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It had started gently raining during dinner with wind gusts driving the rain onto the porch overlooking the yard and so the meeting was held inside the dojo. Soun and Mizuho sat on one side of a table that had been set up in the training area while Genma Saotome sat to their right and Kasumi was seated to their left with Iain on the other side of the table from Soun and Mizuho. Pandora had been standing sentry on the roof until the rain started and now she stood behind Iain, a silent presence that he was always aware of.
Soun looked at Iain and smiled. “Now, what was it that you wanted to meet with us about?”
Before Iain could speak, Mizuho looked at her husband. “Soun, I think that you should first tell Iain what you already know so as to avoid him having to tell us everything again. What do you think?”
“I think that’s reasonable enough,” Soun replied. Iain had been watching them throughout dinner and he had noticed that Mizuho’s presence had wrought amelioration on the nervousness that had always seemed to hang over Soun like a cloud and he liked the man who was appearing out of it a lot more than the one who’d tried to foist Nabiki off as a wife to him on his previous visit.
Soun took a drink of tea and put the cup down. “My wife has explained to me that Kasumi has divorced Shikarou and that they are no longer married. She has also informed me that Kasumi no longer lives with Shikarou’s family and has instead moved in with the Grey clan, which she has joined.” Kasumi was staring at them in shock as he continued. “Mizuho has also explained to me that my daughter is now a true spirit folk and a kami, although she is unsure as to how this has come about. She also told me that you are a doragon and a wizard, although I remember you telling me and Genma that you were Sidhe.”
Iain’s years with Nightraven stood him in good stead at this moment as he used what he’d learned there to keep his face still and his heart rate unchanged. He hadn’t realized that Kasumi had told her mother so much but it made sense for Mizuho to share what she knew with her husband. “If you will review the conversations we had during my last visit,” he said calmly, “you will discover that I never claimed I was any particular breed of fey or spirit folk. I acknowledged that I was one and then led you to believe that I was Sidhe without ever actually claiming that I was. It was a necessary subterfuge as my people are quite rare and we seldom announce who we are so as to avoid trouble with the local supernatural population.”
Soun nodded. “I think I will find that you are right about that.” He frowned slightly. “Mizuho also suggested that many years have passed where you live as compared to where we live. Is this true and, if so, just how old is my granddaughter Kozakura?”
Iain glanced at Kasumi, who gave him a helpless look back. “It is true,” he admitted. “Kozakura is in her twenties now and unlikely to ever come here. To be honest, you would not have enjoyed meeting her. She tries to ignore the fact that she has human relatives for she feels that the spirit folk are inherently superior to them. She would not have been very respectful of you, even as a girl, for Shikarou shares many of her feelings about humans and while he would have hidden them from you, he has not hidden them from her.”
“I see. And how do you feel about humans?”
“I do not think any more highly of spirit folk or fey as a group than I do of humans as a group,” Iain said. “It is true that some fey and spirit folk have abilities that surpass those of humans. However it is also true that there are spirit folk and fey who are weaker than most humans. As you are aware, there are stories in which there are some very dumb spirit folk who get regularly outwitted by humans.” Iain paused for a moment to organize his thoughts. “And based upon how nature measures things, humans have been far more successful than either fey or spirit folk as there are a lot more humans than there are of either of the other races. That suggests fey and spirit folk are not actually nearly as superior as many of them would like to believe. As for my experiences with them, I have learned that some spirit folk and fey are just as arrogant, stupid and behave as much like jerks as some humans do.”
Soun seemed to consider that for a moment. “How long have you known Kasumi?”
“I’ve known her for a couple of years,” Iain replied. “Up until recently I only saw her a few times a year as the Wolf family has never been all that friendly to outsiders.”
Soun nodded and looked at Kasumi. “Why did Shikarou divorce you? Was it because of Grey-san?”
“He didn’t divorce me,” Kasumi said. “I divorced him and it was not because of Iain. We didn’t love each other and I want the kind of marriage you and mother have.”
“You were married here in Nerima,” Soun noted. “Your divorce isn’t legal unless it is filed here with the proper paperwork.”
“It is legal for that very reason, Father.” Soun looked surprised as Kasumi continued. “I picked up the papers I needed during my last visit and they were filed a few weeks ago here in Nerima.”
Mizuho had been watching Kasumi as she spoke. “Do you think that you have found someone that you believe will make you as happy as your father has made me?”
Kasumi looked at Iain. “I have,” she said softly.
Genma muttered something and Mizuho glanced at him. “I do not think my daughter would even consider doing anything improper with anyone and especially not while she was married,” she said with a hint of anger in her voice. Genma grunted sourly and Mizuho looked at Kasumi. “Well?”
“Mother, I would never dishonor myself or my family,” Kasumi said firmly. “And I did not. As point of fact, Iain would not let me dishonor myself with him even if I desired to.” Her eyes locked with Genma’s. “He is an honorable man.”
“We are here because Kasumi wanted to seek your approval for us,” Iain said.
“Iain has asked me to marry him and I have said yes,” Kasumi said. “But I wanted to get your approval first and I wanted to be married with my family in attendance.”
“Do you still have your shrine,” Soun asked.
Kasumi looked surprised. “I do.” Iain gave her a confused glance and she smiled. “I told you I didn’t pray to it anymore but it has always brought me comfort so I keep it with me.”
“Oh,” was all Iain could say.
Soun chuckled. “I remember you telling me that it venerates the kami who took your mother’s pain away. That was Iain, wasn’t it?”
She nodded. “I didn’t know it at the time, but yes, it is.”
“The workmen will be here tomorrow and I would like to see it before they arrive.”
Kasumi looked puzzled. “I don’t understand, Father.”
“Your mother and I have been discussing it and the conversation we had with Iain earlier just reinforced what we thought. Shikarou was never really our family’s kami, was he?”
Kasumi shook her head. “No. He came here to return the otherworldly Ranma to his proper world.”
“The only things he did for us was to release you from the demon and give us money,” Soun said. “The truth is that the money was a source of more troubles than of benefits considering what Happosai did that you and Shikarou had to reverse. And then he stole away my eldest daughter and my first grandchild, whom I am unlikely to ever meet. In the short time that I have known him, Iain has done far more than Shikarou did.” Iain’s eyes went wide and he started to speak but Mizuho fixed him with a stern gaze and he stayed silent as Soun continued. “He returned my wife and missing daughter to me. He has ensured that my legacy in the school will be financially safe with Akane and Ranma as well as their children. And he has allowed me to keep my pride and not have to beg my youngest daughter for money or steal from her grocery funds. He has proven to be our family kami and he will take Shikarou’s place in the shrine a fool established for a kami who didn’t really care for us.” He smiled slightly. “That fool being named Soun Tendo.”
“Do you really need a family kami,” Iain asked.
“One day Mizuho and I will die,” Soun said. “You and Kasumi will watch over our children and their children, will you not? You will protect them from evil if they need it.”
“I won’t protect them from their own stupidity,” Iain warned.
“In that situation I would only want you to warn them of the cost of their stupidity before they are forced to pay it,” Soun said. “But you would protect them from misfortune that was not their fault, will you not?”
Iain smiled. “If I didn’t, Kasumi certainly would.”
“But you would bring her here so that she could do so for she cannot travel between worlds, is that not correct?”
“It is, at least for the moment. I expect she will learn how to do it herself soon enough. Even then, though, we travel together.”
“She will learn that from you and your family, right?” Iain nodded. “Shikarou had over twenty years with Kasumi and he didn’t teach her how to do this. Would he have ever done so?”
“I don’t think so,” Iain said thoughtfully. “That spell came from Magdalene, his foster mother, and he tended to not share such things.”
“I asked him a few times to teach me and he always put me off with an excuse,” Kasumi said. “Your spell didn’t come from her?”
“My first dimensional traveling spell came from another author as a gift,” Iain said.
Kasumi’s eyebrows rose. “Your first spell, you say? How many different dimension travel spells do you know?”
“I know four different variants,” Iain said, “and I’m negotiating with Kerrik for the version that Shikarou knows.” He turned back to Soun and Mizuho. “I know that Shikarou had asked Akane to become the family guardian when she died but he never came back to make the necessary arrangements. If you want to change the shrine’s focus from Shikarou to me, I won’t stop you. Will you add Kasumi to it too?”
Soun shook his head. “Perhaps one day she will have a presence in it, but I don’t see myself ever praying to my daughter for protection. Maybe Akane’s children will do so after I am dead.”
Kasumi took a deep breath. “Father, Mother, Iain has asked me to become his wife. Will you give me permission to marry him?”
Soun looked at his wife and she nodded. “We do.” He turned to Iain. “We will arrange for the Shinto priest. You and Kasumi will take care of the civil paperwork. The Shinto ceremony will take place in two weeks. Is that acceptable?”
Iain looked at Kasumi and she nodded. “It is,” he said. “Can I see her before the wedding?”
“What do you mean,” Mizuho asked curiously.
“I wanted to take Kasumi out in two days. I’ve got reservations for a nogaku and dinner.”
“She will go,” Mizuho said firmly.
“Thank you,” Iain smiled. He looked at Soun. “You may be interested to know that several members of my clan have magic that can cause plants to root without having to dig first. They could help speed the placement of Mizuho’s garden while decreasing the actual amount of work that needs to be done.”
Soun’s eyes lit up. “That would be very helpful.”
Mizuho smiled. “We decline their help.” Soun blinked and turned to stare at her as she continued. “My husband let my garden die and he shall put in a new one for me by hand.” Next to her, Soun slumped despondently.
Iain shrugged. “Then we can still possibly get you some exotic plants for your garden if you are interested.”
“I would be very interested in that if they can live here without special care.”
“I will ask Ninhursag to either get in touch with you or to ask one of the others to do so,” Iain said.
“Thank you.” Mizuho looked at Kasumi. “Is there anything else?”
“Then this meeting is over.” Mizuho bowed to Iain. “Soon we will welcome you as our son in law. I look forward to that day.”
Iain frowned thoughtfully. “I’m not sure how to respond to that. I appreciate the sentiment but I don’t want to sound trite in my response and anything traditional makes it sound like I’ll be at your beck and call, which I will not.”
Mizuho smiled amusedly. “I am happy that you are clever, Iain. Will you become a Japanese citizen?”
“Yes. My final interviews still have to be scheduled but I have an address now that I own our farm and that will make things go more smoothly.”
“Good.” She rose easily to her feet. “Kasumi will live here until you are married.”
Iain kept a pleasant smile on his face as he reached out to Kasumi through his twee. Is this what you want?
It is, Iain.
What about your three bodyguards?
Send Giselle to me tonight and I will explain everything to her. She will inform the others as is her right as my alpha.
Very well. He got to his feet. “Then I will bid all of you a good night.”
Iain hit the ground with enough force that he skidded backwards on his stomach. His limbs felt like lead but he forced them to work and rolled to the side as the sword flashed down. He avoided the strike and shoved to his feet only to catch the side kick in the center of his chest. He flew backwards to slam into the rock behind him with a grunt and spray of blood from his mouth as he slid down to his knees.
Yuko Grey recoiled from the kick and grinned down at him as her sword moved back into a ready position. “You are more formidable than any human I have faced but you are pathetic as a doragon or tatsu. Are you deliberately letting me win this bout easily?”
Iain coughed blood and clutched at his chest as red hot razors in his chest sawed deeper with each breath. “Yes,” he rasped. “I just love punctured lungs.”
Yuko snorted. “Heal yourself. You need to learn to do that even as you are injured. Better yet, avoid being injured in the first place.”
Iain forced his magic inside himself and began healing his injuries as he rose on shaky legs. “You make it sound so easy.”
“I do but it is not. It is, however, absolutely necessary for you to master if you wish to survive to give me the grandchildren I deserve and the children you promised Kasumi.”
“Are you finished healing yourself, sir?” Siobhan had been sitting nearby and watching. Iain nodded and she got up. “I’m supposed to check how well you’re using your magic to heal yourself. We want to ensure you’re healing properly.” She smiled. “I wouldn’t want to become redundant.”
“I can never replace you,” Iain said honestly.
“I am very glad to hear you realize that.” She slid her hands underneath his shirt and pressed them against his chest. Her eyes narrowed slightly. “You didn’t do a very good job. The bones are misaligned and will result in a measurable loss of flexibility in your torso.” Her smile returned for a second. “The lungs you healed completely and you have my compliments on a job well done if partially.” She pushed him back against the rock as she pulled her hands out from under the shirt. “However, sir, the ribs will have to be fixed.”
“How are you going to,” Iain broke off with a grunt as she hammered him in the chest with a fist, using her enhanced strength mercilessly. Blood sprayed from his mouth over Siobhan’s face and shirt and he gasped at the pain as his ribs shattered where she’d hit him.
She held him upright with one hand and pressed the other against his chest. “I am going to do this slowly so you can follow along. Feel what I’m doing,” she said as she stared into his eyes. Her magic flowed into him and a small eternity passed as she mended his bones and healed his lungs. “I had to make sure the damage to the ribs was more extensive so as to break all of the healed joins. Fortunately, they were fresh and did as I wanted. Older healed bones would be stronger and would have to be excised for complete healing.”
Iain wiped the blood from his mouth. “I’m beginning to think my pokedex isn’t reading your breed correctly. It’s not that there aren’t any Night Nurses on your world; it’s just that the Nurse Joys are incorrectly named and are really a Night Nurse variant. There aren’t any Nurse Joys.”
“That can’t be true, sir,” Siobhan said with a wink. “I’d have the ability to create scalpels on my fingertips instead of having had to learn to summon them with a spell as a teen.” She lifted his shirt and used it to wipe her face of his blood.
“Yay, scalpels.” Siobhan giggled softly at the dismay in his voice.
“I do believe it is my time to abuse Iain in the guise of training him,” Yuko said firmly. “You will have to schedule another time to abuse him to your heart’s content.”
Siobhan returned to her rock. “As you wish.” She glanced at Iain and touched his mind through her twee. I am also here to make sure Yuko doesn’t try to rape you.
I figured and thank you. He glanced at her. I’ve been thinking. If we have a son, would you like to name him Gordon?
Siobhan started violently and her head came around to stare at him with suddenly wet eyes. I could never do that to you, sir.
There happens to be a Gordon in my family tree too and it’s a fine name, Siobhan. A boy could do far worse than to be named Gordon.
Her expression was so vulnerable that Iain wanted to hold her but Yuko wouldn’t tolerate it right now. If you would allow it, sir, I would be very pleased to name our son Gordon.
Then our first son, whenever he comes, will be Gordon Grey.
She wiped at her eyes. Thank you, Iain.
A short time later Iain rested against the rock again and held out his arm as Siobhan decided if he’d healed a cut Yuko had given him enough to satisfy the Nurse Joy. Yuko sheathed her sword as the Nurse Joy examined the limb. “Iain, my counterpart from this world wishes to speak with you later today,” she said.
“What is this going to be about?”
“She wishes to learn what you know about the local spirit folk power structure in the area around the Tendo dojo. I believe she wishes to warn them off about the Tendo and possibly the Saotome families as Ranma will be marrying Akane someday.”
“Jirou is unlikely to listen to her,” Iain said.
Yuko cocked her head curiously. “Is he a two headed shark ocean spirit?”
“He is. Do you know his counterpart back in One?”
She smiled malevolently. “I know where I dumped his corpse after he challenged me about a decade ago.”
“You didn’t eat him?”
She laughed. “I like my fish fresh and there was nothing fresh about Jirou. His soul was as rotten as the polluted carrion he liked to consume had made his body.”
“Well, he’s alive in this world and he’s the local leader of the spirit folk. I haven’t met him but we did catch another of the locals, a male named Youta, and gave him a message to pass to Jirou and the others to leave the Tendo family alone, but I doubt he believed we’d come back to punish him for anything he did. Yuko can talk to Theodora for a detailed brief on the local spirit folk political situation.”
“Do you mind if we significantly change the local power structure if we see fit?”
Iain raised an eyebrow. “We?”
Yuko grinned. “I want to help this Yuko. She hasn’t fought as much as I have recently and she may require my assistance.”
“Or is it you just want to fight and kill people?”
Her grin widened. “I do want to help her so it’s not just that I want to fight and kill people.”
Iain shook his head. “Talk to Yuko and then Theodora. Afterwards I want you two to talk to me before you go off and do this. I intend to put together a support team to back you up in case it turns out there’s something there you two will need help to handle. I don’t want to listen to Kasumi or Mizuho if you two get killed so soon after joining us.” He smiled slightly. “Not to mention you’re clan and I’d really like to keep you around for a while since you’re one of us now.”
Yuko’s grin vanished and she surprised him with a bow. “Thank you, clan leader, but I have not earned such praise.”
“I’m not sure I completely agree with you since I know the real reason you’re helping Yuko. It’s because you adopted Kasumi and so you’ve therefore adopted the entire Tendo line, possibly including the outlander Yuko.” Yuko’s eyes widened. “So it’s ok that you’re helping her. Just remember that if you kill all of them then most likely new spirit folk will move into the area and they won’t know to be afraid of Yuko of the Tendo family. If we keep killing them the cycle will never end and, eventually, one of the Tendo girls is going to get killed or raped because of it.”
Yuko shook her head. “You are a better guardian spirit than I have ever been. If I thought like you, my daughter might still be alive.”
Iain shrugged. “I’m fragile. That means I have to think about consequences more than people who are not nearly as fragile as I am have to. Just never forget that you’re one of us now and we’ll help you consider what might happen if you want us to.”
“I want that help. What do you think we should do with the local spirit folk?”
Iain looked thoughtful. “They have been warned to stay away from the Tendo and Saotome families already. This, of course, means they know we think that those people might be interesting to the local spirit folk population. If this Jirou is like the one you killed, that’ll just whet his curiosity. Spirit folk seem to understand strength more than diplomacy so make an example of Jirou but don’t leave him alive when you’re done. The others are afraid of Jirou and so they’ll be terrified of Yuko if he gets dismantled without much effort on her part.” Iain looked at Siobhan, who was now watching him instead of examining his arm. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“I do not. He would harm Kasumi, who is clan and so he must die.” She stepped back. “Your arm was healed acceptably, but not as well as I would have done it. The tissue will still need some time to finish healing completely but it will not scar. I will request that April book you time with me so that you can learn more about how to heal injuries more completely as well as how to move components of the patient’s body around as you do so as to keep there from being consequences from incorrect healing.”
“I’ll let her know too,” Iain said. “Making sure that I don’t accidentally cripple myself is kind of important to me.”
“Good.” She looked at Yuko. “Are you finished with his training for the day?”
“I can be.”
“Then I’ll be off to the loo for a moment,” Siobhan hurried away.
Yuko watched her leave with neutral eyes. “She is not very good at guarding you from me if she leaves without taking you with her.” She turned to Iain. “Do you feel you need guarded from me?”
“Are you willing to wait until and unless Kasumi decides she is willing to share me with you and I say I’m willing to be shared?”
Her face was as serious as Iain had ever seen it. “I made an agreement with my granddaughter. I would no more break it than I would harm her for no reason. If she never makes that decision then eventually my interest in you, whatever it may become, will wane and I will find another interest.” She looked down at her hands for a moment. “I wish to be fertile again more than I wish to have sex with you. If I break my trust with my clan, you will not help me.” She smiled for an instant. “It would have been better for me if I had met you before you met Kasumi as I would be your woman now and not her. But it is better for Kasumi that she met you first because she needs you while I merely desire you. Fortunately for her I had adopted her before I realized your potential worth.”
He nodded. “That’s true enough. And what about after you are fertile once more?”
“If I were to try to take you against your will, I believe I would die. As Sofia pointed out, eventually I would have to sleep or would otherwise become unwary and then you would kill me if you could.” She met his gaze evenly. “While I did not believe that you could do so when we met, I believe you could now.”
“Is that because I was human then and now I’m not?”
Her eyes continued to bore into his. “No. It is because I have since learned that you are a predator as I am and I believe you have always been one. As a doragon, you merely have better ways to hunt your prey. I have been told some stories about your journey to this place and this time. If I had been you and I had been human, I do not know if I could have survived all of the things you did.”
“Then the answer is no.”
She raised an eyebrow. “No?”
“You asked if I felt I needed guarded from you. I do not.”
She chuckled. “I had almost forgotten I had asked that question. Your women feel you need guarded from me.”
“My women feel I need guarded from everything. As it has been proven that sometimes I do need guarded and I cannot tell which times I can dispense with guards and which times I cannot, I bow to their desires, if sometimes unwillingly. Why? I don’t want to die.”
She grinned, her teeth gleaming. “You are a survivor and a predator. My grandchildren will be strong with your blood.”
Eve appeared out of nothingness. “Where is Siobhan?” She looked around with a curious expression, but her eyes showed how unhappy she was.
“She using the bathroom,” Iain supplied.
“Then who is guarding you,” she asked with the same curiosity.
“In her absence, I am,” Yuko replied. “Although I cannot guard him from myself, so you may not accept my presence as his guardian even if he is in no danger from me.”
Eve looked from her to Iain. “Well?”
“She told me that she values her life more than getting laid by me,” Iain said with a smile. “Since she recognizes that if you don’t kill her I will and she thinks I’d eventually succeed, I believe that as long as the situation remains unchanged she can be trusted to protect me, if for no other reason than she hopes we can break her curse from Amaterasu and make her fertile once more. I think she’d rather hold her own babies than her grandbabies.”
Eve blinked and looked back at Yuko as the kami nodded. “It is not that I hope my curse can be broken by my clan, it is that I know my new family will succeed in doing so.”
“That doesn’t excuse Siobhan abandoning you to go pee,” Eve noted.
Iain shrugged. “I believe I don’t get to decide that unless I’m willing to dole out the punishment and I was asked not to get involved in inter harem issues of that nature.”
The Megami-Sama nodded. “I’m glad you’re willing to stay out of this one too. I’ll take care of Siobhan. Heather will be arriving in a few minutes.”
Iain cocked his head. “Ninhursag will take care of Siobhan, as is her right and responsibility. You tend to be a little fierce protecting me, which I don’t mind when I’m being protected, but Siobhan might abort depending on how demonstrative you get in correcting her error.”
Eve surprised him with a chuckle. “Only you can make me want to do things to people that no Megami or Sama should ever want to do to them.”
“It’s a gift,” he replied in a deadpan voice. He took her hand. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” she said. She looked down at his hand and clasped it tightly. “Maybe April is right and it’s time for me to bring life into the world again.” She sighed and shook her head. “Not while everyone else is having children. You have so little free time as it is.”
He smiled. “It is your choice.”
“That’s not what you told Pandora.”
“I told Pandora what she needed to hear, and if that’s what she heard then she wasn’t listening well.” Iain flashed a grin. “That’s a real gift I have.”
She smiled back at him. “You do seem to do that more often than not. Not now, but soon.”
“Just to make sure we’re both on the same page, soon isn’t in a decade, right?”
“It isn’t. I think Seraphina and Olivia would make good older sisters for our girls and if I wait too long they won’t be able to do that.”
“I agree.” He looked at Yuko. “I hope you don’t mind this discussion.”
“It makes me envy your women, but I have been allowed to help with your other children and that makes it hurt less when I think about how I cannot have my own.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Eve said confidently.
“I believe you,” Yuko said simply. “Even if you have to bargain with Amaterasu herself, I believe you.”
The Countess Sigvor was tall and slender, with black hair which threw flashes of green color when it moved and eyes the color of dandelion blossoms. As the head of High King Mimir’s bodyguard, she also served as his chamberlain and it was in this role she entered the room where Ygerna and Branna waited for an audience with His Majesty. “I hope you are well, mistress. Have your needs been met,” she asked formally in an ancient dialect of Sidhe, bowing only slightly due to her armor.
“I have received the offer of food and drink,” Ygerna replied as formally in the same language. “At this time I have declined to partake of either.”
Surprise flickered in and out of Sigvor’s eyes almost too quickly for Ygerna to recognize it. Her refusal was definitely not protocol. “Was there something amiss with either,” she asked.
“There was not.” When Ygerna didn’t elaborate, irritation appeared in Sigvor’s eyes since for a guest to refuse to refresh herself was not exactly an insult, but it bordered on the razor’s edge of one. Unlike, as Ygerna reminded herself, the use of mistress in addressing her, which was a studied insult to remind Ygerna that queen she might be, she was not a queen in this court and that Mimir was High King of the Sidhe.
Or so he claimed, she said to herself. She’d made contact with other Sidhe courts during her first visit to Kasumi’s world and none of them had mentioned being vassals to any High King. None of them had even been aware there was a High King of the Sidhe anywhere and she suspected that Mimir was only High King in this court and no others.
“His Majesty will grant you an audience in a quarter hour,” Sigvor said when Ygerna didn’t speak. “Do you wish other refreshments?” It was an opportunity for Ygerna to follow decorum and not insult Mimir’s graciousness.
Ygerna saw no reason to be rude but she was not here to break bread with the people of this court and she was not seeking sanctuary in it. She and Mimir had made an agreement for access to the libraries of this court in exchange for the return of the Grimoire of Danu and she was here only for that. “I appreciate the courtesy which my host has extended toward me, but I require none.”
“I will so inform His High Majesty,” Sigvor said and withdrew from the room.
Ygerna glanced at the Magic Knight guarding her and reached out with her twee. The last time we were told that Mimir would see us in half an hour and we waited over three hours before our audience. I wonder if this means we will only wait an hour and a half this time.
Branna was watching the room and, especially, the single door alertly. My Queen, she responded, perhaps you should have informed Countess Sigvor that you bear the Grimoire if you wished to see our host immediately.
I wish to be seen quickly because I am Queen Ygerna and not because I carry something Mimir wants. An unpleasant thought occurred to Ygerna. Did I do this to people waiting for an audience with me when I sat on the throne?
You did not when you sat on the throne and you did not when you were in exile, My Queen. However, sometimes your maid did make petitioners wait to see you if she felt they deserved to or they had offended her somehow.
Ygerna scowled. Her last maid had disappeared during the rebellion which had dethroned her and she had often wondered about her fate, even more so when she’d discovered the fact that on Pokegirl One Eoghan had been breaking the will of that world’s Ygerna’s maids and turning them into his spies for centuries. I wonder if my maids served Eoghan too.
If you truly wish to know the answer to that, My Queen, then perhaps you should relate your question to your husband and our clan leader.
I will. Ygerna made herself deliberately relax. Her audience would come when it came and she would give no one the satisfaction of seeing the irritation this delay was causing her. Instead she distracted herself speculating on why the Ygerna of this world had fled Ireland and ended up here, in a court of Sidhe in Norway that had been founded about the time that humans that scientists called the Corded Ware culture had brought oats to farming along with new languages and burial practices to the area, or around 2200 BC as the humans reckoned time. The Duchess Ygerna had arrived in 900 BC under mysterious circumstances. All she’d learned from the few courts in Ireland that she’d located was that this world’s version of the court she’d grown up in had been destroyed in a war with two other Sidhe courts not long before the Duchess had arrived in Mimir’s court. Investigation had shown that neither of the victorious courts still existed, although when the two courts had ceased to be was unknown. The survivors had scattered to courts all over Europe and rumor had some fleeing to a mysterious land far to the West. As for the court of Mimir, their king and nobles had adopted Norse names some time long ago and with the exception of a few, including the duchess who bore her name, so had the rest of the people here.
The door opened, interrupting her thoughts and another bodyguard, Leikr, looked in. His face was, as usual, impassive. “His High Majesty will see you now.”
Ygerna checked her twee and noted that an hour and five minutes had passed while she’d been musing. Time didn’t really matter to immortals but then again it could quickly come to matter if the immortal either had to grow crops or was dependent on mortals to arrive with food on a regular basis. Time helped one to know when to become concerned about running out of things to eat.
As Ygerna headed for the door, Branna interposed herself between her queen and Leikr. “Please move away from the door,” she said firmly to the male Sidhe.
Leikr grinned at her and stepped backwards until the doorway was clear enough for passage. He thought the jumped up human woman a joke as a bodyguard in a world filled with Sidhe and other supernatural creatures such as the fey. His attitude amused Ygerna since Branna was a highly trained mage and swordswoman and the time spent in Sofia and April’s care had polished her already lethal skills to a razor’s edge. In point of fact, Ygerna had already decided to use the Grimoire to make Branna a Sidhe to grant the power of her people to her Magic Knight in addition to her already lethal array of skills and powers. That and she hoped that Sidhe magic would make Branna’s abilities at least somewhat inheritable.
The only possible sticking point was Branna herself. While before joining the clan Ygerna would have merely exercised her rights as Branna’s sovereign and turned her into Sidhe without warning or consent, under clan law Ygerna had to get her bodyguard’s permission to make her Sidhe and she was uncertain as to what Branna’s answer to that question would be, so she was waiting while working to determine that answer beforehand. After all, it would look pretty bad if the first person she offered to make Sidhe declined the honor.
Leikr led them into the main hall. Torches cast flickering light over the large room and benches filled with Sidhe members of Mimir’s court lined the walls. In the center of the room a large fire pit held a roaring conflagration that was magically sustained without wood or other fuel, keeping the room from being filled with smoke and lethal gasses. A large metal cage swung over the fire from a heavy chain and legend held that Mimir used it to roast his captives in the never-ending flames.
High King Mimir sat on his ornate throne. Plated with gold, silver and encrusted with gems, it made Ygerna’s old throne in the Order look positively pedestrian in comparison. She thought it to be barbaric, but was willing to admit that it fit a Sidhe who had spurned his past to adopt many Norse ways, even to the point of naming himself after a Norse god. Even more amusing to Ygerna, the Sidhe that she didn’t think was especially bright had named himself after a Norse god of wisdom, and he had to pick the one who had been beheaded in a battle and then had his head hung from Odin’s belt to give him advice. As far as she was concerned, he might have as well named himself Tanngrisnir or Tanngnjostr after the goats Thor ate and then resurrected to pull his cart in the morning.
Mimir was comfortably reclined on his throne and he smiled widely at Ygerna. “Mistress Ygerna, I welcome you to my court once more.”
“I am glad to have returned,” Ygerna replied formally.
He nodded. “I presume you have come here to inform me and my court that you have failed in your quest as have all of the others and you must break the agreement we had made and thereby suffer the consequences, have you not?”
Ygerna kept the pleasant smile on her face as she quickly reviewed the conversations she’d had with Mimir and whether or not there had been consequences in the event that she couldn’t retrieve the Grimoire. There had not, but he was the king here and many kings and queens heard and remembered only what they wanted to. However, she was not going to be subject to any sort of punishment, of that she was certain as she was here as a guest of the court and thereby afforded the protection of the crown. Additionally, she reminded herself, it was just her and Branna and no matter how powerful they might be together, they would be alone until Iain and the rest of the clan came to reclaim or revenge them. But she doubted that Danu would give her the blessing of the first Sidhe children of her people since their destruction only to have her murdered before she could present them to her goddess.
Not that it mattered in this case. “Far from it, Your Majesty,” she said cheerfully. Mimir’s smile faded into curiosity as she continued. “Not only do I not come before you to announce failure, I come before you to invoke our agreement as the Grimoire of Danu has been located and recovered and today I am ready to present it to you and the Duchess as requested per our agreement.”
A Sidhe woman shot to her feet from the benches. “You lie.” It was the Duchess Ygerna. “The Grimoire is too large for you to hide on your person.”
Ygerna eyed the Duchess for a second. Her analog was dressed finely in an expensive gown, but it was impractical for fighting and she’d wondered since she’d met the duchess if this woman had followed her mother’s desires and become castellan to her court instead of walking the warrior’s path that she had. Still, she had to have had some magical skills and training since she claimed to have written this world’s Grimoire of Danu.
.Mimir’s smile returned. “The Duchess Ygerna is correct. While I have never seen the Grimoire of Danu, it has been described to me in exquisite detail and there is no way that you or your bodyguard could possess it now.”
Despite the fact that the members of the court were beginning to eye her and Branna like they were delicious morsels, Ygerna smiled easily. “I did not say that I carried it on me. I said I am ready to present it today. But before I do, I would like to go over our agreement so as to make clear what it requires of both parties.”
Mimir waved a hand idly. “Yes, yes, it’s very simple. You provide the Grimoire of Danu and you get access to the libraries of this court to copy all of the books that you can, with the exception of the Grimoire itself as it is not currently part of the libraries of the court.”
Ygerna managed not to let her surprise show. She and the duchess had negotiated out that she would get access to the High King’s libraries but what Mimir had just stated could be interpreted to include all of the personal collections of all of the people under his rule. And she would most definitely interpret his words as such. “I accept the changes to our agreement from access to the royal libraries to access to all of the books of the royal and subject collections,” she said loudly.
Mimir’s eyes narrowed and then he relaxed as several people in his court suddenly looked unhappy. “That was not my intent,” he said amusedly, “but very well. That shall be our agreement, provided you relinquish the Grimoire of Danu to me and you do so promptly.”
Ygerna produced a magical token from a pocket in her skirt and crushed it in her hand. It released its magic, pulling the Grimoire from the hyperdimensional space she’d stored it in. The tome appeared, floating in midair in front of her and she quickly plucked it from the air. She held it up over her head for all to see. “I present to you the Grimoire of Danu, lost to you for these many millennia and now returned by me to its rightful bearers, the Children of Danu.”
Mimir’s smile vanished. “We are the Children of Odin,” he snapped.
“I meant no insult, Your High Majesty,” Ygerna said carefully. “The Grimoire is dedicated to Danu. However, I am confident that if she had issue with its use by this court and its members, it would not have been recovered.”
Mimir pointed at Duchess Ygerna. “Verify that it is indeed your missing book.”
The duchess darted forward and stopped in front of Ygerna, her hands held out imperiously. “Give me that book.”
“I am not relinquishing my ownership of the Grimoire,” Ygerna stated loudly. “I am only allowing you to examine it to prove its provenance.” For an instant she had an eerie flashback to several arguments she’d had with Shikarou about the ownership of the Grimoire she’d written and forced it from her mind. She had no intention of holding this book hostage for the duchess’ good behavior.
The duchess almost snatched the tome from her hands and cradled it close, her eyes closing as it nestled against her bosom. “It is mine!” She turned to Mimir. “My king, it is truly the Grimoire of Danu!”
“It will be the Friggbok,” Mirin announced. He fixed his gaze on Ygerna’s face. “Give us possession of the Friggbok.”
Ygerna was not going to call the tome she had written and dedicated to the goddess who had guided her for her entire life by the name the Book of Frigg without undergoing torture so she merely nodded and looked at the duchess clutching the tome to her chest. “I transfer possession to you, Duchess Ygerna, its new and rightful owner. Keep it safe.”
“I will,” the duchess said as she gazed lovingly at the tome in her hands. She looked up. “You have my gratitude for its safe return and I am sorry for what is about to happen,” she whispered. “I argued against it but the High King’s mind is made up.” Then she turned away and walked to stand in front of Mimir. “It is ours,” she said proudly.
“Soon our numbers will grow,” Mimir announced with a grin. He looked at Ygerna and his grin grew wider as the duchess returned to her seat on the benches. “And now it is time for our agreement.”
“Your High Majesty,” Ygerna said, forcing the concern the duchess’ words had brought from showing in her face or voice, “the spell to copy the books harms them not at all and takes but an instant to use.”
“That is good to know,” Mimir said confidently, “and of no import at all.”
“I do not understand.”
“You were very clever and negotiated almost everything that you needed to gain access to our libraries,” he explained. “What we didn’t negotiate was when, so that’s left up to me. I have decided that the time will be never.”
Ygerna kept her reaction, disgust, from showing, although she wasn’t ever completely sure how she succeeded. “Your High Majesty, the time that was negotiated was to be as soon as practicable. I implore you to rethink that decision.”
“My decision is final,” he said. “Your negotiation was poor, Mistress Ygerna, and so you pay the price for it.”
“I negotiated in good faith, Your High Majesty,” Ygerna replied. “We both know it and the Grey is not going to be pleased with your decision.”
“The Grey,” Mimir sneered, “is human and what he feels means nothing to me.”
The air between Mimir and Ygerna shimmered and twisted into form. “My Queen,” Eirian said in a chill voice which carried to every ear in the chambers in an echoing sibilant which drew shivers from most of the Sidhe, “declare this creature foresworn and pronounce his doom.” The Dragoness faced Mimir in a half crouch with her wings tightly furled and her tail twisting slowly back and forth in anticipation.
Ygerna noted almost idly that Eirian wore a breechclout the same color as her scales as she looked beseechingly at Mimir. “Please rethink this decision, Your High Majesty!” Out of the corner of her eye she saw Branna ease closer to her flank. “Eirian you are not to attack!”
Sigvor drew her sword and dagger as she threw herself between Mimir and Eirian even as the High King’s mouth drew into a snarl. Other guards moved quickly to the High King’s sides. Mimir glared at Ygerna. “What is the meaning of this, Mistress Ygerna?”
“Unbeknownst to my queen,” Eirian stated in the same chill voice and Sidhe around the room shivered again as the hunger in her words caressed their skins with dreadful eagerness, “my lord the Grey set me to protect her and his interests in this meeting. He is well aware of the duplicity of the fey and wished to keep my queen safe and so he charged me with helping protect her if need be. There was also a second assignment that I received from him. He placed in my queen’s hands the decision as to whether or not you would be foresworn if you tried to cheat her. He placed in my hands the task of carrying out your chastisement if she did not see fit to call down the Wild Hunt on any betrayal.”
“Ygerna, call your monster off,” Mimir declared angrily.
“Eirian,” Ygerna said cautiously. “Did Iain tell you to let me command you?”
“My queen, he left that up to my discretion. Do you wish me to stand down?”
Eirian came out of her crouch and turned around to face Ygerna. “My queen, this is a mistake. If we allow one Sidhe court to break their agreement with us and get away with it, other courts will feel that they can as well and will attempt to do so. You know this to be true.”
Behind her, Mimir gestured to Sigvor. “Kill it,” he snarled softly. The Sidhe warrior reacted instantly; rushing on silent feet towards Eirian’s unguarded back.
Ygerna blinked in surprise when Eirian smiled slightly. “Sucker,” she hissed softly as she straightened. Her tail lashed sideways centimeters above the floor and Sigvor hopped over it to avoid the strike. Then the tail stopped in mid swing and whipped upwards between Sigvor’s legs, smashing into her groin and shattering the bones of her pelvis. The Sidhe woman shrieked in pain as she hurtled through the air and crashed to the ground as Eirian spun to face her. “You attack me treacherously and your life becomes mine to take as I wish.” The fingers of her left hand spread and Sigvor was magically jerked from the ground towards the Dragoness, who caught her almost negligently by the breastplate as the Dragoness looked into the eyes of the frozen Mimir. “You ordered her to her death and I accept your gift happily.”
Mimir’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Release her instantly!”
Eirian’s snarl vibrated the air. “No.” Sigvor was barely conscious and she moaned softly as the Dragoness shook her at Mimir with one hand. “My queen decides if you are foresworn but this creature saw fit to attack me treacherously and she will pay the price for it as will anyone else who attacks a Dragoness at the height of her power. I have a perfect use for her life.” She cocked her head. “Or do you wish protect your subject by offering yourself in her place to pay the price for her treachery?”
Mimir sputtered angrily as Ygerna called in a cold, clear voice. “Eirian, please give me Sigvor’s life that I may spare it.”
The Dragoness didn’t look away from Mimir or his other guards as they moved between the Sidhe High King and Eirian. “Her life is wasted, my queen. Why would you let her live?”
Ygerna took a deep breath and spoke honestly to the Dragoness. “I would not have any of my race subjected to what you plan for her, Eirian. In truth, I would have spared you from that if it were within my power to do so. No one deserves what happened to you and the others at the hand of the Usurper. No one deserves what you have done to others since using his memory and the knowledge he gave you of what he did to you as your guide.”
“She will not be grateful, my queen, for your mercy. One such as this one finds weakness to be disgusting and that you chose to let her live when she could not save herself will likely breed hatred in her heart for you if she does not already bear it.”
“I do not care about her,” Ygerna said. “I would have you not take this life for you, not for her.”
“My soul is already damned, my queen.”
“I know,” she said sadly. “And it is in part my fault that it is. Neither Iain nor I would have you damn yourself more if we can prevent it.”
“My skills never lay within the realms of the healing arts, my queen. I cannot repair her injuries.”
“I said I do not care about her.” Ygerna’s voice was as cold and as cutting as a winter wind. “She brought what has happened onto herself when she attacked you at Mimir’s order.”
“It shall be as you wish, my queen.” With a negligent toss of her wrist, Eirian lofted Sigvor to crash to the ground in front of Mimir’s throne. She landed so close to him that he had to snatch his legs out of the way with an oath. “And what will be of this High King?”
“He is foresworn,” Ygerna announced, “having broken our agreement and our faith. His doom is his own however, for I would not have you take his life either.”
“He already hates you, my queen. I see it in his eyes. He would do you harm if he could.”
“I care not what he does or does not wish of me,” Ygerna replied. “He is foresworn and therefore anathema to me. Let him wallow in his dishonor until the day he dies.” She looked at Mimir. “We are leaving. Do not try to hinder us in any way. I will not stop Eirian again and you have nothing with which to harm her.” She walked past Eirian and picked up the sword that Sigvor had been wielding. “Will this harm you, Eirian?”
“It will not, my queen. It cannot even penetrate my scales.”
“This is an enchanted Sidhe blade, Eirian. It has taken an unknowable number of lives over countless years.”
“It has not the power to harm me, my queen.” Eirian turned to face her squarely. “Strike me down with it.”
Ygerna raised the sword high and brought it down with all of her strength on Eirian’s head. The blade shattered with a flash of light and a sound that sounded eerily like a man’s scream. Considering it was a Sidhe blade, she thought as she tossed the hilt aside, it might have been forged with a captured soul to power the weapon’s enchantments. “Eirian, you will kill anyone who tries to hinder our leaving.”
“Yes, my queen.” Several people on the benches quailed at the naked hunger in the voice.
Ygerna turned to Mimir. “High King,” she announced, “I give you one last chance to fulfill your part of our bargain as I have fulfilled mine.” He glared at her and she gave a mental shrug. “Then I declare you an oath breaker and foresworn. No matter what you call yourself, you and your people are Children of Danu and our goddess and our god still watch over you. On the next full moon I will beseech the goddess and the god to grant me justice.” Mimir merely stared at her with hate filled eyes. “Branna, you will lead the way.”
“My queen,” the Magic Knight said as she moved in front of Eirian.
Ygerna looked at the duchess who wore her name and was glaring at her with helpless furry and realized that the name and the authorship of the Grimoire of Danu were all that they had in common. For the first time in her life she was glad that she hadn’t lived the life this woman had, as a cog in a court for thousands of years, and instead had been forced by Eoghan to shoulder the burden of being alone in a world that would have destroyed her and had made her find the strength to create and forge the Order of Pendragon into an organization to protect her and the land she loved. For an instant she felt gratitude towards the destroyed lich and then she looked at Eirian’s face and that feeling died forever. “Let’s go home.”
Once they were outside the cavern that led to the Sidhe court, Ygerna waited until they were far enough away that she didn’t fear being spied upon by anything other than magic, and that she could detect. “Eirian, I know you are not sworn to me and I am well aware of your opinion of those who are still alive. I also know how proud you are. Why did you call me your queen in there?”
Surprise flashed across the undead Dragoness’ face. “They are outlanders and we are clan,” she said simply. “Clan always bands together against outlanders no matter what our internal differences might be.”
Ygerna nodded. “I understand. I have one other question, if you would answer it. Were you one of my guards that I would have known?”
“I was not. The one who took my life was careful to only steal those members of your personal guard that would not be missed. I had been raised to be in your guard but new to your service for only a few months when my slayer selected me to kill. The only person who might have sounded the alarm at my absence served my killer. She is the one who led me to where I was taken.” Eirian glanced at her. “And you need not bother my lord with the question I saw in your eyes earlier for the one who led me to my killer was your maid at the time. All of the maids and all of the archivists were his, just as they were for the murderer that we captured and destroyed.” She hissed softly. “I know the analog of my slayer is here on this world and has achieved at least one of the dreams that my slayer lusted for. We have been forbidden to seek him out, lest we kill him and dishonor our lord.” Her teeth bared in a feral grin. “But tonight we will hunt.”
Ygerna frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Our lord has instructed us in what to do if the Viking Sidhe broke faith with you. Tonight we will take all of the books that you were not allowed to copy.” Her grin widened. “We have already scouted the court’s royal and private holdings. By morning every book will be gone except for one.”
Ygerna frowned and then her eyes widened. “You will not take the Grimoire of Danu?”
“It was not in the library of any members of the court at the time your agreement was made or amended this day. Therefore it is not covered by that agreement and will be left.”
“Nobles of that court will have libraries of their own that may be more extensive than the royal library,” Ygerna noted with growing amusement.
“Three collections are larger than Mimir’s,” Eirian supplied.
“They will be horrified when they discover that the work of lifetimes is missing and after today’s excitement they will blame Mimir for the thefts. They will most likely murder him for causing that loss.” Ygerna smiled coldly. “And so justice will be done.”
Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani
Eve Grey - Megami Sama
April Grey - Duelist & beta
Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage
Pandora - Fiendish Archangel
Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)
Zareen - Nightmare
Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur
Sofia - Ria
Vanessa – Evangelion
Lucifer – Megami Sama
Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice
Heather - Elfqueen
Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen
Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)
Daphne - Whorizard
Lynn - Growlie
Chuck – Doggirl
Ryan – Unicorn
Winifred - Rack (German)
Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)
Silver - Pegaslut
Joyce – Milktit
Melanie – Iron Chef
Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)
Queendom / Outer Harem
Dionne - Elfqueen
Adrianna - Elfqueen
Heltu - Wet Queen
14 Wet Elves
Eirian - Silver Dragoness
Aurum - Gold Dragoness
Skye - Blue Dragoness
Emerald - Green Dragoness
Beryl - Red Dragoness
Julia - human
Ling - Cheetit
Matilda - White Tigress
Liadan - Twau
Sorrel - Armsmistress
Natalie - Blazicunt
Maria - Slutton
Rhea Silvia - Chimera
Geradine - Human
Mother s & Children