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A Little Blue

Twenty Three

10/27/09 1845 Michael Ahern House, Ireland

Ciaran checked his computer, which obligingly took another read from the medical sensors attached to Jeremiah and provided its assessment. “He’s starting to wake up.” He carefully removed the sensors and stepped away from the bed.

After thinking about it, Ciaran had decided that he didn’t want to give Mike and Linda a tour of the Cnoc Raffan. He had only been on it twice and was painfully aware that he didn’t know his way around. Eriu would have had to have been their guide and that would have been a bit embarrassing. On top of that, having Jeremiah wake up on the ship would probably have been disorientating, so Ciaran had cheated a little. Instead of waking him up when he left the medic, at his request Eriu had sedated Jeremiah and then Elsa and Ciaran had taken the unconscious man to Mike’s house and put him in the room Ciaran had been using while the Cnoc Raffan had returned to space.

Although neither Linda nor Mike wanted them to leave, Mike’s house was only so big. Ciaran had been sleeping in one of their guest rooms with most of his women rotating through using that bed with him and the pallets they’d made up in the barn while Tamsin and Libby had taken the other guest room. Now Ciaran had moved to the barn to give the older man the room in the house he’d been using. Tamsin had offered to move out instead, at least until Elsa had sarcastically pointed out that Ciaran could share a bed with one of them while Tamsin would require a separate bed that they didn’t have room for in the barn.

Victoria slid out of the chair she’d been stretched out in. “I’ll get Aunt Linda and Uncle Mike. Jeremiah knows them.”

A few minutes later, Mike and Linda were in the chairs while Ciaran leaned against the wall near the door. To keep from crowding the room, everyone else was elsewhere in the house or outside, although Victoria had posted herself right outside the bedroom.

Jeremiah opened his eyes and looked around slowly. Linda got up and touched him on the shoulder. “It’s all right. You’re in our house and you’re safe. Do you want anything?”

Jeremiah nodded. “Water.” His eyes stopped on Ciaran and narrowed as Linda picked up a glass and reached for the pitcher of water. “What is he doing here?”

“Leaving,” Ciaran said as he pushed away from the wall. “I’ll be outside.”

Mike grabbed his arm. “Wait just a moment, Ciaran.” He turned to Jeremiah. “Your grandson is here because he and his women rescued you and saved your life, Father. Without him, you’d either still be in the Wasp hive or dead.”

Jeremiah’s eyes flicked back to Ciaran. “Is that true? You rescued me?”

Ciaran flashed a smile. “Not really. I was there, but I was cowering with Mike and Tamsin. My women took down the hive and Victoria and Elsa were the ones that went in and rescued you.”

“Your women?” Jeremiah gave him a puzzled look.

“My women are pokegirls. They’re a lot more powerful than I am and do most of the fighting.”

“And well we should,” Victoria said from the doorway, “as we are much more suited for combat than any human.” She stepped to the side of the bed. “Mr. Ahern, how is your arm?”

Linda handed Jeremiah the glass of water and he cradled it in both hands. He looked down and paled. “My arm. It got torn off.” He stared at his right hand before holding it up. He flexed the fingers and the arm whipped sideways. “What is going on?”

“Your arm was cut off,” Victoria said as she caught the arm gently and held it still. “Ciaran’s employer has access to some advanced medical technology and it was regrown. You’ve been asleep for three days while that was going on.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Victoria and I am one of Ciaran’s pokegirls.” She tucked his arm under the blankets. “Because your arm was cut off, the nerves were severed. They’ve reconnected due to the regeneration, but you still have some work learning how to use it. It should behave most of the time and the more you use it the faster the recovery will progress.”

He nodded and looked back at Ciaran. “Why did you bother?” He sounded tired.

Mike looked astonished. “Father!”

Jeremiah didn’t look at Mike. “I wasn’t talking to you, Michael. Well?”

Ciaran kept his voice neutral. “I couldn’t leave you out there like that and I couldn’t leave the hive intact. Like Uncle Mike mentioned, the pokegirls who captured you are called Wasps and they would have depopulated the area, killing the men for food and capturing the women for their breeding program.” He sighed. “We found several women already there who were pregnant with Wasp babies. I turned them over to the army. Hopefully they can help them.”

“So it wasn’t to specifically rescue me?”

Ciaran squared his shoulders. There was no nice way to answer that question and not lie. “No it wasn’t. Uncle Mike was pushing me to rescue you because you’re his father and my grandfather, but that had nothing to do with it since I don’t know you and, until I do, you’re not anyone personally important to me. I’d have rescued anyone I could have in the same situation.” Mike sucked air in a hiss.

Jeremiah sipped his water before fixing piercing blue eyes on Ciaran. “That’s the right answer, boy.”

“I’m not a boy. I do a man’s work.”

Jeremiah didn’t quite sneer. “You ever killed a man?”

Ciaran nodded. “Sadly, yes I have.”

Linda looked shocked. “You have?”

“It was in self-defense, Aunt Linda.”

Jeremiah chuckled and drank more water. “Aunt Linda.” He chuckled again. “She was almost your mother. Rafael was chasing her and Martha at the same time. Linda wasn’t trying to get away from him either. It was quite the contrary in fact. What do you think of that?”

Ciaran looked at the surprise and worry that appeared in Linda’s eyes. He smiled. “I think that if that’s true then my father had good taste in women. Uncle Mike was lucky she married him. I also think that it was over twenty years ago and it doesn’t matter, although I suspect she would have made a good mother to her children, which would not have included me.” He watched Linda relax before turning his attention back to Jeremiah. “Is there anything else, Mr. Ahern?”

“You are very formal with me,” Jeremiah noted.

“I usually am with strangers. My parents wanted me to be polite to people and, for the most part, their lessons have taken root.”

Jeremiah handed the empty glass back to Linda and settled back in his bed. “I’m tired now and I want to sleep. Later, Ciaran Sullivan, come back and you and I will talk so that we’re not strangers anymore.” His eyes closed.

Once he was in the living room, Victoria shook her head. “That went better than I’d supposed it would.”

Elsa snorted. “Did you hear him trying to cause trouble between Aunt Linda and Ciaran? That man is still a dick.” Ciaran gave her an odd look and she grinned. “It’s not profanity.”

“No, but it is crude. I’d prefer you not use it a lot.” He smiled faintly. “But you are right; he was being a dick.”

“Do you think he really wants to get to know you?”

Ciaran shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll have to find out, though. If he’s going to play nice with me, maybe I can find out if he’ll play nice with my parents, Neem and Beibhinn. If not, it’s better that I find out now instead of them when they get here, since it is possible he may still be living with Uncle Mike and Aunt Linda.” He eyed the gathering darkness outside. “Let’s go back to the barn. You two and Ceres can play cards or something and I’ll work on reading with Kentarch and Spirit. I’ll have Eriu use drones to do some infrared scans tonight and we’ll find a more productive place to hunt ferals tomorrow.”

Elsa grinned. “I like the way you think. What about Tamsin?”

“We’ll invite her and see if she wants to come.”

10/27/09 1345 Kingdom of Haven

Dame Mary stood waiting patiently for the arrival of their visitor. Suddenly, Iain and Eve appeared, followed a second later by Ygerna and Pandora. Mary bowed. “Clan Leader Grey, welcome to Haven.”

Iain chuckled. “Didn’t we already talk about calling me Iain? Gwen is willing to do it, why won’t you?”

Mary didn’t smile back. “I would normally, sir, however today my instructions are very specific about how to address you.” She bobbed her head towards Ygerna. “Professor.”

“I’m not a professor anymore, Dame Mary, but I thank you for the recognition.”

“All right,” Iain said with a glance at Pandora. “Why did you have specific instructions, Dame Mary?”

“I wasn’t informed as to why my instructions were being given, sir.” Mary shrugged. “Since they come from His Majesty, I follow them.”

Iain sighed. “Very well. Are you my guide?”

“I am, sir.”

“Lead on then. How are Gwen and your children?”

Mary gave him an apologetic smile as they walked down a path and into some light woods. “Sir, I was told not to chat with you. Again, sir, no reason was given, just my orders.”

“What exactly are your orders in regards to me, Dame Mary?”

“Sir, I am to greet you at the arrival point and convey you to the area where the meeting is to take place. I am not to question or otherwise converse with you or your retinue on any matter.”

Iain frowned. “And if we converse amongst ourselves you are to take special note in case you’re asked to report on it?”

Mary’s face went blank. “Of course not, sir.”

She’s lying, Eve said quietly in his mind.

No surprise there. We do that too. “Did I miss the receipt of a declaration of war, Dame Mary?”

Mary whipped around so fast that she almost stumbled. “Sir, I know nothing about us being at war.”

“That’s good, Dame Mary. I think a large portion of this planet should be happy to hear that. Please proceed.”

Eve glanced at him as Mary went back to leading them through the trees. Do I put our people on standby?

I really don’t know. I guess that means yes. But fighting Shikarou and his family would be an absolute nightmare. Their raw power is much more than ours is. Our only chance would be in the hope that we have more recent battle experience and I don’t trust that. And there’s the pesky fact where I’d have to answer for it with Kerrik. Let’s not open the ball this time. Be ready to run if we can and fight if we must.

April’s been informed. She says the first team will be ready to deploy in five minutes, with everyone else ready seven minutes after that. Ninhursag will be leading the first team. April will command the second.

Iain glanced at Pandora. If there’s trouble, you are to evacuate Ygerna.

Her eyes narrowed slightly as she scanned around them. My place is with you.

Eve will evacuate me. Please do as I ask. Ygerna can’t escape from here quickly without our help. There are no ley lines here yet.

Fine. How do I let her know about this?

Iain reached out through his twee. Ygerna. The Sidhe started and her eyes flicked in his direction. Yes, it’s me. We’ve known for a while that you have a twee, but didn’t mention it since you didn’t say anything to us about it. If any trouble starts, Pandora will get you out of here. Eve and I will be right behind you.

I understand and thank you. What is going on?

I don’t know. I don’t even know there’s trouble but I’ve learned to listen to my instincts. We wait for now. He shifted his attention to Pandora. Ygerna knows that she’s with you.

The Archangel didn’t stop trying to look in all directions at once. Good. She’d better be quick when the battle starts.

Dame Mary led them into a pleasant clearing and stopped to let them enter without her. The table was low, befitting its Oriental design, and circular, but the inside had been removed to make a passage for servers, with an opening cut into it at one point. From above it would look like a lowercase C. Waiting for them Iain could see Shikarou, Kasumi, Bellona, Branwyn, Poppet, Faelan and Svetlana. Standing behind Shikarou were Dorothea and Nanu. The Mini-Top was decked out with enough weapons to outfit a platoon of infantry. Dorothea was wearing what Iain presumed was her normal equipment, but she was very alert and watching him carefully.

Iain was very conscious that Mary was still standing behind them. He bowed to Shikarou. “Thank you for this meeting, but isn’t this a bit much? I was expecting you and Kasumi. This looks like the annual meeting of the Justice League and I feel very much like the criminal under discussion.”

Shikarou rose. “Greetings, Clan Leader Grey. Please be seated.”

Iain didn’t move. “I thought this was going to be an informal meeting and luncheon.”

Shikarou nodded. “It was. Something happened.” He gestured around them. “That’s why everyone is here.”

“Well I wasn’t aware that I might need my command staff for this. This was supposed to be a meeting about the books. Has the agenda changed?”

Shikarou’s ears flicked. “No, it’s still about the books. They’re here to witness in case you require redress.”

“You’re talking to the wrong person then,” Iain pointed out. “The books belong to Ygerna, not me. I’m just here as her friend and to help with transport.”

Several people suddenly looked less happy than they had a moment before. “You’re here as her friend,” Faelan asked.

“Yes. Ygerna is my friend and she’s fully aware of how you people feel about her, so since I know Shikarou and we’re on reasonable relations, and Eve and Kasumi have been working to become friends, she asked me to arrange a meeting.”

Svetlana frowned. “You two aren’t lovers?”

Iain’s patience went from thin to none. “What the fuck is going on? Are you going to talk to Ygerna about giving her back her books are you going to keep quizzing me on my personal life? If it’s the latter I assure you that you’re wasting our time.”

Ygerna’s eyes narrowed. “Why are you delaying this?” She looked past Shikarou. “Dorothea? You won’t lie to me without orders.”

The Seraph twitched. “They were hoping to finish copying the books before thou arrived. Now they hope to get as many copied as possible before thou discover the truth.”

Ygerna gave Shikarou an unhappy look. “Those are my books. I do not wish you to have copies of them.”

“Hold on,” Iain held up a hand. “Ygerna, might I steer this discussion a little?”

She looked at him and nodded. “Of course you can.”

He looked at Shikarou. “What truth is Dorothea talking about? What is going on?”

Shikarou sighed and sat down, waving for everyone on his side of the table to do so as well. “Please sit and I’ll explain.”

His perception showed that Mary had slid out of sight in the brush but was observing intently with her wand in her hand. “That’s not going to happen with Nanu carrying enough firepower for a Marine division and Mary covering us in the trees behind us. And that’s just the forces I can see.”

Shikarou’s ears stilled. “How did,” he broke off. “Dame Mary, thank you and that will be all.”

“I am not going anywhere,” Nanu said firmly.

Eve put her hand on Iain’s arm. “If we don’t sit, we may never find out what’s going on.”

Iain looked at her for a moment before settling down at the table and motioning for Ygerna and Eve to do so as well. Pandora took her place behind him and Ygerna while Eve sat down on the opposite of him from the Sidhe woman. He blatantly surveyed the table. “It looks like the lunch part got cancelled too. I wish I’d known that so we could have eaten.” He looked from Shikarou to Kasumi. “Hi. Ygerna and I wanted to meet with you. She has a request.” He motioned towards the Sidhe woman. “You have the floor.”

She nodded. “I thank you for moving my collection of books from our world to here, but after my relationship with Faelan, Svetlana and the rest of his family fell apart, I’d like them back. When can I take possession of them?”

Svetlana stirred. “You told us you were giving them to us.”

Ygerna shook her head. “I said I was bringing them along with me when I joined your family. That didn’t happen.”

“We could try again,” Faelan said softly.

The look Ygerna gave him was withering. “Are you going to be willing to defy Svetlana this time? She does not want me in your family and you love her enough to obey her wishes.” She leaned back slightly. “Even if you were and even if I were willing to put myself back into that trial of patience, any future courtship would have nothing to do with my books and their situation here and now.”

“Faelan thought they had been given to us,” Shikarou said. “That is what he told me.”

“They are my dowry, and the only thing of value I have left after I lost my throne,” Ygerna spat. “And they are my last possessions of my race. I would never give them to anyone.” Iain touched her hand and she blinked and looked at him before taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out and continuing in a calmer voice. “So I do not want you making copies of them and I would like to take possession of my property as soon as possible.”

“The problem,” Shikarou said, “is that Faelan told me that the collection had been given to him and that he was making them available for the entire family. To keep them safe, I put them in the Caspa Library.” Ygerna went white as he continued. “Unfortunately that means I can’t give them back to you, so the best I can do is provide you with copies of them.”

Fury swept across Ygerna’s face. “NOT ALL OF THEM CAN BE COPIED!” Iain touched her on the palm again and she gripped him tightly. He winced, but didn’t pull away as she took another deep breath. “So they are stolen and lost to me forever, just like the Grimoire. Only this time you don’t have the excuse that you recovered them and I could not.”

Kasumi leaned forward. “We will allow you to use them whenever you want,” she said softly.

“Only as long as you feel like it,” Ygerna retorted. “I will be forced to beg your indulgence to gain access to what is mine.” She glared at Faelan. “I can see why you’d be concerned about my desiring redress for this travesty.”

“I am the king here,” Shikarou said firmly. “Final responsibility for this lays with me, not my brother.”

“I disagree,” Ygerna replied. “He wronged me, him and his supposedly good aligned pokegirl. They deceived me for years with empty words and near promises and then offered you my property deceitfully. They are to blame for this.” She looked at Shikarou. “You are merely complicit in their crimes.”

Branwyn straightened indignantly. “Now you wait just a minute!”

“Why are you so upset,” Ygerna asked acidly. “The truth is that I was offered a possible place in this family to neutralize me as a potential enemy. I was never really sought as an ally or a mate. The hope was that I would eventually lose interest in Faelan and leave, never to bother this family again. You all know it; you only thought I would never realize what you were doing.”

“I think I need to talk to Caspa,” Iain said calmly in the sudden shocked silence.

Poppet looked at him curiously even as Shikarou shook his head. “That won’t do any good, Iain.”

Iain smiled at the kami. “You are aware that I know things, right?”

Shikarou didn’t return the smile as his ears flattened. “Father has made that plain, and what you revealed during our first meeting proved it. But you said our secrets were safe with you. Even if I were willing to be blackmailed, it wouldn’t do any good.”

“You misunderstand what I’m saying now,” Iain said. “And I haven’t revealed my knowledge of your family to anyone. I won’t. Unless we go to war our families will probably intermarry in less than a century. What I’m saying is that the fact that I know things that I shouldn’t be able to also happens to mean that I know more about Caspa than probably anyone alive. I want to talk to him.”

“What do you know about me,” Poppet asked suddenly. “You’ve only visited the island a handful of times and we’ve never had the opportunity to meet, much less talk.”

“You are a pivotal person in several of my stories,” Iain said. “I made a lot of notes about you and your life, but I don’t think this forum is the place to prove to you that I am what I say I am. And, besides, this meeting is about Ygerna and her books.”

“True,” Poppet conceded, “so we’ll have to set up a meeting later so we can actually meet.”

“That would be fine,” Iain said. “I’m willing to do my trick for anyone who wants to see it, but later and probably best in private so I don’t give something away you don’t want revealed. I really would like to get along with the Wolf family as well as possible.” He looked back at Shikarou. “So, can I talk to Caspa?” He shook his head. “And I’d prefer it to be alone, so that his secrets are safe too.”

“I want to be there,” Ygerna said.

“I’d like you to, but I won’t tell your secrets without permission and I don’t have Caspa’s permission to tell his. I will do my best.”

She nodded and frowned, relaxing her grip. “I’m sorry, was I hurting you?”

He looked amused as he flexed his hand. “Yes, but its ok. Eve once squeezed a lot harder than that.”

“If that’s true then you are lucky to still have fingers,” Ygerna said with a slight smile. Eve chuckled on his other side.

Shikarou was talking in a low voice with Kasumi. Finally he nodded. “You can talk to Master Caspa alone, but understand I’ll ask my father to speak to him too afterwards to make sure you didn’t somehow force Caspa to do anything.”

“If you think it necessary,” Iain replied. “But I’m a Texan and we only use force in self-defense, even if I could use force on a ghost. Thank you for letting me speak with him, by the bye.”

“Kasumi will take you to see him,” Bellona said. “Everyone else can remain here until you return.”

“Thank you,” Iain replied. “I have one request. We came expecting to eat lunch. Could they get something light to tide them over until we go home or at least some tea or something while I’m gone?”

“I’ll take care of it,” Branwyn said. “We should have remembered that.”

Kasumi rose gracefully and motioned for him to join her. As they left the clearing, she glanced at him. “You’re not hungry?”

“I am,” he admitted with a smile. “But I came looking forward to eating Helen’s or your cooking. It wouldn’t be the same eating something Branwyn or someone else created with magic, so I’ll wait until I get home. I don’t think I have a cook as talented as you or Helen is supposed to be, but at least I’ll have Joyce’s beer to go with whatever I end up eating.”

She smiled back at him. “Your flattery is excellent.”

He chuckled. “It’s only excellent because it’s true. You are an outstanding cook and Helen is too and I haven’t had the opportunity to taste your cooking yet.” He shrugged. “Perhaps I’ll get the chance someday in the distant future.”

“Why would you think you wouldn’t?”

He stopped and turned to face her. “A whole bunch of people on your side are going to be as pissed as hell about the way that meeting went. They’ve really bought in to that whole ‘Shikarou is king’ thing. They’ll feel I was disrespectful and rude and, in general, just some bog standard barbarian. They certainly won’t want me to darken your doorstep for a while and it’ll only get worse once they tell the rest of Shikarou’s harem. And people like Lynn and Gwyneth can keep me from staying long when I do arrive and they don’t have to even tell anyone I was ever here.” He shrugged when her eyebrows rose. “You got too many people with too much power and not enough accountability. It’s an endemic problem with governments.” He snorted. “And the fact that Ygerna was right in pretty much everything she said is just going to make them go from pissed to completely furious. Most of them don’t like being wrong and really don’t like being called on it so baldly.”

Kasumi slipped her arm into his and began walking again, making him go with her. “Was she right?”

“Was she right about how your family has been leading her along? Absolutely. You may not have known about it, but you’re pretty heavily involved in the schools, both here and there, so you might have missed it. But she is right. Otherwise why would they have a glacially slow courtship? Was she right to say Shikarou was complicit in Faelan’s fuck up over the ownership of the books? That’s a little harder to prove, but we all know that those books are priceless. Shikarou should have taken a few minutes to verify with Ygerna what had happened. At worst, she’d have called him an idiot when she said that yes she’d given them to the family. But he knew the value of the collection and was too eager to get them somewhere they could never be taken from the Wolf family to double check. So I don’t know if I agree he was involved in a crime, but he was pretty dumb about it.”

“If Eve had presented you with something and said it was given to her by someone, would you verify that statement with the person she said gave it to her?”

“If it’s a romance novel, no. I would have indeed if it were Ygerna’s collection of books.” He looked around. “The grounds here are pretty.”

“Thank you. We’re on the grounds of the school, so I appreciate the compliment.”

He glanced at her. “So why was everyone so eager to deal with me and not Ygerna?”

She pulled him to a stop. “You really don’t know?” She shook her head slightly. “You wouldn’t ask if you did.” She looked into his eyes. “They’re afraid, of course. We have seen the orbital pictures of the Louisiana Canal and they’re terrified that your pet legendary will do that here if they don’t placate you.”

“Evangelion is not my pet anything.”

“No one is sure what kind of relationship you have with her. Nobody talks about her. We’ve inquired.”

“I have no intention of trying to destroy Haven and neither does Evangelion. Kerrik is my tutor in magic and he’d be a little pissed at me for that. Besides, you people aren’t that bad and I wasn’t planning to go to war over Ygerna’s books.”

“What kind of relationship do you have with Evangelion?”

He shrugged. “The same kind of relationship anyone smart has with a legendary, a cautious one.”

“We want her reassurance that you’re right. We reached out to her, but we haven’t been able to locate her.”

Iain blinked. “You have? How did you do that?”

“We contacted Sekhmet, who is this world’s Sexmet. She said she’d look around, but that she’d never heard of Evangelion. Neither has Poppet Harris. Sekhmet came back later and said none of the others knew of her either.” Kasumi frowned. “Did you have Theodora cut that channel and claim Evangelion did it?”

Iain just stared at her for a moment. “Wait just a second.” He reached out through his delta bond and quickly filled Vanessa in on the current conversation.

What do you want me to do? How do I confirm that I do not intend to carve up their island without revealing who I am?

Give me a second. He looked at Kasumi. “Will Shikarou take your word for it if Evangelion tells you?”

She smiled. “He will if he is intelligent, which he is.”

“Let me make a call.” Iain pulled out his computer and activated it. “Theodora, contact Evangelion and ask her if I can meet with her. I’d prefer that meeting to be soonest if possible.”

“Just a moment, Iain.” There was a pause. “She will meet you at the arrival point, but only if you go now.”

“Shit.” Iain glanced at Kasumi. “We’re on our way.”

“I will inform Evangelion,” Theodora intoned formally.

Kasumi suddenly made an exasperated sound. “Apparently my husband isn’t going to be as intelligent about this as I’d hoped. He is insisting on coming with us.”

“He’s probably afraid I’ll kidnap you and make you think I’m a wonderful guy and that you want to stay with me.”

She blinked. “You wouldn’t do that.”

“True. There’s no way you’d believe I was wonderful.”

She blinked again and smiled broadly. “Oh, I don’t know about that.”

He chuckled. “Is anyone else coming? Decide quickly. I’m not going to chance irritating someone who can reshape continents when she gets bored.”

“That’s a wise attitude.” Her eyes focused inward. “Is me, Shikarou, Branwyn, Faelan and Poppet too many?”

“It was supposed to be only you,” he muttered. “Theodora, please let Evangelion know about the added personnel.”

“Consider it done,” she replied crisply.

“I need to arrange transport,” he said to Kasumi. Ninhursag, I’m going to need teleport transport for seven people for the visit to Evangelion. Eve and Pandora are here already.

I’m bringing Dominique, Raquel, Zareen and Lucy. We’ll be there in three minutes.

Kasumi was watching him curiously. “Some more of my family will be arriving in a few minutes so we can all travel together.”

“You have a telepath in your family?”

“I do, but she won’t be coming. She’s watching her babies. I was talking with my maharani, Ninhursag. We’re delta bonded.”

Branwyn appeared, holding hands with Shikarou. A moment later Poppet teleported in and Svetlana arrived with her husband. Eve and Pandora appeared with Ygerna.

Branwyn looked at Iain. “If you tell us where we’re going, we could arrive nearby and make our way there.”

“Have you ever been to Antarctica?”

“Evangelion is living in Antarctica? I thought she lives in Texas.”

“She has a place in Texas. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has other places as well. Besides, a smart legendary isn’t going to meet with anyone at her home so they can’t pester her later or reveal her lair.”

Ninhursag appeared and quickly released Raquel, Zareen and Lucy. Dominique arrived a few seconds later. The Elfqueen surveyed the group. “This should be interesting.”

“What is going on,” Ygerna asked.

“Shikarou and his family are concerned that Evangelion is going to appear and burn Haven down to the bedrock,” Iain said. “I’ve arranged a meeting with her so she can tell them if she is or not. These people wanted to go to that meeting and I thought you might want to attend as well, if you’d like.”

Ygerna gave him a warm smile. “Thank you, I would.”

“You are welcome.” Iain looked around. “Ok, people, pick a person to carry and let’s get going.”

Dominique grabbed Ygerna’s arm and vanished. Eve, bring Iain to where I am. Everyone else wait a minute.

A second later, Eve appeared with Iain. He looked around. “Ok, this isn’t where we’re meeting Evangelion. What’s going on?”

“I have a question,” Dominique said. “And I don’t want the Wolf family hearing it.” She looked at Ygerna. “Those books are your dowry?”

“They are.”

“And you’re still single?”

Ygerna nodded once, her face serious. “I am.”

“Will you marry me?”

Ygerna looked surprised and then smiled. “I think that would be a bit problematic as you are already married to Iain.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Dominique said with a return smile. “Lucy is married to Eve and not Iain, at least not yet.”

Ygerna frowned. “Why?”

Iain smiled. “She loves Eve with all of her heart. Me, I’m just the penis that Eve brought along with her.”

Eve laughed. “That was true in the beginning, but Lucy has been with us regularly, Iain, and she has come to care for you. One day she will love you as I do.”

He looked pleased. “Good, she needs someone, even if it’s a tarnished knight like me.”

Ygerna just chuckled. “Dominique, I am very flattered with your offer, but I hardly know you and my tastes do not run to women overmuch.”

Dominique shrugged. “Ok. Will you marry Iain?”

Ygerna gave Iain a sideways glance and smiled mischievously. “Perhaps. Our relationship is yet new, but he is talented and interesting. Will you and your sisters allow such a union?”

“I’ll make sure they do,” Dominique said as she cracked her knuckles. “By the time I’m done they’ll bless it.”

“If we’re done,” Eve said with an amused smile. “Can we head to the rendezvous? The others are starting to wonder why they aren’t freezing yet.”

“I suppose that means you now have a vested interest in recovering my books,” Ygerna said to Iain. “My dowry is worthless to us in their hands.” Her smile faded. “I can only hope that your plan for Master Caspa will work.”

“Me too,” Iain said, “but I have hope. And I was going to try just as hard before you lured Dominique into siding with you.”

“I know you were,” Ygerna said as she took Eve’s hand. “And that is what I appreciate most about you right now. And I haven’t forgotten about what you said about strings and getting to know your family before any relationship can take place.”

The scene jumped and they were standing in a hemispherical dome of white light fifty meters across outside which the wind and snow raged. It was still cold, and the prickling at Iain’s nose as he exhaled suggested that it was significantly below freezing. Standing in the center of the dome, in her full battle form, was Evangelion. A few seconds later everyone else arrived.

Evangelion surveyed the group before inclining her head. Her voice boomed around them. “Iain Grey, come forward and explain.”

Iain stepped forward. “Good afternoon, Lady Evangelion. The man with the black hair and ears is Shikarou, the king of the island of Haven, formerly Cuba. The others are members of his family. They have seen what you did in Louisiana and wish reassurances that you do not intend to do anything like that to their island. They were unwilling to believe me when I spoke for you and told them that you did not plan their imminent destruction.”

Evangelion didn’t move. “Shikarou Wolf, come forward.” He did so. “When I became aware of your presence, I did indeed evaluate you, your people and your alien technology as to whether or not you posed a threat to this world. You did not then and you do not now. Do not in the future and I shall not visit your island with dire intent in my heart.”

Shikarou bowed. “Thank you, Evangelion.”

“Heed my words, Shikarou Wolf. I am aware of the destruction of the laboratory in the African desert that your family destroyed with an orbital bombardment. Do not repeat that action.”

Shikarou nodded. “We were destroying the facility by which the Sanctuary Goths came to be. It was proactive defense.”

“The Sanctuary Goths came to be in your world, Shikarou Wolf. They do not exist here and the laboratory had people in it,” Evangelion announced, “who were suddenly dead and their shades were confused by it because as far as they knew they were attacking no one. Perhaps next time instead of employing planetary bombardment you should use the years between now and the possible creation of something similar to the Sanctuary Goths to instead address the conditions which make the existence of such groups possible rather than blowing holes in the planet’s crust.”

Poppet called from where she stood. “Why don’t the other legendaries know about you?”

“Poppet Wolf, they do not know about me because I have not wished for them to. However, I am aware of your contact with Sekhmet. You may share this information with her, but caution her not to seek me. I know her plans and I have no interest in aiding her.”

Poppet didn’t seem satisfied, but also seemed unwilling to press the issue. “I will inform her.”

Evangelion turned slightly towards Iain. “Iain Grey, return them to their home. You and Eve Grey will remain for a brief time.”

“Yes, Lady Evangelion.” He turned around. “Ninhursag, please ferry everyone back to Haven. I’ll be along as soon as I can.” He looked at Kasumi. “I’d still like to talk to Caspa today if at all possible.”

She nodded. “Let me know as soon as you arrive and I’ll take you to Master Caspa’s library.”

A moment later it was just Iain, Eve and Evangelion. “Was that what you wanted,” Evangelion asked. Her voice was still Evangelion’s but it no longer boomed around him.

“It should be. Kasumi was actually questioning if you cut that canal at all and we don’t want Indigo to hear some rumor that it was a onetime event that we can’t duplicate. Thank you for doing this.”

“You are welcome. When you get home, we need to talk.” She vanished and the dome dissipated, letting in the Antarctic storm to batter them.

Eve grabbed Iain and they left, arriving at the dining area. Iain was shivering. “That was fucking cold,” he muttered.

It’s not her fault. The spell ends when you leave. She just learned it today for this so she might not know that. Eve smiled at him. “You’ll be fine.”

Do we stay? It was Ninhursag. I recommend against it.

Iain looked at Shikarou. “Are you satisfied in regards to Evangelion and her intentions towards this island?”

He nodded. “I am. She’s a bit high and mighty compared to other legendaries I’ve met, but yes.”

Iain smiled. “No, she’s a lot high and mighty. It seems to be her way, but when you can destroy worlds I guess a little attitude might develop.” He looked at Ygerna. “I’m going to send everyone home. Do you want to go too? Otherwise you’ll just be waiting for me to return from speaking with Caspa.”

“It is my library and you are doing this as a favor to me,” Ygerna said. “What kind of friend would I be if I dumped my problem in your lap and left you alone to deal with it?”

“You wouldn’t be one we’d like,” Eve said, “that’s for certain.” She looked at Ninhursag. “I think Pandora and I should stay and see this through.”

The massive Elfqueen nodded. “Call if you need anything.” She looked around. “Let’s go home, ladies.” They vanished.

Shikarou turned to Ygerna. “Are you going to seek redress for this?”

“I am. I am not sure what I will ask for, but I certainly will. You should have not done this and hopefully next time the price you pay for what you did this time will make you consider before you act.”

Iain looked at Kasumi. “Can we go,” he asked quietly, “before things get tense again?”

She nodded. “Shikarou, I’m taking Iain to see Master Caspa.” Before he could reply she’d ushered Iain out of the clearing.

She glanced at him as they walked. “Evangelion was everything I’d imagined her to be. It is fortunate that she is a Celestial and that she means us no harm.”

Iain nodded. “Just remember the part where she said her future neutrality is up to you.”

“We will. As we don’t intend to become a threat to the world, Evangelion should never become a problem. You are blessed in that she watches over you.”

“I’m not so sure about that.” When she gave him a curious look he shrugged. “Remember that I know things.”

“I do. You have proven it to my complete satisfaction.”

“As far as Duat goes I’m aware that only Kerrik can order an orbital bombardment. Cassiopeia won’t do it without his express authorization. Nobody else will be able to convince her to override that particular protocol.”

Her eyes widened slightly. “I hadn’t been told that. Poppet made it sound like it was a weapon we had if we needed it.”

“Oops.” Iain rubbed his eyes. “I hope I’m not causing trouble.”

“No, that information could be important because if someone here tries to use that threat I should know it’s a bluff unless Kerrik agrees. His opinion is often very different from my husband’s or that of almost all of the people here.”

“Well, Theodora runs my ship, and it’s a ship, not a space station. It’s much more mobile than Cassiopeia’s station is. It’s also more heavily armed. The Theodora has the weaponry to do a lot more damage to the planet in a much shorter time. And I have Evangelion watching me. I suspect she’s well aware of the potential threat I represent, even if I am not interested in destroying the planet I happen to live on. So at that point her watching me takes on a slightly more ominous aspect.”

“You are giving away information that you don’t have to, and without a corresponding reward in return. Why?”

“I’m trying to be friendly, Kasumi. Like I said earlier, our families will probably intermarry and I’m thinking long term. I still have secrets, but I don’t keep secrets just to keep them.”

“That is very nice of you,” Kasumi led him to a large building. “This is the school’s library. It has classrooms, of course, so Master Caspa can teach while remaining close to the books he protects.” They went inside and immediately headed down some stairs. “We have to go down six floors. Master Caspa doesn’t like elevators and keeps disabling them, so we have to use the stairs,” Kasumi’s voice held a note of apology.

“I do conditioning three days a week and chase cows the other four,” Iain said. “I’ll be fine.”

“You have kept up your training?”

“We have. Indigo may have to come over a really big ditch to get to us, but they haven’t given up their claims to Texas and we’re right in the middle of the road they’ll have to take.”

They exited the stairwell into a chamber dimly lit by electric wall sconces. Kasumi stopped at a door and knocked. “Master Caspa?”

“Headmistress,” a voice said from behind them. They turned. Other than being translucent and completely white, Caspa looked like someone you’d see walking the world almost anywhere. He was short, shorter than Iain, broad and muscular with a beard and an unruly shock of shaggy hair. “How may I help you?”

“Master Caspa, this is Iain Grey. He wishes to speak with you alone about some books in your collection. I would appreciate it if you would grant his wish.”

Caspa eyed Iain. “You are a supplicant who wishes access to my library?”

“Not exactly, but I do wish to discuss some of the books you are protecting that are not part of the Moonblood library.”

Caspa smiled. “You understand the distinction.” Kasumi frowned. “I will speak with you alone. Headmistress, with your permission.”

“I will wait here for your return, Iain.”

“Thank you, Kasumi.” Caspa walked through the door Kasumi had knocked on and Iain opened it to follow, closing it behind him.

It was a nicely decorated bedroom with a warm fire burning in the fireplace. Curious, Iain reached out with his power and realized that the fire was an illusion. “Thank you for agreeing to speak with me, Clan Leader.”

“I have not been the leader of a clan for a very long time, Iain.”

“You haven’t been many things for a very long time,” Iain replied. “And some of that I’d like to try and remedy. But first, the books.”

“Yes, the books must come first.” Caspa floated to the fire and held his hands out in front of it. “It’s not real, by the way.”

“I know. I am learning magic, although slowly, and I’d wondered since we’re far underground. Scrubbers could have been put in, but you’re not fond of noisy technology, which makes it unlikely.”

“You hear the horrible noises they make too? I find the sound of electrical motors intolerable.”

“A little, but not as well as I suspect you do.” Iain rubbed his face. “Not too long ago as you measure time, Shikarou gave you a large number of books to protect. He may have told you they were a new addition to the Wolf family’s collections.”

“I remember them. They came from the fey woman, who gave them to the family.”

“Ah, there is a problem in that statement. She didn’t give them to the Wolf family. They still legally belong to her. Faelan misinterpreted something she said and thought she’s gifted them to the family.”

Caspa looked interested. “She did not? Why not? She was part of the Wolf family for some years.”

“No, she resided amongst them but never married into them or otherwise joined their ranks. In truth, the Wolf family would have been hesitant to accept her even if she’d tried. The books are her dowry and her last memories of her lost people. To her, those books are like the Moonblood library is to you. She would never have given them away.” Iain looked Caspa in the eyes. “You were given books to protect by someone did not possess them and who had no right to give them to you. Ygerna was never consulted in whether she wanted those books given into your protection and would have refused it so that she could take the books with her if she didn’t join the Wolf family. Shikarou understands this now. Please return them.”

“She does not wish me to protect them?”

“She has left the island and now resides somewhere else. She wishes her property, her knowledge to go to her and her future and not to the unearned benefit of the Wolf family.”

Caspa smiled. “Are you Tirsuli? You speak like one of us.” He gestured upwards. “None of them are Tirsuli. They dream of kingdoms and rule.”

“I’m not, but I know a lot about them and the Tirsuli are not the only people to dream of freedom. On this world is a group walking the same path that the Tirsuli do, although in their own fashion. I live amongst them.”

“Will you return and talk to me? I grow tired of listening to their prattle of kings and queens, but they are all that is here.”

“I’ll try, but right now a bunch of them aren’t that happy with me and they may hinder my return for some time.”

“Time is immaterial to me. I look forward to your return.”

Iain hesitated. “What about Ygerna’s books?”

“I feel the truth in your words, Iain Grey. I have sensed the fact that the books were not Shikarou’s to give me. Thus they are not mine to keep, although I will miss them. They are hers to take. Do you function in this as her proxy?”

“I do.”

“I will assemble her books and prepare them for transport. Come back in three days and you may receive them.”

“Thank you, Caspa.”

“Tell Ygerna that she is missed. Her viewpoint because of her race and lifespan is interesting. I miss our discussions.”

“She will undoubtedly come with me for the books so you can tell her yourself.”

Caspa looked pleased. “I shall.”

Iain took a deep breath. “Caspa, there is something I would like you to understand about me. I have an ability to see and to know things that took place far away and far from the time in which I have been alive.”

“Really? If so, you have my sympathy. That would be a heavy burden to bear and many would try to exploit such a curse.”

“It is and they have. Fortunately, my mind cannot be read and I don’t appear to break under torture.”

“It is regretful that you know torture does not work on you,” Caspa said sadly.

“I am telling you this because I know much about you, too.”

“Then you know that I will request proof of this power.” Caspa seemed amused.

“Most people do.” Iain hesitated. “You became clan leader of the Moonbloods because you had no choice.”

“That is not that uncommon. You could be guessing. Tell me something personal that no one else could know.” Caspa drifted in Iain’s direction.

“Well, others could know it, but I know that not even Kerrik knows this,” Iain said slowly, “and I only reveal it because I may be able to help. You are a female.”

Caspa’s eyes widened. He gestured at himself. “I am male.”

“You were female and a child of one of the other bloodlines of super powerful creatures on Tirsul. You had the ability to jump bodies when alive and when you knew you would die during the raid on the Moonblood library, you jumped into the body of one of the raiders to continue the fight. For thousands of years you have worn the form of your most hated enemy.”

“Your curse is indeed very powerful.” Caspa stopped moving towards Iain. “It is also accurate. How can you help?”

Iain touched his forehead and pulled a softly glowing globe of yellow light from it. “I know things about ghosts that you do not as you have never spent much time around another ghost. I offer that knowledge to you.”

Caspa reached out and palmed the globe, which sank into his skin to vanish. His eyes glowed for a second. “You are right. I can return to my true form. This will take some time to accomplish. Thank you, Iain Grey.”

“You are welcome.”

Caspa waved a hand and the door opened. “Headmistress Wolf?”

Kasumi appeared in the doorway. “Yes, Master Caspa?”

“Iain has spoken to me. His words are true. In three days, he will return to receive the books and any other things that legally belong to Ygerna of the Sidhe.”

Kasumi almost managed to hide her shock. “Yes, Master Caspa.”

Caspa smiled. “While it has been quite a long time since someone knew how to bring this to my attention, I have little tolerance for people giving me things that do not belong to them to give and I return them when I can. Please explain this to Shikarou. Friends we may be, but I will be unhappy with him if it happens again.”

“I, I will.” Kasumi still seemed a little rattled.

“For bringing this to my attention, Iain, I owe you a boon. When you are ready to claim it, you have only to tell me.”

“I am honored, Caspa. I will.”

Caspa nodded. “Be well, Iain, and remember my request to return so that we may talk.”

“I haven’t and I shall if I am allowed.”

Caspa turned and drifted through the wall as Iain looked at Kasumi. “Thanks for letting me speak to him.”

“How did you manage this? Shikarou said it was impossible.”

Iain shrugged. “Like you, I know things.” He rubbed his eyes. “Look, if I can come back, we’ll sit down and have a long talk where I’ll try to answer your questions, but right now I’m starving.”

Kasumi nodded. “I’ll take you back to your women. As for coming back, I will make sure you can. If anyone tries to give you trouble over it, please contact me immediately. I really want to have that talk.”

When they returned to the table, Ygerna looked up from where she was sipping tea with Eve. Pandora was standing nearby, but held a teacup of her own. “Everyone else has left. What was the result?”

Iain smiled at Kasumi. “Thank you for everything that you’ve done. I’ll try to schedule something in the near future for our meeting.”

She nodded. “I’ll be waiting.” She smiled suddenly. “I’ll even cook for it.” She looked around. “You’ll be leaving from here?”

“We will.”

“Then I will take my leave of you. Good day.” She bowed to everyone and then left.

Iain turned to Ygerna. “In three days we return and take possession of all of your books. You’ll have to deal with Shikarou and getting the copies destroyed on your own.”

Ygerna bounced to her feet and hugged him hard. “Thank you, Iain!”

Pandora chuckled softly. “Iain’s charm strikes again.” Iain gave her a flat look and she smiled serenely back at him. “Do we go home now?”

“We do. I’m starving.” Iain took Eve’s hand and a moment later the clearing was empty.

10/29/09 0600 Michael Ahern House, Ireland

“Where were you yesterday?”

Ciaran looked up from his computer. He was sitting on a wooden box in the barn and collating the data from the previous day’s work. “Good morning, Mr. Ahern.”

Jeremiah was dressed and had his right arm in a sling. He grunted something that could have been a greeting. “Why weren’t you here? I wanted to talk to you.”

“I’m not working for Uncle Mike and I have a job to do, so I was out doing it. It involved me not being here.”

“You have a job? Doing what?”

“My employer wants me to talk to people about buying his products and Uncle Mike introduced me to Emily Hastings. She’s my second cousin on the Ahern side of the family, I think. Anyway, I went to visit her to get a list of people who might be interested in what Iain is selling. Then we went hunting feral pokegirls to work on reducing the local threat level. We found a bunch of them and didn’t return until late last night.” He chuckled. “Aunt Linda read us the riot act over missing dinner without warning. She certainly takes her mothering seriously.”

“You actually seek out those creatures?”

“We do. We capture or kill them so they won’t be attacking the locals.” Ciaran gestured to another box where a thermos sat. “Would you like some tea?”

Ahern sat down next to the thermos but ignored it. “What do you do with the ones you catch?”

“Under Texas law, an aware pokegirl is a person but a feral one isn’t, as long as she has a standard feral state. Once she’s had sex with a human and therefore becomes aware they are once again people, with all the rights I have. I usually sell my ferals to Iain, although right now my sister has people interested in them and so if I have something she can sell, she gets it instead. They, in turn, sell them to third parties at a profit.”

“Did you capture those Wasps?”

“For the most part, yes, I did. The Wasp Queen, however, was killed.”

“Is this what you do for a living?”

“Right now it is. I also own a hundred acres of land back in Texas. My father is working it for me right now so it doesn’t lie fallow.” He frowned as Jeremiah’s eyes hardened. “I’ve heard a little bit about what my parents did in marrying without your permission or approval. But that was twenty years ago. Can’t you let it go?”

“Martha leaving killed her mother,” Ahern said flatly.

“I don’t doubt that she was sad, but I doubt she died because of it.”

“Six weeks after Martha left, we found out that Sorcha had cancer. They couldn’t do anything for her and I had to watch her die.”

“My mother would never have given anyone cancer, even if she could, which she can’t. She always spoke well of her mother and I know she wrote her several times.” He sighed. “Now I know why she cried so much when Uncle Mike visited us. Her mother’s death would have torn her heart to pieces. And you blaming her for it would have just made her pain that much worse.”

“You’ve never lost anyone you cared for, boy. You don’t understand.”

Ciaran shook his head. “I care for my women. According to some, I care for them too much. They’re my friends and my lovers. I had one named Eliana. Some Irish sailors had been captured by the Blues and then stolen away from them by some Royals. We went to bring them back so they could come back home to Ireland and, while we were dealing with a related problem, Eliana was murdered by some feral Vampires. It wasn’t that long ago and I’m still trying to come to terms with it.”

“What happened to her killers?”

Ciaran looked uncomfortable. “The Vampires had a lair in an old stone barn. I sealed it up and set it on fire, killing all of them that I could.” He looked at Ahern. “So I know what it’s like to lose someone you care about and I know how it feels to blame someone else for it. But one Vampire survived and Victoria caught her. I don’t hate her for what happened, although at the time I’d have probably killed her too. Victoria was smart enough to give me a little time before revealing to me what she’d done. So, instead I sold her to Iain and someday she’ll get bought and woken up.” Ciaran rubbed his eyes. “I shouldn’t have taken revenge on them like I did, but you never even had the option. You can’t get revenge on cancer. And in the heat of the moment, hating my parents for what happened is reasonable. But to keep that hate alive for so long?” He looked back at his grandfather. “And I just found out that my grandfather is alive. I’d like to get to know him better, but not if he’s going to hate my parents for something that isn’t their fault. I’m also not going to like you very much if you keep acting like a dick.”

Jeremiah blinked. “What?”

“Did you think I wouldn’t notice that you tried to set me against Aunt Linda? You tried to paint her old relationship with my father in the worst possible light in the hopes it would antagonize me. That’s you being a dick.”

“I don’t like the fact that you keep accusing me of things,” Jeremiah said waspishly.

“Have I said anything that was incorrect?” Ciaran chuckled. “The funny thing is that my mother found about what I did after Eliana was killed and she told me to be careful because I had her father’s temper.” Jeremiah gave him a startled look. “I haven’t seen a lot of you, but I have seen you holding a grudge forever as opposed to having my temper. I don’t hold grudges.”

“You don’t?”

“I deal with the issue and move on. If I held a grudge like you seem to, I wouldn’t have Elsa in my family and Tamsin wouldn’t have Libby, since they fought for the Blues against us when we first met and I got badly hurt during that fight. I’d have missed a very interesting woman in Elsa.”

“I should meet these women.”

“Yes, you should and we’ll take care of that when Tamsin and Libby get back. Tamsin is Captain Tamsin Baker of the British Army. She’s staying with me because the British want to know where I am. I want her with me because she’s my contact for part of the job I have to do with Iain.” Ciaran cocked his head. “I also thought, if you wanted, we’d visit your house so you can see the extent of the damage, instead of having to listen to people tell you how bad it is.”

Jeremiah looked surprised. “That’s half a day’s brisk walk.”

“There is a way around that,” Ciaran reassured him. “We can get there fairly quickly.”

“Your pokegirls again?”

“Yes.” Ciaran hesitated. “I’d like you to think about something else.”

“And what would that be,” Jeremiah asked with hint of asperity.

“When I got here, I had no idea who you were and my parents thought you were dead. So when Aunt Linda invited my family to spend Christmas with her and Uncle Mike, we didn’t know you were alive. I don’t mean to be cruel, but I’m not sure if my parents would have accepted if they’d known.” Jeremiah nodded; his face hard as Ciaran continued. “They know now and they still intend to travel here, but nobody realized you’d be staying with Uncle Mike and Aunt Linda. If you can tolerate their presence, I think they’d like to see you. If you can’t, I understand and I’ll contact them and ask them not to come.” He held up a hand as Jeremiah started to speak. “And if you tell me you can tolerate them and you’re a dick when they’re here, nothing on this planet will protect you from my anger. Until recently they were the only family I have ever known and I will protect them with everything I have.”

“You won’t have anything to do,” Elsa said as she came into the barn. “I’ll kill him before you get the chance to.” She looked Jeremiah up and down, her ears flat. “You pointed a shotgun at my male and threatened his life. Under Ciaran’s rules I should have been allowed to kill you right then.” Her eyes narrowed and she bared her teeth in a snarl that vibrated the air. “And I wanted to. You hurt Martha or Rafael and I’ll tear your guts out and let you live just long enough to feel the pain before I rip your head off.” She relaxed, her ears coming up. “And if you hurt Beibhinn, I’ll just help Neem dig a grave for you. She’ll do the rest.”

“Be nice, Elsa,” Ciaran said gently. “Mr. Ahern isn’t threatening anyone right now and we don’t hold what someone did in the past against them.” He smiled thinly. “We don’t forget it, but we don’t hold it against them.”

Jeremiah’s eyes showed he was intelligent enough to be afraid of Elsa, but his voice held no hint of what he was feeling. “What is she?”

“That’s a good question,” Ciaran said. “She lets people guess what she is. My computer,” he held it up, “can identify most pokegirls, but not my Elsa.”

She chuckled and leaned against his side for a second. “And I am most definitely yours.”

Ciaran stroked her hair and she purred. “Why are you here?”

She glanced at him. “I was asked to come tell you that breakfast is ready.” She looked at Jeremiah with neutral eyes. “You too. Understand that because Ciaran wants it, I will try very hard not to hate you, but you’re an asshole and I won’t tolerate you acting like it here.”

“Elsa, language.”

“I’m sorry, Ciaran.” She looked at Jeremiah again. “And if you think I’m a problem, you should have met Eliana. She wouldn’t have hesitated the way I did.” She blinked. “Did I just say that someone is more violent than I am?”

Ciaran chuckled, but inside he knew not to let her dwell on that question for long. “Elsa, it’s actually for the best that Jeremiah was the way he was.”

Elsa turned to stare at Ciaran. “How can you mean that?”

“If he’d been nice to us, we might have stayed with him. Then we would have been caught by surprise when the Wasps attacked his house. It would have been a much more dangerous fight and without Eriu’s help.” Ciaran got up. “And if he’d been already dead by your hand, then the Wasps wouldn’t have attacked him so we could rescue him, taking away this opportunity to get to know a man who is part of my family. On top of that, there’s no telling how long the Wasps would have been able to attack people with impunity before someone here figured out what was going on and destroyed the hive.”

Elsa snorted. “Yes there is. Considering what you had to do in order to find the hive, the Irish would have been hunting for it for years. And then the Wasps would have turned any attack into a bloodbath.” She scowled. “I still don’t believe that video of what Spirit did. Nobody should be that deadly except me.”

Ciaran went to the wash bucket. “So as unpleasant as it was, it was for the best that our first meeting with Mr. Ahern went as it did. It set the stage for all of the things that followed. Now go on ahead while I wash up.”

Her ears came around to focus on him. “Are you going to take off your shirt,” she asked coquettishly.

He gave her a stern look. “My pants are staying on no matter what. I’m hungry.”

She blew him a kiss. “I’ll bet I could get them off. I’ll bet I could get you to take them off for me.”

“I’ll bet you could too, which is why you need to get to the house.”

She grinned and sauntered past him, her tail jouncing merrily. “I’ll do it, but just so I don’t give Mr. Ahern a heart attack.”

Jeremiah gave a rusty sounding chuckle after she was gone. “Randy little thing, isn’t she?”

Ciaran busied himself washing his face and hands. “They all are, after their own fashion. Elsa is just a shameless tease too. Iain explained what their lives before joining me were probably like. It’s a wonder they’re sane at all. God did a wonderful thing in bringing them into my life, but I wish He’d seen fit to make sure they were treated better before that happened.”

Ahern got up and began washing his hands. “You tell Martha and Rafael that I’ll do my best not to cause trouble during their visit. And tell them that I do want to see them. And who is this Beibhinn that Elsa mentioned?”

“She’s my sister. Neem is her pokegirl.” Ciaran grabbed the towel to dry off. “Remind me later, Mr. Ahern, and I’ll show you pictures of everyone.”

Ahern gave him a level look for a moment. “Call me Jeremiah.”

“Thank you, I’d like that. Just understand that the women will call you whatever I do.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Ciaran handed him the towel. “As soon as you’re done let’s go meet the ladies and then we’ll eat breakfast.”

10/29/09 1215 Michael Ahern House, Ireland

They were taking a break from having Ceres walk Michael’s fields to improve his crops and catching the odd feral that popped up. Ciaran and Ceres had moved off a little ways so he could make a call.

His parents’ kitchen appeared in the hologram. Besides his parents, Beibhinn and Neem were there too, eating breakfast. Martha, who had answered his call, waved. “Good morning, Ciaran. Hi, Ceres.”

Beibhinn smiled. “It’s afternoon there, mother.”

Martha shrugged. “It’s morning here.”

Neem nodded to him. “As you can see, Beibhinn managed to get over being so Sullivan stubborn as to allow us to eat together again.” She grinned. “This is good, because I can’t keep her table manners from atrophying without her parents around to keep her under control.”

Ciaran chuckled when his sister made an indignant noise. “I’ll have to remember to call it Sullivan stubborn, Neem. That’s a good definition.”

“What are you calling for,” Rafael asked. “We enjoy your calls but there’s work to be done.”

“It’s as we figured. Jeremiah will be staying with Aunt Linda and Uncle Mike. His house is a wreck and he’s still recovering from growing back his arm. However, I’ve spoken with him and he has told me that he will, quote: ‘do his best to best not to cause trouble during your visit,’ unquote. Victoria wasn’t there to verify he was telling the truth, but I think he’s sincere. He also said that he wants to see all of you.”

Rafael looked at Martha, who frowned. “Have you told him I’m pregnant?”

“I have not told anyone here. You didn’t say I could. You want them to know, you tell them.”

Rafael looked thoughtful for a minute. “I’d appreciate if it you didn’t tell anyone. Martha and I will reveal it when we arrive. We’ve made arrangements for our workers to handle things while we’re gone. Can you arrange transportation for us on December tenth?”

“It’s just you four, right?” Rafael nodded and Ciaran continued. “That shouldn’t be a problem. You and Mother can have the spare bedroom and Beibhinn and Neem can bunk with everyone else in the barn. We can set up tents if there’s overflow. I’ll let Uncle Mike and Aunt Linda know the day you’ll be arriving.”

Martha smiled. “Thank you, Ciaran. Is there anything else?”

“No, I don’t think so. I do intend to be here for Christmas but it’s still subject to my work, I’m afraid.”

Rafael nodded but Beibhinn looked puzzled. “Why?”

“I am waiting to meet with someone,” Ciaran explained. “She’s not Christian and doesn’t celebrate Christian holidays, although she might celebrate a Celtic one that happens around the same time. But she gets to decide when we meet and I have to go. This is critical and if I refuse an invitation, I may never get another one. All I can offer is that if I do have to leave during Christmas I will come back just as soon as I can.”

“You’ll let us know if you have to leave, right,” Beibhinn asked. “Hey, if we’re there, can Neem and I go with you?”

Rafael glared at his daughter and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Ciaran was already shaking his head. “No, you can’t go. If this woman decides to see me, it will be on her sufferance and I will be expected to be on my best behavior the whole time. It’ll be nothing but business, with no fun allowed.”

“Oh.” She brightened. “Can we go hunting ferals together?”

“I can see us doing that, sis, if we have time.” He looked at Rafael. “You and Mother could come along if you want to see what it’s like.”

Rafael looked at his wife and shrugged. “No promises, Ciaran.”

“Rafael, the hog hunting is pretty good too,” Ceres noted. “We’ve seen many fat feral hogs and a few deer, but they’re protected.”

Rafael blinked and chuckled. “You’re cruel, Ceres.” He glanced at his wife, who gave him a smug look back. “Someone has been talking about how much I used to love to hunt.” He sighed and nodded. “We’ll see.”

“Then the plan is to pick you up on the tenth,” Ciaran said. “I’ll let the others know and it’ll be good to see you all again.”

“Even me,” Beibhinn asked.

“Yes. After all, Neem comes with you and I like her.”

Ciaran Sullivan

Victoria – Angel

Ceres – Tantrasaur

Elsa – Mazouku

Spirit – Astral Kentarch

Kentarch – Haunting

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