Chapter 46
Celaboner City, Indigo League
                The young man looked the pokegirl up and down with a hungry expression. “Where is your Tamer?”
                Pythia smiled and bobbed her head politely. “My master is outside, on the other side of town.”
                The Tamer stared at her bare breasts for a moment before speaking, still staring at her bosom. “What is his name?”
                “Sir, his name is Shikarou Urufu.” Her ears flicked as he grabbed up his pack and almost ran out of the pokegirl center.
                An older Tamer watched him go and picked up his own pack before ambling after the departed Tamer. Clearly, he intended to challenge the winner of the upcoming bout.
                Pythia smirked to herself as she plugged the hand comp into the pokedex update station. “Go to the other side of town and then another three thousand kilometers,” she muttered. “Once you get to Caomh Sith, feel free to ask any of the guard for directions.”
                The handheld chirped very quietly and the display lit up as its software defeated the pokegirl center security and invaded the Tamer records. It wasn’t smart enough to do much else, but what it could do, it did well. The Dire Wolf flipped through screen after screen until she found the section she wanted. She made a happy noise and unplugged the handheld, wrapping the cable around it as she headed outside. It was considered extremely rude to teleport inside a pokegirl center and she wasn’t rude.
                An hour later, she reappeared and let Shikarou go. “Tamer Thibodaux healed a pokegirl here yesterday and spent the night in the center before leaving this morning.” He stretched slowly. “I sent him a message asking for a meeting and hinting that he really wanted to meet with me. Aggie is tracking the message and, if nothing else, we should be able to find him from his pokedex once it’s delivered.”
                “YOU THERE! POKEBOY!” It was the young man from earlier. “I challenge you to a pokegirl battle for salvage.” He pointed at Pythia. “I want her and I’m going to take her from you, you pokeboy freak!”
                Shikarou rubbed his chin slowly. “She’s delta bonded to me. You can’t take her.”
                “I don’t care about that. A good conditioning cycle will take care of any bonds.” He smirked as Pythia’s ears went flat. “It looks like she needs a couple of those anyway; she’s got a bad attitude. She lied to me.”
                Shikarou glanced at Pythia, who nodded grimly. He verified his pokedex was recording. “Delta bonds aren’t that easy to break; but, very well, I accept your challenge. It will be one pokegirl against one pokegirl, no time limit. Since you’ve chosen a particular pokegirl, if I win I get to choose one from among yours after inspecting them to see which I might want.”
                “Duh, you moron.” He grabbed a pokeball from his belt. “Are you going to fight with her?”
                Shikarou glanced at the Dire Wolf, who gave a slight shake of her head and mouthed the word “beta”. “No, I’m not.” Shikarou returned Pythia and chose a different pokeball. “Are you ready?”
                “Yeah!” The young man released a Charamanda. “Let’s do this!”
                “Before we begin, I am Shikarou Urufu. And you are?”
                “Levi Aaronson. Now, let’s fight!” Shikarou shrugged and released Bellona. Levi stared and paled. “You’ve got a Draco? Damn. Maybe I don’t want your Hoarfox now.”
                Bellona blinked. “Draco? You think I’m a puny Draco? You must be new at this.” She summoned her wings and spread them proudly. “I am a DragonQueen and, after that remark, you are toast.” She glanced over her shoulder as Levi whipped out his pokedex. “What Hoarfox is he talking about?”
                “This one is as green as grass, isn’t he?” She chuckled as Levi read the entry on the DragonQueen and gasped audibly. “I’d enjoy this, but I don’t think it’s going to take long.”
                Shikarou snorted. “Not as long as the posturing. Are you ready to fight, Tamer Aaronson?”
                The young man pulled himself together. “We can do this, Clarissa. Use flamethrower!” The Charamanda set herself and fire bloomed from her mouth.
                Bellona used her enhanced speed and stepped aside, dodging the attack. Shikarou yelled when he found himself facing the jet of flame and threw himself flat as it roared overhead. He smelled the stench of burning hair and leather and quickly rolled to put himself out.
                Armor raced up the DragonQueen’s body as she charged forward, putting all of her strength in an uppercut which lifted Clarissa off the ground. She spun and slapped the hapless Charamanda in the head with her tail, smashing the unconscious pokegirl sideways in a thin mist of blood as her armored scales razored through her opponent’s skin.
                Bellona used the spin to turn 180 degrees and raced back to her Tamer. “Are you ok?” She jerked him to his feet roughly and patted him down quickly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know she was going to attack without warning and reacted instinctively.”
                He batted her hands free and hugged her. “I’m just a bit singed. You acted properly; it was I who should have been paying better attention.” He chuckled. “I’m sure it was a good battle; but, unfortunately, I was a bit too busy to notice.”
                “Sir?” It was Levi. He stiffly held out a pokeball. “You defeated me and here is your prize.” His eyes glittered with unshed tears. “Her name is Clarissa and she’s my only pokegirl.”
                Shikarou accepted the proffered ball formally. “Thank you. If I may, you made two mistakes. First, you didn’t find out who I was or what my harem is like before challenging me. Second, you were blinded to Pythia’s charms so much, you didn’t think. I’d recommend that next time you consider your prospective opponent before issuing a challenge. I should note, however, that your surprise attack was within the rules of battling and rather crafty.”
                “Sir, my days as a Tamer are over. Clarissa was my only pokegirl.”
                “Nonsense.” Levi blinked in surprise as Shikarou continued. “This is only a temporary setback. You can make a deal with someone else for another pokegirl, get an abandoned one at the pokegirl center, if there are any, or try a ranch. I know that if you can make your way to the Tendo ranch, he’s rebuilding and is paying for labor in pokegirls. He might even be willing to help with travel costs.”
                Aaronson nodded slowly as he shook off some of his shock. “Thank you, sir. Paying in pokegirls? I’ll call him right away.” He hurried inside the pokegirl center.
                Bellona sighed. “I guess you can’t tell them all to pack it in and go home. For an Indigo, he seemed normal enough.”
                “He wanted you and Pythia. That shows he’s got good taste; he just needs to get some experience before he can take on Tamers of my level. I was pleased to see he was willing to be upset at losing Clarissa instead of losing his Charamanda. That shows he’s on a track we can approve of.” Shikarou nodded to himself. “My harem is full so we’ll sell Clarissa to Poppet.”
                Bellona nodded. “Does Aggie have any information on Thibodaux after his visit here?”
                No, I do not. He left the pokegirl center this morning and the data trail ends at that point. I have flagged his credit balance and, when he uses it, I’ll inform you. Shikarou also sent him an email that I have a trace on.
                Shikarou shrugged. “Let’s send Clarissa on her way and then we’ll let Tandy out and see if she can give us a direction with what’s left of her delta bond.”
                He was headed into the pokegirl center when a young woman came out. “You’re the Tamer with a DragonQueen? I challenge you to a salvage battle for her.” She released a light blue pokegirl Shikarou had never seen before.
                That is a Glace, the ice evolution of Eva. I’ve accessed her pokedex. The Tamer’s name is Lydia Stephens and her harem is Snowflake, Glace; Rose, Rosebreasts; Spray, Whoretortle; and Genie, Ria.
                Shikarou recalled Bellona. “Attacking a Tamer right after a battle is considered very rude in the Blue League and I suspect it’s rude here as well, Ms. Stephens, but I accept. You’ve chosen your pokegirl, now it’s my turn.” He released Pythia. The Dire Wolf cocked her head as she faced the ice pokegirl. “Another challenger?”
                “Yes. Ready, Ms. Stephens?”
                “How do you know my name?” She sounded faintly rattled.
                “I know many things. Can we begin?”
                Lydia’s eyes narrowed. “Yes. Snowflake, ice beam.”
                The beam took Pythia in the midsection and she grunted from the impact. Her eyes flashed as she used hypnosis and the Glace staggered as she fought off the attack, shaking her head muzzily.
                 The Dire Wolf dashed forward, her energy blade shimmering into existence. “MIRROR COAT!” Snowflake glittered as she responded automatically. She screamed as the blade took her in the chest but the mirror coat blunted most of the damage.
                “Quick attack away!” The Glace blurred as she raced away from Pythia, opening up room to maneuver. Pythia hit her with thunderbolt, knocking Snowflake off her feet. The Glace rolled to her feet only to meet another thunderbolt. Her cry of pain was cut short as she collapsed.
                A crowd had formed to watch the battle. A man lunged forward and grabbed Shikarou’s arm. “Dibs! I challenge you for her!” His free hand pointed at Pythia.
                Shikarou’s fists clenched. “I have to finish this battle first; but, rest assured, I will give you satisfaction.” He shook the hand away and turned to Lydia. “I’ll take your Glace, Snowflake.”
                She glared and tossed him the pokeball she’d just used to retrieve her pokegirl. “Here.”
                Your newest challenger is Brad Dawkins. Pokegirls are Death, Dark Lady; Umbrea; WaspQueen; Succubus; Ladyba and Milktit. None have registered names except for the one Dark Lady.
                “Death? Oh, he’s a charmer.” Shikarou’s ears flicked backwards. “Mr. Dawkins, you issued challenge for Pythia. Are you ready?”
                “Damn right, I am. You’re going to go down this time.” He reached for a pokeball as Shikarou retrieved Pythia.
                “HOLD IT!” It was an OfficerJenny. “Stop this fight!”
                Shikarou’s ears rotated to focus on her, but otherwise he didn’t take his attention from his latest opponent. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a NurseJoy come out of the pokegirl center and speak briefly to the police pokegirl. The OfficerJenny put her hands on her hips and glared at the crowd. “I hear you’re up to your usual tactics of ganging up on an out of town Tamer. Well, you lot, this is coming to a halt right now. Give him back his pokegirls.”
                “He’s got two of ours! Make him give them back!”
                The OfficerJenny looked stunned. “Is this true, Tamer?”
                “My name is Shikarou and, yes, I’ve been challenged by three Tamers so far and taken two pokegirls in salvage. So far, the battles haven’t been all that challenging.” He nodded towards Brad. “We haven’t started, much less concluded our battle yet.”
                She whirled to face Dawkins. “Bradley? I should have expected you to be involved in this. Well, you’re not going to beat up another Tamer on my watch.”
                “Officer?” She frowned and turned back to Shikarou. “I want to fight this individual.” He made the word ‘individual’ sound vaguely insulting.
                “Why on earth for?”
                His eyes focused on Dawkins. “I’m not sure how to explain this, but that man laid hands on me without my permission. I’d like to thrash him personally, but I know these things are settled with pokegirls here.”
                “He’s got some powerful pokegirls,” the OfficerJenny began.
                Shikarou interrupted her. “With all due respect, officer, I have to do this. This man needs to learn humility.”
                “You think you can defeat him?”
                “I think I have to try.”
                The policewoman eyed him for a moment before backing away. “I’d like to see someone do that to him. He needs taken down a peg.”
                Dawkins snickered. “Polly, you need to shut up and let me cream this guy.”
                Shikarou rolled his eyes. “Officer, um, Polly was it?” She nodded. “Would you be willing to officiate for this match?”
                The OfficerJenny looked startled for a moment and then smiled slowly. “I think that would be just fine. I’m not needed anywhere else right now.” She moved to stand to the side, midway between the two Tamers. “Tamer Dawkins, are you ready to battle?”
                “Let’s get this over with,” he replied with a bored expression.
                Polly glared at him for a second before turning to Shikarou. “Tamer, um.”
                “Thanks. Tamer Urufu, are you ready to battle?”
                “I am.”
                “Then begin.” She clapped her hands together and stepped back as both Tamers released pokegirls.
                Death was raven haired with dark brown eyes. She hissed as Dorothea materialized. Her eyes widened when she realized what she faced, and her scream of fury echoed as the Seraph drew her weapons with a steely rasp.
                “Dorothea, combo one defense mode.” The Seraph glowed briefly as the Dark Lady screamed and launched a force bolt. She had to dodge as Dorothea deflected it neatly back at her.
                “Death, void aura!” Shadowy wisps began to gather around the Dark Lady as Dorothea glowed again, this time using speed storm instead of focus energy. “You’re fucked, pokeboy! Death eats Celestials for breakfast! Your Seraph is dead, do you hear me, dead!”
                “Well then, how about we raise the stakes? Say three pokegirls?” The crowd gasped.
                “You’re on! Death, door to the abyss!”
                “Dorothea, combo six, finish her!”
                The Dark Lady dashed forward, infernal energy beginning to swirl around her as the vortex began to build; but she was too slow, as Dorothea teleported, appearing directly behind her opponent. Her master blow ripped down the Dark Lady’s back, cleaving the spine in a shower of blood and smashing Death forward to lie motionless in a rapidly growing pool of crimson.
                There was a stunned silence.
                Shikarou gave a tiny smile. “I’d appreciate it if you’d recover her before she dies, since she’s one of the three I want.”
                Bradley recovered his pokegirl and turned to the OfficerJenny. “FOUL! HE USED A LETHAL ATTACK!”
                “First of all, any attack is technically lethal. Second, you threatened to kill my Seraph. I was only protecting her.” Shikarou glanced at Dorothea as she moved next to him, her weapons still ready. “Do you think that’s really necessary?”
                She shrugged and put the dagger away. “A Tamer with a Dark Lady is not going to be used to losing and will not take this loss to thee calmly. He may even attack thee.”
                He just grunted in acknowledgement as he turned back to the OfficerJenny. “My pokegirl isn’t dead, so there’s no harm done. My new pokegirl, I mean.”
                Polly looked a little green around the edges. Not even police pokegirls were necessarily ready for sudden violence on that scale. “You do know that you can’t keep a Dark Lady in your harem if you have a Seraph.”
                “I’m not keeping her, or the Umbrea or even the Milktit, officer. I’ve got a friend who runs a ranch for rare pokegirls and she’ll be happy to take them for breeding stock. The Milktit I’m sure I can find a home for.”
                Dorothea gave him an odd look and whispered. “You want two of them? Helen won’t like that.”
                “No, but Kasumi intends to open the doors of the school in a couple of years. There’s no reason not to acquire staff for the grounds and buildings when we come across likely ones. If nothing else, the students will have to be fed.”
                Polly pulled her com off her belt and made a quick call. “My supervisor is on the way. You two heal your pokegirls and return here in five minutes.” She glanced at the NurseJoy who was hovering near the door of the pokegirl center. “May, give them priority; and you,” she turned to Dorothea, “put that sword away this instant.”
                Dorothea glanced at her Tamer and sheathed the weapon at his slight nod. “My lord, thou will need a bodyguard before I will go for healing.”
                He sighed. “Nanu’s out, since she’d be borderline on that rule about armed pokegirls.”
                The Seraph nodded. “How about thy w-, um, thy alpha, my lord.”
                “I was really hoping for someone that nobody else would want.” He handed her a pokeball. “Take Nanu off and relieve her of her guns, then bring her back. Be quick about it.”
                The Seraph vanished and returned in under a minute, handing him Nanu’s pokeball. He released the Mini-Top, who looked pissed. She glared around the area and cracked her knuckles. “I’m not happy about this,” she growled, “and the first person who gives us any shit is going to get my foot up their arse.”
                Polly grabbed her com and quietly called for backup as Dorothea was retrieved and Shikarou and Nanu headed into the pokegirl center.
                Everyone gave him and Nanu a wide berth and even Brad looked a little nervous at the sight of her. Maybe it was the knives, Shikarou mused to himself, or maybe it was the fact that Nanu was quietly growling. “I want my guns,” she muttered, “but his liver will do for a substitute.”
                He cocked his head curiously. “What did Dorothea tell you?”
                “That he tried to break up the only place I’ve been happy.” The look she gave Brad should have inflicted physical damage, and he backed up without even realizing he’d done so. “He even looks at us wrong and I’ll write a new chapter of mayhem to add to the Mini-Top pokedex entry.”
                Once his three pokeballs had been cycled through, Shikarou went back outside to find a number of new police had arrived, several humans as well as the expected pokegirls. Most of them tensed when Nanu followed him out.
                The supervisor was a human woman with an OfficerJenny of her own in close attendance. Her nametag identified her as R. Callahan. She looked between Bradley and Shikarou with an expression of distaste that put his teeth on edge. “Which of you almost killed a pokegirl?”
                “That would be my Seraph, but I gave the order after he threatened the life of my pokegirl.” Shikarou kept his tone polite and distantly respectful, absently patting Nanu on the arm when she started growling again. She stopped, but didn’t look any happier.
                “I did nothing of the sort!” Bradley looked offended.
                “Yes, he did,” Polly countered. “I don’t remember his exact wording but I heard him quite clearly.”
                Callahan glanced at Shikarou. “Do you have any evidence that he threatened your pokegirl?”
                He nodded. “I have a video record of the entire event. It’s standard policy in the Blue League to record all legal battles.”
                The human looked around at the still growing crowd and made a decision. “Bring them both down to the station for questioning. I’ll be along shortly and I’ll want to review your video.” She hurried to a ground car and was gone.
                A Growlie turned to him. “You’ll have to put your pokegirl up.” She gave Nanu a hard look.
                “Am I under arrest?”
                “No, you’re not, sir.” The Growlie smiled charmingly at him. “We just need to take you to the station for a few questions.”
                Shikarou glanced at Nanu. “Then, either she stays out or you can ask them here.”
                The Growlie’s smile frayed a little. “Sir, the sergeant was quite specific about you going to the station.”
                “Yes, I heard her, too. I’m willing to go, as long as one of my pokegirls stays out as my bodyguard. The last time I was left alone with police, someone stuck me in a cell with a feral Vampire as a joke and left me there for a couple of days.”
                The Growlie looked shocked but recovered quickly. “Sir, then you’ll have to choose a different member of your harem. She’s a dangerous and violent pokegirl and we won’t let her in the station.”
                Shikarou raised an eyebrow. “I would counter with the fact that all pokegirls are potentially dangerous and that you are prejudiced against the Mini-Top breed’s reputation. Nanu, as an individual, has proven trustworthy and honorable in my harem. You have nothing to fear from her.” He folded his arms. “I’ve chosen my bodyguard. You can accept her as such, question me here, or open yourselves to ridicule and a possible lawsuit by arresting me without cause.”
                The Growlie chose a fourth option. She went for her radio and called for instruction.
                He glanced at Nanu to find her staring at him with a surprised expression. “Yes?”
                She flushed and looked away. “Nothing,” she muttered. Then she turned back to him. “Nobody’s ever said anything like that about me before, not even when I was a Moonbunny. Thank you.”
                “If I didn’t feel that way about you, you wouldn’t be here right now.” She flashed him a warm smile at his words before returning to her guard role.
                The Growlie put the radio away. “Sir, she’ll be acceptable as long as you assume responsibility for her actions.”
                He decided not to point out that the law required him to do so, no matter what, and merely nodded. “Then lead on, officer.”
                It was an hour later when sergeant Callahan showed up again. Shikarou was in an interrogation room with Nanu. The sergeant heard voices which broke off as soon as she turned the doorknob.
                She smiled at him, turning on the human charm that often got a male to admit to things he never would otherwise. “Having a nice day?”
                He didn’t smile back. “I’m one step short of being under arrest. My only words to you at this point should be ‘lawyer’.” His tone was polite, but cool.
                Her smile vanished. “You aren’t under arrest, Tamer Urufu.”
                “No, I just can’t leave.”
                “Oh, do you have something important you need to be doing?”
                “Yes, I do.”
                She waited for a moment before giving him a slightly annoyed look. “What?”
                Nanu touched his shoulder. “Sir, you’re baiting her.”
                He blinked. “You are absolutely right. Sorry, sergeant. I recently came into possession of a StarlightXpress who was taken from the Tamer who evolved her. I’m trying to get her to him.”
                He got an incredulous look in response to his statement. “You’re not keeping her for yourself?”
                “I am delta bonded myself and I would move heaven and earth to get her back if I lost her. I know the StarlightXpress wants to be with him, and so I’m returning her. If he wants to reward me, I won’t refuse; but if he can’t, I’ll take goodwill instead.” He put his pokedex on the table. “I’d love to chat, but I’m still trying to find the Tamer and sitting here isn’t helping. Here’s the recording I made of the battle. I’ve got a compilation of the records ready for viewing; if you want to see the raw footage, it’s available too.”
                Sergeant Callahan smiled slightly and sat down on the other side of the table. “Records?”
                “I carry a recording head in the straps of my backpack and each of my pokegirls wears one. So I compiled the footage into one scene that makes more sense than the jumping viewpoint as we all danced around; even me, when Aaron accidentally set me on fire.”
                She blinked and keyed up the recording. Aggie had cleaned up the feeds and compiled a third person viewpoint from where the crowd had been. The picture was crisp and clear and the sound excellent. When the third battle finished, she leaned back and gave him a suspicious look. “Who are you?”
                “My name is Shikarou Urufu.”
                “I know that. I checked your file before I came in here. What I want to know is: who do you work for?” She flicked the pokedex with a finger. “You’ve got a very sophisticated piece of electronics for a Tamer from out in the sticks of the Blue League. I can’t remember seeing anything this fancy in a long time.”
                Shikarou thought fast. “My brother recently retired from being an agent for the Planetary League Council. He’s given me some gifts.”
                “Should you have something like this?”
                He shrugged. “I’m friends with a couple of OfficerJennys and, I think that if it were illegal to have, they’d have done something about it. Both of them work for the Caomh Sith Guard.”
                She eyed him consideringly for a long moment before nodding. “Yes, they would have done something if they’d known about it. Do they?”
                “They do. Samantha, the guard commander, has used it before and wants something like it for her people.”
                “What do you mean?”
                “Caomh Sith is a privately owned island and the owner has put in a server hub to run the pokedex software. He’s getting the licenses now and, when it’s all set up, he’s going to give the guardsmen stripped down pokedexes with satellite communication capability for the city and surrounding environs.”
                She looked startled. “That’s better than we have here.” A grin appeared. “I don’t suppose they are hiring?”
                “The last time I spoke with Samantha, she mentioned something to effect that they are. The town isn’t that big, but she intends aggressive patrols all over the island since the owner has proscribed hunting anywhere on it. You can talk to her.”
                “Wow, this guy must be rich.”
                Shikarou smiled slightly. “I understand that his budget will handle everything that’s planned for at least a couple of decades. Would you like Samantha’s com number?”
                “I’m happy where I am, but I’ll take it and post it, if you don’t mind.” She pushed the pokedex in his direction. “What’s the owner’s stance on pokegirls?”
                “He thinks they’re people. They’re given a lot of freedom and held accountable for their actions.”
                “That’s pretty liberal for the Blue League.”
                “Yeah, that’s what he’s being told. So far, however, considering his location out in the wilderness and the league’s desire for some kind of support network in that location for passing Tamers, they appear to be willing to overlook that. There’s a gym out there that will be easier to get to, with Caomh Sith in operation.”
                “That should be interesting.” She pushed to her feet. “You’re free to go. Stop at property to pickup your three new pokegirls.”
                Roderick Thibodaux has responded to your message. He’s interested in meeting with you but remains cautious. He’ll meet you if you travel to where he is on route 3.
                Shikarou pulled up a map of the Indigo league on his pokedex. “How did he get all the way up there?”
                I would theorize that he rode a vehicle down route 16 to the Stone Town entrance and crossed through Stone Town to route 3. That would account for the speed of his travel. He could also have a flying pokegirl or a teleporter. His insistence that you meet him there might indicate his increased mobility was temporary, lending credence the vehicle theory.
                “What do we know about Stone Town?”
                It is almost violently anti-pokegirl. Security has been tightened recently in the whole town after a mysterious set of fires at the Kuno estate destroyed some buildings. Part of that crackdown has included turning the whole community into a no fly zone. Rumors on the net hint at some kind of terrorist attack, but there is no public evidence to substantiate this. Do you wish me to crack the police systems to investigate?
                “I don’t really care what happened.” Shikarou frowned for a moment. “I think I’ll use Branwyn to travel to Stone Town and then put everyone up for the trek through the city. She’ll enjoy the run, but I doubt she’ll like Stone Town, considering its reputation.”
                She’ll like you not having a bodyguard even less.
                “I’ll keep my head down and my mouth shut. That should keep me out of trouble.”
                She is unlikely to believe that.
                “I know. Still, I’ll try my best.”
                “I can’t believe you made it through Stone Town without any problems.” Branwyn gave him an amused look over her shoulder as she trotted down route 3.
                “I almost didn’t. They’ve posted guards at the city gates to interrogate visitors and one of them didn’t like the way I look. She suggested I get a full body cavity search, I suspect for her own entertainment. If her partner hadn’t overruled that idea, things might have gotten ugly. After that, once I got to a store, I bought a big orange floppy hat and coiled my braid on top of my head. It hid my ears and hair nicely and I kept my head down. Other than a couple of comments about how I could use a nice purse along with it, I was left alone after that.”
                She laughed. “What happened to the hat?”
                “When I reached the edge of town, some elderly woman complimented me on it and I gave it to her.” He zoomed the map display. “The campsite should be about five kilometers ahead.”
                The Unicorn shifted smoothly to a gallop and the terrain began to blur by. Suddenly, he winced and his ears flattened. “I hear ultrasonics. We’re close.” Branwyn slowed as the camp marker appeared.
                Shikarou hopped from her back as she shifted to her bipedal form. The campsite was a broad clearing off to side of the road. Circles of stone marked places where fires had been set in the past and the solar powered ultrasonic repellers were mounted on posts set in concrete to minimize vandalism. There was a well with a windlass, but Tamers had to provide their own bucket and rope.
                “Do you think the Blue League will do anything like this for Tamers?”
                His ears were still flat. “I certainly hope not. Blues tend to make fun of this sort of thing, so I doubt it.” He shrugged. “Blues make fun of everybody who does this and, in return, they say Blues are stupid for not doing it too.”
                “Don’t you mean we make fun of everyone who does it?”
                “I’m not a Blue. I’ve looked at the statistics and fewer Tamers are killed at campsites that have repellers but, overall, the mortality rate is almost identical.” He looked around. “We’ll set up over there. Roderick should be arriving around sundown.”
                The sun was almost gone when a burly young man showed up. His green eyes gleamed against his swarthy skin and a long braid of black hair dangled down his back. He eyed Shikarou’s tent warily and glanced at the brown feathered pokegirl next to him before calling out. “Hello the camp!” When he rose to his feet, the pokegirl fixed Shikarou with a hungry gaze.
                He has Roderick Thibodaux’s pokedex.
                Shikarou glanced at Branwyn as she moved to stand next to him. “I am Shikarou.”
                Roderick relaxed slightly. “Thibodaux.” He glanced again at the flying type as she stared eagerly at Shikarou. “Stand down, Peggy.” He turned back to Shikarou as the Falcongentle stopped staring quite so predatorily. “Campsites can be friendly, or you can have to fight for the right to camp; so an occupied one can be an exercise in frustration as you try to decide which is more likely. Is it like that where you come from?”
                Branwyn snorted. “You get the occasional jerk who doesn’t know the rules about campsites, but otherwise, most Tamers are glad for a bit of company. It makes the camp’s defenses stronger.”
                Roderick’s eyes darkened. “You’re a Blue. His accent I don’t recognize, but you’re a Scot. I traveled with one for a few months, before he stole something from me.”
                “The Tamer would have been Leland and he stole Tandy, right?”
                Roderick paled, and then flushed with anger. “How did you know that?”
                Shikarou smiled. “I’ve encountered Leland, recently, and that’s why I contacted you.” He produced a pokeball.
                Roderick’s eyes widened. “That’s Tandy’s ball.” He turned a sallow yellow as the blood drained from his face. “I know the delta bond has been weakening, but I never felt her die. How did it happen?”
                “She’s not dead.”
                Shikarou activated the pokeball and the StarlightXpress appeared. She stared at her Tamer for a heartbeat, and then was in his arms. The Falcongentle tried to stop her but was knocked flying.
                Shikarou laid the pokeball on the ground and turned to Branwyn. “I think our tent is a good place to be right now.” She glanced at the reunited couple and nodded.
                About an hour later, Helen led a stunned looking Roderick and Tandy into the main living area of the tent. He stared at Shikarou. “This place is incredible. So, this is roughing it in the Blue League?”
                Shikarou chuckled. “No, this is roughing it for us.” He gestured at the other side of the table. “Sit. Would you two like some tea?”
                “Um, sure.” Roderick frowned as he settled down. “You know, my father is a woodworker. I could get you a good deal on some chairs.”
                “It’s supposed to be this way.” Shikarou smiled to Helen as she put a tray of tea and snacks down. “Thank you.” She nodded and disappeared into the kitchen.
                “I wanted to thank you for returning Tandy to me, but I don’t have enough money to pay for her.” Roderick stared at the tabletop. “Could I pay you in installments?”
                “If I’d wanted you to give me something for her, I’d still have Tandy in my possession. I’m delta bonded to my alpha and I know I’d want her back. Tandy wanted to come back to you and it was within my power to make her wish happen.”
                Roderick nodded. “I’m in your debt. If you ever need anything, call me.” He frowned. “By the way, what happened to Leland?”
                “He’ll never bother you again,” Shikarou reassured him.
                Ygerna looked up when Morgan moved. It was Svetlana. “Good morning.”
                Svetlana nodded. “Good morning to you. I have some errands to run and I was hoping you would come with me. It would give us a chance to talk about Faelan and the future.”
                The Sidhe raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you want to have this talk without someone to referee?”
                “Actually, I’ve asked Kasumi to come along just for that reason. She’s as neutral as we’re likely to find here.”
                Ygerna glanced at Morgan and then back to the Megami-sama. “There is something about that woman that disturbs me. I’m not sure what it is, but I do know she makes me uneasy.”
                Svetlana blinked. “Really? I thought I was the only one who is uncomfortable around her. None of the others feel it.”
                “Still, she is likely to be impartial in this discussion.” Ygerna slid to her feet. “Where will we be going?”
                “I’ve got a couple of stops, but I thought we’d finish up in Tomakomai for lunch.” She smiled brightly. “We’ll leave in half an hour, if that’s ok.”
                “Will Faelan be coming along?”
                Svetlana shook her head briskly. “No. Right now, I think we need to talk without him. In any case, he’s watching the island while Shikarou is off returning Tandy.”
                Morgan frowned. “Why did he not keep her? She is strong and his harem could use her.”
                Svetlana eyed her briefly. “Shikarou understands that Tandy would not be happy here and he believes that, if a pokegirl won’t be happy in his harem, she won’t give her all. In that case, it’s easiest to get rid of her entirely instead of deal with half efforts.”
                Ygerna looked surprised. “That’s not the reasoning that I heard from Branwyn. She told me that it was the right thing to do.”
                “That is a good reason to return her, but I’m not sure that was the only reason Shikarou did it. He’s gotten rid of pokegirls that had problems fitting in before, and I don’t doubt he’d do it again.” Svetlana shrugged. “He’s more than willing to let others think he’s completely altruistic, but he’s not.”
                “You don’t sound happy about it.”
                “For a while I wasn’t. Now that he’s my brother in law, and our survival rests on being ruthless, I think he’s not as bad as I thought. Some of my sisters won’t agree, but they’re not putting their lives on the line here and I don’t care about their opinions nearly as much as I used to.”
                Morgan choked off a laugh. “What about what he’s done to the former knights? How do you feel about that?”
                Svetlana gave her a hard look. “I’m not happy about it. Frankly, they may be better off dead than the way they are, but it’s not my decision to make.” She checked her watch. “I have to go. We’ll be at the pier in half an hour. Please don’t be late.” She hurried off.
                Morgan watched her go. “My queen, I am not sure this is a wise choice.”
                “She’s not going to try and kill me, Morgan. That’s not what her kind does and, even if she were considering it, she would not want Kasumi along as a witness.” She smiled at the Dragoness. “And you’ll be along as my bodyguard.”
                “Yes, your majesty.”
                Kasumi was waiting for them at the pier. She nodded to Ygerna. “Svetlana will be along in a couple of minutes.”
                Ygerna nodded. “Very well.”
                “I’m not sure how to address you,” Kasumi admitted with a slightly rueful smile. “If I recognize you as a queen, are you likely to try to convince me that this gives you authority over me? In addition, since we’re leaving the island, it might be best if we dispensed with formality so as to avoid undue attention. It’s possible that our common foe might have used your name or title as the focus for a tracking spell.” Her eyes twinkled. “Your name is rather unusual.”
                Ygerna’s eyes widened. “That is entirely possible. I should have considered that.”
                Kasumi shrugged easily. “You’ve only recently found out he was still around and, considering the circumstances of that discovery, you’ve been off balance ever since.”
                The Sidhe blinked. “You think I should get my bearings back and that’s your nice way of mentioning it, isn’t it?”
                “I understand that you’ve had a bad time recently and I’m trying to be polite; but, yes, you’re a powerful woman and you need to start remembering that fact.”
                “Who are you that you would think to advise me?”
                “I’m Kasumi.” She smiled prettily. “If you marry Faelan, then you’ll be my sister and, therefore, I don’t see a reason not to try to help you.”
                Ygerna frowned. “Who said I am going to marry Faelan?”
                Kasumi gave her a curious look. “That would put you on an even footing with Svetlana. Considering the situation, I thought that would be one of your primary goals.”
                “Why would I care about Svetlana?”
                “Faelan loves her and, if she puts her foot down about you, he will drop you without a second thought, Sidhe or not. I thought you had realized that.”
                “I thought she already tried that and failed.”
                Kasumi shook her head. “No. Up to this point she’s been against you being with Faelan because she doesn’t want to share him with anyone else; but she has not given him any sort of ultimatums about you.” She gave Ygerna a direct look. “If you were to seek to marry him, you would help to convince her that you are serious about being with the family for the long term. If you do not, then I suspect she will eventually tire of your presence and take steps to remove you. It’s not like he loves you.”
                The Sidhe frowned, rubbing her wrist thoughtfully. “It is true that he has no feelings for me right now and I know how much he seems to love his Megami-sama. I will consider your words.”    
                Kasumi nodded and pulled a pokeball from her belt. “I have something for you.” She released her latest acquisition, the Archmage they’d taken from Germanicus. “Nishiko, give me the package.”
                The Archmage dropped her backpack and removed a small piece of electronics from it. Kasumi took it. “Thank you.”
                She turned and offered the item to Ygerna. “Shikarou and I decided that you needed to be set up to move around in this world. This is your pokedex and it identifies you as a Tradesman, a pokegirl hunter, to be precise. It means that you won’t have to battle to protect Morgan. It lists your name as Yvonne Bennington, of Caomh Sith.”
                Ygerna stared at it for a moment before taking it gingerly. “I don’t know how to operate it.”
                “I know, and I’ll show you how while we’re working on Svetlana’s errands.” Kasumi smiled. “I’ve changed my status to hunter, too, so I don’t have to worry about my girls either.”
                “I thought you were a Tamer.”
                “I was, but I never intended to stay one for long. I’ve no interest in battling. I just want to study magic with my husband and maybe teach one day.”
                Ygerna stared at the pokedex for a moment before looking up at Kasumi. “Thank you.”
                “As long as you’re interested in being Faelan’s wife, I’ll be glad to help you. If it turns out you’re just interested in one part of him, then I’ll rethink my efforts on your behalf,” there was an unmistakable note of warning in her tone, “especially those in regards to Svetlana.”
                Ygerna’s eyes narrowed. “I was led to believe you were neutral in this matter. Are you also putting forth efforts on the behalf of Svetlana in regards to me?”
                Kasumi nodded. “I’ve told her that I’ll try to convince you to be more reasonable in your desires as to her husband. That is what we’ve been discussing.”
                “She wants me to marry him?”
                “No, what she wants is for you to go away without any fuss. However, since you won’t, she’d rather you marry him than not.”
                Nishiko watched both of them carefully. “Mistress, Svetlana is coming.”
                Kasumi looked up towards Faelan’s home. “Indeed she is. Thank you, Nishiko.”
                Svetlana sipped at her soda and looked over at Ygerna. “Yvonne, I have some questions I’d like to ask you about your intentions towards my family.”
                Ygerna’s eyes flicked towards Kasumi, who was watching them blandly. “I’ve been thinking about it and perhaps it would be best if we were to marry. It will help the children to be accepted in human society, which they will be forced to interact with.”
                “I’m glad to hear that, but I do have to ask what you bring to my family that we don’t already have.”
                Ygerna looked thoughtful for a second as she chose her words. “As you are aware, I have a certain rank in the world.” Morgan nodded as she spoke.
                “Actually, that’s not really true, is it?” Kasumi shrugged when Ygerna looked startled. “Yvonne, while it is true insomuch as to what you used to be, right now you are not that person and there is no guarantee that you ever will be her again.”
                Ygerna looked stunned. “I had never considered my current situation in that light.” She looked at Kasumi for a long moment. “You are right. At this time, I have only my personal retainers. I don’t even have the money for their upkeep.” She turned to Morgan. “How are they being cared for?”
                Morgan looked embarrassed. “He is seeing to their upkeep.” She jerked her head in Kasumi’s direction. “Her husband.”
                Ygerna closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I have been remiss in my duties to my retainers. Why is your husband helping me?”
                Svetlana touched Ygerna on the wrist. “He is helping because he can, and you are not our enemy.”
                “I’ve bewitched your husband,” she said to Svetlana before she turned to Kasumi, “insulted and belittled yours, and yet both men have been supportive. I’ve even brought death to your door and now I am a pauper and live upon your sufferance.” Her eyes dimmed.
                Kasumi nodded. “All of these things are true, but we do not treat you as such. You are welcome to stay with us for as long as you want, I believe Shikarou told you.”
                Svetlana nodded. “Still, it would be helpful if you could bring something to us.”
                Ygerna glanced around the mostly empty room to make sure they weren’t being eavesdropped on. The errands had taken longer than first thought and it was well after lunchtime in Tomakomai. “I can. When my people were destroyed, I searched amongst their libraries for the book which Shikarou now holds in the hope that one of them had taken it. While I did not find it, I did amass the collected wisdom of my people and hid it away for safekeeping. This I can offer, for if Shikarou does as he has promised, Svetlana, you will be my sister in blood as well as marriage. We and our children will need what is in that storehouse for our future.”
                Svetlana nodded slowly. “That could be very helpful. Will it be available for Kasumi’s family as well?”
                Ygerna eyed Kasumi briefly. “That would be a decision that you, Faelan and I would have to make together. However, I cannot see a reason other than spite to deny them access to it. After all, their children will have some of our blood as well.”
                “What of after our enemy is dead?” Kasumi’s voice was quiet. “We must presume that we will win, because we will be dead if we lose. What will you do about the Order?”
                Ygerna shrugged. “I was their queen because there was no other to do so. One of my children will claim it someday, if it does not die on its own.”
                “Why bother?”
                “Svetlana, there is lore buried there and Britain will still need protected. If nothing else, once our children are adult, they will be prime targets for them. I would prefer to destroy them and to resurrect them without the flaws that allowed my foe to usurp my position, but I’m not sure that’s possible to do.”
                Svetlana nodded. “I think that would be reasonable. I do not feel that the Order will be a credible threat for several years after our foe is destroyed, if he is destroyed.”
                “You cannot see if we will win?”
                “Yvonne, I cannot. I wish I could.” She sighed. “Not even Pythia can see how this will end.” Her eyes went wide. “We need to return home.”
                “What is it?”
                “I’m not completely sure, but something terrible has happened elsewhere in the world and some of the fallout will come to Caomh Sith.”
                Ygerna stood. “Then we must go.”
                Branwyn appeared on the pier and let Shikarou go. She stretched, looking around. “It’s nice to be home again.” She patted the strap of her backpack. “I’ve got the pokegirls you wanted to sell and I’ll take them to the Conservatory now, if you don’t mind.”
                “Go ahead.”
                “What do I tell her when she asks why you let those people keep challenging you?”
                “I wanted to see if we needed to be concerned about the harem becoming too vicious for normal Tamer battles.” He rubbed his eyes. “They are, and I think I need to start paperwork to become a Tradesman before we kill some luckless opponent.”
                She took his hand gently. “I’ll take care of it soon.” Her lips brushed his cheek. “Do you have any message for Poppet?”
                “Remind her that, although I visited her only a couple of days ago as far as she’s concerned, it’s been a couple of months for me. I’d like to see her.”
                Branwyn smiled. She knew it wasn’t a slight on her or anyone in the harem. “Husband is lonely. Got it.” She vanished.
                He released Elizabeth, who immediately pulled the hood of her cloak up against the sun and gave him a wicked smile. “Hello, lover. Am I guarding your majestic self today?”
                He chuckled. “Yes, you are.”
                “Should I wait for signs of danger before throwing you to the ground and covering you with my body?”
                His ears flicked. “Maybe Dorothea should do this instead.”
                The Vampire snickered as she scanned the area alertly. “In her own way, she’s getting as bad as the rest of us.” Her lips twisted into a grin. “Or would you say, she’s getting as good as the rest of us?”
                “I say we should head for the house and see if any construction got done while we were gone.”
                They were headed up the hill when a black winged pokegirl swept down and stalled, dropping to the ground in front of them. Derdekea’s wings vanished as she bowed. “Sir, welcome back and my master would like to see you immediately.”
                Shikarou gave the Fallen Angel a curious look. “Is there an emergency?”
                “No, sir, there isn’t. However, he left instructions for you to meet with him at your earliest convenience. Svetlana thinks an emergency is about to happen.” She swept her black hair out of her face. “She’s usually right when she gets this way, but he didn’t see any reason to call you and ask that you hurry.”
                Elizabeth shook her head slowly. “I really wish she either didn’t do this or else was more precise.”
                Derdekea grinned. “You wish that? I’ve been with her for years now and you have no idea how frustrating her ‘something wicked this way comes’ can get.”
                Shikarou interrupted their Svetlana bashing. “Where is my brother?”
                “Sir, he’s at our house.” Her wings shimmered into existence already spread. “I’ll tell him you are on your way”
                “Thank you. We’ll be there in less than ten minutes.” He released Bellona and Circe. “Ladies, set up the tent and get everyone stripped for combat.” He dropped his pokeballs into Bellona’s hands.
                Elizabeth grinned. “Svetlana’s got indigestion.”
                Circe looked amused. “Treat it seriously?” She stripped the pack off her Tamer’s back when he nodded. “We’ll be along promptly.” Taking Bellona’s hand, they vanished.
                Elizabeth took a deep breath. “No rest for the wicked.”
                “Aye, and we’re wickeder than most. Let’s go see what is going on.”
                Faelan was seated on a rock which looked out over the foundation of his house. “Glad you’re back. She’s getting more and more restless. According to her, whatever has happened is rather momentous.”
                “How so?” Shikarou settled down nearby as Elizabeth went back to guard mode.
                Faelan shrugged. “The great disturbance in the force hasn’t told her yet.” His ears went back for a heartbeat. “She thinks it’s something new, and not related to our undead enemy.”
                “That’s just peachy.” Shikarou grimaced. “We really don’t need new enemies on top of our old ones.” He looked around. “Where is she?”
                “She’s in the washroom.”
                Dorothea appeared and let Nanu go. The Mini-Top had her sniper rifle slung along with a pair of pistols while the Seraph wore a pistol in a shoulder holster along with her normal sword and dagger combination. Faelan blinked. “That’s still unsettling.”
                Dorothea moved to be nearer her Tamer. “Perhaps, lord Faelan, yet thou were not with us when we fought the Zombabes. It became necessity there and a part of my repertoire that I wish to keep.”
                Pythia appeared as Svetlana came out of Faelan’s tent. The Dire Wolf’s ears were back. “Sexmet is coming and so is trouble.” She smiled slightly when Faelan jumped to his feet. “No, she’s not here yet, but soon.”
                Svetlana perched next to her husband and pulled him down against her. “Shikarou, I’m not sure what’s happening, but I know it involves Sexmet and she’ll be coming here.” She sighed. “It’s not as if we need more trouble right now. Did you return Tandy?”
                “We had some minor difficulties, but she has been reunited with her bonded Tamer.”
                “That’s good.” Svetlana stiffened. “She comes.”
                Lorelei appeared with a disgruntled looking Helen. The Milktit shoved away from her transport as the Sphinx unlimbered a wicked looking battleaxe. “Has Amy been driving my cart again? The battery is flat.”
                Shikarou raised an eyebrow. “Were you planning on serving food when I said to prepare for combat?”
                She gave him a shrewd smile. “I’m prepared already and it’s lunchtime.” The Milktit shrugged out of her pokepack and began releasing hot sandwiches and thermoses of iced tea. “Pythia, please help hand these out.”
                Shikarou stared at the sandwich that had been shoved into his hands. “Is this a leftover from Zombabe hunting?”
                “They don’t get old in my pack. Eat.” She winked at him when he gave her an amused look and he smiled slightly before bolting down the meal.
                “Why do you have sandwiches in your backpack?” Faelan mumbled around a mouthful of food as he chewed.
                Elizabeth grinned. “Zombabes have no appreciation for the joys of a sit down meal and Helen would keep these for when we got a chance to eat. We tried the dried food route, but she wouldn’t hear of her Tamer eating that every day.”
                “It’s a neat idea, but isn’t it kind of wasteful of a pokepack?”
                Shikarou shrugged. “We couldn’t trust the food we found until it had been thoroughly scrubbed.”
                Nanu looked around for someplace to wipe her hands and finally settled on Elizabeth’s cloak. “We watched a Zombabe ooze her way through the produce section of a supermarket and that was all it took to start washing everything we got near.”
                “HEY! Stop that.” Elizabeth pulled away sharply. “Guard, remember?”
                “Sorry,” Nanu replied without a trace of apology in her voice. “All done.”
                Pythia chuckled. “Sir, I think that’s her coming over that hill.” She pointed.
                Lorelei frowned as everyone turned to look. “It doesn’t look like Mother, but it is. It feels like her.”
                I confirm that, while the visible appearance has changed, scanning confirms that this is Sexmet. Caution is advised. There is no way to tell if more than her physical appearance has undergone some modifications.
                Sexmet had visibly changed. Her body and face were more feline in appearance than before and her fur had become darker and seemed to absorb the light as she approached them.
                “She looks tired.” Nanu shrugged when Faelan turned to look at her. “She’s got that set to her shoulders that tells you her life has been hell recently.”
                Sexmet drew up short, her ears flicking as she looked over the assemblage. “Shikarou, I need to talk to you.”
                “Faelan is my second in command and I suspect he’ll need to hear this too.”
                She blinked when Helen handed her a sandwich and thermos. “Sorry, but it’s all we’ve got right now.”
                The legendary looked confused for a second before refocusing on her mission. “My home has been raided by Sanctuary. It was a blitz attack and we weren’t ready for it.” She sighed and bit into the sandwich without thinking. Her eyes widened. “This is good.” She finished it in short order and waved away a second one. “They attacked with some new kind of pokegirl; I think it was an evolution of the Dameosaur. Goths were riding them and throwing pokeballs at any Sphinx they came across.” She took a deep, steadying breath. “Most were taken and many of the ones that weren’t, were killed. They massacred my Cheetit and Cheetaura.”
                Her eyes narrowed. “A lot of kits are left without parents and I don’t have a place for them right now. Sanctuary could attack again at any time.”
                She steeled herself; before she could speak, Shikarou interrupted her. “Of course you can bring them here for a while.” He looked thoughtful as shock appeared on her face. “You wouldn’t be here unless you wanted me to take them. You’d be somewhere else, trying to get them to agree. We don’t have any outsiders here, right now, and they can stay on the outskirts of Peacetown.”
                Her shoulders drooped. “Thank you,” she said simply. “I didn’t have anywhere else to turn. I’ll find someplace permanent for them as soon as I can, but I don’t know how long that may take.”
                “We’re busy with our own problems, so I can’t help you with Sanctuary. This, however, we can do for you.”
                Faelan nodded. “Do what you need to, lady Sexmet. We’ll watch your children for you. When will they be arriving?”
                She opened the thermos and took a long drink. “As soon as I get things better organized, I’ll bring them here. Most of them will be Sphinx kits, with a few Cheetit and maybe one or two others.” She rubbed her nose tiredly with the side of the thermos. “I’d like to send someone along to help watch them, but I don’t know if I have anyone to spare.”
                “You do what you need to. We’ll cover the rest.” Svetlana gave her a cheery smile. “I am confident that things will work out in the end.” She blinked when Shikarou gave her a curious look. “No, I don’t know it.”
                “Thanks for clarifying your statement.” He turned to Sexmet. “The kits are welcome here for as long as necessary but, if they come of age, I’ll have to find them Tamers.”
                Sexmet gave a ghost of a smile. “By then, I hope things will be resolved.”
                “Can you stay for a bit?”
                “No, I have to get back. Bastit is waiting for me and, right now, she doesn’t like me being away too long.” She frowned slightly. “Where do you want me to bring the children?”
                “Bring them to the inn. We’ll put them there while we are setting up someplace for them on the north side of town.”
                She nodded. “Thank you. I will.” She disappeared as she teleported away.
                Faelan slipped an arm around his wife. “We will get started setting up quarters for the children. Helen, would you help with the food?”
                Helen nodded. “I will. Shikarou has brought back another Milktit who will be helping around the island until the school opens and this will be a good time to start her education.”
                Faelan’s ears flicked. “Who will be taking care of her?”
                “Are you expressing interest?”
                “No, brother, I was just curious if Helen was willing to share you.”
                The Milktit’s ears went back. “I am not and he is not. Leland will be taking care of her for now.”
                Faelan blinked in surprise at her flat tone. “My apologies. I did not mean to offend.”
                Shikarou placed his hand on Helen’s and she flushed. “I’m sorry, master Faelan. I was upset when I first thought about her because I, too, thought Shikarou might want two Milktits.” She gave her Tamer a wry look. “He was very persuasive in convincing me otherwise.”
                Nanu snickered. “Are you still sore?”
                There was a knock on her door and one of her assistants looked in. “Lady, the emissary from Queen Xantha is here.”
                Gwyneth leaned back in her chair. She wasn’t setting up a court in the wilderness yet, and so had an office down the hall from Shikarou’s. “Send her in.”
                The Grandelf bowed as she entered the room. “Queen Gwyneth. I bring you greetings from Queen Xantha.” She bowed lower. “My name is Jinty.”
                The ElfQueen suppressed a spurt of irritation. “I am not a queen yet, but I thank you. I understand you have a message from Queen Xantha?”
                “Yes, lady, I do.” Jinty produced a scroll from her coat and offered it to her. “You’ll find that Queen Xantha is very appreciative of the time you’ve taken with her and with me.”
                Gwyneth suppressed another spurt of irritation as she opened the scroll. The illumination was pretty, but sometimes made Xantha’s communiqués hard to read. This one was especially florid and she made a mental note to use email for her people whenever possible.
                The door opened and one of her Elves rolled in a trolley with tea and biscuits. Jinty helped herself to some as she watched Gwyneth struggle to read the letter.
                Gwyneth frowned as the words suddenly seemed to swim and her gaze went vacant as the spell in the letter activated from her reading. From in what seemed a vast distance, someone twisted her long hair and levered her head back. “Good, my queen will be pleased when you are her loyal servant.” Her hair was released and her face slammed into the desk.
                Her world went black.
                When consciousness returned, the first thing she heard was a quiet whimpering. Next, she heard a voice. “She’s waking up.” She recognized Candace’s voice.
                Her head was lifted and she opened her eyes to look up at her Tamer. “How do you feel?”
                Gwyneth frowned as she thought for a moment. “I seem to be ok.” Memory returned in a rush. “I was reading a letter from Xantha.”
                He nodded slowly as he lifted her to a sitting position. “There was a spell in it that was supposed to be used to help control you.”
                Gwyneth blinked at him. Her mind still seemed to be working in slow motion. “How do you know that?”
                “When the spell hit you, your twee called for help. We’ve been questioning your guest while you were recuperating.” He gave her a grim smile. “We had to break her mental shields before Stardust could find out what was going on.”
                Gwyneth raised her head and looked. She’d been on the couch in her office. Across the room, the Grandelf had been immobilized by the simple expedient of nailing her to the wall with knives that had been driven into her elbows and knees. Her eyes were unfocused and drool ran in a thin string down her now nude body. Strips of skin had been pulled from her chest and lay in a bloody pile on the floor.
                The Grandelf whimpered again.
                Bellona was licking the Grandelf’s blood from her claws. “Are you well, sister?”
                Gwyneth’s mind snapped back into focus and her eyes narrowed. “Is Jinty’s mind whole?”
                Bellona shrugged. “Is it important?”
                “If it is, then I want to keep her. Once she’s loyal to me, I’ll put her to work making sure that none of my people have been turned to Xantha by similar means. She knows how it’s done and should be able to spot it.” She turned to Shikarou. “Will you make her ours?”
                “You want me to tame her or enslave her?”
                “I’d prefer it if you tamed her. Every Elf you put into my service makes her that much weaker and me stronger. That will help when we go to war.” She reached up and touched one of his ears. “And make no mistake, my king, after this stunt, we are going to have war before this is done.”
                Shikarou kissed her gently. “So be it.”
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                     
Alaka-Wham                         Circe                      
Unicorn                                  Branwyn               
Milktit                                    Helen                     
G-Spliced                               Pythia                    
DragonQueen                       Bellona                  
NurseJoy                               Candace                
Seraph                                    Dorothea              
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko     
Vampire                                  Elizabeth               
Mini-Top                               Nanu                     
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                  
Wet Queen                            Roisin                    
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        Bellona
Badges: Scotland:               Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                Ireland:  Belfast
                England:                Plymouth,
                Wales:                    Magicunt Village
                Ruby League:       Polass Gym