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Loose Threads

Forty Eight


            Iain slammed his tail sideways into the boulder. He twisted his head around and glared at the rock when it didn’t move and struck it again and again as hard as he could. Rotate your hips when you strike just like you’d do when performing a martial arts kick, Theodora suggested through his twee.

            Iain tried it and this time the rock moved a little. He stopped, dropping to the ground as he panted. “There has to be a better way to get rid of waste heat,” he grumbled as he began slowly flapping his wings. “And the new gravity level is agonizing.”

            “It’s nearly seventy three meters per second squared and you are handling it well enough,” Theodora said as she appeared in front of him, “that I want to run another maximum standing test in a few days and see how your strength is growing.” 

            “Very well.” He shoved back to his feet. “I just would like to see me be able to handle this much gravity in my human form.”

            “You’re getting stronger there too. Give it time.”

            “I don’t really have any choice, do I?” He shook himself violently. “Return the gravity to normal please.”

            Theodora nodded. “Gravity lowering.” She waited a minute. “The gravity is now 9.81 meters per second squared.”

            Iain changed back to his human form. “Thanks.”

            “You still have an hour and seventeen minutes scheduled for this training,” Theodora pointed out.

            “And I’ll be back after I use the bathroom. I’d rather not pee in my training area.”

            “You know, urination is another way that some animals remove excess heat.”

            Iain headed for the bathroom at a trot. “And this discussion can wait because I really have to pee.”

            Roughly an hour later Iain was still whacking that rock with his tail when Theodora appeared again. “Ygerna is here to see you. You still have nine minutes of training remaining.”

            “Turn the gravity back down to normal and add my remaining time to my next session. I’ll make it up then.” Iain spread his wings and began slowly flapping them to cool down while stretching out each leg individually to keep them from getting as stiff as they would later on if he just quit exercising.

            “The gravity is back to 9.81 meters per second squared and I’ll let Ygerna in,” Theodora announced.

            “Thank you.”

            Ygerna stopped in front of him and looked him over before shaking her head. “I should have expected that you would underestimate your impact on someone.”

            Iain cocked his head curiously. “What do you mean?”

            “This is the first time I have seen your full sized form, Iain. You said it wasn’t impressive but from where I stand that isn’t true. You’re larger than the largest warhorse I can remember and you are all sleek muscle, hard scales, big teeth and claws.” She looked up at his spread wings as he slowly flapped them. “And your wings are incredible. You look rather formidable. Any Sidhe warrior with half a wit would be cautious about closing to fight you.”

            Iain slowed his wingbeats and shook himself. “I guess,” he said as he changed to his human form, “that I when pictured myself I felt I should be a lot bigger than this and the idea that I’m still larger than a lot of animals has not really sunk in.”

            “It’s probably because you started out small enough for some of the children to carry.”

            Iain growled low in the back of his throat. “There is that.”

            She clasped her hands together in front of her and gave him a winsome look. “So, dare I hope that for the first time I am to actually be allowed the privilege of entering your worldly refuge?”

            Iain shook his head. “It’s not really that remarkable. Is getting admittance really that big of a deal?”

            “Kasumi has been in there many times,” Ygerna said. “I have been not once. Others speak of admittance as if it conveys some rare benefit within the ranks of the harem.”

            He sighed while grabbing a towel and wiping the beads of sweat that had suddenly appeared on his face. “I will grant you, my Sidhe wife, safe entry into my laboratory this one time.”

            She grinned at him and grabbed his hand. “Well said, my fey husband.” Once they were inside she insisted that Iain had to show her around. She smiled. “Only you would say that there is nothing remarkable about plants from worlds none of us have ever seen.” She touched one gently. “This is so hideous as to be beautiful and yet it harms me not at all.” She chuckled. “And now it is useless for its original purposes.”

            Iain frowned. “Why wouldn’t it still be useful?”

            “We have the Wolf database and in it the coordinates of every world these plants come from along with the solution of the riddle of which world each originated on.”

            Iain looked surprised and then back at the plant. “Well, shit, you’re right. I never thought of that.”

            Ygerna smiled again. “I also hope one day to go on a shadow walk with you. Kasumi has been on far too many of them and I,” she trailed off and shrugged.

            Iain just shook his head. “Fine, I’ll try to come up with someplace interesting to take you. Would you like some refreshments?”

            “I would not, Iain. I am here at your request, but I am confused as to why and why you have asked me to bring this.” She reached into the air and the Grimoire of Danu appeared in her hands. She laid it on his desk and sat down in his chair. “What did you wish of me and my book?”

            Iain picked her up out of his chair and sat down, settling her into his lap. “First, I’ve got a question. Do you think we should return the Grimoire of Danu from this world to this world’s Ygerna?”

            Ygerna looked surprised. “But you claimed the book fairly from the space station. It is yours.”

            “And Shikarou claimed your book fairly, too,” Iain said quietly. “And it gave you years of misery to know he held it. We almost went to war to get it back and people could easily have died over it.”

            Ygerna laughed. “Remember that I am ever the bitch, Iain, and a queen still in my soul. It is a very different situation indeed if I have my book and another does not have hers than if I do not have mine.” Her smile faded. “And yet I can understand the question in truth. I paid a heavy price for my book and she has only benefited from your and our generosity but did I not receive similar aid from Shikarou when he destroyed my immortal foes just as we did hers?” She looked into his eyes. “Have you informed her of our possession of her Grimoire?”

            “I have not. I wanted to talk to you about it first.”

            “That is a good thing indeed. My first inclination is to not inform her of its presence. I would have not known for another few centuries of Shikarou’s possession of my version except that he revealed to me that he held it.” She leaned back against him. “It was that knowledge that precipitated my becoming involved with his family. I do not wish another Ygerna casting her eyes at my husband. Yes, it also resulted in my coming here and becoming married to you and pregnant with the blessing of my goddess, but she is still a queen in truth and will see her right to you as being far greater than mine.”

            “You are my wife and I love you. I don’t give a shit what she wants.”

            “I know that.” She twisted around and kissed him gently. “And she will not give a shit, as you say, for what we want. She will see that Danu has blessed us with children and that we have her book and she will be envious and desire both for herself. Even if she does not pursue you, she may well seek a way to circumnavigate the agreement we made with her about Ciaran and his family so as to become pregnant. And she will unceasingly pursue the Grimoire as it holds the secret to the recreation of the Sidhe race within its pages.””

            “I’d considered that. If she has her version of the Grimoire she can use that to make some of her knights into Sidhe and fuck them in an attempt to get pregnant.”

            “She will do no such thing as such familiarity with any one as ambitious as her knights would abrogate her authority over the ones that she has made Sidhe. One rules with care. To turn one that you rule into a lover has hazards to that rule that can be difficult to avoid and potentially lethal or even worse.”


            “I would have almost rather have died than to have given up my throne to Eoghan, Iain. Only the knowledge that by living did I have a chance of regaining what was rightfully mine convinced me to flee, and in truth that flight tainted my heart for a very long time indeed. I was foresworn to my subjects for my oaths to them included my responsibility for their reasonable care. Giving them up to Eoghan did not absolve me of that in any way and for those who refused allegiance to him the care that he provided to them was the very definition of unreasonable. There will be a price for that failure.” Her eyes met his and Iain shivered at the pain which shone from hers. “One day I will have to pay that price and I do not know what my goddess will require of me in that payment. It is quite possible that she may demand my life in recompense for what I did which is why I try to teach you as much about the customs and traditions of my people as I can that you may give that knowledge to the Sidhe that lay beneath my heart if my goddess makes it impossible for me to impart it to them in person.”

            “I may have something to say about that,” Iain said determinedly.

            “True, but just in case I have uploaded all of my memories to Theodora to be released upon my permanent death. And they will be released only to you and not to anyone else except possibly our children if you do not survive my death.” She eyed him. “But you will. Danu would not completely orphan our children until they are at least young adults.”

            “I don’t see where she has to kill you at all. If she has a problem with that, then I don’t really care what she wants at that point.”

            “Iain, I do not find that attitude amusing and Danu certainly will not.”

            “I really don’t care. First of all, this Danu isn’t the one who let the Eoghan and Germanicus of your world kill themselves and become liches. Second, she’s not the one who then let the Eoghan and Germanicus of your world murder all of the rest of the Sidhe of your world. Third, this isn’t the Danu of your world that you invoked in your oaths to protect your people. I don’t think she’s letting the Danu of your world come here so you’re telling me that the Danu of this world apparently has so much free time that she’s going to smite you, a woman who has never invoked her name in an oath, for things that happened so far outside her jurisdiction that she may not even know about them unless she finds out from us? And why would she do this? Did she get an email from the Danu of your world? And then she thinks I’m just going to sit idly by while she murders my wife and makes me into a widower?” His teeth bared in a silent snarl. “Then she’d better get me too when she gets you or my new overriding hobby will be to figure out a way to get my hands on her.” His eyes were hard. “And just so everyone is on the same page about this, I already know that gods can be killed, especially weak ones without worshippers. The only question then becomes can I catch and kill her?”

            Ygerna sighed and curled up in his lap. “I should be horrified at your blasphemy and furious at your temerity in challenging my goddess, no matter which world we speak of, but my only real emotion right now is pleasure that my husband would seek to revenge my murder.”

            “That would be because you’re ever the queen and being a powerful queen is a little like being a goddess. You’ve got lots of power, few checks on that power and nobody with a clue will challenge that power until you’re in a position where you can’t exercise most of it.”

            “I suppose that could in truth be, but I am certain that one day I shall be punished for my failures to my subjects.”

            “No matter who says it, there is no such thing as a good smiting,” Iain said quietly. “If Danu wants to punish you for failing to keep your subjects safe, there are better ways to do so than by killing her only source of new Sidhe.”

            She turned her head to look at him. “What would you do in her place?”

            “You mean after being upset at the sudden loss of my dick and balls?”

            She smiled. “Yes.”

            “I’d look at the situation and my options. I think the first thing I’d do is make it impossible for you speak of your betrayal of your oath, whether or not I thought you’d betrayed it and whether or not you were from my world and my worshipper. Then I’d neutralize any written knowledge of it too. Next, I’d keep you pregnant so as to add more Sidhe to the world and maybe charge you with figuring out a way to bring back other fey races if I missed them too. A few centuries of being continually pregnant would certainly punish any woman and if nobody knew you’d broken an oath and gotten away with it then everyone would still presume she’d smite anyone who broke an oath in her name. And she would.”

            Ygerna’s eyes were wide. “You would condemn me to a few centuries of being pregnant? I think I’d rather be dead.”

            “Then it would be a better punishment than killing you, wouldn’t it,” Iain said quietly.

            “I am suddenly very glad that you are not my goddess, Iain.” She looked around. “And I am also very glad that we are not near the Earth right now so that she cannot hear your words.”

            “Is it not true that your goddess is always where you are,” Iain teased quietly.

            “Having fun at my expense is not amusing to me,” she growled as she poked him hard enough in the ribs to make him gasp. “You will stop immediately.”

            “Message received,” he muttered as he rubbed the spot. “I think you cracked something.”

            “Then it’s probably already healed,” she said primly. “Or it will soon.” She sat up in his lap. “Now, you wanted me to bring the Grimoire of Danu here. Why?”

            “You said that as a dragon, I’m now technically fey. Is that true?”

            “Fey is a name for all supernatural creatures, Iain. You are now a supernatural creature and so you are now fey. Kasumi is fey as well and I suppose many pokegirls could don the mantle of fey too, although they are too human for fey magic to protect them like it would us.”

            “And I’m learning to use formal magic as well as becoming a truewizard. Does that mean I could open, read and use the Grimoire now?”

            Ygerna’s eyebrows rose. “Those are three different questions, Iain. The second question about you being able to read the contents of the Grimoire is likely to be yes if you have been learning Ogham.”

            “I have. Why don’t the fey races have a language of their own?”

            Ygerna smirked at him. “We do, but Ogham is a written language created by the Sidhe and not of all of the fey, although many fey borrowed it for their own uses. We taught it to the illiterate Celts so we could send them our orders on what we wanted them to do. Their people used it for other things at our direction so it would remain fresh in their minds and they’d pass it along to their children. Much later was inscribed on stone to mark the names of owners and notable people and still later it crossed over to Wales and was deciphered by the Romans. I used Ogham for the Grimoire of Danu because Sidhe traditions are oral for the most part and Ogham became our written language as well.”

            “That makes sense. What about the answers to my other two questions?”

            “The answer to the third question is relatively simple and partially lies within the answer to the second. If you can read the Grimoire and are skilled enough in the magical arts you will indeed be able to utilize its contents without harm to you or your subject.”

            “What about the first question?”

            She shook her head. “That one is difficult to answer. I enchanted the Grimoire of Danu to be only opened by the Sidhe that only my people may benefit from my knowledge. As a dragon you are fey indeed but still it is unlikely that your blood is truly from the Sidhe.”

            “Are there Sidhe dragons?”

            “The fey can easily interbreed, Iain, although as a group our fertility is low. Crosses were not uncommon and where the resulting child belonged was determined by two things. The first is in which culture they were raised and the second was at adulthood one or the other of their parentages would become dominate. A child born of a rape between a goblin and a Sidhe could be raised as a goblin in a goblin court only to have its magic determine that it became Sidhe upon reaching adulthood. Depending on the goblin court and its alliances at the time the new adult would be banished to a Sidhe court or raped, killed and eaten. Dragons enjoyed the attention of the other fey races, including the Sidhe. So, yes, there were dragons that carried Sidhe blood in their veins and Sidhe with dragon blood that flowed in theirs.”

            “I see.”

            Ygerna eyed him thoughtfully. “There is an easy test. Try to open the Grimoire and let us determine what will happen.”

            “Will it kill me if I’m not Sidhe enough?”

            “I would not allow or even suggest this test if I feared you would not survive its failure, Iain.” She glanced around them. “If I offered to let you test yourself on the Grimoire and you were killed as a result of the failure to be Sidhe enough I suspect that Theodora would make this chamber into my tomb no matter what Danu wished for the children I carry. No, while you will suffer indeed if you cannot open the Grimoire, you are not likely to perish during the attempt.” She waited a few seconds. “Her silence is frightening. Perhaps we should not do this here.”

            “You will test this here,” Theodora said as she appeared. “And I would not kill you for Iain’s death in this as he has been warned and will choose of his free will to take your test. You carry his children and as I am clan those are my children too. I would never harm them for your misdeed.”

            “Would you harm me after the children were born if Iain fails in the test this day and perishes?”

            “He will not perish this day, as you put it, and so there is no reason to answer that question,” Theodora said.

            Ygerna cocked her head. “I would like to know the answer to that question.”

            “Yes, you would indeed like to know the answer to that question,” Theodora said. “And yet I do not feel the need to answer it.”

            Iain abruptly shoved Ygerna out of his lap and she glared at him as she caught the edge of his desk to stay upright. “Can my empress and my queen please find another time and place to be openly bitchy at each other,” he asked loudly. “If not, they can take it the fuck someplace else right now!”

            Both women gave him surprised looks. Ygerna looked at Theodora. “I offer mine apologies, my sister, for taunting you.”

            “I accept your apology and I offer mine in turn for being a total bitch as Iain was so polite to not quite completely point out,” Theodora replied. “I bet it’s a shame for Iain that he can’t watch us kiss and make up.”

            “Accepted,” Ygerna said with a laugh, “and I’m sure he does lust after watching us together in his heart.”

            “I’d rather you two be together in my bed,” Iain chuckled. “It’s easier to watch.”

            “You mean it’s easier to be invited to join us,” Theodora said.

            “That too.”

            “I think we should we do what we can to facilitate that day,” Theodora asked Ygerna. “To that end, I have some questions for you about a memory that I would like you to give Iain.”

            Ygerna gave her a curious look. “Ask your questions.”

            “Are you familiar with the Christian method of reckoning the years?”

            Ygerna smiled. “Ireland became a Christian nation and I employed their timekeeping methods along with my original ones lest my knights be confused or give some hint to the people they helped to protect that they weren’t quite normal. Wizards were considered to be as witches at the time and usually pressed to death or drowned in the bog.”

            “Do you remember the years that the bread failed from 536 to 539 A.D.? They were recorded in the Annals of Ulster and again in the Annals of Inisfallen.”

            Ygerna frowned. “The bread failed sometimes for no particular reason. What else that was notable would have happened around that time?”

            “The sun would have been occluded by dust for most of those years and Muirchertach Mac Erca also known as Muirchertach son of Muiredach son of Eógan son of Niall Naígiallach drowned in a vat of wine on a hilltop, according to the Annals of Ulster.”

            Ygerna laughed. “He did drown, but that was because one of my knights, his brother, drowned him in the vat at my orders so my knight could become king of his clan. The darkening of the sun at that time was considered an omen by the Christians that my knight was destined to rule the clan, which he did reasonably well under my command.” She frowned. “The bread failed for several years in a row during that time. We had plenty and I opened my storerooms for my knights to feed our servants around the ley line we used for entering and exiting the Order’s domains.”

            “Do you have clear memories of that time?”

            “I do not, but I can refresh them. Why should I do so?”

            “I want Iain to shadow walk to that time for me.”

            Ygerna looked surprised. “That would be hazardous,” she glanced at him, “but perhaps not nearly as hazardous for him as it would have been when he was human. The fey are dead by then. What would he be doing?”

            “He would travel to Constantinople on an errand for me.”

            Ygerna turned to Iain. “What is she after?”

            Iain leaned back in his chair, holding a glass of water. “She wants a sample of DNA from the Empress Theodora.”

            “What will she do with that?”

            “She’d use it to make herself a body that she could inhabit.”

            Ygerna grinned. “You want to fuck him.”

            Theodora blushed. “That’s crude.”

            “But it is true, is it not? And you want to carry his children and present them to him.”

            “It is, my sister. And outside myself and Iain only you know what I desire.”

            “I will help you.” She glanced at Iain. “But the others will need to know when he leaves. He will need our help. I later traveled to Constantinople while searching for the Grimoire of Danu and it took many years.”

            “I had considered bringing the clan,” Iain said, “and Theodora. There is a lot of DNA around the world that we could collect and preserve for inclusion in our projects here. But in the end I decided it was too perilous for everyone and for the timelines. But I’ll take security with me, my dead harem if nothing else will suffice.”

            “We could go there after you visit your Ranma and make sure he’s taken care of,” Ygerna said. “And that would make two trips for the clan into only one. Then there is only a need for Dominique and I to go with you on the shadow walk so we can gather the coordinates needed.” She looked at Iain. “And from there we could consider my request for we would have the might of the clan already assembled, making a third use of this excursion.”

            “Iain doesn’t plan to make sure Ranma the tamer is taken care of,” Theodora pointed out.

            “That will no longer matter when Kasumi remembers that Shikarou left Ranma in whatever straits we find him in,” Ygerna noted. “At that point she will decry her former husband’s lack of responsibility for a charge he voluntarily assumed and then take that responsibility for Ranma’s return to a life that somewhat approaches normality upon her own shoulders and we will aid her in that for she is one of us.”

            “I hadn’t considered that,” Theodora said. “But it does fit in with her pattern of – IAIN NO!”

            Ygerna whipped around to see Iain had placed his hand on the Grimoire of Danu. “Well,” he said calmly as he watched his hand, “my blood is still where it’s supposed to be and my hand is still attached.”

            Ygerna let out a long breath. “You should have warned me you were going to touch the Grimoire.”

            He looked up at her. “And interrupt the involved conversation that had nothing to do with me or why I asked you here?”

            “Point taken,” Ygerna said sourly as she perched her hip on the arm of his chair. “And I’m sorry for that. Theodora and I will finish our discussion later.” Her eyes narrowed slightly when he frowned. “What is it?”

            “I haven’t spent a lot of time around the various versions of this book since all it does is taunt me about the fact that I can’t open it,” Iain said. “I didn’t realize that it was alive.”

            “When I enchanted the protective elements of the Grimoire I prayed to Danu to give it the semblance of life to guide it safely through my people. She granted my prayers. One of the reasons I searched for it so diligently is because it is a direct sign of the Goddess and her favor.”  She chuckled. “Later, humans who had contact with my agents incorporated it into their nascent religious practices.”

            He didn’t look up. “Oh?”

            “It was the original book of arcane lore referenced in the Wiccan triad of bell, book and candle. Later they replaced it with their Book of Shadows after their persecution by the Christians began.”

            Iain gave her a quick glance. “Did I pass the test?”

            “Touching the book was allowed for all fey, and it among my dearest mistakes,” Ygerna said. “It was a half-blood fey female wizard who was not a Sidhe that was the agent who originally stole the Grimoire from my court. But she could not pass the greater test and open the book to use it so she disposed of it among the humans, lest I track her down and destroy her.”

            “Since you know who she was, I take it her attempt didn’t save her.”

            Ygerna’s smile was icy. “It did not, and before I ended her life she told me everything that I wanted to hear and would have told me anything she thought I wanted to hear to make me end her torment. Tracking the human thieves as they moved through their world was much more difficult.”

            “I’ve been tortured to that point,” Iain said quietly. “I don’t need the reminders.”

            Ygerna put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “You were and you have survived as unscathed as you could. Now you have us to help you heal. Take the final test and we will see what we will see when you attempt to open the Grimoire.”

            “Give me a few minutes to think,” Iain said as he closed his eyes.

            Ygerna looked at Theodora and spoke in a low voice. “What do you think he is doing?”

            “I think he’s trying to find a way around your warding of the Grimoire.”

            The Sidhe nodded. “I think that’s what he’s trying to do as well. It is unlikely that he will be successful.”

            Theodora grinned. “Would you care to make a wager on that, sister?”

            Ygerna smiled back at her and opened her mouth only to pause. Then she shook her head slowly. “I think not. While it is unlikely that he will succeed, I have seen him do unlikely things before.”

            “And now you show the wisdom that allowed you to rule as a queen,” Theodora said.

            Iain suddenly smiled. “Thank you,” he murmured and reached out to run his hand gently over the cover of the Grimoire. Then he opened it, opened his eyes and turned to Ygerna. “I have opened the Grimoire of Danu.”

            Ygerna moved behind him and stroked the back of his neck gently. “And so you did succeed. May I inquire as to how you found a way to defeat my warding of the Grimoire?”

            Iain gently closed the tome. “Are you aware that there is a brute force way to open it? Shikarou discovered how to do it. It’s how he was able to open it even though his blood is kami dominant.” He glanced over his shoulder at her. “But I didn’t do it that way. I don’t have the power or the formal magic background yet and it’s not respectful to you or to the Grimoire.”

            “Please tell me how you succeeded. Need I fear that soon anyone will be able to take the Grimoire from us and use its power against us?”

            “I don’t think so,” Iain said. “When you and Danu infused the Grimoire of Danu with an essence of life, it was two women working together and so it only makes sense that the Grimoire’s essence is female in nature.”

            Ygerna looked thunderstruck. “It is? I did not know that it had a nature.”

            “It does.”

            She frowned unhappily. “Did you seduce my book?”

            “No, but I did flirt with her and she responded to it and decided I was sweet enough to get to handle her.”

            “You did seduce it, my husband. Is it likely to be seduced by other males,” Ygerna asked curiously.

            “I don’t think so. I had to know more than a bit about how you think to know what would appeal to it and I doubt anyone else knows you that well.”

            Her hands tightened on his neck. “But the Lady helped me to infuse the Grimoire. Does that not mean that you needs must know her heart at least as well as you know mine?”

            Iain leaned backwards far enough in his chair that he could look her in the eyes. “It does and it does not matter. As you say, Danu brought us together and entwined our futures. You are the Goddess’ vessel in bringing my seed into the Sidhe. Why would the Goddess tie my heart to yours only to seek it for herself?”

            Ygerna stroked his head gently. “It is strangely disquieting to hear the words of a Sidhe noble coming from your lips, my husband, and those words bring me no peace. Please, speak as you normally would.”

            “I love you,” he said simply. “If anyone, even the Goddess, tries to fuck with that I’ll hurt them in ways that I am certain they will not enjoy in the slightest.”

            “Now your words bring me solace, my husband.” Ygerna leaned down and kissed his forehead. “Will you keep the Grimoire for a time?”

            Iain stood, gently picked up the Grimoire and formally offered it to her. “I shall not. I don’t know enough yet to do more than read its pages and right now that would just frustrate me because I don’t know enough to not only use it, I also don’t know enough to understand everything that I’d read in the context that it is written.”

            She carefully gathered it into her arms. “I am glad that you show enough wisdom to understand your limitations, but in truth you could ask me to cast its magic on your behalf, Iain. There is little that I would deny you.”

            “And, in the end, I may ask you to do just that. I do have a technical question, though, which I hope you can and will answer.”

            “I will but try.”

            “I know that the Grimoire can bring a lich like Eoghan and Germanicus back to life. Can it also bring back to life a bound lich, like my dead harem is bound to me?”

            Ygerna looked thoughtful. “My first instinct is to say yes, but I think I shall first read in detail certain passages and then some of the references from that grand library you stole for me from the Norse Sidhe before I dare to answer your question with the required confidence.”

            “I await your response.”


            Kerrik looked around the assembled group and his ears flicked as surveyed them. Iain sat with him at the table and ranged around them were Lucifer, Ygerna, Eve, Kasumi, Ganieda, Dominique, Rosemary and Raven. Raven was here because Kerrik’s entire harem was coming to the Sabine Ranch for Kerrik’s women to spend time around others and Kerrik had come with them so that Iain could get more training from his teacher. “Now this training is supposed to be for Iain,” he said quietly but in a voice that carried clearly to everyone around him, “and he is free to ask questions at any time. The rest of you will raise your hands first and be recognized by me, the instructor, or I’ll just teleport you to the other end of Iain’s property or somewhere else I decide might be interesting instead of bothering to listen to your question, much less answering it.” He looked from one person to the next in turn to be sure that nobody had an objection before turning back to Iain. “Do you have any questions before I start?”

            Iain shook his head. “While I do, I’m not sure if you’ll answer them during the lecture and so I’ll wait until I’m more certain I need to ask them.”

            Kerrik chuckled. “Yeah, Nightraven does tend to smack her students around if they don’t learn that behavior.” He took a sip of water. “I’m going to start with some key words and tricky phrases because I want you to understand what I’m saying when I use a particular word. These words are also used in some sciences and other disciplines but for today they mean what I say they do. Today’s subject is shifting form, and it’s something that you sort of know how to already do since you change back and forth from a couple of dragon forms to human. However, due to the agreement you made with Golden Cloud,” Kerrik glanced past Iain where a unicorn was nibbling on some immature peaches. “I still find it hard to believe that they’re here. Anyway, due to the agreement you made with Golden Cloud you will have to master at least one other form, that being a unicorn stallion.” He shook his head and took another drink of water.

            “You’re going to find that the nomenclature I’ll use today is in use inside the Confederation and is partially in use by the members of the Covenant of Darkness after they finally decided to adopt my rule suggestion if only so they understood more about what others in the club were doing. Still, there’s no enforcement and not everyone uses it in either place, although it is in common use in the academic and practical magical schools of thought in the Confederation.” He shrugged.

            “Shape shifting, or shifting if you will, is a term which covers all the different methods of actually changing an object’s form and doesn’t differentiate between atomic transmutation, atomic rearrangement, molecular rearrangement or pure magical transfiguration until you get into the details. However, there are two basic categories of shifting. The first is shape changing and that’s something you do to yourself while the second is transformation and that’s something that another does to you, whether or not it’s done against your will. The something that transforms an object could be a curse, a magical trap, a magical item or another magic using or technology using individual. Just for the record, if you set a magical trap that turns the target into a rabbit and then you accidentally trip it, you have been transformed and have not shape changed. Metamorphism is something that can be in either category and is used just as a descriptive term about how you shifted. The thing to remember with metamorphism is that there’s an intermediate stage involved, like a chrysalis is the intermediate stage between a caterpillar and a butterfly.”

            He waited to see if there were any questions. “Now within each category are the temporal divisions of temporary and permanent and the classifications of incomplete, complete and absolute. I think that temporary and permanent are pretty much self-explanatory so I’m going to skip over to the classifications.”

            He took another drink of water. “Incomplete shifting means that you took the basic form of what you changed into but you didn’t get its inherent abilities or innate knowledge. If you become a duck, you won’t know automatically how to fly or swim or even how to forage without a lot of trial and error. You will, however, still retain that which makes you into an individual and your spirit is unchanged, which means that eventually you will turn back into what you were originally if you can live long enough. Just understand that even in an incomplete shift you often but not always get the lifespan of whatever you become unless you take some very specific steps. Not knowing how to do things can be a real problem, for example as a shark you’d be able to breathe water, but most sharks must swim to have the water pass over their gills while they’re moving, and you won’t know how to swim as a shark does.” He grinned. “As I discovered the first time I became a shark, it’s a lot more involved than just shaking your butt and hoping things work out behind you. A donkey incompletely turned into a human won’t be able to talk, walk upright or know how to don or remove clothing. If turned into rock, however, you will not die from not breathing. If that rock is shattered you’re still not dead, until and unless you’re returned to a living form without the rock being properly repaired beforehand. At that point you’re still not dead but if the damage to the rock causes life threatening injures to you when you’re returned to living form you will perish in short order without some kind of intervention.”

            “When a complete shift happens, you get the innate abilities of whatever you become, but you can override any abilities that require thought to use. As a duck you’d be able to fly and swim but if you were a hundred meters in the air and panicked, you’d most likely lose control and crash. Conversely you could use your wings to try to open an unlocked door or manipulate other objects, just not with any great dexterity. Complete shifts often involve the spirit changing too and so they are almost always permanent shape shifts. It will not grant abilities that require conscious thought if the creature shifted isn’t used to consciously thinking. That donkey wouldn’t be able to talk coherently but would be able to learn to walk upright until it was terrified and panicked because bipedal walking, while partially learned, is still inherent in humans or else you’d have to teach children how to walk from the beginning.”

            “An absolute shift means that you, your spirit and your mind become whatever you were shifted into. Absolutely shift into water and you are dead unless powerful magic is used to restore you. That donkey would be completely human and could be taught to talk but wouldn’t automatically be able do so and wouldn’t remember ever being a donkey. A human absolutely shifted into a goat would be a goat and not even Ganieda would be able to tell it had ever been human.” Lucifer raised her hand and Kerrik nodded to her. “Yes?”

            “Does that mean that Iain’s shift was a complete shift?”

            Kerrik rubbed the knuckles of his right hand with his left for a several seconds before he spoke. “Honestly, I’m not completely sure that’s true. Iain claims he was born a human and got turned into a dragon at some point before we met. You and the other women who have known him the longest say he hasn’t changed at all during the time that you’ve known him and he says he was transformed sometime during that period. It could be that Iain had an absolute shift and only thinks he remembers being human because he wants desperately to cling to his humanity, which would explain his limitations on using his draconic abilities as being self-inflicted. Or he could have undergone a complete shift when he was transformed and is unconsciously fighting his innate abilities. In his case it’s hard to tell, especially since Iain is deliberately vague on what he knows about when, who was involved and how he might have been transformed. Humans and dragons can both be rather good at self-deception. Unless and until he becomes a great deal more forthcoming about the circumstances involved in his transformation we may never know which is actually what happened to him.”

            Iain suddenly felt the weight of multiple gazes on the back of his head and sighed. “No. While that was an excellent ploy on Kerrik’s part to get me to confess all, it isn’t happening.”

            Ygerna raised a hand and Kerrik nodded towards her. “I have compared notes with others in our family,” she said, “and with Theodora, and Iain’s story has remained consistent the whole time he has been telling it. Does that shed any light on which condition he could have undergone?”

            Kerrik shook his head. “I’ve heard that story from a couple of different people, including Iain, and it’s very simple and short. That’s a good truth, but it’s also an excellent way to not really lie and all of us know that. However, to be honest, while I am very intrigued by the mystery, it doesn’t matter for the purposes of Iain learning more about how to control his ability to shape change.”

            “That is a shame,” Raven murmured.

            Kerrik grinned. “It is. I’d love to know what happened to him to turn him into a dragon species I can’t recognize.” Ganieda raised her hand. “Yes?”

            “Could it be that Iain has always been a dragon and underwent some kind of mental trauma before he met any of us so that he thought he’d been a human for most of his life?”

            “No.” It was Dominique. “And I’m not asking a question, Kerrik, so don’t zap me away or I won’t answer her question.”

            Kerrik chuckled. “Please, proceed.”

            “While I have not corroborated Iain’s story, there is a surefire way to do so.” She looked at Iain. “I have to explain this.”

            Iain sighed. “I am so fucked and not in a fun way.”

            She chuckled. “Maybe I can spank you this time.” She looked at Ganieda. “Iain has talked about having a pair of sisters. Unknown to the rest of you, he took me to a world he claims is the one where he came from.” She smiled at the gasps. “I have the coordinates thanks to him. That’s why he took me, so we’d have the coordinates when the time came to take the clan to his home.”

            “Did he,” Eve asked in an ominous tone. “Why are we just learning about this?”

            “Privacy issues,” Dominique said. “And Iain is still trying to figure out how he’s going to explain to them what’s been going on in his life, as well as, well, us. He’s kind of terrified of seeing his family again, not that I could ever guess why.”

            “He’ll wing it like he always does and it’ll work out smashingly,” Rosemary said in a poor imitation of Ganieda’s Irish accent and voice. There was a smattering of laughter and even Iain chuckled. The Snugglebunny Splice stuck out her tongue at Rosemary and blew a raspberry in her direction.

            “What that means,” Dominique said, “is that they can confirm or deny that he’s their brother unless you want to accuse him of also murdering the real Iain Grey and taking his place somewhere along the way.”

            “I am not sure that last statement actually helped our husband,” Kasumi said quietly. She looked at Kerrik. “However, I have been looking into this situation and, Grandfather, it turns out that Vanessa can read auras and she says that Iain’s aura the first time she met him was completely human. Due to an incident during their first meeting she read his aura to make sure he hadn’t become a pokegirl or picked up enough pokegirl DNA to undergo threshold. She read it again recently and confirmed that it has changed.”

            “Then we can say we have at least some corroboration that Iain was human once but I still can’t decide whether his transformation was complete or absolute,” Kerrik said. “And in either case I still have to teach him how to better control his shape changing.” He shrugged. “We’ll start with him learning how to become a wolf.” Ygerna frowned and raised her hand. Kerrik smiled. “No, I’m not going to teach him how to become a unicorn first. A wolf is traditionally taught first to my children when they learn my magic style and what he really needs to do is learn how to shape change to any form. Unicorns are rather magical creatures and can present a substantial challenge to a beginning shifter so we won’t start there.” Ygerna’s hand had stayed up and Kerrik frowned. “What? Didn’t I answer your question?”

            “You did but you gave me another one to ask. I’d like to point out that Iain isn’t one of your children. Are you planning to teach him your style of magic and, if so, are you going to teach him all of it?”

            Kerrik grinned suddenly. “Kozakura is my granddaughter and Kasumi is her mother and Iain is Kasumi’s husband, so arguably Iain is indirectly my son in law as Kozakura is his step daughter. More importantly, he is more than likely going to marry at least one more outlander to your clan, that being one of the women my wives are going to introduce to him. In addition, he’s already said it was all right for me to introduce him to my half-sister for the same possible purpose. At least one of my wives is teaching her children that her style of courtship is acceptable. Since that includes sending gifts of armed explosives and poison traps to their prospective spouses to test their survival skills, I think Iain needs to know more about my style of magic in order to be able to defend himself. I intend to teach it to him completely.”

            Eve blinked. “They do what?” She hastily held up her hand.

            “I met a woman who decided that she fancied me,” Kerrik said with a wide smile. “Her family wants to make sure that prospective grooms or brides can survive the adventures this family’s members often get into so they encourage their children to test a prospective spouse’s survival skills. Their reasoning is why marry someone only to become a widow or widower the first time things go a little odd unless that was your specific intent in the first place. The first thing she sent me was a bomb. I knew who it had come from since it smelled like her and, in a whim, defused it, rewired it so she couldn’t defuse it and broke into her house to leave it in her bedroom. She tried to defuse it, failed and after recovering from the ensuing explosion decided my returning of her gift the way I did meant I was being flirtatious and that we were courting. Long story short, she became my wife and continues passing that family tradition on to this day with our children. They in turn teach it to their kids.”

            Raven’s eyes were wide. “The bomb exploded?”

            “I am quite proficient at building explosives with more than adequate tamper proof countermeasures in them. Of course it exploded.”

            Lucifer was eyeing him curiously. “You attempted to kill a woman who was interested in you?”

            “If I’d wanted her dead, she’d be dead,” Kerrik said flatly. “I wanted her to know that I didn’t appreciate being sent a bomb.”

            “You married her?” This was from Rosemary.

            Kerrik’s ears flattened for a heartbeat. “This isn’t about me and I’m done talking about my past. Today I’m here to begin teaching Iain how to more easily shape change. You’re here at your insistence to observe these lessons. I can just tell you all to leave.”

            “Please leave them be,” Iain said quietly. “And I think you’ve covered the nomenclature in adequate detail. Can we start the practical portion please?”

            Kerrik nodded. “I have a couple of questions. You can easily go from full sized dragon and small dragon to human, correct?”

            “I can, whether I am clothed or not.”

            “So you‘ve been doing both. Good. Have you tried going from small dragon to large or vice versa?”

            Iain looked surprised. “I have not.”

            “Well, since you already have both forms down then I think that’s where we’re going to start.”

            Iain chuckled. “At least you’re not going to make me imagine the animal and then slowly pour myself into its form. I might forget the toenails and they’re surprisingly important.”

            Kerrik laughed. “I’ve read those novels too. It’s always amusing to see how non-magical people try to imagine how magic might work.” He shook his head. “I suppose you could do it that way but it’s a lot more work than necessary if you go that route.” He got up. “Come with me.”

            Iain rose. “All right.”

            Kerrik headed for a nearby open area. “We’re going to start with all or nothing shifts. I don’t want you to get experimental and try for hybrids or anything like that.”

            “I understand that could get problematic if I’m not proficient.”

            Kerrik nodded. “That’s exactly right. Having a technical background and being highly literate and well-read will help you, as will the fact that I don’t think you can get stuck in a form.” He shook his head. “Trying to teach an illiterate bush mage about shape changing into a creature he’s only seen once can be quite the adventure in not killing your student.”

            Behind them Ganieda looked at Rosemary. “I know exactly how he might feel sometimes.” There was a quiet pop and she vanished. A few seconds later she reappeared, her eyes wild. “That was a lot of fucking lava.”

            Kerrik looked back at her. “Do you want to go there again?”

            Her ears flattened. “No.”

            “Then pay attention without the snide comments. I won’t send you someplace where I think you’ll die, but I don’t see a reason not to send you someplace where you won’t have to think fast to avoid being seriously injured.”

            “Please don’t kill or seriously injure my women,” Iain said. “Ganieda, either shut up or leave. You lot invited yourself to this, remember?”

            “Sorry. I’ll shut up.”

            Kerrik chuckled. “So it’s all right if I kill or seriously injure Raven?”

            “I think she’d rather you didn’t,” Iain replied. “And if you do then Misery is going to agitate to become maharani.”

            The Archmage’s mouth opened and then snapped shut when Kerrik looked back at her. “I didn’t invite you either. You decided that if they were going to be observing then you would too.”

            “Being quiet is hard,” Raven grumbled.

            “Yes, it can be. But it is good practice for all of you to have to do this,” Kerrik noted amusedly. “You’re all too used to being the woman in charge and everyone listens for the crumbs of wisdom to drop from your lips.” Ygerna raised her hand and Kerrik smiled. “Yes?”

            “Who makes you be quiet?”

            Kerrik’s smile vanished. “Not even I can be in charge all of the time. If nothing else I can get all of the humbling I want by visiting Nightraven, among others. And then there are governments who think I have to dance to their tune. They’re wrong, but trust me, Nightraven can humble anyone.” He looked at Iain. “Right?”

            “My teacher, who I will not name, is a shining beacon of what I can become with diligent study.”

            Kerrik burst out laughing. “Did you actually say that to her?”

            “I did.”

            “How badly did she hurt you?”

            “I was in a lot of pain for a long period of time. And since stupidity caused that pain it was not a valid excuse to avoid my chores, studies or lessons.”

            “That is her,” Kerrik noted. “All right, here we are. Take your small dragon form.” Iain did so. “Now listen carefully and do not do anything until I specifically tell you to. I want you to go from this to your full sized form. Now there is a cheat that I have seen shape changers use and I want you to avoid it. That cheat would be for you to run through several transitional forms during the process each of which is slightly larger than the last until you reach the final form. I want you to go from this big to your full size in one step.”

            “If I use transitional stages, isn’t that technically a metamorphosis?”

            “Yes, technically it would be. It’s also vulnerable to disruption and uses a lot of energy you might have a real use for.”

            “Oh, remind me later,” Iain said. “I want to take you on a shadow walk. I stumbled across a world you’ve been looking for.”

            “You have,” Kerrik asked doubtfully.

            “Kasumi and I saw Vegeta and Nappa flying on an Earth.”

            Kerrik blinked and grinned. “That is excellent! I have been looking for those worlds and I definitely want to experience shadow walking. But first you get to work on this. Now shift.”


Iain Grey


Inner Harem

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


Outer Harem

Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)

Daphne - Whorizard

Lynn - Growlie

Chuck – Doggirl

Ryan – Unicorn

Winifred - Rack (German)

Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)

Silver - Pegaslut

Joyce – Milktit


Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)

Golden Cloud – equine unicorn


Queendom / Outer Harem

73 Elves

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

14 Wet Elves



Dead Harem

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






     Dorothy: Duelist

     Meara: Duelist

     Regan: Duelist


     Hannah: Huntress

     Rebecca: Huntress


     Lisa: Milktit

     Sherrie:  Milktit

     Harriet: Milktit


     Olivia: Megami-Sama

     Seraphina: Megami-Sama


     Caltha: Nightmare

     Kim:  Nightmare

     Xanthe: Nightmare

     Epona: Nightmare

     Philippa: Nightmare

     Nott: Nightmare

     Nyx: Nightmare