Chapter 43
(07/09/99 0600 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                The message is finished. Do you want to review it?
                “That would probably be a good idea.” Shikarou rubbed his eyes as he looked around the room. Branwyn, Kasumi, Svetlana and Faelan looked back at him. “Anyone who wants to leave is free to.”
                Faelan smiled slowly. “I know you hate this.”
                “It’s not that. It’s just that there are seven people in this room right now and that’s four too many to keep a secret.” He gave them a tired smile. “I’d say six, but nobody can get anything out of Aggie or Selene. And the fact that I’d really like to have Bellona, Circe and Stardust here, as well as Poppet, tells me just how lax I’ve gotten about security.”
                “It could also mean that you trust your family implicitly,” Svetlana countered. “That’s not a bad thing to do.”
                Faelan nodded. “She’s right. Eoghan and possibly Germanicus could pull just about anything from the mind of anyone else on this world except you. That means you either trust us or not. It doesn’t really have much to do with them.” He smiled thinly. “It also means that Pythia knew what she was doing when she summoned you.”
                Shikarou nodded. “I know. I just want to minimize the chances of a leak before this gets a chance to work.” He sighed and then straightened in his chair. “It’s time to throw the damned dice. Selene, if you would?”
                She appeared and nodded. “Yes, commander. I want to begin with a general overview of the security situation here on Caomh Sith. On the physical side, things have been quiet, other than the probe by what has been identified with a probability of .88 confidence as Germanicus. For the time being, our foe has not attempted to replace Mary and Gwen since they were subverted over to our side and their loyalty has been confirmed. The electronic side has been slightly more active, with a VideoGirl making several attempts to penetrate the island’s electronic defenses. She has penetrated to the first tier of the computer system, which consists entirely of fictitious data files. This was expected and she was allowed to reach this point. To date, all of her attempts to penetrate any deeper have been repulsed. There is a probability of .92 that she believes she has been facing an enemy VideoGirl and I have been careful not to reveal too much of my capabilities to her. Unfortunately this also means that I cannot trace her back to her source without her knowledge.”
                She took a deep breath and glanced at Shikarou, who nodded. “The discovery of the presence of an agent for Eoghan on the island was an almost fortuitous accident due to my commander’s thriftiness. When the repeater station was set up for communication with the mainland, a dedicated computer was needed to handle routing for the video calls, voice calls and internet access. Shikarou is too cheap to buy a computer that he doesn’t need, so he gave the work to me, since I can do it perfectly well and currently have few other responsibilities.” She smiled at her Commander. “Logic and Tirsuli privacy rules dictate the installation of a stand alone system sometime in the future; but I was bored, so I agreed and we loaded the League software into my system so that I could become a postman.”
                “While Tirsuli law requires a mail computer to only have access to the address headers, the equipment here used for recordings is frightfully crude by my standards and I took it upon myself to ensure the integrity of the messages themselves. What I decided I would do was scan the messages and clean up any interference. I did set up a subroutine that did all of the work without disturbing me, which allowed the messages to be cleaned up without my having knowledge of their contents. However, Blue League law requires me to keep copies of all messages for a year. It’s one of the rules they enacted while hunting Team Viper and has never been revoked.”
                Branwyn frowned. “I didn’t know that.”
                “The commands are built into the software that Shikarou loaded. This software comes straight from the official Blue League supplier. I requested and received a second set of software for comparison and these commands are built into the core programming for both sets, not as an add-on.”
                “One of the functions present in the subroutine I wrote for cleaning the messages was to learn from what it had done in the past and attempt to become better; thereby avoiding past mistakes. My subroutine informed me of three messages of exceedingly low quality, all from the same sender and all going to the same source. It had a series of suggestions for the message sender on how to improve message quality.” She shrugged. “Apparently the subroutine got a bit too smart for its own good. It happens.”
                “However, in this case it was a good thing,” the AI continued. “The third message had some unusually complex encryption that got my attention when I tried to read it. Decoding it was easy, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it and it’s very sophisticated for this world. After decrypting the message, I reviewed it and immediately pulled the copies of the other two from storage for evaluation. The next step was to contact Shikarou.” She nodded to him. “Sir?”
                He stood. “The three messages were voice only and were whispered, which is why they were flagged by Selene’s program. They were sent by a previously unknown agent of Eoghan’s who is on this island. The agent was passing along any information that it could get on the Grimoire, Faelan, and Ygerna.” He smirked. “Apparently the agent is either under orders to ignore me or it is unaware that I am also a small portion of the power that Eoghan’s forces would have to contend with if and when he assaulted the island. The messages were short, but very specific.”
                Kasumi stirred. “Do we know who this agent is?”
                Shikarou nodded. “I do. When the message was cleaned up the voice was unmistakable. It’s Barbie, the Magic Battle Angel who came through with Ygerna. I realize now that letting Ygerna vet her people for loyalty was a mistake. The only one I really checked out was Marcus and that’s because he turned up late and, frankly, because I despise the little cockroach. I should have done them all.” He shrugged. “It’s also possible that she may not know she’s an agent, there are several spells that could take her will and reduce her to a puppet of Eoghan’s at any time. A spell would explain why she’s only focused on what he knows are threats.” He smiled broadly. “If I was a spy, I think I would have mentioned all the powerful pokegirls that Eoghan doesn’t know are here, at least once. If he’s so powerful that he doesn’t need to care about our force configuration, we may as well pack our toys and go home because he’s got victory already in the bag.”
                “So, I took it upon myself to conduct a little examination of Ygerna’s guard pokegirl and I determined that she is an unwitting agent due to a parasite spell she carries.”
                Branwyn frowned. “That makes sense; in most cases as soon as a pokegirl gets a new Tamer, she starts transferring her loyalty to him. Only a delta bond can keep the process from happening and even that’s not foolproof.”
                Shikarou nodded. “That’s good to know. It turns out that Barbie has the magical equivalent of a very stupid computer in her head. It has tunnel vision on only a small number of things and it takes her over and sends messages whenever necessary. This last fact simplified my job a great deal; since the messages aren’t on some kind of prearranged schedule, my little trick can proceed whenever I want it to.”
                “Selene and Aggie have made a fourth message. It’s one that I’m hopeful will draw a powerful agent of Eoghan’s into my grasp. As members of my family, I am telling you about what’s going to happen so you can prepare. Selene.”
                She nodded. “What you are going to hear next is the message that we have created.”
                When Selene spoke again, it was in the voice of Barbie. While the voice was the pokegirl’s, there was no inflection and the words were clipped in sharp contrast to her normal vibrant tone. “It has been decided that the Sidhe Queen Ygerna will take custody of the Grimoire of Danu. The Grimoire of Danu is currently under the protection of a time delay spell that will expire in two days at noon. The Sidhe Queen Ygerna will take possession of the Grimoire of Danu as soon as that spell dies. The location of the transfer is next to a rock known as the Gates of Alexandria. The location of the rock follows.”
                Selene spoke in her normal voice. “The word usage is identical to the previous messages. A map of the island with the rock marked will be attached to this message. This gives Eoghan both a time and a place that the Grimoire of Danu and Ygerna will be in same location. It is very likely that a retrieval team will be sent to collect them. There is a probability of .92 that Germanicus will accompany this team and a probability of .48 that Eoghan will also come. If he does, the probability of Germanicus also being present approaches 1.00. The time delay put into the message is long enough for them to respond, but short enough that they don’t have time to assemble a massive force or conduct extensive pre-assault scouting.”
                Shikarou nodded. “My vote is for Germanicus as opposed to his boss. Eoghan seems to be the shy sort. In any case, barring the appearance of Eoghan himself, I intend to catch and interrogate whoever shows up.”
                Svetlana winced. “And then what will you do with them?”
                “Considering their behavior in the past, I intend to execute any humans and undead. The pokegirls get reformatted with level five conditioning cycles; which, of course, is execution as well.”
                Svetlana nodded. “Good.” She smiled when Branwyn blinked. “Remember, I said once before that if it comes down to us or them, they get to go. That hasn’t changed.”
                Branwyn nodded slowly. “I remember. I also agree with you.” She turned to her husband. “Considering what happened last time, there are likely to be casualties on our side as well as theirs.”
                Shikarou rubbed his eyes again. “I know. I’ve been trying to work around that little fact but I can’t be sure I can take the whole team down by myself before they flee. I suspect I wouldn’t be allowed to solo this even if I thought I could.” He gave Branwyn a wry smile that she returned. “Since you’re going to be there whether I want you to or not, I might as well use that in planning this fiasco.”
                “What about us?” Faelan gave him an angry look. “I won’t be left out of what’s going to happen.”
                Shikarou nodded. “I wouldn’t try to keep you out, but our harems haven’t trained together and we’d be getting in each other’s way. I thought, perhaps, you could be a reserve as well as a pursuit team for any leakers to make sure no one escapes.” His ears went flat. “I want everyone who Eoghan sends out to simply disappear forever. That druid set the rules when he started killing people as an example for the rest of us and I’m going play by them for the time being. Svetlana had it right: one side is going to cease to exist and I want to make damned sure it isn’t us.”
                Kasumi frowned. “What about possible defections?”
                “If someone wants to surrender and join us, then they are welcome to do so. However, Ygerna’s word on someone’s loyalty is no longer sufficient. They will get a complete check as to their true loyalties and anyone who’s not firmly for us gets the axe.” His ears drifted back up to their normal position. “If I thought it wouldn’t expose our plans, I’d take her people now and do the same thing to them. Rest assured, once we spring this trap, they already have appointments.” His eyes narrowed. “That means that if someone wants to surrender, they get taken prisoner with all normal precautions until they can be vetted. There will be no exceptions.” He looked around. “Are there any questions? No? Then we can move to the planning stage. When that’s done, I’ll brief Samantha, Lynn and Gwyneth.”
                Branwyn nodded. “I’ll go to the Conservatory and brief Poppet. Should anyone else be brought into this?”
                Shikarou started to shake his head and stopped. “I don’t think she needs to be fully briefed, but let the Wet Queen know that things may get ugly so she can be ready to evacuate her people if necessary.”
                Svetlana tapped a fingernail on the tabletop. “I’ll take care of that. She respects my status as a Celestial and is less likely to ask awkward questions.”
                Shikarou nodded. “That sounds excellent. Branwyn, Faelan, assemble the planning staff and let’s get this thing on the road.” He glanced over at the hologram. “Selene, send the message.”
(07/09/99 0930 Order of Pendragon, Blue Continent)
                The technician looked at his pokegirl as she smiled brightly on the display. “Bobby, the decryption is complete and the message is ready for review.
                “Thanks.” Bobby keyed up the message and read the display. “Alert Sir Dwayne that we have another message from Agent Beta. Make it a priority message.”
                The Video Girl rolled her eyes. “Very well, I’ve sent him a priority email, just like he ordered.”
                Bobby nodded. Their job was done until Dwayne got in touch with them. Still, he hesitated for a second before making a decision. “I want you to copy Sir Evan as well.”
                “Are you sure? Dwayne got really pissed the last time you went to his boss. Considering the purges, are you sure you want to put your neck on the block for him to hack at?”
                “The message is time sensitive and Dwayne’s not good about being prompt. If I don’t get this to someone who can say it either is or isn’t important, my neck’s already there.”
                “I get your point. Message sent.”
                Bobby winked. “Excellent. Since he’ll ask, I guess I’ll need a status on your other projects. Nanette, how’s your assignment hacking the computers on Caomh Sith going?”
                She gave him an apologetic look. “They’ve got to have a Video Girl of their own and she’s pretty good. I got into some unsecured stuff, but every time I try to access more valuable files, I get led into blind alleys or some traps that dump me back outside the system. Some of this stuff I’ve never seen before.”
                She frowned. “Oddly enough, neither has anyone else I’ve talked to. It’s like something I’d expect from McMahon’s technical research group but that island doesn’t have squat in the way of trained personnel. I don’t understand why, but that place is defended and pretty well too.” Nanette blinked. “Sir Evan just acknowledged your message and replies that he’ll be here in five minutes. Maybe you were right, Bobby.”
                “Maybe.” Still, Bobby waited nervously until Sir Evan showed up.
                Sir Evan stopped in the doorway. “Are you doing anything I’m not supposed to know about again?”
                Bobby reddened at the memory of the time he’d been caught taming Nanette while on duty. “No, sir, please come in.”
                Evan smiled easily as he entered the com room. Bobby had been recruited because he was one of the five best people in his field in the entire Blue League, as well as the only one who’d tested strong in magic. The boy’s only problems were a lack of confidence in his own opinions, compounded with a complete lack of awareness of the consequences that the change in administration in the Order had brought. He’d had to call in some serious markers to keep the boy from being purged but having someone that skilled around was worth it. “Robert, I know Sir Dwayne told you not to send anything to me without contacting him first, so I do hope this is important.”
                “Sir, we received a message from Agent Beta, as you know from my message to you. I read the message and it’s time critical. Sir Dwayne is sometimes a bit slow about responding to things and so I had you copied. I did inform him first as ordered, he just never replied.”
                Evan grinned broadly. “Let’s see the message and see if it’s as important as you think.”
                Robert keyed up the message again and Sir Evan fought to keep his face still as he read it. The technician wasn’t even a squire and had no idea just how important this particular message was. However, the cost of all those favors to keep him around had just been paid in full. “Robert, I think commendations are in order. You did exactly the right thing and I’ll make sure you get the reward for that.” He continued as Bobby preened. “Print me a paper copy and then archive it as normal.” His smile hardened. He didn’t particularly like Dwayne; the oaf had this post because he was a good politician. “If Sir Dwayne asks about this message, tell him that I’ve seen it and I’m taking care of it personally.”
                “Yessir.” Bobby handed Sir Evan the hardcopy.
                “Good job, my boy.” Evan turned and hurried out.
                Sir Evan entered Sir Kenneth’s office and came to attention. “Sir, we just received a message from Agent Beta and I think you’ll want to see it right away.”
                Kenneth leaned back in his chair without giving the hardcopy in Evan’s hand a glance. “Why is that, Sir Evan, and where is Sir Dwayne?”
                “It states that Ygerna is going to take custody of the Grimoire, Sir Kenneth. It even specifies where it will take place in two days.” Evan already knew better than to refer to the former queen with any sort of title of respect. He’d seen what happened to those who forgot that simple rule and definitely didn’t need a second reminder of the price of carelessness. “Dwayne was notified about it but I don’t think he’s responded to his message yet. Once I found out what the message held, I decided it couldn’t wait for him.”
                Kenneth blinked and glanced at Kim. The Bondage Queen was watching Evan with a look of anticipation. “Down, girl.” She grimaced and leaned back against the wall. “Let me have the message.”
                He read it quickly and then once again more slowly before looking up. “Thank you, Sir Evan, that will be all for now.”
                Sir Evan bowed formally. “Yes, sir.” He turned on his heel and marched from the room.
                Sir Kenneth rose and headed down the hall to the throne room. He stopped in front of the guard, one of Dragonesses that had died in the revolution. She’d been raised as some kind of undead creature and placed as one of the king’s protectors. He didn’t know what kind and frankly didn’t care. She sniffed the air and growled. “Sir Kenneth for King Eoghan.” He raised his arm and the pokegirl sniffed it. Her nose wrinkled and she stepped aside. If his scent hadn’t been one she recognized, she would have torn the arm off and eaten it and then moved on to the rest of him.
                Kenneth pushed the door open and entered the room, stopping just inside the entrance. Eoghan sat unmoving on the throne. Several minutes passed before the undead turned his head. “Sir Kenneth, advance.”
                The knight advanced to the edge of the carpet. “Your Majesty, I have a message from Agent Beta.” He held out the sheet of paper as he continued. “Agent Beta has information that your queen will be taking possession of the Grimoire in two days. The tome is protected in a time locked spell and she will receive the Grimoire when the spell expires. She’ll probably get it from that half breed warrior she ran to.” He smiled thinly. “Agent Beta discovered where the transfer will take place.”
                The undead king held out his hand and the paper jumped to it. Red pinpoints in the eye sockets shifted slightly to regard it for a second. His voice filled the room with sibilants, yet strangely there was no echo. “Inform Germanicus that it is my will that he and two knights of his choice retrieve my bride and the Grimoire.”
                The man bowed deeply. “As you command, my king, so shall it be done.” He turned to leave.
                The king’s voice stopped him. “Kenneth, you have served me well. When I am reborn, you will be one of the first to join me and your place will be at my right hand, second only to Germanicus.”
                Sir Kenneth smiled. “Thank you, my king.”
(07/11/99 0600 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                Shikarou perched on a rock a half a kilometer from Peacetown and watched the two figures approaching him. As they approached, it became clear that it was Ygerna and Morgan. The Sidhe looked distinctly upset as she stopped in front of him. “Would you like to explain to me what is going on?”
                He eyed her for a second. “Wait just a moment. Team one, execute.”
                Ygerna jumped as Pythia appeared behind Morgan. She jabbed the unsuspecting Dragoness in the neck and there was a quiet hiss as the drug was forced into her system. Morgan’s incredible vitality enabled her to knock Pythia away with her tail, but she collapsed as she tried to turn around. Stardust and Circe teleported in on either side of her and lifted her limp form into the air with telekinesis. Pythia quickly joined them.
                The Sidhe woman suddenly winced and grabbed her head. “Make them stop, Shikarou.” Abruptly, she relaxed. “Thank you.” Anger flared in her eyes. “You didn’t have to do that; I trust her with my life.”
                Circe turned to face them as the Dragoness landed carefully. “We didn’t find anything. Should we wake her up?”
                “No. Leave me the antidote and return to your posts.” A second injector floated over to Shikarou. He took it as the pokegirls vanished.
                “Sit, Ygerna.” He waited for a moment as she stared at him. “Barbie had a spy spell planted in her before she came to you. I’m fairly sure she doesn’t know about it. I don’t think anyone else in your group has also been compromised. However, I had to check Morgan to make sure since I’m done taking chances.”
                The Sidhe’s eyes widened. “I checked Barbie when we arrived here and I never felt anything. How did you find out?”
                “It’s a long story. Once I knew, I had a false message sent to our enemies using Barbie’s message codes. They think you are going to take possession of the Grimoire today at noon. It also told them where you will do this.”
                “I take it I’m not going to get the Grimoire?”
                “Not a chance. I’m setting this little affair up just to thin out the ranks of the Order and so I don’t have to interrogate you as to the location of the Order’s primary base.”
                She eyed him warily. “You wouldn’t hurt me. I’m the last pureblood Sidhe and I’m going to be with your brother.”
                “Yes, but you’re not with him right now. I don’t care if you’re the last female on the planet, I will know that location and if I have to torture you to get it, I will.”
                She blinked. “You might try asking me.”
                “You wouldn’t tell Faelan when he asked, which means that I doubt you’d tell me.” He turned to her. “However, just to settle the issue, will you tell me the location and layout of the headquarters of the Order of Pendragon, in sufficient detail for me to find it and enter it safely without being discovered by the current occupants?”
                She smiled slightly. “I will tell Faelan when he becomes my husband. I will tell no others.”
                Shikarou nodded and rose to his feet to look into her eyes. “Then you’d better hope I find out what I need from the people who turn up to kidnap you and the book. If I don’t, then we will have a much more serious version of this talk later. While I recognize your value and that means I will work not to kill you, I will not hesitate to eliminate your guard so we can talk without being disturbed.”
                Her eyes narrowed. “You mean murder.”
                “I mean murder.” He agreed pleasantly. “I do indeed. I am going to destroy that lich and his servants. I won’t let anything except family get in my way.” He glanced at her. “Until you are married to Faelan, you are not family and not subject to its protections.”
                Ygerna put her hands on her hips. “Since we are such a burden upon you, should I and my court leave your island?”
                “I haven’t said anything about withdrawing my hospitality, but if you feel it’s necessary, then go.”
                Her eyes narrowed to slits. “You know I cannot do that.”
                “Then don’t make the offer. Adolescent behavior will get you nothing from me, except possibly a very severe case of annoyance.”
                She took a deep breathe. “Do you hate me?”
                Shikarou suppressed an urge to roll his eyes. “No, I don’t and I’ve never hinted that I did. I know it’s hard for you to be here, you’ve lost your Order and your authority in one instant, and now you’re here and having to live off my sufferance. I know it grates and while I don’t know how you feel about it, I know how I felt when I was helpless and at the whim of another.”
                Ygerna watched him suspiciously as he continued. “I’m not going to throw you out on a whim and I’m actually hopeful that you and Faelan and Svetlana can work out some kind of arrangement.”
                “I sense a ‘but’,” she commented almost absently.
                “Actually, it’s a ‘however’. However, you don’t seem to be aware that we are engaged in fight to the death with a powerful and, presumably, undead mage. If my information is correct, with the exception of you, he’s engineered the destruction of the entire Sidhe race and since Faelan and I carry that blood, we’re in his crosshairs.” His voice hardened slightly. “I will do whatever is needed to ensure that my family is protected. If doing so results in my having to perform acts that I find distasteful on people that I’d rather not do such things to, I will live with the consequences of those actions afterwards. That will not prevent me from carrying them out.”
                Shikarou settled back down on the rock and leaned backwards to look at the dawn sky. “In fact, the best possible place for you right now is back at the Order, at least from a standpoint of pure survival. We both know that their leader, whom I will not name out in the open air, intends for you to be his receptacle for rebuilding the Sidhe race. That means he has a very vested interest in keeping you alive and in good enough condition to bear the rigors of near constant pregnancy.”
                Ygerna blanched. “I’ve never heard someone put it so baldly. Yet I cannot see how he could succeed. He’s undead, and they cannot reproduce using traditional methods.”
                He nodded. “While that’s true in most cases and definitely true for a corporeal undead that’s skeletal, I think I know exactly how he intends to do it. He wants to use the Grimoire to bring himself back to life and make him fully Sidhe.”
                The Sidhe woman abruptly sat down next to him. “That’s not possible. He may have the strength to cast the spells to return life to the dead, but he cannot cast them on himself. And only a Sidhe with the full use of his powers could successfully cast the spell to make him Sidhe.”
                “Her?” Ygerna looked puzzled for a moment before the light dawned. She gasped quietly. “He intends for me to do it. But I’d never agree to that.”
                “I’m sure he thinks he has a way to make you agree to what he wants.” Shikarou stretched and yawned. “It’s likely that he’ll have you work the spell on someone else first, maybe his half brother. Then he can either have Germanicus cast the spell on him or Germanicus can force you to do it. Or maybe he’ll tempt you with the chance at a pure blooded Sidhe male. Don’t forget, at that point, Faelan will be dead and he has no information on the fact that I exist. Of course, as soon as he does find out about me, I’ll be put on the same list Faelan is.” He tapped a claw on the rock. “It could also be that he thinks he can control you with a spell of some kind.”
                He yawned again. “What it boils down to is this: who do you want to sire children off of you, my brother or the man who murdered the Sidhe race so he could become one of them?”
                Ygerna’s belligerence faded as she thought for a moment. “You haven’t stripped me of my kingdom or murdered my subjects, yet. Nor do you plan to make me a brood mare for your own ambitions. My lot stays with you.”
                “Even if Faelan isn’t the king here?”
                She laughed softly. “I became the Queen of the Order of Pendragon because there was no one else to do so. I was a mage and a musician before everyone else died. I think I’d like to do that again.”
                “I intend to be opening a school of magic for mortals. Well, my family’s children will also be taught there. Would you consider a post as an instructor?”
                Ygerna gave him a slightly haughty look. “I will consider it.”
                “That’s all I can ask. I would be pleased if you accepted.” Her eyes sparkled with pleasure at his quiet response.
                She nodded. “So what is my role in all of this?”
                “I wasn’t aware I assigned you one,” he gave her an odd look and handed her the injector. “Don’t forget to wake Morgan up as you leave.”
                The Sidhe ignored the dismissal. “You have them believing that I will be there to receive the Grimoire. If they arrive and don’t see me, then they are going to be very cautious.”
                He shrugged. “Once they arrive, it’ll be too late for them to be much of anything other than busy.”
                “And if they arrive early? I need to be there to make your trap look authentic.” She patted him on the knee. “I know you’ll protect me and, even if I get captured, without the Grimoire they’re back where they were before the rebellion.”
                “The Grimoire will be there. It’s the only way to ensure they feel the proper energy patterns.”
                Her mouth dropped for a second. “You’re willing to risk the Grimoire but you’re not willing to risk me? I’m flattered.”
                Shikarou gave her an amused look. “The Grimoire, as you pointed out, is worthless to them without a Sidhe to perform the spells. Besides, I’ve memorized the whole thing already, so I can afford to lose it.”
                Ygerna sat stunned for a heartbeat. “That’s impossible,” she stated flatly. “I wrote the Grimoire and I couldn’t memorize the whole thing.”
                “Chalk it up to hybrid vigor.”
                She stared at him. “Could Faelan memorize it as well?”
                “If he applied himself to it, he could. He is the one who figured out how to open it. I hadn’t mastered my Sidhe powers and did not have the faintest idea that’s what was needed.”
                “What is he going to do now that he’s retired?”
                “Haven’t the foggiest. You’ll have to ask him.”
                She raised an eyebrow. “I will. Now, what will be my role in this little adventure?”
                “You’re determined to interfere, aren’t you?”
                “I’m going to help, not interfere.”
                “From where I sit, there’s little difference.” His ears flicked. “However, if you insist, I guess I can put you at ground zero.”
                She gave him a curious look. “What would you do if I just took the Grimoire and ran?”
                “I’d watch you go.” His lips curved in an amused smile. “They would chase you for a while and I’d have time to plan my defenses for after they caught you and finally came for me.”
                “You wouldn’t rescue me?”
                “No, I like to think that stupid is its own reward.”
(07/11/99 0800 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                Svetlana’s wings faded into nonexistence as Dorothea flared to a landing next to her. “The area has been swept and we didn’t find anyone,” she reported to Shikarou. The Megami-sama gave the Seraph an annoyed glance. “And I’m not used to having a shadow. It kept trying to distract me from my scans of the area.”
                “Thou know it was necessary,” Dorothea replied simply. “If thou were attacked, then we would know where our enemy was as well as where to retrieve thou or thy body if I was unable to effect rescue.”
                Svetlana’s eyes narrowed. “If I might be allowed to finish, I was going to say that I now realize your decision not to split up the teams was sound. We just don’t have enough experience working together for there not to be friction.” She blinked suddenly. “Did you send her with me just to make me understand that?”
                Shikarou smiled slightly. “You were questioning the whole concept, weren’t you? I’m glad it only took a harmless scout of the area to realize what I’ve been saying all along makes sense.” The smile vanished. “To your posts, ladies.”
                He turned to Nanu as the two Celestial pokegirls took off again. He dipped into a pocket and pulled out some items. “Take these.”
                She blinked as he dropped five softly glowing 25mm rounds into her hands. “What are these?”
                “You remember that I’ve been so tired recently?” When she nodded, he smiled. “Over the last week, I’ve been pouring my life energy into those bullets. From what I understand, they should be just what you’ll need if things go as planned.” He sobered and gave her a very serious look. “You are not to fire until I specifically order it or until Faelan does if I’m down. Nobody else has authorization to order you to shoot, not Branwyn or Bellona or anyone else. Is that clear?”
                The Mini-Top put the rounds away and glanced around quickly, her ears slapping against the backs of her legs gently. Reassured that no one else was in earshot she raised an eyebrow. “You rescued me from long term storage where it’s likely I would have remained forever and let me have my revenge on my former Tamer.” Her voice was quiet and even. “You’ve never belittled me or treated me any less than any other member of your harem, including your wife. Now you trust me enough to make me the primary backup in case you can’t do the job.” She touched his arm gently. “You can worry about whatever makes you happy, like Ygerna bailing when things get difficult, but you don’t ever have to worry that I won’t carry out your will.” She pursed her lips. “I am yours, now and forever.”
                He looked surprised and then pleased. “And I am yours. Get to your nest, my precious little rabbit.” She grinned and trotted off as he activated the com spell.
                “It’s time to take your places, people. Showtime is in four hours and our guests are more than inconsiderate enough to try to arrive early so they can get better seats than we’re offering them.” He smiled at the chuckles that came back to him. “Since we don’t know how many opponents are coming, the teams we’ve set up will not engage until ordered, in order to avoid getting in each other’s ways. If I go down, Faelan assumes overall tactical command. If I live through this, anyone who disobeys him on the battlefield will answer to me.”
                “Team leaders, report.”
                “Team one ready.” That was Branwyn reporting for her, Circe and Pythia. They were the assault team. They were also among the most magically adept of his harem and had a special role when the battle first started.
                “Team two ready,” Dorothea reported calmly. That would be her, Yushiko and Lorelei. They composed a heavy assault unit capable of taking on anything short of a Widow with a good chance of success.
                “Team three reports ready.” That was Bellona for Helen and Roisin. The three of them were the support element and would move to at Bellona’s discretion to help anyone who was having difficulties.
                “Team four ready.” Candace and Elizabeth comprised the medical retrieval unit. They were stationed about four kilometers away on a hilltop with a good line of sight and were equipped with powerful electronic binoculars. Shikarou hoped they wouldn’t have anything to do, but optimism wouldn’t keep anyone from getting hurt and he suspected they’d be busy. Along with Candace’s healing powers, they had two PPHUs and several charged batteries, as well as everyone’s pokeballs.
                “Kami’s sword is moving into position. Ready in three.” That was Nanu and her silly call sign.
                “Team Wolf ready.” That was Faelan and his harem. “Maureen is more than ready to try out her new form.” Maureen, Faelan’s Amazonlee, had been working hard to increase her strength. When she’d informed her Tamer that she was ready to evolve, he’d taken her to his brother’s shrine on the mountain in Edo and she’d been thrilled to become a Malakai. This would be her first real battle since that transformation.
                There was a soft laugh. “I and my pokegirls are ready, husband.” Kasumi waved from where she was on a nearby hilltop. “Be careful. I just became a wife. I am not ready to become a widow.”
                “I’ll keep that in mind,” he muttered dryly. “You’ll be team six.”
                “We are ready too.” Ygerna touched his arm. “Morgan and I know what we’re supposed to be doing. We get the Grimoire and run, leading them wherever Faelan tells me to.” Her voice dropped. “Thank you for trusting us enough to let us do this.”
                He shrugged. “You had a good point about them looking for you. Now, get to your position and, please, be patient.”
                Morgan stopped in front of him. “I don’t like what you did, but I agree it had to be done. As soon as this is over, I want you to check everyone else in my Queen’s forces to ensure we don’t have any filthy traitors.”
                “I will. I’d like your help when I do.” Shikarou saw no reason not offer her an olive branch. She’d likely be around for as long as Ygerna was and, if the Sidhe married Faelan, it would be for some time indeed.
                He glanced at the rocks that marked the entrance to Alexandria and said a silent prayer for the safety of everyone involved in this. The remaining non-feral people on the island had been evacuated into Selene’s care. It got them out of the line of fire in case some of the Order’s forces went looking for hostages and had the added bonus of putting Barbie on ice without alerting her monitoring spell.
                Calmly, he rose and headed for his assigned position.
                The next four hours seemed to both drag and rush by as Shikarou sat quietly. Ygerna and Morgan were busy talking to each other not too far from where the book would reappear when the spell expired.
                “Faelan,” he muttered when about two hours had passed, “when the ball opens, I want you to keep an eye on Ygerna. If it looks like they are going to take her and the Grimoire, I want you to stop them. If you can’t do that, kill her.”
                “I think we should let them take her.” Faelan’s voice was confident. “I gave her an anklet as a gift that’s got a transponder the satellites can track. I made sure it has no magical signature at all and it uses a modern transmitter. Outside of us, nothing on this planet can find it. I checked and she’s wearing it.”
                Shikarou chuckled briefly. “That does it. I’m finally willing to admit you are my brother. Good job.”
                Two hours later he stiffened slightly. “They’re coming.”
                Faelan responded instantly. “How can you tell?”
                “Ygerna showed me how to track ley line travel. The standard method won’t work for undead and when Germanicus came last time he had to force it to accept him. It feels different from normal travel and that’s what I feel coming this time.”
                “What’s the ETA?” Branwyn asked.
                “I put them maybe twenty minutes out, definitely not any less than that.”
                “Ok, girls, five minutes for any bathroom runs and Helen will be sending Elizabeth around with sandwiches.” Branwyn announced. “Bathroom runs begin right now.” There was a flurry of movement.
                Ten minutes later, things were still once more.
                A segment of ley line became visible in the noon light and a point within it started to pulsate slowly as the spell hiding the Grimoire of Danu started to end. Ygerna and Morgan moved that way in anticipation of recovering the tome.
                Suddenly, another section of the line began to crackle with green lines of energy that radiated out from a green dot. Ygerna and Morgan broke into a run away from the area as it grew quickly to form a tear in the ley line and a skeletal form stepped out of it. Germanicus moved quickly to the side as two humans followed him out, each releasing two pokeballs as they did so.
                The lead knight has an Archmage and a Bramage. The following knight has a Cardian and a StarlightXpress already in her battle form. Aggie whispered to everyone through either twee or com spell.
                Faelan’s voice whispered back. “Branwyn, the StarlightXpress could be a lot of trouble. I’ve got her. You’ll have to take everyone else.”
                “Get her,” the lich commanded, pointing at the fleeing Sidhe woman. He turned and moved quickly towards softly glowing marker for the Grimoire.
                Forty meters away, Branwyn, Circe and Pythia completed their spell and a shimmering multicolored hemisphere appeared over the Grimoire and quickly expanded to fill the area around it. Germanicus plunged into it and halted suddenly as he felt the magic around him being drained by the hemisphere. His head swung, red pinpoints searching. He spotted team two as it broke cover and pointed to it. “JACOB, KILL THEM!”
                The lead knight spun, his pokegirls moving in concert with him. Three simultaneous fireballs detonated on team two as they charged. In the middle of the explosion, Lorelei and Dorothea managed to teleport to safety. Yushiko’s scream was cut off as she went down.
                Faelan popped to his feet with his GunValkyrie, Tetsuyo. “Do it,” he ordered. The pokegirl rotated her sniper rifle into position and expertly nailed the StarlightXpress, knocking her flying. She went into a hover and created a forcefield in front of her. Her eyes began to glow as power built.
                “NOW!” Faelan yelled and Tetsuyo quickly folded her rifle into storage and rotated up both tribarrels onto her forearms. The weapons were already spinning up to speed as they locked into place.
                Thunder roared as she opened fire, hosing twin streams of plasma across the force field before locking both weapons onto a single point. The startled StarlightXpress abandoned her attack and began pouring energy into the failing force field in an attempt to reinforce it. Energy bled from the force field in a multicolored display of coruscant light that outshined the sun.
                The second knight spoke briefly to his Cardian and the two of them raced after Ygerna. The plant pokegirl began to glow as she started absorbing sunlight. Her solar beam took Morgan in the back and blasted her forward to summersault past her mistress.
                Ygerna skidded to a halt next to the fallen Dragoness and spun. A line of fire suddenly connected her upraised hand and the Cardian. The plant pokegirl went down screaming as her body ignited.
                Team three rushed from their hiding place and headed towards the smoldering Cardian, Bellona in the lead.
                Elizabeth appeared on the battlefield, returned Yushiko to her pokeball and quickly teleported away to Candace for healing.
                Bellona summoned her wings and took to the air, turning to head for the second knight as she screamed at Roisin. “PUT THE CARDIAN OUT!”
                The Wet Elf pulled up short and cupped her hands together.  A tremendous stream of water exploded from her palms and swept over the Cardian. The hydro pump sent the pokegirl tumbling into heavy rocks but did put out the flames licking at her body. Helen pounded by Roisin as the Wet Elf’s face went slack in astonishment and she started to glow.
                The StarlightXpress tried drifting sideways to escape the GunValkryie’s attack, but to no avail as Tetsuyo tracked her unrelentingly. Faelan watched carefully. “Svetlana, go.”
                She and Derdekea vanished and reappeared behind the StarlightXpress, who was too busy to notice their arrival. That quickly changed when the Fallen Angel drove her dark blade into the center of her back. Svetlana split into three identical forms and each of them stabbed the StarlightXpress with an energy blade. The enemy pokegirl dropped so quickly that Tetsuyo almost shot her harem mates.
                The GunValkyrie rotated her tribarrels into storage and her sniper rifle back to the ready as her missile ports snapped open and she began scanning for other targets.
                Dorothea and Lorelei appeared in the air and whipped in a tight circle. The Seraph’s ice beam smashed through the space occupied by the Bramage, who barely avoided the attack by frantically leaping out of the way. She used mimic to send the ice beam back to the Seraph, who casually flicked it out of the way with deflect as Lorelei folded her wings and plummeted towards her target.
                Pythia appeared behind Sir Jacob and her jaws gaped wide as she used crunch on his shoulder. Bone snapped and blood sprayed as Jacob screamed in agony. Pythia shook him like a wolf with a rabbit before dropping him.
                The Archmage reacted immediately by casting white wind. Her Tamer’s shoulder instantly mended and he drew his sword as he rolled back to his feet. The Cardian and StarlightXpress also rose back into sight, now completely healed and ready to continue the battle.
                “FUCK!” Derdekea’s comment expressed everyone’s reaction more than adequately.
                Branwyn smashed into the Archmage with mach breaker as Circe hit the enemy pokegirl with a massive psychic attack. The Unicorn grabbed the unconscious Archmage by the arm and vanished. The Alaka-Wham lifted into a hover and rotated to face Sir Jacob.
                Germanicus reached for the Grimoire and Shikarou boiled up out of the concealed pit he’d spent the last several hours in. Landing on the lich’s back, he wrapped his legs around the skeletal waist and slammed a metal skullcap onto his head, quickly spinning setscrews to lock it in place on the bony skull.
                Germanicus dropped the tome and drew a dagger with each hand. His arms rotated in their sockets until they faced to the back and he drove the daggers into Shikarou’s sides. The kami shuddered but kept his grip as the daggers burrowed deeper, seeking vital organs.
                Initiating procedure. The transmitter on the skullcap screamed to life. Both Shikarou and Germanicus froze and toppled to the ground. Every muscle in Shikarou’s body contracted and he tried to curl around his opponent. Blood poured from his mouth as he bit his tongue in two. Germanicus trembled like a leaf in a storm as energy cascaded through him.
                Procedure will not work as planned. Modifications are complete. Two phases will be required. Beginning phase one.
                The Cardian began to glow again but before she could unleash another solar beam, Helen hit her with ice beam from less than a meter away. The hapless plant type was frozen solid from the attack. Unable to stop herself, the angry Milktit smashed into her and sent her skidding along the ground.
                Ygerna cast a healing spell on Morgan just as Elizabeth appeared. “Don’t need a pickup?” the Vampire inquired. She whipped around as the second knight approached and reached to out to grab Ygerna and the Dragoness. All three of them faded from sight as she took them invisible.
                The knight pulled up short, cursing in Gaelic. “TANDY!” The StarlightXpress lifted off and headed for him just as Bellona smashed into her Tamer. The DragonQueen quickly slapped the knight into unconsciousness.
                “LELAND!” The StarlightXpress accelerated hard and suddenly went into an evasive pattern as Svetlana appeared nearby. Her force field appeared in a bubble around her and she slowed as Bellona hoisted her Tamer off the ground to use as a shield.
                The Bramage again used mimic and her open palms spat bolts of plasma at Dorothea as she copied the GunValkyrie’s rapid shot technique. A mystic bolt blasted into her back just before Lorelei hit her like a thunderbolt. The Dragon pokegirl was smashed to the ground with her opponent riding her down pummeling her with fury swipes the whole way.
                Sir Jacob stabbed at Pythia, who knocked the blade harmlessly to the side with the flat of her hand. She had to take him prisoner without killing him and racked her brains as she deflected another flurry of swipes. With her enhanced speed, he seemed to be moving in slow motion and almost any blow with her nineteen times the maximum strength a human was capable of exerting could easily prove fatal.
                Finally, she decided to use a technique she’d learned from Helen as a joke, since it was less than useless against another pokegirl except to piss them off.
                She bitch slapped him.
                The blow broke his jaw and lifted him from his feet to land unconscious a short distance away.
                Phase one complete. Shikarou went into convulsions as Germanicus slowly peeled him off. The lich had an aura of exhaustion as it slowly clambered to its feet.
                Faelan watched him carefully. “Branwyn, drop the spell.”
                The multicolored dome dissipated into smoke and faded from sight. Germanicus became more spry as the magic flowed back around him and he held out one hand as the Grimoire jumped at him. His other hand began to glow as he summoned energy to destroy these gnats that plagued him.
                Initiating phase two. Shikarou screamed in a high thin voice as once more he lost control of his body.
                “I see you, Sidhe warrior.” Germanicus turned to face where Faelan stood a dozen meters away. “You lose.”
                Shikarou is incapacitated. Primary battle plan will not work. Secondary battle plan alpha is now in effect. Command devolves to Faelan Wolf.
                Faelan took a deep breath. “Nanu, take the shot.”
                The ribbon that Shikarou had gotten from the oni on Kasumi’s world worked as advertised, hiding its wearer from all detection. Nanu had it tied around her waist and Germanicus had no inkling that she was anywhere on the battlefield. The ribbon’s magic was powerful enough to hide the 25mm sniper rifle and even the flash and noise when it fired.
                The magical bullet drew a softly glowing line from the muzzle of her rifle to Germanicus’s chest. Suddenly, he was lit from within by a blinding white light as the round released Shikarou’s life energy inside his chest. A second glowing line started from the same place and intersected with his forehead as Nanu fired again. The light grew even brighter and for an instant there was a brilliant line that emanated from his chest and arched off to the southwest.
                Germanicus disintegrated in a thunderclap and the released energy vaporized everything in a six meter radius except Shikarou and the Grimoire. Still screaming as fast as he could draw breath, he fell into the perfectly spherical depression.
                “Everyone will focus on the StarlightXpress,” Faelan ordered. “Ignore Shikarou until phase two is complete.”
                Branwyn appeared and gave him a look that was ugly with fury. “I hear and I obey,” she snarled through gritted teeth. ‘Harem, take down that pokegirl. I want her alive.”
                Bellona gripped the knight’s jaw. “Surrender or I will kill him.”
                “If you kill him, I will kill you all,” the StarlightXpress hissed back. “Release him and we will go.” Her force field contracted until it was almost skintight. “You can’t harm me with your puny attacks.”
                Roisin stomped up underneath the hovering pokegirl. <Bugger this.> She lifted her voice in song. The StarlightXpress sagged and fell as she succumbed to the effects of the sing attack and fell asleep. <So fucking stupid. I bet he’ll want to keep her.> The newly evolved Wet Lass kicked the supine pokegirl hard in the side of the head. <Idiot.>
                Phase two complete. Shikarou’s screams faded away and he lay unmoving, staring at the sky.
(07/12/99 0430 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                Shikarou’s eyes snapped open and he lay motionless for a moment as his ears rotated. Silently, he sat up and looked around. His room looked like it had been gassed; members of his harem covered the floor in a haphazard sprawl. He blinked as he realized that they were asleep on light pallets. There was a single chair against the wall and Branwyn was curled up in it, snoring softly.
                He watched her sleep for several minutes before slipping noiselessly from the bed and carefully picking his way across his pokegirls to the door. Slowly sliding it open, he stepped into the hallway before carefully closing it and making his way to the arena.
                After telling it what he wanted, he went inside. The room had become a featureless box with a sandy floor and one entire wall that was a mirror.
                He stopped in front of the mirror and slowly ran his hands down his chest, watching as he did so. He stopped and held up his left hand, peering closely at it as he slowly twisted it to and fro. He curled his fingers and smiled. He extended his claws and examined them next. Then he retracted all but the index claw and drove it into his right arm before withdrawing it and watching the flesh close.
                He was licking the blood from his arm when the door to the arena opened and Branwyn came in. She looked angry. “What are you doing out of bed? Candace gave strict orders that you were not to move for at least another day. If you’d bothered to wake me, I’d have told you that before you got out of bed.”
                He glanced at her reflection in the mirror as he dragged his tongue up his arm a last time. “Come here.”
                “Didn’t you hear me?”
                “Enough.” She blinked at his flat tone. “Come here.”
                The Unicorn gave him a brief glare before joining him in front of the mirror. “What is it?”
                Shikarou took her hand. “I need to show you something.” He opened his mind to her.
                Branwyn turned white. “What the hell happened to you?”
                “Call Poppet and Kasumi and ask them to join us in the hot tub in fifteen minutes. I’ll explain then. Tell them it’s important.”
                “It is.” She nodded. “They’ll be here. Anyone else?”
                “No, not yet. My family first.”
(07/12/99 0500 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                Poppet leaned back in the hot tub and watched her husband with narrowed eyes as she sipped at her tea. “Why can’t I read you?”
                “That would be because I’m shielding as hard as I can. I need to explain some things first.”
                Kasumi nodded slowly. “I was worried that you’d been badly injured when they couldn’t wake you. When I realized that Candace looked worried, I knew that something was very wrong.”
                Shikarou took a slow swallow of wine, letting the liquid dribble down his throat. “All right, the idea we conceived was to use a scanner to read and download Germanicus’s knowledge to Selene. Because of the sheer amount of data involved, it was determined that I would act as a buffer. The data would be downloaded to me in packets and then uploaded to Selene immediately.”
                “What happened? Aggie reported that modifications were needed and I lost track of things after that.” Branwyn shifted restlessly. “Things were a little hectic.”
                “Selene had practiced on me and had determined that things should work perfectly well as planned.” He swallowed more wine. “However, we didn’t allow for one small fact.”
                When he was silent, Poppet splashed him gently. He blinked. “Sorry, I’m having some small fugue states right now.”
                “There was a small fact we didn’t allow for?” Poppet reminded him.
                “We didn’t consider the fact that Germanicus is thirty three hundred years dead and lived another twenty six years before that.” He gulped wine. “It meant that there was too much data to transfer as we’d planned. The only way to do it was to download all of Germanicus into my brain as a lump and then upload it to Selene. Any other way would have taken too long and the transmitter would have failed. Aggie and Selene designed a new process on the spot and I approved it.”
                Branwyn blinked. “I realize that there wasn’t time to consult with us, but you really didn’t have the right to make that decision unilaterally.”
                Shikarou shook his head. “I don’t want to die, but in the scheme of things my life isn’t too small a price to pay to destroy Eoghan. Make no mistake, he has to be destroyed. He will not stop until he achieves all of his goals.” He turned to Kasumi. “That’s even more important now that you’re pregnant.”
                Kasumi looked slightly embarrassed. “I won’t be ready to confirm that for another month and a half.”
                “Pregnant? I thought you weren’t going to be fertile for another year?” Poppet looked at him accusingly. “What happened to your spell?”
                “I married you and father blessed us. His blessing included the caveat that I am fertile to the women that want me to be and apparently his blessing is more powerful than my infertility spell.” He smiled slowly. “I suspect only the fact that you want Jamie’s child first has kept you from getting pregnant as well. Everyone else that wants my blood incorporated in their line gets put into a pokeball from time to time, which is why Kasumi is the first.”
                “I think from now on you are only going to cleave to your harem and your family.” Branwyn exchanged a look with the other two women. “Anyone disagree?”
                “Giselle and Ayame need a male from time to time.” Kasumi cocked her head. “I would prefer they be able to use my husband since I know he won’t try to steal them.” She smiled at Branwyn. “You won’t let him.”
                “That’s different. They’re family too.” Poppet shifted to lean against Shikarou. “Now, what is this great mystery you pulled all of us out bed for and won’t let you give me access to your mind?”
                “I want to remind you that Selene had to rush the download because of the time crunch and the massive amount of data. We need all of his knowledge in order to be able to more accurately evaluate Eoghan’s threat as well as to hopefully learn where the headquarters of the Order of Pendragon is located.” He looked at his empty wineglass. “I really wish I could get drunk on this.” With a flick of his wrist, he smashed it against the wall of the room.
                Poppet wrapped her arms around him tightly. “Are you ok?”
                “No, I’m not. Because of the rush, Selene wasn’t able to properly sift the download. Instead of downloading just Germanicus’s knowledge, she had to pull everything. I have his memories.” He shuddered. “I have lived his life and his undeath.”
                Kasumi touched his knee. “What does that mean?”
                “There were no safety cutouts in this download. It’s like I’ve suddenly had another three thousand years of experiences added to my measly quarter millennium. I’ve lived as a Celt and a Druid. I’ve had three thousand years of undeath.” His mouth twisted. “The mind of the dead is no place for the living. Three thousand years of no scents, no tastes, no sensation of feeling.”
                He paused for a long moment and Poppet shook him gently. “Shikarou. Husband.”
                He blinked. “Sorry. It’s just that I get lost in the sensations. The feel of the water against my skin, the scents of all three of you, even the aftertaste of the wine in my mouth. It’s all so vivid and in a way, intoxicating.”
                Branwyn swallowed hard. “You will never do that again,” she said flatly. “I won’t have it.”
                Shikarou regarded her with a thin smile. “You don’t have to worry about that. I will kill myself before I’ll subject myself to that once more.” He shivered again. “Germanicus experienced so much more than I have. Sometimes I get lost in him.” His ears went flat. “The whole time, alive and dead, Germanicus was Eoghan’s errand boy. I, … um, … he was privy to most of his secrets yet sharing none of the celebrations.” Another shiver. “He hated and loved his brother so much.”
                He made a slightly disgusted face. “I have memories of sleeping with Ygerna. Ick.”
                “How was she?” Branwyn’s voice held only professional curiosity. “Tempted to go for a more personal experience?”
                “You have nothing to worry about on that score. She was an arrogant bitch concerned with only her needs. I really hope she’s changed, for Faelan’s sake.”
                Poppet peered into his eyes. “You are you, right?”
                Shikarou nodded slightly. “I think so. But I’m not the same as I was two days ago. I have all those memories and they won’t go away. I’m going to have to integrate them somehow and it’s probably going to change me. Maybe a lot.” He looked around the tub. “I’m going to need your help with this to make sure that when I come out on the other side I’m still Shikarou and not Germanicus. I don’t ever want to be that person if I can avoid it.”
                “Of course we’ll help you.” Kasumi smiled confidently. “Change is inevitable, but we can certainly make sure you remain yourself. Circe and Stardust have explored your mind extensively, I’m sure they can be of help. Dorothea too, she’ll be able to see if you’re becoming more evil.”
                Branwyn smiled. “We will all help. Each and every one of us will be more than happy to help you.”
                Poppet turned his head to face her and rested her horn against his forehead. “Let me in.” She smiled when he raised an eyebrow. “Please?”
                Shikarou nodded slowly and closed his eyes. Poppet’s eyes widened as his shields fell to a more normal level. “My god!” She kissed him softly. “I’m glad you hid that from me before the explanation. I think I would have panicked if I’d seen all the changes.”
                Kasumi rested her hand on his leg. “Since you have his memories, did you learn anything that would be useful from them yet?” Branwyn and Poppet stared at her in shock.
                Shikarou chuckled. “Whole reams of stuff. There are new spells and new magical techniques that Germanicus and Eoghan created whole cloth. A lot of it can’t be used by the living, at least not without extensive modifications, but some of it will prove quite useful.”
                “What about the Order?”
                “Oh, yes, them. I know where their base of operations is in Ireland and how to penetrate their defenses.” He scowled. “It’ll be tough, though. They kept a lot of their strength from before Ygerna’s ouster. A lot of the knights are just trying to get by, but they will be loyal to the new order.”
                His eyes brightened. “I also know all of the plans Eoghan shared with Germanicus. Ygerna has no clue of what they were going to do. They intended to expunge the Blue Continent of all life that wasn’t under their control. Granted, it would solve the whole feral pokegirl problem, but still, it’d be rather hard on everyone.”
                “Eoghan wants to create a new nation of Sidhe and their slaves. There would be no other classes except those two. You’ll be pleased to know he didn’t intend to exterminate pokegirls; he thought some of them could be used to make the Sidhe blood stronger and already has a sophisticated breeding plan in place. All he needs are male Sidhe to go into production.”
                Branwyn frowned. “Could it be possible to lure Eoghan from his lair so we don’t have to invade the Order?”
                Shikarou looked thoughtful. “Definitely. We have the two things he absolutely has to have for his dreams to become reality. I’ll need to think about the best way to do this, but I think we can bring him to us, which is a much better idea than a frontal assault on the Order’s primary base.”
                Branwyn nodded. “The knights are being kept sedated as you instructed and all of the pokegirls are in stasis. When do you want to deal with them?”
                “They can wait until this afternoon. First we need to decide who will be brought into what’s happened to me. The harem will probably figure out something’s changed, I don’t have any stupid pokegirls. The question then becomes how much do we tell them?”
Name:                                                     Urufu, Shikarou
Age:                                                       250
Residence:                                             Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Region:                                  Scotland
Status:                                                    Active
Rank:                                                      63
Security Clearance:                              Eta
                Tamer                                     Y
                Master Tamer                       Y
                Researcher                            N
                Watcher                 N
                Breeder                  Y
Active Harem
Species                  Name                                      Level
Alaka-Wham                         Circe                                       73
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                67
Milktit                                    Helen                                      64
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                     60
DragonQueen                       Bellona                   60
NurseJoy                               Candace                 58
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko      57
Seraph                                    Dorothea                               57
Vampire                  Elizabeth                                53
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                                   53
Mini-Top                               Nanu                                      53
Wet Lass                               Roisin                                     44
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        Bellona
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                                Ireland: Belfast
                                England: Plymouth,
                                Wales: Magicunt Village
                                Ruby League: Polass Gym