Chapter One – Discontent leads to Danger
It had been several days since I’d killed my boyfriend’s maker, I didn’t really kill him – but a blow meant to kill me took him out instead. I might as well have killed him with my own hands. Life went on. I worked, I kept house, I nagged my houseguests, Claude and Dermot, to try and keep to some of my more human ideals under my roof. But all of those day to day tasks were followed by the setting of the sun. In the dark of night, I was privy to feelings that weren’t mine. They belonged to Eric. And he wasn’t happy.
Join the club, buddy.
My uncertainty as to how our relationship would continue after I sent Appius Livius Ocella to his final death was playing on my mind. And that was the tip of the iceberg. Claude was becoming increasingly annoyed with being locked out of a realm he never wanted to be in when the portals were open. I had to listen to him whine about never having the chance to be with his kin again and how sharing a home with me and Dermot wouldn’t do for a prolonged period of time.
And that was why I came home from work that night to see strange lights in the woods behind my house.
I pulled up and jumped from my car. Somehow, I just knew he was doing something dangerous he should be talked out of … immediately. The lights weren’t deep in the woods, but I had to climb over a few roots and duck under a few branches to get to where Claude was standing. His hands were out in front of him, a strange glow emanating from the palms.
“Whatcha doin’ there, Claude?”
His head spun round and the look on his face terrified me. The rage, the determination … I instinctively took a few steps back.
“He asked if I wanted to remain here, as I always have, but having the choice taken away … I didn’t think it would anger me the way it does.”
“Can’t you just get in touch with him somehow? Tell him you want to go to the Fae Realm?”
“That’s the problem.” He growled and the light pulsated. “It’s one or the other – don’t you see? If I go there, I stay there. I wouldn’t be able to come back. He took away our choices, our freedom!”
“Okay.” I scratched at the recesses of my brain trying to come up with something that might calm him down. “So, what are you trying to achieve here, Claude?”
“Well, what does it look like? I’m opening the damn portal!”
It wasn’t until that point I noticed a green light in the air in front of him, like there was a canvas there with a big tear in it. The light from his hands pulsed once again, Claude’s face screwed up in concentration, the tear got bigger with a wet, ripping noise. My fear spiked, followed by a surge of anger that wasn’t mine.
The last thing I wanted was for Eric to come here and think my tasty (in a Vampire’s eyes – literally. Fairies were to Vampires what Hersheys was to Chocoholics) cousin was trying to kill me. As much as Claude was self-absorbed and arrogant, I still didn’t want my boyfriend draining every last drop of blood from his well-toned stripper body.
“Claude, you need to stop that. It … it doesn’t sound right.” Just then the green light flickered to yellow, to orange then to red and the ripping noise got louder. “That really doesn’t sound good Claude!”
“Cousin, I know for a fact you have no idea what tearing the space-time continuum sounds like. So if you’d just shut up and let me get on with this!”
“Are you even listening to yourself? ‘Tearing the space-time continuum’ does that sound like a good idea to you?”
The red light from the tear started to swirl and the wind around us seemed to pick up and start blowing us toward the big, red swirly light that I really didn’t really want to be going toward. I could barely hear a thing, the sounds of the trees bending and snapping and the hum from the portal was almost deafening. That’s when I realised I wasn’t being blown toward the portal – I was being sucked into it. But I felt when Eric landed behind us.
I turned to try and calm him down, try to buy Claude some time before Eric attacked, but before I could even make a gesture there was a loud popping and I was lifted from the ground. I clawed at empty air and watched Eric try to grab me with one hand while he held on to a tree with the other. I looked to see where Claude was but he wasn’t around. I wondered if he’d managed to get away from the portal before it sucked him inside like it was doing to me.
One last look at Eric’s face was all I got before I started spinning. He looked terrified. It was at that point I screamed and cried. I clawed, trying to find something, anything that I could use as an anchor but my nails scrabbled against loose dirt and branches when they managed to get close to the ground. Visually, being pulled into a swirling red vortex of doom is actually quite stunning. Physically, it’s like being between the brushes in a carwash. It stings and it makes you real dizzy; so dizzy that I may have thrown up.
But I waited until I was spat out of the vortex before emptying the contents of my stomach. That was probably a good thing, with hindsight, being sick while spinning around like that wouldn’t have been pretty.
As I retched into the dry grass I had landed on, I felt a hand on my back. It was a soothing touch, so I guessed that Claude had come through before me. When I was done, I wiped my mouth and turned to the person who was trying to comfort me. Sure enough, it was my cousin. Unfortunately, he looked very worried. I turned to where the portal should have been but there was nothing there.
“This isn’t the Fae Realm, Sookie.”
“Well, which realm is it?” The look he gave me told me all the answers. Claude didn’t have a clue where we were. “Did something go wrong with opening the portal?”
He looked guilty. I didn’t like that one little bit.
“What did you do, Claude?”
“I used my Fae Magic to try and open the portal. There’s supposed to be a key. I didn’t have the key but I thought, maybe, I would be able to do it because I’m kin to Niall.”
“So, let me get this straight. You didn’t have a key but you thought it would be a swell idea to kick down the door of the space-time continuum and everything would be hunky-dory?”
Claude at least had the decency to look ashamed of himself. “I knew there was a chance something could go wrong, that’s why I was trying to open it alone. I didn’t count on your interference.”
I closed my eyes in annoyance and took a deep breath. Once I’d calmed myself, I stood up and tried to take in my surroundings. It was night and the only light was from the moon and the stars but the landscape was familiar.
“This is the Stackhouse land.” I pointed out where the land sloped and the big oak tree that had been half-way between the drive and the cemetery for centuries.
But there was no house. No drive. And, from what I could see in the darkness, no cemetery.
It was just a field.
“Jesus Christ, Shepherd of Judea!”