(06/17/99 0430 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
“Branwyn. Branwyn!” The voice hissed into the darkness. Bellona frowned and slipped into her alpha’s room. Her eyes adjusted quickly and she bent over the sleeping form. “Branwyn?”
She touched the figure on the shoulder and yelped as she was suddenly grabbed and pulled onto the bed. Branwyn rolled on top of her and kissed her soundly. A sleepy voice murmured against her lips as a hand traced over the DragonQueen
’s hip. “You’ve turned down my invitations before, but it’s still nice to taste you.”
Bellona used her superior strength to roll the Unicorn over and pinned her to the bed. “Nothing against you, but I’m not here for that. It’s Shikarou.” She hesitated. “There may be a problem.”
Branwyn teleported out from under the DragonQueen
and appeared next to the bed as she reached for her robe. Her voice was suddenly wide awake and crisp. “You say there may be a problem? Not ‘this is an emergency’?”
She flipped on a dim light as Bellona slipped off the bed. “Emergency? No, not yet. I’m pretty sure. He’s in the arena.”
“Your confidence in your assessment is comforting,” Branwyn growled in a voice thick with sarcasm.
“I’ll apologize if you are more confident than I am.” Bellona let a trace of anger leak through. “I wouldn’t bother you if I didn’t think it was important. He, on the other hand, is sure it’s nothing and that he’ll be able to fix it shortly.”
“Gods. What has he done now?” Branwyn rushed from the room with Bellona close on her heels.
“He told me to tell you that he’s in one piece and nothing is broken.”
Branwyn cursed at the DragonQueen
’s words and hammered on a door. “Circe!” She flung it open. “Shikarou’s saying nothing is wrong and that everything can be fixed. He’s in the arena.”
The Alaka-Wham dumped Kebi on the floor as she jumped out of bed. “I’ll get Candace,” she snapped and vanished. The Ria made an unhappy noise and light briefly flashed.
“Kebi, wake the others and get to the arena.”
A grumble. “Kebi do.” A mutter. “Kebi tired. Stupid others.”
“Hurry!” The Unicorn grabbed Bellona’s arm and the scene flickered as they teleported to the arena.
Branwyn opened her mouth to demand to know what was going on and froze. Bellona pointed at Shikarou. “You tell me if something is wrong.” She waited a heartbeat. “Well? What do you think?”
Branwyn shook her head slowly as she stared. “That will never fit.” She canted her head sideways and got a speculative look. “Maybe in my tauric form. No. Maybe.”
Bellona clapped her hands over her mouth. Faint sounds of laughter were heard coming from between her fingers.
Shikarou sighed. “Are you quite done?”
Branwyn jumped and looked up at him. “Oh. Shit, Candace.” Her eyes closed briefly. “Kebi.”
Circe appeared with the NurseJoy
in her arms. “All right, Branwyn, can I go get some clothes now?” She broke off and stared. “My.”
Candace was staring too. “Um.”
“I am up here.” Shikarou sounded faintly annoyed.
“Sorry,” Candace turned slightly more pink than normal. “It’s just that it’s right there.” She made a slight motion and turned bright red before looking up at him. “Are you all right?”
“Yes.” He started to say something else and stopped when the rest of harem came pelting into the arena, Elizabeth in the lead. The cavalcade screeched to a halt and stared.
Shikarou straightened and turned to face them squarely. “I tried to access my kami shapeshifting powers and the results you can obviously see.”
Nanu grinned. “All right, even I have limits. You’d better be able to fix that or I’m going to need a new Tamer.” Dorothea made a choked noise and flushed crimson.
Branwyn pulled her mind back to business and tried to appraise her Tamer clinically. Shikarou now stood a good three and a half meters tall and showed a surprising bulk. She presumed that some of that was from the heavy black fur that covered his body but still it was rather remarkable. His head had become anthropomorphic, canine like Pythia’s but more massive and proportionally more robust. She presumed it was the wolf in him expressing. His shoulders were broad and his arms long and muscular and while his hands were human, the fingers ended in wicked looking talons that gleamed blackly in the arena’s light. She noted idly that his ears still had tufts on them and blinked when his tail flicked sideways. Tail?
What had caught her attention first was his obvious maleness which, due to his new size, was almost level with her eyes. His legs were heavily muscled and his feet were definitely wolfish, digitigrade and again with strong claws on the ends of the toes.
She deliberately made her tone light. “So, what is the problem?” Several members of his harem burst into giggles and laughter.
Shikarou’s muzzle rippled in a silent snarl. “I appear to be stuck like this.” Even his voice had changed, becoming deeper and more resonant.
Branwyn felt her groin tighten in response to him and tried desperately to ignore it. “Circe, fetch your sister. Elizabeth, see if Faelan is available. Tell him we need him right away.”
Shikarou sighed. “I was really hoping to not have to admit this to him.”
His alpha put her hands on her hips. “He’s a mage and like you. He may be able to help.” She glanced over her shoulder at the gaggle of pokegirls. “Helen, get us some caffeine and Lorelei, clear the arena.”
Nanu got a sullen look in her eyes. “I want to stay.” There was a murmur of agreement. “He’s my Tamer too.”
“Pythia, Bellona, help Lorelei.”
Bellona grinned. “You heard her. Out or get pummeled.”
Shikarou glanced at Branwyn. Nanu has a point. If I am stuck like this for a while, they’ll need to know. Put them in the stands and raise the forcefield. That’s where all of you need to be right now anyway.
All of us? Branwyn gave him an irritated look. Why?
Branwyn blinked. “Change of plans. Everyone into the stands. Now.”
Quickly, everyone moved to the stands and Branwyn activated the forcefield as Shikarou stood still, watching them with obvious interest.
She turned to the harem but aimed her words primarily at Candace. “When a pokegirl thresholds, sometimes she can get lost in the newness of it all. Shikarou is concerned that he might do the same thing and he’s a wolf kami. He would consider most if not all of us prey, so he wants us here where it’s safer.”
Candace frowned, still watching Shikarou. “How can we help him from in here?”
“If he goes feral we may have to wait for it to work itself out or find something for him to feed on.” Brawny sighed as the memory of his groin flashed. “Or whatever else he might need. I’ve sealed the door to the arena and if we need to we can teleport out in case this takes a few days.” She looked around. “This does not leave the harem. Not Lynn, not Molly, not anyone until I clear it. Is that understood?” Everyone nodded. “Candace, you aren’t in the active harem and have your own life outside of it, but I am still your alpha and in this I insist.”
gave her a grim look. “I can imagine what might happen if this gets out. You’ll have no argument from me.” Her eyes flickered back to Shikarou’s unmoving form. “It can be fixed, right?”
Elizabeth teleported in with Faelan, followed quickly by Svetlana. He smiled. “I heard that. If nothing else, father can put it to right when he returns in a few days.”
Svetlana was staring at Shikarou. “What happened to him?”
“He tried to transform.” Stardust commented as she appeared. “He told me he was going to try this and he didn’t want anyone around in case he turned aggressive.” She gave her bonded partner an anxious look. “Apparently he was right to be concerned.” She frowned at Faelan. “Which is his, for lack of a better term, normal form? Kami or wolf?”
“All of them since they are only aspects of the gestalt that is Shikarou.”
Branwyn poked him. “That sounds like you are talking about multiple forms.”
“Father has three forms, Sidhe, wolf and a hybrid form like this one.” Faelan frowned. “It’s likely Shikarou does too. He may even have more than that. His mother has very remarkable shapeshifting abilities when she desires and father is a master at it.” He smiled. “I may turn out to be a shapeshifter as well, when I get older.”
Svetlana gave him a nervous look. “How much older?”
His eyes met hers gravely. “Not for some years yet. No, I don’t know for sure, but it’ll be easier for me since my powers haven’t been cut off and also because Shikarou will be able to guide me. Once he’s mastered his own abilities, it will be easy for him to teach me.”
Stardust frowned. “Who found him?”
Bellona raised a hand and gave a gentle wave. “It was my night with him and when he comes down here to work out I often come and join in or just watch.” She flushed slightly. “He’s nice to watch as he moves.”
Elizabeth patted her on the back. “I know. I do it too.”
Circe looked annoyed. “How come I thought we weren’t supposed to be in here with him, but you get to visit?”
The Vampire shrugged. “I asked and he said I could. Did he tell you no?”
“I never asked.”
Her eyes glinted with laughter. “I guess you should have.” Circe bristled and opened her mouth to snap back at her.
Branwyn held up a hand. “Enough. I suspect he’ll have a bigger fan group from now on. Circe, calm down, I didn’t know either and I would have been in here myself watching sometimes if I did.”
She turned to Faelan. “Can you help him?”
He was still watching his brother. “I don’t know. I’ve never consciously transformed myself although mother said I did it spontaneously for about a year starting when I was two.” His ears flicked. “I think I can, if I can get Circe, Stardust and maybe your or Elizabeth to help me. Both you and Elizabeth are shapeshifters,” he explained, “and that might help somehow. However, first I want to see if he can do this on his own.”
So do I.
Faelan grinned. “I was hoping you were listening, Shikarou.” The grin faded. “I watched mother and father teaching some of my older sibs and I can give you an idea of what they were doing.”
Excellent. I would like Stardust, Circe, Branwyn and Pythia to assist. They all have telepathy and can watch. It may come in useful someday with our children. There was a pause. Link Svetlana in as well.
“Sounds good.” Faelan looked around. “Any questions?”
“I know you two are communicating, but I have no idea what you talked about.” Branwyn gave him an annoyed look. “So tell us everything from the beginning.”
Stardust smiled at his look of confusion. “Congratulations, Faelan, apparently you’re starting to develop telepathy. It appears to be low grade, but since Shikarou’s is growing, yours might as well.”
His ears flicked. “Crap.”
Her smile grew. “Now you’re starting to sound like him. Is the use of profanity a sign of kami aging?”
Can we do this now? Shikarou sounded annoyed as a low rumble drifted across the arena. His head swiveled to pin Stardust in his gaze.
“You know,” she said in a slightly nervous voice, “maybe we should have this conversation after we help my Tamer.”
Faelan nodded. “Branwyn, Circe, Stardust, and Pythia I want you to link with me, Shikarou and Svetlana.”
The Megami-sama looked shocked. “Why me?”
“Shikarou wants it in case we need to teach our children how to do this.”
She looked unconvinced. “Sure he does.” She blinked and Circe looked interested as she felt Shikarou talking only to the Megami-sama.
Svetlana’s face went slack as she listened. “But.” She nodded. “Yes, but.” Her eyes widened. “You can do that?” Another pause. “I’ll have to think about it, but thank you.” She shook her head suddenly and looked at Faelan. “All right, he’s convinced me.”
Faelan gave her a half-glare. “What did you two talk about?”
“It’s not important right now,” she replied firmly. “Your brother needs our help.”
He met her gaze for a moment and then nodded. “Branwyn, would you get everything set up?”
Quickly everyone was telepathically linked together and Faelan turned his attention to Shikarou. This is what I heard father telling my sister: I want you to focus only on your heartbeat. Listen to it and tune out everything else. It is your center and you must let it center you. Close your eyes and concentrate. Tell me when you hear nothing but your heart beating.
There was silence for a moment and they could feel Shikarou struggling to comply. Finally, his efforts slowed and ceased. I hear only my heart.
Now you must remember what your heart sounded like before. Before things changed and before you became frightened. Focus your will and make your heart sound like that. It won’t be easy and will take a lot of effort, but you must do this.
It was like trying to watch fog lift. Nothing seemed to ever change until suddenly you were aware that it was thinner and eventually gone. It was like that with Shikarou. Everyone was watching intently and suddenly they saw that he was smaller. Then his flesh flowed and his fur vanished until he stood there, nude.
His eyes opened and he collapsed to his knees. Branwyn teleported to his side and held him. “Are you ok?” She glanced over his shoulder and frowned at the onrushing harem. They slowed and moved to stand around him.
“I don’t know, but I will be.” He gave her a tired look. “So this is what wanting to sleep feels like.”
“Rest. We’ll take care of you.” He sighed and relaxed against her.
(06/17/99 1030 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
“So how is he?”
Branwyn glanced at Faelan before turning her attention back to Lorelei and Helen as they sparred. “He’s damned frustrating, that’s what he is. He slept an hour and now he’s working on his shapeshifting. Over and over until he collapses and then he rests for a few minutes and then he does it again.”
Faelan nodded. “Father used to hold him up as a model of absolute determination. Then he’d tell us why that wasn’t always a good thing.”
He glanced at Branwyn. “Your husband is obsessed with mastering his surroundings. Weapons, magic, martial arts and now his innate powers. He won’t rest until he transforms at a level he thinks is perfect. Where is he?”
“We added a second, smaller arena behind that door. He’s in there. Aggie’s keeping an eye on him.” She shook her head. “His strength and speed have increased dramatically.”
“This is just the start.” Branwyn turned and stared at him. “As his control grows, so will his strength. He will probably end up as strong as Yushiko, if not more so.”
She gritted her teeth. “How strong is Kerrik?”
“No one knows for sure. Father doesn’t perform acts of brute strength anymore. If he wants a huge rock moved, he often just disintegrates it. I know he works out regularly and that he’s stronger than any of my mothers.”
“How many mothers-in-law did I acquire?”
“I’m not sure.” He gave her an amused look. “Father likes to keep secrets and it also matters as to whether you want to consider the dead ones. You see, not all of the dead ones left after they died.”
“Goddess.” Branwyn stared at him. “Sweet goddess.”
“Yeah.” He smiled. “On the bright side, it’s unlikely that you will meet more than one or two of them, no matter whether they are living or dead. They don’t travel much and Shikarou isn’t anyone’s favorite child.” He snorted. “Neither am I and we both agree that not being popular is a good thing.”
She sighed. “What about his sex drive? Will that increase exponentially as well?”
Faelan choked off a laugh. “I certainly hope not. If it does, he won’t have time for anything else. I’ve been told that my father’s sex drive is normal for us.” An ear flicked. “We tend to be severely oversexed and we do have a propensity for multiple births. One in three pregnancies results in twins or better.”
“That’s good to know, even if it won’t affect me for centuries.”
That got her an amused look. “Aren’t you going to be mother to all of the children born to the harem? If so, it will affect you just as soon as Yule of 300 rolls around and he becomes fertile.”
Branwyn looked startled. “I didn’t think about that,” she admitted. “And there are three pokewomen right now who want his seed.”
Faelan nodded. “Four. Molly, Candace, Helen and Alice.” He cocked his head. “Have you considered the fact that sperm can quicken parthenogenesis?”
Branwyn groaned. “I have. I’m hoping to convince the harem to wait until they become pokewomen before getting pregnant and going inactive. I’ve had some luck, but Marzia is reluctant.”
“I didn’t realize she was so fond of him.”
“She’s not. However she’s smart enough to look at patterns and she’s noticed that we are a tight knit group. She suspects that this means that if she stays for any length of time she will probably become quite fond of Shikarou.”
The Unicorn gave him a speculative glance. “And how are you?”
“I’m confused,” his ears flicked. “I’m really too young to be developing powers like this.” He frowned. “And I really miss the twins right now. I need a telepath to communicate with and I don’t have one. Stardust has been helping me out, but her attention is on your husband.”
She nodded. “I was concerned about that myself. Do you want me to ask mother if she can find you a telepathic pokegirl?”
“Not just yet. I’m not in that big of a hurry.” He snorted. “Besides, I’ve got a project that should keep me busy for the next several months. Father has an ability to notice obvious things that should have occurred to others and the annoying tendency to point them out. He got me on the last visit.” He shook his head. “I’m teaching Zorione sign language.”
Branwyn looked startled. “What a good idea.” She smirked. “I do have this urge to smack myself on the head and say ‘why didn’t I think of that?’.”
“Get used to it.” Faelan sighed. “There was a while when I was still at home that I wanted to choke him and scream ‘stop making me feel stupid’. He means well but it’s still aggravating.”
“So your father makes people want to kill him?” She smiled slightly when he nodded. “Well, that’s a relief. It means that Shikarou comes by it naturally.” Her smile spread. “I was concerned that is was just me.”
(06/18/99 0900 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
“Welcome back, Kerrik.” The portal closed and Kerrik looked up the beach at the Unicorn.
“Thank you, Branwyn.” He looked around the beach with a faint expression of curiosity. “What’s changed?”
Branwyn raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you a kami?”
“I wasn’t aware I had to be omniscient around family,” he said dryly. His eyes flared amber for a heartbeat. “Ah.” He glanced at the Unicorn. “Care to lead me to Shikarou’s office or should I go without you?”
“His office?” She raised an eyebrow. “Why do you want to go there?”
“That is where he is right now.” A slight smile. “You didn’t know.”
Branwyn’s eyes narrowed and then she relaxed with a smile. “I suppose I deserved that.”
“Yes, you did. A pearl of wisdom, freely given. Don’t play games with kami. I’m pretty easygoing, but Shikarou’s mother would crush you for such impertinence. She wouldn’t be right to do it, and she’d eventually apologize to Shikarou for her actions, but you’d still be dead.” He snorted. “Most kami are like her.”
“I thought you said you’d protect me from her.”
“I’ll protect you if she attacks you. If you’re stupid, you are on your own.”
Branwyn cocked her head. “You didn’t put any limits on your protection. Are you reneging on your promise?”
Kerrik’s eyes narrowed and he gave a low hiss. “You are a remarkable woman, Branwyn. I’ll have to very careful around you. In retrospect you are correct; I didn’t put any limits on protecting you from Shikarou’s mother.” He sighed. “Please don’t go tweaking her tail just for fun. She’ll get angry and I’ll have to step in. The resulting argument could get – messy.”
Branwyn blinked. “Do you share your son’s tendency towards understatement?”
“He shares mine.”
“Then am I correct in inferring that ‘messy’ could include things on the scale of Caomh Sith sinking into the sea?”
He smiled. “If his mother is angry enough, that might be something to be concerned about.”
“I’ll try very hard to be polite.”
“I appreciate that.”
A half hour later, Kerrik and Shikarou stood in the arena and watched as harem members drifted into the stands.
“You’ve managed to find a collection of remarkable women. Are you aware that your, um, Ria? Yes, Ria, is an excellent pickpocket?”
Shikarou winced. “She got you?”
“She tried. Everything she took I teleported back to where it belonged. She may have not noticed yet.”
“I haven’t heard any screams, so probably not.” He shook his head slowly. “On the other hand, she really doesn’t care about the possessions themselves. For her the taking is important, not the having.”
“That’s an interesting outlook.” Kerrik grinned. “I’m sure some people would say it’s healthy, but I happen to like my stuff.” He quickly counted heads. “That looks like everyone plus some others. Who’s the Arcanine?”
“That’s Molly and she’s a Denmother. They don’t have Arcanine here.”
“I really need to get copies of your files.”
“Take the Tamer test and get your own pokedex.” Shikarou gave his father an evil smile. “And a starter pokegirl.”
Kerrik flicked his ears irritably. “Don’t start.”
“A pokedex would help with the research you want to do with the pokegirls Faelan got you.”
“Virtue and Vice are collecting the information I need for that.” Kerrik shook his head. “So what have you learned so far?”
“I’ve been focusing on my shapeshifting abilities and I think I’ve mastered my wolfman form.”
Kerrik frowned. “Wolfman. That sounds silly. Call it a hybrid. That, at least sounds mildly dangerous.” He stepped back. “So, show me.”
Shikarou nodded and closed his eyes. “It’s still taking a bit of effort,” he muttered and then changed. Once done he shook himself violently as oohs and ahs sounded from the stands. He spoke slowly and distinctly. “I’ve already learned that the fact I have a muzzle won’t stop my speaking, but it sounds different and I have to be careful. I’ve already bitten my tongue completely off twice.”
Kerrik chuckled. “I’ve done that a time or two myself.” He wandered around the wolfen kami. “You’ll get more muscle as you age and it’s likely that you’ve still got some growth yet to achieve, but that will happen gradually over the next century or two.”
“With practice, you’ll be able to assume this form in any size between your humanoid form and this one. It comes in useful in places with human sized ceilings.”
“I’ve been working on it already.” Shikarou gave a booming laugh. “Some of my pokegirls want to try taming with me in this form.”
“You’ll want to battle train in this form. Spellcasting too, if you can do it. Not many can.”
“Your balance is different and if you can use pokegirl techniques the ones requiring a tail will become available. You’ll also want it for the first rule of the Tsukiken school.” Kerrik’s voice took on the cadence of a teacher for a brief instant. “What is it?”
“Brute power is all well and good, but precision and control is the hallmark of intelligence.”
“Good. I’ve brought the collected teachings of the Tsukiken School and expect you to spend some time passing it on to your children. As eldest, you will be the master of the branch here. It’s a good thing you are really a master of the school.” He shook his head. “But that’s for later. How are you in your wolf form?”
“I haven’t tried for it.”
“Come now, it’s easier to achieve than the hybrid form.” Kerrik smiled slowly. “Change back and I’ll walk you through it.”
Shikarou gave a resigned sigh. “Yes, father.” He blurred back to his humanoid form. “What do I do?”
Kerrik touched his son on the forehead. Shikarou closed his eyes for a moment and then pulled away. “I think I understand.” He closed his eyes again and changed.
His wolf form stood roughly two meters at the shoulder and was an inky black. His fur was thick and his tail arched up and over his back. However, while his hybrid form was bulky and muscular, his wolf form looked unfinished, long and lanky with thin legs and relatively huge feet. In short, he looked remarkably like a yearling wolf, one with still a great deal of growth to complete before he became adult.
His ears flicked uncertainly and he turned his head to regard his father but before he could attempt to speak, a golden brown blur slammed into his shoulders and tried to curl around his neck. “PUPPY!!! KEBI HAS PUPPY!”
Shikarou canted his ears sideways and whined desperately at his father. Kerrik was no use, he was laughing so hard that he actually had to sit down on the sand. Echoes of his laughter drifted across from the stands as the Ria clung to her Tamer and crooned happily in his ear.
Kerrik finally brought his laughter under control and climbed to his feet. He opened his mouth when Kebi patted Shikarou on the head and announced sternly. “Sit, puppy.”
His father collapsed on the floor of the arena, whooping with glee. Branwyn and Bellona actually had come out of the stands to check on him before he brought his laughter under control. He clambered to his feet and wiped the tears from his eyes. “Oh, I like her. She’ll keep you sane.” Laughter still bubbled in his voice. “Kebi, please let him go.”
The Ria sighed and patted Shikarou on the head again as she released him. “Puppy be good.” Shikarou turned and licked her face and chest with his broad red tongue and Kebi clapped her hands and laughed with joy.
Kerrik chuckled. “If your mother ever comes here and tries to cause trouble, you just do that as a routine in front of her and your troubles will be over. She will die of shame on the spot.”
“Real…” Shikarou’s reply died in a yelp of pain and blood spurted from his mouth. He whimpered and pawed at his muzzle. Branwyn fought not to laugh.
Kerrik was unsympathetic. “Practice and control. Use the teachings of the school. Now stop whining and change back.”
Shikarou growled at him and Kerrik raised an eyebrow as Branwyn and the others backpedaled at the sound. “If you are feeling delusional, you just give it a try.” His eyes glowed pale amber as he stared at his son.
Shikarou met his gaze for a long minute and Kerrik rumbled low in his chest. His son abruptly ducked his head and looked away.
Kerrik nodded. “Glad to see you haven’t lost your mind. Now change back.”
It took some effort and some more help from Kerrik, but finally Shikarou stood once again in his humanoid form. His father hugged him. “Good job. I’m proud of you.”
Shikarou flushed slightly. “I almost attacked you.” He shook his head. “I don’t really know why.”
Kerrik patted him on the back. “Almost and yet you didn’t. Wolf kami have a lot of wolfish tendencies and we have a lot of aggression that we use on the hunt. Unlike lycanthropes, you don’t have a separate beast that can take control, but you do have a propensity to react according to the shape you wear. Sometimes we do react like the wolves we are based on, no matter the shape you hold at that moment. Rest assured, however that it will get easier to control as you practice and age.”
“I know, practice, practice, practice.”
Kerrik grinned. “I still do it, you should still do it. Now, again.”
Another couple of hours passed while Shikarou’s father put him through his paces and the young kami was exhausted when Kerrik signaled a halt. Over lunch, Kerrik pointed to a pile of sacks. “Your gifts. Stuff that you asked for and stuff I think you might need. There’s an inventory in the top bag.”
Faelan nodded. “I’ve got you a dozen feral pokegirls gathered from various points on the planet. You’ll need to tame them before they’ll be useful.”
Kerrik shook his head. “I’ll study them feral first. Full workups and genetic studies will be performed followed up by downloads of their personalities.” He smiled slightly. “I’ll have to return here eventually, if I’m going to stop threshold from occurring, I’ll need years to do work.” A frown. “I may have to infiltrate Sukebe’s labs as well. I’ll need to know what he did as well as what he intended before a solution can be found.”
Svetlana gave him an amused look. “That will be impossible, I’m afraid. They were destroyed during the war.”
He shrugged. “So?” The Megami-sama looked startled. “Svetlana, time is not the barrier you believe it to be.”
“Are you going to destroy the pokegirls?”
“Of course not. They’re what’s special about this place. I need to cure threshold in the ones I’m going to be importing to my world. I’ll want stable genetic lines for introduction and threshold is too variable to be very desirable by adoptive parents, although most of them will want pokegirl children or boys.”
“Will you make your results available here?” Branwyn touched his hand. “To have children who remain what they were born is something all of us want.”
He shrugged. “We’ll see, but understand that I won’t wipe out the pokegirls.” He glanced around briefly, checking to see who was in earshot. “And what is so special about humans, anyway? If evolution favors the pokegirls, then why not let them triumph? From what I understand, they’ve spent most of the last three hundred years lording over you that fact that they aren’t like you.” He snorted. “From where I sit that’s like the apples on one tree trying to be superior to the rest of the apples in the orchard.”
“Besides, there are humans all over the multiverse. What’s one less planet of them? It won’t be missed.”
Svetlana’s eyes had been getting bigger and bigger as he spoke. “How can you say that?”
Shikarou snickered. “We already had this conversation.”
“Oh?” Kerrik looked curious.
“I destroyed a man’s soul and was asked how I could do such a thing. I replied that I’m kami and he’d murdered someone under my care.”
“Ah.” Kerrik smiled at Svetlana. “My reply is probably slightly less malevolent. I can say that because I’ve seen many worlds which teem with humans. This is the first pokegirl world I’ve run across, which makes it and you very special. I care more about you than I do about the humans which live here with you, so when the question of who has to go comes up, I chose them. The best solution would be for humans and pokegirls to get along, but a lot of the humans don’t think about it that way and their opinions don’t matter to me.”
“Parity would solve that.” Svetlana’s voice rose.
Kerrik nodded. “That it would, at least in theory. How do you define parity?”
“Pokegirls and humans are equal and living together in harmony!”
“That an interesting concept. How would it work?”
The Megami-sama looked blank. “What do you mean?”
“Pokegirls have to be tamed. Does parity mean that a pokegirl wandering down a street who needs tamed can demand a taming from the next passing man?”
“No, it doesn’t!”
“I didn’t think so. Who apportions out the pokegirls to the Tamers? There are at least four pokegirls for every man, and that’s before you count the ferals. What if a Tamer doesn’t want four pokegirls? What about the pokegirl breeds that don’t like to share? What about the Psi-Dykes? Any woman they get involved with is almost guaranteed to not ever have a husband, otherwise it wouldn’t be fair to the Psi-Dyke.”
He gave her a sympathetic smile as she stuttered. “I’m not trying to be deliberately cruel to you, it’s just while ideals are great; you can’t let them blind you to reality.” He rose to his feet. “Let’s take a walk, you and I.” He looked around. “And I’ll want Dorothea as well.”
Shikarou nodded. “I’ll get her. How about the end of the pier? That’s nice and private.”
“Keep your motherly Milktit away.”
A few minutes later, Kerrik, Svetlana and Dorothea stood on the pier. “Please, ladies, sit down. This shouldn’t take long.”
When the ladies settled down he clasped his hands behind him and rocked on the balls of his feet. “All right now.” His voice was crisp. “I’m ordering you not to reveal this to anyone else. Svetlana, that includes your Megami buddies. If you tell them I will know and I’ll make sure you know that I do.” He smiled without humor. “I won’t punish you, I’ll punish whoever you tell.”
Svetlana goggled at him while Dorothea paled in anger. “Lord Kerrik, thou cannot order such a thing.”
“Oh, but I can. I am a god.” His eyes narrowed. “I’ll give you a moment to think about that.” He waited for several heartbeats. “You are Celestial pokegirls and therefore bound to the service of good. Fine. I’m usually good and now you work for me.” He glanced around. “Well, no other god appeared to tell me I’m poaching, so you two are mine.”
Svetlana glared. “I don’t believe your gall.”
His eyes narrowed. “Take a good look at me and not with your eyes.”
Dorothea suddenly went down on one knee. “Lord, I cannot serve thee. I serve my kami lord.”
Kerrik shook his head. “I think you can serve us both. My requirements for the two of you are fairly simple. You will keep an eye on things for me and send me regular reports. If there is a fatality among my children or their families or descendants, you will inform me right away. If there is a birth, I’d like to know about that as well.” He touched Svetlana on the top of the head and her eyes shut. “You will stop hassling your brother in law. He’s been trying to make friends with you and you will let him try. You will focus more on the things that need improved here before worrying about elsewhere. You will also stop trying to get them involved in the whole Parity and Chosen One issue. You’ve managed to complicate Shikarou’s life and he doesn’t need that right now.” He sighed. “Pythia is correct, my son has a job to do here and you will stop trying to give him other things to do as well.”
Svetlana nodded slowly. “The other Megami insist that we find a place for him, he is too powerful to leave wandering aimlessly.”
“Now you know he’s not. He has something to do here, something that may kill him. Talk to Pythia and accept her for what she is, a Celestial pokegirl.”
Lord, what shall we do about the other Celestials? They will try to impose their will on Svetlana and me.”
“If I were going to stay here, I’d take care of it. If it becomes a serious problem contact me and I’ll,” he frowned and then smiled slowly, “I’ll give them jobs.” He sighed. “The problem is that Sukebe created Celestials without realizing that they need someone to serve. Infernals can wander about and create chaos on their own, but Celestials are designed to work inside an organization. So, you tried to create your own guidance group. Not a bad idea, but it became prone to the same kind of politics that infuses any group of more than two gods who get together. Everyone thinks they know what’s best.”
Svetlana gave him a curious look. “How do you stay out of it?”
“I don’t. I do, however, limit my intercourse with gods outside of my pantheon.” He smiled. “But that’s neither here nor there. You will do as I instruct.”
“Yes, Lord, I will follow thy will.”
Svetlana nodded slowly. “I should be pissed at you, but for some reason this feels right, like something I’ve been looking for my whole life.” She smiled. “I will do as you order. Anything else?”
“Any of your daughters who are Celestials will be raised to follow my orders. I’ll arrange for them to not need Tamers.” He speared each of them in turn with his gaze. “And there will be children.” It was not a request.
Dorothea blushed and frowned. “What if we are lost to our Tamers?”
“Are you happy here?”
“I am, Lord.”
“Then you won’t stay lost for long. My promise to you.” He glanced at his watch. “I think we’ve taken long enough. I’ll leave each of you with a set of my religious writings, should you care to study them I’d be flattered. If not, then so be it. In them you’ll also find the means to contact me.” He bestowed a beatific smile on them. “Anything else?”
Svetlana nodded hesitantly. “Faelan and I haven’t discussed getting married much other than the proposal. Would you marry the two of us before you leave?”
Kerrik smiled broadly and took her hands. “It would be my honor and my pleasure.”
(06/19/99 0115 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
Faelan stirred and sat up slowly, untangling himself from his new bride. He blinked as the word drifted across his mind once more. Wife. It was all so new and frankly, kind of frightening. He was glad Shikarou would be around to talk to. Father had recommended that he go to his older brother when he was mystified. Not if, when.
His ears flicked as he heard once more the sound that had gotten his attention. He couldn’t really define it, he knew it was for him and him alone and that no one else was supposed to hear it. He slipped out of bed and pulled on some clothes before leaving the tent.
He wasn’t sure how he knew where to go, but letting his feet find their way would suffice, that he did know. He raced up and down hills until he saw up ahead the soft glow that signaled one of the ley lines that crossed the isle.
There she waited. Her skin glowed softly from within and her hair was the color of spun gold. He knew that in the sun it would glow with the energy that was poured into it. His people called it sun-kissed and it meant that she was of the Sidhe.
Her eyes glowed with golden light and her lips were rubies in the soft glow of the ley line.
“I have called you this night to beseech your aid.” Her voice was like honey and he almost basked in its heat. “Your brother has something that is not his. That cannot be his. That must not be his.”
Faelan. His twee whispered in concern. She is trying to bewitch you.
He tried to ignore the voice. What she had to say was supposed to be all important and he knew that if he missed a word, catastrophe would strike.
“You must bring it to me, that I may keep it safe. You will do this for me. You shall do this now.”
Three. Remember the significance of three.
He shook his head to remove the tiny voice. Three, he recalled, was a magically significant number and many charms had to be repeated three times to work. But it wasn’t important. She was speaking again.
“I speak of the Grimoire of Danu. The charm is cast, now you go and retrieve it for me.”
Faelan shook his head as horror swept through him. “I cannot.”
She spread her hands imploringly. “You must. I have need of it.”
“I cannot because I do not know how to retrieve it.” Please let her understand and forgive him.
She smiled graciously and relief swept through him. She understood. All would be well. “I can teach you how to pull it from the ley line. All you need to do is travel there and all will be revealed.”
He trembled as fear swept him again. “I cannot.”
She gave the merest hint of a frown and he gasped.
Suddenly his world swam and his fear dropped away. His mind spun groggily and he closed his eyes until the vertigo passed. He frowned and opened them again. “What did you do to me?”
Her eyes widened. “This cannot be.”
A voice came from the darkness. “This can be, this will be, this must be.” Shikarou appeared in the night. “I don’t know why you want to do this, but the truth is he doesn’t know where it is.” A smile. “And unless you want to be called Queenie, you might want to give us your name. I’m Shikarou and this is Faelan, my brother.”
She gave him an annoyed look. “I am Ygerna.”
Faelan nodded. “That makes sense.”
Shikarou frowned. “Explain.”
“In Arthurian myth, Ygerna is the wife of Gorlois and was the woman seduced by Uther Pendragon to produce Arthur. It makes sense that she would take that name for the Order of Pendragon.”
Ygerna glared at Shikarou. “I did not call you. How is it that you are here?”
He smiled. “My brother has a twee, which is like a guardian spirit. It called me. I love my brother, so I came as quickly as I could.”
“Where are your ever present guards?”
“Hopefully asleep.” Shikarou smiled. “I am not going to give you the Grimoire of Danu.”
“You must!” She gave him a desperate look. “It is all that stands between the Sidhe and extinction.”
Shikarou gave her a disgusted look. “Stop whining.”
Ygerna looked shocked. “What?”
“You heard me. Apparently you’ve spent too much time around mortals. Sidhe don’t whine. Backstab, cheat, withhold the whole truth, maybe, but not whine. Instead of complaining you should be worming your way into my confidences so that you can either steal the Grimoire or suborn me into giving you access to it.”
The Sidhe’s mouth twitched. “I see. And what would be the best way to go about accomplishing that?”
Shikarou looked thoughtful. “Probably the best way to do that would be to seduce my brother and in a couple of years present me with some nephews and nieces. He is half Sidhe, you know.”
Ygerna gave Faelan a speculative look. “I didn’t know that. What about you?”
“Oh, I’m only a quarter. You’d be much better off with him.”
“So, Faelan, what’s your other half?”
Faelan was busy looking daggers at Shikarou. “Kami. You know, hybrid vigor is a valid phenomenon and Shikarou is three quarters kami. It’s likely that his offspring may be much stronger than mine.” He blinked. “And I just got married. Last night.”
She cocked her head curiously. “Marriages to mortals don’t count. She is a mortal, right?”
“I’m infertile.” Faelan looked desperately at his brother, like a drowning man looks at someone on shore with a rope.
Shikarou smiled and metaphorically threw him a block of concrete. “Until two Yules pass. No time at all. You can spend it getting to know each other better.”
Ygerna gave Shikarou an amused look. “And what about you?”
He shrugged. “What about me?”
“I still want access to the Grimoire.”
“I know. You want the spell of Transformation, right? You want to turn mortals into Sidhe.”
She blinked in surprise. “You know?”
Shikarou sighed and turned to Faelan. “Do I look stupid or something?”
Faelan smirked. “It’s the ears.”
“You have ears like mine and no one thinks that of you.” Shikarou sounded plaintive.
“Yours are black.” Ygerna giggled and looked shocked at her action.
“Ah.” Shikarou frowned. “Wait a minute. That makes no sense whatsoever.”
“There you go,” Faelan said dryly.
Ygerna snickered as Shikarou’s ears went flat. “Obviously you two love each other very much. Would my presence interfere with that?”
“Oh great, she’s another comedienne.” Shikarou groaned audibly. He pulled out his wand and created a table and food. “Tea?”
Once they were settled, Shikarou leaned back in his chair. “So what is the deal with the Order of Pendragon?”
“The Sidhe guarded the British Isles until they died off during a failed ritual at a grand conjunction almost fifteen hundred years ago. I was the only one left and created the Order to carry on our work.” She offered Faelan a tray of cookies. “Biscuit, dear?” Faelan took one absently and she beamed at Shikarou.
Faelan frowned and glanced at her. “So why not use this spell Shikarou mentioned then?”
“The Grimoire had been hidden about a 100 years before the Christians arrived because of a druid. He wanted to become Sidhe and was judged to be unworthy, but he had enough Sidhe blood to open the Grimoire and possibly the magical skills to make use of it, so the king ordered it hidden. After the disaster at the conjunction I went to where it had been hidden, but it was gone, taken by mortals to their Constantinople. I tried to go there to retrieve it, but my beauty became my curse and I was forced to use magic to protect myself. The local authorities hunted me and I had to flee back to here.”
“What about the druid?”
“His Sidhe blood wasn’t strong enough to grant him immortality and he died at the end of his allotted span.” She sipped at her tea. “I watched the humans and charted the Grimoire’s movements. When human society allowed, I went forth to retrieve it, only to discover that it had been lost. I could not locate it and returned home in despair.”
“Three hundred years ago it was found by this Sukebe and taken offworld for study. Only recently did my knights learn that it could be retrieved and Marcus was sent. However, your brother beat them there and took it for himself.”
Faelan nodded and smiled as she refilled his tea. “Thanks.” His ears flicked suddenly and he gave Shikarou a sharp look before glancing at Ygerna. “So what else is in there?”
“Some very powerful spells.” Shikarou shrugged. “Spells to return the dead to life, to cause barren women to conceive, fertilize the fields with the appropriate sacrifice, things like that. Spells associated with life for the most part.”
“Does the Order know what you intend?”
“Two of the Knight Commanders do. The rest have no need to know and are content to protect the Isles and I believe some of them think the Grimoire will purge the pokegirls from the lands.” She shrugged. “It suited my plans not to correct this misunderstanding.”
“I presume you did not plan to walk into Glasgow and turn everyone into Sidhe?”
“Of course not. The gift of Fey is special and I would be very selective as to who is chosen.”
Shikarou nodded. “I would be too.” He glanced at the sky. “I need to be going. I’m supposed to be meeting Pythia for training.”
Faelan jumped to his feet. “Me too. It was nice meeting you, Ygerna.” He raced off into the night.
The Sidhe sighed as she watched him leave. “Am I that repulsive?”
“No, he’s young and he did get married last night. While you might not think a marriage to a mortal important, we do. And he loves Svetlana with all his soul.” Shikarou shook his head slowly. “She deserves that kind of love.”
“Do you love her?”
“Oh, no. She and I have been at loggerheads off and on since we met, but deep down she’s ok.” He turned to her. “Are you staying?”
“You would offer me the rites of hospitality?” She seemed surprised. “The Order has not treated you well and yet you would do this?”
“I would and I do.” He smiled. “I have reason to believe that the Order will stop bothering me as much now that their queen believes that she can manipulate me through my brother.”
A smile played about her mouth. “Mayhap.”
He nodded. “And mayhap I will use your spell for the same purpose before then. There are a couple of people I would make Sidhe, if only for very personal reasons.”
“You do not want to lose them.” It was not a question.
“That would be a very personal reason, and that spell will make it much harder to do so.” He cocked his head. “Will it work on pokegirls?”
Ygerna smiled. “It will work on anything that has life. However, the personality tends to carry over, so if you make fish into Sidhe, they will be very stupid.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” He smiled. “And yet you intended to use it on humans.”
She chuckled. “Only the brightest ones.” She sobered suddenly. “If I have children by your brother, he will become the prince consort of the Sidhe Queen. Can you live with that?”
“I don’t consider myself Sidhe and wouldn’t have a problem with it.” He smiled. “If a kami queen comes along, I may have some problems with her, but so far that hasn’t happened.”
She nodded. “When may I return?”
“Whenever you want. I give you free access to the public parts of my lands, so long as you do not settle, bring troops other than your personal guard, bring others to live here, or act to despoil what is mine.”
“Well spoken. I will see thee anon.”
He smiled. “Now they say ‘later’.”
“I know, but I do not care for it.” She opened up a window in the ley line and disappeared into it.
Shikarou watched. “Now that’s something I want to learn how to do.” He turned and ran into the night.
(06/19/99 0115 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
He knelt in the semi-darkness. “My lord, she has returned.”
A whisper echoed around him. “Did she bring the book?”
“No, my lord. She returns empty handed and the device you gave me did not sense its presence.” He hesitated. “My lord, she went to the Hebrides and it is claimed that she met with Sidhe there.”
“Nonsense. She is the last of the Sidhe and I would have known if the bitch had bred.” There came a soft rasping noise out of the darkness. “Still, this must be investigated. Return to your duties and keep spying. I shall summon you when I have orders.”
“Yes, my lord.” He rose and left the room.
There was silence for a moment and then a dim light appeared, revealing a manlike creature. Once human, now it was both more and less. A skeletal hand stroked at a skinless chin, revealing the source of the rasping noise as it plucked at the thin remnants of a gray beard. “Germanicus.”
Another skeletal form moved into the light. “Lord?”
“Investigate this report of Sidhe. I thought I destroyed all of them but her long ago. If there are others, they too will have to die so that she will be alone and will bring me the book. I will live again and that is the key to everlasting life.” His skull whipped around. “Do not reveal yourself.”
Germanicus bowed. “My lord.” He disappeared back into the gloom.
The skeletal figure stood completely still for a moment and then abruptly jerked. “They should not have denied me my birthright. I will finish my vengeance on them and Ygerna and the Grimoire are the key. They will provide the future I seek.” The form turned and the light flickered and died.
(06/21/99 0915 New Avalon, Blue Continent)
The Grandelf smiled as Shikarou and Bellona walked up to her desk. “Welcome to the New Avalon Institute of Science. How may I help you?”
“I am Shikarou and I’m supposed to meet with Beverly and then I think I’m going to see the doctor.”
The Grandelf frowned. “That is unlikely, sir. I am The Doctor’s secretary and he’s not due back for another,” she glanced at her monitor, “fourteen years, six months and two days. Beverly only handles Dr. Banzai.”
Shikarou stared at her for a long moment. “I was talking about Dr. Banzai,” he finally said quietly. “Who are you talking about?”
“The Doctor, of course.” She smiled. “However, now that I know you want Dr. Banzai, I’ll see if Beverly knows you are coming.”
“Thank you.” He settled down with Bellona and waited.
“I have no clue.” He glanced at the Grandelf, who’d gone back to a novel. “But I think I may ask Aggie to find out.”
A few minutes later the Quillara stepped into the room. “Shikarou?” When he rose she led him to a bank of lifts which took them rapidly down into the bowels of the earth.
She watched him as they descended. “I’m sorry about the short notice. Why did you want to see Dr. Banzai?”
“Dr. Banzai had contacted Professor Stroak in regards some problem he thinks he may have discovered involving Ranma Saotome and his dimensional transport.” He smiled. “I’m the closest thing the Professor knows to an expert and he asked me to see if I could help.”
“Ah. Yes, Dr. Banzai has been very concerned about his findings.” She pursed her lips. “Excuse me but I know the names of every theoretical physicist of any note and I’ve never heard of you.”
He nodded. “That would be because I’m not a physicist.”
She frowned as the lift ground to a halt. “Then why would Stroak ask you to waste Dr. Banzai’s time?”
“I’m a dimensional traveler and I know a little about what’s involved.”
She looked stunned. “You are? How wonderful. The doctor will be so excited.”
Shikarou looked amused. “I was told that you didn’t handle The Doctor’s work.”
She blinked and then waved a dismissive hand. “Oh, him. He’s a visiting lecturer. I meant Dr. Banzai.”
Bellona followed close behind him as they went through a security gate and into another waiting room. “I’ll need your pokedex.” Shikarou handed it over and Beverly ran it through a reader. She frowned as she handed it back. “There’s a glitch in your record, it says you are 250 years old.”
“That’s more or less accurate.”
Her eyes bugged. “I’ll get Dr. Banzai.” She rushed from the room.
Dr. Buckaroo Banzai was tall and handsome, with sandy hair and piercing blue eyes. He smiled and held out his hand. “I’m Dr. Banzai and you are Shikarou.”
Shikarou smiled back as they shook. “This is Bellona, my beta.”
Banzai look faintly surprised but recovered instantly. “Hello, Bellona.” To his credit he shook her hand as well. “I got a message from Alphonse saying you could help me.”
“If you are referring to Professor Stroak, he asked me to try. I don’t make any promises, but I’ll do what I can to help.”
“Excellent. This way.” He led Shikarou into a small conference room. “I can’t take you to the labs. Security.”
“I understand. Why don’t you explain what the problem is?”
Banzai began to pace. Shikarou got the impression he was usually full of energy. “Recently I received the data recordings of the dimensional gate used to send the visitor, Ranma Saotome, back to his world. I did a routine analysis and discovered something disquieting.” He pulled a controller out of his labcoat and activated a wall screen. The display split and two sets of data appeared, covering the entirety of the wall. “The one on the right is the data from when Saotome-san was brought here and on the left is the data from when he was sent home.”
He turned to face Shikarou. “This is a test of whether I am wasting my time with you or not. What do you see?”
Shikarou looked at the screen carefully. Different sets of data on both sides began flashing in sequence in his mind’s eye. While the data isn’t in a format that your father uses, I can see that the locality inputs and temporal adjustments are almost identical; there is a problem in the dimensional matrix. From this data I can conjecture that the second location is physically and temporally almost the same as the first, but the second location is four steps down the D axis than the first.
Shikarou looked back at Banzai. “I use a five coordinate system for dimensional transport. There are the X, Y, Z coordinates for locality, the T coordinate for temporal adjustment and the D coordinate for dimensional positioning.”
“If I’m reading these right, and I may not be since I don’t use the same format you do, then locality and temporal adjustment are good, but the dimensions are different.”
Banzai gave him an amazed look. “It took me three days and significant processor power to determine that. Who are you?”
“I’m the person Professor Stroak asked to come see if he could help.”
Banzai gave a wide smile. “Excellent. For once Alphonse came through.” His smiled died. “I’m glad you offered to help as much as you could. There’s no way we can leave the young man trapped there. When can you leave?”
Shikarou’s ears flattened. “Are you proposing that I go and fetch Ranma back?”
“Of course, it’s the only right thing to do. We have a moral obligation to put him in the dimension he came from. You are a self professed dimensional traveler; this should be old hat to you.”
Shikarou muttered some unflattering things in Japanese. “I didn’t agree to this.”
“No, but you offered to help however you could and you are the closest thing to an experienced dimensional rescue team I’ve got. You are it, Shikarou.” He smiled. “I’d go myself, but you are much more experienced than I am and I’d only get in the way.”
Shikarou glared at him. “So how would this rescue mission work?”
“You’ll carry a dimensional communicator. Theoretically, it will allow you to contact us when you’re ready to return with Ranma. You find him, explain to him what’s happened and bring him back. We’ll send him to his own dimension after that.”
Shikarou glanced at Bellona. “Do you realize what he’s asking me to do?”
She smiled grimly. “Us. You’ll take the entire harem with you just in case this radio doesn’t work.” Her eyes were firm. “Oh, you’ll argue with me and Branwyn about it, but in the end we’ll win if we have to smuggle the other members through ourselves.”
“Tell me again why I put up with you?”
She smiled and touched his hand. “Love?”
He gripped her hand tightly. “Maybe so.” He turned to Banzai. “I’ll need a few days to prepare.”
Name: Urufu, Shikarou
Residence: Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Security Clearance: Eta
Master Tamer Y
Species Name Level
Alaka-Wham Circe 72
Unicorn Branwyn 59
Milktit Helen 57
Seraph Dorothea 50
Armsmistress Urufu Yushiko 48
Ria Kebi 47
G-Spliced Pythia 47
Vampire Elizabeth 46
Sphinx Lorelei 43
Mini-Top Nanu 41
Blazicunt Marzia 40
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
Wales: Magicunt Village