LATE Chapter 108

 

Sunna

 

“Ow!” Sookie cried as she landed on her butt in the sand. “What the hell! How did I get here? Eric! Wha…”

“Mom? Mom! Hurry, I can’t touch them!”

Sookie looked back toward the hill Freyja usually came over but this time it was a little girl about 9 years old with long blonde hair wearing a pink sundress. She waved eagerly, encouraging Sookie to follow her. Though still a bit disoriented by her unexpected change of scenery, Sookie scrambled to follow the girl.

“Hurry, Mom – I can’t touch them but you can!”

“Touch who?” Sookie asked as she ran toward the girl.

“‘Lexy and Aubie! Come on before they teleport!”

“Lexy? You mean Alex and Aubie?”

“Yeah, whatever. Hurry!”

“Are they here? Who are you?”

“Don’t be weird, Mom! It’s me, Sunny! Hurry!”

They were over the hill now and Sookie recognized the outer reaches of the garden where Freyja fed her delicious fruit one time. If she closed her eyes, she could still taste the sweet blueberries bursting on her tongue.

“Where is Freyja?” Sookie was still confused as she scrambled up the hill. She stumbled a little and reached toward the girl to steady herself but the girl jumped back, quickly withdrawing her arm.

“Don’t touch me! Freyja said that I can’t touch you or the boys under any circumstances!”

“But where…?”

“She’s busy right now,” the girl explained breathlessly as they reached the garden path at the bottom of the hill, “so she sent me this time! How neat is that!” she laughed.

“So… You’re my daughter?”

“Yeah, don’t you recognize me? Daddy always says I look like a miniature version of you!” she laughed.

“I named you Sunny?”

“No, Dad named me Sunna, remember?” she said with a little disbelief, pronouncing her name as “soon-ah” with a heavy Swedish accent, “everybody just calls me Sunny. Oh good, they’re still here!”

Sookie saw a pretty purple carpet on the ground in front of Freyja’s garden throne, very surprised to see Alex and Aubie sitting on it eating strawberries and blueberries from a golden bowl.

“Mama!” Aubie called happily, quickly flying into Sookie’s arms the moment he saw her.

“Hi, Sweetie! What are you doing here?”

“Um, Bumby!” he pointed at his big brother.

The girl laughed, “duh, Mom, they were looking for you! Freyja said Alex hasn’t been to Alfheimr yet so he doesn’t know the way. Besides, it’s really easy for us kids to get here. He probably figured you’d show up here eventually.”

“How do we get back?”

“Just pick ’em up and go back where you were!” the girl laughed, that being the most obvious thing in the world. Her mom could be so dense sometimes!

“Mamee, ah wyg fwoot!” Alex said happily, shoving blueberries into his mouth.

“That’s nice, Sweetie!” Sookie said as she swooped down and picked Alex up. The instant she had both boys in her arms she reappeared in the carriage in Elyria, much to everyone’s surprise and delight. “Sorry about that everybody! Now, where were we?”

People laughed and cheered when Sookie reappeared with the little princes. Eric was so relieved to see her that he had to repress a sob, playing it off as a little cough. Sookie tried to act like it was no big deal.

“So, I guess you all know that this is Eric Alexander and Eric Auberon?” she held each boy forward as she said his name, making the crowd cheer, especially for Aubie. She then turned to Eric, “Can you hold them ’til I’m done, Sweetie?”

“Of course, my Angel!” He pulled it together as best he could and took the boys from her, the boys being thrilled to see him.

“Ah, Dadee!”

“Ah, nDada!”

Eric snuggled the boys and kissed each one on the head as the crowd cheered, which gave Sookie a minute to remember what she had been doing.

“OK, Nelly Murphy – is she around?”

“Aye, your majesty, I’m here!” a tall, sturdy red haired woman stepped forward as the crowd cheered.

“It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Murphy. Would you be willing to oversee the redistribution of taxes in this area? People have apparently been paying more than their fair share. I need someone to see that everyone is treated fairly, and that the poor are not being neglected. There’s enough wealth in Elfyria to share and for everyone to be comfortable.”

The people cheered and the boys clapped their hands along with them, making Eric laugh. Sir Robert was beaming, so proud of his new Queen who apparently understood her role instinctively, already setting Niall’s crimes against the people to rights.

“Dadee, Mamee dood?”

“Yes, Mommy is very good. She loves everybody who depends on her, doesn’t she, boys?”

“Ah, Mama!” Aubie said in his silly little voice, making both men laugh.

“May I?” Sir Robert asked, nodding toward Aubie.

“Yes, of course,” Eric smiled.

He shook each baby’s hand as he spoke to them. “Prince Auberon, Prince Alexander, I am Sir Robert. I work for your mommy and for you, too. If you ever need anything in Elfyria, you can call on me.”

“Sthuh Wobuhd?” Alex repeated, taking Aubie’s hand to get his attention, “woogie, Obee, Sthuh Wobuhd,” he pointed to the Fae man as he repeated, “Sthuh Wobuhd!”

“Good boy, Alex! Auberon, this is Sir Robert,” Eric repeated.

Aubie understood enough to say, “ah, Wabah!” with a big smile and wave, which thrilled Sir Robert to no end.

“I didn’t realize they could already speak!”

“Oh, yes, and Alex tries very hard to help Auberon learn,” Eric bragged.

Aubie reached toward Sir Robert to get his attention, and when Robert leaned forward a little, Aubie patted Alex’s cheek and said “ma Bumby!”

Both men laughed as Eric interpreted, “he’s telling you Alexander is his buddy. He’s very fond of his big brother, aren’t you Auberon?”

“Ah!” Aubie giggled and clapped his hands.

“Sir Robert,” Sookie hated to interrupt, but people were waiting to see what would happen. “is there anything else I should do today?”

“Nelly, do you know what the Queen is asking you to do?”

“Aye, Sir Robert, I’ll be happy to help.”

“Then I’d say that’s enough for today, Milady.”

“Good, then let’s give the kids some candy and coins and leave some soldiers here to see that everyone gets dinner in one of the public houses, and then let’s make our way home.”

Sir Robert gave their soldiers the necessary instruction and gave Sookie the candy and coins to give to the eager children who were singing, “thank you, Queen Sookie! We love you, Queen Sookie!” as others chanted, “Hail to the Prince, hail Prince Auberon!”

A few Fae girls came to the other side of the carriage with offerings of wild flowers for Eric and the babies, but mostly for Eric because they’d giggle, shriek or jump up and down when he’d say thank you and flash them a brilliant smile. His vampire hearing also picked up on the girls’ conversations about how “big, fair, lovely,” and “dreamy” he was. Even in Elfyria, it was good to be Eric Northman.

When all that was done, the procession headed for the H’Eloise castle, everyone satisfied that the outing was productive, leaving the areas they visited much better off than they were before.

“Sir Robert, you’re laughing to yourself again,” Sookie observed a little sheepishly, “did I do something wrong?”

“Oh, no, Milady, your visit far surpassed my expectations. The people are already in love with you and your family. These sweet babies popping in when they did was just icing on the cake.”

“Oh, good. I’m not sure how or why they did just then, but I’m glad it all worked out,” she laughed a little nervously. “Eric, should you call Bjorn?”

“Already done, my Angel, the boys are asleep in our arms in the loft.”

“That’s a relief!” she said, relaxing a little. “I wonder why they came looking for us?”

“Perhaps you should ask your witches or your Goddess?” Eric suggested as she took Alex from him. Aubie was still on Eric’s lap, looking Sir Robert up and down as he entertained him with a little chatter and some funny faces. Aubie liked him right away. Sookie was sure that Eric wouldn’t want her to mention Sunny in this company, so she’d tell him first thing tonight.

The rest of the ride was uneventful except for the farmers’, weavers’, spinners’ and tinkers’ families waiting by the road to wave at them as they returned to the castle. Their shadow in the woods was gone by this time, so Eric suspected they were friendly, but he’d talk to Sookie about it after dinner so she’d be aware, just in case. He considered telling her telepathically, but her mind was racing already, so he was deliberately not projecting to her.

Sookie was never so happy to take her clothes off and get into bed as when Maddy tucked them all in. In the blink of an eye they were back in the loft all together, Sookie and the boys awakening, Eric at rest and Bjorn quietly keeping watch in the corner with the kitten and dragon asleep at his feet .

Sookie sat up, calling, “Bjorn, are you there?”

“Yeah, Sookie, I’m here,” he smiled. “Had a busy morning?

“Had a whole busy day!” she laughed, “what time is it?”

“Almost one o’clock. You’ve got time to sleep longer if you want to.”

“Me, Mama!” Aubie reached up from his spot in between Eric and Sookie, wanting Mama’s attention.

“Hey, Sweet Boy! You learned a new word! Did you come looking for Mama?” she teased him a bit as she pulled him up into her arms. “Mama never expected you and Buddy to come looking for her!” She laughed and tickled him, making him squeal and wake Alex up. Sookie managed to scoop him up, too, and got them both arranged on her tummy. “what time is it, guys?”

“Dantheen!”

“Dan-hee!”

“Good, Aubie! Time for DANCING! ” and she sang:

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows,

Everything that’s wonderful is what I feel when we’re together,

Brighter than a lucky penny,

When you’re near the rain cloud disappears, dear,

And I feel so fine just to know that you are mine.

My life is sunshine, lollipops and rainbows,

That’s how this refrain goes, so come on, join in everybody!

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows,

Everything that’s wonderful is sure to come your way

When you’re in love to stay.”

The boys cracked up, squealing, giggling, and Aubie drooling on Alex’s arm.”

“Bubby god me, Mamee!”

“Oops! He sure did! Towel!” Sookie called and a small white towel appeared in her hand. “Aubie must be getting teeth!” she chattered happily with them as she wiped them both up a bit.

“Mamee, wadiz wowwy popsth?”

“Lollipops are candy, Alex,” she explained as she was wrestling around with the boys, laughing with them.

“Wadiz gandy?”

“Oh! I didn’t realize you’ve never had candy. Let me see – two cherry safety pops!” she called and two of the kind of pops that have a string instead of a stick appeared in her hand. “OK, you’re a little young for these, but we’ll give it a try. Hang on…” she set the boys over on Eric for a second while she struggled to sit up, making funny noises and silly faces as she did to make them laugh. She got settled sitting Indian style then brought Aubie over to sit on her lap, pulling Alex a little closer so he was sitting on Dadee’s big arm. “OK, guys, see this clear wrapper? We take it off and throw it away.” She held the pops so the boys could see her tear the cellophane off. “Then you lick it with your tongue.”

Alex stuck his tongue out and said “wick?”

“Right! Lick it with your tongue.” She demonstrated, and handed a lollipop to Alex.

He took a big lick of it and his eyes popped wide, “I wyg gandy, Mamee!”

Sookie laughed and held the other sucker where Aubie could taste it, and he reacted with a silly, high-pitched “hoo!” as he did when something good surprised him. Bjorn was sitting in the corner smiling and recording the boys’ first taste of candy with the video camera on “zoom.”

“Hey, who’s laughing up here?” Bobbie teased as she came up the stairs with two small bottles of blood.

Both boys were excited to see her. “Babee, woogie, ah aba gandy!”

“Wow, where did you get candy.”

“Mamee do machig!”

“I was singing that old Lesley Gore song and they asked what a lollipop was,” Sookie laughed, “so we need to watch them closely so they don’t choke on these.”

“Alicia wanted to know if you want breakfast in bed, or if you’re coming down? Also, your friend Amunet left a message to give her a call in suite 1303.”

“Oh, cool, I forgot they were here! Tell Alicia I’ll throw something on and come down to eat, please? Thanks!”

“She left this little yellow sun dress for you,” Bobbie told her as she held the dress up for Sookie to see.

“Good choice! Throw it here!” Sookie laughed and caught it, pulling it over her head and down as far as she could in a sitting position, then she put Aubie over on Eric’s tummy so she could raise up on her knees and pull it on down. She crawled down to the end of the bed and slipped on a thong Bobbie handed her. She brushed her hair and put on some mascara and pink lipgloss, more out of habit than need, then Sookie tucked the sheet in around Eric. She scooped Alex up, holding him toward Eric, saying “give Daddy a kiss on the cheek!” then she passed him to Bobbie and did the same with Aubie. The whole group, pets included, headed down to the living area at about a quarter to 2.

The first thing Sookie did was call Amunet, who was dressed in a “burn out” velvet robe with long black silk fringe sitting in a plush white chair gazing out the glass wall of her suite, chanting:

Anekh hrak

Tua atu

Anekh hrak

Tua atu

Anekh hrak

Tua atu

nebet Aset!

Anekh hrak

Tua atu

Anekh hrak

Tua atu

Anekh hrak

Tua atu

nebet Aset!

Anekh hrak

Tua atu

Anekh hrak

Tua atu

Anekh hrak

Tua atu

nebet Aset!

She jumped a little when the phone rang, even though she was expecting Sookie to call.

“Hello?”

“Amunet?”

“Sookie, darling! You sound in a good mood today!”

“Yeah, so far so good. Have you had breakfast yet?”

“No, I haven’t, though I should have something soon…”

“Come up and eat with us – Alicia ordered plenty for us all.”

“Alright, then, I’ll be up in about 10 minutes!” she said as she hung up the phone. She was hoping to get some quality time with Sookie and the babies. There was so much about them she wanted to know! She almost skipped into the bedroom to get dressed, opting for black silk slip dress with an outrageously expensive long necklace of natural Tahitian pearls tied in a little knot at her solar plexus. She checked her make up one last time, kissed Badru on the lips, and followed her Were escort/body guard up to the penthouse where he took a post outside the door with Cody Lane.

Sookie was nearly vibrating with anticipation as she met Amunet at the door. Just being around her made Sookie feel so good, though she wasn’t really sure why. Maybe because they had similar energy or magick? She’d think about that later. She greeted her with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, directing her back to the table where a glorious breakfast of Belgian waffles, fresh berries and some amazing vanilla whipped cream was being served. Amunet took a seat at the back of the glass dining table, opposite where the boys sat in their high chairs having a fun, but sticky, time with their lollipops.

“Ah, Waydee Amuda!” Alex gave her a big smile and bounced in his seat when he saw her.

“Hayah me!” Aubie said, trying to match xwhat Alex had said, and he waved his little hand.

“Hello, darlings! What have you got there?” she spoke directly to the boys, thrilling them to no end.

Alex held his lollipop out and said “wowwypopsth!” as Aubie said “Yeh” in his silly little voice and giggled, drawing both hands up under his chin, he was so tickled. “Mamee do machig!”

“She did? That was clever of her!” Amunet laughed as a plate holding a huge Belgian waffle was set in front of her.

Sookie passed the strawberries to her as she said, “it was easier to conjure them than try to explain candy to them.

Alicia put bibs on both boys then gave them each a bowl with bits or chunks of waffle and syrup that Bobbie had made up for them.

Sookie laughed, “I guess that explains the plastic under their chairs,” and wrinkled her nose at the boys, who immediately tried to copy her and had everyone cracking up.

“Mamee, ware di Borhd do?”

“I think he’s down in the office, Sweetie.”

“Peed me bwepuss?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Alex! He might be busy…”

“Hey, everybody!” Amelia came through the door laughing.

“AMEE-AH! Meeah! Meeah!” Alex and Aubie, who could only manage “me-me, me-me,” were jumping up and down, so excited to see her. Alex nearly lost his bowl of waffle chunks, but Amelia caught it as she bent to kiss him on the head, then kissed Aubie, making Aubie laugh so hard he got the hiccups.

Sookie ran around the table instantly to hug her right after Bobbie did.

“Amelia! I thought you weren’t coming down until the tenth?”

“They finished repairs on the roof, and Jerry was getting antsy about helping watch you and the boys, so we came early. Margaret and Octavia are already at the Prytania St. House.”

As she was explaining the situation to them all, laughter was heard at the front door and Bjorn and Jerry came in, obviously both thrilled with this turn of events.

“Jerry!” Sookie said happily as she hugged him quickly and moved so Bobbie, then Alicia, could, too.

“Ah, Chewwy,” Alex said, trying to turn in his seat as Aubie called “ah, ah!” not wanting to be left out. Jerry said “hey, Buddy!” to each boy as he ruffled their hair.

“Me-me! Me-me!” Aubie called and waved trying to get Amelia’s attention.

Amelia knelt by Aubie’s chair, shaking his little hand, “whatcha want, Aubie?”

Aubie pointed to a chair at the table that was behind her at the moment, “dat, Me-me!dat!”

“You want me to sit here?” she said with delight, pulling the chair out and perching next to Aubie.

“Yeh!” Aubie was tickled that she understood him, and he was beside himself when she stroked his cheek with the backs of her fingers.

“I think he missed you, Amelia” Sookie said with surprise.

“Yeah, I guess he did,” Amelia said, getting a little misty over him.

“Borhd! Borhd!”

“What do want, buddy?” Bjorn knew, but loved to hear him say it.

“Wiwoo peed me bwepuss, pweezth?”

“Sure I will!” he laughed and sat down at the head of the table, pulling Alex’s chair toward him.

“Bjorn, if you’re busy…” Sookie didn’t want to bother him if he had work to do.

“No way, Sookie, this is one of the best parts of my day,” he winked at her to show it was no big deal.

Amelia took over feeding Aubie and everyone gradually sat down and continued with their meal as Sookie played hostess, “does everybody remember my friend, Amunet?” she asked, then introduced everyone at the table in case she didn’t remember them.

Amunet was watching Alex closely, absolutely fascinated with the idea of a baby vampire. She smiled and laughed as Bjorn fed him chunks of waffle soaked in syrup as Alex tried to talk and eat at the same time. “Dat sthewup, Borhd?”

“Good memory, Alex! Yes, this is waffles and syrup.”

“Ah wyg sthewup!”

“I know you do,” he laughed, scraping the food from Alex’s chin and putting it back in his mouth, “let’s try to keep it in your mouth, though! I don’t want to have to throw you in the pool!”

“Sthimeen?”

“It’s raining, Alex, you can’t swim in the rain,” Sookie told him.

“Wain isth wada?”

“Yes, Sweetie, rain is water, but there might be lightning, so it’s not safe. It needs to be sunny to swim.” Sookie paused for a minute, remembering the adorable little girl she’d seen at Freyja’s garden.

“Nah, nah, Mamee,” Alex looked Sookie right in the eye in away that chilled her. She knew he was warning her not to talk about Sunny, but his eyes seemed ancient and wise in a way she’d noticed a few other times. Those were the times when Sookie knew that Eric was right – Alex was a very great spirit of some sort who already knew all about magick and war and was just waiting for this body to grow to adulthood and be whom he was meant to be. She knew it was his destiny, but it still scared her.

“So what’s the plan for today, Sookie?” Amelia asked as she continued to feed Aubie.

“Well, I had an idea, but I don’t know if Amunet would be into it?”

“What was it, Sookie?” Amunet was up for just about anything.

“Well, are you into Tarot at all?” Sookie asked apologetically.

Amunet was amazed that Sookie seemed to have no sense of being the boss yet. She figured that would come in time, especially if they spent a lot of time together. “Sure, I do Tarot. Shall we read?”

“See, I don’t know how yet, but I got the new deck that Octavia said I needed – oh, wait! Amelia, should I wait for Octavia to do that?”

“No, actually, when she heard you had a deck, she told me to tell you to get started. I can teach you her method. I’ll be right back,” she motioned to her luggage, which she took to her room and dug her cards and book out of it.

“Oh, is this the older African-American woman?” Amunet was now very interested.

“Yes, that’s Octavia. I guess she’s in New Orleans already, Amelia?”

“Yep.”

“I’d love to learn her system!” Amunet tried not to show her eagerness too much, but this is the kind of thing she hoped for in befriending Sookie, who apparently was unaware of the magnitude of the advantages she had. Badru was very interested to know what Sookie could do, but Amunet didn’t need any encouragement – she LOVED Sookie and found her little tribe of Witches and Weres fascinating.

“OK, then, when we finish breakfast, we can read cards here. There’s room for all of us, but nobody has to, if they don’t want to.” Alicia had already begun to clear the table.

“Is it OK if I stay, Sookie?” Bobbie didn’t want to intrude.

“Yeah, of course! Get your new deck and a journal so you can write things down!”

“Oh, I forgot to bring mine!” Amunet realized.

“Is it in your room, Amunet?”

“Yes.”

“Hold out your hands,” Sookie held her own hands a few inches over Amunet’s and said “Journal.” Amunet was very pleased to have her extensive, thick and heavy Book of Shadows in her hands.

Sookie was impressed with its size. “wow, that’s a big-assed book!”

“Thanks!” Amunet said proudly. “I had it made especially for me. It’s called “the world’s thickest journal” on line.

“That cat image is for Bast?”

“Yes, of course! It’s my husband’s family seal. Do you have a book?” she tried to be very nonchalant so Sookie wouldn’t know how badly she wanted to see her book if she had one.

“Yeah, I’ve got a special one Nivian gave me…”

“Was She the woman with the flame-colored hair at the Wiccaning? On the Horse?”

“Yes, the Lady of the Lake.”

“She’s from the Apple Isle?”

“That’s Avalon, right? Yeah, She’s from Avalon.”

Amunet was trying very hard not to project to Sookie how excited she was, but it was hard to keep her mind focused so it couldn’t be heard by Sookie’s telepathy. Sookie heard her internal struggle, but didn’t acknowledge it in any way. She knew to keep notes on what she picked up and tell Eric when he woke up. Sookie figured it was natural for a Witch to be excited about Avalon, but she’d tell Eric anyway.

Alicia set Sookie’s Book and new cards in front of her and said she’d be doing laundry if she needed her and that dinner had been ordered for 7 pm including Amunet and her husband, then they’d leave for the plane at 9 pm. Amunet was dying to get a look at that book, but it was too soon to ask.

The boys were put in the playpen with the sorting house they liked and Alex’s iPod. Bjorn sat in the big chair on one side while the dragon lay on the other side, by the glass door, watching. The black kitten curled up on the white couch and went to sleep. Bobbie, Amelia, Sookie and Amunet assembled at the dining table, opening books and unwrapping packs of cards, making notes of the day and time.

“Anybody know the moon sign today?” Bobbie asked.

“Yes,” Amunet offered,”it’s a waning gibbous moon in Pisces.”

“Hey, there’s a little booklet in here that tells about the cards,” Sookie said, looking through it.

“OK, the first thing Octavia would do is take away your little books,” Amelia told them, holding her hand out.

“But…”

“Ah!”

“Uh-uh! Hand them over!” Amelia laughed.

“How come?” Sookie asked.

“Because if you read the book before you know how to read, you’ll try to remember what the book said instead of letting the card speak to you.”

“What’s this deck called?” Amunet asked, “I’ve never seen it before.”

“The Connolly Deck, it’s designed by Eileen Connolly,” Amelia explained as she took Sookie’s deck and fanned it, then separated it into piles.

“I thought Wiccans didn’t like that deck?” Amunet asked

Sookie said, “Huh? Why?”

“There’s some Christian imagery that some don’t like, but Octavia thinks it gives an accurate picture of life in America as it is right now. She likes the “high vibration” colors that are easy to read, and there’s no Devil or Death card, which makes it a good choice if you’re going to read for cowans.”

Amunet agreed, “Oh, yes, if you read for the uninitiated, some will be scared to death if they draw the Devil or Death cards, and nothing you say will change their minds.”

“Yeah, I read for an old woman once and the Devil came up and I was literally afraid she was going to stroke out on me,” Bobbie recalled.

“But don’t you need those two cards?” That didn’t make sense to Sookie.

“This deck has Transformation instead of Death and Materialism instead of the Devil. That’s what those cards actually mean, anyway.” Amelia set the piles of cards in front of Sookie, “OK, you know that a regular deck of playing cards has 52 cards in four suits of 13. Diamonds are pentacles, clubs are wands, hearts are cups, and spades are swords. Instead of jack, queen, king, you’ve got page, knight, queen and king, so that makes up 56 cards known as the Minor Arcana.”

“So, I guess these are the Major Arcana?” Sookie deduced.

“Right. They’re also called Trump cards,” Amelia continued, “There are 22 of them, so that makes a total of 78 cards. Minor is every day stuff, major is big, Karmic issues, and Court cards are people. Now here’s where Octavia goes her own way: the traditional correspondences for the suits are Cups = Water, Pentacle = Earth, Swords = Air and Wands = Fire. Octavia switches Fire to Swords because they’re forged in fire, while Wands would burn, and Wands become Air because plants clean the Air. She would tell you to do what feels right to you.”

“OK, when you said Swords = Air, I heard “no, no, no!” in my head.” Sookie said.

All the women laughed. “OK, then there you go,” Amelia said as she put Sookie’s deck together and shuffled. “Now, we’re going to do some one card readings.”

“You can read with just one card? I thought you had to lay them out in that rose cross thing?” Sookie was surprised.

“That’s a full reading, you’ll learn that later. First, you learn to read. Think of a question you’d like to know the answer to,” she placed the deck face down in front of Sookie and spread them out, “and pick a card, but don’t turn it over yet.”

Sookie looked at the cards fanned out on the table, and finally picked up the card on the end to her left. “OK!”

“‘k, now take a deep breath, turn the card over and see what stands out the most to you – it might be an image, or a color, a number, anything on the card. Just see what jumps out at you.”

“OK, I always wanted to ask this – do I turn it over, top to bottom, or to the side?”

“Do what feels right to you, then do it that way every time.”

Sookie turned the card over, top to bottom, and saw it was The Sun. “Oh, look, that’s us! We’re the four angels surrounding the Sun. The one with the cup is me, the wand is Amelia, the one with the roses is Bobbie and the one with the pentacle is Amunet! The Sun is shining on us all, warming us with Her glow!” Sookie did not add that the Sun that shone on them was in her womb.

“What did you ask, Sookie?” Bobbie was loving this!

“I asked where I am in my life right now – it answered me literally, I guess. Octavia would say it told me what I asked, not what I meant – I guess that goes for cards, too, huh?”

“Exactly,” Amelia confirmed. “For example, say a girl asked if a boy was going to fall in love with her – if he was already in love with her, the cards might say ‘no’ because it already happened.”

“Seems tricky, though, don’t you think?” Sookie asked.

“There are lots of trickster gods and Goddesses, though. Even Isis is sometimes seen as a trickster,” Amunet said. “Your Norse pantheon has a wicked little trickster named Loki who played pranks on the gods. He even sneaked into Freyja’s bed chamber and stole her ruby necklace for Odin.”

“Well, I know she got it back because I’ve seen Her wear it,” Sookie laughed. Amunet had a feeling Sookie saw the Goddess face to face, and frequently. Amunet’s magick was strong because she practiced daily. What would Sookie be able to do if she worked at it?

They went around the table and asked questions which Sookie would answer for them, all of them losing track of time. They didn’t realize it was dinner time until they heard Alex cry, “Dadee!” as he stood holding the side of the playpen. Aubie wasn’t quite awake yet, but Eric bent down to tickle his chin and say, “hello, my little elf.” Aubie giggled and reached up to him, and Eric set Alex out on his feet with a kiss on the head, then brought Aubie up for a kiss and a hug.

“Eric, I had no idea it was so late!” Sookie said as she hopped up and went around the table for a hug and a kiss.

“You ladies seemed very intent on your work – are you reading cards?”

“They’re all teaching me. It’s really fun!” Sookie said as she stretched upward for a kiss.

“She does it as easily as she does everything else,” Amelia said, “But she doesn’t know how to do a complete one yet. We’ve just done one card readings so far.”

“When do I learn the whole deal?”

“Next time we do three card readings so you learn about time, then we do 5 cards, then the full monty,” Amelia laughed. “by that time, Octavia will take over, though, and she’ll really make you dig deep.”

“Oh, good!”

“I take it we are awaiting dinner? Where is Badru?” Eric asked

“He just texted me,” Amunet said, “he’s on his way up.”

Bjorn went to the door to let Prince Badru in, and he arrived just as the dinner cart arrived. Eric shook his hand with a big smile, welcoming him, and directing him to the opposite end of table. Sookie moved to her seat next to Eric at the near end of the table, and Amunet sat near Badru. Amelia sat between Sookie and Amunet at Sookie’s insistence, then Bobbie sat opposite Sookie so she could feed the boys, who were next to Dadee as always. Bjorn sat next to Badru, then Bobbie, Jerry and Alicia filled out the rest of the table.

“Everyone seated and comfortable?” Eric saw that they were, and motioned for the attendants to serve the meal. Badru was very impressed with the Nouvelle Vampyre cuisine he and Eric were served.

“Eric, these dishes are remarkable!”

“Thank you, Badru, the chefs at all of Sang Riche locations are working to create the most elegant dishes. They’ve been told that every meal should be fit for a King, because it’s very likely to be a fact.”

“Wonderful! And how did you ladies spend your afternoon together?” Badru asked and Amunet explained that they had helped Sookie learn to read cards. “That’s a very useful skill, my dear,” he said to Sookie, “it enhances all of your faculties.”

“It does?” Sookie was mostly trying to keep the conversation going.

“Oh, yes, it helps you visualize, sharpens your focus and concentration, teaches you discipline that is useful in casting spells and doing ritual work. Once you learn to read cards, you will be able to read anything!”

“Anything?”

“Anything – tea leaves, palms, sand on the floor, crumbs on the table, the flight of a bird. It helps prepare you for scrying.”

“Oh, I do that!”

“Really? Already?” Amunet asked.

“Yeah, Freyja taught me.”

“Who is Freyja?” Badru asked, “A teacher of yours?”

“No, you know – Freyja – the Goddess Freyja.”

Badru was dumbstruck for a minute, then tried to act nonplussed, “well, there is nothing like going straight to the source.”

Everyone laughed and Alicia pointed discreetly to her watch, so Eric moved them along. “Is everyone packed and ready to go at 9 o’clock?”

“Most of the bags have been loaded,” Bjorn reported, “Everyone should make a last check so you don’t forget anything like journals or personal items, and Sookie, you need to shrink the dragon,” he said, laughing.

“Betcha never thought you’d say a sentence like that, did you, Bjorn?” Sookie teased as everyone laughed and moved toward getting ready to go.

The best part of the trip home for Eric was the stunned looks on Badru’s and Amunet’s faces when they stepped onto his plane.

The crew was on high alert because there were two sets of royals to serve, and they immediately had luxurious cocktails for the King’s guests even before take off. Sookie and Amunet sat with the babies and the pets as Eric and Badru locked themselves in the conference room to discuss Vampire business. The rest of Sookie’s group were seated in the passenger area watching Tin Cup, though no one was really sure who chose that movie or why. Badru’s bodyguard and valet were in the back with Eric’s guards, and they were in awe of this gorgeous plane, too.

“Sookie, when I heard Eric bought his own plane, I never dreamed it was anything this spectacular!” Amunet was blown away.

“Really? Is it nicer than other regents’ planes?”

“Much nicer. You even have special areas for your servants, I gather?”

“Yeah, that’s one of the reasons Eric said we needed it – we have so many people to move from one place to another.”

“I can see that. You two are very high profile. Even Anubis probably couldn’t accommodate your party if you needed to move in a hurry. It’s a very smart move on his part, especially if the referendum passes.”

“What referendum?” This was the first Sookie had heard of any referendum, and it gave her a sinking feeling.

“You know, Sookie, the vote about Eric being King of North America.”

“There’s a vote on that? When?”

Amunet couldn’t believe Sookie didn’t know this. “Well, it’s a series of votes, first they’ll take a popular vote within each area, and the Sheriffs will use those results to make an informed vote, but they aren’t bound by the results. Then the sheriffs will meet with their regents, and the regents will cast their vote after that. You should know, Sookie – it’s expected to pass!”

“So he’ll be in charge of the whole country?”

“Mm-hm,” she took a drink of her tequila sunrise,”Canada, too, because there aren’t many vamps up there. Too cold for the cold blooded. It’s part of the reason he set up clubs all over the country instead of just his territories. He’ll always have a comfortable place for you all, he has a legitimate reason to move around as you need to, and more importantly, to move money around if he needs to.”

“Is there any opposition?”

“Some, of course, but not much. If someone rose up right now, the other regents would trounce them pretty thoroughly. They want Eric to take it as soon as they can assure him of a loyal following.”

“This is about the army?”

“Of course. New Centurion already bombed your house, Sookie, the war has begun, and all indications are that it’s going to be a long one.”

“Yeah, you’re telling me…” Sookie was looking at Alex who was playing with his iPod.

Amunet knew what Sookie was thinking, so she decided to lighten the mood. “Alex loves that little music player, doesn’t he?”

“He went wild when he saw Bobbie’s one day and we had some around, so she filled one up for him. It’s locked so it can’t go very loud and he loves to push the button and change the music. He likes the music, but I think he likes that he can control it most of all.”

“I like to watch him when people are talking. He gets so focused on trying to decipher the words.”

“Oh, yeah, he’d snatch the words right out of our mouths if he could. He wants to communicate so badly, and he teaches Aubie words, too. We think Aubie will eventually catch up to him in development.”

“Aubie has grown a lot since I first saw him.”

“Really?”

“Oh, yes. He seemed fragile when I first saw him, but he’s becoming very robust and attentive. Does he have any abilities that Alex doesn’t have?”

“He’s a good healer. I don’t know if Alex can heal or not, but when Aubie saw Alex and Amelia after the New Centurion attack, he just fixed them on his own.”

“How does he do it?”

“He just moved his finger over the injuries in a circle and they just faded away.”

“So easily? How bad were the injuries?”

“Alex had some deep cuts on his face and arm. Amelia had a crack in her arm and a problems with her ribs.”

“Interesting.”

“Amunet, where do you and Badru live?”

“We spend most of our time at our home in Alexandria, but we have a large apartment in Cairo for when we need to be there. You’ll have to come for a visit! We’re very proud of the new Library.”

“That would be amazing! How did the two of you meet?”

Amunet laughed, “It’s sort of a Cinderella story, with fangs. His family needed some new blood and they had specific need for a competent practitioner. They found me in a finishing school in Geneva, and asked me to come for a visit. It was a business arrangement in the beginning, but as time went on, Badru and I discovered that we have compatible tastes in many areas – lifestyle, sex, even fashion and the way we like to socialize. Badru says I was made for him, we are so alike.”

Sookie was a little taken aback. “But are you in love?”

“Yes, of course! After all these years, we’re like two peas in a pod,” she laughed.

“How long have you been married?”

“June 21st was 43 years…”

“What?”

“We got married in 1966,” she said as if it were no big deal.

“So you’re …”

“Just turned 62, but I hope I don’t look it!”

“You definitely don’t! I thought you were my age!”

“Good! Nothing like a steady source of V to keep Father Time at bay.”

“Eric told me that the exchanges would keep me young, but I don’t think I really believed it until now. They’ve definitely improved my looks, though.”

“Your skin is flawless, and I’ll bet your hair is blonder and brighter and your body is firm and ripe.”

“That’s the way Eric would describe me!” Sookie laughed.

“Who wouldn’t? I heard one man in Austin call you “juicy” and just cracked up. It was perfect to describe the “Marilyn” qualities you’re developing.”

“Am I? Seriously?”

“Absolutely! Speaking of which, I got the number for the woman who made that pink Marilyn dress from the other night, and she’s in New Orleans. We’ll have to pay her a visit.”

“Definitely! I think Eric was excited at the idea of me being her for that Hallowe’en Ball.”

“I hope we can be here for that! It sounds like a blast!”

“I hope you can, too.”

“We probably won’t be able to stay for the opening of the New Orleans club, but I think the plan is to travel with you all for the three East Coast openings.”

“I forgot that was coming up! Ugh, I’ll be glad when we’re a little more settled. I’m going to be really busy in New Orleans, but I’ll be sleeping in my own bed at night, and the boys and I can play in the pool more.”

“Aren’t we going to swim tomorrow if it’s sunny?”

“Yeah, definitely. I just want to feel as if I’m home.”

“Your idea of home will expand after a while to include the clubs and this plane, believe me. You ARE home, you just don’t realize it yet.”

Aubie woke up and seemed to become uncomfortable then, as if he wanted out of his seat.

“Mamee, ware di Dadee go?”

“He’s in the office talking about business, Alex.”

“Aubie dat Dadee.”

“You mean Aubie wants Daddy?”

“Ee-ah, Aubie wan Daddy!”

Aubie was tugging at the straps of his seat, beginning to really fuss, crying, “Dada!” when Eric came out of the conference room and went straight to Aubie. He unbuckled the strap and brought Aubie up for a hug, bouncing him a little

“I’m sorry, Eric, I don’t know what got into him…” Sookie started to explain, hoping Eric wasn’t upset with her.

“It’s alright, Sookie, I had a feeling that he wanted me, so I came to see what is going on. I haven’t spent any time with them today, have I, Auberon?”

“I didn’t pay much attention to them today, either, now that you mention it.”

“We’ll be home in an hour or so and we’ll play and and have a chat and everybody will be fine, won’t we, Auberon?”

Aubie took a deep breath and let out a sigh, wrapping his little arms around Dada’s neck. Eric rubbed his back and took him to sit with him and Badru in another set of seats in the living area.

“Wokeen, Mamee!”

“You want out of your seat for a bit, Alex? I guess that would be alright,” Sookie said as she unbuckled Alex’s seat and set him on his feet.

“Aypa, Mamee!”

“Ok, sweetie, here’s your iPod.” Alex took it happily and walked around the living area looking at everything with big eyes. He’d fiddle with the iPod, then he’d walk over and look down the hall or investigate an open door. Sookie and Amunet watched to see what he would do.

First, he checked out the couch, climbing on and sitting for a minute, then he noticed the bedroom door and climbed down.

He wandered into the bedroom and looked around, excited to find a co-sleeper just like the one he slept in every night. He ran back to tell Mamee what he found.

“Mamee, ma beduh!” he over pronounced the “d” because Sookie had taught him to include It, running back to Sookie and Amunet.

“Your bed? Did you find your bed back there, Sweetie?”

“EE-AH!” he squealed then ran over to Dadee and tell him, “Dadee! Dadee!” he called as he ran to Dadee, Aubie and that man he only sort of remembered.

Eric laughed as Alex ran over, “here’s Daddy’s little Vampire! What did you find, my son?

“Ma beduh!”

“Did you find your bed back there?”

“Ee-ah!” he squealed and bounced for emphasis, absolutely beside himself. He grabbed Eric’s hand and pulled, pointing to the bedroom. “Seep, Dadee!”

Still laughing, Eric asked him, “Are you sleepy, Alexander?”

He shook his head, “Nah! Doo napee! An Aubie!”

“Badru, please excuse me. I must attend to the boys,” Eric explained as he stood. “Alright, Alex, show me where.” He could have called someone else to change diapers, but these were only wet and he was fascinated watching Alex explore.

“Eric, do you want me to take them?” Sookie offered, feeling like she should be doing that, but she was also aware that Eric could have handed them off to any of the women yet chose not to.

“That’s alright, sweetheart, I want to do it.” Eric loved it when the boys wanted his attention, and he was fine leaving his guest for a few minutes to play with the babies, knowing any other vampire would give anything to be in his shoes. He playfully dropped Aubie on the bed, making him bounce a little, then he scooped Alex up and bounced him, too. He found the changing table in the bathroom, bringing the pad and two diapers back to the bed, then tickled both boys and blew raspberries on their bellies so they giggled and shrieked.

Amunet was amazed at the noises coming from the bedroom. “He actually plays with them and changes them?”

“Yeah, he’s a great daddy. You should hear him read to them at night. He’s so patient with them. It’s really sweet.”

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