Epilogue: The Path
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”—Mother Teresa
“My lady,” Klymene and Leonie said in unison as they bowed before the Ancient Pythoness.
The deceptively weak-looking vampiress nodded in greeting. She looked blind too, but her sight was unmatched—at least in her way.
“You have completed your tasks?” she asked.
“Yes. The Weres of the North will join with Eric and his mate,” Klymene responded. “The Were leader is strong and tactical; they will make good allies for my child’s child.”
“And the Bears of the South?” Pythia asked.
“They are with the Viking as well,” Leonie responded.
Pythia nodded with satisfaction. “Edgington’s Weres are strong, and he will add to that strength by giving them more vampire blood.” She paused and looked as if she were trying to see somewhere very far away with her cloudy orbs. “It is unclear whether Northman’s two-natured allies will counteract Edgington’s Weres. That outcome is not set, but we have done what we can for the Viking and his mate—when it comes to this.”
“They were in peril earlier,” Leonie informed. “Claude and I aided them.”
“But Edgington still believes the girl is dead—correct?” Pythia asked. “That is essential if the Viking is to have a chance of success. It must be the weak one—Compton—who first learns that she is alive. And that must not happen until Rhodes. It is to be the first domino to fall.”
“Sookie is still thought to be dead by our enemies, my lady,” Leonie confirmed. “May I tell my great-granddaughter what you said about Compton?”
“Not yet. Not until the rest of her and the Viking’s plan is in place. And—even then—she must be told without the Norseman knowing,” Pythia said. “Moreover, she must be the one to seek out Compton.”
“Because Eric wouldn’t let her risk herself,” Leonie mused.
“That is why he is not to know,” Pythia smirked.
“That is likely for the best, given his stubborn nature,” Klymene observed.
“Has he finally accepted that Sookie is his true mate?” Pythia asked with some amusement in her tone.
“Yes—and more,” Leonie confirmed.
“More?” Klymene asked her friend.
“Yes. He has accepted his love for her. The Fae bond will now begin to thrive as it couldn’t before. And that will help my great-granddaughter’s progress. Her light is potentially quite strong, but she currently has difficulty maintaining it—except when it comes to healing her mate. And she is not a natural at teleportation,” the fairy informed. “Sookie is an unselfish creature by nature, so her part of the bond has worked to strengthen him. Now that he has accepted his feelings, he will begin to strengthen her in turn.”
“Indeed, I am glad that my ‘grandson’ has finally come to his senses,” Klymene said affectionately.
“I had a vision last night,” the Ancient Pythoness informed, in the eerie tone she always spoke with as she recounted the knowledge she’d learned from her preternatural sight.
“Can we know of it, my lady?” Klymene asked.
Pythia nodded. “The lovers, Sookie and Eric, will soon choose to bond in the vampire way to complement their Fae bond. And they will also wish to link their lives by pledging. It is important that the right people are with them as they do this,” she said. “And it is essential that Sookie makes the cluviel dor her minphial to her mate—though she must not learn of its magic.”
“Her minphial?” Leonie asked with surprise. “A Fae bride gift?”
“Yes—because she cannot yet bind her life to Eric’s through a human marriage, she will ask you to help them to marry in the fairy way.”
“Eric will accept the Obradin—the Fae ceremony of marriage?” Klymene asked with surprise.
“Yes. The pledging will further bind them in his mind, and the Obradin will further bind them in hers. Your child’s child will want that for her. The two rites will be complements—just like their bonds.”
“And Eric and Sookie themselves,” Leonie said.
“You must go to her and teach her the rites,” Pythia said to Leonie. “And then you will return to her on the day of the ceremonies. Eric’s Were friend, Brady, should be there as well. You two will stay during the day to make sure that all is secure after the ceremonies occur.” She turned her glassy gaze to Klymene. “Your mate should attend as well. The Norseman will find him a useful sounding board.”
Klymene nodded. “I will go to Duncan after I leave you, my lady. And I will make sure he is in attendance.”
Pythia looked back at Leonie. “It must be Sookie’s idea to give the cluviel dor to her mate, for it must be a simple gift of love in her eyes—not an object that could be used to save her life.”
“So it is certain then? Eric will have to use it—to save her?” Leonie asked with trepidation.
“He will need to try,” Pythia responded. “However, Sookie’s outcome is uncertain. In fact, much is uncertain, but in all of my visions, there will be a moment when she sacrifices her life to save his. If the bonds that connect them are strong enough, he will survive long enough without her to use the cluviel dor to give her life again. It is a paradox—you see? The stronger the bonds, the more her death will hurt him, and the more he hurts, the stronger will be his love. Only then would the cluviel dor grant his wish.”
“What if it doesn’t work?” Klymene asked with concern.
“If it does not, then he will die soon after she does,” Pythia said.
A tear slipped from Klymene’s eye, and Leonie reached out to take her friend’s hand. “Do not despair,” the fairy whispered.
“I have already lost Godric—my beloved child,” Klymene whispered.
Leonie squeezed Klymene’s hand, offering the comfort she could. “I know. But have hope; Sookie and Eric’s love is strong.”
Klymene nodded her thanks.
Pythia sighed. “Sometimes love does conquer hate. But sometimes hate outlasts its opposite. However, the Viking could have never defeated Edgington if his motivation was vengeance. His enemy is capable of much more than he when it comes to hate, for Eric has a good soul. Moreover, he was born a child of light.”
“A fairy?” Klymene asked. “Godric suspected he was more when taking Eric’s blood before turning him, but my child was not certain.”
“Yes,” Pythia confirmed. “Eric is part Fae, just as his mate is part Fae. That is how the Fae bond was able to root. His mother was the grandchild of Ione. Both of the lovers were born one-eighth fairy.
“So Eric is my kin—my blood?” Leonie asked incredulously.
Pythia nodded. “Eric and Sookie’s souls have—it seems—traveled a very twisty but interconnected path to each other. Perhaps, they were always fated to meet and to mate.”
“Yes,” Leonie commented. “I believe that is true; they balance each other.” She looked at Klymene. “And they connect us, my sister.”
The beautiful vampiress smiled at her fairy counterpart. Both had served Pythia for a very long time. Then she looked back at her mistress, the concern returning to her lovely eyes.
“I know you are not certain of what is to come. But do you believe they will survive?” Klymene asked.
“There is hope—if their love outlasts the hatred of their enemies.”
“But do you believe it?” Klymene pushed.
“When love and hate both bring forth armies, it is usually the former that prevails. Plus,” she added almost mischievously, “I would never discount the kind of dogged stubbornness that Eric and Sookie are known to possess, especially not when it is combined.” She smirked. “Sometimes it is called foolhardy to quest for victory when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. Sometimes it is called prideful. However, when it is for love, there is another name for it.”
“What is that?” Klymene asked.