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Eve appeared and looked around before nodding to the man waiting for her. “Good morning, Jamie.” Then she nodded to the redhead standing near him. “Madison.”
Jamie eyed her curiously. “Where’s Iain?”
“I came here first to make sure there isn’t anything we should be concerned about.”
Jamie frowned and Madison nudged him. “Several people were still pissed about what happened with Master Caspa the last time they were here.”
“Ah, right.” Jamie shrugged. “That’s why Mother met with Iain at his house instead of him coming here.” He glanced at his Duelist. “Does that also explain why Kasumi wanted us here to greet Iain and his family?”
“Yes,” Madison replied. “Sorry, Eve, but Jamie’s been too busy with real work to pay attention to politics. That’s Caitlin’s job and he hasn’t been briefed. He says it makes his head hurt when she tries.”
Eve looked at her curiously. “Are you up to date on the situation?” Madison nodded. “So are we safe to visit?”
“Yes,” Madison said firmly. “It’s been long enough that everyone has moved on to other things or else we’d have come to you. Jamie’s dad isn’t mad at you and so nobody else is either.”
Eve blinked as she noticed the ornate ring on Madison’s right hand. “Nice ring. Congratulations, Madison.”
Madison’s smile was almost blinding. “Thank you.” Her smile dimmed. “He had to marry Ginevra first, but that’s just so she wouldn’t bitch forever.”
“I can hear you,” a grumpy voice sounded from outside the trees.
“I certainly hope so,” Madison said. “Ginevra’s pregnant, not that it’s made her mood any better.”
“And Caitlin,” Eve asked.
“Oh, I’ll marry her too,” Jamie replied. “I just want to wait a little bit so she doesn’t think I’m just doing it to do it and for her to realize that I actually love her. That and Dad suggested that I do this so the anniversaries aren’t all together.”
Eve chuckled. “We’re doing that too.”
Ginevra stepped out of the trees not too far from Jamie and Madison. She was just pregnant enough for her waist to have thickened slightly but otherwise the Demoness looked no different from the last time Eve had seen her. “How many wives does Iain have now?”
Eve smiled apologetically. “Honestly, I can’t tell you. It’s not that I don’t know; it’s that some of them don’t want outsiders to know so we don’t talk about it.”
“Is there some tactical advantage to outsiders not knowing,” Ginevra asked.
“They seem to think so,” Eve said. “I don’t agree, but if they don’t want others to know it’s not my place to disobey their wish.” She glanced around again and up at Caitlin circling a hundred meters overhead. “I’ll be back with Iain in a minute.” She vanished.
A moment later she was back, this time holding Iain. A second later Pandora appeared nearby. Jamie strode forward, sticking out his hand. “Iain, it’s good to see you again.”
Iain took the proffered hand. “It’s good to see you too, Jamie, Madison, Ginevra. How is everyone?”
“We’re fine. Mother Candace is pregnant again, I married Madison and Ginevra is carrying kits.”
Iain stepped back with a smile. “Well congratulations to both of you ladies.” He started to say something else and stopped as a woman with pale blue hair landed next to Jamie. “Good morning. You’re Caitlin, right? We haven’t met. I’m Iain.”
The woman looked surprised and then smiled. “Yes, I’m Caitlin. I have to say, you’re not anything like I expected.” When Iain frowned her smile grew. “I realize that Gwen is a lying Neo but she made it sound like you were nearly two meters tall and carried a flaming pitchfork that you used to poke King Shikarou in the ass with whenever you felt like it and that he liked it when you did.”
Madison burst out laughing while Jamie looked appalled. He opened his mouth only to stop when Iain raised a hand. “That’s quite an image,” he said with a chuckle, “but I am what you see before you and if I was going to go around poking people in the ass with anything, it wouldn’t be a male I’d be aiming at.”
Jamie took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You know, between the two of you Molly might just arrest us all for sedition.”
Iain looked surprised. “What on earth for?”
“Well, she’d arrest me and Caitlin for having the gall to insinuate His Majesty had gay tendencies and you for insulting father and saying his ass isn’t worth your attention. She’d get the rest of us for not jumping to my father’s defense.” Jamie smirked. “She rather likes his ass.”
“TMI,” Iain groaned. “Way TMI. While I’m sure that some of my ladies are laughing so hard that they’re crying right now, can we get on with this?”
Caitlin looked at Pandora. “I’ve met Eve, but not you. I’m Caitlin. Who are you?”
“Pandora. I’m Iain’s bodyguard today.”
Ginevra cocked her head. “Are you one of Iain’s wives?”
Pandora smiled sweetly at her. “I don’t see where that is any of your business.”
“I want to know!”
Pandora looked at Iain. He shrugged. “I’m not sure where this came from.”
“She was asking how many wives we have I first arrived,” Eve said. “I told her that some of them don’t want outsiders to know, so I couldn’t give her a number or names.”
“Ah,” Iain said. “Well then she doesn’t need to know.”
Caitlin smiled. “You do like going around poking people.”
“I’m not sure that I like doing it, I just don’t kowtow to other people’s demands without a good reason. For some reason a lot of people seem to take offense at my desire to keep my private life private.”
“That’s enough, both of you,” Jamie snapped. “Ginevra, you were completely out of line.”
The Demoness’ solid green eyes looked into Jamie’s and she rotated in place to face Iain. “Do you require an apology from me?”
Eve snorted. “If you have to ask, the answer is yes.”
Iain shook his head. “No, Ginevra, it’s not necessary. Trust me that there are times I’d like to throttle answers out of people too and I’m not allowed to.” He glanced at Eve. “Sometimes it’s even members of my family.”
“Let’s go this way,” Jamie said. “We’re going to the pokegirl center.” He glanced at Iain as they started walking down a forested path. “How are things with the Indigo League?”
“About the same as ever,” Iain said. “Their latest issue is I’m selling tamer gear in Stile to anyone who wants to buy it and not exclusively to the military. But under the accords of the latest cease fire, I can and I’ll continue to do so. It’s funny that they won’t acknowledge Texas as existing, but they’ll sign a ceasefire with us after staring at the canal for a while. Anyways, as far as my selling gear goes, their response is to try to buy all I have for sale, but I can always make more than they can purchase so that’s not working too well either.” He grinned. “But they’re welcome to continue trying.”
“Stile is the name of the town Iain’s people built on the Indigo side of the Louisiana Canal,” Caitlin said when Jamie looked blankly at Iain. “It’s spelled S-t-i-l-e.”
Iain glanced at her and then looked at Jamie. “It’s still on my land and Lucy named it that because she’s hoping it’ll be a bridge between Texas and Indigo.”
Caitlin frowned. “Lucy?”
Iain smiled thinly. “I guess your spies still have work to do. Lucy is a member of Shield’s city council.”
“So she’s part of the command elements of the Sisterhood of the Thorn,” Caitlin said.
Iain chuckled. “The existence of the Sisterhood isn’t a secret, Caitlin and their presence in Shield isn’t one either. As for whether or not Lucy is part of the Sisterhood’s command team, I’d have to say that sounds a lot like a fishing expedition on your part since you didn’t know who Lucy was in the first place.” Habits die hard and after three hundred years of keeping the Sisterhood’s existence a secret, Lucifer wasn’t comfortable letting people know exactly who the leadership personnel were. Iain didn’t have a problem with it and he certainly wasn’t going to betray his allies, especially any who he was sleeping with. “However, the fact that she spends a lot of time at my place and she’s not running for reelection kind of suggests the fish aren’t biting and you need to try your luck someplace else.” He smiled when a look of frustration slid over her face. “There are a lot of people at my house who like to routinely use truth spells. I’ve gotten used to sidling around answers to aggravate them.”
“So why is this Lucy spending a lot of time at your place?”
“She and Eve are buddies from way back and she’s easy on the eyes. If it wasn’t for that, I’d have named Stile something far different and far less hopeful.”
“What would you have named it,” Madison asked curiously.
“I’d have wanted something unique and descriptive, but Toad Suck is already taken.”
Jamie blinked at him. “It is?”
Iain smiled for a second. “It’s a town in Arkansas. It’s probably abandoned, but I kind of hope that Indigo had the sense of humor to make it a regional headquarters.” His smile vanished. ‘But so far Indigo seems to a place be without much humor or goodwill. On the other hand Sunshine has gotten a lot friendlier since the Wasp incident in Mexico City a few months ago.”
Jamie frowned. “I didn’t hear about that. Caitlin?”
Caitlin smiled. “Nobody is sure what led up to the conflict, but three months ago two huge Wasp nests collided on the north side of Mexico City. The ensuing battle leveled blocks and killed most of the people living in that portion of the city. The queens of both hives became involved and one was killed. The surviving queen absorbed the rest of the foreign hive into her forces and built a nest on the shore of Lake Guadalupe on the northernmost portion of the city. Immediately her Wasps began hunting throughout the area for food and breeding material and the people in Mexico City were easy prey. Most of the ones who survived and weren’t taken fled. The Sunshine military attacked the hive on multiple occasions and reduced the number of Wasps by an estimated seventy to eighty percent. On their last assault they found the hive empty and abandoned. Nobody knows where the Wasps went. The casualties of the Sunshine Army were horrific. They lost fewer people to the Wasps before they attacked.”
“The Wasps went west,” Eve said quietly, “and settled near Vicente Guerrero Lake in Tamaulipas.”
Caitlin looked surprised. “How do you know that?”
“We were monitoring the situation. When the hive moved, Kerrik and I had plans to mousetrap and destroy them if they came into Texas,” Iain said. “When the nest went west instead of east, we tracked them until they settled down and then I informed the Sunshine government about where they were. The Sunny government hasn’t seen fit to do anything to them since, but their military is watching the region. Sunshine appreciated the show of good faith and has been purchasing our satellite intelligence of the nest and the surrounding area ever since.”
A solidly built building appeared at the end of the path. It had the standard pokeball sign over the front door but was otherwise undecorated. Jamie stopped and turned to Iain. “There’s one small problem.”
Iain sighed. “I’ve learned there usually is. What is this one?”
“There’s a regulation requiring that anyone using or purchasing taming equipment has to be a tamer in Haven.”
Iain shook his head. “Ah, yes, one of the Candace Rules.” When Madison looked puzzled, Iain smiled. “Candace is the one who got Shikarou to put that rule into place. She also got him to put some others about pokegirl treatment that I mostly agree with, but this one is silly.”
Jamie smiled. “It’s just so we know who is a tamer and who isn’t. It’s not really that unreasonable.”
“Of course you don’t think it is since you’re a part of the government. In my opinion, if you let a government make a list of people for any reason they’ll abuse it eventually,” Iain said. “In this case it gives you a group of people to press gang if you need more troops.”
“We’ve never done that and never would,” Jamie protested.
Iain shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll take your test. You can’t conscript me and you can’t force me to become a citizen of Haven. Right now you have what I want and I don’t see where I can get around it, can I?”
“No,” Jamie said. “But I’ll try to make it as painless as possible.”
“Speaking of painless, do I have to give a blood sample?”
“It’s recommended, but no, it’s not required.”
“Then I’ll decline that portion of the process,” Iain said. “If you wanted to you could have easily already lifted my DNA from some of the cups I’ve used during visits with some of your family for analysis.”
“You’re pretty paranoid,” Caitlin observed.
“In my experience, Caitlin, they are out to get me. Some of them have even gotten me, at which point things started to really go badly for them.”
Jamie opened the door. “How’s Ygerna?” When Iain raised an eyebrow at the sudden change of topic, he looked slightly embarrassed. “I never really liked what was happening to her. It started before I was born so I didn’t understand the whole story, but she’s always been nice to me. In return, I tried to be nice to her.”
Pandora nodded. “I have heard her say that you were one of the few Wolf family members that she respected and still does.”
Jamie made a face. “It’s nice to hear that she respects me, but it’s a shame that she doesn’t feel that way about more of my family.”
“You can’t choose your blood relatives,” Iain said as he went inside, followed quickly by Pandora and Eve. “All you can do is deal with them and love them even when you don’t like them very much.” He froze just inside the door with a look of shock on his face.
Pandora instantly shouldered him aside. “What’s wrong,” she asked as her eyes swept the room for threats.
Iain closed his eyes and shuddered before taking a deep breath and stepping forward. “Nothing is wrong. It is just my mind playing tricks on me,” he said quietly.
Eve followed him in and blinked at the pokegirl behind the counter. “Goddess,” she breathed, “she looks just like Scheherazade did when we first met.”
Jamie frowned. “Oh, that’s Danica. She’s one of my sisters out of Pythia.”
The Dire Wolf bobbed her head at Jamie. “Good morning, Jamie. I’ve got room twelve set up as you asked.” Her ears flicked as she shifted her steady gaze to Iain. “Can I help you sir?”
“I was just kind of surprised to see you working the counter here,” Iain answered. “As for helping me, thank you but no. May I ask why you work at a pokegirl center?”
Danica laughed. “My mother and I agree that too many people on this island have Prince or Princess as a first name and don’t do much so I’m working on my degree in medicine with a specialization in pokegirl science.”
“So what, you’re an intern?”
“No, working the counter allows me to get some practical experience from treating injured girls as they come in and it gives me some spending money that I earned instead of being given.”
“Is there a problem,” Jamie’s voice was curious. “And who is Scheherazade?”
“She was my Dire Wolf,” Iain answered. “And no, there is no problem.”
Danica’s ears pricked. “You had one of my breed in your harem?”
“I did. She died along with four other members of my family trying to save my life.”
Danica’s ears canted sideways. “She died trying to save your life?”
Iain gave her a wry smile. “It’s a long story but I’m not completely sure I survived that day.”
Eve grabbed his arm as Danica’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Stop confusing her, Iain.” She smiled at the Dire Wolf. “No, he’s not making sense and no, I’m pretty sure that questioning him further will not help to clarify what he’s babbling about.” She looked at their host. “Jamie, let’s move along please.”
Jamie looked at Madison. “Take them to room twelve. I’ll be there in a minute.” He turned to Danica as Madison and Caitlin escorted Iain and his group down the hall and Ginevra took station near him. “Did that make any sense to you?”
Danica shook her head. “No, it didn’t make the slightest bit of sense, brother dear.”
Jamie dropped his voice. “Is he the one you’ve been looking for?”
The Dire Wolf looked startled and then thoughtful as her eyes unfocused. Finally she shook her head again. “No, he is not. I can feel the touch of his Dire Wolf on his soul and she’s not done with him yet.” She blinked and her ears went flat. “And she’s possessive and just warned me off in no uncertain terms. Not even mother has her power level.” Her eyes narrowed slightly. “She evolved. We can evolve and that bitch won’t tell me how.”
“Are you aware how creepy it is when you talk to spirits I can’t see?”
Danica patted him on the shoulder. “Trust me when I say it’s an overrated power. Most of them are whimpering weaklings with stupid wants.” She licked his face and laughed when he sputtered and grabbed some paper towels from the counter to wipe off. “Go tend to your guests. Too many of our parents want him kept happy towards us. What did he do that’s so special?”
Jamie snorted. “He’s the one that made the Louisiana Canal and he did it by getting a Legendary pokegirl to do the digging for him.”
“Wow,” Danica eyed the hallway. “I wonder if he could use two Dire Wolves.”
Jamie just laughed and headed down the hall. When he entered room twelve, Iain was sitting at a desk with a tablet in his hand. Ginevra and Caitlin were against the far wall while Eve and Pandora stood on either side of the doorway. Madison smiled at Jamie. “I already set up his tamer account and he should be done with his test in a couple of minutes.”
Iain handed her the tablet as she looked back down at him. “Done.”
Madison grinned and plugged a small device into the tablet. “How do you think you did?”
“A hundred percent,” he replied. “It wasn’t as simple as the one I stuck Faelan with in To Boldly Go, but it’s not nearly as hard as the breeder test I had Nicodemus take.” He watched her eyes widen in disbelief and chuckled. “Or maybe I just saw them take their tests and wrote what I perceived.”
Jamie laughed. “I’m not sure there’s a way to reassure Madison at this point. Either is kind of scary.”
Iain shrugged. “I don’t know if this will help, but I agree with Ygerna. I like you and your family, Jamie. I like a lot of other people here, but to be honest I don’t have any friends here. Your family is fairly clannish.”
Ginevra scowled. “Is there any way to prove whether or not you see or make what you’ve written?”
Iain looked at Jamie. “Kerrik asked for and I gave him a copy of the stories I’d written along with those of a bunch of other authors. Did he ever pass those on to your family?”
Jamie shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of. “
Iain sighed. “I don’t know if I should give them to you. I’ll have to talk to Kerrik first.” He looked at Ginevra. “I wrote about Jamie, you, Madison, Caitlin and Paige. It’s how I knew Monica and her family when we met. I’d like to think that if I created what I wrote, Graeme’s twee would have released Kerrik from his oath and Graeme wouldn’t be dead and Celestine stuck by herself here with their daughters.”
The silence was suddenly so complete that Iain could hear Jamie swallow heavily.
Ginevra hissed. “You are like the Old One, only you are not as old as he is. Be his friend, Jamie. Be the friend of this Not Old One.”
“Why don’t you try being his friend,” Caitlin asked.
“Jamie first,” Iain said. “That way there aren’t any misunderstandings by anyone about what Gin’s intentions are towards me.”
Madison snickered as Ginevra snarled. “I would never leave Jamie until he has acknowledged that I rule this family.”
Eve grinned. “So Jamie can admit you’re in charge even while Caitlin and Madison are kicking your ass?” Caitlin laughed, while Jamie and Madison smiled.
“That is not what I meant!”
“In a good family,” Eve said, “there is give and take between all members and nobody is in charge all of the time.” Her smile faded. “I forgot that and it cost me my position as maharani and a good deal of Iain’s trust for a while. At the time I was angry and hurt, but after some time to reflect on the events leading up to his decision, Iain was right. Don’t make the same mistake, Ginevra.”
The tablet chimed softly and Madison looked at it. “Hey, Iain’s right. He got a perfect score.”
“Is there a prize for that,” Iain asked.
Caitlin eyed him curiously. “Have you done this before?”
“I’ve taken the tamer and tradesman exams in Ireland and got a perfect score on each of them. I got extra money, a second tier pokegirl and April out of the tamer’s exam.” He glanced to his right. “And since the second tier pokegirl issue was when Eve tried to sneak into my harem, replacing the second tier I was supposed to get, I guess I got her too.”
Madison gaped at him. “She tried to sneak into your harem? What happened?”
“It was a mistake,” Eve said. “Iain hurt me, I hurt him and we made up.”
“It was a mistake,” Iain agreed, “but I wouldn’t have accepted her any other way. I thought I was allergic to Celestials before I met Eve. Under any normal circumstance I wouldn’t have let her within a kilometer of me.”
“And now,” Jamie asked.
“Well I do have this rash,” Iain said with a smile. “But if I try to blame it on Celestials there are a whole bunch of women I sleep with,”
“Used to sleep with if you continue this line of thought,” Pandora interrupted loudly.
“And that’s why I’m sure that the rash has nothing to do with them,” Iain finished. “Even if it does.”
Madison giggled. “It’s obvious how much you all care for each other.”
Iain turned in his chair and regarded Eve and Pandora fondly. “We’ve been through a lot and some of it was no fun at all, but I have no regrets about the women who have decided to grace me with their presence in my life. In that regard, I’m probably the luckiest man alive.” He blinked and started chuckling.
“What’s so funny,” Caitlin asked.
“I just had an epiphany,” Iain replied.
Eve cocked her head curiously. “Do tell.”
He smiled. “I just realized that somebody someplace seems to think I’m always allergic to Celestials. Every one of you has either tricked her way into my life or been forced in by something or someone. I wasn’t happy at the time, but today I still don’t regret anything about what happened.”
Eve frowned. “What about Scheherazade?”
Iain smiled. “OK, you got me on her. Although she did trick me into a permanent psychic bond when I had categorically stated that I didn’t want one with her.”
“What about Lucy,” Pandora gave him a curious look.
“We all are aware that Lucy started gracing us with her presence because of her previous relationship with Eve.” Iain flashed a grin. “I’m just the dick that comes with Eve, remember.”
Madison frowned. “What about Pandora?”
The Archangel gave her a frosty glare. “That’s none of your business.”
“Pandora wasn’t a Celestial when we met,” Iain said quietly. “And her past still haunts her sometimes so I’m not going to discuss it with you, Madison.”
Jamie looked startled. “She was a Fallen Angel?”
Iain glanced at Pandora, who gave a tiny nod. “She was.”
“And you helped her to find what she needed to become an Archangel? That’s great.” Jamie grinned at them both. “Uncle Faelan has been trying for years to find what Derdekea needs. So far they haven’t determined what it is.”
“It is entirely possible that she is content as she is and so may never evolve,” Eve said.
“That’s all well and good,” Pandora almost growled. “But we’re here for the pokegirl, not to discuss my past.” She looked at Iain, “and we are not going to do that with outsiders.”
“I would never do that to you,” he reassured her. “So where are the pokeballs?”
“I’ll get them,” Jamie said as he pushed away from the wall.
“I want to try an experiment with Iain,” Pandora announced.
Jamie stopped. “What?”
“Every time Iain adds to the harem, it is someone who is not a standard representative of whatever breed she represents and yet she is a good fit for him and for us. I do not know if it is just the way his fortunes run, if it is because he likes women who don’t fit the standard breed molds or if it is some new author ability we haven’t identified.” She looked at Jamie. “Do any of the ones you are proposing to show have unusual physical traits such as extra limbs or eyes, are chibi, have very nonstandard personality traits or are Splices of any type?”
Jamie frowned and accessed his pokedex. “None of them are physically unusual and there aren’t any chibi in this lot.” He glanced at Pandora and pressed more buttons. “In fact, there aren’t any chibi pokegirls of this breed in storage.” He looked up. “As for personality, they’re all feral so that can’t be told until they’re tamed. And there aren’t any Splices.”
“Very good,” Pandora said. “I would like you to take all of the ones you wanted us to preview and put them in a box so that Iain can select one pokeball. I suspect she will be the one we will take.”
Eve had been staring at Pandora in surprise but now she turned to Iain with a speculative expression. Her eyes glowed for a second. “I agree. We should do that.”
“Cool,” Jamie said. “I’ll need to find a box.”
“Gee, no pressure,” Iain said.
Eve shrugged. “Pandora has asked for a valid test. If this works, should we add more girls, you could try to pick one from storage and see what happens.”
“Look, I’m only doing this because you and the rest of my family ganged up on me and insisted I needed her. Hopefully this is the only time we’ll be playing this game.”
“It worked out well with Hathor and Irena,” Eve pointed out as Jamie left the room.
“Except for the little fact that they both died not too long after they joined us,” he snapped.
“That wasn’t your fault,” Eve said firmly.
“That’s debatable. Remember how Kelvin gave himself the Bloody Flu because he believed he’d catch it?”
I really don’t think this conversation should continue in front of strangers, Theodora said to Iain.
From the startled expressions he saw, she was also talking to Eve and Pandora. He looked around the room. Madison looked fascinated and Caitlin’s expression suggested she was memorizing every word uttered. Only Ginevra looked bored and Iain knew that was probably a pose. I agree and thank you for intervening, he replied. “Fine, we’ll try it and see what happens.”
Jamie came in pushing a cart full of pokeballs. With him was a Unicorn with ankle length blonde hair wearing a simple knee length blue dress. That is Poppet Wolf, Iain said to Eve and Pandora. “Good morning, Poppet.”
She smiled. “Hello Iain. So you can identify me.”
“You and Branwyn aren’t completely identical,” Iain said. “Your carriage and gait are very different from hers and you like a floral perfume that she hasn’t ever worn around me.”
“Being able to tell that is kind of creepy,” Madison said.
“It’s the little details that kill you,” Iain responded with a smile.
Poppet eyed him curiously. “How is my carriage and gait different from Branwyn’s?”
Iain shrugged. “You’ve got three hundred years of being the biggest baddest bitch around and it’s given you an arrogance that few other pokegirls besides Legendary ones have. It shows in your walk and stride and you’ve never seen fit to hide it.”
Poppet chuckled. “Sometimes I wonder if your descriptions that sound complementary merely conceal barbed insults at whomever you are describing.”
“Sometimes, but not when he describes you,” Pandora said quietly.
Poppet glanced at the Archangel. “Why would I be different?”
“You’re one of his favorites. He might tease you if you allow it, but he won’t criticize you to outsiders. Jamie and his women might be part of your family, but they’re not part of ours. Ergo Iain wouldn’t do that to you here.”
“What makes you think I am one of his favorites? I am happily married to Shikarou.”
“I have read his stories and seen how he portrays you. He would do much for you that he would do for few others on this island.” Pandora regarded Iain for a second and seemed amused at his uncomfortable expression. “He would do even more for you than he would be willing to admit to himself.”
“That’s enough,” Iain said.
“Does he have other favorites on the island?”
“Pandora,” Iain said warningly. “I said that’s enough.”
“If she can get Kerrik to give her a copy of the site rip she will know, Iain,” Pandora replied. “And if not, she can bargain with us for a copy of it.” She gave him a sly look. “And other than her I didn’t tell her who your favorites are. That’s something they’ll have to figure out all on their own.”
Iain regarded her for a long moment before turning to Jamie and the cart of pokeballs. “Is this all of the Glasgow Joys that you wanted me to examine? For Pandora and Eve’s experiment they’ll probably all need to be in one container.”
It is a good thing that I know you planned out this discussion with Pandora for Poppet’s benefit the next time you saw her, otherwise I would be furious with Pandora, Theodora said in his mind. And since we already know that Kerrik will not give up a copy of the stories, you are setting them up to negotiate with us for them. Her tone was satisfied. As usual, you are very sneaky.
They would have found about the site rip eventually and been totally pissed with us if we had tried to hide its existence. They’ll be much less upset if I make them pay through the nose for it before I share it with them.
And once they know more about you from the stories what will happen if Shikarou sends your favorite women to you in an attempt to curry some kind of favor from you? Theodora’s curiosity was almost palpable.
If he’s that dumb then I will enjoy the experience and see what fun I can have with it.
You would poach his women if the opportunity arose?
Jamie nodded. “That’s all of the feral NurseJoys that we recovered from the Zombabe infested Glasgow. There were only a couple of hundred of them. Most of them would have been out during the magical festival to deal with the inevitable people who managed to get hurt.”
Iain chuckled as he examined the cart of pokeballs. As you are well aware, I would not turn down a gift of that magnitude, no, not while we are building our family up. And if someone offers you something on a silver platter and you accept it, is it theft? He looked at Eve. “So I just choose one? What happens if I don’t like her?”
“Then our theory isn’t viable and we go back to the old way of going ball by ball using the standard process of elimination you used when you found Hathor.”
“Who is that and Irena,” Madison asked curiously.
“Hathor was a Milktit and Irena was a Chibi Night Nurse,” Eve supplied. “They both were killed during the same attack in which Scheherazade died. April got Hathor through the confiscated and condemned lists of pokegirls and Iain selected her out of a group of over a dozen choices. Irena chose Iain during a Sadie Pokens.”
“How was she different?”
“She had needle sharp horns two meters wide and if you cut them they regenerated the next time she was healed or grew back in a couple of weeks if you didn’t.”
Poppet blinked. “That sounds impractical in bed.”
“That’s Iain,” Eve said with a smile. “He turns impractical into an asset.” Her smile vanished. “Is that your choice?”
Iain was holding a pokeball. He shook his head, still looking at it. “No, there’s something that doesn’t feel right about this one.” He tossed the ball to Jamie.
Jamie frowned. “It doesn’t feel right? How does it feel?”
“Something isn’t right about it,” Iain said. “Either it isn’t a NurseJoy or,” he shrugged. “The label might have been deliberately or accidentally changed on it.”
“Why would someone do that,” Madison was looking at the pokeball her husband held.
“It could be an accident, some kind of pokegirl who is in hiding, the result of someone sophisticated stealing the original pokegirl and leaving something he didn’t want in her place, a spy pokegirl nobody was supposed to identify or it could even be a Legendary from that world who was using the ball to hide or move around without being bothered,” Iain said. “That could be another Macavity or Evangelion.”
“Don’t proceed until I return.” Poppet snatched the pokeball from Jamie and vanished.
Eve grinned. “There’s that arrogance Iain mentioned in her automatic assumption we’d obey her.”
“In this we will,” Iain said, “unless she’s gone for too long.”
Poppet appeared less than five minutes later. “How were you able to do that? I had to do a deep scan of the ball’s contents to discover what you were suggesting was right.”
“What was wrong with the pokeball,” Eve asked.
“It was a Glasgow Joy, but she had been bitten by a Zombabe and was past the time at which she could be saved,” Poppet explained. “As soon as we get done here, all of these will get a cleaning cycle to cure anyone else that might be in a similar situation and can be helped.”
“I wonder who put her in a pokeball,” Jamie wondered out loud. “Twelve hours would have put her past the time Father found out what was going on.”
“She might have done it herself,” Poppet said. “After she realized that she couldn’t cure her own infection in the hopes that it could be done before she was released again.” She looked at Iain. “How could you tell that something was wrong with her?”
He shrugged. “It just felt like something was off with her ball.”
“Do you get these feelings often?”
He shrugged again, looking into the cart full of pokeballs and stuck his arm into the collection of colored spheres. “Sometimes.”
“Are you going to explain any better than that,” Poppet asked with a hint of asperity in her voice.
He didn’t stop feeling around in the pokeballs. “Are we fucking?” Madison gasped and the echo suggested she wasn’t the only person to do so.
Poppet looked startled and then angry. “No,” she napped.
“Then that’s your answer,” he replied as he pulled his arm out of the pile. He was clutching a pokeball. “All right, Eve, here’s my choice.” He turned to Poppet. “Yes, that was extremely rude and no, I am not going to apologize. People I am personal with get to ask me questions that are that personal and we are not so you do not.” He smiled thinly. “And only people I’m very close with get to use that tone with me.”
“We do?” Eve was smiling as she asked the question.
“Sometimes,” Iain conceded.
“Seldom,” Pandora corrected.
“Very well, you seldom get to use that tone with me.” Iain rubbed his eyes with his free hand. “It’s still better than never.”
Poppet watched him for a moment, her eyes neutral. “Not many people would treat me as you have today, Iain.” Her voice was as neutral as her eyes.
“Normally I’d say that I’m just a breath of fresh air for some people,” Iain said, “but you interviewed me to see if I knew things about you that nobody else did. I proved I did to your satisfaction. You should have learned at that time that I am impertinent. If you’re going to take offense at my pointing out our relationship has definite limits, then you’re going to take offense, no matter how I tell you no. Rude, polite, angry, cheerful, jokingly, it won’t matter. You’re not used to being told no, especially not by people who know you as well as I do. And yet, I am still telling you no, even when I know full well how long a memory you have and how vindictive you can be. I don’t think you’ll be vindictive towards me, but that is, as always, a calculated risk, just like it was when I told Kasumi that it just might turn into a race as to whether she could kill me before I got to her if she decided I was a threat to the Wolf family.”
Poppet stared at him. “You told Kasumi that? To her face?”
“I did. For the most part I’m honest to people who are being honest to me even if they don’t like my honesty. She was about as happy to be told the truth as you just were, but she got over it fairly quickly and it wasn’t enough to stop her growing relationship with Eve.”
“You said you were honest for the most part. Does that mean you’d lie to some people who are being honest to you?”
Iain smiled. “Poppet, Kerrik can’t lie to me but I would lie my ass off to him if it keeps the threat he represents to me and mine minimized.”
The Unicorn started laughing. Her laughs grew until tears glittered in her eyes. Finally she got the laughter under control and it dwindled to chuckles. “I’d do that too,” she admitted.
“Any person with half a clue would. Besides Kerrik being unable to lie and him telling people everything that pops into his head are two very different things,” Iain said. He held up the pokeball. “Well, Eve?”
The Megami-Sama shrugged. “This is your use of whatever power you have. Open it and find out. NurseJoys have a reduced feral state, so you should be safe.”
“Why do I have this sudden urge to draw my rifle,” Pandora asked nobody in particular. Madison and Caitlin laughed while Poppet smiled and Jamie snickered.
“Even if she does attack him,” Eve pointed out, “a NurseJoy isn’t much stronger than a regular human. He’ll be fine.”
Iain grumbled something under his breath and activated the pokeball, aiming it in front of him. The pokegirl who materialized was his height and curvy, with waist length black hair and bright blue eyes. She was also nude and covered in soapy water which ran down her body in rivulets onto the floor. She stared at Iain for a second, her eyes wide. “NO BITE!” She turned to present her right side to him and folded her leg as she lifted her right knee to her left shoulder before delivering a side kick to his throat that smashed him away from her. The ball popped free and she grabbed it out of the air and activated it to disappear into a red cloud of energy and vanish.
“Damnit, Eve!” Pandora shoved away from the wall but stopped when Eve teleported from where she was standing to Iain’s side and knelt. “You knew not to say it would be safe. How badly is he hurt?”
Light flared from Eve’s hands. “His throat was crushed, but he will be all right.”
Iain sat up, coughed violently for a moment and spat blood. His voice was hoarse but strengthened as he spoke. “Well, her form was excellent.”
Jamie grinned. “Are you talking about her figure or how she executed that kick?”
Poppet giggled. Everyone stared at her and she smiled. “It was funny.”
“I just don’t remember you being this relaxed around strangers,” Jamie said quietly. “Not that I’m complaining, Mother.”
“As Iain just reminded me, he isn’t exactly a stranger. He knows me better than anyone except perhaps Shikarou. I don’t need to keep up my walls with him and, by extension, his family.”
“You don’t really need to keep your walls up anymore here,” Iain said. “This isn’t Blue three hundred years from now and in Haven you’re a princess. You even have friends here.”
“Am I your friend, Iain?”
Iain shook his head. “No. Everybody here has been busy keeping me at arm’s length. I don’t have any friends here, Poppet, but I wouldn’t mind some and I wouldn’t mind you, among some others, as a friend. Kasumi and Eve seem to be becoming friends so I know it’s possible. I haven’t had that much interaction with people here outside of the people who keep an eye on me during my not so frequent visits. And they change almost every time I travel here. It’s like someone is deliberately trying to keep me from making any friends here, but that couldn’t be what was actually going on, now could it?”
“You’ve been kind of pissing a lot of people off during most of your visits,” Jamie pointed out.
“Yeah, but that’s only because several of my last visits have involved me having to clean up your family’s messes and, unfortunately, having to rub their noses in it while doing so. If it happened to me as much as I’m doing it to you, I’d be furious about it unless they were right.” He shrugged. “I was right, but that might not matter here.”
Poppet giggled again and Jamie looked at her curiously. “What?”
“You didn’t catch the pun,” she said with a broad smile. “We’re the Wolf family and he’s rubbing our noses in what we did wrong.”
Jamie looked at Iain. “Was that intentional?” Iain just smiled as Eve pulled him to his feet. “Oh, crap.”
“That would be what he was rubbing your noses in,” Pandora said.
Jamie groaned as Madison snickered. “So, are you keeping that NurseJoy?”
“I suspect she was attacked while bathing by Zombabes and had the presence of mind to escape into her pokeball and then went feral in it,” Eve said. “I didn’t see any bite marks and, considering her state of dress, they would have been hard for me to miss.” Madison snickered again. “And, while feral, she remembered her fear and nearly killed Iain so she could escape back into her pokeball.” She shot her husband a look and he smirked at her. “Of course he wants her.” She gave him an odd glance. “Have you ever met a pokegirl you haven’t wanted to have sex with?”
“Aglaii comes immediately to mind.”
“Considering what she did to you I can understand that one completely,” Eve said. “I’d have killed her even if you did want her.”
“Good. I’d be nuts to want anything to do with that whore.”
Poppet looked surprised. “You want us?” She waved a hand around the room.
“Don’t ask that question,” Pandora said grimly. “Never ask that question. He might answer it truthfully and then where would we be?”
“I’m taking this NurseJoy,” Iain said loudly to Jamie in a deliberate attempt to stop the current line of conversation. His voice dropped to normal. “What’s the price?”
“For you, she’s free. We’re just trying to find homes for them,” Jamie said. “If you insist on paying something for her you could take three or four more and find them homes in Texas. We just want them in the population reproducing somewhere.”
Iain looked at Eve. “Well?”
She frowned for a moment. “You keep that one since we’re adding her to the family. I’ll take a dozen, Jamie. I should be able to get them to the right people in the next few days. Are they all feral?”
“Yeah. The ones we got from Glasgow who weren’t feral are already all out and in the general population.”
Something occurred to Iain. “What about the Elfqueens?”
Jamie looked at Poppet, who frowned and then shook her head. “I hadn’t thought about them but it’s unlikely that any of them, feral or aware, were released. We all know they won’t be welcome here. Do you want them?”
“Yes. We’ll take responsibility for them.” Iain reached out through is bond. Ninhursag, I’ve been offered all of the Elfqueens from the Glasgow haul. As I suspected, they hadn’t been released to keep from pissing off Shikarou’s Elfqueens.
He felt sadness in her reply. I hadn’t thought about it but it makes sense. You do realize that at least some of them will be feral, but I want all of them to have the chance to join us here. We could use their power, but even a light feral state is still feral and they would have problems making an informed choice. Are you willing to bed them to awaken their minds and to bond those that wish to stay to us?
Not all at once, but yes I am and I’m willing to release them if they want to leave. “How many are there?”
“I’m not sure,” Jamie said. “I’ll have to check the inventory.” He started for the door. “I’ll be right back.”
“Jamie?” He stopped and looked back at Iain. “It doesn’t really matter how many there are or if they’re feral or not. They shouldn’t have to spend the next forever in stasis. Just get them please.” He waited until Jamie was gone before turning to Poppet. “Are there any other breeds that would have been exiled in stasis?”
She frowned. “Like what?”
“Oh, say Unicorns and Alaka-Whams?”
Poppet snorted. “Gwyneth and Lynn are the insecure ones. All of the aware Unicorns are out as are all of the aware Alaka-Whams. Their combat potential was too great to ignore. And the ferals are being released as interested tamers become available.”
Iain nodded. “We need to remember that while ferals are becoming a problem everywhere, the ones you have in stasis are at least partially educated and could prove useful in the general population.”
“You also need to remember that they’re conditioned to believe the lies about pokegirls being nonhuman and we don’t want to perpetuate those myths,” Poppet said. “So they are a mixed blessing overall.”
“They can fight and they can teach their people how to use them effectively to fight,” Iain countered. “They will also be able help their Texans with any local ferals they capture too. And most Texans will be able to help the girls work past their personal issues about their humanity.”
“We still call those people tamers because we haven’t come up with a better word,” Poppet said. “Have you?”
“I haven’t thought about it, but I’ll see what I can do. Local pokegirls tend to call them, regardless of gender, males.”
“What do you call yourself,” Poppet asked.
“Iain,” Iain said with a grin. “But if everyone had their own Iain it would be really confusing for me.” His grin widened. “And the world would be a really peculiar place.”
Jamie came back with a duffel bag. “In here are a baker’s dozen Glasgow Joys and all of the Elfqueens in storage.” He shook his head and looked at Poppet. “There were fifty two of them. We shouldn’t be letting Lynn and Gwyneth’s issues keep us from deploying that much firepower out for of use just because they’re stupid about Father’s love for them.”
Poppet shrugged but it was Iain who answered as Eve took the duffel. “It’s not you or Poppet that’s doing it, Jamie. It’s Shikarou catering to their paranoia or perhaps he feels they could be right and in either case it isn’t going to change any time soon.” He bobbed his head in a bow. “I want to thank all of you for tolerating us during our visit. I know I can sometimes come across as an asshole, so thanks for not tossing us out.”
Poppet got up and moved to stand in front of him. “Iain, are we welcome at your home?”
“Within certain limits, of course.”
“If the unthinkable happened and we had to flee Haven, would everyone here be welcome on your land?”
Iain nodded. “Yes.”
“And this is true even though we both know that Shikarou might not extend the same help to you if you were in need, isn’t it?”
“Yes. But I have other,” he began.
Poppet laid a finger on his lips, stopping him. “The fact that you have other places to escape to doesn’t matter, Iain. I know you’d help us. Kasumi knows you’d help us. Helen should know you’d help us. Branwyn and Bellona should also know that you’d help us. And finally, Shikarou knows you’d help us and doesn’t like the fact that you would even though he probably wouldn’t help you. On top of that, you and yours are cleaning up messes that we caused and you shouldn’t have to deal with and while we’re not happy at the time about it, in the long run we do appreciate your aid in these matters. You and yours would have to cause far more trouble than you have before your visits would no longer be welcome.” He kissed her finger and she jerked it off of his mouth. Her expression was a curious blend of amusement and annoyance. “Stop that.”
“No. Before you cut me off I was going to point out that I have other people, such as Ygerna and her people or the entire Sisterhood of the Thorn, which Shikarou might be uncomfortable letting near his throne, but I understand what you’re saying.”
“How does she fare?”
Iain rolled his shoulders uncomfortably. “She’s OK.”
“What is it that you’re avoiding mentioning?”
Poppet smiled suddenly. “I really doubt that it is more complicated than I have just learned that you want to have sex with more than just pokegirls. Is that it?”
Eve coughed in an attempt to hide her laughter. “We really need to be going.”
“I have one more question. How does my grandson fare and might I come visit him?”
Iain blinked. “All three of the kids are doing well and you’d really need to contact Monica and see if she’s amenable to a visit before you check with us since she’s really the person you should deal with about James.”
“Three children? I thought she and Camille had only one child each.”
“Undine delivered, so now James and Michael have a sister named Jessica who is named after Monica’s mother.”
“Is she human?”
Iain smiled. “Considering I believe pokegirls are human, that’s an obvious yes, but no, she isn’t a Neo Iczel like her mother.”
“Mother, James isn’t really my son. She used some other Jamie’s DNA.”
“I know, Jamie, but in the confusing world we live in that child’s DNA could well be close enough for me. You certainly haven’t given me grandchildren yet and won’t until your girls become pokewomen.”
Iain stage whispered as Jamie opened his mouth to protest. “You can’t win this one, Jamie. Give it up.”
Madison laughed quietly. “He’s right.”
“Besides, Jamie, it’s an easy enough question to ask. Iain, was the DNA of your world’s Jamie Harris Wolf identical to that of my son? The world’s aren’t that far apart.”
Iain glanced at Jamie as he nodded. “Sorry, but it’s not really your privacy she’s asking about.” He turned back to Poppet. “The DNA matches almost completely. It’s a hundred percent match with rounding until you go out nine digits.”
“So James Chambers is as good as my grandson, and with the analog of a woman that my son admired very much.”
Iain grinned “Yup.” But on that note,” he said, “Eve is right. We need to get going.” She took Iain’s hand. “I want to thank you all and goodbye.” They vanished, followed a second later by Pandora.
Jamie looked at his mother. “Did you need us for anything?”
She shook her head. “No. Thank you for letting me know that Iain was here.”
“You’re welcome, but you did ask me to inform you whenever he arrives.”
“I did and please continue to do so.” She vanished, heading for her office.
“Selene, I need to talk to Candace.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Poppet was making herself some tea when Candace’s face appeared on one wall of her office. “Poppet, what is it?”
“I need your people to do deep scans of all of the pokegirls we have in storage,” Poppet said. “And run all of them through a healing cycle afterwards.”
Candace frowned. “That would take weeks.”
“It doesn’t matter. Iain was just here to pick up a Glasgow NurseJoy and he identified one of those girls as having an issue. A deep scan revealed that the problem was she had been bitten by a Zombabe and had passed the point where she could be cured but hadn’t yet turned into one.” Candace paled. “You can imagine the trouble if she’d been released and gotten out of our control.”
“That poor girl. What can we do for her?”
“I’ve already destroyed her,” Poppet said. “But there could be others who are infected in storage and we need to find them if there are. If they can be healed, we need to do it immediately, but if they can’t they’ll also have to be destroyed. We can’t have a Zombabe outbreak anywhere in Haven and it would prove even more problematic if it happened in Indigo because we’d sold an infected girl to them. And if it happened in Nippon it would be an absolute disaster.”
“I’ll put my people on it immediately. How did Iain find out something was wrong?”
“Apparently it’s one of his special powers.” Poppet shrugged. “He wasn’t forthcoming, but he did take his tamer’s test today so you’ll have that information to add to his DNA profile.”
Candace’s eyes flicked to something Poppet couldn’t see. “Damn, he declined to provide a blood sample. I would like to have run it against the profile we got a year ago to see if anything has changed.”
“Danica knows to collect the oils he left on the test tablet from his hands and just in case you can’t get a DNA profile from those I’ll try to get another one when I go to visit my grandson.” Poppet considered the kami NurseJoy for a second. “How do you get along with Iain?”
“We’ve never met. Why?”
“I was just curious. I think it’s time we invite him for a gathering so he can meet our entire family.”
Candace eyed her suspiciously. “You are never just curious, Poppet. What are you up to?”
“I can be simply curious and in this case I think it’s time we accepted the fact that Iain is important to us whether we like it or not. He can be a rather personable young man and I’d like to see him use that charm to make friends here with more of us.”
“I’d be happier if you’d just admit you’re not going to tell me what it is you’re plotting,” Candace retorted.
“If I were plotting something, sister, it would be so completely in the planning stages that it wouldn’t be worth discussing right now. But the truth is that I’m concerned that one day some of our children and some of his are going to interact and probably marry or at least produce offspring. It behooves us to get to know him now before our children take the matter into their own hands while we’re still trying to keep him from getting involved with us.”
“You could be right,” Candace said thoughtfully. “Do you want me to talk to some of the others?”
“You have a better relationship with them than I do so I would appreciate it if you did.”
“All right, I will. I need to get back to work.”
“Then don’t let me keep you.” Candace vanished and Poppet reached out with her twee. Helen, Elizabeth, I’d like to talk to you if you’re available.
A few minutes later all three of them were sitting down to tea in Poppet’s office. “What do you want,” Helen asked. The Milktit looked at Elizabeth. “And what do we have to do with whatever it is?”
“Have either one of you met Iain Grey?”
“Briefly,” Helen said.
“Me too,” Elizabeth echoed. “It was in passing and we didn’t talk much. Why?”
“You are aware of the whole author thing about him and the odd knowledge he seems to possess, aren’t you?”
Helen nodded. “You mean when he managed to get Caspa to do something we thought was impossible and made Shikarou and Branwyn so angry they were ready to break everything in reach? I might vaguely remember something like that happening.”
“It’s a little more than that,” Poppet said. “He knows things about each of us, things that it should be impossible for anyone to know. He’s proven it to me.”
“Is he a threat to us,” Elizabeth asked.
“No, he doesn’t seem to want to use that information against us, but apparently a lot of what he knows is in some stories that he wrote. Kerrik has a copy of those stories.”
Helen looked at Elizabeth. “And?”
Poppet looked at her reproachfully. “Don’t play stupid with me. I am well aware of just how smart you are and how hard you try to hide it. You and Elizabeth are Kerrik’s favorites out of everyone here, including Shikarou. We need access to those stories. They will give us insight into how Iain thinks and perhaps how he feels about us.”
Helen looked at Elizabeth. “You’re still teaching Morwen. Has anyone there said anything about these stories to you?”
The Vampire shook her head. “Nope and that means Kerrik isn’t going to be inclined to share them. He’d have volunteered their existence at the very least if he wanted us to bid for them.”
“You’ll have to tell him that we know he has them,” Poppet said. “Hopefully he’ll understand how badly we need them.”
“I’m sure he will,” Elizabeth said. “But I don’t think he’ll give them up. He’s still not happy with the way things are going here. I figure that’s why he hasn’t ever come back. I asked once and he said he was too busy, which as usual was the truth but it was also, as usual, probably not all of the truth. When was the last time he was here?”
Poppet leaned back in her chair. “It was that confusing visit where he asked me if I was ready to apologize for something and then later when he made Jamie a kami. I still don’t know what he was talking about. I can’t remember anything I might need to apologize to Kerrik for.”
“Maybe you should go and ask him,” Helen said.
“Don’t you think I have,” Poppet snapped. “He is my father in law and one of the most powerful people on the planet. I want him happy with us. He won’t discuss it and his harem pretends they have no idea what I’m talking about.”
“Then there’s nothing we can do about it,” Helen said firmly. “I love him and he loves us, but if he won’t discuss something we might as well let it go.”
Elizabeth sipped at her tea. “It’s a shame that I can’t do more than taste this. It’s very good. I’ll ask Kerrik about the stories, but what are our options if he won’t let us have access to them?”
“Pandora suggested that we can negotiate directly with Iain’s family for them. That is probably our only other way to get those stories.”
“I doubt Iain will let them go cheaply,” Helen said. “Are these stories really that important to us?”
Poppet regarded her evenly. “When I heard that Iain supposedly could have knowledge of us that nobody else could have, I was amused. After all, it was impossible for that to be true. But in the interest of being thorough, I met with him at his house and asked him to prove this so called knowledge. It turns out that his knowledge of us is far more extensive than anyone had suspected. Iain told me things about myself that I was certain nobody else knows, not Shikarou, not my dead Jamie Harris, not anyone. He hinted that he knows each of us in similar detail. That gives him an incredible edge in dealing with us whether he reveals to us what he knows or not. While those stories might not tell as much about him as he knows about us, they will help to reveal what his knowledge level of us is.”
“Kasumi says he isn’t a threat,” Elizabeth pointed out. “And she’s dealt with him more than anyone else.”
“I don’t believe he is a threat either,” Poppet admitted, “but we need to know what he knows about us. What if Ygerna gets access to this information? And consider what we’re hearing out of the United Kingdom. Poppet Harris insists that some kind of radical power realignment has taken place with the Order of Pendragon and Queen Anne and that Iain was somehow involved. Whatever happened, the Order has openly been campaigning against the Blue League and with dramatic results. My analysis suggests the League will collapse in a year.” She drained her cup. “Apparently the UK’s intelligence services have penetrated the Order and the names Germanicus and Eoghan have been appearing in some reports Poppet Harris has somehow gotten access to. According to those, Iain was involved in their being exposed and removed, whatever that means.” She sighed and reached for the teapot. “And details of what happened are frustratingly sparse. All of the witnesses except for some employees of Iain’s and Queen Ygerna herself are rather fortuitously dead and the survivors are not talking about what happened.”
“So they did exist on this world,” Helen said quietly. “We were worried about that but had no way to prove or disprove their existence.”
“If that report is true I wonder what Iain did with them,” Elizabeth mused. “I suppose they’re prisoners somewhere secure.”
“We can’t afford to suppose,” Poppet said. “We need to know. We would be one of their prime targets if they get free.”
“Have you asked Iain,” Helen asked.
“No. Not only can he lie to us, it has been suggested by Kasumi that he might be able to tell if truth detecting magic is being employed around him. Even if he can’t detect that kind of spell, he’s never alone when he’s here or when he has guests at his home and some of his women might well be able to. But I will confront him over this if I have to. This is too important for us not to know.”
Elizabeth looked thoughtful. “Could Selene get the information out of Theodora?”
Poppet shook her head. “I thought about that. Selene confirmed that Theodora is more powerful than she is and that, while she hasn’t tested Theodora’s security, she insists that it would be a waste of time and attacking Theodora, successful or not, could be counterproductive, if not disastrous for us.”
“Obviously it would destroy any trust Iain has with us, but possibly more importantly if we attack Theodora and Iain decides to retaliate, he may well know where Selene’s mainframe is and could bombard it from space to destroy her. Even if he doesn’t, depending on the weapons Theodora has at her command he could do a lot of damage to Haven and kill a lot of us. And whether he knows or not or how he might react could be in those stories, which is why we so badly need them.”
Helen frowned. “If we attack Iain without provocation, I don’t think that Kerrik would protect us.”
“That was brought up by Selene and Cassiopeia and I suspect you’d be right,” Poppet said. “I asked Cassiopeia if she knew what weapons were on the Theodora and she said that she had a good idea of what might be present. I asked for details and she said she needed authorization to release that information and that I’d have to talk to Kerrik to get it.”
“You don’t think he’d favor Iain over us,” Elizabeth asked in shock.
“No, I don’t. We are his family and Iain is not. But that doesn’t mean he will feel that he has to tell us Iain’s secrets or Iain ours.”
“You’re worried that with his knowledge, we don’t have any secrets for us to try to hide,” Helen said shrewdly. “I doubt he’s a god.”
“I doubt he is either, but we have no idea what he is.”
“Yes, we do,” Elizabeth said. “He is a clan leader, a husband, a father and he has a large harem to protect.”
“Do we really know what a clan leader is,” Poppet asked. “We are not clan.”
“Shikarou has spent time among the clans to the point that he considers Magdalene his mother,” Elizabeth countered. “While he isn’t clan, he should understand a lot about how they think.”
“Would Magdalene help us,” Helen wondered. “Kerrik would give her Iain’s stories.”
“I have only seen her a few times,” Poppet replied, “And we didn’t talk much. But I can ask Shikarou to contact her and see if she can help us.”
“What have you told Shikarou about all of this?”
“Helen, I haven’t told him much. I was hopeful that we would have a lot more definite information before I had to brief him. He’s so busy I don’t like going to him with information on potential threats unless I have something concrete. On top of that, right now he’s still pretty volatile about Iain in general. He’s still more than a little upset about the whole series of incidents involving Caspa and Ygerna and the fact that Ygerna said she wanted revenge for what happened.”
“I heard it was redress,” Elizabeth said. “That’s very different from revenge.”
“I suspect her idea of redress will look a lot like revenge when it is happening to us,” Poppet pointed out. “She feels we deceived her for decades.”
“Isn’t it true that we did,” Helen asked quietly. “We in this room weren’t involved in it directly, but we all knew that she had no place in our family unless Svetlana changed her mind about the situation and that was not going to happen. As for Shikarou, you and some of the others would have never let him marry another non-pokegirl.”
“Would you have wanted that,” Poppet shot back.
“I am secure in Shikarou’s love for me,” Helen said. “I would only make sure that he truly loved anyone else that he added to our family.” She pushed to her feet. “And I have to go work on dinner. If I hurry I can just get it finished in time for us to eat.”
“What about Kerrik,” Poppet asked.
The Milktit’s ears flicked. “I will speak to him about these stories when I get the chance. If he won’t let us have access to them there is little I can do.”
“I need to go too,” Elizabeth said as she rose. “I won’t see Morwen until next week, so it’ll be up to Helen to ask him about them if she gets there before I do, but if she can't visit before then I'll bring the subject up. I don’t normally just drop by, so it would look out of place if I did so just to ask for these stories.” She made a face. “And right now Misery is royally pissed off about something but nobody will tell me why she’s upset. Apparently it is harem only business and I’m not dumb enough to pry further once I found that out.”
Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani
Eve Grey - Megami Sama
April Grey - Duelist & beta
Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage
Pandora - Fiendish Archangel
Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)
Zareen - Nightmare
Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur
Sofia - Ria
Vanessa – Evangelion
Lucifer – Megami Sama
Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)
Daphne - Whorizard
Lynn - Growlie
Chuck – Doggirl
Ryan – Unicorn
Winifred - Rack (German)
Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)
Silver - Pegaslut
Joyce – Milktit
Melanie – Iron Chef
Queendom / Outer Harem
Heather - Elf
Dionne - Elfqueen
Adrianna - Elfqueen
Heltu - Wet Queen
6 Wet Elves
Eirian - Silver Dragoness
Aurum - Gold Dragoness
Skye - Blue Dragoness
Emerald - Green Dragoness
Beryl - Red Dragoness
Julia - human
Ling - Cheetit
Matilda - White Tigress
Liadan - Twau
Sorrel - Armsmistress
Natalie - Blazicunt
Maria – Slutton
Rhea Silvia - Chimera
Mother s & Children