he put his free arm around her. Aubie was asleep on his other shoulder.

“These babies need to go to bed,” Sookie said warmly as she took Alex from Bjorn. “Let’s go up and have some family time, Eric and then you and Bill can work after.”

“Precisely what I had in mind, my Angel. Bjorn, we’ll be going up now.”

“Have a good night, your Majesty. I believe there’s a bowl of Étouffée on your dresser for Sookie to eat later. Margaret didn’t think she ate enough dinner.”

“Alright, I’ll see to that.”

“Yeah, you’re really going to have to twist my arm to get me to eat more Étouffée, Eric,” Sookie joked quietly, not wanting to get the babies riled up.

Eric grabbed the box from the couch and they went back to the elevator. Alex was asleep by the time they reached the third floor. Eric threw the box on the side table and they tucked the boys into the co-sleeper, then cuddled up on their bed.

“So what should we do, my Angel?” he asked once they were settled in each others’ arms, “Bath? Sex? Or just stay here and cuddle?”

“Good question. Would you consider a bath when the boys wake up later?”

“Of course.”

“OK, can we cuddle until then?”

“Absolutely.”

“You won’t be mad if we don’t have sex?”

“Never, Sookie, you know that.”

“Yeah, I do. I just want to feel close and safe right now. I don’t like this feeling that somebody is watching me. It pisses me off.”

Eric laughed softly and pulled her close, kissing her for a long time, then letting her lay her head against his chest and just be quiet. Sookie didn’t say anything for about 5 minutes, then she laughed softly and looked up at him.

“You should have seen the boys watching that Teletubbies DVD. Alex went wild, as usual, but I think Aubie kind of caught on this time, too. The looks on his face were priceless. When something surprises him, his eyes get big and he goes “hoo!” in that silly little voice he does. I was cracking up.”

Eric laughed softly, “he’s very playful. Alex likes to show off, but Aubie thinks everything around him is fun or funny.”

“You think so?” Sookie hadn’t made this observation yet.

“Yes, he’s delighted with everything around him, and you most of all. I’ve never seen a child show more love than he does when he looks at you,” Eric said proudly, kissing her forehead.

“Bjorn and Bobbie said something like that, too. Is it really that noticeable?”

“Yes, it is – it’s very sweet. It makes me very proud of him.”

“Why?” She looked up at him, surprised that he’d said that.

“Because he’s smart enough to recognize how special his mother is – he appreciates you, and knows he is lucky to have you. I believe he will always be that way, even when he is grown.”

“Why do you think that?”

“I had a vision of him the other day as I was at rest, similar to when I saw Alex as King, but he was presenting you with a gift. I couldn’t see what it was, but I could tell that he still had that same adoring look on his face when he spoke to you. He still had stars in his eyes when he looked at your face, and your face was as lovely as it is right now, if not lovelier. Auberon was grown, but you still looked like a girl.”

“That’s good to know,” she laughed. “Was he short?”

“A little shorter than I remember Alex being, but not a lot. He was at least 6 feet tall.”

“OH, GOOD! That’s such a relief!” she laughed as if she’d been worried about it.

“Why is it a relief?”

“I was reading about the myth of George and Oberon where one was human king and one Faerie king, and in that story Oberon only grows to three feet tall.”

“No danger of that, my Angel. You had to look up at him.”

“Was he very handsome?”

“Oh, yes, much more than I,” Eric laughed.

“Not possible.” Sookie looked right at him to let him know she was serious.

“My face has some roughness from living such a hard life when I was human. His face showed no roughness, and was almost Angelic. His hair was much longer than mine, too.”

“When you saw Alex, was his long, too?”

“Yes, and both their hair looked like spun gold. It was very luxurious and nearly to their waists.”

“Wow – even longer than yours?”

“Yes, even longer. They’ll have better products and implements to care for their hair than I did growing up.”

“They’re going to be gorgeous,” Sookie laughed, “they already are! Honestly, Eric, have you ever seen a baby look more Angelic than ours do? They should be in those calendars that lady does of babies as Angels!”

“Yes, they wouldn’t even need the little fake wings. I was very proud of them tonight. Your wolf friend was quite impressed with them, I believe.”

“Yeah, they start out cute, then Alex charms the pants out of everybody. It’s freaky that he can speak already, but he’s such a flirt, people forget about it! “Ah wyg wuffs, Dadee!”” Sookie imitated him and laughed. “You know if he’d stayed 10 more minutes, Alex would have hugged or kissed him.”

“You’re probably right. We’ll have to watch him closely at the ceremony, though, because we don’t know if he’s any judge of character yet. An infant might be open to any stranger…”

“Not him, Eric, no way. When he was inside me, he knew if he didn’t like somebody. He knows when there’s danger around. Aubie is even more wary of people, so we don’t need to worry about them being overly trusting. What we need to be aware of is whether they know not to zap the hell out of someone who means us harm. I was half afraid Alex was going to zap Niall the other night when Aubie cried. Alex didn’t like that AT ALL.”

“He’s very protective of his little brother – and of his mother. Yet another reason to be proud of him. Do we know if Aubie can “zap” people yet?”

“He’s never had to, but I’m pretty sure that if the situation warranted it, the falcon would come for him. He and Alex will have pretty much the same magick, just not the same personalities. Alex is more Yang and Aubie is Yin.”

“Where did you learn those terms, Sookie?”

“What terms?”

“Yin and Yang?”

“I have no idea. Did I use them correctly?”

“Yes, you did.”

“Want to know what’s weird? I also know that Yin/Yang is an Eastern duality that most feminist Witches would be suspicious of, but in the twins’ case, it’s almost literal. They’re intended to have complimentary skills.”

“That’s new information – I’ve never heard that before.”

“Yeah, like Alex is very physical, but Aubie will be more emotional and intellectual. A Fae Prince wouldn’t do well if his primary orientation was war-like, but a Vampire Prince has to be a warrior. Fae need nuance.”

Eric cracked up at that.

“What? Did I say something funny?”

“No, and I’m sure what you said is accurate, it just struck me as funny. Nuance is a very nice way to describe the shifty, multi-layered, conniving nature that Niall in particular possesses. I can’t picture Auberon, as sweet as he is, being able to manipulate situations to his own advantage, but I know he will have to learn to live in that world.”

“You’re not so bad at that yourself, you know.”

“True, I do have a way of coming out on top in most situations.”

Sookie reached up and gave Eric a smoldering kiss. “I know a situation you can come out on top of…”

“Are we suddenly in the mood?”

“We are suddenly ravenous!” Sookie said as she ripped his shirt open, sending buttons flying everywhere. Eric was on her and in her, her favorite shorts in scraps on the floor, almost before the buttons landed and he took her energetically as she tried to pull her camisole over her head.

“Want me to rip it?” he asked as he pounded away at her, making her laugh with delight.

“No, it’s my favorite. I’ve almost got it,” she laughed as she finally got it over her head and off. Sookie took all the irritation she was feeling earlier and poured it into her hips, thrusting upward to meet Eric’s strokes with a loud slap every time they came together. They were both laughing and really letting go, and it felt like it went on for hours. The headboard was pounding into the wall and actually chipped the paint. At one point Sookie noticed the painting was moving a little in time with Eric’s thrusts, the wall was shaking so hard. Suddenly there was a crack and a shifting of the mattress, and they went tumbling off the side of the bed, laughing hysterically, but never really stopping. Sookie thought they’d better finish and find out if the bed was broken, so she dug her nails at once into Eric’s back and he howled and came just as she bit his neck hard and sucked as much blood as she could before the wound closed. It was the first time Sookie remembered having fangs, but she did, and sharp ones at that. Eric slowed, becoming very deliberate and intense, and Sookie held her head to the side. He struck at her neck right into the artery and drank hard as she came harder. When she finished, Eric fell to the side, actually seeming out of breath, the two of them laughing softly as they tried to recover themselves. When she could speak, Sookie asked, “did we break it?”

“I… I don’t… think so,” he said, half laughing, half panting. “I think the slat slipped off the frame and the mattress fell inside it. It can be easily fixed.”

“We end up down here a lot! You know what I was thinking?”

“You were thinking we need a bed on a solid platform here like we have at Fangtasia,” he laughed.

“Yeah, exactly – this one moves too much. I love the headboard, though.”

“I can have it attached to a proper platform. I think I should do that very quickly, before we leave for New Orleans. I’ll call Giselle, and my carpenter if need be, and get that done this week. I don’t want you to get hurt tumbling off the bed,” he nuzzled her ear and she giggled and hugged his neck.

“The new bed in New Orleans is on a platform, isn’t it?” She asked as he moved over her, thinking how beautiful she looked in the soft light.

“Yes, it is, and it’s huge.” He smoothed a strand of hair out of her eyes and stroked her cheek.

“Yeah, it is – have you seen it?”

“No, I just remember you asking about it.” He looked at her with such love in his eyes that Sookie thought she would melt.

“I’ll show you a picture she sent me. You could hold a party on it,” she laughed. “Hey, did you notice I’ve got fangs now?”

“Yes, I did. When did this happen?”

“I’m pretty sure it happened at Freyja’s, but I can’t remember how.”

“Are they permanent?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure they’re just like your fangs now. It’s a part of the new me.”

“Why does a Goddess need fangs?” He couldn’t think of a reason, himself.

“This Goddess needs fangs because she and her big hot Viking husband get off on drinking each other’s blood,” Sookie laughed. “I think I chose it, and I made sure we can always do that. I remember saying there was no way we were giving that up and Freyja and some of the others laughed and agreed they wouldn’t, either.”

“Yes, She would certainly be sympathetic to that in particular.”

“Yeah, She said She loves the mutual feedings and always did. She likes being bitten, but then you know that, right?”

“Right.”

“You know what else?”

“What, my Angel?”

“She’s not sure if our daughter will have fangs or not. She might have to choose to have them like I did if she wants them.”

“You know, Sookie, I was wondering. If we are to have a daughter, wouldn’t she be your automatic heir to the throne of Elfyria?” Eric knew little of the customs of Elfyria, but he knew the title normally went from Mother to daughter.

“Normally, yes, but this won’t be a normal situation. Freyja said the line of destiny is not set at this point. It’s possible Aubie won’t want it, or that they’d share it as brother and sister as they did in ancient times, or she’ll go straight to the Pantheon and won’t be bothered with it… there are other possibilities, but I don’t want to think about them.”

“She might not live that long, is that the other possibility?”

“Yes, but she could still be tripartite with us, I don’t know how, but I don’t want to think about it. Even knowing that, I couldn’t stand it if…”

“Don’t get upset, Sookie, I’m sure that won’t happen.”

“Why are you so sure?”

“You would never allow it. You’ll see that your magick keeps her safe.”

“My magick can’t override Karma, though. If she comes from another life marked…”

“Use your magick to prevent that, too.”

Sookie lay back and looked at the ceiling. “You think I could?”

“I think you could do anything you need to do to protect your children. You’ve got time to figure it out, just as you figured out how to get to Auberon.”

“I didn’t figure it out, Freyja told me.”

“That was you figuring it out, my Angel. When the time comes, you’ll keep her safe.”

“I hope so.”

“Don’t hope, Sookie, do it.”

“Exactly,” She agreed. “Deep down, I know you’re right.”

“I’ll fix the bed, you run the bath.”

Eric kissed her quickly then stood up, helping her stand, then he pushed the mattress back up through the frame and put the slat back in place. He let the mattresses down and pushed down on the bed to test its sturdiness. Sookie started the bath as he suggested and he came in with a naked baby in each arm.

“Shouldn’t we wait until they wake up?” she asked as she swished some vanilla bubble bath into the water with her hand.

“They are waking up, they’re just being very quiet, aren’t you, boys?”

“Mama?” Aubie said softly

“Mama is right there, Auberon, see her?” Eric said softly and Aubie raised his head up off Eric’s shoulder and leaned toward Sookie, who took him and hugged him to her. Eric checked the temperature of the water and stood close in case she needed help getting into the tub, but she and Aubie were fine. Eric and Alex were in next to them before Sookie even got settled, and they put each baby in the little support pillows and gave them the rubber duckies that they loved. Sookie knew the boys would want to feed soon, so she let Eric wash her hair while the boys played and splashed a bit.

“So, my Angel, tell me about these rosary beads of yours.”

“Hang on to your hat,” she laughed.

“Alright.”

“I woke up in Elfyria this morning and met my lady in waiting, Madeleine, who took me to Titania’s and my rooms. You know her, right?”

“Right.”

“OK, I lay down in the bed and fell asleep, panicked and woke up here, hugged Aubie to feel grounded, fell asleep again and we both woke up there. I rocked him by the fire, changed his diaper, and I asked Madeleine how to get back and could I take something with me. I looked in the big trunk at the foot of her bed and found a set of rosary beads in it, then went to sleep with them in my hand and Aubie in my arms. We woke up on the shore where I usually see Freyja. Still with me?”

“Hanging on every word,” he laughed a little, but he wasn’t kidding.

“So I’m standing on the shore holding Aubie and I hear a gasp behind me. I turn and I’m looking at myself, but a younger me. I’m face to face with Sookie in 2006. She’s pregnant and she says Freyja told her to give me this Goddess rosary, holds it out and we know not to touch each other, but there’s a shimmer of light and I have an identical set in my hand. I asked where she got them and she says she and Bobbie made them. I said wait – you’re in 2006 and you’re already pregnant and you know Bobbie? She says yes. I suddenly realized this was me, not from MY past, but from the past in another reality, so I asked if she had ever slept with Bill Compton. She said no, thank Goddess, Eric got me away from him before we got that close. She said she and Eric met, clicked and were bonded and pregnant in just about a week.”

Eric was stunned, not knowing what to say.

“Still with me?”

“I think so.”

“OK, I warned her about Aubie and Alex and not to trust Niall and told her he would try to keep Aubie and to ask Freyja to help keep them all together. I forgot something important, though.”

“What did you forget?”

“I forgot to ask about Gran. Gran was killed because people knew about me and Bill. If there was no me and Bill, is it possible Gran didn’t die in that reality?”

“One of your Witches will have to answer that, but it would seem possible. If the rest of it can happen differently, I don’t see why that detail couldn’t be changed.”

“So what do you think?”

“I don’t know what to say, Sookie,” Eric was overwhelmed and she could feel it.

“I thought you’d like knowing that somewhere, somehow, we got it right and I never hooked up with Bill.”

“I do like it, Sookie, more than I…” he had to stop for a minute and get hold of himself while he rinsed her hair.

When he saw Eric finish with Sookie’s hair, Alex said, “Dadee, wath Obee ayr.”

“Can I wash your hair first, Alex? Aubie is having fun right now,” Eric smiled softly at him, not wanting to interrupt Aubie, who was now showing Sookie his duckie and she was telling him about all about it as he sat rapt with every word she said. “That’s a rubber ducky, Aubie. See, rubber,” she ran his finger over it. “And it’s yellow. See, this monster is yellow, too.” She squeezed a little water toy and Aubie was thrilled when a stream of water shot out of it.

“Oday,” Alex said, content to let Aubie go second. Eric used the handheld on a gentle setting and quickly washed Alex’s hair, then soaped him up all over to his sheer delight. Aubie discovered bubbles right about then and Sookie showed him how to blow them off his hand, which he picked up pretty quickly. “Bubba, Obee!” Alex held a handful of suds out so he could see, “bubba?”

“aBah!” Aubie tried his best to imitate Alex.

“Bubba!”

“aBah!”

“That’s a good try, Aubie. Those are bubbles.”

Aubie shook his little head and giggled, loving the way Mama said that.

“Auberon, can we wash your hair now?” Eric asked him, still very subdued.

“Mama!”

“You want Mama to wash your hair?” Eric asked him gently

“Ah, Mama!”

“You think he knows what you’re asking or is he wanting me to feed him?” Sookie asked

“Either way, go ahead and wash his hair then we’ll wash him off because they need to feed soon.”

“Yeah, you’re right. OK, Aubie, we’re gonna wash your hair now, OK? Just like Alex! Alex got his hair washed, didn’t he?” She chattered to him as she pulled him around and Eric fixed the handheld for her to use. She was always afraid Aubie would be afraid to get his hair washed, but he closed his eyes and appeared to enjoy the sensation. Everybody could feel the pleasure and love he felt when Sookie soaped him up and rinsed him off, too. The boys splashed a little more while Sookie washed Eric’s hair and they washed each other off, kissing when they were finished and making Aubie giggle.

“Are you laughing at Mommy and Daddy, Auberon?” Eric teased him, recovering himself a bit.

“Ah!”

“Obee wyg kisthesth!”

“Yes, he does!”

“Alex likes kisses, too,” Sookie teased him taking his face in her hands and kissing his face and head all over. Aubie cracked up at that, so she did the same to him.

“Obee undwy, Mamee.”

“Diapers first, then eat, OK?”

“Oday.”

“I’ll diaper them, Sookie, while you comb out your hair.”

“Good idea,” she said as he kicked it into Vampire speed and got out, dried off, combed his hair and zipped out of the room with Aubie in a towel. Sookie made sure Alex couldn’t fall, then got out quickly and dried, staying close to him the whole time until Eric came back for him. She combed out her hair and by the time she was done, Eric and the boys were in bed waiting for her, Alex crawling around after the kitten while Aubie sat on Eric’s tummy chattering and giggling as he held onto Eric’s hands while he shook him around gently and teased him.

“Aw, you all look so sweet.”

Eric picked Aubie up and held him over his head. “Mommy thinks we look sweet, Auberon, but we’re ferocious, aren’t we!” he shook him and growled playfully and Aubie squealed with laughter, Alex zipping back to play, too, and Eric held him up next for a gentle shake as Sookie took Aubie on her side of the bed. Aubie immediately wanted to feed, so she got him into position, and let him go to town. It suddenly occurred to Sookie that she thought her milk made them sleepy, but then she remembered they usually suckled in the morning and didn’t go back to sleep. At any rate, it was obvious Aubie was feeling warm and comfy and wouldn’t be awake much longer. Alex took time out of laughing and squealing to say, “ahm undwy, Mamee!” so Eric kissed him and helped Sookie get him into place. Eric immediately put his arm around Sookie’s shoulders and kissed her, snuggling close so he could gently rub the babies’ backs as they fed.

The boys weren’t the only ones getting sleepy. Eric could see Sookie fading as she laid her head against his chest and closed her eyes.

“Sookie?”

“Mm-hm?” she responded, not opening her eyes.

“Promise me if you ever see that Sookie again, you’ll ask her what I did right?”

Sookie laughed softly, and said, “I’d like to know that myself. OK, if I see her again, I’ll find out,” as she slipped away. He really hoped she’d remember, because it was eating at him.

It amazed him that she could fall asleep with the boys feeding. Most women found the sensation very intense, if not downright painful, but he believed Sookie was soothed by it just as the boys were. Once the boys were tucked into the co-sleeper, and he had moved Sookie down into a comfortable position to sleep, Eric dressed, set up the monitor and went down to meet with Bill in the den, calling him first from his third floor office.

Bill had expected Eric to call about this time, so he was dressed, though he and Pam had been in bed for several very enjoyable hours. He zipped from the chalet to the back of the house where Eric had the sliding door open as he arrived. Bill had the briefcase of papers with him, and another list of questions for Eric.

“Bill, having a pleasant evening?” Eric asked as he led him into the dining room, though he didn’t really care. Eric had a lot on his mind, especially regarding 2006.

“Yes, the chalet is very comfortable. You said we’ll be sharing it the day after the Wiccaning?”

“Yes, Prince Badru Bast and his wife will spend at least one day with us so she and Sookie can do magick together.”

“It never occurred to me that Sookie was so advanced that she’d be collaborating.”

“It’s less of a collaboration and more of a more experienced practitioner teaching a newer one what is possible.”

“Isn’t Octavia handling that part of Sookie’s education?”

“Primarily, but there’s a particular bond with Sookie and Amunet – you might say they’re cut from the same cloth. She’s very sharp and quick, with great confidence and apparently great skill. I’m sure it will be good for the two of them to be friends.”

“They’re closer in age, if I remember her correctly?”

“Yes, probably within 3 or 4 years at the most, and she’s very petite and pretty as Sookie is, you know. She’s more of an equal, but also someone Sookie aspires to emulate.”

“She’s more stylish is what you’re saying.”

“That, too, but it’s her confidence that impressed Sookie most, I believe. From what I observed, that woman could walk into any room or situation and handle herself gracefully with no self-consciousness at all. She’s very… chic, I suppose is the best word for it. Combined with her magickal skills, she’s an excellent role model for a young Queen.”

“I can see that. Sookie dresses the part very well, but she doesn’t own it yet.”

“Excellent choice of words. Yes, she needs to “own it.” She’s more self-assured every day, but Amunet can improve her sense of self very quickly by showing her what she can do. I suspect we’ve only scratched the surface at this point.”

“What you’ve told me already is remarkable. I can’t wait to hear what she learns from her. I got the results of the background check on them, by the way, and there’s nothing there you wouldn’t find with any Vampire regent. He’s honest when he can be, ruthless when he needs to be, tries to keep his business separate from humans as much as is possible. He’s got reason to hate New Centurion, though, which is a plus.”

“Yes, it is. I don’t know when we’ll have to go after them, but I know it’s inevitable. Do you have the figures on the East Coast club openings?”

“Yes, they’re right here.

Eric and Bill worked for over three hours before he heard Alex say “Dadee,” over the baby monitor. They said goodnight and Eric locked the back door and zipped up the stairs to see to the boys. It was a very quiet story time because Alex was tired. He ate a lot of baby mac and cheese and a jar of apples, plus a big bottle of blood. He fell asleep quickly after Eric burped him, so he was already tucking him in when Aubie woke up.

“Mama?”

“Shhh, Auberon, Mama is asleep. Let’s go have a bottle and let Mama rest, alright?” Eric spoke softly to him, rubbing his back as he took him into the nursery. Aubie didn’t want food tonight, but he drank an entire big bottle of blood as Eric told him the story about the bear. Eric could tell he didn’t understand much, but he could also tell that the sound of his voice made him feel safe, and he looked him in the eyes the whole time and reached up to pat his face three different times. He walked him for a long while, enjoying the fact that he felt safe in Daddy’s arms, and surprised it took him so long to go to sleep. When he was sleeping soundly, Eric tucked him back in next to Alex, gave Sookie her Ambrosia, and left Jerry in charge of the family for another day. He fell asleep thinking about Eric from 2006, wondering what he did to get such a quick response from Sookie and wishing he could have been there when he did.

Sookie was dreaming, but it wasn’t a “visit Freyja on the shore” dream. In this dream she relived meeting Eric for the first time, word for word, but from the point where she fought with Bill the whole night went differently. She watched herself fight with Bill on the front porch of her old house, but was distracted by something off to the left. Somehow she could see up into the trees beyond the light in the yard and she could swear she saw Eric standing in a tree. What the hell? Eric wasn’t there, was he? She shook herself for a minute, feeling like a stranger in her own dream, but she snapped out of it when she realized the Sookie she’d been watching had run back into the house. Suddenly, she was in her room, watching Young Sookie undress, hearing a voice at the window. Like a fly on the wall, or a phantom in the air, she watched as the next two days unfolded, Eric courting and seducing her at the window, their glorious first time together in her own bed, Eric saving her from a strangler on the back porch by the dryer. When Eric pulled the mask off the attacker and Sookie saw it was René dead on the floor, she was so shocked she shot back into her body like she ran full speed into a wall.

She was numb. She tried to open her eyes and couldn’t manage it, but she realized she was completely lucid. She was back in her own body, wasn’t she? Was she stuck between the worlds? It suddenly flashed into her mind that she hadn’t properly cleared her magick room after invoking the circle in anger and going to Folkvangr, and she could feel something lurking in the house. If she could wake up, she’d banish it, but she realized her spirit felt disconnected from her body. Was that thing keeping her from incorporating completely? Octavia had taught her that if your spirit travels at night and you’re scared, there’s a cord that jerks you back instantaneously. Yes, she felt the jerk and the fall, she felt the impact of hitting the bed, but when she raised her hand only her spirit hand moved and her body lay motionless.

Shit! Sookie wasn’t trained to deal with this because theoretically, this wasn’t supposed to happen. She couldn’t see so she sat up. Alright, she could see the room, and she could see her lower body. To the left, Jerry was drinking a cup of coffee and reading City of Night by Dean Koontz as she lay there motionless. Suddenly, she was standing by the bed, looking at herself and the boys as they slept. Everyone seemed fine for the moment, so Sookie decided the thing to do would be to try to ask Octavia what to do, though she also knew she was probably not going to know. Something slipped across the ceiling into the shadows, and she instinctively threw her hand at it and said, “get out!” but there was no sound. She saw a flicker in the shadows and whatever it was quickly left the room. ‘Alright,’ Sookie told herself, ‘I’ve still got some powers, so that’s good!’ She threw a quick bubble of protection around the bedroom and everyone in it, then she decided her next move – “Octavia!” she thought again and was instantly by her bed, but Octavia wasn’t in it. She was kneeling in a corner, adding herbs to a brass cauldron and chanting, but Sookie couldn’t make out what she was saying. She knew she shouldn’t interrupt, but this was important.

“Octavia? Octavia! It’s me, Sookie, can you hear me?”

Nothing. She was too focused on what she was doing and Sookie couldn’t generate any noise. OK, the only one who might hear her at this point would be Alex or Aubie, but they couldn’t tell her what to do and it might scare them, so that was out.

Go to the Source, she realized and went instantly to her circle in the basement. Ew – the energy in here was almost slimy! She berated herself for not smudging it immediately when she got back and she ran through what she might be able to do about it now. She didn’t have a physical body, but she realized she did have telekinesis. Alright, she looked around the room. She willed the cabinet doors to open and saw what she needed on the top shelf – a box of sea salt. She pointed at it, just to focus her attention and brought it out to the middle of the room. She willed the spout open and managed to get the box to move around the circle to pour a solid ring of salt on the floor around her. Good. She called her scrying mirror into the circle and settled it on the little altar table on the floor. She started to kneel but then realized it was easier to just hover over it and look into it. “Freyja! I need you – help me!”

The mirror seemed to shimmer and she saw Freyja facing her. “There’s a reason for everything, Sookie, you just need to ask what it is.”

“Ok, what’s the reason I can’t get back into my body?”

“Who is on the grounds, My Angel?” Freyja was guiding her to work it out, rather than just telling her.

“Besides the immediate family, there’s Bill and Pam, and Were and Vampire guards.”

“Who else, Sookie? Think! You saw someone around Vincent – the Cambion. It’s not New Centurion and it’s not Fae…”

Sookie recognized her words to Bjorn from earlier in the night. “Daemons! There are Daemon guards on the compound.”

“While you’re noncorporeal, you might take the time to see what they’re up to. If you cloak yourself in wind, they’ll never know you’re there.”

“What about the thing in the house?”

“You’re not the only one who can leave your body, My Angel. Find the other person who is not in their shell. I’ll be here when you get back.”

Sookie willed herself to fly to the HQ behind the house, riding an unusually strong wind that was blowing through the trees. She saw familiar faces watching the video screens, Vamps in a couple of the cabinets, a Daemon playing solitaire in the corner. That struck Sookie as funny, but she didn’t dwell. She rode the wind to the guard stand in the back. Two Weres watching the video screens, three Daemons, one of them Rafael, having a conversation in the front, and finally there was one on a cot in the back, not moving, empty. Why did he look so familiar? Sure, he was working on the compound, but Sookie was sure that’s not where she’d seen him. She pointed at him to focus her attention and said “get back in your body and stay there!” The man’s eyes instantly flew open and he acted as if he was suffocating or having a heart attack. Sookie was outside the room looking in now, as he sat up, looking scared to death, trying to figure out what happened. “Bjorn will find out who you are!” Sookie said and the wind whipped up across the property again.

Sookie knew it was her own power causing the wind, and she loved it. She rode it to the front gate, but there was nothing going on in the guardhouse there – just two guards playing poker, occasionally checking the video screens. She counted about 6 wolves prowling the grounds as she flew all around the property, loving the sensation. This was different from flying when she was in her body. She was one with the wind, a part of it, and it swept her around in great swoops that reminded her of the way Eric played with the babies. It was exhilarating! She wondered if she could fly that way in her body if she tried, and put that on her mental list of magick to explore.

It was getting very light out, so she returned to her circle and, true to Her word, Freyja was waiting for her.

“I found him! I put him back in his body and told him to stay there!” She said, still invigorated from the wind.

“Very good, My Angel! Now, I know you’ve been taught to smudge, but that’s a human technique. It’s much easier for you to clear the energy in a building. Send your energy out with intention, Sookie, and feel yourself grow into the rooms, into all the corners and nooks and crannies. Leave no room for other magick.”

“What about Octavia and Amelia and Bobbie? They do magick!”

“They’re family – their magick is tied into yours. There will always be room for the people you love.”

“OK,” Sookie said as she felt her spirit grow denser and reach out to the rest of the house. It didn’t take long at all, to her surprise, before the house felt like another body or shell to contain her.

“Excellent, Sookie! You can do that instantaneously, whenever you feel the need, wherever you are. Before long, you’ll be able to enter another creature, to see what it sees and know what it knows. Say your incantation now, and you’ll return safe to your bed.”

“Is that all I needed to do earlier?”

“Yes, but you needed to clean house first. You did well to examine the problem. Your higher self often knows what is necessary before it enters your consciousness. The boys need you now, Sookie, go.”

“Trygg i min säng, trygg i min säng, trygg i min säng!” Sookie’s eyes popped open as Aubie was calling her.

“Mama!”

Sookie scooped him up and hugged him, rolling on her side. “Hi, Jerry.”

“Good morning your majesty. I think he was having a bad dream. He was whimpering for a few minutes, but I didn’t know what to do.”

“You could pet him and try to comfort him, or you can wake me up – either would be fine, but he’s OK now, aren’t you, Baby.”

“Ah, Mama!” Aubie patted her face and then snuggled in under her chin where it was warm. He and Sookie were asleep in an instant.

“Good morning, your Majesty!” Madeleine greeted Sookie as she opened her eyes.

“Hey! Here we are again, huh?” She laughed a little, noticing Aubie was still snuggled in her arms. “And my buddy is wet!”

“I’ve got a fresh diaper right here, and here’s your robe. I’ve got some fresh milk and warm bread, white tea and Faerie cakes by the fire for ye, and the freshest honey you’ve ever tasted, I guarantee.”

“Oh, I never heard of white tea before…”

“It’s the youngest tea they pick. First it’s white, then it’s green, then it’s black. The youngest is the brightest and best, much favored by our People.”

“OK, good to know.” Sookie let her help her into her robe, then she changed Aubie’s diaper on the bed. She was soon seated at a small table by the fire, having a lovely breakfast with Aubie tucked into a little bassinet right next to her.

“This is so nice of you – thank you,” Sookie said sincerely as Maddy drizzled honey on a piece of warm, fresh, buttered bread and poured Sookie some sweet, whole milk from a blue glass pitcher. The tea was very mild and the Faerie cakes were sweet and wonderful. “The cakes taste like apples,” she happily observed, and Maddy said, “Yes, there’s grated apple in the recipe. I’m so pleased that you like them.”

“Aubie will like them when he’s older. He loves apples.”

“Does he now?” Maddy loved any little bit of information she could get about the Prince.

“Yes, he loves apple sauce and will even ask for it sometimes.”

“Should I get him a little dish for when he wakes up?”

“If it’s not too much trouble, I know he’d like it.”

“I’ll send the girl down straight away, Milady!” Maddy rushed out the door and sent the chambermaid to the kitchen for a bowl of applesauce.

When she came back, Sookie asked, “so, Niall doesn’t know we were here yesterday, right?”

“Oh, no, no one breathed a word. We’ll try to get ye familiar with the castle before he knows of your visits. It would be good for ye to know your way around.”

“Yeah, it would. Hey, did I… I mean, did Titania have any kind of teacher? For magick, I mean, like a Witch or a Priestess?”

“Oh, yes, she had a very famous tutor – Nivian, The Lady of the Lake!”

“Lady of the Lake? Like in the Arthurian legends?”

“The very same, Milady, and many other cultures as well.”

“I thought She was a spirit that lived in the water?”

“She’s Mistress of the sacred spring in Avalon – the Apple Isle.”

“It’s real?”

“Oh, yes, Milady, and a part of your Queendom, though they operate independently of the Crown. It has many names – Tir Na Nog, Hesperides , The Fortunate Isles…”

“The people who live there operate independently?”

“The Priestesses – its only inhabitants are a religious order of women dedicated to the triple Goddess.”

“What about Arthur? Isn’t he supposed to be there, waiting to be King again?”

“That’s the legend, but who knows if it’s true? The Lady might be able to tell ye, but I don’t know that She would. At any rate, no man lives there. They can visit, but they don’t stay long. Titania was very happy there when she was a girl.”

“She lived there for a time?”

“Yes, to study magick. Her gifts were apparent from the time she was a baby, so she went very young for one season every year.”

“Which season?”

“It circled about. First, she went in spring for 3 years, then summer for three, fall for three, winter for three, then she went whenever she wanted, but she’d stay for weeks or months at a time.”

“Did you miss her?”

“I most often went with her, Milady, to see to her needs. It’s the most beautiful place in the world, I’m sure, with the most beautiful apples of every kind.”

“Do the Priestesses ever come here?”

“Oh, yes, and they’ll stay for quite a while at times. Nivian has been our guest many times, and of course, She’d come whenever Titania called Her.”

“Called her? Like, the way I can call the babies?”

“Yes, but it required a special talisman – a necklace with a fabulous aquamarine crystal in it. I don’t know what ever became of it, though, no one does. Niall has been looking for years.”

“I know exactly where it is!” Sookie said with surprise. “Would you excuse me for just a minute?”

“Of course, Milady! Just call when you need me again.” She said as she quickly left the room and closed the large wooden door. Sookie went to the left side of the fireplace, moving a large marble pot full of ferns by rolling it on its base to the side onto a throw rug and pulling it away from the wall. At the back of the fireplace, she pulled loose a stone, exactly where she remembered it, and inside was a book, a letter, a ring and a round stone box that she knew contained the necklace. She tucked the other things back in for another day, replaced the stone and moved the large pot back into place. She looked at the area carefully, trying to be sure nothing looked as if she’d moved it, sure no one would dream that she or Titania could have moved that big pot.

She was shaking all over as she took the small black marble box to her chair next to Aubie. There was a rose carved into the stone lid, and Sookie could barely breathe as she lifted it off, showing the necklace inside. It was a long, heavy gold chain that gleamed in the light of the fire, and the large emerald cut pendant was exquisite. The stone reminded Sookie of a Tiffany necklace she had at home and wondered if that’s why she’d been so drawn to it. She remembered that she chose it to wear at the wedding reception, and wondered if there was a connection between the stones. Something about the aquamarine soothed her and she thought the name was so fitting for this stone in particular because it was the color of the water on the shore where she always saw Freyja. Aubie seemed to be sleeping soundly so Sookie slipped the necklace over her head and held her hand over the stone as it fell between her breasts. She stepped to the middle of the room, gripped the stone with her right… no, she remembered, use the left hand… and she spoke. “Nivian, are You still there, my Priestess?”

The air shimmered and an impressive woman stood before Sookie with a big smile on her face. She was tall – as tall as Claudine – and her long wavy hair was the color of flames. Sookie remembered seeing a painting of a girl in an orange dress called Flaming June and she thought it must have been inspired by Nivian’s hair. Her white dress looked Greek and draped beautifully over her powerful but feminine frame. When she stopped “shimmering,” She swept Sookie into an embrace and cried, “Titania! At last you’ve come back to Me, My precious Child!”

Sookie was overwhelmed and cried, too, feeling for the first time since she was a child that she had a mother. Nivian kissed her eyes and her forehead and hugged her again, and they stayed that way until Aubie called, “Mama!”

“Tend to him, My Darling!” Nivian encouraged her, stroking her hair.

Sookie pulled Aubie up and brought him to Nivian, who kissed him ceremoniously on the forehead. “Our Anointed!” She said with a dazzling smile, “we’ve waited a long time for you, little boy! And his twin, Sookie, is he as lovely as this one?”

“Yes, they’re nearly identical, except he’s a little bigger and more advanced than Auberon.”

“Well, he’s a warrior, that’s to be expected. He needs to be big, as well as clever and quick. This tiny Angel will never go to war if we can prevent it. He’s far too precious to Our People.”

“Hey, how did you know my name?”

“Titania sent the name of the True Heir to me before she died, My Dear! I would have known you anywhere, you are so like she.”

“I’m so glad I remembered how to call You!”

“I have been waiting for you – Dr. Ludwig told me of your visit to Folkvangr, so I knew it would be soon.”

“I’ve got so many questions!”

“Are you writing them down?”

“Some, yes, I have a book…”

“Write them all, Sookie, your sons and your daughter will need your book, just as you need Titania’s. That little thing you have at home will not do. You will find a proper book waiting when you get home, and you be consistent with your entries, you hear Me? What is happening is too important not to record and reflect upon it. It is time to take your Self seriously. You have serious work to do.”

“What is my work?”

“To be the mother these children require to be whom they will grow to be, and to inspire others with your love and your kindness, and especially your love for the Goddess. Follow your instincts, Sookie, they naturally guide you toward your destiny. There will be peace within and between the Worlds when We are done, so never doubt that your cause is True and Just. Sacrifices have been made, so you must strive to be worthy of what others have offered in Our Name.”

“This is about the war between Matriarchy and patriarchy, right?”

“The Tide is turning as We work Our Will. Harmony will reign at the end of Our Journey. Never falter, My Child. I must go now before I exhaust you, but you call Me again, and I will attend you! Write your questions and when the planets align you will bring your book to Avalon, then We will find some answers. I’ll see you sooner than you think.” She kissed Sookie’s lips and Aubie’s forehead as She shimmered and disappeared.

“Maddy!”

Madeleine was in the room instantly. “Yes, Milady?”

“It worked! I called Her, and She came and spoke to me, and kissed me and Aubie. She called him Our Anointed. What did that mean?”

“He is to be King at some point in his life, and there will finally be peace among our People.”

“OK, that’s what I thought it meant.”

Maddy had the bowl of applesauce and Sookie had her sit and talk while she fed them to Aubie. When he took his first bite, he smiled and said “abuh!”

“Yeah, apples! They have the best apples here, right, Maddy?”

“Oh, yes, you’ll never taste a sweeter one than ye find among the Fae.”

“Why are apples so sacred?” Sookie wondered.

“Have ye ever cut one crossways, Milady?”

“No, why?”

Maddy pulled an apple from her apron and used Sookie’s bread knife to cut the apple through the meridian, and held the cut face up to her.

“A pentacle!”

“Exactly, Milady. It’s why the Christians claim Eve ate an apple that brought sin on the people. It carries the mark of the Goddess within it.”

“There was no Eve, right?”

“Not the one the priests try to sell ye, but I know this – even that one is more than She seems.”

“What do you mean?”

“Titania told me once that the name of that god is four letters in Hebrew and three of the four spell Eve – even in their own language, the woman is three quarters of god.”

“Oh! I…”

“Eh, Bumby, Mama?”

“Buddy? We need to go home to Buddy now?”

“Ah!”

“OK, I guess. I feel like we just got here!”

“You’ll be back before you know it, Milady. You go feed these beautiful babies, and we’ll see you again soon!”

“Alright,” Sookie said reluctantly, taking Aubie back to the bed, still wearing the necklace. Just as she began to drift off, Maddy tucked the marble box in between her and Aubie, and before Sookie knew it she was looking at Bjorn on Eric’s side of the bed, leaning over her, shining a pen light in her eyes.

“Good morning, your Majesty!”

“My name is Sookie,” she laughed weakly. “Good morning – what happened?”

“We had a flash of light and a sonic boom right on top of you about an hour ago, and you couldn’t wake up until now. How do you feel?” He pressed the back of his fingers against her cheek, then the front against her forehead, but found no sign of fever.

“Really tired, but I’ve got things to do today,” she said with a sense of purpose.

“You aren’t going anywhere for a while, Sweetheart,” he told her firmly, “You’re going to stay in bed until I’m satisfied with your blood pressure.”

“Is it high?”

“It was very high, and now it’s too low. Neither extreme is good. Pick a movie and we’ll bring it up for you to watch. You’re staying in bed until Eric gets up.”

“But I’ve got to…”

“You have nothing you have to do, according to Alicia, except try on your dress once more since it’s been hemmed and tucked or whatever and pick a pair of shoes. Did Freyja give you any orders for today?”

“No, We already did a lot today. I did a lot, I should say.”

“Alright, you can try on your dress before dinner. You have a package marked “Urgent” downstairs. Jerry says it’s safe, but I’d like you to give him permission to open it.”

“OK, if you think so…”

Bjorn pulled his phone out of his pocket and pushed a button. “Hey, Jerry?”

“Yeah, Boss?”

“The Queen said go ahead and open the box. She’s spending the day up here, so if it’s important, you can bring it up for her.”

“Will do.”

“Where are the boys?” She could feel them in the house, but couldn’t pinpoint it.

“Flying in the gym.”

“Aubie, too?”

“I don’t know if he’s actually flying, but he’s up there. Amelia and Bobbie took them up while I stayed with you after the boom. Octavia was pretty sure you would wake up eventually, but in another hour, we’d have called Ludwig.”

“OH, YEAH – Bjorn!” she grabbed hold of his arm for emphasis, “there’s one of the Daemons who’s up to something. He was out of his body sneaking around in the shadows in here early this morning. I put him back in his body, but I think it’s connected to Vincent and that blue car. Is one of them related to him, maybe?”

“Possibly. There’s one new one I’ve seen at Fangtasia with him a few times. I figured he got him the job.”

“Maybe that’s why he looks so familiar to me. I know I’ve seen him before. Anyway, Freyja put me onto him and like I said, his spirit was prowling around in the shadows in here. When I zapped him back into his body I told him to stay there and I cast “Bjorn will find out who you are.””

“OK, I’ll check him out. What’s the deal with this marble box?” He pointed to her nightstand and there was the round black box.

“The necklace!” her hand went immediately to her chest and the amulet was still there! “It’s here! It came with me!”

“That’s nice – the girls were admiring it. You wore it to bed?”

“It’s special and I… oh, I’m so glad it came with me! I’ll bet that’s what the flash and the boom was about – was it like when I tried to bring the book home?”

“Yeah, now that you mention it, it was an exploding ball of light like that, but it wasn’t as powerful. The sound was almost the same, but the light didn’t knock me out.”

“OK, either this has less magick on it than the book, or I’m getting stronger, or both. I need to figure out which. Octavia is up now?”

“Yeah, she’ll be back. She was going to get dressed and come back to check on you.”

“OK, that’s cool.”

“Your majesty?”

“Jerry? Come on up!”

Jerry came in with an open box and Sookie found that it contained a big dark brown leather book full of thin tan paper.

“Wow, I never saw paper like this before.”

“Bobbie’s got a book or two like that. I think it’s called parchment paper.”

“Hey, there’s stuff already in it! My stuff! Where did this come from?”

“There’s a letter in the box,” Jerry showed her an envelope of really old paper with a red wax seal on it – of an apple! Her name was on the front in the most beautiful script – even more ornate and lovely than Eric’s.

Sookie opened it carefully, not wanting to crack the seal, and found a note from Nivian! She read aloud:

My precious Sookie,

Here is the book I promised you. Use it well and often, My Darling.

Love to your wonderful family,

Nivian of Avalon”

“Wow! She just told me about this this morning and it’s here already! She must be a time-bender, too!”

“Who is it from, Sookie?” Bjorn was having trouble keeping up with all of this.

“Nivian, the Lady of the Lake.”

“THE Lady of the Lake as in King Arthur’s Lady of the Lake?”

“Yep, She’s Titania’s teacher. This necklace summons Her, and I knew exactly how to use it! She came and hugged and kissed me and we cried, and She kissed Aubie and She kind of scolded me a little about not working on my book so my kids could use it!” Sookie was getting a little giddy again, so Bjorn got the blood pressure cuff and made her let him take it.

Octavia came back in as Bjorn was pumping the cuff up and she looked at the letter and book while Sookie tried to be calm.

“Damn! It’s too high again, Sookie!” Bjorn was worried about this. These highs and lows were dangerous.

“I thought it was too low?” Octavia asked.

“It was a half hour ago. Now it’s spiking again. I’m calling Dr. Ludwig,” he said emphatically as he grabbed Sookie’s phone, reaching across her to the nightstand, and pulled up the number.

“Sookie?”

“Hello, Dr. Ludwig, this is Bjorn Anderson, the Queen’s guard. I’m very worried about some abnormalities in her blood pressure – it goes very high, goes very low, then a half hour later it spikes again.”

“I was afraid something like that might come up, but this is sooner than I thought we’d have to deal with it. I’ll be right there.”

Bjorn started to say, “she’s coming,” but the Dr. was there before the words were out. Bjorn went around the bed and moved the co-sleeper so the doctor could get to her. The doctor put the cuff on her other arm and pumped it up, then shook her head when she read the results.

“No, no, that’s no good. We can’t have this. What have you been doing today?”

Sookie gave her a run down of being out of body, spying on the guards, and going to Elfyria.

“Things are moving very quickly,” the doctor observed darkly, “I just hope you’re up to all of this. Lie back.”

Sookie did and the doctor put her hand over her womb.

“Am I pregnant yet?”

“Not yet, but it won’t be long. We have to get your blood pressure under control.”

“Dr., is it possible for a Goddess to forget about human limitations? Like, to not realize that a human body might not withstand certain energies or processes.”

“Yes, it’s very possible – even likely, in some cases. Do you feel that is happening here with you?”

“I absolutely trust that Freyja and I are one and that She means only the best for me, but sometimes I do wonder if my body can keep up with all the change and the energy and stuff.”

“Well, overall your body is changing for the better, but I am definitely seeing signs of strain. That box,” she pointed to the rosewood box she had given Eric at the chalet, which was sitting on the table where the guards sat, “should be in a much safer place! Why isn’t it in the safe?”

“I don’t know – what is it?”

“Northman didn’t tell you?”

“No, he didn’t.”

“Do you know how to get into his safe?”

“Yes.”

“Take it and put it away right now, then I want you back in bed. I’m going to mix up a shot, and we’re going to work like hell to keep you alive through the Wiccaning.”

“Oh, OK…”

Bjorn handed Sookie the box and she took it into Eric’s office. It took just a minute to remember the combination, 23 left, 9 right, 13 left, but she did and the lock clicked and opened. Sookie opened the lid on the box before she put it away, and saw that it was two pretty wreaths with gold and pearls. “Crowns?” she asked herself as she closed and locked the safe again.

“Dr. Ludwig,” she asked as she went back to bed, “are those crowns Eric and I have to wear?”

“Yes, my dear, and very special ones at that,” she replied as she used a syringe in a couple of bottles and mixed it into another with some herbs.

“They’re enchanted?” Sookie decided she liked using that word instead of saying they had magick on them. It sounded so pretty in a Cinderella way – “enchanted.”

“Yes, they’ll let you know to whom and to what you’re speaking at the party. There will be many kinds of Supes and many important office holders, and those will help you greet them properly and take proper care where necessary.”

“That’s cool. I was worried about that.”

“Eventually, you and the King will have the ability of your own power, but we’re not there yet. This is an important event and we can’t take a chance on offending anyone more powerful than you are right now.” She was shaking the final syringe to make sure the ingredients blended properly.

“Then we won’t always need them?”

“No, and I’ll be back for those Monday night. They belong to the Global Council. Freyja arranged permission for you to use them and it’s a great honor that they’ve gifted you the use of them, so guard them well.”

“Oh, I will. Eric just forgot to tell me, I guess.”

“You two need to fill each other in more thoroughly. Between the sex and the babies, important details are getting missed. We can’t have that. I want you to take an hour every night just to talk with no distractions. Plan for it around the babies’ nap schedule and make it a priority.” She swabbed Sookie’s arm with something that didn’t smell like alcohol, then gave her the shot.

“Alright, we will.”

“Holy Mother! Is that Titania’s amulet?” Ludwig was shocked.

“Yes, it is. Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Very. Your great grandfather would kill – literally – to get his hands on it. He would have torn that castle down to find it in the rubble if there hadn’t been people there to stop him. Don’t take it off while you’re outside of Elfyria with it. It will be easy for him to find it here and if you’re not wearing it, he’ll kill you and take it. Listen to me carefully, Sookie. Niall will KILL for that necklace.”

“Would it work for him? It’s how I call Nivian to me!”

“Great Goddess – have you been with Nivian?”

“Yes, She came to me in Elfyria this morning.”

“You knew how to use it?” This was beyond even Freyja’s predictions.

“Instantly – I knew where to find it, too.”

“Sookie, that amulet is a key – the wearer has access to Avalon. You can call people from there, or it will take you there yourself. It may have other properties I don’t know, but it is at least that powerful. Don’t take it off, not even to bathe. Now that you’ve got it, you might as well wear it to the Wiccaning. No one will doubt you are the True Heir with that around your neck. My Goddess, I can’t believe you found it. That shot is going to knock you out. You and the babies stay in here today.”

“That’s fine, I don’t want to take them out before the Wiccaning.”

“That’s very good thinking,” the doctor said, knowing it was a much better idea than Sookie realized, even if she didn’t have the amulet.

“Can I breast feed the babies after I had that shot?”

“Yes, it will help them sleep, too. Tomorrow night will be a long one, so the better rested you all are, the better. I also want you to drink two bottles of red wine today.”

“So much?”

“Yes. Have one with lunch and one with dinner, and make sure you take both your doses of Ambrosia. It won’t hurt to mix it with wine – the gods do it constantly, as you might remember.”

“Yeah, now that you mention it, I remember drinking buckets of the stuff,” Sookie laughed. “I’d never been that drunk before!”

“Now that you’ve been very drunk, do you think you’d know when to stop if you were in a social situation where you had to drink?” the doctor asked her

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Good, remember it at the Wiccaning. I’ll see you tomorrow night,” and she was gone.

“Did you get that, Bjorn?”

“Yep, two bottles of red wine, one with lunch and one with dinner. Now lie down and go to sleep.”

“But…”

“Get comfortable, Queenie, that shot is going to knock you out,” Octavia ordered before Sookie gave him an argument. Fortunately, Sookie scooted down just in time because a second later she passed out.

Amelia and Bobbie were able to keep the babies busy with toys and bottles of blood until almost three, at which point they insisted they wanted “Mamee ee,” so they tried to wake Sookie up to feed them. She managed to sit up and get them into position, but Bobbie sat on the edge of the bed and Amelia got into Eric’s side to make sure the babies didn’t fall. Alex finished quickly and went right to sleep, but Aubie insisted on staying with Mama.

While they were trying to figure out what to do, Alicia came up with Sookie’s lunch and a bottle of good red wine, so they tried to wake Sookie again.

“What’s going on?” she asked, struggling to awake.

“You need to wake up and eat and Aubie wants to stay with you, Hon,” Bobbie told her.

“‘K, help me sit up and get me a sling to put Aubie in.”

Bobbie and Amelia helped Sookie get more upright while Alicia set the tray on the dresser and went into the nursery for a sling. They managed to get Sookie and Aubie settled so both were comfortable, and Bobbie fed Sookie her lunch, delicious beef stew, bottle of red wine and all. Alex was back up and flying around the room when Eric woke up, and he came through the door laughing.

“Hello, my son! Are you having fun?”

“Eeah, pun!” Alex did a flip in the air, flew to him and gave him a hug. Eric kissed him and patted his bottom and beamed at his beautiful son.

“Hello, everyone. Why are we all watching Sookie sleep?” Eric was in a really good mood.

“She had some problems today, but a lot of good stuff happened, too,” Bjorn reported. “Dr. Ludwig came and gave her a shot to make her sleep, then she wanted her to have a whole bottle of wine with lunch and dinner, so she’s pretty out of it, but she’ll have to wake up to eat again.”

“Why was the doctor called?” Now Eric was concerned about Sookie and his mood faded a bit.

“Her blood pressure was very high, then very low, then very high again. She’s afraid all of this magick and change is too much for her.”

“I knew she wasn’t getting enough rest!” Eric said, sitting next to her and holding her hand, Alex still in his arm. “What else happened today?”

“Well, the doctor said you and Sookie are to spend 1 hour every day talking when there are no interruptions because things are getting missed. Like the crowns in that box – Sookie didn’t know what they were, or what they were for, and they should have been in the safe until they were needed. Ludwig was not happy when she saw them sitting out.”

“That’s my fault.” Eric said, “I did just throw them on the table and forget about them.”

“Sookie is also doing crazy amounts of magick in her sleep.”

“Did she go to Elfyria again?”

“That’s the least of what she did,” Octavia continued. “See that big gold chain around her neck?”

“Yes, I don’t remember seeing … Oh My Goddess – Titania!”

“Exactly. Apparently, Niall has been looking for it since she died. Sookie knew where it was hidden and how to use it, and she’s already had a visit from Nivian.”

“She’s still alive?” Eric was sure Nivian would have passed on by now.

“And stronger than ever, since they’ve gotten so insular. Ludwig told Sookie not to take it off while it’s in this world – Niall will come after it and kill to get it. She’s supposed to wear it to the Wiccaning, which I think is a show of power,” Octavia speculated. “No one will doubt she’s Titania’s heir if she’s wearing it.”

“That’s true, they won’t. Even the very young ones will have heard of it.”

“Wait a minute,” Bjorn said, “that’s THE amulet? From the legends?”

“Yes, it is.” “Yes, it is.” Eric and Octavia spoke at once.

“I thought she threw it in the ocean?” Bjorn remembered from when he was a kid.

“That’s the myth that was spread to keep Niall from tearing down the H’Eloise castle looking for it. Nivian probably started it,” Octavia explained.

Eric shook his head. “Niall will lose his fucking mind when he sees it on her.”

“I thought that might be the case,” Octavia said. “Are your guards going to be wearing swords?”

“Some of them,” Eric said, but he was thinking “not nearly enough of them.”

“Is it possible to hurt her while she’s wearing it?” Octavia asked.

“I don’t know.” Eric said, “it might protect her – that might be why Ludwig told her not to take it off.”

“Sookie might know when she’s more awake,” Octavia speculated. “This just gets bigger and bigger.”

“Yes, it does,” Jerry said from the doorway. “Sorry to interrupt, but Bjorn, I got that report you asked for. We should have a security meeting.”

“Do you need me?” Eric asked

“Yes, Sire, I’m afraid we do.”

“Alright, Alex, you stay with Mommy. Daddy has to work for a bit.”

“Oday!”

“Good boy!” Eric kissed him and let Bobbie take him.

Eric stepped out with Jerry and Bjorn, “where should we do this?”

“Upstairs. We can’t do it in the guard house and the lower rooms might be bugged,” Bjorn told him.

Eric was surprised this was a problem again, but they all went up to the gym to talk.

“Alright, what’s going on?” Eric said when they got there.

“Sookie found a mole, but not from New Centurion,” Bjorn started.

“Another one?”

“Yes – Jerry, what’d you find out about him?”

“She was dead on. He’s a Daemon, Victor’s cousin, but even Victor is cautious around him. He’s being paid, we think, by a female Vampire, but we don’t have her name yet. We think the blue car was hers.”

“A female Vampire?” Eric couldn’t imagine who it could be.

“Yes, and Sookie caught his spirit prowling in the house,” Bjorn continued.

“His spirit?”

“Yes, she had an OBE – an out of body experience – this morning and saw a phantom in the shadows. With Freyja’s guidance, she spied on the guards and figured out who it was.”

“She spied on the guards? How?”

“Nearest I can understand, she cloaked her spirit in the wind so the Daemons couldn’t detect her and flew to all the guard houses. She said it was exhilarating.”

Eric was speechless, again. “Can she command the elements?”

“We’re not sure, but that’s on the top of the list Amunet Bast sent her, so they’ll be trying that when they’re here.”

“She cloaked her spirit in the wind…” Eric repeated to himself, “… and hid from the Daemons. Can Niall do this?”

“No, Vincent is sure he can’t,” Jerry reported. “It’s not a Fae ability to hide from other elemental spirits that way. They recognize each other’s energy as well as scent.”

“Freyja taught her this?”

“Yes, and if you think about it, it’s something the gods are known for. They take on the shape of something in Nature – clouds or rain or animals – to do things. Zeus did it all the time – remember Leda and the Swan?”

“Right – now how does that differ from shifting?” Eric needed to understand the details of this.

“Shifting involves rearranging your physical body. This kind of cloaking is done by the spirit while the body is elsewhere, if there is a body involved.”

Eric rubbed his eyes and tried to think of his next move, but every thought led back to just being with Sookie. “I need to get back to her. What action do you recommend with the mole?”

“I suggest keeping him on and watching him to see if he leads us back to his employer,” Bjorn said. “We don’t want to tell Rafael about it yet.”

“I agree,” Jerry nodded.

“You don’t think we could break him?”

“Not if he’s a Cambion. We couldn’t hold onto him,” Jerry said. “They aren’t sensitive to iron and we’re not even sure they can be killed.”

“What?”

“I mean, they probably can be, but no one in our circle knows how. Vincent might know, but he says he doesn’t. He’s a Cambion himself, though, so it would be kind of crazy for him to give out information like that.”

“Alright, keep me informed. I’m going to spend some time with my family,” Eric was down the stairs almost before the words were formed.

Sookie was trying to sit up when he got back, Aubie still strapped to her, so Eric lifted her into a sitting position.

“I need to try on my dress before I drink more wine.”

“Are you sure you’re up to it, dear?” Alicia, standing there with a supper tray, asked her.

“We need to make sure it’s going to work. Eric, you can help me, right?”

“Of course, Sookie. Where is the dress?”

“It’s upstairs,” Alicia said, ” I’ll run get it.”

“Help me take the sling off, Eric.”

Eric lifted the baby out of the sling, waking him up. He gave Eric a big smile and said, “Dada!”

“Hello, my little elf!” Eric kissed him and put him into the co-sleeper, where he pulled himself into a sitting position with just a bit of struggle and his hand on the side of his little bed for balance.

“Good job, Aubie!” Sookie beamed at him.

“Very good, Auberon! You’re getting very strong!” Eric reached over and stroked his cheek, and Aubie giggled, proud of himself.

Eric helped Sookie get to the side of the bed as Bjorn and Jerry went outside and closed the door.

“You want us to leave, Sookie?” Amelia offered, referring to herself and Octavia.

“No, that’s not necessary. It won’t take but a minute.”

Alicia came back in with the dress, a plunging halter dress with bold tie-dyed splashes of purple, blue and gold against black. Eric helped steady Sookie as she stepped into it and they had her in it in just a minute or two.

She turned to face the other women. “Well, what do you all think?”

“Wow, Sookie, that’s gorgeous!” Bobbie would kill for that dress, she laughed to herself.

“It’s stunning, Sookie,” Amelia said.

“You’ll be hard to miss. How you gonna function with that low neckline?” Octavia wondered

“Wardrobe tape,” Alicia told them, “We’ll have it solidly in place and I’ll send extra for when she has to feed the babies, though we hope they’ll take bottles while we’re there.”

“Which shoes did you want to wear, dear?”

“I think those black patent sandals with the low wedge heel are my best bet.” Alicia helped her slip them on and she tried walking in them in the dress. “Yeah, this should work. I’m sure I can dance or run in these if I need to. Are you going to the ceremony, Alicia?”

“No, I think it’s best if I stay home,” she said warmly as she helped Sookie back out of the dress and handed her a little pink gown which Eric helped her into.

“Yeah, that’s a lot of Supernaturals to deal with,” Octavia laughed.

“I’ll have her back, though, and we’ll manage the babies,” Bobbie said confidently.

“I’ll help, too,” Amelia said happily. She was counting the minutes to the party.

“Thanks, you guys. I’ll try to make sure you get to have some fun, too,” Sookie promised as she settled back into bed.

“Just being there will be amazing. I can’t wait to see who shows up!” Amelia was really looking forward to this.

“I’m excited about it, too. There’s never been an event like this on this continent, and you’d have to go back to pre-Hellenic times to find one of this size, I’ll bet,” Octavia said. “There aren’t many occasions that interest so many different types of beings.”

Once Sookie was settled with Aubie happily next to her, Alicia put her tray across her lap and Eric helped her with her dinner.

“I suppose I should tell you now, Sookie…” Eric started, as he gave her a bite of grilled tuna.

“Oh, no – what?”

“Well, when they began counting the invitees and their entourages, and the rumors hit the Fae realm…”

“Ye-es…?”

“The gathering may be much larger than we’d anticipated.”

“How many?”

“Probably no more than 5,000…”

“What? Are we going to be able to feed all those people?”

“Yes, because the Council is sending special provisions for some of the more special guests. There was a message from the caterer when I awoke today.”

Sookie knew the answer to this question before she asked it. “Let me guess – bottles like the green one in the fridge over there?”

“Yes, among other things.”

“Wow!” Amelia was tickled to death at that news.

Octavia nodded, “It’s going to be huge, but look at it this way – there’s safety in numbers. The more important the people who attend, the less likely anyone is to cause trouble.”

“Niall has been warned that, and I quote, “heads will roll if anyone causes a disturbance at the blessing of those sacred children,”” Eric told them.

“That’s good news,” Octavia said, “you still have to prepare, but that will go a long way toward keeping the peace. My contacts say Cullach’s people haven’t had time to regroup, so Niall is the major source of opposition, unless there’s a rogue Vampire element.”

“There always is, even though no one has made themselves apparent yet,” Eric said darkly. He still had no idea what female Vampire might be gunning for his wife. “By the way, Sookie, I gave Ms. Prentiss the revised vows you decided on and told her we insisted on those changes. You might get a call from the High Priestess tonight or tomorrow.”

“She can call all she wants, but those vows better be exactly the way I wrote them or I’ll disrupt her ritual, big time.”

“She won’t risk that,” Octavia told her. “She might not be happy about the changes, but she’ll abide by them if she’s any kind of Witch at all. Words are too important and we’re all big on the fine points. Ultimately, this is your ceremony, and she’s obligated to do it your way.”

“Good, because I won’t repeat them if she changes it to something I don’t like.”

“No one would expect you to. If, for some reason, she did change them, you stop and make her get it right. Everyone will back you up,” Octavia assured.

“Good, because this is non-negotiable. I’m not giving away my… what’s the word for it?”

“Legacy,” Eric said simply.

“Legacy. I’m not giving up my legacy. Titania left it to me, and I’ll decide how to handle it.”

“Sorry to interrupt, but I think Margaret is waiting to serve dinner.” Alicia reminded them.

“Oh, I’m sorry, guys! Go eat. I’ll talk to you later.”

“She’ll talk to you all in the morning unless something urgent comes up. After she eats, she’s going to sleep. Thank you all for looking out for her.”

Bobbie gave Alex to Eric, and Alicia asked, “Should I bring the twins’ dinner up here, Sir?”

“Yes, please. We’ll all take it easy tonight. I’d like a warm RM, too, if you don’t mind.”

“Alright, Mrs. Northman should have her Ambrosia now, too.”

“Thank you for reminding me!” Eric said as he got up and put Alex in his spot while he got Sookie her first dose for the night.

“I feel bad about kicking everybody out,” Sookie laughed.

“Their dinner is waiting for them,” he said as he filled the gold cup.

“That’s true, and it’s fish so that doesn’t keep well. Can we manage feeding the babies, do you think?”

“Of course, we can. Aubie doesn’t eat much food and you can hold his bottle for him if he wants it. I’ll sit at the table with Alex…” he handed her the cup and she drank it down.

“If you’d rather take them downstairs…”

“We’d rather stay with you while you’re awake, Sweetheart,” he laughed a little as he put the bottle back in the mini-fridge.

“Oh, good. I want you to stay, I just…”

“Shh, Sookie, relax. You’re getting worked up for no reason,” he said as he came back to his side and picked Alex up so he could sit.

“I’m trying to stay awake,” she laughed.

“Eat your dinner so you can let go, my Angel.”

“What about our hour together?”

“We’ll talk while you eat, just for tonight. I hear you had a very eventful morning?”

“And how. OH! First, I had a dream that I think answers your question about what Eric 2006 got right!”

“Tell me!”

“You followed me home the night we met.”

“I did?” Eric was proud of himself. He had always berated himself for letting her get away that night, and not realizing that Bill hadn’t had her yet.

“Yep. See, Bill and I had a fight that night, and you were in a tree in my yard watching the whole thing. Then you came to my bedroom window and talked to me until I got too sleepy, and you came back the next night and after a while I invited you in. And here’s the best part – when Rene broke into my house to kill me, you were there and you killed him. I’m pretty sure in that reality, Gran is still alive!”

“Sookie, that’s wonderful!”

“Yeah, it’s cool. It makes me feel so much better about things, you wouldn’t believe. Alex will get to be a baby there, Aubie will get to be inside me, Gran will live to see them. It’s like everything went perfectly there,” Sookie said as tears began to stream from her eyes.

“Sookie, what is wrong? That is good news, Sweetheart.”

“Yeah, I’m happy for them, but I’m sad for us, you know?”

“Sookie, don’t be sad for us. We have a wonderful life. Complicated, sometimes, but wonderful. Even the experience of meeting the other Sookie is a kind of wonderful gift.”

“Yeah, I’m trying to remember that,” she laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes.

He kissed her head. “Sookie, answer me without thinking. What is the advantage of being who you are, here and now?”

“I’m stronger than she’ll ever be,” the words were out of Sookie’s mouth before she realized what she was saying.

“That is a very great advantage, Sookie. Your strength is what makes you YOU. That Sookie won’t have a reputation for being fearless. She has never saved the victims of a terrorist bombing, or saved my life several times, or been in a pack war. Maybe I’ll never be Eric the Untouchable there,” he teased her, “I love being us!”

Sookie laughed and had to agree with him. “You’re right. It’s enough knowing they got it right. We are who we are for good reasons.”

“Exactly, my Angel.”

“You should have seen her face when she realized Aubie has your eyes,” Sookie remembered. “It was wonderful to see her so happy.”

“I know that feeling. I have it every time I see you smile, especially when you feed the boys. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”

“Aww, Sweetie!” She looked up and kissed him, and Aubie giggled.

Eric shifted Alex on his lap and pulled Aubie up from between them so he was balancing both boys. “Alright, what happened after the dream?”

“I had an out of body experience and ran a Daemon’s spirit out of here and figured out which one it was and Freyja taught me how to clean the energy in a space instantly and how to get back into my body.”

“Good skills to have,” he nodded. “Did I also hear about cloaking your spirit in the wind?”

“Yeah, that was awesome. I was swooping around the way you do the boys when you play-fly them. Can I do that when I fly in my body?”

“Probably – you’ll have to try.”

“I can’t fall if I dip too fast can I?”

“No, you can’t. The only real accident you can have when flying is if you fly into something.”

“Have you ever done that?”

“Early on, I ran into a bird or two. I learned how to avoid them pretty quickly. I try to stay lower than most aircraft.”

Sookie cracked up, because he said that the way most people would say they were changing their socks. The boys laughed because Sookie laughed.

“Oh, we think that is funny, do we?” Eric said then he tickled all of them and had them laughing and shrieking. After a few minutes, he stopped and kissed each one and they all snuggled for a bit, then Eric opened Sookie’s bottle of wine.

“Aren’t you supposed to drink white wine with fish?”

“I don’t know – are you?”

“Yeah, I think so, but Dr. Ludwig said red wine. That’s all we ever drank at Freyja’s house.”

“Was it good?”

“Much better than the wines I’ve had here, but I think that’s because everything there is better.”

“Alright, now where were we? What happened after you spied on the guards?”

“I think then I went to Elfyria, had breakfast, found the necklace, and called Nivian. We hugged, She kissed me, we cried, She said I needed a better book and there’d be one when I got home, then She left, then Maddy cut an apple to show me the inside then I came home and the book was actually here!”

“Where is it?”

Sookie looked around the room. “I don’t know. It should be here.”

Eric got up and looked around, finally opening the closet door. “Here it is – looks like someone just shoved it in here.”

“That’s odd.”

“May I read the letter?”

“Sure – it doesn’t say much.”

Eric read it, agreed that it didn’t say much, and poured Sookie another glass of wine, then took away her tray and put it on the dresser. He left the bottle on the nightstand so she could finish it, and when she started to fade he got her to finish the bottle of wine and just let go. He kissed her and took the boys out of the room so she could sleep undisturbed for a while.

Eric was able to talk the boys into taking a bottle for their midnight feeding and gave them food and apple juice at three. It took a little cajoling and cuddling but he got them to take blood for the last feeding of the day and go to sleep. He went to rest that day a little worried about Sookie, praying to Freyja that she be healthy enough and protected enough to get through the Wiccaning without illness or injury.

Sookie was on the shore and looked around her. Freyja came laughing over the hill behind her, dressed in a beautiful white gown, flowers in her hair, wearing the same necklace Sookie had around her neck.

“Good morning, My Angel! Are you ready for Our celebration?”

“You look like You are! You’re GLORIOUS!” Sookie thought She looked even more radiant than ever. “I forgot to ask You something important!”

“About the bracelet Niall gave you for Eric Auberon H’Eliose?”

“Yes – is it safe to let him wear it?”

“Take it to your circle and rinse it in salt water. You’ll know when it is safe. You’ll get another present for the boys when you awake. Dress them in it tonight.”

“Are you going to be there tonight?”

“Oh, yes, My Angel! I’ve waited a long, long time for this night to come. I’m even bringing a date!”

Sookie’s eyes flew open. Did Freyja just tell her she was bringing a date to the Wiccaning? Do Goddesses date? It instantly flashed through Sookie’s mind that this Goddess in particular liked to fuck. Was She bringing a new Lover? If she were Freyja, whom would she date? Eric, of course! Who could compare? Was there anyone…?

“Good morning, Sookie.” Bjorn spoke to her from the side.

“Hey, you! What time is it?” She woke up with a smile.

“Almost 2:30.”

“Where are the boys? Why did you all let me sleep so late?”

“Eric’s orders, Hon. We’re all worried about you.”

“Freyja will be there – I’ll be fine. Have the boys been fed?”

“Yeah, but they really want you.”

“Bring them to me and I’ll feed them, then we have to start getting ready.”

“Not really…”

“What do you mean?”

“The plan is for you, Eric and the boys to take a ritual bath when he gets up until no later than 7. Then you get dressed, hair and makeup until 8 while Bobbie and Amelia dress the boys. We all head out at 8, we get there and get you all on stage by 9. The receiving line goes until 11:30, then the ritual starts so the vows fall as near midnight as possible. After the vows, there’s feasting and dancing until dawn, and more receiving line if necessary.”

“What are we doing with the boys?”

“We’re taking those bouncers that you like for when they sleep, otherwise you two should probably hold them.”

“I hope they don’t get fussy.”

“They won’t, Sookie, they know what’s up.”

“I hope so. This will be a long night for them.”

Bjorn took out his phone and pushed a button, “Sookie is up.”

“Be right down,” Jerry replied, and Amelia and Bobbie called the boys down from flying around the rafters and brought them down to Sookie. Aubie flew to her the second they were back in the room and he saw her awake.

“MAMA!”

“Hi, Baby!” She kissed him several times and put him to her breast.

“Obee fyeen dood, Mamee!”

“Yeah, he can fly fast when he wants to. You want Mommy eat?”

“Eeah!”

“OK,” she shifted Aubie and Amelia helped her get Alex into position. The boys took both milk and blood for nearly an hour. “They act like they haven’t fed in days!” Sookie said. “They were eating and getting bottles, right?”

“Yes.” Bjorn, Bobbie and Amelia all answered at once.

“I guess Octavia will sleep as late as possible today?”

“Yes,” Bjorn answered, “and she’ll have a guard assigned to her tonight to make sure she’s alright.”

“Do you know who it is?” Sookie wanted to be sure it was someone good.

“Yeah, Cody Lane volunteered,” Bjorn told her.

“Oh, good – she likes him a lot.”

“He likes her, too. He’ll take good care of her – he’ll make sure she eats, rests when she needs to, there will be a place she can lie down if need be, and, if necessary, he’ll even bring her home.”

“That’s good. I was wondering about that.”

Bjorn’s phone buzzed. “Anderson. Yeah. OK. Sookie, you got another weird package. Can Jerry open it and then bring it up. It’s addressed to you, Alex and Auberon.”

“Oh, OK. Freyja said I would get a gift for them today. She said to dress them in it, whatever it is. I hope I like it!”

Jerry came up the stairs quickly with the opened package and Sookie was thrilled when she saw the contents. It was a set of matching “bubble” creepers in crisp white fabric with blue trim.

“Oh, these are so cute! I was just going to put them in rompers, and we will take some to change them into if they have an accident or get fussy, but these are just darling!”

“Look how sweet!” Amelia loved them, too.

“They’re going to look so adorable in those! Are their bracelets alike?”

“They’re similar, but not identical. Speaking of which, I need to work on the one for Aubie. Is Alicia bringing breakfast?”

“I’ll call her,” Bjorn offered.

“Ask her how long it will be, please,” Sookie requested.

Bjorn spoke to the kitchen and told her, “half an hour.”

“OK, after I eat I have to go down for a bit, but the boys will probably sleep after this.”

“You might as well sleep a while longer, too, Sookie,” Bobbie suggested. “This is going to be a long night. You could sleep until about 5:30 if you wanted to.”

Sookie yawned just as she said that. “OK, I eat, I fix the bracelet, then I sleep, OK? I can’t risk forgetting about the bracelet,” She said as Amelia took Alex, who was now sound asleep, from her and took him around to the co-sleeper.

“If you’re really worried about the bracelet, Sookie, do it now. You won’t need a half hour, will you?” Bobbie asked.

“Actually, no, I won’t,” she looked down at Aubie, who was almost out. She smoothed his hair and stroked his cheek, and he was out. She moved him gently to the co-sleeper and said, “OK, Bjorn, you stay with the babies. I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll go with her,” Jerry said, knowing Bjorn was about to object. Bjorn nodded and Sookie grabbed the bracelet from the nursery, then she and Jerry headed for the elevator. When they got to her room downstairs, she had him wait outside the door and took the bracelet into her circle. The ring of salt was still on the floor, so she just took the container of salt and a bottle of spring water, and poured it into a cup. All Freyja said to do was rinse it, but Sookie took some salt and scrubbed the surface of the bracelet a bit and sparks were flying out of the water. In a moment, they stopped and Sookie pulled it out of the water. One of the two triquetras was missing, and the other one had a circle in it. Sookie knew that whatever Niall had purposed the bracelet to do, Freyja had now fixed it to Her own liking. She was back in her room in 15 minutes.

“Wow, that was quick!” Amelia laughed when she came back.

“Look at the bracelet!” Sookie showed her and Bobbie.

“Wow – the symbols have changed!”

“Yep, one is gone, one has a circle now.”

“Did you see it happen?” Amelia loved every bit of this.

“It threw sparks out of the water when I scrubbed it with salt!”

“Amazing. It’s all just amazing!” Bobbie was blown away.

“I know. I’m right in the middle of it and it still just blows me away,” she laughed, “anyway, I’m going to get back in bed, eat breakfast and try to sleep some more. Do you all need anything to get ready for tonight?”

“All I have to do is shower and dress. My clothes are ready, and so are Bjorn’s.”

“Mine and Jerry’s are ready to go, too. We already worked it out. We’ll dress at four, Bobbie and Bjorn at 5, then by the time you and Eric get ready, we’ll be all packed up and ready to head out.”

“So everybody’s got it under control? Good!” Sookie laughed and just then Alicia brought her breakfast, which was gorgeous Belgian waffles with blueberries and whipped cream. The others laughed quietly because Sookie inhaled them, then she was asleep before her head hit the pillow. Finally, they all dispersed – Bjorn to make final orders to the guards, Bobbie and Amelia to pack up the diaper bags, Jerry staying with Sookie and the boys, reading his book.

“Wake up, my lovely wife!” Eric was smiling warmly at her, stroking her cheek.

“MMmm – that is my favorite way to wake up!” Sookie purred.

“You looked so peaceful I hated to wake you, but we have a party to go to. You should eat, then we bathe with the boys, then we dress.”

“I can’t believe it’s finally here! I feel like it’s been years building up to this!” Sookie laughed

“It has been a very eventful few months. Here is Alicia with your food.”

“You’re awake!” she said as she brought the dinner tray. “You have a rare steak, baked potato and broccoli. Alex is very excited about the broccoli,” she laughed.

“Have they eaten?” Sookie asked

“Bobbie and Amelia are feeding them now, with Bjorn’s help. They’ll be up as soon as they’re done, then the four of you need your bath.”

“Yeah, we need salt for the bath…”

“Knock, knock!” Octavia called from the stairs.

“Come in, Octavia,” Eric called to her as Sookie inhaled her steak.

“Everybody getting excited?” She came in smiling.

“Anxious, yeah!” Sookie said with her mouthful.

“This is a special oil for Lughnasadh. Use it to anoint yourselves in the bath.”

“Cool, thanks! What’s in it?” Sookie wondered if this was what she was working on the night before, but thought it might be rude to ask.

“Frankincense, rose, yarrow, a piece of wheat, a blackberry leaf and a citrine crystal. It will make you all feel grounded and centered. That’s going to be huge energy tonight, so you want to go in as solid as you can.”

“Thank you so much, Octavia!” Eric said sincerely. “And thank you for going with us tonight. I know it’s very late to keep you out…”

“Bjorn’s got me all taken care of. I’ve got an escort and if need be, he can bring me on home.”

“Good, I am glad to hear it.”

“Is the plan still to head out at 8?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Alright, I’m going to go get some dinner and I’ll see you all downstairs in a bit.”

“Thanks!” Sookie called as she went out.

Alicia came in with their freshly steamed clothing and hung it up on the hook over the closet.

“I never even thought to ask what you’re wearing! I’m a terrible wife!” Sookie said, half-serious.

“You’ve been very busy. I’m wearing ironed, dark-rinsed jeans, a perfect white shirt, untucked, and my bear claws on a new gold chain.”

“Shoes?”

“Motorcycle boots, suitable for fighting… or dancing,” he laughed.

“Glad you think it’s funny. My dress doesn’t look too slutty, does it?”

“If it did, you would be wearing a different dress. As with most of your other evening wear, you will look ethereal and glamorous and be the prettiest girl there.”

“Good,” Sookie laughed. “Want to hear something weird?”

“Why stop now?” he laughed and she did, too.

“Freyja said She’s bringing a date!”

“Did She actually use the word “date?””

“Yes, She did.”

“I can’t wait to see whom it is!”

“Any ideas?”

“Not with Freyja – Her Lovers are many and varied. Whomever it is, he – or she – will be impressive. She’ll want to show off a bit for this company in particular, since this celebrates Her as well as the boys.”

“I just hope it’s not someone wild and unpredictable like Dionysus.”

“Now THAT would be wild!” Eric laughed

“Yeah, but he scares me.”

“Don’t worry, Sookie. Freyja will make tonight as special as She can. Do not be afraid.”

“You know, I’m really not scared anymore? I’m excited. We get to show off our gorgeous babies to all these important people. You’re going to be like a peacock tonight!” Sookie laughed.

“I know – I’ll be crowing and preening and ready to burst as half the world falls in love with my beautiful wife and my handsome sons. I am the proudest father in the world, Sookie, have no doubt.”

She kissed him hard for a long time, and they only stopped when Amelia and Bobbie came in with the babies.

“Here are your bundles of joy!” Amelia laughed, putting Aubie next to Sookie on the bed.. She was already dressed in a pretty lavender dress and all ready to go.

“Are you done with your tray, Sookie?” Bobbie asked as she gave Alex to Eric. Her hair was in curlers and she was wearing a kimono style robe.

“I”ll take it down, Bobbie, you go get dressed,” Amelia urged her.

“Thanks. Have a nice bath, you guys!” Bobbie bounced up the stairs, ready to get this show on the road.

Amelia left with the tray, and Sookie started the bath as Eric undressed the boys.

“What are they wearing tonight, Sookie?” He was throwing their diapers and t-shirts into the shower.

“Freyja sent the cutest little white bubble/creeper suits for them. They’ll look really sweet. And She told me how to fix Aubie’s bracelet and the symbols on it changed.”

“How did they change?”

“One of the triquetras disappeared and the other has a circle in it now.”

“Did She do it or did you?”

“There’s no difference, Eric, you know that,” she laughed as she settled into the tub.

“Yes, I just wanted to see if YOU knew it yet.”

“I do – especially tonight! I’m going to have fun until war breaks out, and it won’t because the Council said so,” she laughed again and took hold of the amulet, raising it over her face…

“Sookie, stop!” He came through the door with a baby in each arm.

“What?”

“You were about to take the amulet off! Dr. Ludwig said not to take it off when you bathe. Keep it on you at all times.” He leaned down so she could take Aubie from him.

“You don’t think it was an exaggeration?”

“I do not – we’ve had too many lessons in what can go wrong to ignore a direct order like that one, have we not?” He climbed in with Alex and immediately washed his own hair as the boys splashed in their supports.

“Yeah, you’re right. I was slipping into thinking I don’t matter. Nivian told me it was time to take my Self seriously. I have to remember that.”

“You’ve got a bad habit of dismissing good advice. Be aware of it, Sookie, and stop yourself. Mistakes at this level can be far reaching and affect many people.”

“You’re right,” she said, her mind a million miles away suddenly. Why couldn’t she get Dionysus out of her head?

“Sookie, are you listening?”

‘Huh? Yeah, I am.”

“We’d better proceed, Sookie, what is the ritual?”

Sookie gently scrubbed them all with some salt, which she had to call up from the basement, paying special attention to the backs of their necks and rinsed them all, then he washed her hair, she washed Aubie’s and he washed Alex’s.

“We’re getting pretty quick at this,” she laughed. “OK, now bring the boys in between us,” they slid the boys between them and linked arms. “OK, now I’m going to clean and center our energy, then protect us, then anoint us with this Lughnasadh oil.”

Sookie closed her eyes and Eric watched as her aura became visible to him, a subtle glow of pink and yellow, growing gradually stronger and larger, enveloping the four of them in warmth and light. The babies were perfectly quiet, basking in the same glow they did when they were feeding, not realizing it was bigger and better now and included Daddy, too. They thought Mommy made everybody feel this way all the time.

The light gradually formed a shiny bubble all around them and Sookie reinforced it with love and protection and it took on a golden gleam. “Abuh!” Aubie said, and Eric looked at him as Alex said, “bubba, Obee, BUBBA.” It was all Eric could do not to laugh, but Sookie’s concentration was solid and extended out to the property lines, their vehicles, and finally to the campgrounds, leaving golden protection everywhere her mind touched.

She took three slow, deep breaths and the energy moved visibly in and out with them. Eric was amazed at actually seeing the energy respond to her that way. When the bubble was perfect, Sookie opened her eyes and took the vial of oil from the side of the tub. She anointed the crown of her head, third eye, lips, throat, breast, genitals and the soles of her feet and the palms of her hands. She followed the same procedure with Eric, then with each boy and they were all glowing with love and protection by the time she drained the tub and Eric rinsed them all off with the hand-held.

Everyone was quiet and content. Eric couldn’t remember the last time he felt this wonderful. Being a Vampire gave him a constant sense of buzzing with energy but at the moment he was as content and centered as he’d ever been in his long life. He was both impressed with and proud of Sookie being able to create this wonderful feeling in them all. He diapered the babies wearing nothing but a towel around his waist while Alicia dried Sookie’s hair. Bobbie and Amelia took over to dress the boys and Eric went to put on his clothes, laughing to himself that they were checking him out in his towel. He loved the whiff of sex he always got from them when they saw him undressed in the pool or in a towel. They always gave off a little something when he was in the room, but seeing his chest always made it spark in the most delightful way. He wondered sometimes if Sookie was aware of how turned on they often were around him, but he was afraid asking might sow seeds of dissent and he couldn’t have that – he wanted a happy family around his family.

“Eric, you’re feeling very pleased with yourself,” Sookie teased him.

“I told you I’m looking forward to showing off my family.”

Sookie projected to him ‘you’re forgetting I can hear your thoughts, Eric!’

He laughed out loud and so did she. He projected back to her ‘that could come in handy at the ceremony,’ as he took his jeans and red silk boxers into the bathroom.

‘Yes, it could. It could help when we get home, too!’ and she sent him an x-rated suggestion in images, forgetting the boys could see it, too.

‘Sookie! The boys!’

‘Yikes! I forgot!’

‘Keep that in mind, just don’t send it out.’ He was laughing in his mind as he came out of the bathroom shirtless and sockless and she stuck her tongue out at him.

‘You’re trying to get me excited before we get there so I’ll only have eyes for you, my Angel,’ he teased her as he sat down to put his socks and boots on.

‘Hey, there will be Goddesses there – can you blame me?’

‘There’s a Goddess here, Sookie, and I only have eyes for you.’

‘Aww – I love you!’

‘I love you, too, Sookie.’

Alicia, unaware of their internal conversation, commented, “Your eyelashes are amazing these days!”

“They are?”

“Yes. I was going to put false lashes on you tonight, but yours are so thick, long and dark now, it would be wasted effort.”

“Good, I hate the fake ones. Just hit ’em with a little mascara to keep them curled.”

“Bobbie will have your touch-up kit in Alex’s diaper bag. Amelia will handle Aubie’s diaper bag. They’re going to take one baby each so you’ve always got coverage.”

“I hope they get to have some fun, too, though.”

“It will be nice if they do, Sookie, but we can’t take any chances with the boys. Do not be too trusting tonight,” Eric reminded her.

“Yeah, it will be good to have help.”

“Bjorn and Jerry will stay right with them, too,” Alicia reminded them and herself – she was nervous about tonight. She almost regretted her decision not to go.

“It’s OK, Alicia, we’ll be OK. You deserve your time off!” Sookie said, forgetting that Alicia didn’t know she could read minds. Alicia didn’t say anything, but she would think about it a lot later on, and wonder exactly how extensive Sookie’s powers were.

“Well, I hope it all goes well for you. Will there be pictures or video?”

“Probably not,” Eric said as he took his crisp, expensive white shirt off the hanger, “many of the guests wouldn’t want tangible evidence of their existence.”

“That’s too bad. It would be nice to have a record of it,” Alicia was hoping to see a little of it, anyway.

“Someone might take a picture of just us when we take our vows,” Eric said as he pulled his shirt on. “That would be more the option of the Coven hosting the event.”

“Mommy and Daddy, look how handsome we are!” Bobbie laughed as she and Amelia brought the babies in wearing their new outfits.

“Oh, they look so sweet!” Sookie said as Alicia was taking her hair out of rollers.

“Look at my handsome sons!” Eric was bursting, and left his shirt unbuttoned to talk to the babies, tickling their chins and stroking their cheeks. “Alexander, Auberon, you look very nice. Your public will be in awe of you!”

“Me an Obee dood?” Alex didn’t recognize some of Dadee’s words.

“You and Aubie are perfect! Very, very good!” Eric beamed at them as he took them from the girls.

“Oday!”

“Ah!”

He kissed them both, nuzzled them and growled, making them giggle, then took them over and said, “give Mommy some sugar before she gets her lipstick on.”

“Awww,” Sookie said, giving each a kiss on the lips.

Aubie shook his head and giggled like that was so good he just couldn’t stand it. Alex laughed, “Aubie wyg Mamee kissthesth!”

“Yes, Mommy gives the sweetest kisses, doesn’t she?” Eric chatted with them, bouncing them, teasing them a bit, then putting them on the bed and tickling them.

“Those babies need to cheer up,” Bjorn laughed as he came in the door. “We could hear them all the way downstairs.”

“Are we almost ready, Bjorn?” Eric asked, still playing with the babies

‘Everything is in place. All we have to do is get on the bus.”

“I’ll be a while,” Sookie said.

“No hurry, your Majesty, we have plenty of time.”

“Eric, you should get the boys’ bracelets and the crowns from the safe.”

“Yes, I should. Good thinking.” He bent to look them in the eyes, “boys, you wait here, alright? Daddy will be back in a minute.” He zipped out of the room, buttoning his shirt, and grabbed the box with the crowns and the boxes with the little bracelets from a drawer in the nursery. He came back very quickly, to the boys delight because Daddy was fun. “Alright, my sons, we have your royal bracelets from… what’s that word you use for him, Sookie?”

“Papaw.”

“I’ve never heard anyone else use that word before. Is it common?”

“It’s one variation of what Southern kids call their grandpa. Papaw, Pawpaw, Peepaw – different areas and different families use different ones. I like Papaw best, so that’s what I’m teaching them.”

Eric kept chatting with them as he put the bracelets on them. “Alright, then, my sons, these are your royal insignias from Papaw. He’s very proud of you both and wants everyone to know it. Do you know where we are going tonight? We are going to a big party and ritual in your honor! You’ll be officially given your full names and Mommy and Daddy will promise to love you and take care of you and Freyja will be there to bless you!”

“Pahdy wif Freyja!” Alex said happily.

“Pya!” was the best Aubie could do

“That’s very good. You’re very smart boys and Daddy loves you.” He kissed them both again and smoothed their hair. “I wonder if Bobbie or Amelia packed a hairbrush for them?”

“That’s a good question. We’ll want to touch them up before the ceremony begins,” Sookie said.

“Let me see,” Eric zipped into the nursery. “Here’s a brush that was in the top cubby. We’ll take it with us, just in case. You want to be beautiful for your public, don’t you boys?”

“Eeah! Alex laughed and Aubie imitated him with an “Ah!”

Eric, on his knees by the bed, pulled each boy into a sitting position and brushed his hair, which was getting a little long and he liked it. The kitten surprised everyone by coming up the stairs with a leash in its mouth, jumping onto the bed and patting at Eric’s arm with its little paw.

“What’s she doing, Eric?” Sookie asked as Alicia sprayed her face with Model in a Bottle to set her makeup.

“I think she’s asking to go with us.”

“MEOW!”

“Ewin doe wif me, Dadee!”

“Erin wants to go with you? What if she gets lost?”

“Nah gep wosth, Dadee.”

“What do you think, Eric?”

“There’s an animal carrier with your luggage in the basement if you want to use it,” Alicia reminded them.

“She brought her little leash, so I’d say she means to stay with us. Are we taking the playpen? She could stay in it during the ceremony.

“MEOW!” The kitten reared up on its hind legs, it’s paws on Eric’s arm, emphasizing that she should go, too.

“Alright, kitten, we’ll take you along,” Eric figured the cat knew its own purpose and perhaps it really should be there for this. Eric reached for his cell phone and buzzed Bjorn.

“Yes, your majesty?”

“We need the animal carrier from the basement for the kitten. Have you loaded the playpen?”

“The small one, yes. I’ll be right up with the carrier.”

“I wonder if Amelia and Bobbie packed a blanket for the boys?” Sookie asked

“Bjorn, do the girls have a baby blanket for the twins?”

“Yeah, they do, and their bears that Pam bought them.”

“Did they remember the new stroller?” Alicia added

“Yep, it’s packed up.”

“Alright, thank you.”

“What new stroller?” Sookie asked

“We got a special foldable double stroller for the twins,” Alicia told her.

“The one stroller holds both of them?”

“Yes, it’s very nice.”

“Oh, good. Thanks for doing that.”

Alicia finished up Sookie’s lipstick and sealed it, then did the final touches on her hair and helped her into her gorgeous tie-dyed dress and her black sandals. She posed for Eric and asked, “so how do I look? Is this hippie chic enough for dancing in a grove in the moonlight?”

“You are a vision, Sookie. That dress is very appropriate. I had wondered what you would wear to such an event, but this strikes the perfect balance between the setting and the purpose of the event. Everyone will envy the boys and me having such a beautiful mother, wife and especially Queen. I predict that your side of the “family” will be thrilled when they meet you.”

“Let’s hope.”

Bjorn came in from the elevator, opened the little animal carrier on the bed and the kitten walked right in. Bjorn wound up the leash and put it in a zippered pocket on the side and said “I’m going to take a bottle of water and a plastic bowl of food, just in case.”

“Wadiz dat, Bhord?”

“That’s the carrier for your kitten. She’ll ride in this to the party and then we’ll let her sit with you and keep you company, alright?”

“Ah wyg dompamy!”

“You’re going to have fun tonight, then, because there will be more people than you’ve seen in your whole life.”

“Mo peepoh?”

“Many, many more people. Big party!”

“Eeay! Vìg!”

“Let’s hope not vìg,” Sookie said as Alicia taped and glued her dress in place. Bjorn and Eric exchanged a look because neither had ever seen a woman tape on her dress before, though Eric was relieved it wouldn’t be gaping open. It was very low cut and he could see everything when she bent a little to put on her shoes just then.

“You guys stop laughing at me. Women do this all the time with fancy gowns.”

“I would not dream of questioning your female arts, my lovely wife. I’m sure you and Alicia know what you are doing. The results are certainly spectacular, are they not, Bjorn.”

“You look amazing, your Majesty.”

“Aw – thank you!” That tickled Sookie, as compliments from Bjorn always did, and she felt ready to face the world now.

“Alright, Dear, here’s your touch up bag. You’ve got tape, glue, safety pins and a little sewing kit as well as make-up. Put it in Bobbie’s bag, since she knows more about makeup than Amelia.

“Will do.” Sookie turned and twisted a little in front of the mirror, satisfied that she was going to turn more than a few heads this night, and the four of them took the elevator downstairs with the babies. They saw Margaret in the kitchen and let her kiss the boys and coo over them and their little outfits for a few minutes, Sookie confirming that there were bottles and food for the twins in the diaper bags.

They walked into the living room as Jerry came back in the front.

“Where is everybody?” Sookie asked, surprised that the living room wasn’t full.

“All loaded and waiting for you, your Majesty.”

“OK, then, let’s get this party on the road – FINALLY!

Bjorn and Jerry moved the family into Sookie’s car, everyone else already in place on the bus behind them and the security vans and cars front and back. Bjorn had his earpiece in place, tapping it, “Svenska 1, 2, 3 and 4 green.”

The vehicles started up and at long last they headed for the Wiccaning.

“So, how long will it take us to get there?” Sookie asked, bouncing Aubie on her lap.

“Just under an hour. You can nap if you want to.” Eric told her.

“Nah, I’m too wired for that and I don’t want to look droopy when I get there. I can’t believe how cute the boys look. Did you remember the crowns, Eric?”

“I”ve got them up here, your Majesty,” Bjorn answered.

“Where is the kitten?” Eric asked

“On the bus with Bobbie. We’re doing a zone defense tonight,” Bjorn joked. “Everything Alex is me and Bobbie, everything Aubie is Amelia and Jerry, then Vincent will be on the stage with us to help cover Sookie and you’ll have 6 guards just to watch you.”

“Alright, do we have fliers posted for snipers?”

“Yes, a lot of them. We brought everyone up from the training camp for this.”

“That’s right – I knew that,” Eric berated himself.

“It’s good to go over it all again, your Majesty,” Jerry told him. “The more aware of it all we are, the better. Sookie doesn’t know all the plans either, does she?”

“No, I know next to nothing about our defense tonight.”

“That’s another thing that got skipped. Ludwig is right. We need to talk more.”

The three men briefed Sookie on the security plans as the motion of the car lulled the babies to sleep.

“What did you call it, Bjorn? A zone defense?”

“Yes.”

“OK, I think Eric and I should do that, too. You be in charge of Alex, Eric and I’ll be in charge of Aubie. Our skills are more suited to the individual boys. If someone took Aubie, I can follow, plus he doesn’t like being away from me yet. If anyone tried to hurt Alex, you can handle that better than anyone. We have to do that during the ceremony anyway, so let’s just plan on it all night.”

“I had hoped you would agree to that, Sookie, but I was afraid you’d think I was favoring Alex…”

“No more than I’d be favoring Aubie. It’s really just providing for the individual needs of the boys. Our skills are complimentary, too, so we’re each more suited to one than the other. That’s just efficient use of resources.”

“Exactly.” Eric smiled and Bjorn caught his eye in the rearview mirror, nodding. They had all noticed that Sookie was taking things more seriously and beginning to really think defensively. Whether that was from Freyja, learning from them, or just natural maturation on her part, it was a positive development that made their jobs easier.

“Are we going to have swords within reach? I’m not above whacking heads if trouble breaks out, you know,” Sookie joked, but they knew she was serious, too.

“Yes,” Eric told her, very glad she asked, “we’ll show you where they are when we get to the stage, but we want to be careful not to let anyone know they’re there.”

“OK, good. When we get there, I’m going to take a few minutes to reinforce that bubble of protection.”

“Excellent idea.” Eric was going to suggest that, anyway.

“Vincent was blown away with whatever you did the other night,” Jerry told them.

“When did you talk to Vincent?” Eric asked

“I had to run over there to drop some stuff off and we talked for a few minutes. He thinks Sookie will be able to move massive amounts of energy if she needs to. He said he’s seen groups of Witches that couldn’t generate the energy that she did in hours of work, and she did it so easily and so effectively, he said calling her a Witch is to underestimate her powers.”

“He’s got a patriarchal attitude toward Witches, then,” Sookie said. “Witch, Goddess, Woman, it’s all the same.”

“He’s a Daemon, though, Sookie, they have a hierarchy. He says you’d be near the very top of almost any system he’s ever seen. He said he wishes he’d known you during the Inquisitions.”

“Why?”

“They weren’t organized then and they weren’t able in most cases to defend the people accused of consorting with them. He said you can’t imagine the horror. He’s never seen an entity worse than a religious organization on a crusade. Whether it’s against heretics, devils or infidels, they’re worse than anything you’ll encounter in the Supernatural world.”

‘But if they knew about me, they’d have killed me, too.”

“They’d have to catch you, Sookie.” Jerry hardly ever called her Sookie so he got her attention with that. “You can teleport and walk between the worlds. As long as no one catches you by surprise, you’re becoming untouchable, especially wearing that amulet.”

“Because I can go to Avalon, you mean?”

“Yep – its impenetrable. Supes don’t get in there without an invitation.”

“But they could if they had this, right? That’s why Niall wants it?”

“He thinks it will work for him, but Vincent said he doesn’t think it would. For one thing, he’s male, and that’s well known to be a female stone. For another thing, if he tries to invade them, or steal gold or tools from them, he’s dead, period. That would be a blood offense against all Goddesses, the Council, the Pantheon, you name it.”

“If it’s that crazy, why even try?”

“According to Vincent, Niall is an egomaniac who can’t stand it when someone says “no” to him. It nearly drove him mad that Titania was trained there but he couldn’t even get in, and there was more than one time she took the kids and sought refuge there to get away from him. A lot of people wish she’d stayed there, even if it meant abandoning her people, but she couldn’t do it.”

“Is there anybody he hasn’t been at war with?”

“No.”

“Why is he still alive?”

“Magick, maybe, plus he’s smart, experienced, ruthless and a master tactician.”

“Why didn’t people rise up against him?”

“There hasn’t been anybody outside the Pantheon who could take him down until now.”

Sookie’s blood ran cold. “I’m the one, right? I’m the one who can take him down?”

“Yes,” Eric answered, “and he knows it, or will. He’s going to lose his mind when he sees that amulet around your neck.”

“Because he wants it so badly or because I knew where to find it?”

“Both, and if he finds out you know how to use it, and that Nivian met with you in his own house… I hope he doesn’t find out, because it might provoke him to act irrationally.”

“It will just make him more afraid of me, won’t it?”

“It’s a matter of degree, Sookie. If he’s afraid you might come at him with a sword, it makes sense for him to stay away from you and your kids. If he knows you can reach him with magick, it makes sense for him to kill you, because he can’t hide from you. That’s why your Ambrosia is so important.”

“Shit! We forgot my dose with dinner!”

“Did we?” Eric was going through the events earlier in the evening, “you’re right. I never got it for you. I’ll get you a cup as soon as we get there.”

“Screw that – “Cup and bottle!”” Instantly she was holding the bottle and the gold cup in her hands. “Here pour me a cup.” Eric, Bjorn and Jerry cracked up. “Are you all laughing at me?”

“No, we’re impressed with you. You thought to use your magick. That’s wonderful, Sookie,” he said as he carefully poured the cup full and she held it away from the babies so she didn’t drip on their suits and kicked it back.

“OK, that’s one problem solved,” she laughed as she finished it.

“Should you send that back to the house?” Bjorn asked

“I don’t know if I can send anything. I’ve only ever tried to bring things to me. “Let’s just hide it under the seat. It should be fine, right?”

“Probably.”

“If you see Dr. Ludwig, Sookie, ask her, just to be sure,” Eric suggested.

“Here we are. Everybody get focused,” Bjorn said into his earpiece but he was speaking to everyone in the car, too.

Sookie and Eric prepared to get out of the car, and the movement woke the boys up, but they didn’t fuss. They were too interested in seeing where they were and what was going on. There were lots of people walking from the entrance toward the party area. A helicopter took off down to the right of them and they were waved around to a special parking area near the stage that was quite a way on into the campgrounds. The woods were alive with people in colorful clothes, capes, cloaks, and every kind of dress from the most casual to the most formal you can imagine. Someone had marionettes leading children into the grove. People were playing pipes and drums. Three little fauns ran beside the car and waved calling “hazzah, hazzah,” their little goat legs able to keep up with the car, their little horns reflecting the lights of the vehicle behind them.

“Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?” Sookie asked in amazement

“From this point forward, my Angel, the answer to that question will be ‘yes.’ You will see things tonight of which most mortals never even hear stories. Jerry, hand me the box, please.”

As if to emphasize Eric’s words, something big and blue with leathery wings and a long lizard tale swooped down in front of the car and on through the woods, clearly visible in their headlights.

“Wadiz dat, Dadee?” Alex asked with wonder

“I believe the English word for that would be pterodactyl.”

“I never saw a pink or a blue lightening bug before,” Sookie said, looking to the left side of them.

“Those are Fairies, Sweetheart, here to see you and Auberon, no doubt.”

“OK, why would there be a pterodactyl here?” Sookie felt like she was tripping, but in a really good way.

“Transportation,” Eric said as if it were the most natural thing in the world. He opened the box and placed the smaller crown on her head, fixing the combs to keep it in place.

“I’m glad Alicia stayed home.”

“Mmm,” Eric nodded in agreement as he set his own crown upon his head.

“Where are Bill and Pam?” Sookie asked.

“They came in a different vehicle, and left as soon as they arose,” Bjorn told her.

A large party of guards, Vincent at the head of them, waited at the stage entrance. They parked behind the stage and walked up onto it from behind. It faced into the grove, where the clearing was huge and thronging with beings of every description. There were four bonfires, one in each quarter, and there was what Sookie deduced was a huge chalk pentagram in a huge circle, but it was barely visible for the people, if you could call them that. This crowd made a Vampire convention seem run of the mill. At the far side of the grove, directly opposite the stage, there were tables and groups of chairs where people could sit and eat or visit, and the woods seemed to extend forever in every direction.

“Hey, is my eyesight better than usual?”

“Yes, an effect of the crowns, apparently. Mine is better than usual, too,” Eric told her as they stood on the stage holding the babies and surveyed the crowd.

“Good, because I can see stuff on the tables I shouldn’t be able to see.”

To the far right of the stage down the width of the grove were beverages – blood, Ambrosia, all kinds of special blends and things Sookie later heard names for but couldn’t begin to pronounce, most in buckets of ice, and there were actually some cauldrons of hot water in which to warm the blood. To the far left was the food and she was quite sure some of it was not of this world. One stack of meat was blue-ish and Sookie thought to herself she hoped it didn’t offend the flying lizard. Eric laughed out loud at that thought.

“Eric, have you ever been in a crowd this diverse before?” Sookie asked him

“Yes, a few times, at the Siwa Temple.”

“The place Dionysus built?”

“Yes, of course.”

Sookie didn’t say anything but picturing Eric in a place where the whole point was to lose control scared her and she shivered thinking of the pain when the maenad attacked her. If she thought about it too long, she could still feel where the claw marks ran down her back.

The cat was brought out and they put the leash on it and hooked the handle under Eric’s large wooden chair. They spread the baby blanket on the stage at their feet and let the babies sit there and look around, the kitten curled up next to Alex, Aubie with his new blue bear from Pam and Alex with his brown one.

People were milling around, some walking by the stage to get a look at the babies, usually making eye contact with Eric or Sookie and nodding with a smile. There were fauns and little girls with flowers in their hair, small children and small animals running through the crowd waving ribbons on sticks, some playing flutes and whistles. A string of teen-aged(?) girls holding hands, wearing long white dresses, danced through the crowd, kissing strangers here and there. Two groups of drummers gathered at the far side of the clearing and began to set up and play through the night, along with fiddles and windpipes and lutes. The music was playful and primal all at the same time, and at times it was downright hypnotic.

A group of four swans landed in front of the stage and turned into the most beautiful girl and three boys, of whom two were twins, dressed in what Sookie was sure were nightdresses. The children curtsied and bowed, then changed back to swans and flew away. “The children of Lir,” Sookie heard in her mind, and she looked at Eric with tears in her eyes.

“Don’t cry, my Angel, that’s the later version of the myth that says they’re bewitched by their stepmother/aunt. They’re Fae Shape Shifters from a certain region of Ireland. When you hear these stories of monks and priests, they always cover over the original truth. They obviously didn’t look 900 years old, though I’m sure they’re much older than that.”

“OK, so I need to look deeper when that stuff comes up,” she said, mostly to herself, trying to get the trick of using these crowns. She adjusted the left comb, which was sticking her scalp a bit, and said, “I wish I had some bobby pins for this.”

“Actually, Ludwig warned not to use them. Iron or lead could make them ineffective.”

“OK, good to know,” she said as a cloud of the little multi-colored lights she’d seen in the woods descended in front of her, chattering, she thought, like tiny chipmunks. She heard them call her “Milady! Milady,” in their tiny little voices and her mind said, ‘Faerie blessings.’ Sookie instinctively held her hand out, palm up and was delighted when some of them landed. “Hello,” she said softly with her brightest smile, “welcome!” and they tittered and giggled and said, “pretty Milady, pretty, pretty babies,” then flew down and floated around Alex and Aubie, letting them touch them in the air as they spoke: “pretty Alex, pretty Aubie, nice babies, sweet Princes.” Three of them landed on Aubie’s left shoulder, chanting, “Hail to the Prince, Hail, Prince Auberon!” several times and they stayed quite a while, but Sookie knew they meant no harm, and thought they were really very cute. The babies were fascinated with them, and two slightly larger Faeries, dressed like Disney’s Peter Pan, appeared around them then flew up to Sookie, “Queen Sookie! Queen Sookie!” they called in slightly lower voices and Sookie was thrilled to recognize them. “Eddy and Freddy!”

“So we are, Milady, so we are! ”

“We’re on the job!”

“No worries, safe babies!” then they flew around the boys in a circle and disappeared again.

Eric was beaming at Sookie, knowing the Vampires would naturally hang back but very pleased to see that the Faeries were not afraid of him or Alex and obviously adored Sookie, who looked at this moment the very embodiment of Queen of the Faeries. Her hair shone like gold under the lights on the stage and she couldn’t have picked a more perfect dress if she tried. She was smiling almost… no exactly beatifically and she radiated love and warmth. Everything about her said “magick” and that made him think of Titania, so he had to wipe away a tear. Eric was overcome with awe at all the blessings he’d been given, and Sookie reached over and squeezed his hand. He smiled at her and kissed her hand gently, and they both sat up straight as the High Priestess approached and a line began to form out to Eric’s left.

“Welcome, Welcome!” The stout woman, hair white as the moon, called as she came up the steps. “They only just told me you’d arrived! I hope it’s all to your liking?”

“It’s wonderful! You’ve done a marvelous job,” Eric laid the bullshit down with a shovel and Sookie just smiled.

“Queen Sookie, forgive me, Robin brought me the changes to your vows and I was very surprised, I was led to believe…”

“I know what you were told, and I understand your concern, but the choice is mine and this is what I have decided. My great grandfather is aware of the changes, though the choice is mine alone, so there should be no misunderstanding among us.” Sookie was being perfectly charming, but very firm. She wasn’t going to be dissuaded, for her own sake as well as Aubie’s.

“Alright, just to be sure, this is the text you’ve requested?” She handed Sookie a printed parchment and showed her the relevant passage. It said “at the end of my life or a time of my choosing,” just as she wanted, so she said, “Yes, that’s right. Thank you for your cooperation.”

“Well, we aim to please! Is there anything I can do for you? Food, drink?”

“I see people coming with food for us now, thank you,” Sookie smiled, seeing Bobbie come from the food tables, diaper bag on her shoulder, and Amelia come from the beverages area with an RM and something golden in clear plastic cup, diaper bag also over her arm.

“Hey! I wondered what happened to you all!” Sookie laughed as they came up on her right side.

“We wanted to get you two something before everything was picked over,” Bobbie laughed.

“Get something for yourselves, too!” Sookie urged them.

“We were going to do that after we drop this off to you and the boys, and we knew you’d want the diaper bags near by. We aren’t abandoning you, just getting us all settled,” Amelia laughed as she handed a warm RM to Eric who thanked her, then gave the golden liquid to Sookie.

“OK, thanks. What’s this?”

“Mead – honey wine. Fae love it!”

“Oh, OK,” she sniffed it, but didn’t taste just yet.

“Here, Sookie,” Bobbie gave her a plate as Vincent stepped forward with a little table for Sookie, “I got you some caviar and blinis, veggies, falafel and couscous – high brow and hippie food. The deserts will come out after the ceremony, apparently. And here,” she pulled something out of the diaper bag, “are some frozen wieners the boys can gum. The caterer brought them because they’re good for teething babies.” Bobbie gave each boy a frozen hot dog and they were fascinated. Alex’s went instantly into his mouth and Aubie was blown away by how cold it was and whether he should touch it, but he saw Buddy gnawing on his so he tried it. Bobbie also sprinkled some cheerios in a little bowl and left them there in front of them.

“OK, that will feel good on their gums.” Sookie said, “thanks so much!”

“Sookie, did you see the pterodactyl?” Bobbie was jumping out of her skin she was so excited.

“How could I miss it? It almost landed on us!”

“It had some little people on it’s back but I didn’t get a good look at them. I wonder where they flew in from?””

“Or WHEN they flew in from. You guys go get something to eat while you can!” Sookie encouraged them and they did.

“Sookie did you see that they put the diaper bags on the black foot locker there?’ Eric nodded toward the back. As Sookie looked back there, he projected, ‘swords in the trunk.’

“Sthordsth por FIDEEN!” Alex said happily then went back to gnawing on his hot dog. Eric and Sookie wailed with laughter.

Eric motioned for the line to begin, content that the guards were close enough to protect the boys as people came up in front of the stage. The first to approach them, 5 little men about 3 feet tall in dirty shirts, pants and suspenders, were ‘dwarves or gnomes’ according to the magick crown and Eric knew to acknowledge them first. “Greetings! Welcome to our celebration, friends of the earth!

“Greetings, your Majesty, an offering for our Mistress!” The leader held forth a wooden box, intending for Sookie to take it, but Eric had to give permission first.

“We are most grateful to receive it,” Eric answered, nodding for Sookie to take it from them and open it. It was a large filagree cuff of gold with diamonds, rubies, amber and aquamarines.

“Oh, this is beautiful!” Sookie said, overwhelmed by such a generous gift.

“We mined it and wrought it ourselves, Milady, of the purest gold and the finest gems, for your lovely upper limb.”

Eric tapped his upper arm and Sookie understood, slipping the cuff around her upper arm, where it looked, frankly, stunning.

“This is so lovely and generous. Thank you so much!” Sookie said sincerely, thrilling the little miners, who bowed, and called “bright blessings, Milady!” and scurried away to find beer and beef.

“It looks lovely on you, Sookie,” Eric assured her. “It’s very sexy.”

“Oh my Goddess, it must be worth a fortune.”

“Considering the source, my Angel, it might be priceless. It looks very much like Brisingamen. I don’t know if those are the same miners She got that from, but it’s a very similar tribute.

“Wait a minute, didn’t She…sleep with them for Brisingamen?”

“Supposedly.”

“They don’t expect me to…”

“No, Sookie, don’t worry. It’s a tribute for you as Auberon’s mother, or as Queen of their realm.”

“OK, good,” Sookie laughed, relieved.

A group of Vampires was next, three men and one human woman, from the St. Louis area.

“Your Majesty,” the first lanky fellow nodded, then he bowed to Alexander, Auberon and Sookie, and the others followed, not really speaking but looking intently at the babies, who waved to each one.

‘OK, that was creepy,’ Sookie projected to Eric.

‘I wonder that they came so far for so little,’ he sent, turning his attention to the next people in line.

For the first time this night, but certainly not the last, a group of little Fairies with big, colorful butterfly wings swooped down and dropped wild flowers in front of the babies. Sookie was sure she counted 9 waves and the pile of flowers at the end of the night was impressive to say the least.

They greeted people for about 45 minutes before Sookie even got a chance to take a drink. A cluster of 12 little Pixies, a little shorter than Sookie, in brightly colored silk costumes, with short little bobs and pointed ears, ran up to the front of the stage. They looked like children, but if you looked very closely, some were much older than one could imagine. They did a sort of half-ballet, half-gymnastics presentation for the King and the Queen, then ran up calling “Sookie, Sookie! We love you, Queen Sookie!” and some of them swarmed onto the stage. One little blonde girl handed Sookie the as yet untouched cup of mead, saying, “drink, Sookie, drink! It’s a party, you know!” Some of them flocked around, kissing her and the babies on the cheeks, and one even dared kiss Eric, making it a big production and making Sookie and Eric laugh!

Sookie intended just to sip, but went wild for the mead and drank the whole thing in two gulps. “Bjorn,” she asked when she emptied her glass, “can I get a couple of unopened bottles of that?” Eric and Bjorn were shocked that she asked, but Bjorn sent a man for her request as the pixies sang, “do hurry, do hurry! Sweet Mommy, sweet babies. It’s a party, a party! It’s a party, you know.” and then Bjorn opened one of the bottles for Sookie and poured it for her himself.

She drank another cup straight down and said, “that’s really good!” and the Pixies went scampering away, singing “she likes it, she likes it, we love you, Queen Sookie, bright blessings, pretty babies.”

“It must be a Fae thing,” Vincent suggested, knowing Eric and Bjorn were confused. Sookie didn’t normally like to drink, even when she was supposed to. From that point on she took frequent sips, but didn’t gulp the mead down as she did at first. She never got drunk, but was happily buzzed most of the night.

A long string of Vampires, about half of whom Sookie recognized from Fangtasia, came forward and pledged fealty to Eric, then to each baby as Eric would introduce them as “Alexander” or “Auberon”, then to Sookie. They bowed to each and smiled when Sookie said ‘thank you’ or the babies smiled and waved, or Alex said ‘dayoo’ and Aubie said “ayay,” which they almost always did. Both Alex and Aubie looked everyone over with big eyes and listened intently to anything they said. Eric and Sookie were both bursting with pride at how well their little boys behaved.

At one point, Alex shocked them by jumping up and yelling, “Peesha! Peesha!” as he spotted Felicia in the line. Eric could see her, but Sookie couldn’t yet, so Eric stood and waved at her to come to the front of the line. “Felicia, come here!”

“Hello, Master! Milady!” She waved with her free hand as she held a present in the other. Alex was beside himself when she skipped up to the stage and gave him a big hug and kiss. “How are you, Prince Alex? Hi, Aubie!” She tickled Aubie, to his sheer delight, and Alex was leaning on her, jumping up and down.

“Ahm dood! Dantheen wif me, pweezth!”

Felicia looked at Eric and he shrugged, but there was a small group dancing to the drums and flutes, “Sookie would you mind if she took him to dance?”

“If someone goes with them, I guess it’s OK…”

Bjorn and Jerry took two other guards and stood to the side as Felicia took Alex into the circle of dancers, who were thrilled to see one of the Princes out with them. A little girl, dressed like a milk maid, asked, “which one is this?”

“Prince Alex,” Felicia told them, “he loves to dance!”

“Hail, Prince Alex!” a little faun cheered and the others joined in and they chanted his name as they danced.

Bjorn and the other guards were on alert, but they enjoyed watching Alex have fun, too. That kid had a way of enjoying life and drawing everyone around him right into it.

Felicia loved this kind of “grapevine” dance and they stayed in the circle quite a while. Alex was laughing his little head off, then when he seemed a little tired, she took him into the middle and twirled him, then told him, “say bye-bye, Sweetie!”

Alex waved to the dancers and said, “ba-ba!” and they all cheered and laughed as she took him back to the stage.

Alex was grinning ear to ear when she brought him back and he couldn’t wait to tell Mommy where he’d been. “Mamee, me an Peesha dantheen!”

“I saw you dancing, Sweetie! Did you have fun?”

“EEAH! Dantheen pun! Ah wuv Peesha!”

“Aww – he says he loves you, Felicia,” Sookie said proudly. “Isn’t he a flirt?

“He’s such a doll! I couldn’t wait to see him tonight! I brought them some little presents.”

“Ah wyg pweznan!” Alex said enthusiastically.

Felicia held the box so both boys could tear the paper and they were both delighted with the little selection of rattles and teethers, which she took out of the box so they could play with them. Alex particularly loved the “PISH!” and Aubie grabbed hold of the butterfly teether and gnawed on it like he meant business.

“Oh, thank you, Felicia, they love those!” Sookie was as thrilled as the boys were with the toys, knowing the babies would definitely enjoy them. Felicia said bye-bye and went to get herself a blood before the ritual.

The line continued, and in about half an hour, Sookie heard a voice to her right saying, “Your Majesty, Darling!” and was thrilled to see Amunet, in a flawless pink sequined flapper dress and a white fox stole, a big tin of caviar in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other.

“Amunet! Come here, come here!” Sookie waved for her to come up on the stage, which she did, kissing Sookie on the cheek as she dropped a big pink leather tote bag by her chair, waving at Eric, who was pleased to see Sookie’s reaction to her, then she sat on the stage next to the boys, tickling them with a fox tail.

“Waby Amaduh!” Alex recognized her, too, and jumped up to waddle over and give her a hug and a kiss.

“Aww – he remembers you!” Sookie was tickled to death as Amunet kissed Alex and then kissed Aubie, too. She petted the kitten, who went on alert when anyone got close to Alex, but you could tell that she really liked Amunet and she purred and rolled over to get her belly scratched.

“Of course, he does, he’s BRILLIANT! You’re all looking well. How’s it going?”

“See the length of that line?” Sookie said softly

“Mm-hmm. You just do your thing and I’ll set up some snacks, alright?”

“Sure! You know what I like,” Sookie laughed, feeling a weight off her shoulders that she didn’t even realize was there. Amunet stood, with a little help from Eric and Vincent set up a chair on the other side of Sookie’s little table, just back a little so Sookie was still the focus. People continued to come up to bow to Sookie and Eric, saying hello, occasionally giving small gifts or offerings of food, bottles of wine, or other farm products. A group of 6 very tall and sophisticated Daoine Sídhe came by, in sumptuous clothes with medieval flair, the men with long hair like Eric and the women with long, thick Rapunzel braids. A group of three Nymphs gave Sookie a whole sheepskin, and she thanked them just as enthusiastically as she did the little men who made her arm bracelet – which, by the way, did not escape Amunet’s notice. “That gold cuff is fabulous – did you get that tonight?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“I thought so – not many humans do that kind of work these days. You must have good jewelry karma, Sweetie, you’ve always got something spectacular on.” She handed Sookie a blini full of crème fraiche and caviar that was so good it made Sookie’s eyes roll back in her head. “When did you start drinking mead?”

“Tonight. I love it!”

“How very Faerie of you!” she teased and Sookie laughed.

“I feel more Fae tonight than I ever have before. I’ve got so much to tell you.”

“Oh, Sweetie, I know – it’s hanging around your neck like a sign, if that’s what I think it is.”

“Oh, yeah! Wait ’til you hear.”

“There’s a lot of them here, you know.”

“How many?”

“They outnumber the others put together at least two to one. I hope they’re all friendly,” Amunet said quietly.

Sookie and Eric exchanged a look, both hoping that all these Fae were friendly, too.

“Mamee, ahm undwy and Obee.”

“Oh, what time is it?” Sookie asked

“Almost 11:30,” Bjorn told them. “If you’re going to feed them, you’d better do it quick.”

“You keep up with your line, Sookie, I’ll help feed them,” Amunet offered, as Bobbie dug into the bags for baby food and bottles.

“Bobbie, this is Amunet Bast – I was telling you about her! Amunet, this is Bobbie James, my doula and my very good friend. She’s one of my Witches. I don’t know where the other two are at the moment,” she laughed.

“Something came up, Sookie, I’m not sure what, but Amelia said she’d be gone for a bit and I think Octavia went with her,” Bobbie told her.

Bobbie and Amunet stood in front of the stage and fed the boys right there, and both ate quickly and well as if they knew this was their last chance for a while. People had stared at the boys all night, but now some of the Vampires were shocked to see them eat food, though they seemed calmed when they saw them take bottles of blood.

“Amunet, where’s your husband?” Sookie asked in between visitors and well-wishers.

“He’s mingling with the European group. They’ll be along in a bit, they wanted to hit the refreshment stands first. They’re all here, you know, the American royals.”

“All of them?”

“Of course, Darling, everyone who’s anyone wants to say they were here to see the new Vampire Princes blessed and dedicated. The event is as unique as they are. We’ll all be up here watching your vows.”

“You will?”

“Yes, the Coven invited the Vampire royals, the Council members and Pantheon guests to sit up here so they can see the whole rite. Not all of them will, of course, because it’s too ripe a target, but quite of few of them will watch from up here.”

“I hope that it’s safe…”

“There’s heavy protection all around this place – yours, I assume?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Have faith in your own strength, Sookie. If someone chooses to start trouble, you of all people can handle it.”

“Sookie, my Dear, you look lovely tonight!” Niall appeared before the stage in his best black suit with a long jacket and silver vest and string tie, watch chain gleaming, silver handle on his cane polished and ready for a fight. Eric hated that damned cane, knowing why Niall carried it, and he had to suppress a laugh when he heard Sookie think that he was dressed like Doc Holliday. Though he had never seen it, Eric was pretty sure that the cane was a sheath and the handle attached to a sword.

“Hi, Grandpa. I’m glad you made it,” Sookie tried to sound sincere.

When Alex saw Niall he held Aubie’s hand and didn’t let go.

“I couldn’t miss the blessing of our precious Princes, you know. Hello, Alexander. Hello, Auberon. Having a nice night, Vampire?”

“Yes, Niall, it’s been a very good night so far,” Eric answered, on high alert as were all of the guards.

Niall frowned for a second, then said a bit darkly, “are these the bracelets I gave to the children?”

“Yes, they are, the very ones,” Sookie said innocently.

“Funny, I could swear Eric Auberon’s is different, somehow.” That was as directly as he dared say that he knew it had been changed.

“I gave it a good cleaning, if that’s what you mean,” Sookie said, still pretending not to know what he meant, but the tension between them was nearly visible.

“Well, that’s to be expected I suppose,” though it was clear he had not expected that at all. Sookie was getting very clever, very quickly. He never expected her to know there was anything amiss with the bracelet, and he could feel that all of his magick was gone. That part of the plan was now ruined.

In the distance, a bell was ringing. The High Priestess waved the bell and walked around the circle in a counter-clockwise direction as the crowd magickally parted and formed a huge circle.

“Looks like she’s ready to begin,” Amunet said what Sookie was wondering.

“OK, here we go. Save my seat, Amunet, and wish us luck.”

“All the luck and blessings in the world, Sookie, have no doubt,” Amunet said as she kissed her cheek.

Eric stood and straightened his clothes a bit and offered Sookie his hand. They walked down the steps to the right of the stage and each took a baby and walked to the center of the circle, where an altar was being quickly constructed.

‘Here we go,’ she projected.

‘We’ll be fine, Sookie. Did you see Niall’s face when you bent to pick up Aubie?’

‘How could I miss it? The amulet fell forward and he nearly swallowed his tongue.’

The two of them locked eyes and tried not to laugh, since Niall was shooting daggers out of his eyes. Just to rub it in, Eric bent and gave Sookie a lingering kiss, enjoying the scowl it evoked from great grandpa.

Niall knew three things about Sookie having that amulet hanging around her neck – she’d been in his home (by his way of thinking,) she knew where to look and more than likely the little Witch also knew how to use it. He tried not to let rage cloud his thinking, Was it possible Sookie had already contacted Nivian? He knew it wasn’t likely, but neither was her finding the damned thing in the first place. He wondered if the secret was in that damned book that remained in his home as a constant reminder that he was a pretender to the H’Eloise throne. He knew the story about Titania throwing the amulet into the sea was a lie, and this just proved that others were working against him – he figured a cloaking spell had been used to keep him from finding the amulet, which he felt should have been his when Titania died. He also knew that the only chance of taking it while Sookie wore it was to cut her head off, and this wasn’t the best place to try.

The biggest problem was that he had assassins in the woods and there was no way to call them off without drawing attention because they were already up in the trees. If Sookie were to die while wearing the necklace, it would automatically return to Avalon, never to be seen again. Damn it! The plan had been to kill Sookie so that Eric would give up custody of the Fae child. Niall was sure he wouldn’t want the boy if Sookie weren’t there to care for him. Killing her solved the problem neatly. The Vampire would raise Alex, Niall would have Auberon, and Niall would retain control of Elfyria through him. By crippling Auberon before he reached puberty and gained his full powers, Niall would be holding the reins far into the future. The amulet, however, changed the entire situation because Niall wanted it more than anything, including the throne of Elfyria.

His lust for the necklace was the only reason Titania lived as long as she did. There were things to be found and things to be done on Avalon that didn’t exist anywhere else in the worlds and the idea of being excluded from them had driven Niall nearly insane. He had tried every avenue to form a partnership that would give him at least occasional access, but even the College of Druids had rejected him over suspicion that he had killed their Queen. He blamed Nivian for that and for several other problems that Niall had ultimately created for himself. If he ever got into Avalon, the first thing he’d do is to track Nivian down and hand her her head, but his seeming last chance to do that was now hanging around Sookie’s neck. What to do, what to do?

The Coven, which was about 20 people, all moved into place and some little girls ran around the circle sprinkling rose petals in case the Goddess actually materialized instead of just attending in spirit. The little fauns, four of them, ran forward with little sticks to kindle the fires around the new altar. The pixies were doing little cartwheels and tumbles to entertain the crowd as everyone shifted to ritual mode. It became gradually quieter, and people were donning all kinds of capes and robes, ritual instruments, jewelry or knives, that they only used in Circle. Two older women stepped forward with some sort of cloth and Sookie recognized one of them as Madeleine from Elfyria!

“Maddy!”

“Milady, you look lovely tonight. We made special capes for you and your King.” She turned to Eric, “so nice to see you again, Dear Sir.”

“Maddy, it has been far too long,” Eric nodded to her and knelt down so the other woman could put the wool cape on his back and fasten it under his chin, then raise the hood over his head. Maddy put a black velvet cape with a pure pink satin lining on Sookie’s shoulders, fastening the frog under her chin, kissing her cheek and putting the hood up to frame her pretty face. Aubie grabbed a handful of Mama’s cape, liking the soft feel and he held on through half of the ritual.

Sookie was surprised to see Amunet put on a light golden, pleated cloak reminiscent of Isis and stand facing her in the circle.

“I couldn’t just watch!”

“I’m so glad!” Sookie looked around, wondering where Amelia and Octavia got to, hoping everything was alright.

The High Priestess, in a long black dress with beaucoup cleavage, and a long black cape almost like Sookie’s, swung a big sword in a circle over her head three times. Sookie could see that the woods were alive with a thousand Faerie lights and butterflies circled around them.

Four huge wrought Iron candleholders were set up in the four directions, each with a different colored candle.

“It’s hot tonight,” Sookie said softly, “we could use a little breeze.”

Just at that moment, a light breeze began to blow and Alex said, “Omba, Mamee!”

Eric just looked at her and laughed to himself, knowing she wasn’t even aware of what she’d just done.

The HPs (High Priestess) lit a white candle, saying “Blessed be thou creature of Fire” and walked to the East and the drums sounded. She began to call the Quarters:

She lit the big Yellow candle in the wrought iron stand to the east from the white one in her hand.

“I call upon you, powers of Air,
to witness this rite and to guard this circle.”

In the southern quarter she lit the huge Red Candle and greeted the element:

“I call upon you, powers of Fire,
to witness this rite and to guard this circle.”

She moved to the west, in front of the stage, and lit the Blue candle:

“I call upon you, powers of Water,
to witness this rite and to guard this circle.”

Then she went north, lit the Green candle saying:

“I call upon you, powers of Earth,
to witness this rite and to guard this circle.”

She walked on to the east and kissed the two flames of the white and yellow candles, completing the circle. She moved back to the central altar, putting her white candle into a holder, still lit. She picked up the sword again and stood facing east, marking a pentacle in the air and then pointing the sword at the edge of the circle and leading a chant that the others joined in four times:

“This circle is bound,
With power all around,
Between the worlds We stand

with protection at hand”

The Priestess’ voice rang out into the night:

“We gather together as a Circle of friends to welcome two of our own back to the community. In past lives we have lived, loved, and fought together. It is with great rejoicing that we greet these twins who have returned to us now in this place. Their spirits are one with us, as they have shown by choosing to reincarnate here and now to these royal parents. Their spirits are ancient, but their bodies are new, and must be introduced to the ancient ways of our people.

Holy Mother Goddess!

We ask that you attend this rite as we welcome these children to the moonlit earth.

Repeat after me! “All Hail the mighty Freyja!”

The crowd spoke “All Hail the mighty Freyja!”

,

We welcome thee to our rite, O Goddess

– ‘We welcome thee to our rite, O Goddess”

Hearken Lady to our words!

– Hearken Lady to our words!

THE AIR SHIMMERED and the night grew completely silent. A figure of white formed in the middle of the circle before the altar, and several others appeared around the edge of the circle. The figure in the middle split into two and at once there was FREYJA, in the beautiful white gown Sookie had seen her in that morning, and next to Her was a gorgeous young man with long, curly dark hair in an animal skin, holding a tall stick with a pine cone on top. Around the circle appeared Tonantzìn, Yemaya, and right next to Amunet, Bast, all similarly cloaked in white.

Sookie looked at Eric, “Jim Morrison?”

“Dionysus,” Eric said in a hoarse whisper, in awe of what was happening around them.

“Bring forth My beautiful children!” Freyja said, laughing, stepping forward as Dionysus stepped back and a goblet of wine appeared in his hand. He drank, smiled and laughed throughout the ceremony.

Eric and Sookie stepped forward, holding the babies tightly.

Freyja spoke to the HPs: “Proceed, My Dear!”

The Priestess, who was both thrilled and shaken, presented the question:

“Who are these new travelers?”

King Eric spoke first: “Eric Alexander Northman,”

Queen Sookie spoke next: “Eric Auberon H’Eloise Northman”

There was a murmur in the crowd – H’Eloise! Was it true? It was true! HE had come!

The Priestess continued, raising a censer of incense and using it to draw a pentacle in the air before each child as she spoke:

I bless you, Eric Alexander, with the power of fire and air“.

I bless you, Eric Auberon H’Eloise, with the power of fire and air“.

She picked up a cup of water from the altar, using an athame (a ritual knife) to add three little piles of salt, then she plunged the tip of the blade into the water and stirred it three times widdershins. Freyja held out Her hand and the HPs handed the cup to Freyja, who drank and said, “I bless thee” into the water then handed it back to the Priestess. The priestess dipped her finger into the blessed water and drew a pentacle on each child’s third eye as she spoke

I bless you, Eric Alexander by the power of earth and water.”

I bless you, Eric Auberon H’Eloise by the power of earth and water.”

Priestess placed her left hand Auberon’s head, the right on Alexander’s and spoke:

“Queen of Heaven make these children bold and courageous. Let them be wise and vigilant, Let them be strong, free and independent as You are. Guide each child in the hunt for his own path.”

The High Priestess motioned for Eric and Sookie to follow her, and they walked slowly clockwise until they faced each direction. The Priestess used the sword to draw a pentagram at each of the Quarters:

“Hail to the powers of the East! Recognize these children Eric Alexander & Eric Auberon H’Eloise. Help them to soar in the limitless sky of thought, imagination and inspiration and let them move easily between the worlds on the wings of the Falcon. Send them gentle breezes to guide them on their path. Bless Eric Alexander & Eric Auberon H’Eloise with all the airborne powers of the East.

Hail to the powers of the South! Recognize these children Eric Alexander & Eric Auberon H’Eloise! Warm them, strengthen their Will with your fiery energy. Send them dominion over darkness and light to help them prevail in the challenges that await them. Bless Eric Alexander & Eric Auberon H’Eloise with all the burning powers of the South.

Hail to the powers of the West! Recognize these children Eric Alexander & Eric Auberon H’Eloise as issue of the Womb of Life. Help them to swim the deep seas of emotion and empathy, plumb the depths of the ocean and to know Her creatures and the glory of Stella Maris, the Lady of the Sea, O Shining One. Send Eric Alexander & Eric Auberon H’Eloise cleansing waters to purge them of doubt and confusion. Bless these boys with all the raging rivers and the gently flowing powers of the West.

Hail to the powers of the North! Recognize these children Eric Alexander & Eric Auberon H’Eloise. Help them to stand firm on Mother Earth. Send them rich soil to root in, and connect them with all that is, was, will ever be. Let them be blessed with gold and gems from Her deepest depths. Bless Eric Alexander & Eric Auberon H’Eloise with all the riches and deep, grounded powers of the North.

She led Eric and Sookie back to the center of the circle for the vows:

Priestess:

“King Eric Northman, you are charged with the great gift of being father to these two sacred children. Will you promise to do everything in your power to bring them up in the ways of the Goddess, to help them fulfill their sacred destinies in accordance with the will of the Goddess?”

KING ERIC: I will

Priestess:

“Repeat after me: Eric Alexander Northman, I am your King and your father. I pledge to keep you safe, to help you grow strong for as long as I shall live. I pledge my Kingdom and offices to you at the end of my life and I will Love you forever.”

KING ERIC:

“Eric Alexander Northman, I am your King and your father. I pledge to keep you safe, to help you grow strong for as long as I shall live. I pledge my Kingdom and offices to you at the end of my life and I will Love you forever.”

They then turned to Sookie and Aubie, the Priestess directing Eric to put his right hand on Aubie’s head.

Priestess:

“Put your right hand on Auberon’s head and repeat after me. Eric Auberon H’Eloise Northman, I am your King and your father. I pledge to keep you safe, to help you grow strong for as long as I shall live and I will Love you forever.”

KING ERIC:

“Eric Auberon H’Eloise Northman, I am your King and your father. I pledge to keep you safe, to help you grow strong for as long as I shall live and I will Love you forever.”

The Priestess turned to Sookie.

PRIESTESS:

Queen Sookie H’Eloise Northman, you are charged with the great gift of being mother to these two sacred children. Will you promise to do everything in your power to bring them up in the ways of the Goddess, to help them fulfill their sacred destinies in accordance with the will of the Goddess?

Queen SOOKIE: I will

Priestess:

Put your right hand on Alexander’s head and repeat after me: Eric Alexander Northman, I am your Mother. I shall hold you in my heart forever. I will keep you in my arms as you grow, in my thoughts as you learn and in my spirit as you manifest the Will of the Goddess. I will love you forever.

Sookie teared up as she said her vows to Alex.

Queen SOOKIE:

“Eric Alexander Northman, I am your Mother. I shall hold you in my heart forever. I will keep you in my arms as you grow, in my thoughts as you learn and in my spirit as you manifest the Will of the Goddess. I will love you forever.”

She kissed Alex on the lips and Eric stepped back for the big announcement, smiling at her proudly.

The Priestess began to speak, but suddenly 5 arrows flew from the tops of the trees right at Sookie, but stopped dead in the air with a sizzle and fell to the ground on fire. Sookie froze as half the grove hit the dirt and the other half screamed. The sounds of war rang clearly from the woods, but Freyja raised her voice to the wind and said “Do not give chase! They shall not break through! Finish!”

The Priestess was clearly afraid, but she continued. Sookie was pissed and she was not moving.

Priestess:

“Repeat after me: Eric Auberon H’Eloise Northman, I am your Mother. I shall hold you in my heart forever. I will keep you in my arms as you grow, in my thoughts as you learn and in my spirit as you manifest the Will of the Goddess. I will love you forever and at the end of my life, or at a time of my choosing, I will pass to you my title as the True Heir of Elfyria.”

When they heard the words “True Heir of Elfyria” every Faerie in the grove gasped and dropped to one knee. The Vampires froze – could their King be married to the Faerie Queen? What about the babies? Are they Vampire or not? The Daemons and Weres were ready to pounce if anything else happened, but who the hell was fighting in the woods?

Sookie saw Niall watching her and knew those arrows were from him. She set her stance, looked at her baby that he tried to steal and let her voice ring out into the night as she shook and tingled all over.

SOOKIE: “Eric Auberon H’Eloise Northman, I am your Mother. I shall hold you in my heart forever. I will keep you in my arms as you grow, in my thoughts as you learn and in my spirit as you manifest the Will of the Goddess. I will love you forever and at the end of my life or a time of MY choosing I will pass to you my title as the True Heir of Elfyria. There will be peace, so help me!

The Priestess held a hand out to each baby, addressing the Goddess in the center of the circle:

“Freyja, Golden Lady,
We bring these young children before You,
Asking that You embrace them in body and spirit.
Protect and guide them upon this path,
and witness that we accept them into our community
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.”

Freyja stepped forward, first to Alex, and said, “bright blessings, little boy,” and kissed him on the lips, then stroked Eric’s cheek as he knelt before Her. She turned to Sookie and Aubie, putting her hand on his forehead, then stroking his cheek, “bright blessings, little boy,” and she kissed his lips, too.

Dionysus stepped forward and Sookie wanted to run, but Eric was still down on one knee so she curtsied and stood still. He kissed Aubie on the forehead and used his forefinger to anoint his little mouth with wine, then he did the same to Alex. Eric was overwhelmed and Sookie knew it, so she was careful not to send anything negative to him. Dionysus told the Priestess, “you may proceed” and swaggered back up to the altar.

The Priestess was stunned, but she held it together and closed out the ceremony.

“May all present bear witness to the naming of these children, the vows made by these parents and these Divine blessings. It is time for the community to welcome: Eric Alexander Northman & Eric Auberon H’Eloise Northman – Greet them and give them your blessings!”

Freyja spoke again, “We thank the Watchtowers and end this rite. The Circle is open, but never broken, and flows through and around us all. Time for feasting and dancing and bestowing your tokens on My two precious boys!”

Everyone clapped and cheered, chanting, “hail to the Princes, hail to the Princes!” and the music started up again wildly.

A huge book was set before the stage and Eric and Sookie went back to their seats. Amunet and Bobbie went for more treats. The line was much more impressive this time around as the gods and the Council went first. The first to sign the book was the Ancient Pythoness then She walked to the stage and looked at the boys very closely.

“Ewwo!” Alex said and waved at her and Eric told Sookie that was the first time he’d ever seen the Pythoness smile. She tickled Aubie’s chin, smiled and nodded at Sookie, then Eric and Her two helpers came forward, each with a jewelry box. They opened the boxes and the Pythoness took one gold medallion on a chain and slipped it over Alex’s head. She took the other and put it on Aubie, then handed the closed boxes to Sookie and saying, “gifts from the Council, insignias of their Kingdoms. She stepped back toward the line and linked arms with the helpers. In an instant there remained nothing but purple sparkles and smoke.

Tonantzin, warm and feminine, came forward and stroked the boys’ cheeks, and said “such lucky boys!” She gave them two small bags of sacred blue corn and three gold rings each “from the Aztec empire.”

Yemaya, La Siren, gave the babies a bowl of small watermelon chunks, and fed them both several by hand. When She got up to go, she winked at Sookie and said, “I’m a mermaid, too! I’ll see you in Mexico,” and then She was gone.

Bast, who glowed golden, came forward and petted the cat, then rubbed it’s little ear and an earring appeared there, made of pure gold. She tapped each baby on the nose, making them giggle, she winked at Sookie and then She was gone.

People were mingling and talking, lining up for desserts and other treats just brought out and a few revelers were dancing to music where the altar had been. At once, the crowd parted and out of the woods rode a woman in white on a pure white horse, hair the color of flames, carrying a sword and a man across her lap. She was leading a group of very tall women dressed in brown suede with the left breast exposed. The women were carrying bows and swords and had obviously been in a battle. As She came closer Sookie jumped up and said, “Nivian!” and ran down the steps to the horse.

“Hello, My Precious.” She cupped Sookie’s chin as she looked up at her, “I told you you’d see Me sooner than you thought!”

“What happened? Was there a fight?”

“The old Fae tried to kill you before you claimed your title! This is the only survivor,” She said as She threw the man bound with iron off Her horse to the ground. Rafael and some others swooped forward and took him away, Sookie knew, never to be seen again.

“I knew it was Niall! Where did he go?”

“If he’s smart he’s a lifetime away.”

Sookie was shocked to realize that Bill and Pam, Octavia and Amelia were with the… “Amazons!” Sookie realized, “They’re real!”

“Oh, yes, but they rarely leave our realm these days. Niall is so predictable – We knew he’d try to kill you, so We waited in the woods and We killed the assassins. This ritual had to be done tonight, and Freyja made sure that it happened.”

“Octavia! Where have you been? Are you…”

Sookie never finished her sentence because the music took over as Freyja and Dionysus danced in the circle. The whole party formed the circle again and there were nymphs and fauns and satyrs and maenads all drawing the crowd to the dance.

“Go have fun, Precious, you’ve still more to do!” Nivian laughed and rode into the shadows, the Amazon warriors running behind Her.

“I’ve still more to do?” Sookie asked as she was grabbed by the waist and spun into the dance and she landed in the arms of Dionysus.

“Mmm, very sweet, Milady,” and she thought he would kiss her but he stuck his tongue up her nose and cracked up, spinning her away.

“Eric!” She panicked but at once Eric had her and swirled her around in the air.

“The babies!” She cried.

“They’re fine, Sookie, they’re with Bobbie and Bjorn, have some fun while you can!” He laughed and led her into a line that was forming in a girl-boy-girl-boy pattern. They turned a corner and Sookie looked back as Badru Bast grabbed her hand. Amunet was with him and the line made a circle and soon was a spiral moving in on itself. The drumming was overwhelming and it felt so weird as Sookie felt her heartbeat take on the pattern they played. The line was alive and throbbing, a huge snake coiling inward, then the front of the line reached the center and flipped so the line was spiraling in and out all at once. Sookie was awash in a sea of ecstasy, everyone chanting:

“We are the flow, we are the ebb, we are the weavers, we are the web!’

Over and over, and there was nowhere to go but forward with the flow of bodies, coming face to face with everyone else in the line, and at one point Sookie met Bobbie and Bjorn!

“Where are the babies?”

“With Freyja!”

“What?” Sookie tried desperately to see the stage but she was too short, and there had to be thousands of people in this Spiral. The drumming was getting more and more primal and the energy bigger and bigger. Finally Sookie reached the edge of the spiral and broke out to woods and tried to run back around to the stage, nothing but moonlight lighting her way. Eric caught her and said “where are you going?”

“Eric, it’s all getting out of control!”

Eric laughed, “that’s what He does – that’s His gift to the party!”

“Bu-!” His mouth caught hers and at once she was gone – she wasn’t in Shreveport or anywhere near it, with a flash of light and a throb of energy she was Titania in the moonlight, seducing her assassin to save her own life. Sookie was vaguely aware of other couples running into the woods around them, shrieking and laughing and throwing off clothes, but the only thing real was the drive to survive and she pushed Eric down and yanked down his pants. She rode him as if her life depended on it, like if she stopped he might slit her throat. Her eyes were clenched tight and her nails cut his chest as she clawed at his shirt, her knees in the dirt, his fingers digging into her thighs. For the first time, ever, Titania was coming and she threw back her arms, stretched her throat to the night and she howled as a column of light shot up through her center and out of her throat, and up into infinite space.

When Sookie woke up they were back in the car, Alex and Aubie tucked safely between them. Eric was staring out the window, lost in his thoughts, and was actually startled when Sookie spoke.

“Eric?”

“Yes, my Angel?”

“I’m pregnant.”

“I know.”

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3 thoughts on “LATE Chapter 100 original

  1. Pingback: Updates 12-23-15 | Fanfiction Minions

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