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Uncharted

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Chapter 1: Gusts and Storms

"There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms."—George Eliot

NIALL POV

Niall Brigant looked on warily as his great-granddaughter slowly approached him.

He had not expected her to have Fintan's eyes. He had not expected her to be so much like his half-human son either. Certainly, they had both been gifted with powerful—almost identical—Fae sparks. Yet they both seemed to favor their humanity, and they were both clearly rebellious and stubborn by nature.

Moreover, Niall certainly hadn't expected Sookie to have feelings for the vampire, Eric Northman!

Claudine, whom he'd tasked to watch over Sookie for many years, had reported that Sookie's affections were with William Compton. Claudine had also reported that the "love" Sookie felt for Compton was not a true love—that it was based on her consumption of Compton's blood.

After learning that, Niall had been looking into having a severing spell performed for the girl, but Eric Northman's blood coming into the equation had complicated everything. Sookie's spark, which had lain dormant, burst into life because of Northman's powerful blood—blood which, according to the Norseman's maker, had tasted slightly supernatural to begin with, though Godric hadn't known if the trace was fairy or, perhaps, demon blood.

At this point, it didn't matter to Niall what the Norseman had been as a human—except that it made his blood and magic more potent than it would have been otherwise.

Niall shook his head. No—what mattered to him was his great-granddaughter. It was only by happenstance that Breandan's people hadn't sensed Sookie in the human realm yet. Her having vampire blood had actually helped to prevent her detection after her spark had become active. And that had been incredibly lucky for her, for Breandan would have certainly killed Sookie if he'd found her—after torturing her, that is.

Once Niall had sensed that his spell inhibiting Sookie's spark had been undone, he'd wanted to take her to Faerie immediately. However, the vampire blood prevented her from going there.

Thus, he'd given her up—at least for a time.

But things had changed when Desmond Cataliades had given him a message from Northman. From the demon, Niall had learned that Sookie had undergone a severing spell. After that, Niall had needed to wait for Sookie to heal, and that could only be done if she stayed in the presence of the vampire for a time, since he had acted as her so-called "helper" throughout the spell.

Niall had had a very difficult time believing that particular information! The thought of a vampire performing an unselfish act was unheard of! Then again, the vampire was calculating, and he wanted to use Sookie. The witch, Octavia, had indicated that there was more between them—that there was real care, maybe even love—but Niall had not believed that hypothesis. Thus, seeing their affection for one another with his own eyes was startling to the fairy.

However, he had to admit that it was there.

And it was true.

Niall steeled himself before he allowed his resolve to falter. Perhaps, Eric Northman wasn't as bad as Compton had been, but he was still a vampire, and Niall was convinced that Sookie would be better off without him. In time, she would move on. Plus, there was her safety to consider.

Sookie continued to move slowly toward him, but her eyes stayed locked into the vampire's eyes, just as the Norseman's eyes continued to bore into hers. Niall had allowed them their time to say goodbye due to his own memories of such affection.

Niall stifled his sigh and tried to remain patient. He hated being in the human realm. It brought forth too many memories—too much anguish.

He had never loved his fairy wife, Leonie. She had been chosen for him by his parents. That said—Niall had grown to appreciate Leonie over time, and they had celebrated together when their daughter, Magallen, was born. A few years later, it was learned that Leonie could have no other children, so she and Niall had chosen to no longer lie together in a carnal way. After all, their affection for one another had never been of the sexual variety; however, Leonie was a wonderful partner and queen. And she had been an even better mother to Magallen.

Unfortunately, on her four hundredth birthday, Magallen had died in childbirth, though she'd left Leonie and him with the gift of three grandchildren: Claude, Claudine, and Claudette. And Claudette had already provided them with a great-grandchild.

Over the many years since Magallen's birth, both Leonie and he had taken many lovers in many realms. It had been a human woman named Adira who had captured Niall's own heart. He'd stayed with her for many years—according to human standards—and Adira had given him twin sons, Dermot and Fintan. But time had not been kind to Niall and his beloved.

Niall had chosen to come to the human realm during a period when time on earth was long compared to time in the fairy realm. Thus, he'd expected to share Adira's lifetime with her while only a few months went by in Faerie.

But Niall had been called back to Faerie because of an attack on the Sky Fae made by his brother Rogan. Niall had been duty-bound to return to Faerie, even though he'd known that his beloved Adira would be long dead before he would be able to return to her. His sons both had strong sparks, and Niall's only choice was to take them with him to Faerie. Without him, there would have been no way that they could have kept hidden, especially since they would not have aged as humans did. And—since the children were so young at the time—they'd needed him to help them develop their sparks.

Thus, Niall had been forced to do the hardest thing he'd ever done. He'd made love to Adira for a final time, and then he'd used a memory charm to erase himself and their sons from her mind. He'd left her with as much wealth as he could and then had taken their sons to Faerie.

The pain from that goodbye had never left him, and he could feel similar pain coming from Sookie. He closed his eyes tightly for a moment. Since Sookie had a fairy spark, a memory charm would not work on her any more than glamour would. Otherwise, he would take away her pain, just as he'd taken away Adira's—and, many years later, Adele's.

Niall let out an angry-sounding sigh. He'd allowed for his great-granddaughter to delay them for long enough.

"Give me your hand, Sookie," Niall said, making a conscious effort to speak to her in a calm voice.

Niall had not wanted to alienate Sookie, but his anger over seeing her pine for the vampire was threatening to overtake him. He promised himself that he would do his best to make sure Sookie was well taken care of. And once she was in Faerie, the triplets would make her feel more welcome. Claudine, he knew, would be happy to get home as well. Her husband and she were anxious to begin trying for children. Claudine had been at her assignment in the human realm for almost fifteen years, although it had seemed like only a few months to them in Faerie.

Claude had spent some time with his sister so that she wouldn't be so isolated, but—as far as Niall was concerned—they had worked and played long enough among the humans for now. It was time for all of his kin to be at home.

SOOKIE POV

Hesitantly, Sookie gave Niall her hand. Tears were still streaming from her eyes, and she couldn't imagine them ever stopping. It wasn't just Eric she would be leaving. It was everything else, and she cried for those things too—for her brother, Tara, Lafayette, and Sam. She also cried for the Stackhouse homestead that she'd always loved, but which didn't really belong to her at all since she wasn't even a Stackhouse. But mostly, she cried to mark the loss of a love she had only just found.

"Wait!" she said, looking desperately at Niall. "Please—can I have one minute more. Just one—please."

The fairy nodded stiffly and turned his back.

Sookie launched herself at Eric again, and he caught her before devouring her lips with his own.

"I do love you," Sookie said when she finally pulled away. "I do! I wanted you to know that! I needed you to know."

He kissed her again, trying to infuse their last twenty seconds together with as much emotion as he was capable.

"Be safe, little one," he said when he broke the kiss after their minute was up. He set her gently onto her feet and then caressed her cheek lightly, smoothing away some of her tears. "Be happy."

"You too," she managed.

"Come!" Niall said. "No more delays."

Sookie disentangled herself from Eric's arms and moved toward Niall a second time.

ERIC POV

Eric felt something inside of him slipping away, even as a scarlet tear slipped from his eye. He should have been ashamed for showing such emotion in front of the fairy, but he was unable to control his sorrow, just as he was unable to stop the feeling of emptiness that was already throbbing in his un-beating heart.

He watched as Niall took Sookie's hand. And then—with a loud pop—they were gone.

Eric was on his knees before the echo of the popping sound had left the room.

The words that fell from his lips were a surprise to him—and they were too late for her.

"Ek elska hana," he whispered in the language of his father and mother. ["I love her."]