Sookie lied, curled into a ball on the plush hotel mattress, and her heart was shattered in a thousand pieces as she cried softly. The news that Bill had been sent to procure her for the vampire Queen of Louisiana had all but destroyed her. A part of her hadn’t wanted to believe it when the Ancient Pythoness had explained it all, but not because she didn’t think he was capable of such a thing. After the last few days, Sookie didn’t believe there was anything of which Bill wasn’t capable. Instead, she hadn’t wanted to believe it because of what it meant. It meant that she was a fool – a gullible fool. She had already begun to realize Bill wasn’t worth the pain that she felt and that he had caused her, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. She cried, not for Bill, but for the girl she was before he walked into her life. She cried for the innocence he had stolen from her, and the lives he had taken under the pretense of loving her. She cried for the lies she had believed, and she cried for the time she had wasted on someone who wasn’t worth her time. Bill might have never loved her, but she had loved him. So she mourned for the dream that was never real, and for the little girl who just wanted to be loved.
Feeling the bed dip behind her, Sookie rolled onto her back and stared up into the green eyes of Stella. She just stared at the older woman, her pain clear in her eyes. Sookie was in no mood to try and hide it and pretend she was okay. She wasn’t okay, and she doubted she would be for a long while. She had learned too much, too quickly. The truth about her heritage, her Gran’s secret, and Bill’s real reason for returning to Bon Temps had overwhelmed her and Sookie hadn’t got enough strength to try and put herself back together.
“He’s not worth your tears kiddo,” Stella said softly as she brushed away the wetness on Sookie’s cheeks.
“It was all a lie,” Sookie replied, her voice hoarse from crying. “He never loved me.”
“Then he was a fool who didn’t deserve you,” Stella said, anger coloring her tone as she stared down at Sookie. She had only known Sookie a few hours, and yet she could already tell how special she was. It had nothing to do with her great destiny, but who Sookie was at the core. She was kind, thoughtful, generous, and didn’t deserve any of the things that had happened to her.
“I think I was the fool,” Sookie replied tearfully.
“Why? For falling in love?” Stella asked.
Sookie nodded as she pulled herself into a sitting position, her back resting against the wooden headboard. “I gave my heart away too easily, too quickly. I ignored my head, my instincts, and followed my heart.”
“That doesn’t make you a fool, Sookie. Its makes you a woman,” Stella replied as she sat up and curled her legs beneath her. “It makes you human and that isn’t a crime.”
“Isn’t it?” Sookie scoffed as she wiped a hand over her face, “I think most Supes would disagree with you there.”
“That’s because most Supes are arrogant little καθάρματα,” Stella said, her eyes twinkling with mischief.
“καθάρματα?” Sookie asked, not understanding what the word meant.
“Bastards,” Stella clarified with a shrug. “Vampires forget they used to be human, while Weres forget that their bodies are effectively human. Weres might be able to change into animals and be faster and stronger, but they still have the same human frailties. They age and their bodies can break.”
“And what of the other species?” Sookie asked, genuinely curious. No one had ever been as open and honest with her before, and she found herself wanting to know more. “I’m guessing there’s more species than just vampires, weres, and fairies. You said the Supernatural Council also has witches and demons on it. What are they like?”
“Witches are human. Despite the stories to the contrary, they don’t ride on broomsticks and wear pointy hats. They can be powerful, but not physically,” Stella explained. “Like all things, there’re good and bad witches, and some can be very arrogant, believing themselves to be above humans. Demons are very different from anything you have ever heard in the mythology. They don’t have horns, live in hell, or act evil… although quite a few are lawyers, so maybe that last one is not exactly accurate. They’re strong and fast, but their biggest strength is their intelligence. They’re usually the voice of reason within the Council.”
Closing her eyes, Sookie took in all she had learned. She knew she still had a decision to make; only she wasn’t sure what that decision was. Sookie had more questions than answers, and she suspected she still didn’t know all the questions either. The Ancient Pythoness had told her she was a Soul Seer, but hadn’t explained what that was or what she was meant to do with it. Sookie briefly longed for yesterday when all she had to worry about was whether her ribs were broken or not.
Opening her eyes, Sookie caught Stella’s gaze. “What is a Soul Seer?”
“I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer that question,” Stella replied hesitantly. She was well aware of what a Soul Seer was, her family having been in the Ancient Pythoness’s employment for centuries. It was both an honor and a duty to serve the Ancient One. A duty she took very seriously.
“You’re the only one who is telling me anything,” Sookie countered, her spirit piecing itself back together as she demanded the answer to her question. “The Ancient Pythoness tells me I’m a Soul Seer, but then instead of telling me what that is, she tells me about an affair my grandmother had over half a century ago. She tells me that to know who I am, I must know about those who came before me. But from what I’ve heard the fairies have no idea what I really am. They never even suspected it, so that tells me being a Soul Seer is not a fairy trait. So whatever this thing is, I didn’t get it from them. So whatever it is, I either got it from Gran’s side of the family or my mother’s. It’d be a real kick in the teeth if it came from my mom’s side given how much she feared me. Gran’s affair was never a factor into any of this. Now I’m guessing she had a reason for telling me, and I believe her when she says I can’t trust the fairies…”
“Why did you believe her?” Stella asked, cutting her off.
“I…I…felt it,” Sookie replied, confusion coloring her tone. She didn’t know how to explain it, but when the Ancient Pythoness was telling her about the fairies, she knew the ancient vampire was telling the truth. She had felt it, deep down in her gut. “I felt that she was being honest with me about that, but I’m still not sure I trust her.”
“Nor should you child,” the Ancient Pythoness said from by the doorway to Sookie’s hotel room.
“Ancient One!” Stella exclaimed as she stood from the bed. “We can all trust you.”
“Hush, Stella,” the Ancient Pythoness said as she turned her milky white gaze to the faithful servant. Hobbling into the room, she stopped before Stella, lifted her hand, and gently stroked her cheek. “I must earn her trust just like the rest.” Turning her gaze to Sookie, the Ancient Pythoness moved closer to the bed and sat down on the edge. “You are wise not to trust me on the say so of others. I can promise you I mean no harm, but you have already learned that even a friend can be deceitful. What you felt earlier was just a small measure of what a Soul Seer is. You sensed I was telling you the truth, but at the same time being deceitful. I apologize for that. I stand by my decision that you needed to learn the truth about your fairy heritage, but I tried to lead you to believe that was where your Soul Seer ability came from. You eventually saw through it.”
“So it’s like a lie detector test,” Sookie remarked.
“In the most basic of terms,” The Ancient Pythoness replied. “It is much more than that though. If you learn how to use it fully, you will be able to read the very soul of those around you. You will be able to read their hearts.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Sookie said as she thought about it. If she already knew how to do that, Bill wouldn’t have been able to trick her the way he did.
“But like all things supernatural, there is danger involved,” the Ancient Pythoness warned. “There would be those who would wish to chain you to their side and use your abilities for their own selfish desires. Many would wish to coerce you into doing their bidding.”
“But you said I’d be able to tell if they were lying to me,” Sookie replied.
“You would,” the Ancient Pythoness admitted. “It would not stop them from trying however. Vampires like Compton would try and seduce you, they would play to your heart. The fairies would try and play to your need for family; they would offer you what you crave the most: a family, a home. The foolish ones would offer you material things, not knowing who you really are. And then there are those who would use threats of physical violence against you and those you love to get you to do their bidding.”
“So not all good,” Sookie huffed. She had already been beaten to hell and back, and most believed she was just a telepath. The thought that she would be targeted for the rest of her life didn’t appeal to her in the slightest, but as the Ancient Pythoness had said repeatedly, she couldn’t run from this. And she had already decided she was done running.
“So how do I protect myself from everyone who wants to harm me?”
“You embrace who and what you are,” the Ancient One told her. “You learn how to control this. You show them you are not and never will again be their victim. I will not lie to you and tell you it will be easy; it will not be. It will be painful and exhausting, but it will be worth it.”
“How do I learn how to control it, how use it?” Sookie asked.
“I can teach you,” the Ancient Pythoness answered truthfully. “I can teach you how to discipline your mind. How to shield your heart from manipulations and see the truth behind the lie. Stella and Eddie can teach you how to protect your body and defend yourself from physical attacks. Those I trust can teach you the workings of the supernatural world and council. We can educate you in everything you need to know.”
“Why?” Sookie asked suddenly. “Why are you doing this? What do you get out of this?”
“I am doing this because, like yours, it is also part of my destiny,” the Ancient Pythoness replied. “I have been waiting a long time for you, for the Soul Seer. What I get out of this is to rest at long last. I get my successor.”
“What?” Sookie exclaimed, not expecting that answer in the slightest.
“You are my successor, child,” the Ancient Pythoness told her. “You are to be the next leader of the Supernatural Council.”
“Are you crazy?” Sookie cried. “I’m not the next leader of some Supernatural Council, and if were to be, there’s no way they’d listen to me. Vampires, Weres, and the rest all think I’m beneath them.”
“They are wrong,” the Ancient One said. “You stand above them all. It is your destiny. It will not be easy and some will challenge you and your rightful position, but you will prevail. Of this I am certain.”
“You’ve seen it,” Sookie replied.
“No, I have not,” the Ancient Pythoness admitted.
“Then how can you be so sure?” Sookie asked genuinely curious.
“Because I have faith in you,” the Ancient Pythoness said softly. “You have a strength for which a vampire would weep in envy. There is not a part of your body that is not covered in bruises, and yet you still have the strength to drag yourself to your feet and continue on. You have learned decades’ hidden secrets; you have discovered that you have been lied to and betrayed for years. You have had your heart broken, but you still do not give up. Most people in your position, regardless of their species, would have given up, but you demand answers and question those given to you. You refuse to quit, and that is why I know you will prevail. You will not settle for anything less.”
A tear trickled down Sookie’s cheek as she listened to the Ancient Pythoness’s words. She couldn’t remember anyone ever having such faith in her before. Even those who believed in her still saw her as weaker than them and as needing their protection. Many of them had underestimated her; they had used her for her telepathy, but dismissed her from having anything else to offer them…well except for Eric. He had seen more than just her telepathy; he had seen the woman behind it.
“How do I do this?” Sookie asked hoarsely.
“First, you heal your body, then your heart, and finally your mind,” the Ancient Pythoness said. “Once you are completely healed, we can begin your training.”
“It can’t be done here, can it?” Sookie said. It was more of a statement than a question, as she already knew the answer.
“No, it cannot,” the Ancient One replied solemnly. “The vampire Compton has an unhealthy fixation with you. Despite his actions he considers you his. He will track you down if you stay here too long. He will not let you go willingly. He will also not be happy once he realizes you have stolen the database he was working on.”
“I sent that back to Eric,” Sookie defended.
“And Northman will turn it over to the Queen, and Sophie-Anne will know that Compton allowed it to be stolen,” the Ancient Pythoness said. “Compton will find himself out of favor with the Queen very soon.”
“And he’ll blame me,” Sookie huffed. “Of course, it’s never his fault. Am I gonna have to worry about the Queen as well?”
“I do not believe so,” the Ancient Pythoness replied. “Sophie-Anne is a fair Queen. Despite sending Compton to procure you, she would not have approved of his methods. If anyone should have to worry about Sophie-Anne it is Compton.”
“I’m gonna have to leave, ain’t I? I’m gonna have to get far away from Bill as possible.”
“You are,” the Ancient One agreed. “I can offer you a place far beyond his reach. Far beyond anyone’s reach. A place where you will be safe, where you can heal and train.”
“And where would that be?” Sookie asked.
“My home,” the Ancient Pythoness said. “No one would be able to track you there.”
“But I’ve had both Bill and Eric’s blood, couldn’t they track me down by that?” Sookie questioned.
“Normally, yes,” the Ancient Pythoness answered. “However, my compound is heavily warded. I have many enchantments over the land. As long as you are on the land you would be undetectable to everyone. You could be tracked down neither by vampire blood, nor by any magic. You would be safe from interference.”
Staring at the Ancient Pythoness, Sookie let the vampire’s words flow over her as she tried to decipher if she was telling the truth. She still hadn’t got a clue as to how to control her newfound abilities, but she just decided to let her instincts take over and hoped they would guide her well. Sookie felt a warmth wash over her as ribbons of color entered her mind, the strands twining together, becoming thicker. She brushed mental fingers over them, surprised at just how warm they felt. She set about trying to understand them, unwinding and then platting them back together making them more manageable.
“Ancient One,” Stella said, her voice barely above a whisper as she watched Sookie fall into some kind of trance. “What is happening to her?”
“She is embracing who she is,” the Ancient Pythoness replied, her voice just as low as she tried not to disturb Sookie. “She is reading my soul.”
“Oh my,” Stella exclaimed as they continued to watch Sookie. A blissful look on her bruised face made them both smile.
It was almost an hour later when Sookie shook her head and came out of her trance. She could feel a new lightness settle over her as she gazed at the Ancient Pythoness.
“I will go with you,” Sookie said, having seen the truth of her words. “I will learn how to use this ability.”
“You have stipulations?” the Ancient Pythoness replied.
“I do,” Sookie admitted. “The first one is I want you to see to the protection of my brother. I don’t want him to suffer for my actions, and I don’t trust Bill not to go after him to draw me out.”
“I can see to that. Your brother will be well protected. I give you my word.”
“Thank you,” Sookie replied softly.
“And your other stipulation?” the Ancient Pythoness asked.
“Complete honesty,” Sookie said seriously. “I won’t settle for anything less.”
“I will agree to that,” the Ancient One promised.
“Then I guess I’m going with you,” Sookie replied. Furrowing her brow, she added, “where are we going?”
“Home, child. We are going to Greece,” the Ancient Pythoness told her, a smile spreading across her wrinkled face.