This work is fiction. The work has no relationship with any person existing at any time anywhere whether real or imaginary or copywritten. Everything in this work is mea culpa.
This work is the property of Kerrik Wolf (saethwyr@ (SPAM) hotmail.com). Please remove (SPAM) to contact me.
You should not read this work if you are under the age of legal consent wherever you reside. This work may or may not contain any and/or all of the following: death, cannibalism, dismemberment, violent acts, implied sex, explicit sex, violent sex, rape, blasphemy (depending on your religion), BDSM, torture, mimes, necrophilia and just about anything unwholesome that you could consider.
Feedback is encouraged. I enjoy hearing from people. Positive feedback will be appreciated, cherished and flaunted in front of people. Negative feedback will be appreciated, cherished and listened to, that I might continue to grow. Flames will give me a good laugh. Feedback may be delivered to: saethwyr@(SPAM)hotmail.com. Please remove (SPAM) to contact me.
Iain stepped out of the shuttle and looked up at the sky and then at the unicorn gnawing on a hunk of sugarcane on the edge of the sugarcane field closest to the landing pad. “It’s good to be home.” He tapped himself on the chest with a fist. “You can come out now.”
I will wait for your wife and the goblins to join us.
“Well, hell.” He looked at Dianthus. “Do you know how much the unicorns are impacting our harvests with their indiscriminate grazing?”
“I’m not in the court so I couldn’t say but they haven’t been here that long and I’m sure that Ninhursag is expanding the fields far faster than they can stuff their bellies.” She chuckled. “After all, she does seem intent to turn all of the land you own into production of one kind or another.”
Iain started to say something and stopped when Kerrik appeared a few meters away. “Good morning.”
Kerrik looked around curiously. “Good morning, Iain. What changed?”
Heather frowned. “What did you sense?”
Kerrik’s ears flicked. “My fucked up things detector pegged and this was ground zero.”
“You may have to change the sensitivity on that or just turn it off,” Iain said. “As for today, I’m being hagridden by the Danu of Three who is moving to this world and she’s bringing her dead’s bones with her so I can clone her a bunch of fey to repopulate the world with.”
My presence is not a torment, Danu said snippily.
“Your presence isn’t something I volunteered for either, is it? Hags don’t let their victims decide they want to be a steed before taking them out for a run.”
Kerrik shook his head slowly. “I am going to have to lower the sensitivity on that detector or raise the threshold for alarms. Why is she doing this?”
“She said that she doesn’t want to lose the last fey from her world, that being Ygerna and the children she’s carrying. I’m more concerned that she said she had to change something to climb aboard and she’s not sure what she did.”
Kerrik stared at Iain for a second. “Your spirit is unchanged. Anything else we can compensate for. I take it she thinks she can work with the Danu of this world.”
“Does she think she can work with me as well?”
Iain turned slowly at the new voice and was amused to see Kerrik mirror his movements. Nobody else seemed to hear it. “Lady Mielikki, I bid you a good morning.”
You are polite to her, Danu said. Why?
“For the record, Danu, Lady Mielikki has been polite and gracious in her dealings with me and the clan and she isn’t living inside my chest.”
Mielikki smiled at Iain. “Good morning, Iain Grey. This was not of your doing?”
“Not in the slightest, ma’am. We went to rescue Ygerna’s mother from death and Danu used the visit to move here and bring her dead. I did manage to recruit some fey goblins into the clan but that had nothing to do with her activities.”
“Fey goblins will draw the Danu of this world,” Mielikki noted.
“That is true, but they wanted to join the clan and I didn’t see a reason to refuse them. They will be helpful in the coming problems with the feral pokegirls.”
“Why are you hiding your presence from the rest of the clan,” Kerrik asked suddenly. “If Iain has accepted you then they will and it’s pretty rude by clan standards. I am Kerrik Wolf, by the way.”
“Kerrik Wolf, I am unsure if I have been accepted by Iain,” Mielikki said.
“He hasn’t asked me to see if I can kill you and he hasn’t asked me how to kill an almost powerless goddess so he can try to kill you. That suggests he’s accepted your presence.”
Mielikki nodded. “Your logic is precise but I do not trust suggestions. Iain, you once threated my existence to Golden Cloud. Have you accepted my presence on your land?”
“Golden Cloud and the herd worship you, Lady Mielikki,” Iain said quietly. “They would be lost without you and you haven’t tried to force anyone to become one of your worshippers. I’m not that fond of outlanders living on my property, but I want Golden Cloud and the herd to be happier more than I’m unhappy about your presence. For them, I accept your presence and the presence of the forest, which is not yours.”
“What if I wanted to join your clan?”
Iain froze for an instant. “Why would you want to do that?”
“I am not asking to at this time, but even gods can be lonely. I would like a twee, though and under clan law if I know what I am asking for and am not insane or under some undue influence you have to honor that request.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Kerrik said.
“She’s right,” Iain pointed out, “about the rules.”
“She is, but that rule isn’t absolute,” Kerrik replied.
“She made the request of me,” Iain said quietly. “I see no reason to deny her a twee if she’s requesting one. Maybe it’ll help her decide to join the clan.”
“Consorting with gods can be hazardous to one’s health,” Kerrik said.
“I am not interested in a sexual relationship with Iain,” Mielikki’s voice was firm. “I am not interested in a sexual relationship with anyone.” She looked at Iain. “Thank you for saying you will give me a twee and for accepting my presence here. I will stop hiding my existence from your people.”
“I appreciate that a great deal, ma’am” Iain tapped his chest. “Danu here said she could work with you too.”
“I am sure that she could,” Mielikki responded. “However, I have not decided if I wish to work with her.” She smiled slowly. “She is an outlander after all.”
Kerrik started chuckling. “Maybe she will become clan.” He looked at Iain. “Do you want me to stick around and play referee?”
“I’m expecting the other Danu to pop in as soon as this one leaves my chest so be alert for that but otherwise, no. I have to handle this kind of crap myself. Besides, the Danu of Three is supposed to give me what she knows about the Fomorian race and leave Ygerna, me and our kids alone in return for the cloning. When she does I’ll share. If she doesn’t you can help me see what we can do.”
“Unicorns are fey creatures too,” Kerrik pointed out. “Either Danu may want to claim them.”
“This herd of unicorns is mine,” Mielikki said with an amused smile. “Danu may not have them. And they are clan which means that I will beseech Iain’s aid in protecting them. If necessary, I would join the clan to gain that aid for them.”
“You may be right, Iain, and I may have to turn that detector off while I’m on this world,” Kerrik muttered. His ears flicked. “Don’t forget your training tomorrow.”
“I won’t. And I’m sure you’ll get told all about how I defeated a goblin king in single unarmed combat.”
Kerrik grinned. “How impressed I might be will depend on the goblin king and how powerful he was. Many of them were big fish in some rather tiny ponds. Goodbye, Iain, Lady Mielikki.” He vanished.
“How are you friends with Kerrik Wolf,” Mielikki asked.
“It’s a very long story, ma’am.”
“Then it will wait until another time when I can be prepared to hear it in its entirety.” She looked around. “I will leave and return in a short time and from then on your people will be able to see me. I would like my twee at that time.”
“I’ll have it waiting if I’m done with Danu by then, ma’am. If not, I will get it for you as soon as I can but it will be before you leave during that visit.”
Mielikki eyed him for a moment. “I am not fey, Iain. You do not have to use such precision when speaking with me.”
“You’re a goddess, ma’am. Caution is ever the watchword when a mortal deals with divinity and precision can help to prevent misunderstandings that an unscrupulous divine being can manipulate to his or her advantage and, more importantly, to our disadvantage.”
“Are you saying that I am an unscrupulous goddess, Iain?”
“I did not say that, ma’am.”
“You did not say that I wasn’t either.”
“No, ma’am, I did not express an opinion either way.”
Mielikki chuckled. “Golden Cloud warned me that you would guard your words against me. I will commend her on her accuracy.” She vanished.
Iain sighed. “Theodora, since Danu wants the goblins and Ygerna here before she’ll vacate Chez Iain would you please ask April to coordinate the expedited movement of the goblins and explain to Ygerna what’s going on?”
“I’m doing it now. I’m also telling them about the visit by Mielikki.”
“Thank you very much.”
Pandora frowned. “I didn’t see Kerrik leave. Why?”
“Mielikki was here and she blotted time out from everyone except me and Kerrik. She says she’ll be back in a little bit and she won’t do that again for clan.”
Pandora blinked. “Theodora just uploaded her video of the event. She’s becoming clan?”
“She’s thinking about it,” Iain replied. “And I think we need to print t-shirts welcoming her just in case.”
“This is another one of those events that the clan could only escape if you left us and drew them with you isn’t it,” Dianthus asked.
“Yes, it is.”
“Then we will endure it like the others.”
Golden Cloud galloped up and almost skidded to a halt in front of Iain. “I sensed the presence of my goddess,” she looked around eagerly and then at Iain. “Where is she?”
“She’s already gone but she said she would be back in a little while.”
Golden Cloud nodded her head and then her went still as her ears flattened. “What is that in your chest?”
“That would be the goddess Danu.”
Her ears flicked. “I am learning your tones and I believe yours indicates that you are not happy about your situation. Am I correct?”
“You are correct. This is the Danu of Three, the world Ygerna and her mother come from. She decided to move here and I was a handy vehicle for that move.”
Her ears flicked again. “I would expect your voice to have more sarcasm in it than it does.”
“She can hear us talking and she’s in a bit of a bad mood because in her opinion I’m not properly appreciative of being chosen to help her move.”
“And as she is wrapped tightly around your heart,” Golden Cloud said thoughtfully, “you are trying not to provoke her ire.”
This unicorn breed is unfamiliar to me, Danu said curiously. I would know more about them.
“Danu, this is Golden Cloud, the herd mare of the unicorn herd that Mielikki just warned you away from.”
She and I will reach an accommodation.
“What Mielikki and you do is between the two of you. Until then, I’d strongly advise you not try to poach any of the herd.”
“Goddess Danu,” Golden Cloud said formally, “I serve my goddess faithfully and so does my herd. With all due respect, you are not our goddess and you will not be our goddess.”
She can hear me?
“I can hear you quite well, Goddess Danu.” Golden Cloud looked at Iain. “I see that my presence here is disruptive and I will leave so as not to cause trouble for you, stallion.” She laughed the wind driven bells again. “You will groom me for my help.”
“I’d be glad to.”
“And there will be treats.”
“There will be many treats, including the good to eat meat which is not a treat.”
“Soon.” Golden Cloud whirled and raced off.
“She sounds like she’s harem already,” Dianthus said with a grin. Pandora just scowled.
“She has always made demands like a princess or the queen that she is,” Iain muttered. He perked up when goblins began filing out of the shuttle. “Finally. Everyone, please assemble over there.”
One of the goblins looked at him. “Clan leader, your magic is very powerful. I don’t think even the Sidhe could make so much iron to use as you do.”
“Thank you, we try. However, you have a lot to learn about this new world and one of the things you will find out is that we know the secrets to working iron and steel.”
“What is steel,” another asked.
Iain decided to focus on what goblins would probably think is important. “Steel is iron that has been imbued with a small amount of carbon while it is being produced. It hardens the iron and when used in a weapon it allows for it to take a much sharper edge that lasts much longer before needing to be sharpened again. It is also much easier to craft and work than bronze is. For us, steel is pretty common and you’ll find that eventually even your spearheads will be made of it. The way you value it, the clan is very rich in metals. The way we value it, some of the metals you find to be very valuable are very common and thus not that valuable at all.”
More goblins were assembling and one of them rubbed his stomach in a gesture Iain was very familiar with since he still sometimes unconsciously did it on his chest where April had almost killed him. “Do the arrows you use have steel arrowheads?”
“No, those are magical in nature.”
Arianrhod came out of the shuttle and glared at her goblins. “Clan leader, are they bothering you?”
“No, they’re not. If they have questions that I can answer and I have the time to answer them I will. Unfortunately, these times are going to be pretty rare and will probably only get rarer in the future.”
“You are too kind to them, clan leader.”
Iain shrugged. “As long as we all understand that my sometimes being kind isn’t any sort of a sign of weakness that can be taken advantage of, I think it won’t become a problem.” He looked over the group as the last stragglers joined them. “Understand that the position of clan leader isn’t open for reassignment. While a child of goblin blood could and might one day lead the clan, if any of you tries to kill me and take my position it doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail. If you fail, I or my guards will kill you and you will not be clan leader. If you succeed, someone will still kill you and you will not be clan leader. If I die or step down one of the inner harem or one of my children will become the new clan leader. If one of you wants to leave and form your own tribe or clan I can probably be persuaded to release you from your vows, but if one of you dreams of being clan leader over my dead body you might as well just kill yourself and get it over with. It’ll be cleaner and faster than what I or one of my family will do to you.”
“Threatening them already,” Lucifer asked as she joined his group.
“No, trying to curb goblin ambition until their twee can come online and explain to them what Theodora is and what she’d do to them if they did anything stupid. I’m just using words they understand as fey goblins.”
Arianrhod looked at her goblins. “If anyone tries to kill our clan leader they will be foresworn from the vows that they made to me and I will see them dead for it.”
Ygerna came out of the shuttle and goblins tensed as she moved past them to stand with Iain. “I am not sure that this idea of yours has merit but I have seen Sidhe courts that had goblin auxiliaries and they can be formidable indeed.”
“Arianrhod, come forward and meet my wife, Ygerna.”
Her face carefully neutral, Arianrhod stepped forward as the goblins muttered to each other. Ygerna strode to meet her halfway. She spoke loudly enough that the entire goblin host could hear her words. “I am Ygerna and I am the one that you call the murderess. In truth, I did hunt and kill you where I could find you and that at the direction of my king and queen, just as you hunted the Sidhe at the direction of your king,” she nodded to Ariainrhod, “and possibly your queen. As has been hinted to you, we have traveled a long way in time from the day you joined the clan to get to today and you did not have to live every day of all of those years to arrive in the present. I did. What you cannot know is that thousands of years have passed and except for us all of the fey of our world are extinct, murdered by a jealous human who spared only my life so that he could try and take me as his slave. That jealous human became the one thing the goblins fear, undead,” the goblin murmurs grew louder for a second, “and that he has since been destroyed. I have not seen a goblin or any other fey for centuries without count and during that time, under the direction of Danu, I became the high queen of the fey to do her will with my human servants until only a few years ago.”
She looked over the goblins. “Now we are here, on a world where none of us was born and our goddess has travelled with us inside our clan leader. Also, we are all now clan, but I do not command you as you do not command me. We all bow knee to Iain, the Grey.” Her voice dropped to a conversational level and she nodded to Arianrhod. “I greet you as the queen of the goblins and I, as queen of the Sidhe, will not try to control the goblins either directly or through proxy, including my husband unless by his direction I am given command of some of them for some reason of his.”
“You are the only Sidhe,” Arianrhod asked quietly.
“I was on the world we lived on. That is not this world and there are a few others with Sidhe blood but I am the only one who is clan. My mother is here too, rescued on the day that you joined the clan and I hope she will also become clan.”
Arianrhod sniffed the air and her face paled. “You are with child.”
“I am, for the first time since long before the fey were exterminated. One day you and the other goblins will also have children.”
“I do not like you,” Arianrhod said. “And my people will not like you either.”
“And I return your dislike to you undiminished,” Ygerna said with an amused smile. “I would have left you and all of the rest of the Black Rock tribe dead in the dirt for what Lefan did and intended to do to my mother. Iain was the one who inducted you into the clan as is his right and I would have protested loudly if I had known his plan. But like you and your clanmates or not and whether or not you and the other goblins love me or hate me, clan you now are and I will not contest your presence nor attempt to harm you and indeed will stand with you against all outsiders with the entirety of my not inconsiderable abilities.”
Arianrhod regarded her with an unfriendly glare. “I find this hard to believe.”
“And yet the truth it remains. Let Danu herself punish me if I lie to you in this.”
“Are you two done with the cutesy greetings,” Iain asked acidly. “Because it had better not devolve into threats from either side or I just might make you two kiss and make up.”
Arianrhod dropped her voice to a whisper. “He can hear us from that far away?”
“Yes, I can.”
“And he would make us kiss,” Ygerna said very quietly. She raised her voice to normal. “We have offered each other no insult or threat, Iain. We are being honest with each other about the way we feel.”
“Which in the manner of fey could easily devolve into pointed and subtle threats that at least one of you might think this uncultured and barbarian human might not understand.” They both turned to watch him as he watched them. “I don’t want that to happen. Yes, Ygerna did things you and the other goblins don’t like. Yes, you and the other goblins did things that Ygerna doesn’t like. I don’t expect anyone to get over their feelings instantly but if it erupts into violence I will be very firm with whoever is the instigator. As for your bad feelings for each other, we’ll work through those together and one day each of you will be able to trust your life to the other.” He smiled when Arianrhod looked unconvinced. “In a century I will bring this conversation up again and ask both of you if anything has changed from today. Theodora, please remind me within a week of this date a hundred years from now if I don’t remember on my own.”
She appeared, making Arianrhod jump in surprise. “I will, Iain.”
“What manner of spirit is this,” Arianrhod asked, her hand on her axe.
“I am not a spirit,” Theodora said. “My name is Theodora Grey and, as you do not yet understand technology, you may use the concept that I am a magical construct that serves Iain first and then the clan. I will be available for you and the rest of the new clan members as well. I can act as a messenger and I will do many other things, including helping Siobhan with your medical induction examinations.”
“I do not need a healer,” Arianrhod said.
“Iain, if you would use the scanner on her,” Theodora asked him.
Iain pulled his phone from his belt. “Arianrhod, please hold out your arms. This will not harm you in any way.” He held up the phone. “I am going to hold this a short distance from your arms and move it along them one at a time without touching.”
She frowned but held out her arms. “I will obey you, clan leader.”
Iain ran the phone along each arm in turn. Theodora frowned as it passed over the right elbow. “Stop.” He did so. “Your elbow was shattered and healed badly. It must hurt all of the time. It’s a wonder it moves normally. The break pattern suggests a blunt object broke the bones.”
Arianrhod’s eyes had widened. “What magic is this?”
“The device Iain is holding lets me see through your flesh and look at everything inside you. You also have a piece of arrowhead in the same arm, between the wrist and elbow. During your medical induction exam the piece of arrowhead will be removed and your elbow will be repaired back to normal, ending the constant pain you feel from it. Identifying old injuries that can be repaired is why every goblin will have an examination. Almost all of them will have these kinds of injuries and we will repair them so as to return that goblin to full functionality. Any missing teeth or pieces of tissue can also be regrown at that time and will.”
“They tell the truth,” Arianrhod’s eyes locked with Ygerna’s as the Sidhe spoke. “The biggest problem that some of the goblins will have is learning not to limp from a badly healed wound when it is no longer there and things like that.”
Arianrhod looked at Iain. “Why?” She blinked and flushed. “Clan leader, I meant no disrespect.”
“I didn’t hear you give me any,” he replied. “I will heal you because you are clan and because we do everything that we can for our clanswomen. I want my clan at the peak of its abilities and having crippled clanswomen will not do that. That sounds great and all but only in time will you come to understand exactly what that means and how much it will change your life.” He frowned and looked down. “We’re all here but you haven’t come out yet.”
Your attitude is beginning to annoy me, Danu said to him, but I will not punish you for it just yet. I am your goddess and I expect to be treated with at least the respect you give other goddesses. However, it is time and I shall leave you.
“You are not my goddess,” Iain began only to break off with a grunt as threads of red hot pain erupted in his chest. It spread through his body and filled him like an empty cup overflowing with water. He dropped to his knees, wrapping his arms around his chest as the pain continued to grow.
Pandora put a hand on his shoulder as Ygerna and Arianrhod watched. “Iain?”
“I think she’s trying to leave,” Iain got out through clenched teeth, “but it feels like she’s taking every cell I have with her one at a time.” He suddenly vomited a silver liquid that flowed away from him and rose into the form of Danu. “Mother fucker,” he groaned.
Danu looked at him with a hint of concern in her eyes. “I did not intend to cause you pain during my exit, Iain Grey.”
Iain forced himself to his feet and swayed for a second before Pandora steadied him. “I don’t hear an apology in that,” he whispered around the slowly fading pain. He bent over coughing.
Arianrhod gasped as Danu nodded. “You do not.”
Ygerna knelt, quickly followed by Arianrhod and the rest of the goblins. “My goddess, why have you done this to my husband?”
“It was necessary, child. He was not harmed.”
Iain coughed up a huge glob of bright red blood. Iain, Pandora asked him over their bond. Healing magic from her poured into his body.
I won’t die, he replied as he produced more chunks of blood and lighter pink colored pieces of tissue. I just have to remember she’s like a legendary pokegirl who isn’t Vanessa. We tolerate her presence and hope she goes away soon.
Call Kerrik, Iain.
There is no guarantee he would help, Pandora. Even if he would, I don’t learn anything from his help except how to not deal with things like this on my own. He forced himself upright and added his own magic to Pandora’s. But she’s out and no Danu will ever touch me again. Now we wait for the other one to show up.
And if they try to take Ygerna or the goblins?
Then I’d be willing to yell for help from anyone I thought could aid us. If nothing else, Magdalene still owes me that favor.
I can’t try to kill her without killing you and the other clan members, Theodora told him. Nothing that might harm her is precise enough to only hit her.
I know. We wait. Search the Wolf database for possible weaknesses.
Danu looked at him. “Will you accept my presence here as you have the presence of Mielikki?”
Iain tried to speak and could only croak a harsh wordless noise. He took a deep breath and shook his head firmly in negation.
“What is the meaning of this.” Another woman had appeared. This one looked like a much younger version of Danu, appearing to be somewhere in her middle to late teens. She smiled at Iain. “Iain Grey. Ygerna has spoken to me of you and how you eliminated Eoghan and Germanicus. You have my gratitude for that.”
Iain’s voice was hoarse. “Greetings, Lady Danu. I hope Queen Ygerna is well.”
“She is and has rooted the corruption out of the Order.” She looked at the older Danu. “Although human, Iain has been of great service and I would appreciate it if you did not turn him against us.”
“He is a dragon,” the older Danu said. “He is fey and ours to command.”
The younger Danu looked at Iain and surprise flicked across her face. “How?”
“Another did this to me, but I am not a fey dragon, Lady Danu, and I am no one’s to command.”
The younger Danu walked over to him and peered into his eyes. “You speak the truth. While in the strictest sense you are fey, you are not one of the creatures I breathed life into. Who did this to you? This one could not have done this any more than I could have.”
Iain’s voice was getting stronger. “I cannot say, Lady Danu.”
The younger Danu smiled shrewdly. “You know who did this to you.”
“I do, Lady Danu. But to say the name would be to invite disaster upon us all. It is done and I must adapt.”
She nodded. “Keep that secret, Iain. However, I insist that you tell me why goblins walk the earth as I know they were all exterminated long ago by Eoghan and Germanicus.”
“My wife asked me to rescue her mother from being killed, Lady Danu. In the doing so I recruited a band of goblins from the Black Rock tribe into joining the Grey Clan. I also had to bring this other Danu from that world to this one.”
“So you did not bring these goblins as a gift to me?”
“I did not, Lady Danu. I cannot give away something that was never mine. They are clan. However, this Danu carries the bones of her dead fey children within her and I have agreed to clone them in return for her release of Ygerna and our children and her information on the Fomorians.”
Her eyebrows rose. “I did not know that you could do this.”
“I only recently learned that cloning such supernatural beings was possible, and I have not shared that information with Queen Ygerna.”
“In return for a similar agreement between you and me, to recreate my fey from the bones of the dead, I will protect the Sullivan family from Ygerna and anyone else. I too will tell you what I know about the Fomorians.”
“I would ask that you extend that protection to the relatives of the Sullivan family who also carry a great deal of Sidhe blood, Lady Danu. They too are at risk from your queen and,” he glanced at the older Danu, “others.”
The younger Danu chuckled. “You drive a hard bargain, Iain. In return for children of my dead I will do as you request and as I have offered.” She looked at the older Danu. “He does not like you very much. Why did you force him to bring you here? Bargaining with him would have been much more productive. As many have learned, he does not respond well to force and yet he has been very helpful to me in many things.”
“Time was short and he is one of ours to command.”
“He is not a dragon such as we have or might have created. I have watched him for many years and I hope that your actions will not come back to haunt us. A human once exterminated all of the fey and Iain knows all that Eoghan and Germanicus knew as well as a great deal more.” She turned back to Iain. “I request that you not seek to kill her.”
Iain smiled widely. “I think I could bargain a great boon from that request, Lady Danu, but she is my wife’s goddess and the goddess of the newest members of my clan. At most I would only do my best to ensure that she could never touch me or mine again.”
“Why do you treat her with respect but not me,” the older Danu asked.
“Lady Danu has not done to me what you did,” Iain said. “And I have not been rude to you. I just feel that I’ve earned a small level of familiarity because of it.”
“You have not.”
The younger Danu looked from one to the other and back to Iain. “What did she do that you feel allows you to be familiar with her?”
“Lady Danu, she kissed me against my will and without warning and used that kiss as a conduit to climb inside me and use me as a vehicle to come here without asking me. In addition, she has admitted that she had to change me somehow in order to successfully hide inside me but doesn’t know what she actually did.”
The younger appearing Danu looked at the older one. “We will speak of what you may have done to us later.” She turned to Iain. “May I approach you and try to determine what she did to you?”
“Lady Danu, without intending any insult, I believe I will decline your offer.”
“Please allow me to do this. I may be able to find and remove what has been done.”
“Thank you for the offer, Lady Danu, but my answer remains the same. Again, without intending insult, I believe I will not allow anyone with a countenance anything like hers near me for a very long time.”
“I am saddened by your refusal, but I understand the reasoning behind it and, unfortunately, your logic is unassailable. The new Danu could easily look like I do.” She looked at the older Danu. “We have much to discuss. Come with me.” She vanished, followed quickly by her counterpart.
Ygerna stood and moved towards Iain at a quick walk. “Iain, are you all right?”
Iain managed not to scream in frustration. “I can’t answer that question, Ygerna. I won’t know my true status until I figure out what your goddess did to me. For all I know I might just spontaneously combust.”
“The goddess would not deliberately harm you,” Arianrhod said as she moved towards them.
“You can’t say that. Gods do what they want to whom they want whenever they want. You should know better than that. Danu decided that you had forsaken her worship in some fashion and condemned you to extinction by forbidding you from having children. Without children, the numbers of the goblins, of any fey, will only decrease until there are no more goblins or whatever race we’re discussing. What she should have done is appear to a priest of hers who happens to be a goblin or a Sidhe or whatever and use small words to point out that she was unhappy about things the goblins or Sidhe or whatever were either doing or no longer doing. If the priest proved reluctant, what she’d do to that person would convince the next priest she spoke to that perhaps she should do what her goddess wants and quickly.”
“What did we do to anger her?”
“I don’t know. We’ll find out later if we need to. In the meantime, I cheat, which should be to your benefit. First, though, you need your first medical evaluations.”
“You are worried that you might die and yet you are concerned for us?”
“My dying is inevitable. I will die someday. I do hope that day is far in the future, but it will come. In the meantime, life goes on and the lives of my newest clansmen will be improved if they get treated in medical.” Sofia appeared near him. “I believe you’ve already met Sofia.”
“I have.” Ariainrhod sounded impressed. “She commands the thunder.”
“I command lightning,” Sofia said with an amused cant to her ears. “Thunder follows lighting so closely that they seem intertwined. I will function as your liaison today and I’m supposed to get you and our new clan members to medical for your checkups. You will find that we have plenty of food and such and it is available for all whenever they are hungry, with the proviso that clansmen are not to be impaired except during the formal mealtimes. That means no drinking to excess and no drugs. Other than that, there will be food in medical if anyone is hungry. Now, for the time being it’s probably best if I tell you what to tell the rest of the goblins until they learn the new chains of authority. You will remain their queen, but you won’t always command them as a group. We all have things to do, including training, fighting and chores and people will be detailed as the maharani decides. And no hunting the unicorns because they’re clan too.”
“I will follow your direction since I see that you have Iain’s support,” Arianrhod said calmly. “And we all want to learn the rules of our new clan.” She frowned. “Why do you sound different than the others?”
Sofia glance at Iain. “When are they going to learn English,” she asked in Spanish.
“They get twees during the exams and then they’ll get to use teachers for the first time to learn that among some other things.”
“Good.” She looked at Arianrhod. “I come from a different part of the world than most of the others here and the first language one learns to speak often gives one an accent when they speak other languages. My first language is one that most people here didn’t learn until I joined the clan.” She smiled. “Wait until you start hearing Texans and all of their accents. Now, gather the goblins so we can get to medical.” She led Arianrhod off towards the rest of the goblins.
Iain grunted when the gravity increased and listened as the sapphires in the pit where he exercised as a dragon grated against each other as they adjusted. He was standing on a rubber mat which had become part of the exercise room after he tried working out on the pile of stones in his human form in higher gravity and realized he was sinking into them as he moved.
Finally things stopped moving and Theodora appeared. “The gravity is now stable at your current workout level for your human form.”
“Thanks.” Slowly he began working through the katas of Kerrik’s school. Several minutes passed before he took a short break. “How is the design work on your puppet going?”
She smiled. “The first pass is turning out almost exactly like I’d hoped. I’ll keep doing design passes until I have exactly what I want and then I’ll start prototyping. Thank you for letting me incorporate your race’s dragon DNA into my production matrix.”
“I look forward to meeting the new you. Will it look exactly like your hologram?”
“I think it will. If not,” she shrugged. “One step at a time and controlling the expression of individual genes isn’t a completely exact science even for the Tirsuli.” She waited a few minutes as he worked through another series of movements. “Speaking of DNA and gene expressions I finished the workup of a cross between you and Golden Cloud.”
“What did you discover?” Iain began working through the katas again.
“Considering the natures of Golden Cloud and your dragon genetics it is hardly surprising that the offspring of such a union has the potential to be incredibly powerful. The physical appearance is highly variable and the child may be a natural shape changer. It will also be very intelligent, close to if not equal to the intelligence profile of the pure dragon breed you became.”
“Well, that means I can tell the other stallions that my foal is smarter than their foal and mine can beat theirs up. Yay.”
“It is also likely to make you a more desirable breeding partner for the herd.”
“I really don’t care.”
“That’s good to hear. For the herd, the inclusion of your offspring’s DNA if it is a filly will begin a slow but general improvement to their overall DNA profile. If it is a colt and he becomes the primary breeding stallion during his life, it will mean an immediate jump in overall offspring intelligence, lifespan and physical prowess, especially for the colts he sires but he will substantially improve all of the offspring of the mares who are the product of breeding with the inferior stallions.”
“They’re unicorns. Is inferior really the right word to use for them?”
“In this context, yes. If you’d prefer, I could use outsider to differentiate between the original DNA sequenced stallions and the introduced DNA.”
Iain frowned. “Outsider doesn’t sound like we consider the introduced bloodlines to make the herd deficient.”
“Golden Cloud does,” Theodora pointed out. “She’s not shy about articulating it that way either.”
“What does she know about the introduced bloodlines?”
“Nothing yet, but she’s more than vocal about the deficiencies she sees in the stallions.”
“True, and I guess it’s her right to be critical of them. We’re neutral, however, and so it isn’t our right to do so.”
Theodora put her hands on her hips. “Iain, you will be having a child from a member of that herd. That child will become a part of that herd and it and the herd are clan. Your child will breed with members of the herd and give you grandchildren. We are not the slightest bit neutral in regard to the improvement of the herd’s lifespan or intelligence any more than we are neutral in regard to the quality of the children the harem has blessed us with or Michael Chambers, who you didn’t even have the pleasure of siring off of Camille.”
“Wow, I know my mother is dead but I swear I can hear her lecturing me and,” he groaned loudly as Theodora giggled, “as usual she’s right. However, the nomenclature we use doesn’t have to be insulting. Remember, the children of the outsider bloodlines are still herd and still clan. Nobody in the clan is inferior, especially to outlanders.” A thoughtful look crossed his face. “You found the answer. We will formally call them the original and the introduced bloodlines. My contribution to the herd will be a new introduced bloodline since it isn’t the same as the original bloodline which will help to reduce the stigma of having introduced blood. In scientific nomenclature and in private we’ll refer to them as first introduction and second introduction or something like that.”
“Golden Cloud will want to weed out the unicorns with the most DNA from the initial introduction,” Theodora said. “What do we tell her?”
“Honestly, I don’t think they’re a detriment to the herd since it’s still unicorn blood, but we’ll explain that my DNA will help to do exactly that. I don’t think she’ll want to purge the unicorns with introduced DNA. Over time the herd will get stronger.”
“If you produce a colt that young colt currently in the herd is unlikely to sire offspring.”
“True and that’s a mare’s prerogative. If we have a filly and she produces a colt he will likely supplant whatever stallion they have at that time too.” Iain shrugged. “That’s not my problem. Everyone has the choice of who they have kids with and it only takes one person involved to say no and it doesn’t happen.”
“I take it you’ll be saying no to the other mares?”
“You take it correctly. The fact that we will be introducing the clones of stallions and mares of the original bloodline will make that colt’s chances of siring foals pretty much zero anyway and will give my child of the herd a fighting chance to do what he or she wants.” Iain finished the current set of moves. “What’s on the agenda for today?”
“You have forty seven minutes of this training period remaining. Ganieda and Dominique will be training you next and they are scheduled for three hours. After lunch you have an hour with Lucifer at the Prometheus headquarters to discuss a proposal from the Nipponese government for military and civilian equipment as well as raw materials such as rare earths. It’s political and so she wants your input.”
“I thought Shikarou and Kerrik were providing them with everything they wanted.”
“They are, but both of them are only taking gold in payment. I cannot confirm or deny but I suspect that they may be having a problem getting to their gold, we supply a lot more bulk to the customers of Prometheus than either Kerrik or Shikarou do, it doesn’t hurt to have more than one supplier in case of difficulties and we can be paid in land. There was a lot of confusion during the Revenge War and its aftermath and I have solid evidence that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was robbed of an unrevealed amount of gold during the height of the Red Plague. Rumors swirl of other reserves being hit around the same time and some of the groups may have been pokegirls, which at the time were solidly under the control of James Scott.”
Iain eyed her curiously. “What’s solid evidence?”
“Kerrik’s station has been in place for centuries and had a constellation of stealthy satellites in orbit around the Earth the entire time. There’s video of the New York Reserve robbery from them since it happened around noon on a clear and sunny day in late spring.” She smiled. “Additionally, Indigo League internal records, including video inside the bank are clear that they were robbed although officially they deny the event ever took place. They deny it since other Leagues own most of the gold that’s stored in there from the countries that they supplanted. They’re using the existence of that gold and their possession of it to negotiate credit terms with other leagues.”
“Don’t you mean to use the word extort instead of negotiate?”
She smiled. “That is closer to the truth, but it is a repressive government. Almost everything they do involves some form of coercion or another. Besides, with other leagues that they cannot project force against they often do actually negotiate since they have no leverage.”
Iain snorted. “They have the same problem that all of the leagues do. They established their rule in revolt, betrayal and usually a lot of bloodshed. That means they’ve legitimized all those tactics as political tools available for everyone to use, even against them. That’s what created Rush and a lot of the other so-called rebels. Many of them are more like him than anything approaching actually being a group that wants to restore the government that they remember.”
She nodded. “Israel managed to stay functional because they’ve always been at war with the people around them and they successfully resisted the encroachment of the leagues. What about Nippon?”
“Nippon used the confusion to return to direct rule of the Emperor,” Iain said. “I’m sure the Kokkai would rather be in control, but they needed a figurehead and the Emperor’s miraculous return from America in Nippon’s greatest moment of need cemented his power base and he was canny enough to make his figurehead status into actual rulership. With Morai’s presence, her abilities have kept him safe long enough for the people of Nippon to decide he’s good for Nippon and so he’s got the job and the Kokkai’s busy trying to support him publicly and steal power back for themselves privately.”
“What do you think his chances are,” Theodora asked curiously.
“He’s got the backing of the military and the adoration of the civilians. Most importantly he has a Celestial Huntress with telepathic powers and the ability to see the future protecting him. She’s not infallible, but she’s pretty damned close to it and she believes she has good on her side when she acts, which means that she will not hesitate and she will not show mercy to her Emperor’s enemies. He has an excellent chance of making the changes stick until his heir takes over.”
Theodora cocked her head. “There’s another potential reason they want to talk to Lucifer.”
“What if they’ve found out about twee? Shikarou would have refused to give them any and Kerrik sounded the same way about Mielikki getting one. We, on the other hand, have been following clan law in giving them to new clan members and we’ve been giving them to close friends.”
“Not even close friends what with Lucifer giving them to Belldandy’s group.”
“They are her friends and they want to be our friends, Iain. And you do like the sisters. Just remember not to ascribe to them attributes shown by the Celestials that you don’t like when they have not demonstrated them in the slightest,” Theodora admonished him quietly.
Iain rubbed his eyes. “I guess that’s true. I trust Lucifer’s judgment or else she wouldn’t be running Prometheus and she says they’re good people.”
“If you didn’t trust Lucifer’s judgment,” Theodora vanished and appeared next to him in mid-word, “no matter how darling Seraphina and Olivia are, Lucifer would not be here, much less in the inner harem and part of your command staff.”
“Maybe it’s my judgment people should question,” Iain muttered. “I’m the one who adopted a bunch of goblins and somehow talked my way into breeding a unicorn.”
“Iain, almost everything that you have done since I have known you has been for the betterment of either the clan or individuals within the clan. I have reviewed your decisions and so have others and if we ever questioned those we make our concerns clear as soon as possible, do we not?”
He grinned. “True.”
“Seldom if ever is the person that your decisions benefit named Iain Grey. Is that not true as well?” He shrugged and her voice sharpened. “Answer me!”
“I usually get some kind of ancillary benefit from those decisions, so I can’t really agree with that question.”
“I take it you wanted two mothers in law who will probably tell you what each wants you to do as far as her daughter is concerned when she’s let out of medical?”
“I take it you wanted to be a host to a goddess who you don’t worship so she could come to where she could watch the people who do worship her?”
“You know the answer to that.”
“But you won’t admit it to yourself or to me that you don’t get any real benefit from these actions except indirectly because Ygerna and Kasumi will be happier. Do you really care what happens to Belldandy, Urd and Skuld? We can deal with the Alliance whether or not they’re dead.”
“In the beginning, not really, but they have become my friends.”
“I could continue this line of questioning back for many years, Iain, and you are squirming uncomfortably because you know I’m right. When is the last time you made a decision purely for selfish reasons?”
“I keep fighting everyone on my guards.”
“First of all, the amount of security you have to put up with from them is excessive. Secondly, you need solitude to center yourself and focus. You fight your guards because you’re worried that your magic will run amok and kill some of them. The truth is that I need to talk to the command staff. They are the ones who should be insisting that you take some private time.”
Iain frowned. “Huh?”
“You internalize your stress, Iain. Every time you were most upset with the members of your family, you internalized it. The person you have harmed the most and almost exclusively except for a tiny burn on Eve’s nose, is you. You have almost killed yourself on more than one occasion and they should be terrified of what’s going to happen since you’ve managed to suppress the initial evidentiary effects of that internalization. I sincerely doubt you’ve actually managed to completely negate the stresses and that, unseen by us, they’re accumulating inside you. I’d be worried that one day you’d simply disintegrate.” She cocked her head to stare into his eyes. “Oh, that’s right. I am.”
“Yeah, that just removes all of my stress,” Iain muttered. He dropped to the ground, wincing when something in his right knee popped loudly in the gravity field. “Fuck you,” he told it. “Heal or fall the fuck off.” He looked at Theodora. “And what the fuck do I do?”
“I hate to say this but you need to be selfish. You need some personal time, and it should be alone.” She sighed. “I shouldn’t even be there and I almost went nuts when I couldn’t contact you under that shield in Glasgow. You need to be alone and I can’t stand not to be with you.”
“What if we compromise since I can’t afford to have you go insane?”
“What kind of compromise?”
“You shut the fuck up for the entire time I’m supposed to be alone. No comments, no emails, no materializations, no unsolicited praise, no bringing me things before I ask for them, nothing. Then you can stay with me but I won’t notice it.”
“But I have,” she broke off and shook her head ruefully, “never successfully done that before in any situation where I was your only security.”
“Exactly. I take it you don’t like it when I go shadow walking?”
“Iain, I loathe it when you do that since I can’t go with you. Why do you think I demand your memories when you return? Then I can replay them and know what you were doing.” She smiled at his startled look. “You are the reason I exist, Iain. Magdalene had me birthed for you. Yes, she has a lot of AI’s birthed and I just got to be the luckiest one she’s ever given out, but I was given to you and you breathed life into me and you let me be a real person while doing so.”
“I told you who to pattern yourself after,” Iain pointed out.
“Yes, you told me to pattern myself after a historical person who is so poorly known that the only image of her is a badly preserved frieze and most of the knowledge of her comes from Procopius who wrote contradictory things about her and nobody is really sure why.” Her smile became an impish grin. “Until recently, that is.”
The grin faded. “I used a drone to deliver the DNA samplers that I used to sample her and everyone else that I could get to in those few days in Constantinople. It was there for over a week so the samplers and sensors could positively identify Theodora. Do you remember that?”
“Yes, I do,” he said cautiously.
“You never saw the drone. Nobody saw the drone. It carried more than just DNA samplers. At my request, you picked a time when some people we both admired were supposed to be in Constantinople. I copied the memories and DNA of Theodora, Justinian, Belisarius, Antonina and Procopius, among others and I have them in toto.” Her smile reappeared and instantly turned evil. “She was never the slut that Procopius made her out to be in the Secret History, but he wrote that travesty to protect himself from a new Emperor. However, he’s always hated her for being a Monophysite and he didn’t think she liked him very much. She didn’t but didn’t see any reason to give him trouble. But she was not a nice person. If she had known what he was going to write she would have knocked him out, tied him outstretched and roasted him to death bit by bit with a single candle so it took longer.”
“I should castigate you for stealing the memories of historical figures who are long dead, much less swiping their DNA,” Iain said. “And I should probably make you delete them.”
“Since you said ‘should’ what are you going to do instead?”
“I’m going to ask for copies without the personalities in them. And then, one of these days, I may correct some history books.” He flexed his right leg and slid to his feet. “Back to practice.”
Fields of light flickered all around Iain, flowing, shifting and changing shape and color from second to second as he stood motionless. He heard a soft grunt and the lights faded into darkness for an instant before an overhead light came on. Kerrik pointed to a chair. “Sit.” Iain hastened to comply. “Now I want you to focus as hard as you can and then cast the light spell that Kasumi and Ganieda taught you.” He nodded towards where the two women in question sat impatiently along with Dominique, Rosemary, Ninhursag and Ygerna. “Do not improvise. Do exactly as you were taught and do it successfully.”
Iain didn’t glance at them as he focused his will and then cast the light spell he’d learned from Ganieda. He finished the spell and the light ball popped into existence in front of him.
Kerrik eyed it for a second. “Now use the dismissal and get rid of it.” A second later the light imploded and was gone. “Now everyone be quiet until I say otherwise.” The minutes stretched by impossibly slowly until he gave an abrupt nod. “I’m done and I think I have an answer.” Behind him a series of images appeared hanging in midair of lines in five assorted colors: red, yellow, blue, green and black all jumbled together. “Ladies, come over and join us.”
“What are we looking at,” Ganieda asked curiously as the group of women surrounded Iain.
“I can’t see it,” Iain grumbled.
“Sorry.” Rosemary sat down at his feet. “Better?”
“Yes. Thank you.” He glanced down when she began stroking his calf but decided not to say anything.
Kerrik folded his arms across his chest. “As I’d thought, Danu didn’t change your spirit at all, so there won’t be any sudden transformations into anything else. Considering what I know about her past and her current power level, along with what you said about her admission of being unable to make more fey, I don’t think she could do anything to your spirit even if she wanted to besides removing it by killing you.”
“So she didn’t do anything to Iain,” Ygerna asked hopefully. It was almost painfully obvious that she desperately wanted to know that her goddess hadn’t done something horrible to her husband.
“I didn’t say that and she did change something fundamental in him.” Pain flickered through Ygerna’s eyes at Kerrik’s flat tone.
“What did she do,” Dominique asked.
“While she didn’t change Iain’s spirit or his DNA,” Kerrik motioned at the images behind him, some of them changed from blue to black while others changed from black to blue while a very small number turned green. “She turned off certain genes and turned on some others.” He looked at Iain. “Are you aware there are two types of people who learn formal magic?”
“Not particularly,” Iain said slowly. “I’m not even sure I understand the question correctly unless this is like the old joke about there being ten kinds of people involving those who understand binary properly and those who don’t.”
Kerrik chuckled. “Anyone else?” Blank stares from all of them were the response. His smile widened. “You do, you’ve just never really thought about it. The first type of person who learns formal magic is someone born with a magical aptitude. For them, magic lies dormant within them and they only have to figure out how to access it to begin their magical studies. These are the wizards of old, who learned the arcane arts the first time and documented how they did it by writing books, taking apprentices or founding schools. But there is a smaller group of people who take up magical studies and become formal mages. Those are the diligent. The truth is that anyone can learn to be a formal magic user if they apply themselves enough and if they have someone with aptitude on their world or wherever they happen to be who blazed the way for them. Formal spells are a rote process that any sentient has the potential to use if that process is already known even if they do not have a magical affinity, although it is a great deal of work for the diligent and few proceed very far down that path. Magical pokegirls, indeed almost all pokegirls, have an aptitude for magic. Not all of them become formal mages because the time and dedication involved is beyond some people, but that describes everyone here except Ygerna, Kasumi and Iain. Well, and me too, but I am not part of the scope of this discussion.” Everyone looked at the three people in question, who looked blankly back at them.
“What’s different about us,” Kasumi asked.
“You are not a pokegirl. You started out a human but because of your spirit folk bloodlines, you too have always had an aptitude for magic. That’s how you learned formal magic so quickly and your spirit blood is why you started out at such a high power level. Ygerna is Sidhe and they all have magical aptitudes of one degree or another, although not all of them are willing to go through the effort to learn formal magic.” Kerrik looked to Iain. “You came to the pokegirl world a fledgling truewizard, but only through diligence and dedication have you made any progress in learning formal magic. You have never had an aptitude for it, until now.”
Theodora appeared. “Explain what until now means. As you pointed out, his DNA is unchanged.”
“Yes, but which genes express have changed. Just like some humans on certain planets have the X-factor for mutant abilities but it is dormant and so they do not have active mutant powers, Iain has the genes for magical aptitude, but they were inactive. Those genes are now active and that’s what Danu changed. Apparently, she needed you more receptive to magic in general in order for her to safely store her magical essence inside you.”
Iain frowned. “I’ll pull the trigger. Is this a good thing or is it a bad thing?”
Kerrik shrugged. “I don’t know.” His ears flicked. “What it turns out to be probably will be determined by what you make of the change, which by the way is permanent. You should start doing better in your formal magic studies but I suspect that you are going to take several steps backwards in your truewizard work because the two don’t mesh well, although in the long run it will make you more powerful in all the magic you learn. And I don’t know how this may change things in your magical abilities as a dragon when they start to develop. It may also make you more attractive to magical creatures of various types and I am unsure what it will do in regard to your already existing affinity for necromancy or any other magical based affinities that you may possess.” His ears flicked. “I hate to say this but you need to know that it may make you like me and a true necromancer.”
Iain let out a deep sigh. “Fuck.”
Dominique looked at Iain. “What does that mean?”
“Remember when I said I needed to study necromancy so that the dead wouldn’t start popping out of the ground randomly and I was sort of joking?”
“It may not be a joke anymore.”
Kerrik nodded. “I have to use my necromantic powers regularly or they will activate on their own and awaken random corpses. That’s why I have a cemetery that I haven’t removed on our land. I think Iain may have the same problem starting from now on.”
Kasumi shuddered. “That is terrible.”
“No,” Kerrik said, “it’s something that Iain will have to live with and everyone around him will have to come to terms with, especially if they try to control him and his behavior in regards to it. Necromancy isn’t any eviler than any other magic. Magic is good or evil based solely on intent which determines how it’s used. Just like for powerful truewizards, a powerful necromancer must control his power and use it regularly or it will get out of his control and that is always bad. Taking control of free willed undead, mindless or not, can be a lot more difficult than raising them under control in the first place. The fact that you have a cultural revulsion towards death, corpses and zombies does not make what he can or may have to do terrible.”
“So he’ll have to raise the dead,” Dominique asked. “How?”
“I can teach him a few ways and yes, he will have to pull the dead out of the ground and put them back. He’ll also gain a lot more control over weaker free willed undead and that includes some of the truly dead pokegirl breeds. He may also attract them.” Kerrik looked at Iain. “There are a lot of free willed dead in Nippon who were created during the Red Plague and are pretty unhappy about it. I can also teach you how to keep them from noticing you and how to protect you from them when they do. You will also probably have to learn how to control and destroy them if necessary.” Kerrik’s ears oriented on Iain. “Did you take your true form while she was riding you?”
Iain understood the question. “I did. I used my full sized dragon form when I fought Lefan.”
“Then because of the variation in DNA you have when you change forms I will later do an analysis of your draconic form to see if she changed anything in it too. It’s unlikely that she did since she was already inside you at that point and dragons have so much magical affinity that they act like magical sponges in their environment.” His ears flicked. “Still, we want to be thorough in our testing just in case.” He nodded. “But that will be for later as I have an appointment in Nippon with the Emperor. Are you trying to get me cut out of selling to them?”
Iain shook his head. “No, we were approached by parts of the Nipponese government but nothing was said about exclusivity. We figured they were running low on gold to give to you and Shikarou and I’m willing to be paid in land. After making sure it wasn’t a trick by someone associated with the Kokkai faction trying to get power away from the Emperor or someone trying to build an army of their own, we decided to meet with them. Should we call that meeting off?”
Kerrik’s ears flicked. “No,” he finally said. “If they want to deal with you, that’s fine by me. I like the way you’re doing things with Prometheus since it acts as a third party for your dealings except for the handful of factors you hired here and in Ireland. If you want to use the Dikon technology I’ll license it to you for a nominal fee but I understand you’ve already improved it in some cases such as at Melanie’s restaurant. Why aren’t you selling that technology?”
“That’s only in use in the clan,” Iain replied. “To be honest we only developed it for Melanie so we didn’t have to excavate a huge basement for her supplies since there’s no room to build the kind of storage building she’d need. Austin is in the middle of an area with a pretty high water table and the flooding would have been a pain in the ass to deal with. It keeps our storage space here down too, so we use it. If you want the specs, I’ll have Theodora send them to you or to Cassiopeia.” He grinned. “You could overlook that we bought a few Dikon balls and reverse engineered the technology to make the crystals in return.”
Kerrik grinned back. “Done. I’ll also waive the licensing fees for the Dikon balls for that too as long as you don’t sell the technical information. And I’ll have Cassiopeia send you the full specs on the Dikon designs so you can check your reverse engineering. There are some interesting things hinted at in the theory behind the technology but I haven’t had time to explore them.”
“Sounds good,” Iain said.
Kerrik frowned. “Do you have any evidence that the Kokkai is scheming against the emperor?”
Iain smiled. “I don’t, but the Diet lost a lot of power when Naruhito took it from them. People like that don’t just give up control gracefully, no matter what they might say or do in public.”
Kerrik nodded thoughtfully. “True. I’ll mention it to him at the meeting and see what he knows. More importantly I’ll see what Morai knows.” He bowed slightly. “Ladies.” He bowed again. “Iain.” Then he was gone.
“That explains why it has always been so hard for you to learn formal magic,” Dominique said quietly. “I’m glad we didn’t know about that beforehand or we might have not gone through the effort to teach you.”
“I wish I had known about it,” Kasumi said. “It sheds a new light on why some of the students at my school struggled so hard to make progress in their studies. I could have made opportunities for them to prove they were determined and then gotten the ones who availed themselves of those opportunities the help they needed to succeed.”
“Don’t beat yourself up for something that you could not have known and focus on today and tomorrow,” Ninhursag said firmly. “If you teach again you’ll know what to look for.”
Ganieda’s ears flicked. “If I was teaching Iain the diligent, I find myself wondering what Iain the precocious will be like.”
“I will be cautious until we learn what has changed,” Iain said. “And Kerrik warned that my truewizard skills may need reexamined too in light of the changes.”
“That’s his and your jobs,” Ganieda stated. “I can’t do that magic and so I can’t worry overmuch about it. I can only focus on what I can teach.”
“Fair enough,” Iain said. “So what’s next on the agenda?”
Ygerna gave him a serious look. “I am sorry for what my goddess may have done to you and I can only hope that someday we can see that was a blessing even if what she did was inadvertent.”
“You cannot apologize for someone else,” Iain said as he rose to his feet. “Well, you can but it doesn’t mean anything. We will persevere.” He raised his arm and looked at it. “And this time I didn’t get any scars to heal from it.”
“You were vomiting blood,” Ninhursag pointed out.
“No, I was coughing up the lining of my lungs and throat,” Iain corrected her. “We might as well be accurate. What’s most important is I didn’t die and neither did anyone else in the clan.” He looked around. “I believe I had a question about my schedule or am I free to disappear?”
“I want you to meet my mother now,” Ygerna said. “I just don’t want you to hate her or me for what happened.”
“I am not going to stop loving you because of what your goddess did. It wasn’t yours or your mother’s fault,” Iain replied. “I’d be silly to blame you or her for it. As for fighting a goblin, it wasn’t as much fun as I’d hoped it would be but I did plan to finish the fight as quickly as possible and in that I was successful. And we added a whole bunch of people to the clan, which I did not expect to do but it’s pretty cool anyway. So how about I meet her in the garden over tea and snacks?”
“That would be very nice,” Ygerna said.
“You get her and I’ll meet you two there in half an hour.” He watched her leave and turned to the rest of the women. “Is there anything pressing?”
“No.” Dominique rubbed her eyes. “Ganieda, Kasumi and I are probably going to go back to square one with you on formal magic training. If there aren’t any problems you’ll progress to where you are now in less than a week if we push and if there are, we can deal with them first.”
“I want to start helping with his training.” Rosemary said.
Dominique exchanged a look with Ganieda and Kasumi before nodding. “We’ll prep you this week and you can start helping next week. Just remember that you’re still learning too.”
Rosemary’s ears flicked and she smiled. “I have learned that Iain is right. Unless I decide to quit and just stagnate, I will be learning something about magic for the rest of my life. I’ll do what you tell me to just as I have so far and without complaint.”
Kasumi smiled at her. “Very well said and accepted.”
Iain shook his head. “Sounds good. Thank you all for assisting me with this.” He watched the others leave until Kasumi was the only one remaining. “Is something the matter?”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and rested against him. “I’m still catching up for the time Ygerna’s goddess kept us apart.”
Iain slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her against him. Kasumi hadn’t wanted Danu observing her private activities with her husband and had avoided him during the time he’d been hosting the goddess. He understood and was only surprised that more people hadn’t done something similar. He certainly wasn’t excited about having her watch everything he did and because of it he had skipped certain activities, including training and magical research that he didn’t think it was Danu’s business to know anything about.
They stood that way for several minutes before Kasumi pulled his head down and kissed him gently. “Thank you.”
“I will always be here for you as much as I can. I love you.”
She chuckled softly and released him. “When I first started spending time around you and the clan during the trip to Glasgow I thought that when you told your women that you love them as often as you did it made the words you spoke trite. I am so happy to learn that I was wrong. It is never trite to hear that from someone who means what they’re saying and who you love back. I think that in a century I will enjoy hearing you say those words to me at least just as much as I do now.” Her eyes searched his. “I love you too, Iain.”
“And I enjoy hearing you tell me so,” he said quietly.
“Will Ygerna’s mother join the clan?”
He shrugged. “That’s her decision to make.”
“She wouldn’t be inner clan, would she?”
“No. Inner clan is for family. And she certainly won’t be harem.”
“I didn’t think she would.” Her eyes twinkled. “Just don’t accidentally agree to sire a child by her and things should go well.”
“She’s Sidhe. I always try to watch what I say around them.”
She smiled. “Even Ygerna?”
“Right now, yes.” Her smile vanished at the seriousness of his tone. “I love her and that hasn’t changed, but I am more than a little concerned which way she’d jump if it came down to a confrontation between us and her goddess.”
Relief crossed her face. “I’m glad to hear that and I won’t be the only one to be happy to learn that you’re as concerned as we are. Is there anything we can do?”
“I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt until she does something. She’s my wife and if I didn’t trust her I wouldn’t have married her. I’m just going to pay even closer attention than usual.”
“We all will. May I inform the others?” He nodded. “Thank you, Iain.”
“You’re very welcome.” He gestured at the door. “Ladies first.” She smiled and led him from the room.
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)
Golden Cloud – equine unicorn
Melanie – Iron Chef
Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female
74 male Goblins
89 female Goblins
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