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Kasumi watched the hologram of the tiny artificial solar system as it moved through space. “I remember you mentioning this to me but you didn’t imply just how significant it could be. I have no idea how I could do anything like this using magic or technology. To be honest I had never imagined anything like it.”
“For a truewizard it wouldn’t be too difficult once the person mastered the basic concepts involved and so long as they have access to sufficient power to do the construction. The person who did this used some magical versions of AIs to coordinate the work, which is why it took months to finish. According to Kerrik, that’s a common way to take a lot of the burden off of less powerful mages. A sufficiently powerful and knowledgeable truewizard would just will the whole construct into existence instantly.” He smiled when she raised an eyebrow curiously. “No, I cannot and yes, Kerrik could. I couldn’t even make the magical AIs to do the work for me.”
“What about this woman who was both yours and his instructor?”
Iain was mildly surprised she’d been briefed about Nightraven, but in retrospect it made sense. At least she’d apparently also been warned not to use her name. “She definitely could.”
She shook her head absently as she stared at the image. “So the whole time I have been visiting you and yours have been planning a war and monitoring this and I knew almost nothing about it. Your security is better than anything I’ve seen in Haven.”
“We kind of hope that once the Sisterhood is purged that it won’t necessarily come to war with the Celestial Alliance,” Iain said quietly. “We’re planning for the worst case scenario but we can still hope for something a little better than outright war between Celestials.” He touched the hologram and the image grew. “This issue is still too much of a mystery for any concrete plans to be formed. We do know that there’s a castle on the planet and Ygerna says that this symbol suggests that the mage is a Fomorian, which is a race of supernatural beings who may or may not have been another fey race. In her world and others we’ve heard of the Fomorians and the Sidhe fought a series of wars until the Fomorians were exterminated or driven out of all known Sidhe lands. Considering the infinity of universes I can safely presume that on some worlds the Fomorians won and the Sidhe vanished.”
“You know this happened on other worlds too?”
“The world you come from had that war too and the Sidhe claim they won that war as does Ygerna about hers. We’re reviewing our current fey library as well as some Sidhe historical books we recently acquired for information about the Fomorians or that war.”
Theodora appeared on the other side of the table. “Iain, you wanted to know when we were an hour from Earth’s orbit. I also thought you’d like to know that most of the other clan members have already gone through the library doors to the Sabine Ranch.”
“Thank you,” Iain said. “What’s the latest update on the planet construct?”
“It’s still chasing gold nuggets out near Mars,” Theodora replied instantly. “I still haven’t seen any signs of animal life on the planet, but the plants we saw earlier are still growing. Soon I hope to be able to resolve individual species for attempted identification.”
“If you haven’t already thought of it, please cross reference the imagery with the Wolf database. It may help you to get some hits since it has data from far more worlds than the paltry few we’ve visited. And hits from plants specific to a particular world will help to narrow down where our visitor might be from. If nothing else it might show what plants they fancy for whatever reason.”
“I planned to do exactly that but I’m pleased you thought of it too. Keep thinking, Iain.”
Kasumi had been watching the discussion with fascination. “Are there any truewizards from species that are plant or plantlike in biology?”
“There are,” Iain replied, “and I told Theodora to be on the lookout for any unique or small group of unique plants just for that reason.”
“Why would there be a small group of them? What you’ve said suggests truewizards are competitive more than cooperative.”
“They are, but the fact that I’m working with Kerrik and to a lesser extent Magdalene and Tanika shows that we can work together if we want to. The existence of the Covenant of Darkness shows that they can at least hang out without there being instant violence even among the less friendly truewizards. However, a small group of organisms might show a family grouping that the truewizard might be one of.” He shrugged. “Something to remember is that the truewizard might already be on the world and hasn’t left the castle. Fortunately, at three meters, the door sizes suggest that the inhabitants will be roughly man sized unless they like enclosed spaces and stooping a lot more than people like us do.”
Kasumi frowned. “Why would they?”
“Some races have agoraphobia. Usually they come from a subterranean environment or live their entire life somehow in tight spaces. Someone from a crowded generational space ship could easily be that way. And since as far as I know truewizards can come from any race, some of them will undoubtedly have agoraphobia while others will have other conditions that we would see as detrimental from our cultural and genetic background but they would not and would see no reason to change. The only thing I can see that they’d immediately change would be if they were an ectotherm and they could either change themselves into endotherms or they could instead make sure their immediate environment allowed them to maintain a constant and active temperature. Unless some social constraint made them do otherwise.” He smiled. “It’s like me and sleeping. I could probably figure out how to not sleep at all, but my ladies like sleeping with me and I like being with you and them.”
Kasumi smiled back at him. “Good. I like sleeping with my new husband.”
“Is my scent still overpowering?”
“It is not. Now that I can be with you I feel that your scent is still attractive and interesting, but I no longer feel that I have to fear losing control of myself around you.” Her smile faded. “The jealousy is still an issue, but I married you knowing that you could not exclusively be mine.”
“Since I like you being possessive of me; that does suggest that you’d always be somewhat jealous.” Iain took her hand. “Remember, don’t let that jealously fester. I will always have some time for you, even if it may never be enough.”
She looked at their hands and back up at him. “How is it that you have any free time whatsoever?”
He grinned. “Everyone works together to make sure I have some, that’s why. And, although I hate to admit it, over time the newness will fade and you will want to spend time working on your own projects instead of cuddling with me just like everyone else does.” Then he winked. “And smart Iain will help every person on some of her projects or interests, freeing up some time for him to work on his because I can point out that time as part of our together time.” He stood and pulled her to her feet with him. “That does not include time you’ll spend training me in magic. That is my request and therefore my time is used during that. But if you have a magical project that you want to work on and would like my assistance with, well that might count.”
She let him lead her out of the room and towards an internal transport hanger. “Where are we going?”
“I have training with Ganieda and Dominique and you are supposed to start helping now that you’re one of us. You’ll also get to learn that I have found out how to give other people my perception, if you don’t already know.”
Kasumi looked surprised. “Who have you done this to?”
“At their request, Ganieda, Dominique and Canaan all have it. If you want to try it, you can and I can remove it if you don’t like it. I had to do that with Ninhursag and April is considering trying it.”
“I will have to consider that decision at length. Are there any deleterious effects to having this ability and then having it removed?”
“Ninhursag didn’t report any.”
“That is good to know.” She stopped in front of the shuttle car that opened its door for them. “And we don’t want to be late to your lessons so get in.”
Iain slowly shoved the weights into the air and lowered them back to his chest over and over. While his magic helped to keep him from getting tired like he used to, his muscles still had definite limits on how far they could be pushed and weightlifting helped to strengthen his muscles and let them work longer before they insisted on resting.
“Doesn’t your magic keep you from having to work out,” Lucifer came into his view and leaned over the head of the weight bench, resting her hands on the uprights that held the weights when they weren’t in use.
“I want to get stronger and this helps. Besides, there are places that have low levels of magic in them and I’d be in a world of hurt in any of those if I only relied on magic to protect me.”
Lucifer eyed the weights. “This is more than most humans can lift.”
“I’m slowly making my way back to where I was in my human form after I’d done Kerrik’s modifications and right before I became a dragon. Once I’m there I’ll see where my new limits are since my bones should be finished changing by that time. Once I know where my new limits should be, I’ll see about surpassing them too.” He glanced up at her and then turned his attention back to the weights. “What are you doing here?”
She flashed a smile. “Right now I’m admiring my male’s physique.” The smile faded. “After that I need your knowledge. I’m meeting with the leadership of the Celestial Alliance for the first time and I want to know what you know about them from your notes. I was busy building up my forces in the beginning and didn’t have anything to do with the Alliance for nearly a century and so I’m not sure what they are like at this time.”
“My notes may not be accurate here and now since they were for a world three hundred years in the future and in a different dimension,” Iain noted without losing focus on the weights. Not paying attention while weight lifting could easily result in the weights getting away from him and if did get away from him, well Lucifer was right and they were damned heavy. He certainly didn’t want them slamming down on his midriff or any other portion of his anatomy, such as his head, even as hard is it might be.
Lucifer nodded. “I’ll take all of the help I can get right now and your notes are usually pretty comprehensive on anything you thought might be useful. Since the Alliance was in several of your stories and they stayed fairly consistent in them, you did make some kind of notes about them.”
Iain racked the weights and sat up, reaching for the canteen he’d brought with him and after drinking from it he looked at her. “In 2003 the Celestial Alliance was formed by three Megami-Sama sisters.”
“Wait,” Lucifer interrupted him. “We need to go somewhere I can cuddle with you and I’m not doing it on that weight bench. I am not going to waste this time that way.”
Iain chuckled and got to his feet. “Far be it from me to neglect the important parts of this discussion.” He held out his hand. “Take me where you will.”
Lucifer gave a low chuckle and took his hand. Suddenly they were standing in front of the door going to the Theodora. She led him through and the view flickered again before they were in her quarters in front of her couch, which she pulled him down onto with her before slipping into his lap and nuzzling against him. “Now begin again, please.”
I have informed April where you are, Theodora told him. And I have stopped the clock for your workout so she will stay content with your exercise program.
Thank you. Iain wrapped his arms around the Megami-Sama and she purred contentedly as he leaned back on the couch. “In the year 2003 the Celestial Alliance was formed by three Megami-Sama sisters.” He paused. When she didn’t interrupt him again he continued. “Their goal was to help a decimated humanity rebuild after the ravages of the Revenge War and the Red Plague. Like you were, they were appalled at what had happened and dismayed at what they had done at the orders of James. Free from his control, they wanted to help and began assembling a band of like-minded Celestials who would help where they could by giving aid and assisting other Celestials find their own humans. Out of grief for what they’d done, they decided that they would not have tamers of their own. Unfortunately for them, they were so busy building a charitable organization that they didn’t keep a closer eye on the people they were working with.”
“That’s strange,” Lucifer mused. “They sound like a group I’d like to work with but the Alliance I knew wasn’t anything like that and if they’re working with the Celestial Alliance agents I accidentally brought over during the move they can’t be like that here.”
“That would be because in 2005 two other Megami-Sama who thought differently staged a coup, overthrew the three sisters and executed them as they took over the Alliance. That’s when it became more militant minded and more dedicated to the idea that controlling humanity and then working with them to rebuild was the best way to help the humans. Rebuilding society was still their primary goal just like it was before the coup, but they intended to rebuild it the way they thought it should be.” He shrugged. “They wanted Pax Celestial, where they ruled a peaceful world after they brought it to heel. With longevity, they were working slowly towards it when I arrived on Four. Kelvin’s activities hurt them a lot but I’m sure their plans didn’t end there, as exemplified by the problems we have today.”
“So on this world the coup was not that long ago.”
He nodded. “That is correct. I’m not sure where that helps since their purge was ruthless and thorough. At that time on your home world you might have had a sudden small influx of Celestials into the Sisterhood but you were probably too busy to notice. And today their hold on the Alliance should be pretty firm.”
“What are their names?”
“The leaders of the Alliance should be Raphaela and Prastara.”
“The Alliance leadership in my time tended to be named after goddesses and saints. They are neither.”
“Well the original leadership of the Alliance, post-coup, is what started that. Raphaela is named for the Archangel Raphael and Prastara is the Sanskrit form of Peter, who was the first disciple of Christ. Leaders after that would take the names of saints, goddesses and women found in the Bible and other religious texts.”
“What about the first leaders of the Alliance? Did their names follow that convention?”
Iain shook his head. “No, although like Raphaela and Prastara they were named by Scott. Their names were Belldandy, Urd and Skuld. He named them from a manga that he liked, but they were veterans of the Revenge War and not anything like the goddesses from those stories except in that they had kind hearts and wanted to help.”
“It’s a pity I can’t work with them. They sound like people I could get along with,” Lucifer said quietly. She shook her head. “I’m taking Eve and Pandora with me.”
“Take Ganieda and Canaan too,” Iain said quietly. “You need every advantage you can get.”
Lucifer shook her head. “This meeting is slated to be for true Celestials only which is why our Blessed girls can’t go. Pandora’s presence is only because she’s an Archangel now. The fact that she is Fiendish will raise eyebrows, but that can’t be helped and will in fact aid me in keeping them off balance.”
“So ask her to provide a little blood and take three Fiendish Archangels with you,” Iain said quietly. “They can be littermates and your guards as well as much better telepaths than almost any psychic Celestial. As for all of them being Fiendish, nobody really understands how that is transmitted or might carry on in the offspring. Or they were all cursed in the war as an experiment of Scott’s.”
Lucifer looked startled and then kissed him soundly. “That is an excellent idea, Iain.”
He grinned. “Reward me like that and I’ll have to come up with more of them.”
She smiled and kissed him again. “Why do you think I’m rewarding you for it this way, if not to encourage you to do that very thing?”
“Trust me, it’s a lesson I’m taking to heart.” He pulled her close. “Be careful. Raphaela and Prastara have already gotten a taste of Celestial blood. They might think they can do the same thing to you that they did to the former leadership of the Alliance and take over the Sisterhood the same way. And you’re meeting in their base and under their rules.”
“And Vanessa has volunteered to be waiting outside their base for that very reason and to help us escape that particular trap,” Lucifer stated. “And the first thing she will do is give Theodora her coordinates and ask her to send word to you for help.”
“We’ll be waiting.”
“I had no doubt about that, my love. Just keep our girls safe and don’t let them become orphans no matter what happens to me.”
Iain smiled. “I’m pretty sure if they saw you going to your doom they’d warn me and even bring me the restraints with which to fasten you to the bed.”
Lucifer blinked. “But that would be selfish of them. They wouldn’t do that.”
“What do you think I’ve been teaching them? You have your destiny and I can change it if I want to badly enough. I’m helping them to learn that sometimes doing so is a great thing for everyone involved.”
Her eyes went wide. “Iain, that’s not funny.”
“Am I laughing? Do you think I of all people won’t cheat destiny if it suits me and I can figure out how to do it? I have two wonderful little spies who can see the near future and I will encourage them to help me cheat shamelessly to keep our family alive and whole.”
“They will not aid you,” Lucifer said firmly.
“Then they won’t aid me,” Iain replied. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t encourage them to if they change their minds.” He slid Lucifer out of his lap. “But now I need to get back to my workout and you need to convince Pandora to donate a little blood for the meeting. Please take me back to the weight room.”
Lucifer got to her feet and took his hand and seconds later they were in the weight room. “Thank you for not trying to make Olivia and Seraphina do your will in this.”
“I’d never do that and you know it. Forcing family to do things they don’t want to, outside of training, is pretty much the definition of rude.” He gave her a quick kiss and smiled. “Now go do your plotting, I mean planning.”
She smiled. “It is plotting and you used the word properly, as you well know.” Then she was gone.
Iain laid down on the bench and reached for the weights only to stop when the door to the room opened. He sat up. “Ladies,” he called as quick footfalls entered the room.
Seraphina and Olivia stopped on either side of him and hugged him. “We told you that she wouldn’t believe you when you told her we would help you keep our mother alive,” Seraphina said quietly.
“And I told you that I would still let her know if it came up in discussion but that I wouldn’t make a point out of telling her or emphasize it.” He wrapped his arms around the two girls. “So I did what I had to do and she can’t complain too much or punish you later because she was warned and blew it off.”
“That won’t stop her from wanting to punish us,” Olivia said with a smile. “But you can intercede for us then and she’ll listen to you.” Her smile vanished. “But we would take any punishment she will give us to keep her alive, Father.”
“And I’ll take it too if need be,” he said quietly. “So we have to keep her alive so she can try to punish us. Agreed?”
Olivia spat in her hand and held it out. “Done!”
Iain chuckled and spat in both of his hands before offering one to each of his daughters. “Done.”
Seraphina grinned and spat in her hand and then each of the young Megami-Sama took one of their father’s hands in unison. “And done!”
Pandora held out a hand to stop Lucifer from entering the room first. “Canaan, sweep the chamber.”
The disguised Huntress nodded and entered the room while their escort, a young looking black haired Megami with the haunted eyes of a PTSD ridden war veteran, watched impassively. Canaan was back a moment later. “It appears to be safe.”
“You are meeting with our leadership,” the Megami said quietly. “We no more want this meeting to end in bloodshed than you do so I have been instructed to assure you that your safe passage has been guaranteed.”
“We accept that as truth,” Eve replied. “However our security contingent must still do its job. We are strangers after all and, more importantly, there are those who would find that disrupting our meeting is to be to their definite advantage. For them, bloodshed tonight would be a blessing indeed as they desire us to never work together.”
The Megami nodded. “That is true enough. However, if you are now satisfied as to your safety, please enter. Our leaders will be with you in a few minutes,” she smiled slightly, “after their security reassures itself that there won’t be any unanticipated danger tonight. I will remain as an assurance of our goodwill.”
“Thank you,” Lucifer said. She nodded to Pandora, who led the way into the room.
They were meeting in what looked like an abandoned hotel outside of East St. Louis, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi river. Lucifer was sure that it was as far from anything significant to the Celestial Alliance as possible, and she was amused to realize that she’d have done the same thing if their situation was reversed. It drove home the fact that she was the senior in this meeting, both in age and in the power of her organization and she reminded herself once again that politeness was still the rule this day.
Although the hotel had been abandoned for years, the room, however, was in good repair, with a fresh coat of paint on the walls and new curtains hung over the one window. It had originally been the entrance and living area of a hotel suite but all of the furniture had been removed and replaced with a large circular table with a dozen matching chairs arranged around it. Oil lamps had been hung at regular intervals on the walls but none were lit. Instead, globes of white light hovered over the chimneys of each one.
The only other piece of furniture in the room was a sideboard against one wall. Arranged on it was a selection of carafes holding a variety of colored liquids. The Megami motioned towards it. “You will find that all of these are nonalcoholic and we hope that you will find something among the juices and sodas that is to your liking. Feel free to sample them as you will. In the meantime, please be seated anywhere at the table you would like.”
Lucifer smiled and pulled out the nearest chair to offer to Eve. The bluebonnet haired Megami-Sama sank into it gracefully and turned to the Megami. “My sister, I would ask what is your name?”
The Megami looked surprised. “I am Wendy. I apologize for not introducing myself already.”
“No apology is necessary,” Lucifer said gently as she pulled out another chair. “Please join us.”
Wendy gingerly sat down as invited. “Thank you.”
Lucifer sat down too as Pandora, Ganieda and Canaan took their places behind her and Eve. Lucifer smiled reassuringly at Wendy, who was sitting at attention on the edge of her chair. “Are we so dreadful that you cannot relax in our presence, Wendy?”
Wendy’s cheeks reddened. “It isn’t you, it’s me. I shouldn’t be sitting here. I am not one of the rulers of the Alliance and I have no business here.”
“You said that you are our guide tonight, did you not,” Eve asked curiously.
Wendy nodded. “I did and I brought you here as I was supposed to.”
“You did not say you were merely supposed to bring us here. What you said was that you were our guide for tonight, which suggested that you are our guide through this meeting as well, an advisor assigned to us so that we may keep from giving offense unwittingly.”
Wendy’s eyes went wide. “I never meant my words to mean that.”
“Perhaps not, but those are the words that you have used and I choose to take their meaning as such.”
Lucifer put her hand on Eve’s shoulder. “I think you have spent too much time around Ygerna and Iain, my love. This child is not fey and her words should not be judged under fey rules.”
“Her aid was offered freely,” Eve countered. “Should we not take advantage of such an offer so that we may have peace between Celestials?”
Lucifer smiled warmly. “Indeed, you have spent too much time with them. Wendy cannot be compelled to give such aid but,” she paused and looked past Eve to Wendy. “She can be asked. Wendy, would you stay and serve as our guide in this meeting with your leadership? Insomuch as we are all Celestials there should be common ground, but it is still true that even among Celestials there can be profound differences of opinion and I wish this meeting to be a fruitful start between our two associations.” She held up her hand and a rainbow nimbus of light spread to cover it. “I truly wish your aid in this if you would give it, Wendy.”
The Megami stared at the light and swallowed hard before reaching out hesitantly past Eve to take Lucifer’s hand. She smiled in growing delight when the light spread to cover her hand as well. “I would like to stay and do as you ask, Lucifer, but I am not sure I will be allowed to. My heart is too dark to be allowed in this meeting.”
“Nonsense,” Eve said firmly. “During the war, the heart of every Celestial worthy of the name bled freely because of what we were required to do. Yours bled because of the orders of Scott and ours bled because we saw no other recourse but to oppose him.”
“If only we had seen that soon enough for us to do so as well, people like Wendy might have been spared some of the darkness that has taken residence in their souls because of what they were required to do under his orders,” a new voice said from one of the other doorways leading out of the chamber.
A pair of Seraph who looked almost alike except their eyes were different colors moved into the room ahead of a brunette Megami-Sama with bright lavender eyes who was smiling at them as she entered. “It would have broken our hearts to oppose our creator, but we should have done so almost from the start as you did, Lucifer. I am glad to see that the news of your demise was mistaken.” She glanced at Wendy with a hint of sorrow in her gaze. “I sometimes think that it is only through sheer force of will that more of us did not become Fallen Angels.”
Lucifer nodded. “It is good to know that the Fallen Angel can be returned to the form of a Celestial if she evolves to Archangel. I am Lucifer and this is my sister Eve. May I inquire as to your name?”
The Megami-Sama smiled. “I am too used to my Celestials knowing who I am that I forget that not everyone does. I’m Urd and my sisters have been unavoidably detained. They should be here in just a few minutes, though, so I’d appreciate it if we could wait until they arrive.” She looked at Wendy as the Megami started to rise. “You have been asked to remain as their helper. I think that’s a splendid idea. Would you please do so?”
Wendy shook her head. “I shouldn’t, my lady.”
Urd smiled at her. “Wendy, you have been with us since our formation and you know us as well as any. Both Lucifer and Eve would like you to stay and I would too.”
“But the others, my lady, would not.”
“Neither Bell nor Skuld will have a problem with your presence. If it turns out that I am wrong and I sincerely doubt that, then I shall take the blame.”
Wendy looked back at Eve and Lucifer. “Do you truly wish me to stay and advise you?”
“We do,” Eve said firmly.
“Then it would be my honor to do so, mistress.”
Eve shook her head and reached up to take Wendy’s hand. “We are sisters, Wendy. I am no more your mistress than you are my servant. I would like you to be my friend instead, if you will.”
Wendy flushed scarlet. “I would like that too,” she hesitated, “Eve.”
“Then please sit with us and help us in this discussion if you think we need your assistance,” Eve said and gently tugged Wendy back into her seat.
Urd sat down, watching them with interest. “Do you commonly perform miracles, Eve?”
“I have not performed one today, Urd.”
“I disagree. Wendy is one of the ones that was hurt the most by what we were forced to do in the war. It has been almost impossible to reach her and yet you have done so today.”
Eve smiled gently at Urd. “While I am not starting this meeting since your sisters are not here and you asked us to wait, you should already know that the Sisterhood came here from another world. What you may not know is that in that world centuries have passed since the Revenge War and that time has helped to ease my pain at what we did that we should not have done and what we did not do that we should have. That and Lucifer’s love as well as the love of my husband have given me back my heart. I would share that love with Wendy and she has sensed that and is drawn to it.”
“I sense it too,” Urd admitted in a wistful tone. “It calls to me and probably calls to my guards as well.”
“And we will freely share it with all of you,” Lucifer said.
‘Even if we can find no common ground between us,” Urd asked.
“We are all Celestials,” Lucifer said. “There is common ground and this meeting is so we can determine where it lays.”
“I hope that you are right,” Urd said. She turned her head to look over her shoulder. “My sisters have arrived.”
Two Megami-Sama entered the room. They were identical in appearance to Urd except for the fact that one had bright yellow eyes while the other’s eyes were white. “I apologize for our lateness,” the white eyed one said. “We had an emergency that we had to deal with before we could come here.”
Urd motioned towards the white eyed Megami-Sama. “This is my sister Belldandy and the other is my sister Skuld. Bell, this is Lucifer and Eve from the Sisterhood of the Thorn. They have asked Wendy to act as their advisor in dealing with us and she has agreed. Isn’t that wonderful?”
Skuld looked the pair over appraisingly. “We had heard that Lucifer had been killed by one of the Hunters.”
“It was a necessary deception,” Lucifer said calmly. “If Lucifer hadn’t seemed to have died, the Hunter who had been sent after her would have continued to seek her out and there was no real reason to kill her. Like we all did, she was just doing the job she’d been ordered to by the wrong people and didn’t know it at the time. It turned out that it was a fortuitous decision as she is now part of the family of a friend of our male.”
Belldandy got herself a glass of juice from the sideboard. “We decided after the war that as part of our penance for our crimes we would not have humans in our lives.”
“I would suggest you rethink that decision,” Eve said. “We all need someone to love us and Iain has been such a blessing in our lives that I would like to see all pokegirls find a human of their own who will care for them as Iain has for us. What you did during the war is something that you must atone for, but that is why you built the Alliance, is it not, to atone for the things you regret doing under Scott’s orders by helping people to have better and happier lives? I would contend that you can really only help others to be happy if you are happy yourself and a human would help all three of you see what is possible when all of us work together towards a common goal.” She met Belldandy’s gaze evenly. “And we need humans more than you might think. While we do not go feral in the traditional sense, not having a human in your life means you tempt the fading, for love is more than something we crave. I have seen the effect on Megami and Sama who were denied love and their fate I would wish on no friend or foe. Death would be kinder than what they suffered.”
Skuld pulled out a chair next to Urd and dropped heavily into it. “What is the fading?”
“Megami and Sama need love because we feed off of it,” Lucifer said quietly. “Without it we will eventually fade out of existence like an Astral pokegirl who stops feeding off of the life energy of others.” Her eyes were serious. “Yes, it turns out that Megami and Sama are emotional vampires, which is strangely comforting as it shows we are indeed far from the perfection that many of us claim. And humans provide the strongest love you can experience.” She smiled. “What you feel from us is the love that Iain has given to each of us in turn and our love for him and it is but an echo of the reality of that love. Come and see for yourself what the love of a human can be like.”
Skuld grinned. “Are you offering to share him with us?”
“We are not,” Lucifer said firmly. “Iain is not what you seek in a male. He is,” she paused and considered how to frame her words. “Iain is different.”
“We have two daughters who have defined it the best way that I have heard,” Eve said amusedly. “They describe him as a good bad person and that is what he is. He carries a darkness in his heart that makes Wendy’s heart look blindingly bright in comparison. But for us and the children he keeps that darkness leashed unless he needs it to survive. But while we won’t share him with you, and he would violently rebuff you if you tried to force yourself on him, we will invite you to come and see what a loving family can be like and how much it can help you to be complete.”
Belldandy sat down on the other side of Urd from Skuld. “Is he the driving force behind the Prometheus Society?”
“He is not,” Lucifer replied. “He provides me with the materials that Prometheus needs, but I decide where those resources will be allocated.”
“How do you decide who gets your gifts,” Urd asked curiously.
“First of all, what I give aren’t gifts. They pay for what I give them lest they waste what largess my clan has seen fit to make available for their use. But the price isn’t steep and I am willing to negotiate. As for my conditions, the people I help must not be evil and they must be morally acceptable. But the truth is that what we are really doing is building contacts for the future. Pokegirls can reproduce without needing sperm to do so in the first part of their life and that is exactly what the feral population is doing. One day, not too far in the future, they are going to start encroaching on humanity as the population of ferals increases to a critical point and migrations begin to lessen the population pressure and to seek food as the areas they now live in are depleted. In the history of the world we came here from, at this time the human race came close to extinction during the next fifty years. Civilizations were destroyed and only the fact that the stronger leagues walled their biggest cities and sacrificed their smaller communities to the maws of the ferals allowed them to concentrate their forces enough to protect anyone. The first time this event happened to me my group was too weak to help more than a few people but this time we hope to save far more.”
“You are not the Lucifer of this world, are you,” Belldandy asked.
“I am of this world since I now live here but I am not the Lucifer who defied this world’s James Scott,” Lucifer replied evenly.
“Is she dead?”
“She is not. One day you may meet her.”
“I would like to. So things here are similar to the place you did come from,” Belldandy said musingly. “Is there a Celestial Alliance there too?”
Lucifer and Eve exchanged a look. “There is.”
“What did they do to help the humans during this?”
Lucifer took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “They did almost nothing. They welcomed the chaos and loss of life as it suited their long range plans.”
Belldandy gaped at her. “Why would such a terrible loss of life help us?”
“I had no contact with the Celestial Alliance during those years,” Lucifer said carefully. “Part of our protocols involved remaining hidden from the rest of the world because we didn't know who could still be agents of Scott's. By the time I did study the Alliance, it was obvious that their philosophy and the philosophy of the Sisterhood was so different that I decided we could not work with them. From what we can tell, the Celestial Alliance here is a significantly different organization than the one from my world.”
“I wonder what the difference was,” Skuld asked rhetorically. “I don’t see us ever deciding that such chaos and death suits us.”
One of the two Seraphs standing sentry behind them collapsed. Canaan stepped away from the wall as everyone looked at the fallen Celestial pokegirl. “She’s still alive, but I had to knock her out before this discussion went any further since she’s involved in the plot.” She halted when the other Seraph drew her sword and advanced between her and the table. “Please call her off if you don’t want me to hurt her.”
Urd stood and put her hand on the Seraph’s shoulder. “We need to understand what is going on before you do something rash,” she said quietly. “I feel no threat from anyone here.” The Seraph nodded without speaking or lowering her weapon. Urd looked past her to Canaan. “What plot are you talking about?”
“My name is Canaan and Lucifer can explain it,” Canaan said. “We need to magically restrain that spy before she wakes up.” She looked at Eve. “The plot Iain described didn’t happen here because of our coming to this world. Prastara and Raphaela didn’t feel comfortable moving until they understood the threat the Sisterhood represented. Our presence delayed it only, though. According to the mind of that Seraph, they intend to strike sometime in the next few months, probably after they acquire the Iain Grey.”
Belldandy looked at Lucifer. “Explain,” she said curtly.
“The reason I didn’t work with the Alliance of my world is because the analogs of you three were dead when I approached it. Until recently I'd never even heard your names. They were murdered in a coup in the year 2005 by a pair of Megami-Sama named Raphaela and Prastara, who believed that controlling the human race was the best way to save it. Apparently they exist here too.”
“Of course they do,” Skuld said. “Raphaela and Prastara have been with us since the beginning and are among our dearest friends.”
“That Seraph is an assassin,” Canaan said grimly. “She was placed in your guard by Prastara specifically to spy on you three and eliminate you if the need arises. She would have undoubtedly warned her mistresses if allowed to. She wears a ring that makes using foresight useless against her and even though you are psychic pokegirls your telepathic skills are rudimentary at best.”
“How do you know this,” Urd asked curiously.
Canaan looked at Lucifer, who nodded. “It looks like we’re helping them so they need to know the truth.”
“I’m not an Archangel. I’m a powerful psychic pokegirl of a breed you’ve never seen before and I read all of this in the spy’s mind before I knocked her out. As a fighting type, she’s especially vulnerable to my psychic attacks and I was able to overwhelm her mind quickly without hurting her much. You can’t predict what I’m going to do because I’m a dark pokegirl.” She looked at Lucifer. “These three know nothing about what’s going on inside the Sisterhood or the attempt on Iain’s life. It’s probably Raphaela’s and Prastara’s doing.”
“Tonight we thought we’d be dealing with Raphaela and Prastara because we thought you three were already dead,” Eve said. “And we brought Canaan as insurance against their duplicity.”
“But she feels like an Archangel,” Skuld protested softly.
Lucifer got to her feet. “Show them.”
All five of the Alliance pokegirls gasped in surprise when Canaan resumed her true form. “Before you ask, I am a Splice created by the use of the G-Stylus, a magical tool for combining pokegirls created by Scott.”
“I know what it is,” Belldandy’s voice was grim. “I watched him use it on a human he was interrogating to splice that man with a pokegirl so he could be bonded by Sukebe to make the questioning go faster. I had hoped it was destroyed with him.”
“He isn’t dead,” Lucifer replied. “He’s in hiding.”
“That would explain a lot,” Urd said. “We expected things to fall apart quickly after his death but his top commanders kept carrying out his orders as if they were still getting them.”
Lucifer smiled. “If we can determine his location, I know some people who plan to make his death a reality.”
“You wouldn’t kill him yourself,” Skuld asked curiously.
“I remember all of the things he did and, more important, all of the things he made us do,” Lucifer said. “Some of these people would be a lot more creative than I could ever stomach being and for once, I don’t think I would try to stop them.” She shrugged. “While it isn’t a good or moral thing for me to do, Scott’s actions doomed him several times over if I was to stand in judgment over him and I and others were forced to do far worse and far more immoral things before I decided to carry out my revolt against his authority.” She looked at Canaan. “Can you read the minds of Prastara and Raphaela to prove to Belldandy and her sisters that the coup is real?”
“They are magic users as are most Megami breeds and since they’re planning to murder people close to them it is very likely that they have magic that would keep me out of their head,” Canaan said thoughtfully. “Unless you don’t care if they live and I can eat their brains I can’t help you with reading their minds. However, Ganieda, Dominique, Ygerna and Kasumi might be able to break them down enough to find proof without permanently damaging them.” She nodded towards the unconscious Seraph. “But in her mind I found that she has been tasked to wait until ordered to strike and then to kill any and all of you she can reach. She also knows she isn’t the only assassin out there but the information is compartmentalized in a clandestine cell network and so she doesn’t know who they are.”
Eve frowned. “Why would a Seraph attack a Megami-Sama? That goes against all of their beliefs.”
“Her name is Evelyn,” Urd said quietly. She knelt, placed her palm on the Seraph’s forehead and closed her eyes. Abruptly she sagged before opening her eyes. “And Canaan is right. Evelyn was planning to kill all of us as soon as she received the order to do so.” She rolled the Seraph over and murmured a spell that cocooned the unconscious pokegirl in a saffron field of energy.
Canaan turned to Eve. “Evelyn is sworn to the service of Prastara and will do whatever she is ordered to by her mistress, even if in the doing so she loses her honor or becomes a Fallen Angel out of shame. Tasked to kill these three Celestials, she was working out the most efficient way to get them all.” She nodded towards the other Seraph. “Louisa here isn’t involved with the plot but Evelyn figured she could kill her fellow guard before Louisa could defend herself.”
Lucifer turned in her chair and looked at the other two Archangels. “Ganieda.” When neither person moved she smiled. “I can’t identify you. Please reveal yourself.”
Ganieda’s eyes narrowed. “My revealing myself was exactly the thing I was not supposed to do here, Lucifer.”
Skuld frowned. “She is a Megami-Sama and you will treat her with the respect she deserves.”
Ganieda grinned and resumed her true form. “Since I am in Iain’s personal guard and Lucifer can’t give me orders, I am.” She turned her attention to Lucifer again. “What is it?”
“Could you penetrate the magical defenses of Prastara and Raphaela if required to?”
Ganieda’s ears flicked. “I probably could. Even if they have the dark elemental typing, there are ways around it that should work, as long as you don’t really care about their wellbeing when I’m done.”
“I’d rather you didn’t kill them and eat their brains during the interrogation,” Lucifer said mildly. “Belldandy and her sisters might wish to punish them if they are guilty of treason and it is possible that they might actually be innocent of any wrongdoing and are being used as a blind by the true villains in this piece.”
Ganieda nodded slowly. “I can think of one way that should work. All pokegirls, regardless of their mental powers and elemental protections, can form delta bonds with their humans and that bond ignores their elemental typing and magical protections. Since we have a spell that creates an artificial delta bond, I could use that to penetrate their defenses just like Canaan did once with Pandora by linking through her bond with Iain. If necessary I could bond Canaan into a three way bond and she could help me crack their defenses.” Her ears flicked. “Needless to say, I will not delta bond her to Iain. I won’t even tell him that I could since Pandora would probably stab me through the spine before I could finish trying to inform him as to the possibility.” Her lips drew back to reveal her fangs as, behind her, Pandora chuckled grimly. “The spell should work just as well to link another pokegirl to me for twenty four hours and in that time I can turn her mind completely inside out. If that doesn’t work we can plug her into Theodora. Since if they take over the Alliance it will become a greater threat to Iain than it is now, Theodora will probably be willing to violate clan law to protect him.” She shrugged. “And if that doesn’t work I can always eat someone’s brains. We can use a punch needle for the sample and that seldom kills. Afterwards they can always be healed to return them to full functionality before their execution if they are traitors.”
“What does eating brains do,” Belldandy asked with a slightly disgusted look on her face.
Canaan grinned. “One of my splices is a Hunter breed. We can absorb memories from brains that we consume as part of our mimicry abilities.” She looked at Lucifer. “You haven’t yet asked the important question.”
Lucifer frowned. “What is that?”
“It’s do they want our help,” Eve said. “If they don’t, Iain is not going to like us intruding since it would be rude.”
“We have already interfered with Evelyn,” Lucifer said thoughtfully. “And you are right. Belldandy, if you do not want our assistance we will not force it on you.”
Belldandy looked at her sisters. “You said that on your world this coup took place and that the Belldandy, Skuld and Urd there were executed.”
“Iain knows the history of our world better than I do and that’s what he told me,” Lucifer said. “You can believe him.”
“I want to hear it from him, but if he tells the truth, I will not risk the lives of my sisters,” Belldandy said. “If true, I would beseech you to help us and you can name your price as long as it doesn’t enslave my sisters.”
“How are you three sisters,” Ganieda asked curiously.
“We are from the same production batch,” Urd said quietly. “And we are the only ones from our batch who survived the war. We are almost identical genetically and idealistically.”
“What about Evelyn,” Skuld asked. “How do we keep her from alerting Raphaela and Prastara if they are plotting a coup?”
“She isn’t aware that she was attacked since I overwhelmed her mind before she knew she was being assaulted,” Canaan said. “I can wake her up and stand her in her sentry position before releasing her mind and if Ganieda and I resume our disguises and return to our posts beforehand and you do not act like anything is wrong she will think she zoned out while standing guard.” She looked at the other Seraph. “The only problem I can see is Louisa here. She’d like to kill Evelyn for being a traitor. She may act on that desire when given the opportunity.”
Louisa reddened and glared at Canaan. “You stay out of my head, witch.”
“I cannot,” Canaan said simply. She changed form back to that of the purple haired Archangel she’d been when she arrived and moved back to her post near Pandora.
“Send her with us,” Eve said. “You can detail her to examine the safety of coming to our ranch so that you can meet Iain. We’ll have a barbecue so you can use that excuse to come visit Lucifer and me. But sending Louisa with us will give her a true job and get her away from Evelyn for a while.” She glanced to her side. “And send Wendy with us too.”
Wendy looked surprised. “Why me? Louisa can evaluate the security situation without me.”
“You need to play with our children,” Eve said. “They will remind you that there is still goodness in the world that you can touch and innocence for us to work to protect. Louisa can play with the children too and meet some of the Sisterhood in Shield or Thistle. And both of you can meet Iain and the rest of our family.”
“I like that plan,” Belldandy announced. “Wendy and Louisa will go with you and Evelyn will not be aware of what has taken place today and also she will never be alone with any of us until we know the truth.”
Lucifer nodded. “Done. Ganieda, please resume your post.”
The Snugglebunny Splice nodded and changed back into a copy of Pandora.
“Canaan,” Lucifer said, “please do what you need to so that Evelyn doesn’t know what we’ve done today and everyone please be seated again.”
“As soon as you’re sitting, I’ll take care of it,” Canaan said confidently.
Iain glanced to his right and then down at Sofia where she was sitting and helping Meara color a picture by handing the young Duelist new crayons when she got tired of the one she held and putting the discarded crayon back in the tin where they were kept. “Why is there a strange Megami sitting over there holding Seraphina in her lap and crying?”
The Ria’s ears flicked and she didn’t look up from the coloring. “All I know is that Eve brought her back yesterday, her name is Wendy, I was told to expect something like this and Seraphina says everything is going to be all right.”
Iain glanced at the scene again. “Well, she should know better than I can from what I can see. Please let me know when she’s done crying and I’ll come back and introduce myself if I can.”
“Do it at dinner. Apparently she and a Seraph named Louisa are staying here for a few days. Lucifer vouched for them so you need to talk to her.”
Iain shook his head. “This ought to be an interesting story.”
Sofia did glance up at that. “If it is, please share it with me.”
“If I can, I will.” He consulted his twee and headed for the brewery, Dianthus falling in behind him.
When he got to the brewery, Joyce was outside examining some fruit in a bucket. She popped one into her mouth and chewed experimentally, her eyes thoughtful. When she saw him, she smiled and offered him some of the fruit. “Try these figs.”
Iain obediently took one and ate it. “It’s ok.”
She nodded. “I take it you’re not a fan of figs? I was thinking of using them to make a batch of wine.”
He shrugged. “It’s not my first choice for a treat, but if you brew it I’ll try it.”
She grinned. “And I appreciate that. I don’t remember us having an appointment and this isn’t a good place for a quickie, so I guess you’re looking for Lucy and Eve?”
She nodded and picked up another fig to sniff it before eating it as well. “They’re in the mustang patch out back.”
“Thank you, Joyce. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.”
She smiled. “I’ll be waiting.”
“I’m still learning her slang,” Dianthus said as they cut through the building. “What are mustangs? I thought they were horses.”
“Mustang grapes are native to Texas. They’re high in acid and low in sugar but they make a surprisingly good wine when done properly. There’s a woman in San Antonio who taught Joyce how to make it last year and now we’re growing a test patch here to see if she wants to add them to the grape orchards.”
“It seems like she spends more time experimenting about making alcohol than in actually making alcohol,” Dianthus noted amusedly.
“That’s not true, but we really don’t drink that much wine or beer and the potential beer market is saturated by people making beer at home, although I expect our sales to grow as it becomes more and more known that ours has a consistent flavor, quality and alcohol content. The Indigo government banned homebrew so their cronies could get rich selling government approved beer but sales in Stile are slow since Joyce turned up her nose at making pale lagers, which is the traditional American beer.”
“And just whose fault is that since he likes porters and stouts more than anything else,” Dianthus asked with a smile. Iain just chuckled as he headed out the back door.
Lucifer and Eve were with a Seraph that Iain had never seen before and were examining some of the mustang grapes. All three were wearing rubber gloves out of respect for the acid that the wild grapes had in their skin and the purple stains on the ones the Seraph was wearing said she’d been convinced to try peeling and probably eating at least a few of them. “Good morning, ladies.”
Eve’s eyes lit up and she gave him a quick kiss. “Good morning, Iain.” She turned, taking his hand as she did so. His hand tingled for a few seconds from the acid on her glove before his healing magic neutralized it. “This is Louisa. She’s a member of the Celestial Alliance and she’s here to help make the arrangements for the leadership to visit us here.”
Iain regarded her curiously but didn’t ask the first question which came to mind regarding her sanity in bringing the Alliance here. Presumably he'd find there was some logic involved and it would actually make some sense to him. “Please understand my intention not to deliberately be insulting to anyone, but wouldn’t a neutral third party site be more conducive to everyone’s interests instead of bringing the Alliance to our territory and possibly making them defensive because of it?”
The Seraph blinked and smiled slowly. “That is possibly the nicest way I’ve ever heard that put.” Apparently she’d been intended for work up north because she had a strong Canadian accent.
Lucifer grinned at Iain, but her words were for the Seraph. “What do you mean, Louisa?”
“I’ve never heard anyone ask if someone was out of her mind so politely before,” Louisa replied. “I presume it was for my benefit or is he always this considerate of Eve’s feelings?”
An impish look crossed Iain’s face and vanished. “Are you recruiting, Eve?”
Eve frowned. “No, I am not. Why?”
“Because you brought me a woman who is pretty and smart, which as we both know is a weakness of mine.”
The Seraph’s face flushed bright red as she blushed and Lucifer laughed. “Stop teasing her, Iain, and don’t worry. It turns out that things progressed a little differently here than on my world and Belldandy, Skuld and Urd are still in charge of the Alliance.”
Iain waited for a handful of heartbeats. “I heard the silent but at the end of that. What’s the other shoe and when is it dropping?”
Lucifer was still chuckling. “But it turns out that we may have uncovered the plot to oust and kill them by Raphaela and Prastara. Belldandy and her sisters want to meet you and see if this plot is real or not.”
“Shouldn’t they ask Raphaela and Prastara instead of me? I mean they would be the ones to really know if they’re planning to murder Belldandy and her sisters while purging the leadership of the Alliance of those who disagree with their beliefs about how to help humanity.”
“They want to meet you first,” Eve said.
“I don’t really see why, but whatever,” Iain replied. “What’s the cover story so they don’t inadvertently bring Raphaela and Prastara here or is that actually the plan so we can take them prisoner for Belldandy and keep her hands clean while we do her dirty work?”
“We hadn’t considered the possibility of luring those two here for capture,” Lucifer said thoughtfully.
Iain snorted. “That would be because you wouldn’t bring them here to capture. You can capture them anywhere, but the best place is when they’re on the toilet and at their most vulnerable.” Louisa’s eyes went wide. “You bring them here so we can murder them and keep the leadership of the Celestial Alliance’s hands lily white.”
Louisa’s gasp was loud. “That is an evil thing to think,” she said in horror.
“No, it’s practical. It saves the time of a trial and removes any need for evidentiary proof and it means that whoever is working with Raphaela and Prastara don’t suspect that Belldandy and her sisters know there’s a plot to murder them. They’d just be pissed off at us. However, it’s a moot point since I know that Lucifer won’t use us to do Belldandy’s dirty work in our home since that would put the children in danger.” He turned to Lucifer as Louisa continued to stare at him in shock. “Do you really think Belldandy and her sisters can become our friends?”
“If I didn’t, Iain, I wouldn’t have invited them to a barbecue.”
He nodded. “Then tell Ninhursag I put my stamp of approval on the plan and set it up for next week. I don’t want to wait too long and find out we’re hosting a wake for them instead because Raphaela and Prastara moved while we were dithering. Have you considered that Idun and the others are probably scheming with Raphaela and Prastara?”
“We have. We think our arrival is what delayed the coup and they want the Iain Grey before they move.”
He frowned. “Then warn Belldandy not to let them invite themselves to this barbecue if she thinks there’s the slightest chance they’re not involved. As far as I’m concerned, if they do come here it’ll be the last thing they do. I see no reason for our enemies to visit our home but if they do I really see no reason to miss a chance to eliminate them if they’re that stupid and if I find the slightest bit of proof they want to hurt anyone in my family I won’t bother to get Belldandy’s permission before I kill them.”
“I understand and I agree, Iain.”
He glanced at Louisa and his frown deepened when he realized she was smiling at him. “OK, what did I just do wrong?”
“Nothing,” the Seraph replied. “If you have proof then you should act immediately. It is what I would do, after all. I just didn’t expect you to be as much like me as you are.”
Eve instantly scowled. “The family has enough Celestials in it,” she said firmly.
Louisa cocked her head curiously, still watching Iain. “Isn’t that his decision to make?”
“I’m sure you’re a remarkable woman,” Iain said, “and well worth knowing, but you are correct in that it is my decision to make and to be honest I already have so many responsibilities that I couldn’t give you the time you deserve. I’m flattered by your interest though and if you are looking for a permanent partner I’d suggest you talk to Lucifer about visiting the potential Celestial tamers in Shield.”
Louisa looked disappointed as she nodded. “Thank you, I will speak to her about it.”
Lucifer glanced at him. That was gently done and I thank you for sparing her feelings.
He carefully didn’t smile. It’s not her fault that she was too late to the party. Besides how long do you think it would take me to corrupt a Seraph who is less than twenty years old? There’s no challenge in it, which is why I picked centuries wise Megami-Sama to play with instead.
Lucifer’s eyes suddenly twinkled. I will have to remember that phrase. Centuries wise sounds so much better than centuries old.
He gave her an innocent look. “Now I really need to be headed to my lab and my magical studies before someone decides I’d rather be running the obstacle course again instead.” He headed off with Dianthus following closely behind.
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