Sookie thought about it for all of two seconds before she agreed to meet with her. There was never really any doubt; she would have never been able to live with not knowing. She would have been constantly wondering what she wanted, what she was going to tell her. She would have driven herself crazy.
“I’ll meet her,” Sookie said.
“You made the right decision, kiddo,” Stella said, smiling at her. “Come on, I’ll take you to meet her now.”
“What about my stuff?” Sookie asked, eyeing the pitiful few bags that held her life in them.
“We’ll take them with us,” she said, grabbing one of the bags and throwing it over her shoulder, before picking up the suitcase and making her way to the door.
“Where are we going?” Sookie asked hobbling after her.
“To see the Ancient Pythoness,” Stella replied.
“I know that,” Sookie huffed, “I meant where is she?”
“Oh, sorry,” Stella said giggling. “She’s staying in a hotel not far from here. She’ll be expecting you.”
“She knew I’d meet with her, didn’t she?”
“Before you even did,” Stella replied with a wink.
Sookie debated briefly whether she should leave a message for Alcide telling him she was safe and not to worry, but then she remembered his earlier behavior. He hadn’t shown any consideration for her while he was busy rutting with Debbie. It might have been spiteful and cruel, but in that moment Sookie didn’t care. She was battered, bruised, and broken, and Alcide’s thoughtless behavior had pushed her to the end of her rope. So she followed Stella out of the apartment and into her car without looking back.
The drive to the hotel passed in a blur as Sookie contemplated everything she had learned. It was funny in a way, she had learned more in the brief conversation with Stella than she had in her entire relationship with Bill. As they pulled up in front of Thánatos Towers, fear rose up in Sookie. She had no idea what to expect. She knew Stella meant her no harm, but that didn’t mean someone else inside didn’t.
“Nothing will happen to you here,” Stella said, sensing Sookie’s fear. “I give you my word: you will be safe.”
“You’ll forgive me if I find that hard to believe,” Sookie replied casting her a weary look.
“I will. I’d be hesitant if I was in your shoes as well,” she replied. “You’ve not seen the best of our world.”
Taking a deep breath, Sookie cried out as pain shot through her body due to her injured ribs, “Ow,” she cried pitifully blinking back the tears.
“Okay, that’s it. We’re getting you inside. You shouldn’t be up and about in your condition.”
“I’ve been beaten black and blue; I’m not pregnant,” Sookie whimpered.
“You need to rest,” Stella said firmly.
“I need to meet with the Ancient Pythoness,” Sookie countered breathing through her teeth.
“The Ancient One can wait an hour while you get something to eat and put your feet up,” Stella said. “No arguing,” she added when she saw Sookie open her mouth.
If anyone else would have ordered Sookie around like that, she would have probably lashed out, telling them she could take care of herself, but for some reason she found herself following Stella’s orders. She was hurting, bad. Sitting on that cold, unforgiving floor in that apartment had done nothing to help her injured state, and she couldn’t deny she was hungry having not eaten anything since she left Bon Temps.
“Good,” Stella said, taking her silence for agreement. “Let’s get you checked in and then we can order you some room service.”
“Checked in?” Sookie questioned as she looked at the hotel. From the outside alone, she knew she couldn’t afford to stay in a place like this.
“Yes, the Ancient One has booked you a room.”
“I can’t afford to stay here,” Sookie said.
“Don’t worry about it,” Stella replied, dismissing her worries with a wave of her hand. “The bill will be taken care of.”
“I’m not a charity case,” Sookie huffed indignantly.
“WE know, but you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for us. It’s only fair we take care of the bill,” Stella said. “There is no point arguing. I think you’ll find The Ancient One is even more stubborn than you.”
“Fine,” Sookie grumbled half-heartedly. It wasn’t like she could say, “No, lady who once advised Alexander the Great, you can’t pay for my hotel room.” She may have been a brat at times, but she wasn’t stupid.
Sookie followed Stella into the hotel, trying hard not to gawk at the opulence that was on display. The only hotel she had ever been in was the one in Dallas, and that one had nothing on this. She was half-expecting Hollywood stars to come waltzing in. She didn’t miss the sneers aimed in her direction from some of the humans milling around. She stuck out like a sore thumb in her sweats and t-shirt. She let Stella take care of checking her in while she struggled to keep her shields in place; the last thing she wanted to know was what everyone was thinking of her, if the looks on their faces didn’t already give it away.
It didn’t take them long to get checked in and before she knew it, Sookie was sitting on the most comfortable sofa ever enjoying a late dinner. As delicious as the food was, Sookie barely tasted it, her mind so focused on her upcoming meeting. She wasn’t sure what to expect, all she had been told was that The Ancient Pythoness wanted to meet with her, but not why. Sookie would have been lying if she said she wasn’t scared.
“It’s time, Sookie,” Stella said softly, her voice breaking through Sookie’s musings and making her stiffen.
Pulling on her big girl panties, Sookie stood up and followed Stella out the hotel room and down the corridor. With each step she took she felt her stomach coiling tighter as her nerves got worse. She was surprised when they stopped only a few doors down from hers, she thought someone as important as the Ancient Pythoness would have been a floor for vampires only and would have had security swimming around. Sookie stood patiently while Stella knocked on the door.
A stunning redhead with flawless skin opened the door, she invited them out. Her skin was so pale it looked translucent, and for a minute Sookie thought she was a vampire, but her thoughts told her different. She was something of a broadcaster, and Sookie struggled to block her out as she thought one derogatory thing after another. Sookie heard her thinking how unworthy she was of all the attention she was getting.
“My Mistress will be with you shortly,” she said. Sookie didn’t miss the way she emphasized “my.” It was clear she was staking her claim.
“Thank you, Celeste,” Stella said stiffly, but made no move to introduce the two women and given the awful things Celeste was thinking about her, Sookie was in no hurry to do it herself.
“Girl, leave us,” a harsh voice said.
“My Lady,” Celeste simpered, bowing as an old lady hobbled into the room.
“Go,” she ordered.
Celeste cast Sookie a scorn-filled look before flouncing out the room. Clearing blaming Sookie for her dismissal.
“Ancient One,” Stella said, dropping to her knees in front of her. Sookie watched in confusion. Was she supposed to do that? If she was, she wasn’t sure she could, she was stiff as hell.
“Get up,” The Ancient Pythoness ordered crabbily as she lowered herself into a chair. “So you are her,” she said as she turned her attention to Sookie.
“I guess so,” Sookie squeaked as she got her first real look at her. Sookie hadn’t realized just how old she was, she looked ancient and not in a vampire way, it was obvious she had been reaching the end of her life when she was turned. Her skin was weathered and her hair was very fine.
“Don’t guess, girl. You either are or you aren’t,” she barked.
“If you mean am I Sookie Stackhouse, then yes I am,” Sookie replied annoyed.
“Good. Sit down,” she ordered.
Sookie was half tempted to tell her to go to hell, but she knew it would be a bratty thing to do, so instead she carefully lowered herself onto the sofa across from her and waited.
A small smile spread over her wrinkled face as her eyes tracked over Sookie. Despite being blind, Sookie got the feeling she saw every bruise on her body, even the ones concealed by her clothes.
“You are a lot of trouble, little girl,” The Ancient Pythoness said, her tone was almost indulgent.
“It’s not like I go looking for it,” Sookie huffed, mildly insulted.
“You do not have to; it finds you easily enough, and it will continue to find you. It cannot be avoided. You cannot run from this. Too many people in our world know who you are now, thanks to the Louisiana vampires. You placed your trust in the wrong person, girl, and he has betrayed it.”
“What do you mean?” Sookie asked fearfully.
“You will never be free of this world. It does not matter how far you run, someone will always find you,” she said. “Your gift is one sought after by many. Word of you has already spread, and it will continue to. Soon every supernatural creature will know of you.”
“If you’re trying to scare me, you’re succeeding,” Sookie whimpered.
“I do not wish to scare you; I want to prepare you for what I saw.”
“What did you see?”
“I saw your life; the life you could have; the life some are conspiring to take from you. Child, you are more than you could ever imagine; you are more than others have allowed you to believe.”
“I’m nothing special,” Sookie protested. “Just a waitress from the middle of nowhere.”
“That is what people would have you believe, but they are wrong. You are much more than that.”
“How can you be so sure?” Sookie asked.
“Because I have seen it. Do you think I get visions of just anybody? Child, I saw you before you were even born. I knew of you before your parents even knew of you; I have seen all that you have suffered; I have witnessed the horrors that plagued your young life. I have seen those who claim to love you abandon and betray you, I have seen how you have been taken advantage of, and I have been powerless to intervene.”
“Why?” Sookie asked, confused.
“Because every hardship you have suffered so far had to happen; they could not be prevented. It was those events that shaped you into the woman you are today. If I could have I would have stopped the vampire Compton coming to you, I would have spared you the pain of his betrayal, but I cannot interfere with fate.”
“None of this is making sense to me,” Sookie said, trying to twist her head around it all. “I’m not… it’s not… why me? What am I supposed to do?”
“That choice is yours and yours alone,” The Ancient Pythoness said. “I can guide you on your journey, but I cannot tell you whether to take it or not. The lion has told you I had a vision of your future. I have not seen it all; some of it is still clouded to even my eyes.”
“Why did you see?” Sookie asked hesitantly.
“I saw life, child, and love. There is so much love in your future, the kind of love many would kill for. I will not lie to you and tell you your life is free from pain and suffering, it is not, no future is. Pain and suffering are a part of living, without them there would be no joy and happiness. But I can tell you any pain and suffering you face will be offset by love and happiness.”
Sookie stared at her, lost in thought. She couldn’t deny she didn’t get a thrill from her words. Hearing that she had a great love in her future warmed her heart. She couldn’t help wondering if she had already met this great love, did she know him? Was he someone she already knew? Were they friends? Or was he someone she had yet to meet? She desperately wanted to know, but at the same time she didn’t. If she knew for certain who he was, would she go looking for him, or would she run from him?
“You cannot run from this,” The Ancient Pythoness said, seemingly reading Sookie’s mind. “This is your destiny; your true destiny. Even if you walked out that door now, it would eventually catch up to you again. Others might conspire to keep it from you, but fate always wins in the end.”
“That’s the second time you’ve said that,” Sookie said recalling her earlier words. “What do you mean? Who’s conspiring against me? And what are they trying to take from me?”
“They are trying to keep you from your future,” she said. “You were born to be a part of the Supernatural world, but not as their pawn. You were born to stand above them. They are those who wish to control you; they seek your power, even the one who does not even know who or what you are.”
“I’m more confused than ever,” Sookie confessed. “What power, my telepathy?”
“Your telepathy is only a small part of who and what you are.”
“What the hell am I, then?” Sookie huffed.
“Child, you are a soul seer,” The Ancient Pythoness replied leaving Sookie speechless.